Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mr. Cheney, while you were running the White House, did you do X, Y, or Z?

Balkinization says what I've been thinking about lately: (emp orig)
... Cheney pretended to wrack his brain to recall whether he gave the fateful "instructions" [sending Gonzales et al to see Ashcroft]. As if that might actually have happened -- as if there would be nothing out of the ordinary if the Vice President had "instructed" the President's two closest advisors to try to squeeze a cabinet official.
Bush is a part time president if there ever was one. It's so obvious Bush doesn't like to work. Give a speech, glad-hand in a controlled setting, or make a radio address, but that's about it.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Can you believe it?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts suffered a seizure and was taken to the hospital on Monday.

"He was taken by ambulance to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine, where he underwent a thorough neurological evaluation, which revealed no cause for concern," Supreme court spokeswoman Kathy said.

Upon learning that Roberts was still groggy, Attorney General Albert Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten rushed to the hospital, bringing with them papers for the Chief Justice to sign. An eyewitness in the room with Roberts described what happened next: "The door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales, carrying an envelope, and Mr. Bolten. They came over and stood by the bed. They greeted the Chief Justice very briefly. And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there — to seek his approval of the Unitary Executive and the dismissal of Congress."

Roberts was unresponsive and when Gonzales continued pressuring him, the ailing Chief Justice lifted his head off the pillow and said "Stare decisis". Seeing that no further discussion was possible, Gonzales and Bolten then left the hospital room.


There's nothing there:

Everybody is talking about the New York Times op-ed by O’Hanlon and Pollack. Sure, these are the guys who were predicting success from way back in 2003, and were wrong about a number of other Iraq "facts" (like Saddam's WMD program). But set that aside. Here is what the dynamic duo report:
  • They spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel.
  • The morale of U.S. troops is high.
  • Civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began.
  • They talked with a Marine captain in Ramadi who is meeting with local Sunni sheiks.
  • They walked a street in Baghdad’s Ghazaliya neighborhood that is "slowly coming back to life".
  • They visited the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul where "reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities".
  • Wherever they found a fully staffed Provincial Reconstruction Team, they also found local Iraqi leaders and businessmen cooperating with it.
And they pass on claims by American advisors and command that:
  • Many corrupt Iraqis in the military have been removed.
  • Three-quarters of the Iraqi Army battalion commanders in Baghdad are now reliable.
  • Sunni sheiks there are close to crippling Al Qaeda.
That's it. Instead of delivering hard numbers that show the situation in Iraq as a whole, or even the restricted areas where the surge is supposed to work, they talk to a Marine captain and walk down a street (apparently the McCain/Graham exercise still impresses some folks). It's pretty close to 100% anecdotal, which is foolish when assessing a military situation.

Oh, and they admit that "we still face huge hurdles on the political front", which is what the surge was intended to allow to move forward.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Spoiling for a fight?

Gonzales outright lied when he testified to the Senate that the "Gang of Four" meeting of March 2004 was not about the TSP (Terrorist Surveillance Program). And this is provable since documents exist that describe the subject of the March meeting, which was the TSP.

Why did Gonzales say what he did? Especially since he must have known that his answers were checkable on that point. Why did he show up at the Senate without a briefing book?

It's deliberately provocative. It's hard to believe it's the result of incompetence or even arrogance. It smells as if the White House sees political gain if impeachment proceedings are initiated against Gonzales.

CORECTION: I should have written "Gang of Eight". The Gang of Four was a 1970's Chinese group (as referred to in comments).


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Official White House Photo:

It's lurid.


Thanks, Tom!

The big news is that Gonzales said he went to visit Ashcroft after a briefing for the so-called "Gang of Eight" bipartisan congressional leaders. From the New York Times: (emp add)
... some Congressional Democrats disputed Mr. Gonzales’s account of the White House meeting ...

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, who attended the 2004 meeting as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called Mr. Gonzales’s account “untruthful.”

Other lawmakers who were not at the hearing but who attended the meeting on March 10, 2004 at the White House, also challenged Mr. Gonzales’s account.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who attended the 2004 White House meeting as House Democratic minority leader, said through a spokesman that ... supported Mr. Comey’s objections [to aspects of the program] at the meeting ...
So what does Tom Daschle have to say?
"I have no recollection of such a meeting and believe that it didn't occur."
Way to go, Tom! Now Republicans can say that the description of the meeting as told by Rockefeller and Pelosi can't be trusted.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Once every 32 words:

Bush gave a speech today at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina. There were two parts. A 644 word introduction directed at military officials at the base and the assembled audience. That was followed by the main speech, which was 2975 words long. In the speech, Bush mentioned "al Qaida" or "al Qaeda" a total of 95 times. That's a reference to al Qaeda every 32 words. How bad is that? Here is a graphic representation:
Oh, and Bush mentioned Zarqawi and Bin Laden a lot as well.


More David Brooks:

I can't resist quoting this from Brooks' op-ed that basically tells people to shut the hell up and stop complaining about the economy:
... inequality is also rising in part because people up the income scale work longer hours. In 1965, less educated Americans and more educated Americans worked the same number of hours a week. But today, many highly educated people work like dogs while those down the income scale have seen their leisure time increase by a phenomenal 14 hours a week.
I'd be very interested to see if the increase in "leisure time" is the result of more people taking part time jobs. But beyond that, the notion that people up the income scale are there because they are working longer hours is absurd. For those way up the scale, are we to assume they are working ten times more hours than their cohort of two decades ago? Working not 40 hours, but 400 hours a week? That must be it. Although how you can work 400 hours in a week that consists of 168 hours is a mystery.


The Broder Bounce:

Bush’s job approval


And we're not even in a recession.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Shorter David Brooks:

If you're unhappy about your economic situation, it's because:
  1. You're impatient. Wait for your reward.
  2. The 90's were good, so stop complaining.
  3. You're unable to celebrate stagnant wages (be reassured, income volatility is "probably" not trending upwards).
  4. You're stupid and don't work hard enough.
  5. You're not a good worker anyway.
  6. You're not working enough hours.
  7. You don't understand that the "filthy rich" are really some other guys, so stop bitching about CEO pay.
  8. Even if the CEOs are making out like bandits, unlike everyone else in a company, the CEOs get to be paid in proportion to the company's size.
  9. You can't appreciate that "we’re in the middle of one of the greatest economic eras ever"


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Who is not going to be convinced by the facts?

Fred Barnes writes:
... McConnell believes Democrats will ignore it. "The Democrats are not going to have an epiphany. They are not going to be convinced by whatever the facts are."

McConnell said he doesn't know what Petraeus will say in September, but he expects Bush to be "extremely influenced" by his report. The president has said the same thing, calling Petraeus the "most credible" person in the country on assessing progress in Iraq. "That argument has been strong enough," he said, to prevent serious Republican defections. "Never has a military report been more anxiously awaited."
Republicans anxiously await the report that will (a) allow them to say they support Bush and the war - satisfying the base, and (2) allow them to blame Petraeus when things deteriorate further.

Until then, here's how it's going to play out. Petraeus will be declared the official supplier of "the facts", which will paint a positive picture. Republicans will applaud. Democrats will be charged with ignoring the good news. And that's how it will likely be for another six months following September.


Enough with the Sin Taxes!

In a New York Times editorial that is critical of Bush's pledge to veto a renewal and expansion of the S-CHIP program, we read: (excerpts, emp add)
... the Senate bill would provide coverage for an additional 3.2 million children who are uninsured now. And in another boon for American health, the costs would be paid for by a steep increase in taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products — a further disincentive for smokers.

If more revenue sources are needed, the House should consider a new tax on alcohol, which would also have health benefits ...
Tax people based on their income or wealth. In other words, their ability to pay. Or if we are going to tax activities in order to promote health, start with skis. That'll end broken bones. After that, tax Krispy Kreme donuts. To cut down on obesity and diabetes. Next, fried chicken. Lower the nation's cholesterol. Etc.

This going after smokers has gotten way out of control. Smokers pay taxes that cover their health costs. Find another pariah group.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

David Broder writes a reasonable column:

And this is the first comment in response:
Where is the real David Broder and what have you done to him? No mention of Republican policy priorities, no hint of noble efforts to strive for Congressional consensus, no anecdotes of heart-warming wisdom in the heartlands, not even any pats for Bush and his White House. Does this mean that the long anticipated "Bush Bounce" is now officially dead?
A very good question. Where is the read David Broder? Hanging out with Cheney? Shopping for rugs in Baghdad? Off in search of bipartisanship? America needs to know.


Friday, July 20, 2007

We will know if the surge is working by


Nothing more to say:

In a story about the Bush adminstration claim that executive privilege prohibits the Justice Department following up on certain contempt charges, one supporter had this to say: (emp add)
David B. Rifkin, who worked in the Justice Department and White House counsel's office under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, praised the position and said it is consistent with the idea of a "unitary executive." In practical terms, he said, "U.S. attorneys are emanations of a president's will." And in constitutional terms, he said, "the president has decided, by virtue of invoking executive privilege, that is the correct policy for the entire executive branch."
Unitary, whatever. It's pure authoritarianism. What's odd is the incredible short sightedness of it all. Are these defenders of Bush going to let a Democratic president have all that power? They are setting the stage.

This WaPo story has triggered a lot of comments on their website. This story might have legs.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

The al Qaeda threat:

Following the release of the NIE declaring al Qaeda to still be a threat, there was this in the news: (emp add)
Bush Aides See Failure in Fight With Al Qaeda in Pakistan

President Bush’s top counterterrorism advisers acknowledged Tuesday that the strategy for fighting Osama bin Laden’s leadership of Al Qaeda in Pakistan had failed, as the White House released a grim new intelligence assessment that has forced the administration to consider more aggressive measures inside Pakistan. [...]

In identifying the main reasons for Al Qaeda’s resurgence, intelligence officials and White House aides pointed the finger squarely at a hands-off approach toward the tribal areas by Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who last year brokered a cease-fire with tribal leaders in an effort to drain support for Islamic extremism in the region.
Go that? It's Musharraf's fault. Not Bush's for refusing to take advantage of the military momentum and favorable global politics in late 2001 - early 2002 to round up al Qaeda in Tora Bora. Which prompted a this letter to the New York Times:
This is an administration that assumes no responsibility for its actions! No, President Bush’s actions and policies in Iraq played no part in creating the disaster we now find ourselves in. No, it’s all President Pervez Musharraf’s fault!

Since Sept. 11, 2001, all we have been hearing from President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials is that their actions keep us safe and secure.
There was another letter sent in response to the news, and it contained this sentence:
President Bush has said repeatedly that his most important job is keeping the American people safe from foreign attacks.
And yesterday, Frances Townsend, Bush's homeland security adviser, said:
"... the President has made clear that job number one is to protect the American people from an attack ..."
Indeed. And what happened on September 11 2001? Back then did Bush "keep the American people safe from foregn attack"? No he didn't. Why he doesn't get criticized for that failure is a mystery.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007


David Brooks, writing about his (and other conservative journalists') meeting with Bush last week, wrote:
Bush said he will get General Petraeus’s views unfiltered by the Pentagon establishment.
Can that get a little exposure? Bush is ignoring the Pentagon. It's Petraeus and the Kagans who are who Bush listens to.

As Ezra said, Bush is "a man completely untethered from reality".


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bark Bark Woof Woof on David Brooks:

Finally, a blog with a name more absurd than Uggabugga! In any event, BBWW has a good rundown on David Brooks latest column that, for the most part, if full of admiration for Bush's "self-confidence". (Also, it turns out that Brooks was one of the ten or so conservative writers invited to the White House last week).

One quote of Bush by Brooks is of interest:
"It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist."
What is Bush saying? Bush doesn't believe in the kind of freedom from government that you get with Habeas Corpus and other constitutional restraints. Almost surely, when Bush thinks of freedom he is thinking of economic freedom, specifically Laissez-faire, an unregulated market where anybody can do what they want, which also allows for cheats (Enron) and powerful businesses to become monopolies and dictate terms. "Texas freedeom" in other words. The kind of economic philosophy Bush heard when he was gabbing with the rich folks at the Texas golf clubs. The poor are free to be poor. "If only the government would get off my back about pollution controls, I'd be able to expand my business", sort of talk.

It's likely that Bush would consider a country run by a dictator, with low taxes and an unregulated economy, to be freer than a standard-issue western european country (think France).


Simple math:

In a Washington Post op-ed that goes after Michael Moore and defends the current U.S. medical system, Paul Howard, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for Medical Progress writes:
The absence of price controls means that more cancer drugs are launched here first than anywhere else. The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden recently issued a survey of cancer treatment in 25 countries. The report found that "the [U.S.] has been the country of first launch for close to half of the oncology drugs brought to market in the last 11 years." From 1995-2005, the U.S. had 12 "first launches", compared to two in Germany, four in the U.K., three in Switzerland, and one in France.
Let's do some math, okay?

Population of the United States: 300 mil
Population of Germany + U.K. + Switzerland + France: (82+60+7+62) = 211 mil

Oncology drugs brought to market, per 100 million:
United States: 4
European countries: 4.7
This oped by Paul Howard is part of the Washington Post's Think Tank Town. Be forewarned, the tank is full of shit.

CLARIFICATION: The same sort of calculation could have been done with GDP (U.S.: 13 tril, Four countries cited: 7.6 tril). The point is that if Howard is going to compare numbers of oncology drugs brought to market by country, he can't get away by merely counting the numbers and discounting other factors like population or economic size.


Look who got replaced!
July 17, 2007

There Is No Secret Sauce

I am delighted to write to you today as the new foreign-affairs columnist for the New York Times . My name is Tam Veeraraghavan.

Ah, you say, you've never heard of Tam Veeraraghavan, but the name sounds vaguely Indian. Well, I am an Indian. I live in Bangalore. And I'm now the pundit you read in this newspaper.

Now some of you might think that I'm an example of how outsourcing is hurting American workers. Well let me introduce you to Yamini Narayanan, an Indian-born 35-year-old with a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Oklahoma. She recently moved back to Bangalore with her husband to be closer to family. When I asked her how she felt about the outsourcing of jobs to India, she responded with a revealing story:

"I just read about a guy in America who lost his job to India and he made a T-shirt that said, `I lost my job as the New York Times foreign-affairs columnist to India and all I got was this T-shirt.' And he made all kinds of money. Five dollars here, ten dollars there. But it was nothing like his former salary at the Times. "Only in America, she said, shaking her head, would someone be foolish enough to think that anecdotal stories of success could be applied to everyone. And that, she insisted, was the reason America might not fear outsourcing to India: America has more deluded columnists than any other country."



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"There is a reason Americans shouldn't worry, said Mrs. Narayanan. "America allows you to explore your mind," she said. "And now that you've taken over Tom Friedman's job, he'll be spending plenty of time exploring that vacant universe.Although what good it will do, remains to be seen."

In the coming weeks, I'll be telling you why we shouldn't, in Tom Friedman's words, "protect ... the 1 percent of jobs that might be outsourced." They are merely knowedge-based jobs that people have spent a lifetime learning how to do. But now America is poised to triumph in the non-knowledge-based economy. That should translate into big savings for parents who won't need to send their children to college. And if they don't like it, they can hope for a better deal when they get reincarnated in the next life.
Mr. Veeraraghavan joined The Times last week after submitting his resume from an Internet cafe and curry shop. His latest book, "I'll Be Driving Your Lexus and You'll be Planting Olive Trees" (2005), won the 2006 Overseas Press Club award for best in-your-face book on foreign trade and has been published in 20 languages.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Fred Kagan is blowing smoke up your ass:

In TPM's video round-up from the Sunday Shows, we hear this from Fred Kagan (at about the 3:00 to go mark):
The reason why we have a civil war in Iraq, the reason why we have sectarian violence, is because al Qaeda deliberately set out to create and foment sectarian violence.
Remember, this is the architect of the Surge. Speaking of which, there was this news item:
President Bush shocked Capitol Hill staffers and Republican leaders Monday when he crashed a meeting at the White House to deliver a blunt message that he wasn't backing down on Iraq and Republicans need to understand that. [...] Bush was described as folksy, adamant and mildly profane as he interrupted the meeting between senior White House communications staffers Tony Snow and Ed Gillespie and GOP leaders. His message: the policy on Iraq isn't changing. He is not backing down and no one on Capitol Hill should be confused into thinking he is letting up.
It's going to get very ugly (politically) in the last months of Bush's term.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bill Kristol is restrained:

In an essay that hints of rhetoric yet to come, we read the following by Kristol:
" Congress ... wants to lose a war."

"Democrats in the House" are "Defeatist Democrats"

"most" of the "mainstream media ... have simply given up on reporting the war or analyzing arguments about the war"

"foreign policy and White House reporters have little interest in what is actually happening in Iraq"

" the foreign policy establishment and its fellow travelers in the punditocracy" are not "engaging in a grown-up debate"

"The establishment, like the media and the Democrats" are "out to destroy Bush, his ideas, and his supporters, no matter the consequences for the country."

"the Democratic party in Congress, much of the media, and the foreign policy establishment--have joined together to try to panic the country"
You've gotta love the "fellow travelers in the punditocracy" line. In any event, this is the restrained Kristol for, you see, he's pleased that Bush is sticking with the surge and dismissing his critics. Imagine what Kristol will say a few months from now when it's likely the country, Democrats, and not a few Republicans, will be demanding some kind of exit from Iraq.

UPDATE: In comments to a post at TNR that linked to Kristol, one person wrote:
I read Kristol's article. Did I miss something or was there no mention of any actual positive results of the surge to support his claim that the surge is working?

All I read was denunciation of Congress; a label for anyone that criticizes Bush as Defeatists; and an actual admission that things have gotten tougher (Al Qaeda is surging as is Iran) not better since the surge began.


Everybody qualifies:

In a New York Times story about Hillary and her Christian faith, we read:
Mrs. Clinton’s religious roots run deep. While her father, Hugh Rodham, was not a regular churchgoer, he descended from a long line of Methodists.
Being descended from a long line of (fill in the blank) is all it takes!

In the accompanying transcript of the interview with Hillary, there is this:
Q: Can I ask you theologically, do you believe that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened, that it actually historically did happen?

Senator Clinton: Yes, I do.
In the main story Andrew Ferguson (of Weekly Standard) claims that Hillary is a "very liberal Protestant", believing "in everything but God". But very liberal Protestants do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus (see Marcus Borg The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, John Shelby Spong Resurrection: Myth or Reality?). Hillary Clinton is not a "very liberal Protestant", at least theologically.


Why not?

WASHINGTON - With senator John McCain's presidential campaign in trouble, the candidate has decided to embark on a completely new strategy. In an interview with reporters, McCain said that it only makes sense to cozy up to the real power in the White House, Vice President Cheney. "Why should I waste my time saying that I agree with Bush?" asked the senator, "When I could be talking about the excellent job that Dick has been doing. The reason the Republican base isn’t supporting me is because I haven't signaled that I'm the natural successor to the real Decider in the White House. With my embrace of the Dickster, I'll get the political bounce that will propel me to decisive wins in the primaries, becoming the Republican candidate for 2008, and a big win nationwide."
Political analysts are skeptical that McCain's new direction will help him. Asked to comment, Dick Morris said, "Look, I'm barely sane, but even I think campaigning as Cheney II is a stupid move. Although maybe he has no choice since nothing else he was doing seemed to work."


Another one comes around:

Steve Chapman writes in Reason online: (emp add)
Instead of being the opening blitz of a "long, global war," 9/11 was a freak event that may never be replicated. In a real war, such as the ones we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, many people die, week in and week out. But John Mueller, a national security professor at Ohio State University, notes that in a typical year, no more than a few hundred people are killed worldwide in attacks by al Qaeda and similar groups outside of war zones.

That's too many, but it's not a danger on the order of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union or even Saddam Hussein. It's more like organized crime—an ongoing problem demanding unceasing vigilance, a malady that can be contained but never eliminated.

By framing the fight as a global war, we have helped Osama bin Laden and hurt ourselves. Had we treated him and his confederates as the moral equivalent of international drug lords or sex traffickers, the organization might not have the romantic image it has acquired.

[...] The 9/11 attack was a crisis that has largely passed, but no one in Washington wants to admit it. It's politically safer to depict the danger as undiminished no matter how long we go without an attack. But someday, we will look back and ask if we were acting out of sensible caution or unfounded panic.
It will takes decades for this (that al Qaeda's 9/11 attack was not a sign of strength) to be come the established view. But it's good to see it beginning to take hold.


A glimpse into the future:

On Friday, Bush had a meeting with (who else?) conservative journalists and it was reported in the National Review. Some key excerpts: (emp add)
Forget the leaks and the speculation, President George W. Bush is not looking for a way out of the surge and the Iraq war. In a session with about ten conservative journalists Friday afternoon, a confident and determined president made it clear that he is going to see the surge through, and will rely on General David Petraeus’s advice on how to proceed come September, regardless of the political climate in Washington.

He’s not going to abandon the surge, despite all the talk of his administration being willing to move to the Iraq Study Group model of the Iraq war. He views “this period as fundamental for deciding whether or not this nation is going to be secure throughout a lot of the 21st century."

"The ideal world," he adds, "is that there would be some bipartisan consensus at some point in time to be there for a while."
[A-freakin'-mazing. Bipartisanship he'd like to see.]

President Bush understands the public frustration with the war: "We put highly trained sophisticated military people in harm’s way and they battle $100 IEDs." [...] But he said he has "tools" in the debate, including "the bully pulpit and the ability to convince the American people." He wants both to convince them that success is still possible, and "remind my fellow citizens of what the consequences of failure will be."

The president said it’s important to get good news that the media can’t downplay or ignore, to get "tangible evidence that even the filter can’t filter out — less violence, less [casualties]."

Repeatedly, the president expressed the utmost confidence in Gen. Petraeus. He expects to get a straight report from him in September and for the general’s voice to be taken seriously in the debate over the war. "The most credible person in the fight at this moment is Gen. David Petraeus," he said.

President Bush rejected the notion that he will be constrained by the availability of troops come next spring and will have to draw down the surge. He said, with a pointed ending to his answer, The key factor that I’m confident that David Petraeus is looking at as he comes back is how to achieve the initial objective he set out, which is to provide enough security for the political process to move forward. I’m sure that in the bowels of the Pentagon people are looking at troop rotations and troop movements, but that is not the primary objective of our commander on the ground — next question."

He said, eventually, "We need to be in a position that can sustain a long-term troop presence ..."
Stubborn. And deluded. You can't get angry at this point. As others have noted, this is a president that is disconnected from any normal political pressure. He will do whatever he wants unless constrained by some other power (like the funding authority of Congress). He will not leave Iraq on his own, no matter what. The ploy of Surge+Wait_for_the_Petraeus_report was designed to give Bush another 12-18 months to burn, keeping the U.S. in Iraq so that the mess will be for someone else to clean up.

Oh, and there was this exchange at the meeting:
He marveled at one of the media’s lines of questioning at his Thursday press conference, "They asked me yesterday 'Are you sure it’s al Qaeda [in Iraq]?' ‘Yeah, how do you know?' 'Because they swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden is how I know. Yeah, it’s al Qaeda.' My point though to people is that it is the same crowd that killed 3,000 that is trying to drive us out of Iraq."
Is this PR for the rubes? Or do Bush & Co. really believe it? Does it even matter? The thing about this proclaimed denial of the realities is this, it sets the stage for a subsequent "stabbed in the back" narrative.

Get ready for it.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Great fun:

I love it when Yglesias goes after Krauthammer.


Net effect?

Here is the headline and sub-head in the Los Angeles Times:
Bush quiets GOP revolt over Iraq
By reporting some headway in his buildup, he seems to persuade lawmakers to wait for a September evaluation.
Okay. Maybe that will end up hurting the Republicans in the end. If the Iraq situation gets worse (or merely remains static) people will want to get out even more. But Bush has, for the moment, contained any revolt within his party. If Republicans want to believe Bush's self-assessment of the benchmarks, it's their choice, and they will suffer the consequences.


Where's my pitchfork?

If this story in the New York Times about how the Blackstone group will get richer by getting back more from the IRS than they pay in, then nothing will. Check this up, largely, to Bush's reduction in the cap gains rate.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Yglesias sums it up:

Matt writes:
White House review of White House Iraq policy deems said policy to be successful; White House decides, based on the report, to continue with its same policy.
What was striking was how all the evening network news programs presented the White House's evaluation of each benchmark as the evaluation. As if there were no outside independent entities that could have rendered an impartial review.

UPDATE: Fred Kaplan writes:
... a close look at the 25-page [White House] report reveals a far more dismal picture and a deliberately distorted assessment. The eight instances of "satisfactory" progress are not at all satisfactory by any reasonable measure - or, in some cases, they indicate a purely procedural advance.
That last point about "purely procedural advance". There's a lot of that coming from Bush & Co. when discussing Iraq.

Kaplan concludes: (emp add)
The report card was rigged from the outset by how the White House defined "satisfactory."

The legislation required the president to submit a report "declaring, in his judgment, whether satisfactory progress toward meeting these benchmarks is, or is not, being achieved."

The White House report states, "In order to make this judgment … we … asked the following question: As measured from a January 2007 baseline, do we assess that present trend data demonstrates a positive trajectory, which is tracking toward satisfactory accomplishment in the near term? If the answer is yes, we have provided a 'Satisfactory' assessment; if the answer is no, the assessment is 'Unsatisfactory.' "

Subtle but pernicious wordplay is going on here. "Satisfactory progress" toward a benchmark is very different from "a positive trajectory … toward satisfactory accomplishment." The congressional language requires a satisfactory degree of progress. The White House interpretation allows high marks for the slightest bit of progress - the "positive trajectory" could be an angstrom, as long as it's "tracking toward" the goal; the degree of progress doesn't need to be addressed.

Yet even by this extraordinarily lenient standard, the White House authors could not bring themselves to give a passing grade to the Iraqi government on half of the benchmarks - and the most important benchmarks, at that.


Washington Post says "Wait 'til September"

Or words to that effect. In an editorial that accuses both Bush and Iraq War opponents of "wishful thinking" we read at the end:
Conditions in Iraq today are terrible, but they could become "way, way worse," ...     The generals who have devised a new strategy believe they are making fitful progress in calming Baghdad, training the Iraqi army and encouraging anti-al-Qaeda coalitions.     Congress ... should at least give those generals the months they asked for to see whether their strategy can offer some new hope.
What's interesting these days is to read the comments appended to the editorial. They are often well informed, well written, and representan angrier segment of the public than the much-derided "liberal bloggers". Here are selected comments posted by readers:
  • Get over it Washington Post From day one, the generals have failed over and over again in Iraq. They are incompetent. They cannot and should not be given the endless opportunities they seek. Victory is not and will not be theirs. It's time to pull the plug on Bush's based-on-lies fiasco.
  • Does WaPo really believe that by September the US generals will be able make significant improvement? As I see it, the situation is gradually worsening. Now, safety and security of the Green Zone is stake. Are we waiting for the day when US troops will have to fly out of the Green Zone as it happened in Saigon? Have we not seen this movie before?
  • This editorial is on an automatic six month recycle. It's actually a brilliant way to stay in Iraq for ever. "Give the strategy six months to work.Change the policy. Give the policy six months to work" Repeat into infinity This plus "no matter how bad things seem now, they'll be far worse if we leave" seems proof against any attempt to insert a note of sanity into the debate. And so we continue our merry dance.
  • ... the people indulging in "wishful thinking" in this situation are NOT the Democrats in congress - who are willing to fact the cold, hard truth, that this war is already lost. The "Wishful Thinking" is being done by the WaPo editorial board - and Goerge Bush - who are desparately hoping that if they can just keep the war going for a while longer, some miraculous Deux Machina will appear to save them from having to face what fools they've been. How may more US solders and Iraqis, have to die to save Fred Hiatt's and George Bush's fragile egos? A number, please.
  • It is obvious that the Wash. Post editorial writers do not have any children in the military. Continue on with a hopeless, immoral war because some generals say things are getting better? When have generals ever said anything else? How far the Wash. Post has fallen.
  • And let's give them another 6 months. Have I heard this before. Fred, you have backed this mess from the beginning. It's time for our troops to come home and people like you can take their place. Are you man enough?



From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, July 11 — The Bush administration will assert in the next few days that progress in carrying out the new American strategy in Iraq has been satisfactory on several of the several benchmarks set by Congress, according to several administration officials.

The White House report says the most progress has been achieved in the military realm. The American command’s latest unpublished monthly figures, prepared for the White House report, show a substantial decline in two major categories of violence, the number of Iraqi civilians killed in sectarian violence on weekends and casualties from three axle truck bomb explosions.

In the report, Mr. Maliki’s government will be credited with taking steps towards hiring staff that will be writing a draft procedure for establishing a consulting group tasked with creating an advisory board that will produce a schedule for forming a committee to review and overhaul the Iraqi Constitution. The Iraqi government is also being hailed for creating a blank Excel spreadsheet that will be filled in later as the "allocating and spending" of its $10 billion budget for reconstruction projects takes place.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Apparently it didn't help:

If you watched the Sunday shows over the last decade, you must have noticed that a very frequent guest was John McCain. From a study reported in Media Matters in February 2006: (emp add)
The study also provides new evidence of the unprecedented positive media coverage from which Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) benefits. Media Matters found that McCain has been by far the most frequent Sunday show guest over the past nine years, making 124 appearances -- 50 percent more appearances than the runner-up, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE). McCain has been granted 86 solo interviews -- more than Biden's total appearances, and nearly twice as many solo interviews as anyone else during the past nine years.
Yet McCain's presidential campaign is in deep, deep trouble. (Also, if there is an inverse correlation between Sunday show appearances and political viability, Joe Biden better start worrying.)

A year ago, liberals were concerned that McCain had a big advantage because of the television exposure. It does make a difference, but it's not clear how much. McCain, for those who watched him on the Sunday shows, was not challenged. It was more like, "Let's hear some straight talk from senator McCain about Iraq." Yet even after years of gentle treatment and substantial exposure, he's not the front runner. (But don't count him out. When the other Republicans flame out, he may end up being the last man standing.)


How about that!

Micheal Gerson, President George W. Bush's chief speechwriter for five years, writes about health care for children in the following in the Washington Post, with a focus on SCHIP: (emp add)
... consider the situation of a self-employed single mother in New York who is forced to self-insure. The average policy costs about $13,000 a year. So even if she makes $60,000, she will pay more than 20 percent of her pretax income just on health insurance. Giving her some help is not unreasonable.
President Bush, yesterday in a speech in Cleveland: (emp add)
... there's a debate in Washington, D.C. over this. It's going to be manifested here shortly by whether or not we ought to expand what's called S-CHIP. S-CHIP is a program designed to help poor children get insurance. I'm for it. It came in when I was the governor of Texas; I supported that. But now there are plans to expand S-CHIP to include families -- some proposals are families making up to $80,000 a year. In other words, the program is going beyond the initial intent of helping poor children. It's now aiming at encouraging more people to get on government health care.

... I strongly object to the government providing incentives for people to leave private medicine, private health care to the public sector. And I think it's wrong and I think it's a mistake. And therefore, I will resist Congress's attempt -- (applause) -- I'll resist Congress's attempt to federalize medicine.
Ignore Bush's wording that a program designed to assist somebody who can't afford health care for their children is an incentive to leave private care. It presumes private care is the Summum Bonum, not to be interfered with in any way. The point is that Bush is not interested in providing support for families that, as Bush's former speechwriter points out, would be unable to afford health care for their children.


No it didn't:

From Bush's Cleveland speech:
"My mind changed on September the 11th, 2001."
Nope. There was nothing inside his head. There was nothing to change. And it remains empty.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How did he find out?

From the Vittor statement:
U.S. Sen. David Vitter made the following statement today about his telephone number being on the old phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates prior to his running for the U.S. Senate. He respectfully requests that the statement be used in full without editing or paraphrasing.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling.
Okay. I can see asking the wife for forgiveness and receiving it. I can see asking God for forgiveness. But how did Vitter learn that he received forgiveness from God? Did he get a registered letter? Was he told in a dream? (The Gospel of Matthew method.) Did an angel stop by to let him know? Was there a variant of "In hoc signo vinces" in the Louisiana sky?


Monday, July 09, 2007

Hidden in plain sight:

Iraq is a mess and has deteriorated over the years. So what happens now? From the NYTimes In White House, Debate Is Rising on Iraq Pullback, this: (emp add)
White House officials [...] say that [...] debate is intensifying over whether Mr. Bush should [...] begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities.

Last week, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, called in from a brief vacation to join intense discussions in sessions that included Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s longtime strategist, and Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff.

They described Mr. Hadley as deeply concerned that the loss of Republicans could accelerate this week, a fear shared by Mr. Rove. But they also said that Mr. Rove had warned that if Mr. Bush went too far in announcing a redeployment, the result could include a further cascade of defections — and the passage of legislation that would force a withdrawal by a specific date, a step Mr. Bush has always said he would oppose.
There you have it. Political advisor Karl Rove is part of the team that determines the implementation of the Iraq project. Why would any Iraq War supporter be pleased to learn that? Whatever Rove advocates, it's going to be about politics, not tactics or diplomacy. Rove's influence cannot help but reduce, even if it's just by a bit, the chances of success in finishing the Iraq mission. You would think that just for appearance's sake, they would hide Rove. But there he is, out there in plain sight.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Getting harder to tell the joke from reality:

There is, of course, the amusing Blogs 4 Brownback (see thie Denver Post article and b4b's retort).

But what about Draft Thompson '08?
Apparently genuine, but it's a close call.


Like Poochie:

Only worse.


Then and now:

29 May 2007: (emp add)
Iraq likely to miss goals set by U.S.

U.S. military leaders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that most of the broad political goals President Bush laid out early this year in his announcement of a troop buildup will not be met this summer and are seeking ways to redefine success. [...]

With overhauls by the central government stalled and with security in Baghdad still a distant goal, Petraeus' advisors hope to focus on smaller achievements that they see as signs of progress ...
8 July 2007: (emp add)
Administration Shaving Yardstick for Iraq Gains

The Iraqi government is unlikely to meet any of the political and security goals or timelines President Bush set for it in January when he announced a major shift in U.S. policy, according to senior administration officials closely involved in the matter.

As they prepare an interim report due next week, officials are marshaling alternative evidence of progress to persuade Congress to continue supporting the war.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Who doesn't like Fred Rogers? Fox News and ...

This week, Fox and Friends had on a guest (the "expert" in these matters, a finance professor at Louisiana State University) who was arguing that Fred Rogers was a blight on society. part of the discussion included this:

Mr. Rogers had an optimistic message where everyone was special even if they didn’t deserve it.
Who else shares Fox News' disdain for Mr. Rogers? Why, the good folks at Westboro Baptist Church. Following Rogers death in 2003 there was a protest organized by Reverend Phelps and company: (pdf of poster here)
It's really bad when you're shoulder-to-shoulder with the Westboro Baptist Church.

UPDATE: Apparently dissing Mr. Rogers was going too far. The "expert" Fox had on to promote the "Mr. Rogers is bad for kids" segment has pulled back and issued a statement:
The reference to Mr. Rogers was just a metaphor. I have no professional qualifications to evaluate the real problems or propose solutions. Mr. Rogers was a great American. I watched him with my children and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again if I had young children.
Nevertheless, the evidence stands. Fox News broadcasts nonsense.

UPDATE: In comments, Rockie the Dog notes that this column in the Wall Street Journal was the starting point for the Fox discussion.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Belgravia Dispatch on Libby commutation:

A post after a month's hiatus. Good writing.


So, did you like this week?

Readers of this blog were no doubt unhappy with the Libby commutation. Completely understandable. But you have to admit that it was a week full of news, analysis, and commentary. On Monday, the breaking "Libby will have to go to jail" followed later that day with Bush's commutation. Immediate reactions all around, especially in the blogs. Then Tuesday Bush saying that he might pardon Libby later on. Tons of editorials condemning Bush's action. Olbermann goes ballistic. That takes us to the Fourth of July, which reminds us of what government should be like (equal treatment under the law) and the high-minded notions of Madison and others who crafted the Constitution. By that time, crazy comments from Peretz and Dershowitz and other neocon goofballs are making the rounds. Rolling into Thursday we see a picture of Libby's $250,000 check, presumably written without having to mortgage his house or sell a car or two. Throughout the week, Tony Snow redefining the word "farce". The Libby commutation shining a bright light on Bush's lack of compassion (both as Texas governor and President). The hypocrisy of Republicans regarding perjury. And so on.

This is what political junkies revel in.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thinking man:


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

No Chance:


Monday, July 02, 2007

Sorry he's gone:

Jim Capozzola of the Rittenhouse Review has passed away. He was an early supporter of this blog. He will be missed for his commentary.


A second mistake?

I was going to write a post about how Bush has only flown back to Washington from a vacation twice. Once for Schiavo and now for Libby's commutation. And what, if any lessons can be drawn. But it's already been covered at Daily Kos. (Bottom line: Like the Schiavo episode, this is a delicate time for Republicans and they should be wary of embracing Bush.)


Time for a new flag:


The Libby commutation:

Too bad Scooter won't even do as much jail time as Paris Hilton.

On the bright side, the action by Bush may bring Republicans, both in Congress and those running for president, closer to the president. This at a time when they are apparently trying to disconnect themselves with the administration. So while Bush's action may give him a few points (from formerly disaffected neocons), the net effect will be to make it harder for Republicans to differentiate themselves from him. And that could mean a stronger showing for Democrats in 2008.

Remember too, that this commutation will allow, for a while, all Democrats to stand in unison. They need a tonic every so often to keep them energized (regrettably). Speaking of which, they may get more pugnacious when it comes to Congress demanding documents and testimony from the White House.

Also, Libby isn't some schmoe in the Commerce Department. He was Cheney's chief of staff, and with the recent stories about Cheney practically running the White House, Bush's act looks like that of a puppet on a string. Not good PR for The Decider.

LAUGHABLE: The notion the Libby will have to pay a "stiff fine" is absurd. He'll get that money in 30 seconds from his well-heeled supporters (like Steve Forbes).

TIMING: Yes, this commutation came shortly after a court said Libby would have to go to jail while appealing his case. But the commutation was also issued during a Fourth of July week. Many regular commentators, in print, radio and television, are away. Not quite a Friday Afternoon Document Dump, but a near approximation. There are many people traveling this week or focusing on the Fourth, and their attention to the Libby story will be diminished.


In this age ...

In a WaPo op-ed, Under John Roberts, Court Re-Rights Itself, Edward Lazarus tells liberals to pretty much forget about the Supreme Court and look to the legislative and executive branch for change. That the Warren Court was an exception; that historically the Supreme Court has been conservative both economically and socially.

He goes on to say: (emp add)
With a conservative court presiding in this age of terrorism, the real question is not what gains progressives may make in this area, but how much ground they will lose.
Yup, that's about right. We are in an Age of Terrorism. Big time. Lots of terrorists out there. No nuclear bombs, biological weapons, or chemical weapons. But lots of dynamite and nails and cars and cellphones. With those terrifying weapons it's clear that they threaten the country's very existence and justify calling our era the "age of terrorism". Why? Because Edward Lazarus said so.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

In Los Angeles:

Corner of Venice and Sepulveda (just north of Culver City, east of the 405)

Over the weekend, 7-Eleven Inc. turned a dozen stores into Kwik-E-Marts, the fictional convenience stores of "The Simpsons" fame, in the latest example of marketers making life imitate art.

Those stores and most of the 6,000-plus other 7-Elevens in North America will sell items that until now existed only on television: Buzz Cola, KrustyO's cereal and Squishees, the slushy drink knockoff of Slurpees.

It's all part of a campaign to hype the July 27 opening of "The Simpsons Movie," the big-screen debut for the long-running television cartoon, which loves to lampoon 7-Eleven as a store that sells all kinds of unhealthy snacks and is run by a man with a thick Indian accent. [...]

The U.S. locations where a 7-Eleven store was transformed into a Kwik-E-Mart are New York City; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Burbank, Calif.; Los Angeles; Henderson, Nev.; Orlando, Fla.; Mountain View, Calif.; Seattle; and Bladensburg, Md.