Saturday, April 19, 2008
To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.
Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.
Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.
In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.
A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.
Uncapping the payroll tax reveals still another cultural misstep by Sen. Obama. He apparently has a difficult time understanding that nowadays, a veteran fireman or a veteran cop, married to a veteran schoolteacher, will make well over $100,000. In fact, they can make close to $200,000. Yet Obama still wants to go ahead and tax both the first and last payroll dollar of this group at a very high marginal tax rate by uncapping the Social Security (FICA) tax.
The FICA cap is an individual cap, unaffected by income earned/payroll taxes paid by your spouse.
(ht reader js)
- BAGHDAD - Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is threatening a new uprising if an American-Iraqi crackdown against his followers continues.
The cleric says he is giving his final warning to the Iraqi government to stop working with the U.S. military against him or he will "declare an open war until liberation."
Saturday's statement has been posted on al-Sadr's Web site.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Twice-divorced former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took Communion at a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict on Saturday, breaching rules that bar those who remarry outside the Church from doing so.
As he left New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral with his third wife, Judith, the failed presidential candidate confirmed to Reuters that he took Communion from a priest.
Asked if he was uncomfortable with having broken the Church ban on the divorced and remarried taking Communion, Giuliani said, "No."
...adding that while it's nice on the rare occasions when the press reports on conflicts between action and stated religion in Republicans, this is a pretty dumb story. Perhaps if Rudy were still running for office it might have some relevancy if there was something else going on make it relevant. But what Rudy does in church is his business absent some other consideration.
“Al Qaeda is on the run, but they’re not defeated” is his standard line on how things are going in Iraq. When chiding the Democrats for wanting to withdraw troops, he has been known to warn that “Al Qaeda will then have won.” In an attack this winter on Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic front-runner, Mr. McCain went further, warning that if American forces withdrew, Al Qaeda would be “taking a country.”
In longer discussions on the subject, Mr. McCain often goes into greater specificity about the entities jockeying for control in Iraq. Some other analysts do not object to Mr. McCain’s portraying the insurgency (or multiple insurgencies) in Iraq as that of Al Qaeda. They say he is using a “perfectly reasonable catchall phrase” that, although it may be out of place in an academic setting, is acceptable on the campaign trail, a place that “does not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
Few, including Mr. McCain, expect Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni group, to take control of Shiite-dominated Iraq in the event of an American withdrawal. The situation they fear and which Mr. McCain himself sometimes fleshes out is that an American withdrawal would be celebrated as a triumph by Al Qaeda and create instability that the group could then exploit to become more powerful.
In the late 90s, the dirty fucking hippies were the crazy people who thought that Bill Clinton should neither resign nor be impeached. They were marginalized by the corrupt elites in our mainstream media who felt otherwise. In the great wasteland of our mainstream media there was almost no place one could turn to find someone expressing the majority view of the American public, that this whole thing was insane.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Obviously there is the Thatcheresque class association. Poor people ride buses! Paint it green and tart it up to look like a fake trolley and such people will ride them because they associate those with tourism.
But there are good reasons people don't like buses, though some of them can be improved upon. Buses are generally slower and less predictable. The rides are bumpier and less pleasant. The routes aren't as fixed, and people are less sure where they go. Get on the wrong train and you can just get off at the next stop and return. It's less clear what to do if you go wrong on a bus.
But you can make a better bus system. With GPS systems you can have real time information at bus stops about when (and what) bus is arriving. The simple step of having good up to date maps and schedules, along with fare information, at bus stations is a big help. Transfers to/from other buses and trains should be free and easy. Express buses which don't stop every block should be on some routes. Giving buses the ability to force a stoplight change improves speed.
Lots of ways to make buses better, some of which require little in the way of capital expenditures.
Still they aren't a substitute for fixed rail. An important element of a transit system is to have it impact land use patterns, to have denser development around transit routes. Since bus routes aren't fixed, they're less likely to lead to land use changes.
After my nightmarish confrontation with Roger Simon, I rode the elitist bus home.
A similar question can be asked about people like Michael O'Hanlon and Fred Hiatt. Do they push forever war in Iraq because they are conscienceless monsters who have no concern for the consequences of what they advocate? Or do they push for forever war because they have just enough conscience to care, but their ego requires them to be "right" so they keep dreaming of ponies? That is, they have consciences but their egos won't let them face them.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
It's actually kind of funny thinking about how for so many years I'd internalized this notion of Social Security as the "third rail." You know, it's so dangerous that only really brave politicians would mess with it. Of course it's incredibly popular because it's a great program, people like it, and there's no reason to mess with it. But we've had decades of elites and the "pain caucus" and other wankerific manifestations of people who really can't stand the idea that old people get a modest guaranteed income after paying into an insurance system their whole lives.
I think this plays out in different ways in different areas. George and Charlie are near the top of the pyramid, so they know what's best for you! Elitism, basically. And the you have local newspaper monopolies who justified their monopolies by imagining they were Very Important Institutions. Elitism again! Though different. Then you have CNN and MSNBC who wriggle around within the confines, roughly, of what they imagine journalism is supposed to be (not saying they live up to this concept, just that it impacts how they do things), though for some reasons various things like "informing the public" seem to come beneath odd arcane journalistic practices that no one but journalists care about.
But, yes, better product please!
PHILADELPHIA, PA—U.S. Senator Barack Obama will return to Pennsylvania tomorrow for a five-day “On Track for Change” tour where he will visit communities across the state by rail, road, and air in the days leading up to the Pennsylvania primary. Obama will kick off the tour tomorrow with town hall meetings in Erie and Williamsport and a rally in Philadelphia. On Saturday he will take the train from Philadelphia to Harrisburg – where he will hold an evening rally – with stops along the way at stations in Wynnewood, Paoli, Downington, and Lancaster.
Sometimes I jokingly say, "Bush sucks...the media sucks..." Though, really, it's not so much of a joke. Bush does suck! And as millions of people saw last night, the elite beltway media sucks Mickey Kaus's goats!
And they don't learn. Ever.
Because the Village is an accountability free zone, where as long as you agree with the serious people you can never be wrong, and even if you were it doesn't matter so stop mentioning it.
Personally, while it would've been impossible for either candidate to look good while Charlie and George were gang raping democracy, I don't think Obama came off particularly badly. In the first half, which was supposed to be tough on him, I thought Clinton looked pretty uncomfortable with where her campaign had taken us. She was probably better in the second half. And while the bulk of the bullshit was thrown at him, I was just annoyed at the bullshit. There are genuine nonpersonality differences between these candidates which moderators who had any idea what they were talking about could have elicited. But when Charlie Gibson is a Laffer loving wingnut whose heart bleeds for the capital gains earnings of $200,000+ earners, and Snuffleupagus is a Sean Hannity sock puppet, that's not the debate we're going to get.
BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest at a funeral in northern Iraq, killing at least 49 people, police said.
The bomber struck the funeral for two Sunni Arab brothers who had been fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, police said. Fifty people were wounded in the attack which occured in Adhaim, an area on the edge of Diyala province north of Baghdad.
At the end, Gibson pompously thanked the candidates -- or was he really patting himself on the back? -- for "what I think has been a fascinating debate." He's entitled to his opinion, but the most fascinating aspect was waiting to see how low he and Stephanopoulos would go, and then being appalled at the answer.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
NEW YORK In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate this year, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia.
ABC Switchboard: 212-456-7777
..."Gibson and Stephanopoulos shame media, America". Indeed.
...My God. It gets worse and worse. Just move the whole thing to Fox.
In a general election debate it would make sense to get questions from the right like that, but in a democratic primary it's just fucking stupid.
I hope I have a superpowered liver.
...53 minutes in, policy! Though corrupted by Charlie Gibson's dream of a military coup.
Queen Village author Jennifer Weiner will feed ideas to ABC Studios as part of a seven-figure, two-year agreement reported yesterday in the Hollywood trades.
"I hate to say this, but it's a really fantastic deal," said Weiner, a former Inquirer reporter who has written the bestsellers Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, Little Earthquakes and Goodnight Nobody, in an interview today. "I don't have to do anything."
It's mildly amusing to watch cable hosts with multimillion-dollar salaries wring their hands over how Obama can't possibly relate to the struggling masses. When was the last time most of these people had a shot and a beer in a bar, or visited a small town unless it was to make a highly paid speech? It's a small irony of this "out of touch" debate that upper-echelon journalists with wardrobe allowances or kids in fancy private schools get to pose as the folks who are in touch with the great American working class.
Also journalism itself is hamstrung by weird professional codes and cultural practices for better or for worse. While they may not always be lived up to, they do impact how news is covered even if there are more appealing ways to do it.
Obviously the "market" matters, but the financial incentives must be thought about a bit more broadly.
In only 4 more Friedmans, we can, 7 years later, consider reducing troops in Iraq.
This war is so awesome, and it's even awesomer that its proponents are still very serious media figures instead of living out their lives in shame under a bridge somewhere.
[C]orporate chains don't have the menu flexibility to utilize leftover ingredients in tomorrow's specials.
Corporate chains probably are efficient in some sense due to standardization of portions and ingredients (though given portion sizes perhaps not), but without the flexibility to roll over ingredients they'll inevitably waste things. Also less fun.
Here in Philly the silver lining of our awful state liquor licensing system is that many restaurants don't have liquor licenses and are BYOB. Not being able to make money on liquor means that the restaurant has to be all about the food.
The Senate proclaimed a fierce bipartisan resolve two weeks ago to help American homeowners in danger of foreclosure. But while a bill that senators approved last week would take modest steps toward that goal, it would also provide billions of dollars in tax breaks — for automakers, airlines, alternative energy producers and other struggling industries, as well as home builders.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, was the main author of the Senate bill meant to help homeowners.
The tax provisions of the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which consumer groups and labor leaders say amount to government handouts to big business, show how the credit crisis, while rattling the housing and financial markets, has created beneficiaries in the power corridors of Washington.
It also shows how legislation with a populist imperative offers a chance for lobbyists to press their clients’ interests.
What won't be in the bill is a provision allowing bankruptcy judges to modify loan terms for primary residences, like people can for vacation homes and investment properties.
I'm fine with carving out a special bankruptcy exception for the standard 10% down 30 year fixed rate loan, but crazy "exotic" mortgages should go before the judge like everything else.
BAGHDAD — A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias.
The retreat left a crucial stretch of road on the front lines undefended for hours and led to a tense series of exchanges between American soldiers and about 50 Iraqi troops who were fleeing.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
“I don’t think people look at me as the establishment, do you?” Matthews asked me. “Am I part of the winner’s circle in American life? I don’t think so.”
Annual salary: $5 million.
Of course, squabbling over Alan Greenspan’s place in history is not going to get us out of this crisis. But vigorous debate about the past is absolutely essential if we are to avoid such a quagmire in the future.
But this is not how things work in the accountability free zone known as the Village. It's just a waste of time to look back and figure out what went wrong. Instead, we must turn to the people who screwed everything up and get their advice about how to fix things while studiously writing out of the picture anyone who was smart enough recognize the inevitable problems.
So much for the liberal media.
John McCain and Barack Obama both appeared before the nation's newspaper editors yesterday. The putative Republican presidential nominee was given a box of doughnuts and a standing ovation. The likely Democratic nominee was likened to a terrorist.
Sheets of uncovered insulation flap in the breeze from unfinished townhouse units in Allentown. Workers at a closed roofing plant near Quakertown are looking for new jobs. A manufacturer of construction trucks says sales are down. For more than a year, ''for sale'' signs have lingered in front yards across the Lehigh Valley.
Now, as the housing downturn lengthens here and nationally, other indications are that it's not just the real estate market that has slowed down. It's the economy. And it's not just people who need to sell their homes who are feeling the pain.
At 39 months in the doghouse, George W. Bush has surpassed Harry Truman's record as the postwar president to linger longest without majority public approval.
Bush hasn't received majority approval for his work in office in ABC News/Washington Post polls since Jan. 16, 2005 — three years and three months ago. The previous record was Truman's during his last 38 months in office.
BAGHDAD -- Car bombs ripped through crowded areas at lunch hour in the former Sunni insurgent strongholds of Baqouba and Ramadi on Tuesday as more than 50 people were killed in one of the deadliest days in Iraq in months.
I only wish I had supported it so that I could get on the teevee to talk about it.
Monday, April 14, 2008
The consumer spending slump and tightening credit markets are unleashing a widening wave of bankruptcies in American retailing, prompting thousands of store closings that are expected to remake suburban malls and downtown shopping districts across the country.
Since last fall, eight mostly midsize chains — as diverse as the furniture store Levitz and the electronics seller Sharper Image — have filed for bankruptcy protection as they staggered under mounting debt and declining sales.
But the troubles are quickly spreading to bigger national companies, like Linens ‘n Things, the bedding and furniture retailer with 500 stores in 47 states. It may file for bankruptcy as early as this week, according to people briefed on the matter.
Even retailers that can avoid bankruptcy are shutting down stores to preserve cash through what could be a long economic downturn. Over the next year, Foot Locker said it would close 140 stores, Ann Taylor will start to shutter 117 and the jeweler Zales will close 100.
WASHINGTON After addressing the journalists gathered at the annual Associated Press luncheon in Washington, D.C., today, Sen. Barack Obama took a few questions. The last one from the audience, delivered via AP chairman W. Dean Singleton was related to how to troops to Iraq and the threat posed by, as Singleton put it, "Obama bin Laden."
Obama quickly corrected Singleton. “That’s Osama bin Laden,” he said. The crowd laughed a bit. "If I did that, I am so sorry," Singleton replied.
Stupid stuff like this shouldn't even matter, but if Obama's the nominee a substantial chunk of Republican chuckleheads will believe, or pretend to believe, that Obama really is a terrorist who wants to destroy America.
But, still, winning is much more fun than losing! Every election between 1997 and 2006 felt like a tremendous loss. That sucked. It was rather depressing to be a Democrat. It wasn't any fun at all!
It's still not as fun as it could be. But it does indeed feel like there's been a shift in the country.
U.S. retail sales unexpectedly rose 0.2 percent in March, pushed up by a jump in gasoline sales, a government report released Monday showed.
Sales at gasoline stations rose 1.1 percent, the Commerce Department said. Excluding gasoline sales, retail sales were flat last month.
Update: Argh, I'm sure Chris' site will be back up eventually. In the meantime, enjoy some sheer blindness Jim Henley found on the White Guy Internet.
Further update: Since I can't get the link right now either, I'll have to settle for the little bit I quoted on my own site last night from Chris' post:
"The President of the United States has openly, proudly admitted that he approved the use of interrogation methods that are by every measure -- including the measure of United States law -- criminal acts of torture. It is one of the most brazen and scandalous confessions of wrongdoing ever uttered by an American leader -- and it has had no impact whatsoever. No scandal, no outcry, no protest, no prosecution.
No, it's obvious now that we must drink this bitter cup to the dregs. The sleepwalkers have encompassed us all in their nightmare. And how terrible, how terrible will be the awakening."
Sunday, April 13, 2008
So far so good. Plugged it in and was up and running pretty quickly. It's a bit more expensive than it should be (about $60/month I think), but I suppose it's a necessary expense.
No mercy shown for those who flee mortgage loans
KENNETH R. HARNEY | Washington Post Writers Group
April 13, 2008
WASHINGTON—The country's two largest sources of mortgage money have a blunt warning for anyone thinking about joining the "walkaway" trend, where homeowners stop making payments and months later send the house keys to their lender: You will feel the pain.
On March 31, Fannie Mae sent out new guidelines to lenders aimed at walkaways and other foreclosure situations. Fannie will prohibit foreclosed borrowers from getting another mortgage through it for five years, unless there are "documented extenuating circumstances." In those cases, the prohibition is three years.
Even after five years, borrowers with foreclosures in their files will have to put at least 10 percent down and need minimum FICO credit scores of 680.
Somewhat tangential to a question asked of him (I forget what) at Eschacon, Krugman commented that defaulting on their creditors was painful for a couple of years for Argentina and then everything started going quite nicely again, with people still willing to lend them money.
A bit later I remarked that the Argentina model would also be the case for people walking away from mortgages. It'll be a pain for a couple of years, and then everything would revert back to normal. Fannie's "no mercy" isn't exactly harsh punishment.
Repeated calls to the company and the broker for comment went unanswered. Cheryl Oliphant of Santa Monica, Calif., bought a house that lenders shopped to appraisers as being worth $550,000. The registered nurse now thinks the appraisal was inflated.
A novice real-estate investor, Oliphant said she used her retirement savings and bought at the top of the market, thinking she had a great deal and instant equity in the house because it appraised for $50,000 more than the $450,000 sales price.
"The appraisal was wishful thinking," said Oliphant, who could not provide the appraiser's name. "I became a little suspicious later when I went to refinance and the next appraiser was having a hard time finding the value."
Oliphant has been trying to sell the house at a $100,000 loss and plans to file for bankruptcy, losing her $50,000 down payment. She said she might ultimately have to abandon that house and four others she bought in Florida.
It's important to remember that in all of these bubble zones, the amount of rent that people could think about charging tenants came nowhere near the cost of owning. These were investment properties in the sense of "prices go up forever WHEEEEEEEEEEE" not in the sense that there was belief that the properties could generate revenue over and above the costs of holding them.
I made that 95% figure up, though 80% of the time I'm correct about such things.
ABC's "This Week" — Former President Jimmy Carter; national security adviser Stephen Hadley.
CBS' "Face the Nation" — Defense Secretary Robert Gates; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
NBC's "Meet the Press" — Democratic strategists James Carville and Bob Shrum; Republican strategists Mary Matalin and Mike Murphy.
CNN's "Late Edition" — Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Joe Biden, D-Del., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent; Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
As Meet the Press descends further into self-parody...
The ACLU wants a special prosecutor to investigate Bush's admission that he authorized torture. I think that is a swell idea that is likely to go nowhere.
I hear John Conyers asked an assembled crowd today in Philadelphia whether any of them would object to impeaching the president. No one objected. Then he asked whether anyone would object to impeaching Cheney. Again, no one objected. I don't know the full context of Conyers' remarks, but the timing indicates it is related to Bush's admission.
If you were strategizing a blogswarm to get Congress, the press, and the administration to do something, what would you suggest we focus on? Should we focus on the lack of media coverage? Should we focus on getting a special prosecutor? Should we focus on getting the administration to comply with requests for documents and testimony from congressional committees?
I'm asking because I'm not sure what we should do, only that we should do something.
Personally, I think we should do all of those things.