Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Change Spares No Dimes

Digby notes that in order for Unity to Unify the country the bad guys have got to stop being the bad guys. There's no sign that's happening.


...Democrats may very well win the election. And they may have a large working majority. Hopefully they will get some good things done for the country. But if they do not run on and then act on these constitutional abuses, they will be used again the next time a Republican is in office (if not sooner) and we will have to fight this battle all over again, having lost a tremendous amount of territory in the meantime. What we will have lost in terms of morality and decency is uncountable...

Lambert understands the real meaning of Unity:

...Yes, I’m sure that a new-found sense of unity, and especially a total avoidance of accountability, will be very welcome to the wealthy who stripped the country of its assets, and are now planning to retire to their mercenary-guarded gated communities...

“Confidence” is a dogwhistle to the investor class, right?

Austerity is coming to a neighborhood near you unless, of course, you run a hedge fund or CEO a major corporation with War on Terra contracts.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Statesmen Need Not Apply

Vastleft has a say about the twilight zone that the Offical Legacy of the government has become, and what we're left with running for the Preznitcy.

NEW ORLEANS — John Edwards, the progressive Democratic candidate who made a populist, antipoverty message the centerpiece of his campaign, announced his exit from the presidential primary race on Wednesday, saying he was stepping aside “so that history can blaze its path.”

The smart, decent Statesmen have left the building, there being only so much you can do when the State has become a circus and the Preznitcy a job suited for ringmasters.

Just remember: the sense things make has not been, is not, and never will be the sensibility the salesmen sell.

Those of us who would keep the blaze of history from becoming a firestorm salute John Edwards' decision, but hope he's hanging around to help hose the flame.

Beyond the Law

Two recent pieces from the editorial board of The New York Pravda that bear repeating.

Unify this, Prime Unit of the Oborg:

...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...

...Over the last seven years, Mr. Bush has issued hundreds of these insidious documents declaring that he had no intention of obeying a law that he had just signed. This is not just constitutional theory. Remember the detainee treatment act, which Mr. Bush signed and then proceeded to ignore, as he told C.I.A. interrogators that they could go on mistreating detainees?

This week’s statement was attached to the military budget bill, which covers everything except the direct cost of the war. The bill included four important provisions that Mr. Bush decided he will enforce only if he wants to.

The president said they impinged on his constitutional powers. We asked the White House to explain that claim, but got no answer, so we’ll do our best to figure it out.

The first provision created a commission to determine how reliant the government is on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, how much waste, fraud and abuse has occurred and what has been done to hold accountable those who are responsible. Congress authorized the commission to compel government officials to testify.

Perhaps this violated Mr. Bush’s sense of his power to dole out contracts as he sees fit and to hold contractors harmless. The same theory applies to the second provision that Mr. Bush said he would not obey: a new law providing protection against reprisal to those who expose waste, fraud or abuse in wartime contracts.

The third measure Mr. Bush rejected requires intelligence officials to respond to a request for documents from the Armed Services Committees of Congress within 45 days, either by producing the documents or explaining why they are being withheld. Clearly, this violates the power that Mr. Bush has given himself to cover up an array of illegal and improper actions, like his decisions to spy on Americans without a warrant, to torture prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions and to fire United States attorneys apparently for political reasons.

It’s glaringly obvious why Mr. Bush rejected the fourth provision, which states that none of the money authorized for military purposes may be used to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.

It is more evidence, as if any were needed, that Mr. Bush never intended to end this war, and that he still views it as the prelude to an unceasing American military presence in Iraq.

It's not partisanship to want to bring a crook to justice, particularly when that crook is the biggest racketeer in the country.

But to consciously ignore the crime, to smooth it all over and play nice? To do all that, and hope that the criminals do the same? That's worse than wishful thinking. It's folly, or a closet complicity, or both.

A word on FISA:

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.

It needed updating to keep pace with technology, and the technical fixes were included in a bill that Congress passed last summer. The problem was that Mr. Bush managed to add measures that sharply undercut the court’s role in monitoring eavesdropping. Fortunately, lawmakers gave them an expiration date of Feb. 1.

The House has passed a reasonable new bill — fixing FISA without further endangering civil liberties. But Mr. Bush wants to weaken FISA as much as he can. And the Senate leadership has been only too happy to oblige.

With the help of Republican senators and the misguided chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, the White House got a bill that, once again, reduces court supervision of wiretapping. It also adds immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the illegal spying.

Mr. Bush says without amnesty, the government won’t get cooperation in the future. We don’t buy it. The real aim is to make sure the full story of the illegal wiretapping never comes out in court.

Mr. Reid — who is still falling for the White House’s soft-on-terrorism bullying — set up deliberations in a way that ensured that a better Judiciary Committee version of the bill would die a procedural death and that the Intelligence Committee bill would pass.

The Judiciary bill died this week, with the help of other bullyable Democratic senators like Mr. Rockefeller, Claire McCaskill, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson. The Republicans repaid them by announcing they would block any further attempts to reach a compromise.

It is now up to the House to protect Americans’ rights. Mr. Bush has already started issuing the ritual claims that if his bill is not passed instantly, Osama bin Laden will be telephoning his agents in the United States and no one will know. Let us be clear, Mr. Bush has always had the authority to order emergency wiretaps — and get court approval after the fact. That has never been the problem with FISA.

The House should vote to extend last summer’s flawed rules for at least 30 days and go on recess, forcing the Senate to do the same thing, and then bring the whole matter to a conference committee. There will then be plenty of time for a real debate.

Lawmakers and the rest of the nation should bear this in mind: Mr. Bush’s version of this law does not make intelligence-gathering more robust. Opponents like Senators Christopher Dodd and Patrick Leahy want to spy on Al Qaeda, too. They’re just not willing to do it in a way that undermines the very democracy that the spies, Congress and the president are supposed to be protecting.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Turkey Nukes

We're selling enriched uranium to Turkey now, taking up where Pakistan left off.

Sibel Edmonds was right.

State of the Delusion

Fact check:

Bush said: “Over the past 7 years, we have increased funding for veterans by more than 95 percent. As we increase funding, we must also reform our veterans system to meet the needs of a new war and a new generation.”

FACT — 1.8 MILLION VETERANS LACK HEALTH INSURANCE: “The new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, estimated that in 2004 nearly 1.8 million veterans were uninsured and unable to get care in veterans’ facilities.” [New York Times, 11/9/07]

Bush said: “And our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is treating 1.4 million people [in Africa]. We can bring healing and hope to many more. So I ask you to maintain the principles that have changed behavior and made this program a success.”

FACT — BUSH’S AIDS POLICIES DIVERT FUNDS TO FAILED ABSTINENCE-ONLY PROGRAMS: Bush’s policy states that one-third of money allocated for HIV prevention overseas go to abstinence-only programs. “In fact, a full two-thirds of the money for the prevention of the sexual spread of HIV goes to abstinence.” [American Prospect, 7/10/07]

Bush said: “We have also changed the way we deliver aid by launching the Millennium Challenge Account. This program strengthens democracy, transparency, and the rule of law in developing nations, and I ask you to fully fund this important initiative.”

FACT — MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE PROGRAM WILL SOON BE BANKRUPT: “President Bush’s signature foreign-assistance program is likely to run out of money this year, leaving in the lurch several poor countries that have labored to meet its strict eligibility standards, according to aid officials. Mr. Bush introduced the Millennium Challenge program in 2002 as a new approach to fix the perceived failures of overseas-development assistance.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/22/07]

FACT — BUSH IGNORED DEMOCRACY DURING TRIP TO SAUDI ARABIA: During his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Bush didn’t meet with “one Saudi dissident or political activist, much less a democrat.” [Newsweek, 1/14/08]

Bush said: ” The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America. We have had ample time for debate. The time to act is now.”

FACT — IMMUNITY ABSOLVES TELECOM COMPANIES OF VIOLATING THE LAW: Immunity “would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants.” [Washington Post 10/18/07]

Bush said: “One of the most important tools we can give them is the ability to monitor terrorist communications. To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning. Last year, the Congress passed legislation to help us do that. Unfortunately, the Congress set the legislation to expire on February 1. This means that if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. The Congress must ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted.”

FACT — TEMPORARY EXTENSION WOULD ALLOW NEW WIRETAPS TO BE IMPLEMENTED: A temporary extension would prevent the Protect America Act revisions from expiring on February 1, meaning new authorizations for surveillance would continue be governed by the Protect America Act revisions. If the extension is not passed, the Act’s “transition procedures” would cause all new authorizations to be governed by the FISA statute as it existed prior to the Protect America Act revisions. [Protect America Act]

FACT — GOVERNMENT WILL STILL BE ABLE TO WIRETAP TERRORISTS IF PROTECT AMERICA ACT EXPIRES: “Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, said in an interview that if the August bill was allowed to expire in 10 days, intelligence officials would still be able to continue eavesdropping on already approved targets for another year under the law.” [NY Times 01/23/08]

Bush said: “American troops are shifting from leading operations, to partnering with Iraqi forces, and, eventually, to a protective overwatch mission.”

Iraqi defense minister Abdul Qadir “that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq’s borders from external threat until at least 2018.” [New York Times, 1/15/08]

FACT — CORRUPTION AND SECTARIANISM PLAGUE SECURITY FORCES: “Rampant corruption and lingering sectarianism” within Iraqi security forces are “major hurdles that Iraqi defense and police leaders must overcome in order to take responsibility for Iraq’s security,” according to Gen. James Dubik, head of the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq. “[S]hortages of key personnel, equipment, weaponry and logistical capabilities mean that Iraq’s security forces will probably require U.S. military support for as long as a decade.” [Washington Post, 1/18/08]

Bush said: “When we met last year, our troop levels in Iraq were on the rise. Today, because of the progress just described, we are implementing a policy of ‘return on success,’ and the surge forces we sent to Iraq are beginning to come home.”

FACT — SURGE HAS WEAKENED THE MILITARY: Army Chief of Staff General George Casey warned that “the current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply” and also that “the surge has sucked all the flexibility out of the system.” Yesterday, Gen. Petraeus “said the Pentagon wants to bring troops home quickly to reduce the strain on the armed services.” [WSJ, 1/17/08; CNN, 1/28/08]

FACT — THE LONGER WE STAY IN IRAQ, THE MORE OUR MILITARY IS BURDENED: “It’s going to take us three or four years and a substantial amount of resources to put ourselves back in balance. … The question is, when does the conflict end?,” said Army Chief of Staff George Casey in October. [General Casey, 10/9/07]

Bush said: “While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just 1 year ago.”

FACT — TROOPS ARE STILL DYING IN IRAQ: A roadside bomb killed five American soldiers today in Mosul, taking to “36 the number of soldiers killed in Iraq this month, up from 23 in December.” [Reuters, 1/28/08]

Bush said: “Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al Qaida is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope.”

FACT — AL QAEDA POSING ‘FRESH THREATS’ IN PAKISTAN: In Pakistan, a “regenerating al-Qaida is posing fresh threats.” “There is growing recognition that the United States risks further setbacks, if not deepening conflict or even defeat, in Afghanistan, and that success in that country hinges on stopping Pakistan from descending into disorder.” [AP, 1/28/08]

Bush said: “We must also find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally. Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved. And it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals.”

FACT — BUSH ADMINISTRATION CONDUCTING POLITICALLY-MOTIVATED RAIDS: After Tam Tran, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, was featured in an October USA Today article and testified before a House committee on immigration, federal officers forcibly arrested her family in the middle of the night. Tran’s family was detained on a “years-old deportation order,” even though they have been in regular communication with immigration officials for almost 20 years since arriving in the United States. [USA Today, 10/8/07, 10/16/07; OC Register, 10/17/07; House, 5/18/07]

FACT — LEGAL IMMIGRANTS FACE LENGTHY WAIT PERIOD: For the next two years, legal immigrants will have to wait an average of 18 months to have their citizenship petitions processed, up from seven months or less last year. By contrast, the DHS immigration agency has worked to “speed” the deportation of more than “200,000 immigrants who are convicted criminals serving time in prisons and jails across the country.” [New York Times, 1/18/08]

Bush said: “Tonight the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast. America honors the strength and resilience of the people of this region. We reaffirm our pledge to help them build stronger and better than before. And tonight I am pleased to announce that in April we will host this year’s North American Summit of Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the great city of New Orleans.”

FACT — KATRINA HAS SLIPPED FROM BUSH’S RADAR: In the 2007 State of the Union, there wasn’t a single mention of Hurricane Katrina or the ongoing Gulf Coast reconstruction effort. [SOTU, 1/23/07]

Bush said: “Faith-based groups are bringing hope to pockets of despair, with newfound support from the Federal Government.”

FACT — FAITH OFFICE USED MAINLY FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES: David Kuo, formerly Bush’s head of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, revealed that the office was mainly used “to mount ostensibly ‘nonpartisan’ events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.” National Christian leaders were mocked as “ridiculous” by White House officials behind their backs. [MSNBC, 10/13/06]

FACT — FAITH-BASED INITIATIVES NOT REACHING BLACK CHURCHES: A 2006 national survey of 750 black churches by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that fewer than three percent of black churches have received funding from the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. [Washington Post, 9/19/06]

Bush said: “I have submitted judicial nominees who will rule by the letter of the law, not the whim of the gavel. Many of these nominees are being unfairly delayed. They are worthy of confirmation, and the Senate should give each of them a prompt up-or-down vote.”

FACT — DEMOCRATIC-LED CONGRESS HAS CONFIRMED MORE OF BUSH’S JUDGES THAN DURING GOP CONGRESS: Despite the Republicans’ loss of control of the Senate, 40 of Bush’s judges won confirmation this year, more than in the previous three years when Republicans held the majority. [LA Times, 1/2/08]

Bush said: “And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases. This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride.”

FACT — BUSH BLOCKED GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE EFFORTS: The United States remains the only industrialized nation to refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol. At the most recent global conference on climate change in Bali, the United States rejected mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions and was “principally responsible for obstructing progress.” [National Geographic, 12/3/07; BBC, 12/15/07; Reuters, 12/13/08]

FACT — ‘MAJOR EMITTERS’ MEETING UNDERMINES GLOBAL EFFORTS: This week, the United States will convene a “major emitters” meeting in Hawaii. By meeting outside of the U.N. framework and by likely agreeing only to “aspirational targets,” Bush’s ‘major emitters’ meetings undermines the efforts of the United Nations to draw up a global binding agreement. [Reuters, 1/27/08; NYT, 9/24/07; BBC, 12/13/07]

You get the idea; it goes on. And on. You should read it all.

You can tell when Dear Leader lies: his mouth is open.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What, Me Worry?

No Recession, sez Dear Leader, 'specially if you feed the Ba$e more tax cuts.

WASHINGTON — President Bush said Monday that he was confident the economy would not slide into a recession, and that the American people are strong enough to promote freedom and peace abroad while their hard work fuels prosperity at home.

“I don’t think there will be a recession, and one way to make sure there is not a recession is for Congress to pass a robust stimulus package as quickly as possible,” the president said, urging the Senate to approve the package already agreed upon by the administration and the House...

It's like Naomi Klein says,

Moody’s, the credit-rating agency, claims the key to solving the United States’ economic woes is slashing spending on Social Security. The National Assn. of Manufacturers says the fix is for the federal government to adopt the organization’s wish-list of new tax cuts. For Investor’s Business Daily, it is oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, “perhaps the most important stimulus of all.”

But of all the cynical scrambles to package pro-business cash grabs as “economic stimulus,” the prize has to go to Lawrence B. Lindsey, formerly President Bush’s assistant for economic policy and his advisor during the 2001 recession. Lindsey’s plan is to solve a crisis set off by bad lending by extending lots more questionable credit. “One of the easiest things to do would be to allow manufacturers and retailers” — notably Wal-Mart — “to open their own financial institutions, through which they could borrow and lend money,” he wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal.

Never mind that that an increasing number of Americans are defaulting on their credit card payments, raiding their 401(k) accounts and losing their homes. If Lindsey had his way, Wal-Mart, rather than lose sales, could just loan out money to keep its customers shopping, effectively turning the big-box chain into an old-style company store to which Americans can owe their souls.

If this kind of crisis opportunism feels familiar, it’s because it is...

Do the free-market policies packaged as emergency cures actually fix the crises at hand? For the ideologues involved, that has mattered little. What matters is that, as a political tactic, disaster capitalism works. It was the late free-market economist Milton Friedman, writing in the preface to the 1982 reissue of his manifesto, “Capitalism and Freedom,” who articulated the strategy most succinctly. “Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

A decade later, John Williamson, a key advisor to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (and who coined the phrase “the Washington consensus”), went even further. He asked a conference of top-level policymakers “whether it could conceivably make sense to think of deliberately provoking a crisis so as to remove the political logjam to reform.”

Again and again, the Bush administration has seized on crises to break logjams blocking the more radical pieces of its economic agenda. First, a recession provided the excuse for sweeping tax cuts. Next, the “war on terror” ushered in an era of unprecedented military and homeland security privatization. After Hurricane Katrina, the administration handed out tax holidays, rolled back labor standards, closed public housing projects and helped turn New Orleans into a laboratory for charter schools — all in the name of disaster “reconstruction.”

Given this track record, Washington lobbyists had every reason to believe that the current recession fears would provoke a new round of corporate gift-giving. Yet it seems that the public is getting wise to the tactics of disaster capitalism. Sure, the proposed $150-billion economic stimulus package is little more than a dressed-up tax cut, including a new batch of “incentives” to business. But the Democrats nixed the more ambitious GOP attempt to leverage the crisis to lock in the Bush tax cuts and go after Social Security. For the time being, it seems that a crisis created by a dogged refusal to regulate markets will not be “fixed” by giving Wall Street more public money with which to gamble.

...The problem is not a lack of ideas “alive and available” — to borrow Friedman’s phrase. There are plenty available, from single-payer healthcare to legislating a living wage. Hundreds of thousands of jobs can be created by rebuilding the ailing public infrastructure and making it more friendly to public transit and renewable energy. Need start-up funds? Close the loophole that lets billionaire hedge fund managers pay 15% capital gains instead of 35% income tax, and adopt a long-proposed tax on international currency trading. The bonus? A less volatile, crisis-prone market.

The way we respond to crises is always highly political, a lesson progressives appear to have forgotten. There’s a historical irony to that: Crises have ushered in some of America’s great progressive policies. Most notably, after the dramatic market failure of 1929, the left was ready and waiting with its ideas — full employment, huge public works, mass union drives. The Social Security system that Moody’s is so eager to dismantle was a direct response to the Depression.

Every crisis is an opportunity; someone will exploit it. The question we face is this: Will the current turmoil become an excuse to transfer yet more public wealth into private hands, to wipe out the last vestiges of the welfare state, all in the name of economic growth? Or will this latest failure of unfettered markets be the catalyst that is needed to revive a spirit of public interest, to get serious about the pressing crises of our time, from gaping inequality to global warming to failing infrastructure?

The disaster capitalists have held the reins for three decades. The time has come, once again, for disaster populism.

Not if the Company runs the $election.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Inside Job Revisited

This is the first time we've observed the main$tream admit the anthrax terror was an inside job.

The closest thing to it was the December 21 2001 admission by The Washington Pravda that 5 labs had identified it as the Army strain. You know, for the bioweapons we swore we didn't have anymore.

Seekrit Kabuki

WASHINGTON — The top two American intelligence officials traveled secretly to Pakistan early this month to press President Pervez Musharraf to allow the Central Intelligence Agency greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories where Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups are all active, according to several officials who have been briefed on the visit.

But in the unannounced meetings on Jan. 9 with the two American officials — Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director — Mr. Musharraf rebuffed proposals to expand any American combat presence in Pakistan, either through unilateral covert C.I.A. missions or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces...

Well, as secret as these bozos can get while announcing the policy to the press.

You have to admit, though, it's a kewl moove by David Addington, who's scooped Scooter's digs while he's in the cooler for Cheney. Unlike the hapless Mr. Libby, he's nowhere in the pic, but everywhere behind the scenes. Handuppets, indeed.

Speaking of handpuppets, digby does an elaboration of clammyc's observations on the developing situation in TaliAfghaniPakistan. Darth Cheneyburton's support of Musharaff is doing a great job of Uniting, all on its own:

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.

The move is an attempt to present a united front against the Pakistani Army, which has been fighting insurgents along the border with Afghanistan. It is also the latest sign of the rise of Mehsud, considered the deadliest of the Taliban mullahs or clerics in northwest Pakistan.

Mehsud is based in the rugged, heavily treed mountains of South Waziristan, one of Pakistan's so-called tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, where Western intelligence says Al Qaeda is regrouping.

His organization has claimed responsibility, often backed up by videos, for killing and kidnapping hundreds of soldiers, beheading women, and burning schools that teach girls anything other than religion. He also says he has a steady supply of suicide bombers and strong ties to Al Qaeda.

"Al Qaeda has succeeded in building a base in the last two or three years mostly with help from Mehsud," said Ahmed Zaidan, a reporter for Al-Jazeera Television in Qatar who interviewed Mehsud three weeks ago. "They are moving freely in the tribal areas where it is difficult for the Pakistan Army to move..."

Al Qaeda gives Mehsud money and logistical advice, according to one of his Taliban allies, Maulvi Muslim.

The Al Qaeda funds don't always come in cash. Rather, Afghan and Pakistani businessmen, usually in the United Arab Emirates, are given money to buy high-priced goods like cars. The goods are shipped to Pakistan and sold, often tripling Al Qaeda's investment. The businessmen, with sympathies to Al Qaeda, take a small cut while Al Qaeda spreads the wealth among its allies...

Ah, of course, the United Arab Emirates, the new international headquarters of Halliburton. There you have the Kabuki du Jour. This smells like a Company scam, building a new enemy to justify the endless war on terra.

Unbreakable as Long as It Sells

UNDER the stewardship of Dow Kim and Thomas G. Maheras, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup built positions in subprime-related securities that led to $34 billion in write-downs last year. The debacle cost chief executives their jobs and brought two of the world’s premier financial institutions to their knees.

In any other industry, Mr. Kim and Mr. Maheras would be pariahs. But in the looking-glass world of Wall Street, they — and others like them — are hot properties. The two executives are well on their way to reviving their careers, even as global markets shudder at the prospect that Merrill and Citigroup may report further subprime losses in the coming months...

The ease with which Mr. Maheras and Mr. Kim have put themselves back in play is a reminder that for many top Wall Street executives, humiliation and defeat need not result in a professional exile. And they aren’t the only ones. Zoe Cruz, the Morgan Stanley co-president who was forced to leave her job after $10.8 billion in subprime losses, has been approached by investment banks, hedge funds and private equity funds about a senior management role, people briefed on those discussions say.

“It is always an assumption on Wall Street that it is not the individuals that lose money; it’s the system,” said Charles R. Geisst, a Wall Street historian and a finance professor at Manhattan College. “You can fail big time, but you can also succeed big time.

“They think it’s bad luck,” he said, so the attitude is “let’s give them another chance.”

The quick comebacks of these executives stand in stark contrast to the plight of the hundreds of investment bankers who have received pink slips in the last two weeks. They also illuminate a peculiar aspect of Wall Street’s own version of a class divide. Senior movers and shakers often land on their feet, no matter how egregious the losses tied to them. The industry rank and file, however, from mergers-and-acquisitions bankers at Bank of America to sales executives in Citigroup’s hedge-fund servicing business, see their jobs eliminated despite being far removed from the subprime crisis...

Once again, the analogy of the American Way of business to a certain unsinkable ocean liner comes to mind.

But what's at work here? Ben Stein:

...the law was a total puzzle. Here would be one case that went for the appellant, but just a circuit away, or maybe even in the same circuit, there would be another case — with identical or almost identical facts — that went for the appellee.

I was puzzled. I sat in the Sterling library reading the cases over and over, but still could not get it. Then, one day, out of the blue, my learned brother-in-law Melvin, who had gone to Harvard Law School, asked me if I knew about “legal realism.” I didn’t, but I soon learned.

“Legal realism” said that the whole common-law system of abiding by past decisions was a fig leaf. What really happened, at the appellate level and probably at the trial level, too, was that judges made up their minds based on their predilections, their biases, which lawyer was their friend, what they had for breakfast that day. (I myself love peach Activia yogurt.)

Then, because a case that reached appeal always had some legal merit on each side, the judges, or their very young clerks, picked whatever precedent they wished to support their bias and pretended that they were bound by that precedent and could not have decided any other way.

The scales fell from my eyes, and I went on to finish law school in fine fettle. It was just all show business and personal bias and what’s in it for the judge. That made law school easy.

Time has passed in a big way. But the lessons of legal realism have always been uppermost in my mind when I think about law or about anything else important: Stated reasons are often not the real reasons.

Because I usually write about finance, I have come to believe in the theory of what I would call “financial realism,” or what might more accurately be called “trader realism.” Under this theory, on which I have an imaginary patent, traders can see masses of data any minute of any day. They can find data to support hitting the “buy” button or the “sell” button. They don’t act on the basis of what seems to them the real economic situation, but on what’s in it for them...

As I see it, this is what traders do all day long — and especially what they’ve been doing since the subprime mess burst upon the scene. They have seized upon a fairly bad situation: a stunning number of defaults and foreclosures in the subprime arena, although just a small part of the total financial picture of the United States. They have then tried — with the collaboration of their advance guards in the press — to make it seem like a total catastrophe so they could make money on their short sales. They sense an opportunity to trick other traders and poor retail slobs like you and me, and they generate data and rumor to support their positions, and to make money.

Mor than that, they trade to support the way they want the market to go. If they are huge traders like some of the major hedge funds, they can sell massively and move the market downward, then suck in other traders who go short, and create a vacuum of fear that sucks down whatever they are selling.

Note what is happening here: They are not figuring out which way the market will go. They are making the market go the direction they want...

These traders, not economists or securities analysts, can turn the world upside down, make governments tremble, give central bankers colitis and ruin the lives of ordinary men and women saving for their children’s college education or their own retirement. In America today, it is the traders, not the politicians or the generals or the corporate bosses, who have the power.

This is what has become of the America of Thomas Jefferson. Lucky for the traders. Sad for the rest of us.

And one thing’s for sure: With the traders running things, it won’t be a good time for amateurs until the traders cry “Switch!” and the market starts to rise.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Just Like Less is More

John McCain shows his maverick side by joining the NeoCon Norquist bandwagon spouting Orwellian doublethink talking points.

Senator John McCain said that, if elected, he would do what other presidents had tried but failed to do: cut government spending sharply enough to reduce the budget deficit while lowering taxes at the same time...

Since the Holy of Holies, the Pentagon (a.k.a. Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, General Dynamics, et alia) would remain untoiched, he means everything else, right?

Just until it gets small enough to be drowned in that bathtub...

...Mr. McCain emphasized his experience working on economic matters in Congress and laid out an unorthodox version of conservatism. After initially opposing President Bush’s tax cuts, he has become a supporter of making them permanent and of pursuing additional tax reductions, saying they are the best way to encourage economic growth...

He's just like every other NeoCon Company sycophant, but specially different!

Count on it, with this guy, , too.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Adversarial Relationship

Larisa Alexandrovna notices

If retroactive immunity for telecoms passes (as part of FISA bill), then our Congress will finally have declared that the United States is a wholly owned subsidiary of a few mega-companies and that the citizens are without rights or even avenues for redressing grievances. In other words, our government has given us very little choice other than to declare ourselves independent...

Certainly you are correct, Larisa.

The problem is that this is a hostile takeover, and the Company has the most cops, guns, and nukes.

The government is shattered, but it's supposed to be in pieces. Otherwise, the corporate takeover would never happen. You think a functioning Republic would bankroll endless war?

There are people who call themselves Democrats and Republicans but really it's the one party rule of the Business party. Democrats and Republicans are just shifting coalitions of ambitious Company climbers. We aren't stockholders in Team America, we're yoked to it.

So don't declare yourself independent until you slip the leash, and try to wait until you're out of earshot. Because if Big Brother hears you, he'll try to bring you back into the $ystem.

To the Corporate Borg, it is after all an evangelical obligation to spread the Word, and the Word in the Company is that resistance is futile.

Why the Stimulus Won't Stimulate


...Aside from business tax breaks — which are an unhappy story for another column — the plan gives each worker making less than $75,000 a $300 check, plus additional amounts to people who make enough to pay substantial sums in income tax. This ensures that the bulk of the money would go to people who are doing O.K. financially — which misses the whole point.

The goal of a stimulus plan should be to support overall spending, so as to avert or limit the depth of a recession. If the money the government lays out doesn’t get spent — if it just gets added to people’s bank accounts or used to pay off debts — the plan will have failed.

And sending checks to people in good financial shape does little or nothing to increase overall spending. People who have good incomes, good credit and secure employment make spending decisions based on their long-term earning power rather than the size of their latest paycheck. Give such people a few hundred extra dollars, and they’ll just put it in the bank.

In fact, that appears to be what mainly happened to the tax rebates affluent Americans received during the last recession in 2001.

On the other hand, money delivered to people who aren’t in good financial shape — who are short on cash and living check to check — does double duty: it alleviates hardship and also pumps up consumer spending...

Why would the administration want to do this? It has nothing to do with economic efficacy: no economic theory or evidence I know of says that upper-middle-class families are more likely to spend rebate checks than the poor and unemployed. Instead, what seems to be happening is that the Bush administration refuses to sign on to anything that it can’t call a “tax cut.”

Behind that refusal, in turn, lies the administration’s commitment to slashing tax rates on the affluent while blocking aid for families in trouble — a commitment that requires maintaining the pretense that government spending is always bad. And the result is a plan that not only fails to deliver help where it’s most needed, but is likely to fail as an economic measure.

The words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt come to mind: “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.”

And the worst of it is that the Democrats, who should have been in a strong position — does this administration have any credibility left on economic policy? — appear to have caved in almost completely.

Yes, they extracted some concessions, increasing rebates for people with low income while reducing giveaways to the affluent. But basically they allowed themselves to be bullied into doing things the Bush administration’s way.

And that could turn out to be a very bad thing.

He goes into detail why here:

People say that the last recession was brief and mild. But that’s an artifact of the way the NBER defines recessions — basically as periods when everything is going down. Once something starts going up (usually GDP), it’s labeled a recovery. But in the last two recessions the thing that matters most — employment — kept falling long after the official end of the recession.

Did the last two recessions really end quickly?

And in the last two recessions the Fed kept cutting interest rates long after the recessions were supposedly over — all the way down to just 1 percent in 2003:

The Fed didn’t think the recessions were over

Indeed, as Alan Greenspan has revealed, the Fed still feared the possibility of “corrosive deflation” well into 2003.

What finally created a convincing recovery was the housing boom. But that turned into a bubble, which has burst big time.

We don’t know for sure by any means, but it definitely looks possible that this slump will be worse and more persistent than 2001-2003. And housing won’t come to the rescue this time. Meanwhile, the Fed has less room to cut: interest rates can’t go below zero (banks will just sit on cash rather than lend money out at a negative rate), and they started lower this time than they did in 2000.

The bottom line is that Ben Bernanke could definitely use some fiscal wind at his back. But thanks to the lousy deal announced today, he won’t get it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lies, Damned Lies, and Business as Usual

By now most of cyberspace is familiar with the Center for Public Integrity's catalog of 935 lies Bu$hCo perpetrated to lead up to the Iraq War.

But did you know it was searchable, too?

Al Gore Lays It Out

Avedon pointed this out last night over at Atrios' place, and I couldn't really find anything I'd rather post about.

Al Gore gives a Martin Luther King day speech. Read the whole thing, please. I lifted the parts that I wanted to keep here:

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress precisely to prevent such abuses. It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored in our country.

And that is why many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences insofar as it is possible to do so and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all of our people.

And on this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during that period.

The FBI privately labeled King the "most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and tried to blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted this long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, was instrumental in helping to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

And one result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there was indeed a sufficient cause for the surveillance. It included ample flexibility and an ability for the executive to move with as much speed as the executive desired. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of affording a level of protection for American citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue whenever it is necessary.

And yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on, and I quote the report, "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit domestic intelligence collection."

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President seemed to go out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but in the next breath declared that he has no intention stopping or of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. They recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

...A commitment to openness, truthfulness, and accountability helps our country avoid many serious mistakes, that we would otherwise make. Recently, for example, we learned from just declassified documents, after almost forty years, that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. And we now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. Now the point is that America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. And that is the reason why following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.

The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is on the proposition that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government in order to protect Americans from terrorism. When in fact, doing so would make us weaker and more vulnerable.

And remember that once violated, the rule of law is itself in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its mistakes and reveal errors, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police its activities. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General, for example, openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting does require a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims, instead, that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

But, this argument simply does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that is why they consulted with some members of Congress about the possibility of changing the statute. Genl. Gonzalez says that they were told by the members of congress consulted that this would probably not be possible. And so they decided not to make the request. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the use of military force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Indeed, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically - and the Congress refused to agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made clear statements during the debate on the floor of the house and the senate, respectively, clearly stating that that Authorization did not operate domestically. And there is no assertion to the contrary.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him the power he wanted when this measure was passed, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother...

It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, as you know the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, that person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even if he wants to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person. The President claims that he can imprison that American citizen -- any American Citizen he chooses -- indefinitely for the rest of his live without an even arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, without even informing their families that they have been imprisoned. No such right exists in the America that you and I know and love. It is foreign to our constitution. It must be rejected.

At the same time, the Executive branch has also claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture and have plainly constituted torture in a widespread pattern that has been extensively documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. And, in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were completely innocent of any criminal charges whatsoever. This is a shameful exercise of power that overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General George Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War. They have been observed by every president since then - until now. They violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, and our own laws against torture.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals on the streets of foreign cities and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture. Some of our traditional allies have been deeply shocked by these new, and uncharacteristic patterns on the part of Americans. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the cruelty and senselessness of the new U.S. practice that he witnessed: "This material we’re getting is useless,” he wrote and then he continued with this – “we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."

...There have of course been other periods in American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents. And when his successor, President Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses, in his first inaugural he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

President Lincoln, of course, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a shameful low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, of course, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of those abuses experienced by Dr. King and so many thousands of others.

But in each of these cases throughout American history, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, our nation recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

But, there are reasons for concern this time around, that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a globe where there are nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter- intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. But, as Justice Frankfurter wrote in that famous Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."

A second reason to that believe we may be experiencing something new -- outside that historical cycle -- is that we are, after all, told by this Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last” in their phrase, “for the rest of our lives." And so, we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will, in this case, persist in near perpetuity.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and subservient judiciary is ironically accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish a form of dominance in the world.

And the common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.

This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive branch employees.

For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases.

Ironically, that is exactly what happened to the FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's assertion that Martin Luther King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division testified that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated within the FBI and pressured. And I quote: "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street.... The men and I (he continued) discussed how to get out of trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These men (he continued) were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. ... so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."

The Constitution's framers who studied human nature so closely understood this dilemma quite well. As Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 73)

In any case, quite soon, there was no more difference of opinion within the FBI. And the false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.

In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.

ntellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that, sooner or later, a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield." 2,200 American soldiers have lost their lives as this false belief bumped into a solid reality.

And indeed, whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to gross mistakes and abuses. That is part of human nature. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded. It is human nature -- whether for Republicans or Democrats or people of any set of views.

Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.

Tragically, he apparently still does not know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have led to the identification of most of the others. One of them was in the phonebook. And yet, because of incompetence, unaccountable incompetence in the handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American people...

But the most serious damage in our constitutional framework has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive to attain this massive expansion of its power...

In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the "greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a rarity. Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked: "Why is this chamber empty?" In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a dozen out of 435.

And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his political organization.

So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Executive branch is further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the Administration. The Executive branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and too often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.

Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and sometimes the leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to the vice-president.

Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking sufficient action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program. Many did...

It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by the Executive Branch now threatening a radical transformation of the American system.

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of American government you are supposed to be under the Constitution of our country. But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must also be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has accompanied these efforts by the Executive branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-must examine ourselves...

Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is now applicable in a new way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. And its dominance has now become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements, and they’re not the Federalist Papers.

The political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.

The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive branch to believe it can and should control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.

The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain secrecy in its operations. After all, if the other branches don’t know what is happening they can't be a check or a balance.

For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program. But, rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the Administration withheld facts and actively prevented the Congress from hearing testimony that it had sought from the principal administration expert who had the information showing in advance of the vote that, indeed, the true cost estimates were far beyond the numbers given to Congress by the President. And the workings of the program would play out very differently than Congress had been told.

Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to it instead, the Congress approved the program. And tragically, the entire initiative is now collapsing- all over the country- with the Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance companies to volunteer to bail it out. But the American people, who have the right to believe that its elected representatives will learn the truth and act on the basis of knowledge and utilize the rule of reason, have been let down.

To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training, whatsoever. Today, one of the leading scientific experts in the world on global warming in NASA, has been ordered not to talk to members of the press, ordered to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive branch can monitor and control what he shares of his knowledge of global warming. This is a planetary crisis – we owe ourselves a truthful and reasoned discussion.

One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information has been by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. President Eisenhower said this: "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the full Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of nuclear missiles ready to be launched on a moment’s notice to completely annihilate the country? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when the last generation had to fight and win two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they did. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it’s up to us to do the very same thing!

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, and I quote: "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We’ve had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of this special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by the warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President, and it should be a political issue in any race -- regardless of party, section of the country, house of congress for anyone who opposes the appointment of a special counsel under these dangerous circumstances when our Constitution is at risk. Secondly, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of authority in these sensitive areas of national security.

Third, both Houses of Congress should, of course, hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.

Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it...

Count on it, Al. If the future of our democracy depends upon it, freedom of communication is doomed. Those who would rule will have no truck with it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Working (if you can call it that) for the Weekend

DINOcrats love those Congressional junkets. That old Bipartisan Darth Cheneyburton is doing his bestest to work with them.

Shame on Dodd and Feingold for actually wanting to defend the Constitution. It's so unkewl. Shame on them for wanting the same treatment the Senator from MGM Mirage Casino gives his Republican colleagues:

Like Digby sez:

...The next president of the United States is very likely to be one of two sitting senators who are, at the moment, the two most powerful people in the Democratic Party. Either one of them could bring their star power and future institutional clout to bear on this debate if they wanted to. Will they?...You can go here to send a message.

Will they? Nah, not if it means pissing off the Ba$e.

Nor, in fact, will Congress confront Dear Leader about all those nasty pending contempt charges- for the economy's sake. Because, you know, without all those investment tax credits Dear Leader wants to use to $timulate the economy, the Ba$e might feel the same pain the rabble does. It takes a Bipartisan effort to truely pander to the base.

You have to love it. Dear Leader threatens to not allow the emergency $timulus scam that is itself yet another rip-off of the Treasury for his cronies.

Reid is a lost cause- or more accurately a bought one, but somewhere out there somebody has to have the brains to realize the only stimuli that would really turn things around is a Federal jobs core program coupled with an end to the billion dollar a week hemorrhaging on the War on Terra in Iraq and everywhere else. Somebody should have the integrity and guts to do something about it.

But brains, integrity, and guts will get you nowhere near the Oval Office, and more likely a date with a lone gunman or a malfunctioning airplane.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Inflection Point

JERUSALEM — Israel, tiny and bereft of oil, has decided to embrace the electric car.

On Monday, the Israeli government will announce its support for a broad effort to promote the use of electric cars, embracing a joint venture between an American-Israeli entrepreneur and Renault and its partner, Nissan Motor Company.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with the active support of President Shimon Peres, intends to make Israel a laboratory to test the practicality of an environmentally clean electric car. The state will offer tax incentives to purchasers, and the new company, with a $200 million investment to start, will begin construction of facilities to recharge the cars and replace empty batteries quickly.

The idea, said Shai Agassi, 39, the software entrepreneur behind the new company, is to sell electric car transportation on the model of the cellphone. Purchasers get subsidized hardware — the car — and pay a monthly fee for expected mileage, like minutes on a cellphone plan, eliminating concerns about the fluctuating price of gasoline...

In the belly of the beast, the seeds of its destruction take root.

Great Communicatin' Oborg Voodoo Assimilation

The Existentialist Cowboy groks the essence of Oborg folly.

With data, baby.

We got yer Next Generation right here. If it isn't pre-empted, of course.

Somebody's Insane

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a "grand strategy" to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world"...

"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the authors argued in the 150-page blueprint for urgent reform of western military strategy and structures. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction."

The authors - General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and Nato's ex-supreme commander in Europe, General Klaus Naumann, Germany's former top soldier and ex-chairman of Nato's military committee, General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff, and Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff in the UK - paint an alarming picture of the threats and challenges confronting the west in the post-9/11 world and deliver a withering verdict on the ability to cope.

The five commanders argue that the west's values and way of life are under threat, but the west is struggling to summon the will to defend them. The key threats are:

· Political fanaticism and religious fundamentalism.

· The "dark side" of globalisation, meaning international terrorism, organised crime and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

· Climate change and energy security, entailing a contest for resources and potential "environmental" migration on a mass scale.

· The weakening of the nation state as well as of organisations such as the UN, Nato and the EU.

To prevail, the generals call for an overhaul of Nato decision-taking methods, a new "directorate" of US, European and Nato leaders to respond rapidly to crises, and an end to EU "obstruction" of and rivalry with Nato. Among the most radical changes demanded are:

· A shift from consensus decision-taking in Nato bodies to majority voting, meaning faster action through an end to national vetoes.

· The abolition of national caveats in Nato operations of the kind that plague the Afghan campaign.

· No role in decision-taking on Nato operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations.

· The use of force without UN security council authorisation when "immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings".

Or the jobs of certain individuals, at the cost of the planet, no doubt.

There is no struggle to defend western values where I live.

In fact, most people seem to realize the best way to defend western values is to lock up the Shock-and-Awe faction of the Free Marketeers and throw away the key.

Leslie at No Quarter, as well as Len Hart, and others across the wilds of cyberspace are weighing in on this one.

Rightfully so: this folly unopposed could send us the way of the dinosaurs.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Left-Handed Endorsement is the Best a Lefty Can Get

Michael Moore leans his way.

Now Martin Luther King III has nice things to say to him, too:

...I appreciate that on the major issues of health care, the environment, and the economy, you have framed the issues for what they are - a struggle for justice. And, you have almost single-handedly made poverty an issue in this election.

You know as well as anyone that the 37 million people living in poverty have no voice in our system. They don’t have lobbyists in Washington and they don’t get to go to lunch with members of Congress. Speaking up for them is not politically convenient. But, it is the right thing to do.

I am disturbed by how little attention the topic of economic justice has received during this campaign. I want to challenge all candidates to follow your lead, and speak up loudly and forcefully on the issue of economic justice in America.[..]

I believe that now, more than ever, we need a leader who wakes up every morning with the knowledge of that injustice in the forefront of their minds, and who knows that when we commit ourselves to a cause as a nation, we can make major strides in our own lifetimes. My father was not driven by an illusory vision of a perfect society. He was driven by the certain knowledge that when people of good faith and strong principles commit to making things better, we can change hearts, we can change minds, and we can change lives.

So, I urge you: keep going. Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter. As a friend and a believer in my father’s words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going. Keep fighting. My father would be proud.

Yes, I agree with the Dark Wraith: Edwards sometimes seems impossibly naive- perhaps disingenuously so.

But all the Right people hate him, and that counts for something.

Ronald Reagan Zombie Memes Need Headshots

Krugman debunks the Reagan myth, in words in his post at The New York Pravda, and with hard data on his blog. He asks a really good question:

...why would a self-proclaimed progressive say anything that lends credibility to this rewriting of history — particularly right now, when Reaganomics has just failed all over again?

Maybe because he's owned by the same people that profit off of the free market fundamentalism?

If you still see St. Ronnie as anything other than a scam those who would control you use to disorient your memories of things past, you should read those links and think about it.

One of many errors Bill Clinton made was to let the many crimes of the Reagan/ Bush years be bygones. It did nothing to appease the Ba$e, and they came howling for his blood anyway. If Hillary or especially Obama think they can play nice and conduct biz with these Undead, they've got rude awakenings due indeed.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


More on the developing case of Sibel Edmonds, which you won't hear in the main$tream:

...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.

She says the FBI was investigating a Turkish and Israeli-run network that paid high-ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets. These were then sold on the international black market to countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

One of the documents relating to the case was marked 203A-WF-210023. Last week, however, the FBI responded to a freedom of information request for a file of exactly the same number by claiming that it did not exist. But The Sunday Times has obtained a document signed by an FBI official showing the existence of the file.

Edmonds believes the crucial file is being deliberately covered up by the FBI because its contents are explosive. She accuses the agency of an “outright lie”...

Remember, the FBI, like everything else in America, is not homogenous. Like everything else in the government, it is only partially owned by the Company, which is far from uniform in its own machinations and motivations.

Is this the tip of another Shock and Awe operation intended to be sprung on the nation when the market is ready?

Planning to Fail

If an unlikely Rethuglican candidate knows how to remedy the Recession and crumbling national infrastructure at the same time, why is it so hard for Dear Leader, the rest of the Rethuglicans, and the two leading DINOcrat candidates to see it?

...Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg attacked Washington politicians on Saturday for what he called short-sighted, politically motivated spending while the nation’s roads, bridges and airports fall apart.

“Infrastructure isn’t sexy or glamorous, and it doesn’t make for great headlines,” Mr. Bloomberg said in Los Angeles, “but it is one of the most important issues facing our country.

“And make no mistake about it, we have an infrastructure crisis.”

Joined by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican, and Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, the mayor announced the creation of a nonpartisan organization that will advocate for more, and smarter, federal spending on infrastructure...

It's not like there aren't dozens if not hundreds of public voices (like, say, Herbert or Krugman) advocating precisely this approach as a short and long term remedy.

It is like there are dozens- and dozens of dozens- of private contractors whose lobbyists have Congress et alia bought and paid for, people who have a vested interest in keeping any Federal jobs program completely out of the picture.

It is like there are dozens of dozens of corporations who really salivate at an investment tax break. A government incentive to keep on playing the numbers with the American economy. But when the gamble goes bad, even with the $!45 Billion Dear Leader gives them to roll the dice, they'll be back asking Uncle Sugar to bail their butts out again.

This isn't socialism, of course. It's the free market.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Not that they'd lie to you

...but although your happy pills might make you feel good when you're getting off, they don't really make you any better.

Not that pharma corps would lie to you. They just ignored 49% of the studies that showed selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors had no effect or made patients worse is all. They didn't trouble the FDA with all that troublesome data.

Would you buy a used economic policy from these men?

Cheney's lips never move once. But you can tell, his hand up Dear Leader's ass is a dead giveaway. Puppet policy all over again.

Like Krugman sez.

$150 Billion in corporate investment tax breaks for Bu$hie's Ba$e.

The man (assuming, of course, he's human) proposes nothing that will resolve the problem, just gimmicks to make him and his cronies money.

Meanwhile, the data are the data: it's the jobs, stupid, not the taxes.

Bob Herbert says it today:

...My colleague at The Times, David Cay Johnston, took a look at income patterns in the U.S. over the past few decades in his new book, “Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill).”

From 1980 to 2005 the national economy, adjusted for inflation, more than doubled. (Because of population growth, the actual increase per capita was about 66 percent.) But the average income for the vast majority of Americans actually declined during that period. The standard of living for the average family has improved not because incomes have grown, but because women have gone into the workplace in droves.

The peak income year for the bottom 90 percent of Americans was way back in 1973 — when the average income per taxpayer (adjusted for inflation) was $33,001. That is nearly $4,000 higher than the average in 2005.

It’s incredible but true: 90 percent of the population missed out on the income gains during that long period.

Mr. Johnston does not mince words: “The pattern here is clear. The rich are getting fabulously richer, the vast majority are somewhat worse off, and the bottom half — for all practical purposes, the poor — are being savaged by our current economic policies.”

His words are echoed in a proposed stimulus plan currently offered by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. (The plan is available on its Web site, epi.org.) Stressing that any stimulus package should be “fair,” the authors of the institute’s proposal wrote:

“The distribution of wages, income and wealth in the United States has become vastly more unequal over the last 30 years. In fact, this country has a more unequal distribution of income than any other advanced country.”

Economic alarm bells have been ringing in the U.S. for some time. There was no sense of urgency as long as those in the lower ranks were sinking in the mortgage muck and the middle class was raiding the piggy bank otherwise known as home equity.

But now that the privileged few are threatened (Merrill Lynch took a $9.8 billion fourth-quarter hit, and the stock market has spent the first part of the year behaving like an Olympic diving champion), it’s suddenly time to take action.

There is no question that some kind of stimulus package geared to the needs of ordinary Americans is in order. But that won’t begin to solve the fundamental problem.

Good jobs at good wages — lots of them, growing like spring flowers in an endlessly fertile field — is the absolutely essential basis for a thriving American economy and a broad-based rise in standards of living.

Forget all the CNBC chatter about Fed policy and bargain stocks. For ordinary Americans, jobs are the be-all and end-all. And an America awash in new jobs will require a political environment that respects and rewards work and aggressively pursues creative policies designed to radically expand employment.

I’d start with a broad program to rebuild the American infrastructure. This would have the dual benefit of putting large numbers of people to work and answering a crying need. The infrastructure is in sorry shape. New Orleans comes to mind, and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The country that gave us the Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe ought to be able, 60 years later, to reconstitute its own sagging infrastructure.

There are also untold numbers of jobs and myriad societal benefits to be reaped from a sustained, good-faith effort to achieve energy self-sufficiency. Think Manhattan Project.

The possibilities are limitless. We could create an entire generation of new jobs and build a bigger and fairer economy for the 21st century. If only we were serious.

If only that was the real goal of the stimulus Dear Leader plans. But as always, the Company views the blank slate as the most beautiful, and Chaos is the plan.