Monday, March 31, 2008

There Goes Pakistan

[A] visit by Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte turned out to be series of indignities and chilly, almost hostile, receptions as he bore the brunt of the full range of complaints that Pakistanis now feel freer to air with the end of military rule by Washington’s favored ally, President Pervez Musharraf.

Faced with a new democratic lineup that is demanding talks, not force, in the fight against terrorism, Mr. Negroponte publicly swallowed a bitter pill at his final news conference on Thursday, acknowledging that there would now be some real differences in strategy between the United States and Pakistan.

  NYT


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


All in the Family

Okay, this is a year old, but I just came across it.

Are we sure this is a nephew? It's not just that he looks like George.


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


Summer 2008: End of the World?

[A] giant particle accelerator […] will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer [that some think] might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.

Scientists say that is very unlikely — though they have done some checking just to make sure.

[...]

Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.”

  NYTimes

Or, as we know it here at YWA, Dick Cheney’s heart.

Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years — namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.

The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Federal District Court, in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting CERN from proceeding with the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment.

That really doesn’t seem so unreasonable a request to me. After all, nobody bothered to try to determine how to dispose of nuclear waste when they went forth to create nuclear reactors, and look at the problems that’s created, which sadly, nobody ever talks about. We’ll just store those “spent” rods until science comes up with the answer. We’re pretty good at rushing in to something without a good plan to get out. And so far, that approach has proved to be problematic.

CERN is a European entity, and so probably isn’t beholden to any lawsuit in Hawaii, but also named in the suit are the federal Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the National Science Foundation.

[A] restraining order on Fermilab and the Energy Department, which helps to supply and maintain the accelerator’s massive superconducting magnets, would shut down the project anyway.

[...]

The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.

  

If they’re still around to sift, that is.

Dr. Arkani-Hamed said concerning worries about the death of the Earth or universe, “Neither has any merit.” He pointed out that because of the dice-throwing nature of quantum physics, there was some probability of almost anything happening. There is some minuscule probability, he said, “the Large Hadron Collider might make dragons that might eat us up.”

Fire it up, boys. This I want to see.


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


Ewwwwwwwww


Seen at Bad Attitudes.


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


Booooo - Part 2

Chris Dodd thinks Bush had another wild pitch:

Top Democrats Monday dismissed the Bush administration's plan to overhaul the nation's financial regulatory system as inadequate, with one leading senator calling the proposals a "wild pitch."

Sen. Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said he "welcomed the idea" of updating the way bodies such as the Federal Reserve Board oversee the U.S. economy.

But the Connecticut Democrat and former presidential candidate said the plan laid out by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson "doesn't relate to the issues they are trying to confront."

[...]

"This is opening day in baseball, so let me use a baseball analogy: I would call this the wild pitch," Dodd said. "It's not even close to the strike zone."

[...]

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, was somewhat more conciliatory, calling the plan "a step in the right direction."

  CNN


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


Booooooo

Bush was seriously booed - you can easily hear it the whole time he's out there - while tossing out the first pitch to the Nationals. The announcer, however, does a good job of pretending it isn't happening, praising Bush as the only president who doesn't stand several paces in front of the mound, and even working in 9/11. I wonder if the WH speechmakers wrote the script. I also wonder if the folks doing the booing experienced any SS harassment. And I also wonder how tall the batter would have had to be to swing at that pitch.

It also sounds like the introduction says that Bush is "here to throw out the inaugural bitch," but I'm sure that's just a sound distortion - unlike the boos.


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


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Al-Sadr Speaks

Saturday:

Anti-American Shiite militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his followers Saturday to defy government orders to surrender their weapons, as U.S. jets struck Shiite extremists near Basra to bolster a faltering Iraqi offensive against gunmen in the city.

  Courier News

Sunday:

Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr offered to pull his fighters off the streets of Basra and other cities if the government ceases raids against his followers and frees prisoners held without charge, the Associated Press reported, citing a statement from al-Sadr's Najaf headquarters.

  Bloomberg

We now await the Iraqi government’s official response. Reuters is reporting that an aide to al-Sadr says the Iraqi government has agreed to all the demands.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Convention, Anyone?

Sen. [and superdelegate] Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) today called on Hillary Rodham Clinton to drop out of the presidential race, saying there is no way the New York senator can wrest the nomination from her rival Barack Obama.

"There is no way that Sen. Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination," Leahy, an Obama supporter, said in an interview with Vermont Public Radio this morning. "She ought to withdraw, and she ought to be backing Sen. Obama."

[...]

With the two senators battling for support from voters and superdelegates in the coming primaries, Obama picked up a new endorsement today from an unexpected source: Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who had earlier said he would stay neutral until Pennsylvania's April 22 primary.

  LA Times

Well, she's not going to drop out. At least not yet. And I don't quite understand what the sense of a nominating convention is if there's only one person available to nominate. Seems like a collosal waste of money to me.


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


Par for the Course

An aide to President Bush has resigned because of his alleged misuse of grant money from the U.S. Agency for International Development when he worked for a Cuban democracy organization.

Felipe Sixto was promoted on March 1 as a special assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and stepped forward on March 20 to reveal his alleged wrongdoing and to resign, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said on Friday. He said Sixto took that step after learning that his former employer, the Center for a Free Cuba, was prepared to initiate legal action against him.

The matter has been turned over to the Justice Department for investigation, Stanzel said. He said Bush was briefed on the case and felt that the appropriate action was being taken.

  Yahoo

I think by now it’s a given that Bush folk are promoted for wrongdoings. We would have expected nothing less.


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


Speaking of Those Emails

District Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Thursday that the DNC does not have a right under the Freedom of Information Act to 68 pages of e-mails sent between White House and Justice Department officials simply because the White House e-mail traffic was transmitted on a server controlled by the Republican National Committee.

The DNC sued the Justice Department in April 2007 after its FOIA request for the e-mails, which relate to the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, was not granted by DOJ. Attorneys for the DNC argued that since the White House officials used "GWB43.com" e-mail addresses to send the messages, they cannot be deemed to be official in nature and therefore must be turned over under the DNC's FOIA request.

[...]

Huvelle noted she wasn't asked to rule on whether the White House violated the Presidential Records Act, only whether the e-mails were exempted from FOIA requests because of their content. Huvelle, in fact, said the failure to save the e-mails from the White House officials was "an apparently flagrant violation" of the Presidential Records Act.

  Politico

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


FUBAR

Of the two cities [Basra and Baghdad], Basra is more vulnerable. If Basra falls, then US troops will be forced to move into Basra. Basra is the only port in Iraq - oil gets transported out of there, and it’s also an extremely important supply route for US troops - equipment, food, materials = incredibly vulnerable. This seems to be the plan - draw US troops out of Baghdad to defend Basra. Next: al Sadr supporters storm the Iraqi Government. Declare victory. Demand that the U.S. get out immediately.

  comments at Feral Scholar

We shall see.


Digging Deeper

The Clingon (I mistyped) Clinton campaign is still trying to torpedo the Obama candidacy, and still having a few tactical problems. For instance, in light of Hillarious' "misspoken" comments about running for cover in a war zone, I think it's a bit ironic, and perhaps not the best tack, to suggest that Obama has been lying about his position at the University of Chicago. Especially when he hasn't been. Maybe they should have checked with the University. But then, they wouldn't have gotten out a false claim that will go uncorrected in at least some people's minds.


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


19 Years After the Exxon Valdez

In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxon’s response was, “We can hold out in court until you’re all dead.”

  Greg Palast

And that’s exactly what they’re doing with the aid of the Bush courts. In this article, Palast recaps the illegal and immoral actions that created the disastrous oil spillage created by the Exxon tanker and ties it to the Bush Administration and Republican values. But most of the article is devoted to depicting John McCain’s evolution from “maverick” to GOP tool. Go read.


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


It's Not a Tragedy...

...it's an opportunity.

Foreclosure home tours. Their loss is your gain.


Where There's an Oil Well, There's a Way

Admit it: You don't know where the !@#$% Tajikistan is

by Greg Palast

Or Kyrgyzstan. Or Turkmenistan. But as your kids will be fighting there among the oil pipes, you should kiss Ted Rall's crazy ass for going there first - and getting it all down in a book of dead-on cartoons and reportage, Silk Road to Ruin

Rall almost didn't make it back. The [Talib gunman] who was supposed to execute Rall spoke English - the gunman picked it up as an NYU grad student.

[...]

Rall caroms through the 'Stans by bus, barfing and bribing and joking his way past sex-starved, over-armed fanatics and avaricious body guards. He's too whacked by dehydration and diarrhea to worry about the stark-raving danger of such a journey in war-time (it's always war time in the 'Stans) to tell us the story you won't find in the captions of Bill [Clinton] shaking hands with a despot du jour.

Read all about it at Greg Palast.


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


More Positive Moments

Happy Sunshine Boy's success in Iraq is growing apace. Airstrikes on Baghdad and Basra.

More positive moments.


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


The Missing Emails

In response to a fine comment in an earlier post, I did a quick search for what's become of the demand for the White House to produce emails, and found that they've apparently "lost" many of them by not backing up hard drives before replacing and destroying them.


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


Meanwhile, in Pakistan

The United States has escalated its unilateral strikes against al-Qaeda members and fighters operating in Pakistan's tribal areas, partly because of anxieties that the country's new leaders will insist on a scaling back of military operations in that country, according to U.S. officials.

Washington is worried that pro-Western President Pervez Musharraf, who has generally supported the U.S. strikes, will almost certainly have reduced powers in the months ahead [ed: see this article], and so it wants to inflict as much damage as it can to al-Qaeda's network now, the officials said.

  WaPo

Which is probably the same reasoning al-Maliki is using in attacks on Basra. When Bush is gone, he can’t be sure he’ll get the same backing.


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


You Don't Need to Know

And your talking about it is hurting us.

As we noted earlier this month, the intelligence community has been working towards producing a new national intelligence estimate on Iraq, and it's likely to be completed in the next several weeks. It is also, unlike the last several NIEs on Iraq and last year's report on Iran, likely to be kept secret.

[...]

That's because Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell thinks it's bad policy to release declassified versions of the reports' key judgments. It's part of his general philosophy that public debate about intelligence issues kills Americans.

  TPM

Of course.


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


Fox News Losing It's Influence?

One in 10 voters believes Barack Obama is Muslim, a mistaken impression that lingers across party lines, a poll showed Wednesday.

Fourteen percent of Republicans, 10 percent of Democrats and 8 percent of independents mistakenly think he is Muslim, according to a survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

  Raw Story

Is there a statement in here about the wisdom of independents compared to panty [typo] party liners?

Actually, I would have thought that the percentage who think he’s Muslim would have been higher. So I guess I’m pleasantly surprised.


SNAFU

President Bush is saying that Iran is, in the words of the Times, "arming, training and financing the militias fighting against the Iraqi forces." Perhaps that's true. But it's hard not to note that the Badr Organization (formerly the Badr Corps), which Maliki has allied himself with, is the outfit that was actually created in Iran under the tutelage and financing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

  TPM

Iran, Iraq. Sadr, Badr. It’s just too much to keep straight for the Little Prince who’s just looking forward to getting to the end of his term so he can go back to the party.


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


Did I Say Three Days?

Ah, the fine art of the empty threat.

Iraq's PM, who said that militants had three days to disarm and renounce violence, or else, now says they can have until April 8, and he'll pay them for their weapons.

Giving Congress a run for their money on the empty threat award.


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


Thursday, March 27, 2008

We Really Can't Go On This Way

Surely, if we get rid of George, Jenna and Not-Jenna, we don't deserve to spend another four years with McSame and his spawn. Do we?


"Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat." --Mark Twain


Who Killed Bobby Kennedy?

Evidence suggests maybe one of his own security guards.


A Ray of Sunshine

Speaking to the Times of London in an interview published Thursday, President George W. Bush declared that the latest wave of violence in Iraq yielded "a very positive moment in the development of a sovereign nation that is willing to take on elements that believe they are beyond the law."

  Raw Story

Jesus Harold Christ on a rubber crutch.


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


Update: And US embassy personnel at Baghdad headquarters have been told to stay indoors, wear protective gear, including helmets, if they must go outside, and sleep in "blast resistant locations."


It Just Gets Worse

The Army Sustainment Command gave the Miami Beach-based AEY, Inc. $300 million to supply ammo to the Afghanistan government. The 22 year-old [founder of AEY], Efraim E. Diveroli, used the money to buy unusable, discarded artillery from Russia, Albania and other former Eastern Bloc countries. These are the same weapons the State Dept. has spent millions trying to destroy since the Cold War.

AEY, Inc. is no longer doing business with the Army, with the stated reason that it illegally bought weapons from China. Those weapons, apparently, didn't work either.

  Washington Independent

In purchasing munitions, the contractor has also worked with middlemen and a shell company on a federal list of entities suspected of illegal arms trafficking.

[...]

This week, after repeated inquiries about AEY’s performance by The Times, the Army suspended the company from any future federal contracting, citing shipments of Chinese ammunition and claiming that Mr. Diveroli misled the Army by saying the munitions were Hungarian.

  NYT

Misled?

[P]roblems with the ammunition were evident last fall in places like Nawa, Afghanistan, an outpost near the Pakistani border, where an Afghan lieutenant colonel surveyed the rifle cartridges on his police station’s dirty floor. Soon after arriving there, the cardboard boxes had split open and their contents spilled out, revealing ammunition manufactured in China in 1966.

“This is what they give us for the fighting,” said the colonel, Amanuddin, who like many Afghans has only one name. “It makes us worried, because too much of it is junk.” Ammunition as it ages over decades often becomes less powerful, reliable and accurate.

Part of our confidence-building within our nation-building operations. But I don’t know. Why should we be giving Afghans proper equipment when U.S. soldiers don’t?

[An] examination of AEY’s background, through interviews in several countries, reviews of confidential government documents and the examination of some of the ammunition, suggests that Army contracting officials, under pressure to arm Afghan troops, allowed an immature company to enter the murky world of international arms dealing on the Pentagon’s behalf — and did so with minimal vetting and through a vaguely written contract with few restrictions.

Well, it’s really not their fault, Mr. Rumsfeld would have said. Stuff happens. You go to war with the army you have. They didn’t have much time to prepare for this war.

Mr. Diveroli, in a brief telephone interview late last year, denied any wrongdoing. “I know that my company does everything 100 percent on the up and up, and that’s all I’m concerned about,” he said.

That and a little domestic trouble.

In November 2005, a young woman sought an order of protection from him in the domestic violence division of Dade County Circuit Court.

The woman eventually did not appear in court, and her allegations were never ruled on. But in court papers, the woman said that after her relationship with Mr. Diveroli ended, he stalked her and left threatening messages.

Once, according to the file, his behavior included “shoving her to the ground and refusing to allow her to leave during a verbal dispute.” Other times, she reported, Mr. Diveroli arrived at her home unannounced and intoxicated “going about the exterior, banging on windows and doors.”

Mr. Diveroli sought court delays on national security grounds.

And a little forgery trouble.

On Dec. 21, 2006, the police were called back to the condominium. Mr. Diveroli and AEY’s vice president, David M. Packouz, had just been in a fight with the valet parking attendant.

The fight began, the police said, after the attendant refused to give Mr. Diveroli his keys and Mr. Diveroli entered the garage to get them himself. A witness said Mr. Diveroli and Mr. Packouz both beat the man; police photographs showed bruises and scrapes on his face and back.

When the police searched Mr. Diveroli, they found he had a forged driver’s license that added four years to his age and made him appear old enough to buy alcohol as a minor. His birthday had been the day before.

“I don’t even need that any more,” he told the police, the report said. “I’m 21 years old.”

Dude. I trade arms for the U.S. government.

AEY was awarded the contract in January 2007. Asked why it chose AEY, the Army Sustainment Command answered in writing: “AEY’s proposal represented the best value to the government.”

Heaven help us all.


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

There is more. Much more.


President of AEY, Efraim Diveroli


Vice President of AEY, David M. Packouz


Update: Some interesting tidbits turn up in the comments at TPM.


Big Brother Sprouts Wings

Taking their lead from the U.S. military, which has used drones in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, law enforcement agencies across the country have voiced a growing interest in using drones for domestic crime-fighting missions.

Known in the aerospace industry as UAVs, for unmanned aerial vehicles, drones have been under development for decades in the United States.

The CIA acknowledges that it developed a dragonfly-sized UAV known as the "Insectohopter" for laser-guided spy operations as long ago as the 1970s.

And other advanced work on robotic flyers has clearly been under way for quite some time.

"The FBI is experimenting with a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles," said Marcus Thomas, an assistant director of the bureau's Operational Technology Division.

[...]

Citing numerous safety concerns, the FAA -- the government agency responsible for regulating civil aviation -- has been slow in developing procedures for the use of UAVs by police departments.

"You don't want one of these coming down on grandma's windshield when she's on her way to the grocery store," said Doug Davis, the FAA's program manager for unmanned aerial systems.

  Raw Story

If it will keep us safe from terrorists, grandma may just have to stay inside.


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


Insane McCain

W3IAI comments on John McCain's "big foreign affairs speech."

Although the anchor on NPR this morning tried several times to get his reporter to explain how McCain could both support the war in Iraq and insist on decision-making cooperation with our international allies, he never got an answer. I was asking that question myself. I can think of two possibilities: 1) He's just saying what he thinks sounds good, but he never actually says that under his leadership we will be inclusive or democratic about our decisions.

"Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed. We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies. When we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them."

  NYT

Or, 2) He's a genius by F. Scott Fitzgerald definition: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."


So Very Bush

The next presidential library will be decidedly different.

The Bushites have cut a deal with SMU [Southern Methodist University] executives to locate his presidential library on this private campus in one of Dallas’s wealthiest neighborhoods. They’ve targeted some Arab oil kingdoms, corporate chieftains, and wealthy heiresses to be the “megadonors” they need to raise half-a-billion bucks to establish George’s ex-presidential palace.

[...]

[R]ather than placing the full archive of the administration’s papers in the SMU complex so historians and others have access, Bush is to have a heavily-censored, anti-academic library. None other that Karl Rove will help with the censoring, making sure that historians only peruse documents that cast the Bush-Cheney regime in a glowing light.

Second, the policy institutes at other presidential libraries are scholarly units of their host universities. The work done in them is judged by normal academic standards, deans are chosen by university presidents, etc. George W’s think tank, however, is to be academically-unattached to SMU and will unabashedly push a partisan, ideological agenda. It will hire conservative acolytes and, as an insider told the New York Daily News, “give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President’s policies.”

  Jim Hightower


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


Blow Up

Basra's situation is worsening, including the destruction of an oil pipeline, along with scores of deaths.

Fighting has spread in the past two days to the southern cities of Kut, Hilla, Diwaniya, Amara and Kerbala. The authorities today imposed curfews across southern Iraq in an effort to halt the spread of violence.

Basra residents complained that they were living "in hell" since the crackdown started. "We have spent most of the time hiding under the staircase," said Faris Hayder, 28.

  Times Online

Hide while you still have a staircase.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Free Markets

Jim Hightower wonders why Monsanto hates the free market, lobbying the government to ban labels on milk produced without growth hormones that tell consumers the milk is BGH-free. Monsanto says that implies there's something wrong with BGH milk.

If they're so proud of BGH milk, they should have their own labels declaring: “Mmmm, yummy! Milk with artificial sex hormones added!”

  Jim Hightower

Indeed. Let’s show some respect for free market capitalism, Monsanto.


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


Body of War

The music CD.

The film.

The YouTube channel.


Oops. More Loose Nukes

The Defense Department mistakenly shipped secret nuclear missile fuses to Taiwan more than 18 months ago and did not learn that the items were missing until late last week, Pentagon officials acknowledged yesterday, deepening concerns about the security of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

[...]

[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates found the incident "disconcerting."

  WaPo

Disconcerting.

Senior defense officials said it was almost certainly human error that led to the nose cones being shipped, and Air Force officials were concerned the classified items were placed in an unclassified area of a DLA warehouse and not properly tracked. Quarterly inventory checks over the past 18 months did not show the nose cones were missing.

[...]

Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne said the Taiwanese did not appear to tamper with the items, which contain 1960s-era technology, and that the nose cones would not have been dangerous on their own because they work only with U.S. missile technology. Of greater concern to senior U.S. officials is that classified nuclear-related items left U.S. control, reached the hands of a foreign military and went without notice for so long.

[...]

"This is a case of horrifying mismanagement of the inventory at this location," said Leonard S. Spector, deputy director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. "But it does seem more like mismanagement rather than a nefarious scheme to get them to Taiwan."

Well, that’s okay, then.

Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, said the nose-cone incident underscores how Washington has "too many nuclear weapons with too little control over them." He said he worries that the incident will raise Chinese suspicions that Taiwan is restarting its nuclear program -- it does not now have nuclear capabilities -- and could spur China to assume a more aggressive stance.

"Imagine how we would feel if the Russians accidentally shipped warhead fuses to Tehran," Cirincione said. "We'd be going nuts right now. It would be hard for them to convince us that it was an accident."

And this is a little bit of a touchy time with China.

Too many nukes with too little control over them, indeed. Remember the nukes that flew over the U.S. back in September?


More Ohio Voter Fraud

Maru quotes Alternet.

What [Rush] Limbaugh encouraged Republican voters to do in Ohio was a fifth-degree felony in that state, punishable with a $2,500 fine and six to 12 months in jail. That is because in order to change party affiliation in Ohio, voters have to fill out a form swearing allegiance to that party's principles "under penalty of election falsification."

On Thursday, March 20, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the "Cuyahoga County Board of Election has launched an investigation that could lead to criminal charges against voters who maliciously switched parties for the March 4 presidential primary." According to the report, "One voter scribbled the following addendum to his pledge as a new Democrat: "For one day only."

"Such an admission amounts to voter fraud," the report continued.

  Alternet via WTF


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


Fed Up at Fox News

Not only Chris Wallace is fed up with his co-workers at Fox over their treatment of Barack Obama. Brian Kilmeade couldn't take it any more and walked off the set.


Bomb Plot Uncovered at the Capitol

Authorities revealed Tuesday that a man carrying a loaded shotgun was arrested in January near the U.S. Capitol, and explosives left in his truck nearby went undetected for three weeks.

[...]

He was arrested Jan. 18 for carrying the shotgun and a sword outside the Capitol. [He] told police he was headed to an appointment at the Supreme Court

[…]

U.S. Capitol Police discovered the explosive device three weeks later when they returned with a search warrant to check the truck, which was in a government parking lot.

  Raw Story

But he’s not a terrorist. You know how I know? His name is Michael Gorbey.

Gorbey allegedly tried to manufacture a "weapon of mass destruction, that is, an explosive device capable of causing multiple deaths or serious bodily injuries to multiple persons, or massive destruction of property," according to the indictment.

[...]

Court records show Gorbey is a convicted felon and has been in and out of prison since 1991 for convictions on larceny, domestic violence and illegal gun and drug charges.

So?

But, hey, it's nice to know that the DC bomb squad is on top of things, eh? Three weeks.


And You Thought There Were Only Two

Well, you had every right to think that there are only two candidates running for president in the Democratic party race. No major news source ever mentions Mike Gravel any more. He's still running. But he's now switched parties.

Gravel, a former Democratic senator from Alaska, said in an e-mail that the Democratic Party "no longer represents my vision for our great country."

"It is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism — all of which I find anathema to my views," he said in the e-mail in which he also asked supporters for campaign donations.

[...]

"I look forward to advancing my presidential candidacy within the Libertarian Party, which is considerably closer to my values, my foreign policy views and my domestic views," he said.

  Raw Story

I suppose he'll be just as ignored as Ron Paul.

And Ralph Nader.


Please Let Me Out

The Air Force lawyer who quit as chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo Bay war court five months ago because of what he called political interference has asked to leave the U.S. military, he said. Col. Morris D. Davis said he submitted retirement papers last week, because of fallout from his criticism of the Guantanamo court and because of family concerns.

  WaPo

I haven't been able to determine what exactly his "family concerns" entail. The political interference you may remember came when the White House put him under the command of a torture-proponent who is a "close ally" of Dick Cheney, and Davis was refusing to use testimony gained under torture. Davis also said that the Pentagon was pressuring for "sexy" high-profile convictions rather than allowing the cases to be properly researched and tried, in time to hopefully sway the 2008 elections.

I'm going to guess (again - I do that often enough) that Col. Davis has been under some pretty heavy pressure from both the White House and the Pentagon. Somehow it is also affecting his family.

What will they require of him to let him go?


The Magical Three Days

Three days in honor of Easter?

Iraq’s Prime Minister is giving Sadrists three days to turn over their weapons and renounce violence or face prison.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking they probably figure on prison sentences at the very least as part of a holy martyr’s risks. I rather doubt the threat will have any impact. And, I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that the cease fire instigated by al-Sadr was the government’s best hope for less violence. What went wrong there?

FIERCE battles have erupted between Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias in Basra, Baghdad and other cities as the Government, backed by US and British reconnaissance planes, launched an offensive aimed at draining the power of politically backed gunmen.

The fiercest fighting in an operation codenamed Saulat al-Fursan (Charge of the knights) on Tuesday took place in Basra neighbourhoods, where Iraqi forces targeted members of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, further risking the collapse of a ceasefire that Sadr declared in late August. His fighters' stand-down has been widely credited with helping curb violence throughout the country during the American troop build up known as the surge.

[...]

In a sign of the offensive's importance, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flew to Basra on Monday to oversee operations.

  smh.com

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in Basra to supervise a crackdown against the spiraling violence between militia factions vying for control of the center of the country's vast oil industry located near the Iranian border.

[...]

Followers of al-Sadr […] have been fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad and other cities in reaction to the Basra crackdown.

[...]

Hundreds of Sadr City residents took to the streets on Wednesday, demanding the government stop military operations in Basra and other cities and withdraw all security forces.

[...]

The Sadrists are angry over recent raids and detentions, saying U.S. and Iraqi forces have taken advantage of the cease-fire to crack down on the movement.

[...]

Suspected Shiite extremists also unleashed rockets or mortars against the U.S.-protected Green Zone in central Baghdad for the third day this week.

[...]

Sadiq al-Rikabi, a chief adviser to al-Maliki, said gunmen who fail to turn over their weapons to police stations in Basra by Friday will be targeted for arrest. He added that they also must sign a pledge renouncing violence.

"Any gunman who does not do that within these three days will be an outlaw," he said.

  Yahoo

Well, that oughta do it. I know they’d hate to be labeled outlaws.


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


Update 3/25/08: TPM has some explication of how the cease-fire has been breeched, beginning perhaps with rogue elements of the Sadr militia.


Update 3/28/08: Making adjustments.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Saddam Tried to Kill My Dad"

Or did he?


About That Cease Fire

Moqtada al-Sadr's militiamen battled troops in four Iraqi cities on Tuesday, including the capital, as the hardline Shiite cleric threatened a countrywide campaign of civil revolt.

[...]

The fighting, which severely strains a ceasefire declared by Sadr in late August and renewed last month, prompted the cleric to issue a stern warning that he would launch protests and a nationwide strike if attacks against his movement and "poor people" are not halted.

[...]

"We demand that religious and political leaders intervene to stop the attacks on poor people. We call on all Iraqis to launch protests across all the provinces.

"If the government does not respect these demands, the second step will be general civil disobedience in Baghdad and the Iraqi provinces."

  Yahoo

There goes the surge success.


Support Our Troops

One frigid March morning last year, federal agents raided a factory in this old whaling town, arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants as they sewed vests and backpacks for U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most were shackled and sent to a detention center in Texas, where they faced rapid deportation unless they could post thousands of dollars in bail -- money they didn't have -- to buy time to mount a defense.

  WSJ

And there was Rumsfeld some years back assuring the soldiers in Iraq that the reason they didn’t have body armor had nothing to do with the desire to provide them body armor – we just didn’t have the means.

Then, a mystery benefactor appeared. The anonymous donor ponied up more than $200,000 to spring 40 people from detention.

The payments came from Bob Hildreth, a Boston financier who made his millions trading Latin American debt. He was "infuriated" at the televised images of workers being shipped to Texas, he says. Helping them make bail is "payback."

[...]

Mr. Hildreth agreed to help individuals post bail if they or their families would also put up a significant chunk of money.

[...]

While none of his recipients have skipped out on bail, it is a real possibility, since the chances of winning the right to remain legally in the U.S. are slim. Bail-skippers would open Mr. Hildreth to criticism that he helped people evade the law.

"He's going to hear that he's helping these people stay here who have no right to stay here," says Harvey Kaplan, a Boston immigration lawyer who represents some of the immigrants. "He'll get hate mail."

No doubt.

The factory raid has been a hot topic around New Bedford, where prominent local talk-radio host Ken Pittman has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration. Upon hearing of Mr. Hildreth's payments, Mr. Pittman said: "I would ask him to show the same compassion for American workers displaced by these illegal aliens."

Yeah, because there were hundreds of American workers lined up to take those jobs but were passed over. Right.


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


Monday, March 24, 2008

What is Wrong with These People - Part II

Hillary pulled a Jessica Lynch.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign said she "misspoke" last week when she said she had landed under sniper fire during a trip she took as first lady to Bosnia in March 1996. The Obama campaign suggested it was a deliberate exaggeration on Clinton's part.

[...]

During a speech last Monday about Iraq, she said of the trip: "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

According to an AP story at the time, Clinton was placed under no extraordinary risks on that trip. And one of her companions on it, comedian Sinbad, told The Washington Post he has no recollection either of the threat or reality of gunfire.

  Yahoo

Why? Why? What could possibly be gained by telling the lie? Misspoke. No, she flat out lied. Or else she has trouble sorting the imagined from the real. That’s not necessarily bad. It happens to a lot of us. I sometimes don’t know if I dreamed something or it happened. But then, I’m probably not a good candidate to be president, and that indeed might be part of the reason why not. I guess “misspoke” sounds better than either, “I lied about that,” or, “Gee, I don’t know whose memory I’m channeling, but I remembered sniper fire.”


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


Falluja- Now a Model City

The U.S. military showcases Fallujah as a model city where U.S. policies are finally paying off and is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the region to promote the rule of law and a variety of nation-building efforts.

[...]

Fallujah today is sealed off with blast walls and checkpoints. Residents are given permits to enter the city. All visitors and their weapons are registered, and police check every car. The U.S. military has divided the city into nine gated communities, each with its own joint security station staffed by U.S. troops and Iraqi police. It also has been buying the loyalties of former Sunni insurgents, paying them $180 a month to join a neighborhood force that works with the police.

[...]

But the security that has been achieved here is fragile, the result of harsh tactics recalling the rule of Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown five years ago. Even as they work alongside U.S. forces, [Fallujah’s police chief, ex-Sunni insurgent fighting against the U.S., Col. Faisal Ismail al-]Zobaie's men admit they have beaten and tortured suspects to force confessions and exact revenge.

In Zobaie's world, to show mercy is to show weakness. In a land where men burn other men alive, harsh tactics are a small price to pay for imposing order, he said.

"We never tortured anybody," he said. "Sometimes we beat them during the first hours of capture."

[...]

"The city is like a big jail," said Abu Ahmed, a well-known doctor who asked that his nickname be used because he has treated people who were brutalized by Zobaie's men.

[...]

The story of Zobaie and his police force opens a window onto the Iraq that is emerging after five years of war. American ideals that were among the justifications for the 2003 invasion, such as promoting democracy and human rights, are giving way to values drawn from Iraq's traditions and tribal culture, such as respect, fear and brutality.

[...]

"Since Saddam Hussein until now, Iraq obeys only the force," [Cpt. Mohammed] Yousef said. "We are practicing the same old procedures."

Abu Rahma, 43, a taxi driver and father of four, was a victim of that approach. He was taken into custody last March and tortured in Fallujah's jail. "They kept beating me to force me to confess," he said. "I told them I am not with al-Qaeda, and neither is my brother. They beat me everywhere on my body. . . . Some of my nails were taken out."

[...]

Once a member of Hussein's elite Republican Guard, Zobaie is driven by allegiance neither to the United States nor to Iraq's Shiite-run central government. He wants U.S. troops to leave Iraq. But for now, he needs the United States to bolster him with military muscle and funds. And the U.S. military today depends on men such as Zobaie to help bring about the order and security in Iraq that could eventually lead to the end of the American occupation.

"I have realized that Americans love the strong guy," Zobaie said.

  WaPo

Same values?

Zobaie has asked the U.S. officers to help obtain more aid for the city from the regional and central governments. Already, the U.S. military is employing street cleaners, building schools and putting up $9 million worth of solar street lights. But some U.S. officers question why insurgents once determined to kill them have so quickly embraced them.

"Every time they talk to you there's an agenda," said Miller, the captain who works closely with Zobaie. "You have to figure out what they want right now. If it is this easy, it begs the question: What are we giving them that we don't know that we're giving them?"

What Zobaie wants is for the U.S. military to hand over full control of Fallujah. He believes Iraq's current leaders are not strong enough. Asked whether democracy could ever bloom here, he replied: "No democracy in Iraq. Ever."

"When the Americans leave the city," he said, "I'll be tougher with the people."

Model city.

If you like, you can read all the background on Falluja from previous YWA posts here (always available from a link in the sidebar), and some other collected links here (with apologies for maintenance neglect).


P.S. I wonder what has become of these two little girls, from my blog post November 14, 2004.


Little Fallujan girls
Photo courtesyAljazeera


Friday, March 21, 2008

Chirs Wallace: Stop Obama Bashing

Chris Wallace may not be on Fox News Sundays much longer. He's gone on air saying "two hours of Obama bashing is enough," taking Fox casters to task for misleading clipping of an Obama interview. They were having no part of it, but he didn't back down.

Good for Chris. Hope he's brushing up his resume.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

From the Radical Wright to The Family

There's a reason Hillary Clinton has remained relatively silent during the flap over intemperate remarks by Barack Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. When it comes to unsavory religious affiliations, she's a lot more vulnerable than Obama.

[...]

Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as "The "Fellowship," also known as The Family. But it won't be a secret much longer. Jeff Sharlet's shocking exposé The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power will be published in May.

Sean Hannity has called Obama's church a "cult," but that term applies far more aptly to Clinton's "Family," which is organized into "cells"--their term--and operates sex-segregated group homes for young people in northern Virginia.

[...]

At the heart of The Family's American branch is a collection of powerful right-wing politicos, who include, or have included, Sam Brownback, Ed Meese, John Ashcroft, James Inhofe and Rick Santorum.

[...]

Clinton fell in with The Family in 1993, when she joined a Bible study group composed of wives of conservative leaders like Jack Kemp and James Baker. When she ascended to the Senate, she was promoted to what Sharlet calls the Family's "most elite cell," the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast, which included, until his downfall, Virginia's notoriously racist Senator George Allen. This has not been a casual connection for Clinton. She has written of Doug Coe, The Family's publicity-averse leader, that he is "a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God."

[...]

Sharlet generously attributes Clinton's involvement to the under-appreciated depth of her religiosity, but he himself struggles to define The Family's theological underpinnings. The Family avoids the word Christian but worships Jesus, though not the Jesus who promised the earth to the "meek." They believe that, in mass societies, it's only the elites who matter, the political leaders who can build God's "dominion" on earth. Insofar as The Family has a consistent philosophy, it's all about power--cultivating it, building it and networking it together into ever-stronger units, or "cells."

  The Nation

This should be fun.


Better Off

Five years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, his memory lives on through wrist watches as people in his home town and birth village seek reminders of a time of safety, jobs and cheap living.

  Yahoo

In Saddam's home town of Tikrit, north of Baghdad, watches featuring an image of the former Iraqi leader on the dial sell like hot cakes to a mostly older crowd, while younger shoppers just like to try them on and pose, watch seller Hamad Younes said.

"People love these Saddam watches," said Younes of the timepieces, which have a starting price of $100 and feature a smiling Saddam in military or Arab dress.



Poor Scooter

Disbarred. Until 2012. I guess he'll just have to write books and give speeches till then.


What Is Wrong with These People?

No sooner had New York's governor been dumped because it became public knowledge that he'd hired very high-priced prostitutes, than the new governor went before the press to head that line off at the pass by confessing that he (and his wife) had affairs - years ago. And no sooner had he told that story than he sent a message to the latest of his affairs, who may in fact be a current affair, but at least not too long past ("earlier this year"), to ask her if she was talking to the press. Unfortunately for Mr. Paterson, the answer was a big fat yes.

Yes, we're still ridiculously prudish in our public stance on sexuality in this country, but for the love of Pete - how many public exposures will it take for politicians to get a clue? Would it have served Paterson any worse to admit that he has ongoing affairs? At least he might have made the call before telling the lie to the press.


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


Different Strokes for Different Folks

And all those poor slobs who thought they could actually own a home on a pauper's wages are definitely different folk from the financiers who failed to handle their money wisely.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, saying the U.S. is in a recession, unveiled plans to increase government efforts to prevent foreclosures amid the worst housing slump in a quarter century

[...]

The two lawmakers are leading congressional efforts to tackle the surge in foreclosures, which jumped 60 percent last month after reaching record levels in the fourth quarter of 2007. Their proposal goes beyond the Bush administration's industry-led approach of urging voluntary modifications by lenders and mortgage-servicing companies to help borrowers who can't make their monthly payments.

[...]

Frank's plan would have FHA provide as much as $300 billion in guarantees to help refinance loans for borrowers at risk of foreclosure. Participating lenders or mortgage holders would reduce principal in exchange for a payment from the proceeds of a new FHA loan. The plan could help 1 million to 2 million borrowers, according to a draft of the bill.

[...]

The proposal also includes $10 billion in loans and grants for states to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed homes.

[...]

At today's news conference, Frank rejected criticism of his FHA plan as a taxpayer-funded bailout.

[...]

U.S. Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican and a member of Frank's House Financial Services Committee, criticized the proposals, saying they would reduce consumer credit and increase market risk.

"It isn't any surprise to me that they would believe that greater governmental intervention and regulation will solve this problem,'' Price said today in a telephone interview. "It completely distorts any market base for mortgages for at least the short term.''

  Bloomberg

I wonder if Representative Price has any complaints about the government intervention bailing out Bear Stearns distorting the market base for financial institutions.

For weeks, the president and his economic team, led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, have rejected proposals that would have further exposed the government to the housing market. As recently as the end of last month, Mr. Paulson said, "I don't think I've seen any scenario where the American taxpayer needs to be stepping in with more taxpayer dollars."

  WSJ

And then he saw Bear Stearns.

But that’s different.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bush's Ag Department Hates America

[The Bush Administration’s Agricultural Department’s] lackadaisical, laissez-fair approach to their job recently led to the largest beef recall in history, a third of which had already been shipped to such nutrition programs as school lunch. Well, you might think, at least the ag officials caught the perpetrators.

Wrong. It was the Humane Society that blew the whistle on a California slaughterhouse that was abusing cattle and putting sick cows called “downers” into America’s food supply. Downers are so sick they can’t stand up – a sign of illness that's even associated with Mad Cow disease. These lame, unhealthy cows had been banned from use as human food… until last year, when industry officials very quietly slipped a loophole into the ban, thus allowing beef processing corporations to slaughter downers and sell the meat to our families.

True to their corporate servility and ideological nuttiness, Bush ag officials stood with the industry, rather than the public, reaffirming their support for the downer loophole. Then they even chastised the Humane Society for going outside of official channels to inform the public.

  Jim Hightower


On His Own

Speaking of the Big Dick's attitude that he is beholden to no one but himself, recently he signed a brief on gun control that was at odds with the administration's position. I understand he didn't bother to tell anyone at the Solicitor General's office that he was signing such a brief, but I never did hear whether he bothered to tell the Little Prince.

Of course, they should have guessed he might be in favor of an interpretation of the right to bear arms as being an individual right, rather than a state's militia right. He likes his gun.


So?

Last month, [Dick] Cheney declared, “The American people will not support a policy of retreat.”

  Think Progress

But, it’s obvious that Dick Cheney simply considers himself to be “the American People”. This month, he sings a slightly different tune.

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there’s a general consensus that we’ve made major progress, that the surge has worked. That’s been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third[s] of Americans say it’s not worth fighting.

CHENEY: So?

RADDATZ So? You don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

Pretty direct answer. "No." I don't care.

The percentage of people who want out of this mess hasn’t really fluctuated in years. Just steadily goes up.

"A general concensus" of the only people who matter to Dick Cheney. Himself, namely.

Of the people. For the people. Means nothing to these SOBs, does it?


If You Repeat It Enough

The Big Dick is still insisting Saddam and al-Qaeda were connected.


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


5 Years

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Terrorist

Tom Englehardt discusses the ongoing and little-reported airstrikes in which the U.S. kills other innocent, defenseless people in Pakistan and Somalia in our ever-expanding war of terror.


Republican Values

AARP’s Bulletin this month has an article featuring a Choctaw woman with cancer in Oklahoma who just got dumped from medical benefits because she couldn’t prove she is a U.S. citizen. It happened because the Republicans got their panties in a wad about possible illegal immigrants getting medical benefits. Their answer was proof by paperwork. And, apparently, the question was not even a real problem, but something created by the Republicans to stoke the fires of xenophobia they know and love so well.

The rule, which neither CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] nor the Bush administration requested, was adopted by the Republican-dominated Congress in 2005 despite the fact that there was no evidence that undocumented immigrants were falsely claiming U.S. citizenship to get Medicaid.

”This rule was the answer to a problem that really doesn’t exist,” says Donna Cohen Ross, an analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, a nonpartisan research organization.

[...]

”In 2007 we added $1 million to our budget just to handle the cost of this new rule when we had absolutely no indication there was a problem with illegal immigrants getting Medicaid in Kansas,” says Andrew Allison, Kansas Medicaid director and deputy director of the state Health Policy Authority.

[...]

Oklahoma has uncovered no illegal immigrants on its rolls. And Arizona, where immigration is a huge issue, has filed two reports since the rule went into effect, each saying the state uncovered "zero" illegal immigrants among its 1 million Medicaid recipients. Kansas has found one illegal immigrant on its Medicaid rolls.

[...]

A close analysis of six states [...] showed that for every $100 spent to implement the rule, only 14 cents was saved.

In fact, nationwide the rule has added millions of dollars in administrative costs.

In Wisconsin, the legislature and the governor initially authorized $1.8 million "just to deal with this rule," says James Jones, a deputy administrator in the state Department of Health and Family Services. "And we estimate it will continue to cost $800,000 a year."

[...]

In Oklahoma [...] more than 20,000 of its 700,000 Medicaid recipients – almost 13 percent are American Indians – have been dropped from the program, “not because they aren’t citizens, but because they’re having a tough time coming up with the right pieces of paper at the right time,” says Mike Fogarty, chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Lucky for the Republicans, American Indians, the working poor and children aren’t campaign contributors.

Not so lucky for the state taxpayers who have to foot the bill to carry out the new rules. Much better Kansas should have to pay a million dollars for that than some wetback’s kid should get a broken arm set or something.


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


Greenspan Weighs In

Alan Greenspan spent decades helping set up the US economy to take a nosedive. And, fortuitously, on the eve of that dive, he decided he needed to retire and spend more time with his family. Bernanke is left holding the bag, while Greenspan writes and spouts little words of financial wisdom.

"The crisis will leave many casualties. Particularly hard hit will be much of today's financial risk-valuation system," he wrote.

[...]

"It will eventually fail and a disturbing reality will be laid bare, prompting an unexpected and sharp discontinuous response," Greenspan said.

He added, however, that he hoped one of the casualties from the worst U.S. financial crisis since World War Two would not be the spirit of broad self-regulation within financial markets.

[...]

"It is important, indeed crucial, that any reforms in, and adjustments to, the structure of markets and regulation not inhibit our most reliable and effective safeguards against cumulative economic failure: market flexibility and open competition," he said.

  Yahoo

Maybe it’s time the old geezer shut up. If the spirit of self-regulation within financial markets were alive, Bear Stearns would have sunk on its own. The Fed wouldn’t have facilitated a taxpayer-backed buyout. Open competition, my ass.


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


Monday, March 17, 2008

Connect the Dots

Was Eliot Spitzer's demise tied to the bank bailout? Greg Palast says it was directly so - an act by the Bush Justice Department to take down a threat to their run of financial shennanigans. And I have no trouble buying it. But even if it was, Spitzer should only be held that much more in contempt. How stupid does a politician have to be these days to not know that somebody is waiting to trip the wire on a sex story?


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


Further Denouncing

Will Obama ever get freedom from religion? Louis Farrakhan, Muslim madrassas, Radical Wright. What next?


It's Only Air

Environmental Protection Agency. Doing a heckuva job.

EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.

"It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference for the president personally to override a decision that the Clean Air Act leaves exclusively to EPA's expert scientific judgment," said John Walke, clean-air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The president's order prompted a scramble by administration officials to rewrite the regulations to avoid a conflict with past EPA statements on the harm caused by ozone.

Solicitor General Paul D. Clement warned administration officials late Tuesday night that the rules contradicted the EPA's past submissions to the Supreme Court, according to sources familiar with the conversation. As a consequence, administration lawyers hustled to craft new legal justifications for the weakened standard.

  WaPo

Why should he ever think he has to do anything within the law? Nobody has stopped him yet. Obviously, it’s not a problem. Unless you’re the environment. Or the people living in it.


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


That Explains It

On Thursday, the first day of Winter Soldier, President George W. Bush participated in a video conference with U.S. soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. "It must be exciting for you," he said, as reported by Reuters. "[And] in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks."

  Washington Independent

Read the linked article for some of the romantic and exciting confrontations our soldiers are experiencing.


Update: "I Don't Work for You No More."


Free Market Jokes

The Washington Independent takes a look at the Bear Stearns deal in which the taxpayers once again bail out financial insitutes in a supposedly market-driven world.


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


House Just Says No

The House voted to pass a FISA bill that does not provide retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies who illegally provided customer information to the government. Now we await the veto.


Like a Rock

Still sinking stone. Bear Stearns investment bank collapse, buyout.

Who's next?


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Immigration

Here's an environmentally-friendly way to keep out the aliens, harking back to the days of medieval castles: build a moat.

That's the proposal for a stretch of the border along Yuma, Arizona. It calls for digging a channel up to 10 feet deep and 60 feet wide through wetlands that have become dry lands, just inside the border. The dirt excavated would be used for some nice landscaping, including an elevated patrol road.

  Washington Independent

Well, it sounds just lovely, and I very much prefer that to a fence, but WTF? They can’t cross water? Are they aliens or demonic spirits?

(Every time I read an article talking about aliens, my first reaction is that we’re about to discuss beings from another planet. Which, actually, would probably be us. Where else would we get such hairbrained schemes?)


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


Going Up

At the pump, U.S. retail gas prices surged 2.1 cents overnight to a record national average of $3.267 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Gas prices are likely to rise much higher this spring; estimates range from about $3.50 a gallon in the Energy Department's latest forecast to $3.75 or even $4 a gallon according to some analysts.

  Yahoo

Here are my two predictions for a Democratic win in November: 1) the price of gas is above $3.50 a gallon, and 2) no new major attacks on U.S. soil. No, make that, U.S. mainland.


Keith O to Hillary: Denounce and Reject Geraldine Ferraro

Click video at Raw Story.


Going Down

Global stocks tumbled and the dollar fell further Thursday as the effects of Federal Reserve efforts to restore liquidity to financial markets faded and the investment fund Carlyle Capital succumbed to the credit crisis.

  International Herald Tribune

The severity of its liquidity problems indicates that the unfolding financial crisis is taking major parts of the US financial and political elite down with it. Carlyle Capital Corp Ltd, a subsidiary of one of the most influential US private equity funds and closely tied to the Bush family, is in default on several of its securities. Carlyle is an offshore subsidiary of the Washington-based Carlyle Group, one of the most politically powerful private equity firms of the past two decades.

Among the leading partners of the Carlyle Group in recent years have been George H W Bush, father of President George W Bush; James Baker III, the Bush family's attorney and fixer; and former British prime minister John Major.

[...]

The Carlyle Group already has loaned Carlyle Capital $150 million to cover debt obligations since July 2007. In the past several days it failed to meet margin calls with four banks.

The fear in the market according to informed reports is that its entire portfolio, recently valued at $21 billion, could be sold off in a distress sale, putting major downward pressure on all mortgage bonds globally. Carlyle Capital was a prime example of the financial engineering encouraged during the Federal Reserve's Alan Greenspan era by Washington.

  Asia Times

Ah, the Midas touch.

More worrisome is the fact that the Carlyle crisis does not derive from so-called subprime or bad-grade mortgage debt. […] Now Carlyle's lenders have issued margin calls in excess of $400 million. At the onset of the subprime crisis in September 2007, Carlyle was forced to go to Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund to get capital. Mubadala, the arm of Abu Dhabi that has invested in sectors as diverse as Libyan oil exploration and Ferrari, the Italian motor company, paid $1.35 billion for a 10% Carlyle stake.

[...]

Carlyle is by no means the only elite US private capital group in serious trouble. Blackstone Group, manager of the world's largest buyout fund, said fourth-quarter profit plunged 89% after a "meltdown" in the credit markets and warned that getting loans for takeovers will be difficult in 2008. Profit declined to $88 million from $808.1 million a year earlier.

Meanwhile, our Treasury Secretary has a keen grasp of the situation.

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Thursday that a strong dollar "is in our nation's interest" as the US currency slumped to another record low against the euro and fell below 100 yen.

[...]

"Our economy like any other has got its ups and downs, but the long term fundamentals are strong and I believe it's going to be reflected in the currency market," he said.

  AFP

Lately, the ups are not really showing themselves.

But don’t you worry about the Carlyle Group. They’ll be just fine.

The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity funds, may soon acquire the $2 billion government contracting business of consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the biggest suppliers of technology and personnel to the U.S. government’s spy agencies. Carlyle manages more than $75 billion in assets and has bought and sold a long string of military contractors since the early 1990s. But in recent years it has significantly reduced its investments in that industry. If it goes ahead with the widely reported plan to buy Booz Allen, it will re-emerge as the owner of one of America’s largest private intelligence armies.

  CorpWatch, March 8th, 2008

In response to the forced liquidation of mortgage-backed assets caused by the Carlyle margin calls and other similar developments in credit markets, on March 11, 2008, the Federal Reserve gave Wall Street's primary dealers the right to post mortgaged-back securities as collateral for loans of up to $200 billion in higher-grade, U.S. government-backed securities. [14] On March 12, 2008, BBC News Online reported that "instead of underpinning the mortgage-backed securities market, it seems to have had the opposite effect, giving lenders an opportunity to dump the risky asset" and that Carlyle Capital Corp. "will collapse if, as expected, its lenders seize its remaining assets."

  Wikipedia

Something seems wrong here, but I’m so financially inept, and the Nyquil I’ve been taking for the crud I have is making it even more than generally difficult to focus a thought. Nyquil blogging. Not for the timid. Or the fastidious. Perhaps I should stop.


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



Update Hmmm. Here’s an interesting quip that may be related to whatever it is niggling me about this situation.

Despite Barack Obama's claim that his campaign represents a mass "movement" of "average folks," the initial core of his support was largely comprised of rich denizens of Wall Street. Why would the super wealthy want a percieved "black populist" to become the nation's chief executive officer? The "Obama bubble" was nurtured by Wall Street in order to have a friend in the White House when the captains of capital are made to face the legal consequences for deliberately creating current and past economic "bubbles." Wall Street desperately needs a president who will "sweep all the corruption and losses, would-be indictments, perp walks and prosecutions under the rug and get on with an unprecedented taxpayer bailout of Wall Street." Who better to sell this "agenda to the millions of duped mortgage holders and foreclosed homeowners in minority communities across America than our first, beloved, black president of hope and change?"

  Black Agenda Report

That may be a little harsh, but there could be something to it as well.

What was bothering me about the Wikipedia information was that Carlyle Group - these are the big cats, people - would invest in mortgage-backed securities in 2006. They would have known where things were headed by then, even if you and I didn't. (I changed my original post to take out that part, because I thought the Nyquil was taking me too far over the conspiracy brink. And I was also thinking about tax-payer bail out of the S&Ls - Neil Bush, anyone?) Go ahead and read this Black Agenda Report, and don't forget the comments.


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


Total Information Awareness

Total Information Awareness -- the all-seeing terrorist spotting algorithm-meets-the-mother-of-all-databases that was ostensibly de-funded by Congress in 2003, never actually died, and was largely rebuilt in secret by the NSA, according to the Wall Street Journal's Siobhan Gorman.

  Wired

Who among us actually didn't think it had simply been buried deeper, hmm?

The NSA has been working closely with the FBI, using the FBI's authority to get transactional records without court approval using a National Security Letter. The FBI issued some 47,000 of these in 2005, and according to the Justice Department's inspector general and the head of FBI, FBI employees abused this power from 2003-2006 to issue letters they had no authority to issue to gather information on Americans.

But I just know you feel safer. So it’s worth it, right?

Back when I was home brewing, I made a beer label from the TIA (actually, the IAO) logo and gave it to a friend who was having a share of troubles with the alphabet people. Not particularly clever, but the beer was good.


Saddam Wasn't Linked to Al-Qaeda?!!?

Well, blow me down.

The Bush Administration apparently does not want a U.S. military study that found no direct connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda to get any attention. This morning, the Pentagon cancelled plans to send out a press release announcing the report's release and will no longer make the report available online.

The report was to be posted on the Joint Forces Command website this afternoon, followed by a background briefing with the authors. No more. The report will be made available only to those who ask for it, and it will be sent via U.S. mail from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

It won't be emailed to reporters and it won't be posted online.

Asked why the report would not be posted online and could not be emailed, the spokesman for Joint Forces Command said: "We're making the report available to anyone who wishes to have it, and we'll send it out via CD in the mail."


Another Pentagon official said initial press reports on the study made it "too politically sensitive."

[...]

Others have reached the same conclusion, but no previous study has had access to so much information. Further, this is the first official acknowledgement from the U.S. military that there is no evidence Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda.

  ABC News

How ridiculous. If it’s going out as a CD, it will be on the internet soon enough.


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


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Karl Rove Heckled

Rove, who was paid $40,000 to speak at the University, was confronted with an at-times hostile crowd of 1,000, and was interrupted on several occasions.

[...]

Police also were forced to remove two people after they tried to perform a citizen’s arrest on Rove for what they said were his crimes while a member of the Bush Administration.

[...]

Toward the end of the speech a member of the crowd yelled, "Can we have our $40,000 back?"

Rove replied, “No, you can't.”

[...]

Cameras were only allowed to film the beginning of the speech.

Berkeley? San Francisco?

Iowa.


Just a Reminder

There still are U.S. hostages in Iraq. Although some of them are missing at least one body part now.


Heads Up

[T]onight, for the first time and in the heart of the presidential campaign, [Keith Olbermann’s "Special Comments" section on Countdown] will be about Hillary Clinton, her campaign, and how Olbermann feels about exactly what cards she's been playing (hint: It has something to do with her not firing Geraldine Ferraro for her controversial statement saying that Barack Obama wouldn't have been as successful if he weren't black.

  Huffington Post

I won’t be able to watch it, but I’m sure it will be YouTubed later tonight.

I can’t think what the Clinton campaign is going for with this racist and obviously false (he’s in the position he’s in despite being black, not because of it) angle; and that coming on the heels of Gloria Steinem’s remarks about John McCain’s POW status not being any qualification for the presidency. She’s right, of course, but the presentation of the statement seemed to be more pointed than that, and certainly drew down the heat of the press. I can’t understand what Clinton thinks she might gain by allowing herself to be connected with these two obviously insensitive and divisive attitudes. Does she think there are enough angry white women in this country to win her an election all on their own? Either way, I’m thinking, just when the Democrats have a sure chance at the presidency, they’re going to offer up one of two people who wear a socio-political strike against themselves in this world from birth. It’s like they’re determined to keep the White House, the country, and the world in Republican hands. I think it's a great idea whose time has long since passed to give the position to someone other than a good old white boy, but I'm skeptical that it will be done, even though there have been record numbers of Democrats at the polls. I hope I’m wrong about this country, but I’ve got serious doubts about the chances of either Obama or Clinton, and I heard enough Democrats back in 2004 saying they would be okay with a McCain presidency to think that he’ll be just the “out” they’re looking for when the DNC offers them a black man or a woman.

We are in a world of hurt here, economically, socially, politically, militarily, globally. And those Supreme Court justices are getting pretty old. I’d hate to see them replaced in another Republican administration.


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