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Friday, August 31, 2007

US Military controlled by RNC

There are two major news items today essentially proving that the U.S. Military in Iraq has become an arm of the RNC. The first informed us that the military is circulating false bios for Democratic Congressmen visiting Iraq, portraying them as anti-troop and lying about their voting records. The second informs us that access to the Think Progress website has been banned for our troops in Iraq after a soldier had posted a piece recommending "responsible redeployment" from Iraq.

Frankly, I find both stories very disturbing. If the military has become that politicized, what's to stop them from supporting Bush if he simply decides to stay in office without an election? More and more we are coming to look like the tin horned dictatorships we used to laugh at.

How to ruin an otherwise nice day

Talking Points Memo reports:

Signaling a major change in negotiation strategy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says his demands for a firm commencement date for troop withdrawals from Iraq this coming spring has become an "obstacle" and that he is willing to compromise with Republicans on the issue.

Late Update: Reid's spokesman responds to our query about his remarks, leaving little doubt that he's open to the possibility of funding the war this fall without withdrawal timelines. --gs

What in hell is wrong with these people?

Update: On reflection, maybe this isn't as bad as it sounds. This may be a way to get the Thuglicans to accept a withdrawal by not calling it a withdrawal. Still, we've been snookered by them so many times, I wouldn't trust them at all. Lucy will pull the football away at the last second every time.

Petraeus has a dog of his own in this hunt

This may be a jaded view of General Saint David Petraeus, but it sounds like a pretty dead-on perspective to me. The stories about his fantastic counterinsurgency success in his part of Iraq after the invasion always had the odor of being heavily spiked by self-promotion with the aid of a gullible (and grateful) embedded press.

No one should misinterpret the original selection of Petraeus for this assignment. By selecting the one general who would place personal ambition for turning Iraq into his lab experiment on counterinsurgency at the expense of our military, Bush found the only “general on the ground” he needed to listen to, while ignoring the contrary assessments that may come from damn near everyone else in the chain of command.

Coalition deaths exceed 4000

I suppose Americans care only about American soldiers, but “Coalition” deaths in Iraq passed 4000 a couple of weeks ago. American deaths (over 3700) will probably exceed that threshold by the end of this year.

Bushies respond to instant formula lobby and nix ads promoting breast feeding

Here we go again.

In an attempt to raise the nation's historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign.

The ads ran instead with more friendly images of dandelions and cherry-topped ice cream scoops, to dramatize how breast-feeding could help avert respiratory problems and obesity. In a February 2004 letter, the lobbyists told then-HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson they were "grateful" for his staff's intervention to stop health officials from "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding," and asked for help in scaling back more of the ads.

The formula for dictatorship

So sayeth Digby:

Sadly, the Bush administration and the modern Republican movement have exposed a great gaping hole in our system, one which has previously been held together with respect for tradition, consensus on what was acceptable and a healthy belief in what goes around comes around. What we have learned is that an aggressive and power-mad president who has 34 Senators who can be counted upon to stick with him no matter what, can pretty much do anything he wants. If he has a supine, self-serving press that refuses to do its job, so much the better. But that's really all it takes for a president to become a dictator, at least temporarily -- the will to do it and 34 men and women willing to stand behind him.


Hmmm. Today's NY Times tells us that an independent commission that was asked to study the Iraqi police force has concluded that the entire force should be scrapped and rebuilt from scratch. Now, let's see. We started building this police force in 2003. That's four years ago. So, I suppose maybe we could get back to where we are now by 2011 or so if we followed this advice. Of course, we'd have 26,000 armed and (more or less) trained ex-policemen fighting us by then along with everybody else.

When will we finally conclude that in Iraq things are FUBAR?

The "Surge"

Juan Cole posted some data on troop deaths in Iraq this year v. last year and asked someone to graph it. Here's the graph. Clearly, things are worse this year than last, notwithstanding the "surge." That, of course, was his point.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Disgusting democrats

Looseheadprop at Firedoglake reports that Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein have both said that if the President picks a consensus appointment to head the Justice Department, the Congressional investigations into the attorneys' firing scandal will lose steam.

What is wrong with the Democrats? Why is it that they won't stand up to Bush? It's disgusting!

Make war, not love

Juan Cole posts an e-mail from a friend of a friend of his who has contacts with an inside-the-beltway neocon think tank:

They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty."

We won't have to wait too long to see if this is correct.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stand up and be counted.

The announcement in today's Washington Post that Bush will seek an additional $50 billion funding for the Iraq war after his puppets, Petraeus and Crocker tell Congress that the war is going swimmingly suggests to me that he has read the tea leaves and knows the Dems will buckle. My guess is the ease with which they buckled on the FISA bill convinced him he can defeat them once again. I think it's time to start loading our guys down with mail telling them to stand up and be counted. The contact point for your Senators and Congressman is found in the left hand panel of this blog. Go to it.

If you're from Iran, you're subject to arrest

Bush talks dirty about Iran and the US Military arrests Iranian diplomats in Iraq:

The US military has admitted to what it called a "regrettable incident" after it arrested a group of eight Iranians in Baghdad.

The Iranians were held at a checkpoint and detained overnight. They were freed after the Iraqi government intervened.

Iran says the men were in the city at the invitation of Iraq's government, and that the US action was unjustified.

Next stop, Tehran.


I'm afraid Atrios is right.

I keep hoping that maybe, just maybe, these guys/gals have gone home over the August break and taken some heat from their constituents for acting like weak-kneed cowards when they caved to Bush on domestic spying. But, I'm afraid I don't have much confidence they'll learn their lesson.

A tale of two countries

Today's NY Times has two articles on opposite sides of its front page, one in the lower left and one in the lower right. The first, though headlined with "Census Shows A Modest Gain in U.S. Income" actually tells a tale of falling wages offset to some degree by longer working hours. The headline on the opposite side of the page is "Wares are on the Rise in China as Young Workers Grow Scarce." I doubt the two trends are merely a coincidence.

The situation in the US is really pretty bleak. As the Times reports, median household income in the U.S. is still about $1,000 less than it was in 2000, despite the slight gain in the past year. And, that is true even though more household family members are working, and they are working longer hours at lower wages than they were in 2000. The only good news there is the fact that there are enough jobs around to accommodate this, and that's only because we are at the end of an economic expansion. Just wait for the recession to destroy those jobs.

Meanwhile, the Times also tells us that the number of uninsured soared by 2.2 million last year, from 44.8 to 47.0 million.

Of course, China is not to blame for our problems here. They are the direct consequence of Bushonomics.

The best health care system in the world

The typical conservative critique of "socialized" medicine is that waiting times are longer in countries with state-run systems. Of course, what they're typically looking at is waiting times for elective surgery, not for emergency treatment. In state-run programs elective surgeries take a back seat to medically necessary treatments, and that's as it should be, I would think. But, somehow or other, our system always turns that on its head. Here's how the U.S. system works, from today's NY Times:

Patients seeking an appointment with a dermatologist to ask about a potentially cancerous mole have to wait substantially longer than those seeking Botox for wrinkles, a study published online yesterday by The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology said.

Researchers reported that dermatologists in 12 cities offered a typical wait of eight days for a cosmetic patient wanting Botox to smooth wrinkles, compared with a typical wait of 26 days for a patient requesting evaluation of a changing mole, a possible indicator of skin cancer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Our Child Left Behind

American Students Drop to 13-Year Low in Reading Test (Update1)
By Brian Kladko
Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Reading skills among U.S. students graduating from high school this year fell to the lowest since 1994 as measured by the most widely taken college-entrance exam.
Reading scores on the SAT declined 1 point to 502 after a 5- point drop last year, the test's operator, the College Board, reported today. The decline in 2006 had been the largest in three decades. Average math results fell 3 points to 515, and writing grades also declined 3 points, to 494.
The results for the test, taken by 1.5 million high school students, contradict findings from the rival ACT exam, which rose for the third time in five years. The declines also contrast with boasts by schools such as Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania that applicants have higher grades and test scores than ever as they compete in record numbers for freshman- class positions. Harvard accepted just 9 percent this year.
``It sort of confirms the sense in which education in our country is really a tale of two cities,'' said Barmak Nassirian, a spokesman for the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers, based in Washington.
Admissions executives at selective schools report ``a generation of hyperqualified candidates, the likes of which they've never seen,'' Nassirian said. ``Then you get numbers like this, which presumably paint a broader picture, and seem to speak of a general decline.''
International Comparisons
The SAT is primarily a U.S. test. On a 2003 assessment of eighth-graders in 44 countries, the average U.S. math score was lower than those in 14 nations, with Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan leading the way. In science, U.S. eighth-graders were outscored by peers in eight countries, with Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea at the top.

When "No Child Left Behind" started, Ohio school districts had to cut teachers to find the funds to comply with the new law. According to our DC comrades, in some engineering curriculum's in US Universities there are no American students. In electrical engineering, especially electric power, the students are mostly from China and India. There are two reasons for this. One, American students are not competitive, and two, the foreign students are all on scholarships from their countries. The US doesn't provide scholarships. As he put it, if it bothers you that all the clerks at McDonalds are Mexican, wait until all the folks building and maintaining our electrical system are Chinese and Indian.

Head for the Exits

Courtesy of Roll Call
Renzi Says He Will Not Seek Re-Election
Roll Call (subscription required)"Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) said Thursday that he will not seek re-election in 2008, ending months of speculation regarding the ethically clouded Congressman's political future."
Hastert quitsUSA Today
"Hastert, who today becomes the fourth House Republican in three weeks to say he won't seek re-election next year, didn't so much seize power as accept it. He didn't seek the spotlight."
Pryce calls it quitsWashington Post
"Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) announced yesterday that she will retire from one of the most competitive House districts in the country, after squeaking to victory in a hotly contested race in 2006."
Pickering will not seek re-electionThe Hill
"Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) confirmed late Thursday night that he would not seek a seventh term in the House, becoming the third senior GOP lawmaker this week to say he would retire."
Rove resigns despised and deifiedThe Politico
"Karl Rove will leave George Bush's side this month one of the most controversial political figures in living memory."

GOP Ethics Melt Down

Courtesy of Roll Call
The Latest News From the Ethically-Challenged House Republicans
Last year's election proved how important ethics are to Americans. After 12 years in the Majority, the Republicans' allowed their culture of corruption and lack of accountability to permeate Washington -- and they paid for it on Election Day. This past week, all signs indicated that they still haven't learned their lesson.
Indicted donor poses quandary for GOP lawmakers who accepted fundsThe Hill
"Seven vulnerable House Republicans face difficult decisions about whether to return contributions from a major Republican donor who was charged last week on 23 counts of bankruptcy fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and perjury."
Young's $10 million earmark focus of inquiryThe Seattle Times
"A Justice Department corruption task force is investigating whether Alaska Congressman Don Young took campaign cash in return for securing $10 million for construction of a proposed Florida highway ramp..."

The Mushroom Cloud Argument

Does anyone remember Bush saying that we couldn't wait for proof of WMD before going into Iraq because the smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud? Well, does this sound familiar?

RENO, United States (AFP) - The United States demanded Tuesday that Iran end any support for extremists in Iraq "at once" and raised the specter of a "nuclear holocaust" in the Middle East if Tehran gets atomic weapons.

That's from Bush's speech to the American Legion veterans today. Looks like they're dusting off another new product to bring to market in the fall.

Larry Craig

The story of Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) being busted for soliciting sex in a public men's room in Minneapolis seems to be the talk of the blogosphere today. I guess he's fair game, given his public stance on gays, but the whole thing leaves a decidedly bad taste in my mouth.

From this morning's NY Times:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 — The back-to-back resignations of Karl Rove and Alberto R. Gonzales, two longtime aides to President Bush who have become lightning rods on Capitol Hill, amount to a political housecleaning for the White House, providing Mr. Bush a fresh chance to make what he can of his remaining months in office.

As I read this, I simply laughed. Bush isn't about to make a "fresh start." He's certainly not going to play nice to the Democratic Congress.

This is simply the NY Times playing stenographer for the Bush PR team once again. And, the fact that the LA Times has virtually the same story on it's front page just tells us that the major papers on both coasts have become Bush stenographers.

And, I see from Kevin Drum and Daily Kos that others have the same take on these stories.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Recess appointment

Josh Marshall informs us that the word has already gone out to the noise machine on the right to prepare the public for a recess appointment to replace Gonzales so as to avoid Senate confirmation. Undoubtedly, the story line will be that we can't afford the luxury of any delay because we are at war and the terrorists are preparing to attack us. If we can't afford to wait a few minutes for a FISA judge to hand down a virtually automatic warrant, we certainly can't allow the Democrats in the Senate to delay an attorney general appointment for even one second.

Update: It just occurred to me who Bush might appoint to replace Gonzo: Karl Rove doesn't have a job right now, does he?

Goodbye Gonzo

Hey, I'm back from the Left Coast. It's going to take me awhile to catch up on everything before I'm back to blogging as normal, but I couldn't let Gonzo's resignation go unnoticed here at Scatablog. Who will we get to kick around next? We did manage to keep that ball in the air for quite a long time.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Was BLS forced to drink the Kool-Aid?

Did you hear any speeches, or get the memo? How did Bush-Cheney manage to get a million people to drop out or stay out of the labor force? Who cares? Well, in these times of mixed economic news, to put it charitably, I’ll bet they care a whole lot about the Bureau of Labor Statistics being able to report an official unemployment rate of 4.6 per cent for July – historically on the low side and a mere one-tenth of a percentage point increase over the previous 3 months – instead of a deteriorating employment market with unemployment having moved past 5.2 per cent in a few short months. Combined with the collapse of the housing bubble, the headlines would have looked a lot worse. After all, the press is constitutionally unable to go any deeper than the official unemployment rate, and an increase of just 0.1 can’t be too bad. Could be just a statistical glitch. It even allows the Wall Street barkers to talk knowledgeably, so they sound, about the “strong labor market” that will give us a “soft landing” from the housing crisis.

Let’s look at the numbers. Between December 2006 and July, the working age population grew by over 1.8 million. Normally, about two-thirds of that population joins the labor force, which would be about 1.2 million, and with an unemployment rate under 5 per cent, that would mean over 95 per cent of them would have gotten jobs. In other words, the number employed should have increased by more than 1.1 million. In fact, however, between December and July, the labor force grew by only 456,000 and the number employed increased by only 186,000, which means there were about 950,000 fewer jobs than there should have been. It means unemployment should have been about 8.05 million. Very thoughtful for that million or so people to decide to help out George and Dick politically by allowing them to crow about a low 4.6 per cent unemployment rate. Or did BLS somehow “lose” them? (Think U.S. Attorneys.) I wonder if they got one of Karl Rove’s Power Point presentations?

Who will protect the Sunnis?

Our main battle against the Iraqi insurgency is directed towards killing off the very elements of Sunni society that can best protect the Sunnis for the long haul. It appears they are going to need to reach a standoff against the more numerous Shia who dominate the government we have created -- or againsta gang-up between the Shias in the South and the U.S.-friendly Kurds in the North. We're not talking about the so-called "al Qaeda in Iraq," but nationalist Sunni militants (do we dare call them “patriots”?) who are ready, willing and able to take up arms to protect their society. Why is nobody asking whether this is a good long-term strategy or not?

Friday, August 24, 2007

The absurdity of the Vietnam “stab-in-the-back” theories

One of the staunch Iraq War advocates, one Max Boot who has boot-strapped himself into unjustified recognition as a military expert, has published an outrageous defense of President's outrageous mis-telling of the Vietnam war history. Says Mr. Boot (with my commentary entered at certain spots):

This has met with predictable and angry denunciations from antiwar advocates who argue that the consequences of defeat in Vietnam weren't so grave. [Misleading strawman typical of these people.] After all, isn't Vietnam today an emerging economic power that is cultivating friendly ties with the U.S.?

True, but that's 30 years after the fact. In the short-term, the costs of defeat were indeed heavy. More than a million people perished in the killing fields of Cambodia [This is truly dishonest: we had been out of Cambodia for four years, and were in no position to stop the Khmer Rouge from taking over], while in Vietnam, those who worked with American forces were consigned, as Mr. Bush noted, to prison camps "where tens of thousands perished." Many more fled as "boat people," he continued, "many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea." [Mr. Boot ignores the tens or hundreds of thousands being killed in continuing warfare before that.]

That assessment actually understates the terrible repercussions from the American defeat, whose ripples spread around the world. [Wow, can you believe this stretch?] In the late 1970s, America's enemies seized power in countries from Mozambique to Iran to Nicaragua. American hostages were seized aboard the SS Mayaguez (off Cambodia) and in Tehran. The Red Army invaded Afghanistan. It is impossible to prove the connection with the Vietnam War, but there is little doubt that the enfeeblement of a superpower encouraged our enemies to undertake acts of aggression that they might otherwise have shied away from. Indeed, as Mr. Bush noted, jihadists still gain hope from what Ayman al Zawahiri accurately describes as "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents." [Of course, our policy should be dictated by the powerless taunts of terrorists.]
By 1972 most of the south was judged secure [passive voice: by whom] and the South Vietnamese armed forces were able to throw back the Easter Offensive with help from lots of American aircraft but few American soldiers. If the U.S. had continued to support Saigon with a small troop presence [How "small"?] and substantial supplies, there is every reason to believe that South Vietnam could have survived. It was no less viable than South Korea, another artificial state kept in existence by force of arms over many decades. [That is a deranged statement.]

The bottom line on whether the Vietnam War was “winnable” or not is this. It’s the same question the Iraq War supporters refuse to listen to, much less answer: what would it have meant to “win”? Nobody has ever suggested that Vietnam could be unified under the South Vietnamese government without at minimum bombing North Vietnam “back to the stone age.” (Of course, there were some American barbarians who wanted to do exactly that.)

Yet, nobody has ever suggested that North Vietnam and the Viet Cong were not going to remain absolutely committed over the long haul to unification of the country, nor that South Vietnam would have the same commitment to unification. So that means we could have, at most, continued to prop up the South Vietnamese and protect it from complete takeover by North Vietnam. After over 20 years of supporting first the colonial French and then various Western-oriented, French-speaking South Vietnamese governments against the communists, supplying as many as 550,000 American soldiers, with almost 60,000 of them killed, several hundred thousand more seriously wounded or maimed for life, dropping more bombs on North Vietnam that we did in all of Asia and Europe in all of World War II, and spending billions and billions of dollars, the South Vietnamese government could not command sufficient loyalty from the people to defeat the insurgency and the armies of North Vietnam. South Vietnam was given 20 years of “breathing room” to establish itself. Without that, whether another period of support might have delayed the fall of Saigon that much longer is totally irrelevant. In the complex environment of Vietnam – a contrast to Korea, where divisions could be more clearly drawn and our presence justified as protection of the entire people rather than occupation or protection of a regime -- it was impossible to “win” until we had let the South Vietnam government demonstrate that it could establish control of its territory without American military participation.

Somehow, the neo-conservatives like Max Boot simply don’t get the concept of a “puppet government” -- that, except in very specific circumstances not involving an indigenous insurgency -- a government protected from its own people by the American military is not a government. It cannot command the necessary respect and support to continue as a government. The more we try to "win" in such situations, the more we guarantee we are going to "lose."

This is what they mean by "progress"

Kevin Drum publishes a compelling table appearing to make mincemeat of any claim that the “surge” is bringing progress to Iraq. Recognizing that seasons are a major factor in violence levels, he finds the following comparison between June/July of 2006 vs. the same months of 2007: Iraqi security forces killed up from 349 to 429; people killed in multiple fatality bombings up from 885 to 1053; American soldiers killed up from 104 to 186 (up 80%!); U.S. soldiers wounded up 983 to 1423; estimated size of insurgency from 20,000 to 70,000; attacks on oil and gas pipelines up from 8 to 14. Production of gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel is down. So is electricity generation.

Things are getting better, so we have to stay to keep the momentum. Things are getting worse, so we have to stay to keep trying. If you work for these people, you get to take your pick.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do you have to hate “corporations” to be a progressive?

John Edwards is ratcheting up substantive criticism of Clinton, saying we should not just replace "a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats, just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of the other." Clinton has a lot more support in the business community, while Edwards is more and more crossing the Rubicon to an outright embrace of labor.

I want them all to go into every primary strong as hell, ready to accept the verdict of Democrats: which of three (or more, but there’s only so many that can go around) fantastic candidates do we most want to be our next presidential candidate? The choice among an embarrassment of riches. In that vein, I think Hillary should embrace the Edwards challenge as a bona fide issue that shows why the country needs Democrats in charge now. It is the philosophical glue that can unite Democrats of all stripes with independents who know George Bush has gotten us into a lot of messes. If I were her, here is roughly what I would say.

People can call me a “corporate Democrat” all they want, and it’s a very legitimate issue that is being raised. My candidacy has a lot of support from many in the business community. Does a Democrat have to “sell-out” ordinary Americans by being friendly with business leaders? I reject that, and I believe my record speaks for itself. I don’t think Warren Buffett or Bill Gates expect me to sell out ordinary Americans who have always been the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. They, like many responsible business leaders, recognize that a country is only as strong as its weakest links – that millions of Americans continuing to live in poverty, the threat of becoming uninsured against a health catastrophe hanging over almost every family in the country, growing inequality between the richest Americans and ordinary people, a resource-draining war and the gigantic loss of America’s standing in the world – these are all like an enormous ball-and-chain dragging down our economy and our whole society.

Being a progressive is not about being hostile to business, which, after all, is responsible for about three-quarters of the paychecks Americans receive. It’s about making sure ordinary Americans get a fair shot at dividing up the rewards. Under this Republican administration, the spotty economic growth we have had has been grabbed up almost entirely by the wealthiest Americans. That’s out of whack. The difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is that Republicans owe their political existence almost entirely to the very wealthy. We care – we have to care -- about every American. We have to care about workers, and the environment, people who care about Social Security, and women’s rights and racial equality or we will not continue to get their support. We are the only party that can put things back into balance, and a President who wants to accomplish things for the American people will be a lot more successful with solid support from the responsible American business community.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Let's get this straight once and for all

Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose has been waging a rear-guard defense of the so-called “Serious” foreign policy scholars and commentators who were cheerleaders for the war.

. . . . even knowledgeable professionals who were opposed to the war generally thought Iraq had dangerous prohibited weapons programs—they just disagreed over how to handle the problem.

Let’s get this straight once and for all: what somebody thought in August 2002 has nothing whatsoever to do with what he or she thought by March 19, 2003 when the invasion was launched. What may have been reasonable in August 2002 was not reasonable in March 2003. In August 2002, I was not quite ready to think the President of the United States of America and the Vice President of the United States of America would outright lie through their teeth. I didn’t know much yet about the Project for the New American Century, neoconservatives in their most recent formulation, and the like. So I vaguely thought, My God, if that’s true we need to do something about it. But over the following months, severe doubts were being cast publicly on one confidently-declared “fact” after another. UPI reported on the doubts of experts about the aluminum tubes September 20, 2002. The Administration launched a campaign of repeating the term “Weapons of Mass Destruction” like an advertising slogan, with sudden virtual abandonment of the word “nuclear,” suggesting strongly to anyone listening that we were being subjected to the techniques of an advertising or PR campaign. Colin Powell’s allusions to yellowcake and the mobile biological weapons labs were discredited just a few days after his UN speech.

So let’s get this straight once and for all: by the third week of March, 2003, seven full months after Cheney gave his baldly lying “no doubt” speech, nobody Serious could possibly have believed with sufficient confidence to justify launching a pre-emptive war that Saddam had nuclear weapons or a functioning nuclear weapons program. There were serious, publicly-revealed reasons to doubt whether Saddam had any nuclear weapons, any nuclear weapons program, or any other WMD of significance. For the very reason that the serious, substantive doubts contrasted so sharply with the expressions of absolute certainty, there was substantial indication that the Administration had been engaged in a sustained public relations campaign – which should not have been needed if the facts supported the claims. France and Germany, presumably privy within NATO channels to more shared intelligence, had resisted, whereas in the Gulf War and the Balkan wars, France was an active partner with the U.S. The claims that Saddam was working with bin Laden were repudiated. The fact that the “doubts” stories were placed on page A47 or wherever suggested that at least the Washington Post might be colluding with the Administration. And finally, the UN inspectors, who in December had been let back in by Saddam with unacceptable conditions, had declared over a month before the invasion that they now had access to any place of their choosing in Iraq without restrictions.

So let’s get this straight once and for all again: before Bush launched the war, at a time when he was baldly lying that war could still be avoided, there were very serious public doubts about the claims that Saddam had WMDs or WMD programs. This means, simply, that nobody who wants to be considered a Serious Foreign Policy scholar or commentator could possibly support an invasion at that point. There was one and only one legitimate position: that we did not know what the situation was, and, accordingly, that we should hold off from any military action at least as long as Hans Blix was allowed to continue the inspections to a satisfactory conclusion. We knew for a fact that we did not know. We knew for a fact that a lot of what we had believed was simply false.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Remembering a Distant Trumphet: Reader's Contribution

Many Democrats have a record of not standing firm in the face of criticism by Republicans. Sometimes this gets major attention, for example, the recent clashes about funding for the war in Iraq. Sometimes this buckling under is hardly noticed. Why don't Democrats counter each Republican criticism with facts and principles? Why are some Democrats too afraid to act on their convictions? The lower limit is every bit as important as the upper limit in this matter. One learns just how spineless a person is by examining the little battles.

Rachel Carson was born May 27, 1907, in Springdale, PA. According to an article on page 7A of USA Today for May 24, 2007, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md. planned to submit a resolution honoring her on the 100th anniversary of her birth. He did not do so because Sen. Tom Coburn, R- Okla. objected. Coburn claims Carson wrote about "junk science" concerning the effects of pesticides. Her 1962 book Silent Spring had an enormous impact in getting the chemical DDT banned in the U.S in 1972. Coburn is concerned about deaths from malaria and other insect-borne diseases.

Three myths about Rachel Carson's positions are discussed at Information is provided that makes Coburn's claims unbelievable. Biographical information about Rachel Carson is at

Rachel Carson should be honored, not only by Congressional resolutions, but also by actions that minimize the effects of humankind on the rest of nature. This incident shows that neither Senator Coburn nor Senator Cardin deserve respect. We need leaders who not only recognize Rachel Carson's contributions to the welfare of the natural world (including all people), but also have her courage to make conclusions based upon evidence and to communicate those conclusions in spite of intimidation by other people.

Monday, August 20, 2007

If they refuse to testify, “Book ‘em, Terrance.”

I missed this great op-ed in the Boston Globe a few weeks ago by a real expert on “executive privilege, but here it is now. The author points out that the only legal privilege mentioned in the Constitution is the ancient legislative privilege from English law – the legislature's freedom from interference by the other branches in the legislative process -- while “executive privilege” is strictly a court-made construct – in other words, a clear case of “judicial activism,” which the Republicans have no hesitation supporting when it suits their purposes.

The very large money quote:

Congress's subpoena power is roomy enough to fry fish larger than the US attorneys scandal, such as the CIA's secret prisons or the Bush administration's institutionalization of torture. But when the president explicates a bizarre interpretation of constitutional law, Congress should not stand by as executive branch officials thumb their noses at subpoenas. The president has threatened that if Congress seeks to hold presidential advisers Harriet Miers or Joshua Bolten in contempt, he will order Justice Department prosecutors to refuse to prosecute them for contempt of Congress.

But Congress has tools and powers at its disposal that can do an end run around such executive branch obduracy. Although the executive and the legislative branches are coequal in some ways, the Constitution instructs that in the area of privilege they are not. Although the courts have been reluctant to recognize congressional privilege, they have conceded that Congress is not powerless to enforce its will without any assistance from either the courts or the Department of Justice. As recently as 1934, in Jurney v. MacCracken, the high court upheld the arrest of a minor executive branch official by the Senate's sergeant-at-arms. Terrance Gainer, who holds that position today, maintains on his office's website that he is "authorized to arrest and detain any person violating Senate rules, including the President of the United States."

This remedy of congressional detention is available in theory, but in practice Congress has preferred to refer contempt cases to the Justice Department. If Bush instructs federal prosecutors to ignore Congress, the Judiciary Committees of each house could reassert their historical rights. If White House advisers keep acting like intransigent children enabled by a misguided parent, the House and Senate could tell their sergeants-at-arms to demonstrate the principle of separation of powers. Perhaps then Congress will get the respect the Constitution says it deserves.

Too many Democratic debates?

I would say that’s basically up to the candidates, whatever they can handle. Here’s another way of looking at it. Most of the time, the challenges are lodged in a relatively soft manner. This is it should be for now, considering they are all Democrats “trying out for quarterback on the same team,” as Obama put it (probably not originally, but that’s unimportant). They are also legitimate questions for the voters -- Obama’s thin national experience, Clinton’s Washington-insider status, etc. -- that will in any case have to be answered persuasively in the general election. Right now, most voters aren’t paying a lot of attention, so the damage is minimal, but bloggers and other commentators are giving them instant feedback on their answers. It’s great preparation.

I think Obama’s getting some good mileage out of his retort that, in light of the problems that face us, especially including Iraq, Washington experience is a lot less than what it’s cracked up to be, maybe even a negative. Clinton, meanwhile, is eroding the negatives that have been systematically built-up around her by the right wing message machine for the last seven years. Some of those negatives, like the charge that she is “a polarizing figure,” are absurd, a perfect example of bootstrap perceptions: she is “polarizing” because Republicans (and even some Democrats and independents) think she is polarizing because they are told relentlessly by the message machine that she is polarizing with zero evidence to support it (and massive evidence to contradict it). Her negatives may be high in number, but I believe they are very thin. In a general election, when Americans have seen her in action for awhile, they will erode to mostly hard-core Republicans.

Meanwhile, Obama will be able to drive out perceptions of inexperience by the sheer intelligence he presents. Hillary will be able to play off her Chicago roots and years supporting Bill in the Arkansas hinterlands to let us know she has not lost touch with the view from outside the Beltway. As a matter of fact, what a team!!! Brilliance, experience, the inside expertise with the outside perspective, change anchored to reality, and above all, Democrats. Letterman said that over-and-over when he had Obama on his show a few months ago: “Clinton and Obama, Obama and Clinton, what a powerhouse team that would be, don’t you think?” Obama didn’t miss a beat: “Well, of course, but, um, Dave, what order did you have in mind there?”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Great one-liners

OK, I wish these really were simply funny. They're not, at least not in context, but you'll have to read "Pentagon Adopts Missionary Position on Homoerotic Art" (h/t Crooks & Liars) to see all that-- and that title itself gives you a sense of what's coming. Read on, MacDuff!

Some of the good lines come from the writer, Jonathan Hutson, and others actually come from the material he discusses. I'll let you figure (or find) out which is which.
  1. Jihad does not come with a homoerotic T-shirt.
  2. Left Behind Games by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins reports that many lives are being transformed, from a life of hell to the freedom of heaven, just from playing this game. [OK, that's not just 1 line, sorry.]

  1. The T-shirt proclaims: "UFC - Ultimate Fighting Character. Bet you can't whip me. Because J.C. [Jesus Christ] lives in me."
  2. It's a boot camp for the soul.
  3. Beating another man's face into hamburger for the sake of piety.
  4. A manly man kicking ass for Christ: Who Would Jesus Do?
  5. "God has called me to go and make disciples of the youth of America. That is what I am going to try to do, and if you try to stop me I am going to break your face." [Check out who said that!]
Jesus must be so proud. I wonder if this makes him want to come back sooner, if only to stop the nonsense in his name, or perhaps not at all?

(Like the picture? There are two more in the article.)

No Global War on Global Warming

Whatever happened to the Regime's "one percent doctrine"? Remember?
An operating principle [of] . . . Vice President Dick Cheney articulated shortly after 9/11: in [Ron] Suskind's words, ''if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction . . . the United States must now act as if it were a certainty.'' He quotes Mr. Cheney saying that it's not about ''our analysis,'' it's about ''our response,'' and argues that this conviction effectively sidelines the traditional policymaking process of analysis and debate, making suspicion, not evidence, the new threshold for action.
Don't think; just act. The US as the world's greatest and largest, nuclear-armed three year old.

I still find myself wondering about that doctrine when I read headlines like this: "Arctic sea ice shrinks to record low".

[Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center] said in a telephone interview, while some natural variability is involved in the melting "we simply can't explain everything through natural processes."

"It is very strong evidence that we are starting to see an effect of greenhouse warming," he said.

The puzzling thing, he said, is that the melting is actually occurring faster than computer climate models have predicted.

Several years ago he would have predicted a complete melt of Arctic sea ice in summer would occur by the year 2070 to 2100, Serreze said. But at the rates now occurring, a complete melt could happen by 2030, he said Friday.

OK-- actually, of course, I'm not wondering about the Regime much anymore. They have no actual loyalty to or care for this nation-- nor, for that matter, the planet. Twenty-three years and counting, plus or minus. Long time in American politics. (Say, how are they polling in South Carolina these days?) Plenty of time to make and enjoy kaboodles of money for their uber-wealthy friends and masters.

To be fair, I do not take much comfort in knowing that nations such as Russia, Canada and Denmark(!) are all seeking to lay claim to as much of the Arctic Circle as possible, since retreating sea ice makes exploitation of likely gas & oil reserves there more feasible. If the globe hands you lemons, hide the sugar.

Because after all, we need to release still more carbon into the atmosphere, don't we? There's a Global War on, alright.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Light blogging

I'm off to the left coast and will be away through next week, so blogging will be light to non-existent from this source until the 27th. Hopefully, my co-bloggers will keep the flame burning in my absence. Au revoir.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Readers Contirbutions: Perspective of Leaders

From our readers:

God addresses Al Gore first: "Al, what do you believe?" Gore replies: "Well, I believe I won that election, but that it was Your will that I not serve. And I've come to understand that now." God thinks for a second and says, "I admire your humility. Come sit at my left." God then addresses Bill Clinton: "Bill, what do you believe?" Clinton replies: "I believe in forgiveness. I've sinned, but I've never held a grudge against my fellow man, and I hope no grudges are held against me."God thinks for a second and says, "You are forgiven, my son. Come sit at my right." God then calls on George W. Bush: "George, what do you believe?" Bush says: "I believe you're in my chair, now move out."

Because the government's established by the Lord

For your reading pleasure:

Could martial law ever become a reality in America? Some fear any nuclear, biological or chemical attack on U.S. soil might trigger just that. KSLA News 12 has discovered that the clergy would help the government with potentially their biggest problem: Us.

… If martial law were enacted here at home, like depicted in the movie "The Siege", easing public fears and quelling dissent would be critical. And that's exactly what the 'Clergy Response Team' helped accomplish in the wake of Katrina.

Dr. Durell Tuberville serves as chaplain for the Shreveport Fire Department and the Caddo Sheriff's Office. Tuberville said of the clergy team's mission, "the primary thing that we say to anybody is, 'let's cooperate and get this thing over with and then we'll settle the differences once the crisis is over.'"

Such clergy response teams would walk a tight-rope during martial law between the demands of the government on the one side, versus the wishes of the public on the other. "In a lot of cases, these clergy would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they're helping to diffuse that situation," assured Sandy Davis. He serves as the director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

For the clergy team, one of the biggest tools that they will have in helping calm the public down or to obey the law is the bible itself, specifically Romans 13. Dr. Tuberville elaborated, "because the government's established by the Lord, you know. And, that's what we believe in the Christian faith. That's what's stated in the scripture."

Ah, the Divine Right of the Kings.

Mueller's notes prove Gonzales & Card goaded Ashcroft

John Conyers (D-MI) released redacted copies of FBI Director Mueller's notes on the meeting in Ashcroft's hospital room which Conyers says prove that Gonzales and Card were trying to goad Ashcroft into approving the warrantless surveillance program:

“Director Mueller’s notes and recollections concerning the White House visit to the Attorney General’s hospital bed confirm an attempt to goad a sick and heavily medicated Ashcroft to approve the warrantless surveillance program,” Conyers said in a prepared statement.

After having read the redacted notes myself, it is by no means clear that they prove anything since virtually everything except the fact of various meetings has been redacted. See for yourself. All typical of the White House.


Jose Padilla was convicted. Frankly, I don't know much about the evidence that was presented, so I have no idea how I would have come down if I were a juror. And, if the guy is guilty, as the jury found, then I have no problem with him receiving an appropriate sentence. Still, I don't trust anything our government says about anyone anymore, so there's a part of me that is disappointed that the jury upheld our government.

The Useful Idiots

I just couldn't resist re-posting this from Kevin Drum:

On a related subject, more here on the Shia takeover of the Iraqi army. It's not exactly news or anything, just further confirmation of the obvious: the eventual fate of Iraq (outside the Kurdish north) is the establishment of a Shia theocracy closely aligned with Iran. As far as I can tell, no one has even a colorable argument that things are moving in any other direction, and equally, no colorable argument that there's anything we can do to stop it. Maliki is using the U.S. military brass as useful idiots to fight his battles for him, and George Bush is his Useful Idiot in Chief.

And don't forget: every single major Republican candidate for president wants to continue our useful idiot role. They're practically duelling each other to see who can be the most fatuously naive about foreign policy. Quite a spectacle, no?

Roots of Neocon Foreign Policy

KISSweb’s 8/14/07 recap of Greenwald’s focus on the beltway Neocon’s seizure of U.S. foreign policy has its roots in a 1997 mission statement of the Project for the New American Century, a Neocon think tank and policy advocacy group. The excepted preamble and tenants of this mission statement are:

“The history of the 20th Century should have taught us that it is important to shape circumstances before crises emerge, and to meet threats before they become dire. The history of this century should have taught us to embrace the cause of American leadership. Our aim is to remind Americans of these lessons and to draw their consequences for today. Here are four consequences:

1. We need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;

2. We need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies, and to challenge regimes hostile to our interest and values;

3. We need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;

4. We need to accept responsibility for American’s unique role in preserving the extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.

Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today, but it is necessary if the U.S. is to build on the successes of this past century and ensure our security and our greatness in the next.”

The charter signers of this mission were Elliot Abrams (right wing State Dept. functionary), Gary Bauer (Christian Coalition leader) Wm. Bennet (Drug Czar), Jeb Bush (ex Gov. of FL), Steve Forbes (Editor), I. Lewis Libby (felon), Dan Quayle (exVP), Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz (Assist Sec of Defense Dept, architect of the Iraq war and how did such a bright guy get into this compared to a dummy like Quayle?) and Dick Cheney (if this surprises you, you don’t know Dick), to name a few. There are some logical flaws in each section.


Shaping circumstance and meeting threats before they become dire sounds reasonable. Unfortunately, viability depends on the definitions. Violations of international law, i.e. invasion of Iraq are a grotesque manifestation of this Preamble.

1. A misapplication of principle: global responsibilities need to be based on an international consensus, not U.S. unilateral aggression.

2. Strengthening our ties to democratic allies was the anti-thesis of the Bush approach to Iraq, i.e. alienating and freezing allies out of the Iraq war initiative and challenging regimes hostile to our interest and values has to be based on accurate, unbiased assessments totally absent in the Iraq war decision.

3... Promoting the cause of political and economic freedom abroad does not include violating international law by invading other countries arbitrarily.

4. .Accept responsibility for American’s unique role in preserving the extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles cannot be exercised by selective observation of international law (i.e. if you aren’t friendly, rule of law is out, if you are friendly, we’ll follow the law).


Little of Bush Administration policy is remotely based on U.S. successes or is analogous to the challenges and the responses of the U.S. to the international threats of the 20th century.

The Petraeus report

Not only is the Petraeus report not going to be written by Petraeus (it's going to be written by the White House), but it's not even going to be presented by Petraeus:

Senior congressional aides said yesterday that the White House has proposed limiting the much-anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill next month of Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to a private congressional briefing, suggesting instead that the Bush administration's progress report on the Iraq war should be delivered to Congress by the secretaries of state and defense.

And, of course, things are going swimmingly in Iraq. That's why we have to keep the troops there for ten more years. Gee, if they go any better, we might have to double the number of troops and keep them there 20 years. What a good idea.


Updated below

Yesterday evening I was watching some newsish program on TV, possibly Hardball, when suddenly I almost couldn't believe my ears. Some guy was seriously arguing that the government had no legitimate role in regulating the import of dangerous and defective Chinese goods. The main argument he was making seemed to be that a) the Chinese have a right to sell anything they want, defective or no, and b) if Americans don't want their children to play with dangerous Chinese products or eat dangerous Chinese food, they simply don't have to buy those things, c) the products are cheap, and when you buy cheap products, you should expect low quality, so it's your own fault if you got one of these defective things, and d) the market always works so this probably didn't even happen to begin with. As a collateral argument, the guy was saying these products weren't really that dangerous to begin with (toothpaste laced with antifreeze is really quite good for you, I suppose), and if a few kids died, so what.

This is wrong on so many counts I can't begin to enumerate them, but I'll take a stab at a few. First, until very recently, nobody knew the Chinese were shipping us dangerous, defective products. If you don't know it's happening, you can't very well be expected to stop buying their products. Second, a large number of people in this country simply don't pay any attention to the news, so I suspect there are still a large number who don't know about the defective Chinese products. Now, I suspect a Republican would then say, "If they are that ignorant, they deserve to get screwed." But, with the toys at least, it's not them but their kids who will suffer, and I don't think anyone would say that a two year old child should look at the label, and avoid playing with toys labeled "Made in China." Finally, when it comes to food products, at least, Republicans continue to criticize efforts to force products to be labeled. Without those labels, you couldn't possibly avoid Chinese imports even if you wanted to.


In response to Kissweb's comments, I went to examine the Hardball transcripts and found the guy's name was Stephen Moore, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Top general may propose pullbacks

Yes, that's the huge headline that everyone in the major media is buying into today. But, jeese, you don't have to read very far into the article to see it's all smoke and mirrors. Fourth paragraph, please:

But it does not necessarily follow that Petraeus would call for reducing the overall number of troops in the country. Instead, he could move them to another hot spot, or use them to create a reserve force to counter any rise in violence.

This is a total ruse. It's deliberate and it's a deliberate lie. There's not going to be a pullback while Bush is in office -- and, I'm beginning to fear, there's not going to be much of one after he's left.

Update: That is, IF he leaves. We still have a year and a half for him to gin up a new 9/11 and then claim he has to remain in power to keep the country safe.


You surge in one place and the enemy goes elsewhere. Now, we have possibly the worst terrorist event in Iraq since Saddam and the next worst of all time anywhere except 9/11.

Hospital officials in northwestern Iraq have told TIME that the death toll from Tuesday's blasts in Qahataniya may exceed 300, making the multiple suicide bombings the deadliest terrorist operation in the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. One hospital is saying that there are at least 500 bodies and that 375 people are injured. That report, however, cannot yet be verified. The only previous occasion when the toll from concerted attacks has exceeded 200 was last November, when six car-bombs in Baghdad's Sadr City killed 215 people. If the toll in the Qataniya incident grows, it could become the worst terrorist incident since al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S. (The Beslan massacre in Russia in September 2004 came to approximately 330, about half of the total children).

Since then, the massive "surge" of U.S. and Iraqi troops in and around Baghdad has made the Iraqi capital safer than before from such bombings - but terrorist groups have stepped up attacks elsewhere. There have been a number of attacks in northern Iraq, which had enjoyed a long spell of peace before the start of the "surge."

Tuesday's bombings were also a reminder that even successful U.S. military operations can have a short shelf life - a sobering thought for Bush Administration officials and independent analysts who have recently been talking up the successes of the "surge." After all, the area around Qahataniya was the scene of a major anti-insurgent operation barely two years ago. In the fall of 2005, some 8,000 American and Iraqi troops flushed a terrorist group out of the nearby town of Tal Afar in an operation that was a precursor to the "clear, hold and build" strategy that underpins the current "surge." A few months later, President Bush cited Tal Afar as a success story for the U.S. enterprise in Iraq.

Congress has now authorized an attack on Iran

We saw the news this morning that the White House is planning to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. On it's surface, while that seemed to be ratcheting up the noise level against Iran, consistent with the Bush administration's obvious spoiling for another disastrous war, it didn't seem that big a step.

Well, we now, thanks to Attywood, have to think again:

Nowhere yet have I seen what it seems clear Bush's Iran move is really all about.

The White House hawks in Dick Cheney's office and elsewhere who want to stage an attack on Iran are clearly winning the internal power stuggle. And an often overlooked sub-plot on the long road toward war with Tehran is this: How could Bush stage an attack on Iran without the authorization of a skeptical, Democratic Congress?

Today, the White House has solved that pesky problem in one fell swoop. By explicitly linking the Iranian elite guard into the post 9/11 "global war on terror" in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush's lawyers would certainly now argue that any military strike on Iran is now covered by the October 2002 authorization to use military force in Iraq, as part of their overly sweeping response to the 2001 attacks.

Heads I win, tails you lose

The logic is impeccable. If the "surge" is working, that proves we have to do more of it. If the "surge" isn't working, that means we have to do more of it.

Gen. David Petraeus said the "horrific and indiscriminate attacks" that killed at least 250 Yazidis, an ancient religious sect, in northwestern Iraq Tuesday night were the work of al-Qaida in Iraq. That would bolster his argument, he said, against too quickly drawing down the 30,000 additional U.S. troops deployed in the first half of the year.


Have fun!

[H/t to Andrew Tobias]

Sad but true

Bill in Portland, Maine writes in the Daily Kos:

When General Patraeus’s report comes out in a month, the White House, Secretary of Vengeance Joe Lieberman and much of the media will agree that things are good enough that we need to stay there to make them gooder, but bad enough that we have to stay there to keep them from getting badder. A cheerleader from a serious conservative think tank will write an op-ed for the Washington Times using the word gooder.

And, the weak-kneed Democrats will buckle under and fund the continuing war effort so that they can avoid looking weak (to the talking heads inside the beltway who still think strength is equivalent to supporting an unwinnable, immoral, unjust war) while the rest of the country looks on in dismay.

Fact checking

At least one news organization doesn't just take what the military doles out to them as gospel. McClatchy does some fact checking:

BAGHDAD — Despite U.S. claims that violence is down in the Iraqi capital, U.S. military officers are offering a bleak picture of Iraq's future, saying they've yet to see any signs of reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite Muslims despite the drop in violence.

Without reconciliation, the military officers say, any decline in violence will be temporary and bloodshed could return to previous levels as soon as the U.S. military cuts back its campaign against insurgent attacks.

That downbeat assessment comes despite a buildup of U.S. troops that began five months ago today and has seen U.S. casualties reach the highest sustained levels since the United States invaded Iraq nearly four and a half years ago.

...And while top U.S. officials insist that 50 percent of the capital is now under effective U.S. or government control, compared with 8 percent in February, statistics indicate that the improvement in violence is at best mixed.

U.S. officials say the number of civilian casualties in the capital is down 50 percent. But U.S. officials declined to provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don't support the claim. The number of car bombings in July actually was 5 percent higher than the number recorded last December, according to the McClatchy statistics, and the number of civilians killed in explosions is about the same.

Of course, outside of Baghdad things look pretty bleak too. The suicide bombings last night in northern Iraq have killed more than 200 even though the U.S. military puts the number at around 60.

Why anyone believes anything the military tells them these days is beyond me.

And then there are our friendly "things are going great over there" war supporters, Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack, whose entire "fact finding" trip to Iraq was based on an itinerary given to them by the military command. That's a bit like letting Qaddafi take you on a guided fact finding tour of Libya.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pundits, bloggers go wild over Rove's resignation

Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Karl Rove is the most polarizing American political figure outside of the man he serves, President George W. Bush.
So it was no surprise that liberal corners of the blogosphere rejoiced at his announcement Monday that he will resign ("THERE IS A GOD!!!!!!" read a post at and were dubious about his stated desire to spend more time with his family.
Just as predictably, many conservatives online sounded piously respectful ("The Boy Genius is gone" headlined a blog post at the conservative and mourned the loss of the man known as "Bush's Brain" and "The Architect" of Bush's ascendancy to the White House.
Yet in a sign of the deepening divisions in the Republican Party, the conservative punditocracy wasn't all singing together. Some prominent conservative commentators ripped Bush's deputy chief of staff and senior adviser since 2001 as he makes his the way out the door.
Michelle Malkin, the commentator behind one of the most highly trafficked conservative blogs, , took on the Wall Street Journal article that broke Rove's resignation Monday:
"Not a word here about the Harriet Miers debacle, the botching of the Dubai ports battle, or the undeniable stumbles in post-Iraq invasion policies. And not a word about the spectacular disaster of the illegal alien shamnesty, which will be the everlasting stain Rove leaves behind.
"Imagine how much better off the White House and the Republican Party might be now if he had, in fact, left a year ago. Yes, there's the legacy Rove should ponder as he puts his feet up," Malkin wrote.
Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote Monday on that "Rove is one of the worst political strategists in recent times. He took a chance to realign the country and to unite it in a war - and threw it away in a binge of hate-filled niche campaigning, polarization and short-term expediency.
"His divisive politics and elevation of corrupt mediocrities to every branch of government have turned an entire generation off the conservative label. And rightly so. It will take another generation to recover from the toxins he has injected, with the president's eager approval, into the political culture and into the conservative soul," Sullivan wrote.
Robert Bluey, director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, wrote on, "Karl Rove will be missed, and not just by those who admire his brand of political strategy. His adversaries have lost public enemy No. 1. And for that reason, I'm not sure whether to be happy or sad to see him go.
"Rove always had his hand in everything, and if I fault him for one thing, it's straying from conservative principles. On education, health care and immigration, Rove oversaw policies that alienated Bush's allies and may have contributed to last year's electoral losses," Bluey wrote.
Despite these comments, there was no shortage of Rove-love flowing Monday.
Hugh Hewitt, a conservative talk show host and commentator, predicted "that Democrats have to be worried that when Karl Rove exits the White House at the end of August, he'll take a month off and end up at the virtual elbow of Mayor Giuliani, Gov. Romney, or Sen. Thompson. They should be worried.
"All-stars whose franchise can't play for the title often show up in the heat of the hunt. Politics is like sports in many ways. And Rove is the Tiger Woods of politics," Hewitt wrote on
Patrick Ruffini, a conservative blogger, wrote on the same site, "For those of us in politics, an operative like Karl Rove comes across once in a generation. The Reagan generation had Lee Atwater. And we had Rove."
Overseas, an online editorial in Monday's Financial Times argued that Rove has already helped write Bush's political obituary:
"The resignation of Karl Rove will be seen in many quarters as the end of George W. Bush's administration. With 18 months to go before the next president takes office, the sudden air of finality is a measure of the man's influence and reputation.
"He was a shrewd adviser with an impressive record of winning elections. But he got many things wrong - and in the end the presidency in which he was a junior partner will be judged a failure." While there were plenty of giddy, joyful comments on liberal sites like, other posters demanded that congressional Democrats continue to pursue investigations involving Rove. And for some, like a commentator on DailyKos under the name The Sinstral, Rove's resignation is almost anticlimactic:
"He's done so much. I wish we had nailed Rove years ago. Him leaving now is like resigning from a poker tourney after breaking the bank. We get to gloat now that he's gone, and sigh in relief that he won't do any more harm, but in every way that really counts, Rove won ... not us."
Responding to The Sinstral was a commentator called Hudson: "I agree that the harm he's done is almost beyond repair. But the good news is that we can expect Bush to be completely adrift for the remainder; I'm hopeful this news will help the more timorous Dems to finally realize that W. is not invincible."
Pundits of all stripes doubted Rove's stated reasons for leaving. On, a photograph of Rove and his son Andrew accompanied the sarcastic headline, "Andrew Rove Gets More Time with Daddy." Malkin wrote that Fox News Channel's E.D. Hill noted "the curious playing of the 'family' card ... Rove's son is going off to college." Said Hill: "I'm not sure how many kids going off to college have time for more 'family' time."
On Time magazine's Swampland blog, Ana Marie Cox, founding editor of the popular Wonkette blog, wrote Monday:
"Sure, it's tempting to speculate that Rove is leaving because, finally, there's some kind of investigation (just reach into the Congressional Record and pick one) that's made his stay at the White House untenable. Here's a slightly different conspiracy theory: SOMETHING ELSE VERY BAD IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN ... OR ALREADY HAS. And everyone covering the White House will be too busy divining the meaning of Rove's scattered entrails to notice."

If they can't afford bread, sell them cake

McClatchy news has an important finding on the economy:

MIDLAND, Va. — The Labor Department’s most recent inflation data showed that U.S. food prices rose by 4.1 percent for the 12 months ending in June, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that the price of milk, eggs and other essentials in the American diet are actually rising by double digits.

Already stung by a two-year rise in gasoline prices, American consumers now face sharply higher prices for foods they can’t do without. This little-known fact may go a long way to explaining why, despite healthy job statistics, Americans remain glum about the economy.

...The Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its June inflation report that egg prices are 19.5 percent higher than they were in June 2006. Over the same period, according to the department’s consumer price index, whole milk was up 13.3 percent; fresh chicken 10 percent; navel oranges 19.8 percent; apples 11.7 percent. Dried beans were up 11.5 percent, and white bread just missed double-digit growth, rising by 9.6 percent.

And, they also answer the important question of why this is happening:

Why are food prices rising?

It's partly because of corn prices, driven up by congressional mandates for ethanol production, which have reduced the amount of corn available for animal feed. It's also because of tougher immigration enforcement and a late spring freeze, which have made farm laborers scarcer and damaged fruit and vegetable crops, respectively. And it's because of higher diesel fuel costs to run tractors and attractive foreign markets that take U.S. production.

Here we go again. This corn ethanol thing is probably one of the worst things that's come down the pike. It's screwing up food prices. It's destroying open spaces. It's using just about as much non-renewable energy to make the ethanol than it's saving, and, hence does nothing to reduce greenhouse gases, and it's driving out other technologies that might arguably help solve the greenhouse gas problem.

Jon Stewart's Daily Show gives you the news that the news media miss

The Carpetbagger makes a very good point. Every major news organization mischaracterized Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack as war critics. Among them, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, FAUX (oh, sorry, they don't count as a news organization), and many newspapers. The only place in the major media that pushed back was the fake news show -- the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Here’s the exchange between Bill Kristol and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show:

Stewart: Can you see how someone who is skeptical, basically we’re hearing from people like yourself, people like the president, ‘Trust us to undo the terrible thing we did.” Don’t you, you see where it’s tough.

Kristol: Don’t trust me, not that you were going to–

Stewart: Who should I trust?

Kristol: Trust skeptics of the war, like Mike O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack who went over, who’d been there before–

Stewart: They weren’t really skeptics.

Kristol: No, they were, who came back, had seen it in real-time–

Stewart: Ken Pollack would like us to invade Iran for God’s sake. He’s–

Kristol: It’s an idea. It’s an idea.

Stewart: Those are very hawkish guys.

Kristol: It’s not a bad idea.

What an indictment of our press!

Can we send the whole RNC to jail?

This is an interesting development:

The Republican National Committee said it will not abide by a subpoena and turn over documents to a Congressional committee investigating the firings of at least eight US attorneys last year because the RNC is waiting to see if the White House will assert executive privilege over RNC documents at the center of the controversy, according to an outside law firm retained by the RNC.

Frankly, I don't see how there's a chance in hell that the White House could exert executive privilege over documents that ended up illegally at the RNC. For God's sake, they've clearly waived confidentiality by turning them over to a political organization to begin with. Of course, by the time this gets litigated it may be moot. However, could a Democratic Congress get everyone at the RNC thrown in jail for criminal contempt. That WOULD be interesting, particularly in an election year.

"Survivor Baghdad": reality TV for the foreign policy elite

Glenn Greenwald has been doing important work raising consciousness of the imperialistic dogma of the Washington-based “Foreign Policy Community.” It is a bipartisan community that enforces the dogma in its strongest form: that America must continue to be the world’s policeman, and that America has the right to start war with any country even in the absence of the accepted justifications. Yet these people who favored and promoted the Iraq War, and in many cases now are pushing us into some kind of warfare against Iran, continue to enjoy privileged status in so-called “liberal” think-tanks like Brookings, in the mainstream press, and even in the Democratic Party.

Greenwald reveals this astounding quotation from one Michael Cohen, a defender of the pro-war crowd against the growing chorus of critics:

Surely, a defensible case for war does not mean that we should have necessarily gone to war. It's a view that I share. There is a good argument to be made for going to war against Iran and North Korea -- that doesn't mean we should do it.

“There is a good argument to made for going to war against Iran and North Korea.” Obviously, in the view of these supposedly “serious” members of the Foreign Policy Community, we have the right, because we are America, to contemplate and even threaten killing hundreds of thousands of people when there is no meaningful threat from them. They really do not care about how many hundreds of thousands of people die if there is “a good argument to be made.”

And we are supposed to continue listening to these people, even though Americans by large majorities reject the idea of the U.S. playing “policeman” role? At the very least, a picture of every last one of them, the thousand or so chief-enablers who actively helped to sell Americans on the need to invade Iraq for reasons that shifted as each of the then-current public justifications was discredited, should be put in some square in Baghdad, identified for their role in promoting the destruction of the country, whereupon they can be beaten into shreds with the shoes of Iraqis. Better yet, how about “Survivor: Baghdad,” some reality TV to see how many can find their way out?

At long last, do these people have no sense of decency? It is long past time for the “Foreign Policy Community” to acknowledge and apologize for the mess they have created, and then shut up forever. And we should be taking every chance we can to remind the enablers of the enablers, the major press organs, that they are continuing to perpetrate frauds when they give these people the platform.

You really should read the Greenwald piece.

Another "little noticed" provision

Remember the little provision sneaked into a bill to give Bush authority to appoint permanent interim US Attorneys without Congressional oversight? That was just one of many "little noticed" provisions in various bills, including the new FISA bill. But, today, we learn of another "little noticed" provision in the Patriot Act giving Gonzales power to push executions and taking the power to review them away from the courts:

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is putting the final touches on regulations that could give Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales important new sway over death penalty cases in California and other states, including the power to shorten the time that death row inmates have to appeal convictions to federal courts.

The rules implement a little-noticed provision in last year's reauthorization of the Patriot Act that gives the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.

And, just how many Democrats voted for that bill?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sucker punch

So, please, would you trust any deal with Bush?

Perhaps a little wiser after seven months in the majority, Democrats have strategized to prevent the White House from utilizing some of its sneakier powers while Congress is in recess.

There'll be no recess appointments this time around, Roll Call reports (sub. req.), meaning the White House won't be taking advantage of Congress' vacation to install any contested nominees. That's due to a deal between Bush and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Last recess, the White House made a number of controversial recess appointments, including Swift Boat backer Sam Fox as ambassador to Belgium. In order to prevent that sort of thing from happening again, Reid had plotted to keep the Senate in "pro forma" session during the recess -- whereby the Senate floor personnel show up every three days to make it an official session. But now Reid and Bush have made a deal, according to Roll Call. Bush won't make any recess appointments and Reid has promised to move some of his nominees when Senate gets back in session.

I'm betting the first recess appointments will be made in days. And, then Harry Reid will be fuming but without any power to do anything because he's let his guys go home. These guys are liars from the beginning to the end, and they'll laugh all the way home when Bush recess appoints the 10th Supreme Court nominee. What will Congress do then? Cough and spit and roll over and play dead.


I've been AWOL today, canoeing on the Delaware River, so I haven't had a chance to comment on today's news, particularly the Rove departure, until now. So, like Josh Marshall, I'm wondering why. These guys don't do things without having an ulterior motive. So what is it? Is he leaving so he can run the dirty tricks for someone else's campaign? If so, who's? Fox News thinks it's Fred Thompson, but I sort of suspect it might be Rudy. Or is it something even more insidious?

In any event, I think Rove has proved himself to be rather toothless in the past few years, so I'm not entering a state of panic.

Either they are with us or they are against us: 2007 version

Is there a reason why, after issuing contempt orders to those refusing to testify in the Congressional inquiries, Patrick Leahy can’t take the PR initiative with something like this?

Our freedom always depends on the Executive branch being willing to support the Constitution. The Executive branch controls the military, the Justice Department, the Secret Service and the FBI. It is the duty of Congress under the Constitution to investigate alleged wrongdoing in the Executive branch. When George Bush and Dick Cheney refuse to cooperate and launch absurd claims of “executive privilege” for everything ever said or done by a member of the White House staff, they are undermining the Constitution, plain and simple. That is what’s at stake here. The ball is in the President’s court. He either supports the Constitution or he doesn’t. So far, he does not.

Bush and Cheney are spoiling for a confrontation because it shores up their dwindling base of support. Generally with an assist from the press, they turn it into showing “toughness,” “resoluteness,” “standing firm” – or fill in the blank with another Vance Packard-inspired phallic allusion that works like a charm with the gullible Republican base. The fact is that Congress cannot do anything to force the President to cooperate except start impeachment proceedings. The White House Stalinists of this era understand that the divisions commanded by the Capitol Sargeant-at-Arms is no match for the forces under White House orders. But Congressional Democrats can make the President pay a political price if it is willing to say what is really happening. Some portion of that recalcitrant group has some inkling that maybe the Constitution is important. The country and the world are well served by every percentage point of approval stripped from this Republican administration.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

But, grandma, what big eyes you have

So Bush can watch you more closely:

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost, privacy rights advocates warn.

No vacations for GIs

Just before seeing WallDon's post (below) on GWB's vacation allowance, I had read this piece, "Ground Meat", at Booman Tribune, summarizing a newspaper article, "Fatigue cripples US army in Iraq", from the British Observer.

The vignettes in the article are heartrending, and overall it reinforces the desperate situation our erstwhile leaders have created for the military and on a somewhat different plane for the nation. Both pieces are worth a read.

And of course this article stands in unbelievably harsh contrast to the recent, much ballyhooed Op-Ed by those leftist war critics, O'Hanlon and Pollack. One might read today's post by Glenn Greenwald based on an interview with O'Hanlon, in which Glenn substantiates the point that O'Hanlon & Pollack based their article on a military-organized junket, speaking with military-arranged (and presumably military-approved) interviewees.

Looks like the British reporter, Peter Beaumont, at least talked to real people. What a novel idea!

Certain people, starting with Mr. 9-Weeks, are pretty much just traitors to this nation.
"Support the troops!"

9 weeks a year of vacation

From the Houston Chronicle:

On Thursday, Bush left for a weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine, and his family's summer compound, Walker's Point. On Monday, he heads to his Crawford retreat, where he has spent all or part of 418 days of his presidency, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS News White House correspondent and meticulous record-keeper.

...The presidential vacation-time record holder is the late Ronald Reagan, who tallied 436 days in his two terms. At 418 days, and with 17 months to go in his presidency, Bush is going to beat that easily.

As Pam Spaulding notes at Americablog, that's an average of 9 weeks a year.

Divide and conquer

Atrios makes a good point:

It's important to remember also that the administration has taken to referring dumped murdered bodies as victims of sectarian violence, while bombings tend to be attributed to an insurgency or al Qaeda [in Iraq]. This has the advantage of letting them talk about things separately, pointing to "good news" in one category or another if they can claim it exists. Also it makes all of those killed by bombs as victims of "bad guys everyone agrees must be killed" rather than part of a civil war in which taking sides is a rather problematic issue.

They've actually done this in many other ways. For example, if violence temporarily falls off in one area of the country, they'll point to that as a sign of success even if violence is increasing elsewhere. Right now, everyone points to the "good news" from Anbar Province while ignoring the disaster that Basra has become. Last month, US casualties fell off a bit (as they always do in July) and everyone pointed to that as a sign the surge was working, even though it was the worst July since the war began.