Thursday, January 31, 2008

Finding a voice... finally

Pelosi Slams Bush Over Iraq "Progress"
Washington Times
S.A. Miller
January 30, 2008
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ridiculed President Bush yesterday for saying in his State of the Union speech Monday night that the United States is winning the war in Iraq.
[emphasis added]


Yes, this is the right verb: RIDICULE!

To all Dem candidates out there who might be listening: ridicule is just the right tone to use when debating your Republican opponent!

Stop the madness!

"Good Government", W-style

Anybody remember Katrina, and W's promises to rebuild the devastated Gulf coast?
CDC Suppressed Toxic Trailer Warnings
CBS News: Agency Suppressed Repeated Warnings From Top Scientist About Formaldehyde Fume Dangers
Jan. 28, 2008
CBS News has learned that the Centers for Disease Control, the nation's top public health agency, suppressed repeated warnings from one of its top scientists, raising questions about whether the CDC bowed to pressure from FEMA to conceal the long-term health risks of formaldehyde in the trailers it distributed to hurricane victims - health risks like cancer and birth defects...
Wait! There's more:
Feds OK Mississippi's Katrina grant diversion
$600 million from housing program approved for huge port expansion
By Mike Stuckey
Senior news editor
Jan. 25, 2008
While thousands of Mississippians who lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina remain in FEMA trailers, the federal government on Friday approved a state plan to spend $600 million in grants earmarked for housing on a major expansion of the state-owned port — a project that could eventually include casino and resort facilities.
It just keeps getting better!

This is W's idea of "government" - enriching corporate America at the expense of the citizens, subjugating science to politics.

Again: if any Democratic candidates are listening, here's a wide-open barn door to drive your "homeland security" truck through.

Run on W's record - and make your Republican opponent run on W's record!.

Stop the madness!

Our tax $$ at work...

I've argued before that folks usually don't mind paying for value. What gets us upset is paying good $$ for shoddy merchandise or lousy service. We're happy to pay real money to eat at a fancy restaurant if the food is good and well-presented, and the service is good. We only get ticked off when we pay real money for lousy food, poorly presented, accompanied by surly wait-staff.

Similarly, I think we'd be happy to pay $600Bn for national defense if we were convinced we're really buying $600Bn worth of national defense. But headlines like the following are not encouraging:
Report: Military not ready for US attack

Afghanistan may plunge into 'failed state', experts warn
We're paying $600Bn/year on defense for what again????

The greatest military in the world is losing two wars to third-world insurgents.
These two wars have crippled our military's ability to defend the country.

To any Democratic candidates out there who might be listening: here's a barn-door opening for you to stress that YOU have better national security credibility than your Republican opponent!

They - the Republicans - are the ones that got us into this mess. It's pure foolishness to expect 'em to get us out!!

Stop the madness!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cleaning up after W

Full-disclosure: I am the happy owner of 2 dogs and 5 cats. I'm used to cleaning up messes.

Long ago I confessed that I've given some thought to voting for Republican candidate for President - if only to saddle him with W's mess. It's too cruel to inflict this on someone for whom I have any real respect!

BUT... I'll probably not go down that path - erasing W means getting a "major-party candidate who isn't a Republican" in office!

The mess... oh, my... this is too hard!

Foreign policy:
Afghanistan: opium poppy cultivation is now the dominant economic basis of the country. The Taliban are back. Karzai rules only in Kabul. The solution? Damned if I know.

Iraq: out now! OUT NOW!! $500Bn and counting. No plausible "winning" strategy. No plausible desirable end-state attainable. OUT NOW! (Yeah, I know - it'll be a mess for the Iraqis - for whom I harbor no ill feelings - BUT: let it be THEIR problem, not ours!)

N. Korea: W deliberately, pointedly walked away from diplomacy as soon as he took office. In the past year he's tried to resurrect Clinton's engagement. Too little, too late. They've progressed on their nuke ambitions. They continue to test ICBMs.

Iran: (the third of the "axis of Evil" states) How do you transform a third-rate country into a horrible menace? You confront 'em, often, belligerently. W has done that well. "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" comes to mind. The name-calling hasn't worked very well. Maybe it's time for an adult-oriented discussion.

Israel/Palestine: oh, my. Too little time, too little space! W pontificates about "democracy", then, when democratic elections in the Palestinian territories put Hamas in charge, denies the legitimately elected gov't funds! He encourages Israel to bomb the hell out of Lebanon until a lasting peace can be achieved (a peace which has not been achieved in 60 years!). He turns a blind eye to the collective punishment of Palestians in Gaza. (Full-disclosure: I LIKE Israel! One of the formative books in my life: Exodus, by Leon Uris. I spent summer between 10th & 11th grade glued to TV, watching Abba Eban assert Israel's right-to-existence at the U.N. during Gulf of Aqaba crisis - as a firm supporter of Israel!)

The rest of the world: following 9/11 we were the darlings of the world. Even Iran was supportive. Now we're seen - legitimately, I'm afraid - as a loose cannon. How to repair our international reputation? Beats me.

Where to start?
Guantanamo: close it. Now. NOW!

Dept of Homeland Security: dismantle it. Now. NOW!

(Yes, I'm sure there's more to clean up here, but these two are paramount!)

Police State:
This is easy: return to Constitutional principles.
So-called "Patriot Act"? Kill it!
So-called "Protect America Act"? Kill it!
Which word don't they understand?
Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Resurrect responsible Gov't regulation!

Privatization? Kill it!
The abuses of Parsons, Halliburton, Blackwater ought stop NOW! Today.
We're paying more $ for less benefit than ever!
(Use $ as primary debate point!)
Government really does have a role to play:
- form a more perfect Union
- establish justice
- ensure domestic tranquility
- provide for the common defence
- promote the general welfare, and
- secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

There's so much more to be said. Cleaning up after W will take some serious work. Do I wish this on my worst enemy? No... But I'll vote for the "major-party candidate who isn't a Republican" anyway!

Stop the madness!

In praise of gov't regulation

Unfettered capitalism - the unrestrained free-market- produces disastrous results. Yes, it makes money. Yes, it allocates wealth in some sense, "fairly". Yes, it drives innovation. But left to their own devices, capitalists have no social conscience. ... in fact, SHOULDN'T have any social conscience. This is good: greed works wonders! The only thing that matters is making $$.

We need not imagine "hypotheticals" here.

Unfettered capitalism in 19th-century Great Britain led directly to poorhouses, child labor, pea-soup smog, and the general degradation of the larger "common-wealth".

Unfettered capitalism in the U.S. led to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster in the early 20th century: workers locked in a room consumed by fire.

Unfettered capitalism led to Love Canal.

Today, unfettered capitalism in China produces unbreathable air in Shanghai. Some of my biz colleagues have recently returned from conferences in Shanghai; they report that you cannot see the tops of buildings for the smog, and that breathing is difficult.

These are not "hypothetical" situations. They are historical and current facts.

With respect to "creative financing"... The Depression-era restrictions on financial institutions were put in place to prevent specific abuses of unrestrained capitalism. (full disclosure: I am less-than-well-informed on Depression era/New Deal economic policies!)

Recently - a subject on which I am well-informed - unrestrained capitalism led to Enron's downfall: fancy financial instruments were floated to "create wealth"... when the house tumbled down, the fact that credit was founded on worthless collateral became apparent.

The current subprime mess? Nothing more than Enron, amplified.

Incentives? In pure capitalism, the only incentive is to make $$... NOW! If you succeed at this, you are a success. Does it matter that your collateral is worthless? No.

I note that even Jim Cramer favors regulation:
"Do not be fooled by the sirens of laissez faire," he told a packed audience at Bucknell University's Weis Center for the Performing Arts in the continuing national speakers series, "The Bucknell Forum: The Citizen & Politics in America."
He said that deregulation is the equivalent of saying that "private industry will do it better, that volunteers will do it better, that business if left unfettered will produce so many rich people that they will do it better than the government can."

Even the best of the nation's private enterprises, Cramer said, citing companies like Wells Fargo, Pepsi, United Technologies, Google, and Costco, can't meet those demands.

"You, the next generation of corporate and government leaders, should know and understand the limits of what even the best of capitalism and the marketplace can do to promote the general welfare. As future citizen capitalists you must not embrace the unrequited love of the government of the United States for private enterprise," he said. "Be wise enough to see that government regulation is a necessary evil."
I particularly like that he cites the Preamble: "... to promote the general welfare."

What auto company in its right mind would voluntarily develop & produce reduced-emissions technologies? The competition would kill 'em! - developing & producing these technologies is costly, and the cost cannot be recovered in sales price! What auto company in its right mind would voluntarily develop and produce increased fuel-efficiency technologies? The competition would kill 'em! - developing and producing these technoligies is costly, and the cost cannot be recovered in sales price!

BUT: if Government Regulations require the implementation of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, the playing-field is leveled: everyone in the market has to meet the standards - they'll do it!

If Government Regulations require the implementation of increased fuel-efficiency standards, the playing-field is leveled: everyone in the market has to meet the standards - they'll do it.

Note: I am NOT suggesting that Government specify how the standards are to be met, only that the Government set the standards! Quoting one of my favorite philosophers:
"Never tell people how to do things.
Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
[Gen. George Patton]
"... to promote the general welfare": this is one of the few national strategic objectives that ought guide all policy!

Identity politics

Most political commentary today devotes at least a few column-inches to identity politics. How does this policy impact Hispanics? Blacks? Women? Jews? How did the primary voting in South Carolina break down along ethnic lines? Racial? Gender?

Are whites voting for Obama? Does Clinton have a lock on the African-American vote?

Every time I read these analyses I cringe.

My first - minor - objection, related via a story: I'm a white, 50-something, church-going, home-owning voter. What my political perspective has in common with Mike Huckabee can be written on a postage stamp in big block letters. The demographics that describe me do a pretty lousy job predicting my political beliefs. (Well - it probably depends on just which demographic dimensions you consider... I'd guess that if you sliced my "demographic" just right, you'd get a pretty good idea how I vote... but those slices have little or nothing to do with the combo "race/gender/age/church-attendance".)

My second - and more profound - objection derives from both current affairs and history. "Balkanization" - a cumbersome noun - was first used in the early 20th century to describe the ethnic division of the Balkan peninsula which shortly led to WWI. The Balkans are still tearing themselves apart along ethnic & religious lines. From more distant history, the religious wars of the early-modern period in Europe tore apart the continent along Catholic-Protestant fault-lines; the Inquisition was instituted to combat various flavors of heresy and maintain strict orthodoxy. The current political unrest (a term somehow less-than-adequate to describe events on the ground) in Kenya pits tribe against tribe, destroying the country. We've all learned to acknowledge the difference between Sunni and Shi'ite in Iraq!

"Identity politics" carried to the logical extreme is almost always purely destructive.

When we become something other than simple "Americans", we lose.

Yes, African-Americans share a heritage which I will never truly understand or appreciate.

Yes, Hispanic-Americans face daily discrimination that I will never understand.

BUT - if our political position is determined solely by our Balkanized identity, we cannot move forward as a country. Race, language, religion - all of these separate us.

I recognize that cultural/ethnic/racial/religious diversity can be positive. Differences are not the issue - each of us grew up in a family that belonged to many communities. Some communities were defined by race. Others by socio-economic status. Others by religion. We belonged to all of these.

Yeah, I know: Gender matters - I'll never be pregnant!

I live in Albuquerque, NM. To get by, I have to know a little Spanish - if only to read some of the billboards. I don't mind - in fact, I'm appreciative - learning a different language helps keep my mind active.

I'm a non-believing church-goer. I grew up in Tulsa, OK, accurately described during my teens as "the buckle of the Bible belt." As a result, I know the Bible better than most - and can recognize Biblical references in literature and everyday conversation - this is a good thing.

As a male, I'll never experience childbirth or the frustration of the "glass ceiling". I've worked for women managers, and with women colleagues... all that matters at work is competence. I've observed no gender-based differential along this dimension.

When I start thinking of myself as an injured non-Christian, mid-50s, white, male, I'll know that something has gone wrong.

I am an American.

Do "we, the people" have any recourse?

U.S. Constitution:
Article I, section 7
“Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law.”
Article II, section 3
“…he [the President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed…”
Article II, section 1
“Before he enter on the execution of his office, he [the President] shall take the following oath or affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Presented with a bill from Congress, the President has two choices: sign it or veto it (sending it back to House whence it originated). Having signed the bill into law, the President is obligated to faithfully execute it. Before taking office he takes an oath to uphold the Constitution that spells out these duties and obligations.

Where do "signing statements" fit in?

Bush asserts authority to bypass defense act
By Charlie Savage
[Boston] Globe Staff / January 30, 2008
WASHINGTON - President Bush this week declared that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill.

Do we, the people have any recourse?

If W takes some of the appropriated $$ and builds permanent bases in Iraq, can we do anything to stop him?

There's some chance that at least one of the other three signed-away provisions could be challenged in court:
The signing statement also targeted a provision in the defense bill that strengthens protections for whistle-blowers working for companies that hold government contracts. The new law expands employees' ability to disclose wrongdoing without being fired, and it gives greater responsibility to federal inspectors general to investigate complaints of retaliation.
Some aggrieved whistle-blower, if fired or otherwise facing retaliation, could presumably get this issue brought before a court.

The other two signed-away provisions leave no clear legal recourse - no easily-imagined aggrieved party to bring suit:
In addition, Bush targeted a section that requires intelligence agencies to turn over "any existing intelligence assessment, report, estimate or legal opinion" requested by the leaders of the House and Senate armed services committees within 45 days. If the president wants to assert executive privilege to deny the request, the law says, White House counsel must do so in writing.

Finally, Bush's signing statement raised constitutional questions about a section of the bill that established an independent, bipartisan "Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan" to investigate allegations of waste, mismanagement, and excessive force by contractors.

The law requires the Pentagon to provide information to the panel "expeditiously" upon its request.
Who is there to bring suit if W demures at enforcing these provisions? The Congress? Does Congress have legal standing as a corporate person to sue the Executive?

The easiest solution would seem to run something like: Josephine Jacoby, a whistle-blower working for Parsons under a U.S. Government contract, brings suit against Parsons for illegal retaliation. The courts decide in her favor, and note in the opinion something to the effect that
"Presidential signing statements are extra-Constitutional and have no legal standing."
That would serve to moot all of W's signing statements, once and for all... and to place clear restrictions on all future Executives.

Is this plausible?

Stop the madness!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

This doesn't sound good...

Foreclosures up 75% in 2007

Neither does this:
Yahoo to lay off 1,000 workers

Homes - old economy.
Yahoo - new economy.
Both in less-than-stellar shape.


I've posed this question before. I'll pose it again: Is there a Greek mythological reference to something akin to the opposite of the Midas touch? Everything W touches turns to something really ugly - if there is an anti-Midas touch, W has it!

Stop the madness!

We used to (maybe), but we don't anymore (honest!)... and, besides, it was all legal (trust me)

Negroponte: US Has Used Waterboarding In The Past - AFP
WSJ, 28 Jan 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP)--Former U.S. spy chief John Negroponte admitted that the U.S. has used a controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding but does not anymore, according to a published interview Monday.

... BUT: don't worry!

Attorney general says CIA interrogations legal
By Randall Mikkelsen, Reuters
29 Jan 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA's current techniques for interrogating terrorism suspects are legal and do not include a widely condemned method known as waterboarding, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey told Congress on Tuesday.

Mukasey declined, however, in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on the eve of testimony before the panel, to say whether he considered waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, to be illegal.

There. Don't you feel better now?

This isn't quite, "If the President does it, it's not illegal", but it's pretty darn close!

Why are we having this discussion? What has become of our country?

Stop the madness!

An opportunity to field test missile defense!

AF General: Spy satellite could hit US
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
29 Jan 2008
WASHINGTON - The U.S. military is developing contingency plans to deal with the possibility that a large spy satellite expected to fall to Earth in late February or early March could hit North America.

Here's a real-life opportunity to test our missile defense system on an honest threat! We can track the satellite's decaying orbit. Can we hit it?

Recall, the missile defense system has been declared operational - let's put it to use!

The MBA President: still on the job!

An American Builder’s Failures in Iraq Are Found to Have Been More Widespread
Published: January 29, 2008
Rebuilding failures by one of the most heavily criticized companies working in Iraq, the American construction giant Parsons, were much more widespread than previously disclosed and touched on nearly every aspect of the company’s operation in the country, according to a report released Monday by a federal oversight agency.
... the new report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent federal agency, examined nearly 200 Parsons construction projects contained in 11 major “job orders” paid for in a huge rebuilding contract. There were also three other nonconstruction orders. The total cost of the work to the United States was $365 million.

The new report finds that 8 of the 11 rebuilding orders were terminated by the United States before they were completed, for reasons including weak contract oversight, unrealistic schedules, a failure to report problems in a timely fashion and poor supervision by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which managed the contracts.

But, wait! There's more! Call right now and you also get...:

FBI is probing 14 companies over loans
By ALAN ZIBEL, AP Business Writer
Tue Jan 29, 2008
WASHINGTON - The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday said it is investigating 14 companies for possible fraud or insider trading violations in connection with loans made to risky borrowers, and investments spun off of those loans.

That's right, for a limited time only, you get BOTH no contractual controls for Big Biz in Iraq AND no regulation for Big Biz here at home!

Call now while supplies last!

Stop the madness!

"Where have all the flowers gone?..."

US troops reductions may slow or stop
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
29 Jan 2008
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is sending strong signals that U.S. troop reductions in Iraq will slow or stop altogether this summer, a move that would jeopardize hopes of relieving strain on the Army and Marine Corps and revive debate over an open-ended U.S. commitment in Iraq.
I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended.
[President's Address to the Nation, 10 Jan 2007]
To repeat myself - but it's Shakespeare, so perhaps enlightening:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.

[Macbeth, Act V, scene 5]
Stop the madness!

SoTU: this that & t'other

U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 3:
He [the President} shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient...
(It's been a while since I've included a reference to the Constitution - this seems an appropriate time!)

Now for a little commentary. I'll start with candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (who commented before the speech was given!):
In Clinton's estimation, Bush "has never understood is that the State of the Union is not about a speech in Washington. It is about the lives of the American people who feel they are moving toward the American dream."
[Clinton: Bush Has Lost Touch With Public
28 Jan 2008]
Finally, someone else has noticed! For W, all that matters is the speech. Once he says it, it's real - whatever 'it' might be. This magical thinking charaterizes W's Administration!

... and what did W say? Well, he said lots of stuff. Among his claims to fame is our great success in Afghanistan:
In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies, and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country. Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al Qaeda is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope.
[President Bush Delivers State of the Union Address
Chamber of the United States House of Representatives
United States Capitol
28 Jan 2008]
. Sounds pretty good... till the sad truth asserts itself:

Study: Afghanistan could fail as a state
By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer
29 Jan 2008
WASHINGTON - Afghanistan risks sliding into a failed state and becoming the "forgotten war" because of deteriorating international support and a growing violent insurgency, according to an independent study.

The assessment, co-chaired by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones and former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, serves as a warning to the Bush administration at a time military and congressional officials are debating how best to juggle stretched warfighting resources.

[emphasis added]

Oh, well... how 'bout them Cubs!

Stop the madness!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Did W speak tonight???

I tuned into the post-SOTU discussion on both MSNBC & CNN... I saw Obama... a lot... and a few other Dems... and a few talking heads...

BUT - I didn't see W!

Did he speak tonight?

FISA: which word(-s) don't they understand?

GOP Fails to Cut Off Telco Immunity Debate

U.S. Constitution, Amendment IV:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Am I missing something?

SOTU question...

Are any Republicans wearing the "I'm a Bush Republican" buttons?

Awash in SOTU: everybody's doin' that rag!

I must not be a serious progressive blogger.

I note that all the really serious blogs are either live-blogging SOTU or maintaining current SOTU "open thread".

Me - I've no desire to watch W... as explained previously, I get physically ill watching him!

I'll read the transcript later.

Question: are the Dems applauding? (If yes, "shame on them!")

SOTU: live-blogging

[this space intentionally left blank.]

Again: Why are we there?

Some Sunni Muslims won't salute Iraq's new flag
By Leila Fadel and Hussein Kadhim | McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Friday
BAGHDAD — Officials in Iraq's mostly Sunni Muslim Anbar province are refusing to raise Iraq's new national flag, which the parliament approved earlier this week.

"The new flag is done for a foreign agenda and we won't raise it," said Ali Hatem al Suleiman, a leading member of the U.S.-backed Anbar Awakening Council, "If they want to force us to raise it, we will leave the yard for them to fight al Qaida."

Ah, yes! The new flag is seen as a symbol of the American occupation! ... by our allies! Wonderful!

The story notes that the Kurds in the north refuse to fly the old flag because of its connections with Saddam.
... and also:
Although parliament speaker Mahmoud al Mashhadani said the new flag would be raised immediately across Iraq after the parliament approved it Tuesday, it's nowhere to be seen. In fact, when the parliament met Wednesday, the old flag was still behind the speaker and his two deputies.
Only 165 of the Iraqi parliament's 275 lawmakers were present Tuesday, and only 110 voted for the new red, white and black flag with "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great") in Kufic script, the ancient calligraphy developed in Mesopotamia.
Wait, there's more!

5 US soldiers killed in N. Iraq
By KIM GAMEL and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writers
Mon Jan 28, 2008
BAGHDAD - In a daring ambush, insurgents blasted a U.S. patrol with a roadside bomb Monday and showered survivors with gunfire from a mosque in increasingly lawless Mosul. Five American soldiers were killed in the explosion — even as Iraqi troops moved into the northern city to challenge al-Qaida in Iraq.

Iraqi reinforcements, along with helicopters, tanks and armored vehicles, converged on Mosul for what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged would be a decisive battle against al-Qaida in its last major urban stronghold.

Ah, yes! Yet another "last major" stronghold of the insurgency... Can you spell F-A-L-L-U-J-A-H? How 'bout S-A-M-A-R-R-A?

I note that surge-proponent McCain was the first to label our strategy in Iraq, "Whack-a-Mole."

Stop the madness!

The good news just keeps a-comin'!

New home sales took record fall in 2007
28 Jan 2008
WASHINGTON - New home sales plunged in 2007 by the largest amount on record while home prices tumbled sharply in December. Analysts forecast more trouble in 2008 as housing tries to emerge from its worst slump in more than two decades.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that sales of new homes dropped by 26.4 percent last year to 774,000. That marked the biggest decline on record, surpassing the old mark of a 23.1 percent plunge in 1980.

Boy, I'm sure glad the economy is fundamentally strong and just facing a few minor uncertainties!... otherwise this might be really worrisome!

Business cycles are real. Sane government policy attempts to mitigate the unwelcome effects... not magnify 'em!

[As it turns out, I've some familiarity with bizarre feedback loops at a micro-economic level: I've witnessed first-hand a Fortune 500 company whose business systems act to amplify fluctuations in the prevailing economy - pretty much the opposite of what is desirable, which would be to dampen the effect of external economic swings!... I'm at a loss to explain this behavior.]

Will we see Clinton's 1992 slogan returning?
"It's the economy, stupid!"
Stop the madness!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Very good news!

From C&L:
Obama gets more votes than McCain and Huckabee in South Carolina
By: John Amato on Sunday, January 27th, 2008
(correction) Another huge sweeping victory as far as the total number of voters for the Democratic Party in what has become another important election narrative:

In last week’s SC GOP primary, McCain and Huckabee (the top 2 finishers), got 147,283 and 132,440 votes respectively. That’s a total of 279,723. Obama just pulled down 291,000 by himself.

So the totals are roughly: GOP - 442,918 Dems 530,322
Note: I've not confirmed C&L's count - 443K GOP vs 530K Dem - but am willing to accept the basic conclusion: Dem turn-out was close to 20% higher than GOP! This is consistent with previous results, and augurs well for Nov!

PLEASE REMEMBER: the only poll that counts is the one held on election day, at the polls! Vote!

NM-1 & a good framing of issues

I'll admit to being more than just a bit confused by NM's primary schedule. The Dems are caucusing on Super Tuesday.

... but that's not the point of this post.

There are two Democratic candidates for New Mexico's First Congressional District (NM-1) who seem to be plausible:
- Martin Heinrich, current Albuquerque City Council member;
- Michelle Lujan Grisham, currently Secretary of NM Dept of Health.
[Full disclosure: I've sent $ to both (but more to Heinrich).]

Okay, that's nice... but that's not the point of this post, either.

Okay, so what is the point?

From Grisham's campaign website, issues page:
Economic Security, Energy and the Environment:
Our economic security is inextricably intertwined with our energy policy and preservation of the environment.
This is a simple, straight-forward framing of the issues that explicitly recognizes the inter-connectedness of the political choices involved. I recommend this framing to all Democratic candidates for Federal office!

(aside: I remembered this framing from my first visit to Grisham's website, almost a month ago - it's been on my mind ever since - this memorability suggests it may resonate with others!)

[note: I'll not publicly take a stand for one or the other, Grisham or Heinrich (not yet, at least) - either would be a far better choice than any Rebpublican!]

[final aside: when the Dem candidate for NM-1 has been determined, two things will happen:
1. I'll work actively on the campaign.
2. I'll devote more than just a little space on this blog to the campaign.
Till then I'll try not to take sides in the Democratic contest for NM-1... at least not publicly. Again - either of the two current plausible candidates would be far better than any Republican opponent!...
Full disclosure: I actively support Udall for the Senate seat vacated by Domenici!]

He won't be alone!

McCain to skip State of Union address
Sun Jan 27, 2008
POLK CITY, Fla. - Republican Sen. John McCain is skipping President Bush's State of the Union address on Monday night even though Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton plan to attend.

I, too, will skip W's State of the Union address.

I'll even credit McCain with a better reason than mine: he's in the middle of a nasty primary campaign. Me? I simply get physically ill watching W.

Advice to House & Senate Dems: offer W no applause, for anything. The man has a 31% approval rating - you won't upset many of us by not applauding!... and you'll let him know where he stands!

Yes - you have to be there... but you don't have to be nice.

Stop the madness!

Training Iraqi army/police (a repeat)

9,000 'Awakening' members ready for Iraq military training: US
26 Jan 2008
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Some 9,000 members of anti-Qaeda "Awakening" fronts in Iraq have been screened and lined up for training as regular police or soldiers, the US military said on Sunday.

My suspicion is that U.S.-designed training for Iraq military & police focuses exclusively on military/police technical skills. (I don't know this, but it seems a plausible assumption.)

If we are depending on Iraq's military & police to provide the core of the new Iraqi nation, I'd include another component in the training: national heritage.

As I've suggested previously, I believe all military/police training ought include a significant curriculum on Iraq's heritage, to help develop of sense of national pride - convince the army & the police that the nation they are defending is rich in heritage and is worth defending.

As that previous post noted, as a U.S. Army basic trainee (Ft. Knox, KY; A-15-4), I received a couple of days of instruction on the history of the U.S. Army. I learned who von Steuben was, and what he did to help make a professional army of Washington's rag-tag Continental troops. These lessons were sufficiently powerful that I remember them today - more than 30 years later.

"Mesopotamia" - the land between the rivers - is the "cradle of civilization". The home of Hammurabi the law-giver. The Epic of Gilgamesh includes the original Flood Story. The Biblical Babylonians and Assyrians who took Israel into the "Babylonian Captivity" were the world powers of the day.

[An etymological aside: "Meso" is not too hard a Greek prefix to figure out: "in the middle". "Potamia" has only one other common occurence in English, in "hippopotamus" - "river horse". An uncommon but legitimate English word for an equestrian racetrack: "hippodrome"; the ancestral horse from the fossil record: "eohippus" ("Eos" = dawn, hence, "dawn horse"). "Hippopotamus" = "hippo" - horse, + "potamus" - river. Thence we have, "Mesopotamia" - "between the rivers". Here endeth the etymology lesson.]

Charlemagne - the great 8th-century Christian emperor, corresponded with Harun al-Rashid, the Abbasid Caliph ruling in Baghdad, who represented a far more advanced culture than his European correspondent.
It was under Hārūn ar-Rashīd that Baghdad flourished into the most splendid city of its period. Tribute was paid by many rulers to the caliph, and these funds were used on architecture, the arts and a luxurious life at court.
[Wikipedia entry, Harun al-Rashid]
This is worth including in Iraq's military & police curriculum!

The Kurd, Saladin, hailing from Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of Hattin, and recovered Jersualem from the Franks. Richard the Lion-Heart faced him in battle.

Give Iraqi recruits a reason to take pride in their country!

My suggestion? Include a full week of history in the Army & Police basic curriculum. Emphasize that Iraq is the "cradle of civilization"; that Hammurabi with his palace in Babylon gave the world the first law code; that art, literature, architure derive from Iraq. Mention the Epic of Gilgamesh with its remarkable Flood story. Include the history of Baghdad's greatness - of Harun al-Rashid & the Arabian Nights. Emphasize the grandeur of Harun's court at the time of his correspondence with the European barbarian Charlemagne. Remind them that one of their Kurdish countrymen - Saladin - defeated Richard the Lion-Heart! Theirs is a country worth preserving, worth fighting for, worth dying for.

If the Army & Police are our best bets for establishing a post-Saddam national Iraqi identity, the training that we provide ought to nurture that identity!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My shame: this question is asked!

So Is Waterboarding Torture?...

Why must we ask this question?

Full headline:
So Is Waterboarding Torture? Mukasey may never say
Published: January 26, 2008
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey suggested Friday that he might never provide an answer to the question that threatened his Senate confirmation last year: Does the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding amount to torture?

I am ashamed of my country.

Stop the madness!

SC Dem primary: Obama 55%; Clinton 27%; Edwards 18%

Full disclosure: I am NOT a Democrat! I'm registered in New Mexico as "No Party".

My hope: Clinton's loss in SC will convince her that "attack politics" doesn't work. ... and that Obama & Edwards will learn the same lesson.

We don't need a candidate weakened by his/her Democratic rivals going into the general election!

Reagan's 11th Commandment: "Speak no ill of a fellow Republican."
Adopt this with respect to your Democratic opponents in the primaries! (This advice applies across all levels of Federal offices: House, Senate, Prez.)

During the primaries run on the issues!... Focus on your strengths. Focus on your ability to undo the damage done our country by W and his minions.

[Be noble: admit that any one of your fellow Democrats would make a better Representative/Senator/President than any of the Republican alternatives.]

The strategic objective is to reclaim the United States for the people, in the name of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Run on W's record: a handy cheat-sheet from the Congressional Democratic Caucus

If my html skills were better I'd include the graphic.
Visit The Legacy of George W. Bush's Presidency at the House Democratic Caucus website to get your very own cheat-sheet!

Comparing 20 Jan 2001 with today (after 7 years of W), based on 17 issues grouped in three categories (The Economy, Quality of Life, United States & the World), the chart provides a nice summary of W's "achievements" - everything has gotten worse.

Additionally, the chart is footnoted, providing the sources of the statistics cited - you can look up the numbers yourself!... or look up other numbers of interest to you.

Suggestions: print the cheat-sheet (Printer-friendly Version) and send it to your favorite Dem candidate - for House, for Senate, for Prez. Encourage your favorite Dem candidate to run on W's record, and - more to the point - encourage your favorite Dem candidate to make his/er Republican opponent run on W's record.

Stop the madness!

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Run on W's record!": a nifty idea from "the Bush Legacy Project" (via Digby)

Several previous posts have emphasized my belief that Dems ought run on W's record - and make Republican opponents run on W's record.

Here's a wonderfully imaginative ploy to advance this goal (courtesy Digby):
For seven years, President Bush's allies in Congress helped push forward his failed Conservative agenda. This week, Americans United for Change began delivering "I’m a Bush Republican" buttons to all of the Republicans in the House and Senate today in advance of Bush’s Final State of the Union Address on Monday with the message: "your votes helped build his legacy; you should show your support for him by proudly declaring that you’re a Bush Republican."
On Monday, as cameras scan the House Chamber during the State of the Union Address, we’ll see how many Republicans – those who have voted for Bush’s policies on Iraq, the economy, energy and health care – are willing to put their lapels where there votes have been and wear a button with this simple message: "I’m a Bush Republican."
What a neat idea! Simple, to the point, inspired.

Stop the madness!

Gilbert & Sullivan make it to the progressive blogosphere!

From Atrios at Eschaton (a commentary on Punditry):
If I were not a little mad and generally silly
I should give you my advice upon the subject, willy-nilly;
I should show you in a moment how to grapple with the question,
And you'd really be astonished at the force of my suggestion.
On the subject I shall write you a most valuable letter,
Full of excellent suggestions when I feel a little better,
But at present I'm afraid I am as mad as any hatter,
So I'll keep 'em to myself, for my opinion doesn't matter!

[Atrios's post comes complete with video: trio patter-song from G&S Ruddigore... this is famously close to un-singable!]
Personal belief: if you can't find a G&S or Tom Lehrer quotation/lyric for it, it's not worth a commentary!

[full disclosure: I saw my first G&S production at age 9 (The Pirates of Penzance); I co-produced a college production of Ruddigore; I've sung the roles of Dick Deadeye and Sir Joseph Porter (both from H.M.S. Pinafore) in community-theater productions; I directed local community theater production of Tomfoolery - a revue of Tom Lehrer songs - in 2003.]

W is delusional: "just the facts, ma'am, just the facts"

George W. Bush: Fighting to the Finish
Friday, January 25, 2008
Fox News
"I [FoxNews guy, Bret Baier] tell you what — he [W] thinks about Lincoln and the tough times that he had during the Civil War. 600,000 dead. The country essentially hated him when he was leaving office. And the President reflects on that."
[quotation lifted from Think Progress. Digby features identical quotation.]

The country hated Lincoln when he was leaving office?

1864 Presidential election:
(note: this was during Civil War, so CSA states did not participate.)

National Union Party (Lincoln/Johnson):
- 212 Electoral votes
Democratic party (McClellan/Pendleton):
- 21 Electoral votes

National Union Party (Lincoln/Johnson):
- 22 states carried
Democratic party (McClellan/Pendleton):
- 3 states carried

National Union Party (Lincoln/Johnson):
- popular vote: 2,218,388 (55%)
Democratic party (McClellan/Pendleton):
- popular vote: 1,812,807 (45%)

Lincoln was assassinated 5 months after the election, 15 Apr 1865, by John Wilkes Booth.

How W has managed to infer from these facts that the country hated Lincoln when he left office is beyond my ken. This goes beyond the standard "magical thinking" worldview typical of W and his Administration, and into the realm of delusion!

Wolfie is back... be afraid!

Wolfowitz picked for arms control panel
Thu Jan 24
Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Former World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz will head a high-level advisory panel on arms control and disarmament, the State Department said Thursday.

Recall, this is the guy who assured us that...
- Iraq has no history of ethnic strife
- Iraq can afford to pay for its own reconstruction
- Shinseki's estimate of troop requirements to stabilize post-war Iraq was "way off the mark" (Shinseki suggested "several hundred thousand" troops needed)

He was a strong advocate of going to war with Iraq (... in response to 9/11!!!).

Why am I not feeling warm and fuzzy about Wolfie's return to government, dealing with arms control and disarmament?

Readers with long memories may recall that I've previously addressed this issue in the context of an admittedly farfetched "conspiracy theory" suggesting that W has no intention of leaving office next January!... Bringing Wolfowitz to Dept of State fits in perfectly with this narrative.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Getting through the day

Three observations on simply getting through each day:

1. You can't go faster than the car in front of you. (I discovered this simple rule all by myself; for some reason, it was not included in high school "driver education" class!)

2. The world makes more sense if you decide to believe that Good, Evil, and Luck are real.

3. The Golden Rule - "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." (Luke 6:31)- provides a good basis for personal ethics.

nostalgia: re-visiting memory lane

President Bush Says Usama Bin Laden May Not Be Captured During His Time in Office
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Fox News
Capturing Usama bin Laden has been one of President Bush's top priorities during his time in office, but the president now seems to doubt the Al Qaeda mastermind will be found before his term ends next January.

Speaking about his goals for his last year in the White House, Bush tells FOX News in an exclusive interview to air this weekend that if U.S. military and intelligence knew where bin Laden was, they would have apprehended him already.

"If we could find the cave he is in, I promise you — he would be brought to justice or wherever he's hiding," he tells FOX News in "George W. Bush: Fighting to the Finish," a documentary scheduled to air Sunday, Jan. 27, at 8 p.m. ET.

THE PRESIDENT: "They will try to hide, they will try to avoid the United States and our allies - but we're not going to let them. They run to the hills; they find holes to get in. And we will do whatever it takes to smoke them out and get them running, and we'll get them."
[President Urges Readiness and Patience
Remarks by the President, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft
Camp David
Thurmont, Maryland
15 Sep 2001]
Ah, yes: "Constancy of purpose." One of Deming's 14 points for management! (Didn't W learn anything at Harvard Business School?)

... and recall Mullah Omar's reply:
[Mullah] Omar: "I am considering two promises. One is the promise of God, the other is that of Bush. The promise of God is that my land is vast. If you start a journey on God's path, you can reside anywhere on this earth and will be protected... The promise of Bush is that there is no place on earth where you can hide that I cannot find you. We will see which one of these two promises is fulfilled."
[Mullah Omar - in his own words
Wednesday September 26, 2001
The Guardian]
Not only is the world's most powerful military losing two wars to third-world insurgents, but the Leader of the Free World, the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, has lost the rhetorical battle to the Taliban's Mullah Omar!

Stop the madness!

Just out of curiosity...

Are we talking about American troops, or are we volunteering to send the Canadians? ... and if American troops, where do we find 'em to send???

US willing to send troops to Pakistan
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
24 Jan 2008
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is willing to send a small number of U.S. combat troops to Pakistan to help fight the insurgency there if Pakistani authorities ask for such help, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.

Oh, okay! It's only a "small number of U.S. combat troops"... That makes all the difference!

Can I have some of whatever Gates is smoking?

We're over-committed: troops in Iraq (not enough to really do any good, "just enough to lose" - I believe that was Tom Friedman's characterization of the Rumsfeld Doctrine); troops in Afghanistan (again, not enough to control the population, just enough to fight an ineffectual war against third-world guerillas).

On the bright side, if we sent troops to Pakistan, that would help make a more compelling argument for sending troops into Iran - you know, just to fill in the space - a nice, low-density troop presence from the Iraq-Jordan border on the west to the Pakistan-India border on the east! Not enough troops anywhere to control even one major city - just enough to get the boys killed in low-level combat against third-world insurgents.

Stop the madness!

Iraq as a National Security issue: reframing the debate

As a couple of previous posts have suggested, I believe that withdrawing from Iraq ought be presented as in the best interests of the United States.

Stories like this provide much of the ammunition for this assault:
U.S. war costs in Iraq up: report
By Richard Cowan (Reuters)
Wed Jan 23, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Iraq war may not dominate U.S. news reports as the carnage drops, but a new report underscores the financial burden of persistent combat that is helping run up the government's credit card.
War funding, which averaged about $93 billion a year from 2003 through 2005, rose to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2007 and President George W. Bush has asked for $193 billion in 2008, the nonpartisan office wrote.

The electorate understand $$. The current economic mess provides a nice back-drop: the Government's response to imminent recession is constrained by our engagement in Iraq.

There are many indicators of economic malaise: falling dollar, higher debt, $90/bbl oil... and simply that we keep spending hundreds of billions of $$ in Iraq - for no visible return on investment.

Getting out of Iraq is in our best interests. Sell it on that basis!

Stop the madness!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Way cool! (a personal, pointless post)

This post is being written from the Albuquerque Sunport (the airport).
I successfully connected to the Sunport's wireless network, and to the City of Albuquerque's internet server!

Tho' I work for a high-tech company, I am a technophobe. This remote connectivity thing is NOT second-nature to me!... I feel something like the Tom Hanks character in Castaway when he succeeds in building a fire!

That's it.

As advertised: a personal, pointless post!

Our "MBA President" at work

Company paid twice for war support work
By RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press Writer
23 Jan 2008
WASHINGTON - A defense contractor hired to repair combat equipment routinely failed to do the job right and then charged the government millions of dollars for the extra work needed to get the gear ready for battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a newly released audit.

This is not really "news" anymore (see, e.g., Robert Greenwald's "Iraq for Sale")... but it is somewhat disquieting that these stories keep appearing, frequently, regularly.

Outsourcing basic governmental functions is a really bad idea. Outsourcing with no contractual or financial controls is absurd - wasteful, inefficient, and ineffective.

[Aside: When I was in the Army - serving with a 2nd Infantry Division medical battalion on Korean DMZ - I was required to help perform maintenance on vehicles in the motor pool about one Saturday per month. My Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)? "Mental Hygiene Specialist" (91G20)!... but there I was, helping in the motor pool!]

Preamble to U.S. Constitution,
We the people of the United States, in order to... provide for the common defense..."
Defense is a basic function of government.

Stop the madness!

Light/no posting thru Thursday

Outta town on biz.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nah!... ya think?

Study: False statements preceded war
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer
22 Jan 2008
WASHINGTON - A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Advice to Dem candidates: don't get hung up on the pre-war lies.

We're there now - whatcha gonna do about it?

To quote some demonstrator's sign at a long-ago protest:
"Would someone PLEASE give this man a blowjob so we can impeach him!"

Stop the madness!


Harry Callahan: "A man's got to know his limitations.
[Magnum Force, (1973)]
... and so must a nation.

Some choices are easy:
"It might help, it can't hurt, and it doesn't cost anything."
Do "it", whatever "it" might be!... this is an easy decision-rule!

Other choices are harder, boiling down to "the lesser of two evils" or "the greater good."

We screwed up in Iraq. Yes, our intentions were noble (or at least it doesn't hurt to pretend that our intentions were noble)... but we screwed it up.

When we signed up for the war, we were told...
... Iraq posed an imminent threat to the U.S.
Condoleezza Rice [then-Nat'l Security Adviser]"... we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
We were told it would be cheap...
... in manpower:
"Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, 'wildly off the mark.' ",
[Paul Wolfowitz, 28 Feb 2003
(... because, you will recall, "Iraq has no history of ethnic strife"!)]
... in $:
"There is a lot of money to pay for this. It does not have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction."
[Paul Wolfowitz, 27 Mar 2003]
We were told it would be short:
"It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
[SecDef Rumsfeld, 7 Feb 2003]
None of this was true.

We have now spent close to 4000 American servicemen's lives, and $488,000,000,000 in Iraq.

Our economy is on the verge of recession. Our debt - much of it held by China - is ballooning. Our infrastructure is crumbling.

Yes, it's a hard choice... but it's the ONLY sane choice: it's time to leave Iraq. Now. Today.

Stop the madness!

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,..."

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.

[Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5]

Petraeus: I Need Another Six Months To Determine Whether ‘We’ve Reached A Turning Point’
How long, O Lord?
[Psalm 94]
PETRAEUS: "We think we won’t know that we’ve reached a turning point until we’re six months past it. We have repeatedly said that there is no lights at the end of the tunnel that we’re seeing. We’re certainly not dancing in the end zone or anything like that."

Stop the madness!

Our "new, improved" Afghanistan

Afghan journalist sentenced to death
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
22 Jan 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan court on Tuesday sentenced a 23-year-old journalism student to death for distributing a paper he printed off the Internet that three judges said violated the tenets of Islam, an official said.

Note: this is not the verdict of a Taliban court, but an Afghan court constituted under the new Constitution, and it is to the new Constitution that the court points to justify the verdict:
"Rhimullah Samandar, the head of the Kabul-based National Journalists Union of Afghanistan, said Kambaksh had been sentenced to death under Article 130 of the Afghan constitution. That article says that if no law exists regarding an issue than a court's decision should be in accord with Hanafi jurisprudence.

Hanafi is an orthodox school of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence followed in southern and central Asia.
The good news? The verdict isn't final:
"The case now goes to the first of two appeals courts..."
In the end it may take the direct intervention of Afghan President Karzai to free Sayad Parwez Kambaksh. (I seem to recall that there is precedent for this, with Karzai having intervened in another "insult to Islam" death sentence sometime within the past year... the details now elude me.)

Stop the madness!

"They're panicking out there right now, I can feel it." [Billy Ray Valentine, Trading Places, (1983)]

Press Release
Release Date: January 22, 2008
For immediate release
The Federal Open Market Committee has decided to lower its target for the federal funds rate 75 basis points to 3-1/2 percent.

The Committee took this action in view of a weakening of the economic outlook and increasing downside risks to growth. While strains in short-term funding markets have eased somewhat, broader financial market conditions have continued to deteriorate and credit has tightened further for some businesses and households. Moreover, incoming information indicates a deepening of the housing contraction as well as some softening in labor markets.

In a special meeting the Fed lowers rates by a whopping 75 points - exceeding expectations of a 50 point reduction at the regular meeting next week.

Seems like a panicky response to the economy. So, how'd the market perceive it? As a panicky response!

As I understand the current mess (and I again note that what I know about economics could be written in large block letters on a postage stamp), the problem is not only that folks can't get loans to tide 'em over (a "liquidity" problem), but that the underlying value of their assets has really plummeted - which is a "solvency" problem that won't be solved by cheaper credit.

Add to this the fact that our war-related spending has fed a massive budget deficit, and that we're paying $90/bbl for stuff we burn up, and things are looking pretty bleak. Whatever tax incentives/rebates W and Congress come up with to "jump start" the economy have to be short-term if we're not to default on our debt. We can't really afford much in the way of increased gov't spending. The Fed can't keep lowering rates without flirting with inflation.

'twixt a rock and a hard place, we be!

As Billy Ray Valentine observed of the pork belly market, "They're panicking out there right now, I can feel it."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dem Debate live-blogging

[This space intentionally left blank.]

an inane headline from HuffPost

Ethnic, Race, Male-Female Voting Patterns Deciding The Democratic Nomination

Voting patterns deciding an election? What a concept!

This is akin to my Super Bowl prediction:
The team that scores the most most points will win.
... and while I'm at it, why
Why not,
I'd like to be able to follow up with something like, "In fairness, the article itself presents a well-reasoned analysis of voting patterns across a variety of demographic categories." I'd like to, but I can't. Instead, we get the following:
The percentage of each primary electorate that is female, African American or Latino will be especially crucial to the outcome.

"The worry for the Democrats, I think, is a battle to the end that appears to the inattentive median voter as over identity politics," said Columbia University political scientist Robert Erikson. "Obama could face a danger of appearing as the 'black' candidate or Hillary as the 'women's' candidate."
This isn't analysis, it's words-strung-together-to-look-like-analysis.

I wondered why I never wrote about this stuff before. Now I know: there's nothing to write about!

Surge to Nowhere

In Sunday's WaPo op-ed, Surge to Nowhere", Andrew J. Bacevich criticizes the surge far more eloquently than I ever could.
But how exactly do these sacrifices serve the national interest? What has the loss of nearly 4,000 U.S. troops and the commitment of about $1 trillion -- with more to come -- actually gained the United States?
he asks.

Indeed. How?

Stop the madness!

Something a little different: Kritol's NYT op-ed

First: I generally disdain commenting on the media - there's already way too much navel-gazing withn both mainstream and alternative media. The country has real problems; Bill O'Reilly & Wm. Kristol aren't among them!

But today I'm making an exception to this rule, in part just because I think it'll be fun, but also because I want to make a larger point.

The fun? Kristol's NYT op-ed today (Thoroughly Unmodern McCain, 21 Jan 2008). He starts by quoting from McCain's SC victory speech: "We are the captains of our fate.". He notes that this is from a 19th-century poem, William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus”, and that McCain, "comes from a generation that, in its youth, was made to memorize poetry."

From here we learn (?) that McCain having had to memorize poetry as a schoolboy, and that his remembering a 19th-century poem, implies that McCain is more "Victorian" than the other candidates... and thus, somehow, better suited to the demands of the Presidency than his "thoroughly modern" rivals.

Okay - I don't quite follow the logic, but there it is.

Fun stuff for the Gilbert & Sullivan fan: Kristol demonstrates his own Victorian cred with riffs on "The Modern Major-General" song from The Pirates of Penzance to make a "witty" point:
Mitt Romney is the very model of a modern venture capitalist.
Mike Huckabee is the very model of a modern evangelical.
Rudy Giuliani is the very model of a modern can-do executive.
Here endeth the commentary. Now for the larger point.

When the NYT hired Kristol, all hell broke loose in the progressive blogosphere. This decision was roundly panned as giving a neocon W-enabler more exposure than he deserves.

Me? I believe in the dicta, "Know your enemy" and "Forewarned is forearmed." Many of us (me among them) don't regularly read The Weekly Standard, so most of the time don't know what Kristol is saying. With Kristol on NYT op-ed page, I can now keep up with neocon W-enabling "logic" and "argumentation." Knowing what Kristol is saying, what premises he adopts for his arguments, and what arguments he frames based on those premises, helps me formulate a better progressive defense against his inanity! Knowing what I'll be likely to face in the realm of political arugmentation and discourse better prepares me to parry attacks!

Kristol's regular appearance on NYT op-ed page should be welcomed: we can now better know our enemy, and with the forewarning, forarm ourselves.

MLK Day reflections

I’m a 55-yr-old white guy.

When MLK was assassinated I was a 15-yr-old sophomore at Tulsa Central High School. Central was the only integrated HS in town. This was the result of prevailing “neighborhood school” districts, and the fact that Tulsa was one of the most segregated cities in the country: the blacks lived on the northside, in an enclave I first knew as “nigger town.” Washington HS was the ‘black’ school. The remaining seven were lily white.

The Friday following the assassination there was a noticeable iciness between white students & black. The integrated student body was never one big joyful love-fest, but relations were generally at least civil. Not that day. It was pretty clear that the black kids – even those I regarded as friends – saw me as one of King’s assassins.

This was the second event of the year that began to awaken my political consciousness. The first was the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

A third would follow shortly: the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Democratic candidate for President, running on an anti-war platform.

A fourth occurred in August, when Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush Dubcek’s “Prague Spring,” followed a week or so later by the anti-war demonstrations at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. [I wrote my first “Letter to the Editor” in response to the Soviet crackdown on Czechoslovakia – and it was published!]

Nixon with his “secret plan” to end the war was elected in November.
1968 was a great year to become aware of politics in all its glory!

In 1970, when I was a high school senior, Central was closed for several days due to race riots. I don’t recall the initiating incident. Somewhat ironically, the school paper staff – of which I was editor – was at a journalism workshop at Oklahoma State University that day, so missed having first-hand knowledge of the events. For the rest of that school year we all wore picture ID student badges, and for several weeks the school grounds were patrolled by police.

One member of the the school newspaper staff – who now happens to be a regular reader of this blog! – undertook a series of articles about the riots and their aftermath – interviewing key participants and student leaders from all factions. The ensuing discussions – among students & faculty – were measured and reasoned. Communication between blacks & whites improved. We spent more time in each others’ neighborhoods and at each others’ homes.

In my youthful optimistic naivete, I believed that my generation would be the last to face racial strife.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Super Bowl prediction

The team that scores the most most points will win.

What'll it take for the Giants to beat the Patriots? New York will have to outscore New England!

(You saw it here first!)

One more year. (??)

A number of political (well, progressive) blogs have noted that one year from today - 20 Jan 2009 - a new President will be sworn in.

Two questions:
1) Can we survive another year with W?
2) Might we be delusional?

I'm not convinced that W will leave peacefully. A previous post - in blatant conspiracy-theory mode - suggests otherwise. The recent neocon saber-rattling against Iran does nothing to reduce my conspiratorial suspicions!

"Please, sir, I want some more." [Dickens, Oliver Twist]

U.S. To Saudis: Please Pump More Oil!
Energy Secretary Calls On OPEC To Boost Production To Meet Growing U.S. Demand
CBS News
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 19, 2008
AP) U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told Saudi Arabia's oil minister Saturday that OPEC should increase oil output.

Bodman told reporters before his meeting with Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi that oil production should be increased in order to meet growing demands.
It also comes less than a week after U.S. President George W. Bush raised the same concerns in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Bush said oil prices were very high and "tough on our economy."

The White House said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah told Mr. Bush that he was worried about the effect of high oil prices on the world economy - but there was no commitment from the king about increasing oil output

This is simply pathetic. Seven years into W's Presidency and our "energy policy" consists of begging the Saudis to pump more oil! I note that W's & Cheney's best buds in Big Oil have been raking in the $$ during this period.

Stop the madness!

No matter the data, the conclusion is always the same

Qaeda on run in Iraq, using more suicide bombers: US experts
Sun Jan 20
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Al-Qaeda in Iraq is on the run, forcing its elusive Egyptian-born leader to be more selective about targets and to rely increasingly on suicide bombers, US military intelligence experts said Sunday.

The evidence: more suicide bombers.
The conclusion: al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run.

Imagine if the data had suggested that suicide bombings were down. What do you suppose the conclusion would have been?

This is reminiscent of Cheney's declaration that "the insurgency is in its last throes", based on the observation that insurgent activity was increasing - increasing violence was cited as evidence that the insurgents were getting desperate!

Regardless of the evidence, the official conclusion will always be that things are getting better. A similar official attitude in Vietnam eventually created the "credibility gap" that led most Americans to support withdrawal from Southeast Asia.

Who knows? Maybe things are getting better in Iraq. Maybe al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run. But when officials continue to cite any and all evidence to support these conclusions, eventually we the people believe nothing the officials tell us.

Stop the madness!

Canada relents!

Canada recalls torture manual
Published: Jan. 20, 2008
OTTAWA, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Canada's government has ordered a manual defining torture rewritten because it included U.S.-run and Israeli sites as possible torture locations.

Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier ordered the "Torture Awareness Workshop Reference Materials" -- a manual providing legal definitions of torture -- rewritten because of references to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the United States and Israel, The Toronto Star said Sunday.

"I regret the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual used in the department's torture awareness training. It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies," Bernier said in a statement.

I suppose this is good news - the Canadian government no longer officially proclaims us torturers.

Now, if we would only stop torturing detainees in the GWOT!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Free advice to all Democratic candidates (worth every penny!)

This is a ridiculously long post, summarizing and expanding my extremely valuable free advice from many previous posts.

Run on W’s record… and make your Republican opponent run on W’s record.
“You are a loyal Republican, standing for election to {the Presidency}{the Congress}{the Senate}, representing your party. Do you support President Bush’s {foreign}{domestic}{economic} policies?”
No matter the answer, you’ve put your respected Republican opponent on the defensive. If s/he does support W, you ridicule him/er… subtly, but deliberately and pointedly, by calling out the various failures of W’s policies. (Even Canada condemns us as torturers!) If s/he confesses to not supporting W, you feign shock: “You claim to represent the Republican party, and your constituency, but you don’t support your President!”

The economy:
If your respected opponent attempts to label you as a “tax and spend liberal”, point to our ballooning deficit, and suggest that “tax and spend” is a somewhat more responsible policy than “borrow and spend.” Use some homey examples to illustrate your point. (e.g., “How would you counsel an alcoholic who takes out a second mortgage on his house to pay for booze?”)

If s/he presses the point, suggest a 0% tax rate. Argue that if lower taxes are uniformly good, then no taxes ought to be perfect. Ask him/er why s/he does not advocate no taxes. What ought be funded? How does s/he propose to pay for it? [Note: the “no taxes” idea might appeal to the Grover Norquist wing of the Republican party – don’t worry: they’re not going to vote for you – the Democrat – under any circumstances!]

There are tons of statistics out there strongly suggesting W’s policies have been a boon to Big Biz and a disaster for the rest of us. Use ‘em! [easy ones: gas prices, 2003 vs today; oil prices 2003 vs today.]

Iraq. Ask your respected opponent what the desired end-state is. Pin him down. Insist on specifics. Perhaps ask, “Which other country do you see Iraq most resembling when our mission has been completed?... Germany? Israel? Lebanon? China? South Korea? Japan? Brazil? Ecuador? Venezuela?...” Make him declare a choice: “Iraq will be most like X”. Good. Now, “How will we reach this desired end-state. How will we achieve a {Japan}{Korea}{Brazil}{Ecuador}{Norwary}{Italy}{Egypt}{Jordan}-like state in Iraq? What will it take? What are the steps? How long will it take? How much will it cost?”

Your position on Iraq (I hope… & if not, I don’t support you!): with the resources available to us we cannot achieve any more than we have to date. Any further expenditure of U.S. taxpayer $, or U.S. soldiers’ lives is simply chasing bad money with good, squandering our National Security on a hopeless cause.

You can afford to be generous: admit that freeing Iraq from Saddam’s tyranny was a noble cause… but W bungled it completely.

Humpty Dumpty is a good metaphor. The egg once broken cannot be put back in its shell. Rumsfeld committed us to failure when he responded to initial civil unrest with, “Stuff happens.” [note: do NOT get sucked into an argument about pre-war intelligence, or pre-war planning. Start from today – where we are now.]

Have fun: Quote W:
“... when it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission.”
Suggest that we don’t really need Iraq’s permission to leave! – if it’s in our best national interest!

Iraq & $ (my favorite): If we’d struck a deal with Saddam on 3 Jan 2003 to buy all Iraq’s oil at $80/bbl – a 167% premium over then-prevailing market price – we’d have spent less on Iraq than what the war has cost us to date!

Governing. W has pursued a deliberate “hands-off” approach to government, choosing to outsource basic functions, assigning political cronies with no expertise to key posts, pandering to Big Business at every opportunity. The response to Hurricane Katrina provides an excellent case study. FEMA – once a fairly competent disaster-response organization – has become a punch line. State Department security in Iraq has been outsourced to private mercenaries, subject to no law.

Govt secrecy. Quote the Declaration of Independence
... We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, ...
Observe that in common-law, "consent" is taken to mean "informed consent", and that "state secrets", "executive privilege", and "national security" impede the citizen's informed consent.

The W/Cheney cabal has made it devilishly difficult for we the people to grant our informed consent to anything our government is doing! Torture????.

Whatever are your favorite issues, run on W’s record! – and make your respected Republican opponent run on W’s record!

It’s fun!... and it’s not all that hard.

NEVER let your opponent shape the battlefield. Always use W’s record to shape the battlefield to your advantage.

Personal attacks: In the unlikely (ha!) event that your respected Republican opponent dredges up dirt from your past - NEVER respond directly.

Republican opponent: “My esteemed Democratic opponent has had carnal knowledge of his swine.”
You: “My respected Republican opponent wants to make an issue of the fact that I am a pig-fucker. I want to discuss critical issues facing us as a nation today, and which of us has a clearer vision of America's strong future.”

See how easy it is?

Run on W’s record!

Stop the madness!

More good news from Iraq... sigh

Clashes kill nearly 50 in southern Iraq
By CHRISTOPHER CHESTER, Associated Press Writer
18 Jan 2008
BAGHDAD - Violence left nearly 50 people dead in two major southern cities Friday when members of a shadowy, messianic cult attacked police and fellow Shiite worshippers — a year after a similar plot was foiled during Shiite Islam's most important holiday.

Iraqi authorities said at least 36 people were reported killed in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, and at least 10 in Nasiriyah, where witnesses said U.S.-led coalition jet fighters and helicopter gunships targeted a police station seized by cult gunmen.

A gentle reminder: The south - Basra, Nasiriyah - is supposed to be the exemplar of our success! No al Qaeda in Iraq, no evil Baathists. Just Shi'ites, whom we nobly liberated from Saddam's oppressive yoke... sigh.

Again: what do we envision as a "successful" end-state in Iraq? ... and just how are we going to get there?

Perhaps the way to phrase the argument today is in terms of our National Security. Our continued presence in Iraq is draining our treasury and destroying our military, for no discernible, tangible return on investment.

Ah! But the Iraq government needs us!
Minister Sees Need for U.S. Help in Iraq Until 2018! We must stay - it's our duty!

W, in his own words:
... when it comes to our security, we really don't need anybody's permission.
[President George Bush Discusses Iraq in National Press Conference, 6 March 2003]
Why do we now need the Iraq government's permission to leave Iraq?

Perhaps it was a noble cause. It is now lost.

Stop the madness!

Iran NIE a game-changer!... NOT (the next part in what is becoming a very long series of posts)

From Think Progress.

Following Podhoretz’s Lead, Right Wing Continues Push For ‘Bombing Campaign’ Against Iran ‘Now’:
In a new article for Commentary, titled “Stopping Iran: Why the Case for Military Action Still Stands,” he [Podhoretz] argues that Bush should commence with a “bombing campaign”:

Iran can still be stopped from getting the bomb and even more millions of lives can be saved–but only provided that we summon up the courage to see what is staring us in the face and then act on what we see.

Podhoretz isn’t alone in his desire to keep pushing for an attack on Iran. ...

HEWITT: Bill Kristol, do you think it is possible, not even likely, but just possible that the Bush administration will take military action against Iran in their last year?

KRISTOL: I think it’s possible. I think people were a little too quick after that National Intelligence Estimate came out, which was, I think, an attempt by the intelligence agencies to prevent the Bush administration from sort of seriously considering taking action. And I think people were too quick to say ooh, that rules it out, you know, they’re just paralyzed for the next year.

National Review’s Mark Steyn:

If we had a CIA that actually did anything, as opposed to sitting around Langley reading e-mail all day, we would be able to do that. But because we haven’t done that, the bombing option is becoming the only one that will be left, if not for this president, then for somebody.
Recall, my first post on the subject noted that
... and his [W's] neocon enablers are out in force as well:
Dark Suspicions about the NIE
Norman Podhoretz - 12.03.2007
"... But I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again."

We can expect this and similar arguments to flow from Podhoretz, Wm. Kristol, and lesser-lights among the chicken hawks.

They will note that the "liberal" media, so quick to deride in hindsight the NIEs regarding Iraq WMD, are now equally quick to accept an Iran NIE that corresponds to their "liberal agenda". They will likely use phrases like, "the liberal media want us to lose the war on terror", "the liberal media seize on anything that is anti-American," and so on.

Sean Hannity - with the advantage of Podhoretz's implicit support - will use the Iran NIE as evidence of the CIA's anti-W cabal, from which Valerie Plame was ousted.
My psychic ability is sometimes simply frightening!

Stop the madness!

Why are we there??? [updated 5:26 p.m. MST]

From Washington Post opinions (login required):
Federalism, Not Partition
A System Devolving Power to the Regions Is the Route to a Viable Iraq
By Mowaffak al-Rubaie [The writer is Iraq's national security adviser.]
Friday, January 18, 2008; Page A19
BAGHDAD -- Iraq's government is at a stalemate. As in the United States, there is much discussion here of the need for political reconciliation. What does that mean? That the majority Shiites and the minority Sunnis and Kurds must find a way to govern collectively at the national level. As national security adviser to the head of Iraq's governments since March 2004, I have participated in the development of democracy in my country. I strongly support the government and applaud its achievements. But I understand that the political objectives of Iraq's three main communities are unrealizable within the framework of a unitary, centralized state.

It has been impossible to maintain a political consensus on many important issues. For one thing, the U.S.-dominated coalition, which has its own objectives, must be accommodated. ...

[emphasis added]

Tell me again: why are we there?

I'd be happy to reconsider my position... if someone, anyone, could paint a picture of the desired end-state in Iraq, and explain to me how we realistically propose to reach that end-state!

In the absence of this discussion - starting with clearly defined end-state ("strategic objective") - all other discussion is meaningless. To surge or not to surge?... Is the surge working or not?... withdraw this summer, next year, 2018? None of these can be meaningfully addressed without knowing where we want to end up.

[update] If we don't know where we're going, it's hard to plan the route.

Meanwhile, we continue pouring money into the bottomless pit called Iraq (some $480,000,000,000 so far... and counting.) Our military is being abused and weakened; our soldiers getting shot at, wounded, and killed. For what? No one seems to know!... or if someone does know, s/he isn't telling!

Stop the madness!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What we have become.

From Think Progress:
Canada puts Gitmo on torture watch list CTV in Canada reported yesterday that it had “obtained documents that put Guantanamo Bay on a torture watch list” created by the Canadian government. The list is part of a “torture awareness workshop” that tells diplomats where to watch for abuse:

The list includes Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and China. But surprisingly, it also included the United States, Guantanamo Bay, and Israel.

It notes specific “U.S. interrogation techniques,” which include “forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation.” The U.S. has repeatedly denied allegations by international groups that it tortures prisoners captured in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. However, U.S. officials have refused to comment on the Canadian list.
In our name.
We've become pariah.

MR. ROMNEY: ... Some people have said, we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo.
This is one of the very serious Republican candidates for President!

Stop the madness!

a provocative proposal: no taxes!

Bush favors tax breaks in stimulus plan

As noted below, every Republican presidential candidate features lower taxes at the center of his economic program.

A challenge to Dems: propose NO TAXES. Follow the Republican logic to its end. If "lower taxes" is good policy, "NO TAXES" is perfect policy!

This might compel a discussion regarding, "What are taxes for?" ... which might, in turn, compel a discussion regarding our nation's strategic objectives:
- form a more perfect Union,
- establish Justice,
- insure domestic Tranquility
- provide for the common defence,
- promote the general Welfare, and
- secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity
At least make the Republicans state just what they think taxes ought to pay for!

Tax policy is not a legitimate political end in and of itself, it is only a means to an end. What do we want the Government to do? What do we want to pay for? How much does it cost? How will we pay for it? If you want a $650Bn defense budget, you need $$! Whence do the $$ derive?

You can even use simple, patronizing, household economy examples to make your point. (Ridicule can be a very powerful weapon!)

Challenge your Republican opponents: "lower taxes good" suggests "NO TAXES" would be perfect. Why don't you - my Republican opponent - advocate doing away with the Government? [Warning: this arugment may appeal to the Grover Norquist wing of the Republican Party... and Ron Paul!]

Once you get 'em to admit that government is needed (and what Republican would deny this?... well, except for Ron Paul), you've won the argument... the rest is detail!

... and remember, "Tax and spend" makes more sense than "Borrow and spend"!

Stop the madness!


Oil falls on Bernanke comments
By JOHN WILEN, AP Business Writer
17 Jan 2008
NEW YORK - ... Light, sweet crude for February delivery fell 71 cents to settle at $90.13 on the New York Mercantile Exchange ...

If we'd started paying Saddam $90.13/bbl for all Iraq's oil on 18 March 2003 (the day we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom), we'd have paid $477,509,000,000 through today. (This assumes pre-war Iraq production of 3Mn bbls/day, a bit on the high side.)

$90.13 represents close to a 200% premium over market price in March 2003 - Saddam would have been a fool to turn down the deal.

How much have we spent on the war, from 18 Mar 2003 through today?
From National Priorities Project:

... about $9,000,000,000 MORE than the proposed oil deal with Saddam!

... AND: we'd have all Iraq's oil at pre-war production levels! We could simply GIVE IT AWAY.

Stop the madness.

Crib sheet for Norman Podhoretz: "What's a Kurd?"

After Iraq
by Jeffrey Goldberg
... Just before the “Mission Accomplished” phase of the war, I spoke about Kurd­istan to an audience that included Norman Podhoretz, the vicariously martial neoconservative who is now a Middle East adviser to Rudolph Giuliani. After the event, Podhoretz seemed authentically bewildered. “What’s a Kurd, anyway?” he asked me.

A Kurd you should know: Saladin (Salah al-Dīn Yusuf ibn Ayyub)
Sultan of Egypt and Syria, [Saladin] was a 12th-century Kurdish Muslim political and military leader from Tikrit, Iraq [Saddam's hometown]. At the height of his power the Ayyubid dynasty, which he founded, ruled over Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Hejaz, and Yemen. He is renowned for leading Muslim resistance to the European Crusaders and eventually recapturing Palestine from the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. As such, he remains a widely admired figure in Turk, Arab, Kurdish, and Muslim culture.
In July 1187, Saladin captured most of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. On July 4, 1187, he faced at the Battle of Hattin the combined forces Guy of Lusignan, King Consort of Jerusalem, and Raymond III of Tripoli. In the battle alone the Crusader army was largely annihilated by the motivated army of Saladin in what was a major disaster for the Crusaders and a turning point in the history of the Crusades.
Hattin and the fall of Jerusalem prompted the Third Crusade, financed in England by a special "Saladin tithe". This Crusade took back Acre. After Richard I ["Lion-Heart"] executed the Muslim prisoners at Acre, Saladin retaliated by killing all Franks captured from August 28 - September 10. ... The armies of Saladin engaged in combat with the rivaling armies of King Richard I of England ["Richard the Lion-Heart"] at the Battle of Arsuf on September 7, 1191 at which Saladin was defeated. Saladin's relationship with Richard was one of chivalrous mutual respect as well as military rivalry; both were celebrated in courtly romances. When Richard was wounded, Saladin offered the services of his personal physician. At Arsuf, when Richard lost his horse, Saladin sent him two replacements. Saladin also sent him fresh fruit with snow, to keep his drinks cold. Richard had suggested to Saladin that his sister could marry Saladin's brother - and Jerusalem could be their wedding gift.

The two came to an agreement over Jerusalem in the Treaty of Ramla in 1192, whereby the city would remain in Muslim hands but would be open to Christian pilgrimages; the treaty reduced the Latin Kingdom to a strip along the coast from Tyre to Jaffa.

[Wikipedia entry, Saladin. Items in square brackets, [...], are editorial insertions.]
A modest proposal: include the story of Saladin & the Crusades when training Iraqi army & police, to help establish and solidify an Iraqi identity.