Saturday, September 1, 2007

Follow Up

This is a great graf by Steve Benen. It's a very good recording of history and a reminder of how wrong the spin/conventional wisdom in Washington is:

It's all about some amorphous "sense" that's entirely independent of reality. Consider what we've learned this week. The GAO prepared a "strikingly negative" assessment of conditions on the ground, with no political progress (the intended point of the "surge") and little evidence of reduced violence. Of the 18 Iraqi benchmarks, Bush's policy has come up short on 15. An independent federal commission believes Iraq's 26,000-member national police force is beyond repair and might need to be disbanded altogether. A working draft of a secret document prepared by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad shows that the Maliki government is rotten to the core. Iraqi civilian deaths are getting worse, not better. The latest data shows U.S. troop fatalities worse every month this year compared to the same months last year. A smidgeon of evidence pointing to at least marginal political progress late last week turned out to be smoke and mirrors.
This is the reality. Be sure to compare and contrast with the nonsense you'll be hearing all month.


It's September

Indeed it is.

The liberal blogosphere is second guessing itself on the apparent changes in Washington's conventional wisdom, wondering if it could have done something different anticipating the shifting sands on Iraq:

Funny thing is, it was all predicted.

As predicted by almost anyone with a brain and who has been watching Washington, the CW seems to be moving in the White House's favor on Iraq. Some are attributing it to a brilliant PR campaign by Petraeus.

I think this is ridiculous.

You can only be persuaded if you want to be persuaded. Republicans have a whole lot of reasons to be seduced into believing the bullshit coming out of the White House and Pentagon. So do many Democrats. For that matter, a whole lot of the American public wants to believe as well. Who in their right mind wants to believe that the U.S. in Iraq is a waste of time? What American wants international failure? Who wants to think that the deaths, casualties and mayhem have been for nothing?

The answer is no one.

The only question is whether or not Bush has used up all his chits. Clearly, and in reality, he has and obviously there are a whole lot of people who don't trust him at all. In a rational world, the war would be over.

But we don't live in a rational world.

The real battle will be between our desire to believe, and our experience of being punked. I know where I come down and it's been clear for years that we are going to lose in Iraq. But I'm not so sure that most of our leadership, who supported the war in the first place, aren't ripe for continued punking because of their own self-deception and ego's. The leaks about Harry Reids negotiations with Republicans seem to support the punking. And the ever compliant media is eating it up. In the end, it just may feel better for our leaders to pretend rather than face the reality, to become Bush's three-card-monty victim yet again rather than deal with the pain.

That's where it looks like it's headed to me. As predicted.

And what's even scarrier? Like a mirror image of the end of the Vietnam war, the Democrats are extremely vulnerable to continuing the war after the 2008 elections:

Mearsheimer argued that Iraq has been and will continue to be a disaster, but that because of domestic politics and institutional dynamics we'll still be there in five years and beyond. The stab-in-the-back narrative that's being prepared by the Republican Party will succeed in scaring a Democratic president and Democratic congress from taking any decisive steps to end the war. At the same time, the senior theater leadership in the armed forces are committed to not losing, due to their perception of the institutional disaster that resulted from the Vietnam War.
I hope he's wrong, I fear he's right.


Poking The Alligator

I wonder how long al Sadr will be keeping his promise to lay off now:

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of 300 persons in Karbala connected to the Mahdi Army on Friday, blaming it for the outbreak of violence in the holy Shiite city on Tuesday. Apparently many of the arrests were arbitrary in the sense that being in the Mahdi Army was the basis for the arrest rather than any evidence the person had actually done something wrong. Since al-Maliki came to power with the votes of the Sadrists, he risked losing his political power base by cracking down hard on them.


Friday, August 31, 2007

Ironies Abound

There's nothing like getting shot at to make a Congress people of the Republican strip think there's good progress in Iraq!

Talk about spin. They're lucky they didn't spin into the ground.


Behind The Scenes UPDATED

Harry Reid made a statement that suggested he was willing to back off of timelines for withdrawal in the coming appropriations talks. What does that mean?

Congress being Congress, the immediate assumption is that Reid is caving to Republicans. And that's an assumption made for good reason.

The real question is what movement is occurring on the Republican side of negotiations for Reid to make this kind of concession? Anyone who thinks that Congress is going to go from supporting the war to ending it overnight is dreaming. Is Reid plowing the ground for the next step towards ending the war?

I suspect he is, and I suspect it's going to piss a lot of people off. Me included. I really wish the Dems would just simply take a stand and fight it. But the practical side of me recognizes that Congress is an institution of baby steps and, frustrating as that may be, that's the way the game is played institutionally.

Update: You can add this to the behind the scenes mix:

This morning on the Chris Matthews Show, NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell revealed that Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, met “very recently” with the Senate Republican caucus to discuss their strategy on Iraq legislation.

“Petraeus went to the Republican caucus and told them, I will have real progress to you by August,” Mitchell said. The Republicans claim they told him that after August, they will end their support for the war. “They have told him at a caucus meeting as very, very recently, that if there isn’t progress by August — and real progress means not a day of violence and a day of sanity — that they will pull the plug.”


Do The Math

The British are leaving southern Iraq. They've turned over control to the intrepid Iraq security forces. So why would the U.S. need to send soldiers there? .....

The US military is ready to intervene in southern Iraq to quell any unrest as British forces prepare to pull out from their last base in the oil port of Basra, the Pentagon said Thursday.

Press reports in London suggest that the British departure and handover of security control to Iraqi forces may be imminent, although the official line is that it will take place before the end of the year.

US forces will not allow any security advances in southern Iraq to be abandoned, Brigadier General Richard Sherlock, deputy director for operational planning at the Department of Defense, told reporters.
Two points. First of all it's nonsense to even think that the "Iraq Security Forces" are anything but sectarian militia's carrying out the wishes of their leaders. Second, if you have more American troops in Iraq that have to cover a significantly larger area, isn't that a dilution of the escalation? Aren't we back to square one except with more Americans in the mess?


That Didn't Take Long

A whole day:

BAGHDAD, Aug. 30 -- Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr told his followers Thursday that he would rescind his order "freezing" the operations of his powerful militia if military raids on his offices did not cease in the next few days, according to officials of Sadr's organization.


Slimed In Iraq

An inside look at a true dog n' pony show:

The sheets of paper seemed to be everywhere the lawmakers went in the Green Zone, distributed to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials and uniformed military of no particular rank. So when Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) asked a soldier last weekend just what he was holding, the congressman was taken aback to find out.

In the soldier's hand was a thumbnail biography, distributed before each of the congressmen's meetings in Baghdad, which let meeting participants such as that soldier know where each of the lawmakers stands on the war. "Moran on Iraq policy," read one section, going on to cite some the congressman's most incendiary statements, such as, "This has been the worst foreign policy fiasco in American history."

The bio of Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.) -- "TAU (rhymes with 'now')-sher," the bio helpfully relates -- was no less pointed, even if she once supported the war and has taken heat from liberal Bay Area constituents who remain wary of her position. "Our forces are caught in the middle of an escalating sectarian conflict in Iraq, with no end in sight," the bio quotes.

"This is beyond parsing. This is being slimed in the Green Zone," Tauscher said of her bio.

More than two dozen House members and senators have used the August recess to travel to Iraq in the hope of getting a firsthand view of the war ahead of commanding Gen. David H. Petraeus's progress report in two weeks on Capitol Hill. But it appears that the trips have been as much about Iraqi and U.S. officials sizing up Congress as the members of Congress sizing up the war.
It's really too bad the Pentagon wasn't this thorough in assessing Iraq before the war.


Troop Deaths In Iraq

Juan Cole gets fired up today when a brain-dead Bushies declares that American deaths are down in Iraq since the escalation:


I saw on CNN this smarmy Bush administration official come and and say that US troop deaths had fallen because of the surge, which is why we should support it. Just read the following chart bottom to top and compare 2006 month by month to 2007. US troop deaths haven't fallen. They are way up. Besides, they would be zero if the US were not occupying Iraq militarily, so if we should support a policy that leads to fewer troop deaths, that is the better policy.

Here are the US troop death via

8-2007 77 8-2006 65
7-2007 79 7-2006 43
6-2007 101 6-2006 61
5-2007 126 5-2006 69
4-2007 104 4-2006 76
3-2007 81 3-2006 31
2-2007 81 2-2006 55
1-2007 83 1-2006 62

I mean, how brain dead do the Bushies think we are, peddling this horse manure that US troop deaths have fallen? (There are always seasonal variations because in the summer it is 120 F. in the shade and guerrillas are too heat-exhausted to fight; but the summer 2007 numbers are much greater than those for summer 2006; that isn't progress.) And why does our corporate media keep repeating this Goebbels-like propaganda? Do we really live in an Orwellian state?

Repeat: US troop deaths in Iraq have not fallen and that is not a reason to support the troop escalation. And, violence in Iraq has not fallen because of the surge. Violence is way up this year.
Of course Juan is exactly correct. But don't hold your breath waiting for a correction from the media or for anyone to confront this bullshit. And then there's the ever-present spin. If a Bushie acknowledges increased deaths they simply say that the escalation is working and the proof is that more Americans are fighting (and dying) to increase the security in Iraq. Afterall, they expected more casualties as they stepped up the security anti. Right?

Meanwhile, we have a sneak preview of the Petraeus report:
CANBERRA (Reuters) - The U.S. troop surge in Iraq has thrown al Qaeda off balance and led to a reduction in sectarian violence and bombings, the U.S. commander in Iraq [Petreaus] was quoted on Friday by an Australian newspaper as saying.
Sure, look at the above statistics and you can see things are going swimmingly. And note the al Qaeda reference. A very small faction that will be getting a whole lot of press in his report to Congress .... I gurroontee it.

Update: Thanks to Kevin Drum, we have a nice visual of the "decline" in American deaths:

They lie as easily as they breath


Bombing Iran

The War Criminal in the Living Room is one of the most depressing things I've read in a long time. The author— Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan.

How in the hell do we stop this madness?


Republican Sex

Empire Falls has an amazingly long list of hypocrisy. Take a look. And to think it doesn't even cover anyone beyond Mark Foley.


Double Standards

When is the last time you heard of a female undercover officer going out to catch lesbians?

Me either. That double standard is so deeply engrained in our society that we don't even think about it. "Gay sex" means sex between men. Most straight men would enjoy seeing two women together so there is no effort made to demonize them, arrest them, or harass them in any way. Most straight men would actually pay to see it.

The reason time and money are spent catching the gay men is because they are somehow threatening to straight concepts of masculinity. Our entire legal system is obviously run by straight white men. Their fears and insecurities define it.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Questions, Answers

Digby has a post up talking about the move by Allawi to get rid of al Maliki using the Washington lobbying firm of Barbour Griffin to influence Washington. She asks a simple question ....

This is just plain insulting. We are really supposed to believe that all this dump Maliki and install Allawi talk being orchestrated by a top GOP lobbying firm isn't a Bush administration operation? It's just all a big coincidence?
Of course it's not a coincidence. And I too am quite confused by Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin playing along. But as I've speculated before, removing Maliki is Bush's ace in the hole if Congress actually grows a spine. There's nothing like a NEW! and IMPROVED! government in Iraq to rally the need to keep American troops just a bit longer.



Reuters: U.S. most armed country with 90 guns per 100 people.
If you want to know why, watch "Bowling For Columbine" or any newscast on any given day.


A Funny Today

Very instructive .... but funny.


Iran Again

There's an old saying. Economists have successfully predicted 8 of the last 2 recessions. I feel the same way about predictions regarding Iran. Here's the latest:

Via Juan Cole:

" My friend had spoken to someone in one of the leading neo-conservative institutions. He summarized what he was told this way:

They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty."
Who knows. A broken watch is right twice a day. As usual, it wouldn't surprise me. And in terms of past predictions, I'm not so sure they weren't accurate with Bush backing off the trigger given the situation on the ground in Iraq and public opinion. But who knows.

We do know that there are very powerful factions in the White House that are just itching to bomb the crap out of Iran. So vigilance is the key.


Truer Now Than Ever

From before the election. Funny how things haven't changed much, eh? (h/t to Scott who doesn't blog but should):



Do you want to be sure and have a stupid fashion become even more fashionable? Outlaw it:

The NYT goes inside with a look at how some local lawmakers have had enough of kids wearing their pants so low that their underwear is exposed. Several towns have enacted, or are considering, ordinances to stop the practice. As a mayor of a town in Louisiana said, "We used to wear long hair, but I don't think our trends were ever as bad as sagging."
We never seem to learn anything. Generation have generation of parents make the same mistakes with kids. The better move would be to outlaw wearing pants around the hips, then you'd have a run on belts.


Be Sure To Compare

The GAO is out with an overview report of the progress in Iraq. It paints a very poor picture:

Via Slate:

The Washington Post leads with its second Iraq-related scoop in two days. The paper got ahold of the draft of the Government Accountability Office report that evaluates progress in Iraq and, unsurprisingly, the picture isn't pretty. Only three of the 18 benchmarks set by Congress have been fully met. "Key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," the report concludes.

The Post calls the GAO report "strikingly negative," and although it doesn't come out and say it, the draft certainly seems like an indictment of the administration's assessment of progress last month. The GAO questions some of the White House's conclusions, and says that, in the future, the administration should take more views into consideration and back up its findings more extensively. The GAO found there really hasn't been a decrease in violence against Iraqis and says there has been a marked decrease in the number of Iraqi army units that can operate without assistance. Even though the GAO's mandate was to provide a yes or no judgment on the benchmarks, it does say two have been "partially met." A government official apparently gave the report to the Post fearing the "pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version."
This report will be a nice contrast to the upcoming "Petreaus" report.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Simple Investing

Want to make the most of stock market investments? Then do this:

Chris Perruna:

If an investor invested $10,000 in the DJIA on November 1 and sold on April 30 every year from 1950 to 2004, they would have earned $492,060. If this same investor did the opposite and had bought on May 1 and sold on October 31 from 1950 to 2004, a $318 loss would have resulted.
This is the basis of the old statement "sell in May and go away":



The blogosphere has it:

Over the course of a week, liberal blogs were asking for donations to Darcy Burner's campaign for Congress in Washington. Seems Bush is coming out to support her opponent and bloggers wanted to counter any fundraising he supported with a campaign of their own. In short, the blogosphere easily raised $100K.


I was looking over the size of donations to Burner, and amazingly there were only a couple of whale sized donations. That was a stunning amount of money raised given that fact. I think the average donation was about 40 bucks in the list I saw.
It's this kind of muscle that will get politicians attention.


Quote Of The Day

If only it's true:

"The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness. You can’t make this stuff up. And the impact this is having on the grass-roots around the country is devastating."
-- GOP strategist Scott Reed, quoted in the New York Times, about Republican scandals.

Yet, there's this:
In Alabama’s 2008 Senate race, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is in a strong position for reelection, according to a new SurveyUSA poll. He is leading state Sen. Vivian Figures (D) by 22 points, 59% to 37%.
Makes you wonder just how "damaged" they are.



No matter what anyone is saying, the Pentagon is planning to still be in Iraq December of 2008.


Stand Down While We Skeedaddle

Moqtada al Sadr announced today that he's going to fall back and have his militia stop fighting. Yeah. Right.

First off, I don't believe anything the guy says. He changes his mind seven times a day so who knows what he'll really do. Even if he does reorganize and redeploy as he promises (in two Friedman Units), it's all in preparation for the battle royal that will ensue when the U.S. leaves .... eventually.


Gasoline Inventory

I'm sure you've noticed that we're in the "relief" portion of the adaptive gasoline increase cycle. Prices are "down" now ...

It's typical for prices to continue to ease until spring as driving backs off for winter. But there's a fly in the ointment:

You know, refinery maintenance and all that .....

Despite there being plenty of oil inventory, the stocks of gasoline are at an all-time low. Thus don't count on any great further easing of gasoline prices through winter.


Things That Make You Go Hmmmm

From Romunov's blog:

Several U.S. Army soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq last week were to be witnesses in the homicide trial of their former superior.

Honolulu’s KITV reported Sunday that some of the soldiers who died in the crash had been scheduled to testify in the trial of Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales, who is accused of orchestrating the death of an Iraqi detainee this year.


Economics Quote Of The Day

Via The Big Picture, regarding trade with China:

Free and fair trade: They give us Poisoned food and toys, we give them fraudulent securities . . . Everybody wins!


Responding To The People

Doesn't this about tear it? Talk about not responding to the will of the people:

From Slate:

The Washington Post leads with word that the Bush administration wants more money for the Iraq war and is planning to ask Congress for up to $50 billion next month. The thinking seems to be that lawmakers won't be able to say no after Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker ask for more time to build on the progress they have made.
So easy to attack and start a war, so difficult to admit failure and quit. I know I'm not saying anything new, but the frustration is great when the government does not respond to the will of the people. I suspect that the White House thinking is correct and that Congress will huff and puff and cave like a cheap house. We can only hope that the next election is a large wave of removing those politicians who are unresponsive.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

NIE Report

Do you remember the recent National Intelligence Estimate Report that detailed how Iraq is a cluster-fuck? Well, it turns out that Petraeus worked overtime to get it toned down.

If you ever doubted that Petraeus drank the kool-aid, this should dispel that.


What Did He Do?

Josh Marshall is discussing Republican Larry Craig's arrest in an airport for some undisclosed sexual violation. But was it appropriate?

Not the sexual advance, but the arrest. The details are very murky but it appears that regardless of your feelings about Craig and his politics, his arrest may have been inappropriate. From a Marshall commenter:

Sure, he's a hypocrite, sure he's probably gay or bi or whatever, and sure, I despise his politics. The problem is, I'm torn between the schadenfreude of watching another one of the Family Values crowd being shown up, and feeling really bad for the guy, because he didn't do anything.

Look at the police report. Did he directly ask a cop for sex? No. Did he expose himself lewdly (as opposed to exposing himself to use the facilities)? No. Did he do anything that was unambiguously sexual? No.

All he did was tap his foot, reach down (possibly to pick up a piece of TP), wiggle his fingers, and put his bag in front of him when he sat down. Oh, and he waited in front of an occupied stall. Even if he did everything the cop said he did, where was the lewd conduct? No actual sex happened. No actual sex was discussed. And if it wasn't for the sheer embarrassment of the situation, you'd be writing about the overzealous cop who arrested a sitting US Senator for no apparent reason.
Overzealous police work? Overzealous prosecution? Getting even with a Senator who tried to use his position to get out of a tight spot? Who knows. But pure political retribution is no reason to get joy out of a miscarriage of justice.


A Threefer

In today's economic headlines, home prices declined by a record 3.2% with unsold housing inventory way up, and credit card defaults are way up. And remember, the worst of it won't be over until March of next year. The Fed is on the hot seat to cut interest rates, but a lot of folks see it as a bailout of greedy wall st. bankers. Meanwhile, inflation remains steady.

Happy days are here again!


Monday, August 27, 2007

He Said He Said

Did you hear about this?:

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) "was arrested in June at a Minnesota airport by a plainclothes police officer investigating lewd conduct complaints in a men’s public restroom," according to an arrest report obtained by Roll Call.

"Craig’s arrest occurred just after noon on June 11 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. On Aug. 8, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in the Hennepin County District Court. He paid more than $500 in fines and fees, and a 10-day jail sentence was stayed. He also was given one year of probation with the court that began on Aug. 8."

"A spokesman for Craig described the incident as a 'he said/he said misunderstanding,' and said the office would release a fuller statement later Monday afternoon."
Those Republicans, squeaky clean and all ......


Dog fighting

People who get a thrill out of this need therapy. There is something seriously wrong with them.


Screwed Again Harry

George Bush has a tendency toward mendacity.

No, he is mendacious.

Anyway, remember the "deal" made between Bush and Harry Reid regarding recess appointments? Reid threatened to keep the Senate defacto in session to prevent any more recess appointments and then Bush made an agreement he would be a good boy? Well, think again now that Abu Gonzales has bitten the dust:

Josh Marshall:

Judged by the standards of our history, a recess appointment to replace Alberto Gonzales sounds like an incredible proposition. But don't be so sure. Just as we saw with the 'pardon scooter' movement, the word seems already to have gone out to the folks on the right to start preparing the ground for just such a move by the president. I've already heard a few just this morning saying it would be the right thing for the president to do. Watch for it.
You've got to wonder just how many times the Democrats have to get punked by Republicans before they get it. Punching bag doesn't even get to how guilible they are.


Who We're Fighting

New York Times via Juan Cole, this would be the breakdown of insurgents who have been captured. Sorta puts the lie to the Pentagon/Bush administrations claims about al Qaeda:


Nearing Their Helicopter Moment

Looks like the British in southern Iraq are getting closer and closer:

Via Juan Cole:

British troops withdrew from a Joint Operations Command Center in Basra on Sunday. Gradually the remaining 5,500 British troops in the south are being concentrated near the airport, having left most security duties to the Iraqi 10th Army Division and local police. When the British left, a crowd of Sadrists gathered, celebrating and claiming victory. A force of Mahdi Army militiamen attempted to invade the site, but they were fought off by security forces, according to Reuters.


Don't Fence Me In

Remember the border fence? The $1.2 billion seven hundred mile fence approved by Congress and Bush to keep "them" out? .....

Well, here it is:

All fifteen miles of it so far.

Ah huh. Looks a lot like your typical Iraqi project to me. The contract must have been a no-bidder that went to Halliburton. Also reminds me of the levies in New Orleans.

As you may know, I'm anti-fence. Even if the thing were state-of-the-art, it wouldn't keep out illegal immigrants. And if it did, the USA economy would come to a standstill. So I guess I'm happy that it's such a shit-pile of a fence, although it's a little too expensive of a shit-pile for my liking.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Rumor Mill

Gonzales out, Chertoff in?

Hmmm .....

This could only be true after Bush were to have a blood sharing ritual, Chertoff take the Bush family oath, and Bush to kiss Chertoff on both cheeks (and don't forget the canoli):

The buzz among top Bushies is that beleaguered Attorney General Alberto Gonzales finally plans to depart and will be replaced by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Why Chertoff? Officials say he's got fans on Capitol Hill, is untouched by the Justice prosecutor scandal, and has more experience than Gonzales did, having served as a federal judge and assistant attorney general.


Ohhhhh kaaaay

On why Americans are lousy at geography .....


Headlines You Won't See

Certainly not in the mainstream media:

AP Count: Deaths in Iraq Nearly Double Pre-Surge Level
Contrary to many military and White House statements, deaths among Iraqis are actually up quite a bit from levels one year ago. Nearly 15,000 have died so far this year.
Don't they know how well the escalation is going?