Friday, February 29, 2008

The latest from Festung Baghdad

From McClatchy the news of the new embassy complex remains shocking, even to one inured to the incompetency of the Bushoviks.
None of the 26 buildings in the new $740 million U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad is ready to be occupied. Fire alarms intended to safeguard more than 1,000 U.S. government employees aren't working. Kitchens in some of the buildings are fire hazards...

..The Feb. 13 fire safety inspectors' report said the complex was far from ready to house legions of diplomats and military personnel. Dozens of repairs are being done, and new problems still crop up.

"There still remain deficiencies, both critical and non-critical, in most of the buildings," the inspectors wrote.

Even sending a team to commission the building is premature, they said, until fire safety systems are "100 percent complete, 100 percent tested, 100 percent functional."
Rep. Henry Waxman is trying to find out just how bad the mess is but as with all Republican fuck-ups, Our Lady of the High Heeled Boots is stonewalling all attempts to obtain information from the State Dept. In the meantime the drain on the treasury continues.
Waxman also disclosed that because the embassy was prematurely declared ready, First Kuwaiti is being paid another $4.5 million under a new contract to maintain it.
No doubt they are doing another bangup job on that, too.

It's come to this, so soon

All the fancy new mortgage loans, like no down payment, interest only and such have led to a new phenomenon in mortgage lending, the walk away mortgage. With housing values dropping below what is owed, many people are discovering that there is much less pain in leaving the keys to the bank than in making an impossible payment. And in the spirit of free enterprise, there is even a new company whose business model entails enabling them to do so.
In a declining housing market, he owed more than the house was worth, and his mortgage payments, even on an interest-only loan, had shot up to $2,600, more than he could afford. “I was terrified,” said Mr. Zulueta, who services automated teller machines for an armored car company in the San Francisco area.

Then in January he learned about a new company in San Diego called You Walk Away that does just what its name says. For $995, it helps people walk away from their homes, ceding them to the banks in foreclosure...

...For Raymond Zulueta, the decision to go into foreclosure, and to hire You Walk Away, brought him peace of mind. The company assured him that in California he was not liable for his debt, and provided sessions with a lawyer and an accountant, as well as enrollment with a credit repair agency. He stopped paying his mortgage and used the money to pay down other debts...

...Jon Maddux, a founder of You Walk Away, said the company’s services were not for everybody and were meant as a last resort. The company opened for business in January and says it has just over 200 clients in six states.

“It’s not a moral decision,” Mr. Maddux said of foreclosure. “The moral decision is, ‘I need to pay my kids’ health insurance or my car payment so I can get to work.’ They made a bad decision, but they shouldn’t make more bad ones just because they have this loan.”
As the banks discover that they really can't spin gold out of straw or even nothing at all, this will become commonplace until they can get their hired hands to pass laws making it illegal. Until then a lot of bad credit decisions will be floating to the surface.

Tom Toles today


Thursday, February 28, 2008

You can look at the Cost of the War counter

and say to yourself, how can that reach $3 Trillion if it hasn't topped a half a Trillion yet? The complete repair and rebuild costs plus the massive long term veterans costs are yet to come. Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes have written a detailed look at the true costs of Our Dear Leader's Exciting Middle East Adventures. Examine any one part and see how the Republicans, even with the most callous and traitorous underfunding of the war, have also grossly underestimated the actual costs.
When other factors are added — such as interest on debt, future borrowing for war expenses, the cost of a continued military presence in Iraq and lifetime health-care and counseling for veterans — they think that the wars' costs range from $5 trillion to $7 trillion.
The White House response from Tony Farto to the book is so beneath contempt, but it does illustrate why, on Inauguration Day, the whole crew needs to be stripped naked and whipped out of town at the hands of a howling mob. Meanwhile, the book hits the stores on Friday and if the White House doesn't like it, it must be accurate.

Pelosi demands "Justice" Dept open grand jury

To examine the contempt citations against Our Dear Embattled Leader's uncritical minions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the Justice Department on Thursday to open a grand jury investigation into whether President Bush's chief of staff and former counsel should be prosecuted for contempt of Congress..

..She gave Attorney General Michael Mukasey one week to respond and said refusal to take the matter to a grand jury will result in the House's filing a civil lawsuit against the Bush administration.
The White House response was itself a supreme expression of contempt for Our Constitution.
At the White House, spokesman Tony Farto said House Democrats "have been trying to redefine the notion of contempt and they succeeded."
And it will end up in civil court until after the election when we all hope the new Attorney General will restore the criminal charges.

Wikileaks has some friends

The Guardian reports that some influential ffriends and allies are coming to support Wikileaks in their battle to be seen in the US.
The American civil liberties union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a legal motion on behalf of Wikileaks users, defending their right to access the website without censorship.

"Journalists, academics, and the general public have a legitimate interest in accessing the materials found on Wikileaks in order to inform their work and participate in public debate," ACLU staff attorney Ann Brick said in a statement.

"Blocking access to the entire site in response to a few documents posted there completely disregards the public's right to know. It's unconstitutional and un-American."

In a separate court filing today, an alliance of American reporters filed a motion supporting on behalf of Wikileaks, arguing that the website's closure violates the freedom of speech guaranteed in the Constitution.

The alliance — which includes the Associated Press, Gannett news service, the Los Angeles Times newspaper and other media outlets — cited the famous "Pentagon Papers" case of 1971, when the administration of Richard Nixon sought a restraining order against newspapers that published leaked documents on the Vietnam war.

"Under [the] Pentagon Papers [case], the first amendment prohibits prior restraints [on freedom of speech] in nearly every circumstance, even where national security may be at risk and the … source is alleged to have obtained the documents unlawfully," the media alliance wrote in its filing.

McCain not an American?

In its own variation of fair and balanced, the NY Times lays out a specious argument against the citizenship of the presumptive Republican candidate. Aside from the fact that I was under the impression that this sort of reporting about Republicans was against the Code Journalissmo, there are plenty of legitimate reasons for keeping St John out of the White House without making stuff up. Still, it does raise up some dust of confusion.
Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.

Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.
My reading of the Constitution would have to allow St John to be president unless he was born by Caesarian and not naturally, but what do I know.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

O, the scent of clean money in the morning

The Politico has another story on the National Republican Congressional Committee with more details and none of them reflect well on the Republicans involved.
Under Virginia Rep. Tom Davis and New York Rep. Thomas Reynolds, who chaired the committee from 1999 until the end of 2006, the NRCC waived rules requiring the executive committee — made up of elected leaders and rank-and-file Republican lawmakers — to sign off on expenditures exceeding $10,000, merged the various department budgets into a single account and rolled back a prohibition on committee staff earning an income from outside companies...

...A pivotal moment for the NRCC occurred in spring 2003, shortly after Reynolds took over the panel, when he ousted Donna Anderson, a longtime committee staffer who oversaw the NRCC’s accounting.

Ward then moved up to the top accounting position within the committee, making him responsible for tracking tens of millions of dollars in political contributions and expenditures each cycle....

....Vendors who have done business with the NRCC, former committee aides and Republicans on Capitol Hill have argued that lax committee operations paved the way for the current trouble. For instance, the committee has failed to conduct an independent internal audit since 2003.
We have already seen major players like Jack Abramoff and his crew taken down for money laundering around this time. And to prove it was not an isolated incident, a minor league operation in Ohio, run by Tom Noe, has also been exposed. How can we not believe that the Kings of the Hill didn't have their own variation running at this time. Why else would Tom Reynolds cease audits at a time when loosened controls were begging for oversight? Hopefully, this should break right after the conventions this summer.

Quote of the Day

"John McCain may like to say he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell, but so far all he’s done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq,"
Sen. Barack Obama D-IL, responding to St.John McCain. And it's about time we heard someone speak the truth.

R.I.P. William F. Buckley Jr.

The last true conservative has died and with him the last hope of Conservatism as an intelligent ideology.

We seldom agreed with you, but you were a treat to listen to.

When the Euro soars

Poor old Cinderdollar is not just cleaning the toilets, but out back dipping the chunks out of the septic tank, too.The news stories in the NY Times have taken a more elegant form in their language.
The euro climbed to a record high of $1.5057 in early European trading on Wednesday as sentiment increased that the U.S. Federal Reserve would continue its rate cut campaign.
And the honey dipping part is right here.
Gasoline prices, which for months lagged behind the big run-up in the price of oil, are suddenly rising quickly, with some experts saying they could approach $4 a gallon by spring. Diesel is hitting new records daily, and oil settled at a record high of $100.88 a barrel on Tuesday.

The increases could not come at a worse time for the economy. With growth slowing, energy increases that were once easily absorbed by consumers are now more likely to act as a drag on household budgets, leaving people with less money to spend elsewhere. These costs could worsen the nation’s economic woes, piling a fresh energy shock on top of the turmoil in credit and housing.
Another brick for Li'l Georgie's legacy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A few jokes

"Well, you know who's thrilled that Nader is back in the race? John McCain. He's not the oldest guy anymore." --Jay Leno

"This is exciting news. Southern Methodist University announced that they will be the home of George W. Bush's presidential library. This will be the first presidential library to be made up entirely of small, shiny objects. In fact, I understand right now, they're building a shelf for the book." --Jay Leno

"What do you call somebody at a Ralph Nader campaign rally? Ralph Nader. That's the only one there." --Jay Leno

"Boy, talk about a black eye for baseball. You know what's happening today? Congressional investigations into Roger Clemens and the steroid use begin tomorrow. And it's interesting, you know? We didn't get bin Laden but by God, we're nailing this guy." --David Letterman

The DNC files an FEC complaint

Against notorious maverick and lobbyist's BFF St John McCain.
In a complaint filed this afternoon with the Federal Election Commission, the Democratic National Committee said that McCain had pledged future public election funds as collateral for a loan the campaign took out last year. The Democrats say that prevents the Arizona senator from withdrawing from the public funding programme – and the spending limits it imposes.

The filing accuses McCain of failing to report that he pledged as collateral future public funds, known as matching funds because they double some small private campaign donations.
It remains uncertain where this will lead to, but it will keep the public aware of what is happening.

Ain't this depressing

Prozac, the bestselling antidepressant taken by 40 million people worldwide, does not work and nor do similar drugs in the same class, according to a major review released today.

The study examined all available data on the drugs, including results from clinical trials that the manufacturers chose not to publish at the time. The trials compared the effect on patients taking the drugs with those given a placebo or sugar pill.

When all the data was pulled together, it appeared that patients had improved - but those on placebo improved just as much as those on the drugs...

..They requested the full data under freedom of information rules from the Food and Drug Administration, which licenses medicines in the US and requires all data when it makes a decision.

The pattern they saw from the trial results of fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Seroxat), venlafaxine (Effexor) and nefazodone (Serzone) was consistent. "Using complete data sets (including unpublished data) and a substantially larger data set of this type than has been previously reported, we find the overall effect of new-generation antidepressant medication is below recommended criteria for clinical significance," they write.
Nevertheless, Eli Lilly thanks you for your support.

Tom Toles Tuesday


Monday, February 25, 2008

Any bets on the outcome?

Not quite as long as Jarndyce & Jarndyce, but the civil suit against Exxon for the Exxon Valdez oil spill has reached the Supreme Court. Many years ago, when money had value, a judgement of $5 Billion was brought against Exxon. One appeals court reduced that by half and now it goes before the corporation friendly Supreme Court. Keeping in mind that Exxon has had 14 years to set aside funds to cover this, remember also that Exxon made $40 Billion net last year. My bet is that Clarence Thomas will write a patently ridiculous majority ruling to void the judgement and the other four will be unable to stop laughing while he reads the ruling next spring.

Troop drawdown?

In your dreams, sucker! The latest information on troop levels in Iraq.
The Defense Department is projecting that when the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq ends in July, there will be about 8,000 more troops on the ground than when it began in January 2007, a senior general said Monday.

Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that by July the troop total is likely to be 140,000. That compares with 132,000 when President George W. Bush approved orders to send an additional five Army brigades to Iraq to improve security and avert civil war.

Ham also announced that the Pentagon believes U.S. force levels in Afghanistan will stand at 32,000 in late summer, up from about 28,000 currently. The current total is the highest since the war began in October 2001, and another 3,200 Marines are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this spring.
And next January when the idiot bastard child leaves the White House?
The general, asked if the total would be below 132,000 by the time Bush leaves office next January, said, “It would be premature to say that.”

This is Higher Education

The AP dropped this little goodie into their rotation this afternoon, go learn why school can be good for you.
Welcome to Oaksterdam University, a new trade school where higher education takes on a whole new meaning.

The school prepares people for jobs in California's thriving medical marijuana industry. For $200 and the cost of two required textbooks, students learn how to cultivate and cook with cannabis, study which strains of pot are best for certain ailments, and are instructed in the legalities of a business that is against the law in the eyes of the federal government.

''My basic idea is to try to professionalize the industry and have it taken seriously as a real industry, just like beer and distilling hard alcohol,'' said Richard Lee, 45, an activist and pot-dispensary owner who founded the school in a downtown storefront last fall.

So far, 60 students have completed the two-day weekend course, which is sold out through May. At the end of the class, students are given a take-home test, with the highest scorer -- make that ''top scorer'' -- earning the title of class valedictorian.
It seems to be a pretty laid back course, but not without its important tips and pointers.
Lee explained to his students how to prune and harvest plants, handing the clipping shears to a woman who wasn't sure how close to the stalk to cut without damaging it. He offered his thoughts on which commercial nutrient preparations are best, as well as the advantages of hydroponics, or soil-free gardening.

During a discussion of neighbor relations, he warned against setting boobytraps to keep curious kids out of outdoor gardens.
Always a good idea, distraught neighbors can be such a nuisance.

A new McCain ad

From VoteVets.org


What's a little gunfire among business associates?

Despite violence being at a level that would deeply worry you or I, Big Oil is ready to move into Basra and surrounds just as soon as they pass an oil law in Baghdad.
In the first interview since his appointment, Wareing, 53, told The Observer that security had improved significantly in recent months and was no longer an issue for investors. 'If you look at many other economies in the world, particularly the oil-rich economies, many of these places are quite challenging countries in which to do business,' he said. 'Frankly, if you can successfully operate in the Niger Delta, that is a very different benchmark from imagining that Basra needs to be like London or Paris.'
A little extra security and a lot of "other nationals" and what is there to worry about?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Monday Music Blogging

Now that Ralph Nader has returned once more from the Crypt to run for president, I would like to offer this as his campaign song.



A Mighty Wind - The Folksmen,Mitch & Mickey,The New Main Street Singers

Whaddaya know, Frogs are green.

Honestly, I think this is a great idea even if it is not applicable to every product.
French vineyard owners are returning to a slower pace of life by starting to export their wine by sailing boat - a method last used in the 1800s - to reduce their carbon footprint.

Later this month 60,000 bottles from Languedoc will be shipped to Ireland in a 19th-century barque, saving 18,375lb of carbon. Further voyages to Bristol, Manchester and even Canada are planned soon afterwards.

The three-mast barque Belem, which was launched in 1896, the last French merchant sailing vessel to be built, will sail into Dublin following a voyage from Bordeaux that should last about four days. The wines will be delivered to Bordeaux by barge using the Canal du Midi and Canal du Garonne, which run across southern France from Sète in the east, via Béziers in Languedoc. Each bottle will be labelled: 'Carried by sailing ship, a better deal for the planet.' Although the whole process will end up taking up to a week longer than a flight, it is estimated it will save 4.9oz of carbon per bottle.
And it works both ways.
Ships will return to France with an equivalent tonnage of crushed glass for recycling into wine bottles at factories in Bordeaux and Béziers. Despite the time involved in transporting it, the wine should also remain relatively cheap, at between €7 and €20 a bottle.
Never hurry a wine. And it would probably work just as well with cheese. Vive La France!

The state of the Army

From two separate articles in the Army Times.
Officers at Human Resources Command are drilling deep into branch personnel data, mining for soldiers who have yet to pull a combat tour so that those eligible can be served with a set of deployment orders.

Their target population comes from a pool of about 37,000 active-duty officers and enlisted soldiers, or 7.2 percent of the component, who are available to do a rotation in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The HRC effort to identify soldiers for first-time deployments evolved last year as the relentless demand for troops to rotate into Iraq and Afghanistan required many soldiers to serve repeat combat tours.
And
Senior NCOs in several priority specialties are being targeted for retention bonuses of up to $150,000.

The one everybody should see



Even my two faithful readers

True love

A man fighting with his girlfriend clung to a car roof and punched her through the window as she drove more than a mile on a busy road, hitting several other cars, police said.

Both were hurt in the brawl Saturday and were arrested, police Sgt. Manfredo Figueroa said.

The man, William Kremer, apparently jumped onto the car and held on as girlfriend Stacey Sperrazza wove along Route 202 with the car's air bag inflated, police said. She eventually stopped the car and hit him with it, police said.

Sperrazza, 37, of Stony Point, was arrested on a felony charge of reckless endangerment. Kremer, 42, of Haverstraw, was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge.

No telephone numbers could be found for the two. Police had no immediate information early Sunday on whether they had lawyers.

He was treated for a foot injury, she for eye and head wounds, police said.
What more can you say, except to hope they never breed.

Non Sequitur Sunday



Click image to elarge

Ezra Klein explains health insurance

And it works just the way it has been set up to do, but not quite the way you would want it to.
It's a common complaint that health insurers don't actually offer "insurance." As generally defined, insurance is a form of risk management that individuals use to protect themselves against unpredictable loss -- a car accident, say, or a house fire. Health insurance, by contrast, is a form of risk pooling that individuals use to smooth out lifetime healthcare costs. Heath insurance does not insure us against risks so much as it insulates us against costs. We pay regular premiums so we don't have to directly pay for irregular care.

Not all of us, however, make this deal with insurers. About 50 million Americans are uninsured, and tens of millions more are underinsured. There's no law that says we all must have insurance or that insurance companies must agree to cover us. Given that, it's natural that insurers -- which are, after all, for-profit companies, not government agencies or public trusts -- turn their attention to making deals with the most profitable among us and avoiding deals (or finding ways to break contracts) with the least profitable.

That's exactly what we would expect them to do. We are using them to minimize our risk, and they are selective about us to minimize theirs.
So as long as you stay healthy, you will find health coverage available to you. But forget about it if you get anything more serious or longer lasting than a head cold.

And speaking of Iraq

A suicide bomber struck Shiite pilgrims as they were resting Sunday during a days-long walk to a Shiite shrine, killing at least 40 people and wounding 60...

..Earlier, extremists attacked another group of pilgrims with guns and grenades in the predominantly Sunni Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, killing three and wounding 36, police said...

..Elsewhere, extremists targeted U.S. patrols in two separate attacks in northern Baghdad, one of which killed a soldier and wounded three other troops and a civilian, the military said, without naming the victims. The second bombing wounded three soldiers, the military said...

..An explosion also struck a minibus carrying electricity department workers in the northwestern city of Mosul on Sunday, killing two and wounding three, police said.

In Hawija, about 30 miles southwest of Kirkuk, a parked car bomb went off Sunday morning next to a patrol of Sunni tribesmen who aligned with U.S. forces to fight al-Qaida in Iraq, police said. One civilian bystander was killed and 10 people were wounded, including seven tribesmen, police Brig. Sarhad Qadir said.
But they tell us the surge is working.

Poor souls, actually believed George Bush

And as part of their efforts to become US citizens, they joined the military and put their lives on the line in Our Dear Embattled Leader's Glorious Little War. According to ODEL, this was their boost to the head of the line.
About 7,200 service members or people who have been recently discharged have citizenship applications pending, but neither the Department of Defense nor Citizenship and Immigration Services keeps track of how long they have been waiting. Immigration lawyers and politicians say they have received a significant number of complaints about delays because of background checks, misplaced paperwork, confusion about deployments and other problems.

The long waits are part of a broader problem plaguing the immigration service, which was flooded with 2.5 million applications for citizenship and visas last summer — twice as many as the previous year — in the face of 66 percent fee increases that took effect July 30. Officials have estimated that it will take an average of 18 months to process citizenship applications from legal immigrants through 2010, up from seven months last year.

But service members and veterans are supposed to go to the head of the line. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush signed an executive order allowing noncitizens on active duty to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to first complete three years in the military. The federal government has since taken several steps to speed up the process, including training military officers to help service members fill out forms, assigning special teams to handle the paperwork, and allowing citizenship tests, interviews and ceremonies to take place overseas.

At the same time, post-9/11 security measures, including tougher guidelines for background checks that are part of the naturalization process, have slowed things down.
And so they learn the first important lesson of American democracy, never believe a Republican.

There he goes again

In a baby boomer effort to match the great Harold Stassen's record of nine runs for the presidency, Ralph Nader is off and running again this year. Just why is not really clear, but this makes try # 5. Assuming the good Lord doesn't take him, as soon as possible please, we can probably expect a few more attempts in the years ahead. As usual, he thinks he is doing something good.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Real McCain



The Real McCain

Quote of the Day

"I will tell you personally that I think it was probably a mistake going to Iraq,"
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, who still maintains that correcting the mistake is wrong.

Just a thought

With all the Republican scare mongering about telecom amnesty for crimes past and present, do you ever get the feeling that they are not really capable of protecting us from a new attack under any circumstances?

The latest Republican very scary ad



With thanks to Talking Points Memo

OMG! They are in print, too.

Another update on the Surge

From the areas of Baghdad where it is supposed to be working. Nir Rosen has the straight skinny from the scene in Rolling Stone.
The American forces responsible for overseeing "volunteer" militias like Osama's have no illusions about their loyalty. "The only reason anything works or anybody deals with us is because we give them money," says a young Army intelligence officer. The 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which patrols Osama's territory, is handing out $32 million to Iraqis in the district, including $6 million to build the towering walls that, in the words of one U.S. officer, serve only to "make Iraqis more divided than they already are." In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector — more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. "Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems," as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it "balancing competing armed interest groups."
A must read and do look at the collection of photos with it.

Lo and behold.

Just after St John McCain had finished sanctimoniously proclaiming he had never met Lowell Paxson or lobbybabe Vicki Iseman before sending supportive letters to the FCC, we are treated to McCain being refuted by his own words from 2002 and by the main beneficiary of it all and one who should know, Lowell Paxson.
Paxson said he talked with McCain in his Washington office several weeks before the Arizona Republican wrote the letters in 1999 to the FCC urging a rapid decision on Paxson's quest to acquire a Pittsburgh television station.

Paxson also recalled that his lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, likely attended the meeting in McCain's office and that Iseman helped arrange the meeting. "Was Vicki there? Probably," Paxson said in an interview with The Washington Post yesterday. "The woman was a professional. She was good. She could get us meetings."
While we can leave aside the question of whether St. John gives good meeting, the main problem for him is that he is now fully exposed as an out and out liar. Most people expect their political types to be artful dodgers of the truth, but are they really ready for one who is so easily exposed? And how many more times will we be willing accept this sort of tsunami of mendacity? The world wonders.

George Bush's legacy in Iraq

Is best illustrated by the situation in Basra, the city with all the advantages and all the problems that will arise when you have no center of power to control events.
Yet the city remains deeply troubled. Disappearances of doctors, teachers and other professionals are common, as are some clashes among competing militias, most of which are linked to political parties. Murder victims include judicial investigators, politicians and tribal sheiks. One especially disturbing trend is the slaying of at least 100 women in the last year, according to the police. The Iraqi authorities have blamed Shiite militiamen for many of those killing, saying the militants had probably deemed the women to be impious.

“Most of the killings are done by gunmen in police cars,” said Sheik Khadem al-Ribat, a Basra tribal leader who claims no party membership. He spoke of the militias in an antechamber of his downtown mosque, his voice barely above a whisper. “These cars were given to the political parties. There are supposed to be 16,000 policemen, but we see very few of them on the street, and most of the ones we do see are militiamen dressed as police.”

Two dozen Shiite political parties and their respective militias compete, often violently, over control of the oil sector, seaport profits, smuggling operations across the nearby Iranian border and political authority over Iraq’s economic nerve center. So while the sectarian tension that has marred life elsewhere is missing here, the strife itself is not.
And this is what will happen all over Iraq when the US pulls out, until there is a consolidation of power sufficient to exert control. The continued presence of US troops will only delay the coming of that day.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Another Republican, another indictment

Don't they just seem to go together, like hot dogs and baseball. The latest Republican to be true to his party is Representative Rick Renzi R-AZ.
The prosecutors said a grand jury on Thursday returned a 35-count indictment accusing Mr. Renzi, 49, and two former associates of extortion, wire fraud, money-laundering and various conspiracies that could bring many years in prison and fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars upon conviction.

The indictment asserts that Mr. Renzi was in financial trouble in 2005 “and needed a substantial infusion of funds to keep his insurance business solvent and to maintain his personal lifestyle.” The Congressman, who announced last August that he would not seek a fourth term, and his wife, Roberta, have 12 children. Mr. Renzi has denied any wrongdoing.
In spite of his Republican affiliation, he can claim to have had sex with a woman at least 12 times.

Muktada extends cease fire another six months

Short version, he is not ready to make his move, yet.

McCain campaign financing in serious trouble.

St. John, having accepted public money, is limited to spending $54 million until the Republican convention. Having spent $49 million so far, that leaves $5 million for the next 6 months, unless he opts out of the public financing. But he can't opt out of public financing because the FEC lacks a quorum to vote on his doing so because his beloved Dear Leader and Congress are fighting over ODEL's choice of a notorious vote fraudster for an FEC seat. Poor old John is in a bind. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

UPDATE:
In an attempt to prove himself Republican presidential materiel, St. John has declared himself able to judge laws for himself.
But 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.
A true acolyte of Our Dear Embattled Leader.

Quote of the Day

At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust or make a decision which in any way would not be in the public interest or would favor anyone or organization.
St. John McCain, conveniently forgetting his founders membership in the Keating 5.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A close look at Halliburton corruption

Through the actions of its KBR subsidiary. The Chicago Tribune provides some of the details of the commonplace corruption in Iraq.
In October 2002, five months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Khan threw a birthday party for Seamans at a Tamimi "party house" near the Kuwait base known as Camp Arifjan. Khan "provided Seamans with a prostitute as a present," Rock Island prosecutors wrote in court papers. Driving Seamans back to his quarters, Khan offered kickbacks that would total $130,000.

Five days later, with Seamans and Khan hammering out the fine print, KBR awarded Tamimi the war's first $14.4 million mess hall subcontract, court records show.

In April 2003, as American troops poured into Iraq, Seamans gave Khan inside information that enabled Tamimi to secure a $2 million KBR subcontract to establish a mess hall at a Baghdad palace. Seamans submitted change orders that inflated that subcontract to $7.4 million.

By June, Seamans and fellow KBR procurement manager Jeff Mazon, a Country Club Hills resident, had executed subcontracts worth $321 million. At least one deal put U.S. soldiers at risk.

The Army LOGCAP contract required KBR to medically screen the thousands of kitchen workers that subcontractors like Tamimi imported from impoverished villages in Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

But when Pentagon officials asked for medical records in March 2004, Khan presented "bogus" files for 550 Tamimi workers, Assistant U.S. Atty. Jeffrey Lang said in a court hearing last year.

KBR retested those 550 workers at a Kuwait City clinic and found 172 positive for exposure to hepatitis A, Lang told the judge. Khan tried to suppress those findings, warning the clinic director that Tamimi would do no more business with his medical office if he "told KBR about these results,"
And the means to all this lovely looting of the US treasury was the seldom noticed actions of the Bushoviks in DC, quietly rooting out all the honest bureaucrats.
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.

The dollar value of Army contracts quadrupled from $23.3 billion in 1992 to $100.6 billion in 2006, according to a recent report by a Pentagon panel. But the number of Army contract supervisors was cut from 10,000 in 1990 to 5,500 currently.

Last week, the Army pledged to add 1,400 positions to its contracting command. But even those embroiled in the frauds acknowledge the impact of so much war privatization.

"I think we downsized past the point of general competency," said subcontractor Christopher Cahill,
And thus did Our Dear Embattled Leader have one of the first successes of his reign. Is the next President ready for the Augean stables that ODEL intends to leave him or her?

It ain't easy being Irish

All the more so when St Patricks Day falls during Holy Week.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Now that he is the anointed one

It is time for an examination of the ethical career of St John McCain. To put it in a nutshell, he ain't no Galahad. There was his star turn with the Keating Five.
Mr. Keating had taken over the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and used its federally insured deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. He pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking regulators.

For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board.

By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” Mr. McCain later lamented in his memoir.
And his Reform Institute.
One of his efforts, though, seemed self-contradictory. In 2001, he helped found the nonprofit Reform Institute to promote his cause and, in the process, his career. It collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in unlimited donations from companies that lobbied the Senate commerce committee. Mr. McCain initially said he saw no problems with the financing, but he severed his ties to the institute in 2005, complaining of “bad publicity” after news reports of the arrangement.
And for those concerned with his personal ethics, there was his first wife who waited for him while he was a POW, only to be dumped for the trophy wife with lots of money as he began his political career. And now for good luck, a little skirt chasing for favors. But IOKIYAR

Quote of the Day

Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals, we've got to have convictions.
William Haynes, Pentagon general counsel on how he intends to run the military commission trials at Guantanamo.

Want some single payer universal health care?

Mike the Mad Biologist linked to a blog post from Sara Robinson that lays out a list of very good arguments in favor of SP-UHC. Must reading for those who never quite knew what to say. Lesson #1
Government-run health care is inherently less efficient -- because governments themselves are inherently less efficient.
If anything could finally put the lie to this old conservative canard, the disaster that is our health care system is Exhibit A.

America spends about 15% of its GDP on health care. Most other industrialized countries (all of whom have some form of universal care) spend about 11-12%. According to the WHO, Canada spends a bit over 9% -- and most of the problems within their system come out of the fact that it's chronically underfunded compared to the international average.

Any system that has people spending more and getting less is, by definition, not efficient. And these efficiency leaks are, almost entirely, due to private greed. There is no logical way that a private system can pay eight-figure CEO compensation packages, turn a handsome a profit for shareholders, and still be "efficient." In fact, in order to deliver those profits and salaries, the American system has built up a vast, Kafkaesque administrative machinery of approval, denial, and fraud management, which inflates the US system's administrative costs to well over double that seen in other countries -- or even in our own public systems, including Medicare and the VA system.

Not incidentally: one of the benefits of single-payer health care is that it largely eliminates the entire issue of "fraud." You can only "cheat" a system that already views its primary business as rationing and withholding care. In Canada, where the system is set up to deliver health care instead of profits, and medical access is considered a right, this whole oversight machinery is far cheaper and more compact. In general, the system trusts doctors and patients to make the right choices the first time. As a result, people generally don't have to lie, cheat, and grovel to get the system to deliver the care they need. They just go and get it -- and walk out without a moment's dread about the bills.

Shareholder profit, inflated CEO salaries, and top-heavy administration -- all of which serve to work against the delivery of care, not facilitate it -- are anti-efficiencies that siphon off 20-25% of America's total health care spending. These are huge sums; yet it's mostly money down a gold-plated rathole. In the end, it doesn't provide a single bed, pay a single nurse or doctor, or treat a single patient.
But you don't really want to put some poor old CEO on the breadline just so you can have health care, do you?

Too old to change



From Tom Toles

Lowering expectations

Because it would be so embarrassing if they missed it. The Pentagon is preparing the public for a possible miss in its attempt to shoot down a failed satellite.
A Navy heat-seeking missile is getting its first real-world use in an attempt to demolish a crippled U.S. spy satellite before the orbiting craft falls back to Earth.

The targeting of the satellite -- which could come Wednesday night -- is not the mission for which this piece of the Pentagon's missile defense network was intended, however.

The three-stage Navy missile, designated the SM-3, has chalked up a high rate of success in a series of tests since 2002, in each case targeting a short- or medium-range ballistic missile, never a satellite. A hurry-up program to adapt the missile for this anti-satellite mission was completed in a matter of weeks; Navy officials say the changes will be reversed once this satellite is down.
You see, we are not like the evil Chinese who were plotting their satellite shoot down since Confucius. Nope, we are just cobbing up something on the spur of the moment and if we miss its back to the drawing boards and can we have a few more $Billion to get it right, please?

UPDATE: The Pentagon reports a successful interception. You can breathe easier now.

UPPERDATE
: Gail Collins has an amusing take on the whole thing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mushy toast

Not some new breakfast treat, but the end of the presidency of Our Dear Embattled Leader's old buddy Perv Musharraf. Unless he decides to run another coup. But someone else controls the army now and might not be so keen of that. Without a hand on the US aid tap, who needs Mushy anymore? That being said, the best question might be how long will Mushy even stay in Pakistan?

The Cal Ripken of Presidents calls it quits

It's been a long time but Fidel Castro is finally hanging up his spikes. We wish him a long and happy retirement with the grandkids.

Another steamer on the Big Shit Pile

This time from the once upon a time conservative Credit Suisse. Much of the $2.85 Billion loss is from CDO's and such but part of it comes from a curious problem for a swiss bank.
The internal review that identified mismarkings and pricing errors by a small number of traders in its Structured Credit Trading business was continuing, said the bank.

"The spooky bit is the mismarking, and the impression that the company is not on top of things," said another analyst at a U.S. bank in London.
A little too much lipstick on those piggies.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Condi offers bribe

In Kenya it might just be what the doctor ordered.
After separate meetings with President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, Rice said that both men needed to make concessions to end a seven-week stalemate after Kibaki was declared the winner of a questionable election. She indicated that the U.S. government would provide additional funding to rebuild the country once there's an agreement.

Who will be St John's VP?

Here is some speculation about some probable choices, assuming Dickwahd Cheney doesn't insert himself as VP again. An interesting note, all but two have negatives for acting like a human being and one of the surviving two is unknown on that point.

Statistics make my head hurt

But when McClatchy puts this into print, it makes sense to me.
The latest employment figures, released in late January, showed a 52-month streak of job creation ending with a loss of 17,000 jobs in January. The Bush administration acknowledged the contraction, but pointed to the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent to say that the labor market wasn't a harbinger of recession.

A closer look at unemployment data by McClatchy, however, found that jobless Americans are spending more time looking for work and that those who can't find work now make up a greater share of the unemployed.

Several measures of unemployment, in fact, show that the workforce is under the kind of stress not seen since March 2001, when the U.S. economy entered a nine-month recession, followed by a so-called jobless recovery.
All kinds of statistics and none of them good.

The uniform makes the soldier

A different look at warm weather uniforms.

Joe Lieberschmuck is out of the closet

Even as his portrait has gone into the closet.
His official portrait sits in a closet at the Connecticut Democratic Party headquarters in Hartford. Party elders have stripped him of his superdelegate cape.

And he is so disinterested in the Democratic presidential candidates — though he counts both as friends — that he declined to vote in his state’s primary.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, not so long back the Democratic nominee for vice president, has become chief endorser, campaign companion and all-around champion for his buddy Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential standard-bearer.
The whole article describes Judas Joe's slow descent into hell and has this curious quote in it.
“The Senate Democrats are like volcano worshipers,” said Bill Curry, an adviser in the Clinton White House who once sat alongside Mr. Lieberman in the Connecticut State Senate. “If Lieberman blows, their whole island sinks into the sea.”
A very curious idea, because it has long been known that Joe blows goats, not volcanoes.

The rats have been nibbling at your cheese

Your cheese being the Constitution and the rats being those who believe that government should be able to do whatever it wants to you without hinderence. Andrew P. Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge explains why you should fiercely resist every attempt by the camel to put its nose in the tent.

The first step in the price hikes.

LA Times headline:
Huge explosion shatters Texas oil refinery

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Monday Music Blogging

A little good time music from the Transatlantic Sessions



Guitar Talk - Michelle Wright

Bush is irrelevant in Crawford, too.

Nobody really cares about a dusty old corner of Texas when the local big wig is a lame duck, soon to be a has been. And when his signature achievement is being the worst president ever, you can't eat well off that either.
From certain angles, this town looks as if it already got hit by a recession. The gift shop next to the police station closed about a year ago, and there's a "Building For Sale" banner flapping from the cornice. Two other gift shops have long since gone out of business. Another one is open now only on weekends. Two more are still going, but they sometimes close early in the day during the lonely winter months.

The Bush boom is over.

"It didn't last. You can only sell so many souvenirs," says the former mayor, Robert Campbell.

When the then-governor of Texas bought a ranch outside of town in 1999, Crawford suddenly became more than just a crossroads west of Waco. When George W. Bush became president of the United States, the village sprouted signs declaring itself the Western White House. Property values spiked. World leaders made regular appearances. A new bank branch opened on the main intersection.

But Bush is now a lame duck, and this little piece of Bush Country is in a transitional moment
They had their day in the sun and now they can live a normal life again while their most famous citizen goes back to raising cedar and milking stallions.

McCain vows to sell US to China

Where else does he expect the funds for his 100 year war in Iraq to come from. The current front running Republican pander bear made the following announcement
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the likely Republican nominee for president who is seeking to shore up support among conservatives, said today that he would not raise taxes under any circumstances.

"In fact, I could see an argument if our economy continues to deteriorate, for lower interest rates, lower tax rates and certainly decreasing corporate tax rates, which are the second-highest in the world," McCain said on ABC's "This Week."
He seems to think he can pay off the interest on Our Dear Embattled Leader's massive debt increase with a smile and a thank you.

Where's the beef?

In the largest beef recall to date, 143 million pounds are being recalled going back to 2006. That means a lot of it has already been eaten. The reason this time is the failure to get the vet when cows went down on their way in. Sick cows apparently being preferable in the food supply than off the bottom line. Two points make this scary,
Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak.
And
Officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school programs, but they believe most of the meat probably has already been eaten.
They can eliminate the E.coli and salmonella threats but the mad cow possibility won't be known for a few years yet. Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry asks a very pertinent question.
[H]ow much longer will we continue to test our luck with weak enforcement of federal food safety regulations?
Probably as long as it takes to rid the government of Republicans.

Noc, Noc, The CIA's not there yet

The LA Times is reporting today on the failure of the CIA to set up new front companies for its agents in the war against terror. It seems the CIA didn't quite get that most of the new bad guys don't wear suits or hang out in desirable neighborhoods.
But after spending hundreds of millions of dollars setting up as many as 12 of the companies, the agency shut down all but two after concluding they were ill-conceived and poorly positioned for gathering intelligence on the CIA's principal targets: terrorist groups and unconventional weapons proliferation networks.

The closures were a blow to two of the CIA's most pressing priorities after the 2001 terrorist attacks: expanding its overseas presence and changing the way it deploys spies.

The companies were the centerpiece of an ambitious plan to increase the number of case officers sent overseas under what is known as "nonofficial cover," meaning they would pose as employees of investment banks, consulting firms or other fictitious enterprises with no apparent ties to the U.S. government.

But the plan became the source of significant dispute within the agency and was plagued with problems, officials said. The bogus companies were located far from Muslim enclaves in Europe and other targets. Their size raised concerns that one mistake would blow the cover of many agents. And because business travelers don't ordinarily come into contact with Al Qaeda or other high-priority adversaries, officials said, the cover didn't work.

Summing up what many considered the fatal flaw of the program, one former high-ranking CIA official said, "They were built on the theory of the 'Field of Dreams': Build them and the targets will come."
If at first you don't succeed, the rest of us hope you did learn from it. A hundred million here, a hundred million there and it starts to add up, you know.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Rules from Bill Maher


Wasn't this the key to success?

Getting all the local folks to grab their guns and stand with us instead of against us was the heart of Our Dear Embattled Leader's great success in Iraq. It would appear that the locals do not like being blown up or gunned down by mistake any more than they liked it when we did it on purpose.
U.S.-allied fighters in a province south of Baghdad have quit working with American troops after two incidents in which U.S. soldiers killed militia members _ the second province where citizen militias have stopped cooperation with the United States.

Citizen brigades in the province of Babil quit work after three members were killed by U.S. forces Friday, a local police spokesman said Saturday.

Another high-profile fatal incident occurred in the same province a little over two weeks ago. Nationwide in that time span, 19 citizen militia members have been killed and 12 wounded by U.S. forces, said the police spokesman, Capt. Muthanna Ahmed.

The action in Babil province follows a strike by citizen brigades members in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, that has gone on for more than a week. The citizen militias allege the local police chief leads a death squad and seek his removal, among other demands.

Also this past week, a leader in another powerful citizens militia warned that U.S. and Shiite-dominated Iraq forces should no longer interfere in its work, suggesting coordinated efforts against insurgents might be coming to an end.
It seems the silly wogs don't believe accidents happen. What next? Will they want their country back?

Many years ago

On the occasion of one of my now many birthdays, a friend gave me a card that had pictures of hippos and birdies and deer and ewes arranged to say the greeting in pictures. Hippo birdie two ewes. After all these years, it is the only birthday card I still remember receiving. It is a pleasant surprise to discover that the card is still available and the artist, Sandra Boynton, is still hard at work doing what must be a labor of love.

Credit default swaps

Never heard of them? Neither have I, but they are worth lots of money, maybe. But no one really knows, still they could save us all or not. You figure it out.

The surge is working

In your dreams, Georgie, and you too, John. Patrick Cockburn of The Independent has a detailed look what has and is happening in Iraq and comes to a different conclusion.
The present state of Iraq is highly unstable, but nobody quite wants to go to war again. It reminds me of lulls in the Lebanese civil war during the 1970s and 1980s, when everybody in Beirut rightly predicted that nothing was solved and the fighting would start again. In Iraq the fighting has never stopped, but the present equilibrium might go on for some time.

All the Iraqi players are waiting to see at what rate the US will draw down its troop levels. The Mehdi Army is discussing ending its six-month ceasefire, but does not want to fight its Shia rivals if they are supported by American military power. Al-Qa'ida is wounded but by no means out of business. Four days after I had seen Abu Marouf, who was surrounded by bodyguards and maintains extreme secrecy about his movements, al-Qa'ida was able to detonate a bomb in a car close to his house and injure four of his guards.
And they will wait 100 years if they need to.

Another Republican effort at voter fraud stymied

When a US District judge granted a permanent injunction against an Ohio law that prevented legitimate voter registration drives.
US District Judge Kathleen O’Malley imposed a permanent injunction Tuesday against enforcement of certain provisions of Ohio’s 2006 election law that imposed curbs on voter registration drives she ruled violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

Because they impede the purpose and intent of these statutes, O’Malley declared them unenforceable.

The case, Project Vote v. Blackwell, originally filed in May 2006 on behalf of nonprofit groups who were conducting voter registration drives in Ohio, challenged several provisions of Ohio House Bill 3, enacted in 2006, as well as the Secretary of State’s implementation of those provisions.
It's that damned activist Constitution, again.

They were expendable

Because getting the right equipment to the men actually fighting and dying would get in the way of their pet projects, their path to the next promotion.
The Combat Development Command, which decides what gear to buy, treated the MRAP as an expensive obstacle to long-range plans for equipment that was more mobile and fit into the Marines Corps' vision as a rapid reaction force. Those projects included a Humvee replacement called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and a new vehicle for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

The MRAPs didn't meet this fast-moving standard and so the Combat Development Command didn't want to buy them, according to Gayl. The study calls this approach a "Cold War orientation" that suffocates the ability to react to emergency situations.
The study, obtained by the Associated Press shows why the military bureaucracy always needs a good cleaning when war starts, unless you don't mind needless deaths. And what other kind have there been in Iraq.

This is just peachy!

According to the CDC there is a new neurological disorder that may come from pigs. So far only found among slaughterhouse workers, it comes from using every part of the pig except the whistle.
Virtually every part of the pig was used, including ears, entrails, and bone. The 12 Quality Pork workers stricken with the neurological illness are mostly Hispanic immigrants and all work at or near the "head table" where the animals' severed heads are processed. One of the steps in the process involves removing the pigs' brains with compressed air forced into the skull through the spinal cord entrance. Brains are then packed and sent to markets in Korea and China as food.

Investigators do not believe the meat was contaminated and have theorized that the harvesting technique-"blowing brains" on the floor-produces aerosols of brain matter. Once the matter is inhaled, the body's immune system produces antibodies that attack the brain compounds. Apparently, the antibodies also attack the body's own nerve tissue because of its similarity to that of the pig.
Hopefully, this will be strictly job related and 100% preventable with the discontinuation of that lovely technique.

Bob Kuttner notices a change

And it may be the sign of something good to come.
IN WATCHING Barack Obama make big inroads into every major Democratic constituency, let's pause a moment to credit the field's third man, former senator John Edwards, now out of the race.

Edwards was the toughest and earliest on the pocketbook issues that Obama is just now getting serious about. If Obama is to persuade the one remaining skeptical constituency - working-class voters in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania - he will have to get even more explicit about Edwards-type issues. But in the end, Obama could be a far more effective bearer of the Edwards message than Edwards himself.
It would be wonderful if Obama fully embraced the progressive ideals that our country so urgently needs, but I will remain skeptical for the time being. Just like the man from Missouri, "Show me".

Bush's "Uncle" threated Brits

No wonder he was made an honorary, but not honorable, member of the family. British court documents have uncovered evidence that Our Dear Embattled Leader's Uncle Bandar Bush made threats to withhold information of terrorist plots against Britain if the investigation into massive bribes for arms deal continued.
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.
That behavior would explain why he was so comfortable with the Bush family. At the very least, he had seen that if Georgie could push around the poodle, anybody could.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Gotta love those British journalists

They do know their trade and don't like the Kool-Aid. Elana Schor begins her story on the FISA fuss with this paragraph.
George Bush's fellow Republicans walked out of Congress today, staging a dramatic display to support giving the president long-term authority to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant.
She follows with all the necessary details, but they simply support the heart of the matter , disclosed at the very beginning. Sure would be nice if we could get this in American news.

KO on FISA and amnesty for criminals


If only


From Tom Toles

Quote of the Day

“President Bush tells the American people that he has nothing to offer but fear, and I’m afraid that his fear-mongering of this bill is not constructive.”
Nancy Pelosi addressing Our Dear Embattled Leader's whiny complaints about the House not passing his Personal Protection Act.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The House is downhill from the Senate

We can reasonably assume this because it looks like all the unused nuts from the Senate rolled downhill to the House where they were used with good effect today. First we have the House refusing to be bull-rushed into doing anything about the FISA and in doing so, allowing the August Abortion to expire. This got Our Dear Embattled Leader all upset and it was fun to watch him sputter on the TV. And then in one final vote, agreed to contempt subpoenas for Bolten and Miers, while the Republican members were doing their walkout thing. Lets hope the Democrats enjoyed all this enough to keep on doing it.

Another way to support the troops

Last Friday I had a post about a bit of sleight of hand that had the government giving a new contract to replace defective helmets to the company that made the original defective helmets and had paid a settlement of just under $1 per helmet for doing so. The good people at VoteVets.org are taking their outrage over this to the Congress.

Sign their petition and join them.

The Democrats have an ad

About everybody's favorite "maverick"


Help get a real FISA bill

Firedoglake has a petition to sign. Give your Congressmoop something to welcome him back after his recess.

If this is the starting point

Then the investigations of all the suspect players in the mortgage mess is going to last a long, long time.
Justice Department lawyers first must find insiders who understand mortgage loans and the ways in which they are bundled and sold.
Can of worms doesn't begin to describe it, but I wish them good hunting.

Ann Telnaes is great

For Valentines Day, she has a lovely little animated one for Dickwahd.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Senate panel stumbles over obvious, notices it.

The obvious being the well documented behavior of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Mens Loo, at the time of his arrest this summer.
The Senate Ethics Committee issued a "letter of admonition" to Sen. Larry Craig on Wednesday in connection with his arrest in a Minneapolis airport sex sting last year.

In the letter, the committee accused the Idaho Republican of improper conduct in the June arrest. His actions reflected "discreditably" on the chamber, the letter said.

The committee also criticized Craig for using more than $200,000 in campaign funds to pay legal fees related to his case and for flashing his Senate business card at the officer who arrested him. The letter said that move could be seen as an improper attempt to receive "special and favorable treatment."
"could be seen". That is putting it nicely. Then again, it could be seen as a Republican plan to share the wealth. Say, are those pigs warming up on the runway?

Senate votes to outlaw Texican Water Torture

One day after voting to destroy civil liberties and the basis of rule of law in the United States, the Senate has voted to require the CIA to follow interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual. This would effectively outlaw Our Dear Embattled Leader's second favorite watersport*. The amusing part is that one of the NO votes was from St. John McCain who speaks out against water torture but doesn't seem quite able to put his money where his mouth is. I guess after all these years, time and distance have put a warm fuzzy glow on St. John's memories of the Hanoi Hilton.


*some folks in DC say that Condi does love her golden showers.

The NY Times misses the point

In an editorial today, the NYT properly excoriates the White House plans to use kangaroo courts to justify killing 6 of the inmates in time to influence the election. But they miss the point when they write this.
The Bush administration’s decision to put six detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on trial before military tribunals and to seek the death penalty is both a betrayal of American ideals and simply bad strategy. Instead of being what they could and should be — a model of justice dispensed impartially, surely and dispassionately — the trials will proceed under deeply flawed procedures that violate this country’s basic fairness. The intense negative attention they will receive will do enormous damage to what is left of America’s standing in world opinion.
What they are seeing here is the small heart of George W Bush writ large on the public stage.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

R.I.P. Frank Piasecki

You made bananas fly, and a whole lot more.





Piasecki HRP-1 "Rescuer" / "Flying Banana"

My response to the Senate

After what 67 Senators did to our country today, anger is the first response. But something more is needed to put those 67 men and women in a proper historical perspective. Mere words are not really enough, but I was lucky enough to find this video clip that sums up their efforts perfectly.


Behold! The Nutless and the Gutless

The Nutless Republicans who will vote for any piece of unAmerican crap their masters call for and the Gutless Democrats who will sell their country down the river for a pat on the head and a scratch behind the ear, just don't hit them again with that rolled up newspaper.
NAYs ---67
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Carper (D-DE)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Inouye (D-HI)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Wicker (R-MS)
I propose that their legacy be a simple one. As these worthless lickspittles pass away with time, let all true Americans, on this day Feb 12, make a pilgrimage to their graves to piss on them in homage to their pusillanimous cowardly behavior.

Another broken piece of a broken Army

This is a bad sign for the Army and one more reason why Georgie and Dickwahd should be shuffling around Guantanamo in orange jumpsuits.
A Fort Carson soldier who says he was in treatment at Cedar Springs Hospital for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse was released early and ordered to deploy to the Middle East with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The 28-year-old specialist spent 31 days in Kuwait and was returned to Fort Carson on Dec. 31 after health care professionals in Kuwait concurred that his symptoms met criteria for bipolar disorder and “some paranoia and possible homicidal tendencies,” according to e-mails obtained by The Denver Post.

The soldier, who asked not to be identified because of the stigma surrounding mental illness and because he will seek employment when he leaves the Army, said he checked himself into Cedar Springs on Nov. 9 or Nov. 10 after he attempted suicide while under the influence of alcohol. He said his treatment was supposed to end Dec. 10 but his commanding officers showed up at the hospital Nov. 29 and ordered him to leave.

“I was pulled out to deploy,” said the soldier, who has three years in the Army and has served a tour in Iraq.
At least they didn't slap him.

New England Patriots fans

Obnoxious in the best of times and when they lose, a bunch of Whiny Ass Titty Babies. You can see it here.

Thanks a lot Georgie!

Your father worked hard to end this crap so you just had to get out there and start it all again.
American fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers, one of which buzzed a U.S. aircraft carrier in the western Pacific over the weekend, U.S. military officials told CNN Monday.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Tuesday that there was no violation of flight regulations during the incident. A ministry official said the flights are standard operating procedure for air force training.

One of them twice flew about 2,000 feet over the deck of the USS Nimitz Saturday while another flew about 50 miles away, officials said. Two others were at least 100 miles away, the military reported.
You just can't get along with anybody, can you?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday Bonus Music Blogging

I would have posted this Karan Casey tune this morning if YouTube hadn't been cranky yesterday. Here it is now. I have no idea what she is singing about, but I love the way she sings it.


Something about this picture bothers me



Yes, Adolph never smiled.

Everybody should read Robert Fisk

When you start a piece with a paragraph like this.
An American special forces major - now, needless to say, a colonel - once boasted that "torture works" to a colleague of mine a couple of years ago. It seems that the CIA and its hired thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq still believe this.
And end it like this.
Grafton's conclusion is unanswerable. Torture does not obtain truth. It will make most ordinary people say anything the torturer wants. Why, who knows if the men under the CIA's 'waterboarding' did not confess that they could fly to meet the devil. And who knows if the CIA did not end up believing him.
You know what is in between is a must read.

Still ashamed after all these years

According to the NY Times today, the Pentagon commissioned the Rand Corp to write an analysis of Our Dear Embattled Leader's Glorious Little War. In a troubling development for all that were in charge, all the principal players came out covered in shit. So the military with the cooperation of the crew in the White House proceeded to sit on the report so no one could see it. While the report still has not seen the light of day, the Times does provide a few tidbits for your enjoyment.
“Building public support for any pre-emptive or preventative war is inherently challenging, since by definition, action is being taken before the threat has fully manifested itself,” it said. “Any serious discussion of the costs and challenges of reconstruction might undermine efforts to build that support.”

Another problem described was a general lack of coordination. “There was never an attempt to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security,” the study said.
And.
A “shortfall” in American troops was exacerbated when General Franks and Mr. Rumsfeld decided to stop the deployment of the Army’s First Cavalry Division when other American forces entered Baghdad, the study said, a move that reflected their assessment that the war had been won. Problems persisted during the occupation. In the months that followed, the report said, there were “significant tensions, most commonly between the civilian and military arms of the occupation.”

The poor planning had “the inadvertent effort of strengthening the insurgency,” as Iraqis experienced a lack of security and essential services and focused on “negative effects of the U.S. security presence.” The American military’s inability to seal Iraq’s borders, a task the 2005 report warned was still not a priority, enabled foreign support for the insurgents to flow into Iraq.
If you have been following the exploits of ODEL and his minions, you can imagine the rest and probably not be too far off.

Li'l Georgie's Legacy

From Tom Toles


Monday Music Blogging

Beat of My Heart - Karan Casey


Sec Def Gates supports McCain

And to do his part, he has endorsed suspending troop withdrawals so St John can get his fair share of troops killed.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday publicly endorsed the concept of ordering a pause in troop withdrawals from Iraq this summer after the departure of five extra brigades deployed last year as part of the force increase.

After meeting with top American commanders, Mr. Gates for the first time said that “the notion of a brief period of consolidation and evaluation probably does make sense.”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

R.I.P. Roy Scheider

It's showtime!


The man needs to be deported

Because we all know that Bill O'Reilly's forebears were probably of the illegal kind and the knowledge of this has irrevocably poisoned his mind. How else could any human being have written this.
To protect my family, I want the “waterboarding” option included among presidential powers
If Bill was man enough to protect his own family, he wouldn't need torture now, would he.

h/t to The Great Orange Stan for the headsup

Can't you just smell the pork

Air traffic control is something that everybody should be concerned about. The system is currently working at maximum level with old equipment and despite using it frequently, Congress seems in no hurry to make improvements or even pay for what is there now. Still this does not seem to be a potentially fruitful (for the flying public) way to go.
The government already may have underestimated by billions of dollars the cost to transition to a satellite-based air traffic control system in coming years, according to an independent industry analysis.

The Federal Aviation Administration in August awarded ITT Corp. a contract worth up to $1.8 billion to build the first portion of the system, dubbed NextGen, that will take nearly 20 years to complete. The agency has said that the new system will help improve operations and limit delays and is expected to cost between $15 billion and $22 billion.

But an independent industry analysis completed last year forecast that NextGen's software development alone could cost more than $50 billion, Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III said Thursday during a House hearing on the FAA's proposed budget for 2009.
And in 20 years it will work as well as that wonderful anti-missile system that Condi was worrying about back on 9/11. There is always the train.

How goes Dear Leader's legacy?

It is looking like more of the same despite the best efforts of Li'l Georgie and his minions to ignore reality in favor of rosy pronouncements.
A car bomb killed 23 people and wounded 25 more in a market in the Iraqi town of Balad on Sunday, the U.S. military said.

A spokesman said the blast occurred near an Iraqi army checkpoint, adding the wounded were being rushed to hospital. Balad lies north of Baghdad.

The violence came as the U.S. military said impatience with slow improvements to basic services like electricity and water could reverse recent security gains in Iraq, especially Anbar province, a former al-Qaida stronghold...

...Insurgents stormed two villages in northwestern Iraq on Sunday but were repelled by U.S.-allied fighters and Iraqi security forces in clashes that left at least 22 people dead, according to local authorities.
I guess this is why historians wait until all the contemporaries are dead before they revise history.

How we got the idiot bastard older brother

Jacob Weisberg, writing in the LA Times, gives us a bit of political as he reruns the Bush family history that gave us a coke snorting, wife beating dry drunk in the White House instead of the one who knew how to do the job. Old news maybe, but current history and history is always good to know so we don't get burned again.

Making a silk purse out of a sow's ear

This is what most politicians do when they come up short of what they really want. Both the Republicans and Democrats are doing it this week, as detailed in the NY Times today. The Democrats are trying to put a nice shine on Harry Reid's failed effort to add real economic stimulus to the recently passed bill.
But what seemed to be a futile, even gratuitous, display of partisan aggression that Republican leaders derided as a waste of time, Mr. Reid’s allies say was a masterful effort.

Senate Republican leaders who initially opposed any changes to House plan in the end became advocates for expanding it to include Social Security recipients and veterans.

Mr. Reid came within one vote of winning passage of the larger package at a time when the worsening economy would have made it hard for Mr. Bush to argue.

And even falling short, supporters say, he advanced Democratic priorities and lifted the party’s chances of widening its control of the Senate to a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the November elections.
So we have one more example of Republicans voting against the public good. The Republicans have been voting against the public good since Ronald Reagan and for some reason the public seems to like it. All I can say is, Harry I hope you are right.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are wondering how useful Our Dear Embattled Leader will be if he steps out on the campaign trail. Unlike Bill Clinton, who was saddled with a very public blowjob, ODEL's burden of negativity is quite small, in Republican eyes. The real problem is how the non Kool-Aid drinking majority of the country views His Not-So-Excellency.
But prominent Republicans, including lawmakers and party strategists, said Mr. Bush’s involvement posed risks as well as rewards. Even as he tries to bring skeptical conservatives in line behind Mr. McCain, these Republicans said, the president could alienate the independents who are the strongest source of the senator’s support.
If God really intends to bless America, he will let President 30% turn off the other 70% and leave the Republicans chewing on a dried out old pig's ear.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The New York Times gets it

At least on the editorial page. The Grey Lady of Pinch-wit St. uses its editorial space today to write in opposition to the upcoming FISA bill with its telecom amnesty. In doing so they twice mention Our Dear Embattled Leader's greatest contribution to Republican governance.
The legal justification remains secret, but we suspect it was based on the finely developed theory that the president does not have to obey the law, and not on any legitimate interpretation of federal statutes.
And
This whole nightmare was started by Mr. Bush’s decision to spy without warrants — not because they are hard to get, but because he decided he was above the law.
Which leads to the undeniable conclusion.
This debate is not about whether the United States is going to spy on Al Qaeda, it is about whether it is going to destroy its democratic principles in doing so. Senators who care about that should vote against immunity.
Which, sadly, explains why the Republicans and their running dog, Joe Lieberschmuck, will vote as a unified bloc in favor of immunity.

Would you trust this man?

With anything of value?



The Republican Heir Presumptive to King George

Which side of the debate are you on?

Once again The Onion shows that reality is outpacing its best efforts, but we love them anyway.



In The Know: New Iraqi Law Requires Waiting Period For Suicide Vest Purchases

And is Omar al-Farouq related to Bill Kristol, they look so much alike?

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