Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Poor ole Molly Ivins ......

From her final column:
We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there.
If Only .....
.... we had done this years ago.

This is a diary entry from a blog written by an Iraqi living in Baghdad. After describing enduring a mortar attack of 30 shells, Zeyad had this to say:
U.S. soldiers, who have cordoned the district for the last few days, knocked on our door at 6 a.m. My family was asleep and they didn't hear it. The U.S. soldiers then went to my grandmother's house next door and stayed for four hours, drinking tea and chatting with my uncle. My uncle, a former army officer and a fierce Arab nationalist, seems to have told the American soldiers all about the history of Iraq's colonisers, all the way back to the Mongols and Hulago. My family said the American soldiers, who listened attentively to my uncle's story, apologised and told him that they did not want to be in Iraq either but they did not have much of a choice.

Personally, I'm not sure these tactics used early on would have changed the outcome. But I do know that using gestapo tactics, like we did early on, practically guaranteed a poor outcome. Unfortunately, this is likely too little too late.
As most of you know, I'm very cautious about the economy. If you're rich, it's a boom time. If you're middle class or poor, you're screwed.

Unfortunately, the economy and economic news is dominated by what happens to the rich. Thus, the headlines today about the economy are all pretty good. Unemployment remains stable (if you like working at Wal Mart or Starbucks), GDP is growing (if you're a defense contractor or exporter), the stock market is performing like a circus animal (if you're a big investor), inflation is contained (if you don't give a rip how much you pay for things like college, health care, houses or energy) and the biggie, consumers keep on spending (no matter how much debt they have). We're still spending $100 billion per year (at least) on a useless war while enjoying tax cuts and sending dollars overseas as quickly as we can print them.

But hey, why worry? The war is like the late 60's and early 70's, so why shouldn't the economy be that way also? But then there was the mid-70's and 80's .......

If you want to read about the great economic news further, go here and here for the details. I feel a bit like an individual who advocates putting in a bomb shelter in the 1950's. Everyone else is blithely enjoying the boom times while I'm nervous. And who knows? No one who built bomb shelters ever had to use them to protect against a nuclear attack.
The Snarl Queen
It figures that Mary Matalin's little fingerprints would be all over the whole Plame outing (h/t Digby):
Mr Libby called [Cheney buddy and media strategist Mary] Matalin for advice. On July 8 he wrote down notes in which Rove said, "people are taking Wilson as a credible expert." 2 days go by, he calls Matalin for advice. She tells him, she gives him strategy. "We need someone who can sum it up. This is fitting into Democratic story. It has legs. The story's not going away. We need to address Wilson motivation. The President should wave his wand."

"Call Tim," [says]Mary Matalin, "he hates Chris, he needs to know it all." Underneath, Mr Libby's notes, "Wilson's a snake."
My my my. What will the other students say! Timmy (Russert) hates Chris (Matthews)! Oh NO! I didn't think anyone knew that but me! Chris is going to be, like, soooo hurt that Timmy doesn't like him. I wonder what Timmy will say when he goes on the stand! Poor Chris.

And these people are what go for intellectual strategist, pundits, and thinkers of American politics. It's no surprise that Mary Matalin likely came up with the entire plan to out Plame ..... it's just her type of smear (I'm fighting reeeeeeaaaaalll hard not to use the "B" word here). And the major newspapers and media outlets wonder why they're losing readership to the dirty hippies in the blogosphere.
Pentagon Needs Something To Do
Spencer Akerman has a nice piece of information on his site from the new Special Forces manual:
According to a recently-issued Special Forces manual, while certain pack animals are acceptable to use for spec-ops purposes (donkeys, mules), elephants "should not be used by U.S. military personnel." In the assessment of the manual's authors, "Elephants are not the easygoing, kind, loving creatures that people believe them to be. They are, of course, not evil either."
Afterall, any special ops forces working undercover in the middle of BFE will need to consult the manual when deciding whether to confiscate a mule or an elephant to execute their mission.
Slobbering Idiots
Where would I be without Digby?

Just go read this piece about the idiot punditocracy's treatment of Hillary and her evil-man statement. Glad he watches so I don't have to......
Compare and Contrast
Tristero noted Bush's frat-boy antics at Catepillar yesterday as well, and points to a very interesting compare/contrast story:
John F. Kennedy was filmed accepting the gift of a cowboy hat while appearing at the Chamber of Commerce. He was urged to put it on so the press could take pictures. He looked at it, clearly decided it would be undignified for the president of the United States to do so. So he smiled broadly and said he'd be glad to pose in it, back in Washingon, the following Monday.
Seeya Biden
Biden seems to always manage to have the shortest Presidential campaigns in history. I think he's done it again. Biden on Obama:
"the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
Jesse Jackson and Shirley Chishlom might disagree.

Biden had a few other choice quotes about Hillary and John Edwards as well.

Guess he figures he's got nothin' to lose.

Welcome to the silly season.
Boy, It's Cold Out There
If this is true, there are a lot of other liberals that could learn something from Obama:
"Sources tell The Sleuth that the Obama camp has 'frozen out' Fox News reporters and producers in the wake of the network's major screw-up in running with the erroneous Obama-the-jihadist story reported by Insight magazine," Mary Ann Akers writes for the Washington Post blog,
If everyone with any kind of integrity, nevermind journalistic integrity, did the same thing, FOX would be totally exposed for the completely nutbars conservative mouthpiece that they are. But alas, there are any number of liberals who will sell their souls just to be on teevee.

Update: In other Obama news, if you haven't read his plan for Iraq yet you should. The other candidates should read it as well. It's a good plan, it's smart politically, and it positions him beautifully on the issue.
Viva Franco!
Is it just me, or does it seem that Fidel Castro is taking on the legendary status of Generalismo Francisco Franco?
Pot Heads Grow Up
You can sure tell the generation that embraced marijuana is getting old:
The WP's Al Kamen points out that former associate attorney general and convicted felon Webb Hubbell is now promoting life insurance for people who smoke marijuana and are "responsible" about it. Typically those who smoke have had to lie on forms or pay high premiums to get life insurance. To target this "underserved market" Hubbell has teamed up with two insurance companies that agreed to write policies for those who enjoy a good toke.
Iran Iran Iran!
I've mentioned this before, but I find it astounding at the sheer number of stories on Iraq being put out by the Pentagon and White House. Here's one from today:
The device is called an explosively formed projectile (EFP). It is usually made from a pipe filled with explosives and capped by a copper disk. When the explosives detonate, they transform the disk into a molten jet of metal capable of penetrating armor. They perform in the same way that U.S. anti-tank missiles do.

"Properly handled, it goes through armor like a hot knife through butter," said John Pike of, a military think tank in Alexandria, Va.

Officials such as Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte have said the new bombs are being provided by Iran and are killing U.S. troops. U.S. officials have declined to say exactly how many have been killed or how the weapons have been traced to Iran, which has denied supplying them.
If this is not just another ratchet job, how about providing some information. For example, how many of these attacks are occuring? What intelligence suggests these are actually from Iran or are government sponsored? How has alleged Iranian involvement changed over time (we never used to hear about the Iranian threat until recently)?

By putting out incendiary portions of information that suit their purposes, the White House intends to inflame the nutbars into supporting more war. Given their intelligence track record (on many fronts), it's impossible to give the benefit of the doubt or to trust anything that these guys say. If there's credibility to a charge like the one above, prove it. Otherwise, it's just more politically motivated noise coming out of the White House.
Be It Resolved
Arlen Specter on Iraq war resolutions:
"Resolutions are flying like snowflakes around here,"
Of course, this is exactly the White House strategy in Congress. Shower them with resolutions, muddle and confuse the situation, buy time. Of course, it seems that no one in our crack media world is writing that.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Reverse Mortgage
I've been hearing a lot of ads lately about reverse mortgages. These have been around a few years now but are getting hotter as baby boomers move into retirement. Essentially a reverse mortgage allows a homeowner to borrow money with their home equity as the security for the loan. The loan is not paid back (no monthly payments) until the homeowner either sells the house or dies.

For many folks who are house rich and cash poor, this sounds like a pretty good deal. A good deal that is until you factor in that banks are involved:
Ingram's mortgage, like most of its ilk, is variable, with the interest rate tied to the widely quoted London Interbank Offered Rate. Her rate is currently 8.42% and can readjust every six months, up to a maximum of 14.92%. The 8.42% rate is about two points higher than the interest on a regular adjustable-rate mortgage. What significance is the interest rate if you're not making monthly payments? It's the basis for calculating how much Ingram or her heirs will eventually have to repay the lender.
In today's interest rate environment, these rates are usury. But the banks get away with it because the borrower never makes any payments. And if you're not on the hook to pay it off until you're dead, who cares? Right? It's a license for banks to steal.

Also remember that all these schemes are predicated on a continued appreciation in home values .... and more importantly .... and no depreciation. Of course those individuals who don't happen to have a multi-million dollar home are SOL.
Child In Chief
From Think Progress:
“I would suggest moving back,” Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor during his visit to a Caterpillar factory today. “I’m about to crank this sucker up.” Newsweek notes, “As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety. ‘Get out of the way!’ a news photographer yelled. ‘I think he might run us over!’ said another. … Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor’s window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned.”
The Story That Won't Die
It gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Thank you New York Times for giving this alleged incident "legs". The right-wing noise nutbar machine is going wild .....

Check out this video of poor ole' Sparling (h/t Digby) and tell me if you don't think he's got an angle. If you can't stomach the whole thing, particularly watch the last minute of so:

I don't know if this guy was spit at or not. But I can tell you this from my personal experience. My wife and I went to the Washington peace march in fall 2005. It was a very very large march, like the one last weekend. There were all kinds of characters there with the vast majority of people very well-behaved. But of course, whenever you 100,000 people together you get all kinds.

Anyway, we walked by a small section of around 20 individuals who were pro-Bush/pro-war. There were catcalls, but nothing too dramatic. There were also police nearby monitoring the situation. Perhaps during the day .... and the passing of around 100,000 various public people ... there were some rude remarks made on both sides. But overall, it was much like a crowd watching animals in a zoo.

Bottom line? I doubt this guys story. But the right-wing media is eating it up like crazy. And because the left-wing media tends to play by more honest and ethical rules, all the protestors-hung-in-effigy type stuff never gets discussed.

The Clint Eastwood character Dirty Harry used to have a saying: "if you want to play lumberjack, you have to hold up your end of the saw". If this numbskull wants to go out into an antiwar protest and provoke a reaction, he's likely to eventually get it. Isn't it interesting how conservatives are all about personal responsibility and muscle and yet are nothing but embarrassing WATB*?

Minimum Wage
The Senate finally stopped an attempted filibuster and moved minimum wage legislation forward. Ten Republicans voted against the minimum wage.

You know those Senators are really really nutbars when they can't even get Boltin' Joe to vote with em'.
Uh Oh
Washington must be wondering if one of the dirty hippies actually slipped on a Macaca banana peel and slipped into gov'ment.

Condi appeared before a Senate hearing a couple of weeks ago and was asked a question by Senator Jim Webb. She punted at the time promising to respond in writing. Apparently she hasn't answered him. So, he's writing a friendly reminder to her:
January 29, 2007

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice:

During your appearance before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on January 11, 2007, I asked you a question pertaining to the administration’s policy regarding possible military action against Iran. I asked, “Is it the position of this administration that it possesses the authority to take unilateral action against Iran, in the absence of a direct threat, without congressional approval?”

At that time you were loath to discuss questions of presidential authority, but you committed to provide a written answer. Since I have not yet received a reply, the purpose of this letter is to reiterate my interest in your response.

This is, basically, a “yes” or “no” question regarding an urgent matter affecting our nation’s foreign policy. Remarks made by members of this administration strongly suggest that the administration wrongly believes that the 2002 joint resolution authorizing use of force in Iraq can be applied in other instances, such as in the case of Iran. I, as well as the American people, would benefit by fully understanding the administration’s unequivocal response.

I would appreciate your expeditious reply and look forward to discussing this issue with you in the near future.


James Webb
United States Senator
David Broder is probably wetting his pants at the impoliteness of Jim Webb.

First Webb has the gall to not be seduced by Bush into polite talk about Webb's son who is Iraq (while resisting the temptation to hit the smart-assed Preznit in the jaw). High Broderism dictates that you must behave politely with the Preznit, even if the Preznit is a dick towards you. Now Webb is openly challenging Bush's government wife to, like, actually answer a question from a Senator doing oversight. What next ... Webb telling Bush that if he doesn't solve Iraq, he will? Oh. Yeah. He already did that too.

Ah, to hell with it. Let's send all the Democrats off on a communications/governing retreat and hire Jim Webb as the instructor.

I hope Webb keeps up the pressure and stays authentic. It's a definate breath of fresh air in government .....
To The Moon Alice!
Barry has a great post and chart up for today (click to enlarge):

What this chart is showing the number of consecutive days (left axis) since the stock market (S & P 500) has had a 2% correction, over a period going back to 1928. A correction is a period of time where the market declines and "consolidates" it's gains in preparation for a further move up (or down). This phenomena occurs because markets do not go straight up or straight down ...... normally that is. Markets are predicated on the value of what they buy/sell, in this case stocks in companies. Companies develop/lose value over time as economies expand/contract. It's a quite natural process in a healthy economy and can be relatively steady. But not this steady.

We've now had nearly four years since the last correction. Despite the fact that a market going up for four years sounds like a good thing, it is actually a sign of weakness. Think of it this way. If you stand with both legs under you, you remain stable. But as you begin to move one leg further and further stretched out, you get less stable until you fall over. That's what happens with markets that don't take breathers and consolidate.

Many folks have a name for this type of phenomena. It's called a bubble.
Cheney Gone?
Some folks think Cheney is moving inexorably toward resignation. And there are certainly no shortages of arguments as to why this may be occurring (see Libby trial).

I just don't see it happening.

Beyond the pure power-madness of Cheney, stupid-stubborn loyalty of Bush, and oppositional nature of Bush, there's another reason Cheney won't be thrown under the bus.


Cheney is one of the greatest protections against Bush being impeached. Remember, a newly appointed Vice-President would have to meet the approval of Congress. That means that the V.P appointment would have to be decent, given the Democratic majority in Congress. If Bush puts up a nutbar, Congress can simply sit on it's hands and allow the space to remain vacant which would mean that Pelosi would be next in line.

No one wants to see Cheney as President, so he's Bush's best bulwark against the whole impeachment thing.
Up Today?
The Libby trial is providing more entertainment than any good soap opera.

Up today? Judy Miller. I'll update if anything of interest comes up.
Off The Reservation
Someone needs to get to Karzai and stop him from being a real statesman:
KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday offered peace talks with a resurgent Taliban after the bloodiest year since the hardline Islamists were ousted in 2001 and amid warnings of a violent spring offensive.

More than 4,000 people, including about 170 foreign soldiers, died in fighting last year, a year that saw a dramatic jump in suicide bombings as the Taliban and other militants copy tactics from insurgents in Iraq.

Karzai made the offer while speaking at a religious gathering in Kabul, but he did not specifically name the Taliban. “While we are fighting for our honour, we still open the door for talks and negotiations with our enemy who is after our annihilation and is shedding our blood,” he told the crowd at the main Shia religious compound in the capital.
I wonder if this says anything about Karzai's faith in Preznit Bush?
"They're Standing Up"
And getting their heads shot off.

The title is a quote from Preznit about the recent fighting in Najaf in which the Iraq army took on the insurgents/cult group. As all the positives and body counts were being released, I was of course skeptical. Now the real story is emerging:
Marc Santora of NYT reveals that the Iraqi army was very nearly overwhelmed and defeated by the Army of Heaven militia of the Mahdawiya millenarian movement near Najaf on the weekend. They had to call in not only US airstrikes but also US troops to save themselves from being surrounded and killed.
Remember. Whatever Bush asserts, believe the opposite.

Oh. And any claims by wingnuts that this group "Army of Heaven" had al Qaeda ties, or ties to Iran is nonsense (see above link).

Update: Here's Bush's exact quote on the fighting in Najaf:
Bush was asked in a National Public Radio interview about an Iraqi raid Sunday, backed by U.S. helicopters, on a heavily armed Shiite cult that Iraqi officials said was poised to assassinate the country's Shiite religious leadership. "This fight is an indication of what is taking place, and that is the Iraqis are beginning to take the lead," Bush said. "So my first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something."
Horse Crazy
Let me join in on the Barbaro frenzy. Here's an explanation of why a leg fracture is so dangerous to horses.
Institutional Lying
I'm going to be totally naive for a bit.

I ran across this piece today:
Both the LAT and NYT go inside with separate pieces on how Fleischer's testimony gave an insider's view of the way the White House press secretary is often kept in the dark and then has to deal with changing explanations. "The worst place to stand as press secretary is where the ground is shifting," Fleischer said.
It certainly isn't news that this White House, and all White Houses, lie. It has become institutionalized that Press Secretaries are left in the dark so they don't have to directly lie to the press, and that they can "deal with changing explanations".

My question is why is this?

Unfortunately I think the answer is the voters. Politicians lie because they perceive it to be in their best interest. The White House lies because to tell the truth would result in firestorms of disapproval and loss of power. For a "good" President, this lying is seen as a benign necessary evil. For a "bad" President, institutionalized lying is seen as a self-serving protective mechanism and condemned. Of course the trick is to decide who is "good" and who is "bad". And also of course, one person's good President is another person's bad President. Look at Bush, arguably the worst President ever, and he still has 30% of the population who think he is a "good" President.

So the net result? We tolerate institutional lying from our government as an unresolvable tension between the adversaries in the system. Regular voters become outraged when lies are revealed, but journalists and inside-the-beltway types merely chuckle and recognize it as business as usual. And when you have a President such as Bush, who is willing to test and push every limit, the checks on his power are minimal. All you have to do is note the changes (see previous post) that Bush has been able to implement over the past 5+ years with no one but the dirty hippies squealing. A President can do a lot of damage in 5 years.

The moral decay isn't in our politicians, it's in us. Until voters demand a greater return to truth as opposed to truthiness, institutionalized lying will continue at an all-time high. Bush has pushed those limits outward and I'm not hopeful that any future Presidents will volunatarily move them back. It's just too tempting to have the power. This is exactly why Bush really has to be impeached. Without that accountability, there's simply no reason for future Presidents to respect, on their own, the limits imposed by the Constitution on the Presidency.
Political Officers

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

How is this different from the Soviet Union's political officers? Is the U.S.A. morphing into the U.S.S.R.?

Monday, January 29, 2007
Ratcheting ... One Way Or Another
There seems to be some evidence that some adults in Iran are reining in Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

First question, is this a feint and gamesmanship or a real pullback. And a bigger question is, what will the U.S. do about it? If history is a teacher, any softening of the Iranian position will be ignored by the administration as it pushes for a confrontation.
Just a Note
A little reported event last week was the rising of long term interest rates. When the Treasury offered up it's bonds last week, demand was a bit disappointing, driving up interest rates. With many nations including the Saudi's, China and Japan indicating that they may be diversifying away from U.S. debt, we may be beginning to see a much more dramatic increase in interest rates.
Digby has a very good piece up today about how wacko Cheney has become. I've said before and I'll stand by it, I think Cheney has a serious mental/medical condition. But that's not Digby's point. The point is the simple minded strategy being pursued in Iraq.

One portion that I found interesting was this snippet from Gen. William Odom's testimony before the Senate:
Several critics of the administration show an appreciation of the requirement to regain our allies and others' support, but they do not recognize that withdrawal of US forces from Iraq is the sine qua non for achieving their cooperation. It will be forthcoming once that withdrawal begins and looks irreversible. They will then realize that they can no longer sit on the sidelines. The aftermath will be worse for them than for the United States, and they know that without US participation and leadership, they alone cannot restore regional stability. Until we understand this critical point, we cannot design a strategy that can achieve what we can legitimately call a victory.

Any new strategy that does realistically promise to achieve regional stability at a cost we can prudently bear, and does not regain the confidence and support of our allies, is doomed to failure. To date, I have seen no awareness that any political leader in this country has gone beyond tactical proposals to offer a different strategic approach to limiting the damage in a war that is turning out to be the greatest strategic disaster in our history
Wiser words may not have been said in quite awhile.

I italized the terms strategic and tactical because Odom actually uses them correctly here. To change strategy by beginning withdrawal and drawing in the regional actors who have far more to lose is spot on. Most suggestions on changes, particularly Bush's and Cheney's, have been nothing but a tactical change to a strategy that has already proven to have failed.

Unfortunately, until these meglomaniacs who define strategy from a basis of a fear of looking like a wimpy-ass homo-sexual are gone, this is the policy we have.

Update: Just after posting, I ran across this blast from the past via The Cunning Realists:
The collapse in the South, the one force which the American leaders could not control, continued unabated. The Americans had always had the illusion that something might turn it around; a new leader in South Vietnam who would understand how to get with the program; a realization on the part of the South Vietnamese that their necks were on the line, that the feared enemy (the Americans' feared enemy, though perhaps not the feared enemy of the Vietnamese), the Communists, were about to walk into Saigon. Or magically, the right battalion commander would turn up to lead ARVN battalions into battle against the Vietcong, or the right program would emerge, blending arms and pig-fatteners together to make the peasants want to choose our side. But nothing changed, the other side continued to get stronger, the ARVN side weaker. One reason the principals were always surprised by this, and irritated by the failure of their programs, was that the truth of the war never entered the upper-level American calculations; that this was a revolutionary war, and that the other side held title to the revolution because of the colonial war which had just ended. This most simple fact, which was so important to the understanding of the political calculations...entered into the estimates of the American intelligence community and made them quite accurate. But it never entered into the calculations of the principals, for a variety of reasons; among other things to see the other side in terms of nationalism or as revolutionaries might mean a re-evaluation of whether the United States was even fighting on the right side. In contrast, the question of Communism and anti-Communism as opposed to revolution and antirevolution was far more convenient for American policy makers.

David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest, pp. 462-463.
In the last week, I'm noticing more and more of these stories:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - In its first full statement on what Iraqi officials called a major battle with a messianic cult south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Monday that 100 militants were captured in the operation.
Well, it's been like Vietnam in other ways so why not this too?

First to the story. The reports of a "messanic" cult doing the fighting are shall we say, "questionable". This was a well-planned, well organized frontal attack firefight, not a hostage situation. The reports are mixed on what really happened, so who knows.

Second, like during Vietnam, we would be showered with daily reports of hundreds of Vietcong killed. It was, of course, later revealed that the numbers were inflated to prove success in the war. Up until recently, we've not heard much about body counts in Iraq. But now, suddenly, daily, there are stories of hundreds of insurgents being killed. Me thinks the Bushies are trying to Vietnam the situation, proving success in the escalation.

The funny thing is. Whenever I see these headlines I don't think of success. Rather, it merely conjures up images of chaos, death and carnage. I don't think the goal of the U.S. is anarchy, but security. Security would mean no headlines, not the Pentagon trumpeting the huge body counts they seem to come up with these days.
Clueless in the U.S.A.
George Bush isn't the only clueless American.

People in Latin America were most worried while U.S. citizens were least concerned with just 42 percent rating global warming "very serious."

The United States emits about a quarter of all greenhouse gases, the biggest emitter ahead of China, Russia and India.

Thirteen percent of U.S. citizens said they had never heard or read anything about global warming, the survey said.

Ari's Bombshell
Ari Fleischer is testifying today in the Libby trial. Read about the latest bombshell here. The short version is that Fleischer identified Valerie Wilson as "Valerie Plame", lending credibility to the fact that the White House was trying to ruin her career where she was known by her maiden name, "Plame". Outside the CIA she was known as Valerie Wilson.
Pre-Emptive Spit Counterattack
As most of you know, there is a urban legend around about Vietnam Vets who returned to the U.S. and were spit on by protestors. Of course, it's not true, but the GOP/conservatives trot it out all the time to support the liberals had the troops meme.

There's a new story out from the protest last week in which a vet was supposidely "spit at". The facts seem to show that he spit back too, or that the story was made up. Anyway, Digby has the facts and the background on the guy involved who, of course, is not just a simple little ole' veteran returnin' from the war.

For those of you who may likely become involved in wingnut arguments, read up and be forarmed!

Spit follow-up: Digby provides further information from observers at the protest of the "spitting incident". As he correctly points out it is not the alleged spitting but how the media covers it:
I will repeat myself here, but it's important. I suspect that what's at work here is reflexive, lazy MSM [mainstream media] he said/she said reporting where it was important to show "the other side" of the story of a peaceful protest. As usual, this lazy and inaccurate form of reporting worked to the benefit of the right, who in this case used a young man who is a celebrity rightwing victim of numerous alleged lefty slurs to tell a mythic story. I expect this from Fox News. It's a big problem when it's the paper of record.

But there's an even bigger problem. Dave Niewert and others have done a lot of writing over the past few years about rightwing eliminationist rhetoric and subterranean groups like militias and how their poison seeps into the mainstream. The mainstream media have failed to pick up on this pernicious social and political trend. Instead they are still mired in the stereotypes of 35 years ago, which we saw this week-end are pretty stooped and grey these days. They need to turn their attention to their right.

In this instance you had a budding rightwing operative who sat with the Vice President's wife at the State of the Union address appearing with a group that hanged Jane Fonda in effigy in the middle of a peaceful protest march. The signs they held were violent, crude and purposefully provocative. Yet the mainstream media, in looking for some frisson of 60's street violence, reports it as if the protesters are the provacateurs. They had the story and they completely missed it.

The fact is that the people who are challenging social norms and mainstream behavior are not coming from the left today --- they are coming from the right. They are clever and well financed and they are being helped not just by their own rightwing media infrastructure --- the allegedly liberal NY Times and Washington Post are also helping them with their knee-jerk assumptions and phony narratives.
Pop Quiz
Ok. So. You have this global warming thing goin' on, right? Ice is melting off the polar cap due to fossil fuels emissions, right? So here's your question.

What should the oil companies do in the face of such a phenomena that threatens the world climate?

Answer: Drill in the melted areas.
Hearts and Minds
Maybe they have to do this for safety because the security situation is soooo bad. But just imagine the impact on ordinary citizens of Iraq day after day after day .....

A third helicopter is shot down?

Something is changing in the Iraqi air game and it ain't good for the U.S.
Helping the Insurgents
Mitch McConnell:
Like other GOP lawmakers, McConnell said time is running out for the president.

"I think everybody knows what the consequences are. The president doesn't have a stronger supporter in the Senate than the person you're looking at, but I repeat, this is the last chance for the Iraqis to step up and demonstrate this government can function," he said. "The message to the Iraqi government could not be more clear."
As Atrios says, "then what"?

Also I'd like to mention that this kind of talk simply emboldens the enemy ..... right? A key Republican U.S. Senator says that the U.S. is on the edge of leaving?
Senate Schedules
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has done something no other senator has ever done. He has placed his daily schedule online for all to see. It's about transparency. I'd like to see every senator do that as well.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Iraqi Government
The title of this post is the subject. Except, of course, there really isn't any Iraqi government:
Iraqi Parliament has failed to reach quorum since October 2006. Understandably, it's hard to attend parliamentary sessions when you live in the Green Zone, or the Rashid Hotel, or Amman, or Dubai, or London. MP Adnan Al-Pachachi, who spoke from Dubai, complained that their salaries can only afford 20 security guards, while they need at least 40 to make it from the Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone. I wonder how many security guards Pachachi would need if he were to venture on the streets of Baghdad, which he probably hasn't seen in decades.

Funny, too, that he would complain about the salary. Iraqi members of parliament receive up to $120,000 in salaries and benefits, or about $10,000 a month, plus the additional salaries of 20 security guards - which most MPs choose to pocket instead. Actually, the first bill Iraqi MPs (of all sects and ethnicities) passed unanimously was the one in which they defined their salaries, privileges and benefits. That session was conveniently closed to the media. Perhaps you should also know that the average salary for a civil servant in Iraq is $150. A day labourer would make less than half of that. And you would be considered quite well-to-do if your salary is $400 or $500.

Shame. And this is what they call a "democratically-elected government."
Beating the Drums
We're now starting to see stories like this one on a daily basis, likely setting the table for war with Iran:
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration said Friday it intends to present evidence that Iranian operatives in Iraq are targeting U.S. troops. The announcement came shortly after word that President Bush had authorized U.S. forces in Iraq to fire on or capture any Iranian agents deemed a threat to American troops or the Iraqi public at large.

“It makes sense that if somebody’s trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them,” Bush said when asked about the aggressive new policy, first reported by the Washington Post. “It’s an obligation we all have ... to protect our folks and achieve our goal.”
What I find interesting about this story is something I read the other day (sorry, no link). In that story, an intelligence source reported that the policy inside Iraq has always been to fire on anyone who is threatening the troops, including Iranians, although I think anyone would be hard pressed to like actually know if they're Iranian or not. If this has been standard policy, then why would the White House release a statement specifically targeting Iranians in Iraq? Why make an announcement now?
Unfortunately, Lebannon is beginning to look a bit like Iraq. Many very bright and wise people predicted that if we invaded Iraq it would lead to regional conflict. I don't know for sure if the conflict in Lebannon would have occurred with or without U.S. occupation of Iraq, but I do know that our presence there has not made things any better.
Who Know's?
The U.S. deaths raised to at least 12 the number of service members killed in the past three days. The most recent seven deaths were the result of roadside bombs, two in Diyala province, two in Baghdad and three others at an unspecified location north of the capital.
Let's see. Sunni's did this? Shiites? Al Qaeda or Iranians?
Friday, January 26, 2007
Budget Deficit
Time to correct the government's, in this case Bush although he's not alone in these little tricks, numbers on the deficit and deficit projections. These charts from Kash shows the real story:

All the projections you are hearing about (that Bush is crowing about) skip a few little details. First, all the projections include the social security surplus, which interestingly enough is projected to continue to grow well past when Bush said it would. But these surpluses are money that is promised to retirees and should be in a "lock box". Second, the estimates all assume the removal of Bush's tax cuts when they expire, which of course Bush opposes.

The above chart shows the differences. The chart is a bit confusing so let me explain. The top line is the budget deficit with Bush's tax cuts being repealed. The second line is the deficit with the tax cuts left in place. The bottom line is the deficit with Bush's tax cuts repealed and with alternative minimum tax reform. And again, let me remind you that all of these projection include the Social Security surplus. Here's what the effect of the SS surplus looks like:

I'm not positive on this, but I believe that these projections also do not include the Vietn ..... ah ..... Iraq war costs either. The bottom line is that the headline numbers and, as with all things Bush, the Preznit's crowing is all bullshit.
Gulf O' Persia Resolution
It's coming. This is an escalation of the escalation.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush warned on Friday if Iranians attempt to launch attacks against Americans or Iraqis inside Iraq, "we will stop them," but said U.S. troops would not go into Iran.

He spoke after The Washington Post reported that U.S. forces have the authority to capture or kill Iranian agents active in attacking American soldiers inside Iraq, a story Bush and other U.S. officials did not deny.

"It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops or stop us from achieving our goals or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them," Bush said. "It's an obligation we all have to protect our folks and achieve our goals."
Pretty soon we'll be ordering air strikes just inside the border of Iran to "protect the troops", and then ........
You Gotta Wonder
You really do have to wonder exactly what Senators are afraid of?
A top conservative Capitol Hill staffer tells Politico that more than 70 senators would oppose Bush’s escalation if their vote matched their comments in private meetings. “The White House is trying to but they really don' know how to handle this,” the staffer said.
Digby attempts to answer that question here.

It's a great post which references two articles by Rick Perlstein examining the history of the political resistance to the Vietnam war. The short version is that Republicans have been successful in spinning the end of Vietnam as occurring because the dirty hippies stopped support prematurely, and that Democrats are wimps. That political tag is seen as poison and no one wants to be tagged with it. Unfortunately, as Perlstein points out quite well, this meme is totally wrong and not at all supported by the facts.

Take a short stroll down memory lane (if you're old enough) and read Digby and Perlstein. Their recollections match mine in that it was a completely bipartisan decision to get out of Vietnam, and that we got out for good reason.
Lay Low Dude
BAGHDAD — Muqtada Sadr, the radical anti-American cleric, has backed away from confrontation with U.S. and Iraqi forces in recent weeks, a move that has surprised U.S. officials who long have characterized his followers as among the greatest threats to Iraq's security.


"He's afraid he'll get into a losing war," said Suha Azzawi, a professor of political science at the University of Baghdad. "He's ordered the militias to temporarily leave their positions. They will continue their activities after the crackdown."
Al Sadr has all the time in the world while the U.S. does not. I guarantee you that al Maliki has told Sadr to just cool it for awhile while the American's wipe out the Sunni resistance at which time the U.S. will withdraw. Then Shiites can have their way, or at least preserve their best fighters for the civil war after the American's leave. There's also still the Badr corp (Iranian Shiites) to contend with, who may not be so patient, particularly if there is a U.S. action against Iran.

The wild card in this tactic is the largely Sunni region. Will other Sunni nations allow an all out war against the Sunni's in Iraq? Will Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan allow a Iranian-type theocracy from Iran to Lebannon? They are likely to see Iraq as the battlefield to stem the tide of Iranian influence into the region. And none of this even takes into consideration the Kurds vs. Turkey, and the various radical Shiite groups throughout Iraq that may not be so patient. For example, I could totally see al Sadr being assassinated by Shiites and blaming it on the U.S., the Iraq government or Sunni's. And of course there's that little matter of Israel/U.S. vs. Iran .......

It's looking like the best plan for al Sadr is to split the difference. Al Sadr can openly lay low while continuing guerrilla activities such as sniping and IED's that will likely be blamed on the Sunni's. This continues the resistance to the U.S. occupation while not leaving fingerprints and while replenishing/maintaining Sadr's fighting strength for the post-American fight. There will now be an additional 20,000 targets. And like I said, Sadr's at home and has all the time in the world .....
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Help Lara Logan
This is an email from Lara Logan, a CBS correspondent (via Atrios):
From: lara logan
Subject: help

The story below only appeared on our CBS website and was not aired on CBS. It is a story that is largely being ignored, even though this istakingplace verysingle day in central Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.

Our crew had to be pulled out because we got a call saying they were about to be killed, and on their way out, a civilian man was shot dead in front of them as they ran.

I would be very grateful if any of you have a chance to watch this story and pass the link on to as many people you know as possible. It should be seen. And people should know about this.

If anyone has time to send a comment to CBS – about the story – not about my request, then that would help highlight that people are interested and this is not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore.

Many, many thanks.
The story is here. Given it a look. Remember, this is all taking place a couple of miles from the "secure" green zone. Alamo anyone? This is the type of reporting that should be occurring nightly, yet CBS hasn't aired this segment.
Quote of the Day
"He's tried this two times — it's failed twice. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.' "
Nancy Pelosi on why Preznit Bush thinks the escalation will work ... this time.
Simply A Quote
"He's going to run, and he's going to be formidable. If he didn't run, I'd be shocked."
-- James Carville on Al Gore.

I wish this was coming from a more credible source instead of the crazy cajun DLC lover. If Al Gore ran, I'd be behind the guy 1000%.
Blackhawk Down
I hadn't really thought much about it, but does the loss of two helicopters in one week mean that the insurgents were lucky shots, or that they have improved missle capabilities?
A Rose By Any Other Name .....
Here's an example of some of that success that Dick-wad Cheney is talking about in Iraq:
BAGHDAD -- Fatima Ali was a 24-year-old divorcee with no high school diploma and no job. Shawket al-Rubae was a 34-year-old Shiite sheik with a pregnant wife who, he said, could not have sex with him.

Ali wanted someone to take care of her. Rubae wanted a companion.

They met one afternoon in May at the house he shares with his wife, in the room where he accepts visitors seeking his religious counsel. He had a proposal. Would Ali be his temporary wife? He would pay her 5,000 Iraqi dinars upfront -- about $4 -- in addition to her monthly expenses. About twice a week over the next eight months, he would summon her to a house he would rent.

The negotiations took an hour and ended with an unwritten agreement, the couple recalled. Thus began their "mutaa," or enjoyment marriage, a temporary union believed by Shiite Muslims to be sanctioned by Islamic law.
In the good ole' U.S. of A., we call it prostitution. In Iraq, the Shiite fundamentalists call it religious freedom:
Shiite clerics and others who practice mutaa say such marriages are keeping young women from having unwed sex and widowed or divorced women from resorting to prostitution to make money.
Huh? Sounds like they go to the Bush school of up is downism.

But why would such a practice be re-emerging (it's an ancient ritual) just now:
Opponents of mutaa, most of them Sunni Arabs, say it is less about religious freedom and more about economic exploitation. Thousands of men are dying in the sectarian violence that has followed the invasion, leaving behind widows who must fend for themselves. Many young men are out of work and prefer temporary over permanent wives who require long-term financial commitments. In a mutaa arrangement, the woman is entitled to payment only for the duration of the marriage.
Too many women, too many unemployed men, economic instability, violence and chaos.

Yes. Iraq does seem to be much better off without Saddam. I think it's obvious now that it took an iron-handed dictator to keep the artificial boundaries set up by the British intact.
Rachet A Notch
Remember to read this in the context of Olmert being in deep yogurt politically:
The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, dramatically raised the stakes in the international showdown with Iran last night, with a clear warning that his country was prepared to use military force to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"The Jewish people, with the scars of the Holocaust fresh on its body, cannot afford to allow itself to face threats of annihilation once again," Mr Olmert said in a speech to a high-level security conference in Herzliya. "No nation has the right even to consider its position. It is the obligation of every country to act against this will all its might." "We can stand up against nuclear threats and even prevent them," he said.

Israeli military officials warned this week that Israel – acting alone or in coordination with the US – could launch preemptive military strikes against Iran before the end of this year.
Ethnic Cleansing
Looks like the Shiite plan to leverage the U.S. military on their side of the civil war is in full swing:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi troops battled Sunni insurgents in high-rise buildings on central Baghdad's Haifa Street yesterday, as Apache attack helicopters chattered overhead. Iraq said 30 militants were killed and 27 captured.
I doubt there were any Sunni's in the Iraq army that participated in the attack. In fact, the Iraqi army barely made it to the whole event:
In a miniature version of the troop increase that the United States hopes will secure the city, American soldiers and armored vehicles raced onto Haifa Street before dawn to dislodge Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias [yeah, right] who have been battling for a stretch of ragged slums and mostly abandoned high rises. But as the sun rose, many of the Iraqi Army units who were supposed to do the actual searches of the buildings did not arrive on time, forcing the Americans to start the job on their own.
Yep, we're just there to support to eyeraqi people in their pursuit of freedom. Indeed.

Here's how the resident's saw it:
"What kind of security plan is this?" asked one terrified resident, who spent the morning in his home nearby. "They are destroying us, pounding an area less than one square kilometer with mortars, shells from helicopters and their tanks."

Residents accused the United States of unwittingly aiding Shiite Muslim militiamen accused of trying to force the mostly Sunni Muslim inhabitants from their homes, as part of a pattern of sectarian "cleansing" that is redrawing the map of the once largely integrated capital.
That's exactly what they are doing. I guess the good news, if you can call it that, is that the U.S. is no longer "in the middle".

It was reported that Bush would side with the Shiites and it appears he has. I think the next move is now up to the largely Sunni states surrounding the area.

Update: More from the NYTimes on those swell Iraqi troops in the Haifa Street fight:
As the sun rose, many of the Iraqi Army units who were supposed to do the actual searches of the buildings did not arrive on time, forcing the Americans to start the job on their own. When the Iraqi units finally did show up, it was with the air of a class outing, cheering and laughing as the Americans blew locks off doors with shotguns.

.... Many of the Iraqi units that showed up late never seemed to take the task seriously, searching haphazardly, breaking dishes and rifling through personal CD collections in the apartments. Eventually the Americans realized that the Iraqis were searching no more than half of the apartments; at one point the Iraqis completely disappeared, leaving the American unit working with them flabbergasted.

"Where did they go?" yelled Sgt. Jeri A. Gillett. Another soldier suggested, "I say we just let them go and we do this ourselves."
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Authentic Hero
And he's even a Republican ....

Watch the whole thing. For context, he's responding to Boltin' Joe and Richard Lugar's accusations that those opposed to the war are helping the enemy:

Out O' Line
Is this the height of hypocrisy or what?

You think real estate is bad where you live?

Try this 77 sq. foot former storage space, sans electricity or heating, that is selling for $335,000 in an exclusive section of London. Add $59,000 and you can have electricity and heating installed.
Yeah, I thought it was a little bit of an Alice-In-Wonderland moment when Bush proclaimed that medical decisions are between a patient and their doctor. I would add to the list Terry Schiavo and stem cell research among others.
SOTU Fact Check
This is no surprise. To reach the Preznit's goal of ethanol replacement of gasoline would require virtually the entire U.S. corn production. Guess we don't really need corn for anything else anyway .......

Update: More ethanol info. I've posted about this before, but I think it's worth repeating:
The energy return on grain ethanol is very low. Published studies put this number at around 1.3, but the return for fossil fuels in and ethanol out averages less than 1.1. Animal feed byproduct that is given a BTU value pushes the EROEI up to 1.3. Therefore, for 1 BTU of energy expended, less than 1.1 BTUs of ethanol can be produced, along with an additional 0.2 BTUs of animal feed. The net is then 0.3 BTUs with the byproduct credit, or about 1/17th of the fossil fuel net.
It takes virtually as much energy to create corn ethanol as it returns. Other than making Senator Grassley happy and subsidizing corn growers, making ethanol from corn is just not worth it. The Brazilians have the better idea of making ethanol from sugar, which yields much more energy and is sustainable. But unfortunately, folks like ADM have the government by the short hairs preventing such common sense.
This is a perfect reminder of just how numb we all become to the insidiousness of advertising:
Product placement (as we saw with the "Baby Einstein" colloquey in last night's SOTU) as a way to close the deficit is brilliant. Why shouldn't Disney pay for that effusive mention from the president of the United States on national television?

I don't think Yglesias goes far enough, though. Every speech, every photo-op could also be sponsored by a different corporation. And just as the sports arenas named Viagra Park and Jonny Cat Field no longer have a civic identity, we could change the name of the White House to the "Halliburton House" (for now --- the next president could have a different sponsor.) Companies would pay billions for that kind of daily mention in the free media.
First off, I didn't even think about the Baby Einstein thing. But yeah, that's a little strange basically doing a commercial for a product during the SOTU. And a product with questionable validity to boot.

I agree with what other's are saying. We could perhaps lower the deficit by selling naming rights to speeches, press conferences, trips, policy initiatives and on and on. There are virtually unlimited possibilities!
Quote of the Day
“If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes,”
Senator Chuck Hagel to his collegues on their squishy-ness over opposing the Iraq war.
I Hope Dems Are Watching
The Republicans have, thus far anyway, blocked the minimum wage bill via filibuster. Hardly a month out of the chute, and Republicans use the filibuster to exercise some control in the Senate.

You can go here and read the details. I suspect we'll end up with a new minimum wage and tax cuts too.
I was watching (while holding my nose) some punditry last night when one of the retired generals discussed the new tactics to be used in Baghdad. Apparently the plan is to put the "alamo's" in western Baghdad where the neighborhoods are mixed Sunni/Shia. This general casually dismissed Sadr City (western Baghdad) as the problem of the Iraqi military. Ah huh.

That fits nicely with this bit of news:
US forces have captured some 600 Mahdi Army militiamen since the current push against guerrilla violence began.

Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that leaders of the Mahdi Army are saying they will not retaliate for the arrests. Baha' al-A'raji, a Sadrist MP, said that the followers of young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr would not stand against the Baghdad security plan.
That's nice. Al Sadr can use the American's to clean up his recalcitrant members who refuse to lay low as per plan.

I really think al Maliki's strategy is clear. Get al Sadr to cool it and lay low for awhile while the American's, with Shia militia/Iraq military (they're one and the same) beat the crap out of the Sunni's. And it might work for awhile. But if the Sunni's begin to look beaten, watch for the Saudi's to get more involved along with all our old buddies like Jordan and Egypt.

Ironically under this strategy, the outcome is the same .... a Shiite theocracy remains in control in Iraq under the umbrella of Iran.
Bush is going to get his war with Iran one way or another.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the U.S. buildup in the Gulf was intended to impress on Iran that the four-year war in Iraq has not made America vulnerable.

The American aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and several accompanying ships are heading toward the Gulf to join an aircraft carrier group already in the region, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Stennis is expected to arrive in late February.

The Stennis's arrival in the Middle East will mark the first time since the U.S.-led Iraq invasion in 2003 that the United States has had two carrier battle groups in the region.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007
If you want to know why Bush's health care proposal's are bullshit, just go here. I wasn't even feeling a need to investigate it as I just assumed if it came out of his mouth, it had to be bullshit. But Ezra fills us in on just why it's a terrible suggestion.
Pop Quiz
Preznit Bush has begun a new program in Baghdad whereby soldiers are being billetted in the population. Small outposts of soldiers embedded with Iraq "soldiers" are going to be springing up thoughout Bagdad neighborhoods.

Here's your question. What do the soldiers call these outposts?

Answer: Alamo's.
Fun Times
The Libby trial is going to be quite fun. I just don't see how the administration gets out of this one without losing something:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 — The chief defense lawyer for I. Lewis Libby Jr. told a jury today that his client was innocent of perjury and obstruction of justice charges and that White House officials had sought to make him a scapegoat in the investigation of the leak of a C.I.A. operative’s name to protect Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff.
Let's review the bidding. The prosecution claims the second most powerful member of the administration led the effort to smear Wilson/Plame and obstructed justice via his hitman, Libby. The defense claims the administration's leader, the Preznit, was using Libby as a scapegoat to cover for their number one snake, Rove.

What I think everyone I'm reading is finding most spectacular is just how conflictual Cheney seems to have been with Bush ..... or at least their staffs. It has been conventional wisdom that they worked in lock step. The picture that is emerging suggests that Cheney was running more of a shadow government with less than full support from the Preznit's staff. And Bush? Probably off playing with his chainsaw collection.

Should be good times as Cheney goes to testify. I'm looking forward to Fitgerald questioning the Darth-Vader-in-chief. In any other time, the V.P. would be resigning. But then these are not ordinary times. On the other hand, it would be timely to put Bush's annoited one into the V.P.'s office. But I won't be holding my breath. Hell, I thought it appropriate for the whole bunch to have resigned about five years ago.

Update: Looks like Ari Fleischer is a White House rat who was granted immunity to testify against Libby. Ari kinda looks like a rat ....

This Is Funny ....
.... and instructive.

Time magazine has jumped into the blogging fray by starting a blog called "Swampland". Several journalists are blogging there and immediately got into a bunch of deep yogurt with readers, much of it self-inflicted by doing the usual not-fact-checking-before-I-write trick. It's been funny watching these professionals reactions to actually being called on their crap.

Anyway, as an experienced blogger who entertains comments on his site, Atrios has a few suggestions for these novices:
Journalists make a lot of mistakes when they start writing for a blog type thing which allows for comments (thus making them aware of their mistakes). First, don't talk down to your readers. Many of them are probably smarter than you, and literally all of them certainly know some things you don't. Second, blogging isn't just about throwing random thoughts out there without bothering to check them first. Sure, it's a bit more shoot from the hip than careful writing is, but the internets have this thing called "the google" that makes basic factchecking fairly simple. Third, don't have contempt for the readers who care enough to read what you write and respond. In case you didn't realize, these are the people who actually give a shit enough about current events to maybe occasionally buy a newspaper or magazine, or at the very least click through your website and watch news on the teevee. In other words, they pay the bills. Being actively hostile to them is certainly odd behavior. And, yes, discourse on the internet can be rude and caustic, some people may make you cry by telling you to go Cheney yourself, and you certainly don't have to engage people who are rude, but really who cares? People are mean, wah.

There is one final deep injustice. Even though it's "just a blog," people may hold "Time's Washington bureau chief" to a slightly higher standard than they do "some random person with a blog." The reasons for this should be obvious.
You can go back and read the details of the fray if you like, but I can tell you that Jay Carney basically made a fool of himself.
Oh My
We have some new info coming out of the Libby trial. Prosecutors are making some very interesting claims that make you wonder why Cheney wasn't indicted:
– “Vice President Cheney himself directed Scooter Libby to essentially go around protocol and deal with the press and handle press himself…to try to beat back the criticism of administration critic Joe Wilson.”

– Cheney personally “wrote out for Scooter Libby what Libby should say in a conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper.”

– “Scooter Libby destroyed a note from Vice President Cheney about their conversations and about how Vice President Cheney wanted the Wilson matter handled.”


The prosecutors say the evidence will make it clear that VP Cheney asked the Director of the CIA George Tenet to take complete responsiblity for the mistake and to make it clear that the VP and the president were not involved...
Cheney behind the whole thing? Libby destroying evidence? It appears from this that Fitzgerald might be a bit timid in his charges. Can you imagine what would have happened if Clinton/Gore had done any of this?
Monday, January 22, 2007
I've been seething about this for days. It goes right along with the previous post.

The media is jumping all over the fact that both teams in the Superbowl have "black" coaches for the first time. Why in the world can't they leave it alone?

I contend that everytime we make a big deal about such issues we set back the movement of color-blindness (or gender blindness). Doesn't it speak for itself? Two quite talented PEOPLE got plumb jobs, worked hard, were well paid, and have been successful at motivating their skillful players to achieve the top of their profession. Do we really need to know any more?

I think the highlighting of the issue, primarily for ratings, does nothing but reinforce everyone's tendencies towards race, good and bad. But trust me on this. During the pre-game, there will be an extensive segment on the subject of these coaches blackness although it has zero to do with the whole situation.
On Being Black Or Female
Can a woman win the Presidency? How about a black? We'll see:
Although national polls show that more than 90 percent of Americans say they'd be comfortable voting for a qualified woman to serve as president, NIU political scientist Matt Streb says that a "a significant percentage of people are hiding their true feelings" because they know that opposition to a candidate based on gender alone is socially unacceptable.

How does he know? If people tell pollsters that they're comfortable with the idea of a female candidate, you probably won't get very far by asking them if they're really just hiding their true feelings. Instead, Streb and his NIU colleagues went at the question another way. They asked a test group of respondents to say how many of four different statements made them "angry or upset": the rising price of gas, the high salaries paid to professional athletes, pollution by large corporations and laws that require seat-belt usage. The researchers obtained a base number using those four statements, then added a fifth: "a woman serving as president." With that statement in the mix, the mean number of "angry or upset" responses increased by so much that the researchers believe that about 26 percent of their respondents were troubled by the "woman serving as president" addition.

According to a summary of the findings in an NIU press release, the researchers saw "virtually equal" levels of resistance among male and female respondents and "nearly equal" levels among respondents with different education levels. The researchers didn't test for the separate-but-similar question of race, but Streb surmises in the press release that the same sort of "social desirability" distortion is "almost certainly going to be a factor" in polls measuring support for Barack Obama.
In this day-n-age this is astounding, if true. I know that Harold Ford found the same kind of polling distortion in his recent Senate race with the polls showing him much closer than it actually turned out. Unfortunately, I suspect it's true and Hillary may have to be a sacrificial lamb to break this dynamic down.
On The Run
Wow. This is a very subtle but potentially big development:
In past sessions, Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave were conservative champions of a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the last Congress, both sponsoring legislation to do just that.

Not this year.

The two Republicans said last week they have no plans to re-introduce their legislation in the new Congress - another sign that Democrats are now in the majority.

"At this time, I haven't discussed it with anyone," Allard said on Thursday. "If we thought there was a decent chance to bring it to the floor for debate, I would, but with the new Congress, I'm not sure we will ever have that opportunity."
Since when has the prospect of a bill failing stopped them from introducing it anyway? Sheesh, the whine factor alone makes it worthwhile to reinforce their image as martyr's. Plus, what about those donations from the Dobson's of the world? The religious right is going to have a major hissy fit.

So what do Musgrave and Allard know that we don't? Probably not much other than the Preznit is at 28% approval and the country is sick of all things Republican. Does this mean that there is a sea change going on in the body politic? I don't know. I'm not going to assume so. Getting the right-wing-fringy-nutbar factions back in the box isn't easy and they don't tend to stay there long. But like much of American politics that's very "fad" driven, this one may have passed.
We Have 20's
Folks, we've finally done it.

We've seen Bush's approval number sink into the 20's. The CBS News polls has his approval rating at 28%.
Oil Prices
I'm sure you've all heard about the preciptious fall in oil prices lately. What is really interesting is that all of the cited reasons for the fall have been eliminated, yet the price stays low. Why is this?

Consider. A warm winter? Sure, until last week. Now the entire country is cold and using heating oil like crazy. Fear of the mideast blowing up? Seems to me as if there is a greater need for a "fear premium" on oil now than there has been in past months. Slow economy? Not according to the government.

Oil supplies have remained rather consistent and relatively abundant. Interestingly Saudi Arabia is resisting any attempts by other OPEC members to cut production and raise the price of oil. Some, myself included, are now wondering if the depressed oil prices aren't a coordinated effort by the U.S. (see Goldman Sach's, Henry Paulson's former company, dumping of their oil futures causing a market crash in oil prices) and the Saudi's (by increasing production) to wage economic warfare against Iran. By influencing the market downward, the economic welfare so common in Iran due to oil money is likely to be put under extreme pressure. Maybe the U.S. and Saudi's are trying to foment revolution in Iran through economic warfare? The Saudi's have threatened it.
Letter to the Editor
Tim puts up an astonishing letter to a newspaper financial advisor. This letter speaks volumes on many many levels of what's happening in our country.
Right ... On .... Time
I'm positively shocked at the timing of this ABC News release:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2007 — Mimicking the hijackers who executed the Sept. 11 attacks, insurgents reportedly tied to al Qaeda in Iraq considered using student visas to slip terrorists into the United States to orchestrate a new attack on American soil.

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently testified that documents captured by coalition forces during a raid of a safe house believed to house Iraqi members of al Qaeda six months ago "revealed [AQI] was planning terrorist operations in the U.S."
Guess I'd better head over to the Home Deeepooohhhh and get me some duct tape ....

I promise you that when the details of this story come out we'll find that the real story is quite different than the headlines. First off, this "intelligence" is not new. The timing of the release of this "classified" info is completely in the hands of the Pentagon. Next, we'll find out that it was something like a club of 8 years olds who had written up their plans with crayons. But of course, by the time we find out the real story, it will be later in the news cycle and will be posted on page C15 of the newspaper.

Oy ....

Update: Here's the timing to which I'm referring:
Friday, Jan. 19, 2007: Previewing Tuesday night's State of the Union address, George W. Bush tells USA Today: "My point is going to be, what happens in Iraq matters to your security here at home."

Monday, Jan. 22, 2007: Sources tell ABC News that, in an "incident that has been dealt with at the highest levels of government," coalition forces discovered documents six months ago that suggest "insurgents reportedly tied to al-Qaida in Iraq considered using student visas to slip terrorists into the United States to orchestrate a new attack on American soil."
Afterall, you've gotta get all your props in place for the big speech.
Warner Sends a Warning
This is certainly interesting political news:
Sen. John Warner (R-VA) will introduce a resolution today “making clear that he does not support the President on increasing the troop levels in Iraq” and calling escalation “a mistake,” CNN’s Dana Bash reports. Warner’s resolution will be cosponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Nelson (D-NE).
For most other Presidents, this action by an influencial member of their own party would matter. For this President it will make no difference in his actual policies.

The only thing that will stop this messianic asshole is impeachment. If Republicans think they'll be able to mitigate Bush's damage to their party for 2008 without impeachment, they're nuts. No matter what they do, they'll all be stamped with the Preznit's tattoo for some time to come.

Update: Looks like Boehner is joining the GOP disaffected ranks.
Media Hero
The new Iraq media pony searchers and hope for the future is Gen. Petraeus. He's the media darling. Virtually no one that I've heard has had anything negative to say about the guy. But check out what he had to say about the Iraqi security forces in September 2004:
[T]here are reasons for optimism. Today approximately 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers (of which about 100,000 are trained and equipped) and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces are performing a wide variety of security missions. Equipment is being delivered. Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being reestablished.

Most important, Iraqi security forces are in the fight — so much so that they are suffering substantial casualties as they take on more and more of the burdens to achieve security in their country.

[T]here is no shortage of qualified recruits volunteering to join Iraqi security forces. In the past couple of months, more than 7,500 Iraqi men have signed up for the army and are preparing to report for basic training to fill out the final nine battalions of the Iraqi regular army. Some 3,500 new police recruits just reported for training in various locations.
Is that kool-aid drips I see on his uniform?

Honestly, we'll never get anywhere in Iraq until it is recognized that the problem isn't "security". The problems are political. You can't control people out of civil war. They have to negotiate through it, or more likely, fight through to exhaustion.

In reading about the enormous casualties in Iraq from yesterday, it was interesting to note where the deaths occurred. Baghdad and Al Anbar province were actually relatively quiet (although Baghdad certainly was far from quiet today). But now the rest of the country south of Baghdad is a mess. The Madhi militiamen in Baghdad have either left for the countryside or put their guns away ..... at least for now ..... after passing out hand gernades to each household in Sadr City. Whack-a-mole is in full operation here and will continue until we get out.
The State of the Union address will be big news this week. Bush will be lucky if he doesn't get booed out of Congress. Decorum will dictate politness for the most part.

One thing that I'll be watching is Nancy Pelosi literally looking over Bush's shoulder as he speaks. That should be interesting.

As with past Bush SOTU's, look for a whole lot of rhetoric and don't believe a word of it.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Be Careful What You Wish For
This is just too funny to watch. St. John is having to find a way to protect his position:
Since that time, McCain has been slowly back-pedaling from the escalation plan, offering numerous reasons for why the strategy will not succeed. He has argued the Pentagon was “dragging its feet” in implementing the strategy. Now, he is arguing that the escalation is too small.
He advocated escalation thinking that no one in their right mind would do it. But then he didn't factor in Preznit's Bush's. Anyway, after the loss in Iraq, he could claim the hawk mantle with the "if only they'd done what I said" strategy. This miscalculation just may have done him in.
Peshmergia Bailing
These folks are not stupid. They don't want to get caught in the middle of a civil war. They're loyalties are to Kurdistan, not Iraq:
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq - As the Iraqi government attempts to secure a capital city ravaged by conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslim Arabs, its decision to bring a third party into the mix may cause more problems than peace.

Kurdish soldiers from northern Iraq, who are mostly Sunnis but not Arabs, are deserting the army to avoid the civil war in Baghdad, a conflict they consider someone else's problem.
All Wet
Did you hear about that story last week of the woman who died from water intoxication after partaking in a radio-show contest?

The contest was to see who could drink the most water without going to the bathroom. I don't know about you, but my first reaction was that it was pretty stupid of the woman to do that to herself. I also figured that those running the contest were oblivious to the dangers involved (I was).

I was wrong on both counts.

Go here and read some transcript excerpts about from the radio program.

This station needs to be sued out of existence.
Summing Up
Steve Gilliard has a great post, relatively short, that does a very nice job summarizing the lunacy of the U.S. picking a fight with the Mahdi army. Give it a read if it interests you.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
How's That Escalation Goin'
Not too well so far I'm afraid:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - At least 20 American service members were killed in military operations Saturday in the deadliest day for U.S. forces in two years, including 13 who died in a helicopter crash and five slain in an attack by militia fighters in the holy city of Karbala, military officials said.
Update: I guess I should know better than to post the number of deaths before the day is over. Now the number is up to 24.

Update II: Juan Cole is reporting this today on the American deaths that are occurring in southern Shiite areas:
The killing of US troops in Shiite Najaf and Karbala has been a rare event since hostilities ending in late August 2004 between the American military and the Mahdi Army of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The resurgence of lethal hostility in this Shiite area almost certainly has to do with the ongoing US crackdown on the Sadr Movement.
Update ... more: When can I actually update the number and have it stand? It's now at 25.