Thursday, January 31, 2008

Obama sets campaign contribution record

Which makes me wonder if we will ever see universal, single payer health care.

Joe Galloway sees a very different SOTU

And it isn't pretty or sugarcoated and none of those at the center of their universe are heroes.
Perhaps it was the welcome thought that it was George W. Bush’s last State of the Union message that turned the legislative giants on Capitol Hill absolutely giddy this week and provoked a spectacle of fawning, applauding, cheering and jumping to their feet by lickspittles of both political parties.

They assembled worthies treated President Bush like a conquering hero, cheering his recycled fear-mongering, his stern demands that Congress give him everything he wants or else, even the very smirks on his face.

Behind him sat Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, at this juncture, it's hard to say which of the two has done the greatest damage to the Republic. Cheney has the edge by virtue of seniority — seven long years to do his worst. But Pelosi of the loyal opposition rings up points for all she's done and failed to do in 13 months of caving, caviling and cowardice in her dealings with the White House.

The nation is sliding inexorably into an economic recession, largely thanks to President Bush and his cronies, who not only let loose the expensive dogs of war but also turned a blind eye as the dogs of corporate greed looted the country and the Treasury. It's their most recent wretched excess that triggered the financial woes while they profited from selling home mortgages to people who couldn’t afford the payments and then bundled all the bad loans into a pill that poisoned the banking system worldwide.
Still he does find something good to end with, only 11 months and three weeks left!

Quote of the Day

"It is not enough to say that waterboarding is not currently authorized. Torture and illegality have no place in America. We should not delay beginning the process of restoring America's role in the struggle for liberty and human dignity. Tragically, this administration has so twisted America's role, law and values that our own State Department, our military officers and, apparently, America's top law enforcement officer, are now instructed by the White House not to say that waterboarding is torture and illegal. Never mind that waterboarding has been recognized as torture for the last 500 years."
Sen. Pat Leahy D-VT, via Froomkin

Seperated at Birth

Not Jenna

The Phantom of the Opera

One way to share the wealth

Eli Lilly has developed a clever new way to spread the profits of its biggest seller as well as develop new ways to make profits.
Eli Lilly and federal prosecutors are discussing a settlement of a civil and criminal investigation into the company’s marketing of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa that could result in Lilly’s paying more than $1 billion to federal and state governments.

If a deal is reached, the fine would be the largest ever paid by a drug company for breaking the federal laws that govern how drug makers can promote their medicines.
All they did was market a drug with serious side effects beyond the FDA approved limits for its use.
Zyprexa has serious side effects and is approved only to treat people with schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder. But documents from Eli Lilly show that from 2000 to 2003 the company encouraged doctors to prescribe Zyprexa to people with age-related dementia, as well as people with mild bipolar disorder who had previously had a diagnosis of depression.
Well outside any cost/benefit consideration for the patient. But Lilly sold $4.8 Billion of this drug last year and the settlement won't stop continued sales to Medicare so it was probably worth it. Or was it?
The fine would be in addition to $1.2 billion that Lilly has already paid to settle 30,000 lawsuits from people who claim that Zyprexa caused them to develop diabetes or other diseases. Zyprexa can cause severe weight gain in many patients and has been linked to diabetes by the American Diabetes Association.
OK, so now we are up to $2 Billion+ so Lilly does what any self respecting company does.
While Zyprexa prescriptions are falling, its dollar volume of sales is rising because Lilly has raised Zyprexa’s price about 40 percent since 2003.
Which is just as well as the suit by the state of Alaska is still pending.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

John Edwards suspends his campaign

So without a progressive Democratic candidate for president, we now have to work twice as hard to put a progressive Democratic Congress in place to keep the President on the right track.

The Judge refuses to judge

The Judge being Mukasey and the judgement he refuses to pass, like some favorite kidney stone, is on the legality of waterboarding. While this is all wonderful distraction to the Republicans, it does deserve a straight answer. Perhaps Sen Leahy & Durbin can arrange for the Judge to "experience the moment" at the committee hearing. There is nothing like a taste of the waterboard to clear the mind.

Now the military charges the government fees, too?

According to this article in the NY Times, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Air Force both charged the US gov't for oversight of construction projects.
In all, the Army Corps and the Air Force charged more than half a billion dollars in fees to oversee the $10.3 billion in Iraq reconstruction projects examined in the report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent federal office.

Calculated according to byzantine formulas and little known to the American taxpayers who paid them, the corps’ fees supported an arcane management structure at the heart of what detractors cite as an example of how not to carry out reconstruction in a country emerging from a war.

The fees, officials in the inspector general’s office said in interviews on Tuesday, paid for American civilians working for the corps to travel to Iraq and to oversee reconstruction projects.

The Air Force chose much more often to hire Middle Eastern engineers who were already in Iraq or the region.

As a result, the Air Force program — run out of the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment in San Antonio — was significantly less expensive. Perhaps more surprising, the Air Force program was also regarded as quicker, more adaptable and more likely to produce functioning projects, officials in the inspector general’s office said.
And the Junior Birdmen do it better than the Army, who could have known?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Parts is parts

But how you get them can make all the difference. One enterprising group of medicos if India showed a remarkably flexible code of medical ethics in their efforts to ease the suffering of their patients.
Many of the donors were day laborers, like Mr. Mohammed, picked up from the streets with the offer of work, driven to a well-equipped private clinic, and duped or forced at gunpoint to undergo operations. Others were bicycle rickshaw drivers and impoverished farmers who were persuaded to sell their organs, which is illegal in India.

Although several kidney rings have been exposed in India in recent years, the police said the scale of this one was unprecedented. Four doctors, five nurses, 20 paramedics, three private hospitals, 10 pathology clinics and five diagnostic centers were involved, Mohinder Lal, the police officer in charge of the investigation, said.

“We suspect around 400 or 500 kidney transplants were done by these doctors over the last nine years,” said Mr. Lal, the Gurgaon police commissioner.
Just another case of money trumping all else. There was no mention of whether the victims could recover their property.

Just to prove that he can

Our Dear Embattled Leader is considering changing his mind. And the lucky subject of this historic event is troop withdrawals from Iraq.
Four months after announcing troop reductions in Iraq, President Bush is now sending signals that the cuts may not continue past this summer, a development likely to infuriate Democrats and renew concerns among military planners about strains on the force.

Mr. Bush has made no decisions on troop reductions to follow those he announced last September. But White House officials said Mr. Bush had been taking the opportunity, as he did in Monday’s State of the Union address, to prepare Americans for the possibility that, when he leaves office a year from now, the military presence in Iraq will be just as large as it was a year ago, or even slightly larger.
Now some people may say that this is not really a mind change, but simply what he planned to do anyway. Certainly when one has spent most of his life being a low life lying sack of shit this would appear to be the case. This blogger thinks that it was a real change, that is was the pressure on ODEL of doing the right thing was so great that he had to change again and return to the comfort of being a LLLSOS before he cracked. Have pity people, this presidenting stuff is hard work.

Oliphant, always a winner

Rush Holt is right!

Found this through TPM, Rep Rush Holt D-NJ recommending PAA be allowed to die the death it deserves.
Dear Colleague,

Later today, the House will consider under suspension of the rules H.R. 5104, a bill that would extend the Protect America Act (PAA) by 30 days. Like you, I voted against it last August.

Last August, the Congress made a serious mistake by passing the PAA in a panic driven by a Bush administration fear-mongering campaign. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Eric Mink noted in the aftermath of the vote “After two weeks of hyping reports about al-Qaida activities, administration strategists shrewdly leveraged the need for a small fix in the FISA law into an expansion of spying power and a reduction of independent oversight.”

The PAA allows the President to conduct surveillance for virtually any reason with absolutely no oversight by a court, which means the administration’s surveillance activities don’t have a meet an independent judicial standard for appropriateness. It has been demonstrated that when officials must establish before a court that they have reason to intercept communications, we get better intelligence than through indiscriminate collection and fishing expeditions.

Passing this extension, rather than letting the PAA expire, achieves nothing from an operational point of view. This is a political calculation intended to facilitate our negotiations with the Senate and the White House. I disagree—this would not improve our negotiating position. If the PAA expires, all current surveillance orders issued under its authority will continue in effect until they expire. It’s also important to note that any existing PAA orders that continue in effect after the act’s expiration date are general enough to allow any necessary surveillance activity that may be required.

As Majority Leader Hoyer said on the floor last week “When the present Protect America Act, which we passed in [the] August time frame comes to an end the 1st of the month, of course the intelligence community will not go dark. The authorizations issued under the Protect America Act are in effect for up to, as you well know, a full year, so that those matters that have been approved for interception will not terminate.”

The House passed a good FISA modernization bill late last year (the RESTORE Act), and any House-Senate conference discussion on how to modernize FISA should start with that bill. In the meantime, our intelligence services will continue have the tools they need to protect us.

Since December, the Bush administration has been using the same playbook—claiming that our ability to detect and defeat terrorist plots would be fatally compromised unless the Congress makes the PAA permanent before its February 1, 2008 expiration date. Their current fear campaign is just as misleading as the one they waged in August.

The claims in August that we would face disaster if we did not pass PAA were phony. As we begin debating extending the PAA, I believe it wise to bear all of this in mind.



Member of Congress
He is right and he needs our support.

Parsons in Iraq

The construction one, not the skypilot, according to the latest report was not quite up to scratch in Iraq.
But the new report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent federal agency, examined nearly 200 Parsons construction projects contained in 11 major “job orders” paid for in a huge rebuilding contract. There were also three other nonconstruction orders. The total cost of the work to the United States was $365 million.

The new report finds that 8 of the 11 rebuilding orders were terminated by the United States before they were completed, for reasons including weak contract oversight, unrealistic schedules, a failure to report problems in a timely fashion and poor supervision by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which managed the contracts.
And if you remember their work on the Baghdad Police Academy, they can't even redo a bathroom.

The State of The Union

A small man put forth some small ideas and then reminded everybody that he still had the power to get a lot of people killed and to obstruct the will of the people.

Monday, January 28, 2008

When he speaks of Iraq tonight

Will Our Dear Embattled Leader remark on the bravery of these good Americans, giving their lives for no good reason, whatsoever?
Five American soldiers were killed in the northern city of Mosul on Monday when militants attacked them with a roadside bomb and then fired on their patrol from a nearby mosque with machine guns, military officials said. The troops returned fire and Iraqi forces raided the mosque, but the gunmen had fled, they said.
Probably not, their sacrifice does not reflect well on the poor lad.

Monday Music Blogging

Chet Atkins & Suzy Bogguss "One More For The Road"

Quote of the Day

Any Democrat who makes it to the White House can expect the same treatment: an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false (at least not on Page 1).
Paul Krugman writing about the Democratic primary campaign.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

McCain to blow off favorite armpit sniff

Yes, St. John is passing on the State of the Kingdom address on Monday in favor of campaigning in Fla. I hope it is not because Georgie changed his deodorant. Anyway, we can count on his buddy Joe Lieberschmuck to stand in for him.

If I was a TV station

Something like this could cost me $1.4 Million.

And yes, those are the million dollar buns that did it.

P.S. If you are underage and looking at this, go Google up some real porn you stupid little snot.

Portrait of a corporate bust-out crew

Bain Capital, source of Mittens success and wealth and bane of so many companies it bought.
In many cases, such as Staples Inc., the Framingham retailer, and Steel Dynamics Inc., an Indiana steelmaker, the companies expanded and added thousands of jobs. In other cases, such as Ampad and GS Industries, another steelmaker, Bain-controlled companies shuttered plants, slashed hundreds of jobs, and landed in bankruptcy.

But in almost all cases Bain Capital made money. In fact, the firm earned substantially more from Ampad than Staples. Staples returned about $13 million on a $2 million investment; Ampad yielded more than $100 million on $5 million, according to reports to investors...

...Ampad, too, became squeezed between onerous debt that had financed acquisitions and falling prices for its office-supply products. Its biggest customers - including Staples - used their buying power and access to Asian suppliers to demand lower prices from Ampad.

Romney sat on Staples's board of directors at this time.

Creditors forced Ampad into bankruptcy in early 2000, and hundreds of workers lost jobs during Ampad's decline. Bain Capital and its investors, however, had already taken more than $100 million out of the company, in debt-financed dividends, management fees, and proceeds from selling shares on public stock exchanges.
The mob would have torched the plant for the insurance.

The financial outlook in pictures

Click image to enlarge

The Big Shitpile or The Big Shitberg

As in iceberg where the smaller part is visible above water. The Boston Globe takes a look at the derivatives and off-the-books instruments that make up a huge part of the world financial scene and which few, if anybody, really understand.
That something is the immense shadow economy of novel and poorly understood financial instruments created by hedge funds and investment banks over the past decade - a web of extraordinarily complex securities and wagers that has made the world's financial system so opaque and entangled that even many experts confess that they no longer understand how it works.

Unlike the building blocks of the conventional economy - factories and firms, widgets and workers, stocks and bonds - these new financial arrangements are difficult to value, much less analyze. The money caught up in this web is now many times larger than the world's gross domestic product, and much of it exists outside the purview of regulators.

Some of these new-generation investments have been in the news, such as the securities implicated in the mortgage crisis that is still shaking the housing market. Others, involving auto loans, credit card debt, and corporate debt, are lurking in the shadows.

The scale and complexity of these new investments means that they don't just defy traditional economic rules, they may change the rules. So much of the world's capital is now tied up in this shadow economy that the traditional tools for fixing an economic downturn - moves that have averted serious disasters in the recent past - may not work as expected.
Free market capitalism as its own disaster.

Did you know?

The latest Miss America comes from Michigan

Liz Cheney likes Mittens

That should put him over the top in some state, somewhere.

Naomi Klein on the Democrats need for "Disaster Management"

Not as in how to pick up the pieces, but how to counter disaster capitalism with disaster progressivism.
Again and again, the Bush administration has seized on crises to break logjams blocking the more radical pieces of its economic agenda. First, a recession provided the excuse for sweeping tax cuts. Next, the "war on terror" ushered in an era of unprecedented military and homeland security privatization. After Hurricane Katrina, the administration handed out tax holidays, rolled back labor standards, closed public housing projects and helped turn New Orleans into a laboratory for charter schools -- all in the name of disaster "reconstruction."

Given this track record, Washington lobbyists had every reason to believe that the current recession fears would provoke a new round of corporate gift-giving. Yet it seems that the public is getting wise to the tactics of disaster capitalism. Sure, the proposed $150-billion economic stimulus package is little more than a dressed-up tax cut, including a new batch of "incentives" to business. But the Democrats nixed the more ambitious GOP attempt to leverage the crisis to lock in the Bush tax cuts and go after Social Security. For the time being, it seems that a crisis created by a dogged refusal to regulate markets will not be "fixed" by giving Wall Street more public money with which to gamble.

Yet while managing (barely) to hold the line, the House Democrats appear to have given up on extending unemployment benefits and increasing funding for food stamps and Medicaid as part of the stimulus package. More important, they are failing utterly to use the crisis to propose alternative solutions to a status quo marked by serial crises, whether environmental, social or economic.
After years of Republican bullshit marketing, it will be hard to convince many Americans that working for their own best interest can be a good thing, but you don't need a PhD in Economics to know that the continuing use of disasters to transfer public assets to a private few is a very bad idea.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

How it all went down

One of the key players in the crap mortgages to AAA securities scam is talking to the New York AG Andrew Cuomo. This should be fun.
Clayton, a publicly held company and the nation’s largest provider of mortgage due diligence services to investment banks, communicated daily with bankers putting together mortgage securities.

As part of the deal, Clayton has told the prosecutors that starting in 2005, it saw a significant deterioration of lending standards and a parallel jump in lending exceptions. In an another sign that the industry was becoming less careful, some investment banks directed Clayton to halve the sample of loans it evaluated in each portfolio, a person familiar with the investigation said.

The mortgage business boomed from 2002 to 2006, generating lucrative fees for mortgage brokers, lenders, credit rating firms, investment banks and many investors. Investment banks began buying billions of dollars of more risky loans made to borrowers with blemished, or subprime, credit histories and packaging them into securities that paid high interest....

...The investment banks then pooled the mortgages into securities, often by blending loans from different lenders. Information on those mixed pools was then delivered to the rating agencies, which assigned the securities a score. Pension funds and other big investors bought them because they had triple-A ratings.

But investment banks did not give the rating agencies their due diligence reports, and it appears that the agencies did not demand them, people familiar with Mr. Cuomo’s investigation said.

In January 2007, Clayton briefed at least one credit rating agency about the exception reports it was producing, the person involved in the agreement said, but the credit firm did not ask to see the reports.
"If only we had known", but then they would not have been able to sell any of that crap. So they turned a blind eye to the profit machine until it all blew up. With help from Clayton, maybe the buck will make a few stops on Wall St.

Justice in Bankruptcy Court

That is not something you get to see every day. But one case seems to have brought out one judges better side.
MORE than two years ago, the Delphi Corporation, an automotive parts giant, filed for bankruptcy protection. Even as it asked workers, creditors and owners to accept big losses, Delphi requested a lush executive pay package that included $87 million in cash bonuses to be paid to top managers upon the company’s exit from bankruptcy. It was a wonderful example of unshared sacrifice that has become deplorably common in corporate America.

Last week, Robert D. Drain, a federal bankruptcy judge in the Southern District of New York overseeing the Delphi bankruptcy, held a hearing to approve the company’s reorganization plan. Delphi hopes to exit bankruptcy this spring.

During the hearing, Judge Drain, who spent roughly an hour on the terms of the payouts and the compensation consultant who devised them, said he would approve Delphi’s bankruptcy exit plan only if the $87 million in incentive pay slated for management was reduced sharply, to $16.5 million.
What you have to remember is that the guys bringing Delphi out of bankruptcy are the same ones that drove it into bankruptcy in the first place. All told, the $16.5 million is probably still too much, but it is an honorable, and much called for reduction.

How to succeed on Wall St

Fail. That's it, pure and simple, with one caveat, make it a really, really big failure. That' what these two clowns did.
UNDER the stewardship of Dow Kim and Thomas G. Maheras, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup built positions in subprime-related securities that led to $34 billion in write-downs last year. The debacle cost chief executives their jobs and brought two of the world’s premier financial institutions to their knees.

In any other industry, Mr. Kim and Mr. Maheras would be pariahs. But in the looking-glass world of Wall Street, they — and others like them — are hot properties. The two executives are well on their way to reviving their careers, even as global markets shudder at the prospect that Merrill and Citigroup may report further subprime losses in the coming months.

Mr. Maheras, who left his job as co-president of Citigroup’s investment bank this fall after being demoted, has had serious discussions with several investment banks, including Bear Stearns, about taking on a top management position, people who have been briefed on the situation said. And he has also been approached by investment firms willing to back him to the tune of $1 billion or more if he decides to start his own hedge fund, these people said.

Mr. Kim, who until this spring was a co-president at Merrill Lynch with oversight of the firm’s trading and market operations, has been crisscrossing the globe in recent months raising money for his new hedge fund, Diamond Lake Capital.
And they are not alone, another one of their ilk.
Zoe Cruz, the Morgan Stanley co-president who was forced to leave her job after $10.8 billion in subprime losses, has been approached by investment banks, hedge funds and private equity funds about a senior management role, people briefed on those discussions say.

“It is always an assumption on Wall Street that it is not the individuals that lose money; it’s the system,”
But they love to overlook the fact that it was a system crafted and played by these atrociously expensive bozos. But the ones who actually pay don't live in their neighborhood.
But last week, as markets worldwide gyrated, lower-level bankers braced themselves for bad news. Bank of America, whose profit fell 95 percent last year from mortgage-related exposure, has said it would pare down its trading and investment banking operations and cut more than 1,000 positions. Citigroup has also laid off investment bankers in recent weeks and has said it would cut 4,200 jobs, with more expected to follow. Morgan Stanley said Thursday that it would cut 1,000 operational jobs, and Merrill Lynch was expected to reduce its staff.

With a recession looming, the deal-making and underwriting environment is looking stagnant. Banks are cutting costs and taking a hard look at their head counts. All these developments do not bode well for bankers’ chances of landing another job anytime soon.
The Wall St equivalent of Soylent Green.

So Maheras, Kim and Cruz all land their asses in a tub of butter thanks to a perverted sense of value. And the rest of us should remember this when some slick talking stranger says we should put Social Security and our retirement money into Wall St. In truth, we should probably kill the SOB.

There is no free infrastructure

And life as we know it becomes more difficult when the infrastructure needs upgrade and replacement. We all want good roads, safe bridges, clean tap water and sewers that take our shit away, because the failure of any of these parts can take our breath away, literally. With the onset on the next Bush Recession, the funds available are everywhere becoming more restricted. Combine that with inflationary pressures that are now becoming apparent and it is a troubling picture.
State and local governments in many parts of the country are struggling to pay for roads, bridges and other building projects because of rising construction costs, adding another burden to budgets already stressed by the troubled housing market.

The problems have come as many governments pursue ambitious projects to improve roads and airports, build schools and upgrade long-neglected water and sewer systems. Many of the projects were conceived when money from property, sales and income taxes was steady and interest rates low, but officials say the ground has shifted beneath their feet.

“Everybody’s scared,” said Uche Udemezue, director of engineering and transportation for San Leandro, Calif., which will soon put out a request for construction bids on a retiree center and a parking garage. “You don’t know what you’re going to find when you go out to bid.”
But Our Dear Embattled Leader is proud of the fact that he poured half a Trillion dollars into the sands of Iraq. Why waste good money in your own country?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Help for First Time Parents

Ever since humans started having babies, new parents have needed a little help with some of the finer points of their care. David and Kelly Sopp have put together an easy to read book, Safe Baby Handling Tips to provide that help. With easy to understand illustrations.

If only it had been available for Barbara Bush.

Ten arguments for sticking with John Edwards

Over at MyDD, desmoinesdem has a post listing those 10 arguments with links/ Even if you have made up your mind, go read it and find out why you are wrong. Remember, this is important for America.

Quote of the Day

The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retro-active immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he's willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.
Sen. Edward Kennedy D-MA, a rerun, but still on target

Peggy Noonan says George Bush Broke the Republican Party

Did Peggy not live in a misty world of her own creation, she would realize that the Little Snot has broken a lot of things in his two terms in the White House. The Republican Party will be missed least of all.

US seeks Iraqi permission to continue occupation

As Li'l Georgie prepares to slink back to his ranch in Crawfish, the government is negotiating with the Iraq government to continue business as usual when the current mandate expires.
The American negotiating position for a formal military-to-military relationship, one that would replace the current United Nations mandate, is laid out in a draft proposal that was described by White House, Pentagon, State Department and military officials on ground rules of anonymity. It also includes less controversial demands that American troops be immune from Iraqi prosecution, and that they maintain the power to detain Iraqi prisoners.

However, the American quest for protections for civilian contractors is expected to be particularly vexing, because in no other country are contractors working with the American military granted protection from local laws. Some American officials want contractors to have full immunity from Iraqi law, while others envision less sweeping protections. These officials said the negotiations with the Iraqis, expected to begin next month, would also determine whether the American authority to conduct combat operations in the future would be unilateral, as it is now, or whether it would require consultation with the Iraqis or even Iraqi approval.
It remains to be seen if the Iraqis will attempt to act as a sovereign country.

John Edwards on Health Care

The NY Times continues its series of closer looks at the candidates positions on issues that matter to voters. With the health care industry having perfected the transfer of risk back to the patient as soon as their profit is threatened, what we can do in DC is important to all of us.
Mr. Edwards did not propose a universal coverage plan when he ran for president in 2004, focusing instead on expanding enrollment of children. But a day after the Kerry-Edwards ticket lost, his wife, Elizabeth, was found to have breast cancer, and his family began its first-hand education in the vagaries of the system.

“I mean, when you get the statements by the providers and the insurance companies about what’s covered and what’s not covered, even for two people who are well versed in the law and experienced with the health care system, it seems completely arbitrary in many cases,” said Mr. Edwards, a lawyer. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

The public nature of Mrs. Edwards’s illness — she announced a recurrence at a news conference last year — drew people with health care horror stories to the Edwards campaign. As health care costs and the number of uninsured continued to rise, Mr. Edwards sensed that people were ready for more radical surgery on the insurance system.
A useful series that the Times should promote more than they do.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

From the Dept of Un-Be-Fucking-Lievable!

From McClatchy comes a very scary article about a government agency that is staffed by fools who think they are foolproof. ICE.
Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held Warziniack for weeks in an Arizona detention facility with the aim of deporting him to a country he's never seen. His jailers shrugged off Warziniack's claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.

On Thursday, Warziniack was told he would be released. Immigration authorities were finally able to verify his citizenship.

"The immigration agents told me they never make mistakes," Warziniack said in a phone interview from jail.
They never make mistakes because they are too fucking stupid to know right from wrong. And we are supposed to think they are keeping us safe from scary little brown people.

Pelosi gives away meat, keeps the bread

And calls it the best sandwich ever. And the rest of us get to watch another snookering of the Democrats by the mob that never had a valid policy idea but they sure can screw up anything of value.
Late in the negotiations that preceded Thursday’s breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi agreed not to include two proposals that have broad support among Congressional Democrats: an extension of unemployment benefits and a temporary increase in food stamps.

In exchange for those concessions, the Bush administration and House Republicans agreed that the stipend of at least $300 would be paid to all workers who earned at least $3,000 last year, even those who did not earn enough to pay taxes.
So in exchange for a somewhat broader one time drop in the bucket, she gave away the only proposals with any real value. What a hard nosed negotiator she is! I sure am glad I'm not her pooch.

Still time to pick the best man for the White House

And just in case you might have forgotten who that is.

Drop by and make a donation.

FISA turd still floating in the punchbowl

And despite an alleged Democratic Leader and majority, Harry Reid is trying to pass the amnesty for telcos and George Bush variation. You remember, the telcos that are so patriotic they will tap anybody the government requests, until the bills aren't paid. The FISA bill that is so important that the government won't pay the bills for the wiretaps. But noone really cares about that. The important part is the amnesty so they can not be compelled to testify against George or Dickwahd. So give Harry a call and don't forget your own Senators.

Some facts from the 'Litter'atti

WASHINGTON — People who work in litter make some interesting discoveries. Among them:

* Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter in the United States and the rest of the world.

* Bottle-deposit policies have an interesting effect on beach litter. "You find zillions of bottle caps but only a few bottles," said Amanda Wheeler of Bradley Beach, N.J., who's directed beach cleanups there for a decade.

* A growing factor in litter is debris that falls from recycling trucks, according to litter analyst Steven Stein.

* When authorities in the Augusta, Ga., area checked whether people they'd stopped for littering were wanted for other offenses, they hit pay dirt. "Most people who commit crimes also litter," concluded Lt. Mallory Jones of the Augusta Richmond County Marshal's Office.

* New York City litter that floats washes up on the New Jersey shore. New York litter that flies — such as Mylar balloons — ends up on Long Island beaches because of prevailing northwesterly winds.

* One big reason that trash piles up on New York streets: The city has few alleys.

McClatchy Newspapers 2008

All the GOP candidates hate Mitt Romney

And, surprisingly, it's not Rudi Giuliani that wants to knock Mitts teeth out.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

George will be George

A nasty, selfish little son of a bitch. And to prove it, he kept his Republican minions in line to prevent an override of his prior nasty, selfish veto of the SCHIP bill.

Lest we forget, another reason to defeat every possible Republican in November, even the dogcatcher.

935 times

Your loyal and patriotic Republican administration knowingly heaped bullshit on the people until they finally asked, "Please sir, can we have a war?".
President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration's case for war.
To anyone who bothered to look, it was obvious that it was all a pack of lies, but most people were more interested in who was still on American Idol. And so thousands of lives are lost, $Billions have been pissed away or stolen and a country has been thoroughly and completely trashed, but at least no one got a blow job.

John Edwards on Letterman

His take on Bill O is at the 6:30 mark and the rest of it is good, too.

If you push people, people will push back

When Israel "gave" Gaza back to the Palestinians, they kept a few privileges for themselves, like using Gaza as an artillery and bombing range and a live fire maneuver area. They also left a wall on the border between Gaza and Egypt. As a result of Israel's latest border lockdown on Gaza, a group of Gazans finally had enough and destroyed seven miles of wall around the town of Rafah, opening the border with Egypt. The initial result was that Palestinians were once again able to buy food, cigarettes and other goods in Egypt, without any limits except what they can afford. It is too early to tell where this will end but it is difficult to see any return to status quo ante. With Bubble Boy in the White House, Olmert might try, because without a closed border Israel's campaign of intimidation on the Palestinians doesn't work. We can only hope that Bubble Boy remembers that Olmert was the guy who didn't give him any bling on his last trip and says "fugeddaboutit".

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We may have lost Fred but

And here I have to admit that I might be slipping up for not seeing this earlier, there is another candidate for the GOP who has thrown her gorgeous hat in the ring. I give you


And thanks to the heads up from the good people at Alternate Brain

presents her Campaign Song

Area 51 to disappear

Not because the Air Force finally figured out how to use all that alien technology they keep there. No, the reason is much more prosaic, even pedestrian, than an accidental rip in the fabric of time.
The Air Force’s classified test range at Groom Lake, Nev., has never lacked for evocative nicknames — it and its restricted airspace have been called Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, The Box and, most famously, Area 51. Now there’s a less romantic moniker to throw on the pile: “Homey Airport,” according to a few civilian aviation journals.

“Homey Airport” now appears as the official name for a certain air base near a certain dry lake bed in Nevada, according to reports in the Web site of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, as well as the Daily Aviator blog and others. New editions of flight planning software and civilian aviators’ GPS gear lists the name and the official designation “KXTA” — which online wags have speculated stands for “extraterrestrial airport.” (The “k” designation indicates only that the field is in the U.S., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.)
Homey Airport, hmm. So does the lunch counter serve Mom's home cooking?

UPDATE: And some more details on the origins of Homey Airport, but no hint if Mom's home cooking is out of this world.

So long, Fred, we hardly knew ye

But if Jeri feels like carrying on, well, that alright with us.

Tom Toles Tuesday

Monday, January 21, 2008

World markets in a spin

And tomorrow morning the US markets will start with a dive as the arbitrageurs work to bring balance back to the markets.
Stock prices fell 7 percent in France and Germany, 5 percent in China and Great Britain, and 4 percent in Japan. Stocks lost value in 42 of the 43 nations with widely followed markets; the only exception was Sri Lanka.

"It was all about blood on the wall," said Georges Ugeux, chairman of Galileo Global Advisors, who was visiting the Indian stock exchange, which fell 7.4 percent (the equivalent of a 900-point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average). "For them, this is a black Monday."
And the worst may yet be to come as the causes are deeper and wider than most people yet recognize.
Investors worldwide grew fearful that problems from massive losses on loans made to U.S. home buyers will cascade through the world financial system. For example, the Bank of China is now forecast to record a multibillion-dollar loss on U.S. mortgage investments.

And companies that insure bonds are incurring such massive losses on exotic securities based on mortgages that one is in receivership and others have had their credit ratings cut. That could cause financial institutions worldwide to mark down the value of a wide range of assets guaranteed by these insurance companies.

Add to that the slowing U.S. economy,
Just like in those cheesy Atlantis movies where the earthquake topples one column, then another and another until the whole forum falls on all the screaming people who just couldn't imagine something like this happening.

George W Bush says country is totally safe from terrorists

And in recognition of this safety, he will cut spending for counterterrorism.
The Bush administration will cut counterterrorism money for police, firefighters and rescue departments next year, but not by as much as it originally proposed.

Next month the White House will request $2.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks in 2009, and not $1.4 billion, an administration aide told Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., on Friday. That would be 10 percent more than the president requested for 2008, but 40 percent less than Congress gave the department this year.

King and other lawmakers were outraged in December when they learned the administration wanted to slash these funds by more than half in its final budget request before Bush leaves office.
You see, since this budget will really affect his successor and because thanks to his bungling said successor will almost certainly be a Democrat, Our Dear Embattled Leader has no problem leaving our country defenseless. When your a Republican, politics trumps patriotism every day of the year.

He is just trying to make a living

That does not mean that truck driver is making enough money to repair his rig properly.
Profit margins for the independent operators who serve the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports are thin -- so some, like Miguel, cut corners whenever possible.

For example, because a gauge showed that the weight of his load exceeded regulations -- and because he views his truck's brakes as untrustworthy -- Miguel used the trailer's brakes to stop the entire rig. The CHP considers that maneuver particularly dangerous -- and illegal.

Like many other independent haulers, he contracts with licensed motor carriers, or a trucking broker, linked to shipping companies and cargo owners, such as big-box retailers. Each morning, Miguel shows up at the broker's dispatch window to solicit jobs.

Like other drivers serving the ports, he's a "short-haul trucker," ferrying containers to distribution centers across Southern California.

He gets paid by the load -- the equivalent of about $8.90 an hour -- and works 65 hours a week.

It costs him about $500 to fill the tank with diesel fuel and roughly $2,000 a year for truck insurance.
And you don't want to know about the tires.
Tools of that trade include hand-held electric "hot knives" connected to pickup truck batteries. Regrooving, which is usually done by machine, is legal, according to California traffic codes, provided the tires are designed for it and their inner steel belts are not damaged in the process.

"When they cut into the steel belt, that tire becomes a bomb," said Harvey Brodsky, spokesman for the Tire Retread and Repair Information Bureau, a nonprofit industry association. "It's a shame and a disgrace, and an example of what's going on in our ports."

But outside of China Shipping, the llanteros didn't seem to mind when their blades occasionally sliced into the belts of their customers' tires. Scraping out a fresh groove, a llantero simply said, "I groove tires for guys who can't afford to buy new tires. I charge $10 to $12 per tire. Takes about 20 minutes."

The tire man was alarmed, however, when he noticed a fist-size bulge protruding from the sidewall of one of the tires he had regrooved.

"Hey, you better take a look at this," he told a driver. The driver smiled sheepishly and replied, "I know. I just need it for another month or two."

"It's dangerous and irresponsible," the driver said, shaking his head.

"But I don't have money for new tires. I'm behind on my bills. As long as the CHP doesn't stop me, I'll keep doing it."
And all this comes about because everybody wants the cheapest possible rate and individually, the drivers have no clout, no juice and if they make any protest about low rates, no job.
Todd Spencer, of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn., also sided with drivers who, he said, "currently work beneath the toilet."

"They are taken advantage of by everyone they come in contact with, including the companies they work for, and it's all in the quest of lowering costs and increasing profits," said Spencer, an executive vice president with the national trade group. "If you want good, clean and safe equipment, the costs for it have to be reflected in the rates that truckers receive for moving the products."
Most of the truckers and their trucks are honest and safe, but they are in a cutthroat business that pushes them to the max for the least possible dollar. And all to maximize the profits of someone somewhere who would still be living in high style for a few dollars less.

What's your guess

In the current most popular game in the Pentagon, "Where is David Going Next"? The heavy money is on command of NATO but some have said he may go to Central Command although the current commander Adm. Fallon has said he has no plans to retire. Either way, he is being groomed for a seat at the Joint Chiefs. Will his close relationship to Li'l George jeopardize that future? Stay tuned.

Monday Music Blogging

On Martin Luther King's Day it is good to hear the next generation sing the old songs

Ruthie Foster - Woke Up This Mornin'

What Obama should have said

If he were, in fact, a progressive who believed in America. Paul Krugman explains what the narrative should be and why.
Like Ronald Reagan, President Bush began his term in office with big tax cuts for the rich and promises that the benefits would trickle down to the middle class. Like Reagan, he also began his term with an economic slump, then claimed that the recovery from that slump proved the success of his policies.

And like Reaganomics — but more quickly — Bushonomics has ended in grief. The public mood today is as grim as it was in 1992. Wages are lagging behind inflation. Employment growth in the Bush years has been pathetic compared with job creation in the Clinton era. Even if we don’t have a formal recession — and the odds now are that we will — the optimism of the 1990s has evaporated.

This is, in short, a time when progressives ought to be driving home the idea that the right’s ideas don’t work, and never have.
I have emphasized the part that needs to be repeated every day, in every way so it will not be so quickly forgotten this time.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Who do you trust?

Another bomber and another friendly sheik dead in Iraq. Not the biggest bomb, nor the largest number of victims, not even the most important target. Just a scary delivery system.
Those arriving were searched, but the bomber, who survivors of the blast estimated was in his mid-teens, slipped through without being inspected because he was young and known to everyone from the neighborhood.

“He was a child and one of our people, so he did not raise doubts,” Mr. Jamal said.
How do you guard against one of your own?

What if Hillary gave an interview on her plans for the economy?

It would probably be printed in the New York Times and you would probably be able to read it here.
Mrs. Clinton’s approach to the economy would have three main components. She would roll back the Bush tax cuts for households with incomes over $250,000 while creating more tax breaks below that threshold; impose closer scrutiny on financial markets, including the investments being made by foreign governments in the United States; and raise spending on job-creating projects like the development of alternative energy.

“We’ve done it in previous generations,” she said, alluding to large-scale public projects like the interstate highway system and the space program. “We can create millions of good new jobs. But we’ve got to have a plan, and we’ve got to make investments.”

Using blunt and at times populist language in the interview, Mrs. Clinton, Democrat of New York, tried to steer a course between the often business-friendly themes embraced by her husband and the straight populism that John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, has used in his presidential campaign this year.
A nicely detailed exposition of her positions, the kind of reporting we should be getting in an electio year.

I wouldn't give him one

emptypockets takes a look at the US visa application and wonders if Our Dear Embattled Leader would get one if he really been born in Texas instead of in the United States. Three questions, in particular, would seem to be troublesome to ODEL.
Question 1: Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though subject of a pardon, amnesty or other similar legal action? Have you ever unlawfully distributed or sold a controlled substance (drug), or been a prostitute or procurer for prostitutes?

Let's see. Arrested twice in college, for stealing a Christmas wreath and for conduct at a football game.

Arrested for drunk driving.

Possibly arrested for cocaine.

We don't know if he was directly involved in hiring male prostitute Jeff Gannon/James Guckert to pose as a reporter and issuing him a White House press credential -- so let's skip that one.
I would most definitely mark his application REFUSED

The Surge is working

But not to the end that the various bloodthirsty war enablers would have you believe. Andrew J. Bacevich takes a good look at what has happened in Iraq and his reality does not even come close to Bloody Billy Kristol's, and others of his ilk, fervent wet dreams.
In only one respect has the surge achieved undeniable success: It has ensured that U.S. troops won't be coming home anytime soon. This was one of the main points of the exercise in the first place. As AEI military analyst Thomas Donnelly has acknowledged with admirable candor, "part of the purpose of the surge was to redefine the Washington narrative," thereby deflecting calls for a complete withdrawal of U.S. combat forces. Hawks who had pooh-poohed the risks of invasion now portrayed the risks of withdrawal as too awful to contemplate. But a prerequisite to perpetuating the war -- and leaving it to the next president -- was to get Iraq off the front pages and out of the nightly news. At least in this context, the surge qualifies as a masterstroke.
So Our Dear Embattled Leader has tied the US and Iraq together with a Gordian Knot. And another "brilliant" domestic political tactic has insured the continued failure of the foreign military strategy, as if the strategy needed any help in failing.

One long year left

For the limp dick presidency of George (The Worst President Ever) Bush. If anybody was in doubt about the irrelevancy of his last year, they need only look at his recent Middle East trip where the host nations tended to treat him like a wandering relative; give him a dinner, show him a good time and send him to the next bunch. One thing to remember, irrelevant does not mean impotent. He can still rally the Republican troglodytes or use his veto to block essential legislation. We can only hope that he either grows so bored that he deserts the office as he did the TANG, or he realizes that nothing will help his legacy and stop trying to push his foolish ideas upon an unwelcoming public. Until then, just keep counting.

BONUS: Shop for 1/20/09 items here.

Sunday Non Sequitur

Click image to enlarge.

R.I.P Emily

Suzanne Pleshette 1937-2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Money talks

Or sails in this case. The NY Times has an article on efforts by shipping companies to save money on fuel costs and the surprising results for the bottom line.
In Hamburg, the Hapag-Lloyd shipping company is not waiting for 2012. It reacted to rising fuel prices by cutting the throttle on its 140 container ships traveling the world's oceans, ordering its captains to slow down.

The company in the second half of last year reduced the standard speed of its ships to 20 knots from 23-1/2 knots, and said it saved a "substantial amount" of fuel.

The calculation used in shipping is complex: longer voyages mean extra operating costs, charter costs, interest costs and other monetary losses. But Hapag-Lloyd said slowing down still paid off handsomely.

"We've saved so much fuel that we added a ship to the route and still saved costs," said Klaus Heims, press spokesman at the world's fifth-largest container shipping line. "Why didn't we do this before?"
With fuel costs for a 10,000 ton ship of around $8000 a day, they were talking big bucks for immediate savings. Once again we find that people will do just about anything if you can tie it to the bottom line.

Sometimes necessity trumps a really stupid idea

As in this case where the US Army's need for qualified and capable people far outwieghs any notion that homosexuals aren't fit for the military.
Darren Manzella was out of the closet.

The Army sergeant told an officer he was a homosexual, and the officer turned him in. During the investigation, Manzella admitted he was gay and even offered visual confirmation: a home videotape showing him kissing his civilian boyfriend.

Needless to say, Manzella was surprised with his commanding officer’s verdict:

“They found no evidence of homosexuality,” he said.
Turning a blind eye to the status of Sgt Manzella may keep him in the Army, but it won't stop the incredible waste of capable people until the whole stupid policy is officially ended. At a time when the military is spending thousands of dollars, lowering standards and occasionally stooping to dishonest tactics to recruit enough people, it makes about as much sense as broadcasting battle plans on TV prior to starting a campaign.

Canada folds under pressure

After letting the cat out of the bag, that it was training its diplomats to the US and Israel how to recognize when a Canadian citizen has been tortured while in custody, Canada has succumbed to international pressure from the United Caucus of Torture Loving States and removed those two erstwhile friends from the list.
Canada's foreign ministry, responding to pressure from close allies, said on Saturday it would remove the United States and Israel from a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured.

Both nations expressed unhappiness after it emerged they had been listed in a document that formed part of a training course manual on torture awareness given to Canadian diplomats.
Mind you, the US and Israel have not stopped the use of torture, they just don't want people talking about it.

For Sale: Price reduced

And on the block is your country. As with other third world countries, the corporate sector of the industrialized world is finding plenty of bargains across our land.
For much of the world, the United States is now on sale at discount prices. With credit tight, unemployment growing and worries mounting about a potential recession, American business and government leaders are courting foreign money to keep the economy growing. Foreign investors are buying aggressively, taking advantage of American duress and a weak dollar to snap up what many see as bargains, while making inroads to the world’s largest market.

Last year, foreign investors poured a record $414 billion into securing stakes in American companies, factories and other properties through private deals and purchases of publicly traded stock, according to Thomson Financial, a research firm. That was up 90 percent from the previous year and more than double the average for the last decade. It amounted to more than one-fourth of all announced deals for the year, Thomson said.
The upside to this is the new foreign corporate owners are more interested in creating assets than in liquidating assets like their former owners were. The down side is that some of the buyers are actually the governments of such friendly nations as Saudi Arabia and China and probably Russia as well. So long as the money is green, all are welcome.

Bob Herbert has a good answer

To the economic problems that have been visited on the US by various and sundry Republican greed mongers. It goes without saying that the proposals of Our Dear Embattled Leader are just another attempt to drain the resources of the Treasury for the benefit of a few. Throwing money around does little good when the real answer lies in creating money to replace the $Billions$ destroyed by Wall St. Bob's idea is fairly simple and straight forward.
Good jobs at good wages — lots of them, growing like spring flowers in an endlessly fertile field — is the absolutely essential basis for a thriving American economy and a broad-based rise in standards of living.

Forget all the CNBC chatter about Fed policy and bargain stocks. For ordinary Americans, jobs are the be-all and end-all. And an America awash in new jobs will require a political environment that respects and rewards work and aggressively pursues creative policies designed to radically expand employment.

I’d start with a broad program to rebuild the American infrastructure. This would have the dual benefit of putting large numbers of people to work and answering a crying need. The infrastructure is in sorry shape. New Orleans comes to mind, and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis.
This would be a beginning that would actually start compared to a one time check that is gone after one car or rent or mortgage payment. The only drawback is that it would take a political will and lots of savvy to execute and so far, those attributes seem to be concentrated on the Regressive side of the aisle.

You can still join in the call for Impeachment

Rep. Robert Wexler is amassing signatures to his petition calling for the impeachment of Dickwahd al-Cheney. As of this writing he has 208969. Now is a good time to add your name to this fundamentally American call for justice.

Sign on here.

Quote of the Day

One of America's greatest strengths is the soft power of our value system and how we treat prisoners of war, and we don't torture. And I believe, unlike others in the administration, that waterboarding was, is — and will always be — torture. That's a simple statement.
Tom Ridge, former Sec. of Homeland Security and apostate Republican.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Where's John?

The new ad from John Edwards

Last night on KO

R.I.P. Bobby Fischer


Thursday, January 17, 2008

R. I.P. Richard Knerr

The Hula Hoop and the Frisbee, so simple and so much fun.

Another success story

As Our Dear Embattled Leader so clearly pointed out to us in one of his speeches somewhere, if you give farmers a cash crop they can put food on their families with, they will give up growing WMD.
At a heavily guarded farm near the town of Buhriz, south of the provincial capital Baquba, poppies are grown between the orange trees in order to hide them, according to a local source.

The shift by Iraqi farmers to producing opium was first revealed by The Independent last May and is a very recent development. The first poppy fields, funded by drug smugglers who previously supplied Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with heroin from Afghanistan, were close to the city of Diwaniyah in southern Iraq. The growing of poppies has now spread to Diyala, which is one of the places in Iraq where al-Qa'ida is still resisting US and Iraqi government forces. It is also deeply divided between Sunni, Shia and Kurd and the extreme violence means that local security men have little time to deal with the drugs trade. The speed with which farmers are turning to poppies is confirmed by the Iraqi news agency al-Malaf Press, which says that opium is now being produced around the towns of Khalis, Sa'adiya, Dain'ya and south of Baladruz, pointing out that these are all areas where al-Qa'ida is strong.
And the great waving fields of flowers look so pretty when they bloom.

If we are known by the company we keep

Then most Americans would be surprised to find the United States rubbing elbows with the like of Syria, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Mexico and Saudi Arabia, and don't forget Israel.
Canada's foreign ministry has put the United States and Israel on a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured and also classifies some U.S. interrogation techniques as torture, according to a document obtained by Reuters on Thursday.
On second thought, probably only the Kool-Aid drinkers would be surprised. Another high point in the glorious rule of Our Dear Embattled Leader and his Evil Grand Vizier Dickwahd al-Cheney.

Tom Toles Thursday

The Air Force got tired of being left out of the parade

So now they are dropping bombs with a villianous zeal in Iraq to prove they are worthy of mighty appropriations in the next budget.
The U.S. military conducted more than five times as many airstrikes in Iraq last year as it did in 2006, targeting al-Qaeda safe houses, insurgent bombmaking facilities and weapons stockpiles in an aggressive strategy aimed at supporting the U.S. troop increase by overwhelming enemies with air power.

Top commanders said that better intelligence-gathering allows them to identify and hit extremist strongholds with bombs and missiles, and they predicted that extensive airstrikes will continue this year as the United States seeks to flush insurgents out of havens in and around Baghdad and to the north in Diyala province.

The U.S.-led coalition dropped 1,447 bombs on Iraq last year, an average of nearly four a day, compared with 229 bombs, or about four each week, in 2006.
Bombs work good in the city. You will almost always find a bunch of dead "insurgents" after each bomb drop.

Diamonds are forever

But a great pair of boobs will work just as well if you are looking for that safe haven for the upcoming recession. If you haven't talked to Dr. 90210 yet, the NY Times has been nice enough to provide some basic information to help you ask the right questions. There are some drawbacks.
Ms. Schell, 29, who lives in Thornton, Colo., and works for the State of Colorado, said she first spent $6,500 in 2003 on breast enhancement surgery with a doctor in California. She had a second operation with that doctor last April to replace a deflated saline implant whose collapse made her left breast look “hollow”; her implants were still under warranty, but she did have to pay for the trip to California and lost a week’s pay, she said.

Last November, Ms. Schell had a third operation, which cost $6,000, this time with a surgeon in Denver who removed both implants as well as extensive scar tissue, she said. She also lost two weeks’ wages because she had to take time off, she said. The implants had also caused rippling, a lump around one nipple and pain.
We could be talking history here. This is the kind of expense that is the first to go when times get hard.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words

McClatchy has a detailed article to go with this graphic that should increase the pain some more. There is some good news, the price of toys, mostly from China dropped 4.7%. No doubt the result of the falling price of lead on the commodities market.

Looks like they caught a terrorist supporter

And he is an American. And he is a former Congressman. And he is a Republican.
A former congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday as part of a terrorist fundraising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al Qaeda and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.

The former Republican congressman from Michigan, Mark Deli Siljander, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about lobbying senators on behalf of an Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly sending funds to terrorists.

A 42-count indictment, unsealed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Missouri, accuses the Islamic American Relief Agency of paying Siljander $50,000 for the lobbying -- money that turned out to be stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Being a Republican, he was probably only in it for the money laundering.

They have much more on this Republican Terrorist Enabler over at The Great Orange Stan.

Iraq is getting better, just don't get hurt or sick

As the new report to be released today indicates, the Iraqi medical system, once the finest in the Middle East, is not even a shadow of its former self.
The report, by an independent team of researchers and advisers from Iraq, the UK, the US and elsewhere, says the provision of healthcare "has become increasingly difficult" since the invasion. "Doctors and nurses have emigrated en masse, exacerbating existing staff shortages.

"The health system is in disarray owing to the lack of an institutional framework, intermittent electricity, unsafe water, and frequent violations of medical neutrality. The ministry of health and local health authorities are mostly unable to meet these huge challenges, while the activities of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations are severely limited."

The report, by the organisation Medact, tells how the charges for healthcare, abolished by the coalition forces in a flurry of idealism, have been quietly reinstated by health authorities unable to pay salaries and buy the drugs they need. Worse, patients now have to pay bribes to get into hospital.
Look! Over there! The surge is working!

MoDo writes again

And blesses us with a rundown of Our Dear Embattled Leader's journey through the spa's of the Middle East. While ODEL has visions of legacy dancing in his head, MoDo boils the trip down to one paragraph.
Arab TV offered an uncomfortable juxtaposition: Al Arabiya running the wretched saga of Gaza children suffering from a lack of food and medicine during the Israeli blockade, blending into the wretched excess scenes of W. being festooned with rapper-level bling from royal hosts flush with gazillions from gouging us on oil.
Li'l Georgie was among his own.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

And God did send forth upon the land a plague...

And the name of the plague was Huckabee. And it struck at the very heart of mankinds greatest achievement. Sorry to get all biblical about this but that son of a bitch has gone too far.
"[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards," Huckabee said, referring to the need for a constitutional human life amendment and an amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
All wonderful sounding words, holy as all get out except for one small problem. Mike Huckapoo is a Southern Baptist and the whole world knows that Southern Baptists worship a false god. As if it wasn't bad enough that he is the 666th sky pilot to call for this sort of nonsense.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Quote of the Day

You have all types of contradictions. Talking about freedom when you're occupying two countries in the region: Afghanistan and Iraq. Talking about justice while you're against the (Palestinian) right of return. Talking about democracy while you're against elected groups you don't like. . . . Was he listening to himself?
Manar Shorbagy, an associate professor at the American University in Cairo commenting on Dear Leader's speechifying in the Middle East.

To the Great State of Michigan

And if your erstwhile homie is too much to stomach, there is always Ron Paul.

Monday Music Blogging

Todd Snider - You Got Away With It

Better video here

DOUBLEHEADER TODAY - because his head is in the right place

Todd Snider - "Beer Run"

With a headline like this

Americans Cut Back Sharply on Spending
You just know the rest of the story is going to be bad. And it is. Even the wealthy folks are trimming their outlays.

Krugmans gonna get fired

If he keeps talking about candidates positions on the issues in a major media outlet. Lord have mercy, he's been around long enough to know that is not the proper media narrative for an election. If he's not careful, some pinch-wit will try to get him fired. As for me, I think it's great when he writes stuff like this:
On the Democratic side, John Edwards, although never the front-runner, has been driving his party’s policy agenda. He’s done it again on economic stimulus: last month, before the economic consensus turned as negative as it now has, he proposed a stimulus package including aid to unemployed workers, aid to cash-strapped state and local governments, public investment in alternative energy, and other measures.

Last week Hillary Clinton offered a broadly similar but somewhat larger proposal.
If folks aren't smart enough to give him the nod, I hope he lasts long enough to get the party on the right course.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Like it was the World Cup

The interest worldwide in the US elections this year is generating a greater buzz than in years past. Some of it, like the folks in Kenya following Obama, is to be expected. Some comes from an unusual, but easily understood, source.
But much of the enthusiasm comes from anticipation of President Bush's departure, according to several analysts. U.S. prestige and popularity in much of the world have sunk to historic lows since Bush took office, over such issues as the Iraq war and climate change. Many analysts said the election has created high expectations that the new president will be more in tune with the rest of the world.

"In many capitals people have been waiting for this change for some time," said Rosa Balfour, a senior analyst at the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based research group.
But no one is waiting for this change more eagerly than the good people of the US themselves.

Are You The Victim Of Republican Fraud?

With Republicans trying to disenfranchise every possible vote not pledged in blood to their heir to the throne, John Amato of Crooks & Liars found a useful tool to see if you are still registered to vote. The people at are behind it and if you are the victim of Republican voter fraud, they will also help you get your registration back. Check now while there is plenty of time to fix it.

Hey, you never know until you look.

If only the WH press corpse had done this

Real Time with Bill Maher - Episode 1 Bad Day for Tony Snow, with Matt Taibbi, Catherine Crier and Mark Cuban

A litany of failure

Steven Weber and Bruce W. Jentleson, a pair of political scientists have put together a look at the arc of Our Dear Embattled Leader's neo-con fantasy, laughingly referred to as a foreign policy.
After years of proclaiming that it understood international politics better than its predecessors, the Bush administration is now trying to undo the damage its first seven years have wrought -- trying, in effect, to take U.S. foreign policy back to where it was before President Bush was sworn in.

But the world is a very different place today, and much less advantageous to the United States. Square one, administration officials are finding, is no longer really square one.
Were it not deadly serious, it would be amusing to note that ODEL and his evil Grand Vizier Dickwahd al-Cheney, have come full circle to the positions inherited from The Clenis. It would be amusing if it had not left us catatrophically behind and sucking wind in world affairs.

The birds of Abu Dhabi

After a hard mornings work trying to rustle up a war with Iran, Our Dear Embattled Leader was taken to a prize horse farm for a traditional feast. There were no reports of Li'l Georgie changing his clothes so it seem his hosts were aware of his fear of large animals. While there he was introduced to the falcons.
Before eating, Bush was shown several prized falcons, and even took a turn holding one. When the bird moved suddenly, Bush jumped back a bit, but quickly recovered. ''You're making him nervous,'' Bush told the assembled media. ''He never had a press conference before.''
I will forgo the strange bird jokes here but the falcons movement had a far more prosaic cause. Falcons eat fresh kill and the bird was upset by the presence of such a large mass of carrion.

UPDATE: According to McClatchy, Dear Leader's Inspiring Struggle Against Iran speech went over like a lead balloon with the locals who are more attuned to the reality of Gulf politics.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

This is so sick!

From the AP:
A father sodomized his 18-year-old stepson to avenge the teenager's alleged rape of the man's 8-year-old daughter, police said...

The stepson was arrested Jan. 2 and charged with suspicion of aggravated sexual assault. Police say the father caught him assaulting his daughter, and a subsequent examination at a hospital revealed the girl had been sodomized...

When the stepson was arrested, the man warned his wife not to get the teenager out of jail. She posted bond for the teen's release. When he called home Jan. 3 after getting released, the father took the call and picked him up, police said.

Instead of taking the teenager home, the Arlington man drove to an abandoned house in Fort Worth, beat his stepson with a baseball bat and sodomized him with a metal tool, police said.
And in the end everybody loses.

The New York Times Op-Ed page today

Where we learn that Frank Rich doesn't like Hillary Clinton's voice, new or old. Following on his previous paeans in praise of Obama, this hardly seems worth the effort , even if his Hill-bashing makes more sense that MoDo's. Speaking of MoDo, the Times is good enough to inform us that MoDo is off today. Heck, that old girl is always a little off, some days just a little more than others.

What kind of President do you want?

What kind of President can you afford?

It's in the job description

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit delivered a chop block to the rule of law in the US, yesterday. First they upheld the fiction that Guantanamo is not US territory without explaining why Cuban law is not observed on the base.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the detainees captured in Afghanistan aren't recognized as ``persons'' under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because they were aliens held outside the United States. The Religious Freedom Act prohibits the government from ``substantially burdening a person's religion.''
Then they stuck the shiv into the back of Justice by claiming that those folks doing the torturing were just doing their job.
The court rejected other claims on the grounds that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had certified that the military officials were acting within the scope of their jobs when they authorized the tactics, and that such tactics were ``foreseeable.''

``It was foreseeable that conduct that would ordinarily be indisputably `seriously criminal' would be implemented by military officials responsible for detaining and interrogating suspected enemy combatants,'' Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in the court's main opinion.
You see, if Crisco John Ashcroft says that torture is OK, then you can't be sued for breaking the law of the land because it is just part of the old "9 to 5". We knew it was going to happen so there is nothing wrong in it happening.

The end of the United States of America as we knew it. Unless you believe there is any integrity left on the Supreme Court.

Of interest, Janice Rogers Brown, one of President Pottsie's appointments was in dissent on the first part of the ruling.
Judge Janice Rogers Brown dissented with parts of the opinion, saying that ``it leaves us with the unfortunate and quite dubious distinction of being the only court to declare those held at Guantanamo are not `person(s).'

'`This is a most regrettable holding in a case where plaintiffs have alleged high-level U.S. government officials treated them as less than human,'' Brown wrote.
McClatchy did not mention her position on torture as part of the job description.

Risk management

It has apparently been raised to a science by the insurance companies. The new science involves shifting the risk burden back to the shoulders of those who thought they were paying to remove some of that same risk. The only thing removed were your premium dollars from your account.
U.S. insurance companies systematically overcharge customers and underpay home and auto claims to pad their already-fat bottom lines, a consumer group said Thursday.

The Consumer Federation of America's insurance director, J. Robert Hunter, said insurance companies have enjoyed robust profits and contained losses largely by "methodically overcharging consumers, cutting back on coverage, underpaying claims and getting taxpayers to pick up some of the tab for risks the insurers should cover."
The motto of the insurance industry seems to be, "If you ain't screwing your policyholders, you ain't in the right business".

He scares them

Them being the corporatist elite and their enablers, who have done so much damage to our country. He is the one man the media has been trying either to ignore or bury in their election coverage, John Edwards.
Asked which candidate their clients most support, corporate lobbyists were unsure. Clinton has cautious backing within the corporate jet set, as do Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, they said.
These candidates represent stability to executives who have much to lose if November's election brings about the sweeping change some candidates are promising.
Obama and Huckabee register largely as unknown quantities among business owners, both large and small, say lobbyists.
"My sense is that Obama would govern as a reasonably pragmatic Democrat ... I think Hillary is approachable. She knows where a lot of her funding has come from, to be blunt," said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Stanford Group Co., a market and policy analysis group.
But Edwards, Valliere said, is seen as "an anti-business populist" and "a trade protectionist who is quite unabashed about raising taxes."
"I think his regulatory policies, as well as his tax policies, would be viewed as a threat to business," he said.
Sadly, besides getting his message out, John faces an eternal political problem, getting people to support their own best interest. Just look at how the Republicans have made political capital out of fooling some of the people all of the time.

Help John get the message out.

It was a pile of shit 5 months ago

When these problems were first exposed and, according to the Washington Post, it still is a pile of shit and the inspections have only scratched the surface.
The firefighting system in the massive $736 million embassy complex in Baghdad has potential safety problems that top U.S. officials dismissed in their rush to declare construction largely completed by the end of last year, according to internal State Department documents, e-mails and interviews.

Some officials assert that in the push to complete the long-delayed project, potentially life-threatening problems have been left untouched. "This is serious enough to get someone killed," said a State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation. "The fire systems are the tip of the iceberg. That is the most visible. But no one has ever inspected the electrical system, the power plant" and other parts of the embassy complex, which will house more than 1,000 people and is vulnerable to mortar attacks.
So the Bushoviks have poured millions of taxpayer dollars into a Kuwaiti company to cob up a building complex that would embarrass an old style Soviet builder. And despite his largess, Our Dear Embattled Leader received a modest welcome in Kuwait compared to his father. I guess it is not the Kuwaiti way to thank the suckers.

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