Contrary to Republican Reports No Flying Pigs Have Been Observed

Astute denial

Interesting story, but to appreciate the content and its implications it is necssary to read the entire article. Tax Break May Have Helped Cause Housing Bubble

By itself, the change in the tax law did not cause the housing bubble, economists say. Several other factors — a relaxation of lending standards, a failure by regulators to intervene, a sharp decline in interest rates and a collective belief that house prices could never fall — probably played larger roles.

But many economists say that the law had a noticeable impact, allowing home sales to become tax-free windfalls.

This tax break was proposed by President Clinton as something of a counter proposal to Bob Dole’s push for huge tax cuts including drastically lowering capital gains. Nothing especially new, the Republican blog The Astute Blogger reads this article and takes the opportunity to scream some well worn and discredited right-wing talking points, in all caps, PIGS FLY: NYTIMES BLAMES CLINTON POLICY FOR MUCH OF THE REAL ESTATE BUBBLE


and further he concludes, again all caps,


Did he not read the caveat “by itself” and the neatly typed words that followed. For one thing, many Republicans at the time were enthusiastic, because if nothing else the then current deductions and profits made on home sales and home improvements was so complex that Clinton’s proposal would simplify record keeping for homeowners and make the tax code a little simpler, “Republicans ended up voting for the bill by even wider margins than Democrats.” Then lets remember that Bill Clinton has been out of office for eight years and Republicans controlled Congress for six of the years Bush has been in office. if this tax break was so horrible why didn’t they repeal the tax break,

Despite the criticism, there has been little political support for trimming the tax breaks for housing. In 2005, a bipartisan panel of tax experts, which was appointed by President Bush and included Mr. Rossotti, concluded, “The tax preferences that favor housing exceed what is necessary to encourage homeownership.” Among other things, it recommended increasing to three years the amount of time people had to stay in homes to claim the tax break on a sale. But Mr. Bush and other policy makers largely ignored the panel’s report.

Partisans on all sides have been known to hedge some tryths, but the level of denial and blame shifting from the Right makes one wonder if they have done any reading at all before capping themselves into yet another embarassing lie. The CRA had nothing to do with the housing bubble meltdown, Did Liberals Cause the Sub-Prime Crisis?

The evidence strongly suggests the latter. First, consider timing. CRA was enacted in 1977. The sub-prime lending at the heart of the current crisis exploded a full quarter century later. In the mid-1990s, new CRA regulations and a wave of mergers led to a flurry of CRA activity, but, as noted by the New America Foundation’s Ellen Seidman (and by Harvard’s Joint Center), that activity “largely came to an end by 2001.” In late 2004, the Bush administration announced plans to sharply weaken CRA regulations, pulling small and mid-sized banks out from under the law’s toughest standards. Yet sub-prime lending continued, and even intensified — at the very time when activity under CRA had slowed and the law had weakened.

Second, it is hard to blame CRA for the mortgage meltdown when CRA doesn’t even apply to most of the loans that are behind it. As the University of Michigan’s Michael Barr points out, half of sub-prime loans came from those mortgage companies beyond the reach of CRA. A further 25 to 30 percent came from bank subsidiaries and affiliates, which come under CRA to varying degrees but not as fully as banks themselves. (With affiliates, banks can choose whether to count the loans.) Perhaps one in four sub-prime loans were made by the institutions fully governed by CRA.

A couple of Conservative business sites tried to make the case that simply because CRA existed it lead to banks making stupid decisions. In other words CRA loans were like dope and it made bankers lose control. A form of denial one would expect from a 5 year old. A report(pdf) issued just this past Deecember 3rd by Bush’s own Federal Reserve stated,

Two key points emerge from all of our analysis of the available data. First, only a small portion of subprime mortgage originations are related to the CRA. Second, CRA- related loans appear to perform comparably to other types of subprime loans. Taken together, as I stated earlier, we believe that the available evidence runs counter to the contention that the CRA contributed in any substantive way to the current mortgage crisis.

Astute also blames Alan Greenspan. A Conservative appointed by Reagan, then reappointed by following presidents until he retired in 2006. Deregulation wasn’t partly to blame? Greenspan a life long advocate of deregulation as the answer to market problems admitted that maybe he and thus by definition, his Conservative rogues gallery of supporters were wrong,

Stiglitz also faulted the Federal Reserve and its former chairman Alan Greenspan for failing “both as a regulator and in the conduct of monetary policy.” Indeed, in testimony before Congress on October 22, Greenspan admitted to a “flaw” in his ideology of self-regulating markets, saying, “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, was such as that they were capable of protecting their own shareholders.” Greenspan also testified that he didn’t recognize the existence of the housing bubble, with home prices inflated beyond their true market value, until early 2006, saying, “I did not forecast a significant decline because we had never had a significant decline in prices.”

Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee in October, former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt faulted the SEC for failing to enforce financial regulations and failing to adequately “rein in dangerously risky behavior.”

Speaking of the SEC, Cox “Worked to Dismantle The SEC,” Says Commission Vet

In recent years, particularly under Cox, a former California GOP congressman, the SEC has pursued a policy of de-emphasizing enforcement, part of the broader anti-regulatory philosophy of the Bush years — helping to make Madoff, and perhaps others like him, possible.

“[Cox] in many ways worked to dismantle the SEC,” Ed Nordlinger, a former longtime enforcement director in the commission’s New York office, told TPMmuckraker. “He slowed everything down. I don’t think he believed in heavy regulation.”

Yep, deregulation played absolutely no role in the current recession and fat pigs fly faster. Just one last bit on Barney Frank. Maybe its because he was one of the first to start pointing out the dangers of predatory lending, the Right drags him in as often as possible,  CURBS ON ABUSIVE SUBPRIME LOANS ( his caps not mine)

No Accomplishments on Curbing Abusive Subprime Loans During Republican Control of House and Financial Services Committee (1995 – 2006)

Democrats Gain Majority After 2006 Elections and Congressman Barney Frank Becomes Financial Services Committee Chairman in January 2007

Prompted by Committee Action and House Passage of Subprime Reform Bill, Federal Reserve Issues New Subprime Regulations

109th Congress, 2005 – 2006 (Republican Majority)
H.R. 1182, Prohibit Predatory Lending Act Introduced on March 9, 2005 by Reps. Brad Miller (D-NC), Mel Watt (D-NC) and Frank

The bill would amend the Truth in Lending Act to impose restrictions on high-cost mortgages, limit permissible fees and charges on those loans, prohibit unfair or deceptive lending practices, and provide for borrower education and counseling about predatory lending practices.

No action taken on bill by Financial Services Committee or House of Representatives

Preemption of State Anti-Predatory Loan Laws
Not only did the Republican Congress fail to push for the regulations needed to protect consumers and the housing finance system, they actively supported the elimination of existing laws and regulations. They supported efforts by the federal banking agencies to preempt the application of state anti-predatory lending laws to national banks, federal thrifts and their operating subsidiaries. Essentially, they permitted bank regulators to “carve out” big players from state consumer protection laws and they refused to put any new standard in their place.

In both the 108th and 109th Congresses, Reps. Frank, Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and others introduced legislation to clarify the applicability of state laws and enforcement to national banks and federal thrifts and their subsidiaries (H.R. 5251 in the 108th Congress and H.R. 3425 in the 109th).

There was no action on these bills in either the 108th or 109th Congress.

As economist Alfred Stiglitz has pointed out there is some blame to be placed on both parties. Strict rules of golf and all, when you add up the facts Republicans clearly get the lion’s share of that blame. Where some Democrats went wrong was joining in with the deregulation slash and burn economic policies of Conservatives.

Extremists and Controlling the Historical Record

Russia rewriting Josef Stalin’s legacy Archives on dictator seized from human-rights group Memorial

At first, the purpose behind the midday raid at a human-rights group’s office here was murky. Police, some clad in masks and camouflage, cut the electricity to Memorial’s offices and demanded to know if any drugs or guns were kept on the premises.

Five hours later, after police had opened every computer and walked out with 11 hard drives, the reason for their visit became clear to Memorial Director Irina Flige.

On the hard drives, a trove of scanned images and documents memorialized Josef Stalin’s murderous reign of terror. Diagrams scrawled out by survivors detailed layouts of labor camps. There were photos of Russians executed by Stalin’s secret police, wrenching accounts of survival from gulag inmates and maps showing the locations of mass graves.

“They knew what they were taking,” Flige said. “Today, the state tries to reconstruct history to make it appear like a long chain of victories. And they want these victories to be seen as justifying Stalin’s repressions.”

Stalin, the brutal Soviet dictator responsible for the deaths of millions of his citizens, has been undergoing a makeover of sorts in recent years. Russian authorities have reshaped the Georgia-born dictator’s image into that of a misunderstood, demonized leader who did what he had to do to mold the Soviet Union into the superpower it became.

Bush has made a series of public appearances and a major network interview. For what purpose, to rewrite the history of his administration. Still on the taxpayers dime, he hopes to reshape the impression of being the imperial authoritarian that misled the country into an expensive foreign policy and human rights disaster. Cheney, in a rare appearance, used the occasion to dismiss the fact that as increasing numbers of the American public found that he had lied and withheld important facts about Iraq, strongly disapproved of the administration, simply replied “So?” The Bush term is nearly, but not quite over and they’re molding and rewriting the narrative. Bush claims that al Qaeda choose Iraq as the battle field, to take their last stand – all the while of course as he had let Bin Laden escape at Tora Bora. While it will not stop them from trying Bush apologists are going to have as much of an up hill climb as Stalin’s. We may never see  Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice tried for war crimes, but the documentation of their wrong doing just keeps coming, Report: Gonzales And Rice Appear To Have Lied To Congress About Vetting Bush’s Pre-War Uranium Claims

Privileges of power

“The American Public has a Right to Know That They Do Not Have to Choose Between Torture and Terror”: Six questions for Matthew Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist

At 5:15 p.m. on June 7, 2006, two American F-16 fighters dropped 500-pound bombs on a farmhouse about five miles north of the Iraqi town of Baqubah. Within an hour, the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian street thug who had risen to become the head of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, was confirmed. This resulted from one of the most important intelligence breakthroughs of the Iraq War. Matthew Alexander is the pseudonym for an American Air Force major who, through a series of skillful interrogations, secured the information that allowed the military to pinpoint al Zarqawi’s whereabouts…

The major’s story may change a few minds, but ultimately the pro-torture crowd – right-wing pundits like Bill O’Reilly, Hannity, Savage, Coulter,etc who have never served, will continue to be apologists for policies that endanger our troops and creates recruits for radicals. They like the idea of torture for the same reasons that some people like horror movies – they just do. The Major can present all the empirical proof he likes, but like so many other issues the rabid Right is immune to rationalism. We can take consolation in knowing that there are genuine heroes like the Major looking out for the best interests of America.

“Former Admiral Dennis Blair has been selected as the new Director of National Intelligence”, Blair is a centrist, and not the ‘center-right” choice described by the aptly named Conservative site Hot Air.

A commander of Pacific Command he’s known for pushing political and diplomatic engagement over military confrontation.

Make no mistake this is not a guy that has ever shied away from using force, but he knows that sometimes force is not always the best answer. As compared to modern Conservatives who think force is the answer to every situation, or threatening force at the slightest provocation, thus making diplomatic progress even more difficult.

Mountain and Winter Snow wallpaper

This just came in as I was finishing. Stalin and his defenders would be proud, Last Secrets of the Bush Administration

Gonzales’s March 2001 memo was the opening salvo in a war over information, one that began in the earliest days of the Bush administration and will continue beyond its end. The stakes, which no one could have predicted when the letter crossed Carlin’s desk, are now self-evidently enormous: when Bush hands over the keys to the White House in January, he will leave behind more unanswered questions of sweeping national importance than any modern president. We still do not know how intelligence operatives, acting in the name of the United States, have interrogated suspected terrorists, and how they are interrogating them now (see sidebar: TORTURE). We do not know how many Americans’ phone calls and e-mails were scanned by the National Security Agency (see sidebar: WIRETAPPING). We do not know—although we can guess—who ordered the firings of the U.S. attorneys who didn’t comply with the Bush administration’s political agenda, and we do not know who may have been wrongly prosecuted by those who did (see sidebar: POLITICIZATION OF JUSTICE). There are large gaps in our understanding of the backstories to everything from pre-war intelligence in Iraq to the censoring of scientific opinion at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior. And those are the things we know we don’t know—there are also what Donald Rumsfeld might call the unknown unknowns.

Conservative Tripe

Your brain on conservatism

Someone gave a Conservative named Matthew Kaminski a early holiday gift, apparently a box of crayons, which he used to scrawl this incoherent diatribe in the few minutes he had before the attendants noticed he got a hand free from his straight jacket, You Like Us! But Not For Long.

The past few years for sure were especially happy ones for the flag burners, intellectual bomb throwers and suicide attackers. George W. Bush gave this crowd a great excuse to hate America–and the Democrats a highly effective partisan political weapon against the ruling party.

You could diagram every sentence in this paragraph. Send it off to a team of brilliant of cryptographers and still not extract a rational thought. Its the usual right-wing drool mixed with arterial fix of rabid nationalism. A code of sorts meant for his fellow kool-aid drinkers. No surprise that he drags in the French. They’re always good for a bash. Then goes on to praise our allies. Yes, our NATO allies, like France, who contributed forces to Afghanistan where at last count 26 French soldiers have given their lives in a country where we succeeded and the old the Soviet Union failed; then squandered that victory to rush troops to the quagmire on the Mesopotamia. Forget all the other  malicious blundering that  has defined Conservative policies the last eight years – Afghanistan and Osama Been Forgotten is reason enough to give Bush a one way ticket to Elba. WhiskeyFire writes a very short letter to Monsieur Kaminsky about that “ontological” tripe.

Generals Propose a Timetable for Iraq

A new military plan for troop withdrawals from Iraq that was described in broad terms this week to President-elect Barack Obama falls short of the 16-month timetable Mr. Obama outlined during his election campaign, United States military officials said Wednesday.

I could be wrong from looking at it this way, but if timetables are being discussed now – pre-inaugeration, that’s a good sign. Plans are being made for a majot draw down of troops, the major remaining issue is timing.

Sean Hannity: Media Matters’ 2008 Misinformer of the Year. Not to be a concern troll, but Sean might want to consider changing his shade of lip gloss. He looks like a revieved corpse on camera. Then again, maybe that’s just how he looks. If so my apologies for making fun of his physical defects.

Hannity’s “Stop Obama Express” promoted and embellished a vast array of misleading attacks and false claims about Obama. Along the way, he uncritically adopted and promoted countless Republican talking points and played host to numerous credibility-challenged smear artists who painted Obama as a dangerous radical. When he was not going after Obama, Hannity attacked members of Obama’s family, as well as Sen. Hillary Clinton and other progressives, and denied all the while that he had unfairly attacked anyone.

U.S. sends three Guantanamo men home to Bosnia – shocking, according to Bush and his supporters everyone at Gitmo was guilty, otherwise they wouldn’t have been put there in the first place.

The three were among five Algerians ordered released last month by a U.S. judge who ruled that the Bush administration had failed to support its claim that they planned to travel to Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces in 2001.

Santa Claus Bear wallpapers

Santa Bear wallpaper

Santa Bears II wallpaper

Kissing Santa Bears wallpaper

Holiday Star wallpaper

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter also took exception to Cheney’s most recent attempt to rewrite history, Dick Cheney’s Fantasy World

The vice-president should re-check both his history and his facts. Just prior to President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, the UN had teams of weapons inspectors operating inside Iraq, blanketing the totality of Iraq’s industrial infrastructure. They found no evidence of either retained WMD, or efforts undertaken by Iraq to reconstitute a WMD manufacturing capability. Whatever dual-use industrial capability that did exist (so-called because the industrial processes involved to produce legitimate civilian or military items could, if modified, be used to produce materials associated with WMD) had been so degraded as a result of economic sanctions and war that any meaningful WMD production was almost moot. To say that Saddam had the capability or the technology to produce WMD at the time of the US invasion is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

[   ]…And as for the smoking gun that the Bush administration did not want to come in the form of a mushroom cloud, there was no nuclear weapons programme in Iraq in any way shape or form, nor had there been since it was dismantled in 1991. Cheney’s dissimilation of the facts surrounding Iraqi WMD serves as a distraction from the reality of the situation. Not only did the entire Bush administration know that the intelligence data about Iraqi WMD was fundamentally flawed prior to the invasion, but they also knew that it did not matter in the end. Bush was going to invade Iraq no matter what the facts proved.

Cheney defended the invasion and subsequent removal of Saddam from power by noting that “this was a bad actor and the country’s better off, the world’s better off with Saddam gone”. This is the argument of the intellectually feeble. It would be very difficult for anyone to articulate that life today is better in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra or any non-Kurdish city than it was under Saddam. Ask the average Iraqi adult female if she is better off today than she was under Saddam, and outside of a few select areas in Kurdistan, the answer will be a resounding “no”.

The occupation of Iraq by the United States is far more brutal, bloody and destructive than anything Saddam ever did during his reign. When one examines the record of the US military in Iraq in terms of private homes brutally invaded, families torn apart and civilians falsely imprisoned (the prison population in Iraq during the US occupation dwarfs that of Saddam’s regime), what is clear is that the only difference between the reign of terror inflicted on the Iraqi people today and under Saddam is that the US has been far less selective in applying terror than Saddam ever was.

You can throw shoes or buckets of reality at Cheney or Bush and they are sure to dodge both. Cheney waves his hand, conjures up his most condescending attitude and pronounce the facts as of little consequence or completely relative to one’s point of view. Facts take on a new meaning; they’re not things or events that exists in reality, they’re whatever Dick or George decides they are. Another reason to keep the kids away from the TV. They’ll learn from Republicans, usually advertised as the party of values, that the truth is an ever moving target and facts do not matter. Remember the ever present sculptor of truth in V for Vendetta, Adam Sutler(John Hurt). That character, a source of never ending propaganda seems like a rank amateur compared to Dick. Its a remarkable comment on our society that larger then life characters in a fantasy film are less outlandish then the leaders we have in real life.

Cheney Makes Scrooge Look Like a Saint, Throw a Shoe Be Tortured

Dick Cheney’s holiday spirit

Transcript: Cheney Defends Hard Line Tactics

KARL: Did you authorize the tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

CHENEY: I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn’t do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.

KARL: In hindsight, do you think any of those tactics that were used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others went too far?

CHENEY: I don’t.

In Cheney’s version of events he was just seating around the bunker pulling the wings off flys when some ‘agency’ came in and just, you know, ran the whole torture thing – the same thing the Japanese were prosecuted for after WWII – up the flag pole. Dick was simply ‘aware’ of the program, maybe waved his pom poms a little, but didn’t initiate anything. Oh and by the way Dick swears torture works as a way to protect America. The facts are, not surprisingly a little different. Pack of Liars

Yesterday’s bipartisan Senate report on the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere doesn’t just lay out a clear line of responsibility starting with President Bush, it also exposes the administration’s repeated explanation for what happened as a pack of lies.

[  ]…Bush signed a memo exempting war-on-terror detainees from the Geneva Conventions. “[T]he decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody,” the report states.

Torture was not a idea that appeared out of nowhere, nor was it the idea of a few low ranking soldiers in Iraq. It was Bush and Cheney’s policy to trash the Geneva Conventions. Not that there will ever be legal consequences, but that makes Dick guilty of war crimes. It is not just the opinion of the angry left that what happened in Abu Ghraib and other places was morally abhorrent, it was Bush’s then public opinion,

On June 1, 2004, he (Bush) told a reporter: “Obviously, it was a shameful moment when we saw on our TV screens that soldiers took it upon themselves to humiliate Iraqi prisoners — because it doesn’t reflect the nature of the American people, or the nature of the men and women in our uniform.

That was just a load, because Bush and Cheney have never had enough respect for the American people to think being honest or consistent in their public statements was of much consequence.

Pamela Hess writes for the Associated Press: “The physical and mental abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was the direct result of Bush administration detention policies and should not be dismissed as the work of bad guards or interrogators, according to a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee report concludes that harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA and the U.S. military were directly adapted from the training techniques used to prepare special forces personnel to resist interrogation by enemies that torture and abuse prisoners. The techniques included forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, and until 2003, waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning.”

Cheney also managed to mangle the sequence of events and the details of the administrations sweeping data mining operation. He claims that it was legal all along and that the FISA revisions reaffirmed that. No, on the contrary, the FISA revisions Cheney referred to were in fact a retroactive forgiveness of the administrations program – something the administration lobbied hard to pass because it was and continues to be legaly dubious.

They say what goes around comes around. The Iraqis have learned, as Bush and Cheney are very proud to claim, that torturing people is an integral and moral part of a democracy. So no wonder that the Iraqis have tortured the shoe thrower, Shoe Thrower Being Tortured?

Albaghdadia, the TV channel where the Iraqi Journalist Montather Al-Zeidi works, reports that an Iraqi MP (Ms. Zainab Al-Kanani) informed them that Montather’s hand was broken in jail.

This confirms a lot of reports and rumors about Montather being subject to torture while the Iraqi authorities are interrogating and detaining him in some unspecified location.

Bush had enough time to make the trip and Cheney has enough time to do propel administration propaganda. Too bad they don’t have time to intervene with Iraqi authorities on behave of  Montather Al-Zeidiact. Siun also notes,

I’ve checked the translation of this account with markfromireland of GorillasGuides who says this report sounds “about right” and is very credible. He also notes the reported injuries would be consistent with repeated severe kicking of Al Zaida.

The Iraqi government will probably claim that if its OK for Bush to torture, and Dick Cheney is damned proud of torturing, then its hypocritical to condemn them for following the example set by their ‘liberators’. Al-Zaidi is apparently going to be charged with “insulting the Iraqi state.”

This is the point where one is supposed to say that you have to admire their tenaciousness – from an Iraq war dead ender site called Strategy Page, Iraq Is Safer

December 15, 2008: This month, about 26 people a day are dying from criminal and terrorist violence a day in Iraq. That’s a bit lower than the death toll in northern Mexico, which on a bad day (like last November 3rd) saw 58 people killed.

Does this mean there is more reason to shock and awe Mexico then Iraq. It must mean there s no reason to have troops in Iraq if its safer then Mexico. If the Right decided to invade Mexico I just hope it goes better then the invasion of Iraq or they’re in for a world of hurt. They want to privatize everything so I’m sure they won’t mind paying for this next quagmire with their own private funds.

Will Hillary Follow Through On Campaign Pledge To Ban ‘Private Mercenaries’?

Back in February, Senator Hillary Clinton cosponsored legislation calling for the Secretary of State to ban the use of private contractors like Blackwater from guarding State Department employees — a position that takes on new significance now that she is Secretary Of State designate.

This isn’t something the SOS can do on their own, but they can fastrack such action. Its doubtful she will since as of today Obama wants to shift more troops to Afghanistan and draw down forces in Iraq according tot he SOFA timetable. Tough to do all that without keeping some Blackwater forces in Iraq.

Happy Holidays wallpaper

Thrown Shoes Don’t Shatter Bush’s Delusions

Bush Symbol

Mark Kleiman makes two good points about the shoe thrower. One he was an Egyptian, not an outraged Iraqi. Two, the Secret Service might want to recalculate their security procedures. That said one might consider the irony of the shoes toss, both misses. That is as close as Bush has come to any actual punishment for the worse economic collapse since the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of completely unnecessary deaths, illegal wire tapping, torture, using the Department of Justice as a political arm of the Republican party and a head spinning list of other outrages. Crime does pay. Go to an Ivy League school, become a Conservative, commit as many crimes as you like. Its not only a get out of jail free card, you get a pension and health-care. Bush wasn’t offended by the Arab shoe insult. To even understand it Bush would have to have a fully functional conscience, Bush On Al Qaeda Not Existing In Iraq Before Invasion: ‘So What?’

Yesterday, after an Iraqi journalist used “[t]wo of the worst insults in Islam” against him, an unfazed President Bush sat down with ABC’s Martha Raddatz for an exit interview in Iraq. When Raddatz asked Bush about his legacy, Bush first boasted about “52 months of uninterrupted job growth.” (There have been 1.9 million jobs lost in 2008 alone.)

Bush then turned to Iraq, and justified the war there by suggesting it had been al Qaeda’s home base. When Raddatz corrected him, Bush dismissively replied, “So what?“:

BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take–

RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that’s right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they’re going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.

Watch it: video at link

Continuing his refusal to take any responsibility for the consequences of his decisions, Bush suggests that al Qaeda came to Iraq by chance, that it simply “turn[ed] out to have been” the place where they “were going to take their stand.” But al Qaeda’s existence in Iraq is 100 percent attributable to Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq: al Qaeda never existed there before, and in fact, Saddam Hussein viewed Osama bin Laden as a threat and refused to support him.

States’ Funds for Jobless Are Drying Up

With unemployment claims reaching their highest levels in decades, states are running out of money to pay benefits, and some are turning to the federal government for loans or increasing taxes on businesses to make the payments.

Thirty states are at risk of having the funds that pay out unemployment benefits become insolvent over the next few months, according to the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. Funds in two states, Indiana and Michigan, have already dried up, and both states are borrowing from the federal government to make payments to the unemployed.

If everything Bush and his Republican Congressional lap dogs need was so great, if they are the group think to be trusted with our lives and our ecnomy, why do most Americans think we just had a few years of one giant cluster fu*k.

U.S. homes lose $2 trillion in value in ’08. I hope the people that think home values will bounce back to pre bubble levels are right, but they’re probably not. Houses were over valued to begin with. With mortagage companies buying and selling paper based on the incredible premise that home values would continue to increase forever. A Second Mortgage Disaster On The Horizon?

The trouble now is that the insanity didn’t end with sub-primes. There were two other kinds of exotic mortgages that became popular, called “Alt-A” and “option ARM.” The option ARMs, in particular, lured borrowers in with low initial interest rates – so-called teaser rates – sometimes as low as one percent. But after two, three or five years those rates “reset.” They went up. And so did the monthly payment. A mortgage of $800 dollars a month could easily jump to $1,500.

Now the Alt-A and option ARM loans made back in the heyday are starting to reset, causing the mortgage payments to go up and homeowners to default.

“The defaults right now are incredibly high. At unprecedented levels. And there’s no evidence that the default rate is tapering off. Those defaults almost inevitably are leading to foreclosures, and homes being auctioned, and home prices continuing to fall,” Tilson explains.

Republicans Discover The Relativity Law of Contracts

The Relativity Law of Contracts

Corporate lawyers and Republican lobbyist Rick Berman has put up a little political astro-turf site called “LaborPains” on which he has inconvertible proof ( the Google link shows lots of right-wing echoes of this absurdity) that unions are responsible for the collapse of the domestic auto industry. That proof consists of  pictures of stacks of documents. One with a can of cola and one with a ruler, so that viewers might see the proof for themselves. If the chemists that work in quality control at Coke-Cola used the same logic to do their jobs, Berman would be dead now. H/T to Oliver Willis –The Ultimate (This Week) In Conservative Straw-mannery

Autoworker wage and benefit differences

Hourly wages for United Auto Workers laborers at General Motors Corp. factories actually are almost equal to those paid by Toyota Motor Corp. at its older U.S. factories, according to the companies. GM says the average UAW laborer makes $29.78 per hour, while Toyota says it pays about $30 per hour.

The only reason that UAW workers cost more, when benefits are included is health-care costs. Japan has a largely, though not exclusively nationalized heath-care system.

DOJ blocking Obama transition team from reviewing documents on wiretapping and torture

According to the Blog of Legal Times, the Justice Department is blocking President-elect Obama’s agency review team’s request “to review classified legal opinions related to secret CIA and National Security Agency programs.” Included in these documents are the “legal rationale of the NSA’s warrantless spying program and the CIA’s detention and interrogation policies, among other intelligence initiatives.”

According to the DOJ, the agencies about which the documents pertain are reluctant to nad them over. Since Obama will be president and look at any documents he chooses to look at in about thrity days, that hardly makes sense.

Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat

Good Ship Unearned Wealth

Conservative ‘No-Bailout Alternative’ For Automakers Amounts To Union-Busting

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said yesterday on NPR that, in regards to an auto loan, “we’re not going to do it with the barnacles of unionism wrapped around their necks.”

First, it is worth pointing out that the UAW has already agreed to suspend the Jobs Bank, and delay automaker payments to a retiree health care fund. Furthermore, the union has implemented a plan to permanently shift retiree health costs into a UAW trust fund in 2010. Therefore, the second and third “concessions” that conservatives are demanding have, for all intents and purposes, already happened.

GM’s vice-president for labor relations had a compensation package worth almost 3 million dollars in 2006 and over 5 million in 2007. Auto workers wages for the Big 3 are already in line with American workers that work at Japanese and German plants. Maybe Demint and other Senate Republicans mean they want U.S. workers to make the same as some Toyota workers in Japan – some of whom barely make a living wage. Republicans would not compromise on waiting to cut wages until 2011 instead of 2009. Considering our current economic situation that hardly makes sense. Those workers are going to spend that money on goods and services – which would help the economy. These would be the same Republicans that oppose letting Bush’s tax cuts for the upper ten percent expire based on the belief that retaining tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans stimulates the economy. How spoon feeding the richest Americans and punishing working class Americans adds up is that magic Republican math. It doesn’t make sense, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) are clearly more intent on union busting then doing what is right for working families. In a way that’s OK. The bailout package could have been better and Republicans decided to be smart asses. They refused to engage in any constructive contribution to negotiations about the bailout with the White House or Democrats – that two page piece of trash was hardly made in good faith; the deal killer wasn’t lack of concessions from the UAW, or Democrats or automaker bond holders – it was union busting and small change for people that actually work for a living – something Jim DeMint certainly knows nothing about.

Note to Detroit Consider the Refrigerator

Refrigerators consume a lot of energy; all alone, they account for almost fifteen per cent of the average home’s electricity use. In the mid nineteen-seventies, California—the state Chu now lives in—set about establishing the country’s first refrigerator-efficiency standards. Refrigerator manufacturers, of course, fought them. The standards couldn’t be met, they said, at anything like a price consumers could afford. California imposed the standards anyway, and then what happened, as Chu observed, is that “the manufacturers had to assign the job to the engineers, instead of to the lobbyists.” The following decade, standards were imposed for refrigerators nationwide. Since then, the size of the average American refrigerator has increased by more than ten per cent, while the price, in inflation-adjusted dollars, has been cut in half. Meanwhile, energy use has dropped by two-thirds.

The Real Obama – A Centrist? No. A Transformer By Charles Krauthammer

Obama the centrist? I’m not so sure. Take the foreign policy team: Hillary Clinton, James Jones and Bush holdover Robert Gates. As centrist as you can get. But the choice was far less ideological than practical. Obama has no intention of being a foreign policy president. Unlike, say, Nixon or Reagan, he does not have aspirations abroad. He simply wants quiet on his eastern and western fronts so that he can proceed with what he really cares about — his domestic agenda.

At Chuck’s house they bring out the chicken, then the peas and then the mashed potatoes because he can’t handle all those things on his plate at the same time. Having lived in such a bubble for so long he doesn’t think anyone else can handle a full plate either. Chuck’s column was mostly substance-less tripe that was handed in this week to fulfill his contractual obligations, nothing to get really pissed off  about, but still, Why People Hate Columnists Posted by Joe Klein

Actually, my sense was that, prior to the financial crisis, Obama seemed far more interested–personally interested–in foreign policy, in rectifying the massive overseas failures of the Bush Administration, than he was in things like health insurance. Krauthammer–one of those one-idea-at-a-time ideologues–does some mad extrapolation here: because Obama will be a domestic activist, he won’t be a foreign policy activist. Bolshoi. After all, Obama has already said that he’ll give a major speech in an Islamic capital in his first 100 days–a speech that may, or may not, be as important as Reagan’s “Evil Empire” or Bush’s “Axis of Evil”

Chuck’s column wasn’t meaningless. He got to push the St. Ronnie nonsense and toss in come foreign policy voodoo history where Republicans are the gurus and the rest merely peasants. There isn’t enough kool-aid and twenty-five year Scotch in the world to make a realists believe that crap.

“Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat” ~ anonymous

Holiday Candle wallpaper

Honor Takes a Beating and The Liberal Judiciary Myth

Bush rewards domestic terrorist

As Hilzoy notes the Presidential Citizens Medal was intended to be bestowed upon citizens who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for the nation”. Bush celebrates Human Rights day by giving it to Chuck Colson,

“As special counsel to the president, he was Richard Nixon’s hard man, the “evil genius” of an evil administration. According to Watergate historian Stanley Kutler, Colson sought to hire Teamsters thugs to beat up anti-war demonstrators, and he plotted to raid or firebomb the Brookings Institution. He eventually pleaded guilty to scheming to defame Daniel Ellsberg and interfering with his trial. In 1974, Colson served seven months in federal prison.”

The late segregationist Strom Thurmond also received the Presidential Citizens Medal. So not the first time the medal’s intentions have been compromised. Though Colson, the domestic terrorist seems especially ironic post 9-11. In a recent memo to White House staff and his own proclamations Bush describes himself as being honorable. If he can’t recoqnize his own failings to be honorable little wonder that he can’t see the same failings in a fellow rabid ideoloque.

Former U.S. Contractor Alleges 9-Month Detention in Iraq

For months, he worked closely with American soldiers, ferreting out threats to the troops and forging a relationship with a key sheikh who went on to lead the Sunni awakening. But when this 52-year-old translator and veteran of the U.S. Army headed for his annual leave as a contractor in Iraq, he claims he was wrongfully imprisoned for nine months by American forces, with no access to a lawyer and no contact with his family for months.

The allegations are laid out in a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, recently filed in federal court in Washington where the former contractor for Titan, and a naturalized U.S. citizen, alleges that his due process rights were violated when he was detained and held in “torturous conditions.” “There was no justice in what happened to me,” the translator said in an exclusive hour-long phone interview with “There was no justice involved in it.”

What are you going to do when they come for you comes to mind. Here’s a U.S. citizen and veteran, one among several at this point, who would have never imgined that they would be held without the slightest of due process.

A Spy CEO for Obama By David Ignatius. The title got my attention. The DNI (Director of National Intelligence) thought by many to be an answer to pulling together the myriad intelligence gathering agencies has turned into just another bureaucracy. Does Ignatius have the answer?

Should the Obama administration continue the DNI structure? The answer is probably yes, because yet another reorganization would drive everyone bonkers. But what should this intelligence czar do? In a perfect world, he would be the Warren Buffett of intelligence.

David makes the case the DNI isn’t working, but do not try reorganizing. Kind of a head spinner. The idea that a super manager will make it work smacks of GM thinking.

I would add that the left-right slugfest — in which liberals stress accountability and conservatives emphasize performance — is wrong. The intelligence community needs more of both, urgently.

That just sounds so bipartisan he must be right. The problem seems to be that the effectiveness that David thinks the Right stands for has compromised national security by way of torture, illegal renditions and detentions. There cannot be effectiveness without accountability. People who might well be acting in what they believe are good faith are committing crimes in the name of every American. That tends to undermine any case we as a country make for democracy and justice. And spare me the crocodile tears for John Brennan.

Interesting statistic from this article considering the constant whining by the Right that the judiciary is too liberal, Liberal Legal Group Is Following New Administration’s Path to Power

Administrations are permitted to take politics into account when selecting judges and making political appointments. Under President Bush, the Federalist Society flourished; 46 percent of his appeals court judges had connections to the conservative network.

But the Justice Department’s inspector general found that officials also used such affiliations to make hiring decisions for career civil-service jobs, including blocking interviews with American Constitution Society members and soliciting the Federalist Society for recommendations.

That 46 only accounts for Right leaning appeals judges with connections to the Federalist Society. According to this article Conservatives make up a sizable majority of the federal bench,

Republican-appointed judges, most of them conservatives, are projected to make up about 62 percent of the bench next Inauguration Day, up from 50 percent when Mr. Bush took office. They control 10 of the 13 circuits, while judges appointed by Democrats have a dwindling majority on just one circuit.

The Inauguration Day referred to is the day President Obama takes office.