Saturday, December 16, 2006
Maybe it's because they're her sister's latest batch of grandkids. Maybe it's because duct tape's hard on the drywall. I coulda just gift-wrapped what I have on hand and saved us a trip, but nooo...
So over the mountains and through the woods to Carson City we did go. First to Costco, then to the exclusive boutique Tar-zhay*. Mission accomplished.
We left home in clear bright sunshine, but while we were gone the weather turned to shit. Did I mention that from Carson to my house, it's up 2500 feet, through a 7000'+ high pass down a thousand, up a thousand to another 7000'+ pass, and then down over a thousand feet in a final three-mile stretch of the steepest two lane state highway in California?
That last stretch was spent in 4-wheel-drive low gear coming down an icy mountain road with people who should have known better following too close. I didn't mind the Porsche Cayenne S too much because I'm sure he had good insurance, but I actually had to stick my arm out the window and wave "Back you people! Back, I say!" at the guy in the twenty-year-old 2WD crapcan. I flashed my brake lights at him and slid, so there wasn't going to be any stopping if an incident should occur. You can't always count on 'em sliding directly under your hitch receiver where they can't do much damage.
Go slow, leave lots of room between cars, don't touch the brakes. 4WD's for traction, not for speed. Leave earlier.
The Tacoma goes into 4WD with the click of a dash knob which I assume is hooked up to something under the truck. It's a far cry, but not removed so long in time it seems, from stopping, getting out, getting all wet, putting the hubs in, selecting "in" or "out" on one floor-mounted lever and "high" or "low" on another, and proceeding on your way in a rig with no heater to speak of, a shop rag for a defroster, cable-operated, or worse, vacuum windshield wipers, and maybe an AM radio. Good thing, too. I'm gettin' too old for that shit.
I'm very content at this stage of life to poke along at a safe pace in a comfortably heated cab with my favorite tunes coming out of the speakers, thank you.
It does seem, however, that when it took a little suffering to go places back in the old days, there was less traffic. It's probably just me.
And how did your day go?
I have no idea why this story was not on the front page of every newspaper and at the top of every newscast yesterday, but it wasn't. The story ran on only one front page, that I'm aware of. And that was on the paper that broke the story, the Wall Street Journal.
Yesterday the WSJ's defense correspondent, Gregg Jaffe, reported that US Army officials have told the White House they are broke. Worse than broke actually. The Army, despite its $168 billion budget, is out of money and being forced to cannibalize operations, here and in the war zone, just to keep the lights on. [emphasis in original]
I just sat there reading this with my jaw hanging open. My grandfather told me stories like this of the German Army, after Normandy and Stalingrad, after German manufacturing resources were bombed into oblivion and there was nothing left.
Seems the Chimp has reached that milestone without help of a conquering army. All he needed was Halliburton, KBR, and the other 'mercenary corporations' who've privatized everything the military used to do. They should all swing.
Read. The. Whole. Thing. and get really pissed.
Tip o' the Brain to Xan @ CorrenteWire.
Friday, December 15, 2006
What an amazing bloody catastrophe. The Bush administration's policy towards the Middle East over the five years since 9/11 is culminating in a multiple train crash. Never in the field of human conflict was so little achieved by so great a country at such vast expense. In every vital area of the wider Middle East, American policy over the last five years has taken a bad situation and made it worse.
... I'll go these warmongers one better. If Jonah Goldberg makes the attempt to enlist, so will I. I'll dust off my DD Form 214 and head down to the recruiters the same day. Regardless of the fact I already served this country for 8 years (6 active, 2 reserve), I'll go back if the man who said he'd serve (if he didn't have a family and a job) gave it his best shot...
Jonah's still sitting behind his keyboard, spewing horseshit. Today, Norbizness directs us to Dr. Cole's place where 'General' Goldberg made this prediction at about the same time I had enough of his whining about not enlisting to fight in the war he helped start:
Anyway, I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn't want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let's make a bet. I predict that Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I'll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there's another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I'm all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don't think it's right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I'll donate the money to the USO. He can give it to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is.
With that kind of intuition and judgment, he should be putting on his fouth star by now. All these idiots who read Tom Clancy and watch 24, but who've never served, knew everything. Keep your $1000, Jonah. It'll be a lot cheaper meeting me at the recruiting office.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
LONDON (AFP) - Prime Minister Tony Blair's government will hold a parliamentary debate on Britain's role in Iraq by the end of January, a cabinet member has said amid mounting pressure from war critics.
This oughta be good. Them Limeys say shit in their Parliament meetings that our pols would never have the balls to say.
The abrupt resignation of the Saudi ambassador to the United States and the postponement of George W. Bush's new Iraq policy speech mark a troubling new chapter for a U.S. strategy for the Middle East that continues to spiral toward catastrophe.
Two weeks earlier, Saudi King Abdullah summoned Vice President Dick Cheney to Riyadh to express the kingdom's displeasure with developments in Iraq, as the pro-Iranian Shiite majority gains the upper hand over the Sunni minority that dominated the country under Saddam Hussein.
The oil-rich Saudis, who represent the heart of Sunni power and influence in the Middle East, had long viewed a Sunni-led Iraq as a crucial buffer against the Shiite fundamentalists who gained control of Iran in 1979 by overthrowing the pro-U.S. Shah of Iran.
The Saudi royal family feared that Iran's austere fundamentalism could spread across the Middle East, radicalizing the Shiite populations and threatening the pampered lifestyles of the Persian Gulf's sheiks and princes. Iraq, with what was then the Arab world's strongest army, was positioned to stop that.
So, in 1980, the Saudis privately conveyed to Saddam Hussein what they claimed was a "green light" from U.S. President Jimmy Carter for Hussein to attack Iran, according to a "top secret" document that then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig used to brief President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
During the war, the Reagan administration tilted back and forth, secretly supplying weapons to both sides. CIA Director William Casey and other Reagan hard-liners privately relished how the two-sided policy let the Iraqis and Iranians kill each other while generating profits for favored arms suppliers.
But the war also created instability in the region that continues to play out to this day. Because of Iraq's war debts and Kuwait's demands for repayment, Saddam Hussein lashed out at what he saw as the Kuwaiti royal family's ingratitude, leading to his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the U.S.-led liberation of Kuwait in 1991.
But the U.S. occupation of Iraq set off a string of unintended consequences that disrupted the power balance in the region.
Since Iran had long sheltered Iraqi Shiite leaders, Iran's Islamic fundamentalist government emerged as a big winner, extending its influence across a Shiite crescent from Tehran through Iraq and Syria to southern Lebanon.
The Saudis were counted among the big losers, seeing their buffer against Iran disintegrate and their Iraqi Sunni brethren face political marginalization and ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Shiite-dominated security forces. Resisting this stark reversal of fortune, the Sunnis fought back with a determined insurgency.
The Saudis also watched with alarm as the staunchly pro-Israeli neocons who dominated the Bush administration persuaded Bush to give the Israelis a free hand in dealing with the Palestinians, who are predominantly Sunni. The killing of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank increased.
In other words, Bush is now confronting a region-wide crisis that largely resulted from the neocon strategy that he embraced in 2001. Instead of dealing narrowly with bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorists after the 9/11 attacks, Bush chose to invade Iraq and shake up the entire region.
But it now appears that Iraq was only one piece of a regional Rubik's Cube that Bush has turned and twisted with growing frustration, getting no closer to a solution and indeed making matters worse.
Way to go, Junior. If it wasn't as easy to solve Rubik's Cube as you thought it should have been, fuck it up so bad that no one else can either. Dipshit.
So, given this unfolding disaster, what are the lessons that should be learned and what might a genuine new course forward look like?
First, the American people should hold accountable everyone who advocated or enabled the Iraq War in 2002-03 - Democrats, Republicans, pundits and journalists whether they promoted the policy or just went with the flow.
Second, the U.S. press and politicians should cool the heated rhetoric about "terrorism" - and start using the word more precisely and less ideologically. The definition should be confined to intentional violence against civilians to achieve a political goal. Plus, the word should be applied evenhandedly, not as a propaganda weapon.
Third, the United States must recognize that the best way to help Israel is not always doing what the Israeli government and its influential backers demand.
Amen to that! At this point Mr. Parry goes off into cloud-cuckoo-land a little, to my way of thinking anyway, but it might work if it could happen. Go read.
Overall, the goal of this way forward would be to wind down the tensions and the hatreds, rather than ratcheting them up.
Granted, the prospects for such a peace initiative do not seem bright. It is especially hard to envision President Bush canning his tough talk in favor of peace talks.
But just as the prospects of the gallows are said to focus one's mind, it should be equally true that the likelihood of a political-military cataclysm in the oil-rich Middle East should convince Washington's policymakers to engage, finally, in some fresh thinking.
So the Saudis will back the Sunnis, and Iran will back the Shiites. So what? I think we saw a lot of that during the Cold War where the U.S. would back one side and the Soviet Union would back the other side in a whole series of "proxy wars".
The Sunnis and Shia have wanted to have it out for 1300 years. Saddam kept the lid on it, but Bush, in his infinite stupidity, gave them the 'freedom' to kill each other to their hearts' content, which is what they are doing as we speak.
And our troops are smack-dab in the middle of it.
We either gotta come down on it like a big fuckin' hammer, or get the fuck out of the way.
Bush has squandered every resource we had, from the military to public opinion, to do the former. Invading Iraq was a bad idea to begin with, and then he fucked it all up from there.
That leaves my latter option. There is no possible end result that will be good for anybody, but it's going to happen sooner or later. Hell, it's happening now, thank you Junior. Let's get the Hell out of there and leave 'em to it. We can come back later and buy our oil from the winner.
The reason we're seeing cases of e coli pop up related to various produce isn't rocket science. E coli exists in poop and the intestines of livestock. Actually,it's not confined to just pigs and cows,but for the sake of this discussion,those two critters are the source of the problem. Actually,it's the WAY THEY ARE FARMED that's the REAL issue here.
What's happening is that the poop from these animals in factory farms is running off into the irrigation water supply. So,when the veggie farm down the road from the cow farm sprays that water on their veggies,voila! you have contamination. It is that simple. There has been some implication in the media that it's the fault of those dirty migrant farm workers. Um,nooo,it's not.
The good news is that this can be fixed. The bad news is that the industries involved have a heavy lobbying presence in Washington DC,and our federal government keeps cutting the number of inspectors,and keeps crafting legislation with zero teeth to make industry shape up.
How to fix it? Here's my take:
1)Compost the poop. Yes,that's right. The process of composting heats up the poop(or any other organic matter one chooses to compost)to the temp that it kills harmful bacteria. People will pay good money for good compost too,so it can turn a profit.
2)Limit the number of animals that can live on an acre of ground at any given moment. This allows the land itself to take care of la poop,Mother Nature is quite wise in how she handles such things. Combine that with a simple composting operation and I'd betcha this e coli problem would drop dramatically.
3)Stop allowing agribusiness to make it's own rules for operation. This is a problem in DC,and not just with agribusiness,as we know. Time after time,big bidness has proven it will NOT do the right thing when no one is looking. They have had more than enough chances to clean up their act. Like a child who is not ready to be on their own,we,via our government will need to take back the reigns of control. It might be worth our while to write passionate and well thought out letters to Speaker Pelosi about this,as well as Senate Majority Leader Reid. We need to bug the fuck out of them until this is addressed,and it needs to be framed as a Security issue,not just as a public health crisis.
4)Require testing of irrigation water sources regularly. That means we'll need more inspectors and more inforcement of simple health considerations. The cost of this is much less than food suppliers having to settle multiple lawsuits related to food poisoning.
5)Ultimately,there is going to have to be a movement back to individual communities providing much of their own food. This movement needs to happen quietly and with a purpose. Big bidness can,has,and will try to stop this,make no mistake about it. Communities will have to be innovative,creative and fiercely defensive of these moves to regain control,but it can be done. There is a myth that commerical farming practices are more efficient,which is crap. Monoplanting corn,soybeans,grains,and other crops is not the answer. If it were,there would be no hunger problem.
6)Here's some reliable resources you can consult if this topic interests you:
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
Hope's Edge by Anna and Frances Moore Lappe'
Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe'
The Rodale Book of Composting by Rodale Press
World Hunger: 12 Myths by Francis Moore Lappe',Joseph Collins and Peter Rosset
Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe' and Bryant Terry
Rats in the Grain: The Dirty Tricks of Archer Daniels Midland,Supermarket to the World by James Lieber
The Informant: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald
Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food
PBS Frontline: Modern Meat
And that's my short list. I have errands to handle today,if there's an interest,I'll post some links to online resources later today by updating this post. This issue is a passion of mine,but alot of people roll their eyes and shut down when I bring it up.
Lastly,if there is ever a crisis,where the grid goes down in parts of the country or some weather related disaster or natural disaster(or a man made one)happens,people in this country,even affluent folks ,WILL starve because so few people have the slightest clue about how to grow,store and prepare their food properly. Big cities are the most vulnerable places. This doesn't have to happen,but Americans need to stop being so fucking lazy and clueless. As I said,this is a matter of national security and should be treated as such.
...OK...here's the deal... if you don't have the balls to say...send every ship, plane, truck, helicopter and bicycle over there, load our kids up...and get them the fuck outta there...then FUCK YOU!
Simple, easy to understand and fuck the Saudis. Lata ...
WASHINGTON - Lettuce was the most likely source of an outbreak of E. coli linked to Taco Bell, federal health officials said Wednesday.
Taco Bell had said contaminated green onions were responsible for the cases of food poisoning - 71 confirmed cases of E. coli in five states, primarily New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, as of Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the people who are supposedly 'keepin' us safer', how is it we can't secure our food supply, let alone figure out exactly how people are being poisioned? Does any government agency do a compentent job anymore? This is what happens when you reward brown-nosing ideologues instead of competent administrators and managers.
Personally, I don't like when somebody designates me a target, and they do because the Devil will be wearing an overcoat before I 'come to Jesus'. If you want your ass 'Left Behind' I can arrange that as well. Many years ago, my dad nearly sent two Jehovah's Witnesses forth with his riding lawnmower (funny as hell to watch as he chased them around the yard). I believe in upholding family traditions.
I'm tired of people being able to say and do whatever they want because they're doing it in 'Jesus' name'. Fuck you all and keep your mystical bullshit away from me. And just a note to Wal-Mart, who's hawking this drivel. You refuse stock my books because of the sex scenes, yet you actively promote this bullshit? Even if you suddenly decided to stock 10 copies of each of my books, I'd tell you to go fuck yourselves at this point. After this, I wouldn't want to be associated with you in any way.
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) has apparently suffered a mild stroke, according to various news sources.
Political Wire's "Insider" blog reports that Johnson "is speaking and is expected to be fine," with more news upcoming.[..] (T)he office did issue the following statement to the press:
Listen to me. I might sound cold and shit, but this is far more important than one man. I don't care if they have to shove a pole up his ass and have strings making his lips move, his ass better be on the Senate Floor come Jan 4. Even if he drops dead tomorrow, they'd better pull a Weekend at Bernie's come January. Times are too critical to give the Rethugs an inch and as long as Cheney can cast the tiebraker, I want a majority, slim as it is. Hope he feels better but right now I'm concerned about our nation a little bit more.
And Wordsmith called me crass in comments? Heh ...
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
And they give ya cash, which is almost as good as money.
But we know Yogi and deep down we know, Yogi gets it. And then we have our President:
You never know what your history is going to be like until long after you're gone.
And you realize that he doesn't. But then, Yogi never wanted to be President.
Holden's thinking along the same lines today too.
WASHINGTON - History's view of George W. Bush will be harsh, Americans predict.
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, a 54% majority says Bush will be judged as a below-average or poor president, more than double the negative rating given any of his five most recent predecessors.
And for the icing on the cake:
Rated most highly: Ronald Reagan, seen as outstanding or above average by 64%, below average or poor by 10%.
Bill Clinton ranks second; 45% say he will go down in history as an outstanding or above-average president. He is followed by Jimmy Carter, the elder Bush and Gerald Ford. [my ems]
As someone said the other day - sorry but I forget who - the descendants of James K. Polk are grateful to the Chimp. Their forebear is no longer the worst President in U.S. history.
Tip o' the Brain to Maru for the link.
Good reading at Digby's, who posits that McCain is praying the Chimp doesn't actually take his advice.
See yas lata ...
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Try to mend Iraq all you want; just don't tell Bush the war was a mistake.
There is a famous "Twilight Zone" episode about a little boy in a small town who has fantastical powers. Through the misuse of his powers, the little boy has ruined the lives of everybody in the town - for instance, teleporting them into a cornfield, or summoning a snowstorm that destroys their crops. Because anyone who thinks an unhappy thought will be banished, the adults around him can do nothing but cheerfully praise his decisions while they try to nudge him in a less destructive direction.
This episode kept popping into my head when I was reading about President Bush and the Baker-Hamilton commission. Bush is the president of the United States, which therefore gives him enormous power, but he is treated by everybody around him as if he were a child.
Indeed, everybody seems to understand that if you want to help amend the disaster in Iraq, the No. 1 rule is that you can't acknowledge it's a disaster in Bush's presence. Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes, the court stenographer of the Bush administration, recently reported that this was a key factor in the hiring of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Now, I would bet every dollar I own that Gates thinks the war was a mistake. But you can't say that to Bush. "Before hiring him," Barnes wrote, "Bush had to make sure Gates didn't think America's intervention in Iraq was a mistake."
Yes, Mr. President, it's good that you turned Iraq into a Hobbesian inferno of Al Qaeda terrorists and Islamist death squads. It's really, really good!
Please let me treat him like a child for a few minutes. He wouldn't be able to do any more damage standing in the corner (or chained to a radiator) with a sore behind.
I have "the patch",and I must say,it's not HELPING. So far this morning I've yelled at my son,threw a slipper at the cats and started crying because there was no hot water in the shower. And it's only 8:30 in the morning. This could get ugly.
I have to quit,I promised my son. And it's effecting my health. I've been smoking for most of the last 30 years. The only times I've quit was during my two pregnancies and a little while after the kids were born.(I know,why I started up after not smoking for at least a year,twice,is just plain stupid)
And just to make it interesting,I've given up coffee and soda too. Because having them triggers my urge to smoke. Coffee and cigs has been one of my food groups for so long I'm not sure what the hell I'm gonna find to replace them.(and please,no mind in the gutter suggestions,my husband has covered that territory already,thank you very much. I then threw my other slipper at him.) I suppose there's plenty of crap around here to do to keep me occupied,but it still sucks.
So,if you've quit smoking and never looked back,share something helpful. Please. I beg of you. Otherwise there could be film of me on CNN taking a chainsaw to my house or something.
A military watchdog group is asking the Defense Department to investigate whether seven Army and Air Force officers violated regulations by appearing in uniform in a promotional video for an evangelical Christian organization.
"I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate," Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. says in the video. "And I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is, and I start with the fact that I'm an old-fashioned American, and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am."
These bible-thumping morons should not be allowed to lead our servicepeople. When some genius says he puts God before country, it means he believes the lives of his troops are expendable and 'God' will see to their souls once their lives are squandered. I don't want Jesus freaks like this being in charge of some of the most dangerous weaponry ever devised by man.
Too many people have gone to war because they believed it was 'God's will'. I'll tell you something, the Nazis thought God was on their side too. I don't want an army of 'christian soldiers' who someday may decide their loyalty to some dusty old holy book is stronger than their loyalty to their commander-in-chief. These guys should be cashiered faster than Gen Shinseki was after he testified before Congress.
Tip o' the Brain to C & L.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Look, it's very simple. There are two Christmas holidays. One is the secular holiday, decreed by the federal government to be a national holiday, which is celebrated and marked with festive displays of trees, lights, fat guys with beards, and elves, along with lots of shopping and the giving of gifts. The other holiday involves a celebration of the birth of the Messiah, and is celebrated with religious rituals and displays of nativity scenes and other religious imagery.
Public displays of secular Christmas imagery? fine.
Public displays of religious Christmas imagery? less fine.
Christmas trees in airports? fine.
Baby Jesus scenes in airports? less fine.
Short, sweet, and it works for me.
As U.S. policy in the oil-rich region spins out of control, the stark choice confronting the American people will be whether the country can stand two more years of this or whether it's time for Bush to go.
George W. Bush had a point when he disparaged the Baker-Hamilton commission's plan for gradual troop withdrawals from Iraq by saying "this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it whatsoever." It's now obvious that there can be no exit from Iraq -- graceful or otherwise -- as long as Bush remains President.
And, oh yes, the Iraq War was not started by Islamic militants who hate peace but by George W. Bush.
In other words, Bush still insists on living in a world of ideology and made-up facts, not one of reality and pragmatism. Bush has fixed in his mind what his neoconservative advisers sold him on in 2001 -- and he can't break with that.
Bush appears not to have budged one inch from his longstanding hostility toward any questioning of his war judgments. He is determined to keep U.S. troops in Iraq regardless of the will of the American people or anyone else.
So, given Bush's rhetoric and actions, there is little reason to believe that he intends to reverse course. If anything, he will continue toying with notions about expanding the conflict by bombing Iran's nuclear facilities or seeking escalation of political confrontations with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
That means that by 2009, whoever becomes the next President will face a likely conflagration in the Middle East, with the real possibility that Bush will have enflamed Islamic radicalism so much that the region's few pro-U.S. pillars -- such as the Saudi royal family or the Egyptian dictatorship -- will be tottering if not already fallen.
Disruptions of Middle East oil supplies could wreak havoc on the U.S. and world economies. Plus, Bush might end up precipitating just the grim vision that he has long articulated -- an interminable world war pitting the West against large segments of the planet's one billion Muslims.
Faced with this looming catastrophe, the congressional Democrats may have no choice but to reconsider what incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others have ruled "off the table," the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Indeed, Bush's cavalier dismissal of the key Baker-Hamilton recommendations creates a possible framework for a bipartisan impeachment effort.
A less confrontational approach could be Republican and Democratic pressure on Bush and Cheney to agree to sequential resignations, replacing Cheney first with a new Vice President who would then assume the presidency upon Bush's resignation.
As unlikely -- and extreme -- as these scenarios may sound, the future of the American Republic may demand nothing less.
If Bush cannot come to grips with reality -- and adopt a less ideological approach toward the Middle East -- there may be no realistic choice but for the American people and their elected representatives to make clear that it's time for him to go.
If our country is to have any future, it depends on Bush and Cheney departing. The earlier the better. I think it would help our world standing immensely if we chucked 'em out the door and got someone - anyone - who has at least some idea of reality.
Iraqis Near Deal on Distribution of Oil Revenues Among Three Groups
Earnings would be divided equally among ExxonMobil, British Petroleum and Shell.
Descendants of James K. Polk Thank Bush
Because of him, their forebear's no longer considered worst president.
Go see "The War President's Score Card", bottom of Page One.
In America we like quick fixes, closure and an uplifting show. Such were the high hopes for the Iraq Study Group, and on one of the three it delivered.
Mr. Simpson notwithstanding, the former senator who most comes to mind is Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York. In the early 1990's he famously coined the phrase "defining deviancy down" to describe the erosion of civic standards for what constitutes criminal behavior. In 2006, our governmental ailment is defining reality down. "The Way Forward" is its apotheosis.
This syndrome begins at the top, with the president, who has cut and run from reality in Iraq for nearly four years. His case is extreme but hardly unique. Take Robert Gates, the next defense secretary, who was hailed as a paragon of realism by Washington last week simply for agreeing with his Senate questioners that we're "not winning" in Iraq. While that may be a step closer to candor than Mr. Bush's "absolutely, we're winning" of late October, it's hardly the whole truth and nothing but. The actual reality is that we have lost in Iraq (my em).
That's what Donald Rumsfeld at long last acknowledged, between the lines, as he fled the Pentagon to make way for Mr. Gates. The most revealing passage in his parting memo listing possible options for the war was his suggestion that public expectations for success be downsized so we would "therefore not 'lose.' " By putting the word lose in quotes, Mr. Rumsfeld revealed his hand: the administration must not utter that L word even though lose is exactly what we've done. The illusion of not losing must be preserved no matter what the price in blood (mine).
The lesson in that is clear and sobering: As bad as things may seem now, they can yet become worse, and not just in Iraq. The longer we pretend that we have not lost there, the more we risk losing other wars we still may salvage, starting with Afghanistan.
The members of the Iraq Study Group are all good Americans of proven service to their country. But to the extent that their report forestalls reality and promotes pipe dreams of one last chance for success in this fiasco, it will be remembered as just one more delusional milestone in the tragedy of our age.
I have nothing to add. Mr. Rich got it dead nuts. Please read the rest.
Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers. Bleu Copas, 30, was a decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist who was dismissed from the U.S. Army this July for being gay. But he was closeted and was outed by an unidentified email campaign and it was never proven. According to Andrew Sullivan the number of gay discharged Arab language specialists is now 55.
At this desperate stage you'd think, regardless of the belief that gays somehow can't serve in the military (I've got news for you, the gays I served with acquitted themselves honorably and with distinction), pragmatism might prevail. But no, we stubbornly hold our ground, even when having some of these folks on the ground might help the situation there (or might have if, instead of purging these people from the ranks a few years back, we'd have used their expertise to actually win some hearts and minds).
You know, I was thinking (a first!) last night. Bush was handed such an opportunity in 2001 to use the tragedy of 9/11 to do some good in the world. Remember back then, when 'everybody was an American'? We could have come so far in five years but instead we've fallen so low. It's this closed-minded thinking, not just on the part of the people in charge but of average Americans, that brought us to this point. It's time we grew up.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
That places the president in a distinct minority. According to the NEWSWEEK poll, more than two out of three Americans believe the United States is losing ground in Iraq (68 percent), versus 21 percent who say it is making progress - the most pessimistic assessment the NEWSWEEK poll has ever recorded. A near-record 53 percent believe invading Iraq was a mistake, compared to 39 percent who say it was the right course of action.
In fact, the public goes farther than the Baker-Hamilton report. Sixty-two percent of Americans want the Bush administration to set a timetable for withdrawal. And not in the distant future. Forty-eight percent of Americans want U.S. soldiers and Marines to come home now or within the next year. Add in the 19 percent who say they would support U.S. troops remaining in Iraq one to two years more and 67 percent of Americans say they would support keeping large numbers of U.S. military personnel in Iraq for no more than another year or two. [my ems]
The public knows Iraq is lost and no matter what that schmuck McCain says, most of the weasels on Capitol Hill know it too. It's just a matter of getting our guys out in an orderly fashion so they're not running for their lives.
Commander Huber cuts to the chase as usual:
I've got news for Gates and everybody else who has their head cross-threaded up a place that sunshine seldom penetrates: when history's mightiest nation isn't winning a war nearly four years into it, it's losing.
WHILE THE Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever-pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence.
Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves." The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what the United States should do to secure those reserves. If the proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be commercialized and opened to foreign firms.
The report makes visible to everyone the elephant in the room: that we are fighting, killing and dying in a war for oil. It states in plain language that the U.S. government should use every tool at its disposal to ensure that American oil interests and those of its corporations are met.
All told, the Iraq Study Group has simply made the case for extending the war until foreign oil companies - presumably American ones - have guaranteed legal access to all of Iraq's oil fields and until they are assured the best legal and financial terms possible.
We can thank the Iraq Study Group for making its case publicly. It is now our turn to decide if we wish to spill more blood for oil.
We knew it all along. Now it's in writing.
Blood for oil: it's the American Way.
Ha, I thought at the time, aren't these Republican lawmakers incompetent. These guys are given enormous responsibilities to understand the challenges we face in the Middle East, and they aren't even sure about the basics, such as what faith al Qaeda is. Just wait, I thought, until Dems get in there and show them what competency looks like.
Perhaps I was a little hasty.
Stein sat down with Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), soon to be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and started asking him some of the same basic questions Republicans got wrong a couple of months ago. It didn't go well.
Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?
'"Al Qaeda, they have both," Reyes said. "You're talking about predominately?"
"Sure," I said, not knowing what else to say.
"Predominantly - probably Shiite," he ventured.
He couldn't have been more wrong.
Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they'd slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.
Asked later about Hezbollah, Reyes said, "Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah... Well, I, uh..."
Now, it's worth noting that Reyes wasn't completely lost. Stein noted that Reyes, unlike the House Republicans he talked to a couple of months ago, "knows that the 1,400-year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia." The GOP didn't even know this much, so Reyes is a little better off.
But in the end, he was still shaky on some pretty basic details. When the typical person on the street doesn't know about al Qaeda's or Hezbollah's beliefs, he or she can be forgiven. When the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee doesn't know, one has to wonder what members of Congress have been doing the last four years.
Before I got into blogging, I thought I was pretty well informed about what went on in government. I was under the impression, since most of our elected representatives had much more formal education than I did, that the people we sent to Washington were intelligent, curious people who would do research on subjects they were involved with, subjects they are expected to vote for the good of the nation on.
Shit, I was a babe in the woods.
I think many of the American people share my former misconceptions. Most of the people we put in government are clueless ignorants who couldn't find their ass with both hands tied behind their backs. Let's just hope the incoming bunch is smart enough to listen to real experts instead of ideologues.