Monday, March 31, 2008

GOP in Hillary's Corner

Have you noticed how many Republicans are encouraging Hillary Clinton to "stay in the fight."

Saying Florida and Michigan should be counted..... that everyone should have a voice.... even though John McCain was coronated long before all GOP voters got their say.

Neocon pundit William Kristol tipped the GOP's hand in today's op-ed "Biography Isn't Enough" (NYTimes).

"As Obama and Clinton go at it over the next couple of months, McCain can ignore the Democrats and set forth his own policy agenda. His focus on substance could provide a nice contrast to their political bickering...."

Hillary can drag out the primary process, she can listen to the GOP apparatchiks, she can tear the party apart and clear the path for a McCain presidency. But, she can't win the nomination.

Instead of hiding behind "not taking sides" homilies, the DNC needs to step up.... the Queen has no clothes.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hillary's Firefight

Hillary Clinton has made it clear.... she'll do whatever it takes to win.... whatever.

From trying to imply Barack Obama isn't up to the job of commander-in-chief or a patriot, while lauding GOP candidate John McCain in those same roles.... to using the donor muscle of the rusting Clinton $$$ political machine to pressure Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to back off of her comments that superdelegates should support the candidate who has the most pledged delegates....

To trying to capitalize on the media's dust up over Obama's pastor-gate. This week, Hillary said to the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.... owned by her once arch-enemy, "vast-right-wing conspiracy" master manipulator Richard Mellon Scaife no less.... that if she were in Obama's place she would have left the church.

She's relentlessly trying to stir up controversy over the Michigan and Florida delegates, constantly advocating that they must be seated at the Democratic convention.... though it was the choice of their state party to go against agreed upon party rules.

Still, she persists and threatens a credentials fight at the national convention, a fight that might well destroy the party nominee's chances in November.

Trying to make her First Lady forays into legionnaire duty.... dodging bullets in Bosnia and bringing peace to Northern Ireland.... when caught out she unblushing said she just "misspoke," even though she misspoke on numerous occasions and from prepared remarks.

What Hillary's flamethrower scorched-earth campaign has gotten her is a drop in the opinion polls.... eight points nationally behind Obama as of today.... while her negatives steadily rise.

As Eugene Robinson points out in "Collateral Damage" (WaPo) Hillary's anything goes approach "was always Bill Clinton's political method: Do what you have to do; apologize later, if necessary.

"But maybe what the people want this time is a real person, rather than an image or a strategy."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

McCain's Free Ride

It's clear.... John McCain is getting a free ride from the media, maybe lulled by their chummy hops on his Straight Talk Express.

McCain has dodged his lobbyist ties to his bimbo eruption.... he's disarmed his misleading "safe" stroll around a Baghdad market while being guarded by the might of the U.S. military... he's silenced the fallout from his "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" warbling.... he's stepped away from his 100 years in Iraq commitment.... he's tamped down his Mad Max persona....

He's downplayed his pandering to far-right hate purveyor Jerry Falwell and seeking the endorsement of Catholic-and-gay-bashing televangelist John Hagee.... he's expounded unchallenged on his recommendation for less "regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital" in the face of the Bear Stearns billions bailout even though he admittedly doesn't understand the economy....

And, he's excused for his who-is-who stumbles in Jordan, that a hovering Joe Lieberman whisperingly corrected, on Iran training their enemy al Qaeda.

Just imagine.... imagine if Barack Obama had made these fumbles. He would be history. Imagine if Hillary Clinton didn't know that Iran and al Qaeda are enemies..... she'd be out of the race. But McCain.... the news organizations like the cut of his jib. Never mind that he's not up to the job, he's a nice guy.

Haven't we heard this before? Remember during his presidential campaign when The Decider couldn't name world leaders. Ha, ha, ha, the press said. Isn't that cute. Just like they are treating a not-ready-for-prime-time McSame.

As Harold Meyerson points out today in "McCain on the Red Phone" if McCain becomes president we had better hope that Lieberman bunks with him so if that call comes in the middle of the night he can whisper in McCain's ear.

Meyerson makes the case that McCain made the Iran-al Qaeda mistake more than once, it "wasn't just a passing thought. It was a thought that had taken up residence in McCain's brain.... Whether it was a simple mistake, a neoconservative delusion or a habit of mind that lumps together all of America's enemies we cannot say. What we can say is that the idea of any or all of these options is profoundly disquieting.

"The very thought of a president who deliberately conflates or erroneously confuses our adversaries with each other is appalling, though not without precedent. We're mired in a war that has its roots in George W. Bush's both imagining and fabricating an alliance between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Do we really want to perpetuate these habits of mind in the next administration?"

Meyerson points out that "McCain's meshugas didn't really get the attention it deserved.... he was fortunate that his descent into fantasy occurred in the same week as Barack Obama's reverend crisis and Wall Street's near-meltdown.

He got a pass from the media, Meyerson says, because his statement "ran so completely counter to his image as an expert on national security."

But just what is that expertise? Has anyone seriously assessed his beliefs? His neoconservative, war-first stance.... The Decider on steroids.

Meyerson bemoans.... "Hard to say what's more dangerous - McCain's approach to the economy or McCain's approach to the world. The thought of him answering the red phone at 3 a.m. fills me with foreboding. Hell, I don't want him answering the phone at 3 p.m."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Unmasking Hillary

Hillary Clinton's record.... she boasts of "35 years of experience" ....includes most importantly her claims to have played a pivotal role in decision-making and foreign policy during Bill's presidency.

We'll put aside the fact that she had no top security clearances, and her just-released White House schedule reads more like redacted tea-pouring events. Let's weigh her experience, her judgement, her character, and her claims against the actual record:

Dangerous foreign trips. Last week, during a written speech at George Washington University, Hillary said if "a country was too small, too poor,or too dangerous the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady."

To prove her point, she described a trip to Yugoslavia in 1996 where she said the plane had to land "corkscrew"-style to avoid surface-to-air threats and "I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

Good story. But, this week firsthand reports.... and video tapes of her visit contradicting her account.... continued to surface. (YouTube)

Others on the trip said there was no "corkscrew landing," no "sniper fire," and video clips show Hillary walking across the tarmac, greeting a Bosnian girl and well-wishers.... no run "with heads down" to get into vehicles.

U.S. Air Force journalist, Don Jackson, who was on the tarmac when she arrived, said "there was no enemy fire, and no imminent danger."

This oft told story.... in dramatic fashion at her campaign rallies.... always includes "sniper fire."

Hillary now says she just "misspoke." In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Daily News she dismissed it as a "minor blip." Brings back memories of "what is, is." She learned how to fog from the master. But, she isn't the master, and her words and deeds are coming back to haunt her.

NAFTA. In a January 2004 news conference, Hillary said she thought Bill Clinton's NAFTA legislation "on balance has been good for New York and good for America." But, needing to win primary states stomped on by NAFTA.... Ohio and upcoming Pennsylvania and Indiana.... she now says that she has "long been a critic of the shortcomings of NAFTA"

No Child Left Behind. Hillary voted in favor of The Decider's 2002 education bill hailing it as "a major step forward." Now, with student performance plummeting and teachers raging against the limitations the bill places on their ability to perform, she now attacks the law as a "test, test, test" approach.

War in Iraq. Hillary voted for the war, and defended that vote until her last debate when cornered by moderator Tim Russert.

Ending the war in Iraq. In June 2006 Hillary restated her long standing opposition to a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops in Iraq.

Now.... faced with the continuing unpopularity of the war and Barack Obama's promise to withdraw troops in a responsible way she's trying to catch up with his Iraq stance. She now says she'll "start withdrawing" troops within 60 days of her inauguration, bring out "one or two brigades a month" and have "nearly all of the troops out" by the end of 2009.

Drivers licenses for illegal aliens. In a campaign statement in October 2007, Hillary initially expressed support for New York governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to offer limited drivers licenses to illegals. Yet, in a presidential debate two weeks later, after first trying to defend her stand, she finally said "No" when asked if she approved of the unpopular drivers license idea.

Florida and Michigan delegates. In September 2007, the Clinton campaign formally pledged not to participate in primary or caucus elections staged before February 5, 2008 in defiance of DNC rules. She now says delegates from those states should be seated at the Democratic convention, flaunting the rules that all the major Democratic candidates endorsed.

Foreign policy. "There is no doubt that I played a major role in many of the foreign policy decisions." Hillary interview with NPR, March 13, 2008. (WaPo)

Northern Ireland. Hillary claimed to be "intimately involved" in the Northern Ireland peace process although the chief negotiator, George Michael, said that Clinton was "not involved directly" in the diplomatic negotiations, and a former northern Ireland chief minister, David Trimble, described Hillary as more of a "cheerleader" than a "principal player."

Macedonia and Kosovo. Hillary claimed that she had "negotiated" with the Macedonian government to persuade it to re-open its border with Kosovo during the NATO air war against Yugoslavia in May 1999. Actually, the border was re-opened the day before she arrived in Macedonia. She did press the Macedonia president to keep the borders open. But she didn't "negotiate" to open them.

Hillary's "35 years of experience"-resume reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon where the applicant being interviewed for a job was told: "I'm afraid your M.B.A. loses some of its lustre in light of the fact that you were home-schooled."

As Bill and Hill pursue their scorched-earth campaign tactics.... "the audacity of hopelessness".... Hillary's overinflated resume is being exposed for what it is. Truly, she's a legend in her own mind.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Media Excuses, Ware Reality

Recent polls show Americans are not as concerned about the Iraq war.... why?

Perhaps this has something to do with their flagging attention, "The War Endures, but Where's the Media?" (NYTimes)

That's right, as recently as the middle of last year.... around "surge" time.... "it was still the most-covered topic. Since then, Iraq coverage by major American news sources has plummeted, to about one-fifth of what it was last summer."

The policy debate in Washington has almost disappeared from the news.... made obvious by the media's ignoring of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's major policy speeches on the war and national security last week.

The media wants to roll around in the muck of Rev. Wright's rejected comments, or Bill Clinton's musings that John McCain and Hillary Clinton are patriots.... plainly implying that Obama is not.

Just how does this smear-touchy-feely coverage inform the public on what the presidential candidates propose on vital issues like the slogging-in-place quagmire of the Iraq war, the dangerous state of our quickly unraveling economy and the out-of-control cost and out-of-reach availability of medical care and health insurance for tens of millions U.S. citizens?

This month marks both the 5th anniversary of an unwinnable Iraq war that is gutting our nation's military, economic health, and standing in the world.... and the horrific casualty benchmark from that war.... now a mournful 4,000 of our brave troops.

Yet, while news organizations say that the last six months have been safer for U.S. troops.... with statistics and reports spoon-fed to them by the White House.... they also say in the same breath that "violence against journalists makes reporting on Iraq costly and difficult.... the risks have forced news organizations to hire private security forces and Iraqi employees who can go places that Westerners cannot safely explore."

"From the start of the war through 2005, journalists and their support workers were killed in Iraq at a rate of one every 12 days.... in 2006 and 2007, the rate was one every eight days. Most of those killed have been Iraqis."

So.... which is it? Are things less deadly in Iraq or not? Or, is the expense of covering the war the driving factor in the lack of coverage? Easier to just take the war stories dished up by the Bush administration perhaps.

And, while we're on the subject.... what does straight talking, on-the-spot-in-the-middle-of-Baghdad-since-before-the-war reporter, CNN's Michael Ware, have to say about the lagging public interest.

In a recent interview (YouTube) with Bill Maher, Ware asked why would the public want to watch an Iraq horror show every night. He points out that regardless of what the "used car salesman" tries to tell us, only about 2 percent of the violence is caused by al Qaeda, that they are just used as the sales pitch to justify our presence.... this war has handed Iraq to Iran on a platter.

He further points out that the "surge" is working because besides more boots on the ground, we're bribing 70,000 militia every month so they'll sit on their hands.... for now.... and, that the neighborhoods are quieter because they've been ethnically cleansed.

But, he also warns that leaving would impact on our economy because unchecked militias on both sides of the civil war would go after the oil.

So, whether or not it started out as the reason... in deference to those of you still clinging to the ever-changing fairy tales of justification.... it's becoming increasingly clear that oil is why we're staying.

The media can make its excuses.... but they're not reporting on Iraq because the presidential campaign circus is in town and all three rings are the current freak show.

As Ware said, in Iraq at least, al Qaeda is so yesterday.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Romancing Iraq's Casualty Numbers

A suicide car bomber "penetrated tight security to strike an Iraqi military base on Sunday in the deadliest of a series of attacks that killed at least 42 people across Iraq." (WaPo)

And.... mortars, and airstrikes and gunmen opening fire on passengers waiting for buses.... "The attacks underscored the fragility of Iraq's security, despite a decline in violence over the past year. They also came as the U.S. military death toll in Iraq nears 4,000."

At least we're told there has been a decline in the violence, due to a large extent to a cease-fire called by the leader of the biggest Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

But this is why we might wonder at the truth of the claim of a decline in violence, and the cease-fire...... some of "the violence was reported by police officials who declined to be identified because they weren't supposed to release the information."

That's right, the Bush administration has strict guidelines about what is reported as war casualties.... the small print of administrative obfuscation.

And, oh yes, the rocket and mortar attack into the U.S. "Green Zone" in Baghdad.... appeared to be fired "from areas of eastern Baghdad" where the Mahdi Army operates.

Bush's sorry war has no strategy for winning.... just tactics to try to staunch the violence.... with the Bush administration filtering the news through their own blood-rose colored glasses.

With The Decider determined to justify his monumental Iraq blunder by "winning," he'll keep our military and treasury committed to this deadly, stalemated tug-of-war until he leaves office.

Until then expect only "winning" news about Bush's proclaimed "romantic" war.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama's Iraq Speech

I have been listening in vain today for the media's discussion of the policy speech Sen. Barack Obama gave yesterday on Iraq and national security.

To hear them report on Obama's insight that "here is the stark reality: there is a security gap in this country - a gap between the rhetoric of those who claim to be tough on national security, and the reality of growing insecurity caused by their decisions.

"A gap between Washington experience, and the wisdom of Washington's judgments. A gap between the rhetoric of those who tout their support for our troops, and the overburdened state of our military."

But the media wants the sensational. They want to talk about his church and Pastor and keep hurling their character-assassination-by-association broadsides.... news as entertainment.

So the media left mostly unremarked on how Obama said he would pressure Iraq's leaders to take responsibility for their future and engage with every country in the region - and the UN - to support Iraq's stabilization efforts while addressing continuing threats from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea.

How how he would strengthen the military with training, equipment and more time home between deployments. How he would integrate our diplomatic, information, economic and military power.

How Obama talked about the ways in which to shift strategy away from Iraq by addressing global terrorism, checking nuclear proliferation, aiding weak and failed states, taking the lead on the global climate crisis and reviving the American economic engine.

Obama knows that "We are at a defining moment in our history.

"We can choose the path of unending war and unilateral action, and sap our strength and standing. We can choose the path of disengagement, and cede our leadership. Or, we can meet fear and danger head-on with hope and strength; with common purpose as a united America; and with common cause with old allies and new partners....

"When American leads with principle and pragmatism, hope can triumph over fear. It is time, once again, for America to lead."

Amen, Obama. Amen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Media Steps on Obama

What happened to our country?.... the media happened to our country. Today Sen. Barack Obama was giving his seminal policy speech on the Iraq war on the 5th anniversary of the conflict when....

All three major news networks cut away to bring Sen. Hillary Clinton's circus-circus rally in Michigan in her continuing effort to steal the nomination by pooh-poohing the DNC rules with shallow, divisive Rovian-preachments.

It underlines the fact that the Billary campaign will do, and say, anything to win.... and major media will aid and abet.

Before Obama and his listening audience were so rudely interrupted, he said in part that as commander in chief he would make a clear break with the Iraq policies of the Bush administration.

Our present commander in chief proclaimed in his speech today that going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do, and Sen. John McCain makes it clear he marches in lockstep with The Decider's policies. Even though there is widespread agreement that going to war in Iraq has emboldened terrorists and made our country less safe.

McSame's "policy" for Iraq still echoes.... keeping our troops for 100 years in Iraq is fine with him.

Obama did give the new commander in the field, Gen. Petraeus, credit for improved tactics, but pointed out there still is no overarching strategy for winning. Even Petraeus points out, the necessary political reconciliation needed to end the war isn't happening.

Obama describes the unending-loop of justification for keeping troops in Iraq.... first we couldn't leave because violence was up, and now we can't leave because violence is down.

Today Obama said he would set a new Iraq goal on day one of his presidency.... end the war.

Unfortunately MSNBC, CNN and FOX would not let us hear how Obama proposes to do that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama and McCain Speak

The two leading candidates for the presidency made public comments today. Sen. Barack Obama spoke in Philadelphia about race and his vision for a "perfected" America, and Sen. John McCain spoke to the press in Amman, Jordan about terrorism and al Qaeda.

The words of Obama: "... This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned." (NYTimes)

The words of McCain: "It was common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." (MediaMatters)

At which time Sen. Joe Liberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate's ear. McCain then said: "I'm sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al Qaeda."

And, this isn't the first time he made this mistake.... On right-wing Hugh Hewitt's radio show Monday night he made the same assertion. It wasn't a "misspeak" in Amman, just his Bush-bobble-head chant.
Wouldn't you think that someone who professes to have the most foreign policy experience of any presidential candidate would know that Iran and al Qaeda represent opposing sides in the Iraq civil war. Al Qaeda being Sunni Muslim while Iran is ruled by Shiites who comprise 90% of their population.

Tomorrow Obama is giving an address on Iraq and national security, and the day after tomorrow on the economy. If you want to hear intelligent discourse on these thorniest of the many Bush-bestowed quagmires, tune in.

Then decide.... which man is best equipped to be our next president.

Monday, March 17, 2008

"Ant" Morgan Bails "Grasshopper" Bear

Here's what the rescue of fifth-largest investment bank Bear Stearns amounts to.... a whistling-past-the-graveyard way of getting around banking regulations in order to receive emergency funding backed by the federal government without admitting that Bush's mindless, optimistic mantra about "the fundamentals of our economy".... are actually at Great Depression levels.

After all, The Decider asserted just today.... "The economy is going to be fine," as the dollar plunges, oil prices gush to all-time highs and financial markets teeter on the edge of the precipice.

Whistling.... singing, dancing..... Softshoe Georgie doesn't want the appearance of 1930s-type of last-hope moves to mar his trickle-down-fair-tale legacy. The next guy can clean up the mess.

Here's the deal, Bear was "sold" to commercial banking firm J.P. Morgan Chase at a jaw-dropping bargain of $270 million, which includes Bear's soaring Madison Avenue headquarters, which amounts to $2 per share.... Bear was at $170 a share just a year ago.

The Federal Reserve is providing the financing including "loans" of up to $30 billion or so to Morgan for Bear's "less-liquid assets".... thus allowing Bear access to the cash for an initial period of 28 days as Morgan borrows money from the Fed and relends to Bear.

You see, the Feds lend directly through its "discount window," usually only to commercial banks.... not investment firms. The Feds can work with commercial banks because they are subject to extensive federal supervision unlike investment firms.

However, a law passed in 1932 allows the Federal Reserve to lend outside of commercial banking during Great Depression-type emergencies. Such a move would signal we're on the verge of financial panic and that's the appearance the White House wants to avoid....

So.... the Feds are using commercial bank Morgan as a conduit to bailout Bear because Morgan has access to the Fed's discount window.... and technically the Feds still haven't lent directly to an investment bank and avoids the appearance of a financial earthquake.

A discount window loan to Bear.... which they don't have access to.... would have had to be secured by the highest-quality collateral and Bear's subprime mortgage problems along with the collapse last July of two of their mortgage-related hedge funds left them on the brink of immediate bankruptcy.

Morgan's CEO, Jamie Dimon, has over the last few years been focused intensely on cutting costs, improving technology and preparing the company for an economic downturn.... they emerged relatively unscathed from the subprime crisis.

Bear, on the other hand, liked to live on the edge....

"A throwback to a bygone era, Bear Stearns still operated as a cigar-chomping, suspender-wearing culture where taking risks was rewarded.... "Ace" Greenberg, Bear Stearn's chairman for more than 20 years and a championship bridge player, still regaled its partners over lengthy lunches about gambling with the firm's money in its wood-paneled dining room." (

So where does this leave investors?

The DOW opened down today, and "investors are taking a grim view of the prospects for other investment banks like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.... Managers of hedge funds and mutual funds say the problems at Bear confirmed their worst fears about the brokerages, that they have relied too much on leverage and have done a poor job managing the risks they took on during the boom." (

Yesterday, Morgan's senior management actually told the finance community that Bear Stearns will continue to live up to its business obligations, as its trading obligations will carry "the full faith and credit of J. P. Morgan." (NYTimes)

Feels like the twilight zone. Didn't that used to be the motto for the U. S. Treasury? Oh, that's right.... it is the U.S. Treasury (taxpayer money) guaranteeing the whole shebang.

Anyway you cut it.... regardless of our forked-tongue Treasure secretary Henry Paulson still saying the administration won't use taxpayer money to help resolve the crisis.... we're in taxpayer bailout country.... Bush-voodoo economics land.

But, the Bear resolution won't be the model for the Big Bailout to come. There aren't enough J.P. Morgans to go around.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Obama Gains 9 Iowa Delegates

A new development in Iowa may be one of the most important.... and under reported.... events in the Democratic presidential campaign.... "Obama gains delegates at county conventions." (DMRegister)

While the Sunday talk shows sail down hate-baiting campaign rapids intended to "swiftboat" Barack Obama, he is quietly making real progress where it matters.... the safe harbor of delegates.

"Obama improved on the 38 percent he received statewide in winning January's leadoff caucuses. He did that in part by picking up at the [county] conventions more support than Clinton from supporters of John Edwards. He also posted big margins in Iowa's largest counties and edged Clinton in some counties she carried on caucus night."

In all, Obama "gained nine national convention delegates after all of the results came in from Iowa's 99 counties"... Clinton's delegate count shrunk by one.

It seems Iowans aren't taken in by the vicious by-association assault on Obama. They have listened to his vision for the country, noted his brilliance, sound judgment and presidential temperament and gotten on board.

In a perfect world, Obama's voyage to the nomination would be easy sailing.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bush: A Laugh a Minute

This week was a beaut....

Tuesday, Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of American forces in the Middle East whose outspoken public statements on the wisdom of diplomacy in dealing with Iran put him at odds with the Bush administration, announced his early retirement.... the White House mood being "Here's your hat and coat, what's the hurry?"

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), house majority leader, called Fallon's departure "yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts' views are not welcome in this administration." (NYTimes)

The Decider is in no mood to listen to those who would counsel diplomacy, after all, war is beautiful. On Thursday Bush told U. S. military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan by videoconference... "I must say, I'm a little envious.... I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you... in some ways romantic, you know, confronting danger." (Slate)

Spoken by someone who never put himself in danger, except to play "hot planes" with his guard unit... when he showed up.

While uttering this jaw-dropping inanity, Bush was flanked by Defense Secretary Robert Gates who also didn't experience combat.... serving in the Air Force at an ICBM base.... and Vice President Dick Cheney whose numerous deferments enabled him to avoid the "romance" of serving in any capacity. These are the boys playing soldier with the lives of others.

The Decider has just been full of himself lately, singing and dancing on the morass he'll leave behind. At the Gridiron Club dinner, attended by Washington's journalistic and political disgraces, Bush serenaded them, to the tune of "Green Green Grass of Home"....

"That old White House is behind me.... I spend my days clearing brush, clear my head of all the fuss, like that big fuss you made over Harriet and Brownie. Down the lane I look and here comes Scooter, finally free of the prosecutor. It's good to touch the brown, brown grass of home.... Down the lane I look, Dick Cheney is strolling with documents he'd been withholding, it's good to touch the brown brown grass of home." (WaPo)

And, everyone laughed and had such a good time.... while Hurricane Katrina victims still struggle, Scooter Libby got away with outing an undercover CIA agent and obscuring the White House lies that led us to war in Iraq, and Cheney was allowed to engineer the gutting of checks and balances that are the bedrock of good governance, to say nothing of the rending of citizens rights under the Constitution. Funny stuff.

Had enough?.... oh, but there's more. After repeatedly telling us "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" as home prices were dropping, mortgage loan defaults spiraling and financial markets imploding, The Decider finally fessed up yesterday admitting that the economy "is going through a tough time." (NYTimes)

As he spoke, investment bank Bear Stearns was being rescued by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and JP Morgan Chase because of crippling losses on mortgage-linked investments.

How bad is this "tough time".... as Balestra Capital hedge fund president James Melcher said: "If the Fed hadn't acted this morning and Bear did default on its obligations, then that could have triggered a very widespread panic and potentially a collapse of the financial system."

In reaction to the financial tsunami coming down on us all, stocks continued their steep tumble. A panicked Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, warned of worse to come and unexpectedly cut interest rates by three-quarters of a percent.

But not to worry.... surveying what the financial havoc and ruin of The Decider's "cut taxes and spend" voodoo economic policies, his monstrously costly war, and the administration's "look the other way" abdication of oversight and regulatory restraints have wrought.... Bush boasted that the "fix" was already on the way, referring to the tax rebates scheduled to be mailed over the next few months.

That "fix" is really too silly and facile to even talk about. It's not even a finger in the crumbling financial dike.

When the country elected Frat House Bush they reasoned he would be more fun to have a beer with.... still having fun?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bush is Ozoning

In case you are in any doubt that The Decider has total and utter disregard for your health and the health of our "wildlife, parks and farmland," this should lay those doubts to rest.... "Ozone Rules Weakened at Bush's Behest." (WaPo)

"The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) weakened one part of its new limits on smog-forming ozone" after an intervention by Bush as he "overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit" as White House lawyers "hustled to craft new legal justifications for the weakened standard."

Until Bush's interference, on the advice of EPA's expert scientists, the "public health" standard would have lowered the ozone level in the Clean Air Act.

Ozone, which is formed when pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and other chemical compounds released by industry and motor vehicles are exposed to sunlight, is linked to an array of heart and respiratory illnesses, and the health of "managed agricultural crops and natural terrestrial ecosystems."

Give the senior EPA officials and scientists credit. They resisted the White House position but their recommendations were trampled over and discarded by a White House with an agenda.

Let's face it, the EPA was going up against the "flat earth" mentality and knee-jerk reaction of The Decider against all things hinting that his corporate and oil buddies are greedily sliming the earth, water and air in the name of profits.

What profit it a man if he gains a dollar but loses his sense.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

King: The Lyin' That Bores

While it's tempting to pile-on NY Gov. Elliott Spitzer (D) as yet another hypocrisy-in-high-places politician with feet planted firmly in the shifting sands of deception.... we'll instead comment on the low-brow, fear-baiting racist behavior in our Iowa backyard.

Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa's fifth district maintains "I'm not sorry about Obama remarks." Of course not, he made them purposely, for effect, as a way to draw attention to his bid for reelection.... throwing red meat to his ultra-conservative base.

Just what were the remarks he's not sorry about?

They were about what he envisions if Democratic candidate Barack Obama becomes president.... "al-Qaida and the radical Islamists and their supporters... they'll be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They'll be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says, 'Pull out of the Middle East. Pull out of the conflict...."

Of course, it's a not new political ploy. Conservative Bush Republicans loudly equate finding a way to pull our troops out of harms way in Iraq with surrender.... they need to keep justifying their support of the worst, most costly foreign policy blunder in our country's history. So that sorry beat goes on.

What is a new low, is using Obama's middle name, Hussein, and his birth father.... who left when Obama was two and not a member of the Muslim faith.... to imply that Obama is Muslim when he most definitely is not. He's a Christian and has attended Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for twenty years.

Nevertheless, this bigoted, Islamophobic statement by King, who names Joseph McCarthy as an American hero, is just the latest of his buffoonish utterances.

While the campaigns of Obama and John McCain criticized King's remarks and distanced themselves from them, Hillary Clinton has yet to step forward and do the same.

Not surprising since in an recent interview she left the religion-baiting door ajar. When asked if she thought Obama was a Muslim, she said no...."Not as far as I know."

Really America, do you really want more years of Billary's ugly half-truths and innuendo? More well-honed politics of personal destruction.

And, Iowa's fifth district, can't Iowa do better than this circus barker, King?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Obama: Go For Thrilla in Phila...

Yesterday's substantial win in Wyoming's caucuses by Barack Obama.... 61% to 38%.... over "Ma Barker" Clinton (as dubbed by WSJ) helps him regain his Big Mo, but it's still far from an eight count. So, before the next big bouts in Mississippi and Pennsylvania, take off the gloves....

Not the smearing, innuendo, conniving and misleading gloves that land Ma Barker's low blows, but, as Maureen Dowd pointed out in "The Monster Mash," it's time for Obama to start seriously rebutting Hillary's kneecapping remarks.

As, for instance, her loud refrain that she has far more national security experience than Obama has, when as Dowd points out.... "Having a first lady tea in Belfast is not equivalent to bringing peace to Northern Ireland."

After his losses in Texas and Ohio, Obama needs to be more fierce about winning. Being "Wimpy Man" won't be a winning strategy for Obama.... Just ask Bush "41" who drug that defeatist label to a second-term loss.

As Dowd points out, "Hillary successfully recast herself in Ohio as a beer-drinking former waitress. Only after last week's reversals did the Obama camp raise a louder ruckus about her tax returns. Obviously, Ms. Night Shift does not want to reveal the details of the fortune that Bill Clinton has made, sometimes through dubious associations."

And, when it comes to Billary's campaigning methods, who would know them better than the former political adviser to President Bill, Dick Morris. While he thinks, "It's Over" for Hillary after her narrow wins in Texas and Ohio, he knows "Hillary won't withdraw".... and will bulldoze forward with "ever-escalating rhetoric."

Perhaps, as Morris suggests, in the next round Obama needs to unleash his own phone-rings-in-the-middle-of-the-night ad.... "have a woman's voice, with a flat Midwestern accent, answer it and say, 'Hold on' into the receiver. Then she should shout, 'Bill, it's for you!' "

That would land.... with Hillary's lack of any meaningful experience in foreign affairs.... a solid and telling blow!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Mad Max McSane

"The only thing we have to fear, is anger itself..." (apologies to FDR).

At least this is the view of several experienced military officers who "expressed serious doubts about whether McCain has the right temperament to be the next president and commander in chief. Some expressed more confidence in Obama, citing his temperament as an asset."

In "It's 3 a.m. Who do you want answering the phone" (Salon), Mark Benjamin makes the opposite case McCain spinners have tried to peddle.... that Hillary Clinton's children-sleeping-phone-ringing-in-White-House ad actually highlights John McCain's strength.

"It is not difficult in Washington to find high-level military officials who have had close encounters with John McCain's temper, and who find it worrisome.... McCain has, at times, come across as out of control."

Interestingly, "Stephen Wayne, a political science professor at Georgetown who is studying the personalities of the presidential candidates, agrees McCain's temperament is of real concern. 'The anger is there,' Wayne said. If McCain is the one to answer the phone at 3 a.m., he said, 'you worry about an initial emotive, less rational response.'

"Most recently, Wayne has been studying Clinton's personality. 'I just gave a presentation on Hillary's temperament for the presidency. I came to the conclusion that it is not really a good presidential temperament, with one caveat -- if you compare it with McCain's' "

And, the prickly Senator is on the receiving end of outrage too.... "Angry Boeing supporters target McCain." (WashingtonPost)

Chicago-based Boeing lost a $35 billion Air Force tanker contract to European Airbus, and... "Boeing supporters in Congress are directing their wrath at McCain.... for scuttling an earlier deal that would have let Boeing build the next generation of Air force refueling tankers. Boeing now will miss out on a deal that it says would have supported 44,000 new and existing jobs at the company and suppliers in 40 states."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) points out... "Having made sure that Iraq gets new schools, roads, bridges and dams that we deny America, now we are making sure that France gets the jobs that Americans used to have... We are sending the jobs overseas, all because John McCain demanded it."

Seems like the Straight Talk Express is prone to road rage. Unbridled anger has its place, but that place isn't in the Oval Office, or even the Senate where McCain's bullying tactics are costing Americans precious jobs.

Friday, March 07, 2008

1912 Election Redux?

Is 2008 a replay of the election of 1912? A brilliant piece in The New Republic draws the parallels.

Just like today, 1912 was a time when the country yearned for change from the many years of Republican governance... the Republican electorate believed the party had betrayed them... and voters wanted more popular participation in elections and in policymaking, more progressive taxation, and less corporate control of policy.

Recognizing this demand for change, former president Theodore Roosevelt challenged the incumbent William Howrard Taft for the GOP nomination, running an insurgent campaign to take back the GOP for the people. Just like Barack Obama who is challenging the Democratic machine in the person of Billary.

The voter-elected delegates to the 1912 Republican nominating convention gave Roosevelt an overwhelming majority..... 278 to Taft's 48.

But, 540 delegates were needed to cinch the race. So, hundreds of delegates, awarded by the Republican National Committee.... a majority of whom were Taft men.... put Taft over the top.

These GOP back-room "superdelegates" cooked the books, defied the voters, and the results were....

The popular Roosevelt bolted the GOP in a fury and formed the Progressive party. In the general election Taft came in a far third behind Roosevelt.... handing Democrat Woodrow Wilson the presidency. GOP nominee John McSame could win with a similar scenario.

Yet, while there are similarities, and no one expects Obama to bolt the party, it's still a sobering cautionary tale. Roosevelt, the "inspirational candidate" lost the GOP nomination to a party insider.... and the voters showed the party their disapproval at the polls.

One wonders if the Democratic National Committee leaders have lost their bearings and forgotten the lessons of history.

Especially in the world of 2008, where the GOP is meddling with the Democratic nominating process.... crossover voting, primary date tampering, pushing for primary re-dos.... while the 24/7 instant-"reporting" media hypes every negative item, especially gossip.... endlessly.

And, there's a cautionary lesson for Obama's campaign to be learned from the 1912 fiasco. Roosevelt.... allowing his frustration and bitterness to overtake his inspiration.... stooped to calling Taft names.... "puzzlewit" and "fathead" were among his talking points.

This is the precipice on which Obama's campaign now stands. The slings and smears from the Clintonistas are increasing, and the temptation to smear back is strong.

The latest attack on Obama is from Clinton's top aide Howard Wolfson who likened Obama to Democratic pariah, Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, because Obama (gasp) asked Clinton to release her tax returns.

Unfortunately, a foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign, Samantha Power, succumbed to temptation to respond, and said (off the record) to a Scottish newspaper of Clinton's many sleazy campaign tactics... "She is a monster.... she is stooping to anything."

Today Power issued a statement of apology to Clinton saying "she deeply regretted" her remarks while an Obama spokesman said they have no place in his campaign.

A step back from the Theodore ledge for Obama.

Now, it's up to the vaporous DNC to avoid the same trampling of the voter-delegate majority with their gimmicky "superdelegates" and "add on" delegates and other fussy, non-democratic nonsense.

And, they had better clarify things soon, otherwise McSame will drive his Straight Talk Express through the inevitable split in the party right to the Oval Office.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

NAFTA-Gate: Clinton Not Obama

According to a report in today's U.K. Guardian, "A storm of reports in the Canadian media say that the NAFTA-gate flap last week involving Barack Obama was started by a key aide to Canada's prime minister who told journalists that Hillary Clinton's campaign.... not Obama's.... had contacted the Canadian government to play down its NAFTA-bashing."

When the aide, Ian Brodie, "stopped to chat with several journalists, and was surrounded by a group from CTV.... The conversation turned to the pledges to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement made by the two Democratic contenders....

"Mr. Brodie, apparently seeking to play down the potential impact on Canada, told the reporters the threat was not serious, and that someone from Ms. Clinton's campaign had even contacted Canadian diplomats to tell them not to worry because the NAFTA threats were mostly political posturing."

So, Hillary had it both ways.... she was the one playing wink-wink with Canada on her public NAFTA hard-line stance, while Obama got the blame.

Do you really want 4 more years of these Billary games and dishonesty?!

And, speaking of dishonesty.... you've all heard Clinton's excuses for not releasing her tax returns. But, in 2000 when she was running for the Senate in New York, she hounded her opponent, Rick Lazio, for his tax return.

The Clinton campaign's Howard Wolfson even resorted to a dirty trick to make misleading headlines. The episode highlighted the effort by the Clinton campaign to question Lazio's character.... "It was a cheap political stunt."

You can read the full story here. (NYTimes)

Harkin: Play By the Rules

Iowa's Senator Tom Harkin (D) has it right.... "Seating delegates would be 'disastrous' " (DesMoinesRegister)

"Rules are rules," said Harkin, who is an uncommitted superdelegate. "We had a national schedule that everyone agreed to.... Michigan, even knowing they would not be seated, and Florida, decided to step out of the line. They are the ones that created the situation, not the DNC, and now they have to live with the consequences."

Harkin said he has talked to the DNC Chairman Howard Dean, and that Dean and other Democrats are "adamant" that the Michigan and Florida delegates not be seated.

At last, a superdelegate who speaks up.... you can't change the rules after the game has started.

It's the only fair and decent stand to take, regardless of Hillary.... and the meddling GOP's.... full court press to the contrary.

Is GOP Picking Dem Candidate?

Where is the "mean"-stream media's reporting on the Canadian NAFTA memo leak that undoubtedly hurt Barack Obama in the March 4 primaries, especially in job-devastated Ohio.

We turn to Michal Blanchfield of The New Republic to give us the lowdown about the NAFTA discussion in Chicago between Obama's economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee who was asked for the meeting by Canadian diplomat, Ian Brodie.

It was Brodie who leaked the diplomatic cable reporting on the meeting, alleging that Obama's public tough position on renegotiating the NAFTA treaty was a wink-wink. This was later denied and retracted by the Canadian government.... but not before the damage was done to Obama.

Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's denial said that neither he nor anyone in his office had anything to do with the leak, and called it regrettable and "blatantly unfair" to Obama's campaign and promised a full internal investigation. Yeah. Like that will happen.

Why the cynicism? Harper's domestic foes think "Harper was trying to do a favor for the GOP by tossing a piece of political dynamite in front of Obama's train as it was barreling down on Ohio..... leaks from the Harper government are rare. It is well known that Harper's office keeps cabinet ministers--not to mention diplomats abroad--on a tight leash."

Have you noticed that Brat Bush is doing a lot of dancing these days. He's obviously happy. He loves frat-boy pranks, especially against the Democrats. Here's why.

Besides NAFTA-gate, conservative shill Rush Limbaugh was urging his ditto-heads to vote for Hillary Clinton last Tuesday to throw a monkey wrench into Obama's campaign. GOP crossovers to Clinton were uncharacteristically high in the Texas primaries, and Obama's very narrow loss there gave Clinton bragging rights.

It's to the GOP's benefit to keep the Democratic nominating fight going, so.....Florida's GOP Governor Crist is promoting another Democratic primary there in order to seat the rule-breaking Florida delegation at the Democratic convention.... all these moves help Clinton and keep the Democrats from focusing their fire on GOP nominee John McCain.

After all, Billary is much more beatable in the general election as she would galvanize turnout for the GOP. And, McSame is viewed by many of the conservative faithful with distrust, so he needs all of the help he can get. A poll yesterday showed Obama would beat him by 12 points, but Clinton only 6 points.

Brat Bush will throw everything including the White House sink at Obama to put Billary on the ballot. His legacy depends on McSame winning the general election to carry on, and justify, his monstrous policies.

So the question remains, are the Democrats going to allow Republican dirty tricks to define and name their candidate.... Billary. If so, they're more likely to be subjected to Brat Bush's dancing at McSame's inaugural ball.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Superdelegates or Stupordelegates?

Let's call a spade a spade.... it's impossible for Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic nomination aboveboard. Even with wins in most of the upcoming primaries...which gives her a huge benefit of the doubt and then some.... she still trails Obama in elected delegates.

Unless, she can get the superdelegates to go against the wishes of the majority of the elected delegates, breaks party rules in Michigan and Florida, and continues her campaign of personal destruction against Barack Obama.... and in the process tears apart the Democratic party to John McCain's benefit.

And even then, Clinton's nomination is problematic. Let's take these desperate and destructive Clinton strategies one by one.

Superdelegates. According to Politico today, there is a "behind the scenes battle" over superdelegates with Clinton scrambling last night to "freeze" them before they announce support for Obama.

According to Democratic officials, Obama is lining up a package of superdelegates to announce their support as a bloc. Will these party stalwarts stay on the fence looking to their own political fortunes or act now in the best interests of the party?

Michigan and Florida. They were counted out after they moved their primaries up to January against party rules; Clinton stayed on the ballot in both and "won" them with no real competition in Michigan and no real campaign in Florida. Regardless.... she named them as hers in her victory speech last night, and on MSNBC's Morning Joe today.

Personal destruction. That can go two ways. Until now Obama has avoided the politics of personal destruction, limiting himself to responding to her attacks, attacks which are arming the GOP for the coming slug fest.

With her bulldozing win-at-any-cost methods, Clinton even said that she and McCain had experience but Obama had "just one speech." McCain must be jumping for joy with this endorsement, which will undoubtedly show up in his general election ads.

Word is that Obama will.... must.... take off the gloves. Clinton has plenty of skeletons to choose from.... tax records she has so far refused to release, source of donations to the Clinton library, not making available papers from her time in the White House.... all pointing to a lack of transparency that is the reviled modus-operandi of the Bush administration.

"The winner of that fight would be John McCain.... who would love nothing more than fratricide among Democrats. He could use the time to raise money, energize conservative voters and sharpen his general election message." To say nothing of sniping from the sidelines.

This Clinton-Obama mud wrestle is a no-win for the Democratic party.... bound to soil Obama's message of hope, splashing supporters in both camps with Clinton's no-hope dirty tactics.

It's time for the superdelegates to step up and end the Clinton's scorched-earth, smoke-filled-room grab before the party self-destructs and hands the presidency to the GOP. Otherwise, why are they super?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Rants to No Avail

The perfectly named Christopher Rants, Iowa's GOP House Minority Leader, this morning failed in his push to debate an amendment to the Iowa Constitution banning gay marriage.

The drumbeat raving by conservatives over how Democrats try to interfere in personal lives is hard to square with the GOP's anti-gay, anti-choice, and interference in family end-of-life decisions agenda.

It leaves one wondering.... just what interference are they talking about? It's their social agenda that would dictate from the cradle, to the altar, the bedroom and the grave. And, to fiddle with Iowa's Constitution to force their views upon Iowans.

Democratic majority leaders have resisted debate on the gay marriage resolution as the issue is currently before the Iowa Supreme Court and a such a debate would subvert the process.

Besides, "It was primarily done to generate press...." noted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Des Moines Democrat.

A good compromise might be to allow civil unions for gay couples. If they want to term it a "marriage" what's the harm? But, until common sense and tolerance prevail.... score one for live and let live.

McCain's Lost His Way

".... Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and a few Washington leaders of the pro-life movement call me an unacceptable presidential candidate.... Why? Because I don't pander to them....

"The union bosses who have subordinated the interests of working families to their own ambitions, to their desire to preserve their own political power at all costs, are mirror images of Pat Robertson.... Unfortunately, Governor Bush is a Pat Robertson Republican who will lose to Al Gore.

"Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." (CNN Feb 28 2000 transcript)

These are the words of Sen. John McCain just before his savagely aborted run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000.

Many still argue whether or not Gore actually did defeat The Decider in that hanging-by-a-chad outcome.... but one thing does stand out. This was the Straight Talking John McCain who won the hearts of moderates of both parties.... but, not of the dominant right-wing religious conservative movement in the GOP.

Moderates didn't get a chance to vote for McCain as the 2000 GOP nominee because of the successful smear campaign against McCain and his family by Bush's Rovian bullies that stopped his Straight Talk Express in early-primary-state South Carolina, Pat Robertson's stronghold.

Yet despite these tactics against McCain, he announced that he had put that behind him and supported The Decider for reelection in 2004.... disappointing many of his supporters who saw it as a trade off for Bush's support in 2008, and a sell-out of his Straight Talk for pandering.

After all, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell Republicans were the epitome of Bush's "outer reaches" base.... but, McCain had learned his lesson. His Straight Talk Express was put on idle.

You get a whiff of McCain's religious-woodshed conversion in an interview with the Arizona Daily Star on 24 August 2005. He said about the possibility of running for president in 2008.... "My ego is sufficient to say that I think I have the background and experience...." to be president.

Evidently that "experience" included lessons on pandering to the religious right. McCain told the Star that, like Bush, he believes "all points of view" should be available to students studying the origins of mankind.... advocating teaching the theory of intelligent design alongside evolution... the "outer reaches" of the evangelical political agenda.

Any doubt about his willingness to kiss rings evaporated when he appeared on stage with Jerry Falwell at the ultra-conservative Liberty University on May 13, 2006 to deliver an address to the graduating students.

McCain's appearance with Falwell came as he was "trying to establish an early dominance in the Republican presidential nomination battle..." (NYTimes)

Moderates were disillusioned by McCain's grinding his Straight Talk Express into reverse to chase those inhabiting the fringes of the evangelical Twilight Zone that he once rebuked.

Perhaps the final breakdown of the Straight Talk Express came with the recent endorsement of McCain by "outer reaches" Texas televangelist and mega church leader John Hagee.

While Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he did "reject and denounce" any help from the controversial Farrakhan, there was no such declaration from McCain who refused to renounce Hagee's endorsement. (WashingtonPost)

Why is renouncing Hagee important?

Because Hagee... whose church in San Antonio has 19,000 members and his evangelism is carried on 160 TV stations and 50 radio stations in the U.S..... has referred to the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore," and linked Adolph Hitler to the Catholic church; called Hurricane Katrina an act of God, punishing New Orleans for its sins, especially by striking on the day a "homosexual parade" was to be held as proof "of the judgement of God against the city."

It seems McCain used to see things so clearly.... a long eight years ago before his Straight Talk Express lost its way. When he was against the "failed philosophy" and "intolerance" of the Loony-Tunes religious right in the GOP, before he was for them.... or, needed them.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Are We Safer?....

President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez directed in a radio address this weekend.... "Mr. Defense Minister, move 10 battalions to the border with Colombia for me, immediately--- tank battalions, deploy the air force.... we don't want war, but we aren't going to permit the U.S. empire, which is the master [of Colombia].... to come to divide us." (WashingtonPost)

As the military from leftist Ecuador and Venezuela deploy on their borders with Columbia, a U. S. ally, the tense crisis threatens to erupt into war.

The reason.... a raid by Colombia into Ecuador which killed a leader of the rebel leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) which has fought to overthrow the Colombian government for 40 years.

Colombia said its police and air force shot back at targets in Ecuador only after its forces came under fire from FARC rebels about a mile inside Ecuador.

Chavez warned "This is something very serious. This could be the start of a war in South America" and threatened to retaliate with Sukhois.... recently purchased Russian warplanes.

And... in the Middle East, Iranian's President Ahmadinejad is visiting Baghdad today and telling the U.S. to get out of Iraq and the region. (WashingtonPost)

During his two-day trip, Iran and Iraq will sign seven agreements on customs, transportation links, improving cooperation in industrial development, highlighting the new, closer relations between the former foes.

Since the U.S. overthrow of Saddam and the installation of a new U.S.-backed government, both Iraq and Iran are now run by Shiite majorities.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) decried our lack of focus on Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan. (NYTimes)

"Afghanistan is slipping toward failure. The Taliban is back, violence is up, drug production is booming and the Afghans are losing faith in their government"... Biden warned.

"If we should have had a surge anywhere, it is Afghanistan.... Afghanistan's fate is directly tied to Pakistan's future and America's security. When President Musharraf of Pakistan concluded that we were not serious about finishing the job in Afghanistan, he began to cut deals with extremists in his own country.

"As a result, the border area remains a freeway of fundamentalism: the Taliban and Al Qaeda find sanctuary in Pakistan, while Pakistani suicide bombers wreak havoc in Afghanistan."

The fruits of the Bush administration's Iraq-obsessed foreign policy.... deep unrest with the specter of war in our backyard, and an obscenely costly war in Iraq that has played into Iran's ambitions in that country while emboldening fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Heck of a job, Georgie.