Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Thursday, August 31, 2006
This is why tort reform should not happen:
The WP, following a Boston Globe scoop, fronts a piece that says that scientific studies have determined that the amount of nicotine in cigarettes increased an average of 10 percent between 1998 and 2004. The cigarette companies say they have no idea how it could have happened. A judge in a recent federal lawsuit determined that the companies have "designed their cigarettes to precisely control nicotine delivery levels." More nicotine makes cigarettes more addictive and harder to quit.

How'd that happen?

More nicotine in our product? Must've been an unusual bumper crop of specialized tobacco or something. OR. It's global warming causing the plants to (without our knowledge) to put more nicotine in!

We don't know nuthin' about the birthin' of no babies!
If you haven't seen Keith Olbermann's response to Rumsfeld you are missing something grand. He pulls no punches and it is way past time for such response to Bushco's bull.
Stevens Petition
Keeping the pressure on, there is a petition to sign to demand answers from Senator Ted Stevens as to why he placed a secret hold on a bill that would create a public searchable database of government spending.
Go sign the thing.
Stevens Shenanigans
I find it interesting that the Alaska Report (The Voice of Alaska Fishermen since 1999) has highlighted Ted Stevens's shenanigans during his watch. Is there hope that the voters will rid themselves of Stevens just as they rid themselves of Governor Murkowski?

Downright embarassing.
Hat tip to Romonov
Quote of the Day
"The failure of Israel to subdue Hezbollah demonstrates the many weaknesses of the war-on-terror concept. One of those weaknesses is that even if the targets are terrorists, the victims are often innocent civilians, and their suffering reinforces the terrorist cause."—George Soros in an oped piece in the Boston Globe.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
As you may already know, the Pentagon wants to cut research and treatment money for traumatic brain injuries in half. They want to do this despite the fact that this is one of the most common injuries to U.S. G.I.'s in Iraq. When a spokesman for the Senate appropriations committee was asked about this cut, she said:
"Honestly, they would have loved to have funded it, but there were just so many priorities," says Jenny Manley, spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee. "They didn't have any flexibility in such a tight fiscal year."
I'll bet Ted "all pork all the time" Stevens is really worrying about our boys.

Yeah, there's that spiffy missile defense system that doesn't work while soaking up billions, and those private contracts, and those payoffs to Iraqi ex-pats for services rendered, and on and on and on.

What a stupid statement to make. But then, what could be said that isn't stupid about cutting a pittance of dollars (total program funding is only $15 million) for funding of treatment and research of the signature injury of the great Bush adventure?

I decided to do a little research on the subject of what actually happens in traumatic brain injury (TBI). Go read the whole thing. It's quite enlightening. Essentially, when there's a blast near a soldier, the shock waves just cause the brain to rattle around a bit inside their skulls. Here's an excerpt:
Sergeant David Emme, a supply officer with a U.S. Army Stryker Brigade, was stationed at a submachine gun on a truck rolling through northern Iraq last November, in a convoy transporting Iraqi volunteers to Mosul for military training. As they entered the town of Talafar, Emme noticed that the streets were unusually quiet: no children were outdoors running toward the vehicles demanding sweets. Emme got on the radio and warned others in the convoy: "Something might happen. They might have some plan for us." Moments later, as they slowed at a traffic circle, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off right next to Emme's truck, knocking him out.

Emme's version of what happened next is patched together, from his own memories and what others told him later. "I remember waking up and wondering who the hell I was, where the hell I was, and why can't I see or hear? My soldier was screaming for me to get out of the truck and I told him no, because it hurt too much. So he literally threw me out of the truck and guided me to a Stryker," a lightweight armored vehicle.

The blast wave and fragments from the explosion had blown out Emme's left eardrum, fractured his skull, injured his left eye, and caused a severe contusion in the left frontotemporal area of his brain. His fellow soldiers rushed him to the nearby military base, where he partially regained his vision and tried to walk before again losing consciousness. He was medically evacuated, first to a combat support hospital in Balad and then to one in Baghdad. There, neurosurgeons performed a craniectomy, removing a large piece of skull from the left temporal region to give Emme's brain room to swell (see diagram). They implanted the bone under the subcutaneous tissue of his abdomen, hoping that it could be replaced later — if Emme survived. He remained unconscious and remembers nothing about his stops in these hospitals.
And this guy was one of the "lighter" cases.

I can't believe that thinking budget analyst looked at this item and said, "hey, let's cut research for brain injury". More likely, like so much that is the Bush administration, it was a matter of incompetence. Will the Senate remedy this incompetence? The Senate is led by Republicans. What do you think?
American History
An excerpt from BBC production The Century of the Self has a segment about our own propaganda minister, Edward Bernays.

In 2002, Adam Curtis and the BBC released a four-part series called "The Century of the Self."

The series tracks how American elites have aggressively used the modern behavioral sciences to persuade, coerce and manipulate the American public into accepting the corporate-government world's version of events as their own.

This seven-minute video which I call "The Assassin of Democracy" focuses on one of the most skillful and amoral expert of all the experts in mass manipulation, Edward Bernays. Bernays got his first taste of the power of propaganda during World War I. He advised US presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Einsehower and served numerous corporations and business associations. One of his biggest fans was Hitler's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, a fact about which Bernays bragged proudly.

In this clip, we see a pattern that Bernays used over and over again: turn a harmless entity into a fearsome enemy through lies and manufactured news items. Then use the "threat" to justify attack. The subject of this video is Bernays campaign against the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1953, but you'll have no trouble seeing that this very same method is being used today.

The senator holding up the bill is Ted Stevens. With all the pork he packs into legislation I can see why he would be opposed to the public having access to a database of government spending.
By the Way
Remember when Katrina shut down the refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, one year ago? Gas prices soared.
One year later, BP shuts down it's fields in Alaska and gas prices drop. Would someone explain?

This makes me want to cry but explains a lot about why America is in the sorry shape it is in.
Lies and Spies
The Republicans can't seem to function without breaking some rule of law or ethics.

Republican operatives working out of Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch's office successfully hacked into the computers of and spied on several prominent Democrats, most notably Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, for over a year from the Spring of 2002 through April of 2003. As The Boston Globe noted on January 22, 2004, the memos were then leaked at useful moments to The Washington Times, Bob Novak, and others.

And this is from an article published in 2004. Not only has nothing come of it but it is completely off the radar in the media.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Short Hairs
And now we are down to six.

Five of them are Republicans.
Grrrrr .... UPDATED
The blogosphere is all abuzz about the recent bombastic rhetoric used by Cheney and Rumsfeld (both doing pretty good imitations of Spiro Agnew) about the Islamofacists and the need to stay the course. Matt Yglesias writes:
For his latest trick, in a speech to the American Legion, Don Rumsfeld gives the full wingnut monte. America faces an undifferentiated fascist menace. Bush's critics are appeasers who don't understand the lessons of history who blame America first and hate freedom. The media is treasonous and a free press is a luxury we can ill-afford in this time of crisis. Etc.

This, I think we can assume, is the fall campaign. The idea is to psyche the Democrats out. To make them think they can't win an argument about foreign policy. To make them act like they can't win an argument about foreign policy. And to thereby demonstrate to the American people that even the Democrats themselves lack confidence in their own ability to handle these issues.
Digby takes Yglesias one step further:
This is terribly important for everyone to understand. This is not a real critique. It's a psych-out designed purely to make the Democrats go wobbly and to get the media to portray them that way. It's about optics, heuristics and image. If the Democratic Party falls for it, it will be a crime. There is no substance to what they are saying and there is no reason for Dems to even flinch from such empty intimidation. Indeed, they should snarl right back in their faces.

If Democrats respond with a defensive "no we're not weak on terraists" kind of whiny response, or with a "I can be tougher than you" answer, we're dead. The attack needs to be on these nutbars, their bombastic rhetoric, their incompetence, and their mendacity. Anything short of a frontal attack will demonstrate exactly what Rummy says about them.

UPDATE: Someone get's it. Harry Reid:
"Secretary Rumsfeld’s reckless comments show why America is not as safe as it can or should be five years after 9/11. The Bush White House is more interested in lashing out at its political enemies and distracting from its failures than it is in winning the War on Terror and in bringing an end to the war in Iraq. If there's one person who has failed to learn the lessons of history it's Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld ignored military experts when he rushed to war without enough troops, without sufficient body armor, and without a plan to succeed. Under this Administration's watch, terror attacks have increased, Iraq has fallen into civil war, and our military has been stretched thin. We have a choice to make today. Do we trust Secretary Rumsfeld to make the right decisions to keep us safe after he has been so consistently wrong since the start of the Iraq War? Or, do we change course in Iraq and put in place new leadership that will put the safety of the American people ahead of partisan games? For the sake of the safety of this country, it is time to make a change."
Very nice Harry.
The polls are looking pretty ugly right now for Angelides vs. Ahhhhnold. Angelides is losing by 6+ depending on the poll you look at, and the momentum is in blockheads favor.

Angelides, the Dems, and the unions better get their game faces on quickly or they'll be dealing with Ahhhhnold for another four years. And we all know how he slithers.
Can Nuclear Be Green
Check out this very interesting article on new technology that utilizes thorium instead of uranium as a source of nuclear fuel for electricity generation:
What if we could build a nuclear reactor that offered no possibility of a meltdown, generated its power inexpensively, created no weapons-grade by-products, and burnt up existing high-level waste as well as old nuclear weapon stockpiles? And what if the waste produced by such a reactor was radioactive for a mere few hundred years rather than tens of thousands? It may sound too good to be true, but such a reactor is indeed possible, and a number of teams around the world are now working to make it a reality. What makes this incredible reactor so different is its fuel source: thorium.
Turns out thorium can be engineered to provide the heat (and energy) of a nuclear chain reaction without remaining radioactive for 10,000 years. Also, it looks like this type of reactor can "eat" the more dangerous uranium and plutonium.

And it's more abundant on earth than uranium.

I don't know if thorium is the answer. But certainly this is the type of research and thinking that needs to be going on. Rather than looking at the energy crisis and returning to old solutions such as coal, more oil drilling, cleaning up fossil fuels, and uranium fired nuclear plants, we should be working to have our cake and eat it too .... that is to have a clean, cheap and environmentally friendly energy source. It's clearly possible. We just need to $$$ and willpower to do it.
Too Many Secrets
Some senator has put a hold on the Coburn/Obama bill that would create a user-friendly, public database of all government spending. Talk about accountability. Which senator has stalled the bill? No one is talking.
TPMmuckraker explains the bill and the process. It is an interesting insight into the workings of the inner sanctum that runs our lives.
What's the Lesson?
I agree with Lynne totally .... blogger has been awful today and yesterday. We'll post as we're allowed.

Anyway, I ran across this summary story this a.m.:
At least 40 people, including 25 soldiers in the Iraqi Army, were killed in street battles that took place in the southern city of Diwaniyah, according to the LAT, which appears to have the latest casualty numbers. The NYT has the best explanation of what sparked the fighting. A week ago, at least two Iraqi soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb that the army believes was planted by Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army. The army responded with arrests, after which militiamen took to the streets and skirmished with police. That led to military raids on three neighborhoods, which sparked yesterday's gunfights and shelling.

"It was soon clear who had won," says the WP—Sadr's militia. Several papers mention that an Iraqi general said a group of soldiers who'd run out of ammunition were executed in front of residents in a public square. "Some Iraqi soldiers were captured and beheaded," says the WP.
I continue to hear most of the media describe Iraq as "on the brink" of civil war. Not sure what would have to be happening to become official.

Anyone in the Iraqi "army" must now be completely un-nerved (if they weren't already) about the future of the government and the U.S. occupation. I would guess that the those who are left are some kind of opportunists or hoping for an evac.

I've been watching the PBS documentary on the American revolution. The parallels with Iraq and the middle east are uncanny, up to and including the names of the two idiot rulers of the idiot empires. It's so depressing to watch history repeat itself over and over again. It's like every new narcissistic power hungry idiot who gains power thinks that in some way "it's different" for them. This flaw in our human existence has to be responsible for more deaths and destruction than any disease.
Whistleblower uses YouTube
I hope this fellow doesn't end up in Gitmo.

Blogger has been absolutely horrible lately.
Monday, August 28, 2006
While we're looking at charts, how about this one (click to enlarge):

Swell little capitalistic state we've got going here.
Atrios put up this chart to provide a little context for the recent housing boom. This is an index created by Robert Shiller that allows a relative comparison of home values over history (click to enlarge):


Desired readings:

Brix 22-25
Acid <.7

Current Readings:

Brix 14.5
Acid 1.0
Quote of the Day
Kool aid drinker in chief:
"In "Iraq, we'll never be in civil war. What you see is an atmosphere of reconciliation."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, citing the Baghdad public safety campaign, on CNN yesterday.

Facts on the ground via Juan Cole:
The LA Times reports that at least 80 Iraqis were killed in the country's low-intensity civil war on Sunday. This article says that killings are down substantially in Baghdad itself, what with thousands of US and Iraqi troops making security sweeps through the most dangerous neighborhoods. The first question is whether the decline in deaths in Baghdad (which is only relative) has been offset by violence in Mosul, Baqubah and elsewhere. The second question is whether the violence will remain lower when the sweeps end, as inevitably they will. Can the Iraqi troops take over at that point and continue to be effective against the guerrillas? My guess is, "no." In which case the US "Battle for Baghdad" is just a delaying tactic, putting off the day when the west of the capital falls altogether into the hands of the Sunni Arab guerrillas. If that happened, the Green Zone might not be far behind.

Prime Minister Maliki had the misfortune to come on US television noonish on Sunday and pronounce that violence is lessening in Iraq.

The LA Times reported 6 troops killed or announced dead on Sunday.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
It's Too Early To Freak ....

But not to early to pay attention.

Unfortunately, most of the projected paths do go through oil fields .... with drilling rigs. Sure glad I bought that hybrid ......
Time for some Sunday Classical. This guy is goooood!

Friday, August 25, 2006
Betting on Failure
According to Kiplinger's, the Cheneys, who may be worth close to $100 million, have invested the vast majority of their wealth overseas, in markets that do not fluctuate based on the U.S. dollar

Alternet has the story.
This guy has a major hand in driving our economy into the dirt then walks away with his millions. If this man isn't a criminal no one is.
Counter Spin
Think Progress has a Katrina Timeline up to counter the crap due from the White House.
I've Got the Remedy

Time for another Youtube.
Jason Mraz - The Remedy
I normally avoid anything that has to do with the cable shout-fests. And I especially avoid anything that is Ann Coulter. But this clip is fasinating in that someone (from FOX no less!) actually holds her accountable and sticks it to her!

And she really really didn't like it much.

Well Ann. Now you know how Liberals have felt over the last 15 years.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
TSA Makes A Pinch
This is getting ridiculous:
The female airport security guard held the small, black, squeezable rubber object she'd just plucked out of Mardin Amin's backpack, and eyed it suspiciously.

Standing next to his mother, an embarrassed Amin whispered out of one corner of his mouth that it was a "pump" -- as in a penis pump. The guard misunderstood the Iraqi man and thought she heard the word "bomb," Amin's attorney told a Cook County judge Wednesday.

"He told her it's a pump," attorney Eileen O'Neill-Burke said as a cluster of burly, snickering police officers watched the court proceedings. "He's standing with his mother. Of course he's not going to shout this out."


"Come on -- what do you think?" said Amin, who lives in Skokie and works for a janitorial service.

Amin may not want his mother to know he has a penis pump, but he said he doesn't consider it an unusual device to own.

"It's normal," he said. "Half of America they use it."

Amin is due back in court Sept. 13.
The guy is standing trial for disorderly conduct and is facing up to three years in prison.
You Tell Em'
Matt Taibbi has a very interesting essay on the DLC'ers in Rolling Stone. Excerpt:
The unspoken subtext of this increasingly bitter debate between the Democratic Party establishment and the supporters of people like Ned Lamont and Hillary Clinton's antiwar challenger, Jonathan Tasini, is a referendum ordinary people have unexpectedly decided to hold on the kingmaker's role of the holy trinity of the American political establishment -- big business, the major political parties and the commercial media. The irony is that it's the political establishment itself that has involuntarily raised the consciousness of its disenfranchised voters.

The surge in support for Lamont initially came from people motivated by two simple things -- a desire to protest the war in Iraq, and physical revulsion before the wrinkled, vengeful persona of Joe Lieberman. But the party, in fighting back, attacked not on the issues but on the means of protest -- blogs, grassroots activism, Lamont's independent wealth. In doing so, it threw into relief the essential parameters of the problem, which is this: The Democratic Party has been operating for two decades without the active participation of its voters. [my emphasis]
Damned straight.

It's why anyone who solicits money from the DSCC or the DCCC gets zilch from this wallet. My money goes to those candidates who believe in, like, real democracy, not some corporate variation run by so-called "moderates", made popular during the internet bubble and by a persona (Clinton), not an ideology.
Quote of the Day
"Believe me, I think staff thinks that two are plenty."
Under a headline that says "White House Dismisses Talk of Third Term," Fox News quotes White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino.
Froomkin's opens his column today with these paragraphs:
There is a popular sentiment among the Washington elite that what went wrong in the run-up to the war in Iraq has been sufficiently examined, and that it's all water under the bridge anyway.

It's popular in the White House and among Republicans for obvious reasons. But it's also remarkably popular among top Democrats and the establishment media, because they aren't all that eager to call any more attention to the fact that they were played for suckers.
I think his analysis is correct, and you can see it in action anytime you watch any debate about the Iraq war between neocons and everyone else. The argument by the "hold-em-accountable-camp" seems to center on not wanting history to repeat itself. But you'll play hell getting much play in the media with this stance as it's label "beating a dead horse".

Froomkin uses this argument as the introduction to a discussion about Iran, and how history may be repeating itself right before our eyes with Democrats, who are trying to look tough on terraists, claiming that Iraq wasn't the problem, Iran is a problem and the administration isn't doing anything about it! It's a good read and I recommend it.

I also agree that accountability is important. Where I'm likely to be more militant is that I don't think accountability simply means taking a beating in the polls or "learning from history". I think it means some kind of legal/financial consequences.

The people who are the architects of the disaster in Iraq are old Nixon folks who got away with murder the last time they held responsible positions. Because there were not legal consequences for them (or financial), they were not substantially repudiated in the world that is Washington or the public at large. Today, those in more junior positions to Rumsfeld, Rove, Bush, Cheney, the Boltins, and other key White House players need to watch their superiors get the hammer.


Without such accountability, these times just become old war stories while the tactics go forward into the next conservative "revolution". It's why I think Bush needs to be impeached, no matter how late in the Presidency, no matter who becomes President. It's also why Lieberman must lose, why other Democrats who have not openly recognized and admitted their mistake in supporting the administration must be shoved aside. The consequences of the mistake have been high. The consequences for those who made the mistake must be equally high. Without consequences, it's just politics as usual with Rovian tactics becoming more and more mainstream and the distortions in our body politic institutionalized.
This is a story not being covered anywhere in the mainstream media or liberal bloggers for that matter. An environmental disaster continues in Lebannon as a result of the Israeli's bombing.

And of course, the Israeli blockade is preventing any cleanup from occuring ..... Go see Jaded Thea's site for further information and pics. It's a tragedy.
Don't Be Removing My Wedgie!
Scientist announced that they "may", I repeat "may" be able to harvest stem cells without harming an embryo.

Let's assume for a moment that they do. Does anyone actually think this will remove opposition to stem cell research?:
"There is no rational reason left to oppose this research," one of the scientists involved told the NYT. But the White House said they'll be deciding what's rational, thank you. A Bush spokeswoman said the scientists had the right idea, but that in the end, "any use of human embryos for research purposes raises serious ethical questions. This technique does not resolve those concerns." The Catholic Church also was not won over, objecting as it does to in vitro fertilization in general as well as this particular diagnostic test.
This scientist quoted above makes a fundamental mistake is thinking that "rationality" has anything to do with the entire issue. For the White House and conservative nutbars, it's politics and fantacism. The controversy over this issue will never be solved in the laboratory.

At least the Catholics are consistently against all in-vitro fertilization.

Besides. Don't wedgies fit in the same category as frat nick-names, farting jokes?
Let The Crush Begin!
This week marks the first week of harvest for wine grapes in Napa, Sonoma, Marin, Lake, and Mendocino Counties, aka the California "wine country".

Yee Haw!

Everything is running about two weeks behind schedule due to a wet spring and a (so far) mild fall. In my part of the country, fall is usually our "summer" with the warmer temperatures, so it's a bit premature to call it "mild".

My grapes are still several weeks away from harvest, perhaps late September, unless we get a hot spell.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Why Didn't He Fix It?
Ok, so this couple has been having repeated ultrasounds so they can evaluate the cleft lip of their unborn child. Then, out of nowhere, out pops an image of Jesus looking over their child!

My question is this. If Jesus is in there, why didn't he fix the lip?

Like this story? Check out the others at the above link:
• Pope to inspect 'image of Christ on veil'
• Holy toast: Sandwich sells for £15,000
• Heavenly chocolate is the Virgin Mary
• Our Lady of the underpass
• The alligator's skin that spells God
Hypocrite of the Week
Preznit Bush:
"There must be consequences if people thumb their nose at the United Nations Security Council, and we will work with people in the Security Council to achieve that objective."
Wonder if John Bolton got the word.
Boltin' Joe News
Two new developments. First, the UAW is supporting Lamont and is appalled that Lieberman is running as an independent (I believe the UAW supported Lieberman in the primary). Next, two polls have the race neck n' neck. That's not good news for Lieberman this early in the general election cycle .......
Quote of the Day
"In the long run, we're not safer because we're still operating on the assumption that we're hated because of our freedoms, when in fact we're hated because of our actions in the Islamic world."—Michael Scheuer, who served in the CIA for 22 years before resigning in 2004. Harpers has an interview with him and according to Ken Silverstein, "His prognosis was illuminating and insightful—and, unfortunately, almost unrelentingly grim."
Full article here.
Here's some key information on the state of the American ATM machine (thanks Barry Ritholtz)(click to enlarge):

Ok. Sales are down .... Dramatically. Worse, sales have been trending down and continue to do so.

Inventories are up. Prices are down.

Is it fair to say the housing bubble is over? And given that the American consumer has been 2/3's of the economy, and given that American's have gotten all that spending money through borrowing and refi's, you've gotta wonder how long gross domestic product can stay above recession levels?

Me thinks the window for a stock market rally is slowly but surely closing. Perhaps some fall-Christmas cheer before the long winter sets in?
We're getting a bit closer to the blinking contest:
The Post notes that Iran, as a major oil producer, is in a good position to play hardball with the West: "Iran is feeling emboldened in the region and the Security Council is juggling a multitude of crises in the Middle East, including the Iraq war and recent fighting in southern Lebanon."

The NYT suggests that Iran may be trying to work out an arrangement whereby it keeps the enrichment program but with safeguards to ensure no nuclear material goes to a weapons program, and that Tehran believes it could get China and Russia to support that compromise. But the Post says Iran may be willing to deal, and cites Iranian sources as saying Tehran would freeze the program if it got assurances that Washington was dealing in earnest and was not trying to engage in regime change on the sly.
In one corner, we have the U.S. and it's "allies" who don't want a nuclear Iran. In the other corner, we have Iran with who rightly fears a Bushian policy in the middle east and who has been well trained in the need for a nuclear weapon in order to avoid the U.S. bully. And please. Don't believe any nonsense about an agreement that preserves enrichment while keeping materials away from arms development. Iran has learned one of the most important lessons of diplomacy in the last six years: if you have a nuke, you're much much safer than if you don't. Any such agreement will inevitably be "broken" and exist merely as a stalling tactic.

As the deadline approaches, 8/31, it will be interesting to see who blinks. Given Iran's position as the third largest oil producer in the world and major supplier to China, and given how Cheney has proven the impotence of American military power, I don't see Iran giving an inch.

This leaves a glaring question. Will Bush blink? Good sense, diplomatic intelligence and leadership would suggest he should. And of course, these are all the reasons why it's unlikely he will.

In the end, it looks to me like brinksmanship right up to airplanes, loaded with bombs, moving into takeoff position. When neither side sees that it has nothing to "lose", war becomes a much greater likelihood. Neither care about the loss of innocent life. Bush can't get anymore disliked politically unless the schizophrenic wards turn against him. Iran knows it can ultimately win a military confrontation with the west after throwing a gernade into the west's economy with oil embargos.

War it seems, is a likelihood that, without some major western concession, seems inevitable.

As an aside, it's probably no accident that 2,500 retired marines were drafted .... yes I said drafted .... back into the military to go to the middle east. There has been no drawdown of troops and in fact we are increasing the numbers. Anyone with a brain in the Pentagon knows that an attack on Iraq would mean increased attacks on American's in Iraq.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
And They Worried About Blow Jobs?
Animal House in the West Wing

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.
A real big thinker and a gasbag to boot.
Down For The Count
Josh is making the case that there is a sea-change occurring:
But not this cycle. It's no mystery that things aren't looking good for the GOP this year. But I like looking at numbers in the individual races. And again and again, I'm seeing races that never quite become competitive tip on to the other side entirely.

One I noticed a few weeks ago was Rep. Chris ["the count"] Chocola in Indiana 2. First was a Democratic poll showing him a stunning ten points behind his Democratic opponent. Partisan polls are of course inherently suspect. But, as has happened again and again over the last six or seven weeks, that was followed by an independent poll which showed a smaller but still serious deficit. Chocola with 41% to his challengers 46%.

For an incumbent in July those are very bleak numbers.

And he's not the only one.
I think it's still a bit early to get the champagne chilled. But I do think the election is moving in the right direction. But then again, I've felt cautiously optimistic before only to be torpedoed. But hey, even a stopped watch is right twice per day.
Dead White Women
Since the media is so good at covering these stories, how about some coverage of these?
Monday, August 21, 2006
Corporate Game Plan
Only it is no game.
In this workshop, I’d learn how to create bogus community groups, false statistics, and links with “far-right-wing nutso activists”. I’d learn to conflate “activist” with “terrorist” and “security threat”.
We’d all gathered to hear a man who claims that proportional representation is “a bizarre thing” and that “corporate responsibility is a weakness. Corporate responsibility is letting someone else set the agenda.” We’d learn that sustainability is “an extremist position”, that science’s ‘precautionary principal’ is “extreme”, and that maintaining biodiversity “turns back the evolutionary clock millions of years and eliminates humans from the face of the Earth! That’s extreme!” Animal protection bodies, we’d learn, really want to “sever all contact between humans and animals!”

This guy makes Gordon Gecko look like a beatnik. And corporations are taking copious notes.
Work, Work, Work
But this summer, a number of surveys show that American workers, who already take fewer vacations than people in nearly all industrial nations, have pruned back their leisure days even more.

The Conference Board, a private research group, found that at the start of the summer, 40 percent of consumers had no plans to take a vacation over the next six months — the lowest percentage recorded by the group in 28 years. A survey by the Gallup Organization in May based on telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,003 adults found that 43 percent of respondents had no summer vacation plans.

About 25 percent of American workers in the private sector do not get any paid vacation time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Another 33 percent will take only a seven-day vacation, including a weekend.

“The idea of somebody going away for two weeks is really becoming a thing of the past,” said Mike Pina, a spokesman for AAA, which has nearly 50 million members in North America. “It’s kind of sad, really, that people can’t seem to leave their jobs anymore.” Full story here.

Shrinking vacations to go along with shrinking paychecks. How nice.
Heckuva job, Shrub.
This is the heights of discourse to which our President will go to inform the public about his policies:
Herman [Cox news reporter] was sporting a brown seersucker-style suit that’s a bit brighter than the typical blues and grays of the briefing room. Bush, who’s a stickler about traditional dress with his own staff, called on another reporter for a question, but couldn’t resist adding an aside to Herman: “By the way, seersucker is coming back.”

Later Bush came back to the outfit again. In response to another reporter’s question about the Lieberman-Lamont race, Bush said he was “going to stay out of Connecticut.” Herman piped up that Bush had been born there. Bush jokingly accused Herman of doing research, and also of being mad that Bush had “dissed that just ridiculous-looking outfit.”

Finally Bush called on Herman for a question. “Go ahead,” Herman said slowly, bracing himself for yet another jab.

“I don’t need to now that you’ve stood up, and everybody can clearly see for themselves,” Bush responded, to laughter. Later inspection showed that the suit in question was a Haspel. Herman said it came out for the press conference because his wife reminded him he should wear his summer stuff again before it has to go to the cleaners.
Worst. President. Ever.
Tesla Motors
Our first car, the Tesla Roadster, isn‘t a plan, pipedream or prototype; this car exists and is for sale now. It‘s a no-compromise driver‘s car that can accelerate faster than a Porsche 911 and hit a top speed of nearly twice what the law permits. With a range of 250 miles on a single charge, you can use it all day long and not worry you‘ll run out of juice. Just plug it in at night the same way you drop your cell phone into its charger, and sleep well, without guilt.

Go read some more at
It Can Happen Here
Not really a new story but Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here has been reissued.
The story features America in thrall to a homespun facist dictator. As the Boston Globe review says, it's as unsettling a read as ever.

Through a combination of factors-his easy bearing chief among them (along with massive cash donations from Big Business; disorganization in the liberal opposition; a stuffy, aloof opponent; and support from religious fanatics who feel they've been unfairly marginalized)-he wins the presidential election.

Once in, he appoints his friends and political advisers to high-level positions, stocks the Supreme Court with ''surprisingly unknown lawyers who called [him] by his first name,'' declaws Congress, allows Big Business to dictate policy, consolidates the media, and fills newspapers with ''syndicated gossip from Hollywood.'' Carping newspapermen worry that America is moving backward to a time when anti-German politicians renamed sauerkraut ''Liberty Cabbage'' and ''hick legislators...set up shop as scientific experts and made the world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution,'' but newspaper readers, wary of excessive negativity, pay no mind.

Given the nature of ''powerful and secret enemies'' of America-who are ''planning their last charge'' to take away our freedom-an indefinite state of crisis is declared, and that freedom is stowed away for safekeeping. When the threat passes, we can have it back, but in the meantime, citizens are asked to ''bear with'' the president.

Cautionary tales like this, movies such as Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana should grab more of the public's attention. If only they weren't so distracted with the faux JonBenet killer headlines. There really is nothing new under the sun.
"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."—George Santayana
Sunday, August 20, 2006
John McCain still says we just need to add more troops to Iraq and everything will be swell:
On NBC’s Meet the Press this morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for immediately adding more U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq. Echoing the failed strategy behind the escalation during the Vietnam War, McCain suggested that putting more troops in the middle of Iraq’s civil war would help the U.S. to ultimately prevail.
You'd think he, above all others, would know the difference.

Looks like 2006 and 2008 are shaping up to be a referendum on the war .... even more than I thought it would. If the Republicans nominate a candidate who is a hawk on Iraq (given the reality on the ground, I thought they were extinct?), that's exactly what the election will feature.
Thank You Sir
May I have another?

Rumsfeld took office determined to transform the U.S. armed forces into a high-tech, computerized, lean, mean fighting machine that would be invincible.

Instead, the U.S. Army today remains becalmed in Iraq, stuck in the middle of a low intensity guerrilla war it has been unable to tame. And that war is now morphing into a no-holds-barred civil war. Meanwhile, U.S. military preparedness, retired generals and respected military analysts warn, is now lower than it was in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War -- when Rumsfeld was U.S. defense secretary for the first time.

Full story here.

The Eagles

Reminding us that you can check out but you can never leave. We are all in Hotel California and W. is the concierge.
Hotel California

CAMP ANACONDA, Iraq (AP) - Spc. Chris Carlson had been out of the U.S. Army for two years and was working at Costco in California when he received notice that he was being called back into service.

The 24-year-old is one of thousands of soldiers and Marines who have been deployed to Iraq under a policy that allows military leaders to recall troops who have left the service but still have time left on their contract.

"I thought it was crazy," said Carlson, who has found himself protecting convoys on Iraq's dangerous roads as part of a New Jersey National Guard unit. "Never in a million years did I think they would call me back."

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.

Saturday, August 19, 2006
All In A Day's Work
The WP's Haditha piece is based on a leaked statement from Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, and the paper calls it the "first formal evidence to emerge in the case" involving U.S. forces allegedly killing civilians, including women and children, in the Iraqi village. Chessani, who declined a lawyer when he spoke to investigators despite being told he was suspected of dereliction of duty, did not order an investigation after the incident because he didn't consider what happened unusual, the paper reports. He considered it normal "combat action."
Yeah, a little rape, a little murder in a village of civilians sounds like typical combat to me. The above quote goes right along with this golden oldie from 2005:
Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who commanded Marine expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq, made the comments Tuesday during a panel discussion in San Diego, California.

"Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot," Mattis said, prompting laughter from some military members in the audience. "It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
And of course there's the recently retired General Geoffrey "bamboo-under-the-nails" Miller's recently awarded Distinguished Service Medal", and the military leadership picture becomes understandable. This just goes to show the level of delusion the military has had to undergo in order to fulfill Bush's mission in Iraq.
Piggyback Post
I wanted to just add to Lynne's Ford post below:
Ford's production cut means it will reduce its output by about 168,000 vehicles. In accordance with union agreements, workers will still be paid while their factories temporarily go dark. The company named continued high gas prices as the main culprit, resulting in greatly reduced demand for SUVs and its popular F-150 truck line.
This meme of consumer choices messing up the American automakers business is just plain bunk and frankly I'm sick of hearing it.

Foreign automakers do virtually all their U.S. assembly in the United States. Yes, they have some advantages with regard to a younger work force and lower health care costs. But these are issues that could have been resolved for GM and Ford in the first Clinton administration had they gotten solidly behind the Democratic push for national healthcare. They chose instead to stick with the low lying fruit, indulging the American huge car stupidity and by not investing in cars designed for the future. Only a moron was not able to see the petroleum writing on the wall. Only a moron would assume that any changes in gas prices are "temporary". Only a moron will assume that the future is not fuel efficiency or new technology, regardless of gasoline prices over the next six months.

Finally, let me share with you a personal experience. My wife and I just bought a new car. It's a Toyota Camry hybrid. It's rated at 38 mpg city, 40 mpg hwy. In practice, we're getting ~34 mpg city, likely due to living in a hilly area. When on the flatlands, 40 mpg looks quite easily attainable while freeway driving (we haven't gone on a long trip yet) looks like we could attain 50 mpg.

Mind you, this isn't an open air-odd looking vehicle (see pic above). It's got GPS navigation, leather interior, plenty of room for five, a great ride and 190 horses along with every other bell and whistle that can be had on any car today. It more than could meet anyone's needs. And did I mention the gas mileage? The range on a 14 + gallon tank is over 500 miles, an easy 40% improvement over my previous Honda Accord. And the Toyota Camry is not the hottest car they sell. That would be the Toyota Prius with a rating of 51/60 mpg @ 110 horsepower and a price tag well under $30K.

We had to wait in line for about four weeks to get our car AND pay a premium on top of the MSRP because it's such a desired vehicle. And meanwhile, Ford is laying off 1/5 of it's workforce?

No excuses. In a capitalist economy you either meet demand (and anticipate demand) or die. So if the American automakers die, so be it. Any bail-outs will merely enable the same stinkin' thinkin'. And what about the employees? Government (the voters) have a responsibility to step in with unemployment, training, and relocation assistance as it's penalty for enabling American automakers (I'm talking to you Bill Clinton for approving the lower CAFE standards and SUV give-aways).

American over-bloated-self-indulgent-greedy attitudes have got to change in many areas. Our use of petroleum is one of them and we can either do it willingly, or kicking and screaming.
Fordgotten Promises
Ford is backing off its commitment to build 250,000 hybrids by 2010. Sign the petition to persuade them to change course. And while you are there check out comment number 3,771.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Oil and Water
Today it is oil. Tomorrow it will be water.
Kurdish War?
Did you know that there's been a mini-war going on between the Kurds and Turkey/Iran (that's some strange bedfellows)?
Turkey and Iran have dispatched tanks, artillery and thousands of troops to their frontiers with Iraq during the past few weeks in what appears to be a coordinated effort to disrupt the activities of Kurdish rebel bases.

Scores of Kurds have fled their homes in the northern frontier region after four days of shelling by the Iranian army. Local officials said Turkey had also fired a number of shells into Iraqi territory.

Some displaced families have pitched tents in the valleys behind Qandil Mountain, which straddles Iraq's rugged borders with Turkey and Iran. They told the Guardian yesterday that at least six villages had been abandoned and one person had died following a sustained artillery barrage by Iranian forces that appeared designed to flush out guerrillas linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who have hideouts in Iraq.

Although fighting between Turkish security forces and PKK militants is nowhere near the scale of the 1980s and 90s - which accounted for the loss of more than 30,000 mostly Turkish Kurdish lives- at least 15 Turkish police officers have died in clashes. The PKK's sister party in Iran, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (Pejak), has stepped up activities against security targets in Kurdish regions. Yesterday, Kurdish media said eight Iranian troops were killed.


Frustrated by the reluctance of the US and the government in Baghdad to crack down on the PKK bases inside Iraq, Turkish generals have hinted they are considering a large-scale military operation across the border. They are said to be sharing intelligence about Kurdish rebel movements with their Iranian counterparts.
Just another example of unleashing the dogs of war.

Turkey and Iran working together presents and interesting dynamic. A NATO partner and U.S. ally allied with a key member of the "axis of evil". Wonder how maddam supertanker plans to handle this one?
And Iraq has the third largest petroleum reserves in the world?
Iraq has doubled the money allocated for importing oil products in August and September to tackle the country’s worst fuel shortage since Saddam Hussein’s 2003 ouster, a senior Iraqi official said Thursday. Even though Iraq has the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves, it is forced to depend on imports because of an acute shortage of refined products such as gasoline, kerosene and cooking gas. Sabotage of pipelines by insurgents, corruption and aging refineries have been blamed.
I've been reading a lot of stories about long gas lines in Baghdad. The lack of progress in restoring infrastructure to even Saddam levels is likely doing more than politics to cause civil disruptions and fighting.
King George
There was much in the news yesterday about the federal judge who smacked down the Bush administrations illegal wiretapping:
"There are no hereditary kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution," declared the judge, who was appointed by President Carter. The NYT says the wiretap ruling "rejected almost every administration argument."
Why am I not excited about this?

Because the order isn't executed until all appeals are exhausted, which means that this sucker goes to the Supreme Court. Until they rule, it's just business as usual for now. And as we all know, it's a crap-shoot if the Supreme will crown Bush or not.

I guess it has some PR value politically. But legally, it's a non-story.
More on Healthcare
I sent this link on the outsourcing of health care to a coworker. His response:

The son of an acquaintance married a Japanese woman. She's returned to Japan this week so that she can birth her child free of charge within the Japanese health care system. Neither she or her husband (a graduate student of all things) have sufficient coverage for that pretty basic phenomenon.

Imagine that: a government that cares for its citizens. What a concept.
But we are Number One. Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Thursday, August 17, 2006
GI Resistence is Growing
And they want you to know why.

Geoffrey Millard is a sergeant in the Army National Guard and has no problem speaking publicly or supporting Lieutenant Watada. He spent eight years in the military, and was in Iraq between 2004 and 2005. He says GI resistance is a growing trend. "American GIs are beginning to respect the Nuremberg principles. They are resisting orders; they are going to jail, going to Canada, and going AWOL. And they're talking about why they're doing it."

Wouldn't it be great if we could reach the point where someone like Bush threw a war and nobody came?
Bumper Snicker
Frodo failed. Bush got the ring.
Follow the Money
The Post's off-lead notices that D.C. lobbyists—betting that the House and/or Senate will flip—are increasingly hiring Democrats. "We've seen a noticeable shift," said one headhunter for lobbyists.
A Pattern?
Do you see a pattern here?
NBC News reported last week that British counterterrorism officials thought the apparent plane plot was farther off than U.S. officials asserted—reportedly some of the men didn't even have passports. Now an Associated Press update on the investigation mentions in passing that "two top Pakistani intelligence agents" said the would-be bombers were too "inexperienced" to carry out the plot.
Let's see.

1. Find a nutbar with a terra plan.

2. Follow him a short while to identify all his friends.

3. At a politically opportune moment, have a flashy arrest with equally flashing news releases.

4. Watch the media swallow the kool-aid, all ... the ... way ... down.

5. Reap the benefits politically.

6. Watch the media and public ignore the details later released that show the threat was not nearly what it was initially trumped up to be, usually reported on page A15 and not at all on the Tee Vee.

7. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I'm not saying there aren't real bad guys out there. But having a war on "terrorists" and trumpeting their investigations in the media is like a "war on murders" or a "war on criminals" with equally huge headlines daily. Nutbars who engage in these types of activities (including terror) are far more likely to be stupid bullshitters than real threats. Yes, there are rare occasions where that's not true and law enforcement needs to do it's job. But most of the time, it just simply doesn't warrant a lot of attention. Unless it's your only asset politically.
Have you heard this one?
The NYT fronts a government test program in which airport screeners have focused on passengers' reaction to questions (just as Israel famously does). Two experts who've helped develop the approach say they're happy the government is trying it out but say the implementation has been flawed.
This type of lie detection is often based on neuro-linguistic programming, a psychological theory with a dubious history. The techniques used in lie detection are based on certain behavioral traits a person exhibits when lying. Know those behaviors, identify them in a subject, and you know they're lying.

Except. If it works (and that's a big if), it requires a level of training that is likely well beyond the average TSA worker. If they are able to pick out liars better than 50% of the time, I would be quite surprised. But hey, some psychologist somewhere is making a pocket full of dough from selling it to the Bush non-administration.
Just Say No
To sex. Yes, abstinence education is on the march!
It became nearly impossible for the Canton, Ohio, school board to ignore the unintended byproducts of its abstinence-only program when 13 percent [65 out of 490] of Timken High School's female student population became pregnant last year.
Yes, they've finally integrated birth control education into the curriculum. I'm not quite sure why when that abstinence program was working so well!
True Majority
Our budget and deficit explained with cookies. Neat presentation and good reminder that it is OUR MONEY.
I have wondered if other world leaders privately ridicule Bush. You know, the way we do.
They do.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Just a reminder of what we have done to Iraq:

For me, June marked the first month I don’t dare leave the house without a hijab, or headscarf. I don’t wear a hijab usually, but it’s no longer possible to drive around Baghdad without one. It’s just not a good idea. (Take note that when I say ‘drive’ I actually mean ‘sit in the back seat of the car’- I haven’t driven for the longest time.) Going around bare-headed in a car or in the street also puts the family members with you in danger. You risk hearing something you don’t want to hear and then the father or the brother or cousin or uncle can’t just sit by and let it happen. I haven’t driven for the longest time. If you’re a female, you risk being attacked.

from Baghdad Burning.
I really, really hope that all the neocons reincarnate as little girls in some savage third world country.
The Latest Panic Alert
Just how real was the threat of the latest bunch of "terrorists"?

Craig Murray is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He risked his career and then lost it when he spoke out about the human rights abuses in Uzbekistan (our ally even though it is run by a Stalinist dictator). Murray spoke out and was fired, reportedly at the request of the U.S. He writes about this latest threat:

I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine.
In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few - just over two per cent of arrests - who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.

Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical.

I'm already skeptical, from day one. My first thought upon hearing of this newest "terror plot" was 'You can sure tell the Republicans are behind in the polls'.
Murray's article is here.
America 2007
As Northwest goes so goes the country.

Save those tips. You may need them.
Thank You Lt.
On August 17th, U.S. Army First Lieutenant Ehren K. Watada, the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, will appear before a military court, for the first hearing of a case that raises core Constitutional issues about the legality of the Iraq war, freedom of speech, and the limits of presidential power.

Lt. Watada delivered a speech to the
Veterans for Peace National Convention. It's worth reading. This is one of the true heroes in the military. So are some of our retired officers.

Seeking to counter the White House's depiction of its Middle East policies as crucial to the prevention of terrorist attacks at home, 21 former generals, diplomats and national security officials will release an open letter tomorrow arguing that the administration's "hard line" has actually undermined U.S. security.

Full article at the LA Times, registration required.
Outsourcing Healthcare
Up until now outsourcing affected primarily blue collar workers in America. That is changing.

Carl Garrett, a paper-mill technician in Leicester, N.C., is scheduled to travel Sept. 2 to New Delhi, where he will undergo two operations. Though American individuals have gone abroad for cheaper operations, Mr. Garrett is a pioneer of sorts.

He is a test case for his company, Blue Ridge Paper Products, Inc., in North Carolina, which is set to provide a health benefit plan that allows its employees and their dependents to obtain medical care overseas beginning in 2007.

Garrett's medical care alone may save the company $50,000. And instead of winding up $20,000 in debt to have the operations in the US, he may now get up to $10,000 back as a share of the savings. He'll also get to see the Taj Mahal as part of a two-day tour before the surgery.

His two operations could cost $100,000 in the US; they'll run about $20,000 in India.

I'm wondering what this will do to doctors and hospitals here and also how hard it will be for Americans to get back into the country after their surgeries—especially the Americans who happen to have brown skin or "foreign" surnames.

Full story here.

Ray Close, a former CIA intelligence officer on Arab affairs, wrote a piece in Juan Cole's blog today outlining the case for why the U.S. continues to plan for an attack on Iran. The whole thing is a good read. I wanted to particularly look at two tactical issues he discusses which don't get much media attention:
A. The Lebanon conflict substantiates pre-crisis intelligence that Iran has apparently provided sophisticated “strategic” rockets to Hizballah, such as the Fajr-5 (range: 75 km) and probably also the Zelzal (range: 150 km).

Possession of the Zelzal (or even the Fajr-5) would effectively negate much of the strategic value of attempting to protect Israel’s northern regions from attack simply by making the area south of the Litani River into a buffer zone without fully disarming Hizballah and ensuring that it cannot be resupplied --- a goal almost certainly beyond the capabilities of forces presently available. Because the competence of the Lebanese Army is greatly in doubt, and the military and political mandate of a U.N. peacekeeping force is likely to be both tenuous and impermanent, the long-term value of the recent Israeli action against Hizballah is very much in question.


The only real defense against this new kind of threat available to Israel today is the total cessation of Iran's support for organizations like Hizballah and Hamas, and the denial to them of operational bases in Palestine, Lebanon or Syria. Only the long reach of American military power has any chance of achieving that objective on Israel's behalf. Undertaking that effort would be a strategic commitment that went very far beyond traditional American policy of sympathy and support. We are talking here about an historic new departure in American foreign and defense policy, the costs and risks of which the American people have not yet even begun to understand, much less aceept.
While Close says that the long arm of American military is the only force capable of defanging Iran's missiles, I think he means that this is what the Cheney administration thinks. The wars in Iraq and Lebannon have directly shown the limitations of a vastly superior military power in winning over an assymetrical enemy.
B. Hizballah’s successful use of the C-802/SACCADE anti-ship cruise missile against an Israeli corvette caught both the U.S. and Israel by surprise. The general consensus among defense intelligence analysts is that Iran’s small cadre of IRGC operatives attached to Hizballah (estimated to be about 100 men) helped arm this weapon and guide it to its target. Hizballah’s successful use of the C-802 also raises questions about the safety of U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf in the event of Iran’s closure of the Strait of Hormuz in reaction to U.S. military action against the Teheran regime. Iran reportedly has “hundreds” of these missiles (C-802s) lining its shore of the Strait.
I can provide the quick shorthand commentary on what Close means here.


While military power alone is unlikely to control this threat, the cut-off of middle eastern oil to the U.S. would easily be enough to convince all those latte'-sipping-cellphone-using-SUV drivers that a war to protect the Gulf of Hormuz is a must. Don't be surprised to see a "Gulf of Tonkin" incident occuring sometime in the near future, .... like around October sometime?
Just So You Know
All the newspapers are full of stories about the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebannon. The most noteworthy portion of these stories is that Hezbollah remains unaffected, in place, in power and is leading the relief efforts for civilians affected by the Israeli offensive:
The Post watches Hezbollah's relief effort in action and hears from an "informed source" (as opposed to the other kind) that Hezbollah "planned to spend $150 million, already provided by Iran, in coming days." (In her WP op-ed, Rice notes that the U.S. has committed a whopping $50 million.)

The NYT's rebuilding piece offers a wider picture and is today's must-read: Hezbollah men were canvassing neighborhoods, cataloging needs, and offering $10,000 straightaway to those who lost their homes. With the Lebanese government having ignored the Shiite south for decades, one Lebanese professor said, "Hezbollah's strength is the gross vacuum left by the state." Hezbollah, she said, isn't a state within a state, but rather "a state within a non-state." The upshot, concludes the Times, is that the "beneficiary of the destruction was most likely to be Hezbollah."
Like in Iraq, muscle flexing has again proven to be ineffective in fighting a citizen-backed movement. I know this isn't news to anyone reading this and many other blogs. But it continues to be astounding that many bright people, people in leadership positions, continue to believe that political problems need military solutions, and how effectively the western countries (the U.S. and Britain) are being outmaneuvered time and time again by groups such as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah.


You know the irony of this? The money Hezbollah is handing out is from Iran ... petro dollars. Guess where these came from?
Death Tolls
America on 9/11: 3,057

Iraq in July 2006: 3,438

Mission Accomplished? And there are still people in this country who think Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Democracy can't work when you have such an uninformed populace.
Spread the Love
Gay storks are raising chicks in a zoo in the Netherlands.

Look what you people in Massachusetts started! LOL
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Someone Needs to Tell Boltin' Joe
Shamelessly stolen in it's entirety from Ezra Klein.

It's particularly poignant because Ezra really was very moderate, until (like the rest of us) he saw the writing on the locomotive as it passed over:
Why We All Went Nuts

From one of Josh Marshall's readers:
When I found [Talking Points Memo] site, you had a similar sort of "New Democrat" approach. You talked a lot about ideas and while you were certainly a Democrat, but not in a partisan or overly ideological way. I think we would agree that ideas matter, both parties overreach, had problems with trial lawyers and unions, etc.

What I first loved about your site is gone, however, but I don't blame you. I blame Bush et al. And that's a shame. I feel like I lost a real part of me is gone, taken by Bush and the greater Republican movement. That all of our efforts must focus on opposing each and every assertion made by this group; detailing, chronicling and exposing every lie, fallacy, and evil act. Clearly, you too realize this is the only reasonable tactic for us to pursue.

The era of ideas, debate, and moderation is gone (for now), not by our choice, but by theirs. That is Lieberman's problem and an ever shrinking number of holdouts. I really am angry about the loss of a worldview and approach that I valued. Your site's transition is one small bit of evidence of that loss.
I sympathize with all of that. I started out a moderate -- by temperament, if not totally by ideology. I liked believing the best about my opponents, approaching the debate as something to be valued and the ideas as good-faith efforts to be considered. But I was wrong again and again, and as my willingness to assume good-faith repeatedly proved an analytical weakness, I eventually abandoned the effort, and my predictions have been the better-informed for it. Now I write articles about how the West Wing weakened Democrats by wrapping them in a warm-but-false world of comity and spend my time looking for the catch in rightwing policies, not the hope. I'd love to see that change -- it's unnatural for me to be so cynical. But, as Josh's reader says, this is their choice, not ours. Because, in the end, this isn't a game, it's not low stakes. However much I might like to wrap myself in lofty values and enlightened opinions, this really isn't about me and my self-regard. Too many pundits (some even named Klein), I think, make that mistake, and the country is the worse off for it.
Evo Idiots
That's the name of this picture. I didn't name it. But I could have (click to enlarge):

Did you know that the Iraq was has been as long as World War II?
* December 7, 1941 through May 8, 1945 (VE-Day) = 1,248 days

* March 19, 2003 (U.S. invasion of Iraq) through Friday, August 18, 2006 = 1,248 days
Big Dog Barks
Ok, so the big dog came out and smacked down boltin' Joe. That's good and what he said is spot on. Now he needs to get out to Connecticut and campaign for Lamont.

The other part that I find interesting is what his statement says about Hillary:
Clinton said other Senate Democrats who had voted to give Bush the authority to go to war - including his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York - who may be weighing a 2008 presidential run, had hoped that the threat of war would force former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. inspections.

"They [Democrats] felt, frankly, let down that the U.N. inspectors were not permitted to finish [by Bush], and they were worried that we were devoting attention away from Afghanistan and the hunt for [Osama] bin Laden and al Qaeda, which was a huge, immediate threat to our security in the aftermath of 9/11, as we saw [with] this foiled British plot continues to be," Clinton said.
I've been reading statements from Hillary lately that sound an awful like movement from a hard-line pro-war position to a Ned Lamont-like stance. Maybe she was watching the primary election in Connecticut afterall, who knows. She certainly should be.
Happy Days!
The stock market is rallying today on news that the PPI (the producer price index) fell by .3%, the first such decrease in quite a long time. The market sheep are thrilled! No inflation!

Nevermind that the PPI doesn't include energy or food ... minor details. But it also turns out that there is more to the story:
The drop in Car and Truck prices accounts for nearly the entire decline in the core PPI.

Prices for oil and other materials continue to rise; WSJ noted that "Deeper in the production pipeline, prices increased. Prices of raw materials, also known as crude goods, rose by 3.1% in July after declining 1.7% in June. Intermediate goods prices increased 0.5% after climbing 0.7% in June."

Prices of metals and chemicals continued to rise. These price increases include a 4.8% rise in energy materials, and a 1.3% gain in prices of industrial materials.
Let's also not forget that the upcoming CPI (consumer price index) includes costs to rent as the component of "housing". Guess what rents have been doing lately with housing purchases falling?

It will be interesting to see the market reaction when the news sinks in.

There's a bit of a flap developing over George Allen calling a follower of his opponent a "macaca". This term is apparently a North African slur against black people, comparing them to monkey's.

The Allen campaign is trying to sell his slur as a comment about the guys mohawk haircut (no, the guy doesn't have a mohawk haircut but that never stops the Republicans from just making shit up).

But consider this. Allen either meant it as a slur (likely), or he doesn't know how to say "mohawk" (possible). In the case of the latter, Allen simply demonstrates what we already know ..... that Allen is a dumb as a rock. The guy makes Bush look like a genius .... and that's really really hard to do.
Eric Alterman makes the case .... quite a good one actually .... for the 2008 Democratic nomination to be between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.

I agree with his assessment, and wouldn 't be at all displeased with President Edwards.
Post Mortem
William Arkin has a pretty good column up today that is a kind of post mortem on the Israel campaign in southern Lebannon. In his piece, Arkin decry's the Israeli's for their inappropriate .... and ineffective .... use of airpower during the campaign:
In the 24 hours before the agreed cease-fire, the Israeli Air Force carried out more than 200 air strikes, including attacks on eight "gas stations serving Hezbollah."

Gas stations.

If Israel and Hezbollah are fighting again in six weeks or six months, it will be because of those gas stations.
Mind you, this comes from an intelligence expert who is a fan of air power.
What is clear is that the Israeli military proved unable to modify its own "conventional" military approach to respond (and fight) accordingly. In other words, Israel's "failure" on the ground is due to the same failure of conception and imagination in the use of airpower. These militaries -- Israeli and U.S. -- constantly say they are fighting a "new" enemy and yet just can't seem to get away from fighting them in old and counter-productive ways.
He, correctly in my estimation, makes a clear case for an Israeli strategy that misuses air power in such a way that ultimately strengthens Hezbollah. The whole "hit an ant with a sledge hammer" thing becomes merely a propoganda tool for the recruitment of further insurgents in the war against Israel. Arkin complete's the circle with this:
So Israel is stuck, as is the United States, with the conundrum of modern military power. We accumulate statistical success not only to no political avail but to our future detriment. Hezbollah's strengthening in the face of the Israeli military -- and the celebrations rippling through the Arab world that Israel and the United States have been thwarted (just as in Iraq) -- comes from "conventional" defeat. "We" show no regard for civilians in our conduct, we even destroy their gas stations. Given that "they" don't have F-16s to attack us with, they are reduced to using rockets or airliners to strike back.

Israel won, whoopee.
The political strength of Republicans has consistently been that they are muscular on defense and international diplomacy. Yet, it's that very same muscularity that has led this country to ruin now in two wars in the last 50 years. The Democrats seem to have learned their lesson via Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam while the Republicans apparently have not. And unfortunately, the rest of the country pays the price for lessons un-learned.