Sunday, December 31, 2006

Haaaappy new year

It really ain't New Year's Eve without Jerry Garcia. Here he is in his younger days...jumping!?

Anyway, the Vega will be quite literally off the grid for New Years, warmed only by old friends and a wood burning stove, safe, don't drink and drive, and see ya next year.

In the meantime, read Barbara O'Brien's "short history of wingnuttism."

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another milestone

Odd watching this while CBS is showing Ford's procession to Air Force One.

But it really is fitting that our glorious adventure in Iraq would finally include a scene right outta Judge Roy Bean. Who, by the way, Bush sounds a lot like:

Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial -- the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.

Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule. It is a testament to the Iraqi people's resolve to move forward after decades of oppression that, despite his terrible crimes against his own people, Saddam Hussein received a fair trial. This would not have been possible without the Iraqi people's determination to create a society governed by the rule of law.

Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops. Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror.

We are reminded today of how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of Saddam Hussein's rule - and that the progress they have made would not have been possible without the continued service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

Yep, they've come a long way, baby.

But, as Spc. Thomas Sheck, 25, who is on his second tour in Iraq, asks, "So now, what will be the next story they tell us to keep us over here?"
Howlin' Wolf - How Many More Years

Friday, December 29, 2006

Lieberman demands an escalation, beeeyitch.

It's hard to begin to deconstruct the logic of his editorial in today's Post, or separate the downright lies from the wishful thinking.

The most pressing problem we face in Iraq is not an absence of Iraqi political will or American diplomatic initiative, both of which are increasing and improving; it is a lack of basic security. As long as insurgents and death squads terrorize Baghdad, Iraq's nascent democratic institutions cannot be expected to function, much less win the trust of the people. The fear created by gang murders and mass abductions ensures that power will continue to flow to the very thugs and extremists who have the least interest in peace and reconciliation.

This bloodshed, moreover, is not the inevitable product of ancient hatreds. It is the predictable consequence of a failure to ensure basic security and, equally important, of a conscious strategy by al-Qaeda and Iran, which have systematically aimed to undermine Iraq's fragile political center. By ruthlessly attacking the Shiites in particular over the past three years, al-Qaeda has sought to provoke precisely the dynamic of reciprocal violence that threatens to consume the country.

On this point, let there be no doubt: If Iraq descends into full-scale civil war, it will be a tremendous battlefield victory for al-Qaeda and Iran. Iraq is the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism.

To turn around the crisis we need to send more American troops while we also train more Iraqi troops and strengthen the moderate political forces in the national government. After speaking with our military commanders and soldiers there, I strongly believe that additional U.S. troops must be deployed to Baghdad and Anbar province -- an increase that will at last allow us to establish security throughout the Iraqi capital, hold critical central neighborhoods in the city, clamp down on the insurgency and defeat al-Qaeda in that province.

And a pony.

Nevermind that Lieberman's call for "action -- and soon" sounds strange given his promises to me and my fellow CT voters that the troops would begin coming home this holiday season.

Lieberman speaks of these "thugs and extremists" as though they're extras from The Road Warrior rather than integral players in the political situation that's gripping the "nation." It appears to even the most casual observer that these aren't simply some kind of criminal gangs, but rather agents of political actors in the "unity" government or the armed forces of ethnic groups, tribal leaders, and war lords.

Furthermore, the conflation of al Qaeda and Iran illustrates either Lieberman's complete ignorance of the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite or a deliberate misrepresentation intended to relate Iraq to 9-11, something even preznit doesn't stoop to (much) anymore.

Lieberman, who has never seen a war he wouldn't vote for, is so eager to distill more sanctimonious blather about the heroic Iraqis and sacrifice and decisive action, that he never quite gets around to indicating what exactly more troops are going to come from or what they're going to do once they get there. He doesn't suggest that a call for more troops should be tied to a change in strategy. Quite the opposite, he wants to square the current strategy. Not just "stay the course," Lieberman wants to turbocharge it. He is laboring under the illusion that simply "flooding the zone" in Baghdad will put down the insurgency...and make him look good and wise. It won't and he won't. The insurgents may disappear for a while, but the various factions are determined to solidify territory and ethnically cleanse. I don't know the answer for Iraq, but I do know that escalating a failed strategy won't fix a disaster.

Lieberman is arrogant, sanctimonious, pompous, and insulting. But he's the last honest man. Deeply serious, he's so obviously disappointed in our collective failure to support the Bush/McCain/Lieberman war.

Edwards '08

A very interesting exchange. Not many candidates are willing -- let alone able -- to talk seriously about serious issues, including balance and nuance. And do it in paragraphs.

The Escalator in Chief

Yes. Insane.

Almost as insane as his New Year's resolution: "To keep the troops safe." I almost fell off the treadmill when I saw that on the teevee last evening. That's like saying my New Year's resolution is to "be healthy," without, ya know, vowing to end my three pack a-day Chesterfield habit. To pursue the metaphor further, it would seem that Bush would in fact add a fourth pack to the daily "health" regimen.

Oh, and the claim by the "New! Improve!" def sec that he met with the troops in Iraq who told him that "more U.S. troops" is what we need? Well, the AP actually talked with real troops, with real names, who told a quite different story.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

King moron

Shorter Jonah Goldberg...oh, dammit, there is no way to summarize this.

I Support NRO's Advertisers [Jonah Goldberg]
We took the littlest Goldberg to see Charlotte's Web yesterday. Good stuff. Though my longstanding problem remains: Everyone's interested in the pig, not the spider. It's a bit like my beef with King Kong. Everyone thinks the big news is the giant monkey. No one thinks it's a big deal they found dinosaurs, giant snakes etc. They find a spider that can spell, and all that really matters is that the spider really likes the pig.

Still, good family fun. John Cleese is perfect and Steve Buscemi is the perfect rat-voice for Templeton.

There is no cure.

Used Fords

Via Somerby, this may be one of the most astonishing things to emerge, fully formed, from the foaming brain stem of David Broder, aka, "The Dean."

Many of those alumni who first exercised real power under Ford remained active in government. For all that he has borrowed from Ronald Reagan, President Bush owes the greatest debt to three stalwarts of economic and national security policy inherited from Ford -- Vice President Cheney and former defense secretary Don Rumsfeld, both former chiefs of staff to Ford, and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, Ford's chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Cheney and Rumsfeld, stalwarts of national security policy. Good lord. In The Dean's world, the architects for failure in Afghanistan and Iraq are "stalwarts." In The Dean's world, failure really isn't an option as long as it such wise men doing the failing.

Oh yes, and that other stalwart, this one of economic policy, who presided over a boom of Clinton's and Rubin's making, and who would then go on to become cheerleader #1 of the Bush Tax Cut Deficit Creation Plan. Bravo, Mr. Greenspan, bravo.

The Dean's world: Truly, the Third Stone From the Sun.

From the same newspaper...

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

That was two and a half years ago. But for David Broder, hubristic old criminals like Cheney and Rumsfeld are stalwarts to whom we all owe a debt.

Lawyering up in the White House

They've got nothing to hide.

Going to the grave anonymously

Okay, leaving aside the idea that a president should have, you know, an inauguration before he gets a state funeral, what is up with this?

Two senior Congressional officials familiar with the plans for the services said these would include the full military honors that accompany a state funeral. But the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the plans called for a less elaborate ceremony inside the Capitol and leading up to the service than the proceedings for Reagan.

Condition of anonymity? We're not talking about imminent policy decisions, state secrets, or even whose blood Dick and Lynn Cheney have been drinking lately. We're talking about a goddamned funeral.

And, oh yeah, another full week of hearing how Gerald Ford (a former president we haven't heard a thing about for thirty years) "gently led the U.S. out of the nightmare of Watergate." Watergate wasn't a nightmare. It was a criminal enterprise. A criminal enterprise for which Richard Nixon got off scott free. Gerald Ford lost the election in 1976 because he didn't seem quite up to the job, and pardoning Nixon was part of the reason for that impression. Watergate was a sign that our system of government worked and Ford circumvented it.

Don't get me wrong, Jerry Ford always struck me as a mensch. A good guy with a normal family and a very cool wife, but let's not go overboard with the national mourning thing.

And seeing how he was responsible for the career advancements of both Dick Cheney and Chevy Chase, he's still got some 'splaining to do.

The striped shirts

As President Bush meets with his advisors to, in the words of the AP's Deb Reichmann, "burnish" his "new war plan," perhaps they could tell us what our current objective is in Iraq. Because right now it looks like U.S. troops are there to merely referee a game of ethnic cleansing.

BAGHDAD, Dec. 27 — The car parked outside was almost certainly a tool of the Sunni insurgency. It was pocked with bullet holes and bore fake license plates. The trunk had cases of unused sniper bullets and a notice to a Shiite family telling them to abandon their home.

“Otherwise, your rotten heads will be cut off,” the note read.

The soldiers who came upon the car in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad were part of a joint American and Iraqi patrol, and the Americans were ready to take action. The Iraqi commander, however, taking orders by cellphone from the office of a top Sunni politician, said to back off: the car’s owner was known and protected at a high level.

For Maj. William Voorhies, the American commander of the military training unit at the scene, the moment encapsulated his increasingly frustrating task — trying to build up Iraqi security forces who themselves are being used as proxies in a spreading sectarian war. This time, it was a Sunni politician — Vice Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie — but the more powerful Shiites interfered even more often.

“I have come to the conclusion that this is no longer America’s war in Iraq, but the Iraqi civil war where America is fighting,” Major Voorhies said.

A two-day reporting trip accompanying Major Voorhies’s unit and combat troops seemed to back his statement, as did other commanding officers expressing similar frustration.

“I have personally witnessed about a half-dozen of these incidents of what I would call political pressure, where a minister or someone from a minister’s office contacts one of these Iraqi commanders,” said Lt. Col. Steven Miska, the deputy commander for the Dagger Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division, who oversees combat operations in a wide swath of western Baghdad.

“These politicians are connected with either the militias or Sunni insurgents.”

Whatever plan the Bush administration unveils — a large force increase, a withdrawal or something in between — this country’s security is going to be left in the hands of Iraqi forces. Those forces, already struggling with corruption and infiltration, have shown little willingness to stand up to political pressure, especially when the Americans are not there to support them. That suggests, the commanders say, that if the Americans leave soon, violence will redouble. And that makes their mission, Major Voorhies and Colonel Miska say, more important than ever.

They added that while political pressure on the Iraqi Army is great, the influence exerted on the police force, which is much more heavily infiltrated by Shiite militia groups, is even greater.

Shiites, led by militia forces and often aided by the local police, are clearly ascendant, Colonel Miska said.

“It seems very controlled and deliberate and concentrated on expanding the area they control,” he said.


Colonel Miska tried to define where American forces fit in the tangle of competing interests, which is only further complicated by the complicity and direct participation of top government officials.

“When they are conducting armed aggression against the population, that is where we try and step in and stop it,” he said, adding that when the groups fight one another, “We sit back and watch because that can only benefit us.”

Some days, the line between militia and insurgent clashes and attacks on the population is a blurry one.

U.S Commanders and troops are for the most part honorable people who can't stomach what will happen if the influence they exert is suddenly removed and the whirlwind of violence grows even greater. But they are being used. Used by Bush to maintain the delusion that "the mission" in Iraq is still the right one and winnable. Used by Iraqi politicians to maintain the delusions of a "unity" government.

U.S. troops are going to leave eventually -- not in the next two years, obviously and maybe not the next four if voters make yet another insane decision regarding who they want sitting in the Oval Office -- but eventually. The only question is will there be anyone left for them to officiate over.

But I forgot, having them kill each other "will only benefit us." You see, as George Will put it so tidily this weekend, a "monochrome" Baghdad would be "tranquilizing.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Mussolini effect

He made the trains run on time? Sickening.

The widespread publication on Sunday of a farewell letter from General Pinochet to “all Chileans, without exception” was perhaps the most notable salvo in that posthumous public relations offensive, but it was not an isolated move. Rather, it appears to be part of a campaign to portray the former dictator as a victim of a vengeful leftist cabal, instead of a notorious human rights offender and embezzler.

“My destiny is a kind of banishment and solitude that I would never have imagined, much less desired,” General Pinochet lamented in the letter. He also referred to what he called his “captivity in London,” where he was held from late 1998 until early 2000 while British judges debated whether to extradite him to Spain to stand trial for some of the thousands of murders, kidnappings and acts of torture that occurred during the 17 years he was in power.

The main argument being presented to try to restore General Pinochet’s tainted reputation is a variant of one used to eulogize Mussolini, of whom it was said that “he made the trains run on time” in Italy. Right-wing commentators in the generally conservative Chilean press have praised General Pinochet for his role in transforming Chile into Latin America’s most dynamic economy, without mentioning that he crushed labor unions and outlawed political parties in order to do so.

Those arguments were initially articulated at General Pinochet’s funeral on Dec. 12. Carlos Cáceres Contreras, one of General Pinochet’s cabinet ministers, called him the “father of the modernization of Chile” and gave him credit for restoring respect for private property, opening the economy to the outside world, stimulating exports, privatizing pensions and other free-market initiatives.

At the same ceremony, Hernán Guiloff, president of the Pinochet Foundation, also justified the former dictator’s political policies, noting that he died without ever being convicted of any crimes. Near tears, he told how General Pinochet, at his last birthday lunch in late November, boasted to his guests that “I have never committed an improper act for which I need be ashamed.”

In the six-page farewell letter, which Mr. Guiloff says General Pinochet gave to him in 2004 for safe keeping, General Pinochet said he had “no room left in my heart for hatred,” but is similarly unrepentant. Though he acknowledged “abuses and exaggerations,” he argued that he was compelled to act in order to prevent “a civil war, without quarter, door to door, with thousands of people dead,” which he maintained the left had been plotting.

As late as 2003, the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought him to power, General Pinochet and Salvador Allende, the man he overthrew, enjoyed roughly the same level of rejection and support in Chilean society.

But most of that support evaporated in 2004, when an investigation by the United States Senate revealed that General Pinochet had stashed millions of dollars abroad, some of it under aliases like Arturo López.

This is not surprising. The "free market" is the important thing here. It's a shame about the thousands who died at the hands of his henchman, but privatizing social security is the silver lining in that cloud.

Hell, even the Washington Post editors are acolytes of the quote-evil dictator-unquote.

It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.

Will the Washington Post say the same about Saddam Hussein when he's swinging from a rope next month? After all, he was one of "our dictators" back in Jeane Kirkpatrick's day too. And 17 years of a Pinochet dictatorship was a small price to pay for a non-Socialist Chile, no?

The world saw it all begin on television. First, the daylight bombing, from the air, by British-made Hawker Hunter fighters, of La Moneda, with President Allende still inside. Then came the roundup of thousands of people, who were herded at gunpoint into the huge National Stadium, where they were detained for weeks. Black-hooded informers walked in front of people huddled in the bleachers, pointing out suspected subversives to uniformed officers. Out of sight, in the warren of cubicles of the sports facility, people were tortured and murdered. Firing squads executed hundreds at the stadium and at other places around the country. The musician Víctor Jara was one of the victims, shot to death, his hands broken. People were buried in mine shafts, in unmarked graves, in mass graves yet to be found. A former air-force intelligence agent admitted that bodies were dumped from helicopters over the Pacific Ocean, their bellies slit open so they would sink. Detention camps were set up the length and breadth of Chile. Agents of DINA, the National Directorate of Intelligence, struck against anyone they suspected of being an enemy of the new Chile. The killing became more selective and the techniques of execution were varied as time went on. Allende’s former Foreign Secretary, Orlando Letelier, and his American secretary, Ronnie Moffit, were blown up in Washington, D.C., by a car bomb in 1976. Assassinations continued well into the late nineteen-eighties. In 1985, three Communist Party members were kidnapped and murdered. Their throats were slit, and their bodies were dumped by the roadside.

Not far from Allende’s tomb in the national cemetery in Santiago is a huge wall of white marble inscribed with the names, the ages—ranging from thirteen to almost eighty—and the dates of death or disappearance of the regime’s victims. On either side, stretching away from the great wall of names like wings, are two lower walls, with niches where the bodies are to be placed when they are discovered. Only a few niches are occupied.

Thousands more would die, or become los desaparecidos.

Oh, and the economy ain't all that terrific in Chile, with one of the greatest disparities between rich and poor in Latin America. And private pensions? Um, not so much.

But remember what Pinochet said about those who would murder his opponents and bury them two to a grave: "[He] should be congratulated because he saved the Chilean government the price of more nails."

Hang 'em high

My, such a rush.

Judge Shahen delivered the verdict to a few reporters assembled at the Council of Ministers building within the heavily guarded Green Zone as the rest of the country settled into its nighttime curfew. There were none of the theatrical outbursts contrived by Mr. Hussein to disrupt the trial and the appeal, because he was not present to hear the verdict.

The judge said simply that the appeals court had approved the verdict against Mr. Hussein, who was formally charged with crimes against humanity, and two co-defendants, who had also received death sentences in the Dujail killings, and that they now faced “execution by hanging until death” within 30 days.

Given that he's still on trial for the mass murder of Kurds, aren't they rushing things a tad? Or is there someone spurring them on to quick justice? the American Embassy in Baghdad, a spokeswoman, Ginger Cruz, praised the “courageous effort” of the Iraqi judges and others at the tribunal, which she said ensured “that justice prevails for the atrocities Saddam Hussein and his regime committed against the Iraqi people.”

Not to cast aspersions here, but wouldn't it be a strange coincidence should the trial concerning the chemical attacks on the Kurds be avoided because the defendant suddenly found himself at the wrong end of a rope? I mean, it sure would help to avoid some uncomfortable subjects that could come up in such a trial.

The U.S., which followed developments in the Iran-Iraq war with extraordinary intensity, had intelligence confirming Iran's accusations, and describing Iraq's "almost daily" use of chemical weapons, concurrent with its policy review and decision to support Iraq in the war [Document 24]. The intelligence indicated that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces, and, according to a November 1983 memo, against "Kurdish insurgents" as well [Document 25].

What was the Reagan administration's response? A State Department account indicates that the administration had decided to limit its "efforts against the Iraqi CW program to close monitoring because of our strict neutrality in the Gulf war, the sensitivity of sources, and the low probability of achieving desired results." But the department noted in late November 1983 that "with the essential assistance of foreign firms, Iraq ha[d] become able to deploy and use CW and probably has built up large reserves of CW for further use. Given its desperation to end the war, Iraq may again use lethal or incapacitating CW, particularly if Iran threatens to break through Iraqi lines in a large-scale attack" [Document 25]. The State Department argued that the U.S. needed to respond in some way to maintain the credibility of its official opposition to chemical warfare, and recommended that the National Security Council discuss the issue.

Following further high-level policy review, Ronald Reagan issued National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 114, dated November 26, 1983, concerned specifically with U.S. policy toward the Iran-Iraq war. The directive reflects the administration's priorities: it calls for heightened regional military cooperation to defend oil facilities, and measures to improve U.S. military capabilities in the Persian Gulf, and directs the secretaries of state and defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take appropriate measures to respond to tensions in the area. It states, "Because of the real and psychological impact of a curtailment in the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf on the international economic system, we must assure our readiness to deal promptly with actions aimed at disrupting that traffic." It does not mention chemical weapons [Document 26].

Soon thereafter, Donald Rumsfeld (who had served in various positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations, including as President Ford's defense secretary, and at this time headed the multinational pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle & Co.) was dispatched to the Middle East as a presidential envoy. His December 1983 tour of regional capitals included Baghdad, where he was to establish "direct contact between an envoy of President Reagan and President Saddam Hussein," while emphasizing "his close relationship" with the president [Document 28]. Rumsfeld met with Saddam, and the two discussed regional issues of mutual interest, shared enmity toward Iran and Syria, and the U.S.'s efforts to find alternative routes to transport Iraq's oil; its facilities in the Persian Gulf had been shut down by Iran, and Iran's ally, Syria, had cut off a pipeline that transported Iraqi oil through its territory. Rumsfeld made no reference to chemical weapons, according to detailed notes on the meeting [Document 31].

Rumsfeld also met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, and the two agreed, "the U.S. and Iraq shared many common interests." Rumsfeld affirmed the Reagan administration's "willingness to do more" regarding the Iran-Iraq war, but "made clear that our efforts to assist were inhibited by certain things that made it difficult for us, citing the use of chemical weapons, possible escalation in the Gulf, and human rights." He then moved on to other U.S. concerns [Document 32]. Later, Rumsfeld was assured by the U.S. interests section that Iraq's leadership had been "extremely pleased" with the visit, and that "Tariq Aziz had gone out of his way to praise Rumsfeld as a person" [Document 36 and Document 37].

Rumsfeld returned to Baghdad in late March 1984. By this time, the U.S. had publicly condemned Iraq's chemical weapons use, stating, "The United States has concluded that the available evidence substantiates Iran's charges that Iraq used chemical weapons" [Document 47]. Briefings for Rumsfeld's meetings noted that atmospherics in Iraq had deteriorated since his December visit because of Iraqi military reverses and because "bilateral relations were sharply set back by our March 5 condemnation of Iraq for CW use, despite our repeated warnings that this issue would emerge sooner or later" [Document 48]. Rumsfeld was to discuss with Iraqi officials the Reagan administration's hope that it could obtain Export-Import Bank credits for Iraq, the Aqaba pipeline, and its vigorous efforts to cut off arms exports to Iran. According to an affidavit prepared by one of Rumsfeld's companions during his Mideast travels, former NSC staff member Howard Teicher, Rumsfeld also conveyed to Iraq an offer from Israel to provide assistance, which was rejected [Document 61].

Donald Rumsfeld emerges victorious from this debacle of his own making, having successfully covered his tracks with a quick "exit" by Hussein, all done under the guise of "Iraqi justice."

Hitting the side of a barn

As seen by Madame Cura, "writ large in white letters filling the entire side of a big red Barn. Farm near Lost Creek WV:"

Consolidated Gas
Legal Theives
a Rockefeller Corp.

Not sure what that means, but I have an idea. Nevertheless, one of the more brilliant match-ups of message and medium that I've heard about in a long time.

Please, please, please

Roy on James Brown. Yeah, he gets it.

Gerald Ford

His passing, at 93, makes me nostalgically wistful for my "WIN" button.

One week from tonight I have a long-standing invitation in Kansas City to address the Future Farmers of America, a fine organization of wonderful young people whose help, with millions of others, is vital in this battle. I will elaborate then how volunteer inflation fighters and energy savers can further mobilize their total efforts.

Since asking Miss Sylvia Porter, the well-known financial writer, to help me organize an all-out nationwide volunteer mobilization, I have named a White House coordinator and have enlisted the enthusiastic support and services of some 17 other distinguished Americans to help plan for citizen and private group participation.

There will be no big Federal bureaucracy set up for this crash program. Through the courtesy of such volunteers from the communication and media fields, a very simple enlistment form will appear in many of tomorrow's newspapers along with the symbol of this new mobilization, which I am wearing on my lapel. It bears the single word WIN. I think that tells it all. I will call upon every American to join in this massive mobilization and stick with it until we do win as a nation and as a people.

Mr. Speaker and Mr. President, I stand on a spot hallowed by history. Many Presidents have come here many times to solicit, to scold, to flatter, to exhort the Congress to support them in their leadership. Once in a great while, Presidents have stood here and truly inspired the most skeptical and the most sophisticated audience of their co-equal partners in Government. Perhaps once or twice in a generation is there such a joint session. I don't expect this one to be.

Only two of my predecessors have come in person to call upon Congress for a declaration of war, and I shall not do that. But I say to you with all sincerity that our inflation, our public enemy number one, will, unless whipped, destroy our country, our homes, our liberties, our property, and finally our national pride, as surely as any well-armed wartime enemy.

I concede there will be no sudden Pearl Harbor to shock us into unity and to sacrifice, but I think we have had enough early warnings. The time to intercept is right now. The time to intercept is almost gone.

My friends and former colleagues, will you enlist now? My friends and fellow Americans, will you enlist now? Together with discipline and determination, we will win.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Man of the year

Billmon goes through the archives and proves the inherent power of The Blog to make a real difference in the public discourse and have an effect on policy.

Or not.

But if he had a garage band he could post stuff on MySpace, thus subverting the power of the entertainment/military complex, so...Power to the People!
James Brown

The hardest working man in show business, 1933-2006

Gift of the Magi?

Not exactly.

It was unclear what kind of evidence American officials possessed that the Iranians were planning attacks, and the officials would not identify those being held. One official said that “a lot of material” was seized in the raid, but would not say if it included arms or documents that pointed to planning for attacks. Much of the material was still being examined, the official said.

Nonetheless, the two raids, in central Baghdad, have deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous efforts to engage Iran on matters of security. At least two of the Iranians were in this country on an invitation extended by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, during a visit to Tehran earlier this month. It was particularly awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush.

Over the past four days, the Iraqis and Iranians have engaged in intense behind-the-scenes efforts to secure the release of the remaining detainees. One Iraqi government official said, “The Iranian ambassador has been running around from office to office.”

Iraqi leaders appealed to the American military, including to Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American ground commander in Iraq, to release the Iranians, according to an Iraqi politician familiar with the efforts. The debate about what to do next has also engaged officials in the White House and the State Department. The national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, has been fully briefed, officials said, though they would not say what Mr. Bush has been told about the seizure or the identity of the detainees.

Well, maybe in an O'Henry kinda way.

It's unclear what Mr. Bush has been told. Politics are hard. Figuring out why we're in Iraq now is even harder.

Meanwhile, Juan Cole gives us a Christmas tour of the Middle East.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

You are the most powerful person in the world

I'm a little late coming to the game on this...the Times Man/Person of the Year has always been pretty stupid to me, anyway... but since they've now put me on the cover, I guess I gotta learn to appreciate the honor.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.

But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.


Our decisive call in November for an end to the meaningless drawing of blood and drawing down of treasure in Iraq has been interpreted as a call for "a change of tactics" and, even more bizarrely, for something called "a surge" there.

"The American people are confused, they're frustrated, they're disappointed by the Iraq war, but they also want us to succeed if there's any way to do that," the Arizona Republican told reporters in Baghdad.

Confused, eh? But never mind, we can post all the videos we want on YouTube, ending the hegemony of the global entertainment complex.

No longer will Encyclopedia Brittania (or Funk & Wagnall's, for that matter) tell me what's important or (possibly) true.

Whoo hoo. "WE are the champions, my friend." Sing it with me.

Nevermind that MySpace -- a sign of our power to...something -- is a proud member of the Murdoch corporate empire.

But that's okay. Stephen Colbert's "Green screen challenge" is a sign that WE are a COMMUNITY. Don't you feel powerful?

Of course, Time Magazine was early to recognize the "blog of the year." Obviously, the editors are on to something.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Johnny Cash & Merle Haggard

Not on the "100 best places to work" list

Departing Republican Congressmen to their staffs: "Don't let the door hit you on the ass on your way out."

Republican House staff members who are losing their jobs in the aftermath of November’s loss of control are hoping Democrats will re-extend the hand of largesse to them next month.

As the old Congress wound down in a scramble of post-election activity, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered to pay two months’ severance to staff members working on some committees and in House leadership offices. But her offer was scuttled — by Republican lawmakers, who complained they didn’t have the opportunity to study the proposal and look at costs.

The Senate already provides two months pay for displaced staff members. One of the affected House staffers said his comrades are mystified that a plan that would benefit employees of Republicans would be killed by Republicans: “We hope the Democrats revisit it.”
Of course, if Democrats do, they'll later be accused of being the "tax and spend party." So, I'm thinking, let's revisit this in another year or two while the former staffers use their copies of the collected works of Milton Friedman for heating fuel this winter.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Cumberland blues

Here at the Holiday Inn in Queen City Maryland and I'll be damned if they don't got them wireless Internets.

Here he is, to save the daaaaaay!

It is late in the year, but it is not too late to nominate the most useless New York Times' fluffer piece on a Bush administration official.

Just over a month ago, Mr. Gates was a member of the Iraq Study Group, apparently as comfortable as the panel’s other members with recommending a major shift in Iraq strategy aimed at getting American combat troops out by early 2008.

“I didn’t dream at that time I would have actual responsibility for what goes forward,” Mr. Gates told reporters this week, in a statement that seemed to indicate he was having sudden doubts about at least some of the study group’s recommendations for getting out quickly.

Since taking office, he said publicly several times that the responsibilities of his office — and the need not to fail in Iraq — are weighing heavily on him.

How refreshing.

Anyway, better they weigh heavily on him and not his boss.

The end of Rubinomics?

Djuna, Madame Cura, and I are about to get in the car to begin a drive through scenic PA on our way to coal mining country, and besides, I got nothing. So how's about a little (Time$elect) Krugman?

Democrats and the Deficit

Now that the Democrats have regained some power, they have to decide what to do. One of the biggest questions is whether the party should return to Rubinomics — the doctrine, associated with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, that placed a very high priority on reducing the budget deficit.

The answer, I believe, is no. Mr. Rubin was one of the ablest Treasury secretaries in American history. But it’s now clear that while Rubinomics made sense in terms of pure economics, it failed to take account of the ugly realities of contemporary American politics.

And the lesson of the last six years is that the Democrats shouldn’t spend political capital trying to bring the deficit down. They should refrain from actions that make the deficit worse. But given a choice between cutting the deficit and spending more on good things like health care reform, they should choose the spending.

In a saner political environment, the economic logic behind Rubinomics would have been compelling. Basic fiscal principles tell us that the government should run budget deficits only when it faces unusually high expenses, mainly during wartime. In other periods it should try to run a surplus, paying down its debt.

Since the 1990s were an era of peace, prosperity and favorable demographics (the baby boomers were still in the work force, not collecting Social Security and Medicare), it should have been a good time to put the federal budget in the black. And under Mr. Rubin, the huge deficits of the Reagan-Bush years were transformed into an impressive surplus.

But the realities of American politics ensured that it was all for naught. The second President Bush quickly squandered the surplus on tax cuts that heavily favored the wealthy, then plunged the budget deep into deficit by cutting taxes on dividends and capital gains even as he took the country into a disastrous war. And you can even argue that Mr. Rubin’s surplus was a bad thing, because it greased the rails for Mr. Bush’s irresponsibility.

As Brad DeLong, a Berkeley economist who served in the Clinton administration, recently wrote on his influential blog: “Rubin and us spearcarriers moved heaven and earth to restore fiscal balance to the American government in order to raise the rate of economic growth. But what we turned out to have done, in the end, was to enable George W. Bush’s right-wing class war: his push for greater after-tax income inequality.”

My only quibble with Mr. DeLong’s characterization is that this wasn’t just one man’s class war: the whole conservative movement shared Mr. Bush’s squanderlust, his urge to run off with the money so carefully saved under Mr. Rubin’s leadership.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that conservatives who claimed to care about deficits when Democrats were in power never meant it. Let’s not forget how Alan Greenspan, who posed as the high priest of fiscal rectitude as long as Bill Clinton was in the White House, became an apologist for tax cuts — even in the face of budget deficits — once a Republican took up residence.

Now the Democrats are back in control of Congress. They’ve pledged not to be as irresponsible as their predecessors: Nancy Pelosi, the incoming House speaker, has promised to restore the “pay-as-you-go” rule that the Republicans tossed aside in the Bush years. This rule would basically prevent Congress from passing budgets that increase the deficit.

I’m for pay-as-you-go. The question, however, is whether to go further. Suppose the Democrats can free up some money by fixing the Medicare drug program, by ending the Iraq war and/or clamping down on war profiteering, or by rolling back some of the Bush tax cuts. Should they use the reclaimed revenue to reduce the deficit, or spend it on other things?

The answer, I now think, is to spend the money — while taking great care to ensure that it is spent well, not squandered — and let the deficit be. By spending money well, Democrats can both improve Americans’ lives and, more broadly, offer a demonstration of the benefits of good government. Deficit reduction, on the other hand, might just end up playing into the hands of the next irresponsible president.

In the long run, something will have to be done about the deficit. But given the state of our politics, now is not the time.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Our media problem in Iraq

A liar, but surely an honorable man

Somerby on the McCain script really must be read.

POOR RICHARD, NOVELIST: New evidence never effects their novels. Case in point? Here’s the first paragraph from Richard Cohen’s column in today’s Post:
COHEN (12/19/06): Earlier this year a close friend of John McCain gave me fair warning: McCain was about to become much more conservative, and I would not like what was coming. He was right. I did not like McCain's speech at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and I think his support of intelligent design is—sorry, John—just plain brainless. But it is not the supposedly new McCain that bothers me, it's the old one: His incessant sword-rattling has gotten just plain rattling.
Grisly! According to Cohen, McCain deliberately “became much more conservative” this year, forging a “supposedly new McCain.” And not only that—in order to reinvent himself, the New McCain has adopted positions which are “just plain brainless!” Ah yes, a New McCain! We well remember the days when Cohen punished Big Dems for imagined reinventions; in those days, Cohen was even prepared to invent absurd “evidence” to support the vile charges he was making. But nothing can be permitted to change the novel he’s typing about John McCain. Case in point? Here’s the sixth paragraph from Cohen’s column—yes, from his column today:
COHEN: Anyone who knows McCain appreciates that his call for more troops in Iraq is not, at bottom, part of any political strategy. McCain is a thoroughly admirable man. Like any other politician, he will punt when he has to, but he is fundamentally honest, with sound political values. For a long time those values—a belief in public service, a visceral hostility toward the ways of Washington's K Street lobbying crowd and a sense of honor that his Vietnamese captors came to appreciate—obscured the always present, but muffled, sound of drums and bugles.
We now have a New McCain, complete with “just plain brainless” positions. But so what? The novel was blocked out long ago. McCain remains “a thoroughly admirable man.” It’s the law—he’s “fundamentally honest.”

But so it goes when our strange pundit corps types its political novels. Indeed, all the way back in March 2000, E. R. Shipp, then the Post’s ombudsman, described their remarkable practice. Shipp’s column, which was headlined “Typecasting Candidates,” remains the most accurate description in the mainstream press of the way this bizarre cohort works. Think of Shipp as an anthropologist describing a strange foreign culture:
SHIPP (3/5/00): The Post has gone beyond [in-depth] reporting in favor of articles that try to offer context—and even conjecture—about the candidates' motives in seeking the office of president. And readers roles that The Post seems to have assigned to the actors in this unfolding political drama. Gore is the guy in search of an identity; Bradley is the Zen-like intellectual in search of a political strategy; McCain is the war hero who speaks off the cuff and is, thus, a "maverick"; and Bush is a lightweight with a famous name, and has the blessings of the party establishment and lots of money in his war chest. As a result of this approach, some candidates are whipping boys; others seem to get a free pass.
According to Shipp, the Post wasn’t really “reporting” on a group of candidates. No, it was more like the Post had pre-assigned “roles” to a group of “actors” in an unfolding “drama.” Shipp went on to describe the way the Post’s reporters were bending the facts to support the typecasting which defined their drama. Ceci Connolly was misreporting the things Gore actually said, Shipp noted. And other Post scribes were actively burying McCain’s mistakes and misstatements.

The role the press played in 2000 and 2004 weren't aberrations. We are living in an age of insanity. We've already begun seeing stories about the four years of sexual soap operadom a Hillary Clinton presidency would usher in (in the growing library of stories discussing her "Bill problem," the "problem" refers either to his unfettered libido or his unfettered ability to give speeches). Newsweek is already burying the magazine's own poll data, just as they did with Gore. Kucinich is still a freak (how else do you explain his opposition to our glorious war in Iraq?). We'll see how the script plays out for Obama. The consensus doesn't seem to have formed just yet.

Liberals stole their ponies, too

I was wondering when this would start gathering steam in the wingnutosphere.

The trouble with the argument that it was somehow "PC Rules of Engagement" that have made VICTORY in Iraq so darned allusive is that while these idiots argue that it's such liberal softiness as more focus on nation building, security, and cultural awareness that is tying our troops' hands there, the commander on the field is complaining that the military is being asked to solve problems that require non-military solutions.

General Abizaid is credited with coining the phrase, “the long war,” to describe the challenge of combating terrorism, especially radical Islamic terrorism. He still uses, but no longer favors, the label, according to his aides, because too many people focused only on “war” and a military solution.

He says the United States government is inadequately organized for the new type of threat, and that success in the counterterrorism mission, in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, requires all of the government to go to war, and not just the military.

“I think our structures for 21st-century security challenges need to adapt to this type of an enemy,” he said. “The 21st century really requires that we figure out how to get economic, diplomatic, political and military elements of power synchronized and coordinated against specific problems wherever they exist.”

Why, that sounds like a liberal position, doesn't it? One many of us have been advocating for five years. And one the current commander in chief will never adopt because, as you know, “We’re not winning. We’re not losing.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Free Edie Sedgwick

From the Chelsea Hotel blog, we learn that Bob Dylan's lawyers are holding up a release about the star of Warhol's Factory until they can determine if the movie defames him

Erasing history

If there were any doubts that the Bush administration still is still intent on invading Iran, this should dispel them.

Mr. Leverett, who had worked at the Central Intelligence Agency and the N.S.C. until 2003, and Ms. Mann, who worked at the State Department and the security council until 2004, said they were sure that political considerations were involved.

“There is no plausible claim that this is confidential stuff,” Mr. Leverett said in an interview. “There’s no detail in these paragraphs that has not already been written about by me and other officials.”

They said the draft article called for a new diplomatic approach to relations with Iran and pointed out that the United States had worked fruitfully with Iran after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and in the Afghanistan conflict in 2002.

The authors said the administration did not want that history emphasized when it is resisting pressure to renew contacts with Iran.

As they did with Iraq, in which Bush repeatedly claimed that Hussein threw weapons ispectors out and refused to let them back in -- both claims patently false -- the administration wants to make sure that only Iranian recalcitrance enters the collective consciousness.


Strange morning in which I open the obituary page and find pictures of both Fred and Barney and Rocky and Bullwinkle. Of the latter, Chris Hayward now joins the growing pantheon of people who influenced me greatly as I was growing up, but whose names I did not know until they died.

Mr. Hayward was for many years a writer for Jay Ward Productions, creators of the subversive animated cartoons starring Rocky the flying squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose. Originally broadcast on ABC in 1959 as “Rocky and His Friends,” the program, renamed “The Bullwinkle Show,” moved to NBC in 1961; it returned to ABC from 1964 to 1973.

A sophisticated cold war spoof (moose and squirrel are locked in endless battle with the perfidious Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale), the show attracted an ardent cult following and has been blessed with eternal life in syndication. It comprised various segments, including “Fractured Fairy Tales,” narrated by Edward Everett Horton, and “Peabody’s Improbable History,” starring a cerebral dog.

Mr. Hayward worked on all the segments but was most closely associated with “The Adventures of Dudley Do-Right,” which followed the hapless royal Canadian Mountie in his ceaseless pursuit of Snidely Whiplash, a very naughty man.

Because the Dudley Do-Right segments were deemed harmful to the national esteem, the Rocky and Bullwinkle shows were initially not broadcast in Canada.

With Allan Burns, Mr. Hayward also conceived of “The Munsters.” The show, which chronicled the twisted fortunes of a family of ghouls, was broadcast on CBS from 1964 to 1966. At first, the two men received no credit for creating it. Only after the Writers Guild of America took up their case with the producer, Universal Studios, were they awarded credit and financial compensation.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Groundhog day

Digby quotes the following jaw-dropper:

Congress pledged that Abrams would never work at a high level in government again. But by the time the Neoconservative cabal in the Bush administration got Bush to appoint him to the National Security Council, there had been so much turn-over in Congress that, one member told me, "no one remembered who Abrams was."

One wonders. Is institutional knowledge so pathetic in Congress that, a decade or so from now when Jeb is anointed preznit Bush III, we'll see a parade of Brownies, Feiths, Cambones, Safavians -- to name a barbershop quartet of incompetence, stupidity, lying, and greed -- given senior positions in the administration, all under the nose of congressional committee staffers who've never heard of them?

Clean outta Friedman Units

Friedman refers to our grand Iraq adventure in the past tense and Brooks tells the First Lady to "get off it."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

But what about Vince Foster?

Look, there are lots of folks who don't like the Clintons, especially don't think Hillary is genuine, or think she's Lady MacBeth or something, but c'mon, the national "trauma" had to do with the Republicans overreach on Impeachment, not "that woman." That was embarrassing (how could he fuck that up so badly?), not traumatic.

This is getting old. Or, as Atrios says, "Clenis, clenis, clenis, clenis."

And Leon Panetta really needs to shut up.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

(Beat Club) Pink Floyd & Syd Barrett - Astronomy Domine live

Saturday night acid blogging. For Otten, wherever he's at.

No more Mr. Nice Guantanamo

After five years in dentention in beautiful Guantanamo Bay, the prisoners held there are clearly a threat to swim to Florida.

The yard, where the detainees were to have played soccer and other sports, had been part of a plan to ease the conditions under which more than 400 men are imprisoned here, nearly all of them without having been charged. But that plan has changed.

“At this point, I just don’t see using that,” the guard commander, Col. Wade F. Dennis, said.

After two years in which the military sought to manage terrorism suspects at Guantánamo with incentives for good behavior, steady improvements in their living conditions and even dialogue with prison leaders, the authorities here have clamped down decisively in recent months.

Security procedures have been tightened. Group activities have been scaled back. With the retrofitting of Camp 6 and the near-emptying of another showcase camp for compliant prisoners, military officials said about three-fourths of the detainees would eventually be held in maximum-security cells. That is a stark departure from earlier plans to hold a similar number in medium-security units.

Ok, so maybe they can't swim over hear to kill us in our beds, but this is surely in response to some threat they pose to others...

Officials said the shift reflected the military’s analysis — after a series of hunger strikes, a riot last May and three suicides by detainees in June — that earlier efforts to ease restrictions on the detainees had gone too far.

Oh, right. Suicide as a tactical weapon. Talk about your asymetrical warfare.

Anyway, as Rumsfeld would say, these are the worst of the worst, right?

The commander of the Guantánamo task force, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., said the tougher approach also reflected the changing nature of the prison population, and his conviction that all of those now held here are dangerous men. “They’re all terrorists; they’re all enemy combatants,” Admiral Harris said in an interview.

He added, “I don’t think there is such a thing as a medium-security terrorist.”

Admiral Harris, who took command on March 31, referred in part to the recent departure from Guantánamo of the last of 38 men whom the military had classified since early 2005 as “no longer enemy combatants.” Still, about 100 others who had been cleared by the military for transfer or release remained here while the State Department tried to arrange their repatriation.

[Shortly after Admiral Harris’s remarks, another 15 detainees were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where they were promptly returned to their families.] [sic]

Something tells me Admiral Harris is not a great scholar of Islam.

Well, I'm sure that when we do release some of these "terrorists," they'll speak well of us when they get home.

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec.16 — Seven Afghans freed after up to five years of detention at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay arrived in Kabul on Saturday, desperate to get back to their home villages.

The long-bearded men, mostly farmers and simple villagers, dressed in dark blue jeans and jackets, arrived at the offices of the Afghan Commission for Peace and Reconciliation here to receive an official guarantee of freedom from the Afghan government.

Most of them were from Helmand, the southern province that has become the most volatile area of Afghanistan. Government and foreign troops there have come under repeated attack by the Taliban and other insurgents.

One of the seven men, Haji Alef Muhammad, 62, from the Baghran district in Helmand, said he lost his brothers four years ago in a United States bombardment of his village. After that, he said, he was taken into custody during a raid, and sent to Guantánamo.

“Is this my fault that I believe in the words, ‘There is no God but Allah?’ ” he said. “Other than that there is no witness and no evidence of my guilt.”

“We had to eat, pray and go to the toilet in the same cell that was two meters long and two meters wide,” he said in disgust.

Another prisoner, Abdul Rahman, 38, said he was an unwilling fighter for the Taliban. He said he was from Helmand, but was arrested in Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan in late 2001 by Northern Alliance soldiers led by the Uzbek leader Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.

“The Taliban sent me there by force as they made every family provide one fighter or give money instead,” he said.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wanker, thy name is Joe

Joe Lieberman, who during the debates with Lamont was certain that the troops would start coming home by now, is now calling for more troops.

And, shit, I am sure sick of this "double down" meme that's come to mark "debate" over the Lieberman/McCain War.

The visit by Mr. McCain came at a time of disarray in Washington and across the United States over how to proceed in Iraq. Mr. McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is effectively doubling down his bet on the war, figuring that embracing a strong resolution in Iraq will give him an effective campaign cudgel. If the administration sends more troops, Mr. McCain can hope for a speedy resolution in Iraq that allows him to claim partial victory; if President Bush pulls back and chaos persists, he could contend that his advice was ignored.

I know we're now a nation addicted to "Texas Hold-em," or watching dweebish and/or unsavory individuals in sunglasses playing it in the dark on TV, but using a stupid (and wrong) poker metaphor just cheapens the lives of our troops and the lives of Iraqis who are dying by the score every fucking day.

We are not "doubling down" in Iraq. We are "escalating"... just as we did in Vietnam. The results will likely be the same. And "doubling down" implies that we can "win the pot" with just the right hand. We can't. The point -- or pointlessness -- of this exercise is to subdue Baghdad.

If I were a cynical bastard (I heard that!), I would say let's give him his troops and hoist him by his own petard. But too many have died to prove the manliness of such bloody-minded assholes as McCain, Bush, and Lieberman.

And this is just bullshit:

He contrasted the situation with the Vietnam War, saying, “when we came home, the war was over.” But now, he said, Iraq’s Islamic militants “will follow us home” if the American effort fails.
This is not Afghanistan, where the governing faction hosted a terrorist organization intent on attacking the U.S., and succeeding. This is a civil war.

How 'bout this slogan..."McCain '08: Throwing good lives after good is "the least bad option."
Ray Charles - Hit the Road Jack (1961)

Brought to you by Ahmet Ertegun, 1923-2006. No one...had a better set of ears. And no one better exemplified my own taste in the popular music of the twentieth century.

One thing alluded to, but not spelled out in the Times obit, Mr. Ertegun saved Aretha Franklin's career from none other than John Hammond, who wanted her to be a jazz singer. Ertgegun, along with Jerry Wexler and the late, great sound engineer, Tom Dowd, heard what her voice was really meant to do.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"The Trial"

So, let me get this straight. Padilla may not be competent to stand trial because of the abuse he suffered while in solitary confinement for three years, but prosecutors want his attorneys' claims of abuse thrown out because he isn't competent.

Mr. Padilla’s trial, which involves two other defendants also accused of running a “North American terror support cell,” is scheduled to start on Jan. 22 and expected to last about five months. Even before the motion filed yesterday, a delay seemed possible or even probable because of the extensive pretrial litigation in the complex case.

Now the issue of determining Mr. Padilla’s competency could freeze many matters. For instance, his lawyers have asked Judge Marcia G. Cooke of Federal District Court to dismiss the charges because of “pre-indictment delay” — Mr. Padilla was apprehended in May 2002 and indicted in November 2005 — because of failure to provide a speedy trial and because of “outrageous government conduct.”

Judge Cooke set a hearing date for Monday to address these motions. But the government said yesterday that it would be pointless to discuss accusations of government misconduct based on Mr. Padilla’s word if his competence was in question. The government vehemently denies that Mr. Padilla was mistreated in military custody.

The Trial, by Franz Kafka.

K. waited for him at the foot of the steps. While he was still on one of the higher steps as he came down them the priest reached out his hand for K. to shake.

"Can you spare me a little of your time?" asked K.

"As much time as you need," said the priest, and passed him the little lamp for him to carry.

Even at close distance the priest did not lose a certain solemnity that seemed to be part of his character.

"You are very friendly towards me," said K., as they walked up and down beside each other in the darkness of one of the side naves. "That makes you an exception among all those who belong to the court. I can trust you more than any of the others I've seen. I can speak openly with you."

"Don't fool yourself," said the priest.

"How would I be fooling myself?" asked K.

"You fool yourself in the court," said the priest, "it talks about this self-deceit in the opening paragraphs to the law. In front of the law there is a doorkeeper. A man from the countryside comes up to the door and asks for entry. But the doorkeeper says he can't let him in to the law right now. The man thinks about this, and then he asks if he'll be able to go in later on.

'That's possible,' says the doorkeeper, 'but not now'. The gateway to the law is open as it always is, and the doorkeeper has stepped to one side, so the man bends over to try and see in.

When the doorkeeper notices this he laughs and says, 'If you're tempted give it a try, try and go in even though I say you can't. Careful though: I'm powerful. And I'm only the lowliest of all the doormen. But there's a doorkeeper for each of the rooms and each of them is more powerful than the last. It's more than I can stand just to look at the third one.'

The man from the country had not expected difficulties like this, the law was supposed to be accessible for anyone at any time, he thinks, but now he looks more closely at the doorkeeper in his fur coat, sees his big hooked nose, his long thin tartar-beard, and he decides it's better to wait until he has permission to enter. The doorkeeper gives him a stool and lets him sit down to one side of the gate. He sits there for days and years. He tries to be allowed in time and again and tires the doorkeeper with his requests. The doorkeeper often questions him, asking about where he's from and many other things, but these are disinterested questions such as great men ask, and he always ends up by telling him he still can't let him in. The man had come well equipped for his journey, and uses everything, however valuable, to bribe the doorkeeper. He accepts everything, but as he does so he says, 'I'll only accept this so that you don't think there's anything you've failed to do'.

Over many years, the man watches the doorkeeper almost without a break. He forgets about the other doormen, and begins to think this one is the only thing stopping him from gaining access to the law. Over the first few years he curses his unhappy condition out loud, but later, as he becomes old, he just grumbles to himself. He becomes senile, and as he has come to know even the fleas in the doorkeeper's fur collar over the years that he has been studying him he even asks them to help him and change the doorkeeper's mind. Finally his eyes grow dim, and he no longer knows whether it's really getting darker or just his eyes that are deceiving him. But he seems now to see an inextinguishable light begin to shine from the darkness behind the door. He doesn't have long to live now.

Just before he dies, he brings together all his experience from all this time into one question which he has still never put to the doorkeeper. He beckons to him, as he's no longer able to raise his stiff body. The doorkeeper has to bend over deeply as the difference in their sizes has changed very much to the disadvantage of the man.

'What is it you want to know now?' asks the doorkeeper, 'You're insatiable.'

'Everyone wants access to the law,' says the man, 'how come, over all these years, no- one but me has asked to be let in?'

The doorkeeper can see the man's come to his end, his hearing has faded, and so, so that he can be heard, he shouts to him: 'Nobody else could have got in this way, as this entrance was meant only for you. Now I'll go and close it'."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The eagle has landed

This whole saga has actually been fun to watch from afar.

After a 4-hour, 43-minute flight from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., the Dassault Mystere 900 tri-jet of Boston owner John Henry landed at Laurence G. Hanscom Field in suburban Bedford at 5:16 p.m.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino and general manager Theo Epstein were seen coming off the plane with Matsuzaka in a light rain. An SUV and sedan were waiting on the tarmac along with a police cruiser with flashing lights.

I can't wait to see how much they pay this guy since I don't think Plan A is going to work.
Taxi Driver Trailer

Wizard: You get a job. You become the job.

Whittling away

It's really quite amazing the level of public debate the administration is conducting over the "new way forward" in Iraq. It's a remarkable performance, such a thoughtful review of policies and tactics. And, of course, after three years, holding off on making the hard decisions for a couple more weeks, until after George has awakened on Christmas morning and seen what Laura and Barney have gotten him, isn't too big a deal.

Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, said the administration was continuing to “whittle away at options” and seeking more information from advisers, but already had a clear idea of the general outlines of his new approach. Mr. Bush also wanted to allow more time for Robert M. Gates, the incoming defense secretary, to weigh the military options he will ultimately have to carry out, the spokesman said. But Mr. Snow acknowledged that the debate continued.

“Look, there is one camp — it is the camp that works for the president,” Mr. Snow said. “Now, people are going to have disagreements, and there may be some areas on which there are still going to be debates, but most have kind of been ironed out. I would not rule out the fact that there may be some discussion on some points.”

"Whittling away." Interesting choice of words.

At least 10 people died when a car bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, with the blast coming a day after 70 people were killed in a double car bombing targeting Shia job seekers in the capital.

Crazy like a fox. A rabid one.

A plan so cunning, so diabolical, so...delusional and insane, that it must be the Cheney administration's next move.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A life long struggle

Geez, I knew that it was biological, but he's know he's been gay since he turned five?

The fashion show

To these idiots, it isn't about ideas, or perspective, or energy, or solutions, or whatever. It's about a candidate's choice of clothing (and, of course, middle name).

This is a perfect example of why the EmEssEm has little or no credibility left.

This is a perfect example of why half the eligible voters in the country don't.

This is a perfect example of how an unqualified, dangerous, and seriously demented buffoon was elected to two terms as the leader of the fucking free world.

If I can get through the next two years without suffering a concussion occasioned by repeated bangings of head, it will be a miracle.

Potemkin study group

The Bush administration has stopped even trying to be coherent.

When the White House review began, the interagency group debated whether to try to beat the Iraqi Study Group's report or let it play out and then look "bigger and better" by doing a report later, said an official familiar with the discussions. It was agreed to wait. But the emphasis throughout the month-long process has been to produce a strategy that would be deliberately distinct, the official added.

The White House review does not have the depth or scope of the Iraq Study Group's, according to officials familiar with the deliberations. "There's a lack of thinking on other big issues -- oil, the economy, infrastructure and jobs," said one source who was briefed on the interagency discussions and requested anonymity because talks are ongoing.

During yesterday's White House meeting, Bush asked all the questions, except for one at the end from Cheney, a source said. But Cheney took copious notes throughout, filling several pages, he said. "They didn't really reveal their own views" in their questions, said retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, one of the five participants.

As a whole, the group of retired generals and academics who met Bush tend to be skeptical of the Iraq Study Group's proposals, and so were able to give him additional reasons to reject its recommendations.

That whole, "New way forward" should be comprehensive. This is criminal. Their goal is to produce something "distinct" from the ISG's recommendations. Not effective. Just "distinct."

How much you wanna bet that when Bush makes his "major address" on Iraq, he reveals that his new strategy in Iraq is....VICTORY!

While they focus on appearances, the American people have long since pulled back the curtain on these malicious fools.

In a new Post-ABC News poll, seven in 10 Americans disapprove of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq -- the highest percentage since the March 2003 invasion. Six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting.
I doubt the latest cunning plan for winning the war against fascislamoextremists is going to halt that plummet.

Monday, December 11, 2006

More hopeful signs from the Middle East

So, regardless of what this "conference" concludes, it's heads Israel loses and tails Israel loses.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki dismissed the foreign criticism as "predictable," telling conference delegates in a speech that there was "no logical reason for opposing this conference."

"The objective for organizing this conference is to create an atmosphere to raise various opinions about a historical issue. We are not seeking to deny or prove the Holocaust," Mottaki said.

"If the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt. And if, during this review, it is proved that the Holocaust was a historical reality, then what is the reason for the Muslim people of the region and the Palestinians having to pay the cost of the Nazis' crimes?" Mottaki said.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The population of Hell is swelling, Augusto Pinochet edition

Well, if there is a Hell, another cankerous soul is knocking at its gates.

General Pinochet seized power on Sept. 11, 1973, in a bloody military coup that toppled the Marxist government of President Salvador Allende. He then led the country into an era of robust economic growth. But during his rule, more than 3,200 people were executed or disappeared, and scores of thousands more were detained and tortured or exiled.

Oh yeah, he's also the hero of those who would privatize Social Security.

Tony Snow, historian

The White House press sect'y lectures us on American history.

Q Tony, a couple of minutes ago, you said one of the goals in Iraq is to prevent civil war. Can you take a minute and give us the definition that the President is working with? Because he continues to say it's not at that state yet; lots of analysts do say it's at that state. What's the threshold that the administration is working with --

MR. SNOW: I think the general notion is a civil war is when you have people who use the American Civil War or other civil wars as an example, where people break up into clearly identifiable feuding sides clashing for supremacy within Iran.

Q And there's nothing on the ground that the President is looking at that he thinks is a prospect --

MR. SNOW: At this point, you do have a lot of different forces that are trying to put pressure on the government and trying to undermine it. But it's not clear that they are operating as a unified force. You don't have a clearly identifiable leader. And so in this particular case, no.

What you do have is a number of different groups -- you know, they've been described in some cases as rejectionists, in others as terrorists. In many cases, they are not groups that would naturally get along, either, but they severally and together pose a threat to the government.

Oh, I see. Then this is just an instance of a routine "sectarian dust-up," or maybe a block party gone bad?

BAGHDAD, Dec. 9 — Bands of armed Shiite militiamen stormed through a neighborhood in north-central Baghdad on Saturday, driving hundreds of Sunni Arabs from their homes in what a Sunni colonel in the Iraqi Army described as one of the most flagrant episodes of sectarian warfare yet unleashed in the capital.

The officer, Lt. Col. Abdullah Ramadan al-Jabouri, said that more than 100 Sunni families, many with very young children, had left the Hurriya neighborhood aboard a convoy of trucks and cars under cover of the nightly curfew. Government officials tried to urge the families to return by promising army protection, but could not persuade them.


The fighting began around noon, when militiamen began rampaging through the only mixed district in Hurriya, a mostly Shiite neighborhood, and killed at least three Sunni Arabs. One family was shot as they left their home, with a 20-year-old man killed and his mother and younger brother wounded, according to an account given by the man’s father, who was at work as a security guard elsewhere at the time. The man said the three were hit by automatic rifle fire as they finished loading possessions into their car and prepared to drive to a safer area.

Colonel Jabouri said that skirmishes set off by the militia attacks continued for about five hours, until sunset. Meanwhile, a large convoy of Sunni Arabs waited in their vehicles outside the fortified Muhaimin mosque, waiting to drive to neighboring Sunni districts while local leaders negotiated with militiamen for safe passage.

A Sunni cleric, Sayed Ahmed Muhammad, said the negotiations also involved appeals from top government officials, including Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, for the Sunni families to return to their homes in Hurriya under promise of Iraqi Army protection. But the cleric said the assurances failed to persuade the Sunnis, whom he described as the last of more than 4,000 Sunnis to flee the area under Shiite militia threats in recent months. The convoy set out after dark.

Colonel Jabouri, the Iraqi military commander in the area, said his troops had tried to help groups of Sunnis protect themselves and their homes. But the large number of Shiite militiamen involved — whom he identified as belonging to the Mahdi Army, the most powerful Shiite militia — made that impossible. He described the fighting as the worst eruption of sectarian skirmishing so far experienced by the Iraqi Sixth Division, which shares responsibility for security in Baghdad with American troops.

“As an Iraqi, I’m against sectarianism of any kind,” he said. “I’m against any group that that seeks to build barriers between people on the basis of their religion.”

The role of American troops in the turmoil was unclear. The Sunni cleric, Sayed Muhammad, said appeals for assistance from the First Cavalry Division, its headquarters about three miles southwest of Hurriya, had gone unanswered. But Colonel Jabouri said Iraqi commanders had told the Americans there was no need for their help. A First Cavalry Division spokesman said American advisers with Iraqi troops in Hurriya had reported only one instance of sectarian trouble, when Iraqi troops assisted a Shiite family under threat from Sunnis.

That account appeared to reflect the cyclical nature of the sectarian violence that has soared in Baghdad in recent months, and has led to thousands of families fleeing mixed Sunni-Shiite areas for the safety of neighborhoods in which their own sect dominates. Hurriya lies in an area of western Baghdad where there has been a surge of attacks on Sunnis living in Shiite-majority areas, and vice versa. Just south of Hurriya lies Amariya, a Sunni Arab stronghold where scores of Shiite families have been driven out by attacks or threats from armed Sunnis.

Sayed Muhammad described the aim of the Shiite attacks on Saturday as creating a Sunni-free corridor across northern Baghdad that would run from the Shula district on the city’s northwestern edge to Kadhimiya, a Shiite stronghold on the west bank of the Tigris river. The main area of Shiite strength in the capital lies on the east bank of the Tigris, principally in Sadr City, home to about 2.5 million Shiites, about 40 per cent of Baghdad’s population.

“It’s part of a much wider plan,” the cleric said. “What we’re experiencing here is the Shiite groundwork for a civil war.”

One of the striking features of the violence Saturday was that it occurred in an area that lies less than three miles northwest of the heavily guarded Green Zone compound that doubles as the seat of the Iraqi government and as an American command post. American diplomats and military commanders have been pressing the Maliki government to take urgent action to begin to curb all militias, and particularly the Mahdi Army, which is under the nominal control of a radical Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, who is an important political ally of Mr. Maliki.

No, this isn't reminiscent of the Civil War at all.

Several anti-slavery organizations in the North, most notably the New England Emigrant Aid Company, organized and funded several thousand settlers to move to Kansas and vote to make it a free state. These organizations helped to establish Free-State settlements in Topeka, Manhattan, and Lawrence. Abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher collected funds to arm like-minded settlers with Sharps rifles, leading the precision rifles to become known as "Beecher's Bibles". By the summer of 1855, approximately 1,200 New Englanders had made the journey to the new territory, armed and ready to fight.

There was also organized immigration to Kansas from southern states, most notably Missouri, to secure the expansion of slavery. Proslavery settlements were established at Leavenworth and Atchison.

Rumors had spread through the South that 20,000 Northerners were descending on Kansas, and in November 1854, thousands of armed Southerners known as "Border Ruffians", mostly from Missouri, poured over the line to vote for a proslavery congressional delegate. Only half the ballots were cast by registered voters, and at one location, only 20 of over 600 voters were legal residents. The proslavery forces won the election. More significantly, the Border Ruffians repeated their actions on March 30, 1855, when the first territorial legislature was elected, swaying the vote again in favor of slavery. The proslavery territorial legislature convened in Pawnee on July 2, 1855, but after one week it adjourned to the Shawnee Mission on the Missouri border, where it began passing laws to institutionalize slavery in Kansas Territory. This was the touchstone for the commencement of open violence.

Ok, then I guess if the analogy is correct, we can't rightly refer to what's happening in Iraq as a "Civil War" for another five years. Six, tops.

Atrios is right. These people are not only unserious,

These are people with broken brains and souls.
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