Saturday, June 23, 2007

More Like This

Rahm Emmanuel:

Washington, D.C. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel issued the following statement regarding his amendment to cut funding for the Office of the Vice President from the bill that funds the executive branch. The legislation -- the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill -- will be considered on the floor of
the House of Representatives next week.

"The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch. However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice President's funding is consistent with his legal arguments. I have worked closely with my colleagues on this amendment and will continue
to pursue this measure in the coming days."
Go for it. And I don't just mean the theater, although that's useful. Cut his funding.


Iraq, In Pictures

Do you really want to know what's going on in Iraq? Go read this, complete with pictures. I've only read a part so far and it rips out my heart.


The Whimpering Bear

It didn't get a whole lot of play outside the finance media this week, but Bear Stearns has a hedge fund that holds a whole bunch of subprime mortgage bonds that are in meltdown mode because of the housing "problem". Barry Ritholtz quotes from Alan Abelson:

"Bear Stearns came within the width of an old school tie of having to liquidate its two jumbo hedge funds, whose combined portfolios were supposedly worth $20 billion and were loaded to the gills with assets shrinking with the speed of light, for no reason other than they served as collateral for subprime mortgages.

Any necessitous liquidation of the funds, besides inflicting real pain on the holders of such collateral, would have caused an explosion heard 'round the world.

Happily, the Bear funds' blue-chip creditors -- JPMorgan Chase, Merrill, Lehman, Goldman, Bank of America, Barclay's (we apologize if we've inadvertently omitted one or two) at the last moment chose not to pull the plug. They acted, we've no doubt, out of the goodness of their hearts. Bears Stearns' decision to help out its troubled progeny with a $3.2 billion infusion may have helped some, too.

Despite the gracious gesture of the creditors, we may not have witnessed the end of the story for those benighted hedge funds. The future of the more leveraged of the pair, which boasts the catchy title of the High Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage fund, still looks a bit problematic. We're grateful to the sharp-eyed toilers at East Shore Partners, which bills itself as research boutique and brokerage firm, for alerting us to the melancholy fact that everyone is not as lucky or agile or well-connected in dealing with subprime-mortgage woes as Bear Stearns."
Barry then offers this salient quote:
"If you owe the bank $100 that's your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem."
— JP Getty
Yep. In this case the good ole' boys were owed Billions, so they decided they'd better step in to prevent a meltdown that would have had an "impact" on their balance sheets. Bond yields (interest rates) have also been rising precipitiously and the stock market lost 185 points yesterday.

Prior to last week the subprime "problem" was largely ignored by Mr. Market as insignificant. It's now looking a bit less insignificant. How much is yet to blow we'll soon be finding out. Personally, I think it will help tilt the economy into recession by early next year.


Al Qaeda Militants

I'm sure you are noticing that all the news of the war effort in Iraq has been focused on pursuing "al Qaeda" militants. Aside from the obvious steno pad tendencies of the media to simply write what they are spoonfed by the Pentagon, why is this happening?

I have a theory. The U.S. is making Iraq a us vs. them situation with the "us" being the U.S., Iraq Sunnis, and Shias vs. "them" who are "foreign" fighters. It suits the politics of the situation to continue to oversue the term "al Qaeda" for both domestic consumption and to create the espirit de' corps that they hope for among the Iraqi's.

But what happens if they're wrong? Suppose they're not really fighting "al Qaeda" or even fundamentalists? Remember Chalabi who adeptly used the U.S. military to get rid of Saddam for him? Why is it not possible that the U.S. has become a pawn, being used by Sunni's to rid themselves of those radicals in their midst just like Shiites have used the U.S. military to fight against Sunnis?

I can see a couple of serious flaws in the current offensive. First we're arming, training and supporting Sunnis who ultimately will fight against the government. Second, whoever we are fighting is a popular insurgency that is indistinguishable from civilians. Any fighting will inevitably kill lots of innocents, fueling the insurgency as they continue the old George Washington tactic of a) stand and fight to inflict costs and casualties, b) withdraw in the face of overwhelming force, c) regroup in other areas with support from the population, d) repeat until the occupier tires.

Without a political solution that includes popular Sunni support for a national government, the war will continue.

Update: That didn't take long. About twenty minutes after writing the above, I ran across this:

BAGHDAD, June 22 — The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004.

In an otherwise upbeat assessment, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking American commander in Iraq, told reporters that leaders of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia had been alerted to the Baquba offensive by widespread public discussion of the American plan to clear the city before the attack began. He portrayed the Qaeda leaders’ escape as cowardice, saying that “when the fight comes, they leave,” abandoning “midlevel” Qaeda leaders and fighters to face the might of American troops — just, he said, as they did in Falluja.
Oh and Falluja was such a resounding success.


Wait wait wait. I'm confused. I thought we had them surrounded? LMAO. What are the guerillas (I refuse to categorize them as al Qaeda because no one really knows who they are) supposed to do, fight like real men and die like at the Alamo? I'm sure they'll be very offended at having their masculinity challenged by the American general.

Can you believe this crap? Also note that tucked away in this article is an estimation that we outta have things under control by "next spring".

Update II: Digby:
The problem, of course, is that once you prove you are too muscle bound to move quickly and effectively, calling the other side "cowards" for failing to confront you actually is humiliating. And stupid. Your opponent just laughs while he runs circles around you.


Enough, already. These Republican grown-ups are all a bunch of emotionally damaged head cases. We are in desperate need of mature leadership.


Beautiful Eyes

I may be an old fogie, but I think this is just wrong:

Because apparently you're never too young to need a little cosmetic enhancement, Mattel has announced that it will start a makeup line targeting young girls. In the wake of the company's recently launched Barbie-themed online social networking Web site, which raised concerns that it put young girls at risk of sexual predation, the toy maker says it is partnering with cosmetics line Bonne Bell to create a "girl-savvy retail delivery." (How else is Barbie supposed to keep up with the Bratz?)
I've been wondering whatever happened to feminism? You know, love me for who I am not for how I look? It seems that young girls are being sexualized at a younger and younger age (can you say JonBenet Ramsey?). The article sites the a woman can absorb up to five pounds of chemicals each year from daily makeup use, but what about the impacts on these young girls and their self-images? I remember some of the rites of passage for my sister, wearing mascara, wearing nylons and such as that and that these things meant that she was achieving womanhood. Do we really want that to happen to five year olds?


Friday, June 22, 2007

Take A Walk!

If you can believe this:

Top US commanders in Iraq have been encouraging soldiers in Baghdad to "get out and walk."
This "new" strategy is to decrease the dangers from IED's. You see. If soldiers get out of their vehicles and walk, then they can't get blown up while in their vehicles.

"Foot patrols, of course, are not a fail-safe method," Barnes adds. "On city streets, snipers remain a threat. And bombs can still kill dismounted troops. But when blasts occur in the middle of a foot patrol, the number of casualties are generally lower because the troops are more spread out."
I get it. By walking, the insurgents have to have better aim than just the gross blow-up-a-bunch-of-guys strategy.

Your Pentagon. Always thinkin'.


Ya Think?

CNN reported Thursday that the Secret Service expects President Bush to be "a high value terrorist target after he leaves office." They then showed the Secret Service practicing to deal with everything from James Bond-style stealth weapons to roadside IED's in order to meet that challenge.


The Big Magilla

Here we go again:

Tens of thousands of US and Iraqi soldiers are pushing on with simultaneous operations in Baghdad and to the north, south and west of the capital under Operation Phantom Thunder, a new plan aimed at rooting out Al-Qaeda fighters and other militants. The latest offensives, which began in the past week, follow the build-up of US military forces in Iraq to 156,000 soldiers and aim to deny militants sanctuary in the farmlands and towns surrounding Baghdad.

"If you've got it properly cordoned then they're going to flee into somebody's arms. It's a trap," US military spokesman Rear Admiral Mark Fox said.

"To the extent that you can eliminate them, we will." Hard fighting was expected in the next 45-60 days, he said.

Military commanders have said they anticipate greater casualties as their forces press on with a 4-month-old Baghdad security crackdown and other operations around the city.
Wow. I'll bet all those military commanders are now solidly in their comfort zones. They have territory to take, tactics to implement, commands to be given in a real life battlefield! And of course, they can use all those nifty codes words over communication, call in airstrikes and use new gadgets. Unfortunately they can also watch their soldiers die (I purposely didn't mentioned the dead civilians because the commanders could give a rip).

This would all be swell and good if it was going to solve a problem. It won't. This is an insurgency, not a front type war. They can never "surround" the enemy because the enemy is everywhere. They'll not be able to "hold" because there are not enough troops. They'll not be able to pacify because they are occupiers and the Iraqi forces are neither unified nor loyal. This big push is what they have pinned their hopes on.

But never fear. After this "offensive", they'll be another plan .... and another .... and another ......


War Within The War

Meanwhile, in northern Iraq:

SULAIMANIYAH, 21 June 2007 (IRIN) - Hundreds of Iraqi Kurds have been forced to flee their homes after up to 30,000 Turkish soldiers massed on the Iraqi-Turkish border and launched attacks against Kurdish fighters, Iraqi border police say.

Local aid agencies said Kurdish fighters had prevented them from entering the villages, which were being targeted. [How? Like via a battle?]

"The bombardments have forced hundreds to abandon their homes and leave for safer areas. Some houses were looted by Kurdish fighters, according to witnesses in the area," said Rastgo Muhammad Barsaz, spokesman for the non-governmental organisation Kurdistan Campaign to Help Victims of War.

"Dashati Takhe village, on the border near Zakho, is one of the most affected areas. We have been informed of civilian causalities but we don't know how many, as we are being denied access to the area. But by telephone, civilians have told us they are short of food and water," Barsaz said.
It was said before the war began that if we invaded and took out Saddam, that the whole place would turn into a mess. Isn't that what's happened?

You get the feeling that the Turks are simply waiting for the Iraqi government to fail at which time they can "legitimately" enter Kurdistan and take control in a defacto annexation of northern Iraq. It would be a twofer for them: get rid of a terrorist "nest" and a thorn in their rear-end and give them lots and lots and lots of petroleum. Not a bad use of military force from their perspective.


Brown Shirts

William Arkin:

The U.S. Northern Command, the military command responsible for "homeland defense," has asked the Pentagon if it can establish its own special operations command for domestic missions. The request, reported in the Washington Examiner, would establish a permanent sub-command for responses to incidents of domestic terrorism as well as other occasions where special operators may be necessary on American soil.
Oh my. On the face of it, they're logic of "being prepared" seems reasonable. In reality, such a move violates the spirit, intent, and constitutional traditions of keeping the military out of domestic law enforcement. The National Guard is specifically for these purposes, as opposed to being used for national defense overseas. You and I both know that if a "sub-command" is created by the Pentagon for domestic operations, they'll want and need something to do. Just exactly what do you think that "something" would be?


Oil Deal

Juan Cole reports on a draft "oil deal" in Iraq:

Reuters is reporting that the Kurds have reached an agreement with other parliamentarians on changes to a draft petroleum bill. These changes do not address, as Reuters incorrectly reports, "the equitable distribution of petroleum receipts." There is nothing in the draft law about such distributions, which according to the constitution would require separate legislation by parliament. The agreement is rather about the rights of regional confederacies such as the Kurdistan Regional Government to sign contracts with foreign companies independently of Baghdad. The [Shiite] Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), which dominates provincial administrations in the south, is pushing for the formation of a Shiite regional government on the analogy of Kurdistan, which would also have claims on petroleum finds in its area.

The details of the agreement were not released.
I'm far from an expert on this issue. But two things stick out at me. First, the devil in such issues is usually in the details which are "yet to be released". What has been agreed to looks to be a very very preliminary framework to try and work to ultimate agreement. Remember, all these Iraqi politicians go on vacation for the summer in about a week (hey, what's the rush?).

Second, and likely most important, the referenced article doesn't mention the Sunni's anywhere. This goes along with the revenue distribution issue. While the Sunni's are a minority, they are still a sizeable portion of the country's population and include some of the better academics, professionals, and military personnel. Plus the Sunni's are well supported by other Sunni nations (can you say Saudia Arabia?) that are a majority in the region. Without a political solution that includes the Sunnis (a solution that goes well beyond the issue of oil), the war will continue.


Fascism Watch

Monday, June 4, was supposed to be Maxwell Corydon Wheat’s big day. The 80-year-old poet, who lives in Nassau County, New York, was to be announced as the county’s first poet laureate.

But the announcement never came. Instead, he saw his name sullied, and then his nomination shot down.

All because he’s written some poems critical of Bush and the Iraq War.

This is number 11 on the Fourteen Characteristics of Fascism:

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.


Oil, Autos and Congress

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to require average fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon for new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs by 2020, raising efficiency standards that have not changed significantly for nearly two decades.
Republicans earlier blocked Democratic efforts to raise oil taxes by $29 billion and use the money to promote renewable fuels and other clean energy programs.

Wow, 35 mpg. Isn't that amazing? Will it hurt the auto industry and cost us jobs? Will the auto industry have to retool to meet this stringent demand?

The most fuel-efficient cars in Europe all have fuel efficiency over 64 miles to the gallon, which translates to 27 kilometers per liter.
American automakers actually make more fuel-efficient versions of their top sellers for the European markets.

Apparently it won't be a huge burden on the auto industry since they are already beating that goal almost twice over. Americans are being scammed big time. As Marc Maron says, Wake up, sheeple.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

No Guts

Pardon me, but this is just plain chickenshit:

WASHINGTON -- The Iraq Study Group may be coming back.

The House adopted legislation Thursday to revive the bipartisan panel of prominent former U.S. officials who last year said President Bush should change course on the war.

A new assessment by the panel would offer lawmakers an independent alternative to an administration progress report due in September. And because the panel is unlikely to suggest U.S. combat troops remain in Iraq in large numbers, its recommendations could provide political cover for Republicans who want Bush to start bringing troops home.
First off, who in their right mind would return in the role of the Iraq Study group? Next, why in the world would Democrats support helping Republicans to find political cover to their war? Finally, what makes anyone think that any study group findings would be any more influencial than the last one?


Sometime's George Gets It Right

George Will that is:

When, against the urgings of the Israelis, we pressed for the elections that overthrew Fatah, who we were backing and put in Hamas, Condoleezza Rice said nobody saw it coming. Those four words are the epitaph of this administration.



26 percent.

President Bush’s approval rating in a new Newsweek poll, a new low. “[A] record 65 percent disapprove, including nearly a third of Republicans.”


Not Part Of The Executive

This is getting ridiculous.

A little background. Henry Waxman has been investigating the refusal of Cheney to comply with turning over records to the National Archives regarding his office and their handling of classified information (can you say Scooter Libby?).

Now this:

Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government, and therefore not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies, according to a new letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to Cheney.
Cheney is asserting that his office does not have to comply with a executive order requiring compliance with these regulations on classified information.

Not. Part. Of. The. Executive. Branch.

I'm typeless

Update: On another front, more subpoenas. A big part of this story is that three Republicans voted with Dems (Hagel, Specter and Hatch).

Update II: Rahm Emmanuel makes a good point. If you're not a part of the Executive Branch then get the hell out!
"Today, we discovered that everything we learned in U.S. government class was wrong. Evidently, the Vice President does not consider himself a part of the executive branch, and therefore believes he can obstruct meaningful oversight and avoid being held accountable. If the Vice President truly believes he is not a part of the executive branch, he should return the salary the American taxpayers have been paying him since January 2001, and move out of the home for which they are footing the bill."


Goodwin's Law

I'm afraid that former Gen. Abizaid stepped into the trap of Goodwin's Law.

William Arkin reports on a speech given by Abizaid. Part of that analysis reports:

On the unconventional side, Abizaid called for the United States to "disrupt" and "contest" the virtual space enemies use to further their anti-West cause. He spoke of the need to defeat the enemy before its extremist views are accepted by the majority of Middle Easterners and the world is thrust into another world war. According to the USNI blogger reporting on the speech, Abizaid compared the current situation in the Middle East to Germany in the 1930s, when Hitler took power even though the majority of Germans didn't support his politics or his fascist ideologies.
*Sigh*. The best and the brightest. You'd think Vietnam never happened. The same arguments were used then. But I have a question? How much is communism a threat in the thirty years since we left Vietnam?

As usual, Abizaid is right and he's wrong (whick Arkin correctly points out). Yes, Islamic extremist gaining a foothold is not a good thing. But no, using the military to stop it is not only wrong and immoral, it won't freakin' work!

Our middle eastern allies .... and dictators .... are properly concerned that rebellious and extremist forces are a threat to their regimes. But what we haven't realized is that there is a big difference between "rebellious" forces and "extremist" forces. A U.S. military presence creates more extremists while the dictators themselves create more rebels. When dissatisfied citizens are left with no other choices to express dissatisfaction, they'll go with those that offer rebellion via extremism rather than nothing. Our absence opens up the possiblity for more moderate forces to implement change.

The Arab street is going to properly demand change in the status quo. That is a given. What vehicle is chosen to implement that change will be in their hands as well. A imperialistic (or the perception of an imperialistic) force will influence their choices to the most vocal, violent and tribal of their instincts. If we get out of the way, there's an opportunity for the middle eastern countries to join the 21st century with a minimum of bloodshed.

I wish we didn't have to have this ground-hog-day moment. But it seems we are destined to learn it again.


What A Card

Our wonderful, diplomatic Preznit has yet again embarrassed himself:

The Wonkette blog reports: "Congress joined the Bush Administration for a nice little barbecue on the South Lawn [Tuesday] night. The theme was Mardi Gras, so everybody could enjoy memories of New Orleans being destroyed by the Bush Administration and then pretty much left in that same condition years later.

"Famous NOLA chef Paul Prudhomme catered the picnic and New Orleans jazz band Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers played Dixieland.

"And then Bush told the black musicians to clean up after the politicians."

From the transcript:

"THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)

"MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We're glad to be here.

"THE PRESIDENT: Proud you're here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it's over. (Laughter.)"
Hahahahaaha. How funny. Isn't it swell when you perform in front of the President of the Uuunited States and he makes a frat boy joke at your expense that could (and likely was) a racial insult? What a class act.


Repricing Risk

Looks like risk is finally beginning to return to the markets:

June 21 (Bloomberg) -- Merrill Lynch & Co.'s threat to sell $800 million of mortgage securities seized from Bear Stearns Cos. hedge funds is sending shudders across Wall Street.

A sale would give banks, brokerages and investors the one thing they want to avoid: a real price on the bonds in the fund that could serve as a benchmark. The securities are known as collateralized debt obligations, which exceed $1 trillion and comprise the fastest-growing part of the bond market.
Remember those go-go days of lending to anyone with a pulse? And remember all those folks who felt they could buy these mortgaged backed bonds with impunity and still get a very high return? This would be a big whooops.

Is this the beginning of a mortgage meltdown? Or is the a small blip in a market awash in cash? Depends on which economist you talk to. Let's hope the more optimistic hand is right.



Well, at least according to the administration, this means we're winning:

BAGHDAD - The U.S. military said on Thursday it was setting a trap to “eliminate” militants near Baghdad, where 15 American troops died in the past three days, including five slain Thursday in a single roadside bombing that also killed four Iraqis.
Whether in fact we are winning or not, there are a lot of American families that won't be too happy next week.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Get It?

Rick Perlstein reports on his participation in a conference panel today with mainstream media reporters discussing blogs and the media. The entire piece is a very good read. Here's is a summary illustration to give you a flavor:

The q&a session illustrated the point. Someone asked the Washington reporters on the panel whether the sense in their newsrooms was that, as the International Atomic Energy Agency maintains, that Iran is nowhere close to having nuclear weapons, and may in fact not even be attempting to get nuclear waeapons. Or did their newsrooms trust the administration, which makes the opposite claim? Schuster affirmed that there was a "great deal of skepticism among reporters" on the administration's Iran claims. He puffed up a little with pride, and said that's why you don't see many reports on Iran these days: because they've evaluated the administration's claims and found them wanting - undeserving of attention.

Froomkin [one of my favorite bloggers] got the last word. He said: that's precisely the point. You don't respond to administration lies about Iran by not running Iran stories. You respond to it by doing stories - about adminstration lies about Iran. (my emphasis)

Sometimes it takes a blogger to see what's in front of a mainstream reporter's face.
A-freakin'-men. The Washington journalists have a total lack of hunger for the story. They've been neutered by something ... laziness, affluence, corporate control, editors, insiderness .... something. And it's not serving us or them well. They're losing readership in droves concurrent with their credibility and the nation is suffering from ignorance.


Too Funny

Harry Truman used to complain about economists always being two-handed.

Allow me. On the one hand:

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- The worst U.S. housing slump in 16 years will begin to ease in the next month or two, and job growth will lift home prices and spur construction early next year, Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis said.

``The drag stops in the next few months,'' Lewis said in an interview yesterday in New York. ``It's just about to be over. We're seeing the worst of it.''
But on the other hand:
June 20 (Bloomberg) -- The worst is yet to come for the U.S. housing market.

The jump in 30-year mortgage rates by more than a half a percentage point to 6.74 percent in the past five weeks is putting a crimp on borrowers with the best credit just as a crackdown in subprime lending standards limits the pool of qualified buyers. The national median home price is poised for its first annual decline since the Great Depression, and the supply of unsold homes is at a record 4.2 million, the National Association of Realtors reported.

``It's a blood bath,'' said Mark Kiesel, executive vice president of Newport Beach, California-based Pacific Investment Management Co., the manager of $668 billion in bond funds. ``We're talking about a two- to three-year downturn that will take a whole host of characters with it, from job creation to consumer confidence. Eventually it will take the stock market and corporate profit.''
Wonder who's touching the right part to I.D. the animal?


Gasoline Update

Here's the latest on gasoline inventories:

Inventories continue to improve but remain below average. Prices are (reportidly) falling across the nation although I'm not seeing that here in California. Ironically, the reason that gasoline inventories have improved is due to increased imports. Oil companies just can't seem to get those pesky refineries up to speed. Besides, who needs to with the nation not needing much gasoline due to ethanol production ..... right?

The stocks of crude oil inventory are up. In short, we have plenty of oil on hand but not the usual amount of gasoline.


Straw Poll

This straw poll was taken at the Take Back America conference:

Barack Obama won the first annual Take Back America straw poll held this afternoon. Of the over 700 respondents, 29 percent favored Obama, followed by John Edwards in a close second with 26 percent and Hillary Clinton in third with 17 percent. Al Gore won a not-too-shabby 8 percent as a write-in candidate.

For their second choices, Obama voters picked Edwards and vice versa, reflecting a strong anti-Hillary contingent at the conference.
Of course this poll is virtually meaningless (no pun intended). But I don't think it's any secret that liberals/netrooters are very very unhappy with Hillary, her pandering, and her position(s) on the war. If (and it's a big if still) Hillary were to win the nomination, I think everyone would fall into line. But she has a hill to climb to win that nomination.


Keeping The Poodle Busy

What? Bush is going to name Tony Blair as a special envoy to the middle east for the Palestinians problems?

With all that legitimacy conferred by being Bush's lapdog, I'm sure he'll go far!


Gotta Agree

Hats off to McClatchy for it's coverage over the past six years.


Quote of the Day

Digby (in her speech):

But all of us who blog in the progressive blogosphere have a common goal. It’s the same goal of virtually everyone in this room tonight. We want to begin a new era of progressive politics and take back America. We may argue about tactics and strategy, or the extent to which we are partisans versus ideologues (and believe me, we do), but there is no disagreement among us that the modern conservative movement of Newt and Grover and Karl and Rush has proven to be a dangerous cultural and political cancer on the body politic. You will not find anyone amongst us who believes that the Bush Administration’s executive power grab and flagrant partisan use of the federal government is anything less than an assault on the Constitution. We stand together against the dissolution of habeas corpus and the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and we all agree that Islamic terrorism is a threat, but one which we cannot meet with military power alone. And yes, a vast majority of us were against this mindless invasion of Iraq from the beginning, or at least saw the writing on the wall long before Peggy Noonan discovered that George W. Bush wasn’t the second coming of Winston Churchill.


Fringe Liberals

Another must read.

With Digby's coming out speech, I'm feeling rather proud to be a liberal today.


Librul Media

Kevin Drum on the Guiliani story of yesterday where it was discovered that Guiliani blew off his membership on the Iraqi Study Group:

A quick Nexis search shows that among the mainstream media, the New York Times wrote a short piece, and the Kansas City Star and Chicago Tribune carried brief blurbs. That's it. On TV, Olberman discussed it, but no one else.

I'm keenly aware that an awful lot of blog criticism of the mainstream media is basically just partisan sniping. But is this seriously not considered news? A guy who's running for president based on his reputation as a hero of 9/11 was given a seat on the highest profile group ever created to investigate a way forward in Iraq, but he decided it wasn't worth his time? He blew off James Baker and Lee Hamilton so that he could give speeches in South Korea and attend fundraisers for Ralph Reed in Atlanta? And the consensus reaction is a big yawn?
I don't know. I think Kevin might be a little tough on the media. After all, there was the competition of stories about John Edwards haircut, Bloomberg becoming unregistered and John Hinckley yesterday. Now THOSE are important stories.


You Know

Same s*#t, different day:

Bush vetoes popular stem-cell research bill


Meanwhile, In The Other War

There are some mysterious attacks going on in Pakistan/Afghanistan:

A huge explosion yesterday in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan reportedly killed numerous foreign fighters and civilians. On Sunday, seven children were reported killed in an attack in eastern Afghanistan in an unsuccessful attack on an Al Qaeda commander.

In both attacks, U.S. military spokesmen have either denied U.S. involvement or demurred in providing details. I think I know why.

NBC News reported Sunday that U.S. special operations forces attacked a compound in eastern Afghanistan, an attack intended to kill the Al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan. Seven children were reportedly killed in the attack, and NBC reported that the decision was made to attack the compound despite the presence of children because of the value of the target.

Then, on Tuesday morning, a massive blast at a compound in North Waziristan, in Pakistan near the Afghanistan border, killed as many as 30 alleged Al Qaeda fighters. Pakistani officials say the compound, which included a madrassa, was being used as a training camp and bomb factory. Press reports say civilians were also killed in the attack.
"I don't know nuthin' about the birthin babies!"

Must have been those kids playin' with matches.
The link between these two strikes may be the deployment of a new weapon, one that gives the United States much more flexibility in going after distant compounds.

What makes these attacks different from the usual attacks in the perpetual head-hunting effort against Al Qaeda is this: Consistent reports from intelligence and military sources that special operations forces employed a new ground rocket system.

The system, called High Mobility Artillery Rockets, or HIMARS is reportedly a complement to Predator drones, particularly when weather prevents the high-altitude strikes, and are the new favorite when significant firepower is desired. The truck-mounted artillery rocket system (hence the "high mobility" moniker) first entered service in June 2005 at Fort Bragg, N.C., to complement the venerable MLRS rocket, which is heavier and more constrained in its movements and flexibility.

HIMARS carries a single six-pack of rockets on a standard Army 6x6 all-wheel drive (MLRS carries 18 rockets). The six-pack can be configured to shoot a wide array of rockets and missiles, from cluster bombs to a single missile system with a range up to 300 kilometers. HIMARS can fire a variety of non-cluster bomb rockets from the standard MLRS range of 32 kilometers to 300 kilometers.
Hey. We all know that the end justifies the means. Your tax dollars at work. Plausible deniability on the back of a SUV.

I don't feel well.


Iraq Today

As an aside, if you haven't had a chance, take a moment and listen to Digby's speech in the post below. It's great, and as usual, within 13 minutes Digby manages to succinctly summarize the entire history and soul of the liberal blogosphere. Rick Perlstein:

I get the question a lot from people who share my ideological sympathies. Maybe you do, too. My wife and I, with but a tincture of mockery, summarize the question thus: "What is this thing called 'blog'?" It's intimidating for people who aren't familiar with the blogosphere but think they should be: a welter of new names, new concepts, new ways of evaluating quality. (Who to trust? Who to dismiss?)

Anyway, long story short, the blogger digby's speech at the Take Back America conference last night is where I'll be sending people asking that question from now on: everything you wanted to know about blogging but were afraid to ask. Why it matters, who are the players, what it means, how to read it - and, most fascinatingly, how to understand its often adversarial relationship to the "mainstream media."
Back to Iraq, unfortunately.

This is one of the stories on Iraq from yesterday:
The NYT suggests that the fact that the mosque in Baghdad was bombed as American forces carried out their massive offensive against al-Qaida in Iraq should not be seen as a coincidence. "The timing seemed intended to demonstrate that the insurgents could still strike with near impunity," says the NYT. The Post notes that a preliminary investigation seems to show that the truck used for the bombing was outfitted with TNT "less than a mile from where it exploded." If true, it would mean that al-Qaida in Iraq, which was always believed to prepare the bombs outside Baghdad, "has shifted strategies once again" to circumvent the numerous security checkpoints that aim to control access to the capital.
My first reaction was a big duh. Looking a little deeper, it's interesting how the reports continue to focus on al Qaeda. I haven't even done any real research on it yet, but I'd be willing to bet that the attack was a sectarian attack as part of the tit-for-tat mosque bombings of late.

Then there's this:
In an insightful Page One piece, the NYT notes that operations to attack al-Qaida forces in Iraq have frequently ended up merely displacing them to another region. Now, the U.S. military is determined not just to kick out the insurgents, but to actually capture or kill them. Problem is that thousands of civilians remain in the area, and they don't appear to be listening to the U.S. military's pleas that they stay inside their homes. Besides the risk of a high number of civilian casualties, things could get more complicated if insurgents decide to try to blend in with the city's residents.
Lather, rinse, repeat.

Frontline did another in a series of stories on Iraq ... how we got there, how we f*@ked it up, and what we're doing now. The final conclusions were that now we're surging so we'll just have to see how that works. Frankly, I'm not sure we could have ever "won" Iraq with the genesis of today being back before WWII. And I continue to be totally astounding to hear some of the most respected, brightest and most successful leaders in our governmental structure make statements like, "we never could have anticipated an insurgency".


What was really interesting was a very very brief moment in an interview with Gen. Jack Keane. Keane made a number of critical comments about the early handling of the war, but was (with Frederick Kagan) one of the architects of the escalation surge. When discussing the history of the war to date, he was quite animated, maintaining a confident and commanding presence. When discussing the future success (or failure) of the escalation and the fact that he was a key in persuading Bush to go with an escalation, there was this brief moment where he appeared, as my wife said, as if he had eaten a lemon. There was just this deer-in-the-headlights moment where the full measure of responsibility showed on his face. You can see the entire Frontline episode on the PBS site linked above. It's worth it.

Of course since the filming of the Frontline, the escalation has not gone well. The continuing belief that you can subdue a popular insurgency with military force from an occupying power continues to be the trip wire for any tactical attempts to "win Iraq". Now the CW is pushing back the September dropdead date and it looks like an indefinite committment. Meanwhile, people continue to die because of the naivete of our so-called "best and brightest".

Update: I know it's not a sound bite like we're fed by the administration and the media. It may take you five minutes to read and comprehend the complexity of the situation. But take a look at Juan Cole's explanation of the shrine bombings. These are very important events that go well beyond the simplistic "al Qaeda is stirring trouble" administration/media spin.



Meet Digby.


Goosestepping to a fascist America

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all
And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.

There are a lot of people in America that need to read this but won't.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Makes Sense

I have written on a couple of occasions about so-called repo loans by the Fed and Treasury. These are short terms loans given to "primary dealers" (i.e. Citibank, Goldman Sachs) at very favorable rates by the government. Put another way, creating money out of thin air for da' boyz to play with. This week those loans have been to the tune of $37 Billion from the Treasury alone.

I ran across this analysis today and it makes perfect sense:

Just what’s the Treasury’s game [pumping money into the economy]? What they’re doing is quite shrewd. They’re taking excess tax receipts and lending them to the primary dealer network for short periods of time and earning interest on the money until it’s needed. Treasury Secretary Paulson [and is an ex-CEO of Goldman Sachs, a primary dealer] is no dummy and knows there’s an intended side benefit. The primary dealers will support the markets since it’s in their financial interest to do so to support fee income from the public and their own trading profits. In a previous interview a few months ago Paulson stated essentially that he hoped that rising stock prices had offset lower home prices boosting consumer confidence. It all makes sense.
These primary dealers take the cash and, using programmed trading that makes up over 60% of all stock trades on the NY Stock Exchange, put that cash to work. The two benefits mentioned are 1) attracting retail investors (schmucks like you and me) who see a market goin "to the moon Alice" and want to get in on the action and 2) creating a new bubble to offset the old bubble (housing).

Quite a scam. Keep blowing bubbles to avoid the deflating of the old bubble. The only problem with it is that nasty "I" word.


This Is Rich

He really said that?

Asked today whether the Bush administration "feels any responsibility" for the split among Palestinians, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said that what reporters "really need to be thinking about" is that "the president of the United States did not bind people's hands behind their back and throw them from rooftops. The president of the United States did not masquerade around with masks pulled over the face and slay people who disagreed with Hamas."
Ole' Tony must still be having medications wearing off from his recent cancer treatment or something. He could have been describing Bush precisely.


So What Gives Rudy?

The great protector of Amurika from the terrorist indeed!

Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why -- the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.
Yeah. Sure. He'll protect anyone for a fee eh? Nice committment you've shown there Rudy. Nothing like polishing your creds.

What a wanker.


Inside The Blogosphere

Digby is my favorite political thinker/writer. Having been anonymous, it's been difficult to give him (or her) the props he (or she) deserves. But that may be at an end today as Digby speaks at the Take Back America Convention in Washington. I *almost* went, just to find out in person.

We'll soon know.


The State Of Scotus

This is one of the most ridiculous quotes of the day in some time:

"Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives."
-- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, quoted by Globe and Mail, sticking up for the fictional federal agent in the television series 24 while arguing that interrogators "require latitude in times of great crisis."


Don't Forget The Cash

Ahhh. How sweet. A birthday card for Dub at Laura's request .....

"Please help me celebrate a very special birthday.

"On July 6, President Bush will turn 61 years old. In our family, birthdays are special occasions that always include family and close friends.

"I know George will appreciate receiving warm wishes from loyal supporters on his special day. Please take a moment to add your name to the RNC's e-card.

"And if you can, please consider commemorating President Bush's 61st birthday with a gift our entire Party can share. Your secure online gift of $61 or whatever you can afford -- $25, $75, $100, $500 or even $1,000 -- will go a long way toward helping the RNC lay the foundation for electing more Republicans in the 2007 state and 2008 national elections."

But guess what? Go to the Web page in question and it's impossible to add your name (and message) without making a contribution. At least I couldn't find a way.


Must Be Tongue-In-Cheek

Froomkin asks a question in his column today:

New evidence unearthed by House Democrats establishes that White House political adviser Karl Rove and many of his colleagues used Republican National Committee e-mail accounts for official business -- even though White House policy is clear that doing so is a violation of the Presidential Records Act.

How did such casual lawbreaking come to be so widespread? And why was it tolerated?
As the title of this posts suggests, he must be tongue-in-cheek in asking this. If he is not, I'd gladly send him a complete copy of our blog archives going back several years.


The Other War ... Under The Radar

In case you weren't aware, in Afghanistan the Taliban is making significant progress:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Days of fierce fighting with
NATO and Afghan forces left Taliban militants in control of one southern Afghan district and battling to take over another Tuesday, officials said.

Taliban fighters seized Miya Nishin district in Kandahar province late Monday, provincial police chief Esmatullah Alizai said. Authorities were planning to retake the remote area.

In neighboring Uruzgan province's Chora district — home to more than 100,000 people — fighting continued between NATO and Afghan forces and militants who attacked police posts in the province's main town on Saturday. Some officials reported dozens of civilian casualties.

"It has been a contested area for some number of months," NATO spokesman Maj. John Thomas said. "(The Taliban) are making an effort right now to establish control in that area," he said, predicting more fighting in coming days.

"There's reason to believe that the situation on the ground is still unstable," he said.
Sure glad Iraq is the center of the war on terra!


Signing Statements

Remember those pesky "signing statements" where Bush (while Bush has made it an art, other Presidents have also used them) amend a bill they've just signed with a statement of the President's disagreement? Many argued that these are non-binding and don't carry the force of law. I wonder:

Federal agencies ignored 30 percent of the laws Bush objected to in signing statements last year, according to a report released today by the Government Accountability Office. In 2006, President Bush issued signing statements for 11 out of the 12 appropriations bills passed by Congress, claiming a right to bypass a total of 160 provisions in them.

In a sample set of 19 provisions, the GAO found that “10 provisions were executed as written, 6 were not, and 3 were not triggered and so there was no agency action to examine.”

The report, which was requested by House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd (D-WV), gives the first indication of the impact that President Bush’s signing statements have had on the enforcement of laws passed by Congress.
Now someone needs to check if government agencies have responded similarly to other Presidents who have had signing statement inserted. Either way, it would seem to be completely unconstitutional and these statements need to be challenged in court.


More Evidence

Let's see. WalMart reports terrible sales. Other mainstream retailers report poor sales. Saks Fifth Ave. reports good sales. The government reports a "rebound" in consumer spending. Today, Best Buy reports pathetic results in it's earnings report.

Who're you going to believe?


Topsy Turvy

Our budget is topsy turvey and so is this bus. Ben (of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream) had it built to illustrate the massive military budget.
Building an empire is expensive and somethings have to give... like education, health care, infrastructure....

Hat tip to Joe for the article.


Monday, June 18, 2007

A Threefer

It's not often that a political satirists can hit a threefer, but Jesus General does today in his letter to an administration official:

Daniel Peterson
Office of National Drug Control Policy

I recently saw something on the internet about a Freedom of Information Act request for the anti-drug commercials from a few years back that made the connection between drugs and terrorism. Some people seem to believe that your response that you will need 200 years to respond is just a typo. I certainly hope not. Making sure that the terrorists are still in the dark about how much we're onto their secrets is vital to winning the war on terror.

I was doing some research on the economy, and I discovered something interesting. Of all the items listed below, the price of only one item has gone way down since Bush took office. Everything else has become much more expensive.

Dozen eggs
Gallon of Gasoline
Health Care
Gallon of Milk
Ear of corn
8-ball of cocaine
College Tuition
Loaf of bread

That one thing is cocaine. Now I'm not really an economics expert, but I do make sure to watch both Fox News and Lou Dobbs in order to get both sides, so I think I know what I'm talking about. The lower price must be because all the money being spent to destroy these drugs in Colombia is making Americans feel guilty about continuing to buy it - and the demand is dropping. And since President Bush makes everyone cherish life so much, the demand for things we need to live is going up. As a result, the terrorists are getting much less money for their drugs than they were just 5 years ago while good people are getting wealthier.
Bada boom, bada bing! Drug policy, terrorism and inflation! All in one righty-tidy package! Good job!


How Far We've Come

I just can't get over this. Western leaders are falling all over themselves to lend aid to Fatah in the West Bank vs. Hamas in Gaza. Doesn't any one remember this bit of history:

Fatah's first ever guerrilla attack came on January 3, 1965, when they attempted to sabotage the Israeli National Water Carrier, which had recently started operation. The attack was thwarted by the Israeli Security Forces.

Fatah's commanders were expelled to Lebanon from Jordan following violent confrontations with Jordanian forces during the period 1970–1971, beginning with Black September in 1970.

In the 1960s and the 1970s, Fatah provided training to a wide range of European, Middle Eastern, Asian, and African militant and insurgent groups, and carried out numerous attacks against Israeli targets in Western Europe and the Middle East during the 1970s. Some militant groups that affiliated themselves to Fatah, and some of the fedayeen within Fatah itself, carried out civilian plane hijackings and terrorist attacks, attributing them to Black September, Abu Nidal's Fatah-Revolutionary Council, Abu Musa's group, the PFLP, and the PFLP-GC.

Fatah received weapons, explosives and training from the USSR and some Communist regimes of East European states. China also provided some weapons.

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the faction was dispersed to several Middle Eastern countries with the help of US and other Western governments: Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq and others. In the period 1982-1993, Fatah's leadership resided in Tunisia.

Yasser Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles with Israel in 1993 and exchanged mutual renunciations of terrorism with Israel and a mutual recognition between the PLO and Israel, and was allowed to return to the Palestinian territories from exile in Tunisia. The PNC met in a special session on 26 April 1996 to consider the issue of amending the Charter and assigned its legal committee the task of redrafting the Palestinian National Charter consistent with the Arafat letters in order to present it for approval. [1] A redrafted charter that does not call for the destruction of Israel has yet to be presented or approved and the official PNA website displays the original, unamended text of the PNC Charter. According to the US Department of State, "The Palestinian National Charter... [was] amended by canceling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the P.L.O. and the Government of Israel 9-10 September 1993."
Isn't this the pattern? From colonial American revolutionaries to Jewish guerillas (who later became Israeli government officials) to now the world's chief terrorists of the 60's, 70's and 80's. The outsiders, the rabble rousers, the radicals, always get mainstreamed into the "establishment" eventually. They fight until they achieve legitimacy at which time they then assimilate.

Which brings me to this. What are the factors that bring that legitimacy and ultimate assimilation into being? What part does the establishment play in delaying, or accelerating the process of mainstreaming those who see themselves as outside with little to lose? And finally, what can we learn about dealing with Hamas, al Qaeda, Iran, North Korea and other outsiders from the history of past rebels? It would seem to me that any role the established powers can play in accelerating the process would be highly beneficial to world peace.



Here's video/transcript of a Sy Hersch interview on his Taguba story discussed here the other day. As usual, it's a must watch.



As the punditry and policy deciders flail around over Iraq, a new CW seems to be emerging .... the 50,000 soldier "residual force" left in Iraq after a drawdown, .... and left there like ... forever. The force would be left to guard American interests in Iraq after we "leave".

Atrios asks a very interesting question about the "residual force":

What drives me nuts about this residual force stuff, aside from how arbitrary it is, is that there's never any thought to exactly what these 50,000 should do. Basically, as the violence rages around them they're supposed to sit there to ensure that... there isn't even more violence raging around them. But it isn't really enough people to actually intervene, especially given that not even close to that many would be combat troops.
Helluvagoodquestion. We can't seem to pacify the country with 200,000 soldiers, what would 50,000 do? This is a stupid idea. It's worked in Germany, Japan, Korea and other nations because there was a political solution in place, not a full fledged civil war in progress. I wonder how it would have worked in, oh say Vietnam, if we had left a military base outside Saigon of around 50,000 troops?

Update: Tony Snow:
President Bush “impressed and reassured by the progress [Iraq is] making on political, security and economic reforms.”
I'll bet.

Update II: Who in the world could have predicted that something like this would happen?
Fred Kagan, the man widely seen as the "architect" of the military surge in Iraq, sees signs of progress but warns that September is too early to make a final decision about how well it has achieved its goals. Instead, in an interview with, Kagan recommended waiting until the end of the year before judging the operation's success. Even then, he added, it might be some months before Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to bring lasting stability to the country.
If it wasn't so tragic, the mendacity of these folks would be hilarious. I mean, it's like a little child thinking no one sees him because he has his hands over his eyes. It's also scary because it shows just how clueless most people really are about many of our punditry/thinkers. These guys can be so blatantly transparently hypocritical and totally get away with it.



Here's one Iraqi's view:

Some wise men said he had a tumor.

He should undergo surgery.

In the OR

Andrew is on the operating table, his life in the hands of professionals who took it upon themselves to cure him, of their own accord.

The surgeon cuts ... deep ... he removes the tumor, but is surprised to find that Andrew had many tumors. He starts to cut ... and cut ... all the while Andrew is losing his lifeblood faster than high technology is able to support his weakened frame. The surgeon is overwhelmed; unexpected hemorhaeges and complications mount and the situation looks bad ... and is getting constantly worse.

The surgeon gets frustrated. Things are not going the way they should, he is no longer the hero. Andrew is not getting better ... in fact his situation is very much more serious.

Disappointed, the surgeon decides that he has done enough and that he should not be expected to do more.

Andrew is on the operating table, cut up and bloody, his life slipping away.

Andrew is one man.

Iraq is much, much more.


Bear Takedown

You may not be aware of it, but there's been a quiet meltdown of a hedge fund at Bear Stearns. Mike Shedlock has documented the events which have left a lot of investors with no options to get out of the fund, and with very large bond losses guarateed due to the subprime mortgage meltdown. Here's how it goes:

Since no one wants to comment I will: This is just the start of what's to come. Many hedge funds are going to have assets seized and sold over bad bets on CDOs, the carry trade, and just plain out and out over leverage into everything.


This saga has two more steps to complete and by the time it concludes here will be more scandals underway all following the same pattern: leverage troubles, redemptions halted, asset seizure, lawsuits, and investigations.
I think these meltdowns were expected. The remaining question is how many and how large will the failures be as the slow-motion meltdown continues (we're in the very earily stages of the subprime problem). Government officials say the problem is not likely to hurt the overall economy much. Shedlock says it will. One thing for sure, we'll know who's right down the road a piece.


Old Rant .... Again

I know I've talked about the crazy way the government measures inflation. Probably I've beat the subject to death. But the more I learn about the whole topic, the more absurd it is.

For instance. Did you know that the current method of measuring inflation, i.e. without food and energy, was developed during the hyperinflationary years of the 1970's? Sounds suspicious. The reasoning has been that food/energy are highly volatile and can disguise the "underlying" rate of "real" inflation. How about using a moving average then?

But I digress.

Barry Ritholtz has another of many great articles examing just how crazy the government's measure of inflation actually is. In this instance, he looks at how rent is calculated ... and you won't believe it.



"Stab in the back".

Originated in Germany, perfected by Hitler.

That's what the title means. Kevin Baker has written an outstanding article on the history of a "stab in the back" policy used by politicians to maintain power and control. The article is particularly notworthy for the history of the GOP "stab in the back" policy that has evolved beginning with FDR at Yalta, and has continued to this day. He also postulates that this will be our future as Iraq fails and conservatives have to find scapegoats. The article begins:

Every state must have its enemies. Great powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly avoided responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.[my emphasis]

As the United States staggers past the third anniversary of its misadventure in Iraq, the dagger is already poised, the myth is already being perpetuated. To understand just how this strategy is likely to unfold—and why this time it may well fail—we must return to the birth of a legend.
Think Vietnam, the red scares, Joe McCarthy, Korea, the fall of China after WWII (who lost China?) and the "loss" of the eastern European countries after WWII. Think George Patton railing against the lily-livered politicians who wouldn't take out the Ruskies when we had the troops in Europe to do it. Think of the conservatives who said the same thing about Bush I and the Gulf War, and how they vowed to "finish the job" with jr. The stab in the back, in each instance, came from weak and wimpy liberals who just didn't seem to have the guts to "stand up and fight". How the country and it's pride were stabbbed in the back by the traitors who failed the mission.

Care to guess what meme is arising in the wake of Bush's mess in the Middle East? Baker does a great job laying it out and also giving some hope as to why it may not work. Go give it a read, you won't regret it.

Andrew Sullivan very recently:
The pro-war right is surely not going to take defeat in Iraq or at home gently. If we withdraw from Iraq in the next year, and a terror attack occurs in the U.S., regardless of its provenance, watch Giuliani blame the Democrats and try to win the election on a classic "we-were-stabbed-in-the-back-we need-a-strong-leader" message. The constitutional dangers of such a move are, of course, grave. I can indeed see a scenario in which a classic fascist-style appeal to wounded nationalism - combined with a call to suspend constitutional protections in favor of a presidential protectorate and a Weimar-style "stab-in-the-back" smear against the MSM - will become the mantra of the Southern-dominated GOP in the next election. If you can't see it coming, you don't know who they are.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

On The March

I've got an idea.

Let's see, the Sunni's are bombing Shiite mosques, and the Shiites are bombing Sunni mosques. So how about we have a gazillion person Shiite "peace" march into a Sunni stronghold!



BagNewNotes is running a whole series of pictures from New York's "fleet week". I don't know about you, but there is something really creepy about them. Here's a couple of samples:

My ... that's a big one ...... Me loves me some AK action ......

Or how about this:

Just let one of them' AArabs come over here. I'll shock em' with my body and shoot em' in the head.

It's all very creepy. There are few others with all kinds of sex/race/violent overtones. Fits right in with the modern jungle mentality in our culture.



The oil companies are now going to blame Preznit Bush?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- With Congress and the White House pushing to increases the use of ethanol, the oil industry is scaling back its plans to expand refineries -- which could keep gasoline prices high, possibly for years to come.

President Bush has called for a 20 percent decline in gasoline use by 2017 and the Senate is debating legislation for huge increases in the use of ethanol as a motor fuel. So, oil companies see a growing uncertainty about future gasoline demand and less need to increase refinery capacity to make more gasoline.
Puuuuuhleeeeese. Anyone with a brain knows that Bush's goals for ethanol are impossible to reach, even with the entire U.S. corn production turned into ethanol. And Congress is only entertaining the idea because of the lobbying of ADM Cargill farmers for higher corn prices. Now the oil companies are going to justify not increasing refining capacity due to national policy?

What a joke.


Who'ya Gonna Believe?

Is this a precursor to national numbers, or are the national numbers "questionable"?

What the housing boom giveth, the bust taketh away.

The slump in California's once-effervescent real estate market is taking its toll on jobs, a state report released Friday showed.

Mounting losses in construction and financial services — the two sectors most dependent on home building and sales — contributed to the second increase in the state's unemployment rate in two months.

The rate rose to 5.2% in May from 5.1% in April, the California Employment Development Division said.

By comparison, the rate in May 2006 was 4.9%.

The uptick further widened the gap between the state and national jobless rates, the latter of which held steady in May at 4.5%


War Crimes

Seymour Hersh has written another article. In this one, he does an extensive interview with Gen. Antonio Taguba, the now "retired" general who did the investigation of Abu Ghraib. It's a blockbuster and worth your time to read the whole thing. Here's a sample:

The former senior intelligence official said that when the images of Abu Ghraib were published, there were some in the Pentagon and the White House who “didn’t think the photographs were that bad”—in that they put the focus on enlisted soldiers, rather than on secret task-force operations. Referring to the task-force members, he said, “Guys on the inside ask me, ‘What’s the difference between shooting a guy on the street, or in his bed, or in a prison?’ ” A Pentagon consultant on the war on terror also said that the “basic strategy was ‘prosecute the kids in the photographs but protect the big picture.’ ”

A recently retired C.I.A. officer, who served more than fifteen years in the clandestine service, told me that the [Pentagon] task-force teams “had full authority to whack—to go in and conduct ‘executive action,’ ” the phrase for political assassination. “It was surrealistic what these guys were doing,” the retired operative added. “They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the chief of station.”
The words from Taguba's own mouth confirm everyone's worst assumptions about the role of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the entire Pentagon leadership in detentions, torture, murder and war crimes. The article concludes:
Rumsfeld was vague, in his appearances before Congress, about when he had informed the President about Abu Ghraib, saying that it could have been late January or early February. He explained that he routinely met with the President “once or twice a week . . . and I don’t keep notes about what I do.” He did remember that in mid-March he and General Myers were “meeting with the President and discussed the reports that we had obviously heard” about Abu Ghraib.

Whether the President was told about Abu Ghraib in January (when e-mails informed the Pentagon of the seriousness of the abuses and of the existence of photographs) or in March (when Taguba filed his report), Bush made no known effort to forcefully address the treatment of prisoners before the scandal became public, or to reĆ«valuate the training of military police and interrogators, or the practices of the task forces that he had authorized. Instead, Bush acquiesced in the prosecution of a few lower-level soldiers. The President’s failure to act decisively resonated through the military chain of command: aggressive prosecution of crimes against detainees was not conducive to a successful career.

In January of 2006, Taguba received a telephone call from General Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff. “This is your Vice,” he told Taguba. “I need you to retire by January of 2007.” No pleasantries were exchanged, although the two generals had known each other for years, and, Taguba said, “He offered no reason.” (A spokesperson for Cody said, “Conversations regarding general officer management are considered private personnel discussions. General Cody has great respect for Major General Taguba as an officer, leader, and American patriot.”)

“They always shoot the messenger,” Taguba told me. “To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal—that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.”

Taguba went on, “There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff”—the explicit images—“was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.” He said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and the high-ranking generals and admirals who stood with him as he misrepresented what he knew about Abu Ghraib had failed the nation.

“From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service,” Taguba said. “And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable.”
They were prepared to deal with Abu Ghraib because it was just the tip of the iceberg. Dealing with any firestorm over the issue (with a very very sympathetic GOP Congressional leadership) would be a cakewalk compared to finding out the full measure of the conspiracy to commit war crimes.

Those crimes continue to be covered. Taguba going public is unlikely to cause any kind of "firestorm" as the public has become innured to the atrocities of the Bush administration. This is shameful part of our history that will forever prevent American's from holding their heads high in the international community.



From today's Face The Nation:

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on CBS's Face The Nation on Sunday that he expects the US "surge" in Iraq to come to an end in September, a sentiment that deviates greatly from the official White House and military stance.

"I think that everybody anticipates that this is going to be a new strategy in the fall. I don't think we'll have the same level of troops, in all likelihood, that we have now," he said. "We're not [in Iraq] forever."

McConnell said he sees "growing support" among both Republicans and Democrats for implementing the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which included a suggestion for a phased withdrawal of US troops.
HAHAHAhahahah .... heeeehehehhhe ... um ... Haaaaaa hahhaaaaa


The Enemy Of My Enemy ....

Like I said, isn't it ironic that the biggest ally of Fatah is Israel?

ISRAEL’s new defence minister Ehud Barak is planning an attack on Gaza within weeks to crush the Hamas militants who have seized power there.

According to senior Israeli military sources, the plan calls for 20,000 troops to destroy much of Hamas’s military capability in days.

The raid would be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks against Israel or a resumption of suicide bombings.
Where's Mel Brooks when you need him?

On another front, it looks like Fatah has another new buddy:
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Mahmoud Abbas got a major boost in his increasingly bellicose showdown with Hamas on Saturday, with a U.S. diplomat saying he expects a crippling embargo to be lifted once the Palestinian president appoints a government without the Islamic militants.
You absolutely can't make this stuff up. If I were a belligerent power, I think I would actively encourage a faction more radical than myself to sabre rattle and watch my enemies suddenly become new buddies.


Headline News

I can't believe our media. They put up a headline like this:

60 pct of Baghdad not controlled
What a bunch of liberal bed-wetting pessimists. What about the 40% that is under control? Huh?


Turks Vs. Kurds

Juan Cole has been following the tensions in northern Iraq between Kurds and Turks for sometime. Today write a very nice piece covering the situation and he notes (based on personal observation) that citizens of Turkey are "livid" because of terrorists acts inside Turkey by Kurdish rebels who use Iraq as a refuge. He then writes:

I brought up with several observers my nightmare, that the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq will certainly annex Kirkuk later this year, and that there may be as a result clashes between the Kurds and the Turkmen minority. Iraqi Turkmen, some 800,000 strong, have been adopted by the Turks of Turkey as sort of little brothers. I can't imagine the Turkish public standing for a massacre of Turkmen, and hundreds of thousands of people in the street could force Buyukanit [Turkish leader] to act decisively.

My colleagues universally agreed that the potential was there for an escalation of the crisis under such conditions. No one said I was exaggerating the risks. One former official who is an expatriate said that before he arrived in Ankara last week, he did not know just how angry people there were over this issue. He is now convinced that the situation is serious.
Juan Cole has been warning about this for some time. The Bush administration does seem to overly concerned about it, devoting little or no attention to diplomacy over the issue. I get a sense that Bush thinks that Turkey will continue to behave according to U.S./Nato dictum. But Cole makes a very good case for the situation in northern Iraq continuing on it's trajectory of escalation into a full-blown invasion by Turkey. It's happened before.


Quick To Fight, Slow To Heal

The papers all take on the topic of soldier and contractors with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder today. One thing caught my attention:

The problem begins with the burgeoning number of troops suffering from the disorder: perhaps as many as one in four serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The paper reports that even if the Department of Veterans Affairs had enough money to treat all these troops, the department has a backlog of cases that prevents proper diagnosis and timely treatment. If the department caught up on its paperwork, it still wouldn't have enough therapists to treat all the new cases and many of the ones it does have lack experience. Even if all those problems disappeared, the stigma of mental illness still keeps more than half of troops with serious mental problems from seeking treatment.
Before the war, I had an argument with someone advocating war. Despite the sabre rattling, the foe in my discussion hadn't even considered all the "hidden" costs associated with a war. While I was chided for not serving, I reminded this as#@ole that I (a psychotherapist) would be one of the many people helping to clean up the mess in individuals and families for years after. Like Vietnam vets, who I continued to see in my practice with for years until my retirement.

The other thought I had in reading this is the cultural barriers. Frankly most people, and particularly military and GOP government types, just don't believe that PTSD even exists. Consistent with other ideological perspectives, they think that only "weak" individuals have these issues and that mostly it's malingering. Of course, as soon as it happens to one of them, then it's the biggest issue that ever hit society. You can see this bias in how vets are being treated, and as evidenced in this article.