The Aeration Zone: A liberal breath of fresh air

Contributors (otherwise known as "The Aerheads"):

Walldon in New Jersey ---- Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
ChiTom in Illinois -- KISSweb in Illinois -- HoundDog in Kansas City -- The Binger in Ohio

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Sunday, December 31, 2006

3000 and counting!

Meanwhile, Bush fiddles:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq has reached 3,000 since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, an authoritative Web site tracking war deaths said on Sunday.

Science told: hands off gay sheep

Somehow, I just can't get myself too worked up about this:

SCIENTISTS are conducting experiments to change the sexuality of “gay” sheep in a programme that critics fear could pave the way for breeding out homosexuality in humans.

The technique being developed by American researchers adjusts the hormonal balance in the brains of homosexual rams so that they are more inclined to mate with ewes.

It raises the prospect that pregnant women could one day be offered a treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual. Experts say that, in theory, the “straightening” procedure on humans could be as simple as a hormone supplement for mothers-to-be, worn on the skin like an anti-smoking nicotine patch.

The research, at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, has caused an outcry. Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.

Actually, I didn't know till now (or if I did, I've forgotten) that one out of every ten sheep (on average) is gay. I guess they need some preaching to by the religious right.

By the way, what does this say about the Whiffenpoofs?

Bah, bah, bah.

Justice American Style

The New York Times has an article on the military tribunals being held at Guantanamo:

Some limitations have long been evident. The prisoners have no right to a lawyer, or to see classified evidence, or even to know the identity of their accusers. What has been less visible, however, is what many officials describe as a continuing shortage of information about many detainees, including some who have been held on sketchy or disputed intelligence.

Behind the hearings that journalists are allowed to observe is a system that has at times been as long on government infighting and diplomatic maneuvering as it has been short on hard evidence. The result, current and former officials acknowledged, is that some detainees have been held for years on less compelling information, while a growing number of others for whom there was thought to be stronger evidence of militant activities have been released under secret arrangements between Washington and their home governments.

Ford, RIP

I guess I have to make some comment about President Ford's passing. Many pundits are talking about how unpopular his decision to pardon Nixon was at the time and saying that as time has past the decision looks more and more acceptable. I guess that shows how out-of-touch I am, since it works exactly in reverse for me.

At the time Ford made that decision, I wasn't happy about it, but I did sort of buy in to the "it's the best way to heal the wounds and save the nation" argument. Because Ford was the kind of man he was, I was convinced that at least that was the reason behind his decision (in other words, there was no pre-planned deal with Nixon), and I was willing to forgive him (Ford, not Nixon) for making a bad decision for good reasons.

As time has passed, I am have grown more and more distressed by Ford's decision even though I still think his motives were pure. Why? Because it set a precedent that we should never try a former president for crimes committed while in office. This creates two problems. First, it encourages sitting presidents to walk close to and sometimes over the edge of illegality. Indeed, I think Bush's actions can be traced directly to Ford's decision. Second, it means we can never use the justice system to get the facts out. The current system simply sweeps the dirt under the carpet, hiding it from the view of the public. It's the dirt that the public needs to know about so they can hold someone responsible for it.

So, I now think Ford's decision was less forgiveable than I once thought it was. Nonetheless, I still think of him as a fundamentally good person who, perhaps, got into water that was a bit over his head. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

They're still perverting science to favor the Christian crazies

Via Carpetbagger, I learn that National Park Officials are not allowed to give geologic estimates of the age of Grand Canyon (unless, of course, they date it to Noah's flood in 6,000 B.C. or so):

Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

Un-bleeping-believable: gag rule on National Park rangers at Grand Canyon

Can you actually believe this? (From Steve Benen filling in for Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly.) Officially, the Grand Canyon is no more than 6000 years old. Apparently Noah floated right over it as it was being carved out. Quick work.
First, a little background. In August 2003, the National Park Service approved a creationist text, "Grand Canyon: A Different View," to share bookshelves with legitimate books at park bookstores and museums. In this case, the "different view" meant an unscientific approach, touting a literal reading of scripture to explain the Canyon's formation. The book argues, for example, "[A]ccording to a biblical time scale, [the Canyon] can't possibly be more than about a few thousand years old."
The decision to promote the book didn't go over well. Scientists who work at the Grand Canyon were outraged, as was the academic community -- the American Geological Institute and seven geo-science organizations sent letters to the park and agency officials asking that the book be removed. Their objections were rebuffed; the book stayed.

Three years later, the problem appears to be slightly worse.

Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)."In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is 'no comment.'"

Absolutely nothing, of course

Here’s a good one from a contributor to Daily Kos: Republicans, Huh, Yeah, What Are They Good For?
Smaller government? Fiscal responsibility? Surely for managing the military, right? And certainly tough on crime.

In case the reference escapes you, think Vietnam War-era music (Edwin Starr) and substitute “War” for Republicans.


LILLINGTON, N.C. (AP) - A woman attacked a man in his genitals during a Christmas party, injuring him badly enough that he needed 50 stitches, authorities said Friday. Rebecca Arnold Dawson, 34, was charged with malicious castration in a fight early Tuesday at a party hosted by the 38-year-old man's girlfriend, police said.

All three were heavily intoxicated, police Chief Frank Powers said.

Dawson is accused of grabbing the man's genitals. Police said a weapon was not used. He declined to elaborate.

"I believe he needed more than 50 stitches to repair the damage, but he is back home at this point," police Cpl. Brad Stevens said. "All we can tell you is that the injury was done with her hands."

Better watch out at the New Year's party!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Palestinians being killed at record rate

The Israelis are killing Palestinians at record rates:

From January to December 2006, the Israeli military killed 655 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem - a huge rise on last year.

The number killed in the previous year was 197.

Meanwhile the number of Israeli's killed by Palestinians has dropped sharply. That, however, is not cause and effect.

Rutgers wins

Coming from New Jersey, I guess I have to comment on the fact that Rutgers beat Kansas State 37-10 last night in its first bowl game ever. Up till this year, it was always questionable whether Rutgers could defeat the Smith College girls' team.

It's not a failure, it's just a success that hasn't occurred yet

I'm lifting this post lock, stock, and barrel from the Carpetbagger Report:

Frances Fragos Townsend, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, was on CNN yesterday discussing the war in Iraq, Saddam’s pending execution, and the Middle East, but CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry had the temerity to ask about the terrorist behind 9/11.

Officials from this White House are known for some bizarre comments, but Townsend’s response has to go in the Hall of Fame. (via)

HENRY: You know, going back to September 2001, the president said, dead or alive, we’re going to get him. Still don’t have him. I know you are saying there’s successes on the war on terror, and there have been. That’s a failure.

TOWNSEND: Well, I’m not sure — it’s a success that hasn’t occurred yet. I don’t know that I view that as a failure.

A “success that hasn’t occurred yet”? By that logic, practically nothing could ever be characterized as failure. Indeed, I’m not sure why the Bush gang hasn’t thought of this sooner.

“Budget deficits are just surpluses that haven’t occurred yet.”

“Global warming is just global cooling that hasn’t occurred yet.”

“Stagnant wages are just raises that haven’t occurred yet.”

“The civil war in Iraq is just peace that hasn’t occurred yet.”

It’d be amusing if it weren’t so sad.

We're waiting, and waiting... ... ... and waiting ...

The Everready Bunny is beginning to slow d ---- o ------ w---------- n.

Holy Joe

Holy Joe (Lieberman) has now joined St. McCain in calling for an escalation in Iraq. More and more, it seems like Joe is positioning himself to be McCain's running mate. It's now the Bush-McCain-Lieberman war. May they all be destroyed by it!

Hard work

I think this lede paragraph in a news article yesterday just about says it all:

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year.

[Hat tip to Americablog]

Don't I recall someone else who fiddled while Rome burned?

No criticism allowed (unless it is to criticize a Dem)

As Atrios so effectively points out, the tradition that says ex-presidents should not criticize sitting presidents seems to apply only to criticism of Republicans. It's just fine for ex-presidents to criticize sitting Democratic presidents.


Back from the Red states, but blogging will remain light on my part for the next few days, what with holiday partying going on continuously.

Meanwhile, rumor has it that today or tomorrow may be Saddam's last.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Real reporting on what the soldiers think

Behold, an actual piece of real journalism: AP reporters actually interviewed real soldiers in Baghdad about the wisdom of escalating the fighting with more troops. Although some believed more soldiers would help, more typical of those opinions reported was this:

"I don't know what could help at this point," said Roberts, 22, of Paonia, Colo. "What would more guys do? We can't pick sides. It's almost like we have to watch them kill each other, then ask questions."

Beware of the Military-Industrial Complex. Huh?

Writer Robert Scheer reminds us of Eisenhower’s 1961 warning against the Merchants of Death. Ike called them the “Military-Industrial Complex” -- or at least somebody coined the term for what he warned was "a permanent arms industry of vast proportions." It constantly made the rounds of intelligent discourse during the Vietnam War, and then we kinda forgot after The Wall came down. It’s time to pass the torch to a new generation, and by the way, kids, at least some of them are not your friends. They want you to ride in the Humvees and stand on the wall – that’s Jack Nicholson’s “wall,” not “The Wall” – so they can count the money without unpleasant interruptions and keep their own kids far, far away.

And don’t forget, those of you not too sharp on your ancient history: Eisenhower was a general, and a hero who helped us win World War II. He was worth listening to about stuff like this.

Real stand up guys, eh?

Here is the list, currently at 28, of separate incidents of the Bush administration pulling back or cancelling reports or other sources of information it does not want the public to see. There will probably be more to come.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A preening peacock from Nantucket thinks democracy is great (as long as he's the Decider)

I challenge anyone to come up with a dumber statement than this gem from Brian Williams:

The whole notion of "media" is now much more democratic, but what will the effect be on democracy?

Read this great review of modern journalism by Jamison Foser at Media Matters.

Universal healthcare: getting closer to critical mass

Via Steve Benen guest-blogging on Kevin Drum’s Washington Monthly site comes a reference to an excellent review of the healthcare situation in the LA Times by Ezra Klein, who has developed considerable expertise on the subject. The essential message that is catching on fast: the time for employer-based health insurance is long past.

The U.S. healthcare system cannot, in its current form, go on forever, or even for very much longer — employers can't afford it, individuals can't handle it and the country's conscience won't countenance it.

And change may come sooner than most think. Across the country there are unmistakable signs that the gridlock and confusion sustaining our sadly outdated system are coming to an end and that real reform may finally emerge, possibly even starting in California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is promising to spend his upcoming State of the State speech explaining how he will push the Golden State closer to universal healthcare in the coming year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Atrios says that CNN is reporting that our recruiting efforts for the military are going so badly that we are setting up recruiting offices abroad to recruit foreigners. This sounds like an absolutely horrible idea to me. The one thing that's constrained us politically from fighting too much (not very well, but at least a little) has been the threat of losing our young men and women. With an army made up of foreigners, Americans won't care how many wars we are in.

Myths that prevent us from doing the intelligent thing in Iraq

Juan Cole, Professor of Middle Eastern History at Michigan, has some comments on his blog that seem very wise. Informed Comment, “Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2006.” Here are a few key sections:

Myth number one is that the United States "can still win" in Iraq. Of course, the truth of this statement. . . depends on what "winning" means. But if it means the establishment of a stable, pro-American, anti-Iranian government with an effective and even-handed army and police force in the near or even medium term, then the assertion is frankly ridiculous. The Iraqi "government" is barely functioning. The parliament was not able to meet in December because it could not attain a quorum. Many key Iraqi politicians live most of the time in London, and much of parliament is frequently abroad. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki does not control large swathes of the country, and could give few orders that had any chance of being obeyed. The US military cannot shore up this government, even with an extra division. . . . Most of the major parties trying to craft legislation are also linked to militias on the streets who are killing one another. It is over with. Iraq is in for years of heavy political violence of a sort that no foreign military force can hope to stop. . . . And the blindly arrogant assumption that it can win is calculated to get more tens of thousands of Iraqis killed and more thousands of American soldiers and Marines badly wounded or killed.

Myth No. 2: "US military sweeps of neighborhoods can drive the guerrillas out." The US destroyed Falluja, and even it and other cities of al-Anbar province are not now safe! . . . In 2003, 14 percent of Sunni Arabs thought it legitimate to attack US personnel and facilities. In August, 2006, over 70 percent did. How long before it is 100%? Winning guerrilla wars requires two victories, a military victory over the guerrillas and a winning of the hearts and minds of the general public, thus denying the guerrillas support. The US has not and is unlikely to be able to repress the guerrillas, and it is losing hearts and minds at an increasing and alarming rate. They hate us, folks. They don't want us there.

Another myth: "Iraq is the central front in the war on terror." From the beginning of history until 2003 there had never been a suicide bombing in Iraq. There was no al-Qaeda in Baath-ruled Iraq. . . . Zarqawi's so-called "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia" was never "central" in Iraq and was never responsible for more than a fraction of the violent attacks. This assertion is supported by the outcome of a US-Jordanian operation that killed Zarqawi this year. His death had no impact whatsoever on the level of violence. There are probably only about 1,000 foreign fighters even in Iraq, and most of them are first-time volunteers, not old-time terrorists. . . . Al-Qaeda is mainly a boogey man, invoked in Iraq on all sides, but possessing little real power or presence there.

"The Sunni Arab guerrillas in places like Ramadi will follow the US home to the American mainland and commit terrorism if we leave Iraq." People in Ramadi only have one beef with the United States. . . . They don't want the US troops in their town or their homes, dictating to them that they must live under a government of Shiite clerics and Kurdish warlords (as they think of them). If the US withdrew. . . [t]hey are not going to start taking flight lessons and trying to get visas to the US. This argument about following us, if it were true, would have prevented us from ever withdrawing from anyplace once we entered a war there. We'd be forever stuck in the Philippines for fear that Filipino terrorists would follow us back home. . . . The argument is a crock. In my view, Shiite leaders such as Abdul Aziz al-Hakim are repeatedly declining to negotiate in good faith with the Sunni Arabs or to take their views seriously. Al-Hakim knows that if the Sunnis give him any trouble, he can sic the Marines on them. The US presence is making it harder for Iraqi to compromise with Iraqi, which is counterproductive.

Mel Torme

This is lifted, lock, stock, and barrel from Andrew Tobias, but I thougt it was worth repeating:

Alan light: My showbiz friend Mark Evanier, who lives within walking distance to the
Farmer's Market in L.A., wrote this about his experience with Mel Tormé, and I have to share it with you. This is one of those stories that sends a shiver up your spine, makes you feel good all over, and makes you want to re-read it and savor every line.


I want to tell you a story...

The scene is Farmer's Market — the famed tourist Mecca of Los Angeles. It's located but yards from the facility they call, "CBS Television City in Hollywood"...which, of course, is not in Hollywood but at least is very close.

Farmer's Market is a quaint collection of bungalow stores, produce stalls and little stands where one can buy darn near anything edible one wishes to devour. You buy your pizza slice or sandwich or Chinese food or whatever at one of umpteen counters, then carry it on a tray to an open-air table for consumption.

During the Summer or on weekends, the place is full of families and tourists and Japanese tour groups. But this was a winter weekday, not long before Christmas, and the crowd was mostly older folks, dawdling over coffee and danish. For most of them, it's a good place to get a donut or a taco, to sit and read the paper.

For me, it's a good place to get out of the house and grab something to eat. I arrived, headed for my favorite barbecue stand and, en route, noticed that Mel Tormé was seated at one of the tables.

Mel Tormé. My favorite singer. Just sitting there, sipping a cup of coffee, munching on an English Muffin, reading The New York Times. Mel Tormé.

I had never met Mel Tormé. Alas, I still haven't and now I never will. He looked like he was engrossed in the paper that day so I didn't stop and say, "Excuse me, I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed all your records." I wish I had.

Instead, I continued over to the BBQ place, got myself a chicken sandwich and settled down at a table to consume it. I was about halfway through when four Christmas carolers strolled by, singing "Let It Snow," a cappella.

They were young adults with strong, fine voices and they were all clad in splendid Victorian garb. The Market had hired them (I assume) to stroll about and sing for the diners — a little touch of the holidays.

"Let It Snow" concluded not far from me to polite applause from all within earshot. I waved the leader of the chorale over and directed his attention to Mr. Tormé, seated about twenty yards from me.

"That's Mel Tormé down there. Do you know who he is?"

The singer was about 25 so it didn't horrify me that he said, "No."

I asked, "Do you know 'The Christmas Song?'"

Again, a "No."

I said, "That's the one that starts, 'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...'"

"Oh, yes," the caroler chirped. "Is that what it's called? 'The Christmas Song?'"

"That's the name," I explained. "And that man wrote it." The singer thanked me, returned to his group for a brief huddle...and then they strolled down towards Mel Tormé. I ditched the rest of my sandwich and followed, a few steps behind. As they reached their quarry, they began singing, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." directly to him.

A big smile formed on Mel Tormé's face — and it wasn't the only one around. Most of those sitting at nearby tables knew who he was and many seemed aware of the significance of singing that song to him. For those who didn't, there was a sudden flurry of whispers: "That's Mel Tormé...he wrote that..."

As the choir reached the last chorus or two of the song, Mel got to his feet and made a little gesture that meant, "Let me sing one chorus solo." The carolers — all still apparently unaware they were in the presence of one of the world's great singers — looked a bit uncomfortable. I'd bet at least a couple were thinking, "Oh, no...the little fat guy wants to sing."

But they stopped and the little fat guy started to sing...and, of course, out came this beautiful, melodic, perfectly-on-pitch voice. The look on the face of the singer I'd briefed was amazed at first...then properly impressed.

On Mr. Tormé's signal, they all joined in on the final lines: "Although it's been said, many times, many ways...Merry Christmas to you..." Big smiles all around.

And not just from them. I looked and at all the tables surrounding the impromptu performance, I saw huge grins of delight...which segued, as the song ended, into a huge burst of applause. The whole tune only lasted about two minutes but I doubt anyone who was there will ever forget it.

I have witnessed a number of thrilling "show business" moments — those incidents, far and few between, where all the little hairs on your epidermis snap to attention and tingle with joy. Usually, these occur on a screen or stage. I hadn't expected to experience one next to a falafel stand — but I did.

Tormé thanked the harmonizers for the serenade and one of the women said, "You really wrote that?"

He nodded. "A wonderful songwriter named Bob Wells and I wrote that...and, get this — we did it on the hottest day of the year in July. It was a way to cool down."

Then the gent I'd briefed said, "You know, you're not a bad singer." He actually said that to Mel Tormé.

Mel chuckled. He realized that these four young folks hadn't the velvet-foggiest notion who he was, above and beyond the fact that he'd worked on that classic carol. "Well," he said. "I've actually made a few records in my day..."

"Really?" the other man asked. "How many?"

Tormé smiled and said, "Ninety."

Happy Boxing Day

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

John Kennedy's assassination was 43 years ago, Part II

For thinking and planning for what we can do for 2008, this post by Bob Somerby, The Daily Howler, is one that everyone should read and re-read from time-to-time, and re-circulate whenever possible. Somerby properly takes to task a liberal writer who gets involved in the Hillary makes this-and-that impression nonsense:

. . . . We’ll take strong issue with this M. J. Rosenberg post—a post Kevin Drum unwisely semi-seconded. . . . . Here’s the heart of what Rosenberg said. It concerns Hillary Clinton:
ROSENBERG (12/21/06): I just watched Hillary Clinton on "the View." And I realized something. Every time she lets go a little (like when she jogged into the room), she is very appealing. And every time she discusses things like engaging in "a national conversation" about whatever the hell it was, she is terrible.
In this passage, we see a writer at a “smart” liberal site getting into the press corps’ favorite game—making judgments about appearance and body language, and about what is “very appealing.” Needless to say, he had a judgment about Obama too—and a thought about (groan) “authenticity:”

ROSENBERG (continuing directly): Barack Obama, on the other hand, never seems programmed. . . . Now I'm not saying that either Barack or Hillary is authentic. I don't know either one.

But I'll say this. Obama is great because . . . he does not seem to be measuring every word and gesture, calculating whether they will get him into trouble. That is what makes him so cool and so appealing. . . .

For liberals, this sort of thing is spectacularly foolish. Here’s why:

First and most obvious, . . . when we talk about what is “appealing” and authentic,” we enter extremely subjective territory. And oh yeah—we validate the type of discussion the mainstream press corps is eager to have. Once we allow this type of discussion, they can create any novel they want about who’s “authentic” and who isn’t. And surprise! As an upper-class and corporate institution, the press corps will increasingly tend to judge that Republican candidates seem “authentic”—and that the Dems do not. Indeed, that’s precisely the way this group has called it in our last two White House campaigns—Bush and McCain were authentic straight-shooters, the hideous Gore and Kerry were not. . . . Once we let them start making such judgments, they’ll quickly craft the story they like—and whatever it is, they’ll recite it in unison. . . .

If you’re a Democrat or a liberal, Hillary Clinton has died for your sins. That doesn’t mean she should be the nominee, but she deserves your respect, as does Gore. Each has taken a ton of shit—while our “liberal leaders” have stared into air.
Which of the hopefuls is most authentic? We have an answer to that: . . . If we Democrats have an ounce of sense, we’ll steer the discussion toward serious topics

The more we succumb to the temptation to unduly personalize the race for the Presidency – worrying about who bores us or who excites us, who is “authentic” or “comfortable in his (or her) own skin,” who is “ambitious” or dynamic, who we might “like to drink beer with,” who follows supposedly elite passions like windsurfing vs. down-to-earth ones like NASCAR, who is a great speaker, or hunts or is a phony, who can use religious imagery better in speeches -- the more we play a game that the Republicans have been using for a generation to their benefit. Republican right-wing conservatism is dead as a political philosophy. It has absolutely nothing to commend it for the benefit of the American people, not even the rich who get dragged down like everyone else when the weakest link in society is, indeed, by design in that philosophy, very weak. (The right-wing rich, however, bite off their noses to spite their faces because they are unable to comprehend anything more than the most simplistic concepts of cause-and-effect.)

Yet five times since 1980, Republicans have managed to get themselves elected President by playing the personality and character game in the mainstream media (while pursuing racism under the national radar), attacking the Democratic candidate – whether it be Carter, Dukakis, Gore or Kerry – for personal characteristics that have little do with the kind of government we will have.

The point has been made here before: John Kennedy died over 40 years ago, and it’s time to deal with it by not searching desperately for someone who will re-create a Camelot that will ease our lifelong ache over what could have been. What matters is not what clothes are worn, or how authentic the smile is, but what policies will be followed, what will be the governing philosophy of the thousand or so people who will be appointed to important government positions, what constituencies will be cared for, and who will have the ear of the President’s people. The journalism profession – indeed, its most highly visible and best-compensated members -- has joined the right-wing in dragging us all into the personalities game. It has effectively put utterly worthless and dangerous officials like George Bush and Richard Cheney in charge of our lives, causing the loss of thousands upon thousands of lives, and has disgraced itself in the process. Whenever we see such irrelevancies being raised in the media, we should be taking the time whenever we possibly can to heap ridicule on the publications who so grossly violate their charter as the so-called “Fourth Estate.”

Sunday, December 24, 2006

One inhabited island down, many more to go

Here we go.

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

Iguess it's time to get out of Florida and return home. My house is high enough that I may have beach front property in fifteen or twenty years.

The Shadow Budget

So, Bush has to be told this?

Top lawmakers are pressing President George W. Bush to stop using a "shadow budget" to fund the Iraq war and instead list the expected costs in the 2008 spending plan he is set to unveil early next year.

Total war spending may reach $170 billion for the 2007 fiscal year that ends September 30, a record.

Since the conflict began in 2003, Bush has used emergency spending bills to cover nearly all of the costs for the Iraq operation, rather than including them in the annual budget.

He has come under criticism for this practice, not only by lawmakers but also by the Iraq Study Group that recommended policy options for Iraq and said that in the interests of openness, the budget process should not be circumvented.

Three lawmakers - one Republican and two Democrats - wrote to Bush on Thursday telling him that the emergency bills had created an "ever- expanding shadow budget" that was obscuring Congress's oversight process and skewing budget deficit projections.

If he didn't know this already, telling him this will just encourage him to do it more. The whole purpose has been to avoid oversight.

OY- 3 more

And, the McCain/Bush war goes on.

It's a war on the holidays

I'm listening, but I haven't heard anything. I guess all the reporters have gone home for Christmas the Holidays.

Don't forget, there's a war on the Holidays! Many, many casualties. I even heard someone say "Merry Christmas" in a store the other day. Maybe even a civil war (Episcopalians v. Episcopalians). They're talking about a "surge" to try to fend off those evil elves. But, the generals think a surge might discourage the reindeer from taking matters into their own hands and refuse to pull the sleigh. Meanwhile, the leader says that until the reindeer stand up, we cannot stand down.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The American Century Mein Kampfers are resourceful

Kevin Drum makes the point that maybe war opponents should go along with the escalation in Baghdad:
So we're not quite sure what we're going to do with them, but after meeting with the new SecDef we're suddenly quite sure we need them. Another courageous moment for our military leadership.
Still, honesty compels me to say that I'm glad this is going to happen. I know this makes me a bad person with no concern for human life etc. etc. (feel free to expand on this sentiment in comments), but at some point we have to come to a conclusion on this stuff. Conservatives long ago convinced themselves against all evidence that we could have won in Vietnam if we'd only added more troops or used more napalm or nuked Hanoi or whatever, and they're going to do the same thing in Iraq unless we allow them to play this out the way they want. If they don't get to play the game their way, they'll spend the next couple of decades trying to persuade the American public that there was nothing wrong with the idea of invading Iraq at all. We just never put the necessary resources into it.
Well, screw that. There's nothing we can do to stop them anyway, so give 'em the resources they want. Let 'em fight the war the way they want. If it works -- and after all, stranger things have happened -- then I'll eat some crow. But if it doesn't, there's a chance that the country will actually learn something from this.
I wish it were otherwise. But it isn't.
It’s hard not to react sympathetically to this, but it may not matter. They will whine about not trying hard enough no matter what is done. They will blame liberals and the press for not allowing enough resources anyway – for setting it up so that, by the time this was done, it was all they could do. Remember, we had 550,000 in Viet Nam, and the nutcase warmongers still spout the stab-in-the-back theories.

Gates hands down the law

I think we now know why Gates went to Baghdad. Day before yesterday, the NY Times had this to say on the day of Gates' arrival in Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Dec. 20 — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, visiting Iraq on his second day in office, said Wednesday that senior commanders had expressed their concern to him that sending more American troops to Iraq might delay the Iraqi government from taking responsibility for its own security.

Today, the headline in the Polk County Ledger:

Top Military Officials call for troop "Surge"

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Draft

They're talking about bringing back the draft:

The Selective Service—the federal agency that would be integral to any draft effort by the Bush administration—will perform tests on its system equipment, The Associated Press is reporting.

Selective Service "is planning a comprehensive test of the military draft machinery, which hasn't been run since 1998," writes Kasie Hunt. "The agency is not gearing up for a draft," an agency official told Hunt, and "the test itself would not likely occur until 2009."

Oh oh. I checked my draft card, and I'm One-A.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


This is so out of character for thsi administration, you really have to wonder if there's some insidious underlying plot. Ordinarily, I would read something like this and say, "three cheers," but with Bush?

WASHINGTON: It will be a Cinderella moment for the band of researchers who study the hidden history of American government.

At midnight on Dec. 31, hundreds of millions of pages of secret documents will be instantly declassified, including many FBI cold war files on investigations of people suspected of being Communist sympathizers. After years of extensions sought by federal agencies behaving like college students facing a term paper, the end of 2006 means the government's first automatic declassification of records.

Secret documents 25 years old or older will lose their classified status without so much as the stroke of a pen, unless agencies have sought exemptions on the ground that the material remains secret.

Historians say the deadline, created in the Clinton administration but enforced, to the surprise of some scholars, by the secrecy-prone Bush administration, has had huge effects on public access, despite the large numbers of intelligence documents that have been exempted.

How many civil wars should we get in the middle of?

Wasn't being in the middle of one civil war (or perhaps two if you count Afghanistan) enoough?

(12-14) 04:00 PST Jericho, West Bank -- U.S. officials training Palestinian security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas are emphasizing urban anti-terrorist techniques as part of a systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas, according to Palestinian analysts and officers receiving the training.

But one officer who has received the training says the purpose of the newly beefed-up force is to protect the Palestinian president from assassination.

The Presidential Guard, made up entirely of Fatah activists loyal to Abbas, has been increased to 1,000, up from about 90 officers under his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. A new black-uniformed rapid deployment force -- Al-Tadakhwal -- has recently been formed to respond to emergencies. The Presidential Guard is commanded by Gen. Munir Zobi in the West Bank and Gen. Haj Musbar in Gaza.

Officers have also received training from U.S. officials inside the Mukata, the presidential compound in Ramallah that contains Abbas' office and Arafat's grave.

The Chronicle has obtained a training manual distributed to officers of the Al-Haras Al-Rayassi, Abbas' Presidential Guard, during a two-week course held in Jericho earlier this year at which the chief instructor introduced himself as a U.S. Secret Service officer who served during the Reagan administration. The manual, titled "Advanced Protective Operations Seminar," is emblazoned with the logo of the Counterterrorism Training Group, which includes the U.S. government seal.

Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth after news of the training sessions leaked out that since Iran is helping arm and fund Hamas political and military activities, the United States wants to prevent "moderate forces" in the Palestinian territories from being eliminated.

"We are involved in building up the Presidential Guard, instructing it, assisting it to build itself up and giving them ideas. We are not training the forces to confront Hamas," Dayton told Yedioth. "Hamas is receiving money and arms from Iran and possibly Syria, and we must make sure that the moderate forces will not be erased," Dayton said.

But one of the officers trained by Dayton's team said the American general is being naive and does not understand internal Palestinian politics.

Conventional Wisdom: Iraq is in the throes of terrible sectarian conflict. Or is it?

Consider the fact that pushing this story lends support to the idea that, as a humanitarian matter, the U.S. must stay to keep the lid from blowing off. George W Bush: tough – and a true humanitarian. He will stay the course no matter what, and by the way liberals, we need to stay there if you don’t want to see even more deaths.

All those bodies – the story must be true. Or is it? This guy doesn’t think so. Could it be that all those bodies are Iraqis who are seen as collaborators with the occupiers, not Sunnis killed by Shias and vice versa? That would fit better with the question I asked earlier: if the whole thing is going to blow into civil war (according to the six or so Americans who speak the language), why in the world would so many Iraqis want us the hell out of there? It doesn’t add up.

Isolated and delusional

Watch this clip of Chuck Scarboro and Mike Barnacle and others commenting on how the president is now totally isolated. Even his Joint Chiefs are against him, and Gen. Abizaid quit because Bush isn't listening to him. There's even a veiled hint in here of the possibility of a military coup d'etat.

Writing congress out of the Constitution

Congress isn't real happy with Bush's signing statement on the India nuclear assistance bill, where he basically said he was going to ignore anything in the bill that he didn't like:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A statement by President George W. Bush issued in connection with the just-signed U.S.-India civil nuclear cooperation law has raised concerns that Bush may try to circumvent some of Congress' intentions, lawmakers and analysts say.

The statement, clarifying Bush's views on law and policy, was issued after he signed new legislation on Monday permitting U.S. sales of nuclear fuel and reactors to India for the first time in 30 years.

In the statement, Bush said his signature "does not constitute my adoption of the statements of policy (in the law) as U.S. foreign policy." Also in responding to reports mandated by Congress, he would consider how releasing data requested by lawmakers might "impair foreign relations."

Red State Blues

I guess I didn't expect much more, being down here in a Red State - Florida - but the headline in today's Polk County Ledger reads, "President endorses Democrats' plan to Boost Minimum Wage."

Bull roar. He tied it to a tax further tax cut for businesses. That's not the Dems' plan. But, of course, Bush wants to take credit for being a pro-minimum wage hike guy.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lack of experience

A TPM reader made the following observation which is absolutely dead on:

Am I the only one who is bothered by the way the pundits continually point out that Edwards’s or Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience is a genuine weakness, while Guiliani’s lack of foreign policy experience is never mentioned? Unlike Guiliani, at least Edwards and Obama have served in a national office.

Send all the libruls to detention camps

Think Progress tells us that;

Yesterday on Fox News, talk radio host Mike Gallagher said the U.S. government should “round up” actor Matt Damon, “The View” host Joy Behar, and MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann and “put them in a detention camp until this war is over because they’re a bunch of traitors.”

Gallagher was upset over Behar’s comment that Time magazine should have chosen a controversial “Hitler-type” like Donald Rumsfeld as its Person of the Year. Gallagher said Damon should also be incarcerated because he “attacked George Bush and Dick Cheney”; he didn’t explain why he wanted to imprison Olbermann.

Do these guys do these things just to get ratings, or do they really mean them?

It's the economic collapse, stupid

From the Center for American Progress, 12/8/06.
End of the Boom
Dark economic clouds are gathering ahead. After six years of booming home prices, the great American housing bubble has finally popped, and the market is now on the verge of collapse. Tens of millions of families who bought homes at bubble-inflated prices "now face the prospect of seeing their life savings disappear." This development will have wide-ranging effects on the American economy. "Over the last few years," writes Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, "most good U.S. economic news has been the result of soaring home prices." With this engine of economic growth now broken down, America faces a potential future of "rapidly falling house prices, rising default and bankruptcy rates," lost jobs, fewer consumption, even a possible recession. The dark clouds ahead may be a perfect storm hitting the U.S. economy. (Read "The End of the Great American Housing Boom," a new report by American Progress Senior Economist Christian Weller.)THE GREAT AMERICAN HOUSING BOOM: Over the past decade, home prices in the U.S. have climbed to never-before-seen heights. Traditionally, home prices tended to rise at the same pace as rental costs (since both reflect the price of a roof over one's head). In 1975, the home price index was equal to 108 percent of the rent index. By 2000, the ratio of home prices to rents had jumped above 130 percent for the first time. By the beginning of 2006, the ratio of home prices to rents had grown to a whopping 178 percent. Similarly, home prices compared to other prices remained relatively stable until 1999, when the ratio of home prices to other prices surpassed all previous ratios and grew to 208 percent at the beginning of 2006. U.S. ECONOMY DEPENDENT ON THE BOOM: "The economic recovery since 2001 has been disappointing in many ways," Krugman writes, "but it wouldn't have happened at all" without the housing bubble. The boom spurred the economy directly by surging spending on home construction and renovation, which created jobs and poured cash into the economy. It fueled the economy indirectly by making it "easy for consumers to spend freely by borrowing against their rising home equity." Homeowners have been borrowing "more than $700 billion a year from the equity in their houses," and economists estimate that "annual consumption is approximately $250 billion (2 percent of GDP) higher than it would be in the absence of the housing bubble." This spending spree, bolstered as it was by home equity borrowing, had consequences: For the first time since the Great Depression, savings rates have fallen into negative territory. The average American is spending more than he or she earns.THE BUBBLE HAS POPPED: Nationwide, house prices are down between 4 percent and 5 percent from their levels at the same point in 2005, adjusted for inflation, and "price declines in some of the most over-valued areas, like Washington, DC, and parts of Florida and California, have been considerably sharper." The glut of unsold homes "is the highest since 1993 and the year-over-year price decline is the biggest since 1990." The health of the U.S. economy will be determined by the direction of home prices in the next year.PREDATORY LENDERS AND THEIR 'NEUTRON BOMB': Traditionally, mortgages have been low risk lending. That changed during the recent housing bubble, which was in large part driven by high-risk loans given to "subprime" lenders (people who have "troubled credit records or otherwise have difficulty obtaining a mortgage," disproportionately black and Hispanic Americans). For instance, option adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) "have soared in popularity" particularly among subprime borrowers, jumping from as little as 0.5 percent of all mortgages written in 2003 to at least 12.3 percent through early 2006, estimates show. (In some booming coastal housing markets, they represent up to 40 percent or more of loans.) Today, as these subprime loans come up for renewal and are reset to even higher interest rates, delinquencies and foreclosures are rising. "Most of the pain will be born by ordinary people," according to BusinessWeek. "And it's already happening. More than a fifth of option ARM loans in 2004 and 2005 are upside down -- meaning borrowers' homes are worth less than their debt. If home prices fall 10 percent, that number would double." Roughly $2 trillion in option ARMs come due in the next two years, about one-third of the $6 trillion U.S. mortgage market. The option ARM is "like the neutron bomb," says George McCarthy, a housing economist at New York's Ford Foundation. "It's going to kill all the people but leave the houses standing." Progressives have long warned against marketing these loans to a vulnerable subprime market. "Subprime lenders are fueling their business by aggressively marketing these risky home loans without considering whether families can truly afford them," according to the Center for Responsible Lending. WHAT A CRASH MEANS FOR THE ECONOMY: The downturn following the collapse of the housing bubble is "likely to be far more severe than the downturn from the stock bubble," says Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Housing construction and sales directly account for more than 6 percent of GDP, and housing wealth "is far more evenly distributed than stock wealth." Declines in residential construction and housing related sectors will have a severe impact on the economy, and will be amplified by a decline in consumer spending. "With home prices falling, millions of homeowners will soon lose the ability to borrow against their homes," which have lost their value. That means less money spent on cars, travel, appliances, and other goods. "The economic picture over the next couple of years is likely to be one of rapidly falling house prices, rising default and bankruptcy rates, which will be associated with job loss and sharply higher unemployment." The problems don't end there. "Other critical sectors are not picking up the slack," Christian Weller writes. With the government mired in deficits, consumers running out of steam, and trade deficits at new record highs, "business investment must carry the economy forward. This will have to lead to job creation domestically, predominantly in the manufacturing sector, to be successful. This has not happened. Manufacturing employment also fell by a whopping 39,000 jobs in October." Paul Krugman says "the odds are very good — maybe 2 to 1," that the U.S. will teeter towards a recession in 2007. Renowned Morgan Stanley economist Steven Roach says the economy is "dangerously close to what we call stall speed. The odds of the U.S. economy tipping into recession are about 40 to 45 per cent." The Swiss Reinsurance Co., "one of the world’s foremost experts on risk," puts the chance of recession at 35 percent. And Dean Baker predicts "The Housing Crash Recession of 2007."

Elect a Mad Person Get Madness

From the DC underground:

It is astonishing to remember that a mere six years ago George Bush campaigned on the accusation that the Clinton administration had let the readiness of our military deteriorate. Today nearly all our military experts, even those speaking at peril to their careers, agree that our armed forces have been broken by the strategically idiotic occupation of Iraq. And yet the Bush administration has now coined a new slogan for "stay the course," in utter and diffident defiance of the will of American people. They are trying to sell us on yet one more "surge" in Iraq, perhaps the one that will finally break our own backs. What Germany could not do in World War II, what Japan could not do, George Bush has singlehandedly nearly accomplished already, the destruction of our armed forces. There is only one possible outcome from more such bull headed obstinacy, a surge in casualties, a surge in red ink budget deficits, and surge in insurgency. At a time when many are worried about how to logistically extract the troops we have there already, what the Bush administration is looking to do is to drive even faster going the wrong way on the freeway. And IF there were to be a further increase now, it would push off prospects of any meaningful withdrawal for another couple years, conveniently until the currently scheduled end of the Bush presidency. What is this silly talk about two to three months? It would take longer than that just to get more troops in. Are supporters of this idea nuts? They most certifiably are.


I've arrived at my out of town destination and have limited connectivity from one of the neighbors' routers, so blogging will probably be light, but I'll try a bit.

It sounds as though Bush talked alot today and said almost nothing except lies. (What else is new?) I really liked the lie that every one of the people picked up in the raids on wift last week had a fraudulent stolen identity. As it turned out, less than 1% of them did.

I can't tell for sure from what I gather he said whether he's actually going to overrule the Joint Chiefs and surge the troops, but it does sound like it to me.

He's digging a very, very deep grave for himself.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bush/McCain troop increase plan

Remember, between now and 2008 or until further notice (whichever comes first), it’s always, always that: not Bush’s plan, or the Bush-Cheney plan, but the Bush-McCain plan. Make it stick like hot tar.

Out of town

I will be out of town from now until next Wednesday (12/27). While I will have my laptop, I will not necessarily have easy access to WiFi, so blogging will probably be pretty light from me. Have a great holiday!


After the debacle in the Florida execution last week, where they had to perform the lethal injection twice and the guy took almost an hour to die, I keep wondering why people don't see the obvious. There is evidence the chemicals used in these injections cause excruciating pain to the prisoner which he/she can't express because they also cause total paralysis. Furthermore, they have to be administered by people who are not particularly adept at inserting IVs, since doctors and nurses for the most part have found participation in an execution to violate their professional oaths.

Now, I'm not for the death penalty to begin with. But, if it is to be used, I certainly believe it should be used as humanely as possible (if that's not an oxymoron). So, what's wrong with carbon monoxide? People who have recovered from accidental exposure to the gas say they passed out before they had any clue something was wrong. Obviously, no pain is involved. Further, it should be pretty simple for even poorly trained prison workers to pump the gas into a sealed chamber -- jeese, suicide attempters do it routinely by running a hose from the exhaust pipe of their car into the vehicle, close the windows and start the engine. It's really pretty simple.

There may be other equally simple approaches, but it doesn't seem to me we need all this debate about it. Just move on to the obvious.

Save the Internet - protect net neutrality

Save the internet

Not mocked enough (at least by those who unfortunately count the most)

Via Glenn Greenwald and his "Unclaimed Territory" site comes a link to an article in The American Conservative. Lest one be surprised much, these are the “old” conservatives tracing their leanings back even to the Robert Taft school of following George Washington’s advice to avoid “entangling alliances.” They were accused of being isolationists in their day, and today they don't much like immigration, at least the kind from Mexico. They don’t like the Iraq War and its architects either. As the excerpt below suggests, it’s a valuable read regardless of source:

They Only Look Dead, Scott McConnell, December 18, 2006

. . . . This election season ends with neoconservatism widely mocked and openly contemptuous of the president who took its counsels. The key policy it has lobbied for since the mid-1990s—the invasion of Iraq—is an almost universally acknowledged disaster. So one can see why the movement’s obituaries are being written. But the group was powerful and influential well before its alliance with George W. Bush. In its wake it leaves behind crises—Iraq first among them—that will not be easy to resolve, and neocons will not be shy about criticizing whatever imperfect solutions are found to the mess they have created. Perhaps most importantly, neoconservatism still commands more salaries—able people who can pursue ideological politics as fulltime work in think tanks and periodicals—than any of its rivals. The millionaires who fund AEI and the New York Sun will not abandon neoconservatism because Iraq didn’t work out. The reports of the movement’s demise are thus very much exaggerated.

The neo-conservatives who got us into this mess – as everyone now calls them, although they profess to hate it – are on the ropes, and, of course, their story now is that the Iraq War was a great idea, but Bush just screwed it up in the implementation. They continue to hold to the notion that the United States should “spread democracy” throughout the world – and by “spread,” they really do seem to mean by force of arms. Indeed, it often seems as if they actually prefer to spread it by force of arms, perhaps to solidify the intimidation aspect of their foreign policy views, although I suspect they would disavow that proposition seeing it in black-and-white. But if necessary, if that’s the only way to get it done, yes, by force of arms.

These are supposedly intellectuals, great thinkers at Johns Hopkins, the Hudson Institute, the Hoover Institution, Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. But all I can think of is this: did these people ever pay any attention to the history of the 20th century? Did they ever even raise a kid? During and after World War I, we had articulated the great principle of “self-determination.” The Arabs demanded and eventually got their own countries. Jews demanded that they have a place to call their own. Not many years later we had India throwing off the yoke of high-minded British imperialists, and then, one after the other, Ghana, and Nigeria and Kenya, and Tanzania, and all of the African countries, removing control by Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal. There was Algeria and Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia. The British and the French gave up the ghost of empire with relief. There were strong independence movements, so far unsuccessful, in Quebec and Puerto Rico. Latin American countries one by one have tried to reduce their dependence on the U.S., and for years Fidel Castro made a living setting up the United States as a foil for organizing the “non-aligned nations.

Why would anyone with a third of a brain and a middle-school knowledge of history think we could, successfully, go in with guns and bombs, kill tens of thousands of resisters who have families and consider themselves to be patriots, kill and destroy the homes of thousands of citizens as unfortunate but necessary collateral damage, and with very few people who either speak the language or have spent significant time in the country, identify the bad guys from the good guys, and set up and prop up a government based on our own idea of what a democracy should look like there? In an era where self-determination continues to hold sway and evolve as a fundamental principle of organizing human society, the whole idea of American dominance in the way the neo-conservatives conceive it is beyond preposterous. Yet Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer and company continue to book these people and give them a platform on national television? The Russerts and Blitzers need to be subjected to relentless ridicule until they finally drive the neo-conservatives into the wasteland they deserve.

Collapse of the K-Street project

Via Steven Clemons, I learn that Dave McCurdy, former Democratic Congressman, has been named President and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the auto industry's lobbying arm in Washington.

As Clemons says,

But a Dem heading the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers?

That's Andy Card's old job. Times have really changed.

So much for the K-Street project.

A pet peave

A pet peave. I know the New York Times, the self-proclaimed arbiter of American English, has decided otherwise, but the word "data" is plural. The singular is "datum." Hence, it is proper to say, "the data are," and it is improper to say, "the data is."

The children is noisy today, my dear.

The whack jobs are at it again

According to Raw Story, they want Pelosi banned from the Mass.

An anti-abortion group is lobbying a Washington, DC Catholic Church to stop Speaker of the House-designate Nancy Pelosi from attending mass, RAW STORY has learned.

Rep. Pelosi, the California Democrat who will become the first woman to be Speaker of the House, is scheduled to attend mass at Washington, DC's Trinity College on January 3, 2007, the day before the 110th Congress opens. Trinity is an all-women's school from which Pelosi graduated in 1962.

But the American Life League wants Washington's Archbishop Donald Wuerl to "prevent [Pelosi] from using the Mass for political gain," and has called on him to deny Pelosi Holy Communion. ALL argued that "Rep. Pelosi has been unwavering in her support for abortion and is downright defiant toward the Church's teachings on the sanctity of human life," and added, "it is shameful that Trinity College, a supposedly Catholic institution, has turned a blind eye to the heretical views Pelosi embraces."

Inflation rate soars

Is this the problem with having both guns and butter but no taxes?

WASHINGTON - Inflation at the wholesale level surged by the largest amount in more than three decades in November, reflecting higher prices for gasoline and a host of other items.

The Producer Price Index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, was up 2 percent last month, the biggest advance since a similar increase in November 1974, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

Economists had been expecting a rebound in wholesale prices following two months of big declines. However, the 2 percent jump was four times bigger than the 0.5 percent increase they had forecast. Even excluding volatile energy and food prices, core inflation posted a 1.3 percent advance, the biggest jump in 26 years.

Hillary v. St. John

I guess I have to mention the Newsweek poll that showed Hillary beating St. McCain 50 to 43%. I hope, as Josh Marshall suggests, that means the halo that's been hovering over McCain's head for so long is starting to get tarnished. I suspect that's true, now that he's sucking up to the religious right. Keep it up, St. John. I'd be happy to see you win the primary and lose the general election.

Second chances

I wonder what might have induced Donald Trump to show so much generosity.

NEW YORK -Miss USA Tara Conner, who had come under criticism amid rumors she had been frequenting bars while underage, will be allowed to keep her title, Donald Trump announced Tuesday.

"I've always been a believer in second chances," Trump, who owns the Miss Universe Organization with NBC, said with Conner at his side.

Pollute as much as you want, just don't tell us you're doing it

Whenever there is a choice between corporate interests and the public welfare, the public loses:

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration yesterday exempted thousands of companies from providing detailed information about the toxic chemicals they release into the air and water and onto the land, easing the reporting requirements under the nation's premier environmental right-to-know law.


The move brought an immediate negative reaction from Capitol Hill, with two New Jersey lawmakers pledging to legislatively overturn the new rule next year.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said the EPA's decision "puts the interests of corporate polluters ahead of the health and safety of the American people." Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.) called the change a "step backwards" because it "limits information that community residents can receive about chemicals near their homes."

The rule change was opposed by public health and environmental organizations and government agencies in 23 states. It had the backing of the chemical, electronics, petroleum and plastic industries as well as fabricated metal facilities, foam manufacturers, food processors and utilities.

Another signing statement

Bush to Congress as he signs bill into law: "I won't abide by the law."

Hours after signing an agreement yesterday on cooperation with India on civilian nuclear technology, President George W. Bush issued a "signing statement" insisting that the executive branch was not bound by terms of the agreement approved by the House of Representatives and Senate, RAW STORY has learned.

...However, a reading of the presidential signing statement which came later in the day made unclear the strength of some of those commitments, especially those made to Congress. In all, President Bush took exception to nine full sections of the bill approved by Congress.

First, President Bush took particular exception to a section declaring the policies of the United States, noting that his "approval of the Act does not constitute my adoption of the statements of policy as U.S. foreign policy." The statements of policy included opposition to nuclear weapons production by all non-nuclear weapons states, as well as promoting India's commitments to control the proliferation of nuclear fuel cycle technology, cooperate in preventing Iran's development of nuclear weapons, and limit expansion of existing nuclear arsenals in South Asia.

Next, President Bush said that a control placed by Congress on transfers to India of items that would run afoul of Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines "unconstitutionally delegated legislative power to an international body," and he therefore considered the section "advisory" in nature.

Then, the president declared that 8 sections of the bill in total had to be construed "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to protect and control information that could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties."

One section of the bill to which the president qualified his assent called on the the National Nuclear Security Administration of the US Department of Energy to engage the nuclear scientific community in India to develop cooperative nonproliferation activities, particularly with nuclear safeguards in mind. In another section of the bill, Congress had called on the president to issue determinations to Capitol Hill that India was aligning its nonproliferation policy in a manner consistent with US global nonproliferation goals, and also that civil cooperation with the US was not contributing to India's nuclear weapons program

Chris Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University of Ohio who has studied presidential signing statements closely, remarked on his personal blog last night that "All of the attention that the signing received was directed precisely where the administration wanted, and away from the sections of the bill that the President has undermined."

He added "With today's challenges, President Bush has issued a total of 137 signing statements and has made 1097 separate and distinct challenges to the provisions of the laws he has signed."

Two wars not enough for Bush

Bush is apparently preparing for still another war:

The U.S. military is "planning a major buildup" of its naval forces in the Persian Gulf region "as a warning to Iran," reports CBS News, as quoted by Reuters.

A senior official in the Department of Defense said "the report was 'premature' and appeared to be drawing 'conclusions from assumptions,'" according to Reuters. The Pentagon declined comment, but an additional Defense official described the report as "speculative."

It's a shame we don't have any more troops, isn't it. Gee, if we did, maybe he could start four of five more wars.

Mary Jane

Now this report in the UK's Independent (hat tip to Americablog) comes as a real surprise to me:

Marijuana is the most valuable cash crop in the United States, worth more to its growers than corn and wheat combined, according to a new report by a leading American drug reform lobbyist that cites the US government's own figures.

I guess I'm really out of the loop. I wouldn't know where to buy it if I wanted it. Sounds as though you might get it at your local news stand.

Joint Chiefs oppose surging

Things are really getting interesting in the internal fight over what to do about Iraq. It's pretty clear that Bush has made up his mind to surge, but the Washington Post tells us the Joint Chiefs are opposed:

Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said.

But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.

The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.

As Kevin Drum says, "Rock, meet hard place." What does Bush have left to him to announce if he can't surge?

Withdrawal? Never.

The only alternative is, "stay the course," which is the worst alternative of all from a political perspective. At least a surge makes him look like he's trying to do something different.

My prediction. The Joint Chiefs will back down.

The neo-liberals

Updated below

Harvard professor Orlando Patterson has a good op-ed in today's NY Times (behind subscription wall), explaining that, contrary to the view held by neo-conservatives, many other cultures don't necessarily want "freedom" stuffed down their throats at the point of a gun. He concludes as follows:

The good news is that freedom has been steadily carrying the day: nearly all nations now at least proclaim universal human rights as an ideal, though many are yet to put their constitutional commitments to practice. Freedom House’s data show the share of the world’s genuinely free countries increasing from 25 to 46 percent between 1975 and 2005.

The bad news is Iraq. Apart from the horrible toll in American and Iraqi lives, two disastrous consequences seem likely to follow from this debacle. One is the possibility that, by the time America extricates itself, most Iraqis and other Middle Easterners will have come to identify freedom with chaos, deprivation and national humiliation. The other is that most Americans will become so disgusted with foreign engagements that a new insularism will be forced on their leaders in which the last thing that voters would wish to hear is any talk about the global promotion of freedom, whatever “God’s gift” and the “longing of the soul.”

But what I really love about the piece is how he repeatedly refers to the neo-cons as "neo-liberals." Boy, if that isn't stiking in the knife and turning it.


Obviously Tristero, over at Hullabaloo, read this op-ed differently than I did. I took it that Orlando was snarking the neo-cons by labeling them with the librul stigma. Tristero seems to believe he's trying to blame the war on liberal thinkers because "real" conservatives couldn't have come up with anything this awful. Who knows? I don't know anything about Orlando Patterson, so perhaps Tristero is right.

Government's subpoena effort fails

It's always good to see this government lose a fight in court. Yesterday, they backed away from their attempt at prior restraint on publication through the use of subpoenas.

Federal prosecutors in New York yesterday withdrew a subpoena to the American Civil Liberties Union that had sought to retrieve all copies of a classified document.

In an opaque and defensive four-page letter to the judge in the case, the prosecutors said they were acting “in light of changed circumstances” and their determination that “the grand jury can obtain the evidence necessary to its investigation from other sources.”

Another factor may have played a role. A transcript of a closed hearing in the case that was unsealed yesterday suggested the government was going to lose.

"Another factor may have played a role." If that isn't an understatement, I don't know what is.

...The effort to retrieve all copies of the document was a novel and, according to many legal experts, improper use of a grand jury subpoena. The subpoena cited a provision of the espionage laws that requires people in possession of some sorts of national security information to return it to the government if asked. But the A.C.L.U. said that the document at issue did not qualify and that, in any event, a subpoena was the wrong way to enforce the law.

In a transcript of a closed hearing in the case on Dec. 11 that was unsealed yesterday, Judge Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court in Manhattan seemed to indicate grave reservations about the tactic.

“What’s the authority for saying that a subpoenaed party can’t keep a copy of any document that they produced to the grand jury?” Judge Rakoff asked Jennifer G. Rodgers, an assistant United States attorney. Ms. Rodgers did not provide a direct answer, and yesterday’s letter withdrawing the subpoena did not address the question.

Later in the hearing, Judge Rakoff compared the situation to the Nixon administration’s effort to stop The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing a secret history of the Vietnam War.

“There seems to be a huge difference,” Judge Rakoff said, “between investigating a wrongful leak of a classified document and demanding back all copies of it, and I’m old enough to remember a case called the Pentagon Papers.”

In yesterday’s letter, Ms. Rodgers suggested that the A.C.L.U. had set up the government, creating a fight that could have been resolved informally.

Oh, don't you feel sorry for the poor government. They got set up.