Saturday, April 19, 2008

Here They Go


Ruh Ro

He says so many things for so many reasons, who knows how valid this threat is. But the thing is, the Americans are hounding his militia incessantly. Not sure how wise it would be to play chicken with him and his several million followers:

Just breaking is the news that Muqtada al-Sadr has threatened to end his movement’s ceasefire, unless the Maliki government and US military end their crackdown, in a statement posted to his website.

The cleric says he is giving his final warning to the Iraqi government to stop working with the U.S. military against him or he will “declare an open war until liberation.”

The threat to lift a more than 7-month-old cease-fire comes amid fighting between al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia and U.S.-Iraqi troops in Baghdad’s Sadr City and the southern city of Basra.


Hounding Or Lack Of

Has anyone noticed the media clamoring for Cindy McCain to release her tax return like they did Teresa Heinz Kerry?



This is a classic example of what I was trying to say the other day by pointing out that the Clinton's have been "Roved" (via TPM):

The Huffington Post has gotten their hands on a secret tape from a closed-door fundraiser held just after Super Tuesday, in which Hillary lambastes "the activist base of the Democratic Party" and their views on national security:

"We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."

MoveOn executive director Eli Pariser has already responded in very strong terms:

Senator Clinton has her facts wrong again. MoveOn never opposed the war in Afghanistan, and we set the record straight years ago when Karl Rove made the same claim. Senator Clinton's attack on our members is divisive at a time when Democrats will soon need to unify to beat Senator McCain. MoveOn is 3.2 million reliable voters and volunteers who are an important part of any winning Democratic coalition in November. They deserve better than to be dismissed using Republican talking points.
Hillary, please. Go away. The DLC is dead, and it's indeed time to Move ON.


Friday, April 18, 2008

What We're Up Against

If you ever want to suffer from incredible frustration of the state of the American voter, go read this. It's is a truly astounding story about the flag pin lady.

Flag pins?

Bullet. Meet Foot.


ABC's Swiftboat Team

Josh Marshall makes the very good point that Republicans no longer need Swiftboat teams, they have the media well trained to do the job.


How's This For Motivation

New! Improved! Motivation training for your company personnel!

Christopherson called the men into the break room and announced, “We’re going to do an exercise.” He asked for a volunteer.

Hudgens raised his hand.

“Keep in mind,” he said, “the last time we did a team-building exercise outside, we did an egg toss.”

Prosper maintains that Christopherson explained what would happen next, and Hudgens knew what he was in for, even handing his cellphone and keys to co-workers before lying down. Hudgens insists he had no clue.

“So they held me down,” Hudgens said, “and the next thing I know, Josh has a gallon jug of water and he’s pouring it on my face. I can’t scream because the water’s going down my throat.

”And halfway through he stopped for a second. I tried to mumble the words, ‘Stop, knock it off.’ I tried to get that out and he continued to pour.“

”I’m not getting any air,“ Hudgens said. ”Toward the end, I’m starting to black out. I’m getting very dizzy, light-headed. The sensation that’s going through my head is, ‘I’m going to drown.’ “

That is the oft-described whole point of waterboarding, though Hudgens said he was not then familiar with the word. He said that what he told a friend in the human relations office two hours later, after ”coughing, choking, mucus“ was: ”My team just tried to kill me.“
So? What's the problem? Everyone knows this isn't torture, it's just team building!


Middle Class

Ezra Klein does a little homework on Charlie "I've got a lemon in my mouth" Gibson's middle Class:

The first five columns are the breakdown of incomes in 20% brackets. Thus, the second 20% income average is $34738. The income for the top five percent is the maroon bar, and the "middle class" that Chuck Gibson refers to in the debate is the final column. It looks to me like "middle class" is really in the $40 k/year range.

Good job Chuck. I suspect Gibson passes the middle class income level in the first five minutes of his broadcast.


Here's a Flash

We know.


McCain Taxes

John McCain released his tax records today. It appears that he is the poorest of the candidates.


Wife Cindy filed separately.



There's a yet another story out about improper Pentagon contracts with private companies. But this is beyond the pale:

The whole contracting process seems to have been full of improper favoritism. But the most shocking part comes in the story's fifth paragraph when the Post reveals that a high-ranking Air Force officer, who is now vice director of the Pentagon's Joint Staff, even included President Bush in his efforts, and he apparently played along. The officer arranged for the commander in chief "to record a video testimonial in the White House Map Room that was included in the SMS [private contractor] contract proposal, demonstrating the company's credibility and access."
I know this doesn't rise to the level of letting friends who give money to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom, or getting a blow job in the White House, but having the President serve as your personal company spokesman might be a little bit of an ethical problem. But then again, Bush has to think about his earning capability life after the Preznicy.



I've got an idea. Why not just put a wall around the whole country and station troops on the perimeter?

The NYT goes inside with a look at how the United States is building a concrete wall that would divide Sadr City. The idea is that the side of Sadr City closest to the Green Zone would be turned into a protected area so reconstruction projects can take place. The paper reminds readers that concrete barriers have been used in other parts of Iraq, and they "have often proved to be an effective tool in blunting insurgent attacks."
Does anyone really think this will work? Will it really do anything but further alienate the various groups that need to get along to make Iraq work? I thought we were against the Berlin Wall?


Thursday, April 17, 2008


Some days, it seems like I can't put up blog posts fast enough for what's going on. Other days, like today, it just seems like a wasteland of interesting news.

I heard there was yet another debate last night. I've not watched for some time because of the repetition. Besides, I know the media will cover the really really important stuff like if Obama had a flag pin on, or if Clinton's hairdo changed. The spin by Clintonistas is that last night really really changed things. But then I read this:

Mark Halperin: "The Obama campaign tells Stephanopoulos that 'prominent Pennsylvania supporters' will switch their support from Clinton to Obama Thursday morning due to Clinton's negativity."
Put stuff like this together with the recent polls showing a whole lot of bad news for Hillary and you've got to wonder how much longer she'll hold out. Probably a lot longer knowing her unwillingness to accept that her team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. However, I would imagine an upset victory for Obama in Pennsylvania would hammer the point home ..... maybe.

I'm getting primary fatigue. I know folks like Harry Reid are drawing comparisons to other primaries where the candidate wasn't chosen until early summer. But what he fails to mention is that the primary season in those years didn't begin the year before.

Added: Here's all you need to see in order to get a flavor of the atrocity of it all:

Is it just me or does Charlie Gibson always look like he's sucking on a lemon?


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fold It

Remember Mad Magazine Fold In's?



Did you know that Iraqi military and police are still deserting? Yep, they are.


Stewart Watch

Yesterday I was lamenting the fact that despite Preznit Bush admitting to a conspiracy to commit torture, the news media was essentially ignoring the story. Except that bastion of serious news coverage, JON STEWART!

Dubbing the White House the "House of Pain," Jon Stewart shows clips from a recent ABC News report on the White House torture meetings, and explains: "[T]he story is that the highest levels of this administration not only knew of these techniques and condoned them, but actively managed the interrogations."

Guest Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, tells Stewart: "I'm sure that none of them were happy about discussing what they were discussing."

Stewart scoffs at Goldsmith's defense: "But isn't that saying: We will abide by the rules, unless we're in trouble? Isn't that -- when you talk about human rights and those types of things, you don't talk as though we will honor these human rights unless we feel a certain fragility of our own safety. The whole point of being founded on that bedrock -- you know, the Constitution -- is that it exists in tough times. It's what we cling to in tough times."

To which Goldsmith replies: "If you're in that situation . . . you have an intense responsibility to keep people safe."

In part two of his interview with Goldsmith, Stewart says: "My position is: Free societies are not safe -- and that's the price you pay for your freedom. And you can't have it both ways."

As usual, the comedian Jon Stewart does a better job covering the news than serious media. Isn't that pathetic?


Three Charts

This will be a simple post. But it will graphically show just why inflation is a problem, and likely to continue a problem, despite the headlines you are going to hear today about inflation being "tame" (according to your governments statistics):

First up, rice. Have you wondered about those rumblings of food riots around the world? This is why (h/t Bondad for charts):

And of course you already likely know about oil:

Finally, thanks to Bush and his maavelous ethanol stupidity, we have corn:

Why is this happening? It's kind of funny, but I blame Nixon. Yes, Richard Nixon. By "opening up China" he started a ball rolling towards China becoming a far more modern, capitalistic society. With a freer market, Chinese citizens now want the same kinds of prosperity enjoyed in the west. Except that there are like twenty gazillion Chinese. Add to that the Indians who also have the gall to want to live like Americans and you have a supply problem.

Just a quick note on corn. I have recently discovered that I am allergic to corn (and wheat). Corn has, hands down, been the most difficult item to remove from my life. It is in EVERYTHING. Food you know, but think about the products that use corn starch or corn syrup? It's like everything. But also consider things like hygiene products (shampoo, toothpaste) or medications like Claritin? Yeah, ironically I take took claritin to reduce allergies and the first inactive ingredient on the label is corn starch.

I highlight this because, like oil, as the price of corn skyrockets, the costs to produce virtually all products will also increase dramatically.


Lesson Learned

I think this will be one of the biggest political stories to come out of the 2008 election:

Probably the most significant revelation in the WP's new poll is just how much this presidential campaign has hurt Clinton's image. Obama now holds a 10-point lead over Clinton among Democrats, and not only do people widely see him as more electable, 54 percent claim to have an unfavorable view of the former first lady. While 52 percent of Americans considered Clinton "honest and trustworthy" in May 2006, that number has now fallen to 39 percent. The drop is slightly steeper among Democrats, 63 percent of whom now consider her honest, which marks an 18 point decrease from 2006.
Presumably Hillary will want a career after the election is over. Yet the way she has run her campaign, and the way she (and Bill) are now perceived by the country has taken a huge hit. I used to be a big Clinton fan. Yet now I just wish they'd go away, at least for awhile. They both need to, like, go into rehab or something and disappear from the public eye for awhile. Then they can re-emerge and create a new, gentler image. Unfortunately I don't think that is all that likely. Hopefully other Democratic politicians will learn that Rovian politics is not popular among liberals.


The Gall Award

If anyone deserves the "Gall Award" for the last decade, it's George Bush:

The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with word that President Bush will propose setting a deadline of 2025 to stop the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions. In a speech today, he also plans to signal that he would be willing to accept legislation to rein in power-plant pollution.

The WSJ says today's speech marks a recognition by the administration that the United States is likely to adopt a comprehensive system to curb greenhouse-gas emissions in the next few years. Bush will specifically call for power plants to stop the growth of emissions within the next 10 to 15 years. But despite all the hoopla, he won't actually put forward any specific suggestions or proposals.
After spending a full seven years undermining any environmental measures designed to reduce greenhouse gases, he now comes up with this. I guess it just further highlights the degree of contempt Bush has for the American public, thinking that he can do this and no one would notice. File this with the mission to mars program.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Flippity Flop

John McCain was for torture before he was against it. Go read the details here and don't fall for the B.S. he's spewing. Digby gets the quote of the day on the subject:

McCain talks beautifully about ending torture. You can see people tearing up in the audience. But he has consistently helped the Bush administration promulgate a legal basis for doing it and has taken more positions than Jenna Jameson. Evidently, we are supposed to forget about all that political, legal and rhetorical mumbo jumbo and trust President Straight Talk to do the right thing. It seems to me that's what got us into this mess in the first place.
And Chris Matthews, who is featured in the Digby post with McCain, is still an asshole.


That's It!

Anonymous Liberal has put his finger exactly on the reason why I'm so turned off by the Clinton campaign. Exactly.



There's a minor flap going on about McCain's campaign releasing "family recipes" that were in fact copied word for word from the Food Network.

With the usual panache, Attaturk found the real McCain family recipes:

Cindy McCain's special recipe for filet mignon.

1. Turn in direction of Consuela.
2. Say "I would like filet mignon".
3. Emphasized "NOW!"
4. Wait 10 minutes.
5. Enjoy

Cindy McCain's recipe for Peking Duck:

1. Send Consuela to China Town.
2. Don't let Consuela in house for 24 hours.
3. Enjoy

Cindy McCain's recipe for Kimchi:

1. Tell Consuela to make and kiln a large clay pot.
2. Have Consuela cut up cabbage & scallions.
3. Have Consuela dig large hole in neighbors yard.
4. Have Consuela put pot filled with cabbage and scallions in ground.
5. Open lid, have Consuela climb in.
6. Hire new Maid.
7. Have new maid bury contents for six months.
8. Deny knowledge of whereabouts re:Consuela to INS.
9. Enjoy.


Unintended Consequences

Tell me grandpa, just exactly what would be the consequence of this?

AP) Republican Sen. John McCain on Tuesday called for a summer-long suspension of the federal gasoline tax and lower tax rates as the likely presidential nominee sought to stem the public's pain from a troubled economy.
Could it be that we would have increase gasoline consumption and even higher prices? Or how about a significant increase in the Federal deficit, particularly for infrastructure maintenance.


Another Question

By Paul Krugman, not me:

OK, actually I was born in Albany, and grew up on Long Island. But here’s my question: I understand why it’s political poison to show disrespect for small-town values — dignity is precious to all of us, and often trumps material interest. But why is it OK to disrespect big city values, even to suggest — as Bush has — that big-city dwellers aren’t part of the “real America”?
Helluvagoodquestion. Let's as Obama.


A Question

I think it's fair to say that neither Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton has put forth a policy on Iraq that offers a precipitous withdrawal. Ultimate withdrawal .... maybe. But I haven't heard either ever say that they would withdraw regardless of the situation in the middle east. Of course they want to keep their options open.

But John McCain is continually trying to paint both candidates as wanting to do just that, precipitously withdraw. So my question is this. Given the polls on how Americans see the war in Iraq, does McCain's distorted attack hurt or help the Democrats?


The Death of Us

Did you know that military suicides make up 20% of all reported suicides in the U.S.?


Torturer In Chief


It's true that it has been widely assumed and occasionally reported that the CIA's use of brutal interrogation techniques could be traced back to the White House on a general level. But it was most definitely new last week when ABC News reported that a group of Bush's top aides, including Vice President Cheney, took part in meetings where they explicitly discussed and approved -- literally blow by blow -- tactics such as waterboarding. And while Bush has previously defended these tactics -- vaguely, and insisting against all evidence that they did not amount to torture -- he had not, until now, acknowledged that he personally OK'd them beforehand.

If you consider what the government did to be torture, which is a crime according to U.S. and international law, Bush's statement shifts his role from being an accessory after the fact to being part of a conspiracy to commit.

This is certainly no surprise. And I don't think it's really new news. And of course the American media didn't think that the open admission by the Preznit of the United States of having committed a crime was newsworthy. But it is a legal admission of wrongdoing. And if the U.S. won't prosecute, I think there are any number of other countries that would gladly prosecute.

Remember when Israel went around the world capturing Nazi war criminals? So what if some Iraqi's or other Arabs come to the U.S. to capture, oh say, Donald Rumsfeld? Can any top Bush administration officials ever safely travel abroad? Or is it a situation of stark hypocrisy where the mighty get a pass?

Go give the entire Froomkin post a read. Once again it highlights the fantastic job that's being done (almost single-handedly) by Martha Raddatz of ABC News.



How many times over the last year or two have I been writing about stagflation?

Well, it appears it's here. Economic growth has slowed to near recession levels (if not fully in recession and we just don't know it yet). And today's producer price index skyrocketed at a greater than 12% annual rate. Tomorrow is the release of the consumer price index which is unlikely to be pretty.

But don't worry. The government will strip out those luxuries, food and energy and claim that inflation is only slightly elevated.


Abuser or Abusee?

I find this very interesting:

The WP and LAT note that former president Jimmy Carter is "getting the cold shoulder" (WP) in Israel. None of Israel's top officials will meet with him, and Israel's security service will not protect him. Israeli officials are unhappy that Carter said he would meet with the leader of Hamas, and for his book in which he sharply criticized Israel. "A meeting like this gives some semblance of legitimacy to those who do not deserve it," one Israeli official said. "The book doesn't help him, either."
Does anyone really think that Jimmy Carter would sell out Israel? Is it such a crime to take an even-handed look at the ongoing conflicts between two peoples who can't seem to get beyond revenge? And what harm is there in talking? I have yet to hear an cogent argument on why there should not be negotiations between any two adversarial parties. Israel is behaving poorly and showing it's intransigence.



That's what the credit crunch is.

As banks are pulling in their horns, hanging onto money, credit is drying up everywhere. Here's yet another example:

Retailers are being hit by a double whammy, as not only are consumers spending less but no one will extend credit to the companies, so many are finding themselves stuck. Although retailing might seem like an incredibly profitable business, the truth is that its seasonal nature means many retailers need to borrow money to make ends meet. Without available credit, many are being forced to close their doors. To make matters worse, when these stores close, they also directly affect other companies because many keep on owing money to their suppliers.
Apparently many mid-sized companies are looking at bankruptcy. And given that this is a large employer these days, that shouldn't be much help to the unemployment rate.

The housing mess simply needs government bailout. If prices continue to plummet, the ripple effect will continue as well.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Quote of The Day

There will be a lot more of this, some subtle, some not so subtle:

"I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button."

-- Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY), quoted by NBC News, about Sen. Barack Obama. He later issued an apology to Obama, essentially saying he misspoke.


Pursuing Torturers

If you want to sign on in an attempt to get our government to actually hold our leaders who approved torture accountable, go here.


Retail Sales

Did you know that despite all the talk of recession, retail sales were actually up last month?!

Except for one little thing.

This measure is the amount of money spent, and all of the increase plus some is due to an increase in gasoline costs. So real retail sales are actually pretty awful. Ooops.


A Balancing Act

This is really an astounding chart on many levels. It shows the increase or decrease in oil production by country. Thus, from the center to left are countries (and amounts) of oil production increase. From the center of the chart to the right are countries with oil production decreases and the amount.

The post at The Oil Drum contains an analysis of this information as well as some 2008 charts that show changes occurring.

Here's what I find fascinating. First, the incredibly balance between the pluses and minuses. Secondly, and I think more importantly, take a look at the list of countries who grew. Other than a couple of exceptions, it's a virtual rogues gallery of character that the world is depending on for petroleum.


Sunday, April 13, 2008


I was laying in bed last night, bored, thinking about the election (my exciting life!). I got to thinking about metaphors and John McCain came to mind. Isn't he a perfect metaphor for the Republican party?

Think about it. He's an oldish, grayhaired, hobbling white guy who's married to a vain-queen trophy wife who happens to be quite rich. He just looks like the Republican party. And I suspect as the election draws nearer, he'll look even more like the Republican party.


Another Implosion?

Krugman wonders, based on a "Flight to Safety" if we're in for another financial institution (i.e. Bear Stearns) implosion?


Who's Who?

Despite the claims by American officials (from the school of all Arabs look alike), Iran has now acknowledged they backed Maliki against al Sadr:

Likewise, the ISG [Iraq Study Group, (Baker-Hamilton commission)] pointed out that the Badr Corps paramilitary was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and is close to Tehran. (See below). It fought on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's side in the recent Basra fighting. In other words, the government side was the pro-Iranian side. The Mahdi Army and Sadr neighborhood militia forces they attacked were largely Iraqi nativists who bad-mouth Iran. Fiderer points out that the ISG report had already diagnosed this syndrome. The Bush team did propaganda, pointedly declining to name Badr as an Iranian client and blaming Iran for the Mahdi Army's violence. In fact, the violence came as a response to violations of the cease fire by the US and the Iraqi government, which took advantage of it to arrest Mahdi Army commanders (that's a ceasefire?)

Iran admitted on Saturday that it had negotiated a ceasefire by the Mahdi Army when approached by Iraqi parliamentarians (who were from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Da'wa Party, al-Maliki's backers). In other words, while Bushco blames Iran for Iraq's instability, in fact the Iranians have tried to and often succeeded in calming the situation down.
Juan Cole (link above) gives the full rundown. The short version is that the U.S. continues to support an Iraqi government that is essentially bound to Iran. And this same administration continues (either because they're stupid or mendacious or both) to publically push the idea that Iran is behind the "insurgents" and Mahdi army. Whether it's a part of a campaign to gin up a war with Iran, or simply idiocy I don't know. Both are highly possible. Ironically, Iran claims that the U.S. is responsible for the instability in Iraq. What do you think?



One of the big talking points by administration economic cheerleaders is that a falling dollar is really really good for the economy because it boosts exports. And that's true although we make a lot fewer things to export lately. But exports are only half of the equation. Unfortunately a lower dollars increases the price on imports:

Take a shopping trip to Costco and Walmart. Walk through the isles and see how many items are produced outside the U.S. Now remember that those items, on average, are up an average 14% over last year. Also remember that the government statistics don't report the "headline" inflation number correctly. No wonder consumers feel squeezed.


Poor Baby

Poor Freddo. It's hard to find employment when you're radioactive. Yet somehow, I have little doubt that some kind of wingnut welfare will kick in eventually.


Truth and Politics

One thing you must know if you're a politician. Sometimes you can't tell the truth:

Barack Obama attempted yesterday to dampen the row over his claim that economic problems had driven small-town voters to "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." The NYT fronts a report noting that the Illinois senator admitted his phrasing had been clunky, but he stood by his central point about the economic plight of small-town America. That might not be enough to kill off the Clinton campaign's criticism; the Post points out that the brouhaha is likely to set the tone for Wednesday's debate between the two candidates in Pennsylvania.
And this is a brouhaha because ........

I guess virtually anything can become a big deal when you're Hillary and your scraping for any leverage at all. But Obama is right. Part of the strategy by conservatives is to keep the unwashed masses pregnant and barefoot. When a person is impoverished, their needs and desires fall down the ladder of Maslow's hierarchy, making it much easier to appeal to the lizard brain and thereby control voters.


Wake UP. It's Spring!

Meanwhile, there's that other little war:

In Afghanistan, troops are preparing for an uptick in violence as Taliban fighters return from their winter shelters in Pakistan. Nearly 2,300 U.S. Marines have been deployed at the country's main NATO base, in the hope of striking a conclusive blow against insurgents in Helmand province, an opium-production hotspot. Taliban commanders say they aren't worried about the Marines' arrival. "We have heard all about these Americans, and we are waiting - let them come," said one. "They will learn what others before them have learned."


It's Your Money

Ever wonder about those billions spent in Iraq? I suspect the Swiss banks are doing quite well lately, and the arms dealers:

The New York Times leads with word of a secret arms deal in which Iraqi officials sought to obtain $833 million worth of guns and aircraft from Serbia; officials say the deal underscores the corruption and inefficiency that have plagued the army's efforts to procure military equipment.


U.S. officials say the Iraqi army has still got a lot to learn about how to spend its money wisely. Back in 2005, the army squandered $1.3 billion on shoddy military equipment, much of which was never delivered; now officials have inked a secret deal with Serbia that appears designed to sidestep anti-corruption measures. "You can only explain it in two ways," said one Western official. "A desire to avoid oversight, and a desire to offer opportunities for graft and corruption." Officials said the deal raised questions about the Iraqi military's readiness to stand alone; it also came as a snub to the Pentagon's military sales program, which has struggled to deliver equipment fast enough to meet demand.
I guess I should be more charitable. Afterall there is this:
BAGHDAD - The Iraqi government has dismissed about 1,300 soldiers and policemen who deserted or refused to fight during last month's offensive against Shiite militias and criminal gangs in Basra, officials said Sunday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said 921 police and soldiers were fired in Basra. They included 37 senior police officers ranging in rank from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general.


Since then, government officials have revealed that about 1,000 members of the security forces — including an entire infantry battalion — had mutinied, on some cases handing over vehicles and weapons to the militias.
When you have all those weapons defecting to the countryside, you just have to replenish. Don't you?