Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The political fragging of U.S. attorney's around the country by the Bush administration is continuing. But just remember, according to the Bushies, it's just the normal course of business:
David Iglesias [the most recently fired U.S. attorney] said two members of Congress separately called in mid October to inquire about the timing of an ongoing probe of a kickback scheme and appeared eager for an indictment to be issued on the eve of the elections in order to benefit the Republicans. He refused to name the members of Congress because he said he feared retaliation.

....Iglesias, who received a positive performance review before he was fired, said he suspected he was forced out because of his refusal to be pressured to hand down an indictment in the ongoing probe.

"I believe that because I didn't play ball, so to speak, I was asked to resign," said Iglesias, who officially stepped down Wednesday.
And the purge continues .....
Did You Know Clenis?
Until about a year ago, I'd never heard the term Clenis. I kept seeing it in blog posts in reference to Bill Clinton but couldn't quite figure it out. So, I finally looked it up. Turns out (if you're like me and oblivious to the use of this term), Clenis is a hybrid of Clinton's and penis. Specifically the term is used when referencing the media's obsession with Bill Clinton's sex life.

Well, Tweety (aka Chris Matthews) has been all a-twitter over the "clenis" recently. I've also seen a number of articles wondering about how the Clenis would impact Hillary's campaign. You know, real news. But I think Atrios has the best quote about the whole Clenis thing today:
Bill Clinton is an incredibly popular person and only our Beltway press could imagine that he would somehow be a "liability" to his wife.

Though, to be fair, the subtext of the "concerns" of the Beltway chatterers is that they're really talking not about Bill Clinton, but about the Clenis, and the implication is that Bill will be a liability because the Clenis, an unstoppable mystical force, might get up to no good.

Why Bill Clinton's past infidelity is more relevant to his wife's candidacy than Rudy Giuliani's own infidelity is to his own candidacy is an exercise left to the reader.
Indeed, an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. We may have to go to a code red if Clenis get's loose. What a bunch of idiots. Further proof that cable news and much of the media's coverage of politics is suitable for fishwrap.
That asshole Cheney finally gave an interview to the press during his trip abroad. Interestingly, Cheney insisted that the interview be attributed to a "Senior Administration Official" and that his identity be keep anonymous. Here's a small excerpt of the interview:
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: “Let me just make one editorial comment here. I’ve seen some press reporting says, ‘Cheney went in to beat up on them, threaten them.’ That’s not the way I work. I don’t know who writes that, or maybe somebody gets it from some source who doesn’t know what I’m doing, or isn’t involved in it. But the idea that I’d go in and threaten someone is an invalid misreading of the way I do business.

“I would describe my sessions both in Pakistan and Afghanistan as very productive. We’ve had notable successes in both places. I’ve often said before and I believe it’s still true that we’ve captured and killed more al Qaeda in Pakistan than anyplace else. And I think we’re making progress in Afghanistan.”
Ah. Golly gee. Do you think anyone can figure out who that "Senior Administration Official" is? The guy runs this interview like he runs the country.
Daniel Ben-Ami has written a review of a new book by Oliver James on affluence and it's impact on the western world. Here's the opening salvo:
It is a reasonable bet that Oliver James thinks you are mentally ill. The clinical psychologist and media pundit starts his new book with a questionnaire for readers to determine whether they have contracted the ‘affluenza virus’. Among the 16 questions he poses, each of which demands a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, are:

* I would like to successfully hide the signs of ageing.
* I would like to be admired by many people.
* I like to keep up with fashions in hair and clothing.
* Shopping or thinking about what to buy greatly preoccupies me.

If you answer ‘yes’ to any one of the questions he declares that, like most people in the English-speaking world, you have contracted the virus. His definition of affluenza is so broad it is hard to see how anyone, apart from perhaps Trappist monks or the Amish, can be immune.

This declaration is not simply a journalistic device to entice readers into the book. James means it literally. Selfish capitalism, he believes, is driving us mad: ‘my new theory is that the nasty form of political economy that I call Selfish Capitalism caused an epidemic of the affluenza virus, accounting for much of the increase in distress since the 1970s.’
Ben-Ami then goes on to lambast the book, ripping apart the methodology of the research and the author's sweeping conclusions. And I generally agree with Ben-Ami in his criticisms of the process of proving the case. But my personal anecdotal experiences are in total agreement with Oliver James and his theory of affluenza.

I think there are many examples of affluenza from Paris Hiltonitis, to the ubiquitous Cadillac Escalades, to the fact that people continuously live beyond their means. And there is never any shortage of proof in the business community with greed pretty much running the show.

But there's one example that I wanted to highlight. Last night PBS aired the third installment of it's Frontline series on the media. This installment focused on the plight of newspapers despite the fact that they are the last significant remaining source of original reporting. I think there is general agreement (except in the undemocratic nutbar arena) that the "Fourth Estate" is a critical part of our Democracy and has a significant role to play in informing the public. While I'm often critical of the newspaper media, there's no doubt that much of what is reported in the blogosphere has it's origination in newspapers. Bloggers may add to that information .... or be critical of it .... or report a wider variety of original reporting, but the origination of the information is largely a phenomena of newspapers.

During the various interviews on Frontline of those in the newspaper business, one thing became clear. The greed of Wall Street investors who own the public corporations who own newspapers are killing the business. Frontline cites the L.A. Times as an example. Despite bringing in a billion dollars per year in sales, and earning a 20% profit on those sales, Wall Street is "unhappy" with the paper and has been pursuing ongoing and crippling cost-cutting to improve the bottom line. The LA Times is but one example of a phenomena occurring throughout the business world as the pursuit of money, even when at the expense of the greater good, is paramount. Will the dogged pursuit of affluence at the expense of quality original news reporting actually make people happier? Will those investors who get improved quarterly results quarter after quarter feel any happier in the long run if newspapers ultimately become nothing but reporters or tabloidism, pandering to the lowest common denominator in people?

I know even the most cynical of nutbars may think that their affluence is or is going to make them happier. But my experiences show otherwise in that people experience greater happiness when they are under control. Out-of-control avarice only leads to obsession which is a decidely unhappy state.

Oliver James apparently sees a connection between the western world's out-of-control pursuit of wealth, it's disillusionment when that affluence is attained, and a deterioration in general happiness. I don't know if he can back that claim up with data, but it sure sounds right to me!
This is getting a lot of play today:
President George W Bush has signalled a dramatic shift in his Middle East policy by agreeing to discuss the future of Iraq with Iran and Syria despite his belief that the two countries are fuelling the insurgency that has plunged the country into civil war.
It appears that Bush is doing this to support al Maliki, who is calling the meeting. But please count me as totally skeptical of the U.S. role in these meetings. Bush has never believed in negotiation as a tool in international diplomacy and I don't think he's changed his thinking now. So, there's more to this story and I'm suspicious that we'll find out the real story later.
Sharp Elbows
I'm sure that many in the U.S. government have felt this way at times, but they've never acted on it:
The Shiite Vice President [of Iraq], Adil Abdul Mahdi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has accused a high ministry official of attempting to kill him in a bombing on Monday. The deputy Minister of Labor, Ghazi al-Anbari, died in the blast, along with 10 others.
Maybe if the Dickster thinks Iraq is so hunky hunky, he should apply for the VP job there?
Benchmarks Update
Froomkin on that nasty, and unreported, issue of accountability .... accountability of the administration and accountability of the Iraqi "government"
Well now it's really truly official: The first benchmark that the White House put forth to the public as evidence that the Iraqis were serious about their own security this time -- and that Bush's latest plan would, unlike the previous ones, actually work -- has been missed.

As I've written repeatedly, the White House on Jan. 10 made it clear: "You're going to have some opportunities to judge very quickly. The Iraqis are going to have three brigades within Baghdad within a little more than a month. They have committed to trying to get one brigade in, I think, by the first of February, and two more by the 15th."

But Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and Renee Schoof write for McClatchy Newspapers that "retired Vice Adm. John McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee [yesterday] that the Iraqi army sent to Baghdad only two of the three additional brigades that were to have been in place by Feb. 15.

"An Iraqi brigade is supposed to have 3,200 men.

"'One of the problems was having fully manned units when they arrived in Baghdad,' McConnell said. 'A work in progress is how best to describe it. It's not there yet.' . . .

"Maples, the military's top intelligence official, said that the strength of the Iraqi battalions that comprise the two brigades range from 43 percent to 82 percent.

"The numbers were the most concise manpower figures that the U.S. military has given for the additional Iraqi units sent to Baghdad.

"McConnell said one reason for the Iraqi shortfalls is that typically 25 percent of an Iraqi army unit is away on leave or on some other assignment. But U.S. and Iraqi officials also have cited high desertion rates as a serious problem.

"On the positive side, McConnell said that Iraqi forces have begun taking leading roles in some parts of Baghdad, although he didn't specify which areas. . . .

"Maples said that two of the extra Iraqi brigades comprise members of the ethnic Kurdish minority, who don't know the city and are divided from Arabs by language, culture and decades of enmity. . . .
So the Iraqi's delivered 70% of the units promised, and within the units they delivered substantially fewer numbers than required, and they delivered soldiers who are not indigenious to the population to be policed. Isn't that called a crappy occupation?

Looks like, at least so far, the whole escalation thing is all American all the time, and can at best only provide a temporary sense of security to a limited area. In other words, we're going backwards in the war, not forward.
Wandering Thoughts
I just wanted to comment on yesterday's market "correction".

It's funny to watch the news and see how it's being portrayed. For example, a big headline this morning is that a computer glitch occurred at the New York Stock Exchange. This headline clearly leaves the impression that the decline was caused by a problem with a machine, not the economy. Indeed, the NYSE did have a computer glitch. But that glitch caused trades to be delayed in reporting, and then reported all at once. In other words, the selling was still going on, it was just reported funny. Another meme is that the China market correction caused the selloff. The only problem with that is if you look at a chart of the Chinese stock market, it has been going straight up like a rocket for some time. Yesterday's decline in China was a blip. Plus, other markets in the world didn't even register a sniffle based on China.

CNBC and most of the economic pundits are still calling it a limited event. Bernanke came out in Congressional testimony and talked up the economy. But despite the other headline of "Stocks Rebound Fitfully From Big Selloff", the market is tepid at best.

The real story that isn't getting quite as much press is the revised GDP for last quarter, down a whopping 1.3% from the original released number (original: 3.5%, revised: 2.2%). That's quite a haircut in revision, one of the largest in a long long time showing an economy that is moving along at a slowing pace. The other bit of news was new home sales, which were the lowest in 13 years. No matter what the National Association of Realtors say, the housing bottom is not here yet. Also, virtually unreported, was that durable goods orders were down significantly and defaults on home mortgages are going through the roof.

As they say, other than that, "how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?"

Bottom line is that the economy is slowing. Perhaps the delusional notion that the economy is ripping right along has finally been pierced with a bit of reality that the economy is, indeed, slowing. Now the question is how much will it slow? And if you knew the answer to that, you could get quite rich.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Tax Time
Where does all my hard earned money go? Why, I supply arms to people all over the world! Coincidentally, the U.N. Security Council has five permanent members: the U.S., Russia, France, the United Kingdom and China.

That's racketeering at its finest.
Stock Market Drop
Chris over at Americablog sums this up perfectly:
So who owns this economy? What brain trust thought that Guns & Butter II would somehow work better than the original which sunk the US into an economic quagmire for years? Let's remember that there have been voices out there who have criticized this administration for waging war while handing out tax cuts to the wealthiest and just running a tab on China's expense account so now that China is stumbling and the war debt is increasing, this most recent fiasco falls squarely in the hands of the Bush administration. When the other shoe drops and the real estate bubble bottoms out, it will be another fine mess these clowns got us into. Republican economics in action, also known as the perfect storm.

How's that stock market treating ya?

Check out that volume down (the bottom portion of the graph that spikes when the price collapsed). A fall on high volume is not a good thing.

The market is way overdue for a correction (correction = 10% down). This is reminiscent of the fall during the internet boom. At that time, everyone was saying what they are saying now which is that this is a "short term" phenomena .... a "correction" ... not the beginnings of a bear market. And most of the "experts" I read say the same thing, people I trust. But you never know whether it's a brief roller-coaster ride or the bubble popping. The economic news is getting ugly with housing looking, well, like "some of us" thought it was looking ... horrible. Fourth quarter GDP looks like the revision is going to stink. Unkie Al came out yesterday and said a recession was due. All in all, a little reality is suddenly sinking in to the market.

The danger in this is a couple of things. First, if big traders step in and start buying this "bottom" and it's not, that's going to clobber sentiment and could prolong any downturn. Right now CNBC is trotting out all the "pros" who are acting all calm and suggesting this is a good "buying opportunity". One guy says, "stocks are certainly a lot cheaper today than yesterday and a good buying opportunity".

Ah huh.

Second, credit has been so loose, and so many people have borrowed to buy stocks, that a haircut like today can cause a lot of problems for traders, and large institutions who rush to cover their shorts. Finally, highly leveraged institutions (those who have borrowed a lot of money to buy stuff like companies with the companies as collateral) could face a squeeze that could cause collapses. Most of these deals are predicated on stock value and we all know what happens if that craps out.

The next few days should be very interesting to watch. I personally got out of the stock market (except for some commodity stocks) when the S&P at around 1335. If the market shows stability below a 10% correction, I might dip my toe back in. Until then, no way.

Update: Barry Ritholtz:
Me? I prefer to believe what is right before my eyes: Decaying economic fundamentals, a complacent market that is overbought and way overdue for a correction. Add to that the single biggest positive contributor to the economy over the past 4 years – Housing – showing no signs of being anywhere near a bottom. A few more jiggles on the screen, and we there will be significant technical deterioration.
Update II: The term for trying to buy the market when it's doing what it's doing is "catching a falling knife". Looks like a lot of people are getting cut.
Think racism is dead in America? Go read this.
Digby outlines the kabuki dance that seems to be going on in the Senate.

With Lieberman threatening to leave the Dems, he is demanding that Dems not attach any anti-war amendments to the legislation fully implementing the 911 panel recommendations. If you'll recall, even if Lieberman does bolt, the Senate won't change hands because of Senate rules implemented and agreed upon at the beginning of this Congressional session. However, the Dems appear to be using a Lieberman defection as their excuse to go along with Boltin' Joe's demands.

Why would they do that? It allows the Dems an excuse to be against the war while not really doing anything substantial that could cause a "crisis". They can blame the ever-hated Boltin' Joe for the fact that they didn't really do anything. Joe doesn't care if he's blamed cause he gets the impression of being powerful (and ego is everything to the guy) while not jeopardizing his base, the Republicans. Everyone wins. It makes you wonder if the Dems and Boltin' Joe aren't really working together?

As Digby says, if this was a tax bill it would probably be good politics. But we're dealing with a war and lots of lives. It's not really a good idea to play politics with the issue. But since when has that stopped them?
I think Laura Bush has had a bit too much Cheney lately. In a Larry King interview she repeated the Cheney talking point that things in Iraq are going well, it's just that nasty media hyping the bad news:
And many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day this discourages everybody.
Well Laura, sweetheart, here's the real news:

By the by Laura, ... when are you taking the girls for a little trip to visit those historic areas of Iraq that are peaceful?
Trumped Up Charges Dept.
So much for the "weapons from Iran" gambit:
The Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox with word that a U.S. raid in southern Iraq uncovered a factory that officials say was used to construct deadly roadside bombs that the military previously thought were made only in Iran.


Before Saturday's raid in southern Iraq, officials previously thought the roadside bombs that can penetrate armor were brought fully assembled into Iraq. The WSJ is the only paper to focus on that angle of the story, and the rest mention how American officials put on display the bomb-making components, which they said were made in Iran. The NYT is alone in reporting that a few of the cardboard boxes containing some of the parts had labels and addresses that seemed to indicate they didn't originate in Iran.
Sorry Bushie, busted yet again. Never forget. Anytime their mouths move, it's a lie.
The Other War
Salon has a really good "from the ground" report on Afghanistan. Excerpt:
Several soldiers and officers I spoke with told me they were unprepared for their mission in the north of Afghanistan. No one, it seems, told them they would have to fight a Vietnam-style war at high altitudes. One officer told me the 10th Mountain's limited resources and poor planning frustrated him. (He also asked that his name be withheld for fear of retribution.) "Leadership has failed us," he told me. "They don't give a shit about us. We've been shorted everything we needed. Our training didn't prepare us for this terrain or this mission. We're doing the best we can but we're not getting support." He said the summer of 2006 had been filled with air-assault missions in which Chinooks delivered 20 to 30 troops to a ridgeline with little food or water, and no plan to pick them up.
The short version of the article is that Afghanistan is Iraq except with mountains and less population.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Peak Oil Update
Here's the latest data on oil production via The Oil Drum.

The various extended lines are various predictions of oil needs vs. predicted production.

Is production about to roll over? Are we peaked? I certainly don't know. But it sure seems that if oil production were to be hitting new highs it would be during times of economic expansion, like now. Clearly it's not. So we shall see. Meanwhile, have you noticed what you're paying for gas lately?
Idiot Joe
I guess Boltin' Joe wrote an op-ed today somewhere. I really don't pay attention to anything he says because he's such an asshole. But I just couldn't pass up Glenn Greenwalds post today that is a total takedown of Joe's op-ed (like shooting fish in a barrel actually) and one of his "compare and contrasts" statements from Joementum:
Joe Lieberman, today: "previously there weren't enough soldiers to hold key neighborhoods after they had been cleared of extremists and militias."

Joe Lieberman, 2005: "The administration's recent use of the banner 'clear, hold, and build' accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week."
Let's face it. No matter what Bush does in Iraq is just fine with ole' Joe. I seriously wonder why the people of Connecticut don't seek a recall of this jerk. He has been nothing but wrong, factually, throughout the entire war. His sympathies with Israel have completely colored his ability to analyze the situation, throwing him completely into the neocon camp. He now (whether he knows it or not) carries around the guilt and responsibility of having created a lot of havoc in the world and being partially responsible for a whole lot of deaths. It's people like Joe that continue to give Bush even a slight legitimacy in his misjudgements.

What is it with the Democrats? It seems they always have a Lieberman or Zell Miller around? I guess the Republicans have the same problem, but these guys really are a thorn in the party's ass.

I really really wish Boltin' Joe would.
Hard Core
Everyone is giving a lot of play to Cheney's "good cop bad cop" play with Musharraf in Pakistan. Cheney has told Musharraf that he'd better take action against al Qaeda in Pakistan or the big bad Democrats in Congress will cut support to Pakistan. But a commenter at Josh Marshall's site noticed this about the ploy:
This is Dick Cheney. The hardest of hardcore Republican terror scaremongers. Of all those who have tarred Democrats as weak on terror, nobody's done it like Dick. Cheney wasn't playing the good cop or bad cop role before. He simply wasn't walking the beat. This is a tacit acknowledgement that the Democratic Congress is more serious about fighting Al Qaeda than the White House. He's essentially saying, "look, we've let you slide on this, because, well, you know us..." Other things were more important.

Dick Cheney has acknowledged that the Democratic Congress is more intent than the White House on hunting down Al Qaeda operatives.
Ah. Good point!
Murtha's Plan
No matter what you hear in the media about John Murtha's plan to limit Bush and his escalation, the polls show he has majority support among the American people:
Would you support or oppose Congress trying to block Bush’s plan by creating new rules on troop training and rest time that would limit the number of troops available for duty in Iraq?

Support: 58 percent
Oppose: 39 percent
Unknown: 4 percent
Those are significant numbers that Democrats could take to the bank, if they chose to .....

The Wankers at the Washington Post don't include their own poll numbers (above) in their editorial condemning Murtha's plan.
Trenchant Analysis
Craig Crawford regularly writes about Congress. He's has a blurb out today warning everyone about Boltin' Joe changing parties:
That means Republicans would have to threaten filibusters and other obstacles to force passage of a new resolution allowing for such a switchover [of majority control in the Senate].

So while Lieberman cannot directly play kingmaker, that is quite a monkey wrench he is holding.
Excuse me. But a Lieberman switch isn't needed for the Republicans to use filibusters and Senate rules to block legislation. They're doing that right now without the majority. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans have been very comfortable using the filibuster already this session despite their condemnation of the tactic when they had the majority.

I still say, go Joe, go. Where the correct label, Republican.
William Arkin writes about Iran war planning today, and makes a very good point. Arkin doesn't think that an attack is imminent, but he puzzles at why the Pentagon continually "lies" about the planning going on? He posits that the lies can lead to miscalculations by the Iranians and are dangerous. I agree.

But the other point to which I'm referring is this. Arkin says that if we attack Iran, won't the Iraqi government have to approve the use of airbases within Iraq to do so? Arkin discusses how Kuwait was a "lynchpin" to the attack on Saddam Hussein, that without those bases and airspace an attack on Iraq would have been quite difficult if not impossible. Can the same now be said about Iraq with regard to attacking Iran? Would a heavily Shiite government friendly to Iran ever give such permission? He also cites Qatar, Afghanistan, Turkey or Baharain as "lynchpins" in an attack on Iran. If any of these states refuse, it could have a "cascading" effect on the other states thereby stopping an attack.

I'm not sure about Arkin's assumption as the any map of the middle east will show that Iran has an enormous coastline, and the U.S. has two (with a third on the way) carrier fleets in the Persian Gulf. This gives the U.S. the capability to instigate an aerial war against Iran without permission from anyone. If it was a land attack, then Arkin may be correct. But it seems to me that an aerial assault could be done with significant intensity without the permission of any of the regional states. And if Israel instigates the attack, would they even give a rip about getting permission from Jordan or Iraq? I don't think so.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Talabani Ill
Swell. The Kurdish President of the "Iraqi Government" has taken ill and is on his way to Jordan for medical care. Wonder why he's not getting it in Baghdad?
The Enemy Of My Enemy ......
More support for my theory that Israel will lead the charge against Iran:
Three Arab states in the Persian Gulf would be willing to allow the Israel Air force to enter their airspace in order to reach Iran in case of an attack on its nuclear facilities, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa reported on Sunday.

According to the report, a diplomat from one of the gulf states visiting Washington on Saturday said the three states, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have told the United States that they would not object to Israel using their airspace, despite their fear of an Iranian response.

Al-Siyasa further reported that NATO leaders are urging Turkey to open its airspace for an Attack on Iran as well and to also open its airports and borders in case of a ground attack.
Like the quote in Hersh's article from the Saudi diplomat, if the U.S. attacks the Arab world gets blamed. If Israel attacks, the Sunni Arabs can coyly "condemn" the Israeli's, with a wink and nod of course. News about this stuff is busting out all over the place. There must be some serious behind-the-scenes work going on with the news media being used as a club.
Quote of the Day
Digby, discussing the Hersh article and the G.O.P. in general:
It is amateur hour and these zombies must be stopped. Until the Democrats, and the country, recognize this undemocratic and criminal element in our politics it is going to continue every time the Republicans take power. When they have a congressional majority with a Republican president they steal the country blind and when it's a Democrat they harrass him so badly that its a miracle he is able to function. When they have the presidency they become despotic criminals. This has been true for the last 30 years.
Makes Me Nervous
In light of my recent posts about the overall middle east picture, doesn't this make you very nervous?
(AP) Vice President Dick Cheney landed in the U.S.-allied Arab monarchy of Oman on Sunday and went directly to talks with its foreign minister, Omani government officials said.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Oman declined to detail Cheney's plans or the focus of his visit to the sparsely populated oil-producing state, which allows the United States use of four air bases. But an Omani government official said Cheney was to discuss regional security issues, including the U.S. standoff with Iran over its nuclear program. The official, in the capital Muscat, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was unauthorized to speak to the press.

Oman sits across the strategically important Strait of Hormuz from Iran, through which two-fifths of the world's oil passes.

The sultanate allows the United States to use the air bases _ including one just 50 miles from Iran _ for refueling, logistics and storage of pre-positioned military supplies. Little has been revealed publicly about U.S. military ties with the reclusive country, a deeply sensitive topic inside Oman, an isolated country on the southeastern corner of the Arabian peninsula that has been a quiet U.S. military ally for decades
Aside from the obvious strategic importance of the visit, it really really makes me nervous that the visitor to the middle east is Cheney and not a State Department person or even Robert Gates. This would suggest that Cheney is a primary information source between the governments of the middle east and Bush. And we all know how Cheney feels about escalating the war.
My Theory
..... Reinforced again. This quote is from Sy Hersh's article on the regional situation in the middle east. This is a Saudi diplomat commenting on the situation with Iran:
“We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.”
I could quote from Hersh's article all day. Rather, I'm going to suggest you take a few moments and give it a read. Hersh does a great job summarizing the complexities of the whole situation including the extreme involvement of the Saudi's in American decision-making. Once again, the U.S. is hostage to our SUV proclivities. What may be most disturbing is the tendency for the Saudi/U.S. plan in the middle east to actually be embracing elements of the Sunni al Qaeda! The ironies are enough to kill ya.

Hersh further mentions evidence that the administration is running covert operations throughout the middle east "off the books", a la Iran-Contra. He cites Negroponte's recent resignation (and reassignment to the State Dept.) as due to his unwillingness to participate given his experiences in the past scandal. While Negroponte supports the administration goals, he refuses to participate in illegal covert ops.

Update: Go here and watch a CNN interview of Hersh where he discusses the above.
Need More Friedman's
Time to call for a few more Friedman's in giving Iraq a chance:
TIKRIT, Iraq - A U.S. general warned Saturday that increased Sunni attacks in a province extremists call the center of their Islamic state in Iraq may delay plans to hand it over to Iraqi troops by the end of the year.

Plans call for all provinces to be transferred to Iraqi security control by Dec. 31, with the hope that U.S. troops could begin to leave. But increased attacks by Sunni insurgents could delay the transfer of Diyala, just northeast of Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon told The Associated Press.
Perhaps I'm a bit naive. But doesn't it make sense that if the insurgents (all of em') in Iraq wanted to get the U.S. out of Iraq they would lay low and stop attacking? Certainly after a U.S. withdrawal they could then resume their fight for control?

In fact, that's exactly what the Shiites are doing. But not the Sunni's. I think the reason they, particularly Sunni's and more radical Shiites, continue to oppose the occupation is a combination of human nature and strategic positioning. Beating the U.S. in Iraq would represent a shift in political power in the region which might just force Israel to deal with the Palestinian issue.

I also think the war in Iraq has also become the battleground for a larger conflict between Sunnism and Shiaism, just like predicted by knowledgeable observers of the region. So now the U.S. is the proxy military for both sides, stuck in the middle with our "allies" providing much of pressure to stay. The American people want us out, the Shia have been playing nice to assists us in leaving. It's mostly (for now) the Sunni's who continue to rock the boat because they know that a U.S. withdrawal means a power vacuum filled by the Shiites. Our "friends" (all predominately Sunni with Shia unrest within their borders) Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Arabs states do not want that to happen. So ironically the American military, at the behest of the regional Sunni governments, continues to fight against Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

This feels like the Twilight Zone ......
Reporting Error
This must be a reporting error:
America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.

In a move that reflects Washington's growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran's border regions.

The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime.
I think the newspaper has this wrong. These are not terrorists, they're "freedom fighters" pursuing the development of freedom, democracy, and the American way! Why, they're just like those freedom fighters we supported who wanted to rid themselves of Russian domination in Afghanistan!

Seriously, we never learn. Suppose these separatists groups are successful in toppling the Iranian government. Do our government experts in international affairs really think that any government that replaces the current one in Iran will be friendly to the U.S.? This is the most frustrating aspect of watching American foreign policy, the fact that U.S. leaders don't seem to understand that the opposition to the U.S. in the middle east is a popular movement, not just a few rougue leaders and governments who are radical. We've sown so much ill-will in the region that I'm not sure it's possible to reverse the trend toward anti-westernism, at least not in the near term.
War Plan
I figured this was happening, but Sy Hersh now has a source for it:
Feb 24, 2007 — NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite the Bush administration's insistence it has no plans to go to war with Iran, a Pentagon panel has been created to plan a bombing attack that could be implemented within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from President George W. Bush, The New Yorker magazine reported in its latest issue.

The special planning group was established within the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recent months, according to an unidentified former U.S. intelligence official cited in the article by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh in the March 4 issue.
More smoke. Still wondering about the fire. Certainly I lean in the direction that they're going to do it. That third carrier group is not yet in place, so they're unlikely to attack imminently. But, still, this looks like more evidence of an plan to attack. I think Bush's mindset is such that he has nothing to lose as a lame-duck President who now see's his legacy in being a President who stood up to public opinion and "did the right thing". I really think the only way an attack on Iran can be stopped is through Congressional impeachment, which is unlikely.

Update: I was reading an article describing some of the details of the U.S. military deployment in the Persian Gulf. The deployment is extensive and on a hair trigger. I found this quote particularly interesting:
Lieutenant Commander Matt Pothier returned yesterday from Afghanistan having delivered air support to British soldiers. He said: "Right now I have more opportunities than I've ever had to use weapons where we know there aren't any friendly people. In combat that's very rewarding."
Nothing like those pesky friendlies to prevent you from playing that video game a full throttle. Maybe Lt. Commander Pothier needs to spend some time in Baghdad to get a feel for what it's like on the ground during such operations? I understand that warriors are trained to be, well, warriors. But this kind of attitude grates on me. War should be a reluctant experience, not one that you relish for the fun of using your new toys.

Update II: I think this explains why the messages are so mixed on attacking Iran:
SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.

Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.
I think history will show that there is a war going on within the administration about policy in the middle east. The Cheney wing of the government wants to attack Iran, the majority of the Pentagon (including Robert Gates) does not want an attack thinking it would be suicide.

Update III: More evidence that Israel will lead the charge against Iran.

Please take note that most of the information in this post that I link to is from the British press. Afterall, it's a weekend and the American press can't be bothered. Besides, even if it was a weekday, reporters wouldn't report these stories because they'd lose their place in the weenie line at the D.C. cock-tail parties. Here's a link to Sy Hersh's latest article in the New Yorker, a must read.
Juan Cole
This article also discusses the way that the security plan in Baghdad and al-Anbar has displaced many guerrillas into Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad, where direct attacks on US troops are up 70 percent!
Friday, February 23, 2007
Watch Out Who You Arrest
Juan Cole is labeling this a breaking story of some importance:
US troops arrested Ammar al-Hakim, the son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, on his return from Iran. There are conflicting reports on whether he has been released.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is the leader of the United Iraqi Alliance, the major bloc in parliament, and is enormously powerful and influential in Iraq. He also heads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its Badr Corps paramilitary. He visited Bush in the White House on Dec. 4. If the arrest of his son was deliberate, it could be a significant break between the US and its Shiite allies in Iraq. If it was an accident, it was inexcusable stupidity.
I'm gonna bet on the inexcusable stupidity. If it was on purpose there will be quite a dust-up between the Iraq "government" and Bush.
Right On Schedule
The security program in Iraq is moving forward as predicted:
The Post and the NYT both stuff good dispatches from Iraq that illustrate the seemingly never-ending divide between Iraqi and American soldiers. The NYT takes a look at the street patrols in Baghdad that are part of the new security plan and says nothing much has changed. U.S. troops are still taking the lead and highly outnumber their Iraqi counterparts, who often make their sectarian affiliations clear and sometimes even warn residents of the approaching Americans. The Post spends some time in a police station in Baqubah that has both Iraqis and Americans. Again, it's the Americans that have to take the lead, and there is not much communication with the Iraqis, who are relegated to a different part of the station and have fewer rations and inferior equipment.
I have read nothing with any credibility that suggests that the escalation is just that .... an American escalation. The situation on the ground is the same as it's been for years except now American forces are far more extended from support and vulnerable. By soldiers being stationed in "alamo's", outposts in "cleared" (they can't even decide who the good guys are and who the bad guys are) territory, they become subject to much more aggressive attacks. And probably worst of all, the so-called Iraqi army is as bad as expected, showing up in fewer numbers than promised and underperforming dramatically.

Iraq is a country without a national identity. Wishing it had a national identity does not give it one and pursuing a strategy that assumes it does is going to lead to a long, drawn out, and ultimately failing military operation. It seems everyone understands this except for a narrow minority in the American government. Even Maliki understands it and is obviously just playing for time, and enjoying the anti-Sunni tilt of the American military. And so it goes ......

Update: Here are two quotes from the above mentioned news stories:
"Most of the troops . . . said they had no idea how their work might contribute to a larger effort, or even who the enemy is. And they said they do not trust the Iraqi police officers living one floor below them. At least one U.S. soldier stood guard with his rifle at all times, ensuring that none of the Iraqi police ventured into the American living area."
At least two of the national police officers who turned out for the operation were moving ahead of the American troops not to lead the security drive but to warn the residents to hide their weapons and other incriminating evidence. . . .

"The much anticipated effort to wrest Baghdad streets from the control of militias and insurgents has been presented in news conferences and public statements as an Iraqi-led operation. Iraqi officials have been out front, announcing arrests, weapons finds and other details, as well as new decrees intended to halt two years of so-called sectarian cleansing. But on the streets, the joint patrols seemed little different from those of the past few years: A handful of Iraqis, acting at the direction of a larger group of Americans, opening drawers and closets and looking behind furniture as they searched for banned weapons or other contraband.

"For the first few days of the operation, about 2,500 American troops took part, compared with about 300 Iraqi forces, a mix of police and Army personnel, military officials said."
Thursday, February 22, 2007
This Is Ridiculous
Ok, I've endured the neverending coverage of Anna Nicole Smith. Her rise. Her death. The media circus. The stupid courtroom fight about where to bury her. The idiot judge who has the maturity of a tadpole.

But this is absolutely the height of ridiculous. Newsweek, a national news weekly, has an interview with someone discussing the deterioration of her body while the fights go on:
To learn more about what happens when burials are delayed, NEWSWEEK’s Catharine Skipp spoke with Dr. Sherwin Nuland, who teaches bioethics and medical history at Yale University School of Medicine and is the author of the 1994 National Book Award winner, “How We Die,” and the soon-to-be-published “The Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well Being.”
I thought this quote was particularly savory in answer to the totally stupid question, "What is the danger if the body remains untended?":
Did you ever open a refrigerator that someone turned off two weeks ago and look at the meats?...We are made of the same thing that roadkill is made of--it is a dreadful stench. That is the major reason for not being able to view the body. No matter how much air freshener they put in there, it ain’t gonna help.
Just when you thought the media and the national discourse couldn't get any worse, it does.

This is actually worse than Oprah interviewing on her wonderful fountain of public service show, of all people, sexual offender Bill O'Reilly (who also dissed an interviewee on his show who was an abductee) on, ......... wait for it ................ child abductions.

The hits just keep on comin'
Functionally Nuts
That's the essence of what the United States of America has done to one of it's citizens, Jose Padilla. He is so messed up from his "detainment" that he is unable to even be tried in court. His symptoms are most acute when asked to recount the events of his detainment. Duh.
If You Were An Iranian General, What Would You Do?
If you are interested in an experts opinion on the options open to Iran in the event of an American attack, take a look at this., written as if presented to the Iranian government by it's military leadership.
I call our strategy “horizontal escalation.” I know horizontal escalation is not an Iranian term, but it captures the essence of what we will be doing. The term comes from the Cold War. U.S. strategists used it when they were referring to attacks on the Soviet Union outside the Central Front in Europe. The essence of the strategy is: “If you can’t win in one place, take the fight to another.”
If stories about the upcoming (and continuing) war between Google and Microsoft interest you, you'll like this post. Frankly, I think Google will win this one. The smacking down of Microsoft would really break my heart.

The Threat
Boltin' Joe keeps threatening to leave the Democratic Party and switch to the G.O.P.

I wish the SOB would just do it. It won't make a damned bit of difference anyway because the Dems have such a slim majority margin anyway. Besides, from what I've read, the Senate rules would preclude a change in the majority components, i.e. chairmanships, anyway. So Joe, just go .... please.
Lazy Reporters
Geeesh. You wanna see just how lazy the media can be? AP was reporting a story on Iran. In that report, the told of an Iranian dissident group that is claiming that Iran is putting it's nuclear program under the names of front companies. You know, like naming the CIA operation in Vietnam "Air America", or the company that Valerie Plame worked for was "Brewster and Jennings". I know that because Vice President Cheney told me. Anyway, it's a common practice done to keep things under cover.


Fubar at Needlenose did something that the AP apparently couldn't be bothered to do. He used google to translate the cover company names from Farsi to English:
So I did what AP apparently didn't have time to do -- get a translation of the names. It didn't take long to find out what they really meant:

* Tamin Tajhizat Sanayeh Hasteieh: Corporation for Obtaining Nuclear Industries.

* Shakhes Behbood Sanaat: Division for Industrial Improvement.

* Sookht Atomi Reactorhaye Iran: Iranian Nuclear Reactor Fuel Company.
Go read Fubar's post, it has more wonderful tidbits. Once again (see: Chalabi, Ahmad) we have crack intelligence sources inside a hostile country feeding us horseshit. And AP was right there to lap it up without any skepticism or checking.

Hasn't our news media learned anything? AP has the power and ability to feed this crap to news organizations throughout the country leaving the impression, carefully planted, that Iran is hiding their nuclear program. By the way, as a side note, these new company names are actually much clearer in describing what the company does than the previous names. Anyway, even the most mainstream media is not to be trusted on any stories. I don't know if it has always thus been so, but it certainly is now.
The Market
Barry notes an interesting datapoint today:
Here's a data point to make you stop and think: As of today, more people have borrowed money from their their brokers to buy stocks than ever before.

That number was reached this past month, with Margin debt hitting an all-time high, passing even the days of the tech/telecom/internet boom.
This is typically a big big warning sign. When people are willing to take such risk in a stock market gamble, it often is the mark of a market that is ready to drop significantly. Barry then goes on to highlight several other measures that typically have been warning lights for the market, all ignored thus far.

The more of these indicators there are, it seems to me the more fragile the stock market rally is. There are no new paradigms in the stock market. The market has shot straight up despite history telling us that this is unnatural. At a minimal, we are overdue for a sharp pullback and at worst for the short-term (secular) bull market to end. It's like repealing the laws of gravity for the market to just continue upward. My bet is that this summer will look pretty ugly.
Armchair General
I've theorized the Cheney's craziness is a relatively recent phenomena, perhaps due to his terrible physical condition. But Digby puts up a story about Cheney today that has my mind right:
Following one White House meeting at which he'd asked for more time and more troops, Stormin' Norman reports; Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell called to warn the Desert Storm commander that he was being loudly compared, by a top administration official, to George McClellan. "My God," the official supposedly complained. "He's got all the force he needs. Why won't he just attack?" Schwarzkopf notes that the unnamed official who'd made the comment "was a civilian who knew next to nothing about military affairs, but he'd been watching the Civil War documentary on public television and was now an expert."

And then, twenty pages later, Schwarzkopf casually drops the information that he got an inspirational gift from Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney right before the air war finally got under way. Cheney was presenting a gift to a military man, and he chose something with an appropriate theme: "(A) complete set of videotapes of Ken Burns's PBS series, The Civil War."

But that wasn't the only gift that Dick Cheney had for Norman Schwarzkopf. Having figured out that the general was being too cautious with his fourth combat command in three decades of soldiering, Cheney got his staff busy and began presenting Schwarzkopf with his own ideas about how to fight the Iraqis: What if we parachute the 82nd Airborne into the far western part of Iraq, hundreds of miles from Kuwait and totally cut off from any kind of support, and seize a couple of missile sites, then line up along the highway and drive for Baghdad? Schwarzkopf charitably describes the plan as being "as bad as it could possibly be... But despite our criticism, the western excursion wouldn't die: three times in that week alone Powell called with new variations from Cheney's staff. The most bizarre involved capturing a town in western Iraq and offering it to Saddam in exchange for Kuwait." (Throw in a Pete Rose rookie card?) None of this Walter Mitty posturing especially surprised Schwarzkopf, who points out that he'd already known Cheney as "one of the fiercest cold warriors in Congress.
And this guy is now the de facto leader of the free world. We are screwed.
Good News
This is good news:
Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.: "In our news gathering, we seek to be strictly nonpartisan and nonideological. We're human beings, we make mistakes, but we do not set out to be, nor do I think we are, liberal. And judging from my e-mail traffic in recent years, the left is much more critical, and much more angrily critical, of our coverage than the right has been." - February 22, 2007
Damned straight.

For years the right screamed their heads off while the left rolled their eyes (but did nothing) at the nuttiness. And while rolling their eyes at the patently obvious stupidity of the rightwing whining, the media began tilting to the right because of the pressure. So perhaps this kind of feedback from Downie suggests that the efforts in the past few years to counterbalance the right are having an effect.
Have any of you noticed how the Iraq war is taking on that surrealistic quality so well displayed in the movie Apocalypse Now?

The Spin I'm In
Froomkin headlines today with the attempt by the White House to spin the British withdrawal as a sign of progress. It's not a difficult argument to make:
But Jordan and Partlow write that "military and political analysts disputed Blair's upbeat description of the situation in the Basra area. They also said they believed the timing of the British drawdown may have more to do with plunging polls for Blair's Labor Party, pressure from British military officials and Blair's desire to begin an endgame for Iraq before he leaves office. . . .

"'While the British zone is much quieter,' [said Michael Williams, head of the transatlantic program at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies,] the Basra area 'still has a number of security issues' and it 'is foolhardy' to believe that Iraqi forces are ready to assume total control of the area. He also noted that if Blair had the political will, he could deploy some troops to help out the Americans in Baghdad instead of sending them home."
Southern Iraq is dominated by Shiite militia's. The big difference between the conflicts in the north and the south is the conflict between the Shiites who are more allied with Iran and those who are not. Sadr has a growing presence in southern Iraq and is a torn in SCIRI's fanny. The British withdrawal will mean either a shift of American forces to southern Iraq, or a civil war heating up between the two Shiite factions with Iran right in the middle of it (and we know what that would mean). The most likely outcome is that both will occur.
Nancy Near Philadelphia makes a very interesting point today regarding the use of praise with children:
Smartness, according to the article, is something we can't help having or not having. Effort, on the other hand, is something we can choose to make or not to make. Without positive reinforcement for effort, there is little incentive for the making of it.
Go to her site to read her thoughts on this and get the link for the article.

Doesn't this idea, which I wholeheartedly agree with, offer an indictment to the entire educational system? Do children receive meaningful reward at school for the effort they put in, or the achievement? When I was in kindgergarten I would receive a rating for effort, but never anywhere else. In fact when in college, I was incentivized to exercise minimal effort vs. maximal grade achievement ... and the two were not always aligned. For example, if I could get an "A" or "B" in a class without purchasing the book, I would and did. My effort was the minimal amount expended for the course requirement. If there had been some sort of effort measurement, I'm sure I would have learned a whole lot more.
Stuck In The Middle Again
And the rape case continues:
All the papers go inside with the latest developments in the alleged rape of a Sunni woman by Iraqi police officers. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fired a top Sunni official who had criticized the government and had called for an investigation. Meanwhile, the prime minister's office said it will sue the woman for making up the story and released what it claimed was a portion of the woman's medical record, which supposedly proves she wasn't raped. McClatchy showed the file to some rape experts who said the medical file doesn't prove that at all, and, in fact, some of the injuries reported are consistent with reports of sexual assault. USAT says the U.S. military will launch its own investigation
Is Maliki nuts or what? I read somewhere yesterday that Maliki gave the alleged rapists medals too.

Maliki's handling of this situation is appalling, even for a Bush School of Politics Graduate. Even if, and that's a big "if", this woman is an insurgent plant with a false claim, by continuing to pursue it publically Maliki makes her a martyr and cause celeb' ... exactly what the insurgents would like? There is no such thing as definative proof in a rape situation, it always comes down to a "who do you believe" situation, leaving the door wide open for an extended controversy. And if the woman was raped then he simply re-raping. In either case, Maliki is feeding into the Sunni insurgency's P.R. wheelhouse. It certainly doesn't look like the actions of a "national" leader.

And, as usual, guess who's in the middle with a no-win situation. No matter what the U.S. investigation determines, it's a loser with someone.

Update: Here's another case of Iraq military (Shiites) raping Sunni's ... and the perps have confessed.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
We'll Stand Up As They Stand Down
WaPo has an article about a small part of the "security program" in Baghdad. I ran across this interesting tidbit:
Gaining this understanding is one of the most difficult challenges facing U.S. soldiers operating here. Over two days, more than 350 U.S. troops involved in the operation searched 95 homes, discovered about a dozen roadside bombs -- including two that exploded under their tanks, causing no injuries -- and took scattered small-arms fire. But they failed to capture a single insurgent.

Although the security plan has been cast as an Iraqi-led mission, no Iraqi police operate around Ibrahim bin Ali. And Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton, the battalion commander, said he could not persuade Iraqi army commandos to assist.

"They didn't return my calls," he said.
(Said in a nasal voice) "I'm sorry, the number you have reached is not in service at this time".

But something else caught my eye. In different portions of the article there were these two pieces:
"I don't know who they are. They look exactly the same. The bad guys and the good guys look exactly the same."
Followed later by:
Without such heightened presence, he said, even armed residents are afraid to confront the insurgents. "I know they have AK-47 weapons in their house. What they'll always tell you is, 'until you're out here full time we can't' " respond, Pinkerton [the American commander] said.
So when the Americans search a house and find guns, the residents tell them they're just keeping weapons to protect themselves, although they're afraid to actually confront an insurgent "until you're out here full time ..." . Yet the military acknowledges that the insurgents look like everyone else.

Of course this is the only real policy that the military can follow .... hearts and minds and all that. But this snippet simply highlights the craziness of the this policy. Oh. BTW. The soldiers in that sector slept on the roof of an abandoned building that night, maintaining the "hold" strategy.
More Summation
As you likely know by now, the Libby jury is in deliberations. Here's a must read Marcy Wheeler post on how Fitz and his team ate Ted Wells for lunch during the closing. She paints a picture of a very dramatic ending with a perfect pitch pitch by the prosecution while the defense was exposed as actors.
Heli Down
That's eight.

When the insurgents adapt, they do so with a vengence.

Update: I'm sorry. The helicopter didn't crash. Rather it had a "hard landing" ..... because it was full of holes from machine gun fire.
St. Pathetic
Is there really anything more pathetic than St. John McCain these days? I read earlier today that he's flipped on ethanol. Is there anything he hasn't or won't flip on?
"John said some nasty things about me the other day, and then next time he saw me, ran over to me and apologized. Maybe he'll apologize to Rumsfeld."

-- Vice President Dick Cheney, quoted by The Politico, about Sen. John McCain's recent comments about former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Really. The guy has become a comic book character in his pandering.

Political Action
Here's an opportunity to speak to Democrats about Fox News!
According to Media Bistro, the Nevada Democratic Party is working with Fox News Channel to host a debate with all the Democratic Party Presidential candidates in August. This is, to put it mildly, insane. Fox News is a partisan GOP propaganda outlet, not a news station, and it is irresponsible for any candidate or party official to lend it the immense credibility of a Presidential forum. It would be better to do this on MSNBC, CNN, C-Span, or just stream it on the internet where all the blogs can carry it.
Go here to sign up. And putting it in your own words will mean more than using the form. But using the form is better than doing nothing.
Quote Of The Day
Barry Ritholtz on today's release of the Consumer Price Index:
Consumer prices rose more than expected last month, with big price gains coming in food and medical care. Fortunately, these two items, along with energy prices, are totally irrelevant to our economy and personal consumption, and so don't matter all that much to the Federal Reserve.


Inflation ex-inflation was, as always, flat.
Hmmm. What A Discovery!
Gosh, isn't it fortuitously interesting that, upon further review, oil companies are now saying that there's plenty of gas and oil in the Sunni areas of Iraq.
Get Cheney?
Here's one expert on Plamegate who thinks Fitzgerald is still after Cheney.

If anyone has a good guess, it's Marcy Wheeler.

Update: My my. This quote from Fitzgerald's jury summation would certainly support Wheeler's assertion:
"There is a cloud over the vice president . . . And that cloud remains because this defendant obstructed justice," Fitzgerald said.

"There is a cloud over the White House. Don't you think the FBI and the grand jury and the American people are entitled to straight answers?" Fitzgerald asked the jury.
Fitzgerald put his entire summation in the plural "they", not "him", leaving no doubt that he's concluded that Cheney's behind the whole thing, but that Libby's lying to shield the Vice President.

Ooooo la la ..... If convicted, and if given a long sentence by the judge who is known for stiff sentences, will Libby deal? Or, more likely, has the deal already been made that Bush will free him?
Fame and Fortune
I just don't understand it.
Kids today. They have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy. They are show-offs, fame whores, pornographic little loons who post their diaries, their phone numbers, their stupid poetry—for God’s sake, their dirty photos!—online. They have virtual friends instead of real ones. They talk in illiterate instant messages. They are interested only in attention—and yet they have zero attention span, flitting like hummingbirds from one virtual stage to another.
Why would the younger generation be this way, so narcissitic, so self-centered, so cravenly fame seeking?
I'm A Dinner Jacket
He's at it again. How can he use such radical, wild, and crazy logic?
"Justice demands that those who want to hold talks with us shut down their nuclear fuel cycle program too," he said. "Then, we can hold dialogue under a fair atmosphere."
It's A Good Thing
We're back in the Twilight Zone.

Cheney on the British leaving Iraq:
Cheney called it good news.

"I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," Cheney told ABC News while in Tokyo.

"In fact, I talked to a friend just the other day who had driven to Baghdad down to Basra, seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved from a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view they had made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore reduce their force levels," he added.
The guy was likely in a tank with air cover.

"It's a good thing to wish them out of Iraq, it's a good thing!"

Update: One of Josh Marshall's readers asks a good question:
Josh, one of the arguments made by Cheney in the interview (and others such as John Howard) is that the British withdrawal is good news because it reflects improvement in the situation in the South. Well, if this is the case, then why aren't the British troops being moved to where they are needed instead of being withdrawn? Why is nobody asking this question?
Ahhhhh .....

Good question?
Sadr City
So far, the U.S. military has focused on Sunni insurgents. Moqtada al Sadr, likely taking his cue from al Maliki, has been laying low while the American's do the Shiites dirty work in the civil war. But now the U.S. is apparently thinking about moving into Sadr City:
BAGHDAD — U.S. and Iraqi forces have moved aggressively in the last week to combat Sunni Arab insurgents in neighborhoods across the capital and to establish a stronger presence in religiously mixed districts long plagued by sectarian violence.

But as the new security crackdown enters a second week, they face their most sensitive challenge: whether, when and how to move into the Shiite-dominated slum of Sadr City, stronghold of the Al Mahdi militia.

Political pressure has mounted to crack down on the Baghdad neighborhood that harbors the militia loyal to radical anti-American cleric Muqtada Sadr. Sunni Arabs, who make up the backbone of the insurgency, have long accused Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of allowing Sadr City to remain a haven for the militia to keep the support of Sadr's followers.
Since the announced crackdown in Baghdad, Sadr City has been relatively quiet. The strategy of playing nice while the American's fight their war for them has been working well for the Shiites. But the strategy is playing out exactly the way the Sunni's predicted and they are really putting the heat on the U.S. to be even-handed.

A serious move against any Shiite Mahdi militia areas will likely result in massive urban fighting and perhaps a collapse of the Iraq government. Not enforcing the law evenhandedly delegtimizes the Iraq government and the escalation in Baghdad. Juan Cole notes:
The Mahdi Army (sic) are the street gangs of the Sadr Movement, to which millions of Iraqis have given their allegiance. You can't uproot a social movement with a few patrols and firefights. Sadrism will be there long after the US is forced to withdraw from Iraq.
So will Sunnism. So will SCIRI.

Like everything Iraq, there are no "wins" available.
Rape Follow-up
Remember that awful rape story?

The official Iraqi (al Maliki) response was to deny it happened. Now Maliki has taken it a step further:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday fired a top Sunni official who had called for an international investigation into the rape allegations leveled by a Sunni Arab woman against three members of the Shiite-dominated security forces.

A statement by al-Maliki's office gave no reason in announcing the dismissal of Ahmed Abdul-Ghafour al-Samaraie, head of the Sunni Endowments. Al-Samaraie, whose organization cares for Sunni mosques and shrines in
Iraq, had joined other prominent Sunnis in criticizing the government's handling of the case.
Maliki must have attended the George Bush Jr. school of government.

Rape is a big deal everywhere, but for a Muslim woman to come forth with rape allegations is a big deal fraught with risk for the accuser:
Rape is considered especially heinous in conservative Muslim countries, and victims rarely come forward since they risk not only public scorn but possible "honor killing" at the hands of male relations seeking to restore the family's honor.
The alleged victim was treated by Americans who are not releasing the details of her examination. The woman is Sunni, so of course the entire episode is just adding fuel to the sectarian divides. And guess who's in the middle of the whole thing?

Update: A nurse who examined the woman corraborates her story:
A nurse who said she treated the woman after the attack said that she saw signs of sexual and physical assault. The woman, according to the nurse, could identify one of her attackers because he was not wearing a mask, as were the others, and could identify a second attacker by a mark on his genitals.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Lousy Defense
This is too funny.

Ted Wells, the attorney for Scooter Libby, demonstrated for the jury why they should convict Libby:
Theodore V. Wells, one of Libby’s attorneys, took a detour from his prepared remarks in the CIA leak case after prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg reminded jurors of Wells’ opening statement three weeks ago in which Wells painted Libby as the scapegoat in a White House plot to protect President Bush’s aide, Karl Rove. After making a big splash with that assertion, the Libby team pivoted, canceling plans to call Libby and Vice President Dick Cheney as witnesses.

Zeidenberg, borrowing a page from Libby’s own “faulty memory” defense, told jurors their memories weren’t failing them if they couldn’t recall hearing evidence proving Wells’s Libby-as-victim argument. “If you think back and draw a blank, I suggest to you ladies and gentlemen, it’s not a problem with your memory. It’s because there was no such evidence.'’

Wells called Zeidenberg’s remarks “personal” and said he “made no such promise” to return to his argument that Libby was being scapegoated. Indeed, he asserted that the prosecution fell short of its own burden to prove Libby guilty.
Wells doesn't remember making the assertion that the White House was throwing him under the bus to protect Rove?

What a joke.

It was even made obvious in the testimony by Libby's own witnesses that Libby felt dissed by the White House as it protected Rove but not Libby. Unless the jury is totally asleep, I would think this little problem would put Libby in the slammer!
We're Sad
Nuff' said:
The NYT examines the American Idol phenomenon and says the show has gone against all television conventional wisdom by actually seeing an increase in ratings, even though it's currently in its sixth season. To put the ratings in perspective, the program "could lose half its audience and still rank among the top 10 shows on television." Meanwhile, other networks are forced to switch their programs around to not compete with what the chief scheduler for CBS called "the ultimate schoolyard bully." Jeff Zucker, the new chief executive of NBC Universal, gives the most depressing assessment: "I think Idol is the most impactful show in the history of television."
This is why these places are called "Alamo's" by the U.S. soldiers:
The New York Times and Los Angeles Times lead with yesterday's coordinated attack by Sunni insurgents on a recently opened American combat outpost north of Baghdad that killed two American soldiers and wounded 17.


The attack involved at least one car bomb, which was followed by insurgents firing on the outpost from various directions. Although U.S. outposts are frequently attacked from a distance, yesterday's coordinated frontal attack could be seen as a shift toward more-aggressive tactics.
I think I'd call them death traps myself.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Gang Rape
Riverbend is a blog written by an Iraqi woman living in Iraq. Today she blogs about another Iraqi woman who went public with the details of a gang rape she endured perpetrated by Iraqi Security forces. There seems to be Americans involved although this is less clear from the interview. If you have the stomach for it, go give it a read and witness the anguish .... and rage .... that is a part of this unholy war.

Update: The "Iraqi government" investigated the charges are found them to be false. Yeah right. Like Bush investigating his decision to go to war and finding he lied.
My Pocketbook Likes Democrats
Angry Bear has a post up (actually several posts) which indisputably show that you're better off, from an economic standpoint, to vote Democratic. I'm not going to review all the measures or posts here, you can do that by reading them. Better yet, bookmark them for those arguments with conservatives who are quite sure the opposite is true.

A few of the measures looked at are GDP, median wage growth, stock market returns, deficits and unemployment. Kevin Drum has further insights on the same topic, again good bookmarks to have. Who knows exactly why, but it's clearly not just a random occurrence. Drum guesses it has to to with Democratic policies favoring the masses rather than Republican policies pandering to the elite, particularly near elections. I think I could agree with that.
Faux News At It's Best

Couldn't resist this bit of Breaking News! They simply must keep all the conservatives (including BTW evangelicals) up-to-date on the latest fashions!
Can They Possibly Get Worse
The Bush White House is so completely out-to-lunch these days, they even screw up a photo-op:
“‘Are you telling me that I can’t go to the ceremony ’cause I’m an amputee?‘” asked David Thomas, an Iraq war veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. Thomas was told he could not wear shorts to attend a ceremony with President Bush because the media would be there, and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row. David responded, “I’m not ashamed of what I did, and y’all shouldn’t be neither.” When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it.
If Bush didn't have his head up his ass, he would not only have his picture taken with this guy, but he'd have him to dinner in the family quarters of the White House.
Rubber, Meet Road

Might be time to buy some more oil futures ....
Tangled Webs
We do weave em'.

Go read this and be amazed.

Update: For any of those referred from this guy's blog, read the comments for my further comment on this nonsense.
Follow The Bouncing Ball
That's what Republican policy positions are like.

Digby does a fine job today highlighting the idiocy of one G.O.P. nutbar as he rails against Dems for even thinking of cutting funding for the escalation in Iraq while he supported such a policy in Kosovo.

As Digby notes:
These principled conservatives really get you coming and going don't they?
Yep. They do.
I'm Sorry ....
.... so sorry ......
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 — Back when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was first lady, no one better embodied what she once called the “vast right-wing conspiracy” than Richard Mellon Scaife.

Mr. Scaife, reclusive heir to the Mellon banking fortune, spent more than $2 million investigating and publicizing accusations about the supposed involvement of Mrs. Clinton and former President Bill Clinton in corrupt land deals, sexual affairs, drug running and murder.

But now, as Mrs. Clinton is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Scaife’s checkbook is staying in his pocket.

Christopher Ruddy, who once worked full-time for Mr. Scaife investigating the Clintons and now runs a conservative online publication he co-owns with Mr. Scaife, said, “Both of us have had a rethinking.”

“Clinton wasn’t such a bad president,” Mr. Ruddy said. “In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today.”
Nuthin' like a dose of a really bad President to offer some perspective, hey?
Where's Grandpa When You Need Him?
Aka, quote of the day:
“I will screw him in the ass!”
President George Bush to Ariel Sharon when asked what he would do with Osama Bin Laden when he caught him. Lieberman, Broder, Roberts and the other pearl cluthers must be shocked! Why, why ..... he almost sounds like a (gasp!) blogger!

Here's another catch from the same site:
Just before he died, Uri Dan, who had been Ariel Sharon’s loyal mouthpiece for almost 50 years, published a book in France. It includes a report of a conversation Sharon told him about, with President (George W.) Bush. Sharon asked for permission to kill Arafat and Bush gave it to him, with the proviso that it must be done undetectably. When Dan asked Sharon whether it had been carried out, Sharon answered: “It’s better not to talk about that.” Dan took this as confirmation…
Update: We're on a roll here:
As Fleischer recounted [an exchange with Helen Thomas about Saddam Hussein] for the president, Bush's mood changed, according to Levine. He grew grim and determined—steely. Out of nowhere, he unleashed a stream of expletives.

"Did you tell her I don't like motherfuckers who gas their own people?" the president snapped.

"Did you tell her I don't like assholes who lie to the world?"

"Did you tell her I'm going to kick his sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast?"
Oh my! What will we do about the children. Well. At least the President is keeping the dignity of the Presidency in place by not getting a blow job!
[Busshhhh] loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he’s still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can’t get enough of fart jokes. He’s also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.
Are We All Delusional?
Living in our own little worlds where we're surrounded by fantasy?
Experiments have found that an average person tells about two lies every 10 minutes. Also, those who lie frequently have the best intentions and think they are benefiting others.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Iran Wanted to Negotiate
This story has been floating around awhile, but it looks like it may be heating up with the revelation that Karl Rove got proposal, negating White House claims that they don't know nooooothingggg.

Stonewalling? Incompetence? I guess it doesn't really matter.