Thursday, November 30, 2006

Oh Rude One

For those of you not familiar with The Rude Pundit, he is one of those rarities that makes the internets worthwhile. Here, his analysis of the Bush/Maliki meeting is incredibly perceptive, and of course, quite rude.



Sy Hersh has a new column, The Next Act where he asks: Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?
It seems that Cheney's reported loss of power in the White House might be illusory, and that Gates appointment does not imply a change in policy.
If nothing else, December should be an interesting month.

What's it all about?

So Feckless Leader had a two hour breakfast with Maliki, followed by a 35 minute press conference that said precisely nothing. Let's look at the events of the last couple of days.

1. Cheney goes to Riyadh, ostensibly summoned by a nervous King Abdullah.

2. A 'top secret' memo by Hadley is disclosed, it's main thrust is highlighting a lack of confidence in Maliki.

3. Bush goes to Amman to meet Maliki and the other King Abdullah.

4. Maliki and Abdullah call off the dinner meeting. Abdullah doesn't meet Bush at all.

5. It's disclosed that the ISG will call for withdrawal but not set time lines. Their report is ready but won't be aired until Dec. 6.

6. Breakfast and press conference, no change in course, Maliki makes the unlikely assertion that Iraqi security forces will be ready by July, 2007. Until that happy day, whenever it comes, the US will continue the course, which is different from 'staying the course', of course.

For a more detailed look at the meeting, read Froomkin: Bush v. Baker.

All I can see here is a kabuki dance. Were all these gyrations necessary just to show that there will be no change in policy? Maybe it was just a show to upstage the ISG report, or something else entirely that will be revealed 0nly in the fullness of time. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More News

From another part of the world:

Accept defeat by Taliban, Pakistan tells Nato

Pakistan's foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri, has said in private briefings to foreign ministers of some Nato member states that the Taliban are winning the war in Afghanistan and Nato is bound to fail. He has advised against sending more troops.

Western ministers have been stunned. "Kasuri is basically asking Nato to surrender and to negotiate with the Taliban," said one Western official who met the minister recently.

Count on your friends to tell you the truth.

Things are moving fast

Sadr's still in the government, just sitting out for a few days in protest of the Bush/Maliki meeting

Maliki skips dinner with Feckless Leader Is that to please Sadr? Note that both the NYT and the WaPo avoid saying that it was Maliki that canceled.

More troops to Baghdad

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shift Ho!

In what they are calling an 'exclusive', ABC news is reporting that the Pentagon is considering shifting troops from Anbar to Baghdad. The article says that Anbar would be 'turned over to Iraqi security forces' which is another way of saying the insurgents, because without the Marines, the Shiite and Kurdish troops will pack their bags and go home.
They might as well, it's been clear for a long while that there is no earthly good in trying to 'pacify' Anbar. (Funny how the term 'pacify' seems so Vietnam like.) Everyone there hates the US, we destroyed Fallujah so Rumsfeld could show that he could and be the big man for a day, Ramadi is a hellhole that can only get worse and now the real action is in the mixed towns just north of Baghdad.
But the real reason, that ABC will never tell you, is that the troops are needed in Baghdad to maintain the Green Zone.
The next couple of days, with the Bush/Maliki show, should prove interesting.

Fun with Numbers

Tom Engelhardt, blogging over at The Nation asks:
What If the Iraqi Insurgency Ran for Another 5,000 Years?
He refers to an NYT article that says that the Iraqi insurgency is now self-financing, and that on the high end they are raising about $200M dollars a year for their operations. The US is now spending $8B per month, so that's about $266M per day.
Just to give an additional sense of proportion:
This October, the Army signed onto a $200 million (yep, that's $200,000,000) a year contract with the McCann Worldgroup ad agency to launch an "Army Strong" ad campaign aimed at bringing into the fold those ever more resistant recruits needed to fight the Iraqi insurgency.
And that's just for the Army!

Project Iran

Today the WaPo has an article "Civil War in Iraq Near, Annan Says" with this tidbit:
Saudi Arabia is so concerned about the damage that the conflict in Iraq is doing across the region that it basically summoned Vice President Cheney for talks over the weekend, according to U.S. officials and foreign diplomats. The visit was originally portrayed as U.S. outreach to its oil-rich Arab ally.
This is a new angle, last week the reason for the trip was to reassure the Saudi's that we wouldn't pack up and leave. If the new explanation is to be believed, the Saudis must be really disturbed if the US sends Cheney (rather than Rice or some other flunky).
I'm doubtful about this new explanation, as well. It's becoming more clear that Project Iran is on the front burner. There is a drumbeat of accusations about Iran training and Iran supplying from the usual anonymous sources. Cheney goes to Riyadh to keep the Saudis on board and to reveal what he wants about the Project.
As for timing, it's interesting that Gates takeover at the Pentagon may be put off until the end of December. This is purportedly to allow Rumsfeld to become the longest serving SecDef, a big national priority.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Make norbizness's day!
Hurry! There are prizes!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Turkey lurkey

On such a gray day...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bombs Away!

Faithless - BOMBS

via Blah3

New World Oil Order

The Asia Times has a two part article that discusses in some detail the moves that Russia is making to change the rules of the energy game. The status quo, that of liberal energy markets denominated in dollars is giving way under Putin's guidance to bilateral long-term deals, denominated in other currencies. Read the whole thing:

Part I

Part II

Cheney's strategy of opening up the Central Asian countries to the US style of oil development by the big oil companies, while placing bases there to maintain control, was formulated to counter this tendency, so was the war in Iraq. The failure is shocking and net. The US is going to start suffering economically in the near term, in my opinion.

Friday Cassie Blogging

Cassie emerges from Tomales Bay:

Today only! Bonus starfish blogging:

Cheney in Arabia

The New York Review of Books has a must read article by Mark Danner, "Iraq: The War of the Imagination". It's long but it covers a lot of ground about the early days of the Iraq War, and the incredible blunders Feckless Leader and company made. This passage stands out for me:

Consider, for example, this striking but typical discussion in the White House in April 2003 just as the Iraq occupation, the vital first step in President Bush's plan "to transform the Middle East," was getting underway. American forces are in Baghdad but the capital is engulfed by a wave of looting and disorder, with General Tommy Franks's troops standing by. The man in charge of the occupation, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jay Garner, has just arrived "in-country." Secretary of State Colin Powell has come to the Oval Office to discuss the occupation with the President, who is joined by Condoleezza Rice, then his national security adviser. Powell began, writes Woodward, by raising "the question of unity of command" in Iraq:

There are two chains of command, Powell told the president. Garner reports to Rumsfeld and Franks reports to Rumsfeld.
The president looked surprised.
"That's not right," Rice said. "That's not right."
Powell thought Rice could at times be pretty sure of herself, but he was pretty sure he was right. "Yes, it is," Powell insisted.
"Wait a minute," Bush interrupted, taking Rice's side. "That doesn't sound right."
Rice got up and went to her office to check. When she came back, Powell thought she looked a little sheepish. "That's right," she said.

What might Kennan, the consummate diplomatic professional, have thought of such a discussion between president, secretary of state, and national security adviser, had he lived to read of it? He would have grasped its implications instantly, as the President and his national security adviser apparently did not. Which leads to Powell's patient—too patient—explanation to the President:

...You have to understand that when you have two chains of command and you don't have a common superior in the theater, it means that every little half-assed fight they have out there, if they can't work it out, comes out to one place to be resolved. And that's in the Pentagon. Not in the NSC or the State Department, but in the Pentagon.

The kernel of an answer to what is the most painful and intractable question about the Iraq war—how could US officials repeatedly and consistently make such ill-advised and improbably stupid decisions, beginning with their lack of planning for "the postwar"— can be found in this little chamber play in the Oval Office, and in the fact that at least two thirds of the cast seem wholly incapable of comprehending the script. In Woodward's account, Rice, who was then the official responsible for coordinating the national security bureaucracies of the US government, found what was being said "a rather theoretical discussion," somehow managing to miss the fact that she and the National Security Council she headed had been cut out of decision-making on the Iraq war—and cut out, further, in favor of an official, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who, if we are to believe Woodward, did not bother even to return her telephone calls.

Going back to 9/11, there has always been a fog in the White House that hides the question, what is the chain of command? Cheney was in the drivers seat on 9/11, Bush has delegated to Cheney the power to classify and declassify documents, and Cheney through Rumsfeld and the Pentagon ran the Iraq war and the occupation. Cheney's man Bolton sabotaged the N. Korea talks, and now Cheney is off to Riyadh, to do what?

Let's hypothesize that Gates was brought into the DoD to put the Bushites back in control. Novak says, referring to Rumsfeld's firing:
His friend and comrade, Vice President Dick Cheney, is reported to be profoundly disturbed.
If Cheney were plotting a counter move, followed by more foreign policy fireworks, Abdullah would have to be either cajoled or more probably threatened into coming on board. The personal visit makes me think the latter.

I have no idea why Bush is going to meet with Maliki in Amman, or how that relates to the above discussion. If the above hypothesis is correct, I think that we are at the tipping point, and Feckless Leader needs to be very careful if he wants to finish his term of office.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Holidays

Usually Blog Simple does not dive too deeply into the newspaper underworld, staying pretty much in NYT and WaPo country. Sometimes, however, an article has enough unique views and such a distinctive approach as to elicit comment, even when its from the Lexington Herald-Leader.
There, Jenean Mcbrearty has an OpEd, Hippies still trying to ruin the country, that has penetrated to the heart of the danger our country is in. I should know, because I, Dick Durata, was once a hippie, or at least something that Jenean might term a hippie, long hair, check, beard, check, smoke pot, check. And as Jenean points out, once a hippie, always a hippie.
But, you ask, "Dick, were you and are you trying to ruin the country?" The short answer is, of course, yes!
You, definitely in a questioning mood, ask again, "But how?"
Well, read the article, it explains all, but it not only explains all, it contains the first reference I've ever seen outside the inner circle of Hippie Headspace to our dominant spiritual belief, our religion if you will, though we don't like that term.
Their BAWL (Buddha-Allah-Wicca-Lenin) is better than some old Judeo-Christian God.
How did Jenean penetrate into this inner secret, that is now exposed to you and the readers of the Lexington Herald-Leader?
There remains only one secret we have left then, so we can continue to dominate the cultural horizons, to banish the Judeo-Christian God to the netherworld of inanity, and to get a good laugh during this season of good cheer. Oh yeah, and to ruin America!
Our special holiday runs from December 25 though January 1, then we who follow BAWL celebrate our rites, indoctrinate our children, and make mockery of you others. As a final slap in the face, we've named this holiday, "Holidays". Bill O'Reilly must have had some glimmer of the awful truth when he started his "Just Say Merry Christmas" campaign, but it's far too late now. Everywhere the call rings out "Happy Holidays", BWAHAHAHA!
(h/t The Spencerian)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Beautiful Mind

Joshua Muravchik, a resident 'scholar' at the American Enterprise Institute has a neat idea that he tells us about in the LA Times. Bomb Iran. For Joshua, there's really no choice and it's all as simple as one, two, three.

While he briefly considers some possible blow-back in Iraq, that, for Joshua, just has to be accepted. When you're a AEI guy, death and destruction are what happens to the little schmucks on the ground, scholars are way above those ugly thoughts.

Evidently, they're way above thoughts about oil, too. Yes, Joshua loftily fails to mention what an attack on Iran might do to oil prices and the US and world economies. In a 1500 word OpEd the word oil never soils his lips.

As a topper, before he returns to his tower, we learn that now we have a chance like it was 1917 and we could have crushed the Bolsheviks and made everything better; these opportunities don't grow on trees so let's not blow it again.

If and when we do bomb Iran, it will be a catastrophe that will make Iraq look like Grenada. But by then Joshua will already be plotting the next attack. That's what makes American Enterprise so enterprising. They're always thinking ahead.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

He's back!

Since 11/7, Cheney has just been doing damage to the ducks, much to the relief of fellow hunters. Now, he's come out of his rustic dives and has gone to address the Federalist Society. There he rejected calls for Iraqi withdrawal, while Feckless Leader is being shepherded by Condi around the East.
I know my record as a prognosticator is weak, but I can't help but think that lines are being drawn. Cheney has spoken as the one who determines policy. Feckless Leader in Asia has been called out.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Michael Moore's Pledge

No, it's not to lose weight. You might want to share this with your hypothetical Republican friends, in case they're worried.

Condi's ISG

Salon has an article up (you'll need to see an ad to read the whole thing) saying that it was Condoleezza Rice who was instrumental in setting up the Iraq Study Group (ISG) and not Bush I.
I'm not sure that makes a lot of difference, but I guess it's heartening that she actually didn't believe the bullshit that she was saying at the time (about a year ago).
It still doesn't answer the question if Cheney is still running things.

Friday Cassie Blogging

Cassie surveys Armstrong Woods:

Today only! Bonus Buena Blogging:

Maps of War

This is cool, a map of the Middle East that shows the spread of empires over the past 5,000 years in 90 seconds.
(h/t xymphora)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

No Exit

Tom Engelhardt, my favorite commentator on the world at large, hits another one out of the park today: Will Daddy's Boys Extend the War? For Tom (and for me) the answer is yes, there can basically be no retreat from the disastrous policies that have American casualties approaching 50,000 and Iraqi deaths at ten times that, more or less (we don't do body counts).
On the other hand, if I may quibble with one of Tom's conclusions, he states:
In fact, what we're seeing undoubtedly adds up to something more than Iraq policy recommendations -- possibly even a genuine purge of most of the remaining neocons and their allies (who are also in the process of, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern has written, eating their own). At the Pentagon, rumor has it, the leftover neocons, many of them allies of Vice President Cheney, are just waiting for their pink slips when Gates steps aboard. All this seems aimed at leaving the Vice President's office increasingly isolated and Cheney himself sidelined.
I remain unconvinced about this. Whether or not Bush I is trying to use his influence through the ISG to remove Cheney from his seat of power (having control over Feckless Leader, and running a parallel, secret government), I don't think he's succeeded yet, and I have doubts he will.
In any case, Cheney's military base strategy seems still operative despite the immense cost. The gravy train that runs from the American taxpayer to the Halliburtons to the media and the politicians will keep going round and round.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

20,000 more

Well, it didn't take long. Just to show who is the boss, now for Bush the path to victory means 20,000 more troops in Iraq, or at least so says the Guardian. It's part of a 'four point strategy' that has 'last gasp' written all over it. In a nutshell:

Four-point strategy

  • Increase US troop levels by up to 20,000 to secure Baghdad and allow redeployments elsewhere in Iraq
  • Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia
  • Revive reconciliation process between Sunni, Shia and others
  • Increased resources from Congress to fund training and equipment of Iraqi security forces
Points 2 and 3 seem like so much window dressing, the Kuwaitis and and Saudis bring nothing to the party, and there's no reason to think the Sunni, Shia and Kurds have a lot to talk about under US pressure. So it's more troops, and more money to be looted. Basically a gentle bitch-slapping of the Democratic Congress to be, letting them know that not only will they have to pay, they'll have to pay more. As Cheney says, "Full speed ahead." Looks like reports of his political demise are exaggerated.

Unspoken is the possibility of needing more troops if we are to have a little adventure in Iran. 20,000 will not be enough, but it's a first step.
(h/t Atrios)

Dueling Panels

The success of the Iraqi Study Group (ISG) in stirring interest, causing commentary and pleasing pundits has motivated Feckless Leader to set up his own panel, well not really a panel, rather it's billed as a review. In fact, it's going to be a meta-review, combining reviews by the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSC. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley will be the knitter in chief, including parts and omitting others and, undoubtedly promising victory in the conclusion.

I would hope that the ISG at least has some concrete talk about options and strategies, while we can expect Hadley's to be a collection of the Bushite talking points that won't propose much other than staying the course (without restoring that phrase from the memory hole).
But really, when you have Bush, Cheney, the Republicans and the Democrats such as they all are, what other choice is there besides 'stay the course'?

Chris Floyd, in his article No Exit, The Baker Commission and the Trap of Reality considers in some detail all of the possible solutions, staged withdrawal, withdrawal, more troops, back to bases, split up Iraq and finds that none of them will work. We know that staying the course isn't working, Chris points out that the other possibilities can't work either. Most damning is his analysis of immediate withdrawal:
6. Immediate withdrawal – "immediate" here meaning as fast as humanly possible commensurate with a more or less secure and more or less orderly extraction. The troops come home, they don't dawdle on the doorstep in some other country for awhile. But Bush will certainly never adopt this option, and neither will the Democrats, who, as Cox points out, will be too eager to prove their still-vulnerable "national security" bona fides, especially with the 2008 election looming, and blanch at being labeled the party who "cut and ran" from Iraq. And yes, it goes without saying by now, this option will very likely lead to full-blown civil war.
To me, that's still the best option, because it would require a national self-examination, and hopefully some movement away from the belief in American/Israeli Exceptionalism that dominates both parties. But the odds on it happening are astronomical.

Of course, what no one talks about is the other option, American defeat. No one on either panel, in either party can mouth that little phrase. But that is a real possibility. Anbar is largely held by the insurgents, the Shiite provinces keep tipping towards al-Sadr's boys and if and when we piss them off enough the supply lines are going to be cut. At that point, the writing will be on the wall for all to see. It's not going to be pretty.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

More on Gates

There is still a lot of contradictory opinion about Gates nomination to be SecDef. Most of the controversy revolves around his relationship with Cheney and what that implies about the VP's ongoing power in the administration. At Raw Story, Larisa Alexandrovna says that "Intelligence sources question Gates' independence from Cheney, Rumsfeld". She does temper that with some other sources who foresee Gates bringing changes:

Retired US Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who most recently served as Secretary of State Powell's chief of staff and who has been a harsh critique of the Bush administration, believes that Gates will do well.

"[Gates is] a solid guy who has made his way through the bureaucracy largely by doing what he was asked to do -- and in present circumstances, I believe that will be a positive," said Wilkerson.

Tom Engelhardt thinks that Gates is in favor of negotiations with Iran; that would be a huge policy shift for the administration whose 'surrender and then we'll talk' positions have been consistently disastrous. Tom goes as far as to say:
Gates offers another advantage for those who prefer not to go to war again. The American high command (despite the fantasies of some administration critics) would never refuse a direct order from the commander-in-chief to bomb the gates of Hell out of Iran. However, a civilian Secretary of Defense (whose reputation is at stake) might. So the replacement of Rumsfeld is also significant in this way.
It seems to me that Gates record shows that he is basically a bureaucrat, one who executes policies and not one who makes them. His talents will probably be effective in mollifying the generals, and he'll at least listen to their concerns and pass them on (something that Rummy did not do). But it's hard to believe that he will be a counterweight to Cheney, or that he represents a lessening of Cheney's power. Because if Gates isn't going to lead policy, who else besides Cheney will? The Decider himself, guided by Baker? Condi? I don't think so.


Via MaxSpeak, for the worker with everything, Marx and Engles move gracefully to YouTube:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monica in Iraqiland

Via the heretik, an article in the Washington Post by Monica Duffy Toft tries to do a little splainin' about Iraq.
Some 3 1/2 years after the U.S. invasion, most scholars and policy analysts accept that Iraq is now in a civil war. But many policymakers have not been willing to face up to the consequences. The key question is how Iraq will be stabilized.

It is an important question, because the stability and prosperity of a post-civil-war state depends in large measure on how the war ends. The fighting can stop in a variety of ways -- by military victory or negotiated settlement. Historically speaking, military victories have been the most common and have most often led to lasting resolutions. So while a negotiated settlement may seem the most desirable end point, this resolution is frequently short-lived even with third-party support.
Monica, right from the get go and while letting us know it is an important question, seems to be advocating a military 'solution'. They are more 'lasting'.
A negotiated settlement is what the United States has attempted to implement for the past two years in Iraq, and it is failing.
Shorter Monica: We've tried and tried. It''s really complicated, we're too nice, but...
Military victories, by contrast, historically result in the most stable outcomes. The reason is that typically a strong faction with a robust military is preserved. In these instances, problems with democratization, governance and political institutions certainly remain, but the state that survives retains its monopoly on the legitimate use of force and is able to leverage that legitimacy to stabilize and institute peace. Only after peace is achieved can issues of democracy, development and justice be dealt with.
Monica: So that's it. Iraq as a nation is done. Look Iraq, thriving after a US invasion and occupation should be easy because we're good, but you didn't want to be nice. Now you're going to get fucked what I call a military victory.
What does all this mean for Iraq's end state? First, it means the end of the state of Iraq as we have known it. Iraq is rapidly disintegrating, and there is no longer anything that can stop the disintegration, save perhaps an invasion by Israel, Iran or Syria. Second, having missed a number of critical opportunities from the beginning of its campaign to topple Saddam Hussein and establish democratic government in Iraq (the latter proposition dubious at best), the United States is now faced with an awful choice: leave and allow events to run their course or lend its dwindling support to one or more of the emerging states.
Maybe Monica has been doing really righteous drugs. Israel, Iran or Syria forward, ho! Why not Borat's legions from Kazakstan?
It is high time the United States and its allies began national discussions about the relative merits of leaving or staying and, if they stay, about the merits of supporting the Sunnis, Shiites or Kurds. Either way, what we now think of as Iraq is almost certainly as gone as what we once thought of as Yugoslavia, and for the same reasons.
By all means, read the whole thing. Blog Simple cannot be responsible for exploded heads.

Frighteningly, Monica has the mad qualifications:
The writer is an associate professor of public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of "The Geography of Ethnic Violence" and is finishing a book on the termination of civil wars.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Johnny Cash - Hurt

Via Atrios:

Who's who?

There's a lot of speculation around about the upcoming Democratic Congress, about the replacement of Rumsfeld by Gates, and the upcoming report from the Iraq Study Group (ISG). Gates is a member of the ISG, and there is some logic in concluding that he will be implementing some or all of their recommendations.
Looming behind these considerations is the role of Dick Cheney. Does the appointment of Gates mean that Cheney has lost or losing his control over Boy Blunder? Mike Whitney thinks so, but thinks that Cheney will not go quietly into that good night. Ray McGovern, on the other hand, views Gates as just a substitute for the politically damaged Rumsfeld, and that Gates' record shows that he is not one to devise and implement new policies, and that Gates will follow Cheney's lead.
Gates, like the head of the ISG, James Baker, is closely linked to Bush I. This tends to push my views toward Whitney's position.
Cheney has been working industriously over the past six years putting his people in the main institutions of power. Rumsfeld at Defense, Goss and Hayden at the CIA, Bolton at the State Department and Gonzales at the Department of Justice have all been on his team. When necessary, they have gone outside the chain of command to sabotage policies they disagree with (Bolton's hand in ruining the N. Korea negotiations in the Powell State Department being an example), and I'm sure they have installed many of their people in key positions.
Government in secret, outside the rule of law, is the hallmark of Cheney and his minions. Whether or not Gates and the ISG represents push back against this tendency is very debatable. Bush I and Gates both come out of the CIA, and their preference for secrecy in policy making is not that different from Cheney's. So, at best, a secret battle is taking place to determine who will secretly rule us. We can assume that part of this battle will be fought in the committee rooms of Congress, where we readers of entrails can speculate on who's fighting, who's winning and who's who.

Update: This NYT article: "After Rumsfeld: Bid to Reshape the Brain Trust" says that Gates will be clearing out the Rumsfeldites from the Pentagon, meaning the civilian appointees. Undoing the damage he caused in the officer corps is bound to prove much more difficult.
Update II: Mike Whitney has more on Cheney.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Cassie Blogging

Cassie in the dunes:

Today only! Bonus Baxter Blogging:

Thursday, November 09, 2006

One last thing about the elections...

Petty, Bush?

Dan Froomkin asks:

David Ignatius writes in his Washington Post opinion column with this fascinating if unsourced assertion:

"The White House had decided in the spring that it was time to make a change at the Pentagon, and officials were steeling themselves to break the news to Rumsfeld when the 'generals' revolt' erupted on newspaper op-ed pages, with former officers lining up to denounce their ex-boss. The White House decided it couldn't appear to bow to pressure and retreated."

Could Bush really be this petty about matters of life and death?

The Answer Man says: "Yes."

Balls, Balz

Dan Balz, a Washington Post staff writer writes in his article "For Bush's New Direction, Cooperation Is The Challenge":
In the wake of an election that swept Republicans from power in the House and left them on the brink of surrendering their Senate majority as well, both parties have greater incentives to reach accommodation than at any time since Bush was elected in 2000. Iraq will provide the critical test of whether either can overcome the ingrained habits and bad blood of six years of partisan warfare that have often left the Capitol in gridlock.
Dan does not explain how this gridlock manifested itself during the past six years. How could he? The Republican party controlled the House, the Senate and the Presidency. What George wanted, George got and now to invent a tale of a Capitol in gridlock is rewriting history at is most absurd.
But it is no mistake, you can be sure that these calls for bipartisanship, under the cover of 'news articles', are going to multiply in the upcoming days. They're going to get deafening when the committees start to investigate administration wrongdoing.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I was wrong, again. Even to these jaded, pessimistic eyes this has been a victory in the war to regain some semblance of sanity in this country. There is still a long way to go.
The inability of the administration to hide the catastrophe in Iraq was the decisive factor, I believe. For that, some measure of credit should go to the left-blogosphere. The relentless accumulation of facts undermined the media's head in the sand approach, and the repudiation of the Iraq war is net. Rumsfeld's departure, even though he'll be succeeded by the toady Gates, represents the administration has acknowledged their failure, and that is a first.
For a great rundown of the post-election possibilities be sure to read Tom Engelhardt's take. As he asks:
What Will Happen When the Commander-in-Chief Presidency and the Unitary Executive Theory Meets What's Left of the Republic?
That is the question that will determine if the 2006 election was really a victory, or just a meaningless sideshow. If Bush's assertion of imperial power is not checked by this Congress, then this will have been a meaningless exercise for the people to show off their discontent. If Congress does fight back, the struggle will be indeed the "Mother of All Constitutional Crises" as Tom says. I've stocked up on popcorn, let the show begin.

UPDATE: Madame Olivia called and was most ungracious in rejecting my job application. Calling me a seer who needs bifocals was unnecessary. I already wear them.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

With bated breath

So here we are at the decisive moment, when the world will learn if I was right about my predictions, or not. The first prediction, that the Democrats will not capture either house of Congress seems to be a losing proposition now, according to the polls and pundits, but I haven't given up hope. This is not to say that I value my accuracy more than having a Democratic Congress, and some slight possibility of reversing this country's slide into the abyss, but with 100% right I could land a cush job with Madame Olivia reading palms and tea leaves. Believe me, that beats reading entrails hands down and the pay is better.
Billmon has an good post about the current Republican party:
Like everybody else, I don't know what's going to happen today, but this election has already illuminated one critical truth: The modern GOP -- or, more specifically, the Axis of '70s Campus Republicans now running it -- really is just a criminal enterprise disguised as a political party.
The question is, can such a criminal enterprise allow its own defeat? Doesn't the prospect of Democrats with subpoena power mean real trouble? Or, can it be that they know that there really isn't anything to worry about?
Anyway, I just want to remind you that if the election is close enough, there might be enough seats in dispute that the election will not be decided by tomorrow. I shall not surrender in that case until the House is seated with a Democratic majority.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tag Clouds

A very ingenious person has devised a way to illustrate words used in speeches according to:
1. most used in that speech (larger)
2. newer, compared to frequency in earlier documents in the series (brighter)
The speeches are all Presidential, mainly State of the Union addresses, with a few major policy speeches thrown in.
For example, if you follow the Reagan's tag clouds, 'economic' is the big word in the earlier speeches, later 'family' and 'freedom' grow as 'economic' shrinks.
Go look, you can move one speech at a time using the arrow keys.
(h/t Crooked Timber, where other interesting patterns are pointed out in the comments.)

Kafka was a piker

Sure he looked hard into the future, sure he imagined himself a giant cockroach, but he never could have dreamed this one up:

U.S. Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons
Court Is Asked to Bar Detainees From Talking About Interrogations

Yes, our most precious national secrets are our interrogation techniques, so if you are ever interrogated, you cannot talk about it, EVAR!
Guilty, innocent, it just doesn't matter since once you've been, ahem, persuaded to talk, you have become privy to our secrets:
The government says in new court filings that those interrogation methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets and that their release -- even to the detainees' own attorneys -- "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage." Terrorists could use the information to train in counter-interrogation techniques and foil government efforts to elicit information about their methods and plots, according to government documents submitted to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Oct. 26.
Lawyers agree, Kafka was a piker:
Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor who has represented several detainees at Guantanamo, said the prisoners "can't even say what our government did to these guys to elicit the statements that are the basis for them being held. Kafka-esque doesn't do it justice. This is 'Alice in Wonderland.' "
So, it turns out that Lewis Carroll was the guy who really looked into the future when he wrote his book 'Alice in Tortureland'.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Cassie Blogging

Steelhead Beach, Russian River

More Lieberman

Uri Avnery has more on the new deputy prime minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, and the sorry state of Israel's democratic system.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pre-election prediction review

On September 27 I issued my fearless prediction of upcoming events before and including the midterms on November 7. They were, with an update following each in red:
  1. Democrats do better, but fail to win back either the House or the Senate. It looks nip and tuck, but Dems have a full week to continue to blow it.
  2. The national media continues to operate as an arm of the RNC. Is there a better example than the Kerry kertuffle?
  3. Schwartznegger is re-elected in California. Yuk. No brainer, musclebound movie goons with funny accents need do nothing to be a great governator.
  4. There will not be an attack on Iran before the election. Looks like another in the win column, let's hope so, anyway.
  5. Gasoline prices will continue to fall modestly. OK, so it wasn't so hard to predict.
  6. Bush's approval rating rises modestly. (see 2 and 5 above) I'd have to look at the polls, but I might lose this one. Still close, I believe.
  7. Rumsfeld will not resign. I know our Preznit!
  8. Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to deteriorate, but the media won't notice. Deteriorate check, as for the media, let's say they notice as little as possible.
  9. Torture bill passes, Democrats are mostly on board. Check.
  10. No major hurricanes hit the US. Check.
So, six already in the win column (2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10), barring divine intervention; 1 is a toss-up, 4 probable, 6 possible, while 8 could count as a victory since the Kerry thing dominates the headlines, though I can entertain arguments for the opposing view. If this trend holds up, it puts me up there with the big-league prognosticators, so move over Nostradamus.

Security Wall?

By the way, do any of you remember the 'security wall' that was announced with great fanfare back in September? I do, dimly now, and I occasionally wonder what progress has been made, or if that strategy has been abandoned.
"The enemy is changing tactics, and we're adapting," President Bush said Friday in Washington. "The enemy moves, and we will help the Iraqis move. And so they're building a berm around the city to make it harder for people to come in with explosive devices, for example. . . . They got a clear-build-and-hold strategy."
Would someone ask The Decider?

Baghdad is under siege...

and John Kerry said something stupid. So you gotta know what gets the headlines. Anyway, read this article by Patrick Cockburn. Note this little tidbit:
One eyewitness in Balad said two US gunships had attacked Shia positions on Sunday killing 11 people and seriously wounding six more, several of whom lost legs and arms. He added that later two Iraqi regular army platoons turned up in Balad with little military equipment. When they were asked by locals why their arms were so poor "the reply was that they were under strict orders by the US commander from the [nearby] Taji camp not to intervene and they were stripped of their rocket-propelled grenade launchers".
If you can tell me what that explains about US military strategy in Iraq you get the Blog Simple brownie button, in electronic form. My only feeble explanation is: 'There is no strategy.'