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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Friday, November 30, 2007

Exit or presence in perpetuity in Iraq?

News reports indicate that the White House is negotiating an agreement with al-Maliki that could include permanent bases, a massive military presence in the Middle East, and dibs for U.S. investors, which "could provide a huge windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its vast oil resources." Talking Points Memo summed up the agreement best, saying:

"That means that during Bush's last year in office, the administration will work out the terms of the U.S.'s stay in Iraq in order to, at the very least, seriously constrain the next administration's options for ending the U.S. presence."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senators Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama have begun to draw a line in the sand over this, saying that permanent bases are unacceptable. 5 But opposing permanent bases isn't enough. Democrats have to act to stop Bush's move to force us into an endless occupation in Iraq. An agreement like the one that Bush is negotiating has implications beyond Iraq. Bush administration officials have indicated that a long-term presence in Iraq is necessary to deter what they call "Iranian mischief" in the region—meaning that an ongoing commitment in Iraq could also pave the way to an escalation of war with Iran. News of this agreement broke the very same day that the New York Times reported that the Bush administration is giving up on the benchmarks it had set for the Iraqi government. Giving up on these benchmarks means that there is no pressure on the Iraqi government to create political reconciliation. Combine that with news of this agreement, and we run the risk of having U.S. troops bogged down in Iraq for decades.

Who's sane, anyway?

Republicans report they are saner than Democrats:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls.

Isn't there some old adage somewhere that says that only the sane question their sanity, while the insane always believe they're sane?


Here's a great catch by Digby:

So today the NY Times did some good reporting and published a story exposing Rudy Giuliani's pompous, megalomaniacal braggadocio on the stump for what it is:

All of these statements are incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong . . . .An examination of many of his statements by The New York Times, other news organizations and independent groups have turned up a variety of misstatements, virtually all of which cast Mr. Giuliani or his arguments in a better light.

Now that strikes me as pretty straightforward.

Here's the MSNBC chyron about this story:

Newspaper finds some figures wrong, but basic claims still true.

It's as though every MSM piece is written by the RNC (Giuliani wing)

Israel says, "Jump." We ask, "How high?"

UNITED NATIONS - In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a U.N. resolution endorsing this week's agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.

It's always nice to know that there's an honest broker to mediate disputes in the Middle East in a fair and balanced way, isn't it?

Nutty ideas

This business of Clinton picking Powell to be her VP is getting really absurd. My God, the man was a total failure during the Bush years -- a complete Bush hack job. Why the hell would she even think about this? Somebody needs to nip this one in the bud quickly.

And, Obama picking Bloomberg? Almost equally absurd. What do these people think they're up to?

Oh, I see. They've been brainwashed by David Broder.

An ass hole speaks

The Pope speaks:

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, in an encyclical released on Friday, said atheism was responsible for some of the "greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice" in history.

Yeah, sure. It was those atheists who burned people at the stake during the inquisition, wasn't it? And, of course, all those Popes that killed off their friends, relatives and enemies to preserve their own power were definitely atheists. (Remember the Borgias?) And, of course, it was the atheists who excommunicated Galileo for saying the sun was the center of the solar system.

Sure. And then, it was the atheists who crusaded against the Muslims in the Middle East, wasn't it?

Prior to the 20th century, I challenge you to find me any self-proclaimed atheists who started a war.

I think I could make a stronger case that it was the believers who have caused the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice in history.

I'm sorry if it offends those of you who pray to the pope, but when ass holes speak, I feel compelled to speak back!

Neo conmen

DarkSyde at Kos on Charles Krauthammer and his neocon buddies:

Krauthammer is no adolescent ditto head writing on Myspace in his parents basement. He surely has to know these facts. This is afterall a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist who is said to be critical of Intelligent Design Creationism, pro-choice and, astonishingly, an advocate of embryonic stem cell research. So why the deceptive spin job?

Maybe it's because Charles Krauthammer is a neoconservative by some accounts. And if there’s one thing that distinguishes neocons these days above other US political factions past and present -- aside from their stunning incompetence in handling everything they touch, followed by a confession of abject ignorance -- it’s their willingness to lie at the drop of a hat on TV, in print, online, in a train or on a plane, to salvage their failed ideology and miserable track record. Given the choice between intellectual honesty and political expediency it's pretty clear where he landed. And in that capacity, intentional or not, Charles Krauthammer delivered.

So true!

All of which reminds me that I'm reading a great book right now entitled Super Crunchers by Ian Ayres of Yale about the power of data mining and data crunching to solve society's problems. I haven't finished the book yet, so perhaps it's too early to criticize, but I'll off two possibly premature criticisms anyway. First, he seems to overlook the fact that there are hundreds of charlatans out there (hell, I was one of them when I was in the "think tank" business) using statistics to "prove" falsehoods everyday. Most "studies" produced or commissioned by trade associations and lobby groups are perfect examples. To just swallow claims of statistical "proof" that this, that, or the other public policy works is to be incredibly naive. I'm sure Ayres isn't naive, so I suspect he tackles this issue somewhere in the book. If not, that's a big flaw.

Second, however, there are the neo conmen, most professional Rethuglicans, and the religious right out there who, no matter how convincing and iron clad the proof that they are wrong, will continue to claim they are correct. Good statistics will get you nowhere with these guys. It's all a matter of faith (in God, in ideology, and in garbage). Even two plus two is not equal to four in their alternative universe.

Back from the dead on health care

I've haven't been blogging for the past few days, first because all the family was here visiting over the Thanksgiving Day weekend and then because I was laid up with various health problems. Hopefully I'm up to at least a little light blogging for awhile. All of which brings up the health care crisis. Paul Krugman blasts Obama in his column today, complaining that Obama's plan has no mandates to force everyone to sign up, but requires insurance companies to cover anyone and everyone at the same rate. Hence, the optimal plan for individuals is to remain uninsured until they get sick and then sign up for insurance to cover the illness. Then, if they get well, drop the plan. Krugman praises Edwards, who proposes enforcing the mandate by requiring tax filers to show proof of insurance. If uninsured, he proposes the IRS enroll all tax filers who can't show proof of insurance.

Kevin Drum doesn't like Edwards' plan -- apparently because Kevin doesn't like the IRS. Frankly, I don't suppose I much care which arm of big-daddy government forces me to sign up.

But, really, what's the big deal here? Everyone over 65 is automatically signed up for Medicare. No big deal, no hassle. The government just signs you up as soon as you turn 65. Why not just do the same thing for everyone?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Republican administration or what?

This is hard to believe. Supposedly claiming the need to be nearby for most of the summer at her beach house on Cape Cod, a Special Counsel in the Voting Rights Section of the Justice Department, two summers in a row, apparently arranges for groundless litigation in Massachusetts – unusual motions, one in Springfield and the other in Boston, on novel legal theories seldom if ever used by the Justice Department that both were shot down by the court, including a motion to re-open a case that had been settled two years before. Yet most of her supervision was by phone, which could have been done from her office in Washington equally as well, and the drive of one-and-a-half hours from the beach house to the court was approximately the same a shuttle trip between D.C. and Boston. Oh yes, allegedly she was paid a per diem on top of her regular salary, and the travel expenses between Washington and Cape Cod on a few occasions during the summer were paid for by the government. And her boss, the head of the Voting Rights Section under fire for politicizing the office and doing the opposite of what the office is supposed to do, approved these arrangements.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Who was actually watching the spigot on Iraqi returnees?

The “flood” of Iraqi refugees returning – as evidence, along with declining violence figures put out by the Iraqi government and the U.S. military, that the “surge” is paying “dividends” (and what other terminology would come instinctively to Republicans?) -- has apparently been a bit, shall we say, inflated for political purposes? I assume Petraeus is a good tactician as a military officer, but one thing he does seem to know is P.R. – and that propaganda on the home front is part of maintaining a counter-insurgency. Some citizens of a free country tend to look askance at the collateral damage – “unfortunate” -- that their own soldiers are inflicting on people who think they are patriots. Petraeus gets it: if he can show “success,” those “liberals” can be neutralized as naysayers who don’t want us to “win” anyway. He knows how to manipulate the media, too. It’s almost certain that Petraeus has complete control over every bit of data coming from anywhere in Iraq. Doesn’t mean it’s false, but count the cards.

Some Iraqi lawmakers said that overly broad figures were being used intentionally.
“They are using this number because they want to show that Maliki is succeeding,” said Salim Abdullah, a lawmaker and member of the largest Sunni bloc, known as the Accordance Front, referring to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. “But this does not make the number correct. I think dozens of Iraqis return home daily, but not 1,600.”

A half-dozen owners of Iraqi travel agencies and drivers who regularly travel to Syria agreed that the numbers misrepresented reality. They said that the flow of returnees peaked last month, with more than 50 families arriving daily from Syria at Baghdad’s main drop-off point. Since Nov. 1, they said, the numbers have declined, and on Sunday morning, during a period when several buses used to appear, only one came.

P.S. Halleluyah for a change for some actual reporting.

Parallel Universe found?

This could be a major finding -- or it could be a flash in the pan. We'll see:

Last August, astronomers working on the analysis of data being acquired by NASA’s WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) satellite announced that they found a huge void in the universe. A void is a region of space that has much less material (stars, nebulae, dust and other material) than the average. Since our universe is relatively heterogeneous, empty spaces are not rare, but in this case the enormous magnitude of the hole is way outside the expected range. The hole found in the constellation of Eridanus is about a billion light years across, which is roughly 10,000 times as large as our galaxy or 400 times the distance to Andromeda, the closest “large” galaxy.

Evidence for a parallel universeThe dimension of the hole is so big that at first glance, it results impossible to explain under the current cosmological theories, although scientists put forward some explanations based on certain theoretical models that might predict the existence of “giant knots” in space known as topological defects.

However, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill physics Professor Laura Mersini-Houghton made a staggering claim. She says, “Standard cosmology cannot explain such a giant cosmic hole” and goes further with the ground-breaking hypothesis that the huge void is “… the unmistakable imprint of another universe beyond the edge of our own“.

Cheney heart problems

There has long been speculation that as we neared the 2008 election, Cheney would resign for health reasons and Bush would appoint his (Bush's) successor as VP so that he could run as an incumbent, with all the powers of the office behind him. Is this the beginning of that scenario?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney, who has a history of heart problems, was found to have an irregular heartbeat during a doctor's visit on Monday morning, his office said.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Archbishop of Canterbury: America sucks

I know Americans don't like to be criticized by lowly foreigners, but tough nuggies. When they're right they're right:

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the United States wields its power in a way that is worse than Britain during its imperial heyday.

Rowan Williams claimed that America’s attempt to intervene overseas by “clearing the decks” with a “quick burst of violent action” had led to “the worst of all worlds”.

In a wide-ranging interview with a British Muslim magazine, the Anglican leader linked criticism of the United States to one of his most pessimistic declarations about the state of western civilisation.

He said the crisis was caused not just by America’s actions but also by its misguided sense of its own mission. He poured scorn on the “chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for humanity”.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Those Republican lefties!!!

Just how far has the Republican Party descended? And how far has the “center” as perceived by the mainstream media moved to the right? Courtesy of Angry Bear, here is what the Republican Party had to say about labor unions in 1972.

The skill, industry and productivity of American workers are the driving force of our free economy. The Nation's labor unions, comprised of millions of working people, have advanced the well-being not only of their members but also of our entire free-enterprise system. We of the Republican Party reaffirm our strong endorsement of Organized Labor's key role in our national life.

. . . . We are for the right of American workers and their families to enjoy and to retain to the greatest possible extent the rewards of their own labor.

We regard collective bargaining as the cornerstone of the Nation's labor relations policy.

Nowadays, the Democartic consultants would caution the Democrats not to sound too partisan with a ringing, radical proclamation like that.


Wouldn't you think that there were more important things to debate next year than how to fix a system that isn't even broken?

Given the divide between the parties, Social Security seems likely to become more of an issue during the 2008 general election than it has been in the campaigns for the presidential nominations.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Big Brother is watching you

From the Washington Post:

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers.

In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Scatablog's Best of 2007

As the nation gives thanks tomorrow, it is appropriate to thank my colleagues for their contributions to this blog in 2007. Reconnecting with the blog's 2007 content after months of dormancy caused by my inordinate work demands I recommend our readers review July 30 and 31, 2007 as two of our best days which include pieces on faulty U.S. foreign policy, and the Machiavellian tactics of the Administration, including taking over the media.

Court ruling may hinder Abramoff investigation

This is a tricky knife-edge kind of thing. On the one hand, we don't want our legislators arrested because of what they vote or argue for in Congress. On the other hand, we don't want them voting for something because they were bribed to do so. What's the answer? I don't know:

A little-noticed aspect of an appellate court decision could sharply limit investigations of members of Congress and hamper ongoing corruption probes, the Justice Department said this week in a motion seeking an emergency stay of the ruling.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was handed down in August in the case of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), but its effects complicate other investigations, including those stemming from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Justice Department lawyers said in their motion that the appellate ruling represents an "unprecedented expansion" of the "speech or debate" clause of the Constitution, which was intended to protect legislators from intimidation under civil or criminal law. They said the decision calls into question the legality of investigative tools such as wiretapping, searches of home offices and voluntary interviews of congressional staffers.

…The ruling bars investigators from even "cursory exposure to legislative materials without a Member's consent," Justice Department attorneys said in their brief.

…The appellate court case in question was Jefferson's challenge to the legality of the FBI's search of his Capitol Hill offices in 2005. A three-judge panel ruled that papers seized by the FBI "exposed legislative material to the Executive and accordingly violated" the speech-or-debate clause. It said the FBI is barred from "a location where legislative materials [are] inevitably to be found," unless the member consents.


This is truly sickening. What kind of a government would demand the signing bonus get repaid when the person can't complete his tour of duty because his limbs were blown off?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) ― The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Due Process, Geneva Accords: like maybe getting the real culprits?

Why can’t Democrats start making this speech, more or less, and changing the landscape for all these things? Idealism doesn't go far these days, and we need to face up to that. But all is not lost.

There was method to the madness of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin – you know, those people who wrote down a Constitution and made America what it is.

Forget being idealistic. Requiring the government to get search warrants and to follow all the rules of due process is a way to make sure you are actually getting the bad guys. When you can just grab a citizen and throw him in prison without letting him show he is not a terrorist, when you can force confessions or information that are just given to stop the torture, it’s letting the real terrorists go free.

If you search the whole haystack for 10 needles, you will be lucky to get even one and the rest go free. If you get information that first tells you about where it is, and then search just part of the haystack, you might get them all. That’s why warrants for searches are practical, too. It helps us focus on those who are real bad guys.

How stupid is it to treat our Constitutional protections as just interference with law enforcement or our battle with terrorism? It’s our freedom, of course, what makes the United States of America special and leader of the world. But it’s also simple realism, too. People who talk tough about war and torture -- like George Bush almost begging us to look at him as "a wartime President" -- care more about being perceived as tough guys than actually getting the bad guys.

People who ridicule the Constitution, the very source of our leadership, are also weakening us in the world. Nobody wants to follow a hypocrite, and that’s the way George Bush and Richard Cheney have made the world look at us now.

And [this Republican candidate] wants us to follow in the Bush tradition? How is it going to help us get the real terrorists by following a ready-shoot-aim policy on searches and torture?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Now you see her, now you don't

This is the gal that gave herself a coronation party when she assumed office and then apparently began to prosecute Democrats for the fun of it. Good riddance, although who knows what kind of a mess she can make in Washington?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rachel Paulose, the embattled U.S. attorney for Minnesota, will be leaving the post to take a position at the Justice Department in Washington, according to a Bush administration official and congressional aide.

Both officials spoke Monday on the condition that they not be named, so as not to pre-empt the official Justice Department announcement. The Justice Department's press office did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.

In April, three top supervisors stepped down from their management roles in Paulose's office and went back to prosecuting cases, prompting a visit from a high-ranking Justice official. That came just as Congress was investigating allegations that eight former U.S. attorneys were fired and replaced by loyalists.

We need some leaders, not followers

I have to agree with Markos and Atrios on this one:

The unwillingness of Obama and Clinton to use the soapbox of their campaigns to focus attention - and, gasp, lead! - on anything actually going in on the Senate has been very depressing.

After all, what use are they if they don't? These days everyone's too afraid to take a strong position on anything for fear it might offend someone who might otherwise vote for them. That's what I liked about Howard Dean, and it's what I now like about John Edwards. I would admire it more in Kucinich if anyone actually listened to him, but they don't. Nor do they listen to Rus Feingold. Maybe I've just answered the question. There is an inverse relationship between the amount of press coverage you get and the forcefulness with which you speak out on subjects.

A good way to start

This is a really great way to start peace talks:

JERUSALEM — It might be called the Incredible Shrinking Middle East Peace Summit.

After months of U.S. diplomacy and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, expectations for peace talks next week in Annapolis, Md., have fallen so low that everyone is already focusing on The Day After.

If this weren't so sadly true, I'd say it was a Cheney plant in the news media. Of course, the reason things look so bleak is because Bush/Cheney really don't give a damn about peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and have never put any substantive pressure on Israel to compromise. They'd much rather have Israel exterminate the whole crowd of Palestinians.


I haven't commented on Tom Friedman's column in the NY Times suggesting that Obama pick Dick Cheney as his running rate because I thought the idea so preposterous it wasn't worthy of comment.

My only question is, what is Tom smoking these days? And, why does the Times keep him?

I don't plan on winning

Sometimes you can really tell when a candidate doesn't think he's going to win:

John McCain often says on the campaign trail that he wants to take on the system in Washington. Usually, he's talking about congressional spending and pork-barrel projects. But he also wants to challenge the system of protection that forces presidents to live life in a bubble.

"It's my intention, if we win this nomination, to reject Secret Service," he said during one of his many conversations with reporters on his Straight Talk Express this weekend. "Why do I need it?"

Mortgage crisis could lead to $2 trillion shrinkage in credit

The New York Times tells us today that Goldman Sachs was one of the few large investment banks that dumped it's mortgage and mortgage derivative holdings before the crash. Now, they forecast disaster for the US economy:

LONDON (Reuters) - The impact of the U.S. mortgage market crisis on the underlying economy could be "dramatic" as leveraged investors may need to scale back lending by up to $2 trillion, according to investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS.N).

In a report dated November 15, Goldman's chief U.S. economist Jan Hatzius said a "back-of-the-envelope" estimate of credit losses on outstanding mortgages, based on past default experience, was around $400 billion.

But unlike stock market losses, which are typically absorbed by "long-only" investors, this mortgage-related hit is mostly borne by leveraged investors such as banks, broker-dealers, hedge funds and government-sponsored enterprises.

And leveraged investors react to losses by actively cutting back lending to keep capital ratios from falling -- A bank targeting a constant capital ratio of 10 percent, for example, would need to shrink its balance by $10 for every $1 in losses.

"The macroeconomic consequences could be quite dramatic," Hatzius said in the note to clients. "If leveraged investors see $200 billion of the $400 billion aggregate credit loss, they might need to scale back their lending by $2 trillion."

"This is a large shock," he said, adding the number equates to 7 percent of total debt owed by U.S. non-financial sectors.

Not a pretty picture.

Everything's going great

The Washington Post tells us:

The war in Iraq seems to have taken a turn for the better and the opposition at home has failed in all efforts to impose its own strategy. North Korea is dismantling its nuclear program. The budget deficit is falling. A new attorney general has been confirmed despite objections from the left.

After more than two years of being buffeted by one political disaster after another, President Bush and his strategists think they may finally be getting back at least a bit of their footing. While still facing enormous challenges, from the crisis in Pakistan to the backlash over children's health care, they hope Bush has arrested his downward spiral and established a better foundation for the remainder of his time in office.

and wonders why Bush's approval ratings haven't reflected all the good news.

Perhaps it's because all these gains are illusory. The relative calm (still horrendous chaos) in Iraq hasn't produced any measurable political progress and seems entirely due to the fact that the ethnic cleansing has largely been completed and the fact that the Mahdi Army has voluntarily suspended operations until they decide to resume them. That the Dems have failed to accomplish anything is largely the fault of Bush and the Thuglicans in Congress -- neither likely to add to Bush's approval ratings. North Korea may be dismantling, but that's because Bush decided to adopt Clinton's policies there and, where he hasn't, the problems in Iran loom large. The budget deficit is irrelevant to the average guy. The fact that his house is plummeting in value, there's no mortgage money available anywhere, and jobs are disappearing are relevant. Then, there's the fact that the dollar is becoming worthless. And, the confirmation of a new attorney general who won't condemn waterboarding is just great news for everyone, isn't it?

Yes, I guess I'm surprised that Bush's approval ratings haven't risen, but that's probably because gas prices have.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

No sympathy

I just read this:

By all appearances, Aaron Wider is the chief executive of a flourishing mortgage bank in Garden City, issuing more than $33 million in home loans to buyers across Nassau and Suffolk counties over the past four years.

A closer look at his lending practices, however, reveals that many of these loans relied on faulty appraisals and exaggerated loan applications, leaving behind angry homeowners who are struggling to pay mortgages on overpriced homes.

"I trusted him, I felt like he was an honest person," said Robin Fitzgerald, who negotiated with Wider to pay $805,000 for a home in North Massapequa in 2005 that a later appraisal valued at $545,000. Fitzgerald is now facing foreclosure. "I wasn't familiar with the prices of houses here. I'm a first-time homeowner."

I'm sorry, but I just can't get that worked up about a guy who buys an $805,000 house without even checking out the prices of comparable homes in the neighborhood. That's just plain stupid. And, if the guy has enough resources to think he can afford an $805,000 home, he should know better. Sorry, but don't come crying on my shoulder for this fool.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

No matter what, it's always the Democrats' fault

Notwithstanding the fact that Bush has been as close to a total dictator as you can get for the past seven years and will be for the next year, Glenn Reynolds comes to this conclusion:

If, as seems likely, Iraq succeeds, Republicans will be able to say it was in spite of the Democrats' efforts. If, as remains possible, it fails, Republicans will be able to say it was because of the Democrats' efforts.

I'm sure there's some way to connect Bill Clinton (and, by extension, Hillary) to it too.

The Ron Paul dollar

I had no idea that some crackpots were minting their own dollars in Ron Paul's image.

The ardent supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, the iconoclastic Texas libertarian whose campaign for the presidency is threatening to upend the battle for the Republican nomination, got word yesterday of a new source of outrage and motivation: reports of a federal raid on a company that was selling thousands of coins marked with the craggy visage of their hero.

Federal agents on Thursday raided the Evansville, Ind., headquarters of the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and Internal Revenue Code (Norfed), an organization of "sound money" advocates that for the past decade has been selling a private currency it calls "Liberty Dollars." The company says it has put into circulation more than $20 million in Liberty Dollars, coins and paper certificates it contends are backed by silver and gold stored in Idaho, are far more reliable than a U.S. dollar and are accepted for use by a nationwide underground economy.

Somehow, I can't imagine knowingly accepting one of these on the promise of an unknown organization that it's backed by some hidden trove of silver or gold. Of course, if they look enough like US coinage, I can see being duped to accept them. That, of course, would be counterfeiting. Somewhere, sometime, I heard that counterfeiting was illegal. Just can't remember where or when.

And, of course, now that the dollar floats, the amount of gold it would take to back the dollar changes by the minute.

What you didn't read in the NY Times

Via Juan Cole, the news you need to know which the New York Times refuses to print:

At our Global Affairs group blog, Farideh Farhi takes a closer look at the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran. This issue may be the most important one in world politics today, on which war and peace hang. Farhi shows that the IAEA is saying that Iran has satisfactorily answered questions about its past nuclear energy research, and that the international body can certify that Iran has not diverted nuclear material to weapons purposes. Farhi points out that the NYT did not report either of these important findings.

The IAEA is clearly frustrated with Iran for a) continuing to enrich uranium (the Iranians say it is for fuel and international law allows them to do this), and for not being 100% transparent about their energy research program. But it finds no evidence that Iran even has a weapons program, and finds a consistency between Iranian statements and IAEA findings.

Enough, please, with Social Security "fixes" by progressives

I have to strongly disagree on several counts with my colleague Walldon’s post on Social Security earlier today.

1. Why present a solution when there is not a problem? These “solutions” presented by progressives to what is presently a non-problem – and is quite likely never to become a problem in the future -- preserve the false belief that there is a problem that needs to be solved. It’s a pointless and counterproductive exercise that keeps Republicans hopeful that, someday, they can build the critical mass to eliminate Social Security as we know it, turn it into a mandatory 401-K as stage one, and then make it voluntary as stage two – at which point, Social Security will have been eliminated as a social insurance program.

2. We can say it’s not an individual retirement annuity all we want, but it is structured to serve like one, or like a defined-benefit pension program: you get an annual statement of your very own projected benefits, your benefits are tied to your contributions, your benefits once "vested" with sufficient work are guaranteed to a far greater extent than any private annuity, and the entire process is enshrined into law. It’s a social insurance program intended for everyone. It is funded entirely outside the general revenue fund that our regular taxes pay into. That’s why calling it a regressive tax misses the point.

3. Looking at it as a generational transfer is the same as looking at any defined benefit pension plan as a generational transfer. It is extraordinarily short-sighted, reflecting the libertarian view that the individual is disconnected from the larger society except by compulsion, or that there is no such thing as a society or a community. Like any defined-benefit pension program, it is designed to be a pay-as-you-go system, which means, naturally, the people who work are the ones who pay for it. Most important, the generation that pays now is the generation that will be paid later. Sometimes it seems that we have lost all sense of the common good under the relentless assault of the right wing and extreme ideological libertarians.

4. There is a reason why, even through periods of Democratic control of the government, the principles of Social Security withholding have not been turned into a progressive taxation system. The founders of Social Security recognized that, at least in the United States of America with its underlying hostility to any kind of taxation and at most grudging acceptance of the concept of progressive taxation, a social insurance program must be for everyone, or it will not maintain political support from everyone. There is a modest amount of progressivity built into the program with the assurance of minimum benefits to the poorest recipients. But once you turn it into a welfare program, in which both the rich as well as relatively affluent but still middle class Americans pay much more into the program than they ever get out of it, you lose or threaten any self-interested support from at least 20 per cent of the population – the percentage that earn more than the current cap. It may, in fact, be much larger, because many younger workers will think they will pass the cap before long, and have to pay a tax solely to support others. In tough times, welfare programs get cut.

Nothing could be better calculated to generate a groundswell for reviving the notion of private accounts than taxes on those people with no corresponding benefit to them. They also happen to be the Americans who own and operate the country’s major opinion-forming institutions. As it is now, it is only a small percentage of the population for whom Social Security is a meaningless sum in their total retirement package. It’s in that extremely privileged segment where the primary opponents of continuing the program as social insurance can be found. But for probably 97-98% of Americans, Social Security will be significant even if insufficient, and there is no other retirement vehicle available that not only (a) guarantees payment for life, (b) covers a spouse for life, and, (c) after retirement, is adjusted for inflation with no stop-loss provision protecting the payer, but also (d) is adjusted annually from the first day of withholding until retirement for improvements in prevailing wages, i.e., with real improvements in the standard of living above and beyond inflation. Can you even imagine the cost of a private annuity that would offer that? Of course, only the government can absorb the risk in such a program. No private institution could handle such uncertain exposure. Can we figure out why that means it's one hell of a deal if the risk is too great for even the wealthiest private institutions?

5. In another society where the principle of progressive taxation is firmly grounded even among the wealthy, we might be free to treat Social Security as simply a tax-funded program. But in the U.S. which is not even close to becoming such a society, it is critical to maintain the strong connection between the payments and the benefits. We can call it an illusion, but it’s no more an illusion than the promise of the U.S. Government to pay X% interest on the bonds it sells, or that your money in a bank is federally-insured. Because it is backed by the virtually limitless capacity of the United States Government, without the threat of, say, criminally overvalued collateral for some investment, it is much less an illusion than the value of your stocks or mutual funds. It is built into law, and anyone who would change the law to threaten benefits already paid for will be politically destroyed forever.

6. The reason we can say that the “most likely economic scenario” is fairly unlikely to occur is that, on average every year for at least the last 14 years, the forecast has been both wrong and too pessimistic. As recently as 1996, the official forecast said we would need to start dipping into the Baby Boom Surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund in 2012. In 1998, they said, by the most likely scenario, that the surplus would be used up in 2028. Yet in 2006, we have put off when we have to start using the surplus until 2017, which means the revenues for current, pay-as-you-go funding (without the kicker for building up the surplus for the Baby Boom generation) have been larger than expected. It also means that, assuming again that we finally have that projection down pat, we won’t even have to start using the surplus expressly created to handle retirements of the Baby Boom generation until 10 full years after those retirements began. (That was in August.)

As for when the surplus is “likely” to be used up, instead of the 2028 expected in 1998, or the 2029 expected in 1994, they now think it’s going to be 2041. Notice also that, while in 1994 they expected the surplus to last for only 16 years (from 2013 to 2029), but now it is expected to last for a 24-year period – which, in turn, means that surplus has been and will probably continue to build up more than expected. It also means the surplus will have lasted long past its original intended purpose, because Baby Boom retirements will start ending in about 2030.

All of this actual experience suggests that, to hazard an educated guess, we probably won’t actually have to start using the surplus until about, oh, 2019 or 2020, and once we do we probably won’t use it up until about 2050. Not only is that not a “crisis,” but these actual results say we do not know if we will have a problem in the future or not. By definition, if we only think we might have a problem some time in the fairly distant future, and if we can only speculate how big a problem it could actually be, that means we do not have a problem now, either. There is nothing to fix. We should continue to watch carefully, yes, but that is all.

7. If we ever determine that we really are going to have a funding problem, we will have plenty of time to fix it, and we should do as the 1983 Commission did: a mix of steps that are the most politically acceptable all around. That means a bunch of tinkering at the edges, maybe some relatively small raising of the cap (so long as Social Security still remains a decent deal for the people affected, some tinkering with the rate, some tiny adjustment of the benefits, or more likely, a digestible mix of all of those. Unless there’s a universal social compact to do so – and there won’t be in this country as long as people like the Mellons, the Coors and the Scaifes are around -- it should definitely not be a fundamental change in the principles on which the program was founded and has been run successfully through gigantic societal changes for over 70 years.

Progressives play into the hands of right-wingers when they engage in discussions about what we should do to take corrective action based on a shaky actuarial forecast. If they want to protect Social Security and the social contract it represents, there really is only one position for progressives to take:

Fears about Social Security have been 100% generated by right-wing extremists who want to eliminate Social Security as a retirement security program. They want to eliminate Social Security as we know it because it is a successful and popular government program and is a threat to their extreme anti-government ideology. Other Republicans want to privatize it so Wall Street can get its hands on that money. If we stick to what has worked so well for almost 75 years, Social Security is going to be there for you. Listen to that again, young people. Social Security is going to be there for you. It’s guaranteed by law every bit as much as your insured money in the bank. It would be completely irresponsible and unfair to take more taxes from anyone at this point, when the most we can say is that they might come in handy some day because we could have a problem some day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

One for the Dems

Yesterday, I speculated that Harry Reid's threat to keep the Senate in session over the Thanksgiving recess in order to prevent recess appointments was an idle threat. Today, much to my delight, he has apparently proved me wrong. He's going to keep the Senate in session -- or at least, so he says according to John Aravosis.

The paper of record

Over at Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz has a piece on how the NY Times' Katherine Seelye has concluded that it's really all Hillary's fault that a crotchety old Republican biddy called her a "bitch" at a fund raising even for John McCain. It somehow reminds me of another article in today's Times telling us about a woman who was raped in Saudi Arabia. She was tried for this horrible crime, and the court gave her a sentence of 100 floggings. When she appealed the decision, the court got so mad it ordered her to get an extra 100 floggings and six months in prison. I guess she must have caused the rape. By how? By existing, I guess. If she hadn't been born, of course, she would have been there to tempt the poor victim of a man to rape her.

Dems fold again

Wasn't it just yesterday that somebody said the Dems were ready to force the Thugs to actually filibuster to block this bill?

WASHINGTON - The Senate on Friday blocked a Democratic proposal that would have paid for the Iraq war but required that troops start coming home.

The 53-45 vote was seven votes short of the 60 needed to advance. It came minutes after the Senate rejected a Republican proposal to pay for the Iraq war with no strings attached.

They don't even have the gumption to hold it up one hour.

Solving the Social Security non-crisis

I haven't really researched this much, but just from reading the news fairly thoroughly I'm under the impression that no one has proposed the following "solution" to the Social Security non-crisis.

Why not eliminate the income cap (now at $97,500, as I understand it) completely and simultaneously lower the tax rate so that the total tax proceeds are sufficient to fund the program under the "most likely" economic forecast scenario? Built in to the proposal should be an automatic adjustment to the tax rate each year (or every five years) based on the degree to which the proceeding ten year average performance exceeded or fell short of the forecast scenario. This would have the advantage of a) doing away with the excessively regressive nature of the tax itself, b) lowering the impact of the tax on the vast majority of Americans, and c) insuring the solvency of the system.

The only disadvantage of this that I can see is that it would dispel the illusion that this is an individual retirement annuity. It isn't now, and it certainly won't be in the future. Right now, this is a cross generational wealth transfer from the younger working stiffs to the retired seniors. Under my suggestion, it would become an wealth transfer from the wealthy to the middle and lower classes, which is, frankly, what it should be.

Telecom Immunity

From what I can tell, telecom immunity has gone into some kind of limbo. The House dropped it from the bill they passed yesterday. The Senate Judiciary Committee dropped it from the bill they sent to the floor of the Senate, but several members of the committee said they supported altered versions of it -- one proposed by Arlen Specter that would substitute the Government as the defendant in place of the telecoms. From what I can tell, the latter proposal would amount to the same thing as pure telecom immunity. The telecoms would be off the hook, and the case against the government would be thrown out for a whole host of reasons, so this is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

As it stands now, two alternative versions of the FISA bill have been sent to the Senate floor, and Harry Reid has to decide how to handle this. Based on recent experience, I suspect he'll cave to the telecom lobby. And, I suspect many Dems will go for the Specter cop out. So who knows where this will go if it goes to conference with immunity in one bill and not in the other?

Meanwhile, of course, Dodd has threatened a filibuster, but would he filibuster a bill with the Specter amendment in it? Who knows?

I think it's probably time to kiss the 4th. amendment goodbye.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A rant about accountants

Here's a rather telling comment about Merrill Lynch's choice of a new chief executive:

Merrill's [MER 57.92 -0.06 (-0.1%) ] selection of Thain was a surprise because the firm had recently indicated to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink that the job was his if he wanted it. CNBC has learned that Fink said he would take the job but only if Merrill did a full accounting of its subprime exposure. At that point, Merrill, which owns 49% of BlackRock [BLK 196.22 0.02 (+0.01%) ], moved in a different direction and decided to go with Thain instead.

So, what's happened to the auditing profession? Shouldn't the independent public accountants be on top of this when they audit Merrill's SEC filings?

Oh yeah. I forgot who pays the "independent" public accountants.

Frankly, I can't recall any time in my life when you could put less reliance on the veracity of the public financial statements of our major firms. Accounting gimmicks, tricks, smoke and mirrors, and outright fraud are the norm, not the exception, these days. Earnings can't be counted on as earnings because next year they'll be written off as "non-recurring" losses. And, next year's earnings will be written off as a non-recurring loss the following year. Inventories are almost always carried on the books at values far in excess of their market value even though they are supposed to be carried at the "lower of cost or market value." In many cases, the physical inventories are decades old and unusable, in other words, worthless, even though they are carried at substantial value.

Unfortunately, this means that investors are flying blind.

And, now we learn (if we didn't know it before) that even the investment bank many rely on for investment analysis and advice is hiding crap on its balance sheet to fool investors.


Kagro X over at Daily Kos notes that Rahm Emanuel is blocking any vote by the House on contempt citations for those who have failed to respond to Congressional subponeas. Emanuel argues that this is not the right moment because it would divert attention from the Democrats moves to put strings on war funding and to add guts to the FISA bill. Kagro X goes on to comment:

Only guess what? The message on Iraq and FISA and these subpoenas is all the same: George W. Bush thinks there are no Congressional checks and balances against his "inherent powers."

If Congress legislates limits on his eavesdropping schemes, he'll veto them (so says Chuck Schumer's new pal, Michael "Wrong on Torture, but still kinda OK" Mukasey).

If they mandate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, he'll defy it (not veto -- defy).

If they subpoena his staff and demand answers, he'll block it.

But Rahm Emanuel thinks the Bush "administration's" blanket insistence on unchecked executive power can and should be split up into bite-sized chunks that the American public can safely ignore. Each front in the Bush/Cheney war on our constitutional system of government ought to be considered in isolation from the rest, so that they can be swept under the rug quietly in discrete and manageable news cycles. (But with a paper trail of press releases "objecting" to each fresh outrage, so that the historical record appears to register dissent.)

Or at least he hopes so, so that he can trade the long-term viability of the constitutional system of government for a strategy he believes will result in more seats in a branch that's got no game plan for preserving its power. More seats at the kiddie table.

The Iraq fight is the FISA fight is the subpoena fight.

Chairman Conyers wants it. Nancy Pelosi wants it. Even Steny Hoyer looks like he wants it.

But somehow, Rahm Emanuel's Kiddie Table Seating Chart carries the day.

U.S. a haven for war criminals

I don't suppose this comes as a great surprise:

WASHINGTON — More than 1,000 people from 85 countries who are accused of such crimes as rape, killings, torture and genocide are living in the United States, according to Department of Homeland Security figures.

America has become a haven for the world's war criminals because it lacks the laws needed to prosecute them, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday. There's been only one U.S. indictment of someone suspected of a serious human-rights abuse. Durbin said torture was the only serious human-rights violation that was a crime under American law when committed outside the United States by a non-American national.

After all, our own President is a war criminal. It stands to reason that we should welcome them to our shores.

Defer me, please

Glenn Greenwald has an interesting piece on the current crop of Thuglicans (particularly Romney) and draft deferments based on today's piece on Romney's early life as a "missionary" in France -- which gave him a deferment from military service in Vietnam.

I suppose I shouldn't criticize too loudly, since I too actively sought out legal ways to avoid service in Vietnam. But, then again, I was not a war supporter like Romney.

Gobble, gobble

John Aravosis writes:

Good. Finally something we can applaud. From Roll Call (subscription only):
With just two days to go until the Thanksgiving recess, Democratic leaders once again are considering holding the Senate in a series of pro forma sessions to stop President Bush from using the break to install any of his outstanding executive branch nominees.

The move comes as speculation mounts that Bush will use the period to push through some controversial appointments while Senators are out of town for the two-week period. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could all but block the president from doing so, however, if he opts to call the chamber into nonvoting sessions every three days — thus doing away with an extended recess.
There are growing concerns that Bush is going to jam through some controversial nominees, like his homophobic Surgeon General nominee, with recess appointments (short-term appointments (till the end of next year) that the president can make during a Senate recess without the Senate's approval). Reid is now talking about a procedural move that would keep the Senate in session so Bush couldn't make the appointments. Good. Though it does raise some serious questions as to why Senator Schumer said he just had to vote for Bush's Attorney General nominee, Michael McKasey, lest Bush appoint an even worse nominee as a recess appointment. It now seems clear that the Democrats had the ability to block such recess appointments. So why did Schumer say that? And why did he vote for McKasey?

Reid said he would do this before, but he struck an agreement with Bush not to appoint anyone during the summer break. He obviously doesn't think he has the power to get anyone to stay in Washington over Turkey Day. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dissing the UN

This is no surprise:

The International Atomic Energy Agency - the United Nations nuclear watchdog - has not been able to conduct an investigation into the events surrounding the Sept. 6 Israeli bombing of a Syrian military installation because neither the Bush administration nor Israel are cooperating.

After all, they're not even willing to let our own Congress know what they're doing.

Dems may force a filibuster

Well, it's about time.

Senate Democrats might force Republicans to wage a filibuster if the GOP wants to block the latest Iraq withdrawal bill, aides and senators said Tuesday.

That could set the stage for a dramatic end-of-the-year partisan showdown, which Democrats hope will help them turn voter frustration with Congress and the stalemate over Iraq into anger with the Republican Party.

But, I'm doubtful they'll actually do it when push comes to shove.

Buzzy and Cookie were brothers and oh lordy how they could broth

As the Buzzy and Cookie story continues to unfold today, it seems that Cookie has been forced to change his testimony to the Waxman Committee several times today.

On a return to the stocks

We all know that the US has more prisoners per capita than almost any other country in the world. For about 40 years now, I've been proposing an alternative -- the stocks. Here's my thinking:

Putting a person in prison for a relatively minor robbery first offense like breaking and entering a home to steal enough dough to buy the next batch of dope is counter-productive. It costs us lots of money to keep them there. While there, they learn the techniques and contacts needed to become much more effective robbers. While there, they lose virtually any way to earn an honest living once they get out (after all, who wants to employ an ex-con except the US Army?) And, when they get out, they almost always return to a life of crime because they can't figure out any other way to earn a living.

On the other hand, if you put these same people in the stocks in their own neighborhood for a couple of days, where they would be humiliated in front of their friends and neighbors -- maybe become the target for some water balloons and the like, most would likely be deeply distressed by the public humiliation in front of their macho friends. Then, release them on parole, assist them in getting a job, and force them to pay a portion of their income in restitution to those they stole from.

My guess is you'd see much less recidivism than we have now. The point, of course, is not the stocks per se. It's the public humiliation in front of their family, friends and neighbors.

I think it's at least worth a try.

Oh well, I'll remind you of this again forty years from now (if I'm still around then, which is highly unlikely).

The new Dixie Chicks

This is one of the most ridiculous brouhahas I've seen in a long time:

In the genteel world of bridge, disputes are usually handled quietly and rarely involve issues of national policy. But in a fight reminiscent of the brouhaha over an anti-Bush statement by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks in 2003, a team of women who represented the United States at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.

At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Bush.”

By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”

A question

Question: Are House Democratic leaders postponing the vote on contempt citations because a) they don't think they have the votes to pass them or b) because they're afraid David Broder might say they're too contentious?

Tweedle dee & tweedle dum.

Why is it that somehow I have the sneaking suspicion that the new head of the Army is going to be a sock puppet?

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan - President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Wednesday he expects to step down as army chief by the end of November and begin a new presidential term as a civilian, warning that Pakistan risked chaos if he gave into opposition demands to resign.\
Oh yes, and do you suppose that, as a civilian, he'll wear his military flight jacket when landing at an airfield having a "Mission Accomplished" sign draped over it?

Tweedle dee & tweedle dum.

The route to free and fair elections

It turns out that in today's world, governed as it is by Bush-like logic, the best way to insure free and fair elections in a democracy is to invoke martial law, arrest all the members of the opposition parties, close down the press, and then hold the elections:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 13 — Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to lift his state of emergency, insisting in an interview that it was the best way to ensure free and fair elections.

Of course, I suppose this all depends on the meaning of "free and fair." Free means free to vote for Mr. Musharraf. Fair means it's fair to him by returning him to power.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Out of control

Sounds like these cops were trained by Blackwater:

A young man was fatally shot last night in a hail of 20 bullets fired by five police officers who responded to his mother’s 911 call for help in a domestic dispute in Brooklyn, the authorities said.

The police said they believed that the man, Khiel Coppin, 18, had a gun. But when the gunfire stopped, it turned out that he had been holding a black hairbrush.

I gather the kid had dropped the brush when the cops told him to, but they shot him anyway.

The role of Congress: does it have one?

I mean, after all, why should Congress have any right to know anything about what our government is doing? They're just there to be yes-men to the prez:

The Pentagon has denied repeated requests from Democratic lawmakers to view a key document outlining the chief US strategy to achieve stability in Iraq.

Suicide rate among veterans 2X that of non-veterans

I'm not really surprised by this finding -- at least in terms of the ordinals -- but the cardinals are really quite startling:

Across the total US veteran population of 25 million, CBS found that suicide rates were more than twice as high as for non-veterans (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide accounted for 32,439 deaths in 2004).

CBS spoke to the families of several veterans who killed themselves after returning from Iraq. "The war didn't end for him when he came home," said the mother of one soldier. "I think he was being tormented and tortured by his experiences."

I wonder how much of this is remorse at the fact that you really have to temporarily suspend your humanity to fight a war effectively at the person to person level.

Why don't the thuglicans understand the concept of "consent"

Digby writes and interesting post on "consent" in response to this comment on her blog:

I have noticed that "right wingers" have a lot of problems with the idea of consent: they can't tell the difference between Abu Graib and a "fraternity hazing" or bondage-play, between consensual sex and rape, between "torture techniques used on trainees" and "torture techniques used on prisoners".

Does anyone know what their problem is? Has there been any research that sheds light on why they can't wrap their brains around the idea that someone who agrees to have an appendectomy isn't signing on to be disembowled by the next psychopath that comes along?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Reed Hundt yanks us back: keep your eyes on the prize

Reed Hundt, FCC Chairman under Bill Clinton, with a good review of his impressions in Iowa. Of course, why wouldn’t he be even-handedly upbeat, since he must be on the short-list of leadership positions for all of the candidates? Still, it’s very well written -- why he would be on those short-lists becomes obvious -- and it's good to see an overall positive look at each of the candidates, when we ourselves tend to get consumed by their mistakes and mis-judgments.

Closing barn doors

Conservative activist, Americans for Tax Reform founder and lobbyist Grover Norquist, reports The Sunday Times, is working on a constitutional amendment that would forbid succession of elected and appointed offices from one family member to another. Norquist seeks to warn the public, and create discourse, on the subject political dynasty and its increasing relevance in America's highest office

Sorry, but the cow has already left that barn.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Taliban leader released

It appears that our great friend, the dictator of Pakistan, into whose eyes Bush has looked and found a beautiful soul, has decided to free one of our worst enemies:

Pakistani lawyers, human-rights activists and opposition-party members can scarcely ignore the irony of their situation: while thousands of them are being beaten and locked up under President Pervez Musharraf's newly declared state of emergency, his government has just let more than two dozen militant Islamists out of jail. Protesters might be even angrier if Musharraf disclosed the names of some of those freed militants. Taliban sources tell NEWSWEEK that the top man on the list was Mullah Obaidullah Akhund—the highest-ranking Taliban official ever captured by the Pakistanis. As one of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar's closest confidants and his defense minister until the post 9-11 invasion of Afghanistan, Obaidullah was No. 3 in the group's hierarchy and a member of its ruling 10-man shura (council).

Indeed, it almost appears as though Musharraf is trying his best to assist al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Traitor in the midst

Dianne Feinstein is prepared to fink again, this time on telecom immunity. Go read Glenn Greenwald and weep. She's as bad as Joe Lieberman, maybe worse.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bush wrong again

It's beginning to look as though the Administration's claims that North Korea was trying to enrich uranium are proving false, just like it's claims about Iraq. From the Washington Post:

North Korea is providing evidence to the United States aimed at proving that it never intended to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, undermining a key U.S. intelligence finding, South Korean and U.S. officials said this week.

In closely held talks, the North Korean government has granted U.S. experts access to equipment and documents to make its case, in preparation for declaring the extent of its nuclear activities before the end of the year. North Korean officials hope the United States will simultaneously lift sanctions against Pyongyang as the declaration is made.

If North Korea successfully demonstrates that U.S. accusations about the uranium-enrichment program are wrong, it will be a blow to U.S. intelligence and the Bush administration's credibility.

Can Iran be far behind? That would make it three out of three for the Axis of Evil. Makes one wonder what the real source of the "evil" may be.


Here's a strange statement coming from the White House:

The Bush administration has concluded it is not legally required to cut or suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan despite President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of a state of emergency and a crackdown on the opposition and independent media.

Just think about that for a minute. Since there's nothing that requires me to stop bribing the thug, I'll continue to do so. There's also nothing that I know of that requires him to keep funding the thug. This is not an explanation, it's a lame excuse for continuing to do what he wants to do while appearing to say he's being forced by legal circumstances to do it.

What a gutless fool.

Cover your ass

TPM's Election Central has discovered the machinations that led to the rushed vote on Mukasey the other night. It turns out that Harry Reid struck a deal with the Thuglicans. He would let the Mukasey vote go forward if they would let the Dems pass a defense appropriations bill for $450 billion which did not include money for Iraq and Afghanistan. That way they would have some cover when they try to stonewall on a funding bill requiring a pullout from Iraq. As one person put it:

"It's important for us to say that we gave money to the military," the source said. "Because when Bush starts coming at us and saying that the troops are running out of money [when the Iraq funding battle fight starts], we'll be able to say, `We just gave you $450 billion.' It kind of gives us a cushion here."

It's always more important to protect your own job than it is to save the country.

Additionally, the Dems were said to be reluctant to stage a filibuster because when they expect to take over the reins of government next year and don't want to set a bad precedent by filibustering anything. As if being nice to the Thuglicans ever got them anywhere in the past!

Friday, November 09, 2007

University Presidents spy on faculty & students for FBI

University administrators used to be considered part of the collegiate community by themselves, the faculty and the students, but as the models of the business world took over the universities, the administrators became the ogres who wanted to cheat the faculty out of their pay, the faculty were forced to join unions to fight the administrators, and the students were left without any representation whatsoever until they temporarily learned about student power in the '60s (now long forgotten). So, is it any surprise now that University Administrators are teaming up with the FBI to spy on the students and the faculty?

The FBI's relationship with university students and academics has never been one of wine and roses -- see the agency's covert campaign to discredit Albert Einstein. Therefore, it might be a bit surprising to know that some university presidents are now embracing the agency and are perhaps even willing to become its eyes and ears on campus.

Perhaps so future president will say in his inaugural address, "Ask not what's in your FBI file, ask what more can be put into it."