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The Tally Ho

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Buffet and Gates on the Weak Dollar

Comments found here.

Gates:
``I'm short the dollar,'' Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp., told Charlie Rose in an interview late yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ``The ol' dollar, it's gonna go down.''

Gates's concern that widening U.S. budget and trade deficits are undermining the dollar was echoed in Davos by policymakers including European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Buffet:
Gates reflected the views of his friend Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who has bet against the dollar since 2002. Buffett said last week that the U.S. trade gap will probably further weaken the currency.

``Unless we have a major change in trade policies, I don't see how the dollar avoids going down,'' Buffett said in an interview with CNBC on Jan. 19.

Today in New York Observer today, Nicholas von Hoffman writes in his piece A Weakening Dollar Means a Weaker U.S. that
The connection between debt and the dollar is getting through to people. They are looking at the anemic dollar and agreeing that the cause is that the United States, government and private sector are in debt up to their eyeballs to foreigners. Washington borrows from foreigners because it spends more than it collects in taxes and American financial institutions do not lend it the difference between the two sums. The cause is also the nation’s consumers: Since they don’t earn enough in euros, yens, yuans and other foreign currencies to pay for their purchases of imported goods, the money for their new cars, credit-card debt and even for home mortgages is being supplied by Asians, most notably China and Japan.

This may be news to the laggard millions. Neither George W. Bush nor John Kerry discussed it in their electioneering, though eminent persons such as former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, ex of Goldman Sachs and now one of the biggest kahunas at Citigroup, have been screaming their heads off for years, warning of a coming catastrophe. In one form or another, we owe about $3 trillion, and even if our lenders would like to have us borrow money forever, there may come a time when they can no longer afford us.

The situation has no parallel. In other cases of a country taking on gigantic debt, the cause has been social spending by a government unable or unwilling to tax its citizens to pay for their health, retirement and other benefits, which has made up the difference by borrowing abroad. Argentina is a textbook example. That’s not the case with the United States, however: Its largest social-welfare programs, Social Security and Medicare, do not run up big debts. To the contrary, the taxes collected for them are larger than the outlays.

Even the dirty war in Iraq cannot be given all the blame. Those expenditures could be managed if we taxed ourselves to pay for them. The nut of the problem is that Americans have champagne tastes and a beer pocketbook. We buy more than we sell. We are enabled and egged on to do so by a government which puts more cash in our wallets by tax cuts and urges us to spend, spend, spend.

According to classic economic theory, the resolution to the imbalance between what we buy and what we sell abroad will be more or less automatic. As the dollar declines in value in reaction to the ever-growing sum borrowed from foreigners to buy their goods, the price of those goods should rise until Americans cannot afford them. At the same time, American exports will get cheaper, so foreigners will buy more of them. In the past, the theory has often proven out.

This time—at least so far—it hasn’t worked that way. The Asian countries have propped up the value of the dollar, thus keeping American goods relatively expensive and their own goods relatively cheap. So the borrowing goes on, although now, for the first time, we are seeing foreign investors pulling back and foreign central banks beginning to replace some of their reserve dollars with euros.

Read the whole piece. Perhaps the Tally Ho's resident international finance guru, Nico, will stop in for a chat.

More on Chertoff

The Bush Administration is following their well defined pattern of taking the worst in their administration and offering promotions. With Condi! going to head the State Department and torture advocate Judge Gonzalez heading the Justice Department, why not have a torture sympathizer as head of Homeland Security. In the New York Times article Security Nominee Gave Advice to the C.I.A. on Torture Laws, David Johnston, Neil A. Lewis, and Douglas Jehl write
Mr. Chertoff's division was asked on several occasions by the intelligence agency whether its officers risked prosecution by using particular techniques. The officials said the C.I.A. wanted as much legal protection as it could obtain while the Justice Department sought to avoid giving unconditional approval.

One technique that C.I.A. officers could use under certain circumstances without fear of prosecution was strapping a subject down and making him experience a feeling of drowning. Other practices that would not present legal problems were those that did not involve the infliction of pain, like tricking a subject into believing he was being questioned by a member of a security service from another country.

But in other instances Mr. Chertoff opposed some aggressive procedures outright, the officials said. At one point, they said, he raised serious objections to methods that he concluded would clearly violate the torture law. While the details remain classified, one method that he opposed appeared to violate a ban in the law against using a "threat of imminent death."

Mr. Chertoff and other senior officials at the Justice Department also disapproved of practices that seemed to be clearly prohibited, like death threats against family members, administration of mind-altering drugs or psychological procedures designed to profoundly disrupt a detainee's personality. It is not clear whether the C.I.A. or any other agency proposed these techniques.

But Mr. Chertoff left the door open to the use of a different set of far harsher techniques proposed by the C.I.A., saying they might be used under certain circumstances. He advised that they could be used depending on factors like the detainee's physical condition and medical advice as to how the person would react to some practices, the officials said.

In responding, Mr. Chertoff's division said that whether the techniques were not allowed depended on the standards outlined in an August 2002 memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel that has since been disclosed and which defined torture narrowly. That memorandum, signed by Jay S. Bybee, then the head of the legal counsel's office, said inflicted pain, for example, qualified as torture only if it was of a level equivalent to organ failure or imminent death...

...The officials said Mr. Chertoff was directly involved in these discussions, in effect, evaluating the legality of techniques proposed by the C.I.A. by advising the agency whether its employees could go ahead with proposed interrogation methods without fear of prosecution.

Mr. Chertoff is scheduled to appear on Wednesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Senators have said that Mr. Chertoff, a highly respected former prosecutor, will have little difficulty being confirmed.

Still, questions about interrogation practices dominated the confirmation hearing of Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, and Mr. Gonzales's unwillingness to discuss his legal advice on the issue was a reason some Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee gave for voting against sending his nomination to the full Senate for approval.

Once again I will point you to Mark Bowden's article in the Atlantic, The Dark Art of Interrogation. Lets hope that Chertoff gets asks about this during his confirmation hearing. It is chaired by Sen. Collins and Sen. Lieberman. Others on the committee are Sens. Carper, Levin, Pryor, Laughtenberg, Dayton, Akaka, Stevens, Voinovich, Coleman, Coburn, Bennett, Warner, Domenici, and Chafee.

More Exporting BushCo Ideology though International Agencies

Dafna Linzer of the Washington Post writes
But with the United States proposing no other candidate, no country was willing to turn against ElBaradei, who is admired within the agency for his willingness to challenge the administration's assertions on Iraq and Iran.

That same willingness has put ElBaradei deeply at odds with the White House and has became the driving factor in the administration's efforts to replace him, officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities involved.

"It's on hold right now," said one U.S. policymaker who was involved in lobbying against ElBaradei. "Everyone turned us down, even the Brits."

A British official confirmed that account, saying, "We can certainly live with another ElBaradei term."

U.S. diplomats had tried to coax several people into challenging ElBaradei, including Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, but no one was willing to run against the 62-year-old Egyptian diplomat, who was asked by a majority of IAEA board members to stay on the job for five more years.

There is still hope among some U.S. officials that an Argentine nuclear specialist will agree to run, although the deadline for submissions was Dec. 31. "There's some thinking that the emergence of a new candidate could encourage members to oppose ElBaradei," another U.S. official said.

Publicly, the administration has said its efforts to replace ElBaradei are motivated solely by a desire to see U.N. executives adopt a two-term limit. But most allies have viewed the campaign as retaliation against someone who questioned U.S. intelligence on Iraq and is now moving cautiously on Iran.

The U.S. effort, led by John R. Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, included sifting through intercepts of ElBaradei's phone calls in hopes of finding material to use against him.

There have also been orchestrated leaks by unnamed U.S. or Western officials who have told reporters that Iran was secretly improving upon a weapons program and that ElBaradei was trying to hide that information from the IAEA board.

Yesterday, diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA is based, said one of the more recent accusations -- that Iran had bought large quantities of the metal beryllium for a nuclear charge -- had proved to be unfounded.

So the US to put a neo-con at the head of the IAEA - and of course this has nothing to do with BushCo's desire to invade, or at least bomb, Iran. This is just more of the same with this White House. When I went to a lecture about HIV, foreign policy, and human rights - one of the speakers commented that the difference between old conservatives and new conservatives were that the old ones had no use for international agencies. These new ones, seeing how much power they hold, want to use every international agency they can to promote their ideology and initiatives on the rest of the world. It appears that a constant state or war and hostility mixed with ignoring the plight of most of the world is their objective.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Cub Talk

So the Cubs traded Sammy Sosa to the Baltimore Orioles, both teams got what they wanted. The Cubs got rid of a club house problem and the Orioles received a power hitting right fielder in their futile quest to supplant either the Yankees or Red Sox in the AL East. The best they can do is to cause enough of a problem that the BoSox or Yanks will have to sweat out a Wild Card spot. What I find interesting is how these two teams are in the best two divisons of baseball, the AL East and NL Central, and this move doesn't really put either closer to the playoffs.

In the AL East the Yankees upgraded their starting pitching and added a leadoff hitter. The Red Sox smartly decided against overpaying for Pedro and Derek Lowe and instead freed up money to have depth and deals in the starting rotation - not to mention fix future holes. Not to mention signing the best free agent shortstop, Edgar Renteria. The Cubs however, had a different approach. Sure, they signed Nomar to a one year contract and resigned Todd Walker - but they let Moises Alou go and failed to acquire another power hitter to replace Sosa. Unless the Cubs sign Mags Ordonez or are forced to overpay for Jeremy Burnitz, the Cubs lose 186 RBIs, 74 HRs, in 281 games. In any case, the Cubs play in the NL Central - they need a power guy in the center of the line-up, and you can't trade Prior, Zambrano, or Wood to do it.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

More Death

Cameron W. Barr and Karl Vick of the Washington Post write
A Marine Corps transport helicopter crashed during a sandstorm in western Iraq early Wednesday, killing 30 Marines and a sailor in the deadliest single event for U.S. forces since they invaded Iraq nearly two years ago. Four more Marines and two soldiers died in attacks, bringing to 37 the U.S. toll for the day...

...Pentagon officials warned that the Iraqi elections this Sunday would be followed by a period of political uncertainty and insurgent violence. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. John P. Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command, said they expected insurgent attacks to continue after the vote.

"We have to recognize what -- how determined the people we're up against are," Rumsfeld said at a brief news conference on Capitol Hill. "So one has to expect that the level of violence will either stay where it is, or go up or down modestly during this period, as they attempt to prevent from happening that which is going to happen."

In Baghdad, Gen. George W. Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told reporters that U.S. and Iraqi forces were making gains against the insurgency, estimating that 15,000 militants had been killed or captured in the previous 12 months.

The pace of violence increased Wednesday in advance of Sunday's parliamentary elections. Insurgents attacked offices of political parties, destroyed schools that were to be used as polling places and set off bombs in several parts of the country. Eleven Iraqis died in attacks, and two insurgents died when their car bomb exploded prematurely, the Associated Press reported.

A senior U.S. diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his comments were not cleared with Washington, said that the insurgents were "getting much better at the game of intimidation" and that their ranks had grown in recent months.

"There probably are more of them," the diplomat said. "The number of attacks would suggest there's somewhat more, but not a lot more."

The diplomat said the election would serve as a test of the insurgents' capacity since they have repeatedly vowed to disrupt the balloting. "If they had any more to give, in terms of volume, they'd give it now."

Two things stick out to me. One giving an insurgent death count as a way to justify US policy in Iraq. This number, 15,000, seems rather irrelevant as 15k may or may not have been killed, but how to do you measure all the new insurgents that US policy and this violence has created? Every time I see death count numbers I think of Vietnam era where every night news programs would broadcast the enemy death count - whether is nonsense or not. On one public radio show guest I heard described it as a type of Darwinism - that the weak insurgents had been killed and that is why the attacks are becoming more sophisticated and bold. Second, insurgent is a broad term used to describe all of the violence, despite that are more than one group opposed to the US - and even said to be loosely related.
In the deadliest attack Wednesday targeting the election, a suicide bomber detonated a fuel tanker at the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, killing five people and injuring at least 20, party officials told the Associated Press.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Truman Beat Dewey...

...by a greater percentage than Bush beat Kerry.

Just a bit of perspective.

Sen. Reid & The Army of Denial

First of all, have you seen Democrats.gov? I wish Sen. Reid's rapid response and organization was available during the Democratic Primary. Sen. Daschle was always said to be a great parliamentarian, but the Democratic message under his leadership in the Senate seemed to be constantly muted out over the last two cycles. I am glad that it is Reid and Durbin running the Senate now. As for the Senate, Dr. Rice and Judge Gonzalez will be confirmed - there just are not enough swing votes on the other side of the aisle to make the Administration withdraw their support - and if it does get to that point Dr. Rice is the President's higher priority. But in both cases the hearings, for the Democrats, have been a platform for continued discussion on this administration's failed Iraq policies. While the GOP apparently will never make anyone accountable for the lobby to get us into Iraq and the torture of prisoners, it will be present.

My new housemate definitely voted for Bush, and I could tell the Faux News brainwashing has taken place as he called Democrats "obstructionist" and referred to social security privatization as a "moral." Said it will go bankrupt and we should do something now. The idea that the plan was bad, expensive, and not practical seemed to be lost on him. This seems to be the new Republican. And like my relative that was active in Democratic politics and civil rights in the 50s and 60s, he is a registered Democrat - only I think my relative does not really believe it after the last four years.

Bush was hitting his talking points this morning, and they seem to be willing to jump head first into this social security "reform" thing. He also talked about liberty in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine - and I took it as not only trying to justify this debacle that is Iraq, but that the US is not opposed to moving it to another theatre - which has been well reported. Mr. Bush was also defending Dr. Rice!, our next Secretary of State whether you like it or not, about being a supporter of Democracy. They, at least publically, have no intention of changing policy - but pushing those most responsible into positions of more authority. Strong & Wrong....

Update: Gonzalez just made it through committee on party lines. Dr. Rice was confirmed.

More: Christine Todd Whitman is on the Leonard Lopate show now. She is talking about these new Republicans and their silly litmus tests – specifically regarding embryonic stem cells and restricting civil rights (FMA). She just said that Barry Goldwater would be a moderate in today’s political system – he was pro-choice and not against gays in the military. Ms. Whitman then quoted Reagan about how you don’t become or maintain the majority party by surrounding yourself with people that totally agree with you. I am considering buying her book for my relative that is on the fence about the modern Republican party but could never really bring himself to vote Democratic. I think the 2008 GOP primary will be interesting. Check out the archieve here later in the day.

Re: Snow, et al

Trope writes:
I'm also feeling a twinge of guilty fun while thinking about everyone on the east coast who's suffering through it as I type. Enjoy it, guys. We got the first course, so don't go complaining that we never share.

I actually thought that the storm was a blast. It hit New York on Saturday morning so I decided to run some errands before it got messy. Everywhere I went was met with long times, except when upgrading my cell phone and plan thanks to the discount I get for my job. Later in the day one a housemate and his girlfriend made split pea soup and we had an intoxicating dinner party with neighbors. A few hours later after internet shopping, more wine, chocolate, music, and a positive experience with an inversion table – four of us decided to go for a walk (around 1ish, and the snowing had mostly stopped). The roads were covered with enough slush that cabbies were sparse and the sidewalks that were not mostly cleared were covered with light fluffy snow.

Our neighborhood was beautiful while under a blanket of snow. On our hike we encountered more dog walkers than automobiles. For the first time ever since I moved to this apartment I heard no noise from the street – everything stopped but the four of us, dog walkers, and this random guy that walked out of a bar and jumped in a snow bank. It was fantastic – and it was a weekend. As a non-driver who is not responsible for any shoveling, I wouldn’t mind this a few times in the winter – especially if my closest subways remain unaffected!

By the way, Abbey Road is a good album…

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Snow, et al.

Oh, have you heard lately how cool I am? Pop by Elwood's page and check it out. Also, there's some cool shit about religion and the south side. Not in that order.

I am hugely thankful and relieved that we made it through the blizzard without incident. (What are the technical specs on a blizzard? Is it a certain windspeed or amount of snow? Insight is appreciated.) I'm also feeling a twinge of guilty fun while thinking about everyone on the east coast who's suffering through it as I type. Enjoy it, guys. We got the first course, so don't go complaining that we never share.

Friday, January 21, 2005

$40,000,000



So, now that the inauguration is over, I guess it's time to tally up the tab. Will it reach the $40 million that people were projecting? It seems odd to me that a President who has racked up the largest debt in our country's history and has dragged us into a war that will not be ending anytime soon would spend so lavishly on his SECOND inauguration party. Geez, act like you've already been there before!

So, what could we have spent this $40 million on instead of a foolish party for a bunch of rich white people?

_200 armored Humvees with the best armor for troops in Iraq.
_Vaccinations and preventive health care for 22 million children in regions devastated by the tsunami.
_A down payment on the nation's deficit, which hit a record-breaking $412 billion last year.
See the article here

I know one thing it could buy that a few of us would enjoy. A whole lot of this (which I think we'll need over the next four years):


Thursday, January 20, 2005

All about dialogue

or, Letters to People We Can't Stand.

This morning I heard a great piece on 848 about a Chicago man who writes letters to the president every single day. He confessed during the radio interview that he's pretty sure Mr. Bush does not read and savor his letters daily, but hopes that there is some White House staffer in a sub-basement who is reading and enjoying the daily contact.

One of my colleagues in my virtual office writes this in her morning greeting:

Good morning, Hand doctor then Admin, It's a sad day when a war mongering, would be dictator can spend $4 million on a party when the DC public hospital is closed, our children are not learning what they need to souvive, teen birth rates are high, HIV is spreading like wildfire and our senior are choosing medicine or food. Shame on G. W. Bush.


In my daily semi-work-related surfing, I was delighted to find new content on abortionclinicdays, a blog written by two docs who work part-time in an abortion clinic and blog (in a HIPPA-friendly way) about their thoughts and experiences at work. There is ALWAYS a debate festering in the comments section between the pro- and anti- factions, but that debate has not yet risen to a shout in most threads. I have a lot of respect for the people on both sides who are able to express their opinions without petty verbal violence; many of the people I work with have given up on dialogue. I also have great respect for the authors, who continue to post despite the animosity they receive on a weekly basis.

And, 'cause I'm not always as mature as my links, I want to share Maureen Dowd's column today on how Condi can't do math. Divisive, yes, but funny.

Also in the Not Dialogue category: James Dobson and his group Focus on the Family are attacking SpongeBob SquarePants as being "pro-homosexual". A lawyer for the multicultural foundation that SpongeBob is working with states that Dobson and other critics "need medication". Way to help the children, guys.

True dialogue requires honesty. When I listened (briefly) to the president's inaugural address, I was struck by how pretty his words sound. Respect for all citizens, self-determination for oppressed nations abroad, safety and liberty, etc, etc. It took me a minute to remember that all his promises have been empty in the past. We have the same problem with this president as most liberals have with the war in Iraq: we keep getting talked into giving it one more chance before we give up on it.

Bush has been scratching open the same frustration I have recently felt at work, with my friends, and with my family: it doesn't count as dialogue if you're the only one talking.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Jury Pool From Hell

Despite this being a big news week, especially with Condi!, Sen. Boxer and Sen. Kerry's questions, etc. But all I have time to comment on is something that I would expect from Stockton and Tweed. This gem, Attorney Meets the "jury pool from hell":Sex, drugs and bias -- prospective jurors acknowledge all
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) -- Defense attorney Leslie Ballin called it the "jury pool from hell."

The group of prospective jurors was summoned to listen to a case of Tennessee trailer park violence.

Right after jury selection began last week, one man got up and left, announcing, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite."

When the prosecutor asked if anyone had been convicted of a crime, a prospective juror said that he had been arrested and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew. He said he was provoked because his nephew just would not come out from under the bed.

Another would-be juror said he had had alcohol problems and was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth."

Another prospect volunteered he probably should not be on the jury: "In my neighborhood, everyone knows that if you get Mr. Ballin (as your lawyer), you're probably guilty." He was not chosen.

The case involved a woman accused of hitting her brother's girlfriend in the face with a brick. Ballin's client was found not guilty.

No comment is necessary...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Kerry Comments on the Elections

This is what Sen. Kerry had to say about the November elections in the US.
"Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, eleven hours to vote, while Republicans (went) through in 10 minutes - same voting machines, same process, our America," he said.

In his comments, Kerry also compared the democracy-building efforts in Iraq with voting in the U.S., saying that Americans had their names purged from voting lists and were kept from casting ballots.

"In a nation which is willing to spend several hundred million dollars in Iraq to bring them democracy, we cannot tolerate that too many people here in America were denied that democracy," Kerry said.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Clintonism, Bush & Legacy

January is a good month for many reasons, one of which is my favorite Atlantic Monthly issue arrives in the mail. It is their annual “State of the Nation” issue. In this issue Chuck Todd has a piece in their Agenda section titled “Clintonism, R.I.P.: How Triangulation became Strangulation.” Mr. Todd writes

The difference is that Bush measurably strengthened the Republican Party along the way, whereas Clinton worried mainly about his own political fortunes, to the detriment of his party. Every election under Bush has resulted in Republican gains in Congress; in sharp contrast, Clinton assumed office with his party in control of the House, the Senate, and a majority of governorships, and left it with none of those advantages.

Well first, Democrats made gains in ’96, ’98, and ’00. Before September 11th, the Bush Administration seemed to be on the verge of an administration destined for a historically embarrassing one term status. While September 11th was a tragedy, issues such as homeland security and the War in Iraq became the impetus for BushCo to push their agenda in all areas. Without the constant selling of fear and anxiety I really doubt that the Republicans would have won some of those 2002 Senate races, and I don’t they would still occupy the White House. But that is how the world plays out. If it were not September 11th, there could have been something else domestic or foreign.

Second, one of the complaints that I have heard repeated about the Clinton Administration was their preoccupation with legacy. After President Bush was elected in November, there was, and is, a discussion of whether or not BushCo is going to run to the center and focus on legacy while continuing right wing rhetoric or whether they will set out for an aggressive conservative agenda. Right now I think it is hard to tell as American conservatives have been floating the same issues for decades, and I as blogged about before – I’m not so sure how seriously they are about Social Security. Are they really pushing for major changes at the moment, or is this just another incremental step in the right wing’s privatization plans, and pass it off to Senator Frist if he is elected in 2008? I can’t see any major changes that aren’t met with a huge backlash – especially when Bush is now a lame duck and in a few months they will be focused on retaining the White House. If you read the interview with Mr. Bush in the Washington Post he seemed to be softening his stance on a Federal Marriage Amendment, among other things. But I don’t see any Clinton style “reforms” like the like 1996 telecommunication act.

Speaking of the Clinton White House losing the House and Senate in ’94, much of this loss has been credited to Democrats not having real new ideas since the New Dealers, triangulation, and not understanding the potential backlash over now Senator Clinton’s health care task force. By 1994 Republicans already had a sophisticated media delivery system for their agenda – which has often been sited as the reason for them current dominance of government at every level. Those of you have that been skeptical of incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid should take some comfort in knowing that Democratic rapid response is up and running out of his office. Listen to the OTM story, or read it tomorrow, titled Politicking in Unison. Perhaps the Bush Administration will meet a similar fate they continue to lobby for expensive and inefficient changes to Social Security. Did you see how fast they had a comment from a Roosevelt last week?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Sub news

"Give me a stopwatch and a map, and I'll fly the Alps in a plane with no windows." --Hunt for Red October.

The USS San Francisco rammed an underwater mountain about 360 miles southeast of Guam last Saturday. The maps the sub was using were from 1989, and failed to accurately chart the obstacle, though satellite photos from 1999 recorded its presence. The sub was going about 30 knots at impact. One sailor was killed. The NYTimes is obtaining most of its information from emails sent by Rear Adm. Sullivan and a sailor on board the sub, which were circulated around the sub community before they were leaked. I wish I could talk to the families.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Flotsam

What I'm listening to: the January 4 episode of Odyssey, which is all about New Year's Resolutions and keeping promises to one's self, and what might happen when we see ourselves as untrustworthy. I'm a geek, I know, but I'm enjoying it.


Hey, baby, you got a cracker?? This poor bird fell in love with Elwood over the last weekend. I'm sure he's pining away on his perch in Madison, even as we speak. I was flattered by his marginal attention to me, since I am a lowly female. But his best squawks and chirps were reserved for my husband. Feckless home-wrecking bird!

In my tireless quest to bring girl politics to the Tally Ho, I remind you of the existence of the Scarleteen Newswire . Heather kicks ass on bringing all those reproductive rights issues to light, though she's sadly fallen down on the case of that Spokane woman who couldn't get a divorce because she was pregnant. In breaking Chicago news, Elwood discusses the tragedy of people always having to wear pants. Or perhaps it's really about modernism. I dunno.

C'mon, it's 2005! Up and at 'em! Doesn't anyone else feel a blog entry coming on??

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

NPR Story

Did anyone else hear David Dreier (R-CA 26) on NPR this morning? He is chairman of the committee on rules and was saying something to the effect that assigning chairmen is about being a team player. This is the House of Representatives afterall, which is being led by the icon of ethical behavior, Tom DeLay. Mr. Dreier was asked about Steve Buyer (R-IN 04) being chosen over then current veteran affairs chairmen Craig Smith (R-NJ 04), he replied something to the effect that this Mr. Buyer had given a very good presentation - its all about the presenation I guess... But according to this press release, its all about loyalty in Bush (and Hastert) world.
In the 108th Congress, Smith was not known for consistently bucking House leaders.
He voted with them on budget issues and the Medicare drug bill but voted against them on drug reimportation legislation...

...Veterans groups have showered Smith and Bilirakis with praise but are wary of Buyer. They fear that under his leadership veterans funding could be cut substantially in 2005, noting that the White House wants to scale back federal spending sharply this year.

While Smith has been outspoken against proposed cuts to veterans programs, sources with these organizations speculate that Buyer would do whatever leadership wants.

One source said Buyer “would toe the party line” and “is ideologically loyal” to leadership.

Leading veterans groups are standing firmly behind Smith. In a Jan. 3 letter to Hastert, 10 organizations, including the VFW, the American Legion and Vietnam Veterans of America, urged the GOP leader to make sure Smith remains at the helm.

Veterans yesterday hand-delivered letters of the support for Smith on Capitol Hill.
One read: “In our view, it would be a tragedy of Chris Smith left the chairmanship. … The unnecessary loss of his leadership, knowledge, skill, honesty, passion, and work ethic would be a deeply disturbing development not just to us, but to millions of veterans across the country whose lives he had touched.”

The organizations said they do not always agree with Smith but know he will “always give us a fair hearing and an honest assessment.” They called Smith “the foremost congressional expert and advocate on veterans’ issues” and praised the lawmaker for putting “principle over politics.”

So in other words, the agenda is to stretch the military out as far as humanly possible, putting our soldiers in harms way, and then remove their Congressional allies for loyalty to party leaders. So where does that leave the vets?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Vacationing without Big Hair and Beer

So my four day vacation was all that I expected. In keeping with this past years tradition, leaving New York was a chore. My 8am on Thursday my noon flight was already an hour late. This was a blessing in disguise as there was no chance I was catching that one on time. However, this airline was trying their best to make sure all of us connectors would make it to O'Hare on time, and seeing how they must have a flight leaving for O'Hare from LaGuardia on the hour they moved us up to what was the 10am flight, which left after one-thirty. Of course we sat on the plane for an hour, despite being in a rush. As usual I met an interesting chap on the flight, an architect who described his work as creating ugly buildings that don't match older buildings and designing lame clubs for the beautiful people that are too fabulous. As far as he was concerned, clients aren't willing to pay for good architecture (as if they would know it if they saw it) and cities don't get the job done in regards to preservation and taste. And the cherry on top was he thought Manhattan prices were crazy and the Westside stadium project is a load of crap. Both are very true, and to show how much power the average man has in such issues, despite the need for more housing, and more affordable housing in Manhattan, corporations and labor unions will probably get their stadium and the public with pay for it. In any case, I land in O'Hare and am told to rush to my connecting flight to Madison. I get to the Mad-town gate and they seem to be waiting for me. Of course once I board we are notified that the luggage machine is broken and we sit there for another hour, an interesting wait considering it is about a twenty minute flight. Upon landing in Madison we can't exit the plane as neither flight attendant knows how to open the door. But within the following hour I was consuming a fantastic stout at one of the many fabulous brew pubs (The Angelic, The Great Dane, J.T. Whitney's - and this doesn't count New Glarus and Capital Brewery) that have successfully kept the population intoxicated for many decades. After one sip my comment was, "God I love Madison." Poncho (J) has fun hobbies and a great lifestyle.

After several days of tremendous food (including fresh Tuna), many adult fermented beverages, shopping, and the new Battlestar Galactica (which I will never see as they are giving it a Firefly time slot, who is home on Friday night when libations are to be had while attempting to meet interesting people?), it was off to Chicago where I drank at a Belgium beer bar, went to a hippy church that was about social justice and doing good as opposed to making one feel as if they are good, took in a show of TMLMTBGB (fellow New Yorkers, we must attend), ate at Iggy's next to a really drunk and really annoying college aged girl who made a vomitus mess in the bathroom, and last but not least, watched a flick that included Angelina Jolie and her many firearm accessories (for example). Elwood bitched passionately, and convincingly, about jury duty. Trope and M did their respective things.

I recently received a grant to study weather or not big hair is in fact making a comeback. So far my study, Fear Itself: The Return of Big Hair, I have found that it has not infiltrated blue urban America. As I don't really care what goes on in the burbs at the present, I advise that panicking is not yet neccessary.

One thing I did find interesting is how I took three flights on my vacation, and neither were full. Twice I had my own row, and once there was no one between me and the other passenger. While priced as if a discount airline, it was not. I realize that after the holidays is not traditionally a peak travel time, but I wonder how they come close to meeting costs. It is amazing that we constantly bail out airlines while endlessly and mindlessly pump tax dollars into airports and highways but consistently whine about rail which receives a fraction of the subsidy. Also, I don't think I should have to pay full ticket price when the in house entertainment includes pieces on NASCAR and golf.

After taking a few days off from the news I returned to see that Iraq is still FUBAR and BushCo. seems hell bent on exploiting similar fears and anxieties and push unnecessary Social Security reforms. I think the Administration has too goals. First, as the social security reform debate heats up it will consume media cycle after media cycle and temporarily push the horrible news coming our of Iraq to a higher numbered page. Seeing as how it looks doubtful at the moment that the Bush Administration will be able to actually get anything beyond minor tinkering, why are they making such a fuss on a potentially politically devastating defeat? It seems to have united the Democratic opposition while the Republicans seem divided. So second, perhaps they are trying to show, even if it is very small, progress on domestic policy. Lets pretend they do get something, it will undoubtedly be very expensive and overall about as popular as the rest of their policies.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best thus far. Too bad Cuaron is not directing the next. Much better than the two previous films. Oh yeah, and why haven't the Cubs done anything this offeason?

Perle, Clarke, Nash on Brian Lehrer

If you are interested, Richard Perle and Major General William Nash are discussing Iraq on The Brian Lehrer Show right now. Listen live right now.

Also, Richard A. Clarke will be on to discuss his cover article in The Atlantic's State of the Nation issue (January/February 2005).

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Washtington Post on Mr. Gonzales

This is from an editorial in Friday's Washington Post
ALBERTO R. GONZALES missed an important opportunity yesterday to rectify his position, and that of President Bush, on the imprisonment and interrogation of foreign detainees. At the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on his nomination to be attorney general, Mr. Gonzales repeatedly was offered the chance to repudiate a legal judgment that the president is empowered to order torture in violation of U.S. law and immunize torturers from punishment. He declined to do so. He was invited to reject a 2002 ruling made under his direction that the infliction of pain short of serious physical injury, organ failure or death did not constitute torture. He answered: "I don't have a disagreement with the conclusions then reached." Nor did he condemn torture techniques, such as simulated drowning, that were discussed and approved during meetings in his office. "It is not my job," he said, to decide if they were proper. He was prompted to reflect on whether departing from the Geneva Conventions had been a mistake, in light of the shocking human rights abuses that have since been reported in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay prison and that continue even now. Mr. Gonzales demurred. The error, he answered, was not of administration policy but of "a failure of training and oversight."

The message Mr. Gonzales left with senators was unmistakable: As attorney general, he will seek no change in practices that have led to the torture and killing of scores of detainees and to the blackening of U.S. moral authority around the world. Instead, the Bush administration will continue to issue public declarations such as those Mr. Gonzales repeated yesterday -- "that torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration" -- while in practice sanctioning procedures that the International Red Cross and many lawyers inside the government consider to be illegal and improper...

...Yet Mr. Gonzales appeared willfully obtuse about the consequences of his most important judgments as White House counsel. He repeatedly misrepresented the war crimes that have occurred, suggesting they were limited to those shown in the photographs taken by the "night shift" at Abu Ghraib, when it is now documented that abuses occurred throughout Iraq, in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo and that they continued even after the photos became public. He again derided and mischaracterized the Geneva Conventions, claiming that they "limit our ability to solicit information from detainees" and prevent their prosecution for war crimes -- an interpretation at odds with that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the military's legal corps, the Red Cross, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and decades of U.S. experience in war.

I am assuming that he will be confirmed, even if by a narrow margin. Do we have the votes to block? I also assume that this is Mr. Bush's guy, and the White House won't let this one go down...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Are you going to vote?

was the question a BBC reporter asked a taxi cab driver in Palestine. The driver had every intention of voting, and at this point was undecided. When asked who do you think will win he responded, "Abbas; because he is Bush's guy." This is both good and bad. Good that the cabbie is excited about voting but bad because a feeling already exists that Mr. Bush is choosing the next leader - that behind this election is a hand picked leader. I found the report interesting. But BushCo just keeps failing. Last year the disaster in Iran, the US could have been on the frontlines of that terrible disaster. It would have been right, and good for their administrations image. This year BushCo could have been on the front lines of the tsunami tragedy on the 26th. It looks now as if they have been embarrased into the level of aid that they pledged.

I am traveling the next few days and of course my flight is already delayed an hour. Everytime I travel this happens. I must just accept that I am not meant to leave Manhattan. There has been a lot that I have wanted to post, but honestly the news is so depressing lately, and with the possibility of Mr. Bush losing behind us, we have four more years of this.

I hope someone posts more of the tougher questions asked Gonzales today. I still really wish that Bernard Kerik would have made it to a hearing. One of my fondest political memories was the Clarence Thomas hearings - specifically the questions by Strom Thurmond. "Judge Thomas, have you have ever referred to yourself, or any part of yourself, as 'Long Dong Silver?'" I can't remember if that was the exact question, or a comedic spin on it - but I was in a car driving to Chicago and the hearing the was much more entertaining than anything I had learned in a civics course. I am sure that Stockton and Tweed will provide us with some laughs about todays hearing.

BTW, Senator Barbara Boxer is going to formally object to the acceptance of Ohio's Electoral Votes this afternoon.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Updates

I added Theory Head to Culture. Stockton & Tweed's Bad Vernacular featuring Dispatches from Jesusland and Republican Family Values as well as their How To Law School to Villagers. Williams Pitt Rivers's blog FYI and Matthew Yglesias (finally) have been added to information. I have some resources to add, so if there are any sites you think need to be added email me.

Sick Shit of the Day / Iraq

Sandra Laville's article in the Guardian, Survivor, 12, feared kidnapped in Thailand, states that officials fear that Kristian Walker has been kidnapped from the hospital.
Kristian was on holiday with his mother Madelaine and her boyfriend Carl Axel von Platen and his two siblings, Anna, 7, and David, 14. The couple are missing, but the two children survived and are back home in Stockholm with their father.

Mr Walker said police had told him that similar kidnappings had taken place near Khao Lak and the kidnappers may have been taking advantage of the chaos after the tsunami to try to fly Kristian to another country without a passport.

A doctor at the hospital, which is three miles outside the beach resort of Khao Lak, told the Expressen newspaper that she remembered seeing Kristian outside a treatment room after the disaster. He had suffered bruises and cuts but seemed to be otherwise in good health...

...Fears are growing that Kristian Walker has been taken by those involved in the sex trade in Phuket.

Yesterday on Morning Edition they discussed the exploitation of children. The link can be found here. What would the mornings terrible news be without a dispatch from Iraq? It seems as almost every morning an article like this one is found in the headlines - 20 killed in a car bomb, but thats not all
In another attack Wednesday, gunmen killed Iraqi police Col. Khalifa Hassan and his driver as they headed to work in the restive city of Baqoubah, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, Dr. Ahmed Fouad of the Baqoubah General Hospital said.

Also, four Iraqi civilians were killed and two others were injured when U.S. soldiers opened fire after their convoy was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades in central Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad, according to Dr. Riyad al-Hiti of the Ramadi hospital. The U.S. military had no immediate information about the incident.

A U.S. soldier belonging to Task Force Olympia was killed and two were wounded after their patrol was attacked with small arms and rocket propelled grenade fire Tuesday afternoon in Tal Afar in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Five other U.S. servicemen died in three separate attacks on Tuesday, making it the deadliest day for the U.S. military in Iraq since the suicide bombing at a mess tent in Mosul on Dec. 21, an attack that killed 22 people including 14 U.S. soldiers and three American contractors.

More unnecessary loss of life...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

"wave of mutilation"

its a pixies song. anyway, as the numbers rise in the toll due to the tsunami, i feel things need to be put in perspective...

let me throw out this question: if you could prevent the tsunami, would you? hell yeah! how about the daily death of 29,000 children? according to unicef (pdf) 29,000 human beings under five years old die of largely preventable diseases each day. we must each become responsible for the wave of poverty in our global system. the time is now.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year, Iraq

Suicide Car Bombers Kills 18 Iraqi Soldiers - The Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb north of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 19 Iraqis -- all but one of them National Guardsmen -- in another strike against Iraqis cooperating with American forces, the U.S. military said. Four Iraqi policemen were killed in a separate attack further north.

The car bomb blast near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, also wounded six guardsmen, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Neal E. O'Brien said. The bomb detonated as their bus passed close to a U.S. base.

An Iraqi civilian -- the bus driver -- was among the 19 killed while the other casualties were members of Iraq's 203rd National Guard Battalion. The driver of the car that exploded also died.