Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Webb Flap
Here we go again.

Digby takes on "Democratic strategists" Rich Masters (who's he?) on his agreement with right-wing cable news nutjobs that Jim Webb was rude and boorish with President Bush the other day.

I won't go into all of what Digby is saying, you can read it for yourself. But I do want to highlight a portion of what Digby says about George Will. George Will is a part of the Washington punditry that (like St. John McCain) occasionally tries to arrogantly parent all the nasty, ill-mannered politicos in Washington (particularly those with a "D" after their name). But take a look at what he did with the Webb flap.

First. Here's what Will wrote in his column:
Wednesday's Post reported that at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress, Webb "tried to avoid President Bush," refusing to pass through the reception line or have his picture taken with the president. When Bush asked Webb, whose son is a Marine in Iraq, "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "I'd like to get them [sic] out of Iraq." When the president again asked "How's your boy?" Webb replied, "That's between me and my boy."

[Will says the episode demonstrates Webb's] "calculated rudeness toward another human being" -- i.e., the President -- who "asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another."
Kinda sounds like Webb was being a bit snippy, disregarding a fellow parent's caring (who's daughters Jenna and Not Jenna were busy getting drunk and disorderly in South America) and the President of the United States eh? After all, this is George Will, nationally known and respected political observer of Washington, right?

Here's what actually happened between Bush and Webb (from the WaPo article quoted by Will in his column):
At a recent White House reception for freshman members of Congress, Virginia's newest senator tried to avoid President Bush. Democrat James Webb declined to stand in a presidential receiving line or to have his picture taken with the man he had often criticized on the stump this fall. But it wasn't long before Bush found him.

"How's your boy?" Bush asked, referring to Webb's son, a Marine serving in Iraq.

"I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," Webb responded, echoing a campaign theme.

"That's not what I asked you," Bush said. "How's your boy?"

"That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," Webb said coldly, ending the conversation on the State Floor of the East Wing of the White House.
So. Webb tried to avoid Bush. Webb is not the kind of guy to take a bunch of shit off someone so he knew it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie. But Bush sought him out. And then when Webb wasn't taking any crap, Bush lashed out in that tight lipped, fratboy, smartass, pushy style of his to try and intimidate the guy.

Bush is an idiot. But the fact that Will would willfully (pun intended) distort this encounter shows just how far he'll go to make his point. Then, as a "respected columnists", his comments get picked up on the cable teevee and we're off to the races. Pretty soon the "centrists" of the Democratic party are eating at Webb too. Before long, the Will version of the story will be "the" story, much like the "Clinton haircut that held up air traffic", "soldiers being spit on when they came home from Vietnam", and "Dems preventing other Dems from speaking at the Democratic convention because they are pro-life" (in case you didn't know, those are all untrue).

Until the blogosphere, I used to swallow much of this nonsense simply because there was no other information. Thank god there are alternative media outlets and the truth is more readily available. The old wise men/women of Washington are now obsolete and should be ignored.

Want another example? Take a look at Josh Marshall quoting Mort Kondrake, another wiseman of Washington, who says we're failing in Iraq because American's don't have the guts to finish the job. Not that Bush screwed up, or that perhaps the Iraqis might have something to say about the outcome in Iraq, but that American's bit off more than they could chew. The arrogance of these assholes is astounding.
It's so frustrating to continually hear Bush and al Maliki talk about using American soldiers to train "Iraqi forces". This really is the cornerstone Bush's "plan". It's very much a reminder of Vietnamization.

Sure, we train em. We train em' real good.

Then they go and fight in the civil war on their favorite religious militia with their spiffy new uniforms, new training, new weapons and a greater understanding of how to kill Americans.
Holiday Discounts ....

... Are growing, and deepening.

Bu .. bu.. but .... I thought this was a fantastically robust Xmas shopping year?
And .....
I just wanted to add something to my previous post.

I noted below (in the update) that Cheney was summoned by the Saudis for a little chat about Iraq. It's been revealed that the Saudis are threatening to join the Iraq civil war on the side of the Sunni's. They're willing to do this, likely, because the fundamentalist Sunni Waahabi's in Saudi Arabia are putting the heat on the royal family. The Waahabi's exert tremendous power in Saudi Arabia which has led to a very large disgruntled group of young Saudis. The royals are continuously fighting a rearguard to prevent overthrow.

I think the development with the Saudi's is important to understand Bush. Could it be that Bush is being held hostage in Iraq by the Saudi's? It's not entirely out of the question that an Iraqi civil war could easily spread to the overthrow of the royal family .... and they know it. Perhaps the Saudis have said something along the lines of "hey Cheney, remember that little oil interruption that occurred in the 1970's due to the U.S.'s backing of Israel? You ain't seen nothin' compared to what will happen if you abandon the Sunni's to genocide in Iraq. You broke it. Now fix it".

Given the closeness of the Bush family to the Saudi royal family, it may not take an overt national threat. Perhaps there's a threat against financial interests in the family? Who knows. But it's typical for the Saudi's to hang in the background with their oil like the 20 ton elephant in the living room.

My question is. Where's the media on this?
American Idol
Digby has an excellent essay up on why the American Presidency is not an American Idol contest. It's long-ish, but a great read.
Advance ISG
The papers are rife with stories of the anticipated release of the Hamilton-Baker commission report on Iraq:
The ISG's final report, which had unanimous approval, will focus in large part on recommending the Bush administration should pursue a more agressive (sic) diplomacy, which should include, as expected, direct talks with Iran and Syria. There seems to have been little disagreement among commission members on the diplomatic front, and most of the debate was centered on whether the ISG should recommend a specific timeline for troop withdrawal.
Duh. Join the crowd.
In the end, commission members decided against mentioning specifics, citing fears that any dates would merely bolster the insurgency. Democratic members of the commission also said they got the feeling James Baker didn't want to put forth a recommendation that Bush has specifically rejected numerous times. "What they ended up with appears to be a classic Washington compromise: a report that sets no explicit timetable but, between the lines, appears to have one built in," the NYT states near the end of its story.
Baker's got to be careful to keep those statesman creds polished. He also knows who he's dealing with .... Plus, shooting for a concensus report made any conclusion doomed to be vague.
Barring any unexpected revelations next week, it's pretty safe to say a common reaction might be: Is this it? And that is exactly the kind of reaction some commission members seem to have before the release, says the LAT. "I think expectations of our group are seriously overrated," former Sen. Alan K. Simpson, a commission member, said. The Pentagon and the White House are also creating their own reviews, but they're all faced with pretty much three main options, which the USAT helpfully outlines for those needing a refresher. Apparently worried that the Pentagon review would also be the victim of high expectations, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned yesterday the country should not anticipate any definitive conclusions.
They're seriously lowering expectations. The reaction is likely to be just that ... "is that all there is?".

Using Atrio's coined term, everyone is looking, and wishing, for a spanking new pony from Santi Claus for Christmas. The Iraq Study Group was the latest greatest hope of the Washington wisemen that we'd all get our miracle pony in the form of a "new" way for "victory" in Iraq. It will be yet another disappointment when two things happen. First, the ISG will have nothing new to offer because there's isn't anything new available. In short, there's no such thing as pony's for Xmas. Second, Bush will ignore whatever is recommended. His stubborness will not allow him to do anything that even has a wiff of the smell of leaving Iraq a mess.

It just ain't gonna happen.

If you'll remember, it wasn't until Congress literally cut funding for Vietnam that Nixon was forced to finally accept a deal with the Vietcong that had been on the table for years (and over the course of thousands more killed). We're in for a repeat unless an new President is elected on a get-out-of-Iraq platform.

Update: "Some" say that Bush is going to quadruple-down and have a final battle of Baghdad with al Sadr. Frankly I think this is much more likely than any withdrawal. The only question is, where are the troops going to come from? And even if you add troops, can you imagine American troops fighting in Sadr City, (pop. 2 to 3 million al Sadr supporters)? It's been a long time since the U.S. "lost an army". But if our dry drunk-gambler preznit decides to go for the gusto, we certain could find an American army simply swamped in resistance.
Google Goes Republican
MIAMI (Reuters) - Google's chief executive offered some advice on Wednesday to Republicans looking ahead to the 2008 presidential contest: make better use of the Internet's electioneering power if you want to win next time.


Meanwhile, AltaVista is a good search engine.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Blowing Bubbles

Wanna know how to blow a bubble? A former Fed member will tell ya what he'd do.
This video clip of Danny DeVito talking about Bush is just hilarious.
Not that it really matters much, but the Iraq study group report is scheduled to be released 12/6.

I guess it will make for a few interesting stories for a few days.
From Al Maliki: Memo To Bush
Dear President Bush: F*#K You:
AMMAN, Jordan -President Bush's high-stakes summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was put off Wednesday after public disclosure of U.S. doubts about his capacity to control sectarian warfare. The White House said the two leaders would meet on Thursday.

The postponement was announced shortly after Bush arrived here for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II and al-Maliki. Bush's meeting with the king was to proceed on schedule.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett denied that the move was a snub by al-Maliki or was related to the leak of a White House memo questioning the prime minister's capacity for controlling violence in Iraq.
Like the old joke, you can always tell that White House spokesmen are lying because their mouths move.

What else could Maliki do? Someone in the White House who leaked the memo to the NYTimes is trying to sabotage Bush, and it's working.
In what may be the first chink in the badly beaten Bush body armor, Blackwater Security Consulting was ordered yesterday to stand trial for killing four of its employees in Fallujah in 2004. As seen in "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers," Blackwater sent a small, undermanned convoy into the most dangerous city on the planet - Fallujah - in March 2004, without maps, proper equipment or proper protection.


It's all about accountability and it is long past due. I might also point out that the head of Blackwater Security, Eric Prince, is a member of the conservative christian coalition.
Blackwater founder Erik Prince shares Bush's fundamentalist Christian views. He comes from a powerful Michigan Republican family and social circle, and his father, Edgar, helped Gary Bauer start the Family Research Council.
(If you really want to raise your blood pressure, go read the above article about Blackwater and their involvement in New Orleans post-Katrina.)
Did you catch Jimmy Carter on the Newshour last night?

The man really is one of the finest statesman of our time. He's got a new book out called "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." which is sure to cause some controversy among knee jerk Israeli supporters. Go read the interview and watch as Carter handles all the pro-Israeli conventional wisdom Judy Woodruff throws at him, backing his points with facts and the clear implication that the media has been completely biased in it's coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Carter also points to some strategies that could move the peace process forward, and notes that Iraq and the Israeli/Palestinian issues are inextricably linked.

I'm sure Carter will be on many other venues as he promotes his book. If you have a chance to catch him, do it. He really has a handle on the situation and hopefully can help set the stage for a post Bush peace process.
Can there really be any other symbol of the religious war that exists in the world than the reaction of Turkey to the Pope's visit? The Pope has been a poster child of the prejudices, naivete, and plain stupidity of the west while politically correct Islamists are all too eager to gin up the Pope's idiocy into a major event.
Iraq News
Besides the usual death and carnage, the other news today is that al Maliki and Bush are meeting. Interestingly, both are pretty much lame ducks with no power base. As promised, the most powerful leader in Iraq - Moqtada al Sadr - implemented the government boycott which effectively closes down the legislature. Can the government be far behind?

The Bush administration tends to blame al Maliki for the failures (as usual, anyone but Bush is at fault) when in fact, al Maliki is in the same pickle that Bush is in.

In tune with blaming al Maliki, administration officials are increasingly blaming the Iraqis. in general. This shift in attitude from "our Iraqi brothers" to "those bastards can't get it right" signals a coming end to the American occupation. Bush continues to insist on a stay-the-course approach, but I think he may be risking the support of Laura Bush and Barney at this point.

Sorry to keep posting such dour news of Iraq. I wish it weren't so and it's so sad to watch lives and treasure go down the drain while our fearless leaders come to grips with the reality. Denial is a luxurious emotion being paid for in blood.

Update: Oh my. Me thinks this is what the Saudis had to say to Cheney the other day when they "summoned" him:
Respected Saudi government adviser and security analyst Nawaf Obaid has startled many in Washington with an op-ed in the Washington Post today warning that Saudi Arabia could come to the aid of Sunni militias in Iraq should the U.S. pull out precipitously.

The piece lays out a scenario, if the U.S. did leave, in which Iranian-funded Shiite militias would essentially face off against Saudi-funded Sunni militias in a battle over Iraq’s future. Obaid also says that Saudi Arabia could move to dramatically increase oil output in an effort to cut oil prices in half, a step that would be “devastating” to Iran’s economy.
The only dire prediction that has not come to fruition regarding Iraq is the prospect of a regional religious war.


How richly ironic the "threat" to the west is to cut oil prices in half to destroy the Iraqi government. Cheney must have felt like a guy cut in half during his meeting with the Saudis.

It's inevitable. The problem is a regional problem and it's going to require a regional solution. Hopefully a solution can be reached without warfare, but I fear not. From the U.S. standpoint the chickens come home to roost. By not making ourselves energy independent starting in the 70's, we're now vulnerable to the vagaries of the region. So be it. Perhaps the real threat to a quarter of our energy needs will finally cause Americans to take energy independence seriously.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Did You Know?
The consumer represents two-thirds of the American economy. I knew that consumer spending was being fueled by using home equity as an ATM machine, but I didn't know just how much:
Cash-out refinancing never amounted to more than $50 billion in a year before 2000, his charts show, but is running at more than $75 billion a quarter so far this year.
With home prices dropping, in some places precipitiously, you gotta wonder what's gonna happen to the economy. The best estimates have a 50/50 chance of recession next year.
Xmas Shopping
I don't know about you, but I've been hearing on the radio and TeeVee all about the holiday shopping rush, and what a great year it is turning out to be for retailers! Weeee.


It's a lie. WalMart has reported that same store/time comparisons are less than last year for the first time in history. Plus, Barry puts the media swallowed message of the retailers industry to the test. Of course the media swallowed the message exactly as the retailers had hoped without doing any, you know, actual reporting.

Xmas shopping is thus far sluggish. Look to price cutting soon.
Hastings Out
Good move Pelosi. Find an alternative that you can get along with and who has a clean record. Perhaps your "come to Jesus" meeting with Harman has resulted in a working relationship?
My Fella Amurikans
Lyndon Baines Bush will apparently be addressing the nation on Iraq very soon:
"Republican officials briefed by the White House tell Time that the president will have something big to say in coming weeks. The president plans to combine the recommendations of James Baker's Iraq Study Group with findings from his administration and advice from Capitol Hill into what is being dubbed 'a way forward' for Iraq. .
Bush gave us a hint as to "the way forward" today in Latvia:
"There's one thing I'm not going to do, I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete. . . . We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren."
But then he said Rumsfeld would be his lifelong SecDef a week before he canned him .... so who knows.

I think I agree with many of the other bloggers I read. Given Bush, his personality, Iraq, the media and U.S. foreign policy, I don't think American troops are coming home any time real soon. Baker can do all the divahning he wants but Bush is not going to be the one to withdraw from Iraq.

In the meantime, Bush seems to be attempting some behind the scenes manuevring to do a "reset" in Iraq. This would involve bringing back the Baathists (hey, I hear Saddam is unemployed!) and "dissolving" the Badr army and Sadr Corps (yeah, right). This is, of course, doomed to failure for a variety of reasons chief of which is that Iran and Syria will not lift a finger in Iraq until the U.S. is gone. But hey, it will likely buy Bush a few more Friedman's in the eyes of the wise men of Washington.
Here's the top graf of TP's this morning:
The New York Times leads with an anonymous "senior American intelligence official" telling the paper Hezbollah has played a role in training some members of Iraq's Shiite militia groups. According to the official, Hezbollah in Lebanon has trained anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 members of the Mahdi army, the group led by Muqtada Sadr, and some members of Hezbollah have gone into Iraq to help train militia members.
Isn't this one of those "no-shit-Sherlock" stories? Maybe it's just me, but I've assumed that this was going on from the get. I also have no doubt that Sunni's from throughout the region (they are the majority in the region after all) are bolstering the Sunni insurgents. Cheney was called on the carpet by Saudia Arabia (Sunni's), probably lobbying for the U.S. to side with them. This is why Iraq is already a regional war that is outside U.S. control.

It's later noted in the article that the timing of this "revelation" is suspicious given the momentum to recommend bringing Syria and Iran into negotiations over Iraq. They also note that "Iran wants a stable Iraq", which I doubt. As long as the U.S. is bogged down in Iraq, Iran wins.

Watching pundits, writers, officials and all manner of politician try to solve the Iraq problem is a bit like watching a group of people trying to solve a rubik's cube that is defectively unsolvable. Conventional wisdom comes and goes, except the one that says that Iraq is lost and the U.S. can only make things worse. Only the "dirty hippy" types are advocating getting the hell out, at least according to "some" pundits.

You gotta wonder just how bad it'll get before we have that moment.

Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman played a key role in the impeachment proceedings of Nixon and writes at length about the case for impeaching Bush. She convinced me.
Today's story about Newt Gingrich convinces me further that impeachment is required. We must send a message that the neocon agenda is finished.

According to a New England newspaper, Newt Gingrich "spoke to about 400 state and local power brokers last night at the annual Nackey S. Loeb First Amendment award dinner, which fetes people and organizations that stand up for freedom of speech."

Gingrich said that a "different set of rules" should be considered to reduce the ability of terrorists to use the Internet and abuse free speech to get out their message.

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," Gingrich said.

This madness has to stop.

Atrios Does It .....
..... so I don't have to. Here is the latest update of the upcoming Friedman's coming due:
11/30/06 Zalmay Khalilzad sez Maliki has a window of a couple of months.

11/18/06 Joe Klein says we should give Iraq "One last shot." Time ambiguous, so I gave him a Friedman.

11/19/06 Lee Hamilton says next 3 months are critical.

12/31/06 Joe Lieberman says significant troop withdrawals begin.

1/06/07 Senator Warner sez "In two or three months if this thing hasn’t come to fruition and this level of violence is not under control," Warner said, "I think it’s a responsibility of our government to determine: Is there a change of course we should take?"

03/05/07 General George Casey says "This is a decisive period for everyone and everyone knows it. The next six months will determine the future of Iraq"

05/20/07 Obama says reduction should start in 4 to 6 months.

05/26/07 Cornyn says we need another 4 to 6 months to get this right.

05/26/07 McCaffrey says the next 4 to 6 months are crucial.

06/12/07 McCain sez we're going to win or lose this thing within the next several months.

12/31/07 Joe Lieberman says half the troops will likely be home, with full withdrawal possible.
We'll likely be adding the Hamilton-Baker commission to the list very soon.
Bonus Quote
[Zbigniew] Brzezinski said that while the commission “will probably come out with some sound advice on dealing with the neighborhood,” it essentially “will offer some procrastination ideas for dealing with the crisis.”
Quote of the Day
CNN’s John Roberts called the situation in Iraq an “absolute mess,” and said the media has “sanitized” their coverage of the violence. “The amount of death that’s on the streets of Baghdad for U.S. forces and for the Iraqi people is at an astronomical level,” Roberts said.
I think the coverage is less sanitized than absent. No one in their right mind would go out to actually do any reporting.

In other news, MSNBC makes it official .... Iraq is now in a civil war.

Good call!
A Question
It seems to be the emerging CW that Bush's savior commission, aka the Hamilton-Baker commission, is likely to recommend intense negotiations with Syria and Iran.

Can someone tell why either of these countries would be interested in helping us in Iraq? And what about Iraqi's? Isn't this recommendation based on some kind of assumption that those two countries are playing a large role in the violence?

Without an accurate assessment of these questions, it would appear that the tactic of bringing Iran/Syria into the equation is just another time waister.
Hitchcock Would Be Proud
The LAT fronts word from environmentalists that as more cell phone towers pop up, more birds are dying as a result. Apparently birds can confuse the lights on top of the towers for stars, and they circle the towers until they end up crashing into them or something around them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says anywhere from 4 million to 50 million birds die a year as a result of these towers. It seems using white strobe lights, instead of the continuous red ones that are currenty in most towers, could solve the problem.
Seems like a pretty big range of estimates. On the other hand, a simple light change doesn't seem like too much to ask.
Orwellian Site
The Ministry of Love announces its fourth-quarter plan to gather 315 separate copies of George Orwell’s landmark novel 1984, from proles and party comrades alike, all across our brave homeland.

Once collected, all 315 copies will be mailed separately to each Member of Congress who voted YEA on the Military Commissions Act (a.k.a. The Torture Bill) on September 28th and 29th, in the sixth year of our glorious leader’s regime. These shipments will occur with great fanfare, and hopefully, a television news crew on hand to capture the momentous occasion for inclusion in the Ministry of Truth’s ever-growing archives.

In case you’ve forgotten, our glorious leader’s regime has gifted us with the following remarkably Orwellian achievements:
* spying on ordinary citizens without their knowledge
* paid propaganda masquerading as news reports
* removal by Thought Police of ungoodthinkers (protesters) from all Party rallies and celebrations featuring our glorious leader
* community members encouraged to report “suspicious activities” of neighbors and co-workers
* the promise of an endless war
(for a more comprehensive list, go to

An interesting site.
Americans are Stupid Because
There was a Canadian blogger who had a site that listed 3 things each day under the title Americans are Stupid Because. He finally gave up in disgust, depressed at how easy it was to find three stories each day to prove his point. He isn't around to post it, so I will:

Woman faces fines for wreath peace sign.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Nothing Earthshaking
Yesterday was awful in Iraq ... even worse than usual. Retaliatory fighting is spiraling while Americans continue the process of Vietnamiza .... a Iraqiazation while the whole thing threatens to become regional (see Lebannon). Wonder why it took the U.S. military two hours to respond to an attack on a government ministry in Baghdad where 2000 employees were trapped? Meanwhile, granny blows up in Gaza and tries to take some Israeli's with her.

Carry on.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
A Lesson
Totally and shamelessly stolen from Atrios. As he says, "there's a lesson here somewhere" .....

Never more relevent.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Poly Sci Lesson
Hat tip to Digby for pointing me to this in his discussion of the new nutbar anti-contraceptionist who now runs the Federal Family Planning Programs. I have understood the concept but didn't realize it had an actual name:
The Overton Window is a concept in political theory, named after the former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy who developed the model. It describes a window of majority acceptable ideas in public discourse, from a spectrum of all possible options on an issue. It provides a plan of action to make the options one would prefer acceptable to the public by priming them not with the leaders of the political movement, but with media spokespeople.

The steps an idea takes to full legitimacy are roughly as follows:

* Unthinkable
* Radical
* Acceptable
* Sensible
* Popular
* Policy

It's a means of visualizing where to go, and how to assess progress.
This is the real religious rights bible .....

With the war on abortion going well, they're now working on getting rid of contraception, among other things.
Quote of the Day
Martin Luther King from the Birmingham jail:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I wish the "centrists" Liebermanites and appeasing Democrats would read this. Note the difference between a negative peace and a positive peace. Democrats have too often sought the absence of tension based on compromise rather than the presence of peace based on justice. The rethugicans have used this appeasement to max advantage since Nixon.

It's time for a change.
My Thanksgiving Wish

Iraqi state television reported that Vice President Dick Cheney was in Baghdad, but U.S. officials said Cheney was not in the capital. The occassion of Cheney's alleged trip is to visit American troops for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Why not just give him a gun and let him stay? Seriously! He's so much for the war, and he likes to hunt, and we know he can shoot people in the head.

Why not?
Here's proof that as President, you just can't win:
The WP's Robert Novak has been talking to Republicans about their feelings on how Donald Rumsfeld was fired, and all say they were in some way surprised by the way the president treated the secretary of defense. The president's action toward Rumsfeld "connotes something deeply wrong with George W. Bush's presidency in its sixth year," writes Novak. Although the secretary of defense has always been loyal to the president, "loyalty appears to be a one-way street for Bush."
Is that the epitome of hackery? Bush having problems with loyalty? That's like saying Cheney has problems with hunting ... ah ... nevermind.

Novakula needs to retired or be retired. He's useless and has zero credibility with anyone.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Why Rangel Matters
A number of the inside the beltway types, including a number liberal bloggers, have suggested that Charlie Rangels recent (and again) call for the draft is a diversion from the "agenda". I say B.S. And here's why:
Advocating war is easier when you and your family are not endangered by it. I've reached a Rangel-like breaking point with my TV pundit colleagues who championed the Iraq war and now say we can't leave even if we went there for the wrong reasons. For every one of them, I have a simple question: Why aren't you in Iraq? Or why did you avoid combat in your generation's war? The one unifying characteristic that all of us men in make-up on political chat shows share is fear of combat. Every one of us has done everything we can to avoid combat or even being fitted for a military uniform. Just like George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Dick Cheney, we are all combat cowards. It takes a very special kind of combat coward to advocate combat for others. It's the kind of thing that can get you as angry as Charlie Rangel.
Aside from the minor detail of Rangel and O'Donnell being correct, what's wrong with this? It's good politics to discuss at a time when the public is against the war, and the military constituency has to be feeling some of these things. Calculating whether this is a "good" issue is just the kind of political consultant thinking that gets liberals in trouble. If you believe it, if you're passionate, go for it! Even those who disagree will maintain respect for you.

Update: Kevin Drum misses the basic point. It's not about the logic of who should make policy. It's about how policy is made. A draft makes it far more likely that politicians, whether they've served or not, will not go to war unless it's really really necessary.
Zombie Chickens
When Jim Stauffer of Petaluma saw a chicken crawling out of a mound of compost like the living dead, he knew something had changed at the egg farm next door.

"We called them zombie chickens," Stauffer said. "Some of them crawled right up out of the ground. They'd get out and stagger around."

What changed was the method used to get rid of "spent hens," which are chickens that no longer produce eggs. And the change isn't just in Petaluma; it's throughout the country.

The market for spent-hen meat has collapsed. Since May, there isn't a California facility willing to take them.

That means finding a way to dispose of more than a half-million spent hens a year - and that's just in the Sonoma County area, mostly around Petaluma, where chickens and eggs have been an agricultural staple for a century.

As a last resort, many farmers have turned to killing the chickens and using them to make piles of compost.

Hens are placed in a sealed box which is filled with carbon monoxide. Within seconds the chickens are unconscious. Less than two minutes later, they die from lack of oxygen.

Farmers say the method for euthanizing and composting the chickens is humane and health officials say they have heard no complaints.

The dead chickens are layered into a mound of sawdust. In about a month, it turns into compost, farmers said.

They said the incident described by Stauffer, in which about two dozen chickens crawled out of compost piles, was an anomaly probably caused by inexperience.

One farmer said no chickens survive the process, which he personally oversees. The biggest chicken farmer in the region said usually two survive out of 40,000 gassed.
The most poignant post I've ever seen.

I have too much to be thankful for. Have a safe holiday.
Let's Have A Meeting!
I guess it's better than doing absolutely nothing .... maybe:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan next week with grim new statistics showing record numbers of Iraqis were killed last month and many more fled the country.

A U.N. report put civilian deaths in October at 3,709 -- 120 a day and up from 3,345 in September. Nearly 420,000 moved to other parts of Iraq since the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra triggered a surge in sectarian attacks.

It said as well as those displaced within Iraq, nearly 100,000 people were fleeing to Syria and Jordan every month -- proportionally equivalent to a million Americans emigrating each month, depriving the U.S. economy of a city the size of Detroit.
I know what to do. Let's have a meeting!

What in the hell could these two guys, who are totally bankrupt as leaders, possibly do about this situation. Note: these statistics are the reported numbers, not the actual numbers. Who knows how many bodies are buried or "disposed of" without official knowledge. Remember that Lancet study about hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq .... ?

Ah ... nevermind. Nothing to see here, move along.
Look Out!
I think I would be a wee bit suspicious myself:
The WP and WSJ point out that the Bush administration is telling the incoming Democratic majority it wants to once again talk about Social Security with "no preconditions." Although officials deny it, this offer is leading some to speculate that the White House would be willing to drop the requirement that workers be allowed to put some of their Social Security taxes into private accounts.
Ah huh.

I realize that Dems are going to have to have negotiations with Bush and the Rethugicans. I would just implore the Democrat leadership to be sure and check their pockets coming and going, and to have a phalanx of attorney's go over any agreement with a fine tooth comb.
This triggered some thoughts:
The NYT fronts a dispatch from Iraq reporting snipers are proving not to be as effective as initially hoped in stopping insurgents. With the war lasting as long as it has, insurgents have become familiar with the U.S. tactic of using snipers and are now careful to avoid them. Their positions are well-known, and insurgents often have local civilians who warn them when a sniper is spotted.
Pardon me if this seems obvious, but don't you need the support of the general population to defeat an insurgency?

To me, this is the big mistake made by the west in dealing with the middle east. Iraqi insurgents and terrorist are really no better than anyone else who thinks force and violence are the way to win. The insurgents in Iraq aren't winning because they're good fighters, they're winning because they have the support of the general populace. Whether it's a democracy or any other type of government, power really does eminate from the support (or lack of opposition) of the people. Lose that, and you're simply a thug. In Iraq, American soldiers are thugs, which is why it doesn't matter what St. John says about more troops .... in Iraq, we're toast.

The same thing is true regarding the great war on terra. The U.S. is getting it's ass handed to it in the great Islamic war because we don't have the support of the average middle eastern citizen. As long as we continue with the hypocrisy of supporting oppressive governments while our foes provide food and social services to the poor, we'll continue to get our ass handed to us. Israel too (see Hezbollah).

As an average citizen, wouldn't you do the same?
Keep Jesus Off My Penis

This cracks me up and I agree with him 100%.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Bullshit Moose
I'm shocked SHOCKED that DLC hack Marshall Wittman would be going to work for Joe Lieberman. Peas in a pod if you ask me.
Uncivil Rights Part Deux
Remember the video I referenced the other day? It was a video of a student at UCLA being tasered like crazy in the school library. As usual, now we hear "the rest of the story":
The UCLA police officer videotaped last week using a Taser gun on a student also shot a homeless man at a campus study hall room three years ago and was earlier recommended for dismissal in connection with an alleged assault on fraternity row, authorities said…. In May 1990, he was accused of using his nightstick to choke someone who was hanging out on a Saturday in front of a UCLA fraternity.
Good security management UCLA. Sounds like the makings of a pretty nasty little lawsuit.
I'm sure you've heard this story about the Imams tossed from a flight.

Is there anything more ridiculous than a bunch of bigoted Americans?


A bigoted airline that refused to let them fly. Weren't there any adults handy to make a sane decision on the situation? What's the point of all the screening we go through if you are still considered a threat after the screening, just because you pray?

Seeya US Airways.
Be the Pollack

Take a few minutes to vent like Jackson Pollack. Drag your cursor to "paint"; click to change colors.
St. John Johnson
Digby has commented on St. John McCains Iraq strategy. He notes, quite correctly I think, that McFalwell may get exactly what he is asking for.

A concensus, crazy as it may be, seems to be gelling to send 20,000 more troops into Iraq to train the military and police over the next Freidman Unit. Clearly I think this strategy will be a failure. If so, what does that do to McCain's presidential ambitions? McCain has to know that Iraq is lost. He may be currently counting on the Democrats preventing an escalation of troop levels or Bush ignoring him, then he's able to distance himself from Bush and claim that if we'd just done what he advocated, we would have won.

If more troops are sent in and fail, the war is his.

Here's the punchline of Digby's post:
He's going to be left with no option but to call for even more escalation going into '08 if they do this. I can't help but wonder about the political implications. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that the number is the same and that Abizaid famously said recently that the extra 20,000 weren't necessary. If the Bush administration now "gives" McCain exactly what he's asked for they are effectively passing off the war to him. McCain is positioning himself to be Lyndon Johnson in this thing without even becoming president.
Interesting Take
Spencer Akerman on the Hamilton-Baker commission report on Iraq:
When I asked someone close to the Iraq Study Group if the group intends to save Bush from himself, the source laughed. The greatest utility Baker and Hamilton's report will provide, he suggested, is for Bush's would-be successors. In one fell swoop, the commission is likely to transform the nascent 2008 presidential primary fields. By blessing withdrawal, it will unite the Democratic Party -- and rip the Republican Party wide open, along its most volatile fault line.
A plum job is available working as Condi's assistant. Wonder why she can't fill it?
Deal Sweetners
Here is a good article detailing the politics .... and economics ... of ethanol. Give it a read to get a very good overview of the entire ethanol issue.

The short version is this. Ethanol made from corn is highly inefficient taking nearly as much energy to make as it gives back. But the agricultural lobby in Washington is so strong that we do it anyway, essentially subsidizing major agricultural interests (can you say, ADM?).

Meanwhile ethanol made from sugar cane (like in Brazil) is highly efficient and is a viable option. Unfortunately, U.S. politicians are so in-bed with the sugar industry that sugar prices are inordinately, and artificially, too high to make ethanol production economically viable domestically. Brazil, mentioned above, grows enough sugar cane to make enough ethanol to have now made themselves energy independent.

So once again, our energy policies make no sense because major corporations continue to fuel (pun intended) our petroleum dependence while wasting money on corn based ethanol.

What a sweet deal!
Aren't These The Good Guys?
This is interesting:
The New York Times leads with leaked Israeli government documents that seem to show Palestinians privately own 39 percent of the land currently held by Israeli settlements in the West Bank.


Peace Now, an Israeli advocacy group, provided the documents to the NYT, which are supposedly from an Israeli government database. The group plans to make an official release of its findings today. If true, it would suggest the Israeli government, and the settlers, are consistently violating private Palestinian property rights. According to a spokesman, the Israeli government has been looking into this issue for the last three years but it has not finished its analysis. The NYT points out that this is not the first time concern over private Palestinian land has been brought up, and in 2005 officials promised to destroy a number of settlements, although in the end only one was taken apart.
Property rights?

We don't need no stinkin' property rights.

It's so sad to note how victims are trained, and ultimately turn into, perpetrators. These actions by the Israeli's are more in line with fascism than modern democracy.
Quote of the Day
"I feel as though we are staring crisis in the face. It's not just down the road somewhere. It is just hurtling toward us. Anyone who is 10 years old right now is going to be facing a very different and frightening world by the time that they are 50 or 60."—Douglas Futuyma, professor of ecology and evolution at the State University of New York in Stony Brook, on extinctions from global warming.
Don't Fly Our Friendly Skies
U.S. is most unfriendly country to visitors, survey says
The survey showed that the United States was ranked "the worst" in terms of visas and immigration procedures by twice the percentage of travelers as the next destination regarded as unfriendly -- the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent.

Why am I not surprised?
Monday, November 20, 2006
Lotsa Ifs
But wouldn't it be fun to watch?
Vern Buchanan [R] might have been certified as the winner in this race, but it's far from over. Democratic candidate Christine Jennings is already contesting the results, citing reports of malfunctioning voting machines, and if Jennings refuses to concede and shows enough evidence of malfunctions, the race could be the House itself.

A new article in Roll Call spells it out (paid subscription): Election watchers around the country think that the race could end up before a House committee — the House Administration Committee, which oversees Federal elections. If so, the full House, which in the end is responsible for seating new members, could potentially vote on which of the two candidates to seat, thus deciding the race's outcome itself — or could call for a new recount, or even declare the seat vacant and mandate a new election. Right now, of course, the House is still GOP-controlled, but by the time of this vote it could be in the hands of Dems — meaning Jennings could conceivably pull off a win after all.
Jennings is down by 349 votes and has a very good case for the machines malfunctioning. Watch the media go apeshit over this if it ends up in the House. Why. The Republic itself will be on the line!
Conservative Dems
Stu Rothenberg knocks down the meme of "conservative Democrats" having won the election:
Well, I met dozens of Democrats running in 2006 - no, not everyone, but most of them - and I can’t find much more than a couple who merit the label "conservative." That’s not meant to be either criticism or praise. It’s merely a statement of fact.
His post goes on to prove this assertion.

Stu. Do us all a favor. Send your thoughts to the media. Maybe they'll listen to you.
GreyHair's Wanker Of The Day
George Packer

He was wrong about getting into the war and then did an about face, criticizing the administration for getting into the war and failing to execute it. Now we have part two. Packer's position is a pretty good representation of the Lieberman wing of the nutbar party. "Iraq's a mess but if we leave it will be a mess too! So let's stay until it's not a mess".

The liberal blogosphere jokingly calls this wishing for ponies. Packer, appropriately, tears down some of the simplest arguments for withdrawing for Iraq. Indeed, anyone promising that stability will rein after the U.S. withdraws is also pony wishing. As I've ranted before, it's a disaster either way. But what politician in their right mind can say, "hey, we need to withdraw from Iraq so it can be a disaster!". If you'll remember, when we withdrew from Vietnam, there was a distinct period of "disaster" and "cleansing" that went on before the nation was able to settle into a new stability. Indeed, Bush of all people, actually hit on this wisdom in his recent visit proclaiming that Vietnam was an example to be modeled in Iraq. Of course in his stupidity, he had no idea that he was making the case for those advocating withdrawal.

Any plan put forth will have to at least publically offer a promise for "success", while the proponents (if they have their heads on straight) know that success is not gonna happen. ALL plans currently put forth will have that same flaw ... promising some opportunity for success ... lending them to widespread appropriate criticism because there simply aren't any ponies to be had in Iraq.

The only solution is to take our medicine. We fucked up the entire region and are powerless to do anything about it. Maybe someday when the U.S. is no longer radioactive we can be a factor, just like we're exploring with Vietnam. Staying will only prolong the agony that is inevitable now and postpone that future. The Iraq "leaders" and the regional leaders who are very local to the scene and politics will have to solve the violence. The need for this will not become clearly apparent until the West is out.

So Mr. Packer, you were wrong at first and you continue to be wrong now. Stop looking for ponies, break down your denial, and accept your medicine.

Note: Interestingly, as soon as I put this post up, I went to read William Arkin who is discussing the same topic. He reaches the same conclusion, but from the point of view that the math simply won't work for deploying more forces to Iraq. We simply don't have the manpower and it wouldn't work anyway. Maybe Packer needs the link.

Update: Josh Marshall asks an interesting question. How does it affect our international standing to double down on a losing proposition?
From Today's Papers:
Everybody mentions Israel called off an airstrike against a Palestinian militant's home after about 200 neighbors and supporters ignored the warnings of the impending bombing and went into the house. The Palestinians claimed victory, but the Israeli military said it was yet another example of how militants use civilian shields to protect themselves.
Ever notice how there's seems to be a bit of condescension or confusion whenever a foe uses assymmetrical warfare? It's sort of like "hey that's not fair! Cummon, sit still and let us kill the guy!" Or if they use a terrorist tactic it's like there should be a referee that emerges from the smoke, blowing a whistle and throwing a flag, then clicking his microphone to announce, "improper warfare tactics on al Qaeda, fifteen yard penalty from the spot of the foul".

In this case the Israeli military seems to be snarling about the fact that militants "use" civilians. How can they tell the difference between a "militant" and a "civilian"? I'm not sure that those "civilians" would view themselves as having a distinction. When you've got little to lose and you're fighting an overwhelming conventional force, maybe they see themselves as soldiers? Hello!

I've written here before about the concept of equalization of power. People will always find a way, some way, to equalize the power disparity between themselves and others. Israeli's (and for the most part Americans) believe that if faced with overwhelming power you can "force" someone to submit and "win" (as an aside, this includes personal relationships and parenting as well). This assumption has been demonstrated over and over again throughout history as erroneous. Until the inherent power of the "militants" is recognized .... and more importantly respected .... a peace settlement will be impossible. Israel certainly should know this by now. But then, some people continue to believe the world is flat.
CIA and Murder
In today's Guardian UK:
In 1968, Robert Kennedy seemed likely to follow his brother, John, into the White House. Then, on June 6, he was assassinated - apparently by a lone gunman. But Shane O'Sullivan says he has evidence implicating three CIA agents in the murder.

I just find this interesting. Have you noticed that the leaders who have been assassinated have been voices for peace and equality? I'm wondering about Paul Wellstone's death as well. In all likelihood we will never know about any of them but the questions erode the authority of government.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Worse Than You Can Imagine
Here is a documentary that you are very unlikely to see on the TeeVee in Amurika. It's done by "channel 4", wherever that is (sounds British?) It's 45 mins long and will give you a very good sense of the civil war in Iraq and just how out of control the whole thing is. Like in South Vietnam, we are supporting an incredibly corrupt government who's goal is the ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Sunni's.
Heads You Win, Tails I Lose
Ok Dems, now watch just how it's done. New Republican majority leader Mitch McConnel:
Forty-nine is not a bad number of Senators to have, in a chamber that requires sixty to control. And I can assure you that our Democratic friends will give President Bush's judicial nominees a floor vote - if they want to get anything done, in a chamber that requires 60 to control.
You gotta wonder. When this happens, will all the hand wringers in the media proclaim the Republicans are "obstructionists"? Will the so-called "moderates" all have a DaVinci Code-like meeting to save the Senate?

What will we do!

My guess? The Dems will fold like cheap tents to look bipartisan. After all, those angelic Republicans wouldn't have to resort to such tactics if the Democrats were reasonable. Right?
What's Next

Hersh has written another story about how the Bushies may be getting ready to move on Iran.
How would that [the election results] affect policy toward Iran, which is believed to be on the verge of becoming a nuclear power? At that point, according to someone familiar with the discussion, Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting “shorteners” on the wire—that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday. If the Democrats won on November 7th, the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put “shorteners” on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way.
Hersh then goes on to detail how Reagan and his crew did that with Congress during Iran Contra, leading to "other sources of funding".

We all know how well that turned out.

Does Iran even really have a secret bomb program? Will "Shooter" Dick Cheney continue to hold sway with Bush? Will the old guard/Condi position (the "pappy contingent) take precedence over the hawkish Cheney? Does Gates' nomination mean a swing in favor of diplomacy with Iran or is it simply window dressing to lend credibility to an attack? Could a 36 hour bombing campaign in Iran, while not eliminating nuclear capability, be used to "send a message" to Iran?

These are all questions asked by Hersh who doesn't have any answers. Neither do the sources he quotes. The picture that emerges is a government in disarray with everyone distrusting everyone else. And notably absent in all the machinations is any discussion of Bush himself, who is likely off watching football with the kids somewhere.

Our government is rudderless right now. The elections have weakened some hands and strengthened others. But no one yet knows which way the wind is really blowing. Much hope is being placed in the Hamilton/Baker commission, but they will not have any magic bullets and Bush may not even listen to them. In short, we're like a large ship in a very stormy sea without a rudder.
Like A Turd In A Punchbowl
That's how this suggestion will be received:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An influential Democratic lawmaker on Sunday called for reinstatement of the draft as a way to boost U.S. troop levels and draw a broader section of the population into the military or public service.

U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, the incoming chairman of the House of Representatives' tax-writing committee, said he would introduce legislation to reinstate the draft as soon as the new, Democratic-controlled Congress convenes in January.
Thankfully, they'll be no graphic for this one.

Rangel has suggested this before so it's hardly news. I guess with the new majority, he thinks it needs to be revisited. Of course Rangel is correct. But I don't think any politician is going to touch this one.
Digby, with some help from other bloggers, gives a full discussion of the rules involved to become one of the "kewl kids" or "mean girls" of the media. It's a very interesting read and a really strong commentary on the media punditry in general.

Remember when McCain called Falwell the "agent of intolerance"? Well, it appears that McCain feels the need for a little intolerance in his brand spanking new Presidential campaign:
Now, he [McCain] has hired the debate coach from Falwell’s Liberty University, Brett O’Donnell, to advise him on his communications strategy. O’Donnell has been executing Falwell’s strategy to train scores of debaters to confront “the culture on moral default.”
That new communications strategy must be working because now McCain flip-flops on Roe V. Wade.

It doesn't really shock me that McCain is doing what he is doing. In order to win in the Rethugican party, you have to court the nutbars. But what bothers me is the way the media, who has annoited this guy as a "St. John the Maverick" continues to lick his boots and not cover his pandering.

Oh. But I forgot. He is a Republican.
This is really too funny. From Juan Cole:
AP says that Secretary of State Condi Rice asserted Saturday that Iraqis only have a future if they stay within a single state. She pointed to Vietnam's success in reforming its economy and making up with the United States and held it out as a model to Iraq.

Whaaat indeed. You know things have gotten bad when Bush uses Vietnam to prove the importance of staying the course (pissing off his hosts in the process), and Condi uses Vietnam to prove that national unity works.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Uncivil Rights
This is the state of civil rights today. Go watch the video if you have the stomach for it.
Funny That
From Today's Papers:
Only the WP gives front-page play to Friday's Republican leadership election, despite the amount of copy devoted to the Democratic elections. TP [Today's Papers] concedes that John A. Boehner and Roy Blunt keeping their positions in the minority is less of a shock than Steny H. Hoyer trouncing John P. Murtha with Nancy Pelosi awkwardly sandwiched in between. But as the WP points out, the story here is not the success of the old guard but the failure of the new,[my emphasis] as the caucus rebuffed attempts by more conservative members to chart a new course for the party. The news might not be flashy, but it says a lot about how Republicans are planning to handle life in the minority.
Not nearly as juicy as that grandmother bitch Pelosi getting the smackdown by a bunch of libruls, but it might be relevant to the country. At least a little. Eh?

Doesn't it mean something about your society when the headline story of the day is silicone breast implants?
Senator DiFi and (of all people) Jeff Sessions have co-sponsored a bill to change the law so that people like Ken Lay can't "die" out of their obligations. Just another itty-bitty step towards unwinding the mess!
Friday, November 17, 2006
Long Quote Of The Day
From FireDogLake regarding the media coverage of Pelosi's problems with getting Murtha elected Majority Leader:
You can get caught with your fly open and diddling a teenage page and elicit sympathy, while a drug hoarding radio host gets a pass for using his housekeeper as a pusher. That same host can then get caught with sex drugs in a bogus bottle at an airport, coming back from an all male weekend in one of the child sex capitals of the world, but his radio show doesn't miss a beat. Meanwhile, the former (we assume) foot fetishist Dick Morris is still Sean Hannity's favorite hack, pontificating out his pie hole about all things anti-Hillary. Oliver Iran-contra North has his own TV show, with former felon G. Gordon Liddy holding court on radio. A compulsive gambler is not only kept on radio, but given a spot on CNN, while telling the world about morals. Newt Gingrich, the disgraced speaker of the House and multiple marriage man, is still the go-to guy for Hannity on Fox. A man who reportedly married his third cousin (then divorced her), one of 2 (or is it 3?) marriages, just announced his presidential bid; the other GOP bidder a self-proclaimed philanderer, as well. But God help you if you're a woman against a war with a champion you want to promote to leadership; a person who helped raise the war debate to a campaign issue that carried your party to power, but loses that race. Let the corporate clucking begin.

Well said.

Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald details the full smackdown of how the media is characterizing the "bitch" who "catfights".
If you're in the "housing" industry, you're still searching for the floor:

Barry Ritholtz:
The October 06 Housing Starts were the weakest since July 2000, with Starts down 27% from the same period a year ago.

At present, the Housing situation will exert a much greater drag on Q4 GDP -- even more of a drag than the negative 1.1% of Q3.

Bloomberg quoted Phillip Neuhart, an economist at Wachovia, who said: "This is a shocking number. The market is going to remain weak well into next year.''
The magnitude of what's happening is astounding. Remember, interest rates are still under 6%. We've had times when interest rates were much much higher. Obviously the speculative bubble has popped with liquidity moving into the stock market. Wonder how long until that begins to deflate? If the housing problem spills into consumer spending, watch out for that landing Mr. Economy!

Here's a little historical perspective on housing starts:


H/T The Big Picture for graphs.
This Should Be Fun
Watching Rudy sell himself to the religious right as a social conservative.

The Kewl Kids Are Back!
Digby has given us a round-up of the early media atrocities in covering the politics of a Democrat majority in the House and Senate. Both posts are very good reads and a good prep for what's to come. Seriously, most of the coverage, particularly on cable news, is nothing short of sophmoric which is exactly why I just won't watch anymore. Unfortunately, many do watch and are influenced by the nonsense spouted out by these folks. Hopefully continued ratings declines will get them the picture .... but I doubt it.
Compare and Contrast
Check this out:
USA Today leads with word that the war on terror, focused mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq, will likely cost more than the war in Vietnam, which would make it the most expensive conflict since World War II. Congress has already approved $70 billion for the 2007 fiscal year and the Pentagon is currently considering asking for anywhere from $127 billion to $160 billion more. So far, Congress has approved $502 billion for the war on terror. Notably, USAT reminds its readers that in 2003, the Bush administration estimated the Iraq war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion.
There's plenty to comment on in this story. But what I wanted to mention was the upcoming oversight hearings in Congress regarding the budget request. You can bet the Dems will essentially give Bush what he wants, after answering a whole bunch of questions about where the money goes. Also note the accelerating amount of money being requested, perhaps anticipating that it will get cut? Or maybe it's the funding for the emerging "plan" of one last push (see Friedman units). Either way, it's clear that we won't be leaving Iraq for some time.
Tango Makes Three

The "christian" parents in Illinois are upset.

The concerns are the latest involving "And Tango Makes Three," the illustrated children's book based on a true story of two male penguins in New York City's Central Park Zoo that adopted a fertilized egg and raised the chick as their own.

Complaining about the book's homosexual undertones, some parents of Shiloh Elementary School students believe the book _ available to be checked out of the school's library in this 11,000-resident town 20 miles east of St. Louis _ tackles topics their children aren't ready to handle.

I've got news for you parents: it isn't the children who aren't ready to handle the topic.

For those mature enough to handle the topic, there's this.

Just $6
Join the movement.

Congress would only have to spend $6 per citizen per year to publicly fund each and every election for the House, the Senate and the White House. When you consider that "pork barrel" projects cost every one of us more than $200 last year alone, it’s no contest.

Think of it. With public funding, wealthy special interests and their hired lobbyists would no longer have a commanding influence over our politics and government. Instead of begging for campaign donations, candidates would spend their time communicating with voters. Once elected, our leaders would be free to focus on our nation's challenges rather than having to worry about financing their next campaign. And there's no doubt that more of our most able leaders would run for federal office when the ability to finance a campaign isn't such a daunting obstacle.

Americans for Campaign Reform is building a nonpartisan grassroots movement of citizens who support voluntary public funding and want Congress to act now. We can make this happen. Public funding is already working in Arizona and Maine, and was just passed by the Connecticut legislature.

Thursday, November 16, 2006
That's what would happen.

Apparently one of the "options for success" in Iraq is for the U.S. to tilt in favor of the Shiites. It is reasoned that favoring one side over another would lead to stability more quickly.

Are these guys f*$@king nuts? Oh yeah, they are.

Just because most of the Arab world is Sunni and might harbor a wee bit of a grudge about such an action ...... I don't think they've read my rant yet.

Nevermind, nothing to see here, move along ......
Speaker Pelosi
I suspect that there are going to be a lot of committee positions, offices, budgets and other perqs that will be re-assigned after this:
Moments after electing Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Speaker of the House, Democrats chose Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) as their new House majority leader, the No. 2 leadership post, over Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), the AP reports.

The final vote, 149 to 86, wasn't even close.
I guess this proves that Democrats don't have the party discipline that Republicans have .... for good and bad.
Wash Job
I wonder if it's just me, or if I'm picking up something?

Everytime I see Mitch McConnell on the TeeVee, I want to go wash. Looks like I'm going to be bathing a lot:
As was expected, GOP senators also elected Mitch McConnell as their minority leader.
Thinking About It
I know, I know, thinking about stuff is dangerous business.

But I've been thinking a bit about my rant the other day regarding the DISASTER in Iraq. While reading about Abizaid's testimony this morning something struck me. A common mistake being made by anyone addressing the issue is that somehow the United States is "in control" in Iraq. All the plans that seek victory have the same flaw, that with the control provided by the U.S., we can influence a "good" outcome vs. a "bad" outcome.

This is a dangerous misconception. The U.S. has no control over what happens in Iraq. We lost any power/influence, and therefore control, we had a looooong time ago. The ultimate outcome is in the hands of, to a large extent, the Iraqis and to some extent the regional leaders. The U.S. with it's many misdeeds, incompetence and criminal acts gave up any claim to having power to effect an outcome in Iraq long ago. Unless we're prepared to nuke the place, we're simply bit players occupying space and making convenient targets when we get in the way:
The U.S. military announced yesterday that six U.S. troops were killed in Iraq on Tuesday.
County Line
In the mental health field, we used to call the way the county provided treatment as "county line therapy" (you drop indigents off at the next county line for treatment):
The Los Angeles Times also leads locally with news that hospital giant Kaiser Permanente was charged with dropping off homeless patients on skid row. Kaiser is the first, but there are currently 10 hospitals under investigation for the practice.