Thursday, August 23, 2007

Poof! Gone!

I Will return .... exactly when, of course, is unkown.

In the meantime, stay informed by clicking on the sidebar links, and keep up the pressure on your elected officials.

Oh, yes, if you're still trying to figure out who the heck the Unknown Candidate is, watch this:


Peace to all,


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The C.I.A. Report

The New York Times reports: :
"The C.I.A. inspector general's report on the agency's failures before Sept. 11 was devastating-- but not because it showed that America's spies missed the rise of Al Qaeda. George Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, rang the Qaeda alarm. He sent a memo to the entire intelligence community saying that he wanted no effort spared in the 'war' with Osama bin Laden. He took on the president's closest advisers to agitate for a strike on a Qaeda base in Afghanistan.

The disturbing thing was that this all happened under President Bill Clinton. When George W. Bush won the White House, Mr. Tenet seems to have shifted his priorities. The C.I.A. chief suddenly seemed consumed with hanging on to his job (through such innovative antiterrorism measures as naming the C.I.A.'s Langley, Va., headquarters for Mr. Bush's father).

The Bush team was so busy in 2001 trying to upend America’s global relationships according to a neo-conservative agenda that the then national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, did not see any urgency in reports that Al Qaeda was determined to strike in the United States...."
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FOX Attacks Iran

Sign the Open Letter:
Tell the networks not to follow FOX down the road to war

  • Sources for Fox Attacks Iran video
  • Iran Fact Sheet
  • Transcript for Fox Attacks Iran

  • Robert Greenwald reports:
    I remember very clearly the daily fearmongering led by FOX as they cheered for war with Iraq. The 24/7 images, sound effects, yelling and threatening were an ever-present drumbeat for war. We had to invade, and we had to invade now.. anyone who didn't see that was a traitor. They viciously attacked those of us who worked to get out the truth.

    You'd think that with the complete failure in Iraq, those days would be behind us. Sadly, you'd be wrong.

    FOX wants war with Iran.

    It's almost too ridiculous to believe, but it's shockingly real. We've already compiled over 4 hours of FOX footage... the same images, sound effects, yelling and threatening that led the U.S. to invade Iraq is happening right now to sell a war with Iran. They are saying the exact same things!!

    Here is the video evidence, side-by-side with what they said about Iraq.

    This time is different though. We're prepared, and we have the means to alert people to what FOX is doing. Everyone has seen the terrible tragedy and the awful price paid by so many Iraqis and Americans. We know this is coming, and we can stop it.

    It was about this time in the lead-up to the Iraq war when the other TV networks started following FOX's lead. As CNN's Christiane Amanpour says in the video, they were intimidated by FOX into cheerleading for the Iraq war.


    This is a critical moment, and we must send a message to the major television networks urging them to ask tough questions, be skeptical, and tell us what is really happening. They must not follow FOX down the road to another war.

    We've put together an open letter to the networks. Will you sign it?

    Please pssst the video and forward it to everyone you know. We must raise our voices now. This is so important, we cannot let history repeat itself.

    P.S. Here are some recent articles on the Iran issue:
    • "Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran" (Guardian)
    • "Prelude to an attack on Iran" (Bob Baer, Time)
    • Bush admin labels Iran's 125k Revolutionary Guard troops "terrorists" (New York Times)
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    Margolis Says TV News Hiding Truth About Iraq Civil War

    Eric Margolis, contributor to American Conservative magazine and The Real News, says television news is misleading people about the responsibility of the U.S. in fueling the Iraq civil war.

    Watch the video:

    Trouble viewing this video? Click Here.

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    "The Mother of All Energy Paradigm Shifts"

    Go Green and Save Money
    By Thomas L. Friedman
    The New York Times
    Have your eyes recently popped out of your head when you opened your electric bill? Do you, like me, live in one of those states where electricity has been deregulated and the state no longer oversees the generation price so your utility rates have skyrocketed since 2002?

    If so, you need to listen to a proposal being aired by Jim Rogers, the chairman and chief executive of Duke Energy, and recently filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. (Duke Energy is headquartered in Charlotte.) It’s called “save-a-watt,” and it aims to turn the electricity/utility industry upside down by rewarding utilities for the kilowatts they save customers by improving their energy efficiency rather than rewarding them for the kilowatts they sell customers by building more power plants.

    Mr. Rogers’s proposal is based on three simple principles. The first is that the cheapest way to generate clean, emissions-free power is by improving energy efficiency. Or, as he puts it, “The most environmentally sound, inexpensive and reliable power plant is the one we don’t have to build because we’ve helped our customers save energy.”

    Second, we need to make energy efficiency something that is as “back of mind” as energy usage. If energy efficiency depends on people remembering to do 20 things on a checklist, it’s not going to happen at scale.

    Third, the only institutions that have the infrastructure, capital and customer base to empower lots of people to become energy efficient are the utilities, so they are the ones who need to be incentivized to make big investments in efficiency that can be accessed by every customer.

    The only problem is that, historically, utilities made their money by making large-scale investments in new power plants, whether coal or gas or nuclear. As long as a utility could prove to its regulators that the demand for that new plant was there, the utility got to pass along the cost, and then some, to its customers. Mr. Rogers’s save-a-watt concept proposes to change all of that.

    “The way it would work is that the utility would spend the money and take the risk to make its customers as energy efficient as possible,” he explained. That would include installing devices in your home that would allow the utility to adjust your air-conditioners or refrigerators at peak usage times. It would include plans to incentivize contractors to build more efficient homes with more efficient boilers, heaters, appliances and insulation. It could even include partnering with a factory to buy the most energy-efficient equipment or with a family to winterize their house.

    “Energy efficiency is the ‘fifth fuel’ — after coal, gas, renewables and nuclear,” said Mr. Rogers. “Today, it is the lowest-cost alternative and is emissions-free. It should be our first choice in meeting our growing demand for electricity, as well as in solving the climate challenge.”

    Because energy efficiency is, in effect, a resource, he added, in order for utilities to use more of it, “efficiency should be treated as a production cost in the regulatory arena.” The utility would earn its money on the basis of the actual watts it saves through efficiency innovations. (California’s “decoupling” systems goes partly in this direction.)

    At the end of the year, an independent body would determine how many watts of energy the utility has saved over a predetermined baseline and the utility would then be compensated by its customers accordingly.

    “Over time,” said Mr. Rogers, “the price of electricity per unit will go up, because there would be an incremental cost in adding efficiency equipment — although that cost would be less than the incremental cost of adding a new power plant. But your overall bills should go down, because your home will be more efficient and you will use less electricity.”

    Once such a system is in place, Mr. Rogers added, “our engineers would wake up every day thinking about how to squeeze more productivity gains out of new technology for energy efficiency — rather than just how to build a bigger transmission or distribution network to meet the growing demands of customers.” (Why don’t we think about incentivizing U.S. automakers the same way — give them tax rebates for save-a-miles?)

    That is how you produce a more efficient energy infrastructure at scale. “Universal access to electricity was a 20th century idea — now it has to be universal access to energy efficiency, which could make us the most energy productive country in the world,” he added.

    Pulling all this off will be very complicated. But if Mr. Rogers and North Carolina can do it, it would be the mother of all energy paradigm shifts.

    Photo Credit: Thomas Friedman. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)
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    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    In Case You Missed It ...

    • U.S. foreign policy experts oppose Bush's surge:
      Reuters reports that "more than half of top U.S. foreign policy experts oppose President George W. Bush's troop increase as a strategy for stabilizing Baghdad, saying the plan has harmed U.S. national security, according to a new survey...."
    • Army Specialist Buddhika Jayamaha, Sergeant Wesley D. Smith, Sergeant Jeremy Roebuck, Sergeant Omar Mora, Sergeant Edward Sandmeier, Staff Sergeant Yance T. Gray and Staff Sergeant Jeremy A. Murphy report The War as We Saw It for the New York Times:
      "VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched...."
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    Matt Cooper Says Rove DID Leak Valerie Plame's Identity To Him

    Crooks and Liars reports:
    "Following Karl Rove’s appearance this morning on “Meet The Press” David Gregory (who is involved in the Plame scandal. More on that later.) held a round table discussion which included former Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper. Cooper, who was dead center in the Valerie Plame scandal, stops just short of calling Karl Rove a liar, insisting that he did, in fact, leak Valerie Plame’s name to him in 2003...."
    For transcript, video and more CLICK HERE.

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    Online Voters Pick Kucinich as Winner of ABC Debate

    Hat Tip to Crooks and Liars.

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    War's Chilling Reality

    Bob Herbert reports that "a new documentary offers a portrait of combat and its aftermath that bears no relation to the sanitized version of war that often comes from politicians and the news media."

    War's Chilling Reality
    By Bob Herbert
    The New York Times
    Bryan Anderson, a 25-year-old Army sergeant who was wounded in Iraq, was explaining, on camera — to James Gandolfini, of all people — what happened immediately after a roadside bomb blew up the Humvee that he was driving.

    “I was like, ‘Oh, we got hit. We got hit.’ And then I had blood on my face and the flies were landing all over my face. So I wiped my face to get rid of the flies. And that is when I noticed that my fingertip was gone. So I was like, ‘Oh. O.K.’

    “So that is when I started really assessing myself. I was like, ‘That’s not bad.’ And then I turned my hand over, and I noticed that this chunk of my hand was gone. So I was like, ‘O.K., still not bad. I can live with that.’

    “And then when I went to wipe the flies on my face with my left hand, there was nothing there. So I was like, ‘Uh, that’s gone.’ And then I looked down and I saw that my legs were gone. And then they had kind of forced my head back down to the ground, hoping that I wouldn’t see.”

    HBO’s contribution to an expanded awareness of the awful realities of war continues with a new documentary, “Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq.”

    Mr. Gandolfini, one of the executive producers of the film, steps out of his Tony Soprano persona to quietly, even gently, interview 10 soldiers and marines who barely escaped death in combat.

    The interviews are powerful, and often chilling. They offer a portrait of combat and its aftermath that bears no relation to the sanitized, often upbeat version of war — not just in Iraq, but in general — that so often comes from politicians and the news media.

    Dawn Halfaker, a 28-year-old former Army captain, is among those featured in the documentary. She lost her right arm and shoulder in Iraq, along with any illusions she might have had about the glory of war.

    “I think I was a little bit naïve to what combat was really like,” she told me in an interview on Sunday. “When you’re training, you don’t really imagine that you could be holding a dying boy in your arms. You don’t think about what death is like close up.

    “There’s nothing heroic about war. It’s very tragic. It’s very sad. It takes a huge emotional toll.”

    Still, she said, there was much about her experience in Iraq that she was grateful for.

    “Nobody in the film is asking for pity or sympathy,” she said. “We’re just saying we had this experience and it changed our lives, and we’re coping with it.”

    The term “alive day” is being used by G.I.’s to refer to the day that they came frighteningly close to dying from war wounds, but somehow managed to survive. There are legions of them.

    Miraculous advances in emergency medicine, communication and transportation are enabling 90 percent of the G.I.’s wounded in Iraq to survive their wounds, although many are facing a lifetime of suffering.

    It’s become a cliché to talk about the courage of the soldiers and marines struggling to overcome their horrendous injuries, but it’s a cliché embedded in the truth. Sergeant Anderson, a chatty onetime athlete, is doing his best to put together a reasonably satisfactory life without his legs or his left hand, and with a damaged right hand

    He told Mr. Gandolfini, “If I didn’t have my hand, if I lost both my hands, I’d really think, you know, it wouldn’t be worth it to be around.”

    He has a wry take on the term “alive day.”

    “Everybody makes a big deal about your alive day, especially at Walter Reed,” he said. “And I can see their point, that you’d want to celebrate something like that. But from my point of view, it’s like, ‘O.K., we’re sitting here celebrating the worst day of my life. Great, let’s just remind me of that every year.’ ”

    Last year HBO produced a harrowing documentary called “Baghdad E.R.” that showed the relentless effort of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to save as many lives as possible from what amounted to a nonstop conveyor belt of G.I.’s wounded in combat. At the time, Shelia Nevins, the head of documentary programming at the network, said, “We tried to put a human face on the war.”

    They’ve done it again with “Alive Day Memories,” which is scheduled to premiere Sept. 9.

    There are no politics in either production. They are neither pro- nor anti-war.

    But the intense focus on the humanity of the men and women caught up in the chaos of Iraq, and the incredible sacrifices some of them have had to make, is an implicit argument in favor of a more thoughtful, cautious, less hubristic approach to matters of war and peace.
    Photo Credit: Bob Herbert. (The New York Times)

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    New-Fangled Bank Runs

    The Krug Man reports that "new-fashioned bank runs" are "at the heart of the current financial crisis."

    It's a Miserable Life
    By Paul Krugman
    The New York Times
    Last week the scene at branches of Countrywide Bank, with crowds of agitated depositors trying to withdraw their money, looked a bit like the bank run in the classic holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    As it happens, Countrywide’s customers were overreacting. True, the bank is owned by Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender — and mortgage lenders are in big trouble these days. But bank deposits up to $100,000 are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Old-fashioned bank runs just don’t make sense these days.

    New-fashioned bank runs, on the other hand, do make sense — and they’re at the heart of the current financial crisis.

    The key to understanding what’s happening is taking a broad view of what constitutes a bank. From an economic perspective, a bank is any institution that offers people liquidity — the ability to convert their assets into cash on short notice — while still using their money to make long-term investments.

    Traditional banks promise depositors the right to withdraw their funds at any time. Yet banks lend out most of the money depositors place in their care, keeping only a fraction in cash. The reason this works is that normally a bank’s depositors want to withdraw only a small proportion of their money on any given day.

    Banks get in trouble, however, when some event, like a rumor that major loans have gone bad, leads many depositors to demand their money at the same time.

    The scary thing about bank runs is that doubts about a bank’s soundness can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: a bank that should be safely in the black can nonetheless fail if it’s forced to sell assets in a hurry. And bank failures can have devastating economic effects. Many economists believe that the banking panic of the early 1930s, not the stock market crash of 1929, was the principal cause of the Great Depression.

    That’s why bank deposits are now protected by a combination of guarantees and regulation. On one side, deposits are federally insured, and the Federal Reserve stands ready to rush cash to troubled banks if necessary. On the other side, banks are required to keep adequate reserves, have adequate capital and make conservative loans.

    But these guarantees and regulations apply only to traditional banks. Meanwhile, a growing number of unregulated bank-like institutions have become vulnerable to the 21st-century version of bank runs.

    Consider the case of KKR Financial Holdings, an affiliate of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, a powerhouse Wall Street operator. KKR Financial raises money by issuing asset-backed commercial paper — a claim that’s sort of like a short-term C.D., used by large investors to temporarily park funds — and invests most of this money in longer-term assets. So the company is acting as a kind of bank, one that offers a higher interest rate than ordinary banks pay their clients.

    It sounds like a great deal — except that last week KKR Financial announced that it was seeking to delay $5 billion in repayments. That’s the equivalent of a bank closing its doors because it’s running out of cash.

    The problems at KKR Financial are part of a broader picture in which many investors, spooked by the problems in the mortgage market, have been pulling their money out of institutions that use short-term borrowing to finance long-term investments. These institutions aren’t called banks, but in economic terms what’s been happening amounts to a burgeoning banking panic.

    On Friday, the Federal Reserve tried to quell this panic by announcing a surprise cut in the discount rate, the rate at which it lends money to banks. It remains to be seen whether the move will do the trick.

    The problem, as many observers have noticed, is that the Fed’s move is largely symbolic. It makes more funds available to depository institutions, a k a old-fashioned banks — but old-fashioned banks aren’t where the crisis is centered. And the Fed doesn’t have any clear way to deal with bank runs on institutions that aren’t called banks.

    Now, sometimes symbolic gestures are enough. The Fed’s surprise quarter-point interest rate cut in October 1998, at the height of the crisis caused by the implosion of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management, was similarly a case of providing money where it wasn’t needed. Yet it helped restore calm to the markets, by conveying the sense that policy makers were on top of the situation.

    Friday’s cut might do the same thing. But if it doesn’t, it’s not clear what comes next.

    Whatever happens now, it’s hard to avoid the sense that the growing complexity of our financial system is making it increasingly prone to crises — crises that are beyond the ability of traditional policies to handle. Maybe we’ll make it through this crisis unscathed. But what about the next one, or the one after that?

    Photo Credit: Paul Krugman. (The New York Times)

    Also See:

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    Read Between the Lines ...

    US to Give Israel Record Military Aid:
    "The United States offered Israel an unprecedented $30 billion of military aid over 10 years on Thursday, bolstering its closest Mideast ally and ensuring the state's military edge over its neighbors long into the future. ����The package was meant in part to offset U.S. plans to offer Saudi Arabia advanced weapons and air systems that would greatly improve the Arab country's air force. Israel has said it has no opposition to the Saudi aid. ����The deal represents a 25 percent rise in U.S. military aid to Israel, from a current $2.4 billion a year to $3 billion a year over the next 10 years...."
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    Take Al Qaeda to Court

    KELLY ANNE MOORE (NYTimes) reports that "the United States does not need a new and untested detention system for terrorists....


    ... While being held in military custody, Jose Padilla was denied due process for more than three years because of assertions that his case was too difficult or sensitive for the federal courts. His conviction last week demonstrated otherwise. The transfer of his case to a federal court could have and should have occurred much earlier.

    Many people around the world have come to question America’s commitment to the rule of law. There are few places in the world where that principle is more hallowed than in the United States federal courts. The best course of action now, in dealing with terrorism suspects, is to use these courts — the keystone of American jurisprudence — and show the world that America can protect itself while it respects the rule of law."

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    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    A Not-So-Fond Farewell to Rove

    Bill Moyers bids a not-so-fond farewell to Karl Rove, who "figured out a long time ago that the way to take an intellectually incurious draft-averse naughty playboy in a flight jacket with chewing tobacco in his back pocket and make him governor of Texas, was to sell him as God's anointed in a state where preachers and televangelists outnumber even oil derricks and jack rabbits."

    For transcript, go to

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    News Unreported By "The Most Trusted Name in News"

    • Rick Jacobs (The Huffington Post): Blackwater West
      "...How long before we see Blackwater's trained killers turning up in metropolitan Los Angeles after an earthquake or fire, uninvited, soliciting work? On May 1, 2007, we saw what happens when a well-trained police force gets out of control. Imagine what will happen if a bunch of former special operations soldiers, who are trained to kill show up in an urban setting. And then, say no to Blackwater. We can't have them here. Not now. Not ever.
    • Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:
      "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency increasingly relies upon corporate research joint ventures, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These corporate partnerships are on the rise as EPA research funding is on the wane, magnifying the effects of diversions of resources away from public health priorities toward regulatory topics that serve commercial bottom lines...."
    • NY Times: Concerns Raised on Wider Spying Under New Law
      "Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said...."
    • BBC NEWS | EU biofuel policy is a 'mistake':
      "The EU target of ensuring 10% of petrol and diesel comes from renewable sources by 2020 is not an effective way to curb carbon emissions, researchers say...."
    • The old Iran-Contra death squad gang is desperate to discredit Chavez | John Pilger:
      "Democracy and hope in Latin America have been revived by Venezuela's leader. But the forces allied against him are formidable.... "
    • Chinese leader urges Iranian flexibility in nuke dispute
      "Bishkek - Chinese President Hu Jintao called Thursday on Iran to show flexibility in order to resolve peacefully the dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme.


      The Chinese leader said he understood Iran's concerns in the controversy, while Ahmedinejad promised Hu that his country would continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's watchdog on nuclear affairs.

      Ahmedinejad attended the SCO summit as an observer, amid Iran's wish to join the regional group which consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan...."
    • US 'Surges', Soldiers die. Blame Iran.
      "When a top US commander in Iraq reported last week that attacks by Shi'ite militias with links to Iran had risen to 73% of all July attacks that had killed or wounded US forces in Baghdad, he claimed it was because of an effort by Iran to oust the United States from Iraq, referring to "intelligence reports" of a "surge" in Iranian assistance.

      But the obvious reason for the rise in Shi'ite-related US casualties - ignored in US media coverage of Lieutenant-General Raymond

      Odierno's charge - is that the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr was defending itself against a rising tempo of attacks by US forces at the same time attacks by al-Qaeda forces had fallen...."
    • The Truth About Hugo Chavez:
      "Few governments in the world have been victims of devastating campaigns full of hatred. The Venezuelan government, led by President Hugo Chávez, is one of those victims. His enemies have tried everything: Coup d’État, oil strike, flow of capital, plots… After the attack against Fidel Castro, a similar situation has not ever happened in Latin America.

      The most miserable lies have been said about Chávez, all of them orchestrated by the new propaganda office called -National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, financed by Bush Administration. With unlimited financial resources, this lying machine manipulates important media and organizations for the defense of Human Rights which are at the service of sinister plans.

      Likewise, part of the social-democrat left-branched party surrender before these groups of liars...."
    • You Have No Rights:
      In a Truthdig interview by James Harris and Josh Scheer, "Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive and author of 'You Have No Rights,' explains how our president became a 'medieval king,' and why your civil liberties are in greater danger than ever...."
    • Howard warns Maliki: act or face pullout | The Australian
      "JOHN Howard has demanded the Iraqi Government make faster progress towards resolving the country's political differences or face the prospect of a withdrawal of Australian troops and those of other Western nations...."
    • U.S. backs Maliki, avoids talk of Iraq government collapse:
      "Talk about whether Iraq's government will survive is taboo among U.S. officials, but experts and diplomats say the hobbled coalition is in big trouble and the betting is it won't last...."
    • No End in Sight :
      Robert Ebert writes: "Remember the scene in "A Clockwork Orange" where Alex has his eyes clamped open and is forced to watch a movie? I imagine a similar experience for the architects of our catastrophe in Iraq. I would like them to see "No End in Sight," the story of how we were led into that war, and more than 3,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands of other lives were destroyed...."
    • American Bar Association Criticizes Bush Terror Policies:
      Mark Sherman of The Associated Press reports that the American Bar Association has criticized President Bush's terror policies, demanding that the president's "recent order on CIA interrogations of terror suspects be overturned because it still allows harsh treatment in violation of international treaties...."
    • Yet again, the Democrats roll over:
      Longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas writes in her most recent syndicated Hearst Newspapers column that "President Bush has the Democrats' number on Capitol Hill. All he has to do is play the fear card and invoke the war on terror and they will cave...."
    • Iraq Contractors Accused in Shootings:
      Deborah Hastings of The Associated Press reports that mercenaries in Iraq "operate with little or no supervision, accountable only to the firms employing them. And as the country has plummeted toward anarchy and civil war, this private army has been accused of indiscriminately firing at American and Iraqi troops, and of shooting to death an unknown number of Iraqi citizens who got too close to their heavily armed convoys...."
    • How the Fight for Vast New Spying Powers Was Won:
      Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus report in Sunday's Washington Post about the jockeying between the Bush administration and Congress that led the White House to use the threat of a terrorist attack to resurrect Cold War-era wiretap powers over Democrat objections.
    • Fatigue cripples US army in Iraq:
      "Exhaustion and combat stress are besieging US troops in Iraq as they battle with a new type of warfare. Some even rely on Red Bull to get through the day. As desertions and absences increase, the military is struggling to cope with the crisis..."
    • U.S. Pays Millions In Cost Overruns For Security in Iraq:
      Steve Fainaru reports in Sunday's edition of The Washington Post that the US military "has paid $548 million over the past three years to two British security firms that protect the US Army Corps of Engineers on reconstruction projects, more than $200 million over the original budget, according to previously undisclosed data that show how the cost of private security in Iraq has mushroomed...."
    • Democrats Say Leaving Iraq May Take Years:
      "Even as they call for an end to the war, Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the U.S. engaged in Iraq for years...."
    • World's Best Medical Care?:
      "Many Americans are under the delusion that we have “the best health care system in the world,” as President Bush sees it, or provide the “best medical care in the world,” as Rudolph Giuliani declared last week. That may be true at many top medical centers. But the disturbing truth is that this country lags well behind other advanced nations in delivering timely and effective care...."
    • Venezuela Tries To Create Its Own Kind of Socialism:
      Juan Forero writes for The Washington Post: "Like the Venezuelan economy itself, the assembly line here is designed to put workers ahead of the bottom line and, in the process, serve as a building block in Chavez's dream of constructing what he calls 21st-century socialism. According to a 59-page economic blueprint for the next six years, free-market capitalism's influence will wane with the proliferation of state enterprises and mixed public-private firms called social production companies, the objective being to generate funding for community programs...."
    • PAUL KRUGMAN: The Substance Thing
      "...All of the leading Democratic candidates are articulate and impressive. It’s easy to imagine any of them as president. But after what happened in 2000, it worries me that Mrs. Clinton is showing an almost Republican aversion to talking about substance."

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Iraq? Friedman Doesn't See It

    Seeing Is Believing
    By Thomas L. Friedman
    The New York Times
    Is the surge in Iraq working? That is the question that Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker will answer for us next month. I, alas, am not interested in their opinions.

    It is not because I don’t hold both men in very high regard. I do. But I’m still not interested in their opinions. I’m only interested in yours. Yes, you — the person reading this column. You know more than you think.

    You see, I have a simple view about both Arab-Israeli peace-making and Iraqi surge-making, and it goes like this: Any Arab-Israeli peace overture that requires a Middle East expert to explain to you is not worth considering. It’s going nowhere.

    Either a peace overture is so obvious and grabs you in the gut — Anwar Sadat’s trip to Israel — or it’s going nowhere. That is why the Saudi-Arab League peace overture is going nowhere. No emotional content. It was basically faxed to the Israeli people, and people don’t give up land for peace in a deal that comes over the fax.

    Ditto with Iraqi surges. If it takes a Middle East expert to explain to you why it is working, it’s not working. To be sure, it is good news if the number of Iraqis found dead in Baghdad each night is diminishing. Indeed, it is good news if casualties are down everywhere that U.S. troops have made their presence felt. But all that tells me is something that was obvious from the start of the war, which Donald Rumsfeld ignored: where you put in large numbers of U.S. troops you get security, and where you don’t you get insecurity.

    There’s only one thing at this stage that would truly impress me, and it is this: proof that there is an Iraq, proof that there is a coalition of Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds who share our vision of a unified, multiparty, power-sharing, democratizing Iraq and who are willing to forge a social contract that will allow them to maintain such an Iraq — without U.S. troops.

    Because if that is not the case, even if U.S. troops create more pockets of security via the surge, they will have no one to hand these pockets to who can maintain them without us. In other words, the only people who can prove that the surge is working are the Iraqis, and the way they prove that is by showing that violence is down in areas where there are no U.S. troops or where U.S. troops have come and gone.

    Because many Americans no longer believe anything President Bush says about Iraq, he has outsourced the assessment of the surge to the firm of Petraeus & Crocker. But this puts them in an impossible position. I admire their efforts, and those of their soldiers, to try to salvage something decent in Iraq, especially when you see who we are losing to — Sunni suicide jihadists and Shiite militants, who murder fellow Muslims by the dozen and whose retrograde visions offer Iraqis only a future of tears. But we could never defeat them on our own. It takes a village, and right now too many of the Iraqi villagers won’t work together.

    Most likely the Bush team will say the surge is a “partial” success and needs more time. But that is like your contractor telling you that your home is almost finished — the bricks are up, but there’s no cement. Thanks a lot.

    The Democrats should not fight Petraeus & Crocker over their answer. They should redefine the question. They should say: “My fellow Americans, ask yourselves this: What will convey to you, in your gut — without anyone interpreting it — that the surge is working and worth sustaining?”

    My answer: If I saw something with my own eyes that I hadn’t seen before — Iraq’s Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders stepping forward, declaring their willingness to work out their differences by a set deadline and publicly asking us to stay until they do. That’s the only thing worth giving more time to develop.

    But it may just be too late. Had the surge happened in 2003, when it should have, it might have prevented the kindling of all of Iraq’s sectarian passions. But now that those fires have been set, trying to unify Iraq feels like doing carpentry on a burning house.

    I’ve been thinking about Iraq’s multi-religious soccer team, which just won the Asian Cup. The team was assembled from Iraqis who play for other pro teams outside Iraq. In fact, it was reported that the Iraqi soccer team hadn’t played a home game in 17 years because of violence or U.N. sanctions. In short, it’s a real team with a virtual country. That’s what I fear the surge is trying to protect: a unified Iraq that exists only in the imagination and on foreign soccer fields.

    Only Iraqis living in Iraq can prove otherwise. So far, I don’t see it.

    Photo Credit: Thomas Friedman. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)


    • NY Times: The War as We Saw It:
      "The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework...."
    • WAPO: An Early Clash Over Iraq Report:
      "Senior congressional aides said ... that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration's progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense....."
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    Rove: Gone But Not Forgotten

    He Got Out While the Getting Was Good
    By Frank Rich
    The New York Times

    BACK in those heady days of late summer 2002, Andrew Card, then the president's chief of staff, told The New York Times why the much-anticipated push for war in Iraq hadn't yet arrived. "You don't introduce new products in August," he said, sounding like the mouthpiece for the Big Three automakers he once was. Sure enough, with an efficiency Detroit can only envy, the manufactured aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds rolled off the White House assembly line after Labor Day like clockwork.

    Five summers later, we have the flip side of the Card corollary: You do recall defective products in August, whether you're Mattel or the Bush administration. Karl Rove's departure was both abrupt and fast. The ritualistic "for the sake of my family" rationale convinced no one, and the decision to leak the news in a friendly print interview (on The Wall Street Journal's op-ed page) rather than announce it in a White House spotlight came off as furtive. Inquiring Rove haters wanted to know: Was he one step ahead of yet another major new scandal? Was a Congressional investigation at last about to draw blood?

    Perhaps, but the Republican reaction to Mr. Rove's departure is more revealing than the cries from his longtime critics. No G.O.P. presidential candidates paid tribute to Mr. Rove, and, except in the die-hard Bush bastions of Murdochland present (The Weekly Standard, Fox News) and future (The Journal), the conservative commentariat was often surprisingly harsh. It is this condemnation of Rove from his own ideological camp — not the Democrats' familiar litany about his corruption, polarizing partisanship, dirty tricks, etc. — that the White House and Mr. Rove wanted to bury in the August dog days.

    What the Rove critics on the right recognize is that it may be even more difficult for their political party to dig out of his wreckage than it will be for America. Their angry bill of grievances only sporadically overlaps that of the Democrats. One popular conservative blogger, Michelle Malkin, mocked Mr. Rove and his interviewer, Paul Gigot, for ignoring "the Harriet Miers debacle, the botching of the Dubai ports battle, or the undeniable stumbles in post-Iraq invasion policies," not to mention "the spectacular disaster of the illegal alien shamnesty." Ms. Malkin, an Asian-American in her 30s, comes from a far different place than the Gigot-Fred Barnes-William Kristol axis of Bush-era ideological lock step.

    Those Bush dead-enders are in a serious state of denial. Just how much so could be found in the Journal interview when Mr. Rove extolled his party's health by arguing, without contradiction from Mr. Gigot, that young people are more "pro-life" and "free-market" than their elders. Maybe he was talking about 12-year-olds. Back in the real world of potential voters, the latest New York Times-CBS News poll of Americans aged 17 to 29 found that their views on abortion were almost identical to the rest of the country's. (Only 24 percent want abortion outlawed.)

    That poll also found that the percentage of young people who identify as Republicans, whether free-marketers or not, is down to 25, from a high of 37 at the end of the Reagan era. Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, found that self-identified G.O.P. voters are trending older rapidly, with the percentage over age 55 jumping from 28 to 41 percent in a decade.

    Every poll and demographic accounting finds the Republican Party on the losing side of history, both politically and culturally. Not even a miraculous armistice in Iraq or vintage Democratic incompetence may be able to ride to the rescue. A survey conducted by The Journal itself (with NBC News) in June reported G.O.P. approval numbers lower than any in that poll's two decades of existence. Such is the political legacy for a party to which Mr. Rove sold Mr. Bush as "a new kind of Republican," an exemplar of "compassionate conservatism" and the avatar of a permanent Republican majority.

    That sales pitch, as we long ago learned, was all about packaging, not substance. The hope was that No Child Left Behind and a 2000 G.O.P. convention stacked with break dancers and gospel singers would peel away some independent and black voters from the Democrats. The promise of immigration reform would spread Bush's popularity among Hispanics. Another potential add-on to the Republican base was Muslims, a growing constituency that Mr. Rove's pal Grover Norquist plotted to herd into the coalition.

    The rest is history. Any prospect of a rapprochement between the G.O.P. and African-Americans died in the New Orleans Superdome. The tardy, botched immigration initiative unleashed a wave of xenophobia against Hispanics, the fastest-growing voting bloc in the country. The Muslim outreach project disappeared into the memory hole after 9/11.

    Forced to pick a single symbolic episode to encapsulate the collapse of Rovian Republicanism, however, I would not choose any of those national watersheds, or even the implosion of the Iraq war, but the George Allen "macaca" moment. Its first anniversary fell, fittingly enough, on the same day last weekend that Mitt Romney bought his victory at the desultory, poorly attended G.O.P. straw poll in Iowa.

    A century seems to have passed since Mr. Allen, the Virginia Republican running for re-election to the Senate, was anointed by Washington insiders as the inevitable heir to the Bush-Rove mantle: a former governor whose jus'-folks personality, the Bushian camouflage for hard-edged conservatism, would propel him to the White House. Mr. Allen's senatorial campaign and presidential future melted down overnight after he insulted a Jim Webb campaign worker, the 20-year-old son of Indian immigrants, not just by calling him a monkey but by sarcastically welcoming him "to America" and "the real world of Virginia."

    This incident had resonance well beyond Virginia and Mr. Allen for several reasons. First, it crystallized the monochromatic whiteness at the dark heart of Rovian Republicanism. For all the minstrel antics at the 2000 convention, the record speaks for itself: there is not a single black Republican serving in either the House or Senate, and little representation of other minorities, either. Far from looking like America, the G.O.P. caucus, like the party's presidential field, could pass for a Rotary Club, circa 1954. Meanwhile, a new census analysis released this month finds that nonwhites now make up a majority in nearly a third of the nation's most populous counties, with Houston overtaking Los Angeles in black population and metropolitan Chicago surpassing Honolulu in Asian residents. Even small towns and rural America are exploding in Hispanic growth.

    Second, the Allen slur was a compact distillation of the brute nastiness of the Bush-Rove years, all that ostentatious "compassion" notwithstanding. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove are not xenophobes, but the record will show that their White House spoke up too late and said too little when some of its political allies descended into Mexican-bashing during the immigration brawl. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove winked at anti-immigrant bigotry, much as they did at the homophobia they inflamed with their incessant election-year demagoguery about same-sex marriage.

    Finally, the "macaca" incident was a media touchstone. It became a national phenomenon when the video landed on YouTube, the rollicking Web site whose reach now threatens mainstream news outlets. A year later, leading Republicans are still clueless and panicked about this new medium, which is why they, unlike their Democratic counterparts, pulled out of even a tightly controlled CNN-YouTube debate. It took smart young conservative bloggers like a former Republican National Committee operative, Patrick Ruffini, to shame them into reinstating the debate for November, lest the entire G.O.P. field look as pathetically out of touch as it is.

    The rise of YouTube certifies the passing of Mr. Rove's era, a cultural changing of the guard in the digital age. Mr. Rove made his name in direct-mail fund-raising and with fierce top-down message management. As the Internet erodes snail mail, so it upends direct mail. As YouTube threatens a politician's ability to rigidly control a message, so it threatens the Rove ethos that led Mr. Bush to campaign at "town hall" meetings attended only by hand-picked supporters.

    It's no coincidence that this new culture is also threatening the Beltway journalistic establishment that celebrated Mr. Rove's invincibility well past its expiration date (much as it did James Carville's before him), extolling what Joshua Green, in his superb new Rove article in The Atlantic, calls the Cult of the Consultant. The YouTube video of Mr. Rove impersonating a rapper at one of those black-tie correspondents' dinners makes the Washington press corps look even more antediluvian than he is.

    Last weekend's Iowa straw poll was a more somber but equally anachronistic spectacle. Again, it's a young conservative commentator, Ryan Sager, writing in The New York Sun, who put it best: "The face of the Republican Party in Iowa is the face of a losing party, full of hatred toward immigrants, lust for government subsidies, and the demand that any Republican seeking the office of the presidency acknowledge that he's little more than Jesus Christ's running mate."

    That face, at once contemptuous and greedy and self-righteous, is Karl Rove's face. Unless someone in his party rolls out a revolutionary new product, it is indelible enough to serve as the Republican brand for a generation.

    Photo Credit: Frank Rich. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)


    • If It's Sunday, It's Karl Rove
      "Karl Rove will be a guest this Sunday on Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and Fox News Sunday (ABC’s This Week is hosting a Democratic presidential debate).

      Thus far, Rove’s farewell media blitz has simply provided him a platform to offer partisan attacks...."
    • WAPO: How Rove Directed Federal Assets for GOP Gains:
      John Solomon, Alec MacGillis and Sarah Cohen of the Washington Post report that: "Thirteen months before President Bush was reelected, chief strategist Karl Rove summoned political appointees from around the government to the Old Executive Office Building. The subject of the October 1, 2003, meeting was 'asset deployment,' and the message was clear: The staging of official announcements, high-visibility trips and declarations of federal grants had to be carefully coordinated with the White House political affairs office to ensure the maximum promotion of Bush's reelection agenda and the Republicans in Congress who supported him, according to documents and some of those involved in the effort...."
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    Friday, August 17, 2007

    Commerce, Treasury Funds Helped Boost GOP Campaigns

    More corruption, folks....

    Marisa Taylor and Kevin G. Hall (McClatchy Newspapers) report:
    "Top Commerce and Treasury Departments officials appeared with Republican candidates and doled out millions in federal money in battleground congressional districts and states after receiving White House political briefings detailing GOP election strategy.

    Political appointees in the Treasury Department received at least 10 political briefings from July 2001 to August 2006, officials familiar with the meetings said. Their counterparts at the Commerce Department received at least four briefings — all in the election years of 2002, 2004 and 2006.

    The House Oversight Committee is investigating whether the White House's political briefings to at least 15 agencies, including to the Justice Department, the General Services Administration and the State Department, violated a ban on the use of government resources for campaign activities...."
    Thanks to Al B. for the heads up.

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    FBI Director's Notes Contradict Gonzales's Version Of Ashcroft Visit

    You won't be surprised by this:

    Dan Eggen (WAPO) reports:
    "Then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was "feeble," "barely articulate" and "stressed" moments after a hospital room confrontation in March 2004 with Alberto R. Gonzales, who wanted Ashcroft to approve a warrantless wiretapping program over Justice Department objections, according to notes from FBI...."


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    Reality Based Solutions

    The Krug Man warns that "the housing slump will probably be with us for years, not months." What can we do about it? Read on.

    Workouts, Not Bailout
    By Paul Krugman
    The New York Times
    In April, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, declared that all the signs he saw indicated that the housing market was “at or near the bottom.” Earlier this month he was still insisting that problems caused by the meltdown in the market for subprime mortgages were “largely contained.”

    But the time for denial is past.

    According to data released yesterday, both housing starts and applications for building permits have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade, showing that home construction is still in free fall. And if historical relationships are any guide, home prices are still way too high. The housing slump will probably be with us for years, not months.

    Meanwhile, it’s becoming clear that the mortgage problem is anything but contained. For one thing, it’s not confined to subprime mortgages, which are loans to people who don’t satisfy the standard financial criteria. There are also growing problems in so-called Alt-A mortgages (don’t ask), which are another 20 percent of the mortgage market. Problems are starting to appear in prime loans, too — all of which is what you would expect given the depth of the housing slump.

    Many on Wall Street are clamoring for a bailout — for Fannie Mae or the Federal Reserve or someone to step in and buy mortgage-backed securities from troubled hedge funds. But that would be like having the taxpayers bail out Enron or WorldCom when they went bust — it would be saving bad actors from the consequences of their misdeeds.

    For it is becoming increasingly clear that the real-estate bubble of recent years, like the stock bubble of the late 1990s, both caused and was fed by widespread malfeasance. Rating agencies like Moody’s Investors Service, which get paid a lot of money for rating mortgage-backed securities, seem to have played a similar role to that played by complaisant accountants in the corporate scandals of a few years ago. In the ’90s, accountants certified dubious earning statements; in this decade, rating agencies declared dubious mortgage-backed securities to be highest-quality, AAA assets.

    Yet our desire to avoid letting bad actors off the hook shouldn’t prevent us from doing the right thing, both morally and in economic terms, for borrowers who were victims of the bubble.

    Most of the proposals I’ve seen for dealing with the problems of subprime borrowers are of the locking-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-is-gone variety: they would curb abusive lending practices — which would have been very useful three years ago — but they wouldn’t help much now. What we need at this point is a policy to deal with the consequences of the housing bust.

    Consider a borrower who can’t meet his or her mortgage payments and is facing foreclosure. In the past, as Gretchen Morgenson recently pointed out in The Times, the bank that made the loan would often have been willing to offer a workout, modifying the loan’s terms to make it affordable, because what the borrower was able to pay would be worth more to the bank than its incurring the costs of foreclosure and trying to resell the home. That would have been especially likely in the face of a depressed housing market.

    Today, however, the mortgage broker who made the loan is usually, as Ms. Morgenson says, “the first link in a financial merry-go-round.” The mortgage was bundled with others and sold to investment banks, who in turn sliced and diced the claims to produce artificial assets that Moody’s or Standard & Poor’s were willing to classify as AAA. And the result is that there’s nobody to deal with.

    This looks to me like a clear case for government intervention: there’s a serious market failure, and fixing that failure could greatly help thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Americans. The federal government shouldn’t be providing bailouts, but it should be helping to arrange workouts.

    And we’ve done this sort of thing before — for third-world countries, not for U.S. citizens. The Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s was brought to an end by so-called Brady deals, in which creditors were corralled into reducing the countries’ debt burdens to manageable levels. Both the debtors, who escaped the shadow of default, and the creditors, who got most of their money, benefited.

    The mechanics of a domestic version would need a lot of work, from lawyers as well as financial experts. My guess is that it would involve federal agencies buying mortgages — not the securities conjured up from these mortgages, but the original loans — at a steep discount, then renegotiating the terms. But I’m happy to listen to better ideas.

    The point, however, is that doing nothing isn’t the only alternative to letting the parties who got us into this mess off the hook. Say no to bailouts — but let’s help borrowers work things out.
    Photo Credit: Paul Krugman. (The New York Times)

    Also See:

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    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Kucinich Sounds the Alarm

    “An Attempt to Deceive Americans Into Yet Another War”

    John Nichols (The Nation) reports:
    Dennis Kucinich may not be a front runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

    But the congressman from Cleveland has succeeded in distinguishing himself from the other contenders when it comes to speaking those truths that are self-evident.

    And in an era of mass delusion and denial on the party of leaders in both major political parties, stating the obvious can be a radical act.

    Such is the case with Kucinich's appropriate answer to the latest move by the Bush-Cheney administration to ramp up hostilities with Iran. That move -- the unprecedented attempt to label Iran's 125,000-strong Republican Guard as a "specially designated global terrorist" group -- is, as the congressman says "nothing more than an attempt to deceive Americans into yet another war -- this time with Iran."

    No one who has paid even the slightest attention to the Bush-Cheney administration's approach to Middle East affairs can doubt that Kucinich is right. Yet, his is a lonely voice of clarity amid the din of Democratic obfuscation that aids and abets this White House's worst instincts.

    "The belligerent Bush Administration is using this pending designation to convince the American public into accepting that a war with Iran is inevitable," argues Kucinich.

    "This designation will set the stage for more chaos in the region because it undercuts all of our diplomatic efforts," he adds. explaining that, "This new label provides further evidence for Iran's leaders that there is no point to engage in diplomatic talks with the United States if our actions point directly to regime change."

    Delivering the response that should be coming from New York Senator Hillary Clinton ☼, Illinois Senator Barack Obama ☼ and especially from Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he isn't campaigning for president, Kucinich argued that, "Our nation is better served by demanding sensible and responsible diplomatic foreign policy initiatives from the Bush Administration."

    Kucinich, who has proposed impeaching Vice President Cheney for continually prodding the country toward an unnecessary war with Iran, may not get the political credit he deserves for calling out this administration. But history will recognize him as the man who sounded the alarm when the Bush administration moved America closer to the brink of disaster.
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    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    How Secure is Your Vote?

    'DAN RATHER REPORTS' to Present Conclusive Evidence of Touch-Screen Voting Machine Failures:
    DAN RATHER REPORTS presents conclusive evidence of the failure of touch screen voting machines across the country. The episode below, “The Trouble with Touch Screens,” is an entire hour devoted to new information on this story. From scientists involved in testing the equipment to manufacturers in third-world countries who shipped these defective voting machines to the United States, DAN RATHER REPORTS presents new information showing that these defective machines may have altered the outcome of multiple elections.

    For more information, click here and here.
    Watch Dan Rather's "The Trouble with Touchscreens" below.

    Hat tip to

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    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    CIA Analyst Discusses Possible Cheney 9/11 Stand-down Order.

    Retired CIA Analyst Ray McGovern discusses the possibility of vice president Cheney issuing a stand-down order that allowed the 9/11 attacks to succeed, on a national talk radio program.

    Thanks to OpenYourMindsEye for the original post.

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    U.S. Controller General Says U.S. May Fall


    Raw Story reports:
    "The US comptroller general David Walker issued a report last week in Chicago in which he likened the present situation in the United States to the Roman Republic or an organization that fails to adapt and 'may not survive.'

    Nobody reported it. The first report of the speech came today in London's Financial Times...."
    Cosmic Iguana's response: "Why report that? After all, the big story is Michael Vick's dogfighting thing again."

    Excepts from the FT's:
    "The US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned.

    David Walker, comptroller general of the US, issued the unusually downbeat assessment of his country’s future in a report that lays out what he called “chilling long-term simulations”.

    These include “dramatic” tax rises, slashed government services and the large-scale dumping by foreign governments of holdings of US debt.

    Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned there were “striking similarities” between America’s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government”.

    “Sound familiar?” Mr Walker said. “In my view, it’s time to learn from history and take steps to ensure the American Republic is the first to stand the test of time....”
    Read Walker's full speech here.

    Also See:

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    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Rove Leaves Bush Brainless

    For Rove, Last Disrespects:
    Tobin Harshaw and Chris Suellentrop report in the Times blog, The Opinionator: "The good must have been interred with Karl Rove's resignation letter, because there's not a lot of love for him in blogland today, nor much respect for his reputation as a political mastermind...." Continue reading and follow the links for more.
    My own opinion is that Rove will wave an official bye bye for the benefit of the unquestioning media while he continues to cook up his own special brand of dirty tricks from some black hole in the universe, never more than a cell phone or email away from his ol' buddy boy Bush. Sabotage of the 2008 election would be right up his alley. My fear is that he'll be working quietly and clandestinely on something far more sinister -- while the media pays no attention, instead obsessing over their latest and greatest breaking murder, catastrophe, rape, missing person, or polar bear story.

    Ain't America fun?


    Also see:

  • | What Will Bush's Brain Do Next?

  • Bloggers on Karl�Rove's resignation. - Farewell, Turd Blossom By Sonia Smith - Slate Magazine

  • Media Matters: Media ignore Rove's leak, White House falsehoods, Bush's promise to fire leaker

  • AlterNet: Rove Exits With His Usual M.O.: Delusional and Deceptive

  • WAPO: Democrats Continue to Seek Testimony From Rove

  • Karl Rove, by What Measure Genius?

  • Pundits, bloggers go wild over Rove's resignation

  • PressThink: Karl Rove and the Religion of the Washington Press

  • Media Matters: Media repeated Rove's assessment of 2008 election without noting he was wrong in 2006

  • Garbage man | By Rick Perlstein

  • Michael Winship | The Jaundiced Rove of Texas

  • Jason Leopold: RNC Now Seeks Shelter of Executive Privilege

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    Honeymoon May Be Over for Ron Paul

    Ron Paul's recent speech should be no surprise to those 'progressive' fans who have examined Paul's voting record. He's always been anti-abortion, pro guns, weak on civil rights, and for small government at the expense of the vulnerable.

    Truthdig reports:
    Ron Paul may have soured his antiwar appeal among progressives with a speech Saturday at the Iowa straw poll. Paul referred to Roe v. Wade as “that horrible ruling,” called for the abolition of the Departments of Energy and Education and the IRS, and attacked welfare and immigrants. But the most bizarre moment came when he suggested airline passengers should be allowed to carry guns, saying: “I think 9/11, quite frankly, could have been prevented if we had had a lot more respect for the Second Amendment.”

    Watch it:

    Hat tip to Al Buono.

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    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    The Next Narcissist-in-Chief?

    It's All About Them
    By Paul Krugman
    The New York Times
    Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your father’s political campaign.

    Last week, at one of Mitt Romney’s “Ask Mitt” forums, a woman in the audience asked Mr. Romney whether any of his five sons are serving in the military and, if not, when they plan to enlist.

    The candidate replied with a rambling attempt to change the subject, but near the end he let his real feelings slip. “It’s remarkable how we can show our support for our nation,” he said, “and one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president.”

    Wow. The important point isn’t the fact that Mr. Romney’s sons aren’t in uniform — although it is striking just how few of those who claim to believe that we’re engaged in a struggle for our very existence think that they themselves should be called on to make any sacrifices. The point is, instead, that Mr. Romney apparently considers helping him get elected an act of service comparable to putting your life on the line in Iraq.

    Yet the week’s prize for most self-centered remark by a serious presidential contender goes not to Mr. Romney, but to his principal rival for the G.O.P. nomination.

    Rudy Giuliani has lately been getting some long-overdue criticism for his missteps both before and after 9/11. For example, The Village Voice reports that he insisted that the city’s emergency command center — which included a personal suite with its own elevator that he visited “often, even on weekends, bringing his girlfriend Judi Nathan there long before the relationship surfaced” — be within walking distance of City Hall. This led to the disastrous decision to locate the center in the World Trade Center, an obvious potential terrorist target.

    At the same time, Mr. Giuliani is being attacked for his failure to take adequate precautions to protect those who worked on the cleanup at ground zero from the hazards at the site. Many workers have since been sickened by the dust and toxic materials.

    For a politician whose entire campaign is based on the myth of his leadership that fateful day — as The Onion put it, Mr. Giuliani is running for “president of 9/11” — anything that challenges his personal legend is a big problem. So here’s what Mr. Giuliani said last week in response: “I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. ... I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I’m one of them.”

    Real ground zero workers, who were digging through the toxic rubble while Mr. Giuliani held photo ops, were understandably outraged. So the next day Mr. Giuliani tried to recover, claiming that “what I was trying to say yesterday is that I empathize with them because I feel like I have that same risk.” But thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we can all watch Mr. Giuliani’s actual demeanor as he delivered the original remarks. Empathy had nothing to do with it.

    What’s striking about these unintentional moments of self-revelation is how much Mr. Romney and Mr. Giuliani sound like the current occupant of the White House.

    It has long been clear that President Bush doesn’t feel other people’s pain. His self-centeredness shines through whenever he makes off-the-cuff, unscripted remarks, from his jocular obliviousness in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the joke he made last year in San Antonio when visiting the Brooke Army Medical Center, which treats the severely wounded: “As you can possibly see, I have an injury myself — not here at the hospital, but in combat with a cedar. I eventually won. The cedar gave me a little scratch.”

    What’s now clear is that the two men most likely to end up as the G.O.P. presidential nominee are cut from the same cloth.

    This probably isn’t a coincidence. Arguably, the current state of the Republican Party is such that only extreme narcissists have a chance of getting nominated.

    To be a serious presidential contender, after all, you have to be a fairly smart guy — and nobody has accused either Mr. Romney or Mr. Giuliani of being stupid. To appeal to the G.O.P. base, however, you have to say very stupid things, like Mr. Romney’s declaration that we should “double Guantánamo,” or Mr. Giuliani’s dismissal of the idea that raising taxes is sometimes necessary to pay for things like repairing bridges as a “Democratic, liberal assumption.”

    So the G.O.P. field is dominated by smart men willing to play dumb to further their personal ambitions. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, to learn that these men are monstrously self-centered.

    All of which leaves us with a political question. Most voters are thoroughly fed up with the current narcissist in chief. Are they really ready to elect another?
    Photo Credit: Paul Krugman. (The New York Times)

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