Notes jan 11 2008

January 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

data Informed Comment

The Bush administration’s assertion that 5 small Iranian boats confronted big, well-armed US ships in the Straits of Hormuz and threatened to blow up the American vessels is looking more and more like a serious error if not a Republican Party fabrication.
The Iranians analyzed the Pentagon video released to the US media and found that the audio track was not synchronized properly with the video, pointing to serious tinkering.
And sure enough, we now know that the tape is a fabrication in the sense that the Pentagon says the video and the audio were recorded separately and then combined. And they can’t even be sure where the audio came from! The NYT reports,

‘ The audio includes a statement that says, “I am coming to you,” and adds, “You will explode after a few minutes.” The voice was recorded from the internationally recognized channel for ship-to-ship communications, Navy officials have said. Naval and Pentagon officials have said that the video and audio were recorded separately, then combined. On Wednesday, Pentagon officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak officially, said they were still trying to determine if the transmission came from the speedboats or elsewhere.”

Wouldn’t it have been better to determine if the transmission came from the Iranian speedboats before super-imposing it on the videotape of the Iranian boats and then issuing it in such a way as to possibly foment a war?
A posting to the NYT “the Lede” blog page observed that the frequency used for ship communications in the Gulf is very busy and has lots of extraneous traffic, including the hurling of racial epithets against Filipinos etc. The experienced former naval officer said, “My first thought was that the ‘explode’ comment might not have come from one of the Iranian craft, but some loser monitoring the events at a shore facility.”
This episode is just about the most pitiful thing I have seen since Bush came to power, and believe me I’ve seen plenty.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards issued their own video and audio of the encounter, which shows a routine identity check (see below).
Hamshahri reports in Persian that Sayyid Mahmoud Jazayeri said that questioning passing ships is a completely routine activity for the Iranian speedboats. Jazayeri accused Washington of attempting to paper over its serious defeats in the Middle East with this gimmick.
The USG Open Source Center translates some of the transcript below.

“Iran TV Says BBC, CNN Complicit in ‘Falsity’ of US Footage
Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
The navy of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps aired a clip of the Hormuz Strait incident, which proves the falsity of the claims by American officials. In pictures aired today, the Iranian vessel only asks a few questions from the American one. The American vessel responds to the questions by Iran and this is a routine matter in the activities of the patrol units in maritime territory.
(Iranian patrol in English) Coalition warship seven, three. This is Iranian navy patrol boat Tatone – 16. Navy warship, navy warship seven, three. This is Iranian navy patrol boat Tatone – 16. Come in, over.
(US navy officer over radio, in English) This is Coalition Warship seven three. Roger, over.
(IRGC officer, English) Coalition warship seven three. This is Iranian navy patrol boat Tantoma – 16. Over.
(Passage indistinct)
(Presenter) CNN had aired a clip in which the Iranians had surrounded the American vessel threatening that in a few minutes time you will explode. The CNN and BBC networks aired Iranian footage today but without the sound.
The Iranian deputy admiral of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said that the claims of the American officials on threats against the American warships are totally false, because in the main reel the military number of the Iranian person (on his uniform) speaking is shown quite clearly.
Admiral Fadavi added that the conversation between Iranian vessels and other passing vessels is perfectly normal, which happens over and over again.
(Iranian TV aired parts of the video with Farsi caption on English conversations)
(Description of Source: Tehran Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 in Persian — state-run television). ”

The Iranian press is suspicious about the timing of the Pentagon videotape, noting that it was released just as Bush was heading to the Middle East to try to convince the Arab allies of the US to make common cause with Israel against Iran. The Gulf monarchies in particular are very afraid of the Iranian navy, and the Bush administration video would have been useful for pushing the Kuwaitis, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia into agreeing with the Bush grand strategy of surrounding Iran and then cutting it off.

The whole episode is unraveling so fast, it suggests that it arose rather chaotically rather than as a strategy.

Bad math

Financial Times – The US is at risk of losing its top-notch triple-A credit rating within a decade unless it takes radical action to curb soaring healthcare and social security spending, Moody’s, the credit rating agency, said on Thursday.

The warning over the future of the triple-A rating – granted to US government debt since it was first assessed in 1917 – reflects growing concerns over the country’s ability to retain its financial and economic supremacy.

The problem is, it is the government that is broke, and borrowed from Social security. To blame social security is a move by the financial types to try to cut costs rather than support quality of life for all.

tax custs? Permalink from Kein Drumm

MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL, WHO’S THE BIGGEST PANDERER OF ALL?….Mike Huckabee currently has the loopiest tax proposal on the table, a 30% national sales tax that he supports because he read a book about it once and thought it sounded kinda neat. It’s unworkable, hugely regressive, wouldn’t raise half the money Huckabee thinks it would, and would create an underground economy so massive it would make the old Soviet Union look efficient.

But it would cut taxes on the rich, which means it’s perfect for the modern Republican Party. So how do you top it? Rudy Giuliani, never a man to let himself be upstaged in a panderfest, provided his answer yesterday (numbers added to original Reuters dispatch for easy reference):

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has proposed what he called a multitrillion-dollar tax cut that would (1) lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent….(2) reduce the capital gains tax from 15 percent to 10 percent….(3) preserve the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush….(4) eliminate the estate tax….(5) give taxpayers the option of choosing a simplified tax form with three tax brackets with a maximum bracket of 30 percent….(6) index the alternative minimum tax to inflation and eventually repeal it.

Take that, Huckabee! You say your plan is big? Well, according to an expert that Townhall blogger Matt Lewis talked to, “This plan would be huge.” How huge? “It would be 4% of GDP. By comparison, GWB tax cut was 1.3% of GDP. Reagan’s was 1.9% of GDP.”

and, yes.

By Dan Froomkin
froomkin@niemanwatchdog.org

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are falling all over each other arguing that they alone have the leadership ability to achieve change.

But reporters should be asking them a simple question: What kind of leadership are you showing right now? Why should we believe you have great leadership ability if you’re not showing any on critical issues currently facing Congress and the nation?

and The Associated Press Clinton Offers Economic Stimulus Plan

CITY OF COMMERCE, Calif. (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday called for Congress to pass an economic stimulus package that could cost as much as $110 billion to help low-income families keep their homes, to subsidize heating costs this winter and perhaps refund some taxes.

So we have a center of the economy Republicans and peripheralist Democrats. It is the right split and issue, but can it lead to any change?

On the real economy.Economics Roundtable

On January 11, 2001, a few days before GW Bush became president, the Dow closed at 10,609.55. According to the BLS’ inflation calculator, 10,609.55 in 2001 is worth 12,591.10 in 2007. (I know we’re not in 2007 any more, but they …

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