Friday, August 29, 2008


This has got to be good news for Obama ...

Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was seen by more than 38 million people.

Nielsen Media Research said more people watched Obama speak than watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final "American Idol" or the Academy Awards this year. Obama talked before a live audience of 80,000 people in Denver.

His TV audience nearly doubled the amount of people who watched John Kerry accept the Democratic nomination to run against President Bush four years ago. Kerry's speech was seen by just over 20 million people.

Obama's audience might be higher, since Nielsen didn't have an estimate for how many people watched Obama on PBS or C-SPAN Thursday night.
I have to think these numbers bode well for Obama. Only the politically tone deaf, and the truly deluded, could've walked away unimpressed from last night's speech.

- Mark


Make no mistake about, John McCain's selection of Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate is a direct a statement that the Democratic Party is on the right side of history.

Simply put, Obama, Hillary and the legacy of the Democratic Party have forced McCain's hand. How else do you explain McCain blasting away at Obama for his lack of experience, and then selecting someone with Palin's background? Was he "just kidding"? Give me a break.

The reality is, by picking Palin McCain is paying homage to Hillary and all of her supporters ... and like a vulture, he's trying to swoop in and capture her moment.

By picking Palin McCain is paying homage to Obama's spirit of change ... and like a jealous high school preppy, he wants to make it appear he's with "in crowd" and does what he thinks is popular.

By picking Palin McCain is paying homage to what the Democratic party has been fighting for for years ... and like the boarish party crasher who gets loud and obnoxious when they're ignored, he wants to make it appear that he's the life of the party, when he's got little more than a lampshade on his head (which, mind you, I have seen).

But there's a big difference here.

When Democrats promote we give America Barack Obama. When Democrats promote we give America Bill Richardson. When Democrats promote we give America Hillary Clinton ... people who have walked the walk ... people of substance.

When the Republicans do it, they give America Condaleeza "What 9/11 Memo?" Rice. When Republicans promote they give America Alberto "I'm Your Puppet" Gonzalez. Finally, when Republicans promote they give America Sarah "Call Me Useful" Palin.

These are people who have been promoted because of the republican culture of cronyism and political opportunism. Worse, these are people who accept their appointments, never once acknowledging that it was the Democratic Party and the "culture wars" republicans despise that created the opportunities they think they earned on their own ...

Look, this isn't the first time McCain has sought out a woman to make his life easier. And it won't be the last.

At the end of the day, Palin is a blatant attempt to piggyback on the change theme crafted by Obama. But Palin is Hillary-Lite. Hillary's supporters should see this for what it is ... Naked pandering, and blatant tokenism.

McCain is not fit to be president. And Palin? McCain should be embarrassed. But he's not. He's a republican.

- Mark


The cumulative effect of the Democratic National Convention's unchoreographed drama is nothing short of astounding. From Kennedy's appearance, to Hillary's "everyone fall in line" speech, to the 3 minute standing ovation President Clinton received, everything fell into place - as if the stars were meant to allign for Obama.

Then we have Obama's speech.

What can you say about a man who creates expectations that others would run from? And when you meet those expectations ... filling Mile High stadium with 85,000 people for a political speech speaks for itself.

Simply put, Obama's speech was as big as the moment. Putting his program on the table, while challenging McCain's positions and tactics during the campaign? Obama's speech was truly worthy of the spectacle that was put together at Mile High. Whatever McCain's camp had to say about the venue and the setting now seem petty and insignificant. Obama raised the bar.

Check out what Pat Buchanan had to say about the speech ...

Incredibly, FOX's Brit Hume seemed stunned by it all after Obama's speech. And I was stunned when I heard Bill Kristol say that he liked the speech too. What a convention.

- Mark

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The DNC was a hit on Day 1. The tribute to Ted Kennedy and his appearance was stirring, while Michelle Obama simply nailed it. I saw the American experience in the Obama's story.

For me the other story of the evening was the media round up. I was channel flipping through most of the coverage. While there are many reasons not to watch FOX, I decided to watch a couple of their segments. The one that stuck out for me was their lame attempt to create news by putting one of their guys "on the ground" and in the middle of a small protest.

As their guy got ignored and yelled at (for being the FOX News hack that he is) the people in the studio tried their best to portray the "developments" as an indicator of chaos and danger ... what a joke. The guy went out of his way to stick himself in the middle of what ultimately was a fringe group's parade. Still, one of the studio bubble heads went so far as to express concern for his safety in such an environment.

Their subsequent "analysis" of the evening's events was equally laughable. Bill Kristol, whose claims about George Bush and the war in Iraq are equaled only by the Titanic's claims to unsinkability, was especially loathesome. There's a reason kids like him get beat up on the play ground.

At the end of the day Team FOX exhibits all the traits and characteristics of - and would have been perfectly at home at - Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

- Mark

Saturday, August 23, 2008


While my first choice for VP was a dark horse (former Senator Sam Nunn), Joe Biden is a solid choice. By picking Biden Obama demonstrated, once again, that he gets it.

Apart from the foreign policy expertise (foreign leaders call him) and senatorial gravitas that comes with being in the senate since 1972, this clip shows why Biden's a good pick. He gives Obama's campaign a sorely needed gunslinger. Biden will help put McCain's campaign on the defensive since he's so good with the media-friendly sound bytes.

This clip shows why McCain's hand will be forced by Biden. He's going to be both a great defender of Obama, and an attack dog. He's sharp and is willing to express his contempt for people like Bush and McCain.

For us political junkies, this will definitely make the remainder of the campaign a fun show to watch.

- Mark

Friday, August 22, 2008


No wonder John McCain can't remember how many houses he and his wife occupy. They're too busy counting how much money they've made with Bush in the White House ...

According to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report the incomes of people like the "$100 million Trust Fund McCains" have grown in a manner that even put the top 1 percent of U.S. households to shame (you're in the top 1% if you make $376,000 per year).

How much did people like the McCain's make, you ask? Those living in the McCain's world have seen their average income rise $1.8 million per household since 2002.

As for the rest of us who occupy the bottom 90% of the income chart ($104,000 per year, and below) ... We saw our incomes "jump" 1.4%, for whopping income gain of $1,446 each.

But $1,446 actually means nothing (as, I'm sure you already know). Rising fees and deductibles eat away at our earnings. And at $4.00 a gallon we're just sending our income "gains" to Bush's Saudi friends and McCain's oil pals.

- Mark


Somehow "out of touch" doesn't quite capture it. Here's Cindy McCain explaining why the McCain's have two beachfront properties in California.

"When I bought the first one, my husband, who is not a beach person, said, 'Oh, this is such a waste of money; the kids will never go,' " she said. "Then it got to the point where they used it so much I couldn't get in the place. So I bought another one."
Must be nice. But there's a subplot here. The McCain's can't even stay in the same place together ... you know, like a family.

- Mark


David Brooks has an interesting piece on why Joe Biden should be Barack Obama's running mate. While I'm no fan of David Brooks, and don't think Biden should be Obama's VP pick, this one's worth the read.

- Mark


- Mark

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Lately it seems that every time John McCain can't answer a question, or can't explain past behavior, he and his camp pull out the POW Card. It's starting to get old. Here's Lt. General Robert G. Gard Jr. (USA, Ret.) on McCain's new tactic.

We obviously honor and respect McCain's service and the five-and-a-half years of horror that he went through at the hands of the North Vietnamese; but it's not an excuse for everything. He has already used it to explain away his infidelities in his first marriage. He's used it to defend his healthcare plan ... just the other day [he] used it to deflect accusations of having skirted the rules of the Saddleback forum.

It's time for the Senator to stop cheapening the war experiences of thousands of vets and his fellow POWs, and his own as well, by stretching the boundaries of logic to make his POW status a wild-card rebuttal to all accusations or an answer to all difficult questions.
Pretty much sums it up.

- Mark



Speaking of John McCain, the NY Times' Frank Rich has an interesting review of the Real McCain. Specifically he writes that, apart from being a POW, what America knows about McCain is a "fairytale."

Some of it is simply too good not to post. Here's an extended snippet.

... McCain never called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired and didn’t start criticizing the war plan until late August 2003, nearly four months after “Mission Accomplished.” By then the growing insurgency was undeniable. On the day Hurricane Katrina hit, McCain laughed it up with the oblivious president at a birthday photo-op in Arizona. McCain didn’t get to New Orleans for another six months and didn’t sharply express public criticism of the Bush response to the calamity until this April, when he traveled to the Gulf Coast in desperate search of election-year pageantry surrounding him with black extras.

McCain long ago embraced the right’s agents of intolerance, even spending months courting the Rev. John Hagee, whose fringe views about Roman Catholics and the Holocaust were known to anyone who can use the Internet. (Once the McCain campaign discovered YouTube, it ditched Hagee.) On Monday McCain is scheduled to appear at an Atlanta fund-raiser being promoted by Ralph Reed, who is not only the former aide de camp to one of the agents of intolerance McCain once vilified (Pat Robertson) but is also the former Abramoff acolyte showcased in McCain’s own Senate investigation of Indian casino lobbying.

Though the McCain campaign announced a new no-lobbyists policy three months after The Washington Post’s February report that lobbyists were “essentially running” the whole operation, the fact remains that McCain’s top officials and fund-raisers have past financial ties to nearly every domestic and foreign flashpoint, from Fannie Mae to Blackwater to Ahmad Chalabi to the government of Georgia. No sooner does McCain flip-flop on oil drilling than a bevy of Hess Oil family members and executives, not to mention a lowly Hess office manager and her husband, each give a maximum $28,500 to the Republican Party.

While reporters at The Post and The New York Times have been vetting McCain, many others give him a free pass. Their default cliché is to present him as the Old Faithful everyone already knows. They routinely salute his “independence,” his “maverick image” and his “renegade reputation” — as the hackneyed script was reiterated by Karl Rove in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column last week. At Talking Points Memo, the essential blog vigilantly pursuing the McCain revelations often ignored elsewhere, Josh Marshall accurately observes that the Republican candidate is “graded on a curve.”

Most Americans still don’t know, as Marshall writes, that on the campaign trail “McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries’ names wrong, forgets things he’s said only hours or days before and is frequently just confused.” Most Americans still don’t know it is precisely for this reason that the McCain campaign has now shut down the press’s previously unfettered access to the candidate on the Straight Talk Express ...
We'll have fun with some of this stuff on Saturday.

- Mark


Republicans and John McCain are trying to paint Barack Obama as an elitist ... as someone who is not one of us. This ad should help clarify things ...

I'm willing to bet, unless the McCains need the tax break, those 7 houses are paid for too.

- Mark

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


There's an interesting article in today's Der Speigel that takes another look at what's going on in Georgia. Long story short ... Russia is within it's right to make sure events in their "backyard" drift towards their interests. Here's a snippet:

... even Kennedy drew a distinction between first-class and second-class sovereign states. He assumed that residents of the main house ought to have something to say in the backyard, as in Cuba, for example. Putin shares the same view, in the case of Georgia, for example. In America's case we call such behavior dominant, and in Russia's case aggressive. But we mean the same thing.

... Now US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her president, George W. Bush, say that other laws apply today than in the 20th century. It sounds plausible, but it isn't true, as is clearly evident in the case of Cuba.

America still treats the Caribbean island, with its Stone Age communism, as a public enemy. American citizens can neither visit Cuba, a country with a gross domestic product a fraction the size of the US's, nor can they trade with it. Cuban cigars are considered contraband, and any American who smokes them is regarded as an enemy of state.
Here's the link.

- Mark

Monday, August 18, 2008


With the threat of impeachment hanging over him Pakistan Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf has resigned. This is good news.

While the administration claimed that he was an ally in their War on Terror, Musharraf never came close to catching Osama bin Laden (and more likely allowed him to roam freely), was less than concerned about the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, cracked down on the democratic impulse in Pakistan by going after political enemies, went after judges and the court system for their role in questioning his policies, and did little when A.Q. Kahn was caught selling nuclear secrets to North Korea, Libya, and Iran.

Perhaps more importantly, Musharraf did little to curb the growing Taliban presence in Pakistan. Today, the Taliban has been "rejuvenated" and "now virtually control Pakistan’s tribal region bordering Afghanistan."

Fortunately, after jumping from single digits in Pakistan's parliament to 56 seats in 2002, Pakistan's religious right has fallen on hard times (6 seats today). But Musharraf had little to do with their poor electoral showing earlier this year. The religious far right was criticized for not bringing home the bacon for their constituents, and for being too cozy with Musharraf in his on-again, off-again War on Terror in Pakistan's tribal regions.

I'll have more to say about this on Saturday.

- Mark


Former Commerce Secretary Robert Reich has a short but excellent post on oil and energy in America. It's done in a Q&A format. Here's the Q&A lead ...

Question: Won't McCain's plan to increase offshore drilling lower gas prices soon?

Answer: No. The Energy Department's own Energy Information Administration admits offshore drilling will affect gas prices only many years from now, and even then would have a negligible effect on prices.
With Congressman Kevin McCarthy being applauded by Bakersfield Californian columnist Marylee Shrider for running back and forth between Bakersfield and Washington to participate in the republican's energy publicity stunt, Reich's comments make it clear that our local congressman is just wasting his time. It also tells us that Shrider doesn't understand the difference between "democracy" and publicity stunt politics.

Read Reich's post. It's the best short review of our energy situation I've read in a while.

- Mark

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008


After my tenth birthday my family moved to the Santa Cruz mountains (we lived in Boulder Creek). We weren't far from the beach. So after I was old enough to drive I spent a lot of my spare time during the summers going to the beach with friends to hang out and body surf.

One thing's definitely clear from these pictures ... Barack Obama knows how to body surf.

Can you imagine McCain on a beach, doing this? He can't even go out in the sun without a hat and glasses.

But I especially liked this picture. Obama's throwing a lei out at the spot where he scattered his Mother's ashes.

Conservatives and media pundits need to think a little more before they question or criticize Obama for wanting to return to Hawaii.

- Mark


This is from one my colleagues at Cal State. It's classic ...

John Edwards could easily save his political career. How, you might ask? Easy. All he has to do is divorce his wife, marry the woman he had adultery with while his wife was sick/injured, and turn Republican. Worked for McCain and Gingrich!
Too funny ...

I might add that republicans and FOX News might be a bit more accomodating towards Edwards if he had cheated on his wife by looking for love in the bathroom stalls of a Minnesota airport, or if he was a senator from Louisiana who liked hanging out with Washington D.C. call girls.

Seriously, FOX News and the Mafia of Mediocrity that take their cue from them need to move on. Republicans don't just live in glass houses, they have beachside crystal palaces ...

- Mark


California's State Controller John Chiang will be our guest this week. He will discuss Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's threat to pay a certain class of California employees minimum wage until the budget is signed. Here's what Controller Chiang has said so far ...

State Controller John Chiang said Monday that an antiquated state computer system makes it impossible to adjust the state payroll quickly to issue minimum-wage checks to state workers. He said it would take at least six months to make the change.

The Democratic controller has vowed to defy Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's executive order directing the state to pay workers the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour until a budget agreement is reached. He has previously asserted that the Republican governor's order is based on an untested 2003 state Supreme Court legal opinion and that he will continue issuing full paychecks to state employees.

But in a meeting with The Bee Capitol Bureau on Monday, Chiang said that even if Schwarzenegger's legal reasoning were sound, the state could not logistically retool its outdated payroll system in a matter of weeks, as the governor has asked. If the change were eventually made, Chiang also said it would take an additional nine to 10 months to issue checks to employees for their full back pay .
We expect State Controller Chiang to be with us at the top of the program, at 2:15 pm. As usual, call-ins are welcome at 631-1230.

- Mark


Ever wonder what helps contribute to our bloated budget deficits? Check this out ... According to the Government Accounting Office two-thirds of U.S. corporations, and 68% of foreign companies, paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005.

After the GAO examined samples of corporate tax returns - as requested by Congress - they found that between 1998 and 2005 about 1.3 million U.S. companies and 39,000 foreign companies who did business in the U.S. paid no income taxes.

Their combined revenue? $2.5 trillion.

How does this happen? Pretty simple. Much of the tax evasion can be attributed to something called transfer pricing. For example, revenue generated here in the U.S. is transferred abroad to low tax countries (hello Cayman Islands) while high cost expenses (like R&D) are claimed here in the United States. British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline got caught doing this a few years back and ended up paying $3.4 billion to the IRS.

What could help here is if the IRS budget for corporate tax enforcement were enhanced. But with the Republican-led tax cut jihad, budgets and resources for the IRS have been cut in real terms. The result? According to an OMB report (pdf file here), the number of IRS revenue agents and officers who perform audits like the one done on GSK has decreased by 40 and 30 percent over the past ten years.

My friends, you can't catch the criminals if you take the cops off the streets.

Why is all of this important? Because when corporations reduce what they pay, the tax burden is then shifted to you and me (and our grandkids in the form of our $9.3 trillion national debt). It also helps explain record corporate profits. The graphs below are a bit dated, but they show what's been happening over the past 20 years.

- Mark


How many times can John McCain misspeak before the nation's media starts questioning his competency and judgment? Check out McCain's latest claim that "In the 21st century nations don't invade other nations."

Speaking of judgment, here's McCain's record, in graphic form.

- Mark

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


As if screwing up in Iraq were not enough, the Bush administration continues to demonstrate they don’t know what the hell they’re doing in the world. But let me get this out of the way first ...

Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice was/is considered an expert on Russia and the Soviet Union. What’s going on in Georgia (a former state in the USSR) should not be hard to figure out ... and could have been prevented. But just in case you’re not in tune, here’s a brief overview of Georgia’s history from the BBC.

What’s happening in Georgia is, in part, a product of larger on-going issues between George Bush’s failed positions in the region, and the administration's continued inability to see or anticipate events.

Specifically, the Bush administration has been meddling in Russian affairs, and getting in Russia’s face for the better part of six years. So when the Bush administration decided to warn Russia on Georgia, you can imagine Moscow's response. To be sure, Russia has genuine interests in Georgia, but President Bush’s actions have not helped improve conditions, or our hand, in the region.

President Bush visited Moscow in 2005 to observe the 60th anniversary of the Allies' victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. In the process he irritated old WWII wounds in the region by bringing up a past that is better left alone. Here’s a brief review of a past he should have left alone.

The Russians believe they should be thanked for “liberating” the Baltics from the Nazis during WWII. They also feel they are being polite to the Baltic states (Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia) for not mentioning large scale collaboration on their part with the Nazis. The Balts, however, do not feel the Russians liberated them because the Russians turned around and occupied their land and, in the process, wiping them from global maps for 50 years.

On the other side of this mess, the Baltic want to forget how eager many of them were to help Germans kill Jews, with the Riga Ghetto being one of the largest in Europe. To counter this, many Balts remind the Russians that many of their countrymen fought in the Red Army, and are not shy about reminding Russia about the Russian soldiers who defected to the Nazis (these soldiers were executed on the spot when captured by Russian troops).

At this point it should be pretty clear why it might be a good thing to “let sleeping dogs lie,” right?

Enter our President, the Idiot Prince, to make sure that all of this gets revived. Rather than simply saying he’s in Moscow to celebrate the end of WWII he wrote a letter to the three Baltic heads of state stating the end of World War II "also marked the Soviet occupation and annexation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and the imposition of Communism." Nice.

The letter arrived in the Baltic states right before Bush arrived in Moscow for the WWII ceremonies in Spring 2005. As you can imagine Putin was ecstatic.

But just to show that President Bush really has no idea what he’s doing, he didn’t back off. Instead Bush told a Lithuanian reporter that he confronted Mr. Putin on how he needs to work on democracy in Russia and to remind him that "the remembrances of the time of Communism [for the Baltic states] are unpleasant remembrances.”

Reminding a people of two occumpations. Digging to uncover old Nazi wounds. Insulting prospective hosts on the eve of arriving in their nation. A trifecta in dimplomatic incompetence.

To Mr. Putin’s credit, in a May 4 interview with the CBS program "60 Minutes" (which aired May 8, 2005) Mr. Putin said that America should not be lecturing him about rollbacks on democracy when "four years ago your presidential election was decided by the court." Ouch.

Score one for Putin.

OK, back to the present dispute ...

Just last month Condaleeza Rice was in Georgia telling Georgia’s president Mikhail Saakashvili one thing, but sending Russia another set of signals.

Specifically, while asking President Saakashvili (who has a law degree from Columbia University) not to antagonize the Russians by using Georgia's military force to settle the separatist movements in issue (specifically in Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Ajaria), it appears that the Bush administration had been going out of its way to, well, antagonize the Russians. They did this by: (1) sending military advisers to bolster the Georgian military, including an exercise last month with more than 1,000 American troops (aren’t they needed in Iraq?); (2) working hard to bring Georgia into NATO, while providing few assurances to Russia; (3) providing material support for the 2003 Rose Revolution, which replaced President Eduard Shevardnadze, a former communist party man, who had ruled Georgia for more than 30 years, and (4) loudly proclaiming support for Georgia’s territorial integrity at the same time Russia was making clear their concerns over Georgia’s separatist enclaves.

With these developments in the background you can imagine how the Russians felt after Condaleeza Rice provocatively told the press (and Putin) on the eve of her July 2008 visit to Georgia, “I’m going to visit a friend and I don’t expect much comment about the United States going to visit a friend.”

Score one for arrogant, child-like, hubris.

As you can imagine, after all this, Moscow was in no mood to be lectured by the Bush administration after they began bombing Georgia on “behalf” of Russians and Ossetians. It also helps to explain why the U.S. is virtually absent from the on-going cease fire dialog. Russia is in no mood to listen to President Bush.

Making matters worse, we now have John McCain trying to score cheap political points off of this disaster by attempting to make it appear that he knows what's going on ... while clumsily reading from a prepared script (no doubt prepared by the same foreign poliy aide who was a lobbyist for Georgia, and whose firm is still being paid by Georgia).

There’s more. But it doesn’t get any better. In real simple terms, President Bush will go down as an historic incompetent on many levels. The man is a fool.

- Mark

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The Justice Department's inspector general and its internal ethics office issued two reports. They found half-dozen officials at the Justice Department systematically rejected candidates with perceived “liberal” backgrounds for what were supposed to be non-political jobs, while seeking out conservative Republicans.

While no names were noted in today's NY Times article, two of the perpetrators were Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling. Sampson is a "devout Mormon" who graduated from Brigham Young University, while Goodling graduated from the Christian fundamentalist madrassa Regent University Law School (founded by Pat Robertson).

Both Sampson and Goodling believe religion comes first and that their responsibilities as citizens of the U.S. is a secondary concern. This mind-set forms the heart of the Dominionist movement in America, which argues that the Kingdom of God will be established here on earth through political and even military means. While most mainstream (and sane) Christians reject this approach, others like Monica Goodling embrace it. Worse, they believe they can do no wrong because they are doing "God's work."

Apparently Attorney General Michael Mukasey agrees.

Specifically, Mukasey claimed that "not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime” (a position that, no doubt, should make the illegal immigration crowd happy). In this case because the hiring violations only broke "federal service law" and not "criminal law" the actions of Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson and others did not rise to the level of a crime. Huh? And it gets worse ...

According to Mukasey, because those who violated "federal and civil service law" have already suffered "substantial negative publicity" his office will not act on the inspector general’s report.

When one's faith can trump the law we're all in trouble. Anything - and I mean anything - can be justified ... including flying a couple of planes into buildings.

- Mark


If the first casualty of war is the truth, the second casualty of the war in Iraq may be the democratic impulse in America. From TPM ...

According to the Congressional Budget Office private military contractors in Iraq far outnumber the number of U.S. troops inside the country. About 20 percent of the 190,000 contract workers are U.S. citizens (working for firms such as Blackwater or KBR), while under 40 percent of contractors are citizens of the country where they work, mainly Iraq. The rest are mostly poor unskilled workers from places like India or the Philippines.

To date these private "non-uniformed" workers have cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $100 billion, which makes up roughly 20 percent of total U.S. spending for the five-year war. But the real cost of these private contract workers lies in how their presence has "helped the Pentagon hold down the number of military personnel sent to Iraq and avoid public discussion of a draft."

Put another way, another casualty of war has been the democratic impulse in America.

- Mark

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008


In previous posts I noted how President Bush has been trying to deflect blame for driving our country's reputation and finances into the ground. As Bush increasingly blames others ("Bad intel" from the CIA ... "Wall Street Got Drunk") for his administration's disastrous performance I started thinking about Blind Man's Bluff, the Parlor Game played by elites during the Victorian era.

Blind Man's Bluff is the gentelman's version of "tag" and was played by wealthy men and women of leisure, who had little to do but liked hanging around with each other playing games in parlors (hence the name).

In this spirit, this is how I see George W. Bush playing out the remainder of his presidency. And like the painting above, while President Bush meanders aimlessly looking for someone to tag for his self-inflicted political wounds, he will find fewer and fewer willing to stand by him.

As for the picture ... for my money, I have to think that the kid cowering in the far right corner is Dick Cheney ... McCain is the guy in the middle, on his knees, reaching for the blind man (no doubt, in a room full of deaf people).

- Mark

Saturday, August 9, 2008


UC Berkeley economics professor Brad DeLong has an interesting story relayed to him by Jim Cob, a friend/colleague from the University of Georgia:

After 34 years of college teaching, I thought I had heard just about every imaginable student complaint. Last week, however, a freshman in my 300-seat US History Since 1865 course came in to discuss her exam with one of the graders and proceeded to work herself into a semi-hissy over the fact that we had spent four class periods ... discussing the civil rights movement.

"I don't know where he's getting all of this," she complained,"we never discussed any of this in high school." One might have let the matter rest here as simply an example of a high school history teacher's sins of omission being visited on the hapless old history prof. had the student not informed the TA in an indignant postcript, "I'm not a Democrat! I don't think I should have to listen to this stuff!"

Insert your own punchline here ____________________.

- Mark

Friday, August 8, 2008


Remember when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told Congress and the American people that granting the Bush administration the authority to inject billions of dollars into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was all about "restoring confidence" and that he "doesn't expect to have to use taxpayer funds"? Well, guess what? It looks like he's going to have to start using taxpayer funds pretty soon.

Fannie Mae just posted $2.3 billion in losses, for its 4th quarterly loss in a row. But don't worry, Fannie Mae's Chief Executive Daniel Mudd is on top of things. He said that their problems are caused by "volatility and disruptions in the capital markets" which have become "even more pronounced in July." Huh?

Why doesn't Mudd just come clean and say:

"We became stupid and greedy, and allowed our brokers and agents to sell us loans and contracts that were poorly vetted and driven by assumptions that we should have known were implausible ... Like the levees in New Orleans, who would have foreseen that not verifying income or assets was a bad thing?"
To deal with it's losses Fannie Mae said it "would slash its dividend more than 85 percent and take other steps to shore up its capital position." Translated, this means shareholders will still get some cash, and that Fannie Mae will start looking for lines of credit.

Hmmm, I wonder which (cough, cough ... taxpayer funded ... cough, cough) line of credit Fannie Mae will eventually have to dip into to ...

Stay tuned. There's more around the corner.

- Mark


Not that anything will come from this, but former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo is now under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Unfortunately they're only looking at insider trading and, apparently, not into how Mozilo helped drive the company into the ground.

- Mark


In today's NY Times Paul Krugman has an interesting take on the G.O.P.'s evolving campaign politics.

In short, we're back to the days of the "Know Nothings." Only this time, instead of the 1850s fear that Irish Catholic immigrants might overwhelm American values, and then claim to "know nothing" about their movement, today's Know Nothings take pride in providing simplistic and ill-thought out approaches to modern problems (you know, kind of like the Know Nothings of the 1850s). Krugman writes:

Now, I don’t mean that G.O.P. politicians are, on average, any dumber than their Democratic counterparts ... What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”
On the positive side at least Know-Nothingism has evolved. Today there is pride in providing simpleton solutions to complex problems ... We don't like you? Let's go to war ... I'm afraid of terrorist monsters! Let's strip the Constitution ... I don't understand your energy policy references? Have a gas gauge.

This explains John McCain's "drill here, drill now" mantra. By pressing to drill for oil here and now, when every expert in the field says doing so will do nothing to solve our energy problems (and may even make it worse by providing a false sense of hope), McCain is demonstrating that he has not moved far from the foolish solutions provided by the Know Nothings of yore.

No wonder many of the Know Nothings of the 1850s gravitated to the Republican Party by the 1860s. Their narrow nativism and religious hostility fit right in with the party that freely embraces fear-mongering and banality as campaign cornerstones.

- Mark

P.S. FYI, here's a copy of political propoganda from the Know Nothing period. Click on the piece if the letters are too small to read.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


This is too funny (and via Dailykos).

- Mark


In what the Miami Herald called "a stunning rebuke" of President Bush's crown jewel case for his military commission tribunal, a six-person jury made up of senior U.S. military officers rejected the Pentagon's request to give Osama bin Laden's driver 30 years for providing "material support" to al Qaeda.

Salim Hamdan, who made news when the United States Supreme Court said he (and others) was entitled to habeus corpus, was sentenced to 66 months in prison. Given credit for being held the past 61 months, Hamdan is scheduled to be released before President Bush leaves office.

What a joke. The Bush administration set the rules with their Military Commissions Act, had a jury full of military officers, and was able to introduce just about any evidence they wanted (including that which was produced under torture) ... and all they got was a conviction for something Hamdan admitted to from the very beginning - that he was bin Laden's driver.

Somebody call the American Bar Association ... these guys deserve a medal.

- Mark


When it comes to understanding what's happening with John McCain, and others, as they confront Barack Obama's popularity NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd nails it in her Tuesday Op-Ed piece. Here's a couple of quotes:

Now John McCain is pea-green with envy. That’s the only explanation for why a man who prides himself on honor, a man who vowed not to take the low road in the campaign, having been mugged by W. and Rove in South Carolina in 2000, is engaging in a festival of juvenilia ...

The Arizona senator who built his reputation on being a brave proponent of big solutions is running a schoolyard campaign about tire gauges and Paris Hilton, childishly accusing his opponent of being too serious, too popular and not patriotic enough.

Even his own mother, the magical 96-year-old Roberta McCain, let slip that she thought the Paris Hilton-Britney Spears ad was “kinda stupid.”
Read the entire article yourself. It says much about McCain, and status quo politics.

- Mark


From ... Noted financial guru Nouriel Roubini is predicting that hundreds of banks will end up closing their doors and says $1 trillion in banking losses "isn't a ceiling, it's a floor."

He points out that so far we have only seen the results of the subprime loan mess. Next up are consumer-credit losses, to be followed by home-equity loan losses. According to Roubini, "The banks are playing all sorts of accounting gimmicks not to recognize them."

And helping to put lipstick on this financial pig are the Federal Reserve and government regulators who Roubini believes should be investigating themselves for their irresponsible actions.

I'll discuss this in more detail on Saturday.

- Mark

UPDATE: I found this after I posted. It fits.

Click on the cartoon if the letters appear too small.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Under President Bush our nation has lowered its expectations, and our standards ...

The NY Times is reporting that, with you and me paying well over $4.00 per gallon at the pump, the Iraqi government is projected to have a budget surplus of $79 billion by year’s end. You would think the Iraqis would have started footing the bill for their own reconstruction, right? Think again.

From 2005 through April 2008 Iraq has spent just $3.9 billion on critical infrastructure projects. You, me, and other U.S. taxpayers, however, have spent approximately $48 billion rebuilding Iraq since the beginning of the war in Iraq.

So this is what we have.

You and I put pay through the nose for petro, and Iraq's treasury flourishes. They get to keep it. We, however, must borrow money from the Chinese to pay our bills. We then pay money to rebuild what we destroyed in Iraq ... in a war that didn't need to happen ... with results that have humbled and embarrassed this nation.

We then have a presidential election. John McCain thinks it's appropriate (and presidential) to whine about who's popular, while handing out tire gauges. Republicans, reveling in the comic tragedy and circus atmosphere created by President Bush, laugh it up and applaud McCain's tire gauge antics.

Coming soon: Christians vs. Lions.

- Mark

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Ron Suskind has a new book that tells us George Bush’s White House asked/ordered the CIA to forge documents from the former head of Iraqi intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti. The forged documents would be backdated and would essentially say two things: (1) 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had been trained in Iraq, and (2) Saddam Hussein had been seeking Niger yellow-cake (to make WMDs).

Two birds with one stone. How convenient.

How credible are Suskind’s charges? Here’s a link with pretty good review of why Suskind rather than President Bush should be believed.

Interestingly, what’s not being discussed is how the White House not only made the intelligence fit around the policy, but how the White House withheld information from Congress. Consider the following Niger yellow-cake debunking documents the White House had but never shared.

1. A DEFENSE DEPARTMENT REPORT prepared by Four Star Marine General Carleton Fulford, who was in charge of military relations in Africa.

2. Few outside of the intelligence community saw Nigerian Ambassador Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick’s STATE DEPARTMENT REPORT which said there were no efforts by Saddam Hussein to secure yellow-cake.?

3. Then we have Ambassador Joe Wilson’s CIA ASSESSMENT, which said there’s nothing to the yellow-cake story.
Reports from the CIA, the State Department, and the Defense Department saying the Niger yellow-cake claim was bogus … and what does the White House do? It chose to run with the Niger yellow-cake story anyways.

Then we have the long forgotten original yellow-cake forgery story which Italian news sources tell us involved then Deputy National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley. The documents proved to be so crude and dubious that the Italian media originally refused to run a story on them, while the document’s “mule” now regrets his role in the debacle.

Bush's White House, of course, used the information ...

- Mark

UPDATE: Here's Ronald Suskind, in his own words.


I'm glad to see Obama's fighting back and calling it like it is.

By way of Dailykos, here's Obama going after McCain's campaign, and their childish attempt to discredit Obama's suggestion that ordinary Americans can check their tires to save on gas ...

I especially enjoyed the comment that McCain & the GOP "know they are lying" as they try to discredit Obama's energy policies.

And just because we want to know, how does doing a small thing like checking your tires differ from McCain's suggestion that we "turn off the lights" earlier and not "drive the extra block"?

You have to think that John McCain would know that he's made similar suggestions over the past few months ... Then again, ignorance is bliss when you need to wisecrack and score cheap points on the campaign trail.

Finally, it turns out that GOP VP candidate Mitt Romney can't seem to recall a single legislative accomplishment by John McCain that might help bring energy independence to America in in his 20+ years in Washington ...

Didn't Mitt just finish campaigning against McCain? You would figure that he might be able to dress up some small accomplishment - especially since he wants to be McCain's VP candidate.

Like Obama said, it's like they take pride in being ignorant ...

- Mark


Conservatives … Believers in Tinker Bell and Pixie Dust?

Contrary to what many conservatives might want to believe, there are no Infrastructure Fairies, no Public School Fairies, no Public Safety Fairies, no Research Fairies … well, you get the picture.

In our last program I discussed the role the modern state plays in our lives. I argued that many conservatives simply don’t get it. Somebody has to pay for the opportunities, lifestyle, and quality of life that we enjoy, which means paying taxes.

I don’t enjoy paying taxes. Then again, who does? But someone has to pay the piper. The Founding Fathers understood this too (which helps explain why we dropped the Articles of Confederation).

Conservatives, however, have gone on an irresponsible Tax Cut Jihad over the past 28 years. Instead of increasing revenue, with an economic program that George H.W. Bush presciently referred to as "voodoo economics" 28 years ago, successive republican administration policies have increased America’s national debt from about $973 billion in 1980 to well over $9.3 Trillion today.

But I will give the conservatives one thing: They know what sells politically.

They don’t know how to run a country. Nor do they seem capable of grasping what it is to be responsible – as they run the dollar into the ground, and leave successive generations to pay for 2 floundering wars and assorted tax breaks for the rich. Still, they know how to win national elections: A “No Tax” promise resonates with everyone.

This brings me to this presidential election. Is anyone else but me annoyed that the party that claims to be responsible and patriotic seems bent on ignoring real national problems, while drumming up phony issues tied to “elitism” and “race cards”? This, when we’re facing the greatest challenges our nation has faced since the 1970s, and perhaps even the 1940s?

My friends, at the end of the day, Tinker Bell and Pixie Dust won’t build our infrastructures. Nor will blind faith in a failed ideology create a Conservative Neverland where no one ever has to grow up, be responsible, and pay for what makes this country great. We don't live in Fairytopia ...

We’ll talk about this, and more, on Saturday.

- Mark

Monday, August 4, 2008


I'm back from vacation, and starting to catch up. Here's something from last week that needs to be posted on, again. Straight from McCain's Double-Talk Express ...

- Mark