Sunday, December 31, 2006


The Hanging And The Reality

Steve Gilliard posts the Financial Times' description of the events surreptitiously captured on cell phone in Baghdad the other day, and notes that the guards and others present chanted pro-Sadr slogans before and after they killed him. Not pro-Iraq slogans. Not pro-Hakim slogans. Pro-Sadr slogans. The NYT (via the Strib) chimes in, echoing Steve's comments:

It was supposed to be a formal and solemn proceeding carried out by a dispassionate state. But the grainy recording summed up what has become increasingly clear in Baghdad: that the Shiite-led government that has assumed power is running the state with undisguised sectarian brutality. The hanging was hasty. Laws governing its timing were bypassed, and the guards charged with keeping order in the execution chamber instead disrupted it, shouting Shiite militia slogans. It was a degrading end for a vicious leader and an ominous beginning for the new Iraq. The Bush administration has already scaled back its hopes for building a democracy. But as the Iraqi government has become ever more set on protecting its constituency, often at the exclusion of the Sunni minority, the goal of stopping a sectarian war seems to be slipping out of reach.


Observations On Iraq And Afghanistan From A Guy Who's Just Done His Fourth USO Tour In The Region

Al Franken speaks. You listen:

When Laura Bush complained the other day that the media don't cover the "good news" stories in Iraq, I found it literally incredible that anyone in this administration could continue to blame the media for Americans souring on this fiasco... Yet many Bush administration supporters (talk about "dead-enders") still bash the media for not reporting about the many Army and Marine units that bring school supplies to children around Iraq. They may not realize that, as has been widely reported, Iraqi principals beg journalists not to cover these stories for fear of their schools being targeted by insurgents. Perhaps, as I suspect, their ignorance is one of partisan convenience.
Ignorance or partisanship: Which is worse? But I digress:
I'm writing this on a C-17 cargo plane as I leave Iraqi airspace on the way to Afghanistan. This is my fourth USO tour in the region, and I always try to learn as much as possible while focusing on my primary mission -- telling a few jokes to, and spending some time with, the men and women in uniform who are away from their families and face incredible danger every day. One thing I've learned on this trip is that many, if not most, of the troops share in that frustration and anger toward the media and what they see as its focus on the negative aspects of the war. Their feelings are understandable. Every day, our troops get up and work with tremendous dedication and courage to roll the boulder a little further up the mountain. There are literally hundreds of thousands of positive stories to tell. These are the micro-stories of this war. Just a few I've encountered myself: A medic treats a 12-year-old Iraqi boy in Baghdad. Progress is made on a sewage system in Ramadi. A JAG officer works with Iraqi judges to build a provincial judicial system in Tikrit. But the journalists in Iraq have a responsibility to the American people to report the macro-story. The 12-year-old boy had been caught in the crossfire as troops struggled to maintain order during another spasm of sectarian violence. The (depressed) infantryman who told me about the sewage system had lost friends while working out of a small combat operating base in town. The JAG officer confided that he believes we made a mistake invading Iraq in the first place, but that if we left now, the violence in the already chaotic country would explode. The truth of the matter is that the Bush administration has made enormous and tragic mistakes at every stage of this debacle. It overplayed the threat from Iraq and undersold the price, in lives and resources, of a war. It failed to plan for a post-invasion Iraq, ignored the threat of an insurgency and allowed a shoddy reconstruction rife with fraud, abuse and sheer amateurism to sabotage our efforts to put the pieces back together. Worst of all, it has failed to admit to its mistakes or adjust to emerging realities along the way, leaving us in what now seems to be a no-win situation.
That pretty much sums it up.


Mexico, New Year's Eve

(Image by Ahumada at La Jornada) 18 members of APPO were paroled under condition that they not participate in political affairs, leaving 69 people in jail, basically without charges. APPO director Flavio Sosa Villavicencio and his brothers Horacio y Erick are in maximum security prisons. Former APPO spokesman Marcelino Coache and Flavio Sosa's driver Ignacio García are held in Cosolapa, in Cuenca del Papaloapan. The drug wars rage on. At least seven died in Zacualpan, Guerrero when masked commandos stormed a wedding. Two more people were executed in Michoacan,three in Ecatepec, and a young man was kidnapped from his BMW in Acapulco. Capsaicin has been extracted at large scale from chile poblano, presumably by supercritical fluid chromatography. Eight tons of chile yields 1 kilo of capsaicin, valued at 700,000 dollars. Capsaicin is a useful treatment for heart ailments, lumbar pain, ulcers, and for the prevention of the ill effects of diabetes. Or, you could just eat a burrito a day.

Taking A Break From Politics... offer a little bit of possible good news: There's a chance that the seventh and final Harry Potter book will be out in time for Harry's twenty-seventh birthday. I certainly hope so! In any event, since she has a title selected, that probably means that she's already handed in the manuscript to the publishers, and it would take about eight months from that point to get the book out onto the shelves, so I'm guessing it's true.


The AP Sends a Mixed Message

Associated Press, December 30, 7:22 PM ET: AP poll: Americans optimistic for 2007

An AP-AOL News Poll finds that while most Americans said 2006 was a bad year for the country, three-fourths thought it had been a good one for them and their families.... Looking ahead, optimism reigns. Seventy-two percent of Americans feel good about what 2007 will bring for the country, and an even larger 89 percent are optimistic about the new year for themselves and their families, according to the poll.
Associated Press, December 31, 7:12 AM ET: Poll: Americans see gloom, doom in 2007
Another terrorist attack, a warmer planet, death and destruction from a natural disaster. These are among Americans' grim predictions for the United States in 2007.... There is plenty of gloom to accompany all of that doom.
Yes, both articles are about the same poll: a telephone poll conducted December 12–14 by Ipsos. And the reporters manage to condense that poll into contradictory conclusions. We've seen the news media cherry-picking poll results before, but these twin articles show just how much they can manipulate the facts. Maybe we need to update the old saying: There are lies, damned, lies, and poll results.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


My sister, NOLA.

Laura Flanders did an excellent program on New Orleans and especially on efforts by Common Ground and by Curtis Mohammed to rebuild it. Bill Quigley has a good description of where things stand: New Orleans is in the worst affordable housing crisis since the Civil War. Tens of thousands of houses still remain in ruins after Katrina. Rents for the rest have gone up 70-80 percent since Katrina. Even before Katrina, there was a waiting list of 18,000 families seeking to get into public housing. Now it is much, much worse. HUD's demolition plans target 4,534 apartments of public housing in the community. They plan to demolish 1546 apartments in BW Cooper, 723 in C.J. Peete, 1400 in St. Bernard, and 865 in Lafitte. These are not the dense high-rise towers. Public housing in New Orleans is made up of development clusters of mostly two and three story buildings with six to eight apartments in each.... HUD initially said they had to demolish because the buildings were so damaged they were dangerous to the residents.That was not true.John Fernandez, an Associate Professor of Architecture at MIT, inspected 140 of these apartments and concluded in papers filed in court that "no structural or nonstructural damage was found that could reasonably warrant any cost-effective building demolition The government is not helping. The Red Cross is not helping. My advice is to contact Common Ground.

Atheists make the best Christians

Lambert did a post on Cal Thomas, in which he responded in the following manner to Cal Thomas's claim that if there is no God, then we are free to act as we want:
Nonsense. Human capacities for good and evil both evolved in nature because they both had survival value.
I hate to defend Cal Thomas. I mean, I really hate to defend him. I have a personal experience with the man that convinces me that he is the most cynical and dishonest sort of a faker, an unctuous and unpleasant ... Wait, let me refocus a moment. Let's just say that it is self-evident that Cal Thomas is a true atheist. First, on the narrow technical point, Thomas is correct that if there is no transcendent and unalterable moral system which differentiates evil from good, then human beings have perfect freedom to act as they wish. However, if Thomas were a Christian, he would believe that human beings still have perfect freedom to act because God grants us true free will. According to St. Paul, the key differentiating feature between good and evil is that good strengthens and improves us, while evil weakens and harms us. This is consistent with the Hebrew usage. Rather, the Christian sees the consequences of good and evil and therefore chooses good. On the broad technical point, Lambert is wrong. There are plenty of species whose members do not kill one another, yet survive just fine. The case that altruism is a survival trait is weak. It is only plausible if altruistic self-sacrifice precedes reproduction. And yet both altruistic self-sacrifice and its polar opposite, senseless destruction of life through war, are pursuits of the young. By old age, we learn to be canny and self-protective. At best, the idea that good and evil have survival value and therefore exert evolutionary pressure is debatable. So, back to the central thesis of this post, that the best Christians call themselves atheists, while some of the most incandescent atheists call themselves Christians (or, not to discriminate, Jews, Muslims, Zoroastrians, etc). The person who believes in God believes that there are eternal, unchanging, inherent characteristics to the universe. Martin Luther King said that "The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice." To give this image some substance, there is an analog in the material universe, called homochirality:
An important consequence of the unified theory of the electromagnetic and weak interaction is the existence of the weak neutral current that generates parity-violating interactions between electrons and electrons and between electrons and neutrons. Experiments involving elementary particles and atoms confirmed the theory. In enantiomeric molecules, the interaction induces a small difference between the energies of the different enantiomers. The theory was extended to calculations of the parity-violating energy difference (PVED) between the L- and D-amino acids, for example. The main impetus behind these calculations was the hope of explaining the origin of the homochirality of biomolecules, i.e., the phenomenon that living systems contain nearly completely L-amino acids and D-sugars
A tiny difference in energy creates a long arc that bends to deliver one single kind of amino acid and one single kind of sugar. And just so, God is an inherent tendency toward one end. Individuals may do good or evil in the short term, but over the long term, they abolish slavery, establish schools and universities, create medical systems that are miracles exceeding Jesus's healing (no raising people from the dead, just yet), and otherwise do what is good and constructive for both the individual and the community. True, there is no guarantee that some idiot won't start a world war that will wipe us out, or let environmental disaster reach a tipping point, but for the entire life of the species, we have stumbled toward good. If you believe that there is an arc--any arc-- in the universe, you have the seeds of belief within you. If you believe enough to suffer a bit to stay with the arc, then the seeds sprout. And if you believe the arc bends, with Love toward Justice, you are a Christian. For what is the Christ, but God's Love made manifest? And what is God, if not the fulfillment of that arc, bending toward what is just, and right, and good? Now, a professing Christian expects a reward for his belief, and so can claim no glory. He is a wage earner. But consider the professing atheist, who rejects Jesus and God, and yet still does what Jesus would do, expecting no reward. Great indeed shall be the reward of that one, and terrible the sorrow of those who claim to know God but make plain from their behavior that they are godless. Ahem. And evolution? That's God's lathe. There is no contradiction between believing in God and recognizing the sound observational basis on which the theory of evolution rests.


Arkansas' Governor Mike Huckabee is reaching out.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee says if he runs for president he won't be a Republican who will "scare the living daylights" out of independents and moderate Democrats. "I think I would appeal to true conservatives for whom conservatism doesn't mean they're angry at everybody," Huckabee said in an interview with The Associated Press. "My brand of conservatism is not an angry, hostile brand. It's one that says 'conservative' means we want to conserve the best of our culture, society, principles and values and pass them on."
Suddenly it's important to appeal to everybody in the country who's not a raving rightwinger? Isn't it amazing what one little election can do. He's going to have to do more than offer reassurances, though. He's still a Republican, and this turnabout doesn't mean we can expect fair play from any Republican.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Product Rollout

Just in time for the holidays! A new war! By Salim Lone in the sometimes incomparable Guardian Undeterred by the horrors and disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, the Bush administration has opened another battlefront in the Muslim world. With US backing, Ethiopian troops have invaded Somalia in an illegal war of aggression.But this brazen US-sponsored bid to topple the popular Islamists who had brought Somalia its first peace and security in 16 years has already begun to backfire. Looting has forced the transitional government to declare a state of emergency. Clan warlords, who had terrorised Somalia until they were driven out by the Islamists this year, have begun carving up the city once again. And the African Union, which helped create the transitional government, has called for the immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from the country, as did Kenya, a close US and Ethiopian ally. ...Ethiopia itself is highly unstable. Thought of as a Christian nation, it has a sizeable Muslim population which has begun to assert itself after marginalisation in the power structure.... To achieve its goals, the US once again ensnared the UN security council... Salim Lone was UN spokesman in Iraq in 2003 and is a columnist for the Daily Nation in Kenya.

The old tyrant is hanged. Long live the new tyrant.

Image by the incomparable Steve Bell at the increasingly comparable Guardian

Friday Cat Blogging


Herblock On Nixon And Ford

In order to combat the huge wave of revisionist history being shoved down our throats, here's the late Herbert Block (aka "Herblock"), courtesy of poputonian, to give us a little reality check:

After Nixon left office, the idea was still being promoted that those who believed in letting the law take its course were somehow moved by personal motives. But quite the contrary was true. It was not Nixon who had been assaulted by government, but the government that had been assaulted by Nixon. It was not those who believed in the American system of justice who operated on a highly personal basis, but staunch Nixon supporters like Gerald Ford. When President Ford recommended that Congress give former President Nixon large sums of money -- beyond all that was provided by law -- and when he suddenly granted Nixon total and absolute pardon without even waiting for an indictment or a plea of nolo contendre, it was Ford who placed personal feeling for Nixon above his obligations to the people he was sworn to serve.
It gets better:
When Nixon left office, there was a general sigh of relief. And in his first talk as President, Gerald Ford said that "our long national nightmare" was over. But one month later, in the Sunday morning statement that shocked the country, he said he could not "prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed." So he issued a "full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon," and decided that Nixon should have control over access to White House tapes and documents. He thus insured that the nation's bad dreams would be prolonged far into the future. Gerald Ford, in what columnist Mary McGrory called a Pearl Harbor "sneak attack on the due process and common sense," sought to still conscience forever with a sudden stunning blow, just as Richard Nixon tried to do in his "Saturday Night Massacre." Ford's attempt, like Nixon's failed. But he did enormous damage to the nation. Ford's secret decision proved, if proof were needed, how shaky the basis for the national self-congratulations of only a few weeks before on how well "the system worked."
Herblock has this to say about the Republicans and their media sycophants who whined and still whine about the "hanging" that Nixon had allegedly endured:
It was a strange kind of "hanging," in which President Ford shortly afterward asked Congress to appropriate $850,000 for Nixon. Of this, $450,000 was allotted for expenses related to an "orderly transition." The allotment for travel expenses was $40,000 and there was $100,000 for "miscellaneous." It was a "hanging" that seemed more like a payday at the mill.
And there's more:
As Americans were relaxing and enjoying their good fortune on coming through the crisis, there was the smashing blow of the new President's 8th-of-September statement.

The Gerald Ford -- who, at the hearings on his confirmation to be Vice President, had said that "the public wouldn't stand for" a possible Nixon pardon, and who only days earlier had said clemency would be reserved while the law went forward -- this Gerald Ford now suddenly issued an irrevocable pardon to his predecessor for all offenses -- known and unknown.

It was as if he regarded offenses against the public as none of the public's business. In judging that Nixon had "suffered enough," he punished still further an already suffering nation.

The New York Times said:

President Ford speaks of compassion. It is tragic that he had no compassion and concern for the Constitution and the Government of law that he has sworn to uphold and defend. He could probably have taken no single act of a non-criminal nature that would have more gravely damaged the credibility of his Government in the eyes of the world and of its own people than this unconscionable act of pardon.

The speech was boggling to Americans who thought credibility had at last been restored to the Oval Office.

Ford said: "I deeply believe in equal justice for all Americans whatever their station or former station" -- and then went on to show that he believed in no such thing.

He talked about the danger of passions being aroused and of opinions polarized -- and proceeded to arouse passions and to polarize people. He spoke of ensuring domestic tranquility -- and created domestic turmoil.

And he said that he, as President, was exercising his power "to firmly shut and seal this book."

And so the idea of some divine right of Presidents went on.

Go read the whole thing, as an antidote to the political revisionism going on.


Edwards Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is

Specifically, the money he'll be paying his campaign manager. John Edwards has chosen David Bonior to lead his presidential campaign. You can't get much more progressive and populist than David Bonior. He's an aggressive campaigner and a strong believer in the grassroots. Just as important is what Bonior isn't: He is not now and has never been an inside-the-Beltway consultant.


Democrats Plan To Restore Habeas Corpus

Here's the beef.


Nick Coleman On The Strib Sale

He pretty well sums it up here:

McClatchy leaves Minnesota's newspapers weakened and in the hands of companies with no local ties. And with its departure, McClatchy is taking away important resources that a newspaper chain provides, resources that help each newspaper in the chain serve readers. Here is some of what is going away: the Star Tribune Foundation, which has funded nonprofit groups in the Twin Cities for decades; and the Washington bureau and foreign correspondents, including those in Iraq. They'll still be working, but not for the Star Tribune. Also disappearing: the pooled financial resources a chain can use to gather news and resist the fickle winds of market forces. Despite lip service to the cause of quality journalism, in the end McClatchy folded like a cheap lawn chair under a steady gale of Wall Street demands. When it bought the Star Tribune in 1998, McClatchy was a second-tier chain that had 10 dailies and a profit margin of 13 percent. Today, after buying its way into a far better club by using the Star Tribune for leverage, McClatchy has 32 papers and a profit margin of 26 percent. But 26 ain't enough. It would be higher if not for the Star Tribune, which earns only about 19 percent, though its revenue has declined over the past year or so. That's still good for a newspaper its size, and two or three times the margin demanded 20 years ago. But it ain't enough. So McClatchy punted. Which shows that the McClatchy Co. lost more than a patriarch when James McClatchy died. It lost its compass.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Edwards For President

If not John, then how about Elizabeth? Check out her comments over at her hubby's latest Kos diary, here:

Prove you are leaving by actually leaving What John has said is that we keep saying we are not planning on staying, we keep saying that we will go when "the job is done," but no one believes us. The way to prove that we are leaving is to actually leave: he has said for some time that the US should immediately withdraw 40,000-50,000 troops and that the President should ask the military commanders to draw up a plan to remove all the troops within a set period.
And here:
Which is why John is in favor of public financing In a similar vein, John came out against legacy admissions to colleges and he did so for the same reason. We say that we are a nation of equality but then we allow systems to be in place that protect the wealthy and powerful, who are precisely the people who are already best positioned to protect themselves. Public financing and family-blind admissions have the same goal: everyone has a shot.
And here:
Our moral leadership When John was in China, he tried to talk to Chinese officials about continuing human rights abuses. The response from the Chinese was that they weren't interested in being lectured by the country responsible for Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. John has repeatedly said that one of the most important things we need to do is to reestablish our moral leadership in the world, which obviously entails cleaning our own house first. As for whether John will stand up against powerful interests, I think his whole life speaks to that. And his refusal to take any lobbyist or PAC money at any time is an indication that he won't be bought by those interests at any price.
Yes, Elizabeth Edwards hangs out with bloggers. She's a fixture over at, too. Oh, and her husband has a few things to say as well.


Reading Between the Lines

Bush taking more time to craft Iraq plan

President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year. [...] "We've got more consultation to do until I talk to the country about the plan," Bush said, appearing outside an office building at his ranch.
Translation: He's going to keep "consulting" with different people until he hears what he wants to hear, then he'll do what he was going to do anyway. I'm not cynical, just experienced. (Oh, and worked nearly three hours? Are you as impressed as I am? No, not impressed that Bush is working as hard as he's ever worked in his life. Impressed that some reporter wrote that apparently in all seriousness, without the computer wiping its own hard drive in disgust.)

That's Gonna Leave A Mark!

The guy whose most famous act was pardoning a crooked President has some harsh words from beyond the grave for the current occupant of the White House. From the front page of the Washington Post this morning:

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration. In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief. "Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."
It gets better:
"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.
At first, I was ticked off that these comments didn't come out in 2004. But the truth is that they wouldn't have been given as much weight then as they are now, Bush wouldn't have listened anyway, and they might not have been enough to counter the Swift Boating Kerry was getting. But their release now, just as Bush was hoping to get a sympathy bounce out of Ford's death, is definitely going to harsh the Boy-King's mellow.


Annals Of Mean-Spirited Stupidity

If these folks are representative of the sort of folks Mike DeWine had working for him, it's no wonder he lost to Sherrod Brown last month:

The Washington Post described Jessica Cutler as "our blog slut". The National Enquirer opined that she was "beautiful, untalented and morally corrupted". Now the blogger who wrote about her attempts to juggle affairs with six men while keeping a job as an aide to a senator has a new role: as the star defendant in a case that could help define what can and cannot be published in a blog. Writing under the pseudonym Washingtonienne, Cutler described in detail the sexual intricacies of her life on the Hill. The blog, which Cutler claimed was intended to keep her friends up to date on her social life in Washington DC, achieved notoriety, and its author fame and a book contract, after it was brought to a wider public by another blog, Wonkette. Almost immediately, Washingtonienne shut down, but not before millions had read about "X = Married man who pays me for sex", "K = A sugar daddy" and "YZ = The current favourite". But YZ - aka Robert Steinbuch, a legal counsel working for the same senator - objected to the revelations about his private life. While Cutler lost her job with Republican senator Mike DeWine, Mr Steinbuch moved to a teaching post in Arkansas and filed a lawsuit alleging invasion of privacy and seeking $20m (£10.1m) in damages.
Of course, Steinbuch knows full well that Cutler doesn't have $20 million or even $20 thousand to her name. And all he's doing now is ensuring that millions of people worldwide who never read a blog in their lives, much less one that shut down over two years ago, now know what a dirt bag he is (and not just from Cutler's description of him, either):
Mr Steinbuch's attorney, Jonathan Rosen, told a judge in a pre-trial hearing that his client, who teaches in Arkansas, wants to restore his good name. "It's not funny and it's damaging," Mr Rosen said. "It's horrible, absolutely horrible." Cutler's attorney, Matthew Billips, had a different view: "I have no idea what he wants," he said. "He's never said, 'This is what I think should be done.'" The judge, too, seemed bemused by the case. "I don't know why we're here in federal court to begin with," Judge Paul Friedman told attorneys in April. "I don't know why this guy thought it was smart to file a lawsuit and lay out all of his private, intimate details."
I think a clue might be found in the AP's version of the story:
One of those men was Steinbuch, a counsel to DeWine on the Judiciary Committee. Cutler called him the "current favorite" and said he resembled George Clooney, liked spanking and disliked condoms. "He's very upfront about sex," she wrote. "He likes talking dirty and stuff, and he told me that he likes submissive women."
And he apparently doesn't like it when his sex slaves get uppity (or when they have sex with anyone besides him), to judge from his efforts to abuse the discovery process (which Cutler immediately countered with her own discovery demands):
The case is embroiled in thorny pretrial issues, with each side demanding personal information from the other. Steinbuch wants to know how much money Cutler received from the man she called her "sugar daddy." Cutler demanded Steinbuch's student evaluations from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School, where he teaches.
Where did he get his law degree, Cracker Jack Box University? What. A. Moron. His own lawyer must be laughing his ass off thinking of how much money he's getting from this guy for pursuing the stupidest and most self-injuring legal action imaginable.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Betty's Husband Is Dead

Gerald R. Ford, the Accidental President -- and whose wife Betty was the best thing about him (here's a nice Betty anecdote) -- passed away. Rest in peace, Jerry, and you'd better hope that Hunter Thompson's prediction for your afterlife doesn't come true. By today's coarsened standards, he's almost a Socialist, but back in the day he was one of the most conservative members of Congress, the go-to guy for the "Single Bullet Theory" (to the point where he changed key portions of the report to fit the theory) and Nixon's most trusted consigliere on Capitol Hill. His vendetta against Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas would not be surpassed for wingnuttery and silliness until the GOP's get-Clinton insanity of the 1990s. Ironically enough, when Douglas retired in 1975, John Paul Stevens -- the man Ford selected to replace him -- wound up being the chief defender of Douglas' legacy and of America's freedoms. It's rather telling that Jerry Ford, partisan though he was, still cared enough about the nation as a whole (or else he may have remembered the black eye Nixon got from Carswell) that while he appointed a Republican to the Court, he tried to make sure that the Republican was actually fully deserving, from a legal and ethical standpoint, of sitting on the Court. Contrast that with George W. Bush, who would appoint his horse to the Supreme Court if he thought he could get away with it (and actually tried, in a sense, to do just that).


Bonddad Versus Krugman

Paul Krugman recently stated that the Democrats should deal with issues besides the Republican-created deficit. Bonddad over at DailyKos disagrees. Whoever is right here, there's one thing we know for sure: This is exactly what Grover "Bathtub" Norquist wanted to see happen. So what do you think? Should the Democrats spend all their time and energy dealing with the deficit, only to stand back and see the Republicans wreck it again? I actually don't see why we can't do both, but of course that would involve making the hyper-rich actually pay something resembling their fair share in taxes, which is a popular idea among most Americans except for the hyper-rich who fund political campaigns. (Yet another reason to back the Clean Elections movement.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


The Difference Between Here And There

It just occurred to me that Bush and Company, when attempting to implement what they think of as 'foreign policy' and then wondering why they can't meet with the same success that they met with inside the US, keep forgetting a key factor: In the rest of the world, they don't out-and-out control the rules of the game. And most especially the media. But the Bush people apparently still think that they do. Here's what I mean by that. In the US, where the cons have had the upper hand in the media since at least the late 1970s (as documented in Mark Hertsgaard's On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency), the corporate press knows who's best for their bottom line, as even "liberal" Sumner Redstone admitted a few years back. They aren't going to stray from the RNC-approved talking points very much, if at all. That's why Republicans like George W. Bush and John McCain now, and Ronald Reagan back in the day, can say and do whatever they damned well want, no matter how nonsensical, without worrying that they're going to be attacked over it with even a tenth of the fervor devoted by our "liberal" media to ginning up non-scandals about a "Dean scream" or a "Kerry joke" or "Gore invented the internet". But outside of America, it's only in places where the Cons run some/most of the key media outlets that Bush's jargon even has a foothold. I'm thinking specifically of Italy and the UK, whose media are dominated by Silvio Berlusconi (who until recently was PM) and Rupert Murdoch (who owns the once-great Times as well as Sky UK and FOX in the US), respectively. And even in those two places, the gaslighting isn't working as it once had: Berlusconi's control of the Italian media didn't stop him from being voted out of office, and in the UK the Con Media are doing all sorts of contortions to try to pretend that they never really backed Bush's invasion of Iraq.


Mexico, December 26th

Amy Goodman hasn't forgotten the people of Mexico. Have you? In southern Mexico’s Oaxaca City supporters of the People’s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca again took to the streets on Friday to demand the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz, the release of political prisoners and the withdrawal of federal police from the city. Various cities in 37 countries held protests as part of a day of international solidarity with the APPO. Democracy Now producer Elizabeth Press is in Oaxaca.
ELIZABETH PRESS: Some 8,000 people marched on Friday in Oaxaca. People in the march were angry, but they were also afraid. This APPO member did not want to be identified. APPO MEMBER: [translated] This march is to show the people, the world and every society that the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca is alive and present. We have never given up the fight, and we will keep moving forward. We will never give up the call for the resignation of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. We have to show that the APPO and the teachers of Oaxaca are continuing the struggle. ELIZABETH PRESS: The march stayed clear of the city center, or zocalo, to avoid contact with state police, who had barricaded all the entrances. Family members held signs of the disappeared and detained. Youth re-tagged freshly painted buildings, and the march ended peacefully in a rally at Danza Plaza. Rene Trujillo is a member of the student sector of APPO. He marched despite having been detained and beaten weeks before for his involvement with the popular movement. RENE TRUJILLO: [translated] They beat us even though we had been beaten already. We were interrogated. Right away, they started asking questions about other people who were participants in the movement, and they tried to suffocate us with plastic bags. Later, they gave us electric shocks on various parts of our bodies while they continued to ask us the same things, asking us for names and addresses of friends in the movement, asking us who were the leaders of the popular movement, who was running the radio, how many people were there at the university radio station. At the same time, they hit us with wet rags so the marks didn't become visible. There was an attempted rape. They pulled down one of my friends pants and tried to rape him. They threatened to kill our families ELIZABETH PRESS: This weekend was also the century-old Festival of the Radish, in which Oaxacans carve, yes, giant radishes. On Saturday, APPO held its own alternative night of the radishes, even after the federal police tried to shut it down. These radish sculptures depict the conflict between police and the People's Assembly. On Sunday, another 18 prisoners were released from the Oaxacan state prison. From Oaxaca, this is Elizabeth Press reporting for Democracy Now!
No photos of giant radishes yet, but here's where they should show up. From MSN News and Analysis, it sounds as if the government has succeeded in a key goal, namely severing leadership of the SNTE Local 22 Teachers Union from the community-based APPO: [On December 16th], federal and state authorities reached an agreement to release 43 political prisoners, many of whom left the federal prison in Nayarit exhibiting signs of torture and wearing clothing drenched in blood. Five days later, another 16 members of APPO walked out of a Oaxaca state prison. All of the arrestees were released on bond, which totaled more than 52 million pesos [i.e., over a quarter million dollars bail for each one]. No one is quite sure who posted the bonds, though speculation is that Governor Ulises Ruiz, under pressure from federal authorities, used state funds to free APPO members. The state Attorney General did not object to any of the releases, an indication of the increasing weakness of Ruiz in the face of unabated protests demanding his removal. This still leaves more than 100 political prisoners associated with the APPO in both state and maximum security federal prisons and dozens of disappeared APPO supporters. Section 22 of the teachers’ union tried to claim credit for the releases, while also formally breaking with the APPO. Enrique Rueda, head of Section 22, said the APPO “believes that marches are going to resolve their problems, but they’ve had 15 days and they haven’t resolved anything.” The formal leadership of the teachers union, part of the CNTE, has long been at odds with the APPO, though more than a third of the local union membership continues to identify closely with the APPO. So, see, everything is sweetness and light... officially.

Have We Had Enough Misplaced Revenge Yet?

U.S. military deaths in Iraq exceed 9/11 toll

The milestone in Iraq came on Christmas, nearly four years after the war began, according to a count by The Associated Press. [...] Those killed in Iraq came from across the United States, including more than 50 residents of Alabama, more than 30 from Nebraska and more than 40 from Kentucky. A number of them enlisted to fight in Iraq, feeling it was a way to battle international terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Unfortunately, too many of them enlisted to fight in Iraq because they were fooled by Bush's persistent association of Saddam Hussein and 9/11 into believing that they were, specifically, going to fight the people who attacked us.

Our "Balance"-Obssessed GOP/Media Complex

Sara Robinson, over at David Neiwert's Orcinus blog, mentions E.J. Dionne's recent Huffington Post piece on how the US media got hamstrung by the quest for 'balance'. Speaking of the problems with 'balance' journalism, here's a good example thereof: The AP did a story today on Dana Rohrabacher's chiding the FBI for not fully looking into who helped McVeigh blow up the Murrah Building. Several lines of inquiry were given the same weight in the article (including a patently bogus effort to somehow tie in Saddam Hussein through an "Iraqi national") , even though only two of them -- the effort to check out McVeigh's possible ties to the neo-Nazi bank robbers who were running rampant in the 1990s, and McVeigh's contacts with the Oklahoma white supremacists -- actually had any basis in reality:

Rohrabacher's report cites several leads the subcommittee believes weren't fully investigated, including: Information that McVeigh called a German citizen living at a white supremacist compound in Oklahoma two weeks before the bombing and that two witnesses saw the men together before the bombing. Witness accounts that another man was seen with McVeigh around the time of the bombing. The FBI originally looked for another suspect it named John Doe 2, even providing a sketch, but abruptly dropped that line of inquiry. The subcommittee concludes that decision was a mistake. Findings in AP articles in 2003 and 2004 that indicated the FBI had gathered some evidence suggesting a group of neo-Nazi bank robbers may have been tied to McVeigh. The subcommittee interviewed three of those robbers, and all denied a connection. A fourth member of the gang died and a fifth member could not be located by Congress. Phone record and witness testimony that persons associated with Middle Eastern terrorism in the Philippines may have had contact with Nichols, and that Nichols took a book about explosives to the Philippines. The FBI and Filipino police spent months investigating such a connection, but ruled it out. Information from a former TV reporter concerning an Iraqi national who was in Oklahoma around the time of the bombing.
David and Sara know all about the far-right-wing's fetish for bank robbery as a fundraising tool, but not many persons outside of the militia-watching movement are as knowledgeable about it. Yet you'd think that a reporter covering the McVeigh probe would know why this would be a much more profitable line of inquiry than, say, any efforts to pin the crime on brown-skinned guys from overseas.


Our Lazy GOP/Media Complex: Still Lying About Al Gore

Hat tip to Carolyn Kay of Make Them Accountable for passing this on:

Candidates turn to Web to reach voters By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer Sun Dec 24, 8:37 PM ET WASHINGTON - Al Gore claimed he invented it. John McCain predicted it would revolutionize political campaigning. Howard Dean made it pay — and then some. Ah, the Internet.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely why the reality-based side of the blogosphere came into being: Because for far too much of the time, our corporate media is nothing more than a transmitter and reviver of Republican-generated bullcrap, bullcrap that our press dutifully repeats and internalizes no matter how conclusively it's debunked. The press corps has known for nearly eight years that the whole "Al Gore claimed he invented the Internet" nonsense -- along with every other major piece of anti-Gore media spin -- was itself invented by their good buddies at the Republican National Committee, but they would rather eat ground glass than admit this. (Or they are the laziest twits would ever stood in shoe leather. Or, as is all too likely, both.)


Good News At Goodyear

The strike was settled, and the workers weren't utterly hosed. They didn't get everything they wanted, but they got a much better deal than if they hadn't struck.


John Edwards: Yea Or Nay?

Matt Stoller sums up how I feel about the current crop of front-runners for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Short version: Hillary's hopeless (as Stoller notes, she's been living in the Davos bubble since 1992 and has no idea what modern America looks like), Obama needs to run only so that he'll lose in the primary and then ditch the crippling, right-tacking caution that he thinks is "presidential" so he can be a good Senator, and John Edwards may be who saves us -- if he can show that his recent progressive words and actions are indeed the real deal. I think that they are (especially judging from this and from his work on Darfur), but it wouldn't hurt to press him and make sure he doesn't backslide.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Poor Curt Weldon

Joe Sestak kicked his butt last month, he's got legal troubles out the wazoo, and now his pet obssession, 'Able Danger', has essentially been kicked to the curb:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has rejected as untrue one of the most disturbing claims about the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes — a congressman's contention that a team of military analysts identified Mohamed Atta or other hijackers before the attacks — according to a summary of the panel's investigation obtained by The Times. The conclusion contradicts assertions by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) and a few military officers that U.S. national security officials ignored startling intelligence available in early 2001 that might have helped to prevent the attacks. In particular, Weldon and other officials have repeatedly claimed that the military analysts' effort, known as Able Danger, produced a chart that included a picture of Atta and identified him as being tied to an Al Qaeda cell in Brooklyn, N.Y. Weldon has also said that the chart was shared with White House officials, including Stephen J. Hadley, then deputy national security advisor. But after a 16-month investigation, the Intelligence Committee has concluded that those assertions are unfounded. "Able Danger did not identify Mohammed Atta or any other 9/11 hijacker at any time prior to Sept. 11, 2001," the committee determined, according to an eight-page letter sent last week to panel members by the top Republican and Democrat on the committee. Weldon, the focus of an unrelated Justice Department corruption probe, was defeated last month in his campaign for an 11th term in a suburban Philadelphia district that has a large GOP majority in voter registration. Attempts were unsuccessful Sunday to reach a Weldon spokesman and an attorney representing Weldon in the Justice Department investigation.
Cue the Nelson Muntz laugh.


Gosh, What a Surprise (2)

Fraud, Katrina contracts could waste $2B

The tally for Hurricane Katrina waste could top $2 billion next year because half of the lucrative government contracts valued at $500,000 or greater for cleanup work are being awarded without little competition. Federal investigators have already determined the Bush administration squandered $1 billion on fraudulent disaster aid to individuals after the 2005 storm. Now they are shifting their attention to the multimillion dollar contracts to politically connected firms that critics have long said are a prime area for abuse.
In response to criticism that too many of the contracts were no-bid and went to and went to companies with connections to the Bush regime, FEMA promised to rebid the contacts. Instead, FEMA extended them — and gave new contracts to the same companies.

Gosh, What a Surprise

George W. Bush basically started his own AIDS-fighting program so that the funding wouldn't go to providing nasty evil things like condoms and sex education. That's the official story, anyway. Seems there was another reason, and if you've been paying attention the last six years you can probably guess what it is: No accountability.

President Bush's ambitious AIDS-fighting program in poor countries has pushed so hard for fast results that basic record keeping and accountability often went by the wayside, making it hard to judge the true success, according to government audits and officials. Investigators found the three-year-old, $15-billion program has overcounted and undercounted thousands patients it helped or was unable to verify claims of success by local groups that took U.S. money to prevent the spread of disease or care for AIDS victims and their children.
Makes you wonder how much of the money never quite made it all the way to the services it was intended to provide, doesn't it? Specifically, how much of it ended up in the wallets of people who contributed to the Bush Administration? Is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.

Merry... ummmm

The day of the year Christians use to celebrate the birth of Jesus may well not have been the actual date of His birth. The holiday, as it has evolved, has brought in elements of pagan worship. Some highlights: * Druids instituted mistletoe * The tree was apparently first introduced at Strasburg in 1605, and did not reach France and England until 1840. * St. Nicholas, was Bishop of Myra in the 4th century * "Christmas was forbidden [in England] by Act of Parliament in 1644; the day was to be a fast and a market day; shops were compelled to be open; plum puddings and mince pies condemned as heathen." * The gospels don't really provide any help in setting the date, since shepherds could have been out in the rainy season, and Rome was not necessarily considerate in setting the date of the census. * The strongest connection of the celebratory date is to the solstice, and therefore possibly (probably) to worship of the Roman sun god and of Mithra. For this reason, not to mention the corruption of the celebration by that false god of this age, Filthy Lucre, many Christians refuse to celebrate on this day. I take my example from Jesus and the Publicans (one-time sinners, known in these days as re-Publicans). He sat with them, shared dinner and conversation in full recognition of the human nature of His human incarnation, and rose from conversation untainted by their obsession with the material, full of the joy that eternal things give one. And so, this day, if you do not celebrate Jesus, celebrate mercy, celebrate the spirit of peace, celebrate compassion for your brothers and sisters (even, nay, especially for the publicans and Republicans among them), celebrate the intelligence and wisdom that somehow, most mysteriously made that individual called you instead of a twin sister for Britney, celebrate your community with all humankind and with all creatures, animal and plant.... Do these things, and you will be a better Christian than many. (And if you do celebrate the birth of Jesus, Merry Christmas!)

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Sandy Berger: The Key Facts

In light of the minor dust-up engendered by my recent posting on last week's GOP/Media Complex attempt to revive a two-and-a-half-year-old non-scandal, I thought that the following key facts should be given a bit more emphasis: Namely: -- Sandy Berger did not remove, much less destroy, any originals. The prosecutor said as much. -- Sandy Berger's intent was not to conceal or destroy information. Again, the prosecutor said as much. -- If Berger HAD been shown to have destroyed any originals, the penalties would have been VERY severe, and would have included jail time. -- The Bush Junta's penchant for classifying the most innocuous kinds of documents, even while cheerfully, and for political reasons, leaking other information that should have stayed under wraps, is well known. (And the cavalier treatment of material that might be politically damaging to any Bush Junta, father or son, goes back at least to 1992 if not earlier. But I digress.) As Henry Waxman noted at the time, the American people have been subjected to a double standard on classified information:

"In addition to vastly overclassifying government documents, the Bush administration aggressively attacks leaks of classified information it finds embarrassing, even when those leaks disclose illegal activity. At the same time, the administration ignores leaks from within the White House and even encourages them for political gain."
And here's something else: Since even the prosecutor agreed that Berger was using the information on the copies for an allowed purpose as designated in USC 18, Sec. 2339B, paragraph (f), which is the statute covering terrorism-related classified information, there's some question as to whether Berger should have been prosecuted at all. The simple truth is that Berger was being prosecuted back in 2004 for making copies of his own Millenium Plot notes and documents because: a) he'd already made Condi Rice look bad with the news of how she had ignored his and Richard Clarke's warnings about Al-Qaeda, and -- b) Bush was hoping to use this politicially-driven prosecution (a prosecution even the right-wingers on the Wall Street Journal's editorial staff condemned as bogus) to attack John Kerry, who had given Berger a prominent role in his campaign to highlight the difference between the Clinton (largely successful) and Bush (largely UN-succesful) methods of fighting terrorism. UPDATE: Charles just provided some more information that I feel belongs over here as well: Charles cited the Wen Ho Lee case to show that mishandling and even disappearance/destruction of documents and information happens all the time at the national laboratories. To take the most recent example:
The FBI is investigating how what appears to be classified information left the lab and ended up on a computer flash drive in a Los Alamos mobile home last month. No charges have been filed, but agents have questioned a Pojoaque woman who worked as an archivist for a lab contractor, a defense lawyer has said...."This is in no way a discovery of a problem -- this is a problem that was discovered years and years ago," said Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. "And no one has taken it seriously and shown the leadership to fix it."
Granted, as Charles notes, LANL has a long record of this kind of thing, but the real problem is that there is way too much classification, much of it is done to avoid political embarrassment, and the general public is as badly informed as you are about what classification is and how it operates. The CIA's John Deutch was not prosecuted for what is arguably a worse violation of classification. John O'Neill committed a similarly dangerous lapse, though through inadvertence. In fact, every leak of classified documents to the newspaper-- which happens on an almost daily basis-- could be prosecuted. Almost every member of the Administration and many senior bureaucrats could go to jail if the law were evenhandedly enforced. And some of those leaks have been genuinely damaging to national security, as Orrin Hatch knows. Sandy Berger committed a crime, but one where there was no victim. He had to be punished, but only to serve as an example. He suffered a personal lapse, but the only scandal here is the use of the case for political purposes. What we are protesting is the politicization of the case by Republican Congressmen, possibly to silence a critic of the Bush Administration.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Christmas Memories With The Bush Family

As we prepare to celebrate a Christmas 2006, let's turn back the clock to Christmas 1992, when outgoing President George Herbert Walker Bush saved his own skin by pardoning various Iran-Contra criminals before they could testify against him -- an action that horrified and shocked most decent people at the time. In addition to keeping himself out of the pokey with pardons, Poppy Bush and his minions warded off the specter of the Big House by shredding everything they could get their hands on and wiping the White House's computer hard drives before leaving town. Ah, memories. By the way: If you would like to send yourself and America a nice Christmas gift known as investigative reporting, send a few bucks Bob Parry's way.


Bushco botches another battle, aids murderer of US troops

Maybe one of our readers knows of another major national leader who managed to pit the world's strongest military against, separately, (a) a few thousand Talibanis, (b) a few tens of thousands of Iraqis, and now (c) a handful of poorly-armed Somalis, and lose all three battles. Even George Armstrong Custer won a few, for heaven's sake. From Landay and Bengali at McClatchy: Western diplomats and experts warned that U.S. policy in the Horn of Africa - intended to curb Islamic radicalism - may not only be fueling this newest conflict, but also may be making it easier for al-Qaida to gain a foothold in the strategic region. ...The outbreak of fighting has focused new attention on U.S. policy in the region, which Western diplomats and regional experts say has been riddled with inconsistencies and missteps. The experts say U.S. handling of Somalia and Ethiopia is a tale of flawed intelligence, inadequate U.S. government attention and overheated rhetoric, with a measure of domestic U.S. politics thrown in. Earlier this year, Washington provided covert aid to an alliance of secular Somali warlords in a failed bid to prevent the Islamists from seizing Mogadishu, the capital. U.S. officials confirmed to McClatchy Newspapers that one recipient of the CIA payments was a leader of a Somali militia that killed 18 U.S. troops in 1993 in fighting in Mogadishu, which was portrayed in the film "Black Hawk Down." ...The Bush administration says it's urging Ethiopia to show restraint and that it's working closely with European Union officials in trying to arrange a truce and negotiations. But Western diplomats and regional experts said the United States is widely seen as approving of Ethiopia's intervention. ...Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frasier, the chief U.S. spokeswoman on Africa, helped fuel the perception of U.S. support for Ethiopia by charging on Dec. 14 that the Union of Islamic Courts, as the Islamists call their alliance, "is now controlled by al Qaida cell individuals, East Africa al Qaida cell individuals." The Courts' top layer comprises "extremists ... terrorists," she said. Western diplomats, some U.S. intelligence officials and independent analysts dispute those allegations as exaggerated. Among the most serious U.S. missteps in the run-up to the current fighting, analysts say, was the secret CIA payments to the secular warlords whose militias had controlled Mogadishu since the withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers in 1995. Disclosure of the payments to men widely despised for years of lawlessness helped galvanize Somalis behind the Islamists, who captured Mogadishu in June and went on to overrun most of southern Somalia. One recipient of the payments was Abdi Hasan "Qaybdid" Awale, a former top aide to Mohammad Farah Aideed, the late militia leader whose forces killed 18 U.S. troops in the Battle of Mogadishu in March 1993, said U.S. officials, who requested anonymity because the matter remains classified.

This Almost Made Me Laugh

From the WP yesterday (courtesy of CLG; note that the linked page's contents will change soon):

DUBAI (Reuters) - The leader of an al Qaeda-backed group offered to refrain from attacking U.S. forces if they withdrew from Iraq within a month and left their heavy weapons behind, according to an audio tape posted on the Internet on Friday. "We call on (President George W.) Bush not to waste this historic opportunity which insures you a safe withdrawal," said the speaker, identified as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, head of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq, which was announced in October by al Qaeda and groups linked to it. The authenticity of the tape could not be verified, but it was posted on two main Web sites used by al Qaeda and other insurgent groups in Iraq. "We are awaiting your response within two weeks of this announcement," said the speaker in the tape, which was dated December 22. He said insurgent groups would refrain from attacking withdrawing U.S. forces if they left within a month. Baghdadi was a little-known militant before Sunni militant groups including al Qaeda announced what they described as an Islamic state in Iraq. Baghdadi was named as the head of the state and in November, the leader of Iraq's al Qaeda wing -- Abu Hamza al-Muhajir -- vowed allegiance to him. The recording was posted on the Internet hours after Defense Secretary Robert Gates ended a visit to Iraq aimed at finding a new strategy to curb violence and allow U.S. troops to withdraw.
This is the joke of jokes. Of all the factions in Iraq right now, the Sunni Al-Qaeda carpetbaggers from Saudi Arabia are among the least powerful and most disliked. If the US commanders willingly hand over their heavy gear to anyone, it won't be them. The US generals would much rather cut a deal with the Ba'athists or even Sadr, but never, not ever, anyone connected to Al-Qaeda.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Friday Cat Blogging

The kitties were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of catnip toys danced in their heads.


Financial pages

From JP Gundzik, president of Condor Advisers in Asia Times: Instability in the Middle East and Africa is very likely to increase in 2007. Intensification of Iraq’s civil war, conflict between Washington and Tehran, escalating war between the Israelis and Palestinians, and growing domestic pressure on Lebanon’s US-backed government will heighten instability in the Middle East. This instability will help fuel growing unrest in Sudan, Chad, Congo and Somalia, provoking significant military conflicts in Africa. Afghanistan’s insurgency is also expected to become more violent, prompting the gradual withdrawal of NATO forces. ... Unprecedented global geopolitical instability will have its most obvious impact on international commodity prices....The growing use of corn, wheat, soybeans and other grains to produce biofuels is expected to nearly double prices for these commodities in 2007. ... By every measure, inflation in the US has clearly accelerated since 2004.... In 2007, continued energy supply shocks are likely to feed a grain supply shock, stoking a sharp increase in food price inflation and further acceleration of core PCE.... [R]eal yields on US Treasury securities, which are only marginally positive now, are expected to become negative in 2007 as US inflation climbs higher and the Fed begins to cut interest rates.... The dollar is likely to depreciate by at least 20% against the yen, the Swiss franc, the euro and the pound in 2007. The dollar will also depreciate against the currencies of emerging market commodity exporters. Finally, Beijing will probably allow the yuan to appreciate about 10% against the dollar.... Economic growth in Latin America will also suffer from the US downturn in 2007. Mexico, where political and social instability are expected to increase substantially while US-bound exports grind to a halt, should follow the US into recession. Capital flight will weaken the peso, preventing exchange rate appreciation from offsetting the impact of sharply higher corn prices on the domestic food industry... Economic growth in Brazil, Colombia and Peru will also slow sharply in 2007. From Tania Kotsos at Global FX Strategy: Iran was stirring up negative USD sentiment again as an IGM report cited that the world’s fourth largest oil exporter is asking for oil shipments to be paid in EUR or other currencies rather than in USD due to the latter’s weakness. State owned NIOC has said that, acting on the instruction from the Central Bank of Iran, it has introduced a new clause in its oil supply contracts that allows it to request payment in EUR or other currencies. This comes days after the central bank confirmed Iran is planning to shift its FX reserves out of USD.

What The Tighty-Whitey-Righties Don't Want You To Know About The Duke Case

What the Rabid Racists are spamming all over the place today:

Prosecutors dropped rape charges Friday against three Duke University lacrosse players accused of attacking a stripper at a team party,
What they're desperately hoping you don't notice:
Prosecutors dropped rape charges Friday against three Duke University lacrosse players accused of attacking a stripper at a team party, but the three still face kidnapping and sexual offense charges, a defense attorney said.
There's more:
Cheshire said Friday that the accuser now says she does not know if she was penetrated, which he said led District Attorney Mike Nifong to dismiss the rape charges. Nifong did not immediately return calls seeking comment. "The only explanation for why the whole case wasn't dropped on the eve of the holiday weekend is that the prosecutor believes he does have decent evidence proving that the woman was sexually assaulted, even if she wasn't raped, and that she was held against her will during her time with the defendants," CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen said. "That's a much easier case to prove than rape."
Why wouldn't the accuser not know if she had been penetrated? One word: Rohypnol. Aka "Roofies". People dosed with Roofies will be sitting at the bar one moment, then wake up in some stranger's bed the next, with little if any memory of what happened from bar to bed. (That is, assuming they're allowed to wake up.) And even if it was just booze, merely being drunk as a skunk -- which is de rigueur at frat parties -- would be enough to impair one's memory. But there is possible evidence for Roofies, or other intoxicants besides alcohol, being involved here. Buried deep in another article, this one being on the ever-changing story of another person, Kim Roberts, who the defense is using to trash the Duke accuser, we find this tidbit:
Roberts' story of what happened at the house has changed over several interviews. In April, Roberts told The Associated Press she was not in the bathroom and therefore couldn't say if a rape occurred, but she said those at the party were guilty of something other than underage drinking. In her single police interview, Roberts said the rape allegations were a "crock" and that she was with the accuser the entire time they were at the party, according to documents filed by the defense.


We should have known about Bush

Found on The Sideshow, a link to a post by Teresa Nielsen Hayden dated November 25th, 2000. An excerpt, with emphasis added We can be manipulated by our anger. Too many of us are letting it happen. This is a serious crisis. The craziness online and in public life are getting worse. I'm seeing more and more people I can only describe as drunk on anger. The discourse is being swamped by a wave of irrational arguments and coarse language. When did Americans get so stupid? Manipulating anger is a chump's game. I can't believe we're falling for it like this.... Life is insecure. None of us are so powerful that that the game can't turn against us, and most of us could be traded like penny dotcom stocks if we didn't have a secure stake in something bigger than ourselves. That thing is (1.) the rule of law; and (2.) the principle of government by consent of the governed as expressed at the ballot box. We may not know what deals have been cut in secret, and we sure can't see the future. But we can know the law, and we can tot up the votes. That means we can keep our government answerable to us. Nobody likes to lose an election. You honestly think your candidate is the best for the job. You agree with the campaign speeches. You take time out on Election Day to go vote. And then ... the other guy wins. It's a disappointment, no way around it. But the guy who's been elected is still your public official, answerable to you. He's still bound by all the same laws as the rest of us. You, me, both candidates, and a whole bunch of other people -- we're all still part of the same system. Heaven help us, we're all in it together. Why would someone want to circumvent this system? I'll give you a hint: It's probably not because they're plotting to do us good. You can take this as a rule: No matter what else they're saying, anyone who says we can dispense with counting the ballots and observing the law is not your friend. Neither is anyone who tries to take power without having the laws and ballots on his side. Neither is anyone who withholds vital information on that score, or condones others' disrespect for it. This is why I'm so disturbed by accounts of the riot in Dade County. At the time the elections were held, almost three weeks ago, the Dade County Republicans would not have made a mass assault on polling places or campaign offices. Now it appears that they organized one. Now reports say that among the members of this mob, which explicitly came to stop a normal, legitimate, legal, conducted-under-intense-bipartisan-scrutiny electoral process, were Republicans who'd participated in the vote verification process. People who are working on the vote-verification process have more opportunity and more power to call attention to vote-counting skulduggery than anyone else. It's their duty to do so. They must be heard. And if they've truly spotted something questionable, the law will back them up. They have recourse, and if they'd had legitimate complaints they had every opportunity to make them. Instead, these people joined a mob. Organizing a mob to terrorize a vote-counting center into stopping the count is not heroic. It isn't brave. It isn't a blow struck in defense of truth and justice. It's a crude attempt to circumvent the system, and it shows a profound disrespect for law and democracy. It's even more disturbing that they did this so openly, and that their own party hasn't disavowed their actions and done what it could to rein them in. You'd think that George W. Bush would know better. This is a democracy. He can never legitimately become President of the United States until the outcome of the voting is known, and no amount of shrieking and bullying on the part of his supporters can change that. If he shoves his way into the office without having the votes to back him up, he still won't be the President of the United States. He'll just be a figurehead whose handlers have managed to pull off a putsch -- and the rest of us will be infinitely poorer for it. And if that sounds like a good idea to you, you are one prize sucker. Remember what I said about how being on their side doesn't guarantee that they're on your side? Outside the system of laws and ballots, all that counts is power, and you haven't got enough of it. You're never even going to play in GWB's league, much less belong to his club. He might flip you a bright shiny quarter as he walks by, but that's it. Chump. The lady deserves a prize for prophecy.

Sandy Berger Non-Scandal, Part Deux

(Also posted at MyDD and DailyKos.) So instead of, you know, talking about the Bush Junta's ramping up its saber-rattling (or rather, missile-rattling) at Iran, the GOP/Media Complex is talking about Sandy Berger. Whoop dee doo. Remember the last time they got all het up about Berger and -- gasp! -- classified documents! Turns out they weren't originals, but copies. (And the docs shouldn't have been classified in the first place.) And the same looks to be true this time out. A commmenter over at Yglesias' shop outlines the situation better than I could:

The $100 million question(s) that never really get answered by these Sandy Berger news reports:

1. Was he working with original documents or copies?

  1. Did the Archives keep copies of all of the documents (the answer to that appears to be yes, given that no documents are missing.)
  2. Should Berger have known the answer to questions (1) and (2). Seems that some good reporting could at least answer these questions based on Archives policies.
  3. Finally, assuming that (copies of) the documents were safe in the archive (and Berger knew it), why would he destroy any of them?
Contrary to the Wingers: If Berger was not trying to destroy anything, it seems most likely that there was something in those docs that he wanted to leak. Presumably something beneficial to himself or to the Clinton administration. I'd love to know what it was.

Posted by: M.G. on December 21, 2006 10:15 AM

The only things I'll add are these: a) Berger, then and now, is being attacked largely for making copies of the documents he himself generated during his time as Clinton's National Security chief, the position which Condoleeza Rice took over when Bush started his squatting in the White House in 2001. These are documents that would not be classified if Al Gore was in the White House. b) The Bush Junta and its attendant media sycophants have never forgiven Berger for being right about Al-Qaeda. (Just as they've never forgiven James Lee Witt for doing such great job running FEMA under Clinton.) In January of 2001, he and Richard Clarke both tried to warn Condi Rice and other incoming Bush officials that they would need to spend more time on Al-Qaeda than on anything else. They were ignored, and 9/11 happened.

UPDATE: Remember the New Year's Day 2000 Bombing of Los Angeles? Oh, that's right, it was stopped before it could happen. By Sandy Berger. But Bush classified those documents, so nobody would know about Berger's role in stopping the Millennium Plot -- so Berger was forced to make copies and smuggle them out. So yes, that's more than enough reason not to fall for a revival of GOP talking points on this.

UPDATE 2: Updating to note that Sandy Berger was exonerated of the very charges the right wingers love to cite:

Officials looking into the removal of classified documents from the National Archives by former Clinton National Security Adviser Samuel Berger say no original materials are missing and nothing Mr. Berger reviewed was withheld from the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Several prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have voiced suspicion that when Mr. Berger was preparing materials for the 9/11 Commission on the Clinton administration's antiterror actions, he may have removed documents that were potentially damaging to the former president's record.
Oh, yeah, Tom DeLay. Such a trustworthy guy -- so much so that he stabbed his own Texas Republicans in the back by refusing to step down and allow them to run somebody else in his stead in 2006 until AFTER he'd pulled in over a million bucks -- which promptly went to replenish his legal fund once he resigned.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Out from Under the Rocks

Another brainless bigot crawls out from under the rock of Islamophobia.

A Muslim group is asking U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode Jr., R-Va., to apologize after he told constituents that more Muslims will follow Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to Congress if strict immigration laws aren't passed. "The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran," Goode wrote. [...] Corey Saylor, national legislative director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Goode's "Islamophobic remarks send a message of intolerance that is unworthy of anyone elected to public office." CAIR officials noted that Ellison traces his family roots in the United States back to 1742.
Memo to Chris Van Hollen, new chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: Consider targeting the Dishonorable Mr. Goode's district in the next election. Bigotry should have consequences.

What If Keith Ellison Was A WHITE Muslim?

In the wake of yet another conservative Republican making a racist ass of himself over Keith Ellison, I was wondering: What if Keith Ellison was a WHITE Muslim? Would the Cons, locally and nationally, be shrieking anywhere near as loudly about him as they have been for the past nine months? Then I remembered that Patty Wetterling's ex-husband, Jerry Wetterling, is himself a white Muslim.  That is to say, he's a white American who is a Baha'i.   And since the Baha'i faith is a very recent offshoot of Shia Islam, that's close enough for most wingnuts. Now, while Patty herself isn't a Baha'i, one would expect, using the Cons' own techniques of guilt-by-extremely-tenuous-association as practiced on Keith Ellison ("he helped organize the Minnesota branch of the Million Man March, so he's anti-Semitic!"), to have seen loads and loads and loads of epistles from the Power Line boys, Michael "MDE" Brodkorb, Hugh Hewitt and the rest of the Cons on Patty Wetterling's Troubling Association With An Activist For A Muslim Group Which We've Decided Must Be Linked To Terrorism. (Yes, I know the Baha'is are a peaceful and tolerant outfit, but since when has reality ever got in the way of a right-wing bigot's rant?) So I scanned Google for "wetterling bahai" and found that nobody, outside of a lone pro-Bachmann blogger (whose post touching on the subject is here and repeated here) and some conservative yahoo in the comments thread of a local newspaper's blog, even attempted to link Patty Wetterling to Baha'ism, much less attack her over it. So I think we have our answer, folks. White ex-wife of white Muslim: Suffers almost no attacks on this count, even from the most prominent local conbloggers and hate-radio goons, people who have been shown in the past to be perfectly willing to make straw men out of even less connections. Black man who is a Muslim: Suffers attacks 24/7 from pretty much every conservative pundit, radio, TV and print, in existence. Now try to tell me that race isn't behind the attacks on Ellison. A further note: You have to have lived in Minnesota over the past year to understand the sheer and unusually high level of nastiness he endured and is still enduring over the past year. No other Minnesota Democratic candidate, except for maybe Dean Johnson, suffered attacks that were anywhere near this vicious. There's political hardball, and there's sheer effing batshit insanity. The sheer level of vitriol being directed at Ellison was frightening in many ways (though it was somewhat heartening to see the Republicans so determined to keep shooting themselves in the foot). We're talking about vitriol that is so vicious it's actually self-defeating; there's a difference between vitriol that's being faked for the rubes and genuinely-felt hatred, and Ellison's attackers were and are so full of hatred as to be off-putting.  Really and truly. Stuff like this. And this. And this. And this. Think about it: If Ellison were as weak a candidate as the Republicans kept saying he was -- and they were saying so from the moment he won the DFL endorsement in May -- don't you think that they would have kept their mouths shut about him and sat back and waited for four measly months until AFTER the Democrats had nominated him in September? If I were a Republican, that's what I would have done. But instead, they just couldn't help themselves.  His very existence just torqued them into transcendent ecstasies of hatred.


Some Spanish Bears No Longer Hibernating

Yet more evidence of global warming:

Bears are supposed to slumber throughout the winter, slowing their body rhythms to a minimum and drawing on stored resources, because frozen weather makes food too scarce to find. The barely breathing creatures can lose up to 40 per cent of their body weight before warmer springtime weather rouses them back to life. But many of the 130 bears in Spain's northern cordillera - which have a slightly different genetic identity from bear populations elsewhere in the world - have remained active throughout recent winters, naturalists from Spain's Brown Bear Foundation (La Fundación Oso Pardo - FOP) said yesterday. The change is affecting female bears with young cubs, which now find there are enough nuts, acorns, chestnuts and berries on thebleak mountainsides to make winter food-gathering sorties "energetically worthwhile", scientists at the foundation, based in Santander, the Cantabrian capital, told El Pais newspaper. "If the winter is mild, the female bears find it is energetically worthwhile to make the effort to stay awake and hunt for food," said Guillermo Palomero, the FOP's president and the co-ordinator of a national plan for bear conservation. This changed behaviour, he said, was probably a result of milder winters. "The high Cantabrian peaks freeze all winter, but our teams of observers have been able to follow the perfect outlines of tracks from a group of bears," he said. [...] Other seasonal freaks * The osprey found in the lochs and glens of the Scottish Highlands in the summer months, usually migrate to west Africa to avoid the freeze. This winter, osprey have been spotted in Suffolk and Devon. Swallows, which also normally migrate to Africa for the winter have been also seen across England this winter. * The red admiral butterfly, which hibernates in winter, has been spotted in gardens this month, as has the common darter dragonfly, usually seen between mid-June and October, which has been seen in Cheshire, Norfolk and Hampshire. * The smew, a diving duck, flies west to the UK for winter from Russia and Scandinavia. This year, though, they have been mainly absent from the lakes and reservoirs between The Wash and the Severn. * Evergreen ivy and ox-eye daisies are still blooming and some oak trees, which are usually bare by November, were still in leaf on Christmas Day last year. * The buff-tailed bumblebee is usually first seen in spring. Worker bees die out by the first frost, while fertilised queen bees survive underground between March and September. This December, bees have been seen in Nottingham and York. * Primroses and daffodils are already flowering at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, in Carmarthenshire. 'Early Sensation' daffodils usually flower from January until February. Horticulturalists put it down to the warm weather. * Scientists in the Netherlands reported more than 240 wild plants flowering in the first 15 days of December, along with more than 200 cultivated species. Examples included cow parsley and sweet violets. Just two per cent of these plants normally flower in winter, while 27 per cent end their main flowering period in autumn and 56 per cent before October.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The Report Card

AOL ran a poll rating Bush. Here are excerpts as of 11:40 Eastern(12/20): Overall, what grade did Bush earn in 2006? F 61% D 12% B 10% A 10% C 7% Total Votes: 263,354 What grade would you give Bush on Iraq in 2006? F 74% A 8% B 7% C 6% D 5% Total Votes: 220,068 Someone tell his Mom her presence is required in the Principal's office.

First, Catch the Rabbit

One of my dad's favorite corny jokes: Q. How do you make rabbit stew? A. First, catch the rabbit. I thought of that punchline when I heard that Bush has decided the U.S. needs to increase the size of the military. Um, yeah. They're already barely meeting their recruiting goals. So how does Bush plan to get significantly more people to volunteer? The answer, I fear, is "the same way he expects to get anything he wants: by saying that's what he wants." Or maybe he thinks the Democratic Congress will obligingly take the blame for reinstating the draft. (Yes, I know that Democrat Charlie Rangel has introduced a bill to reinstate the draft. I also know that the Honorable Mr. Rangel doesn't expect the bill to pass and doesn't even want the bill to pass; when the Republicans pushed his bill through without debate in the last Congress, he voted against it himself. What Mr. Rangel wants is to call attention to the effect of Bush's war on the state of the military.) The significance of Bush's call to increase the military isn't that Bush has finally faced reality. It's that he still is not facing reality. He thinks all he has to do is say that he's going to do something, and everybody will think he is doing something. Why shouldn't he think that? The news media and way too many of the American people have gone along with his narcissistic delusions for the past six years. The American people have finally figured out that he's not the leader they want, and even the news media is starting to get a clue that he's the wrong person to follow. Bush himself will probably never notice that announcing what he wants to happen doesn't make it happen.


Another metaphor for war supporters etc.

Over five years after the destruction of the World Trade Center and the slaughter of almost 3,000 American civilians, The first 31-foot beam of the "Freedom Tower" is put in place. For Bushco to give it a name like that, I'm sure it has to be intended for use as a prison.

A Metaphor For War Supporters, Iraq, And The Rest Of The World

Anne Applebaum is now whining that those nasty decadent evil Commie "Old Europeans" are harshing her mellow by daring to report accurately on the results of Bush's actions in Iraq:

On the day James Baker’s Iraq report was published, I gritted my teeth and waited for the well-earned, long-awaited, Franco-German “Old Europe” gloat to begin. I didn’t wait long. “America Faces Up to the Iraq Disaster” read a headline in Der Spiegel. In the patronizing tones of a senior doctor, Le Monde diagnosed the “political feverishness” gripping Washington in Baker’s wake. Suddeutsche Zeitung said the report “stripped Bush of his authority,” although Le Figaro opined that nothing Baker proposed could improve the “catastrophic state” of Iraq anyway.
I'll let Brendan of Brendan Calling take it from here (with certain words edited to meet blog standards while preserving the meaning of the metaphor):
But let’s get back to this “Old Europe” nonsense that Anne insists on clinging to, like her Don Rumsfeld teddy bear. “Old Europe” has unfortunately seeped into our national vocabulary the same way “Democrat Party” is used consistently by Conservatives and Republicans as a passive aggressive barb. It’s the same thing as giving someone an unflattering nickname and expecting them to embrace it. Let’s try that experiment. Let’s say I know someone named… oh, let’s say Anne Applebaum. And let’s say I give her a nickname that she doesn’t like. How’s about I call her “Ugly-Ass Mcgee”: that’s pretty offensive. So I have this tree in my backyard, and I decide I need to prune some branches. But Anne, who has some experience pruning trees, points out that I’m going about it all wrong. “Brendan,” she says, “Don’t saw off that enormous branch over your stained glass skylight. Not only will the falling branch break the glass, but you’re sitting on the branch itself, and by sawing it off, you’re gonna fall like 50 feet and break your leg.” “Whatever, Ugly-Ass McGee,” I say. “Ugly-Ass McGee, you don’t know anything. You know why? Because you have a face that looks like your ass! So back off bitch!” (Not that I would ever talk like that). And I go along merrily on my way, sawing off branches. Then disaster hits: just like my neighbor warned, the branch crashes into my skylight, I go plummeting into a garbage can, and break my leg. “AAAAGHHHH! My leg, my leg!,” I yell. “Hey Ugly-Ass, come help me out! I’m stuck in a garbage can with a broken leg, help me out Ugly-Ass!” No answer. So I yell louder, “Hey UGLY-ASS! Ugly-Ass, where the f--- are you? You know, this downed limb is dangerous to your house too, especially if the whole tree dies and falls over. Then where will you be Ugly-Ass, huh? Awww, c’mon Ugly-Ass, what’s the big deal? Help me out here!” Can you see how Anne might have a problem with helping me out? And how I have a problem not recognizing that I’m still alienating my neighbor?
But of course Anne Applebaum will never understand that. (Hat tip to Atrios.)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

More blogs about politics.
Technorati Blog Finder