Monday, February 25, 2008

Minimal Blogging This Week

And, likely, this will be the only post.

I'll be heading up to Ft. Sill to attend my son's Basic Training graduation ceremony and spend a little time with him before he ships off to Maryland for AIT. After that...well, who knows where he'll be sent? I am trying not to think about it.

So...what will happen this week while I'm away from the computer? Will Musharraf resign? Will Hillary pull out all the stops in her losing race against Obama? Will the price of gasoline go so high I will have to odd-job my way back to Texas?

Hold down the fort, people, and remain calm.


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


Sunday, February 24, 2008

How's That FISA Bill Coming?

The Bush administration said on Saturday U.S. telecommunications companies have agreed to cooperate "for the time being" with spy agencies' wiretaps, despite an ongoing battle between the White House and Congress over new terrorism surveillance legislation.

  Reuters

Wait just a minute. I thought the House Democrats had signed our death warrants by not rubber-stamping the telecom immunity aspect of the FISA bill. It was Democrats, right?

As congressional aides worked furiously on Thursday to broker a deal on controversial electronic surveillance legislation, there was only one thing missing from the talks: Republicans.

Democratic staffers from both chambers have been meeting throughout the week, trying to reach a compromise on an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and invited their Republican counterparts to participate.

However, Republican lawmakers have instructed their staffers to boycott the talks, saying they are unnecessary.

  CBS


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


Democratic Dust-Up

You will be hearing a lot about Hillary Clinton slamming Barack Obama over a couple of Obama campaign flyers, saying they're "right out of Karl Rove's playbook." Al Giordano breaks down the rant and the Obama response.


He's Baaaaaaack

Ralph Nader tossed his hat in the presidential ring this morning. Cue cheers from the Republican section and loud boos from the Democratic seats. (Josh Marshall shamefully calls Nader "Bush's chief enabler.")

As I'm always saying, if we had a fair system of voting with instant run-off results, nobody would have to gripe about third-party candidates. I don't think Ralph ever really expects to become president. But I do think he's intent on keeping the real issues that obstruct democracy on the table. Maybe if he "spoils" enough elections, the Democrats will take seriously the need to overhaul our voting system. But I doubt it, since they are dependent on some of those issues that obstruct democracy.

Obama’s reaction to the idea:

“I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage [points] of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference.”

[...]

“My sense is that Mr. Nader is somebody who if you don’t listen and adopt all of his policies thinks you’re not substantive,” Obama said, before praising Nader as a “heroic” and “singular figure in American politics.”

  WSJ

In other words...


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


Saturday, February 23, 2008

War Profiteers

Federal prosecutors in Rock Island have indicted four former supervisors from KBR, the giant defense firm […] along with a decorated Army officer and five executives from KBR subcontractors based in the U.S. or the Middle East. Those defendants, along with two other KBR employees who have pleaded guilty in Virginia, account for a third of the 36 people indicted to date on Iraq war-contract crimes, Justice Department records show.

[...]

A common thread runs through these cases and other KBR scandals in Iraq, from allegations the firm failed to protect employees sexually assaulted by co-workers to findings that it charged $45 per can of soda: The Pentagon has outsourced crucial troop support jobs while slashing the number of government contract watchdogs.

[...]

Prosecutors would not confirm or deny ongoing grand jury activity. But court records identify a dozen FBI, IRS and military investigative agents who have been assigned to the case. Interviews as well as testimony at the sentencing for Peleti [the Army officer], who has cooperated with authorities, suggest an active probe.

  Chicago Tribune

I won’t hold my breath for them to reach the Dark Lord, Dick Cheney.


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


Back in Dallas

Among other comparisons to Jack and/or Bobby Kennedy, this one is a little creepy...

Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.

[...]

Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on.

[...]

Several Dallas police officers said it worried them that the arena was packed with people who got in without even a cursory inspection.

  Star Telegram


The Sign

There it is. The Sign. This should get the cult talk flying.

In this case - being in Austin - Barack Obama can say he was giving the Texas "hook 'em horns" sign, and nothing more.

I'm waiting to see Hillary give it. John McCain? Watch Mike Huckabee very carefully.


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


More than you ever wanted to know about the sign can be found here at Wikipedia where we learn its proper name is mano cornuta.


Insane McCain Digging Deeper - Part 2

On Wednesday night the Times published a story suggesting that McCain might have done legislative favors for the clients of the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, who worked for the firm of Alcalde & Fay. One example it cited were two letters McCain wrote in late 1999 demanding that the Federal Communications Commission act on a long-stalled bid by one of Iseman's clients, Florida-based Paxson Communications, to purchase a Pittsburgh television station.

Just hours after the Times's story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response that depicted the letters as routine correspondence handled by his staff—and insisted that McCain had never even spoken with anybody from Paxson or Alcalde & Fay about the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC," the campaign said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. "I was contacted by Mr. [Lowell] Paxson on this issue," McCain said in the Sept. 25, 2002, deposition obtained by NEWSWEEK. "He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint."

While McCain said "I don't recall" if he ever directly spoke to the firm's lobbyist about the issue—an apparent reference to Iseman, though she is not named—"I'm sure I spoke to [Paxson]." McCain agreed that his letters on behalf of Paxson, a campaign contributor, could "possibly be an appearance of corruption"—even though McCain denied doing anything improper.

[...]

But despite McCain's own somewhat detailed descriptions of his conversations with Paxson about the matter in the deposition, his campaign Thursday night stuck with its original statement that the senator never discussed the issue at all with the communications executive or his lobbyist.

"We do not think there is a contradiction here," campaign spokeswoman Ann Begeman e-mailed NEWSWEEK after being asked about the senator's sworn testimony five and a half years ago. "We do not have the transcript you excerpted and do not know the exact questions Senator McCain was asked, but it appears that Senator McCain, when speaking of being contacted by Paxson, was speaking in shorthand of his staff being contacted by representatives of Paxson.

  Newsweek

Speaking in shorthand? “I’m sure I spoke to him.” “I” being shorthand for “my representatives”?

An appearance of corruption. But who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

Even though I lapsed in my blogger responsibilities, for which I humbly apologize, in a previous post about what McCain said in regard to his relationship with Ms. Iseman, he may wish he had said that instead of stepping into this.

But the campaign's insistence that McCain himself never talked to Paxson about the issue seems hard to square with the contents of his testimony in the McCain-Feingold case.

Abrams, for example, at one point cited the somewhat technical contents of one of his letters to the FCC and then asked the witness, "where did you get information of that sort, Senator McCain?"

McCain replied: "I was briefed by my staff."

Abrams then followed up: "Do you know were they got the information?"

"No," McCain replied. "But I would add, I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue."

"You were?"

"Yes."

Abrams then asked McCain: "Can you tell us what you said and what he said about it?"

McCain: "That he had applied to purchase this station and that he wanted to purchase it. And that there had been a numerous year delay with the FCC reaching a decision. And he wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I said, 'I would be glad to write a letter asking them to act, but I will not write a letter, I cannot write a letter asking them to approve or deny, because then that would be an interference in their activities. I think everybody is entitled to a decision. But I can't ask for a favorable disposition for you'."

Abrams a few moments later asked: "Did you speak to the company's lobbyist about these matters?"

McCain: "I don't recall if it was Mr. Paxson or the company's lobbyist or both."

Abrams: "But you did speak to him?"

McCain: "I'm sure I spoke with him, yes."

Maybe he was na├»ve in the ways of Washington in 1999 and didn’t think writing a letter on behalf of a firm would indicate that he was trying to get a favor for that firm. Uh-huh. But letting his campaign deny the letter was ever asked for and that McCain ever talked with anyone from the firm or its lobbyist when his own testimony to the contrary is on record is probably not a good idea when in the midst of a presidential campaign.

On the other hand, the current president seems to have found no obstacle in bald-faced lies, so what the heck.


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


Friday, February 22, 2008

Torture & Executive Privilege

"I suspect he’s lying," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the chairman of the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, said about Steven G. Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Nadler believes Bradbury misled the panel about the definition of waterboarding during a colloquy over the procedure’s legality.

[...]

Nadler asked Bradbury how "not being able to breathe as your lungs fill with water" could be legal. Bradbury replied in an unanticipated fashion. "Well, with respect, Mr. Chairman," he said, "your description is not an accurate description of the procedure that’s used by the CIA."

[...]

" I suspect he’s lying, because why would we have to wait until now to hear this? We’ve had something like six or eight months worth of controversy over waterboarding. Why didn’t they say that [earlier]?"

[...]

For Bradbury to remain in his position beyond the legal time-limit for unconfirmed nominees embodies the administration’s "lawlessness," Nadler said. He urged the next administration—particularly a Democratic one—prosecute prominent Bush administration officials for lawbreaking, as a matter of righting a Constitutional wrong. "[Attorney General] Michael Mukasey is not going to do it," he said. "I hope the next president will. Otherwise there will be no protection—none—against a president disobeying laws."

[...]

”If the Republicans win, and they won’t, a Democrat will be tempted to look ahead and not back. I think that’s very destructive to our form of government to say the executive can violate the law with impunity. Then we’ll have no liberty left."

  Washington Independent

Welcome to 21st Century America.


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


A Will and a Way

Texas Republicans have worked overtime to make it harder for key Democratic voting groups to vote and be represented fairly. The redistricting games they’ve played are infamous. And for the Prairie View A&M University precincts, they put the early-polling place more than seven miles from the school.

So what did the students in this video do? They shut down the highway as they marched seven miles to cast their votes on the first day of early voting.

  The Field


Too Precious

First the prize fights. Now this. (Seen at Dependable Renegade.)


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


Insane McCain Digging Deeper

Let’s begin with a wide angle lens and zoom in.

Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi was indicted Friday in Arizona on 35 counts of extortion, conspiracy, money laundering and related charges.

The indictment says the congressman conspired with one former business partner in an alleged land-swap scheme and with another to commit insurance fraud.

  NPR

One:

Renzi (R-AZ) is one of two dozen co-chairs of John McCain's campaign in Arizona. When reporters asked him today what he thought about Renzi's indictment, he seems to have gotten a little tongue-tied.
"I'm sorry. I feel for the family; as you know, he has 12 children," McCain told reporters on the presidential campaign trail. "But I don't know enough of the details to make a judgment. These kinds of things are always very unfortunate. ... I rely on our Department of Justice and system of justice to make the right outcome."

  TPM Muckraker

Two:

One day after The New York Times published an article raising ethical questions about Sen. John McCain's dealings with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, the Arizona senator pushed back today at a press conference in Cleveland, telling reporters, "Vicki Iseman did not force me into any positions."

Calling suggestions that Ms. Iseman could make him assume a different position "ridiculous," Sen. McCain said, "At my age, I'm not about to try out new positions that I'm uncomfortable with."

  Yahoo

And yes, this is a story involving allegations of a romantic liaison, so their choice of words is not only humorous, but exquisitely apt. [Update: I missed this one. Thanks to W3IAI for catching me lazy. Please see comments.]

Three:

[John] McCain has accused [Barack] Obama of rolling back on a pledge to limit himself to $85 million in public money for the general election if he is the Democratic nominee. Obama, who has raised over $140 million so far, has refused to recommit to the pledge, which he made in February 2007.

  Reuters

McCain opted in to the public finance system for the primaries last year. It meant that his struggling campaign would get $5.8 million in public matching funds in March. Now that he's effectively the Republican nominee, he wants out, because the system entails a spending limit of $54 million through the end of August. He's almost spent that much already, according to the Post.

So the McCain campaign sent the Federal Election Commission a letter (pdf) earlier this month saying that he was opting out. But there's a problem. And FEC Chairman David Mason, a Republican, made it plain in his letter (pdf) yesterday: McCain can't tell the FEC that he's out of the system. He can only ask.

[...]

It is a serious issue. As the Post reports, "Knowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison."

[...]

But McCain has refused to support efforts to fix the system, so in a way, he has himself to blame for the fact that the system is so unworkable that he's possibly bent the rules to get out of it.

  TPM Muckraker

It’s a bit up in the air at the moment because there aren’t enough commissioners to hand down a verdict. The Senate is arguing over four nominees. I suppose we might be looking forward to some time-finagling on this issue while everybody jockeys for position.

McCain, the author of a prominent law that limits money in politics, asked the FEC for public money last year at a time when his campaign was in deep trouble.

[...]

McCain opted out of the system earlier this month because he has nearly reached the FEC's $54 million spending cap for the primary season and expects to raise more money.

[...]

McCain -- the likely Republican nominee in November's presidential election -- was told by the Federal Election Commission on Thursday that he might be required to use public funding and so abide by its accompanying spending limits until September when he formally would be anointed the Republican Party candidate.

[...]

[At] a campaign stop in Indiana, McCain replied with a dismissive "no" when asked if he was concerned by the FEC's letter.

"It's not a decision. It's an opinion, according to our people," he said.

  Reuters

He obviously has people a lot like the current administration’s people.

And he’s not so willing to rely on the FEC for the “right outcome” as he is on the Justice Department in the Renzi case.

You know, I’m just not entirely convinced that Insane will in fact be the GOP nominee.


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


Who's in Charge of the Situation in Iraq?

It doesn't seem to be the Iraqi government. Or even the U.S. military.
Powerful Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr extended his Mehdi Army militia ceasefire by around six months on Friday, according to a statement read out on his behalf in a mosque in Baghdad.

The move is likely to be widely welcomed by U.S. and Iraqi officials, who say the initial six-month truce helped to sharply reduce attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops as well as tit-for-tat sectarian violence in Iraq.

  Yahoo

So, you mean, it’s not the “surge” that worked, but the fact that al-Sadr’s armies are taking a break?

Sadr's decision could prove vital in determining whether the security gains can be maintained, thus allowing the U.S. military to continue withdrawing soldiers beyond the more than 20,000 that are scheduled to be leave by July.

We may need another “surge” before the last one ebbs.

Oh, and…

Turkish troops launched a ground incursion across the border into Iraq in pursuit of separatist Kurdish rebels, the military said Friday — a move that dramatically escalates Turkey's conflict with the militants.

  Yahoo


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


You Say You Want Change?

What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas - especially if you're the wife of a presidential candidate. Just ask Janet Huckabee, who attended a middleweight prize fight this past weekend in Las Vegas - where she stayed at the Hooters Casino Hotel.

That eye-opening combination - a title bout in Sin City, which celebrates gambling, drinking and all things wild, along with a hospitality chain favoring buxom waitresses in low-cut garb - could potentially shock the armies of evangelical conservative Christians who have made her husband, the former governor of Arkansas, the only remaining GOP opponent to party front-runner John McCain.

  SF Gate

Well, she would certainly be a change from Laura, now wouldn’t she?

And I guess Ron Paul is now invisible.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wooing Texas

"I had no idea how bizarre it is," [Hillary] Clinton told reporters this week. "We have grown men crying over it."

  AP

She’s talking about the way we calculate delegates down here, and I think that’s gonna sound like a pretty slack excuse for losing Texas to Obama.


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


Did I mention that Bill was here in Galveston yesterday? There were people there, but I wasn't one of them. I didn't actually see any evidence of it other than a soap sign on the window of a trashed out building giving the time and place.


The Thousand Year War

Think of the top officials of the Bush administration as magicians when it comes to Iraq. Their top hats and tails may be worn and their act fraying, but it doesn't seem to matter. Their latest "abracadabra," the President's "surge strategy" of 2007, has still worked like a charm. They waved their magic wands, paid off and armed a bunch of former Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda terrorists (about 80,000 "concerned citizens," as the President likes to call them), and magically lowered "violence" in Iraq. Even more miraculously, they made a country that they had already turned into a cesspool and a slagheap -- its capital now has a "lake" of sewage so large that it can be viewed "as a big black spot on Google Earth" -- almost entirely disappear from view in the U.S.

[...]

Americans may not have noticed, but the policy that a large majority of them want is no longer part of polite discussion in Washington or on the campaign trail. The spectrum of opinion in the capital, among presidential candidates, and in the mainstream media ranges from Senator McCain's claim that even setting a date for withdrawal would be a sure recipe for "genocide" -- and that's the responsible right -- to those who want to depart, but not completely and not very quickly either. The party of "withdrawal" would still leave American troops behind for various activities. These would include the "training" of the Iraqi military. (No one ever asks why one side in Iraq needs endless years of "training" and "advice," while the other sides simply fight on fiercely.) In addition, troops might be left to guard our monstrous new embassy in Baghdad, or as an al-Qaeda-oriented strike force, or even to protect American security contractors like Blackwater.

  Tom Dispatch


Insane McCain Campaign Train Derailing Again?

Is Insane in trouble again? The press have gotten their teeth into a story about an alleged romantic relationship with a lobbyist (which both McCain and his wife Cindy deny), and the story of his somewhat unsavory campaign financing deals.

But Juan Cole reminds us of the worst of John McCain – his insane war worship.

McCain thinks when "only' 4 US troops are wounded in a single day in Iraq, or when only 15 Iraqi police are killed in mortar strikes in a single day, that is a sign of 'calm' and that the 'surge is working' in Iraq, and it is all right for us to put up with these US casualties for the next 100 years and spend $9 billion a month on this boondoggle for his friends in Houston. He is part of a successful propaganda campaign, as Tom Engelhardt points out that has made Iraq disappear as an issue even though people die there every day and the US is hemorrhaging blood and treasure for goals that remain, to say the least, murky. McCain even manages to celebrate the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq at the same time as he insists the US has to stay in Iraq a hundred years to fight al-Qaeda! Which is it? Either the surge has failed in its goals or it has succeeded. If it has succeeded, why do we have to stay? If it has failed, when will it succeed?

[...]

McCain is the Pied Piper of Hamelin; he'll be glad to get rid of your rat problem, but at the price of making your children disappear.


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


Further Speaking of Al Giordano

This is what I was intending to show you when I got momentarily sidetracked by the Viva Obama video. This is also from The Field.

The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) now has the January financial reports in from the candidates. This is how much they raised, with links to the summaries filed by each campaign:

Obama: Raised $36.1 million, spent $30.5 million.
Clinton: Raised $13.9 million, spent $28.5 million

In other words, Obama operated in January on a surplus budget, raising $5.6 million more than he spent, while Clinton operated in January on a deficit budget, spending $14.6 million more than she raised.

The Clinton figure does not include the $5 million dollar loan she made to her campaign, for which she reportedly charged interest and, contrary to some press reports earlier this month, has not been paid back.

  The Field

If Narco News is any indication of what to expect from The Field, I think we can expect the nitty gritty on the election campaign there. Check it out.


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


Speaking of Al Giordano

In a round-about way. Al is publisher of Narco News, linked in the previous post. I've just come across another website he's blogging: The Field - Al Giordano Blogging the Presidential Campaign. Which is where I picked up the following. (Al translates it into English here.)


War on Drugs

Since 2003, addicts in Vancouver, British Columbia have been able to shoot up with free heroin at a supervised “safer injection facility,” the first of its kind in North America. It has been a success, in the view of the 500 people who use it daily, their downtown east side neighbors (who report less crime), the city government (which sees it as part of its pre-2010 Winter Olympics beautification campaign) and even the cops. Research published in the British Medical Journal, the Lancet and elsewhere shows the facility has helped slow the spread of HIV and cut crime. Counselors available at the site have helped get many addicts off drugs. The same approach has been used for decades in Western Europe.

But conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t like it and has enlisted American help to strengthen his case.

  Washington Independent

If you’re interested in the insane War on Drugs our country has been waging for decades (unsuccessfully – or successfully if you assume it’s intended to be an infinite war, which would not be an unreasonable assumption), bookmark and search Narco News.


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


This Can't Be Good

Without much notice, something strange has happened to the intelligence community during the second term of President George W. Bush. The leaders of the 16-agency, $45 billion-a-year spy apparatus have started wearing stars and gold braid on their shoulders.

It’s more than a sartorial change. For the first time in American history, the people holding the most important positions in the civilian U.S. intelligence agencies and offices are now all military or ex-military men.

[...]

"The worry is not that Mike Hayden and Mike McConnell happen to be military officers; it’s that the system is now skewed to current intelligence, driven by military operations. That’s leaving too little left over for strategic analysis of what’s going on more broadly. And that leads to [an echo chamber effect]: this is what’s presented to policy-makers, and it just reinforces the worldview they began with."

  Washington Independent


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


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mr. Gorbachev Bush, Tear Down That Wall

Construction of our own border wall continues and is a hot button issue in South Texas.

Some people can't understand why simple landowners, who have had their property in their family since a King of Spain deeded it to their ancestors and have little else of value, wouldn't want to willingly donate it to the government for the sake of border security.

[...]

In an article titled "Holes in the Wall" by reporter Melissa Del Bosque of The Texas Observer, the reporter poses a simple question to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (and one that has been asked repeatedly by the Texas Border Coalition) how was the land chosen as to where the fence would be built?

[...]

Everyone wants to know why […] the family-inherited land of 72-year-old Eloisa Tamez must be sacrificed while the nearby River Bend Resort and golf course are left unscathed.

  Latina Lista

Oh, I think we can guess. In fact, we have to guess, because…

[A]ll data regarding the placement of the fence is classified because “you don’t want to tell the very people you’re trying to keep from coming across the methodology used to deter them.”

Riiiiiight.

Because these Texas landowners aren't going to give up their land without a fight, it's thrown a wrench in the Department of Homeland Security's plan to have the fencing all finished before the next President takes office.

And that’s not a bad thing.


Protection Insurance

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has joined with her Senate colleague [Harry Reid], scheduling two pro forma sessions for the House this week so that Bush cannot call Congress back into special session to take up the now-expired Protect America Act, an enhanced surveillance bill that lapsed over the weekend, or the Senate-passed amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

[...]

Since neither chamber goes out for more than three days, Bush cannot take the dramatic step of calling the Congress back for the first special session since Harry Truman did it in 1948.

And for all you progressives out there, the non-Republican senator you most love to hate – Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) – will be presiding over one of the pro forma sessions this week. So, you better keep an eye on him

  Politico


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


Catch 22

The Supreme Court has essentially ratified the Bush Administration position that no one has standing to sue for having their electronic communications monitored illegally, i,e., without a warrant, unless they can show that their communications were in fact monitored -- which is classified information that the Bush Administration refuses to divulge.

  TPM


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


You Won't Have Castro to Kick Around Any More

He's resigned. His brother Raul will take over.

Geez, sick or not, he could have at least waited until George was out of office. Now we're going to have to hear all about how George is the one who got rid of Castro.

Let us pray.


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


P.S. Early Bush:

"Eventually, this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections—and I mean free, and I mean fair—not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy."

  Inside Bay Area

Go ahead. Say it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blackberry Raspberry

Appropriate, if ironic: lawmakers around the country are being bitten by the same lack of privacy so many of them advocate for the lowly citizenry. Not through wiretapping, but through their emails.

Emails and text-messages have now brought down one of the most powerful prosecutors in the country and may soon lead to criminal charges against the Mayor of Detroit. Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal resigned this week after his emails were revealed in a police abuse case. In the meantime, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has appealed the release of his text messages in a case involving police whistleblowers.

  Jonathan Turley


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


Contemptable Contempt

Not only is John McCain willing to drown you in war for ten thousand years, he's willing to make you pay for his bid to do it.
Must read 1: Mark Schmitt of American Prospect on McCain’s loan deal in which he could be required by his creditors to stay in the primary race even if he had lost it and would otherwise drop out, in order to get federal matching funds to repay the loan. Putting his name to such an agreement shows contempt for, and a willingness to commit a fraud upon, Americans both as taxpayers and as voters.

  W3IAI

Amen. While that scenario doesn't appear likely at the moment, it hasn't been that long ago that McCain's campaign was all but dead. And the point is not whether that will happen, but that he's willing to make such a deal.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Bush Tragedy


To put it simply, the value system of the original patriarch, George W.'s great-grandfather George Herbert Walker, was based on the pursuit of wealth. The one embodied by George W.'s grandfather Prescott Bush was an ethical ideal.

  Excerpt at NPR

Yes, the ethics of the super-race, as Prescott financially backed the Nazis. Surely with a name like Weisberg, the author has included that fact in his book somewhere.

The Walkers behaved like the worst nouveaux riches: they were grand, greedy, extravagant, and focused on class distinctions. Prescott Bush's clan was pointedly modest, frugal, and egalitarian.

I’m having a hard time not discounting Mr. Weisberg. Perhaps I shall try to read his book and see how he defends these comments. Nah.

Anyway, whatever problems there may be with the picture painted in the book, the fun part is where we learn that Poppy’s nickname in the Air Corps was….George Herbert Walker Bush.

There's an audio file of an interview with the author at that NPR link.


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


New Meaning to the Word 'Cockpit'

The air force in Israel is considering giving pilots Viagra after seeing results of a study done by Israeli doctors: Doctors learned mountain climbers in Africa had benefited by taking Viagra, as it improved their performance at high altitudes. The air force thinks they can get similar benefits with pilots.

  Digital Journal


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


Arming the Terrorists

Saudi Arabia's rulers threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted, according to court documents revealed yesterday.

Previously secret files describe how investigators were told they faced "another 7/7" and the loss of "British lives on British streets" if they pressed on with their inquiries and the Saudis carried out their threat to cut off intelligence.

Prince Bandar, the head of the Saudi national security council, and son of the crown prince, was alleged in court to be the man behind the threats to hold back information about suicide bombers and terrorists. He faces accusations that he himself took more than £1bn in secret payments from the arms company BAE.

[...]

Yesterday, anti-corruption campaigners began a legal action to overturn the decision to halt the case [effected by Tony Blair’s pressure on attorney general, Lord Goldsmith]. They want the original investigation restarted, arguing the government had caved [in to] blackmail.

[...]

Bandar's payments were published in the Guardian and Switzerland subsequently launched a money-laundering inquiry into the Saudi arms deal. The US department of justice has launched its own investigation under the foreign corrupt practices act into the British money received in the US by Bandar while he was ambassador to Washington.

Prince Bandar yesterday did not contest a US court order preventing him from taking the proceeds of property sales out of the country. The order will stay in place until a lawsuit brought by a group of BAE shareholders is decided.

UK Guardian

This comes as no surprise to many who were claiming these threats were happening back when the BAE investigation was news in the summer of 2007, and it also doesn’t mean Bandar won’t be getting arms from the U.S.

January 14, 2008

[...]

administration said it notified Congress of its intention to offer the Saudis a controversial package of advanced weaponry as part of a multibillion-dollar deal with Gulf Arab allies.

The deal has raised concerns in Israel and among some of its allies about the military balance of power in the region.


Reuters

02/13/2008

[...]

It’s not often that Washington Republicans will go out of their way to attack the world’s largest oil supplier and Bush administration ally, Saudi Arabia. But that’s precisely what three GOP House members did yesterday in an attempt to prevent a planned $123 million arms sale to the strategically placed monarchy.

[...]

Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.), Zack Wamp (Tenn.) and Sue Myrick (N.C.) wondered yesterday who will subsequently rein in the Saudis. Between the three of them, they managed to take shots at the country’s religious intolerance, its support for Wahhabist maddrassas, and its dissemination of textbooks that encourage violence against non-Muslims. (Did they forget to mention that 15 of the 19 terrorists responsible for the 9-11 attacks were Saudi nationals? They did not.)

[...]

Though a House resolution to overturn the Saudi sale has gained significant support (80 Democrats and 13 Republicans have signed on), it hit a brick wall in the form of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Cal.), who showed no support for blocking the deal. In a complicating twist, Lantos died Monday and will be honored at the Capitol tomorrow.

Wamp acknowledged that the push to kill the sale has no chance of gaining traction so immediately following Lantos’ death. Still, the Tennessee Republican had some words of warning for the country when the deal goes through.


"You know, we’ve tried to buy friends many times in this country’s history," he said. "And you just don’t—you just can’t do that. And I’m afraid economic interests trump our national security interests often.

Washington Independent

You think? Surely Bandar Bush shares his bribe booty with the rest of the family. Bribe booty I will remind you that was deposited into his account at the infamously convicted DC money-laundering Riggs Bank where none other than was CEO and president of Riggs Investment.

02/15/08

[...]

The U.S. Congress failed to block the sale of 900 satellite-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia by Feb. 14, the date the sale goes through without congressional action. But lawmakers who oppose the deal say they still have a chance to halt it.
The sale can be blocked simply by passing legislation opposing it, said an aide to Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.

That means that until the JDAMs are turned over to the Saudis, the sale can be halted, Wamp’s aide said

But to do so, the opponents would need to gain enough support in the House and Senate to override a presidential veto — two-thirds of the members in each house. About 250 House members have opposed the sale at various times since it was proposed last summer. Two-thirds of the House is 287.

Defense News

Good luck with that.


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


Friday, February 15, 2008

Speaking of Spies

From Mark Fiore. Click here to watch.


SpyBot Coming Down

You may have heard the Pentagon is going to blow up a falling satellite before it gets to earth, saying there is some toxic material that could be harmful if the satellite should hit humans. You may have guessed that not everybody is buying the rationale. Some experts say that there is not enough of a chance of any danger in its falling to justify spending the kind of money it will take to shoot it, pointing out that there have been similar situations which the Pentagon did not bother with. So what’s so special about this particular satellite?

[T]he satellite shot is a chance for the military to try out its missile defense capabilities; a way to keep secret material out of the wrong hands; and a warning to the Chinese, after they destroyed a satellite about a year ago.

[...]

Nothing good for anyone outside of arms manufacturers and politicians that need a bogeyman to scare people into voting for them.

  Danger Room


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


Because 'B' and 'S' Are So Close Together on the Keyboard

In a little noticed flub, the Reuters news agency referred to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) several times as 'Osama' in a widely distributed news article Wednesday, an article they pulled later in the day.

[...]

Reuters attributed the mistake to a 'spelling error.'

  Raw Story

Several times.

B. S.


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


Buy Your Superdelegates

They need campaign contributions sometimes, too.

Obama donated the largest amount, about $694,000, to those campaigns in the past three years, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Clinton donated $195,500.

  Raw Story


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


Noose "Incidents"

Ever since the infamous 'Jena 6' incident, during which violence erupted between students after nooses were found hanging from a de facto "whites-only" schoolyard tree, tensions apparently continue; an unusually high number of "noose incidents" are being reported nationwide.

  Raw Story

Okay, people are just effed up, but I lay a lot of this at the feet of the present administration which has incited xenophobia and caused economic despair in this country, while defending torture as a means to get what it wants, and its “leader” who has shown himself to be a consummate bully, strutting about, war-and fear-mongering and making it appear acceptable to treat other people with disdain and contempt, and generally act like a jerk, while still publicly proclaiming, “As a civil society, we must understand that noose displays and lynching jokes are deeply offensive.” Now watch this drive.


.

Silvestre Reyes' Valentine to George Bush

2/14/2008

President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

[...]

Because I care so deeply about protecting our country, I take strong offense to your suggestion in recent days that the country will be vulnerable to terrorist attack unless Congress immediately enacts legislation giving you broader powers to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans' communications and provides legal immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in the Administration's warrantless surveillance program.

[...]

If our nation is left vulnerable in the coming months, it will not be because we don't have enough domestic spying powers. It will be because your Administration has not done enough to defeat terrorist organizations – including al Qaeda -- that have gained strength since 9/11. We do not have nearly enough linguists to translate the reams of information we currently collect. We do not have enough intelligence officers who can penetrate the hardest targets, such as al Qaeda. We have surged so many intelligence resources into Iraq that we have taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result, you have allowed al Qaeda to reconstitute itself on your watch.

[...]

I, for one, do not intend to back down – not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear.

We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won.

  U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes
  Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Texans (16th Dist., El Paso) he's ours. Thank him.


Harry Reid's Valentine to George Bush

February 14, 2008

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I regret your reckless attempt to manufacture a crisis over the reauthorization of foreign surveillance laws. Instead of needlessly frightening the country, you should work with Congress in a calm, constructive way to provide our intelligence professionals with all needed tools while respecting the privacy of law-abiding Americans.

[...]

  

Dear Senator Reid:

I regret your help in providing immunity to the telecom industry for violating the privacy of law-abiding Americans.


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


FISA Furor

President Bush said Friday that "our country is in more danger of an attack" because of Congress' failure to extend a law that makes it easier for the government to spy on foreign phone calls and e-mails that pass through the United States.

[...]

"American citizens must understand, clearly understand that there's still a threat on the homeland. There's still an enemy which would like to do us harm," Bush said.

[...]

"The Democratic leaders ought to be held accountable for their inaction," House Republican leader John Boehner told reporters after the White House meeting.

  Yahoo

They're gonna get us all kilt!

What happened? The administration did everything right. The invocation of "countless American lives" hanging in the balance, the specter of terrorists delightedly chatting away undetected, the urgency emphasized by a threat to delay a long-scheduled presidential trip to Africa in order to secure the nation against attack.

That's right, the Protect America Act, the surveillance bill the administration pushed through Congress last August in a brilliantly executed squeeze play, will expire at midnight. The House should have already folded by now and simply passed the Senate's surveillance bill, complete with retroactive immunity for the telecoms. But the Dems haven't; they're sticking to the bill they passed months ago. What gives?

  TPM Muckraker

Yeah, what?

The fear just didn't stick this time around (certainly by no fault of the White House). The House broke for a week's recess yesterday -- and not only did the Dems refuse to pass the Senate's version, but they also had the gall to pass contempt resolutions against White House officials on the same day.

[...]

It might have something to do with the fact that the lapsing of the Protect America Act (PAA) won't substantially affect things at all. The old FISA law will kick back into effect. And authorizations granted under the PAA in the last six months to wiretap entire terrorist groups will stick for an entire year. In the words of House intelligence committee Chair Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), "Things will be fine."

Well, he hasn’t gone to Africa yet. And The Big Dick is still here. And the Republicans are needing something to make the country see how the Dems will let us be destroyed if they gain the White House. Michael LeDeen still plots. And God only knows what goes on at the CIA.

I overheard a couple of co-workers talking about the elections. One mentioned that Bush goes on about how only he (and maybe the Republicans) can protect us from another attack like 9/11. “Well, every president before Bush, Republican or Democrat, seemed to protect us from attack. Seems to me Bush is the only one who couldn’t.” See. Even in Texas somebody noticed. Too bad more people weren’t smart enough to figure that out back in 2004.

So now it's down to the nitty gritty. House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) has announced that he'll be working through the recess to reach a compromise. Presumably the other key players (Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), along with the ranking members on the intelligence and judiciary committees) will be sticking around too.

Hooray for the House. At least. At last.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Support Our Troops

Advocates for military families say a growing number of soldiers are losing custody of their children, not because they're bad parents but because they've been deployed overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan.

[...]

Greg Rinckey, a former Army attorney who specializes in military law, says judges are still free to rule that lengthy and repeated deployments have disrupted a soldier's home life to such a degree that a child's custody should be altered.

"In my experience in the JAG corps, I can say that this happens hundreds of times across the nation, if not even more," Rinckey says.

[...]

Pentagon officials and military-family support groups say there are no statistics on the number of military parents who have lost custody of their children following deployments.

But they agree that the number is increasing, sending waves of anger and fear through the military.

The Army Times newspaper published a scathing editorial on the subject last month, written by managing editor Chuck Finch.

"We have a volunteer military, and the idea of volunteering to serve your country and then facing the prospect of losing your children — it's a little mind-boggling," Finch says.

  NPR


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


Ted Rall

Lefties don’t have a candidate.

[...]

[Hillary] was wrong. She had bad judgment. And her September 2007 vote for possible war against Iran proves she still does.

[...]

Obama says he wouldn’t have voted for the Iraq War. I say he’s lying. So do his votes for funding the war since he joined the Senate. His voting record on Iraq is the same as Hillary’s.

  Common Dreams


A Nation Lost

Bradbury in 2005 signed two secret legal memos that authorized the CIA to use head slaps, freezing temperatures and waterboarding when questioning terror detainees.

[...]

Waterboarding is still officially in the CIA tool kit but it requires the consent of the attorney general and president on a case-by-case basis.

  Raw Story

Like they are ever going to not consent.

Secret legal memos. Torture. Guess what country we’re in.

This is the man the White House is willing to swap 84 nominees for to get him into a permanent position as head of the Office of Legal Counsel. They are desperate to keep their war-criminal asses covered.

Today, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) asked Bradbury how such obvious war crimes could be legal, especially given how the U.S. prosecuted Japanese officials for waterboarding in World War II.

Bradbury’s answer: It depends on how much water is used.

  Washington Independent

Correct me if I’m thinking about this incorrectly, but, it wouldn’t be a very useful technique if they’re not using enough water to make the victim feel he’s drowning, would it? And wouldn’t that also be the gauge on whether or not it’s torture?

It’s rather disheartening, not to mention disgusting, to keep having “debates” about whether or not this practice is legal, or even torture. We have truly lost our way as a nation.


Homeland Security

Protecting you from terrorists.

A 14-day-old infant traveling here for heart surgery died at Honolulu International Airport on Friday after he, his mother and a nurse were detained by immigration officials in a locked room, a lawyer for the boy's family said.

  Honolulu Advertiser


Skipping Town Without Paying the Rent

When Hillary Clinton left New Hampshire in January as the big winner, a doctor and building owner says she forgot to leave something on her way out of the state: a rent check. After finally getting paid the money he was owed, the doctor says he'll donate the proceeds to the campaign of her rival, Senator Barack Obama.

  Raw Story

Well, he obviously didn’t need it, then. What’s his problem?

“Thirty days went by, with no replies to phone calls, e-mails, no replies at all.

[...]

Bennett also said that the Clinton campaign left the space "trashed."

[...]

Bennett was eventually sent the rent check via express mail, but another landlord in Iowa where Clinton placed third in the Jan. 3 caucus told the paper that he had not yet received a $7,600 payment for space he had rented out to the campaign.

Ooooo.

The Clinton campaign has expressed regret on multiple occasions for not cleaning up some buildings it rented, but says most property owners it worked with were paid.

Most?


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


Telecom Immunity

Jonathan Turley says the fix was in on the Telecom Immunity deal in the Senate from way back, with the White House being helped by Democrats Jay Rockefeller and Harry Reid.


S...E...X

Hey, hey, all my Texan comrades! You can now buy your sex toys legally! We are moving into the 21st century while the rest of the country is marching back to the dark ages.

And Larry Craig got a "letter of admonition" from the Senate Ethics Committee.

“The conduct to which you pled guilty, together with your related and subsequent conduct as set forth above, constitutes improper conduct reflecting discreditably on the Senate.”

  Jonathan Turley

Could improper conduct ever reflect well? And who ever says “discreditably”? Who can?


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


Contempt

The [House voted] 223-32 Thursday to hold presidential chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in contempt. The citations charge Miers with failing to testify and accuse her and Bolten of refusing Congress' demands for documents related to the 2006-2007 firings.

  Yahoo

Much good may it do them.

The White House said the Justice Department would not ask the U.S. attorney to pursue the House contempt charges.

Uh-huh. Which is one reason maintaining a crook as the AG is so important.

With great contempt for the contempt vote, "scores" of Republican Congresslugs got up and stormed out.


....but hey, report what you want....you will anyway.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fasting for Impeachment

On Thursday, Chairman John Conyers’ House Judiciary Committee held a hearing at which Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that he would not investigate torture or warrantless spying, he would not enforce contempt citations, and he would treat Justice Department opinions as providing immunity for crimes.

None of this was new, but perhaps it touched something in Conyers that had not been touched before. Following the hearing, he and two staffers met for an hour and 15 minutes with two members of Code Pink to discuss impeachment.

Conyers expressed fear of what might happen following an impeachment, fear of installing a Bush replacement or losing an election. The “corporate power structure”, he said, would not allow impeachment without unleashing “blowback.” Conyers told Ellen Taylor and Manijeh Saba: “You need to be more than brave and courageous. You need to be smart.”

Their response? They are asking people who care about justice to help them let Conyers know that the smart thing right now would be bravery and courage.

On Rosa Parks’ birthday last week, Leslie Angeline began a fast for impeachment. Taylor and over 20 other activists have joined the fast. Conyers has agreed to meet with Angeline to discuss impeachment on Tuesday.

  Democrats.com

Now why haven’t we heard more about that?

The Democratic leadership has been helping the White House behind the scenes to block any serious investigation of torture to avoid triggering an impeachment investigation and the disclosure of Democratic knowledge of the torture program. Conyers, however, is the wild card. Any impeachment move would be a direct confrontation with Pelosi. He would be lionized by Democratic activists, who have grown unhappy with Pelosi. Indeed, it may be difficult for Pelosi to survive such a public fight and to secure the votes needed next Congress to be renewed as Speaker.

  Jonathan Turley

A number of organizations will be sending their members this alert Monday morning:

Let’s push Conyers over the edge by flooding his office with phone calls, faxes, and Emails on Monday and Tuesday. Let him know that only impeachment hearings

1-will make it on TV,
2-will force compliance with subpoenas by eliminating “executive privilege”,
3-will hold brazen criminals accountable, and
4-will convince voters that Democrats care about the Constitution.
Call 202-225-5126
Fax 202-225-0072
Email john.conyers@mail.house.gov

  Democrats.com


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


Wheelchair-Bound in Tampa?

Be extra careful.

We're definitely not the type of people who would torture anyone, are we?

Bush on Telecom Immunity

"I am pleased that last night, senators approved new legislation that will ensure our intelligence professionals have the tools they need to make us safer _ and they did so by a wide, bipartisan majority. The Senate bill also provides fair and just liability protections for companies that did the right thing and assisted in defending America [ed: in an illegal, civil rights-destroying, manner] after the attacks of September the 11th.

[...]

Unfortunately, the House has failed to pass a good bill.

[...]

At this moment, somewhere in the world, terrorists are planning new attacks on our country. Their goal is to bring destruction to our shores that will make September the 11th pale by comparison.

[...]

In order to be able to discover enemy _ the enemy's plans, we need the cooperation of telecommunication companies. If these companies are subjected to lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars, they won't participate; they won't help us; they won't help protect America."

  Fox

No comment beyond the obvious editing.


Men Talking Trade

Okay, I know this was a long time ago, but I don’t think things have really changed all that much.

Chinese leader Mao Zedong proposed sending 10 million Chinese women to the United States, in talks with top envoy Henry Kissinger in 1973, according to documents released Tuesday.

[...]

In a long conversation that stretched way past midnight at Mao's residence on February 17, 1973, the cigar-chomping Chinese leader referred to the dismal trade between the two countries, saying China was a "very poor country" and "what we have in excess is women."

He first suggested sending "thousands" of women but as an afterthought proposed "10 million," drawing laughter at the meeting, also attended by Chinese premier Zhou Enlai.

Kissinger, who was President Richard Nixon's national security advisor at that time, told Mao that the United States had no "quotas" or "tariffs" for Chinese women, drawing more laughter.

  Raw Story

Yuk. Yuk.

Because men have made such a smashing success of this world.

What we have in excess is testosterone. (Although our pollution, particularly in the form of chemical pesticides, is rapidly taking care of that.)

If Hillary Clinton were actually a woman instead of a politician, I’d want to vote for her.


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


Clinton Campaign

On the heels of changing campaign managers, the deputy campaign manager for Hillary Clinton takes a powder.

And Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign manager is apparently endorsing Obama.


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


Bush Admin Criminals?

Two Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats are requesting that the Justice Department's internal watchdog investigate whether Bush Administration officials who authorized waterboarding are guilty of any crimes themselves.

  Raw Story

Well, that’s a waste of time and money. We know what the answer will be, regardless of guilt. But, nice try Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sheldon Whitehouse's (D-RI).


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


Invertebrate Congress

Yesterday, the Senate enthusiastically endorsed the Administration's wireless wiretapping program (and voted to stop the 40 or so lawsuits against the telecoms for cooperating with it). Now the question becomes whether members of the House will stand by their bill, which contains stronger court oversight of the spying and does not contain retroactive immunity for the telecoms.

The early signs from the House leadership have been that they will strongly oppose the Senate version. The administration has put the pressure on any way it can. It's threatened to veto any bill that does not grant retroactive immunity to the telecoms.

[...]

And […] a group of moderate Democrats in the House are set to bolt.

  TPM

Typical.


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


Secretary of Defense Defenseless Against Storm

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suffered a fractured shoulder after slipping on ice Tuesday night at his Washington home, the Pentagon said.

  CNN

The Russians have sold weather control technology to the terrorists.


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


Financial Woes

Martin Wolf, an economist and columnist for the London Financial Times, laments that America is turning into "a giant hedge fund."

From 2002 through 2005, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan kept banks’ own borrowing rates lower than the rate of inflation – in effect, for bankers, money was free. Bankers also began to package up their loans into new types of bonds that they could sell off to pension funds and other investors to free up their capital for more lending. When money is free, and banks can earn rich lending fees without tying up capital, the rational banker will lend to infinity.

Countrywide Financial, one of the more notorious pushers of toxic mortgages, is a good example. Unusually easy money allowed it to employ extreme leverage, and incur heavy cash flow deficits – a total of $38 billion in operating cash deficits from 2003 through 2007. Not to worry. That was covered by $44 billion in low-rate borrowing from the Atlanta federal home loan bank. Angelo Mozilo, the Countrywide CEO, was paid $48 million in 2006, and made another $100 million-plus selling his Countrywide stock just before the subprime mortgage crash. Your taxpayer dollars at work

[...]

The floods of easy money from chairman Ben Bernanke look like a doomed effort to paper over the inflated asset values, the phony triple-A ratings and the hidden liabilities marbled through American balance sheets.

[...]

In the late 1980s, Japan experienced an asset bubble much like our current one. The tight network of government and financial executives conspired to conceal it with cheap money. And the crisis dragged on for another 15 years.

[...]

There is a better alternative.

  Read it at Washington Independent


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


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The RAND Study

Both secret and unclassified versions of "Rebuilding Iraq" were turned over to the Pentagon in mid-2005 after 18 months of research, according to the [New York] Times, which said the unclassified version was intended to further public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.

The Army, however, would not release either version and also limited circulation of the secret study within the Pentagon.

  Military.com

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, calling on him to immediately release an unclassified study of the postwar planning for Iraq prepared by the RAND Corporation in 2005. According to press accounts, the Army suppressed the RAND study after it concluded that the Bush Administration failed to address the enormity of Iraq's reconstruction challenges.

  All American Patriots

All this raises the question: If the Army is trying to bury this study, and if the Times thinks the study is important enough to place above the fold on Page One, and if the legal obstacles that made publication of the Pentagon Papers a dicey call back in 1971 are a nonissue this time out, then why won't the Times reprint the most important excerpts, as it did with the Pentagon Papers? Or, at the very least, post excerpts on its Web site?

  Slate

Excerpts from the study:

"U.S. military intervention and occupation in the Muslim world" [is] "at best inadequate, at worst counter-productive, and, on the whole, infeasible."

[...]

"Violent extremism in the Muslim world is the gravest national security threat the United States faces," said David C. Gompert, the report's lead author and a senior fellow at Rand. "Because this threat is likely to persist and could grow, it is important to understand the United States is currently not capable of adequately addressing the challenge."

[...]

[It] would be a profound mistake to conclude from [the troop increase] that all the United States needs is more military force to defeat Islamist insurgencies.” […] "One need only contemplate the precarious condition of Pakistan to realize the limitations of U.S. military power and the peril of relying upon it."

[...]

It says massive military interventions against insurgencies usually fail.

[...]

Looking at some 90 conflicts since World War II, the report concludes that establishing "representative, competent and honest" local government is the way to go.

  CNN

Good Lord, when did we ever try that?


Russ Feingold Responds

Regarding the passage of the FISA bill with immunity for telecommunications companies:

“The Senate passage of this FISA bill, while not surprising, is extremely disappointing. The Senate missed a golden opportunity to pass a bill that would give our intelligence officials the tools they need to go after suspected terrorists while also safeguarding the privacy of law-abiding Americans. Instead the Senate, with the help of too many Democrats, is yet again giving the administration sweeping new powers – and letting it off the hook for its illegal wiretapping program. I hope that our House colleagues will hold a stronger line, and refuse to accept the deeply flawed Senate bill.”

  TPM Muckraker

Mmmmmm...I doubt it. But, if you want to give it a shot, Firedoglake has a petition to send to the House.


On the Cheap

The Huckabee press van ran out of gas - twice. When they ran out the first time, the driver only put a gallon in, and the press onboard waited for rescue in 20 degree Arkansas weather.

That'll put 'em in a good mood for reportage. In fact, they titled the article: Metaphor Alert!


Scalia: We Need Torture

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rejected the notion that US courts have any control over the actions of American troops at Guantanamo Bay, argued that torture of terror detainees is not banned under the US Constitution and insisted that the high court has no obligation to act as a moral beacon for other nations.

[...]

Scalia said it was "extraordinary" to suggest that the 8th Amendment, which prohibits the government from engaging in "cruel and unusual punishment," could be applied to the actions of US interrogators questioning foreign subjects detained overseas.

[...]

Scalia suggested that it would be inappropriate for the court to deliberately outlaw certain tactics, such as waterboarding.

  Raw Story

And surely he would have trouble acting as a moral beacon with that attitude.

Does this guy have any health problems that might get him off the bench?


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


Update: Scaglia today has made WaterTiger lose her cool.


Another Parody

Not as good as the first one, but...


Executive Privilege

In recent days the administration has seemingly backed away from attempting to secure extended military-to-military relationship with the Iraqi government to replace a current U.N. Mandate. Webb and others -- most notably Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Hillary Clinton -- have pushed legislation that would restrict federal money for any such agreement unless it came in the form of a congressional treaty. And while a victory on that front seems within grasp, the possibility still exists, Webb warned, for the administration to ultimately circumvent congressional input.

"They are characterizing this as within the authority of the Executive Branch. They will wait to August when everyone is at the conventions, and leave it on our doorstep," said the Virginia Democrat. "If the Senate hasn't acted by then, they are going to announce an agreement between the Executive Branch and Iraq."

[...]

Sen. Jim Webb thinks legal action against the Bush administration may be needed if the president pursues a long-term military presence in Iraq without Congress' approval.

"I'm not convinced we don't need to have a lawsuit ready," Webb told the Huffington Post. "This is a classic separation of powers issue. I started to talk to people about this today."

  Alternet

Maybe you should have started a little sooner. But...I wonder what his fellow Congresslugs have done to make him imagine they wouldn't give approval for long-term military presence.


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


Chalk Up Another One for Big Brother

The Senate has voted to give the telecommunications industry retroactive immunity for cooperating with the government's illegal wiretap party. And aren't we surprise.

Obama showed up to vote against immunity. McCain showed up to vote for immunity. Apparently Hillary didn't show.


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


Prime Time

Like subprime mortgages, many prime loans made in recent years allowed borrowers to pay less initially and face higher adjustable payments a few years later. As long as home prices were rising, these borrowers could refinance their loans or sell their properties to pay off their mortgages. But now, with prices falling and lenders clamping down, homeowners with solid credit are starting to come under the same financial stress as those with subprime credit.

“Subprime was a symptom of the problem,” said James F. Keegan, a bond portfolio manager at American Century Investments, a mutual fund company. “The problem was we had a debt or credit bubble.”

The bursting of that bubble has led to steep losses across the financial industry. American International Group said on Monday that auditors found it may have understated losses on complex financial instruments linked to mortgages and corporate loans.

  NY Times

The Bush administration will announce an expanded plan Tuesday for lenders to help homeowners by temporarily suspending foreclosures for people facing the imminent loss of a home, a source familiar with the plan said Monday.

[...]

The plan, called Project Lifeline, will allow overdue homeowners to suspend foreclosures for 30 days while they try to work out more affordable terms with lenders.

  CNN

And GM wants to buy out the last 74,000 of its auto workers and start from scratch with new employees being paid lower wages with less benefits.


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



Ron Paul Is Wired

The Texas Republican has become the Web's favorite dark horse, harnessing the power of the Internet to turn his long-shot candidacy into a powerful rallying cry for disaffected Netizens.

[...]

There's just one problem with the Ron Paul story: Ron Paul. Sure, he seems like a decent guy, forthright and honest. Unfortunately, his paleo-libertarian policies make Ayn Rand look like Mother Teresa. I like the gold standard as much as the next guy, but I'm not sure we're ready to overturn three decades of reasonably successful economic policy in order to reinstate it. I don't agree that the minimum wage should be abolished. (Ever work in retail, Ron?) And while I like Paul's stance on Iraq (let's get the hell out), I'm not thrilled with his position on the United Nations (let's get the hell out).

The Ron Paul candidacy is a lot like the first wave of Facebook apps: thrilling as a notion, disappointing as content. If this were a meta-election — an election on how to run an election — I'd happily throw my digg behind Paul. Unfortunately, it's an election about how to run a country.

  Wired


Monday, February 11, 2008

Hillary's New Campaign Manager

Hmmmmm.

With his win in Maine, Obama enjoyed a clean sweep over the weekend, after finishing first on Saturday in the Washington state and Nebraska caucuses and in the Louisiana primary. That gives Obama fresh momentum as the two candidates pivot to Tuesday's so-called Potomac primaries, in Virginia, Maryland and Washington. A Clinton campaign official said privately Sunday that the campaign expects to lose all three contests.

  LA Times

That might not go unpunished.

BTW, the campaign has paid back the $5 million personal loan from Hillary.


Update 2/21/08:    It seems reports of the loan being paid back may have been premature.


Speaking of Chelsea Clinton

"If you have health care and you're not happy with it -- like me who has employer provided health care, but I'm not happy with it -- and if you are one of the 100 million who are uninsured at some point throughout the year... you'll be able to buy into a Congressional health plan," Chelsea Clinton said in a Milwaukee appearance broadcast, in part, on MSNBC today, in which she described her mother's healthcare plan.

  Politico

I guess she doesn’t need that job so much.


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


H.T. Maru

Lightening Up

Where is Ralph, anyway?


McCain's Dignity

McCain told some folks in Miami that “a couple of Cubans” tortured POWs in Hanoi when McCain was a prisoner there. Castro says McCain is lying.

"For me to respond to Fidel Castro, who has oppressed and repressed his people and who is one of the most brutal dictators on Earth, for me to dignify any comments he might make is certainly beneath me," he said at a press conference.

  Yahoo

But making an ugly joke about Chelsea Clinton is right up his ally. (See previous post.)


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


Chelsea Clinton

An NBC newsman has been suspended for making a crack that Chelsea is being "pimped out" by the Clinton campaign. Let's go back in time:

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
Because her father is Janet Reno."

[-- John McCain, June 25, 1998, at a Republican Senate fund-raiser]

  Salon


War Crimes

Many Iraqis view the attack Jan. 10 by bombers and F-16 jets on a cluster of villages in the Latifiya district south of Baghdad as overkill.

[...]

"On Jan. 10, huge aircraft started bombing the villages," Ahmad Alwan from a village near Juboor told IPS. "We took our families and fled. We have never seen such bombardment since the 2003 American invasion. They were bombing everything and everybody."

Residents said two B1 bombers and four F-16 fighter jets dropped at least 40,000 pounds of explosives on the villages and plantations within a span of 10 minutes.

[...]

"We have no alternative but to fight this occupation and its allies," a former army officer in Baghdad speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS. "We can see clearly now that Americans came with the idea that we, Sunni Arabs, are the enemies they have in mind no matter what we do to please them. We will fight for our existence, and this massacre will not go unpunished."

[...]

"Apache helicopters later fired at the trucks that were carrying the families out of the area, and killed so many civilians. They took some wounded people to their military base. I am sure hundreds of people would have been killed. It is just like the Fallujah crime." The cluster of Sunni villages was bombed just weeks after the U.S. military encouraged families to return to their village after heavy bombing earlier in which scores of people were killed. Many residents had fled fearing sectarian death squads, which they say were backed by the U.S.

[...]

"We know they will get away with their crime now, but we will teach our children that America and the whole West are our enemies, so that they take revenge for these crimes," 35-year-old Nada, a woman who has relatives in the village told IPS.

  IPS

Well, of course you can’t fight an endless war on terror if you don’t have an endless supply of terror to fight. If we can Fallujah the whole country, our odds are better.