Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cut The Fatheads

You can be sure the economy is in trouble when Congress and Bush can agree on something to do. Cut taxes:
Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are also suggesting that they might be able to put aside longstanding partisan differences and work on a stimulus measure, lawmakers and aides said Friday.

In a fresh sign of the possibility of an agreement on a roughly $100 billion package of tax cuts and spending to spur the economy, Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker of the House, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, wrote to President Bush on Friday saying, “We want to work with you.”
That little mash note is interesting, since one could easily make the case for ignoring the economy and letting it fester while Bush twists in the wind. Naturally, you'd want to do just enough to duck accusations of doing nothing.

Democrats might be feeling a little heat from their base, however, with all the kowtowing and rubber stamping they did in 2007. I've been of the mind that Pelosi and Reid were figuring the first year was about setting up the second year of the 110th Congress. Sadly, there at about 800 Americans in Iraq who had to die as part of this strategy.
Some Democrats say they could support tax relief focused on lower-income people and, perhaps, even tax cuts for corporations, if the White House and the Republican Congressional leadership accept some spending increases like extended unemployment benefits or aid to states to help them avert spending cuts.
The unfortunate truth is, Bush's first three tax cuts...2001, 2002, and 2003...ultimately did not benefit the economy in any substantive way, as it was really the sub-prime mortgage business and the ripple effect low-cost mortgages had across the economy.

People spent because they borrowed. This was not current income, not taxable income, and yes, the tax cuts may have generated some tax revenues because the wealthiest among us started shedding some long-term assets because of the the more favorable tax treatment, but it wasn't in line with what was supposedly the "booming economy" that resulted.

Indeed, tax revenues under Bush declined for every year until 2006 when compared to Clinton's last budget. And 2006 only went up because "a big increase in individual taxes on stock market profits and executive bonuses."

Like I said.

Will a tax cut help this time? Probably not. But the key element of this plan is increased government spending: extending unemployment benefits now, before the recession hits, is a sure-fire way of lessening the impact on people and is actually helping to close the barn door before the horse can get out. If it takes a tax cut to get that implemented until a real President comes along, so be it.

I feel both Congress and the President are severely underestimating the nature of this recession (you read that right: our bonds are in danger of losing "government-issue" status!)...I'm pretty sure it will be a depression, as I've said here before...and if I was running for President, I would address this issue in greater depth. Suffice it to say that nature is about to hand us lemons, and I'd have a lemonade stand set up already. We are presented with an opportunity the way FDR was: to do good for a lot of people and help this country improve, at the same moment.

But I digress.

I hope the Democrats are at least listening to Ronald Reagan's old "Trust, but verify" shibboleth:
Democrats said the White House would have to agree not to try to attach favorite measures like repealing the estate tax or making permanent Mr. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 cuts, just as Democrats would have to refrain from attaching extraneous spending.

“It would make sense for the president to do something in a bipartisan way,” said Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “But I’m scared to death to even talk about tax rebates because of what that might open up.”

A senior Republican aide said: “Republicans will have to talk about making the tax cuts permanent and all that kind of stuff. Democrats are going to want things on their long-term agenda. But if you figure those cancel each other out, there’s probably a playing field where everyone can agree.”
Somehow, I see a fillibuster in our future. And that would be the greatest tragedy of all.


Apparently, I'm not alone in my belief:
The measures now being debated in Washington and on the campaign trail — tax rebates, added help for the unemployed and those facing sharply higher heating bills and, most immediately, a move by the Federal Reserve to further cut interest rates — could certainly moderate the severity of a downturn. Democrats and the Bush administration are considering a package of such measures that could reach $100 billion.

But the forces menacing the economy, like the unraveling of the real estate market and high oil prices, are too entrenched to be swiftly dispatched by government largess or cheaper credit, some economists say.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Cat Kitten Blogging

I know mah peeps wanna see my new a Holly Davesons motorcycle kollah! Dadby maek me ware da bell so pipples get out my wai when I riden! I too sexay for mah fer!

Caption These Photos!

Friday Music Blogging

Lee Michaels - Do You Know What I Mean?

Nobody Asked Me, But....

1) More evidence that "liberal" is the new "nigger" in the Republican party.

2) Meanwhile, the race card is really being played in South Carolina. In the Democratic primary. I would imagine this is payback for Hillary's tears in New Hampshire.

3) Don't ever say Obama is above dirty politics. He grew up in Chicago. You have to get mud on your shirt if you want to win there.

4) Maureen Dowd is a dick. I used to enjoy her columns, but I am afraid she's finally let her dusty vagina rule her brain.

5) Um, MEMO to Dennis: Barn door open. Horse gone. Let's move on.

6) I'm amazed this story is getting play now, particularly since I covered it three months ago, and I wasn't breaking a new story!

7) BREAKING! Hillary dead! (Sorry...I have a lurking conservative fanboi. I thought I'd have some fun with him) Edmund Hillary, as Tenzing Norgay's partner, is a true pioneer having scaled Mt Everest and been the first man to set foot on the summit.

8) Just in time for our Greater Depression, low-wage jobs are opening up all over the country! Can you say "16 tons"?

9) MEMO to Conservatives: You CAN have a strong, vibrant economy AND high taxes AND a social safety net. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Europe.

10) So, two losers walk into Obama campaign headquarters...

11) MEMO to Barack: Lamont and Kerry gain more from their endorsements than you do. This is one time you should have said no.

12) Dumb move.

13) Dumber move. (Unless the government bails them out, I should add)

14) Dumbest move. Broadway has turned into a Disney multiplex. Even if this show had been good, it would have been bad for Disney and Broadway.

15) Why Osama is still at large.

16) Another episode of Bad Santa.

17) Finally, naked opportunism in our time.


How'd I miss these stories???

18) The world is about to explode? Well, no, not quite, but..."We have indications that there may be important volumes of magma which would be liberated in an eruption," Patricia Mothes, a U.S. expert on volcanoes, said.

19) "You lift sixteen tons (of Republican dead weight) and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt." Say buh-bye, Rudy!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

There Must Be Something In The Water

A couple of news items tells me the Kool-Aid at RNC headquarters is being spiked up in anticipation of the November elections:
1) Bush sees Palestine state treaty within year - Now, nevermind that for sixty years, Israel and the Palestinians have been at each other's throats, and nevermind that both sides are guilty of atrocities of a nature that would make forgiveness hard for even Jesus, all you need to know in order to find this hilarious is that this is Bush's first trip to Israel during his Presidency. In the last year. Of a lame duck term. From an irrelevant politician who is advised by a group of neo-cons who aren't, to put it mildly, particularly objective about which side should get the lion's share of consideration.

2) Giuliani Targets Conservatives With Tax-Cut Plan - Nevermind that, as mayor, Rudy actually ended up raising taxes when the dust settled (he claims he reduced taxes, but by the time he left office, his last budget had created a net increase, at a time when the city economy was tanking. Too, the tax cuts were targeted towards businesses and the wealthy). Does anyone in the GOP realize (besides Mike Huckabee) that the Laffer Curve they're so fond of quoting has a downside, that you can cut taxes TOO MUCH and it starts to destroy the revenue stream that covers the basic needs of the nation????? We have failing infrastructure, a bloated government that's grown exponentially under a "compassionate conservative", debts to pay off AND an aging population. A tax cut is exactly what we DON'T need right now!

3) Romney's Fishy Delegate Claim - In layman's terms (especially if you own an Apple Computer), this is called the "reality distortion field" coming into play. The count based on election results is that Huckabee has 33 delegates, Romney has 19. By Romney's count, he has fifteen delegates, and Huckabee has 12. WTF?

Turns out that Romney is ignoring Iowa, claiming that it really didn't count since the caucus delegates are technically uncommitted, meaning Iowa was the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of primaries. *snark*
Sheesh! And these were supposed to be the adults of American politics!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

Because cancer should be laughed at...

It's a beautiful day for the race. Stoogehand is the favourite today, Assault is in there, Dog Biscuit is three to one, Safety Pin has been scratched, and at twenty to one: Feitlebaum. Now the horses are approaching the starting gate, and eh, THERE THEY GOOOOOO!

And it's Stoogehand going to the front, Cabbage is second on the rail, Beautiful Linda is third by a length, and Feitlebaum. Around the first turn Stoogehand is still in front, Cabbage is second by a head (Cabbage by a head!), Beautiful Linda is third and Feitlebaum. Into the back stretch, Dog Biscuit is now leading the pack, Lady Avalon is second, very close. Banana is coming up through the bunch (Banana coming up through the bunch!) and Feitlebaum. At the half Stoogehand still out in the front, Apartment House is second with plenty of room, Assault is passing Battery (Assault and Battery!), Notary Sojack is fourth, and in last place by ten lengths I believe it is, yes, it is Feitlebaum. Around the turn, heading for home, it's Stoogehand and Dog Biscuit and Girdle in the stretch. Flying Sylvester is third and Mother-In-Law nagging in the rear (Oh! Oh! Oh!). And now they come down to the wire, and it's number one and now number two and it's very close, it'll either be a photo finish or an oil painting, and now Louis leads with the left, and Louis is in there, slugging, and it's a battle, and now they are tearing hair, there's hair all over the ring, there's hair all over the place, I don't know whose hair it is. It's mine! AND THERE GOES THE WINNERRRRRRRRR!



If, in the Actor212 Health Derby, you had MRSA as the next disease I would contract, you win! Basal Cell Carcinoma places a close second!

MRSA paid $8.50 (W), $3.29 (P), and $1.80(S)

Basal Cell Carcinoma paid $1.10(P), and $0.65(S)

Man, I know I venture into idolatry in my admiration of The Big Dog, Bill Clinton, but did I have to come down with the same fucking cancer???

(H/T to Spike Jones for his inspiration for this piece)

Notes on New Hampshire

There's been an awful lot of analysis of the results from last night's New Hampshire primary, including some rather "over the top" stories.

"Clinton Escapes"? *snark*

Hillary Clinton did get a wake-up call in Iowa, to be sure. I don't want to minimize that, She also was in deep trouble, based on the polling leading up to last night. Even her internal numbers looked bad, if you read between the lines of the news stories coming out of her camp.

So what happened? What changed between Iowa and New Hampshire?

One word: organization.

Clinton had very little organization in Iowa. Indeed, she was warned going into Iowa that she stood very little chance of winning the caucuses and she should consider skipping them, but the impression of the "inevitable nominee" skipping any primary or caucus didn't play well.

So she went in expecting to lose. I don't think she expected to lose that badly.

In New Hampshire, it was a different story: she had the blessings of the regular Democratic machine in the state (Jean Shaheen, former governor of the state, and wife of former Clinton press aide Michael Penn, was her state campaign chairman), and she had a network of volunteers that recruited 6,000 volunteers from out of state this past weekend to knock on doors.

Too, she caught a break in the frenzy over scheduling: as Iowa, Michigan, and Florida started to play with the calendar, New Hampshire was forced to move their primary up into the winter break for Dartmouth University. Dartmouth would have provided some votes for Clinton (single college educated women went strongly for her), but Obama and Edwards would have gained many more votes than she.

Edwards provided another firewall for her, to be sure. By aligning his position so closely to Obama's, he gave political cover to those who wanted to vote for him but who felt obliged to acknowledge Obama's "change" narrative. I think this backfired on Edwards. I think he meant to take Clinton out, but only hampered Obama's chance for victory.

One more unintended resource for Cljnton was the independent vote, which swerved from Obama in Iowa to support John McCain in New Hampshire. I'm thinking hatred of Romney survives from his gubenatorial reign in neighboring Massachussetts.

But to say that Clinton "escaped" in New Hampshire is to tacitly acknowledge that Obama "escaped" in Iowa, because these factors I've listed here (with the possiblee exception of Edwards) worked for Obama in Iowa.

Hillary Clinton finally got her campaign back on track, doing pretty much what I prescribed earlier this week (albeit in a way I had never pondered when I wrote my piece), She took the focus away from the infighting and turned the spotlight more clearly on what she wanted to do for this country, and how this country had slipped back from progress:
"You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said, her voice breaking a bit. The audience applauded.

"This is very personal for me, it's not just political, it's [that] I see what's happening, we have to reverse it," she said emotionally, adding that some "just put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds.

"But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us ready and some of us are not. Some of us know what we will do on day one, and some of us really haven't thought that through enough."

"So as tired as I am and I am. And as difficult as it is to try and keep up what I try to do on the road, like occasionally exercise and try to eat right -- it's tough when the easiest food is pizza -- I just believe so strongly in who we are as a nation.
Just keep it up, Hillary. You've got your groove back.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Number One With A Bullet

Less than a week ago, I posted what I felt would be the ten most important stories of 2008.

The trials of sub-Saharan Africa were at the head of my list, not intentionally (there really was no order involved), but it was frontmost on my mind as the crisis in Kenya unfolded.

Well, it looks like I may have stumbled into being right, for once:

1) Kenya's dubious election - Kenya's opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) claims that last month's election was rigged in favour of President Mwai Kibaki.

2) A related story: Kenyan leader names new cabinet - Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki has named his new cabinet, hours before Ghana's leader was due to arrive as part of mediation efforts over disputed polls. (This is not a good thing. Kibaki is basically saying, "Screw the mediation. I'm taking the reins!")

3) Still more: Odinga says Obama is his cousin - Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has said he is a cousin of US presidential hopeful Barack Obama. (This could impact how the State Department handles the mediation going forward, if at all.)

4) Let's move onto other African countries now: Teenager prevents assassination of Maldives president - The Maldives president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, survived an assassination attempt today when a teenage boy grabbed the knife of an attacker who jumped out of a crowd of people greeting the president, a government spokesman said. (Islamist militants have been accused, and are also accused of setting off a bomb in Male in September that wounded 12 tourists.)

5) Two Libyans released in Somalia - Two Libyan diplomats have been released in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after being briefly abducted by gunmen.

6) Staying with Somalia: Sick Somali president in London - Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf is being treated in a London hospital after he collapsed last week. (It's unclear if he's critically ill or not, altho rushing him to London from Africa is indicative of severity. Yusuf was installed by Ethiopian forces and as is evident from the first story, it was not an overwhelmingly popular choice.)

7) Turning now to South Africa: ANC behind Zuma for SA president - South Africa's ruling African National Congress has confirmed that its newly elected leader Jacob Zuma will be the party's presidential candidate in 2009. (This, despite the fact that prosecutors have indicted him on corruption charges in an arms deal with "old Europe.")

8) And finally, Mauritania: Arrests over Mauritania killings - Mauritania's authorities say they have arrested nine people in connection with the shooting of four French tourists last month. (Once more, an African group allegedly related to Al Qaeda has been blamed)

Not a pretty picture for this troubled continent.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Open Letter To Hillary

Dear Senator,

Look, I'm just a shlub with a blog, but I've been watching elections in America for almost fifty years and have been a Democratic as long. My first stint as a campaign volunteer was in fifth grade during the Humphrey-Nixon election of 1968, standing on a street corner with a lemonade stand, not easy to do when you're in New York City.

I would like very much for you to win. I don't believe in change for change's sake, although that seems to be trendy right now. If you're going to change the direction of the country, you really ought to know where you're taking us.

Neither of your main rivals have voiced anything but platitudes regarding this, while voting in the opposite direction to their glorious speeches.

America has, to crib from Bill Moyers, become morbidly obese, intellectually speaking. We're dumb enough and lazy enough to fall for the same style crap George W. Bush foisted upon us, eight years ago, simply because the packaging is more palatable.

(Matt Lauer asked you this morning if you were saying what I just said, and while you weren't saying this, I just did).

I'd like to throw out here a piece of campaign advice. Again, I'm just a shlub with a blog, but I'm a damned intelligent shlub, running a damn fine blog (if I say so myself), who could probably take over your campaign in less time than it takes me to complete typing this sentence because the solution is so bloody obvious, I'm amazed you haven't taken it up.

Stop engaging Senators Obama and Edwards. Start taking on the President again.

Give us solutions to the massive problems he's created over the past eight years. Stop lowering yourself to debate the nuances of your votes in the Senate with these shmucks. If they had half your record, they'd be running away with the nomination.

Instead of dwelling on the past (which is precisely the gambit they watn you to play) look forward. Tell us, "I'm going to fix the problems in my first term, and when I'm re-elected, I'm going to finish building that bridge to the 21st Century."

And then tell us precisely how. Show us how George Bush has failed in so many areas that we aren't even aware of, beyond the economy and the Iraq invasion, to include the environment, literacy and education, health care (you're big on this, but you're still comparing yourself to Obama. Stop!), homeland security (we still don't have secure ports and we still don't have secure airports, and Bush is paying lip service to these in his most recent budgets).

Screw the internecine fighting! Your fight is with Bush. You can still win this nomination, but you have to start acting like the nomination is more important than how some wannabe Jesse Jackson or Bill Clinton with darker hair perverts your good name. They aren't the vast right wing conspiracy and you're already in the race.

Go for it, girl!

The Haircut

One day a florist goes to a barber for a haircut. After the cut he asked about his bill and the barber replies, "I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week. " The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber goes to open his shop the next morning there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a cop comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, "I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week." The cop is happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Later that day, a college professor comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replies, "I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week." The professor is very happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the barber opens his shop, there is a 'thank you' card and a dozen different books, such as "How to Improve Your Business" and "Becoming More Successful.

"Then, a Congressman comes in for a haircut, and when he goes to pay his bill the barber again replies, "I cannot accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week." The Congressman is very happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the barber goes to open up, there are a dozen Congressmen lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the members of our Congress.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Maybe This Story Will Finally Get Some Legs

I post this more for Katrina's sake than for my own, but Sibel Edmonds is someone who's story needs to be heard and investigated. She's not an outsider looking in, but an insider looking back in:
Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator for the FBI, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office.

She approached The Sunday Times last month after reading about an Al-Qaeda terrorist who had revealed his role in training some of the 9/11 hijackers while he was in Turkey.

Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.

Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.

The name of the official – who has held a series of top government posts – is known to The Sunday Times. He strongly denies the claims.

However, Edmonds said: “He was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.”
There are a handful of people this could be: among them, Condoleeza Rice (despite the "he" reference), John Bolton, and perhaps Steven Hadley. I'm sure there are others that I can't come up with (entries welcome).
She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials – including household names – who were aiding foreign agents.

“If you made public all the information that the FBI have on this case, you will see very high-level people going through criminal trials,” she said.

Her story shows just how much the West was infiltrated by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology.
If this is true, this is an amazing claim. This is treason, and not just on a technicality, like many would claim the outting of Valerie Plame was.