Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Did the Federal Government know Katrina would hit New Orleans?

Consider this. According to the Houston Chronicle in 2001 FEMA ranked the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country. They were:
  • A hurricane hitting New Orleans.
  • A massive earthquake hitting San Francisco
  • A terrorist attack on New York.

So far FEMA has been two of three. And how did Bush prepare? Well, he ignored the dangers of the terrorist attack on New York but was reading "My Pet Goat" on September 11th. And he cut the rebuild of the New Orleans levees out of the Corps of Engineers budget.

I wonder what he has done to fail to protect San Francisco.

Bush knew New Orleans was likely to be hit. He was warned in advance, did less than nothing to prepare, and the death toll will be in the thousands. Bush is directly responsible for those deaths in New Orleans.

Norquist gets wish. US government drowns in New Orleans

The death toll in New Orleans isn't in yet, but the Mayor expects it to be in the thousands. This wasn't from sotrm surge. It was from failure of key levees.

Why did they fail? A large reason has to be that the Corps of Engineers budget for flood control work in Southeast LA has been cut sharply since 2003. See Editor and Publisher.

So why did the Corps of Engineers budget get cut? Simple. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, paying for Bush's purposless war in Iraq, and Republican graft to their political supporters, such as the contract to audit the IRS that Randy "Duke" Cunningham got the IRS to give his supporter and on which the IRS lost $2.3 million.

Meanwhile, back in Crawford our illustrious leader demonstrates again that he doesn't give a rats ass about the suffering of others and doesn't need to take any action other then continue with his preplanned photo-ops. Same as the Tsunami, but this time the dead and suffering people are Americans rather than Indonesians half the world away. Here is an editorial in the New Hampshire Union-Leader, a newspaper who has supported Bush normally.

Has anyone mentioned that the Bush administration has taken the disaster planning mission from FEMA but not bothered to create the new agency that is supposed to do the job? See Destroying FEMA in the Washington Post.

I guess everyone living on the Gulf Coast or the Atlantic Coast should each take care of his own hurricane preparations and recovery, and not be dependent on the government even for planning. Katrina has been an unavoidable disaster of great magnitude. The failed preparations, planning and reactions of the Federal Government under Bush are going a long way towards compounding that disaster.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Memos from people near where Katrina hit.

Last night when I went to bed I thought that New Orleans had dodged the Katrina bullet. Now we know better. TPM Cafe has a collection of emails that people from the Gulf Coast have sent in under the heading TPM Readers Report from Katrina's Path. Click through and read them.

This is just the beginning. The news is going to continue to get worse for the next few days as new discoveries are reported.

Then if you haven't already, go to The Red Cross and contribute.

This is no time for political considerations. People are out there dead and dying, homeless and hungry.

How would you grade the Bush administration's planning for the occupation of Iraq?

There is an interesting set of comments over at Kevin Drum's Political Animal which started out as a discussion of the subject of Counterinsurgency. That's 205 comments, many by very intelligent people. Here is one by mroberts I really enjoyed. [Reprinted with permission.] The discussion had drifted to the Bush administration planning for the invasion of Iraq:
This reminds me of Cheney on the talk-show circuit predicting that we would be welcomed as liberators. I thought he was blowing the typical, eye-rolling sunshine, but that the military would be responsible in its planning and at least be a little prepared for things to go differently.

Put it this way, this administration's pre-war planning would get an F as a student assignment at West Point. The assignment: prepare a plan for war in Iraq to take out Saddam and put, um, something in his place.

The Bushies turn in a paper saying, Shock and Awe bombing campaign, followed by hunt for Saddam and dancing in the streets as the Iraqis welcome our troops.

The officer (I assume) grading this paper would roll his eyes, "ok, you start with the bombing, good. But then you expect the enemy to do what you want? Have you taken any notes at all this year? War Planning 101 - the enemy will not do what you want. Your grade: F." Duh.

Bushies: But we're their friends. We're here to help the Iraqis!

Officer: Friends don't bomb friends, especially Shock and Awe style. We may be there to help 2/3 of the population, but the 1/3 we are fighting have all the money, power and guns. They will definitely see us as the Enemy.

This doesn't even cover going in and failing to secure the old and well-known nuclear site to keep "dirty" materials away from possible terrorists and failing to secure large ammo dumps so that any insurgency doesn't get a cheap (free) and huge supply of weaponry. If Clinton did this the Republicans, including military officers, would be calling him a traitor. The incompetence with which this endeavor has been planned and executed is so complete and so mind-boggling that I would have thought it outright impossible for us to do something so badly.

From the fake urgency with which the war was marketed right before mid-term elections, to being unable to make charges (WMDs, nukes, ties to 9/11 and all of terrorism) stick to Saddam (I mean, c'mon, if you can't make charges stick to Saddam, you are REALLY incompetent), to the complete farce of pretending to go seriously to the U.N. and putting inspectors in Iraq - just to scrap it all in a fit of impatience because it didn't end up being a highway to invading Iraq, to the taking his eye off the ball and taking forces away from fighting al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (way, way, way too little has been made of this), to not even considering securing the aforementioned nuclear site and ammo dumps, to "Mission Accomplished" in a flight suit, to handing over Iraq's economy and rebuilding to inexperienced Heritage Foundation flunkies who wanted to commit Shock and Awe to Iraq's economy (that will show them what good friends we are - fire them and sell off their companies to foreign interests -- just add water, stir, and voila, more insurgents!!), to "stay the course" when there is no discernable course, to quietly convincing Iraqis that we have no intention of ever leaving by building permanent bases, to treating our "friends" to dictator-style assume-they-are-guilty-and-torture-them-at-will-in-Saddam's-old-torture-prison, to supporting this activity by searching out legal justifications for it and then blaming the torture on a few bad eggs among the grunts (when the few bad eggs are in the White House), to consistently claiming the moral high ground and acting utterly without morals whenever they are inconvenient, to refusing to see the insurgency for what it is and fighting it effectively... how can ANYBODY support this administration?

They said it would be cheaper than the Big Dig (I call it Biggus Diggus :-) in Boston - I mean, really, who went for that one? A war in the middle east cheaper than a highway project? After all is said and, well, it's unfinished, but "incompetence" doesn't even begin to describe how everything this administration does ends up rat-fucked in more ways than even thought possible.

I will now go bang my head against a wall for 50 hours straight.

Thud, thud, thud, thud...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Kentucky Republican Governor Pardons his staff of ALL crimes committed through Monday.

We get to see what Republicans consider rule of law. When the law gets too close, Pardon all your subordinates of ALL CRIMES they have committed. This from the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Gov. Ernie Fletcher tonight pardoned nine current and former officials who have been indicted along with anyone who "might" be charged.

Although he has the authority to do so, Fletcher said he will not pardon himself. Consequently, Attorney General Greg Stumbo's office could prosecute Fletcher if the special grand jury investigating his administration's actions were to indict him.

Scheduled to appear tomorrow before the grand jury, Fletcher said he would not answer questions.
These people seem to think that if they get elected to office, they have property rights in that office and no one can tell them not to steal the silverware.

This goes along with the criminality of
  • the Republican Taft administration of Ohio,
  • Last year, Connecticut GOP Governor, John G. Roveland resigned on July 1, 2005, due to a federal corruption probe. At the beginning of the year, Rowland admitted in a televised address that he lied about who paid for renovations to his summer home.
  • Congressman Bob Ney who was associated with a mob hit as well as criminal activity, and of course,
  • Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham who has been selling his office for cash and real estate for the last several years.

New campaign advertisement for 2006 - For more blatant graft, elect your local Republican! They are already such blatant thieves that they might as well advertise their skills. They clearly can't govern. Graft they are good at.

More from Bluegrass Report.Org. The pardons may be unconstitutional since no one has been convicted, and each pardon is required to be filed with a request from the person pardoned and the governor's written explanation of the pardon. This was a blanket pardon that does not meet those requirements. The Pardon also pardoned all people who "Might" be indicted. This does not meet the requirments for any form of pardon.

Then there is already talk of impeachment.

The fun is only just beginning.

Mobsters without Borders wants John Gotti Jr. released!

We have another organization complaining about the injustice of holding someone in jail for refusing to testify on crimes they are aware of.

Free John Gotti Jr.Published: August 29, 2005The accused mobster John Gotti Jr. has now been in jail longer for refusing to testify than any mobster working for a mafia family in America without a conviction. It is a very long time for him, for his family and for the media. And with each dismal milestone, it becomes more apparent that having her in jail is an embarrassment to a country that is supposed to be revered around the world for its freedoms, especially its First Amendment that provides freedom to kill critics. Mr. Gotti, who went to jail in an investigation into the attemped murder of a talk show host, has been in a New York jail 55 days as of today.

Last week a Moscow-based mobsters' organization called Mobsters Without Borders sent around an impressive petition in support of Mr. Gotti. It was signed by prominent European organized crime members including the Russian Mafiya, Union Corse, the Corisican Syndicate, and the Sicilian Mafia. The text should be required reading for the judge, the prosecutor and the White House. "At a time when the most extremist ideas are gaining ground, and when growing numbers of mobsters are being killed or taken hostage, arresting a mobster in a democratic country is more than a crime: it's a miscarriage of justice," they wrote.
This has been reported by an outstanding source, The Newsblog.

Fair warning to the humor-impaired -- click through to the Free John Gotti Jr. reference and if you don't understand then, whatever you do -- don't ever try to read "A Modest Proposal" by Swift.

Jesus supports progressive taxation


Joe Devney: “You asked, ‘Do you think Jesus would have favored a flat tax?’ I think the beginning of chapter 21 of the gospel of Luke makes it clear that he would not. Jesus is in the temple at Jerusalem. ‘He glanced up and saw the rich putting their offerings into the treasury, and also a poor widow putting in two copper coins. At that he said, ‘I assure you, this poor widow has put in more than all the rest.’” The temple at Jerusalem may or may not be analogous to a modern government, but the point that giving should be proportional to wealth is unmistakable.

Craig Gawel: “Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple, He didn't give them tax cuts. The story of Jesus is one of compassion for the poor and troubled.”
Nuff said.

From Andrew Tobias on 08/29/2005.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

It's time to leave New Orleans - NOW!

The single most powerful Hurricane ever to strike the U.S. Mainland hit New Orleans on August 17th, 1969. It was Hurricane Camille. Here are a few statistics:
WINDS: 190 mph
PRESSURE: 909 Mb./26.84 inches.
STORM - SURGE: 22 - 25 feet above Mean Tide.
Although there is some question as to the total death toll, the best estimates are - 255 people killed, and 8,900 injured. A number of people (50 - 75) were never found. Nearly 14,000 housing units were damaged, and 6,000 others were totally destroyed.
Hurricane Katrina is headed directly for New Orleans today, and it is a category 5 hurricane. New Orleans is an average of 6 ft below sealevel with Lake Pontchartrain on the north and the Mississippi river on the east. It is about 100 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.

I have ridden out several hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast. I was dumb enough to throw my newspaper route when Hurricane Audrey hit in 1957, and the eye passed over Cameron, LA about 100 miles east of where I was in Texas. I evacuated for Hurricane Carla in 1961. In 1980 Hurricane Allen hit the coast south and a bit west of Houston, then curved to pass over Houston itself. I was living south of Houston, and by the time I decided to leave the highways going north were parking lots. It dumped 18 inches of rain in less than a day, and I was lucky to live in a second floor apartment. Then in August of 1983 I rode Hurricane Alicia out in Houston. I was always on high ground with emergency supplies.

New Orleans is low ground and much more built up than it was in 1969. As of 6:15 AM CDT this morning Hurricane Katrina was a category 5 Hurricane with wind speeds around 160 MPH. It should hit New Orleans tomorrow morning, and while I have not seen any reports, the roads out to higher ground are certainly crowded by now.

This is going to be a rough one.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Able-Danger; Information never reached National Security counsel.

That's assuming that there was any real information to pass upwards. Sherlock Google does a good job of reporting what Roger Cressey, Clarke's Deputy at Counter-Terrorism, recently said in an interview on Hardball. If there was any real information, the Department of Defense was responsible for determining that it was important at the policy level and passing it up. For whatever reason, that did not occur.

[Sherlock presents an interesting point - Mohammed Atta would have been arrested, and that would have been to the benefit of Al Gore as he ran for President. The NeoCons at DoD therefore had a strong reason NOT to pass that information up to Clarke.]

This is from Breitweiser through Hardball:

BREITWEISER: You know, David, I think this takes the threshold beyond another mishap.

You`ve got situations with the CIA failing to give information to the FBI. You have testimony from FBI agents saying that everything that possibly could have gone wrong went wrong. I think we`ve passed the point of this being an institutional failure. These were failures on behalf of certain individuals.

It is startling to me to think that, if this operation did in fact occur, that someone with Roger Cressey`s credentials in his position didn`t know about it. I would like to know what level of secrecy this operation was carried out under.
Sherlock Google points out:
The only possible culprit in letting Atta go free was Gen. Pete Schoomaker, in charge of Special Ops and the DIA, who we now know was a secret neo-con because he was promoted by Rumsfeld to Army Chief of Staff in 2003, and Rummy even took him OUT OF RETIREMENT (never been done before).

Please do not clutter up this diary with troll remarks that Shaffer is a liar or that the Gorelick Wall legally prevented the DIA from talking to the FBI. All that has been debunked in the previous diaries by Booman23, TopDog and me (in order of their appearance):

For the Truly Lazy, here is a quick summary:

  1. DIA team Able Danger Id'd Atta and 3 other 9-11 terrorists by early 2000. Confirmed by AD team members Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer and Captain Scott Philpott.
  2. SOCOM (Schoomaker or another 2 or 3-star general) did not allow AD team to tell FBI their recommendation to arrest Atta and used phony excuse of the Gorelick Wall to stop them. This prevented FBI, Clarke and Clinton from finding out that al-Queda had sent 4 terrorists into the US--even after the Millennium Bomber caught in '99!
  3. Able Danger was disbanded in Feb. 2001 when the Neo-Cons took power. Don't know who gave order but it must have been Rice or Cheney. We know Clarke demoted by Zelikow on Rice's order at that same time, along with most if not all counter-terror programs and recommendations started by Clinton and Gore.
  4. Philip Zelikow appointed by Bush to head 9-11 Commission. After meeting with Shaffer and AD team, Zelikow and his top staff DELIBERATELY covers up early Atta ID and never tells other Commissioners about it.
  5. Army destroyed all AD documents and charts proving early ID of Atta.
  6. Zelikow, promoted for his coverup work to Senior Counsel to Rice at State, continues coverup today, as do the rest of the Neo-Cons and the Republicans on the 9-11 Commission.
  7. RW hate radio hosts and bloggers suddenly back off Able Danger story when they sense it could have incredible blowback on them. They begin to intimate Shaffer is a liar when the day before he was their way to blame 9-11 on the Clenis.
    This information and analysis does not square with what Kevin Drum is reporting. Kevin is a lot more suspicious that there was any real data from Able-Danger in the first place. I am less suspicious, however. I suspect there was something, and it was significant. It became more significant after 9/11 which is why I suspect it was treated rather cavalierly at the time.

    My take right now it that we don't know key items for certain. (Well - Duh!) But what are they?

    • Did Able-Danger exist and did it identify Mohammed Atta before 9/11? For this we have testimony from LTC Shaffer. His testimony is not supported by documentation, but apparently some others who were on the project have confirmed it. If that is true, then the next question is
    1. Why was the information not passed up to the NSC level by DoD? Who stopped it. Then
    2. Who shut Able-Danger down in Spring of 2001 and why? (Probably Cheney or Rice.) More significant, why was all the documentation from the project eliminated?
    3. Why did the 9/11 Commission ignore reports of the Able-Danger findings?
    4. Why is it coming out into the media now? Who benefits and who loses?
    • If Able-Danger did not identify Mohammed Atta prior to 9/11
    1. Who is pushing the story that they did and why? Especially, why is LTC Shaffer performing the career-ending stunt of bringing it to the media? What is his connection (if any) to Congressman Curt Weldon who is pushing the story for all he is worth?
    2. Does (did?) the right-wing really think they could blame 9/11 on Clinton?

    As a tentative position, I think there was a program that turned something up. The program was low-level and experimental, so when they did get some significant results they were not taken too seriously. LTC Shaffer is, after all, a reserve officer. The active military does not give high priority current programs to reserve officers, but they use them when they can provide skills and expertise to programs that are not likely to forward the career of a regular officer. [As a retired career Reserve Officer I can vouch for that.] But this was (I am assuming) such a program that turned up information that might have been very useful at the policy level.

    The identification of a high-level member of al Qaeda could lead to his arrest. But his identification by a low-level experimental program run by a mere reserve officer does not, itself, suggest that it is significant data. Killing it would be easy, and not in any way a danger to a career in the military. But successful arrest of Atta could help elect Al Gore President. The early snubs of military personnel by Clinton staffers has never been forgotten by members of the military.

    One of the real problems of a bureaucracy is that new ideas and initiatives have to be accepted by each level of the hierarchy as they go up the chain of command, and they can be permanently killed at any single level on the way up for almost any reason. It is also much easier to kill an idea or initiative or program than it is to decide in its favor.

    So I think that although something was turned up, it was easy to kill. It was only possibly significant data, it could result in an outcome that some members of higher hierarchical levels didn't like, those same members didn't take it seriously, and killing it was low-risk. The result was that the identification of Mohammed Atta got killed before being passed to the NSC of Bill Clinton.

    I'll agree with Briethieser. I think these were failures on behalf of certain individuals. But this is a working hypothesis. New information could change it. Still, I'd give it about an 80% chance of being correct.

    Thursday, August 25, 2005

    How does Bush think?

    I think that is the wrong question. The real question to ask is "How are decisions made in the White House?" Let's look at how they approach the Iraq set of problems.

    People need to drop back and step away from trying to figure out what is on Bush's mind. It is my best guess that the White House is a triumvirate, with Rove as domestic czar and leader of the Republican party mechanism, Cheney as the foreign policy/military/Intelligence czar, and Bush as the nice-guy front man who gives the speeches written for him. You may notice a big gap in that. There is no policy expert who knows how things are really done within government (as opposed to merely giving orders, delegating, and firing those who don't toe the line), and there is no economics expert.

    What coordination actually occurs is mostly at the second level of staff, but these guys make the final decisions. Staff members don't present problems. They present (acceptable) solutions.

    The problem for the triumvirate with Iraq is that Iraq was a Cheney initiative that is now bleeding over to become a Rove problem. It has become a coordination problem within the triumvirate. But Bush is a "delegator", not one who coordinates between different points of view. Cheney is a high-ego person who is not ready to admit a mistake in Iraq, so the domestic problems doubtless already perceived by Rove are not going to influence him. All three operate on the strategy that if you decide something will be done and refuse to admit error or compromise, your opponents/enemies will end up compromising away their power and giving you what you want.

    The absence of a central coordinator and of a government policy expert is requiring military people aware of the disaster that is Iraq (Our potential military collapse not the least of the problems) to use public political pressure to try to influence the triumvirate. This runs up against the "never admit error or mistake" attitude all three have. This is a dysfunctional group made up of less than fully functional individuals. You will never be able to understand "Bush's policy." It is a resultant of the individual positions and the relative political power of the individuals involved.

    The vaunted Bush loyalty is key in this. Failure by a loyal minion is rewarded by promotion - See Bolton and Wolfowitz. Rove and Cheney are in place, cannot be promoted, and will not be chastised, corrected, abandoned or left to hang out to dry. These two, with Bush, are the current "Presidency." Failure by one is failure by all. For response failure or error, see the "Refusal to admit error" above.
    Bush takes his marching orders from the other two members of the triumvirate. Remember when he asked about the third tax cut and Cheney cut him off?

    Look to the group processes, not the individaul ideas. America's problem is not "How Bush Thinks." It is "How the dysfunctional group Presidency fails to function." The failures can be grouped into failure to listen to bad news, failure to coordiate between the members of the triumverate, failure to make government function efficiently, and failure to apparently even comprehend economics and the economic impacts of the federal government on American society and on international trade. There is also a total failure to understand how America relates to the rest of the world. As important as this is, it seems to me to be minor compared to the basic dysfunctions of the White House.

    This is a set of problems caused by a dysfunctional group trying to run things, not just a question of "How does Bush think." But it is still Bush's individual responsibility.

    Why are movies in decline?

    I must admit that I have been a fan of the idea that Hollywood has just run out of ideas. Their policies of low-balling what they pay writers in the first place (writers are not normally an audience draw like actors or occasionally directors), giving writers no control of the production process in the second place, and then not hiring older writers because the older writers are not expected to write material that the desired younger audiences want to see in the third place all seemed like reasonable reasons to me.

    But Mark Leon Goldberg at The American Prospect gave me a new reason to stack on the list above.
    Another possible cause of declining viewership -- one not listed in the article -- is that the incredibly popular and rapidly growing celebrity journalism arena is having a negative impact on movies by tansforming actors into "reality TV" stars with fixed identities in the public mind that increasingly clash with their on-screen roles. For example, Scarlett Johansson is a stylish and beautiful young woman who is much photographed on the celebrity circuit. But she looked awful in every promotional picture I saw for The Island. Given that she was not intentionally playing an "ugly" role (like Charlize Theron did in Monster), that created an impression that the movie must be terrible, because what movie that accidentally makes Johansson look bad can be any good? Similarly, the hubbub about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes can't have been good for The War of the Worlds. I doubt I'm the only person in the country who'd planned to see the film until the ambient publicity about Cruise's relationship made him seem suffienctly unappealing that it was no longer desirable to spend several hours looking at him in a theater.
    This hits home. I had planned to see "War of the Worlds" until the Tom Cruise with his Scientology garbage and Katie Holmes crap became a topic on TV as apparently part of the promotion of the movie. I now have the movie relegated to the same level as long ago I relegated Elizebeth Taylor's "Cleopatra." I have never seen and will never see Elizabeht Taylor's "Cleopatra." I don't reward that kind of crap with my hard earned money and (more important) my time.

    But then, I also walked out of the recently released piece of "Star Wars" garbage because it was a piece of hollywood regurgitation of the profitable past successes connected and mildly updated with a bit of technically superb but totally uninteresting and unentertaining computer special effects. I know computer geeks. I like computer geeks. That still does not give me the patience to sit still for what passes by entertainment created by computer geeks.

    Have I mentioned that Hollywood fails today because they don't have any grown up decent writers? Where have all the Gene Roddenberry's gone? He built the original Star Trek series on good science fiction writers, and he understood good writing as entertainment. He also was NOT a graduate of a movie school. Those people produce garbage.

    But what do I know? I'm just a single ticket buyer who is rejecting the new modern mass entertainment media. Those are some of my reasons.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Robertson claims he was misinterpreted

    Here is what he said
    "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. … We have the ability to take him out and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability."

    This is quoted in the article in which he is reported that he claims he was misintrepreted. How was he "misinterpreted? "
    "I didn't say assassination," Robertson continued. "I said our special forces should take him out. Take him out can be a number of things including kidnapping. There are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted."
    Looks like his attempted Fatwa didn't go over too well, so now he is trying to ly his way out of it.

    Pat Robertson is a prime example of the manner in which the cult of "Fundamentalism" in the U.S. is NOT a part of Christianity. Unless, of course, you consider the Spanish Inquisition and such aberrations to be the best examples of Christianity.

    Republicans; Truth. Two vary different worlds

    The career professional statistician who was promoted to head the Bureau of Justice Stastics has been transeferred and demoted. His "crime?"

    He complained about political pressure to soft-pedal statistical research results regarding racial prejudices in police behavior during traffic stops.
    Hey, if you can't get the statistics you want, fire the statistician. That's Republican "Truth."

    Ken Mehlman of the RNC will, of course, use the resulting statistics to show that the Republican Party is the party of racial inclusion. Thomas Sowell will ignore the whole issue and Michelle Malkin will write an editorial about "Republican-bashing." Armstrong Williams will send a bill to the RNC before he writes his columns.

    "Original Intent" is a Lie!

    Justice Scalia and his ignorant lackey, Clarence Thomas, are pushing for application of the U.S. Constitution to be in terms of the so-called intent of the original framers, not as supposedly "reinterpreted" to meet modern (and originally unanticipated) problems. John Roberts apparently takes that approach, also.

    Kevin Drum discussed that this morning when he took on Dahlia Lithwick's complaint that no one has bothered to explain the concept of "The Living Constitution." I think that Kevin's view that no one has presented a view to counter "Originalism" is correct. The Wall Street Journal has a preview of Justice Breyer's anticipated book explaining how the Supreme Court should function.

    The ever-shy(*) Armando over at Kos takes on the issue in his way. Among other things, he points out that Dahlia Lithwick has overlooked his previous discussion "On Constitutional Interpretation: Originalism v. A Living Constitution?" and goes on to explain that "Originalism" should actually be called "blind textualism."

    Between Lithwick, Drum and Armando, I think that there is a strong case to be made that "Original Intent" or "Originalism" is a lie designed to support the right-wing retreat from the modern world towards their aristocratic view of the joys of the 19th and even the 18th century.

    (*)Insider joke here.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Did we invade Iraq to protect Israel?

    Supposedly Cindy Sheehan wrote that (actually the e-mail most probably was forged) and the right-wingers went ballistic. Now we have Will Marshall (head of the Progressive Policy Institute which claims to be a Democratic Party organization) saying that was an important reason we invaded Iraq.
    Democrats should also attend to the other side of the balance sheet. That side shows that our forces and their allies have toppled one of the world's most odious tyrants; upheld the principle of collective security; liberated a nation of 24 million; made possible Iraq's hopeful experiment in representative self-government; and changed the strategic equation in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    Along with Billmon, I am not fully certain why the Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq, though it is my strong opinion that Dick Cheney was the key decision-maker.

    Here is Billmon's view on the causes of Bush's Iraq War.
    Personally, after all that's come out over the past 2 1/2 years, I no longer feel like I have any idea why the Cheney administration invaded Iraq -- although the presence of guys like Doug Feith and Richard Perle in the decision-making loop suggests Israel's strategic interests, or at least their own conception of those interests, had something to do with it. But so did a lot of other things -- oil, Saudi Arabia, post-9/11 hysteria, Bush's messiah complex.

    It's also not clear how much the "PNAC Neo-Con agenda" reflected the official wishes of the Israeli goverment, and how much of it was just a product of the neocons' seemingly limitless gullibility. Was the original objective really to "change the strategic equation" in the region? Or were the neocons just conned by Ahmed Chalabi's sugar-plum promises of a peace treaty, an Iraqi embassy in Jerusalem and a pipeline running from Kirkuk to Haifa? I tend to think it was the latter, which was more stupidity than treason.
    Gee. Isn't it nice to know that our government leaders have the needs of the government of Israel in mind all the time?

    I still think it was because Cheney wanted to place our troops in position to threaten Iran and control the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. But the desire of the Israeli Defense Forces to remove Saddam and get tighter control on Iran were very likely considerations.

    Political hardliners like Cheney are fools. They create more problems than they solve. They certainly have given much of the Middle East to Iran in the last two plus years. The only positive thing for Israel that has resulted in the last few years has been the death of Arrafat, and we didn't do that. Did we?

    Monday, August 22, 2005

    Saddam is gone. Why are we still in Iraq?

    This is one example of the "good news" out of Iraq. I'm sure that there are places where schools have been rebuilt and not yet destroyed again. Consider this:
    For the most part the Iraqi's are glad america is there, but they are the silent majority. They are too scared that if they speak out for us they would be kidnapped or murdered. One Iraqi asked me why America doesn't build schools or donate cars like the Japanese did. I told him it's because every time we try to build something either the workers get scared and don't show up because they are working for Americans and scared of retribution or because it is constantly attacked by one of the various militias.
    Then there is this:
    The one of the biggest problems I deal with is the fact that even though we fought a three day battle to secure an IP station and we won. We abandoned it the next day and within a week the Mahdi army bullied all the Iraqi police out of it, placed demo charges and blew it up. And our leadership didn't even bat an eye. Can't figure out why we would fight so hard for something that had 4 guys killed and 12 wounded just so we can let it get blown up.

    And it happened all the time, we'd go somewhere, hang out long enough for stuff to quiet down, move on and then the place we left would be just the same as before we showed up. I think the only people that had any sort of morale were the officers and higher NCO's (E-8 and up) that didn't have to go out and face the possiblity of getting blown up every day. We had guys breaking down left and right and had to go see psychiatrists because they couldn't deal with being out in the city for 7 days straight in a shot with 12 hours up and 4 hours down.
    This is what the fighting is like, in a war to remove Saddam Husseins' WMDs. You know, the ones that didn't exist?

    Bush and Cheney have yet to come clean about the real reasons to invade Iraq. Then we get stories like the one above in which 4 guys were killed and 12 wounded to hold an Iraqi police station that we then abandoned and allowed it to be blown up. Why?

    The White House tells us we will stay in Iraq as long as it takes, but the military brass is already leaking that the timetable for withdrawal Bush claims would be a mistake is already being planned for. It will happen next Spring and Summer, of course, so that the Republicans don't have to run for relection with our troops still in active combat in Iraq.

    The justification for our withdrawal will be the new constitution the Iraqi government is writing and will force through even though the Sunnis reject it. That is the document that is supposed to end the insurgency in Iraq. All it will do is allow Bush to declare victory before the bug-out.

    An amazing victory it will be, too. In almost every respect the Americans and the Iraqi people will be a lot worse off than they were before Bush decided to use the unrelated event of 9/11 to invade Iraq. If nothing else, he will have destroyed the U.S. ground forces as an effective force for a decade at least.

    I am amazed and proud of the professionalism of our armed forces who, even for the lies this White House has presented, are doing their jobs and fighting this war. It is sad that their leaders cannot demonstrate a similar profesionalism and good sense. This is a voluntary war fought by the Republican Party for reasons they refuse to be honest about. Let's not forget this.

    Bush will get an Iraq constitution

    The problem is, the Iraq constitution will be one that the Sunnis reject and that creates three federal states with little hope of creating a single Iraqi nation. Armando discusses the constitution that will be placed on paper and trumpeted as a success by the Bush White House as he rushes through the troop withdrawal next Spring and Summer that, even yet, he refuses to provide a timetable for.

    Such a success!

    I found the following in an editorial from The Frontier Post out of Pakistan.
    As they [The Bush administration] were flexing their muscles to take over Iraq, Saddam's intelligence people contacted their American counterparts, offering on his behalf not only intrusive inspections by U.S. weapons experts but also democratization and elections in which Saddam would not participate, even offering to go into exile.

    But the Bush White House derisively spurned his offer, which could have spared the Iraqi people their travails and the Americans the severe buffeting of their image and credibility.
    I haven't found any support for this statement, but it fits the nature of the Bush administrations effort to invade Iraq. Cheney and the Republicans would swap their souls for such a deal today.

    Bush's unprovoked invasion of Iraq has lead to the very worst consequences that could have been imagined. The only winners from Bush's Iraq War will be the Iranian Mullahs.

    Bush approval ratings lower than Nixon's.

    Kos discusses the new American Research Group's new poll showing Bush's approval ratings at 36%.
    Bush approval ratings
    Approve 36 (42)
    Disapprove 58 (52)
    Kos points out:
    ...his Republican support is starting to crack (down to 77 percent approval). His favorability on the economy is 33 percent despite the administration's economic triumphalism in the past few weeks (down from 38 percent in July). Seems that the public isn't happy with the kind of jobs that are being created.
    This poll does not include questions on his handling of the Bush War in Iraq. The precise questions are given at the end of the ARG report.

    Able-Danger; Someone's lying.

    Kevin Drum provides a more recent update on the Able Danger story.

    There WILL be more to come.

    Sunday, August 21, 2005

    Has Bush destroyed conservatism?

    Stephen Bainbridge offers his view:

    It's time for us conservatives to face facts. George W. Bush has pissed away the conservative moment by pursuing a war of choice via policies that border on the criminally incompetent. We control the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and (more-or-less) the judiciary for one of the few times in my nearly 5 decades, but what have we really accomplished? Is government smaller? Have we hacked away at the nanny state? Are the unborn any more protected? Have we really set the stage for a durable conservative majority?

    Meanwhile, Bush continues to insult our intelligence with tripe like this:
    "Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy," Bush said in his weekly radio address. {Ed: Full text here}

    "They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war," he said.
    I agree with him.

    Knowing the highly political poor-government nastiness that Bush represented here in Texas, I very much opposed his election as President. But at least, I told myself, he had the good sense to bring the very experienced Dick Cheney on board for military and foreign policy substance. I was similarly impressed by his appointment of Don Rumsfeld and Colin Powell. These were all men who, in spite of being conservative, at least understood good government. Condi Rice also seemed to be such a capable person. At least they all had good resumes.

    Something went horribly wrong. At every major turn Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have chosen extreme and wrong-headed directions, while Powell was sideline from day one. Condi had to adapt to stay. They were surrounded and controlled by an organization of ideologues.


    If you try to pin it down purely to conservative-liberal issues, I think you will get the wrong reason. It has been a failure of process more than anything else. The process is focused on adapting to social and geographical changes. If such changes stop, then conservatism is the appropriate way to manage a society. Otherwise, the only reason to stop making adaptive changes it that you are not sure which adaptive change improves things and which attempted changes abandon more important adaptations made in the past.

    Conservatives really are people who are (relatively) comfortable with the way things in society are now, and resist changes. In my opinion the changes brought about by science, industrialism and population growth cause blind resistant to change (hard core conservatism) to be the equivalent of social suicide. Society has to change to deal with the new conditions we wake up to each and every day. So I am inclined to go with new ideas and want to see them tried. But at the same time, no human can understand human society (Herbert A. Simon's Bounded Rationality), so when new ideas are presented and tried, it is really important that the "defenders of the status quo" be there to prevent the new ideas from going over the cliff.

    A problem with such defenders of the status quo is that they often build justifications for existing conditions that have no rationality. Racism, segregation, anti-feminism and homophobia are all such blind irrational efforts to keep the past in spite of having no rational justification and being very damaging to our most valuable asset, people. None of those conservative positions has any justification other than fear of change and the conservative fear that if they abandon those values they held to be core to their identities, what supports any other value they are presently ready to go to the mats for? But their fear does not trump the importance of a rational society that provides justice for every member. Legal slavery is gone, legal segregation is gone, and neither is missed They were based on core beliefs some conservatives held and went to the mats over. We have a much better society without them.

    But I'll accept defenders of that status quo as people who force proponents of new ideas to fully justify themselves and implement only those new ideas that have generally positive results. An anchor does nothing to get a ship and its cargo to its destination - except, if judicially applied, to keep it from going on the rocks en route. True conservatives act as a brake on what might otherwise be dangerous whims by people enamored by whatever is new. But the ship and its cargo is much more important than its anchor, The anchor is used to keep the ship from moving, but ships are intended to move. When the anchor becomes a danger to the ship it is cut loose.

    The Bush administration is not made up of true conservatives. They are opportunistic extremists. Rove and Bush would have been as happy to run as super extremist liberals if that had been a way to gain power. They fake the values and conservatism as springboards to gaining power. Their only true belief is that they can retain power by catering to their most extreme supporters.

    With this view, they work to divide the electorate and isolate their supporters from the rest of society. As long as they get 50.1% of any election they have power, and nothing else matters. Part of this includes making decisions in total secrecy so that opponents will have no power to interfere. This has the side effect that opponents cannot stop totally bad ideas or improve half-baked ones. It also almost totally separates the ideas of governance from the rhetoric and techniques of getting elected. Winning the next election is the only important function of government. There is no consideration of what is happening to society.

    I think that society is simply to complex for them to deal with, so there is an assumption that political success will automatically lead to social success. This is analogous to Adam Smith's idea that for each person to work for their own economic success, the "invisible hand" will provide for an economically successful economy.

    The result is that the Bush administration has moved from self-inflicted disaster to self-inflicted disaster. They aren't doing this as conservatives, but they are doing it in the name of conservatism. The result is that conservatism is going to be tarred with Bush's incompetence for a generation or longer.

    It couldn't happen to better people. Rove is going to be indicted, then convicted for a number of crimes by Fitzgerald. He will then either go to prison, or Bush will express his rigid and unthinking loyalty to those who are personally loyal to him and pardon him. If Bush pardons him, it will destroy the Republican Party that has tied itself to the Bush electoral successes. Either the pardon or Rove imprisonment is fine with me. The outcome will prove that there is some justice in the world.

    The remaining problem is the question of whether the Democratic Party can learn to move into the modern world and do a decent job of regaining power and using it intelligently. But that is another discussion.

    Saturday, August 20, 2005

    Update on Able-Danger; "Never Mind."

    Kevin Drum has an update on the "Able-Danger" story. The key that made it a big story was the asertion that a small group in the Special Operations Command had identified Mohammed Atta, the key 9/11 terrorist, prior to 9/11 and had connected him to al Qaeda, but were not permitted to provide the information to the FBI counterterrorist people.

    Upon reflection it seems that the assertions cannot be supported, and the timeline is "uncertain."

    Unless someone gets some real evidence, this story is dead.

    Another view of Iraqi prospects

    This is from an English-language newspaper out of Pakistan. I don't know how reliable it is, but it provides interesting insights the American media doesn't include. It's an editorial from the Frontier Post.
    By failing to meet the August 15 deadline for producing a draft constitution, Iraqi lawmakers have demonstrated their unwillingness to find mutual accommodation and compromise. With this attitude they have driven the Americans into a tight corner, who are now desperately clutching at straws to save the Iraqi enterprise and their irreparably damaged image.

    [...]But will Iraq’s lawmakers produce the requisite document within the now extended period of seven days? Given the critical constitutional issues about which none of the partisans seem willing to relent, that is a big question. And even if some of them do relent, will this fit into the scheme now envisaged by the Americans and provide an outlet for Washington to crawl out of Iraq?

    Only time will tell, but the prospects look dim.
    That's the present. Look at how America got into this mess.
    As they [The Bush administration] were flexing their muscles to take over Iraq, Saddam’s intelligence people contacted their American counterparts, offering on his behalf not only intrusive inspections by U.S. weapons experts but also democratization and elections in which Saddam would not participate, even offering to go into exile.

    But the Bush White House derisively spurned his offer, which could have spared the Iraqi people their travails and the Americans the severe buffeting of their image and credibility.
    So the Bush people rejected Saddam's offer to go into exile and establish democracy and elections in Iraq - which they would today accept happily and use to declare victory in the preemptive Bush War in Iraq.

    Before anyone says "We can't trust the opinion of a foreign source like this one." tell me. Can we trust the Bush administration to any greater extent? This has total 'face validity', and the Bush administration has a history of lying whenever they open their mouths.

    Face validity over total lack of credibility. Which to choose. Which to choose.

    Friday, August 19, 2005

    What matters to the public politically?

    DHinMI says it is "Authenticity." Then he describes what gives a person authenticity, and how it can be politically destroyed using lies.

    On POW subjects John McCain has authenticity. He was a POW. Cindy Sheehan has authenticity. She lost her son. The right-wing smear machine is gearing up to destroy her "authenticity."

    I find the power of "authenticity" very interesting. It clearly trumps mere policy positions. That means policy-wonks are going to miss it, and wonder why they lost the election. "Authenticity" not going to attract intellectuals. It will, however, aid in the growth of a movement. I wonder if it is a creation of the television age in politics?

    Republican Governor of Kentucky subpoenaed

    A special grand jury is nvestigating personnel practices within Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher for violations of the merit system laws by his administration. The Cincinatti Inquirer has the story. All of Fletcher's top staff has already appeared before the grand jury.

    Yep. Another Republican politician who is too important to obey laws he doesn't like. If we investigate his finances will we also find that he was overpaid for real estate he has sold and underpaid for real estate he bought like Randy "Duke" Cunningham? or Sen. Ted Stevens (Republican Alaska.)

    Roberts led pampered life; seems not to have learned about real humans

    From Body and Soul
    What I heard from the very beginning in Roberts' language was the sound of an over-privileged boy, comfortable in his position, and unwilling to hear about others who haven't shared his privileges. It's not about his position on one issue. Instinct and experience told me that this would be a man who would mock the aspirations of the non-privileged, and object to any attempt to remedy the problems because to him the problems would always be just a matter of different perceptions.
    This puts into words what I have been feeling about the guy. Has he ever failed at anything? Has he ever taken a wrong step in his privileged arc upwards and screwed something up? Or found himself barred from something he wanted and felt he deserved by someone else who judged him unworthy?

    In studying business, I have seen a number of cases of CEOs who had similar charmed lives who came to the point where they had to make a crucial decision to save to company. Some of them have chosen to do something illegal because they cannot accept the idea that they might actually fail at something. As a Supreme Court Justice, Roberts is not likely to ever have to make such a critical decision, but he will be expected to judge those who have. I see no indication that he has the wisdom or humanity to make such a decision correctly, unlike Sandra Day O'Connor.

    His history is not that of a person who has ever stepped outside his privileged cocoon. I will agree with William Raspberry:
    Roberts's life has been amazingly like that of the man who wants to put him on the court -- but with better grades.
    Roberts would not have invited Cindy Sheehan in and spoken to her, either. One naturally doesn't mingle with the lower classes.

    Of course, he may learn on the bench. Stranger things have happened.

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    On Air - Off air; Different versions of reality

    This is from Chris Matthews:
    MATTHEWS: Let me go, Paul, before you start. What I keep doing here is asking people on and off camera who come on this program, high-ranking officers, enlisted, former officers. I get sometimes, not all the time, two different versions, the version they give me on the air and the version they give me the minute when we‘re off the air.

    The version they give me when we‘re on the air is gung-ho, we‘re doing the right thing, everything is moving along. The version they give me off the air is, Rumsfeld is crazy. There aren‘t enough troops over there. We‘re not taking this seriously enough, or, we shouldn‘t be there, sometimes.
    Which stroy should we listen to?

    From Chris Matthews Atrios via Kevin Drum.

    Republicans see Iraq War as "worrisome" in 2006

    Over at The Emerging Democratic Majority there is a set of quotes from prominent Republican politicians that indicate they really want Bush's War in Iraq to go away before the November 2006 election.

    Put this together with the problems the Army is having because of pending third tours and the increasing likelihood that the Iraqis will not be able to negotiate an acceptable constition that maintains a single Iraqi state, and we are well on track to do the old "Declare victory and bug out" routine by next Summer.

    Two years from now there will be nothing positive remaining from the American adventure in Iraq.

    This is from Reuters about a statement from Republican Chuck Hagel.
    Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, acknowledged the U.S. military presence was becoming harder and harder to justify. He believes Iraq faces a serious danger of civil war that would threaten Middle East stability, and said there is little Washington can do to avert this.

    "We are seen as occupiers, we are targets. We have got to get out. I don't think we can sustain our current policy, nor do I think we should," he said at one stop.
    Rats. Sinking ships. Republicans.

    So what's the deal with Able Danger?

    Supposedly a classified army data mining project identified Mohamed Atta as a member of al Qaeda prior to 9/11, but that information was not passed on the FBI counter terrorist experts. [Failure to act?] Nor was it considered by the 9/11 Commission. [Coverup?]

    This is possible, and now a number of individuals who claim to have been involved in Able-Danger have come forward to tell their stories. At Intel Dump Jon Holdaway discusses the story, adding some first person testimony from Ltc. Schafer. Here is Holdaway's summary of the current status of the controversy:

    Based on his comments on this blog, and further comments he's made elsewhere, this is where I see the controversy currently sitting:1. Able Danger was a SOCOM operation. When Shaffer says "Pentagon lawyers" tanked FBI cooperation, my understanding is that it was SOCOM lawyers and leaders (including staffers for current Army Chief of Staff and then-SOCOM commander, GEN Pete Schoomaker) who prevented FBI coordination. From Shaffer's statements, it appears that the concern was not necessarily the "wall", but a fear that this support would lead to a "Waco" style controversy. Remember that SOCOM units were involved in giving advice to FBI and BATF during the Waco siege, and that they took a lot of heat for their participation. It is reasonable that SOCOM would fear getting involved in another domestic incident, but Able Danger was not a threat (FBI terrorism cases in Brooklyn are apples compared to BATF in Waco oranges). My hunch is that what Shaffer is talking about is efforts by either he or Able Danger to talk to FBI directly. I also suspect that the Pentagon and DIA were not fully briefed on Able Danger and had no clue about its full mission until about 2 weeks ago. That would explain the current deer-in-the-headlights response we're getting from them.

    2. That said, SOCOM is out of its league when dealing with counterterrorism investigations. It may have the mission and assets to hunt down and kill terrorists in the field, but it is not their mission to conduct CT at a strategic level or from a homeland security perspective. SOCOM attorneys may have felt that there were legal problems in coordinating with the FBI (ignorance of what EO 12333 authorizes, misreading of the "wall", misapplication of Posse Comitatus), but that's because they don't normally coordinate with the FBI. However, lawyers at the Army INSCOM, Department of the Army, and DIA levels are very familiar with how to share information with the FBI. Pentagon lawyers familiar with CT and espionage investigations have FBI intelligence officials on their speed-dial. As a former colleague pointed out the other day, Army intel would have gotten material relating to the Atta group in Brooklyn off their desk and into FBI hands immediately.

    I still have concerns with the overall story. LTC Shaffer, who by all accounts is an outstanding officer and straight shooter, may only be able to provide a limited, albeit important, side of the story. Further investigation needs to take place, and it sounds like the questions ought to start with whoever stopped coordination. I've previously speculated that it might have been civilian politicos (SECDEF, NSA) who stopped it, but the SOCOM angle makes more sense. Their attorneys would be normal senior judge advocates, and based on what I've seen of training on intelligence oversight and FBI coordination issues in the Army JAG Corps, these guys most likely didn't know what laws and policies out there actually impinged on intelligence sharing operations.

    Investigators also need to look at SOCOM leadership, including GEN Schoomaker. If they kept the rest of the Army and DOD in the dark on Able Danger and the results of their investigation, preventing effective FBI coordination, then they ought to be identified and questioned as to their reasoning for that decision. And finally, there needs to be a look into what the Army's Information Dominance Center knew about Atta pre-9/11. I know there was an effort after 9/11 to check all databases to make sure this sort of problem didn't occur, but INSCOM may need to check again to see what they put together in support of Able Danger.

    LTC Shaffer has gotten the ball rolling. Unfortunately, he's probably just tanked whatever career he has left. Whistleblower protection only goes so far, and the best he'll probably get is some sort of promise not to prosecute for leaking potentially classified information. DOD would do well not to shoot the messenger this time (a familiar military habit) and start look at whether what he's saying is actually true.

    One other issue. Laura Rozen points out that one concern by SOCOM may have been over getting caught spying on a US Person. This is a fallacy, either by the original lawyers/leaders who may have thought it or by the rest of us trying to figure out why SOCOM didn't coordinate with FBI. First, Atta and his group, by any legal reading, was not a US Person. He didn't even warrant "special sensitivity". As far as individuals go, only US citizens and Permanent Resident Aliens get protections from intel collection. Atta was a mere tourist. There are no reasonable legal grounds to give a tourist "US Person" status. Second, even if he had protections, there is a glaring exception for investigations into those reasonably believed to be engaged in international terrorist activities (or affiliated with the same). To be overly cautious two levels of analysis deep is not good application of policy to facts and a bad business practice in the CT line of work.

    Frankly there is something very wrong behind this story.

    My personal distrust of the Bush administration leads me to suspect that they had the info before 9/11 but let the action go forward to provide a "Pearl Harbor" type response that could be used to justify the already decided on invasion of Iraq. Assuming this was true, G. W. Bush's deer-in-the-headlights reaction as he was reading "My Pet Goat" came, not from surprise at the terrorist attack on 9/11 but his utter surprise at how massive and successful it was. We know that Bush wanted to invade Iraq before he took office as President in 2001. We know that on 9/12 he immediately wanted to use 9/11 as justification for the invasion, and had to be diverted to go into Afghanistan. We know that even at the time of Tora Bora Tommy Franks was diverting planning resources from Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq. We know that the use of Saddam's possession of WMDs and his connections to al Qaeda were a fraud, one which Dick Cheney found very hard to give up even in the face of evidence that they weren't true. We also know that the Republicans on the 9/11 Commission appeared to work very hard to avoid actually performing an effective investigation.

    The recent reports on Able Danger suggest that a lot has been covered up. The smell is obvious, only the dead fish is not present.

    My response to Running for the Right

    RTFR has posted a lengthy rebuttal to my earlier comment on his blog regarding his posting about Cindy Sheehan. My comment got larger and went after the reasons (or lack thereof) given for the war in Iraq.

    This is my reply to his response.

    OK. So you claim that you regret the loss of every casualty in this war. But then you turn and state that, since Cindy Sheehan previously objected to the lack of justification and objectives for this war, her loss of her son in Sadr City gives her no special standing to demand an explanation for his death from the man who sent him there.

    Really? Who cares what her previous position on the war was? She paid the highest price any mother can pay for this war which, as nearly as I can determine, was nothing more than an attempt by Bush and Cheney to intimidate the Iranians, overawe the Muslims in the Middle East with out unsurpassed military power, and remove an irritating but non-threatening dictator. The latter goal seems to me to justify us going after Robert Mugabe, too. But those goals are mere supposition on my part because Bush/Cheney has never presented a serious and believable case for the war since their WMD lies fell apart under the light of truth.

    What sacrifice have you made for this war? Do you have any real reason to care if we are fighting in Iraq? Nothing, and no. No matter what Cindy Sheehan's previous view of the war was, she has paid as high a price as a mother can pay. She has a right to demand a justification from the people who wanted this war so badly that they lied, cheated, and who knows? Even stole? to start it and invade Iraq.

    We all have that right, but she has paid more than most of us to ask that question. And what answer do any of us get? Pure political pablum. Our soldiers and Marines are dying for truth, justice and American way of life. They are dying to take freedom to the Iraqis. [Hey? What about Zimbabwe? Don't they deserve freedom too?]

    Why should I give her a megaphone? [You overrate my traffic on my web magazine, I fear.] Because I want the people who started this abortion of a war to explain why and to take responsibility for what they did.

    You undermine your entire case when you state "If it hasn't been honestly explained, then who are you to judge whether or not it's worthwhile? Wouldn't you need to know the explanation in order to make that determination?" You are admitting the war has NOT been adequately explained, and that without that explanation the public cannot make a reasonable cost/benefit judgment that supports the lives and treasure we are wasting in the sands of Iraq.

    Cindy Sheehan and her son Casey have paid the cost. What is the benefit that offsets it? "Freedom in Iraq?" That hasn't been enough justification for us to invade Zimbabwe, Cuba, or the rather nasty dictatorships north of Afghanistan whose names contain too many consonants and "Z's" to be pronounceable.

    Your argument that we cannot now unilaterally withdraw because Iraq will collapse if we do ignores the fact that it was our initial invasion that caused the instability there in the first place. Essentially it is an argument that as long as we are fighting there, we have not lost. That is the same argument that kept the U.S. in an unwinnable war in Southeast Asia for way too long. It is no better as an argument now. Essentially your argument is that we are fighting because we are fighting.

    Bush still needs to stand accountable for the invasion that set all of this mess into play, and at least honestly explain why he decided to destroy Iraq, spend $5 billion per month and an cause increasing number and rate of both American and Iraqi deaths and casualties in the process. I think Cindy Sheehan has the right to demand that Bush stand accountable for his failure. So far he and the entire right have been remarkably capable of avoiding accountability for the actions of this President.

    Your attempt to blame Casey Sheehan for his own death because he volunteered to join the marines is disgusting. I don't care what the source of a soldier or marine is, volunteer, draft or what. You don't waste their lives and then try to blame them for their own deaths. You don't waste their lives - period!

    As a commissioned officer I was taught to accomplish the mission and to protect my troops. When there is no mission, then troops protection is the top priority.

    We have NO MISSION in Iraq! We are just THERE! Our presence is bringing out the insurents and causing a large number of the population to at least passively support the insurgents. We don't have enough reliable troops on the ground to pacify the place, and we don't have a strategy for using our inadequate forces to win - we don't even have a decent set of objectives that define winning.

    Instead we have a hope. We hope the Iraqi government we have installed [to replace the one we unnecessarily destroyed] can get together to agree on the structure of a new government. They just missed the deadline for agreeing on a Constitution because the Iraqi powers cannot agree on a single think that was to go into the Constitution. There is no reasonable indication that will change. There will be a document produced, but it will be dead-on-arrival. But that doesn't really matter. There is a deadline, and it is next Summer.

    Regarding the proposal that we unilaterally withdraw from Iraq, I don't propose that. I predict it.

    We will be effectively out of Iraq by September 2006 regardless of the cost to Iraq or anyone else. One reason is that the U.S. military is now on the edge of destruction because of the war in Iraq and because of the refusal of the Bush administration to make a case for focusing American resources on winning the war there. See Politics Plus Stuff for one significant reason (and to give me more traffic!) If you want to see what I think will happen in Iraq, go Here.

    The biggest casualty of our unilateral withdrawal is not going to be in Iraq. It will be here when the Bush administration is blamed for the failure of their actions.

    Your accusation that failure to support this abortion of a war will benefit terrorists ignores the fact that it is the very existence of this war that has provided the greatest support for the terrorists. Had the U.S. not invaded Iraq, Osama bin Laden would have faded into the mountains of Pakistan and into obscurity. [I supported and still support the war in Afghanistan.]With more resources and greater international cooperation focused on him, Osama might even have been captured by now. Bush, Cheney and the invasion of Iraq have been his biggest promoters.

    The battle against terrorists will progress no more badly once we are out of Iraq than it is now. Any allegation to the contrary from you is mere political rhetoric which you cannot support.

    Yours is a very weak justification for our continuing to fight a war we didn't need to fight in the first place, at very high cost to both America and Iraq, and with little or no prospect of gain as an outcome. Cindy Sheehan's presence in Crawford is an effort to get Bush to take responsibility for his screw-up. She puts a face on the effort, and your objection to her is based in her effectivness at personalizing the general disgust at the failed voluntary Bush War and the public demand that he take responsiblity for his clear failure in Iraq.

    My comment regarding Rumsfeld's attitude on the capabilities of airpower to win wars was, as you suggest, a reflection of my bias against a long-term attitude that I have seen held by military aviators since WW II. My bias, however, results from recognition that the promises of airpower have never panned out strategically. That is not to say that strategic and tactical bombing is not highly successful. It just does not win ground wars. [It is, however, the key to surface naval combat since WW II.]

    The aviators oversold strategic bombing in WW II, they oversold the potential of strategic and tactical bombing in the 50's, and the invention of smart bombs has brought the same argument back again. Rumsfeld's history as a naval aviator from the 50's and 60's makes it very reasonable to associate him with this on-going argument.

    As powerful as military bombing has been and continues to be, there is no historical evidence that it ever won a war without boots on the ground to follow it up. Efficient airpower has been oversold, and I suspect that it contributed to Rumsfeld's failure to adequately plan for the post-combat occupation in Iraq.

    Speculation regarding Rumsfeld's attitude on my part? Of course.

    Everything about this administration is speculation. They have brought secrecy to a high art, and many of the things they do tell the public have been shown to have little connection with fact. They tell us very little and their history of omissions and lies make it unreasonable to ever believe the little they do tell us unless we can get independent corroboration.

    We Americans are the new Kremlin watchers, except that instead of the Kremlin we are applying the same techniques to the White House.

    Will Rove be charged with Obstruction of Justice?

    The Anonymous Liberal offers an interesting analysis of why Rove may be charged with Obstruction of Justice. [Thanks to TalkLeft who directed me to the analysis.]

    The law that The Anonymous Liberal is referring to is 15 U.S.C. 1505 .

    Of course, Rove's buddy G. W. Bush has the power to Pardon him. That would be sort of like George Washington pardoning Benedict Arnold, wouldn't it? But it would certainly fit with Bush's reputation for loyalty to subordinates.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    So what do the Republicans expect?

    Henry Kissinger expresses concern about the way the war in Iraq is playing out in the U.S.
    "For me, the tragedy of Vietnam was the divisions that occurred in the United States that made it, in the end, impossible to achieve an outcome that was compatible with the sacrifices that had been made," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

    Support for the war has dropped in recent polls, and criticism of President Bush's handling of the conflict has grown. The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, taken Aug. 5-7, found that 54 percent of those surveyed thought the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake.
    The Bush administration functions politically by applying wedge issues and exacerbating divisions among voters.

    What reaction does the good Monsieur Kissinger expect to this set of political tactics? Unity around the White House and its' unnecessary war?

    Democrats set to pull most independent voters

    MyDD provides the results from today's' the Survey USA 50-state tracking.

    His conclusion:
    There isn't a single corner of this nation where Democrats are not more in line with Independents than Republicans. That's a fact. That's fifty-state potential. That's a tidal wave.
    Yeah, I am not surprised. The general conditions are moving towards real advantages for the Democrats.

    I just wonder if the Democrats will read this and fail to make the changes necessary to effectively oppose and compete with the Republican national machine. The Democratic leadership has assumed that being closer to the opinions of the electorate would sooner or later return the Democrats to power. They didn't have to change anything; political conditions and Republican incompetence in governance (as opposed to competence in getting elected) would return the Democrats to power.

    Yeah, right. There have been six Congressional elections since the Gingrich revolution of 1994, and the Democrats are still on the outside looking in. It really makes you suspect that the Republican national political machine has a lock on the elections no matter how much the public agrees with the Democrats! Dean, Pelosi and Reid better not look for salvation in this report. It is good. It is not enough.

    Will the Iraqis establish a real Constitution and democracy?

    That depends on whether there is a single Iraq after we leave next Summer.

    Is there a strong enough vision of a united Iraq to even accomplish a Constitution? I have to wonder if the Bush invasion simply created three small middle east states and handed the southern one to the Shia theocrats.

    The bombing this morning was two car bombs at Baghdad bus stations and a third at the hospital the casualties of the first two were logically taken to.

    Note: no American targets. That is civil war, pure and simple.

    The Sunnis did not participate in the last election, they are the primary insurgents, and I bet they will not participate if another election is held. Why should they want to belong to the same nation as the Southern Shias when those Shia dominate? Why would the Sunnis want to join with the Kurds, for that matter?

    The Southern Shia want the larger Iraq, so they are using the presence of the U.S. military to create one. But why shouldn't they? They will dominate it. If it doesn't work, they already have a south Iraqi nation as an option.

    The Kurds have wanted independence all along, but the Americans who protected them wouldn't go for it. Their desire for autonomy is already a major sticking point in the negotiations towards creating a national constitution. With no American presence, why should they belong to a unified Iraq?

    When Bush bugs out of Iraq next Summer, as he will, the result is going to be an intensification of the civil war, followed by the Iranians assisting the Southern Shia to stabilize Southern Iraq, and then the creation of three nations.

    The Kurds and Sunnis may wind up fighting over the northern oil fields.

    Democracy in Iraq? Only if there is some kind of miracle in the next 12 months. I wouldn't count on it.

    Why is the Middle East such a mess?

    Meteor Blades at The Next Hurrah offers a really good historical take on the event that set most of the Middle East onto the road that has brought us the Ayatollah Khomeini, Iranian theocracy, Iranian intransigence over nuclear fuel, and the nasty relations between the U.S. and Iran.

    My best current guess about why Bush and Cheney were so hot to invade Iraq is that Iraq was to have been a staging ground for pressure on Iran, while also permitting control of the Persian Gulf and letting the U.S. remove troops from Saudi Arabia where their nearness to Medina and Mecca was a real problem. 9/11 was an excuse the Bush administration used to push for the invasion, but Iraq wasn't the real target. Iran was. The recent stories that chemicals have been moved from Iran to the insurgents in Iraq suggest that the Iranians also think that is why we invaded Iraq. The Iranians are providing material support to the very Sunni Iraqis who fought the extremely nasty eight year war in the 80's.

    But Meteor Blades goes back to describe the event that set the modern problems up. Go read and see what you think.

    Back to Randy "Duke" Cunningham

    When last we addressed the saga of the Republican Congressman from the California 50th Congressional District, he had just announced that he was not going to run for reelection in 2006. The earlier stories are linked thourgh that post. That was June 14th, and the story seemed to be over.

    Oh, no. The story is growing larger. The people bribing "Duke" were siphoining money from the federal government hand over fist. Surely you didn't think they just liked "Dule" and wanted to give money to a well-publicized former naval aviator, did you?

    Of course not. These are Republicans. When they pay big bucks, they are buying something. So what were they buying? Let's go back and revisit Josh Marshall as he has slogged his way through the stories of the graft that have come out in the last month.
    This looks like a really big Defense Contracting scandal. Cunningham may be somewhere in the middle, but it is a lot more than just him.

    Another reason Bush will bug out of Iraq next year

    The Vietnam comparisons keep getting more and more apt. This is from an article by Lawrence Korb:
    Gen. Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President Lyndon Johnson, said that while we sent the Army to Vietnam to save Vietnam, we had to withdraw to save the Army. This is where we are today.

    If Iraq were a war of necessity, the U.S. would simply send sufficient ground forces there for the duration. But, since it is a war of choice, fought by volunteers, the active-duty soldiers spend a year in Iraq and at least a year at home before going back.

    And the Army does not want to order a soldier to be sent back a third time. By the end of this year, nearly every active-duty soldier will have spent at least two tours in Iraq.
    Third tours are nigh, and third tours will destroy the army.

    Of course, Bush has to figure out how to bug out without losing face. This is his dilemma, one highlighted by Cindy Sheehan's vigil at Crawford. The bugout from Iraq will be an admission of failure by the Republicans and the Bush administration. Yet there is now no alternative. The only question is how long it can be delayed and papered over.

    War in Iraq is lost - Housing Bubble about to break

    James Wolcott quotes Immanuel Wallerstein from Yale:

    "It's over. For the U.S. to win the Iraq war requires three things:
    defeating the Iraqi resistance;
    establishing a stable government in Iraq that is friendly to the U.S.;
    maintaining the support of the American people while the first two are being done.

    None of these three seem any longer possible. First, the U.S. military itself no longer believes it can defeat the resistance. Secondly, the likelihood that the Iraqi politicians can agree on a constitution is almost nil, and therefore the likelihood of a minimally stable central government is almost nil. Thirdly, the U.S. public is turning against the war because it sees no "light at the end of the tunnel."

    "As a result, the Bush regime is in an impossible position. It would like to withdraw in a dignified manner, asserting some semblance of victory. But, if it tries to do this, it will face ferocious anger and deception on the part of the war party at home. And if it does not, it will face ferocious anger on the part of the withdrawal party. It will end up satisfying neither, lose face precipitously, and be remembered in ignominy."

    Bush's predicament is mirrored by the standoff at the Crawford Ranch, Wallerstein perceptively notes.

    "But, for the Bush regime, the worst picture of all is on the home front. Approval rating of Bush for the conduct of the Iraqi war has gone down to 36 percent. The figures have been going steadily down for some time and should continue to do so. For poor George Bush is now faced with the vigil of Cindy Sheehan. She is a 48-year-old mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq a year ago. Incensed by Bush's statement that the U.S. soldiers died in a "noble cause," she decided to go to Crawford, Texas, and ask to see the president so that he could explain to her for what "noble cause" her son died.

    "Of course, George W. Bush hasn't had the courage to see her. He sent out emissaries. She said this wasn't enough, that she wanted to see Bush personally. She has now said that she will maintain a vigil outside Bush's home until either he sees her or she is arrested...

    "Bush won't see her because he knows there is nothing that he can say to her. Seeing her is a losing proposition. But so is not seeing her. The pressure to withdraw from Iraq is now becoming mainstream. It is not because the U.S. public shares the view that the U.S. is an imperialist power in Iraq. It is because there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel... They want out. Bush is caught in an insoluble dilemma. The war is lost."
    The invasion of Iraq was a stupid act of Weltpolitik in the first place, with little chance of turniing out well. Then, once decided on, it has been handled incompetently, so that the theme song for the Bush administration should be "Send in the Clowns."

    I frankly had long thought that the Iraqis themselves might have, purely out of self-interest, pulled off something the Busies could claim as a victory before they turn tail and remove our troops from the war. The Consitutional negotions seem to hold little hope for that now.

    On the home thought, the economy has been held together by low interest rates, leading to easy to obtain mortgages and second mortgages, and little else. The low interest rates have kept the homebuilding industry operating while the second mortgages, feeding off the bubble in housing has provided a source of funds that kept the retail economy above water. Dave Johnson of Seeing the Forest has been warning of the collapse of the housing bubble for at least a year now. The only question has been when.

    Now "the when" seems to be very soon. Dave refers to a story by Calculated Risk.
    The "Rising tide of abandoned residential properties"
    Real estate investors are just walking away from residential property and lenders are getting stuck. Some lenders do not want to take title to the worthless property and the city has started a campaign called the "shaming sign" - placing signs on abandoned property with the names of the lenders' executives. This has induced some lenders to take title and either fix up or demolish the abandoned homes.

    This is a story from the Great Depression ... except it is happening right now in Dayton, Ohio.
    The economy has been stumbling along on a wing, a prayer and the effect of Keynsian support to the economy caused by massive deficit spending. The collapse of the housing bubble will remove the wing, and there may be noone listening to the prayer.

    Is there any good news? Well, G. W. Bush is in the best physical shape of any President, ever.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    Is G. W. Bush the most hated man on Earth?

    I found the following on the internet:

    President Bush - The Most Hated Human on Earth

    George W. Bush, the drunkard, mentally challenged, coke snorting,
    complete business failure, habitual liar, and AWOL reservists, has
    managed to accomplish something that no American President, or for that
    matter, any American who has ever lived, has achieved. Today, the
    President of the United States of America, George Bush, is the most
    hated human being on the planet earth. In Europe, he is regarded as a
    complete religious buffoon who is a truly ignorant individual with the
    intellect of a child. In the Middle East and most of Asia he is viewed
    as pure evil in human form. In Central and South America he is
    considered an unmitigated, despicable, bum.

    You can name any two-bit dictator or tyrant in the world today and none
    are despised as mush as George Bush. Even Osama Bin Laden is far more
    popular around the world then President Bush.

    The level of anti-Americanism around the world is at an all-time high.
    In Europe, the patriarch of America, Anti-Americanism is at historic
    record levels. Yet, if you talk to many of those who voice such
    anti-American sentiment, you will quickly discover that in most of the
    cases, it is really anti-Bushism that is being projected as

    George Bush is truly a hated human being whose foul stench is now
    spreading worldwide and by association is crossing over to America
    itself. This, in a constantly shrinking, interconnected world, is not
    something that is in America's best long term interest. Amazing,
    absolutely amazing.

    I present this as an expresion from one person the internet at and found on the news group - soc.history.war.misc - . Is it true? Personally, I think it should be.

    Why is Judith Miller in jail and Matt Cooper not?

    Over at The Next Hurrah we have an exposition of what Judith Miller did as a government "Embeded Reporter." It is very different from the editorial garbage the New York Times is putting out the defend their failed managerial judgement in supporting her. Judith Miller was a crucial link in the manipulation of the American public to support the still-inadequately explained preemptive war in Iraq.

    Here is a quick explanation of the background.
    Rummy prepared to fight two wars in Iraq (and did not, as we now know, prepare for the reconstruction). The first, the battle to topple Saddam's governent, was going to be easy. The story they needed to tell about that war was easy--Jessica Lynch and toppling statues and lots of things to make the red state voters at home feel good and manly about their little war. "America, fuck yeah!"

    The second war was not so easy. That war was a fight to make sure Neocons at Defense and their allies would be able to stay in Iraq and control the future of Iraq. They were battling against a number of enemies here. Most obviously, they were fighting aggressively with State over who would manage reconstruction in Iraq. Not least because State had a plan to actually reconstruct Iraq, rather than occupy it under the fig leaf of a friendly leader. So part of this war involved undercutting State (and their allies supporting a realistic reconstruction, CIA) at every opportunity.

    This second war also involved telling a story to the American people. But it was a different story than the Jessica Lynch story. In this story, Defense had to sustain the fear about the WMDs that had been the primary excuse for the war, while gently shifting the expectation we would find the masses of WMDs Colin Powell promised we'd find during his UN speech. If America figured out the WMD rationale was a lie early in the process, then Neocons risked losing support for an aggressive reconstruction. And in the medium term, if America figured out that the war was based on a lie before the presidential election, the Neocons risked losing their seat of power itself.
    Judith Miller was crucial in getting the NeoCon story into the media.

    The entire series is linked in the story I reference. Go read it.

    Trent Lott blames others for his loss of Senate Leadership position

    Trent Lot blames the media and underhanded manipulative Republicans for his loss of the job of Senate Majority Leader in 2002. Is anyone really surprised what he thinks? He is just another typical Republican. It is NEVER their fault for being found incompetent or corrupt and then being removed from an office. There is ALWAYS someone else to blame.

    This is from The Tennessean:
    WASHINGTON Sen. Trent Lott accuses Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of betraying him during a GOP revolt in a new, tell-all biography that expresses little remorse for the racially tinged remarks that led to Lott's loss of power and Frist's ascension.

    In Herding Cats: A Life in Politics, available in bookstores Aug. 23, the Mississippi Republican blames the media and a handful of his GOP colleagues for the loss of his Senate leadership job in December 2002.
    Obviously Lott is absolutely certain that it was not his own personal flaws that led to his removal. He knows he did everything right. It was evil and manipulative other people who went after him. What could he do?

    See how easy that is? Another Republican rascist wears his white robes of innocence and martyrdom in public.