Saturday, January 05, 2008

Thoughts On Iowa

There's yet another Clinton hit piece in the New York Times today. Given how the Times has been in the back pocket of the Republican party for close to ten years now, it's understandable.

Here's what I think about the Iowa results.

Obama ran a fine campaign. So did Edwards. But it was going to come down to those two under any circumstances: Edwards has campaigned there since 2006....remember, he was part of the elite luxury idle rich...and Obama comes from a neighboring state. Hillary never really stood a chance in a state that's as close to red without actually being red, and still has strong animosity towards her husband.

For her part, Hillary could probably have run a stronger campaign, and not made some of the costly errors that she did, most notably the cocaine attack (she should have had surrogates raise the issue that couldn't be so easily traced back to her). That coke use is going to be an issue in the general election should Obama win (or be the VP candidate). Make no mistake about it, and there is a significant part of the population that simply won't vote for someone who's done drugs, particularly one with the criminal trappings that cocaine has.

This is why Bush had worked so hard to cover up his coke use. You or I might not care, but in a country where recent elections have been decided by miniscule vote differentials, that one issue might be enough to prevent him from winning.

We have a slamdunk in front of us. We shouldn't be wasting the opportunity on someone who made "youthful indiscretions" beyond getting a little frisky in the backseat of a car at the drive-in. I'm sorry.

The surprising margin of victory should give us all pause. I suspect the Oprah factor was more important than many allowed, but I haven't really looked at exit polls to be sure of this. Clearly, when every major polling organization has a statistical dead heat in a race where the winner walks away with nearly ten percent more, those agencies ought to look at either their methodology or whether the vote count was accurate.

I'm not saying, I'm just sayin' it doesn't have to just be Republicans that steal elections, altho a head count of people standing around (what a dumb way to run a party!) would be pretty hard to fake...even if I can think of four ways off the top of my head that might work.

So Obama won. Now what?

Well, New Hampshire becomes a bit more important to the Clinton campaign. She should do extremely well there, likely a winner. South Carolina might go for Edwards, but Obama's surprising strength in Iowa will energize Democrats there, and so that race now becomes a toss-up as well. Clinton can outlast Edwards (who has like zero dollars in the bank).

None of these states really matters in the long run, however, except for the media exposure a win brings. SuperDuper Tuesday is the prize, and that's the strategy Rudy! Giuliani has rolled the dice with: make it past these pisher early states (although he has to win one of the next three primaries), and reap the rewards of being a media darling. Clinton's strategy takes the same form, altho my guess is she could lose New Hampshire and still win the nomination on the 5th.

Obla di, obla da

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Cat KITTEN Blogging

Mah peeps! Shhhhhh...I habbed a ruff Noo Yeer while dadby wuz out jambing wif hems old bandmates...

Friday Music Blogging

The Incomparable ZZ Top - Legs

Nobody Asked Me, But...

Special Crystal Ball Edition

The problem with trying to predict what stories will matter in any given time frame is two-fold:

First, you end up looking foolish when events swerve off-track and another story ends up being bigger. For example, does anyone recall that the issue of Time Magazine on the newsstands on September 11, 2001 called that year, "The Year Of The Shark"?

Second, so many of the stories do not stand alone. One could conceivably list them in any of a number of categories or incorporate them into any of a number of other stories.

These are the stories I will be watching closely in 2008, not necessarily in this order (or else some FReeper will count up the number of words I write on each topic and call me a liar):

1) Sub-Saharan Africa -
Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan (particularly Darfur), Ethiopia, and Somalia are all in the grips of political and ethnic crises that threaten to take along with them countries like Chad and Angola.

2) Global Warming - This is going to be a watershed year for global warming. I'm afraid that we will discover that the effects are going to happen much faster than anyone dreamed of and will be more permanent than most suspected. I'll go out on a limb here: a major portion of the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheet will collapse into the sea, threatening to take out most South Pacific islands, and impact much of the eastern American seaboard. Also, global warming will manifest itself in a major drought (that's already shaping up) in Nigeria, Chad and Ghana. In other words, sub-Saharan Africa.

I could be wrong. I pray I am.

3) Oil - To put it mildly, this is a story that no one should be surprised at, but I'm not interested in how high the price will go, but whether the industrialized world (basically, us) will take any steps to mitigate the crisis of higher gas and oil prices, particularly ahead of the 2008 election. My sense is Bush will twist Saudi arms, but that's not going to do all that much. China is now the dominant player in the oil markets, even if they aren't the largest consumer yet. You don't get in the face of what will be your biggest customer for politics' sake.

Add to that the fact that our remaining reserves of oil are dwindling away, and you've got a situation in this country that will lead to Depression.

Nigeria, a sub-Saharan African country, is a major producer of sweet crude oil (the kind oil companies executives have wet dreams over), so you wonder why the money isn't making it into the pockets of the people in some fashion. (This is in large part why I think Africa is the number one story for 2008)

My guess? Crude will top out over $200 a barrel before falling back to a more "comfortable" $175. That's about $7.50 a gallon.

4) 2008 Elections - Obviously, the Presidential election is important, but I'm also going to keep an eye on the Congressional races, particularly in areas that could tip either blue or red. My instinct tells me that Dems will pick up several seats in the House, perhaps as many as fifteen, but the Senate may see them fall short of a filibuster-proof sixty members.

It is these races, far more than the Presidential one, that will shape this country for the next administration.

5) Biotechnology - I predict that 2008 will be a watershed year for biotechnology as a whole and genetic engineering specifically. For example, by the end of this month, the FDA will approve the sale of milk and meat produced from cloned animals.

We've been hearing about the biotech revolution for almost a decade now, and indeed, some advances have been made in terms of treatment of diseases with new drugs and therapies that better target invasive pathogens. Or glow-in-the-dark cats. Goodness knows, sometimes it's hard to see ThumbPer when I have to pee in the middle of the night.

But this bit, the use of genetically modified foods and cloned meat, I'm uneasy about. While the technology could go a long way towards helping the Third World and to ease the suffering of sub-Saharan Africa, the capacity for mischief on the part of the cloners is endless.

6) Beijing Olympics - In effect, this is China's debutante ball (or coming out party, you decide). Since the Olympics are never just about the sport, I suspect several political statements will be made here, most notably by dissidents in the Chinese underground. I don't think any terrorist attacks will occur. China has too many friends in the less-Western-friendly sectors of the world. We might make a stink about China's blossoming petro-relationships with dictatorial countries in sub-Saharan Africa (like Sudan, Chad, and even Nigeria), but we won't dare boycott the China games.

They hold too much of our debt, and take insults like that seriously.

7) Economic disaster - This would be the number one story if it was going to be globally as bad as it will be here, with the stipulation that I could make economic statistics bearable on a regular basis (Hey, just because I'm a wonk doesn't mean I'm trying to convert you! I want to write stories that you'll care about and be able to carry with you in your heart).

I personally feel the meltdown in the economy will be unlike anything anyone has ever seen in history. This comes with the turf of being the single biggest economy in history.

Remember this fact, and you'll understand why: every single recession this nation has ever had has started with a sitting Republican president, and it took a Democratic president most of his first term to solve it. Bush was handed the single strongest economic engine in the universe and somehow managed to give it away to his cronies, borrowing from countries that would cut our throats as soon as assist us.

The gathering storm of troubled mortgages, unemployment, and global economic uncertainty due to the twin pop of political unrest and oil price spikes will force nations to start calling in those loans to shore up their own currencies.

8) Nationalism - Hand in hand with the weakened US economy will come a wave of foreign investment in American companies, real estate and entertainment. We've already seen such major institutions as Merrill Lynch and Citibank get cash infusions from the Middle East and Asia, and the prices of condos and co-ops in Manhattan is about the only safe bet in real estate appreciation across the nation, because Europeans are snapping up apartments for a fraction of what they would go for in cities like London or Paris.

I mean, my God, Jaguar and Land Rover are going to be bought up by an Indian auto manufacturer! Bet you didn't even know those were American auto companies!

This will help the US economy, particularly our trade deficits, somewhat, but the benefits will not trickle down to you and I, unless our 401(k)s happen to be invested in foreign exchange funds. Not bloody likely, if statistics are any indication.

9) Indonesia - The rumblings of various volcanoes and fault lines suggests to me that a major eruption/earthquake/tsunami is about due to hit this region.

The frightening thing for Americans in all this is the Lake Toba supervolcano in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago. When it erupted some 75,000 years ago, it wiped out, nearly decimated, the human population, and adding sulphuric acid to the atmosphere that still exists today. While Toba is not likely to go off again in that mass, Mount Tambora is active and may be primed for such a cataclysm.

This likely won't happen this year, of course, but the signs from the activity indicate widespread geologic activity in that region and we should keep an eye on it.

10) Avian flu - Not much in the news about this lately, except for the possible cases of human-to-human transmission in China, but it's been appearing in sub-Saharan Africa lately as part of the migratory bird influx, so couple this killer with Ebola and you could be talking about a major pandemic within days.

Yeesh. That's a pretty scary list!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Coming Soon To Simply Left Behind

$2.99 a piece, 2 for $5

Any interest?

Try This One Out

Courtesy of The General:


This Might Be The Real Deal....

Cross your fingers and hope, tho.
WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department said Wednesday that it had opened a full investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing in the CIA's destruction in 2005 of videotapes of terrorism suspects' interrogations.

Signaling resolve to get to the bottom of a case that has touched off a political and legal firestorm, Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey announced that he was appointing a mob-busting prosecutor from Connecticut with experience at rooting out official misconduct to oversee the investigation. The unusual move means that the U.S. attorney's office in Virginia, which normally handles CIA investigations, will play no role in the case.

Though the opening of an investigation does not mean that criminal charges will necessarily follow, it does raise the stakes for the agency and its employees who were involved in or had knowledge of the tapes and how they were handled internally.

Heading the investigation will be John H. Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut for more than 25 years who is known as one of the government's most relentless prosecutors. Durham has prosecuted an array of mobsters and political figures, including former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland.
The DoJ investigating the CIA on the face of things sounds like a cover-up. Some things, however, lead me to suspect this might be a real investigation.

For one thing, John Durham is a prosecutor more in the mold of Patrick Fitzgerald, placing the law above loyalty. Governor Rowland of Connecticut is a Republican and a long-time friend of the Bush family, for example. Also, Durham comes to this task only after the US Attorney for the Middle Atlantic district recused himself (conflict of interest, probably), so he wasn't even Mukasey first choice.

If this investigation goes to the form of the Valerie Plame inquiries, then a patsy will be set up.

Here's where it gets interesting, tho. The CIA and the Bush administration haven't been on the same page about too many things since the Plame outting, in particular because the CIA warned Bush agaisnt using the intelligence obtained as a basis for the invasion of Iraq.

Altho I have no direct evidence of anything at this point, my suspicion is that history will write that the last five years of the Bush administration could be loosely defined as an internecine war with the CIA. If you look at the appointment of Porter Goss as director of the CIA, the inclusion of the CIA under the Director of National Intelligence, and the way the administration hung the CIA out to dry over the intelligence miscues leading up to September 11, you get the picture that the CIA might have some small resentments towards the Bush administration.

And I suspect...let me rephrase that, I wouldn't be surprised, if many of the major embarassments of the past five years have been at the direction of some elements in the CIA to make the administration look foolish.

I mean, come on, Porter Goss being involved with a weekly "poker game" with hookers? And the administration didn't know about this?

I'd even venture that the CIA has tied the administration up in knots in foreign policy areas, too, and it wouldn't surprise me...well, it might, but don't say I didn't say it first...if indeed Bhutto's assassination wasn't done with at least the knowledge of and tacit consent by the CIA.

Naturally, the administration being the bunch of candypants cowboys they are, would want to push things one step further along in a grand game of chicken. This video investigation fits the bill nicely, and has all the earmarks of a Karl Rove operation: first you con them into destroying the tapes, then you point fingers and call in the cops.

That you have CIA director (and Bush buttboy) Michael Hayden admitting the destruction of a key piece of government evidence speaks volumes, when you would expect a sidestep arabesque to distract public attention while choosing a scapegoat.

We haven't heard the last of this story yet. I don't think this one will be "wrapped up" as neatly as Libby Scooter.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

The LOLcats of 2007

(hat tip to MissCellania in her Neat-O-Rama pajamas...)

The Great Rift Valley

You may or may not have noted the elections in Kenya over the weekend. The election run up was about as nasty as the Iowa caucus previews, perhaps even more so. The aftermath has been nothing but horrid.

The incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, won a vote that's been hotly contested by his rival, Raila Odinga, who accused Kibaki of vote fraud and vote suppression:
NAIROBI (Reuters) - President Mwai Kibaki's government accused rival Raila Odinga's party of unleashing "genocide" in Kenya on Wednesday as the death toll from tribal violence over a disputed election passed 300.

"It is becoming clear that these well-organized acts of genocide and ethnic-cleansing were well-planned, financed and rehearsed by Orange Democratic Movement leaders prior to the general elections," the statement read by Lands Minister Kivutha Kibwana on behalf of his colleagues said.

ODM had no immediate reaction to the accusation. Odinga's supporters, drawn mainly from his Luo tribe, have blamed the violence on Kibaki for "stealing" the December 27 presidential vote. Many clashes have pitted the Luo against Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe.
First irony: The US initially supported Kibaki's re-election.

The second irony:
"There are independent reports of serious irregularities in the counting process," said British Foreign Minister David Miliband and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a joint statement. They called for an end to violence and "an intensive political and legal process" to end the crisis.
(emphasis added)


This election has implications that go far beyond the borders of Kenya, a country right smack in the middle of some of the most contentious real estate in the world, bordered by Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Kenya has been a stable democratic regime since 1963 (when it declared independence from England), and until global warming hit the country with a severe drought in 2000, was a beacon economic engine in Africa, despite severe governmental corruption.

Now, however, the only real growth industries are as transit points for sex slaves and heroin.

Moreover, there are other democratic elections coming up in the next 18 months is less stable places like Angola, Ghana and Malawi, places that aren't as sophisticated as Kenya, and more prone to turmoil and trouble.

Kenya seems to be at an impasse: Kibaki has offered to negotiate a settlement with Odinga, but Odinga insists that Kibaki give up his Presidency before any talks can commence.

Meanwhile, the blood spills.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Be It Hereby Resolved....

To my all my friends and readers of Simply Left Behind:

Please have a safe and healthy and happy...and most of all, DEMOCRATIC, 2008.

My resolutions this year are simple.

I want to restore my health to the level it was a few years back, meaning back in shape and to stop getting sick all the time.

I want to take Simply Left Behind to the next level, which means whoring the shit out of it.

Finally, I want to really launch my NotPresident campaign.

Have a happy, folks, and don't forget your designated driver!

How Odd...

...Democracy without a war?
DEOTHANG, Bhutan (Reuters) - Bhutanese voted on Monday to elect members to a new upper house of parliament for the first time, a step towards democracy after a century of absolute monarchy.

The tiny, conservative Himalayan kingdom has been preparing for democracy since former monarch Jigme Singye Wangchuck decided to hand power to an elected government, even as many of his citizens said they were quite happy with the way things were.
Not a shot fired. No nation invaded and displaced the king. No trillions of dollars spent to spread a philosophy.

In short, democracy grew from within, because the people were ready for it. In this case, the existing government was, as well.

And yet, even here in a country where the first TVs only came in 1999, the ugly head of Iraq is reared:
"I'm afraid that our country might end up like other countries who are having problems because of democracy," said Mila Wangchuk, 28, who runs a real estate business.
It's taken nearly twenty years for the king to agree to a general call for democracy. In that time, many Bhutanese have been expelled and ethnic Nepalese living in Bhutan have been denied the vote. We're not talking about a paradise here.

But it's a start, and should serve as a beacon to any war-mongering knucklehead who wants to be President that we will be vigilant about how our troops are used in the future, because here we have a clear example of how to do democracy the right way.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

An Endorsement

I've put this off long enough, even though in truth, I don't have to do this until the New York primary. Since that gets lost in the flurry of Super Tuesday endorsements, I figured I may as well stake my claim now.

I've spent the entire past year on the fence about whom to support for the Democratic presidential nomination. I had my list narrowed down to three people: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and then, Barack Obama.

Edwards I discounted quickly, when his lack of character and toughness was on display for all to see with the whole "Catholic League/Bloggers" debacle. If he couldn't either shit or get off the pot..."Oooh, I don't want to arouse my base against me! Oooh, I don't want to take on the big, mean Catholic League!"...on that ridiculously inconsequential issue; if that's his idea of leadership, then he was the wrong choice. And that was just one issue: his flipflopping apology for the Iraq war vote smelled too calculated, and then there was the whole heartstring tug of Elizabeth's cancer, and running or not running.

Some will say that Marcotte and McEwan resigned of their own accord. That may be true, but I'd be willing to bet if Edwards had personally sat down with them and assured them that he'd take the heat (and that message was reinforced across the board), they'd still be blogging for Edwards today.

In truth, Edwards was on the list more as a hat-tip to the fact I voted for him in 2004 than anything he's done since.

Which left Obama and Clinton.

I admire both of them for different reasons, and none of those reasons have anything to do with the monumental courage each showed by just tossing a chapeau in the ring.

Barack Obama speaks to me of a new generation, a generation of ideals and idealists, unafraid to talk about issues despite the fact that he might actually have to take a stand on them. I like that. It appeals to the rabble-rouser in me. Even in his gaffes, he seems to have at least thought about what he leaves unsaid (as when he shorthanded his answer about meeting with Ahmadinejad, Castro, and Chavez).

Hillary Clinton just knows so damned much and seems to have an answer for every question thrown at her: not only are her answers detailed, they're usually light years ahead of anything anyone else throws out there. Many of her contenders' answers sound more like "And then, at this point, we pray it all works out".

There is no perfect candidate in this race, to be sure, and so this isn't a choice between the more perfect of two people.

Neither is it a choice between the lesser of two evils as even some on the left have tried to paint a vote for Hillary as a vote for evil.

Without disclosing too much, I've known of Hillary since her days working with Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund, with whom I've had some indirect contact. No less a conservative than Marty Peretz (nominally a liberal (LINO?), believe it or not) has called Edelman "Hillary's closest sister and ideological soul mate."

Which is why I find all the negativity from the left about Hillary so amusing and confounding. And why I also find the love-fest for Barack so intriguing.

After all, a careful examination of their voting records and public statements about Iraq show they agree on about 90-95% of the issues. And yet, Hillary's a DINO while Barack is a liberal love child.

I ain't buying that. It's easy to say "I would not have voted for the Iraq war authorization" and seem to mean it. It's another thing to skip the vote on the "Iranian war authorization" (not even officially, just a "sense of the Senate" vote), then to chide others for having voted for it, particularly when you've voted for every single Iraq war funding bill that you've been able to.

Ironically, the candidate who's being touted as "change" is not.

In eight years in the Senate, Hillary has shown an unique capacity to enlist the help of people of all stripes. No one who serves with her has too many unkind things to say about her. That could be useful in a Presidency that, for the first term at least, is going to be about cleaning up the messes..."Mom."

On the other hand, it does leave her open to charges of being too conservative, ironically the same charges leveled against her husband prior to his election, and look at what happened in those eight years: the greatest economic boom this nation, the world, had ever seen, without resorting to full scale war, and eight years of protection from terror attacks on our soil.

I say, "ironically," because Hillary was viewed in many corners as a bulwark of liberal thought in the Clinton administration and cabinet.

Barack Obama has demonstrated that he's not a man of character to me, despite his outward image. His actions speak volumes. With Hillary Clinton, we know what we're getting, and guess what? It's not a whole lot different than we'd get with Obama, but at least she's unfraid of her decisions.

Hillary Clinton should be the Democratic nominee for President. She has my vote.