I'm subbing for Kevin until Tuesday. He's probably not leaving his room, so he can watch all the Michael Jackson coverage.

Okay, I don't like cats. I'm allergic to cats. They make me sneeze. Once, a tabby clawed me and my arm swelled up. I looked like The Hulk. Or, part of The Hulk. Two years back, I did rescue a cat, and now it lives in the house across the street and visits our yard regularly. I named it Miles. Why? Just seemed to fit. But that was an exception. Whatcha gonna do when a living creature gets caught in brush behind a fence? Just listen it to it yelp while you're lying in a hammock swatting mosquitos? Nah, you gotta do something, right? So I did. But don't get the wrong impression. I don't like cats. Dogs are jake with me--but some make me wheeze. Which is why my kids want a Portuguese Water Dog. Hypo-allergenic, they say. Yeah, right. It sure doesn't hurt that Sasha and Malia got one--which, I'm betting, raised the price of a PWD pup by a factor of twelve. Can't wait to go shopping for one of those.

But I'm off-topic. Cats. Cat blogging. Just. Don't. Get. It. But tradition--that I understand. Keeping customers satisfied--that I really understand. Don't want to lose no eyeballs. So if the cables can go wacko over Jacko, I can go bats over cats. That is, with the help of longtime Kevin Drum reader BH, who foreseeing my dilemma emailed me pics of his kitties. At least, he says they're his cats. On the Internet, who knows? Names: Walter and Milo. And I don't know nothing else about them. So here's your cat blog.

Milo sitting in an IKEA chair. I hope he didn't have to assemble it.

Walter and Milo after a fight. If only Angelina and Megan could make up so easily

 

 

Merkel Plays Hard

Kevin has hit the road for a few days. He'll be back on Tuesday. I'm sitting in his cyber-chair until then.

After President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a sit-down at the White House this morning, the two held a joint press conference at the White House. There were a few questions about Iran, and Merkel talked tough on the subject without causing ruptures. She declared, "we will not forget" what has happened to participants in the Iranian oppoosition who have been suppressed, beaten, and killed. "We will do everything to identify the exact number of victims," she said, and who they were. "Iran cannot count on the world community turning a blind eye," she said. Merkel noted that it's "so important" for dissidents "to know that people somewhere else in the world" are watching what they are doing. By speaking in such terms, she went--for good or bad--further than Obama, who did again condemn the Iranian crackdown on the opposition. Merkel referred to concrete steps that can be taken, at least in retrospect. And I wonder if Obama will feel compelled at some point to do likewise. Then again, that will probably depend on what happens with the opposition in Iran. If things quiet down, such pressure will ease.

At the same time, Merkel said, she "completely agreed" with Obama that the United States and Germany had to work with Russia and China to find productive ways of engaging with Iran regarding the Iranian nuclear program.

Now, Germany ain't the United States, and it certainly doesn't have the same bad history with Iran. Merkel has far more latitude to express outrage and to propose responses. Obama is probably still getting the balance right. Sometimes it just doesn't look pretty.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

"When I look back on the Bush years, I think of the lies. There were so many. Lies about the war and lies to cover up the lies about the war. Lies about torture and surveillance. Lies about Valerie Plame. Vice President Dick Cheney's lies, criminally prosecutable but for his chief of staff Scooter Libby's lies. I also think about the extraordinary and fundamentally cancerous expansion of executive power that led to violations of our laws and our principles."

—Dan Froomkin, in his final column for the Washington Post.

Sure, Michael Jackson's brilliance changed music, as everyone who's ever moonwalked, breakdanced, or lugged a boom box to school to play "Thriller" during recess knows. But now the recently departed King of Pop is also changing the weekend news arc. Will this be the last we hear of Iran from the MSM?

Our Friday faves:

1) Guess Who's Selling Wall Street's Bull?

Hint: He was a Bush aide who cooked up a phony pitch for the Iraq War. Read more.

 

2) The Biofuel Boondoogle

Midwestern Congressman Collin Peterson introduces the week's worst amendment to the Waxman-Markey climate bill. Read more.

 

3) BK's New BJ Ad, Now With More Ick Factor

Have you seen the burger-as-blow-job Burger King ad just that burst onto the scene? Here it is.

Sure, Michael Jackson's brilliance changed music, as everyone who's ever moonwalked, breakdanced, or lugged a boom box to school to play "Thriller" during recess knows. But now the recently departed King of Pop is also changing the weekend news arc. Will this be the last we hear of Iran from the MSM?

Our Friday faves:

1) Guess Who's Selling Wall Street's Bull?

Hint: He was a Bush aide who cooked up a phony pitch for the Iraq War. Read more.

 

2) The Biofuel Boondoogle

Midwestern Congressman Collin Peterson introduces the week's worst amendment to the Waxman-Markey climate bill. Read more.

 

3) BK's New BJ Ad, Now With More Ick Factor

Have you seen the burger-as-blow-job Burger King ad just that burst onto the scene? Here it is.

Hypocrite of the Day

Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami, sermonizing at Friday prayers in Tehran:

"I ask the judiciary to behave harshly and cruelly with the leaders of the protests, as they are fed by the U.S. and Israel, so that it will teach a lesson to others."

[...]

Khatami said [Mir-Hossein Mousavi's] calls to annul the vote are "words of force."

 

Retired Staff Sgt. Bradley K. Gruetzner explains his prosthetic arm to servicemembers at Al Faw Palace, Camp Victory, Iraq, June 21. Greutzner, along with five other soldiers, have returned to Iraq to visit forward operating bases to witness the changes that have taken since their injuries. They are part of a pilot program, "Operation Proper Exit." Greutzner was injured May 26, 2007, by an improvised explosive device while traveling in a convoy 15 miles north of Baghdad. (Photo courtesy army.mil).

As noted earlier, I am filling in for Kevin for a few days. He'll be back on Tuesday.

As the House gets closer today to a vote on the cap and trade climate change bill—or as President Barack Obama calls it, the energy jobs bill—Republican opponents of the legislation are finding cover from what is for them an unlikely source: Greenpeace. This morning, the office of House minority whip Eric Cantor sent to reporters an email containing a press release from Greenpeace that urges a vote against the measure:

Since the Waxman-Markey bill left the Energy and Commerce committee, yet another fleet of industry lobbysists has weakened the bill even more, and further widened the gap between what Waxman-Markey does and what science demands. As a result, Greenpeace opposes this bill in its current form. We are calling upon Congress to vote against this bill unless substantial measures are taken to strengthen it. Despite President Obama’s assurance that he would enact strong, science-based legislation, we are now watching him put his full support behind a bill that chooses politics over science, elevates industry interests over national interest, and shows the significant limitations of what this Congress believes is possible.

As it comes to the floor, the Waxman-Markey bill sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets. The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions. To support such a bill is to abandon the real leadership that is called for at this pivotal moment in history.  We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.

Of this, a spinner for Cantor says: "Didn’t see this one coming… Greenpeace urges Congress to vote against Waxman-Markey.  Who is it that actually likes this bill?"

Of course, Cantor and other Republican foes of the legislation do not share any of Greenpeace's arguments. They're not upset about industry lobbyists weakening the measure. They're not offended by the give-aways to polluters. They're not worried that the bill doesn't reduce emissions to the levels called for by scientists. Nor are they aware that there has long been a debate within the enviro community about the merits of this bill and the entire cap and trade approach. They just see a cheap and easy talking point, and even though House Dems are unlikely to bring the bill to a vote if they don't have a majority, the GOPers smell blood.

******

I don't have much to say about Michael Jackson's death. As I Twittered yesterday, I recall an 1980s parody of The New York Post that had a front page that went something like this: "NUCLEAR WAR. Millions Dead. Including Michael Jackson." The media obsession with Michael Jackson that the parodists were poking at back then has been much evident in the past 24 hours. Cable dumped all news of Iran, the cap and trade bill, Farrah Fawcett, Iraq, and everything else. This morning, cable news networks did cut to the proceedings of the House of Representatives: to show Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. calling for a moment of silence for Jackson. One person, no doubt, didn't object to the uber-coverage: Governor Mark Sanford.

Which reminds me. Before MJ's demise, I heard a cable news anchor describe the Sanford story as a "sex scandal." I beg to differ. Read his emails. It's a "love scandal."

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

That was the question discussed by three Iraq experts on a press call Friday morning hosted by the National Security Network. In compliance with the Status of Forces Agreement struck with the Iraqi government in November 2008, US troops will complete their withdrawal from Iraq's cities by Tuesday, thus (hopefully?) ending an era of US involvement in the country--and, of course, inaugurating a new one. Come next week, Iraqi soldiers and police will take over all active patrols in the country's major urban centers. They've been training for the job for years. And though we all remember reports from a few years ago of Iraqi units that were nothing more than paper phantoms, by all accounts the security forces have more recently made great strides.

But while Iraqi units have been trained and equipped, one of the more pressing questions is whether they have the logistical capacity to maintain operations without extensive US assistance. "Everybody claims to be a tactician, [but] professionals are logisticians," says Paul Eaton, a former Army major general who led the training of Iraqi forces after the 2003 invasion. "When American soldiers pull out of the urban concentrations, will there be a logistical tail to support the Iraqi soldiers, so [they] will have faith in the chain of command that they're gonna be resupplied and, if wounded or hurt, that they'll be evacuated? That 'if' I cannot answer. We will see it develop." 

Happy Friday. Before the weekend gets rolling, here are the environment, health, and energy-related stories from our other blogs.

Like a Dog who Speaks Norwegian: Sanford is a rare, rare creature: an introverted politician.

Have it Your Way: Burger King equates a big sandwich with something else... big.

The C Word: Obama talks about cap and trade bill without using the phrase "climate change."

And Now He's Dead: King of Pop dies not of mysterious ailment, but likely of a very ordinary heart attack. News arc swings wildly in response. At least for a day or two.