The Soviets Knew Where to Stop

I guess I’m going to need another line in the war timeline:

Pakistani and American Troops Exchange Fire

WASHINGTON — Pakistani and American ground troops exchanged fire along the border with Afghanistan on Thursday after the Pakistanis shot at two American helicopters, ratcheting up tensions as the United States increases its attacks against Qaeda and Taliban militants sheltering in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas.

American and NATO officials said that the two helicopters were flying about one mile inside Afghan air space to protect an American and Afghan patrol on the ground when the aircraft were fired on by small-caliber arms fire from a Pakistani military checkpoint near Tanai district in Khost Province.

In response, the American ground troops shot short bursts of warning fire, which hit well shy of the rocky, hilltop checkpoint, and the Pakistanis fired back, said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for the Central Command.

But a spokesman for the Pakistani army, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said Pakistani forces fired warning shots at the American aircraft after they crossed into Pakistan’s territory in the area of Saidgai, in North Waziristan’s Ghulam Khan region. “On this, the helicopters returned fire and flew back,” General Abbas said.

Good Enough

Twenty months ago, Democrats attained majorities in both chambers of Congress (although admittedly only by the skin of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s dentures in the Senate). That was after — although not necessarily because of — presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the possibility of the impeachment of President Geroge W. Bush “off the table” in the weeks before election, saying in a 60 Minutes interview that it would be a “waste of time” and that making the Administration “lame ducks” would be “good enough” for her.

That part about it being “good enough” for Pelosi is probably true. After all, what could a lame duck administration manage to do in the twenty-seven months between the November 2006 election and the inaguration of a new president (whoever that might be) in January 2009? What could possibly go wrong? Or get worse?

As the House Judiciary Committee considered whether to impeach President Richard Nixon in early 1974, it prepared a report entitled Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment. One section of the report discussed the intentions of the Constitution’s framers and the purposes of impeachment.

A man who became one of the earliest Supreme Court justices, James Iredell, made this comment during the debate over the impeachment provisions in the Constitution:

[The President] Must certainly be punishable for giving false information to the Senate. He is to regulate all intercourse with foreign powers, and it is his duty to impart to the Senate every material intelligence he receives. If it should appear that he has not given them full information, but has concealed important intelligence which he ought to have communicated, and by that means induced them to enter into meansures [sic] injurious to their country, and which they would not have consented to had the true state of things been disclosed to them, – in this case, I ask whether, upon an impeachment for a misdemeanor upon such an account, the Senate would probably favor him.

This, at least, was the impression given in the years after the invasion of Iraq, not simply about the rationale for the war itself but practically every aspect of the conduct of the war. Time and again, claims by the president and other administration officials were exposed as false, yet after control of Congress passed to the Democrats, there was nothing but smoke and bluster.

In so doing, the Democratically-controlled Congress kicked the can down the road, saying that everything would change after “More and Better Democrats” were elected to the House and Senate (never mind that the Same Old Democrats in control of both chambers aren’t going anywhere). Meanwhile, anyone who’s been watching the housing market bubble over like an unwatched pot — combined with the uncontrolled spending on things like, say, the completely unnecessary Iraq war — the past few years could have anticipated that the economic chickens were going to come home to roost one of these days. It was just a matter of when.

Well, they’re here. Seven hundred billion chickens. Or maybe one point two trillion. Who knows? After the first few hundred billion you kind of get tired of counting.

This financial disaster has been a long time coming. There’s no doubt that the situation in the economic markets has increased in severity over the past year and a half, while both the administration and Congress have done essentially nothing. We’ll never know at this point if action taken a year or more ago might have substantially reduced the risk the American taxpayers are being saddled with, but it’s a reasonable assumption.

Last summer, Sen. Ron Wyden complained to the town hall participants calling for Bush’s impeachment that an attempt to do so would be long and drawn-out, and detract from the important business of Congress. I have no real illusion that an impeachment of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would have been successful, or even that a President Pelosi would have done anything different on the economy, but a Congress that wasn’t afraid to exercise the oversight powers granted to them by the Constitution (and one that was actually operating in the interests of its constituents) might have been able to head off this fiscal nightmare with a few hundred billion less, or even realized that the ten or twelve billion dollars spent in Iraq every month wasn’t helping matters one bit.


Maybe it’s time for Obama to put a little more space between McCain and himself:

Quote Of the Day

Charlie Claiborne, a trucker from upstate New York, on NPR’s “Morning Edition” today talking about executive compensation and the bailout, mentioning his colleague, Leon Martin:

Leon could have probably run AIG and ended up in a better position than what they did. And probably for about thirty million less!

Bernie Sanders’ Petition

The only actual socialist in Congress (despite the ravings of people like Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith), Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has a petition out calling for strictures on the Wall Street bailout plan. It’s primary points include:

  • A five-year, 10% surtax on income over $500,000 per person;
  • Safeguards to make sure bank assets are realistically appraised;
  • Taxpayer equity in bailed-out companies;
  • A general economic recovery package focused on rebuilding infrastructure and renewable energy development;
  • Repeal of the banking and investment deregulation that led to the current crisis;
  • Breakup of companies that are “too big to fail” so that failing companies don’t need to be bailed out in the future.

Keep trying, the server’s kind of busy.

Who Could Have Predicted It?



U.S. House of Representatives

Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities, and Government Sponsored Enterprises

Committee on Banking and Financial Services

Washington, DC.

Just for local color, an exchange between Oregon Rep. Darlene Hooley and Ralph Nader, who was advocating for “a more rational and stronger regulatory system” for the GSE (Government Sponsored Enterprise) entities Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac, and warning that they had become corporations “where much of the risk remains with the Government and the taxpayers while the profits flow to private shareholders.”

Ms. HOOLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have a question for several of the members of the panel.

Thank you very much for being here. This has been very helpful.

Mr. Nader, what do you think is the most egregious benefit that the GSEs receive?

How does that negatively affect the consumer and home buyer?

And what would be the benefit of eliminating whatever benefit you think is the most egregious?

Mr. NADER. Well I mentioned them in the testimony. I do not want to take the time up just to repeat them. But there are two ways to look at the benefits.

One is, what is the quid pro quo? If the Government is going to in indirect and direct ways subsidize these corporations, what are we getting in return? What is the taxpayer getting in return?

And the second is whether these subsidies can be reduced or eliminated and still, given the fact that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a lot of public subsidy built into their net worth over the years, still hold them to fulfilling certain housing goals, as the witnesses have described. That is the way I would frame it.

I think now they are so rich and so powerful that they can be held to these housing goals without basically having an implied bailout potential.

There is a fellow named Stanton who wrote a book about fifteen years ago on the really risk levels of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and do we want to go through that route again?

I mean, do they operate in a way where they say “Uncle Sam will bail us out? We can have low ratios in terms of our capital,” and so forth.

You know, that is what you have to ask yourself. I mean, are you ready for it if something happens? And if that is going to be the case, then you have got to hold them to a much higher standard than private corporations are held.

Ms. HOOLEY. But the question is, how will the consumers benefit if you eliminate those benefits? I mean, that is what I am interested in is how are we going to benefit the consumers?

Mr. NADER. Apart from the taxpayers, you mean? How are you going to benefit the consumers?

Ms. HOOLEY. How are we going to benefit the consumers?

Mr. NADER. Well if you withhold the subsidy, you benefit the taxpayers. The consumers relate to the housing goals of HUD and how that relates to Fannie Mae. Those are two different subjects.

Stupid Foreigners

From Sean Hannity’s interview on FOX News with GOP VP candidate Gov. Sarah Palin (via Crooks & Liars):

Hannity: Is Senator Obama then using what happened on Wall Street this week? Is he using it for political gain? Is there a danger of a presidential candidate is saying to the world that America’s situation of economic crisis is the worst that we’ve seen in decades — which was words that he was using yesterday — is there a danger in terms of the world hearing that?

Like the rest of the world couldn’t figure out that there was an economic crisis in this country without Barack Obama telling them…you’d think the bailouts and failures of multiple investment and banking institutions might have clued them in.


There’s been a lot of snark about John McCain doing an interview with a reporter from the Spanish (as in, from Spain) newspaper El Pais, and seemingly getting confused over what continent Spain is on, and whether he’d be willing to meet with Spain’s President Zapatero. McCain answered non-comittally that he’d be willing to work with “leaders who are our friends…in the hemisphere” and some stuff about Latin America and drug cartels, even as the reporter attempted to clarify that they were talking about Spain, but McCain wouldn’t budge (text via Americablog):

QUESTION: Okay… what about you, I’m talking about the President of Spain?

MCCAIN: What about me what?

QUESTION: Okay… are you willing to meet with him if you are elected president?

MCCAIN: I am willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy and freedom, and I will stand up to those that do not.

McCain’s neo-con handler Randy Scheunemann has come out saying that McCain wasn’t disoriented in the interview, just that he’s a hard-liner. That, of course, confuses people, because Spain does have troops in Afghanistan, as well as being a member of NATO.

But I suspect that what most people have forgotten is a little something called the Spanish-American War. But John McCain hasn’t, because he’s so old he remembers it like it was yesterday.