Monday, August 27, 2007

VO5 resigns

They keep dropping. Alberto did the right thing.

Uranus in the ring last May:

Alberto Gonzales is a man of many causes. The ultimate loyal Bushie, he has easily transitioned from one monstrous constitutional catastrophe to another and another—and neither George Bush nor Karl Rove could pray to Jeebus for greater loyalty from their own sons.

Benedict Arnold himself would cower in shame at Gonzales' innate sense for quickly gutting America's most precious precepts and guarantees. In calling the Geneva Convention "quaint" and advising his president there's nothing at all wrong with torturing suspects and holding them indefinitely without charges, not to forget hearing every phone call and reading every hard drive, he will clearly go down in history as among America's most loathsome, vicious and shitty criminals.

Now he is under investigation by Congress for politicizing the country's federal prosecuting attorneys, replacing competent individuals with friends of the republican party who are young and have no experience, but who are willing to do dirty jobs, break the law, pursue bogus charges on innocent people and swear an oath of loyalty to him and George W. Bush, a serious federal offense. Lacking the legal talent to exercise a little restraint, one would think he'd have the common sense arising from a desire for self preservation to move with a little finesse.

But not Gonzales. When it comes to establishing an oppressive American monarchy, he believes in expediency. So, it's full speed ahead, and let's kick out the jams. During the castration of congressional inquiry into the White House's plan to rig the Department of Justice to GOP benefit, and the democrats' detriment, Gonzales has needed a little cover. So, he's told the cameras he wasn't worried about any investigations because he's keeping himself busy protecting children.

And so it goes. It seems a century since I wrote that. It caused a lot of hard feelings! It isn't surprising to me to see how things turned out for Alberto. But that's how it is with the rule of law: guilt shall not escape, nor innocence suffer.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Um, is anybody...ANGRY yet?

A handful of diverse issues which have been swirling around the news the past few months were discussed this week. Although they differ greatly in substance, they share one thing—they are individually and collectively raising the level of outrage and anger in Americans to a previously unimagined peak. We are approaching a junction of historic proportion when fury buoys and forces a revolution to run under its own power, and it could happen with millions of people in the streets or without a single protestor or sign.

Timothy Gatto advocates a general strike September 11, 2007:

We have a group of industries and media outlets that work for profit, to the point where they now give hardly anything back to the people. Our economic system has reduced private ownership of land and resources, labor and industry. The unions are not as influential as they once were and they have been reduced to a guild-like structure. The unions in the Northeast still hold some power, but that is ebbing daily.

The government is practically owned and operated by a handful of bankers and industrialists. The people that give them their daily pay, the pharmaceutical companies, industry, insurance companies, automakers and big oil, control the media. You can say it’s always been like this and you would be correct. Still, not to the extent that is taking place today. When a CEO of a corporation that hasn’t even made a profit can command a hundred million-dollar salary, stock options, houses and vacations and other perks, while labor is being paid a few dollars above minimum wage, then the system has gone haywire. If a company isn’t making a profit, the people at the top should be the ones to suffer, not the “little” guy or gal that works a 50 hour week for practically nothing.

So what’s the answer? How can the people that supposedly control the government turn back the clock and make the government responsible to the people? One way is to sabotage the entire operation. There are ways to cripple industries and media outlets by simply boycotting them. Once profits reach a certain point, these people that worship profit will come begging to the people for forgiveness. The only problem with this idea is that people just don’t take the time to understand the predicament that the American people are in.

Besides this immoral war in the Middle East, people are losing their homes because of predatory lending practices. There is no government relief for these people, the government won’t dare to bite the hand that feeds them. Meanwhile, the real people that are supporting the government, taxpayers like you and me are fed scraps. The politicians’ only interest is to wield more power by getting elected and that takes corporate bankrolling. We know it and they know it, yet the people do nothing.

So the question is what do we do and where do we start? One thing people can do is leave the major two parties and register Green. Even if you don’t end up voting that way or particularly believe in their platform, it sends an undeniable message to the government. You may not know this, but the Green Party is still user friendly enough so that one’s person’s voice can make a difference. Can you imagine your opinion shaping a major political party’s platform?

Another thing you can be participating in the General Strike on September 11, 2007 to the extent you can. This is only a grassroots effort that was started by regular people. Take one day to tell the powers that be that you understand that this nation’s wealth is not being distributed properly. To tell them that you don’t want to participate in their war for oil profits. That the rights taken away from the American people is really not OK with you. That you know the media doesn’t focus on what America really needs to know, and so much more.

Home foreclosure is up 93% from this time a year ago:

Nevada is bearing the brunt of the crumbling US housing market, with about one in every 200 households filing for foreclosure, a survey showed yesterday.

RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for repossessed properties, showed US home foreclosures jumped 9% in July from June, and 93% on a year ago.

The number of default notices and bank repossessions totalled 179,599. Across the US, there is now a foreclosure of one in every 693 homes. [...]

"We are estimating that we will see about 2m foreclosure filings this year," said Rick Sharga, spokesman for RealtyTrac. "We don't see it getting much better before it gets a little bit worse."

In what amounts to a handful of weeks ago, not a long time, when I wrote in blog comments such things as we need to hang some Washington politicians, I was told to mind my manners, and that my deportment left much to be desired. Those were the good old days, now gone forever, and you certainly weren't seeing people write such things as this:

Impeach, Prosecute And Throw Away The Key!:

Whenever any one talks of Impeachment it always directed toward Smirky and his partner in crime old "dead-eye Dick" Cheney. Which I'll admit is a good place to start but not a good place to finish.

The House and Senate have not only let them get away with countless acts of treason, sedition, war crimes, crimes against humanity etc. etc. etc. but haven't even done what they swore an oath to do, i.e., uphold the Constitution of the United States. Shouldn't we therefore impeach every member of both houses who haven't upheld the oath that they swore?

A good place to start would be with Nancy Pelosi and other House leaders. Nancy made it plain that the Constitutionally called for Impeachment of Bush and Cheney was "off the table" before she even took power. She made this decision without even considering the crimes committed by these two and their allies. Doesn't that itself call for impeachment? When Congressman Dennis Kucinich produced a bill to Impeach Cheney (H. Res 333) committee head John Conyers, who had sworn before the election to impeach Cheney, wouldn't let the bill out of committee even though he is required by the Constitution to do so. Shouldn't he be impeached as well for failure to uphold the oath that he swore? John, like Nancy, was all for the will of the people before the election but afterwards their real bosses told them "no" so nothing is done. All the Junta's crimes continue today at a frighteningly fast pace and who knows, before too long Congress won't be able to do anything because of "Presidential Directives" HSPD-51 and HSPD-20!

Ouch, that wasn't very polite at all, was it? But, it was far from the most inflamed article I read this week. Pelosi and Reid took a particularly bloody beating in the blog comments everywhere I looked. It seems the philosopher's sense of subtlety of mind is right out the window, and the articles are none too kind, either.

Dave Lindorff:

It's not just the Constitution that's suffering because of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's nutty and unprincipled "impeachment-off-the-table" position blocking any effort to impeach President Bush or Vice President Cheney for their many crimes and abuses of power.

Her position on impeachment is killing the Democratic Party too, by driving away not just progressive members of the party, but independents who voted for Democrats last November expecting some action in defense of the Constitution.

I see this anger welling up among progressives and independents everywhere I travel, as people say they've simply had it with the Democrats. The support of the party for a bill continuing funding for the war through September was terrible. The Democrats' rush to pass a bill granting Bush the authority to spy without a warrant on Americans, and to expand the power to spy domestically well beyond phones and internet to even include break-ins was a last straw. [...]

When will the Democrats in Washington wake up and realize that it's not impeachment that will hurt the is the lack of it.

Once again, that's why America sent the democrats to Washington, along with ending the war—and their sorry, sorry asses know it, don't think they don't. But I guess someone in D.C. decided a better strategy for re-election is out of sight, out of mind, and the democrats decided to take that road instead. Besides, work is just so...well, hard.

Robert Parry:

Many national Democrats saw last year's election as a political turning point. They cheered the voters' repudiation of a Republican one-party state; they hailed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's ouster the next day; and they were sure that resurgent GOP "realists" would help wind down the Iraq War.

In this Democratic view, George W. Bush was going to be both the lamest of lame ducks and a deadly albatross draped around the neck of the Republican Party in Election 2008. The Democrats believed they could pretty much start measuring their curtains for a move into the White House on Jan. 20, 2009.

But a very different reality is now confronting the Democrats. News of the neoconservative demise proved premature; the meaning of Rumsfeld's departure was misunderstood (he was booted when he privately called for an Iraq War de-escalation); and the Republican "realists" remained outside Bush's inner circle looking in.

Then, the Democratic leaders stumbled and crumbled in the face of a president determined to escalate the war in Iraq, expand his "war on terror" surveillance powers, and ratchet up pressure for a possible new war with Iran.

The hard fact that the national Democrats missed was that the political dynamics of Washington had not changed very much. Plus, their wishful thinking in November 2006 and their irresolute actions throughout 2007 alienated millions of Americans who had hoped a Democratic majority in Congress might make a difference. [...]

On the political front, the leading Democratic presidential candidates have all staked out anti-Iraq War positions, but some - along with a growing list of congressional Democrats - have begun to equivocate in the face of the new pro-war propaganda.

For instance, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who voted to give Bush war authorization in 2002, is inserting new rhetoric into her speeches praising U.S. military progress under Bush's "surge" strategy.

"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working," Clinton told the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Aug. 21.

Other Democrats, who spent part of their August recess taking guided tours of Iraq, also have come back hailing military progress.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not only cited supposed battlefield gains but offered Bush a ready alternative if he wants to guarantee war funding through 2008. Levin recommended the ouster of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, an idea that Bush didn't discourage when asked about it.

So, if Bush arranges for Maliki's removal - either with a violent Diem-like coup as happened in Vietnam or by arranging a comfy exile for Maliki - Levin effectively has bought into another year or so of war funding to give a new Iraqi government a chance to succeed.

Some junior Democratic congressmen have returned from Iraq trimming their sails on the war after getting buffeted by both a well-presented military tour of Iraq and an aggressive Republican pressure campaign back home.

For instance, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-California, expressed a readiness to be more flexible on troop withdrawal timelines after being shown the supposed progress in Anbar province and other areas of Iraq.

"We should sit down with Republicans, see what would be acceptable to them to end the war and present it to the president, start negotiating from the beginning," McNerney said in an interview. [Washington Post, Aug. 22, 2007]

In 1967, Michigan's Republican Gov. George Romney (yes, Mitt Romney's father) famously described how he had returned from a military-arranged tour from Vietnam in 1965 having undergone "the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get."

Now, the Democrats are getting the same treatment, focusing on Anbar and other silver linings in the very dark cloud of Iraq. [...]

It's also galling to some rank-and-file Democrats that the congressional leadership caved in on granting Bush sweeping new surveillance powers so members could rush off for their August recess and send some of their impressionable young members to get choreographed inspection tours of Iraq. [Regarding the wiretapping surrender, see's "Bush Gets a Spying Blank Check."]

If national Democrats think that their feckless behavior on war in the Middle East and their timidity in defending the Constitution represent the pathway to victory in 2008, they may find themselves in for a very rude awakening.

At least; that is, unless Bush and Cheney attack Iran, causing a nuclear counterattack on the United States, and they get vaporized along with the rest of us. Before I get to that, let's mention in passing the continuing saga of White House obfuscation and secrecy. Sen. Leahy said the White House is in contempt of Congress for failing to produce documents. But, he said he'll have to wait until Congress reconvenes to hold some roundtable meetings, ad infinitum. Aw, Margaret, can't anybody over there do ANYTHING anymore?

The New York Times:

The fight over the Office of Administration's status is part of a larger battle over access to an estimated five million e-mail messages that have mysteriously disappeared from White House computers. The missing messages are important evidence in the scandal over the firing of nine United States attorneys, apparently because they refused to use their positions to help Republicans win elections. The Office of Administration seems to know a lot about when and how those messages disappeared, but it does not want to tell the public.

What exactly does the administration want to hide? It is certainly acting as if the e-mail messages would confirm suspicions that the White House coordinated the prosecutors' firings and that it may have broken laws. It is hard to believe the administration's constant refrain that there is nothing to the prosecutor scandal when it is working so hard to avoid letting the facts about it get out.

The administration's refusal to comply with open-government laws is ultimately more important than any single scandal. The Freedom of Information Act and other right-to-know laws were passed because government transparency is vital to a democracy. The American people cannot monitor their elected officials, and ensure that they act in the public interest, if government is allowed to operate under a veil of secrecy.

Fortunately, the White House does not have the final say on the Office of Administration. It made its absurd arguments to a federal judge who can restore some logic to the situation by ruling that the Freedom of Information Act applies, and the data must be turned over.

Like Ohio's "lost" 2004 presidential election records, the destruction of evidence is an absolute indicator of guilt, and should support plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. But, between figuring out whether it's a case of national security, executive privilege, hard drive failure, inadvertent deletion, failure to produce or the eternal question of democrats' right to doubt the GOP's purity of motive, I guess it's like they say around here: "if wishes was horses, beggars'd ride."

People are highly displeased about it. So where are the impalements? All of this is small compared to this widely circulated but under appreciated story by Robert Baer declaring the Iran war an absolute certainty.

Time Magazine:

Reports that the Bush Administration will put Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list can be read in one of two ways: it's either more bluster or, ominously, a wind-up for a strike on Iran. Officials I talk to in Washington vote for a hit on the IRGC, maybe within the next six months. And they think that as long as we have bombers and missiles in the air, we will hit Iran's nuclear facilities. An awe and shock campaign, lite, if you will. But frankly they're guessing; after Iraq the White House trusts no one, especially the bureaucracy.

As with Saddam and his imagined WMD, the Administration's case against the IRGC is circumstantial. The U.S. military suspects but cannot prove that the IRGC is the main supplier of sophisticated improvised explosive devices to insurgents killing our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most sophisticated version, explosive formed projectiles or shape charges, are capable of penetrating the armor of an Abrams tank, disabling the tank and killing the crew.

A former CIA explosives expert who still works in Iraq told me: "The Iranians are making them. End of story." His argument is only a state is capable of manufacturing the EFP's, which involves a complicated annealing process. Incidentally, he also is convinced the IRGC is helping Iraqi Shia militias sight in their mortars on the Green Zone. "The way they're dropping them in, in neat grids, tells me all I need to know that the Shia are getting help. And there's no doubt it's Iranian, the IRGC's," he said. [...]

Strengthening the Administration's case for a strike on Iran, there's a belief among neo-cons that the IRGC is the one obstacle to democratic and a friendly Iran. They believe that if we were to get rid of the IRGC, the clerics would fall, and our thirty-years war with Iran over. It's another neo-con delusion, but still it informs White House thinking.

And what do we do if just the opposite happens - a strike on Iran unifies Iranians behind the regime? An Administration official told me it's not even a consideration. "IRGC IED's are a casus belli for this administration. There will be an attack on Iran."

Aha, there's the ubiquitous "administration official," the omniscient, ever-present God-knows-who promising Bush and Cheney will do heaven-knows-what. Notice how you have to respect and obey the way they don't need to talk it over or get anyone's permission.

Ray McGovern cries "bullshit" (maybe):

Our VIPS colleague Phil Geraldi, writing in The American Conservative, earlier noted that in the past Karl Rove has served as a counterweight to Vice President Dick Cheney, and may have tried to put the brakes on Cheney’s death wish to expand the Middle East quagmire to Iran. And former Pentagon officer, retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the most devoted neo-cons just before the attack on Iraq, has put into words (on speculation several of us have been indulging in with respect to Rove’s departure.

In short, it seems possible that Rove, who is no one’s dummy and would not want to be required to "spin" an unnecessary war on Iran, may have lost the battle with Cheney over the merits of a military strike on Iran, and only then decided—or was urged—to spend more time with his family. As for administration spokesperson Tony Snow, it seems equally possible that, before deciding he had to leave the White House to make more money, he concluded that his stomach could not withstand the challenge of conjuring up yet another Snow job to explain why Bush/Cheney needed to attack Iran. There is recent precedent for this kind of thing. [...]

Granted, it is speculative that similar factors, this time with respect to war planning for Iran, were at work in the decisions on the departure of Rove and Snow. Someone ought to ask them. [...]

The latest National Intelligence Estimate regarding if and when Iran is likely to have the bomb has been ready since February. It has been sent back four times—no doubt because its conclusions do not support what Cheney and Woolsey are telling the president and, through the domesticated press, telling the rest of us as well.

The conclusion of the most recent published NIE (early 2005) was that Iran probably could not acquire a nuclear weapon until "early to mid-next decade," a formula memorized and restated by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell at his confirmation hearing in February. One can safely assume that McConnell had been fully briefed on the first "final draft" of the new estimate, which has now been in limbo for half a year. And I would wager that the conclusions of the new estimate resemble those of the NIE of 2005 far too closely to suit Cheney. [...]

Despite the administration's war-like record, many Americans may still cling to the belief that attacking Iran won’t happen because it would be crazy; that Bush is a lame-duck president who wouldn’t dare undertake yet another reckless adventure when the last one went so badly.

But rationality and common sense have not exactly been the strong suit of this administration. Bush has placed himself in a neoconservative bubble that operates with its own false sense of reality. Worse still: as psychiatrist Justin Frank pointed out in the July 27 VIPS memo "Dangers of a Cornered Bush," updating his book, Bush on the Couch:"

"We are left with a president who cannot actually govern, because he is incapable of reasoned thought in coping with events outside his control, like those in the Middle East.

"This makes it a monumental challenge—as urgent as it is difficult—not only to get him to stop the carnage in the Middle East, but also to prevent him from undertaking a new, perhaps even more disastrous adventure—like going to war with Iran, in order to embellish the image he so proudly created for himself after 9/11 as the commander in chief of 'the first war of the 21st century.'"


Baer and his source are former CIA operatives who won't lose their jobs by declaring the existence of a nonexistent war. They can say whatever they want. But as Ray points out, Bush doesn't know what he's doing. We knew that in 1999.

Finally, Bush declared we should have never left Vietnam (and should still be fighting there, I guess). That rubbed people the wrong way:

Especially in Vietnam:

"Doesn't he realize that if the U.S. had stayed in Vietnam longer, they would have killed more people?" said Vu Huy Trieu of Hanoi, a veteran of the communist forces that fought American troops in Vietnam. "Nobody regrets that the Vietnam War wasn't prolonged except Bush."

He said U.S. troops could never have prevailed here. "Does he think the U.S. could have won if they had stayed longer? No way," Trieu said. [...]

"The price we, the Vietnamese people on both sides, paid during the war was due to the fact that the Americans went into Vietnam in the first place," Ninh said.

I knew that in 1965 as a kid in grade school.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Uhler to Dobbins: don't blame us

Walter C. Uhler has a widely-copied article up today criticizing James Dobbins for writing that we all bear blame for America's failure in Iraq, and making fun of Dobbins' idiotic and unhelpful advice. It's pretty funny and you should read it if you haven't. I won't excerpt it except for this bit at the end:

...if we genuinely seek to assure that the current debate over the United States' failure in Iraq yields constructive results, we must ignore the advice of James Dobbins to blame all Americans and begin the painful and potentially disruptive process of racking and stacking. After all, in America's so-called meritocracy, the people who got it wrong should pay a price. Public humiliations, remedial training, demotions, resignations, dismissals, newsroom shakeups, think-tank purges, criminal indictments, congressional investigations and impeachments, where warranted, would mark the beginning of genuine accountability.

What better way to yield constructive results for future administrations than to expose the arguments of, and render justice to, the ideologues, pundits and politicians who either mongered for an unprovoked war or acquiesced in it?

Yeah, no kidding! Any of you who are familiar with me know I've been saying that for quite some time now.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Robert Weiner & John Larmet | Presidential economics: myths, facts

I wish I'd written this.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

At last week's news conference, President Bush again said that he's reduced the deficit to $239 billion, created 8 million jobs and generated unemployment at a low 4.5%. He said the economy is strong, largely due to his tax cut policies.

On the other side, Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), House Appropriations Committee chairman, has complained of our limited resources now because of Bush's "gargantuan deficits he created with that stupid war and those stupid tax cuts paid for with our money."

There is a widely held belief that Republicans are better for business than are Democrats. Let's look at the facts.

The wild stock market ride of recent weeks does not compare to the two worst stock events, the crash of 1929 and the 1987 free fall, which also occurred under Republican administrations. Since 1900, Democratic presidents have produced a 12.3% annual return on the S&P 500, Republicans only 8%. Gross Domestic Product growth since 1930 is 5.4% for Democratic presidents and 1.6% for Republican presidents.

Bush inherited from President Clinton an annual federal budget surplus of $236 billion, the largest in American history. Clinton balanced the budget for the first time since 1969. Budget surpluses were expected to total $5.6 trillion between fiscal year 2002 and 2011.

Despite this, Bush transformed the surpluses into a $1.1 trillion annual deficit in just three years because of the Iraq war and his relentless push for permanent tax cuts for wealthy Americans, a new iteration of Herbert Hoover's equally catastrophic "trickle-down" theory. Bragging about a $239 billion deficit sets such a low standard that Bush can claim horrific failure as a good thing for the country. The Bush administration's annual loss of three-quarters of a trillion dollars is unprecedented.

Bush presided over the loss of 2 million American jobs in his first 2 1/2 years and has net gained 5.6 million in six years, the worst since Hoover. Clinton created 23 million jobs.

It's not rocket science to figure out the difference. Clinton: tax breaks for the middle and lower incomes who actually spend the money, no Iraq war. Bush: disproportionate tax breaks for the wealthy (50% to the wealthiest 1% by 2010), $750 billion for a war monetarily benefiting only a few military contractors and a financial sieve for the country.

Democratic presidents spread the wealth through spending on needed social programs and targeting tax cuts to lower- and middle-income Americans, stimulating the economy more broadly. Republicans pump into defense contractors and high-income Americans, creating a significant detriment to the whole economy with larger deficits and higher interest rates.

Economist John Maynard Keynes was right in 1936: When you "prime the pump" into people programs (like jobs or lower income tax cuts to help Americans buy what they need), you get people results. On the other hand, when you move money from the economy into tax cuts for the rich and a military vacuum, you don't prime the economic pump; you deplete it.

Contrary to opinion, we do not have record high stocks. It would take 14,300 for the Dow Jones industrial average just to match for inflation the 11,750 under Clinton in 2000. We're now around 13,000, meaning, in real terms, a stagnant market with a loss for the past six years.

Democrats empower the buyers, Republicans the sellers. Misdirected tax cuts, plus the Iraq war, have taken the money not just from America's working class but from America's businesses as well.

Democratic Versus Republican Presidents

Economic Indicators

In six major criteria - GDP growth, per capita income growth, job creation, unemployment reduction, inflation reduction, and federal deficit reduction - for the ten post-World War II presidencies until Bush, there is a record to track the reality of Democratic versus Republican economic success.


• Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" created robust economic expansion, first in both GDP and personal income growth. He also reduced unemployment from 5.3% to 3.4%. Economic growth remained robust through most of LBJ's presidency.

• John F. Kennedy campaigned on the idea of getting America moving again, and he did. Under Kennedy, America entered its largest sustained expansion since WWII. GDP and personal income growth were second only to Johnson, all with minimal inflation. Contrary to Republican attempts to say Kennedy's tax cuts are like Bush's, Kennedy's were targeted at middle and lower incomes.

• The economy added 10 million jobs under Jimmy Carter despite high inflation; Carter ranks first in job creation next to Clinton during just four years in office. Carter also reduced government spending as a percentage of GDP.

• Harry Truman's second term saw the fastest GDP growth and the sharpest reduction in unemployment of any president surveyed (of course, FDR's post Hoover-depression New Deal jobs are first).


• Ronald Reagan focused on reducing the cost of capital through cutting tax bracket highs for the rich and reducing the size and scope of government. But, instead of lowering spending, Reagan shifted money to the military (i.e. Star Wars) and the deficit tripled with the tax cuts and military spending - as under Bush II.

• Under Gerald Ford, the deficit soared and the unemployment rate grew from 5.3 - 8.3% in just 2 years. His "WIN" (Whip Inflation Now) buttons were no match for economic inactivity.

• It was under Richard Nixon that inflation started to spiral out of control, from 4.4% to 8.6%, and the deficit shot up from $2.8 billion to $73.7 billion.

• The Eisenhower years were characterized by slow growth (2.27% annualized GDP growth) and relatively high unemployment (7.7% at end of term).

• George H. W. Bush had the poorest record for both GDP and income growth. During his single term, the deficit ballooned (from $152 billion to $255 billion) more than under every president but his son and Ford.

(Sources: White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and White House Council of Economic Advisors)

Was there doubt? Republicans don't perform better, but they do blow harder.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Iraq: the 51st state?

Having disproven the manifold myths set forth by the Bush administration as causa bellum with Iraq, a nation which never posed a threat to the United States, the real reason has been assumed generally to take the nature of bello parta cedunt reipublicæ; that is, we could "inherit" Iraq's oil as a spoil of war. After all, Bush himself and his fellow career liars can't forever keep alive fairy tales about stamping out tyranny and weapons of mass destruction, and replacing centuries of sectarianism with western democracy.

So, if the reasons we went to war in Iraq have been discredited, what is it we're doing there still, precisely?

The factions composing the country we know as Iraq, for all the ways they perceive themselves as different, have certain things in common. One is they won't pontificate in Latin legal precepts, or simply hand over the goods, no matter how much you beat them up and declare "mission accomplished." Throughout the Middle East, it's an age-old truth Bush, with his undergraduate history major, should have learned. Somehow this failure of education figures into his no child left behind program, but that is for some other long-winded screed. Besides, that isn't really more true of people in the Middle East than it is of any other people, and falls under the category of common sense.

Oil is a prize as is balance of global power absolute American supremacy, and Iraq was viewed as a worthy U.S. Air Force launch pad (and perhaps a great American winter retreat). Yeah, it was a really stupid idea, but everyone knows the futility of arguing with idiots. After figuring out Iraqis wouldn't just lie down and hand over the country, we got the news spin about fighting insurgents, al Qaeda and al Qaida (the spelling changes help confuse people) and now Iranian supplicants guest fighters provided weapons something or other. Mostly our soldiers are fighting civilians because they tend to defend themselves against invasion, but the Bush administration and their compliant, war-billboard press corps don't want to talk about that. They also don't want to talk about how, long ago, we began killing mostly civilians not involved in hostilities, as happens with all wars throughout history.

That's no accident, mistake or result of incompetence. It was the plan all along. Every war follows the same plan. Get it through your head! We weren't ever Iraqis' partners in peace. It was never about importing elevated American ideals. It was always about one thing, and only one thing, as it always is, taking a country for our own by exterminating the indigenous people.

Making this case about the war in Iraq was always easy. Never having enough troops to secure anything, disbanding Iraq's army, having no plan beyond barnstorming Baghdad, reviving John Negroponte's Central American practices of inciting sectarian battles, killing and imprisoning men of military service age—the evidence of it is an almost endless list.

Framing and disproving the premise

The more I attempt to disprove the premise that the focus of our work in Iraq is exterminating the population, considering mitigating factors, the more clear it becomes that the premise is simple, and that the arguments in support are plain and clear. The more one considers mitigating factors, the more apparent it is those factors tend to prove the premise rather than disprove it. It's a fundamental, statistical review.

One becomes suspicious and skeptical from the beginning by trying to ascertain the total Iraq population figure, in that there is wide disagreement about what it is. Admittedly, that determination can be difficult where people are injured and die in large numbers, and the population is highly mobile. The total varies by about 8 million people, from 19.9 million to the CIA's June, 2007 estimate of 27,499,638. The difference in those figures is a full third of the population! Did all those people get lost? The CIA's website and figures look pretty good, until you consider that any empirical data issued under the Bush administration is likely politicized, and that the larger the total population, the smaller percentage of it any accounting of indigenous casualties will be. The highly precise figure suggests a deliberate lie; but, it doesn't absolutely matter and we can slog ahead. Arabic German Consulting estimated 22,219,289 in 2002; CNN said 25.4 million in 2002.

Because those aren't small differences, let's assume 25 million at the start of the war. According to a BBC news story dated July 26, 2007, about two million people have been externally displaced, and two million more have been internally displaced by the war. JustForeignPolicy today estimates the number of Iraqi deaths attributable to the war is 1,009,516. That's a total of FIVE MILLION PEOPLE. I include the refugees in that total because those people are no longer viable social entities in their communities—a status which is inarguably unlikely to change.

So, in four years, the war has exterminated about 20 percent of the population. It's been sloppily done and was expensive, but the coalition was hardly able to do it faster and cheaper without announcing this knowing intention.

This cursory review omits many factors, and well it should. Those statistics are even more esoteric, and sources disagree: birth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate, migration rate (the CIA claims zero people are immigrating into Iraq). And let's not get started trying to count the number of injured Iraqis. Iraqi Body Count has some information about that, but in that their death count is one-twelfth that of the Lancet report, it's recommended you consider the comprehensive explanation of how those figures were compiled.

Other mitigating factors

With an annual extermination rate of 1,125,000 Iraqis killed or displaced, it will take another 16 years to dispose of the rest of them, assuming zero population and immigration growth—a somewhat safe assumption. We assume the war will continue; in fact, another nine or ten years if Gen. Petraeus has his way.

Nine or ten years should be more than enough time. Washington-based Refugees International warned back in December that the number of people fleeing Iraq was increasing from 80,000 a month previously to 100,000 a month. That number can be reasonably expected to increase.

According to a CNN report dated August 1, eight million Iraqis, a third of the population, need aid urgently and are without food, water, sanitation and shelter. So long as that situation persists, you can write them off as viable social entities (so they've already been exterminated):

The report found that about 43 percent of Iraq's population endure "absolute poverty," and that more than half "are now without work."

Great, that's almost one in two people. How long can they last? Meanwhile, the U.S. can do nothing right; unless, of course, you assume that exterminating the whole country was the idea from the start:

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

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

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

Violence remains endemic, with truck bombs on Tuesday claiming as many as 175 lives in northern Iraq and destroying a key bridge near Baghdad, the first successful bridge attack since June.

If Congress yields to increasing pressure from unhappy voters and insists the military draw down troops—as happened with Vietnam—and the military steps up air assaults, as with Vietnam, the civilian casualty toll will skyrocket—as with Vietnam. Then, there are many other indefinite things to contribute to Iraq's civilian casualty rate:

An exodus of doctors and nurses from Iraq has caused a staffing shortage at several of the 142 medical clinics that the U.S. government spent $264 million to build around Iraq, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

As many as half of Iraqi doctors have left the country since the U.S. invasion in 2003, according to a recent report by Oxfam International that cited statistics from the Iraqi Medical Association. Some doctors have fled after being targeted because of their religious sect or profession. Others have sought better opportunities in Europe or elsewhere in the Middle East.

It's impossible to know what the future holds for Iraq's medical professionals or what effect it will have, but you can expect that alone to contribute to a signficant spike in civilian deaths.

Is wholesale extermination a reality?

If the war doesn't end soon, the answer is yes. And it could be achieved within a couple years, possibly, without coalition forces admitting that is the strategy. Even in the face of global economic collapse, Bush and Cheney will grind us all up and sell us for dog food before they stop the war.

What should you think?

Think whatever you wish, but the time-tested truth of the matter is this: when you see some Tucker Carlson or Bill Kristol type pounding the drums of war, be aware you're looking at and listening to a genocide enabler, and a damned PUSSY COWARD. They're having giddy daydreams about vacationing at the unbuilt Baghdad Hilton On The River, where everyone speaks English and there isn't a brown face in town. Hitler had the common decency, at least, to develop a slightly more humane program to exterminate the Jews by euthanizing them in an orderly way. The American government was not that civil with Native Americans, leaving only enough alive to inhabit a few reservations in the remote frontier. I imagine that exact picture ahead for the people of Iraq.

I'm not in favor of that. I never was. We shouldn't have gone in the first place, and when I hear some military officer or TV network jackal talking about calming the insurgency, or some other weak rubbish like that, I see and hear only a genocide-enabling, pussy coward. Now the blood of the quickly vanishing country of Iraq is on the hands of every democrat in Congress. They can improve Iraq's zero immigration rate by moving there, now.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The end of the world as we know it

Failing to prioritize the things that matter, mainstream news has given you no hint recently that the world you've known is about to vanish. Instead you hear the endless Minnesota bridge collapse story, the latest Britney news and the unfairness of mine cave-in. Then there is the absorbing republicans in Iowa story. Do I care? No. Better stories escape:

A million Iraqis are dead thanks to genocidists Bush and Cheney.

Bush is ready to move in on Iran thanks to Cheney's constant needling, and he may not bother to question Congress or wait for a "terrorist attack." As I've said many times, the kind of attack they plan could cause a tactical nuclear exchange, the destruction of the United States and maybe the whole world, which is what Bush and Cheney want.

Among all today's news stories, the really potent one is what is happening to the world economy. But, you don't get that from the fluffy reporting even reputable news organizations produce. The real story isn't about people going belly up with their rental property mortgages, it's about currency valuation.

The reason you don't get good news coverage on this topic is the same reason I am not qualified to thoroughly describe what's happening, predict what will happen or give advice about what to do. Economists are a strange breed, and real experts are few and far between. Furthermore, world markets are mindless entities incapable of protecting prosperity or maintaining balance. In spite of past catastrophes, people whose decisions determine what happens to the macroeconomy remain clueless about how to protect people's interests or what to do when trouble appears. The last couple years in particular we've been warned by central banks abroad that America's growing budgetary deficit could cause widespread economic disaster, and that remedial steps were necessary; that is, we should end the war and its gigantic expense.

But since our legislative and executive branches don't want any idiots to think they are chicken, it doesn't happen. Because it doesn't happen, you can know these people are not only cowards, they are profoundly stupid cowards. Economic inequality kills more people than war, and economic inequality is the result of currency devaluation, making these profoundly stupid cowards murderers also—and as I've said before, you don't have to be polite to them.

Bush's executive order "blocking property" of persons considered to be thwarting Iraqi stabilization (whatever that means) comes at the end of a long line of orders and laws designed to strip people of their assets without due process. Certainly the White House is preparing for some earthmoving, landmark change in the world. Because so much of what they have done is fashioned after the German Nazis, it seems a safe bet they envision fascist authoritarianism, and Claude Lanzmann speaks volumes:

...the destruction of people is always accompanied by that of their assets: the confiscation or "Aryanization" of the latter, right up to the ripping out of gold teeth after the gassings. He showed the branding, segregation, ghettoization, etc. He laid bare the implacable mechanism of what he held to be a bureaucratic process of destruction. From the moment the German bureaucracy made it its object, it could only go all the way, as though carried by its own logic.

The stock market has been fluctuating wildly the past few weeks, but last week something different happened: large investment organizations suddenly didn't have any money.

Mike Whitney:

We are now beginning to feel the first tremors from the massive credit expansion which began 6 years ago at the Federal Reserve. [...]

Ludwig von Mises summed it up like this:

"There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The question is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved." (Thanks to the Daily Reckoning)

It doesn’t matter if the "underlying economy is strong". (as Henry Paulson likes to say) That’s nonsense. Trillions of dollars of over-leveraged bets are quickly unraveling which has the same effect as taking a wrecking ball down Wall Street.

This week a third Bear Stearns fund shuttered its doors and stopped investors from withdrawing their money. Bear’s CFO, Sam Molinaro, described the chaos in the credit market as the worst he'd seen in 22 years. At the same time, American Home Mortgage Investment Corp--the 10th-largest mortgage lender in the U.S.--said that "it can't pay its creditors, potentially becoming the first big lender outside the subprime mortgage business to go bust". (MarketWatch)

This is big news, mainly because AHM is the first major lender OUTSIDE THE SUBPRIME MORTGAGE BUSINESS to go belly-up. The contagion has now spread through the entire mortgage industry--Alt-A, piggyback, Interest Only, ARMs, Prime, 2-28, Jumbo--the whole range of loans is now vulnerable. That means we should expect far more than the estimated 2 million foreclosures by year-end. This is bound to wreak havoc in the secondary market where $1.7 trillion in toxic CDOs have already become the scourge of Wall Street. [...]

AHM’s stock plunged 90% IN ONE DAY. Jittery investors are now bailing out at the first sign of a downturn. Wall Street has become a bundle of nerves and the problems in housing have only just begun. Inventory is still building, prices are falling and defaults are steadily rising; all the necessary components for a full-blown catastrophe. [...]

Economic policy is not "accidental". The Fed’s policies were designed to create a crisis, and that crisis was intended to coincide with the activation of a nation-wide police-state. It is foolish to think that Greenspan or his fellows did not grasp the implications of the system they put in place. These are very smart men and very shrewd economists. They knew exactly what they were doing. They all understand the effects of low interest rates and expanded money supply. And, they’re also all familiar with Ludwig von Mises, who said:

"There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion."

A crash is unavoidable because the policies were designed to create a crash. It’s that simple.

That's a great article. Scary, huh? It's pretty serious stuff. By week's end, we saw the crisis extend to financial institutions worldwide. With nary a mention in the mainstream press, my hair is now standing on end.

Bloomberg, Friday:

Countrywide Financial Corp. and Washington Mutual Inc. led shares of U.S. mortgage companies lower. Societe Generale SA fell, while ABN Amro Holding NV dropped the most in a year on speculation financial-market turmoil may derail the biggest banking takeover. Macquarie Bank Ltd. paced declines in Asia.

"Investor sentiment is poor and will likely get worse as we work our way through the wreckage," said Simon Carter, who helps oversee $3 billion at Aegon Asset Management in Edinburgh.

The Morgan Stanley Capital International World Index lost 1.7 percent to 1527.99, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 0.7 percent to 13180.46 at 2:16 p.m. in New York. The MSCI World has dropped 7.6 percent since touching a record on July 19 on concern the rout in U.S. subprime mortgages may spill over into the economy, erode earnings growth and curb takeovers.

Treasuries rose and credit-default swaps on European corporate bonds increased as the subprime mortgage debacle rattled credit markets.

Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 600 sank 3.1 percent to 362.77. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 dropped 3.7 percent, France's CAC 40 lost 3.1 percent, and Germany's DAX decreased 1.5 percent.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average declined 2.4 percent, the most since March 14, as all markets fell. Benchmark stock indexes in Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Sweden also dropped.

A gauge of U.S. stock market volatility climbed to the highest since April 2003. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index gained 10 percent to 29.12. Higher readings in the so-called VIX, derived from prices paid for S&P 500 options, indicate traders expect bigger price swings in the next 30 days.

Central banks in the U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada added about $132.7 billion to the banking system in an attempt to avert a crisis of confidence in global credit markets. The Fed pledged to provide liquidity through its discount window to cover "unusual funding needs" at some banks.

"The fact that the Fed, ECB and BOJ all had to inject short-term liquidity is worrying as they may know more than most about how significantly the financial system is being impacted," Carter said.

In the U.S., all 10 S&P 500 industries fell. Telephone shares dropped the most, losing 1.6 percent, while an index of industrial stocks slipped 1.2 percent.

Countrywide sank $1.81, or 6.3 percent, to $26.85. The company said mortgage-market disruptions may crimp profit and it may have difficulty obtaining financing from creditors.

Washington Mutual Inc. dropped 82 cents to $35.94. The biggest U.S. savings and loan said in its own filing that liquidity in the market for mortgages made to borrowers below the top credit grade had "diminished significantly."

"The secondary market and funding liquidity situation is rapidly evolving, and the potential impact on the company is unknown," Countrywide said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "These conditions may continue or worsen in the future."

Citigroup Inc., the largest U.S. bank, lost 37 cents to $46.53. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the biggest securities firm, dropped $3.51 to $178.74.

ABN Amro lost 3.5 percent to 33.85 euros. The largest Dutch lender is the target of a takeover battle between Barclays Plc and a group consisting of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Banco Santander SA and Fortis. Barclays this week won European Union approval to buy ABN Amro.

The market turmoil "does jeopardize the ABN Amro deal," said Mike Trippitt, a London-based analyst at Oriel Securities Ltd. ABN Amro spokesman Jochem van de Laarschot said there were "no new developments on the offer process."

Shares of Barclays fell 6.4 percent to 638 pence, and Royal Bank of Scotland declined 3.9 percent to 562 pence.

Societe Generale, France's second-biggest lender, fell 5 percent to 122.2 euros. Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank, fell 2.6 percent to 95.50 euros. UniCredit SpA, Italy's biggest, sank 3.6 percent to 6.04 euros.

Macquarie, the largest Australian securities company, declined 7 percent to A$72.10. Its Macquarie Fortress Investments Ltd. unit, which had $873 million in two high-yielding funds, said on July 31 it was forced to sell assets to avoid breaching loan agreements.

Toyota, set to become the world's largest automaker by sales, retreated 2.5 percent to 7,090 yen. Samsung, Asia's top maker of computer chips and mobile phones, fell 2.9 percent to 603,000 won.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's largest mining company, declined 6.7 percent to 1,261 pence in London. Shares of Rio Tinto Group, the third biggest, dropped 6.2 percent to 3,008 pence.

Copper, nickel and zinc headed for a third straight week of declines in London on speculation that losses linked to U.S. subprime mortgages will spread to commodities, damping metal demand. Oil prices fell to a five-week low in New York.

Man Group Plc, the world's largest publicly traded hedge fund company, tumbled 8.4 percent to 482.5 pence as investors shunned companies that rely on stock markets. Man Group indefinitely delayed plans to sell shares of Man Dual Absolute Return Fund in the U.S. because of volatile markets, Reuters said today. A spokesman for Man declined to comment.

Old Mutual Plc fell 4.6 percent to 154 pence after the U.K. insurer that makes most of its profit in South Africa said first- half operating profit fell more than analysts estimated, hurt by the weakness of the South African rand and the U.S. dollar.

Washington Mutual Inc. lost $1.06 to $35.70. The biggest U.S. savings and loan said yesterday that liquidity in the market for mortgages made to borrowers below the top credit grade had "diminished significantly."

Nvidia Corp. fell $2.92 to $43.21 after the world's second-largest producer of computer-graphics chips said third-quarter sales will increase between 5 percent and 7 percent, with an inventory shortage and limited manufacturing constraining growth. Investors were looking for a forecast of at least 10 percent, Caris & Co. analyst Nicholas Aberle said.

General Electric Co., the world's second-biggest company by market value, fell $1.31, or 3.4 percent, to $37.63. The company, which makes everything from jet engines to medical imaging equipment, posted its largest two-day decline since 2002 amid speculation higher financing costs will reduce global demand.

That's a very great deal of very bad news coming from far too many places all over the planet for one day. Then, there's this kind of statement we're hearing from different sources:

French bank BNP Paribas:

"The market for the assets has just disappeared," said Alain Papiasse, head of BNP Paribas's asset-management-services division. "Since the start of this week, there are no prices for instruments that carry, directly or indirectly, some types of U.S. assets."

Absolutely chilling. Some writers hypothesize that this is nothing more than a small bump in the road, and it will even out in the next few days. I disagree. I believe we're seeing the beginning of the harvest of the conservative economic agenda to exterminate everyone but the few richest individuals.

Thom Hartmann:

Since Bush has been president:

• over 5 million people have slipped into poverty;
• nearly 7 million Americans have lost their health insurance;
• median household income has gone down by nearly $1,300;
• three million manufacturing jobs have been lost;
• three million American workers have lost their pensions;
• home foreclosures are now the highest on record;
• the personal savings rate is below zero - which hasn’t happened since the great depression;
• the real earnings of college graduates have gone down by about 5% in the last few years;
• entry level wages for male and female high school graduates have fallen by over 3%;
• wages and salaries are now at the lowest share of GDP since 1929.

It's pretty hard to give advice or make predictions about all that. And, you should be wary of those who say how they think it will all turn out. Once again, I hope there's nothing to it. Yet, I can't help but be impressed by how much the Bush administration and conservatives in general have pushed, and for how long, to destroy the world with war and economic calamity, and take away everything that makes life worthwhile—not just for us little people, but them as well. Should you worry? No, but only because worry won't help you. I can say that in over a half century of life, I've never seen such a big mess. That it coalesced so quickly is deeply troubling, and I'd describe the situation as "extremely terrible."

That seems a poor end for an article. Instead: counterbalance the evil of greed and war with whatever good you can do.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Come on, all you strong young men

The long-awaited meltdown of the global economy is the happening story this week, and I saved some links with tons of gory details. I'll do my best to get that out this weekend, because it's 3 a.m. and I'm not up to it. If you think the country is unhappy now, just wait six months!

Gen. Douglas Lute, war czar/Bush scapegoat, says of course the draft is on the table:

You know, that’s a national policy decision point that we have not yet reached…I think it makes sense to certainly consider it, and I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table…

Cheney called it Kerry waffling three years ago:

Cheney said President Bush wanted to stay on the offensive with a global military solution to terrorism, but he called draft rumors "a myth that John Kerry is peddling."

• If the matter was settled, why did Rep. Charles B. Rangel introduce a bill in February, 2006 to reinstitute the draft? I'll bet they know something we don't! You can track its progress here. As soon as the Subcommittee on Military Personnel signs off, Selective Service can deliver 100,000 inductees in the first 30 days—and this time, everyone aged 18-42 is eligible.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Descending to crush point

The graph depicts the 2008 Discretionary Budget Request as it existed at the first of this year. If you wonder why you have no money and the country's roads and bridges are falling apart, why New Orleans, one of America's oldest cities, is a landfill and many former residents are about to be put in the street to languish, you need look no further than this pie chart. I also like to show this to anyone who questions the viability of Social Security, a hair-thin yellow slice which is not only solvent but self-funded. Click on the image for a larger view. Millions of people depend on Social Security for their very existence. For those of us with no other income, it's an exceedingly meager existence, too. The Bush/Cheney conspiracy would love to cut that funding off and divert those proceeds to military spending, and let those people who depend on Social Security die of starvation.

Thomas Jefferson stated protecting the lives and happiness of the country's people was the only legitimate work of a government. That priority has been replaced by killing and profiteering. It didn't happen overnight. Of course you can't lay all the blame at Bush's door.

On the other hand, consider the leadership he's shown at making matters worse. He threatened Congress, guaranteeing them if they didn't (1) approve the 2008 defense budget, that part of the chart above, and (2) legalize his secret wiretapping scheme, the details of which he wasn't at liberty to divulge, that America would suffer a terrorist attack before they reconvened, and he'd blame it all on them.

Associated Press:

The House approved modest changes to President Bush's record Pentagon budget proposal early Sunday, but Democrats signaled plans to resume a more contentious debate over the Iraq war after the August recess. [...]

The White House criticized Democrats for cutting Bush's request and effectively transfering $3.5 billion of the money to domestic spending programs. It is likely the cuts will be restored this fall when Congress passes another wartime supplemental spending bill. [...]

The massive military measure represents a nearly $40 billion increase over current levels. The Pentagon would get another several-billion-dollar budget increase through a companion measure covering military base construction and a recent round of base closures. [...]

Those huge procurement costs are driving the Pentagon budget ever upward. Once war costs are added in, the total defense budget will be significantly higher than during the typical Cold War year, even after adjusting for inflation.

Pardon my language: I wonder, what kind of a fucking shithole acts like that? The defense budget is always no contest. Why was it such a big emergency all of a sudden? If I were speaker of the house, I'd tell the world and him to his face, "no, we aren't going to give you any of that, and we will initiate impeachment proceedings and not go on vacation until we've seen it through." Bush thinks whatever he says is what everyone will believe. He should be a little more careful.

Newsweek reports approval for Bush's handling of the war in Iraq is at an anemic 24%. Eighty-four percent disapprove of his handling of our nation's recession. If I were Bush, I'd stop throwing matches at powderkegs. We're seeing serious challenges to the "support the troops" rhetoric for the first time:

The New York Times:

It was a rewriting of history that made the blogosphere (and others) go berserk last week over an Op-Ed article in The Times, "A War We Just Might Win," by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack. The two Brookings Institution scholars, after a government-guided tour, pointed selectively to successes on the ground in Iraq in arguing that the surge should be continued "at least into 2008."

The hole in their argument was gaping. As Adm. Michael Mullen, the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said honorably and bluntly in his Congressional confirmation hearings, "No amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference" in Iraq if there's no functioning Iraqi government. Opting for wishes over reality, Mr. O'Hanlon and Mr. Pollack buried their pro forma acknowledgment of that huge hurdle near the end of their piece.

But even more galling was the authors' effort to elevate their credibility by describing themselves as "analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq." That's disingenuous. For all their late-in-the-game criticisms of the administration's incompetence, Mr. Pollack proselytized vociferously for the war before it started, including in an appearance with Oprah, and both men have helped prolong the quagmire with mistakenly optimistic sightings of progress since the days of "Mission Accomplished."

You can find a compendium of their past wisdom in Glenn Greenwald's Salon column. That think-tank pundits with this track record would try to pass themselves off as harsh war critics in 2007 shows how desperate they are to preserve their status as Beltway "experts" now that the political winds have shifted. Such blatant careerism would be less offensive if they didn't do so on the backs of the additional American troops they ask to be sacrificed to the doomed mission of providing security for an Iraqi government that is both on vacation and on the verge of collapse. [...]

Mr. Bush created the template by doing everything possible to keep the sacrifice of American armed forces in Iraq off-camera, forbidding photos of coffins and skipping military funerals. That set the stage for the ensuing demonization of Ted Koppel, whose decision to salute the fallen by reading a list of their names in the spotlight of "Nightline" was branded unpatriotic by the right's vigilantes.

The same playbook was followed by the war's champions when a soldier confronted Donald Rumsfeld about the woeful shortage of armor during a town-hall meeting in Kuwait in December 2004. Rather than campaign for the armor the troops so desperately needed, the right attacked the questioner for what Rush Limbaugh called his "near insubordination." When The Washington Post some two years later exposed the indignities visited upon the grievously injured troops at Walter Reed Medical Center, The Weekly Standard and the equally hawkish Wall Street Journal editorial page took three weeks to notice, with The Standard giving the story all of two sentences. Protecting the White House from scandal, not the troops from squalor, was the higher priority.

One person who has had enough of this hypocrisy is the war critic Andrew J. Bacevich, a Boston University professor of international relations who is also a Vietnam veteran, a product of the United States Military Academy and a former teacher at West Point. After his 27-year-old son was killed in May while serving in Iraq, he said that Americans should not believe Memorial Day orators who talk about how priceless the troops' lives are.

"I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life," Professor Bacevich wrote in The Washington Post. "I've been handed the check." The amount, he said, was "roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning."

Anyone who questions this bleak perspective need only have watched last week's sad and ultimately pointless Congressional hearings into the 2004 friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman. Seven investigations later, we still don't know who rewrote the witness statements of Tillman's cohort so that Pentagon propagandists could trumpet a fictionalized battle death to the public and his family.

But it was nonetheless illuminating to watch Mr. Rumsfeld and his top brass sit there under oath and repeatedly go mentally AWOL about crucial events in the case. Their convenient mass amnesia about their army's most famous and lied-about casualty is as good a definition as any of just what "supporting the troops" means to those who even now beat the drums for this war.

I seriously doubt people will believe any terrorist attack in the United States, however large or small, is anything but the work of Bush, Cheney and Rove. For their own sake, they should not author such a plan, and pray that nothing like that happens. The ship of state has almost descended to crush point.

Friday, August 3, 2007

History repeats

The Secret Government is a documentary narrated by Bill Moyers (aired in 1987). It deals with Executive Branch power and ends justify the means policies by examining the Iran Contra scandal.

Of special relevance is Lt. Col. Oliver North showing no remorse and framing the Iran-Contra activities as a patriotic endeavor. At one point Sen. Inouye reminded North of the military oath and it was devastating as Inouye cut through all the "I have no regrets about serving my President" spin. North's lawyer (Brendan Sullivan) seemed to realize the impact of Inouye's rebuke and started whining. Sullivan had the nerve to claim Inouye was making a personal attack by reminding North that he had an obligation not to follow illegal orders from a superior. North's testimony reminded me of Sara Taylor saying she took an oath to the President.

Another exchange that resonates with the current administration:

(paraphrased transcript from the documentary)

Bill Moyers:

Assume I'm President and I say Professor Firmage that's all wonderful but I deal in an ugly world. The United States is a wonderful place relatively because of the Constitution but beyond our borders it's a pretty ugly world, people don't like us, people don't share our values, people are out to get us, and if I don't do the ugly things that are necessary to protect us from an ugly world you won't be able to exercise the right of free speech out at your University.

Professor Edwin Firmage:

I would say poppycock Mr. President. That is simply nonsense. The whole fight is over means not ends. Every President with every good intention and every tyrant with whatever his intention has used precisely the same argument. That is don't constrain me by means and I will get you there safely and well. And I think anytime we accept a reason of state argument to justify means that are totally incongruent with the values of our state, we are on the high road to tyranny and we deserve to be there.