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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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Eat your heart out

Gone skiing -- hidden away in an undisclosed ski resort in northern Vermont. See ya next Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hussein = John, idiots!

Slimeball watch from Juan Cole:

Barack Obama's middle name is in honor of his grandfather, Hussein, a secular resident of Nairobi. Americans may think of Saddam Hussein when they hear the name, but that is like thinking of Stalin when you hear the name Joseph.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The economy is just fine

Mortgage crisis got you down? Rising unemployment, credit crisis, falling house prices, no health insurance? Not to worry, KBR profits are up:

HOUSTON (AP) -- Former Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc. said Tuesday fourth-quarter profit rose 65 percent, lifted by contributions from natural-gas projects, work in Iraq and a tax benefit related to a 2006 asset sale.

Sick and tired

I'm getting sick and tired of hearing the press blather on about how Hillary is going negative. Today's news is that they're pulling out the race card and all that kind of stuff. So far, every time I've looked into one of these alleged low blows they turn out to range somewhere between a mild pat on the rump to a wet kiss.

Meanwhile, of course, the Republican henchmen are out there saying Obama is really a Manchurian Candidate, secreted on shores by the evil Muslims. He can't be trusted to be patriotic, and the military is so frightened by the prospect of his winning that they're already making plans for a coup if he does. And, how does the press cover that? When they do cover it, it's not with a sense of shock that anyone could stoop so low. No, it's with a "this is probably not true, but of course, you never know."

It's probably all Clinton's (Bill) fault

Now that Bush is on his way out (hopefully) the truth is beginning to leak out here and there. Today we learn that the army is broken:

WASHINGTON - Top Army officials told a Senate panel on Tuesday that the Army is under serious strain and must reduce the length of combat tours as soon as possible.

"The cumulative effects of the last six-plus years at war have left our Army out of balance, consumed by the current fight and unable to do the things we know we need to do to properly sustain our all-volunteer force and restore our flexibility for an uncertain future," said Gen. George Casey, chief of staff of the Army.

Of course, we also learned today that when the surge is "over" there will still be a surge, since 8,000 more troops will be in Iraq than were there before the surge. We also know from McCain that they'll be there for 100 or perhaps 1,000 years. So, it seems unlikely that can be sustained without breaking the army further.

But, of course, we've won the Iraq war!

Catch 22

DDay at Hullabaloo has more on Gov. Siegelman's ordeal-- that's the guy the Republicans trumped up charges against, managed to convict, and is now in the slammer:

UPDATE: Here's the state of justice in America.

It has been 20 months since Siegelman’s trial ended and no trial transcript has been produced by Fuller's court. This is in violation of the rules of criminal procedure which require a transcript within 30 days of sentencing. Siegelman can't appeal his conviction with out an official trial transcript.

The Attorney General, by the way, has said he would rather let the case go through the normal appeals process rather than open an investigation.

Kafka would be proud.

Another study?

WASHINGTON - The Marine Corps has asked the Pentagon's inspector general to examine allegations that a nearly two-year delay in the fielding of blast-resistant vehicles led to hundreds of combat casualties in Iraq.

Do we really need to pay someone to investigate whether the two-year delay led to casualties? Isn't it rather obvious that if you don't have blast-protected vehicles, your troops are likely to get blasted?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Why we need bank regulation

The big banks are pushing for a federal bailout right now, and they're probably going to get one. The reason: We simply can't let the banking system fail. If a few of the big banks failed (say Citibank and BofA) that would almost certainly take down the whole system (think 1933). The government simply can't let that happen. The banks know that. They know they will be bailed out (think S&L crisis) if they get into trouble. That's why they're so willing to get themselves into trouble in the first place (think moral hazard, otherwise known "as heads, I win, tails, you lose.") They place a big bet on a risky outcome. If it turns out well, they win. If it turns out badly, they get bailed out.

That's why we need comprehensive banking regulation, something we had up till about the time of the Reagan administration. Since then, we've progressively wandered down the path to total anarchy.

A poll

Brought to you by the always fair and balanced CNN.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

It's all about me

Here this idiot goes again. He has not one wisp of a chance of winning anything, but he does have a change of giving us four more years of incompetent government:

WASHINGTON - Ralph Nader said Sunday he will run for president as a third-party candidate, criticizing the top White House contenders as too close to big business and pledging to repeat a bid that will "shift the power from the few to the many."

Health Insurance Hell

The NY Times tells us that people are refusing to have DNA tests and/or refusing to tell their doctors the results of those tests in order to prevent health insurance companies from discriminating against them. Of course, that means that the benefits of testing do them no good. This is why I've been saying for years that, at the very minimum, we need regulation that says every insurance company should be forced to insure any and all applicants at the same rate for any given plan -- whether or not they are part of a company group. Yes, they can compete on price, but they should have to offer the same price to everyone for whatever plans they choose to offer. Yes, they can compete on plans (high deductible, low deductible, etc.), but they should be forced to offer each plan at a set price available to all.

Of course, there are many other reforms that are required, but this one is long overdue and is essential.

Facts don't matter

Proving once again that to a Republican, facts don't matter, the right wingnuttesphere is jumping on e-mails that claim Obama refuses to say the pledge of allegiance:

On Friday night's Bill Maher show, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) claimed that Barack Obama refuses to say the pledge of allegiance to the American flag. This along with other bogus claims about Obama come from the hoax emails circulating on the internet.

I'm sure even if they saw a video of him reciting the pledge, they'd say the video was doctored, and, if they saw him recite it in person, they'd claim he had his fingers crossed behind his back, and, if he said it again with his hands straight in front of him, they'd say it was a look-alike stand-in, etc., etc.

Welcome to Swiftboat 2008.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

He's a crock of ...

Maybe I'm the only one who missed this back when it happened, but it's news to me:

DETROIT, Feb 22 (Reuters) - General Motors Corp (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has defended remarks he made dismissing global warming as a "total crock of shit," ...

I think that expression is better reserved for the cars his company makes.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bandos - because we have to have a name for everything

From Calculated Risk:

Vacant homes are a negative externality for the neighbors; from unkempt yards, mosquito infected pools (see video at bottom of posts), fire hazards, and trespassers squatting in the homes (aka "bando", a homeless person living in an abandoned home) are just some of the problems.

Secret Service stops weapons screening at Obama rally

This is really rather troubling. The Secret Service apparently ordered the Texas police to stop screening people attending an Obama rally for weapons:

DALLAS -- Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.

The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security.

Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on.

Maybe the campaign asked them to do this, who knows? But, we all know that Obama is probably the most likely candidate to be targeted by the nut cases out there, so I would think everyone would want to be extra careful in his case.

Update: John Aravosis at Americablog tells us his readers tell him this is happening everywhere.

Debates and snow

Well, I've finally shoveled out from under the snow that was supposed to be only 2-3 inches but is already over 6 and it's still coming down somewhere between a half inch and an inch an hour, so it won't be long and I'll have to go back out.

But, in the meantime, I did want to say that after watching last night's debate it's the first time in my adult life that I've really been proud of America (or at least the Democrats). I thought both Hillary and Obama were superb, and I would enthusiastically back either of them if they won the nomination. In fact, this is only the second time in my adult life that I will be voting FOR someone instead of AGAINST someone for president.

My first presidential election was Johnson v. Goldwater, and I voted against Goldwater. The next election, I voted against Nixon. In '72 I did like McGovern, but I really voted against Nixon. In '76, in one of the worst mistakes of my life, I voted against Jimmy Carter. In '80, I guess I was about evenly voting against Reagan and for Carter, and in '84 again about evenly split between voting for Mondale and against Reagan. In '88 I voted against Bush and in '92 I voted against both Bush and Clinton (another mistake) even though I didn't really like anything about Perot except his spunk. In '96, I did vote for Clinton. In '00 I definitely voted against this idiot we have in the White House now as was the case in '04.

Going into '08, while I'm certainly against the Republicans and McCain or whoever they nominate, I will unquestionable voting FOR either Clinton or Obama.

On a related note, however, it seems that the New York Times has gone over the deep end and lost its collective mind. I don't see how anyone could have watched the debate last night and not thought that both candidates were behaving well, expressing their views forcefully, but always debating in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. Hence, when I read in the Times this morning that they had taken off the boxing gloves and really mixed it up, I thought the Times must be living in a parallel universe.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New rules: no more hair-trigger blogging on our side

It’s all over the place. I’ve done it myself, and should have known better. You see a report that Hillary or Barack or Bill said this, or a Hillary or Barack campaign spokesperson, or “surrogate” or “operative,” said that, and you don’t like the way it sounds, especially with respect to the person you prefer as the Democratic candidate, and you fire off, if you’re a blogger, an outraged post, or if a reader, a nasty comment saying how this is just another example of how disgusting the other candidate is. And so it goes.

We need Progressive Blogosphere rules against hair-trigger posting:

Rule No. 1: If it seems to be saying something really bad about either of the candidates, stop before you blog. It is probably, at minimum, a short set of words pulled way, way, way out of context. Whether it’s Michelle Obama saying, in the heat of battle (and just before saying that, of course, she would support the nominee, whoever it is), she would “have to think about” actively campaigning for Clinton; or Bill Clinton supposedly playing “the race card” with, in defense of his wife’s candidacy despite a stinging loss (and in response to an extremely snarky question), a reference to a previous candidate who won in South Carolina but did not win the nomination (but who happened to be black); or Obama supposedly playing “the gender card” by saying Clinton fights back hard when she “gets down,” stop – and stop again, and at least one more time, and take a breath until you’ve calmed down. Remind yourself that these are both great candidates. Clinton in particular has been the target of 15 years of mostly vicious narratives, such as the one that she’s “ruthless.” I think they are both honorable candidates who are trying to run a primary campaign to be No. 1, but at the same time are trying to do it in a way that does not pull down the party for the general election but focuses on actual differentiation such as it is. That’s not easy, especially where you have a media that is easily bored and is too uneducated in substantive matters to care about policy. It’s natural for the campaigns to get mad at each other, too, when they hear so-and-so said X, and it’s impossible to control hundreds of thousands of ad hoc supporters. The campaign workers should follow these rules, too. Rule 1 again: stop and look before you leap.

Rule 2: Before you say anything about what the other candidate supposedly said, Google it and find the whole statement and the context. Find out if the report is deliberately manufactured to generate controversy by pulling it out of context or by attributing to one of the candidates something that someone supposedly “in” the campaign said that most likely was not approved by the candidate (and may very well be expressly disavowed by the candidate). And remember that one of the foregoing is virtually a 100% likelihood.

In particular, when it's some phrasing on an issue that seems not to be progressive enough, or to fly in the face of our general perceptions about the candidate, check out the candidate's web site statement on the issue first before flying off the handle. That's what the candidate has committed to formally. Memo to Paul Krugman: yeah, we love you, but this means you, too. Obama shares the objective of universal coverage, but his experts tell him he can get there without a so-called "mandate" that presents "Harry & Louise" political concerns in a short campaign. His experts -- whose credentials are every bit as impressive as those of Hillary's experts, and on healthcare policy a lot more impressive than yours -- may or may not be right about that, but the high dudgeon is out of place. I don't expect my candidate to be a healthcare policy guru. I expect him or her to share the objective that everyone will be covered. We can argue about the means when the bill is being readied for presentation to Congress.

Rule 3: Google some more, and see if you can find the sequence from its first appearance anywhere to major media story. Did the reporter get his or her information from Drudge, or from a right-wing blog? There's a good chances you will be able to get a handle on this if you are thorough.

Rule 4: Direct your now-justified anger against the reporter for making up nonsense out of whole cloth, instead of the other candidate who at worst, in possibly the 17th stump speech of the day, may have phrased something in other than the most felicitous manner. Especially if you find the reporter is channeling nonsense from Drudge or a right-wing blog, try to get others in the legitimate blogosphere – i.e., bloggers and readers not in the right-wing blogosphere – to likewise teach a lesson to the offending reporter.

No more hair-trigger blogging!

I won't blog about this

I haven't blogged about Bush's supposed 19% approval rating because I don't believe it. There's no way you go from 34% to 19% in one month without something major having taken place in between. There's either a huge, chance in a billion, sampling error in this poll or there's something very wrong with the methodology. So now I haven't blogged about it.

Nevertheless, I hope it's true!

Liberal manifesto

There's a liberal manifesto over at Kos. Go read it, it's worth your time.

More than meets the eye

Josh Marshall thinks there's more to the New York Times' story of McCain's possible tryst with a female lobbyist that meets the eye. Hmmmmm.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A drop of victory in a sea of defeat

For once the Bush-packed Supreme Court got something right:

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that individual participants in the most common type of retirement plan can sue under a pension protection law to recover their losses.

The unanimous decision has implications for 50 million workers with $2.7 trillion invested in 401(k) retirement plans.

James LaRue of Southlake, Texas, said the value of his stock market holdings plunged $150,000 when administrators at his retirement plan failed to follow his instructions to switch to safer investments.

The issue in the LaRue case was whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act permits an individual account holder to sue plan administrators for breaching their fiduciary duties.

The language of the law refers to recovering money for the "plan" rather than for an individual, raising the question of whether a participant can sue solely for himself.

The Swift Boating begins

The swift-boating begins and this time it's not the Republicans doing it, but the Clintons. Clinton friends are preparing to swift-boat Obama apparently on the theory that if Hillary can't win, then the Republicans should.

ABC News has learned that a group of Democratic politicos have set up a new independent 527 organization called the American Leadership Project (ALP) with the express purpose of helping Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, beat Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in Ohio, and possibly Texas and Pennsylvania as well.

Free from campaign finance rules, ALP will not be legally permitted to coordinate with the Clinton campaign, but it is clearly intended to help her.

The group is targeting through TV ads, mail, and phone communications white women under 50 in the Ohio area -- specifically Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, Charleston (WV), Wheeling- Steubenville, Zanesville, and Parkersburg (WV).

White men will also be a focus, and if there are any excess funds Latinos in Texas and middle class families in Pennsylvania will also be targeted.

ALP has developed three ads aimed at pushing the idea that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, is a talker and not a doer -- the ads are called “If speeches could solve problems" -- and they will contrast Obama and Clinton on issues of importance to middle class voters, such as the economy, health care, and the mortgage crisis.

The more I see of Hillary's down and dirty tactics, the more I hope that Obama sweeps Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. If she's willing to risk sacrificing a Democratic win in November for her own personal aggrandizement, then I'm not a fan.

Vegas, redux

Atrios caught this, but I felt compelled to highlight it:

Fox News's Special Report yesterday:

GOLER: The president says it's better that African nations deal with African problems. White soldiers in Darfur, he believes, would be targets for all sides.

BUSH: A clear lesson I learned in the museum was that outside forces tend to divide people up inside their country and are unbelievably counterproductive.

The museum was the Rwandan genocide museum.

Isn't it amazing that whatever lessons were learned in Africa stay in Africa.

To the victor go the spoils

Yes, Obama's speech last night was too long, but it did have the advantage of shutting Hillary down until after prime time (in the East, at least). It also gave him an opportunity to speak to some issues more clearly than I've heard him speak before, particularly on the importance of the Constitution, the separation of powers, sanctions against torture, and the like.

As one of the talking heads said last night, if Hillary had congratulated Obama at the beginning of her speech, Obama would probably have waited till she had finished before launching into his. But, since she didn't, it was perfectly appropriate for the victor to collect the spoils which his opponent failed to hand him.

A remarkable night

There were a lot of things remarkable about the Obama blowout last night, but one of the most was that the Democratic loser in Wisconsin (Hillary) out-polled the Republican victor (McCain) by a margin of just about 2 to 1. And, Wisconsin is normally thought to be a swing state!

November is still a long way away, but the early signs are favorable.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Time for a cigar

Okay, now that Castro's gone (at least the Fidel one), can we please drop the idiotic embargo? I want a cigar.

Clinton really does go over the line this time

Email message I sent to Clinton campaign tonight:

Re plagiarism accusation against Obama

I aggressively challenged the absurdity of the racism charges against Hillary and Bill, and I have been a vocal critic of the "Clinton Rules," but I am extremely disgusted with the barrell-scraping of these absurd character-assassination attacks on Obama. Is this campaign so terminally stupid as to not understand that when it tears down the character of Obama, and supplies phony ammunition for Republicans in November, it is pissing off 80% of the Senator's own supporters. I have expressed my disagreement with Obama's campaign when it has stepped over the line and started borrowing Republican talking points to attack Senator Clinton. I likewise expect Senator Clinton to vocally disavow these attacks on the personal integrity of her opponent -- immediately -- regardless of how high up in her hierarchy the idiotic proponent is.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mind boggling

If you're like me, you don't know much about credit default swaps. I like to think I'm pretty knowledgeable about finance matters, but these things were only invented about ten years ago, and they're pretty bizarre. Gretchen Morgenson has a really good article on them in today's NY Times that pealed the scales off my eyes.

The market for these things is not many times larger than the U.S. stock markets -- about $46 trillion. Banks, investors and speculators buy these things, which guarantee to pay off if a bank loan or a bond goes into default. But here's the crazy part. Both the insurer and the insured can trade their interest to others without telling the other party who they sold to. Thus, if you thought you had insurance and the bond goes into default, you may not be able to find out who is obligated to pay you. Furthermore, the amount of bonds insured is roughly ten times the amount of bonds around since speculators buy and sell these things just to gamble on whether a company is likely to go into default. The problem is that to collect in the event of default, you usually have to tender a real bond, so 9 out of 10 insureds may not actually be covered. To make matters worse, there is no regulation whatsoever.

Go read it and have your mind boggled.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Jonestown Massacre coming to a theater near you

I gather from Glenn Greenwald that the Heritage Foundation has put a countdown clock on its web site, counting down the hours, minutes, seconds (maybe nano seconds as well) to the end of America at midnight tonight when the current FISA bill expires and the old act comes back to life.

I guess these are the same people who regularly predict specific short-term dates for the rapture and then change the date when the rapture repeatedly fails to show up on the predicted date.

We used to call them sects and cults. Now I guess they are the MAINSTREAM and Obama's followers are the cult.

Ah yes, Jonestown. I remember it well.

The Clinton Machine at work?

This morning I read this in the Times:

Black voters are heavily represented in the 94th Election District in Harlem’s 70th Assembly District. Yet according to the unofficial results from the New York Democratic primary last week, not a single vote in the district was cast for Senator Barack Obama.

That anomaly was not unique. In fact, a review by The New York Times of the unofficial results reported on primary night found about 80 election districts among the city’s 6,106 where Mr. Obama supposedly did not receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a respectable race in a nearby district.

City election officials this week said that their formal review of the results, which will not be completed for weeks, had confirmed some major discrepancies between the vote totals reported publicly — and unofficially — on primary night and the actual tally on hundreds of voting machines across the city.

In the Harlem district, for instance, where the primary night returns suggested a 141 to 0 sweep by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the vote now stands at 261 to 136. In an even more heavily black district in Brooklyn — where the vote on primary night was recorded as 118 to 0 for Mrs. Clinton — she now barely leads, 118 to 116.

They're treating this as though it's some sort of accidental error, but really, 118 to 0? I mean, if you were a poll worker and sent this sort of report off to the press, wouldn't you think something was just a bit awry? In the first place, every polling district keeps a tally of the total number of voters voting in addition to adding up the numbers for each candidate. So, if you saw that 234 people voted but came up with a count of only 118 to 0, wouldn't you wonder why 116 people came to the poll but failed to vote? And wouldn't any sensible person say that a vote of 118 to 0 between two relatively evenly balanced candidates was odd?

I don't buy that this was just accidental oversight, particularly when it happened in at least 80 different districts. That's too much coincidence for me.

I'm not saying that Hillary orchestrated this or even that her campaign did without her knowledge, but I think somebody did. And, for all the districts that had zero votes for Obama, how many others were sharp enough to say, we can't get away with zero, so let's just cut his vote in half?

The end of any argument for the legitimacy of retroactive telecom immunity

Glenn Greenwald makes a terribly important (and largely forgotten) point about the sheer, despicable dishonesty and complete bad faith of Bush and every single Republican legislator supporting his absurd claim that we need to give the telecoms immunity for violations of FISA in the past so they will continue to cooperate:

One other vital point: The claim that telecoms will cease to cooperate without retroactive immunity is deeply dishonest on multiple levels, but the dishonesty is most easily understood when one realizes that, under the law, telecoms are required to cooperate with legal requests from the government. They don't have the option to "refuse." Without amnesty, telecoms will be reluctant in the future to break the law again, which we should want. But there is no risk that they will refuse requests to cooperate with legal surveillance, particularly since they are legally obligated to cooperate in those circumstances. The claim the telcoms will cease to cooperate with surveillance requests is pure fear-mongering, and is purely dishonest.

That point is completely dispositive of Bush's argument. Case closed, shut up.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Papal visit

I gather the Pope is coming to America to visit the White House this April. I suppose he plans to kneel before King Bush and kiss his scepter and then go on to bless the candidacy of St. John McCain. Can't allow these abortionists to take over, can we?

Role of elected representatives

Over the past several days, I've heard Thom Hartmann on Air America Radio, express the view that the role of elected representatives, such as Senators and Congressmen, is to vote the views of their constituents, even if this differs from their own personal views. While I can see some positive elements to this argument, I think fundamentally I disagree with it. Yes, I think our elected representatives have an obligation to listen to what their constituents have to say (and not just the rich and powerful ones), but I think their fundamental role is to lead, not follow. It is they, it seems to me, that have the obligation to consider and evaluate policy issues, reach some conclusion as to what the best solution may be (both taking account of the reasonable views and the unique needs of their constituents), and then use their persuasive powers to convince their constituents to follow in their lead. But, when their own best judgment conflicts with that of their constituents as expressed, for example, in a poll, I think they have an obligation to vote their own best judgment, taking into account the fact that this may harm their re-election chances. Otherwise, it seems to me, we would have something more like government by referendum, and all you have to do is look at the mess California has gotten itself into by doing that.

Meme time on so-called “Protect America Act”

What’s the problem with it? It doesn't take more than a few good words. Maybe there are better ones than this -- no more words, only fewer allowed -- but let's hear them. And let's hear the Democratic Party en masse demand until the cows come home that the media publish and broadcast the other side of the argument to the American people.

“It will allow political electronic spying on American citizens without a warrant, no matter who they are talking to. And nobody will ever know. Are you down with Karl Rove bugging your phone without a warrant because he didn’t like a letter to the editor you wrote? Or a Democrat in office with the same unchecked power?”

The FISA we have now let’s us focus on finding real terrorists. It works. The Protect America Act is really the Protect the Party in Power Act. It’s both un-American and profoundly stupid.

And we shouldn't even have to get started on giving legal immunity to multi-billion dollar telecommunications corporations even if they broke the law for several years. Their defenders say they did it in good faith because the FBI asked them to. Fine. The law allows them to prove that. So prove it.

The boy who cried wolf

I've seen several bloggers use the analogy of the "boy who cried wolf once too often," to gleefully describe what happened yesterday when the House let the "Spy On Protect America Act" expire. Indeed, I was tempted to use it as well until I thought through how the end of that story goes. As you'll recall, the wolf actually shows up. I certainly don't think that's what's going to happen here, but I certainly wouldn't be gleeful if it did.

Some good news for a change (along with some bad)

I skipped out early yesterday because Hounddog from KC showed up unexpectedly and wanted to go out howling a bit.

Meanwhile, probably everyone already knows the good news - a) the House let the FISA bill lapse, and b) the House voted contempt citations for Bolton and Miers. Bush claims outrage about both and also claims that the US is about to be destroyed because the Democrats are letting it go undefended. Of course, Bush has never hesitated to break a law he didn't want to obey before, so we can be sure that notwithstanding the fact that the old FISA law is now back in place, he will violate it just as he did before. Furthermore, we all know that those violations have nothing to do with national security. They have to do with political espionage. I'm sure Bush has a tape recording of every call Hillary and Barack have made, just ready to pull them out and play them on the air at the appropriate moment in the upcoming campaign.

Now, for the bad news. Paul Krugman explains in some detain the meltdown of the auction-rate securities market. It turns out that it isn't just ignorant homeowners that succored into borrowing at teaser rates only to get stuck in over their heads when the rates reset. Even the Port Authority of New York borrowed in this auction-rate market -- long-term at a supposedly fixed rate of 4.3%. Only problem, there was supposed to be a weekly auction in these securities so investors would have some liquidity if they wanted to unload them. However, under the terms of the bonds, if the weekly auctions ever failed (something that was never supposed to happen) the interest rate would reset to 20%. Last week the auction failed, as have many others in this market. So, the Port Authority is now stuck with a long-term bond on which it has to pay 20% interest. I kind of wish I owned some of those bonds. The Port Authority has pretty good credit. Of course, if it keeps on having to pay 20% interest on all its debt, that good credit might disappear pretty quickly.

As bad as all this is in many respects (among other things this market has provided funds for student loans, which are now drying up), there's some grim justice in the fact that even the big boys who laughed at the small ignorant homeowners who got stuck with rate resets now got stuck with a rate reset of their own. Schadenfreude.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Immigration efficiency

I guess they feared the 14 day old baby was carrying a bomb in its diaper:

A 14-day-old infant traveling here for heart surgery died at Honolulu International Airport on Friday after he, his mother and a nurse were detained by immigration officials in a locked room, a lawyer for the boy's family said.

The Honolulu medical examiner's office yesterday identified the infant as Michael Futi of Tafuna, American Samoa's largest village, which is located on the east coast of Tutuila Island. Autopsy findings have been deferred.

According to police, the child died at 5:50 a.m. It is unknown why immigration officials detained the mother, the nurse and the child.

No determination that waterboarding legal

The headlines tell us that the Justice Department has determined that waterboarding is illegal under current law, but the actual meat of the article reads as follows:

"The set of interrogation methods authorized for current use is narrower than before, and it does not today include waterboarding," Steven G. Bradbury, acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, says in remarks prepared for his appearance Thursday before the House Judiciary Constitution subcommittee.

"There has been no determination by the Justice Department that the use of waterboarding, under any circumstances, would be lawful under current law," he said.

Somehow I think that saying there has been "no determination that it's legal" is not quite the same as saying there had been a determination that it's illegal. This is a slippery use of language that typifies the Bush administration's persistent desire to muddy the waters.


Well, I guess I've finally figured out what happened yesterday in the House. It seems that the blue dogs, the Republicans, and some of the progressives got together to block the 21 day extension of the current FISA law that Pelosi & Co. had proposed. That means that the current law will lapse in a day or so (returning us to the old, and far better, FISA law) unless the rest of the Democrats cave in and go along with the Republicans to support the Senate version of the bill which gives the Telecoms retroactive immunity. It seems the Republicans and the blue dogs joined with Bush to force the issue so everyone would have to cave immediately and give Bush everything he wants. The progressives joined up because they don't like the current law and want to go back to the old law. This is a game of "chicken" to see who will fold first. My guess is the Dems will fold first and give Bush and his buddies their victory, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Judy Garland was so sweet in the "Wizard", wasn't she?

House Democrats have introduced a resolution to hold White House counsel Harriet Miers and chief of staff Josh Bolton in contempt – for refusing to testify in the investigation into the U.S. Attorneys political purge.

Hmmm, comes just as the House is working its FISA-amendment bill. As Walldon says below, there may be some big-time caving happening on telecomm immunity issue.

Is this contempt citation some red-meat for the base, as in “Don’t pay any attention to the man behind the curtain”?

Dems buck Bush for a change

What do you know? For once, the Democrats come through for us -- at least temporarily:

The House defied President Bush Wednesday and scheduled three more weeks of work on a controversial foreign surveillance bill in a signal from Democrats in the chamber that they will not bow to White House pressure.

The president has vowed to veto any legislation updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that does not essentially retroactively legalize his warrantless surveillance program and free phone companies from facing lawsuits.

The bill faces stiff opposition from some Democrats in the House, particularly as it offers blanket legal immunity to telecommunications companies for possible violations of US law if they participate in the measures.

By a vote of 206 to 199 votes, the House agreed Wednesday to prolong its debate for three more weeks.

The vote followed Bush's admonishment earlier in the day, demanding that the House pass new rules for monitoring terrorists' communications, saying "terrorists are planning new attacks on our country ... that will make Sept. 11 pale by comparison."

Bush said he would not agree to giving the House more time to debate a measure the Senate passed Tuesday governing the government's ability to work with telecommunications companies to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mails between suspected terrorists. The bill gives phone companies retroactive protection from lawsuits filed on the basis of cooperation they gave the government without court permission — something Bush insisted was included in the bill.

Bush says he won't stand for this. I wonder what he will do.

Whoops. Looks like I got that wrong. I gather the 21 day extension failed miserably because the blue dogs joined the Bushies. I'm not sure where the information for this article came from or frankly which article is right and which wrong.


At long, long last, the House looks like it may take up the contempt citations for the Bush cronies' refusal to appear when subpoenaed. My guess is that the Democrats won't have the guts to actually push these through, but if they do, nothing will come of it anyway. If Congress tells Bush they hold him in contempt, he'll give them the finger and say he holds them in even more contempt.

Dick Morris started the "Clinton race card" meme

Some Democrats are finding it difficult to give up the cherished narrative that Hillary and Bill were playing the race card. That's, you know, the shrewd strategy of permanently alienating African-American voters throughout the rest of America and pushing them further towards Obama in order to appeal to the legion of Aryan Nation Democrats in the remaining "Blue states." When you start channeling certified (and certifiable) Clinton-Hater Dick Morris, it’s time to get a grip.

Don't just sit there on your ass. Do something.

I just sent a fax to all these blue dog Democrats who are waffling on the FISA bill. You might think about calling or faxing them too.

Back to the 15th century

I know this is old news now, but really, I do have to express some outrage when a member of the Supreme Court says the courts have no right to stop torture so long as it's being used for interrogation rather than punitive purposes.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rejected the notion that US courts have any control over the actions of American troops at Guantanamo Bay, argued that torture of terror detainees is not banned under the US Constitution and insisted that the high court has no obligation to act as a moral beacon for other nations.

... Scalia said it was "extraordinary" to suggest that the 8th Amendment, which prohibits the government from engaging in "cruel and unusual punishment," could be applied to the actions of US interrogators questioning foreign subjects detained overseas. In his view, Scalia said that while the 8th Amendment would prohibit locking up someone indefinitely as punishment for a crime, for example, the CIA or military would be perfectly justified keeping a suspected insurgent or member of al Qaeda imprisoned forever if the detainee refused to answer questions.

"Is it obvious that what can't be done for punishment can't be done to extract information that is crucial to the society?" Scalia asked.

Ah yes, Antonius Scalitus Torquemadus.

By the way, more than one thing happened in 1492. Yes, Columbus discovered America, but two other rather important things happened that year. The Christians pushed the moors out of Spain and the Spanish Inquisition began. The last two things were somewhat related to each other.

A safe bet

If you're a believer in momentum, then you probably think Hillary is in deep do do.

Meanwhile, congrats to Donna Edwards. I gave a little to her campaign, and I'm happy to see one more blue dog go down in a primary. The more the better.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Democrats bow and scrape to the king, again, and again, and again ...

Well, as predicted, the Democrats bowed down to Bush and kissed his big toe today (I might have used a different metaphor, but this is supposed to be a family blog), voting to kill the FISA amendment that would have stripped the bill of telecom immunity. All other measures to strengthen civil liberties protections are going down as well. 18 Dems joined the Thuglicans on this one. Obviously, given that, Dodd's filibuster will fail as well.

It's PP Day!

It's PP Day. No, you don't have to run to the toilet. It means "P0tomic Primaries Day." So, will Obama, who's gotten set up for a defeat if he doesn't, sweep the three primaries today? I haven't any idea. So, sit on the edge of your seats and wait and see.

Update: It occurs to me that today is also Lincoln's Birthday and that Obama announced his candidacy at Lincoln's old homestead (or whatever it was) in Illinois. Is that an omen?

Once again, we'll have to wait and see.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Democrats’ healthcare plan food fight: enough already

A pox on all their houses, especially the Krugman/myDD (blog) obsessives over the absence of a universal “mandate” in Obama’s plan. It’s why you wonder if they couldn’t have avoided falling into the trap of coming out with a “plan” – as opposed to a strong statement of policy with a set of clear objectives and general principles.

I don’t expect my President to be a healthcare policy expert. Obama’s experts think you can get virtually universal coverage by lowering the cost of insurance, offering a public insurance alternative, mandating coverage for children, and providing subsidies to help the less affluent get policies. Clinton’s experts think it is necessary to require everyone to buy insurance – the “mandate” that Krugman attacks Obama for not including in his plan. She, too, has a government insurance alternative available and subsidies. Both have at the core of their plans the important principle that with social insurance, we must all share the risk equally – there can be no more denial of coverage or pricing discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

This fight is ridiculous. Both candidates believe universal health insurance is the objective, but have some different ideas for getting there. Both have conceded for practical reasons that it’s more feasible to build on the current system if we are going to actually get a program in place. They are probably right about that. Both have experts of impeccable credentials who believe in the same objectives, but in good faith have different ways of getting there.

That’s good enough for me to call it a draw on that issue. It’s time for Krugman et al to call off the stupid circular firing squad that is merely providing fodder for Republican attacks on the nominee next Fall. You guys think you're saving the world from the other candidate's misguided experts, but it's obvious to most of us fed up with this debate that now is not the time.

U.S. seeks information on families of flyers and several days advance notice to the government before flying

And I used to think that the State of New York tax authorities had a long arm when it sought to tax income I earned in Ohio while a resident of New Jersey simply because I also had some New York income:

The US administration is pressing the 27 governments of the European Union to sign up for a range of new security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing armed guards on all flights from Europe to America by US airlines.

The demand to put armed air marshals on to the flights is part of a travel clampdown by the Bush administration that officials in Brussels described as "blackmail" and "troublesome", and could see west Europeans and Britons required to have US visas if their governments balk at Washington's requirements.

According to a US document being circulated for signature in European capitals, EU states would also need to supply personal data on all air passengers overflying but not landing in the US in order to gain or retain visa-free travel to America, senior EU officials said.

And within months the US department of homeland security is to impose a new permit system for Europeans flying to the US, compelling all travellers to apply online for permission to enter the country before booking or buying a ticket, a procedure that will take several days.

The data from the US's new electronic transport authorisation system is to be combined with extensive personal passenger details already being provided by EU countries to the US for the "profiling" of potential terrorists and assessment of other security risks.

Washington is also asking European airlines to provide personal data on non-travellers - for example family members - who are allowed beyond departure barriers to help elderly, young or ill passengers to board aircraft flying to America, a demand the airlines reject as "absurd".

This is utterly absurd. Particularly, the online permission demand. Business travelers often have to hop on a plane with less than a few hours advance notice as their plans change or emergencies arise. Requiring them to register several days in advance is ridiculous.

If the U.S. insists on this, I hope the Europeans retaliate by requiring US citizens to give up the credit card numbers, social security numbers, and tax returns of all their relatives before being allowed to fly to Europe.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

I think Hillary told us something about the state of her campaign yesterday when she changed campaign managers.

Thin skinned (or something)

Is this a war between Obama and Clinton, or is it a war between Frank Rich and Paul Krugman? Yesterday, Rich's column skewered Hillary (largely falsely). Today, once again, Krugman skewers Obama (largely falsely). What's going on here? In both cases, the columnists seem to have a personal bone to pick with the candidate. Why? I don't get the personal animosity and downright hatred that seems to be spewing from these two guys. Frankly, I think both the candidates are superb. I happen to lean in the direction of Obama right now, but I'll certainly be an enthusiastic Hillary supporter if she wins the nomination. I can't imagine hating either one.

I wish both of these guys would get over their personal grudges and get back to writing solid analysis instead of personal diatribes.

We didn't ask you to peek into that closet, so we won't listen to what you say was in there

The New York Times reports that the Army commissioned the RAND Corporation to do a study of the planning process for the aftermath of the Iraq war in order to learn how to do things right the next time. The study was completed in 2005 at about the time Bush was launching his much touted but dead on arrival "Plan for Victory in Iraq." Although the entire study was classified, a redacted, non-classified version was prepared for public distribution. It turns out, however, that the study was deeply embarrassing for the government -- having demonstrated that Bush and his cronies were bumbling idiots. So, the Army deep sixed the non-classified version of the study. All that is simply par for the course with the Bush administration. What I love about the story, however, is the reason the Army gave for deep sixing it:

The report on rebuilding Iraq was part of a seven-volume series by RAND on the lessons learned from the war. Asked why the report has not been published, Timothy Muchmore, a civilian Army official, said it had ventured too far from issues that directly involve the Army.

“After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army,” Mr. Muchmore said in a statement. “Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities.”


By Joanne Morrison
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
The housing market has still not reached bottom, the number of workers drawing jobless benefits has hit a 2-1/4-year high and consumers are tightening their purse strings, reports on Thursday showed, suggesting the economy may have screeched to a halt.
Pending sales of previously owned homes fell by 1.5 percent in December and were off a sharp 24 percent from a year ago, the National Association of Realtors said.
Separately, the Labor Department said new claims for unemployment aid edged down from a two-year high last week but the number of workers remaining on the benefit rolls has reached a level not seen since October 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

On the retail front, a spate of reports from key chain stores like Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Target Corp (TGT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) showed consumers have pulled back on spending. Sales in January were below expectations and were down at some key retailers."The risk of recession has certainly gone up," said Mark Vitner, economist at Wachovia Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina, who expects growth to remain lackluster until the housing market bottoms out around midyear.


For last year as a whole, pending home sales -- a gauge of contracts signed for sales that have yet to close -- came in at the lowest level since the real estate industry trade group began tracking the data in 2001. It's a great borrowing environment, but its not translating into sales because everybody is looking for the bottom of the market," said Bob Moulton, president of mortgage brokerage Americana Mortgage Group in Manhasset, New York.
Moulton said sales will not pick up until prices, which have been falling across the United States, come down further. The Realtors group projected sales would remain soft until the second half of this year, and said the market should then begin to improve, particularly if limits on the size of loans government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy are raised, a step Congress is considering.

The associaton said prices for existing homes were likely to drop by 1.2 percent this year, with prices for new homes tumbling by a bigger 4.3 percent.


Weakness that last year had been pretty much contained in the housing market has begun to spread through the economy more widely. A report on Tuesday showed activity in the mighty U.S. services sector contracted last month, while data on Friday showed U.S. employment shrank in January for the first time in 4-1/2 years.

New applications for unemployment benefits fell by 22,000 last week to 356,000, partially reversing a big spike the week before, but economists said the level, which was higher than expected, still suggested the labor market was weakening.
"We are having a lot of trouble in the labor market," said Lindsey Piegza, market analyst for FTN Financial in New York. "Generally, a 350,000-to-375,000 range is a recession warning zone."

The softening jobs market has made it increasingly difficult for unemployed workers to find new jobs. The number of people remaining on benefit rolls after drawing an initial week of aid rose by 75,000 to 2.79 million in the week to January 26. It was the highest level of so-called continued claims since October 2005.


A soft jobs market could further imperil the consumer spending that drives two-thirds of the economy's growth. Already, signs have emerged that spending has softened. L
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, reported a 0.5 percent rise in January same-store sales, short of the 2 percent rise analysts expected. Target, the No. 2 U.S. retailer, posted a 1.1 percent drop in same-store sales. January's sales data follow a disappointing holiday season for retailers and helped further fuel fears the economy could be tipping into recession."Given the difficult economic backdrop retailers and consumers are facing, expectations have still been pared to lower levels despite starting out at very modest initial projections," said Ken Perkins, president of research firm Retail Metrics.

McCain: Another Cowboy to Succeed a Cowboy

If you have any doubt about McCain resuming the cowboy style of diplomacy
pursued by Bush consider McCain's cavalier utterances:

We need to stay in Iraq for 100 years.

My Beach Boys song is bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.

The Senator lost a few cards in his deck as a result of his stay at the Hanoi Hilton.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Frank Rich unhinged

I don't agree with Kevin Drum's ordinary distaste for Frank Rich (I usually like Rich), but I do happen to agree with Kevin on this one. When he writes about Hillary, as in today's Times, he is totally unhinged. I'm not sure what's going on here, but what with Krugman taking pot shots at Obama and Rich taking pot shots at Hillary, the "liberal" Times is likely to hand the race to McCain.

Republicans act true to form

Only Republicans could believe in running an election and they trying to stop the counting of the ballots in the middle as soon as their favorite is in the lead. The Washington Republicans are refusing to count the last 13% of the ballots and have declared McCain the winner even though he's only leading by less than 2%.

Republican Mike Huckabee says he's not ready to concede Washington state, even though the state Republican Party has declared Arizona Sen. John McCain the winner of Saturday's caucuses.

On NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning, the former Arkansas governor said his campaign is looking into some legal issues, without going into specifics.

Huckabee's campaign blog, though, offers this: "The Washington State GOP, with 87.2 percent reporting, discontinued the counting process. We are looking into the matter. We are committed to making certain EVERY vote is counted. We will keep you posted."

McCain won 26 percent of delegates, Huckabee won 24 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul finished with 21 percent, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has dropped out of the race, got 17 percent.

Seems to me we've seen this kind of behavior before. Florida 2000 comes to mind. It seems to be a Republican habit.

Talking heads

I've just been watching the McLaughlin Report, which is filmed on Friday for broadcast on Sunday, and it's just amazing how wrong these "pundits" can get it. They're all talking about how the Party is coalescing behind McCain, burying it's hatchets, and striding forth strong and powerful to defeat the Democrats in November.

They obviously didn't have an inkling what would happen yesterday. Somehow, I wouldn't call that a sign of a united party enthusiastically backing its presumptive nominee.

Why do we listen to these people?

In the case of the McLaughlin Report, the only reason I listen is to watch Eleanor beat up on all those old conservative farts. It's great fun.

What's it all about?

So what is the meaning of last night? I hesitate to draw many conclusions, because I'm often wrong about these things, but I think it's fairly safe to say that McCain was the big loser last night. Here, he's just become the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, and he loses two states, one by a large margin and only ekes out a small plurality in the third, with over seventy percent of the people voting against him -- even for two candidates who are no longer running and a third ("uncommitted") who isn't even a person. I doubt that bodes well for his general election chances, but we still have a long way to go. Just remember that only one year before he lost his re-election bid, George H.W. Bush looked like a shoe-in to win in a landslide.

I think it's also fair to say that, while not devastating, last night was not friendly to Hillary. Can Obama pick up some new momentum from that? I don't know. It probably depends on how the press plays it and on how things turn out in Maine today.

Something is wrong with this story

I've just been reading a news article at Yahoo about Christopher Columbus' fourth trip to the New World. He was shipwrecked on Jamaica for many months. For a time the local natives were helpful, but the crew attacked the Indian village at some point, and the Indians stopped giving food and supplies to the group.

However, Columbus had an almanac that told him that three nights hence, just at sunset, there would be a total eclipse of the moon. According to the article, he went to the Indian chief and informed him that the Christian God was angry with the Indians for not providing his men with food and supplies and would show his anger by blotting out the moon just at sunset on the third night.

The eclipse occurred, and the Indians, in total fear of the Christian God, resumed supplying the ship with food.

Now, here's what I think is questionable about this story. The timing of an eclipse of the moon, whether it is a total or less than total eclipse, and indeed, even whether you can see it, depends entirely on where you are on the earth. An eclipse that can be seen at sunset in the Americas might not be seen at all in Australia, and would be seen as something less than a total eclipse and six hours later (local time) in Europe if it were seen at all.

Columbus believed himself to be in the Orient (after all, he called the people "Indians.") Hence, it's clear that neither he, nor the writer of the Almanac at the time, had any idea exactly where he was. So, how could he predict with precision the exact timing of the eclipse?

If it happened, it was pure luck, but my guess is that the story is baloney.

Lesson: Don't believe everything you believe.

McCain: War Hawk in Moderate Clothing

RE: Senator McCain's Real Record on the War in Iraq
DATE: February 8, 2008

Senator John McCain presents himself as a maverick and a critic of the Iraq war. But a close read of his record indicates that his position on the Iraq war has consistently matched President George W. Bush's.

Before The War

McCain used many of the same arguments as Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Cheney and President Bush when advocating going to war with Iraq.
McCain co-sponsored the Use of Force Authorization that gave President George W. Bush the green light—and a blank check—for going to war with Iraq. [SJ Res 46, 10/3/02]
McCain argued Saddam was "a threat of the first order." Senator McCain said that a policy of containing Iraq to blunt its weapons of mass destruction program is "unsustainable, ineffective, unworkable and dangerous." McCain: "I believe Iraq is a threat of the first order, and only a change of regime will make Iraq a state that does not threaten us and others, and where liberated people assume the rights and responsibilities of freedom." [Speech to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, 2/13/03]. McCain echoed Bush and Cheney's rationale for going to war. McCain: "It's going to send the message throughout the Middle East that democracy can take hold in the Middle East." [Fox, Hannity & Colmes, 2/21/03]
McCain echoed Bush and Cheney's talking points that the U.S. would only be in Iraq for a short time. McCain: "It's clear that the end is very much in sight. ... It won't be'll be a fairly short period of time." [ABC, 4/9/03]. McCain said winning the war would be "easy." "I know that as successful as I believe we will be, and I believe that the success will be fairly easy, we will still lose some American young men or women." [CNN, 9/24/02].

During The War

Senator McCain praised Donald Rumsfeld as late as May 12, 2004, after the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Asked if Donald Rumsfeld can continue to be an effective secretary of defense, McCain: "Yes, today I do and I believe he's done a fine job. He's an honorable man." [Hannity and Colmes, 5/12/04]. Senator McCain repeatedly supported President Bush on the Iraq War—voting with him in the Senate, defending his actions and publicly praising his leadership. McCain maintains the war was a good idea. At the 2004 Republican National Convention, McCain, focusing on the war in Iraq, said that while weapons of mass destruction were not found, Saddam once had them and "he would have acquired them again." McCain said the mission in Iraq "gave hope to people long oppressed" and it was "necessary, achievable and noble." McCain: "For his determination to undertake it, and for his unflagging resolve to see it through to a just end, President Bush
Senator McCain: "The war, the invasion was not a mistake. [Meet the Press, 1/6/08]
Asked if the war was a good idea worth the price in blood and treasure, McCain: "It was worth getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He had used weapons of mass destruction, and it's clear that he was hell-bent on acquiring them." [Republican Debate, 1/24/08]. McCain defended Bush's rationale for war. Asked if he thought the president exaggerated the case for war, McCain said, "I don't think so." [Fox News, 7/31/03]. McCain has been President Bush's most ardent Senate supporter on Iraq. According to Michael Shank of the Foreign Policy in Focus think tank, McCain was at times Bush's "most solid support in the Senate" on Iraq. [Foreign Policy in Focus, 1/15/08]. McCain voted against holding Bush accountable for his actions in the war. McCain opposed the creation of an independent commission to investigate the development and use of intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq. [S. Amdt. 1275 to H.R. 2658, Vote # 284, 7/16/03]
McCain praised Bush's leadership on the war. McCain: "I think the president has led with great clarity and I think he's done a great job leading the country..." [MSNBC, Hardball, 4/23/03]
Senator McCain has constantly moved the goal posts of progress for the war—repeatedly saying it would be over soon. January 2003: "But the point is that, one, we will win this conflict. We will win it easily." [MSNBC, 1/22/03]. March 2003: "I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short." [NBC, Meet the Press, 3/30/03]. June 2004: "The terrorists know that this is a very critical time." [CNN, 6/23/04]. December 2005: "Overall, I think a year from now, we will have a fair amount of progress [in Iraq] if we stay the course." [The Hill, 12/8/05]
November 2006: "We're either going to lose this thing or win this thing within the next several months." [NBC, Meet the Press, 11/12/06]. Senator McCain opposed efforts to end the overextension of the military that is having a devastating impact on our troops.
McCain voted against requiring mandatory minimum downtime between tours of duty for troops serving in Iraq. [S. Amdt.. 2909 to S Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote 341, 9/19/07; S Amdt. 2012 to S Amdt. 2011 to HR 1585, Vote #241, 7/11/07]. McCain was one of only 13 senators to vote against adding $430 million for inpatient and outpatient care for veterans. [S Amdt. 3642 to HR 4939, Vote 98, 4/26/06]. Senator McCain has consistently opposed any plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. Senator McCain repeatedly voted against a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. [S. Amdt. 3876 to S.Amdt. 3874 to H.R. 2764, Vote #438, 12/18/07; S.Amdt.. 3875 to S.Amdt.. 3874 to H.R. 2764, Vote # 437, 12/18/07; S.Amdt.3164 to H.R. 3222, Vote # 362, 10/3/07; S.Amdt. 2898 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585, Vote #346, 9/21/07; S.Amdt. 2924 to S.Amdt.. 2011 to H.R.1585, Vote #345, 9/21/07; S.Amdt.2 087 to S.Amdt. 2011 to H.R. 1585, Vote #252, 7/18/07; S.Amdt. 643 to H.R. 1591, Vote #116, 3/27/07; S.Amdt. 4320 to S. 2766, Vote #182, 6/22/06; S.Amdt. 4442 to S. 2766, Vote #181, 6/22/06; S.Amdt.. 2519 to S.1042, Vote # 322, 11/15/05]. Senator McCain has consistently demonized Americans who want to find a responsible way to remove troops from Iraq so that we can take the fight to al Qaeda.
McCain: "I believe to set a date for withdrawal is to set a date for surrender." [Charlotte Observer, 9/16/07]. McCain called proponents of a congressional resolution opposing the troop surge in Iraq intellectually dishonest. [Associated Press. 2/4/07].

The Future:

Senator McCain now says he sees no end to the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.
McCain: "[M]ake it a hundred" years in Iraq and "that would be fine with me." [Derry, New Hampshire Town Hall meeting, 1/3/08]. McCain on how long troops may remain in Iraq: "A thousand years. A million years. Ten million years. It depends on the arrangement we have with the Iraqi government." [Associated Press, 1/04/08].

Friday, February 08, 2008

Nothing -- ever -- at face value

Something seems contrived about this Coulter-Limbaugh-Dobson-right wing attack on McCain. By November, that whole wing will fall in line with some soothing words. Applying the principle of always assuming the worst, a good principle when the party of Karl Rove is involved, it is not paranoid to surmise that this is all orchestrated to shore up McCain’s support among moderates and independents. It’s a good working hypothesis.

The work needs to begin now. Some mileage may be gained by undermining McCain’s ill-deserved “straight talk” reputation, but be careful. He’s a likeable guy who is seen as a genuine American hero. However, there’s nothing independent or moderate about his most important political positions. He needs to be boxed into them before September with no wiggle room, and they must be used to define him before the campaign even begins. Stay the course, for 100 years. Not just in Iraq, but about everything. I liked what I heard Hillary say on the news this morning. It was more or less, “We’re great friends, and I love him to death, but he only offers more of the same and he’s wrong about everything.”

Preparing for Bush to declare martial law


A public-private partnership program on infrastructure preparedness and protection run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation allegedly has briefed its corporate members on the possibility of martial law and the use of lethal force, according to an exclusive report in the magazine The Progressive.

"One business owner in the United States tells me that InfraGard members are being advised on how to prepare for a martial law situation—and what their role might be," writes Matthew Rothschild in the Feb. 7 report, quoting an anonymous whistleblower on the program. "'Then they said when—not if—martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted,' he says."

So, just what even is going to give rise to the need for martial law? Could it be the cancellation of the November elections.

I hear that when Bush spoke to the conservative whackos in Washington today, the chanted, "Four more years, four more years."

Some good economic news

This is a rare piece of good news for the economy:

Bond-insurer MBIA Inc. said it boosted the size of a share offering to $1 billion from $750 million after it was oversubscribed by investors.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based company said it priced 82,304,527 shares of common stock at $12.15 a share to raise $1 billion. The offering is larger than its previously announced $750 million share issue and is likely to be greeted positively by analysts and investors who have been worried that the company will lose its coveted AAA credit rating.

I have no idea whether this will be enough to head off the downgrade, but a downgrade in MBIA's rating would have reverberations throughout the financial markets, since the bonds it insures would then lose their ratings, and the financial institutions that own those bonds would have to write down their holdings.

[Full disclosure. I own a few hundred shares of MBIA, which I purchased at at $60.00.]

All the news that's fit to print

I haven't gone through the entire paper word-by-word, but from my usual perusal of today's NY Times, I found no mention of Mukasey's comments yesterday arguing that if the Department of Justice says it's legal, then nobody can be prosecuted for it, regardless of what the law actually says. Seems to me that any decent news paper might actually report on it when the government says it is doing away with Congress and the Constitution and the rule of law altogether.

One more instance of the total dereliction of our fourth estate.

Why are the Brits covering up for Musharaff?

I ask again, why?

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Scotland Yard said in a report released Friday that Pakistan's opposition leader Benazir Bhutto died as a result of a suicide bomb blast, not a gunshot — findings that support the Pakistani government's version of the events.

They seem to be supporting the absurd theory that she died because she bumped her head. Most physicians have rejected that theory as highly improbable. So, why are the Brits joining in the cover-up? You can bet there's some back scratching going on somewhere.

Government "lost" a year's worth of Guantanamo records

Have you ever seen a government that has such a convenient propensity to lose and destroy evidence? e-mails, tapes, records of all sorts?

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - The U.S. military has lost a year's worth of records describing the Guantanamo confinement of Osama bin Laden's driver, a prosecutor said at the Yemeni captive's war court hearing on Thursday.

We know this government wouldn't be nearly so forgiving if I lost all the records supporting my tax deductions for an entire year.

Brokered convention

You've probably heard all the hype about how a brokered convention will kill the Democratic chances for victory in the fall. I even heard someone on CNN say that the last two brokered conventions were the ones that selected Adlai Stevenson, on the one hand, and Thomas Dewey on the other, and "you know how those turned out."

Am I mistaken? Wasn't the convention that selected John Kennedy brokered? And, wasn't the convention that selected Ronald Reagan (first time around) somewhat brokered? At least I remember significant doubt about who would win those nominations as late as the first days of those conventions. And, of course, you know how those turned out.

So, while I don't much like the idea of the super delegates picking our candidate -- or even worse, a bunch of rich men in a smoke filled room, I'm not sure it would kill the party's chances -- particularly not if all sides coalesced after the selection.

It occurs to me that most of this hype seems to be coming from the Clinton side of the fence, and I suspect it is intended to do two things. a) force the party to admit the Michigan and Florida delegates, who predominantly support Hillary and b) scare us normal folks into voting for Hillary instead of Obama (since they know she has the super delegates sewed up and will win in the end anyway) in order to give her a clean victory and avoid a disaster at the convention.

By the way, it also seems to be conventional wisdom that McCain's sewing up the race early gives him a significant advantage, since the Democrats will be fighting each other for the time being, while he can focus on fighting them. I would agree if Hillary and Obama decided to get down into the sewer and do some real street fighting (to mix metaphors). But, I don't necessarily agree if they hold to the high road where they were in the last debate. (By the way, in this regard, Hillary should dump her surrogates Carville and Penn. They tend to get into the sewer very quickly).

In fact, the longer this Democratic contest goes, the longer Hillary and Obama will be getting free publicity. McCain's not likely to get as much press attention. It's boring to cover the horse race after it's over. Furthermore, Hillary and Obama both know who to attack on the other side, while McCain has to take aim against two targets who may be shooting at him from different directions. I have a feeling McCain may be the one who starts to feel the heat first here.

Biofuels stink

About 18 months ago I wrote a series of posts about bio-fuels and concluded that, particularly corn-based ethanol, did little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and probably increased them. The reason being that it requires more fossil fuel energy to grow the corn, harvest it, and process it into ethanol than you get back from the ethanol. At that time, some of the studies addressed the question of land use, but that played little role in the conclusion. The energy balance just plain didn't work, even without considering land use.

But, now, two new studies have been released focusing intensely on land use, and the conclusions are devastating for biofuel.

Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the full emissions costs of producing these “green” fuels are taken into account, two studies being published Thursday have concluded.

The principal problem is that using corn or other agricultural resources to make biofuels either requires new crop land to be cleared to grow the biofuel source, or, if the biofuel source is grown on existing crop land, new crop land has to be cleared to grow food. This works worldwide. If corn ethanol use in the US drives up the price of corn and other food worldwide, the incentives to clear and burn the rain forests in Brazil increase, because more money can be made from growing crops there. And, agriculture is one the least efficient biological sinks for carbon.

The clearance of grassland releases 93 times the amount of greenhouse gas that would be saved by the fuel made annually on that land, said Joseph Fargione, lead author of the second paper, and a scientist at the Nature Conservancy. “So for the next 93 years you’re making climate change worse, just at the time when we need to be bringing down carbon emissions.”

The only real solution in the short-term is conservation through use of fuel efficient vehicles, public instead of private transport, and less transport altogether. A lot could also be saved by reducing the excess packaging for consumer products.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Politics-USA-2016 President

This, from Simoneyezd in Ontario:

Politics-USA-2016 President!

The year is 2016 and the United States has elected the first woman as well as the first Jewish president, Susan Goldfarb. She calls up her mother a few weeks after election day and says, "So, Mom, I assume you will be coming to my inauguration."

"I don't think so. It's a ten hour drive, your father isn't as young as he used to be, and please my arthritis is acting up again."

"Don't worry about it Mom, I'll send Air Force One to pick you up and take you home. And a limousine will pick you up at your door."

"I don't know. Everybody will be so fancy-schmantzy, what on earth would I wear?"

"Oh Mom" replies Susan, "I'll make sure you have a wonderful gown custom-made by the best designer in New York "

"Honey," Mom complains, "you know I can't eat those rich foods you and your friends like to eat."

The President-to-be responds, "Don't worry Mom. The entire affair is going to be handled by the best caterer in New York, kosher all the way. Please, Mom, I really want you to come."

So Mom reluctantly agrees and on January 21, 2017, Susan Goldfarb is being sworn in as President of the United States.

In the front row sits the new president's mother, who leans over to a senator sitting next to her.

"You see that woman over there with her hand on the Torah, becoming President of the United States ?"

The Senator whispers back, "Yes, I do."

Says Mom proudly, "Her brother is a doctor."

Senate has no right to forego a recess

I guess the President thinks it's unconstitutional for the Senate to fail to have a recess so he can make recess appointments:

MR. FRATTO: I think what the ask of the administration was, was for the President to give up his constitutional authority to make recess appointments. The power to make recess appointments is granted to the President in the Constitution. And that's what the President was being asked to forego.

Now, the Senate, then, went and took the extra constitutional act of -- over the holidays, of engaging in speed sessions with the soul purpose of frustrating the President's constitutional authority to make appointments.

Don't you just love the twisted, convoluted logic these guys come up with? It would be downright laughable if it weren't killing this country.

Good riddance

Lieberman’s superdelegate status stripped.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for president, will be disqualified as a superdelegate at the Democratic convention “under what is informally known as the Zell Miller rule.” In 2004, Miller — then a Democratic senator from Georgia — attacked Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in a speech at the Republican National Convention. The DNC “responded with a rule disqualifying any Democrat who crosses the aisle from being a super delegate.”

CIA targets blogs

Well, finally Scatablog may get some readers:

With rapidly advancing technology spreading across the globe, US spies are shifting their focus from surreptitiously photographing secret Soviet documents to trolling the Internet for what could be the next key nugget of foreign intelligence.

Among the most valuable sources, one top spook says, are blogs, MySpace and other Web 2.0 hallmarks.

L'Etat, c'est moi

We have a new theory of law. We can throw out Congress because they're irrelevant. No matter what Congress does, the law is whatever the Department of Just Us says it is -- or at least no one can be prosecuted if they do something the DOJ says is legal, regardless of how illegal it may be:

Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) wanted some clarity during his questioning. Was the attorney general really saying that anyone who acted pursuant to a Justice Department legal opinion was "insulated from criminal liability?"

Mukasey wanted to say it more carefully. "I think what I said was that we could not investigate or prosecute somebody for acting in reliance on a Justice Department opinion."

But even if that opinion was "inaccurate," Delahunt wondered, and that behavior really did violate the U.S. criminal code, you're saying that someone who relied on it would effectively have "immunity from any culpability?"

"Justified reliance," Mukasey answered, "could not be the subject of a prosecution." Simple as that. "Immunity connotes culpability,” he added, so it wasn't immunity, exactly, but the effect was the same.