Sunday, September 30, 2007

Shorter Tom Friedman:

All of us, not just me, were irrational following 9/11.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

File photo:

In the news:
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The defendant in a state senator's lawsuit is accused of causing untold death and horror and threatening to cause more still. He can be sued in Douglas County, the legislator claims, because He's everywhere.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers sued God last week. Angered by another lawsuit he considers frivolous, Chambers says he's trying to make the point that anybody can file a lawsuit against anybody.

Chambers says in his lawsuit that God has made terroristic threats against the senator and his constituents, inspired fear and caused "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants."

The Omaha senator, who skips morning prayers during the legislative session and often criticizes Christians, also says God has caused "fearsome floods ... horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes."

He's seeking a permanent injunction against the Almighty.

This file photo from April 12, 2006, shows Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha during debate in the legislative chamber in Lincoln, Neb. Saying that God has caused "fearsome floods ... horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes," Nebraska's longest-serving state senator says he is suing the Almighty to make a legal point.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik, file)
Follow up: (slightly edited)
LINCOLN, Nebraska (AP) -- A legislator who filed a lawsuit against God has gotten something he might not have expected: a response.

A court filing from "God" came Wednesday under otherworldly circumstances, according to John Friend, clerk of the Douglas County District Court in Omaha.

"It miraculously appeared on the counter. It just all of a sudden was here -- poof!" Friend said.

Chambers, a self-proclaimed agnostic who often criticizes Christians, said his filing was triggered by a federal lawsuit he considers frivolous. He said he's trying to make the point that anybody can sue anybody.

Not so, says "God." His response argues that the defendant is immune from some earthly laws and the court lacks jurisdiction.

It adds that blaming God for human oppression and suffering misses an important point.

"I created man and woman with free will and next to the promise of immortal life, free will is my greatest gift to you," according to the response, as read by Friend.

There was no contact information on the filing, although St. Michael the Archangel is listed as a witness, Friend said.
Comment at
Senator Chambers is something of a legend around here. Civil rights leader, champion of the underdog, rationalist, activist and professional pot stirrer of the first rank. Despite many efforts to unseat him over the years – as an irritant to the powers that be, if nothing else – his district has been unwavering in their support. Unfortunately, he's about to fall victim to a recent enacting of legislative term limits.
Wikipedia entry for Chambers.


Friday, September 28, 2007

In the Limbaugh section of Arlington National Cemetery:


A blog post I agree with:

Over at The Moderate Voice, Michael Stickings writes:
I would (will?) support her in the general election, but Hillary isn’t my Democratic pick. I prefer Edwards and Obama (and, yes, of course, Gore). She’s too much like her husband, too much of a triangulator, too cozy with the right, too much about personal ambition and naked self-interest, not committed enough to the liberal, progressive values that lie at the heart of the Democratic Party and my own political philosophy.
I don't think people realize how much damage Bill Clinton did to Democrats and liberal interests. A short list:
  • Supported NAFTA.
  • Endorsed the Boskin Commission proposals for reformulating the Consumer Price Index - which were implemented to the detriment of everyone on fixed incomes.
  • Signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was a huge giveaway to the established media companies (they got frequencies for free and existing rules to foster competition were abolished ).
  • Signed the Welfare Reform bill in 1994. Under the law, no person could receive welfare payments for more than five years, consecutive or nonconsecutive. How about that? After five years, no matter what the circumstances, out you go!
  • Sat on his fat ass while the Rwandan Genocide played out. (For those who followed this closely, Clinton even denied logistical support to foreign agencies that wanted to take action.) But hey, Bill issued an apology ten years later and also provided major funding for the Rwandan genocide memorial in Kigali, so I guess he's off the hook.
  • Was stupid and selfish with his affair with Monica Lewinski. He shouldn't have been impeached, but talk about giving the Republicans an issue! How much political energy was wasted by Democrats in supporting Bill? (And he "returned the favor" by triangulating, following the advice of Dick Morris.)
Hillary isn't Bill, but they are close enough on policy issues to be worrisome. Remember the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005? It put a big hurt on people who get into trouble because of illness or other misfortune. The act was more gravy for the credit card companies. How did Hillary vote? The record shows that she didn't vote that day (the only Senator to fail to vote). What a profile in courage.

And the Clintons' political calculation are similar. Note how Hillary always seems to be somewhere near the magnetic field of Republicans. What's with her vote for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that paves the way for an attack on Iran?

Of the Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary is the conservative Democrat the establishment loves.


Will Russert ask Romney to name his favorite Book of Mormon passage?

Because this week he asked the Democrats a similar question:
What is your favorite Bible verse?


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chris Matthews' odd perspective when talking about Hillary Clinton:

I don't have a complete list here, nor the time to examine hundreds of Hardball transcripts, but the fact is that Chris Matthews often speaks of Hillary using words and pictures of a troubled domestic relationship or hostility to women.
  • December 2006 (from the Howler)
    MATTHEWS (12/19/06): Bob [Herbert], I know you`re a liberal, but when is a politician like Hillary Clinton or anybody else going to admit they have the "A" word—ambition—and stop with this coy thing about [fluttering eyelids], “I’m so flattered by so much interest?” It’s like a stripteaser saying she’s flattered by the attention.
  • January 2007 (from the Howler)
    [1/21/07] ... Matthews invited the idiot Fineman to share his recent thoughts about “Miss Perfect”—the fatuous thoughts he’d first revealed in that damn-fool Newsweek column. Indeed, to help the pundits along with their mockery, Matthews’ producers had even created a visual — a laughable photo-shopped image of “Miss Perfect,” Hillary Clinton, clad in a big poodle skirt.
  • January 2007 (from the Howler)
    MATTHEWS (1/26/07): Out here, this array of states, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, are going to be in play [in 2008], more so perhaps I would argue than the south, which tends to be Republican, or the industrial midwest, which may have a problem with a modern, as Bill Clinton would say, uppity women like his wife.
  • Earlier this year, at the end of the weekend Chris Matthews Show, he "amusingly" wondered what the relationship would be between Bill and Hillary if she was elected president. He then showed a clip from I Love Lucy, where one of the two was being spanked.

  • In August of this year, Matthews used a boxing metaphor:
    MATTHEWS: OK. Suppose [Edwards] opens a cut on her eye - using the metaphor of a boxing match - and that cut above her eye is the fact she took corporate money. She takes lobbyist money. Can she ignore that kind of punch?
  • Yesterday, following the Democrats debate:
    MATTHEWS (to Chris Dodd): Do you find it difficult to debate a woman?


    MATTHEWS: Let me tell you how short Hillary’s leash is. She was asked by [Russert] about whether we’re going to get full disclosure of contributors to presidential libraries. And she did not feel that she had the latitude in her husband’s absence to give [] an answer. She said, you’ll have to ask my husband, as if [] a guy [is] going door to door trying to sell someone and says you’ll have to wait for my husband to get home.
This is a partial list. Matthews has done this sort of thing many times.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Photoshop fun:

Glenn Greenwald writes:
... Glenn Reynolds yesterday linked to this post which duly noted my failure to fulfill my duty to condemn Iran's treatment of gay people, and -- so scathingly and hurtfully -- displayed a photosopped image of me sitting next to my comrade, President Ahmadinejad, about which Reynolds said: "I still like the Glenn Greenwald photoshop."
The image in question:
As long as Glenn Reynolds in interested in amusing Photoshop work, he might get a laugh from this:


Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Is good this week.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Marcel Marceau has died:

What were his last words?


Saturday, September 22, 2007


Cliff May:
... the biggest threat to Iraq's stability and independence is Iranian intervention: both direct and through the militias and death squads that Tehran arms, funds and directs.
Fred Kagan:
Of America's vital interests in Iraq today, none is more important than defeating al Qaeda in Iraq.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Israel's air raid on Syria:

This blog post has a good round up of the speculation about the meaning of it all. Excerpt:
Commenting on the September 6 operation, a retired Turkish general told the Turkish Weekly, “Syria is very close to Israel and you likely don’t need auxiliary tanks for a flight to a neighbouring country… Using this long flight equipped with tanks, Israel tested its ability to fly to Iran.”


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bush's insecurity:

Sidney Blumenthal writes in Salon:
Bush is a classic insecure authoritarian who imposes humiliating tests of obedience on others in order to prove his superiority and their inferiority.
Bush today at the press conference: (short clip here)
I remind people that, like when I’m with, Condi, I say she’s the Ph.D. and I’m the C student and just look at who’s the president and who’s the adviser.
Sound familiar? It should. Here's a list compiled over at
  1. BUSH: Andrew Biggs is with us. He is the Associate Commissioner for Retirement Policy of the Social Security Administration, Washington, D.C. In other words, he is an expert on the subject. Andrew, step forth. Let the people of Arkansas -- no, sit forth -- let the people of Arkansas --
    DR. BIGGS: Thanks very much.
    BUSH: Tell them whether or not we got a problem or not, from your perspective.
    DR. BIGGS: Put simply, we do, in fact, have a problem.
    BUSH: By the way, this guy -- PhD. See, I was a C-student. He's a PhD, so he's probably got a little more credibility. I do think it's interesting and should be heartening for all C-students out there, notice who's the President and who's the advisor. All right, Andrew, get going. Andrew's got a good sense of humor. (Feb. 4, 2005)
  2. DR. BROWN: I'm a PhD in economics and I'm a professor at one of the other great Midwestern universities.
    BUSH: PhD in economics. It's an interesting lesson, isn't it? He's the advisor and the PhD. I'm the President and a fair student. (Mar. 4, 2005)
  3. Now, I've asked Jeff Brown to join us today, PhD. Yes. I'm a C-student. He's the PhD. He's the advisor. I'm the President. What does that tell you? It tells you there's hope for all you C-students out there. (Mar. 10, 2005)
  4. DR. BROWN: I have a PhD in economics, and I teach at a business school.
    BUSH: Yes. It's an interesting lesson here, by the way. He's an advisor. Now, he is the PhD, and I am a C-student -- or was a C-student. Now, what's that tell you? All you C-students at Auburn, don't give up. (Mar. 10, 2005)
  5. DR. BROWN: And I've been studying Social Security now for about ten years.
    BUSH: I like to remind people, by the way, he's one of my -- he's an advisor. So for the students here, take heart in this concept. He gets a PhD. I get Cs. I'm the President and he's the advisor. (Mar. 30, 2005)
  6. One of the things I try to do is surround myself with experts. We've got a PhD with us today -- Syl, it's good to have you. He is a fellow who's studied the Social Security issue. For those of you who are students, there's an interesting lesson to be learned here. Syl obviously is a really smart guy, PhD. I'm a C-student. A couple of B's scattered in there. I want you to notice who's the advisor and who's the President. (Apr. 26, 2005)
  7. For those of you who are younger, I just want you to look at the examples being set here. Olivia is a PhD. I was a C-student. Olivia is the expert. I'm the President. (Apr. 29, 2005)
  8. Thanks, Jeff. Thanks for coming. I like to remind people, he's a PhD and I was a C-student. I want you to take note of who's the President and who's the advisor. (May 19, 2005)
  9. I -- and I like to tell people, he's a PhD. I'm a C-student -- was a C-student -- and look who the advisor is. So all you C-students out there, work hard, but there's hope for you. (Jun. 2, 2005)
  10. Now, Mark McClellan, he's -- you got to have a smart guy around you all the time, and he happens to be one. He's a PhD -- yes, he's got a PhD and a medical degree. Now, for those of you who are interested to know how government works, I want you to pay attention to this. See, he's got the PhD and the medical degree, and I'm the C-student. Notice who's the advisor and who's the President. (Jun. 17, 2005)
  11. BUSH: I appreciate the Secretary of Energy joining me today. He's a good man, he knows a lot about the subject, you'll be pleased to hear. I was teasing him -- he taught at MIT, and -- do you have a PhD?
    BUSH: Yes, a PhD. Now I want you to pay careful attention to this -- he's the PhD, and I'm the C-student, but notice who is the advisor and who is the President. (Jun. 22, 2005)
  12. By the way, starting October 1st -- we have a timetable, we got a calendar. And I've got my man, McClellan, with us. He's a doctor, and a -- PhD. See, every government has got to have a PhD, but you notice who -- the PhD is not the President. (Aug. 29, 2005)
  13. BUSH: I put a good man in charge of this program, and that's Dr. Mark McClellan. He's from Texas -- which means he knows how to get something done. He's got him a PhD --
    AUDIENCE: Oooh!
    BUSH: Now, wait a minute. If I had said, California, he'd have got things done, too. I'm just telling you he can get it done. That's why he's sitting where he's sitting. He's a PhD. Here you got on stage a C-student and a PhD, and look who's President. (Aug. 29, 2005)
  14. Condi said, come on by, we've got a bunch of university presidents here. And I said, great, just so long as we don't have to compare transcripts. She's the PhD, I'm the President. She's a heck of a Secretary of State, though. (Jan. 5, 2006)
  15. I called upon a fellow named Dr. Mark McClellan to join me in this effort. He's here. That's him right there. He is a -- He's a PhD, see -- I'm a C-student. Look who's the President and who's the advisor. (Mar. 14, 2006)
  16. BUSH: What are your degrees, McClellan?
    DR. MARK McCLELLAN: Mr. President, I have a medical degree, also a PhD
    BUSH: Yeah. One of the things I like to remind people of is this fact. He's a PhD -- and I was an okay student. Look who the advisor is and look who the President is. (Apr. 11, 2006)
  17. I'm just a history major. And I'm with PhDs. Let me remind you who the President is. (Feb. 22, 2007)
The guy's a wreck.


President Bush is making sense:

From today's press conference:
"... our strategy in dealing with these extremists who still want to attack us is on the one hand, chase them and find them and bring them to justice; and on the other hand, help change the conditions that caused 19 kids to get on airplanes and come and kill nearly 3,000 citizens on our soil."
Yes, Bush's plan will insure that nowhere on earth will 19 "kids" ever want to commit a criminal attack on the United States.

It's a utopian vision, and completely realistic.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Helicopter Ben to the rescue!
Thank goodness he's propping up bubble-created overpriced houses. Just think, if there was Dutch version of Helicopter Ben in 1637, traders would have continued to get inflated prices for their tulips, and all would have been well. Alas, the helicopter wasn't realized until 1906.

In any event, now that Dr. Bernanke has prescribed the hair of the dog as a remedy, we can look forward to experiencing a massive Dutch headache - in about six months.


If Hillary Clinton had crafted Medicare in 1965 ...

The elderly would be required to purchase health care.

UPDATE: Hillary Clinton's healt hcare plan is for the middle class, not for the poor.

Somewhat related: In California there is a law, Proposition 13, which makes life very good for all homeowners. Their taxes are capped and do not rise in proportion to inflation. So where does the money come from to pay for stuff? Sales taxes are a big factor (especially cigarette taxes). Hillary Clinton's health care proposal is like Proposition 13 in that it gives middle class employed people a better deal, but for those below, there's not much and it could even be worse with an "individual mandate" that could end up involving the IRS garnishing wages.

That's not to say that Hillary Clinton's campaigning for the middle class vote isn't good politically, but it's not liberal in spirit.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Frank Rich on

From his Sunday column:
Americans are looking for leadership, somewhere, anywhere. At least one of the Democratic presidential contenders might have shown the guts to soundly slap the "General Betray-Us" headline on the ad placed by in The Times, if only to deflate a counterproductive distraction. This left-wing brand of juvenile name-calling is as witless as the "Defeatocrats" and "cut and run" McCarthyism from the right; it at once undermined the serious charges against the data in the Petraeus progress report (including those charges in the same MoveOn ad) and allowed the war's cheerleaders to hyperventilate about a sideshow. "General Betray-Us" gave Republicans a furlough to avoid ownership of an Iraq policy that now has us supporting both sides of the Shiite-vs.-Sunni blood bath while simultaneously shutting America's doors on the millions of Iraqi refugees the blood bath has so far created.


Alan Greenspan is a liar:

Paul Krugman has the proof.

UPDATE: Brad DeLong defends Greenspan. Says that in technical econo-speak, Greenspan did not speak falsely. DeLong writes: (emp add)
Now it is, of course possible that Greenspan was playing a subtle reputation-enhancing game, anxious to give testimony that the administration and its press lapdogs would spin as a green-light endorsement, but in which economists like me and financiers like Robert Rubin would be unable to find any sentence that was truly objectionable.

But let's give the mike to Alan Greenspan, p. 220 ff.:
Bob Rubin phoned.... With a big tax cut, said Bob, "the risk is, you lose the fiscal discipline."...

"Bob, where in my testimony do you disagree?"

There was silence. Finally he replied, "The issue isn't so much what you're saying. It's how it's going to be perceived."

"I cant be in charge of people's perceptions," I responded wearily. "I don't function that way. I can't function that way."
"Perceptions" are not a concern for Greenspan, and DeLong is sympathetic to that viewpoint. That's a huge opportunity for a specialist in any field (economics, computers, health care, national security) to get away with just about anything. Just be sure to be technically accurate and if it fools the rubes into making bad decisions, well, tough luck. Haven't we had enough of that already - with the Iraq War the prime example? (Saddam "had contacts" with al Qaeda, Saddam "was working on" WMD, aluminum tubes "could be used" to enrich uranium. All technically true, and therefore presumably DeLong-approved.)
  • If something is comprehensible, there is no excuse for obfuscation. There is no excuse for allowing a mistaken "perception" to take root.
  • If it isn't (like abstract mathematical theories or interpreting a complicated set of medical tests) there is nothing to be said other than "trust me to do what's right, and I'll take responsibility".
In a counter to DeLong (sort of), Felix Salmon of has this:
Here's some of the Greenspan testimony [from 2001]:
Continuing to run surpluses beyond the point at which we reach zero or near-zero federal debt brings to center stage the critical longer-term fiscal policy issue of whether the federal government should accumulate large quantities of private (more technically nonfederal) assets. At zero debt, the continuing unified budget surpluses currently projected imply a major accumulation of private assets by the federal government. This development should factor materially into the policies you and the Administration choose to pursue.
In January 2001, it seems, the prospect of the goverment paying down the federal debt to zero is and should be at "center stage", and "should factor materially" into the decision whether or not to cut taxes.
DeLong is perceived in some quarters as a liberal economist, but there's always been something about his positions that didn't feel right. He defends Greenspan, in part, because Greenspan thought Bush would restrain domestic spending. Okay, it's true that a corresponding cut in spending to match the tax cuts is mathematically sound (if you want to keep the debt from expanding), but that ignores the practical effect of actually cutting domestic spending: Fewer people get help when they are in distress. There is less spending on infrastructure. Or the Arecibo Observatory is shut down.

Where's DeLong's moral compass? Is he neutral about any statements regarding econoimic policy as long as the equations are valid?


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bush to America: Bon Appétit !

Here's what Bush is leaving on the plate in 2009.
"success will require U.S. political,
economic, and security engagement
that extends beyond my presidency


A good review of Bush's speech:

Over at The Moderate Voice (an eclectic and hard-to-classify blog). Based on the pre-release of the speech.

There will be a lot of reaction to Bush’s address - on television, in newspapers, on the radio, in the blogosphere, from candidates, experts, pundits, and anyone and everyone with an opinion - but what more is there to say, what hasn’t already been said?


Bush-watching ...

... is a hobby of this blog. And Andrew Sullivan had some pertinent comments along those lines following Bush's speech: (excerpts, emp add)
He seemed almost broken to me. His voice raspy, his eyes watery, his affect exhausted, his facial expression almost bewildered.

The case was so weak, the argument so thin, the evidence for optimism so obviously strained that one wondered whom he thought he was persuading.

The president's stunning detachment from this reality tragically endures - whether out of cynicism or delusion or, more worryingly, a simple intellectual inability to understand the country he is determined that the United States occupy for the rest of our lives.

The low-point was his almost desperate recitation of a poignant email that posited that this war is one between "good" and "evil".

The American people deserve better from a war-president: more honesty, more candor, more realism. Even now; even in the face of the horror we have witnessed for four years; even in the face of the failure that is still staring at us, he still cannot see what he has done or what is still unfolding in the Mesopotamian morass.
Bush was repeating a very, very stale set of talking points. Talking points from 2004: Freedom. Good versus Evil. Iraq could be the headquarters for Worldwide Terrorism Inc.

What a bore.


1% a month:

In the news:
Bush said that 5,700 U.S. forces would be home by Christmas and that four brigades - for a total of at least 21,500 troops - would return by July, along with an undetermined number of support forces. Now at its highest level of the war, the U.S. troop strength stands at 168,000.
5,700 / 168,000 = 3.3% in 3 months.

21,500 / 168,000 = 12.8% in 10 months.

Basically, we're talking one percent a month. If that holds, it will take 100 months at the "Bush rate" to get all the troops out. 100 months is, in case you were wondering, a little more than 8 years.


A free Iraq:

Did you catch this paragraph from Bush's speech?
The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. A free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will counter the destructive ambitions of Iran. A free Iraq will marginalize extremists, unleash the talent of its people, and be an anchor of stability in the region. A free Iraq will set an example for people across the Middle East. A free Iraq will be our partner in the fight against terror -- and that will make us safer here at home.
That was followed by:
To the Iraqi people: You have voted for freedom ...
Talk about empty rhetoric!


"good people"

Don't know about you, but the claim, often spoken by Bush or Cheney that someone is a "good man", rankles. It's usually to preempt criticism of a political ally (foreign or domestic) because of their alleged outstanding character.

We heard a variant today from Fred Thompson. Story: (excerpts, emp add)
Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson gave no opinion Thursday when asked about efforts by President Bush and Congress to keep Terri Schiavo alive, saying he does not remember details of the right-to-die case that stirred national debate.

"I can't pass judgment on it. I know that good people were doing what they thought was best," Thompson said. "That's going back in history. I don't remember the details of it."
"Good people were doing what they thought was best" is an all-purpose excuse. Remember that whenever you get cornered in a debate.


Smack dab in the middle of trouble:

Bush is set to say:
... Iraqi leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America. And we are ready to begin building that relationship.
Talk about putting your hand in a hornet's nest. If the United States is going to stay in Iraq then it will be constantly affected by the turmoil that regularly hits the Middle East. And, and this is most important, it means that a conflict with Iran is much more likely.

Also, when Bush says "we are ready to begin building that relationship", what does he mean by "we"? Must be the royal we (Pluralis Majestatis) because not that many people are looking forward to deploying, and paying for, a substantial long-term presence.

SOMEWHAT RELATED: This blog predicts a further extension of tours from 15 months to 18 months sometime in 2008.


"redouble our efforts" in Iraq:

In the news: (excerpts, emp add)
Bomb kills Iraqi sheik who met with Bush

The most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed Thursday by a bomb planted near his home in Anbar province, 10 days after he met with President Bush, police and tribal leaders said.

On Thursday, Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said ... hat while the death was not a setback to the U.S. efforts in Anbar, U.S. officials would "have to redouble our efforts to work with the local populations to get the support they need to prevent other such murders."
How does one "redouble"? With twice as many troops? Twice as many visits by Bush to the secure air base? Twice as many reports from Fred and Kimberly Kagan?


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Two Kos Diaries:

Moveon's Idiotic Ad

Anyone else think this ad is over the top?

From the dictionary:
–verb (used with object)

1. to deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty: Benedict Arnold betrayed his country.
Instead of "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" they could have resisted the pun and used a different title. The focus should always be on Bush and the Republicans; castigating the military has limited or negative political utility. Personally, I'm indifferent to the "Betray Us" line, but it's stupid politically. And it wasn't just a query in the title, the last line of the ad (pdf) is:
Today, before Congress and before the American people, General Petraeus is likely to become General Betray Us.
Likely. And where in the ad is mention of Ambassador Crocker, who is the point man on the (dismal) political situation? There is none.

MORE: publius over at Obsidian Wings:
With legs still wobbly on the GOP side, the administration (and thus Petraeus, their dependant subordinate) have a single strategy -- reassure the base. [...] For that reason, Petraeus is going on outlets like Hugh Hewitt and Fox News.

The second point -- and this is more cynical and speculative -- is that I suspect Bush/Petraeus may be purposefully provoking liberal outrage by appearing on Hewitt/Fox News/etc. After all, nothing rallies the base like attacks from liberals. And even if stirring up liberal hornets’ nests undercuts Petraeus’s credibility to the nation, it tends to increase his credibility with the conservative base (which at this point is all that matters to them). In this respect, MoveOn’s tasteless headline was literally a godsend for Bush.



First line of the Washington Post's editorial on Petraeus, Crocker and Iraq:
GEN. DAVID H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker testified yesterday that the surge of U.S. forces in Iraq has led to military and political progress and that ultimate success in the mission is possible.
That's pretty much the whole case. Success is possible. How possible? The Post doesn't say. But we all know that, except for violating the laws of physics, anything is possible. It's possible Bin Laden will turn himself in at CIA headquarters next Thursday. It's possible that every Muslim in Saudi Arabia will convert to Mormonism. It's even possible that Bill Kristol will renounce neocon-ism and denounce Rupert Murdoch. But let's get serious. When the argument is that success is possible, you've got a losing hand. It's possible I'll fill this inside straight with a Jack, even though three are already up on the table. So cover me on this bet.


No roaring success:

Fred Kaplan writes in Slate about the Petraeus/Crocker testimony:
I wasn't at the hearing. Like most people, I watched it on television. But a pall of paralysis and gloom seemed to drape the room. Nobody could have been surprised by the questions or answers. Nobody could have been satisfied by what anyone said. The situation is indisputably grim. Nobody seems to know what to do about it.
That was my impression as well. Searching through dense statistics to show that the surge hasn't been a failure is not the equivalent of proclaiming a roaring success. And something approaching a roaring success was what Bush hinted at back in January (We'll fix the problem, do the right thing, get results, etc.) Petraeus, by accident or design, hasn't done Bush any favors. If anything, Republicans will foolishly embrace the notion of 'progress' and continue to align themselves with the Iraq War. Democrats weren't impressive, but then they're simply letting events unfold and when the situation is (likely) unchanged or worse early next year, they'll sweep up more of the anti-war contingent.


The "consumer wedge":

The New York Times has an editorial that supports the introduction of Mexican trucks into the United States. In part, it reads:
... the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement was supposed to encourage free and efficient trade was by allowing long-haul trucks from Canada, Mexico and the United States to deliver goods throughout the three countries. Unfortunately, more than a decade later the Teamsters union ... and their allies in Congress are still working to keep Mexican trucks out.

... the Teamsters, which, we suspect, are just trying to stave off the competition.

That stubbornness is counterproductive. Keeping Mexican trucks out only keeps transport costs higher, harming American businesses and consumers.
Union busting would help American businesses and consumers, so should that be advocated? The standard of "is it good for the consumer" looks at only one side of the picture, that of the price of goods. The other side, who gets paid and how much, deserves as much attention. We've heard this argument before. But is catering to the consumer be the top priority? Remember, if something is good for the consumer, it can just as easily come from abroad - and in the process totally destroy a segment of the manufacturing base (and increasingly, the service sector). It was surprising to read in the New York Times an editorial that was explicitly anti-union.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Petraeus Pony Plan:

Graphic here.


Two weeks = 1 Petraeus Unit (P.U.)

In his opening statement to Congress today, Gen. Petraeus repeatedly cited progress by noting that some measures of violence for the most recent two weeks were low. (7 Meg pdf)
... the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met.

Though the improvements have been uneven across Iraq, the overall number of security incidents in Iraq has declined in 8 of the past 12 weeks, with the numbers of incidents in the last two weeks at the lowest levels seen since June 2006.

... as the chart before you reflects, the level of security incidents has decreased significantly since the start of the surge of offensive operations in mid-June, declining in 8 of the past 12 weeks, with the level of incidents in the past two weeks the lowest since June 2006 ...
That's pathetic. Why not choose an ultra-quiet 10 minutes, declare Victory, and leave?

If this is how we're going to measure things, then any future two week period, should it be bloody, can be used to argue that the 'surge' is a failure.

NOTE: Petraeus actually cited a smaller unit of time, that of one week ("the number of attacks this past week the lowest since April 2006") but since he spoke more about the two week period, it's a more appropriate measure for a Petraeus Unit.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Washington Post asks 3 questions:

In the latest editorial which asserts that
Both President Bush and Congress need to adjust to the mixed results of the 'surge.'
The editorial asks:
  • Should American fighting units remain in Iraq to continue the offensive against al-Qaeda and other remaining insurgents in Sunni areas?
  • Should the U.S. partnership with Iraqi forces continue, given the commission's judgment that those forces will not be able to secure Iraq on their own in the next 12 to 18 months but could see "increasing improvement" with U.S. backing?
  • Is the greater security in Baghdad worth sustaining with a continuing, if declining, commitment of troops?
Here's the answer: No.   No.   No.

Also, what's with the Post putting 'surge' in quotes? Is the surge not a surge?


Friday, September 07, 2007

Fred Thompson is blasé about symbolism:

In the wake of Bin Laden's video, Fred Thompson said:
"Bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else."
So not to worry. But what about Fred's position on symbolism in 1995?
S. J. RES. 31

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to grant Congress and the States the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.

Cosponsors included Fred Thompson.


Powerline blog on Bin Laden's latest video:

It's got everything: ad hominem, specious reasoning, up is down-ism, along with a big dose of contempt for liberals. (emp add)
  • "It has never been plausible to suggest that the war in Iraq is anything other than fundamental to our conflict with al Qaeda and related groups; after this video, any such suggestion is impossible."
  • "Second, the affinity between Muslim extremism and Western leftism has never been so clearly displayed."
  • "Remember the video that bin Laden released just before the 2004 election? It was virtually a campaign commercial for John Kerry."
  • "... it sounds like [Bin Laden] may be a fan of left-wing web sites as well. Thus, "all of mankind is in danger because warming."
  • "Speaking of Vietnam: just as the Democrats can't let go of Vietnam analogies, neither can bin Laden."
  • On Iraq, bin Laden reads from the liberal script. Iraq is a "civil war;" ... the justifications for the Iraq war are "based on deception and blatant lies;"
  • "I'm starting to think bin Laden is a regular poster on the Daily Kos."
  • "Bin Laden's tirade does have a point: "To conclude, I invite you to embrace Islam." Presumably the American liberals who share so many of bin Laden's beliefs don't intend to convert."
This is Limbaugh territory.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

James Brown & Pavarotti:

Video here.


Fred Kagan finds gold in the Jones Report:

Iraq War and Surge advocate Fred Kagan takes issue with those who read the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq report (by ret. Gen. James Jones) and conclude the situation is bad, as the Washington Post did:
Iraqi Army Unable To Take Over Within A Year, Report Says
Breakup of National Police Is Urged

Iraq's army, despite measurable progress, will be unable to take over internal security from U.S. forces in the next 12 to 18 months and "cannot yet meaningfully contribute to denying terrorists safe haven," according to a report on the Iraqi security forces published today.

The report, prepared by a commission of retired senior U.S. military officers, describes the 25,000-member Iraqi national police force and the Interior Ministry, which controls it, as riddled with sectarianism and corruption. The ministry, it says, is "dysfunctional" and is "a ministry in name only." The commission recommended that the national police force be disbanded. [...]
Here are some excerpts from that report, selected by Fred Kagan, who tells you what the report really says: (emp add)
  • The Commission finds that in general, the Iraqi Security Forces, military and police, have made uneven progress, but that there should be increasing improvement in both their readiness and their capability to provide for the internal security of Iraq.
  • While severely deficient in combat support and combat service support capabilities, the new Iraqi armed forces, especially the Army, show clear evidence of developing the baseline infrastructures that lead to the successful formation of a national defense capability.
  • In general, the Iraqi Army and Special Forces are becoming more proficient in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations; they are gaining size and strength, and will increasingly be capable of assuming greater responsibility for Iraq's security.
  • Finding 3: The 'clear, hold, build' strategy being implemented by Iraqi Security Forces is on the right track and shows potential, but neither the Iraqi armed forces nor the police forces can execute these types of operations independently.
  • Finding 33: The emphasis on local recruiting and assignment in the Iraqi Police Service is showing promise in establishing security at the local level; strong personnel vetting processes will remain vital.
  • Finding 34: Police training in Iraq is improving, particularly in areas where training is led by Iraqi instructors partnered with civilian police advisors.
  • Reflecting the Coalition's much stronger grasp of counterinsurgency operations, the "clear, hold, build" strategy launched in March 2006 appears to be generating results in enhancing security in the provinces.
Has the Surge achieved any results? In virtually all cases, no. But, Fred Kagan would have you believe that:
There should be increasing improvement in Iraqi security forces since they are developing the baseline infrastructures that lead to becoming more proficient, being on the right track, showing potential and promise, and that this improvement appears to be generating results.
In other words:
"Goals not met, but it's still a success because I'm optimistic."


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Fox News Channel's selective use of viewer responses:

After the Republican debate in New Hampshire, had a page devoted to viewer comments on which candidate did well, or did poorly. There were positive reviews for Ron Paul, but here are all of the negative ones. See if you can detect a pattern: (emp add, so it should be easy)
  • "Ron Paul is a very poor excuse for a Republican and should run with the other idiots on the Democrat side." — Mr. & Mrs. Payton (Florence, OR)
  • "Paul is a certified lunatic." — Rod (Garden Grove, CA)
  • “Poor old Ron Paul has just lost what sanity he ever had. I think the people in white coats should take care of him.” — Mary
Ron Paul: "idiot", "lunatic", "insane". As for the other candidates, there were few negative comments on the webpage and they were mild in comparison: "sidestepped" [the issues], "vague", "plain disappointing".

Fox News Channel sure knows how to sling someone else's mud.


Ron Paul's good answer:

In the New Hampshire debate, there was this exchange: (emp add)
(CNN) - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee made a dramatic statement regarding Iraq at Wednesday night's GOP presidential debate, declaring, "We bought it because we broke it."

The comment came in perhaps the most compelling moment of the Republican debate so far, when the Arkansas Republican directly confronted Texas Rep. Ron Paul on his position for an immediate withdrawal from the country.

"Congressman, whether or not we should have gone to Iraq is a discussion for historians, but we're there. We bought it because we broke it," he said. "We've got a responsibility to the honor of this country and the honor of every man and woman who has served in Iraq and our military to not leave them with anything less than the honor they deserve."

Amid loud cheers, Paul responded, "The American people didn't go in. A few people advising this administration, a small number of people called the neoconservatives, hijacked our foreign policy. They are responsible, not the American people."

Huckabee quickly fired back: "Congressman, we are one nation. We can't be divided. We have to be one nation under God. That means if we make a mistake, we make it as a single country."

As the crowd roared louder, Paul answered, "When we make a mistake, it is the obligation of the people - through their representatives - to correct the mistake, not continue the mistake. We have dug a hole for ourselves and we have dug a hole for our party. We are losing elections, and we are going down next year if we don't change it."

Huckabee replied loudly, "Even if we lose elections, we should not lose our honor."
Alone among the contenders, Paul, a veteran Texas congressman with a libertarian streak, made the case for withdrawing troops. That drew a sharp challenge from Chris Wallace, one of the debate questioners, who asked whether the United States should take its marching orders from al-Qaida.

"No! We should take our marching orders from our Constitution," Paul shouted back, pointing his pen at Wallace for emphasis. "We should not go to war without a declaration" by Congress.

Occasionally interrupted by applause, Paul doggedly stuck to his point. "We have lost over 5,000 Americans over there in Afghanistan, in Iraq and plus the civilians killed," he said during his exchange with Huckabee.

"How long — what do we have to pay to save face? That's all we're doing, is saving face. It's time we came home," Paul said.
Video here.


Jay Carney is Time's Washington bureau chief and the hardest working man in journalism:

Carney today:
I have a piece on raising the curtain on Fred Thompson's announcement tonight that he is, offocially and finally, a candidate in the GOP presidential primary. Yes, he's appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno rather than in Manchester at the GOP presidential primary debate hosted by Fox News' Chris Wallace. [...]
From the comments thread:
Posted by Darren
September 5, 2007

Hey Jay, the debate is in Durham, not Manchester. Although you do have the correct state. Where do you blog from, your bedroom?
Posted by Andy from Maine
September 5, 2007

"Darren: Hey Jay, the debate is in Durham, not Manchester. Although you do have the correct state. Where do you blog from, your bedroom?"

You mean a bureau chief from a major US weekly has to be accuarate in his reporting? I'm shocked, Darren, shocked that you would have such high expectations. What else would do you expect from Time's stenographer-in-residence?
A friend remarked, in the wake of Carney's dismissal earlier this year of Josh Marshall's reporting on the attorney firing, that "Carney's lazy". He sure is.



Monday, September 03, 2007

Asking a simple question:

During Bush's visit in Iraq today, he spoke to the troops that were stationed in al-Anbar province, and he was proclaiming good news:
I'm incredibly proud to be the commander-in-chief of such a great group of men and women.

The surge of operations that began in June is improving security throughout Iraq. These military successes are paving the way for the political reconciliation and economic progress the Iraqis need to transform their country.

When Iraqis feel safe in their own homes and neighborhoods, they can focus their efforts on building a stable, civil society, with functioning government structures at the local and provincial and national levels.

The kind of bottom-up progress that your efforts are bringing to Anbar is vital to the success and stability of a free Iraq.
Stop right there. We know about the local Sunni leaders that have moved against al Qaeda. That's the bottom part of "bottom up progress".

QUESTION: What's the up part?

Where's the progress at the national level that "bottom up" implies? There is none. Bush avoided Baghdad because there is no "bottom up progress" to embrace. Bush certinly would like to see "bottom up progress" but until that happens his use of that expression is pure razzle-dazzle. Don't fall for it.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

What a lineup!

On Meet the Press tomorrow, here's what they have in store:
Sunday, Sept. 2
Decision 2008 in-depth with four veteran political strategists: Democrats Bob Shrum & James Carville, and Republicans Mary Matalin & Mike Murphy.
I don't know about you, but I simply can't get enough of Bob Shrum. He's so good at politics. And of course, James Carville is exactly the face you want representing Democrats these days. Mary Matalin? She's the sweetest Republican there ever was! And Mike Murphy is ... who the hell is he anyway? He's a political consultant who used to advise John McCain. In 2000, here's what he did when McCain was battling George Bush in the primaries:
... Murphy "had pressed for a massive wave of phone calls to Michigan voters that linked George W. Bush to the anti-Catholic bigotry of Bob Jones University." It then explained how Murphy calculated his options when asked by an Associated Press reporter whether the McCain campaign had made the calls. "He could deny the calls -- despite the fact that he had written the script himself," wrote Kurtz. "He could confirm the calls and watch the breathless wire story dominate the news in the primary's final hours. Or he could stall for time. Murphy told [AP reporter Ron] Fournier he needed to check out the facts, which delayed the damaging story until the polls were nearly closed ...
A mini-Karl Rove, in other words. It's great to see the folks at Meet the Press giving viewers quality guests to opine on the political situation. Bravo!