Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Democracy v. Empire

Historian Chalmers Johnson is guest-blogging over at TPM Cafe to talk about his new book with the provocative title Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic.

His thesis is essentially that America's imperial ambitions, like those of so many empires before us, will ultimately doom America to either dictatorship or bankruptcy.

And while I don't entirely share his rather gloomy view (though he makes a compelling argument for it, and is clearly much, much smarter than your humble CaliBlogger), I do like how he formulates the current American dilemma:

As a form of government, imperialism does not seek or require the consent of the governed. It is a pure form of tyranny. The American attempt to combine domestic democracy with such tyrannical control over foreigners is hopelessly contradictory and hypocritical. A country can be democratic or it can be imperialistic, but it cannot be both.

His post should, of course, absolutely be read in full to appreciate the depth of his arguments, but the above point well illustrates something I've always felt regarding our current entanglement in Iraq.

That lacking any overwhelming provocation so necessary to muster a democratic country's will to war, we would never be willing to make the very real national sacrifices necessary to winning it.

Many armchair generals on the right have (rightly) criticized the war effort as the result of Rumsfelds determination to do this war on the cheap. What they fail to realize is that Rumsfeld had no other choice.

As we now know to a certainty, Saddam Hussein never posed a level of threat to this country that would unify it in the manner that, say, Pearl Harbor did in WWII. And such unity is a prerequisite for war in a democratic republic.

Sure it's easy to gain support from armchair chickenhawks when their biggest sacrifice is to pop for a frigging yellow ribbon bumper sticker to slap on their SUVs.

But clearly there was never enough support for this invasion to get people to pay more for gas, or even put off a tax cut.

And a draft? Get serious.

So, devoting the level of resources required to both eliminate Hussein and pacify the population of Iraq not only didn't happen, but could NEVER have happened.

And this case in point shows why I'm more optimistic than professor Johnson.

That while the US remains a democracy, however tenuously under the current regime, the major depredations required of aspiring empire-builders (read neo-cons) will prove impossible.

Such thought though should not be cause for complacency. It should instead emphasize the urgency of protecting our democratic institutions from would-be Caesars.

For failure to do so may well doom an American Empire to a fate like those of all the empires before us.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pro-hobbit faction fires back

And so the raging controversy of our time continues:

The tiny woman dubbed the Hobbit who lived 18,000 years ago on a remote Indonesian island deserves to be deemed a new human species and not a deformed modern human, as skeptics assert, researchers said on Monday.

In the latest salvo in a heated scientific shootout, an international team led by Florida State University anthropologist Dean Falk compared the Hobbit's skull to those of nine people with microcephaly, a rare condition in which the head is abnormally small due to improper brain development.

They concluded that the 3-foot-tall (1-meter) adult woman had a highly evolved brain, unlike that of a microcephalic person, confirming that she belongs to the proposed extinct species Homo floresiensis, closely related to modern Homo sapiens.

Now I suppose my main interest in this story was sparked because the researchers rather cleverly dubbed their discovery as a hobbit, a word designed to catch the eye of Tolkien fans the world over.

And while Homo floresiensis likely didn't have hairy feet (or mithril shirts for that matter), still the romantic in me would feel better about this world knowing that once upon a time tiny people once roamed a world of wonderful and odd creatures.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it

President Bush has famously said that he expects that the next president will still have the Iraq war to deal with, and at least one prospective next president is not at all pleased.

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush has made a mess of Iraq and it is his responsibility to "extricate" the United States from the situation before he leaves office.

It would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief, she said.

"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said.

And while I certainly agree that Bush SHOULD clean up his own mess, given his history in life, in business, and in the oval office to date, that doesn't seem at all likely.

But really what can we expect? The next Democratic administration is going to have to spend significant resources cleaning up the messes the Republicans have made all over the world, as well as here at home.

The other option would be another Republican administration that will only make things worse.

So Democrats, buck up. It's a dirty job, but somebody's go to do it.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Worser and worser

After earlier denials, the Pentagon has now confirmed that 4 of 5 American soldiers first reported killed on January 20 of this year had been kidnapped:

In perhaps the boldest and most sophisticated attack in four years of warfare, gunmen speaking English, wearing U.S. military uniforms and carrying American weapons abducted four U.S. soldiers last week at the provincial headquarters in the Shiite holy city of Karbala and then shot them to death.

The U.S. military confirmed a report earlier Friday by the Associated Press that three of the soldiers were dead and one was mortally wounded with a gunshot to the head when they were found in a neighboring province, about 25 miles from the compound where they were captured. A fifth soldier was killed in the initial attack on the compound. [Emphasis mine-CK]

I can't tell from reports whether this was an intended kidnap-for-profit gone awry, or whether the kidnappers were planning to use the soldier hostages for more politcal ends, but it occurs to me regardless that by increasing troop levels we're also providing more targets for such acts.

And it's apparently not bad enough that US soldiers on the ground can't determine friend from foe because thay all come from the same population, now they can't tell friend from foe because they're wearing US uniforms and carrying American weapons.

But still, according to BushCorp™, those opposing his mis-guided escalation are the ones aiding and abetting "the enemy".

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bush Derangement Syndrome explained

The redoubtable Lance Mannion offers some parables explaining what is referred to sneeringly by the wingnutosphere as Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS), the idea that most opposition to BushCorp is rooted in an almost pathological (and to the right) irrational hatred for George W. Bush:

Say you know a guy who likes to kick his dog.

Every morning you see him out walking his dog and whenever the dog stops to sniff around the guy gives the poor mutt a swift kick in the ribs.

You tell your neighbors about him. One of the neighbors says, "Boy, you really don't like this guy, do you?"

"No, I don't," you say, "Who likes someone who's mean to his dog?"

Little time later you hear this guy who kicks his dog wants to open a kennel in the neighborhood. Board pets, groom them. Where he wants to put the kennel is zoned residential so he's asking the town board for a variance. You go to the town board meeting and stand up and say you don't think he should get the variance. It'd ruin the neighborhood, you say. Besides that, you add, this guy abuses animals.

Your neighbor, the one who observed how much you dislike the guy for kicking his dog, stands up and tells the town board not to pay any attention to what you say. Because you just dislike the guy.

The left opposes Bush because he's a dog-kicker, so to speak.

And, as Lance points out, as annoying as it is when the wingnutosphere blithely attributes the left's dislike of W to BDS, it's especially irresponsible when the MSM picks up on the meme as did Ruth Marcus in her recent WaPo column.

But more Lance:

I would just like to point out, as if it hasn't been pointed out a thousand times and won't need to be pointed out a thousand more, that the reason Liberals don't like George W. Bush's plans is that they are bad plans that he makes worse by managing them incompetently and corruptly---in fact, incompetence and corruption are usually built into them as selling points to Republicans.

And the reason we don't like him is that he has a long history of pushing bad plans that he makes worse by managing them incompetently and corruptly.

We don't like people who kick dogs.

We don't like corporate executives who abuse employees and hurt their own companies.

We don't like dishonest electricians who do substandard work.

We don't like incompetence and corruption.

And we don't like Presidents who start unnecessary wars and lose them, who let cities drown, who bankrupt the Treasury and give away the store to their rich pals and cronies, who write legislation specifically designed to undermine existing government services, make things worse for the poor and the middle class, and give away the store to their rich pals and cronies.

Too bad for us.

We're irrational on the subject.

This of course is anathema to members of the DC press elite like Marcus (her co-worker David Broder is notorious for this) because it violates their only article of faith: that the people they attend cocktail parties with should all just get along.

Regardless of who kicks dogs.

A silent surge

Non-binding resolutions condemning Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq would be nice if the US had a parliamentary government and could vote no confidence and hold presidential elections within the month.

But alas this happy revery is not to be.

And besides, unheralded in the press, the escalation surge is already a fait accompli.

William Arkin:

I've already written about the curious silence of most of the mainstream media when the first troopers of the 82nd Airborne Division arrived by helicopter from Kuwait more than 10 days ago landing at the gigantic American base at Taji, north of the capital, and then settling in at Forward Operating Bases Loyalty and Rustumiyah on the periphery of Sadr city, the Shi'a slums in northeast Baghdad.

Now SS writes me that the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina left for Iraq last Thursday. They arrived in Habbaniyah west of Baghdad for duty in Al Anbar province. Word is they may be moving elsewhere before the end of the month.

SS, who has a nephew in the battalion, comments that there was no real news coverage of either the unit's departure from North Carolina or their arrival in Iraq. There was only one tiny item in the Charlotte Observer and the local ABC affiliate aired a report on Monday.

The Defense Department has divulged that troops of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment are being extended in Anbar province for 60 to 90 days as part of the surge. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, an additional augmented battalion with air support, is also being extended in Anbar for 45 days.

And ever so quietly, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit also left Lejeune in early January aboard ships to go to Iraq as part of the surge -- at least according to reports by the Associated Press and picked up hardly anywhere in the big media.

And so while the media focus on handicapping the 2008 horserace and dissecting the president's disingenuous State of the Union speech, more souls are being fed into the Iraqi meat-grinder.

Your CaliBlogger wonders whether the Washington press corp is any longer capable of reporting on anything that isn't accompanied by a national news conference.

Or a YouTube video.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Will Al run?

And there's another reason I haven't commented too much on 2008, the guy I really want to run hasn't announced and may not wish to run counter a Clinton juggernaut: Al Gore.

From Rolling Stone:

If the Democrats were going to sit down and construct the perfect candidate for 2008, they'd be hard-pressed to improve on Gore. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he has no controversial vote on Iraq to defend. Unlike Barack Obama and John Edwards, he has extensive experience in both the Senate and the White House. He has put aside his wooden, policy-wonk demeanor to emerge as the Bush administration's most eloquent critic. And thanks to An Inconvenient Truth, Gore is not only the most impassioned leader on the most urgent crisis facing the planet, he's also a Hollywood celebrity, the star of the third-highest-grossing documentary of all time.

Of course this may all be wishful thinking, but I don't disagree with the article's main premise: if Obama, Edwards, or someone else manages to put a dent in the Hillary machine, Gore is well positioned to step in as a unity candidate, and raise buckets of netroots money virtually overnight.

I know who I'd be making out a check to.


I haven't commented extensively on the 2008 presidential race and don't plan to for a while, but I did want to take note of John Kerry's announcement that he won't be running again.

Thank you Mr. Kerry.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union

I didn't get to watch the entire address, and if you chose to miss it entirely who can blame you?

But I did get a chance to see a few minutes and read the prepared transcript, but it seems to me a commenter from the WaPo's post-speech discussion best summed it up:

All week we were told the president was going to do this SOTU address differently, that it would be an acknowledgment of his tough political situation and not a laundry list of legislative initiatives. How exactly was this a different State of the Union? I am reminded of your comment last week about the President's seeming lack of a relationship with reality--this speech could have happened in any year of his presidency.

How was it different?

Not in content particularly. The difference this year is in the eyes and ears of the public who have, at long last, figured out what some of us new long ago, that whatever the words that come out of his mouth, they will as likely as not have little impact on his actions.

He may not be lying, but then again he may well be.

All in all I enjoyed the Democratic response from Jim Webb a good deal more than the president's: no laundry list, actual logic used, plus it was short.

And what ever happened to last year's manimal threat?

[UPDATE: For cogent analysis plus an extensive look at blogosphere reaction I highly recommend Joe Gandelman's post over at The Moderate Voice.]

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New Hampshire trip spurs presidential rumors

2008 presidential field feeling a bit crowded to you?

Me to.

With God at our side

A quote from film-maker Alexandra Pelosi (Nancy's youngest) regarding her upcoming HBO documentary about the American evangelical community sums up succinctly what I, and many I guess, find so scary about these folks.

They're so sure they've got all the answers, they've stopped asking the questions.

And I'm not sure what's scarier, that such assuredness serves as a defense against unacknowledged inner turmoil and doubt (the Ted Haggard syndrome) or is an accurate representation of people's inner selves.

But it does say a lot about the Bush presidency.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary or Obama (or somebody else)? Follow the money

Sure, I know it's January 2007, but now that Obama's formed an exploratory committee, and Hillary's anounced for president, the race is on.

And while a national poll out today shows Hillary with a substantial lead for the Democratic nomination, such polling is not really the best indicator of where the race stands.

For one thing national polling has little to do with the state nominating process, where things like John Edward's lead in the Iowa straw poll is every bit as important.

I also strongly suspect that Hillary's national poll rankings has much to with simple name recognition, especially given the way the question was asked in this particular poll:

24. (ASKED OF LEANED DEMOCRATS) If the 2008 Democratic presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, and the candidates were: (Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, Wesley Clark, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, or Mike Gravel), for whom would you vote?

Given that grab bag list who would you choose?

The only three names with real national recognition on that list are Clinton, Kerry, and Gore. Kerry's a loser, as is (according to the Supreme Court) Gore, and Democrats are notoriously unforgiving of such. You might think Edwards would do better, but not only was he a failed candidate, he was a failed veep candidate and if few successful veeps really register with the public consciousness, how much more (less?) so does a failed one?

And while Obama might be the darling (or satan reincarnated of you're a winger) of the blogosphere and the elite media, he's had virtually no exposure as a national figure.

So if polls are virtually worthless, where does a politcal junkie go to figure out what's really going on?

Well, this being America, shouldn't the answer be obvious?

You follow the money.

That being the case you should keep an eye out for stories like this by Greg Sargent at TPM Cafe:

So I just got off the phone with a top Democratic donor, and he had some interesting things to say about the ways in which Barack Obama -- who obviously has far less of an established financial network than Hillary Clinton does -- is seeking to win over big money donors who might otherwise feel compelled to go with the former First Lady.

The Obama camp has a "light touch," which contrasts with the Clinton camp's somewhat more aggressive approach, this donor says.

According to this donor, Obama's fundraisers have been calling up established contributors and saying something along the lines of, "are you open to meeting with Obama?" or "Are you open to the idea of an Obama candidacy?"

"His people are being very respectful, very low key," this donor tells me. "The Hillary camp's message is, `I'm on my way to winning the nomination, line up with me.' Obama's is, `Hey, look, I'm the future, line up with me.' Obama's is more like, `Hey, we want you to be involved, not just to be an ATM machine.'"

To the winner of the donor wars may likely go the spoils.

And while the blogsphere is doing much to tweak the fundraising focus away from the usual corporate donors, still the money competition is a strong indicator of who is best positioned to compete, especially at this early stage of the game.

Though wouldn't it be nice if our political choices weren't quite so tightly bound with the ability to schmooze corporate donors?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Goodbye, Art Buchwald

" sounded like the most painless way to go, and you don't have to take a lot of stuff with you."

His final column is here.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A simple, wonderful idea

Incredible, a public servant, a senator no less, who actually seems to think that the people really are his bosses and feels obliged to let them know what he's up to.

From kencamp at Western Democrat (a great site for Dems to keep an eye on for news about the increasingly important mountain states):

In what has to be a first, Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) has posted his daily schedule online.

Now if we could get presidential candidates to do the same I suspect we'd learn more about where they really stand than from all other sources combined.

Time is a precious commodity. I imagine a look at who gets face time and how much would be quite revealing indeed.

[x-posted at Daily Kos]

Worst person in the world

Frequent visitor to Keith Olbermann's Worst Person in the World list, Bill O’Reilly, has surely topped himself this time, suggesting that teen (he was 11 when he was 1st abducted) kidnap victim Shawn Hornbeck must have enjoyed his captivity.

From The Angry Independent (h/t to Pete Abel):

Bill O’Reilly stated on his program that Shawn’s “experience in captivity was fun"….and that "he liked it”. According to O’Reilly, Shawn Hornbeck enjoyed being victimized by his captor…. A man who will go down in history as one of the worst child predators of all time.

O'Reilly was asserting that since Hornbeck did not try to get away.... he must have liked it.

Please contact Fox and ask them to make the bad man go away.


Crooks and Liars has the video.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The ethics of withdrawal

A recent post by Andrew Sullivan got me thinking about the US' and its individual citizens' ethical responsibilities in Iraq. This I believe, is something that even those of us who opposed the invasion from the beginning need to consider.

It is not enough, for me at least, to say that I was against the invasion in the first place and therefore I wash my hands of the whole thing. What the US is doing in Iraq right now is none the less being done in my name, if not with my blessing.

But first, Andrew's post:

"I would not leave the region. I would not even threaten to leave the region. The idea that by threatening to leave the region will cause the political players to become sufficiently frightened that they will get their act together politically—I don’t necessarily believe that. I would stay in the region because we cannot afford this to become a regional conflict, but we might need to back away from the center of the conflict and let that fire burn, while keeping our troops in the north and perhaps on the southern border. And there is much that we can do, to keep both Iran and their Sunni neighbors from coming in massively to augment that conflict between the Shi‘a and the Sunnis. To let the fire burn in the center—this is an Arab conflict; it’s not Kurdish conflict; it’s an Arab-Sunni-Shi‘a conflict—and let conflict burn itself out," - General Charles G. Boyd, National Interest.

That's pretty much where I've come out on this. Get to Kurdistan and the borders and let them have their civil war. We can even exploit it for our own purposes, if we get smart enough.

My initial reaction was that, yeah, I basically agree with this stance myself, let's keep an eye on the neighbors and the borders and let the Sunni and Shia battle it out themselves, then deal with the victors. We're not helping as is and 21,500 additional American soldiers doesn't strike me as any more likely to improve the situation.

Yet I find myself unhappy with this position.

Sure the Sunni and Shia have been going at it to greater and lesser degrees for hundreds of years. But that conflict in Iraq had been fairly quiescent under Saddam's regime for decades. And while I certainly don't approve the tacts Saddam used, still it can hardly be argued that the US invasion and following instability did not set the conditions triggering the current round of sectarian violence.

That being the case, what then, should a non-ethically challenged American stand for?

[I plan on adding further thoughts on this question to this post, but I wanted to pose this question generally, on the off chance that someone reading this might have some suggestions.-CK]

Monday, January 15, 2007

Maybe the third time will be the charm

Our allies in Iraq eff up another execution. Via Digby:

Iraq hanged two aides to Saddam Hussein before dawn on Monday but government efforts to avoid a repeat of uproar over the ousted leader's rowdy execution were thwarted when his half-brother's head was severed by the noose (?!).

Many of the government's Shi'ite Muslim supporters rejoiced at the death of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam's once feared intelligence chief who was accused of sending people to death in a meat grinder. But voices in Iraq's Sunni Arab minority saw the decapitation as a deliberate sectarian act of revenge. [Emphasis and incrdulity mine-CK]

Maybe they should just go back to having people drawn and quartered.

Confessions of an office wife

Nora Ephron channels Condi:

Then I got back to the office afterwards, and there were all these messages from the White House. I was sure they were calling to tell me how much the P. loved my testimony. But it turned out he hadn't seen any of it - he'd spent the entire day on the treadmill watching the World Series of Poker on the Tivo.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Carter Book Controversy Rages

Apparently Jimmy Carter's new book about the Palestinian-Israel (conflict, subjugation, fiasco?) is still causing quite a brouhaha in some quarters.

I confess that I haven't yet read the book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, but it seems to me that the man who hammered together the Camp David Accords might have a valuable insight or two into the region's ongoing quagmire.

Until such a time as I get to read the book, and in light of the ongoing controversy(?), I'll defer to the judgment of my betters. Wolcott:

Anyone can link to anything on the web, and anyone who thinks that Jimmy Carter shares sympathies with White Supremacist groups is a liar, a fool, or a tool.

Let me see if I understand this irony: To counter Carter's claim that the Israeli lobby stifles debate in this country, the Anti-Defamation League is going to stifle debate and slime the former president with guilty (sic) by association to prove how wrong he is. [Emphasis mine-CK]

Saturday, January 13, 2007

What's lower than a lawyer? A BushCorp™ lawyer.

Cully Simpson, deputy assistant secretary of defense (aka BushCorp™'s detainee overseer at Gitmo, transcription courtesy Washington Post):

"Actually you know I think the news story that you're really going to start seeing in the next couple of weeks is this: As a result of a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request through a major news organization, somebody asked, 'Who are the lawyers around this country representing detainees down there,' and you know what, it's shocking,"

"I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out." [Emphasis mine-CK]

Typical tactic from the Bush crime family: Nice little lawfirm ya got there. It'd be a shame if anything happened to it.

Imagine, American lawfirms upholding American legal principals by defending people who have NOT BEEN CONVICTED OF ANYTHING.

Shocking indeed.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

In defense of Condie

Your Secretary of State speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as quoted in the Washington Post:

"It's bad policy to speculate on what you'll do if a plan fails when you're trying to make a plan work."

I found the quote thanks to the fine folks at TPM's Election Central, where Condie, as you might imagine, is taking quite a beating in the comments section.

But in her defense she's quite correct, speculation on the possibility of failure is probably not best done while trying to implement a plan.

It should have been done before the plan was implemented in the first place.

Of course that hasn't happened either.

Congressional response

While I was sipping my coffee this morning and doing my normal survey of online news, blogs and such, Mrs. CaliBlogger was watching C-SPAN.

I have a hard time sitting through interminable, repetitive speechifying (some of these folks could really use some public speaking lessons), but Mrs. C is far more patient than I (but then she'd need to be wouldn't she?).

What struck me, as speaker after speaker condemned Bush's escalation surge, was how many of those speakers had an R before their names.

Bush may not read polls (yeah right), but Republican congressmen surely do.

Bush's speech

The expected:

  • -No real change in strategy, not really even a shift in tactics, just a few more bodies. I mean seriously is this news, that instead of just securing trouble areas we're going to really, really secure them?
  • -He's still referring to 9/11, jeez!
  • -He'd really prefer to start new wars with Syria and Iran.
  • -So, he'll give the al-Maliki government until November to get they're act together, then he'll need another 18 months to get his act together. After which he'll just have to admit failure and leave office I suppose. Hey wait a minute...!

The unexpected:
  • -No swagger.
  • -Hardly any Democrat bashing.

Joe Gandelman has a nice survey of blog reaction here. But as I commented at Joe's site:

Funny, it seems to me one of the most cogent comments on Bush’s change in “strategy” (it’s really a shift in emphasis in tactics, but why quibble over the president’s abuse of english at this late date?) comes from someone not even commenting on the speech. Juan Cole citing a SacBee story:

The Americans keep putting their eggs in the basket of “standing up” the Iraqi army. Nancy Yousself reports on how difficult that is, given sectarian divisions. The problem with using armies to settle civil conflicts is that the army inevitably becomes infected by the same sectarian or ethnic passions that inflame the general population, so then it cannot be the solution. [Emphasis mine-CK]

In effect, standing up further Iraqi regiments only better arms and trains future, or current for that matter, militia members.

Nope, all we're doing is bringing the Cheney Doctrine to its logical(?) conclusion: we can't leave until we "win", and since we can't win, we can't leave.

Please believe me when I express my sincerest hope that I am dead wrong about all of this.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Can't wait for 6 pm?

Exerpts from tonight's presidential address on Iraq available at TPM Cafe.

Strategy or tactics?

When watching to president Bush's speech tonight outlining his plans for Iraq (about which there's been an abundance of informed speculation already) one thing to listen for is whether he continues to confuse two distinct but related ideas, that of strategy

strat·e·gy (străt'ə-jē) pronunciation
n., pl. -gies.

a. The science and art of using all the forces of a nation to execute approved plans as effectively as possible during peace or war.
b. The science and art of military command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of large-scale combat operations.

and that of tactics.

tac·tics (tăk'tĭks) pronunciation

a. (used with a sing. verb) The military science that deals with securing objectives set by strategy, especially the technique of deploying and directing troops, ships, and aircraft in effective maneuvers against an enemy: Tactics is a required course at all military academies. [Emphasis mine-CK]

The strategy in question, I suspect, will remain unchanged: to stay in Iraq until "victory" somehow pops out of the ground, the Cheney doctrine. Froomkin:

"In Cheney's view, withdrawal from Iraq would first and foremost make the United States look weak. And that, in turn, would have cataclysmic domino-style effects across the globe: Afghanistan could fall, and so could Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The Iranians could get nukes. And the United States itself would become dramatically more vulnerable to attack, not to mention lose its ability to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests.

"Cheney really loathes weakness. And like his fellow neoconservatives, he is consumed with the conviction that an all-powerful United States is both imperative to American security and the best thing for the world. Moral leadership, multilateralism, containment, human rights -- those are all less crucial than maintaining unquestioned power, at the point of a gun if necessary. . . .

"The problem with Cheney's philosophy, of course, is overreach. In Iraq, as in Vietnam before it, the United States may have started something we can't finish."

The corollary, of course, is that we can never leave short of achieving our objectives, even when, and this is the problem in Iraq, those objectives are beyond our reach regardless of what we do. And even when, as in Iraq, our presence actually makes the achievement of those goals impossible.

So, unless all speculation is wrong, very wrong, all that Bush will put forth tonight will amount to a shift in tactics in support of a strategy which the majority of Americans, his own generals, and everyone outside a small coterie of neoconservative think tanks, believes is doomed already.

Monday, January 08, 2007

California Universal Healthcare

I've been tied up with work and family, and so haven't had an opportunity to review the governor's proposed healthcare plan.

And while I'd be amazed if I end up supporting the totality of his proposal, the important thing, as others have noted, is that the recognition of the need for SOME sort of universal healthcare is becoming much more widespread.

And that's a very good thing.

Bush's escalation surge speech: A viewer's guide

Golly, you're thinking, the president has been hinting at having a new* plan for Iraq ever since Democrats kicked his party's collective butts in the last election. And now we're finally going to be made privy to Dear Leader's no doubt decisive decisions on what to do with the mess in Mess-o-potamia (© The Daily Show).

So in anticipation of this highly touted event, Arianna has posted a helpful viewing guide, just to let you know what to look out for.

When it comes to the White House's latest "new approach" to Iraq, we are definitely entering "the lunatics have taken over the asylum" territory.

The judgment behind it -- looking at the advice of military experts, and the unambiguous results of the November election, and deciding the proper response is to escalate our involvement in Iraq -- is straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Psychiatric literature defines delusional thinking as "false or irrational beliefs maintained despite clear evidence to the contrary."

Sound like any commander-in-chief you know?

Read it here.

*"New" meaning: stay the course with a few more troops and different sounding names for things.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Let's put the execute back into executions.

Yet another reason for HuffingtonPost to exist.

Elayne Boosler.

Starting last month the veteran comic (comedian, comedienne?) joined Arianna's motley band of celeb posters.

I've always enjoyed her comedy, and like some (Steve Martin) and unlike others (Harry Shearer, Dennis Miller) her wry, unblinking look at the weirdness that infects all current events has not been lost in the translation from stage to page.

For example her 1/5/07 post takes a look at the brouhaha surrounding Saddam's lynching execution.


Saddam Hussein, [was a] mass(ive) murderer, dictator, tyrant, Stalin worshiper, torturer, contortionist by proxy, mass grave filler, public beheadings Master of Ceremonies, (the Kurds found him a gas), fingernail-extracting, eye-gouging, genital-shocking, bucket-drowning, multi-tasker...

But, and I think we can all agree here, that is no excuse for taunting. Taunting is just plain rude. And how did they taunt him? They chanted the name of a different leader. I mean, talk about kicking a guy when he's down. I wasn't around for the hanging of Wilhelm Frick after Nuremberg, but I'd like to think I wouldn't have said anything.

Now before you choke on your Cheerios, be clear, Elayne isn't defending the Sadrist lynch mob. Her point:

Come on people, let's make up our minds about capital punishment. I'm against it, morally and ethically, unless someone kills someone I know and love, then I'm for it.

If we're against it, then let's not do it. But if we're going to do it, then let's do it!!!! Why make it as pleasant, painless and considerate as possible? Let's GO for "deterrent". It won't be "cruel and unusual" if it becomes usual. No painkillers, slow injections, easy slipping into the twilight, with doctors and priests and bed and blanket. So we don't lose ourselves, let's get the best in the business to do the job for us; let the already convicted murderers do it. They need the work, and a chance to think outside the box. [Emphasis mine-CK]

Which I believe is why executions, like wars, and torture sessions for that matter, should be televised, and if I could arrange it somehow, mandatory viewing.

Let's put the execute back into executions.

It's easy enough to let our government carry out this sort of grisly business behind closed doors. Out of sight, out of mind.

But for all those who give tacit support to war, to executions capital punshiment, to torture, I believe being forced to watch exactly what's being done in our names might have a most salutory effect.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Calling in the E-team

If you've recovered from New Years celebrations, you may have noticed the recent spate of hirings and firings by the Bush administration.

The invaluable Dan Froomkin has a theory:

I see a possible theme: A purge of the unbelievers.

Harriet Miers, a longtime companion of the president but never a true believer in Vice President Cheney's views of a nearly unrestrained executive branch, is out as White House counsel -- likely to be replaced by someone in the more ferocious model of Cheney chief of staff David S. Addington.

Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizad, considered by Cheney to be too soft on the Sunnis, is kicked upstairs to the United Nations, to be replaced by Ryan Crocker, who presumably does not share his squeamishness.

John Negroponte, not alarmist enough about the Iranian nuclear threat in his role as Director of National Intelligence, is shifted over to the State Department, the Bush administration's safehouse for the insufficiently neocon. Cheney, who likes to pick his own intelligence, thank you, personally intervenes to get his old friend Mike McConnell to take Negroponte's job.

And George Casey and John Abizaid -- the generals who so loyally served as cheerleaders for the White House's "stay the course" approach during the mid-term election campaigns -- are jettisoned for having shown a little backbone in their opposition to Cheney and Bush's politically-motivated insistence on throwing more troops into the Iraqi conflagration.

Call it the E (for escalation) team.

And I suppose it makes sense of a sort.

As is becoming increasingly apparent, BushCorp has finally realized that Iraq isn't going to show the sort of progress that anyone could call winning, and has so decided on its own exit strategy: treading water until a new administration can come in and clean up its mess.

So now it's bringing in a team of ideologues so divorced from reality that they will bull through the carnage to come no matter what.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Greetings fellow pork bellies!

I suppose I could write a point by point rebuttal to George Will's latest screed against the New Deal travesty known as, gasp, the minimum wage, which, apparently ranks up there with fluoridation or what have you as an offence to the American Way of Life.

Now one might wonder why a minimum wage, which only guarantees that the poor may become slightly less poor,would matter to a wealthy member of DC's pampered punditocracy.

But you'd only have to wait until the final paragraph of the story which contains this gem:

Labor is a commodity; governments make messes when they decree commodities' prices.

Savor that thought. Labor is a commodity.

Like frozen orange juice.

Like pork bellies.

Your labor, my labor, the work you do out of love or neccesity is a commodity, nothing more.

It should therefore be as fungible as a side of beef. And as subject to the sometimes rather wayward whims of Adam Smith's invisible hand.

Unfortunately for Will, and you really would think a free market devotee would get this right, the main characteristic of a commodity is that its value is relatively independent of its source (e.g. a pork belly from Iowa is essentially valued the same as a pork belly from Alabama).

But labor has value well beyond markets, as anyone who has been without work can tell you.

And regardless, it's insulting to refer to people's work as if were merely a bushel of corn.

But then that is exactly how people like Will want us to see ourselves, just cogs in the corporate machine, sides of beef, pork bellies to be traded by the wealthy for their own benefit.

So when you watch Republicans continue to reward great wealth, while they simultaneously denigrate the value of actual work, you now know why.

Strange though, that you and I are pork bellies, but they're the pigs at the trough.

UPDATE: And it's nice to know so emminent a personage as Washington Monthly's Kevin Drumm agrees:

This, in a nutshell, is the core problem with conservative economics: it views workers as commodities. Naturally it follows from this that we should be free to treat workers like commodities, rather than as human beings. (See here for a recent example.)

Most conservatives are careful not to state this belief quite so baldly, but Will must have slipped up this morning. But don't blame him. He's just saying out loud what all the rest of them usually say only under their breaths.


Hour 1 for Democrats

I remember when Republicans swept into congress halfway through Clinton's first term. I remember the sinking feeling that the promise of Clinton's election was at that point all for naught.

Or at least it would fall short, far short of its potential. With a burgeoning economy and the end of the cold war establishing American pre-eminence Clinton had been given the opportunity to position America as a beacon of hope here at home and a force for good in the world abroad.

Instead we got Kenneth Starr, Whitewater (does ANYBODY know what that was about, even now?) and Monica Lewinsky.


As Democrats take control of congress for the first time since 1994, the challenges facing the US are rather different. Mired in Iraq, impotent in the rest of the world, with an economy that does nothing but widen the divide between haves and have-nots, the Democrats will have to do more than just hound a president they loathe.

Not that they shouldn't do that, they just need to do much more.

And while efforts to provide an actual check on presidential excess, raise the minimum wage, wean the US from its dependence on non-renewable energy sources, reign in pharmaceutical costs, back stemcell research and shore up homeland security are all important tasks, no task is more important, and most importantly no task is more do-able than ethics reform.

Without risk of presidential veto, without needing the assent of obstructionist Republicans (though if they were wise they would help, not hinder), the new Democratic congress can fix much that ails this government, or at least make it easier to do so, if they make real progress against the pay-for-play atmosphere so prevalent in Washington.

And while the effort to reign in lobbyists is all well and good, the best thing congress can do for itself is to severely curtail the use of earmarks.

And while an outright ban would be preferable, an easier and more politically acceptable soultion to this problem exists: disclosure.

Publish (preferably on the internet)

  • *The name of the sponsoring congressman
  • *The names and memberships of those special interest groups supporting the earmark
  • *Analysis of what those special interest groups and their members stand to gain from the earmark
  • *List all perks and donations to the sponsoring congressman and any of his favored PACs, charities and relatives by said special interest groups and their members.

Shine the light of day on slimeball behavior and the behavior will either stop, or those who insist on continuing their corrupt ways will be rooted out and then booted out.

So instead of government for special interests, the final result will be a government of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, and FOR the PEOPLE.

And that has a nice ring to it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A daily read

If you don't already read Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing column regularly all I can say is this.

You should read Dan Froomkin's White House briefing column regularly.

I know, I know, it's not easy. He doesn't have a permanent URL so you have to search the front page at

But still, it's worth the effort.

Today's column about the fultility of a troop escalation surge is a case in point. Not only does he provide clear-eyed opinion, but links to many others of the same ilk.


If the vox populi and the cognoscenti agree that throwing more American bodies at the problem will only result in more American deaths, then how is the apparent Bush plan anything short of a betrayal of the troops and an expression of contempt for the will of the people?

And is there any more plausible explanation for Bush's behavior than that he is willing to sacrifice more troops so he won't have to admit -- at least not yet -- that he made a mistake? Is that a good enough reason to ask even one more soldier to die?

And, among others, links to:

Keith Olbermann (text, video):

"Mr. Bush, your judgment about Iraq -- and now about 'sacrifice' -- is at variance with your people's, to the point of delusion.

"Your most respected generals see no value in a 'surge' -- they could not possibly see it in this madness of 'sacrifice.'

"The Iraq Study Group told you it would be a mistake.

"Perhaps dozens more have told you it would be a mistake.

"And you threw their wisdom back, until you finally heard what you wanted to hear, like some child drawing straws and then saying 'best two out of three . . . best three out of five . . . hundredth one counts.'

"Your citizens, the people for whom you work, have told you they do not want this, and moreover, they do not want you to do this.

"Yet once again, sir, you have ignored all of us. . . .

"First we sent Americans to their deaths for your lie, Mr. Bush.

"Now we are sending them to their deaths for your ego."

And Jane Smiley at, as well as Robert Hodierne for the Military Times.

And many more.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A reason for HuffingtonPost to exist

A year and a half ago, any number of bloggers were, shall we say, a wee bit hostile to the creation of Huffingtonpost.

Arianna and her coterie of celeb dilettantes were going to destroy the populist heroism of the blogosphere. There goes the neighborhood.

Or something like that.

But that was never your CaliBlogger's belief. I welcome the cacophony of voices found on the internets. Even those of the (typically semi-) famous.

But today HuffPo published an article which I posit makes its entire existence, though it were 'til now entirely quisquilious*, yet absolutely worthwhile:

Steve Martin on Hussein's death:

Oh, my Saddam, how I loved your funny little ways. The way you held your teacup; the way you enjoyed those who coaxed a smile from you. I love that you found a way to exist in this mixed up world, how you thought, "why be mean when you can be nice?" Saddam, I will miss the way you would point to someone and then they would be dead, the way your puppy Pluto became a rug.

Yes, it's all been worth it after all.

*I love on-line dictionaries.

General recommends an end to discrimination of gays in the military

In today's New York Times retired general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John M. Shalikashvili, calls for the US military to adopt a policy of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation:

Last year I held a number of meetings with gay soldiers and marines, including some with combat experience in Iraq, and an openly gay senior sailor who was serving effectively as a member of a nuclear submarine crew. These conversations showed me just how much the military has changed, and that gays and lesbians can be accepted by their peers.

This perception is supported by a new Zogby poll of more than 500 service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, three quarters of whom said they were comfortable interacting with gay people. And 24 foreign nations, including Israel, Britain and other allies in the fight against terrorism, let gays serve openly, with none reporting morale or recruitment problems.

I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the United States military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.

Needless to say, your CaliBlogger believes that the time is long past due to end the ridiculous "don't ask, don't tell" policy initiated under Clinton.

Of course I believe the GLBT community should be entitled to the full panoply of human rights enjoyed by we straights.

Without reservation.

And while general Shalikashvili, perhaps chastened by the Debacle the Clintons made of their abortive attempt to liberalize the military, calls for prudence in the implementation of such changes, I find it heartening to see that the futility of current policy is being recognized where it counts most: within the ranks of the military itself.

I'd like to close this post with a comment I read in response to Justin Gardener's post on the subject at Donklephant.

howard Says:

I am a 74 year old Korean War veteran. Back then in the early ’50s, blacks couldn’t eat at white lunch counters, had separate water fountains, and sat in the back of the bus and other discriminatory practices. But in our barracks, they slept where ever, among the whites…and they fought shoulder to shoulder as trusted buddies. There is nothing to prove that gays in the military could not perform with distinction, if given the chance.

Gay discrimination is based on the theory that all gays are only into sex with you, Mr. Straightman. If that theory were ascribed to male heterosexuals, then there would be no military.

I have found that given the chance, people will strive and excel. Do you realize that gays are already flying our commercial aircraft, are chefs in the restaurants you patronize, they teach your children, and perform untold charitable events, just like you Mr. Straightman.

This is the 21st century, and time to rethink past prejudices.

Long. Past. Time.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Go Bolts!

As you may have noticed, since this is my first post ever on the subject, your CaliBlogger has rather other things on his mind than professional sports.

But, as someone who grew up in San Diego and attended Chargers games when the jersies featured names like Hadl and Alworth, I wanted to take a moment to congratulate the 2006 edition of the team on its spectacular success.

Led by LaDainian Tomlinson's incredible year, the Chargers posted a team best 14-2 record and have secured homefield advantage throughout their quest for the Superbowl.

I know ('cos I was there) that keeping the team has been a controversial and expensive proposition for the people of San Diego, but I hope regardless they enjoy the team's success.

It's been a long road to hoe since the glory days of AirCoryell.

Best of luck in the playoffs.

Go Bolts!