As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What's wrong with "Darkie"? They're dark, aren't they?

I need to stop reading Mickey Kaus.

Half-defense: I don't quite understand why it's offensive to call Sen. Obama a "halfrican." It's a useful word! It efficiently describes a real phenomenon. It isn't, on its face, pejorative--and even if it were, it wouldn't be pejorative for long if it were simply used descriptively to mean people with one parent from Africa.

The funniest part of this is the update...

Update: A reader emails to point out the word is distressingly close to "half-breed." That does seem like a hard connotation to shake.

Technical correctness is not a good enough reason to use what amounts to a slur. Hebe is short for Hebrew but that doesn't mean I'd answer to it. I don't know how someone can be so culturally tone-deaf until I remembered what Mickey Kaus' house looks like:

(h/t TBogg for the pic)

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Fourth Helicopter in Two Weeks

The insurgency has learned how to down US warplanes. This is a horrible sign.

And 130+ dead in one of the most lethal attacks in Baghdad in years.

And you can bet that there are just as many Sunnis dead in executions all over the country.

We broke a country.



Wherein I Show Myself To Be Thoroughly Unconcerned With Pragmatism

I've seen pretty much every speech at the DNC winter meetings, and honestly the only one who talks to people like an adult is Mike Gravel. He's talking about things that nobody else ever mentions. The weaponization of space (!), the use of fear, how American exceptionalism is bullshit, Constitutional powers...

He's an old dude and not the best speaker (clearly reading), but he's smart as a whip, and by being out of the spotlight for 25 years, he's gained a new perspective.

Caveat: his central policy appears to be running initiatives on the national level. I guess he's never been to California to see direct democracy work in practice. But the idea of running a campaign completely based on bringing power to the people is at least interesting.

And I like anyone who was sued by Richard Nixon.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

The Death of the Earth

OK, let's bring Fluff Friday to a screeching halt.

The IPCC report on global warming is one of the darkest and most hopeless things I've read in a long time. Not only does it acknowledge climate change as a major problem, not only does it confirm with a 90% degree of certainty that it's man-made, but it pretty much says that we're so far gone that it cannot be stopped and all we can do now is prepare for the major challenges to the planet in the future. They of course try to put a brave face on it, but you can almost see the downcast stares embedded in the soundbites. In fact, they admit that.

Global warming is so severe that it will "continue for centuries," leading to a far different planet in 100 years, warned a grim landmark report from the world's leading climate scientists and government officials. Yet, many of the experts are hopeful that nations will now take action to avoid the worst scenarios.

They tried to warn of dire risks without scaring people so much they'd do nothing — inaction that would lead to the worst possible scenarios.

"It's not too late," said Australian scientist Nathaniel Bindoff, a co-author of the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report issued Friday. The worst can be prevented by acting quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

The worst could mean more than 1 million dead and hundreds of billions of dollars in costs by 2100, said Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, one of many study co-authors. He said that adapting will mean living with more extreme weather such as severe droughts, more hurricanes and wildfires.

"It's later than we think," said panel co-chair Susan Solomon, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist who helped push through the document's strong language.

The best we can hope for, according to the report, is a 3-degree rise in the planet's temperature by the end of the century. Without acting now and taking drastic measures, that goes up to 11 degrees. That would basically rise sea levels by 23 inches or more, and wipe out entire island nations and tens of thousands of miles of coastline. And this could grow to as much as 20 FEET.

Here's the bold action called for by the world's biggest polluter:

In Washington, Bush administration officials praised the report but said they still oppose mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The problem can be addressed by better technology that will cut emissions, promote energy conservation, and hasten development of non-fossil fuels, said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman.

They won't even fix the fucking levees in New Orleans, you think they'll get on board with the kind of leadership needed to fight climate change?

Now, I could claim that the science is still sketchy and nobody knows what the future will bring and collect by $10,000 from Exxon Mobil and go home. But if you live within a mile of a major ocean like I do, you tend to take these things a bit more seriously. And there's something that every one of us can do to at least mitigate these effects. They're teaching it in schools in Britain. Wal-Mart is urging its staff to become carbon-neutral and pushing to sell 100 million low-energy light bulbs. Here in California, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine wants to ban traditional light bulbs by 2012 and sell only fluorescents in the state. And the new Attorney General, Jerry Brown, is continuing a lawsuit started by Bill Lockyer against the leading automakers, seeking damages for their selling cars that emit heat-trapping gases. Things are starting to happen, and people are taking responsibility.

But there's a whiff of this being entirely too late. For too long we ignored the effects of driving gas-guzzling cars, of leaving lights on indoors, of allowing major manufacturers to spew soot into the air. For too long we figured that our grandchildren wouldn't be impacted, and anyway winter comes every year, followed by summer, so what's the problem? For too long we had the attitude of myopic idiots like Dennis Miller, saying things like "One degree isn't going to turn the Arctic into Phoenix, capiche?" We acted like Americans are prone to act, caring about nobody but ourselves, and essentially we broke the planet. And even now that it's broken we won't fully commit to the effort to fix it.

Part of me thinks that alarm can often be tempered by advancements in technology (like giant space mirrors!), and you can see positive results like in how we dealt with the now-rare issue of acid rain. But part of me thinks this is such a big and abstract issue that it'll take a million Al Gores to wake up the public. And the sleep is too deep, and the clock has already struck midnight.

There, NOW I've killed Fluff Friday dead!

UPDATE: Mr. Gore goes to Washington:

Former Vice President Al Gore has accepted an invitation to testify next month in a congressional hearing on the highly controversial issue of climate change.

Gore will appear at a joint hearing on Wednesday, March 21. He will be the only witness to appear before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality and the Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. Gore served on both committees during his House tenure representing a Tennessee district.

It'll be interesting to see Gore's reaction to the IPCC report, because he typically strikes a note of optimism about the crisis, that we can do something in the next 10 years to reverse its effects.

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Department of Unsurprising Things Dept.

Hey, so remember how, during the campaign, that audio of Gov. Schwarzenegger talking about Bonnie Garcia and her "hot Latin blood" was leaked, and Arnold's campaign started claiming that their site was hacked, and launched a criminal investigation into the Angelides staffers who did it?

Funny story....

Some five months after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office kicked off a high profile criminal investigation of alleged computer hacking to determine how his private conversations ended up leaked to the press, a California Highway Patrol report has effectively cleared the campaign of Democrat Phil Angelides saying that there was no crime involved.

The 38-page CHP report, just released, says that the digital files of the governor's conversations were placed on a website that was "accessed by backwards browsing ... which does not constitute a crime."

Of course, we all knew that erasing the end of an URL and finding the parent directory was not hacking, but it took the CHP 5 months. Still, it seems like every time one of these things comes up, it turns into absolutely nothing several months down the road. Remember the Joe Lieberman site hack?

This wasn't a crucial part of the governor's race, but it actually was kind of a big deal, and the Schwarzenegger team was being righteously indignant the whole time, vowing to "get to the bottom of this larceny," etc. Once again, they were just blustering to cover up their own ineptitude. And they were directing police investigations for political purposes, and perhaps even delaying those investigations to avoid embarrassment. How typical.

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More From Fluff Friday

"Chewbacca head-butted the tour guide," Vernon said. "Security guards saw it and ended up detaining him."

The Star Line Tours guide, Brian Sapir, said in an interview today that the Chewbacca character was harassing two young Japanese tourists when he told him to stop. "You could see him exploding in his mask," Sapir said. "He said, 'Nobody tells this wookie what to do."

Young then threw his mask off and head-butted him, Sapir added.



I Like Chris Dodd

And the substance of this excerpt from his speech at the DNC Winter Meeting today is a good bunch of red meat.

But chuckling the whole way through it? Seemed kinda weird. It was like he knew he couldn't pull it off. Smiling on the word "Abu Ghraib" doesn't really work.

Jeffrey Feldman had some other good stuff from the meeting.

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The Tao of Garfield

If you take a Garfield cartoon and make it reflect the knowable universe - in other words, taking out all the dialogue said by animals - the results are surprisingly interesting and surreal. You get this picture of Jon as a pathetically lonely soul who spends his whole day talking to cats and expecting them to understand him. Also you start to focus more on the fact that Jon's entire house is composed of an extremely long ledge that he lets the cat sit on.

It's fluff Friday!



Take $1,000 Out Of Your Pocket And Throw It In The Shitter

That's pretty much what the President is asking of every man, woman and child in America. Who says this war doesn't have any sacrifice?

The Bush administration will ask for another $100 billion for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year and seek $145 billion for 2008, a senior administration official said Friday.

The requests Monday, to accompany President Bush's budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would bring the total appropriations for 2007 to about $170 billion, with a slight decline the following year.

The additional request for the current year includes $93.4 billion for the Pentagon — on top of $70 billion approved by Congress in September — and is about $6 billion less than the Pentagon's request to the White House budget office.

Bowing to pressure from Congress, the administration will also break down the $145 billion request for next year into detailed form.

Oh goody! They're going to tell Congress exactly WHAT useless projects they're going to buy for all this cash.

This is your moment, Democratic Congress. You cannot pass this appropriation given the current strategy in Iraq.

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Bigmouth Strikes Again

Barack Obama has won the only primary that matters... the Morrissey primary. In the process, Moz slags on the commander-in-chief.

Morrissey: We’re meant to believe that the world absolutely loves T-bone steaks and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but it’s all crap. It’s not true. People really care about animals, and people don’t want to kill anything. So, when you see George W. Bush saying, “Can’t wait to cut that pig — cut into that pig tonight,” as he said on television recently, you just think, you idiot, you passé, useless, old-fashioned, redundant idiot.

Questioner: I think that anything he say...

M: Of course. Yes, I know. He’s a global embarrassment. Unfortunately, he’s turned America into the criminal nation in the eyes of the people in the Middle East — and in England.

Q: And I think, in our guts, we know. America knows.

M: But it isn’t enough, because he is still there. He’s still there; he’s still functioning, he’s still beaming all over the place, and he’s still talking about caring about the elderly and earning a round of applause, and it’s a global joke, it really is. So, who would you like to see in the White House?

Q: I actually would like to see Hillary Clinton.

M: Because?

Q: Because, well, I’d like to see a woman, but the best president that I have lived under was Bill Clinton, even though he wasn’t perfect by any means.

M: But haven’t we had enough of the Clintons?

Q: She might be better than him.

M: Well, that’s very likely, but nonetheless, haven’t we had enough of the name?

Q: Okay. Well, Barack Obama?

M: Outstanding.

Q: I don’t know enough about him.

M: Outstanding.

Q: He is really good.

M: Mesmerizing, yes.

Q: He could be president, and she could be vice president.

M: Well. [Laughs.] That suits me. Of course, it would be great to see a female president, but not just anybody. I mean, I think that Hillary has had her shot. She’s been around, she said a lot of silly things, and we don’t really want a woman for the sake of any old woman.

Q: I know, like Condoleezza Rice.

M: Well, it would never happen. Because she has the sag of cruelty about her face, her eyes, her mouth. The jowl of cruelty. She has a Nazi face. But in England, of course, we had Margaret Thatcher as prime minister, and she was diabolical. So, it isn’t necessarily the case as long as the candidate’s female. But I think he [Obama] is mesmerizing, absolutely mesmerizing.

"I will not change and I will not be nice."

P.S. My favorite part is when the fawning questioner says "I don't know that much about" Obama, and in the very next sentence agrees "He is really good." Of course, you expect that obsequiousness from the music press, but sadly this has become the standard for "real journalists," as well.

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Shorter LA Times

CEO compensation shouldn't be regulated because they'll just cheat anyway.

You're right. Why have a tax system? People just won't pay them. Why give access to roads at 3:00am? People just won't drive on them.

Man, they're the most anti-worker editorial board in the country. Even to the right of the Wall Street Journal, and that's saying something.

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Civil War, We WISH It Were A Civil War

Here is the PDF of the key judgments of the NIE on Iraq. Much of it is familiar, but it has the weight of authority.

• Iraqi society’s growing polarization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides’ ready recourse to violence are collectively driving an increase in communal and insurgent violence and political extremism. Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this Estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006.

• Decades of subordination to Sunni political, social, and economic domination have made the Shia deeply insecure about their hold on power. This insecurity leads the Shia to mistrust US efforts to reconcile Iraqi sects and reinforces their unwillingness to engage with the Sunnis on a variety of issues, including adjusting the structure of Iraq’s federal system, reining in Shia militias, and easing de-Bathification.

• Many Sunni Arabs remain unwilling to accept their minority status, believe the central government is illegitimate and incompetent, and are convinced that Shia dominance will increase Iranian influence over Iraq, in ways that erode the state’s Arab character and increase Sunni repression.

• The absence of unifying leaders among the Arab Sunni or Shia with the capacity to speak for or exert control over their confessional groups limits prospects for reconciliation. The Kurds remain willing to participate in Iraqi state building but reluctant to surrender any of the gains in autonomy they have achieved.

• The Kurds are moving systematically to increase their control of Kirkuk to guarantee annexation of all or most of the city and province into the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) after the constitutionally mandated referendum scheduled to occur no later than 31 December 2007. Arab groups in Kirkuk continue to resist violently what they see as Kurdish encroachment.

They described four wars right there. Not many people realize that there's a vote scheduled for Kirkuk this year. After the 3 votes in 2005, the Iraqis learned that ethnic identity and share of the vote are an exacting correlative. So the Kurds are going about cleansing Kirkuk of Turkmen. Call it the Iraqi version of "canvassing neighborhoods." And if they succeed, the urge will grow stronger in Turkey to intercede directly through invasion.

Here's the key of all the key judgments.

The Intelligence Community judges that the term “civil war” does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qa’ida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term “civil war” accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements.

A civil war has two sides. This is at least a Rubik's Cube and perhaps a 20-sided die (these analogies prove I grew up in the 80s and was a dork). And surging troops and drawing up new security plans isn't going to help. Hell, there's been one in place since the beginning of the year (and January has historically been a slow month) and more civilians have been killed than ever before.

Then there's this strawman argument thrown right in the middle of this thing:

Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq. If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly during the term of this Estimate, we judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance to the Iraqi Government, and have adverse consequences for national reconciliation.

If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the ISF would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution; neighboring countries—invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally—might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; AQI would attempt to use parts of the country—particularly al-Anbar province—to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and political disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion.

I want them to define the term "rapid". Because every responsible redeployment plan I've seen, from Feingold's to Kerry's to Obama's to Murtha's, calls for this process to play out over several months and even years. Nobody's asking for a complete vanishing from the scene; obviously there would still be support but not the central role we have now. The other thing about this is that it doesn't define how this is the most likely scenario no matter when forces leave.

In addition, all of their recommendations for how the situation could possibly change are based on political factors:

•Broader Sunni acceptance of the current political structure and federalism to begin to reduce one of the major sources of Iraq’s instability.

• Significant concessions by Shia and Kurds to create space for Sunni acceptance of federalism.

• A bottom-up approach—deputizing, resourcing, and working more directly with neighborhood watch groups and establishing grievance committees—to help mend frayed relationships between tribal and religious groups, which have been mobilized into communal warfare over the past three years.

They're all about as likely as Rush Limbaugh winning the Nobel Peace Prize he was bogusly "nominated" for. There is no political will for any managed solution, because there is no leadership concerned with reconciliation.

Finally, there's this line which should be kept in a lockbox and pulled out by the Democrats at every opportunity.

Iraq’s neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events within Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq’s internal sectarian dynamics.

Sure, there's this little dance afterwards about how Iran is supporting certain select Shia groups, but that's the take-away. The hawks are trying to bully everyone into thinking the problem with Iraq is Iran, and that's simply not the case.

What the NIE paints is a picture of slowly unfolding horror, and the last place on Earth where more American troops should be sent. This overdue report, which should have been made available before a new course was charted for Iraq, makes very clear that our military has nothing left to do in Iraq and that the process of military disengagement, combined with rapid regional diplomatic engagement, must begin.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

"Iran... is mentioned but is not a focus"

The long-awaited, probably-ready-before-the-election NIE on Iraq will officially be out on Friday morning, but the WaPo has talked to enough people who've seen it to give a preview. It's not a pretty picture (but you knew that).

A long-awaited National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, presented to President Bush by the intelligence community yesterday, outlines an increasingly perilous situation in which the United States has little control and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration, according to sources familiar with the document.

The report dances around whether or not Iraq is in civil war, and then says this...

But it couches glimmers of optimism in deep uncertainty about whether the Iraqi leaders will be able to transcend sectarian interests and fight against extremists, establish effective national institutions and end rampant corruption.

The document emphasizes that although al-Qaeda activities in Iraq remain a problem, they have been surpassed by Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence as the primary source of conflict and the most immediate threat to U.S. goals. Iran, which the administration has charged with supplying and directing Iraqi extremists, is mentioned but is not a focus.

Iran is NOT A FOCUS. The problem in Iraq is one of SECTARIAN VIOLENCE.

This NIE is the judgment of 16 of the nation's intelligence agencies, and they're all saying the exact opposite of the impression that the Cheney Administration gives in their public statements. For all the warmongering and belief that Iran is the scapegoat, the source of all the troubles in Iraq, this clear-eyed assessment won't fall for it. And there was more encouraging news on that front on Capitol Hill today:

"One of the sort of deeply held rumors around here is that the intelligence community gives an administration or a president what he wants by way of intelligence," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told Navy Vice Adm. John M. McConnell, Bush's nominee to be director of national intelligence, during McConnell's confirmation hearing yesterday.

Without directly accepting Feinstein's premise, McConnell replied that the intelligence community had learned "meaningful" lessons over the past several years and that "there's very intense focus on independence." McConnell and others made clear that the new NIE on Iraq had been subjected to extensive competitive analysis to test its conclusions.

I'm inclined to believe that. The CIA could get rolled when the Cheney Administration was riding high. But they were brutally damaged by the fallout over Iraq, and they can no longer afford to stovepipe intelligence. They should only have loyalty to the facts, not a political party or anyone in the executive branch. And they're being sure to do something unprecedented in intelligence reports in this era of certitude: they're dissenting, right in the document.

One senior congressional aide said the NIE had been described to him as "unpleasant but very detailed." A source familiar with its language said it contained several dissents that are prominently displayed so that policymakers understand any disagreements within the intelligence community -- a significant change from the 2002 document, which listed most key dissents in small-type footnotes.

Given all of this background, I'd have to say that this NIE is probably very strong in its findings. Of course, expect the White House to cherry-pick the one or two bits of good news to highlight; it's what they always do. But let's make no mistake about this: IRAN IS NOT A FACTOR in what's going on in Iraq. Repeat that over and over again like a mantra. Put it in your letters to the editor. Report it to your Congresscritters. Use it in your debates. Make sure the whole world knows it before we find ourselves in another war.

UPDATE: According to Spencer Ackerman, they are trying to keep this NIE classified, so the public won't get a chance to read what a mess we're in. Dianne Feinstein is leading the fight, believe it or not, to declassify. Must be that call I made to her office today. :) ... we need to make sure this report is made public.

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Janitors Shouldn't Be Allowed To Live DECENTLY

Workers at LAX-area hotels just got a break for once in their lives, as the city and business lobbyists came to an agreement to keep their living wage law in place and enable them to make an honest living with benefits while servicing those who benefit the most from our society.

And as if on cue, The LA Times trashes it.

LET'S TEST YOUR knowledge of how Los Angeles works. Here's the problem: Employees of a dozen or so hotels near Los Angeles International Airport want to be paid more. The hotels, however, don't want to pay their workers more.

Yes, that's the only problem. Those whiny louts want to be paid more. How dare they want to eat 3 meals a day!

Normally this would be for the workers and the hotels to work out. But this is L.A., remember. So the City Council, at the behest of organized labor, extended its "living wage" law — which applied to employees of companies with city contracts — to those hotel workers. The bottom line is that they end up getting paid more. But your question is this: Who pays them?

No, my question is, what is wrong with organized labor appealing to city government, in the exact same way that management and corporate America do all the time? Why is it somehow shameless and sneaky for unions, but "synergy" for big business?

If you answered "why, the hotels, of course," you haven't been paying attention. Please take a seat. If you answered "the unions," you have some remedial catch-up to do. But if you answered "the taxpayers," good work. You win. Sorry, though — no prize.

Except the knowledge that people don't have to decide between food and medicine and home heating, if you consider that a prize.

The gist of the quasi-agreement announced on Wednesday is that the City Council rescinded the ill-considered airport hotel wage law it passed last year and declared that it would instead pass a new law requiring, well, pretty much the same thing. Because the old law is rescinded, there will be no referendum to overturn it. The hotels would get an "economic overlay zone," which is city-speak for tax breaks. They would pay their workers more, and, in turn, they would put less into the city coffers to pay for police and fire protection, street maintenance and other standard services.

See, thanks to the hotel workers, you're going to end up on fire!

Meanwhile, businesses everywhere are sent a clear message: If you come to Los Angeles, the mayor and City Council may single you out for special wage requirements. No wonder that as the city's population grows, its job base is shrinking. New L.A. residents are getting on the freeways to go to neighboring communities where the work is.

LA's job base grew last year, it's just that outlying areas grew more rapidly. But please, blame all the city's problems on people who clean toilets in hotels, continue.

The Chamber of Commerce has put the best face on this deal, hopefully (and naively) noting that the City Council is promising to never do anything like this again. But some council members are already making it clear that they won't be bound by any such promise.

The punch line of this fiasco is that the agreement isn't really an agreement. Talks between labor and the LAX-area hotels are "continuing" — which means taxpayers remain in grave danger.

Danger? Danger of individually giving up like 10 bucks a year so somebody can have a normal life? Whatever happened to shared sacrifice? Whatever happened to moral obligations to fight poverty? Whatever happened to compassion?

The way that the LA Times automatically sides with management in any labor dispute, you'd think they were owned by a large corporation. Oh, wait...

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That's Corporate America For You

It's yesterday afternoon. Boston is inexplicably on lockdown from the scourge of dangerous cartoon characters. So the ad manager working for Turner, in his or her infinite wisdom, saw this scene unfolding on television, knew that (s)he was ultimately responsible, and the immediate reaction was to keep everybody quiet.

One of the two men charged in connection with the advertising campaign that turned into a terror scare was asked to keep quiet as the stunt sent the city of Boston into chaos, according to two fellow artists who provided ABC News with an e-mail from the man supporting their claim [...]

In an e-mail obtained by ABC News sent from Berdovsky to Hoo at 1:26 p.m. Wednesday, the artist writes, "My boss at the Cartoon Network's ad agency just called — she is asking that I pretty please keep everything on the dl [down low; quiet]." The e-mail, supplied by Hoo, contains a large swath of blacked-out text that he claims contained personal information he'd rather not share.

No one at Interference Inc. answered the phone or responded to requests for comment on the authenticity of the e-mail.

(Interference was the company that hired the two artists who ended up getting arrested for working)

I knew that when push came to shove, Turner would just try to sever ties and act like it didn't happen.

Let me tell you about Turner. The one and only time I worked for them it took them four months to pay me. No exaggeration. Apparently they needed some certain paperwork, which was sitting on some desk in accounts payable for two weeks without letting anyone know they needed something additional. It's a big company that's known for having an awful relationship with their vendors, and so the fact that they would try to hush up the employees and create plausible deniability is wholly unsurprising.

Again, the fault lies with anyone dumb enough to look at a Mooninite and think terrorism, but Turner acted like scoundrels as well.

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Quick Hits

Haven't done one of these in a while.

11 states have now halted the procedure of lethal injections, out of 37. That's almost one in three. The latest was North Carolina, where again the physicians refused to participate in ensuring the humaneness of the execution, as it violates the Hippocratic Oath. Global warming and the death penalty are but two examples of the country slowly moving in a more progressive direction.

• I don't know if it's true, but I'd like to see someone ask Dianne Feinstein about this.

As chairperson and ranking member of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee (MILCON) from 2001 through the end of 2005, Feinstein supervised the appropriation of billions of dollars a year for specific military construction projects. Two defense contractors whose interests were largely controlled by her husband, financier Richard C. Blum, benefited from decisions made by Feinstein as leader of this powerful subcommittee.

There's the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Money Party. A lot of crossover between them.

• I don't have too much to add to the archaeological discovery near Stonehenge, but it's good to see how little things change. Stonehenge was apparently less an astronomical site and more a local gathering place, like a neolithic Times Square.

• A Gallup poll shows self-identification among Democrats is up, and self-identification among Republicans is down. The split is 34% Dem, 30% GOP, 34% indie. With leaners it expands to 50-40 Democrats, and state-by-state only 6 have a clear Republican advantage.


• I know Dennis Kucinich isn't a "serious" person, and in this position paper he isn't taking a "serious" position, but if you took those biases out of it, wouldn't you have to come to the conclusion that he's absolutely right about our failed war on drugs?

Not so easy to find countries willing to put their soldiers in the middle of a civil war, is it? Unless you're the United States, of course. But in this case, troops are desperately needed for security in Somalia.

Big-time tortilla protest. No, seriously. Prices of corn tortillas are up 400% in Mexico, and "tens of thousands" of people marched in the streets in protest. How many less marched in this country when habeas corpus was repealed? That's right, tens of thousands.

• Congratulations, by getting this far in Quick Hits, you now have spent as much time reading as it takes for Exxon Mobil to make around seven million dollars. Overall they make $39.6 billion in 2006. What did you do?

• You think some of that $39 billion goes to pay global warming deniers to speak out? Man, if you're willing to contradict science and logic and let the stupidest pabulum come out of your mouth, there's big money in it for you. If you do it anyway and don't get paid . . . you're just a tool.



Calling A Black Person "Articulate" Is Not A Compliment

Lost in the fact that Clueless Joe Biden pulled his "pretty fly for a black guy" shtick on Barack Obama yesterday is the fact that President Bush did the same thing:

After asking Bush about Senator Barack Obama's proposal that all troops be out of Iraq by March 2008 (Bush, of course, said he is against timetables), Cavuto asked: "How do you think the troops would feel about a President Obama?"

Bush: "Oh, I don't know. He ain't -- look -- he hasn't got elected yet. He ain't even got the party's nomination either. He's an attractive guy, he's articulate, I've been impressed with him, I've seen him in person, but he's got a long way to go to be president."

Sigh. Do I have to dip into the Chris Rock well?

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: What's the first thing they say when they talk about Colin Powell? What's their compliment? He's well-spoken. Well-spoken is not a compliment. Well-spoken is something you say about people you don't expect to be able to speak. How do they expect Colin Powell to sound? Like, "I'm-a gonna drop me a bomb today!"

In other words, it's bigotry masquerading as inclusion. And it's unacceptable.

More at Jack and Jill Politics.

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Never Forget

The day that changed everything.

Where were you?

(p.s. insert obligatory laughing at pants-pissing reactionaries here)

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Some Carrot To Go With That Stick

While the Senate simply must lead on Iraq and Iran, I do have to give them a world of credit for overwhelmingly passing a minimum wage increase today. It includes some tax breaks for small business but not nearly as many as the Republicans initially wanted. The working poor just got a major boost today, and they have deserved it for a decade.

Special thanks go out to Ted Kennedy, who worked tirelessly for this for years.

Tom Coburn (R-OK), Jim DeMint (R-SC), and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), on the other hand, hate working people.

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I mentioned earlier how dramatic it would be to see Sen. Johnson come back to the Senate to cast a vote against the war in Iraq. It would be nice if that vote was an actual opposition vote, instead of this nonsensical empty resolution, one not worthy of even gracing the halls of the Senate with its presence.

Unfortunately, the new Warner-Levin resolution that many Democrats are pushing is flawed and unacceptable. It rejects the surge, but it also misunderstands the situation in Iraq and endorses the President’s underlying approach. It’s basically a back-door authorization of the President’s misguided policies, and passing it would be a big mistake. Under the guise of constructive criticism, the Warner-Levin resolution signs off on the President continuing indefinite military operations in Iraq that will not address the fundamental political challenges in Iraq, and that continue to distract us from developing a comprehensive and global approach to the threats that face our nation.

Here’s a link to the resolution so everyone knows what we’re talking about. I’m going to pass over the first finding, which salutes the President as "Commander in Chief." And I’m not going to focus on finding (16), which salutes the muddled and wishy-washy report of the Iraq Study Group as "valuable." Instead, I’m going to focus on section 22 of the findings, which is nothing short of an endorsement of the status quo in Iraq and that is simply unacceptable. It rejects exactly what is most needed in Iraq – an "immediate reduction in, or withdrawal of, the present level of forces." If you vote for this resolution, you are voting against redeploying troops from Iraq. This resolution doesn’t fix the administration’s failed Iraq policy – it just takes us back to where we were before the escalation. It’s not enough to reject the "surge" if you aren’t willing to support a plan for redeploying our troops.

It’s all downhill from there in (b)2. The resolution goes on to support "continuing[ing] vigorous operations in Anbar province, specifically for the purpose of combating an insurgency." Apparently, some people think that our troops should be involved in putting down the Sunni insurgency in western Iraq. Actually, the President’s policy of maintaining a massive, open-ended military presence in Iraq has been inflaming the insurgency in that country from the start. I support the idea of targeted counter-terrorism missions to take out terrorist elements in Iraq, but we shouldn’t ask our brave troops to remain there to put down an Iraqi insurgency any more than we can expect them to end Shi’ite-Sunni sectarian conflict in Baghdad.

That’s why I introduced legislation this week to use Congress’s power of the purse to end our military involvement in Iraq. I was greeted with a tremendous response from this community. I’m extremely grateful for it because it was evidence of how badly change is both wanted and needed. But how does the Warner/Levin resolution change anything? We owe it to ourselves to demand action that will bring about change in Iraq, not take us back to a failed status quo.

Of course, he's just grandstanding because he wants to run for President. Oh wait, he isn't.

Chris Dodd will also oppose this nonbinding farce of a bill, and good for him.

This legislation, if you read it, authorizes the President (in a nonbinding sort of way) to continue the war. In fact, it endorses the worst kind of compromise: don't escalate but don't leave. In other words, do exactly what's been getting Americans killed and turning Iraq into a hell hole for the last four years.

We've failed Iraq and we're about to compound the mistake by bombing Iran (why do you think all the USAF jets and aircraft carriers are there?), and Sens. Levin and Warner are patting themselves on the back for a resolution that allows this foreign policy nightmare to continue?

I support Sen. Feingold and I am through thinking strategically about this, i.e. the symbolic significance of an opposition vote, or how to get Republicans on board, or whatever. Iraq is over and it needs to be brought to a conclusion. If Republicans want to yoke themselves to Iraq, have at it. There should be a vote a day until this is over. And the votes should mean something.

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We'll Be In Iran In Months If Nobody Does Something About It

It's embarrassingly clear that the Bush Administration wants desperately to attack Iran. I don't know if they just want to blow past one failed war on the way to the next one, or if they want to keep bitch-slapping brown people in the belief that this is the only way you can "train" them, or if they expect some sweet profits for their corporate partners if they take over the Straits of Hormuz. Whatever the reason, it's an undeniable fact that this feels like 2002 all over again.

How about blaming your opponent for all your troubles, even when you know they're not responsible for all, or even most, of what you're seeing?

How about issuing a license to kill for nationals of your opponent?

How about violating a diplomatic office of your opponent, smashing into the buildings, and taking away officials who were there at the invitation of the local government?

How about bringing in more troops on your opponent's doorstep, more ships into neighboring waters, and ratcheting up the rhetoric?

Think that'll do it?

There's more to it than that. The US tried to blame Iran for the attack on Karbala because it was "too sophisticated" for the insurgents to pull it off. Except they did, with help from inside the Iraqi government. FOX is reporting this.

Citing Pentagon officials, Fox News Channel is reporting that two Iraqi generals are suspected of complicity in a Jan. 20 attack in Karbala, Iraq that killed five US troops.

"There are 2 senior Iraq generals that US officials say are now suspect of involvement in an attack against American forces in Karbala on Jan. 20th," a Fox News host reported on air. "A number of people were killed. These gunmen apparently stormed an Iraqi security dressed like American soldiers and driving SUVs. So again, US officials are saying that 2 senior are suspected of taking part in an insurgent attack that killed 5 American soldiers."

So we have every little problem in Iraq being attributed to Iran, without any evidence. In fact, just today the US delayed a written report set to detail Iranian meddling in Iraq. I guess they didn't have enough time to bury the smoking gun.

Let's be very clear with what's going on here. Actually Craig Unger goes through this point by point in his latest article for Vanity Fair. The ideologues in the US government, the neocons, who have damaged this country with their fantastical thinking already beyond reason, are hyping reports about WMD, using unreliable sources within Iran (think Chalabi redux) to prove the points they want to make, and justifying it by claiming the failure in Iraq was not a consequence of thinking too big, but thinking too SMALL. This all happened leading up to Iraq, and when Grover Norquist is making sense, we've smashed the looking glass and threw it out the window.

"Everything the advocates of war said would happen hasn't happened," says the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, an influential conservative who backed the Iraq invasion. "And all the things the critics said would happen have happened. [The president's neoconservative advisers] are effectively saying, 'Invade Iran. Then everyone will see how smart we are.' But after you've lost x number of times at the roulette wheel, do you double-down?"

So these directives to kill Iranians and additional ships in the region and saber-rattling talk is designed to provoke a response, a Rosetta stone that would spark a wider war. The sycophants in the media agitating for this, people like Michael Ledeen, are ready to pounce. It really does appear to be happening all over again, with the media falling for the same stories, with the same propaganda tools put to use. The reality is, as Anthony Shadid deconstructs brilliantly, that we created this so-called monster in Iran, and if I didn't know any better I'd say we did it on purpose.

"The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East," said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer and academic. "There is one thing important about the ascendance of Iran here. It does not reflect a real change in Iranian capabilities, economic or political. It's more a reflection of the failures on the part of the U.S. and its Arab allies in the region."

Iran has found itself strengthened almost by default, first with the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan to Iran's east, which ousted the Taliban rulers against whom it almost went to war in the 1990s, and then to its west, with the American ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, against whom it fought an eight-year war in the 1980s.

Arab rulers allied with the United States issued stark warnings. Jordan's King Abdullah in 2005 spoke darkly of a Shiite crescent that would stretch from Iran, through Iraq's Shiite Arab majority, to Lebanon, where Shiites make up the largest single community. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt suggested last year that Shiites in the Arab world were more loyal to Iran than to their own countries. And in a rare interview, published Saturday, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia suggested that Iran, although he did not name the country, was trying to convert Sunni Arabs to Shiism. "The majority of Sunni Muslims will never change their faith," he told al-Siyassah, a Kuwaiti newspaper.

Across the region, Iran has begun to exert influence on fronts as diverse as its allies: the formerly exiled Shiite parties in Iraq and their militias; Hezbollah, a Lebanese group formed with Iranian patronage after Israel's 1982 invasion; and the cash-strapped Sunni Muslim movement of Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

"I disagree with Iranian policy, but you have to give the Iranians credit," said Abdullah al-Shayji, a political science professor and head of Kuwait University's American Studies Unit. "You have to appreciate that they have an agenda, they're planning for it, they seize the opportunity, they see an American weakness and they are capitalizing on it."

We paid no attention to anyone and bulldozed through all of Iran's enemies, and installed a pro-Iranian government on its doorstep in Iraq. We bluster about Iranian elements in Iraq when the Saudis and Jordanians are there too, by their own public admission. Democrats are wasting their time in the Senate on meaningless denunciations, and in fact dangerous quasi-authorizations of the current Iraq policy, when Iran is a ready to rev up at any moment.

The sick thing is that, if it weren't for Dick Cheney and these insane theorists, Iran wouldn't be an issue today.

The honeymoon is over. Iran's controversial president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has finally come unstuck. His popularity with the Iranian electorate - the subject of much incredulous analysis in 2005 - seems to be falling back at last, and the country's latest exercise in populism seems to be reaping the rewards of unfulfilled promises bestowed with little attention to economic realities [...]

None of this might matter so much, if the president had based his rhetorical flourishes on solid policies. But much to everyone's surprise nothing dramatic materialised. Ahmadinejad appeared to follow the dictum of his mentor, Ayatollah Khomeini - "Economics is for donkeys". Indeed, his policies could be defined as "anything but Khatami" (his predecessor). So the oil reserve fund was spent on cash handouts to the grateful poor, and the central bank, normally a bastion of prudence, was instructed to cut interest rates for small businesses.

These had the effect, as Ahmadinejad was warned, of pushing up inflation. The rationale for high interest rates was to encourage the middle classes to keep their money in Iran. Now they decided to spend it. Richer Iranians, worried about rising international tension, decided it would be prudent to ship their money abroad. This further weakened the rial, and added to inflationary pressure. In the past few months the prices of most basic goods have risen, hurting the poor he was elected to help. Moreover, far from investing Iran's oil wealth in infrastructure to create jobs, he announced recently that Iran's economy could support a substantially larger population, as if current unemployment was not a big enough problem [...]

Ironically, it is this very international crisis that may serve to save Ahmadinejad's presidency, a reality that the president undoubtedly understood all too well. As domestic difficulties mount, the emerging international crisis could at best serve as a rallying point, or at worst persuade Iran's elite that a change of guard would convey weakness to the outside world.

There can be little doubt that US hawks will interpret recent events as proof that pressure works, and that any more pressure will encourage the hawks further. Yet the reality is that while Ahmadinejad has been his own worst enemy, the US hawks are his best friends. Ahmadinejad's demise, if it comes, will have less to do with the international environment and more with his own political incompetence. There is little doubt that it will take more than a cosmetic change to get Washington to listen to Iran. But the real question mark, as the Baker-Hamilton commission found to its cost, is whether Washington is inclined to listen at all.

The American people are decent and just. They understand the importance of global leadership, and will not retreat into isolationism. Even now, after the horrors of Iraq, a majority want to boldly stop the genocide in Darfur by whatever means necessary. But the American people need good information and a way to understand this manufactured crisis. They can then empower their leaders, particularly the Democrats in the House and
Senate, to take action right now to stop this imminent war with Iran, which will not only bring mass suffering to another nation, but which I fear will permanently bring about the end of the superpower status of this country. Scott Ritter has outlined the precise steps needed to be taken today.

I would strongly urge Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate, to hold real hearings on Iran. Not the mealy-mouthed Joe Biden-led hearings we witnessed on Iraq in July-August 2002, where he and his colleagues rubber-stamped the President's case for war, but genuine hearings that draw on all the lessons of Congressional failures when it came to Iraq. Summon all the President's men (and women), and grill them on every phrase and word uttered about the Iranian "threat," especially as it has been linked to nuclear weapons. Demand facts to back up the rhetoric [...]

If hearings show no case for war with Iran, then Congress must act to insure that the United States cannot move toward conflict with that nation on the strength of executive dictate alone. As things currently stand, the Bush Administration, emboldened with a vision of the unitary executive unprecedented in our nation's history, believes it has all of the legal authority it requires when it comes to engaging Iran militarily. The silence of Congress following the President's decision to dispatch a second carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf has been deafening. The fact that a third carrier battle group (the USS Ronald Reagan) will probably join these two in the near future has also gone unnoticed by most, if not all, in Congress.

The President and his advisers believe that they are acting in accordance with the authorities given to the executive by the US Constitution, and by legislative authority as well, as provided for in both the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution of September 14, 2001 (after the attacks of September 11, where Congress not only authorized the President to use military force against the perpetrators of the terror attacks but also against those nations deemed to be harboring people or organizations involved in the attacks), and the Authorization of Military Force Against Iraq resolution of October 2002 (where Congress concurred that any presidential action would be "consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001") [...]

Democrats should seek immediate legislative injunctions to nullify the War Powers' authority granted to the President in September 2001 and October 2002 when it comes to Iran. Congress should pass a joint resolution requiring the President to fully consult with Congress about any national security threat that may be posed to the United States from Iran and demand that no military action be initiated by the United States against Iran without a full, constitutionally mandated declaration of war [...]

Congress can, if it wants to, put specific restrictions on the President's ability to use the people's money. A recent example occurred in 1982, when Congress passed the Boland Amendment to restrict funding for executive-sponsored actions, covert and overt, in Nicaragua. While it is in the process of getting a handle on America's policy vis-à-vis Iran, Congress would do well to pass a resolution that serves as a new Boland Amendment for Iran. Such an amendment could read like this:

An amendment to prohibit offensive military operations, covert or overt, being commenced by the United States of America against the Islamic Republic of Iran, without the expressed consent of the Congress of the United States. This amendment reserves the right of the President, commensurate with the War Powers Act, to carry out actions appropriate for the defense of the United States if attacked by Iran. However, any funds currently appropriated by Congress for use in support of ongoing operations by the United States Armed Forces are hereby prohibited from being allocated for any pre-emptive military action, whether overt or covert in nature, without the expressed prior consent by the Congress of the United States of America.

This is not something that can wait. We're going to war again with another Islamic country if nothing is done immediately. Today I participated in calling Senators about stopping the escalation of Iraq. I would submit that tomorrow we need to make calls to stop the war with Iran.

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I Called It

Wheeling Johnson into the Senate chamber for a vote of conscience is completely brilliant.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid left open the possibility Thursday of bringing in the South Dakota senator who's recuperating from brain surgery if Democrats need his vote to move forward with a resolution opposing a troop increase in Iraq.

"We'll have to see. He's doing very well," Reid, D-Nev., said regarding Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., in a brief interview with McClatchy Newspapers.

Johnson's chief of staff downplayed the remarks and said that Johnson's not ready. Hopefully it's not needed. If it happens, it'd be the height of drama, however.

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Numbers Game

General William Casey, who according to John McCain is the ONLY person responsible for everything that's gone wrong in Iraq (I guess he sets the policy, too, huh St. McCain?), testified today that to secure Baghdad would take only half of the troops Bush will appropriate to the cause.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on his nomination to be Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey said he had asked for two additional Army brigades, based on recommendations of his subordinate commanders. Bush announced Jan. 10 that he would send five extra brigades as part of a buildup that would total 21,500 soldiers and Marines.

Asked by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., why he had not requested the full five extra brigades that Bush is sending, Casey said, "I did not want to bring one more American soldier into Iraq than was necessary to accomplish the mission."

So according to the general on the ground, we need 10,000 troops. (For the record, I think this is absurdly low, and to pull off a real counter-insurgency strategy we'd need 10 times that). According to the commander-in-chief, we need 20,000. But according to the Congressional Budget Office, we're sending twice that:

A study released today by the Congressional Budget Office shows that the real troop increase associated with President Bush’s escalation policy could be as high as 48,000, more than double the 21,500 soldiers that Bush has claimed.

As DefenseTech notes, extra forces are expected because the combat units being sent into Iraq “need to be backed up by support troops, ‘including personnel to staff headquarters, serve as military police, and provide communications, contracting, engineering, intelligence, medical, and other services.’” The CBO’s low estimate envisions at least 15,000 additional support personnel. The alternative scenario “would require about 28,000 support troops in addition to the 20,000 combat troops.”

In actuality, if you count all the contractors working in military support capacities in Iraq, we have well over 200,000 troops there. And adding in their casualties (about 800), this war has cost nearly 4,000 American lives. But it's much more palatable to focus on the combat troops, even though everybody is a target, just look at Karbala and other attacks on US bases and the security personnel deaths.

You can manipulate numbers all you want to suit political needs. The fact is that this is a major escalation, which will result in almost a quarter of a million American citizens stuck in the middle of a civil war. This is why everyone needs to call their Senators today and tell them to oppose this nonsense and get the troops home.

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MN-SEN: The Al Franken Decade

It would be quite a sight seeing a comedian on the floor of the Senate. Dare to dream.

Comedian Al Franken has decided to run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota in challenging incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, a senior Democratic official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The official, who requested anonymity because Franken has not made an announcement, said that the comedian and former star of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" told her of his decision recently.

Andy Barr, the political director of Franken's Midwest Values Political Action Committee, declined to comment.

The good news is that, while this means Franken is leaving his radio show on Feb. 14, someone swooped in and bought Air America and will be able to sustain and support this progressive infrastructure for a while. Hey, as long as there's wingnut welfare, why not moonbat welfare too? And actually, it's an investment in party-building and message distribution.

As for Franken, I think he has a very good chance. Extemporaneously he's actually not that great a speaker; as Mitzi Shore said to Garry Shandling, "You're a writer!" And his past will certainly be used to attack him. There's acknowledged drug use, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Franken and Davis routine where they "call for the violent overthrow of the US government" used in an attack ad.

But when he's prepared, Al is a great performer. And he's very smart. And he can debate circles around Norm Coleman. There's going to be a lot of competition in the primary, however, so we'll see.

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It's All About How You Look At It

One of the things I think we need to radically change, and this is in Andy Stern's book A Country That Works as well, is to rethink what metrics we use to monitor the economy, so that we get a picture of how it is working for ALL Americans and not just a handful of wealthy plutocrats.

For example, today we read that the economy grew 3.5% in 2006, a higher-than-expected rate, and that this is proof that the economy is booming and everyone should get off George Bush's back. On top of that, there's a much more damning statistic, one that has for more vast consequences for all Americans, and one that goes a long way to explaining why Americans aren't agreeing about how strong the economy is.

People once again spent everything they made and then some last year, pushing the personal savings rate to the lowest level since the Great Depression more than seven decades ago.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the savings rate for all of 2006 was a negative 1 percent, meaning that not only did people spend all the money they earned but they also dipped into savings or increased borrowing to finance purchases. The 2006 figure was lower than a negative 0.4 percent in 2005 and was the poorest showing since a negative 1.5 percent savings rate in 1933 during the Great Depression.

In fact, one has to do with the other, as the main reason for the growth in the economy can be attributed to consumer spending. People are spending all their money in an increasingly insecure world, where their health care and retirement safety net is unraveling. The spending is happening at a time when real wages are largely flat and only now beginning to go up. And the stratification between rich and poor is a prime reason for the disconnection between the supposedly "great" economy and all the people struggling to understand it.

The President, according to this headline, addressed income inequality yesterday (he said the words, which is important, I'll grant), while at the same time supporting the right of CEOs to make billions of dollars based on performance (which is not how it works, by the way, entry in the CEO club is usually enough to extort whatever you want from the handpicked board). The President doesn't see any real problem, he thinks the economy is strong and he's just got to sell it better.

That's wrong. We have to measure the economy properly so we understand how it effects working people and not just the investor class. We have to measure household debt and how much savings people have (63% have less than $100,000 for retirement) and the average age of the workforce. If we do, the problems with the economy become obvious.

UPDATE: By the way, Bush was promoting the education myth, saying that education is all we need to bridge the income divide. Given that high-tech jobs are increasingly moving overseas because anyone with an Internet connection can do them, this strikes me as, um, completely wrong. Education is important but not the only way we're going to provide opportunity for 300 million people.

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Free The Boston Two

Apparently the duo arrested in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force marketing case (can't believe I just wrote that) spent an entire press conference ignoring questions and talking about 1970s hairstyles. Good for them. They did nothing wrong and the whole made-for-TV, fear-on-demand situation demands ridicule.

Looking over my post from last night, I maybe did go a little far in the direction of blaming Turner Broadcasting, who actually did nothing wrong either. My point was that responsibility, such that it is, lies at the top. And Turner largely took that responsibility. But that they HAVE TO take any responsibility for putting up Lite Brites with a cartoon character on it in a public space is the height of absurdity. They haven't only lost the ability to laugh in Boston, they lost the war on terror. Because fear grips them so much that art is now a weapon. These devices were in multiple cities for a couple weeks and sparked nothing because they were obviously street art.

I'm with August J. Pollak on this one.

(Boston Mayor Thomas) Menino is going on TV and insisting he's going to send a 27-year old artist to jail for not breaking any law, because his police department overreacted and wasted a million dollars feeding a media frenzy and terrorizing the population of his own city. That's a cowardly act of self-preservation, and were he not threatening the life of an innocent young man it would be laughable.

Let's get a few facts straight on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force sign fiasco:

1. Attorney General Martha Coakley needs to shut up and stop using the word "hoax." There was no hoax. Hoax implies Turner Networks and the ATHF people were trying to defraud or confuse people as to what they were doing. Hoax implies they were trying to make their signs look like bombs. They weren't. They made Lite-Brite signs of a cartoon character giving the finger.

2. It bears repeating again that Turner, and especially Berdovsky, did absolutely nothing illegal. The devices were not bombs. They did not look like bombs. They were all placed in public spaces and caused no obstruction to traffic or commerce. At most, Berdovsky is guilty of littering or illegal flyering.

3. The "devices" were placed in ten cities, and have been there for over two weeks. No other city managed to freak out and commit an entire platoon of police officers to scaring their own city claiming they might be bombs. No other mayor agreed to talk to Fox News with any statement beyond "no comment" when spending the day asking if this was a "terrorist dry run."

4. There is nothing, not a single thing, remotely suggesting that Turner or the guerilla marketing firm they hired intended to cause a public disturbance. Many have claimed the signs were "like saying 'fire' in a crowded theater." Wrong. This was like taping a picture of a fire to the wall of a theater and someone freaked out and called the fire department.

5. The FCC can't pull a private cable network's license, Mayor Hyperbole McFuckwit.

The media and the city of Boston are hurt bad, they're embarrassed, and they need a scapegoat. Someone to push their anger and fear and frustration onto. They found two artists.

Free the Boston Two.

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Two Men Arrested for Doing Their Job

This is totally fucked up.

Several illuminated electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what turned out to be a publicity campaign for a late-night cable cartoon. Most of the devices depict a character giving the finger.

Peter Berdovsky, 27, of Arlington, and Sean Stevens, 28, of Charlestown, were each charged Wednesday night with one count of placing a hoax device and one count of disorderly conduct, state Attorney General Martha Coakley said.

The two men worked together to place the devices, Coakley said in a news release announcing Stevens' arrest [...]

Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc. and parent of Cartoon Network, said the devices were part of a promotion for the TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," a surreal series about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball. (funny deadpan, AP - ed.)

"The two men worked together to place the devices," like they were planning a bank heist or something. They were HIRED by Turner Broadcasting! You want to arrest someone, arrest the marketing manager? Or better yet, arrest yourselves for being dumb enough and so paralyzed by fear to think that a cartoon character giving you the finger was a FUCKING BOMB! This promotion was in a dozen cities over two weeks. Somehow NO OTHER CITY managed to whip themselves into a frenzy. Only Boston. And you're embarrassed, so you arrest the employees? THE EMPLOYEES?

This is a prime example of how the corporatocracy has completely changed America, to the extent that there isn't even a thought given to holding them responsible. They have fancy lawyers, and can apply corporate pressure. Time Warner Cable's in Pittsfield and Athol, MA (you can look it up). Since Time Warner hired a third-party company to put up the designs, they are once removed from the repsonsibility, I guess.

And the charge is ludicrous. These weren't HOAX DEVICES, they were advertising! There wasn't a deliberate attempt to scare the city of Boston, it was A CARTOON CHARACTER GIVING THE FINGER!

Because it's necessary to ratchet up fear to prove that you're protecting the homeland, two poor shlubs who did absolutely nothing but their jobs are going to sit in jail, victims of someone else's paranoia. This is a civil rights travesty.

(By the way, everyone involved in this is a Democrat, and they're all being completely stupid)

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Virtual March On Washington

One thing I respected the hell out of Molly Ivins for was her ability to be consistently funny about politics, it's a rare art and skill and something to which I aspire online and offline. But in some of her last words in print, she knew that the time to be funny had passed. She knew what to say.

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war," Ivins wrote in the Jan. 11 column. "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"

Tomorrow, on February 1, is leading a virtual march on Washington. You click the link and sign up for a time to call your Representatives. The goal is to get a million calls in to DC opposing the escalation and opposing the war.

I know I slagged on the Senate for wanting to pass this nonbinding resolution, and I'm suspicious of their motives, but I also know the words of Molly Ivins. In this democracy, the people lead, and the smart politicians get in front of the parade and pretend they've been there all along. Our members of Congress need to hear from their constituents. It's up to us to say that this is the priority and they must stand strong. In truth, even something nonbinding would be the first opposition Bush has faced since this war began. If we continue to pressure our Congresscritters, we can end this war and get our troops home to their families.

Please sign up for the virtual march on Washington and do your part to make your voice heard. Do it for Molly.

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The Walls Are Caving In

I think I know why the President tried to run over the press corps with a bulldozer yesterday. He was acting out because there's so much going on around him that is damaging.

Just a few blocks from the White House, Scooter Libby is facing a jury in a case that, whatever the outcome, has painted a picture to this point of an Administration determined to go to war at all costs, and determined to punish anyone who got in their way, no matter if they had to break laws or reveal classified information to do it. And this mentality has seeped into all other aspects of the Presidency, only now there's a Democratic Congress that wants to get to the bottom of things.

Today John Conyers announced that he would investigate the use of Presidential signing statements to nullify Congressional legislation:

“We are not going to take no for an answer,” said Conyers, lambasting Bush’s use of the statements to sidestep the law.

He vowed to demand answers from the White House about its intention to ignore the ban on torture when needed and its right to open domestic mail when needed.

The White House has long defended the practice of using the statements as a way to express an opinion about legislation.

The Administration has already shown its willingness to respond to threats like these (in the back of my mind I feel like they respect it somehow) by caving on the release of the judgment of the FISA court in the domestic spying case:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales expanded Congress' access Wednesday to classified documents detailing the government's domestic spying program but still didn't satisfy several lawmakers demanding information about surveillance.

Investigators' applications, legal briefs and orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are now open to the two leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales said.

Two weeks ago, the panel -- led by Democratic Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania -- criticized the attorney general for refusing to answer specific questions about the secret court's new oversight of the controversial program [...]

Leahy and Specter both said they welcomed the Bush administration's decision to show them the documents, which could give insight on how judges on the secret court consider evidence when approving government requests to spy on people in the United States who have suspected links to al-Qaida.

But Leahy said he will decide after he reviews the papers whether further oversight or legislative action is necessary. Specter stopped short of calling for them to be released publicly but said "there ought to be the maximum disclosure to the public, consistent with national security procedures."

That's a really big deal. In just a week or so, we've gone from the executive branch unwilling to even stop the illegal wiretapping or comply with the FISA court, to compliance and release of the opinion. This is clearly being done to evade responsibility for past lawbreaking. In fact, the Justice Department is asking the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals not only to drop the case they're ruling on (an appeal of Judge Taylor's decision that the wiretapping is illegal and must cease), but to vacate it entirely, annul it, blot it out like it never existed so they would be free of any legal ruling that contradicts with their radical view of executive power.

But there are so many other examples of lawbreaking, the White House is getting it on all sides. An audit by the Inspector General for Iraq reconstruction details the waste of taxpayer dollars being thrown down a hole somewhere in Baghdad:

The U.S. government wasted tens of millions of dollars in Iraq reconstruction aid, including scores of unaccounted-for weapons and an unused camp for housing police trainers that has an Olympic-size swimming pool, investigators say.

The quarterly audit by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, is the latest to paint a grim picture of waste, fraud and frustration in an Iraq war and reconstruction effort that has cost taxpayers more than $300 billion.

"The security situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, hindering progress in all reconstruction sectors and threatening the overall reconstruction effort," according to the 579-page report, which was being released today.

The report says the State Department paid $43.8 million to contractor DynCorp International to build the residential camp for police trainers outside Baghdad's Adnan Palace grounds that has stood empty for months. About $4.2 million of the money was improperly spent on 20 VIP trailers and an Olympic-size pool, all ordered by the Iraqi Interior Ministry but never authorized by the United States.

My Rep., Henry Waxman, will hold hearings in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on this waste, fraud and abuse, and Paul Bremer will testify. That'll be another day of heartburn for the White House spinners. The Army's investigating contractor malfeasance too. And the Defense Department's Inspector General is finding that the President doesn't support the troops where it counts:

The Inspector General for the Defense Dept. is concerned that the U.S. military has failed to adequately equip soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially for nontraditional duties such as training Iraqi security forces and handling detainees, according to a summary of a new audit obtained by BusinessWeek [...]

The Inspector General found that the Pentagon hasn't been able to properly equip the soldiers it already has. Many have gone without enough guns, ammunition, and other necessary supplies to "effectively complete their missions" and have had to cancel or postpone some assignments while waiting for the proper gear, according to the report from auditors with the Defense Dept. Inspector General's office. Soldiers have also found themselves short on body armor, armored vehicles, and communications equipment, among other things, auditors found.

"As a result, service members performed missions without the proper equipment, used informal procedures to obtain equipment and sustainment support, and canceled or postponed missions while waiting to receive equipment," reads the executive summary dated Jan. 25. Service members often borrowed or traded with each other to get the needed supplies, according to the summary.

Pentagon officials did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

The audit supports news reports and other evidence that U.S. troops have been stretched too thin or have performed tasks for which they were ill-prepared. It is likely to add fuel to the opposition to President George W. Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq in an effort to quell the violence there.

I don't ever want to hear a thing about how Democrats don't support the troops, when they're practically being sent out into a target zone with a wool cap for a helmet and a windbreaker for body armor. It's a special kind of sickness to under-equip soldiers for "the greatest ideological struggle of our times." The more money that has to be put into the sausage, the less that the defense contractors can take for themselves, I guess.

This relentless investigation and oversight doesn't even stop at the water's edge:

Arrest warrants have been issued for 13 people in connection with the alleged CIA-orchestrated kidnapping of a German citizen in the agency's extraordinary rendition program, a Munich prosecutor said Wednesday.

Prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld said the warrants were issued in the last few days. He did not say for whom the warrants were issued, but indicated a statement would be issued later Wednesday.

Extraordinary rendition is a practice in which the U.S. government sends foreign terror suspects to third countries for interrogation.

Munich prosecutors have previously said that they had received from Spanish investigators the names of several U.S. secret agents believed to be involved in the kidnapping of Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent.

Never mind the extreme pressure on the subject of the surge, where even the most devoted Bush defenders aren't giving the plan much more than six months to work.

Things are busting out all over, and this President is slowly becoming isolated and pressed at all sides. They ran on a radical theory of government and power for six years, and lost the trust of virtually the whole world. This is the result of acting the part of a cowboy-king.

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The Meaningless Nonbinding Self-Satisfactory Bill Lives!

The big story this morning was that Republicans were desperate to stop the Senate's nonbinding resolution on Iraq, and were scrambling to come up with their own resolutions to divide the caucus and ensure nothing too divisive would pass. Sure, there were the usual quotes of Senators acting "concerned" and "worried" and "troubled," but really that's what the story was about. For some reason the Bush Administration really doesn't want a nonbinding resolution to pass. Probably because the press, who is as silly as they are, would treat something with no real power as a "stinging rebuke." I understand that sometimes you have to work within the system, but this is ridiculous.

And it gets even more ridiculous, as Sens. Levin and Warner have agreed to compromise on their competing nonbinding resolutions, virtually ensuring that they will get enough votes to break a filibuster and pass it. I agree with putting up a vote both to see where people stand, forcing Republicans to choose between party and country, and as part of a "kitchen sink" strategy with more and more bills coming down the pike. But on its own merits, this nonbinding thing is crap, and that two nonbinding resolutions put together represents some sort of "breakthrough" is baffling. 0 + 0 = 0.

Now the only competing measure will be one pushed by McCain and Graham, calling for specific benchmarks the Iraqis have already shown they can't handle.

The kind of thinking in the Senate that believes a nonbinding resolution will end the Iraq war must be the same kind of thinking that believes Iraq won't be an issue in the 2008 election. I don't know what country these Senators are living in sometimes.

There are actual ways to stop the war; they've been well-documented. There's something almost poetic in the fact that, on the day after Sen. Feingold runs a classroom seminar on the powers of the legislative branch during wartime, the same legislators make a "breakthrough" on what amounts to a strongly worded letter to the most obstinate man in the history of politics.

There are actual ways to stop the war; they've been well-documented. There's something almost poetic in the fact that, on the day after Sen. Feingold runs a classroom seminar on the powers of the legislative branch during wartime, the same legislators make a "breakthrough" on what amounts to a strongly worded letter to the most obstinate man in the history of politics. Sen. Obama figured it out. Reps. like Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters Jack Murtha have figured it out. Netroots heroes like Patrick Murphy and Jerry McNerney, who signed on as co-sponsors to the bills from the aforementioned Representatives, have figured it out. They're either strong-willed people or those who haven't caught DC disease yet.

Levin and Warner are, well, the opposite.

Nonbinding to victory!

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Molly Ivins Was One Of The Greats

We'll miss her. She was a crusader. ... for justice.


...adding, how many good people have to die from breast cancer before we start devoting some resources to it in this country, instead of creating the next best Viagra pill?



FEAR Unit play of the year!

Numba 1 in the hood, G:

Nine blinking electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what turned out to be a marketing campaign for a late-night cable cartoon. At least one of the devices depicts a character giving the finger.

Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices were harmless.

"It's a hoax — and it's not funny," said Gov. Deval Patrick.

Turner Broadcasting, parent company of Cartoon Network, said the devices were part of a promotion for the TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."

"The packages in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger," Turner said in a statement. It said the devices have been in place for two to three weeks in 10 cities: Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

"We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger," the company said.

I can understand the caution to a certain extent, but it's so obvious that something with this character on it, flipping the bird, is not exactly what Al Qaeda would be doing:

Oddly, I thought Aqua Teen Hunger Force was done with new episodes for the year, why are they advertising now?

(Incidentally, FEAR Unit used to stand for Federal Even-yeared Anti-terror Response, but now that they're using them increasingly to bolster an irrelevant President's approval ratings, I'll have to rejigger... Maybe it's the Federal Emergency Approval Ratings division of FEAR Unit? The FEAR sub-unit of FEAR?)

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Elevating the Discourse

A tip of the chapeau to these fine patriots for engaging in the time-honored American tradition of civil discourse:

Mike Gallagher:

Seeing Jane Fonda Saturday was enough to make me wish the unthinkable: it will take another terror attack on American soil in order to render these left-leaning crazies irrelevant again. Remember how quiet they were after 9/11? No one dared take them seriously. It was the United States against the terrorist world, just like it should be.

• Joe Klein, who managed in a post about John Edwards to call John Kerry "Frenchy," then invisibly change it to "him" without making a correction or a strike-through or anything, then "apologize" like so:

Update: A number of readers have informed me that it's bad blog etiquette to edit substantively--to change "Frenchy" to "him" in midstream. Sorry. New at this. Didn't know. As for making fun of Kerry, Frenchy was more accessible than "The-Jerk-Who-Actually-Held-Focus-Groups-To-Figure-Out-What-To-Say-About-Abu-Graib-And-then-Decided-to-say-nothing-because-that's-what-his-consultants-told-him-to-do." But I must ask: no comments on the courageous positions Edwards took with Simon? Don't you guys care about substance?

First of all, the guy who wrote "Frenchy" is complaining that his critics aren't talking about substance. Second, bloggers have been talking about Edwards' stands on taxes and how there is a "tension" between eliminating the deficit and investing in what America needs. They've been talking about it for a month.

During this time, Klein was coming up with new ways to insult John Kerry (how about "The Belgian") and measuring chest hairs with Jim Webb and John McCain.

(By the way, the comments in that thread are hilarious. Swampland is becoming my favorite lunchtime diversion)

• And there's this deadly assault on logic, in reaction to this thought-provoking piece by David Bell in the LA Times about how the reaction to 9-11 may have been a wee bit over the top. Here's Bell's first paragraph:

IMAGINE THAT on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.

Here's the J-Pod approved response...

While “only” 2,973 people died on 9/11, they died at the rate of 29 people per minute. Taking Mr. Bell’s opening scenario one step further, had Islamofascists murdered 29 people here during every minute of the year following 8:46 a.m. EST on 9/11, more than 11 million would have been slaughtered. Is that a few more than the United States loses in traffic accidents each year, Mr. Bell?

So, if 9-11 happened every minute of the year, then that would be really bad! And the fact that it didn't happen just proves that it could happen! Or something.

This reminds me of this Monty Python sketch where Michael Palin illustrates the logic two-step:

Scientist: The first thing that Dr Kramer came up with was that the penguin has a much smaller brain than the man. This postulate formed the fundamental basis of all his thinking and remained with him until his death.

Cut back to the scientist now with diagram behind him. It shows a man and a six foot penguin.

Scientist Now we've taken this theory one stage further. If we increase the size of the penguin until it is the same height as the man and then compare the relative brain sizes, we now find that the penguin's brain is still smaller. But, and this is the point, it is larger than it was!

Making the point that you can make a point without having any point at all. Oh, and that I love Monty Python.

UPDATE... Can't forget Joe Biden in this mix, and here's the audio of his Obama smear. You can make a case that "first mainstream African-American candidate" and "clean, articulate, etc." were two different sentences, but everything Biden said is a code word for a "good kind of black," not the horrible, scary, freeloading kind.

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