Thursday, January 31, 2008

The GOP: From Big Tent to Three-Ring Circus

Florida is where circus people from all over the country go to spend the winter. And, watching the primary results from that state come in tonight, I'm struck that it also seems to be the place where the GOP's famous Big Tent has finally turned into a three-ring circus in its own right.

It's an apt metaphor. The genius of the conservative emergence during the 1970s was in the way it reached out to three large, deeply discontented tribes, and brought them all together under Lee Atwater's "big tent" -- which quickly turned into a red-striped big top full of the most bizarre acts anyone had ever seen. In its 20-year heyday, the whole dazzling circus was a blur of non-stop noise and glitter bouncing and glinting across three rings, three different shows -- and three sets of supporters each contributing something essential to the success of the Greatest Show in Politics.

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Barreling into Recession

The latest economic news is striking. The U.S. economy has come to a "virtual standstill." The bubble has burst and, with anxious global markets registering the shock, other bubble economies worldwide continue to shudder at the possibility that American consumers might be forced to rein in their decade-long buying spree of imported goods.

Though any reader of newspaper business pages has surely noticed that oil news, oil deals, and oil prices have been front and center, the role of oil in our new economic moment has been underemphasized of late. It's hard even to remember -- now that the price of a barrel of crude oil has hit the $100 mark and still hovers around $91 -- that, in the week after September 11, 2001, oil was still under $20 a barrel. Think of this as another modest accomplishment of the Bush administration, helped along by its rash war in Iraq, which actually took oil off the market. In a mere six years, we've gone from the era of cheap oil to the era of pricy petroleum or "tough oil", with a new spike at the gas pump expected as early as this spring. The results are now there for all to see -- in growing misery at home as well as stunning global financial and power shifts.

Digby: Pillaging Every Last Penny

The president must have dropped a page or two of his speech tonight because he didn't mention this at all:
While thousands of Mississippians who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina remain in FEMA trailers, the federal government on Friday approved a state plan to spend $600 million in grants earmarked for housing on a major expansion of the state-owned port — a project that could eventually include casino and resort facilities.


The money in question is part of $5.5 billion in HUD Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) that Congress authorized for Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005. Administered by the Mississippi Development Authority, about $3.4 billion was allocated to replace and repair some of the nearly 170,000 owner-occupied homes destroyed or damaged by the storm. Another $600 million was set aside for programs to replace public housing, help small landlords fix their units and foster construction of new low- and moderate-income housing.

Digby: The Plan

I have no idea if Bloomberg will get into the race, but it's quite obvious that he is seriously considering it. This article in this week's NY magazine is a fascinating profile of his top aide and the plans that are being laid if he decides to make the jump:
Sheekey was miserable during the first term, adrift without a real role, until Bloomberg put him in charge of the city’s end of the 2004 Republican convention. One fringe benefit was getting to know Mark McKinnon, the Democrat turned Republican political consultant who helped make George W. Bush president...

Digby: Silly Voters

Regardless of whether you like Clinton or Obama, does anyone think it's a good idea for MSNBC to be rude, snide and dismissive about more than a million and a half Democratic voters in Florida (more than double the turnout from 2004)? Isn't there a little unpleasant history of votes not counting down there?

Now I realize that there are no delegates being awarded and maybe there won't be at the convention either. There are people talking about holding a new caucus later in the process so they do a mulligan in the state. And I also know that many people think Clinton is running some sort of scam and that she'll unfairly try to seat her delegates and that it's inappropriate for her to have a rally in Florida to celebrate "winning" etc, etc. Fine. That's all party politics and it's not what I'm talking about. It will be worked out one way or the other.

Digby: Laying Landmines

Dday wrote about Bush pulling out his trusty pen earlier today and issuing yet another signing statement, this time saying the congress has no right to tell the president he can't build permanent bases in Iraq. A reader reminded me that Bush was a busy unitary boy today. He was also issuing executive orders about what the congress is and isn't allowed to appropriate money for:
As legislators and federal officials prepared to leave town for the Christmas recess last month, Congress hurriedly passed a massive 3,400-page spending bill to keep the government running for the next fiscal year. Tucked inside the report language of the omnibus bill, and not technically bound by the force of law, were nearly 9,000 congressional earmarks worth an estimated $7.5 billion.

Digby: It Depends On What The Definition Of Conscience Is

Remember this?
Whether they voted for Mukasey or not, Democrats widely want him to examine the interrogation tactic designed to make the subject think he is drowning, and answer definitively: Is it illegal torture?

"I do believe he will be a truly nonpolitical, nonpartisan attorney general; that he will make his views very clear; and that, once he has the opportunity to do the evaluation he believes he needs on waterboarding, he will be willing to come before the Judiciary Committee and express his views comprehensively and definitively," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, one of the six who voted with the majority for confirmation.

House Approves Economic Stimulus Plan

WASHINGTON — The House voted on Tuesday to approve a $146 billion fiscal stimulus package, hoping to seal a fast-paced deal with President Bush on tax rebates and business incentives intended to jolt the economy with new spending.

But the deal, which would be the most striking show of bipartisan cooperation since Democrats won control of Congress in 2006, was at risk as Senate Democrats forged ahead with their own, more expensive plan and jockeyed over what to include in it.

The Fine Print

With President Bush, you always have to read the footnotes.

Just before Monday night’s State of the Union speech, in which Mr. Bush extolled bipartisanship, railed against government excesses and promised to bring the troops home as soon as it’s safe to withdraw, the White House undermined all of those sentiments with the latest of the president’s infamous signing statements.

The signing statements are documents that earlier presidents generally used to trumpet their pleasure at signing a law, or to explain how it would be enforced. More than any of his predecessors, the current chief executive has used the pronouncements in a passive-aggressive way to undermine the power of Congress.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

US funds madrassas in Afghanistan

By Jon Boone in Khost

Published: January 29 2008 22:12 | Last updated: January 29 2008 22:12

The US military is funding the construction of Islamic schools, or madrassas, in the east of Afghanistan in an attempt to stem the tide of young people going to radical religious schools in Pakistan.

Such schools spawned the Taliban movement, which harboured Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader behind the September 11 terror attacks on the US, before it was swept from power in 2001.

Bush Thumbs Nose at Congress

Special to
Wednesday, January 30, 2008; 1:02 PM

It's about as basic as it gets: Congress has the power of the purse. And Section 1222 of the massive defense appropriation bill enacted this week asserts that power. It reads, in its entirety:

"No funds appropriated pursuant to an authorization of appropriations in this Act may be obligated or expended for a purpose as follows:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Frank Rich: On The Democrats

Such was the low estate of the Bush administration in American public opinion that the Democrats did even better than expected in the midterm elections of 2006, especially in their narrow takeover of the Senate. The most revealing upset came in Virginia, where Jim Webb, a much-decorated Vietnam veteran, fierce Iraq war critic, and former secretary of the navy in the Reagan administration, beat the incumbent Republican senator, George Allen. Many Republican insiders had long envisioned Allen as the party's next presidential standard-bearer. Like George W. Bush, he was an unalloyed conservative with a talent for hiding his hard ideological edges behind a jocular good-old-boy persona. But a campaign incident widely disseminated on the video Web site YouTube, in which Allen addressed an Indian-American campaign worker for Webb with a racial slur ("macaca"), ripped off the mask, cost him his Senate seat and, in all likelihood, his political career.

The Man Who Learned Too Little

In his final State of the Union, Bush makes more empty promises.

By Fred Kaplan
Posted Monday, Jan. 28, 2008, at 11:54 PM ET

The sad thing about President George W. Bush's final State of the Union address is that he seems to have learned so little about the crises in which he's immersed his nation so deeply.

His first words on foreign policy in tonight's address reprised the theme of previous addresses: "We trust that people, when given the chance, will choose a future of freedom and peace." He cited, as "stirring" examples of this principle, the "images" of citizens demanding independence in Ukraine and Lebanon, of Afghans emerging from the Taliban's tyranny, of "jubilant Iraqis holding up ink-stained fingers" to celebrate free elections.

More Hitting Cost Limit on Health Benefits

Consumers Forced To Explore Options

By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 27, 2008; A03

A small but growing number of American families beset by major medical problems are learning the hard way that simply having health insurance is sometimes not enough.

Those who need organ transplants or who have hemophilia, Gaucher disease or other costly chronic illnesses can easily rack up medical bills that blow through the lifetime benefits cap of $1 million or more that is a standard part of many insurance policies.

Digby: Creative Conservatism

Dave Roberts of Grist takes a look [1] at Newt Gingrich's innovative new environmental proposals which, unsurprisingly, looks like another fantastic opportunity for rich people to bleed the taxpayers:

[W]hat Gingrich recommends is, in Sean's phrasing [2], pro-business, not pro-market. He wants to ladle out public money to favored corporations while shielding them from any regulations....This is what passes for conservative in today's party of economic royalists, but it is not conservative in the original sense.

It leaves Gingrich with very little to offer beyond media-friendly rhetoric. Look at the answer he offers Sierra Magazine [3] (in a roundtable well worth reading) on what the next president and Congress should do first:

Former Indonesian Dictator, U.S. Ally & Mass Murderer, Suharto, 86, Dies

Today a Democracy Now! special – an in-depth look at Suharto’s brutal thirty-year reign and the role of the United States in shoring him up. Suharto rose to power in 1965, killing up to a million Indonesians. Hundreds of thousands of more people died during the U.S.-supported Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor. Tens of thousands also died in West Papua and Aceh. On Sunday, Cameron Hume, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, said “Though there may be some controversy over his legacy, President Suharto was a historic figure who left a lasting imprint on Indonesia and the region of Southeast Asia.”

Neo-cons shaken, but not deterred

Neo-cons shaken, but not deterred
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Almost exactly five years after it reached its zenith with the invasion of Iraq, the influence of neo-conservatives has waned sharply in Washington, as their nemeses, the "realists" in the national security bureaucracy, have increasingly asserted control over US foreign policy.

While battered, however, neo-conservatives have not yet been forced from the field. And while their hopes that President George W Bush would "take out" Iran's nuclear program before leaving office appear to have diminished substantially, their hawkish voice is still heard loud and clear both in the White House - courtesy of Vice President Dick Cheney's office and Deputy National Security adviser Elliott Abrams - and in this year's Republican presidential race, where neo-conservative favorites include former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain, and, until earlier last week, Fred Thompson.

Paul Krugman: Who Gets Stimulated

Fast work by the people at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, who figure out who gets what from tax plans. They now have distribution tables for the stimulus proposal announced yesterday, and they more or less match my expectations.

$100 Billion and Counting: How Wall Street Blew Itself up

By Pam Martens, CounterPunch
Posted on January 27, 2008, Printed on January 29, 2008

The massive losses by big Wall Street firms, now topping those of the Great Depression in relative terms, have yet to be adequately explained. Wall Street power players are obfuscating and Congress is too embarrassed or frightened to ask, preferring to just throw money at the problem and hope it goes away. But as job losses and foreclosures mount and pensions and 401(k)s shrink, public policy measures to address the economic stresses require a full set of unembellished facts.

The proof that Wall Street is giving mainstream media a stage-managed version of what went wrong begins with a strange revelation by Gary Crittenden, CFO of Citigroup, on the November 5, 2007 conference call where he discusses what have now become the largest losses in the firm's 196-year history. Mr. Crittenden is asked by an analyst why the firm didn't hedge its risk.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Road To Hyperinflation

Fed helpless in its own crisis
By Henry C K Liu

After months of denial to soothe a nervous market, the Federal Reserve, the US central bank, finally started to take increasingly desperate steps to try to inject more liquidity into distressed financial institutions to revive and stabilize credit markets that have been roiled by turmoil since August 2007 and to prevent the home mortgage credit crisis from infesting the whole economy.

Yet more liquidity appears to be a counterproductive response to a credit crisis that has been caused by years of excess liquidity. A liquidity crisis is merely a symptom of the current financial malaise. The real disease is mounting insolvency resulting from excessive debt for which adding liquidity can only postpone the day of reckoning towards a bigger problem but cannot cure. Further, the market is stalled by a liquidity crunch, but the economy is plagued with excess liquidity. What the Fed appears to be doing is to try to save the market at the expense of the economy by adding more liquidity.

Bad news for coastal ocean: less fish out, means more nitrogen in

The study, the first to examine the world's 58 coatal regions, shows how failing to maintain ecosystems in a sustainable manner has wide-ranging consequences. Using data provided by the United Nations, the researchers found that commercial fishing has played an important, yet declining, role in removing man-made nitrogen from coastal waters.

Digby: Rudy No Go

I've seen some spectacular political flameouts in my day, but this is one for the books:
Ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani took a further hit on Sunday, when a poll showed he dropped to fourth place ahead of Florida's Republican primary, which looked set to be a tight race between John McCain and Mitt Romney.

And, just days ahead of Tuesday's voting, McCain got a major boost with the endorsement of Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who enjoys popularity levels of around 70 percent in the state.

Digby: Stepping Up

Firedoglake reports that both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama are going to be in the Senate tomorrow to vote no on cloture on the FISA bill. Ari Melber at The Nation explains what's going on:

President Bush is now daring Congress to defy his demand for more unchecked power to spy on Americans without warrants, vowing to veto temporary surveillance legislation and politicize his last State of the Union address for an attack on Democrats.

The End of Privacy

By Elliot Cohen

Amid the controversy brewing in the Senate over Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform, the Bush administration appears to have changed its strategy and is devising a bold new plan that would strip away FISA protections in favor of a system of wholesale government monitoring of every American’s Internet activities. Now the national director of intelligence is predicting a disastrous cyber-terrorist attack on the U.S. if this scheme isn’t instituted.

It is no secret that the Bush administration has already been spying on the e-mail, voice-over-IP, and other Internet exchanges between American citizens since as early as and possibly earlier than Sept. 11, 2001. The National Security Agency has set up shop in the hubs of major telecom corporations, notably AT&T, installing equipment that makes copies of the contents of all Internet traffic, routing it to a government database and then using natural language parsing technology to sift through and analyze the data using undisclosed search criteria. It has done this without judicial oversight and obviously without the consent of the millions of Americans under surveillance. Given any rational interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, its mass spying operation is illegal and unconstitutional.

Paul Krugman: Lessons of 1992

It’s starting to feel a bit like 1992 again. A Bush is in the White House, the economy is a mess, and there’s a candidate who, in the view of a number of observers, is running on a message of hope, of moving past partisan differences, that resembles Bill Clinton’s campaign 16 years ago.

Now, I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization of the 1992 Clinton campaign, which had a strong streak of populism, beginning with a speech in which Mr. Clinton described the 1980s as a “gilded age of greed.” Still, to the extent that Barack Obama 2008 does sound like Bill Clinton 1992, here’s my question: Has everyone forgotten what happened after the 1992 election?

Let’s review the sad tale, starting with the politics.

3 US workers face investigation over Obama e-mail

WASHINGTON - Three federal employees are being investigated for unlawful political activities after they allegedly sent an e-mail falsely accusing Barack Obama of being a "radical Muslim," the Globe has learned.

The US Office of Special Counsel - the independent federal agency responsible for enforcing a law banning civil service workers from engaging in political activism while performing their official duties - has launched investigations of two employees at one agency and one employee at another agency. All three are believed to have forwarded the erroneous chain e-mail about Obama from their government e-mail accounts.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Digby: The New Field Frontier

One of the most interesting things about this primary race is something that nobody's talking about, but it's hugely important and may make the difference come November.

Matt Stoller wrote about it in The Nation this week:
About twice as many Democrats voted in Iowa as Republicans. "We'd better be careful as a party," Mike Huckabee warned his fellow Republicans in the wake of the Iowa caucuses, "because if we don't give people something to be for, and only something to be against, we're going to lose that next election, and there are some fundamental issues that we lose with it." Mike Podhorzer, deputy political director of the AFL-CIO, puts it this way: "You have dead turnout on the Republican side and insane turnout on the Democratic side."

Digby: White Flag

clammyc over at Dkos discusses this mindblowing article in today's Boston Globe about what's going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As he wryly observes, it's not as exciting as watching Tweety and Blitzer slobber and squeal over every nuance of the candidates' canned talking points, but it is actually important. The article says:
Sometime in mid-December, as the winter winds howled across the snow-dusted hills of Pakistan's inhospitable border regions, 40 men representing Taliban groups all across Pakistan's northwest frontier came together to unify under a single banner and to choose a leader.

The banner was Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan, or the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, with a fighting force estimated at up to 40,000. And the leader was Baitullah Mehsud, the man Pakistan accuses of assassinating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Taliban factions unite to battle Pakistan

Warlord reports aid from Al Qaeda

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Sometime in mid-December, as the winter winds howled across the snow-dusted hills of Pakistan's inhospitable border regions, 40 men representing Taliban groups all across Pakistan's northwest frontier came together to unify under a single banner and to choose a leader.

The banner was Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan, or the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, with a fighting force estimated at up to 40,000. And the leader was Baitullah Mehsud, the man Pakistan accuses of assassinating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Waving Goodbye to Hegemony

Turn on the TV today, and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s 1999. Democrats and Republicans are bickering about where and how to intervene, whether to do it alone or with allies and what kind of world America should lead. Democrats believe they can hit a reset button, and Republicans believe muscular moralism is the way to go. It’s as if the first decade of the 21st century didn’t happen — and almost as if history itself doesn’t happen. But the distribution of power in the world has fundamentally altered over the two presidential terms of George W. Bush, both because of his policies and, more significant, despite them. Maybe the best way to understand how quickly history happens is to look just a bit ahead.

It is 2016, and the Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama administration is nearing the end of its second term. America has pulled out of Iraq but has about 20,000 troops in the independent state of Kurdistan, as well as warships anchored at Bahrain and an Air Force presence in Qatar. Afghanistan is stable; Iran is nuclear. China has absorbed Taiwan and is steadily increasing its naval presence around the Pacific Rim and, from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea. The European Union has expanded to well over 30 members and has secure oil and gas flows from North Africa, Russia and the Caspian Sea, as well as substantial nuclear energy. America’s standing in the world remains in steady decline.

Disgraced and vilified, Suharto dies aged 86

By Anthony Deutsch, AP
Sunday, 27 January 2008

Indonesia's former dictator Suharto, an army general who crushed Indonesia's communist movement and pushed aside the country's founding father to usher in 32 years of tough rule that saw up to a million political opponents killed, died today. He was 86.

"He has died," Dr Christian Johannes said that he died at 1.10pm local time.

Finally toppled by mass street protests in 1998, the US Cold War ally's departure opened the way for democracy in this predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million people and he withdrew from public life, rarely venturing from his comfortable villa on a leafy lane in the capital.

Bush to urge economic stimulus, wiretapping powers in State of the Union address

Warren P. Strobel | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: January 25, 2008 06:48:01 PM

WASHINGTON — President Bush gets what may be his final chance to steer the public debate Monday night in his last State of the Union address.

With his aides privately acknowledging that the moments when Bush can be relevant are dwindling fast, the president is expected to press for a shortened list of proposals. With his legacy in mind, he'll urge Congress to extend some key initiatives of his tenure: tax cuts, the No Child Left Behind law, the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Bush will be speaking under circumstances very different than before, however, with economic fears roiling the country and the war in Iraq and terrorism concerns in the background, at least temporarily.

AGU revises position on climate change

WASHINGTON – A statement released on January 24 by the world’s largest scientific society of Earth and space scientists—the American Geophysical Union, or AGU—updates the organization’s position on climate change: the evidence for it, potential consequences from it, and how to respond to it.

The statement is the first revision since 2003 of the climate-change position of the AGU, which has a membership of 50,000 researchers, teachers, and students in 137 countries. The society adopted the statement at a meeting of AGU’s leadership body, the AGU Council, in San Francisco, California, on 14 December 2007. AGU position statements expire in four years, unless extended by the Council.

Union Rates Increase in 2007

January 25, 2008

By Ben Zipperer and John Schmitt

For the first time in the past quarter of a century, in 2007 U.S. unions increased their share of membership among workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) annual union membership report released today. Unions added about 310,000 members last year, raising the unionized share of the workforce to 12.1 percent from 12.0 percent in 2006.

The increase is small, and may well reflect statistical variation rather than an actual increase in the union membership share, but the uptick is striking because it is the first time since the BLS began collecting annual union membership rates in 1983 that the union share has increased.

Frank Rich: The Billary Road to Republican Victory

IN the wake of George W. Bush, even a miracle might not be enough for the Republicans to hold on to the White House in 2008. But what about two miracles? The new year’s twin resurrections of Bill Clinton and John McCain, should they not evaporate, at last give the G.O.P. a highly plausible route to victory.

Amazingly, neither party seems to fully recognize the contours of the road map. In the Democrats’ case, the full-throttle emergence of Billary, the joint Clinton candidacy, is measured mainly within the narrow confines of the short-term horse race: Do Bill Clinton’s red-faced eruptions and fact-challenged rants enhance or diminish his wife as a woman and a candidate?

Tip-off thwarted nuclear spy ring probe

AN investigation into the illicit sale of American nuclear secrets was compromised by a senior official in the State Department, a former FBI employee has claimed.

The official is said to have tipped off a foreign contact about a bogus CIA company used to investigate the sale of nuclear secrets.

The firm, Brewster Jennings & Associates, was a front for Valerie Plame, the former CIA agent. Her public outing two years later in 2003 by White House officials became a cause célèbre.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Digby: Telcom Buddy System

They're debating FISA on C-SPAN right now. Kit Bond, one of the biggest neanderthals in the Senate, is telling America that they should trust the intelligence committee to protect their rights. No need for that pesky constitution.

The FISA Follies, Redux

The Senate (reportedly still under Democratic control) seems determined to help President Bush violate Americans’ civil liberties and undermine the constitutional separation of powers. Majority Leader Harry Reid is supporting White House-backed legislation that would expand the administration’s ability to spy on Americans without court supervision and ensure that the country never learns the full extent of Mr. Bush’s illegal wiretapping program.

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA — which Mr. Bush decided to ignore after 9/11 — requires a warrant to intercept telephone calls and e-mail messages between people in the United States and people abroad.

Tomgram: Nick Turse, From the Missing Archives of a Lost War

On January 30-31, 1968, the Tet holiday, the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front (NLF, known to Americans as "the Vietcong") struck at five of the country's six largest cities, 34 provincial capitals, 64 district capitals, and numerous military bases. NLF sappers even briefly captured part of the heavily fortified American embassy compound in the center of the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon.

Vietnamese government troops allied to the Americans were badly bloodied and American casualties were high. Fighting continued in parts of Saigon for three weeks and in Hue, the old imperial capital, for almost a month until, as with Fallujah in Iraq in November 2004, most of its buildings were destroyed. To retake major urban areas, air power was called in. In perhaps the most infamous phrase of the Vietnam War, an anonymous U.S. major said of the retaking of Ben Tre, "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."

Donald Rumsfeld: Still There

By Spencer Ackerman 01/23/2008

Remember Donald Rumsfeld? He seems like a bad dream. And yet here he is, popping up in Washington to talk about how the U.S. needs a Ministry of Propaganda. Here’s what he told Sharon Weinberger of Wired’s Danger Room:

What About the Needy?

Special to
Friday, January 25, 2008; 1:26 PM

Is the economic stimulus package announced yesterday really a bipartisan victory? Both sides are certainly calling it that. But it's also a testament to how far President Bush has skewed Washington's political climate to the right.

Democrats and Republicans agreed last week that this would be a good time for the government to give away vast sums of money.

Bloody Reality and the Delusions of Bush

By Robert Fisk, Independent UK
Posted on January 26, 2008, Printed on January 26, 2008

Twixt silken sheets - in a bedroom whose walls are also covered in silk - and in the very palace of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, President George Bush awakes this morning to confront a Middle East which bears no relation to the policies of his administration nor the warning which he has been relaying constantly to the kings and emirs and oligarchs of the Gulf: that Iran rather than Israel is their enemy.

The President sat chummily beside the all-too-friendly monarch yesterday, enthroned in what looked suspiciously like the kind of casual blue cardigan he might wear on his own Texan ranch; he had even received a jangling gold "Order of Merit" -- it looked a bit like the Lord Chancellor's chain, though it was not disclosed which particular merit earned Mr Bush this kingly reward. Could it be the hypocritical merit of supplying yet more billions worth of weapons to the Kingdom, to be used against the Saudi regime's imaginary enemies.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Digby: They Are One Entity

You all remember Grover Norquist's Reagan Legacy Project? Well, here's the Bush Legacy Project, brought to you by some smart progressives who have learned that if you don't define it, they will.

Here's one of their actions:
For seven years, President Bush's allies in Congress helped push forward his failed Conservative agenda.

Scott Lemieux: How About Everyone Agree With Me Instead?

In light of the anniversary of Roe, you'll be excited to know that William Saletan has an exciting idea for advancing the abortion debate. The solution is: everyone should just concede that William Saletan is right about everything!

To pro-choicers: Talk about abortion the way you've been talking about teen sex, embracing an ideal number of zero. To pro-lifers: Accept that the best way to advance toward zero is through voluntary prevention.
On the latter point, I suppose it would be nice if American "pro-lifers" were more concerned about protecting fetal life than regulating female sexuality, but alas you go to war with the reactionaries you have.

Six Questions for Mark Crispin Miller, Author of ‘Fooled Again’

No Comment

BY Scott Horton
PUBLISHED January 24, 2008

Mark Crispin Miller is a professor of culture and communications at New York University. He’s also a man on a mission: to make the case for electoral reform. Miller climbs into the minutiae of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections-voter caging in Florida, ballot stickers in Ohio, and lots of unseemly details in between. The core of his argument unfolded in “None Dare Call It Stolen: Ohio, the Election, and America’s Servile Press” which appeared in the August 2005 issue of Harper’s. It evolved into Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform in 2005. And in the end, he tells us that notwithstanding the reassurances of the mainstream media, we have no reason to be confident in the formally reported results of those two elections. The paperback edition came out earlier this year, with an extensive afterward and much updated material. No Comment puts six questions to Harper’s contributor, author and media critic, Mark Crispin Miller, about his book, the mainstream media, and the art of political persecution in America today.

1. One of the most striking things I saw in your book was on the fly page, where you very cleverly juxtapose quotations from Tom Paine, T.W. Adorno and Tom DeLay–all of them are on the topic of truth and power, it seems to me. But the Adorno quote is particularly fascinating, it’s taken from an essay he wrote at the end of World War II, in which he’s drawing a very important lesson: that the totalitarian states the Allies were battling had mastered the technique of using power to generate their own truth, and to make anything inconsistent with it seem a lie. And this is precisely the same point that George Orwell and Victor Klemperer made, both writing the same year. Of course, as I read your book, your point is not that America has become a totalitarian state, but rather that political forces within the country are making rather more subtle use of the same techniques. Am I reading this correctly?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, Bush & Co.’s vast inversions of the truth–distortions infinitely larger than mere lying–are the product of a conscious and deliberate “technique,” as you put it. And yet, they’re also, at the same time, a ferociously sincere expression of the way these mad authoritarians perceive reality. In other words, when Bush and Cheney and their cohorts say that up is down and black is white, they are not just dispassionately following a certain set of rules for doing propaganda. Such fierce untruthfulness comes to them naturally, because their world-view is completely paranoid.

Bush plan for Iraq would be a first

No OK from Congress seen; Constitutional issues raised

By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | January 25, 2008

WASHINGTON - President Bush's plan to forge a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could commit the US military to defending Iraq's security would be the first time such a sweeping mutual defense compact has been enacted without congressional approval, according to legal specialists.

After World War II, for example - when the United States gave security commitments to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and NATO members - Presidents Truman and Eisenhower designated the agreements as treaties requiring Senate ratification. In 1985, when President Ronald Reagan guaranteed that the US military would defend the Marshall Islands and Micronesia if they were attacked, the compacts were put to a vote by both chambers of Congress.

GOP Attack Group Bamboozles With Fundraising "Census"

Freedom's Watch, the billionaire-fueled and highly-connected conservative attack machine, is trying to increase its membership and their funds. But they're doing it in a funny way -- through a mailing labeled "Confidential Census Document."

Like FBI, CIA Has Used Secret 'Letters'

Friday, January 25, 2008; A17

For three years, the Bush administration has drawn fire from civil liberties groups over its use of national security letters, a kind of administrative subpoena that compels private businesses such as telecommunications companies to turn over information to the government. After the 2001 USA Patriot Act loosened the guidelines, the FBI issued tens of thousands of such requests, something critics say amounts to warrantless spying on Americans who have not been charged with crimes.

Environmental pollution and diabetes may be linked

Scientists call for more research into neglected area

Cambridge scientists are advocating additional research into the little understood links between environmental pollution and type 2 diabetes.

In the most recent edition of the Lancet, Drs. Oliver Jones and Julian Griffin highlight the need to research the possible link between persistent organic pollutants (POPs, a group which includes many pesticides) and insulin resistance, which can lead to adult onset diabetes.

Paul Krugman: Stimulus Gone Bad

House Democrats and the White House have reached an agreement on an economic stimulus plan. Unfortunately, the plan — which essentially consists of nothing but tax cuts and gives most of those tax cuts to people in fairly good financial shape — looks like a lemon.

Specifically, the Democrats appear to have buckled in the face of the Bush administration’s ideological rigidity, dropping demands for provisions that would have helped those most in need. And those happen to be the same provisions that might actually have made the stimulus plan effective.

Those are harsh words, so let me explain what’s going on.

Amazon's rescue reversed

Space imaging gives the lie to Brazil's recent 'great achievement' of halting rainforest destruction

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
Friday January 25, 2008
The Guardian

In a world of climate change and general environmental degradation, it was one ecological disaster that had apparently been averted.

After decades of steady obliteration, the tide appeared to have turned against the illegal deforestation that has disfigured the world's largest tropical rainforest. Brazil's president, Lula da Silva, went on the radio in August to trumpet the breakthrough. His environment minister, Marina Silva, hailed "a great achievement for Brazilian society".

Climate change poses a huge threat to human health

Climate change will have a huge impact on human health and bold environmental policy decisions are needed now to protect the world's population, according to the author of an article published in the BMJ today.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Responding to Jonah

Thursday, January 24, 2008
-- by Dave

Some of you may recall that when Jonah Goldberg first noticed my review of Liberal Fascism in TAP Online, he dismissed it (without having read it) as "shallow, cliche ridden, attack-the-messenger stuff," and then, upon having actually read it, confirmed in a broader response his view that it was "shallow, cliche ridden, attack-the-messenger stuff."

Well, irony of ironies, after I'd fully responded and eventually called him out for failing to honestly engage my arguments, he finally came forward with a response that (beyond being shallow and cliche-ridden, not to mention breathtakingly dishonest) is nothing if not a textbook attack on the messenger -- a theme that continues in his follow-up post. Ad, meet hominem.

Digby: It's Baaack

It looks like we're going to party like it's 2002. Again. An unnecessary national security vote is being forced down the throat of a Democratic congress by the otherwise totally obstructionist Republicans, and the Democrats are anxious to sweep it under the rug so they can avoid being called cowards. Election year greatest hits: give them what they want so we can move on to "our issues." Get ready to hear this stale old tune a lot.

Glenn Greenwald: Your Harry Reid-led Senate in action

Harry Reid -- who has (a) done more than any other individual to ensure that Bush's demands for telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers will be met in full and (b) allowed the Republicans all year to block virtually every bill without having to bother to actually filibuster -- went to the Senate floor yesterday and, with the scripted assistance of Mitch McConnell and Pat Leahy, warned Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold and others that they would be selfishly wreaking havoc on the schedules of their fellow Senators (making them work over the weekend, ruining their planned "retreat," and even preventing them from going to Davos!) if they bothered everyone with their annoying, pointless little filibuster.

Digby: Yuk[s] Factor


It's a little bit rusty, hasn't been out for a spin since 2004, and needs a few springs and belts replaced. But the old machine looks like it's up and running.
The Muck is featuring this lovely story today about Roger Stone, one of the original Dick Nixon dirty tricksters, and his latest project:

So what's Stone up to? Fortunately, he laid the whole scheme out to The Weekly Standard.

It's this simple: it's all about the group's acronym, which, used in conjunction with Hillary Clinton, is supposed to be irresistibly humorous.

Digby: Da Man

Hey, here's a treat to read on a cold winter's night: a profile of our brilliant pal Rick Perlstein in The Chicago Reader:
In Before the Storm, the 2001 history that made his reputation, Rick Perlstein put his readers inside the skin of a pimply college freshman cast adrift on a sprawling concrete campus in the 1960s. “Wearied from his first soul-crushing run-in with Big Bureaucracy,” the imagined student is buying his required texts in the campus bookstore when he happens on a slim book with big type. He flips it open and “standing, reads fourteen short pages inviting him to join an idealistic struggle to defend the individual against the encroachments of the mass.”

Existing single-family home sales drop

1 hour, 40 minutes ago

Sales of existing single-family homes plunged in 2007 by the largest amount in 25 years, closing out an awful year that saw median prices fall for the first time in at least four decades.

The National Association of Realtors reported Thursday that sales of single-family homes fell by 13 percent last year, the biggest decline since a 17.7 percent drop in 1982. The median price of a single-family home fell to $217,800 in 2007, down 1.8 percent from 2006.

It marked the first annual price decline on records that the Realtors have going back to 1968. Lawrence Yun, the Realtor's chief economist, said it was likely the country has not experienced a decline in home prices for an entire year since the Great Depression.

Desperately Seeking Stimulus


[posted online on January 22, 2008]

With all the talk about how to stimulate it, you'd think that the economy is a giant clitoris. Ben Bernanke may not employ this imagery, but the immediate challenge--and the issue bound to replace Iraq and immigration in the presidential race--is how best to get the economy engorged and throbbing again.

It would be irresponsible to say much about Bush's stimulus plan, the mere mention of which could be enough to send the Nikkei, the DAX and the curiously named FTSE and Sensex tumbling into the crash zone again. In a typically regressive gesture, Bush proposed to hand out cash tax rebates--except to families earning less than $40,000 a year. This may qualify as an example of what Naomi Klein calls "disaster capitalism," in which any misfortune can be re-jiggered to the advantage of the affluent.

Stealing Our Future: Conservatives, Foresight, and Why Nothing Works Anymore

By Sara Robinson
January 22nd, 2008 - 12:50pm ET

Brad DeLong once said that "'Nobody could have foreseen ______' is the Bush administration's version of 'The dog ate my homework.'" It does seem to be their handy-dandy Swiss Army Knife, all-purpose explanation for the various disasters that have happened on their watch.

We first heard this excuse all the way back in May 2002, when Condoleezza Rice blithely dismissed Congressional queries about 9/11 by saying, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."

Net body issues plea for liberty

The overseer of the net's addressing system has asked the US government to be freed from official control.

Icann made the plea in a lengthy report sent to the US Department of Commerce.

The report will be the focus of a meeting to consider Icann's progress on objectives the US government set it in preparation for independence.

10 Reasons Why the Fight for Reproductive Justice Is Still Essential

By Jill Filipovic, AlterNet
Posted on January 22, 2008, Printed on January 24, 2008

Also posted at Feministe and the Huffington Post.

35 years after Roe v. Wade solidified American womens' right to abortion, reproductive rights remain in limbo. And while abortion rights are crucial to women's health and autonomy, they are hardly the end-all be-all to reproductive justice -- even if the constant attacks on those rights (and on the people who provide women with them) have forced the pro-choice movement to remain on the defensive about abortion in particular.

Roe at 35 is in bad shape. But there are plenty of forward-looking, positive steps to be taken. It's worth raising a glass to Roe today -- but even more importantly, it's time to get out and fight. Here are a few reasons why:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New Antarctic ice core to provide clearest climate record yet

DURHAM, N.H. - After enduring months on the coldest, driest, and windiest continent on Earth, researchers today closed out the inaugural season on an unprecedented, multi-year effort to retrieve the most detailed record of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere over the last 100,000 years.

Working as part of the National Science Foundation’s West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS Divide) Ice Core Project, a team of scientists, engineers, technicians, and students from multiple U.S. institutions have recovered a 580-meter (1,900-foot) ice core – the first section of what is hoped to be a 3,465-meter (11,360-foot) column of ice detailing 100,000 years of Earth’s climate history, including a precise year-by-year record of the last 40,000 years.

Ellsberg Hits U.S. Media, Congress for Ignoring Nuclear Secrets Story

Legendary whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg has written an Op-Ed shaming the American media for failing to report the shocking story of Sibel Edmonds. A former FBI translator who was recruited after 9/11, Edmonds has accused the agency of covering up evidence of a complex web of foreign governments, U.S. officials and nuclear secrets.

Ellsberg in a Brad Blog commentary:

And this is the time for those who have so far creditably leaked to the Times of London to come forward, accepting personal risks, to offer their testimony --- and new documents --- both to the Congress and to the American press. I would say to them: Don’t do what I did and waste months of precious time trying to get Congressional committees to act as they should in the absence of journalistic pressure. Do your best to inform the American public directly, first, through the major American media.

But perhaps today the alternative media and the international press are a necessary precursor even to that. It shouldn’t be true, but if it is, it’s a measure of how far the New York Times and Washington Post have fallen from their responsibilities to the public, to their profession and to American democracy, since I gave them the Pentagon Papers in 1971. They printed them then. Would they today?

Who Will Take On the Banks?

Posted on Jan 22, 2008
By Robert Scheer

It was smart of the top Democrats to cut presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich out of that South Carolina debate, where they lamely attempted to deal with the dire consequences of the banking meltdown without confronting the banks. They made all the proper concerned noises about millions of folks losing their retirement savings and homes, but none was willing to say what Kucinich would have said: Bankers are crooks who will steal from the public unless the government holds them accountable.

How do I know Kucinich would have said that? Because I interviewed him for the Los Angeles Times back when he was mayor of Cleveland and the banks foreclosed on his city after he refused to sell the public power plant. Others can talk a populist line, but Kucinich lived it. He was forced out of office that time, but voters realized 10 years later that Kucinich had been right. Thanks to the public power alternative that Kucinich refused to sacrifice, Cleveland had cheap power, and he was elected to the Ohio Legislature and then to Congress as his reward.

The lowdown on topsoil: It's disappearing

Disappearing dirt rivals global warming as an environmental threat


The planet is getting skinned.

While many worry about the potential consequences of atmospheric warming, a few experts are trying to call attention to another global crisis quietly taking place under our feet.

Bush Becomes Supplicant for Saudi's Aid to Help Avoid Recession

By Janine Zacharia

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- The Saudi monarchy once depended on the U.S. to protect its reign and its oil from foes like Saddam Hussein. These days, President George W. Bush needs the world's biggest exporter of crude more than it needs him.

With oil at about $90 a barrel, the U.S. economy at risk of sliding into recession and American banks trying to raise cash to ride out the subprime-mortgage crisis, Bush has become a supplicant for Saudi financial help. He also needs the kingdom to get behind his Palestinian peace push, to keep Iran at bay and to support political stability in Iraq.

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, How to Sink America

Within the next month, the Pentagon will submit its 2009 budget to Congress and it's a fair bet that it will be even larger than the staggering 2008 one. Like the Army and the Marines, the Pentagon itself is overstretched and under strain -- and like the two services, which are expected to add 92,000 new troops over the next five years (at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion per 10,000), the Pentagon's response is never to cut back, but always to expand, always to demand more.

After all, there are those disastrous Afghan and Iraqi wars still eating taxpayer dollars as if there were no tomorrow. Then there's what enthusiasts like to call "the next war" to think about, which means all those big-ticket weapons, all those jets, ships, and armored vehicles for the future. And don't forget the still-popular, Rumsfeld-style "netcentric warfare" systems (robots, drones, communications satellites, and the like), not to speak of the killer space toys being developed; and then there's all that ruined equipment out of Iraq and Afghanistan to be massively replaced -- and all those ruined human beings to take care of.

CBO sees $250B federal budget deficit

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jan 23, 1:46 PM ET

The deficit for the current budget year will jump to about $250 billion under Congressional Budget Office figures released Wednesday, as a weaker economy and lower corporate profits weigh on the government's fiscal ledger.

And that figure does not reflect more than $100 billion in red ink from an economic stimulus measure in the works.

"After three years of declining budget deficits, a slowing economy this year will contribute to an increase in the deficit," the CBO report said.

Study: False statements preceded war

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jan 23, 6:43 AM ET

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Digby: True History

On this particular Martin Luther King day, Rick Perlstein's piece from last year is an important and timely reminder:

Day of Reckoning

Conservatives still don't get Martin Luther King.

When Martin Luther King was buried in Atlanta, the live television coverage lasted seven and a half hours. President Johnson announced a national day of mourning: "Together, a nation united and a nation caring and a nation concerned and a nation that thinks more of the nation's interests than we do of any individual self-interest or political interest--that nation can and shall and will overcome." Richard Nixon called King "a great leader--a man determined that the American Negro should win his rightful place alongside all others in our nation." Even one of King's most beastly political enemies, Mississippi Representative William Colmer, chairman of the House rules committee, honored the president's call to unity by terming the murder "a dastardly act."

Digby: Sharpening Their Shivs

I'm sure a lot of people enjoyed this when they read it:
Prominent Democrats are upset with the aggressive role that Bill Clinton is playing in the 2008 campaign, a role they believe is inappropriate for a former president and the titular head of the Democratic Party. In recent weeks, Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, both currently neutral in the Democratic contest, have told their old friend heatedly on the phone that he needs to change his tone and stop attacking Sen. Barack Obama, according to two sources familiar with the conversations who asked for anonymity because of their sensitive nature. Clinton, Kennedy and Emanuel all declined to comment.
I know, it's great fun to think about Rahm and Teddy telling Bill to STFU.

Digby: Fasten Your Seatbelts

Global stock markets extended their shakeout into a second day Tuesday, plunging amid worries that a possible U.S. recession will cause a worldwide economic slowdown.

The dramatic declines in Asia and Europe were expected to spread to Wall Street, where stock index futures were already down sharply hours before the trading day began.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index, the benchmark for Asia's biggest bourse, was down 5.1 percent in afternoon trading after dropping 3.9 percent Monday.

Is Global Warming Caused by Water Vapor?

How to think about the No. 1 greenhouse gas.

By Brendan I. Koerner

Posted Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008, at 11:16 AM ET

Every week, you blather on and on about carbon dioxide and methane. Yet you never mention a single word about the most important greenhouse gas of all, water vapor, which accounts for 98 percent of the greenhouse effect. Doesn't this inconvenient truth wholly discredit your little global-warming charade?

Variations on this question appear in the Lantern's inbox every few days, occasionally accompanied by family-unfriendly slurs. For folks who doubt that human activity is causing global warming, citing water vapor's role in the greenhouse effect is a common retort. Though such enviroskeptics are technically correct to some extent, the water-vapor argument by no means proves that anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) global warming is a fiction.

Bush's Iran/Argentina Terror Frame-Up


[posted online on January 18, 2008]

Research for this article was supported by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

Although nukes and Iraq have been the main focus of the Bush Administration's pressure campaign against Iran, US officials also seek to tar Iran as the world's leading sponsor of terrorism. And Team Bush's latest tactic is to play up a thirteen-year-old accusation that Iran was responsible for the notorious Buenos Aires bombing that destroyed the city's Jewish Community Center, known as AMIA, killing eighty-six and injuring 300, in 1994. Unnamed senior Administration officials told the Wall Street Journal January 15 that the bombing in Argentina "serves as a model for how Tehran has used its overseas embassies and relationship with foreign militant groups, in particular Hezbollah, to strike at its enemies."

This propaganda campaign depends heavily on a decision last November by the General Assembly of Interpol, which voted to put five former Iranian officials and a Hezbollah leader on the international police organization's "red list" for allegedly having planned the July 1994 bombing. But the Wall Street Journal reports that it was pressure from the Bush Administration, along with Israeli and Argentine diplomats, that secured the Interpol vote. In fact, the Bush Administration's manipulation of the Argentine bombing case is perfectly in line with its long practice of using distorting and manufactured evidence to build a case against its geopolitical enemies.

Clinton, Obama Come to Blows; Edwards Wins

Mon Jan 21, 10:47 PM ET

The Nation -- In the edgiest debate of the Democratic presidential race, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton repeatedly engaged on Monday night in bitter and at times personal exchanges with one another.

And John Edwards effectively pointed to the heated squabbling between the two frontrunners in anticipation of Saturday's South Carolina Democratic primary as a deviation from the issues that matter.

Clinton accused Obama of doing legal work for a Chicago slumlord and charged that her opponent "did the bidding of the insurance companies" when health care was debated in the Illinois legislature.

Obama told Clinton he was fighting to help workers in Chicago when "you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Wal-Mart."

Leading Dems Miss the Boat on Health Care

By John P. Geyman, Tikkun
Posted on January 22, 2008, Printed on January 22, 2008

As we face the 2008 presidential campaigns, the stakes have never been higher for health care reform. Health care is pricing itself beyond the reach of lower-income and middle-class Americans with no cost containment yet on the horizon. Seniors with Medicare are paying much more out-of-pocket for their medical care now than when Medicare was enacted in 1965.

We already have a perfect storm as the U.S. health care "system" falls apart, and many public polls put access to affordable health care at the top of our domestic agenda.

How to Pull Out of a Recession: the Ethical Way, Not the Bush Way

By Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive
Posted on January 22, 2008, Printed on January 22, 2008

Even Bush has finally figured out that the economy is facing "some challenges," as he so delicately put it.

As a solution, he is sure to propose making permanent the tax breaks for the rich that he's already put in place.

But there are two problems with this: one ethical, the other economic.

God's Profits: Faith, Fraud and the GOP Crusade for Values Voters

By Sarah Posner, PoliPoint Press
Posted on January 22, 2008, Printed on January 22, 2008

The following is excerpted from Sarah Posner's new book, God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters It is reprinted here courtesy of PoliPoint Press. Photo credit for front page image associated with this article: Nina Berman. See more at

Inside the Trinity Christian Church in Irving, Texas, a crowd starts gathering in the afternoon for a Victory Healing and Miracle Service that is to begin at 7 p.m. that evening. People have traveled from as far away as Ohio and Arkansas and Georgia to participate. Most are waiting in the perimeter lobby of the church, camping out with pillows and Bibles, ordering pizza, and waiting for an event that has been hyped on Christian television for months. I approach one woman, an African American member of televangelist Rod Parsley's World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio. Judging from her clothes, the woman could scarcely afford the plane ticket she bought to see a performance of the preaching phenomenon whose services she can attend three times a week at home in Columbus. She's almost in a trance, barely able to focus on me or what I am asking her, and she brushes me aside as I inquire about her journey. People are waiting to see healings and miracles; Parsley claims a quarter of a million people have mailed in prayer cloths (and money) so that he could put his "anointing" on them. Once returned to the donor, the prayer cloths can be used to heal anything in a broken life, from depression to cancer to joblessness to debt.

Fed Cuts Interest Rates by 75 Bps

Tuesday January 22, 6:27 pm ET
By Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer

Fed Cuts Interest Rate Amid Global Stock Sell-Off and Fears of Recession WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve unexpectedly slashed a key interest rate by a bold three-fourths of a percentage point on Tuesday, responding to a global plunge in stock markets that heightened concerns about a recession. The Fed signaled that further rate cuts were likely.

The reduction in the federal funds rate from 4.25 percent down to 3.5 percent marked the biggest reduction in this target rate for overnight loans on records going back to 1990. It marked the first time that the Fed has changed the funds rate between meetings since 2001, when the central bank was battling the combined impacts of a recession and the terrorist attacks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Who Goes Nazi?

-- by Sara

In 1939, Time magazine named Dorothy Thompson the second most influential woman in America after Eleanor Roosevelt. The first American journalist expelled from Nazi Germany -- and still then the wife of Sinclair Lewis -- she was one of the country's leading voices against fascism. She'd seen it up close in Europe, and was furiously outspoken about its creeping influence in America.

In the August 1941 issue of Harper's, Thompson wrote a short piece, based on her long European experience, outlining which Americans at any given dinner party might be expected to "go Nazi." It's still in Harper's archives, and it's as insightful and prescient now as it was on the eve of America's entry into World War II:
It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times–in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.

How to Out A Sundown Town

-- by Sara

Dave and I refer often to James Loewen's research on "sundown towns" -- American towns that once had small African-American communities -- which, at some point, simply up and vanished.

The historical fact is that if you're a middle-class white American living in the north or west of the country, the odds are overwhelmingly good that the town you live in, right now, is a sundown town -- or was one at some point in the not-so-distant past.

The View From the Overton Window

-- by Sara

Over the past week or two, several events have occurred that show just how radically the range of acceptable political and media discourse has changed in the past eight years.

First, the New Republic finally got the Minneapolis Historical Society to cut loose its store of old Ron Paul Reports, put them online, and thus verified -- once and for all -- our repeated contention that Ron Paul's benign good-doctor pose was hiding a noxiously hateful and racist past.

Digby: Are Democrats over 45 Racists?

Apparently, some people think so. Here's a headline on CBS:
Obama's Age Gap: Is It Race?
CBS's Dick Meyer Says Older Americans Have So Far Proven Unwilling To Vote For Barack Obama
How about young voters have so far proven unwilling to vote for an older person? Is it ageism? Really, this is ridiculous.

Paul Krugman: Stimulus issues

The big problem with attempts to provide temporary economic stimulus is how to ensure that the money gets spent. As Milton Friedman pointed out 50 years ago, consumers tend to base their spending on “permanent income” — the income they expect to have over the long run — rather than their income in any given year. So an $800 check from the Treasury tends, other things equal, to be mostly saved rather than spent.

How does one get around this?

Businesses want a say in global-warming bill

Posted on Mon, Jan. 21, 2008

Businesses want a say in global-warming bill

Renee Schoof | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: January 17, 2008 08:16:29 PM

WASHINGTON — U.S. businesses are betting that the federal government soon will put mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and they're making sure they have a say in shaping a vast new regulatory system.

Some of the country's biggest businesses support a cap and trade system, the approach that Congress is considering. Under cap and trade, the government gives or sells companies allowances to emit certain amounts of greenhouse gases, and companies may sell unused allowances to other companies.

While it may sound simple, the details would be complex and the plan would affect the entire economy and require monitoring for decades.

Email missing from Cheney's office on day White House told to preserve documents in CIA leak

01/21/2008 @ 8:56 am
Filed by Nick Juliano

New report shows archives gone on several key days in Plame investigation

Among the sixteen days for which email are missing from Vice President Cheney's office is Sept. 30, 2003, the same day the day the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced they were investigating who outed former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.

That morning, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered the president and the vice president's staff to "preserve all materials that might be relevant" to an inchoate Justice Department probe.

Katha Pollitt: The Weepy Witch & the Secret Muslim

The media are hopelessly sexist and relentlessly trivial. So much we've learned from the mass hysteria over Hillary Clinton's "emotional moment" in New Hampshire. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Robert L. Jamieson: "She morphed into a 'compassion brand'--like, irony of ironies, Kleenex"; New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd: "Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?") Even Southern charmer John Edwards couldn't resist observing that a commander in chief needed "strength and resolve"--a view echoed by Fox commentator Dick Morris ("There could well come a time when there is such a serious threat to the United States that she breaks down") and given full misogynous display by nationally syndicated cartoonist Pat Oliphant's "Madam President Meets the Bad Guys," portraying a dumpy, tearful Hillary surrounded by Osama, Kim Jong Il and similar. All this fuss over a welling of the eyes so brief that if you blinked your own you'd miss it. I have moments like that every day! This was the Dean Scream all over again: a nano-nothing whipped into a self-congratulatory media typhoon.

Paul Krugman: Debunking the Reagan Myth

Historical narratives matter. That’s why conservatives are still writing books denouncing F.D.R. and the New Deal; they understand that the way Americans perceive bygone eras, even eras from the seemingly distant past, affects politics today.

And it’s also why the furor over Barack Obama’s praise for Ronald Reagan is not, as some think, overblown. The fact is that how we talk about the Reagan era still matters immensely for American politics.

How the Mega-Rich Treat Our Treasury Like a Buffet (And Stick You with the Bill)

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Posted on January 21, 2008, Printed on January 21, 2008

Amy Goodman: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston has been closely tracking the nation's income gap in the pages of the New York Times. David Cay has just published a new book. It's called Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill). Explain the wealth transfer.

David Cay Johnston: We have created in the United States, largely in the last thirty years, a whole series of programs -- a few of them explicit, many of them deeply hidden -- that take money from the pockets of the poor and the middle class and upper middle class and funnel it to the wealthiest people in America. And among the biggest recipients of these subsidies are the wealthiest family America, the Waltons; George Steinbrenner; Donald Trump; a whole host of healthcare billionaires. And these are policies that either have not been reported on or the news reporting on them generally has not informed people about what they really are.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

FBI denies file exposing nuclear secrets theft

The FBI has been accused of covering up a file detailing government dealings with a network stealing nuclear secrets

THE FBI has been accused of covering up a key case file detailing evidence against corrupt government officials and their dealings with a network stealing nuclear secrets.

The assertion follows allegations made in The Sunday Times two weeks ago by Sibel Edmonds, an FBI whistleblower, who worked on the agency’s investigation of the network.

Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office.

Frank Rich: Ronald Reagan Is Still Dead

CONTEMPLATING the Clinton-Obama racial war, some Republicans were so excited you’d have thought Ronald Reagan had risen from the dead to slap around a welfare deadbeat.

Never mind that the G.O.P. is running on empty, with no ideas beyond the incessant repetition of Reagan’s name. A battle over race-and-gender identity politics among the Democrats, with its acrid scent from the 1960s, might be just the spark for a Republican comeback. (As long as the G.O.P.’s own identity politics, over religion, don’t flare up.)

Alas, these hopes faded on Tuesday night. First, the debating Democrats declared a truce, however fragile, in their racial brawl. Then Republicans in Michigan reconstituted their party’s election-year chaos by temporarily revivifying yet another candidate, Mitt Romney, who had been left for dead.

Juan Cole: Iraq is Still a Bad Bargain

Andrew Bacevich eviscerates the Iraq War party with this passionate and clear-sighted essay on 'the Surge to Nowhere' in WaPo. He points out that the real motivation behind last year's troop escalation was to avoid popular outrage building in the US electorate to the point where the troops were pulled out. He observes that the argument for the 'success' of the 'surge' is purely a tactical one. When viewed from the vantage point of grand strategy, the Iraq War is as much a failure as it has always been.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Fraud of Bushenomics: They’re Looting the Country

By Larry Beinhart, AlterNet
Posted on January 19, 2008, Printed on January 19, 2008

The New York Times made it official. The Economy is a problem!

So, now, at last we can discuss it.

Not just discuss it, in rapid order "recession" became the word of the day, from White House, Congress, the Fed and the media.

It's blamed, mostly, on the subprime crisis.

But that's not the problem. It's a symptom. It is the logical, and probably one of the necessary results, of Bushenomics.

One Argument, 12 Million Holes

The big fat immigration bill that died last year in Congress was, for all its flaws, an anchor that kept debate tethered firmly to reality. Like it or not, it contained specific remedies for the border and the workplace. It had a plan for clearing backlogs in legal immigration and managing its future flow. Perhaps most critical, it dealt with the 12 million illegal immigrants already here, through a tough path to earned citizenship.

Unmoored from a comprehensive federal bill, the debate was pushed into the states and is now floating in the La-La Land of the presidential campaign. The Republicans have been battling over the sincerity of their sound bites and trying to make their fixation on one dimension of the problem — tough border and workplace enforcement — sound like the solution.

Paul Krugman: Don’t Cry for Me, America

Mexico. Brazil. Argentina. Mexico, again. Thailand. Indonesia. Argentina, again.

And now, the United States.

The story has played itself out time and time again over the past 30 years. Global investors, disappointed with the returns they’re getting, search for alternatives. They think they’ve found what they’re looking for in some country or other, and money rushes in.

But eventually it becomes clear that the investment opportunity wasn’t all it seemed to be, and the money rushes out again, with nasty consequences for the former financial favorite. That’s the story of multiple financial crises in Latin America and Asia. And it’s also the story of the U.S. combined housing and credit bubble. These days, we’re playing the role usually assigned to third-world economies.

Company Connected to GOP and Romney Delivers Diebold Machines to Maryland Polls

A company, whose head is the former chairman of the Maryland Republican Party and is on Mitt Romney's presidential campaign steering committee, has won a contract from Diebold to deliver its voting machines on Election Day to precincts in 14 Maryland voting districts. I filed this story on the deal for Wired's front door.

The trucking firm, Office Movers, is owned by the family-run Kane Company, whose CEO and president is John M. Kane, chairman of the Republican Party in Maryland from 2002 until December 2006 and pictured at right with President Bush. Last November, Kane joined the steering committee for Republican presidential nominee candidate Mitt Romney, who won Tuesday's primary in Michigan.

Tomgram: CSI Iraq

The Corpse on the Gurney

The "Success" Mantra in Iraq
By Tom Engelhardt

The other day, as we reached the first anniversary of the President's announcement of his "surge" strategy, his "new way forward" in Iraq, I found myself thinking about the earliest paid book-editing work I ever did. An editor at a San Francisco textbook publisher hired me to "doctor" god-awful texts designed for audiences of captive kids. Each of these "books" was not only in a woeful state of disrepair, but essentially D.O.A. I was nonetheless supposed to do a lively rewrite of the mess and add seductive "sidebars"; another technician then simplified the language to "grade level" and a designer provided a flashy layout and look. Zap! Pow! Kebang!

During the years that I freelanced for that company in the early 1970s, an image of what I was doing formed in my mind -- and it suddenly came back to me this week. I used to describe it this way:

Who Will Take the Fall for the CIA Torture Tape Scandal?

By Roberto Lovato, AlterNet
Posted on January 18, 2008, Printed on January 19, 2008

As he concluded a closed-door congressional hearing into the CIA torture tape scandal, Committee Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, on Wednesday opened the country to a historic possibility: that the fate of the investigation into the destruction of the tapes will be decided by Latino government officials. Current and former Latino officials may even determine whether the investigation reaches the White House.

Reyes, the powerful chair of the House Intelligence Committee, is charged with overseeing an investigation into the latest controversy. Reyes' fellow Tejano, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was one of four Bush administration officials briefed on the tapes before they were destroyed, may be asked to testify in the investigation. And at the heart of the whole affair is Jose Rodriguez, the Puerto Rican native who was the CIA's former director of clandestine operations. According to the CIA officials, Rodriguez ordered the destruction of the interrogation tapes in 2005.

Siphoning the Globe: Water Exhibit Exposes Worldwide Crisis

By Kelly Stewart, AlterNet
Posted on January 18, 2008, Printed on January 19, 2008
Sometimes my shower head drips -- I can hear the steady beat as I try to fall asleep at night. And sometimes, instead of tinkering with the temperamental shower knobs, I'll close the bathroom door to block out the noise.

Entering the new exhibition, Water: H20 = Life, at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, I was struck by a similar scene. One drop at a time, water falls from the ceiling, splashing into the others that have fallen before it. It's a hypnotic reminder that every drop is worth contemplating.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New inflation data explain middle-class squeeze

Kevin G. Hall | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: January 16, 2008 07:34:57 PM

WASHINGTON — New data from the Labor Department confirm what most middle-class Americans already know: Inflation is squeezing them.

As consumer prices rose by 4.1 percent last year, the highest rate since 1990, the prices of basic essentials such as food, gasoline and health insurance climbed far more steeply, explaining why so many Americans are telling pollsters that the economy is their chief concern.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday that the price of food and beverages rose 4.8 percent. At the same time, real weekly earnings failed to keep pace, rising 0.9 percent for the year. In the simplest of terms, a dollar earned bought less.

This partly explains why the economy so frustrates Americans.

Baltimore Finds Subprime Crisis Snags Women

BALTIMORE — At Vixxen Hair Salon, the main topic of conversation has always been money. But since last August, Anjanette Booker, the owner, has noticed a new focus. “Now it’s money and foreclosures,” Miss Booker said.

The Vixxen salon, along with the nearby salon Hair Vysions, is one of the informal social centers for the Belair-Edison neighborhood, a community of brick row houses that have in recent years been bought largely by single black women with children.

For each of the last four years, more than half of the foreclosures in this neighborhood have been homes owned primarily by women, according to an analysis of public records by the Reinvestment Fund, a nonprofit community development organization.

Goldberg's Liberal Fascism argument panned: 'Like saying mustaches are fascist,' Stewart tells author

01/17/2008 @ 11:23 am

Filed by David Edwards and Nick Juliano

You write a book whose title and symbology implicitly ties liberals to Nazis, and you should expect to get a little bit of heat.

Jonah Goldberg, says the Hitler-mustachioed smiley face and title, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, are based on ideas espoused by others. He bristles at critics -- most recently The Daily Show's Jon Stewart -- who call him out, accusing them of not having read his latest tome.

How Bush Stacks Up

Like Rorschach tests, a growing stack of Bush books reveals very different presidents—Evangelical Bush, Frat-Boy Bush, Weepy Bush—as authors try to explain his failure. There’s an even grimmer version—the story of his “success.”

James Wolcott
February 2008

Most people fear death. It’s something they’d prefer to skip, if possible, or at least put off to a later date. President George W. Bush entertains a more laid-back, come-what-may attitude toward the big D, and not, I suspect, because he’s assured of a pre-boarding pass to heaven. It’s because death provides the most unassailable of alibis, the perfect getaway. It lets him off the hook, providing an escape hatch for personal accountability while history deliberates on the lasting achievements and ruinous legacies of his presidency. No matter how lousy his approval ratings, how low America’s esteem sinks in the world, how hacktacular his political appointments, Bush takes comfort in the knowledge that posterity takes a long time to deliver its final draft (“There’s no such thing as short-term history as far as I’m concerned,” he told NBC’s Brian Williams on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina), and by then he’ll be compost. It’s difficult to think of any modern inhabitant of the Oval Office who has contemplated his own mortality aloud more often than Bush, or drawn more consolation from its graveyard perspective. On the last page of Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack (2004), Bush, asked how history would judge the war in Iraq, verbally shrugs: “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” And on the first page of Robert Draper’s Dead Certain (2007), Bush cautions, “You can’t possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency—until I’m dead,” then inserts a piece of cheese into his mouth. This exit clause isn’t something he invokes only to reporters. In Bill Sammon’s The Evangelical President (2007), an aide confirms to the susceptible author that Bush doesn’t brood about the petty setbacks that bedevil less serene souls: “His attitude is a very healthy one. He says, ‘Look, history will get it right and we’ll both be dead. Who cares?’ ” If only the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis displaced by the war and driven into Syrian exile could adopt such a healthy outlook, maybe they too would learn how not to sweat the small stuff.

Bush departs Mideast with few apparent gains, experts say

Hannah Allam | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: January 15, 2008 07:25:22 PM

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — President Bush wraps up a weeklong tour of the Middle East Wednesday, leaving many Mideast political observers mystified as to the purpose of the visit and doubtful that the president made inroads on his twin campaigns for Arab-Israeli peace and isolation for Iran.

Bush is heading back to Washington mostly empty-handed, said several analysts and politicians throughout the region. Arab critics deemed Bush's peace efforts unrealistic, his anti-Iran tirades dangerous, his praise of authoritarian governments disappointing and his defense of civil liberties ironic.

Greenspan `Mess' Risks U.S. Recession, Stiglitz Says

By Reed V. Landberg and Paul George

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-prize winning economist, said the U.S. economy risks tumbling into recession because of the ``mess'' left by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

``I'm very pessimistic,'' Stiglitz said in an interview in London today. ``Alan Greenspan really made a mess of all this. He pushed out too much liquidity at the wrong time. He supported the tax cut in 2001, which is the beginning of these problems. He encouraged people to take out variable-rate mortgages.''

Chertoff Permanently Installs Hand-Picked DHS Staffers, ‘Overextending His Influence’ After 2008

Since its establishment in 2003, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been plagued by incompetent political appointees. As late as last year, ABC News noted that DHS was still “a political dumping ground,” with 350 White House-appointed staffers (compared to just 64 at the Department of Veteran Affairs).

For the past five years, the Bush administration has refused to fire these cronies.

Why the Saudis Hate Bush

By Robert Scheer, Truthdig. Posted January 16, 2008. Why is it that George W. Bush gets only a 12 percent favorability rating in Saudi Arabia? Even Osama bin Laden and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad scored higher in a poll last month by the nonpartisan Terror Free Tomorrow group, which counts both Republican Sen. John McCain and Democrat former Rep. Lee Hamilton on its advisory board. What ingrates those Saudis are. Didn't the Bush family save them twice from Saddam Hussein?

Punishing Thought Crime: Would New Bill Make YOU a Terrorist?

By Scott Thill, AlterNet. Posted January 17, 2008.

Meet the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.

According to Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., House Resolution 1955, otherwise known as the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, is a much-needed piece of national security legislation subject to unnecessary paranoia and fear. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the resolution, which Harman sponsored, is one step too close to an Orwellian nightmare, especially for the Democrats who concocted it.

The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. But first, let's back up and check the facts.