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« Liberal Outrage: July 2007 | Main | Liberal Outrage: September 2007 »

Liberal Outrage

Reid caves pre-emptively

Washington Post:

Saying the coming weeks will be "one of the last opportunities" to alter the course of the war, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he is now willing to compromise with Republicans to find ways to limit troop deployments in Iraq. Reid acknowledged that his previous firm demand for a spring withdrawal deadline had become an obstacle for a small but growing number of Republicans who have said they want to end the war but have been unwilling to set a timeline.

"I don't think we have to think that our way is the only way," Reid said of specific dates during an interview in his office here. "I'm not saying, 'Republicans, do what we want to do.' Just give me something that you think you would like to do, that accomplishes some or all of what I want to do."

"Just give me something that you think you would like to do"? Are you @#*&$#@ kidding me? Please! I can't handle being Majority Leader! Tell me what to do!!!!

Again, this is a problem unique to Democrats. Sure, you may think it looks like Reid is just trying to be reasonable, but you don't go into a negotiation by saying right off the bat "I am willing to compromise with you." Especially when you are the majority party. Especially when your opponents are extremists who certainly didn't treat you that way when they were in power. Especially when you were put in power specifically to end this debacle.

Some blogger comments:

Talking Points Memo:

Of course, Reid has already "compromised" with Republicans on Iraq by agreeing to fund the war through September with no withdrawal timetables, and look where that has gotten us.

BarbinMD on Daily Kos:

"I'm not saying, 'Republicans, do what we want to do.'

You were voted in as a majority to say exactly that. And it's time you remembered that.

Update:

Aaaand here are the Dems folding on another issue:

Very interestingly, Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein told myself and Jonathan Weisman in separate interviews Monday that if Bush picks a consensus AG, that the spirit and drive of the Dem investigations into the US attorney firings would likely dissipate.

By fnord12 | August 31, 2007, 1:47 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Green Zone Fog

This is nothing new. They've just gotten more organized about it. Scenes just like this were depicted in The Ugly American, regarding Vietnam.

The sheets of paper seemed to be everywhere the lawmakers went in the Green Zone, distributed to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials and uniformed military of no particular rank. So when Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) asked a soldier last weekend just what he was holding, the congressman was taken aback to find out.

In the soldier's hand was a thumbnail biography, distributed before each of the congressmen's meetings in Baghdad, which let meeting participants such as that soldier know where each of the lawmakers stands on the war. "Moran on Iraq policy," read one section, going on to cite some the congressman's most incendiary statements, such as, "This has been the worst foreign policy fiasco in American history."

...
Brief, choreographed and carefully controlled, the codels (short for congressional delegations) often have showed only what the Pentagon and the Bush administration have wanted the lawmakers to see. At one point, as Moran, Tauscher and Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) were heading to lunch in the fortified Green Zone, an American urgently tried to get their attention, apparently to voice concerns about the war effort, the participants said. Security whisked the man away before he could make his point.

Tauscher called it "the Green Zone fog."

"Spin City," Moran grumbled. "The Iraqis and the Americans were all singing from the same song sheet, and it was deliberately manipulated."

Remember, this was the environment in which Baird made the decision that we needed to stay in Iraq just a little longer.


By fnord12 | August 31, 2007, 1:39 PM | Boooooks & Liberal Outrage | Link



Missing Iraq WMDs found; Were sitting in UN warehouse for 11 years, incorrectly filed under "Ark of the Covenant"

Just a stupid story that made Top News status because it contains the words "Iraq" and "chemical".

Meanwhile, for real, the whole story is starting all over again as the IAEA says that Iran is co-operating, just like they said about Iraq.


By fnord12 | August 30, 2007, 2:35 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Nuanced

Check this out. A Democratic representative (Brian Baird, Washington) went to Iraq and came back and said we can't withdraw immediately or it will be chaos. The Bush administration jumped on this as a chance to say there was bipartisan support for 'staying the course'. At Baird's town hall meeting he was basically mobbed by his constituents, who are a frustrated as hell over the lack of Democratic action on the war.

No sale. Phil shot back that Baird had become the "poster boy" for the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, and " don't like that at all."

"I don't like it, either," Baird said. (Both his talk and Q & A were peppered with zingers at the administration.)

Phil's arm shot out, his finger pointing angrily at Baird: "My friend, you have screwed up, and you have to change course." At that, the crowd erupted, cheering Phil . . .

And this was a crowd, to a big extent, of Baird's best in-district political friends. Or, those who used to be his friends. A few speakers before Phil, a woman who was a long-time supporter dressed him down by reminding him, "We are the ones who hit the ground to get you elected. . . . We were so so proud of you and the work you did." Now, she said: "I cannot believe your arrogance, Mr. Baird."

The audience atmosphere was a little Pentacostal: Cries of "impeach Bush" or "end the war" and similar calls punctuated questions, answers and everything else. In the two hours we were there, not one questioner - out of perhaps 20 - expressed anything other than disgust and outrage at Baird's new take on Iraq. To judge from audience reaction, a portion of the crowd of perhaps 400 to 500 (those that were inside - the room was filled solid and others couldn't get in) supported him, but that portion was surely less than 10%.

Shouted one person, midway through: "You think you're going to be re-elected?"

Baird: "It doesn't matter to me." Maybe, in the face of all that, it didn't.

Part of the problem here is a problem typical for Democrats. They (to their credit from a pure policy perspective) tend to have more complicated positions than Republicans seem to. But that may be a matter of strategy. In today's soundbite-driven political environment, the Republican's black & white positioning makes for much better messaging than the Democrat's nuanced statements. Baird is actually against the war.

Somewhat obscured is that none of that has changed; he continues to describe the invasion as a terrible mistake, and his words about the Bush Administration are no kinder. His new contention is that some of the pieces that could lead to stability in Iraq may be falling into place, and that maintaining American troops in place could allow that stability to take hold; withdrawing troops now, he said, would certainly lead to chaos and regional instability. "If we withdraw it will be catastrophic," he said.

His view doesn't mesh fully with the Bush Administration's. Baird's take is that what's needed may be a matter of some months, until next April or so - he gave no indication he'd be willing to stretch this out for very long. ("This is not forever," he said.) Apart from that, Baird said that his take on the Iraq could easily change with conditions as the months go on.

You can make the case that there's nothing very dramatic about this as a matter of practical policy. There's little question that an American withdrawal, even if ordered right away, would take months to execute, since so many people and supplies are located there. (However, while Baird was flatly convinced that American troop withdrawal would lead to disaster, there are lines of thought that the troops' presence there now is encouraging more insurgency.) As Baird (and many others) points out, American troop levels will be drawn down next spring by 50,000 or so regardless what the policy is: This country simply won't have the troops available to maintain current troop levels. So an American troop scaledown likely will occur then anyway, and likely not be before then anyway, regardless what Congress does. (And many of us suspect that any congressional action on Iraq contrary to the administration's policy would be simply ignored by the president regardless.)

The problem with a position like this is that with the amount of time it will take Congress to debate the issue and draft and pass the bill, and then for the the military to start to implement the withdrawal, it would probably be April by then anyway. So Baird is effectively for 'immediate' withdrawal in any case, but his attempt at delivering a complex analysis backfired on him. He should have come back from Iraq and said "We need to withdraw but we need to do it carefully."

Anyway, i'm excited by this townhall meeting and i hope we see more like it around the country. Unfortunately I don't think my representative has townhall meetings. At least, he's never invited me.


By fnord12 | August 30, 2007, 11:56 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



Everything in Iraq would have worked out just fine

...if only we had been allowed to use the ray gun.


By fnord12 | August 29, 2007, 2:14 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



WTO WTF??

It's not supposed to work like that! It's just a tool to help us exploit other countries! Right?

Nope, it's a tool to help corporations exploit all countries by removing any barriers to trade (i.e. "laws").

What am i talking about?

The dispute stretches back to 2003, when Mr. Mendel first persuaded officials in Antigua and Barbuda, a tiny nation in the Caribbean with a population of around 70,000, to instigate a trade complaint against the United States, claiming its ban against Americans gambling over the Internet violated Antigua and Barbuda's rights as a member of the W.T.O.
...
More than a few people in Washington initially dismissed as absurd the idea that the trade organization could claim jurisdiction over something as basic as a country's own policies toward gambling. Various states and the federal government, after all, have been deeply engaged for decades in where and when to allow the operation of casinos, Indian gambling halls, racetracks, lotteries and the like.

But a W.T.O. panel ruled against the United States in 2004, and its appellate body upheld that decision one year later. In March, the organization upheld that ruling for a second time and declared Washington out of compliance with its rules.

That has placed the United States in a quandary, said John H. Jackson, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who specializes in international trade law.

Complying with the W.T.O. ruling, Professor Jackson said, would require Congress and the Bush administration either to reverse course and permit Americans to place bets online legally with offshore casinos or, equally unlikely, impose an across-the-board ban on all forms of Internet gambling - including the online purchase of lottery tickets, participation in Web-based pro sports fantasy leagues and off-track wagering on horse racing.

...
Washington responded to Antigua's complaint by claiming it was within its rights to seek to block online gambling on moral grounds, just as any Muslim country would be within its rights under international trade agreements to ban the import of alcoholic beverages. The W.T.O. rejected this argument as inconsistent with American policy.

This is a fairly silly case, but the same basic rules apply. And i love how 'More than a few people in Washington' didn't see it coming. The article doesn't mention who they are, but i wouldn't be surprised if a lot of our lawmakers allowed this organization to exist had no idea what they are doing. Next time, it's not our gambling restrictions (who cares if we get rid of those?), it's our environmental regulations or our labor laws (some examples).

I found this article through a post on Dean Baker's blog, where he highlights an unusual aspect of this challenge:

But not complying with the decision presents big problems of its own for Washington. That's because Mr. Mendel, who is claiming $3.4 billion in damages on behalf of Antigua, has asked the trade organization to grant a rare form of compensation if the American government refuses to accept the ruling: permission for Antiguans to violate intellectual property laws by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among others.

Baker says:

This is usually the joke part of the W.T.O.. While the United States is a large enough consumer that selective tariffs or other import restrictions can impose a serious cost on most countries. However, the markets of most countries are so small that any restrictions on imports from the United States would barely even be noticed.

Antigua got around this problem by proposing to go the route of free trade. They want the right to distribute recorded movies, music, and software without any regard to U.S. copyrights. In other words, Antigua is proposing to eliminate copyright monopolies on these products. The existence of the Internet means that Antigua's decision to allow free trade in these products would immediately make them freely available all over the world.

According to the article, the threat of free trade has Hollywood and the software industry terrified. Unfortunately, because the reporter apparently has no background in economic nor spoke to any economists, the enormous irony of this situation was not noted in this article.


By fnord12 | August 29, 2007, 1:39 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Back again

I'm back and already hooked back into my political blog addiction. Here's a funny quote:

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL): "Alberto Gonzales is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth were three different things."

(What, you wanted pictures of trees? They're coming, they're coming).


By fnord12 | August 27, 2007, 4:13 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Chavez - dictator for life, savior, or just a guy executing the will of the people?

I'm certainly not thrilled about the new proposal in Venezuela to remove term limits for their president. On the one hand, we didn't have term limits until after FDR, and there are a lot of parallels between FDR and Chavez, and why people on the right would like to make sure that leaders like that can't stay in office for too long. If people continue to vote for them, why shouldn't they stay in office? On the other hand, this certainly plays into the depiction of Chavez as another dictator, another Castro.

In the end i think i'm happy to see him stay in power as the things he is doing in Venezuela really are amazing. I hope they will become a model for other countries (even our own). Here's John Pilger, segueing from discussing Chile in the 1970s.

The similarities in the campaign against the phenomenal rise of popular democratic movements today are striking. Aimed principally at Venezuela, especially Chavez, the virulence of the attacks suggests that something exciting is taking place; and it is. Thousands of poor Venezuelans are seeing a doctor for the first time in their lives, having their children immunised and drinking clean water. New universities have opened their doors to the poor, breaking the privilege of competitive institutions effectively controlled by a "middle class" in a country where there is no middle. In barrio La LĂ­nea, Beatrice Balazo told me her children were the first generation of the poor to attend a full day's school. "I have seen their confidence blossom like flowers," she said. One night in barrio La Vega, in a bare room beneath a single lightbulb, I watched Mavis Mendez, aged 94, learn to write her own name for the first time.

More than 25,000 communal councils have been set up in parallel to the old, corrupt local bureaucracies. Many are spectacles of raw grassroots democracy. Spokespeople are elected, yet all decisions, ideas and spending have to be approved by a community assembly. In towns long controlled by oligarchs and their servile media, this explosion of popular power has begun to change lives in the way Beatrice described.

It is this new confidence of Venezuela's "invisible people" that has so inflamed those who live in suburbs called country club. Behind their walls and dogs, they remind me of white South Africans. Venezuela's wild west media is mostly theirs; 80% of broadcasting and almost all the 118 newspaper companies are privately owned. Until recently one television shock jock liked to call Chavez, who is mixed race, a "monkey". Front pages depict the president as Hitler, or as Stalin (the connection being that both like babies). Among broadcasters crying censorship loudest are those bankrolled by the National Endowment for Democracy, the CIA in spirit if not name. "We had a deadly weapon, the media," said an admiral who was one of the coup plotters in 2002. The TV station, RCTV, never prosecuted for its part in the attempt to overthrow the elected government, lost only its terrestrial licence and is still broadcasting on satellite and cable.

Yet, as in Nicaragua, the "treatment" of RCTV is a cause celebre for those in Britain and the US affronted by the sheer audacity and popularity of Chavez, whom they smear as "power crazed" and a "tyrant". That he is the authentic product of a popular awakening is suppressed. Even the description of him as a "radical socialist", usually in the pejorative, wilfully ignores the fact that he is a nationalist and social democrat, a label many in Britain's Labour party were once proud to wear.

In Washington, the old Iran-Contra death squad gang, back in power under Bush, fear the economic bridges Chavez is building in the region, such as the use of Venezuela's oil revenue to end IMF slavery. That he maintains a neoliberal economy, described by the American Banker as "the envy of the banking world" is seldom raised as valid criticism of his limited reforms. These days, of course, any true reforms are exotic. And as liberal elites under Blair and Bush fail to defend their own basic liberties, they watch the very concept of democracy as a liberal preserve challenged on a continent about which Richard Nixon once said "people don't give a shit". However much they play the man, Chavez, their arrogance cannot accept that the seed of Rousseau's idea of direct popular sovereignty may have been planted among the poorest, yet again, and "the hope of the human spirit", of which Roberto spoke in the stadium, has returned.

Also: bibliomulas (book mules)


By fnord12 | August 17, 2007, 1:49 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (6)| Link



All Doom and Gloom, all the time

In case i haven't depressed you enough today, here's the housing market.

Krugman:

In April, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, declared that all the signs he saw indicated that the housing market was "at or near the bottom." Earlier this month he was still insisting that problems caused by the meltdown in the market for subprime mortgages were "largely contained."

But the time for denial is past.

According to data released yesterday, both housing starts and applications for building permits have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade, showing that home construction is still in free fall. And if historical relationships are any guide, home prices are still way too high. The housing slump will probably be with us for years, not months.

Meanwhile, it's becoming clear that the mortgage problem is anything but contained. For one thing, it's not confined to subprime mortgages, which are loans to people who don't satisfy the standard financial criteria. There are also growing problems in so-called Alt-A mortgages (don't ask), which are another 20 percent of the mortgage market. Problems are starting to appear in prime loans, too - all of which is what you would expect given the depth of the housing slump.

Many on Wall Street are clamoring for a bailout - for Fannie Mae or the Federal Reserve or someone to step in and buy mortgage-backed securities from troubled hedge funds. But that would be like having the taxpayers bail out Enron or WorldCom when they went bust - it would be saving bad actors from the consequences of their misdeeds.

...
Consider a borrower who can't meet his or her mortgage payments and is facing foreclosure. In the past, as Gretchen Morgenson recently pointed out in The Times, the bank that made the loan would often have been willing to offer a workout, modifying the loan's terms to make it affordable, because what the borrower was able to pay would be worth more to the bank than its incurring the costs of foreclosure and trying to resell the home. That would have been especially likely in the face of a depressed housing market.

Today, however, the mortgage broker who made the loan is usually, as Ms. Morgenson says, "the first link in a financial merry-go-round." The mortgage was bundled with others and sold to investment banks, who in turn sliced and diced the claims to produce artificial assets that Moody's or Standard & Poor's were willing to classify as AAA. And the result is that there's nobody to deal with.

Most likely this will result in a bailout to the morgage companies, just like the S&L bailout in the 80s that we are still paying off today. Which means all the people stuck with huge mortgages and homes that are no longer worth anything get screwed, but the irresponsible lenders who started this mess get away relatively unscathed.


By fnord12 | August 17, 2007, 1:40 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Peak Oil hits the big time

Coverage in the Christian Science Monitor with an expert's claim that the world's oil supply peaked in 2005. That's the most mainstream treatment of the issue i've seen.

Order those solar panels before the UPS fleet runs out of gas.


By fnord12 | August 17, 2007, 1:28 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Total assurance

Oversight of the department's use of the overhead imagery data would come from officials in the Department of Homeland Security and from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and would consist of reviews by agency inspectors general, lawyers and privacy officers. "We can give total assurance" that Americans' civil liberties will be protected, Allen said. "Americans shouldn't have any concerns about it."

This is about using military spy satellites for domestic purposes in the US. The satellites can purpotedly "see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers". So we're not just talking about "them" watching you walk to your car in the morning on your way to work. We're talking (theoretically?) about "them" having the ability to check out what you and your girl are up to in the bedroom, whether it's because you're suspected of a suspicious activity or just because some government bureaucrat is bored. If you don't accept their total assurance, of course. I do. No need to shine your electric eye into my home.

We all know from the J. Edgar Hoover days that government snooping powers are never abused, so we've got nothing to worry about.

There will, of course, always be the liberal fringe that doesn't want the government to have the powers it needs to protect us from ourselves:

"They want to turn these enormous spy capabilities, built to be used against overseas enemies, onto Americans," [Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies] said. "They are laying the bricks one at a time for a police state."

The Washington Post correctly labels her as an "activist". Frankly, i feel that as soon as she said that she should have been investigated (she must be up to something illegal), and her insane rantings shouldn't have been given such a prominent platform, but that's the liberal media for you.


By fnord12 | August 17, 2007, 12:09 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Once again.... the liberal media

I guess it was about a week ago that Mitt Romney said that his sons were in fact fighting the war in terror just like the soldiers in Iraq; they were just doing so by working on his campaign trail instead of in the desert. This was right on the heels of Giuliani claiming to have spent as much time at the World Trade Center as the rescue workers. The Giuliani quote was taken somewhat out of context - he was trying to express sympathy for the workers who are now sick and his weird ego got the best of him, but i naively thought to myself last week "Well, there go the top two Republican candidates."

Stupid, stupid me. In order for those quotes to do any damage, they would actually have to be reported on. The Guiliani thing did get a few day's coverage, but it has since died down. Romney's quote basically hasn't been reported at all in the major media:

If Mitt Romney manages to capture the Republican Party's presidential nomination next year, he and his staffers might just look back to the second week in August as the crucial turning point in the campaign.

And no, I'm not referring to his manufactured victory in the Iowa straw poll in Ames. I'm talking about the colossal campaign blunder Romney uncorked on the stump just days before the poll, and how, thanks to a lapdog press corps, the candidate was able to dodge what could have been a painful, self-inflicted wound.

The episode highlights the clear double standard political pundits and reporters use when judging Democratic and Republican presidential candidates by their embarrassing, unscripted moments out on the stump. For Democrats, foul-ups are often portrayed as revealing moments of character. Yet when a Republican candidate like Romney lets loose with what even one conservative blogger called "the dumbest answer ever by a presidential candidate," the press turns away.

Romney's gaffe occurred on August 8, while at an "Ask Mitt Anything" Town Hall meeting in Bettendorf, Iowa. That's where Rachel Griffiths got up and asked Romney if any of his five sons were serving in the military, and if not, how did they plan to support the war against terrorism? "The good news is that we have a volunteer Army and that's the way we're going to keep it," Romney told the crowd, adding, "[O]ne of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I'd be a great president."

You don't have to be a paid political observer to instantly recognize that Romney really stepped in it by equating his sons volunteering to help get their millionaire dad elected president with other people's sons volunteering to serve in Iraq. I mean, does elitism on the campaign trail come any more unvarnished than that?

The remark, posted on YouTube, was especially offensive considering Romney campaigns as a gung-ho supporter of the Iraq war and has been urging support for President Bush's war policy. The "good news," according to Romney, was that his kids don't have to fight if they don't want to.

And remember, this occurred during the dog days of summer when campaign reporters are usually desperate for fresh news material. But not desperate enough, apparently, to simply report the fact that when asked about making sacrifices to fight the war against terrorism and volunteering to serve in Iraq, one high-profile GOP hopeful announced that his Army-age sons were showing their patriotism by trying to get their dad elected president.

...

The Romney story garnered lots of online buzz, which meant every journalist covering the campaign knew about Romney's clumsy/offensive comments. The mainstream press, however, remained completely uninterested.

In the 24 hours following his miscue, I found, using TVEyes.com, 71 mentions of Romney on network and cable television, as well as National Public Radio. Of those 71 mentions, less than six dealt with his comment about his kids helping to get him elected. In fact, three days after it occurred, I still could not find any proof in CNN's transcripts that the news outlet ever reported Romney's outrageous comment. I repeat: CNN never reported the story.

The morning after Romney's blunder, The Boston Globe, Newsday, the Chicago Tribune, and the Orlando Sentinel ran brief, 100-200-word items about it. USA Today included just a couple of sentences about the gaffe at the bottom of a longer Romney campaign report.

Incredibly, those were the only major American newspapers in the country to touch on the story in real time. I have a hard time imagining the same deafening silence would have met Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) or John Edwards if they had made such dismissive and condescending remarks as suggesting their children served their country not by serving in the military, but by working the rope line on their parents' campaigns.

...
When 'news' broke about John Edwards' expensive haircuts, journalists did not wait for Edwards' political rivals to elevate the issue; they did that on their own. And they had to because none of Edwards' Democratic opponents has ever suggested his haircuts were important. Journalists loved the haircut angle because they claimed it revealed a hidden truth about the candidate, so they wrote about it incessantly. The same journalists could have made the same determination about the Romney story. (i.e. another pro-war Republican with no military connection or tradition.) Instead, they came to the opposite conclusion and determined the story was meaningless. They chose to ignore it.

Yep, it's gonna be another one of those campaigns.


By fnord12 | August 15, 2007, 2:52 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link



Like they care what Congress thinks

Link:

Last night's carefully managed leak from the White House that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is being designated as a global terrorist group is a story that -- while in a sense you could see it coming for months -- seemed to also catch a lot of the major news media off guard. On CNN this morning, Kiran Chetry kept referring to it as a "bold move," "bold" meaning CNN knew it was important but it really wasn't sure why.

Here's what it means on the surface, that U.S. -- which increasingly blames Iran for terrorist meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan -- can try to go after those who do business with the Iranian military unit. Still, it's clearly not a normal move -- the first time that a government military has received this terrorist designation -- something that's usually reserved for non-state actors like al-Qaeda. And so no one seems sure what this morning what the concrete impact of this unexpected move will be.

Nowhere yet have I seen what it seems clear Bush's Iran move is really all about.

The White House hawks in Dick Cheney's office and elsewhere who want to stage an attack on Iran are clearly winning the internal power stuggle. And an often overlooked sub-plot on the long road toward war with Tehran is this: How could Bush stage an attack on Iran without the authorization of a skeptical, Democratic Congress?

Today, the White House has solved that pesky problem in one fell swoop. By explicitly linking the Iranian elite guard into the post 9/11 "global war on terror" in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush's lawyers would certainly now argue that any military strike on Iran is now covered by the October 2002 authorization to use military force in Iraq, as part of their overly sweeping response to the 2001 attacks.

I don't know. Seems to me at this stage if the Bush crew decide they want to go to war with Iran, they'll just do it. It almost seems beneath them to bother trying to justify their "right" to do so. But i suppose it's best to cover all the bases and give their supporters the ability to provide the proper flack.


By fnord12 | August 15, 2007, 2:44 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Does Food Aid Help or Hurt

CARE, one of the world's biggest charities, is walking away from about $45 million a year in federal funding, saying American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help.

Its decision, which has deeply divided the world of food aid, is focused on the practice of selling tons of American farm products in African countries that in some cases compete with the crops of struggling local farmers.

"If someone wants to help you, they shouldn't do it by destroying the very thing that they're trying to promote," said George Odo, a CARE official who grew disillusioned with the practice while supervising the sale of American wheat and vegetable oil in Nairobi.

Under the system, the U.S. government buys the goods from American agribusiness, ships them overseas on mostly American-flagged carriers and then donates the goods to the aid groups. The groups sell the products in poor countries and use the money to fund their anti-poverty programs there.


...


The Christian charity World Vision and 14 other groups say that CARE is mistaken, that the system works because it keeps hard currency in poor countries, can help prevent food price spikes in them and does not hurt their farmers.

But criticism of the practice is growing. Former President Jimmy Carter, whose Atlanta-based Carter Center uses private money to help African farmers be more productive, says a flawed food aid system has survived partly because the charities that get money from it defend it.

Agribusiness and shipping interest groups have tremendous political clout, but charitable groups are influential, too, Carter said, because "they speak from the standpoint of angels."

"The farm bloc is powerful, but when you add these benevolent organizations, the totality of that has blocked change in the system," said Carter, who is also a Georgia farmer.

Some charities that champion monetization bristle at such suggestions. And their allies in Congress say that maritime and agribusiness interests are essential allies for programs to aid the hungry.

Link

There's one point in the process that i definitely don't agree with. Buying the surplus from agribusiness. It seems like this would encourage agribusiness to grow too much food, knowing they would always have a buyer. I wouldn't be surprised to find out there's also all sorts of tax breaks and subsidies they get from the government for being a part of this program. Subsidies for agribusiness is more welfare for corporations. And hurts the small time farmer.

Aid like this is also gives rise to that debate about whether or not you're really helping. Give a man a fish versus teaching him to fish and all that jazz. Clearly, if they're in need of food, they haven't got time to wait for the crops to mature so they need immediate food aid. But at some point, you would hope they could create a sustainable system. Charity with no goal and no end in sight can be crippling rather than helpful. It's a bandaid but not a solution.

What i don't get is this. They're taking these products and selling them to the poor people, then turning around and using the profits they earned from the poor to help the poor? Did i get it wrong? Cause that makes no sense whatsoever.

And on top of that, they sell products that compete with what the African farmers are growing and selling.

Some of the charitable organizations say that food aid is ineffective but has provided funding for alot of helpful programs. They will only stop food aid if our government will replace the lost funds. Yeah. Take a look at New Orleans. I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon.

Definitely, getting food to their tables first should be the priority. But food aid has been going on for decades, and they still haven't made a dent in the problem? Mebbe it's time for a new plan.


By min | August 15, 2007, 12:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link



This is more promising

A few weeks ago i complained about the Democrat's passage of a law that relaxes restrictions on the federal government's wiretapping powers. It turns out that the Dems knew the law was bad but felt they had to pass it due to some impending national emergency. They plan to revise the law as soon as possible

Pelosi, soon after the initial vote:

Tonight, the House passed S. 1927, a bill approved by the Senate yesterday, which is an interim response to the Administration's request for changes in FISA, and which was sought to fill an intelligence gap which is asserted to exist. Many provisions of this legislation are unacceptable, and, although the bill has a six month sunset clause, I do not believe the American people will want to wait that long before corrective action is taken.

Reid put out similar comments as well (it's all at the Daily Kos post). While the Bush administration is pushing to make this law permanent (which leads me to believe it had nothing to do with an impending emergency), the Dems are actually planning to get rid of it ASAP. Which goes a long way towards making me not hate them quite so much.

In 6 months, i want to hear all about the secret emergency that the White House told Congress about that led to these changes, and i want to hear how wiretapping saved the day.


By fnord12 | August 15, 2007, 9:31 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2)| Link



If he's so smart, how come you lost Congress?

link:

As Karl Rove embraced President Bush today following an emotional farewell announcement on the South Lawn, the solemnity of the moment was shattered by Bill Plante of CBS, who bellowed to Bush: "If he's so smart, how come you lost Congress?"

This guy was subsequently called rude and disrespectful by his peers. We need more rude and disrespectful reporters (and we need them asking about more important topics than political advisors, too).


By fnord12 | August 14, 2007, 4:19 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



I'm happy to be listened to

Atrios:

I'm sure that in the aftermath of 9/11 most people who were less than enthusiastic about the war had a somewhat different body count calculus than those who supported it, placing a wee bit more emphasis on the lives of potential innocent civilian casualties than was allowable in our elite discourse at the time, but the point is that with hindsight it's rather clear that such people should have been listened to a bit more.
...
For years it's been a verbal tic of many Iraq war opponents to assert "I supported the war in Afghanistan..." as a necessary prophylactic to charges of "unserious peacenik dirty fucking hippie!" The question is dangling, however... "should you have?" At the very least, shouldn't you have tried to open the door to critics who were less than supportive, not because they hate America, but because they were concerned that George Bush would fuck the whole thing up? Because it was hard to imagine that they'd actually go in and rebuild the place?

Umm, if anyone's listening, right now i'm saying "Don't go to Iran, bring the troops home, and train some special forces and law enforcement agencies to go after actual terrorists while working closely with our allies." It's a start, anyway. Once you're done with that, check back here and i'll tell you what to do next.


By fnord12 | August 13, 2007, 5:02 PM | Liberal Outrage | Link



A good pundit

Typically pundits from the "left" on the blathering talk show circuit tend to be uninformed, wimpy, and or centrists-in-sheeps clothing. Blogger Ezra Klein seems to be a cut above. Here's hoping he's the first in a wave of a new generation of pundits. Now we just have to get the blathering talk show hosts to actually have them on the programs.

Transcript was found on Digby, and here are Ezra's own thoughts on his performance.

Then they started discussing Gonzales and US Attorneys:


Matthews: What did he do wrong?

Klein: aside from the firing of the prosecutors?

Hanratty: that wasn't wrong

Klein: Well, there you go

Matthews: what did he do wrong? what crime did he commit?

Klein: I'm not going to talk about what crime he committed. I'm no a lawyer. But what he did wrong was fire prosecutors for political reasons. I thin we can agree that's an ethical violation.

Hanratty: It's not illegal

Matthews: Do you believe US Attorney's are hired because they're pals and they deesrve a little political favor or do you think they hire them because they're the best lawyer in town?

Klein: I think that whatever reason you hire them, you can't fire them mid-term for political reasons.

Hanratty: Yes you absolutely can fire someone mid-term for political reasons. It's not against the law.

Klein: That is a wonderful way to run a government

Hanratty: (angry, eye rolling) How old are you and how naive are you that you honestly think that this town isn't built on patronage?

Klein: How cynical are you that you believe you should support that political patronage and excuse anything they do?

Hanratty: Give me a break. That has nothing to do with supporting it..

Klein: You think Scooter Libby should pay no price, that prosecutors should get fired. Is this how we're doing it now? This is sad. How far we've fallen.


By fnord12 | August 10, 2007, 11:57 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



Wimps. Wimps, wimps, wimps.

Link:

After weeks of uncertainty, House Democrats have decided against a confrontation over automobile fuel economy when they take up energy legislation later this week.

Two proposals to boost the required mileage for new automobiles were submitted Wednesday for consideration as amendments to the energy legislation, but they were withdrawn by their Democratic sponsors.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., sponsor of a proposal to boost vehicle mileage to 35 miles per gallon by 2019, said he decided not to pursue the matter after consulting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi in a statement said she supported requiring automakers to make more fuel efficient vehicles but that the issue was deferred "in the interest of promoting passage of a consensus energy bill."

These guys could control the white house and have overwhelming majorities in both houses and they would still be trying to avoid confrontation and looking for consensus with some imaginary minority party. They are incapable of doing anything bold (frankly even what they originally proposed looks like small potatoes to me). And that is why they will never have an overwhelming majority in congress. But the Republicans love to introduce bills that excite their base when they are in power.

Maybe this is just procedural weirdness and political maneuverings because they go on to say that they will try to do something, maybe, when they merge the House and Senate versions of the bill in September. But even if that is so, it makes the Dems look like scheming connivers instead of champions. Just put the measure in the bill now and fight for it.


By fnord12 | August 3, 2007, 10:52 AM | Liberal Outrage | Link



The Meme dies here

Robn invited me to do one of them internet meme things you see on blog sites that actually have readers.

My ability to make predictions is terrible, mainly due to the fact that people are insane and irrational. I was sure, in 2003, that Howard Dean was going to be our next president, for example. Instead the primary voters nominated a solid block of wood. Min will also tell you that i'm constantly stunned by how stupid people are: i keep expecting people to act in ways that make sense.

But for fun, here's my guesses (actually, fears and hopes don't count as predictions, so i'm covered when they all turn out to be wrong) about what i see happening 15 years from now:

What do you fear we'll likely see in fifteen years?

  • A world completely dominated by corporations. Republican administrations do everything in their power to weaken the federal government's power to regulate, and Democratic administrations basically spend their time ineffectually trying to repair the damage but not actually making any forward progress (being generous about the Dems actually, since while they may be slightly left-of-center on social issues, they tend to be just as "pro-business" as Republicans). The movement to privatize basic public services and resources continues with little organized protests, putting more of the things we take for granted under the control of people who are only interested in maximizing profits. Meanwhile, corporations are becoming more and more global, making puny single-country governments less and less relevant. Irrational fears of a New World Order conspiracy, and the belief in American exceptionalism, prevent us from strengthening the power of the UN into a functional world government. I think the change will be subtle. We will continue to elect our government reps, but these people will have less and less ability to make changes that benefit us. Hell, this may have already happened.

  • Hand in hand with the point above, we'll see our country become less and less democratic, with more and more of our civil liberties eroding. As corporations become more powerful, they'll need puppet governments to keep us in line while they extract our resources and keep us working. Again, this will be subtle. I don't see us turning into a 1980s style latin american dictatorship over night, but the effects will be similar.

  • Oil scarcity. Despite reading a lot of de-bunkings, i'm still a (somewhat skeptical) believer in the peak oil theories. I think oil will become more and more difficult to extract and process as we move to the more unconventional sources such as tar sands. Therefore oil prices will increase dramatically and become less affordable to ordinary people.

  • I'm the only person (except record company executives) in the world who thinks this is a bad thing, but i think the internet will continue to replace conventional methods for music distribution. This will result in the amateur-ization of music since it's impossible to support a full time devotion to music when you are providing your content for free. It will also result in a sea of mediocrity as it becomes impossible for listeners to find new music and for the truly great musicians to bubble to the top and have an impact. I know you don't agree and i'll admit i can see some positive aspects of this as well but i'm an old man who fears change.

  • The collapse of the concept of a shared universe at Marvel comics. With creators seemingly feeling increasingly restrained by continuity issues, the (wrong) philosophy that long histories are a barrier to new readers, and the fact that the entire US comics market seems to teeter on the brink of disaster, i worry that the thing i love most about comics is not long for the world.

  • The beginnings of an apocalyptic future dominated by spam-generating supercomputers, which will culminate in the great Chrono-War of 2038.

What do you hope we'll likely see in fifteen years?

  • Assuming the peak oil thing happens, i'd like to see it turned into a positive, getting people to live more locally and sustainably - find jobs near where they live, supporting food growers near where they live, building houses that don't require a constant flow of artificial heating to stay warm. Sort of a "from the post-apocalyptic ashes" kind of hope, but it's the best sort of thing that i can muster.

  • It's always possible that the netroots thing actually goes somewhere. I'd like to see a takeover of the Democratic party from the left the way the christian right and other conservative groups took over and redefined the Republican party in the late 70s. I think it can happen. I think that the leaders of the netroots movement need to be less supportive of the current democrats in order for it to work, but they can be influenced by their readers so it's a possibility. I think that, plus changes in demographics in the south, will cause significant changes in the democratic party, but the question is, will it happen in time?

  • The one thing we're still good at is gadgets. We don't use our technological power to create solar powered homes or viable mass transit, but we can build neat toys. It's hard to imagine something better than an 80 gig iPod, but what about being able to download your entire musical library directly into your brain? Virtual reality porn (what, you think they aren't working on it?)? A computer that's even faster than the one you have now!! Eh? Eh?!???

  • The past decade or so has seen a resurgence in Godzilla movies. The special effects keep getting better, but they have lost the charm of the movies from the 70s. I think someone is bound to realize this and find a way to put the fun back into Godzilla. I am not predicting more Godzilla movies. Instead I am predicting a weekly televised sporting event, similar to professional wrestling, except with everyone in rubber monster suits fighting on miniaturized sets. And that's a really positive development, so don't go saying i'm pessimistic or something.

What do you think you'll be doing in fifteen years?
God, in fifteen years i'll be... old. Who cares what i'll be doing?

Ok, let's see:

Least likely, most desired: My immortality and related body-altering super-powers kick in. I leave the planet, exploring the vast mysteries of outer space. Eventually i return to earth and conquer it, imposing my terrible-but-just vision upon the masses.

Vaguely likely, desired: Min and i build our earthship lakehouse in the mountains. We grow a percentage of our own food and run a vegan bed & breakfast to pay the rest of the way, leaving only to tour with our band.

Most likely, least desired: Saddled with debt from a half-completed earthship, i am forced to return to my corporate job only to find that i am no longer qualified for my old position. I spend the rest of my life in mindless middle-management positions...

...uh, who gave me this assignment? They are in big trouble. This is depressing.

The way these memes are supposed to work is after i'm done i'm supposed to name 5 people to answer the same questions on their blogs. But (also due in part to a lack of readership) i'm not naming anybody. I don't care what you think - you people are crazy. So, much like my family tree, this branch of the meme dies with me.

Update: I mean no slight to my small but loyal group of actual, non-imaginary readers. But you're crazy too, and you know it.


By fnord12 | August 2, 2007, 3:17 PM | Comics & Godzilla & Liberal Outrage & Music & My stupid life & Science | Comments (2)| Link



Russia Makes the First Move

I'm not sure when it was that countries started sending fleets up to the North Pole. It might have been early in the spring, as the weather got warmer, and revealed land that had been completely buried in ice for centuries. Until global warming, that is.

Anyway, for the last several months, there's basically been a standoff among these 5 countries - Denmark, Canada, Norway, Russia, and the U.S. The ships have been up there but not doing much else.

Enter Putin. I think we made it pretty clear before that you do not want to fuck with this guy. He is shrewd and he is ruthless. He strategizes, he manipulates, he knows what he's doing. What have we got? Bumblefuck after bumblefuck. Rich bastards with plenty of ego and arrogance but couldn't tell their ass from their elbows with a flashlight and a How-To guide.

Well, he got tired of waiting around and decided to go ahead and stake out his claim to the North Pole. So far, and he prolly expected it, there's been alot of outraged hand waving from all sides. I don't think he's all that concerned about that. It's as much a political statement as it is a publicity stunt - the symbolic planting of the flag that we all love so much. He makes the first move and waits and sees what everyone else is going to do.

If they object, how far are they willing to go to stop him? Except for our crazy government, nobody's actually in any hurry to get into a conflict with another country. And even our loser politicians know better than to get into some kind of war with friggin Russia (god, i hope they know better.....we're so screwed).

If they do nothing, then he has gained the upperhand. If he can get away with this, what else could he get away with? How far can he push?

And at the very least, he's claiming what he feels belongs to Russia before someone else does and he has to be the one to complain.

I can't say for sure that's how things are going to play out. I am only just starting to read about foreign politics (i was so disgusted with U.S. politics that i figured i'd try something new). Mebbe i'm totally wrong. But one thing i do know. You don't want to mess with Putin. Really. That part i'm sure about.


By min | August 2, 2007, 3:00 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3)| Link



Are you @#$&^! kidding me??!??

New York Times:

Under pressure from President Bush, Democratic leaders in Congress are scrambling to pass legislation this week to expand the government's electronic wiretapping powers.

Democratic leaders have expressed a new willingness to work with the White House to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to make it easier for the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on some purely foreign telephone calls and e-mail. Such a step now requires court approval.

It would be the first change in the law since the Bush administration's program of wiretapping without warrants became public in December 2005.

In the past few days, Mr. Bush and Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, have publicly called on Congress to make the change before its August recess, which could begin this weekend. Democrats appear to be worried that if they block such legislation, the White House will depict them as being weak on terrorism.

And no, i didn't stumble on an old article from 2003.

They are currently in the middle of hearings about how Bush has abused the wiretapping powers he already has today. Every liberal group is advocating that those powers go too far and need to be reduced. And yet our representatives in government are "scrambling" to expand them.

When is the revolution? Seriously. These people are hopeless.


By fnord12 | August 2, 2007, 10:55 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1)| Link



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