Prosecute the torture.

January 31, 2008

In Case You Missed Keith This Evening

More Iraq Casualties

In addition to the all the American troop casualties in Iraq (at this point the numbers are about 3,900 dead and 29,000 injured. So far.), there's another set of casualties in dubya's bloody war.

From today's Washington Post:

Suicides among active-duty soldiers in 2007 reached their highest level since the Army began keeping such records in 1980, according to a draft internal study obtained by The Washington Post. Last year, 121 soldiers took their own lives, nearly 20 percent more than in 2006.

At the same time, the number of attempted suicides or self-inflicted injuries in the Army has jumped sixfold since the Iraq war began. Last year, about 2,100 soldiers injured themselves or attempted suicide, compared with about 350 in 2002, according to the U.S. Army Medical Command Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

More details:

The Army was unprepared for the high number of suicides and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among its troops, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued far longer than anticipated. Many Army posts still do not offer enough individual counseling and some soldiers suffering psychological problems complain that they are stigmatized by commanders. Over the past year, four high-level commissions have recommended reforms and Congress has given the military hundreds of millions of dollars to improve its mental health care, but critics charge that significant progress has not been made.

The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed severe stress on the Army, caused in part by repeated and lengthened deployments. Historically, suicide rates tend to decrease when soldiers are in conflicts overseas, but that trend has reversed in recent years. From a suicide rate of 9.8 per 100,000 active-duty soldiers in 2001 -- the lowest rate on record -- the Army reached an all-time high of 17.5 suicides per 100,000 active-duty soldiers in 2006.

Let's not forget that there was no post-war planning done in the run up to war - that it was all supposed to be over quickly. No one expected repeated and lengthened deployments. Or did they? From the Washington Post in 2005:
A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.
One more stain on dubya's legacy. Thanks to his war, more troops have been killing themselves.

Here's some artwork.

But I can hear the quivering voices cry out from the right-wing wilderness calling on me to something good about dubya's illegal war regarding these rising suicide rates.

Ok, I'll try.

So far there haven't been ANY suicides in the Air Force. So let's just ignore the Army suicides and the Navy suicides and the Marine Corps suicides and just focus on the good news here: No Air Force suicides. Woo-hoo! Yea, Bush kicks ass!

January 30, 2008

Yesterday In The House

By voice vote, The House of Representatives voted to extend the Protect America Act of 2007 by 15 days.

Here's how they did it:
Section 6(c) of the Protect America Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-55; 121 Stat. 557; 50 U.S.C. 1803 note) is amended by striking `180 days' and inserting `195 days'.
Simple - almost sublime, really.

The problem, though, is over in the Senate. From The Politico:

With a partisan stalemate in the Senate holding up any revision to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the House today adopted a 15-day extension of the Protect America Act, legislation last August that expanded the surveillance powers of the Bush administration.

Senate Democrats are unable to agree among themselves and with their GOP counterparts on proposed FISA amendments, specificially a Intelligence Committee proposal to grant retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have participated in President Bush's warrantess surveillance program. A dozen Senate Democrats back the immunity provision, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), but other leading Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), are opposed to the effort.

With the Protect America Act expiring on Feb. 1, the House has now acted to extend that deadline for another two weeks in order to allow the Senate to reach an agreement, although there has been no movement on the issue as of press time. The House has already passed FISA-related legislation that does not include the telecom immunity language, and despite pressure from Bush to include it in any FISA bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is urging the Senate to do the same.

"Congress must update the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act by passing a bill that protects both our national security and our civil liberties," Pelosi said in a statment released by her office. "The House has already passed such a bill, the RESTORE Act, which provides flexible surveillance tools for the intelligence community while protecting the constitutional rights of Americans, and I hope the Senate will now follow suit."

The part that I don't get is about the telecom immunity. If the surveillance was warrantless, that makes it, in one way or another, illegal, right? And if it weren't illegal then there'd be no need to push for immunity, right?

So what part of "illegal" don't they understand? I'm just asking, Splinky, I'm just asking.

In any event, the House already has, as Speaker Pelosi is quoted above as saying, The Restore Act of 2007. ThinkProgress has a summary.

So no matter what happens in the Senate, the bill would still have to be reconciled with the House bill, a bill that does NOT have any provisions for telecom immunity.

Waiting to see what happens.

Like A Prayer (unanswered)


Despite the prayers and Angelina Jolie's daddy saying that Giuliani was an angel sent by God, apparently Jesus Doesn't Want Rudy for a Sunbeam.

January 29, 2008

Meet The Candidate: Beth Hafer

Ok, so I went to this meet and greet thing with Beth Hafer this evening at the Shadow Lounge. A more than respectable number of what I assumed to be mostly eastside progressives tucked into a dark room just across the street from the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

The room was half dark and half not - the floor-space illuminated candles on each table and the stage-space spotlighted to a warm rosy glow. Steely Dan on the sound system signing about the wonders of static-free FM.

Bram was there. So was Char.

City Councilman Bill Peduto hosted the event and before it began, I asked him about his connection to Beth Hafer's campaign. He said he was there to offer her support and to help out networking with some of the leaders of Pittsburgh's progressive community. Matt Merriman-Preston, late of Peduto's mayoral campaign, was there as was Dan Gilman, Peduto's chief-of-staff.

In his intro to the crowd, Peduto said he's looking to continue this series next month with a "meet and greet" with Rob McCord, candidate for State Treasurer. Or possibly a candidates forum for some local candidates for the State House.

After those few words by Peduto, Sadie Sterner, of the McCord campaign, spoke for a little bit about McCord. No doubt we'll learn more next month.

Peduto then introduced Beth Hafer. He said he was impressed that while she came from a political family, she wasn't all that political. She made a life for herself outside of politics. And while the 18th Congressional District isn't really all that close to East Liberty, he wants to regain that seat for the Democrats. As he supports Representative Altmire and Representative Doyle, he really wants to see a Democrat representing that district.

That's our seat, he said later.

Beth Hafer said that a year ago, she would not have would have thought of running for Congress. She had a calm life. 3rd generation in the same house in Mt Lebanon. But she realized that government had lost its way. Its representatives were more interested in the privilege of the position than in the privilege of serving their constituents (a phrase she would use twice this evening). The country, she said, is in need of a significant change.

Once elected, she promised that she'd work every single day to bring the troops home. On the state of health care in this country, the fact that 47 million Americans are without insurance is, in her words, unacceptable and immoral. As a former 7th grade science teacher, she finds fault with the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind". As it's test-centered, it isn't educating as well as it should be. As it's underfunded, yet mandated, it's up to the states to pick up the slack - which means higher taxes for the rest of us. In a question as to how she'd deal with her Republican opponent's "lock" on the district's pro-life voters, she pointed out her position on Abortion. She said it should be (as we've all heard many others say by now) safe, legal and rare. The emphasis should be on prevention, she added.

When I asked about her reaction last night's State of the Union Address, she said it was just "more of the same." Her favorite part was watching Speaker Pelosi's facial reactions to the speech. Bush hadn't offered any apologies for the war or the debt. No recognition that he's the one who put the country on the self-destructive path. He's the one who's presided over the outrageous spending.

It was just very frustrating for me, she said.

On the race, she said she was optimistic she could win it. There are more Democrats than Republicans in the district. And a sizeable number of independents. She's got a union endorsement: The Communications Workers Union. Going door-to-door she said she learned that even Republicans are upset with the way things are going. It's winnable, she said.

Afterwards, I asked her a few more questions. How does she set herself apart from the other 4 Democrats in the race? She said she relates to the voters better, has a broader appeal - an appeal that would be necessary to win. Since she was a former 7th grade science teacher, I had to ask her position on Evolution/Intelligent Design. She said that evolution seems the most reasonable position. It's a part of the state standards, "but I'll listen to any theory."

No static at all.

Shameless Self Promotion

1. We'd find the Post-Gazette's new weekly column Cutting Edge: New Ideas / Sharp Opinions interesting even if they hadn't mentioned 2pj (and T.W.M.).

2. Pre SOTU piece in the Trib quotes Dayvoe.
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Meet-and-Greet with Beth Hafer Tonight

Meet-and-Greet with Beth Hafer

WHAT: Meet-and-Greet with Beth Hafer
WHEN: Tuesday, January 29, 6:00PM
WHERE: Shadow Lounge, 5972 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

DETAILS:

Please join host Bill Peduto in meeting-and-greeting Beth Hafer, Democratic candidate for Congress in the 18th Congressional District.

Beth is businesswoman and former teacher.

Come to learn more about Beth Hafer and her campaign for Congress.

The 18th Congressional District is currently held by Republican Tim Murphy and includes much of the South Hills in Allegheny County as well as parts of Beaver, Washington, and Westmoreland County.
R.S.V.P. here

http://www.haferforcongress.com
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How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

77%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?


Speaking of blogging, Bob Mayo will be "Thumb blogging" the Cyril Wecht trial.
.

SOTU: Some Reactions

I'll first start locally, with my member of Congress, Mike Doyle (PA-14):
In my view, the most significant feature of the President’s State of the Union speech tonight is that it was the last one of his Presidency. President Bush’s two terms have not been good for our country in many ways, and the fact that this address signals the one year countdown to the end of his term is more important than anything the President said in his speech tonight.
And from Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid:

We agree with the President that we must work together to make progress on our most pressing challenges. Yet, tonight, the President offered little more than the status quo. At a time when our economy is on shaky ground and our leadership around the world is eroding, the status quo won’t do.

The President repeatedly asked Congress tonight to trust the American people to create their own opportunities. But just as we must trust the American people, they must be able to share the same confidence in their leaders – and only bold action will re-establish Americans’ faith in their government. They must be able to trust that their President will work to change course in Iraq so we can more effectively fight terrorism around the world and rebuild our mighty military.

They must be able to trust that their leaders will govern with ideas rather than ideology so that every American has the opportunity to pursue a sound education, earn a fair wage, and afford a decent home. And they must be able to trust that we will lead the way for change by reducing our dependence on oil and the rising costs of health care.

We hope that the bipartisanship on the economic stimulus package that has marked the start of this new year is a sign of things to come. But the President must do much more than simply give speeches that promise progress and commit to cooperation – he must work with Congress to make it happen.

If the President holds fast to the commitment he made to bipartisanship tonight, we can make great progress for the American people this year.

House Minority Leader John Boehner:

Tonight, the President called on Congress to act quickly on a number of key priorities, and Republicans stand ready to work together with the Majority when it’s in the best interest of the country. In fact, we can start tomorrow by permanently closing the terrorist loophole in our nation’s surveillance laws and passing an economic growth plan without tax hikes and unrelated spending increases. And in the months to come, we also should work together to craft a long-term economic growth package, pass critical trade agreements, and support our troops as they continue to achieve remarkable progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

House Republicans support the pledge President Bush made tonight to veto bills that do not significantly slash earmarks and provide appropriate transparency in spending. In fact, we believe that we should go even further, which is why we wrote to House Democrats last Friday and asked them to join us in supporting an immediate moratorium on all earmarks.

Washington is broken, and until we tackle wasteful earmarks, it will never be fixed. A moratorium would help restore trust between the American people and their leaders in Washington. The ball is now squarely in the Majority’s court. I hope to hear from the Speaker soon, so we can take an important first step toward reforming the way Washington spends taxpayer money.

Now, on those earmarks. Here's Senator Robert Byrd:
President Bush today said that earmarks have tripled in number over the last decade, but he forgot to tell the public that he signed those earmarks into law. President Bush also neglected to mention that the tripling in earmarks occurred under a Republican Congress.
Is this true? Turns out the answer is yes. And you know who said so? Senator John McCain!From the Washington Post:

McCain also said that "if we don't stop the earmarking, we're not going to stop the abuses of power here in Washington." He suggested that his own party was largely responsible.

"In 1994, when the Congress was taken over by Republicans, there were 4,000 earmarks on appropriations bills," he told the committee. "Last year there were 15,000. It's disgraceful, this process."

McCain said he was especially bothered that at the end of the last congressional session, various extraneous appropriations were "larded onto the money that was supposed to be devoted to the men and women in the military and their ability to conduct the war on terror."

And it turns out that this Congress (y'know - the one run by the Democrats) has actually cut the value of earmarks from the last Congress (that one was run by the Republicans). From the New York Times:
As promised when they took control of Congress in January, House Democratic leaders cut in half from last year the value of earmarks in the bill, as they did in the other 11 agency spending measures.
Of course there are still earmarks in the process (from John Murtha and Jerry Lewis, for example) but this year it's less than last year.

So tell me again about what dubya said about earmarks?

January 28, 2008

SOTU Part III: Live Blogging

OK, kids. I'm going to try this but I may get disgusted very quickly and need to stop. KEEP REFRESHING!

9:05: GOP Groupies trying to get their grope on

9:11 PM: Bush: Can't we all just get along?

9:13: Short Translation: Fuck those on welfare and the unemployed.

9:15: Class warfare

9:16: Yes, yes, it's the earmarks that cause all the problems, not the ginormous budget-busting War on Iraq.

9:20: Oh there they go again: we don't want your medical decisions made in the halls of Congress. Like insurance companies aren't the ones making life and death decisions.

9;21: Another shot of Kennedy and Obama.

9:23: TRADE: We're working towards the bottom. Our workers can compete with anyone (and we have the decling real wages to prove it).

9:25: Hesitant Rethug applause on new energy.

9:27: Did you ever think a Rethuglican Prez would talk Global Climate Change? It must really burn the flatearthers.

9:30: Brave stance coming out against cloning people. I bet he's against Soylent green too.

9:32: Throws New Orleans a bone. Doesn't dare say the K word.

9:35: Here we go: TERRA!

9:36: Whoever guessed 9:36 for the 1st mention of 9/11 wins the pool.

9:39: Iraq is just like Candy Land or was that Afghanistan?

9:42: "Iraqi Surges" Is this an ew mene new meme? Did I miss something?

9:43: Mentioned Bin Laden

9:44 "Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq and this enemy will be defeated." There's that pesky question though of the CIVIL WAR there that has nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

9:47: 20,000 troops coming home, but any more withdrawls will be based on mitlitary...blah, blah, blah. OK, people. Listen up: We always knew that we'd have to withdrawl some troops in the Spring becuase we ain't got the friggin' manpower.

9:50: "We will not rest until the enemy has been defeated." Again, most of the "enemy" in Iraq is Iraqis.

9:52: Yes, George. If anyone can solve the Middle East it's you.

9:54 Jesus Christ! he mentions the LA terror plot AGAIN? he tried this one last time and it was universally DEBUNKED

9:59: Like anyone should believe anything Bush has to say on veterans

10:02: "Articles of Confederation"..."Gov. Morris"...'until they added "we the people"'..."trusting the people"...Good Lord! There has never been an Administration who has trusted the American people LESS.

"Let us set forth to do their business"

And that would be? Here's a handy list:
  • the emergence of the use of torture
  • secret prisons
  • indefinite detention
  • the denial of habeas corpus
  • warrantless eavesdropping
  • illegal domestic spying
  • the politicization of the administration of criminal justice and of civil rights
  • the claimed unilateral nullification of enacted legislation
  • the claim that the failure by the president to comply with Executive Orders amounts to a secret and unwritten revocation or revision of such orders
  • dictation of the terms of legislation by the president to Congress
  • dictation of the terms of appropriations bills (heretofore known as the "power of the purse" by the president to Congress
  • the declaration that federal judges are incompetent to rule on questions touching on "national security"
  • the refusal of the "unitary executive" to permit the other branches to test its claims of "executive privilege"
  • the refusal of the Justice Department to prosecute contempt of Congress charges against executive branch officials
  • the staggering increase in the frequency of use of the "state secrets" privilege to block access to the courts
  • the systematic suppression of scientific evidence regarding "administration" policies through the manipulation of administrative procedure

  • UPDATE: More on trusting the American people from Hunter at Daily Kos:

  • Over 60% of Americans want all troops out of Iraq withdrawn within one year.
  • 68% of Americans think the nation is on the wrong track.
  • 41% of Americans think that President Bush is "definitely worst than most" past presidents.
  • 69% of Americans think waterboarding is torture and at least 58% think it should not be allowed.
  • 57% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
  • At least 54% of Americans support civil unions for gay couples.
  • A majority of Americans want the government to fund stem cell research.
  • 57% of Americans oppose telecom immunity.
  • SOTU Part II

    SOTU

    Holy illegal invasion, Batman!

    Did you know there's a State of the Union Address tonight?

    For those who don't know, there's a Constitutional reference to the State of the Union address. It's at the end of Article II and it goes like this:
    He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
    Perhaps someone should remind dubya about the phrase "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" at some point. Those signing statements of his obviously run counter to the spirit of that section. Which, by the way, is followed immediately by this part:
    The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
    Something else the Congress seems to have forgotten. But I digress a little.

    The AP has put together a chart showing the dubya's approval ratings around the time of his SOTU addresses. Take a look:
    February 2001: 62 percent approval.
    January 2002: 84 percent.
    January 2003: 60 percent.
    January 2004: 53 percent.
    February 2005: 51 percent.
    January 2006: 43 percent.
    January 2007: 36 percent.
    January 2008: 32 percent.
    32% is a little low, isn't it? And has anyone noticed that he's lost 62% of his approval numbers since January, 2002? Six out of ten Americans used to approve.

    And now they don't.

    It's hardly surprising to me that the Congressional approval numbers are also in the toilet (pre-flush). Every step of the way, it seems, the Democratically controlled Congress gives Mr 32% exactly what he wants. What's the point of checks and balances?

    But I digress a little. Back to the SOTU.

    Here's the AP's take:
    It's about the economy, and the war in Iraq, and other unresolved matters that have kept the nation on edge. But President Bush's State of the Union address on Monday is something else, too: probably his last chance to seize the public's attention and put it to use.
    And:

    The final State of the Union of the Bush presidency will be roughly split between domestic and foreign matters. Expect few surprises and no big initiatives.

    To the degree the speech favors the pragmatic over the bold, the White House offers a two-word explanation: Blame Congress.

    And the New York Times:

    For years, President Bush and his advisers expressed frustration that the White House received little credit for the nation's strong economic performance because of public discontent about the Iraq war. Today, the president is getting little credit for improved security in Iraq, as the public increasingly focuses on a struggling U.S. economy.

    That is the problem Bush faces as he prepares to deliver his seventh and probably final State of the Union address tonight. For the first time in four years, he will come before Congress able to report some progress in tamping down violence in Iraq.Yet the public appears to have moved on from the war -- and possibly from Bush himself.

    The economy has supplanted Iraq as the top public concern, and with voters shifting their focus toward the presidential primaries, Bush faces a steep challenge in persuading Americans to heed his words on the war, economic policy or any other issue, according to administration officials, lawmakers and outside observers.

    "His seventh and probably final"address tonight?? Is there another planned for next week? Next month? As a Summer fill-in if the Hollywood writers' strike continues? Or is dubya planning on extending his awful administration past January, 2009?

    Too awful to contemplate.

    CNN says:
    With fear of an impending recession, President Bush on Monday night will use his last State of the Union address to revisit unfinished business and press for quick action to keep the economy afloat, administration officials say.
    Whew! Last State of the Union address.

    We're just all happy that the Bush presidency is coming to an end.

    January 27, 2008

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    Not much fact-checking today, I'm afraid as Jack Kelly's column is on the Economic Stimulus Package. I'll just try to fill in some blanks.

    Jack doesn't like the economic stimulus package:

    When Democrats and Republicans agree quickly on something, it's usually either a meaningless gesture or a raid on the federal treasury. The economic stimulus package agreed to by President Bush and congressional leaders will be more beneficial to politicians than it will be to our economy.

    The deal -- the principal element of which is to give income tax rebates to people who pay little or no federal income tax -- is driven by fear our economy may be going into recession. Since the definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative growth, we're not in one yet, and neither the Congressional Budget Office nor the Federal Reserve thinks we'll go into one this year. But the economy is weakening, for two principal reasons.

    Note his use of the phrase that starts with "principle element" here. More on that a little later.

    Actually the folks that are the official definers of "recession" don't exactly share the same definition with our J-Kel. From the National Bureau of Economic Research:

    Q: The financial press often states the definition of a recession as two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP. How does that relate to the NBER's recession dating procedure?

    A: Most of the recessions identified by our procedures do consist of two or more quarters of declining real GDP, but not all of them. Our procedure differs from the two-quarter rule in a number of ways. First, we consider the depth as well as the duration of the decline in economic activity. Recall that our definition includes the phrase, "a significant decline in economic activity." Second, we use a broader array of indicators than just real GDP. One reason for this is that the GDP data are subject to considerable revision. Third, we use monthly indicators to arrive at a monthly chronology.

    But that's a minor point.

    Here's another view of the package from someone else who doesn't like it, Paul Krugman:
    House Democrats and the White House have reached an agreement on an economic stimulus plan. Unfortunately, the plan - which essentially consists of nothing but tax cuts and gives most of those tax cuts to people in fairly good financial shape - looks like a lemon.
    And then:

    Aside from business tax breaks - which are an unhappy story for another column - the plan gives each worker making less than $75,000 a $300 check, plus additional amounts to people who make enough to pay substantial sums in income tax. This ensures that the bulk of the money would go to people who are doing O.K. financially - which misses the whole point.

    The goal of a stimulus plan should be to support overall spending, so as to avert or limit the depth of a recession. If the money the government lays out doesn't get spent - if it just gets added to people's bank accounts or used to pay off debts - the plan will have failed.

    And sending checks to people in good financial shape does little or nothing to increase overall spending. People who have good incomes, good credit and secure employment make spending decisions based on their long-term earning power rather than the size of their latest paycheck. Give such people a few hundred extra dollars, and they'll just put it in the bank.

    In fact, that appears to be what mainly happened to the tax rebates affluent Americans received during the last recession in 2001.

    On the other hand, money delivered to people who aren't in good financial shape - who are short on cash and living check to check - does double duty: it alleviates hardship and also pumps up consumer spending.

    That's why many of the stimulus proposals we were hearing just a few days ago focused in the first place on expanding programs that specifically help people who have fallen on hard times, especially unemployment insurance and food stamps. And these were the stimulus ideas that received the highest grades in a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    And here's what the CBO has said as recently as this past Thursday (1/24/08):
    The state of the economy is particularly uncertain at the moment. The pace of economic growth slowed in 2007, and there are strong indications that it will slacken further in 2008. In CBO’s view, the ongoing problems in the housing and financial markets and the high price of oil will curb spending by households and businesses this year and trim the growth of GDP. Although recent data suggest that the probability of a recession in 2008 has increased, CBO does not expect the slowdown in economic growth to be large enough to register as a recession. [emphasis added.]
    Though they say elsewhere:
    Strong indications suggest that economic growth is slowing and will remain sluggish for much of 2008. Most professional forecasters are continuing to project very slow growth, as opposed to an outright recession, this year. The risk of recession is elevated, however, and some respected economists believe that the probability of a recession has now risen to 50 percent or greater. [emphasis added.]
    The CBO continues:

    Discretionary fiscal policy stimulus (that is, legislative action aimed at providing stimulus) may not be necessary to avoid an outright recession, if most current forecasts are correct. Nonetheless, policymakers may choose to proceed with a stimulus package to bolster a weak economy and as insurance against the elevated risk of a recession. Some economists advocating a stimulus also believe that a recession, if it occurs, could prove to be unexpectedly deep; a fiscal stimulus would help reduce the severity of a recession, should one occur.

    Effective stimulus does not necessarily require addressing the source of economic weakness directly; instead, it requires strengthening aggregate demand.

    And so what does the CBO have to say about that "lump sum rebate" that may or may not be necessary for a recession that they say may or may not occur?

    Linking the size of the rebate to tax liability—such as returning a fixed proportion of taxes paid—substantially reduces the cost-effectiveness of the stimulus. It would place much of the government’s revenue loss in the hands of households likely to save much of the rebate. Fixing the rebate’s size or setting a relatively low maximum amount per household or person would concentrate more of the aggregate cut among lower-income households, who are more likely to be up against credit constraints and thus to spend any additional resources. Making the rebate refundable would further boost the cost-effectiveness of the stimulus.

    To the extent that the rebate depends on incurring tax liability, the choice of tax base is significant as well. A rebate based on income tax liability would, for instance, reach fewer families likely to spend it than a rebate based on payroll tax liability. A large number of lower-income families incur no income tax, and many others pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes. As a result, their income tax liability alone may be insufficient to be eligible for the full rebate even though their payroll tax liability is.

    Now take a look at what Jack said. He didn't like the idea of rebates being sent to people who pay "little or no federal income tax." No word, of course, on whether these folks pay payroll taxes.

    And I think that's the point of Jack's spin. In the end, however, an economic stimulus package should be designed to stimulate the economy. Getting tax rebates (however defined) and/or unemployment benefits to people who will actually spend the cash seems to be the thing to do. Too bad politics got in the way.

    I'll end this with Krugman's analysis:

    There was also some talk among Democrats about providing temporary aid to state and local governments, whose finances are being pummeled by the weakening economy. Like help for the unemployed, this would have done double duty, averting hardship and heading off spending cuts that could worsen the downturn.

    But the Bush administration has apparently succeeded in killing all of these ideas, in favor of a plan that mainly gives money to those least likely to spend it.

    Why would the administration want to do this? It has nothing to do with economic efficacy: no economic theory or evidence I know of says that upper-middle-class families are more likely to spend rebate checks than the poor and unemployed. Instead, what seems to be happening is that the Bush administration refuses to sign on to anything that it can't call a "tax cut."

    Behind that refusal, in turn, lies the administration's commitment to slashing tax rates on the affluent while blocking aid for families in trouble - a commitment that requires maintaining the pretense that government spending is always bad. And the result is a plan that not only fails to deliver help where it's most needed, but is likely to fail as an economic measure.

    The words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt come to mind: "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics."

    And the worst of it is that the Democrats, who should have been in a strong position - does this administration have any credibility left on economic policy? - appear to have caved in almost completely.

    Yes, they extracted some concessions, increasing rebates for people with low income while reducing giveaways to the affluent. But basically they allowed themselves to be bullied into doing things the Bush administration's way.

    And that could turn out to be a very bad thing.

    Indeed.

    January 25, 2008

    Some Old Friends Return...

    From the pages of the Post-Gazette:

    Former Allegheny County Councilman Ron Francis of Ben Avon, has dropped out of the Republican race to take on U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, this year, leaving Melissa Hart, who lost the seat in 2006, as the sole contender for her party's nomination.

    In a letter to supporters this week, Mr. Francis, a partner in the Downtown law firm Reed Smith, said he didn't want to divide the GOP as the party seeks to defeat Mr. Altmire, a freshman lawmakers who is a top target for national Republican leaders.

    "To defeat Congressman Altmire and reclaim the seat, we need to be united from the beginning behind one candidate," he wrote. "I have concluded that a majority of Republican primary voters in the Fourth Congressional District believe that Melissa Hart deserves a second chance to beat Congressman Altmire. I respect that opinion."

    Ah...

    I am so looking forward to this.

    Some initial obstacles facing the lovely and talented Missy Hart.

    The NRCC at present has next to no money. Take a look. As of last September, they had $1.6 million on hand and $3.85 million in debts. The DCCC on the other hand had $28 million and only about $3 million in debts. That means the DCCC looks to be about $28 million ahead.

    As far as the latest data from the FEC, we see that Missy Hart has about $219,000 on hand and no debts. Representative Jason Altmire, on the other hand, has $733,000 on hand about $1,100 in debts.

    Obviously, the numbers will change. But she's starting out about a half million dollars behind with little chance of any help (at present) from the NRCC.

    Good luck, Missy.

    Why any Dem is better than any Repug for the White House

    They're all nuts on Iraq! From last night's debate:


    (Yeah, Paul is OK on Iraq, but he's a crazy old racist and a loon on everything else.)

    (h/t to Digby)
    .

    LOLRUDY


    From the Miami Herald:
    Rudy Giuliani has hit the skids in a Florida freefall that could shatter his presidential campaign and leave a two-man Republican contest in the state between John McCain and Mitt Romney, a Miami Herald poll shows.

    Despite hovering over Florida voters for weeks, Giuliani is tied for third place with the scarcely visible Mike Huckabee in a statewide poll of 800 likely voters.

    [snip]

    "Giuliani for all intents and purposes has virtually no chance to win in Florida," [pollster Rob Schroth] said.
    Couldn't happen to a bigger prick nicer guy! (I say this as a former New Yorker.)

    (h/t to Shakesville)

    Your mission for today: Three Days to Win on FISA!

    From firedoglake:
    We've got three days to make sure he [Reid] beats Mitch McConnell in an important showdown on FISA on Monday.

    McConnell has called for a cloture vote on the SSCI Bill (the one that gives the telecoms--and therefore Dick Cheney--immunity). The vote is scheduled for 4:30 PM on Monday, just hours before the State of the Union. If the Republicans win the cloture vote, then the SSCI bill will almost certainly become law--and you will have fewer protections against improper government surveillance.

    Earlier today, 12 Democrats voted with the Republicans to refuse to replace the SSCI bill with the SJC bill (that means they rejected the bill that doesn't give telecoms--and therefore Dick Cheney--immunity). We need to prevent the Republicans from getting the 60 votes they need to impose cloture and therefore to ensure passage of the SSCI bill. That means we need to get at least three people who voted against the SJC bill today to vote against cloture on Monday (neither McCain nor Lindsey Graham voted today, but we should assume both will vote for cloture, which would give the Republicans 62 votes).

    Call these Senators and tell them to vote against cloture and for amendments to the SSCI bill on Monday. The list includes all the Democrats who voted against the SJC bill, except for Jello Jay Rockefeller, since he is co-sponsoring the SSCI bill, plus Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter, who also had an amendment shot down today.

    Bayh (202) 224-5623
    Carper (202) 224-2441
    Inouye (202) 224-3934
    Johnson (202) 224-5842
    Landrieu (202)224-5824
    McCaskill (202) 224-6154
    Mikulski (202) 224-4654
    Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
    Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
    Pryor (202) 224-2353
    Salazar (202) 224-5852
    Specter (202) 224-4254

    In addition, it would sure help if Senators Clinton and Obama came back to DC and supported the Democrats on this. They need to show leadership on this issue to assure those who face re-election in November (Landrieu and Johnson) that this vote will win supporters.
    Talking points provided here.

    Here are toll free #s to reach them:

    1 (800) 828 - 0498
    1 (800) 459 - 1887
    1 (800) 614 - 2803
    1 (866) 340 - 9281
    1 (866) 338 - 1015
    1 (877) 851 - 6437

    Just ask the operators for the Senators by name and they'll connect you.
    .

    Who Said The Surge Was A Success?

    After considering that the purpose of The Surge was to give the Iraqi government some time to reach a number of political and administrative goals, we should probably all be asking, now that it's been a year since The Surge was announced, how well or badly they're doing.

    Or to put it in a simpler way, have any of the goals been met?

    Not according to the Center for American Progress.

    On the one year anniversary of President Bush’s State of the Union address justifying his "New Way Forward" in Iraq, it is clear that the surge has failed to meet its objectives. One year ago, the president pledged that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced." Despite the fact that the Iraqi government has only met three of the 18 benchmarks laid out last year, an end to U.S. military and financial commitment is nowhere in sight.

    Here are the benchmarks.

    Government Benchmarks:

    Perform constitutional review.
    Enact de-Ba’athification reform.
    Form semi-autonomous regions.
    Hold provincial elections.
    Address amnesty.
    Establish support for Baghdad Security Plan.
    Ensure minority rights in Iraqi legislature.
    Keep Iraqi Security Forces free from partisan interference.

    Of these, only TWO have been enacted; Establish support for Baghdad Security Plan and Ensure minority rights in Iraqi legislature. De-Ba'athification reform is listed as a partial.

    Security Benchmarks:

    Disarm militias.
    Provide military support in Baghdad.
    Empower Iraqi Security Forces.
    Ensure impartial law enforcement.
    Establist support for Baghdad Security Plan by Maliki government.
    Reduce sectarian violence.
    Establish neighborhood security in Baghdad.
    Increase independent Iraqi Security Focres.

    Of these only one has been enacted; This is the one we all know by now - Establish neighborhood security in Baghdad. There are three other partials; Provide military support in Baghdad, Empower Iraqi Security Forces and Reduce Sectarian violence.

    Economic Benchmarks:

    Implement oil legislation.
    Distribute Iraqi resources equitably.

    Neither of these has been met. Only the second is listed as a partial.

    Go take a look at the report.

    And so for The Surge - yes there's been a reduction (if only partial) in sectarial violence and yes Baghdad is secure, but what about all that other stuff?

    And what happens when The Surge has to end?

    January 24, 2008

    It depends on what the meaning of room is

    The Burgher and Chad have both commented on how self-evidently ridiculous the claim is by Lil Mayor Luke Ravenstahl that his meeting on Tuesday with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter was the first time that mayors of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia had "even been in the same room" -- especially as the article in the Trib notes that they had previously attended each other's inaugurations.

    However, in the comments section, Richmond K. Turner does take pains to point out that Nutter would not yet have been mayor during Ravenstahl's inauguration and also says that he thought that Nutter's inauguration took place outdoors (thus solving the "room" problem).

    Of course seeing as how Pittsburgh has had mayors since 1816, and how the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia actually exist in the same state, one would think that the notion that the cities' respective mayors had not somehow bumped into each other in a room over the course of 192 years would seem to be well-nigh impossible.

    But, we refuse to sell our Mayor short by relying on common sense alone.

    So we went looking for hard evidence as we did not want to be considered haters by just assuming that Lil Mayor Luke was, once again, talking out of his ass.

    Here it is:
    You can view the video of Nutter's inauguration here. In his speech, he says the following (2:56 minutes in):
    We have some company here with us today. I attended about three weeks ago the installation of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. He returned the favor and came here to Philadelphia. We're creating a new East-West partnership and I want to recognize Mayor Ravenstahl -- the youngest mayor in the country. [At this point, Nutter looks back on the stage and applauds Luke.]
    Sure looks like they are in a room to me.

    If you're curious, here's Luke's inauguration with then Mayor-Elect Nutter in attendance (in a room):

    In the first 60 seconds of the video of Luke's speech, he says the following:
    And, of course I also want to thank everybody else on stage from Lanny Frattare, uh, on down. I really appreciate everybody's participation here today it means a great deal, uh, that you're here. I want to, uh, single out Mayor Nutter for making time in his very busy schedule to travel to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia to be here today. I really do appreciate it, Mayor. And, I think collectively we have a lot of work to do in the Comonwealth and with you and I working together we can do some wonderful things.
    .

    January 23, 2008

    And Now a Word From Al Gore

    More Proof (as if we needed it)

    From The Huffington Post:

    A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

    The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

    The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

    The study itself is posted here. It begins with this:
    President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.
    A telling example:
    On August 26, 2002, in an address to the national convention of the Veteran of Foreign Wars, Cheney flatly declared: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." In fact, former CIA Director George Tenet later recalled, Cheney's assertions went well beyond his agency's assessments at the time. Another CIA official, referring to the same speech, told journalist Ron Suskind, "Our reaction was, 'Where is he getting this stuff from?' "
    Something to remember the next time someone says, "Everyone believed Saddam had WMD."

    On the page labelled Key False Statements, we read:

    In his dramatic presentation to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said: "My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. I will cite some examples, and these are from human sources." In preparation for his presentation, Powell had spent a week at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters sifting through intelligence.

    One of the "human sources" that Powell referenced turned out to be "Curveball," whom U.S. intelligence officials had never even spoken to. "My mouth hung open when I saw Colin Powell use information from Curveball," Tyler Drumheller, the CIA's chief of covert operations in Europe, later recalled. "It was like cognitive dissonance. Maybe, I thought, my government has something more. But it scared me deeply."

    In his presentation to the U.N. Security Council, Powell described another of the human sources as "a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons [of mass destruction] to Al Qaeda." Six days earlier, however, the CIA itself had come to the conclusion that this source, a detainee, "was not in a position to know if any training had taken place."

    In a report completed in 2004, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded: "Much of the information provided or cleared by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for inclusion in Secretary Powell's speech was overstated, misleading, or incorrect."

    And so on.

    You can even search the database yourself.

    There's 935 false statements.

    January 22, 2008

    Who let the Mitt out? (Woof woof woof)

    Without comment:


    (h/t to firedoglake where I saw it first and to The Colbert Report who just played it.)

    More WPTT live blogging

    Hey, John! Ms. Mon reviewed last week's Off-Q here.

    She got the Being There reference too.
    .

    _____________________________________

    2pj posts on Huckabee:

    http://2politicaljunkies.blogspot.com/search?q=huckabee
    .

    McIntire on Choice and the Bubble Zone

    Here's a link to the column that John McIntire referenced on air a few moment's ago:

    http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A39970

    We wrote a little something on this issue way back here.

    Blog for Choice Day

    Blog for Choice Day

    Today is the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. As they did last year, NARAL Pro-Choice America is calling it "Blog for Choice Day" and asking pro choice bloggers to post on the follwoing:

    This year's topic: tell us, and your readers, why it's important to vote pro-choice.


    I will only slightly rephrase my answer for last year's question as to why I'm pro choice:
    My answer?

    A woman must have the right to control her own body -- and that necessarily must include anything that may going on inside it.

    Simple, no?

    Yeah, it gets messy if there's a fetus in there, and more messy the older that fetus is.

    But you either get to control your body or you don't.

    And women and girls face an opposition who believes that a mass of cells smaller then the head of a pin has not just equal rights, but more rights, than the woman or girl herself.

    I will never understand that.

    I will also never believe that a man would put up with everyone and his uncle trying to micromanage his body.

    So I'm pro choice.

    Period.
    And, if like me, you are pro choice, it's important to vote that way because you know damn well that others are voting against your rights.

    Be afraid, be very afraid!

    Links to the stock stories David is talking about now:

  • Stocks plunged at the opening bell, with the Dow industrials losing more than 400 points in the first two minutes of trading. (Top of page at http://www.cnn.com )

  • Fed Makes Emergency 0.75% Rate Cut

  • World markets continue skid over U.S. woes
  • Some thoughts on today's guests

    Yes, David is on AM NewsTalk 1360 today in place of Lynn Cullen (stream live here) and my thought on his guests are as follows:
  • Chris Potter, Editor of the City Paper: Did I ever mention how much I liked this cover (Luke's thought bubbles) of your paper? No, I don't think I did.

  • Dan Onorato, Allegheny County Executive: Any worries on Our county's electronic voting machines considering this article and this article?

  • John McIntire, Off-Q panelist, City Paper columnist, Blogger: Please, someone, give this man another show!
  • UPDATE: Call in at 412-333-1360!

    NewsTalk 1360

    I'm on the radio right now.

    January 21, 2008

    Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

    Just another reminder. I am sitting in for Lynn Cullen tomorrow. You can listen live here.

    I've got a full schedule, too.

    Chris Potter (of the City Paper) will be calling in during the nine o'clock hour to discuss presidential politics. County Executive Dan Onorato will be calling in at ten to discuss some local poltics.

    And from eleven o'clock on, John McIntire will be in the studio with me.

    A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

    EVENTS!

    January 21, 2008

    Martin Luther King, Jr Day Celebration at the Union Project
    WHAT:
    Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration
    WHEN: TODAY! Monday, January 21st, 6:00 PM
    WHERE: Union Project, 801 North Negley Ave, 15206 (corner of Stanton and Negley Avenues)

    The Union Project and Open Door welcomes the Pittsburgh community for an evening of motivational, held to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his vision of connecting communities, cultures and individuals. Sponsored by the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, the evening will include a free community dinner beginning at 6pm, step performances, Birdie Nichols and Glorious Rebirth Gospel Choir, readings of Dr. King's selected works by local youth and a featured speaker, Rev. Dr. Johnnie Monroe. For more info contact Hilary at 412-363-4550 x 26 or hilary@@unionproject.org or http://www.unionproject.org/


    January 22, 2008

    White Privilege 101: Getting in on the Conversation
    WHAT: White Privilege 101: Getting in on the Conversation
    WHEN: Tuesday, January 22 at 7:00 PM
    WHERE: Chatham University, PCW Room – Anderson Dining Hall

    Facilitated by Prof. Adale Sholock. Watch and discuss an informative new film that defines white privilege, gives examples, and offers a plan of action for anti-racist whites and their allies. Don’t miss this opportunity to deepen your awareness of racism in our society today.
    http://www.chatham.edu/news/eventdetails.cfm?EventID=817


    January 26, 2008

    10th Annual Summit Against Racism
    WHAT: Black & White Reunion’s Annual Summits Against Racism
    WHEN: January 26, 2008, 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
    WHERE: E. Liberty Presbyterian Church, 116 S. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206

    The Black & White Reunion was founded in 1996 “…to bring together a “reunion” of Black and White people in a collaborative spirit to address the racial and class inequality and division in our society.” The group is preparing to host the 10th Annual Summit Against Racism. Theme: The Power of One: A Commitment to Individual and Collective Action. Registration: $25 Information: 412-441-3800 x 32 or check out: http://www.blackandwhitereunion.org/


    February 7, 2008

    Conference for Minority, Women & Disadvantaged Business Enterprises
    WHAT: Conference for Minority, Women & Disadvantaged Business Enterprises
    WHEN: February 7, 2008, 7:30 AM – 1:00 PM
    WHERE: IBEW Conference Center, 5 Hot Metal Street & Carson Street (South Side), Pgh. 15203

    Cost: Free. Must register by February 4, 2008 Information & registration: cszeg@achd.net or 412-578-8375

    Agenda
    7:30 a.m. - Registration and Breakfast Buffet
    8:30-8:45 a.m. - Welcome, Opening Remarks and Recognition of Sponsors
    8:45-10:30 a.m. - Speakers
    • Don Barden, PTG Gaming/Majestic Star
    • Keith B. Key, KBK Enterprises
    • Mary Grace Musuneggi, The Musuneggi Financial Group
    • MWDBE Hall of Fame Presentation: The Governmental Committee honors professionals who have played a vital role in the MWDBE business community through the Hall of Fame award. The Hall of Fame plaque, with the names of each year's awardees, is proudly displayed in the Diversity Business Resource Center.
    • 2008 Inductees: Louis "Hop" Kendrick & Pittsburgh Courier--Rod Doss, Editor and Publisher
    10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. - Networking in the Exhibit Hall: An opportunity to market your business to government purchasing agents and sponsoring banks. Find out what bidding opportunities are coming up. Bring literature about your company to share with the purchasing agents and others attending the event.

    Announcement

    It's my understanding that the Inauguration for the next President of these United States (barring any more unconstitutional hanky-panky from the current regme) will occur on January 20, 2009.

    That means that we're less than one year away from living in a post-Dubya America!

    January 20, 2008

    Jack Kelly Sunday

    In last Sunday's New York Times, an article called "Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles" by Deborah Sontag and Lizette Alvarez described an alarming rise in violence among some veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Before going any further on this, I have to say that I was going to blog on it last weekend, but after reading it more carefully I decided to take a pass. For my taste, it dances too closely with anecdotal evidence and then not closely enough with more solid statistics.

    So I had a few issues with it - and so does Jack Kelly. His column is here.

    Here's how he starts:
    Last Sunday The New York Times published a nearly 7,000-word investigative report (it started on the front page under a three-column hed above the fold, and filled more than two full pages inside) that is a testament to what can be accomplished by journalists who lack brains or integrity, but who possess an agenda.
    To be precise, by my count the text of the article is 6,342 words. But what's an error of nearly 9.4% when you're on a righteous rant? In any event, it is a long article. Unfortunately for Jack, he fixates on just one part:

    The theme of the story, headlined "Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles," is that veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, scarred by the horrors they experienced, have launched a murder spree upon returning to the United States.

    "Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities," wrote reporters Deborah Sontag and Lizette Alvarez. "Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak."

    What is the basis for this startling conclusion?

    Apparently Ms. Sontag and Ms. Alvarez did a search of the Nexis database of newspaper articles and found 121 stories of murders committed by veterans since the war on terror began. They then described some of those murders in lugubrious and exhaustive detail. [emphasis added]

    Actually it's NOT the theme of the story. But don't take my word on it. Go read the article for yourself (a suggestion, alas, not given by J-Kel as I suspect he doesn't want you to read the article, for if you did you'd see his characterization is grossly incomplete). The article is more about how badly Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome has affected some returning vets - not any sort of "murder spree" spread across the U.S.

    The one part he's fixated on is the number 121.

    Incidentally, that was my problem, too. Here's how Sontag and Alvarez arrived at that number:
    The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.
    And then:

    The Pentagon does not keep track of such killings, most of which are prosecuted not by the military justice system but by civilian courts in state after state. Neither does the Justice Department.

    To compile and analyze its list, The Times conducted a search of local news reports, examined police, court and military records and interviewed the defendants, their lawyers and families, the victims’ families and military and law enforcement officials.

    This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, are reported publicly or in detail. Also, it was often not possible to determine the deployment history of other service members arrested on homicide charges.

    For the prominence of the number in the article, that just didn't seem solid enough for me. But take another look at how Jack Kelly described the research:
    Apparently Ms. Sontag and Ms. Alvarez did a search of the Nexis database of newspaper articles and found 121 stories of murders committed by veterans since the war on terror began. They then described some of those murders in lugubrious and exhaustive detail.
    And then a paragraph later:
    Ms. Sontag and Ms. Alvarez apparently have learned what little they "know" about the military from Rambo movies, and never learned much about statistics. (They lumped involuntary manslaughter with homicide, and those merely charged with those who have been convicted, which makes the statistical correlations they didn't bother to do more difficult.) Their story doesn't just grossly exaggerate and sensationalize a problem, it fabricates one that mostly doesn't exist. It's the sloppiest, most biased story I've ever seen in journalism.
    You may be asking yourself right now, "Where did Kelly get the 'lumped involuntary manslaughter with homicide' part?"

    Glad you asked. I'll tell you. The only time the word "involuntary" appears in the whole 6,342 word article is in this paragraph:
    The Pentagon was given The Times’s roster of homicides. It declined to comment because, a spokesman, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, said, the Department of Defense could not duplicate the newspaper’s research. Further, Colonel Melnyk questioned the validity of comparing prewar and wartime numbers based on news media reports, saying that the current increase might be explained by “an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11.” He also questioned the value of “lumping together different crimes such as involuntary manslaughter with first-degree homicide.” [emphasis added]
    It came from a quoted Pentagon criticism of the article, not from the article's research. It's the only indication that those two issues were "lumped" together. And seeing that the article is a criticism of the Department of Defense, we should be trusting the Pentagon's characterization of it...why?

    While the article does say that:

    The Times used the same methods to research homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six years before and after the present wartime period began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

    This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The increase occurred even though there have been fewer troops stationed in the United States in the last six years and the American homicide rate has been, on average, lower.

    I do think that the Pentagon's criticism of comparing pre-and post-war numbers is valid. It may be (at least in part) because of the greater attention given to returning troops.

    The statistics are enough of a weakness that it allowed the Jack Kelly's of the world to pounce. He ends his statistical analysis with this:

    According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were, on average, 8.7 murderers per 100,000 people annually between 1976 and 2005. The figure for combat veterans is nearly twice that high. Sounds like a problem.

    But hold your horses. The 121 murders committed by veterans have been since the war on terror began, a period now of more than six years. To be kind to the New York Times reporters, let's call it four years, from the time vets would have been returning from Iraq. That means the annual rate of murders by combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is about 4.5 per 100,000, or about half that of the civilian population.

    Hold your horses tighter. Most murders are committed by young men. Males accounted for 88.8 percent of all homicides for the period studied, according to the Justice Department. Both men and women aged 18-24 accounted for 36.6 percent, men and women aged 25-34 for 28.4 percent. But the armed forces are comprised overwhelmingly of men in those age groups. In 2005, there were 26.5 murderers per 100,000 people aged 18-24. For those aged 25-34, there were 13.5 murderers per 100,000.

    "To match the homicide rate of their peers, our troops would have had to come home and commit about 150 murders a year, for a total of about 700 to 750 murders between 2003 and the end of 2007," noted retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters.

    But take a closer look at the innumeracy of the spin. The "121 cases" were admitted by the authors to be fuzzy and presumed to be a very low estimate. To their critics it's THE number of cases and then it's that number is crunched with a calculator one place past the decimal point as if it's the exact figure.

    Given the bluriness of the data, it's completely possible that more than 750 murders occurred. It's also completely possible that they did not. The exactitude of Jack's "analysis" however shows us his own spin. It's almost like saying that if about 1,000 Pittsburghers were to each buy one loaf of bread today and if a total of exactly $2,240.00 was spent, then each loaf of bread would have cost exactly $2.24.

    It ain't necessarily so.

    But look at another thing Jack said:
    Their story doesn't just grossly exaggerate and sensationalize a problem, it fabricates one that mostly doesn't exist.
    Chew on that one for a while. How does one "fabricate" a problem that "mosty doesn't exist"? If it mostly doesn't exist, that means it exists - just very rarely.

    For Jack the argument is about how rarely it happens.
    Given that many veterans rebound successfully from their war experiences and some flourish as a result of them, veterans groups have long deplored the attention paid to the minority of soldiers who fail to readjust to civilian life.
    That's from the Times article. Though you wouldn't know it from Jack Kelly's column. This is from the article, too.

    In earlier eras, various labels attached to the psychological injuries of war: soldier’s heart, shell shock, Vietnam disorder. Today the focus is on PTSD, but military health care officials are seeing a spectrum of psychological issues, with an estimated half of the returning National Guard members, 38 percent of soldiers and 31 percent of marines reporting mental health problems, according to a Pentagon task force.

    Decades of studies on the problems of Vietnam veterans have established links between combat trauma and higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, gun ownership, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse — and criminality. On a less scientific level, such links have long been known.

    “The connection between war and crime is unfortunately very ancient,” said Dr. Shay, the V.A. psychiatrist and author. “The first thing that Odysseus did after he left Troy was to launch a pirate raid on Ismarus. Ending up in trouble with the law has always been a final common pathway for some portion of psychologically injured veterans.”

    The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, considered the most thorough analysis of this population, found that 15 percent of the male veterans still suffered from full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder more than a decade after the war ended. Half of the veterans with active PTSD had been arrested or in jail at least once, and 34.2 percent more than once. Some 11.5 percent of them had been convicted of felonies, and veterans are more likely to have committed violent crimes than nonveterans, according to government studies. In the mid-1980s, with so many Vietnam veterans behind bars that Vietnam Veterans of America created chapters in prisons, veterans made up a fifth of the nation’s inmate population.

    Who's dissing the troops now?

    January 18, 2008

    The Hammer Nails McCain

    Posted without comment because no meaningful comment is possible:

    It's fun when conservatives attack each other, isn't it?

    One Political Junkie ON THE AIR

    Mark it down in your calendars, 2PJ fans!

    I'll be sitting in for Lynn Cullen again this Tuesday morning (January 22) from nine to noon on Newstalk 1360WPTT.

    O Canada!

    The latest from our friends to the north:
    Omar Khadr's lawyers say they can't understand why Canada is not doing more to help their client in light of new evidence that Ottawa has put the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on a watch list for torture.
    And a bit later:

    Canada's new focus on torture was ordered by the inquiry into Maher Arar's nightmare in Syria. U.S. authorities sent Arar -- a Canadian of Syrian ancestory -- to Syria after he made a brief stopover in New York in 2002. They wrongly accused him of having links to terrorism in large part because of information provided by the RCMP.

    Arar was sent to a Syrian prison where he was tortured for nearly a year. An inquiry into the Arar affair ordered a new focus on torture, and CTV News has learned that, as part of a "torture awareness workshop," diplomats are now being told where to watch for abuse.

    The aim of the workshop: to teach diplomats who visit Canadians in foreign jails how to tell if they've been tortured. It also listed countries and places with greater risks of torture. The list includes Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and China. But surprisingly, it also included the United States, Guantanamo Bay, and Israel.

    Good company.

    When will Canada be joined to dubya's "axis of evil"? I mean you're either with us or against us, right? How long until Canada is seen as a threat?

    O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

    January 17, 2008

    Olbermann Tonight.

    Wait for the last spot.



    Here's the story he's talking about:

    Fort Carson sent soldiers who were not medically fit to war zones last month to meet "deployable strength" goals, according to e-mails obtained by The Denver Post.

    One e-mail, written Jan. 3 by the surgeon for Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, says: "We have been having issues reaching deployable strength, and thus have been taking along some borderline soldiers who we would otherwise have left behind for continued treatment."

    Capt. Scot Tebo's e-mail was, in part, a reference to Master Sgt. Denny Nelson, a 19-year Army veteran, who was sent overseas last month despite doctors' orders that he not run, jump or carry more than 20 pounds for three months because of a severe foot injury.

    Nelson took the medical report to the Soldier Readiness Process, or SRP, site on Fort Carson, where health-care professionals recommended Nelson stay home.

    The soldier, who has a Bronze Star and is a member of the Mountain Post's Audie Murphy Chapter, was sent to Kuwait on Dec. 29.

    To quote Keith:
    Men like Denny Nelson are the heroes. The men who ordered them back, in the military and outside of it are the ones who accused those who criticised them of hating the troops or of being anti-American.

    And frankly, those politicians, those commentators, and those senior officers can go to hell.
    Amen.

    Disgusting

    Let me say that I'm not much of a fan of Senator John McCain.

    I mean, I thought he was funny on Saturday Night Live:

    But all-in-all I can't say that I'd ever vote for this Senator from Arizona. Certainly not for President.

    That being said, I found this news item to be completely and utterly disgusting. It begins with two paragraphs that are all you need to know to lose your lunch (or breakfast or dinner, depending on when you read this):

    An anti-McCain group is stirring up past attacks on the Arizona senator in South Carolina, with a negative mailer to 80 news outlets that accuses McCain of distorting his storied military record and time spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

    The group, Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain, is a new incarnation of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry from the 2004 race; it’s run by the same man, Jerry Kiley, 61 years old, of New York. The group was widely viewed as a precursor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who famously ran attack ads against Kerry. But while the Massachusetts senator was criticized for not responding quickly or effectively, McCain campaign surrogates condemned the mailer tonight as false and slanderous.

    I am sure if you took 30 seconds you can find the mailer sent out. I won't post a picture of it here - I won't be a part of spreading it around the Internets.

    Faster than a speeding bullet!

    Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to knock out the whole city with a single mouse click . . . It's A Bird . . . It's A Plane . . . It's Pittsburgh Bloggers!


    .

    January 16, 2008

    Blocked!

    Found this via my old buddy MacYapper:

    Early Returns is rubbing its hands together with glee at the anticipated flood of city of Pittsburgh employees to this blog. Why so smug? Because this may be just about the only local political blog they can access from their work computers.

    The city's Internet security provider, Websense Enterprise, recently updated its settings to eliminate access to "social networking and personal sites," a category that appears to include all of the "blogspot" addresses. Sources offer differing accounts on when this took effect, with some saying that as recently as yesterday they could access everything from the mayor-blistering Burgh Report to the call-em-as-I-see-em Pittsburgh Comet to the fawning (we think) I Luv Luke site.

    And then there's this:

    If a city employee or group of employees needs access to blogspot sites to properly serve the citizenry, they can have their department head e-mail him with a request to "open" that category for those users. They've done that for council offices researching gambling, and police units that need to access racy sites to fight sex crimes. So far, there's been a lot of griping, but no one has told him they absolutely need to read blogs to do their jobs, he said.

    "If it's job-related, we'd be glad to open it up," Mr. Stern said. "There's no reason, otherwise, to expose my network to vulnerabilities and risks."

    Think of this for a moment. Joe (or Josette) Smoe is sitting at a desk in the City County building wanting (for whatever reason) to read this blog. All employee Smoe had to do is to e-mail Mayor Luke's internet security forces with a request?

    Think of what that will produce? A list of city employees who want to read political blogs!

    For those people, I have a list of my own:

    Surf in good health!

    Dan and Luke's Excellent Adventure!


    (Click on graphic to enlarge)

    After Dan and Luke wander down the wrong street in Amsterdam, the hijinks begin and they have a real gas with some European geese!

    (OK, fine. I saw this when I was already halfway done with mine. Besides, blame it on The Burgher who emailed me the idea last night.)
    .

    January 15, 2008

    Huckabee: We need to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards

    I've been waiting all morning to find a link to Republican presidential hopeful and former Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee's latest gospel on the U.S. Constitution that I heard on MSNBC today and, finally, here it is:
    I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do, to amend the Constitution so it's in God standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.
    Of course if there's any doubt, "God's standards" would be the standards of Huckabee's own faith as opposed to -- oh I don't know -- maybe your own. It's a shame really that the framers of the Constitution did not have Huckabee on hand to supply them with "God's standards" in the first place, no?

    Exactly what he would like to be codified into the supreme law of the land to match "God's standards" I don't know. But since he recently affirmed his agreement with his faith's belief that wives should submit to their husbands -- who knows -- he may want to start there, though I'm guessing that he'd want to begin with the biggest threat to the family and the institution of marriage (no, not Britney Spears): teh gays!

    Then again, maybe he only wants to stone to death people who work on the Sabbath or who trim their sideburns.

    Constitutional:


    Not so much:


    .

    George Bush and the NIE

    The story's been floating around for a day or so. In case you're interested in actually reading the NIE. Here it is.

    From Newsweek:
    In public, President Bush has been careful to reassure Israel and other allies that he still sees Iran as a threat, while not disavowing his administration's recent National Intelligence Estimate. That NIE, made public Dec. 3, embarrassed the administration by concluding that Tehran had halted its weapons program in 2003, which seemed to undermine years of bellicose rhetoric from Bush and other senior officials about Iran's nuclear ambitions. But in private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast. "He told the Israelis that he can't control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE's] conclusions don't reflect his own views" about Iran's nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity.
    Then there's this from Slate.com:

    For the president of the United States to wave away the whole document—which, in its classified form, is more than 140 pages and has nearly 1,500 source notes, according to an enlightening story in today's Wall Street Journal—is gratuitous and self-destructive.

    Then again, such behavior is of a piece with the pattern of relations between President Bush and his intelligence agencies. In September 2004, when he was asked about a pessimistic CIA report on the course of the occupation in Iraq, Bush replied that the agency was "just guessing."

    And then:
    And therein lies the irony of the present situation. In decades past, the CIA has often lost credibility as a result of its own failures and scandals. Now President Bush is splashing doubt not just on the CIA, but on all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, simply because their judgments are out of synch with his policies.
    Of course the White House spins it all into near complete confusion. This is from yesterday's press conference:

    Q This is addressed to both of you, if you could answer. My question is based to some extent on the exchanges that the President had with my Fox News colleague, Greta Van Susteren. In your own discussions with the President about the NIE and its central finding that the weaponization aspect of the Iran nuclear program has been suspended, do you find that the President fully accepts this conclusion? Or is there any -- has the President expressed to you, are you aware of any feeling on the President's part that, however sincere the analysts might have been, they might have gotten it wrong? Has he admitted the possibility at all in his mind that the analysts may be wrong about this?

    MS. PERINO: I've not heard the President express anything but support for the intelligence community. But I think what he has said, and he has repeated both privately and publicly, is that he does not believe that the NIE that was produced -- was it two months ago -- should provide anyone any comfort that Iran is not a threat. In fact, it underscored for him and for many others, as we've learned from around this region, that they also believe that Iran remains a threat.

    And the very fact that they were hiding their weaponization program from the world, that nobody knew about, should not give anyone comfort that all of a sudden now we know that they had one, and that they halted it. What the international community has called on them to do is to halt their enrichment of uranium. And we are united in that, and we are going to continue to press for sanctions.

    But there is no doubt that across the world the NIE that was put out by our intelligence community did cause some confusion. And one of the things the President has done at every stop is to tell them that he believes that Iran was a threat, they are a threat, and they will continue to be a threat if they are allowed to have a nuclear weapon. He believes that they have the right to have civilian nuclear power. He has provided, along with his international partners, a way for Iran to come to the table and have a negotiation for civilian nuclear power if they verifiably suspend. And so until we see that, I think that we will remain concerned and skeptical, and continue down the diplomatic path.

    Another point that the President has made when this has come up is that he does believe that this problem can be solved diplomatically.

    But I also want to underscore for you that it is a mistake to think that these meetings that the President has had across this region have been about Iran. If it has come up, it has been brief. Now, I'm not there, sitting at the President's shoulder, or by his side, when he has one-on-one meetings, but I can tell you, in the meetings that we have been in -- and we have been very fortunate on this trip to have been included in everything except for the one-on-ones -- my observation is that while it has come up, what they were looking for was reassurance from President Bush that he agrees -- that he still believes what he had said before the NIE came out. And the fact is that that is what he believes.

    Q But my question was not about perception or misperceptions of the report's findings, or the implications, or whether or not Iran remains a threat. My question to you is whether or not the President admits at all in his own mind of the possibility that the central finding was actually wrong?

    MS. PERINO: Again, I said he has complete confidence in the intelligence community. They work very hard to get as much information as they possibly can. They brought this new information to the attention of their superiors back in late August. They said they were going to need some more time to vet it out before they were able to fully understand it. And intelligence is not an exact science and they continue to seek out more information. But the President agreed with the intelligence community that it was important to get this information out so that everyone knows what they're dealing with. And again, the fact that the Iranians had a secret, covert program that they were hiding from the world should not give any of us comfort.

    If you asked yourself, after reading all those words, whether Dana Perino actually answered the question, you'd have to admit that the answer would be a resounding no. Take another look.

    --Does the president think the NIE was wrong?
    --The president has full confidence in the intelligence community and Iran is a threat.

    That's not an answer.

    Back to Slate.com:

    This remark has three baleful consequences. First, it can't help but demoralize the intelligence community. NIEs are meant, ultimately, for only one reader, the president; and here's the president telling another world leader that he doesn't believe it because, well, he doesn't agree with it.

    Second, it reinforces the widespread view that the president views intelligence strictly as a political tool: When it backs up his policies, it's as good as gold; when it doesn't, it's "just guessing." This result is that all intelligence is degraded and devalued, at home and abroad. Let's say that six months from now Bush publicizes an NIE concluding that Iran has resumed its nuclear-weapons program or that, say, North Korea is reprocessing more plutonium. Given that he pooh-poohed an NIE that rubbed against his own views, why should anyone take him seriously for embracing an NIE that confirms them?

    Third, by telling Olmert that it's all right to ignore the NIE, Bush is in effect telling him that Israel should go ahead and behave as if its findings had never been published. Hirsh reports that, when Olmert was asked whether he felt reassured by Bush's words, he replied, "I am very happy." ABC News reported Monday that, at a closed hearing of the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, Olmert testified, "All options that prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities are legitimate within the context of how to grapple with this matter."

    Dana Perino is right on one thing, however. None of this should give us any comfort.