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Monday, June 30, 2008

OPEC president sees oil at $170 this year

Khelil blames Fed, falling dollar, increased demand for surging crude prices
By MarketWatch
Last update: 1:24 p.m. EDT June 28, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Oil prices will climb to $170 a barrel this year because of increased demand, political tension and decisions made by monetary policymakers in the U.S. and Europe that have devalued the U.S. dollar, OPEC President Chakib Khelil told Bloomberg News on Saturday.

"Oil prices are expected to reach $170 as demand for fuel is growing in the U.S. during the summer period and the dollar continues to weaken against the euro," Khelil, leader of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said, according to the news service.
Political pressure on Iran and the depreciation of the U.S. currency have caused a surge in oil prices, Khelil explained.

Crude prices hit a record $142.99 a barrel on Friday in New York trading. See full story.
That's sparked debate about whether a lack of new supply, rising demand or speculation is driving prices ever higher. OPEC argues that supplies are sufficient, a message Khelil repeated on Saturday.

"There is more than enough oil in the market to meet the international demand," he told Bloomberg. "The decisions made by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank helped the devaluation of the dollar, which pushed up oil prices," he explained.
Oil may extend gains if the ECB boosts rates on July 3, further weakening the U.S. currency, Bloomberg said, noting that the greenback has declined 15% against the euro in the past year.
The Fed left U.S. interest rates on hold on Wednesday at 2%, after a series of cuts designed to cushion the impact of the mortgage-fueled credit crunch. See full story. On the same day, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said policy makers may increase the main refinancing rate by a quarter-percentage point next month to contain inflation.
The U.S. dollar has dropped against the euro and other currencies in recent weeks on expectations the Fed won't raise rates too soon for fear of exacerbating a U.S. economic slowdown.

The actions that have devalued the dollar are the huge deficit spending/borrowing of the USA for the war in Iraq. If we had paid for the war through visible taxes rather than the invisible tax of inflation, oil prices would be much less. $30 per barrel to $140 per barrel is X4.7. Without the deficit spending it would have been X2 or X3 that accounts for world demand and speculation.

Fear is their only option -- in more ways than one

John McCain’s so-called healthcare plan – the notion that all will be right if we can just slow down cost increases – is a complete joke that misses the essential problem: in this time when the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance keeps declining, and when management loyalty to employees keeps eroding, when that erosion of loyalty is driven in large part by the declining ability of corporations facing escalating costs to compete in a world economy, and when healthcare providers try to bump up their prices and applying typical (and exorbitant interest rates) to cover for late or no payments and greater administrative hassles --everyone today is paralyzed by fear.

The biggest by far is the fear of complete financial devastation for those without any insurance now, and for those who are covered by an employer’s insurance now, but know that could change in a flash with an unexpected Friday pink slip. But let’s not forget, too, that the employers are afraid of ever-escalating, unpredictable costs of offering health insurance to employees – and thus are hesitant to add manpower in the first place, with a leaning toward temporary workers without benefits when they absolutely must -- and fear their ability to continue competing in the global economy against companies whose governments relieve them of the burden of covering health insurance. Or that the healthcare providers themselves are fearful of not getting paid.

Is this a toxic atmosphere for business or what? Is the GOP decidedly NOT the “party of business” or what?


Via Juan Cole, I find Republican Lee Iacocca is sounding outraged:

' "Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

"Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

"& someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions.

That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

"I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

"I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty & I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.

"Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them — or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

"And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

"There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?

"On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. & That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq — a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith-based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will.

"So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership. '

Unfortunately, I don't see any of the contenders running to take on that leadership role -- including, Obama. He has yet to say much of anything about the shredding of our Constitution, while defending the gun toters, the hangmen, and the government agents that are sniffing around inside your telephone. Yes, I'm going to end up voting enthusiastically for Obama. After all, anything is better than four more years of total incompetence led by a guy who's turning senile.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rove-Reversal: Jewish Dems Attack McCain's "Strength" On Iran

Sam Stein
The Huffington Post
June 26, 2008 08:00 AM

Several of Congress' most prominent Jewish members are set to go after John McCain on an issue of perceived strength: his proclaimed "toughness" in dealing with Iran.
On Thursday, Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Ben Cardin, alongside more than half-a-dozen members of the House of Representatives and the National Jewish Democratic Council, will host a press conference highlighting a vote McCain made that helped corporations like Halliburton continue doing business with sanctioned countries like Iran.

The vote, McCain's critics argue, demonstrates a strand of political hypocrisy -- on the campaign trail, the Senator has repeatedly called for divestment from Iran -- and pokes holes in his attacks on Barack Obama. "John McCain has been arguing that he is Mr. Tough Guy on Iran," said Ira Forman, Executive Director of the NJDC. "At the AIPAC conference he talked about how he would introduce stronger sanctions and boycott measures. He's also saying Obama is naïve and can't be trusted to deal with the Iranians. But when it came to deciding to be tough on Iran or supporting Halliburton, he stuck with Halliburton. It is easy to talk the talk but it is not so easy to walk the walk." In July 2005, Sen. Lautenberg introduced an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that would have closed a loophole allowing U.S. corporations to do business with terrorist-sponsoring nations by setting up foreign shell companies. The measure had broad support as it became evident that several major companies, including Halliburton, had taken advantage of the system. Frank Gaffney, the neoconservative columnist, opined that the situation was an "affront to the letter and spirit of the law." But when the provision came to the floor, the vote split almost entirely down party line. Only two GOP Senators supported the amendment and neither had the last name McCain. Soon thereafter, a less-stringent amendment was passed, roughly reinstating the legal status quo. As a Democratic aide noted, "it allowed Republicans to cover themselves on the issue." The Center for Security Policy wrote:
"The [GOP version] would seek to penalize individuals or entities who evade [International Emergency Economic Powers Act] sanctions - if they are "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States." This is merely a restatement of existing regulations. The problem with this formulation is that, in the process of purportedly closing one loophole, it would appear to create new ones... If the Senate is serious about truly closing this loophole, it must adopt the Lautenberg Amendment."

Now, three years later, Lautenberg, Cardin, the NJDC and others are trying to extract a political price from McCain for not supporting their legislation. And, as some Jewish politics observers suggested, there could be political room to operate. "The bottom line is this," said Mark Mellman, President & CEO of The Mellman Group. "There is an obviously grave concern in the American Jewish community about a nuclear Iran. This is a leadership that has pledged to wipe out Israel and is developing the means to do that. And so there is grave concern within the Jewish community but also outside the Jewish community." It is a Rovian effort -- going after an opponent's perceived strength. After all, McCain has made the concept "getting tough" on hostile regimes a central thrust of his foreign policy. During a speech at AIPAC he spoke directly about the benefits of cutting off Iran's financial pipelines. "As more people, businesses, pension funds and financial institutions across the world divest from companies doing business with Iran, the radical elite who run that country will become even more unpopular than they are already," he said. And the Senator has often backed his rhetoric with action. In 1992, McCain coauthored the Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act, which prohibited the transferring for weapons or technology to those two countries. More recently, he has championed the Lieberman-Kyl amendment, which designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. In fact, in 2006, McCain tried to have Iran banned from participating in the World Cup soccer tournament.

All this Forman acknowledged. But he added, "when you are the guy who says 'I am tough, I will be the one who will extend sanctions against Iran, and my opponent is weak' -- when you run your campaign in the Jewish community around this point, you are particularly vulnerable when you didn't do what you said you will." As demonstrated by the Lautenberg amendment, McCain's resume isn't entirely without weak points. This list include his campaign staff, which currently includes Charlie Black, whose firm was paid $60,000 to lobby on behalf of the Chinese oil conglomerate doing business in Iran; and Carly Fiorina, who as CEO saw her company Hewlett-Packard trade with the Iranians.

Throwing the election away?

It turns out that, underfunded though he may be, McCain is outspending Obama on TV ads in many, if not most, markets around the country.

Following up on David's post below, why is McCain outspending Obama two-to-one in Missouri?

We had reader reports suggesting this last week. And in response to those reports readers from a number of other swing states reported seeing the same thing -- a flood of McCain ads and only a much smaller number of Obama ads.

When we checked in with Obama campaign, the impression we were given was that this was more a matter of viewer perception than reality. But the Post-Dispatch's reporting makes it clear that in Missouri at least it is very much the reality.

It doesn't strike me that it makes much sense to let McCain sneak past you in the early going. It's a lot harder to change people's minds once they're made up than to win them over to begin with. I hope we're not seeing Obama fall into the trap Lamont fell into after beating Lieberman in the primary. He took a long vacation while Lieberman trounced all over him. Hell, I can understand that Obama may be tired after the long battle with Hillary, but how much effort does it take to air a few TV ads?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Government of, by and for the idiots

In the name of protecting private enterprise, the Bush administration is making it illegal for cities to carry children to and from school on the public transportation systems:

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - The District’s long-standing system of taking students to school on Metrobus would be prohibited under a federal proposal to tighten the rules that govern public transit agencies.

The stricter Federal Transit Administration rules, which just completed the public comment process, would apply to all transit systems that receive federal funds and could be in place as soon as August. Metro receives $200 million in federal funding annually.

The rule is designed to ensure that publicly funded transit systems don’t infringe on the private charter bus industry, but officials said it would leave the District scrambling to pull together transportation for students that likely would cost millions of dollars more than the school system has budgeted for the service.

This doesn't just affect D.C. New York, for instance, ferries kids to school on the subway.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Arnold ridicules McCain’s off-shore drilling proposal (Shhhhh! Keep it quiet.)

As reported in the L.A. Times, this is what Ah-nold said yesterday at a climate conference in Miami:

Politicians have been throwing around all kinds of ideas in response to the skyrocketing energy prices, from the rethinking of nuclear power to pushing biofuels and more renewables and ending the ban on offshore drilling. But anyone who tells you this would bring down gas prices any time soon is blowing smoke.

Do you think he will be talking about “girly-men” at the GOP convention this year? Will he be at the GOP convention.

This is big campaign news. Schwarzenegger is a major figure, and he’s making his own candidate look silly – which, of course, he is. But I can’t find the story without searching with keywords on Google; it’s not at this moment front-page at the Times, CNN, MSNBC, USA Today or the Washington Post. Hmmmm.

GOP's FSJ Tactics: Fearing, Sneering and Jeering

FSJ Tactics: Fearing, Sneering and Jeering

The recent FISA “compromise” between U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights and their security is a farce. It is another in a stream of this genre replete in U.S. history including the Alien and Sedition Act, and Japanese Internment. In every case, Republicans using the FSJ message led the enactment to evoke the id of voters who get a perverse security buzz from the contriving of a scapegoat.

Losing On The Forgotten Front

From The Progress

In November 2007, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb and Senior Policy Analyst Caroline Wadhams issued a report on the war in Afghanistan called The Forgotten Front, arguing that "the situation has dramatically deteriorated since 2005." "Afghanistan faces a growing insurgency that directly threatens its stability and the national security interests of the United States and its allies," wrote Korb and Wadhams. Now, roughly eight months later, the circumstances on the ground in Afghanistan have become even more perilous. In May, American and allied combat deaths in Afghanistan "passed the monthly toll in Iraq for the first time." Not yet over, the month of June has been even deadlier with 39 coalition deaths, which is "the highest monthly toll of the war." In fact, in the first six months of 2007, 28 Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan, but in 2008, that number has already reached 50. On Monday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen told members of his staff that "violence is up this year by every single measure we look at." According to the Los Angeles Times, the measurable increase in violence has "prompted the military's top leadership to order a review of its strategy in Afghanistan." Commanders believe they need three brigades, or 10,000 troops, to address the situation in Afghanistan, but with the heavy U.S. commitment in Iraq, those numbers are difficult to muster. IRAQ DRAINING RESOURCES: On Monday, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams reported that on a recent trip to Afghanistan, "several U.S. commanders complained" to the network that they lack "resources, aircraft, soldiers and support because of the war in Iraq." The complaints of the commanders who spoke to Williams were echoed that same day by Mullen, who told reporters that Afghanistan is "an economy-of-force campaign," which, "by definition," means that "we don't have enough forces there." "I am constrained on forces I can generate quite frankly because of Iraq," said Mullen. Many military officials want to take "advantage of future troop reductions in Iraq by giving U.S. units more time at home to rest and train," but the requirements of the situation in Afghanistan mean that "future troop reductions in Iraq instead will lead to an increase in U.S. units in Afghanistan." With uncertainty about when troop reductions in Iraq will occur, military officials "have begun looking to bases in the U.S. for about 1,000 new troops that csan be sent to Afghanistan in October." At the same time, this strain on the military's resources means that the unpopular "stop-loss" policy won't end anytime soon. In a meeting with soldiers earlier this month, Mullen said that the policy would continue for "the near future" and could "see a slight growth in the next couple of years."RESURGENT EXTREMISM: "Across a wide swathe of southern and south-eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban have never looked stronger since they were driven from power by an American-backed alliance in November 2001," the Economist wrote in a recent issue. A searing example of the Taliban's renewed strength was the massive jailbreak at Sarposa Prison in the southern city of Kandahar earlier this month, when Taliban fighters used suicide car bombs and a concerted rocket-and-machine gun assault to free as many as 1,200 prisoners, including somewhere between 350 and 400 Taliban fighters. The Taliban's tactics have also become more sophisticated. "The Taliban, by and large, have moved -- not unlike what happened in Iraq -- to the asymmetric, IED-style warfare," said Mullen last week. But it isn't only the Taliban that are stressing coalition efforts in the country. New Pentagon data shows that insurgent activity is increasing and spreading into "once stable areas." Attacks are up almost 40 percent in Afghanistan's eastern province, where "a patchwork of Sunni Muslim groups" are clashing with coalition forces, not just the Taliban. Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the increased insurgent activity in the Eastern province "a real concern." Gates pointed to the porous border with Pakistan as one of the main roots of the resurgence. EARLY WARNING SIGNS: Similar to Korb and Wadhams, military officials and foreign policy analysts have been sounding alarm bells over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan for some time now. At the beginning of 2008, two reports were released by prestigious committees that declared that Afghanistan is "at great risk of becoming 'the forgotten war'" and "could become a failed state." "Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan," said the report by the Atlantic Council, which was chaired by retired Gen. Jim Jones. In January 2008, then-CentCom Commander Adm. William Fallon explained the increased tempo of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan by saying "we moved focus to Iraq," and "there was a resurgence of the Taliban." In April, Mullen told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that "with the bulk of our ground forces deployed to Iraq...we cannot now meet extra force requirements in places like Afghanistan."

Don't count on any change from the Democrats. They're the same guys that have enabled Bush all along.

I don't often copy an entire post from another blog, but this one by Hunter at Daily Kos so entirely reflects my own level of cynicism about where the Democrats are taking us that I had to post it here:'

Yesterday, Congress held hearings about the approval and endorsement, within the White House, of the torture of detainees in United States custody. The response by White House officials was to show up (for once), but to spend the entire hearing laughing in the faces of the questioners via meaningless, unresponsive answers, petty parsing of words, and in one case by -- no kidding -- the witness responding to a question by reading a passage from a book about himself.

Faced with this level of obstruction, there seems only one path available to the Congress: we must pass a bill retroactively making everything they did legal, and change the law so that torture is legal going forward.

That way the reputation of the White House won't be harmed, and these people won't be unduly burdened by these questions in the future, and this whole "a Republican administration drew up plans for torturing innocent human beings to find out what they know" business will be put to rest so that it can't be used against the Democrats in upcoming elections.

That sounds like a reasonable compromise, don't you think?

Oh, and I'm sure somebody needs a tax cut. Maybe people who advocate torture should get 20% off at Macy's.

Bush administration gets religion on the environment, so they say

After systematically destroying our national forests, wetlands and fisheries and trying to destroy the sea coasts and the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, arguing against environmental impact studies in every case, now, the Bush administration decides it's time to worry about environmental impacts and has put a hold on guess what? Solar power.

DENVER — Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.

I guess it might compete with something they really care about, like oil and coal, the environmental impacts of which they have systematically ignored.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The poor must stay poor

According to the Supreme Court:

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court has struck down the "millionaire's amendment" as an unfair way to help opponents of wealthy candidates who spend from their personal fortunes.

The law allows candidates to receive larger contributions when their wealthy opponents spend heavily from their personal fortunes.

I suppose a logical corollary is that any public distribution of taxpayers' monies to the poor to allow them to compete in life style with the rich is unconstitutional. It might give the poor an unfair advantage over the rich at the supermarket.

We will continue to see Bush at work for decades to come.

Update: Oh, but by the way, it's perfectly okay if I carry an AK-47 to intimidate my opponents.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Talk, Talk, Talk, Talk To Iran

From The Progress by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Ali Frick, Benjamin Armbruster, and Matt Duss


Despite growing international pressure, including three Chapter 7 U.N. Security Council resolutions -- the last of which was adopted in April of this year -- Iran continues to move forward with its nuclear program. Iranian government officials have repeatedly said that they will not agree to suspend uranium enrichment, which they insist is their right. Though Tehran "maintains the program is exclusively for electricity-producing purposes," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in May that Iran was "still withholding critical information that could determine whether it is trying to make nuclear weapons." The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran last December concluded that Iran had "halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003," but the United States and its international partners continue to "accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover for weapons development." THE DIPLOMACY: The latest package of incentives was presented to Iran during a recent visit to Tehran by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and "gives Tehran the opportunity to develop alternate light water reactors, trade and other incentives, in return for dropping the enrichment." However, the countries represented "alongside Mr Solana were Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Nobody from the US." There are also disincentives to match the incentives for Iran. On Monday, EU states agreed to impose new sanctions prohibiting Iran's largest bank from operating in Europe" and adding to the list of banned individuals and organizations. With the Iranian economy in tatters, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is politically weakened, and defiance on the nuclear issue represents a way for Ahmadinejad to maintain his political relevancy. Former diplomat Peter Galbraith wrote that, "from the inception of Iran’s nuclear program, prestige and the desire for recognition have been motivating factors," and he "has made uranium enrichment the centerpiece of his administration and the embodiment of Iranian nationalism." Ahmadinejad has thus far "successfully used the threat of war to suppress dissent and divert attention from domestic woes." UNHELPFUL RHETORIC: The release of the NIE on Iran last December effectively removed the short-term prospect of military action against Iran. But the last few months have seen a renewed effort on the part of pro-war conservative extremists to lay the groundwork for what they see as an inevitable armed conflict. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol recently suggested that President Bush might consider bombing Iran, depending on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Former U.S ambassador to the U .N. John Bolton also said a U.S. military strike against Iran "is really the most prudent thing to do." IAEA Director General Mohamed El-Baradei warned in an interview last week, "I don't believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against would make me unable to continue my work." In a recent panel discussion, former ambassador James Dobbins suggested that threats force against Iran were unproductive and that the United States should "get busy with the job of diplomacy."RECOGNIZING NEED FOR DIRECT DIPLOMACY: In May, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated, "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage...and then sit down and talk with them [Iran]." Recently retired CentCom chief, Admiral William Fallon, took "public positions favoring diplomacy over force in Iran," suggesting "a navy-to-navy relationship with Iran as a way to begin a sustained dialogue with the country." A new report from the United States Institute of Peace asserted that "Iran's goals appear to be largely defensive: to achieve strategic depth and safeguard its system against foreign intervention, to have a major say in regional decisions, and to prevent or minimize actions that might run counter to Iranian interests." The report also concluded that "it is hard to envision" any kind of lasting peace in the region "without a reduction in tensions between the United States and Iran." Citing recent polling evidence, National Security Network policy director Ilan Goldenberg wrote that "diplomatic engagement with the consensus position" among Americans. In what could represent a significant policy shift that accords with this consensus, yesterday the Associated Press reported that the Bush administration is considering "opening a U.S. interests section in Tehran," the first U.S. diplomatic outpost in Iran in nearly thirty years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bugliosi v. Bush

From fellow contributor Binger
By Brett Story
June 19, 2008

Famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi argues in a new book that Bush "deserves much more than impeachment"--a penalty he considers incommensurate with the crimes committed. In The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, the New York Times bestselling author and prosecutor lays out the legal case for prosecuting President Bush in a US courtroom after he leaves office. Bugliosi writes, "4000 young Americans decomposing in their grave today died for George Bush and Karl Rove and Dick Cheney." His book is not only a scathing indictment of the President and his Administration but also a blueprint for holding him criminally accountable. Bugliosi accuses Bush of taking the nation to war in Iraq under deliberately false pretenses and thus holds him culpable for thousands of subsequent deaths, detailing in The Prosecution the legal basis for such a case and laying out what he argues is the requisite evidence for a murder conviction.

While at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, Bugliosi successfully prosecuted twenty-one murder convictions without a single loss, most famously that of serial murderer Charles Manson. He also penned a number of best-selling true-crime books, including Helter Skelter and Outrage. The Nation spoke to Bugliosi in a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles about his new book and the political challenges of bringing its title trial to realization.

BS You begin your book by acknowledging its controversial premise and the difficulty people will have with the argument, as you lay it out, that George Bush should be put on trial for the murder of the nearly 4,000 American soldiers who've died fighting the war in Iraq. What do you think is so contentious about the idea of prosecuting a President, past or present, for murder?

BV: The average American instinctively feels without having read my book that if an American President takes his nation to war under any circumstances, he can't be prosecuted for murder. Related to that, people find it very hard to believe that an American President would engage in conduct that is so extremely criminal. You just don't expect that of a President.
Americans just can't believe an American President would engage in conduct that smacks of such criminality, and thus the whole notion of taking the President to court for murder is a revolutionary one.

BS: In order to make the legal case for murder the prosecution, you write, would have to show that George Bush had a criminal state of mind--in legal terms, "malice aforethought"--when he led the country to war. That strikes me as no easy task. Can you explain how exactly you would go about arguing such a mindset?

BV: To satisfy the main elements of murder--murder being an unlawful killing of a human being with the requisite state of mind--the following question would have to be answered: Did George Bush, or did he not, take the nation to war in self-defense, as he claimed, as a pre-emptive strike? Bush said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was therefore an imminent threat to security of the country, so we had to pre-emptively go to war against him. If the prosecutor can show that President Bush did not take the country to war in self-defense but instead under false pretenses, then all the killings that have taken place would be unlawful killings, and therefore murder. Without getting into legal complexities and technicalities, which I do in the book, let me give you just one example of the kind of evidence that could be used to make just such an argument. In President Bush's first speech to the nation, on October 7, 2002, from Cincinnati, he told the American people that Saddam Hussein was great danger to our nation, either by Hussein attacking us with WMDs, or by giving these weapons to a terrorist group to do so. Bush said this attack could happen on "any given day," meaning that the threat was imminent. The only big problem for Bush in a trial is that on October 1, just six days earlier, the CIA sent Bush its 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, a classified, top-secret report, that represented the consensus opinion of all sixteen US intelligence agencies on the issue of whether or not Hussein was an imminent threat to the security of this country. On page 8, it clearly and unequivocally says... that Hussein was not an imminent threat to the security of this country; that he would only be a threat to us if he feared that America was about to attack him. So we know--not think, but know--that when George Bush told the nation on the evening of October 7, 2002, that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat to the security of the nation, he was telling millions of unsuspecting Americans the exact opposite of what his own CIA was telling him. Even if we have nothing else at all, this alone shows that Bush took this nation to war on a terrible lie, and therefore all the killings of American soldiers in Iraq were unlawful killings and therefore murder.

BS: You call the hypothetical case you've just laid out a case of "first impression"--a case for which there is no legal precedent. What are the implications for such a trial, if it were ever to be held, for American politics and American democracy? What it does is tell future Presidents in no uncertain terms that if they commit a horrendous crime, they can be held accountable, just like any other private citizen.

BV: There is no murder statute at the state or federal level that says it only applies to certain people--not Presidents, or golf pros or hair stylists. It applies to everyone. And there is no statute that says murder has to take place in a certain place, and not a battlefield. So President Bush has no immunity from prosecution.

No other American President has been prosecuted for any crime--there's no history of it. That doesn't mean they can't be. The closest we came to it was in 1974, when Nixon resigned and there was a great demand that he be prosecuted for the crimes he committed while he was in office--obstruction of justice, wiretapping, perjury. The threat of this was so real that President Ford stepped in and pardoned him. I think that was closest we ever came. Clinton was tried in the Senate and acquitted. I'm talking about putting George Bush in an American courtroom, where next door someone might be on trial for killing a liquor store owner. He cannot be charged as a war criminal because the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction here, so it would have to be an American courtroom. At this very moment, in fact, there is a documentary being produced for the big screen based on my book. And the filmmakers are about to reach out to prosecutors throughout the land to find a prosecutor willing to prosecute George Bush. So what I'm talking about here is very real. I've established jurisdiction in this book for prosecutors on a state or federal level to go after President Bush. With the literally hundreds of prosecutors out there and the powerful evidence of guilt I've set out, it's hard to believe there's not at least one prosecutor, maybe more, courageous enough to say this is America, and in America no man is above the law. I've also drafted a letter to DAs across the country offering my services. I'm dead serious about this. With my record as a prosecutor with twenty-one consecutive murder convictions, I would never in a million years argue for a prosecution against the President of the United States unless I knew I was standing on firm and strong legal grounds. I'm going after Bush and I'm not going to be satisfied until I see him in an American courtroom prosecuted for murder.

BS: You are, of course, famous for your prosecution of Charles Manson, the notorious cult leader and mass murderer who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit the Tate-LaBianca murders. What similarities, if any, would you expect to encounter in preparation for the trial of President George Bush compared with someone like Charles Manson?

BV: Well, with Manson we're talking about seven murders. With Bush it's hundreds of thousands. But in a general way I'd prosecute the cases similarly, even though there are great differences. Neither Bush nor Manson participated in the act, physically, of murder. So in both cases I'm going after someone who didn't themselves commit the act. But both, in their leadership, can be argued to hold responsibility through the rule of conspiracy for the deaths of innocents.

BS: It has to be said, you also just seem to really hate George Bush. You state that your aim in writing this book is not political, and yet there is a palpable anger, which you admit to, that comes across powerfully in certain passages. For example, you call Bush a "spoiled, callous brat who became President only because of his father's good name" and Rove a "pasty, weak-faced, and mean spirited political criminal." Where does this anger come from?

BV: The anger is based on one thing, and one thing only. These people deliberately and knowingly took this nation to war under false pretenses, and therefore they are murderers. I don't like to see anyone get away with murder, never mind over 100,000 murders. O.J. Simpson got away with two murders, and I was outraged, so I wrote a book about it. I do not like people who commit murder. In the [Scott] McLellan book which just came out, he called the war in Iraq a serious strategic blunder. A blunder is a mistake, and people who make mistakes are innocent and not guilty. George Bush, I believe and I argue, is guilty.

And we think we're the good guys

From Raw Story:

A new poll of citizens’ attitudes about torture in 19 nations finds Americans among the most accepting of the practice. Although a slight majority say torture should be universally prohibited, 44 percent think torture of terrorist suspects should be allowed, and more than one in 10 think torture should generally be allowed.

On a scale of good to bad, we probably come in pretty close to the Germans in WW II.

I don't see what's wrong with this

From TPM Muckraker:

The first in a series of inspector general reports investigating the politicization of the Justice Department is expected today, and the Washington Post has a sneak peek.

The report to be released today by DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine will, according to the Post, chronicle how young conservative law students were favored hires in stocking the DOJ's prestigious -- and heretofore non-partisan -- Honors Program.

After all, everyone knows that anyone who is not a card carrying member of the GOP has sub-human intelligence, so why would you want to appoint sub-humans to an "honors" program?

Monday, June 23, 2008

A big advantage

From Fortune Magazine:

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an “unfortunate event,” says Black. “But his [McCain's] knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who’s ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us.” As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. “Certainly it would be a big advantage to him,” says Black.

Now, I've never noticed the Republicans to pass up an opportunity to gain a "big advantage," so fasten your seat belts, folks. We may be in for a wild ride.

The seepage from the cesspool

It's hard to believe how deep in the dog do do this government has gotten itself. Now we learn that the government helped cover up the transactions of illegal arms dealers from Florida, buying arms from China illegally and shipping them to Afghanistan.

It's becoming increasingly clear that this government will not be able to give up power if Obama and the Democrats win in the fall. They are all hardened felons who will spend the rest of their lives in jail if they ever get tried for all the crimes they have committed, and it will be impossible to keep the extent of the corruption secret if another party comes into power. So far, I suspect we have only seen the tip of the iceberg (or the seepage from the cesspool). So.... what will they do?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Madder than hell and I'm not going to take it anymore

We got our "economic stimulus" check for $1,200 last week, made out to Mr. and Mrs. Walldon since we had filed a joint tax return. Mrs. Walldon and I endorsed the check "for deposit only" to my individual checking account.

I trotted it into PNC bank to deposit it to my account. The teller said it could not be deposited to an individual account, only a joint account, despite the fact that both signatures were on it. She further noted that since we had endorsed it "for deposit only" to the individual account, it could not be deposited to our joint account or anywhere else and was essentially void. At that point, she picked up a rubber stamp marked VOID and was about to stamp the check VOID.

I reached across the counter and grabbed the check from her, pointing out that hundreds of thousands of people don't even have bank accounts and can cash these checks almost anywhere, including Home Depot, for instance.

The teller refused to reconsider, the manager concurred with her decision, and I stormed out of the bank mouthing a few choice words as I went.

The next morning I called the IRS to get a new check issued. After 35 minutes on hold, the IRS representative listened politely to my story, put me on hold so she could talk to her supervisor, and then told me that my bank was utterly in the wrong, and should be willing to deposit the check to any account I indicated as long as both signatures were on the endorsement. The IRS said it couldn't be bothered to issue replacement checks when the check was still perfectly good. That sounded like a reasonable decision to me, considering how totally wacko the bank's position had been. Of course, it left me holding what might be a worthless check. [I had already decided that, if no one would accept it, I would wait six months or so, claim it was lost in the mail, and get the IRS to issue a replacement at that point].

Finally, I decided to take the check to a different branch of PNC bank to deposit it. No problems there. It went right in.

I considered moving my accounts to another bank, but with having five accounts and three safety deposit boxes to move (including Mrs. Walldon's and my mother's), it just seemed like too much trouble.

Ralph Nader was right

All these peas come from the same pod. The Democrats capitulate in fear of the Republicans:

No surprises. The House has passed a new federal surveillance law. It's expected to go to the Senate next week and on to the President for a signature.

The final vote was 293 for, 129 against.

A big win for AT&T and Verizon.

While Obama hides behind the curtains:

Barack Obama is keeping his position on the new FISA bill close to the vest -- so close, in fact, that even his aides don't know what it is!

During a conference call this afternoon with reporters, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs was first asked whether the Obama campaign would schedule time for the candidate to vote in the Senate next week, and how Obama would actually vote on the policy. Gibbs initially said he didn't know about the scheduling, without addressing the main subject.

Maybe it's time to move to Mars or someplace really far away and start over.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Foreign policy? Go on the offensive: lose respect, lose strength

Here’s more or less what I would like to hear Obama say.

John McCain and George Bush simply do not get this: The United States of America is held in the lowest esteem by people throughout the rest of the world at any time in its history. That’s dangerous. McCain's short-sighted foreign policy is a recipe for long-term defeat. John McCain's defeatist foreign policy.

When the world no longer believes the U.S. is guided by its Constitution, when it believes we engage in systematic torture and deny fundamental human rights to prisoners of war and even to citizens, when it believes the government spies on its citizens without any cause to do so, and when it believes we will start a war using whatever false propaganda comes in handy at the time, it weakens us in the fight against terrorists plotting to harm us. There is war on terror, and we have to win it. If we are going to be successful in the fight against international terrorism – and yes, it’s is going to be a long-term process – we need the cooperation of foreign governments, including moderate Arab and other Muslim governments who desire a peaceful war and despise al Qaeda. It makes it harder in many ways for those governments to cooperate when their own people don’t want them to help.

That’s why McCain doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about when he says it would be fine if the U.S. occupation of Iraq continues for a hundred years: it’s dangerous for American security when the U.S. loses its leadership position. These are the hard facts we have to face, but that John McCain refuses to face: The U.S. will not regain its leadership position throughout the rest of the world until we figure out a way to end our occupation of Iraq.

A stupid foreign policy may be satisfying in some ways – like junior high school chest-puffing – but it is dangerous. It costs lives, thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of the lives we claimed we were saving. It could cost a city, as Newt Gingrich always wants to say.

With Democrats like this, who needs Republicans?

Well, apparently it's a done deal. The Democrats have signed off on Telecom immunity and have given the President spy powers over everyone. Whoopee. And, where's Obama on this? Hiding in the hustings.

WASHINGTON -- After more than a year of partisan acrimony over government surveillance powers, Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed to a bipartisan deal that would be the most sweeping rewrite of spy powers in three decades. The House is likely to vote on the measure Friday, House aides said.

Maybe I'll vote for Ron Paul.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Universal health insurance: the 50,000 foot view

Let’s step back and look in very broad terms at what we want to do, what we really need to do, and what we can use our government to do.

We collectively use our government to protects us against catastrophic risks, not all risks. Social Security is social insurance against a catastrophic loss of income in old age, not a complete guarantee of a pre-retirement lifestyle. Federal deposit insurance protects our deposits up to $100,000 only –- against total loss -- not necessarily the entire deposit. Federal or federally-backed disaster insurance, like federally-backed flood insurance with a property limit for homeowners of $250,000, does not necessarily make everyone whole, but helps minimize catastrophic loss.

The crying social need today is to eliminate the fear of financial devastation resulting from a health event. That fear is immediate and ever-present among the tens of millions of people who have no health insurance at all, and is a lurking fear for every American whose health insurance comes through a job that could be lost. Ancillary to that is the fear of employers that the health insurance costs they are subsidizing in part will continue to escalate without limit and unpredictably, and that, having to cover costs that companies in national health insurance companies do not have, they will continue to see their competitiveness in an international marketplace erode – with the result that employers are hesitant to add employees covered by benefits even when they may be needed.

These fears are not good for the country. They are a giant drag on the confidence that is the underpinning of a strong economy and a strong society. Yes, people don’t like co-pays and big deductibles, and would like to just go in the office, get treated, and walk out. But these things are annoying, not catastrophic. Fundamentally, as the Health Savings Accounts recognize, they are shuffling money around – paying an insurance company to do your unplanned but small-need saving for you.

The big, huge problem, the biggest fear and the one that’s easiest to solve because it’s a non-partisan fear, is the catastrophic loss. Social insurance does catastrophic really, really well. Let's do that first.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Heaven forbid

It's a hot topic in Republican political and fund-raising circles: CNN's Lou Dobbs is thinking of running for governor of New Jersey.


On second thought, if this gets him off the air, it may be a good thing since he's likely to lose here in NJ (I hope). Yes, there are some anti-immigrant bigots here, but not nearly as many as there are in lots of other places.

Making sense

You know, the world actually feels like it's beginning to make sense again:

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

Of course, at 5-4, it was a close call. The loonies could easily take over again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bush: End Earmarks Except my Earmarks

Bush Attends Groundbreaking For $100M Earmark
WASHINGTON — President Bush is on a crusade against lawmakers' pet projects, but on Thursday he plans to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for a $100 million whopper that was slipped into a spending bill almost four years ago.
The new headquarters for the U.S. Institute of Peace will be a dramatic addition to the Washington skyline, designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. Additional privately-raised funds bring the total cost of the project to $185 million, institute spokesman Ian Larsen says. Bush will be joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who have a far more sympathetic view of Congress' parochial ways than does the president. Also slated to attend were two less conspicuous but significantly more important players in getting the project its $100 million: former Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Jim Dyer, the former top Appropriations Committee aide who helped grease support in the House for the project.
The project _ an "earmark" in congressional parlance _ raised eyebrows when it was funded in November 2004 as part of a massive omnibus spending bill. It was unusually large, and unlike many earmarks, its top sponsors remained silent about their roles. Only later did it become clear that it was mostly Stevens' doing.

The earmark was one of the last items slipped into the catchall spending bill late at night in House-Senate negotiations, a practice advocates of earmark reform slam because any opponents of such pet projects are denied any chance to try to strip them out of a bill.

Monday, June 09, 2008

McCain's bind

Kevin Drum on his Washington Monthly blog thinks McCain doesn’t stand a chance in Ohio. Perhaps there’s an audacity of hope there, but Drum is a moderate guy among left-leaning bloggers. It’s an analysis worth reading. Either way McCain wants to move now will cost him votes.

Friday, June 06, 2008

McCain's Radical Prescription

From the Progressive:

While Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has revealed little about his health care plan, the broad outlines of his proposal represent a "radical" departure from the current employer-based system, providing less coverage and imposing higher costs. McCain envisions a system where most Americans shop for health insurance on their own in a highly deregulated market, which would charge higher deductibles and co-payments and provides less coverage. Ultimately, McCain's vision places the 158 million Americans who receive their health care through their jobs in danger of losing coverage. McCain replaces the current tax breaks for employer-sponsored health insurance with a one-size-fits-all tax credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families, equalizing the tax treatment of employer and individual plans and enticing healthy workers to buy cheaper but less substantive insurance in the individual market place. But the departure of healthy workers from employer insurance pools would drive up average health costs, forcing more workers to opt out entirely. The entire employer health insurance system could unravel, "ending this as an option for Americans who prefer it," as the Center for American Progress Action Fund noted. Among those who would lose their health care are fifty-six million Americans with pre-existing chronic health conditions. Thus, McCain, a cancer survivor, would be unlikely to get coverage under his own plan if he did not have government-provided insurance. The McCain plan offers a simple prescription for Americans: don't get sick.LESS COVERAGE: Plans in the individual insurance market cost less but also cover less, and furthermore, provide inadequate safeguards against insurers who refuse to cover patients with pre-existing illnesses, deny coverage outright, or engage in other discriminatory practices. As Elizabeth Edwards points out, "nine out of every ten people seeking individual coverage on the private insurance market never got it. Insurers will disqualify you for just taking certain medicines because of the possibility of future costs...and insurers make it a practice to deny coverage to individuals in high risk occupations, such as firefighting, lumber work, telecom installation, and pretty much anything more risky than working in an office." Georgetown University professor Karen Pollitz noted, "[I]t's true that the advertised prices for many individual policies in many states are eye-poppingly low. The policies often cover very little: $5,000 deductibles, four doctor visits a year, no drugs." In addition, individual plans have lower premium costs because state laws offer much weaker protections in the individual market than they do in the group market and therefore can avoid covering sick people. Moreover, as healthy patients develop medical conditions over time, their costs increase dramatically. In what is known as the death spiral, insurance companies in the individual market "stop accepting new customers in a plan" and increase costs for customers. "Healthier members find cheaper plans, but sicker ones are effectively forced out because they can't afford coverage," according to Consumer Reports.INCREASED COSTS: While McCain's individual tax credit may assist a limited number of families who currently lack any kind of health insurance, workers who receive a higher tax subsidy through employer-based plans would experience a tax increase. The individual consumer would also have to stretch McCain's tax credit to cover the ever-growing costs of medical premiums. McCain indexes the growth of his initial tax credit to inflation, not premiums. Since premiums grow at a higher rate than inflation, McCain's proposal could impose an estimated $3.6 trillion tax increase on workers. At the same time, administrative costs would increase dramatically. Individual plans would require greater "marketing and processing" and waste premium dollars on the medical review and legal costs of underwriting. According to a new study released by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, McCain's plan could generate as much as $20 billion in new administrative costs -- which represents an increase of more than 20 percent in 2007 dollars. Since McCain's plan would allow insurance companies to ignore in-state consumer protections, companies would offer cheaper plans to healthier Americans, charging higher premiums -- or not offering any coverage -- to the sickest Americans. MILLIONS LEFT UNINSURED: In April, Edwards astutely noted that McCain's plan offered nothing for the sickest Americans. In response to her criticism, McCain offered to subsidize state-sponsored high-risk pools to the tune of $7 to $10 billion. But experts suggest that McCain's proposed funding boost is "nowhere near enough, [to cover the uninsured] particularly given the large number of people with pre-existing conditions who would need this help if employers send their workers out to the open market." In fact, historically, high risk pools have led to inadequate coverage or high costs. "Only 200,000 Americans are covered by state high-risk pools, with health expenditures of $1.6 billion. This means that a similar national program funded at $7 billion per year would cover only 875,000 people -- a fraction of the 56 million Americans with employer coverage who have chronic illnesses. Even if participants had to pay half of their own premiums, as is generally the case today in state high risk pools, less than 2 million Americans would be covered," noted reporters Laura Meckler and Anna Wilde Mathewss. Most high risk pools impose pre-existing condition exclusions on potential enrollees, have higher premiums, deductibles, and co-payments -- preventing chronically sick patients from receiving the health care they need.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


McClellan's account confirms that President Bush was directly behind at least one aspect of the leak scandal. Some history: In July 2003, former ambassador Joseph Wilson published a New York Times op-ed arguing that, contrary to Bush's State of the Union assertion, Wilson had found no evidence that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger, when he went on a fact-finding mission to the African country in 2002. The next day, White House officials admitted the Niger claim was based on "bogus" intelligence. Still, the White House went into attack mode to discredit Wilson. A week later, Robert Novak published a column outing Wilson's wife, Plame, as a covert CIA agent. At the same time, "Vice President Dick Cheney directed his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby" to leak to the media portions of "a then-highly classified CIA report that Cheney hoped would undermine the credibility" of Wilson. The 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) "detailed the intelligence community's conclusions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq"; Bush instructed Cheney to "get it out" to push back against Wilson. Appearing on NBC's Today Show last week, McClellan revealed that Bush confirmed to him in 2006 that he had personally authorized the declassification of the NIE. McClellan said, "Here we were, learning that the President had authorized the same thing we had criticized" -- namely, "the selective leaking of classified information." "I was kinda taken aback," he added. This information reveals that Bush was personally involved in the push-back against Wilson. As McClellan wondered aloud to MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, "Did this set in motion the chain of events that led to the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity?" ROVE VERSUS McCLELLAN: McClellan said on the Today Show that he "grew increasingly disillusioned" with the Bush administration when it was clear "that what I'd been told by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby -- that they were in no way involved in the leak of Valerie Plame's identity" -- turned out to be false. When asked by Olbermann whether he had ever lied from the podium, McClellan admitted that he had "unknowingly" lied "when it came to the issue of the Valerie Plame leak episode." "I had been given assurances by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby that they were not involved in the leak but it turned out later they were," he said. To rebut these charges, Rove took to the airways himself last week, "maintaining his hair-splitting defense that since he didn't use Plame's name, he didn't reveal her identity." "What I told Scott was that I didn't know her name, didn't reveal her name, didn't know what she did at the CIA, and that I wasn't the source for the leak," Rove said. On NBC's Meet the Press last Sunday, McClellan called Rove's defense "pretty disingenuous." "When I said, 'were you involved in this in any way...he categorically said, 'no,'" McClellan said. McClellan recalled Bush's vow to fire anyone in his administration involved in the leak. "I think the president should have stood by the word and that meant Karl should have left," McClellan said.RIGHT WING POINTS TO ARMITAGE: Besides parsing his language on what, exactly, he told McClellan, Rove, and his conservative allies are deflecting McClellan's criticisms by pointing their own finger of blame to former State Department official Richard Armitage. As the Washington Post's Dan Froomkin wrote Tuesday, "Armitage was the first to disclose Plame's identity to journalists, but that doesn't change the fact that Rove and Libby did so too, likely for more nefarious reasons than Armitage, and then lied about it." Talking to Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, Rove emphasized that "the identity of Valerie Plame was leaked to Robert Novak by Richard Armitage." Right-wing website Newsbusters picked up Rove's talking points, complaining that during McClellan's interviews, "Richard Armitage, who was the actual leaker, was virtually ignored." Novak argued in a June 2 column that McClellan "virtually ignores" Armitage's role because it "undermines the Democratic theory, now accepted by McClellan, that Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and political adviser Karl Rove aimed to delegitimize Wilson as a war critic." Regardless of the right wing's misdirection campaign, it is a fact that Rove also directly leaked Plame's identity to at least one person: the New York Times's Matt Cooper, who said last August, "I didn't know Ambassador Wilson even had a wife until I talked to Karl Rove and he said that she worked at the agency and she worked on WMD."

“He’s safe, sliding into home plate for a touchdown!”

Now this is a great catch by a commenter on another web site (Ezra Klein).

Commenter Benjamin said, “Preemptively closing the door on the military option is depriving yourself of your trump card in a poker game.”

John in Nashville replied, “I'm confused, Benjamin. What variant of poker uses trump cars?”

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What was Barack's bowling score, anyway?

On today’s personality-driven political reporting, let’s put it this way: if Tim Russert switches over to “Access Hollywood,” it will be a lateral move for him. For quite a few others, too.

John McCain: he's such a maverick! Straight-talker, too.

A reminder about the "unitary executive" theory

On the President’s Commander-in-Chief or executive Article II authority, and Bush’s radical challenge to the understanding of virtually every expert on the Constitution since the founding of the country – not to speak of the understanding of every American who ever went through a civics class, it’s easy to fall into the narrative that the neo-conservatives have set up on this: that it’s a battle between a President who wants to do everything possible to protect Americans from terrorists, and a Congress full of “politicians” who want to put limits on the President's ability to protect us.

We forget: unless a veto is overridden by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, the President signs the bill into law. There’s something really disgusting about saying, “I don’t have the guts to veto this bill, but even if it says it does, it doesn’t have any effect on my authority anyway.” If he or she refuses to sign the bill, it’s equally disgusting to say, “I don’t care whether the overwhelming majority of the representatives of the people pass a law that tells me what to do, and I don’t care if the Constitution says they are the ones who pass the laws, or that the Constitution says my job is to execute the laws, and I don’t care if the Constitution gives me the right to veto a bill and prevent it from becoming law unless I can’t even get one-third of those representatives of the people (plus one vote) in at least one of the houses of Congress to agree with me, I have the executive right to do what I want anyway whether it violates that law or not. And since I’m the executive with all the executive powers, who is going to stop me?”

Don't forget. It's not the President against Congress, it's either the President against Congress and himself (or herself), or the President against almost everyone.

This is what today’s conservatives stand for: no checks and balances.

These people are going to burn in some hell somewhere, some day.

Fat Lady Sings

Greetings from Florida.

Some people don't seem to understaqnd that the fat lady has sung!

Of course, down here it doesn't make difference. It's McCain all the way for Bush's 3rd term.

Meanwhile, this is a mega-moment in American history. Maybe we will start on the road to redemption from the sins of our past.

Is an Energy Armageddon Coming by 2015?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008 - Vol. 10, No. 133
Is an Energy Armageddon Coming by 2015?
Mike Burnick, Senior Editor, Global Markets Analyst and editor of Market Shock Trader.

Political unrest in the oil-rich Middle East boils over into open conflict...
A line of cars stretched for blocks winding into a gas station. The price is US$7 a gallon...but the price is partially covered by another hand-painted sign that reads: "Authorized Vehicles Only."
On the floor of a stock exchange frantic traders cry: Sell...Sell...SELL! But there are very few buyers. Anxious families gather around the television as a politician addresses the nation...a state of emergency is declared...but then the screen is filled with static. A moment later, lights in the neighborhood flicker and go fact whole cities go dark...with nothing left to power the generators.

These could be scenes from America's last energy crisis in the 1970's - but in fact they are scenes conjured up by Hollywood... specifically in the 1981 film The Road Warrior.
Inspired by true events of the ‘70's, the film paints a dark picture of a world in the very near future. In the film, the world has been thrown into chaos by an apocalyptic energy crisis. Perhaps these images are just a glimpse of things to come...
Now Showing: Global Energy Crisis Part II.

The world is now enduring its second major energy crisis, with crude oil setting a new record high of US$135 a barrel a week and a half ago. Other fossil fuels that Americans count on to be cheap and plentiful are sky-rocketing too. Coal prices in the U.S. doubled between January 2007 and this past February - in just one year. Coal soared 143% in Asia during the same period. In fact, over the past five years, the price has gone from about US$20/ton to more than US$120/ton - an increase of 600%. Coal fired power plants produce 40% of the world's electricity needs today, and rising demand has propelled this once cheap fuel into the stratosphere. Like oil, it looks as if coal prices have shifted to a permanently higher plateau.

The One Lagging Fossil Fuel Is About to Take Off

Natural gas prices had been lagging the rise in crude oil, but not anymore. Like its other fossil-fuel cousins, natural gas prices are playing catch-up with a vengeance - soaring 45% so far this year alone! Recently, the world's top energy market watchdog, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast a major crude oil supply crunch. In other words, they're predicting a potential energy Armageddon within the next 7 years! According to the Wall Street Journal, the revised forecast from the IEA "reflects deepening pessimism over whether oil companies can keep abreast of booming demand." Can anybody say, "Peak Oil?"

Just a bit further along, the IEA projects world oil demand to jump by one-third in just over 20, reaching 116 million barrels a day in global consumption by 2030. The trouble is the IEA and other experts are just now realizing that aging fields mean big-oil producers will "struggle to surpass 100 million barrels a day over the next two decades."
In fact, "the world could face a shortfall by 2015 of as much as 12.5 million barrels a day."
Brazil Closes In On Energy Independence Thanks to Alternative Fuel
In the film, Mad Max and his band of road warriors must constantly fend off attacks by rival gangs. They're fighting over a tanker truck full of gasoline - in a world where all the filling stations have run dry.

So will life inevitably imitate art in this instance? It doesn't have to end this way. Greater commitment to, and investment in, other alternative fuel sources could save the world from an apocalyptic energy crisis. There's little time to waste however, with fossil fuel prices on the rise already, and supplies now in doubt.

The Modern Cure to the Mad Max World

Brazil is one model to study a bit closer. In the last energy crisis during the 1970's the Brazilian government embarked on an ambitious program to free the country from oil imports. Brazil mandated every gasoline station must carry ethanol and that all new cars must be flex-fuel capable. At the time, some said this was nothing more than misguided government meddling with private enterprise...a boondoggle. Today there are 29,000 ethanol pumps all across Brazil. There's practically one on every street corner. In the U.S., we only have 700 ethanol pumps in the entire country. An impressive 85% of new cars sold in Brazil are flex-fuel capable today, compared to just 5% of cars on the road in the United States. Brazil has successfully replaced 40% of its gasoline needs with ethanol, resulting in US$59 billion in oil import savings since 1975. Brazil's booming ethanol industry is the leading global exporter today, and they've created one million new jobs along the way.

Today, gasoline prices in the U.S. are above US$4 a gallon and climbing - as consumers and businesses suffer. Meanwhile Brazil is expected to become a net crude oil exporter sometime in the next two years.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense

If I were Scott McLellan, I think I’d say, “You know what, you’re damned right that I held off on saying these things for the money. Career-wise, I may be a dead duck, certainly with Republicans and their corporate money sources, and I doubt if the Democrats would much trust me after the crap I laid on the public all those years. Was I disgruntled? You’re damned right about that, too. Being hung out to dry by people who lied through their teeth to you will tend to do that. So Karl, Dana, I’m pleased to say I’m guilty as charged. Now, how about telling the American people what I’m lying about.”

US Skewed Foreign Policy over Rice

A skewed view of US policy in the mid-East was dished up over Rice by the Secretary of State herself in an address to day to an assembly of over 50 Israel political interest groups. Her presentation stood on four fault premises:

1. the alleged pursuit of Iran of nuclear weapons is the tail that wags the dog standing in the way of any progress.
2. Iran should knell hat in hand as a requisite to talk with the US.
3. a naive view of Hamas focusing on their military actions with no integrative view of Hamas as a major political player and no recognition of the errors in Israeli policy causing their actions as portrayed in Pres. Carter's book on Peace not Aparthid.
4. Hawk position blaming all terrorism on the actions of Iran and Syria support of Hamas.

Such a thin assessment by a Secretary of State on the US's most difficult foreign problem explains a lot about why no success has been achieved.

The Collapsing Household Budget (contraint)

Kissweb's piece on the impact of rising gas prices on income deserves more attention. This rests on the microeconomic theory of household consumption. If a household reaches an immutable credit contraint and fixed income, as prices of essentials rise, expenditures on discretionary items theoretically eventually reach zero. Subsequently, the budget constraint which sets the limit of household consumption shifts downward forcing households to make tradeoffs among necessity goods, i.e. the classic case of seniors skipping meals to afford essential drugs. Signals of this economic syndrome such as identified by Kissweb are increasing (food, healthcare), contributing to the obvious deterioration of the economic position of households in the lower half of the US income distribution. More analysis here would be fruitful.

Brain Dead Public Policy

This article on biofuels and world hunger points up what happens when the decision makers and policy types make decisions without understanding the full dimensions and impacts on the problem they are trying to solve. In this case even a lot of environmentalist and ecologists were all for biofuels because it was supposedly green fuel. And of course we have greed and the interests of farmers, agribusiness, ADM to add to the mix. It shouldn't have been difficult to model this, I would have thought.

The Rich Get Hungrier
Wednesday 28 May 2008
by: Amartya Sen, The New York Times
In January of 2007, tens of thousands of Mexicans marched in the streets to protest a leap of 50 percent in the price of corn tortillas. (Will the food crisis that is menacing the lives of millions ease up - or grow worse over time? The answer may be both. The recent rise in food prices has largely been caused by temporary problems like drought in Australia, Ukraine and elsewhere. Though the need for huge rescue operations is urgent, the present acute crisis will eventually end. But underlying it is a basic problem that will only intensify unless we recognize it and try to remedy it.

It is a tale of two peoples. In one version of the story, a country with a lot of poor people suddenly experiences fast economic expansion, but only half of the people share in the new prosperity. The favored ones spend a lot of their new income on food, and unless supply expands very quickly, prices shoot up. The rest of the poor now face higher food prices but no greater income, and begin to starve. Tragedies like this happen repeatedly in the world.

A stark example is the Bengal famine of 1943, during the last days of the British rule in India. The poor who lived in cities experienced rapidly rising incomes, especially in Calcutta, where huge expenditures for the war against Japan caused a boom that quadrupled food prices. The rural poor faced these skyrocketing prices with little increase in income.

Misdirected government policy worsened the division. The British rulers were determined to prevent urban discontent during the war, so the government bought food in the villages and sold it, heavily subsidized, in the cities, a move that increased rural food prices even further. Low earners in the villages starved. Two million to three million people died in that famine and its aftermath.

Much discussion is rightly devoted to the division between haves and have-nots in the global economy, but the world's poor are themselves divided between those who are experiencing high growth and those who are not. The rapid economic expansion in countries like China, India and Vietnam tends to sharply increase the demand for food. This is, of course, an excellent thing in itself, and if these countries could manage to reduce their unequal internal sharing of growth, even those left behind there would eat much better.

But the same growth also puts pressure on global food markets - sometimes through increased imports, but also through restrictions or bans on exports to moderate the rise in food prices at home, as has happened recently in countries like India, China, Vietnam and Argentina. Those hit particularly hard have been the poor, especially in Africa.

There is also a high-tech version of the tale of two peoples. Agricultural crops like corn and soybeans can be used for making ethanol for motor fuel. So the stomachs of the hungry must also compete with fuel tanks.

Misdirected government policy plays a part here, too. In 2005, the United States Congress began to require widespread use of ethanol in motor fuels. This law combined with a subsidy for this use has created a flourishing corn market in the United States, but has also diverted agricultural resources from food to fuel. This makes it even harder for the hungry stomachs to compete.

Ethanol use does little to prevent global warming and environmental deterioration, and clear-headed policy reforms could be urgently carried out, if American politics would permit it. Ethanol use could be curtailed, rather than being subsidized and enforced.

The global food problem is not being caused by a falling trend in world production, or for that matter in food output per person (this is often asserted without much evidence). It is the result of accelerating demand. However, a demand-induced problem also calls for rapid expansion in food production, which can be done through more global cooperation.

While population growth accounts for only a modest part of the growing demand for food, it can contribute to global warming, and long-term climate change can threaten agriculture. Happily, population growth is already slowing and there is overwhelming evidence that women's empowerment (including expansion of schooling for girls) can rapidly reduce it even further.

What is most challenging is to find effective policies to deal with the consequences of extremely asymmetric expansion of the global economy. Domestic economic reforms are badly needed in many slow-growth countries, but there is also a big need for more global cooperation and assistance. The first task is to understand the nature of the problem.
Amartya Sen, who teaches economics and philosophy at Harvard, received the Nobel Prize in economics in 1998 and is the author, most recently, of "Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny."