Monday, December 31, 2007

Digby: Spoiling For A Victory

Glenn Greenwald has a nice rundown today on the policies of our lastest post partisan saviour, Michael Bloomberg, of the Wet Bloomer party. Let's just say it all sounds familiar --- a thrice married, pro-choice, New York mayor with distinct authoritarian tendencies and a bunch of jackass supporters and advisors. The only thing truly distinct about him is that he is a big money boy instead of a full-on fascist, a distinction that doesn't matter much when it comes to what he would do as president.

In reading Glenn's rundown I realized, however, just what a problem this could be for the Democrats. It's becoming clear now (and to my surprise, actually) that once Republicans got a look at their own mayor of Sodom, they just couldn't stomach him, even though he explicitly promised to mow down as many dark people as he possibly could. He's just too ethnic, too urban, too culturally removed.

I'm a fighting liberal

An older post from the late Steve Gilliard.--Dictynna

You know, I've studied history, I've read about America and you know something, if it weren't for liberals, we'd be living in a dark, evil country, far worse than anything Bush could conjure up. A world where children were told to piss on the side of the road because they weren't fit to pee in a white outhouse, where women had to get back alley abortions and where rape was a joke, unless the alleged criminal was black, whereupon he was hung from a tree and castrated.

What has conservatism given America? A stable social order? A peaceful homelife? Respect for law and order? No. Hell, no. It hasn't given us anything we didn't have and it wants to take away our freedoms.

Glenn Greenwald: Michael Bloomberg: Trans-partisan savior

Following along in David Broder's excited footsteps, Sam Roberts in The New York Times reports that Michael Bloomberg "is growing increasingly enchanted with the idea of an independent presidential bid, and his aides are aggressively laying the groundwork for him to run." And a handful of retired, mediocre politicians with no following are issuing self-absorbed, thug-like demands, complete with deadlines:

Former Senator David L. Boren of Oklahoma, who organized the session with former Senator Sam Nunn, a Democrat of Georgia, suggested in an interview that if the prospective major party nominees failed within two months to formally embrace bipartisanship and address the fundamental challenges facing the nation, "I would be among those who would urge Mr. Bloomberg to very seriously consider running for president as an independent."

The Big Question: Why has no clear favourite emerged in the 2008 presidential election?

By Leonard Doyle in Washington

Published: 01 January 2008

Why are we asking this now?

On Thursday, voters across Iowa become the first in the nation to have their say about the Republican and Democratic candidates for the White House in 2008. By now, two likely winners should have emerged from the pack, but the Iowa race is still wide open.

The result is important because a strong finish here can catapult an overlooked candidate to the head of a crowded field. In 1975 Jimmy Carter became the first candidate to exploit the caucus selection process. In a low-key guerrilla campaign he rang doorbells saying: "Hi, I'm not a lawyer and I'm not from Washington." Thanks to Carter, the candidates have been criss-crossing the state in sub-zero temperatures doing much the same thing. Thinly populated, evenly balanced between liberals and conservatives, rural and overwhelmingly white, the state has a unique king-maker status in the election.

Looking at America

There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.

The Five Iraqs

Posted on Dec 30, 2007
By Scott Ritter

It has become a mantra of sorts among the faltering Republican candidates: Victory is at hand in Iraq. Mitt Romney, in particular, has taken to so openly embracing the “success” of the U.S. troop “surge” that it has become the centerpiece of his litany of attacks on the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton.

“Think of what’s happened this year,” Romney recently implored a crowd in Iowa. “General [David] Petraeus came in to report to Congress and Hillary Clinton said she couldn’t believe him. She said she just couldn’t believe General Petraeus. Now think about that. He’s been proven to be right. He should be on the cover, by the way, of Time magazine, and not Putin.”

McCain's Unlikely Ties to K Street

32 Lobbyists Bundle Funds for Longtime Critic

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and John Solomon
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 31, 2007; A01

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took a break from the presidential campaign trail in March to fly to a posh Utah ski resort, where he mingled with hundreds of top corporate executives assembled by J.P. Morgan Chase for its annual leadership conference.

McCain's appearance at the Deer Valley event, arranged by J.P. Morgan Vice Chairman James B. Lee Jr., a top McCain fundraiser, put him in a room with the chief executives of companies such as General Electric, Xerox and Sony. It was, Lee said, "a chance for him to let them see him for who he is and possibly decide to support him." The effort paid off: J.P. Morgan executives have donated $56,250 to McCain's campaign, two-thirds of which came after his Utah appearance. And his visit there was quickly followed up by dozens of smaller private meetings with corporate executives in New York City arranged by leading Wall Street figures.

Paul Krugman: The Great Divide

Yesterday The Times published a highly informative chart laying out the positions of the presidential candidates on major issues. It was, I’d argue, a useful reality check for those who believe that the next president can somehow usher in a new era of bipartisan cooperation.

For what the chart made clear was the extent to which Democrats and Republicans live in separate moral and intellectual universes.

On one side, the Democrats are all promising to get out of Iraq and offering strongly progressive policies on taxes, health care and the environment. That’s understandable: the public hates the war, and public opinion seems to be running in a progressive direction.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Digby: Bipartisan Zombies

It was inevitable. I wrote about it right after the 2006 election --- as soon as the Republicans lost power, I knew the gasbags would insist that it's time to let bygones be bygones and meet the Republicans halfway in the spirit of a new beginning. GOP politicians have driven the debt sky-high and altered the government so as to be nearly unrecognizable, so logically the Democrats need to extend the hand of conciliation and move to meet them in the middle --- the middle now being so far right, it isn't even fully visible anymore.

Edwards surges, Huckabee's bubble bursts

John Edwards has clawed his way into contention to win Iowa's caucuses on Thursday in the first vote for the Democratic presidential nomination, gaining strength even as rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have lost ground, according to a new McClatchy-MSNBC poll.

As Iraqis See It

By Michael Massing

When it comes to covering the war in Iraq, McClatchy Newspapers has always done things a bit differently. The third-largest newspaper company in the US, it owns thirty-one daily papers, including The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, The Kansas City Star, and The Charlotte Observer. (It became the owner of some of these papers after buying Knight Ridder newspapers in 2006.) McClatchy has a large bureau in Washington, but without a paper either in the capital or in New York, it operates outside the glare of the nation's political and media elite, and this has freed it to follow its own path.

In the months leading up to the Iraq war, when most news organizations were dutifully relaying the Bush administration's claims about the threat posed by Iraq, Knight Ridder/McClatchy ran several stories questioning their accuracy. Since the invasion, the company has run a lean but resourceful operation in Baghdad. All three of its bureau chiefs have been young Arab-American women with some fluency in Arabic. At home in the cultures of both the West and the Middle East, they have been adept at interpreting each to the other.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Legal Fictions

The Bush administration's dumbest legal arguments of the year.

By Dahlia Lithwick
Posted Friday, Dec. 28, 2007, at 6:32 PM ET

This time last year, I offered up a top 10 list of the most appalling civil-liberties violations by the Bush administration in 2006. The grim truth is, not much has changed. The Bush administration continues to limit our basic freedoms, conceal its own worst behavior, and insist that it does all this in order to make us more free. In that spirit, it seemed an opportune moment to commemorate the administration's worst legal justifications and arguments of the year. And so I humbly offer this new year's roundup: The Bush Administration's Top 10 Stupidest Legal Arguments of 2007.

Katha Pollitt: Bill Kristol Gets New York Times Op-Ed Slot

Just shoot me. First, it was Sam Tanenhaus, conservative editor of the New York Times Book Review being put in charge of the News of the Week in Review section. That means one conservative will determine how politics,culture and ideas are covered in TWO of the most important sections of the supposedly liberal newspaper of record. Now, says the Huffington Post, the Times is set to announce that Bill Kristol will be writing a weekly op-ed column. That's Bill Kristol ,Fox commentator , editor of the the Murdochian agitprop factory Weekly Standard, George W. Bush's propagandist in chief, co-founder of the Project for a New American Century, relentless promoter of the war in Iraq , ideological bully and thug. This is the man who blamed american liberals for the Khmer Rouge and the Ayatollah Khomeini (!), who will say just about anything, however bizarre or illogical or wild or (I'm guessing) cynical, to push the only ideas in his head: everything bad is the fault of Democrats and never mind the question, war is the answer.

Katha Pollitt: Taking Care of Caretaking

This morning, TakeCareNet released the results of its survey of presidential candidates' positions on 26 public policies related to work, family, and caregiving. Co-sponsored by eight other organizations, including the Labor Project for Working Families,, and the National Council of Women's Organizations, the survey addresses the "silent crisis of care": the absence of social support for working families (I know, I know, I hate that moralistic multi-focus-grouped phrase) that has made us a nation of stressed-out parents, daycare workers on poverty wages, and children who aren't getting the high-quality attention and stimulation they need.

Digby: Don't Cry For Me Iowa Caucus

I wrote earlier about the Saturday FoxNews Greedheads who had a fit over the radical socialist message Clinton was ramming down the unwilling throats of America with her chilling Christmas ad, but they aren't the only rabid right wingers in a lather. Guess who this is: Rush? Hannity? Michael Savage?

Torture — what's it good for?

Posted on: December 29, 2007 10:09 AM, by PZ Myers

One little post about waterboarding seems to have stirred up the mob, but at least the majority seem to agree that it is torture. How could it not be? It's a process for causing pain and suffering, nothing more. At least the commenters here, even the ones I disagree with most strongly, are more honest than our politicians, many of whom seem to be in a state of denial.

But then the argument becomes whether torture is a useful procedure. I'm going to surprise some people and agree that torture is an extremely powerful tool. It's just useless for gathering information. There's just no way you can trust information gotten while ripping somebody's fingernails off with a pair of pliers — they'll scream anything to get you to stop.

Daily Kos: Greenspan Attacks Edwards...The REAL WAR in ON.

by Shipjack
Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 10:20:43 PM PST

The real war emerges. The real war showed itself this Sunday the moment the first poll ever showed Edwards with a lead. Greenspan attacked on Edwards and Populism on national television (very unusual for Greenspan). The arrogance and pressures of international capital back at work in the United States starting with ABC pushing Alan Greenspan as rebuttal to Edwards Sunday morning on George Steph. This should not surprise, but for those that perhaps didn't notice, pay attention. The devil is certainly in the details in this case. Greenspan already promoted his book a month ago. What would call for such a prized appearance on ABC Sunday morning? Certainly it's not to speak on the month old mortgage crisis he caused with his failure to implement early regulatory measures after he was warned. He's been chatting the crisis up for weeks. George's first question to Alan was: "What do you think of Edwards economic plan?". Canned all the way. It was a bad moment for George and ABC. Call it an in-kind contribution to the other mainstream Federal Reserve approved candidates, because that is exactly what it was.

America’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Agencies

Posted on Nov 29, 2007
James Harris and Josh Scheer

"Spying Blind” author Amy Zegart gives Truthdig a status report on America’s intelligence agencies and explains why our intelligence system is so broken and why our democracy may be to blame.

Listen to this interview.


James Harris: This is Truthdig. James Harris with Josh Scheer. We’re talking to the author of “Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11.” Her name is Amy Zegart and she’s on the way to the airport so we’re going to take a few moments of her time to get some information and to learn more about this book. Amy, one of the things that critics say you do really well in this book is deconstruct the myth that national security agencies work reasonably well to serve national interests. I was under the impression that the NSA, the FBI and the CIA did a reasonably decent job at protecting us. Tell me what you learned in the writing of this book that should lead me to believe something very different.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Digby: Hurry Up And Veto

Hey, remember this?
President Bush on Thursday called on Congress to approve billions of dollars in additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before lawmakers leave for their Christmas break.

This is bizarre. Steve Benen flags this AP report which says that Iraqi funds are already exempted from such lawsuits. What's going on?

With Bhutto gone, does Bush have a Plan B?

Bush's failed policies in Pakistan, a nuclear power that al-Qaida still uses to plot against the West, threatens U.S. security more than Iraq ever did.

By Juan Cole

Dec. 27, 2007 | The assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday provoked rioting in Islamabad and Karachi, with her supporters blaming President Pervez Musharraf, while he pointed his finger at Muslim extremists. The renewed instability in Pakistan came as a grim reminder that the Bush administration has been pursuing a two-front war, neither of which has been going well. Bush's decision to put hundreds of billions of dollars into an Iraq imbroglio while slighting the effort to fight al-Qaida, rebuild Afghanistan, and move Pakistan toward democracy and a rule of law has been shown up as a desperate and unsuccessful gamble. The question is whether President Musharraf now most resembles the shah of Iran in 1978. That is, has his authority among the people collapsed irretrievably?

Defaults moving beyond sub-prime

By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 28, 2007
Thought the mortgage meltdown was just a sub-prime affair? Think again. There's another time bomb waiting to explode, experts say: risky loans made to people with good credit.

So-called pay-option adjustable-rate mortgages, or option ARMs, were the easiest and most profitable home loans for lenders and brokers to make for much of this decade. Last year, they accounted for about 9% of the volume of all mortgages made in the U.S. and were especially popular in California, Florida and Nevada -- states where home prices rose the most during the housing boom and are now falling most sharply.

Glenn Greenwald: Peggy Noonan is a serious "grown-up"

In her Wall St. Journal column today, Peggy Noonan offers up a Santa-like checklist of which presidential candidates are "reasonable" and which ones aren't. In describing the attributes that Americans want in a President, she says: "I claim here to speak for thousands, millions." On behalf of the throngs for whom she fantasizes she speaks, Noonan proclaims: "We are grown-ups . . . We'd like knowledge, judgment, a prudent understanding of the world and of the ways and histories of the men and women in it."

This grown-up then proceeds to pronounce that Romney, McCain, Giuliani, Thompson and Duncan Hunter are all "reasonable" -- as are Biden, Dodd, Richardson and Obama (though too young and inexperienced to be President) -- but this is what she says about John Edwards:

John Edwards is not reasonable. . . . .[W]e can't have a president who spent two minutes on YouTube staring in a mirror and poofing his hair. Really, we just can't.

Paul Krugman: Trouble With Trade

While the United States has long imported oil and other raw materials from the third world, we used to import manufactured goods mainly from other rich countries like Canada, European nations and Japan.

But recently we crossed an important watershed: we now import more manufactured goods from the third world than from other advanced economies. That is, a majority of our industrial trade is now with countries that are much poorer than we are and that pay their workers much lower wages.

Bin Laden Killed Bhutto? How Blind Can We Be?

The shorthand being bandied about in the news that al-Qaeda is responsible for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is so sloppy, so lacking in nuance or understanding of the dynamics of Pakistan, and so self-centered in its reference to America's enemy as to be almost laughable.

Several U.S. defense and intelligence experts are quoted today dismissing even the possibility that President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani government forces, or other domestic elements could be involved, a conclusion that flies in the face of the country's history and ignores the obvious beneficiaries.

Benazir Bhutto: An Age of Hope Is Over

By Barbara Crossette, The Nation
Posted on December 28, 2007, Printed on December 28, 2007

Nineteen years ago at the end of December, Benazir Bhutto, fresh from her first, exhilarating election victory and newly sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, met Rajiv Gandhi, the youthful prime minister of India, for talks in Islamabad. She was 35, he was 44. There was obvious good will, almost intimacy, between them. The air was full of promise and hope that these two modernizing scions of dominant political families would turn decades of war and hostility between their nations into a new era of peace.

Is the Hydrogen Age Just Around the Corner?

By Jerry Brown and Rinaldo Brutoco and James Cusumano, Ode
Posted on December 28, 2007, Printed on December 28, 2007

You may think hydrogen power is some futuristic fantasy, fit only for science-fiction writers. Or, at best, you might consider it a promising technology that won't be ready for prime time for another 40 to 50 years. If so, think again. In a special edition on "Best Inventions 2006," Time magazine praises the decision by Shanghai-based Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies "to design and market the H-racer, a 6-inch-long toy car that does what Detroit still can't. It runs on hydrogen extracted from plain tap water, using the solar-powered hydrogen station."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Who Strangled the FDA?

It's possible to read all 300-plus horrifying pages of a new Food and Drug Administration subcommittee report describing the agency's slow asphyxiation by prolonged budgetary constraints without learning who is responsible for its decline.

Subcommittee member and attorney Peter Barton Hutt, who served as FDA chief counsel during the Nixon and Ford administrations, pointed his finger at the American public in his own supplemental contribution to the report: "It is not a problem caused by partisan politics. The administrations of President Clinton and President Bush have been equally unresponsive to FDA's needs. ... The country cannot withhold the requisite scientific resources from FDA and then complain that the agency is incapable of meeting our expectations."

Ex-Intel Official: Don't Be So Quick to Blame al-Qaeda, Musharraf for Bhutto Killing

Here I take my lumps like everyone else. Throughout the day I've either said that the most likely culprit for the Bhutto assassination is "the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda," or I've reported the j'accuse issued by others that Pervez Musharraf is in some way culpable. But what if that's all wrong? According to a former intelligence official with deep experience on Pakistan, there's a third, and perhaps more likely culprit: internally-focused Pakistani Islamist militants without significant links to al-Qaeda.

Deep-sea species' loss could lead to oceans' collapse, study suggests

The loss of deep-sea species poses a severe threat to the future of the oceans, suggests a new report publishing early online on December 27th and in the January 8th issue of Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press. In a global-scale study, the researchers found some of the first evidence that the health of the deep sea, as measured by the rate of critical ecosystem processes, increases exponentially with the diversity of species living there.

U.S. Troops to Head to Pakistan

Beginning early next year, U.S. Special Forces are expected to vastly expand their presence in Pakistan, as part of an effort to train and support indigenous counter-insurgency forces and clandestine counterterrorism units, according to defense officials involved with the planning.

These Pakistan-centric operations will mark a shift for the U.S. military and for U.S. Pakistan relations. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the U.S. used Pakistani bases to stage movements into Afghanistan. Yet once the U.S. deposed the Taliban government and established its main operating base at Bagram, north of Kabul, U.S. forces left Pakistan almost entirely. Since then, Pakistan has restricted U.S. involvement in cross-border military operations as well as paramilitary operations on its soil.

Navy JAG Resigns Over Torture Issue

Knight Ridder | December 27, 2007
"It was with sadness that I signed my name this grey morning to a letter resigning my commission in the U.S. Navy," wrote Gig Harbor, Wash., resident and attorney-at-law Andrew Williams in a letter to The Peninsula Gateway last week. "There was a time when I served with pride ... Sadly, no more."

Williams' sadness stems from the recent CIA videotape scandal in which tapes showing secret interrogations of two Al Qaeda operatives were destroyed.

Did Bush Watch the Torture Tapes?

The Times (London) Washington correspondent, Sarah Baxter, reporting with a summary of the developments in the case involving the CIA’s destruction of recordings of the treatment of Abu Zabaydah, points to the growing belief in Washington that President Bush viewed the torture tapes. Baxter reports:
It emerged yesterday that the CIA had misled members of the 9-11 Commission by not disclosing the existence of the tapes, in potential violation of the law. President George W Bush said last week he could not recall learning about the tapes before being briefed about them on December 6 by Michael Hayden, the CIA director. “It looks increasingly as though the decision was made by the White House,” said Johnson. He believes it is “highly likely” that Bush saw one of the videos, as he was interested in Zubaydah’s case and received frequent updates on his interrogation from George Tenet, the CIA director at the time.

CIA Jet Carrying Four Tons of Cocaine Also Made Trips to Gitmo

Posted by Manila Ryce, The Largest Minority on December 27, 2007 at 12:43 PM.

Other Western countries like Great Britain are quite honest about their history of drug trading, but we still engage in self-censorship, even amongst the Left, when it comes to acknowledging that similar activities have been carried out by the CIA in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and Latin America during the Iran-Contra Affair. Perhaps the reason why the CIA’s well-documented role in the global drug trade is never really acknowledged is because it never really ended.

The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

By Ali Eteraz,
Posted on December 27, 2007, Printed on December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto, a two time former Prime Minister of Pakistan, and one of the leading voices of democratization, was assassinated in a suicide bombing in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital, Islamabad. She was departing a political rally with her closest political advisors, in preparation of the January elections. Approximately thirty other people were killed. Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the killing.

Details about the attack are slowly coming via Pakistani media. The bomber is described as a lone-individual who, before exploding himself, opened fire on Benazir's van. Pakistani officials have confirmed (to the BBC) that she was killed by a gun-shot to the neck. In fact, Pakistan's GEO-TV is currently panning to a picture of a handgun sitting (found quite miraculously) amidst the debris, presumably the one that killed Ms. Bhutto. However, some journalists are uncertain whether it was a gun shot, or pellets from the bomb, that killed her.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And Justice for All: We Must Reverse Our Zeal to Incarcerate

by Nomi Prins

The movie Atonement is a heart-breaking love-story, a historical WWII saga. Without giving away the ending, which must be seen to be adequately felt, it tells the tale of two lovers’ lives irrevocably changed by false testimony against one of them - for a crime he did not commit. Thus, it’s also a condemnation of unreliable witnesses, the willingness of people to believe the worst, particularly of those in a lower economic-class, and the havoc that a false accusation and conviction can wreak upon human life. It’s a film and message that every judge, jury member, and prosecutor should see and consider before convicting or sentencing anyone accused of a crime.On December 10th, the United States Supreme Court voted 7-2 to recognize a gross injustice with respect to sentencing guidelines which disproportionately penalize those convicted of crack versus cocaine related crimes. The disparity gives equal punishment to a person caught with 5 grams of crack (a poor person’s cocaine) and one caught with 500 grams of coke (a drug dealer’s amount). In their validation of a federal district judge’s below-guideline sentence for a crack case, the Supreme Court reconfirmed the 2005 Booker ruling that federal judges could have more discretion in levying below-guideline sentences. They did not rule on the validity of the guidelines themselves.

Glenn Greenwald: Favorite quotes of 2007

One of the few things I dislike more than end-of-the-year "looking back" lists is the incessant chatter and worthless speculation over the upcoming primaries. But that chatter and speculation is inundating everything. Thus, I offer some of my favorite quotes of 2007:

"When I talk to senior government officials on the phone, it's my own policy -- our conversations are confidential. If I want to use anything from that conversation, then I will ask permission" --

Tim Russert, under oath at the Lewis Libby trial, citing the textbook function of a government propagandist to explain his role as a "journalist."

Poor Americans in the United States suffer hidden burden of parasitic and other neglected diseases

In an article titled "Poverty and Neglected Diseases in the ‘Other’ America," Professor Peter Hotez (George Washington University and the Sabin Vaccine Institute) says that there is evidence that the parasitic diseases toxocariasis, cysticercosis and toxoplasmosis as well as other neglected infections are very common in the United States, especially among poor and underrepresented minority populations living in inner cities and poor rural areas.

Why fish oil is good for you

UCLA researchers find anti-Alzheimer's mechanism in omega-3 fatty acids

It's good news that we are living longer, but bad news that the longer we live, the better our odds of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Many Alzheimer's researchers have long touted fish oil, by pill or diet, as an accessible and inexpensive "weapon" that may delay or prevent this debilitating disease. Now, UCLA scientists have confirmed that fish oil is indeed a deterrent against Alzheimer's, and they have identified the reasons why.

Juan Cole: Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2007

10. Myth: The US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

In a recent ABC News/ Washington Post poll, Iraq and the economy were virtually tied among voters nationally, with nearly a quarter of voters in each case saying it was their number one issue. The economy had become more important to them than in previous months (in November only 14% said it was their most pressing concern), but Iraq still rivals it as an issue!

News of Social Security's death exagerrated

Scroll past the satire to get to the meat of the article at the link--Dictynna.

Baby boomers won't break it, and problems are easily solved

Sunday, December 23, 2007

DALLAS -- On her blog, Cassandra Devine balks at the prospect of paying for the baby boomers' Social Security benefits.

Her "modest proposal" for sparing the younger generation that expense: Pay retirees to commit suicide.

"Our parents, the boomers, dodged the draft, snorted cocaine and made self-indulgence a virtue. I call them the Ungreatest Generation. Here's their chance, finally, to give something back," she writes to her fellow twentysomethings.

Daily Kos: Flying spaghetti monster defeats anti-evolution FL school board

Wed Dec 26, 2007 at 04:20:46 AM PST

Efforts were afoot recently on the Polk County School Board (in the Tampa, FL area) to begin teaching the "concept" of intelligent design in science classes as an alternative to evolution, at a time when new state standards mentioning evolution by name for the first time are under consideration. It appeared that this bonehead move had the support of a majority of the school board, but that was before the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster arrived and shamed the school board into backing down. Jump down to read more about this somewhat merry holiday tale.

Paul Krugman: Progressives, To Arms!

Forget about Bush—and the middle ground.

By Paul Krugman
Posted Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007, at 7:53 AM ET

Here's a thought for progressives: Bush isn't the problem. And the next president should not try to be the anti-Bush.

No, I haven't lost my mind. I'm not saying that we should look kindly on the Worst President Ever; we'll all breathe a sigh of relief when he leaves office 405 days, 2 hours, and 46 minutes from now. (Yes, a friend gave me one of those Bush countdown clocks.) Nor am I suggesting that we should forgive and forget; I very much hope that the next president will open the records and let the full story of the Bush era's outrages be told.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Liberal Fascism: A preview

-- by Dave

As I've mentioned, I'm still awaiting my copy of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, though the good folks at Sadly, No! have been kind enough to provide us with excerpts that are, em, enlightening, so to speak.

So far, it's clear that my early surmise of its contents are proving accurate. Take, for example, the book description from its Amazon page, presumably written by either Goldberg or his editor:
Contrary to what most people think, the Nazis were ardent socialists (hence the term “National socialism”). They believed in free health care and guaranteed jobs. They confiscated inherited wealth and spent vast sums on public education. They purged the church from public policy, promoted a new form of pagan spirituality, and inserted the authority of the state into every nook and cranny of daily life. The Nazis declared war on smoking, supported abortion, euthanasia, and gun control. They loathed the free market, provided generous pensions for the elderly, and maintained a strict racial quota system in their universities—where campus speech codes were all the rage. The Nazis led the world in organic farming and alternative medicine. Hitler was a strict vegetarian, and Himmler was an animal rights activist.
Oh, really? They were ardent socialists?

Gosh, I guess that would explain why the first prisoners rounded up and sent to Dachau -- the first Nazi death camp -- were socialists and communists:
Dachau is one of the first concentration camps the Nazis establish. The first prisoners arrive two days later. They are mainly Communists and Socialists and other political opponents of the Nazi party. Dachau is the only camp to remain in operation from 1933 until 1945.

Santa's Sweatshop

-- by Sara

Fifty million American parents want to know: WTF?

All they wanted to do was buy their kids something fun for Christmas morning. All they asked of their government was to do some basic oversight so their kids wouldn't be, y'no, poisoned by their toys.

And, as we've come to expect from the feckless bastards that Rick Perlstein calls "E. Coli conservatives," all they got in return was a jolly ho ho ho...

Paul Krugman: State of the Unions

Once upon a time, back when America had a strong middle class, it also had a strong union movement.

These two facts were connected. Unions negotiated good wages and benefits for their workers, gains that often ended up being matched even by nonunion employers. They also provided an important counterbalance to the political influence of corporations and the economic elite.

Cheney accused of blocking Californian bid to cut car fumes

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
Monday December 24, 2007


The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, was behind a controversial decision to block California's attempt to impose tough emission limits on car manufacturers, according to insiders at the government Environmental Protection Agency.

Staff at the agency, which announced last week that California's proposed limits were redundant, said the agency's chief went against their expert advice after car executives met Cheney, and a Chrysler executive delivered a letter to the EPA saying why the state should not be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases.

CIA chief to drag White House into torture cover-up storm

THE CIA chief who ordered the destruction of secret videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of two top Al-Qaeda suspects has indicated he may seek immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before the House intelligence committee.

Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, is determined not to become the fall guy in the controversy over the CIA’s use of torture, according to intelligence sources.

Dollar's Fall Is Felt Around The Globe

Weakening U.S. Currency Harms Overseas Markets

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 24, 2007; A01

The sharp decline of the U.S. dollar since 2000 is affecting a broad swath of the world's population, with its drop on global markets being blamed at least in part for misfortunes as diverse as labor strikes in the Middle East, lost jobs in Europe and the end of an era of globe-trotting rich Americans.

It marks a shift for Americans in the global economy. In times of strength, a mightier dollar allowed Americans to feed their insatiable appetite for foreign goods at cheap prices while providing Yankees abroad with virtually unrivaled economic clout. But now, as the United States struggles to fend off a recession, observers say the less lofty dollar is having both a tangible and intangible diminishing effect.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Daily Kos: Book Review: Charlie Savage's "Takeover"

Sun Dec 23, 2007 at 09:50:52 AM PST

The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy
By Charlie Savage
Little, Brown and Company
New York, 2007

[Cheney] hoped to enlarge the zone of secrecy around the executive branch, to reduce the power of Congress to restrict presidential action, to undermine limits imposed by international treaties, to nominate judges who favored a stronger presidency, and to impose greater White House control over the permanent workings of government. And Cheney’s vision of expanded executive power was not limited to his and Bush’s own tenure in office. Rather, Cheney wanted to permanently alter the constitutional balance of American government, establishing powers that future presidents would be able to wield as well.

"Angry Black Man" Does GOTV

As Josh wrote earlier this week, I've been gobbling up the new tell-all by Allen Raymond, the former GOP consultant of New Hampshire phone jamming fame.

You might wonder why Raymond, a life-time Republican operator, decided to write the book (which is due out in early January). The short answer, as he writes: "when the shit hit the fan, my political party and my former colleagues not only threw me under the bus but then blamed me for getting run over."

New Handshake, Same Grip

By David Nather, CQ Staff

For the past seven years, George W. Bush has expanded presidential power in ways that no one could have predicted when he took office.

He and Vice President Dick Cheney have worn their independence — from oversight by either lawmakers or judges — as a badge of honor, necessary to keep the nation safe from another terrorist attack and restore what they have regarded as a weakened presidency. But the cost has been a poisonous friction with Congress and a growing public perception that they simply weren’t interested in checks and balances.

Frank Rich: A Résumé Can’t Buy You Love

WE can only imagine what is going on inside John McCain’s head when he contemplates Mike Huckabee. It can’t be pretty. No presidential candidate in either party has more experience in matters of war than the Arizona senator, and yet in a wartime election he is being outpaced by a guy who has zero experience and is proud of it.

“I may not be the expert that some people are on foreign policy,” Mr. Huckabee joked to Don Imus, “but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.” So much for the gravitas points earned during a five-and-a-half year stay at the Hanoi Hilton.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The "Theory of Change" Primary

Perhaps we are being too literal in believing that "hope" and bipartisanship are things that Obama naively believes are present and possible, when in fact they are a tactic, a method of subverting and breaking the unified conservative power structure.

Mark Schmitt | December 21, 2007

The phrase "theory of change" is a bit of jargon that I first encountered in the philanthropic and non-profit world, where it refers to a fairly new way of evaluating the effectiveness of projects by drawing out the underlying assumptions about how they lead to social change. It's a useful innovation, because often differences that seem to be about ideology or effectiveness are really just different ideas about the process that will lead to change, though unspoken and unquestioned. (For example, a foundation dedicated to ending hunger might choose between giving $100,000 to a food bank that feeds 100 people a day, or to a legal group that sues the state over Food Stamp eligibility rules, or to a national group that organizes poor people to push Congress for a total Food Stamp overhaul. At the end of a year, only the food bank would have results to show, but that doesn't mean it's the only effective approach -- the potential results from the other two approaches to change are much greater, if the legal and political strategies are sound.)

Digby: Jon Benet Whiz Wit

Atrios points me to this WaPo dispatch from Iowa revealing that Dukakis lost the 88 election because he didn't serve beers to real men the proper way and that our next president must be somebody we can eat a pizza with. As Atrios points out, these people actually think they are speaking for someone other that their own little cadre of journalistic misfits when they set forth these vapid observations as if they're some sort of window into the the deepest desires of the voters.

I don't know what goes on in the campaign buses and planes personally, but I've read a lot of accounts. And from what I can tell, the only thing anybody cares about is fun and food --- what they eat, what the candidates ea, the symbolic value of their food choices and how they reflect on the candidate's character and ability to govern.

Glenn Greenwald: Reid and company target the true enemy: "Dodd and his allies"

During yesterday's chat with Washington Post Congressional reporter Paul Kane, this extremely revealing exchange occurred, regarding the view of Harry Reid and other anonymous Democrats of Chris Dodd's actions this week, whereby Dodd disrupted their collective desire for quick, smooth, trouble-free passage of Bush's surveillance and immunity bill:

New Hampshire: Hi Paul and thanks for taking my question. I read your article from the 18th about Harry Reid pulling the FISA bill and still am left wondering why "Reid spokesman Jim Manley said the decision had nothing to do with the efforts of Dodd and his allies."

I watched the entire proceedings and remain incredibly moved and thankful for the efforts of Sen. Dodd and his "allies" to protect and defend our Constitution by objecting to retroactive immunity for the telecoms. Can you fathom why this dismissive and seemingly disingenuous statement was made? Was there more to your interview with Manley that you will share?

Who Stopped Bush's War on Iran?

by Steven D
Sat Dec 22nd, 2007 at 02:45:45 PM EST

Well, according to Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report it sure wasn't the Democrats in Congress:

When the CIA and elements of the Pentagon do more - much more - than the Democrats to restrain the Bush gang from plunging the planet into an even wider spasm of war, it is time to recognize the absolute irrelevance of the Democratic Party - certainly, under present leadership.

Jaws dropped in capitals all around the globe when the combined intelligence agencies of the United States yanked the rationale for war with Iran, like a rug, from under George Bush's feet. It was a mutiny, centered in the CIA and in the Pentagon's nine separate intelligence agencies, designed to prevent Bush and Dick Cheney from expanding, against all military and political logic, their failed jihad in the Persian Gulf. Visibly startled, Bush behaved like he'd been knee-capped by his own men - which he had. The Pentagon-CIA revolt - witnessed by the entire planet - is unprecedented in modern times. Anyone who tells you differently is too blinded by imagined spy-novel schemes to recognize a mutiny when he sees it. [...]

Evangelical video shows cadets pressured to be missionaries

A video made by Campus Crusade for Christ, a Christian ministry group, shows Air Force Academy cadets being pressured to participate in religious activities and become "government paid missionaries when they leave."

Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which released the video this week, says the video is "absolutely out of control."

Major study concludes that global warming is killing off coral

If world leaders do not immediately engage in a race against time to save the Earth's coral reefs, these vital ecosystems will not survive the global warming and acidification predicted for later this century. That is the conclusion of a group of marine scientists from around the world in a major new study published in the journal Science on Dec. 13

Digby: A Movement Built To Last

The release his past week of CAF's report on the Obstructionist Republicans seems to have gotten quite a bit of attention, even as the media continues to behave as if there's nothing unusual about it or, as Glenn Greenwald documents here, believe that Democrats are somehow equally responsible for the fact that Republicans are breaking records for filibusters. The question I find myself asking about this, however, is, why now?

What's different than any other time in history when there was a similar Senate minority with a member of its own party in the white house?

Hoover Planned Mass Jailing in 1950

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty.

Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, 12 days after the Korean War began. It envisioned putting suspect Americans in military prisons.

Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests necessary to “protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage.” The F.B.I would “apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous” to national security, Hoover’s proposal said. The arrests would be carried out under “a master warrant attached to a list of names” provided by the bureau.

Is Hillary or Obama More Vulnerable to Right-Wing Attacks?

By Robert Parry, Consortium News
Posted on December 22, 2007, Printed on December 22, 2007

Even as Hillary Clinton's operatives were dropping hints that Republicans would exploit Barack Obama's youthful drug use, some Clinton insiders privately worried about her own vulnerability because the Bush administration possesses detailed knowledge of her movements -- and her husband's -- over the past seven years.

Because of Sen. Clinton's unique status as the first former First Lady to run for President - and because her husband was succeeded by a Republican -- she is the first candidate to have both her and her spouse be subject to regular, long-term surveillance by an Executive Branch agency controlled by the opposing political party.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Election '08

[from the January 7, 2008 issue]

It has been more than a year since the first group of Democratic hopefuls announced their candidacy for President of the United States. Seventeen debates or forums have been staged, and more than $150 million has been spent on advertising, polling and other campaign expenses. Pundits have pronounced their conventional wisdom, so easily reversed, on who is most "electable," "presidential" or "inevitable." Celebrities and surrogates have rung their appeals, and the deforming machinery of electoral money and math has whirled into place. And yet despite all this, something remarkable, almost magical in its resilience, will take place on January 3. Thousands of neighbors will gather in schools, churches and public libraries across Iowa to caucus. It's an imperfect, curious system--one that privileges the indirect democracy of delegates and the momentary passions of a state that is, demographically speaking, unrepresentative of America. Nonetheless, during the evening hours, when candidates and campaign staff are relegated to the sidelines, the circus of democracy will be suspended and something approaching actual democratic deliberation will unfold. But who should the voters of Iowa--and then New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and the states that follow in this crowded primary season--select as the Democratic Party's standard-bearer?

Pimco boss says US in recession

By Matthew Garrahan in Los Angeles

Published: December 20 2007 21:07 | Last updated: December 20 2007 21:07

Bill Gross, founder of Pimco, one of the world’s largest fixed-income managers, has sounded a downbeat note on the US economy by saying it has gone into recession.

“If I had to be bold I’d say we began a recession in December,” he said in a Financial Times interview, in which he called on the Federal Reserve to bring interest rates down to 3 per cent. The recession would last “four to five months”, he thought, but he added it would be prolonged if the administration and Congress failed to “take some rather unperceived and unforecasted measures in terms of fiscal stimulation”.

Remember Iraq?

Why the Democrats aren't ending the war.

By Fred Kaplan

On Tuesday, the Senate voted down two motions that would have put some conditions on the $70 billion in emergency funds that President Bush requested for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One motion would have required that most U.S. troops be redeployed within nine months. The other would have required that most combat troops "transition" to more limited missions—support, logistics, training, and counterterrorism—by the end of next year. Both motions lost.

The Democrats recaptured the House and Senate in the 2006 election in large part because of the growing opposition to the war in Iraq. Yet here they are, continuing to write Bush huge checks to conduct the war as he pleases, absolutely no strings attached. Have the Democrats betrayed their electoral mandate? It's not so simple. Two big factors are at play here.

Surgery without stitches

A thin polymer bio-film that seals surgical wounds could make sutures a relic of medical history.

Measuring just 50 microns thick, the film is placed on a surgical wound and exposed to an infrared laser, which heats the film just enough to meld it and the tissue, thus perfectly sealing the wound.

Known as Surgilux, the device’s raw material is extracted from crab shells and has Food and Drug Administration approval in the US.

Paul Krugman: Blindly Into the Bubble

When announcing Japan’s surrender in 1945, Emperor Hirohito famously explained his decision as follows: “The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.”

There was a definite Hirohito feel to the explanation Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, gave this week for the Fed’s locking-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-is-gone decision to modestly strengthen regulation of the mortgage industry: “Market discipline has in some cases broken down, and the incentives to follow prudent lending procedures have, at times, eroded.”

Saudis biggest group of al Qaeda Iraq fighters-study

19 Dec 2007 23:08:30 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Kristin Roberts WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Most al Qaeda fighters in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and Libya and many are university-aged students, said a study released on Wednesday by researchers at the U.S. Army's West Point military academy.

The study was based on 606 personnel records collected by al Qaeda in Iraq and captured by coalition troops in October. It includes data on fighters who entered Iraq, largely through Syria, between August 2006 and August 2007.

Dumping the Democrats: The Ineluctable Appeal of Some Third-Party Rudeness

Sometimes, political spin is emotionally comforting. Sometimes, spin is even convincing. But sometimes, spin nakedly leaps at you like the laughable swill it is.

This week, Nancy Pelosi lurched at us with some of the laughable stuff. After conceding that the Democratic Congress indeed met a few bumps in the road in its miserable year of 2007, she nevertheless proceeded -- sometimes, as well, pols just can't help themselves -- to counter criticism of her hapless institution by declaring: "Almost everything we've done has been historic."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Through the Looking Glass

Tuesday, December 18, 2007
-- by Sara

Oprah Winfrey once said that the best advice she ever got in her life was from Maya Angelou, who said: "When people tell you who they are -- believe them."

I've gotten good mileage from this advice over the years. Being raised fundie, you spend a lot of your life being told to believe someone else's preposterous interpretation of events over your own lying eyes. Growing up this way really twists your reality lenses; and those of us who come out of it as adults spend a lot of time and energy learning to see and interpret the world clearly again. Angelou's quote is one of the mantras that gave me permission to trust my own observations of what people were saying and doing, knock off the false hopes and wishful thinking, accept this information as literal truth, and rely on it as an accurate indicator about how they were likely to behave in the future. It's knowledge that was acquired late, but has since kept me out of an amazing amount of trouble.

Marine algae get the green light from Shell

Shell is to become the first major oil company to produce diesel fuel from marine algae.

Algae are a climate-friendly way to make fuel from carbon dioxide. They produce an oil that can readily be converted to diesel, and can be fed CO2 directly from smokestacks. Unlike biofuels such as corn, they don't use up soil or water that could otherwise be used to grow food, which can pump up food prices.

Official: Justice Dept. slowed probe into phone jamming

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department delayed prosecuting a key Republican official for jamming the phones of New Hampshire Democrats until after the 2004 election, protecting top GOP officials from the scandal until the voting was over.

An official with detailed knowledge of the investigation into the 2002 Election-Day scheme said the inquiry sputtered for months after a prosecutor sought approval to indict James Tobin, the northeast regional coordinator for the Republican National Committee.

Fed Shrugged as Subprime Crisis Spread

WASHINGTON — Until the boom in subprime mortgages turned into a national nightmare this summer, the few people who tried to warn federal banking officials might as well have been talking to themselves.

Edward M. Gramlich, a Federal Reserve governor who died in September, warned nearly seven years ago that a fast-growing new breed of lenders was luring many people into risky mortgages they could not afford.

But when Mr. Gramlich privately urged Fed examiners to investigate mortgage lenders affiliated with national banks, he was rebuffed by Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman.

DHS finalizing plans for domestic spy satellite program

Congress has not been updated since civil liberties concerns delayed satellite spying

A plan to dramatically widen US law enforcement agencies' access to data from powerful spy satellites is moving toward implementation, as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff expects to finalize a charter for the program this week, according to a new report.

The Ethanol Fallacy

The idea is so appealing: We can reduce our dependence on oil—stop sending U.S. dollars to corrupt petro-dictators, stop spewing megatons of carbon into the atmos¬phere—by replacing it with clean, home-grown, all-American corn. It sounds too good to be true.

Sadly, it is.

Pension Fund Shortages Create Hard Choices

Almost half of the states have been underfunding their retirement plans for public workers and may have to choose in the years ahead between their pension obligations and other public programs, according to a comprehensive study to be released to the public on Wednesday.

All together, the 50 states have promised to pay some $2.7 trillion in pension and retiree health benefits over the next 30 years, according to the Pew Center on the States, which spent more than a year studying the issue.

A Son’s Past Deeds Come Back To Bite Huckabee

As Mike Huckabee gains in the polls, the former Arkansas governor is finding that his record in office is getting more scrutiny. One issue likely to get attention is his handling of a sensitive family matter: allegations that one of his sons was involved in the hanging of a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp in 1998. The incident led to the dismissal of David Huckabee, then 17, from his job as a counselor at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Ark. It also prompted the local prosecuting attorney— bombarded with complaints generated by a national animal-rights group—to write a letter to the Arkansas state police seeking help investigating whether David and another teenager had violated state animal-cruelty laws.

An Idea Whose Time Should Be Past

The mandatory sentencing craze that began in the 1970s was a public-policy disaster. It drove up inmate populations and corrections costs and forced the states to choose between building prisons and building schools or funding medical care for the indigent. It filled the prisons to bursting with nonviolent drug offenders who would have been more cheaply and more appropriately dealt with through treatment. It tied the hands of judges and ruined countless young lives by mandating lengthy prison terms in cases where leniency was warranted. It undermined confidence in the fairness of the justice system by singling out poor and minority offenders while largely exempting the white and wealthy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

John Edwards' Fighting Words

Washington Dispatch: The candidate is running an impassioned, anti-corporate campaign, but will Edwards' pugilistic populism turn off Iowa voters? December 18, 2007

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA —Campaigning in Iowa, John Edwards spends a great deal of time talking about the extremely poor. He talks about veterans who live under bridges and parents who choose between food for their kids and heat in their homes. Eradicating poverty, he says, "is the cause of my life." But, a voter can ask, has it always been so? Or has he only become an anti-poverty crusader as a presidential candidate? Sincere or not—and he sure seems sincere—is his help-the-poor message the best way to connect with Iowa Democrats? In fact, Edwards' campaign events in Iowa, heavy with union workers and members of the middle class, contain few people without a roof over their heads or food on the table.

Digby: Nobody Wants To See That

Rush sez:
Now, this theory of mine based on this Drudge picture of Mrs. Clinton, with the headline: "The Toll of a Campaign." Now, it could well be that that's a sympathy photo, too, to make people feel sorry for how tough the campaign trail is. Now, I want to preface this by saying I know it's going to get out there. Media Matters is going to get hold of this and they're going to take it all out of context. We can expect that. It's a badge of honor when this happens, but for the rest of you, I want you to understand that I am talking about the evolution of American culture here, and not so much Mrs. Clinton...

Digby: Pox This

One of the kings of the FoxDemocrats, lubriciously polishing Roger Ailes's shiny apple, says:
Fox political analyst Bob Beckel mourned last night that Sen. Joe Lieberman’s endorsement of John McCain is “the price…us Democrats pay for and others who drove Joe Lieberman out of the party,” said Beckel. “They campaigned against him actively and raised money against him and he was beaten in the Democratic primary. … Now we’re paying the price and all I can say is ‘a pox on their house.’”
Yeah, it's a real loss.

Digby: Lynchin' Meat

Well, it looks like it's going to be a disgusting race to the bottom on immigration. According to this Democracy Corps poll (pdf), a majority of Americans, not just Republicans, quite intensely loathe all immigrants now and want to deport all the illegals because they are stealing all of our hard earned health care and other services. Greenberg and friends have determined that Democrats must be encouraged to run as hard as they feel they need to against the illegal hordes, pushing "enforcement only" rhetoric and generally pimping racist, xenophobic attitudes with everything we've got or they will lose the election. They call this letting the people know they "get it."

Digby: The United Christian States Of America

Steve Benen does a nice analysis of the controversial new Huckabee ad, here. It seems this really is the first time any candidate has actually mentioned "Christ" in a political ad, so I guess it's something of a milestone. But if I had to guess, it's not going to be the last. Why would it?

In 2000, George W. Bush pretty much clinched the nomination when we saw the dim little light in his head slowly start to flicker as he figured out that "Christ" was the right answer to the question of who was his favorite political philosopher.

Digby: Dazed and Confused

Eric Boehlert writes a typically insightful column today about the increasingly egregious campaign coverage. He notes something that I think is particularly odd about this year's press:
[N]ot only has the press shifted into hyper-horserace mode where tactics reign, but lots of media players can't even do the horserace stuff right. Bloomberg's Al Hunt displayed that nicely with a recent tactics-only campaign column where he mangled a key fact in order to prop up his favorite narrative.

Traffic jam mystery solved by mathematicians

Mathematicians from the University of Exeter have solved the mystery of traffic jams by developing a model to show how major delays occur on our roads, with no apparent cause. Many traffic jams leave drivers baffled as they finally reach the end of a tail-back to find no visible cause for their delay. Now, a team of mathematicians from the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Budapest, have found the answer and published their findings in leading academic journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

From "Front Edge of a Recession" To "Storm Clouds"

The Bush Administration came into office seven years ago talking down the economy -- saying we're on the "front edge of a recession" in hopes of setting a low bar of expectations for themselves to clear.

But the bar just kept dropping.

The Mortgage Crisis: Yet Another Conservative Failure

On Sunday, ABC's This Week failed to hold Alan Greenspan accountable for his role in the mortgage crisis. But today, the New York Times did, picking up where left off.

And as the NYT report shows -- like every other failure of the Bush Era -- Greenspan's failure was not one of incompetence, but the conservative ideology of reckless government.

US foreclosure filings up 68 pct in Nov.

By ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer
Wed Dec 19, 6:55 AM ET

U.S. homeowners increasingly failed to keep up with their home loan payments in November, as the number of foreclosure filings surged 68 percent nationwide compared with the same month a year ago, according to a mortgage research company.

In all, 201,950 foreclosure filings were reported last month, compared with 120,334 in November 2006, Irvine-based RealtyTrac Inc. said Wednesday.

Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of C.I.A.Tapes

WASHINGTON — At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.

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

Fed Takes Aim at Deceptive Home Lending Practices

By David Cho
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; A01

The Federal Reserve proposed new regulations yesterday to clean up a broad array of deceptive mortgage lending practices, a move that represents the central bank's most significant response to the nation's housing tumult.

The proposed rules signify a shift by the Fed toward an active regulatory role over the mortgage business and would affect a wide range of borrowers, lenders, banks and brokers. Home buyers would have to provide proof of income to ensure that they are not taking on more debt than they can handle. Mortgage ads could not promote only low "teaser" rates. Victims of predatory lending would be empowered to sue their mortgage providers.

Congress eases access to gov't records

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 18, 8:52 PM ET

Congress on Tuesday struck back at the Bush administration's trend toward secrecy since the 2001 terrorist attacks, passing legislation to toughen the Freedom of Information Act and increasing penalties on agencies that don't comply.

The White House would not say whether President Bush will sign the legislation, which unanimously passed the House by voice vote Tuesday a few days after it sailed through the Senate. Without Bush's signature, the bill would become law during the congressional recess that begins next week.

Giuliani's Kerik Woes Resurface Through Informant

Candidate Distancing Himself From Former Confidant

By John Solomon and Matthew Mosk, Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 19, 2007; Page A01

In the heady days of the 1990s when Rudolph W. Giuliani was mayor of New York and Bernard B. Kerik was one of his most trusted lieutenants, Lawrence Ray enjoyed his own wild ride.

Ray was one of Kerik's closest friends and the best man at his 1998 wedding. As Kerik was rising to become New York's police commissioner, Ray was in touch with him regularly -- lending him money, discussing possible business opportunities, and using Ray's contacts in Russia to arrange a meeting for Giuliani with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Ohio Will Likely Face Big Vote-Counting Problems in 2008

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet
Posted on December 19, 2007, Printed on December 19, 2007

It is a very odd spectacle. Ohio's Democratic secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, who was elected on a pledge to clean up voting problems in her presidential battleground state, is now under attack by would-be progressive allies for her solutions.

And her critics, who on Tuesday said her remedies could disenfranchise tens of thousands of likely Democratic voters in Ohio's primary in March and in next fall's presidential election, are not even aware of the biggest irony of all: Brunner could have solved the same problems months ago if she would have settled a federal voting rights suit from the 2004 election. Instead of working through the federal courts, she is now fighting in Ohio's notoriously partisan political arena.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fed Unveils Home Mortgage Rules

New Rules Include Protections to Regulate Risky Loans

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 18, 2007; 5:17 PM

The Federal Reserve today unveiled home mortgage rules meant to curtail the subprime lending practices that have roiled the global financial system as European banks moved again to smooth credit markets and calm investors.

The measures announced by the Fed include a host of consumer protections meant to further regulate the type of risky loans that in recent years allowed less creditworthy borrowers to take out home mortgages. When those mortgages became bundled into larger, more complex investments -- and began falling into default -- it left some of the world's biggest banks and investment houses unsure about the value of their assets and contributed to an evolving crisis in global debt and credit markets.

Sanders Opposes FCC Media-Ownership Rule Change

WASHINGTON, DC - December 18 -- Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on today’s vote by the Federal Communications Commission to overturn a 32-year-old ban on media cross ownership and allow broadcasters in the nation's 20 largest media markets to also own a newspaper:

“The FCC has made a bad situation worse. Unless Congress undoes this ruling, as I hope it will, fewer and fewer big media conglomerates will control what Americans see and hear and read. We are not going to have the kind of vibrant democracy that we need unless we discuss serious issues facing the middle class and working families in this country, and I’m not sure the corporate media wants us to do that.

World food stocks dwindling rapidly, UN warns

Monday, December 17, 2007

ROME: In an "unforeseen and unprecedented" shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels, the top food and agriculture official of the United Nations warned Monday.

The changes created "a very serious risk that fewer people will be able to get food," particularly in the developing world, said Jacques Diouf, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The agency's food price index rose by more than 40 percent this year, compared with 9 percent the year before - a rate that was already unacceptable, he said. New figures show that the total cost of foodstuffs imported by the neediest countries rose 25 percent, to $107 million, in the last year.

Nuke Industry Is on the Verge of Getting $25 Billion Handout

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Posted on December 18, 2007, Printed on December 18, 2007

The House is set to vote on Tuesday on the $500 billion 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Unveiled on Sunday, the measure covers budgets for all cabinet departments except the Pentagon. It's expected to pass both houses of Congress this week.

Hidden in the bill is a major energy package that would boost government financing for the nuclear industry. It would provide loan guarantees of up to $25 billion for new nuclear reactors. A massive grassroots campaign forced these taxpayer-financed loans out of the national energy bill earlier this month, but last week Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico slipped them back into the budget vote.

Monday, December 17, 2007


We the People' Must Save Our Constitution

If Senator Dodd needs something relevant to say, this speech, which Al Gore made on Martin Luther King Day, 2006, could be worth making again:
Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.
Mr Dodd Goes To Town

Today, Chris Dodd is going to show the Senate what integrity looks like. It's probably going to be quite shock. It's a rare thing these days.

As you all probably know, the illustrious Senate Majority leader is insisting on allowing the bill that contains retroactive immunity for huge wealthy corporations to be the basis for debate on the new FISA legislation. (I won't go into all the arcane details, but suffice to say that he's making it impossible for an alternative bill, which doesn't contain immunity, to pass, which he doesn't have to do.)

The Revenge Wing

A conservative commentator says he "gets it:"
It took this recent post by Digby and this morning’s column by Krugman for me to “get it.” If you are a conservative, you should read the two pieces, not to criticize them nor ridicule them, but to understand their perspective. As briefly as possible, Krugman and Digby are speaking for the ‘Revenge Wing’ of the Democratic Party. “The GOP and big corporations are evil incarnate and we need to be ready to rumble, willing to do “what it will take to turn a progressive agenda into reality.”

AT&T engineer says Bush Administration sought to implement domestic spying within two weeks of taking office

12/16/2007 @ 6:45 pm

Filed by John Byrne

Nearly 1,300 words into Sunday's New York Times article revealing new details of the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, the lawyer for an AT&T engineer alleges that "within two weeks of taking office, the Bush administration was planning a comprehensive effort of spying on Americans’ phone usage.”

In a New Jersey federal court case, the engineer claims that AT&T sought to create a phone center that would give the NSA access to "all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through" a New Jersey network hub.

Paul Krugman: Big Table Fantasies

Broadly speaking, the serious contenders for the Democratic nomination are offering similar policy proposals — the dispute over health care mandates notwithstanding. But there are large differences among the candidates in their beliefs about what it will take to turn a progressive agenda into reality.

At one extreme, Barack Obama insists that the problem with America is that our politics are so “bitter and partisan,” and insists that he can get things done by ushering in a “different kind of politics.”

At the opposite extreme, John Edwards blames the power of the wealthy and corporate interests for our problems, and says, in effect, that America needs another F.D.R. — a polarizing figure, the object of much hatred from the right, who nonetheless succeeded in making big changes.

Coast Guard Employee Alleges Retaliation

Whistle-Blower Seeks Probe of His Charges Against Staff of DHS Inspector General

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 16, 2007; A08

A civilian U.S. Coast Guard employee was placed on paid administrative leave, threatened with a criminal investigation and confronted by guards at gunpoint in retaliation for disclosing information embarrassing to the service's troubled fleet replacement program, his attorney said.

Anthony D'Armiento, a former Northrop Grumman systems engineer working for the Coast Guard's acquisitions department, asked the Bush administration to appoint an independent inspector general to investigate his allegations against staff members of Richard L. Skinner, inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security. D'Armiento's attorney called their actions "an egregious act of intimidation and excessive force" against a government whistle-blower.

Glenn Greenwald: The Lawless Surveillance State

There are several vital points raised by the new revelations in The New York Times that "the N.S.A.'s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before" and includes both pre-9/11 efforts to tap without warrants into the nation's domestic communications network as well as the collection of vast telephone records of American citizens in the name of the War on Drugs. The Executive Branch and the largest telecommunications companies work in virtually complete secrecy -- with no oversight and no notion of legal limits -- to spy on Americans, on our own soil, at will.

Rising seas 'to beat predictions'

The world's sea levels could rise twice as high this century as UN climate scientists have previously predicted, according to a study.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposes a maximum sea level rise of 81cm (32in) this century.

But in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers say the true maximum could be about twice that: 163cm (64in).

The Biggest Global Warming Crime in History

By Cahal Milmo, Independent UK
Posted on December 13, 2007, Printed on December 17, 2007

BP, the British oil giant that pledged to move "Beyond Petroleum" by finding cleaner ways to produce fossil fuels, is being accused of abandoning its "green sheen" by investing nearly £1.5bn to extract oil from the Canadian wilderness using methods which environmentalists say are part of the "biggest global warming crime" in history.

The multinational oil and gas producer, which last year made a profit of £11bn, is facing a head-on confrontation with the green lobby in the pristine forests of North America after Greenpeace pledged a direct action campaign against BP following its decision to reverse a long-standing policy and invest heavily in extracting so-called "oil sands" that lie beneath the Canadian province of Alberta and form the world's second-largest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia.

Obama on the Rise

By Matt Taibbi,
Posted on December 17, 2007, Printed on December 17, 2007

All love stories are beautiful at the beginning, and what we're witnessing now is the beginning of a new one: America and Barack Obama. The story begins with the world spinning off its axis, the country mired in dark times and the way of the fresh-faced savior seemingly blocked by a juggernaut agent of the Status Quo. Only in the end, in the moment that sportswriters die for and that comes once a generation in politics if we're lucky, the phenom rises to the occasion, gets the big hit in the big game and becomes a man before our very eyes. The old power recedes, and the new era is born.

That's grand language for a forum as vulgar and profane as presidential politics, but this is the moment that Barack Hussein Obama was born for, and it really is happening before our very eyes. Like Kennedy or Reagan or even Bill Clinton, Obama is a politician whose best chance for success has always been on the level of myth and hero worship; to win the Democratic nomination, he must successfully sell himself not just as a candidate but as an icon, a symbol of the best possible future for twenty-first-century multicultural America and an antidote to both the callous reactionary idiocy of the Bush administration and the shrewd but soulless corporatism of the Clinton machine.

Where Anti-Immigrant Zealots Like Lou Dobbs Get Their 'Facts'

By Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Report
Posted on December 17, 2007, Printed on December 17, 2007

The forces seeking to sharply reduce the number of immigrants coming to America won a stunning victory last June, when nativist anger at an "amnesty" for the undocumented scuttled a major bipartisan immigration reform package backed by President Bush. Many members of Congress were completely unprepared for the flood of angry E-mails, phone calls and faxes they received -- an inundation so massive that the phone system collapsed under the weight of more than 400,000 faxes.

They should not have been surprised. The furious nativist tide was largely driven by an array of immigration restriction organizations that has been built up over the course of more than 20 years into fixtures in the nation's capital.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


It's Over

Now we can all relax. Chris Matthews and his panel of Katy Kay, Norah O'Donnell, Dan Rather and Andrew Sullivan just spent the first 20 minutes of his half hour week-end show dissecting how Clinton lost Iowa and New Hampshire. Matthews ended the segment comparing her to "conceited, goody two shoes" Reese Witherspoon in "Election" who nobody can stand.

Where'd He Come From?

Like John Cole and others in the blogosphere, I confess that I'm also a little bit gobsmacked by the conservative opinion leaders' open hostility to Mike Huckabee. Kevin Drum thinks it's because the bloggers and op-ed writers are all cosmopolitan, big city folk who prefer that aristocrats pander to the religious right, not actually, you know, be them. Atrios says it's a class thing, and he's right. The Village has never taken to hicks coming in and trashing the place --- it's not their place.

Heads I Win Tails You Lose

Mukasey's Justice Department is working overtime to keep the scandal contained:
The Bush administration told a federal judge it was not obligated to preserve videotapes of CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists and urged the court not to look into the tapes' destruction.
Huckelberry's Hobgoblins

It seems like only yesterday that we heard this from Huckleberry Graham:
Sen. Lindsay Graham is the lone Republican to blast Gonzales. His boyish face comes paired with a kindergartner's hyperactivity, as he impatiently rocks his chair while waiting for his turn. During Gonzales' answers to others' questioning, Graham sometimes wears a look of confusion mingled with disgust. "I think we've dramatically undermined the war effort by getting on a slippery slope in terms of playing cute with the law," Graham, a reserve Air Force JAG officer, says. He adds later, "And I think you weaken yourself as a nation when you try to play cute and become more like your enemy instead of like who you want to be."
Oh Shut Up

I can't tell you how sick I already am of the latest incarnation of the angry, white male "star" as personified by Dobbs, Cafferty and lately (god help us) Matthews. It's really just warmed over conservative talk radio ranting that people tend to confuse with 'salt-of-the-earth' regular Joe commentary which we're supposed to think is excessively authentic because it's rude and simple-minded.

Shake It Up

Chris Dodd's campaign is asking for your help:
Today, that FISA fight we've all been waiting for begins.

In a few hours, Majority Leader Harry Reid will ask for something called a "motion to proceed" on FISA, effectively disregarding Chris Dodd's "hold" on the bill.
Shocked, simply shocked

Who could have ever predicted this?
Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused Friday to give Congress details of the government's investigation into interrogations of terror suspects that were videotaped and destroyed by the CIA. He said doing so could raise questions about whether the inquiry is vulnerable to political pressure.

The Op-Ed the Liberal Media Rejected

by Steven D
Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 10:39:26 AM EST

Three members of Congress, all Democrats, all members of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote an op-ed and submitted it to various major national newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. Everyone turned them down, despite the fact that the issue which their op-ed addresses is one currently before the Judiciary Committee and is of great interest to millions of Americans. Why? Perhaps it had something to do with the subject matter: Impeachment Hearings.

Fannie CEO: housing trouble until 2009

By MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer

Fri Dec 14, 5:05 PM ET

Fannie Mae's CEO told shareholders Friday he does not expect a housing market recovery until late 2009, "at the earliest," and that the mortgage-finance company is strong enough to ride out the downturn.

Fannie Mae "will weather the turbulence of today's mortgage market and prosper when better conditions return," the president and CEO, Daniel Mudd, said as he and other top executives faced shareholders for the first time in three-and-a-half years at an annual meeting.

After posting a third-quarter loss of $1.4 billion, the largest U.S. buyer and guarantor of home mortgages recently cut its dividend and announced plans to sell $7 billion in preferred stock to raise capital to keep its cushion against risk within regulatory requirements.

Glenn Greenwald: Harry Reid's FISA games

The Senate is going to take up debate today on the new FISA bill -- including the provisions for telecom amnesty and presidential surveillance powers -- and Harry Reid is apparently bringing the bill to the floor (a) in precisely the way designed to help the administration's goal of ensuring there is telecom amnesty and fewer surveillance oversight protections and (b) contrary to the way his office has been assuring everyone concerned that it would be done.

I am traveling today (the last day for some time, thankfully) and will not be able to write more until much later today. FireDogLake and others will undoubtedly have updates throughout the day, more thorough explanations than I can provide now, and suggestions as to what can be done.