Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another record

The filthy rich get filthier, at your expense.
Exxon Mobil Corp said on Thursday soaring oil prices pushed its second-quarter earnings up 14 percent, again breaking its own record for the highest-ever profit by a U.S. company.

Net income in the quarter rose to $11.68 billion, or $2.22 a share, from $10.26 billion, or $1.83 a share, last year.

Exxon -- the world's largest publicly traded company -- previously set the high-water mark for quarterly earnings in the fourth quarter of last year, when it brought in $11.66 billion.

Despite the new record, Exxon's results lagged behind analyst expectations.
Uh oh. That last part sounds like prices aren’t coming down anytime soon ever. Because you know how Wall Street works: Keep the stock price up, or you’re a failure. Sure, you made $11.7 billion in three months, but look at the stock price.

So, how’d you do this quarter? Make anywhere near $128.4 million a day?

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The end of the affair

And so much for yet another failed meme from the Right.
The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.

You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.

During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.

Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center.
It’s not that media is in love with Obama. It’s that the McCain campaign is such a total train wreck.

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Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, on seven counts.

Read the indictment here.

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A psychotic killer’s reading list

Planting the seeds of tragedy.
Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.

The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday's mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of "the liberal movement," and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.

Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his "hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said. "Liberals in general, as well as gays."
I’m not saying that Savage, Hannity and O’Reilly told Jim David Adkisson to pick up a gun and start shooting people who he thinks don’t share his political and social beliefs any more than J.D. Salinger told some asshole to shoot John Lennon. And I’m not saying any of them advocate what Adkisson did. (But I won’t be surprised when some right-wing shithead, probably on radio, says something sensationally stupid, like praising the gunman or blaming the victims, in order to be noticed above the din of the rest of the right-wing hate machine. I also won’t be surprised when some wingnut is caught calling the murderer a “hero” when he or she thought nobody was listening, taking notes or recording).

But Adkisson did what he did because he thought that liberals were ruining the country, that Democrats tied the country's hands in the war on terror and ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets.

Now where could he have gotten those ideas? And where could he have gotten those ideas reinforced on a daily basis?

Savage, Hannity and O’Reilly may not have said, “Go shoot people,” but they spew hate and intolerance on a daily basis. When you trade in hate speech, when you blame some person or group of people on a daily basis — on TV, radio and in print — for all the problems your viewers/readers/listeners are facing, it’s probably only a matter of time before some unhinged asshole in your audience decides it’s time someone did something about it.

Are Savage, Hannity and O’Reilly responsible for what Adkisson did? Legally, no. Did they help create the climate in which someone would walk into a church and start shooting because he hates liberals? Absofuckinglutely.

When these scum fucks look back on their professional lives, this is the legacy that will be looking back at them. I hope all the shiny coins they’re getting for creating so much hate, divisiveness and intolerance are worth it.

No I don’t. I hope they have the decency to feel horror and shame for what they’ve wrought. But if they did, they wouldn’t be in the hate biz, would they?

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Not his week

Nothing like a 400,000 gallon oil spill and the smell of diesel in the air to help sell a “safe drilling“ message, eh John?
Thursday, workers on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast will see clear skies, mild temperatures in the 80's and 90's, and feel only a slight breeze. However, John McCain's campaign says inclement weather caused the cancellation of his appearance there, aimed at promoting offshore drilling.

Perhaps a more likely cause is the 400,000 plus gallons of oil floating through the Mississippi, spilled yesterday after a barge collided with a tanker at New Orleans. As for inclement weather, at the time McCain would have been taking center-stage on the oil rig, Hurricane Dolly, a Category 2 storm, was making landfall at the Texas-Mexico border about 600 miles away.


The spill caused authorities to close about 29 miles of the river, from New Orleans straight through the Gulf of Mexico, reports the Times-Picayune. No sooner than the announcement of the spill, McCain's campaign announced the cancellation of the candidate's visit to the rig, citing 'weather.'
This week also saw John McCain credit “the surge” with causing the Anbar Awakening, an event that happened 10 months before the surge, and then compunding the mistake by trying to redefine his terms and obfuscate at a press conference in the cheese aisle of a Bethlehem, Pa., supermarket.

Then, while Barack Obama gave an inspiring speech before 200,000 Germans cheering and waving American flags at the Victory Column in Berlin, McCain enjoyed German brats at Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.

When was the last time you saw a crowd of foreigners waving American flags?

But maybe I’m making too much of all this. You decide which is the more powerful image.

UPDATE: The Daily Show’s take.

Note that the Faux News video (starting at 3:28 into the clip), marked “yesterday” in the top left corner of the screen, features a McCain campaign sign from 2000 (3:31). Not that Faux News is trying to make McCain look about a decade younger or anything. It would never take such liberties with the truth or deliberately try to improve the image of a particular candidate, right?

And what’s all this shit about the media’s love affair with Obama? I thought the media were McCain’s base.

Must be time for another barbecue.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sly Fox

Nas on Colbert.

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Douchebag of the Week

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who backed out of plans to distribute food to Darfur refugees when he learned he couldn’t hunt wildebeest.
Hunter's staff contacted the embassy in N'Djamena, Chad, last week to see whether Hunter could distribute food at a camp. Hunter also wanted to put together an outing to hunt wildebeest and distribute the meat to refugees.

The embassy was decidedly lukewarm. It worried about logistics and the need to divert scarce staff to coordinate Hunter's schedule. There also were concerns about coordinating with the World Food Program's distribution schedule. The embassy sought advice from Foggy Bottom as to what to tell Hunter, a former presidential candidate, who will Congress at the end of this term.

Here's State's response last week: "Talking Points Regarding CODEL [Congressional delegation] Hunter":

· The embassy "welcomes Congressman Hunter's interest in food assistance to Darfur refugees in Chad. Given the significant" U.S. aid in the world program, the embassy "would encourage the congressman to time his visit to coincide with an already scheduled food distribution."

· The embassy will "make the necessary arrangements for" Hunter to watch a food distribution in a camp.

· "Regarding the Congressman's desire to hunt wildebeest and distribute the cured meat to refugees, wildebeest are not present in Chad." (We're told some have been there, mostly in a no-hunting wildlife refuge.)

And, in case Hunter was looking for other game:

· "The Government of Chad does not permit the hunting of large mammals."

Actually, there's not a whole lot of wild game roaming these days near the refugee camps in Chad. It's a desert, and it has been at war for the last few decades. (The wildebeest's annual migration between Kenya and Tanzania is under serious threat from poachers, CNN reported last week.)

Hunter's office called State on Thursday and said he had decided not to go and that he was looking instead at commercial hunting expeditions in Kenya, Tanzania and Southern Africa.
You didn’t think Hunter was really going there just to feed starving refugees, did you? You didn’t think Hunter would still go after learning that he wouldn’t be permitted to kill large animals, did you? You didn‘t think Hunter would do enough research to know there aren’t wildebeest in Chad before trying to arrange a trip there to hunt them, did you?

What a douchebag.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

That liberal media

CBS took it upon itself to protect John McCain from himself. And all the news organization had to do was alter an interview with the maverick and portray its lie as reality.

Is it really that hard to figure out why the ratings are in the toilet?

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The idiot in chief

when he thought the cameras were off.

Once again, the MBA president shows that he has a solid understanding of the economic crisis. Yes, the problem is that Wall Street got drunk, and the now, "The question is, ‘How long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments.’ ”

The thing that’s troubling is it appears that Bush thinks that assessment is accurate and meaningful. When he gets to the part about “fancy financial instruments,” there’s the same slowed delivery, jutting out of the face and pause for effect that have accompanied so many of Bush’s sales pitches for the administration’s snake oil over the last seven years. Indeed, in the middle of his schtick, there’s what appears to be a second of seriousness (as serious as can be expected when one is using the phrase “fancy financial instruments” as a substitute for genuine understanding of a significant financial crisis), when attendees think he might be speaking earnestly and probably feel awkward about their chuckling over a crisis that’s causing a lot of real people a lot of real pain.

But any good fundraiser knows that it’s bad form to make people with pockets this deep feel even a moment of discomfort, so the administration’s pitchman quickly moves on to a lighter topic: the housing crisis. Bush recognizes that there is a housing crisis in the United States, but sees no evidence of it in Houston or Dallas, because Laura is looking for a house in Dallas. That’s right, the “ranch” in Crawford is no longer useful as a prop because Bush doesn’t have to pretend to be a cowboy anymore. Or a farmer, or rancher, or whatever the fuck he was pretending to be to get so many rubes to vote for him because they’d like to have a beer with him.

Of course, because they voted for him, many of them now can’t afford beer.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008


It seems John McCain is so like George Bush that they even share the same scandals.
Last week Payne, who has visited Kazakhstan several times including accompanying Cheney on his trip there, said no payment had occurred and that he had never closed a deal with KMG.

“Neither I, , nor any other entity that I am associated with have ever worked for any entity in Kazakhstan,” he said in a statement.

The Sunday Times, however, has discovered the existence of a channel through which funds from the Kazakh government could have been readily transferred.

A sister company to WSP, Worldwide Strategic Energy (WSE), of which Payne is also president, has a subsidiary, Caspian Alliance, which is the sole US representative for KMG.

The disclosure is contained within a draft of a 44-page WSE “placement memorandum” brochure circulated to potential energy investors last year. It adds that the Caspian Alliance was “providing KazMunayGas with political risk analysis as well as access to energy leaders and executives”.

When contacted by The Sunday Times, staff at the Caspian Alliance, which is based in Azerbaijan, confirmed that it is a subsidiary of WSE and represents KMG in America.

In a further link, Randy Scheunemann, chief foreign policy and national security adviser to John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, was listed in the WSE brochure as part of its executive team. Scheunemann and Associates, his lobbying firm, is reported as having represented the Caspian Alliance in 2005.

At the undercover meeting last week, Payne said Scheunemann had been “working with me on my payroll for five of the last eight years”. When confronted over the link to KMG, Payne declined to comment.
If nothing else, McCain would make for a smooth transition. It would be like Bush never left.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Credit where it’s due

For seven-plus years, the Bush administration has been cartoonish in its inability to do anything right or to be motivated by anything other than greed, cronyism and ignorance. So it’s not surprising that many news sites (blogs and progressive media; I of course am not referring to the MSM) look at everything the administration does with a jaundiced eye, searching for the hidden agenda, the pandering to The Base and/or the payoff — financial and otherwise — to campaign supporters and other assorted cronies.

And Lord knows, that search has uncovered the rotten fruit of yet another corrupt and wrong-minded action nearly every time. So who can blame them for focusing on the fact that this is a reversal of long-stated policy? After all, they’re right. It is. But it’s a reversal of a simple-minded, unproductive and extremely dangerous policy. And it’s a whole lot better than reading more reports that Bush plans to bomb Iran before he leaves office and supports Israel’s plans to do the same.
The US plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years as part of a remarkable turnaround in policy by President George Bush.

The Guardian has learned that an announcement will be made in the next month to establish a US interests section - a halfway house to setting up a full embassy. The move will see US diplomats stationed in the country.

The news of the shift by Bush who has pursued a hawkish approach to Iran throughout his tenure comes at a critical time in US-Iranian relations. After weeks that have seen tensions rise with Israel conducting war games and Tehran carrying out long-range missile tests, a thaw appears to be under way.

The White House announced yesterday that William Burns, a senior state department official, is to be sent to Switzerland on Saturday to hear Tehran's response to a European offer aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff.

Burns is to sit at the table with Iranian officials despite Bush repeatedly ruling out direct talks on the nuclear issue until Iran suspends its uranium enrichment programme, which is a possible first step on the way to a nuclear weapon capability.

A frequent complaint of the Iranians is that they want to deal directly with the Americans instead of its surrogates, Britain, France and Germany.

Bush has taken a hard line with Iran throughout the last seven years but, in the dying days of his administration, it is believed he is keen to have a positive legacy that he can point to.

The return of US diplomats to Iran is dependent on agreement by Tehran. But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicated earlier this week that he was not against the opening of a US mission. Iran would consider favourably any request aimed at boosting relations between the two countries, he said.
And, sure, it may turn out to be bullshit, like so much of what this administration has done. It may be cover, something the administration can point to after making a half-assed try at dialogue and say, “We tried diplomacy, it didn’t work,” right before letting the bombs fall where they may. Or it may be an attempt to bolster McCain so that the rich can continue their eight-year fleecing party at the expense of everyone else for at least another four years. And, sure, maybe Bush doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass about peace but is only looking to bolster his shitty image as he faces the end of his tenure and to make life easier for the “historians” who will fill his presidential library with lies. It may be all of those things, but it’s also giving peace a chance.

Hey, I’ve read worse things about our foreign policy.


Learning the ropes

A doctor remembers those heady days as a resident, and the education he received about health care in America.
Take my experiences in a Los Angeles hospital with kids who needed a surgeon. I would be on call, living in scrubs, trying to digest hospital chow. In the dead of the night, my pager would begin squealing, jarring me awake (if I was lucky to sleep in the first place). A number from an outlying hospital would flash on the screen. Stumbling out of bed to the nearest phone, I would learn that a child with, say, an open fracture of his leg needed to be transferred to our hospital since we offered "a higher level of care," which often meant an orthopedic surgeon who could treat the child.

Indeed, this is what happened one night. With the child on the way, I paged the orthopedic surgeon on call. Surgeons like information given to them concisely and directly. I ran through what I would say: "Sorry to wake you, Doc, but I have a 5-year-old male en route from a community hospital who has an open fracture of his right femur. According to the transferring physician, he will need to have a reduction in the operating room tonight. While we're waiting for you, we'll start morphine for pain relief and some Ancef (an antiobiotic) for infection prophylaxis." Then I waited for the phone to ring.

When the surgeon, a partner in a private Beverly Hills orthopedic group, returned my call, I was naive enough to expect some further questions about the child's history, requests for some laboratory work or more X-rays, and instructions on how to prep the operating room. Instead, his first question was: "What's their insurance?"

But I was not prepared for this question. I told the surgeon I would call back with the insurance information, which forced me to call the transferring doctor. I can't remember if the child was underinsured, uninsured or was insured by the state, but it didn't matter. When I called the surgeon back, he refused to come in. His group didn't cover "those kinds" of patients.

So there we were -- me, my intern, a nurse -- somewhere between late at night and early in the morning, alone. A broken child and his parents were on their way in an ambulance. We had promised to provide "a higher level of care," but the only doctor who could give that care just killed it. What was my plan? I was the doctor, after all. I had no idea.

In the end, all we could do was give the child morphine (a lot of it) and antibiotics, hoping we could keep him comfortable. Still, every time he moved just a little, he howled in pain. We hoped he wouldn't lose his leg to some flesh-and-bone-eating infection. And so we waited until morning, when we would ask our teaching attendants to delicately negotiate with the surgical group to please come in and take a look.

What did I learn that night? Certainly nothing about the preoperative and postoperative management of children with femur fractures. No, I learned how even in the dead of night, in the presence of a child suffering, the bottom line can override the Hippocratic oath.

Such is our peculiar institution called American healthcare. [...] You can blame insurers for their reimbursement games, the American Medical Association for lobbying to maintain the status quo, lawyers for bringing frivolous lawsuits, or drug makers for blocking international imports to keep prices high. The list goes on and on. But in the end, put it all together and it's a system, a monstrous medical-pharmaceutical-legal-actuarial-industrial complex that's leaving a lot of people behind.
Don’t wait for this to start affecting you before you start caring, because as this nation’s wealth continues to migrate away from the many and into the hands of the few, it’s just a matter of time before a doctor, a hospital or your insurance company refuses to help you in your time of need.

UPDATE: The results of the monstrous medical-pharmaceutical-legal-actuarial-industrial complex’s work:
Despite spending $230m (£115m) an hour on healthcare, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed country. And while it has the second-highest income per head in the world, the United States ranks 42nd in terms of life expectancy.
Does the free-market approach to healthcare still sound like a viable option to anyone whose livelihood doesn’t depend on its continued existence?

It’s simple, really. For-profit health insurance companies will never put your health ahead of their profits. Ever. You will never be as important to your insurance company as money is. Your insurance company doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on you. It would rather and is more than willing to Let. You. Die.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth

I hope everyone enjoys family and friends as we celebrate our independence today.

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” —Patrick Henry


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Holiday news dump

Here’s the news the Bush administration released right before a holiday weekend, when it figures you aren’t looking.
Employers cut payrolls by 62,000 in June, the sixth straight month of nationwide job losses, underscoring the economy's fragile state. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 percent.

The latest snapshot of business conditions, released by the Labor Department on Thursday, showed continued caution on the part of employers who are chafing under high energy prices and are uncertain about how long the economy will be stuck in a sluggish mode, reflecting fallout from housing, credit and financial troubles.

Heavy job losses in construction, manufacturing, business services and retailing eclipsed job gains in education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and government.
And yes, coordinating its efforts to release this kind of news at times when it’s least likely to be noticed is about all the administration is doing about job losses and unemployment.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Stimulus package

David Vitter Isn’t the only Republican supporting the sex industry.
An unforeseen and surprising beneficiary of the Economic Stimulus Plan, a plan that George Bush contends will "boost our economy and encourage job creation," has surfaced this week. An independent market-research firm, AIMRCo (Adult Internet Market Research Company), has discovered that many websites focused on adult or erotic material have experienced an upswing in sales in the recent weeks since checks have appeared in millions of Americans' mailboxes across the country.


Jillian Fox, spokeswoman for, one of the sites reporting figures to AIMRCo, added, "In a June 15, 2008 survey to our members, thirty two percent of respondents referenced the recent stimulus package as part of their decision to either become a new member, or renew an existing membership."
But not all segments of the sex industry are feeling the love.
Nevada brothels that cater to long-haul truckers are offering gas cards and other promotions after seeing business decline as much as 25 percent from a year ago, industry officials said.

In response to a 5 percent drop in business, the Shady Lady Ranch along U.S. 95 about 150 miles north of Las Vegas plans to offer $50 gas cards to clients who spend $300 and $100 gas cards to those who spend $500.

The brothel also offers special monthly discounts, including an offer of 45 minutes of services for $175 instead of the usual rate of $200.

Under a promotion under way at the Moonlite BunnyRanch near Carson City, the first 100 customers who arrive with government stimulus checks receive twice the services for the same regular price.

"We're calling it double your stimulus," said BunnyRanch owner Dennis Hof. "The brothel industry is having to get more creative just like all consumer products in America. Everybody has got to deal, and we're doing the same thing."

The downturn also has affected brothels by leading to an increase in the number of women seeking jobs as legal prostitutes, Arnold added.
It’s also leading to an increase in the number of women seeking work as illegal prostitutes.
Police set up a sex sting at the Days Inn on Dixie Highway last weekend, expecting to arrest women who came there to trade sex for money.

They also found something else: a woman accused of trading sex for gasoline.

While doing surveillance at the hotel, officers spotted a woman they knew because of her criminal history.

They discovered she was there for sex – and that she was allegedly paid with a $100 gas card.

“When people are selling their bodies for gas, that’s pretty sad,” said Ken Easterling, chief prosecutor in the Kenton County Attorney’s Office.

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This just in

Obama leads McCain in the important barbecue demographic.
People would rather barbecue burgers with Barack Obama than with John McCain.

While many are still deciding who should be president, by 52 percent to 45 percent they would prefer having Obama than McCain to their summer cookout, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll released Wednesday.

Men are about evenly divided between the two while women prefer Obama by 11 percentage points. Whites prefer McCain, minorities Obama. And Obama is a more popular guest with younger voters while McCain does best with the oldest.
But, among reporters, it’s still McCain in a landslide.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Déjà vu

Sound familiar?
A former CIA operative who says he tried to warn the agency about faulty intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs now contends that CIA officials also ignored evidence that Iran had suspended work on a nuclear bomb.

The onetime undercover agent, who has been barred by the CIA from using his real name, filed a motion in federal court late Friday asking the government to declassify legal documents describing what he says was a deliberate suppression of findings on Iran that were contrary to agency views at the time.

The former operative alleged in a 2004 lawsuit that the CIA fired him after he repeatedly clashed with senior managers over his attempts to file reports that challenged the conventional wisdom about weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Key details of his claim have not been made public because they describe events the CIA deems secret.

The consensus view on Iran's nuclear program shifted dramatically last December with the release of a landmark intelligence report that concluded that Iran halted work on nuclear weapons design in 2003. The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran undermined the CIA's rationale for censoring the former officer's lawsuit, said his attorney, Roy Krieger.

"On five occasions he was ordered to either falsify his reporting on WMD in the Near East, or not to file his reports at all," Krieger said in an interview.

In court documents and in statements by his attorney, the former officer contends that his 22-year CIA career collapsed after he questioned CIA doctrine about the nuclear programs of Iraq and Iran. As a native of the Middle East and a fluent speaker of both Farsi and Arabic, he had been assigned undercover work in the Persian Gulf region, where he successfully recruited an informant with access to sensitive information about Iran's nuclear program, Krieger said.

The informant provided secret evidence that Tehran had halted its research into designing and building a nuclear weapon. Yet, when the operative sought to file reports on the findings, his attempts were "thwarted by CIA employees," according to court papers. Later he was told to "remove himself from any further handling" of the informant, the documents say.
But I’m sure all the killing the administration can’t wait to start doing in Iran someday will be explained away as the result of “faulty intelligence” and not a predetermined course of action justified by cherry picking intelligence and ignoring information that didn’t support the administration’s war plans.

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