Saturday, September 15, 2007


Here's a fascinating, if obvious, finding (via Reuters)-
Higher U.S. gasoline prices may slim more than just wallets, according to a new study from Washington University in St. Louis.

Entitled "A Silver Lining? The Connection between Gas Prices and Obesity," the study found that an additional $1 per gallon in real gasoline prices would reduce U.S. obesity by 15 percent after five years...

....Higher gasoline prices can reduce obesity by leading people to walk or cycle instead of drive and eat leaner at home instead of rich food at restaurants...

Wait, so higher gasoline prices will cause people to become less dependent on their automobiles/gasoline and also thusly lose weight? And cleaner air? With all due apologies to my friends or readers feeling the pain at the pump, this sounds like a win-win to me.

Of course, I admit it's easiest for folks like myself in urban areas where public transportation is abundant and reliable, and you can actually walk to stores that you need. In the suburbs, it's still very possible to do, though maybe more time-consuming. In rural areas, however, you might not have much choice at all in these matters. I know; when I lived in Oregon, the closest store to us was a tiny general store many, many miles down the road.

The real solution is better cars. We need a real wakeup call to automakers, which can only come from consumer demand or lifestyle changes. They've been making cars run on gasoline for well over half a century now... time to start thinking outside that box. We put a man on the moon, we can make a car that doesn't run on oil. We just don't want to. Start leaving your car at home more often, folks, it's the only thing they'll listen to.

But hey, what do I know? I'm just asshole with a Metrocard.

Now He Tells Us

In one of the many legacy-salvaging books that seem to be coming out these days, former Federal Reserve chairman (from Reagan through Bush Jr.) Alan Greenspan acknowledges... modern GOP economic policy has been a big disaster.

Another Republican turned moonbat. I'm sure this is MoveOn's fault.

"Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

From the AP: Troops may not shrink to pre-surge level-
Even with cutbacks promised by President Bush, the United States may wind up with thousands more troops in Iraq next summer than before the buildup of forces he ordered in January.

Bush approved the redeployment of five Army combat brigades and three Marine contingents between now and July 2008, but that does not account for thousands of support forces — including military police and an Army combat aviation brigade — that were sent as "enablers" and that apparently will stay longer...

...It appears the reduction will be closer to 25,000, possibly less.

You got us again, Lucy. You got us again. Mission accomplished.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Fair and Balanced Priorities

Reading Rupert Murdoch's NY Post this morning-- my bad, I know-- it was clear that their reaction to the President's speech last night had nothing new to offer... just more mind-boggingly off historical parallels, hysterical warnings against leaving, and empty jingoism.

But mostly it offered Fox News-esque distraction from the depressing realities of the war (a White House report out today acknowledges that Iraq is a mess, "a discouraging assessment a day after President Bush announced that progress justifies keeping a large U.S. military presence there," virtually forever). This particularly came in the form of the conservative outrage of the week... a MoveOn ad that affects nothing and no one. The paper featured at least two editorials today on said ad, including an official one, which was a virtual Guiliani campaign ad, and a guest column by Michelle Malkin, herself one of the most extreme figures on the right.

In addition, the paper published 10 letters today-- all on the issue of Gen. Petraeus v. Hillary Clinton-- nine of which were rants against the 'loony left'. The only dissenting letter wasn't substantive at all, merely acknowledging that the NY Post is the last entity that should be lamenting "attack-style politics".

Considering that around 70% of the country opposes this war, this seems an odd selection. Of course, the NY Post has always been clear that it is a paper by and for the 30% or so of this country that still supports this President and his failed war. That other 70% of the country? Traitors and terror-sympathizers, the lot of them.

After throwing aside the Post, I grabbed the NY Daily News next. And while its own editorial was a pro-war piece free of any critical analysis or context, at least the letters section added some balance. Here's a a selection-
Franklin Square, L.I.: The surge was supposed to be a last-ditch effort to justify staying in Iraq, not an excuse to keep our troops there longer. The Government Accountability Office report has stated that violence has escalated and we missed 11 of 18 goals. Let's bring our troops home today, so we have the resources to effectively fight terrorism around the world.

Sgt. Gregory Ciulla, USMC

Manhattan: Amazing. The person who murdered 3,000 people six years ago is still alive and sending us videotapes, and another person who had nothing to do with it gets hanged.

Patrick O'Donnell

Brooklyn: Is anyone shocked that Americans do not believe Gen. David Petraeus? We believed Gen. Colin Powell, and look where it got us. I no longer believe what comes out of Washington. We have been lied to for too long.

Anita Brandariz

Flushing: What a difference between Presidents. Bush leans on Gen. Petraeus to decide on war strategies, while Truman fired Gen. MacArthur for wanting to expand (read: surge) the Korean War.

Charles Taylor

These four people seem to get it a lot more than most of the newspaper columnists have this morning (darn that liberal media!). All of the rhetoric out of Washington DC this week has been a farce, and the reasons the President gives for next year's 'withdrawals' is an outright lie.

Despite this, the beltway consensus is that we have to stay anyway. The Decider has spoken.

Video Smörgåsbord

Coming down from that rant, here's some good videos I came across today...

Via 'filmlife' on my LJ group, I recommend checking out an online Democratic candidate debate done by Yahoo, Slate, and the Huffington Post. If you want to see Bill Maher rip on the Dems, this is for you.

NBC's Brian Williams questions Petraeus about his Iraq/al-Qaeda rhetoric this week.

Missed last weekend's Farm Aid show here in NYC? (I was there, it was great) Good news, they've made video available of the entire concert! Donations encouraged; not required.

And finally, a Chris Crocker-GWB demands you LEAVE GENERAL PETRAEUS ALONE!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stay The Course --> Surge --> Stay The Course

Coming up on the President's address tonight, people are seeing headlines like this-

AP: 'Officials: Bush to announce troop cut'

The article states that the President "understands Americans' deep concerns about U.S. involvement in Iraq and their desire to bring the troops home," and "that, after hearing from Petraeus and Crocker, he has decided on a way forward that will reduce the U.S. military presence." But this is, to cut the political correctness, a 100% lie.

The article makes it out to be a completely random decision by the President (and Petraeus and Crocker), ignoring previous reports for months that the surge would logistically have to end by around April '08, because that's when the Army would be at the breaking point and no longer able to sustain the numbers. So, if this is what happens, the White House will expect applause for doing what they were going to have to do anyway, unless they wanted to snap the giant rubberband that is our military.

The article does note, however, that the White House won't even fully guarantee this.

Still, the White House and its defenders will milk all the 'withdrawal/drawdown' headlines out of this that they can (and the 'liberal' media will provide kindly), but the reality is that, short of extending tours to 18 months, they have little choice here.

And so, in summer 2008, we will go back to the 2006 status quo (the 'stay the course' policy Republicans now insist they never really supported)... in terms of troop levels, Iraqi's political situation, levels of violence, etc. So two years of Iraq policy, basically from the 2006 election to the 2008 election, will have been a parentheses in a long sentence, a time-buying exercise.

It is an exercise, of course, that has cost thousands of people their lives (if you include not only U.S. soldiers, but also Iraqis caught in the crossfires) in these two years, and countless billions of dollars. But all that matters to Bush is that he will succeeded in his long-stated goal of passing off the war to his successor.

Predictable? Yes, we expected this. But disgusting all the same.

More Odds and Ends

This vintage McDonald's commercial is downright terrifying. Okay, here's the news...

More less-than-helpful news from Iraq... From the NY Times: "The assassination Thursday of the leader of the Sunni Arab revolt against al-Qaida militants dealt a setback to one of the few success stories in U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, but tribesmen in Anbar province vowed not to be deterred in fighting the terror movement." In other news, an oil law seen as crucial to political unity falls apart.

Money surge... more U.S. soldiers donating $$ to Democrats than ever before.

I hate to link to the cultists at Red State, but a story about the Vietnam War Memorial in DC being vandalized really pissed me off. Vandalizing memorials is pretty low.

Former VA governor-- and former presidential candidate-- Mark Warner has announced he's running for the Senate seat being vacated in '08 by Sen. John Warner (no relation).

Finally, 'Bill O'Reilly' in The Onion: Maybe We Should Try Coddling The Terrorists.

The War As They Saw It

Last month, seven soldiers serving in Iraq wrote an op-ed for the NY Times entitled 'The War As We Saw It'. In it, they stated that "To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched," but also closed by stating that "As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through."

Unfortunately, only four of them remain there to see it through. One of the soldiers was shot in the head before the op-ed was even published... he survived, and is receiving treatment at a military hospital here in the States. This week, though, two of the other soldiers were killed in Iraq, both in a vehicle accident in Baghdad. A reminder of the real price people are paying for this war as we sit here and simply write about it.

Because the op-ed is behind the Times' pay subscription wall, Salon (click here to get a site cookie) has reprinted it in full. You can read it here: "The war as we saw it"

Mid-Week Video Theatre: Iraq Me, Dave Petraeus

Jon Stewart, back from vacation at last, gives his take on this week's war debate theatre-

[PS- He's been asked back to host the Oscars too. I wonder if he'll anger Clooney again?]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spy Lies

How do you know when a Bush administration official is lying? When their lips are moving.

Earlier this week, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell testified before Congress about the FISA law and the gutting of it changes that Congress made to it this summer. Explaining how it helps the administration to be free of those pesky warrants and oversight nonsense, McConnell cited a foiled plot in Germany recently as one example where being free of FISA helped them fight terror.

However, another government official informed the NY Times that was wrong... that the intelligence gathered on that case was collected a while ago under the un-changed FISA law, with its bothersome oversight and everything. Based on a request by Congress to clarify this, McConnell released a statement acknowleding this rebuttal as accurate. He stated that-
"[I]nformation contributing to the recent arrests was not collected under authorities provided by the Protect America Act."

The majority of the statement, though, was a reaffirmation of the importance of said Act.

These people are shameless and a disgrace to America.

And while the Republican Party leadership is actually-- with everything going on right now-- seeking a congressional resolution to condemn over a controversial anti-Petraeus ad, the fact that the Director of National Intelligence knowingly mislead Congress over a key legal issue will likely amount to nothing.

It's this type of thing why today's young liberals/Democrats are so very, very angry.

Odds and Ends

Here's a quick roundup of some other news floating around on this busy week...

The NY Times interviews Iraqi citizens for reactions to the Petraeus/Crocker testimony.

Benchmarks? What benchmarks, dismisses outgoing Secretary of Lies, Tony Snow.

Democracy in action! Vladimir Putin "dissolved Russia's government Wednesday in a major political shakeup ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections." Shakeups in Japan too.

Fox News says excitedly... war with Iran inevitable. Prepare accordingly.

A former New Orleans prostitute tells all about the good times she and Sen. Vitter (R-LA) had together. This is heterosexual sex, though, so no scandal here.

Finally, the economy is on the tip of a recession. So everyone walk very carefully.

Promising Student, Needs Confidence

It's coming up on a year since we elected a new Congress. How are they doing? Time magazine gives them a report card (click the image below for a text-based version)-

I mostly agree with the grades here, except for judicial confirmations to a small extent (are Democrats supposed to confirm all of the crazy bible-thumpers Bush nominates out of some notion of partisan 'civility'?), and "playing nice with others" to a greater extent.

Regarding the latter, the only problem may be that Democrats have played too nice, rarely willing to hold Republicans' feet to the fire on issues that matter. Republicans, meanwhile, have made it a mission to create gridlock and a partisan atmosphere, with Sen. Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) laughingly bragging about holding up popular legislation. Democrats have refused to make an issue out of this, for fear of being lambasted by people like, well, Time magazine.

If this Congress is flawed, it's the timidity of its leaders that's at fault.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gen. Petraeus: 'War Going Great, See You In Six Months' (Pt. II)

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker took their fancy charts over to the Senate today.

Reuters has a clinical report on the testimony. TPM was following it all day with video clips... here's the 'highlights': Sen. Feingold questions our foreign policy priorities; Sen. Lieberman asks Petraeus if we can invade Iran yet; Sen. Dodd questions the general state of Iraq; Sen. Reed catches Petraeus on the troop drawdown kabuki; Sen. Martinez wonders who our enemy is; and finally the General makes the telling admission that he 'doesn't know' if victory makes America safer.

The fun continues all week with press interviews tomorrow and a Bush speech on Thursday.

Quote of the Day II

"What is the greatest threat facing us now? People will say it's terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves."
--Colin Powell, another General whose credibility was co-opted and destroyed by W's war.

Quote of the Day

"Grief has always been our most well-policed emotion. Mourning is painful, so we make it the stuff of pageantry --of muffled drums and riderless horses and black-draped catafalques. To suffer collectively is, if nothing else, to suffer prettily...

...Some have suggested that we discontinue the moments of silence and solemn speeches and all the other ceremonies that have marked our recent Sept. 11s. While many argue that that would leave the day bereft of meaning, it's possible that there are deeper kinds of meaning to be had."
--Time magazine's Jeffrey Kluger, on the awkwardness of a sixth anniversary.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Gen. Petraeus: 'War Going Great, See You In Six Months'

If you were expecting any surprises from the testimony of Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker today, you were naive disappointed. It went down exactly as we'd been expecting since May, the last time the administration unleashed a massive PR campaign to buy time.

I only got to watch a small portion of the actual testimony (was at work), but it was enough.

In what right-wingers will surely claim was a massive coincidence, Petraeus echoed all of the White House's talking points about the war... isolated military actions more important than overall Iraqi situation, we're making great progress (the General used many charts to illustrate this, but of course couldn't reveal the data used to create them), and maybe some small troop drawdowns in April when we were literally going to have to reduce the #s anyway. Oh, and it's all Iran's fault too.

Gen. Petraeus also continued the administration's proud history of saying incredulous things as if there is no record of their past statements to debunk them (see examples- here, here, here, and here). Here's the first Petraeus example, from earlier this week-
The top American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, has recommended that decisions on the contentious issue of reducing the main body of the American troops in Iraq be put off for six months, American officials said Sunday.

And here's a story from literally six months ago (in March)-
An elite team of officers advising the US commander, General David Petraeus, in Baghdad has concluded that they have six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.

Predictions for next March? They'll need another six months. This is their top scam.

Here's another example. Gen. Petraeus said today, quoting-
"When I testified in January, for example, no one would have dared to forecast that Anbar Province would have been transformed the way it has in the past 6 months.

And what did he say in said January testimony? This, again quoting-
"You've seen it, I know, in Anbar province, where it has sort of gone back and forth. And right now, there appears to be a trend in the positive direction where sheiks are stepping up, and they do want to be affiliated with and supported by the U.S. Marines and Army forces who are in Anbar province. That was not the case as little as perhaps six months ago, or certainly before that."

And they get away with these things because they think-- correctly, in many cases-- that no one is paying attention. But don't you dare question their credibility or honesty! Fox News says that makes Baby Jesus and the troops cry!

Finally, getting back to that issue of possible mid-2008 troop drawdowns, as I noted before, it would be a removal only of the #s added for the surge, because the Army cannot maintain these troop rotations past the Spring without busting. So it will have taken us well over a year to get back to where we were-- in regards to Iraq troop levels, the war debate, etc-- immediately following the '06 elections.

Which, of course, was the point of all of this in the first place.

[PS- Video clips: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.]

Odds and Ends

This will be another crazy week. Let's all try to stay sane. Here's the news...

President Bush may be close to selecting a nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. Rumored top choice? Super-non-partisan former Solicitor General, Ted Olson.

Speaking of disgraced former Bushies... Donald Rumsfeld is breaking his post-resignation silence and, surprise, says "he has nothing to apologize for." He did a heckuva job!

The latest in the Sen. Craig saga? He wants to withdraw his guilty plea.

Nothing makes a mockery of the invisible hand of the free market than companies that take advantage of people struggling economically as a result of being taken advantage of before. This article tells the story of a company scamming people in danger of mortgage foreclosure out of more money under the pretense of helping them save their homes.

Finally, Congress approved a bill which "raises the maximum Pell grant for low-income students from $4,050 to $5,400, and temporarily slashes interest rates on student loans by half." It would be funded "by a massive cut in subsidies to the scandal-plagued private student loan industry."

'Nuff Said

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[UPDATE (2pm): The hearings are now underway, broadcast live on C-SPAN.

UPDATE (11pm): TPM has the info from the Fox 'interview'... it was pure infomercial.]

The Petraeus Bamboozle: A Likely Success?

Since this week brings us the much-anticipated (?) war debate, let's look back...

Last spring, the always gullible media wrote numerous stories about Republicans confronting President Bush and warning him that, come September, they "will desert him on the war." It was in reality just another stalling tactic, meaning to say 'Oh don't worry angry populace, it's okay we're acquiesing now, because in September we'll end the war.' Of course, approaching September, they needed a new PR strategy to a) kick the Iraq can down the road some more, and b) make everyone forget all of the above.

That strategy can be summed up in two words... General Petraeus.

The Bush White House masterfully built the narrative of Gen. Petraeus as an independent-minded heroic figure, who would save the war. And the press ate it up, with nary a mention of how Petraeus was promoted because he was the General whom Bush found most enthusiastic about his surge idea. Soon, columns appeared all over, insisting that there could be no questioning the war until Gen. Petraeus came back in September. Republican senators and congressmen flooded the pundit shows with that message, stating things like "I’m going to wait till he comes back [to form an opinion]" and "God bless General Petraeus."

And when the LA Times revealed last month that the much-heralded 'Petraeus report' "would actually be written by the White House," it went initially unmentioned by other outlets.

Quickly, however, false stories of 'progress' grew harder to swallow, while the White House dangled kabuki troop drawdown promises over America's head.

The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum has a good post on how successful this is likely to be-
Petraeus has been slowly and methodically carrying out an extremely disciplined military campaign with a very precise goal: gaining support for ... the surge...

...And it's worked. Even though there's been no discernable political progress, minimal reconstruction progress, and apparently no genuine decrease in violence, he's managed to convince an awful lot of people that the first doesn't matter, the second is far more widespread than it really is, and the third is the opposite of reality.

Well, reality is a pesky thing, who's got time for it? Drum continues-
Five months ago Petraeus was guaranteeing to wavering Republicans that they'd see progress in August, precisely the month when the PR campaign was scheduled to go into high gear. Today he's issuing dire warnings about al-Qaeda hegemony and nine-dollar gas if we leave, circulating bio pages that let his staff know whether they're dealing with friend or foe among visiting congress members, and insisting repeatedly that violence is down in classified briefings where he doesn't have to publicly defend his figures.

If these don't sound like the actions of an honest broker to you, they don't to me either.

Republicans falling in line on this makes sense, as this was always their baby to start with. But Democrats (should) know better. But they're likely to be bamboozled here too. Why? It doesn't seem they really believe the hype. Or are they scared that President Bush will yell at them again and say they hate the troops?

Either way, these circles we keep going around in are depressing as hell.

Yes, Another Debate

This time the Democrats, this time on immigration, translated en español.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Weekend Video Theatre: Supply-Side Jesus

This is based on a part from Al Franken's 2003 book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." Not exactly new, but I just came across it. Enjoy-

Going, Going... Gone! (A Continuing Saga)

More bad news for Republicans approaching 2008... Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) has decided not to seek a third term. This is another previously safe 'red' seat now wide open for Democrats.

The far-right cultist types seem happy to be losing someone they perceived to be a 'RINO'. Which is, of course, the same Rove-esque short-sighted outlook that got them in this position to start with. Thanks boys, we couldn't come this far without you.