Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Moyers Speech
Bill Moyers offered a wonderful speech at Hamilton College in New York. My favorite part:
Bread is the great re-enforcer of the reality principle. Bread is life. But if you're like me you have a thousand and more times repeated the ordinary experience of eating bread without a thought for the process that brings it to your table. The reality is physical: I need this bread to live. But the reality is also social: I need others to provide the bread. I depend for bread on hundreds of people I don't know and will never meet. If they fail me, I go hungry. If I offer them nothing of value in exchange for their loaf, I betray them. The people who grow the wheat, process and store the grain, and transport it from farm to city; who bake it, package it, and market it—these people and I are bound together in an intricate reciprocal bargain. We exchange value.

Full text here.
Setting the Agenda
It's about time. And no, it isn't the Democrats doing it.
It seems we've moved into the summer news season. CNN is doing a recap of white girls who get killed in Bermuda (they don't have anything new, just milking the story) and the blogs don't have much new. Blogging has been light because there's just not much to say. I'm actually getting tired to berating the Bush administration (it's all been said). I know it needs to be said over and over again. But I'm just not up for it right now. I suspect things will heat up around August.

Anyway, I've been writing a bit about the GWOT. Specifically how it's not a war at all, but rather a fantasy of the cold warriors who miss the good old days. Consider this, which of item doesn't belong with the others:

1. War on Drugs
2. War on Germany and Japan (WWII)
3. War on terror

Digby (great minds think alike) also discusses this meme today. One point in that post is that the GWOT is really a war on a tactic .... terrorism. The west, particularly the right-wing nutbars, get apoplectic whenever anyone suggests that terrorism might be an effective strategy to counter overwhelming power. Terrorism it seems is seen as, .... well, ... unfair. An individual schmoo who straps on a belt of C3 and blows up a shopping mall is somehow seen as "crazy" and violating all the standards of civilized culture.

Steve Coll has an interesting column this week in the New Yorker about the make-up of suicide bombers. This topic seems to confound people spawning studies as to why someone would actually committ suicide in a terrorist attack. I submit that this behavior is really nothing new. People have been purposely putting themselves in harms way for a cause since the dawn of human time. And as far as targeting civilian populations, does anyone remember Dresden or Hiroshima? And how about the attitude of the British towards the American rebels in the revolutionary war who were so cowardly and uncivil as to hide behind trees and shoot at British columns. Why didn't those pesky crazy Americans line up and fight like real men?

Of course suggesting that war has rules is crazy making. The fact stands that people who believe in a cause will do whatever they have to in order to defeat their enemy. The United States has proven this. With the best army and equipment money can buy, we are being defeated in Iraq by a group of rag-tag insurgents who are using cell phones to activate homemade bombs that they've built in their garages (if they have garages). Our leaders have forgotten one of the most important axioms of warfare: desire and committment to the cause will defeat any technology.

Terrorism as a tactic will continue until such time as it's no longer necessary. When individuals with strong beliefs don't have a place "at the table", they'll blow up the table until they get recognized. Any parent with a two year old knows this.

It's too bad that American leaders and American people keep having to learn it over and over again.

It's not just for foreigners anymore.
He claims he was called a nigger, an animal and other epithets by guards who also liked to spit in his food, shoot him with stun guns, spray him with tear gas and kick him down steps while he was handcuffed.

It isn't about who they (the prisoners) are. It's about who we are. This isn't the nation I grew up believing in.
Gas Pains
It isn't just the end consumer who is feeling the boot of big oil.
For more than two decades, Dave Lalli made an honest living a few blocks from his home, pumping gas and fixing cars at his 19th Street and Oregon Avenue Sunoco station. He made just enough money selling gas to cover the rent and the cost of pumping fuel. His profit came from his markup on repairs in his cramped but clean four-bay garage.

That's all changed in the past two years, as gas prices have gone up about 50 percent.

While Sunoco and other oil companies have reaped profits the size of Saudi sand dunes, Lalli is sinking into financial quicksand. He's some $52,000 in debt and is about to be evicted by Sunoco for not keeping up with increasing rent. He blames the homegrown oil giant's retail pricing strategy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Track em' Danno
This is the most boring and important post I may have ever put up.

If you go to this site, you can set up a "monitor" on your elected representatives. You can also monitor legislation and issues as they move around the government. If you sign up (free), they'll send you email updates on who/what you're monitoring.

Hey, the NSA is not the only one who can monitor. Watch out Di ..... I'm watching you.
Sign of the Times
Something very interesting happened in the stock market today. Walmart announced disappointing sales figures causing stocks to tank a bit.

So let's look at the forest.

Gas prices skyrocket. Poor people are impacted the most by high gas prices, thus having less dispensible income. Poor people are Walmart's key demographic. And where does Walmart get it's products? That's right, China. What happens if Chinese exports drop? They have less money to buy treasuries relieving the so-called "international savings glut". Few buyer's of treasuries equals higher interest rates, lower consumption, and a slowing U.S. economy.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I'm not saying we're in for an imminent economic collapse, although such an event wouldn't shock me. More likely we're going to see a topping of GDP growth in 2006 followed by a longish recession with higher interest rates.

Happy times are here again!
Anyone happen to notice that in the midst of the announced "drawdown" of American troops in Iraq, we have (yet again) increased troop levels?

If we keep up this drawdown program, we'll all be in Iraq eventually. But that would be a typical Bush program now wouldn't it.
Angry Left
Quite often, the loud mouths on the right are fond of calling the left "angry".

Damned straight:
“Witnesses to the slaying of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in the western town of Haditha say the Americans shot men, women and children at close range in retaliation for the death of a Marine lance corporal in a roadside bombing.

Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who said he watched and listened from his home as Marines went from house to house killing members of three families, recalled hearing his neighbor across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for his life and the lives of his family members. "I heard Younis speaking to the Americans, saying: 'I am a friend. I am good,' " Fahmi said. "But they killed him, and his wife and daughters."

The 24 Iraqi civilians killed on Nov. 19 included children and the women who were trying to shield them, witnesses told a Washington Post special correspondent in Haditha this week and U.S. investigators said in Washington. The girls killed inside Khafif's house were ages 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1, according to death certificates.
The remains of the 24 lie today in a cemetery called Martyrs' Graveyard. Stray dogs scrounge in the deserted homes. "Democracy assassinated the family that was here," graffiti on one of the houses declared.

The insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq said it sent copies of the journalism student's videotape to mosques in Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, using the killings of the women and children to recruit fighters.
"They are waiting for the sentence -- although they are convinced that the sentence will be like one for someone who killed a dog in the United States," said Waleed Mohammed, a lawyer preparing a file for Iraqi courts and the United Nations, if the U.S. trial disappoints. "Because Iraqis have become like dogs in the eyes of Americans.''
Eric Alterman summarizes the situation in Iraq perfectly:
1. We are apparently discrediting the idea of democracy.
2. We are creating recruitment videos for anti-American terrorists.
3. We are paying a trillion dollars to do this.
4. We are losing our young men and women to do this.
5. We have destroyed a country to do this.
The despair I feel over the Iraq war is immense. What we have wrought in the world is nothing short of evil. And all of us, everyone single one of us, is responsible. I despair that the United States will ever have a moral compass again, much less be a moral beacon.
What A Weekend

In my daily read of the summary of newspapers, there seemed to be an (even for these times) extraordinary amount of violence in the world. The usual problems in Iraq, journalist killed (which always gets the media's attention vs. just those ordinary ole' soldiers/civilians), riots in Afghanistan .........

Good job Bushie!
Monday, May 29, 2006
In Memoriam

It's pretty much standard procedure on all the blogs to write a bit about Memorial Day and our fallen soldiers.

And I will too.

I'm pretty much a pacificist. Not completely. But the cause has to be a crystal clear threat before I'm for using violence as a means to solve a problem.

I realize armies are necessary. But I consider them a necessary evil. I also don't believe it's possible to belong to an army without suffering virtually irreparable harm to one's psychological self. The necessities to learn how to fight, and indeed to actually fight, are specifically designed to bring out the worst in human beings. It's for that reason that I honor those who serve, particularly during war time.

The most recent "war" is an example of the most evil side of war. The GWOT (Great War on Terror) is not a war at all. Language is incredibly important in framing our world. The use of the term "war" by those too quick to use military power has been a travesty for which our military personnel, and by extension, our entire culture will pay a heavy price for generations.

Yes, there are evil people and evil forces in the world. But to see any force in the world as either completely good or completely bad is a great danger. The problems that have spawned terrorism are great, and will require complex strategies, tactics, and leadership to resolve. I pray, particularly for those who serve in uniform, that they get the leadership they deserve soon.

Added: Interestingly, the usually hilarious Jesus General says it much much better than anyone I've seen so far. Please take a moment and go read his ode to Memorial Day.
This story showed up in my local newspaper today:
As the summer travel season shifts into high gear, the car rental business is counting on a new breed of customers to bolster its bottom line.

They're frequent renters, local customers who have their own vehicles but rent cars for convenience.

Such consumers are driving expansion of neighborhood auto rental centers, which now account for over half of the industry's nearly $19 billion annual U.S. revenue.

For the first time, more people are renting from neighborhood centers than from airport counters.
My wife and I are currently in the market for a new car. This is an option we are seriously considering ... buy a small around-town car and then rent a larger vehicle for trips. Looks like we're not alone. It really makes sense. Who needs all the extra weight and size for a trip to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread?
Saturday, May 27, 2006
The Haditha atrocity details just get worse and worse:
The Los Angeles Times leads with the investigation into the killings of civilians in Haditha, Iraq, by U.S. Marines. The NYT broke this story yesterday and what the LAT adds is somewhat thin: that some of the victims were killed "execution-style." While chilling, that's not a big step up from the NYT saying that some of the killings were "methodical in nature." The Post runs a good story on the same incident above the fold, but theirs is based on interviews with residents in Haditha. One new detail in both stories: A 500-pound bomb may have been dropped on the town (the LAT says it happened; the Post says it's a point of contention), which the Post points out would indicate that senior commanders, who have to approve such things, would at least be aware that something was going on in Haditha.
One of the reports I read yesterday said that the killing spree went on for several hours.

Young men (too young) with guns, put in a place where everyone else has guns and hates them, directed by demoralized leadership, with an impossible mission and on the brink of continuous failure. It's a wonder we haven't heard about more of this. I have little doubt there has been more.
Get Outta Town
Representative William Jefferson is a disgrace to the Democratic Party and to political leaders in general. They guy needs to resign ..... now.
I've certainly been uniformly critical of Bush and his administration. But I do think Bush said something good for a change:
The NYT and WP front Prime Minister Tony Blair hanging at the White House with Bush, where they defended the war, declined to commit to a drawdown of troops, and expressed a few regrets. Bush acknowledged it wasn't a good move to challenge insurgents to "bring it on" nor to say he wanted Osama Bin Laden "dead or alive." Said the president, "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner."
The video of this shows a sincerity that I've not often seen in Bush. Who knows, he probably was coached to look sincere. But his self critical discussion of the cowboy macho BS he was spouting is right on target.

So here a rare compliment to Bush. Heckuva job Bushie.

UPDATE: It would appear I'm pretty much alone in my praise.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Go Howie
I really do love Howard Dean.

And Chris Matthews gets more wankerish everyday.

Go watch this video interview that Dean properly labels as "salacious gossip". Kids and innocents being killed at our hand throughout the world, along with any number of other problems too numerous to list, and all Matthews wants to do is find out if Bill is boinking Hillary.
Oh My ......
Breaking: Murray Waas reports that Karl Rove, Robert Novak's source for learning Valerie Plame's identity, may have collaborated with the columnist to cover up his leak. Upon first learning of the federal probe into the Plame leak, Rove and Novak spoke and invented a "cover story" to hide the truth about the leak, Fitzgerald's investigators believe.
Is that a conspiracy or obstruction of justice charge I hear rattle around?

I (guessing) think Novak flipped. Some think it's the other way around. We shall see!
The Fat Lady
I'm not the only one who thinks the stock market is running out of steam.

Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture (in a post entitled, Cue the Fat Lady) is suggesting that any market strength might be a good shorting opportunity (if you're into doing that ..... which I am). I think Barry is pretty close to correct. I'm not sure, but the only area of disagreement might be the timing of those shorting opportunities. I think there's some slight rally room in the fall. But if the stock market rally's in the S&P 500 - 1350/1400 range and you short SPY, I think you'll make money.

But remember this. I'm as stupid as the next amateur and certainly there are many opinions out there about what will happen. That's why it's called a "market".

Imagine This
The Washington Post leads with House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issuing a joint statement demanding the Justice Department unhand the files taken in the bribe-related raid of Rep. William Jefferson's office. The Post says the raid is "the first time that the FBI has executed a search warrant on the Capitol Hill office of a sitting lawmaker." A piece inside the WP says the move might have been impolitic and uncustomary, but it probably wasn't illegal.
Imagine this for just one moment.

House majority leader Nancy Pelosi grabs a bunch of Capitol Hill police to raid the White House to retrieve evidence of Presidential wrongdoing.

I think calling the raid on Congress "impolitic and uncustomary" is a bit of an understatement.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Quote of the Day
I'm 80 now. It's not that I think, like any old man, that change is wrong. I recognise that the world has always changed. I know that. But the point is, it's changing more extremely and swiftly than at any time in the past several million years. And one of the things I don't want to do is to look at my grandchildren and hear them say: "Grandfather, you knew it was happening - and you did nothing."—David Attenborough, on global warming

Just $6
If Congress spent Just $6 per citizen per year to publicly fund federal elections, candidates would be able to spend more time communicating with voters instead of begging for campaign donations. And once elected, instead of having to worry about financing their next campaign, our leaders would be free to focus on our nation's challenges. Public financing of campaigns would also mean that more of our most able leaders would run for federal office, because financing a campaign wouldn't be such a daunting obstacle.
There is, of course, a petition to sign.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Bird Flu
Human to human transmission?
May 23 (Bloomberg) -- All seven people infected with bird flu in a cluster of Indonesian cases can be linked to other patients, according to disease trackers investigating possible human-to-human transmission of the H5N1 virus.
Not confirmed yet. But if so, this would be a big story. The source is Bloomberg which is usually well sourced.

I've always (and still do) think the bird flu panic is hyperbolic. Even if it does mutate to human to human transmission, I think the danger of the strain itself has been way over estimated. Be that as it may, if they prove that it has mutated, watched for the panic to start.
Leading NY Tabloid
The freaking NY Times ran a page one story today all but asking everyone who knows Bill and Hillary Clinton about their sex lives.

Page one.

As has been mentioned on some blogs, will they now do a piece of Guiliani's very interesting, and varied, private life? Or how about the proclivities of every GOP single operative (that would be juicy). There's always those rumors about McCain having a black child out of wedlock.

I plan on letting the Times know how I feel about this incredible reporting. You can let them know how you feel here. Take a moment and let them know that you want to know about all politicians marriages, the "number of times they're together", and about the crass political calculations they make in the name of gaining power.

This is just ridiculous.
Let's Hope It Misses Them
Hurricane season is upon us. Let's hope none hit the Gulf Coast:
Chad Heeter reports from Waveland, a town on the Mississippi coast on the eve of the next hurricane season that the only rebuilding that's gone on since Hurricane Katrina leveled the area is casinos and fast-food outlets. Otherwise, FEMA's idea of rebuilding was to put Mississippians in "travel trailers" -- 100,000 Mississippi residents in 38,000 trailers. The problem with travel trailers is simple: Gusts of 50 miles per hour lasting more than three seconds can damage mobile homes. From March 2003 to April 2005, thirteen storms with winds of at least 58 mph -- the low-end of a severe storm -- blew through Waveland and surrounding communities. Even the FEMA website points out that people in trailers in hurricane season need storm shelters. Only problem, there is just one certified Red Cross shelter in Waveland's county, 20 minutes inland, with a capacity of 250 people. (The current estimated population of the county is over 40,000 people.) That sums up the Bush administration's Iraq-style "reconstruction" at home, here.
You know this is true throughout the Gulf region, not just in this area.

Let's all pray for a quiet hurricane season without as much as a tropical storm hitting anywhere near where Katrina and Rita hit. There are a lot of Gulf Coast residents who are extremely vulnerable given our governments swift recovery efforts from last years storms.
Be the First One...
...on your block to have your boy come home in a box. And here's why:

So now you know why young Americans are dying.

Halliburtonwatchorg has more.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Ever Have a Doh Moment?
I had one today in reading Barry Ritholtz's post about inflation.

Turns out that the government measures of inflation (the so-called CPI or Consumer Price Index) contains within it a measure of housing cost based on rents. It also turns out that this measure of rents equals a whopping 30% of the total measure of costs in the CPI.

I think everyone understands that we've been going through a bit of a housing boom in the last several years. Care to guess the impact a housing boom has on rents? The "rent" measure is not the cost of mortgages.

Just rents.

A hot housing market enticing buyers, many first time buyers, into the house market has significantly depressed rents which has in turn had a huge impact on the reported inflation rates. Of course, now that housing is slowing down, rents are recovering and the inflation rates are beginning to be more reflective of the underlying economic dynamics. In other words, the underlying economic inflation rates have been depressed by the housing bubble which goes some distance in explaining the disparity between the perception on Wall Street vs. Main Street.

Look for inflation numbers, as a trend, to continue upward and for the Fed to need to continue to raise interest rates. Also be prepared for the stock market to find this a huge disappointment that causes a significant pullback through the summer.
Tax Increase?
File this under the "hidden in the middle of a bill" file:
David Cay Johnston writes in the New York Times: "The $69 billion tax cut bill that President Bush signed this week tripled tax rates for teenagers with college savings funds, despite Mr. Bush's 1999 pledge to veto any tax increase. . . .

"Mr. Bush pledged in 1999 to veto any bill that raised taxes. In response to a question about the tax increase on teenagers in the new legislation, the White House issued a statement Friday that made no reference to the tax increase, but recounted the tax cuts the administration has sponsored and stated that President Bush had 'reduced taxes on all people who pay income taxes.'

"Challenged on that point, the White House modified its statement 21 minutes later to say that Mr. Bush had 'reduced taxes on virtually all people who pay income taxes.' "
Isn't it good to know that Bush is trying to attain fiscal responsibility by taxing that grossly undertaxed group, college students?
NSA Overview
Sy Hersh has written a nice, succinct, overview of the NSA spying program and it's implications. It's a very compact column that gives a sense of what is really happening. Not a flame throwing article, just the facts ma'am.
Classic Right Wing Punditry
And, the quote of the day regarding Hillary Clinton:
"pathologically unsexy ... not a raving beauty,"
And who had this gem of analysis?

John Podhoretz, right wing hack.
Friday, May 19, 2006
I've been dialoging a bit with Mike over at Born at the Crest of Empire about the whole Leopold/Rove story. The story, in case you missed it, is that Jason Leopold of "Truthout" broke a story last week that Rove had been indicted and given 24 hours to get out of town. As Mike has been heavily covering all aspects of the Plame leak, he of course reported Leopold's story along with Leopold's promise to reveal his sources if the story is wrong.

Well, as of almost a week later nothing has happened. Unfortunately for Leopold, the longer time goes by without a Rove indictment, the worse he looks even if Rove is ultimately indicted. It's Mike's contention that Leopold isn't really the story, but rather the Plame leak is the story. And like a fly to a bright light, Mike keeps trying to change the subject back to Plame/Rove, putting his energy there (although there's no "there" there right now).

I agree.

And I disagree.

They are two stories and yet I don't see it as a zero sum game. Yes, the Plame leak investigation is a very important story to national politics. But I disagree that Leopold's, thus far, in-credible story is not an important story too. Like it or not, journalists are a part of the political fabric of the U.S. They exercise an important function in investigating and helping the process of Democracy to check government power. Jason Leopold writes on the "edge" of journalism as "Truthout" is not exactly a mainstream media outlet. But perhaps "Truthout's" performance on this particular story so far is why? This is not the first time Truthout has been a little iffy in it's reporting and I suspect future "breaking stories" will be regarded with even less interest and respect. That's unfortunate because Truthout also has shown the courage to cover important stories that other outlets won't. But what good is it if they can't be trusted, a la Capitol Hill Blue?

I think there's another dimension at work as well. Leopold's story, like it or not, is a part of the internet/blogging world's role in information dissemination where credibility is gold. When Leopold gets bruised, we all get a bit of a bruise too. And I don't think that's a good thing. Yeah, you're nuts if you only read this blog. But at the same time, I want to think that what is put up on these pages is credible. And I linked to the Leopold story.

Bloggers in general are very quick to nail mainstream media outlets when they screw up. It's my belief that Leopold should be held to those same standards. If he blew it, it's a story and important that we all hold him accountable. If his source used him, it's important that we pressure him to follow through on his promise to reveal his source. In the same way that progressive blogs screamed about Judy Miller being used (and using), Leopold should be held accountable. I do not agree that discussing the media in all it's forms is a black-hole any more than I think blogging about the Bush administration, Congress, torture, poverty or any other subject is a "black-hole".

Mike: If you would like to respond/rebut here for those who may not visit your blog, you're welcome to do so in the comments or email me something and I'll put it up. Of course anyone's else comments are also very much welcomed.
Gee .... I Wonder Why?
Without further comment:
THURSDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- Hispanic Americans in cardiac arrest are less likely [half as likely] than whites to receive bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a new California study finds.

Researchers reviewed data on 1,239 cases from the Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation Evaluation in Los Angeles and the California Death Statistic Master File.

They found that 12.8 percent of Hispanic cardiac arrest victims received bystander CPR, compared with 23.9 percent of whites.

This disparity persisted even after the researchers adjusted for socioeconomic factors such as income and education.

Bystander CPR is known to provide improved outcomes in people who survive cardiac arrest.

"The Latino population is the fastest growing population in the United States, and clearly, it is of paramount importance to identify disparities affecting any historically underserved population. It is our hope that this study will bring about additional research specifically directed to addressing health-care disparities in underserved populations," lead investigator Dr. Peter C. Benson said in a prepared statement.

There is data to show that black Americans are also less likely than whites to receive BCPR, the researchers noted.

The findings are expected to be presented Saturday at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine annual meeting, in San Francisco.
It wasn't bad enough that different religious groups were fighting in Iraq. Or even that different ethnic groups might be fighting. Now we have a further deterioration in the infighting within a religious group, the Shiites:
Al-Hayat also says that Shiite on Shiite violence in Basra,[the former peaceful area of Iraq] the second-largest city in Iraq, threatens an end to the phase in which it enjoyed relative calm. The representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Shaikh Muhammad Falak, accused the spiritual leader of the Virtue (Fadhila) Party, Ayatollah Muhammad al-Ya`qubi, of having declined to take any steps toward snuffing out the crisis in the city after the governor became the target of a failed assassination attempt. Falak emphasized that the Virtue Party has created secret prisons where it tortures captives, and has resorted to forcibly expelling others (Sunnis).
Iraq, as a society, is simply becoming untenable. Anyone who can is leaving. Those who can't are either fighting or cowering.

But they all have one thing in common. They hate the U.S. That is, everyone except the folks who depend on U.S. largesse and protection. That "helicopter moment" is getting closer all the time.
John over at Americablog has a great post today about what it means to be a patriot.
Patrick Henry once said: "Give me liberty or give me death."

Pat Roberts said yesterday: Take my liberty and spare me death.
Holy Cow

All we peak oilers are a little surprised to see international oil output up last month! We shall see if the trend continues. Meanwhile, oil prices are down slightly. Gasoline is hanging right around $3.35/gal around here. I believe it is plateaued or close to the top and will begin to decrease.
Speaking of Shameless
I'm going to reprint the entire Barry Ritholtz rant from his blog, The Big Picture.


Because it's so right on:
Shameless plug: Last October, "The Unpleasant Truth About Inflation" noted all the reasons why inflation was actually much higher than most people (including the Economists on Wall Street) believed.

It took market participants an astonishing 8 months to figure this out.

Nothing much has changed except perception. Growth is still slowing, and is as Real Estate dependent as ever. Prices continue to increase, regardless of the idiotic focus on the Core rate (don't sugar coat it, tell us how you really feel).

What has changed from last week, when the dominant meme was Pause! to today, when the newfound fear is a Half-Point hike? Psychology. Groupthink. Emotions and sentiment.

The only thing truly different is the Goldilocks fantasists have changed trains, and are now on the Reality Express. Next stop: 2% GDP, 5% inflation. ALL ABOARD!

Of course, the markets haven't liked this. Goldilocks is a fairy tale, while Reality has warts. These are consequences for decades of easy money and years of bad policy. Like the twin deficits. Growing disparities in wealth, which will ultimately lead to spasmodic anti-capitalist legislation. Deficit producing tax cuts. Post crash damage still unresolved from 2000. A ruinous war costing treasure and lives and despoiling the United State's reputation globally. Is it any surprise the greenback has gotten kicked around like a junkyard dog? All the while these markets have been as utterly dependent as a babe at its mother's breast on massive government stimulus for ongoing growth. My name is Mr. Market, and I am stimulus-aholic (Hi Mr. Market!)

Keep repeating after me: Except for everything going up in price, there is no inflation . . .
It's simply impossible to repeal the laws of economics. There's no free lunch when it comes to borrowing and boy, has the U.S. been borrowing. To me, the only question is how bad will this stagnating economy get?
Bonus Quote
"I got three great kids, but if you tell me, 'Go out and find all the bad things they've done, Hayden,' I could build you a pretty good dossier," he said. "You'd think they were pretty bad people because that's what I was looking for and that's what I built up. That'd be very wrong, OK? That would be inaccurate. That would be misleading."
Gen. Hayden describing the Pentagon led intelligence effort to make a case to go to war in Iraq.
Quote of the Day
Actually, it's the dumbest quote of the year:

“Even Baby Jesus accepted gifts, and I don’t believe it corrupted him.” — North Carolina State Rep. Drew Saunders (D), arguing that a $200 gift-reporting requirement for legislators from non-family members was too low.

Way to represent the Democrats, Drew.
The Dunce
Bush's Harvard prof remembers him as a dunce. Why am I not surprised?
"He showed pathological lying habits and was in denial when challenged on his prejudices and biases. He would even deny saying something he just said 30 seconds ago. He was famous for that. Students jumped on him; I challenged him." When asked to explain a particular comment, said Tsurumi, Bush would respond, "Oh, I never said that." A White House spokeswoman did not return a phone call seeking comment.

In 1973, as the oil and energy crisis raged, Tsurumi led a discussion on whether government should assist retirees and other people on fixed incomes with heating costs. Bush, he recalled, "made this ridiculous statement and when I asked him to explain, he said, 'The government doesn't have to help poor people -- because they are lazy.' I said, 'Well, could you explain that assumption?' Not only could he not explain it, he started backtracking on it, saying, 'No, I didn't say that.'"

Thursday, May 18, 2006
Not feeling very bloggy today. Lots to do away from the computer. Here are a few important items to take a look at:
Rove indicted Friday? That would be my bet.
Atrocities in Iraq? Sure, it's a pressure cooker. Put young men with guns in a situation where everyone hates them and they're understaffed, what would we really expect? It's a wonder it hasn't happened more. Then again, we don't know that it hasn't.
How about the nastiest piece of political direct mail ever sent?
Who knows? Perhaps the slow news week is the calm before a storm. We shall see.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Family Values
I am SO glad I live where I live .... and not is certain other parts of the U.S of A:
"I'm just shocked," Shelltrack said. "I really thought this would all be over, and we could go on with our lives."

Mayor Norman McCourt said starting Wednesday the city will begin trying to evict groups who do not fit into [the town of ] Black Jack’s definition of family, reports CBS affiliate KMOV-TV in St. Louis.

The current ordinance prohibits more than three people from living together unless they are related by "blood, marriage or adoption." The defeated measure would have changed the definition of a family to include unmarried couples with two or more children.
The family in question is a couple who have THREE children. Guess it's time to put them on the streets to promote family values. It's one of those, "we have to destroy it to save it" moments. I'd hate to think what they'll do to gay people with kids. Or how about college kids who share rents? They probably don't have any such thing as "college" there.

(hat tip to FireDogLake)
I Heart Molly
As usual, Molly Ivins is right on.
Militarizing the border is a totally terrible idea. Do we have a State Department? Are they sentient? How much do you want to infuriate Mexico when it's sitting on quite a bit of oil? Bush knows what the most likely outcome of this move will be. He was governor during the political firestorm that ensued when a Marine taking part in anti-drug patrols on the border shot and killed Esequiel Hernandez, an innocent goat-herder from Redford, Texas. That's the definition of crazy - repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
Both President Bush and Veep Cheney are still going around claiming if you cut taxes, your tax revenues increase. No, they don't. Now we're just in whackoville. It's not true. Their own economists tell them it's not true, but they go about claiming it is with the same desperate tenacity they clung to false tales of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. How pathetic.
Speaking of lunacy, the saddest report from Iraq is that American soldiers showing signs of psychological distress and depression are being kept on active duty, increasing the risk of suicide. The Hartford Courant reports that even soldiers who have already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome are kept on duty. This has led to an increase in the suicide rate - 22 soldiers in 2005. And as I have reported before, the military is unprepared to deal with the flood of head cases coming back from Iraq. How many ways can we mistreat our own soldiers, while the right makes this elaborate show of devotion to "the troops"?

Uh oh
The CPI (Consumer Price Index) came in at .6%. That would be an annual 7.2% rate.

But but but ... I thought that rising commodity prices and rising energy prices weren't causing inflation these days? That mean ole' Fed better get on the raising interest rates bandwagon pretty darn soon!

Please allow me to beat my deadhorse. What do you call a slow economy that has a high inflation rate?


Fortunately, I got out of the stock market about a week ago. Between the rising energy prices, rising commodity prices, record gold prices, the Iran mess, the Iraq debacle, the old-in-the-tooth-and-tepid expansion, and the traditional doldrums summer trading, it's time to protect capital and wait for another buying opportunity.
Deaf Dumb and Blind
Suddenly, the Telco's know noooothing.

Bellsouth and Verizon have both denied having handed over phone records. It would appear that either a) the government has authorized them to lie or b) they are spinning their involvement.

The evidence for a lie is here:
Ordinarily, a company that conceals their transactions and activities from the public would violate securities law. But an presidential memorandum signed by the President on May 5 allows the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security. (See 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A))
If this is the case, the extension of fascism just continues with corporations being protected from the rule of law by a dictator. In fact, this is the essence of fascism. It will be quite interesting to watch the courts deal with all of this as time goes by.

As far as the spin. It appears that the government records have included only long distance calls. The telco's who provide local service can deny having provided anything as they route all long distance through the trunk carrier .... AT&T. Ma Bell has been completely mum on the issue.

The truth will ultimately be revealed. Like with everything Bush, expect the worst.
Seamless StarWars
William Arkin has been writing about the various government survelliance and data collection programs. Today he connects some dots, concluding that data mining is Bush's "star war program":
He [a friend/expert retired from the government data mining programs] cautions that I shouldn't get ahead of themselves worrying about an all-seeing government and a seamless surveillance culture. Billions are being secretly spent annually for software development, network infrastructure, database management, etc., to build a dreamed for system that will be able to autonomously connect the dots and detect terrorists before they strike. But a seamless system, my always reliable and level headed friend assures, is still far away.
Given government incompetence of late, it's no surprise that it's not up and running yet. In fact, Arkin's point is the like the star wars program, a comprehensive data mining system may be a pipe dream. We've spent over $130 billion on a failed star wars program to date. Will we spend a gazillion dollars on a failed comprehensive data mining program?

Unfortunately, even their failures are likely to be frightening. In fact, the fact that it doesn't work correctly may be one of the bigger dangers, i.e. targeting the wrong people and letting the bad guys get away. Arkin outlined 500 seperate government data collection programs in a column the other day. If they ever get their act together and connect all the dots, we're all in trouble .... even worse than we are now.
If you haven't seen the SNL/Al Gore piece here it is. Very funny.
More on Net Neutrality
MyDD has a good post that explains the net neutrality issue and points to the disengenuous attempts by the telcos to undermine protest.
Ok, now the substance. The ad makes a couple of claims. One, that web site operators don't pay for the internet. That is a lie. They pay massive sums of money for bandwidth, on the order of $10 billion last year alone. So does the public in tax subsidies for telecom companies, perhaps as high as $200 billion over the years (though it's hard to tell with all the mergers and weird accounting). Yes, that you read that right. Two, they claim they have never degraded a web site or service. Of course, executives for these companies are on record discussing their plans to do precisely that. The telco sponsored legislation would strip the FCC from being able to deal with degraded service or blocked web sites. Three, the telecom companies claim that net neutrality means intrusive government regulation. This claim is a bit harder to unpack, but it's worth following me here since what they are saying is in fact 180 degrees from the truth.

Here's the deal. The internet has always had rules. One of those rules is that even if you own a pipe, you're not allowed to tell people what they can put through that pipe. You can't block web sites, you can't say 'don't stream video', and you can't dictate what people and can't say. You do have to pay for the pipe you use; Google pays millions a month on one end, and millions of consumers pay smaller amounts ($20-$60) a month on the other. But no one can tell you what you can do with those pipes. It's very much the opposite of cable TV. There are no gatekeepers, and that's by design. This has created a highly competitive marketplace.

Through a series of regulatory decisions from 2002-2005, the FCC stripped these protections for broadband pipes. Now telecom companies can do whatever they want, and they have basically announced business models that depend on their ability to turn the internet into a more cable-like service. This new playground for them is tenous, because the FCC could at any point reverse themselves. To firm this up, the telecom companies want to legislate a change in the rules, stripping authority from the FCC to hold ISPs accountable for degrading service.

So that's what this is all about.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Here's is the headline of Juan Cole's post today regarding Iraq:
33 Dead in Civil War
7 US Troops Killed over Weekend
Basra in Chaos as Tribes Feud
I could put stuff up like this daily. The tragedy that is Iraq just keeps on going.

What is interesting in this particular headline is Basra. Basra is in southern Iraq and is dominated by Shiites. It has been a relatively quiet and peaceful part of Iraq. It now appears that security in southern Iraq has collapsed as well and that fighting is really widespread throughout the country:
MOSUL: Guerrillas detonated a bomb in the northern city, killing one policeman and wounding 2 others.

RAMADI: Heavy fighting between local guerrillas and US troops left 8 dead and 9 wounded.

BALAD RUZ - Guerrillas shot down 4 primary school teachers in Diyala Province an hour's drive from Baquba.

WAJIHIYA: Guerrillas east of Baghdad fired a mortar shell that landed on a civilian home, killing a seven-year-old girl and wounding 7 members of her family.

BAGHDAD: Five members of a family in the capital were shot dead.

MAHAWEEL: Guerrillas detonated a bomb that wounded 3 policemen and left a civilian bystander dead.

KARBALA: A policeman who had earlier been abducted showed up dead in the Shiite shrine city on Monday. (Two ex-Baathists were also assassinated.)

AMARA: A mortar attack on a British base wounded one soldier seriously in the leg and inflicted minor injuries on three others.

BASRA: Tribesmen of the Marsh Arab Karamisha [Gramsha] tribe killed 11 policemen in and around Basra. They may have been taking revenge for the killing of one of their clan chiefs by persons dressed as special police commandos, a unit heavily infiltrated by the Badr Corps of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
It will take Americans more than a generation to live down what we have helped create in Iraq.
Long Knives
Jason Leopold, who this weekend reported that Karl Rove was indicted and that he was to pack his bags in "24 hours" is getting the long knife treatment.

I think it's still a bit early to hang the guy. But it will be interesting to see what Leopold does if nothing happens by tomorrow. He's threatened to burn his sources if they lead him astray.

We shall see.
Red and Blue
Here's how the states stack up today:

Guess it gets pretty lonely in some of those desolate areas. They either don't get news, don't ever want to lose a friend in George Bush, or are absolute loners.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Glad to See Ya UPDATE
I was really glad to see the Preznit addressing that pressing illegal immigration problem tonight on the tee vee. Afterall, it's obviously one of our most serious and pressing problems!

But I was also happy to see it for another reason. This speech puts a stake right through the heart of any hopes the GOP may have at growing the Hispanic vote. By catering to the religious talibanic types and the "we've-gotta-have-someone-to-hate" crowd he will have alienated whatever moderates are left in his camp.

It's also important to note that this speech was an attempt split the immigration baby in half. He spent a fair amount of time talking about his proposed "guest worker program". While specifically saying it's not amnesty, it's an amnesty program that no one really likes much.

The net effect? He offers warm spit to the right wingers, alienates moderates by militarizing the border, and destroys years of effort by Republicans to woo Hispanics.

Sounds like a win all the way around for America.

But here's the kicker. It's likely to all be just for show:
But Bush will really be engaging in some sleight-of-hand. Anyone who thinks that as a result of the President's order there are soon going to be US troops with weapons in their hands standing steely guard on la linea is going to be very, very disappointed. The new infusion of Guardsmen, if it happens at all, will mostly mean the "troops" taking over some desk jobs and some technical chores, thereby freeing up more Border Patrol agents to run up and down the ravines of Arizona chasing our future cooks and bottle-washers. Some of the guard but might have an expanded role in surveillance as well; but make no mistake, there will be no phalanx of troops on the border. There's also the question of what sort of deployment takes place if the governors of New Mexico and California--as they have indicated--might oppose the measure.
Adding 6,000 untrained troops to border patrol is a drop in the bucket. But hey, if Congress can spend the next few months arguing about flag-burning, I guess some local National Guardsman can put together some TexMex barbeque for themselves out in the desert. Hey, they might even get some of the illegals to help out!

UPDATED: Any doubt that this speech is a loser? Check here. And the final proof? Moderates are hailing it as a "good speech".
Quote of the Day
"This is our government at work, and unfortunately it is run by Republicans."

-- Rev. Pat Robertson, quoted by the Manassas Journal Messenger.
There are some stories out today about the dissatisfaction by the American taliban with their annoited party, the Republicans. They're complaining that they haven't received the social reforms they were promised.

First, I would dispute that the Republicans haven't delivered. But they think our cultural movement back to the dark ages is moving at a snails pace. They're threatening to sit on their hands in the mid-terms, and perhaps even form a new party.

This should be the beginning of re-marginalizing these nutbars. Republicans have promised (via wedge issues) to deliver for years and the likes of Jerry Falwell have fallen for the shell game every time. Then, bowing to majority common sense, Republicans do the switcheroo and never really deliver. Later, rinse, repeat.

I think the fundamentalist should run Judge Roy Moore in 2008. He would be perfect radical cleric presidential candidate for these folks. It would also put these wacko's right back where they belong.
Luskin to the Rescue
Rover's crew is completely denying that any indictment has occurred. Jason Leopold has vowed to "out" his anonymous sources if he's been burned. So now we wait to see who's lying, and who's not.
More Shoes Dropping
From ABC News:
A senior federal law enforcement official tells us the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

We do not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.
Government spying on reporters. I'm soooo surprised!

If you'll remember, Jr.'s job for his father was thuggishly plugging leaks in dad's administration. His paranoia knows few bounds.

Just wait. It won't be long until there will be confirmation of an already rumored story of government spying on political figures, i.e. Bill Richardson or Howard Dean. The Bush administration firmly believes that the end justifies the means. Anything they define as the end is good, and any means at their disposal is fair game.
Big Brother watches in Europe too.

US authorities can get access to EU citizens' data on phone calls, sms' and emails, giving a recent EU data-retention law much wider-reaching consequences than first expected, reports Swedish daily Sydsvenskan.

The EU data retention bill, passed in February after much controversy and with implementation tabled for late 2007, obliges telephone operators and internet service providers to store information on who called who and who emailed who for at least six months, aimed at fighting terrorism and organised crime.

I understand the need for security and cooperation among different agencies, but I simply don't trust anything that this administration does. Not one thing. And here's a thought: maybe we wouldn't have to be so afraid of others if we didn't continually treat others like natural resources to be used and discarded. We create enemies faster than we can kill them. Here's a plan:
Remove our troops and bases from the Middle East and Europe, including the private contractors.
Stop trying to create an American empire.
Throw all of our considerable intellect and resources into developing alternative energy sources with the goal of making ourselves independent and self-sustaining.
Focus on making life better for those in desperate need by increasing the amount of foreign aid we give to something more than the current level of less than 1% of GDP.
•Behave in a way that encourages others to emulate us as (opposed to our current policy of pounding others into submission).
In short, how about some "Christian" behavior from a "Christian" nation?
NOLA in Slow Motion
Thanks to my sister-in-law (who's home barely survived the disaster) for sending this link to a comprehensive forensic report on the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. The flash animation of the sequence of events is particularly fasinating. Go surf it. It's highly informative of what actually happened.
Billmon discusses the debate about polling the NSA issue. It looks like the country is pretty evenly divided on whether the government has gone too far or not. One poll shows they favor wire taps, another that they do not. It appears that the polling outcome may have to do with how the issue is worded given how closely divided folks are.

But as usual, Billmon makes the most salient point. In terms of civil liberties, the majority opinion is not the key. The Bill of Rights which are the bedrock of civil liberties in the United States, by definition, were designed to protect the minority against the tyranny of the majority. Our founders recognized the potential for the majority to, shall we say, not always act in their long term best interests. Thus the court system is endowed with the power to go against majority opinion in protecting the constitutional rights of citizens.

So to hell with the polls on the illegal wire taps. When worded properly, I don't think Americans really approve of an authoritarian government, particularly when it comes to pushing them around individually. But whether there is a hue and cry for a big daddy dictator to keep us safe, or not, tough. The constitution to which we all agree is the law of the land, says that civil liberties are important and should be preserved. Let those who desire dictatorship repeal the Bill of Rights first.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Accidents Will Happen
Billmon writes an essay today on the growth of the police state. It's quite good, and it offers some perspectives on where we've been and where we are going. Please take a moment and read the whole thing.

I found this excerpt to be of interest:
Of course, this potentially sets the scene for the next loop in the downward spiral towards a full-fledged police state. If and when the next terrorist attack comes, the natural response of the national security bureaucracy (and its legal camp followers) will be to insist the tragedy never would have happened if it had been given access to all the data it wanted, all the money it needed, and all the investigative powers it demanded. It’ll be the fighting-with-one-hand-tied-behind-our-back argument, re-imported from Iraq. And who’s going to say no when another major American landmark is a smoldering ruin?

It seems that we've come to the point in our development as a country where we've now come to expect that "shit doesn't happen".

I remember a corporate training I went through a number of years ago. It was a management safety training course and with the philosophy of "there are no such thing as accidents". All industrial accidents had causes, and it was the job (and fault if they didn't) of the company to remove all possible causes. Of course this was driven by the incredibly high premiums for insurance rather than concern for employees. I thought at the time that it seemed rather odd that there would be no excuses for an accident occurring. Sure, all accidents have a cause. And of course we should work to minimize causes. But isn't also the case that sometimes, just occasionally, unforseen shit happens? Afterall, we're human aren't we? By definition, isn't it inevitable that we'll be imperfect? The natural universe is both well-ordered and chaotic, all at once. Can human beings remove all the chaos?

Our approach to national security and particularly the "Great War on Terror" seems to fall into this category. Billmon is exactly right about his assessment of another terrorist attack. When it happens (not if, as I think it's a foregone conclusion because terrorism has been such an effective strategy against the supermilitary; it's an effective tactic to put us in our place and is the barbarians vs. the Romans redux), there will be no excuses. The people will expect to be perfectly protected and will turn against any leaders who fail to do so. And our leaders know that. Being the political animals they are, there will indeed be the continuing demand for more authority with the resulting continued erosion of our civil rights. I think it's inevitable.

The only bright spot in my view of our civil liberties future is that if we get leadership in our country that really fights the war on terror with the proper tools. Understanding that you don't win hearts and minds at the end of the barrel of a gun is our savior. Re-establishing our place in the international community as a player with conscience and respect for the rule of law is essential. But any such endeavor will take time. Given the wrecking ball of the Bush administration, it will take a lot of time.

Probably too much time to avoid another attack.

So we civil libertarians will need to continue to stem the tide. But perhaps we also need to look at ourselves and our expectations. Perhaps our fear of our shadows, as outlined quite nicely in Michael Moore's movie "Bowling For Columbine" is an area that needs to be addressed.

And that leads to a whole other discussion on many fronts.
Consider a Change
Yet another Telco option other than those that are in bed with Bush. I've changed my landline to Qwest, but there are other options as well.
Friday, May 12, 2006
It IS Friday
Time for the Friday dump.

This from ThinkProgress. Not really a surprise. Most of us who are Bush watchers predicted this:
CongressDaily reports that former NSA staffer Russell Tice will testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee next week that not only do employees at the agency believe the activities they are being asked to perform are unlawful, but that what has been disclosed so far is only the tip of the iceberg.
Happy Times Are Here Again
Barry at The Big Picture had this handy chart today:

Not sure I have a lot to add. It's just another measure of how properity is distributed in our country, and the potential economic dangers as the consumer is 2/3rds of GDP.

It's also another answer to the out-of-touch wealthy individuals who don't understand why average Americans are pessimisstic during these "boom times".

Lots of joking about yet another picture of Cheney snoozing in public.

But really, is the guy alright? He's put on a lot of weight, there are reports he salts both sides of a piece of meat before eating it, and is under some stress. Now he seems to be sleeping in public a lot. You gotta wonder how he's doing.

I don't like the guy. But I don't like to see anyone melt right before my eyes. I think the 911 attacks took a lot larger toll on him as an individual than anyone knows.
Why Dean Is Right
Here's a post from Kevin Drum copied in whole:
CANVASSING....So is Howard Dean's effort to build up the Democratic Party infrastructure in all 50 states paying off? Here's an anecdote from a reader in Georgia:
About 6:30 this evening, a young lady rang my doorbell. She was canvassing for the DNC, going door to door talking to people and collecting small donations. We chatted for a while about this year's elections, Karl Rove, possible presidential candidates, and so on.

Now here's the thing: I have lived in blue and not so blue states in my life (and currently in the reddest of red states, Georgia) but this is the first time anyone representing the party has come to my house. What does she get for it? OK, I gave her some cash, but what is more interesting is what she found at some other houses in the neighborhood — Republican ones. Some of them gave her cash too. Others said they couldn't give money since it would put them in a bad position with the party, but that she was getting their vote this year. I can't help but think that this was worth whatever the DNC is paying her. She is creating new Democrats.
Well, we can hope.
Indeed, we can hope. This is what's it's about. You work in any campaign and they'll tell you that person to person contact is how you win votes. I know that in state and national races this is quite difficult. But it's why the GOP has been so successful through the utilization of churches.
Eric Alterman had this tidbit this morning.
Meanwhile, the Republican sex cop who authored Ken Starr’s final report on Clinton’s Lewinsky relationship after Starr cut and ran, has been charged with stalking an ex-girlfriend, a law enforcement official said, here. Should we be surprised? I dunno. Ask Rush Limbaugh, Bill Bennett or Newt Gingrich.
Gosh. Is there a pattern here?

Not my age .... Bush latest approval rating.

Next up, passing the all-time low of 23.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
My Thoughts Exactly
Peter Daou via the Hue and Cry:
Here we go again: a story that could bring down any administration, especially considering the fabrications we've heard about the scope of the NSA's activities and the legalities thereof. But part of me suspects we'll be seeing the same old thing, a scattershot effort from Dem leaders, no genuine crisis coverage from the press, lockstep Republican apologists, and an eventual yawn as this fades into the Bush memory hole...

When will this administration's overreach attain crisis-level attention? Will it simply be another blogswarm and a few days of scattered coverage? Will OJ Simpson and Natalee Holloway and Michael Jackson and Bush's rehashed speeches be the only items that receive roadblock coverage on the cable nets? Will Dem leaders step up and say "enough!" Will so-called 'conservatives' draw a line in the sand?

Once again, I have my doubts.
Go On A Qwest
Qwest communications was one of a very few phone carriers to refuse government requests for data. They insisted on subpoenas. You know, follow the law.

I just changed my service from AT&T to Qwest. I would change my cell service but I have a contract. Soon enough for that.

You might want to consider doing the same. It is quite easy to do, and can be done online assuming they offer service in your area.

Quote O' The Day
In other words, you can kill your neighbor "in self defense" because you know he hates you, he has weapons in his house (and has talked about getting some more!) and you can't just wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom souffle. Invade his home and kill him. (Oh and hold a gun to his kids' heads and force them to pick a new daddy for the family. That way, it'll be their decision.)
Digby, describing a metaphor for Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war.
Slouching Toward Fascism
Sign the petition :
It has recently been exposed that the National Security Agency has been collecting the personal and business call records of tens of millions of innocent Americans. This is an intrusion on privacy. I call on you, as leaders of a co-equal branch of our government, to investigate this matter fully. In order to fully understand the breadth of this program, all witness testimony should be delivered under oath.
The Front Lines UPDATED
Howard Dean, I love you:
According to the New York Times, tension is building between DNC chairman Howard Dean and Democratic congressional leaders. “Dean was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee on an unusual promise: To send millions of dollars in contributions to build up state Democratic parties, even in states that vote solidly Republican." Dean " has done precisely that. But the policy that has defined his tenure -- while delighting state Democratic chairmen -- has embroiled him in a battle with the two Congressional Democrats leading the effort to retake Congress this fall.”

In a "heated meeting" last week, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) "challenged Mr. Dean on his 50-state program, saying it was undercutting Democratic hopes of taking back the House and the Senate, Democrats said. They warned that Mr. Dean was squandering an opportunity by sending money to parties in states that are a long way from becoming Democratic.”

The Washington Post notes that the argument was so fierce, Emanuel “stormed out of Dean's office several days ago leaving a trail of expletives.”
Poor ba-beee

Howard. You just keep on doing what you are doing. Building a base everywhere is the key to more than just winning one election. It's the key to a liberal movement.

Screw Schumer and Emmanuel.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum weighs in and makes a good point. There's never a good time to do long term planning and building. But if there is a good time, it's when momentum is on your side.
Can You Hear Me Now?
Everyone and their dog is writing about the USA Today's report of the NSA illegal spying story. The short version is that the largest database in history is being built with records of all domestic phone calls. No surprise. I always figured this program is much larger and more extensive than originally reported. I also suspect there are more shoes to fall.

I have two thoughts on the matter. First, damned the phone companies, except Qwest, who cooperated in this venture without court order or any sort of proper legal proceeding. The corportization of America just continues with these types of results.

Second, why the release of this information now? Seems like anoynomous sources are trying to torpedo Michael Hayden in his quest to become CIA director. Good for them. The hearings for Hayden should be entertaining although I don't think these revelations will actually stop his being confirmed.
That's how Republicans see those who file for bankruptcy. Who are these people, really?

Average age: 38
44% of filers are couples
30% are women filing alone
26% are men filing alone
Slightly better educated than the general population
Two out of three have lost a job
Half have experienced a serious health problem
Fewer than 9% have not suffered a job loss, medical event or divorce
Highest bankruptcy rates: Tennessee, Utah, Georgia, Alabama*.

2,690,000 people filed bankruptcy in the year ended December 31, 2005.

*Note that 3 of the 4 are southern states, "Christian" states, "moral" states.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Not Your Soldier

This is too good not to share. It is a Flash presentation.

Stolen gleefully from Desi over at Mia Culpa.
Who's Trend Is It?

And this is the most salient analysis of the Bush polls that I have seen yet (from an emailer to Froomkin)who puts into words what I've tried to say:
"I don't believe that the president has had a true slide or fall from grace like other political figures might. In my opinion this administration has been pretty consistent in their quest to expand executive powers, focusing on the wrong things . . . and basic lack of accountability since early 2001. What did change during this time were the attitudes of the American public and the press. September 11th changed the way that the American people saw President Bush and the office of the president in general. They gave him much more credit than usual for small successes and refused to hit him hard for the many big mistakes of his first term.

"So many reports now are focusing on why his poll numbers are so low today (Iraq, gas prices, Katrina) but no one has examined the psychology of the American public and press that elevated the man to such high ratings not for what he had done but for what had been done to us. I would be interested to hear this as part of the discussion because if we can't learn what so many of us in America did wrong for five years, we will be sure to repeat these mistakes and give an undeserving leader entirely too much power over us again."
So maybe we're returning to sanity after the 911 attack?

(Shamelessly stolen from Born at the Crest of Empire)

I truly think that the level of outrage a person experiences as a result of the actions of the Bush administration is some kind of rorschach test for mental health.
A Must See
Especially if you love Travolta and dogs. (warning: it's a Salon site, you may have to click through a commercial).
More Tax Cuts
for the wealthy.

House and Senate Republican negotiators reached a final agreement yesterday on a five-year, nearly $70 billion tax package that would extend President Bush's deep cuts to tax rates on dividends and capital gains, while sparing about 15 million middle-income Americans from the alternative minimum tax.

But with the budget deficit still expected to exceed $300 billion this year, despite a strong economy, opponents say the government cannot afford to add $70 billion more over the next five years.

"The point is the preponderance of these revenues will go to upper-income people, people who make a million dollars or more," Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) said yesterday. "It's a question of priorities."


Critics maintain that those tax cuts have overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy, while budget cuts target programs for the poor to close a deficit created largely by tax cuts totaling nearly $2 trillion since Bush took office.

I really believe the goal of the neocons is, as Grover Norquist once said, shrink government down to a size where you can drown it in a bathtub. They are doing a good job so far. Once the government is crippled, who is there to step up? Corporations. This administration has managed to privatize almost every segment of our government in some form. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a corporate run, Ayn Randian type of world but that is precisely where we are headed.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006
No Paddle?
You can find one here. I'm convinced. You can find anything on the web.
Plummer is All Wet
I'll leave you to reach your own conclusion:
Canada has 20% of the entire world's supply of freshwater.


About 1.5 billion people around the globe lack freshwater. In about 20 years demand for freshwater will exceed supply by 56 percent.


"in 1997 the United Nations concluded that the best—perhaps the only—way to get water to them was through a system of international markets and trade."
But hey, on the other hand, that little global warming problem will be creating a lot of more.

Oh. That's right.

That will be saltwater.
Dead Heat
As they race to the finish, I wonder who'll win?

And a quote to go with it, regarding the Rovian strategy of using the Hayden nomination to improve the polls:
The point is, when you get down to 31% approval in a Gallup Poll, and your disapproval rating is trying to poll vault over the record high set by Richard Nixon just before he resigned in disgrace, it means the American people essentially think you're the political equivalent of crab lice. At that point, they're probably going to hate anything and everything you do -- even if they actually agree with it -- just because you're the one doing it. And when your own political allies feel the same way, or at least feel compelled to act the same way . . . well, it's a pretty stupid time to pick a fight.