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4.29.2005

The Opposite of Schadenfreude

Unbelievable.

USATODAY.com - Ahmad Chalabi gains key spot in Iraq's new government: "Thwarted in his bid to be Iraq's leader, one-time Pentagon favorite Ahmad Chalabi has nevertheless captured a key position in the new government, a deputy prime minister's spot and temporary control of the lucrative oil ministry.

With his nephew also installed as finance minister, Chalabi and his family appear to have a firm grip on the country's purse strings. "


4.27.2005

Bush Delays Judgement

What's the difference? He may have done something illegal, but that doesn't necessarily make it wrong.

Bush Takes Risk With Show of Support for DeLay: "'He does not think DeLay has done anything wrong,' said Charlie Black, a GOP lobbyist with close ties to the White House. 'It's Bush's natural instinct to stand with him. There could be a risk, but it's the kind of risk [Bush] takes all the time.'
Bush might also feel boxed in and left with little choice but to help DeLay, who has won the devotion of social conservatives, several Republicans said.
Bush has no connection to the issues surrounding DeLay's controversies, but one of the lobbyists whose credit card was charged for part of DeLay's trip was a major fundraiser for the president's reelection. Jack Abramoff raised more than $100,000 for Bush in 2004 and had close ties to his Interior Department. In addition, investigators are looking into a $4 million payment that Abramoff made to lobbyist Ralph Reed, a key player in the president's reelection operation who raised more than $300,000 for Bush's two presidential campaigns. Two people close to Bush said the entire party will suffer if the controversy spreads and become a major issue with the public."


We'll Just Ignore This Inconvenient Statistic

WoT generating more T?

U.S. Figures Show Sharp Global Rise In Terrorism: "The number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled last year, according to U.S. government figures, a sharp upswing in deadly attacks that the State Department has decided not to make public in its annual report on terrorism due to Congress this week.
Overall, the number of what the U.S. government considers 'significant' attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the record of around 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides who were briefed on statistics covering incidents including the bloody school seizure in Russia and violence related to the disputed Indian territory of Kashmir
...
Terrorist incidents in Iraq also dramatically increased, from 22 attacks to 198, or nine times the previous year's total -- a sensitive subset of the tally, given the Bush administration's assertion that the situation there had stabilized significantly after the U.S. handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government last summer.

The State Department announced last week that it was breaking with tradition in withholding the statistics on terrorist attacks from its congressionally mandated annual report. Critics said the move was designed to shield the government from questions about the success of its effort to combat terrorism by eliminating what amounted to the only year-to-year benchmark of progress."


4.15.2005

Why Tax Cuts Must Be Made Permanent.

WaPo: Bush Pays $207,307 in Taxes

President Bush reported adjusted gross income of $784,219 for last year, on which he paid $207,307 in federal taxes -- about $20,000 less than the previous year, according to the president's return released Friday by the White House.


Wait, there's more!

The White House also released the 2004 tax return filed by Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne.

The report shows the Cheneys owe federal taxes for 2004 of $393,518 on adjusted gross income of $1.7 million.

Throughout last year, the Cheneys paid $290,855 in taxes through withholding and estimated tax payments. When they filed their return on Friday, they paid the remaining $102,663.

The Cheneys' income included the vice president's $203,000 government salary and $194,852 in deferred compensation from Halliburton Co., the Dallas-based energy services firm he headed until Aug. 16, 2000.


Eric Rudolph is a strange guy.

...but then you probably already knew that. In a brief search today to see if this anti-abortion warrior had kids of his own (I can't tell for sure, but it seems the answer is 'no'), I came across this interesting piece in the Southern Poverty Law Center's report. It's equal parts creepy Nazi/racist/mercenary stories like you'd expect, but with an amusing topnote of, well...ganja.

IR: Did you know Eric well? What was it like to be with him?

RUDOLPH: Oh God, yes. Eric stayed in my home [in Nashville, where Eric frequently visited in the early 1990s] a lot. He would sleep all day, then stay up all night and eat pizza and smoke pot and watch movies by Cheech and Chong.

I mean, what do I not know about the guy? If you were to walk into my house, you'd see him hanging out with his brothers, talking about an issue they were discussing on TV with a joint hanging out of his mouth. They'd say, "Hey dude, let's eat a pizza." It was like [the movie] "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."
...
IR: What exactly was Eric's involvement with marijuana?

RUDOLPH: At one point, he was probably making $60,000 a year selling pot. What happened was once Pat moved out, she agreed to sell the house in the mountains [in Topton] to Dan and Eric.

Eric built a garage that went up under the house and there was a secret little room for hydroponics [a method of growing plants in nutrient solutions that allows indoor cultivation without sunlight].

But he had already been growing pot out on Army Corps of Engineers land behind the house. He kept it buried out in the yard. It was surreal.

IR: How did he conduct his business?

RUDOLPH: He always got top dollar for everything. He would have people pay up to $80 for a quarter-ounce of his product [more than twice typical marijuana street prices]. I know he put that money away.

I mean he would go on little shopping sprees and get what he wanted. He spent his money on stuff he thought he needed for his protection, like two pits that he bought to guard his house and a 9mm pistol.

But Eric was pretty tight. He set his prices on his pot and that was about it — no discounts. Most of that money went to pay for the house.


Rudolph claims he was not a "big time" dealer.


Bubblicious, Redux

Homeowners find much to appreciate / Despite rising interest rates, sales and prices in the Bay Area rocket to new highs. How high? The annual increase in the median home price now tops the region's typical household income.: "Forget the stock market or working for a living. Homeowners in the Bay Area made more money last year simply occupying their lofts, townhomes and suburban tract houses.
At least on paper.
The numbers say it all: Between February and March, the median price for a single-family house jumped $36,000, or 6.3 percent. Over the last 12 months, it soared $106,000, or 21 percent, hitting $605,000 in March.
That appreciation far exceeded the $74,124 the typical Bay Area household earned last year, according to Economy.com. And it certainly outpaced the stock market, which is down 4 percent in the last 12 months. If you'd bought a 10-year government bond on March 31, 2004, you would have received about 3.9 percent in interest in the last year. "


Ah, but here's the warning sign. Anyone remember the dotcom boom of the late 90s? People were saying the same thing about stock prices:

Rod Gabriel feels he made the right choice to buy, despite sky-high prices. Gabriel, 35, bought a two-bedroom home in East Oakland 15 months ago for $315,000. In January, it was appraised at $410,000.

"You pay the bills and (the value) goes up. It almost seems too good to be true," said Gabriel, noting that the $95,000 in appreciation surpasses his income as a marketing writer for a San Francisco bank.



4.13.2005

Familiar

The New York Times > Washington > DeLay Defends Effort to Rein In the Courts: "Yet Republicans continued to debate and comment on Mr. DeLay. President Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, said, 'We support his efforts, along with the efforts of other congressional leaders, to move forward on the agenda that the American people want us to enact.' Asked if the majority leader and the president were friends, Mr. McClellan replied that the president does consider Mr. DeLay a friend, but suggested he's more a business associate than a social pal. 'I think there are different levels of friendship with anybody.'"

The Nation, Jan 15 2002

"On Friday, Bush attempted to distance himself from the Enron scandal by stating that CEO Lay "was a supporter of Ann Richards in my run in 1994," obscuring the fact that Lay gave Bush three times as much money as he did the Democratic gubernatorial incumbent whom Bush was trying to unseat. Bush added that he really did not get to "know" Lay--the man he nicknamed "Kenny Boy"--until after he won the governor's race. I can't speak to the varying levels of intimacy of their relationship, but Bush had considerable contact with Lay two years earlier when the Enron leader served as the chair of the host committee for the 1992 Republican convention in Houston, where Bush the senior was nominated for his second term as president."


4.12.2005

No Surprises
CNN.com - Bush bares soul with 'iPod One' - Apr 12, 2005: "The playlist does reveal a rather narrow range of babyboomer tunes. Writing in the London Times, Caitlin Moran noted: 'No black artists, no gay artists, no world music, only one woman, no genre less than 25 years old, and no Beatles.'"

Also interesting: the iPod holds 10,000 songs, but there are only 250 on Bush's iPod. Kinda makes you think about what kind of metaphor that might inspire.


4.08.2005

Imagine They're All Naked

Jeff Gannon did a thuddingly awful job today on the National Press Club panel on bloggers v journalists, but I doubt that'd be surprising to anyone. But who can blame him, really? An old saw of getting comfortable about public speaking is to imagine one's audience is naked; Gannon, though, started with the knowledge that much of today's audience had already seen him naked in perhaps compromising situations.

See highlights at Crooks & Liars.


4.07.2005

Up and Down

Yahoo! News - Jobless Claims Post Biggest Dip in 2 Months: "The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped by 19,000 last week, the largest decline in two months, the government reported Thursday.

The Labor Department said the decline pushed the level of unemployment benefits down to 334,000 after claims had unexpectedly jumped by 23,000 the week before. "


So, the biggest drop in two months...came on the heels of a huge jump the previous week? This is hopeful news?

Strangely, this little tidbit was held back til the end of the story, two paragraphs from the bottom:

While the labor market has been improving in recent months following an extended period of weak job growth, the government reported last week that employers added just 110,000 people to payrolls in March, the poorest showing in eight months and only about half of what economists had been expecting.


Drop in the Barrel

I won't complain one bit if daylight savings is extended. I've always disliked the time switch in fall, mostly because I don't care how light it is outside at 6am since I'm asleep. At 5pm, though, it would be nice to not have to ride my bike home in the dark. Not many people I know share this view, and I know it's bratty and selfish. So be it.

But what caught my eye here was the estimated oil savings: 10,000 barrels a day!
Which is....doing the math.... .05% (i.e. half of one percent). Pretty insignificant.

Yahoo News/AP: Congress May Extend Daylight Savings Time
Lawmakers crafting energy legislation approved an amendment Wednesday to extend daylight-saving time by two months, having it start on the last Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November
...
"The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said Markey, who cited Transportation Department estimates that showed the two-month extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day.

The country uses about 20 million barrels of oil a day.


Why I Love Fafblog

Have I mentioned that I think Fafblog is sort of a modern version of Walt Kelly's Pogo?

Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog.: "America's intelligence agencies made thorough and grievous errors in their assessments of Iraq's weapons capabilites. For example, in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, the line 'Saddam Hussein is made entirely of poison and can launch fifty fusion warheads from his perpetually-flared nostrils' should properly have read 'No nukes here, nothing to see, all done now.' The commission has concluded these were wholly the result of clerical error, most likely a typo or a severe paper jam."


4.06.2005

Just Wondering

How having more accurate intelligence would have changed Condi's position on invading Iraq. My guess is: not at all.

Guardian Unlimited | Rice Warns of Nuclear Weapons Threats: "As President Bush's national security adviser, she relied on flawed intelligence about Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction to help make the administration's case for an invasion two years ago. She succeeded Colin Powell as America's top diplomat in January.
``We have very good intelligence analysts who were doing their best, but obviously the president's intelligence has to be better than what we got on Iraq,'' she said Tuesday. "


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