No, you can't claim to be surprised....

(cross-posted to The People's Republic of Seabrook)

Precedents Begin to Fall for Roberts Court

WASHINGTON, June 20 — No Supreme Court nominee could be confirmed these days without paying homage to the judicial doctrine of “stare decisis,” Latin for “to stand by things decided.” Yet experienced listeners have learned to take these professions of devotion to precedent “cum grano salis,” Latin for “with a grain of salt.” Both Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. assured their Senate questioners at their confirmation hearings that they, too, respected precedent. So why were they on the majority side of a 5-to-4 decision last week declaring that a 45-year-old doctrine excusing people whose “unique circumstances” prevented them from meeting court filing deadlines was now “illegitimate”?

Jack Cluth June 22, 2007 - 7:11pm
( categories: Analysis | USA: Domestic Issues )

Who scares 'em?

From TPM:

Today's New York Times has an enormous front page story today suggesting that John Edwards' antipoverty programs were set up merely to provide a "bridge" to his 2008 Presidential campaign.

But guess what -- the Edwards campaign tells us that The Times refused the chance to speak to people who actually benefitted from his programs.

$400 haircuts (oh heah, Romney's just grows like that, and Rick Perry's, too), manufactured hit pieces about home sales? What's next, Poverty Fighting Trial Lawyers for Truth? Yup, this is the guy they're scared of.

GordonMcMillan June 22, 2007 - 5:52pm
( categories: Analysis | USA: Campaign 2008 )

Eric Martin Has A Damn Good . . .

. . . question about Iraq that I would love for the candidates that support 'residual forces' to address:

one of the rationales given by those who support maintaining a residual force of some 50,000 soldiers in Iraq for several decades is that such a vastly reduced contingent could prevent a larger regional conflict (in addition to performing its training and al-Qaeda hunting duties). Someone has to explain to me how 50,000 troops are going to be able to accomplish this rather prodigious feat(s) when 160,000 appear unable to greatly alter the tragic arc of events.

Whaddya say Hillary?

Sean-Paul Kelley June 22, 2007 - 2:39pm
( categories: Iraq )

Which Declared Candidate Are You Leaning Towards?

Sean-Paul Kelley June 22, 2007 - 2:24pm
( categories: USA: Campaign 2008 )

Friday Cat Slagging

.....after the jump

Many cats simply pounce to their own drummers." - Karen Duprey

Rick June 22, 2007 - 12:02pm
( categories: Humor )

If You Lose Money Investing . . .

. . . in the markets because of fraud committed by the CEOs like Ken Lay the Supreme Court has pretty much said, "tough patooties, chumps!"

Sean-Paul Kelley June 22, 2007 - 12:44am
( categories: The Markets )

Next Time You're On The Bus . . .

. . . or at a restaurant with friends or on the subway or at Starbucks try this little expirement: ask the person next to you if they approve of the way President Bush is doing his job or disapprove. Odds are slightly less than 3 out of 4 will say they disapprove. Mr. 26% is what I'm going to start calling him.

Anyone want to take bets he can go lower?

Sean-Paul Kelley June 21, 2007 - 9:10pm
( categories: USA: Presidency )

Why The Base Will Stay Unhappy With The Dems


In the scariest news for the Democratic candidates seeking their party's nomination in 2008, even rank-and-file Democrats are unhappy with Congress, which is narrowly controlled by their party. Only 27 percent of Democrats approve of the job Congress is doing, a statistically insignificant difference from the 25 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of independents who approve of Congress.

Overall, 63 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, including 60 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Independents. Apparently, voters aren't happy with anyone in Washington these days.

I don't know if Dems expect "results" in the sense of good bills passing.

But what they do expect is that bad bills aren't passed.

And things like passing the supplemental, the secret trade deal and so on, don't cut it.

If Pelosi insists on not doing a majority of a majority rule, and I understand that she had principled objections, then what will happen is only bills that the Blue Dogs can get behind, will pass. And since the blue dogs are pretty damn conservative, that means a pile of bills that are going to piss off the base.

Pander to conservatives, which is what the current "majority of the House" rule means, and liberals and progressives won't be happy.

And liberals and progressives are the majority of the base.

Ian Welsh June 21, 2007 - 8:01pm
( categories: Miscellany )

Iraq & Afghanistan: Dual Fronts, June 17 - 24

Team Agonist

June 21, 2007: Karzai Cites Taliban Shift to Terror Attacks
Taliban insurgents have shifted their tactics to rely more on terrorist attacks, in part out of frustration with their flagging insurgent campaign, said President Hamid Karzai and the commander of American military forces in the Middle East.

15 U.S. Troops Killed In Iraq
The military announced Thursday the deaths of 15 U.S. troops in Iraq, including five soldiers killed by a single roadside bomb in Northeast Baghdad.

Gates, Pace Say More Casualties Ahead in Iraq
Senior U.S. Defense Department officials said Thursday there will be more violence and more casualties in Iraq as the higher number of U.S. troops pursue their new offensive. They also endorsed moves by American commanders to work with, and even provide weapons to former insurgent groups that now say they want to support the government.

Shiite Rivalries Slash at a Once Calm Iraqi City
Increasing poverty in Diwaniya, the capital of the mostly Shiite farming province of Qadisiya, and in the region has made the area fertile ground for groups allied with Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric.

Previous Updates after the jump. Please post new stories and comments about the coalition's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on this thread. (Prior weeks' Updates here).

Editor June 21, 2007 - 7:55pm
( categories: News | Afghanistan | Iraq )

The Bottom Line Is That . . .

. . . no matter how hot the chicks are the advertisements promise you (do note the qualitative difference between the Russian ad and that from the Ukraine) being a soldier for Mother Russia sucks.

Sean-Paul Kelley June 21, 2007 - 7:35pm
( categories: Russian Federation )

Cheney Asserts "Dark Lord Privilege"

Kudos to Nico at Think Progress today for a report on Dick Cheney's ongoing war on democracy:

House investigators have learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from a presidential executive order designed to safeguard classified national security information.

The Office of the Vice President has asserted that it is not an “entity within the executive branch” and hence is not subject to presidential executive orders.

There's now a nasty turf battle going on, with the Information Security Oversight Office asking Gonzales (yeah, I know) to rule that Cheney must abide by the presdiential executive order signed by Bush which stipulates that the administration must "provide data on its classification and declassification activities" and submit to on-site inspections by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). Cheney’s office has retaliated by requesting changes in the executive order that would abolish the ISOO and eliminate the ability of the National Archives to appeal disputes to the Attorney General.

Continued after the jump, with updates.

Cernig June 21, 2007 - 5:51pm
( categories: Liberties | USA: Presidency )

Defending Salman Rushdie . . .

. . . again:

Man, this has been going on since I was a kid in Pakistan. Salman Rushdie does something; fundamentalist Muslims start burning stuff; start agitating for strikes; collecting money for the big pot that will go to the guy who cuts off his head.

When I was but a wee boy, seeing grown men hop around big bonfires, their eyelashes and beards singed from the flying embers, all agitated over a book that they hadn't even seen, much less read, was embarrassing. Now, 20 years later (the first Salman Rushdie riots were in 1987), it's just downright pathetic. This time Rushdie didn't even do anything; he just got knighted by the Queen (who herself doesn't choose the people who get knighted). As a result, Iranians and Pakistanis are getting worked up, this time demanding apologies from the British, reconfirming their desire to kill Rushdie, and organizing strikes.

Continued after the jump. Crossposted at the Huffington Post.

Ali Eteraz June 21, 2007 - 4:21pm

A Double Top . . .

. . . in the S&P 500 would be a terrible sign. I remember the double top in the NASDAQ as it was collapsing from 5,200 to 1,100. It was a bloody massacre for so many people I knew.

If there is a double top in the S&P 500 I can't say I'd be surprised. The market is not necessarily overvalued, but it's not like the overall economy is in great shape, either. And there are distortions galore to talk about, not to mention the rampant corruption in the data. A reckoning is due.

I'm not a perma-bear, but I am always highly skeptical and risk averse, as I noted in a previous post. If you're currently long the market in a big way right now is as good a time as any to take some profits, re-allocate some cash, buy some short term bonds. Double tops can be very, very painful.

Sean-Paul Kelley June 21, 2007 - 1:29pm
( categories: Economics: USA | The Markets )

If you know anything . . .

. . . about guerrilla warfare you'll recognize that it's really bad news that the Taliban has any safe havens in the South:

The insurgents -- waging a battle to reclaim Afghanistan, which was governed by the Taliban between 1996 and 2001 -- have overrun several district centers in the south and west but have usually been pushed out after a few days.

They have however have held for months Musa Qala district in Helmand Province, which adjoins Uruzgan and Kandahar, and are said to control several others in the area.

The captured district adjoins Chora in Uruzgan Province where local officials alleged on Monday that scores of civilians were killed in three days of fighting, including NATO bombardments, to dislodge a group of Taliban.

We all know the frontier areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan are a lawless, no go zone. But now in the south of Afghanistan it appears as if something similar is emerging. I don't know how many times I have said it, but Afghanistan is easy to conquer--as we found out in 2001--but impossible to keep. Just ask the English, Russians, Persians and a host of other invaders.

Ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban in 2001 was the right thing to do both morally and strategically. But screwing the pooch the way we have the last 6 years was not.

Nota bene: For a completely different take (although not necessarily opposing) read what The Registan has to say.

Sean-Paul Kelley June 21, 2007 - 1:16pm
( categories: Afghanistan )

In December Before . . .

. . . I left for Ethiopia I interviewed Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, who wrote this post over at PJM. Every single hedge and conditional in the post has now come true and all of the positives outlined were but ephemeral advantages, lost the moment the first Ethiopian soldier stepped out of line.

And it is getting worse. Stephanie McCrummen, who is quickly proving herself quite the foreign correspondent, writes from Nairobi about how the Somalis are beginning to unite under a common anti-Ethiopian banner. I can't say I am surprised. The Somalis and the Ethiopians despise each other. And it has long been Ethiopian policy to keep Somalia divided into the three semi-states that currently exist on the Horn: Somaliland, Puntland and the rump state of Somalia proper centered on Mogadishu. At this point, however, I think Ethiopia has way overplayed its hand:

Far from being defeated, Somalia's opposition groups are politically uniting, strengthening and planning a conference next month to hone their strategy for ousting the Somali government and the Ethiopian troops backing it, according to a recent statement issued by the groups and to a foreign diplomat in the Somali capital.

It's one thing to lead off with a graf like that, quite another to follow up with this:

The official, who is closely involved in the country's faltering reconciliation process and spoke on condition of anonymity because of his position, said that Somali insurgents "are reaching out to different clans and to the general public without any conditions" and that "it is becoming a war between Somalia and Ethiopia."

'Reaching out to different clans' is code for "everyone in Somalia hates the freaking Ethiopians and wants them gone." I'm so glad we felt it necessary to stick our noses into the Horn's business. Now even more people hate us for our freedoms.

Nota bene: More bad, erm, good news here.

Sean-Paul Kelley June 21, 2007 - 12:27pm
( categories: Africa: Sub-Saharan )

France bans BlackBerrys over fears of US intelligence snooping

Claire Soares | June 21

The Independent - Seven million people worldwide may be addicted to them but the French government has said "non" to Le BlackBerry, fearing US intelligence agents could be snooping on state secrets.

"The risks of interception are real. It is economic war," Alain Juillet, who is in charge of economic intelligence for the government, told Le Monde newspaper.

The concern is that information sent from a BlackBerry gets routed via servers in the United States and Britain, and that this poses "a problem with the protection of information".

Tina June 21, 2007 - 11:17am
( categories: News | Europe Minus UK )

And the Angels Wept, And the Holy Land Was Washed In Blood

Hat tip Taylor Marsh, Hamas's statement on the Gaza seizure:

The events in Gaza over the last few days have been described in the West as a coup. In essence, they have been the opposite. Eighteen months ago, our Hamas Party won the Palestinian parliamentary elections and entered office under Prime Minister Ismail Haniya but never received the handover of real power from Fatah, the losing party. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has now tried to replace the winning Hamas government with one of his own, returning Fatah to power while many of our elected members of Parliament languish in Israeli jails. That is the real coup. ... ..

If Israel were to pull out of the West Bank, Hamas would wind up ruling there as well. It's really this simple - Fatah has turned into Vichy - they are helping an occupying power against their own people. And they're gutless - Fatah leaders fled Gaza at the beginning of the fighting, and left their footsoldiers to die on their own.

And any fair observer would have to agree that the way Hamas sees it is essentially correct. They won the election - and they weren't allowed to form the government.

Unfortunately, while this has been a bit of a wake up call, and some aid will start flowing into the West Bank in an attempt to prop up Fatah, the fundamental lesson hasn't been learnt - that elections should be respected, and that you should negotiate with the people who have the consent of the people. Which, in this case, would be Hamas.

Ian Welsh June 21, 2007 - 1:28am
( categories: Miscellany )

Morgan Stanley Shows That . . .

. . . when it comes to risk management it is second to none. Still.

This was the great thing about working for Morgan and we all knew it. It was drilled inot us from day one by the old timers. Manage risk. Always.

When it comes to risk assessment there really is no company on The Street that does it better. Morgan misses a few big three-pointers from time to time but their defense tops--it's like Shaq, Horry and Duncan with a splash of Olajuwon for good measure. During the ruble fiasco in '98 Morgan had no downside exposure. None.

Looks like it doesn't have any sub-prime exposure either. That shows common sense, something in short supply on Wall Street most of the time. And risk management was a lesson I internalized while I was with Morgan: know when to take your gains and manage your risk--tightly.

The only other group who has comparable risk management is PIMCO. The story of PIMCO, Mohamed El-Erian and Argentine sovereign debt is one for the ages. They saw the collapse coming a year out and slowly (and silently) unloaded billions of debt before the collapse. When the damn burst for Argentina PIMCO had no exposure.

It's easy to make a fortune on Wall Street, but keeping one? That's something altogether different.

Sean-Paul Kelley June 21, 2007 - 12:57am
( categories: Business | Economics: USA | The Markets )

But, but, but, but . . .

. . . isn't talking with the NorKs appeasement?

The State Department confirmed Wednesday night that the negotiator, Christopher R. Hill, was en route to Pyongyang from Tokyo, just hours after the United States found a way to return to the North roughly $25 million in funds that were frozen for several years. The United States had frozen the money, saying it came from counterfeiting and trade in missiles and nuclear equipment.

All jokes aside: this is good news. This means there is some meaningful progress and we all know that progress has been in seriously short supply during the Bush years. Gotta give Condi credit for sidelining Darth Cheney and his minions. As much as I dislike her it can't be easy sidelining the man with an artificial heart.

Sean-Paul Kelley June 21, 2007 - 12:45am
( categories: Asia: NE & Koreas )

Sometimes I Come Across Stories . . .

. . . in the media that just enrage me. This is one of those stories. Here's what happens if you decide to convert your car from diesel to vegetable oil in North Carolina:

First, he owed the state a $2,500 bond to run his car on vegetable oil. And he owed a thousand dollars for neglecting to pay monthly state road taxes normally levied on gasoline. Federal penalties were involved, too.

In Texas we just hang folks. Don't say you weren't warned.

Sean-Paul Kelley June 20, 2007 - 9:57pm
( categories: Global Energy )

I Like Law and Order . . .

. . . as much as the next guy. And I know that truth can be a lot stranger than fiction, but the prospect of having another actor in the White House scares the bejesus out of me. Please tell me this poll is only an outlier, a fascination with the new guy, as it were.

Sean-Paul Kelley June 20, 2007 - 5:45pm
( categories: USA: Campaign 2008 )