Friday, November 30, 2007

Now You See It, Now You Don't

In an about face, the United States on Friday withdrew a U.N. resolution endorsing this week's agreement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders to try to reach a Mideast peace settlement by the end of 2008, apparently after Israel objected.

Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff informed the Security Council that the United States was pulling the resolution from consideration less than 24 hours after Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad introduced it and welcomed the "very positive" response from council members.


Why don’t we save time and trouble and just have an automatic “We want what Israel wants” standing resolution?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Andrew Card Busts Karl Rove

Karl Rove asserted on the Charlie Rose show recently that it was Congress that pushed the Bush administration into war with Iraq. “The administration was opposed” to voting for a war resolution in the fall of 2002, Rove claimed. “It seemed it make things move too fast,” he argued.

As ThinkProgress documented, key leaders in both the House and the Senate — including then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) — were asking Bush in 2002 to delay the Iraq war vote. But as Daschle recalled, when he asked Bush to delay the vote, Bush “looked at Cheney and he looked at me, and there was a half-smile on his face. And he said: ‘We just have to do this now.’”

This morning, former White House chief of staff at the time, Andrew Card, appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and completely discredited Rove’s argument.

Watch it at Think Progress.

Hmmmmm. I wonder if there was some insider rivalry that Card is feeling free to express now.

Al Gore, Back in the Oval Office

George invited Al to the Oval Office for a half-hour visit after the Nobel Prize presentations.

Bush aides said it was private and would not comment on it. Gore, trailed by the press as he left the White House very publicly on foot, allowed that he and Bush spent the whole time talking about global warming.

"He was very gracious in setting up the meeting and it was a very good and substantive conversation," Gore said.

  Times of India

Oh, no doubt.

Krugman on Social Security

The Social Security trustees estimate the 75-year financial shortfall of the program at 0.7% of GDP. That compares with a general fund deficit – the federal deficit outside of Social Security – of 3.3% of GDP last year (that is, not even taking into account future demands on Medicare and Medicaid.) Social Security, in other words, is in much better financial shape than the rest of the government.


Social Security fades to insignificance in any realistic discussion of entitlements problems. Medicare’s unfunded liabilities, as estimated in the trustees’ reports, are seven times those of Social Security. The unfunded liabilities of Medicare Part D alone are twice those of Social Security.

If you’re seriously worried about America’s long-run fiscal prospects, then, you should talk a lot about the general fund deficit and the problem of rising health care costs, and hardly at all about Social Security. But that’s not how it works in DC these days.

  Conscience of a Liberal

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Give Up. Uncle.

Somewhen, and I can almost place the moment, the world as I knew it vanished and was replaced by a cartoon. I seem to be wandering around in this bizarre, absurd, and often dark dream, too awake for comfort. And it's not just the political scene. Oh no.

In my department at work, we recently had to instigate new procedures, because our public lab computers were hopelessly screwed up. We purchased some new ones and reformatted the remainder in a group of 40 computers. That is not fun. While for this part of the country it's not bad wages, our lab assistants don't get paid much. They aren't rocket scientists, but they are adults over the age of 35 with high school diplomas. Still, so as to keep the machinery working properly, we had to scale back the assistants' maintenance responsibilities. I made them slips of paper titled "Repair Request" and asked them to fill out these simple forms with the computer number, the date, and a brief description of the problem, whenever there is a problem with a computer, and turn the requests in to me. Two weeks later, I find that they have been filling them out and putting them away in a drawer. I'm trying to think what their reasoning might have been, and what purpose they thought those papers served.

As for that picture at the top of this post, that's a copy of a handout that was given to every staff member today for a coloring contest! When one of my lab assistants gave it to me, I was sure that, being a new employee and a non-native English speaker, she had misunderstood the situation. (I myself have been employed here for a little less than a year.) Surely, these were for the pint-size patrons we have in the children's computer lab. So I asked my boss, the IT director. "Oh, no," he said, "there are employees who have been anxiously awaiting the coloring contest," and he handed me a little basket with a pink bow on it and filled with crayons. "They'll put them up on a wall and choose a winner.

"You laugh," he said. "But this is just the beginning of our exciting little activities around here. Wait till Easter when they ask you to hide your eggs," he said, laughing as he headed out the door.

I know this is Texas, but, come ON.

On second thought, perhaps I should find out what the winner's prize is before I so casually toss my Rudolf in the waste can.

Update: Some of the contest entries:

After seeing this post, a friend asked me if we hire the handicapped where I work. I don't know how to answer that. Before the coloring contest, I would have said no.

You can enlarge the picture by clicking on it, should you desire to get a better look. And, by the way, the first of them won third prize (a box of shortbread).

Up in Smoke

A fire at a pipeline from Canada that feeds oil to the United States killed two people and sent oil prices soaring before burning out Thursday morning, officials said.

Two workers fixing the underground pipeline were killed when fumes apparently escaped and ignited the blaze in Clearbrook, about 215 miles northwest of Minneapolis.


John Ashcroft Is Alive and Well and (Still) Living in Loonyville

Last night, former Attorney General John Ashcroft delivered an address on national security at the University of Colorado. The event was marked by heated protests. About 20 student protesters wearing “shirts with ’shame’ written on the backs and wearing American flags over their faces, welcomed Ashcroft to the stage by standing up and turning their backs to him.”

During the speech, Ashcroft caused an uproar when he declared Guantanamo Bay was a “good place” for detainees. In addition, he defended the torture tactic of waterboarding:

Ashcroft also responded to questions from the audience. The first question came from a woman who asked if Ashcroft would be willing to be subjected to waterboarding.

“The things that I can survive, if it were necessary to do them to me, I would do,” he said.

  Think Progress

What did he say?

I'm thinking maybe it's necessary.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Up to Our Nostrils in Slime

The federal official helming a probe into potentially illegal partisan political activities conducted by Karl Rove and other White House officials is himself the focus of a federal investigation.

Scott Bloch, the Bush-appointed head of the US Office of Special Counsel, is under investigation for the alleged improper deletion of emails on office computers.


"Mr. Bloch had his computer's hard disk completely cleansed using a 'seven-level' wipe: a thorough scrubbing that conforms to Defense Department data-security standards," the report continues, describing a process which makes it "nearly impossible for forensics experts to restore the data later. Technicians were also directed to erase laptops used by Bloch's former political deputies.

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Down and Down

[A] report compiled for the U.S. Conference of Mayors…was released Tuesday ahead of a meeting of mayors from across the country in Detroit, where they hope to create policy recommendations to help address the nation's housing crisis.

Prepared by forecasting and consulting firm Global Insight, the report said weak residential investment, lower spending and income in the construction industry and curtailed consumer spending because of falling home values will combine to hold back the nation's economic activity.

"The wave of foreclosures that has rippled across the U.S. has already battered some of our largest financial institutions, created ghost towns of once vibrant neighborhoods — and it's not over yet," the report said.

The biggest losses in economic activity are projected for some of the nation's largest metropolitan areas. New York is expected to lose $10.4 billion in economic activity in 2008, followed by Los Angeles at $8.3 billion, Dallas and Washington at $4 billion each, and Chicago at $3.9 billion.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Monday, November 26, 2007

That Was the Point

Obama can't seem to escape the smoke of his youthful indiscretions wafting after him on the campaign trail. Just four days after he told a group of high school students that he had experimented with drugs in high school, Obama had to admit to it again at a town hall here.

When a voter asked Obama if he was for the legalization of medical marijuana, Obama said that he wasn't in favor of legalization without scientific evidence and tight controls.


The question was followed up by another voter asking him, "Unlike other presidents, did you inhale?"

"I did," Obama said to loud applause and laughter. "It's not something that I'm proud of. It was a mistake … But you know, I'm not going to. I never understood that line. The point was to inhale. That was the point."


Yes. Yes, it was.

Your Christmas Wish List

Don't forget to ask Santa for a Taser.

Click picture to enlarge.

TASER electronic stun guns are a form of torture that can kill, a UN committee has declared after several recent deaths in North America.

  Daily Telegraph

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Little Scotty's Tell-All

McClellan writes that “five of the highest ranking officials in the administration. . . Rove, Libby, Cheney, [Andrew] Card, and the president himself” had been involved in the conspiracy to out the CIA agent as a petty act of reprisal against her husband for authoring a New York Times op-ed which laid bare the intentional misstatements contained in the president’s State of the Union Address concerning a phony plot by Saddam to secure yellowcake uranium from Niger.

Imagine a president’s press secretary saying that his boss, the president, lied in connection with a criminal investigation. The news was sensational, but it was greeted by the mainstream media with a loud yawn.


Yeah, who cares?

A Note from Down Under

This is from an email I received recently from an Australian acquaintance regarding their ouster of John Howard:
John Howard govt is likened to US Republicans where as Kevin Rudd is likened to US Democrats .... i guess both parties serve the same master ... but the lesser evil of the two would have to be Kevin Rudd ....

... i did some time in Canberra in IT working amongst the government and my current job takes me there every now and then ... i get to privy some information that floats underground ...

if John Howard had won this election he was going to merge Aust.Federal Police (AFP) with Aust.Customs (ACS) with Aust Immigration (DIMIA) to form one organisation body called HomeLand Security (i wonder where he got this idea from) ....

ok USA it is your turn soon ... send a message to your govt... i.e. if you can get past those rigged voting machines (which luckily we do not have in Aust) ...

What's Your Hurry, Trent?

While the exact reason Lott is stepping down before he finishes his term is unknown, the general speculation is that a quick departure immunizes Lott against tougher restrictions in a new lobbying law that takes effect at the end of the year. That law would require Senators to wait two-years before entering the lucrative world of lobbying Congress

Josh Marshall and Think Progress both quote MSNBC as author of that passage, and they link it here. Even Google lists it. Apparently MSNBC changed the article, because that information doesn’t exist on that page now.

It sounds like a perfectly political reason to make the move, though, doesn't it?

....and hey, do what you will anyway.

Update: MSNBC does have the passage, but it's here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


While I have a spare moment, I'll take the opportunity to notify all my very much appreciated readers that I'm going to take a vaction and probably will not ever even touch a computer. I certainly won't be watching commercial TV "news". It's probable I won't even listen to a radio program.

I trust you will be very well served and entertained by the excellent blogs and news sources linked in the sidebar here at YWA, and I suggest you simply try to enjoy yourselves for the next week or so, and not just your holiday time off (for those of you fortunate enough to have a job with benefits).

In fact, it seems to me an appropriate response to what's happening in the world right now, and particularly in our country, would be to get out your fiddle.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Let's Pretend

The Justice Department has reopened a long-dormant inquiry into the government's warrantless wiretapping program, a major policy shift only days into the tenure of new Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

The investigation by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility was shut down after the previous attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, refused to grant security clearances to investigators.

"We recently received the necessary security clearances and are now able to proceed with our investigation," H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel for the OPR, wrote to New York Rep. Maurice Hinchey.


Waaaaaaaay Over the Top

I hadn't seen it yet, but W3IAI has the "controversial" Tancredo ad.

Bush and Cheney and all their minions haven't even put on such a scare-mongering, racist show.

It's both despicable and dangerous.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day

Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, on the eleventh hour was commemorated as the day that WWI ended on the Western front. It was changed to Veterans Day in the US after WWII.

It is not endorse-political-gain-by-military-operations day, its the reverse. It is not veterans day, it is the day of no more veterans. The first day of 1918 when boys turning 17 were not called up for training, the first day of 1918 when boys 17 and a few months older were not sent to the trenches.

Today is Armistice Day. The hour, day, month that the Great War in Europe ended. The day of the putting down of guns. The day thousands of Indians, painted in clay, climbed up out of the trenches and embrased the ksisisttsomo'koan soldiers, the pointed hats, saying "Brother, it is good to see you live."


More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead.

  NY Times


Barry Richard, the Greenberg Traurig lawyer who achieved fame for his successful representation of George Bush in the Bush v. Gore recount suits, is set to give a speech blasting the Bush administration Saturday night.

I don’t know. Seems like he needs to do a little more than that for penance.

I’m not finding anything on the net post-blasting, but I’ll try to remember to keep a look-out.

Richard says he’s a constitutional lawyer. I’m gonna need some turoring about just how stepping all over Florida state election laws was mandated in the Consitution. More from pre-blast:

Richard will be the keynote speaker at the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys' (NAFUSA) annual conference starting Thursday and running through Saturday at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla.

More than 100 former U.S. attorneys are expected to attend the conference, which will also feature a panel discussion on the controversial U.S. attorney firings by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. That panel — scheduled for Saturday afternoon — will feature two of the eight former U.S. attorneys who were allegedly fired over politics last year: David Iglesias, former U.S. attorney in New Mexico, and John McCay, former U.S. attorney of the Western District of Washington.


Richard said in an interview he has never spoken out against the Bush administration before and that he did not reveal the topic of his speech when asked to speak by NAFUSA.

"I'm sure people will see my name on the program and expect I will be defending the administration," said Richard, a Tallahassee, Fla., lawyer.

"But I'm a constitutional lawyer. I am concerned with the Bush administration's assault on American liberties ... how the administration deals with habeas corpus and the administration's posture on electronic surveillance. This administration has gone farther than any other."

By the way, Richard is a Democrat. Before you act surprised, think about all the Democrats in Congress who have been supporting the Bush.

I hate the way people can pave for Bush or for his war and then try to distance themselves. If you backed him, you're responsible. If you were his lawyer, you're reprehensible.

  Daily Pulp

Seen at WTF Is It Now?

Pat Robertson Says Giuliani Presidency Appears in Book of Revelation, Rudy Would Usher in Biblical ‘End Days,’ Evangelist Says. Further references to John 3:16 to be changed to Rudy 9:11.


What a Difference a Year Makes

England is out. France is in. We have a real French poodle. England is being advised to be a little more French.

Have they renamed the fries in the Congressional cafeteria? Probably you can now once again order French fries and French toast. But you'll probably only be able to get Freedom muffins.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Suitcase Nukes

Members of Congress have warned about the dangers of suitcase nuclear weapons. Hollywood has made television shows and movies about them. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency has alerted Americans to a threat — information the White House includes on its Web site.

But government experts and intelligence officials say such a threat gets vastly more attention than it deserves. These officials said a true suitcase nuke would be highly complex to produce, require significant upkeep and cost a small fortune.

Counterproliferation authorities do not completely rule out the possibility that these portable devices once existed. But they do not think the threat remains.

"The suitcase nuke is an exciting topic that really lends itself to movies," said Vahid Majidi, the assistant director of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. "No one has been able to truly identify the existence of these devices."


It Can Only Get Worse

The Times is reporting that "the Iraqi interior minister said Wednesday that he would authorize raids by his security forces on Western security firms to ensure that they were complying with tightened licensing requirements on guns and other weaponry, setting up the possibility of violent confrontations between the Iraqis and heavily armed Western guards."


....but hey, do what you will anyway.


Malcolm W. Nance, a former Navy interrogation instructor and counterterrorism intelligence specialist, said Thursday that the practice of waterboarding "is torture and should be banned," during a hearing held by the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties of the US House Judiciary Committee. Nance said he both underwent waterboarding during his own Navy training and practiced the method on other special forces trainees, but said that harsh interrogation methods were unreliable for eliciting accurate information. […] Another witness, Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, had agreed to testify that waterboarding hindered the prosecution of suspected terrorists, but said that he had been prevented from testifying by the Department of Defense.


When Col. Couch was invited to testify originally he said he told his superiors and there was no problem.

Yesterday, however, he was advised by email that the Pentagon general counsel, William J. Haynes II, “has determined that as a sitting judge and former prosecutor, it is improper for you to testify about matters still pending in the military court system, and you are not to appear before the Committee to testify tomorrow.”

Couch was going to testify about the dilemma he faced as a prosecutor when he learned that a potential defendant against whom he was trying to build a case had been tortured. Couch was assured not to worry, the fact that the detainee had been tortured would be suppressed, so that the court would never learn about it. That would, of course, have entailed a conscious fraud on the Court—which appears to be standard Department of Defense operating procedure these days. But Col. Couch didn’t want to play that game.


Support the Troops

Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.


More than 400 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have turned up homeless, and the Veterans Affairs Department and aid groups say they are bracing for a new surge in homeless veterans in the years ahead.

  NY Times

U.S. Support to Dicatator Musharraf

[A] considerable amount of the money the U.S. gives to Pakistan is administered not through U.S. agencies or joint U.S.-Pakistani programs. Instead, the U.S. gives Musharraf's government about $200 million annually and his military $100 million monthly in the form of direct cash transfers. Once that money leaves the U.S. Treasury, Musharraf can do with it whatever he wants. He needs only promise in a secret annual meeting that he'll use it to invest in the Pakistani people.

  TPM Muckraker

And of course, Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and has traded nuclear technology with countries considered to be our enemies.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Hillary's Slime Trail

Hillary Clinton's campaign has admitted that they pulled aside a young college student before a campaign event in Iowa, and then gave her a question to ask the candidate. However, they deny that Hillary herself had any knowledge of this, or that she had been prodded to call on that particular student.

"On this occasion a member of our staff did discuss a possible question about Senator Clinton's energy plan at a forum," a campaign spokesman has said in a statement. "However, Senator Clinton did not know which questioners she was calling on during the event. This is not standard policy and will not be repeated again."

  TPM Election Central

Oh, come on. She didn’t know. And I’m the King of Prussia.

What were the chances that she would call on the one student in the crowd that they’d primed? Were there more than 2 people at the event? More than 10? 100? The chances are getting slimmer. What would be the point in priming someone with a question if the questioner were not going to be called upon?

It’s standard policy alright. Standard political campaign crap amongst slimey candidates.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

All Politics All the Time

According to sources inside and outside the Democratic leadership, Harry Reid allowed a vote on Mukasey because in exchange the Republican leadership agreed to allow a vote on the big Defense Appropriations Bill, which contains $459 billion in military spending but doesn't fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Reid had wanted to get this bill passed before the end of this week, and in fact, the defense bill did come up for a vote late last night and was passed after the Mukasey vote.

One key reason Dem leaders wanted this defense approps bill passed, sources tell me, is that they wanted to be able to argue that they had sent a bill to the President funding the military, if not the war itself. The idea was that doing this would allow them to protect themselves in the days ahead when the battle over Iraq funding heats up and Republicans inevitably charge that Dems are refusing to fund the troops.

  TPM Election Central

So, in return for letting the Democrats avoid being accused of not supporting the troops – something they’ve been dealing with since before the invasion – we are saddled with an Attorney General who will not admit that a form of torture is illegal. Name-calling, patriotism challenging accusations versus upholding the Consitution and human rights. Yeah, I can see their point.

Okay, We'll Give You One More Chance

[L]awmakers in the House threatened to hold two of Bush’s aides [Miers and Rove] in contempt of Congress unless they complied with subpoenas for information on the Justice Department’s purge of federal prosecutors last winter.


“It won’t go anywhere,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said.


Well, no shit Sherlock. How long have they been demanding the White House honor those subpoenas? Has the paper discolored yet?

Let’s give them one more chance to turn over those documents. I’m sure they’ll do it this time.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, November 09, 2007

One Talented Woman

A woman who died in police custody during an airport layover was intoxicated on a potent mix of alcohol and antidepressants and accidentally strangled herself on her shackles, an autopsy released Friday concludes.

Something you or I couldn’t do stone cold sober and on purpose.

Shackled and left alone long enough to accidentally strangle herself? Smells kinda fishy to me. And the rest of the story doesn't do anything to freshen it up, either.

Ready for Winter - Part 2

As we saw, George Bush is trying to cut funding for LIHEAP - the program that subsidizes poor families' heating bills. Hugo Chavez will help to pick up the tab again this year.

From a Venezuela Weekly News Roundup email:

The winter season is approaching, and the Wall Street Journal reported Monday on the danger posed by rising heating oil costs in the US. A solution to the crunch is presented by a Venezuelan aid program that provides the essential resource at subsidized costs and will benefit some 250,000 needy families in 23 US states in the coming months.

Damned socialist.

The Wall

In October, [an Arizona] judge agreed with environmentalists that the government had failed to address environmental concerns involved in building a massive fence through a wildlife refuge. The judge issued an order halting construction. Two weeks later, [Homeland Security Chief Michael] Chertoff invoked Section 102 [of the Real ID Act]. Construction immediately resumed.


In Section 102 of that act, Congress offered Homeland Security the power to waive laws conflicting with border militarization security.

  Texas Observer

The Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife have a lawsuit against the government saying Section 102 “violates the U.S. Constitution’s fundamental Separation of Powers principles by impermissibly delegating legislative authority to a politically-appointed Executive Branch official.”

Environmentalists are bracing for a similar fight in Texas.

The latest map released by the government shows segments of the wall slicing through critical habitat in Texas. The Sabal Palm Audubon Center in Brownsville will be completely walled off, leaving this rare, species-rich palm grove in a sort-of no-man’s-land. Many Texans probably do not know that the Lower Valley is the most biologically diverse region in the nation. Yet it has a global reputation. I’ve met people from as far away as South Africa who have never set foot in Texas but know about the Valley because of its fame as a birding and wildlife paradise.

Chertoff’s response to all this? “I have to say to myself, ‘Yes, I don’t want to disturb the habitat of a lizard, but am I prepared to pay human lives to do that?’”

You bet he isn't. Because Texans are just a fence away from being attacked by armies of foot soldiers coming from Mexico.

proposed map


I'm not even going to talk about Pat God's Mouthpiece Robertson endorsing Rudy Giuliani for president.

Katrina Victims

The Katrina victims are victimized again by toxic FEMA trailers they have been given to live in. Formaldehyde levels are so high they are making people sick. So high, in fact, that FEMA has ordered its employees to stay out of them, not even long enough "quickly to shut a vent.”

FEMA says its order only applies to trailers that are closed up in storage in the hot sun. Employees are permitted to go in and out of lived-in trailers. How often do they do that? The people who are living in the trailers 24 hours a day, particularly the children, are suffering from headaches, nose bleeds, asthma and skin rashes.

Formaldehyde is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a carcinogen.

Gonzo v.2

There should be a new sign on the Statue of Liberty: All hope abandon ye who enter here.

The man who won't say waterboarding is torture, and further says, according to the Seattle Times, "it would be irresponsible to discuss the issue, since doing so could make interrogators and other government officials vulnerable to lawsuits," has been confirmed by the Senate as our Attorney General.

California's Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein says, "We have no other choice." Bullshit. Along with Feinstein, the following Democrats voted to confirm Michael Mukasey: Charles Schumer of New York, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Thomas Carper of Delaware, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Mukasey was confirmed by a vote of 50-43. Seven senators were too chicken to vote: John Cornyn, Lamar Alexander, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and John McCain.

Update 11/10: Josh Marshall says the Democrat senators didn't have time to get back to vote, because Harry Reid rushed the vote through at midnight. See why And even if it's true they didn't have time to get back, I doubt they were trying. As Bill Richardson points out, they hadn't spoken out against the nomination.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Speaking of Economics

When aWol was misinaugurated in 2001, oil was about $27 a barrel and you could buy a euro for 90 cents. Today, oil is at $98 a barrel and a euro costs $1.47.

  Bob’s Links and Rants

The dollar skid to a record low against the euro Wednesday in Asia on speculation that China may shift more of its foreign currency stockpiles -- the world's largest -- into the European unit and away from the greenback.

The U.S. dollar fell to 113.90 yen by midafternoon, down from 114.57 yen late Tuesday in New York.

Reuters reported a senior Chinese political figure as saying Wednesday that China should diversify its $1.43-trillion foreign exchange reserves into the euro and other strong currencies.

  Free Republic

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Economic Hit Men

In Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins told us how international consultants working in concert with the World Bank and IMF go into loan-seeking countries and inflate appraisals to secure large loans with interest which the countries cannot repay because the appraised property is not worth the appraisal value.

This practice is not reserved for destroying foreign countries. It’s destroying the fiber of our own.

[I]n cities around the country, homeowners and investors — unable to afford the homes they bought — are abandoning their properties, marring the neighborhoods they leave behind.


Have inflated appraisals helped fuel the surge in foreclosures on credit-strapped borrowers? Are such appraisals at the core of many mortgage-fraud schemes?

The four largest trade groups representing appraisers say yes -- and they are asking federal financial regulators to crack down on lenders and loan officers who put pressure on appraisers to raise valuations to allow overpriced deals to go through.


National studies repeatedly have shown that commissioned loan officers often demand that appraisers cooperate to hit whatever number is needed to push the transaction to closing -- or lose future business.


A zero-down mortgage made to unqualified buyers on a house worth thousands less than the appraisal in a depreciating market is a financial cluster bomb waiting to explode.


Well, it's exploding now.

Roughly a year into the subprime mortgage crisis and months after credit markets took a turn for the terrible, the House Financial Services Committee approved a bill late Tuesday increasing government oversight of lenders.

The bipartisan measure requires licensing and registration of mortgage originators. It prevents lenders from steering unwitting borrowers into subprime loans with incentive payments. It establishes a "minimum standard" prohibiting creditors from issuing mortgages unless the borrower can prove they'll repay the loan. And it pre-empts some state laws regarding liability for mortgage securitization.

Nice ideas. But the bill has a dark side: It could prevent people who would normally qualify for mortgages from getting one. How many? It's unknown. In addition, the legislation, if passed, may drastically increase the number of lawsuits surrounding the subprime mortgage industry if borrowers somehow prove lenders steered them into loans they couldn't repay.


And I don't see anything there that says the bill would prohibit inflating appraisals.

But I trust we won't let this crisis take precedence over the much greater crisis of gay marriage.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ready for Winter?

Source (click picture to enlarge)

About 30 million low-income American households who will need help paying heating bills this winter from a U.S. government program will be left in the cold because of a lack of funding for the program.


The government's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP, only has enough funding to cover 16 percent of the 38 million poor households eligible for the program.

The current $2.16 billion LIHEAP budget in only $300 million more than what the program had when it was created by Congress in 1981. Despite higher energy costs, the Bush administration has proposed cutting the program's budget.


With the cost of oil hovering around $100 a barrel, this winter's heating bills are going to be more than many poor people can afford. How many will die this winter for lack of heat or from trying to heat their homes in deadly ways?

Iran Coming Up

W3IAI posts comments by Bush in Europe denying any intent to attack Iran, acting as though people are pulling that idea out of their asses.

I’m currently reading U.S. v. Bush, by Elizabeth de la Vega, a former U.S. prosecutor, which presents the case for a grand jury indictment of the Bush gang for defrauding the U.S. in order to invade Iraq, and it’s a damned shame no one is going to file that indictment, because the gang is in the process of defrauding the U.S. again. Denial of intention while preparing for the invasion is one of the charges in a case of fraud.

It’s a federal crime to defraud the U.S. The case is all laid out in U.S. v. Bush for anyone with the gumption to file it. I wonder if a group of citizens could do it by class action. What prosecutor would take it on?

Read the book. It’s fairly short, and written with humor, believe it or not, in lay terms, after setting out what could be an actual legal pleading for U.S. District Court.

And while you’re waiting for your book to arrive, you can read Amy Goodman’s interview with de la Vega.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

World Dictator

Bush tells Musharraf he "can't be president and head of the military at the same time."

Apparently that is reserved for The Commander Guy.

Waterboarding - Part 2

A little background on waterboarding from a referenced Wikipedia entry:

Dr. Allen Keller, the director of the Bellevue/N.Y.U. Program for Survivors of Torture, has treated "a number of people" who had been subjected to forms of near-asphyxiation, including waterboarding. [...] "Water-boarding or mock drowning, where a prisoner is bound to an inclined board and water is poured over their face, inducing a terrifying fear of drowning clearly can result in immediate and long-term health consequences. As the prisoner gags and chokes, the terror of imminent death is pervasive, with all of the physiologic and psychological responses expected, including an intense stress response, manifested by tachycardia, rapid heart beat and gasping for breath. There is a real risk of death from actually drowning or suffering a heart attack or damage to the lungs from inhalation of water. Long term effects include panic attacks, depression and PTSD.”

  Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Hearing on U.S. Interrogation Policy and Executive Order 13440, September 25, 2007, Statement by Allen S. Keller, M.D.

What are the historical uses of the practice?

The Spanish Inquisition: “The toca, also called tortura del agua, consisted of introducing a cloth into the mouth of the victim, and forcing them to ingest water spilled from a jar so that they had the impression of drowning.”

Amboyna massacre by the Dutch East India Company: “At that time, it consisted of wrapping cloth around a victim's head, after which the torturers "poured the water softly upon his head until the cloth was full, up to the mouth and nostrils, and somewhat higher, so that he could not draw breath but he must suck in all the water."

WWII: “Japanese troops, especially the Kempeitai, as well the Gestapo, the German secret police, used waterboarding as a method of torture. The German technique was called the German equivalent of "u-boat". During the Double Tenth Incident, waterboarding consisted of binding or holding down the victim on his back, placing a cloth over his mouth and nose, and pouring water onto the cloth.

The Algerian War: “The French journalist Henri Alleg, who was subjected to waterboarding by French paratroopers in Algeria in 1957, is one of only a few people to have described in writing the first-hand experience of being waterboarded. His book The Question, published in 1958 with a preface by Jean-Paul Sartre (and subsequently banned in France until the end of the Algerian War in 1962) discusses the experience of being strapped to a plank, having his head wrapped in cloth and positioned beneath a running tap.”

The Khmer Rouge: “The Khmer Rouge at the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia used waterboarding as a method of torture between 1975 and 1979.”

The Vietnam War: “The Washington Post published a controversial photograph of three American soldiers waterboarding a North Vietnamese POW near Da Nang. The article described the practice as "fairly common."

"The photograph led to the soldier being courtmartialed by a U.S. military court two months later.


In 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor."

Waterboarding is both torture and illegal. Period.


When George W. Bush was the governor of Texas, the state investigated, indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison for 10 years a county sheriff who, with his deputies, had waterboarded a criminal suspect. That sheriff got no pardon from Gov. Bush.



Did you know that Congress was considering a law that would "explicitly ban" waterboarding and other extreme techniques? This has flown kind of under the radar, but it turns out that there are two such bills before Congress right now. One is a measure being sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy; the other is being sponsored by Senator Joe Biden. Both unequivocally ban waterboarding and other torture practices.

Schumer says he supports this law. So now the question is, Where are other Dems on it, and will it be allowed to come to a vote?

  TPM Horse’s Mouth

If it doesn’t, you’ll know for a certainty that your Congress has abdicated and/or is full of rotten apples.

Of course, it’s already a sham, because torture is already illegal, and waterboarding is torture.

Keith Olbermann, in his over-the-top way talks about the recently reported story of Daniel Levin, a former Justice Department attorney who, prior to Alberto Gonzales’ becoming head of the department, but at the time of the infamous department memo defining torture, had himself waterboarded in order to determine whether it was indeed torture. When Gonzo was assigned to the department, Levin was fired.

Olbermann’s screed would have you believe Levin was fired because he said unequivocally that waterboarding is torture. This is misleading on two counts.

One, Levin didn’t actually say waterboarding is illegal. “Mr. Levin concluded that waterboarding could be illegal unless performed under the strictest supervision and in the most limited of ways.” [WaPo] [emphasis mine] That’s pretty much the same waffle that Mukasey is handing us.

And, two, it means that the administration was even afraid of letting that murky interpretation stand. They wanted a clear pass on waterboarding.

So Mukasey has challenged Congress to pass a bill clearly outlawing waterboarding. Do you think they’ll be up to the challenge?

Spy Cameras for Baghdad

Iraq's security forces have set up 250 "spy" cameras across the war-ravaged city [of Baghdad] in a bid to flush out insurgents and criminals, an official said on Wednesday, warning that more are on the way.


"These cameras are very high-tech. They can store images for up to five years," [Brigadier General Qasim] Atta said.


"The terrorists are now forced to resort to kidnappings and planting roadside bombs because our security plan is working," said Atta.


Excuse me. You call that working?

"This is the first part of the project. More cameras will be installed over a period of time."

Home electricity would be nice as well when you’re budgeting, General.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Abstinence Education Doesn't Work

Now there's a surprise, eh?

"At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners" among teenagers, the study concluded.

The report, which was based on a review of research into teenager sexual behavior, was being released Wednesday by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs were having "positive outcomes" including teenagers "delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use."


A spending bill before Congress for the Department of Health and Human Services would provide $141 million in assistance for community-based, abstinence-only sex education programs, $4 million more than what President Bush had requested.


....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

And Then There's the Economy

Apologies: extremely busy at work; too tired when I get home to do any blogging.

Central bankers past and present warned on Tuesday of more pain to come for the U.S. economy and that banks worldwide could take several months yet to reveal full losses from U.S. subprime mortgage lending.


The head of U.S. banking giant Citigroup quit on Sunday, taking the blame for expected losses of $8-11 billion before taxes, on top of $6.5 billion it wrote off three weeks ago.


He (Charles Prince) quit. Took the blame. How nice. Will he pay for any of that?

Charles Prince's departure came five days after Merrill Lynch & Co (MER.N) ousted its chief executive, Stanley O'Neal, following an $8.4 billion write-down there.


Markets were first gripped by a credit crunch in August when interbank lending dried up as banks realized they did not know which of them was dangerously exposed to shaky U.S. home loans.

With precarious U.S. mortgages bundled up into complex financial products and sold on around the globe, uncertainty about where the exposure lies remains intense.


[Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan] Greenspan told a forum in Tokyo that high inventories of unsold homes presented a major risk to the U.S. economy and that he was not sanguine about how quickly the glut could be reduced.

God forbid they should be affordable for the working poor. They can just sit there unsold.

Bill Gross, chief investment officer at the world's No. 1 bond fund PIMCO, told CNBC Television the Fed could not afford to let U.S. housing prices fall sharply and would need to cut rates aggressively, perhaps to 3.5 percent.


Estimates of eventual total losses vary but all the figures put forward are staggering.

JPMorgan (JPM.N) thinks the financial services industry is sitting on $60 billion in undisclosed losses. Gross characterizes the subprime crisis as a "$1 trillion problem."


[George] Soros said in a lecture at New York University that the U.S. economy was on the verge of a serious correction.

In more than one way, I don’t think “correction” is the right term.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Pakistan Problem

Condi Rice announced Washington's reaction to nuclear-armed Pakistan's new dictatorship, according to an NPR clip, saying that Musharraf has been put on notice. She said that while there are difficult circumstances in Pakistan...

"We've been very clear that extra-constitutional measures are not the way to deal with difficult circumstances."

To which Musharraf surely replied, "Waterboarding."

P.S. I understand that, while Musharraf is claiming the need to take dictatorial powers as being the result of the threat of terrorism (careening out of control, one would have to assume), there's the little detail that the Pakistan Supreme Court was about to rule on whether his re-election was legal. Let's try to think about those two things and see if we can't figure out which one is the real reason he shut down the government.

Interestingly, Bush hasn't made any public statement at all. I think he's probably figuring how he's going to pull the same stunt. As W3IAI points out, Condi also indicated that the actuality of Musharraf's dictatorship doesn't matter as long as "elections" go forward. That must be one of those other types of democracies the Bush administration keeps telling us about.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


The closer Rudy gets to the GOP convention, the more info we are likely to see printed or reprinted about his relationship with Bernard Kerik. The NY Times has an article today.

And, speaking of sleazy pols, I just can’t believe the stupidity of these guys. With the Larry Craig bathroom bust barely in the past, you’d think politicos would lay off bathroom solicitation for a while, wouldn’t you?

57-year-old Mike Shallow [two-term City Commissioner and mayoral candidate in Daytona Beach] was among nine men caught in [a gay sex solicitation bathroom] sting after "sexual misconduct" in the second-floor Volusia Mall Sears bathroom was reported to police. The nine are being charged with misdemeanor lewd conduct and exposure. Signals used by the suspects to attract the attention of potential partners included tapping toes, loud zipper noises, coughing and sneezing.

  Page One Q

Mug shots are here of the perp and others busted in the sting. At a Sears restroom in a mall for crissakes.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

On Galveston Island

For some reason, Cursor (always linked in the sidebar here, and regularly read) provided a link to an article at the Texas Observer about my (relatively) new home.

“People are not supposed to live on a sandbar, and the fact that they choose to live on this one tells you something about the collective psyche. These are people who like to be different, who see themselves as select, and maybe even a little invincible.”
–Gary Cartwright, Galveston: A History of the Island

Well, I don’t know about that, but then again, it’s said that it’s hard to see one’s self clearly

In 1528, Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca, shipwrecked and starving, with some of his men carving each other up for dinner, hit upon a name for the unforgiving sandbar on which they had landed. “We called it Malhado, the Island of Doom,” De Vaca wrote in La Relación, his extraordinary travelogue.

Cabeza de Vaca. I've always loved that name in Galveston's history, and I've always wondered what a guy named "Head of Cow" looked like.

The Texas Observer article talks about the pricey new homes going up on the west end of the island, and the fact that the sea is reclaiming our beloved sandbar rapidly inch by inch (“up to 10 feet a year on some beaches and as high as 15 feet a year along stretches of the bay [...] The shoreline has moved landward 500 feet since the 1960s.”)

Developers are building homes and hotels on beaches expected to erode within decades. In some cases, geologists say, the builders are disrupting the very integrity of the island, carving away the land for canals, marinas, and ponds. Such excavation could enhance the potential for breaches of the island during storms by creating pathways for water. In an extreme case, Galveston could even be split into multiple pieces, the geologists warn.

That's what bridges are for.

Yes, and recently, I heard of a lawsuit to prevent further development in a wetlands area on the west end, claiming it for a protected area for endangered flora and fauna. Interestingly enough, the lawyer filing the suit just happened to have already built his home there.

But the worst part is what’s happening to the east end and central areas of Galveston. While the rich are building on the west end, poverty and crime increase in the rest. I wonder whether the wealthy new homeowners will take an interest and a stake in downtown Galveston, or whether they’ll just bypass it. By the visible evidence, it seems even the old money in Glaveston has little interest in civic improvements.

You can donate to a fund to purchase this west end home for me (snapped on a beach stroll recently). It should be good for another five years or so.

No limit to the contribution. (I'll need more landscaping.)

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Our Pal Musharraf Cracks Down

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf suspended Pakistan's constitution and deployed troops in the capital Saturday, declaring that rising Islamic extremism had forced him to take emergency measures. He also replaced the chief justice and blacked out the independent media that refused to support him.

Authorities began rounding up opposition politicians, cut phone lines in Islamabad and took all but state television off air


Musharraf's order allows courts to function but suspends some fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution, including freedom of speech. It also allows authorities to detain people without informing them of the charges.


....but hey, do what you want....we do.

Friday, November 02, 2007

War and Torture

John McCain, a Vietnam war prisoner, argued Friday that his top rivals for the GOP nomination aren't qualified to deal with issues like torture — or to be president in wartime — because they never served in the military.


"There's a clear division between those who have a military background and experience in these issues and people like Giuliani, Romney and Thompson who don't — who chose to do other things when this nation was fighting its wars," McCain told reporters after touring a shipyard and taking questions from workers wearing hard hats and blue jeans.


I wonder if nobody asked whether he might extrapolate to the current administration.

Frankly, there’s not necessarily a correlation between abilities necessary to be president and abilities necessary to be a soldier. What he should be promoting is his difference from those other three by virtue of his clear claim that waterboarding constitutes torture and is illegal. Giuliani thinks it “should not be used in every circumstance,” but that in “extraordinary circumstances, the president needs all options available,” which sounds to me like waterboarding would be only the beginning of his torture tactic arsenal.

And, speaking of torture, Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein are going to vote for Michael Gonzo v.2 Mukasey because they say he’s the best candidate they’re going to get offered to them. How do they know that? Diane Feinstein says Mukasey’s no Alberto Gonzales, but I’m guessing she didn’t think Alberto Gonzales was Alberto Gonzales when he was offered up, either. Boy those Democrats really shook things up when they took control of Congress, didn't they?

And who do you think said this…

Before the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee completely cave-in to Bush, at minimum they should demand that Judge Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor to investigate if war crimes have been committed. If Mukasey refuses he should be rejected. This, indeed, should be a pre-condition to anyone filling the post of Attorney General under Bush.

If the Democrats in the Senate refuse to demand any such requirement, it will be act that should send chills down the spine of every thinking American.


That would be John Dean, former Nixon White House crook. I’m not sure how many thinking Americans there are left, but I’m pretty sure they’ve already had their spines thoroughly chilled by the acts of the Senate Democrats. This latest is only what's become expected of them, chilling as it is.

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. --Mark Twain

Lone Star Bike Rally

Lordy Mama, it's that time again. The Annual Lone Star Bike Rally is underway this weekend here in Galveston. Bikes for blocks, men with big bellies, women with big breasts, everybody with beer and the smell of leather on the air. But there's a huge representation of the Suzuki crowd, as well. Something for everybody who rides a motorcycle, or just likes to look at them.