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Monday, March 29, 2010

Note to Justice Roberts, et. al.

Many Christian groups and their members don't believe in free speech and never thought freedom of association was enough.

It is somehow especially relevant to the case, now before the court, brought by Christian Legal Society who purport to espouse such values, as they seek to limit the well-formed, anti-discrimination policies that public Universities use, in a variety of ways.

To wit, in their own words, no less:

"Blasphemy is not free speech."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

FAIL: Arab League

They've failed to embrace the ONLY path forward, negotiations.

And, so we have the Israelis using the "excuse" of violence to carry out whatever in the name of security and at the "blame" of the "other side" and the Palestinians using the "excuse" to that "excuse", so that no one makes progress.

The American and EU taxpayers foot the bill for this, in many ways, so that everyone feels some comfort in going "home" with everything left undone.

Someone should turn the lights out in Ramallah until there is a negotiating position that there are no preconditions.

The Saddest Thing

The pathetic revival of his worst executive decision makes this the saddest photo in political news.

A bystander in his own career, at this point?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Losingest Fight

Apparently "the rich" so much don't want to pay for mandate healthcare that they've commandeered other people's money to fight it, in the form of taxpayer funded suits by various rightwing attorney generals.

So, what does the GOP get out of this?

I mean, most citizens are happy to drop the mandate. It sounds dramatic and terribly poor insurance design to do so, but in practice, the cost is not nearly as high as one might suppose.

In short, dropping the mandate just argues for a tax of a different kind, like an income tax or a tax penalty.

Besides, I don't understand why the Democrats play so nice. Should they offer amendments to allow State Governors, for instance, to opt out of accepting Washington-based funds? Personally, I want all my stimulus money back from Texas, who didn't suffer from the mortgage underwriting debacle and who are already getting a huge stimulus from Homeland Security spending.

The Indecent Right: Abusing Liberty to Insult Patriotism

The Floor has even seen murder, but to go on a national news program?

Does Cindy Sheehan even rate, compared to "tea party rhetoric"?

So far, the rightwing rhetoric about Obama is unhinged, disembodied ressentiment.

So eager are they to concretize the sentiment, that Glen Beck, for instance, spent an entire show with Representative Massa, trolling - trolling - for facts.

Yelling "baby killer" at a piece of legislation, not a person?

That is the kind of indecent, face-saving tactics reminiscent of Tom DeLay, who, like Beck channeling the OSS on Hitler, counsels that no one in the GOP should admit fault, but rather look for a way in which some issue, tangential or not, can be politicized.

The chief source of anti-Bush rancor on the Left was (a) lies or perceived lies, about nothing less than the moral equivalent of war and (b) the false tradeoffs that were offered up rhetorically in support for expansion of the 'security state'. General cheapening of the public discourse ("Gannon", "So what?", et. al.) set the tone. As time passes, all that was hidden under the rubric "National Security" will augment that.

So far, the rightwing rhetoric about Obama is unhinged, disembodied ressentiment. So eager are they to concretize the sentiment, that Glen Beck, for instance, spent an entire show with Representative Massa, trolling - trolling - for facts.

A general state of deliberate, unprincipled behavior - is that decent? Patriotic?

And one has to agree with Frank Schaeffer that the impact of much of the indecent stuff is to give tacit moral permissioning, to create a climate in which violence is not only possible, but likely. He says it is deliberate, pre-meditated. To the extent it isn't reigned in after someone like him puts them on notice, I'd agree.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The unlikely is possible in Iraq


The largely secularist party of Allawi has done so well that is is now possible, on the numbers, for his list to form a government with al-Maliki and shut out all the Kurds and Sadr and the more religious Shiite bloc.

Alternatively, if Allawi were able to cobble together support from the main Kurdish parties, he'd be just shy of having enough seats to form a majority. He'd need to convince just a few smaller players to be involved.


Buffet trades through treasuries, as well as a few others.


The flunkies and pure spirits

Via Kos, the 33 Democrats against insurance re-regulation, aka "health care reform".

Recalling the same for Financial Industry reform:

"The vote was a party-line 223-202. No Republicans voted for the bill; 27 Democrats voted against it."

Pass. The. Damn. B...

Oh, it's done.

I'm so glad I didn't pay attention to the Washington-style sturm und drang.

The phasing - the temporizing - in the bill gives the lie to Obama's statement about "courage".

Anyway, one can savor the moment, even knowing that the "fixing" will start immediately.

How long do you think it will take for the Senate to gut the Student Loan stuff?

After all, this is the same Senate who couldn't bring themselves to allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgage loans, during the middle of the largest mortgage crisis in the history of the country, probably.

Last week, Secretary Geithner was still lamenting that mortgage loan servicers had 'not done enough'. How many chances does one give them?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dove or Drone?

Fareed Zakaria brings the bam-bam:

Bibi Netanyahu makes bold speeches about protecting Israel but when it comes time to act, he has cobbled together a coalition of extreme parties, made concessions to them on crucial issues, given them free rein to undermine Israel's broader security, and pandered to his public's most populist instincts—all to ensure than he can sit in the prime minister's chair. Little that Netanyahu has done suggests he has prioritized the Iranian threat—or these deeper, long-term threats—and made difficult decisions to address them. Forget Winston Churchill, Bibi Netanyahu looks more like a local ward boss, concerned only with keeping himself in power while the dangers to Israel mount from all sides.

-Zakaria, Newsweek

The Indispensable Biden Moment

Krauthammer calls it an "incident" of "timing". Of course, he's right. Without the Biden snub, no one would have noticed. Israel could have gone along, promising freezes yet building, even building illegally by Israeli standards of legal. (Someone recently decided that a gap between existing buildings was a security risk that needed to be plugged with more housing units ... that's how brazen it's gotten).

Face it, no one would have so publicly examined the ripeness of Netanyahu's coalition to the task we all want from it, had Biden not been there.

No way that a ground-breaking or a new apartment in Ramat Shlomo makes the headlines in America. Clinton's prior "denunciation" of the 80 units to be demolished in East Jerusalem was drown out, by the health care "debate". Most of Obama's tribulations with the Netanyahu government, last year, went by unseen, buried in his favorable/unfavorable polls.

We would not have gotten this (the long battle for Jerusalem) on the pages of the WSJ, perhaps laying plain why "final status" arrangements are always a step too far, for so many, for so long, now.

Nor would we have gotten this key insight, from the Knesset, a super-majority of whom are sending AIPAC a "terms sheet" for their lobbying, including something called "national areas of Jerusalem":

“we, the undersigned members of Knesset, who represent different approaches and world-views regarding the desirable permanent-status arrangement, are unified behind the policy of all Israeli governments to this day, regarding our attachment to the historical and national areas of Jerusalem and the right of the State of Israel to actualize our control in its Jewish neighborhoods in all parts of the city – neighborhoods that constitute an inseparable part of Jerusalem that will remain in our hands in any future permanent status arrangement.

“We support the continuation of building and development in all of the neighborhoods without any restriction or delay,”

So, Krauthammer can use the word "generous" all he wants, but any dispassionate observer, one who, say, knew little of the history of the conflict, would simply scratch their heads and conclude that Israel built - literally built - obstacles to a final agreement, at least insofar as it is unwilling to negotiate land based on these very settlements.

'67 or Bust

Clearing the space for another hole to open up?:

As a reporter who covered the Camp David summit hosted by U.S. President Jimmy Carter, I wonder if we would ever have achieved a peace agreement had Egypt demanded the freezing of the settlements in Sinai and other preconditions for the final negotiations.

A freeze seems like a very small price to pay in 2010, if it gets talks going again, even though it seems like a contradiction to open negotiations when someone is acting in prejudice of them.

It would be helpful if Erekat ever published some maps of their own, rather than just stick to Arafat's old formulation of "'67 or bust".

It would be helpful if Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia got involved in drafting parts of a regional, post-settlement security-cooperation regime, that would keep a new Palestinian state from militarization and radicalization (by Hamas, etc.).

Follow the money?

Yes, but better yet, follow the legal history.

I can't make heads or tails of this, but it looks like an increase in authority to dispose of property in disputed lands.

The full legal history of land acquisition in the West Bank and Jerusalem is complex, but illuminating.

Now, the Afghanistan Fiasco: Whack-a-mole with Arrested Political Reconciliation

Pakistan's arrest of top Taliban leader? A former U.N. guy is now talking openly about it as having stalled tripartite talks among Taliban, Afghanistan, and U.N.

Why would a non-party to the talks do that?!

The Taliban gain territory, in what looks on the surface a little bit like whack-a-mole. It's in the North, Kunduz.

Sound great?

There's more.

Iran is reportedly taking an interest in arming the Taliban.

The only brightspot in today's news is something like an "awakening" among the frontier tribesman to oppose "militants". LOL.

photo: Dave Guttenfelder

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Moore Nominee Award"

"This is why Obama matters as much now as ever. Only he can save us ..."

-Andrew Sullivan

Do you really want to use the word "colonize", Andrew?.

True or false: you cannot write clearly on the subject matter until you have a clear view of (a) how you want to approach the conflict theoretically and (b) what you want to achieve.

Even then, it is a constant struggle. One can make the best arguments and still lose a "debate".

Btw, if anyone thinks that a tongue lashing over antisemitism, one that doesn't even hold the day, is an "Irish-Catholic" tragedy (bleh!) or whatever, consider what happens to those who get targeted by the other side, too. I mean, I don't know Jeffrey from squat, but this has all the tenor of a smear job, no?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Israeli Rightwing Power Grab?

I guess Jeff Goldberg has to publish rightwing material, even if it comes, thankfully, with a cute and funny header about Haredi sitcom.

Why pressure Livni? Why shouldn't Netanyahu join Livni's government, not the other way around?

Let's review:

  • Kadima got more votes and seats, even though Likud picked up seats
  • Both Netanyahu and Ehud Barak had a chance to join Livni in a coalition government before elections, but chose their own ends ahead of stability.
  • After warnings from Olmert that non-cooperation with Kadima would all come to a mess, a string of aggressive statements and evocative moves has done just that, under the stewardship of Netanyahu.

This is why Shas party didn't join with Livni, i.e. she wasn't socialist and nationalist enough:

Shas' chairman added that "If Livni addresses the issue of a million hungry children and doesn't give away the country's assets – with an emphasis on Jerusalem – we'll be in her government. If not, we won't be."

So, again, why pressure Livni and not Netanyahu to join?

Because the rightwing pressure campaign is working, maybe, to get Livni to cave in to Likud, when it should be the other way.

Guilt the Americans, Part II

Judging by the comments, I don't think people realize how good a piece of propaganda this piece in the TNR really is.

More later - ... but take some time to dissect the facts offered in the piece and the new frameworks introduced to be persuasive and see if you don't come to the same conclusions.

[tb con'd]

CIA - on their own side?

My quick scan of this suggests

  • 1. The CIA barely briefed on torture and doesn't have any tangible record of what/when it did
  • 2. On the other hand, there is a *very* clear record on the 'cover up', the destruction of tapes, that 'spreads the blame'.

Ordinarily, one would grade high for an improvisation. But, this doesn't smell like one.

Guilt the Americans

The campaign continues. Layer on the guilt.

It continues alongside the strange and fantastic enclosure that, no matter what the "crisis" in the mideast or I-P conflict or the change in the Israeli governing coalition, Israel-American relations are untouched by it.

Wrap that inside yet another Israeli who just seems so perplexed that they cannot just be left alone to live the good life or that anything could or should spill over into violence 'in their city', when they have done everything to be nice to the 3.5 million or so unruly "prawns".

One can feel guilty for Rice-Bush and their flunked effort to turn Hamas into a democratically elected leadership. Although, it should be added that the likes of Tom Friedman feel that 'democracy' was what they got right. gulp. Even the author is noting knock-on benefits, reforms within competing Fatah.

But, feeling guilty over an annexation that the U.N. has never recognized and building policies that only culminate a clear, abrupt, dismissive, and often provocative tone adopted by the Netanyahu government?


The rest of the points, even the aspersions, are easily refuted.

[p.s. I've found out that Juan Cole doesn't always publish quasi-dissenting opinions on his website. :-( ]

Voter apathy, Democratic edition

Weak Democratic turnout in the elections last year put a Bush-era Republican (and a former Bush appointee) in charge of New Jersey.

Result? The middle class and the poor will bear the brunt of cutbacks and taxes.

Those reductions, plus the rebate suspension, drew fire from Democrats, who contrasted the cuts with Christie's refusal to renew a 2009 tax increase on filers who earn $400,000 or more.

"Wealthy people in New Jersey got a tax cut. The middle class and the poor are going to get a tax increase. It's that simple," said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester). Leaving the higher tax in place would bring in an additional $800 million to $1 billion; it would be enough, Sweeney said, to soften the blow in many areas

-Philly Inquirer

Meanwhile, all the belt-tightening at the State level threatens any recovery.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wow - Iraq Elections

The secularists are temporarily ahead, i.e. on the latest preliminary figures.

Netanyahu losing credibility with moderate Arabs

King Abdullah of Jordan is quoted on the wires, today, questioning the motives of the Netanyahu coalition by accusing them, indirectly, of trying to push Arabs out of Jerusalem.

[While not of the same ilk as the above, I have to mention that I just read a poll that, under Hamas, more and more people want to get the f out of Gaza, to emigrate.]

Laugh QOTD

Wow. Right of center? Only if you're reaching around from the back with your left hand.

Calling Red State right of center is a little like calling the Tea Partiers Reagan Republicans.

-Crooks and Liars

This is beating out a very strong contender:

"Hayek Propped Up by Government Intervention"

Tom Friedman: Not ready for peace?


In a column that has a whole paragraph that reads like "poor, Bibi", as if Netanyahu didn't have a chance himself to enter coalition with Kadima and forestall the whole internal mess, Tom Friedman cannot quite come out with an endorsement of final settlement talks.

Friedman repeats the dangerous philosophy, once again, that true final settlement talks are far off.

If Israel has made its 'choice for peace', then why are they far off, in some Phase II? All the issues should be on the table, at all times.

Why should the U.S., the Quartet, any Arab neighbor, and even the average Iranian, allow for less? (We understand and do not accept, of course, Palestinian 'unpreparedness' or preconditions).

Moving with all deliberate haste to final settlement talks and to all that can be done to end occupation is a long way toward keeping Iran at bay. Of course it is not "conclusive", but it would strengthen the hand of moderates, if they had economic favors and 'a future' to pass out, in pursuit of a tangible, two-state proposition, not a distant, theoretical "phase II".

Why isn't there sufficient Iranian deterrence, even from the nightmarish scenario of nuclear terrorism? One simply needs to hold "rogue" nuclear states, i.e. those outside IAEA protocols, "accountable", right?

Maureen Dowd has an interesting take, but she is uncharacteristically full of reportage and less deliciously piquant than usual.

Her view is that Obama's team have been caught unprepared and disorganized for the logical outcomes of the Netanyahu coalition, although she buries the lead.

"I wear my sunglasses ..."

During his visit, Biden failed to meet with Netanyahu's coalition partner, the fashion forward orthodox rabbi, Ovadiah Yosef.

Few have more than personal problems with orthodoxy, jewish or otherwise; but it is not a good mix with politics, let alone international politics.

a little background, including why Netanyahu will not "cave" this time.

Quietly or otherwise, the issue has to be forced on him and others, not diffused. Otherwise, the ability (his ability?) to manipulate the status-quo will be confirmed, the appropriate adjustments not made, and the prospect for meaningful peace talks scuttled or undermined in sly ways.

The Balance of Power in Israel


AIPAC faces an increasingly plain problem: to be "aligned with Israel", today, is to be captive to the orthodox Shas party (let alone the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu).

How do you win the support of the Shas party in coalition politics inside Israel?

Netanyahu to Shas: Don't join Livni, she'll give up Jerusalem

Likud Chairman and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday met with the spiritual leader of the Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, and asked him to instruct the Shas leaders not to join the coalition currently being constructed by prime minister-designate Tzipi Livni, because she will "give up Jerusalem."


On the left, NIS440 million (million!) for "child subsidies" that is deemed to be not enough - ask yourself, what does that subsidize indirectly?

Some people are frustrated that the main parties aren't cooperating to shut out these political extremists.

The truth about who should cooperate with whom? Kadima got the most votes and should be in the lead, not Netanyahu (or Barak). Both Netanyahu and Barak passed up opportunities to form a government with Kadima - Barak's party went on to lose seats and Netanyahu to dramatically gain.

(Asked this week whether he'd consider joining a Livni government, Netanyahu replied that he'd rather join Lehman Brothers.) The head of the dovish Labor Party, Ehud Barak, also said this week that he prefers early elections to a Livni-led government.



Therefore, Secretary of State Clinton's comments are off the mark. It is not a question of disagreeing. She should ask herself on what issues does she agree with Shas and so should AIPAC, because they are driving the coalition on key issues in the foreign relationship. After that, they know what to do.

Here's an interesting "I told you so", from Olmert of all places. Clinton should read it to her AIPAC friends.

CIA redux

No one thought to resign rather than torture.

Go cowboys!

Seriously, it's a wonder that we can even get along with the 'intelligence' services that we have.

Update: My standards are way too high.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today's Must-Read

How a General became a slave;
How a slave became a gladiator;
How a gladiator defied an Emperor.


How an imprecision became a mountain (via MotherJones).

Israel's Lieberman Snubs Next Head of State In Line

The wires are breaking news that Israel's Foreign Minister Lieberman has 'boycotted' the Knesset speech of Brazil's President (which may be the first ever visit by a Brazilian head of state?).

Let's see, Turkey, U.S., Brazil - what's that, a cool 500 million people?

Pity Andrew Sullivan?

I regard the establishment of the Jewish state as one of the West's high-points in the 20th Century - AS

Should one take pity on Andrew Sullivan?

Until one can write six or more reasons why this is a strange statement, one probably shouldn't argue against "authoritah" and admit you make "errors".

Here's an idea. Set Chris to do some research, since there appears to be an information deficit at The Dish, in terms of knowing even the basic topology of the arguments for/against, issue by issue.

Maybe start with these: Why did the Arab states ostensibly oppose the U.N. partition plan, resolution 181? Did "The West" or 181 "establish" Israel? What is the reference for "high point" - it sounds like moral highpoint? What is the moral framework for that judgment, thrown out there, left unargued? Seriously, how careless (or carefree?) a statement can one make?


And if Andrew thinks that his statements are going to advance ... a bargaining position (or vindicate him with a personal love story?), he's so wrong.

Witness Marty Peretz, who gives the temperature of the waters, these days, mocking Biden for his gushing, child-like sentiments:

Herb Keinon, the very astute observer of U.S.-Israel relations at the Jerusalem Post, published an article today titled “Veep shows Israel some love.” And in a subhead: “In Jerusalem, Biden reiterates Washington’s ‘absolute, total unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security.’”

And this was not all. Biden has his own longtime and almost maternally breastfed affections for Israel. Before meeting with the gaga president of Israel, he observed that the Jewish state “captured my heart. I make no bones about it. That does not mean I do not understand and have a great empathy for the circumstances of the Palestinians, but Israel captured heart and my imagination.”


And, he has a point, of sorts, that is NOT uniquely his own. There is plain, realist case that Israel under Netanyahu should get the 'clean break' some have asked for.

Irrelevant tidbit or microcosm?

The hardline is to downplay the building in Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem, the recent announcement of which laid bare a watershed between Netanyahu and U.S. peacemaking efforts.

But, this analysis shows that many of the factors in the conflict are 'in play' in just the saga of this particular 'settlement' construction project.

Even more interesting is the story of the first, serious two-state proposal, nine days after the 1967 war (but still around the same time or just after bulldozing al-maghrib).

Reproduced after the cut.

The eulogies, which focused on his exploits as a Mossad spymaster turned diplomat, did not do justice to the efforts of Dr. David Kimchi. In a conversation I had with him in June 2007, on the occasion of 40 years since the Six-Day War, I discovered that there is no operation that Dave is more proud of than his peace initiative of June 1967. Nine days after the outbreak of the war, reserve intelligence officer Kimchi and his friend, Dan Bavli, formulated the idea of two states, Israel and Palestine, living alongside each other in peace and security.

In this document, which they prepared after a series of meetings with Palestinian figures, headed by attorney Aziz Shehadeh, they suggested establishing an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The new state, they wrote, would be connected to Israel via defense, economic and tourism agreements and others. It would not have an army, only a police force and the Israel Defense Forces would secure the Jordan Valley, alone, or in joint patrols with Palestinian forces.

Before the first Israeli brick was laid down in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and after they checked the idea with the Palestinian leaders, Kimchi and Bavli wrote, together with two colleagues from the intelligence community, Yitzhak Oron and Aluf Hareven, who joined the initiative, the following lines: "Jerusalem will be annexed to Israel, with a special status for the holy sites, and an auxiliary municipality will be set up for the Arab part of the Old City. The Palestinian state will establish its capital at the closest possible point to Jerusalem."

The young officers even thought of a territorial exchange: annexing the Latrun salient and the Gilboa mountain range in return for concession of several Arab villages in Israel's territory.

Later on, as he contributed his great understanding to peace and conciliation efforts, Kimchi dropped this idea.

Thoughts for the day

The Iraqis will eventually form a new government in less time than it took America to seat Senator Al Franken.

It may well be that the American public has no idea just how much of a fiasco the Afghanistan effort has been, perhaps rivaling the Iraqi debacle, and certainly no real idea of how long we will be ultimately committed there.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oversight Theater

Sweeping everything into one grand statement, as some pundits have, is not nearly descriptive, subtle, or nuanced enough.
I keep reading missives that make all settlement activity look equal, in the zeal of some of oversee, second-guess, and re-interpret all Israeli activity.

The truth is that settlement occurred for different reasons during different periods. There are some maps that show West Bank settlement activity over time, during various key time-periods. (I cannot find them, now, however, but they are revealing).

Because of this, there are all kinds of nettlesome problems with the status quo, which is the result of decisions made at different times, with different objectives, and with different legal underpinnings. Sweeping everything into one grand statement, as some pundits have, is not nearly descriptive, subtle, or nuanced enough.

To their credit, the Israeli government did try to undertake an "inventory" of the issues. Facts are the precursors to dealing with problems.

Netanyahu: No one has nothing to complain about

The ultra-orthodox jewish only neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo,
high on the hillside, like so many others.

No one can complain, according to Netanyahu:

"In the past 40 years, there was no government that limited construction in any Jerusalem area or neighborhood," Netanyahu said. "Establishing Jewish neighborhoods did not hurt Jerusalem's Arab residents and was not at their expense."

One doesn't even know where to start with such a eye-popping statement. Historically, metaphysically? What is a "Jewish neighborhood", exactly? How did the barrier wall affect the most arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem? Building without permits? The "Absentee Property Law"? The less than random placement of "neighborhoods", such that those that encircle other neighborhoods? None of this perturbed Arabs, near or far?

For intent, I think one can probably find eye-popping statements from almost every Israeli tourism minister in recent memory - last one that I recall he was telling people to hurry up because time was short.

Olmert, former mayor of Jerusalem, approved a record number of building projects.

Here's something even more current:

"Now that I have been appointed responsible for the Interior Ministry I plan to go for the City of David with full force," Yishai told the Jewish land-owners. "Every [!!!] construction plan that comes must include Jewish settlement and an extensive tourism venture."

He added, "The City of David is the bedrock of our existence, the land of our sovereignty, and Jewish settlement there is our right.

The U.N. tried to find the truth in numbers, amidst a lopsided demolition derby (demolition of illegal jewish building seldom seems to make headlines):

OCHA said that at least 28% of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem have been built without the Israeli permits, which residents say are nearly impossible to obtain.
It said planners have earmarked only 13% of annexed east Jerusalem for Palestinian construction, while one third has been expropriated for settlement housing projects.

Anyway, if Obama-Biden learn anything it should be that his treatment is just symptomatic of a larger settlement activity, possible purpose and intent. Efforts to downplay it as 'just one neighborhood' and 'nothing to focus on' should fall short.

p.s. number of U.S. media outlets containing (a) picture of any settlements or (b) interviews with any people in affected neighborhoods = zero, so far.

Virginia: Not for lovers or employers


Virginia's newly elected GOP are on the verge of hate speech, I'm sad to say.

The chilling effect is that these new GOP hatefills are proposing a 'confusion' in order to popularize and propagate the notion that it is okay and lawful to hate-on-gays, even though the law does NOT say one must do so.
There is no law mandating that one must discriminate in employment for or against gay and lesbians.


Therefore, seizing this issue as one of their first post-electoral 'championship issues' does nothing but popularize the notion that it is okay to fire gays and lesbians.

It's a chilling effect, at a minimum, an intimidation at worst, on those who would put limits what you can not do, not what you can do, in regards to having the freedom to hire people on whatever terms you want.

The chilling effect is that these new GOP hatefills are proposing a 'confusion' in order to popularize and propagate the notion that it is okay and lawful to hate-on-gays, even though the law does NOT say one must do so.

DADT: Not working, Not effective, Very Costly

Today, the incredibly tragic story of an air force sergeant, Rene Newsome, who was discharged after local police got their dander up in South Dakota.

Married with nine years in the service, her reported intent was to make a career out of the military.

Look how impossibly thin the police 'backtrack' appears on face:

Police officers, who said they spotted the marriage license on the kitchen table through a window of Newsome's home

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"A Clean Break": The U.S. Should Oblige Netanyahu

For a long time, there are those inside the U.S. who are just fine with what the Netanyahu government are interested in achieving, whether now or during his last episode as PM.

If Netanyahu wants a clean break, Obama-Clinton should oblige him. (background) Even Bush-Rice had to take steps related to U.S. dollars going to subsidize settlement activity, cutting $300 million, not too much that Israel couldn't find work-arounds (see page 5).


Why? Because Netanyahu isn't likely to ask for a 'clean break'. They are just going to do it, as quietly as possible. A U.S. policy of full 'make believe' is not helpful, in this instance. Closer 'engagement' could be reserved for a different Israeli leadership.

Why not?

Because the critique of Israel is ridiculously unfocused and undisciplined, even on the pages of "mainstream" writers, who should know (or know better?).

I've also just read two articles one that says the USA must "tell Bibi" and another that proclaims woe to all who do not realize that "America is the senior partner". Is there any wonder why there is some resentment and lots of frustration within Israel, not just against Obama? Can you imagine living day-in and day-out constantly having to put up with that? Is this the respect that two nations should convey in conducting their foreign policy?

What's more, I've just re-read the original "Israel Lobby" piece in the London Review of Books.

The key problem with this analysis is that it goes too far. It's fine and useful to raise consciousness of the influence of any particular lobby group. But rather than focus on excess, the piece goes as far as implying that the entire effort on behalf of Israel is bogus, impossibly thin, or smoke-and-mirrors, rather than anything legitimate.

That is surely dangerous overstatement. (Update: same-day confirmation) An even-handed approach to peacemaking doesn't require any such assertion(s).

There are other reasons 'why not?'. Israel is probably in a position to be able to embarrass the United States. Confrontation could come at some political price. But, bad news does not get better with time, so it is arguable that's a set of lumps to take.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Facts of the Day

1 Fact:

Olmert made offers (the map that Andrew Sullivan didn't show you), even if we can disagree about the way in which this was done...

2 Fact:

Even while promising "freezes" and much else besides, this is part of what the Olmert government actually did. If history is a guide, Netanyahu will just double it and do it without the double-speak:

Tenders were issued for the construction of 2,437 housing units in East Jerusalem

(In comparison to 2,092 in the previous 3 years)

src: peacenow

3 Fact:

Ever notice how, when peace talks really get going or the 'conditions' seem ripe for 'making progress peacefully', that someone starts to stir the pot so that violence "rules the day"?

hummm... given that some feel that ongoing stalemate suits them, you might call that 'tactical arrogance' in pursuit of an unknown end-game

4 Fact:

There is nothing the right the world over hates more than the truth except the truth tellers. The rightwing in Israel are attacking the NGOs who 'bring it', trying to cut off international funding. (story)

National and Olympic Champion - Not invited


As we ponder the retrograde GOP in Virginia, news comes that three time National champion and two time Olympic champion Johnny Weir has failed to get an invitation from "Stars on Ice", putatively because of advertiser worry that he wasn't "family friendly".

Can you imagine how our country would be if we decided that top-notch thinkers or artists or writers should be ignored because they are Methodist or too old or divorced?

The more we drop excellence, personal responsibility, and achievement in favor of a bogus throw-away society based on religious ignorance or contempt the more we fail to create a just society ...

Trillions of dollars later ....

No one is in jail, yet, and we don't even have lists of the brokers at these firms who originated so much criminal bogus debt.
We had to wait for a bankruptcy court report to find out how and why Lehman brothers collapsed in detail ... did the U.S. Congress do 250+ interviews to get to the bottom of the matter?

Clearing banks were partly responsible - did they take advantage to force competition out of the market, to receive assets at fire-sale prices?

The Fed and the SEC were inside Lehman for months before it fell. How much did they know about the true liquidity position of the firm?

Meanwhile, the cost of this recession is going to be measured in the trillions of dollars, in lost output and lost tax revenue and outright stimulus debt-spending. No one is in jail, yet, and we don't even have lists of the brokers at these firms who originated so much bogus debt. Indeed, the ability to even research who, when, and how much is fading with the passage of time, quite possibly.

Loan loss severity on subprime debt in the tri-state area (the average loss is now at 70% of the total value of the loans advanced, and the graph implies that collateral value behind loans in the event of foreclosure is trending toward zero):

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Netanyahu reveals his unilateral "final solution" for Jerusalem

Yet, the legal framework for seizing land has been one of the longstanding gripes/proofs of self-serving justice. The administrative abuses of licensing and various forms of harassment are well known to anyone who keeps an eye out.
I couldn't believe this when I read it. You know, 120 units here, 200 units there, that's one thing. The subterfuge of Sharon-Netanyahu's use of settlements to change the facts on the ground in the West Bank is quite another.

Yet, I have this gnawing feeling that trying to evict or build 50,000 units principally in East Jerusalem will send shockwaves around the world. Even moreso in the absence of a permanent, irrevocable commitment to talks and perhaps no reasonable peace offer good enough to be left ON the table...

I mean, the fight over what is legal and not legal, even within Israeli law, and the destruction of properties has been going on since the days after the 1967 war, when Israel seized Waqf properties near the Western Wall, including using bulldozers on centuries-old properties within four days of the end of the war (as best memory serves, the U.N. even got involved in the condemning their actions).

It's not surprising that Bibi's own attachment wrote the book of apologetics on it (and, you guessed it, you are not allowed to criticize the motives or goal). Yet, the legal framework for seizing land has been one of the longstanding gripes/proofs of self-serving justice. The administrative abuses of licensing and various forms of harassment are well known to anyone who keeps an eye out (including those that sum to just allegations). And, of course, the impact of all this on how Israeli-Arabs feel has been documented and pressed politically.

But this seems like a relatively new openness and brazenness about the objectives of perhaps securing all of Jerusalem, ex negotio, it seems.

Yes, there have been other building plans leaked, even of similar size. Something feels different about this one. Maybe it is just the timing? It could end up being part of plans already announced - some of the targets are East Jerusalem "settlements" that have have been building for years. Even so, it raises questions about what is meant by the answer to the question that Shimon Peres once answered aloud, "Can we live within our borders?" and how to act responsibly until those borders are finalized.

Biden should have been prepared

...for the indecency of the current Israeli government.


One gets that they are defensive and upset about the torrent of "negativity" over Gaza, which went badly for them. But capitulating to the brashness and harmful bluster of the rightwing?

Their games are a nightmare, from a political science perspective:

But, since the Gaza war, Turkish-Israeli relations have deteriorated. The Turks, like pretty much every other nation on the planet, were appalled by the Israeli onslaught against the Gazans. And said so.

Ever since, the Netanyahu government has made a point to stick it to the Turks. Most famously, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon seated the Turkish ambassador in a kindergarten chair during a meeting, and "forgot" to put a Turkish flag on the table alongside the Israeli flag. He then called the Israeli photographers in and said to them in Hebrew - so the Turkish ambassador wouldn't understand, "The important thing is that they see he's sitting lower and we're up high and that there's only one flag, and you see we're not smiling."

News of that episode so enraged the Turks and humiliated the Israelis that Ayalon had to apologize three times, in progressively more abject terms, or face a rupture in Israeli-Turkish relations.

That battle is now being carried to Washington.

At least we know it is not personal...from our "friends" with Netanyahu...LOL.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Finally, a productive cynicism

From Time, of all places, the teaser to their story on the matter:

Neither side believes that indirect talks being initiated by the U.S. will bring peace, but each will try to use their failure to its advantage.


The radical religious and neo-conservative substrate of modern Israel

In poetic terms:

Looking back, Rubinger sees a worrying shift in Israeli thinking. He recalls a Hebrew poet writing that to be normal, a Jewish state needed "thieves and whores" like everywhere else. "Well, we have our thieves and whores," says Rubinger, "but our politicians have made us fearful. They brought back the ghetto mentality, the idea that everybody's trying to kill us. Ben-Gurion and the other founders wanted to get away from that. They wanted Israelis to be normal."

longtime photographer in Time mag.

Does Abbas really think that time is on his side?

Protesting the forced eviction in East Jerusalem.

Abbas has canceled the proposed talks and the Arab League are conferring over the next few days.

This is so stupid. Yet another capitulation of reason and strategic imperative to the passions of the moment - pride, anger, fear, whatever it is today and tomorrow.

No one has time on their side and the Palestinians certainly have less leverage than ever, with split political say-so and the pathological Hamas in power. Indeed, radicals inside Israel have made it plain that they will use what influence they have so as not to bear the cost of time, entirely, even if the EU and the U.S. keep funding the conflict.

If you are not even trying to negotiate a deal, to win concessions, then spouting anger about injustices only goes so far, right? Same for turning them into pretexts for not negotiating, right? What's worse, running away and abandoning the situation to hardliners just gives them more power.

Pulled screaming, posturing, or whining to the negotiating table is the best way.

The Long Hand of Bush-Cheney-Rice Failure in Israel and the Mideast


Even then, the talks are not nearly what they need to be, a permanent, abiding commitment to ongoing talks and offers that are good enough to be left on the table, more or less.
How's that democracy working out, so far?

In Iraq, after nearly $1 trillion in direct expenses and thousands of lives, we have a ruling political coalition that is by necessity Iran-facing. It seems like we could have gotten the same for a lot less money and fewer lives.

In Palestine, Rice pushed Hamas into power, however indirectly, while it was on a designated terrorist list. While not decisive in itself, the series of errors of indirect effects stemming from that "vision" has brought about a series of very negative events, especially the wandering Gaza excursion, and a hardening of sentiment.

No one seems to be writing about a heartening prospect that Hamas will be losing power in the next elections, Ms. Rice, because of their poor political choices.

We are only now getting to the point at which is it possible for Arabs states to melt solidarity with democratically-elected Hamas; talks seem like a possibility, even if they are of a paper-cup variety; and folks like Netanyahu - also brought into power by situation-reactionary, democratic forces - are getting very nervous about having to make binding "concessions", perhaps enough to take a proverbial temple-mount romp, like stirring the pot with the recent Hebron 'historic sites' declaration or evicting people from their homes in the Old City so Jews can take their place, to shape the battlefield perception-environment for Israel.

Even then, the talks are not nearly what they need to be, a permanent commitment to ongoing talks and offers that are good enough to be left on the table, more or less. I know that's a tall order to fill, but it does seem to encapsulate at least two of the key aspects of the ethical burden of power, yes?

Ex-Negotio: Israel's Choice For Peace

The Netanyahu government continues to compound the errors of the recent past, calling into question Israel's "choice for Peace", including the truly large step of evacuating Gaza.

On the day that the U.S. sends the Vice President, Netanyahu's government announces plans for 1,600 more apartments in highly sensitive areas. Despite an quasi-apology, no one has retracted the plans.

Some of this is just posturing, but it really does start to call into question the degree to which Ehud Barak's "offer" to Arafat, by which some judge the moral case of Israel, was a paper offer, especially insofar as what was on offer regarding Jerusalem, right?

There aren't signs that the U.S. has structured its effort correctly and fully (at least to the average blogger guy).

We send the Vice President over, backed up by a paltry half dozen or so career analysts at State Department (I honestly don't know, but do know that there is turnover).

This has to be one of the largest (in terms of human effort invested) and longest conflicts of its kind. One would think that we'd be staffed for a multi-purpose, multi-pronged effort, including folks with public diplomacy skills and more. Are we?

We are on the brink of a schism with one of our key, strategic partners, with broad ramifications. You'd think that we'd be doing more analytically and procedurally, perhaps, to attend to that.

Calibrating Iran Policy

We illustrate by analogy to Shimon Peres, Israeli President, who articulated it well when he said calling off negotiations everything there is violence essentially gives a veto to the terrorists.
Stephen Walt has an interesting list, that will help to cut through some of the bellicose logic.

I disagree the "grand bargain".

There is an IAEA and protocols and treaties. If these do not cover new circumstances, then they are adaptable, through process (they are actually very competent). To admit a need for a grand bargain is to go off the map, IMHO.

Here's one thing to worry the most, right now, about Iran. It's witless enabling of the "hardline track":

There is a hardline in Iran that sees the West's use of dialog as just a means to delay their developing what they see as nuclear "self assurances", i.e. the sovereignty guarantee. Putting aside that that is a false assurance, there are some hardliners in the U.S. and Israel who believe, as always, that only "absolute strategies" or "absolute dominance" can bring security, so they "cannot allow" this or that.

The louder these two factions are, the less chance for finally reaching agreements, important agreements, for Iran to have nuclear materials enriched in a way that minimizes the chances for proliferation and danger.

As far as bright lines, the Israeli hard right and so forth, here's something that Walt himself pointed out recently:

Thomas Schelling's book The Strategy of Conflict set forth his vision of game theory as a unifying framework for the social sciences. Schelling showed that a party can strengthen its position by overtly worsening its own options, that the capability to retaliate can be more useful than the ability to resist an attack, and that uncertain retaliation is more credible and more efficient than certain retaliation. These insights have proven to be of great relevance for conflict resolution and efforts to avoid war.

It's sad, therefore, to see Joe Biden proclaiming on what "we cannot allow", from so many perspectives. Why? It makes you easy to manipulate. We illustrate by analogy to Shimon Peres, Israeli President, who articulated it well when he said calling off negotiations everything there is violence essentially gives a veto to the terrorists.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Lies of the Faith-filled

It's totalitarianism in Iran. If they know modern COIN, it's incidental:

Rigi's televised confession alleged that he was recruited by high-level CIA and other US intelligence officials and did not strike me as credible as to its details, but it appears to have been widely believed by the Iranian public and to have hurt the image among them of the Obama administration, according to Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.

-Juan Cole

There are people who insist that Iran's foreign policy is and will be ultimately pragmatic and realistic. They might also suggest that a careful regional understanding of the role of rhetoric should be made, including that people just say things to push buttons, to be evocative as much as provocative.


How does one attach a foreign policy realism to a regime whose rhetoric is fully detached from reality and rooted the realm of non-falsifiable mythologies?
But, ask yourself, of what interest is Palestine or Lebanon to Iran? How does one attach a foreign policy realism to a regime whose rhetoric is fully detached from reality and rooted the realm of non-falsifiable mythologies?

One can probably take these statements too much at face, and "justify" a pre-emptive strike through extrapolations and inferences. One can make allowances, too, that Iranian paranoia is not without justification - they are, no doubt, a target of probably more than one clandestine service worldwide.

Yet, the better summary is probably to suggest that Iran is a deeply unstable nation, rather than an "aggressor" de jure, especially insofar as it is unable to articulate or express political dissent of these detached views.

So, when people talk about a trust deficit at the heart of Iran's proliferation issues, the issue of who to trust with a full cycle of nuclear material creation becomes obvious. Even the issues of how to build trust and of reliability get called into question by such radical and un-moored "analysis" from the country's "elected" and judicially-sanctioned leader.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Andrew Sullivan Joins the BBC?

Rather than read Sullivan or even Goldberg, find those who can outline how the parties have manipulated talks in the past and consider how third-parties can frustrate their attempts to do so, again.
This is just sad, bloggers going at each others throats like this. On the whole, it's a turnoff to me.

I'll add this perspective: one thing that some 'old hands', who are disciplined with the IP debate, know is how to get into and out of the discussion, before it degenerates into ... well, let's use the word "aspersions".

Here is a statement that demonstrates that AS doesn't know any more than his "opponents" about what to do:

I regard the establishment of the Jewish state as one of the West's high-points in the 20th Century. Like America's founding, it was not immaculate, ...

*sigh* There is more, perhaps much more, but that will do.


Meanwhile, all this babble distracts from the development that Netanyahu has agreed to indirect talks and so has a team of Abbas negotiators.

Ignore Sullivan-Goldberg and think about what needs to be done to push this welcome development along, to strengthen it, to demand it continue. Rather than read Sullivan or even Goldberg, find those who can outline how the parties have manipulated talks in the past and consider how third-parties can frustrate their attempts to do so, again.

Think about how the Obama administration's approach, using George Mitchell, is strong and weak. Think about how it ought to be restructured, if at all.

All roads to serfdom

Syria, having abandoned "socialized farming" with the effect of creating jobless poverty, now faces "re-institutionalization" of the same, sort of:

recent Saudi investment in Syrian agriculture may create a new phenomenon of big estates run by agribusinesses that shifts land ownership out of the country

Road to serfdom, indeed.

Is this anything?

Post-Oscar special:

Has Iran consolidated influence on Iraq Shiite Islamic Parties?, Part II

Juan Cole, answer, "yes":

Moreover, it is not just al-Sadr. I detect a change in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, now led by Ammar al-Hakim [background] after the death from lung cancer of his father, Abd al-Aziz. ...


But now the Friday prayers preacher of Najaf is denouncing global arrogance and openly calling Iraq a colonized country that must regain its independence.

It's not clear the strategic ambitions the "religious parties", of the non-Da'wa block (non-Maliki). Among them might be a veto power, within the government, similar to a "guardianship". (Ostensibly, they are just for kicking out the U.S. as soon as possible).

Cole outlines two options:

So those are the two possibilities facing Iraq-- roughly, reintegration into the Sunni-dominated Arab League, or an Iran alliance.

He thinks the Iran alliance is the odds on bet
. Why? He thinks the Kurds, to whatever degree fragmented (but not "unraveled") after the current elections, would not ally with a "Sunni dominated" block. Also, he doesn't think that the alternative to the status quo will pull enough votes to catalyze a "radical change".

If he's right, then the U.S. taxpayer will have paid a trillion dollars and 4,380 lives ... to achieve this culmination of Cheney-Rumsfeld-Perle vision for a new Iraq, at least for the foreseeable future, an Iraq not facing away from the tyranny in Iran but suckling from it, to some uneasy degree.

Best Ensemble

Great acceptance speech and one of the best dresses she may have ever worn...:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The things we do for Oscar

Das Weisse Band was good, but so long that I felt I was in a German language immersion experience.

Otherwise, we're prepared, except for Precious, which was missed and didn't get any local re-airing in the run-up to the Big Day.

Has Iran consolidated influence on Iraq Shiite Islamic Parties?

March 7th, 2010, may be the day that highlights how much the future of Iraq lies with Iran, with the influence that Iran has gained over Iraq's religious Shia parties.


Not know squat about the history of Iraqi internal politics, but a few names of the key players? Who can blame you, it's a maze!

Here is my (non-expert) shorthand, for you.

Sectarianism, as it has developed (including pre-invasion positioning!), has played into Iranian hands, primarily by consolidating Iranian influence among the Shiite Islamic political parties.

  • First, the constitution of 2005 apparently pushes sectarianism by apportionment structures that prevent strong central government, i.e. that force a national power-sharing. With the imminent withdrawal of the U.S., there seems to be little leverage to get the constitution to evolve, to reflect possibilities for Iraq rather than yesterdays irreconcilable realities. As I understand it - and I could be wrong - it is a kind of structural bias that doesn't bode well, that tips the playing field.
  • Second, in a classic short-term versus long-term bind, the U.S. (and the Kurds) had a role in supporting the rise of the pro-Iranian SCIRI (now just 'SICI') and putting down the pro-national Sadrists. Now, Sadr's nationalist fire is almost completely neutralized by Iran: he lives there and cannot return home, under threat of a warrant for his arrest.
  • Third, the most pro-Iranian coalition has been successful in politicizing for potential electoral gain the sectarian issue of de-baathification, while simultaneously cutting out many centrists/secularists from any political roles. [We know it has worked but not by how much, because the votes aren't in, yet.]
  • Forth, the Iranian influence on the Iraqi National Alliance (the Watani list or INA or NIA) appears to be consolidated. The Iranian-elements have moved in on the coalition's second-tier leadership roles and so forth and the party's creed has been aligned to mimic Iranian concepts, even dropping explicit reference to Najef... The coordination-consultation with Tehran, not just Najef, is obvious and profound. The shove out of the main Daawa party from the coalition last year, 'purifies' and consolidates.

The Daawa party (the main part of Nouri al-Malaki's new 'State of Law' coalition), with a very long history in Iraqi politics and no philosophical ally of the Iranian Revolution, appears to be ... suffering the burdens of governance, in a situation that is rife with non-cooperation, corruption, and a long list of problems. It's also been fractured by political rivalries. However, it gained support in 2009 elections, but the broader coalition that brought it to power fractured under Iranian 'supervision' last year, probably because of a reach-out for Sunni participation, for a true 'national coalition'.

The relatively secularist alternatives, the Iraqiyya list or National Movement (includes Iyad Allawi's group), is small, smaller than I realized, but has polled well, recently, despite being saddled with baggage related to the invasion and the 'battle for Fallujah'.

Separately, the Kurdish alliances are following the pattern of increased fragmentation, with four coalitions now contesting, rather than the big two (PUK and PDK). I have no idea with whom the Kurdish parties would align in a new government. Relations have been strained with al-Maliki and the Kurds have natural and historical 'ties' to Iran.

I cannot add too much color on the Sunni participation or the likelihood that a Sunni bloc might join a new coalition government - offhand, it seems more like various Sunni politicians have made it to the lists of other coalition groups.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fascinating problems in decision making under uncertainty?

Which analysis is best, one that has access to truth or one that has access to quasi-truth?

Not clear, says someone who should know.

What is the value of inside information? One has to separate inside facts from inside analysis. There are also ways of doing analysis that do not involve understanding everyone's emotions or 'personal opinions', to the extent that those are classified.

I don't know any effort to figure out whether inside or outside methods are superior, however.

Short term deployments for long term problems


One of the more interesting proposals I've seen in a while, at least:

This year, the aid workers should be prepared to pay farmers compensation for any opium crops they are unable to harvest as a result of the fighting, and the Western coalition should help the groups develop a microcredit system.

-Joshua Foust, NYT

The microcredit system seems very clever. It seems that it might be lawful for the farmers to assign their debt obligations to someone else, so that the religious issues are skirted. Paying for opium crops has to come with strings attached - if done, it has to be done over time, not with cash, and with an eye toward gathering intel on the Taliban.

The solution to this problem seems to be "transition" in COIN-speak, but ...

This looks like part of a familiar pattern: troops move into an area, kill anyone firing a machine gun, then move on to the next, bigger target hoping they have left behind a functioning government. It’s why many communities in central Helmand have experienced three influxes of NATO forces in three years

Update: I just read somewhere that the US's official policy is not to do anything about production, but to target traffickers. If that is current, then ... USG, always a step behind...

Lawyers fight over who among them to stigmatize the most

So far, it looks like just labor lawyers will continue to be viewed as doing the devil's work.

...posted because the law is too important to be left to lawyers.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Virginia GOP Rebukes Thomas Jefferson


Old Thomas Jefferson invented the phrase "separation of Church and State". He was an adamant believer that religious doctrine was an odd bedfellow with government. His views cost him dearly in his day.

On the heels of a new antigay Governor, it's come to light that Old Dominion's throwback AG has written a letter to state universities, telling them that their non-discrimination policies must be scrapped, insofar as they offer policy assurances to gays and lesbians that they are not a target group.


You can feel the radiant heat from these flames of bigotry and intolerance all around.

Would you want to recruit at a school that institutionalized homophobia? It's bad enough that the military does it ...

Frank Schaeffer Nails It, Again

Someone could make something feature length from Frank Schaeffer's appearances. I'll even leave a room to go watch him.

I continue to fail to understand why the secessionists and these militia groups are not of greater concern, politically speaking.

This is the time for the Left to find its voice on Patriotism, if it has any. Either that, or the country is in such bad shape that we shrug this stuff off, somehow. Can you imagine someone in the 1950s, say, proposing secessionist articles or setting up their own militia, without being denounced as communist sympathizers or worse?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rove, WMD and Truth & Reconciliation

As long as Rove is going to write about WMD, I'd like to just raise the same question that I have before, even if it may have been answered and I just don't know it.

Who is the classifying authority on the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) appropriation? If it was the VP, then can Biden review and release? (background)


I'd like to know how much the biggest search for nothing in the history of the world cost the U.S. taxpayer. Ad hoc reports say it is nearly $1 billion - billion. But, it would be nice to know and also to know the rationale for classification, if it was anything but shielding the Administration from public accountability.

It's not trivial. This odd secrecy occurred before the 2004 election.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

David Petraeus, For the Hour

Charlie Rose continues, putting up what is now a fascinating progression of interviews.

This last one is the best interview, IMHO.

It's wonderful that we can have dialogs like these, finally, without the rightwing bleeting on about "do you want to 'win' or not?"; "the War on Terror" (that hapless phrase); "the lessons of 9/11" and everything else that engendered the semelparous string of propositions that was strung together to keep in office a CIC and his Veep who were probably derelict for their lack of wartime prep and ended up war criminals, to boot.

What's also interesting is to watch the progression of rightwing anxiety-and-prescription. There is always *someone* who is scapegoated in such a way that 'if only not for them, we'd have our way!'. Arafat, Mutada al-Sadr, Hans Blix, the French weasels, ... right now, it is Pakistan, still. How thin.

Wheels NOT On Fire

Impossible to know whether the repeal of DADT has been buried in study or whether the study is actually a good tool for the military, to convince themselves that they can do it. It really is textbook to not make changes of this kind fiat, especially when significant resistance is anticipated.

Coming up with a solid implementation plan, that's smart. But trying to study the impact on "readiness"? No amount of study will fully settle that question, ultimately, because the question is one of leadership capability. (No implementation plan is going to survive first contact, either, but that's another issue).

The effort has political risks to the President.

Special mention to congresscritter John Flemming, R-Louisiana, who reminds the panel that the purpose of the military is to be ready for war "which we do frequently around here, as you know". Watch the awkward exchange culminating at 50:09.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thought for the Day


Yesterday's "War on Terror" (that hapless phrase) is today's "War on Corruption".

Some huge proportion of every article I read, these days, cannot fail to mention corruption, principally in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan.

The elections in Afghanistan and Iraq both have "corruption" as a major theme. We actually have officials who guesstimate how much of our contracting work goes to graft, bribes, or grease.

Dramatizing a *huge*, well-known problem, PBS has a documentary out about Pakistan's notorious paper schools, the ones that get funding on paper that goes into pockets elsewhere. Separately, we supposedly are paying money to Pakistan for 'police training', but our own metrics show the police to be hopelessly corrupt. It goes to the top. Even Bhutto's husband was known as "Mr. Ten Percent". [update: money flying out of Afghanistan, literally, to the gold coasters...]


Hamid Karzai, after pledging to "fight corruption", recently gave himself control over the Afghani equivalent of the FEC. Was that a blow for justice (a routing of trouble makers) or a blow for non-accountability? At some point, the structure of the government becomes indefensible, threatening to compound any corruption problems, right? Our hopes for the women of Afghanistan have been scuttled by the political dynamics and expediency of the conflict there.

In general, we've typically failed ourselves, trying to support the "less evil" option, during the cold war, no?

At a minimum, this presents a problem for modern COIN doctrine. What if the population has two choices, neither of which they want to fight for? I'm not sure there is that level of apathy or disaffection, but ...

Pay for the Wars


Alan K. Simpson and Erskine Bowles are an okay start.

The President needs to appoint an economist who knows how FDR and Truman paid down the war debt.

The President needs to appoint an economist who knows how FDR and Truman paid down the war debt.
We'll have plenty of it to consider and the most aggressive techniques have to be on the table, if there is a "compromise" to be found.

Second, he needs someone who is unorthodox on trade policy, who understands that we have to boost national savings and that we can use the tax code to do it (and not by making Roth conversions available to the wealthy, as did Bush et. al. - d'oh!).