Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Happy New Year!
Well, unfortunately the American deaths in Iraq hit 3000 during the worst month ever.

Anyway .....

Here's hoping for a much better New Year in 2007!
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Any Doubts?
If you had any that Iraq is in the midst of a deeply sectarian civil war, check out this story (and this one too) about Saddam's hanging:
He held a Quaran, and when guards shouted out the name of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, he replied, sarcastically, "Moqtada," which was his last word.

The timing of the execution was the subject of some speculation, coming as it did at the beginning of Eid, a Muslim holiday that usually involves the sacrifice of a sheep. One of Hussein's lawyers told the L.A. Times that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki chose the date of the execution to "make a gift during Eid to his party." Hussein "will be the sacrificial lamb for the Shiites, and the Iranians in particular," the lawyer said. In a separate story, the L.A. Times finds several Islamic scholars who say it was inappropriate to have an execution during Eid.
Even the execution of Saddam is surrounded by politicians making a sectarian case for themselves. But what's really interesting is that al Maliki felt the need to push for that particular execution date to placate Shiites, and that obvious Moqtada al Sadr militia carried out the sentence.

As I said below, the entire trial and execution of Saddam was fraught with illegitimacy. He should have been tried in an international court and suffered a sentence imposed by the international community. But much like everything that is Bush in Iraq, we took the wild cowboy route.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Ground Reality
Josh Marshall:
Anyone curious to know what the troops actually think of Bush, the Iraq war, and plans for a "surge"?

A new poll finds that for the first time, more members of the military disapprove of Bush's Iraq performance than approve of it. The number who think victory's likely has plummeted.

Oh, and only a minority think there should be more troops in Iraq.
Kinda throws cold water on that Gates photo-op with troops saying, hell yes send in more troops so we can really really keeelll.
The Fixer
Michael Tomasky has written a book review of James Baker's memoirs. The book is apparently a pretty fluffy piece lacking insight. But I found this passage by Tomasky interesting:
The culture that produced Baker is pretty much the same culture, it seems fair to say, that runs our country right now. It was a culture of confident wealth, country clubs, oil speculation, and ranches of literally thousands of acres; a culture of the great outdoors, of fly-fishing, and most especially of hunting all manner of game from ducks to elk to bear where permissible. It was a place where money was measured differently than in most places (his father, he writes, had warned him that he'd never make the "really big money" practicing law); and a place, and time, where one did better not to talk too much about personal matters. When Mary Stuart [Baker's first wife] was sick with cancer, Baker didn't even tell his [4] sons, then aged seven through fifteen, that their mother was dying (he says he regrets this profoundly). In 1973, when he decided to marry his current wife, Susan —she was a product of the same culture and had been a very close friend of Mary Stuart's—he again shared nothing with his sons, who were, he writes, "shocked" to learn that they had suddenly acquired a new stepmother and three new stepsiblings.

Isn't it helpful to understand that our country is ruled by dissociated, dysfunctional individuals? And remember, Baker is one of the more functional of the bunch. Wouldn't want to deal with those pesky emotions, they might hurt! This is precisely how Bush can continue a losing strategy in the face of overwhelming evidence that he's wrong. And for Bush, his dissociation is to the degree of being sociopathic.
Neck Stretcher
So, Saddam is getting his neck stretched, like, real soon.

I totally agree with this post by Josh Marshall. The entire Iraq adventure has been a sham from day one. Murdering Hussein is just another act of fig-leafdom and revenge after a sham trial of selected charges. The complicity of the United States in what was Saddam Hussein is clear but Bush successfully kept it out of the media during Saddam's trial. The hanging is, as Marshall's points out, an act of a waning power and an act of weakness.
Iraq Snapshot
Via Juan Cole:
Hannah Allam of McClatchy (formerly Knight Ridder) goes back to Baghdad, and doesn't find the changes encouraging. Her old sources are dead or ethnically cleansed, the shops she knew are shuttered, Shiite militias compete as authors of mayhem with the Sunni Arab guerrillas, fuel and electricity are in short supply, and it is now dangerous to so much as snap a photo.
Surry Hill
Want to read a bit about how the wise old men of Washington live? Take a look at this post by Digby. This is the epitome of slopping at the public trough .......
Spin to Ridiculousness
The capture of Osama bin Laden is “a success that hasn’t occurred yet,” according to White House Homeland Security Adviser Frances Frago Townsend.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Still Vacationing
I'm still taking a little time off from blogging. News is spotty anyway. John Edwards has entered the Prez. race which is a good thing in my opinion. Ford hated Bush, but he's dead now and didn't say anything when it might have mattered (might have wrecked a few foursomes or something). Americans continue to die at an alarming rate in Eyeraq and I'm still suspicious of a widening regional war as a part of the National Socialists double or nothing plan. Finally, more evidence the economy is slowing as total tonnage of trucking fell preciptously in the last month amidst lukewarm holiday sales.

2007 should be interesting if nothing else.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Unexpected Consequences
"Well, why don't they die and decrease the surplus population":
Supplies of highly potent Afghan heroin in the United States are growing so fast that the pure white powder is rapidly overtaking lower-quality Mexican heroin, prompting fears of increased addiction and overdoses.

Heroin-related deaths in Los Angeles County soared from 137 in 2002 to 239 in 2005, a jump of nearly 75% in three years, a period when other factors contributing to overdose deaths remained unchanged, experts said. The jump in deaths was especially prevalent among users older than 40, who lack the resilience to recover from an overdose of unexpectedly strong heroin, according to a study by the county's Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology.

"The rise of heroin from Afghanistan is our biggest rising threat in the fight against narcotics," said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. "We are seeing more seizures and more overdoses."

According to a Drug Enforcement Administration report obtained by The Times, Afghanistan's poppy fields have become the fastest-growing source of heroin in the United States. Its share of the U.S. market doubled from 7% in 2001, the year U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban, to 14% in 2004, the latest year studied. Another DEA report, released in October, said the 14% actually could be significantly higher.

Poppy production in Afghanistan jumped significantly after the 2001 U.S. invasion destabilized an already shaky economy, leading farmers to turn to the opium market to survive.

Not only is more heroin being produced from Afghan poppies coming into the United States, it is also the purest in the world, according to the DEA's National Drug Intelligence Center.

Despite the agency's own reports, a DEA spokesman denied that more heroin was reaching the United States from Afghanistan. "We are NOT seeing a nationwide spike in Afghanistan-based heroin," Garrison K. Courtney wrote in an e-mail to The Times.

He said in an interview that the report that showed the growth of Afghanistan's U.S. market share was one of many sources the agency used to evaluate drug trends. He refused to provide a copy of DEA reports that could provide an explanation.

The agency declined to give The Times the report on the doubling of Afghan heroin into the U.S. A copy was provided by the office of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.


Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, warned world health authorities in October of the increase in Afghan heroin.

"This, in turn, is likely to prompt a substantial increase in the number of deaths by overdose, as addicts are not used to injecting doses containing such high concentrations of the drug," he said.


The Department of Homeland Security also has found evidence of increasing Afghan heroin in this country. The agency reported skyrocketing numbers of seizures of heroin arriving at U.S. airports and seaports from India, not a significant heroin-producing country but a major transshipment point for Afghan drugs.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
More Evidence
Here's yet more evidence about my tinfoil hat theory. The Generals are now "suddenly" all for an increase in troops in Iraq.

Update: Looks like I'm not the only tinfoil hatter. Here's a quote from the article referenced in the above post. The author is Robert Parry:
The first two or three months of 2007 represent a dangerous opening for an escalation of war in the Middle East, as George W. Bush will be tempted to “double-down” his gamble in Iraq by joining with Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair to strike at Syria and Iran, intelligence sources say.
Share this article

President Bush’s goal would be to transcend the bloody quagmire bogging down U.S. forces in Iraq by achieving “regime change” in Syria and by destroying nuclear facilities in Iran, two blows intended to weaken Islamic militants in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The Israeli army and air force would carry the brunt of any new fighting albeit with the support of beefed-up U.S. ground and naval forces in the Middle East, the sources said. Bush is now considering a “surge” in U.S. troop levels in Iraq from about 140,000 to as many as 170,000. He also has dispatched a second aircraft carrier group to the coast of Iran.


All three leaders [Olmert, Bush and Blair] could salvage their reputations if a wider war broke out in the Middle East and then broke in their favor.

Bush and Blair spearheaded the March 2003 invasion of Iraq that has since turned into a disastrous occupation. In summer 2006, Olmert launched offensives against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, drawing international condemnation for the deaths of hundreds of civilians and domestic criticism for his poorly designed war plans.

The three leaders also find themselves cornered by political opponents. Bush’s Republican Party lost control of both the House and Senate on Nov. 7; Blair succumbed to pressure from his own Labour Party and agreed to step down in spring 2007; and Olmert is suffering from widespread public disgust over the failed Lebanese war.


In early 2007, the revival of this neoconservative strategy of using the Israeli military to oust the Syrian government and to inflict damage on Iran’s nuclear program may represent a last-ditch – and high-risk – gamble by Bush and the neocons to salvage their historic legacy.

If that is the case, then Bush will approve “the surge” in U.S. forces into Iraq, which likely will be followed by some provocation that can be blamed on Syria or Iran, thus justifying the expanded war.

Betting the lives of American soldiers and countless civilians across the Middle East, Bush will follow the age-old adage of gambling addicts: in for a dime, in for a dollar.
Let us all pray that this is indeed the stuff of tinfoil hatters.
So Much For That Idea
It looks like Bush's great push forward has hit a bit of a snag. Despite recent reports, Sistani is now saying that he will not support a coalition that does not include al Sadr:
Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric withheld support Saturday for a U.S.-backed plan to build a coalition across sectarian lines, Shiite lawmakers said, jeopardizing hopes that such a show of political unity could help stem the country's deadly violence.

Members of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition that dominates parliament, met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf after traveling to the holy city over the past few days. Al-Sistani holds no political post and rarely emerges from his home and adjacent office, but he has strong influence over Shiite politics.

Some members of the Shiite alliance have sought a coalition that would include Kurds and Sunnis, and sideline Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose militia is blamed for much of Iraq's sectarian violence. Lawmakers who attended the meeting with al-Sistani said the cleric opposed any move that would divide Shiites.

"There are obstacles in the face of forming this coalition, because al-Sistani does not support it. So we will work to strengthen the (Shiite) alliance," said Hassan al-Sunnaid, of the Dawa Party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
I would think that without Sistani's blessing, the risk of any move against the Sadr Corp. just went up quite a bit.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Two Pictures ....
... are worth a gazillion words (click to enlarge):

The black vertical line is when Bush came into office ....

And this one:

Consumers have certainly been holding up their end of the spend spend spend economy. Corporations, on the other hand, aren't so stupid.
More Support
Laura Rozen writes extensively about the U.S./Iran tensions that have been ratcheted up lately.

This isn't really a new thing other than the fact that what she has to say supports my own tinfoil hat theories ......
Iraqi "Training"
Give this little video a watch. Here's the description that goes with it:
NBC News' Jane Arraf and a crew recently spent time with the 1st Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division, which is responsible for some of the most volatile parts of Baghdad. They are currently the only tank division in the Iraqi Army.
Remember, we've been training these folks for years ......
Year End List
Everyone else does them on everything imaginable, it only makes sense that there would be a list of Bush's biggest 2006 lies. Right?

Cold, Heartless
Billmon writes a diddy today about Madame Supertanker. He starts with this quote from the Condster:
"This is a country that is worth the investment because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor, you'll have a very different kind of Middle East. And I know that from the point of view of not just monetary costs, but the sacrifice of American lives, a lot has been sacrificed for Iraq, a lot has been invested in Iraq."

Condoleezza Rice
Associated Press interview
December 21, 2006
I heard her say that, but I wasn't really listening. Billmon nails it:
I once made the analogy that in the imperialism business troops equal money, so I'm perhaps I'm not in the best position to criticize. But I was trying to sound cruel and heartless for sarcastic effect, while Condi appears to have been utterly sincere -- every bit as sincere as when she described Israel's air assault on Lebanon as the "birth pangs" of the new Middle East. (How's the baby doing, Condi?)
This truly is a stupid statement for her to make. But it is an insight into the thinking of the Bush administration. This group of sociopathic individuals see their moves in terms of corporatism, not as representatives of people. If I had suffered a loss in Iraq, I think I might have been a bit offended. Labeling her a heartless b*#@h may be too kind.
The Gates Profile
William Arkin, usually a very moderate and careful writer, discusses the new SecDef Robert Gates today. He makes the case for why Gates is a bust and concludes with pretty much everything you'll need to know about the man:
Sorry America, there is no Santa Claus, at least not in the form of Robert Gates. We may have thought the humble, open-minded outsider was going to blow in to sweep away the old. Instead he is shaping up to be flaccid yes man, one who can't even get his timing right.
Badda boom, badda bing, and right on.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
What We've Come To
Pun intended.

Did you know that if you're a 17 year old and you get a blow-job from your 15 year old girlfriend, you can be sent to prison for 10 years?

I keep waiting to hear of stocks put in public squares, or public whippings. Actually in this case, the kid would probably take either of those instead.
Tinfoil Hat Time
I just had a thought while I was reading this post by Glenn Greenwald. Glenn is outlining the huge military build-up in the gulf to support "sending a message" to Iran that the U.S. is capable of attacking. I've been reading bits and pieces of this elsewhere too, but it's generally gotten lost in the coverage of Iraq.

Is it possible that the proposed increase (I refuse to call it a surge) in the number of troops in Iraq is really a cover for an attack on Iran? Could it be that Bush thinks he can solve his Iraq problem by taking out Iran? It's pure nuts, but can't you imagine Bush naively figuring that with a "free friendly Iran" the politics of Iraq would dramatically change in our favor? And how about the Saudi's (remember Cheney's recent visit)? Wouldn't they, and the rest of the Sunni world, be thrilled to see such an action?

Of course, any such plan is totally nuts, but that's no reason to eliminate it as pure tinfoil hat conpiracy theorizing, now is it? Not with this bunch.
More Factoids
If anyone ever tries to tell you that no one could have predicted what would happen in Iraq, just send them here.
Factoids For Holiday Discussions
Did you know that after 911 Congress approved an increase in the size of the U.S. military by 30,000 troops, and that we've only been able to increase by 23,000 since then? If we're still 7,000 short of an approved increase from 2001, what would make anyone think that an approved increase now would make any difference?
Here's a headline:

I swear I saw a headline earlier this morning (I can't find it now .... update, found it!) that said,
Time To Bend The Rail Again
There's a growing conventional wisdom amongst the wise folks of Washington that by backing the "moderate" SCIRI in the person of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Bush's latest I-looked-that-man-in-the-eyes White House guest (SCIRI does have Islamic Revolution in it's name) Moqtada al Sadr can be marginalized. Of course this idea is all based on the notion that a) there is a possible winning strategy for the U.S. in Iraq and b) that the U.S. occupation can help achieve Iraqi goals.

Spencer Akerman explains exactly why this is nonsense:
If the U.S. throws its weight behind Hakim -- which is what we're talking about, really, if we're talking about "more
moderate alternatives" -- Sadr's charisma is way more likely to grow. [my emphasis] Sadr's calling card is his family history; his unyielding anti-occupation stance; and now his willingness to murder Sunnis. All of a sudden his chief rival joins with the occupation and begins purging fellow Shiites.

As Tony Shadid has shown in Night Draws Near, there isn't a
single Shiite political figure that can hope to match Sadr's political charisma. Setting up a pale alternative in Hakim, in all probability, will unite the fracturing Sadr movement and convince the mass of Iraqi Shiites that the U.S.-sponsored political process that so far has worked to the Shiites' benefit holds nothing for them but the choice of collaboration or death. (Furthermore, I don't quite understand what Gerecht's end-state for Sadr is in this scenario, but let's leave that aside for the time being.)
Akerman backs up his assertion with the WaPo quote:
In the sidewalk restaurant where Sadr's poster hangs, its owner, Ali Hussein, points at clusters of young men nearby. They are all Mahdi Army, he said. And so is he.

Hakim, he said, made a fatal mistake by meeting Bush. In today's Iraq, credibility and power are measured by opposition to the United States.

"At this time, whoever has his hands with the Americans or Jews is not an Iraqi," said Hussein, as he chopped up cubes of lamb. "So how could Hakim put his hands with the Americans? There will be tensions because Sayyed Moqtada Sadr is a revolutionary man, like his father. Even if Hakim tries to come back to Sadr, Sadr will never receive his hand."
What the idiot policy wisemen of Washington don't understand is a very very basic underpinning of the entire great Iraqi adventure.

The United States is radioactive in

the Middle East!

We weren't thought of so well prior to Iraq, and since Bush and for
reason too numerous to elaborate on here, it has gone steadily downhill from there. Because Bush may think he has good intentions doesn't mean Iraqis see him that way. But this is just like a narcissistic-dry-drunk-child-like individual. Bush likely believes that when he leaves the room, everything ceases to exist and if he just covers his eyes he's invisible.

Until U.S. policy recognizes our radioactivity and we do something real to prove we mean the region well, we are impotent to do anything about the problems there. And when impotence meets a critical national interest (keeping the oil flowing), you have a disaster.

Update: This is quite a good point:
Thus far the U.S. has faced a Sunni insurgency (which by most estimates continues to account for 80% of U.S. casualties), and sectarian violence in which Shias and Sunnis are killing each other. Shia militias are violent, destructive and radical, but Shia militias are a very different problem from the Sunni insurgency. Shia militias, unlike t[h]e insurgency, are not targeting American troops. But it looks like the administration is set to change that. Over the past year Washington and its Baghdad embassy have alienated the Shia and undermined the authority of the more moderate Ayatollah Sistani. Anti-Americanism has grown in Shia ranks as they accuse U.S. of favoring Sunnis by focusing on Shia militias rather than Sunni insurgency. By going to war with the increasingly popular Sadr Washington runs the danger of losing the Shia altogether.
As a reminder. Sunni's make up roughly 20% of the population of Iraq while Shiites are roughly 80%. I want to emphasize what is being said here. So far, the Shiite militia's have not been attacking the U.S. If we go after al Sadr with the "Nationalists Peoples New Way Forward", can you imagine what it would look like if the Shiites begin attacking Americans?

I guess there's one good thing in that possiblity. Bush, will again, have proven himself a uniter.
Quote of the Day
When the tide goes out we'll all see who's been swimming naked?
Tim Iacono discussing the continued decline in housing.
Sad But True
I don't know about you, but all the packaging these days drives me totally nuts. I didn't realize, though, just how dangerous it could be:
As gift-giving season is under way, USAT tells the story of a Marine who survived two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, only to have to rush to the hospital this summer when he tried to open a package that contained a printer cable. Apparently, as packaging is becoming more complex, this is a common problem and "the week after Christmas, emergency rooms across the nation are flooded" with people who had some sort of accident opening up gifts. If it happened to a Marine, it could happen to any of us, so USAT publishes some tips on ways to open up gifts and minimize the risk of injury.
Be careful out there!
I Knew It!
It's an infection!
The LAT and USAT front the results of a new study that reveals obese people have a particular mix of bacteria in their digestive systems, which could make them more likely to gain weight. The bacteria present in obese people are more efficient at getting the calories out of food. When researchers gave lean mice the bacteria from obese mice, the thin ones started gaining weight. If confirmed, these results could bring about new ways to fight obesity.
I found this story about Iraq from yesterday quite interesting:
The papers go inside with news from Iraq, where American forces handed over control of Najaf Province to Iraqis. Najaf became the third province to be turned over to Iraqi forces, and the first handover of a province that was controlled by U.S. troops.
I understand the spin: "we're making progress, they're stepping up as we step down, yadda yadda yadda".

My question is this. Since this province is in the relatively peaceful outbacks of the south, was this merely a redeployment of U.S. military to Baghdad for the big push that's coming? I will be very curious to see what happens in Najaf after the U.S. evacuates.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
By The By
Have any of you noticed that St. John McFalKissinger has fallen like a rock in the polls lately? I know I know. The polls are meaningless right now. But I do think it's interesting that the more he stakes out his hawkish position (and Bush follows his lead) the more he tanks in the polls.
Post Title of the Day

I wonder how long it will take to be able to make comedy about Iraq? For the Korean debacle it took until M*A*S*H.
A Quick Movie Review
We watched the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car" last night. If you haven't yet seen it, I would highly recommend it.

Any thought that corporatists are a benign force will be banished from your thinking. GM in particular deserves to be out of business.
Bush's Plan
Juan Cole has written a post describing the Iraqi politics of Bush's plan to isolate Moqtada al Sadr. In that post he speculates that the coalition they are trying to build is highly unlikely to hold as a cohesive unit, rather that al Sadr is more likely to form a coalition that actually works. He then concludes:
The real problem is that Parliament isn't very powerful. Although the NYT blames Sadr's boycott for the failure of parliament to reach a quorum the last couple of times it tried to meet, in fact it is because many of the parliamentarians virtually live abroad (they like London) and just aren't around in Baghdad to take part in a vote.

The idea of the Bush administration is that you cut Sadr loose in parliament, so that the prime minister doesn't depend on him, and then you have him call in the Iraqi Army against the Mahdi Army militiamen and defeat them. The Sunnis would thereby be reassured, the thinking goes, that the Sadrist death squads have been dealt with, and the Sunni Arabs would gradually become more willing to rein in their paramilitary. I don't think it is plausible that the US military can defeat a widespread and entrenched social movement like the Sadrists at this late date, so we are in for a lot of trouble.
This is another example of magical thinking. If they just "eliminate" al Sadr and his two to three million supporters who live in Sadr City, then the Sunni's will magically see the wisdom of power sharing with a majority Shiite government. I'm not even sure this is the best of the awful options in front of the Bush government. But then magical thinking is a hallmark of a dry-drunk, now isn't it.
Goo Goo Dolls - Better Days

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

And it's someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we're alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
Cuz tonight's the night the world begins again
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Account Deficit
The U.S. account deficit has hit record levels, particularly relative to the value of the dollar.

Why does this matter? Go here and you'll get a simple, clear explanation.
Hearts and Minds
Want to see why American's are so loved in Iraq? (h/t to Minor Ripper)

There are a few more lovely examples on Ripper's site.

Simple Answers to Simple Questions
From Josh Marshall's blog:
A long-time TPM Reader, who's got a pretty good handle on Republican congressional politics, poses a really interesting question -- maybe the question. Let's say President Bush gives in to the urge to surge, as now seems increasingly likely. What do the Republicans on the Hill do? What do the leaders in each House do? Remember, they're the ones with the new word "minority" tacked on to the front of their titles, courtesy in large part to their previous lockstep support of Bush's debacle in Iraq. The president is, after all, the Commander-in-Chief, much as the country may now regret it. So I think he can sustain the policy in the face of Democratic opposition. But what if his own party deserts him? What do Messrs. McConnell and Boehner have to say?

This has been an installment of simple answers to simple questions (shamelessly stolen from Atrios).
Mc (Fill in the blank)
It's looking like you can fill in the blank in the title with whatever right-wing nutbar you want these days:

Here's the latest:

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has known former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger since 1973, but during the 2000 presidential campaign, “McCain’s handlers opted not to have the two appear publicly together,” fearing Kissinger “would taint the image of the ‘Straight Talk Express.’”

Now, in his latest shift to the right, McCain is openly embracing Kissinger. Hotline On Call reports that McCain has chosen Kissinger to be the Honorary Co-Chair for his presidential campaign in New York.
I guess it's only fitting that since we're refighting the Vietnam war that we would also exhume the architect of that miserable adventure.

Go ahead St. John. Embrace all things Bush. Personally I don't think it will work out too well in the long run.
Dollar Down
Fubar at Needlenose gives us an update on the falling dollar. Iran is fully moving away from the dollar altogether while other countries are considering similar moves. The big kahunas are Saudi Arabia and China. As long as Bush is a good boy and does what the Saudis want in Iraq, they will continue to do their share to prop up the dollar. China is another question altogether. It will get increasingly more expensive for countries to keep dollars out of some kind of goodwill as the dollar will inevitably fall given the great Bush adventures in boy kinging.

Personally, I have made some gold purchases lately .......
The Greatest Failure
The World Bank's former chief economist, Nicholas Stern, recently conducted a sweeping analysis of the economic risks of global climate change. His conclusion: Climate change is "the greatest market failure the world has seen" and, if unchecked, it could cause "economic upheaval on the scale of the 1930s Depression" at a greater cost than both world wars combined. British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared Stern's report the most important document ever put before his government.

And here I thought no one was paying attention except Al Gore. Kind of telling that it only seems to push people to action when it threatens their wallets. This is one of the reasons I see a depression coming. That's depression with a D.
Inflation Watch
So much for no inflation:
PPI -- the prices for finished goods, not raw materials -- leapt 2% in November, the greatest gains in 32 years (November 1974). Core PPI excluding food and energy swelled 1.3% -- highest since July 1980, erased the 0.9% drop last month.

The numbers were significantly above Wall Street median forecast 0.7% month-on-month increase (0.3% core rise).
Long Quote of the Day

We have to get out -- not because withdrawal will head off civil war in Iraq or keep the country from fallling under Iran's control (it won't) but because the only way we can stop those things from happening is by killing people on a massive scale, probably even more massive than the tragedy we supposedly would be trying to prevent.

Defeat, in other words, isn't the only alternative to failure. It could also lead to the kind of warfare that CIA counterinsurgency specialist Michael Scheuer warned about in his book Imperial Hubris:

"Progress will be measured by the pace of killing and, yes, by body counts. Not the fatuous body counts of Vietnam, but precise counts that will run to extremely large numbers. The piles of dead will include as many or more civilians as combatants because our enemies wear no uniforms . . ."

There was a time when I would have argued that the American people couldn't stomach that kind of butchery -- not for long anyway -- even if their political leaders were willing to inflict it. But now I'm not so sure. As a nation, we may be so desensitized to violence, and so inured to mechanized carnage on a grand scale, that we're psychologically capable of tolerating genocidal warfare against any one who can successfully be labeled a "terrorist." Or at least, a sizable enough fraction of the American public may be willing to tolerate it, or applaud it, to make the costs politically bearable.

Whiskey Bar
Heart of Darkness
September 24, 2005
Already Underway
The Kagan plan is apparently already underway?:
The deaths of three more US troops at the hands of Sunni Arab guerrillas were announced on Monday.

Iraq violence is at an all-time high since the US "turned over sovereignty" to an Iraqi government June 28, 2004. USA Today writes, "The Pentagon says injuries and deaths among U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq rose 32% during the period from mid-August to mid-October over the previous three months. Both the average number of attacks each week and the average number of people killed or wounded in those attacks were at their highest levels since the United States handed over power to the Iraqi government in June 2004."

What the report does not say is that this period coincides with a major US military operation, "Together Forward" intended to restore security in the capital, involving sweeps of Sunni Arab and some Shiite neighborhoods. That is to say, the operation not only did not make things better, things got worse during it. The military beefed up the US troop contingent in Baghdad significantly for the operation, including moving 3,700 troops down from Mosul. It is this sort of thing that convinces me that an extra 20,000 troops for Iraq is not going to make a difference.
Meanwhile, this is a story that gets crowded out of the Iraq news because on relative scale, this isn't so bad:
Tensions are running high in eastern Turkey where the Kurds predominate, given renewed militancy by the Kurdish Workers Party, PKK. The PKK is being given safe haven by Iraqi Kurds, and if Iraq breaks up it could throw the whole region into war.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned that a break-up of Iraq "would increase the level of civil war."
You can be sure that the Kurdish/Turkey conflict can easily grow into a real problem in a flash.
Shooter At It Again?

The Wonkette blog broke the news with an e-mail from an anonymous tipster: "there's a dead deer on grass in front of the naval observatory. Who killed it??!!! Is cheney allowed to hunt on those grounds?"
Nutbar Plan
In case you're curious, the nutbar Fredrick Kagan from the American Enterprise Institute has a plan for victory in Iraq. Bush is reported to be leaning towards his plan.

Get that shipment of body bags ready.
Crime Wave
Proponents of being tough on crime often cite the need for stricter laws and more prisons to solve the "crime" problem. We've recently undergone a period of time with some of the more punitive legislative measures to stop crime and a booming prison industry. Yet, we see this happening:
The WP fronts the results of a new FBI report that shows the number of robberies and murders in the United States continues to increase. This new data further illustrate violent crime is once again growing after going through periods of historic decreases. Violent crime increased nearly 4 percent in the first six months of the year, while the number of robberies increased almost 10 percent. Criminologists often see the rate of robberies as an indicator of what is to come. Last year, violent crime increased 2.5 percent, which at the time was the largest surge in 15 years.
There was a significant drop in crime rates coincident with the most recent boom in law enforcement. But it also coincided with the most recent economic boom. A rise in crime is a key barometer to the economic status of the poor. In our bifurcated economy, the rich are getting filthy rich while the middle class is disappearing. And the poor? Well, as the old saying goes, "shit rolls downhill". So is it really any surprise to see crime rates, particularly robbery, on the rise?
So much for only doing what the generals recommend:
According to the Post's sources, the joint chiefs think the White House is pursuing the idea of a surge because there are few other possible options. Meanwhile, they are adamant that increasing the number of troops in the country would create more problems than it solves for the U.S. troops in Iraq. The only real option on the table regarding any kind of surge, would have to involve a specific timeline and mission, which military leaders worry could be exploited by insurgents. The chiefs are allegedly taking a firm stance because they believe the current review of the Iraq situation will lead to the most important decisions since the invasion.
They know what we know, that a "surge" would not change the situation in Iraq and would further stress the military.

By the way. On the issue of a "surge". This is the terminology being used to describe increasing the number of troops in Iraq. What does that word conjure in terms of image for you? The fact is that a "surge" would be more of a leak. The only way troops can be increased is to extend current tours and send a few back. There just aren't the fresh troops available for an airlift of 30K troops. But watch Bush do anything he can to put off the inevitable.

Meanwhile, new SecDef Gates promises an "unvarnished" look at the situation in Iraq. But then he goes on to say:"
Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for decades to come,"
I guess his idea of varnishing is a bit different than mine. I think he's gonna be smoked out pretty soon and we'll see exactly where his loyalties lie. Any bets?
States Taking the Lead
Forget the Feds. The states are taking up the fight against global warming, taking the fight directly to the automakers.

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who filed the suit in September, claims that automakers are violating public nuisance laws by producing high-emission vehicles and should pay damages for polluting. He says automakers could produce cleaner vehicles, but have chosen to fight instead.

Lockyer is right of course. After all, who killed the electric car?

Censoring Science

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is clamping down on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest agency subjected to controls on research that might go against official policy.

New rules require screening of all facts and interpretations by agency scientists who study everything from caribou mating to global warming. The rules apply to all scientific papers and other public documents, even minor reports or prepared talks, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. source

I'm just at a loss for words here.

Quote of the Day
"Jose Padilla appears to have been lobotomised: not medically, but socially."—George Monbiot at Alternet.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
While I'm At It
Note to George Will: Go f' yourself. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black .....
Too Little, ......
Colin Powell is getting a lot of play today for his appearance on a teevee pundit fest. Powell is quoted as saying that we've lost in Iraq and that there are no more troops to send.

Note to General Powell: Too little too late. Your credibility is gone and you get no kudos from me for not doing something when your expertise would have, like, really mattered.
Good Play
This is probably a reasonably good political play by Harry Reid:
(AP) Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday he would support a temporary troop increase in Iraq only if it were part of a broader strategy to bring combat forces home by early 2008.

"If the commanders on the ground said this is just for a short period of time, we'll go along with that," said Reid, D-Nev., citing a time frame such as two months to three months. But a period longer than that, such as 18 months to 24 months, would be unacceptable, he said.
Of course this proposal is DOA with Bush. But the point is that this makes the Dems look reasonable and in-line with what voters have wanted.

It's common knowledge that any withdrawal strategy would indeed require months to accomplish under the most expedient circumstances. To safely get the troops out within a year is what I think most people mean when they say "get out of Iraq now". Of course the Rethugicans seize on the "get out now" rhetoric as a conflated version of bring the troops home tomorrow, but I don't know anyone who thinks that or who even thinks it's actually possible.
Juan Cole updates us on the much ballyhooed "reconcilitation conference" in Iraq. This was an attempt to bring the civil war parties together to make some progress on stopping the civil war:
The long-awaited "reconciliation conference" was finally held in the Green Zone on Saturday, with 200 Iraqis of various persuasions present. But the Sunni guerrillas were not represented, and even most Sunni Arab parties were not there. Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Baathist guerrilla leaders, who were not invited, are saying that al-Maliki has gone back on his earlier promises to them. Al-Hayat says that the Association of Muslim Scholars (hardline Sunnis), the Congress of the Iraqi People of Adnan Dulaimi (fundamentalist Sunnis), and Salih Mutlak's Dialogue Front (ex-Baath secularists) all boycotted. Moreover, opposition figures living abroad, who had been invited, mostly declined to come. And Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shiite clerical leader, turned down an invitation. So it doesn't sound to me as though this conference will amount to anything.
I think my question is, who did go?
Friday, December 15, 2006
The Consumer Price Index came out today (the report on inflation). It said that there was zero inflation in the past month. Does that sound right to you?

One thing I found interesting in the report was energy, which is "down" 3.8% over last year.


Oh yeah, that's "down" from the post Katrina period. Wonder how prices compare to eighteen months ago? Silly me to ask such questions. I guess as I pay $2.55/gal. for gasoline, I'm supposed to have "adapted" by now. Perhaps I'm not adaptive enough?

I wonder what the CPI would have been without that "reduction" in energy prices?
They're Coming To Get You
Remember the big headline story about arresting illegal immigrants at Swift? Digby talks about it today in a good post which reminds me that I wanted to mention it as well.

I also watched the Newshour piece that featured Julie Myers representing Homeland Security for the Reich. The headlines and the administration would like to you to think that Mexicans are flooding over the borders and stealing your identity. As I said to Jan, "there's identity theft and then there's IDENTITY THEFT". Using a legal citizen's name to get a job is one thing. Stealing someone's identity to charge megabucks on a credit account is another. Yet, if you weren't paying close attention, you would think that the later was happening in a mind blowing conspiracy.

I don't know all the details, but we will before long. I'm betting that there was no real identity theft, but rather fake documents used to get a job. This is nothing new and is a misuse of the term "identity theft" to mislead Americans into thinking the brown hoard is coming to steal our ability to buy new IPods. After all. Think about it. If you were stealing someone's money, would you be working at a Swift Meat Packing Plant?

Oh, and by the way. The company was not charged. With anything.
Hack Wankers
Here's Atrios explaining the chattering class and the war:
Magical thinking has long pervaded this entire enterprise [the Iraq war], and the pundits who supported this whole thing long ago decided that they could evade responsibility for their role in this by continuing to come up new Pony Plans. They can't come to grips with the fact that this whole enterprise is doomed - and, in fact, has long been doomed - and they can't come to grips with the fact that no matter what they say George Bush is the decider.

The choice has never been between Pundit Fantasy Plan and getting out. The choice has always been between George Bush's Plan and getting out. The punditocracy has chosen to operate in the fantasy realm, pretending that their Pundit Fantasy Plan is an option. It's allowed them to continue to avoid looking at the real choice and concluding, as anyone should, that getting out is a better choice than continuing with The Decider's Plan.

And why are they doing that? Because they'd rather be wrong than agree with the dirty fucking hippies, even though few of us actually smell like patchouli. The impact of their fantasy thinking is to ensure that George Bush continues to be able to fuck things up. And they say we're unserious.
Count me as a proud member of the "dirty fucking hippies".
Strictly Political
From a pure political point of view, I'm really glad to see this:
Meanwhile, a congressional delegation led by Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman arrived in Baghdad to meet with U.S. and Iraqi officials. McCain reiterated his call for more boots on the ground and, according to the NYT, said military commanders are currently discussing the possibility of sending as many as 35,000 more troops to Iraq.
St. John and Boltin' Joe, hand-in-hand. I want the news media to cover this extensively and to pin the idea of increasing the occupation in Iraq on St. John. It's a "be careful what you wish for" moment for St. John. He likely never thought Bush would follow his advice, thus giving him the safe haven to say "I told you so" when Iraq fell. Since Bush has decided to go for broke, there'll be no real cover for St. John as he pursues being the replacement to the boy king.
Count Me Skeptical
This was a big story yesterday:
Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, said it was imperative that the Army increase its numbers for what he characterized as a long and dangerous war. "At this pace, without recurrent access to the reserve components, through remobilization, we will break the active component,"
Haven't we heard this before?

It's kind of difficult to believe military officials when they make these kind of predictions, and then the military never does "break". We've heard of the need for a draft for sometime as well, yet the Pentagon seems to increase forces in Iraq at will. Meanwhile recruiting numbers, while not spectacular, are keeping up albeit with huge incentives.

People, particularly military types, are going to have to vote with their feet if they want to be taken seriously. Grousing and complaining about "breaking" ain't gonna do it. Not re-upping or not going into the military is the only real threat and as of today, it's a non-threat as Bush moves to increase forces in Iraq with impunity.

So count me as someone who hears people like General Pace talk about the military collapsing and is, at least for the short term, skeptical.
Lies and Damned Lies

The Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act. source

As in the United States, telling the truth is considered treason.

Nickel and Dimed
WASHINGTON -- Given rising metal prices, the pennies and nickels in your pocket are worth more melted down than their face value -- and that has the government worried.

U.S. Mint officials said Wednesday they were putting into place rules prohibiting the melting down of 1-cent and 5-cent coins, with a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for people convicted of violating the rule. source

I have believed for several years that we are headed for a depression. Not a recession, but a depression. Stories like this one only serve to reinforce my belief. My only question is, how is anyone going to know where the copper in that bar came from?
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Since gasoline prices have fallen back sooooo far, it's time to "balance inventories":
ABUJA (Reuters) - OPEC has agreed an oil output cut of 500,000 barrels per day, or two percent, delayed until February1 when the northern winter is ending, the group said on Thursday, sending oil prices above $62.

By postponing a further reduction until peak demand has passed, OPEC is acknowledging importer nations' concern that a cut now will drive prices higher and hurt their economies. World economic growth is expected to slow next year.

"We are committed to supplying the market but we want to establish a balance between supply and demand," said OPEC President Edmund Daukoru. He confirmed Angola would become OPEC's 12th member in 2007, giving the cartel even more muscle.
Unless we have a fairly serious recession next year, plan on $3+/gallon gasoline next spring.
A poster over at Josh Marshall's made an interesting point.

Bush sending in more troops is not "doubling down". In gambling parlance, someone doubles down when they have won and feel the odds are in their favor to double their winnings.

That does not apply to Bush's great Iraqi adventure.

As was pointed out, a better bit of terminology would be "double of nothing". In that case you've made a bet and lost. But in a deperate attempt to recoup your losses you take another shot at what has been a losing proposition for you to that point. It's my sense that double or nothing-ers are losers who don't have the good sense to know when enough is enough.

I've written about Bush being dangerous when cornered. He has demonstrated an amazing ability toward self-destruction, and as President toward national destruction. He's such a classic "dry drunk" that I feel no compunctions about doing a Bill Frist and diagnosing him from afar.

Think about the story of the frog in the pot. Then think back to the pre-Bush years. Hell, even consider a few years ago. The U.S. situation domestically and internationally just continues to deteriorate. And now as a lame duck and cornered, Bush has no constraints on his meglomania. He has never respected the public, and has zero respect for the recent election. I suspect the next six months are going to be quite bloody, quite expensive, and in a real sense terrifying. And if the economy tumbles, watch out.

I think I'm working through my depression over the situation right now so as to be ready for the fight come January. I find myself extraordinarily angry at superficiality in the media, people who drive ginormous SUV's, and conspicious consumption (although personally as guilty as anyone of the later). As the war blows up, ordinary citizens pressuring Bush and especially Congress is going to be on the agenda. Enjoy the holidays (even while a lot of grunts overseas won't be) and get ready to report for battle after the first of Jan.
The First
Is Senator Johnson the first to ever have an illness, perhaps life threatening illness, while serving in the Senate? (noooooooo)

You'd think so by all the hub-bub being given to the whole thing by the media. Actually, it's a bit ghoulish if you ask me.
Body Count
President Bush (via his flak Tony Snow) has announced that they will start announcing body counts of dead bad guys.

Wonder why and why now? Perhaps gives you some idea of what the next Friedman will be like .....
Off With Their Heads!
I can't believe this.

Broadsheet, a chic blog written in Salon, has a piece written by a woman discussing a recent study that shows that men who are circumcised have a slightly lower rate of HIV. The study is quite controversial, but let's leave that aside for a moment. At one point, the writer says this:
And, of course, circumcision is a controversial topic -- almost any time we mention the practice, furious debates erupt over circumcision's cultural history and how it differs, if at all, from female genital mutilation. From our perspective, the practices have very distinct religious, medical and cultural histories. Male circumcision typically does not destroy sexual function -- it isn't designed to stamp out a man's sexual pleasure or identity. The same cannot be said for female circumcision, which, more often than not, is more accurately described as mutilation.
This is simply false. Circumcision, aside from being brutally done without anesthetic, removes an organ vital for sexual pleasure. Study after study have shown that foreskins play an important role in sexual pleasure.

Perhaps this author wouldn't mind losing a breast to tradition? After all, women don't have to breast feed anymore and besides, who needs two? Or how about this. We could really reduce the spread of HIV if we simply cut off men's penis's altogether! Leave a small opening and, voila', no AIDS.

I never thought in this day n' age I would see someone write something this ignorant.
Windfall of War
The Center for Public Integrity has a great listing of those who are reaping the profits of war.

Thanks to Gryphen for the link.
Mr. Fish

I love Mr. Fish's observations.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Scalia Admits Failure
Scalia admits that half of the people in the United States can't raise a family on their salaries.

"If you become a federal judge in the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), you can't raise a family on what the salary is," Scalia said during a speech to the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

Federal judges earned salaries of $165,200 in 2006. Scalia said lawyers can easily earn significantly more by staying in the private sector. source

Okay, that isn't what he means. But half of the people in this country make less than $30k so what does that mean for half of the families in this country?

Just Kidding
Jeff Greenfield is getting prickly about being called out for his piece on Obama's clothes. His argument is that it was all a joke, all in good fun and that bloggers have "hair triggers" when it comes to being politically correct.

First of all Jeff, nobody said it wasn't a joke. I know it was a joke. The problem is that they never seem to "joke" about conservatives. And when they do, the joke is all to obviously entering the area of jokedom.

On the other hand, conservatives have become so ridculously nutbar that Greefields "joke" is not far enough outside the conservatives talking points as to be obviously funny. And like it or not, people like Greenfield and CNN have played a part in giving these nutbars a big stage such that it's hard to tell the difference between those who joke and those who are serious.

Update: Digby on Greefield:
What I criticized was the sub-text of such remarks and how these remarks are common right wing tools used to slander, demean and trivialize their opponents. The fact that Jeanne Moos [CNN] also did a "funny" riff that day on Obama's middle name "Hussein" (that was far more revealing of people's bigotry than anything else) what you saw was this subtle theme emerging that implies both that Obama is superficial on the one hand (look at his GQ clothes!) and also somewhat exotic and foreign --- not to be trusted. Enough "jokes" like this and over time people will develop an uncomfortable feeling about Obama's "style" and his exotic name without even knowing that they have it or where it came from. That's how these subtle themes work.


Is it a sin, in and of itself, that Greenfield trivialized Barack Obama for his wardrobe and compared him to a holocaust denying psychopath? Not really. Is it a major goof for Jeanne Moos to simultaneously go out on the street and ask people if they think his "weird" middle name means that he can't be elected? Probably not.

But you'll have to excuse us hotheads for reacting strongly when we see these things because the last time the media decided to have "fun" and tell "jokes," this way, enough people believed them that it ended up changing the world in the most dramatic and violent way possible. We are in this mess today at least partly because these people failed to do their duty and approached their jobs as if it were a seventh grade slumber party instead of the serious business of the most powerful nation on earth.

I don't know what is wrong with them and their social construct that makes them so susceptible to this, or why they fail to see how this bias toward phony Republican machismo distorts political reporting, but it's a big problem for this country. Whatever their psychological or political motivations, we cannot take the chance that these narratives will go unchallenged again. Bad things happen. Wars. Torture. Dead people.
A Note
No one who really knows me has ever accused me of being a particularly positive, gregarious type guy. But it seems that my posts lately have been even more dour. At least to me. Current events are dominated by Iraq and it's going to hell in a handbasket as the boy king continues to play with his army men.

I wish it weren't so. And I try to find some silver linings. But the planets just seem to be lining up this way. So for now, the blog is part information, part expulsion of frustration, and part gathering place for group sorrow.

Here's to better times down the road......
Finally, Getting A Little Play
Finally, some of the newspapers and analyst are starting to uncover the Saudi's hand in our Iraq policy. Probably because the Saudi's came out and said it:
What is remarkable is that it [Saudi leaders twisting Cheney's arm awhile back] is being stated by the Saudi leadership and published in the press. The Saudis are usually circumspect. If they are leaking this sort of thing, their hair must be on fire with anxiety.
So let's add it up. The American people overwhelming want, at a minimum, a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The Saudi's have their "hair on fire" about the possiblity that the U.S. may be leaving. Which policy will the President decide to honor?

If there was ever an example of the consequences of our oil addiction, this is it. Bush will indeed double down with more troops. In siding with SCIRI, he will throw gasoline on the Iraqi fire while certainly being duped, and ultimately, stabbed in the back by the Iranian backed SCIRI leaders. And after many many more deaths, the expenditure of billions of more dollars, the further loss of American prestige and international leverage, the United States will still lose in Iraq and have to withdraw.

By the way. I heard an interesting point last night on the teevee. Someone, don't remember who, said that the cost-effectiveness of the Middle Eastern war has tilted way off kilter. That is, the cost of maintaining access to the oil has greatly exceeded the benefit the petroleum conveys on our country. This certainly can't be true though because everyone, absolutely EVERYONE knows that Republicans are much better businessmen than Democrats .......

Update: Someone else thinks something is up with Saudi Arabia:
Today the Washington Post buries this sensation on page A23: Saudi Ambassador Abruptly Resigns, Leaves Washington. The ambassador, Prince Turki al-Faisal, is the former head of the Saudi intelligence services, a serious player in the Saudi power game.

The usual "to spend time with his family" is given as official reason for the sudden resignation but that is of course bullshit. As is WaPo's speculation about illness of Prince Turki's brother. Steve Clemons' explanation of backstabbing in Riyadh does not sound credible to me either. So why is the ambassador being recalled?

The relations beween Washington and Riyadh are now tanking fast.

As was just published, in the first half of this year (newer numbers are not yet available) Saudi Arabia has moved further away from the Dollar and put a bigger share of its reserves into Euros.

Today the Saudi Arabia's National Air Services annouced to spend $2 billion on new planes, mostly European Airbuses, no Boeings.

While the Saudi "offer" for cheaper oil was on the table earlier, the Saudi Arabian oil minister now calls for serious production cuts by OPEC.

Also today 30 prominent Saudi clerics have called for Sunnis worldwide to mobilize against Iraqi Shiites.

The last issue can be seen as an open declaration of war against U.S. troops in Iraq and their allies in the mostly Shia Iraqi army. Such a call to the weapons could never have happend without the explicite agreement of the highest authorities in Rihyad.
Bonus Quote
Blogger Kevin Drum writes that Bush's meeting "with a bunch of guys who just happen to already agree with him . . . is all part of Bush's weeklong 'search for new ideas,' which bears a striking resemblance to OJ's search for the real killer."
Plan Delay
Everyone's all abuzz about Bush's new plan. It appears he'll be sending in more troops (be careful what you wish for St. John McCain) and opening an offensive against Moqtada al Sadr while aligning with SCIRI.

I'll leave the pure madness of such a policy aside for a moment.

Why the delay in the announcement?
Administration officials said Bush decided all of the issues surrounding Iraq are too complicated and he would rather not rush a plan out the door. The delay is largely seen as a sign that there continue to be strong disagreements between the president's advisers on how best to proceed.
They're missing an obvious explanation. You don't try and sell a yucky product over Christmas. Imagine the news stories of crying spouses with children on their laps, Christmas trees glimmering in the background, talking about how their partners are staying for yet another tour, or are being called up .... at Christmas time. Not good "optics" (as they say).

They'll wait until the after the holidays. Everyone is depressed then anyway. It will also put more time/distance between the annoucement and the popular support for the Iraq Study Group. The optics will be better to display this turd of a policy.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Quote of the Day
"I think it is pretty clear that reality and George W. Bush have never been formally introduced."—Gryphen at The Immoral Minority.
Down The River
Sure looks like Bush is about to sell al Maliki down the river.

Spencer Akerman summarizes the situation. The short version is that the U.S. backs SCIRI (that's the Iranian backed SCIRI), the Kurds and a faction of Sunnis to dump al Maliki and put Moqtada al Sadr out in the cold.

Like Akerman points out, I'm sure the al Sadr and his 2-4 million rabid young followers will take the news of their loss of power well and simply go away. I'm also sure that the Sunnis will welcome the sellout by one of their leaders (wonder what his Swiss bank account looks like just now?) and that Bush will find that working with SCIRI to be a highly rewarding experience.

Someone. Someone who should know. Someone with a whole lot of knowledge. Someone thinks the stock market is behaving quite unnaturally.
War on the Middle Class
And in the What Middle Class? category we have this:
Study: 46% of Delaware renters can't afford that 2BR apartment
Typical renter in Delaware earns $13.93 per hour, which is $2.38 less than the amount he or she needs to earn to afford an apartment. source
So, a person in Delaware needs to make $16.31 to afford an apartment. The current minimum wage is less than $6 and the Democrats want to raise it to a frightfully steep $7.00.
I see.

Bill Perkins, executive director of Friendship House in Wilmington, said the lack of affordable housing forces many low-income families to pay as much as 80 percent of their incomes for rent and utilities. Ideally, rent should account for only 25 percent of income.
But we're Number 1! Right? Right?
Outsourcing Lawyers
In a story about legal jobs being outsourced I found this little nugget:

Although the movement of legal work overseas may result in thousands of job losses in coming years, laws protect lawyers against foreign competitors.

Unless the lawyers in India are licensed to practice in specific states, they will never be able to take over the jobs of American lawyers. source

The question comes to mind: if we require lawyers in other countries to be licensed to practice in specific states, how about if we require the same for steelworkers, autoworkers, garment workers, etc? If unions were still a factor in the American work force, I'll bet we would.
Why I Don't Watch
I know for many it's a bit like watching a car wreck. You know. You watch but you know you shouldn't? But I just cannot watch cable news. I'm glad someone does it for me so I can be occasionally reminded of just how stupid it is. Here is that imminent political pundit, Jeff Greenfield:
The senator was in New Hampshire over the weekend, sporting what's getting to be the classic Obama look. Call it business casual, a jacket, a collared shirt, but no tie.

It is a look the senator seems to favor. And why not? It is dressy enough to suggest seriousness of purpose, but without the stuffiness of a tie, much less a suit. There is a comfort level here that reflects one of Obama's strongest political assets, a sense that he is comfortable in his own skin, that he knows who he is.

If you want a striking contrast, check out Senator John Kerry as he campaigned back in 2004. He often appeared without a tie, but clad in a blazer, the kind of casual look you see at country clubs and lawn parties in the Hamptons and other toned (ph) locations.

When President Bush wanted in casual mode, he skipped the jacket entirely. Third-generation Skull and Bones at Yale? Don't be silly. Nobody here but us Texas ranchers.

You can think of Bush's apparel as a kind of homage to Ronald Reagan. He may have spent much of his life in Hollywood, but the brush-cutting ranch hand was the image his followers loved, just as the Kennedy sea ferry look provided a striking contrast with, say, Richard Nixon, who apparently couldn't even set out on a beach walk without that "I wish I had spent more time at the office" look.

But, in the case of Obama, he may be walking around with a sartorial time bomb. Ask yourself, is there any other major public figure who dresses the way he does? Why, yes. It is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, unlike most of his predecessors, seems to have skipped through enough copies of "GQ" to find the jacket-and-no-tie look agreeable.

And maybe that's not the comparison a possible presidential contender really wants to evoke.


GREENFIELD: Now, it is one thing to have a last name that sounds like Osama and a middle name, Hussein, that is probably less than helpful. But an outfit that reminds people of a charter member of the axis of evil, why, this could leave his presidential hopes hanging by a thread. Or is that threads? -- Wolf.
How many ways can you count the stupidty of this. Is it the spending of that much air time to talk about clothes? Or is it the stupid analysis of what the clothes really really mean? Or how about my personal favorite, comparing the guy to every current FBI criminal terrarist poster that currently hangs in the nations post offices?

I think my head is going to explode.

Rehab Watch
Can you believe this guy. Here's Rummy when asked what he would have done different:
I don’t think I would have called it the war on terror. I don’t mean to be critical of those who have. Certainly, I have used the phrase frequently. Why do I say that? Because the word ‘war’ conjures up World War II more than it does the Cold War. It creates a level of expectation of victory and an ending within 30 or 60 minutes of a soap opera. It isn’t going to happen that way. Furthermore, it is not a ‘war on terror.’ Terror is a weapon of choice for extremists who are trying to destabilize regimes and (through) a small group of clerics, impose their dark vision on all the people they can control. So ‘war on terror’ is a problem for me.
For someone who didn't think the phrase was worthwhile he sure used it a lot. He also shaped policy more akin to WWII than the criminal enterprise he implies. The mendacity of this guy is unbelieveable. Hopefully there is a special place in the afterlife for someone this evil.
No Hurry
Really, take your time Bush. There's no need to interrupt your daily bike rides and early bedtimes:
RIYADH: A group of prominent Saudi clerics have called on Sunni Muslims around the world to mobilise against Shiites in Iraq, although a statement they issued fell short of calling for a jihad, or holy war.

The statement appearing on Saudi Islamist Web sites on Monday said Sunni Muslims were being murdered and marginalised by Shiites, backed by Iran, and the US-led forces.

Saudi Arabia, a bastion of Sunni Islam, backs the Shiite-dominated government of Nuri al-Maliki largely because it fears that sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites could lead to the break-up of its northern neighbour and spill over its borders.

“We direct this message to all concerned about Shiites in the world: the murder, torture and displacement of Sunnis ... is an outrage. We don’t think you would accept to be treated like this,” said the statement, dated Dec 7.

“Muslims must stand directly with our Sunni brothers in Iraq and support them by all appropriate, well-studied means ... Muslims generally should be made aware of the danger of the Shiites,” it said.

“Clerics and intellectuals should not stand hands folded over what’s happening to their Sunni brothers in Iraq; all occasions should be used to expose the Shiites’ practices ... What has been taken by force can only be got back by force.”

The statement was signed by 38 clerics and Islamic preachers, including Abdel-Rahman al-Barrak, Safar al-Hawali and Nasser al-Omar, leading figures of Saudi Arabia’s hardline school of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. Many Saudi clerics of the austere Wahhabi school of Sunni Islam dismiss Shiites as virtual heretics and the kingdom’s Shiites have long complained about second class treatment.

Populist preachers who regularly appear on Saudi state television did not sign the document, which repeated fears expressed by Jordan’s King Abdullah of a “Shiite crescent” stretching across the Middle East, as Iran allies with Shiites in the Arab world after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. reuters
Make no mistake. The Wahhabi's have a very very large say in Saudi Arabian politics. If this sentiment spreads further to the most mainstream Saudi Sunni's, there will be much larger problems.

Update: You gotta wonder if this is somehow related:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki al-Faisal, has abruptly resigned after 15 months on the job, an embassy official said on Tuesday.

"The embassy can confirm that he is leaving. He wants to spend more time with his family," said the official, who asked not to be named as the announcement had not been made by the Saudi government
Ahhhh the ubiqutious "spend more time with my family" resignation. It's reported that his brother is ill so it may be legit. But given the manuvering of the Saudi's, it's all up for scrutiny.