Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Be Careful Out There
Makes Sense To Me
It's really too bad that policy, particularly drug policy, isn't based on some type of logic and research rather than superstition and discomfort.

Spencer Akerman has a great post discussing street drug dealers. He makes a very good argument that having drug dealers on your street corner makes it safer, not more dangerous, despite your personal discomfort:
On both blocks, however, not a hair on my head was touched. That's for a very simple reason, one The Wire explains time and again: violence on drug corners is extremely bad for business. No one can sell anything when two crews are beefing. You have to bring in extra muscle, which is expensive. And the extra police presence makes the whole thing a genuine nuisence. The last thing especially any crew wants is to piss off a civilian resident more than absolutely necessary, since those are the people who, pushed too far, will raise hell at neighborhood, precinct and even city council meetings -- which is, again, bad for business. Letting civilians walk on by without harassment, by contrast, is a sound business plan.
He further correctly points out that "no-mans land" is a far more dangerous place to be than the territory controlled by a drug lord.

Of course we could get rid of most of this altogether with legalization of drugs, turning it into the medical problem it is rather than a criminal one. But that would be too logical now, wouldn't it?
I agree with Atrios, wake me when the Rethugicans get done ginning up a faux controversy.
Just so you know, ABC Radio has distributed a list of advertisers that have refused to have their commercials put on Air America Radio. They include some of the biggest names in business including Hewlett Packard, Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, Federal Express, General Electric, McDonald's, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and the U.S. Navy. You can see the original memo here.

Obviously, advertisers have every right to choose where to advertise. But when there's a concerted effort to "blacklist" due to a political point of view, that's veering into tricky territory.

This type of behavior is all the more reason to shop blue. It's a war and dollars are the weapon. When corporations see that they lose business because of their practices, they'll change. Their motivates are all about greed, so they must be beat on their own turf. I know it's at times inconvenient. But your shopping dollars make up two thirds of the American economy. If even a small portion of the 50% plus Democrats go out of their way and exercise their freedom to choose based on rewarding companies with a conscience, corporate behavior will improve. It's one of the many many very small things you can do to make a difference.
Quote of the Day
Ted Strickland, Democratic candidate for governor in Ohio:
"There are those in Columbus and elsewhere who argue that the biblical mandates to love your neighbor and to work for justice are meant only for individuals and have no application to the political sphere," Mr. Strickland said. "They dismiss the Democrats and those religious leaders who claim that our faith requires us to insist that governments and government leaders -- not just private citizens -- seek justice, love, mercy, and humbly work to help the least, the last and the lost in our society."
Finally. A Dem who gets it and is able to say it.
Amurikan Industry
Kash has a post up which does a fine job of outlining the decline in the size of the U.S. automakers. For example, FORD is fully 60% smaller now than just a few years ago. Yet, interestingly, this is what auto production looks like in the U.S.:

It seems to me that this puts the kabosh to the lie that American automakers can't compete with foreign automakers. This chart shows U.S. production of vehicles. Why the disparity between shrinking size of U.S. companies and increasing output? Foreign automakers making cars in the good ole' U.S. of A.

U.S. industrialists suffer from two key phenomena that hold them back. First, U.S. producers are slaves to short term thinking. This is primarily due to the expectations by shareholders that returns must improve .... often substantially ... quarter over quarter. This puts handcuffs on long terms investment that is necessary to make a company more nimble. The other factor is health care. Foreign automakers are relatively new on the scene, their health care cost "drag" is much lower because of a younger work force. U.S. automakers, on the other hand, have a much older work force and significantly higher health care costs. Thus, they have shot themselves in the foot by not becoming a primary advocate and lobbyist for government funded universal health care. Had they done so in 1992, their cost structures would be dramatically lower today and their bottom lines dramatically improved.
Defense Authorization Act
Is martial law just around the corner? The law Bush signed October 17th opens the way.
More about it here.

I used to wonder about how the German people could have allowed the Nazis to rise to power.
How could they have allowed the extermination of millions of people, claiming they didn't know what was happening? I believe I understand now that we are perilously close to 1930s Germany. People did not want to believe that such things could actually happen in their country. They were a proud people, a strong people, and believed they were on the side of "right" and that their leaders would surely not betray them. Surely those things people are whispering about couldn't really happen here. Mass deportations were unthinkable. Mass imprisonment was unthinkable. Mass executions were unthinkable. That is what the German people thought.
That is what Americans think today. Nothing that this administration does surprises me anymore. When martial law is declared, for whatever reason/pretext, I will not be a bit surprised. Why else are they pushing for the detention centers and the laws to implement them?
Dead Heat
Talk about a tough loss. File this story under "if it weren't for bad luck I wouldn't have no luck at all!
"ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A dead woman won re-election to a school board in rural Alaska after her opponent lost a coin flip meant to break an electoral tie.

Katherine Dunton, who died of cancer on October 3, the day of the local election, was re-elected to the Aleutian Region School District board after her opponent, Dona Highstone, called "heads" on a coin toss that landed "tails," state and local officials said.

"This is the first that I have ever heard about, not only in our state but in any other," said Whitney Brewster, director of the Alaska Division of Elections.

The coin toss was held on Friday, in accordance with state law, to break the tie since both candidates had 19 votes.

The school district, which covers an island region stretching 600 miles and has jurisdiction over about 50 students, has not yet decided how to fill Dunton's seat.
Cell Phone Weirdness
Yesterday at work my cell phone rang. A call from the boyfriend's house. I answered. No one there. I called him back and he said he hadn't called. Okay.
Coworker in the next cubicle answers her cell phone. No one there. She calls her boyfriend (it was his number on the display) and he had not called her. Okay, another wierd.
Coworker in cubicle across the way gets a call. We hear her say, "Hello? Hello?" No one there. She hangs up and calls her husband, who had not tried to call either.
Three calls on three different cell phones, with three different providers, all within 20 minutes of each other. None of the significant others knows any of the others so it was not a prank. If anyone can explain this little technological oddity I would appreciate it.
America's Adrianople
Analyst William Lind has an interesting article here.

The third and final act in the national tragedy that is the Bush administration may soon play itself out. The Okhrana reports increasing indications of "something big" happening between the election and Christmas. That could be the long-planned attack on Iran.


The Democrats taking either or both Houses of Congress, if it happens, will not make any difference. They would rather have the Republicans start and lose another war than prevent a national disaster. Politics comes first and the country second.

Many of the consequences of a war with Iran are easy to imagine. Oil would soar to at least $200 per barrel if we could get it. Gas shortages would bring back the gas lines of 1973 and 1979. Our European alliances would be stretched to the breaking point if not beyond it. Most people outside the Bushbubble can see all this coming.

What I fear no one forsees is a substantial danger that we could lose the army now deployed in Iraq. I have mentioned this in previous columns, but I want to go into it here in more detail because the scenario may soon go live.

Well before the second Iraq war started, I warned in a piece in The American Conservative that the structure of our position in Iraq could lead to that greatest of military disasters, encirclement. That is precisely the danger if we go to war with Iran.

I don't know if he is right but the possibility is frightening. Lind is the Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation, a right wing organization. This administration even scares the right wingers now.

Monday, October 30, 2006
Why is it that these stories of dirty politics only seem to happen against Democrats?
There is a fabulous timeline from Mother Jones that chronicles the period of the Bush administration. It's highly intuitive, interactive and a wonderful tool for research and perspective. Check it out!
Quote of the Day
Billmon, while giving Ron Brownstein of the LA Times a bit of a history lesson in an attempt to forstall Brownstein's growing Broderism Disease:
If there is one, single, overriding reason why I despise Karl Rove and his masters, it's because of the way they expropriated 9/11 and the social solidarity it created and used them for the basest, sleaziest partisan ends.
Sing it brother. It's thoroughly amazing that there is a single political reporter on this planet who would still believe that Bush is a "uniter".

One really important concept that is discussed by Billmon is the 51% strategy. That is that Rove never envisioned having a vast conservative majority, but rather just enough to keep power. Having too large of a majority is difficult and unwieldy. Having a bare majority is the most efficient method of retaining power over the long term, meaning that you keep the power while only having to motivate the barest of numbers of people. And it's exactly why the old idea of "tacking to the middle" may have seen it's last days as a political strategy, at least for now. A more efficient strategy is to throw red meat at the rabid base and string along just enough other folks to get 50% plus 1 vote.

And Rove may well be right. And the "let's all play nice" centrists like David Broder, Cokie Roberts and now apparently Ron Brownstein just don't seem to get it, being stuck back in the 1960's or something. I wish it weren't true, but it is. And Democrats had better figure out the counter strategy .... and quick. One midterm election does not a trend make.

UPDATE: Whaaaat? Is there something in the water or what? Here's another bizarro article written that is, like, opposite? The Democratic Strategist is claiming that the netroots want to play it cautious, focusing on specific seats, while the consultancy wants to go balls out? I have a feeling this author is going to be receiving a few emails.
Real GDP
There was a bit of consternation (not much actually) last week when the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) came out at 1.6% vs. and expect 2.0%+. Barry Ritholtz makes the case that real GDP was actually close to zip, and that the revised numbers will be in the .5%-1.0% range.

This sounds about right. Without the GDP number being massaged the way it was, the real numbers would have tanked the stock market just before the election. This is simply unacceptable for the Republicans who control the flow of economic information to the marketplace. I suspect we're going to see some ugly GDP numbers right after the election, including Barry's predicted revision. All the while, that housing market just keeps on trucking'! ..... down.

But here's the really tricky part. Today the "core" inflation rate came out:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Core U.S. consumer prices rose by an expected 0.2 percent in September, but a year-on-year inflation index remained close to an 11-year high in a sign of persistent inflation risk, a government report showed on Monday.
The overall inflation rate dropped due to the drop in energy. But remember, the Fed doesn't look at the real inflation rate, but rather the "core" rate.

If Barry is correct, and if the core rate is that high, doesn't that look a bit like stagflation? And if the Fed perceives that inflation continues at unacceptable levels, won't they have to increase interests rates at a time when a recession is looming?

I'm certainly no economists. But I do know that you can't run the economy the way Bush has for years and not have some chickens getting ready to roost somewhere. But, like I said above, I suspect that roosting won't happen until after November. In the meantime, a quiet rumbling continues across the countryside.
Monday Funnies
It's Monday! I thought you all could use a little laugh:
Washington (AP) -- California congressman Duncan Hunter looks like he may be mulling a presidential run.

A party official says the San Diego-area Republican plans to announce Monday that he's considering a bid in 2008.

Hunter is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee -- a position he would lose if Democrats take control of the House after the November 7th election.

Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper won't comment on the congressman's plans, except to say that he would be holding a press conference in San Diego Monday morning about plans for 2008.

Hunter's announcement comes as a surprise to leadership in the Republican Party in Washington.

He has not been discussed as one of the many candidates considering a presidential bid, among them Senator John McCain of Arizona and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
It's a free country. I hope he runs. Having a total Republican nutbar on the agenda running up to 2008 would be wonderbar!!!!!
Sunday, October 29, 2006
News You Can Use
Barry Ritholtz continues to educate us on the realities of the shark filled trading halls of the stock market by quoting from a NYT article:"
This year through September, only 28.5 percent of actively managed large-capitalization funds — which try to beat the market through stock selection — were able to outpace the S.& P. 500 index of large-cap stocks, according to a new study by S.& P. In the third quarter alone, it was even worse, with only one in five actively managed large-capitalization funds beating the index.

When you invest in the stock market (and that's a big "when"), you're really better off just buying spyders and not trying to stock pick.
Sick Of It
I really am tired of politicians and pundits pointing out how swell the economy is. Barry has a nice series of charts that explain some reality. Go take a look ... it will arm you for a future argument.

The short version? The middle class is screwed.
He Slices, He Dices
Scooter got a bit of a preview of what he's going to face in January. There were some pre-trial hearings about memory experts for Libby's upcoming trial:
Fitzgerald's target in the witness box was Elizabeth F. Loftus, a professor of criminology and psychology at the University of California at Irvine. For more than an hour of the pretrial hearing, Loftus calmly explained to Judge Reggie B. Walton her three decades of expertise in human memory and witness testimony. Loftus asserted that, after copious scientific research, she has found that many potential jurors do not understand the limits of memory and that Libby should be allowed to call an expert to make that clear to them.

But when Fitzgerald got his chance to cross-examine Loftus about her findings, he had her stuttering to explain her own writings and backpedaling from her earlier assertions. Citing several of her publications, footnotes and the work of her peers, Fitzgerald got Loftus to acknowledge that the methodology she had used at times in her long academic career was not that scientific, that her conclusions about memory were conflicting, and that she had exaggerated a figure and a statement from her survey of D.C. jurors that favored the defense.
Oh my. I will be following that trial with rapt attention. So will Joe Wilson and his wife .....
Is It Safe Yet?
Ken Lay ... dead. Check

Jeff Skilling ... sentenced. Check

H.P. Boardroom story off the front pages ... Check.

Exxon profits and oil prices down ... Check

It's time!
The New York Times leads with corporations and Bush administration officials lining up for an easing of some business regulations put in place post-Enron.


Certain details of the NYT's lead have been previously reported, but the story illustrates just how much steam efforts to lighten corporations' regulatory burdens have gained. Industry groups with close ties to the Bush administration have been working on proposals that would be put forward soon after the November elections. Why so soon after the new Congress takes office? Because, the Times says, it's "as far away as possible from the 2008 elections." The proposals may also, where possible, come in the form of rule changes instead of legislation to avoid that messy lawmaking process that has served our country so poorly.

The Sarbanes-Oxley law put in place after Enron's collapse is among the targets. Corporate-types have long argued that some of the requirements are too burdensome and costly. Treasury Secretary (and former Goldman Sachs chairman) Henry Paulson recently criticized aspects of Sarbanes-Oxley as well, saying they're too restrictive.
Talk about measuring the drapes for their offices.

Right after the election there will inevitably be "election fatigue" with voters wanting it all to just go away. If Dems get a House in Congress, there's a chance to stop this. But we're going to all have to keep our eye on the prize.
Saturday, October 28, 2006

I think Lynn Cheney is perhaps the single most obnoxious harpy among many in the Republican party. If you have not heard yet, they trotted her out (as Digby says, "they brought her out of her hive") to be shocked SHOCKED that a book by Jim Webb actually has a sex scene in it.

Go watch the whole thing here. Wolfie actually does a pretty good job although I'm told he had to shower afterwards.

Not Healing In Iraq

Click to enlarge

Seems that the rumor is that al-Maliki has some travel plans:
Baghdad is rife with the strangest rumours again chiefly as a result of the latest deployment of American troops around major Shi’ite districts in Baghdad, signaling a movement against Shi’ite militias. The rumours also seem to have penetrated the concrete barriers of the Green Zone where anxious Iraqi governmental officials are whispering about an impending American “coup,” and according to some well-connected Iraqis inside the Green Zone, several officials have made travel arrangements. This followed tensions over the last week between the U.S. and a defiant PM Maliki that were supposedly resolved yesterday with the joint Iraqi-American statement reaffirming U.S. support for the Iraqi government and the commitment of the Iraqi government to a timetable for disbanding militias. The heavy deployment of American troops along with elite Iraqi security forces that are not part of the Interior or the Defense ministries aggravated these fears.
Wouldn't surprise me in the least. Al-Maliki is trying to save his butt, not just his job. To do so means to piss off Bush and his 140,000 supporters in the green zone. I think I'd have travel plans too.

If you want a really clear eyed picture of the situation in Iraq, take a look at this interview in "Time" with Juan Cole. He outlines the Maliki dilemma and Maliki's "issue" with the United States.

The bottom line is and continues to be that Iraq is a confusing jumbled up mess of competing interests who are all very well armed and highly motivated. The resolution will only come after years, perhaps many years, of war.
Back Breaker?
Weeeee. Feel that economic boom!

It appears that the slowdown is in full force. The next step will be to find out if the landing is soft, hard, or without any landing gear at all (nose first):
Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Economic growth in the U.S. cooled to a 1.6 percent annual rate in July through September, the slowest since early 2003, as housing slumped and the trade deficit widened.

The government's first estimate of the quarter's gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., shows growth slowed from a 2.6 percent pace in April through June, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. A measure of inflation watched by the Fed eased.

Homebuilding declined by the most in 15 years, while the trade deficit widened as an acceleration in personal spending increased demand for foreign-made consumer goods. The fallout for the rest of the economy has been limited, economists said, and recent gains in corporate and consumer spending support the Federal Reserve's outlook for ``moderate'' growth.
Learning that you're not as wealthy as you thought is a very troubling experience for consumers, especially those who make shopping their hobby ... which includes most of the country. I don't think that this slowdown is enough to convince shoppers that they need to stay home and play with all those new gadgets they've purchased in the last few years. At least not yet, especially with speculators trying to pump up the stock market. So I think a softer landing is still possible. But the fundamentals underlying the economy absolutely stink, leading to a conclusion by some that the potential for growth without inflation is dramatically lowered. I also get a little nervous when someone wants us to know that Treasury Secretary Paulson has revived "the plunge team".

It may be up to a Democrat to do a replay from the FDR playbook to clean up the Herbert Hooverian mess that Bush has wrought over the long term.
Friday, October 27, 2006
So Long

Karen and Bill Andrews were aquaintances.

You know, the kind of people that you see at a neighborhood get-together or that you pass on the road with a wave? Neighbors like many others. Took good care of their large home, volunteered in the community and had many many hobbies. Much like myself, they were very fortunate to have been able to retire early, moving to Santa Rosa when in their 50's to be closer to their two sons. Each had been married before, the young early marriages in which they each had one son but that ultimately failed. Twenty-six years ago they found each other and made a lifelong enduring committment.

Sunday, Oct. 8th, likely began like any other day. Bill likely woke early, made coffee and retrieved the newspaper from the front driveway. He then came back in to help his wife with some of the daily chores. They had worked hard at cleaning their home to a very immaculate level, cleaner than most of our homes. Everything seemed so typical, yet they knew that this day would be unusual. They likely ate a bit of a celebratory meal perhaps with some champagne, carefully cleaning the kitchen afterward. Karen told Bill where to find the papers and he got them out, leaving the important ones like bills and wills on the kitchen counter. They likely both sat down at their computers, opened Microsoft Word and made their compositions, carefully checking for spelling and syntax.

Karen, 52 years old, had undergone a hysterectomy a year ago and an unfortunate accident during the surgery left her with a spinal injury. She was left with terrible chronic pain that, despite many doctors visits, didn't really seem to be getting any easier. She had to quit her community volunteer job getting dental services for underpriviledge children while Bill, 61 years old, had quit his volunteer position with the local homeowners association to help care for the love of his life, Karen. Their friends were concerned about Karen's health and felt a great deal of sorrow for what had befallen this very active, friendly family, but had every confidence that they would overcome this obstacle as they had many others in their lives.

Putting their MS Word compositions on the counter, and putting a note at the doorway entrance, they then walked down into their basement area. Karen probably sat down while Bill got out the ropes and strung them over a rafter, and then placing chairs strategically. Bill then likely went to Karen and helped her stand up, hugged and kissed her, and told her he loved her. Karen, tearfully, looked Bill in the eyes with undying admiration for his committment to her as he helped her onto the chair. Bill got on his chair knowing that pain would make it difficult for Karen to reach up and put her noose on. Bill reached over and placed the noose around her neck. Placing his noose around his neck, they looked at each other one last time exchanging their love and devotion, and said goodbye.

Then, on the count of three.

They jumped.

The newspaper story tells the rest:
The bodies of Karen and Bill Andrews, 61, were found last Thursday. The grim discovery was made by police officers alerted by neighbors who had noticed a pile of uncollected newspapers and went to the home to check on the couple.

The papers dated back to Oct. 9. The suicide notes were dated Oct. 8.

"There was a note just inside the door that described the location of where the bodies were found," Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Paul Henry said. "The neighbor immediately was concerned and backed out of the house and called us."
This is the second friends of mine who have died under similar type circumstances. Maybe it's a sign of our times, maybe we live too long, maybe medical science is able to keep our bodies functioning while discounting our souls. I don't know.

I just know that I wish Karen and Bill peace and rest.
Lying SOB
You know?

In other times, this would be a big story. But today with the crazy-making Bush administration, the same folks who have taking spin into the lying zone, it's just not much of a story:
(CBS) The White House denied Friday that Vice President Dick Cheney had endorsed "water boarding" – a technique many consider torture – when he said earlier this week that dunking terrorism suspects in water during interrogations was a "no-brainer."

"You know as a matter of common sense that the vice president of the United States is not going to be talking about water boarding. Never would. Never does. Never will," White House press secretary Tony Snow said.
Naw. The V.P. was talking about giving terraist suspects a glass of water when they're thirsty! Or perhaps it was the bath they give terraists each night to keep them sparkling clean!

NO. No. Wait. I've got it. The Chen-ster thought they were talking about the recreational activities that are provided to detainees! Waterboarding, much more fun that water skiing!!!!

This crap is so tiresome. Darth Cheney is a flat out wacko. The only problem is that there's a whole lotta people out there who think he's the cat's meow.
Hard Times
Poor Exxon. No new records means they've fallen on hard times .....
Everybody mentions that Exxon Mobil reported a third-quarter profit of $10.49 billion, which amounts to the company's second-largest quarterly profit.
Poor babies.
Did anyone really think they'd do otherwise?
As campaigns enter the final weeks, and prospects of a change of leadership in the House, and perhaps the Senate, increase, businesses have slightly, and quietly, increased their contributions to Democrats, report the WSJ and LAT. "All of the Democratic ranking members have seen an increase in attentiveness to their fundraising," a House Democratic aide tells the Times.
It's time for publically funded campaigns. It will be difficult legislation to make it constitutional, but continuing to expect our politicians to "dial for dollars" as a means of survival is ridiculous. And if anyone thinks that special interests, including businesses, give money for ideological reasons I've got a piece of property in Nevada to sell them.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. Give this story a read and you'll be amazed.
Tinfoil or Not?
Billmon speculates on this:
London Yank at The Daily Kos has been following military developments in the Persian Gulf closely -- maybe too closely, but I can hardly argue that his obsession is unreasonable, given the circumstances.

He notes that yet another Marine strike group -- this one led by the USS Boxer (like the Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship) has arrived on the scene, bringing the number of task forces to four, including two carrier task forces. Even for the U.S. Navy, that's a heap o' firepower.

The supposed reason for gathering all this floating steel in one place is to conduct training exercises -- interdiction and blockade exercises with the tiny navies of the puppet oil sheikhdoms, and amphibious landing exercises off Goa with Indian special forces, and I'm not talking about Chief Crazy Horse's warriors here.

The interdiction exercises are scheduled to start Oct. 31. The amphibious assault exercises are already under way, according to the Indian press. (What that might signal about India's possible role in a possible war with Iran I haven't a clue.)

One thing is clear: These kind of "training" exercises could provide perfect cover for the final preparations and fleet movements needed to get ready for war. Or, they may be exactly what they're billed as -- exercises, perhaps designed to intimidate the Iranians, but not to attack them, at least not yet.

We'll know soon enough which explanation is correct.
Boy. It's just so hard to know. All the political analysts (except Eric Alterman and Mickey Kaus) are predicting a tidal wave blowing away the GOOPERs, unless of course there is some last minute major event.

I wouldn't put it past these guys. I think a more plausible possibility is that these provocative "exercises" take place and the Iranians do something stupid, like attack a ship. As I've speculated before, the Iranians may want a war as much as Bush does ... ironically, maybe they want it more at this point. The leadership of the Iranians doesn't give a rip about it's people and a war with America would be an incredible (further) galvanizing force in the Middle East for anti-westernism.

Needless to say, I'll be living on pins and needles for the next two weeks and so should you, for many many reasons.
Kevin Drum has put up an example of a Republican mailer that was recently sent out. It's outrageous and you can see it here.

What I wanna know is where's Joe Friday and the bunco squad when this kind of crap goes out to the elderly?
Good Job Al
Whenever the right wing starts to smear you, it means you're doing very good work and hitting them where it hurts. Keep it up dude!
Stock Market Wankers
The stock market is, despite conventional wisdom, one of the most inefficient measures of reality. The story on the housing slowdown is "the" business story of the day. Yet the stock market analyst has this to say on the Yahoo opening page:
Absent a convincing means to more aggressively lift stocks higher earlier, further deterioration in oil prices is finally acting as an incentive for buyers to keep the rally going. Crude oil is now down 2.0% at $60.15/bbl, losing ground in sympathy with a sell-off in natural gas futures.
So, the relatively obscure and minor changes in oil prices are driving the market with $60 oil looking good?

The U.S. gross domestic product is made up primarily of consumer spending. Put another way, two-thirds of all economic activity is composed of the consumer spending money blithely, usually on credit. A big news story that may compromise that component of the economy breaks, and the stock market still moves to the positive side.

When this kind of irrational activity reaches it's peak, the market's short-term bull run is over. We're not there yet, but we will be in the not too distant future. Then, even in the face of some good economic results, the market will fall and you won't be able to give stocks away.
The Unwealth Effect
Uh oh:
WASHINGTON - The median price of a new home plunged in September by the largest amount in more than 35 years, even as the pace of sales rebounded for a second month.

The Commerce Department reported that the median price for a new home sold in September was $217,100, a drop of 9.7 percent from September 2005. It was the lowest median price for a new home since September 2004 and the sharpest year-over-year decline since December 1970. The weakness in new home prices was even sharper than a 2.5 percent fall in the price of existing homes last month, which had been the biggest drop on record.
Here in Northern California prices are down nearly 8% over last year.

I'll betcha that the sales are not speculative, but likely folks getting out before some of those nasty mortgage deals catch up with hasty buyers. Foreclosures are also heading for the moon. The only question left is just how deeply the bubble pop will penetrate into the consumer driven economy.

UPDATE: Kash offers a post on the likely length of such a slowdown which thoroughly contradicts the "the worst is behind us" cheerleaders. As he points out, housing cycles move sloooooowwwwwly.
Even He Gets It
Even the Iraqi leader understands how Bush works:
Bush's news conference came hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said he would not accept any timelines imposed by the U.S. government and dismissed the plan as a "result of elections taking place right now that do not involve us."
As another note on the subject, there's this from Juan Cole:
Wednesday's dramatic events in Iraq began with a US military raid into Sadr City, the vast Shiite slum full of followers of nationalist young cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The soldiers said that they were looking for a suspected death squad leader. The Americans were attacked by Mahdi Army militiamen, and they called in air support. US planes dropped bombs on this area full of civilians. Iraqi police and hospital officials reported that the fighting and bombing left 4 Iraqis dead and 18 wounded. Aljazeera is showing footage of a combination funeral/ anti-American demonstration in Sadr City.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki roundly condemned the US raid, of which he said he had had no foreknowledge, and he complained bitterly about the lack of coordination between the US and his office. Al-Maliki also, however, warned that armed militiamen in the streets would not be tolerated.

Al-Maliki also angrily rejected the timeline suggested by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad for the performance of the Iraqi government with regard to reducing civil violence and addressing the militia problem. He said that no outside power could set a timeline for the sovereign Iraqi government.
My guess is that Bush has set a timetable that is impossible. Let's face it, any timetable of Bush's type would be impossible in a hundred years. Al Maliki sees the writing on the wall .... the U.S. will be withdrawing.

Too soon for al Maliki's taste.

So if you're the leader of a country who's populace hates the occupier that keeps you in power, what do you do?


Watch the anti-U.S. rhetoric heat up out of Maliki and other government officials. If they don't do a good job of positioning themselves as anti American, they'll find themselves standing in line .....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Business As Usual
You can sure tell the election is coming up and the GOOPERs are in trouble. A key Senate race is in Tennessee where Harold Ford (D), who is black, is challenging Bob Corker (R). First there was the bimbo ad which had a subliminal message of black men coming to have sex with all the white women, now this:
Okay, so Election Central has just obtained a radio ad which you've got to hear: It actually has what sounds like tom-tom drums playing in the background every time the ad talks about Dem Harold Ford, Jr. The ad -- which says it was paid for by the campaign of GOP Senate candidate Bob Corker -- can be heard right here. When the ad mentions Corker, the music soars and no tom-toms are audible. Throughout the entire minute-long ad, you hear the rumble of tom-toms every time Ford is mentioned. This ad, keep in mind, quotes Bob Corker himself as having "approved" the message -- meaning it wasn't the work of the Republican National Committee, as in the case of the recent "bimbo" TV ad which drew charges of racism.
Oh NO! The jungle bugga bugga's are a comin'!!!

Is this not the most ridiculous thing. And you'd think it's so ridiculous that it wouldn't work. But let me tell you a little story.

I live in the 100th most liberal county in the country. Democrats outnumber Republicans about 2 to 1. Two years ago, there was a race for the city council that featured a black man, who was backed by our very own local "Karl Rove" type consultant, and who was supported very strongly by local development interests. This black man was doing very poorly in the polls despite having run a very conventional campaign with all the usual endorsements, appearances and mailers. Several weeks prior to the election, the campaign consultant began a major advertising campaign utilizing the newspaper and mailers. NONE of these included a picture of the candidate, which is highly unusual in a local race. It was obvious that they had gone out of their way to hide the "blackness" of the candidate.

You guessed it, the guy won.

If those dynamics are at work here in liberal northern California, what do you think is going on in Memphis Tennessee?
Quote of the Day
The last time a librarian did something really stupid and reckless on drugs was when Laura married George.
Bill Maher discussing a Florida school district's policy of drug testing librarians.

As a side note, blogger sucks. Yes, it's free and yes you get what you pay for. But geeesh, either get rid of it or charge for the service and improve it. And yes, I know I can pay for another service, but I'm too lazy to make the move right now. Besides, I'd rather gripe.
Bunch O' Crap
Anyone remember this oldie but goodie?:

Does anyone remember the media yelling foul about this patently exploitive ad? The right is screaming about Michael J. Fox, how about poor ole' Ashley?
As usual, blogger is choosing not to work lately. I will attempt some posts later, if it allows.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Time For A Google Bomb
You don't have to do anything. But if you want to know some dirt on any of these folks, click the link. Mr. Google will take care of the rest just by posting in the blog. If you have a blog and want to participate, the code is here.

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert
Three Freidman's
That's the latest estimate of when they'll "stand up so we can stand down".

Ah huh.

That's a very nice number. Gives the GOPPERs something to hang onto during the election campaigns. But gee, I wonder exactly what is going to change to cause this transformation?
There are a couple of very good posts up today that make a compelling comparison of Joe Lieberman and Tricky Dick Nixon. These comparisons were sparked by an exchange between Boltin' Joe and Ned Lamont after last night's debate:
Evidently after the debate Lieberman walked up to Ned and said "You goddamn sonovabitch," and something to the effect of "how dare you run those direct mail pieces accusing me of voting for the energy bill in 2005 because of campaign contributions from the oil companies." Joe's losing it.
I've got to admit that the comparisons do fit. How ironic that Boltin' Joe got his start as an anti-Vietnam war candidate.
This was completely inevitable:
The WP mentions a news conference held by the United Nations investigator on torture where he said some countries try to invalidate criticism of how they handle detainees by pointing out they are merely following the example set by the United States. "Today, many other governments are kind of saying, 'But why are you criticizing us; we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing,' " he said.
Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot
Here is the ad that Rush Limbaugh said was a fake and that Fox is "acting", mimicing the symptoms of Parkinson on purpose:

UPDATE: I probably should have included this in the original post. This is Rush:
"I stated when I saw the ad, I was commenting to you about it, that he was either off the medication or he was acting. He is an actor, after all."
You can hear the quote here.

UPDATE II: More on the ad from Digby who quotes a Parkinson's expert:
What you are seeing on the video is side effects of the medication. He has to take that medication to sit there and talk to you like that. ... He's not over-dramatizing. ... [Limbaugh] is revealing his ignorance of Parkinson's disease, because people with Parkinson's don't look like that at all when they're not taking their medication. They look stiff, and frozen, and don't move at all. ... People with Parkinson's, when they've had the disease for awhile, are in this bind, where if they don't take any medication, they can be stiff and hardly able to talk. And if they do take their medication, so they can talk, they get all of this movement, like what you see in the ad.
Liar In Chief
Well, there has been a bunch of hub-bub about the newest GOP talking point: "we don"t know nuthin" about the birth of no baby"s"* aka that they never said "stay the course". Anyone who has been paying any kind of attention for the last several years knows that they are lying through their teeth.

What I find interesting is this. The lies coming out of this administration are so brazen and so patently obvious that you"ve got to wonder why they do it.

The answer is simple. They don"t think most voters pay close enough attention to actually notice. And they may be right. This is how the media has so completely let our democracy down. If journalists would spend more time revealing the truth rather than trying to walk down the middle line, the lying would get obvious even to the 20 min. news watcher. And in that instance, politicans would simply have to stop lying. Until then, expect more brazen lies to continue to be the norm, not the exception. Or, put another way, expect Bush to "stay the course" with his lying.
End Game
Billmon has a post up summarizing the activity recently around the Baker/Hamilton Commission and it's upcoming recommendations on Iraq. Short version? It's possible recommendations are nonsense. He then goes on to examine the ideas being floated .... which all fail miserably. He ends with this:
Small wonder then, that the policy "debate" has now crossed the line into complete fantasy -- like a long piece of dialogue pulled from Waiting for Godot. The realists have turned into surrealists. Baker now sounds almost as naive and deluded as Bush.

As a veteran anti-establishmentarian -- no, let's be honest here, I despise the motherfuckers -- I should be enjoying the hell out of all this. And if it weren't for the hundreds of thousands who have died, and the many more who will die as this fiasco goes even further south, I'm sure I would be.

Interestingly at the other end of the writing perspective, William Arkin was also talking about the end game in Iraq:
America will be humbled when we leave Iraq. Let's recognize this is the bitter pill we must swallow now. It ironically will improve our standing in much of the world as we admit that we need the world's help. It will force us to make a reality of our empty pledge to pursue non-military solutions to the challenge of terrorism.

And what of the enemy? Muslim extremists and terrorists will celebrate our defeat, emboldened even more into believing that they can "win" their war, just as they once defeated the Soviet empire in Afghanistan. It is our punishment and the conundrum: They will celebrate, and they may even be momentarily strengthened. But by stepping off the treadmill, we will also remove so much of the inspiration and certainty that fuels our enemies.
Yep. It's over. Accept it. Swallow that yucky medicine, absorb your loses and move on.

Those who were injured or had family who died early in the war had at least some modicum of ability rationalize their losses. As the war continues, the war simply is a meat grinder with no meaning for the loss. And the waiting for the correct "timing" to release a report, or change course after the elections is nothing short of criminal. Like Billmon, I should be feeling a certain amount of joy in the "I told you so-ness" of the situation. But also like Billmon, I simply feel a sense of despair and emptiness about the entire mess.
I was out of the loop this weekend, but apparently there wasn't much in the way of hard news.

Anyway, here was a bit of a summary from one of the majors regarding Iraq:
The LAT also goes above the fold with a piece by Patrick J. McDonnell, who reported from Iraq for two years and then left for one. He returns to find that the chaos and violence he left a year ago looks like paradise compared to the hellish city he finds today. One of the most awfully telling details he shares: Shiite militias control major morgues and wait for Sunnis to come pick up slain relatives, and then they capture and kill them, too. And before McDonnell goes on patrol with a convoy, an Army commander performs an "unsettling ritual," anointing the Humvees with clear oil, "akin to last rites."
Not really news. I include it because Iraq is taking on the bizarre sense and surreal atmosphere of the movie Apocalypse Now. The stories we all will hear from returning vets will get more and more strange as the meaninglessness of our involvement continues.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
I've been out of town and am now swamped by campaign activities. I'll be back to blogging hopefully Monday.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I'm Outta Here

Gone fishin'. Well, not quite but I will be gone on vacation for a week. Be back October 30th.

Play nice and don't start any world wars while I'm gone.
Price Adaptation
Here's a swell picture of gasoline price adaptation:

Sure looks like a trend of higher highs and higher lows to me. But who knows, perhaps we'll break the trend to the downside. On the other hand, there's that pesky OPEC production cutback in the pipeline. Since we've demonstrated that our economy can tolerate >%50/barrel oil, does anyone really think oil producers will be happy with $30 oil ever again?


Follow my logic.

1) Hillary has enough money to run two Presidential campaigns.

2) Hillary has to overcome the "too liberal" and "too female" hurdles.

3) Obama is a rising star, rattling about running in 08'.

4) Obama lacks money, experience, and national exposure.

5) Obama is black.

6) Rover has taught everyone a lesson in politics. When you have a weakness, turn it to a strength.


How about a Hillary/Obama ticket for the Dems in O8'? Hillary gets someone who is perceived as a "moderate compromiser" to mitigate her rep. Obama gets out of the Senate and gains some national exposure and experience for '16.

The overt message is experience with a fresh approach, vision and "change". The covert message is, not only are we running a woman, but we're running a black!!!! We're bold, we're for change and we're for the everyman.

Any thoughts?

By the way, while looking for images for this post, I ran across this one:

Check out the cheesy Hillary smile and the airbrushing of Obama's fro' to look more black .. sorta like a black panther from the 60's. The pic is from a site called the "California Conservative". Wonder what the message is?
Behavioral Modification
Froomkin has a very interesting question in today's piece: Where's the cowboy talk now?

I want to share a little story with you. As a family therapist, I often worked with parents who were having behavioral problems with their young children. Despite some psychological theories, I always found it kinda silly to work with the children on their problems (except in certain kinds of circumstances, not relevent to this story). I used to work with parents to work with their kids to solve the presenting behavioral problem.

I had a standard warning when I would begin this process with a parent. I would warn them that if they were successful in the intervention, the child's behavior would get worse .... often much worse and would continue to deteriorate depending on how long the previous behavior was tolerated. Thus, changing the behavior of a two year old was significantly easier than of, say, a ten year old who had been successfully acting out for years. "It's gotta get worse before it'll get better" I would continually remind parents. "And you just have to stick it out and not take the bait to give in, or you're back where you started only worse."

Of course the purpose in this dynamic is for a child to test the changed environment .... to determine if the change is real, or just a temporary setback in trying to achieve their selfish needs through the path of least resistance ... old behavior. And often (too often), the parents would succumb to the setback which would mean that the next time, if there was a next time, their attempt to change their parenting would be met with much more resistance and would take longer to be successful (after all, the kid's testing of the change worked last time, right?)

Why am I telling you all this?

Because behavior modification is the same for adults, especially immature ones. The Republicans, and specifically the Bush administration, don't have the faintest f*&%king clue about it.

Bush's adventure in world politics has made the possibility of a major world conflict much more likely. Not because he's increased tension although that certainly has contributed. But rather because he has become an empty suit. Now, in order for the U.S. to contain Kim Jong Il, it's almost inevitable that we will have to intervene militarily (or someone will, i.e. China, Japan) in order to make the guy a believer. We've used bluster to set limits, Jong Il has tested them, and we've folded like a cheap tent (or more likely, like Barbara Bush). Short of military intervention, the child-like Kim will try to sell his nukes greatly increasing the real danger to the world community.

Future Presidents will have to clean-up the Bush mess. He's weakened our international credibility far more than the past Presidents during the Vietnam debacle. The first Gulf war was largely about re-establishing a credible military tool for use by the U.S. in world diplomacy. It's gone now, and it will take much to re-establish it including a likely war that is of greater consequence than the Iraq adventure.
Quote of the Day
From Slate's "Today's Papers":
The WSJ notes that Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., sent an email to the media Tuesday explaining what Democrats will do if they capture the House: "plot to establish a Department of Peace, raise your taxes and minimize penalties for crack dealers." Although his information seems to be solid, obviously he missed some of the other major initiatives planned, such as furloughing Willie Horton again and buying new pink Cadillacs for the nation's welfare queens.
Go Howard
Looks like some of the inside-the-beltway Democrat consultancy is going to be eating at least a small amount of crow:
The LAT, which cites the WSJ's results, offers the best piece. The paper explains how Democrats have taken the fight for control of Congress deep into Republican territory. The Post heads to Kansas, where it finds nine former Republicans running for office as Democrats. The paper avoids embracing the argument it approaches: that the shift represents a significant trend among disenchanted GOP moderates.
Your Libural Media
Can you believe this?
The papers see some of this month's mayhem as temporary—USAT notes that Iraqis are observing Ramadan and "religious fervor is high."
Yeah, because we all know how crazy and out-of-control those little brown people are. You know, they get all jacked up on Islamofascism and start firing AK-47's in the air (and at Amurkan soldiers apparently) over their pagan religious rituals. You know. Kinda like like ......
Now We Know How Many

Apparently, this is the number of deaths required to cause the media to stand up and take notice:
The Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today all lead with the mushrooming violence in Iraq, where 11 U.S. troops died Tuesday and a twelfth died Wednesday.


The latest deaths put October on track to be the third-deadliest month of the war. Digging into the details of the Iraq casualty reports reveals that the numbers are actually worse than they first appear. The two deadliest months of the war for U.S. forces were April 2004 (with 135 deaths) and November 2004 (with 137 deaths). Significantly, those months were marked by full-scale offensives in Falluja and Najaf. This month, the NYT notes, the "military has not conducted any major operations," and yet at the current rate, around 120 Americans will have died by November 1. In other words, day-to-day operations in Iraq are now nearly as deadly as open warfare was two years ago—and perhaps for those on the ground, there is little distinction.
I regularly watch the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Every night they end the broadcast with pictures of the dead soldiers. Last night there were twenty four, one of which was a 57 year old staff sgt.
Growing Grass
You wanna know how that Democrat Party matching donation program is going? Go read about it. I'm doing another pledge.
Bush Accepts Iraq-Vietnam Comparison.

That's correct. Bush won't go to Iraq either.
Eastwood Makes a Statement
Clint Eastwood has a new movie out. If you've seen the ads, you may have thought (at least I did), "oh geez, another ra ra patriotic-nationalistic killer movie honoring the greatest generation!".

Well, au' contrar:
The battle scenes, shot in the muted gray tones of memory, are brutal. The scenes back home that follow are not violent but every bit as bleak. The three flag-raisers are hurled into the public spotlight as canon fodder and used as propaganda tools to sell war bonds.

The war and their subsequent brush with celebrity marked the men for the rest of their lives. The crux of Eastwood's film is how wars, even "good" ones, create perpetual nightmares for the people who fight them.
The worm has certainly turned, hasn't it? From post 911 movies that glorified Amurika and killing brown people to questioning any war as a solution.

Americans have a short attention span, and love fads. If the Bush administration spawns a fad of actual values examination, and contains a backlash against our darker sides, it might actually have been worth it.

Well, maybe not worth it, but perhaps good ultimately reins? I know I know, a moment of optimism. Chew it. Savor it. Allow it to wash over you. Above all, I can't lose hope.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Bonus Quote Of The Day
Please, knock yourself out ... literally ... please:
"I think I'd just commit suicide."

-- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), quote by Radio Iowa, on what he would do if Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate.
Why We Attacked Iraq
In a word, oil.

Understanding how Big Oil came to this point, poised to take effective control of the bulk of the country's reserves while they remain, technically, in the hands of the Iraqi government - a government with all the trappings of sovereignty - is to grasp the sometimes intricate dance that is modern neocolonialism. The Iraq oil-grab is a classic case study.

It's clear that the U.S.-led invasion had little to do with national security or the events of September 11. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill revealed that just 11 days after Bush's inauguration in early 2001, regime change in Iraq was "Topic A" among the administration's national security staff, and former Terrorism Tsar Richard Clarke told 60 minutes that the day after the attacks in New York and Washington occurred, "[Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq." He added: "We all said … no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan."

On March 7, 2003, two weeks before the U.S. attacked Iraq, the UN's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, told the UN Security Council that Saddam Hussein's cooperation with the inspections protocol had improved to the point where it was "active or even proactive," and that the inspectors would be able to certify that Iraq was free of prohibited weapons within a few months' time. That same day, IAEA head Mohammed ElBaradei reported that there was no evidence of a current nuclear program in Iraq and flatly refuted the administration's claim that the infamous aluminum tubes cited by Colin Powell in making his case for war before the Security Council were part of a reconstituted nuclear program.

But serious planning for the war had begun in February of 2002, as Bob Woodward revealed in his book, Plan of Attack. Planning for the future of Iraq's oil wealth had been under way for longer still.

This is a good page to bookmark and send to those you insist that we are in Iraq to fight for freedom (or whatever b.s. rhetoric they spew).

Look Out Below!!!
Them shoes .....
Last night on MSNBC, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank told Keith Olbermann that “there are rumors now about a third [page scandal], this one involving a 16-year-old girl.”
Part B Update
In the post below, I discussed a fundraising strategy being used by the Democratic Party that utilizes the grassroots internet to increase the donor base while raising money.

Well, my pledge was matched by a new donor within 24 hrs., a gentleman from Ohio! Good work Howard, let the base grow and grow and grow ......
Join The Club!
William Arkin, in his piece today, discusses the list of countries now attempting, or considering, acquiring nuclear weapons:
The list is vast: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Japan, Lithuania, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan. These are the countries mentioned in op-eds and news articles following the North Korea test as having the potential to sell nuclear fuel, or those that could put together a nuclear weapon within months. The Washington Post published one such op-ed on Sunday, in which the author described a threat "more likely and more dangerous" of "a world in which countries have the capability to go nuclear on short notice."

"We are, at present, seeing an unraveling of the nonproliferation regime and the global nuclear order that we've taken for granted," former assistant secretary of defense and Harvard guru Graham Allison told the Los Angeles Times.

Add to the list of nations already in the nuclear energy business a second group of nations consider developing nuclear programs: Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Moldova, Namibia, Nigeria, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and Yemen.

This may be the single greatest contribution of the Bush administration. By proving that even the trusted United States can go bonkers, we've incentivized the entire world to acquire nuclear weapons. It is only through possession of weapons of mass destruction that a country can now truly feel a sense of security against others, particularly the United States. This assessment by the world community is completely based in the reality of the last six years, witness Iraq vs. Iran, Afghanistan vs. Pakistan, and now North Korea vs. Iraq. Those nations with the bomb enjoy a much greater level of respect and security than those without.

Good job Shrub. Now multi-kiloton radioactive explosion can become as ubiqutious as the advent of gunpowder. I guess natural selection for tolerance to radioactivity is next on the ladder of evolution.
Get Out The White Hoods
Can you believe this? Froomkin today:
John Aravosis of Americablog notes this passage from Mark Leibovich 's story on Cheney in the New York Times yesterday:

"He offers his standard homage to tax cuts, a warning about how terrorists are still trying desperately 'to cause mass death here in the United States' and a derisive cataloging of the various 'Dean Democrats,' congressmen including Charles B. Rangel of New York, Henry A. Waxman of California and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, whose influence would grow if the apocalypse came and Democrats took over Congress.

"The crowd boos.

"'Don't hold back,' Mr. Cheney urges."

Aravosis apparently doesn't think Cheney's choice of names was a coincidence. His headline for his blog post: "Dick Cheney: Did I tell you the one about the black guy, the Jew, and the fag?"
I shouldn't be shocked. I know we've returned to the 1950's (or earlier). But it's astounding how openly bigotted these guys are.
Big Boom
If you like fantastic pics, go take a look at a what a really really big explosion looks like.
The Torture Bill has a good editorial on the Torture Bill, explaining just how many of our rights were signed away.
The acts of torture now made legal and wholesome include the burning of flesh, the breaking of bones, the placing of needles under fingernails, the tearing of limbs, the disfiguring of faces, and the infliction of general bodily injury that may or may not entail – the fine print of the law isn't clear, making it all the more nefarious, as fine print always is – the loss of a finger or a toe or a testicle.
This is horrific enough. Upon further investigation of the document, however, one discovers that the enemy is not just the faceless Islamic horde but the American people – unsurprising from a regime, abetted by its legislative branch, that already illegally wiretaps its citizens. According to the Torture Act, any American now can be declared an "unlawful combatant" to be arrested, held indefinitely without hearing or charge or trial, tortured without cease or until such time as hell freezes over.

I'm so tired of all of it. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 (S. 3930) is here. Read for yourself. Where did my country go?
Looks like Americans are not the only ones jumping on the healthy-food-for-schools bandwagon:
The NYT fronts a dispatch from the school-lunch wars in Britain, where junk food sounds a lot junkier than in the U.S. Among the lunches popular with schoolkids there: a "chip butty," which the Times describes as a "French-fries-and-butter sandwich doused in vinegar."
MMMMmmmmm good! I wonder if they'd consider deep-frying that for me!
Fumbling Toward Failure
Frontline hit it out of the park again last night.

The show was on the "Lost First Year" in Iraq. It's painful to watch as the atrocities and incompetencies of the Bush administration are laid bare, and to realize the tragedy that unfolds thereafter.

The complete show is available online for viewing, catch it if you can.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Part B
This is, in a tangential way, a follow-up to my post below.

I got this email this morning from Howard Dean and the Democratic Party (NOT the DSCC or DCCC, who I wouldn't give the time of day):
Our records show that you have donated this year, but hundreds of thousands of Democrats haven't.

So I'm asking you to do something special -- something no one has ever tried before.

You've probably gotten a message from an organization saying that some anonymous, wealthy donor will match your donation. But are those donors real? And if they're able to match so many donations with a single check, why don't they just give anyway? Is it just some gimmick?

We're going to try something different. We've built a unique tool that gives you the power to match someone's donation. If you choose to participate, you will have the opportunity to match the donation of someone who hasn't given yet in 2006.

You choose the amount you're willing to match, write a note to your potential donor about why winning this election is important to you, and wait. We'll find someone who hasn't given yet to take you up on your offer.

You'll receive a note with the new donor's name and hometown, and a message from the person whom you convinced to take the leap. You will have grown the Democratic Party and doubled the amount of your own contribution.

Will you make a promise now to match someone's donation?

I don't want to rely on your donation alone. I'm determined to grow the number of small donors to the Democratic Party so that when we win this election, it will be clear that we are accountable to the people, not the special interests.

You know that when you make a donation of any size, you own the Democratic Party. If you watched the news on Friday and saw Republican Congressman Bob Ney leaving a courtroom after pleading guilty to bribery, you saw the clear difference between how the two parties operate.

I took this job with a promise to change the way our party does business. You helped me keep that promise.

Now I'm asking you to make a promise yourself.

Make your pledge to match a new donor's contribution now:
Howard Dean has it. He really knows what it will take to make this country a democracy again. This is an ingenuous use of the internet to 1) connect fellow Democrats (tribalism), 2) to increase the donor base 3) raise money and 4) reduce the influence of big-money interests without resorting to Constitutionally difficult laws.

I wrote my letter and made my pledge. I'll let you know what happens. Hopefully, my pleadings will encourage someone out there to leap into the political pool. It will be through such popular uprisings that our politics will change, our government will change, and our media will begin to smell the coffee.
What If We Win

I've been hearing some speculation about what the Dems should do post election if (and it's a big if) they win a House in Congress. Norm Ornstein, who has a new book about called The Broken Branch made several suggestions on Al Franken's show yesterday that mostly centered on Nancy Pelosi reversing Republican rules that have been rude and denigrating to Democrats .... offering an olive branch with procedural changes if you will. I don't disagree with that. Two wrongs don't make a right and discontinuing the dysfunctional rules of the House makes sense.

But I have to admit, taking the "turn the other cheek" approach leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and seems a bit incomplete. I know retaliation isn't right. But I also felt uneasy about Ornstein's suggestions.

Digby to the rescue.

In this post, Digby does a fine job outlining the history of how the atmosphere of partisanship we have today came into being. It's a very good read for a thumbnail walk down memory lane, and the short version is that Republicans like Lee Atwater, Newt Gingrich, and Karl Rove (an incomplete list) are the reason. But then he gets to the meat of the matter:
So, why am I taking this little trip down memory lane of which most of you are all too well aware and need (sic) no reminding? Because we are very possibly going to win this election and you can very confidently place a large bet in Las Vegas that the cries to end the partisanship will be deafening. I have little doubt that the entire Washington press corps is gearing up for a full scale vapor-fest if the Democrats attempt to demand even the slightest bit of accountability for the past six years of corruption and failure. The Democrats have to accept that they will once again be fighting the entire political establishment.
Digby nails my discomfort.

Sure, you need to return to rules of respect in the operation of both houses of Congress. But the Democrats simply must outline, through oversight processes, exactly how we got here. The divisive political tactics of the past fifteen years must come to a greater light and there must be an accounting for it. Exactly what that accounting will be, I'm not sure. But there must be very public and official consequences for the way Republicans have used the political process.

Democrats are only recently beginning to catch on to how you play the game of partisanship perfected by Republicans. And because I think Digby is right about the pressure being enormous for Democrats to create an atmosphere of "comity" and "partisanship", it will be incumbent on the Democrats to walk a fine line. The content of their language and policy must be shaped carefully around the idea of restoring morality to government and holding the "wrongdoers" to account, and "righting" government. Cogent arguments must be shaped to counter the inevitable charges of retaliation and retribution.

The most important arena for this action is the media. The crusty dinosaurs of the "old wise men of punditry" (the Broders, the Roberts, the Will's to name a few) will continually have to be confronted on the past and the hypocrisy of having a different standard when Dems are in some sort of level of power. The distinction must be clear that performing oversight and holding government officials accountable is not a partisan activity, but rather a governmental responsibility that the voters insisted on when they voted.

This will not be easy, but to do less will be to allow yet another generation of corrupt Republican newbies to watch the success of their elders and to dream of the day when they get to pull the levers, and reap the wealth, of their form of governing. We didn't thoroughly kill the beast during the Nixon administration, or during Iran-Contra, and it has costs the country dearly. The time will be here soon where another opportunity will present itself to return our politics to some level of moderation and functionality, but not until the cancer has been removed. And we all know it takes guts to cut into the body politic. But do it we must.