September 23, 2007

Not Our Kind, Dear

Dianne Feinstein -- Symbol of the Worthless Beltway Democrat
Glenn Greenwald

Most of these political officials who feed off of Washington year after year become appendages of it and vigorous defenders of nothing other than the Beltway system. They are drained of all belief, conviction and passion. And in Feinstein's case, it is particularly easy to understand why this is so. Her current husband, Richard Blum, is an extremely rich defense contractor whose companies have endless relationships with the work Feinstein does in the Senate. It is entirely unsurprising that Feinstein's affection is reserved for officials in the intelligence and defense communities because those are her social peers, the individuals with whom her husband interacts professionally and socially and with whom she most identifies.

More than anything else, Feinstein worships at the altar of the Beltway power system and its most revered members. Conversely, she has contempt for the liberal base which elects her and the constituents she represents. She long ago ceased being driven by the political values which serve as props for her campaigns, if she was ever driven by them. And that is the story of so many of the Beltway Democrats.

It really is one of the most extraordinary -- and downright embarrassing -- political facts that more Republicans than Democrats approve of the 2007 Democratic Congress. And why wouldn't they? The Democratic Congress has not restrained the Leader at all, but has done much to support and empower him. The Democratic Congress -- especially the Senate -- is controlled by the likes of Dianne Feinstein, and what Bush supporter wouldn't be satisfied with the role she is playing?

There are absolutely members of Congress who are ardent defenders of our basic Constitutional liberties and who are genuine opponents of the Bush administration. But the record of Congress leaves no doubt that they are wildly outnumbered.

It isn't only -- or even principally -- the "Blue Dogs" which make the "Democratic Congress" nothing but an enabling instrument of the Bush White House and its right-wing policies. Far worse are the establishment-defending, soul-less, belief-less, self-perpetuating "liberal Senators" like Feinstein who render the concept of "opposition party" nothing more than a deceitful illusion. Dianne Feinstein is the drained and Bush-enabling face of the 2007 Democratic Congress.

Follow the Money

CEOs, Bush Rangers Rebuff Republicans on War, Widening Deficit

By Michael Janofsky
Enlarge Image/Details

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Dozens of corporate executives who backed President George W. Bush for re-election in 2004, including some of his top fund-raisers, are now helping Democrats running for president.

John Mack, chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., and Terry Semel, chairman of Yahoo! Inc., are among some 60 executives writing checks to Democrats such as Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, a review of U.S. Federal Election Commission records shows.

While the vast majority of business leaders still back Republicans for 2008, the stature of some of those donating to Democrats suggests that support may be eroding, seven years into the Bush presidency. Some executives expressed concern over Republican positions on issues ranging from the war in Iraq and stem-cell research to global warming and the fiscal deficit.

The shift in political-spending patterns is ``very unusual,'' says Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a Washington-based group that advocates campaign-finance reform.

``Normally, if you have dissatisfaction with the administration, you figure out who in your own party you'll support in the next election,'' he says. ``You don't look at other parties.''

The Democratic victory in last November's congressional elections may have also sparked greater interest in the party. ``Money tends to follow people who have power,'' Wertheimer says.

The unfortunate thing is that the Dems have chosen not to do anything with that power. They are slightly leftier corporatists than the Repubs.

The Albatross

Analysis: Bush Unwelcome on the Trail

Associated Press Writer

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) -- Republican presidential candidates can't be any more clear: President Bush isn't welcome on the campaign trail.

Competing to succeed him, top GOP candidates Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson and John McCain barely utter Bush's name. They essentially ignore the lame-duck president, or give him only passing credit, as they rail against the status quo and promise to fix problems he hasn't solved.

"We all know Americans want change," said McCain, an Arizona senator, explaining the aversion to aligning with Bush. "I give him credit for a number of things but I think the fact is Americans are turning the page, including our Republican primary voters."

The candidates are walking a fine line. They are trying to tap into the deep discontent those voters feel about the state of the country without alienating any who hold Bush in high regard. At the same time, they have to counter the Democrats' powerful arguments for a new direction.

How candidates handle the 800-pound elephant in the room now could have implications beyond the primary. Privately, Republican strategists agree their nominee will lose next fall if the general election is a referendum on Bush. They say GOP candidates are wise to distance themselves from the president now, given his unpopularity among the public at large.

Bush holds the opposite view.

Asked last week whether he is an asset or a liability for Republican candidates, Bush replied: "Strong asset."

To be sure, none of the candidates want to be attached to Bush's legacy, afraid that doing so will make them sitting ducks for Democrats.

Who can blame them?

Live with it, GOP. Some of us could see that this guy was going to be a disaster as far back as 1998. If you couldn't see it and you nominated him twice, shame on you.

Bush 4Evah

More Profit and Less Nursing at Many Homes
Skip to next paragraph

Analyzing the Data

For this article, The New York Times analyzed trends at nursing homes purchased by private investment groups by examining data available from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Times examined more than 1,200 nursing homes purchased by large private investment groups since 2000, and more than 14,000 other homes. The analysis compared investor-owned homes against national averages in multiple categories, including complaints received by regulators, health and safety violations cited by regulators, fines levied by state and federal authorities, the performance of homes as reported in a national database known as the Minimum Data Set Repository and the performance of homes as reported in the Online Survey, Certification and Reporting database.

Habana Health Care Center, a 150-bed nursing home in Tampa, Fla., was struggling when a group of large private investment firms purchased it and 48 other nursing homes in 2002.

The facility’s managers quickly cut costs. Within months, the number of clinical registered nurses at the home was half what it had been a year earlier, records collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicate. Budgets for nursing supplies, resident activities and other services also fell, according to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.

The investors and operators were soon earning millions of dollars a year from their 49 homes.

Residents fared less well. Over three years, 15 at Habana died from what their families contend was negligent care in lawsuits filed in state court. Regulators repeatedly warned the home that staff levels were below mandatory minimums. When regulators visited, they found malfunctioning fire doors, unhygienic kitchens and a resident using a leg brace that was broken.

“They’ve created a hellhole,” said Vivian Hewitt, who sued Habana in 2004 when her mother died after a large bedsore became infected by feces.

Habana is one of thousands of nursing homes across the nation that large Wall Street investment companies have bought or agreed to acquire in recent years.

Those investors include prominent private equity firms like Warburg Pincus and the Carlyle Group, better known for buying companies like Dunkin’ Donuts.

As such investors have acquired nursing homes, they have often reduced costs, increased profits and quickly resold facilities for significant gains.

But by many regulatory benchmarks, residents at those nursing homes are worse off, on average, than they were under previous owners, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data collected by government agencies from 2000 to 2006.

The Times analysis shows that, as at Habana, managers at many other nursing homes acquired by large private investors have cut expenses and staff, sometimes below minimum legal requirements.

Regulators say residents at these homes have suffered. At facilities owned by private investment firms, residents on average have fared more poorly than occupants of other homes in common problems like depression, loss of mobility and loss of ability to dress and bathe themselves, according to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The typical nursing home acquired by a large investment company before 2006 scored worse than national rates in 12 of 14 indicators that regulators use to track ailments of long-term residents. Those ailments include bedsores and easily preventable infections, as well as the need to be restrained. Before they were acquired by private investors, many of those homes scored at or above national averages in similar measurements.

In the past, residents’ families often responded to such declines in care by suing, and regulators levied heavy fines against nursing home chains where understaffing led to lapses in care.

But private investment companies have made it very difficult for plaintiffs to succeed in court and for regulators to levy chainwide fines by creating complex corporate structures that obscure who controls their nursing homes.

By contrast, publicly owned nursing home chains are essentially required to disclose who controls their facilities in securities filings and other regulatory documents.

This isn't something which is happening "out there" and it isn't particularly new. In 1986, my exhusband and I went looking for a nursing facility for his mother, who had untreatable brain cancer and couldn't care for herself. Finding a facility that was Medicare eligible that didn't reek of urine, that had sufficient staff on the floor who didn't steal the residents' belongings, where my late ex-mother in law could feel relatively safe and be cared for appropriately was an incredible struggle. We were doing it from 3,000 miles away to further complicate the situation. We eventually found a place that was cheerful and competant so she could spend the last months of her life in some dignity.

I've volunteered at some of the facilities around here. They aren't nearly as nice and many times more expensive. Ya know, one of these days it could be us in one of these facilities. We are going to be dogged by the Bush legacy right up until our dying day.

September 22, 2007

Mugged by Reality

Steve Benen nails it:

I think there's a pattern here for conservatives and their social attitudes. They don't mind restrictions on free speech, until they have something provocative to say. They want to restrict reproductive rights, until someone close to them has an unwanted pregnancy. They want to break down the church-state wall, until they feel like their faith is in the minority. They want to treat embryos as people, until they suffer from an ailment that could benefit from stem-cell research.

And they balk at the idea of equal rights for gay people, until it's their daughter who is looking for equality.

The key to social change in this country seems fairly straightforward: wait for conservatives to have more life experience.

Isn't the old saw that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged? It appears that a liberal is a conservative who has been mugged by reality.

From the Peloponnese

I have spent literally weeks trying to replicate the avgolemono soup at this place. I used to work around the corner, ate it three times a week and was the only person in my office who didn't come down with colds and flu the winter I worked there. Greek penicillin, indeed. Here is a quicky you can make for lunch in the breakroom at your cubicle farm, all you need is a fridge and a microwave.

Breakroom Greek Egg Lemon Soup
for 1

Start with a one serving microwave bowl size Campbell's Select "Savory Chicken and Long Grain Rice," it's on the soup aisle of your grocery store. Buy a bunch when they go on sale, which is about once a month.

Keep in the breakroom fridge a carton of whites only egg replacer and one of those little lemon shaped lemon juice containers (the egg replacer will last a week-ten days.) Most commercial/breakroom mikes are a thousand watts. Adjust the timing if the one in your breakroom is smaller.

Using the directions on the can, nuke it for one minute. Remove the can from the oven, let cool for a few seconds, and slurp up a couple of tablespoons full. In a separate container, mix a couple of tablespoons of the egg replacer with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, temper the mixture with some of the hot soup and then add it back into the soup can. Recover with the plastic cover and nuke for another 60 seconds. Bingo, instant avgolemono. Not, it ain't as good as the Greek Deli, but I don't work near there anymore and yer werks wid whut yer gots.

If you have a Greek Orthodox church near you, make a point of going to their annual fair. It's usually in the spring around Orthodox easter and is their major fundraiser each year. Prepare to spend very little money getting stuffed with great food by those Greek home cooks. I have a number of Greek girlfriends. I always go out for dinner with them rather than invite them over. They intimidate the hell of out me.

Here's the classic recipe the way your grandma would have made it (if she were Greek.) This will serve 8 as a first course (be thinking Easter stuffed, butterflied leg of lamb.)

1 (3 pound) free range chicken
12 cups cold water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 leek, cleaned and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
2/3 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Juilienned parsley leaves (no stems, please)

In a 6 to 8-quart stockpot, combine the chicken, water, and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; immediately reduce the heat to a very low simmer, and skim the foam from the surface. Add the leek, carrot, and bay leaves and continue to simmer with the chicken until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove chicken from the broth, and allow meat to cool. Strain the broth and skim the fat. (Place the broth in the refrigerator to make it easier to skim.)

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Dice the meat into large cubes; refrigerate until ready to use.

Return the broth to high heat, add the rice and onion and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the chicken and reduce the broth to a low simmer.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the lemon juice, eggs, and pepper. Ladle 2 cups of hot broth into a measuring cup with a pourable spout. While whisking, slowly pour the 2 cups of broth into the egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Stir well to blend. Divide among bowls and serve immediately. Top with finely chopped parsley.

In some families, orzo is preferred to rice. You get to choose.

Saturday Night Supper

This is an old favorite, a Roman classic. But when you are inviting your friends to dinner, call it by its Italian name. "Pasta with Ham and Peas" doesn't sound like much and doesn't hint at what a delightfully rich dish it is. Well, "turkey tetrazini" has a bad reputation, too, but can be delicious in the right hands. "Straw and Hay" refers to the two colors of the pasta. This is another of those recipes which is more a method than a chemistry set: work with your own substitutions. Use very thinly sliced and juilienned smoked salmon instead of the prosciutto for a completely different experience.

Pasta Paglia e Fieno
"Staw and Hay"
Serves 4 as a first course, 2 as a main course

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely minced onion
4 ounces prosciutto, julienned very fine or shredded fine by hand
1 cup heavy cream
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh peas
6 ounces fresh egg fettuccine
6 ounces fresh spinach fettuccine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

In a large stockpot, bring salted water to a rapid boil.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter. When the butter is melted, add the onions and saute until translucent, but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the prosciutto and cook 1 more minute, stirring. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce is just thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Add the peas and remove from the heat.

Cook the pasta to al dente. Return the sauce to the heat. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss well and season with salt and pepper. Finish with parmesan and more cracked black pepper.

If fresh peas are out of season, use frozen "petit pois," the baby ones. They are so much more tender than the frozen adult peas.

If you can make your pasta from scratch on the day you are going to serve this, so much the better, but even the ordinary grocery stores are now carrying pretty good fresh pasta in the dairy cases. That said, if you have the time, make your own. It will be a revelation and you will be so proud that it came out of your own kitchen and from your own two hands. Make extra, dust it with flour and let it air dry overnight before turning it into a ziploc bag and freezing it. Hint: I don't have a "pasta drying rack" and don't have room for one. I use my clothes drying rack (I have a $5.99 plastic job from Bed, Bath and Beyond, I think) over the powder room sink to keep the cat away from it. I quadruple the pasta recipe so that I always have two or three dinners for two in the freezer.

I happen to love this with fettucinne noodles, but if what you've got in the cupboard is two flavors of spaghetti (jerusalem artichoke and plain spaghetti, or colored pinwheels and plain) go with that. The shapes need to be of the same size and thickness so that they will be done at the same time. Pennsylvania Dutch Egg noodles work fine, too. Use the broad ones to get the most of the slurpy sauce.

Abandoned in the Gulf

Lingering Depression Adds To Katrina's Toll in Gulf

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 22, 2007; A01

NEW ORLEANS -- A gravel-voiced fire department captain, Michael Gowland says he had never been a big crier.

"I'm not a Neanderthal," he said last week, "but I wasn't much for tears."

Now, sometimes, he cries two or three hours at a stretch. Other times, his temper has exploded, prompting him one day to pick up a crescent wrench and chase an auto mechanic around a garage. Even more perplexing to him, the once devout Roman Catholic now wonders "if there's anything out there."

"If anyone had told me before that depression could bring me this low, I'd have said they were a phony," Gowland, 46, married and a father of three, said during a break from fixing his flooded home. "Everything bothers me."

More than two years after the storm, it is not Hurricane Katrina itself, but the persistent frustrations of the delayed recovery that are exacting a high psychological toll on people who never before had such troubles, psychiatrists and a major study say. A burst of adrenaline and hope propelled many here through the first months but, with so many neighborhoods still semi-deserted, inspiration has ended.

Calls to a mental health hotline jumped after the storm and have remained high, organizers said. Psychiatrists report being overbooked, at least partly because demand has spiked. And the most thorough survey of the Gulf Coast's mental health recently showed that while signs of depression and other ills doubled after the hurricane, two years later, those levels have not subsided, they have risen.

"It's really stunning in juxtaposition to what these kinds of surveys have shown after other disasters, or after people have been raped or mugged," said Ronald C. Kessler, a professor of health-care policy at Harvard Medical School, who led the study. Typically, "people have a lot of trouble the first night and the first month afterward. Then you see a lot of improvement."

But in New Orleans the percentage of people reporting signs of severe mental illness, suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder increased between March 2006 and the summer of 2007, the survey showed.

"A lot of people had this expectation in New Orleans that, 'Dammit, by next Mardis Gras we're going to be back' . . . and then they weren't," Kessler said. "Then they said, 'By next year we'll be back' and they weren't. We're in this stage of where there are a lot of people just kind of giving up."

Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose wrote about his own depression in a widely discussed newspaper article published in October and then in his recent book, "1 Dead in Attic." The article struck a chord.

"I probably amassed 3,000 e-mails from people who felt like me," Rose said. "Now they come up to me in the grocery store and tell me what meds they're on. I say, 'congratulations.' "
"If you've lost your job, you've lost your house and you've lost your friends -- well, you ought to be depressed, man, or else you're out of touch with reality," said psychiatrist Elmore Rigamer, the medical director for Catholic Charities in New Orleans, which runs five city mental health clinics.

"What we can do for these folks is to make them understand that they're not crazy," Rigamer said. "And then they can explain it to their wives and husbands."
"There's more depression, more financial problems, more marital conflict, more thoughts of suicide," said Daphne Glindmeyer, a New Orleans psychiatrist who is president of the Louisiana Psychiatric Medicine Association. "And a lot of it is in people who never had any trouble before."

Interviews with psychiatrists turn up story after story of people with no history of depression plunged into mental anguish deep enough to require treatment.

A teenager living in a trailer turns homicidal. A woman whose mom died in the car during evacuation -- and then could not be taken to funeral home -- suffers post-traumatic stress disorder. A firefighter involved in dozens of rescues seethes with anger at the region's inability to come back.

"These people don't necessarily need a good psychiatrist," Rigamer said. "They need a good contractor or someone to fix the 'Road Home' program and good leadership."

Bushco continues to ignore New Orleans. This is an ongoing tragedy.

The Pathology of the Hard Right

Earlier this week, somebody (can't find the link) said, "I'm tired of these conservatives working out their psychopathology in public." Here is exactly what he means.

Update: I found the link. It's Rick Perlstein. Here's the exact quote: "How I tire of conservatives working out their psychopathologies in the public square."

John Dean's Part 2 on authoritarian conservatism:

No one familiar with the findings of social scientists who study authoritarianism relating to the social-dominating leaders was surprised when they became the leaders in control of the Republican Party, nor when they demanded strict adherence to their conservative political, religious and economic worldview. Nor was there any surprise among social scientists when the right-wing authoritarian followers went along with their leaders, not to mention aggressively pushing the message and turning against those who were not believers.

Needless to say, Republicans have not come anywhere close to pursuing the type of political authoritarianism found in countries like China and Russia, or in any of the many semi-dictatorial or quasi-totalitarian governments. Our constitutional system makes that nearly impossible. Nor is authoritarian conservatism new in our country.

Alexander Hamilton, the monarchist-leaning founding father, can justifiably be considered America's first prominent authoritarian conservative. Political scientists Charles W. Dunn and J. David Woodard reported in their study The Conservative Tradition in America that Hamilton's "brand of conservatism may be properly labeled authoritarian conservatism." Dunn and Woodard trace the ideology of authoritarian conservatism to Joseph de Maistre, a French nobleman and political polemicist who became an outspoken opponent of Enlightenment thinking, and who favored a strong central government. De Maistre was more famously known by later generations for his admiration of hangmen, whom he felt were essential for social order.

Conservative scholar Peter Viereck examined authoritarian conservatism in his work Conservatism: From John Adams to Churchill, in which he reported the "rival brands" of early conservatism, dividing them into two founding schools: that of Edmund Burke, and that of Maistre. Viereck characterized Burkean conservatism as "the moderate brand," while characterizing Maistre's as "reactionary." Burkean conservatism was not authoritarian but constitutionalist, while Maistrean conservatism was "authoritarian in its stress on the authority" being granted to "some traditional elite." Although most conservative scholars choose to ignore Maistre, treating him as an unwelcome member of the family, his work is significant in that it suggests that authoritarianism was an integral component of conservatism at the time of its founding.

As one sifts through the conservative philosophy of the religious right and of the neo-conservatives, the Maistrean philosophy is conspicuously present. Unlike traditional conservatives who embrace varying degrees of libertarianism - drawn from the core beliefs of classic Nineteenth Century liberalism - the authoritarian conservative wants an all-powerful chief executive who runs a mighty military that implements his will.

Authoritarian conservatism was growing in force in Washington for a decade before Bush and Cheney arrived at the White House, but their administration has taken it to its highest and most dangerous level in American history. It is doubtful they could have accomplished this, had authoritarian conservatism not already taken hold in Congress and the federal judiciary. In the final segment of this three-part series of columns, I will highlight a few of the aspects of authoritarian conservatism that are troubling for American government.

Dean's work is based in the social science of Robert Altmeyer. On the link is a free ebook (.pdf) copy of his seminal study "The Authoritarians," which I'm in the middle of reading right now. It's hair-raising stuff. You will recognize so many people in politics, from Bush, to Newt, to Delay, to Tancredo, and on and on.

Ugly Reality

Iraq expands Blackwater investigation

By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 47 minutes ago

Iraq's Interior Ministry has expanded its investigation into incidents involving Blackwater USA security guards amid the furor following a shooting that claimed at least 11 lives, a ministry spokesman said Saturday.

Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said the Moyock, N.C.-based company has been implicated in six other incidents over the past seven months, including a Feb. 7 shooting outside Iraqi state television in Baghdad in which three building guards were fatally shot.

Khalaf said other incidents include: a Sept. 9 shooting in front of Baghdad's municipal government building that killed five people and wounded 10; a Sept. 12 shooting that wounded five on the capital's Palestine Street; a Feb. 4 shooting near the Foreign Ministry, in which Iraqi journalist Hana al-Ameedi died; a May shooting near the Interior Ministry that claimed the life of a passer-by and a Feb. 14 incident in which Blackwater employees allegedly smashed windshields by throwing bottles of ice water at cars.

"These six cases will support the case against Blackwater, because they show that it has a criminal record," Khalaf told The Associated Press.

Blackwater USA spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell had no comment when reached by phone Saturday morning.

An Interior Ministry report into the Sept. 16 shooting at Baghdad's Nisoor square has been handed to the country's judiciary, Khalaf added. But it was not clear if Iraqi courts can raise charges against Blackwater, whose personnel enjoy immunity from law here.

The report concluded Blackwater guards were not attacked and initiated the shooting, first killing a driver who had failed to heed a traffic policeman's call to stop. It was based on the testimony of those wounded at Nisoor Square, Iraqi police accounts from the scene and video footage from a camera at the police headquarters nearby, he said.

Iraqi witnesses have said that some victims were fatally shot when they abandoned their vehicles in panic and tried to run or crawl to safety. Blackwater has said its guards were returning fire from insurgents and acted appropriately.

Col. Pat Lang comments:

"by throwing bottles of ice water at cars" In the Army, they would be tried under UCMJ for this alone. Childish. Malicious nonsense. This is what happens when an organization with guns, training and no responsible chain of command runs amok.

Someone will say that "someone" did worse in Vietnam. Well, if that is so, they did not do it around me.

Khalaf is the Ministry of the Interior's spokesman.

The resumption of State Department use of Blackwater protection answers the question as to whether or not there is any reality to the sovereignty of the Iraqi government. Maliki declared Blackwater's business license to be suspended and ordered the company out of Iraq. The US Government has defied that decision. The egregious Rice has now declared that the situation will be reviewed. What a joke. Whatever credit the Iraqi government may have had in the Arab World is now finished.

"Who is going to run this place, (Iraq) us or them?" This question was foolishly asked this week by a popular American TV talk show host. His question picked at the scab of underlying American attitudes toward Iraq.

So much for purple fingers. pl

With as many mercs as troops in Iraq (and no control over those numbers) the country is basically in the hands of a paramilitary coup. This isn't much different than the crap we pulled in central America under Reagan, the only difference is scale.

September 21, 2007

And Read All Over

Some people still read the dead tree media.

You're Wrong About the War, and About the Rally, Too

Saturday, September 22, 2007; A15

Why would The Post misrepresent the number of antiwar, anti-administration protesters here in Washington on Sept. 15? The Associated Press said that organizers estimated that more than 100,000 people attended the rally and march, and while that couldn't be confirmed, "there appeared to be tens of thousands of people in attendance." Columnist Marc Fisher, however, put the tally at "the several thousand people who devoted their Saturday to the constitutionally sacred act of sounding off in their nation's capital" ["Online Fervor Over the Iraq War Hits the Streets With a Big Thud," Metro, Sept. 16]. A Post story used a law enforcement estimate of "closer to 10,000."

Given that he interviewed participants, Fisher apparently deigned to attend the demonstration, but he didn't seem to have attended the same event I participated in. I talked to many people, friends and strangers alike, and every one of them was surprised and pleased by the large number of participants.

-- J.E. Blackburn

Falls Church

I object to your Sept. 16 headline "Dueling Demonstrations," in the A section. The antiwar rally was organized first; the other was a much smaller rally organized in response to it.

You made no mention of the relative turnout for the two rallies. I was at Lafayette Square, where a dedicated crowd of thousands assembled. On C-SPAN, there appeared to be about a thousand at the other rally. Should you have mentioned that thousands more were at the antiwar rally?

-- Charles Eisenhauer


I'm mystified that your editorials continue to support President Bush's policy of staying in Iraq.

In describing the recent testimony by Gen. David H. Petraeus to Congress ["A Long View," editorial, Sept. 11], The Post admitted that the surge has failed to meet a primary objective of fostering political reconciliation, yet only asked rhetorically: "Should the missions of American forces remain unchanged?" This was followed by: "That's a question that the president must answer." You also have called the president's policy "the least bad plan" [editorial, Sept. 14].

I'm bewildered that you continue to support staying in this war when The Post, of all media organizations, has been the source of so much information that causes me to oppose Bush's escalation and "stay the course" policy.

The Post has unveiled a mountain of information on Iraq showing the futility of American military muscle. You have detailed the enormous human and financial cost of the war and repeatedly exposed this president for tampering with the truth. The Post has been the source of blistering war commentaries from Eugene Robinson, Richard Cohen, David Ignatius, E.J. Dionne Jr., Colbert I. King, George F. Will and Jim Hoagland.

As an avid Post reader, I can only wonder whether the editorial board is reading its own newspaper.

-- Holly Stallworth

Silver Spring


No, they don't.

Hassle Friday

Grrrrrr. Sorry for the dearth of postings. The entire day has been spent dealing with: a migraine (I get the classical ones and knew this one was coming yesterday from the prodrome). I don't get these often, but when I do, they are completely debilitating: lights, camera, don't roll the tape unless you want TMI. Also, dealing with banks (which makes me crazy,)fighting with Vista/Firefox problems (don't get it until after Service Pack one is released in January) and hospice care for the cat. The good news: the vet shot Eddie up with 'roids this afternoon and he's eating like a champ as a result. The bad news: the vet's office was filled trainees and it took me hours to get in and out for a five second procedure and to pick up some new pain killers for the little guy. The vet cleaned up a facial abscess probably related to the feline squamous cell carcinoma and he is back to being the affectionate little guy he used to be before he got sick. Which is, of course, going to make it all the more painful to lose him.

The next thing to do is a trip to the CVS to figure what I have to do to dispose of the syringes. You can't just dump these things in the trash. That will wait until tomorrow. Tonight, I'm veging out with math geek trash TV and building up a list of books I'm behind on at Powell's. I'm installing the new cable box tomorrow and Sunday needs to be spent on damage control on the housework front. I have enough clean laundry to get through the next week.

I am not even really aware of how I did this, but I pulled a muscle in my chest wall earlier this week and every move (like carrying out the trash and the recycling at 6 AM Wednesday morning or schlepping the cat carrier to the vet's and back today) leaves me gasping with pain. Gasping is hard when a deep breath hurts. Funny thing: every friend I've talked to in the last week tells me that the last ten days has absolutely sucked for them, too. One of my partners underwent extremely painful procedures to have his own migraines treated (not done yet, needs a CAT scan next week) and the other had his septic field blow up. Susie and I have talked about this a lot lately. When the entire world is snake bit, you find ways to hunker down until things get less crazy. For me, that's junk TV, comfort food, and just hanging out with the cat.

I've got left over pizza in the fridge, my favorite mystery on the tube tonight and I'm more than willing to settle for that after the Start Up Week From Hell. V.2.0.

If life were fair, I'd be dealing with terminal cat care OR computer problems OR a start-up business. In case you haven't figured it out yet, life is not fair. And then there is the ARM and my tax problems. For the weekend, I'm going to pretend that none of that exists.

For those of you of the Jewish faith, gut yontif and may you be inscribed for a good year. L'shana tova. Say a prayer for me and Eddie, please. We need all the help we can get.

Rule of Law

Blackwater under scrutiny in Iraq
The U.S. Embassy and the group protect each other, says a diplomat, as Iraqis doubt an inquiry will yield any results.
By Ned Parker and Raheem Salman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

September 21, 2007

BAGHDAD — -- Habib Sadr was sitting at his desk when the shots rang out. A sniper had just shot three security guards outside his office at the government-run Iraqi Media Network.

With the fatally wounded guards lying by their checkpoint, a security convoy rolled into the neighboring Justice Ministry compound. Sadr believed the sniper was with them. The incident, he said, was a brutal introduction into the world of private security contractors.

An internal investigation by Sadr's department found that Blackwater USA was responsible. But seven months after the Feb. 7 shootings no one has been charged.

"We discovered it was Blackwater who did this thing. They fired at our martyrs without any reason. They didn't do anything. They were just standing at their checkpoint. Everyone knows this is the site of the Iraqi Media Network," said Sadr, who is head of Iraqi state media.

"It's a strange thing. Animals get killed and gain more attention. Here we have human lives lost. We respect the laws, we filed the case, I was keen to take the thing through the official channels."

A U.S. diplomat confirmed that Blackwater guards carried out the shooting, but said he did not know the results of the State Department security office's inquiry. He raised concerns that the investigation into the North Carolina-based firm was being conducted in too secretive a manner.

"Because they are security, everything was a big secret," the official said, on condition of anonymity, referring to the relationship between the U.S. Embassy's security office and Blackwater. "They draw the wagon circle. They protect each other. They look out for each other. I don't know if that's a good thing, that wall of silence. When it protects the guilty, that is definitely not a good thing."

Does anyone besides me see the irony here? These are the blessings of freedom and democracy that we are bringing to the Iraqi people. Believe me, they get the lesson if we don't.

September 20, 2007

Bullshit 101

Bush bashes Democrats over 'disgusting' MoveOn ad
09/20/2007 @ 12:21 pm
Filed by Nick Juliano

Taking questions from reporters in the White House press room Thursday morning, President Bush seemed more eager to pile on a week-and-a-half's worth of Republican attacks on a ad than he was to talk about issues with actual geopolitical impact.

At the tail end of his press conference, Bush gave an extended diatribe on the evils of a 10-day-old anti-war advertisement and took an opportunity to link Democrats to the attack on a top general.

The president called the group's full-page New York Times ad "disgusting," and he accused Democrats of caring more about the feelings of liberal activists than the US military.

"I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus but on the U.S. military. And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad," Bush said. "That leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are (more) afraid of irritating a left-wing group like ... than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal."

The pResident doesn't seem to shed a lot of tears over all the innocent Iraqis who have died in the "sorry deal" which is his unnecessary war. God, he pisses me off. I hate hypocrites worse than anything. And your nearly destroyed military is fighting and dying for what, you miserable idiot? That pisses me off, too, and so does the media which doesn't call him on any of it. Cowards, all of them.

Order In

Wish me better luck with Domino's than I had with zpizza. No time to cook tonight.

Fall Equinox

Fall begins on the East Coast at 5:51 AM EDT this Sunday. Here is how I usually welcome fall, but I think it is going to require a trip to the farmers' market to fulfill the ritual: the drought ruined my herb garden this year and my basil is pretty scraggly. This will make about four cups. This is something I learned to make when I was a very young bride a million years ago, well before the advent of the food processor and I've done it the hard way, with a mortar and pestle. A food processor or blender turns this into a five minute job that will give you months of pleasure. This is from an old McCall's cooking periodical from which I also learned how to make my first soup, and a nice minestrone as a great way to use up the end of the summer bounty. Serve each helping with a tablespoon of this floated on top.

When the sauce is finished in the food processor, spoon it out into ice cube trays, cover them with plastic to cover the surface of the sauce. Freeze them over night and then dump them into a Zip Loc bag back into the freezer. One cube per serving to keep you going through the winter months. Melt them into soups or over pasta.

Pesto Al' Genovese
Makes about 4 cups

6 cloves garlic, crushed
4 cups, packed, coarsely chopped basil leaves
Coarse salt
4 tablespoons pine nuts or coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil

In a food processor using the steel knife, process the garlic, basil, pinch salt, pine nuts and cheeses into a paste. Gradually blend in olive oil through the oil hole in the top of the blender or the pour hole in the presser of the food processor, much as you would make mayonaisse; adjust seasoning.

You can also thaw the cubes and use them to make bruschetta, as a fabulous first course with soup or antipasti.

Survival Strategies

I've been thinking about this since my last trip, a train ride to New York. If you haven't been on a Northeast Corridor train lately, you may not be aware of the fact that the club car food makes most college dining halls look pretty good. As per usual, I didn't have time to plan for this trip, but I usually do for airplane trips (see train food, ditto for the box lunches they sell on US airlines.) This is a sandwich that gets better the longer it sits, up to a point. Make it without the vinaigrette the night before you travel. Shake up the vinaigrette and dress the sandwich and wrap with foil before you leave the house. The flavors will have married very nicely by the time you a ready to take your first bite. Of course, if you're stuck on the tarmac for four hours before a three hour flight, you might need two of these.

Antipasto Sandwich
For 3-4

1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and patted dry
1 small eggplant
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Italian bread or baguette (12-18" long), cut horizontally
1/2 cup vinaigrette (recipe below)

All very thinly sliced:
1/4 lb. sliced ham
1/4 lb. sliced salami
1/4 lb. sliced soppressata or pepperoni
1/4 lb. sliced fresh mozzarella

Cut the eggplant into 1/4-inch thick slices. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook on a stovetop grill until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Brush both halves of bread with vinaigrette. Layer bottom half with ham, eggplant, salami, peppers, mozzarella, and soppressata.
Place top half of bread on. Wrap in foil and refrigerate at least one hour.

Remove from the fridge and slice in quarters. This sandwich can be served cold.
To serve warm, place foil-wrapped sandwich in a 375-degree oven for 20-30 minutes.

Vinaigrette: Combine 1/2 cup of olive oil, juice of one lemon, 1 tsp. oregano,
1 tsp. garlic powder, salt and pepper.

If you are like me, you are already pushing the limits of the hand luggage you can get by the TSA goons, but I can usually fit one of those insulated sandwich bags that the grocery and drug stores sell as part of their back to school supplies into my computer bag. Mine cost about $5 and will fit a sandwich, a drink and a gel pack.

This sandwich is very simple, but it is a hell of a lot cheaper, quicker and better than anything you are going to be able to pick up at Nathan's Famous while you are dashing down the concourse to catch your flight because the delay at the security checkpoint was longer than you planned on. I fly out of National Airport. I know whereof I speak.

In the 'Hood

Nick Benton is a neighbor and has owned and run my local weekly, the Falls Church News-Press, for 16 years. He syndicates some of the big name pundits in his paper each week, but I often find that Nick is the one who has the most profound and common-sense things to say. Here's this weeks column:

Nicholas F. Benton: Asking the Right Question
Written by Nicholas F. Benton
Thursday, 20 September 2007

Being a life-long journalist, starting for me at age seven when I produced the first edition of The Benton Star in the mighty metropolis of Avila Beach, California (population 300), it’s become clear to me that a big key to life is asking the right questions.

In 16 years running my latest paper, in four years as a White House correspondent before that, and in just keeping up with the 24-hour news cycle, it’s distressing to see too many journalists these days going for instant gratification with questions focused almost entirely on specific details of some event. They either do that, or they render themselves passive, accepting uncritically and regurgitating whatever someone tells them.

But then, these options are not unlike the way many of us ask questions about life, in general. Instant gratification and passivity account for a lot of what drives folks day to day.

Still, if you sit through a press conference, such as a daily briefing at the White House, you often see journalists pounding away at the same question over and over, hoping that the spokesman will deliver a slightly different answer.

By this means, these reporters think, they can catch the spokesman in a contradiction, or they can begin asking why he or she answered in two different ways, even if the difference was negligible. Is that really news?

Then there is the Tim Russert form of questioning, which involves getting an intern to Google past statements by a candidate or public official and then to display big-lettered excerpts used to ask the interviewee to explain the statement in terms of what may be a contrary position today. The other overly-simplified approach is to ask the person merely to comment on what someone else says about them.

These journalists’ approach, beyond getting the facts of some situation, is summed up as a big game of “gotcha.”

On the flip side, equally or even more troubling, is the lack of critical questioning, at all, the mere permission that is granted public officials and others to present their spin on events without being challenged.

This can often be the result not so much of laziness, but of journalists simply lacking confidence in a reservoir of knowledge or intellectual acumen that would enable them to challenge what someone with authority might say. In many cases, they don’t try hard enough to formulate the kind of questions that get beyond the surface of things.

One way I’ve dealt with this problem came when I did a series on “Models of Excellence” for my paper. After the usual inquiries into backgrounds and ideas of chosen personalities, I would conclude with a last question. “What is the meaning of life?,” I asked. It always drew a pause and hesitation. But I always found the answers fascinating and revealing in a special way.

Otherwise, every once in awhile, I’ve stumbled on what I think is a good question. This week I asked a congressman at a public forum, after 45 minutes of Q and A on the usual issues of the day, “What do you feel is the best path forward, overall, to bring about a peaceful and stable globe over the next 50 years?”

As a question, that might not appear so profound in this column, but in that room, when I delivered it, there was an audible reaction.

The congressman, a moderate, rocked back on his feet. He confessed that with all his study of his talking points coming into the event, he wasn’t prepared for it. Given that, though, his reply was decent enough.

He quoted Alan Greenspan, saying, “No two nations where both have McDonald’s have ever gone to war with each other. They’re too busy making, selling and eating hamburgers to have the time, and the stakes are too high.” Then he talked about the importance of striving for global economic development.

I wonder how George Bush would answer the same question. I have to presume he would say something like, “The first and foremost priority is to win the war on terror.” How telling that would be, taken in contradistinction to the other, and what a sound basis it would provide for a significant evaluation of the difference.

I wonder, too, how average folks might respond to such a question with respect to their own lives.

Nick's the hardest working man in journalism inside the beltway, I see him everywhere around my little city. The FCNP isn't quite a one man shop, but his byline is on most of the news stories. His offices are down the block from me and the lights are on late on Wednesdays when they put the paper to bed for the week. In spite of a schedule that anyone my age would find daunting, Nick continues to think about the big questions and that's one of the reasons why I respect my little local paper. Nick graduated from an Episcopal divinity school, but his vocation is, and always has been, journalism. We are lucky to have him here.

This is the only paper I continue to read in the dead tree version. The website is awful and part of what I want to read are the letters to the editor, which are only in the print edition--yes, I've written to Nick to complain--but this is a shoestring operation. They manage to do a lot with very little.

Click on the link to the homepage and look at the articles that document the way my once sleepy suburb is amping up its growth. We have two Metro stations. Housing prices are not dropping here.

I've got a Penzey's Spices store moving in down the street in some of that new retail space, along with a bunch of new restaurants I haven't had the money to try yet. If we could add in one good Asian market, I could get rid of the car. We've already got the best collection of ethnic restaurants in Northern Virginia, most of them walkable from my house. It would be foodie heaven if we could get one decent gourmet store.

I'm not one of those people who swells with civic pride over their town, but I have done a few volunteer things to help the place keep chugging along and my tendency to forget library books means that I'm keeping the local public library afloat with fines. Nick makes me remember to be appreciative of the really wonderful things about living here (and my property taxes are not one of them.)

Another Distress Signal

Euro Reaches All-Time High Against Dollar

FRANKFURT, Sept. 20 — The world dumped the dollar today, pushing it to an all-time low of $1.40 against the euro and to parity with the Canadian dollar for the first time in three decades as currency traders around the world digested the full implications of the Federal Reserve’s new course for interest rates.

The frenzied selling began early in the day in Europe, never let up, and reached across the Atlantic as traders concluded that the lower borrowing costs the Fed introduced on Tuesday would dampen the appeal of dollar-denominated assets like stocks, bonds and real estate just as other central banks are raising rates to create the opposite effect.

With the Fed’s action layered atop a weakening American economy that is menaced as well by the prospect of a retreat by consumers who have driven growth for years, the dollar radiated instability. Its traditional role as a refuge in times of crisis, evident as recently as early August, appeared all but forgotten.

“It’s pretty ugly right now for the dollar,” said Jim McCormick, the London-based chief of currency strategy for Lehman Brothers International. “But the markets are having a very rational response to what the Fed did on Tuesday.”

The dollar dipped as low as $1.4094 in midday trading in New York, having cracked the $1.40 level in London, the world’s currency trading hub. The dollar also lost ground against the pound, with sterling now worth roughly $2.

The housing market is down the swirly, middle class earnings are falling and the dollar is in the tank. Bush wants us to believe that our economy is just fabulous. His connection to reality is tenuous. Oh, the economy is just ducky for the people in his economic class.

I wonder what the Chinese are doing with all of their dollar denominated debt?

UPDATE: This is a comment at Nouriel Roubini's place that adequately describes the situation:

The tanking of the dollar was not "slow". Folks, we've lost nine percent in TWELVE MONTHS with the last half-percent coming in FIVE MINUTES today. This markets will wake up to this. Count on it. Oil will continue to go up (in dollar terms) as will other commodities - of which we're a net CONSUMER, not producer. What's made outside the US and subject to this debasement? Everything. Oh, and we just shoved 1/2% price increases into China too, when they're already dealing with white-hot inflation. If they respond by dropping the dollar peg to stop us from doing any more of this, things will get really interesting really fast, and not in a way you'll like. Bernanke made a HUGE mistake. Absolutely enormous. The bailout of "The Pigmen" will not work, but what it will do is thrash our middle class and ultimately make the situation worse. The problem here isn't illiquidity - its that debt-service capacity has been exhausted. Making money "easier" doesn't fix that problem - only paying down (or defaulting!) on some of the obligation does that. Unfortunately that MUST hit consumer spending and as a consequence we are headed for a recession - and not a small one either. Folks, MEWs have contributed about 6.5 TRILLION over the last five years to our consumer spending. Our GDP is $13 trillion. You tell me what removing those MEWs from the economy leaves us with. Written by Genesis on 2007-09-18 18:28:05

The Gulf Awakens

Gulf Coast watches Florida storm
New Orleans, other coastal areas eye system that could strengthen
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 10:02 a.m. ET Sept 20, 2007

NEW ORLEANS - Gulf Coast residents were on watch and oil companies evacuated hundreds of nonessential workers as forecasters said Thursday that a storm system now off Florida could strengthen as it moves west.

All weather models project the storm, which was located in the Gulf of Mexico off southwest Florida, would make landfall between southeastern Louisiana and the western Florida Panhandle during the next few days after crossing the warm Gulf waters where it should gain strength.

The National Hurricane Center was sending an aircraft into the system later Thursday to get more precise data. Should it become a tropical storm, the system would be named Jerry. A tropical storm packs winds of 39 to 73 miles per hour.

The National Weather Service said the low-pressure area could affect southeast Louisiana and south Mississippi Friday night or Saturday. Higher-than-normal tides and coastal flooding were possible Friday into Saturday, the service said.

Models showed possible tracks across the Gulf Coast, with Louisiana and the New Orleans area in the middle of the extreme ends of those tracks, said meteorologist Phil Grigsby.

Here are the computer models.

The Truthteller


Warning: this is a bit (actually, more than a bit) of a rant.

One of my pet peeves about political reporting is the fact that some of my journalistic colleagues seem to want to be in another business – namely, theater criticism. Instead of telling us what candidates are actually saying – and whether it’s true or false, sensible or silly – they tell us how it went over, and how they think it affects the horse race. During the 2004 campaign I went through two months’ worth of TV news from the major broadcast and cable networks to see what voters had been told about the Bush and Kerry health care plans; what I found, and wrote about, were several stories on how the plans were playing, but not one story about what was actually in the plans.
Which brings me to the Petraeus hearing.

To a remarkable extent, punditry has taken a pass on whether Gen. Petraeus’s picture of the situation in Iraq is accurate. Instead, it was all about the theatrics – about how impressive he looked, how well or poorly his Congressional inquisitors performed. And the judgment you got if you were watching most of the talking heads was that it was a big win for the administration – especially because the famous MoveOn ad was supposed to have created a scandal, and a problem for the Democrats.

Even if all this had been true, it wouldn’t have mattered much: if the truth is that Iraq is a mess, the public would find out soon enough, and the backlash would be all the greater because of the sense that we had been deceived yet again.

But here’s the thing: new polls by CBS and Gallup show that the Petraeus testimony had basically no effect on public opinion: Americans continue to hate the war, and want out. The whole story about how the hearing had changed everything was a pure figment of the inside-the-Beltway imagination.

What I found striking about the whole thing was the contempt the pundit consensus showed for the public – it was, more or less, “Oh, people just can’t resist a man in uniform.” But it turns out that they can; it’s the punditocracy that can’t.

Bubble Boy

I watched W's presser this morning without my glasses on, so I didn't see it, but Susie says he was wearing an earpiece. Here's the the WaPo story. I've pretty much stopped paying attention to these things because Bush is so clearly divorced from reality that the only news value these things have is that he's divorced from reality.

True Colors

Standing on One Principle, Voting on Another

By Dana Milbank
Thursday, September 20, 2007; A02

To paraphrase the immortal words of John Kerry, Sen. John Warner actually did vote to shorten the Iraq war before he voted to lengthen it.

Just two months ago, the courtly Virginia Republican went to the Senate floor and sided with his Democratic colleague from the commonwealth, Jim Webb, on a plan that would shorten troop deployments in Iraq. Yesterday, he went to the same place to announce that he would now vote against the same bill.

"I endorsed it," Warner said. "I intend now to cast a vote against it."

With those dozen words, the former chairman of the Armed Services Committee put a surprise end to the latest efforts in Congress to limit the Iraq war.

Democrats had been hoping that Warner, who last month endorsed the start of a pullout from Iraq, would bring enough Republicans with him to vote for their best plan to accelerate the troop withdrawal: Webb's plan to limit the troops' deployments. But this effort, like previous ones, ended in failure.

"Senator Webb's amendment, I would say without any equivocation, is designed to help protect the concept of the all-volunteer force, and it was for that reason that I joined him," Warner explained in his discursive floor statement, which led to the conclusion that "I will have to cast a vote against my good friend's amendment."

Goodbye, John, and don't let the door hit you on the ass.

September 19, 2007

The Good Old Days

Henry Ford designed a car that his his workers could afford. He was a racist asshole and a number of other bad things, but he was an industrial innovator who swam against the day of the gilded age in which he lived. One of the ads I hit tonight brings me news of a rather ordinary car which costs as much as a house, and this is considered ordinary? It's a freakin' Audi, not a Jag. What kind of weird society are we living in? Do we really want to be here? What are we going to do to change it?

Guilty Pleasures

It's not one of the more admirable parts of my personality, but I do love watching Andrew Sullivan's head explode in slow-mo.

Petraeus lets slip the ugly truth of this war
Andrew Sullivan

Some cynics argue that George Bush is playing a small, domestic game of keeping the ordeal going so that the next Democratic president can be accused of losing Iraq – not him. But this theory, while not totally implausible, does not quite fit with the messianic ambitions of the president and apocalyptic fears of Vice-Presi-dent Dick Cheney.

Other cynics maintain that the abandonment of the Iraq goals of four years ago, and even the more restrained goals of 2006, represents the slow revelation of the real objective: securing Iraq’s oilfields to protect America’s economy. Again, it is impossible to disprove this.

Some defenders of the indefinite occupation argue proudly that energy resources are a good and fundamental reason to hang in. But it is a little too mundane for a man of Bush’s character. It doesn’t quite have the frisson, the bigness of Bush’s signature goals.

My sense is that the point of the war in Iraq, in the president’s mind, is an attempt to quash any and all Islamist tendencies with American military power. The enemy is the right one, but, alas, he doesn’t have enough troops to remake an entire country from scratch and the target of his attention – Islamist ideology – turns out to be particularly resilient in the face of raw military force.

These nuances are now, and always have been, lost on Bush. But even if they were not, he cannot switch gears. It is simply not in his DNA to absorb the lessons of the past few years and adjust – radically – to a new posture.

And so the real and present danger is that by digging in further Bush will not only keep providing Al-Qaeda with the oxygen that American occupation of a Muslim country provides, but will also find himself dragged, willingly or unwillingly, into a military confrontation with Iran. Already last week Fox News reported serious planning for a missile attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities next spring.
Maybe this won’t happen. Maybe events in Iraq will turn in a more hopeful direction. I certainly hope so – and in the fog of war it is very hard to see ahead confidently But I see no sure reasons for solid optimism – and much evidence that beneath a small reduction in violence in the face of 30,000 more of the best military in the world, the deeper tensions in Iraq remain as lethal as ever.

Last Thursday, America’s most important Sunni ally – Sheikh Abu Risha – was murdered in Anbar. An oil deal collapsed in Baghdad. And Ramadan began. Just recall that fatal exchange in the Senate last week: “General, does the [Iraq war] make America safer?”

“I don’t know, actually.” I’m afraid I do.

Andy, why don't you come right out and say it: Bush and Cheney are dangerous psychopaths that don't have the realpolitik that God gave a goose and those of us who were against the war from the beginning were right. Your hubris slip is showing.

Resume of Melanie Mattson


  • September 2007
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