Friday, May 9, 2008

Never In My Life

I have never, NEVER, seen anyone run for Vice President this hard.



Atrios on the impending resignation of Vito:

MSNBC tells me Vito Fossella (R-NY) will likely resign soon, presumably so he can spend more time with his families.


I Didn't Know

I didn't know that John McCain has had four bouts of malignant melanoma? Did you? I thought his face was messed up (the area on the side of his face above his jaw) because of torture or something. Turns out these are scars from past radical surgeries to remove the cancers.

I think a question like the one asked today on Dr. Dean Edell's radio show is relevant: what are the odds of John McCain dying in the next four years, and how about releasing those medical records?


Hill's Difficult Weekend

She's about to have one:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barack Obama all but erased Hillary Rodham Clinton's once-imposing lead among national convention superdelegates on Friday and won fresh labor backing as elements of the Democratic Party began coalescing around the Illinois senator for the fall campaign.

Obama picked up the backing of nine superdelegates, including Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who had been a Clinton supporter.

A big ouch to the ongoing fight. Is the cascade building steam?


The Usual Lies

Your U.S. government in action.

As Kevin Drum points out, this quote comes from a LA Times journalist blog, not a news report. Wonder if we would have heard about it otherwise?

There was something interesting missing from Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner's introductory remarks to journalists at his regular news briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday: the word "Iran," or any form of it. It was especially striking as Bergner, the U.S. military spokesman here, announced the extraordinary list of weapons and munitions that have been uncovered in recent weeks since fighting erupted between Iraqi and U.S. security forces and Shiite militiamen.

....A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin.

When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.


Down But Not Out

You go Val!



I would have purchased a Toyota Prius if they weren't so damned ugly. We ended up buying a hybrid Camry which is performing beautifully.

But take a look at the new Prius and it's features. Lookin' good!


Big News On Housing

Wow. It looks like the falling prices in housing are actually bottoming. How would I know this? Because, like Barry, I believe in contrary indictators:

Economist David Lereah was once the housing market's biggest cheerleader. Now he says the bust isn't near over, and home prices still have a long way to fall.

"We're not at the bottom," he says. "[People] want it to be near the bottom, but we're not there yet. The leading indicators are still very bad. Pending home sales are still in bad shape. Mortgage applications are low … There's still supply out there in abundance … This thing is going to get worse before it gets better."
This guy is the economist for the National Association of Realtors. He's been wrong in every prognostication on housing for years. So to me, this is proof that the bottom is very near if not in.*

*Barry cites that Lereah is still recommending people buy now and that obviates the bottom call. I disagree. I think Lereah would be fired if he didn't say now is a good time to buy. His statement is about as close to the edge of termination that he could get.


Done Deal

I never really thought of it this way, but isn't this true?

The LAT's Joel Stein sets out to buy some medical marijuana and finds the whole process surprisingly simple. "I always wondered what would happen if marijuana were legalized for anyone over 18," Stein writes. "It seems it already has been, and nothing happened."
I mean, other than the justice system and prisons being clogged up by those cases that are brought against marijuana dealers/users, aren't all the purported "bad effects" of marijuana legalization already ingrained in our country? Doesn't look to bad to me.


Just Another Land Deal

What good is it to be a Senator if you can't help your constituents?

The WP fronts a look at how Sen. John McCain pushed a land swap deal through Congress that will "directly benefit" one of his top fundraisers. After approval of the legislation, which will allow an Arizona businessman to exchange remote land for valuable property owned by the federal government, SunCor Development was hired to build thousands of homes in the area. SunCor Development is run by Steven Betts, a longtime McCain supporter who has raised more than $100,000 for the Arizona Republican's presidential race. Betts denies he ever talked to McCain about it, but besides that connection, there are plenty of other eyebrow-raising aspects to the deal. McCain wasn't very eager to support the swap at first, but that all appeared to change after the businessman who owned the remote land hired a group of lobbyists that included several people who once worked for McCain.
We. Desperately. Need. Public. Financing.




The humanitarian situation in Burma is a mess. The government there seems to be really unreasonable in not allowing aid into the country. Yet at the same time, isn't there such a thing as sovereignty? I really haven't a clue of just what should be done beyond diplomatic efforts and international public pressure to allow aid to come in.


Because One Isn't Enough

Because no self-respecting blogger can have just one blog, I'm in two. My lovely wife Jan and I have started a culinary/hobby-like blog about our self-indulgences living in the Sonoma County wine country. Please feel free to drop by anytime and above all, comment!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

More On The Real Votes

You've got to wonder if Hillary stays in the race as a way of doing a big fundraiser. Either way, she's up against a big number:

U.S. News and World Report: "Experts disagree on whether or not Clinton will actually stick in the fight until the Democratic National Convention in August. But the date looms large for another reason -- at least, if she hopes to recoup any of the millions she has sunk into the campaign. Thanks to a little-known provision in 2002's McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform bill, a campaign must repay the loan to a candidate before Election Day. In this case, that's the nominating convention. After the election has passed, a bankrupt campaign is limited to gathering just $250,000 from contributors, which means that modest sum is all it can give back to a candidate. In short, Clinton stands to lose $11,150,000."



I think it's time for Frontline to due a new piece on the Great War On Terror POW's.

Like this instance, it seems to me that every single government case against detainee's has been unable to stand the scrutiny of an honest to god justice system. Honest folks can debate whether civil liberties take a back seat to security. But giving up civil liberties for no good reason and getting zilch in return is plain stupid.



Here's a pretty good, short, piece on the state of Hillary's campaign. It centers on the solidly DLC Diane Feinstein, the ossified Joe Liebermanesque Democratic Senator from my fair state that is a solid Hillary supporter. DiFi seemed to be jumping ship yesterday.



First the substance. Can you imagine if this were a Democratic candidate's wife (Theresa Kerry anyone)? Second, and frankly from the catty perspective, is it safe to have someone influencial in the White House who wears this much makeup and has that much botox going on?


FISA Immunity

Progressives have been fighting the telecom immunity for a long long time. And successfully thus far. But it just keeps coming back. There's now a "new" proposal before Dems to consider yet another immunity bill. Digby gets to the keys:

This is an piece of legislation which we can feel proud to have battled back since last August. But Bush wants this one very, very badly for some reason and he's going to push it right up until the day he leaves office. It's a zombie. And it's not just about money. These are huge corporations that can easily afford to litigate these claims and since it is unlikely that any of the plaintiffs suffered huge damages they don't face outrageous financial liability. They don't even face much bad PR: if they lose, they just say they were trying to help the government fight terrorists and there won't be a whole lot of customers who will switch to other carriers when they find out they violated the fourth amendment. This is about the Bush administration and keeping civil liberties lawyers from having access to discovery documents.
There's something in those docs that is a bombshell. When it comes out (and it will eventually come out) we'll get yet another look at just how dictatorial and corrupt the Bush administration has been. My guess? Bush used the NSA to spy on political opponents.



This quote from Slate's Today's Paper is dripping with sarcasm:

"Suddenly, a primary day that few expected to be decisive in the Democrats' long and close contest was interpreted on all sides as a game-changer," notes the WSJ.
Exactly. This primary "race" has been over for weeks if not months in my humble opinion. But it's just the opinion of one schmoo. Because the "punditry" labeled it as a continuing competition for their purposes, everyone seems to have accepted it was "competitive". Now, the punditry is proclaiming it over. Is it? It's no more or less over than it has been for months.

There's only two ways it's over. One, if a candidate drops out, and two, if the convention votes and a candidate wins the majority. Beyond that, it's merely gasbags (myself included) who are speculating. Of all people, I don't want Tim Russert being the almighty arbiter of when or if a race is "over".


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

One Reason Oil Is Going Up

This quote shows you exactly how plentiful oil has been historically:

True to form, he sees oil prices headed higher still. At the end of the Q&A, we asked if he thought $200 a barrel is a possibility. His answer: "Sure, but I don’t know when. Meanwhile, I keep telling people that $100 for a barrel of oil is cheap. And they ask, 'How can you say that?' Well, it’s 15 cents a cup. Do you know of anything else we can buy for 15 cents a cup?"


The Vote That Matters

In terms of Hillary survivability, this is the biggest vote:

WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton lent her presidential campaign $6.4 million over the past month, her campaign said Wednesday, underscoring the financial advantage held by her rival, Barack Obama.

The money more than doubled Clinton's personal investment in her bid for the Democratic nomination. She gave her campaign $5 million earlier this year.
If not already here, the time is coming where Hillary either a) chooses to go broke or b) quits the race.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Kick Ass!

I read a lot of blogs. And sometimes the hyperbole in describing Bush seems to go over the top. But then something like this comes along that totally confirms every stereotype, every hyperbolic portrayal, of the idiot cowboy who thinks he's starring in some stupid John Wayne movie. Via Froomkin:

Sig Christenson writes in the San Antonio Express-News about Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez's description of a White House videoconference on the second day of fighting between Marines and entrenched guerrillas in Fallujah in April 2003.

"Sanchez, in a memoir to be released Tuesday, said Bush 'launched into what I considered a kind of confused pep talk' about the battle for Fallujah and an upcoming campaign to kill or capture radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and cripple his militia.

"'Kick ass!' Bush said. 'If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell!' . . .

"'Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking.' . . .

And what happened? You know the answer. The U.S. military found themselves in a mess and seriously "blinked".

We've all been living a nightmare for years. I just hope it hasn't permeated into the bedrock of national consciousness as some kind of "normal".


Nice Move Pickles

Is Pickles related to someone we know. Froomkin:

When a country run by a despotic and isolationist regime is laid low by a massive natural disaster, the diplomatic thing to do is to respond with a show of compassion. Not kick 'em when they're down.

More than 22,000 people have died in the staggering devastation caused by this weekend's cyclone in Burma. But when First Lady Laura Bush made her first-ever visit to the White House briefing room yesterday, to talk about what's going on in that country, it was not to deliver a message of goodwill.

Rather than announce the launch of a massive relief effort that could take advantage of a rare diplomatic opening, the first lady instead tossed insults at Burma's leaders, blamed them for the high death toll, and lashed out at their decision to move forward with a constitutional referendum scheduled for this Saturday.

The traditionally issue-averse first lady's concerns about the Burmese junta and its abuses of human rights date back several years, and she's been particularly outspoken since last fall.

But why respond to a catastrophe with such hostility? The awkward timing, as it turns out, may have had something to do with an event entirely unrelated to the cyclone.

"I'm going to leave tomorrow for Crawford, for Jenna's wedding, and I wanted to be able to make a statement about Burma before I left," the first lady told reporters.

Undaunted after her diplomatic foray, Pickles then went on and on about Jenna's weddin', which we all know is closely related to the cyclone in Burma.

Whyyy. If eye din't know better, eyed thank Pickles was relative to Dubya.


Gasoline Usage

Here is a handy-dandy chart comparing gasoline demand this year vs. last year:

Demand has gone down by around 1%. Considering how dependent we all are on gasoline, this is a considerable drop and likely just the beginning if prices continue on trend.

Once again, where political will is missing, greed takes over. We could have avoided this entire energy mess years ago, but the price just wasn't quite high enough. As soon as the U.S. got off the ground and really began dealing with the energy crisis of the 1970's, OPEC managed the price down to a level that was just short of painful. OPEC has been managing it ever since .... until now. It looks like demand has outstripped the total available supply, leaving oil producers unable to increase output and manage prices.

Perhaps, if this is peak oil (and I think it's near if not now), we'll finally actually do something about energy? Oh. And there's also that little greenhouse gas problem .... It's unfortunate that the transition will have to be somewhat painful for consumers. Every time I see a media interview of a consumer bitching about gasoline prices, I chuckle and wonder who they voted for over the past 20 years. But painful it will have to be because that's how unfettered markets work.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Did You Know?

Four more American soldiers died yesterday in Iraq?


Iranian Escalation

There seems to be a growing chorus of conservative singers talking about a "limited" attack on Iran. Josh Bolton:

I think they’re dead wrong on this. I think this is a case where the use of military force against a training camp to show the Iranians we’re not going to tolerate this is really the most prudent thing to do. Then the ball would be in Iran’s court to draw the appropriate lesson to stop harming our troops.
While Bolton is not a government official, he may be part of a scout party designed to "soften up" the body politic, preparing for aerial attacks within Iran. I just don't think there's any way Bush leaves office without firing a shot at his perceived mortal enemy.

Added: Meanwhile, Akerman does some supposin' that makes a lot of sense.


Change The World

You, too, can change the world:

Ever wondered why there are so many Vietnamese manicurists? The LAT describes how it all started entirely by chance when actress Tippi Hedren took it upon herself to teach a group of 20 Vietnamese refugees how to do nails in 1975. Now, approximately 43 percent of nail technicians are Vietnamese Americans.