Friday, October 28, 2005

Today, in Virginia, President Bush practically went through the alleged letter from Zawahiri (to Zarqawi) line by line. Bush mentioned it in an earlier radio address some time ago, but he really seemed to rely on it heavily today.

His basic point is that we can't leave Iraq because the terrorists are waiting to exploit a power vacuum, and insert their Islamofascism. So we must stay in Iraq. How long, who knows? But we must stay until our stalwart warrior-leaders tell us it's ok to leave.

Funny thing is, the authenticity of that letter has been questioned.

While the United States Government has the highest confidence in the letter's authenticity, Al-Qaeda denies it, saying "We in al-Qaida declare that there is no truth to these claims, and they are baseless, except in the imagination of the politicians of the Black (White) House".

Juan Cole and others have noticed some funny things, about the letter, too.

I don't know. I suppose it's possible that a presidential speech might rely on shabby, bogus intelligence, but, really, how likely is that?.... *wink*

With this crowd, desperate times seem to call for desperate forgeries.
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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Our lie's in Jeopardy, baby... oooo-ooo-ooo-ooh 

But it was just a small one.

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What she said 

(via Jackass)
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I haven't been this happy since the hogs ate my brother... 

Michael at 2 Millionth finds a lovely gem-of-a-quote from Slate which he knew would please me:

Not even Oliver Stone could have imagined the eerie parallel between Bush and LBJ. Both men overcame the soft bigotry of low expectations to enjoy surprising electoral success. Both brought Texas-sized ambitions to the White House and insisted that America could binge on both guns and butter. Both squandered their high-flying popularity by mismanaging foreign entanglements. In their fifth year in office, both watched their own party sour on cronies they nominated for the Supreme Court.

Thank you thank you thank you!

More here. Unfortunately it was the awful aftermath of the LBJ presidency (Nixon, more Vietnam, 70's economic malaise) which really made it disasterous. It's positively chilling to think that the worst may be yet to come after Bush leaves office.
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Gulf Coast Wage Cut Revoked! 

See? Play smart and win. Rep George Miller (D-CA) explains at TPM Cafe:
It was announced today that the President will overturn his Gulf Coast wage cut on November 8. This was a direct result of intense pressure from Democrats and labor and religious leaders.

Every single House Democrat has been on record since September in opposition to the President's wage cut. I recently wrote on this site about an unprecedented Joint Resolution I introduced last week that would have forced a vote in Congress to overturn the President's wage cut. That vote would have had to happen - you guessed it - not later than the week of November 7. With the support of every House Democrat and 37 House Republicans, we would have won that vote. Boxed in by that embarrassing scenario, the White House chose to reverse itself.

This wage cut was a mistake from the beginning and never should have been ordered. The President chose to undermine workers' wages at a time when they needed the most help. Democrats had a better idea: pay people a decent wage for the hard they work do.

I glimpsed the human side of this story yesterday while attending the Mayor's weekly town hall meeting at the Sheraton. I was standing in line by a gentleman who was livid over the low wages offered to him, a self-described "skilled worker". During the Q & A after mayor Nagin spoke, this gentleman voiced his concerns at the microphone. He claimed that he lost more than just his house and belongings in Katrina. He "lost his dignity" when he asked contractors for work and they offered only a fraction of what he was normally paid. (I can't vouch that the Davis-Bacon laws apply directly to his specific situation, because I don't know for sure.) However, it's a good bet that hundreds of Katrina victims are facing similar circumstances. The recission of the Gulf Coast Wage Cut is good news for these people. There was a story in the Times-Picayune (print version only) that included this man's quote.

I'll have more to say later about yesterday's Town Hall experience. (I also attended the Job Fair at Audubon Montessori.) Before and after the (jam-packed) Town Hall Meeting I had some tremendously interesting conversations with fellow New Orleanians, journalists. Then I had drinks with some Texas construction moguls at a fancy CBD RestAurant. You won't believe what they told me. Well, yes you will.

As far as the breaking news about the Miers' withdrawal-- I'm surprised. I thought that they would see it through, after suffering so much damage. I will be keen on following where she goes from here.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

How you like dem ersters? 

CNN via DP:

Louisiana oysters are being harvested again, although it may be another week or more before people can belly up to an oyster bar and order a dozen on the half-shell.

The beds in the eastern half of the state were tested and retested after Hurricane Katrina to ensure they were clean of chemicals or germs from the water that was pumped out of New Orleans or ran off of other areas.
Harvesting began in some areas on Saturday, and the entire state will probably be open in the next week to 10 days, said Mike Voisin, owner of Motivatit Seafoods in Houma and chairman of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force.

"It's exciting," he said. "I was telling people last week that if we didn't get something soon, the harvesters would lose the calluses on their hands."

Once when President Franklin Roosevelt dined on Oysters Rockefeller, the appetizer creation of Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans (and thought to be America's single greatest contribution to haute cuisine), New Orleans Mayor Robert Maestri leaned over, and in typical Ninth Ward New Orleans-ese convivially queried the President, "How ya like dem ersters?"
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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Josh gets seismic again 

Oh goodness. From TPM:

I mentioned yesterday that the Italian daily La Repubblica ran a story reporting alleged new details about the origins of the Niger/uranium forgeries. Today they followed up with a second part of their report which, if accurate in its particulars, could rock the foundations of official Washington.

I've said before that when Dr. Josh starts getting geological, I worry about him overpromising.

Then again, sometimes, a last chance 4th down pass results in a touchdown. And the tables are turned on a hated rival, and the emotional reaction is positively... seismic.

Maybe this will be one of those rare occurrences which you'll always remember.
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Executive Derision 

As Hurricane Wilma approached, Florida Governor Jeb Bush ordered a mandatory evacuation for Key West. About 90% of the residents disobeyed his order.

At one time, Wilma was the most intense Atlantic Hurricane ever recorded. The hurricane did not weaken as much as some expected, and should it have suddenly jogged to the south, the Conch Republic of Key West might have been devastated.

But Jeb[!] has enough time to kick Louisiana and praise himself. What a guy!
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Bush "decided" to nominate Miers at least 6 years ago 

The Monk is a conservative blogger who I often read and occasionally needle. When he came to New Orleans last year, I had the opportunity to meet him, and we ate at Mother's and drank at Restaurant August. Despite disagreeing on so many political issues, we had a good time.

Knowing what I know about the Monk, and having followed his blog for over a year, I'll say that you can put far more credence into the following quote than you might normally do.

...exclusive to The Monk (I mentioned before that I work with some of her former colleagues): one former colleague of Harriet Miers told his secretary six years ago that if Bush became president, he'd nominate her for the Supreme Court.

Let's assume this is true. The obvious question becomes: what did Miers do for Bush to secure such an enormous promise in the late 90's?

Bush reportedly paid her $163k in legal fees around that time. What could she have done that would be worth so much more than that? How much is a Supreme Court Justice nomination 'worth', anyway? Certainly many, many millions of dollars.

Here's a rabbit hole to go down, if you're interested. You can bet the ranch that the Miers nomination won't get withdrawn. Bush owes her big. The Senate will have to vote on it.

I hope my readers have found value in my use of the historical model of LBJ to interpret the Bush presidency. I think it has proven to be extremely illuminating over the past couple years. For example, we may recall that LBJ's lawyer Abe Fortas saved Lyndon's butt in a do-or-die election, and was later rewarded with a Supreme Court appointment. (LBJ's main lawyer, Ed Clark, was also highly compensated for... coordinating other services for Lyndon's benefit.)

Here's more:
Presidential tapes reveal that Lyndon Johnson's lawyer crony, Justice Abe Fortas, improperly served as LBJ's pipeline after his appointment to the Supreme Court directly from the political sidelines.
In 1963, when LBJ called then Chief Justice Warren and asked him to head the investigation into John F. Kennedy's assassination, LBJ told Warren in a tape-recorded conversation that he was appointing him because he wanted Warren to clear Russia and Cuba. LBJ wanted Warren to de-emphasize that Lee Harvey Oswald had defected to Russia and had been an ardent pro-Castro activist. Warren understood his assignment and accepted.

I'm a former homicide investigator and prosecutor and cannot imagine anyone investigating any murder with the understanding that leads cannot be followed in a quest for the truth. Only a lifelong politician who defines the truth according to his own needs would agree to that.

I'm not saying it was necessary. As I learned about the Kennedy murder from penitent Wilmington Teamsters president and Mafia hit man Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran... communists were not involved and Oswald was, as he said himself, just "a patsy." But that's beside the point.

If you'd like to learn more about LBJ, texas lawyers, and the Kennedy assassination, I recommend that you consult Scotty McClellan's father, Barr. He wrote a book titled "Blood, Money, Power" which I recommend with some reservations (you can skip the "faction" portion at the end).
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Monday, October 24, 2005

Can't touch Fitz 

The Plame matter posed so many political problems for the White House, I couldn't help but follow it. The appointment of Pat Fitzgerald was the clincher, though. He's perfect; there's no effective avenue of attack against him. He's a political untouchable.

Fitzgerald is smarter, tougher and more honorable than the people he's investigating-- that fact alone convinced me that he'd find something. And after going after Islamofascist terrorists, New York mobsters and Chicago mayors... he sure as hell wasn't going to be intimidated by the likes of der Karl or Scooter.

But when they got boxed in, I was curious to see how they'd play it.

Sure enough, Bill Kristol's mag tried to frame the issue in terms of "courage". They "trust" Fitz will have "the courage" not to indict. It just doesn't get more ludicrous than that.

If there's a low road to be taken, though, Roveco will find (or invent) it. But this is just sad. Comments like these really show you how quickly the sundered S.S. Bushco is sinking:

As the White House and Republicans brace for possible indictments in the CIA leak probe, defenders have launched a not-so-subtle campaign against the prosecutor handling the case.

"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things," one White House ally said, referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.
[N]ow friends of the White House have started whispering that the Brooklyn-raised prosecutor is overzealous after it became clear that Bush political mastermind Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, are in Fitzgerald's cross hairs.

Such hints surfaced publicly for the first time yesterday when Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), armed with comments that sources said were "shaped" by the White House, suggested Fitzgerald might nail someone on a "technicality" because they forgot something or misspoke.

Over the coming months, jot down the names of those who try to undermine Fitzgerald (however indirectly). Keep a list. Save it. Perhaps caress it on occasion. Use it as a comfort during those "midnights of the soul".

Even if circumstances force you to take a temp job as an Assistant Crack Whore, you'll never be as low as those sniping worms.

H/T Brilliant at Breakfast
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Over at Making Light, we see the name "Plame" interjected into song lyrics.

I did that once.

And speaking of "making light", I'd say this certainly qualifies.
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Murph's got me over a barrel after he sent me 150 music cd's (btw the Kinks rule!), so I'll comply with this assignment he has for me.

1. Go into your archives.
2. Find your 23rd post.
3. Post the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
5. Tag five other people to do the same thing.

So here's the 5th sentence from my 23rd post. (I'm sure you'll agree that it fully conveys all of the subtlety, depth, and fiercely independent political analysis that you've come to expect from YRHT.)

His opponent was a rather naive gentleman by the name of Chimpy W. McFlightsuit.

The original post is titled "Chess with Chimpy", and in it I mock Bush's strategic vision in an "imaginary dialogue" format that I've long since abandoned.

Now, as it so happens, I remember seeing the "Chimpy McFlightsuit" mockery in a comment on Atrios, and I decided to check out the author's web site. The author happened to be a guy named Attaturk, and it enabled me to find his hilarious Rising Hegemon blog before it had actually "risen". I think I added the middle initial of "W" to the name, but I can't remember for sure.

Fascinating, huh?

I guess I have to inflict this on five others. I apologize in advance. Please consider it totally optional.

1. Matt at Basket o' Pups
2. Chuck T. at Looka!
3. PawPaw at his House
4. CmdrSue at Thoughts...
5. Todd at A Frolic
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Economic Predators 

I went back to the homestead yesterday. Wasn't so easy this time. There were debris-clearing crews with heavy equipment going through the neighborhood. While driving in, I noted that every single work truck in the area had an out of state license plate. Not one pelican!

Then I came upon a short masked fellow standing by some orange cones, blocking my street. He couldn't speak English, so it took a while for me to communicate to him that my house was 100 feet away, and I needed to get to it. Finally, he let me through. I was getting upset, so I decided to go out and chat with the construction guys on my street. They were all fairly nice but NOT ONE OF THEM WERE FROM LOUISIANA. North Carolina, yes-- Florida, check-- Tejas, double check-- Mexico, si! But, once again, no pelicans. I felt like investigating who the contractor was but I had work to do.

On my door someone had recently written "B". My neighbor said a FEMA guy had been by that morning. My neighbor didn't know what the "B" represented, but since the FEMA guy said these houses "would have to be bulldozed", we assumed it stood for that. The 70125 area code-- one of the city's smallest in terms of square miles-- was hit pretty hard with seven to ten feet of flooding. Between 20 and 30 of our neighbors perished.

I went in my house and noticed we had some "visitors" there in recent weeks who rummaged through the detritus and took (shockingly few) items. In fact, I was a little insulted while going throughout the rooms. I would pick something up, dust it off, inspect it, and then complain loudly to no one in particular, asking: "What the hell was wrong with this [random belonging]?! Jeez, no self-respecting looter would be embarrassed to take this, would they?!"

It's sort of insulting that so many things were passed over. (Of course, I didn't want them either, so I don't know why I should expect others to take them.)

Hope your weekend was better than mine. If not, I'm sorry. But reading reading this might help.

Sunday's Advocate had a feature story on state officials and Katrina. It had a helpful timeline of events, and basically discussed the incendiary "busing" issue. I might say more on that tedious affair another time. Please let me know in the comments if you can find a link to it. I couldn't, but then I'm fairly dim.

Today's T-P, on the other hand has a very interesting article on the "MR-GO" shipping channel, which basically functioned as a funnel for the stormsurge that topped and breached the levees protecting St. Bernard and the Ninth ward. There's a priceless graphic on the front page of the print issue showing how this turned a significant storm surge into a catastrophic one. It's titled "Funnel Fury", and is devastating. The port and shipping interests, who I'm normally sympathetic to, are vigorously opposed to closing the little-used channel. They want locks built. Doesn't look too likely, at this point.
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Wastrels in Defense 

David Wood from Newshouse writes:

In the weeks ahead, Congress will formally sign over to the Pentagon about $50 billion to run the war in Iraq and Afghanistan through March.

That's only a down payment for anticipated costs. "More funds will be needed by DoD (Department of Defense)," Amy Belasco, senior defense budget analyst for the Congressional Research Service, observed dryly in an Oct. 3 report. How much more, she said, no one knows.

Freedom ain't free. We're in there now, so we can't 'cut and run'. The mission must be completed. There is no substitute for the smell of victory....

Iraq war costs are averaging about $6 billion a month, with Afghanistan costing another $1 billion.
[N]ot even the Pentagon knows precisely where its money will be spent. Its financial books are in such a shambles that government accountants say they are unable to audit them.

"Neither DoD nor Congress can reliably know how much the war is costing," Congress' Government Accountability Office said in a Sept. 21 report.

This means the Pentagon has difficulty ensuring that the weapons it buys are delivered on time and perform as promised, the GAO said. The lack of accountability results in "waste of billions of dollars annually."

Well, then, who does benefit from this arrangement?

Under pressure from Congress, the Defense Department has agreed to financial management reforms which it promises will enable the GAO to do a financial audit -- by the year 2007.

"The problem isn't that the Pentagon is flunking its financial audits, the problem is it can't be audited at all," said Winslow Wheeler, a retired congressional budget analyst and author of "The Wastrels of Defense," an expose of flawed defense spending. "The Pentagon actually aspires to reach the level of being able to flunk an audit."

If the military is competent enough to conduct war, to nation-build, to export democracy, to relieve disaster, to quarantine bird flu... then why is a detailed balance sheet too much to ask?

If necessary, invest several billion to reconfigure and implement Wal-Mart's supply-chain management software.
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

According to plan 

President Bush pledged Tuesday that the federal government will not seek to dictate terms for rebuilding the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast but will instead allow state and local officials to make the key decisions. He rejoiced in what he said is a spirit of revival there.

At a time when Latino immigrants are expected to form a big part of the Gulf Coast reconstruction labor pool, the Department of Homeland Security has temporarily suspended sanctioning employers who hire workers unable to prove their citizenship, essentially allowing contractors to hire undocumented workers.

That move followed President Bush's Sept. 8 decision to lift in Katrina-hit areas the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federal contractors to pay at least the average regional wage. Bush says it will hasten one of the world's largest reconstruction efforts.

The office of Senator Mary Landrieu said late yesterday that immigration agents detained a large number of illegal immigrants -- possibly more than 100 -- who were working for a Halliburton subcontractor building a tent city for Hurricane Katrina recovery work.

Landrieu's office claimed that illegal workers were employed by B-E-and-K of Birmingham, Alabama. The Democratic senator issued a statement saying it was a "shame" for a contractor to "line his pockets by breaking the law and hiring a low-skilled, low-wage and undocumented work force."
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