Thursday, June 28, 2007

Greetings from Bonaire

I'm scuba diving this week in Bonaire which is why I haven't been posting. I thought I would post a little but just haven't found the time.

So here are some pics I've taken so far: Don's Flickr Bonaire 2007

UPDATE: My sister tells me that the link to my pics was busted. I fixed it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The most dangerous would-be world leader?

Fred Kaplan on Rudy Giuliani:
The fact is, Giuliani has no idea what he's talking about. On the campaign trail he says that the terrorist threat "is something I understand better than anyone else running for president." As the mayor of New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, he may have lived more intimately with the consequences of terrorism, but this has no bearing on his inexperience or his scant insight in the realm of foreign policy. He is, in fact, that most dangerous would-be world leader: a man who doesn't seem to know how much he doesn't know.
Kevin Drum adds that the academic name for this is the Dunning-Kruger effect. "'Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria.'

As Kevin aptly sums up,"the halfwits of the world all think they're geniuses."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

3 Candidates from NY?

With much fanfare, Billionaire and NY City Mayor Michael Bloomberg left the GOP. It has been widely reported that Bloomberg will run a self-financed independent campaign for POTUS and he has set aside ONE BILLION DOLLARS of his personal fortune to finance the campaign.

Having left the GOP, it seems pretty clear Bloomberg is moving forward and we will soon have 3 New Yorkers running for POTUS.

So with 3 candidates running for POTUS from New York State, what do New Yorkers think of each?

The latest Quinnipiac University poll taken of New Yorkers has some answers for us.

And most interesting, 'America's Mayor' BS aside, those who know Rudy best seem to like him least.

In a head-to-head of all 3, Sen Clinton wins with 43 percent of voters statewide, followed by Giuliani with 29 percent and Mayor Bloomberg with 16 percent.

In a Clinton v. Giuliani head-to-head, Sen Clinton tops Giuliani 52 - 37 percent.

In other possible matchups, Giuliani ties Sen Obama 43 - 43 percent and even more interesting, Al Gore beats Giuliani 48 - 42 percent.

Evidently, New Yorkers didn't get the memo about Giuliani's inevitable presidency.

Oh, and here's a little lagniappe. 71 percent of New York State voters disapprove of the job President Bush is doing. 76 percent disapprove President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and 65 percent say that going to war in Iraq was the wrong thing to do.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Funny

Dive Buddy

I've know Russ Berger, his wife Elisa and their daughter Danna for a number of years now and have had the privilege of diving with them everywhere from the Cayman Islands to Fiji and my most recent trip to Indonesia.

Russ is now published in the Paper of Record.

Liberating Effects of Captive Conversation - New York Times

File under: Can't make this stuff up!

Check out Rudy's South Carolina Campaign Chairman's Federal indictment for selling crack!

In addition to running Rudy's SC campaign, and selling crack, he's also the Treasurer of the State of South Carolina.

So "Presidential".

CNN's John Roberts

CNN's Roberts: "We do definitely know that Mitt Romney is pro-family"

What the hell does that mean?

Who is anti-family?

WTF?

Fred Thompson is going to England for Margaret Thatcher's blessing?

This is what the GOP has come to?

Is Fox and Rush siting quietly by as a candidate for POTUS seeks foreign support?

Ya, I know. The only thing serious about Rush is his drug habit, but Fox pretends to be serious....

Monday, June 18, 2007

800%

Increase in the number of internally displaced people in Iraq from one year ago, a “human tragedy unprecedented in Iraq’s history,” according to the Iraqi Red Crescent.

Lift The Ban

ABC's Charley Gibson stings FNC

Charley Gibson had some advice to the graduates of Union College. Via the Huffington Post,
And, don’t disparage the mainstream media. The editor of your hometown newspaper or the producers of network newscasts don’t have 30 or 40 years of experience for nothing. When you see a news organization get fixated on non-stop coverage of Paris Hilton, or Anna Nicole Smith, or Michael Jackson, go elsewhere.

When an announcer says, “It’s a report you have to see,” you probably don’t. When an anchor says, “shocking details,” they probably aren’t. When a reporter claims his news is “fair and balanced,” it probably isn’t. And, when politicians say, “I’m going to level with you,” they probably won’t.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

US: 60 pct. of Baghdad not controlled

Five months into the surge,
BAGHDAD - Security forces in Baghdad have full control in only 40 percent of the city five months into the pacification campaign, a top American general said Saturday as U.S. troops began an offensive against two al-Qaida strongholds on the capital's southern outskirts.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

When exactly did liberty and the rule of law become the enemy?

As best as I can tell, Scooter's apologists don't deny that he "technically" committed perjury and obstruction of justice. They seem to think his doing so was in some way noble.

8 former CIA operatives say, 'not so much',

Republican Presidential Candidates Betray the Rule of Law and Our National Security According to Former Undercover Intelligence

Mad Max, indeed

Steve Fainaru writing in today's WaPo tells the story of a second surge being carried out in Iraq by private contractors.
BAGHDAD -- Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives.
The piece is long and an interesting read. In one story, Fainaru tells of one of the private companies quest for armor,
....PWC hired ArmorGroup, which had armed Ford F-350 pickups with steel-reinforced gun turrets and belt-fed machine guns.

Other companies followed suit, ramping up production of an array of armored and semi-armored trucks of various styles and colors, until Iraq's supply routes resembled the post-apocalyptic world of the "Mad Max" movies.

Steve Benen sitting in for Josh at TPM sums it up very well,
Nothing says "progress in Iraq" like comparisons to a post-apocalyptic action film in which a desert area plunges into anarchy, with roving bands of well-armed militias struggling to maintain order.

Lieberman has lost his mind

I continue to be surprised at the degree to which Joe Lieberman has completely sold his soul to the Right to win re-election.

Lieberman On Conservative Kristol: "If Kristol Says What I'm Doing Is Right, It Must Be Right"

In the end, Connecticut voters stuck by their old friend, no doubt due in part to a new, almost apologetic, tone he struck when it finally sank in (he lost the primary) that he might have lost touch. I wonder what those voters think now?

I looked for a Lieberman approval poll taken of Conn voters since he election and -- not surprisingly-- couldn't find one. If you find one email it to me or mention it in comments.
I'm really curious how those voters feel today.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"The only thing worse than another Al Qaeda attack on the US,....

would be a gay man stopping it."

Great line from Stephen Benjamin appearing on the Colbert Report.

Stephen was one of 58 Arabic translators kicked out of service for being gay.

Stephen wrote an OP/ED in the NY Times last week.
My story begins almost a year ago when my roommate, who is also gay, was deployed to Falluja. We communicated the only way we could: using the military’s instant-messaging system on monitored government computers. These electronic conversations are lifelines, keeping soldiers sane while mortars land meters away.

Then, last October the annual inspection of my base, Fort Gordon, Ga., included a perusal of the government computer chat system; inspectors identified 70 service members whose use violated policy. The range of violations was broad: people were flagged for everything from profanity to outright discussions of explicit sexual activity. Among those charged were my former roommate and me. Our messages had included references to our social lives — comments that were otherwise unremarkable, except that they indicated we were both gay.
_____

The result was the termination of our careers, and the loss to the military of two more Arabic translators. The 68 other — heterosexual — service members remained on active duty, despite many having committed violations far more egregious than ours...
Keeping America safe from the gay menace....

Scooters going to the poky...

Judge Walton, not surprisingly, denied Libby's request to be free pending appeal, so Scooter reports for prison in about 6 weeks.

So will Bush step in and pardon Libby to prevent his going to jail? John Dickerson writing in Slate Magazine "guarantees" Libby won't see the inside of a cell.

Dickerson has two reasons for this guarantee. One, Cheney will demand it and W never could turn down the big Dick. Second, Bush has nothing to loose, "The number of people who would be angered by a pardon who haven't already abandoned the president could fit in an airport shuttle bus."

Surges still don't work in Iraq

From the WaPo,
Three months into the new U.S. military strategy that has sent tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq, overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased, as attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday.
I didn't work last year either.

At least it's not working exactly as it was predicted not to work.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

29%

of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as president in the latest NBC Wall Street Journal poll.

66% disapprove.

GOP confidence in POTUS in "state of collapse"

Bush's problem with even the GOP congressional members is that he has been a bully for years. Bush and his minions used the events of Sept 11, 2001, as a club on both parties in Congress demanding their way on everything. The GOP was only too happy to comply without any oversight and now are going down on his sinking ship.

From The Hill,
Financial projections for the President’s Dinner tonight confirm that Republican confidence in the president is in a state of collapse.

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s (NRCC) fundraising goal is $7.5 million, which is half what was raised last year. But to reach this lesser goal, each individual lawmaker has been asked to raise the same amount as 12 months ago. In other words, the NRCC is assuming lawmakers won’t be either willing or able to hit the targets they managed last year.
The article then goes on to quote Republicans not happy with Bush.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), “We had better relationships with the [White House] legislative affairs shop when Clinton was the president — even after we impeached him.” To make his point, Jones told a story of his chief of staff printing out a picture of Bush's top congressional liaison, Candida Wolff and asked Jones if he could identify her. Jones could not and tested five of his GOP colleagues. Only Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), knew Wolff.

Olympia Snowe blames Bush directly for the lost GOP majority. “It’s definitely because of the president and his policies, more from the standpoint of immovability and not being willing to adjust policies in response to real-time circumstances,”...“It wasn’t just the fact that things weren’t working well in Iraq, it was the president wasn’t willing to adjust his policy to recognize and acknowledge that.”

Monday, June 11, 2007

Musharraf on his way out?

Spencer Ackerman say so.

What the hell will happen to Pakistan and it's bombs in that vacuum?

Big Surprise

From Paul Kiel,

The no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales failed the necessary 60 votes needed for cloture in the Senate today, with a mere seven Republicans voting in favor of the resolution (see below). The final tally was 53-38, with 1 vote of "present." Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) voted against.

The Republicans voting in favor were:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN)
The vote was otherwise down party lines. Democratic Senators Biden (DE), Obama (IL), and Dodd (CT) where no-shows. Tim Johnson (D-SD) didn't vote but he's out with his illness.

Sen Stevens (Crazy - AK) voted present.

I just don't see how this is not a fiasco, but I'm willing to be hear anyone out who wants to explain how this works the Dems advantage.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Powell wants redemption

Regular readers will recall how I feel about Colin Powell.

Perhaps, Gen (or is it Secretary?) Powell now seeks redemption?

He was on Meet the Press this morning. I didn't see it.

"The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism" he wrote John McCain. He says that he wouldn't close Gitmo tomorrow, "I'd close it this afternoon."

Of course, his lying speech to the UN didn't particularly improve our moral basis for anything or get him nominated for a Nobel Prize.

“[E]very morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds,” Powell said. “[W]e have shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open… We don’t need it, and it’s causing us far more damage than any good we get for it.”

Watch it:



As I've said before, I will never forgive Colin Powell for the Iraq war. Powell was the one man who both knew better, and had the power / stature to stop it with his threatened resignation. What did he do? He went before the UN and lied. So, as I've said here before, fuck Colin Powell. I hope he never has a decent night's sleep the rest of his life.

(via Think Progress)

Sopranos blogging

Well, tonight's the night and in just a few hours we'll all know how it all ends.

I started watching The Sopranos in the Second season in 2000, after I went back and watched the first season on In Demand. I quickly got drawn into the show, but actually started losing interest by Season 4 as the show seemed to become monotonous (I got it -- Tony is both mob boss and husband and father -- mobsters have family problems and illnesses, etc). I stuck it out, through Season 4 and 5 (awful really) because I kept thinking each season could be the last, and I was too invested to just stop watching.

At this point, I don't think it's possible to end without our feeling disappointed and a little cheated. Last week's episode (85) could have been the first episode around which the whole final season would be based, but instead Chase chose to squeeze an entire season into two episodes. Tony's real life family scattered, his crime family virtually decapitated, he's now cornered in a shabby 'safe house' waiting for the other shoe to drop, and we have 65 minutes left.

How can this end in a way that we don't feel cheated? I predicted several years ago that the show would end with Tony flipping after faced with the choice of saving his wife and children or his crime family. Many of my friends now think that will happen and I don't.

David Chase has never been interested in telling a neat, tidy story with loose ends wrapped up (what the hell ever happened to that Russian in the woods?) and I suspect that after tonight we will have more questions than answers.

Jason (friend) thinks Tony's car will blow-up in such a way that we are left to wonder if he was killed. That's as good a prediction as I've heard.

David Chase has spent 8 years and 85 episodes reminding us that life in the mob never ends well for those inside. Their departures are often sudden, unexpected and violent. I can think of no reason why episode 86 will deviate from that recipe.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

21%

believe things in the U.S. are heading in the right direction, the worst mark since the AP-Ipsos poll began in December 2003.

Oh, and 32% approve of Bush's job performance, tying his worst-ever performance in the AP-Ipsos poll.

Guess who's back in the bottle?


Bush taken ill hours after bonding with Blair over a beer

Oh yes. Many a time I've taken ill after a long night of 'bonding' and beer, or vodka, or gin....

What's funny is that the European press is all over this story (Bush claims to have been clean and sober since he turned 40 and found Jesus -- and one report says the WH claims this was non-alcoholic beer -- which no one is buying....) but try and find a mention in the US MSM.

Blogs you should be reading daily

There are a lot of blogs out there and obviously some are better than others. The following are, in my opinion, the best of the best and should be daily reading for every progressive.

In no particular order,
There are plenty of other very good progressive blogs (Tapped for example), but I think these are at the top of the heap consistently and worth a daily read.

Making monkeys out of senators

This is starting to become absurd.

On May 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee made at least its ninth formal request for documents related to Bush’s warrantless domestic surveillance program. Committee monkey in chief Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and former monkey in chief Arlen Specter (D-PA) gave AG Gonzales until June 5 to provide answers.

Gonzales response? Nothing.

Leahy said today that the Justice Dept. stonewalling was “unacceptable and shows, yet again, its disdain for any kind of constitutional oversight of its activities.” Indeed.

We can all rest easily at night know that the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee has shown indignation to the Attorney General. Our faith in democratic governance restored.

Sources close to the Judiciary Committee have told The Ward Report that in a closed committee meeting on Friday, Leahy and Spector took the unprecedented step of jointly moving to placing the Attorney General on double secret probation. If Spector can be prevented from sneaking language in a bill when no one is looking to legalize everything Gonzales has done since his birth, it's hoped that this will finally resolve the crisis with the DoJ. When word of the committee's actions reached Gonzales, he was heard to have belched.

It's my understanding that a vote of no confidence will take place on Monday. This has disaster written all over it. Anything less than 70 votes of no confidence will make the Dems look silly. If the Dems are out manoeuvred and the vote thwarted or they can't even get all the Dems to vote 'ya' than they look even worse.

If the Dems had any balls, they would begin to investigate impeachment of the AG.

The bodies are stacking up

The shear number of deaths from violence in Iraq just doesn't get enough attention. And I'm not talking about soldiers -- although their losses don't get enough attention either.

3 months after the beginning of the serge, McClatchy's Washington Bureau sez,
The number of bodies found on Baghdad's streets declined in March and April after the surge began on Feb. 15, but it shot back up to an even higher level in May. So far this month, 206 unidentified corpses have been found in the capital, compared with 176 in the first eight days of May.

Some question whether any plan can create an Iraqi force that would allow the U.S. to begin drawing down troop levels in Iraq any time soon.

"The U.S. commitment level is there. But we are still seeing the same thing where the Iraqis haven't shown up the way they were supposed to. It's the same problem (as last year) and that problem hasn't been fixed," said Jeffrey White, a military analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The Iraqi forces "still can't come in large scale and replace us."
Hardly news to me, but for some, hope's spring is eternal.

Drinks

One of the problems of our new fast-paced society is that no one wants to 'go out of drinks' anymore, and it's a real shame. Sure, people still drink, but then it's a matter of "going drinking" which is a very different event.

There are few things more civilized than meeting a friend at a nice bar for a drink or two to chat. This used to be a mainstay of the civilized world, and what separated us from the Barbarians. Now, no one has time for this and will only go 'drinking' which is an entire evening devoted to getting hammered. It's all or nothing.

Most interesting are the friends who will only binge drink one or two nights a week and are critical of those who 'go out for a drink' a few nights a week as being problem drinkers.

Or maybe I just need to run with a higher class of friends.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

55%

Number of career prosecutors who have left the Justice Department’s voting section, according to a new report from the New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. The study also found that the Bush administration “engaged in a three-year effort to suppress likely Democratic votes.”

The enemy of my enemy?

ABC's The Blotter claims that Iran has been caught "red-handed" supplying the Taliban with C4 (very bad stuff), IEDs, etc.

My natural reaction to such intel leaks is to assume they are lies and fabrications. It's no secret that Iran hated the Sunni Taliban when they were in power and aided the US in their overthrow. But that doesn't mean that they now don't see some value in making life miserable for the US.....

When one considers Iran's behavior based upon where they currently find themselves, their hostility is easy to understand.

Bush has labeled them a member of the 'Axis of Evil', and vowed regime change (they can see how that worked out for Saddam), they have an enemy army on their two major borders with two carrier groups off shore, and the VP recently coming all the way to their side of the world to personally threaten them. Who could blame them for feeling very threatened and reacting accordingly. And of course, this reaction is exactly what the nut-jobs in the Admin want. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

29%

of Americans approve of the the job Bush is doing as Potus accroding to the new Pew Poll. This is a record low.

Libby gets 30 months

And a $250k fine.

No word yet if he will be free pending appeal, but my guess is no, and he will be reporting to the poky in 30 to 60 days.

And remember, as always, that my advice and speculation is worth about as much as you pay for it.

Fitzgerald sought up to 36 months so this seems about right.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Zakaria: How to Restore America's Place in the World

Zakaria's remarkable essay in the latest Newsweek is a must read. I've been thinking about how to pull my thoughts together on the post 9-11 world and have repeatedly felt overwhelmed at the thought of it.

Zakaria has done just that. I agree with every word written. His previous support for the war made me lose faith in him, but that has now been restored.

Read the essay. I'll have more later. But now, The Soprano's.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Apple

I've been meaning to buy my own laptop for some time now. I travel all over with the laptop that belongs to my firm, and our IT person recently informed me that I had 20G of personal stuff on the servers, mostly pics and music.

So, I decided that maybe it was time I tried a mac to see what all the fuss was about. I've had an iPod for some time and now can't live without it.

I was on a dive trip last July in Indonesia with a couple professional underwater photographers both of whom used the small mac laptops for processing their digital pics.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago Apple updated the MacBook and I bought one. I opted for the small Macbook since it would be used for travel, etc. I still have the Dell desktop at home.

So far, I like it but it has taken some getting used to. Those of us with no formal computer training take for granted all the knowledge we've accumulated over a period of years about an operating system. And all and all, I've picked it up pretty quickly. Mac OS X "Tiger" loads lightning fast and is very intuitive. The only complaint I have at this point is the lack of a 'right click' on the built in mouse-pad -- i'm a right-click addict. I have a usb wireless mouse I used when spending any time on the computer which solves the problem.

I'm also experimenting with OpenOffice.org freeware as an office suite, and I have to say, I'm impressed. "Writer" is very much like Word (and reads and saves Word docs), and for my needs more than powerful enough. This is a sophisticated word processing program. Unless you have some reason that makes life impossible without Word, Excel, etc. -- and the $400 plus price tag for MS Office -- you really should give this free office suite a try.

You can learn more about OpenOffice.org here.

Condi's pissed

Earlier, I pointed to Steve Clemon's post about Cheney's minions seeking a military confrontation with Iran. Concern on Cheney's activities has spread and Condi has been trying to publically bat the story down, “The president of the United States has made it clear that we are on a course that is a diplomatic course,” Ms. Rice said here. “That policy is supported by all of the members of the cabinet, and by the vice president of the United States.”

The New York Times confirms Steve's report and say State is pissed,

Ms. Rice’s assurance came as senior officials at the State Department were expressing fury over reports that members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff have told others that Mr. Cheney believes the diplomatic track with Iran is pointless, and is looking for ways to persuade Mr. Bush to confront Iran militarily.
_____

The reports about hawkish statements by members of Mr. Cheney’s staff first surfaced last week in The Washington Note, an influential blog put out by Steve Clemons of the left-leaning New America Foundation. The reports have alarmed European diplomats, some of whom fear that the struggle over Iran’s nuclear program may evolve into a decision by the Bush administration to resort to force against Iran.

In interviews, people who have spoken with Mr. Cheney’s staff have confirmed the broad outlines of the reports, and said that some of the hawkish statements to outsiders had been made by David Wurmser, a former Pentagon official who is now the principal deputy assistant to Mr. Cheney for national security affairs. The accounts were provided by people who expressed alarm about the statements, but refused to be quoted by name.

The wheels really are coming off the wagon. Cheney's been out of control for so long, no one can reign him in.

It would be amusing if it weren't so deadly serious.