Saturday, September 30, 2006


PredatorGate: The Cover-Up Unravels

From FireDogLake about an hour and a half ago:

Breaking CNN… BOMBSHELL!!!!! Thomas Reynolds issues a statement that says Hasstert knew a LONG time ago about Foley. He told him himself.
It was CNN's own Dana Bash with the story. So much for Hastert's efforts to pressure Boehner and the WaPo to cover for him! Guess Tom Reynolds wanted some more company in the jail cell he'll be sharing with Mark Foley, John Boehner, and Rodney Alexander. Or else he was disgusted that Hastert expected him and Boehner to take a bullet for him. Either way, the cover-up is unraveling. UPDATE: Roll Call (by way of Atrios) confirms Dana Bash's CNN report. Hastert's not only caught covering it up back then, he's caught trying to continue the cover-up. UPDATE 2: Josh Marshall points out the contradictory and ever-changing nature of the statements coming out of the mouths of Hastert, Boehner and Alexander. UPDATE 3: Josh Marshall shows Dennis Hastert trying out yet another variation of his Sergeant Schultz Defense ("I knew nothing!") -- and then Josh shows us how Representative John Shimkus (R-MO), Chairman of the House Page Board, has shown that once again, Denny Hastert is lying.


The Oaxaca Conundrum Explained

The Interior Minister, Carlos Abascal Carranzaannounced that the Oaxaca situation has "reached a limit," and threatened the use of state power. APPO holds Vicente Fox responsible for any violence. The accused the government of acting shoulder to shoulder with criminals, paramilitary groups, and known murderers. Barriers of sand, rock, wire, and vehicles have been laid down to prevent an assault. Nancy Davies, writing in NarcoNews says that “cleaning” the zocalo would disperse no more than a few thousand people. Blockades are in many areas, at the radio stations and government buildings, and would all have to be attacked simultaneously to minimize citizen support in any one place. The popular teachers’ movement most likely contains two million sympathizers within the state, and sympathizers in neighboring states as well. As for the businessmen who have lost so much by the strike, Some ask for federal forces to intervene for law and order, some ask for the federal government to take Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (“URO”) out of the state government, some ask for the federal forces to intervene on behalf of human rights and thus on behalf of the movement, some would frankly appreciate the establishment of military law. Nobody likes URO, nobody wants bloodshed or perpetual war. The threatened business strike has failed to materialize The small super-market was open as usual. The little shops – maybe three were closed, despite the grand headline by Noticias that 6,000 businesses would be shut down. What I think happened is that 6,000 signed up, and when morning arrived with still no attack by the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) force, they shrugged and opened up. And Davies lays out the unspoken political conundrum that explains why the PAN allows the situation to spiral downhill: The President Fox’s National Action Party (PAN) needs the PRI to beat back a surge against its president-elect Felipe Calderon whose victory the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) believes was fraudulent. If the PAN lets URO fall, that would be taken as a sign that the PAN won’t support any of the other PRI officials whose heads would roll if a popular movement sweeps the country. Thus far, historical political rivals the PRI and the PAN have been united by their common fear of a widespread uprising of some kind led by López Obrador. On the other hand, Fox has been reluctant to overtly support the unpopular URO. Scissors, paper, rock. No one wants tho throw down.

Electoral Calvinball

Isn't this special. Mark Foley, as we all know, is resigning from Congress and from his re-election campaign after being exposed [no pun intended] as a sexual predator. Bloomberg reports:
Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Secretary of State, said it is too late to remove Foley's name from the Nov. 7 ballot or to hold a special election to fill his seat. It also is too late for a replacement to run as a write-in, she said.
That does not, however, leave the Republicans in the unfortunate position of being unable to win that seat:
Republicans can still pick a replacement who will receive votes cast in Foley's name, Nash said.
I tried and failed to get access to Florida's election laws online. Could anybody tell me whether it's legal to declare one person the winner if the votes went to a different pers— Oh, wait. This is Florida. Whether a vote-counting tactic is legal is as irrelevant now as it was in 2000 and 2004. But if votes cast for one person can be counted toward another person, that principle need not be limited to just one name on the ballot. They can count the votes for the Democratic candidate as really being intended for the Republican candidate, too. Wherever Republicans control the election process, the only "law" is "Do whatever you have to so the Republican wins."

Friday, September 29, 2006


Friday Cat Blogging

Now more than ever.


Compare And Contrast

First, we have this:

Republicans were aghast at Clinton's behavior, with many saying it showed he had lied and abused his power. "It's vile," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach. "It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."
Then, we have this:
Maf54 (7:46:33 PM): did any girl give you a haand job this weekend Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:38 PM): lol no Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:40 PM): im single right now Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:57 PM): my last gf and i broke up a few weeks agi Maf54 (7:47:11 PM): are you Maf54 (7:47:11 PM): good so your getting horny Xxxxxxxxx (7:47:29 PM): lol...a bit Maf54 (7:48:00 PM): did you spank it this weekend yourself Xxxxxxxxx (7:48:04 PM): no Xxxxxxxxx (7:48:16 PM): been too tired and too busy Maf54 (7:48:33 PM): wow... Maf54 (7:48:34 PM): i am never to busy haha
By the way: "Maf54" was chatting with a sixteen-year-old boy. "Maf54" is better known as Mark Foley, who until he resigned today was not only a powerful House Republican, but the chair of the House caucus tasked with going after child sex offenders. And Dennis Hastert and the rest of the House GOP leadership knew about "Maf54"'s behavior with young boys but did nothing about it.



It's appropriate for Mark Foley (R-FL) to resign from Congress if he abused his position to pursue an "improper relationship" with a former Congressional page. But wouldn't it be nice if the Republicans recognized that there are moral issues that don't involve sex? Like, for example, a member of Congress abusing his position by accepting bribes? When is Bob Ney going to resign?


A Question

Will the national media hound Mark Foley the way they hounded Jim McGreevy? Or will they just let him resign in peace and leave it at that?

This WP article doesn't even once allude to the fact that Foley was outed as a closet case years ago. This is even though the rather salacious text of the e-mails -- written to a minor, mind you -- has been released to the media:

Hours earlier, ABC News had read excerpts of instant messages provided by former pages who said the congressman, under the AOL Instant Messenger screen name Maf54, made repeated references to sexual organs and acts. The full details will be included in a report tonight on ABC World News with Charles Gibson.
Next week I'll do a Google search to see if Foley's improper contact with a child -- who disapproved of his advances ("sick sick sick sick sick" was how the boy phrased it) -- gets as much attention from the press as did the outing of Jim McGreevy's affair with a fully-grown adult staffer.


Coleen Rowley: A Real Democrat

Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley says Yesterday House Republicans, including my opponent in November, John Kline, approved legislation which violates many of the fundamental principles of American justice. This was not a vote to protect America; it was a vote to provide political cover for George Bush's feckless and incompetent leadership. The only good news is that this bill explicitly prohibits 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment' of detainees. The bad news is that it gives the President the sole authority to determine what meets that standard. ... ...[M]ost egregiously, this bill explicitly denies habeas corpus, the right to challenge one's arrest and detention. It would make it legal for the U.S. to arrest any foreign national, anywhere, detain them indefinitely without charge or trial, and subject them to treatment which the President alone decides is humane. ... This bill was born out of fear: George Bush's fear of being called to account. He was asleep at the wheel on 9/11. He was wrong about Saddam's ties to al Qaeda, wrong about Saddam's WMD. His ill-conceived invasion of Iraq has been a failure, and last summer, Bush literally fiddled while New Orleans drowned. George Bush knows he cannot keep America safe, so he is illegally tapping our phones, indefinitely detaining those labeled as 'enemy combatants', and ignoring centuries of established legal precedent. Shame on them. And shame on all of us if we don't stand up and declare that we the people will not be frightened into violating those principles. In addition to being one of the few people who attempted to stop the 9/11 attack and a former FBI agent, Coleen Rowley is, of course, a real Democrat. You can tell: she actually believes in the Constitution.

Tester Shows 'Em How It's Done

To all you Nervous Nellie Democrats who think that going along with Bush and the GOP's trashing of habeas corpus will help you win in November, I give you the shining example of Montana's Jon Tester, who is leading Conrad Burns and doing it by exhibiting gonadal fortitude, as shown here (emphases mine):

They also disagreed sharply on the U.S. Patriot Act. Burns said it is needed to intercept calls placed to known terrorist phone numbers and gives law enforcement the same tools they use to fight organized crime. "I don't think Mr. Tester understands this enemy," Burns said. "We cannot afford another 9/11. I can tell you that right now. He wants to weaken the Patriot Act." Tester said the Patriot Act is eroding the very freedoms the terrorists are trying to take from Americans. "Let me be clear. I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act. I want to get rid of it," Tester said.
From now on, they're known as TESTERcles.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Tachy pulse, respirations shallow, blood pressure falling: The state of health insurace.

Excerpts from the Democratic Policy Committee September 27, 2006 American families continue to struggle to find affordable health coverage. Yesterday, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust released their annual survey of employer health benefits ... Average annual premiums for family coverage have escalated to $11,480, an increase of 81 percent since 2000, when family premiums were $6,348. Average annual premiums for single coverage have escalated to $4,242, an increase of 75 percent since 2000, when family [single?] premiums were $2,424. ... The number of uninsured Americans rose to 46.6 million in 2005, an increase of almost seven million since 2000. (U.S. Census Bureau, August 2006) Lack of health insurance has serious health consequences: the uninsured are more likely to forego needed care, receive fewer preventive services, not receive appropriate care to manage chronic disease, obtain substandard care when admitted to a hospital, and are more likely to die prematurely. (Institute of Medicine, May 2002) On top of the 46.6 million uninsured Americans, about 16 million people are underinsured, which means their health coverage does not adequately protect them from catastrophic health care expenses. Underinsured Americans are almost as likely as the uninsured to not receive needed medical care. (Schoen et al., Health Affairs, June 14, 2005) In addition to impeding access to care, rising health costs increase the chances that patients will receive large medical bills they simply cannot pay. Medical reasons – such as illness or injury or large uncovered medical bills – contribute to about 46 percent of personal bankruptcy filings. (Himmelstein et al., Health Affairs, February 2, 2005)

Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Bunch Of Predators

About a month or so ago, MetLife decided to sell off its Peter Cooper housing project -- the last bit of decent housing in New York City that was actually affordable by middle-class wage earners -- for $5 billion to an entity intent on jacking up the rents to force out the people living there so said entity can chase after the upscale market. However, there are questions about whether MetLife can do this with property that was gifted to it for free. In any event, the people to whom MetLife wants to sell Peter Cooper may soon be hoping like hell that the deal is killed -- as the NYC real estate market is, like that of the rest of the nation, dying like a dog.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Mexico Roundup

Proceso had an article by Marco Appel, reproduced on SdP, which stated that the European election observers were not neutral. Tobias Pflueger of the United Left/Nordic Greens, a legislator and member of the European Parliament's Foreign Relations commission flatly said that the observers were not neutral. He said that Louis Michel, Commissioner of the Development Commission, supported Joseph Kabila in the elections in Congo. In Byelorussia and in Ukraine, Brussels joined with the opposition. "The EU institutions are not neutral," Pflueger said. In the Mexican election, Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Javier Solana leaned toward Calderon. The head of the observers, Salafranca supperts any right wing government. The observers claimed not to be interfering in Mexican affairs, but by approving the election ahead of the electoral court (TEPFJ), they did just that, Pflueger said. Alfredo Jalife-Rahme describes what one might call tongue-in-cheek The Greater North American Co-Prosperity Sphere. The acronym of the organization of concern is ASPAN (La Alianza para la Seguridad y para la Prosperidad de American del Norte; The Alliance for North American Security and Prosperity). Jalife-Rahme says that Bush maintains military control over Mexico. While there's not enough detail here to convince me of much, it's plausible for the simple reason that control of the border, and maybe of the country in case the election fraud doesn't work out, is clearly rising on the Bushco agenda. Jalife-Rahme says that Cap Weinberger wrote a book in ca. 1997 that presented plans for invasion should Mexico fall under the sway of narcotraffickers. Presumably he means narcotraffickers with allegiances different than, say, Oliver North. There was, he said, a secret meeting on September 12th in Banff Springs, Canada, where the US had 31 high-level members, and Mexico 18 at the junior level, none military. US representatives included George Schultz, Donald Rumsfeld, Admiral Tim Keating (commander Northcom), George Miller (director Lawrence Livermore Labs), Ronald F. Lehman II (Livermore), James Schlesinger, William Perry, James Woolsey, Maj Gen. Mark Volcheff (Plans, Politics, and Strategy of NORAD-Northcom), and Lt. Gen. Gene Renuart (personal assistant to Rumsfeld). Sendero del Peje had a troubling report that the PGR (Attorney General) may attempt to arrest Lopez Obrador on trumped up charges. This has been denied. The PRD deputies have broken off negotiations on committee assignments. There was a huge demo in the Zocalo to protest nationalization of electricity (and to promise a massive strike if it happens). 1,500 striking Oaxaca teachers resolved to maintain the occupation of the city until Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz is driven from office.

The Broken Branch

Mann and Ornstein in the LAT on what they call The Broken Branch of government: * Congress met fewer than 100 days this year. * More than 25 of those days were really half- or quarter-days * "The typical workweek in Congress (when there is a week spent in Washington) starts late Tuesday evening and finishes by noon Thursday." " The output of the 109th is pathetic measured against its predecessors " "As of Tuesday, there were three must-pass pieces of legislation pending: defense and homeland security appropriations and the annual Department of Defense authorization. ... House Speaker J. Dennis ... Hastert says he will kill the [defense] bill, doing damage to the Department of Defense and conceivably to troops in the field..." Hastert wants to use the defense bill to create an olio of repressive judicial measures, including a narrowing of habeas corpus [your right not to be held indefinitely]" This is what Republicans want us to be impressed with: members who work a couple days a week, don't do their jobs of watchdogging the Executive and writing thoughtful legislation, and instead produce porkfests to buy elections and legislation that makes the US increasingly resemble the USSR.

Thailand Musharrafed? Asia's Prussia, Japan, reconstitutes ultranationalism

Simon Tisdall in the Guardian Army commanders who seize political power by force often have the best intentions. But once installed they find it hard to let go. ...Gen Sondhi, too, is showing signs of succumbing to "putsch-itis", a condition afflicting military men with ideas above their station. As in the Philippines and Burma, democracy in Thailand is in danger of being musharrafed [after Pakistan's benevolent despot, Pervez Musharraf].... After promising to appoint a civilian prime minister within two weeks Gen Sondhi now says his choice could be a retired general. He claims this amounts to the same thing - but few non-generals will agree. He also foresees a continuing "advisory role" for his junta once an interim government is created. This will continue until postponed national elections are rescheduled, under military auspices, possibly by October next year - or possibly not. .. The junta has also launched open-ended inquiries into thousands of corruption allegations. If mishandled these probes could further destabilise the country... "There remains an awkward paradox for Thaksin's foes," said Nick Cumming-Bruce, a veteran south-east Asian analyst commenting on "For all the criticism aimed at Thaksin by mainly urban and educated Thais, he was still an elected prime minister with a pro-poor agenda that won him mass support." And as the generals doubtless realise, as matters stand now Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) party would almost certainly win a free and fair election... Opposition leaders, NGOs and regional experts are also warning that Thailand's coups, of which there have been 18 in 72 years, nearly always end in tears - and sometimes, as in 1992, in mass killing. _____________________ Martin Jacques in The Guardian Abe is a very different figure. He is much younger - the first Japanese prime minister to have been born after the war - and a product of very different historical circumstances, which has no doubt helped him to articulate the growing nationalist drift. His familial roots, moreover, lie firmly in the nationalist tradition: his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, was a wartime cabinet minister later imprisoned as a class-A war-crimes suspect, who by 1957 had become prime minister. ...[Abe]he has made it clear that he rejects the consensual view that Japan waged a war of aggression and invasion in Asia. He has also cast doubt - in a way that Koizumi never has - on the validity of the postwar Tokyo trials... These stances set the tone for what we can expect from an Abe premiership. He has made it clear that he wants to revise the US-imposed pacifist constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education - which was enacted in 1947 as the basis for postwar schooling - in order to emphasise moral values, patriotism and tradition... As east Asia consolidates its economic position as by far the most important economic region in the world, Abe's election makes it likely that east Asia will be the subject of increasing friction between Japan and China, the second and third most powerful economies in the world respectively. As such, the ramifications will not simply be regional, but increasingly global.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Wesley Clark: Bush, Cheney Intend To Attack Iran

Coming in hard on the heels of Dave Lindorff's exposé over at The Nation (and which was blogged here at MR a few days ago), we find out that no less a personage than General Wesley Clark is saying that Bush and Cheney want to attack Iran (emphases mine):

About Iran: General Wesley Clark said that Bush is painting himself into a corner on Iran. The General feels that the only chance to stop a strike on Iran is the election of a Democratic Congress in November, assuming BushCo does not manage to start dropping the bombs before the election. The only good news about Iran is that Clark feels there are clear divisions in the Administration, with Rice showing some misgivings about striking, and CheneyCo wanting war with Iran ASAP. The bad news is that with RiceCo wavering, and CheneyCo chomping at the bit, a strike is simply a matter of "when, not if." One of the saddest parts about that portion of General Clark's discussion is that we know diplomacy can make a difference.  Clark related stories about Yugoslavia, when we sat down with some very bad people and averted a war. Later, when Milosevic pursued ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and diplomacy was not working, we used appropriate force to cause Milosevic to surrender. The cost in U.S. lives: ZERO.  And we worked with our allies effectively to achieve successful results. Clark does not claim that everything was perfect in Yugoslavia, or that diplomacy with Iran is guaranteed to work. But he made it clear that Democrats have a much better track record of dealing with complex foreign policy in modern times. Clark feels the best way to deal with Iran is to engage, not to isolate. He thinks a diplomatic campaign with democratic ideas, Iranian ex-pats, and "blue jeans" is more likely to have a positive impact than a strafing run with bunker-busters. We have to win back Congress to have a chance at success. Clark thinks a strike on Iran will be a two week bombing, typical of the start to any modern conflict, targeting power, command and control, mobility, etc. Since our ground forces are stretched too thin to invade, there will probably be some special forces teams sent in, but not much else on the ground. Clark does not think BushCo has the guts or political clout to start the draft at this time. Interestingly, Clark is not anti-draft. He feels there is a time and place for the draft, and when the American public is in agreement about that time and place, America will use the draft again. But Iran will not be that time and place.

And in case you haven't been following along and wonder why attacking Iran is such a bad idea, here's Zbigniew Brezinski to explain things. (Hint: Iran's run by Shiite mullahs, who are very friendly with the Shiite mullahs for Iraq's majority-Shiite population. The day US bombs hit Iran is the day all Shiite Iraqi cooperation with the US ceases.)


Condi Lies. Sun Rises In East.

I note that Condi Rice apparently is not too sure of the US media's continued willingness to cover for her and her bosses nowadays. That's why she made sure that when she slandered Bill Clinton over his FOX News interview, she did so in the pages of the politicially-correct right-wing Murdoch tabloid, the New York Post.


"But At Least Bush Stopped The Taliban!"

Uh, no, he didn't:

Safia Amajan promoted women's education and work - a fairly ordinary job in most places - but in the Afghanistan of a resurgent Taliban it was a dangerous path to follow. She was a target, and yesterday she was gunned down outside her home. Five years after the "liberation" of Afghanistan by the US and Britain, with promises of a new dawn for its downtrodden women, her murder was a bloody reminder of just how far the country is slipping back into a land of darkness. [...] At the official end of the Afghan war, America's first lady, Laura Bush, was among those who declared that one of the most important achievements of overthrowing the Taliban was emancipation of women. However, since then female social workers and teachers have been maimed and killed, girls' schools shut down and female workers forced to give up their jobs. The few women out in the streets in Kandahar and other places in the south are covered in burqas. A report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission spoke of the "systematic and violent campaign" directed against women. Statistics paint a bleak picture of women's lives with 35 female suicides in Kandahar alone and nearly 200 attempted suicides in the Herat region - one third of which were successful. Rights groups estimate that between 60 and 80 per cent of marriages in the country are forced. And the majority of those marriages involve girls under the age of 16. [...] Fariba Ahmedi, a female member of parliament, who attended the burial, said: "Those enemies who have killed her should know it will not derail women from the path we are on. We will continue on our way." Human rights groups point out, however, that the battle for women's rights is in serious danger of being lost. There are now entire provinces where there is no girls' education; of the 300 schools shut or burnt down, the majority were for girls. The death rate at childbirth is the second highest in the world, and the number of women who have committed suicide, mainly through self-immolation, has risen by 30 per cent in two years.
It's official: In his six-plus years in the White House, George Walker Bush hasn't done a single good thing.


I Had To Share This With Y'all...

...because it's just too precious! This is what happens when a person spends too much time staring at right-wing racist hate sites (I know, I know, I'm being redundant here). From the comments section of MEC's post on the idiotic Newsweek hit piece on President Clinton:

Bill Clinton I wish he would go crawl back under his rock! This man has disgraced the Office Of The President and the entire country. He has no character or morals and the people that put him in office can not accept the fact that they made a mistake.
Yupper: He undid Reagan's tax cuts for the rich, put America on the road to financial prosperity, presided over the longest economic boom in our nation's history, and didn't go murdering 100,000 Iraqis just because he felt like it. Dang that man!
They should have known from his reputation as a governor that he was lacking in this area.
Got cites?
How can anyone believe a word he says? He has proven he is a liar, yet the people that put him in office keep making excuses for him. He will go down in history as one of the worst presidents we have ever had.
See above.
This entire situation is a good example of party politics; over look anything, just maintain the power, the hell with the country. That is what we have today!
Are you sure you're not confusing Clinton with Bush? It's easy for someone like you to do so, I know. Here's a helpful primer: Clinton's the one who paid down our debt, gave us peace and prosperity, and spoke in complete sentences. Bush is the one who can't speak coherently, undid all of Clinton's good work on the debt, and invaded a country that didn't attack us, killing over 100,000 people in the process -- partly so his buddies could make fat profits on the no-bid defense contracts he gave them, partly to install some US military bases, partly just because he could. Thanks for playing!

Monday, September 25, 2006


Globe trotting. Conservatives point Japan toward the precipice. Indonesian environmental crisis. And Lula.

Simon Tisdall in The Guardian Fairly or not, Junichiro Koizumi is widely held to have dragged down Japan's relations with former wartime enemies China and South Korea to their lowest level since the 1950s. But the Diet's expected appointment today of Shinzo Abe as his successor as prime minister could stoke east Asian tensions and make matters worse.Mr Koizumi's main offence, as seen from Beijing and Seoul, was his repeated visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine where convicted war criminals are honoured along with 2.5 million Japanese war dead. The visits were interpreted, for largely political purposes, as proof that Japan had failed to acknowledge past misdeeds. As a result, there have been no full summit meetings between China and Japan since 2001.... If anything, Mr Abe, a third generation neo-nationalist who, at 52, will be Japan's youngest postwar leader, may take a tougher line than his flamboyant predecessor. He has said that any future prime minister should continue to visit Yasukuni. He also rejects the validity of the Tokyo war crimes trials that followed Japan's 1945 defeat and says, in effect, that Japan has done enough apologising.... Mr Abe is an ideological conservative whose popularity reflects a growing, revisionist nationalism right across Japanese society, said Christopher Hughes of the University of Warwick. "He feels the 1945 postwar settlement was unfair. He feels Japanese society should stop its masochistic behaviour, that Japan was only acting like any other imperial power at that time and in fact the Japanese empire did some good. Improper drill casing in Indonesia may be behind mud geyser that is burying villages and factories (my emphasis) Mud, gas and boiling water that have been gushing out of the ground in East Java since May, submerging half a dozen villages and 20 factories, could continue for a century with "catastrophic consequences"...A According to Mr Mazzini, unless the flow stops soon, the affected land, which has already starting sinking, could subside significantly. "It will be catastrophic," he said.The mud started flowing on May 29, a couple of hundred metres from where the gas company PT Lapindo Brantas was drilling an exploratory well nearly two miles deep. It has been gushing up to 50,000 cubic metres a day - or two large bathsfull a second - ever since.... All the expenses are being borne by Lapindo, which is controlled by the family of Indonesia's senior welfare minister, Aburizal Bakrie. Estimated costs are thought to be well over £70m, while the company's insurance only covered £15m.... There has been speculation that the disaster was caused by Lapindo failing to use a proper casing during drilling. Mr Mazzini said this was unlikely. Whether it's due to the wrong casing or a failure to estimate overpressure or plan for disaster, the fact that a government minister controls the company should be a matter for investigation. And in Brazil, Lula looks to The Guardian to be good for re-election. He did enough for the poor and did not so greatly offend the rich that he seems to be skating free of the scandals that have brought down those near to him. Of course, before Lula, such things weren't called "scandals." They were called "business." Sorry not to provide a link.

I Just Can't Stand It

I just shouted a vulgar word at my computer monitor. This is why: a Newsweek column titled Clinton Loses His Cool. It gives media atrocities a bad name. The subhead asks, "Was the former president justified in blasting a Fox News interviewer who questioned his administration’s counterterrorism record?" Michael Hirsh does his utmost to avoid giving an honest answer to that. First he portrays Chris Wallace as harmless and inoffensive, the victim of a misdirected blast (and excuse me, the man works for Fox News, by definition he's an attack dog):

Ever since ABC television aired its riveting but risibly fictive docudrama "The Path to 9/11" earlier this month, former Clintonites have been seething.... So when Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace gently asked the former president "why didn’t you do more" to put Al Qaeda "out of business," he sparked an unexpected blast.... "At least I tried. That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now," Clinton said, thrusting his face into the mild-mannered Wallace's.
Hirsh does allow as how President Clinton's defense of his Administration's actions and his criticism of Bush's inaction are "mostly true". But he can't admit that being repeatedly defamed is sufficient reason for even Bill Clinton to finally lose his temper. Oh, no. It has to be a reason that fits the Official Media Storyline(tm). This is the exact moment I yelled a short, sharp, vulgar word:
But, as is always the case with Bill Clinton, politics can’t be too far from his considerations. With Hillary Clinton expected to make a 2008 run, the former president and his wife have been going to great lengths to neutralize what they see as the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that almost brought Bill Clinton down in his second term. That has meant, for example, winning over ex-GOP foes one by one, inviting Laura Bush to speak at his forum, and buddying up to Fox News’ conservative owner, Rupert Murdoch. The charm campaign may also have been the reason for the former president deciding to grant his first-ever interview to Fox News Sunday.
Got that? The only possible reason President Clinton resents being blamed for the 9/11 attacks is that it might hurt Hillary's chances of become President. The media are obsessed with the Clintons, and not in a good way. They're deranged. And people still trust them to tell the truth. I just can't stand it.

Muhammad's Sword? Or Christian Projectionism?

The popular Western-Christian-fueled belief in America and some parts of Europe is that Islam was spread mainly by the sword while Christianity was spread mainly through peaceful means. A Jewish writer for the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom rather neatly debunks that belief (emphases mine):

Jesus said: "You will recognize them by their fruits." The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"? Well, they just did not. For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian. [...] In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith - and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians. THERE IS no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"? What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust. WHY? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll-tax, but were exempted from military service - a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion - because it entailed the loss of taxes. Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.
Sounds like the Christians responsible for promoting the "Islam converts with the sword" myth are projecting their own "convert or die" behaviors onto Muslims.


A Country in Crisis Mode

In the New York Times, Charles Baxter writes about one Congressional campaign in Minnesota. His observations, however, apply across the country.

...we are facing a choice between a "conservative" who wants to institute radical reforms and a "progressive" who wishes largely to maintain the status quo. In Minnesota’s Sixth District, liberalism is the new conservatism. [...] Having allied herself firmly with the president’s policies on Iraq and privatizing Social Security, [incumbent Michelle Bachmann] also advocates eliminating the estate tax. For supporting these radical reforms she is called an "archconservative," though what she is trying to conserve, other than large family fortunes, is never scrupulously clear. [...] The problem faced by politicians who wish to preserve the social programs enacted by their grandparents is that President Bush has been wildly successful at creating an air of constant crisis, both foreign and domestic. Crisis rhetoric, which is inherently radical rather than conservative, dissolves social stability. In this sense, terrorism has infected every subject and every discussion, even locally. Alarmism has become so ubiquitous in discussions of Iraq, the decline of the family and financing for Social Security and education that polarization is assured. Extremity, after all, is more newsworthy than good sense. This outlook has the effect of trivializing most local issues — who cares about farm-price supports when radical Muslims want to make Stillwater part of the caliphate? And it ensures that the volume will always be turned up to 11 — at least until everybody begins to suffer crisis fatigue and tries to calm down.
It's worth repeating: "Crisis rhetoric, which is inherently radical rather than conservative, dissolves social stability." It's not just the "crisis rhetoric" that's threatening our social stability. Bush's "You're On Your Ownership Society" directly attacks our sense of community and undermines our ability to make progress by sharing responsibility and effort. This isn't conservatism. It's anarchy. And y'know, somehow it doesn't seem to be a good idea to have people in charge of the country who will create anarchy. Remember that on Election Day: if you think "one nation, indivisible" is still a good idea, don't vote for Republicans.

Must Watch TV, Today (Monday) 1:30 Eastern

Stolen from Atrios: Democratic Policy Committee will hold an oversight hearing on planning and conduct of the War in Iraq TODAY, September 25, at 1:30 PM. Among those scheduled to testify are Major General John R.S. Batiste, U.S. Army (Ret.); Major General Paul D. Eaton, U.S. Army (Ret.); and Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, USMC (Ret.). The Committee is holding these hearings because the Republican-controlled standing committees in Congress have failed to do meaningful oversight of the planning and conduct of the war. Watch online at Via Atrios, CBS says: Retired military officers on Monday are expected to bluntly accuse Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld of bungling the war in Iraq, saying U.S. troops were sent to fight without the best equipment and that critical facts were hidden from the public. "I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld and others in the administration did not tell the American people the truth for fear of losing support for the war in Iraq," retired Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste said in remarks prepared for a hearing by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. A second witness, retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, is expected to assess Rumsfeld as "incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically ...." UPDATE from Phoenix Woman: I watched on RealPlayer -- missed most of Chuck Schumer's opening, but a kinda-sorta transcript (I mistook Eaton for Batiste early on) is right here; just look for my comments. UPDATE 2 from Phoenix Woman: A better transcript is here at DailyKos. The former brass' gist, while trying to avoid discusssion of whether invading was the right thing to do, is that: 1) Invading Iraq made us all less safe, 2) Rumsfeld wouldn't accept any plan that allowed for the proper number of troops needed to fight the insurgency we all told him would spring up, 3) We've lost three years' time in settling things (for which Rummy needs to go) and 3) In order to fix Iraq, we need to get serious about getting onto a war footing: No more tax cuts (in fact, Col. Hammes suggested undoing the ones we have) and be prepared to stay for another decade, or the Iraq civil war will become a regional war, Iran becomes Big Man On Campus, and gas shoots to well over $100 a barrel. (As if Bush would ever undo his tax cuts. He'd rather die first, I suspect.)


Josh Speaks, You Listen (And Do)

From Josh Marshall this morning:

Do yourself and your country a favor this morning. Call up your representative and senators -- Republican or Democrat, it doesn't matter -- and tell them you want the April National Intelligence Estimate ("Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States") released to the public. Now. Before the election. So the public can know what the White House has been keeping from them. I know the title is a mouthful. So just to be clear, that is the April National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) widely reported on this weekend, which concludes that the Iraq War is making the threat of terrorism worse, not better. This issue was knocking around on the Sunday shows yesterday, with folks like Majority Leader Frist insisting it's just not so. But I haven't seen this episode yet called for what it is -- a cover-up. An NIE isn't some random government white paper. It represents the consensus judgment of the entire US intelligence community, with input from all the different agencies, from CIA and DIA to INR and FBI and all the others. In other words, this is the collaborative judgment of the people actually fighting the War on Terror. For the last six weeks and, in fact, the last six months, the White House and the president have been engaged in a coordinated campaign to convince the public that despite the setbacks and mistakes, the war in Iraq is a critical component of fighting the War on Terror. Making that argument is their plan for the next six weeks until the election. All the while, they've been sitting on a report that says that's flat wrong, a lie and that precisely the opposite is the case. That's a cover-up in every meaningful sense of the word, a calculated effort to hide information from and deceive the public. And it's actually a replay of what happened in late 2002, when the White House kept the Iraq WMD NIE's doubts about Iraqi weapons programs away from the public. The president has made very clear he wants the next six weeks to be about Iraq and the War on Terror. By all means, let's do it. But first the president has to come clean about what he's keeping hidden from the public -- the fact that the people he has fighting the War on Terror are telling him that what he's telling the public about Iraq and the War on Terror flat isn't true. Late word from the White House is that the Times report is "not representative of the complete document." Well, then, by all means, let's get a look at the whole thing so the public can get the big picture and find out who's telling the truth. So pick up the phone and tell your reps and senators what you think. Then ask them whether they support releasing the April Iraq/Terrorism NIE to the public before the November election. Yes, or no. You may hear excuses that it can't be released because it's classified. But that's plain bull. Reports like this are routinely and without much difficulty released in redacted versions which remove any specific information that might reveal what intel types call 'sources and methods'. Let us know what you hear. And in particular let us know your rep or senator's answer. Do they support releasing the NIE or not? We'll share it with the rest of our readers. -- Josh Marshall
Thanks, Josh.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Mexico tidbits

The police shot one man and left six others wounded by riot control sticks. Basically, when the APPO learned that Governor URO was in the luxury hotel, the Camino Real, some hotheads went and broke down the door. The cops fired and fled. They found the PRIist state congressional leader Bulmaro Rito Salinas in an interview with Ricardo Rocha, so they grabbed his blue Cherokee and drove it to the city center. Civil disobedience in Wal-Mart in Mexico City Basically, protestors of the fraud impeded the outflow of shoppers and disarrayed the arrays. They weren't PRD party members apparently.


Venezuela foreign minister detained, U.S. apologizes

Venezuela's foreign minister was detained at a New York airport on Saturday, prompting an apology from the U.S. government and compounding already tense relations between the two countries. In New York, State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the United States regretted the incident involving Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro at John F. Kennedy airport. [...] Venezuelan television said Maduro was stopped for an hour and a half and stripped of his travel documents.
Aside from the political implications.... I just have to ask, do the security measures the Busheviks are inflicting on us all ever result in, you know, stopping somebody from boarding a plane who might reasonably be suspected of terrorist intentions? Or do these measures only serve to harass peace activists, Democratic members of Congress, people with coincidental names, and the occasional foreign government official? I can't help but think that a security measure that causes so many false positives probably makes us less secure, not more.

18,000 people die every year from lack of medical insurance

From a Democratic Policy Committee document: Not having health insurance has serious health consequences. The number of uninsured Americans is more than a statistic; it is a grim reality for many Americans. Extensive study has refuted the myth that the uninsured receive the health care they really need. • The Institute of Medicine (IOM), an independent panel of experts, found that the uninsured receive an inferior level of care that contributes to poor health and premature death. ...The IOM estimated that about 18,000 unnecessary deaths are attributable to lack of health insurance each year. (IOM, May 2002) • A survey by the Commonwealth Fund found that 59 percent of uninsured adults with a chronic illness, such as diabetes or asthma, did not fill a prescription or skipped their medications because they could not afford them and 35 percent went to an emergency room or stayed overnight in the hospital in the past year because of their condition (about twice the rate of people with chronic conditions who were insured for the year). The uninsured were also less likely to receive preventive care such as colon cancer screenings and mammograms. In addition, the survey found that more than half of uninsured adults reported medical debt or problems paying medical bills. (Commonwealth Fund, April 2006)

Two Big Lefty Blogosphere Freak-Outs In Less Than A Week. What Will Trigger The Third?

Earlier last week, the lefty blogosphere freaked out over bogus reports that the Democrats weren't talking about Iraq, even though they are. Now it's freaking out thinking that the Democrats won't oppose Bush's torture bill. Think again. I think some folks in the lefty blogosphere need to cut back on the caffeine.


But You Don't Understand! Iraq's Now "Flypaper"!

As pretty much any sane human who had even a cursory knowledge of the Middle East could have predicted (and was predicting), Bush's invasion of Iraq has encouraged the growth of terrorism and made all of us LESS safe:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks. The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document. The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe. An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology. The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official. More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. [PW butts in: And also because they no doubt feared reprisals from Fredo Bush and his consilgieres.] The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.
As damning as this all is, there are indications that it was actually toned down from earlier, more stinging drafts:
National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue, and are approved by John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence. Their conclusions are based on analysis of raw intelligence collected by all of the spy agencies. Analysts began working on the estimate in 2004, but it was not finalized until this year. Part of the reason was that some government officials were unhappy with the structure and focus of earlier versions of the document, according to officials involved in the discussion. Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, and some policy makers argued that the intelligence estimate should be more focused on specific steps to mitigate the terror threat. It is unclear whether the final draft of the intelligence estimate criticizes individual policies of the United States, but intelligence officials involved in preparing the document said its conclusions were not softened or massaged for political purposes.
Suuuure they weren't. Uh-huh.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Revisiting What Could Have Been

In light of the sadly ironic milestone reached yesterday, and of the discussions of the colossal and epic disaster that is George W. Bush's foreign policy, I went back and looked at 2001: A Timeline Of What Could Have Been. If only Sandra Day O'Connor had known in December of 2000 what she knows now -- and had the moral fiber to act on that knowledge -- that timeline could be our current reality.


Iraq Isn't Vietnam — It's Cambodia

Historian Steve Conn makes the case in the Philadelphia City Paper (via the invaluable History News Network) that what we're doing to Iraq is a lot like what Nixon did to Cambodia.

Historical analogies should never be drawn too tightly, but as Iraq descends further into fratricidal violence, it may be Cambodia, rather than Vietnam, that Iraq will come to resemble. And the Cambodian experience should make us feel even more grim about the mess we have made in Iraq. Cambodia's fragile neutrality began to unravel in 1969 when President Nixon ordered secret — and almost surely illegal — bombing raids on Cambodia in his effort to chase North Vietnamese troops hiding across the border.... In 1975, at virtually the same moment Americans left Vietnam, Khmer Rouge forces entered Phnom Penh triumphant. The Khmer Rouge, under its leader Pol Pot, flew into a systematic, prolonged, genocidal rage, as it took its revenge against former opponents, imagined enemies and ordinary Cambodians for no reason at all.
Arguably illegal? Check. Targeting a country that isn't the real enemy? Check. Creating anarchy and mass murder in a previously stable country? Check. And one more similarity:
And both invasions have had the effect of strengthening the position of our purported enemies. By rescuing Cambodia from Pol Pot, Vietnam, the country we fought bitterly for more than decade, wound up exercising control over Cambodia for a generation. In the absence of a legitimate, widely supported government in Iraq, it doesn't take too much imagination to see Iran, the major menace in the Middle East, marching in overtly or covertly to provide the stability and order in Iraq that Americans clearly can't.
Heckuva job, Bushie.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Mission Accomplished

U.S. military casualties in Iraq equal the deaths from the 9/11 attacks.

The latest milestone for a country at war came Friday without commemoration. It came without the precision of knowing who was the 2,974th to die in conflict. The terrorist attacks killed 2,973 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. [...] Among the latest U.S. deaths identified by the armed forces: _Army 2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez, 23, Fort Washington, Md., who died Sept. 12 in Kifl, Iraq, from an explosive device detonated near her vehicle. A former high school sprinter who sang in her West Point gospel choir, she was assigned to the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas. _Marine Sgt. Christopher M. Zimmerman, 28, Stephenville, Texas, killed Wednesday in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. A new study on the war dead and where they come from suggests that the notion of "rich man's war, poor man's fight" has become a little truer over time. Among the Americans killed in the Iraq war, 34 percent have come from communities reporting the lowest levels of family income. Half come from middle income communities and only 17 percent from the highest income level. That's a change from World War II, when all income groups were represented about equally. In Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, the poor have made up a progressively larger share of casualties, by this analysis.


Able Danger goes down for the third time

Readers of Mercury Rising will not be surprised by the following news: Shenon, NYT: The Defense Department's inspector general on Thursday dismissed claims by military officers and others who had insisted that a secret Pentagon program identified Mohamed Atta and other terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks before the attacks occurred... The claim that a secret Pentagon data-mining program had known of Mr. Atta and other hijackers before Sept. 11 created a stir when the witnesses' accounts became public last year, because it suggested that the Defense Department had information that might have helped pre-empt the attacks had it been shared outside of the Pentagon. Granted, the IG's office was totally corrupted. But if Curt Weldon opposes the report, it must be right. (ht/t TO)


This being an era of utterly failed leadership, total moral bankruptcy, and intellectual dwarfism, Donald Luskin is always in danger of losing his standing as The World's Stupidest Man(®). But as Smartmoney readers know, he is always a contender. Today was a particularly strong showing: THERE'S AN ENDURING modern myth among investors that the economy is about to collapse because consumers are going to stop spending. Like all myths, this one starts with a grain or two of truth, and then embellishes that grain until it's a preposterous mountain. These mythical mountains are dangerous only if you believe them. Lots of my readers do, and so do lots of my professional investor clients. And worst of all, so does the Federal Reserve — which is going to lead to some really bad monetary-policy errors. I'm not sure why consumption is supposed to be so important. Sure, if I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times: "The consumer is 70% of the U.S. economy." But so what? The producer is 100% of the U.S. economy. ... What's everyone so worried about? ... According to the Department of Commerce, in July, ... personal-consumption expenditures grew at a very healthy annualized pace of 10.2%. ...What's that in dollars? A lot. From June 2005 to June 2006, the U.S. consumer spent $9.2 trillion dollars — up $555 billion from the previous 12 months. And where did the U.S. consumer get that extra $555 billion to spend? The old-fashioned way — he worked for it. Over that same period, disposable personal income grew by $550 billion.... Economists have studied the "wealth effect" in depth. Based on these studies, most economic models say that when the value of your house goes up by $100, you are willing to spend an additional $3 every year. So how big is the "wealth effect" for housing? According to data from the Federal Reserve, the value of real estate held by households grew by $1.7 trillion over the last four quarters. Three percent of that is $50 billion. ... Since the end of 2002, according to the Department of Commerce, annual energy expenses for the average household have gone up by $688. ...But over the same period, the disposable personal income of the average household has risen by $4,605. That's enough to fill 'er up, with an awful lot left over.... According to the Federal Reserve, since the beginning of 2003, the fraction of the typical household's income that went to servicing mortgage debt did rise a little bit, from 9.7% to 11.1%. But the fraction that went to servicing credit-card debt went down, from 6.3% to 5.7%. Overall, the fraction of household income that goes to servicing all the "must-pay" obligations that every family has — mortgage, credit cards, taxes, and so on — has stayed rock steady, rising almost imperceptibly from 18.4% to just 18.6%.... And how about those adjustable-rate mortgages that will become more expensive to pay off now that interest rates are so much higher than they were a couple years ago? Another myth! The typical U.S. household actually does better when rates rise. Overall, according to the Federal Reserve, U.S. households hold about 50% more floating-rate assets than they have invested in floating-rate debt. So, yes, when rates rise, the adjustable-rate mortgage goes up, and so does the interest on credit-card debt. But at the same time, income rises — even more — from investments in money-market funds, bank accounts and bonds. Even though much of the data I've cited here comes from the Federal Reserve, the Fed subscribes to the myth that the economy is slowing because the U.S. consumer is in trouble... The economy isn't slowing, and the consumer is not in trouble. With the economy continuing to boom, and rates on hold at the Fed, that's a sure-fire formula for more inflation. ... Then there will be nothing for the Fed to do but raise interest rates sky high. It's like one of those How Many Errors Can You Find in this Picture puzzles in the newspaper. It's so bad that I imagine I have violated Fair Use in attempting to quote enough of it to be fair to Luskin, to not turn the mountain of idiocy he has accumulated in one column into an entire continent. I doubt I will get enough time to deconstruct anywhere near the number of errors in this column. But let's start from the most basic: when a little-but-even-so-too-well-known financial analyst calls the Fed and professional investors gullible, there would seem to be a hubris problem. Like ten gallons of self-esteem in a two-ounce jar. His annualization of one month's consumer spending growth figures to come up with a ridiculous number growth rate is a classic. It's like averaging a basketball player's jumping over a game to claim he never touched the ground. I'd like to know what economists he's citing for the "wealth effect" on housing prices. And then there's this little problem of confusing the median and the mean that runs through most of Luskin's writing. So, here's an exercise to our readers: 1. How accurate are his claims about consumer debt? 2. Is he correct that household income has risen much faster than energy costs? 3. Is the economy "continuing to boom"? 4. Does a rise in interest rates benefit a typical household more in increased interest payments or cost it more? 5. How does the latter tie into Luskin's plan for saving the American economy? 6. What does "the producer is 100% of the American economy" mean? I see that DeLong has not commented on Luskin. But he is dealing with a number of powerful contenders for the WSM honor. The World's Stupidest Man (®) is a registered trademark held by Bradford J. DeLong enterprises.

Friday Cat Blogging

It's the weekend. Relax. Lightfoot lazing in the sun Alexander washing


Rove and Bush's "October Surprise": Invading Iran

If you're wondering what political moves Bush and Rove have planned to pump up Bush's and the GOP's ratings before the November elections, now we know they'll be using the "scare-'em-into-circling-the-wagons" method -- as Bush plans to invade Iran around October 21:

As reports circulate of a sharp debate within the White House over possible US military action against Iran and its nuclear enrichment facilities, The Nation has learned that the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have issued orders for a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast. This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1. As Time writes in its cover story, "What Would War Look Like?," evidence of the forward deployment of minesweepers and word that the chief of naval operations had asked for a reworking of old plans for mining Iranian harbors "suggest that a much discussed--but until now largely theoretical--prospect has become real: that the U.S. may be preparing for war with Iran." According to Lieut. Mike Kafka, a spokesman at the headquarters of the Second Fleet, based in Norfolk, Virginia, the Eisenhower Strike Group, bristling with Tomahawk cruise missiles, has received recent orders to depart the United States in a little over a week. Other official sources in the public affairs office of the Navy Department at the Pentagon confirm that this powerful armada is scheduled to arrive off the coast of Iran on or around October 21. [...] So what is the White House planning? On Monday President Bush addressed the UN General Assembly at its opening session, and while studiously avoiding even physically meeting Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was also addressing the body, he offered a two-pronged message. Bush told the "people of Iran" that "we're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis" and that he looked forward "to the day when you can live in freedom." But he also warned that Iran's leaders were using the nation's resources "to fund terrorism and fuel extremism and pursue nuclear weapons." Given the President's assertion that the nation is fighting a "global war on terror" and that he is Commander in Chief of that "war," his prominent linking of the Iran regime with terror has to be seen as a deliberate effort to claim his right to carry the fight there. Bush has repeatedly insisted that the 2001 Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force that preceded the invasion of Afghanistan was also an authorization for an unending "war on terror." Even as Bush was making not-so-veiled threats at the UN, his former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, a sharp critic of any unilateral US attack on Iran, was in Norfolk, not far from the Eisenhower, advocating further diplomatic efforts to deal with Iran's nuclear program--itself tantalizing evidence of the policy struggle over whether to go to war, and that those favoring an attack may be winning that struggle. "I think the plan's been picked: bomb the nuclear sites in Iran," says Gardiner. "It's a terrible idea, it's against US law and it's against international law, but I think they've decided to do it." Gardiner says that while the United States has the capability to hit those sites with its cruise missiles, "the Iranians have many more options than we do: They can activate Hezbollah; they can organize riots all over the Islamic world, including Pakistan, which could bring down the Musharraf government, putting nuclear weapons into terrorist hands; they can encourage the Shia militias in Iraq to attack US troops; they can blow up oil pipelines and shut the Persian Gulf." Most of the major oil-producing states in the Middle East have substantial Shiite populations, which has long been a concern of their own Sunni leaders and of Washington policy-makers, given the sometimes close connection of Shiite populations to Iran's religious rulers.
The reason we're hearing about this now instead of on October 21 is because Rumsfeld hasn't got rid of enough of the competent people at the Pentagon yet. As both the Nation and Time stories indicate, the top brass are doing everything they can think of to stop this from happening, and are hoping that the whole thing can be derailed if the news is leaked before the Eisenhower's armada is scheduled to set off on October 1. Thanks go to The Nation's Dave Lindorff for posting excerpts online over at DailyKos. UPDATE: Dave Lindorff, posting over at DailyKos, has this to say about why Bush wants to do this -- and why he doesn't care that it will wreck our military AND the economy AND our troops in Iraq AND our standing in the rest of the world (emphases mine):
bush doesn't care about the economy (107+ / 0-) Look at today's New York Times. I've heard that Bush's internal polling is saying the Democrats are going to take the House easily, and that means investigations, impeachment, and maybe even a trial for crimes like the spying, the Plame case and war crimes. He and Cheney fear this, so they need to take a drastic step in hopes of beating back a Democratic tide. the answer is a casualty-free (American, that is) cruise missile attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Of course Iran will retaliate in ways that will cause economic collapse, of course oil will go to $150 a barrel (that actually is money in the bank for most of Bush's friends!), of course in the end it will be a disaster for the U.S., for the U.S. military, and for the Republican Party, but it staves off Bush's crisis for two more years, and that's all he cares about. Dave Lindorff by dlindorff on Thu Sep 21, 2006 at 06:49:31 PM PD

Thursday, September 21, 2006


A Response to the Good Germans of the Right on Torture

One of the stupider talking points of the right nowadays is the claim that "the left" (which means anyone who thinks for themselves) doesn't have any idea of how prisoner interrogation should be done, that torture as defined by international law is necessary to extract information. In fact, it is the right that doesn't have a clue how interrogation should be done. Who won World War II, the side that used torture, or the side that didn't? Who won the Cold War, the side that used torture or the side that didn't? In fact, American interrogators were enormously successful in extracting information from their prisoners precisely because they did not torture them, while the Germans never broke the French resistance and the Soviets ended up having to kill millions of innocents simply to maintain a state of terror. The second dodge to the 'wingers scam is that the techniques that the Bush Administration uses aren't really torture, because they don't cause death. But of course, this is ignorance on their part. Many prisoners have died in American custody from supposedly non-lethal techniques. Many others develop lifelong mental illness. But even if a technique doesn't cause death or lasting psychological damage, it's a crime under international law-- law written by the United States in the shadow of World War II and its Gestapo torture techniques-- to subject prisoners to physical or psychological coercion. There's one last dodge that the Good Germans of the Republican Right use as they make this country into an international pariah: they pretend that detainees are all terrorists. In fact, the United States has a laughable record on catching the bad guys. Osama bin Laden is free, while delusional nobodies like Iyman Faris are paraded like captives in a Roman parade. Figures from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib suggest that the US has arrested 4 innocent people for every guilty one. One of the people who come to bait rather than discuss has been demanding to be told how "the left" would interrogate prisoners. I told him that I had written an essay and would provide it to him if he would simply agree to obey the rules he agreed to obey when he signed Blogger's Terms of Service. Did he come back and say, "Look, let's start over. I'm genuinely interested"? Of course not. As is characteristic of the right nowadays, he blamed others for responding to his insults with anger and he refused to honor the promises he freely made when he signed on. But, since I am true to my word, I had written the essay when I made the offer. And so I have no place else to post it: __________________________________________________ The simple fact is that the "ticking time bomb scenario," in which lives can be saved by pressuring a terrorist to reveal information, seems to have never occurred. In any event, it's a rare situation. Much more common is the situation-- as happened with Zacarias Moussaoui-- where intelligence officials arrest a terrorist but fail to use legal methods of obtaining information. In Moussaoui's case, all they had to do was search his computer-- as FBI agent Colleen Rowley begged them to do-- to disrupt 911. Then there's the problem that if there really is a ticking time bomb, all the terrorist has to do is mislead intelligence agents long enough to let it explode. No lie detector method is sufficiently accurate. What works, according to professional interrogators, is dealing with the suspect as a human being, e.g., appealing to his vanity or desire to have his cause understood. But, ok. Suppose there is a "ticking time bomb." And let's suppose we have a super lie detector test, so the suspect can't mislead intelligence agents. The agents feel certain that they can extract the information by torture. What agent, having sworn to protect and defend, would fail to do everything necessary to save lives, surrendering himself for trial later? What American jury would not vote to acquit? I certainly would. Note added: It is a rule in quality control that the minimum permissible standard quickly becomes the maximum achievable level. The law is much the same. The statute is written to cover the normal circumstance, while the courtroom and appellate courts exist to cover the exceptions. Thus, breaking and entering is a crime. The possibility that a stranger, observing through the kitchen window a baby drowning in the kitchen sink might be deterred from saving the baby does not lead us to legalize burglary. _________________________________________________________ Is that simple enough? This "dedicated leftist" would use techniques that have been proven to work. Torture doesn't. The fellow who began this asked if we didn't want to know his opinion as to what torture is. As for me, the answer is no. He clearly hasn't read the Geneva Conventions, doesn't have a basic understanding of what kind of conflict we're in, and otherwise exhibits symptoms of advanced GIGO. Who cares about the thoughts of someone who doesn't know anything, won't learn anything, but wants to insult people who do know and are willing to learn?

So What's Up In Minnesota These Days?

Let's see: -- The National Jewish Democratic Council has officially told Alan Fine to stop the racist hack attacks on Keith Ellison in an excellent document that shows just how well the NJDC has researched the issue. -- A local blogger was investigating Scott Howell, Mark Kennedy's new ad guy and the person behind Saxby Chambliss' disgusting attack ads against Max Cleland, and apparently stumbled onto an new and yet-to-be run ad for the Kennedy campaign. He then sent the link for the website (which anyone could access) to the communications director for Amy Klobuchar, Tara McGuinness. She then apparently showed the ad to some people in the office, but then the question came up as to whether or not this was legal for them to do. To be on the safe side, Tara McGuinness resigned from the campaign and Amy Klobuchar -- who never saw the ad -- invited the local branch of the FBI to investigate the situation after promising not to use anything from the Kennedy ad in her own campaign. Of course, the Kennedy campaign, eager to use something -- ANYTHING -- to revive their dead candidacy, is latching onto the incident and trying to milk it for all it's worth. Instead of firing Scott Howell for having such rotten-to-nonexistent website security, they called for Amy Klobuchar to be indicted and made a big show of "taking down" their own campaign website -- except for the financial contributions and blog page, of course -- for "security concerns". Except, as MN Publius shows, the site hasn't been taken down at all; it's just had a fakey, LGF-style "redirect". How silly is all this? Wonkette's laughing at them, as were all the non-Fox local channels tonight. (Channel 4 WCCO, our CBS affiliate, made a point of mentioning what Wonkette and most all of the local bloggers like Centristy mentioned: that the financial-contributions part of the Kennedy website was left untouched and un-redirected.)


Why we fight

London Independent: The republic of fear is born again. The state of terror now gripping Iraq is as bad as it was under Saddam Hussein. Torture in the country may even be worse than it was during his rule, the United Nation's special investigator on torture said yesterday. "The situation as far as torture is concerned now in Iraq is totally out of hand," said Manfred Nowak. "The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it had been in the times of Saddam Hussein."... The brutal tortures committed in the prisons of the regime overthrown in 2003 are being emulated and surpassed in the detention centres of the present US- and British-backed Iraqi government. "Detainees' bodies show signs of beating using electric cables, wounds in different parts of their bodies including in the head and genitals, broken bones of legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns,... The Iraqi state and much of society have been criminalised." Thank God for the UN, getting around to reporting what we knew a year ago. We invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein .....was working with the people who attacked us on 9/11 .....had weapons of mass destruction .....used proscribed weapons of war .....tried to kill my father .....was a brutal dictator who tortured his own people

Mexico, Mexico

The dangers of militarizing the border by stationing thousands of out-of-state Guardsmen on a poorly-defined and probably undoable mission: From the Houston Chronicle, via NarcoNews reports It is boredom, supposedly, that recently led three National Guardsmen to shoot up a family barbeque while on a beer-fueled joy ride near Eagle Pass.... They were not on duty at the time. They were not in uniform. The weapon they used was not a field weapon that belonged to the federal government. They were just bored from not doing anything and decided to go out on a joyride," Herrera said. The Guardsmen are being put up in motels, getting bored, and going out drinking and joyriding, heavily armed. Tell me this makes sense. Oaxacans are marching by the thousands to Mexico City. The government of Vicente Fox continues not to intervene openly. The archbishop of Mexico, Norberto Rivera, stands accused of having protected pedophile priests. But Rivera is being protected by the PANista government. The Migra grabbed the plaintiffs's lawyers under the pretext of verifying their legal standing to be in Mexico. One of the lawyers is a Mexican. Archbishop Rivera is a member of a group, Por Mexico that includes businessmen, owners of media, and religio-politicians like Rivera as part of governing from the shadows. LaOtraTele abruptly played an interview on the nationality of the father of President Vicente Fox, in which interview participated the director of Braceroproa Ventura Gutiérrez, the investigator Miguel Kelly and the lawyer Porfirio Martínez. Ventura presented documentary evidence that José Luis Fox Pont, father of the present president of México, was American and, because V. Fox's mother was a Spaniard, V. Fox illegally became president. The Fox family was originally German, named Fuchs.

Mark Kennedy, Leprous Boat Anchor?

According to Politics in Minnesota (via City Pages' Mike Mosedale), Tim Pawlenty seems to be distancing himself from Mark Kennedy (all emphases mine):

Kennedy has failed to make this race as close as the GOP thought it would be. While the gap isn't likely to be the 24 points that the StarTribune poll indicates, Kennedy's own polling shows that he is down by at least 8 to 10 points. Most Republicans will acknowledge that Kennedy is in trouble.
"At least". That's a nice euphemism. As David Broder's Republican informant told him over a month ago, "the bottom has dropped out" of Kennedy's campaign. But I digress.
One major factor is Kennedy's negatives. Almost every poll has them in the 30% range, while Amy Klobuchar's remain in the low teens. As Kennedy begins to go negative his strategy is to drive up Klobuchar's negatives but it will also drive up his unfavorable ratings among voters. As Kennedy becomes less and less popular, how can Governor Pawlenty stand side by side with him if his race with Mike Hatch is as tight? Pawlenty has implied that candidates who "run away" from the President are "weenies" and Kennedy has done just that. But even more so, Pawlenty hasn't been running close to the President either. Pawlenty is a deft and bold politician and we predict that if Kennedy doesn't pick up traction, the Governor will distance himself to give himself the best chance at reelection, rather than risk a loss of both statewide offices.
Pawlenty's apparently not the only Republican rethinking Kennedy. Rumor has it that right before Labor Day, the national GOP took one look at Kennedy's sucky polls and severely cut back on the money they're giving him. Considering that he didn't run any TV ads in the first half of September -- none that I saw, anyway -- after nearly two months of constant airwave saturation, I can believe this. Only in the last few days has he got back onto TV again, this time with an attack ad crafted by his new ad guy Scott Howell, he of the insecure web site and the same ad guy Saxby Chambliss used to slime Max Cleland.


Memo To Self: Do Not Anger Coleen Rowley.

If the local Republicans thought that by relentlessly sliming Keith Ellison, they were going to scare the other DFL candidates away from him, Coleen Rowley has just disabused them of that notion:

Coleen Rowley, the DFL candidate for Congress in Minnesota's Second District, issued a sharp denunciation of recent GOP smears directed toward Keith Ellison, DFL candidate in Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District. "Alan Fine's recent, persistent attacks on Keith Ellison are unwarranted, they are despicable, and they reveal Mr. Fine to be unfit for public office," said Rowley. Alan Fine is the GOP candidate running against Ellison. Immediately after Ellison won the DFL primary for the seat, Fine said he was "personally offended" that Ellison had been nominated, compared Ellison to Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and declared that Ellison's selection is "an embarrassment to our district, our state, our country and our world." "To vilify someone exclusively on the basis of their religious beliefs is morally and ethically wrong, yet that's what Mr. Fine and his Republican backers have done to Keith Ellison. Even though they cannot point to a single anti-Semitic word Keith Ellison has written or spoken, even though Ellison is endorsed by the American Jewish World, they call him an anti-Semite -- because Keith Ellison is a Muslim. Even though Keith Ellison is black, they compare him to a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. This smear is a new low, even for a group of Republicans. Where is their shame?" Rowley continued, "Republicans have had full control in Washington for nearly four years, and they have brought us record debt, 46 million Americans without adequate health care, a sinking middle class and a disaster in Iraq which weakens our national security and every day drains away $300 million and the sweat, blood, and lives of our troops. They have shredded our country's peace, prosperity, and hope for the future. With no record worth bragging about, Republicans candidates are left with fear and slander. Even the National Republican Congressional Committee has admitted that it plans to spend more than 90 percent of its budget on negative ads. They say, 'Give up your rights, so we can protect you. Fear gays and lesbians. Fear liberals. Fear Muslims.' The president says that 'it is unacceptable to think'. Republicans across the country hammer wedge issues and divide our country." What are they afraid of? "Keith Ellison is a uniter. He won his primary by bringing together people of all different ages, races, religions and backgrounds, and he will help to unite our country while in Congress. Like Keith Ellison, I agree that it's time to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Like Keith Ellison, I believe that every American deserves access to adequate medical care. The Fifth District is lucky to have him fighting for them, and when I get to Congress in January, I look forward to working with Keith Ellison to hold the Bush administration accountable for its failures and restore our country's greatness."

# # #

See those little tiny things scattered all over the ground? Those used to be Alan Fine's teeth. Coleen Rowley kicked his butt so hard, the point of her shoe wound up hitting his jaw. As Atrios says, reward good behavior.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Hewlett Packard's Dunn Honored for Spying on Journalists

Well, more accurately, she's being honored despite spying on journalists. Via David Berlind, Ina Fried and Jim Kerstetter write On Wednesday night, [Hewlett-Packard Chairwoman Patricia] Dunn is expected to be inducted into the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame by the Bay Area Council, a local business and civic organization. Dunn took over after HP had gone through a painful restructuring. Miz Carly bought quality-deficient Compaq to teach cost-insensitive HP engineers how to shave a penny. HP stock is now at 36ish. That's about where it stood at the end of 1998. In other words, from an investment standpoint, if you hung onto your HP stock, you're only down about a third. It takes true genius to take one of America's foremost companies, trash it, and keep it from recovering. Among other good things Dunn arranged for was the sending of bogus tips to reporter Dawn Kuwamoto, i.e., entrapment. And then there was this: A later e-mail from that same address included an attachment believed to have contained marketing information about a new HP product. That attachment, government investigators told Kawamoto, is believed to have had the ability to track the e-mail, notify the sender if it was opened, and tell the sender if the e-mail was forwarded and to which IP address it had been forwarded. Sending Kawamoto an attachment like that would not have been illegal, government investigators said, noting that the technology used was not believed to have been a keylogger loaded onto the computer. Corporate spying on individuals is legal? Only in George Bush's America. Not in a nation where citizens have a God-given (inalienable) right to be secure in their persons and possessions against unreasoable searches and seizures.


Keith Olbermann speaks truth to power.

In four simple words last Friday, the President brought into sharp focus what has been only vaguely clear these past five-and-a-half years - the way the terrain at night is perceptible only during an angry flash of lightning, and then, a second later, all again is dark. "It's unacceptable to think," he said. It is never unacceptable to think. And when a President says thinking is unacceptable, even on one topic, even in the heat of the moment, even in the turning of a phrase extracted from its context, he takes us toward a new and fearful path - one heretofore the realm of science fiction authors and apocalyptic visionaries. That flash of lightning freezes at the distant horizon, and we can just make out a world in which authority can actually suggest it has become unacceptable to think. Thus the lightning flash reveals not merely a President we have already seen, the one who believes he has a monopoly on current truth. It now shows us a President who has decided that of all our commanders-in-chief, ever, he alone has had the knowledge necessary to alter and re-shape our inalienable rights. This is a frightening, and a dangerous, delusion, Mr. President. [...] "Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government." Those incendiary thoughts came, of course, from a prior holder of your job, Mr. Bush. They were the words of Thomas Jefferson. He put them in the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Bush, what would you say to something that anti-thetical to the status quo just now? Would you call it "unacceptable" for Jefferson to think such things, or to write them? Between your confidence in your infallibility, sir, and your demonizing of dissent, and now these rages better suited to a thwarted three-year old, you have left the unnerving sense of a White House coming unglued - a chilling suspicion that perhaps we have not seen the peak of the anger; that we can no longer forecast what next will be said to, or about, anyone who disagrees. [...] Apologize, sir, for even hinting at an America where a few have that privilege to think and the rest of us get yelled at by the President. Anything else, Mr. Bush, is truly unacceptable.


Amy Klobuchar Shoots Bill Clinton's Mena Smack! Keith Ellison Eats Suburban White Babies! Mike Hatch Is A Vampire Communist Vegan!

No, this blog hasn't been commandeered by Michael Brodkorb or John Hinderaker. I'm just making fun of the increasingly hysterical smears launched by the local Republicans at the Democratic slate of candidates -- and at the local newspaper whose polls they don't like. The latest hilarious smear -- that of making sinister allusions to Keith Ellison's association with CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad, who local Republicans have suddenly decided is the new Emmanuel Goldstein, has collapsed upon the realization that a picture of Awad meeting with George W. Bush is posted on the White House web site. Oooooops!

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