Monday, December 31, 2007

What's that smell?

If you are not familiar with the problems of the Florida state investment pool for local governments, The NY Times has a nice synopsis of the effect that the CDO meltdown has had on this fund. The article also points out that this is not the first investment disaster for the pool.
This is not the first time the State Board of Administration has had to explain unusual investment losses. After the collapse of Enron in 2002, it came to light that the state pension fund had acquired big blocks of Enron stock just as other investors were dumping it. The fund lost $280 million.

Coleman Stipanovich, then the board’s deputy executive director, blamed an outside investment adviser, Alliance Capital Management. “We didn’t understand why they were buying it,” he told a Congressional hearing. “Even my mother was watching on TV and knew about Enron.”

Now angry depositors are asking much the same questions about Mr. Stipanovich, who was promoted to executive director in 2002 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, and who worked closely with Lehman Brothers, the firm that sold Florida more of the subprime-tainted securities than any other firm.

Some of the purchases were in July and August, after the risks of subprime-mortgage related securities were widely known and most investors were shunning them. The timing of Florida’s purchases was first reported by Bloomberg News Service.

Some local officials said in interviews that they were also eager to learn what role Mr. Bush might have played. A month after finishing his second term as governor last January, he formed a consulting firm, which in June was engaged by Lehman Brothers. Mr. Bush also sits on the board of Lehman Brothers’s private equity unit.

Spokesmen for Mr. Bush and Lehman Brothers said Mr. Bush’s consulting work had nothing to do with the sales of the securities to the Florida investment pool.
Nope, nothing to see here, just because there is another gross failure of fiduciary responsibility by another Bush who then managed to land a sweet deal with one of the primary investment banks selling the crap to Florida. Just because it smells like shit, doesn't mean there is a pile upwind.

Paul Krugman show us why

It is absolutely necessary in the upcoming general election to destroy the Republican Party.
What seems harder to understand is what’s happening on the other side — the degree to which almost all the Republicans have chosen to align themselves closely with the unpopular policies of an unpopular president. And I’m not just talking about their continuing enthusiasm for the Iraq war. The G.O.P. candidates are equally supportive of Bush economic policies.

Why would politicians support Bushonomics? After all, the public is very unhappy with the state of the economy, for good reason. The “Bush boom,” such as it was, bypassed most Americans — median family income, adjusted for inflation, has stagnated in the Bush years, and so have the real earnings of the typical worker. Meanwhile, insecurity has increased, with a declining fraction of Americans receiving health insurance from their employers.
It's a matter of your own best interest.

It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it

Cleaning up a location where people have died can truly be one of the worst jobs, ever. When that job includes multiple deaths that occur with distressing frequency, you are probably talking about the street cleaners of Iraq.
It falls to Baghdad’s street sweepers to pick up the fingertips and scraps of flesh left behind after the emergency workers haul away the torsos and heads of bombing victims. They do the job without gloves, in all but the coldest weeks of winter.

If the attack comes while they are off duty, they get roughly $8 extra for cleaning up. Despite the grisly work, and the sadness at the deaths, that is a welcome sum when they are each paid about $6 a day. There were many such bomb bonuses paid in 2007, though markedly fewer than in past years.

But on Sunday, at year’s end, two municipal street cleaners, Imad al-Hashemi and Laith Mahdi Latif, said the bonuses would be something they could happily live without in 2008.

They were outside the Faqma ice cream shop in early August, when at least 15 people were killed at one of central Baghdad’s most popular refreshment spots in the Karada district; outside the numerous attempts on the Sayyed Idris shrine nearby; and at the market where more than a dozen people were blown up on Dec. 5. Across town, their colleagues had to clear up Ghazil animal market last month, and Tayaraan Square last Friday, hurling bags of debris into a battered white Scania truck after a car bomber killed eight people.
Even with a bonus they are hoping they won't get called out, but there seems to be a little more despair than hope in their wish for a better year.
Both reiterate that they hope, and expect, things to get better. But then, Mr. Hashemi concedes, he thought the same thing after the Iran-Iraq war. “I thought after we finished that, that there would be no more killing, no wars,” he said. “And after 1991.”
Happy New Year, guys.

Monday Music Blogging

TEXAS - Prayer for You

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Better than Jenna & Not-Jenna combined.

The Guardian has a piece on the trials and tribulations of presidential parents, in this case Argentina where the poor young thing has two presidents as parents.
But Argentina's newly elected President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is probably more alarmed by the photographs that Florencia posts of herself smiling on busy streets or riding anonymously on subway carriages with no presidential security in sight.

'K Girl in the Subway' ran a typical headline in Caras magazine after Florencia posted a picture of herself and a friend teasingly staring into the camera on the subway in short skirts on 16 December.

With plenty of grammatical errors, poor vocabulary and full of colloquial expressions, Florencia is able to reveal secret images of the President's private life. For instance, one of the fotolog entries shows Florencia with her mother during her confirmation on 23 November last year.

Nor is it lacking in embarrassing vulgarity. One of the first entries of her blog in 2006, when she joined fotolog, is a quote from artist Liz Phair's song 'Why can't I': 'Here we go, we're at the beginning, we haven't fucked yet, but my head's spinning!'
Kids these days got no respect etc, etc.

When $4.4 Billion is not enough

You find yourself in the position of Merrill Lynch, desperately seeking new capital to keep your company afloat.
John Thain, the new chief executive of Merrill Lynch, is this weekend in talks with Chinese and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds that could lead to the sale of another big stake in the US bank in a desperate bid to raise capital, according to sources in London and New York.

The discussions come just days after Thain was forced on Christmas Eve to sell $4.4bn (£2.2bn) of stock to Singapore investment firm Temasek as part of a wider plan to raise some $7.5bn.

Analysts have so far predicted that the bank will be forced to write down between $10bn and $11.5bn, but the value of the assets affected by the credit crunch is falling in value by the day as the market continues to seek a way out of one of the worst liquidity crises in history.
Like Atrios says, the Big Shitpile.

Fred said it.

"I'm not particularly interested in running for president," the former senator told voters at a campaign event in Burlington, Iowa when challenged by an audience member over his desire to be commander-in-chief.

"But I think I'd make a good president," Thompson continued.
No Fred, you would make a good George Bush and we already know what a disaster that is.

Like a fart in a windstorm

Andrew J Bacevich, writing in the LA Times looks at Our Dear Embattled Leader and his neo-cons inability to reshape history as they think it should be.All too often ODEL and his odius crew have made trouble rather than the glorious history they imagine.
Viewed from a historian's perspective, the Bush administration since 9/11 has ransacked the past to conjure up comforting expectations for the future. President Bush excels in this exercise, expressing confidence that the "untamed fire of freedom" will one day soon "reach the darkest corners of our world." Yet as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto reminds us yet again, events refuse to play along. History remains stubbornly recalcitrant.
Using Pakistan as his model, Bacevich shows us that the "Wizard of Crawford" is no better than the one in Oz, manipulating smoke and mirrors but in the end changing little and now standing exposed for what he truly is.
Faced with the prospect of "losing" Pakistan, what should the world's sole superpower do? Despite Musharraf's flaws, should Washington back him to the hilt as the only alternative to chaos? Or should Bush commit the United States without reservation to building a strong democracy in Pakistan?

To pose such questions is to presume that decisions made in Washington will decisively influence the course of events in Islamabad. Yet the lesson to be drawn from the developments of the last several days -- and from U.S. involvement in Pakistan over the course of decades -- suggests just the opposite: The United States has next to no ability to determine Pakistan's fate.
In truth, Dear Leader is not the first president to face this dilemma, but he is the first to handle it so badly that the image of effectiveness has been shattered as well, making his efforts look like a fart in a windstorm.

Quote of the Day

As a result, he said, serious religious commitment in Britain is viewed as “a kind of hobby, like keeping parakeets or breeding corgis — definitely something that should not have a place at the table of public conversation.”
George Weigel, a Catholic theologian, describing the sensible British attitude toward religion in public life.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Do you think Barbara Bush would do this for Georgie?

Staff Sgt. Michael Lage was the only survivor of a blast that killed four others. Lage suffered third-degree burns to nearly half his body; part of his nose and ears were missing, and his face, scalp, arms and torso were seared. His left hand had to be amputated.

Rose Lage, 54, understood her son’s life would change. But she didn’t understand how much her own quiet life — a life spent playing with grandkids, fishing and preparing for her husband’s retirement — would change, as well.

She would exchange her two-story house in Atlanta for a hotel room on an Army post, watch her nest egg shrink and spend her days helping a 30-year-old son change bandages and wriggle into garments meant to reduce scarring.

The sacrifices of injured soldiers, airmen and Marines are recognized with medals and commendations. But the mothers and wives who arrive here wide-eyed and afraid make their own sacrifices — abandoning jobs and homes and delaying retirement to help their wounded children reclaim their lives.

“The women here are the heroes, every bit the heroes as their soldiers,” said Judith Markelz, who runs a 4-year-old program to aid the families of injured soldiers sent here for treatment. “These kids could not survive without their women.”
Not in a million years!

You can help here because you know Georgie won't.

This is scary

President Bush held an emergency meeting of his top foreign policy aides yesterday to discuss the deepening crisis in Pakistan, as administration officials and others explored whether Thursday's assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto marks the beginning of a new Islamic extremist offensive that could spread beyond Pakistan and undermine the U.S. war effort in neighboring Afghanistan.

U.S. officials fear that a renewed campaign by Islamic militants aimed at the Pakistani government, and based along the border with Afghanistan, would complicate U.S. policy in the region by effectively merging the six-year-old war in Afghanistan with Pakistan's growing turbulence.
For the next year and then some, we have to hope the folks in DC who have done their best to create a huge clusterfuck in the Middle East are the ones who will not irrevocably screw up what little hope remains in the region.

I am afraid we can get better odds from a multi-state lottery.

Gee, that was mighty white of him

Our Dear Embattled Leader in an attempt to show his compassion for lesser beings, after declaring a veto of the Defense Appropriations bill with its increased benefits for the military, has signed an extension of SCHIP. Mind you, it is not in any way an increase in the program, given inflation it is a steady decrease. No way will he sign an increase that over 5 years would cost as much as 2 MONTHS in Iraq. The SCHIP program doesn't kill anyone, why would he want to enlarge a program like that? No, odious ODEL is just extending it as is so he can get all pissy about it the next time Congress tries to increase it.

The right man at the right time.

John Edwards

More John

Friday, December 28, 2007

Mike don't know jack

And he ain't much good on shit either if his latest slew of off target remarks are any indication.
On Thursday night he told reporters in Orlando, Fla.: “We ought to have an immediate, very clear monitoring of our borders and particularly to make sure if there’s any unusual activity of Pakistanis coming into the country.”

On Friday, in Pella, Iowa, he expanded on those remarks.

“When I say single them out I am making the observation that we have more Pakistani illegals coming across our border than all other nationalities except those immediately south of the border,” he told reporters in Pella. “And in light of what is happening in Pakistan it ought to give us pause as to why are so many illegals coming across these borders.”

In fact, far more illegal immigrants come from the Philippines, Korea, China and Vietnam, according to recent estimates from the Department of Homeland Security.
But Mike, never one to rest on his laurels, just had to add a verbal maraschino cherry to that treat.
“The fact is that the immigration issue is not so much about people coming to pick lettuce or make beds, it’s about someone coming with a shoulder-fired missile,” he said.
I always wondered how you can spot them

Bush attempts "pocket veto"

Which is just the right thing to do for a "pocket president". And the target is once again his favorite, the military. It seems that after sitting around with his thumb up his ass saying nothing, he has chosen now, when he thinks Congress is adjourned, to not sign the Defense Appropriations bill because of a little noticed provision that could have been eliminated if he had asked Congress to do so. You see, he thinks he can slap around Congress with a "pocket veto" for something he had never objected to before and show them who is boss.

Kagro X over at Kos has noticed something that the White House would prefer we ignore, the Senate is still in session. Our Dear Embattled Leader now has a choice of not signing the bill and letting it become law because the Senate is in session or signing a veto of the Defense bill with the troops pay raises and increased benefits for wounded veterans and all those other things odius ODEL said he wanted. Stay tuned for the next battle for Our Constitution.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

R.I.P. Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan was your life and Pakistan was your death because you would not sit on the sideline and give up your Pakistan.

News Obituary News News

Juan Cole

John Edwards wins the coveted Burned Over District endorsement

John Edwards

h/t to Cranky Daze

Prove it!

The current mess in sub prime mortgages and CDO's may be considered the largest paper hanging scheme yet run on Wall St, but, as the WaPo points out, just try and prove that someone knew that.

Quote of the Day

The final rule is not intended to encourage employers to eliminate any retiree health benefits they may currently provide.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, having passed a rule that allows corporations to do just that to retirees at age 65.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mike Huckabee channels Dickwahd

Old Mike proved himself a manly man by going peasant hunting and, according to members of the hunting party, actually missed the lawyer and shot one of the three birds in their bag. As part of his victory oration, he reached down into the blackest depths of his soul to bring forth his inner Cheney.
Huckabee, who polls show continues to hold onto his lead in Iowa eight days before the state¹s caucuses — also joked the trip could serve as a metaphorical campaign message.

"Don't get in my way," he said while pointing to the three dead birds.

"This is what happens…You vote for me, you live. You don't…there you go."
Old Mike should be more careful with his speech. Unlike the bird, many voters know how to shoot back.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A game worth playing

Learn some new words and give some rice to feed the hungry.

On Christmas Day

Suicide bombing kills 22 in Iraq

Bush celebrates Christmas at Camp David

The battle for Health Care reform

The NY Times has an update on the battles in California and Illinois and Pennsylvania to reform and expand health care for their citizens. Two points stand out. One is that John Edwards is right, the insurance companies will not walk away from a cash cow like selective health care quietly. And secondly, the form that any reform takes will itself be a major battle. We can only hope that ultimately these wise words will prevail.
Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, seemed to speak for many of those in attendance when he said in an interview that successful health reform would depend on “not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Of note, in California the Republicans are once again leading the fight against the public good.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to all!

Moody Blues - What Child is This

Another Christmas tune

Celtic Woman / Chloe Agnew - ''O Holy Night''

A Sign

Christmas is what you make it.

And it may not always be like something you remember, but it should always be something you will remember.

R.I.P. Oscar Peterson

Duke Ellington referred to him as "Maharajah of the keyboard," while Count Basie once said "Oscar Peterson plays the best ivory box I've ever heard."

How the game is played

In the Guardian today, we learn that Dickwahd al-Cheney was the driving force in denying California's waiver for clean air standards.
Staff at the agency, which announced last week that California's proposed limits were redundant, said the agency's chief went against their expert advice after car executives met Cheney, and a Chrysler executive delivered a letter to the EPA saying why the state should not be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases.

EPA staff members told the Los Angeles Times that the agency's head, the Bush appointee Stephen Johnson, ignored their conclusions and shut himself off from consultation in the month before the announcement. He then informed them of his decision and instructed them to provide the legal rationale for it, they said.

"California met every criteria ... on the merits," an anonymous member of the EPA staff told the Times. "The same criteria we have used for the last 40 years ... We told him that. All the briefings we have given him laid out the facts."
Damn Bushoviks aren't even trying to be discrete anymore.

Nice of you to notice

Article in the NY Times today about how some folks in DC are finally taking a look at US aid for Pakistan and, $5 Billion later, just what we are getting for our money. This paragraph says it best.
Early last week, six years after President Bush first began pouring billions of dollars into Pakistan’s military after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Pentagon completed a review that produced a classified plan to help the Pakistani military build an effective counterinsurgency force.
It always helps to have a plan.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Because the snow has started to fall

Bing Crosby "White Christmas"

God and the Candidate

From the pen of Tom Toles

see also Oliphant

Still another Christmas tune

Martina McBride - The Christmas Song

The Feds want to know you

Inside and out and wherever you may be. Which is why they are spending a Billion dollars minimum to put together a biometric file on everybody they can. Many real Americans are frightened and angry about this latest invasion of privacy. Others say that if you do nothing wrong, why should you be concerned?
The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.
So that if you get arrested for any reason your boss will be told and probably fire your criminal ass, even if you are innocent.

And what if the information is input incorrectly? No one ever uses highly skilled professionals for data input. Do you think you can prove your innocence if your irises are matched with a serial killer's record?

Quote of the Day

“Let’s leave religious holidays in peace.”
Rep Barney Frank D-MA, speaking about his epiphany on religious holiday resolutions.

He can't help himself

He is like the magician who lets you keep the quarter he pulls out of your ear while he pockets your wallet with your cash and credit cards. He being Our Dear Unscrupulous Leader who has once again told Congress to pound sand.
The Bush administration yesterday eliminated about $700 million a year in Medicaid reimbursements to schools, sidestepping an attempt by Congress to block such a move.

A wide range of medical services, such as speech and physical therapy, are furnished to students in schools. Medicaid, the government's health insurance program for the poor, will continue to pay for those services for low-income children.

But the new rule will restrict when schools can bill the federal government for clerical work associated with providing health care. For example, schools can no longer expect Medicaid reimbursement for planning student immunizations. Schools also will not get paid for transporting students getting speech or physical therapy to school or back home.
You can have all the health care you need kid, good luck getting to the doctor's office. And don't tell me his mother can drive him. Only a fool would think that Wal-Mart would let her take the time off to do so.

You should consider this transfer of costs to states and localities in the light of the earlier post about Florida housing woes.

Another Christmas tune

WVU Choral Union & Symphony Orchestra "God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What hath Greenspan wrought?

The NY Times has a look at the effect of the housing bubble bust in Florida. It ain't pretty and it ain't over, and Florida is just the leading edge.
Mr. Jarrett left his mental health-counseling job and began selling real estate. He bought progressively nicer homes, keeping the older ones to rent, while borrowing against the rising value of one to finance the next.

Mr. Jarrett acquired a taste for $100 dinners. He bought a powerboat and a yellow Corvette convertible. (In a photograph on his business card, Mr. Jarrett sits behind the wheel, the top down, offering a friendly wave.) Last summer, he paid $730,000 for a 2,500-square-foot home in Cape Coral with a pool and picture windows looking out on a canal.

But Mr. Jarrett hasn’t closed a deal in three months. He is on track to earn about $50,000 for the year, he said. Yet he needs $17,000 a month just to pay the mortgages, insurance, taxes and utility bills on his four properties — all worth less than half what he owes. Rental income brings in only about $3,500 a month.

Mr. Jarrett has not paid the mortgage on two of his properties in six months and is behind on the others as well, he says. His goal is to sell everything, move into a rental and start over.

He is supplementing his income by selling MonaVie, a nutritional juice that retails for $45 a bottle. He recently dropped health insurance for his family, saving about $680 a month. He is applying for a state-subsidized health plan that would cover his 9-year-old daughter. “I’m in survival mode,” he says.

Many others are in similar straits, and the situation has had a ripple effect on the local economy. Scanlon Auto Group, a luxury car dealer, says it has seen its sales dip significantly — the first time that’s happened in 25 years. Rumrunners, a popular Cape Coral restaurant with tables gazing out on a marina, says its business is down by a third, compared with last year.

Furniture dealers are folding. Hardware stores are suffering. At Taco Ardiente in Lehigh Acres, business is down by more than three-fourths, complains the owner, Hugo Lopez. His tables were once full of the Hispanic immigrants who filled the ranks of the construction trade. The work is gone, and so are the workers.

AT the state level, Florida’s sales tax receipts have slipped by nearly one-tenth this year, and by 14 percent in Lee County. That is a clear sign of a broad economic slowdown, said Ray T. Kest, a business professor at Hodges University in Fort Myers.

“It started with housing, the loss of construction jobs, mortgage companies, title companies, but now it’s spread through the entire economy,” Mr. Kest says as he walks a strip of mostly empty condo towers on the riverside in downtown Fort Myers. “It now has permeated everything.”
Sure, the speculators are getting hurt, but the now it is spreading to the rest of the population and soon to a neighborhood near you.

It's not about the religion?

PM Carpenter takes a good look at how the Republican primary battles are playing out and makes his prediction for McCain. But it is his look at Mike " The Pope from Hope" Huckabee that provides the most interesting appraisal. It seems that the non religious Republicans have a very good reason to fear him, and it has nothing to do with his worshipping a false god. Old Mike is way too greedy, even for Republicans.
GOP pols prefer that graft be spread around evenly and politely, and this, Mr. Huckabee did not do. "If you don’t line up with him, Katie bar the door," is how one former Republican state rep remembered his merciless meetings with the impolitic governor.

In short, Mr. Huckabee did not at all play well with other Republican sachems he now needs, while he seems to have had a rather luxurious time doing it -- and at the ideologically opposed, taxpaying rank-and-file's expense. To be even shorter, such things will not bode well in the primary marathon.
This makes much more sense than any aversion to evangelicals. After all, Mike was a TV preacher and we all know TV preachers are more familiar with the spreadsheet than the Gospel.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Christmas tune

A favorite of my dissolute youth period.

Harold Hutchins - Please Daddy (Don't get drunk this Christmas)

Condi gets it wrong again

She held a press conference today and put forth some more of the ivory tower wet dreams that have served this country so poorly these last few years. Along the way she dropped this clanger.
"The United States doesn't have permanent enemies, we're too great a country for that,"
Having been part and parcel of a precipitous decline in the greatness of our country, she chose to overlook the greatest threat ever to our country by a group that has striven mightily to make itself permanent.

The Republican Party

She may be forgiven for trying to hide her best efforts, but not for what she , and others, have done.

Gates delineates Bush's failures.

Because we all know that Our Dear Embattled Leader can not do it himself. Sadly they are all too obvious to anyone who looked. First, ODEL will leave the Mess O' Potamia to his successor, with about 100,000 remaining in the Land Where Osama Ain't. And speaking of Osama, George still hasn't got him, dead or alive, but we all knew that would be the case. There is way too much common ground between the two for George to make that happen. And finally there is still Guantanamo Bay and the prisoners of such high value that they can never be brought to trial. Or even let loose if Gates is to be believed.
"I think that the principal obstacle has been resolving a lot of the legal issues associated with closing Guantanamo and what you do with the prisoners when they come back," he said. "So, I would say that the honest answer is that because of some of these legal concerns ... there has not been much progress in this respect."
Which is a nice way of saying that the legal hazards to the Gitmo perps, of letting the prisoners go, is still too great.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Found this at AmericaBlog

From Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO)

What everybody is thinking

Pat Oliphant puts into pictures.

EPA tells states to "Suck my tailpipe"

On the assumption that it is good for you. Their latest edict is another craven handout to industry, this time the automobile manufacturers. The refusal to allow California and other states to adopt more stringent standards pretty much insures that little or no progress will be made by US car makers to increase gas mileage and lower emission standards. In the meantime, the Japanese, Korean and other car makers will continue improving their offerings and grow fat on the foolishness and shortsightedness of the US car makers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Non Sequitur - Priceless!

Click to enlarge

Cheney & staff try to burn too much too fast

And in doing so, endanger more lives and possibly a horrid old architectural landmark.
Thick black smoke billowed from a fire Wednesday on the White House compound in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The blaze appeared to be located in Vice President Dick Cheney's suite of ceremonial offices on the second floor of the building. Cheney and President Bush were across the street in the West Wing of the White House when the blaze broke out. It appeared to be under control within an hour.
I guess old Dickwahd doesn't trust shredding for the sensitive stuff.

Chris Dodd was on Countdown last night

If you didn't watch it then, you gotta see it now.


Oliphant today

Look for the little guy.

Walter Scott was right

When he wrote of the tangled web we weave. The White House involvement in the CIA tape destruction is much more than they have admitted to but no one has yet shown just which way they pushed on this.
At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.

The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.
I'll bet that Addington was all for the destruction of the tapes, it's what a good consigliere would advocate.

UPDATE: The Times must have been right on target, judging by the unprecedented response from the White House mafia. The Times has offered to correct the sub headline so vociferously objected to and provided this statement.
Catherine Mathis, senior vice president of corporate communications for the newspaper, stated that the sub-headline has been changed, adding that a correction would be printed. However, Mathis also pointed out that the White House did not challenge the contents of the article.
The rule of thumb for the Bushoviks is simple, the larger the distraction, the more accurate the story.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Don't you hate it when magicians explain their tricks?

Well, you do if you are a New Hampshire Republican. Seems like one of the guys doing the crime actually repented while doing the time. And he has written a book.
A former GOP political operative who ran an illegal election-day scheme to jam the phone lines of New Hampshire Democrats during the state's tight 2002 U.S. Senate election said in a new book and an interview that he believes the scandal reaches higher into the Republican Party.

Allen Raymond of Bethesda, Md., whose book Simon & Schuster will publish next month, also accused the Republican Party of trying to hang all the blame for a scandal on him as part of an "old-school cover-up."

Raymond's book, "How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative," offers a raw, inside glimpse of the phone scandal as it unraveled and of a ruthless world in which political operatives seek to win at all costs.
This one should be a bestseller.

One more for the good guys

Looks like someone wanted to slip this under the radar.
An attempt within the Pentagon to politicize promotions for military judge advocates general appears to have been blocked after protests from military lawyers and threats from key lawmakers.

The plan, which called for “coordination” with the civilian general counsels of the services and the Defense Department for the promotion of any JAG officers, had been circulated in the Pentagon since November but ran into a serious roadblock Tuesday when key members of Congress learned about the details.
Imagine that! Congressmoops not liking one of Our Dear Embattled Leader's glorious ideas. And one was even a Republican and one was the immoral Lindsey Graham. Lindsey was probably just taking a break from the tearoom, but whatever the reason, it is good.

Thank you, Judge Kennedy

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered a hearing into whether the Central Intelligence Agency’s destruction of interrogation videotapes in 2005 violated his order that summer to preserve evidence in a lawsuit brought on behalf of 16 prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
This should be fun, because cockroaches hate the light.

Quote of thr Day

The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation’s security.
Sen Jeff Sessions, R-Shitforbrains, proving once again that the Republican Party wants to destroy the United States.

Thank God for Chris Dodd

And all the others in Congress and around the country who made the effort that led Harry Reid to pull the Spy on America bill from the Senate agenda.

Help Chris show the others that Integrity is way to go.

And the other Senators who stood with him.
# Barbara Boxer: (202) 224-3553
# Sherrod Brown: (202) 224-2315
# Russ Feingold: (202) 224-5323
# Ted Kennedy: (202) 224-4543
# Bill Nelson: (202) 224-5274
# Ron Wyden: (202) 224-5244

"the biggest political hack in Washington"

Once upon a time, Harry Reid was right. And to see just how right, you should read the NY Times look at the federal response to the mortgage crisis. Alan Greenspan was all that Harry said he was and more.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Your Army at War

The US Army has recently announced the results of an “extreme dust test” to demonstrate the M4’s reliability compared to three newer carbines. The other weapons are the Heckler & Koch XM8, FNH USA’s Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle and the H&K 416. 10 examples of each weapon fired 6000 rounds apiece. And the results?
Here’s how they ranked, according to the total number of times each model stopped firing:

• XM8: 127 stoppages.

• MK16 SCAR Light: 226 stoppages.

• 416: 233 stoppages.

• M4: 882 stoppages.
The current standard issue rifle for the Army jammed half again as many times firing 60,000 rounds than all three challengers did firing 180,000 rounds.

And the Army response.
“We take the results of this test with a great deal of interest and seriousness,” Brown said, expressing his determination to outfit soldiers with the best equipment possible.

The test results did not sway the Army’s faith in the M4, he said.

“Everybody in the Army has high confidence in this weapon,” Brown said.

Quote of the Day

We have a fight in front of us, we have a fight for the future of this country. We need someone who is going to step into that arena on your behalf, someone who is ready for that fight, somebody who has got it inside, somebody who has the toughness and strength and fight.

Brothers and sisters, I was born for this fight.
John Edwards, drawing me ever closer to the highly prized Burned Over District endorsement.

Sometimes I read my email

As I did today and found this which I am posting in its entirety.

Dear Supporter,

How badly do you want to send Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, packing? Pretty bad, right? Now, how badly would you love to see an Iraq War Marine be the guy who takes McConnell's place? If you're like me, the very idea of that has you pretty pumped.

Well, I have some good news for you. Lt. Col. Andrew Horne (Ret.), a Marine who served in both the current war in Iraq and Desert Storm, has launched his campaign to beat Mitch McConnell and take this government and country back for the people. The Louisville Courier-Journal wrote of the promise Andrew holds in an editorial this weekend, saying, "Mr. Horne is a serious man, and his candidacy should be taken seriously," and "He would be a credible alternative to the incumbent."


While Andrew holds great promise for us this cycle, he cannot do this without your financial help. Mitch McConnell is one of the best-funded politicians in 2008, because of the support he gets from his corporate buddies. So, what's all that special interest money gotten us? Let's take just a small walk through the record of Mitch McConnell (Warning: Hold your nose):

* He led the filibuster of the Webb-Hagel "Dwell Time" amendment that would have given our exhausted troops as much time at home as in the field.

* He led the all-night filibuster of legislation that would have set us on a real change of course in Iraq, that would have allowed us to give Iraqis more responsibility, while freeing U.S. forces to take on the real threat to America -- al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

* He consistently worked his side of the aisle against the same veterans he's been fighting tooth and nail to keep in Iraq, beating back amendments to ensure a funding stream for veterans' health care, increase Veterans' medical services by closing corporate tax loopholes, and guarantee full-funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

* And, most recently, he callously quipped that we ought not feel too bad about those who died in Iraq, because, afterall, "remember, these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers."


We all know these issues are going to come up in McConnell's campaign. When they do, at the debate, who do you want on the stage with McConnell to challenge him face-to-face? A politician, or a genuine patriot who served our nation in Iraq? As Andrew says, "Simply put, while Mitch McConnell carries George Bush's water on Iraq, I carried a rifle in Iraq."

That's the type of opponent that Mitch McConnell fears the most, but this can only come to pass if you get into the fight. That's why today, I'm proud to say PAC endorses Andrew Horne for Senate, and why I am asking you to please give him your support.


Jon Soltz
Iraq War Veteran

P.S. The above links will take you to Andrew's donation page. If you're in Kentucky and are interested in helping his campaign, or just want to find out more, you can go to his website -

Monday Music Blogging

Un Jour Tu Reviendras (One Day You Will Return)

Music by Ennio Morricone Sung by Mireille Mathieu
with subtitles

From McClatchy

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Two news events in Iraq

In the south of Iraq, along the US supply routes from Kuwait, the British have turned over all security responsibilities to our reliable Iraqi allies.
British forces formally handed over responsibility Sunday for the last region in Iraq under their control, marking the start of what Britain hopes will be a transition to a mission aimed at aiding the economy and providing jobs in an oil-rich region beset by militia infighting.
This has the ever able Gen. Odie Colognie on alert.
Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said the handover was "the right thing to do" for southern Iraq, but American officials worry that a power vacuum could heighten the influence of Iran and threaten land routes used to bring ammunition, food and other supplies from Kuwait to U.S. troops to the north.

"What we have to watch is undue Iranian influence," Odierno told a small gathering of reporters in Baghdad.
This necessary caution may explain the new course of action planned for Baghdad.
In a change of plans, American commanders in Iraq have decided to keep their forces concentrated in Baghdad when the buildup strategy ends next year, removing troops instead from outlying areas of the country.

The change represents the military's first attempt to confront its big challenge in 2008: how to cut the number of troops without sacrificing security.

The shift in deployment strategy, described by senior U.S. military officials in Iraq and Washington, is based on concerns that despite recent improvements, the capital could again erupt into widespread violence without an imposing American military presence.
And if the overland supply route is seriously interdicted, aerial resupply and/or evacuation is a lot easier when your forces are concentrated.

Do you think that Our Dear Embattled leader was informed of this?

Quote of the Day

Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.
Ms. Rudi Giuliani, in a 1994 speech giving his take on Arbeit macht frei

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Do you really want George Bush listening to you call your sweetie?

Eric Lichtblau, James Risen and Scott Shane, in the NY Times today, have put together a good primer on why the Bushoviks want Telco Amnesty in their Spying on America bill currently being facilitated by Harry Reid in the Senate. All of you who thought they wouldn't listen in on your pizza order, you are wrong.
In a separate N.S.A. project, executives at a Denver phone carrier, Qwest, refused in early 2001 to give the agency access to their most localized communications switches, which primarily carry domestic calls, according to people aware of the request, which has not been previously reported. They say the arrangement could have permitted neighborhood-by-neighborhood surveillance of phone traffic without a court order, which alarmed them.
Unless you have terrists in your neighborhood, that means you. And while Qwest may have had second thoughts, AT&T and Verizon thought it was a splendid idea.
It claims that in February 2001, just days before agency officials met with Qwest officials, the N.S.A. met with AT&T officials to discuss replicating a network center in Bedminster, N.J., to give the agency access to all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through it.

The same lawsuit accuses Verizon of setting up a dedicated fiber optic line from New Jersey to Quantico, Va., home to a large military base, allowing government officials to gain access to all communications flowing through the carrier’s operations center.
Back in the early days of this blog I was puzzled about why, for the better part of a year, my network connection point was in Virginia instead of locally. I had suspected that I was being "Hoovered" and now I know I was. And if you can explain how that was necessary for National Security, you have been drinking way too much Kool-Aid. And the rest of us have another good reason to eliminate the Republican Party in the next election.

A Call To Action!

Well, slap my ass and call me Karl Rove

Is there any doubt now why the Bushoviks are pushing so hard to get these voting systems into use nationwide?
All five voting systems used in Ohio, a state whose electoral votes narrowly swung two elections toward President Bush, have critical flaws that could undermine the integrity of the 2008 general election, a report commissioned by the state’s top elections official has found.

“It was worse than I anticipated,” the official, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, said of the report. “I had hoped that perhaps one system would test superior to the others.”

At polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.
This could be the beginning of a return to honesty in electoral counts. It certainly should be a wake up call to any other jurisdiction using these systems.

Cry Havoc! and let slip the dogs of coverup

Which is one way of describing the reaction of the White House mafia to a federal judges order to preserve evidence that may pertain to a case before his court. A cruder way would be simply, "Fuck you, we are above the law".
The Bush administration told a federal judge it was not obligated to preserve videotapes of CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists and urged the court not to look into the tapes' destruction.

In court documents filed Friday night, government lawyers told U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy that demanding information about the tapes would interfere with current investigations by Congress and the Justice Department.
Oh yeah, and stop trying to interfere with our whitewash of our own crimes.


George W Bush - Deadbeat President

There is no other way to describe a president who willfully runs up huge bills and not only refuses to pay them, but gives away the funds that would have been used for that purpose.
Bush's steadfast stand against Democratic spending, coupled with his equally resolute opposition to tax increases, could raise the federal debt this fiscal year by nearly $240 billion. As Democrats struggle to meet his demands, they are jettisoning renewable-energy and conservation incentives that Bush championed, and they may ax some of his most cherished programs.
Another longer term way to look at all this is that 40 years of Republican bullshit about taxes was just a way to position themselves to loot the US Treasury and let us pay or it, now and for many years to come.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Soul of the New Republican

This week from Joe Galloway.
The same people who don’t blink at spending $3 billion a week on their war of choice in Iraq were the ones who cut the VA budget and privatized maintenance at Walter Reed Army Hospital and opposed every attempt to expand benefits for veterans old and young.

They're the same people who turned a blind eye as their corporate sponsors and private donors looted billions of dollars from the Treasury with no-compete contracts and bloated bills for everything from food for the troops to fuel for their tanks and trucks.

As a wave of wounded troops suffering brain injuries from the blasts of roadside bombs and landmines poured into military hospitals, these people, posing as fiscally responsible budget makers, were cutting in half the money spent on research into brain injuries.

These frauds who love to pose as wartime leaders sat back and did nothing as a cruel bureaucracy sent bill collectors out to harass double amputee veterans for thousands of dollars because they neglected to turn their armored vests and other gear in to the supply sergeant after they were blown apart on the battlefield.

They did nothing as the Army became ever more conservative, even stingy, in the number of injured and wounded soldiers it judged worthy of full disability pensions. Soldiers who suffered brain injuries and PTSD so severe that they couldn't function were put on the street with a 30 percent disability pension — $700 a month — to support a wife and three children.

Neglecting our war veterans and the widows and orphans that result from our wars is as American as apple pie. It’s nothing new. But in the past we always waited until after the war’s end to forget those who'd fought the war.

This may be the first time in our history that we began to neglect and forget our troops during a war.
And may God bless us all, said Tiny George.

Wouldn't want to get any dirt in the whitewash.

From the NY Times:
The Justice Department asked the House Intelligence Committee on Friday to postpone its investigation into the destruction of videotapes by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2005, saying the Congressional inquiry presented “significant risks” to its own preliminary investigation into the matter.

This could be worth watching

Despite the effects they have on our lives, most people don't pay much attention to court cases. This one bears watching closely, if only to see how deeply the Republicans have corrupted our judicial system.
In a filing made public Friday, lawyers for a Guantanamo detainee have asked a federal court to examine the way he was questioned while in secret CIA custody for three years and decide whether he was tortured.

If the court takes up the request, it would shift from Congress to the courts the ongoing debate over whether so-called enhanced interrogation techniques authorized by President Bush against al Qaida suspects included illegal torture. Among those techniques was waterboarding, which simulates the sensation of drowning...

...The filing was made public on Friday after an intelligence review. Two full pages of the 15-page filing were blacked out as were large sections of six other pages, apparently because they contained descriptions of Khan's treatment, which the Bush administration considers classified.
So we don't yet know what was done to him, and probably won't until the Republicans infestation of the White House is eliminated. But we do have this jolly bit of nonsense from someone who does approve of waterboarding.
"We don't have any case law since 9/11 to give us guidance as to what techniques fall above or below the line of what constitutes torture or ill treatment or cruel or unusual or degrading treatment,'' said retired Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey F. Addicott, a law professor and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas.
Nonsense because there is an overwhelming amount of case law prior to 9/11 as to what constitutes torture, and 9/11 did not change any existing laws.

Mike Huckabee forgot to honor the 9th Commandment

Remember this quote from Mike Huckabee?
Huckabee told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “These are people that want to kill us. It’s a theocratic war. And I don’t know if anybody fully understands that. I’m the only guy on that stage with a theology degree. I think I understand it really well.”
Well, the Carpetbagger Report is bringing to light this curious bit from Pastor Mike's Curriculum Vitae. as quoted in the New York Times magazine article.
He spent a year at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Tex., before dropping out to work for the televangelist James Robison, who bought him his first decent wardrobe and showed him how to use television.
What a strange bit of false witness for the "Pope from Hope".

Quote of the Day

Mitch McConnell carries George Bush’s water on Iraq; I carried a rifle in Iraq
Lt. Colonel Andrew Horne (Ret.), announcing his candidacy for the Senate seat currently held by Mitch McConnell, noted Republican asshole.

Ms. Rudi's Fabulous History

Or how a city boy became so intimately familiar with horseshit, bullshit and chickenshit. McClatchy takes a look at the mayor who does only good and to whom all credit must flow.
In his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination, Giuliani has unabashedly taken credit for lots of things - New York's economic turnaround, its dramatic reduction in crime, a major drop in the welfare rolls and, yes, even for giving positive mojo to the Yankees as their No. 1 fan.

He was apparently even a force of nature: The average amount of snowfall in New York dropped from 35.975 inches a year in Giuliani's first term as mayor to only 17.735 in his second term, according to National Weather Service data compiled by Giuliani's presidential campaign.

"He does take credit for the sunshine and gentle rain that falls on the city," said Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. "There's practically nothing good that he hasn't claimed credit for: fresher air, clearer water, cleaner subways."
Because when you thought Rudi was boffing his Botox babe Judy in the NYC emergency center, he was actually all over the city personally making all things right so he could run for president one day.

Wanna buy a bridge?

If only...

From the pen of Pat Oliphant.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another one for Halliburton

The Guardian is reporting that Sen Bill Nelson is questioning the Justice Dept regarding another female Halliburton employee who was raped in Iraq by a bunch of the boys.
Nelson wrote to attorney general Michael Mukasey to confirm reports that the US navy criminal investigative service (NCIS) had investigated the rape charge and told the justice department of its findings.

He asked Mukasey whether more women have raised rape charges against private contractors and whether the government has responded.

"Both of these incidents occurred approximately two years ago, yet no one has been charged in either case," Nelson wrote.

"We need to know that there is a thorough and vigorous investigation in any and all of these cases."
No doubt, when Halliburton provides Congress with their employment contracts, showing that the women had a job title of Comfort Woman I, everything will be settled.

A shout out to Bob Wexler

Yes, I know, you get a pitch to sign a petition every time you find a new blog. But this one actually says something, IMPEACH BUSH and Dickwahd, too!


Go ahead, you know you want to sign it.

A Democrat with Brains and Balls

Not something you see every day, Edgar. And he is from Florida, too! Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) explained to some of his homies just how to get the Republicans to stop being a bunch of Osama loving assholes.
"The way we pass stem-cell research, the way we get implemented a children's health care plan, the way we get higher CAFE [corporate average fuel economy] standards to bring our energy debacle into a better condition for generations to come is to have impeachment hearings," Wexler said, appearing to nearly run out breath at one point during his speech. "Because that'll get the president's eye. That'll get the vice president's eye. That for the first time will show that the Democratic majority is here, and that in fact we have the courage of our convictions, and that we're not bound to be tied by conventional wisdom."

Wexler said that impeachment hearings weren't just an option available to Congress, but a requirement.

"This administration has abused its power in office...and it is the obligation -- not discretionary -- but it is the obligation of this Congress to investigate," he said. "And that's what I and some of my colleagues are beginning to call for."
Music to my ears.

Some records should never be broken

A record number of soldiers — 109 — have killed themselves this year, according to Army statistics showing confirmed or suspected suicides.

The Army provided suicide statistics to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. Her staff shared them with USA Today.

Those numbers show 77 confirmed suicides Army-wide this year through Nov. 27 and 32 other deaths pending final determination as suicides.

The Army on Wednesday updated those statistics, confirming 85 suicides, including 27 in Iraq and four in Afghanistan.
From USA Today

Never hitch your wagon to a 1000 year Reich

They never last as long as they promise. The CIA is re-learning this lesson now as the furor over the destroyed tapes continues.
For six years, Central Intelligence Agency officers have worried that someday the tide of post-Sept. 11 opinion would turn, and their harsh treatment of prisoners from Al Qaeda would be subjected to hostile scrutiny and possible criminal prosecution.

Now that day may have arrived, after years of shifting legal advice, searing criticism from rights groups — and no new terrorist attacks on American soil.

The Justice Department, which in 2002 gave the C.I.A. legal approval for waterboarding and other tough interrogation methods, is reviewing whether agency officials broke the law by destroying videotapes of those very methods.

The Congressional intelligence committees, whose leaders in 2002 gave at least tacit approval for the tough tactics, have voted in conference to ban all coercive techniques, and they have announced investigations of the destruction of the videotapes and the methods they documented.

“Exactly what they feared is what’s happening,” Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, said of the C.I.A. officials he advised in that job. “The winds change, and the recriminations begin.”
Just what did they expect when they went over the line based on the word of a fool.

The news is not all dreary, there is a bit of comic relief from John Yoo about 2/3 down.

Quote of the Day

While some candidates are focusing on small states and face-to-face campaigning, Giuliani seems to do best in large states where very few people have actually met him.
Susan Collins, with an excellent description of Ms. Rudi.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Big Prick vetos again

And once again the victims of his moral turpitude are the children.
President Bush vetoed an expansion of the federally funded, state-run health insurance program for poor children for a second time Wednesday, telling Congress the bill "moves our country's health care system in the wrong direction."
The Big Prick in the headline is an honorary title for a very small man who would only feel secure beating children. And the Republican Party stands with the little guy 100%

Fred Thompson condemns Mitt Romney

For one of the few instances where the Massachusetts Mittstake actually acted like a decent human being. Lest we forget, this is anathema to the new Republican Party.
Fred Thompson escalated the Republican presidential candidates' war over abortion Wednesday by tying former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to "$50 abortions in Massachusetts."

Romney, the governor from 2003 until January, helped create Commonwealth Care, a state-run and subsidized program for low- and moderate-income people. The state helps determine what services are to be covered, and its list includes a provision in which women can get abortions for $50 co-payments.

The legislation also created a MassHealth payment policy advisory board that gave Planned Parenthood a seat, but not an anti-abortion group.
See, he actually provided health care insurance for women! And I just love that last part where he blows off the anti-abortion troglodytes. I still won't vote for Mitt, but thanks to Grandpa Fred I now know that Mitt is not all bad.

Why Chuck Schumer is the *second dumbest fucking guy on the planet.

In case you hadn't picked up any signs of it yet, Mike "I use ta be a judge" Mukasey has unfurled his true colors in the LA Times today. In an op-ed column he calls for the passage of a permanent "Destroy the Constitution" Act, as well as amnesty for corporate crimes past. No doubt about it, Mike has a remora like lock on Our Dear Leader's butt and Cheesy Chuck Schumer was wrong again.

PS: *MoDo has a ripper on the dumbest fucking guy on the planet.

From the pen of Pat Oliphant

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dana Perino says waterboarding is legal

And we all know that Dana is the official spokeswoman of Our Dear Embattled Leader ans his nest of vipers. Read her words as she gives her blessing to torture.
Q You said it was within the legal framework.


Q Everything that was done.


Q So waterboarding is legal.

MS. PERINO: I'm not commenting on any specific techniques.
She does not need to be specific, she gave a blanket approval to all that was done. Whether is was waterboarding or any of the other officially banned methods used, they are all OK with Ms Dana.

A real life Jack Bauer?

No, just a guy trying to convince the public that waterboarding really, truly does work, especially when your torture subject isn't too tightly wrapped in the first place.
He described Abu Zubaida as ideologically zealous, defiant and uncooperative -- until the day in mid-summer when his captors strapped him to a board, wrapped his nose and mouth in cellophane and forced water into his throat in a technique that simulates drowning.

The waterboarding lasted about 35 seconds before Abu Zubaida broke down, according to Kiriakou, who said he was given a detailed description of the incident by fellow team members. The next day, Abu Zubaida told his captors he would tell them whatever they wanted, Kiriakou said.

"He said that Allah had come to him in his cell and told him to cooperate, because it would make things easier for his brothers," Kiriakou said.
God speaks to George W Bush, too, and we all know how reliable his statements are. Still, it would be fun to waterboard him.

What to do with Iran

Flynt and Hilary Mann Leverett have an op-ed today in the New York Times that has a few good ideas for that part of the world. Hell, their bad ideas are better than anything coming out of the White House or Foggy Bottom. Go read, go learn.
Since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei’s death in 1989, United States policy toward Iran has not served American interests. Neither continuing to disregard legitimate Iranian interests nor timid incrementalism will improve the situation. In the long run, the real lesson of the new National Intelligence Estimate is that we need a comprehensive overhaul of American policy toward Iran.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Scooter Libby gives up appeal

Not that he had any appeal for me, but if he floats your boat, go for it. However the end of legal proceedings means that everyone involved can now stop hiding behind the old "ongoing court process" to keep from having to lie about the outing of Valerie Plame. Probably sometime tomorrow we will know what the latest excuse from Our Dear Embattled Leader and his minions will be. Stay tuned.

Monday Music Blogging

The Back Door ~ Cherish The Ladies

Paul explains the Magicians act

The magus being Henry Paulson and the act is the Bushovik mortgage relief plan, designed to look great and function like every other non political plan these people ever had, badly.
But Mr. Paulson’s actions reflect the priorities of the administration he serves. And that, ultimately, is what’s wrong with the mortgage relief plan he unveiled last week.

The plan is, as a Times editorial put it yesterday, “too little, too late and too voluntary.” But from the administration’s point of view these failings aren’t bugs, they’re features.

In fact, there’s a growing consensus among financial observers that the Paulson plan isn’t mainly intended to achieve real results. The point is, instead, to create the appearance of action, thereby undercutting political support for actual attempts to help families in trouble.
Did anybody really expect the Bushoviks to do anything that would really help people? Can you say Katrina?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mike Huckabee, the New Miracle Worker

It seems that Mike has the elixir that will cure most, no all of America's ills.
To hear Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee tell it, a national sales tax is the panacaea that will end America's economic woes. It'll boost American exports, end the rule of lobbyists in Washington, destroy the underground economy of drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes, and best of all, he says: "April the 15 becomes just another pretty spring day."
Now I did say all so let us not leave out the latest Republican created problem that it will cure.
The Fair Tax provides an extra layer of security by creating an economic disincentive to immigrate to the US illegally.
Well Hallelujah! Call off the elections, we got a winnah here!

Another bright point for Evangelicals

This time in Nigeria where some local sharpies have taken the worst of American and Scottish Pentecostal and evangelical missionaries to turn mothers and fathers against their own children for the "pastor's" profit. How does the Gospel of Jesus get deformed into something that will do this?
Almost everyone goes to church here. Driving through the town of Esit Eket, the rust-streaked signs, tarpaulins hung between trees and posters on boulders, advertise a church for every third or fourth house along the road. Such names as New Testament Assembly, Church of God Mission, Mount Zion Gospel, Glory of God, Brotherhood of the Cross, Redeemed, Apostalistic. Behind the smartly painted doors pastors make a living by 'deliverances' - exorcisms - for people beset by witchcraft, something seen to cause anything from divorce, disease, accidents or job losses. With so many churches it's a competitive market, but by local standards a lucrative one.

But an exploitative situation has now grown into something much more sinister as preachers are turning their attentions to children - naming them as witches. In a maddened state of terror, parents and whole villages turn on the child. They are burnt, poisoned, slashed, chained to trees, buried alive or simply beaten and chased off into the bush.

Some parents scrape together sums needed to pay for a deliverance - sometimes as much as three or four months' salary for the average working man - although the pastor will explain that the witch might return and a second deliverance will be needed. Even if the parent wants to keep the child, their neighbours may attack it in the street.

This is not just a few cases. This is becoming commonplace.
These are children being destroyed, the brave pastors have not accused anyone big enough or powerful enough to take them on. Besides, they are only trying to make a living.
'The more children the pastor declares witches, the more famous he gets and the more money he can make,' he says. 'The parents are asked for so much money that they will pay in instalments or perhaps sell their property.
The details of what these parents do are horrific and they are just the ones that survived, through the kindness of strangers.

Can't wait to see what happens to the guy that tries to beat this record

Pittsburgh volunteer paramedic Matthew McKnight holds the newly-recognized Guinness record for "Greatest Distance Thrown in a Car Accident."

The 2008 Guinness World Records book honors the 29-year-old McKnight for living to tell about being thrown 118 feet after being hit by a car. McKnight was standing along a highway about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh on Oct. 26, 2001, helping victims of a car wreck when he was hit by a car doing 70 mph.

He suffered two dislocated shoulders plus a broken shoulder, pelvis, leg and tailbone. His injuries put him in the hospital for two weeks, followed by 80 days in rehab, before returning to work in April 2002.
You just know someone will try.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Mike Huckabee likes letting murderers loose

Including this charming soul who is currently serving life in prison in Arkansas.
Green, a 22-year-old sergeant, kidnapped Helen Lynette Spencer on Little Rock Air Force Base, where he beat and kicked her as he tried to rape her in a secluded area. She broke loose and ran toward the barracks' parking lot, where he caught up with her and beat her with a pair of nunchucks.
___ He then stuffed her into the trunk of his car and left her there while he cleaned up. Several hours later, he drove down Graham Road, past Loop Road and stopped near a bridge in Lonoke County. Green told investigators he put her body in the front seat and raped her because her body was still warm.
___ He dragged Spencer out of his vehicle and put her in front of the car and ran over her several times, going back and forth. He then collected himself long enough to dump her body in Twin Prairie Bayou.
___ This is what the Rev. Johnny Jackson, interim pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Jacksonville, calls an accident, and apparently Huckabee believes him.
Hell of an accident, never seen one like it. A reasonable person might think twice after the debacle of Wayne Dumond, Pastor Mike might do a more thorough examination of who he was putting back on the streets. Not this 'holy joe"
On July 6, Gov. Mike Huckabee served notice of his intent to reduce Green's life sentence and make him immediately eligible for parole, but has refused to say why. Huckabee has said he will grant Green clemency over the objection of the Post Prison Transfer Board.
So who will be the next to die because of Mike Huckabee's judgement?

The Holy Grail of groundpounders

The universal boot that goes anywhere your feet are ordered and still keeps them comfortable and dry.
The prototype consists of a fire-resistant, desert-style hot-weather boot, plus inserts and an over-boot soldiers can use in cold temperatures.

“The intent of it is to go that whole temperature range between minus 20 degrees and 130 degrees” Fahrenheit with one boot and reduce the number of boots in the service’s inventory, said Lt. Col. John Lemondes, product manager for Clothing and Individual Equipment.

Currently, soldiers are issued the desert-style Hot Weather Boot for temps higher than 70 degrees and the waterproof Temperate Weather Boot for use down to 32 degrees.

If adopted, the Modular Boot System would replace these and two other special-issue boots the Army stocks for colder weather — the Intermediate Cold/Wet Boot for wear down to zero degrees and the Cold Weather Boot for wear down to minus 20 degrees.
If adopted, the Army expects that all Pentagon personnel and General Staff headquarters should be completely outfitted by the end of the first year of issue.

No better way to say it

Than the headline from the Baltimore Sun.
Here come the thought police
This refers to the passage of Jane Harman's "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act". Lovely title, redolent as much with with mendacity as with poultry manure. And no way to stop it in the Senate, its in Joe Lieberschmuck's Vaterlandsicherheit Ausschuß.
The proposed commission is a menace through its power to hold hearings, take testimony and administer oaths, an authority granted to even individual members of the commission - little Joe McCarthys - who will tour the country to hold their own private hearings. An aura of authority will automatically accompany this congressionally authorized mandate to expose native terrorism.

Ms. Harman's proposal includes an absurd attack on the Internet, criticizing it for providing Americans with "access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda," and legalizes an insidious infiltration of targeted organizations. The misnamed "Center of Excellence," which would function after the commission is disbanded in 18 months, gives the semblance of intellectual research to what is otherwise the suppression of dissent.

While its purpose is to prevent terrorism, the bill doesn't criminalize any specific conduct or contain penalties. But the commission's findings will be cited by those who see a terrorist under every bed and who will demand enactment of criminal penalties that further restrict free speech and other civil liberties. Action contrary to the commission's findings will be interpreted as a sign of treason at worst or a lack of patriotism at the least.
When I was growing up, I saw my country grow up and grow out of any use for Joe McCarthy and HUAC. It pains me deeply to see a Democrat enable the return of that shameful blot on our history.

He protected his own

He being Jose A. Rodriguez, the former CIA Director of Clandestine Operations who stands accused of authorizing the destruction of the interrogation tapes.
White House and Justice Department officials, along with senior members of Congress, advised the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 against a plan to destroy hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the interrogations of two operatives of Al Qaeda, government officials said Friday.

The chief of the agency’s clandestine service nevertheless ordered their destruction in November 2005, taking the step without notifying even the C.I.A.’s own top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, who was angry at the decision, the officials said.

Top C.I.A. officials had decided in 2003 to preserve the tapes in response to warnings from White House lawyers and lawmakers that destroying the tapes would be unwise, in part because it could carry legal risks, the government officials said.

But the government officials said that Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the chief of the agency’s clandestine service, the Directorate of Operations, had reversed that decision in November 2005, at a time when Congress and the courts were inquiring deeply into the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program. Mr. Rodriguez could not be reached Friday for comment.
So he took care of his own, but he had to be one of the people who signed off on the interrogations in the first place. And now all the others who went along with that crap are rising up in righteous indignation, having found a convenient cutout in the trail of blame.

Friday, December 07, 2007

From a mouth you get words

From an asshole you get shit, which is the only explanation I have for the following quote from Mitch McConnell, noted Republican asshole.
“Unfortunately, most of our friends on the other isle are having a hard time admitting things are getting better; some days I almost think the critics of this war don't want us to win. Nobody is happy about losing lives but remember these are not draftees, these are full-time professional soldiers.
They should be happy to die for the gloriousness of Our Dear Embattled Leader, right Mitch? That's what you are paying them for.

We are down to our last Brit

In Guantanamo.
Four British residents being held without charge at the American detention camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are to be released, reducing the UK involvement with the camp to just one inmate.

The four men have all lived in Britain after being granted refugee status or temporary immigration status. They have struggled to have their cases heard because, until recently, the British government refused to represent them on the grounds that they were not UK citizens.

Three of the men - Jamil el-Banna, Omar Deghayes and Abdenour Samuer - are to be allowed to return to the UK by Christmas. A fourth, Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, will be sent back to his home country, Saudi Arabia.

That leaves one remaining UK resident - an Ethiopian called Binyam Mohammed al Habashi - still in Guantanamo. The Pentagon claims he is particularly dangerous and is determined that he stays to face one of the controversial military commissions established to prosecute prisoners at the camp.
Given the accuracy of previous claims, we have to wonder how long it will be until we are Brit-less.

If you can fail big and fail often

You can be sure you will have a job for life with the Bushoviks, in a secure location no less.

A time to remember

What Japan began and we finished.

A quote for Mitt & Mike

"I'm as religious as the next man-which is to say I'll keep in with the local parson for form's sake and read the lessons on feast-days because my tenants expect it, but I've never been fool enough to confuse religion with belief in God."
Sir Harry Paget Flashman, V.C, distilling all the worlds religious thought down to its purest essence.

A First

And hopefully not the last time this will happen.
In one of the largest corporate pay give-backs ever, William W. McGuire, the former chief executive of UnitedHealth Group, has agreed to forfeit at least $418 million to settle claims related to back-dated stock options.

The payback is on top of roughly $198 million that Mr. McGuire, an entrepreneur who built UnitedHealth, had previously agreed to return to his former employer.

The total — $618 million — includes money that Mr. McGuire will return as part of separate settlements reached yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission and UnitedHealth shareholders. The forfeitures are the first time regulators have successfully employed corporate governance rules put in place after the collapse of Enron that force executives to disgorge ill-gotten gains.

As part of the settlement with the S.E.C., Mr. McGuire will pay a $7 million fine and will be barred from serving as a director of a public company for 10 years. He will, however, be allowed to keep stock options valued at more than $800 million, including many that have been sharply criticized.
Not perfect, he keeps his options and does not have to report to the pillory for a taste of the cat o'nine tails, but he disgorged more than any one else to date. It won't stop all the thieves, but it will deter a few and ameliorate the damage of the rest.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

An adorable little girl with the true spirit of Christmas

From the mind and pen of Ann Telnaes

Republican senators shoot down AMT reform

Despite the usual obfuscatory manure from Mitch McConnell, the attempt to reform the AMT before it hits the middle class again was stopped cold by the Republicans. Don't believe it? Count the votes.
Forty-four Democrats and two independents, Senators Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernard Sanders of Vermont, voted for the bill. The 48 “no” votes were all cast by Republicans, except for that of Mr. Reid, who voted “no” only to preserve his right to bring up the measure again under Senate rules.
One procedural vote from Harry Reid and 47 heartfelt votes from the Republicans.

Who loves ya, baby?

UPDATE: The AP is reporting that a deal has been reached to pass AMT reform. At this time details are sketchy.

Eine Kliene CIA CYA

The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about the C.I.A’s secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.

The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said.

The C.I.A. said today that the decision to destroy the tapes had been made “within the C.I.A. itself,” and they were destroyed to protect the safety of undercover officers and because they no longer had intelligence value. The agency was headed at the time by Porter J. Goss. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Goss declined this afternoon to comment on the destruction of the tapes.
The CIA destroyed its copies, but if someone in Congress was smart they would subpoena the full 12 vol. set on CD in Dick Cheney's library.

A tale of two columns

Both are about the recently released NIE. The first, by Rosa Brooks, points out some weaknesses of the report before pointing out the obvious.
To most of humanity, the NIE contains extremely good news: If international pressure led Iran to stop trying to make nuclear weapons in 2003, it means that the Iranian regime is less dangerously crazy than it occasionally seems. As the NIE notes, it appears that "Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs." In other words: We can probably cut some deals with these people.

But to Bush, the NIE isn't good news, it's "a warning signal." The report shows that "they had the program. They halted the program. And the reason why it's a warning signal is that they could restart it." So full speed ahead with bellicose rhetoric and punitive sanctions.

We can now say (with "high confidence") that this administration really knows how to screw up a good thing.
The second, in the Washington Post, is from the Bombastic, Blustering Buffoon of the Beltway, John Bolton. You can just feel the quivering rage of his moustache as he berates the various intelligence agencies for not releasing a report that he would approve of. He strikes all the required Republican talking points, but in the end, the Blustering Buffoon is like a diet soda. You get nothing from it but an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

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