Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Saturday, September 30, 2006
911 Misfits .... Again

By now you've likely heard about Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial. As folks read it they are reporting on it's disclosures and revelations. This is one of the most agregious yet:
As a Counsel to the 9/11 Commission, I [blog poster Peter Rundlit] became very familiar with both the PDB [presidential daily briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack the U.S.] and the Phoenix Memo, as well as the tragic consequences of the failure to detect and stop the plot. A mixture of shock, anger, and sadness overcame me when I read about revelations in Bob Woodward’s new book about a special surprise visit that George Tenet and his counterterrorism chief Cofer Black made to Condi Rice, also on July 10, 2001:
They went over top-secret intelligence pointing to an impending attack and “sounded the loudest warning” to the White House of a likely attack on the U.S. by Bin Laden.

Woodward writes that Rice was polite, but, “They felt the brushoff.”
If true, it is shocking that the administration failed to heed such an overwhelming alert from the two officials in the best position to know. Many, many questions need to be asked and answered about this revelation — questions that the 9/11 Commission would have asked, had the Commission been told about this significant meeting. Suspiciously, the Commissioners and the staff investigating the administration’s actions prior to 9/11 were never informed of the meeting. As Commissioner Jamie Gorelick pointed out, “We didn’t know about the meeting itself. I can assure you it would have been in our report if we had known to ask about it.”
Several thoughts come to mind. First, this is news, but hardly surprising given the total incompetence of Rice. You can very easily prove that Bill Clinton was focused on terrorism as a real and imminent problem. How? Because Bush vowed to never do anything like Clinton, thus their how-hum attitude towards the numerous warnings of an attack by al Qaeda. And cover up the fact of the meeting after 911? That's Republican politics 101.

The other thought is about Bob Woodward. There is much speculation about the tone, content and timing of the release of the book. It's almost as if Bob Woodward is apologizing for having been such a Bush lapdog previously. Given that the time frame covered in the most recent book is similar to past books, yet the conclusions and portrayals are decidedly less flattering, it would appear to be a reasonable conclusion. There are certainly plenty of pundits, journalists, authors and government officials who need a "come to Jesus" moment about having been duped into the riding the "kill the terraists bandwagon" and Woodward (Booby as Atrios has labeled him) is near the top of the list. Unfortunately for Bob Woodward and Andrew Sullivan, and virtually everyone at The New Republic, people have long memories and internet posts are preserved imperpetuity.
They Knew
Here is a little story that shows that Hassert knew about Foleys diddling some time ago, last spring. Hassert must have figured they could keep it quiet, at least until after the election, otherwise they would have dumped Foley much sooner. As it is now with Foley leaving at this particular time, it will be difficult for Republicans to retain the seat whereas had they ditched the guy when they first found out, there was still time for a new candidate. Of course they're claiming all kinds of reasons for keeping it quiet that no one in their right mind believes.

OH. And of course, they should have axed the guy because what he did is wrong. But that usually doesn't move Republicans to take action much.
Friday, September 29, 2006
This is getting to be so routine it's not even all that interesting anymore ......
From ABC News:

Congressman Mark Foley, Republican from Florida, resigned today just hours after ABC news questioned him about a series of sexually explicit instant messages involving current and former underage male Congressional pages. Foley used the login name Maf54.

Maf54: Do I make you a little horny ?
Teen: A little.
Maf54: Cool.

Foley was the chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and has long crusaded for tough laws against those who use the Internet for sexual exploitation of children.
You just can't make this crap up.

Reaction Formation:
Reaction Formation occurs when a person feels an urge to do or say something and then actually does or says something that is effectively the opposite of what they really want.
But why do Republicans and evangelicals seem to be inordinately afflicted? Could it be a certain tendency toward being anal retentiveness?
Is it naive to think this is true?
With President Bush poised to sign the White House-backed detainee treatment bill into law, groups are promising to challenge it in court "in days."

“I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in ‘H’ that this will be found constitutional,” Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Congressional Quarterly (sub. req.). CCR represents a number of Guantanamo prisoners.

Strangely, some senators who voted for the bill weren't convinced of its constitutionality. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who voted for the bill even after his amendment to preserve certain rights for detainees was defeated, called the proposal "patently unconstitutional on its face," The Washington Post reported. When CQ asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who negotiated with the White House to win minor concessions on the legislation, if the bill was constitutional, he responded "I think so."
With the new SCOTUS, I just don't know. Oh sure, there will be a number of lower Federal courts who declare it unconsititional simply because ... well ... it is. But the new order is beginning to permeate the Supreme Court now. I rate it a toss-up.
Is It Any Wonder
Take a look at this summary account of the reporting on Bush's torture legislation:
Amazingly, only the LAT fronts a substantive account of what the detainee bill actually says. The paper focuses on the provision denying alleged terrorists the right to contest their imprisonment, explaining that the restriction generated so much controversy in the Senate because the "privilege of habeas corpus holds a venerated place in English and U.S. law." The LAT traces Supreme Court jurisprudence on the "great writ" and actually cites the relevant clause in the Constitution. (Apparently finding a copy of that old document was the sort of reportorial heavy lifting that eluded the other papers.) In short, the LAT's lead avoids getting caught up in the parliamentary minutiae and electoral politics that ensnare the NYT and the Post for a second straight day. (The NYT is so lost in the weeds that its lead makes the appallingly naive claim that "the president had to relent on some major provisions" of the bill.) For all the strengths of the LAT's account however, the one must-read piece on the detainee legislation is the Post's thoughtful legal analysis, which the paper inexplicably stuffs deep in the A section.
So let's review the bidding. To get any kind of substantive reporting on the loss of habeus corpus, the single most important legal concept in western law and the cornerstone of liberty, you not only have to read the newspaper (or seek out relevant blogs), and THEN you have to read the right newspaper, and THEN you may have to go deep in the "A Section" to find it. Notice I left out TeeVee with it's 30 second stories that likely would leave viewers more bewildered than informed.

Is it any wonder we're losing our freedoms? Democracy and freedom are impossible without a well informed public. Is the public misinformed by the media or simply apathetic, or both?

I've been thinking about where all this is heading. It's conventional wisdom that Democracy and freedoms such as those enjoyed in America for the past 200 plus years are only possible in regions where there's a certain level of social, economic and cultural affluence. So, for example, bringing Democracy to Darfur is likely to be virtually impossible. When you are hungry, you don't give a rip about who's in power, you simply want whoever will feed you.

But how about this? Is Democracy a viable institution in the highly affluent society, the other end of the spectrum? I've been watching the HBO series "Rome" lately. It seems that when societies become overindulged, they lose their moral and value compasses. We certainly seem to be losing ours while we live in unsustainable homes, drive unsustainable vehicles and consume consume consume in a mass of overindulgence.

Maybe we've lost our capacity for freedom and deserve a fascist oligarchy? The next election will be yet another temperature check on the body politics capacity, willingness, to sustain freedom as we march down the road to dictatorship.
No Filibuster For You
Well, now we know the reason why they didn't filibuster the "Bush Torture and Get Out of Jail Free Bill":
The vote was 65-34. Twelve Democrats voted for the measure: Tom Carper, Tim Johnson, Mary Landrieu, Frank Lautenberg, Joe Lieberman, Robert Menendez, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Ken Salazar and Debbie Stabenow. One Republican, Lincoln Chafee, voted no.
It takes forty votes to sustain a filibuster.

No real surprises in the vote I guess with a lot of CYA'ing going on. I'm not sure that an attempted filibuster wouldn't have been useful, but Reid made the calculus that it was better to have the amendments proposed ... and voted down by the Republicans ... than to try a filibuster without debate/votes on various reasonable amendments.

The entire event is shameful. On to the courts now to see just how far into to pit they've fallen.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Ever wonder about waterboarding? Go here, and remember it's now be officially sanctioned by the United States Congress.
Can't Resist
You'all remember that nasty dust-up awhile back about Sherrod Brown horning in on the Ohio Senate race that Paul Hackett was in? Remember how the Democratic establishment was all atwitter when "liberals" dared suggest that someone like Paul Hackett would stand for something, not politics as usual? Remember the counter argument about Brown being the stronger candidate?


Check it out:
VOTING FOR TORTURE....A reader emails about Sherrod Brown's and Ted Strickland's votes in favor of the detainee/torture bill:
My wife and I have been lifelong Democrats and have contributed and worked on national and Ohio campaigns for the Democratic Party since 1988. This year we were actually looking forward to winning Ohio for the Democratic Party.

No longer. We're livid. We will not work, support or even vote for either Brown or Strickland. Judging from the reaction of many fellow Democrats, we're not alone.
I wonder how Hackett would have voted?


When-O-when are the stupid Democrats going to realize that you win with the passion of the base that entices the middle into the tribe. Any of the Dems supporting the torture normalization act are committing hari kari by throwing ice water on the base.
Tied Up
Really really busy today, so not much blogging other than to hope Tristero is not correct (in the update #3).

Unfortunately, I fear he/she isn't.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Horses Mouth
This is an excerpt of a post written by a former Defense Intelligence officer who spent two years working Iraq policy:
But to me, the most important, the scariest, and the most damning part of the entire summary is this single sentence:

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities are are likely to do so for the duration of the timefram of this Estimate.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's the ballgame right there. What this intelspeak means in English is, "The causes fueling terrorism outweigh the vulnerabilities of terrorists and their networks, and that fact is likely to be true indefinitely." The assessment is saying that the main motivations for terrorism -- and the report puts Iraq at the top of that long list -- outweigh our ability to prevent it, meaning, essentially, that Iraq is more harmful than helpful in our counterterror strategy. I already knew that, and so did most readers here, but I don't think that's the conventional wisdom. Until now, at least. Anyone who defends the Iraq war now has to answer this question: The collective judgment of the entire U.S. intelligence community is that under the watch of the Bush administration terrorism is becoming more of a threat, not less of one, primarily due to Iraq. Do you support continuing that failure, or changing the course to solve it?
I completely agree with his assessment.

But something else strikes me. There may not be guns and artillery lined up, but our government is in the midst of an open rebellion. This six month old NIE was leaked coincident with the midterms, likely by someone within the CIA, which really pissed off Bush. Pentagon generals a popping up everywhere decrying current policy in Iraq and using former generals (and Congressman Murtha) as their mouthpiece. Knowing Bush's distaste for leaking, don't be surprised to see further recriminations by administration officials against folks in government who disagree .... and further passive-aggressive resistance. Let's hope it stays passive-aggressive, eh?

Anyone remember the movie "Seven Days in May?" Unlikely, sure. But out of the question? Suppose Bush asks for operational battle plans drawn up (if he hasn't already) for a nuclear attack on Iran?
You know?

It really is unconscionable that anyone would vote to institutionalize torture, much less Democrats.
Get It?
Dear George Bush,

Perhaps the various shooting, bombings, torture, beheadings, and screaming epitaths at American soldiers isn't enough to convince you. As a political animal, how about this (click to enlarge)?

Beyond the obvious, isn't it interesting how the Kurds responded? As long as we leave them alone, they're perfectly content to let the American military control those nasty Sunni's and Shiites.
Fun With Obama
Atrios is having some fun with Barack Obama today.

Aside from the snark, Atrios makes a very good point. Obama has routinely been scolding Democrats lately on "values" and "morals", and how liberals don't speak to the heartland of Amurika enough:
Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting "preachy" may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.
Yet, as of this writing anyway, it appears that Obama is prepared to vote for the torture bill. Personally, the more I know Obama the less I like him. A talented speaker? Yes. But I think he's an arrogant sanctimonious politician as well.

This is a perfect instance of how the Senate ruins politicians for future executive office. Kerry experienced it, and Obama will too. He's developing a voting record that will be used to point out his hypocracy and weaken his appeal as an executive.

By the by, the torture bill being rushed into existence is even worse than we thought. It's apparently unreadable, and has a whole bunch of little hidden bombs in it that few are aware of. I won't go through all the gory details here, go read Digby for details.
NIE Review
William Arkin has a post up this morning about the recently release and heavily debated NIE on terrorism. First he points out the NIE's theory of why terrorism exists:
(1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness;
(2) the Iraq 'jihad;'
(3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and
(4) pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment among most Muslims -- all of which jihadists exploit."
That sounds about right to me. It also sounds much like the analysis that were being bantied around years ago by thinking people before we embarked on both the Afghan and Iraq adventures. Arkin, correctly in my view, points out that three of those causes have little to do with Iraq directly. He then goes on to this thesis:
The simplistic story line that the Democrats are pushing is all about and solely about Iraq: withdraw U.S. forces, defeat the Republicans, tidy up foreign policy by giving human rights to prisoners and being nicer in the world, and voila, terror subsides.

President Bush, on the other hand, loves to insist that before we were "in" Iraq, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon anyhow, hence the age of mega-terror is not about the Iraq war.

"My judgment is, if we weren't in Iraq, they'd find some other excuse, because they have ambitions," Bush said yesterday. "They kill in order to achieve their objectives."

Both the Democrats and the President are wrong.
While I think Arkin's analysis is correct, I think he's being somewhat, perhaps on purpose, naive. There are really two issues regarding the GWOT. One is the actual problem of anti-Americanism resulting in terrorism. The other is selling the need for better leadership to the American voter. Republicans and Democrats are dealing with the second issue, with the GWOT being simplified into sound bites and packaged with galvanizing issues. Americans don't experience the effects of anti-Americanism by Muslims except in that American soldiers are being killed and American money is disappearing down a black hole at a prodigious rate.



Frankly, Americans are so short sighted that they could care less about the plight of the Muslim world .... until it spills on us. In that way, Bush's rhetoric about "bringing Democracy to the Arab world" is actually correct, although his simplistic approach to bring it in a tank isn't really working out too well.

So during the campaign, Iraq is the story. Democrats will remind the public of Iraq at every turn. Republicans will remind the public about terraaaism at every turn. But indeed as Arkin points out, Iraq and Afghanistan are merely the symptoms of the larger problem. And what's particularly frustrating is that it's likely to be a Democrat President who is left to clean up the exacerbating mess that has been left by Bush. Like it or not America, nuance is needed to deal with something as complex as the current spread of anti-Americanism. And it will likely take quite some time to clean up.

UPDATE: For those of you really interested in a takedown of the NIE, check out Juan Cole's post today.
Paper or Plastic?

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — Three Senate Democrats proposed emergency legislation today to reimburse states for printing paper ballots that can be ready at polling places in case of problems with electronic voting machines on Nov. 7.

The proposal is a response to grass-roots pressure and growing concern by local and state officials about touch-screen machines. An estimated 40 percent of voters will use those machines in the election.

“If someone asks for a paper ballot they ought to be able to have it,” said Senator Barbara Boxer of California, a co-sponsor of the measure with Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconson.

Note that last name there....

Is Russ Running?
Russ Feingold is mulling a presidential run. I can't think of anyone better suited to the White House.
If you like what he stands for let him know that you would support him.
There is a lot going on in Mexico these days and some of it seems eerily familiar.
The fact that about half of the ballot boxes in Mexico’s presidential election have “adding up” problems is enough to warrant a full recount. The evidence from the most recent partial recount, insofar as it is known, provides further reason to do a full recount. The lack of transparency and withholding of information in the two partial recounts that have been conducted also undermine the credibility of any result that does not allow for a full recount.

The Mexicans, unlike their neighbors to the north, are not sitting at home. Strikes, civil disobedience, and marches are taking place all across the country.

On Sunday of this week, more threats of federal army intervention came forth from the state government to the teachers, and the state director of education declared that if the teachers do not return to the classroom on Monday, September 25, they will be fired and replaced with strikebreakers from among retired teachers and parents. In solidarity, the Oaxaca business community called for a shutdown of the city September 28 and 29, including not using electricity or telephones, not paying taxes, and shutting down transportation.

While the city of Oaxaca may be shut down, the radical movement engendered by its teachers will not. It is spreading and gathering momentum. In the words of the teachers, ni un paso atras—not one step back.

Of course the American media makes no mention of Mexicans except to frame them as illegal aliens spilling across our borders. I told my aunt several weeks ago that it will probably be a good thing that we have so many Mexicans here in this country, for they will be the ones to reintroduce us to the importance of banding together, forming unions, and demanding a decent living from those who govern us. As Emiliano Zapata said, "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."

Full article here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Is Bush so absolutely delusional about Iraq that he shot himself in the foot?:
WASHINGTON - The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush's portrayal of a world growing safer.

In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush's orders, the nation's most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.

Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration's glass-half-full declarations.
The idiot in chief swaggered out to a press conference today to lecture the press about using the NIE for political purposes. In a "gotcha" kind of moment, he released the NIE in question as a vindication of his administration. But, correct me if I'm wrong, it looks like the NIE is not much of a vindication, but rather proof that the war in Iraq is FUBAR?

Maybe Karl has the flu or something and is out.

UPDATE: Here's the key graf that Bush thinks makes his case:
The Iraq conflict has become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
Duh! If the insurgents lose, people will think they lost! But there's one itty bitty problem. They're not losing, nor are they going to lose unless there are half a million American troops in Iraq. And even then, it's questionable the dissolution of Iraq can be avoided.

Of course Bush thinks it makes the case for "staying the course". But also of course, the longer we stay the more we are losing which makes the "cause celebre" larger, creating more terraists. Sounds like a Catch 22 to me. Charlie Gibson, on ABC News tonight, asks the key question, "why would the President declassify this report?". The nuance of how this helps Bush had to be explained to Gibson .... not a good sign for how this spins out.
Bolton's Toast
According to Steve Clemons, any confirmation of John Bolton for U.N. ambassador in this session of Congress is now dead dead. I hope so.
This picture is from the NY Times:

Here's what the caption says:
In Baghdad, “generator men” keep electricity flowing in the absence of a reliable Iraqi power system.
Well ..... As "they" say, one picture is worth a thousand words.
Harvest 2006
Blogger has been a pain to try and post pics. Here's another attempt ....

This is what the first row's harvest looked like. That's about 50 lbs. of Cabernet Franc's.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The vines are very tired and ready for a rest. A big drink of water, strip off some leaves to prepare for next years crop, then take a break.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This is what 275 lbs of grapes looks like. They're sitting in receiving department of the "winery"

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Of course, every classy winery has a cool sign ......

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This would be the main fermentation chamber. On the left are some Petite Syrah's I started a week ago. The big bucket is the new harvest.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Finally, the winery lab .....

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It was a harvest bounty beyond my expectations and should yield about six cases of wine. I shall be busy with this years production for sure .......
Brighten Your Day
Go Watch. I promise you won't regret it.
There's a big flap going on over the latest NIE (National Intelligence Estimate). It has been leaked that this report stipulates that Iraq is a growing source of the growth of terrorism. Naturally, liberals are pointing to this as proof of what is common knowledge.

But what about this?:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration said on Tuesday it may declassify an intelligence report in order to respond to Democrats who say the document shows the Iraq war has been a distraction from the war on terrorism.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said officials were "giving serious consideration" to releasing the National Intelligence Estimate on the U.S. terrorism threat to demonstrate that the section being seized on by Democrats is only one part of the overall picture.

The report, part of which was leaked to the media, has become an issue in the runup to November 7 mid-term elections when control of both houses of Congress is at stake.
Aside from the issue, I have a question. Isn't this prima facia proof that the administration uses secret classifications for political purposes? I know that would come a little shock to many, but this seems to be a pretty blatant example. This is a classified report that is being selective declassified in order to support a political agenda .... no?
The administration is simply a bunch of snakes. There's really no other way to put it:
The Bush administration, supported by House allies, has slipped a small but important change into last week's "compromise" bill on terror suspects, the Post reports. The earlier bill, worked out in negotiations with restive Senate Republicans, defined enemy combatants as those who have "engaged in hostilities," but the latest draft legislation expands the definition to include those who have "supported hostilities." The new language could boost the administration's contention that it can designate virtually anyone an enemy combatant; the Post notes it "does not rule out the possibility" that the designation could be applied to a U.S. citizen.
I think I may be out of outrage and am moving into despair regarding finding a patriot who will stop these despots. I certainly haven't seen any Republicans willing to seriously preserve liberty. We can only hope that Democrats are able to run out the clock on this crap.
Monday, September 25, 2006

Every American should watch this ........

I'm not sure I want to get them up. But Froomkin today is virtually all about growing resistance to the compromise bill allowing torture. The ever-flexible Arlen Spectre has come out against the loss of Habeaus, but that usually doesn't mean much. However, public opinion might .... a big emphasis on might, slow the bill from passage during this session. In other words, until after the midterms.

Like I said, I'm not getting my hopes up. The administration knows that the clock may be running out on their ability to get a "get out of jail free card", and there's nothing like self-preservation to motivate these guys.

We shall see. Just in case, be sure and let your Senator know how you feel. It only takes a moment, doesn't cost anything and might help.
Commodity Bubble
Take a look at this chart for oil prices over the past three years (click to enlarge, hat tip to Barry Ritholtz):

Even more dramatic is the weekly chart:

My my. That's quite a correction going on. Why is this happening?

There is quite a bit of speculation going on, but very little in terms of actual facts to make a case. Some say it's market manipulation ahead of the midterms. I'm not too sure about that as that would require a pretty concerted effort by a lot of greedy people to cause such an action.

Other explanations include that it portends a world economy that is dramatically slowing and the oil markets are predicting a severe recession, that the "hurricane premium" is being removed, that the "terraist premium" is being reduced, that money is rolling out of oil (and commodities in general) and moving into tech stocks, that it's the end of the summer driving season, and on and on and on.

Personally, I think there's a bit of truth in all the explanations. I also think that because it's such a speculative bubble based on emotion, any world events (such as an attack on Iran?) would cause prices to re-escalate to new highs .... quickly. And along the lines of my adaptation theory, note that major support for prices is around $58 / barrel, significantly higher than just a few years ago. I don't think there's any doubt that despite these short term factors, the bull trend in oil will continue until technological changes in energy take hold.
Follow Up Double Standards
As a follow-up, or addition to, Lynne's post below about Newsweek, I ran across this:
On October 25, 2005 the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) posted to their website 44 autopsy reports, acquired from American military sources, covering the deaths of civilians who died while in US military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2002-2004. A press release by ACLU announcing the deaths resulted from torture was immediately picked up by Associated Press (AP) wire service, making the story available to US corporate media nationwide. A thorough check of Nexus-Lexus and Proquest electronic data bases, using the keywords ACLU and autopsy, showed that at least 95 percent of the daily papers in the US did not to pick up the story nor did AP ever conduct follow up coverage on the issue.
It's a bit of a chicken and egg discussion. Are Americans inured to the news or are they deprived of it? Do media outlets not cover these stories because they don't generate ratings, or do they avoid them because of government influence?

I don't know the answers. I do know that if you had told me five years ago that the U.S. would routinely torture people, that it would be revealed, that Americans would respond with a large collective yawn, and that Congress would be moving toward virtual institutionalization of torture procedures, I would have told you that you were nuts.
Carving up Iraq
Well, this didn't take long.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A proposal that could carve Iraq into three autonomous states moved forward Monday after leaders of the country's feuding ethnic and sectarian groups agreed to delay any division until 2008.
2008? What happens in 2008? Anyone? Everyone?
The State of Things
This quote is fraught with meaning, I have no comment:
More than 250 troops have suffered injuries in Iraq "that left them—at least initially—comatose or unable to care for themselves or respond to people," USA Today reports on the front page, and the Army is looking into placing more attention on living wills.
Double Standards
Newsweek has one cover for the mindless U.S. population and another for the rest of the world.
Rising Hegemon has the pictures.
North American Union
Prepare for the coming of the North American Union:
WASHINGTON – In another example of the way the three nations of North America are being drawn into a federation, or "merger," students from 10 universities in the U.S., Mexico and Canada are participating annually in a simulated "model Parliament."

Under the sponsorship of the Canadian based North American Forum on Integration, students met in the Mexican Senate for five days in May in an event dubbed "Triumvirate," with organizers declaring "A North American Parliament is born."

A similar event took place in the Canadian Senate in 2005.

The intentions of organizers are clear.

"The creation of a North American parliament, such as the one being simulated by these young people, should be considered," explained Raymond Chretien, the president of the Triumvirate and the former Canadian ambassador to both Mexico and the U.S.

Participants discuss draft bills on trade corridors, immigration, provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement and produce a daily newspaper called "The TrilatHerald."

Sunday, September 24, 2006
I think it's crucial that every single Democrat who ever intends to run for office (or is running for office) take a look at this video. Bill Clinton, defending himself against a blindside by Fox News, let's Chris Wallace have it but does it in a professional way, with facts.

I had read the transcript of this interview a few days ago. But reading it does not do it justice. Wingnuts have to be called on their crap in a way that highlights exactly how outrageous they are.

I didn't always (and don't always) agree with Bill Clinton, but he's likely a leader that you only see once in a generation. I suspect he was prepared to be blindsided and by the end of the interview, Chris Wallace appears ready for the showers.
Not Much Going On Here .....
.... Except


Pictures to come later ...... But I will tell you I was hoping, pessimistically it appears, for 100 lbs.

Looks like I got 275 lbs.

Friday, September 22, 2006
Are Those Drums I Hear?
Remember those minesweeper ships ordered to Iran? Add these to them:
As reports circulate of a sharp debate within the White House over possible US military action against Iran and its nuclear enrichment facilities, The Nation has learned that the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have moved up the deployment of a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast.
An attack or a blockade or both? Perhaps the Cheney group observed the blockade of Lebannon recently and decided that was a pretty good idea. Except of course that Iran is the number three supplier (probably number two right now because of the Iraq chaos) supplier of oil to the world.

Is it October yet? Surprise!
While we're being so upbeat today, how about this lovely milestone:
WASHINGTON - Now the death toll is 9/11 times two. U.S. military deaths from Iraq and Afghanistan now match those of the most devastating terrorist attack in America's history, the trigger for what came next. Add casualties from chasing terrorists elsewhere in the world, and the total has passed the Sept. 11 figure.
Debtors' Hell has a series of articles on the increasing toll of bankruptcy on Americans. (registration required and the articles are worth it)
A fate once reserved for the worst deadbeats has become commonplace. The losers are the friends, neighbors, or relatives of just about everyone - people who generally owe the money collectors are after but don't deserve what comes next. People such as Ana R. Rios, a 40-year-old Maynard woman whose car was hooked near midnight even though her debts had been erased through bankruptcy. Or Thomas S. Jessamey, a 45-year-old Saugus man who spent six months struggling to get his car back after it was seized for an old credit card bill.
Vanishing Coasts
The National Environmental Trust site has some animations of global warming's impact on coastal areas.
Very sobering and I'm glad I don't live along the coast.
Shell Shocked
I'm trying to stay optimistic today. But it's getting harder and harder and harder.

Billmon has an incisive post up today on the U.S.-Iranian confrontation, and it's not encouraging. He, rightly I think, suggests that the Iranians want an American attack, explaining succinctly why.

Go read the whole thing. I think I may be up for a news blackout this weekend.
Bad Form Be Damned
I know it's bad form to steal and entire blog post, but this post by Charlie Pierce is worth gold:
THE SILENT PARTY. You worthless passel of cowards. They're laughing at you. You know that, right?

The national Democratic Party is no longer worth the cement needed to sink it to the bottom of the sea. For an entire week, it allowed a debate on changing the soul of the country to be conducted intramurally between the Torture Porn and Useful Idiot wings of the Republican Party, the latter best exemplified by John McCain, who keeps fashioning his apparently fathomless ambition into a pair of clown shoes with which he can do the monkey dance across the national stage. They're laughing at him, too.

The New York Times has the right of it here, limning the pathetic gullibility at the heart of the "compromise." There is nothing in this bill that President Thumbscrews can't ignore. There is nothing in this bill that reins in his feckless and dangerous reinterpretation of the powers of his office. There is nothing in this bill that requires him to take it -- or its congressional authors -- seriously. Two weeks ago, John Yoo set down in The New York Times the precise philosophical basis on which the administration will sign this bill and then ignore it. The president will decide what a "lesser breach" of the Geneva Conventions is? How can anyone over the age of five give this president that power? And wait until you see the atrocity that I guarantee you is coming down the tracks concerning the fact that the president committed at least 40 impeachable offenses with regard to illegal wiretapping.

And the Democratic Party was nowhere in this debate. It contributed nothing. On the question of whether or not the United States will reconfigure itself as a nation which tortures its purported enemies and then grants itself absolution through adjectives -- "Aggressive interrogation techniques" -- the Democratic Party had…no opinion. On the issue of allowing a demonstrably incompetent president as many of the de facto powers of a despot that you could wedge into a bill without having the Constitution spontaneously combust in the Archives, well, the Democratic Party was more pissed off at Hugo Chavez.

This was as tactically idiotic as it was morally blind. On the subject of what kind of a nation we are, and to what extent we will live up to the best of our ideals, the Democratic Party was as mute and neutral as a stone. Human rights no longer have a viable political constituency in the United States of America. Be enough of a coward, though, and cable news will fit you for a toga.

However, because I know it is vital for the Democrats to "recapture" the good Christian folks, there's a passage from Scripture that seems apropos: "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it."

-- Charles P. Pierce
If you don't stand for anything you'll fall for anything.
Quote of the Day
This was the White House's Dan Barlett on the outcome of the "negotiations" with the Senate over Bush's ability to torture:
"We proposed a more direct approach to bringing clarification. This one is more of the scenic route, but it gets us there,"
How nice. A scenic route to get you to the ability to beat the shit out of suspects who might (I say might because we all know what a great track record the U.S. has on detaining real bad guys) have information you want.

I'm really quite pissed about this whole thing actually. More Che than Albert just now.
Tortured Agreement UPDATED
Slate's TP has a good summary of the news coverage of yesterday's Republican coup on torture. A key section is this:
And by focusing solely on the provisions over which the two sides disagreed, the major papers overlook potentially troubling areas of GOP agreement.
Just like was predicted, focus on the "compromise" and "statesmanship" shown by the negotiating parties (not including any Democrats) and hail the protection of rights! Oh, and by the way, civilian torturers gain immunity from civil prosecution along the way.

All in all, the deal does just what was expected. It's all optics for McCain and nothing changes in terms of Bush torturing subjects. And now, given this publicity, if the Democrats oppose the bill when it comes to the floor, they more easily appear to be "obstructionists in the waronterra!" And we all know how they'll handle that.

The only thing left will be a challenge of the new "law" in the Supreme Court .... again. I put the odds of the Supreme Court overruling Bush at about 50/50.

This really says it all:
Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington office released this statement : "This is a compromise of America's commitment to the rule of law. The proposal would make the core protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions irrelevant and unenforceable. It deliberately provides a 'get-out-of-jail-free card' to the administration's top torture officials, and backdates that card nine years. These are tactics expected of repressive regimes, not the American government.

"Also under the proposal, the president would have the authority to declare what is -- and what is not -- a grave breach of the War Crimes Act, making the president his own judge and jury. This provision would give him unilateral authority to declare certain torture and abuse legal and sound. In a telling move, during a call with reporters today, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would not even answer a question about whether waterboarding would be permitted under the agreement."
John McCain deserves the emnity of all Americans. Talk about a hypocrite sell-out.

UPDATE: If you want to support Carl Levin's amendment to try and save some sort of habeus in the torture bill, go here.
Called Out
Lynne called me out.

Consistent with my leadership style, I had to take the bait.

Let's focus on the "save" the world part rather than the alternative, eh?

Greyhair and all.

I wonder what some of our readers are?
Get the Point?
Salon has a fasinating article up in today's issue about Vancouver's program that provides injection drug users a place to shoot up:
Sept. 22, 2006 | VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Three years ago, Vancouver opened a bold new front in the eternal war on drugs. In a downtown neighborhood notorious for street addicts, healthcare workers began welcoming clients into a new "safe injection site," a legal facility for users of illegal narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.

Since then, 18 hours a day, seven days a week, users have been free to enter Insite, located in a renovated storefront at 135 East Hastings Street, and inject their own drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Inside, there are 12 individual booths where users shoot up. They are given clean gear, including needles, spoons and tourniquets. Afterward, they are free to relax in an adjacent "chill-out" room, where they can drink coffee and watch TV. They can also get medical advice and information about rehabilitation programs.


But while the war can never be won, Vancouver is winning a key battle. The Insite program has saved hundreds of lives. It has wiped away much of the drug use in the surrounding streets, while increasing the number of addicts seeking treatment and rehabilitation. Some local conservatives, once fierce opponents of the injection site, are now backing it. And supporters believe the site's success will prove a beachhead for a less punitive and more humane war on drugs extending across Canada -- and even to drug-troubled cities south of the Canadian border.
Conservatives who opposed the program have been (gasp!) shocked to find out that their fears have not been realized.

This is one small enlightened island in a sea of ignorance about handling drug abuse. No one in their right mind will decide to "take up the needle" simply because it's legal or because it's easy to get safe paraphenlia. Programs such as the Vancouver one, if implemented in the U.S. would have the same positive results. We could easily cut crime rates 50% with an enlightened approach to drugs, rather than the Nancy Reagan approach that treats people like three year olds.

Hat tip to John over at A Lie a Day for pointing to this one.
As he says, it is adult-themed but a must see. And the choral work is, indeed, top notch.
Waiting for the World to Change

I like John Mayer's lyrics:

Now if we had the power to bring our neighbors home from war,
they would have never missed a Christmas, no more ribbons on the door.
Now if you trust your television, what you get is what you got,
'cause when they own the information they can bend it all they want.
Friday Fun
Take a break from all the news and find out what famous leader are you? C'mon Greyhair. I double dog dare ya.

I was only slightly surprised to find that I'm...
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Punked Is Right

Just as predicted. That light at the end of the tunnel was a train.

The country club boys have reached a compromise agreement on torture. And also as predicted, McCain gets to look like the nation's savior and Bush the statesman who managed the Senate. The details are still not fully revealed, but essentially the compromise let's Bush do whatever torture he wants with a (yet another) layer of officers overseeing whether terraists can look at who's accusing them of what. Habeaus corpus is on life support. Suppose they decide accusatory information is "top secret"?
"Hey Ahmed (or Bob, or Jim, or Debbie), we're going to hang you but we can't tell you why."
And what about the Democrats?

Who you say? D .. e ... moooo .. crates?

Nowhere to be found other than Harry Reid today mocking the Republicans for not being able to reach an agreement. Do you think that McCain set him up?

Here's Digby's take on the optics which I think are just precisely so:
Here's how the optics look to me:

McCain, the Republican rebel maverick, showed that Republicans are moral and look out for their troops.

Bush, the Republican statesman and leader, showed that he is committed to protecting Americans but that he is willing to listen and compromise when people of good faith express reservations about tactics.

The Democrats showed they are ciphers who don't have the stones to even say a word when the most important moral issue confronting the government is being debated.

Unless the Dems ready to threaten to filibuster a national security bill a month before an election --- which I doubt --- I expect that the Republicans are going to rush this through the conference and force through this piece of shit bill in a hurry, just like they forced the AUMF through in October 2002 and give the republicans a big honking "victory" in the GWOT.
I'm giving odds on filibuster by Democrats, as long as I get the "they don't" side. This is exactly how free people willingly give up their liberty, one drip at a time. We've been dripping for awhile now.

Add to that analysis, this little ditty:

Total raised for August 2006: $7.7 million
Total raised for 2006 cycle: $175.8 million
Total spent for 2006 cycle: $160.4 million

Cash on hand: $39.3 million


Total raised for August 2006: $6.7 million
Total raised for 2006 cycle: $97 million
Cash on hand: $10.9 million
I read a pessimistic piece yesterday by Eric Alterman about his assessment of the Dems chances for taking the House or the Senate. In short, it's his position that Republicans are so much better at shaping the optics that Democrats don't have a chance, in either House. The conventional wisdom, right now anyway, is that Dems will take the House and that there's a "revolution" in the air. Forty million bucks will do a lot of clearing the air.

I just don't know. It's crap like this, crap that the media just eats up whole, that makes me think that Alterman is not so far off. I'm trying to be optimistic, I'm reeeeaaaallly trying.
Prompting Civil War?

The BBC has obtained evidence that Israelis have been giving military training to Kurds in northern Iraq.
A report on the BBC TV programme Newsnight showed Israeli experts in northern Iraq, drilling Kurdish militias in shooting techniques. Kurdish officials have refused to comment on the report and Israel has denied it knows of any involvement. The revelation is set to cause enormous problems for the Kurds, not only in Iraq but also in the wider region.
The true cost:

India’s farmers are committing suicide by the tens of thousands, and globalization is partly responsible.

In a well-written story on the front page of the September 19 New York Times, Somini Sengupta highlights the despair that has led more than 17,000 Indian farmers to commit suicide in 2003 alone, the last year for which numbers are available. An Inter Press Service story from July quotes the Indian agriculture minister as admitting that as many as 100,000 farmers committed suicide between 1993 and 2003 due to financial distress.

Among the negative roles has been that of American seed companies, which, encouraged by Indian governments, have entered into India’s rural areas.

Some time back my dad sent me a list of things that had been accomplished by our military, things the "liberal media" didn't point out. One of the items involved us giving seed to the Iraqi farmers. I pointed out that Monsanto was pushing their genetically modified seed on the Iraqis and pressuring officials to make it the law of the land that farmers had to buy all their seed from American companies. Dad wasn't enthusiastic about my response but I stand by it, especially when I see that we are doing the same all over the world. Never mind that the drawbacks to these genetic strains mean one virus could wreak worldwide havoc on the uniform crops. I point again to the story of 100 nations building a seed vault in the arctic and ask, why are they doing this? Even they recognize the perils of this kind of monopoly yet the process continues. Money trumps common sense. Money trumps healthy crops. Money trumps farmers' lives.
Don't Shut Up - Stand Up
Middle and Huckleberry's Update UPDATED
Middle John McCain and Huckleberry Grahams legislation continues to be hung up in negotiations with the White House. I think Digby has it right, a compromise will be reached that allows both sides to claim victory with smiles and back slaps all around, with (according to the press stenographers) Middle JC being the savior of the nation.

In the midst of whatever "they" come up with, I just want to remind everyone of this itsy bitsy fact:
Neil A. Lewis and Kate Zernike write in the New York Times: "Although the effort has been partly obscured by the highly publicized wrangling over military commissions for war crimes trials, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress are trying to use the same legislation to strip federal courts of their authority to review the detentions of almost all terrorism suspects.

"Both the legislation introduced on behalf of the administration and the competing bill sponsored by a group of largely Republican opponents in the Senate include a provision that would bar foreigners held abroad from using the federal trial courts for challenges to detention known as habeas corpus lawsuits. If the provision was enacted, it would mean that all of the lawsuits brought in federal court by about 430 detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, would be wiped from the books. . . .

"Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a sponsor of one of the bills eliminating the habeas corpus filings, said Wednesday that the flood of such lawsuits had hampered the war effort and given judges too much leeway to second-guess field commanders."
No matter what comes out, it will ultimately mean the removal of habeaus corpus human rights protections for anyone detained. And I'd bet my bottom dollar that this would be stretched to include U.S. citizens if the Cheney administration wanted to. This is clearly unconstitutional, although I have my concerns that the Cheney Supreme Court rubber stampers will agree.

For this legislation to move forward without a full-metal-jacket Democrat Party opposition would be a crime. We can only hope the clock runs out on the session before mid-terms, or that Senate Dems grow spins.

UPDATE: That did not take very long. Spectre still says that he wants to have habeaus corpus, but we know how stallwart he is. I think this is a "tag, youre it moment for the Dems"
Adapt ... Part Deux
I found this article in my local paper this morning:
WASHINGTON - Oil prices fell by more than $1 a barrel Wednesday after the U.S. government released data showing healthy crude inventories and a surge in domestic supplies of distillate fuel, which includes diesel and heating oil.

The selling briefly took oil prices below $60 a barrel - the level OPEC has hinted could initiate an output cut.

"It's a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Alaron Trading's Phil Flynn. "OPEC's been dropping hints that it wants to defend $60, and the market is saying ' OK, let's see you do it.'"
This is funny on several levels. First off, OPEC used to "defend" $30/barrel. Now it's $60? Nice raise if you can get it. A cut in oil output at the $60 level (and successful "defense" of that price) means that the upsurge in oil prices over the last couple of years will be institutionalized, including whatever inflationary pressure that has been caused by the increases. In other words, future crisis increases in oil prices will start at $60 rather than $30.

The second thought I have is that this relatively sudden increase in domestic distillate inventories is not a good harbinger for the economy. With refineries cranking out at full tilt, a large inventory increase suggests that the economy is heading for the tank as the economic engines needs less fuel. The conventional wisdom is for a "soft landing" in the next six months. This datapoint suggests something a little less soft, maybe knocking the landing gear off.

Like a previous post said, my guess is as good as anyone's .... and likely a 50/50 proposition at best. Take that and $4.00 and get yourself a cup of coffee.
Poor Babies

It's been a long growing season. The last drink they had was in the spring. They are full of sugar and the berries are concentrating their trademark flavors.

Harvest is near.

Probably next week, acid is still a bit high. The weather is supposed to be pretty warm this weekend, so it could be early in the week.

In the meantime, the entire Sonoma County begins to have the slightest waif of fermenting grapes in the air. It's harvest season!
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Bumper Snicker
I want a bumper sticker that reads, "Nixon was never THIS CRAZY".
Digby has the latest on the torture bill kabuki going on.

The short version? Huckleberry Graham and Middle McCain are doing an el foldo right on cue and that the Democrats are going to be faced with a "compromise" bill on the Senate floor before the midterms. At that point, Dems will have to decide if they retroactively bless the torturers, vote no, or fillibuster.

Care to guess what they'll do?

Sidenote: You'all know (for better or worse) that I really like to do pics on my posts. Well surprise surprise! ... blogger is being a butt and not letting them go up. Maybe I'll do some retroactive decorating later.......
Rant ... Fleshed Out
Ok, so I had a little rant the yesterday. Little did I know that I would be validated in such a direct way, so soon. First with this:
"Karl Rove was not yet a celebrity in 1997 when he told me the following story. In December 1969, during his freshman year in college, his father left his mother; and, shortly thereafter, his mother largely withdrew from his life. She 'packed up the car, had the house on the market, and moved to Reno and said good luck,' Rove recalled. After that, he was on his own. Rove put himself through two years at the University of Utah, working part time, earning a partial scholarship, and living in a makeshift bedroom under the attic eaves of his fraternity house. His father sent support checks, but his mother kept them, never telling her son. 'My mother was one of these people who really thought often of what it was that she wanted in life, and not necessarily what was good or right for her family,' Rove said. 'And that was just her way. She never grew up. She could never think long term. She was always in the moment.' When he was 21, Rove discovered that his father was not, in fact, his biological father and that he was the offspring of an earlier relationship. His real father had disappeared, and the man he knew as his father had adopted him. (Years later, he would track down his biological father, who refused to acknowledge that Karl was his son.) When Rove was in his mid-20s, his mother would call to borrow money. Occasionally, she sent him packages with magazines from his childhood or old, broken toys. 'It was like she was trying desperately to sort of keep this connection,' he recalled. Finally, in 1981, his mother 'drove out to the desert north of Reno and filled the car with carbon monoxide, and then left all of her children a letter saying, don't blame yourselves for this.' It was, Rove said, 'the classic [expletive]-you gesture.'"
That an excerpt from Thomas B. Edsall's article in the New Republic (subscription required) that's adapted from his new book, "Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive for Permanent Power."

This story, ladies and gentleman, is the classic making of a borderline. Since borderline-ness is mostly an artifact from early childhood, can you imagine Rove's mother, and her ability to attach, as the mother of a baby?

I'm not saying that Rove is entirely responsible for the craziness that is the conservative movement. I'm saying that his story is legion among our current leadership .... that these people have all found each other and banded together to use their manipulative skills to gain power (and love) .... that the gullible American people have been seduced by their sureness, their passion and their inability to worry about the difficulties of rationality. And finally, they found a figurehead who is incurious, malleable and not too bright.

I only hope we get out of this mess soon, that the America voter has finally gotten the picture, and that these people can be contained.
Quote of the Day
"Between your confidence in your infallibility, sir, and your demonizing of dissent, and now these rages better suited to a thwarted three-year old, you have left the unnerving sense of a White House coming unglued - a chilling suspicion that perhaps we have not seen the peak of the anger; that we can no longer forecast what next will be said to, or about, anyone who disagrees."
Olbermann, likely the only person with access who has the stones to tell the President the truth.
Your Iraq Roundup
I really haven't written much about Iraq in a couple of days. It's really the same news day after day. Here's a good summary of recent events by Slates TP:
After announcing that troop levels in Iraq will remain steady, Gen. Abizaid was asked "point-blank" if the U.S. is winning, the Post writes. His response: "Given unlimited time and unlimited support, we're winning the war." In the present, however, sectarian violence continues to spiral out of control. According to the NYT, Prime Minister Maliki is partially to blame. The Iraqi leader's four months in office have been characterized by indecisiveness. Most notably, he has been unwilling to confront the armed groups tearing the country apart. An Iraqi reporter for the LAT captures the destruction they are causing in a remarkable feature. He writes that in Iraq, no one even stops to help those dying around them: "Bringing someone to the hospital or to the police is out of the question. Nobody trusts the police, and nobody wants to answer questions."
Damned right you don't stop to help anyone lest you get your head cut off. And Maliki's "weakness"? Pretty easy to criticize sitting in the comfort of Washington. And don't you just love Abizaid? It's like saying we could pacify Iraq with a couple of nukes.

I think I agree with Atrios who has said that there is no way on god's green earth that Bush will withdraw from Iraq. It would be an admission of defeat. We're there until 2008. Face it.
Greyhair's post on British scientist James Lovelock has been validated. In the Washington Post article the esteemed scientist states, "Our global furnace is out of control. By 2020, 2025, you will be able to sail a sailboat to the North Pole. The Amazon will become a desert, and the forests of Siberia will burn and release more methane and plagues will return."

And now this from the Indian media:
PARIS: European scientists voiced shock on Wednesday as they showed pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe's most northerly outpost to the North Pole itself.
Drinkwater added: "If this anomaly continues, the Northeast Passage, or 'Northern Sea Route' between Europe and Asia will be open over longer intervals of time, and it is conceivable we might see attempts at sailing around the world directly across the summer Arctic Ocean within the next 10 to 20 years."

I feel sick. Where is the outcry? Where is the mention of this in the American media?
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Bipartisanship My Ass
Rant alert.

I was listening to Al Franken today. He interviewed John Danforth, the former Senator and current minister who has written a new book chastising American's for being "polarized". Al did a reasonably good job trying to nail Danforth down about some of the differences between what Republicans call bipartisanship and what Democrats call it. Danforth continually tried to walk the middle line with the "a pox on both their houses meme".

I'm sick of this theme. We're hearing it from Boltin' Joe, John McCain, Danforth and other who claim that the "middle" has been abandoned for partisanship .... by both sides.

This is utter nonsense.

For there to be bipartisanship, there has to be mutual respect and trust. For there to be compromise in the middle, there has to be flexibility in the negotiating parties. Whenever you ask these middlers about Republican abuses, they say "both sides" have done it. Can they please point out specifics of how liberals have contributed to this atmosphere of unlaterialism? And how in god's name can Democrats be equally responsible for the lack of bipartisanship WHEN THEY HAVE NO POWER!

Democrats have, since Clinton, been running campaigns based on wooing the middle. Since using this strategy, we've lost the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. And we lost the Presidency to what is generally considered to be one of the stupidest shitheads on the planet! Hell, we only won during Clinton because of Clinton. We've lost while all along, the Republicans have succeeded based on unilateralism and extremist religious policies. The scales of abuse are far from even and I for one and totally sick to death of those who say it.

The "spirit of compromise" cannot return until there are two mature negotiating parties. In psychotherapy offices, we used to joke that you could always tell when a borderline was around. A borderline is a distinct personality type, very very closely related to a narcissist (can you say GW Bush?), that is characterized essentially by a chronic lack of maturity combined with tremendous seductive powers. How could you tell when there was a borderline in the mix? Because everyone else would begin fighting. The whole office. The therapists, the office staff. Everyone. This very fact is an important reason why training non-professional office staff who deal with more than their fair share of these disordered individuals is essential. They're informally labeled "therapist killers" for a reason.

The skills of divide and conquer in the Republican party are precisely the skills of an immature manipulator ... aka a borderline. Note the characteristics of the personality and apply them to Rovian politics:
Relationships with others are intense but stormy and unstable with marked shifts of feelings and difficulties in maintaining intimate, close connections.


The person may manipulate others and often has difficulty with trusting others.


There is also emotional instability with marked and frequent shifts to an empty lonely depression or to irritability and anxiety.


There may be unpredictable and impulsive behavior which might include excessive spending, promiscuity, gambling, drug or alcohol abuse, shoplifting, overeating or physically self-damaging actions such as suicide gestures.

Double check

The person [party] may show inappropriate and intense anger or rage with temper tantrums, constant brooding and resentment, feelings of deprivation, and a loss of control or fear of loss of control over angry feelings.

Check, particularly the chronic whining over being victimized by everyone else.

There are also identity disturbances with confusion and uncertainty about self-identity, sexuality, life goals and values, career choices, friendships. There is a deep-seated feeling that one is flawed, defective, damaged or bad in some way, with a tendency to go to extremes in thinking, feeling or behavior.

They display no insight, so who knows. But behavior certainly reflects extremes in thinking, feeling and/or behavior.

Under extreme stress or in severe cases there can be brief psychotic episodes with loss of contact with reality or bizarre behavior or symptoms. Even in less severe instances, there is often significant disruption of relationships and work performance.

Check. Nuke Iran anyone? How about that Katrina response?

The depression which accompanies this disorder can cause much suffering and can lead to serious suicide attempts.

Often by those around them. Seriously, aren't Bush, and the Republicans in general, self-destructive?
Sure looks to me like an effective organizational description for the Rovian Republican party. If so, it's important to understand one thing. They can't be reasoned with, they can't be persuaded, they can't be trusted, and they'll never negotiate in good faith. The best you can ever hope for is to contain them so they can do no damage.

As far as I'm concerned, until the Republican party shows signs of purging those who have set up this "personality dynamic" in their party, bipartisanship is simply self-destruction, and national destruction. Democrats would be wise to recognize that they have to stand for something, displaying a mature leadership which will do nothing but highlight the immaturity of the Republicans (rather than competing with Republicans in a childish game of triangulating).

I suspect I'll be referencing this rant in the future as numbskulls like John McCain gain traction in the media, representing the "bipartisanship movement".


Thank you for reading. Now we return to our regularly scheduled blogging.....
Lotsa Buzz
The internets are alive with comment about this post by Matt Yglesias , wherein he discusses the recent revelations about minesweeper positioningss and Sam Gardiner's disturbing analysis (.pdf warning) of the coming air war with Iran(excerpt):
At this point, I think I need to bring up what one might call the Craziest Goddamn Thing I've Heard In a Long Time. This story came to me last week from an anonymous individual who I would say is in a position to know about such things. According to this person, the DOD has (naturally) been doing some analysis on airstrikes against Iran. The upshot of the analysis was that conventional bombardment would degrade the Iranian nuclear program by about 50 percent. By contrast, if the arsenal included small nuclear weapons, we could get up to about 80 percent destroying. In response to this, persons inside the Office of the Vice President took the view that we could use the nukes -- in other words, launch an unprovoked nuclear first strike against Iran -- and then simply deny that we'd done so. Detectable radiation in the area of the bombed sites would be attributed to the fact that they were, after all, nuclear facilities we'd just hit.
Yglesias concludes that no one is that crazy.

Yes Matt, they are.
Crystal Balls
Barry points us to some factual justifications for something we've always suspected about economists and economic forcasts:
1. The forecasting skill of economists is on average about as good as guessing. In fact, predictions by the politically driven Council of Economic Advisors, Federal Reserve Board and Congressional Budget Office were often worse than guessing.

2. Economists cannot predict the turning points in the economy. Of 48 predictions made by economists, 46 missed the turning points.

3. Economic forecasting accuracy declines with longer lead times.

4. No economic forecasters consistently lead the pack in accuracy.

5. No economic ideology consistently produces superior forecasts.

6. No economic forecaster has consistently higher forecasting skills predicting any particular economic statistic.

7. Consensus forecasts do not improve accuracy (although the press loves them).

8. Psychological bias affects forecasters and their forecasts. Some economists are naturally optimistic and bullish, others are consistently pessimistic bears.

9. Increased sophistication provides no improvement in forecasting accuracy. Remember the Long-Term Capital Management hedge fund? Two brilliant Nobel Economists backed by Wall Street's elite nearly sabotaged the world economy.

10. Finally, Sherden says there's no evidence that economic forecasting has improved in recent decades. In fact, forecasting appears to be deteriorating as partisan politics, Wall Street gaming and unpredictable global events invent new illusions.
These conclusions, and the justification for them, can be found in this book by William Sherdan. This suggests that my economic guesses about as good as a pro's!
Hot Flash
This sucks.

Billmon has a post up today featuring his discussion of an article by British scientist James Lovelock on global warming:
Apparently on the theory that misery always appreciates good company, several readers have directed me to this article about British scientist James Lovelock and his warning that catastrophic global climate change is both imminent and unstoppable:

Within the next decade or two, Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will hike her thermostat by at least 10 degrees. Earth, he predicts, will be hotter than at any time since the Eocene Age 55 million years ago, when crocodiles swam in the Arctic Ocean.

"There's no realization of how quickly and irreversibly the planet is changing," Lovelock says. "Maybe 200 million people will migrate close to the Arctic and survive this. Even if we took extraordinary steps, it would take the world 1,000 years to recover."

C'mon Jim, give it to us without the sugar coating. We can take it.

It would be easy to view this as just another kooky end-of-the-world theory, if it weren't for the history of some of Lovelock's other kooky theories -- like the time in the late '70s when he hypothesized that chlorofluorocarbons wafted high into the stratosphere would eat great big holes in the ozone layer, exposing first the polar regions and then the rest of the earth's surface to increasingly harmful ultraviolet radiation. What a nut.


Of course, if Lovelock is right, Greenland could end up being the Florida of the 22nd century -- in which case I'm sure future generations of the Bush family will find a way to screw it up, too.

Actually, if Lovelock's "Gaia Hypothesis" is correct, and the planet really does act like one big self-regulating organism, then what's coming won't be the end of life on earth, but rather the fever that kills the germs (think of the human race as a particularly nasty yeast infection) and restores the patient to her former health.
Hey .... wait just a minute!!! That's all within my lifetime! We got a problem here.

As Billmon points out, Lovelock is on the more pessimistic end of the scientific spectrum. But given his track record, I'm going to to check out property in Greenland.
Stupidity Watch
Here's just a minor example of what's wrong with triangulation Democrats:
Mark Warner (D) told Iowans that Democrats "have taken the wrong approach in arguing against tax cuts enacted under President Bush, singling out former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's campaign as a reason the message did not resonate in 2004," the Des Moines Register reports.

"In order to appeal to more voters, the party ought to avoid alienating wealthier Americans."

Said Warner: "Even though the Bush tax cuts only applied to the top 2 percent of Americans, what I think the Kerry campaign missed was that the other 98 percent of Americans still aspired to get to the point in their life where they could qualify for the tax cuts."
Do they ever learn?

Here is yet another Democrat who 1) is criticizing other Democrats (in this case, the immediate past leader of the party!) and 2) who is talking about how to "get votes" rather than standing for anything! And I'm not even addressing his point, which I happen to think is idiocy.

Note to Warner: You need to stand for something rather than explain to voters how you plan to manipulate them into voting for you.