Sunday, December 30, 2007

Housing Predictions Reviewed

Calculated Risk:
We all make errors in forecasting - no one has a crystal ball - but I'm endlessly amused by the 'no one could have known' excuse.

Amen, buddy. --Well, maybe rather than "amused," I'd say irritated every time I hear it.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Memories of Benazir Bhutto

Arianna Huffington:
She was at Oxford. I was at Cambridge. And by a strange coincidence I became president of the Cambridge Union and she became president of the Oxford Union. The anomaly of two foreign women heading the two unions meant that we ended up debating each other around England on topics ranging from British politics to broad generalities about the impact of technological advance on mankind.

Huffington quotes from Benazir Bhutto's blog post.

David Ignatius remembers:

I saw this effervescent woman many times over subsequent years, and I never lost the sense of her as an impetuous person embracing what was new -- for herself and for her nation. I remember encountering her once when she was a graduate student at Oxford, shaking up the august and occasionally somnolent Oxford Union debating society as its president. She was wearing a Rolling Stones T-shirt, the one with the sassy tongue sticking out, and I recall thinking that Pakistani politics would never be the same once she returned home.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Nano Flakes

Whew! It's been a busy week, plus Christmas. The other day I was going somewhere in a car (it's a blurred memory now), and I heard an audio clip on the radio: "...if you're truly serious about dealing with greenhouse gases, then it seems like to me you ought to be a strong supporter of [nucular] power." (Bush, of course.)

I was musing on whether solar energy will be our rescue in the new era. It's beyond my imagination. Then I hear this dude's voice, sounding as if he's just leaned out over the porch rail to shoot a spurt of chew-backy juice before imparting his wisdom, seems like to me.

Anyway, getting back to solar power, I'm willing to believe in "nano flakes" without knowledge of what they are or how they affect the advancement of solar energy. If not a nano flake, then some such discovery. Mr. Nucular's comment just sort of confirms the likelihood that my imagination's on the right track.

Meanwhile, it's Christmas morning. Very quiet and peaceful here. I hope everybody's where they need to be, safe and sound. Allowing for the unexpected, I don't have to put on my shoes today. I can just scuff around, munch on treats, muse on nano flakes, the new world, peace.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Chris Dodd on FISA

Think Progress has the updates on Senator Dodd's stand against retroactive immunity for telecoms in the spy biz. So I'll just pull a quote from the transcript:
...in place of the forthright argument and judicial deliberation that ought to be this country’s pride, two simple words from our president’s mouth: “Trust me.”

I cannot speak for my colleagues–but I would never take that offer, not even in the best of times, not even from a perfect president. I would never take that offer because our Constitution tells us that the president’s word is subject to the oversight of the Congress and the deliberation of the courts; and because I took an oath to defend the Constitution; and because I stand by my oath.

“Trust me.” It is the offer to hide ourselves in the waiting arms of the rule of men. And in these threatened times, that offer has never seemed more seductive. The rule of law has rarely been so fragile.

Whoops! I gotta quote Digby here. She has some eloquent posts on Sen. Dodd & FISA:

People like Al Gore and Chris Dodd and Martin Luther King are out of fashion these days. People laugh at passionate men of principle in this time when principles are considered something for chumps and fools. There's no angle on principle, no immediate political upside in saving the constitution when the Republicans are spending every minute of the day preaching fear and bloodlust and superficial political gossip rules our discourse. But they stand up anyway and suffer the taunts and jeers of people who think they are naive or narcissistic or crazy, because they believe in something. And I am exceedingly grateful for it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christopher J. Dodd

"It's time our president understood that America's moral authority isn't merely incidental to our security, but the very foundation. A president who understands that it is not always the example of our force that keeps us safe – but rather the force of our example."
Christopher J. Dodd

"Other Democrats (including those Senators running for President) have said they will support Dodd's filibuster."
CBS News

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Torture Tapes

"When the CIA destroyed those prisoner-interrogation videotapes, were they also destroying the truth about Sept. 11, 2001?"
Robert Scheer
After all, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the basic narrative of what happened on that day -- and the nature of the enemy in this war on terror that Bush launched in response to the tragedy -- comes from the CIA's account of what those prisoners told their torturers. The commission was never allowed to interview the prisoners, or speak with those who did, and was forced to rely on what the CIA was willing to relay instead.

Well, the 9/11 Commission didn't mention how Attorney General John Ashcroft was warned to staff off commercial airlines, or why they shouldn't get a straight answer simply by asking, "Hey FBI, what was the information that prompted you to warn John Ashcroft to stay away from commercial airline flights a couple of months before 9/11?" If they couldn't get that answer, they sure weren't going to get the straight dope on the CIA's torture tapes.

- - - - - - - - - -

Congressman Robert Wexler and other representatives send out an appeal [via Raw Story]:

On November 7, the House of Representatives voted to send a resolution of impeachment of Vice President Cheney to the Judiciary Committee. As Members of the House Judiciary Committee, we strongly believe these important hearings should begin.

. . .

Now that former White House press secretary Scott McClellan has indicated that the Vice President and his staff purposefully gave him false information about the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent to report to the American people, it is even more important for Congress to investigate what may have been an intentional obstruction of justice. Congress should call Mr. McClellan to testify about what he described as being asked to “unknowingly [pass] along false information.” In addition, recent revelations have shown that the Administration including Vice President Cheney may have again manipulated and exaggerated evidence about weapons of mass destruction -- this time about Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Harry Reid & FISA

The FISA crap that's been going on in the Senate reminds me of the ol' media event over the O.J. Simpson murder trial. During the hubbub a fellow spectator asked my opinion, did I think he was innocent? Of course not, I said. There's a mountain of evidence. He did it, but he will be found not guilty. The really interesting thing about this trial is to see how the prosecutors will manage to lose the case in spite of all that solid evidence.

So with the FISA bill. Bush stated his order to Congress: even though you are not allowed to know what sort of illegal spying the telecoms may or may not have enabled, grant them retroactive immunity.

It's ridiculous, so it would be interesting to see how Congress would obey.

Glenn Greenwald mentions that some Democrats would have only Republicans upbraided for complying. His response is in the blockquote. My own response is WHAT? It's seared in memory that Democrats were right there with the Republicans to back Bush's invasion of Iraq. That, and so many atrocities since then. Greenwald's response:

Today, they provide but the latest iteration of the answer as to why there is so much dissatisfaction and anger towards them, including from those who fully recognize the pragmatic constraints involved. This isn't a case where they are trying to oppose Bush's demands on telecom amnesty and warrantless surveillance powers but are sadly thwarted by a lack of votes. Rather, Harry Reid is doing everything he can to thwart those who are attempting to impede Bush's demands and thus doing everything he can to ensure that the White House is liberated from the prospect of accountability for past lawbreaking and vested with vast, new eavesdropping powers with as little oversight as possible --

Reid had a choice of base bills, so he chose the one made to order for Bush. How'd that happen? From a letter following Greenwald's column:

In an email alert from the ACLU, the writer mentioned a secret meeting yesterday between Reid, McConnell and Mukasey.

-- It looks like the same tactics as last time.

And Mukasey's column published today has the same Bush-McConnell spin coinage as last time, to push Bush's orders:

First, it would keep the intelligence gaps closed by ensuring that individual court orders are not required to direct surveillance at foreign targets overseas. Second, it would provide protections from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that have been sued simply because they are believed to have assisted our intelligence agencies after the 9/11 attacks.
[emphasis mine]
As with everything else the Bush administration has commanded, belief has to stand in for facts. Belief is compelling if so ordered; and just fluff, if so ordered.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

FISA Bill(s)

Senators' letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, asking him to go with the Senate Judiciary Committee's FISA bill, not the Intelligence Committee's bill:
Update: Unsurprising, our new Attorney General is all for letting the telecoms off the hook. He's pushing the Intelligence Committee version of the bill.

More information and links at Muckraker.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tony Perkins

Yesterday Think Progress quoted a Family Research Council "alert" about the shootings in Colorado:
It is hard not to draw a line between the hostility that is being fomented in our culture from some in the secular media toward Christians and evangelicals in particular and the acts of violence that took place in Colorado yesterday.

I couldn't find reference to the email alert on the FRC website. But it does sound like some of Tony Perkins' previous work to create a fighting point out of any situation in a spotlight, like Terri Schiavo's death:

"During the controversy Perkins repeatedly issued Schiavo commentaries that referred to her husband as 'estranged', despite the fact that Michael Schiavo was caring for her, and [he] mention[ed] the 'questionable circumstances' surrounding her collapse, clearly implying foul play."

or vandalism in DC:

To wrap up, here’s Perkins’ scorecard on this matter: He said Pelosi ordered the Capitol Police to stand down in the face of vandals. She did not. He said the police watched but did nothing while the vandals defaced the Capitol. This is also not true. He blamed the vandalism on the marchers at large. Even the Capitol Police acknowledge it was done by members of a splinter group who were more interested in mixing it up with the cops than protesting the war. He said Pelosi oversees the Capitol Police. She does not.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Al Gore in Norway

Aftenposten:
A wintry landscape has tradtionally met winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, which always is awarded on December 10, the anniversary of benefactor Alfred Nobel's death. Not this year. Monday dawned mild and fairly dry, with temperatures above freezing and a sun expected to peek through a thin cloud cover later in the day.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Great Lakes Compact

When it comes to water policy in Wisconsin,
you can call 2007 "The Year of Living Indifferently."

James Rowen, Letters, The Capital Times

To go into full effect, the agreement must be approved by all eight U.S. Great Lakes states' legislatures and Congress.

To date, Illinois and Minnesota have approved the compact; and Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have bills under consideration.

Wisconsin, host to that Dec. 13, 2005, signing ceremony in a Milwaukee hotel ballroom, is the sole state without a bill under review.

Wisconsin has some some water-diversion plans in development.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

HuffPosters

"The Bush Years" posters at Huffington Post: "The response was overwhelming, with over 1,000 people offering suggestions (even those with a different POV of the GOP were inspired to jump into the fray)."

They do a graphic presentation of the sort of hip-hop chant of memories that often downloads with the day's headlines. Remember way back when, when George W. Bush sent everybody a refund check? Wow, that was trillions of dollars ago...

Or when he lauded immigrants for coming to the USA to "do the work Americans won't do"? A while back, millions of jobs ago.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Peru FTA

Peru Free Trade Agreement a Disaster for Farmers Everywhere:
U.S. farmer Ben Burkett
As a family farmer from Mississippi, I actually thought NAFTA might be able to help farmers like me access new markets. But I quickly found out how wrong I was when many of the farmers in my cooperative lost our cucumber contracts from corporations such as Heinz and Vlasic, who chose to buy instead from Mexico. The Peru FTA simply continues this failed NAFTA-model for agriculture that destroys local food systems both here and abroad, while favoring industrial-style, environmentally damaging farm systems. The United States has historically had an agricultural trade surplus. We are now verging on becoming a net food importer and already have a $400 million agriculture trade deficit with Peru. Now is not the time to allow more cheap foreign food that would undercut American family farmers and ranchers and jeopardizes our food security.

. . .

As harmful as the Peru FTA will be for American farmers and ranchers, the effects on Peruvian farmers will be just as devastating. As an African American farmer, I am particularly concerned about the impact the agreement will have on the millions of Afro-Peruvian and indigenous farmers. The same international grain traders who dumped below-cost grain into Mexico after NAFTA, driving over a million farmers off the land and fueling illegal migration into the United States, will now do the same in Peru. Many of those displaced Peruvian corn and rice farmers facing economic catastrophe will be forced to migrate or grow illicit drug crops to survive. In July, four million Peruvians took to the streets to voice opposition to the FTA.

Statement from Harry Reid:

The Peru Free Trade Agreement is the first agreement that incorporates the new provisions on labor rights, the environment, and access to medicines from the May 10 Agreement with Speaker Pelosi, Congressmen Rangel and Levin, and Chairman Baucus. These changes are significant. For the first time ever, a trade agreement will include an enforceable obligation for each country to respect core, internationally-recognized labor standards. I hope that this new provision will have a dramatic impact over time.

“If they are faithfully enforced...

. . .

While we’ve approved all of those new FTAs, the Bush Administration has absolutely fallen down on the job when it comes to enforcement of trade agreements.

They set up quick-buck disasters faster than taxpayers can cover the damages.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

National Debt

The AP article, National debt grows $1 million a minute, warns that,
Even if you've escaped the recent housing and credit crunches and are coping with rising fuel prices, you may still be headed for economic misery, along with the rest of the country. That's because the government is fast straining resources needed to meet interest payments on the national debt, which stands at a mind-numbing $9.13 trillion.

Further:

Not long ago, it actually looked like the national debt could be paid off — in full. In the late 1990s, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office projected a surplus of a $5.6 trillion over ten years — and calculated the debt would be paid off as early as 2006.

Former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan recently wrote that he was "stunned" and even troubled by such a prospect. Among other things, he worried about where the government would park its surplus if Treasury bonds went out of existence because they were no longer needed.

Not to worry. That surplus quickly evaporated.

A couple of items from CAP's summary in January 2007, Five Economic Challenges That Need More Policy Attention:

Fiscal irresponsibility under President Bush has substantially contributed to U.S. foreign indebtedness.

– Large swing from budget surpluses to deficits: When President Bush took office in early 2001, the Congressional Budget Office anticipated that the government balance between 2002 and 2011 would be in the black to the tune of $5.6 trillion; for the fiscal year 2006, the CBO projected a surplus of $505 billion. Today, the CBO projects deficits between 2002 and 2011 of $2.9 trillion; for fiscal year 2006, the actual deficit amounted to $248 billion. This con stitutes a deterioration in the budget outlook for the period 2002 to 2011 of $8.5 trillion and a decline of $753 billion for fiscal year 2006—over the span of less than five years.

– President Bush’s tax cuts are the largest contributing factor to the deteriorating budget outlook. In 2006, the estimated cost of the Bush tax cuts was $252 billion dollars. Even with additional spending for the rebuilding of the Gulf area after Hurricane Katrina and the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the federal government would have had a balanced budget in 2006 had it not been for the passage of the Bush tax cuts without offsetting savings. Between 2001 and 2006, the passage of the Bush tax cuts without the offsetting savings have cost $1.2 trillion in lost revenues, or more than 80 percent of the cumulative deficit during this period. While tax relief for middle class families is an important priority, the Bush tax cuts were highly regressive, and were pushed through without any consideration of their impact on the deficit.

We have to wait a year to start doing something about this?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

National Intelligence Estimate

Talking Points Memo links to Seymour Hersh on CNN TV: "The intelligence we learned about yesterday has been circulating inside this government at the highest levels for the last year, and probably longer."

Let's see, what was happening last year?

From Cooperative Research:

The House Intelligence Committee, led by Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), releases a 29-page report entitled “Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States” that blasts the CIA and other US intelligence agencies...
The report is generated strictly by the Republicans on the committee; input from Democratic members was quite limited. The author of the report is ex-CIA officer Frederick Fleitz, a former special assistant to Undersecretary of Defense John Bolton and a hardliner on Iran. Not surprisingly, Fleitz’s report fully supports the Bush administration’s position that Iran is moving aggressively to acquire nuclear weapons, and thusly poses an significant threat to the US.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Senators Stymied Bush

Joe Sudbay at AMERICAblog:
Bush can't get his appointments confirmed through the normal procedure because he appoints people who are unqualified or extremists. The Democrats stopped him. Good. The Democrats need to do more of this. Stand up to Bush. Stop him.

More on the NAFTA Shaft

Sirota highlights AP story: NAFTA Trade Tribunals Seen Trumping State Laws:
"States around the country are growing increasingly worried about the threats posed to their laws and regulations by the secret tribunals that resolve disputes in international trade. Experts say everything from environmental rules to the licensing of nurses and other professionals could be affected."

Also, from his syndicated column:

Ignoring rising protests from their more junior fair trade colleagues in Congress, Democratic leaders claim the pacts will aid impoverished workers abroad. But major labor leaders in Peru, Colombia and Panama oppose the deals, and not one respected U.S. human rights, religious or anti-poverty group supports them. These are pacts that only tax lawyers, union-busting thugs and Washington politicians could love.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

SCREAMING MAN

On page 201 of Joe Bageant's book, Deer Hunting with Jesus, he cites a bumper-sticker message that reads, "KICK THEIR ASS AND TAKE THEIR GAS." I haven't seen such a bumper sticker myself, but it's something of a relief to know it exists somehere in the USA. So much more honest than the "O.peration I.raqi L.iberation" propaganda pumped out of Washington these many years.

Here's Bageant & Screaming Man from March 2007:

But we have never won against a war until it is too damned late and the Pentagon and the Halliburtons of this country have wrung every blood stained buck from it and moved on toward setting up the next one. Yet the left, perhaps sensing the futility of protesting the latest war from inside their free speech cages -- which seem only to be reserved for war dissenters -- dissipates its energies further by charging at the sly Republican matador's array of fluttering capes, one of which is labeled sexual privacy. No cage required. You can usually parade that one right down the street, further proof the fatherland is a free land, and that the powers that be could care less about that issue.