Miami Skyline wallpaper, The Clown in the Box Says Goodbye Suckers

Miami Skyline wallpaper

What Bush Left Out of His Flat Farewell

After watching the speech on the White House website, I understood why. It was flat and short. Bush said little of interest. He dwelled mostly on 9/11 and the so-called war on terror, once again (and for the last official time) characterizing the invasion of Iraq as part of his effort to take “the fight to the terrorists.” He suggested that although the Iraq war was the subject of “legitimate debate,” there “can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil.”

Was the nation’s safety ensured because Bush invaded Iraq and did not finish the fight in Afghanistan? No doubt, he and his ever-dwindling band of defenders will continue to insist that it is so–just as a rooster might insist there is a connection between his crowing and the rising of the sun. And Bush defended himself for having been “willing to make the tough decisions”–as if making hard choices is the same as making wise ones.

No doubt there will be more thorough analysis of Bush’s farewell over the next few days. One thing that has struck me in reading over the farewell interviews by Bush and Cheney over the last month has been the end of the speculation about who was the dunce and who was the mentor. It seems more a case of dumb and dumber. Bush and Cheney would switch roles on occasion just to liven up the routine, but neither our first MBA president nor his supposedly wise older mentor seem to have much on the ball. They, like all good smug propagandists keep the message very simple, usually untrue, and keep repeating it over and over. I’ll leave it to some sociology student with some free time to make a count of how many times between them, Bush and Dick have claimed to have saved us all from certain had we done without their stellar leadership – their lack of humility is responsibility for more then a few deaths, wounds, a failed economy and a laundry list of other disasters – reality will not deter them from stating otherwise. They’ll like a couple of charmless precocious children running around in capes using a nail spiked bat as a magic wand claiming the lights came on because of their magic skills. Bush and Cheney, as well as their dead end supporters are hoping for some magic. If they click their heels together and repeat the same bull over and over again, somehow their record will become a sweet little chapter in American history.

Bush clown in a box

Court Affirms Wiretapping Without Warrants

The ruling came in a case involving an unidentified company’s challenge to 2007 legislation that expanded the president’s legal power to conduct wiretapping without warrants for intelligence purposes.

But the ruling, handed down in August 2008 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review and made public Thursday, did not directly address whether President Bush was within his constitutional powers in ordering domestic wiretapping without warrants, without first getting Congressional approval, after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Even with some sloppy wordish in the rest of the article, one’s partisan tin foil has to be pretty thick to read this as vindication for Bush’s assertion that he and his pocketful of magic unitary powers can create legislation that supersedes the Constitution and laws written by Congress. A more complete analysis from The Anonymous Liberal, From the Department of Bad Legal Reporting

Let me repeat, nothing in this opinion is remotely relevant to or provides even the slightest bit of support for the Bush administration legal arguments used to justify the NSA program from 2001 to 2006, before the passage of the Protect America Act.

There are still other related issues left unresolved, such as Bush surveillance program pre PAA. Then there is some question as to whether Congress had the legal right to grant retroactive immunity to the telcoms.

The Turning Point How the Susan Crawford interview changes everything we know about torture.
By Dahlia Lithwick and Phillipe Sands

And Crawford is hardly the first high-ranking military official to use the word. Alberto J. Mora, former general counsel of the U.S. Navy, wrote in a letter to the Navy’s inspector general: “The interrogation techniques approved by the Secretary [of Defense] should not have been authorized because some (but not all) of them, whether applied singly or in combination, could produce effects reaching the level of torture.” The 84-page log of al-Qahtani’s interrogation has long been a matter of public record, and there is now little dispute that the treatment it describes rose to the level of torture. As described in Torture Team, London-based clinical psychiatrist and trauma specialist Dr. Abigail Seltzer studied the log and concluded that al-Qahtani had been tortured.

Anyone hoping for some trials and prosecutions for violating the very same crimes that America prosecuted the Japanese for, well the all so much wiser voices inside the beltway are waging a campaign to smear those that want trials and sell the let’s move on attitude. Establishment Washington Unifies Against Prosecutions

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius today does what he does best:  serve as the spokesman for the Washington establishment’s most conventional wisdom in a way that really illuminates what it is:

To underscore the message, Obama indicated that he would oppose retrospective investigations of wrongdoing by the CIA and other agencies, arguing: “When it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed [to] looking at what we got wrong in the past.” This is the kind of realism that will disappoint liberal score-settlers, but it makes clear that Obama has a grim appreciation of the dangers America still faces from al-Qaeda and its allies.

The word “liberal” has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last eight years.  All that has been necessary to qualify is a belief in such radical, exotic and fringe-leftist concepts as search warrants before the Government can eavesdrop on our communications; due process before the state can encage people for life; adherence to decades-old Geneva Conventions restrictions which post-World-War-II America led the way in implementing; and the need for an actual, imminent threat from another country before we bomb, invade, occupy and destroy it.

In the south most sheriffs have to run for office. I can’t imagine anyone one of them having a chance in hell if they ran on a platform of let’s just forget about past crimes and look to the future.

Cheney Brags About Torture Provides Zero Evidence it Works

Cheney toaster

From The 10 Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One)

3) On intelligence obtained through torture

Following his defense of the interrogation techniques authorized by the administration, Cheney continued: “Did it produce the desired results? I think it did. I think, for example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the number three man in al-Qaeda, the man who planned the attacks of 9/11, provided us with a wealth of information. There was a period of time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al-Qaeda came from that one source.”

THE LIE: With exquisite timing, Cheney’s bombastic pronouncements about the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and its supposed value coincided with the publication, in Vanity Fair, of an article by David Rose, in which a number of senior officials from both the FBI and the CIA directly refuted Cheney’s claims. The article, which is worth reading in its entirety, focused primarily on the torture of Abu Zubaydah, Binyam Mohamed and Jose Padilla (which I have discussed at length before), but there were also key insights into the torture of KSM. Although President Bush claimed that KSM had provided “many details of other plots to kill innocent Americans,” a former senior CIA official, who read all the interrogation reports from KSM’s torture in secret CIA custody, explained that “90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit,” and a former Pentagon analyst added, “KSM produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.”

In addition, Cheney’s claims about KSM were directly contradicted by Jack Cloonan, a senior FBI operative whose torture-free interrogation of al-Qaeda operatives in the years before 9/11 provides an object lesson in how the administration should have operated afterwards. Disputing the unspecified claims that, as Cheney put it, the interrogation of KSM had produced “a wealth of information,” Cloonan said, “The proponents of torture say, ‘Look at the body of information that has been obtained by these methods.‘ But if KSM and Abu Zubaydah did give up stuff, we would have heard the details.” Rose added that a former CIA officer asked, “Why can’t they say what the good stuff from Abu Zubaydah or KSM is? It’s not as if this is sensitive material from a secret, vulnerable source. You’re not blowing your source but validating your program. They say they can’t do this, even though five or six years have passed, because it’s a ‘continuing operation.’ But has it really taken so long to check it all out?”

However, what was probably the most damning opinion was offered by FBI director Robert Mueller:

I ask Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls “enhanced techniques”?

“I’m really reluctant to answer that,” Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: “I don’t believe that has been the case.”

Old Global Map and Compass wallpaper, Reversing Executive Orders and Getting Off the See-Saw

Old Global Map and Compass wallpaper

44 to reverse 43’s executive orders

Chris Lu, executive director of Obama’s transition team, told supporters in a conference call earlier this month that Obama’s aides have “started developing executive orders that the pres elect is considering –not only ones the President-elect will sign after January 20, but also ones we will want to repeal.”

Obama aides didn’t respond to requests for more detail, but the president-elect campaigned against what he called Bush’s abuse of executive authority.

“I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president, I actually respect the Constitution,” Obama told an audience at a campaign fundraiser in 2007.

On the list as everyone has probably heard by now, the closing of Guantanamo Bay and ending the abusive treatment of prisoners – excuse me – stopping “enhanced interrogation”. Obama also promises not to abuse executive signing statements, not to end them, but not to use them in the manner in which Bush used them to say in so many words that he wouldn’t obey laws he felt were inconvient. This is all been covered before during Obama’s campaign. Its good to hear that Obama is going to try and deleiver on those promises. Given that, Obama will, as the obnoxious spokesman from right leaning CATO was quick to point out will likely use as much executive power as possible to manage the economy. Regardless of what one may feel about presidential powers it general, short term there is probably little that can be done and in this instance our economic situation is dire enough that some extraordinary measures are neccssary. Obama isn’t likely to go so far as to undermine recent gains of his party. Long term it would be best if we got off the executive orders and presidential power see-saw. A subject that Garrett Epps gets into at The Atlantic, The Founders’ Great Mistake

For the past eight years, George W. Bush has treated the White House much as Kenneth Grahame’s Mr. Toad treated a new automobile—like a shiny toy to be wrecked by racing the motor, spinning smoke from the tires, and smashing through farmyards until the wheels come off. Bush got to the Oval Office despite having lost the popular vote, and he governed with a fine disdain for democratic and legal norms—stonewalling congressional oversight; detaining foreigners and U.S. citizens on his “inherent authority”; using the Justice Department as a political cudgel; ordering officials to ignore statutes and treaties that he found inconvenient; and persisting in actions, such as the Iraq War, that had come to be deeply unpopular in Congress and on Main Street.

Epps notes the Constitution goes far more into defining the powers of Congress then the executive – a must read. While modern Democratic presidents have pushed for executive power or refused to give up powers where previous presidents of both party’s have set precedents, Bush reached new heights of arrogance, all with the slimmest justifications. The founders probably never imagined the case where there would be so little resistance by Congress or the courts. They mistakenly assumed that Congress, even if the presidents and the legislative branch party were the same, what was legal and best would take priority over loyalty to partisan agenda. Jefferson and company never imagined the kind of recklessness and zealotry that the modern Conservative movement is capable. Matthew Yglesias thinks that moving to a parliamentary system where the executive is much less power isn’t practical – probably in the sense that he thinks we can’t move toward such a system – that doesn’t stop some of us from hoping. In a more practical and imminently doable vain is making Attorney General an elected office. Matt states the problem succinctly,

Not, of course, that I have any real hope that any of this will be done. The American public and political class are both strangely complacent about institutional issues. There’s a tendency to become really unhappy about political outcomes and processes, but to give almost no thought to the idea that changing the rules that govern our institutions might be a potent way to relieve this unhappiness. Instead, we believe that a change of personnel will eliminate our unease—that George W. Bush will “change the tone” or Barack Obama will restore hope.

Judging by Obama’s appointments to the legal side of his administration there is reason for some celebration, but they are at the end of the day a change in people, not a new way. Not the core changes that need to be made. Will Obama and this Congress have the vision, magnanimity and courage to make the changes that will get America off the the see-saw.

Is Pragmatism Overrated?

Last month, Obama campaign strategist Steve Hildebrand went so far as to publish a chiding message [8] to progressives who dared object to the president-elect’s Cabinet choices. “This is not a time for the left wing of our party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-elect Obama is making,” Hildebrand lectured, in full-throated Fox News indignation. He offered no indication of when, exactly, would be a more appropriate time for progressives to become involved in the political process.
Never mind that the largest problems facing the nation and the president-elect today could have been avoided [9] if progressives had not been similarly dismissed as unreasonable kooks during both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Progressive ideas about financial-industry deregulation, unrestrained “free trade,” climate change and, of course, Iraq were once considered rash but have all been proven correct.

There is a difference between trashing Obama about every other appointment he makes and holding him accountable. The MSM pundits have already decided that not the center, but the center-right is what America wants and what is best. Even though the center-left has an astonding track record of having been “proven correct”. Obama as said that he doesn’t want to live in the presidential bubble; since we should take his word over a babbling surrogate like Hildebrand there is no reason that those Americans that have been remarkably prescient about our foreign, economic  and environmental policies should stay out of the fray.

Black and White Horizon wallpaper, The Media Declares Crimes Shoudn’t be Prosecuted

Black and White Horizon wallpaper

Robert Parry does a piece on a WaPo news article that belonged, if not in the trash, at least in the editorial section,  WPost Again Flacks for Bush’s Crimes

Or the Post might have mentioned the opposition to torture from trained FBI interrogators who left the Guantanamo Bay prison in disgust over the illegality and ineffectiveness of the brutal interrogation tactics that had supplanted their own approach which they felt had been working.

They quote Dick Cheney as though he had jst offered up the Theory of Gravity,

“Those were programs that have been absolutely essential to maintaining our capacity to interfere with and defeat all further attacks against the United States,” Vice President Cheney said in an interview this week with CBS Radio. “If I had advice to give, it would be, before you start to implement your campaign rhetoric, you need to sit down and find out precisely what it is we did and how we did it, because it is going to be vital to keeping the nation safe and secure in the years ahead.”

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee 12 retired gemerals and admirals wrote about Alberto Gonzales,

Among his past actions that concern us most, Mr. Gonzales wrote to the President on January 25, 2002, advising him that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the conflict then underway in Afghanistan. More broadly, he wrote that the “war on terrorism” presents a “new paradigm [that] renders obsolete Geneva’s” protections.
The reasoning Mr. Gonzales advanced in this memo was rejected by many military leaders at the time, including Secretary of State Colin Powell who argued that abandoning the Geneva
Conventions would put our soldiers at greater risk, would “reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions,” and would “undermine the protections of the rule of law for our troops, both in this specific conflict [Afghanistan] and in general.” State Department adviser William H. Taft IV agreed that this decision “deprives our troops [in Afghanistan] of any claim to the protection of the Conventions in the event they are captured and weakens the protections afforded by the Conventions to our troops in future conflicts.”

How many American troops have been captured, tortured and killed because of  Bush’s policies. WaPo could not even be bothered to ask. Dick Cheney must know, Bush must know, because these two chicken-hawks are the premiere experts on all matters related to renditions, torture, and national security. How about asking if torture wasn’t used would that have ultimately been more effective. As Parry points out WaPo’s own achieve shows that not torturing Iraqis helped win Sunni support and helped capture Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Kid Curious

Obama Leaves Door Open (a Bit) On Prosecuting Bush Officials.

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: “We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to look at past practices. And I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.

The issue isn’t about low level CIA personnel following what they believed was a lawful order from the Decider Guy. Its what the administration and its lawyers like Gonzales, John Yoo and David Addington said and did. If as the beltway pontificates like Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas, who, in even worse fashion then WaPo in another opinion piece presented as news (Obama’s Cheney Dilemma) truly think that Obama shouldn’t hold investigations into Bush White House crimes because it might hurt an operative; that is what Congressional immunity is for. Stop pretending that it doesn’t exist or that the real issue is what a few agents did. The issue is George and Dick doing their best impression of paranoid adolescents drunk on Stalin-lite.

I don’t hate Joe Wurzelbacher. I don’t even hope he goes away. He is one the Right’s shinning examples of the unjustified belief passing for informed opinion. Shouting something loud enough and long enough, through the pixie dust of Conservative magic makes it true,

I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, “Well look at this atrocity,” well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.

Much of the media has been lax to irresponsible the last twenty years – thus the growth of blogs. Its Joe the former welfare recipient and anti-government zealot that says government is always bad and can never be trusted – that would be the same government that he wants to dispense the news as they see fit without the admittedly lame watchdogs we have now. So Joe’s been sipping some of that Stalin-lite brew himself. Poor Joe in his brew fogged stupor cannot tell the difference between holding the media accountable and doing away with an essential ingredient to having a democracy. A thorough Fisking of Roger Simon ( Joe is the new Hemingway?) and Joe here, America’s Newest Fun Family, The Idiots! and a brief, but accurate take from Jesse Taylor here, The Red Badge Of Plumbage

Lessons in Rational Thinking From the Worst Presidency in History

Lessons in Rational Thinking from The National Association of Conservative Rat Control

Via DK, About That War On Terror from a White House Press conference

Q The administration has been boasting about the success of the President’s war on terror, yet data compiled by the RAND Corporation show that the global rate of terrorism, as measured by the number of people killed per year, increased by almost fivefold during the Bush presidency. And according to the government’s own terrorism statistics, 2007 was the worst year ever, with over 22,000 people killed worldwide. Does the President consider that record a success?

MR. STANZEL: The President considers it very much a success that we have kept this nation safe since the devastating attacks of 9/11. The magnitude of the attacks on 9/11 were unprecedented, unseen, when 19 individuals armed with box cutters flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and were fought and died in a field in Pennsylvania.

We have taken the fight to the terrorists. It has been this President’s sole mission throughout his presidency to confront those threats where they are. He has a much talked about Bush Doctrine. The President has made it very clear that if you aid, abet, house, feed, fund a terrorist, you are just as guilty as the terrorist, and that we will also confront the challenges where they emerge so we don’t have to face them here at home. And we will work to spread an ideology of hope and freedom, which will be the ultimate tool in combating terrorism around the world.

So I’ll move on. Yes, go ahead —

Q But shouldn’t the anti-terrorism efforts reduce terrorism rather than increase it?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I guess you should ask the question, have terrorists — do terrorists continue to try to kill innocent civilians around the world? Yes, they do. Should we then just take a step back and decide, no, we shouldn’t confront those challenges?

Q But you can try a —

MR. STANZEL: I’m done, I’m going to move on.

Q — you can try a different tactic.

So following this logic, especially in light of Bush and his surrogates to comparing Iraq to WWII, if there would have been more Nazis and radical Japanese nationalists after WWII that would have been considered victory. A National Intelligence Estimate released in 2006 ,

A classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) contends that the war in Iraq has increased Islamic radicalism, and has made the terror threat around the world worse. Based on information from US government officials who had seen the document and spoke on condition of anyonymity, The New York Times reports that the NIE document, titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” says the war plays a much more direct role in the spread of Islamic radicalism around the world than has previously been indicated by the White House, or in a recent report by the US House intelligence committee.

The U.S. has also not been hit by a comet during the Bush presidency. Which will probably appear as another bullet on the Bush legacy resume as soon as some apologist thinks to add it.

Sleeper Bill of the Month Our Own Truth & Reconciliation Commission

It happens more often than you might think on Capitol Hill: a new bill is announced by a congressional office, with little fanfare and fewer co-sponsors than it deserves but a purpose so abundantly sensible that the plan cries out for more attention.

Such is the case with H.R. 104, a bill introduced on Tuesday by House judiciary committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and nine other lawmakers. The measure would set up a National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties, with subpoena power and a reported budget of around $3 million, to investigate issues ranging from detainee treatment to waterboarding to extraordinary rendition. The panel’s members would hail from outside the government and be appointed by the president and congressional leaders of both parties.

With only ten sponsors, not likely to go anywhere with some e-mails and faxes to your senators and representatives – especially Nancy Pelosi. It would be more then nice if those on Obama’s contact list for e-mail and Twitter would spread the word and start building some pressure.

Also from DK, contrary to the Wall Street Journal, Bill O’Fair and othe denizens of Wingnuttia most of the folks in Minnisota think Franken won and want him to be seated as Senator,

More great news for Norm Coleman, from our new Research 2000 poll conducted on Thursday and Friday for Daily Kos (MOE 4%):

Do you favor or oppose Norm Coleman’s legal challenge to Al Franken’s victory?
FAVOR: 34%
OPPOSE: 47%
NOT SURE: 19%

Do you think the Senate seat should remain vacant until Coleman’s lawsuit is resolved or do you think Al Franken should be provisionally seated pending the outcome of the election contest?
PROVISIONALLY SEAT: 47%
REMAIN VACANT: 37%
NOT SURE: 16%

So why do Minnesotans want to move on? Probably because by an overwhelming margin they think the recount process was fair:

Which statement best reflects your point of view? The recount process has been…
fair to both Norm Coleman and Al Franken: 63%
…mostly unfair to Norm Coleman: 17%
…mostly unfair to Al Franken: 12%
NOT SURE: 8%

Palin Must Have Majored in Melodrama

Vote Palin 2012

From the Right’s National Review about Sarah Palin’s interveiw with propgandist John Ziegler for his much antiipated boquet of revsionism “How Obama Got Elected” , “She Doesn’t Have a Well-Informed Worldview.”

Danielle may have a different point of view, but I think the correct answer to O’Reilly’s question is an emphatic “No.” However nastily and treacherously Palin’s media handlers may have behaved after the election, their only error during the election was to offer too much access to Palin, not too little. Those handlers faced a daunting problem: Their party’s nominee for vice president could not respond to questions without embarrassing herself. The handlers who kept Pain under wraps knew what they were doing. THad Palin refused all interviews during the campaign, there would have been some criticism, but it would have been forgotten by now.

Frum must be kidding. A candidate for vice-president of the U.S., and in this case, a candidate who would have been statistically more  likely to become president because of McCain’s age, would have been better off never answering question from the press. That historically unprecedented move would not have been forgotten by now whether McCain and Palin would have been elected or not. One could argue that keeping Palin from the press or only giving interviews to Sean Hannity would have made Obama/Biden margin of victory even greater. Most Americans would have a very difficult time voting for someone that is afraid of answering questions. Sure once you get into office, you can pull a Bush and have the lowest number of press conferences of any president, but you can’t close off a candidate running for office in a democracy. Though kudos to Frum for noticing the obvious,

She tells us she was a victim of sexism. She tells us she was a victim of class prejudice. She complains about her media treatment – then insists she never watched any of it. She deplores the unpleasant personal comments directed against herself, while offering up some equally unpleasant personal comments of her own. She repeatedly shades the truth in order to escape blame for her own mistakes. (She won’t for example let go of our claim that there was some insult to Alaska embedded in Katie Couric’s simple question: “What do you read?”)

This is from the Couric interview,

Couric: But he’s been in Congress for 26 years. He’s been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.

Palin: He’s also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he’s been talking about – the need to reform government.

Couric: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you’ve said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?

Palin: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.

Couric: I’m just going to ask you one more time – not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

Palin: I’ll try to find you some and I’ll bring them to you.

A Republican that ran against Palin recalled,

Palin is a master of the nonanswer. She can turn a 60-second response to a query about her specific solutions to healthcare challenges into a folksy story about how she’s met people on the campaign trail who face healthcare challenges. All without uttering a word about her public-policy solutions to healthcare challenges.

In one debate, a moderator asked the candidates to name a bill the legislature had recently passed that we didn’t like. I named one. Democratic candidate Tony Knowles named one. But Sarah Palin instead used her allotted time to criticize the incumbent governor, Frank Murkowski. Asked to name a bill we did like, the same pattern emerged: Palin didn’t name a bill.

And she is still doing it. Partly because the non-answer works for her base, but mostly because that is all she’s got. The press is cruel? How is asking Palin for one example of how McCain was a maverick cruel. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and believe she really does think Couric’s question was mean and unfair. The kind of non-answers that worked in getting her the governors mansion of state with a small population and a relatively easy budget to manage, didn’t work on the national stage. What does that say about how she perceives the world and reacts to events. Palin does know something about meanness, being a practitioner herself, Palin Laughs As Opponent Is Called “Bitch,” “Cancer,” Mocked For Her Weight (AUDIO). Palin and her defenders never mention the press that gave her soft questions and a free ride. Palin makes a good case study is how people get conned and how they keep getting the inept government they say they’re tired of. Professor Stephen Greenspan writes in this piece about how even very bright well educated people can fall for a con, How Bernard Madoff Made Off with My Money

While social feedback loops are an obvious contributor to understanding the success of Ponzi and other mass financial manias, one needs to also look at factors located in the dupes themselves that might help to explain why they fell prey to the social pressure while others did not. There are four factors in my explanatory model, which can be used to understand acts of gullibility but also other forms of what I term “foolish action.” A foolish (or stupid) act is one where someone goes ahead with a socially or physically risky behavior in spite of danger signs, or unresolved questions, which should have been a source of concern for the actor. Gullibility is a sub-type of foolish action, which might be termed “induced-social.” It is induced because it always occurs in the presence of pressure or deception by one or more other people. Social foolishness can also take a non-induced form, as when someone tells a very inappropriate joke that causes a job interview or sales meeting to end unsuccessfully. Foolishness can also take a “practical” (physical) form, as when someone lights up a cigarette in a closed car with a gas can in the back seat and ends up incinerating himself. As noted, the same four factors can be used to explain all foolish acts, but in the remainder of this paper I shall use them to explain Ponzi schemes, particularly the Madoff debacle.

The four factors are situation, cognition, personality and emotion. Obviously, individuals differ in the weights affecting any given gullible act. While I believe that all four factors contributed to most decisions to invest in the Madoff scheme, in some cases personality should be given more weight while in other cases emotion should be given more weight, and so on. As mentioned, I was a participant — and victim — of the Madoff scam, and have a pretty good understanding of the factors that caused me to behave foolishly. So I shall use myself as a case study to illustrate how even a well-educated (I’m a college professor) and relatively intelligent person, and an expert on gullibility and financial scams to boot, could fall prey to a hustler such as Madoff.

Invest with Bernie, vote for Sarah.

Were Troops Poisoned? Vets Demand KBR Come Clean on Toxins in Iraq

William A. Jacobson is not dumb, per his web blog –  Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, Ithaca, NY. That doesn’t mean that he’s not capable of having dumb thoughts, Support Sanjay Gupta Since Michael Moore Hates Him

I don’t know much about Gupta, other than that he makes a good appearance on television. But if Michael Moore hates him, Gupta must be an honest person and is worthy of consideration.

Gupta wouldn’t be my first choice, but if selected will probably do a commendable job as Surgeon General. Routing for Gupta because you don’t like someone that doesn’t like him is something I’d expect from a seven year old.

Berries and Snow wallpaper, Is Obama Gaming the Stimulus Plan, Bush the Sadistic Clown

Berries and Snow wallpaper

Senate Allies Fault Obama on Stimulus

Senate Democrats complained that major components of his plan were not bold enough and urged more focus on creating jobs and rebuilding the nation’s energy infrastructure rather than cutting taxes.

Digby’s take is that liberals like Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), among others, are pushing  a more traditional Democratic appraoch as a negoiating ploy – good cop no pandering for yet deeper iresponsible tax cuts, versus bad cop Obama who, at least says he wants a large tax cut to get Republicans on board. There probably is little need for all this, as Digby calls it Kabuki since Democrats have enough votes, plus a a couple of the more independent Republican votes to stick to his original plan to let the Bush cuts lapse for those making over 200k and giving the middle-class a small tax cut. If tax cuts were the best way to stimulate the economy we wouldn’t be having a massive hemmorgaing of jobs and home foreclosures.

“There is only one thing we have got to do in the stimulus, and that is how can we create jobs,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, as he left the meeting. “I am a little concerned by the way that Mr. Summers and others are going at this in that, to me, it still looks like a little more of this trickle-down, if we just put it in at the top, it’s going to trickle down. A number of people in there said, ‘Look, we have got to have programs that actually create jobs and put people to work.’ ”

We’re living in the end result of supply-side trckle down and it didn’t happen over night. It has left us with a near 10 trillion dollar debt and a busted economy. Now suddenly Republicans like John A. Boehner of (Ohio) that pushed as hard as they could to spend like “drunken sailors” ( via a quote from  Johnnie McCain) have discovered fiscal restriant. Just as many of us predicted they would if they lost more Congressional seats and the presidency. Its not a coincidence that Republicans have no economic plan. If Obama and Congressional Democrats decide to pander to Boehner and Blue Dog Dems the Obama stimulous with these huge tax cuts will not work. Which is what Boehner and the Right is hoping : Don’t Back Down on Jobs, President Obama

The only ameliorating effect compromise will have now is to placate the Republicans, who are suddenly getting religion on deficits in the middle of a huge economic crisis.  They shouldn’t be given a veto on the stimulus package.  The crisis belongs to them—and to their President— and asking their permission to fix it is political masochism.  Not to mention how dangerous compromise is to all the people who are losing jobs, homes, their health, and whose losses cause them to fall into a desperate economic spiral.

BNP goes go to read many obverers minds – Obama has one chance to get this right. If he jumps on the supply side blimp of never fulfilled promises, that’s it, good by Mr. One Term. Obama has been underestimated before, during the election and the promaries, in regards his tactics so maybe he has some moves going on that we can”t see. I hope so.

is Joe Klein trying to make up for being a Beltway water carrier for the last six years, The Bush Administration’s Most Despicable Act

“This is not the America I know,” President George W. Bush said after the first, horrifying pictures of U.S. troops torturing prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in April 2004. The President was not telling the truth. “This” was the America he had authorized on Feb. 7, 2002, when he signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention — the one regarding the treatment of enemy prisoners taken in wartime — did not apply…

There have been plenty of disgusting editorials defending Bush’s pro torture policies, but they never mention that line. Cheney has bragged about torture, but Bush could have only thought it best to deny it in terms of the entire country, if he thought it was at least morally dubious.

Bush the sadistic clown

Ala. Sheriff Arrested After Hearing On Skimping on Inmate Food

One after another, 10 prisoners told Clemon about receiving meals that are so small they are forced to buy additional snacks from a for-profit store jailers operated inside the lockup. Most of the inmates appeared thin, with baggy jail coveralls hanging off their frames.

…Inmates told of getting half an egg, a spoonful of oatmeal and one piece of toast most days for breakfast, served at 3 a.m. daily. Lunch is usually a handful of chips and two sandwiches with barely enough peanut butter to taste.

I think the inmates in Cool Hand Luke ate better then that.

Unka Karl made Up His Own Facts, Now He’s Manufacturing Myths

Unka Karl explains the way it wasn’t

Karl Rove and the Right have been making up their facts for so long its no surprise to see their Stalinesque attempt to make their actual legacy into a story book myth where they were but the poor beleaguered heroes,

Like most myths, this is entertaining but fictional. In reality, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were among the principal culprits of the housing crisis, and Mr. Bush wanted to rein them in before things got out of hand.

Rove assumes that everyone has recieved and memorized the Right’s talking points – Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and working class Americans were responsible for the housing and related financial crisis.

Because of this, the Bush administration warned in the budget it issued in April 2001 that Fannie and Freddie were too large and overleveraged. Their failure “could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting federally insured entities and economic activity” well beyond housing.

Then with a complianat Republican controlled Congress rushed to do….nothing. Once again Unka Karl is playing spinmiester. There is an alternative, Rove really doesn’t understand what happened. Which makes his assertions that Bush was well meaning, but powerless and bungling, though well intentioned yet another trip down the Conservative rabbit hole. The Rove-Bush circle of doublespeak is part of what has made Jon Stewart so successful. One of the most effective way to deal with such obvious loads of idocy regularly poured forth by the Right’s fact twisting is by ridicule. Karl Rove’s Factually Challenged Housing Revisionism

3. Democrats controlled the Congressional Debate on GSEs: Rove somehow fails to note the GOP controlled Congress from 1994-2006, including the first 6 years of the Bush Presidency. If the President wanted to rein in the GSEs, he needed only make it a major priority, and not a footnote in the 2001 budget.

Karl has backed himself into a corner. Bush was smart, but not up to confronting the mortgage giants while at the same time was the Oval Office Savior that kept us all from being murdered in our beds by terrorists. Bush went for six years without vetoing a bill – not coiicidently, bills that were largely shaped by the White House – so Karl’s case is that Bush always acted with those hellish good intentions, but wasn’t able to push legilation through a subservient Congress. Unless you are an abject kool-air drinker, grasping for any rationalization, Karl is losing his touch – Bush comes out the maladroit and malicious emperor. Private sector loans, not Fannie or Freddie, triggered crisis

Federal Reserve Board data show that:

* More than 84 percent of the subprime mortgages in 2006 were issued by private lending institutions.

* Private firms made nearly 83 percent of the subprime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers that year.

* Only one of the top 25 subprime lenders in 2006 was directly subject to the housing law that’s being lambasted by conservative critics.

[  ]…Between 2004 and 2006, when subprime lending was exploding, Fannie and Freddie went from holding a high of 48 percent of the subprime loans that were sold into the secondary market to holding about 24 percent, according to data from Inside Mortgage Finance, a specialty publication. One reason is that Fannie and Freddie were subject to tougher standards than many of the unregulated players in the private sector who weakened lending standards, most of whom have gone bankrupt or are now in deep trouble.

During those same explosive three years, private investment banks — not Fannie and Freddie — dominated the mortgage loans that were packaged and sold into the secondary mortgage market. In 2005 and 2006, the private sector securitized almost two thirds of all U.S. mortgages, supplanting Fannie and Freddie, according to a number of specialty publications that track this data.

In 1999, the year many critics charge that the Clinton administration pressured Fannie and Freddie, the private sector sold into the secondary market just 18 percent of all mortgages.

Depending on which way the wind is blowing, according to the Right, America is a strongly Right leaning country that has rejected liberalism, or like today we have Karl making the case that liberals are all powerful; so powerful in fact that liberals stopped Bush and a Republican Congress from enacting a few banking regulations. Bush Administration Weakened Lending Rules Before Crash. Bush didn’t push for regulation and tried to stop it. This is not to say that a few Republican senators didn’t see the train coming. There were even a few of Bush’s own advisers that sounded the alarm, but it would probably take some of that “enhanced interorgation” to get Karl to admit it.

President-elect Obama. The not so good news first, Obama Is Reported Set to Revise Counterterrorism Efforts

Democrats close to the transition said Mr. Obama’s choice for that job was John O. Brennan, a longtime C.I.A. veteran who was the front-runner to head the spy agency until withdrawing in November amid criticism of his views on interrogation and detention policies. His appointment would not require Senate confirmation.

There are worse then Brennen, but it would be nice if he’d just retire. Teach part-time, write a book, just stay out of the Obama administration. The only thing that would in some way soften the impact of a Brennen appointment is that he’ll report to Gen. James L. Jones – who is on record as being against “enhanced interrogation” and secret renditions. The good news, Obama to Name Lawyer Friend To Regulatory Affairs Position

Obama talked on the campaign trail about the need to revamp the nation’s regulatory structure, especially in housing and finance, areas in which lapses contributed to the current economic crisis.

In his new position, Sunstein will oversee reform of regulations, seeking to find smarter approaches and better results in health, environment and other domestic areas, a transition source said.

Sunstein wrote Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness.

Ferns and Trees Autumn wallpaper and a Morning News Roundup

Ferns and Trees Autumn wallpaper

The Right called and some still call President-elect Obama a “socialist”. Actual socialists seem to feel differently,  Many Islanders Expect Better Relationship With U.S. Under New President

Vicente González says that although Barack Obama is no Karl Marx — “he is a capitalist and likely an imperialist” — he has high hopes that the new president could begin to warm the relationship between Cuba and the United States, which remains frozen in a Cold War time warp. “It is time,” the Havana barber said, perhaps unwittingly repeating the Obama slogan, “for a change.”

Currently Cuban-Americans may only visit Cuban relatives once evry three years and Bush also tightened the amount of money that could be sent to Cuban relatives. Its a cartoon foreign policy brought to life. especially since there are relatively easy ways to circumvent those restrictions. probably not at the top of Obama’s list of priorities, but hopefully he will end the silliness as soon as is practical.

During the elections Politico suddenly didn’t completely suck. They seem to be sinking back into suckiness, ‘Senator’ Biden’s trip raises concerns by Carol E. Lee

Joe Biden has always had a flair for doing things differently – but his upcoming trip to South Asia may set a new standard.

The vice president-elect will be traveling to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But he won’t really be traveling as the vice president-elect – he’ll be traveling as the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Only he’ll be resigning from the Senate in a few weeks. Even though he was sworn in Tuesday for his seventh term.

Got that?

Thank goodness that M’s Lee found the time to sort out the complexities of still Senator Biden, but also still Vice-president-elect Biden. As a Senator traveling with  Senator John Kerry (D-Mass), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Susan Collins (R- Maine) on a fact finding mission, foreign leaders, all of whom are complete dolts will be in a near catatonic state trying to figure out how to talk to a group of senators, one of whom will be vice-president in a week and the others who might retire some day and open a deli. Odd how Politico finds this all so confusing and James Rosen at McClatchy doesn’t. Could it be that Biden and these other Senators are anxious to make some headway in a part of the world that Bush allowed to fall into near chaos.

This was odd news considering that George Soros figures prominently in right-wing conspiracy theories about the vast liberal conspiracy, and Micheal Dell is, or was the last I heard a Republican – Failed IndyMac Sold For $13.9 Billion

The investors have formed a partnership, called IMB Management Holdings LP, that includes Dell Inc. founder Michael Dell’s investment firm, MSD Capital.

Once the deal closes, the investment group would pour $1.3 billion in new capital into IndyMac and continue to operate the Pasadena, Calif-based bank, the FDIC says.

“We have assembled a group of experienced private investors in financial services to acquire the former IndyMac and operate it under new management with extensive banking experience,” Mnuchin said in a statement. “We will inject significant private capital into IndyMac so that it can once again effectively serve its customers and communities.”

Other investors in the partnership include five private equity firms or hedge funds: J.C. Flowers & Co.; Stone Point Capital; Paulson & Co.; a fund controlled by billionaire George Soros’ Fund Management; and a fund controlled by Silar Advisors LP.

The Right obviously takes Ann Coulter very seriously as a spokesperson for their world view. Liberals and independents should be thankful. She is certainly a very visible part of the Conservative brand along with some other zealots, but ironically no liberal could damage the Republican brand the way the Coulters and other right-wing spokes persons can, After penning book blasting “the way liberals use victimhood,” Coulter portrayed herself as victim of an NBC “setup”

Among the purported “real victims” Coulter cited were President Bush, former Sen. Joseph McCarthy, former Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork, and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Moments later, Smith added: “[Y]ou should have a cross. You should put yourself up on a cross.” Coulter responded: “No, but I’m not citing me. I’m citing the real victims whom I’m defending and demanding that this perpetual-motion machine of the liberal-victimization machine, playing victim while oppressing others, the millions of illegitimate children born every year, the people who are mugged by the millions of illegitimate children every year. They are the genuine victims.”

So Sarah Palin’s new grand child is nothing but another mugger? The alcoholic draft avoiding son of a multi-millionaire dynasty is a victim? The alcoholic modern era witch hunter ego maniac Joe McCarthy was a victim?  McCarthy was brought down in large part by a Republican president named Eisenhower,

Eisenhower quietly exerted pressure on Republican senators to go forward with a censure of McCarthy. In December 1954, the Wisconsin senator was condemned for conduct unbecoming a Senator.

The Republican party has moved so far to the Right that by today’s standards Eisenhower probably could pass for a liberal.