Friday, August 31, 2007

A Guide to Media Manipulation, Republican Style

In recent years the GOP has turned the technique of making hay from their opponents' words into a reliable formula for success -- with a few distortions and a little help from the media, of course.

Paul Waldman | August 29, 2007 | web only

After he lost the 2004 presidential election, it looked as though, like many who had been in his position before -- Adlai Stevenson, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey -- John Kerry might take one more shot at reaching the Oval Office four years after falling short. But then on Monday, October 30, 2006, the local NBC affiliate in Los Angeles aired a story on Kerry's appearance that day at a campaign event. The story included a clip of Kerry delivering what quickly came to be known as the "botched joke," in which what was intended as a dig at President Bush's history as an inattentive student and all-around nincompoop came out sounding like an allegation that American troops are uneducated.

One hour later, a popular conservative talk show host in Los Angeles played the clip on his show, complete with the absurd yet predictable allegation that Kerry was intentionally maligning America's brave troops. At 2:34 a.m. Eastern time the next morning, a link to the clip appeared on the Drudge Report. At noon that day, Rush Limbaugh led his show with a discussion of the botched joke. That evening, ABC, NBC, and CBS all led their national newscasts with the story. The next day, Kerry announced that he wouldn't be doing any more campaign appearances before the midterm elections. Whatever slim chance he had at becoming his party's presidential nominee a second time had vanished completely.

Michael Kinsley: Workin' Private Equity

Goin' down, down, down.

By Michael Kinsley
Posted Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007, at 10:32 AM ET

"Most private-equity firms are about hard work, not just financial engineering."
—David Rubenstein, founding partner of the Carlyle Group, interviewed in the Wall Street Journal, Aug. 24

Dear Diary:

Whatever possessed me to go into private equity? I was so naive. I thought it was just about financial engineering. That certainly is the impression they give you in the media. But turns out that it's actually about hard work! Who'd a thunk it? Here we are in the last week of summer, and everybody is in the Hamptons or in some villa in Tuscany. Everyone, that is, except for me, Private-Equity Man. I'm working hard. In fact, I'm here in a coal mine. It's about 110 down here, you can't see a darned thing, and everything from my lungs to my blue pinstripe suit is drenched in sweat and covered with coal dust.

Deceptive ads at bottom of sub-prime mortgage crisis

Posted on Fri, Aug. 31, 2007

Deceptive ads at bottom of sub-prime mortgage crisis

Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: August 30, 2007 04:05:44 PM

WASHINGTON — Patricia Clemons had a serious heart condition and she was living on a $1,094-a-month disability check when she answered a letter from a Florida mortgage broker in 2004. It promised what sounded like easy money and cash-back refinancing of her small home in St. Petersburg.

Financial planners warn against taking home loans whose monthly payments exceed 40 percent of income. Yet Clemons, 62, later learned that she'd signed up for a new loan whose costs exceeded 62 percent of her fixed income. To her horror, the loan from Advanced Funding didn't even have an escrow account to include taxes and insurance in her monthly payment.

Leading lender likens US credit crisis to Great Depression

Andrew Clark in New York
Friday August 31, 2007
The Guardian

The US financial industry displayed fresh signs of distress from the credit crunch afflicting global money markets yesterday, with one mortgage provider describing lending conditions as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Leading accountancy firm H&R Block revealed huge losses at its up-for-sale mortgage arm, Option One, and said it was considering a halt on new loans. Reporting a quarterly loss of $302m (£150m), Mark Ernst, chief executive, said: "The loan originations market is in the midst of the most severe dislocation it has seen in years, maybe the most severe since the 1930s."

Paul Krugman: Katrina All the Time

Two years ago today, Americans watched in horror as a great city drowned, and wondered what had happened to their country. Where was FEMA? Where was the National Guard? Why wasn’t the government of the world’s richest, most powerful nation coming to the aid of its own citizens?

What we mostly saw on TV was the nightmarish scene at the Superdome, but things were even worse at the New Orleans convention center, where thousands were stranded without food or water. The levees were breached Monday morning — but as late as Thursday evening, The Washington Post reported, the convention center “still had no visible government presence,” while “corpses lay out in the open among wailing babies and other refugees.”

Is George Bush Restarting Latin America's 'Dirty Wars'?

By Benjamin Dangl, AlterNet
Posted on August 31, 2007, Printed on August 31, 2007

Two soldiers in Paraguay stand in front of a camera. One of them holds an automatic weapon. John Lennon's "Imagine" plays in the background. This Orwellian juxtaposition of war and peace is from a new video posted online by U.S. soldiers stationed in Paraguay. The video footage and other military activity in this heart of the continent represent a new wave of U.S.-backed militarism in Latin America.

It's a reprise of a familiar tune. In the 1970s and 1980s, Paraguay's longtime dictator, Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, collaborated with the region's other dictators through Operation Condor, which used kidnapping, torture and murder to squash dissent and political opponents. Stroessner's human rights record was so bad that even Ronald Reagan distanced himself from the leader. Carrying on this infamous legacy, Paraguay now illustrates four new characteristics of Latin America's right-wing militarism: joint exercises with the U.S. military in counterinsurgency training, monitoring potential dissidents and social organizations, the use of private mercenaries for security and the criminalization of social protest through "anti-terrorism" tactics and legislation.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

TPM: New Surge Meme: Gas to $9

Is this outside their area of expertise?

Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV) just got back from Iraq and he says that Petraeus, Crocker and the chieftains of the Iraqi government told him not only that there would be genocide if the US left but that gas prices would go to $8 or $9 a gallon.

Rewritten surveillance law passed by Congress could give Bush more power for domestic wiretaps

08/30/2007 @ 10:30 am

Filed by Jason Rhyne

The recently passed law which allows President Bush to continue wiretapping Americans' telephone calls overseas may allow for domestic spying as well, according to a new report commissioned by Congress.

A recently-acquired Congressional Research Service report of the controversial Protect America Act, which formally legalized communications surveillance where one party is overseas, offers nebulous language which is broadly open for interpretation, according to Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News.

Weird 'Engine of The Reef' Revealed

A team of coral researchers has taken a major stride towards revealing the workings of the mysterious ‘engine’ that drives Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and corals the world over.

The science has critical importance in understanding why coral reefs bleach and die, how they respond to climate change – and how that might affect humanity, they say.

Scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University and the University of Queensland have compiled the world’s first detailed gene expression library for Symbiodinium, the microscopic algae that feed the corals – and so provide the primary energy source for the entire Reef.

NASA study predicts more severe storms with global warming

NASA scientists have developed a new climate model that indicates that the most violent severe storms and tornadoes may become more common as Earth's climate warms.

The Frank Luntz effect

Often affable and self-effacing, Luntz hopes to transition from GOP political operative to a non-partisan political commentator

Whether he eventually winds up backing a particular candidate or not, when the story of Election 2008 is told, Frank Luntz intends to have his name writ large over that history. These days, Luntz, a corporate and Republican Party political consultant/pollster, is all over the media; he's running focus groups during many of the political debates where he declares winners and losers, he's being quoted in various media outlets about all things political, and he's a regular contributor to the Fox News Channel, where he pontificates at will.

In addition, he has given marketing advice to the BBC, political advice to British politicians, and was hired by Ireland's RTE's "The Week in Politics."

Neoliberalism Dismantles Services to Make Elites Even Richer

By George Monbiot, Comment Is Free
Posted on August 28, 2007, Printed on August 30, 2007

For the first time the UK's consumer debt exceeds the total of its gross national product: a new report shows that we owe £1.35 trillion. Inspectors in the United States have discovered that 77,000 road bridges are in the same perilous state as the one which collapsed into the Mississippi. Two years after Hurricane Katrina struck, 120,000 people from New Orleans are still living in trailer homes and temporary lodgings. As runaway climate change approaches, governments refuse to take the necessary action. Booming inequality threatens to create the most divided societies the world has seen since before the first world war. Now a financial crisis caused by unregulated lending could turf hundreds of thousands out of their homes and trigger a cascade of economic troubles.

These problems appear unrelated, but they all have something in common. They arise in large part from a meeting that took place 60 years ago in a Swiss spa resort. It laid the foundations for a philosophy of government that is responsible for many, perhaps most, of our contemporary crises.

The Rip-off in Iraq: You Will Not Believe How Low the War Profiteers Have Gone

By Matt Taibbi,
Posted on August 30, 2007, Printed on August 30, 2007

How is it done? How do you screw the taxpayer for millions, get away with it and then ride off into the sunset with one middle finger extended, the other wrapped around a chilled martini? Ask Earnest O. Robbins -- he knows all about being a successful contractor in Iraq.

You start off as a well-connected bureaucrat: in this case, as an Air Force civil engineer, a post from which Robbins was responsible for overseeing 70,000 servicemen and contractors, with an annual budget of $8 billion. You serve with distinction for thirty-four years, becoming such a military all-star that the Air Force frequently sends you to the Hill to testify before Congress -- until one day in the summer of 2003, when you retire to take a job as an executive for Parsons, a private construction company looking to do work in Iraq.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Greenhouse gases likely drove near-record US warmth in 2006

Greenhouse gases likely accounted for over half of the widespread warmth across the continental United States in 2006, according to a new study that will be published 5 September in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. Last year's average temperature was the second highest since recordkeeping began in 1895. The team found that it was very unlikely that the 2006 El Nino played any role, though other natural factors likely contributed to the near-record warmth.

When average annual temperature in the United States broke records in 1998, a powerful El Nino was affecting climate around the globe. Scientists widely attributed the unusual warmth in the United States to the influence of the ongoing El Nino. El Nino is a warming of the surface of the east tropical Pacific Ocean.

Katrina: Haley's Come-on


I've written about the "golden opportunity" right-wing ideologists spied in the landfall of Hurricane Katrina for forcing what they could never accomplish through the democratic process. Now it's time to call out the Republicans who also saw the hurricane as a golden opportunity to line their and their cronies' pockets.

Don't Cry for the Hedge Fund Managers

By Sarah Anderson, AlterNet
Posted on August 29, 2007, Printed on August 29, 2007

You've probably been staying up nights worrying about how hedge fund managers are going to weather the credit crunch stemming from the subprime mortgage storm. These men are expected to really suffer since they borrow so heavily to finance their gambling in global financial markets. Many were also stuck with piles of mortgage-backed securities when these paper assets plunged in value. A few funds have already stumbled, and Moody's credit raters have warned of a 50-50 chance that one of the big ones will crash soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What the Dutch Can Teach Us About Weathering the Next Katrina

Cow pastures in the Netherlands have better storm protection than the city of New Orleans—or New York. What do the Dutch know that we don't? Part two of a three-part series. John McQuaid, Mother Jones

Katrina: The "federalist pause"

That fatal gap between Katrina's landfall and the arrival of federal assistance? Conservatives defended it—on principle.

In her September 1, 2005 Financial Times column she simultaneously implored the nation to foreswear partisanship, and gushed worshipfully about Bush's manful preparation and immediate response to the disaster.

Neck Deep Secret: Gore Was Right

Having written several books that span periods of years, I’m often surprised how patterns emerge that aren’t apparent to me in day-to-day news coverage. In Neck Deep, our new book about George W. Bush’s presidency, one of those surprises was how often former Vice President Al Gore turned up making tragically prescient comments.

Gore, whose admirers sometimes call him “the Goracle,” comes across more as a Cassandra, warning the nation of looming disasters and finding himself either ignored or mocked by the dominant politicians and media pundits.

Time and again – from Campaign 2000 to the post-9/11 “war on terror” to the invasion of Iraq to Bush’s expansion of presidential powers – Gore pointed to grave dangers when nearly all other national political leaders and media bigwigs were either running with the herd or keeping silent.

The Great Iraq Swindle

How Bush Allowed an Army of For-Profit Contractors to Invade the U.S. Treasury
--From Issue 1034

Posted Aug 23, 2007 8:51 AM

How is it done? How do you screw the taxpayer for millions, get away with it and then ride off into the sunset with one middle finger extended, the other wrapped around a chilled martini? Ask Earnest O. Robbins -- he knows all about being a successful contractor in Iraq.

You start off as a well-connected bureaucrat: in this case, as an Air Force civil engineer, a post from which Robbins was responsible for overseeing 70,000 servicemen and contractors, with an annual budget of $8 billion. You serve with distinction for thirty-four years, becoming such a military all-star that the Air Force frequently sends you to the Hill to testify before Congress -- until one day in the summer of 2003, when you retire to take a job as an executive for Parsons, a private construction company looking to do work in Iraq.

Review Exposing Fake US History Fraud Wiped From Amazon

Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 04:58:32 AM PDT

Last week, in a recommended post entitled Your 2 Minutes Can Fight Christian Right's Fake US History, I noted a book review historian Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version Of American History had posted, on the book page for one of David Barton's works of falsified American history, "Original Intent".

In response, hundreds from the Daily Kos recommended Chris Rodda's review, which quickly became the most highly rated review of Barton's book. Rodda spelled out, quite plainly in her review, how Barton employed his very own definitions of what history revisionism is.

Several days ago, Chris Rodda informed me that her review had disappeared from Barton's page for "Original Intent".

Big Brother Democracy: How Free Speech and Surveillance Are Now Intertwined

By Naomi Klein, The Nation
Posted on August 28, 2007, Printed on August 28, 2007

Recently, as protesters gathered outside the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) summit in Montebello, Quebec, to confront US President George W. Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Associated Press reported this surreal detail: "Leaders were not able to see the protesters in person, but they could watch the protesters on TV monitors inside the hotel ... Cameramen hired to ensure that demonstrators would be able to pass along their messages to the three leaders sat idly in a tent full of audio and video equipment ... A sign on the outside of the tent said, 'Our cameras are here today providing your right to be seen and heard. Please let us help you get your message out. Thank You.'"

On the Right, Public Healthcare for Children is a Socialist Plot

By Paul Krugman, The New York Times
Posted on August 27, 2007, Printed on August 28, 2007

Suppose, for a moment, that the Heritage Foundation were to put out a press release attacking the liberal view that even children whose parents could afford to send them to private school should be entitled to free government-run education.

They'd have a point: many American families with middle-class incomes do send their kids to school at public expense, so taxpayers without school-age children subsidize families that do. And the effect is to displace the private sector: if public schools weren't available, many families would pay for private schools instead.

Big Fall Reported in 2Q Home Prices

Tuesday August 28, 8:08 pm ET
By Vinnee Tong, AP Business Writer

S&P Says Housing Prices Fell in 2Q by Steepest Rate Since Its Index Was Started in 1987

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. home prices fell 3.2 percent in the second quarter, the steepest rate of decline since Standard & Poor's began its nationwide housing index in 1987, the research group said Tuesday.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Digby: Civility

I'm sure most of you have heard the latest words of wisdom from Ted Nugent by now. You know, where he calls Barack Obama a piece of shit and says Obama and Hillary Clinton should suck on his machine gun? Where he calls Diane Feinstein a worthless whore? Right.

Anyway, on the heels of last week's opus by a writer for a prestigious neocon and conservative think tank calling for Bush to declare himself emperor and then the mass enslavement, or execution, of the invaders [Mexicans], which must be followed by an American invasion of Mexico to enforce American language and values upon the Mexicans, and Rush Limbaugh saying that the Democrats are going to buy the black vote by invading Darfur, it's been quite a week for racist and eliminationist talk from mainstream right wing sources.

Study Shows Adverse Effects of Air Pollution on Births in Los Angeles County


Women who lived in regions with high carbon monoxide or fine-particle levels — pollution caused mainly by vehicle traffic — were approximately 10 to 25 percent more likely to have a preterm baby than women who lived in less polluted areas. This was especially true for women who breathed polluted air during the first trimester or during the last months and weeks of pregnancy.

US could be heading for recession

Last Updated: 12:05am BST 28/08/2007

Ex-Treasury Secretary Summers warns of risks 'greater than any since aftermath of 9/11', reports Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

  • Subprime crisis in full
  • Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Prepare for the crunch
  • Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers warned that the United States may be heading into recession as the biggest victim to date of the sub-prime mortgage debacle was humiliatingly sold for a token sum in Germany.

    Traders are braced for another week of turmoil after the near breakdown of America's $2,200bn (£1,100bn) market for commercial paper.

    Hydrogen fuel goes liquid

    Nitrogen unlocks the possibility of convenient clean fuels.

    Katharine Sanderson

    Forget trying to shove gaseous hydrogen into porous materials for safe storage: the future of the clean-fuel economy lies in carrying hydrogen in a liquid, argues Robert Crabtree of Yale University, New Haven.

    This means that cars running on fuel cells, which run on hydrogen and oxygen and produce only water as a byproduct, could fill up at stations using roughly the same liquid-fuel infrastructure that already exists. High-pressure gaseous hydrogen, which is potentially dangerous, could be taken completely out of the public sphere. And there would be no need for totally new distribution networks and fuel-delivery systems.

    Daily Kos: War Profiteering: All Roads Lead to Cheney

    Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 01:56:51 PM PDT

    A recent article in Rolling Stone (link) added new infuriating information to a theme already advanced by Robert Greenwald’s Iraq for Sale. The article stopped short of telling us something that Greenwald concluded: Cheney is behind most if not all of the war profiteering. Even before Greenwald advanced this theme, Jane Mayer, who recently exposed a network of secret CIA prisons (link) had written in the New Yorker about Cheney’s background and history and had one quote that seems to sum it all up: ‘One businessman with close ties to the Bush Administration told me, "Anything that has to do with Iraq policy, Cheney’s the man to see. He’s running it, the way that L.B.J. ran the space program."

    Edwards Goes After the 'Corporate Democrats' -- Is This a Turning Point for His Campaign?

    By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
    Posted on August 26, 2007, Printed on August 27, 2007

    Last week, John Edwards fired a broadside against corporate America and, more significantly, "corporate Democrats," the likes of which hasn't been heard from a viable candidate with national appeal in decades.

    Edwards is en fuego right now, and if he keeps up the heat, his candidacy will either be widely embraced by the emerging progressive movement or utterly annihilated by an entrenched establishment that fears few things more than a telegenic populist with enough money to mount a credible campaign.

    Home Sales Hit Slowest Pace in 5 Years

    Monday August 27, 5:24 pm ET
    By Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer

    Existing Home Sales Drop in July to Slowest Pace in Nearly 5 Years WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of existing homes dropped for a fifth straight month in July while the number of unsold homes shot up to a record level.

    Many analysts said the worst slump in housing in 16 years is likely to deepen in coming months, reflecting the recent turmoil in credit markets, which has caused lenders to tighten their standards.

    The National Association of Realtors reported Monday that sales of existing homes dipped by 0.2 percent in July, compared to June, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.75 million units.

    Gonzales departure won't end probes

    By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
    39 minutes ago

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' resignation Monday after months of draining controversy drew expressions of relief from Republicans and a vow from Democrats to pursue their investigation into fired federal prosecutors.

    President Bush, Gonzales' most dogged defender, told reporters he had accepted the resignation reluctantly. "His good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons," Bush said.

    The president named Paul Clement, the solicitor general, as a temporary replacement. With less than 18 months remaining in office, there was no indication when Bush would name a successor — or how quickly or easily the Senate might confirm one.

    Sunday, August 26, 2007

    Into Thin Air

    He's still out there. The hunt for bin Laden.

    By Evan Thomas

    Sept. 3, 2007 issue - The Americans were getting close. It was early in the winter of 2004-05, and Osama bin Laden and his entourage were holed up in a mountain hideaway along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Suddenly, a sentry, posted several kilometers away, spotted a patrol of U.S. soldiers who seemed to be heading straight for bin Laden's redoubt. The sentry radioed an alert, and word quickly passed among the Qaeda leader's 40-odd bodyguards to prepare to remove "the Sheik," as bin Laden is known to his followers, to a fallback position. As Sheik Said, a senior Egyptian Qaeda operative, later told the story, the anxiety level was so high that the bodyguards were close to using the code word to kill bin Laden and commit suicide. According to Said, bin Laden had decreed that he would never be captured. "If there's a 99 percent risk of the Sheik's being captured, he told his men that they should all die and martyr him as well," Said told Omar Farooqi, a Taliban liaison officer to Al Qaeda who spoke to a NEWSWEEK reporter in Afghanistan.

    Talking Points Memo: O'Hanlon strikes back

    Brookings' Michael O'Hanlon's support for the war in Iraq came under quite a bit of scrutiny a month ago with the publication of his now-infamous NYT op-ed, and today he tries to defend himself with a follow-up in the Washington Post.

    There's not much to it, I'm afraid. O'Hanlon noted that he and Ken Pollack did leave the Green Zone, despite several assertions to the contrary. He added that his perspective on the war is not based just on "dog-and-pony shows," but rather "observations," "years of study," and solid military sources.

    Robert Fisk: Even I question the 'truth' about 9/11

    Published: 25 August 2007

    Each time I lecture abroad on the Middle East, there is always someone in the audience – just one – whom I call the "raver". Apologies here to all the men and women who come to my talks with bright and pertinent questions – often quite humbling ones for me as a journalist – and which show that they understand the Middle East tragedy a lot better than the journalists who report it. But the "raver" is real. He has turned up in corporeal form in Stockholm and in Oxford, in Sao Paulo and in Yerevan, in Cairo, in Los Angeles and, in female form, in Barcelona. No matter the country, there will always be a "raver".

    His – or her – question goes like this. Why, if you believe you're a free journalist, don't you report what you really know about 9/11? Why don't you tell the truth – that the Bush administration (or the CIA or Mossad, you name it) blew up the twin towers? Why don't you reveal the secrets behind 9/11? The assumption in each case is that Fisk knows – that Fisk has an absolute concrete, copper-bottomed fact-filled desk containing final proof of what "all the world knows" (that usually is the phrase) – who destroyed the twin towers. Sometimes the "raver" is clearly distressed. One man in Cork screamed his question at me, and then – the moment I suggested that his version of the plot was a bit odd – left the hall, shouting abuse and kicking over chairs.

    Smart soap can save water

    SOAP bubbles that collapse once clothes are clean could reduce the water needed during washing.

    Normal detergents contain surfactant molecules, which are oil-friendly at one end to capture dirt and water-friendly at the other to pull it away. They also tend to form bubbles, however, which require extra rinse water.

    Drop Foreseen in Median Price of U.S. Homes

    Published: August 26, 2007

    The median price of American homes is expected to fall this year for the first time since federal housing agencies began keeping statistics in 1950.

    Economists say the decline, which could be foreshadowed in a widely followed government price index to be released this week, will probably be modest — from 1 percent to 2 percent — but could continue in 2008 and 2009. Rather than being limited to the once-booming Northeast and California, price declines are also occurring in cities like Chicago, Minneapolis and Houston, where the increases of the last decade were modest by comparison.

    The secret Hammer of Wall Street

    With the markets in trouble, US Treasury Secretary Henry 'Hank' Paulson is keeping a low profile as he works the phones to restore confidence. James Doran reports from New York

    Sunday August 26, 2007
    The Observer

    On Wall Street they still call him Hank The Hammer, but US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has refrained from striking blows in attempts to solve America's worsening financial problems. Rather, the 6ft 1in former Ivy League American football champ has walked softly to chart an unusually quiet path of diplomacy, leaving it largely up to others to speak out in an effort to ease panic and restore order to global markets.

    Another UMC Conference Condemns IRD

    IRD's own website is reporting that the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist church has done the same. In what consumes the better part of six pages, the resolution (PDF) passed at the Annual Conference in the second week of June.

    The resolution recounts a litany of open attacks by the IRD leveled against the United Methodist Church, including the IRD's Mark Tooley calling Methodist Bishops "Flower children and chronic demonstrators who never grew up;" another claim that "one of the strongest regiments of the godless army (the `secular left') is America's maintstream protestant leaders;" and "irreconcilable differences on essentials are dividing culture-conforming liberals... from faithful United Methodists."

    Sic 'em With the Rally Squad

    And other tips for dealing with demonstrators from the Presidential Advance Manual.

    Late last week, the federal government settled a lawsuit with a pair of Texans who were arrested in 2004 for wearing anti-Bush T-shirts at a Fourth of July event in Charleston, W.Va. That's right, friends, $80,000 (of your taxpayer dollars) will be paid out to Jeff and Nicole Rank, whose suit against Gregory J. Jenkins—former deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Presidential Advance—has been dismissed.

    White House spokesman Blair Jones managed to turn lemons into lemonade with the statement last week that "the parties understand that this settlement is a compromise of disputed claims to avoid the expenses and risks of litigation and is not an admission of fault, liability, or wrongful conduct." This is, of course, vintage Bush, gloriously reminiscent of that Simpsons episode in which Homer arrives late to collect Bart in the pouring rain after soccer practice, then lectures: "I know you're mad at me right now, and I'm kinda mad, too. I mean, we could sit here and try to figure out who forgot to pick up who till the cows come home. But let's just say we're both wrong, and that'll be that."

    TPM Muckraker: Allawi Lobby Contract Just One Among Many

    It's not just Barbour Griffith & Rogers, and it's not just Ayad Allawi. Ten different U.S. firms are registered through the Department of Justice's Foreign Agents Registration Act database as having active contracts with various Iraqi factions.

    BGR isn't even making most of its Iraq-related money off Allawi: for the six-month period between January 1 and May 31, the Kurdistan Regional Government -- the political entity ruling the three Kurdish provinces of Iraq -- paid the firm $381,487.71 for its various services, which, from its mandatory reporting, includes a lot of phone calls to BRG President Bob Blackwill's old friend at the National Security Council, Meghan O'Sullivan.

    Bird by bird, the avian population is shrinking

    The songs of tens of millions of birds have been silenced. It feels as if the lights are dimming.

    By Nathaniel T. Wheelwright
    Brunswick, Maine

    Forty-three years ago, when I reached what my grandfather imagined to be the eve of puberty, I was summoned to spend the weekend with him at his house in rural Connecticut.

    I knew what to expect because my four older brothers had undergone the same rite of passage. The climax of the weekend would be the ceremonial presentation of a double-barreled shotgun, followed by sober instruction on firearm safety and general manliness. Next, my grandfather would take me on an excursion into the woods and we'd fire off a few rounds.

    How our seedy, corrupt Washington establishment operates

    Over the past several weeks, there has arisen a palpable and coordinated shift among the Washington establishment to blame Iraq's problems on Prime Minister Maliki and to suggest that salvation lies in his replacement. The only real alternative ever identified is former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

    Fred Hiatt turned his Op-Ed page over to Allawi two weeks ago to argue -- in the most establishment-pleasing tones -- that "Responsibility for the current mess in Iraq rests primarily with the Iraqi government" and that "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has failed to take advantage of the Iraqi people's desire for peaceful and productive lives and of the enormous commitment and sacrifices made by the United States and other nations." In other words, our wise Washington Leaders have done the Right and Good thing in Iraq, but that scoundrel Maliki is the key impediment preventing Success.

    Let's Face It: The Warfare State Is Part of Us

    By Norman Solomon, AlterNet
    Posted on August 23, 2007, Printed on August 26, 2007

    The USA's military spending is now close to $2 billion a day. This fall, the country will begin its seventh year of continuous war, with no end in sight. On the horizon is the very real threat of a massive air assault on Iran. And few in Congress seem willing or able to articulate a rejection of the warfare state.

    While the Bush-Cheney administration is the most dangerous of our lifetimes -- and ousting Republicans from the White House is imperative -- such truths are apt to smooth the way for progressive evasions. We hear that "the people must take back the government," but how can "the people" take back what they never really had? And when rhetoric calls for "returning to a foreign policy based on human rights and democracy," we're encouraged to be nostalgic for good old days that never existed.

    Bush and Napoleon Both Believed Their Own Propaganda About a "Greater Middle East"

    By Juan Cole,
    Posted on August 25, 2007, Printed on August 26, 2007

    French Egypt and American Iraq can be considered bookends on the history of modern imperialism in the Middle East. The Bush administration's already failed version of the conquest of Iraq is, of course, on everyone's mind; while the French conquest of Egypt, now more than two centuries past, is all too little remembered, despite having been led by Napoleon Bonaparte, whose career has otherwise hardly languished in obscurity. There are many eerily familiar resonances between the two misadventures, not least among them that both began with supreme arrogance and ended as fiascoes. Above all, the leaders of both occupations employed the same basic political vocabulary and rhetorical flimflammery, invoking the spirit of liberty, security, and democracy while largely ignoring the substance of these concepts.

    The French general and the American president do not much resemble one another -- except perhaps in the way the prospect of conquest in the Middle East appears to have put fire in their veins and in their unappealing tendency to believe their own propaganda (or at least to keep repeating it long after it became completely implausible). Both leaders invaded and occupied a major Arabic-speaking Muslim country; both harbored dreams of a "Greater Middle East"; both were surprised to find themselves enmeshed in long, bitter, debilitating guerrilla wars. Neither genuinely cared about grassroots democracy, but both found its symbols easy to invoke for gullible domestic publics. Substantial numbers of their new subjects quickly saw, however, that they faced occupations, not liberations.

    Friday, August 24, 2007

    Michael Kinsley: Ghost Wars

    Bush's unreliable speechwriter.

    By Michael Kinsley

    Late as usual, I have finally read Matthew Scully's slice-up of his former boss, Mike Gerson, in the September Atlantic (subscription required), and I'm flabbergasted. Everyone in Washington is talking about how devastating this article is. Slate's own Jack Shafer, no mean talent with a knife himself, e-mailed me excitedly that it left Gerson for dead. (Although Slate's Tim Noah expressed skepticism.) What a disappointment! If this is the best the Bush administration can do when attacking one another, no wonder they can't win the war in Iraq.

    Gerson was President Bush's chief speechwriter until recently, and Scully was a speechwriter for several years. (And, in case you're wondering, I don't know either one.) Scully's memoir of working under Gerson is venemous. Nothing wrong with that! In Washington, we love a good hatchet job. The display of disloyalty is a nice bonus. And evidence that another administration is melting into a puddle of recriminations is always welcome.

    Ted Rall: It Did Happen Here

    American Citizen Tortured, Convicted of Thought Crime

    NEW YORK--"Just about everyone agrees that the recent conviction of Abdullah al-Muhajir, a.k.a. Jose Padilla, is a good thing," wrote right-wing pundit Neil Kressel in The New York Post. Indeed, just about everyone did. "It is hard to disagree with the jury's guilty verdict against Jose Padilla, the accused, but never formally charged, dirty bomber," opined the liberal editorial board of The New York Times. (They went on to criticize the way the Bush Administration denied Padilla due process.)

    Meet Mr. Not Everyone.

    Paul Krugman: Seeking Willie Horton

    Paul Krugman looks at GOP efforts to revive Willie Horton and what that means for the future of the party:

    Seeking Willie Horton, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: So now Mitt Romney is trying to Willie Hortonize Rudy Giuliani. And thereby hangs a tale — the tale, in fact, of American politics past and future, and the ultimate reason Karl Rove’s vision of a permanent Republican majority was a foolish fantasy.

    Willie Horton, for those who don’t remember the 1988 election, ... committed armed robbery and rape after being released from prison on a weekend furlough program. He was made famous by an attack ad ... that played into racial fears. Many believe that the ad played an important role in George H.W. Bush’s victory over Michael Dukakis.

    Bush's Bogus Vietnam History Kills

    It is often said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But a much worse fate may await countries whose leaders distort and falsify history. Such countries are doomed to experience even bloodier miscalculations.

    That was the case with Germany after World War I when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis built a political movement based in part on the myth that weak politicians in Berlin had stabbed brave German troops in the back when they were on the verge of victory.

    And it appears to be the case again today as President George W. Bush presents the history of the Vietnam War as a Rambo movie with the heroic narrative that if only the U.S. military had stuck it out, the war would have been won.

    The Problem Isn’t Mr. Maliki

    Published: August 24, 2007

    Blaming the prime minister of Iraq, rather than the president of the United States, for the spectacular failure of American policy, is cynical politics, pure and simple. It is neither fair nor helpful in figuring out how to end America’s biggest foreign policy fiasco since Vietnam.

    Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has been catastrophic for Iraq ever since he took over from the equally disastrous Ibrahim al-Jaafari more than a year ago. America helped engineer Mr. Jaafari’s removal, only to get Mr. Maliki. That tells you something important about whether this is more than a matter of personalities. Mr. Jaafari, as it happens, was Iraq’s first democratically chosen leader under the American-sponsored constitution.

    Smashing Capitalism!

    By Barbara Ehrenreich,
    Posted on August 22, 2007, Printed on August 24, 2007

    Somewhere in the Hamptons a high-roller is cursing his cleaning lady and shaking his fists at the lawn guys. The American poor, who are usually tactful enough to remain invisible to the multi-millionaire class, suddenly leaped onto the scene and started smashing the global financial system. Incredibly enough, this may be the first case in history in which the downtrodden manage to bring down an unfair economic system without going to the trouble of a revolution.

    First they stopped paying their mortgages, a move in which they were joined by many financially stretched middle class folks, though the poor definitely led the way. All right, these were trick mortgages, many of them designed to be unaffordable within two years of signing the contract. There were "NINJA" loans, for example, awarded to people with "no income, no job or assets." Conservative columnist Niall Fergusen laments the low levels of "economic literacy" that allowed people to be exploited by sub-prime loans. Why didn't these low-income folks get lawyers to go over the fine print? And don't they have personal financial advisors anyway?

    Dick Cheney Really Is That Bad

    By Scott Ritter, Truthdig
    Posted on August 24, 2007, Printed on August 24, 2007

    Karl Rove, interchangeably known as "Boy Genius" or "Turd Blossom," has left the White House. The press conference announcing his decision to resign has been given front-page treatment by most major media outlets, but the fact of the matter is the buzz surrounding Rove's departure is much ado about nothing, especially in terms of coming to grips with the remaining 16 months of the worst presidency in the history of the United States.

    Rove is a domestic political marauder, the personification of a conservative movement which lacks a moral compass and has a complete disregard for facts. The master of exploiting mainstream America's predilection for news-as-entertainment, under which the likes of Rupert Murdoch can manufacture headlines out of thin air, Rove helped turn "fair and balanced" into a national joke which everyone laughs at but few actually comprehend.

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    'Thin-layer' solar cells may bring cheaper 'green' power

    Scientists are researching new ways of harnessing the sun’s rays which could eventually make it cheaper for people to use solar energy to power their homes.

    The experts at Durham University are developing light-absorbing materials for use in the production of thin-layer solar photovoltaic (PV) cells which are used to convert light energy into electricity.

    The four-year project involves experiments on a range of different materials that would be less expensive and more sustainable to use in the manufacturing of solar panels.

    Thicker silicon-based cells and compounds containing indium, a rare and expensive metal, are more commonly used to make solar panels today.

    Are civil unions a 600-year-old tradition?

    Sharing '1 bread, 1 wine, and 1 purse': The history of brotherment

    A compelling new study from the September issue of the Journal of Modern History reviews historical evidence, including documents and gravesites, suggesting that homosexual civil unions may have existed six centuries ago in France. The article is the latest from the ongoing “Contemporary Issues in Historical Perspective” series, which explores the intersection between historical knowledge and current affairs.

    Commonly used rationales in support of gay marriage and gay civil unions avoid historical arguments. However, as Allan A. Tulchin (Shippensburg University) reveals in his forthcoming article, a strong historical precedent exists for homosexual civil unions.

    Opponents of gay marriage in the United States today have tended to assume that nuclear families have always been the standard household form. However, as Tulchin writes, “Western family structures have been much more varied than many people today seem to realize, and Western legal systems have in the past made provisions for a variety of household structures.”

    British Army deploys new weapon based on mass-killing technology

    John Byrne
    Published: Thursday August 23, 2007

    Parliament not told, minister says

    A new 'super-weapon' being supplied to British soldiers in Afghanistan employs technology based on the "thermobaric" principle which uses heat and pressure to kill people targeted across a wide air by sucking the air out of lungs and rupturing internal organs.

    The so-called "enhanced blast" weapon uses similar technology used in the US "bunker busting" bombs and the devastating bombs dropped by the Russians to destroy the Chechen capital, Grozny.

    So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night

    McClatchy Newspapers

    So leaves the spinmeister himself, Karl Rove, the biggest rat yet to skitter down the hawser of the SS Bush Titanic, heading off to "spend more time with his family" and less time looking over his shoulder for the subpoena servers.

    What will the historians say of this pudgy, balding fellow who was called Bush's Brain, the man who so skillfully set the ambushes and laid the bouncing-betty mines that would kill or maim far better candidates than the one he helped rise to elected office at least six levels above his competence?

    The Real Iraq Progress Report

    Posted on Aug 21, 2007
    By Robert Scheer

    The parade of political tourists to Iraq in recent weeks, during which easily impressed pundits and members of Congress came to be dazzled by the wonders of the troop surge, probably ensures that this murderous adventure will continue well into the next presidency—even if the Democrats win.

    For example, Kenneth Pollack, a top national security adviser in the Clinton administration whose 2002 book, “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,” convinced many Democratic politicians to support the war, now finds renewed optimism after the surge. In a July 30 New York Times Op-Ed article, “A War We Just Might Win,” which he coauthored after spending eight days in Iraq, Pollack gushed, “We traveled to the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul. This is an ethnically rich area, with large numbers of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi army troops cover the countryside.”

    Prelude to an Attack on Iran

    Reports that the Bush Administration will put Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list can be read in one of two ways: it's either more bluster or, ominously, a wind-up for a strike on Iran. Officials I talk to in Washington vote for a hit on the IRGC, maybe within the next six months. And they think that as long as we have bombers and missiles in the air, we will hit Iran's nuclear facilities. An awe and shock campaign, lite, if you will. But frankly they're guessing; after Iraq the White House trusts no one, especially the bureaucracy.

    God’s Harvard: The New Grooming Ground of the Evangelical Movement

    By Hanna Rosin, Harcourt
    Posted on August 23, 2007, Printed on August 23, 2007

    When I first began covering religion for the Washington Post, more than ten years ago, deflecting conversion attempts became a routine part of my work. Although they are unfailingly gracious, evangelicals are not so good at respecting professional boundaries. What did it matter that I was a reporter doing my job if I was headed for eternal damnation? To a population of domestic missionaries, I presented as a prime target: a friendly non-Christian who was deeply interested in learning more about their beliefs.

    Bush's 'parting gift to the coal industry'

    By John M. Broder
    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    WASHINGTON: The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday that would extend the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal. The technique involves blasting off the tops of mountains and dumping the rubble into valleys and streams.

    It has been used in Appalachian coal country for 20 years under a cloud of legal and regulatory confusion.

    The new rule would allow the practice to continue and expand, providing only that mine operators minimize the debris and cause the least environmental harm, although those terms are not clearly defined and to some extent merely restate existing law.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Team tracks antibiotic resistance from swine farms to groundwater

    Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor

    Released 8/21/07

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The routine use of antibiotics in swine production can have unintended consequences, with antibiotic resistance genes sometimes leaking from waste lagoons into groundwater.

    In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois report that some genes found in hog waste lagoons are transferred – “like batons” – from one bacterial species to another. The researchers found that this migration across species and into new environments sometimes dilutes – and sometimes amplifies – genes conferring antibiotic resistance.

    Court Rebukes Bush Administation on Global Warming

    Groups Say Administration Suppressed Climate Change Findings


    Aug. 21, 2007 —

    A federal court today issued a harsh rebuke of the Bush administration for its failure to issue long-delayed reports assessing the impacts and consequences of global warming in the United States.

    The judge in the case set a spring deadline for administration officials to comply.

    Plaintiffs in the case say the Bush administration has been suppressing two reports intended to serve as a unifying guide for Congress and federal agencies on global warming threats and scientific research priorities.

    Federal No-Bid Contracts On Rise

    Use of Favored Firms A Common Shortcut

    By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, August 22, 2007; A01

    Under pressure from the White House and Congress to deliver a long-delayed plan last year, officials at the Department of Homeland Security's counter-narcotics office took a shortcut that has become common at federal agencies: They hired help through a no-bid contract.

    And the firm they hired showed them how to do it.

    The quiet campaign against birth control

    By Cristina Page

    August 21, 2007

    At National Right to Life's conference this year, Mitt Romney set out to convince anti-abortion leaders he was their candidate. At the podium, he rattled off his qualifications. To a layman's ears, it sounded pretty standard for abortion politics. He wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. He supports teaching only abstinence to teens.

    But for those trained to hear the subtleties, Mr. Romney was acknowledging something more. He implied an opposition to the birth control pill and a willingness to join in their efforts to scale back access to contraception. There are code phrases to listen for - and for those keeping score, Mr. Romney nailed each one.

    Bush's Bid for a Death Penalty Fast Track

    By Andrew Gumbel, The Independent UK
    Posted on August 22, 2007, Printed on August 22, 2007

    The Bush administration is preparing to speed up the executions of criminals who are on death row across the United States, in effect, cutting out several layers of appeals in the federal courts so that prisoners can be "fast-tracked" to their deaths.

    With less than 18 months to go to secure a presidential legacy, President Bush has turned to an issue he has specialised in since approving a record number of executions while Governor of Texas.

    Subprime Loans = Primetime for Vampire Lenders

    By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown
    Posted on August 22, 2007, Printed on August 22, 2007

    One of the most dramatic stories from the New Testament is of the time that Jesus encountered money changers in the temple. Enraged by their usury and sacrilege, he went on a tear -- overturning their tables, physically driving them out and chastising them for converting the temple into a "den of robbers." The Bible doesn't say where these bloodsucking lenders went, but now we know: They have re-emerged in recent years to set up their tables right here in America, working a dark alley of homeowner financing called the "subprime mortgage market." The what? Don't be deterred by the finance industry's jargon (which is intended to numb your brain and keep regular folks from even trying to figure out what's going on). At its core, this is a classically simple story of banker greed and outright sleaze. And the astonishing part is that nearly all of the rank injustice perpetrated by today's money changers is considered legal and is practiced by supposedly reputable financial firms.

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Digby: Hail Caesar

    I've been getting a lot of emails about this group Family Security Matters which boasts such right wing luminaries as Barbara Comstock, Monica Crowley, Frank Gaffney, Laura Ingraham and James Woolsey among others on its board of directors. It seems like they are just another of the dozens of wingnut welfare programs devoted to throwing good money after bad keeping conservative operatives gainfully employed.

    The emails I'm getting say they are busily scrubbing articles all over the place. When you look at what they've left up you have to wonder what could possibly be so bad they have to scrub it.

    Digby: Catapulting the Puppies and Horsies

    Yesterday I wrote that I thought the press would barely mention that amazing op-ed by the non-coms about the situation in Iraq. Greg Sargent followed up this morning with a post showing the stark difference between the giddy reception of the O'Pollack dog and pony report and that op-ed.

    Guess what was the big story this afternoon on Blitzer:


    By James Surowiecki
    The New Yorker

    Monday 13 August 2007

    When Americans think of college these days, the first word tha often comes to mind is "debt." And from "debt" it's just a short hop to other unpleasant words, like "payola," "kickback," and "bribery. At least, that's how it's been since this spring, when news broke that student-loan companies had been using unsavory and possibly illegal tactics to get preferential treatment from university financial-aid officers. At some universities, officers were given stock options in companies whose loans they recommended to incoming students, while at others lenders offered millions of dollars in perks to schools that would stop doing business with competitors. In response, the Senate passed a bill toughening rules against "inducements" from lenders to administrators. All well and good, but it leaves untouched a more fundamental scandal - the huge profits that lenders make from student loans are being earned off the government's dime
    For decades, student-loan companies have had one of the cushiest businesses in America. We want college students to be able to finance their education at reasonable rates. But banks are understandably leery of lending to people with no collateral and uncertain future earnings. So we provide incentives to lend. The federal government, for instance, guarantees the so-called Stafford loans that college students get: if a student defaults, the government will pay off almost the entire loan. On top of that, the government hands out billions of dollars in subsidies to lenders every year, all but insuring them a steady profit. In effect, lenders get a guaranteed return with very little risk.

    This convoluted process is good at making student-loan companies rich - Sallie Mae, the biggest issuer of student loans, earned $1.3 billion last year, with a return on equity that dwarfs most other companies'. But it's not very good at getting government money to students cheaply and efficiently. President Bush's 2007 budget shows, for instance, that it's four times as expensive for the government to subsidize and guarantee private loans as for it to issue those loans itself. In other words, the current system is not just corrupt. It's also inefficient. So why are we stuck with it?

    Efforts to crack down on lead paint thwarted by China, Bush Administration

    Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers

    last updated: August 21, 2007 05:02:47 PM

    WASHINGTON — The Bush administration and China have both undermined efforts to tighten rules designed to ensure that lead paint isn't used in toys, bibs, jewelry and other children’s products.

    Both have fought efforts to better police imported toys from China.

    Now both are under increased scrutiny following last week’s massive toy recall by Mattel Inc., the world’s largest toymaker. The recalls of Chinese-made toys follow several other lead-paint-related scares since June that have affected products featuring Sesame Street characters, Thomas the Train and Dora the Explorer.

    Tomgram: Dilip Hiro, America on the Downward Slope

    Pick up the paper any day and you'll find tiny straws in the wind (or headlines inside the fold) reflecting the seeping away of American power. The President of the planet's "sole superpower" and his top diplomats and commanders have been denouncing Iran for months as the evil hand behind American disaster in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

    So imagine, when President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan arrived in Washington a couple of weeks back and promptly described Iran as "a helper and a solution" for his country, even as President Bush insisted in his presence: "I would be very cautious about whether or not the Iranian influence in Afghanistan is a positive force." At almost the same moment, Iraq's embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki paid an official visit to Iran, undoubtedly looking for support in case the U.S. turned on his government. Maliki "held hands" with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, and called for cooperation. In response, all President Bush could do was issue a vague threat: "I will have to have a heart to heart with my friend, the prime minister, because I don't believe [the Iranians] are constructive.... My message to him is, when we catch you playing a non-constructive role, there will be a price to pay." (Later, a National Security Council spokesman had to offer a correction, insisting the threat was aimed only at Iran, not Maliki.) Then, to add insult to injury, just a week after Bush and Karzai met in Washington, Ahmadinejad headed for Kabul with a high-ranking Iranian delegation to pay his respects to the Afghan president "in open defiance of Washington's wishes." Think slap in the face.

    Bill Moyers Bids Farewell to Karl Rove

    By Bill Moyers
    Bill Moyers Journal

    Friday 17 August 2007

    Bill Moyers: Some closing thoughts now on politics. When Karl Rove announced his resignation from the White House earlier this week, he got some rave reviews. Here's a sample circulating on the Internet.

    CNN Correspondent: We should be congratulating Karl Rove for a long successful run - this is a guy who elected a president twice- who's known as one of the most brilliant political activists of our time...

    Chris Matthews: If you've ever talked to him he's almost got, almost like a blinder's on his eyes- he looks you right in the eye - and he talks fast- faster than I do - really fast right in your face totally intent on you - and it's really like talking to a fire hydrant...

    Bill Plante: He's not only the mastermind behind everything - he's the president's senior advisor...

    2005 Incomes, on Average, Still Below 2000 Peak

    Published: August 21, 2007

    Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion, new government data shows.

    While incomes have been on the rise since 2002, the average income in 2005 was $55,238, still nearly 1 percent less than the $55,714 in 2000, after adjusting for inflation, analysis of new tax statistics show.

    Leahy: Cheney Told GOP-Led Congress It Was ‘Not Allowed To Issue Subpoenas’

    Today in a press briefing, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) revealed that the White House had missed its 2:30 PM deadline to turn over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding legal justifications for the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program. The Committee had already pushed back the original July 18 deadline twice after the White House requested more time.

    Bloggers and Billionaires, MoveOn and Howard Dean: The Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party

    By Don Hazen, AlterNet
    Posted on August 21, 2007, Printed on August 21, 2007

    As anyone who follows politics knows, there's been a revolt against the "old" Democratic Party represented by Clinton insiders and an array of powerful political consultants, pollsters, and gate keepers.

    Frustrated by Clintonian triangulation, two losses to George Bush in elections that were widely perceived to be stolen or given away too easily, and enraged by the party leadership's support of the invasion of Iraq, outsiders have risen up in an attempt to displace the insiders and their losing ways and bring more progressive values and vision to the political process.

    A Simple Fact: Republicans Can't Manage the Economy

    By Robert Weiner and John Larmett
    Posted on August 20, 2007, Printed on August 21, 2007

    At last week's news conference, President Bush again said that he's reduced the deficit to $239 billion, created 8 million jobs and generated unemployment at a low 4.5%. He said the economy is strong, largely due to his tax cut policies. On the other side, Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), House Appropriations Committee chairman, has complained of our limited resources now because of Bush's "gargantuan deficits he created with that stupid war and those stupid tax cuts paid for with our money."

    Monday, August 20, 2007

    More on Sheehan v Pelosi; Bush Dogs of War

    Readers made some good points about my post questioning the wisdom of Cindy Sheehan's decision to run to Congress against Nancy Pelosi. Really, what's the harm? I think my problem wasn't so much with this particular race per se as with the general penchant of the left for the electoral politics of theatre: runs that have no hope of success by people who have no serious interest in being in government. I know that sounds terribly square. But beyond generating (maybe) a few headlines and offering likeminded voters a chance to raise a fist in the air, what is achieved? Is an organization built? is the ground prepared for a more powerful bid next time? Are ideas put into the political discourse that weren't there before? Is the winner pushed to the left? Too often, in fact almost always, the answer to these questions is no.

    How Super Was Our Power Anyway?

    Pick up the paper any day and you'll find tiny straws in the wind (or headlines inside the fold) reflecting the seeping away of American power. The President of the planet's "sole superpower" and his top diplomats and commanders have been denouncing Iran for months as the evil hand behind American disaster in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

    After Foreclosure, a Big Tax Bill From the I.R.S.

    Two years ago, William Stout lost his home in Allentown, Pa., to foreclosure when he could no longer make the payments on his $106,000 mortgage. Wells Fargo offered the two-bedroom house for sale on the courthouse steps. No bidders came forward. So Wells Fargo bought it for $1, county records show.

    Despite the setback, Mr. Stout was relieved that his debt was wiped clean and he could make a new start. He married and moved in with his wife, Denise.

    Paul Krugman: It's A Miserable Life

    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.

    There Is No Political Center, There Are No Centrists

    By George Lakoff, AlterNet
    Posted on August 20, 2007, Printed on August 20, 2007

    "Centrism" is the creation of an inaccurate self-serving metaphor, and it is time to bury it.

    There is no left to right linear spectrum in the American political life. There are two systems of values and modes of thought -- call them progressive and conservative (or nurturant and strict, as I have). There are total progressives, who use a progressive mode of thought on all issues. And total conservatives. And there are lots of folks who are what I've called "biconceptuals": progressive on certain issue areas and conservative on others. But they don't form a linear scale. They are all over the place: progressive on domestic policy, conservative on foreign policy; conservative on economic policy, progressive on foreign policy and social issues; conservative on religion, but progressive on social issues and foreign policy; and on and on. No linear scale. No single set of values defining a "center." Indeed many of such folks are not moderate in their views; they can be quite passionate about both their progressive and conservative views.

    GOP Powergrab Scheme in California Could Swing 2008 Election If It's Not Stopped

    By Barbara Boxer,
    Posted on August 20, 2007, Printed on August 20, 2007

    Just when you thought it was safe to start thinking about having a Democrat in the White House, along comes a cynical power grab by Republican operatives. And unfortunately, it's happening right here in my own state of California.

    If you haven't heard already, Republican strategists recently announced plans to begin raising money for a dangerous initiative that would radically change the way California apportions our electoral votes in presidential elections.

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    On The Question of Aggressive Tactics

    Kathy G, a brand-new foul-mouthed fem-blogger on the scene (subbing for Ezra Klein), asks a question:

    [W]hy aren't Democrats doing more to aggressively discredit the Republican candidates? It's essential that we shape the negative narratives about those bozos right now, before it's too late. Yet none of the operatives on our side seem to be doing that. Why is it that the Republicans always seem to be thinking and planning at least three steps ahead of the Democrats?

    This provides me a great opportunity to post something I've wanted to share for some time. Murray Chotiner is the gnarled, amoral troll who taught Richard Nixon everything he knew about running campaigns and the art of political destruction. Before going into politics, he was a lawyer specializing in representing loan sharks. Conspiracy theorists have always found it suspicious that he died in a car crash during the Watergate investigation. It's always been my conviction that progressives need not be gnarled, amoral, nor trolls in order to learn some things about how to win from people like Chotiner, things that far from compromising ethics, represent instead a belated refusal to unilaterally disarm in the face of shrewder conservative tacticians—people like Murray Chotiner; and also the man who is very much his spiritual heir, Karl Rove. Some of this stuff is just basic lessons in martial maneuver.

    The War as We Saw It


    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. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

    The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

    Heroism and the language of fascism

    Civil service is commendable, but worshiping soldiers and police for doing their duty has gotten out of control.

    August 3, 2007

    'Everyone's a hero, everyone's a star," sings Jon Bon Jovi on his 2005 album, "Have a Nice Day." It's an insipid song, but a fitting anthem for what has become a thoroughly insipid age.

    Once upon a time, you had to do something truly exceptional to qualify as a full-fledged hero: single-handedly hold off a battalion of enemy soldiers to allow your platoon to escape, or rescue 100 children from a Nazi concentration camp. But today, just showing up at your Army recruiting station makes you an instant hero -- and getting yourself hurt or killed doubles your heroism, even if you were sound asleep when your supply convoy went over an IED.

    Frank Rich: He Got Out While the Getting Was Good

    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?

    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    You don't have to hate other groups to love your own, researcher says

    Shiite vs. Sunni. Red state vs. Blue state. Immigrant vs. native. While it may appear that conflict is an inevitable part of interaction between groups, research actually suggests that fighting, hating and contempt between groups is not a necessary part of human nature, according to an Ohio State University professor of psychology.

    Concern Over Wider Spying Under New Law

    Published: August 19, 2007

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 — 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.

    Administration officials acknowledged that they had heard such concerns from Democrats in Congress recently, and that there was a continuing debate over the meaning of the legislative language. But they said the Democrats were simply raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation.

    The Worsening Nightmare

    This will be my last post in the foreseeable future about the coming attack on Iran, widening war in the Middle East and beyond, and concerning the likely dire consequences within the United States. I will undoubtedly note stories and developments of special significance -- but as for documenting the inexorable path leading to actions that will be the moral and political equivalent of Nazi Germany's attack on Poland, no. No more of that. If you want to remain informed about the steps of our descent into hell, I recommend you follow Chris Floyd,, and Counterpunch. (That list isn't intended to be exclusive by any means; those are a few of the best sites for "alternative" views of current events, and ones that I myself keep apprised of.)

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    Odds grow for recession, but lenders hold the key

    Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers

    last updated: August 16, 2007 06:41:49 PM

    WASHINGTON — Wall Street's woes are raising the risk that the U.S. economy could sink into recession late this year or early next year.

    Although few economic analysts put the odds of recession at better than 50 percent, most are now upping their probabilities.

    "We've lowered our 2008 growth forecast to 1.5 percent, down from 2.3 percent previously and 1.8 percent in 2007. We now expect a consumer recession, for the first time in 17 years," said a revised forecast issued Thursday by Merrill Lynch.

    Shaky Financial Ground Awaits Many American Retirees

    The burden of long-term economic security in the United States is moving away from employers and the government onto the shoulders of workers - a transformation that Yale University political scientist Jacob Hacker calls "The Great Risk Shift." The latest issue of Public Policy & Aging Report (PPAR) tackles the surrounding issues that older Americans will now face.

    This publication presents analyses from five leading figures associated with identifying and tracking the shifting policy landscape of risk and responsibility. Hacker himself contributes the lead article -- outlining the trends and noting their dramatic consequences.

    Glenn Greenwald: The Padilla verdict

    A federal jury in Miami today unanimously found U.S. citizen Jose Padilla guilty of "conspiracy to support Islamic terrorism overseas." In so doing, the jury dealt an enormous blow not only to Padilla himself, but also to the theory which the Bush administration cited to justify its most extremist power over the last six years -- namely, the power to imprison U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil, with no charges of any kind.

    Padilla's story is by now depressingly familiar. Arrested at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in April, 2002, he was declared to be an "enemy combatant" by George Bush and imprisoned in a naval brig for the next three-and-a-half years with no charges brought against him. The day following his arrest, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called a hastily arranged news conference in Moscow to announce that Padilla was attempting to detonate a radiological weapon in the U.S., and from that point forward, the media referred to him as the "Dirty Bomber."

    Whose Report Is It, Anyway?

    Special to
    Thursday, August 16, 2007; 12:26 PM

    The "Petraeus Report" -- the supposedly trustworthy mid-September reckoning of military and political progress in Iraq by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker -- is instead looking more like a White House con job in the making.

    The Bush administration has been trying for months to restore its credibility on Iraq (as well as stall for time) by focusing on Petraeus -- President Bush's "main man" in Iraq -- and his report to Congress. But now it turns out it that White House aides will actually write the "Petraeus Report," not the general himself.

    Tomgram: Michael Klare, Tough Oil on Tap

    News stories just out report that the Bush administration is planning to designate Iran's entire Revolutionary Guard Corps a "specially designated global terrorist" in order to tighten sanctions on that country. This follows a many-months-long drumbeat of U.S. claims against Iran -- for arming not just Shiite militias (and Sunni insurgents) with the most sophisticated roadside bombs to attack American troops, but the Taliban as well (an especially unlikely charge).

    Pentagon Paid $999,798 to Ship Two 19-Cent Washers to Texas

    Tony Capaccio
    Thu Aug 16, 11:59 AM ET

    Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- A small South Carolina parts supplier collected about $20.5 million over six years from the Pentagon for fraudulent shipping costs, including $998,798 for sending two 19-cent washers to a Texas base, U.S. officials said.

    The company also billed and was paid $455,009 to ship three machine screws costing $1.31 each to Marines in Habbaniyah, Iraq, and $293,451 to ship an 89-cent split washer to Patrick Air Force Base in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Pentagon records show.

    ACLU Challenges Louisiana Law Funneling Taxpayer Funds to Favored Churches


    Group Calls Cash Grants Unconstitutional


    NEW ORLEANS – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit today asking a federal judge to halt the payment of state taxpayer money to two Louisiana churches.

    "The government cannot simply choose to subsidize its favorite houses of worship with taxpayer dollars," said Daniel Mach, Director of Litigation for the ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

    Federal ID plan raises privacy concerns

    By Eliott C. McLaughlin

    (CNN) -- Americans may need passports to board domestic flights or to picnic in a national park next year if they live in one of the states defying the federal Real ID Act.

    The act, signed in 2005 as part of an emergency military spending and tsunami relief bill, aims to weave driver's licenses and state ID cards into a sort of national identification system by May 2008. The law sets baseline criteria for how driver's licenses will be issued and what information they must contain.

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Dear Cindy: Please Don't Run

    On July 25, Cindy Sheehan announced that since Nancy Pelosi failed to move to impeach Bush and Cheney by Sheehan's deadline two days earlier, she will run as an independent for Pelosi's seat in Congress. I have a lot of respect for Sheehan, but I hope she'll reconsider.

    First of all, should impeachment really be a litmus test? Sure, it would be emotionally satisfying to haul the president before the Senate--look how much fun the Republicans had with Clinton. I understand why some of my Nation colleagues are so keen on it. But it's not going to happen--the numbers in Congress and Senate aren't there , and I don't care how many people sign petitions and call their congressperson, that is not going to change. Despise the Democrats for caving in -- on war funding, on FISA, on abstinence-only education. Pressure them, confront them, make them feel your wrath. But to insist that they work themselves into a lather for what is essentially a symbolic gesture with no chance of success? I don't see the point of that.

    An Act of Economic Madness

    News stories just out report that the Bush administration is planning to designate Iran's entire Revolutionary Guard Corps a "specially designated global terrorist" in order to tighten sanctions on that country. This follows a many-months-long drumbeat of U.S. claims against Iran -- for arming not just Shiite militias (and Sunni insurgents) with the most sophisticated roadside bombs to attack American troops, but the Taliban as well (an especially unlikely charge). It also follows a growing eagerness in Congress for passage of the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act; reports of rising administration frustration over the UN Security Council's unwillingness to pass a third round of sanctions against Iran; a flurry of insider leaks that the Cheney wing of the administration is again pushing for military action against the Iranians and that the Vice President himself has urged the launching of "airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iran run by the Quds force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps"; reports that neocon think-tanks and pundits are joining the attack-Iran fray; constant claims from the President's commanders and diplomats that the hand of Iran is behind any administration misstep in the Middle East. In this context, it's worth remembering that the President has long claimed he would not leave office with the Iranian nuclear situation unsettled.

    Humans fostering forest-destroying disease

    Enjoying your August vacation? Well, (as they say in the summer movies) there’s a killer in the woods. Its strike has been consistently quiet, sudden, and deadly. Unknowingly, we have all been playing into its hands… But put down that rock -- you personally are not in any danger. It’s the woods themselves that are getting axed and you may be an accomplice.

    Melodrama aside, the threat is very serious – the killer is an invasive, forest-destroying plant disease known as Sudden Oak Death. Caused by an (apparently) non-native water mold (Phytophthora ramorum), the disease affects a broad range of woody plants, and is particularly lethal to our native oaks. In the last few years, it has infected and killed large stands of western oaks with alarming suddenness (hence the name). From its initial California appearance sometime in the mid-1990’s, the disease has been spreading rapidly, changing the landscape as it goes.

    Swift-Boating Hillary Clinton

    After years of systematically trying to destroy her reputation and derail her political career, GOP operatives and surrogates again have Hillary Clinton in their crosshairs. Has she already taken their best?

    A recent USA Today/Gallup Poll found that New York Senator Hillary Clinton "has significantly widened her lead over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination." While it is still many months away from the first primaries and it is by no means a done deal, the former First Lady appears to be heading for the nomination.

    DOD Stops Plan to Send Christian Video Game to Troops in Iraq

    August 15, 2007 11:19 AM

    Anna Schecter Reports:

    Plans by a Christian group to send an evangelical video game to U.S. troops in Iraq were abruptly halted yesterday by the Department of Defense after ABC News inquired about the program.

    Operation Start Up (OSU) Tour, an evangelical entertainment troupe that actively proselytizes among soldiers, will not be sending the "apocryphal" video game in care packages as planned, according to the department.

    Rove's Science of Dirty Tricks

    By Amy Goodman, King Features Syndicate
    Posted on August 16, 2007, Printed on August 16, 2007

    Karl Rove's resignation as deputy White House chief of staff cements the political future of the waning Bush administration. George W. will have little to do except wield his veto pen; he doesn't need the steadying hand of Rove for that, or his strategic insight.

    As Rove joins the ranks of discredited politicians who resign "in order to spend more time with family," a retrospective of his dirty tricks might be in order. Much is attributed to Rove, dubbed "Bush's Brain" by Texas journalists Wayne Slater and James Moore -- yet very little sticks to the man. Bearing in mind that we presume innocence until guilt is proved, read on:

    Democrats Beware: An Economic Populist Is Rising In the GOP's Presidential Primary

    By David Sirota, Working Assets
    Posted on August 14, 2007, Printed on August 16, 2007

    Leave it to the New York Times' crack campaign team to take what is a truly interesting story from the Republican presidential primary and boil it down into an uninteresting, hackneyed attempt to mimic People magazine-style nonsense (Suggestion for a new Times slogan: All the fluff that's fit to print). The Gray Lady - like almost every other major news outlet that is covering the campaign - uses former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R) surprising second-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll as an excuse to write not about the unique nature of Huckabee's substantive message, but to make the claim that the only reason he is getting ahead is because his "humor amounts to a style of politicking that many audiences have found engaging."

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Existing Home Sales Fall in 41 States

    Wednesday August 15, 7:08 pm ET
    By Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer

    Existing Home Sales Fall in 41 States While Home Prices Are Down in a Third of Cities Surveyed WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sales of existing homes fell in 41 states during the April-June quarter while home prices were down in one-third of the metropolitan areas surveyed, a real estate trade group reported Wednesday.

    The new figures from the National Association of Realtors underscored the severity of the current housing slump, the worst downturn in 16 years.

    However, Realtors officials said they saw some glimmers of hope in the data. They noted that existing home prices were up in 97 of the 149 metropolitan areas surveyed compared with the sales prices of a year ago.

    TPM Muckraker: Tom DeLay Briefed on Warrantless Surveillance in March '04

    Here's something that comes to us via very-alert DailyKos diarist drational. The day after Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card ran to John Ashcroft's hospital room to have him overrule acting attorney general James Comey's determination that the administration's warrantless surveillance program was illegal, the White House gave a briefing on the super-secret program to none other than Tom DeLay.

    Practically no members of Congress knew about the surveillance. The White House typically limited Congressional notification about the program to the bipartisan political leadership of the House and Senate and the heads of the Congressional intelligence committees -- the so-called Gang of Eight. DeLay, then the top House Republican, has no intelligence experience, and just the day before, at the White House, House Speaker Dennis Hastert received a briefing about the program, making DeLay's presence the next day redundant. The second-ranking House Democrat in 2004, then-whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, didn't receive a similar briefing.

    Foreclosures hitting hard

    Posted on Wed, Aug. 15, 2007
    Foreclosures hitting hard
    Tony Pugh | McClatchy Newspapers

    last updated: August 15, 2007 05:36:16 PM

    WASHINGTON — A central California agricultural town, the automobile capital of the world and a down-on-its-luck gambling hotspot had the nation's highest rates of foreclosure filings for the first half of 2007, according to real estate data released Tuesday.

    Stockton, Calif., Detroit and Las Vegas — three areas with vastly different economies and demographic trends — have all been hit hard by the nation's growing foreclosure crisis, which is ravaging both major urban areas and Middle America.