Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why They Hate Us

If you want a single, anecdotal story that is occurring daily in Iraq and clearly explains why they want us out more than anything else, give this a read.

I have a theory. Just like in America, a majority of the Iraqi's want the U.S. out of Iraq. So why hasn't the Iraqi government voted us out? As occurred in Vietnam, the current government has two motivations to keep the U.S. in Iraq. One is protection ... if the U.S. leaves the current leaders will be immediately "expendable" shall we say. But a second reason is money. As long as the U.S. is in Iraq, government officials can continue to siphon off all the money they'll ever need and salt it away. Then when the inevitable fall occurs, they'll be set for life outside of Iraq.

It's going to take a full scale violent overthrow of the Iraq government to change this dynamic, or a U.S. withdrawal. While the latter doesn't seem too imminent, the reappearance of Sadr along with the the key Iraqi government leaders being out of country this summer (including Talabani's famous visit to a U.S. fat farm to lose weight), you have to wonder about a coup. I hope al Maliki doesn' t forget his Swiss account number when he's running for that helicopter.


Weekend Reading

I've written here many times before about the illusion of the unemployment picture in the U.S. Economist and headline writers extol the low unemployment rate and economic boom we've been enduring (yes, enduring) since Bush took office.

In the New York Review of Books James Lardner has written a review of several books on the changing corporate culture towards employees over the past 20 or so years. These books document via general trend observation and anecdotal stories of the "downward mobility" of American workers. It's also noted that this movement downward is no longer limited to blue collar workers. In a key graf Lardner says:

From their different vantage points, Uchitelle, LeRoy, and Bogle are writing about the breakdown of what some have called the postwar social contract, and about the rise of a new "money power" more daunting, in some ways, than that of the late 1800s and early 1900s. To gain their political ends, the robber barons and monopolists of the Gilded Age were content with corrupting officials and buying elections. Their modern counterparts have taken things a big step further, erecting a loose network of think tanks, corporate spokespeople, and friendly press commentators to shape the way Americans think about the economy. Much as corporate marketing directs our aspirations disproportionately toward commercial goods and services, the new communications apparatus wants us to believe that our economic wellbeing depends almost entirely on the so-called free market—a euphemism for letting the private sector set its own rules. The success of this great effort can be measured in the remarkable fact that, despite the corporate scandals and the social damage that these authors explore; despite three decades of deregulation and privatization and tax-and-benefit-slashing with, as the clearest single result, the relentless rise of economic inequality to levels so extreme that since 2001 "the economy" has racked up five straight years of impressive growth without producing any measurable income gains for most Americans—even now, discussions of solutions or alternatives can be stopped almost dead in their tracks by mention of the word government.
This is the process that Thom Hartman of Air American credits with starting during the Reagan administration .... the dismantling of the middle class.

Ironically, these books all note the economic impact of a lost middle class. Sure, the rich get richer but the country doesn't.

It's a good read worth taking a few minutes to give yourself an inside view of the "jobs numbers" extolled by the media and conservatives. It's an amazing feat to cause this wholesale destruction of an blue collar economic base while retaining those same voters with red-herring issues such as immigration, prayer in the schools, Terry Schiavo, and gays.


Troop Reductions!

Yeah, right.

Well today we have another story out about how the Bush administration is planning on reducing the troop levels in Iraq next year. According to Glenn, this is at least the sixth such story since the start of the war.



Friday, May 25, 2007

I Like To Watch

Each Friday The NewsHour has the two pundits Mark Shields and David Brooks on for political analysis. I like to watch this segment because I think it's probably the most down-to-earth representation of conventional wisdom in Washington without a bunch of nutbars, screamers and cable teevee nonsense. Both Shields and Brooks are very mainstream, thoughtful, and can articulate the dissenting positions of the Washington left and right quite well.

Tonight I noted that, in discussing the war resolution, it was the impression of both that there is not a willingness by voters to "end the war". Thus Shields, the liberal, reflected the this-was-probably-the-best-they-could-get CW.


I'm not sure what poll they were referring to but all the polls I've seen reflect a voting public that wants the war to end. Not end precipitiously. I've not seen anyone suggests that the army just pack up tomorrow and withdraw. But rather for the start of the end to begin. And that's exactly what the Democrats sent to Bush and he vetoed it. It's a total red herring to argue that no one supports "immediate withdrawal". It's a gross rationalization and an incorrect assessment of what anti-war Dems have been trying to do.

The inside-the-beltway punditry have very thick heads. Much like cows. And it's going to obviously take much much more unrest, death, expense and loss in the international arena before these people get "it".

Update: Apparently I'm not the only one to notice this.


Sadr 2.0

There's a whole lot of buzz about Moqtada al Sadr's return (if he ever left) to Iraq. He seems to be rolling out a new P.R. campaign in southern Iraq stressing the need to get the U.S. out, including a willingness to team up with Sunnis.

His calls for withdrawal are not unique. What is interesting is the timing of his new P.R. initiative. With the Iraqi government looking increasingly impotent and with pressure in the U.S. for withdrawal, it cannot be an accident that Sadr has reemerged with such vigor.


A Brand New Medication!!!!


Quote of the Day

There were a few of us after the midterms working hard to define Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel and the compromised Dems to keep them from expanding their power by claiming credit for the midterm results, which we believe happened more in spite of, rather than because of, their efforts.

We took a lot of crap for that.

A. Lot. Of. Crap.

Many people felt we were criticizing Dems gratuitously and foolishly when we should have been celebrating the victories. People were tired, worn out. They wanted a rest, an end to the intraparty fighting. Heck, we were all tired, though there were some among us who felt the post election narrative was as important a fight as the election fight. Others said, no, it's time to start governing, rewarding good behavior, giving the benefit of the doubt. There were long, passionate discussions, online and off. Nerves frayed, and then some.

Okay, it's all water under the bridge. I'm not here to say, "We told you so." I'm here to make a different point.

Here's my point: let's not oversell our victories, and let's not underestimate the strength and nature of the forces against us, even in the Democratic Party. Moreover, let's not ever convince ourselves we can take a rest, or that criticizing Democrats is inherently a problem. It's all situational, case by case, earned or unearned.
Pachacutec of FireDogLake.

The fight is for liberal ideals, not for the Democratic/Green or any other parties.


Support The Troops

Spencer Akerman, who just returned from an embed in Iraq, has a nice article on troop morale in Iraq. In essence he has found that the soldiers want to continue the fight and that they think we are winning. Akerman then cites a number of the improvements that some of the troops are anecdotally experiencing.

I don't find the improvements particularly surprising. The insurgents are, as predicted, changing tactics and attacking outside Baghdad whereas these troops were mostly part of the escalating troops in Baghdad. Plus, Iraq is a bad enough place to be stuck in. To think you're there for nothing would make it unbearable.

Akerman's point regarding the troops and the politics is this:

The uncomfortable reality is this: nothing in Iraq worth fighting for remains achievable, and nothing achievable in Iraq remains worth fighting for. Democrats have made the decision—rightly, I think—that withdrawing from Iraq is the least bad of many bad options. But they shouldn’t kid themselves into thinking that a majority of the troops doing the fighting agree with them. For soldiers like Lieutenant Wellman, this will be hard to accept. As he told me of war doubters back home, “I don’t want them to just support the troops. I want them to support the mission.” This matters, because pretending that in ending the war they’re doing the troops a favor hurts Democrats politically. They risk looking condescending, and, worse, oblivious—which has the broader effect of undermining public trust in the Democrats to handle national security. More basically, it does a disservice to those who serve. For soldiers who are optimistic, being told that the war can’t be won is bad enough. But to be told that politicians are doing them a favor by extricating them from a mission they believe in is downright insulting.

Democrats would do much better to speak honestly: to acknowledge that many fighting men and women want to stay in the battle and would be willing to do so for years longer. There’s nothing wrong with saying that, nor in emphasizing that this is part of what makes us so proud of our military. We wouldn’t want soldiers who were unwilling to fight to the bitter end. Elected officials, however, have to judge what they believe to be in the national interest, and that means calling an end to the occupation of Iraq. Soldiers like Wellman won’t agree, but if Democrats can at least signal that they acknowledge and respect his point of view, they’ll have a better chance at getting Wellman to respect their own. And meeting partway is a lot better than not meeting at all.
Yep. Soldiers are tacticians, not policy makers. We always want soldiers to support the mission ... that's there job. It's our civilian leadership's job to determine the mission and it's importance.

But I do think Akerman misses an important point. Voters don't fully grasp this concept which is why Democrats have chosen the optics of supporting the troops through withdrawal. The message is directed to voters, not to soldiers. So it may not be popular with the military, but it may be necessary in the policy discussion until and unless someone can figure out how to frame it differently.


Give It Up 4 George

The caption could read "My husband gave his life for oil profits and all I got was this lousy flag."


Exit Strategy

From yesterday's news conference, a question from the great Martha Raddatz of ABC News:

"Q Thank you, Mr. President. You say you want nothing short of victory, that leaving Iraq would be catastrophic; you once again mentioned al Qaeda. Does that mean that you are willing to leave American troops there, no matter what the Iraqi government does? I know this is a question we've asked before, but you can begin it with a 'yes' or 'no.'

"THE PRESIDENT: We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It's their government's choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.
Mitch McConnel said the same thing. It's reported that the Iraq parliament has a majority of votes to vote the U.S. out.

What's the holdup?


Revelation Fatigue

I'm reading Froomkin today and the headline is about an impending intelligence report release that shows that Bush was warned, pre-invasion, that a post invasion Iraq would be a mess.


These revelations are coming fast and furious. It seems that on any given day there's yet more impeachable information coming out. Instead of a bombshell it seems the impact is a yawn. We've had so many over so long that I believe we are all ........


Housing News

Yesterday the news was trumpeting the "bounce" in new home sales. Record levels they said over and over again. Kinda makes you think the housing slump is over eh? As usual, never believe the headlines. Here's the whole story:

In spite of a record decline in median sales price and a 14 year high in new home sales, actual inventory of homes dropped a mere 8,000 units from 540,000 to 532,000 units.
So, indeed, sales were strong (although I read elsewhere that the sales number is notorious volatile and subject to huge revisions) but look at those prices. And inventory? Still huge.

Meanwhile, from the same post linked above is the news that in Sacramento CA a house that was selling for $526,000 got no bids yesterday at half price.


Gasoline Imports

Via The Big Picture we have this interesting chart:

And why is this interesting?

Not only are we increasing imports of oil but we're also increasing the imports of refined products like gasoline.



The Transcript

I've been able to acquire a translated version of the President discussing the war in Iraq from yesterday, special to readers of Tangled Webs:

blah blah blah al Qaeda blah blah blah blah al Qaeda blah al Qaeda blah blah al Qaeda blah blah blah.
I wish any of the nutbars who still support this idiot had a real idea of just how contemptuous he is of them and their intelligence. Then again, anyone who still supports him probably deserves the contempt.


The Vote

A lousy 14 Senators voted against the war funding bill. Just 14.

If you want to know who they are, go here. Clinton and Obama both voted against it (smart moves). There were two real surprises to me who also voted nay. One is Tom Coburn, the nutbar conservative from Oklahoma and the other is Mike Enzi, Republican of Wyoming. There are several Republicans who are listed as "Not voting", having likely taken a convenient powder that day. Chuck Schumer also was a not-voting ... convenient.

Six more soldiers were killed today. Looks like it's going to be a long hot summer in Iraq. Bush yesterday predicted a bloody summer given the insurgents know about the "September" conventional wisdom (isn't that essentially a timeline then?). How in the world will we know if "progress" is being made if Bush continually puts up the insurgent surge strawman everytime we talk about leaving?

It's nuts. My heart goes out to the soldiers and their families who are stuck in the unending violence and mayhem who in their heart of hearts have to know that it's all for nothing.



An interesting site that a coworker brought to my attention is brings together campaign contributions and how legislators vote, providing an unprecedented window into the connections between money and politics. We currently cover the California Legislature and U.S. Congress.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Up From The Memory Hole

From a transcript on May 27th, 1964:

[President] Johnson: And we just got to think about it. I'm looking at this Sergeant of mine this morning and he's got 6 little old kids over there, and he's getting out my things, and bringing me in my night reading, and all that kind of stuff, and I just thought about ordering all those kids in there. And what in the hell am I ordering them out there for? What in the hell is Vietnam worth to me? What is Laos worth to me? What is it worth to this country? We've got a treaty but hell, everybody else has got a treaty out there, and they're not doing a thing about it.

Bundy: Yeah, yeah.

Johnson: Of course, if you start running from the Communists, they may just chase you right into your own kitchen.

Bundy: Yeah, that's the trouble. And that is what the rest of that half of the world is going to think if this thing comes apart on us. That's the dilemma, that's exactly the dilemma.


By The Numbers

The War:

THE WAR....Latest poll results on the Iraq war:

76% believe the war is going badly.

63% support a timetable for withdrawal in 2008.

76% think the surge is either making things worse or having no impact.

Only 15% support open-ended funding. The rest either want to cut off funds completely or make them conditional on benchmarks.

Large pluralities trust Dems more on foreign policy (51%-31%) and on making decisions about the war (51%-33%).


Here's An Idea

One of the most prescient posts I've seen on how to actually end the war:

Dem apologists are quick to blame the 'lack of votes' for passing a serious anti-war bill. What they really lack is a leader like Willie Brown - somebody who knows that the legislative process is only about money, and who has the balls and ability to wield the budgetary process to enforce party loyalty and crush the opposition.

I suggested such a starve the cronies strategy in January. Here is what the Dems need to do:

*Throw out all the existing big contractors (i.e. K&R, Halliburton, Bechtel) currently sucking down our bucks. Leave no crony on the payroll. Destroy the main Shrubya victory condition by robbing him of the booty.

*Review all the defense appropriations. Figure out which Repugs and wavering Dems are vulnerable. Take the bastards into a closed room and threaten to pull every dollar spent in their patch - cancel every weapons program, close every base, hell even close their fucking Confederate Historic Parks (One every two acres in the South) and throw the bubbas out of work, if they don't go along. This will help get those 'missing' votes. There need to be consequences for non-cooperation.

*Tie any war funding to Shrubya tax cut repeals. If the Repugs vote for it, they'll be voting in new taxes. Not good for their next election. Box them in and do some good at the same time.

If they were serious about stopping the war, they'd do it. There are still too many craven or compromised Dems on the Hill and I'm afraid Nancy + Harry not = Willie Brown.



Digby is talking about this war funding bill as a repeat of the authorization to attack Iraq. If Dems vote for the funding, they'll be like John Kerry having to defend the vote in 2004 over and over again.

So far, I haven't heard how Hillary, Obama or Richardson are voting. Have you? Biden says he'll vote for it while Dodd won't. Edwards said today he wouldn't vote for it if he was still in the Senate.

I also agree with Digby and Joan Walsh that Dems should stop trying to spin this as a victory. It ain't workin' and makes them look calculating and stupid.


I Hear The Friedman Unit Generator

Glenn Greenwald has a must read post up about the wanker that is Joe Klein. Really, is there any other "liberal" pundit who is more wrong? I won't recount the info about what an idiot Klein is, you can read it yourself.

Beyond Klein, Glenn explains to us again what we all know:

But all that is going to happen In September is that we are going to await with bated breath for General David Petraeus -- he of infallible wisdom, judgment and honesty, and unquestionable objectivity -- to descend upon Washington and reveal whether there is Real Progress being made (by him) in Iraq. We are all going to leave partisanship and politics to the side and turn to the source who resides above all of that, the one who can be counted on to speak the Real Truth -- General David Petraeus.

And, needless to say, General Petraeus will, cautiously though emphatically, declare that progress is being made, though there is much work that remains to be done. And therefore we must redouble our resolve and stay until The Job is Done.

Do Generals ever say that they are failing in their mission and that their wars have become hopeless? Petraeus himself has repeatedly said that his Surge Strategy will require far more than a few months to succeed. By its very terms, it cannot have failed by September. He has already come to Washington and declared improvements, and his senior military officials are sending their pets, such as Joe Klein, to Time with exciting new reports about Al-Qeada being on the run. That is but a preview of the dramatic and electrifying film to be released in September.
Exactly. Bush has co-opted Petraeus like he does everyone. Anyone with a shred of credibility and respect who then joins the administration is used like kleenex and then thrown out. Petraeus hasn't learned anything from Powell, Tenet, or any number of other former administration officials who once had respect. He's swallowed the kool-aid and will use his remaining credibility to keep the war going until Bush is no longer on the hot seat.

In September when Petraeus does the Bush waltz, Republicans will then support the Preznit and Democractic "moderates" will wet their pants at the idea of standing up to Bush. In the previous sentence, I almost wrote Democratic radicals but of course that would be totally wrong as those advocating the end of the war are in the mainstream. The radicals are the head-in-the-sand (literally) might-makes-right idiots in Washington.

I've always suspected that this war is going to be the mess that the next President cleans up. And of course that would be a perfect strategy to save Republicans as then it's a Democratic war and the liberals cut n' run, all reinforcing the meme's the GOP has carefully cultivated for years. And all that particular marketing campaign will cost is 2000 more soldiers lives, untold civilian lives and several hundred billion more dollars.

I'm not hopeless but I am pessimistic. But I personally intend to continue to do anything I can to pressure all politicians to end this stupid freakin' war.


Dumboating Iran

We're rattling the sabres again today in the Persian Gulf. Full metal jacket "unplanned" military exercises are going on including air operation. I was struck this morning by the thought that this weekend would be a good time for a strike against Iran. Iran is likely hoping so as any attacks from the west will virtually cement the Iranian fundamentalist leadership in a strong position of domestic and international influence. If not an attack, then continuing these exercises is Dumboat diplomacy (shamelessly stolen from William Arkin).

I cannot believe that our leadership is so stupid as to assume that a show of military force is going to do anything other than strengthen the Iranian regime. The Iranians know they won't win a battle mano a mano, so the view of any American war ships is simply an excuse for a nice day on the beach. No, any war with Iran will look much more like Iraq today than WWII and they know it. Yet the Bushies continue to act as if we live in 1910 when everyone played nicey nicey with the rules of war. Frankly I'm surprised Bush hasn't ordered the navy painted white so it could be called "The Great White Fleet".

I know I shouldn't be, but I am continually dumbfounded at how little Republicans really understand about human nature and international relations.



With the country supporting withdrawal from Iraq by a two-thirds margin, I fail to understand this:

"Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break -- the second recess since the financing fight began -- and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush."

Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey write for Newsweek: "It may be temporary, and it may have little impact on the ground. But there's an I-told-you-so attitude in the West Wing--a rare feel-good moment in a second term beset by a succession of crises.

"The cause for the small up tick in mood? Watching the Democrats cave on legislation demanding a timetable for withdrawal in return for increased funding for the war in Iraq."
Nothing new here, but it continues to astound me.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On The Other Hand

I'm not sure I agree with this, but it's the only decent argument I've seen in support of a war funding bill:

The one thing that gives me pause: Maybe I am, as they used to say, Blinded by Bush Hatred, but for what it's worth: I do not put it past Bush to respond to any actual cutting off of funds by leaving the troops high and dry in some utterly avoidable way and blaming it on Congress. I don't even put it past him to respond in this way to some sort of waivable deadline such that if he doesn't do something or other (e.g., certify progress of some sort), funds will be cut off. Nothing in Bush's record suggests to me that he would be above, say, letting the troops run out of money, or bullets, or gasoline to make a political point. If I were in Congress, I would rather give Bush the money than risk that. It's succumbing to blackmail, but there are worse things to do.
That was a commentor on Anonymous Liberals site. The entire post is a good read and the best argument for supporting the war funding bill. And I wouldn't put it past Bush to do such a stunt either, using American soldiers lives for political gain (hasn't he been doing that for years already?). I just don't think we're at that point yet. Pentagon leaders would not let that happen and would scream bloody murder if that was policy. In the meantime, it has already been demonstrated that money is available through September. In either case, the post concludes with the same point that is clear. The Republicans in Congress hold the cards. I'm just sorry the Dems are playing their cards in such a way that give them the possibility for a PR victory in the end.


Every Single One

Every single Congressmember or Senator needs to be aware of this:

Sadly, it's official: With eight days still to go, May 2007 caps the deadliest six-month period for America of the entire Iraq war -- 540 dead, and counting. . . . if the pace continues at the present rate, April and May will also become the first back-to-back triple-digit fatality months.
At this rate, there will easily be 2000 more America soldiers killed in Iraq before we get rid of Bush. A vote to continue this war is a vote to take responsibility for these deaths. Those who vote for it need to be noted, carefully, and reminded in 2008.


Turn Up The Heat

Ok team, it's time to turn up the heat:

Go Chris Dodd. What say you Obama, Hillary, Edwards et al?

You can contact your Senator here.


Wait Wait Wait Just a Minute

Am I nuts, or did Bush really say this today:

"Our intelligence community reports that a senior al-Qaida leader, Abu Faraj al-Libi, went further and suggested that bin Laden actually send Rabia, himself, to Iraq to help plan external operations," Bush said. "Abu Faraj later speculated that if this effort proved successful, al-Qaida might one day prepare the majority of its external operations from Iraq."
Where to start.

First, Richard Clark was on the radio today saying that of the total insurgency in Iraq, probably 500 or so are actually al Qaeda vs. the tens or hundreds of thousands of insurgents. I have also read of several insurgent leaders who have openly said that if the U.S. gets out of the way, they'd take care of al Qaeda. None of the insurgent groups likes al Qaeda. The Sunni's only put up with them to the degree that they help them fight Shiites and the U.S. But let's set that aside a moment .... afterall we're used to Bush lying any time his lips are moving.

Didn't Iraq war opponents say since day one that Iraq would become a terrorism problem if we attacked? Iraq was not a terrorism problem before the invasion and now it is? If you had suggested what Bush said today in a GOP forum back before the war you would have been shouted down. Today the Preznit says it in a speech, confirming his strongest opponents criticisms?

It's really phenomenal to watch the most public sociopath ever to lie as easily as he breathes. It's astounding to watch those who still support him and their naivete/stupidity. During a time of "up is downism", this one bears special notice.



While traveling the news was spinning that Monica didn't really have much to say. Give this a listen and tell me what you think:

The bigger question is where in the world do Republicans get all these young, buxom blondes? No, seriously, that larger question is when do we move beyond revelations (we have plenty) to some kind of accountability?




As for what the Democrats should do, they should vote against the supplemental. Right now they've established the worst of all worlds: they appear to have lost; they've done nothing to halt the war; they've put up a bogus bill which if they support will allow conservative Republicans to continue to screech while letting Republicans in swing districts vote for it and claim they've done something to tie the president's hands. If this is the bill, let it be a Republican bill.
And Digby:
I hope all these "moderates" of both parties think very, very hard before they seize the opportunity to vote for this deal because they think it will inflate their codpiece or prove their macho bonafides. This president is getting more unpopular by the minute. We are experiencing more American deaths in Iraq this month than at any time since the invasion. The Republican leadership brags publicly that torture is justified at the same time that our soldiers are being kidnapped. The entire middle east is unstable and getting worse all the time. These people need to search their consciences --- and properly analyze the political situation.

This isn't going to get any better for these people politically. They may think they'll benefit from sticking with the president's insane escalation, but they.are.wrong. This occupation (and presidency)is falling apart and the rapidly dwindling minority of Americans who support it will not reward "moderates" who failed to take a stand on such an important issue. In or out, that's all there is.

Search your souls, people, but don't think you are making a good political calculation by supporting this war.


This one's easy for the Presidential candidates, if not the pants-wetting Red State moderates. This occupation is the most important issue to Democratic voters and things aren't going to suddenly "turn around" before the election. It's a disaster that will only get worse. I don't know what it's going to take to get the Democratic leadership to internalize that basic fact. On both a moral and practical basis, voting to continue this war on Bush's terms is just plain wrong. No Democrat who backs Bush will get the presidential nomination and a good many Representatives and Senators who do may find themselves in an unwelcome primary fight. I hope they all make very sure they really want to throw in their lot with the Republicans to protect their right flank. They probably ought to start thinking about covering their left.
It certainly looks about this simple to me.


The Party's Over

This is the end of the great democracy experiment. Note the date on the White House press release is May 9, 2007.
National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive

Tell me they aren't setting up for a dictatorship. Matthew Rothschild at The Progressive Magazine has an informative article about it.

With scarcely a mention in the mainstream media, President Bush has ordered up a plan for responding to a catastrophic attack.

In a new National Security Presidential Directive, Bush lays out his plans for dealing with a “catastrophic emergency.”

Under that plan, he entrusts himself with leading the entire federal government, not just the Executive Branch. And he gives himself the responsibility “for ensuring constitutional government.”

He laid this all out in a document entitled "National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51" and "Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20."

The White House released it on May 9.

I feel like a German citizen in 1937. I really wish I had the resources to move my family to another country.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Asshole Update

Boltin' Joe isn't getting many headlines these days while his signature program, the war in Iraq, continues to go down the toilet. So what's he do? Threatens (yet again) to leave the Democratic party.

As I've said many times before. Please Joe, go ..... now.


Christian of Him

Did you hear about the Liberty University student (Falwell's nutbar U) who had a bunch of bombs ready to use against any protestors who might happen to be at Falwell's funeral? That's a very turn-the-other-cheek sort of Christian thing to do.

I wonder if he'll be tried as a terrorist and sent to Guantanamo?


Dreaming .... ?

Here's an interesting thought. Suppose Congress is unable to pass the proposed Iraq funding bill that has been negotiated with the Preznit? Pelosi is saying she won't vote for it without timelines. I think it's a long shot, but wouldn't it be interesting?


A Message For Congress

Dear Congress:

"More voters say the situation in Iraq will be extremely important in deciding their 2008 vote for president than any other issue, including terrorism, health care and the economy, according to the latest Fox News poll. In addition, more people cite disagreement on Iraq as a deal-breaker in their vote than the issues of abortion and gun control."

President Bush's approval rating is 34%, with 56% of voters disapproving.


Meanwhile .....

As everyone predicted, the surge is an escalation. It's also an escalation without end:

This “second surge” of troops in Iraq, which is being executed by extending tours for brigades already there and by deploying more units, could boost the number of combat troops to as many as 98,000 (from 52,500) by the end of this year. When support troops are included, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 — the most ever — by the end of the year.
That son-of-a-bitch in the Oval office lies as well as he talks.


Faiti Accompli

Well, we knew it was coming. Doesn't mean I like it. I understand it, but it doesn't make me happy:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
President George W. Bush won a battle over funding the
Iraq war as congressional Democrats on Tuesday abandoned troop withdrawal efforts for now but pledged to fight with new legislation in July.

Senior congressional aides said a $100 billion war funding bill the U.S. Congress is trying to finish this week will not contain timetables for withdrawing most of the 147,000 U.S. troops from Iraq, as anti-war Democrats had hoped.
Toilet water. That's what it sucks.

If that doesn't get you, how about this. The new plan in Iraq being brewed up by the wingnut administration is to ..... wait for it ...... abandon attempts at reconciliation and to train Iraqi troops!
President Bush and his senior military and foreign policy advisers are beginning to discuss a "post-surge" strategy for Iraq that they hope could gain bipartisan political support. The new policy would focus on training and advising Iraqi troops rather than the broader goal of achieving a political reconciliation in Iraq, which senior officials recognize may be unachievable within the time available.

The revamped policy, as outlined by senior administration officials, would be premised on the idea that, as the current surge of U.S. troops succeeds in reducing sectarian violence, America's role will be increasingly to help prepare the Iraqi military to take greater responsibility for securing the country.
Now I know that it's Bush's mission in life to personally drive me insane. And so far, he's done a fairly good job. But how can Iraq be solved without reconciliation, and haven't we been training Iraqi troops for, like, eons? From the time capsule:
AMMAN, Jordan - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Thursday that his country's forces would be able to assume security command by June 2007 — which could allow the United States to start withdrawing its troops.

"I cannot answer on behalf of the U.S. administration but I can tell you that from our side our forces will be ready by June 2007," Maliki told ABC television after meeting President Bush on Thursday in Jordan.

Maliki was replying to a question about whether U.S. troops could start withdrawing at that time.
This is like existing in some kind of Salvador Dali painting! My head is going to explode! This policy is the equivalent of taking a difficult child, giving up on him/her, and simply using (or trying to use) force to keep the kid in the basement.

I'm not even going to get into the details how just how stupid this is. It's so obvious my 2 month old grandchild can figure it out.

This is not a good day.

This is the absolute first time in my life that I could understand there being a military coup. I totally understand a Seven Days In May scenario where the civilian systems are so fucked up that generals feel the need to take over.

Update: I hadn't thought about this, but Josh Marshall's site points out that even if (and it is a big if) Republicans bail on Bush in September, guess who'll get credit for moving Bush and ending the war? This is a big victory for Republican strategists and a huge reinforcement of Dems as wimps.

Update II: Needlenose, a very savy blogger btw, offers the most upbeat assessment of the situation in two posts, here and here. Maybe. Dems are really going to have to hustle in the media to sell this as progress and as holding Bush accountable. Let's see how muscular their response is in the next week or so.


Bilking the Elderly

with corporate assistance.

The thieves operated from small offices in Toronto and hangar-size rooms in India. Every night, working from lists of names and phone numbers, they called World War II veterans, retired schoolteachers and thousands of other elderly Americans and posed as government and insurance workers updating their files.
Then, the criminals emptied their victims’ bank accounts.

Richard Guthrie, a 92-year-old Army veteran, was one of those victims. He ended up on scam artists’ lists because his name, like millions of others, was sold by large companies to telemarketing criminals, who then turned to major banks to steal his life’s savings.

I really feel like we are in a battle between rich and poor. This is a deeply disturbing article and one more in a very long list of things I read that leave me feeling angry and powerless.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Speaking of Private Equity?

Here's a link to a definition that anyone can understand.


Out Of Country

Does this mean anything?

Despite its elected government, Iraq is actually run by a small handful of movers and shakers. These include the two Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. Then on the Shiite side you have al-Hakim and Da'wa Party leader Nuri al-Maliki. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Sunni Arab vice president Tariq al-Hashimi are on the margins of the top Shiite/Kurdish club.

So of the central club, al-Hakim is now absent. And, Jalal Talabani is flying to the US to spend three weeks, allegedly in a bid to lose weight. I'm tempted to speculate that something is in the works such that someone thinks it desirable that Talabani be out of country, since the idea that Mam Jalal suddenly decided he needed to go to a fat farm in Minnesota strikes me as far-fetched. But I will control myself; speculation in the absence of information is not very useful.
At the very least it means that nothing is going to get done. At worst, is something up?


Chinese Equity

The Chinese government is to use $3bn of its vast foreign exchange reserves to buy a 9.9 per cent stake in Blackstone, the US buy-out fund, in an unprecedented move that underlines Beijing's desire to tap into the private equity boom.
Does this mean that in the near future you can not only lose your job to the Chinese but also your home?


Let Down

The Americans who voted the Democrats into power have been let down. Instead of counting on the Democrats to deliver on their implicit promise to end the occupation, we continue to count the costs of not correcting Bush's calamitous course.

No shit.


Why We Hate Bush spells it out rather nicely.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Makes Me Sick

You want to read something that will make you sick (pun intended)? Check out this post by Digby chronicling the final 90 minutes of a woman's life. It begins:

In the emergency room at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, Edith Isabel Rodriguez was seen as a complainer.

"Thanks a lot, officers," an emergency room nurse told Los Angeles County police who brought in Rodriguez early May 9 after finding her in front of the Willowbrook hospital yelling for help. "This is her third time here."

The 43-year-old mother of three had been released from the emergency room hours earlier, her third visit in three days for abdominal pain. She'd been given prescription medication and a doctor's appointment.

Turning to Rodriguez, the nurse said, "You have already been seen, and there is nothing we can do," according to a report by the county office of public safety, which provides security at the hospital.
Things go way downhill from there. And this is apparently not the first incident of this type.

As Digby points out, "as California goes so goes the nation". This is what we're all in for without either wealth or luck.



As anyone who is a regular reader knows, I'm pessimistic about the long term American economy. It seems to me that the continued growth of credit and easy money cannot continue indefinitely and the longer it continues, the harder the fall.

Well, today on The Oil Drum they're having an interesting conversation on the subject. I found these comments to be particularly interesting and as representative of the two schools of thought that I've ever seen. Comment number one:

"I'm so tired of waiting for this impending implosion."

What a great sentence!

I don't know how long you've been waiting, but some of us have been waiting since the 1970's....gas lines, hyper inflation, double digit interest rates and unemployment...of course, the era of "growth" was over, the book "Limits Of Growth" was written then, so was Treasury Secretary William Simmons book "A Time For Truth" that said if the U.S. ever went more than 1 trillion in the red, that was pretty much the end of the nation....

Of course, many who kept waiting for the "impending implosion" missed out on the biggest personal wealth building era in world history. And I have to love those who say, "well it's all fiat money, not the REAL thing". These folks are living in giant homes (REAL), on dozens of acres of paid for land (REAL), with big luxury cars (REAL), and their kids are by now graduated from REAL colleges and making nice incomes....., they have spent their lives eating REAL food at nice restuarants, going to REAL vacation spots, wearing REAL clothes and jewelry.....what wasn't REAL about it?

Oh, fuel costs....I'll give an example...I know a guy who just bought a big sport ute (I tried to talk him into one of the Diesel Benzes, but he said, "I'm not listening to that racket...(referring not to me, but to the Diesel engine clatter! :-) When I pressed him on the issue of fuel costs, he said, "let it go up, I can pay for the gas out of my energy investment dividends alone...."

I recently heard one of the "coming doom" debunkers say he didn't have time for it, he was going to enjoy life....the person speaking to him said, "but just you wait", to which he replied, "NO, you wait, I'll live.."
Then there was this response:
You know, you don't have to wait any longer for the disaster, you are allready right in it. You have to grasp the larger picture. Your rich friend, he eats supermarket-food, so even when he choses only the alleged healthy stuff (fruits and vegetables), he gets a lot less for his health as twenty or thirty years ago, because it is all produced industrially and so the healthy things (vitamins etc...) in it are almost gone (REAL). [and are much more expensive]

He works in a hyper-clean office and therefore has all kinds of allergies (REAL).

To displace himself, he uses his nice climatised car instead of walking or cycling, he doesn't know the weather, he doesn't meet someone accidentally, he gets fat (REAL).

To not get fat, he works out in a fittnes-club and pays 50€ a month (REAL).

In fact, he lives a complete sterile life. He follows the fashion and the offers he sees in the advertisement at 20:00, just when he comes home, he eats what they tell him, he wears what they tell him, he looks how they tell him, his girlfriend also, his flat or house, his insurrances, his „friends“, his opinion about everything, even his freetime, where he is supposed to be free, is stuffed to fulfill the wishes of the system. He is a slave to this system, that he is so happy that it functions so great. This is all REAL.

Your friend doesn't live while you wait, he is desperate (REAL) while you live, because you know what is going on (you read the oildrum), you can decide, he doesn't have a choice, until he in turn begins to wait, as he calls it.
Both have very good points and yet are somewhat discussing apples and oranges. Each are measuring "success" and "happiness" in far different terms. Personally, I'm trying to make positive choices for myself that mirror the second perspective, particularly in terms of quality of life. Financially, I'm doing some investing consistent with the first commentor (I do own a home and have some stocks) but I'm also investing consistent with the second commentor (highly rated bonds, commodities, oil, gold, silver). I guess I could be considered a classic hedger. My intelligence tells me it can't go on forever, but my experience says it's been going on a loooong time. So I live, and invest, according to both.

Whether we have a major implosion or not, the thrust of the second commentor I think is worth considering. Maybe there won't be a major disaster, but rather a slow dripping away of civil liberties, value of money and things, quality of life, and the deteroriation of the U.S. as a leading economic power. I think the case can be made that that certainly has happened in my lifetime despite all the material successes.


Get Out!

David Corn met an interesting person last night:

Last night, at a Washington reception, I met Mohammed al-Daini, a member of the Iraqi parliament and the National Dialogue Front, a party with 11 seats in the Iraqi legislature. Daini is one of the 144 parliamentarians who are supporting legislation calling for the United States to withdraw its troops from Iraq. With 275 legislators in the parliament, the please-leave bloc is now a majority. The big question is, will this bill come up for a vote? And if it does and passes, how will George W. Bush and the Republicans respond?
Corn quotes this Iraqi PM as saying that the votes are there to vote for a U.S. withdrawal and that it will happen. He further indicates that al Maliki does not have a veto. So what would al Maliki and the U.S. do if the lawful government of Iraq votes the U.S. off the island? Mitch McConnel is on record as saying that we would gladly comply if they vote us out. This may be a wild card in all the wait-until-September conventional wisdom.


Ashcroft's Rebirth

If you want to know just how bad things are in our national government, you need only look at the fact that John Ashcroft is being viewed in some circles as a hero in his stand against the administration's wiretapping. It's astounding that one of the most conservative evangelical nutbars ever to serve in the Justice Dept. is being viewed in a positive light.


Spectred Again

Arlen Specter is under the impression that Abu Gonzales will be gone before next weeks Senate no-confidence vote. I hope he's right but think he's wrong. The fact that Specter said it pushes me further in the direction that Abu will stay.

As I've said, I think any organized opposition to Abu will be met with further stonewalling from the White House. I'd put the odds on impeachment and conviction in the Senate as the only ways that Abu goes.


Down The Memory Hole

This was Bush three years ago today:

President Bush sought to rally Republican lawmakers around his Iraq plan Thursday, saying Iraqis are ready to "take the training wheels off" by assuming some political power.

He warned that violence is likely to worsen as that transfer approaches, and after it passes.



Here's a classic Fox News Headline:

The wife of Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich could become the nation's first tongue-pierced first lady.
Man! Stop the presses!


Supply Line

Juan Cole asks a very good question today. In his post, he notes that the new PM for Britain, Gordon Brown, has committed to the removal of all British forces from Iraq within two years. First, that sounds like America's closest ally has a timeline? But more importantly, if the British pull out, who will guarantee the supply lines from southern Iraq to the American forces in Baghdad (and in the north in general)? That which isn't flown in is trucked in from the southern port of Basra. Without the British, does anyone actually think the supply chain will be safe?

The naive among us might say that the U.S. will be out of Iraq by then. I hope so, but I'd wouldn't bet on it.


On Being Satisfied

Barry Ritholtz, one of my favorite stock market observers/advisers, has uncovered a very interesting study. It's the kind of thing that, when you read it, you say to yourself "well duh". But yet, it's not the kind of thing that I would have thought of as an investor:

Here's an interesting thesis on how to beat the market: Buy Companies With High Customer Satisfaction Scores. The consumerist summarizes the findings:
Using a back-tested paper portfolio and an actual case, the authors of a study published in the Journal of Marketing found that companies at the top 20% of the the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) greatly outperformed the the stock market, generating a 40% return.
The portfolio outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 93%, the S&P 500 by 201%, and NASDAQ by 335%.
Well, duh.

I know a whole bunch of stores/companies that could learn something from this.

Barry correctly points out that not all companies have contact with the public and therefore using this type of screen wouldn't give you a comprehensive portfolio. But it's sure a good place to start.


Chinese Food

I've not written much about the tainted Chinese food supplements coming into the U.S. This caught my attention:

For years, China has been flooding U.S. ports with tainted, toxic, and counterfeit foods, supplements and medicines. Government inspectors catch only a small fraction of these products – "filthy" juices and fruits, "poisonous" swordfish, prohibited products shipped in crates labeled "dried lily flower." But change will be difficult, policy experts say, because tighter rules on Chinese imports could harm many American companies that rely on Chinese goods, and/or want a piece of the lucrative Chinese market for their own products.
I had two thoughts on this. First, if we can't even regulate food coming into the country, what makes us think we can prevent a terrorist attack via imports? If al Qaeda had really wanted to attack the U.S., they would have by now. My other thought is that stories like this are all the more reason to eat locally. Aside from security considerations, it just doesn't make sense to eat petroleum subsidized food brought in from great distances. And with this occurring, who knows what someone decided to put into the food supply. Perhaps the Chinese are trying to poison us slowly to gain world domination?


Terrorist Prop

If you ever wondered just what propping up a dictator looks like, it's this:

The little-known monthly support payments to Pakistan total $5.6 billion since the attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001. The Bush administration has no plans to cut off the cash or tie the payments to Pakistan's performance, despite the resurgence of terrorists in the past year, and growing evidence that the Pakistani military often looks the other way when Taliban fighters take refuge inside their country. Why? Unnamed officials tell the Times that Washington is fearful of further destabilizing President Pervez Musharraf.
You know that a significant portion of this cash in being put into Swiss bank accounts by Musharraf and his supporters against the day when they're thrown out by a popular revolt. The cash certainly isn't going to fighting terrorism.