Saturday, January 05, 2008

Democrats on the TV: The New Hampshire Debate

By Creature

[Updated with blog reactions below.]

Holy cow, the stage is empty. I'm going to miss Joe Biden. Waiting for punches... still waiting... Chelsea's in the audience, she did not get a good seat. Hillary left herself open by saying we were distracted from Osama. Will Obama pounce? He does: Iraq is the reason we were distracted. And who voted for Iraq? Say it... say it... nope. He's playing the front-runner role. Bill Richardson needs to fix his tie. Hillary's making a play for the independent vote. Hillary: Obama could debate himself. Does he have hairy palms too? Hillary's game plan: attack Obama as a flip-flopper. Interesting. Edwards' game plan: Barack and I are change, Hillary's the status quo. He's going after her hard. Hillary's getting way too loud about change. Yikes. Richardson's game plan: experience should count, hey, look at me. Love Edwards on the war: It's an occupation, stupid. Commercial break. Moving on...

Yes, Hillary, finally: a women president would be a huge change. If only you hadn't tried to be so manly over war. Obama: we know the GOP playbook, ignore the politicians and attract their disillusioned voters. Richardson, dude, stop tapping on the table. Edwards, dude, lay off on the liver girl story. Just noticed the seating. Barack and Edwards together on one side working against Hillary. Richardson with Hillary on the other trying to be her VP. Hillary, we get it, 35 years of change. Jeez, let up. You will never be the agent of change. Obama: words do matter, words do motivate. Edwards' fire works for me. Did I mention Chelsea's in audience? I may have a crush on her. Hillary does well when she acts girlie.

Whew, it's over. They all did well. If I had to pick a winner I give it to Edwards. Hillary takes second place, though she did go a bit overboard with the change. Policy-wise, they all speak my language. Night and day from the GOP.

Update: Nedra Pickler, writing for AP, picks up on Hillary's paint-Obama-as-a-flip-flopper strategy.

Update II: Marshall reacts. So does Marsh, Cilliza, and Gandelman.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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"A melody softly soaring through my atmosphere"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The Reaction has been providing extensive coverage of the Iowa caucuses and their aftermath -- and I must send out a huge thank you to the co-bloggers for some fantastic posts -- but here's a brief musical interlude before we return to those ever-so-important political matters at hand:

"Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie.

'Cause in my head there's a greyhound station
Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations
So they may have a chance of finding a place
Where they’re far more suited than here

It's not my favourite DCC song -- that would be "Transatlanticism" -- but it's up there, a fine song by a great band. (For more, see here. The lyrics to this song, including the brilliant lines quoted above, are here. As with much of the music I've come to love, I was introduced to DCC at Radio Paradise.)


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Last thoughts on Iowa and first thoughts on Obamania

By Libby Spencer

With New Hampshire coming on fast, I posted my last thoughts on Iowa at Newshoggers today. In a nutshell, I still think the real story is that Obama is energizing a subset of voters that haven't been engaged in the process until now. I appreciate that and find it somewhat hopeful but I'm just not excited by Obama any more than I was last week, nor am I particularly enthusiastic about any of the frontrunners. In the final accounting, they're all just professional politicians and not really the kind of leader we need.

Obama may well ride this wave of excitement into the White House and that will surely be an improvement over what we have right now but I just don't see him as an agent of any real change. My fear is that he will fail to live up to his new found supporters' high expectations and all we'll end up with is a whole new class of disgruntled and cynical voters who will drop back out of the process rather than be fooled again.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Military voices

By Carol Gee

Despite a looming New Hampshire presidential primary, there are other things going on in the world that are newsworthy. We are still losing soldiers in Iraq.

-- This photo was taken for the Army by Spc. Christa Martin in 2006. The subject of it is the training Iraqi soldiers, which was the specialty of Army blogger Andy Olmsted, who lost his life on January 3, the day of the Iowa caucuses. He was the first casualty in 2008.

"Rocky Mountain Blogger Major Andrew Olmsted Killed in Iraq" (from the Rocky Mountain News) was included at the Memeorandum website this morning. The story was rich and well-written and included a wonderful photo of Major Olmsted. His final post was put up for him at the Major's request after his death by "hilzoy" of Obsidian Wings. Please take the time to read this amazing and heart-rending post. To quote Hilzoy,

Andy was a wonderful person: decent, honorable, generous, principled, courageous, sweet, and very funny. The world has a horrible hole in it that nothing can fill. I'm glad Andy -- generous as always -- wrote something for me to publish now, since I have no words at all. Beyond: Andy, I will miss you.

UPDATE: Somehow, I thought that given Andy's wish that his death not be politicized, people would refrain from political rants. Most of you have, for which I thank you. Anyone who does not respect his wishes, in this thread, will have his or her comment deleted.

The Department of Defense announced the death of Major Olmsted and his companion, Cpt. Thomas J. Casey, 32, of Albuquerque, N.M. in a news release here. Casey's Albuquerque story is in that town's ABQJournal. Casey's wife and children had lived mostly in Reno, Nevada.

The DoD website also features a Bloggers' Roundtable. "Chap" at Milblogs posted today about these two military men at the Mudville Gazette.

"Worth returning to from time to time," is how "lapopessa" titled her February post of last year, which I kept up in my Bloglines feed. Thanks to her for this link that is now so very timely: Fight to Survive -- (most recent post by Jeff Englehart on 12/27/07) The site's Intro explains who they are:

The E-4 Mafia was a group of soldiers deployed in Iraq between January of 2004 and March of 2005. The posts from this period are an expression of our raw emotions and thoughts while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Since being honorably discharged in the summer of 2005, we've continued to post additional journal entries, poetry, and reflections from our time served and our current lives as veterans as we continue our Fight to Survive.

This post is not about politics today, out of my deep respect for the wishes of fellow blogger, Andy Olmsted. It is intended to be about true patriotism, about genuine perspective, and about admiration for beautiful writing. We are poorer for the loss of these two good men. Take some time to read read and explore their stories; I cannot think of a better way to honor and support our military men and women at the beginning of this new year.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Second impression on Iowa

By Libby Spencer

[Posted yesterday] I just put in 32 hours at work in three days, which has been quite a shock after these last few weeks of leisure, so I'm tired and I don't have much to say about Iowa. I got up early this morning and posted my first impression at Newshoggers and I don't have a whole lot to add tonight.

I haven't had time to read many reactions but scanning the headlines tells me I'm not the only one who didn't think Obama's youth corps was going to come through and people are alternately fascinated and enamored. Me, I'm no big fan of Obama. I'm not sure I trust him but I love that his base turned out. We need the young people and the new voters to get involved if we're going to change anything. But it remains to be seen if they're in for the long haul. So I'm a bit puzzled about all these pronouncements of Hillary's demise. I believe they're a bit premature.

As is the major meltdown among the GOP fringenuts about Huckabee's ascendence from obscurity. I do have to admit to my moment of Huckenfreude over their discomfort but get a grip. As I said at Newshoggers, as far as I can see this race is still wide open on both sides.

The only thing that really matters about Iowa is the extraordinary turnout of voters.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Karl Rove: “Be prepared! Find the bastards. And pile on!”

By J. Thomas Duffy

Was it coincidence or conspicuous of Vanity Fair, to have their February 2008 Proust Questionnaire be our favorite Etch-A-Sketcher, Karl Rove

He, of election infamy and New Math on the eve of the Iowa Caucus?

They did frame it properly, in the first sentence of the introduction;

"A principal architect of the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush ..."

Fairly mundane responses from the Turd Blossom, until the final question - "What is your motto?";

I like the one that used to be the motto on the unit coin of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Blackhorse: “Be prepared! Find the bastards. And pile on!”

Pile on, indeed ...

And it appears the conservatives are beginning to do that

Andrew Sullivan, perhaps not the first, but likely what will become a reoccurring theme as the 2008 Elections move on, writing late last night, on how the Iowa Caucus-goers defined their politics, hung one on Rove;

"One is a national party; the other is on its way to being an ideological church. The damage Bush and Rove have done - revealed in 2006 - is now inescapable."

May the piling on continue, be it the corruption of the Justice Department, the firing of the U.S. Attorneys, the Siegalman Case, or the bevy of other evil doings Rove brought on.

It should end up being a very large pile ...

Bonus Links

The Infamous Proust Questionnaire

Le Questionnaire de Proust


(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Loser Chic

By Capt. Fogg

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike Straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

-Gwendolyn Brooks-

t's not so much that Frantz Leger acts like an asshole; it's more that nobody really wants to look at his bare ass while they're eating. Frantz, a 20 year old college student, was arrested the other day at a nearby mall that had banned him for repeatedly grossing out the paying food court customers by parading around with his baggy pants halfway to his knees and baring his buttocks to the breeze. Naturally, he thinks it's about race. That's what he told the cops.

Is this the pathetic moon shadow of what started as a youth movement 40 odd years ago? Annoying our gray flannel, close cropped, buttoned down elders was the byproduct of a Liberal political and cultural movement as well as a change in sartorial viewpoint that appears to have been permanent. That wasn't a new idea. It must have been equally as astonishing when kids stopped wearing ruffled collars and leggings and switched to black suits , but that was slightly before my time. Still, these were statements and strong statements; powdered wigs are so out, man. Questioning old values and assuming new ones is usually a mark of progress, but not all change is progress, or the product of enlightenment.

Facial tattoos, bits of metal run through eyebrows and noses and lips and worse; an anus in the face in a public place. Is this part of a natural progression where generations reject the axioms of their elders, or is this the latest devolution of a society in which "fuck you" is not only a motto, but the only discernible theme?

Damned if I know, but pointless provocation as a goal in itself, is an admission that one and one's peers have nothing further to say but to display the finger of speech. It's no longer a rejection of the politics, music and culture of the past; at least not a rejection that offers a replacement, unless you consider consumerism, ignorance, gangs, violence and rectal displays to be such.

Still, sending 20 deputies, a helicopter and canine units to arrest some brainless bozo looking for attention through staged victimhood is not a solution, but rather a way to give some meaning to the empty egotistical provocation; to play into the hands of those trying to create a racial incident out of a proctological display. There's really only one way to deal with it and that's the way America dealt with hippies back in the day. When most of us remember hippies, we remember affluent suburban kids with long hair who bought their beads and sandals at Sears and watched Hootenanny on TV. They were flotsam in the wake of the real, but moribund thing. They were the death of it all, not the crest of a wave.

You guessed it, that's just what I'm suggesting. Stores from The Gap to Dolce & Gabbana to Old Navy have to start selling baggy pants with sewn in boxer shorts and we've got to jump on the bare ass band wagon en mode de parade until America has more moons showing than the rest of the solar system. It's the only way and only you can take back America. OK, you Northern people can wait for spring. I'm not heartless.

Cross posted from Human Voices


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All hail the Obama buzz

By Creature

Three articles. Three ledes. A legend is born.

[Thursday night Obama took a] "big step," [he] "swept to victory," [his win was] "historic," [his campaign] "caught fire," [the guy took a] "major stride," [yes, it was an] "historic bid," [sure, the man] "rolled to victory," [dude, he] "swept past" [her], [while] "pushing" [her away]."

Now that's some good press.

Bottom line for NH (and beyond): if Hillary goes negative, as Bill suggests, she will be finished. I'm not saying negative ads don't work. I'm not saying whisper campaigns don't work. I am saying, Hillary raining on Obama's coronation won't work. This is bigger than Hillary. Gasp.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thoughts on Iowa

By Carl

There's yet another Clinton hit piece in the
New York Times today. Given how the Times has been in the back pocket of the Republican party for close to ten years now, it's understandable.

Here's what I think about the Iowa results.

Obama ran a fine campaign. So did Edwards. But it was going to come down to those two under any circumstances: Edwards has campaigned there since 2006....remember, he was part of the elite luxury idle rich...and Obama comes from a neighboring state. Hillary never really stood a chance in a state that's as close to red without actually being red, and still has strong animosity towards her husband.

For her part, Hillary could probably have run a stronger campaign, and not made some of the costly errors that she did, most notably the cocaine attack (she should have had surrogates raise the issue that couldn't be so easily traced back to her). That coke use is going to be an issue in the general election should Obama win (or be the VP candidate). Make no mistake about it, and there is a significant part of the population that simply won't vote for someone who's done drugs, particularly one with the criminal trappings that cocaine has.

This is why Bush had worked so hard to cover up his coke use. You or I might not care, but in a country where recent elections have been decided by miniscule vote differentials, that one issue might be enough to prevent him from winning.

We have a slamdunk in front of us. We shouldn't be wasting the opportunity on someone who made "youthful indiscretions" beyond getting a little frisky in the backseat of a car at the drive-in. I'm sorry.

The surprising margin of victory should give us all pause. I suspect the Oprah factor was more important than many allowed, but I haven't really looked at exit polls to be sure of this. Clearly, when every major polling organization has a statistical dead heat in a race where the winner walks away with nearly ten percent more, those agencies ought to look at either their methodology or whether the vote count was accurate.

I'm not saying, I'm just sayin' it doesn't have to just be Republicans that steal elections, altho a head count of people standing around (what a dumb way to run a party!) would be pretty hard to fake...even if I can think of four ways off the top of my head that might work.

So Obama won. Now what?

Well, New Hampshire becomes a bit more important to the Clinton campaign. She should do extremely well there, likely a winner. South Carolina might go for Edwards, but Obama's surprising strength in Iowa will energize Democrats there, and so that race now becomes a toss-up as well. Clinton can outlast Edwards (who has like zero dollars in the bank).

None of these states really matters in the long run, however, except for the media exposure a win brings. SuperDuper Tuesday is the prize, and that's the strategy Rudy! Giuliani has rolled the dice with: make it past these pisher early states (although he has to win one of the next three primaries), and reap the rewards of being a media darling. Clinton's strategy takes the same form, altho my guess is she could lose New Hampshire and still win the nomination on the 5th.

Obla di, obla da

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Rachel Maddow: Hillary Apologist and Obama Basher

By J. Thomas Duffy

"...I see a lot of shades of George Bush as a candidate in what we’re hearing from Obama ... I think that Obama learned a little bit about how to campaign from what George Bush did. I hope that he would be, of course, a better president than Bush has been though ..."

Who's paying Rachel Maddow's salary, MSNBC, Air America Radio, or the Hillary Clinton Campaign?

The Liberal/Progressive's rising media darling was wearing her Hillary on her sleeve last evening, late into the coverage as a panel member on the MSNBC broadcast of the post-Iowa Caucus discussions.

When you Google "Rachel Maddow", you (or at least my search provided) get 192,000 results.

Looking over the first 100, there's nary a negative word about Ms. Maddow, not even from the Freakshow denizens, Dittoheads, or the Sludge Reports' flying monkies.

And if she is a Hillary fan and supporter, God bless her, but was it part of her assignment with MSNBC last evening to bash Dem Iowa Caucus winner Barack Obama?

Rachel Maddow as Obama Basher

From the MSNBC transcript;

OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow, the subject of strong views. Did not the strong views get us the president we have as well? Is there not fire to be played with in that category.

MADDOW: Well, it’s interesting. I actually feel like although I like Obama a lot more than I like George Bush as a politician and I guess probably as a person, I see a lot of shades of George Bush as a candidate in what we’re hearing from Obama. In that what Obama’s actually offering are fairly liberal policies, but spoken in language and delivered in a style that’s very moderate and that’s actually kind of post partisan in tone.

We don’t think of George Bush’s presidency as having been that way. But as a candidate, that’s exactly what he was. He was proposing very conservative policies, but in a conciliatory, compassionate, post partisan, can’t we all just get along kind of way. And that’s why people I think maybe ended up surprised at the way he governed. I think that Obama learned a little bit about how to campaign from what George Bush did. I hope that he would be, of course, a better president than Bush has been though.

Whoa, there girl!

Obama is Bush?

If fellow panel member Pat Buchanan said it, you would, well, brush it off, knowing what a whack-job Buchanan is.

And even being cautious about over-praise, being it was only one night, one event, but tying Obama to Bush?

Did the Hillary Campaign hack into her earpiece? Was she reading off the next morning's Hillary Campaign Talking Points?

Because, before she bashed Obama, you could see the hair on her neck rising, when host Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and other panel members were talking in tones of Hillary being finished.

Rachel, The Hillary Apologist

MATTHEWS: This country moves in a strange pattern. In 1870, we gave African-Americans, men, the right to vote, at least in the Constitution. Obviously Jim Crowe got in the way of that for 100 years. But it was written down into law, the amendment to our Constitution, African-Americans, former slaves, will be voting citizens of the United States.

Women got to vote, which is always interesting, 50 years later. So there’s something perhaps primordial about the willingness of this country to at least, in theory, extend the franchise, the presidency, even, to an African-American rather than a woman. That is the interesting question mark that this Hillary Clinton campaign raises.

Let’s go to the panel with this hot potato, starting with Rachel Maddow.

Rachel, and then Howard, I want you, and Pat, and, of course, Gene Robinson, all of you from your different perspectives, what is it about America that here we are in 2008, finally picking an African-American with a real shot to be president of the United States, and a woman just got a very bad night in Iowa?


MADDOW: I think that you’re calling this a really bad night for Hillary too early. I think that we need to see how close it’s going to be. And if ultimately the results are a three-way tie or look close to it, or Barack Obama wins tightly, that’s a story. I think it matters.

I don’t see this as a huge rejection of Hillary if she doesn’t come in with a big win, honestly. I know you see it differently.

MATTHEWS: You mean, the fact that two-thirds of the Democratic Party voted against her isn’t a rejection?

MADDOW: Two-thirds of the Democratic Party will have voted against all of the candidates if it comes in as a three-way tie, Chris. That’s the point.

The issue, if it comes out it’s a really close race, it’s going to be close heading into New Hampshire as well. And I think we discount that at our peril.

If Barack Obama, as you guys are projecting is going to be the winner, I think that’s the America we all want to live in. I think it’s an amazing day for the country and it’s great. I don’t know if it means that he gets the nomination ultimately, but it’s an exciting, historic day for the country.

OLBERMANN: Let me throw something in from the decision desk. Edwards and Clinton are in, just apropos what you’re saying, Rachel, a very tight race for second in the race for the state Democratic delegate equivalent. Those are the numbers we’re seeing so far.

And again, NBC News has projected, as you heard, Barack Obama as the winner of this Iowa caucus at 36 percent. Those other numbers are as close as you would suggest they would be, 31 percent and 31 percent.

MATTHEWS: But Howard—well, Rachel, I’ll go back to you so you can have a response here.

From the beginning of this year in the polling we’ve noticed that Hillary has been ahead of Obama all year. So she can’t claim to be somehow a comeback kid or someone who, you know, somehow never had a chance. She had a big chance in Iowa and she’s lucky to get second.

MADDOW: No, I think it may be a more comfortable place for her to be running from, to be able to say, I’m fighting for this, and to maybe play the gender card in a big way, to say we have got to fight in order to get a woman in the White House in a way that she couldn’t have played that way had she been in an inevitable front-runner. So, I mean, I think it’ll be real interesting to see how the Clinton campaign responds to this. They’re going to have to come up with something creative, but it’s not the worst position for her to be in.

Funny, I missed the PR this morning, from the Hillary camp, telling us how thrilled they are, going into New Hampshire in five days, from a third-place finish in Iowa.

And I didn't see Big Bill, on camera, extolling how coming in third-place in Iowa was the best strategic way for his wife to start off on getting the nomination.

It has been reported that Ms. Maddow has received a tryout from MSNBC (she's been appearing on the network with greater frequency the past few months), for a possible show, possibly replacing the He-Man, Tucker Carlson

If that is the case, please, someone at MSNBC, take away the HRC pom-poms before she goes on-air.

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Chelsea Clinton for President

By Creature

Maybe it was just me, but Bill and Hillary looked like yesterday's news last night. With the youth vote coming out strong for Obama I think the only way the Clintons can stay relevant is by putting Chelsea up for the nomination.

Update: Taylor Marsh, the biggest Hillary rah-rah-er on the Internets, just doesn't get it.

So someone needs to explain to me why the first viable female candidate to have a chance to win the presidency isn't the very symbol of change in a very big way.

Because that "viable female candidate" is Hillary fuckin' Clinton, Taylor. Personally I would love to see a women take the presidency, but not this one. And, whatever you think of the Clintons generally, Hillary has been around far too long to ever be the "very symbol of change."

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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10 for '08

By Carl

The problem with trying to predict what stories will matter in any given time frame is two-fold:

First, you end up looking foolish when events swerve off-track and another story ends up being bigger. For example, does anyone recall that the issue of Time Magazine on the newsstands on September 11, 2001 called that year, "The Year Of The Shark"?

Second, so many of the stories do not stand alone. One could conceivably list them in any of a number of categories or incorporate them into any of a number of other stories.

These are the stories I will be watching closely in 2008, not necessarily in this order (or else some FReeper will count up the number of words I write on each topic and call me a liar):

1) Sub-Saharan Africa -

Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan (particularly Darfur), Ethiopia, and Somalia are all in the grips of political and ethnic crises that threaten to take along with them countries like Chad and Angola.

2) Global Warming - This is going to be a watershed year for global warming. I'm afraid that we will discover that the effects are going to happen much faster than anyone dreamed of and will be more permanent than most suspected. I'll go out on a limb here: a major portion of the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheet will collapse into the sea, threatening to take out most South Pacific islands, and impact much of the eastern American seaboard. Also, global warming will manifest itself in a major drought (that's already shaping up) in Nigeria, Chad and Ghana. In other words, sub-Saharan Africa.

I could be wrong. I pray I am.

3) Oil - To put it mildly, this is a story that no one should be surprised at, but I'm not interested in how high the price will go, but whether the industrialized world (basically, us) will take any steps to mitigate the crisis of higher gas and oil prices, particularly ahead of the 2008 election. My sense is Bush will twist Saudi arms, but that's
not going to do all that much. China is now the dominant player in the oil markets, even if they aren't the largest consumer yet. You don't get in the face of what will be your biggest customer for politics' sake.

Add to that the fact that our remaining reserves of oil are dwindling away, and you've got a situation in this country that will lead to Depression.

Nigeria, a sub-Saharan African country, is a major producer of sweet crude oil (the kind oil companies executives have wet dreams over), so you wonder why the money isn't making it into the pockets of the people in some fashion. (This is in large part why I think Africa is the number one story for 2008)

My guess? Crude will top out over $200 a barrel before falling back to a more "comfortable" $175. That's about $7.50 a gallon.

4) 2008 Elections - Obviously, the Presidential election is important, but I'm also going to keep an eye on the Congressional races, particularly in areas that could tip either blue or red. My instinct tells me that Dems will pick up several seats in the House, perhaps as many as fifteen, but the Senate may see them fall short of a filibuster-proof sixty members.

It is these races, far more than the Presidential one, that will shape this country for the next administration.

5) Biotechnology - I predict that 2008 will be a watershed year for biotechnology as a whole and genetic engineering specifically. For example, by the end of this month, the FDA will approve the sale of milk and meat produced from cloned animals.

We've been hearing about the biotech revolution for almost a decade now, and indeed, some advances have been made in terms of treatment of diseases with new drugs and therapies that better target invasive pathogens. Or glow-in-the-dark cats. Goodness knows, sometimes it's hard to see ThumbPer when I have to pee in the middle of the night.

But this bit, the use of genetically modified foods and cloned meat, I'm uneasy about. While the technology could go a long way towards helping the Third World and to ease the suffering of sub-Saharan Africa, the capacity for mischief on the part of the cloners is endless.

6) Beijing Olympics - In effect, this is China's debutante ball (or coming out party, you decide). Since the Olympics are never just about the sport, I suspect several political statements will be made here, most notably by dissidents in the Chinese underground. I don't think any terrorist attacks will occur. China has too many friends in the less-Western-friendly sectors of the world. We might make a stink about China's blossoming petro-relationships with dictatorial countries in sub-Saharan Africa (like Sudan, Chad, and even Nigeria), but we won't dare boycott the China games.

They hold too much of our debt, and take insults like that seriously.

7) Economic disaster - This would be the number one story if it was going to be globally as bad as it will be here, with the stipulation that I could make economic statistics bearable on a regular basis (Hey, just because I'm a wonk doesn't mean I'm trying to convert you! I want to write stories that you'll care about and be able to carry with you in your heart).

I personally feel the meltdown in the economy will be unlike anything anyone has ever seen in history. This comes with the turf of being the single biggest economy in history.

Remember this fact, and you'll understand why: every single recession this nation has ever had has started with a sitting Republican president, and it took a Democratic president most of his first term to solve it. Bush was handed the single strongest economic engine in the universe and somehow managed to give it away to his cronies, borrowing from countries that would cut our throats as soon as assist us.

The gathering storm of troubled mortgages, unemployment, and global economic uncertainty due to the twin pop of political unrest and oil price spikes will force nations to start calling in those loans to shore up their own currencies.

8) Nationalism - Hand in hand with the weakened US economy will come a wave of foreign investment in American companies, real estate and entertainment. We've already seen such major institutions as
Merrill Lynch and Citibank get cash infusions from the Middle East and Asia, and the prices of condos and co-ops in Manhattan is about the only safe bet in real estate appreciation across the nation, because Europeans are snapping up apartments for a fraction of what they would go for in cities like London or Paris.

I mean, my God, Jaguar and Land Rover are going to be bought up by an
Indian auto manufacturer! Bet you didn't even know those were American auto companies!

This will help the US economy, particularly our trade deficits, somewhat, but the benefits will not trickle down to you and I, unless our 401(k)s happen to be invested in foreign exchange funds. Not bloody likely, if statistics are any indication.

9) Indonesia - The rumblings of various volcanoes and fault lines suggests to me that a major eruption/earthquake/tsunami is about due to hit this region.

The frightening thing for Americans in all this is the Lake Toba supervolcano in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago. When it erupted some 75,000 years ago, it wiped out, nearly decimated, the human population, and adding sulphuric acid to the atmosphere that still exists today. While Toba is not likely to go off again in that mass, Mount Tambora is active and may be primed for such a cataclysm.

This likely won't happen this year, of course, but the signs from the activity indicate widespread geologic activity in that region and we should keep an eye on it.

10) Avian flu - Not much in the news about this lately, except for the possible cases of human-to-human transmission in China, but it's been appearing in sub-Saharan Africa lately as part of the migratory bird influx, so couple this killer with Ebola and you could be talking about a major pandemic within days.

Yeesh. That's a pretty scary list!

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)


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The top election stories

By Carol Gee

For a very good round-up of the top stories on the stunning results of the Iowa presidential caucuses, go to Memeorandum. With a little passage of time we will all gain a bit of perspective on what a bit deal this is, but here are just a few initial reactions from sources and folks whose opinions I often seek out.

Firedoglake's "Scarecrow" said "Well Done, Iowa." Friday January 4, 2008 5:00 am. To quote:

No matter whom you supported in last night's Iowa caucuses, I think all Democrats and more than a few Independents will be saying "thank you, Iowans" this morning, not for the specific choices they made -- many may disagree -- but for the process they used. Iowa did a great job helping the whole country sort out the choices for President.

And Iowans did it with impressive numbers. Over 236,000 Iowan's turned out in bitter cold to participate in the Democratic caucuses, nearly 90 percent more than 2004, and as Howard Dean noted on CNN, about twice as many as participated in the Republican caucus. There were record numbers of first time participants, and large increases in women and young voters.

TPM Election Central -- "Entrance Poll: Obama Won On High Turnout — And Edwards Lost," by By Eric Kleefeld - January 4, 2008, 1:44AM To quote:

An astonishing 57% of caucusers were first-time participants.

. . . This tells us two things. First, Obama's strategy of bringing in new caucus-goers worked, the first time in recent history where such a strategy actually did so in the caucus. It's a big change from when Howard Dean tried it with less than impressive results. As for Edwards, his problem was that he fought the last war — if the caucus' turnout had been more like 2004, he may well have been the winner.

The "Delivering," by Matthew Yglesias -- To quote:

I think the manner of Barack Obama's win is pretty impressive. I can't be the only one who was a bit inclined toward a cynical roll of the eyes at the idea of winning on the back of unprecedented turnout, mobilizing new voters, brining in young people, etc. That sounds like the kind of thing that people say they're going to do but never deliver on. But he did deliver. That's impressive.

The Carpetbagger Report's Steve Benen put it this way -- "Obama’s big win: A game-changer." Posted January 4th, 2008 at 8:44 am. To quote:

At the outset, let me concede that all the usual caveats still apply. Iowa is just one state; last night was just one contest; there’s a lot of campaigning left to do; the pressure and scrutiny from here on out is going to be extremely intense; and the rest of the strong Democratic field isn’t about to give up without a fight.

Having said all that, I think Barack Obama’s eight-point victory is every bit as remarkable as it seems, if not more so. This just wasn’t an ordinary caucus victory; it was history.

A young, African-American, first-term senator from a big city went to Iowa — an overwhelmingly white, rural state, with a large elderly population — trailed most of the year, and delivered a bigger win than anyone expected.

Reuters and Yahoo! News -- "Dodd and Biden drop out of White House race." To quote:

Veteran U.S. Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd dropped out of the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday after placing a distant fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Iowa caucuses.

. . . they came up far short in the race for the White House with polls showing Americans demanding change.

"This evening Democrats sent a clear message that this party is united in our belief that our nation needs change to restore our security, our middle class and all that makes this country great," Dodd, 63, told supporters in conceding defeat.

Biden, 65 -- buoyed in recent days by big crowds and an increase in campaign donations -- said earlier he intended to stick in the race at least until the end of the month. But after the Iowa votes were in, he was out. -- "Obama targets Hillary in N.H." By: Roger Simon Jan 4, 2008 06:02 AM EST. To quote:

“We assume Hillary will go negative on us and run negative ads against us,” a senior Obama adviser told me.

“But if we win New Hampshire and South Carolina, it will be hard for her to stop us from getting the nomination.”

New York Times, (election round-up)

and "Obama Takes Iowa in a Big Turnout as Clinton Falters; Huckabee Victor," by Adam Nagourney -- Jan. 4, 2008. To quote:

The victory by Mr. Obama, 46, amounted to a startling setback for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, 60, of New York, who just months ago presented herself as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

. . . On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who was barely a blip on the national scene just two months ago, defeated Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, delivering a serious setback to Mr. Romney’s high-spending campaign and putting pressure on Mr. Romney to win in New Hampshire next Tuesday.

Washington Post -- " Hillary Clinton - Acknowledging Change in the Air," By Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers. Friday, January 4, 2008. To quote:

Clinton appeared last night to embrace a message of change even as she held fast to her contention that only she is ready for the presidency.

"We're sending a clear message that we are going to have change, and that change will be a Democratic president in the White House in 2009," she told supporters as she conceded to Barack Obama. But she added: "What is most important now is . . . how will we win in November 2008 by nominating a candidate that will be able to go the distance? And who will be the best president on Day One? I am ready for that contest."

Both Clinton and her husband attempted to console downcast staff members in Des Moines last night.

My own thoughts -- This is a big deal and it is a good deal, because citizens in Iowa honored the process and went in on faith (no pun intended for you Republicans). First timers plunged in and said "Yes, I believe in America once again." The remainder of the process needs to be honored also, as Tom Brokaw reminded us on MSNBC last night. I paraphrase what he said. Not just Iowans need to be heard here. Other states have a right to weigh in in due time. I believe in the voters' ability to get up, get mad, and get going. And boy, oh, boy! Have they started. More later.

Cross-posted at South by Southwest

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa talking, the early word [and the last]

By Creature

[Bumped and updated - many, many times]

Early word: heavy turnout among the Dems. The precinct where David Gregory is stationed had 86 people attend in '04, tonight 267. That's crazy. Conventional wisdom says this helps Obama, but it's possible Clinton draws some of these new voters as well.

Also the early word, from totally unreliable entrance polling, has Obama and Clinton battling it out with little word on Edwards. On the GOP side no early surprises: it's Huckabee and Romney battling it out.

Stay tuned. This should be interesting.

Update: Wow, it's 9:00 PM and MSNBC just called the GOP for Huckabee. This is huge, though not unexpected, seeing as how much time and money Romney spent in Iowa. Also it's huge because now we know Iowa couldn't give a flying fuck about evolution or reality, in general. But, hey, it is the GOP after all. Go Jesus!

On the Dem side so far it's a three way tie. The spin will be awesome: "Hey, look we're all winners."

Update II: It's shaping up to be Obama's night. NBC has projected Obama the winner and Hillary looks to be settling in to a solid third. Hope rules.

And, P.S., Rachel Maddow on the panel for MSNBC rocks. She's throwing Matthews' conventional wisdom right back at him. She is impressive.

Update III: The spin begins.

Joe Trippi for Edwards: It's a strong night for Edwards and they feel good. What the hell else would he say? He is picking up on Matthews' spin that Clinton in third means 70% voted against her and for change. Looks like Trippi wants to ride Obama's coattails and spin a victory, but, again, that's his job.

Update IV: Last word, same as the first: turnout. When all is said in done the story is the turnout. It was up 82% for the Dems. As I said at the start, that's crazy.

Update V: The ledes are in writing.


Barack Obama took a big step on Thursday toward becoming the first black U.S. president when his campaign for change caught fire in Iowa and swept him past Hillary Clinton in the opening Democratic nominating contest.


Sen. Barack Obama swept to victory in the Iowa caucuses Thursday night, pushing Hillary Rodham Clinton to third place and taking a major stride in a historic bid to become the nation's first black president.


Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, a one-term Democratic senator trying to become the nation’s first African-American president, rolled to victory in the Iowa caucuses on Thursday night, lifted by what appeared to be a record turnout of voters who rejected the criticism that he did not have enough experience.

We are watching history. Enjoy and appreciate.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The meaning of Iowa

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Being Canadian and living in Canada, I tend to view the political goings-on south of the border, and the goings-on generally, with a certain fascinated detachment. Being in England for a few weeks over Christmas and New Year's, that detachment has deepened to the point where I haven't really been paying all that much attention to them. Being on vacation has a lot to do with it, but so does being much further away from the American vortex. Not that America isn't important over here, it's just that, well, it doesn't have quite the centrality it has even to us Canadians. The talk here has much more to do with Brown and Blair, Europe and Pakistan, than with Iowa and New Hampshire. The U.K. may be a close American ally, but it is also deeply European. It looks west across the Atlantic, but the other side of the Channel is closer, and there is a sense here that events not just in Europe but around the world, such as the Bhutto assassination, are similarly close. In the U.S., if less so in Canada, an event like the Bhutto assassination happens over there, way over there. In the U.K., and more so elsewhere, it happens, or seems to happen, much closer to home. Even if the event takes place in some faraway place, the impact is distinctly immediate.

All of this is to say that the U.S. sees itself as the center and treats the rest of the world accordingly -- namely, with smug, arrogant dismissiveness. The rest of the world recognizes America's primacy in certain regards but knows better than to adopt, to or acquiesce to, such vainglorious self-importance. Being here, as when I have travelled or lived elsewhere in the past, has reminded me of this difference and has restored, I think, a healthy sense of perspective. I am still America-focused, for better and for worse, just not quite as America-centric. I suspect it won't last, however. The detachment will no doubt grow shallow again upon my return.

Regardless, on this massively huge day on the American political calendar -- a massively huge day that seems rather less massive and less huge over here that it does over there -- I am reminded once again that two of the stupidest words in the American political lexicon, at least when put together, are "Iowa" and "caucuses" -- and this for various reasons. Nothing against the state and people of Iowa, but... why Iowa? Why caucuses? Why such disproportionate influence for a small state and for a process engages so few people? -- I don't have the turnout figures for the caucuses, but turnout is always extremely low. And for a process that rewards extensive advertising and ground campaigns in the days, weeks, and even months leading up to the votes? And for what can only be described as a massively huge media event that has more to do with expectations -- meeting them, surpassing them, falling short -- than with the actual results?

Why? Because that's just how it is. And how it is is also why New Hampshire and South Carolina are next. Like it or not -- and who really likes it? -- America's two major political parties (and other parties are largely shut out of the process -- also a massively huge problem) select their presidential nominees in a manner that is deeply flawed. Good, solid nominees may emerge from it, or may not. A good, solid president may get elected at the end of it, or may not. Either way, it seems to me that the American people deserve better. (Or not. One wonders sometimes what the American people truly deserve.)

To be fair, parliamentary systems like the one used nationally in the U.K. for elections to Westminster -- or like the one used federally and provincially in Canada -- have their flaws, too. For example, the British prime minister (like the Canadian prime minister) is never actually elected by the people to his or her position. Rather, he or she is elected by his or her constituents in his or her electoral district and at some point made party leader by party delegates. In the case of Gordon Brown, the current prime minister has never even fought an election as party leader. He was named party leader, and hence prime minister, following Blair's resignation/retirement last year. Regardless, it seems to me that the primary/caucus process used to select presidential candidates is one of the key flaws of the American system.

I am hardly alone in holding this view. As I watch the absurd goings-on in Iowa from a detached perspective across the Atlantic, however, I am reminded of just how serious a flaw it is.

(Needless to say, there is coverage of Iowa seemingly everywhere. See, for example, CNN -- which I tend to pay much more attention to when I'm overseas than when I'm home.)


CNN is reporting that Huckabee has won on the GOP side. No real surprise there. He's been on the upswing and he's sort of local. I thought Romney would have made it closer, however -- it's 36-23 for Huckabee. The key now will be for Huckabee to build on his victory in Iowa and give Romney a run in New Hampshire. With Thompson finishing third or fourth, one wonders if, as has been reported, he will get out of the race and back McCain, who is right behind him.

Edwards is ahead early on the Democratic side. Go Edwards!

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Iowa Talking Thread

By J. Thomas Duffy

While endorsing/seconding Carl's sentiments, it is what it is, for this year anyway ...

Likely, as most are watching and following, everyone's pegged Huckabee the winner on the Red side, giving Romney and ass-whuppin', by around 13% ...

You can follow the Dems here;

Iowa Democratic Party Caucus Results

It refreshes every 30-seconds and, as I write, here is where it stands;

Senator Barack Obama : 33.93%

Senator John Edwards : 31.83%

Senator Hillary Clinton : 31.56%

Governor Bill Richardson : 1.69%

Senator Joe Biden : 0.90%

Senator Chris Dodd : 0.05%

Uncommitted : 0.03%

Precincts Reporting: 861 of 1781

(Percentages are State Delegate Equivalents.)

This represents Obama jumping up about 5% in the last 2o-minutes ...


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What the FUCK is "Iowa"?

By Carl

Screw them.

What does this state comprise, one tenth of a half a percent of the population of this country?

Fuck them and fuck their egos for thinking they be all that.

They're screwing up a honest political dialogue, and if I was President, I'd cut off all public assistance to the state until they owned up to their shit and came back to the pack.

Primaries and caucuses ought to be held in order of population: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and so on. Let the people decide who will be President, not a fucking bunch of moronic farmers and church mothers

/ rant


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Out in the cold

By Capt. Fogg

One normally doesn't associate the need for cold weather survival techniques with South Florida, but normally at this time of year we do get some cold weather and many Floridians have trouble coping with it. About once in a hundred years we get frost. In the late 17th century, a fellow named Jonathan Dickinson was washed up in a storm not far from my house and the survivors of the wreck were captured by the local Jove (pronounced Hobay) Indians. Stripped of possessions and clothing, they made their way, naked and without food, 230 miles up the coast to the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine where those who had not died of the cold and starvation got passage to Philadelphia. It gets cold in Florida.

It was 35 degrees this morning in Hobe Sound, an area named for those long gone natives. The wind off the Atlantic is very brisk, making it feel like 20 degrees if you're wearing the light clothing that makes up the Florida wardrobe. For those around the county in unheated trailers or unheated shacks it was very uncomfortable, and for those without housing, sleeping on the beach or in the woods last night was a dangerous choice. Some try to loiter in all night stores, some build camps in the woods, some just keep walking all night. Fortunately for those who can make their way to Stuart, the local Red Cross chapter opened a shelter last night, furnishing a cot, some food and heat for about 8 people.

When you think of homeless people, it's not always accurate to envision some scruffy, bearded, addicted or alcoholic misfit. It's not accurate to describe 30 year old Jean Cournoyer that way; reasonably dressed and groomed, he carries a shopping bag full of the basic toiletries needed to stay that way and he is here intending to get a job as a cook as soon as possible. What he lacks is money and he lacks it not because he's a bum or unemployable or lazy or drunk; it's because the United States Government in it's most xenophobic fear and fascist arrogance forced him to spend every dime he has to reunite his family. You see his wife is a British citizen and once upon a time she overstayed her visa by 24 hours.

That's enough to alert the iron curtain mentality of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deny her entrance; to tag her as The Enemy. Cournoyer hasn't seen his wife and small children in a year and all his efforts to reunite his family have been to no avail.

Think of him before you start screeching "illegal, illegal" at every sad immigration story. Think of him when you start blowing hard about our "freedom;" about our "Christian principles" and "family values." Think about it when you smugly tell us that it can't happen here, because it already has, and when I think about it, what comes to mind is a country where ordinary, decent people disappear into secret jails and are abused, where official fear of people getting in and information getting out smells like the Soviets, the Maoists, the Nazis and every other corrupt, paranoid and tyrannical government where the law speaks for the few and crushes the rest.

If our Republic survives as a free, democratic and open society and we are able and allowed to remember the Bush years, I think our descendants will remember George Bush as the man who tried to conquer America but failed. If not, perhaps I will take this opportunity, while I still can, to say God Damn the Bush family. Damn everyone who has supported them; the greedy, the stupid and the malicious. Damn the bastards who have made me ashamed to be an American. Damn them all.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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D.B. Cooper is Barbarosa ... Or is it Barbarosa is D.B. Cooper?

By J. Thomas Duffy

[Don Baulio has chosen the next one to go after Barbarosa]
Don Braulio Zuvalla: Eduardo. You are the one. You will go after Barbarosa. Will you know him?
Eduardo: Si, I will know him. From the songs we sing and the stories we tell, I will know him.
Don Braulio Zuvalla: Kill him; kill this Barbarosa. Bring me his cojones. Bring them to me on a stick so we can see them and honor you.

From "Barbarosa", starring Willie Nelson, Gary Busey and Gilbert Roland

Boy, don't these guys have anything better to do?

One would think that the CIA Interrogation Tapes case, which the Justice Department announced today they will investigate, will need some extra bodies.

After all, that's a crime that leads directly, and squarely, into the Oval Office.

But no.

Perhaps swayed by television shows that solve their cold cases in about 48-minutes (gotta have the commercials accounted for), the FBI has announced it is reinvestigating the 36-yea-old "D.B. Cooper" hijacking case, the nation's only unsolved hijacking.

“This case is 36 years old, it’s beyond its expiration date, but I asked for the case because I was intrigued with it,” said Larry Carr, a federal agent based in Seattle who usually investigates bank robberies, and who was 4 when the hijacking occurred. “I remember as a child reading about it and wondering what had happened. It’s surreal that after 36 years here I am, the only investigator left. I wanted to take a shot at solving it.”

Since the case was turned over to him about six months ago, Mr. Carr has come up with a new way of seeing the incident: as a bank robbery that just happened to be on an airplane. The fresh perspective led to new investigating techniques.

“The classic way we solve bank robberies is with the public,” Mr. Carr said. “Everything we know — pictures, descriptions, m.o., everything. We put it all out there.”

D.B. Cooper jumped from the back of a Boeing 727 jet airplane on the night of November 24th, 1971, somewhere between Seattle and Reno, with $200,000, in unmarked $20-bills and was never seen or heard from again.

Speculation has rested heavily that he died from the jump.

In 1980, an eight-year-old boy found $5,800 of the money, near the banks of the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, but that's all that has surfaced.

Let us hope that it doesn't take 36-years to bring the Bush Grindhouse to justice.

After all, we already have, seven-years-worth, of "pictures, descriptions, m.o., everything ..."

Bonus D.B. Cooper Links

D.B. Cooper, where are you? Saturday is 36th anniversary of hijacker's leap into legend

The D.B. Cooper Story: A Mystery

D.B. Cooper's Disappearing Act

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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This might be the real deal...

By Carl

Cross your fingers and hope, tho.

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department said Wednesday that it had opened a full investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing in the CIA's destruction in 2005 of videotapes of terrorism suspects' interrogations.

Signaling resolve to get to the bottom of a case that has touched off a political and legal firestorm, Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey announced that he was appointing a mob-busting prosecutor from Connecticut with experience at rooting out official misconduct to oversee the investigation. The unusual move means that the U.S. attorney's office in Virginia, which normally handles CIA investigations, will play no role in the case.

Though the opening of an investigation does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow, it does raise the stakes for the agency and its employees who were involved in or had knowledge of the tapes and how they were handled internally.

Heading the investigation will be John H. Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut for more than 25 years who is known as one of the government's most relentless prosecutors. Durham has prosecuted an array of mobsters and political figures, including former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland.

The DoJ investigating the CIA on the face of things sounds like a cover-up. Some things, however, lead me to suspect this might be a real investigation.

For one thing, John Durham is a prosecutor more in the mold of
Patrick Fitzgerald, placing the law above loyalty. Governor Rowland of Connecticut is a Republican and a long-time friend of the Bush family, for example. Also, Durham comes to this task only after the US Attorney for the Middle Atlantic district recused himself (conflict of interest, probably), so he wasn't even Mukasey first choice.

If this investigation goes to the form of the Valerie Plame inquiries, then a patsy will be set up.

Here's where it gets interesting, tho. The CIA and the Bush administration haven't been on the same page about too many things since the Plame outting, in particular because the CIA warned Bush agaisnt using the intelligence obtained as a basis for the invasion of Iraq.

Altho I have no direct evidence of anything at this point, my suspicion is that history will write that the last five years of the Bush administration could be loosely defined as an internecine war with the CIA. If you look at the appointment of Porter Goss as director of the CIA, the inclusion of the CIA under the Director of National Intelligence, and the way the administration hung the CIA out to dry over the intelligence miscues leading up to September 11, you get the picture that the CIA might have some small resentments towards the Bush administration.

And I suspect...let me rephrase that, I wouldn't be surprised, if many of the major embarassments of the past five years have been at the direction of some elements in the CIA to make the administration look foolish.

I mean, come on, Porter Goss being involved with a weekly
"poker game" with hookers? And the administration didn't know about this?

I'd even venture that the CIA has tied the administration up in knots in foreign policy areas, too, and it wouldn't surprise me...well, it might, but don't say I didn't say it first...if indeed Bhutto's assassination wasn't done with at least the knowledge of and tacit consent by the CIA.

Naturally, the administration being the bunch of candypants cowboys they are, would want to push things one step further along in a grand game of chicken. This video investigation fits the bill nicely, and has all the earmarks of a Karl Rove operation: first you con them into destroying the tapes, then you point fingers and call in the cops.

That you have CIA director (and Bush buttboy) Michael Hayden admitting the destruction of a key piece of government evidence speaks volumes, when you would expect a sidestep arabesque to distract public attention while choosing a scapegoat.

We haven't heard the last of this story yet. I don't think this one will be "wrapped up" as neatly as Libby Scooter.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Iowa thinking

By Creature

As Walter Shapiro points out today in Salon, tonight is make or break for John Edwards. Since '04 he has banked on Iowa to propel him forward in this race and for the sake of competition, diversity, and choice, I hope he prevails. Without a victory in Iowa the likes of Chris Matthews will destroy him. I am not backing Edwards formally, but I do root for the underdog, especially when that underdog carries a blue-collar message. Obama may inspire me to hope, but Edwards inspires me to fight. I, for one, hope he wins tonight so he can fight another day.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Tomorrow will be the first day . . .

By Carol Gee

. . . of the rest of the U.S. presidential candidates' political lives. The much awaited Iowa caucuses will happen in each of their 99 counties. Over 100,000 Iowa political junkies like me will go to a home, a church , a fire hall or somewhere else. They will eventually stand in a corner in support of someone who very much wants to be our next president. This is the first time in over fifty years that the race is completely open. None of the candidates is an incumbent or former Veep. And it seems very exciting to a lot of people.

Therefore, because I am on hold until the caucus results come in, I am posting today related bits and pieces of stuff I wrote in the past for South by Southwest that never made it to The Reaction. It is sort of like cleaning out the 2007 files.

"In Search of Excellence" (1/2/08)

Tomorrow in Iowa starts the search for an excellent new president. It will be a long time before we finish the election process, but it will be worth all the work. We have seven years years of governance behind us that stand in stark contrast to anything beginning to resemble executive excellence. Leadership excellence is hard to describe. But, if you look closely, you know it when you see it.

These are the leadership traits that make it for me -- authenticity, wisdom, honesty, accountability, self-awareness, intelligence, ability to articulate, toughness, stability, capacity to hold onto the big picture, empathy, world view based on experience or background, and a good self-deprecating sense of humor.

I have been catching up with my favorite bloggers this morning and remembered once again why they are all on my favorites list. I present them in no particular order and with no specific definitions of why they show excellence. Just read their stuff and you will understand.
  1. "The Brzezinski Challenge for Presidential Contenders in 2008," by Steve Clemons of The Washington Note. The post contains several interesting Z. Brzezinski doodle/drawings.

  2. "9/11 Commission: Our investigation was obstructed," by Glenn Greenwald at Just the best investigative journalist around.

  3. Authors "Lapopessa" and "Buckarooskidoo," blog at Make it Stop! Make it Stop! Features an important editorial and a great best-worst list.

  4. "Today I'm burning despair's chair," by "txsharon" at Bluedaze. Passionate and personal from a warrior woman.

"Grabbing the News Isn't That Simple" (12/12/07)

Staying informed and in the know is not easy for a news junkie like me. I watch some television, mainly C-SPAN, but I find myself missing the pleasures of well written words. My local newspaper changed hands and changed format, so I rarely read it any more. That leaves me, like many of you, to reliance on the Internet for news.
The latest news via RSS feeds is the way many of us go on line to get our current events info. Bloglines is where I get my 111 feeds. Signing up for that many stories every day was just crazy. MSNBC claimed in 2004 that about 50 such feeds would be the average for a typical user of the RSS method. There is no way in the world that I will be "well read" as a result of my scanning marathons. And with Bloglines, I only have room for 200 items from any one subscription. So unread, they just stacked up and quit - getting stale as the days passed.

So my next project will be to delete at least half of my feeds. Those I keep will be based on several factors. I want to read well written and accurate material. I want to read the latest important news. I want viewpoints from around the world. I want to keep up in my special areas of interest. And I want to read regularly from familiar writers.

My folder categories will eventually include the only the following:
  1. My Favorites -- These are my "blog friends." I try to visit these writers almost every day. These writers always have something interesting to say, or lead interesting lives that they share openly and authentically with their readers. I have been reading some of them for years.

  2. Essential U.S. Newspapers -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the LA Times. Others will have a different list, perhaps one that includes their hometown newspaper.

  3. Essential News Services & Magazines -- McClatchy and Reuters news services, as well as Slate Magazine and US News & World Report. The news services often have a breaking story first. Notice that I do not subscribe to Google or Yahoo! news, nor to USA Today or any television feeds.

  4. Recognized Blogs -- Glenn Greenwald @ Salon is my intelligence specialist. Steve Clemons @ The Washington Note works at a Washington think tank and mingles with important politicians here and abroad. Juan Cole @ Informed Comment is my Middle East specialist. Andrew Sullivan @ The Atlantic is a thoughtful and articulate Conservative. The Mahablog is done by a full time blogger who is fierce and prolific. Steve Benen @ The Carpetbagger Report is a very trustworthy progressive who writes very well. Empty Wheel just got launched after beginning at Firedoglake. Over the years I have come to trust what these folks post.

  5. "Big" Progressive Political Blogs -- Firedoglake,, Talking Points Memo, DailyKos, and the Huffington Post. I read these important blogs to keep up with the latest inside stuff as well as to (naturally) reinforce my own progressive biases.

"Southwest Politics -- Flotsam and Jetsam" (12/17/07)

Because Texas is located in the Southwest certain issues are more predominant than others with us.

The Southwest in 2008 -- Given the abysmal reputation of our current president, it may be forever before another Texas Favorite Son will be elected. The Iowa Independent writer Douglas Burns thinks that the Southwest will decide the presidential election, however. He may be right if you include the West also, because Colorado and Nevada are technically Western States. Here is what he said with his Obama vice-presidential musings:

Dodd, a U.S. senator from Connecticut, and Obama clearly have respect for each other.. . . Dodd is simply a classy senator who can answer questions with reliable competency. Yes, the Southwest likely will determine the 2008 election, and sure, a Richardson vice presidential nomination makes sense because of this. But Dodd is fluent in Spanish as I saw firsthand when Lorena Lopez of La Prensa and I conducted a joint interview with him. If Obama gets the nomination Dodd complements him in a number of ways as a running mate -- including his ability to campaign in Spanish.

Dodd won't make mistakes out there and with his reassuring white hair, the elder statesman would be a nice balance for Obama. Youth and wisdom. Age and experience.

"About Spinning" (12/02/07)

One of the most frequent modern meanings of "spin" is associated with news and politics. As a modern-day blogger, my biases will inevitably put a spin on what I write. Occasionally I might label such a view as a bias or speculation if I can catch myself.

What do we mean by spin? carried these pertinent "spin" definitions:

7. to produce, fabricate, or evolve in a manner suggestive of spinning thread: to spin a tale of sailing ships and bygone days.

11.Slang. to cause to have a particular bias; influence in a certain direction: His assignment was to spin the reporters after the president's speech.
–verb (used without object)
16. to have a sensation of whirling; reel: My head began to spin and I fainted.
22. Slang. a particular viewpoint or bias, esp. in the media; slant: They tried to put a favorable spin on the news coverage of the controversial speech. . .

Bloggers sometimes choose an image of self that is not actual, and thus not literally accurate. My Blogger profile image is actually "Woman with a basket of spindles," painted in 1517 by Andrea del Sarto, a lesser known contemporary of Raphael. The painter's subject does reflect my self-image as a writer with which I am comfortable (my spin): I am lesser-known, I come prepared, and I am older. I am sort of serious, I work hard and am just a bit formal. My S/SW Intro (above) reads: "IDEAS & REFLECTIONS - my observations and commentary on people and events that affect the USA or the rest of the world."

Wikipedia used this image to illustrate its "Weaving" entry. The image label reads,

"Andrea del Sarto's iconographic choice evokes the womanly link between the two worlds."

. . . In later European folklore, weaving retained its connection with magic. Mother Goose, traditional teller of fairy tales, is often associated spinning.[1] She was known as "Goose-Footed Bertha" in French legends as spinning incredible tales that enraptured children.

I have no magical powers, I must admit. I call myself a "little" blogger, amongst thousands of others, trying to weave the day's news into a pattern that readers can see as coherent and authentic. This is, among other things, what I am willing to reveal "About Me" in my profile:

* Gender: Female
* Astrological Sign: Gemini
* Industry: Non-Profit
* Occupation: Retired Clinical Social Worker
* Location: Southwest : United States

A retired counselor, I am equal parts Techie and Artist. I am a Democrat who came to the Southwest to attend college. I married, had kids and have lived here all my adult life.

. . . For me the antidote to spin in this post was authenticity. There is precious little of that during this campaign season. Republican retirement is widespread these days but even that does not cure the spinning habit. Karl Rove wins the spin medal for this one about who wanted to go to war the worst before the invasion of Iraq. In very stark contrast, retiring Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) would win the authenticity medal from me for this (from The Swamp). To quote:
Hagel: Bush White House 'arrogant, incompetent.'Of course, many others would say I am totally biased. I guess this is politics, for better or worse.

And now, on to Iowa!

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