Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hint: 0% is as low as it goes!

Fed cuts rates as economy slumps, hoping to stop recession
By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer
30 Apr 2008
WASHINGTON - Scrambling to shore up the faltering economy, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to the lowest point in nearly four years Wednesday as the nation teetered on the edge of recession.
Chairman Ben Bernanke led a divided Fed, in an 8-2 vote, in slicing its key rate by one-quarter percentage point to 2 percent.

The folks on Wall Street were "flummoxed" (see below).
Note to investors: 0% is as low as it can go!

Stocks dip with investors flummoxed over Fed

A helpful hint to the rest of us:
These guys aren't any smarter than we are, they just have more money!
Have a nice day.

Dodging the bullet

Economy grows by only 0.6 percent in 1st quarter of 2008

Given general pessimism surrounding the economy, I actually found this headline needlessly negative. A more positive spin - perfectly justified given doom & gloom context - would be, "Economy surprises: Grows 0.6 percent in Q1"

No - 0.6% growth ain't great, but it's better than contraction, which seems to have been consensus forecast.

For what it's worth - about 1.5 years ago, as part of my job, I made a bold prediction: At least 80% chance of recession before 2010. This was based on analysis of biz cycle since WWII and some very braindead statistical models.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

just for fun (truly: pointless fun!)

Gilbert & Sullivan, The Gondoliers

Rising early in the morning,
We proceed to light the fire,
Then our Majesty adorning
In its workaday attire,
We embark without delay
On the duties of the day.

First, we polish off some batches
Of political despatches,
And foreign politicians circumvent;
Then, if business isn't heavy,
We may hold a Royal levee,
Or ratify some Acts of Parliament.
Then we probably review the household troops--
With the usual "Shalloo humps!" and "Shalloo hoops!"
Or receive with ceremonial and state
An interesting Eastern potentate.
After that we generally
Go and dress our private valet--
(It's a rather nervous duty--he's a touchy little man)--
Write some letters literary
For our private secretary--
He is shaky in his spelling, so we help him if we can.
Then, in view of cravings inner,
We go down and order dinner;
Then we polish the Regalia and the Coronation Plate--
Spend an hour in titivating
All our Gentlemen-in-Waiting;
Or we run on little errands for the Ministers of State.

Oh, philosophers may sing
Of the troubles of a King;
Yet the duties are delightful, and the privileges great;
But the privilege and pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is to run on little errands for the Ministers of State.

CHORUS. Oh, philosophers may sing, etc.

After luncheon (making merry
On a bun and glass of sherry),
If we've nothing in particular to do,
We may make a Proclamation,
Or receive a deputation--
Then we possibly create a Peer or two.
Then we help a fellow-creature on his path
With the Garter or the Thistle or the Bath,
Or we dress and toddle off in semi-state
To a festival, a function, or a fete.
Then we go and stand as sentry
At the Palace (private entry),
Marching hither, marching thither, up and down and to and fro,
While the warrior on duty
Goes in search of beer and beauty
(And it generally happens that he hasn't far to go).
He relieves us, if he's able,
Just in time to lay the table,
Then we dine and serve the coffee, and at half-past twelve or one,
With a pleasure that's emphatic,
We retire to our attic
With the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done!

Oh, philosophers may sing
Of the troubles of a King,
But of pleasures there are many and of worries there are none;
And the culminating pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done!

CHORUS. Oh, philosophers may sing, etc.
You're welcome!

"so it goes"

... so it goes
Militiamen ambush drives back US patrol in Sadr City
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer

29 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD - Dozens of fighters ambushed a U.S. patrol in Baghdad's main Shiite militia stronghold Tuesday, firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun bursts as the American push into Sadr City increasingly faces pockets of close urban combat.
Why are we there?

Stop the madness!

Abandoning my declared neutrality

I'd honestly hoped to remain neutral in the Dem primary campaign, believing that either candidate would be preferable to McCain.

I now find myself wondering why Sen Clinton is sounding more and more like a perhaps warmer-and-fuzzier Sen McCain.

Her threat to "totally obliterate" Iran should it attack Israel with nuclear weapons was, to put it gently, uncalled for. Iran has no nuclear weapons. Why make the threat? Still, I was willing to overlook it.

Her recent support of McCain's "gas-tax holiday" proposal, however, pushed me over the edge.

Whatever Sen Obama's faults, he is at least not parroting his esteemed Republican opponent.

I'm an independent voter. I'll not vote for McCain. Should Sen Clinton win the nomination, I will have a very hard time pulling the lever for HER. We don't need warmer-and-fuzzier Republicans masquerading as Democrats - we need committed DEMOCRATS!

Talk with Cuba? You bet! With North Korea? You bet! With Iran? You bet! Talk is NOT cheap - but it cannot possibly be less effective than gratuitous belligerent threats.

Gas prices too high? How 'bout pursuing a sane alternative energy program?... as opposed to, say, encouraging increased demand?

If in the interest of "bipartisanship" Sen Clinton would like to co-opt some of Sen McCain's good ideas - okay. ... BUT (hint, hint): Sen McCain has no good ideas! His economic "policy" ("cut taxes" pretty much sums it up) continues W's "borrow-and-spend" path to the poor-house. His foreign "policy" (talk loudly, strut) continues W's unilateral, paranoid belligerence.

If we don't need another flight-suited strutting warrior in the Oval Office, we certainly don't need a pants-suited strutting would-be warrior there, either!

Again, it truly pains me to adopt this position. I'd hoped to be able to pull the lever for ANY major-party candidate whose name wasn't "McCain" come November. I find now that I will not be able to do so.

Sorry, Sen Clinton. I'm afraid you just lost my potential vote.

[Should you be the Dem Candidate, I do have constructive advice:
Run on W's record!
You never have to once mention any of your positions. Simply suggest to voters, "If you like where the country is today, vote for McCain!"]

Advice for Candidate McCain

To make plausible your desire to see the U.S. attain "victory" in Iraq, you need to make it known as soon as possible that you have the very best minds working on it, and that you will send them to Baghdad the day after your inauguration.

May I suggest the following team:
Donald Rumsfeld
Paul Wolfowitz
Douglas Feith
Richard Perle
These guys know they were right, if only other folks hadn't fouled things up so completely. Great!

Let 'em fix it!... (Oh - and it can't be fixed from D.C. - on the ground presence in Baghdad is required to oversee the day-to-day as well as the "strategic" aspects of this mission!)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Why do I continue to be dumbfounded...? headlines like this:
US accuses Iran and Syria of trying to destabilize Iraq
Yes: if it weren't for the nefarious influence of Iran & Syria, Iraq would be a haven of peace and tranquility! A virtual Garden of Eden beckoning the world's peace-lovers to her shores!

Stop the madness!

A stroll down memory lane

Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand

This revelation shocked many.

... many, I'm afraid, too young to recall past Executive manipulation of the media.

Coming of age in the late '60s, early '70s, I learned a basic lesson: the government - MY government - lies. Anyone remember The Pentagon Papers, leaked by Ellsberg to the NYT?
How 'bout Woodward & Bernstein's laying bare the Watergate scandal?

Today, when I read about Chinese spies at Los Alamos Nat'l Labs, or Iraq WMD, or the imminent threat posed by Iran, my initial response is, "Oh, really?... are you sure? ... how do you know?" When it turns out that the reporting is based on anonymous government sources, all skepticism vanishes: at that point, I'm pretty sure I'm being fed a bunch of lies by an Administration wanting to push an agenda.

Maybe this is the wrong attitude. Maybe I ought give MY GOVERNMENT the benefit of the doubt... but why? Through Administrations from LBJ down to the present, they all lie! All the time! They lie for political advantage. They lie to advance a variety of agendas. Sometimes it's harmless, sometimes it's not.

When the best evidence SoS Powell could take to the U.N. was artists' renditions of mobile labs, you know these mock-ups really are it - the very best evidence! - Artists' Renditions!!!

Me? I'll continue to take "reporting" based on gov't sources with a very large grain of salt... and I'll also assume that any commentators with past gov't experience are part of the conspiracy. (Yes, this even includes KO's favorite, John Dean!)

Seems to me MSM could do itself a huge favor by adopting this perspective: if your ONLY source is current Administration - or someone with even a hint of a connection to the current regime - doubt what you're told. Dig a little deeper.

Just for fun: I note that the "state secrets privilege" was first formally articulated by the Supreme Court in 1953 decision, United States v Reynolds. The U.S. asserted that relevant evidence contained state secrets and that revealing this evidence would compromise national security. As a consequence of this evidentiary ruling, the widows of three men killed in the crash of a B-29 Superfortress were precluded from seeking damages from the government.

Documents released in 2000 revealed that the assertion of the "state secrets privilege" was bogus - or at least, paper thin. No threat to national security was involved - or none that couldn't have been surgically redacted. The documents DID reveal that the plane was in poor condition - probably not really flight-worthy.

Yes - our Government lies to us. For petty reasons. Instinctively.

Note: as suggested above, W's Administration isn't the first or the worst... tho' they seem to adopt lying as a first resort more often than their predecessors. ... and it's not just the U.S. government: ALL of 'em do it. The Brits gave us "Saddam ready to attack in 45 minutes!" I noted below that Associated Press relies on Iraqi gov't officials as source for anti-Sadr stories. Anyone ever think of interviewing any Sadrists, if nothing else just to pretend to be practicing journalism?

One of the consequences of this continual lying is my learned skepticism. Trust 'em? Not even as far as I can see 'em!


"Nobody could have predicted..."

Is Al-Qaeda Back in Baghdad?
Sunday, Apr. 27, 2008
A series of bombings rocked predominantly Sunni areas of Baghdad over the weekend, threatening to draw al-Qaeda back into the capital's spotlight, just as Iraqi and American military commanders announced limited progress made on another fiery front line. For the last month, the attention of the Iraqi and American militaries shifted in large part from Sunni insurgents to the Shi'ite Mahdi Army. With daily car bombings and IEDs still lower in Sunni areas of the capital than they were a year ago, officials are hesitant to declare a return of al-Qaeda just yet. But with all eyes focused on the Mahdi Army's stronghold of Sadr City, it appears that the insurgent group is beginning to take advantage of the distracted U.S. and Iraqi government forces.
[emphasis added]

In our glee to help Maliki pursue his political nemesis - al Sadr - we took our eyes off the AQI ball! Cool!

What happened to AQI's last stand in Mosul... or was it in Baquba? Samarra?

What would be wrong with telling Maliki, "You're going to have to deal with al Sadr. He's a very popular leader. You need to figure out an accommodation."???

Stop the madness!

W: the gift that keeps on giving

Syria says US reactor charges as fake as Iraq WMD claims

W's crass manipulation of pre-war intelligence is now paying dividends: any & all evidence produced by U.S. intelligence is now automatically suspect, subject to plausible denial.

It's gonna take a very long time for the U.S. to recover from the W virus. Let's hope we've at least been inoculated against further infection!

Seeking a DoD contract [updated]

Scope of work:
To provide skills- and knowledge-based curriculum elements to enhance training of newly reconstituted "national" armies in countries the U.S. is trying to rebuild.

Such curriculum elements to include
Comprehensive history of the country, with emphasis on past glories and enduring contributions to world civilization;

Detailed biographies of historical national heroes;

Famous battles fought on the nation's soil throughout history.
The intent of these curriculum elements is to instill a sense of "nation" and "nationalism" in the targeted audience. If a country's reconstituted military, under U.S. leadership, is to become the core of a new nation, that military ought be given a sense that it is fighting for something. Some attempt to instill national pride in our chosen instrument ought be made.
Yeah - the proposal needs some work, but I think the basic idea is sound.

With a couple of historians and educators on the payroll, and my real experience developing focused curricula in industry, this oughta be worth at least $1M. [note: 'update' was to redefine experience of my team - PhD historians aren't really required, as originally spec'd. I've friends & relatives with graduate degrees in history, and considerable teaching experience. I believe my team to be fully competitive!]

Now, how do I sell it to DoD?

Any help would be appreciated.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What, exactly, do we control?

3 killed in militant attack on Afghan president
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
Sun Apr 27, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - Militants firing rockets and automatic rifles attacked the Afghan president at a ceremony in Kabul on Sunday, missing their target but killing three and wounding eight others.
In Kabul. The Taliban claimed credit for the attack. In Kabul.

Iraq Green Zone shelled amid sandstorm
By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press Writer
Sun Apr 27, 2008
BAGHDAD - Suspected Shiite extremists hammered the U.S.-protected Green Zone Sunday in the fiercest salvo in weeks, apparently taking advantage of a sandstorm that blanketed the capital and grounded the American aircraft that normally prowl for launching teams.
Devilishly clever of 'em: wait for a sandstorm to ground American aircraft!

Time was, we at least controlled the Green Zone.
Time was, Karzai was at least sovereign over Kabul.

Guess that was yesterday.

Stop the madness!

Check the dateline: yes, this is a NEW article

Investigators: Millions in Iraq contracts never finished
By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer
27 Apr 2008
WASHINGTON - Millions of dollars of lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts were never finished because of excessive delays, poor performance or other factors, including failed projects that are being falsely described by the U.S. government as complete, federal investigators say.

The audit released Sunday by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, provides the latest snapshot of an uneven reconstruction effort that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $100 billion. It also comes as several lawmakers have said they want the Iraqis to pick up more of the cost of reconstruction.

And why can't the Iraqis "pick up more of the cost of reconstruction"?
But administration and military officials say it's not that easy to distribute the money. They contend that Iraq's lack of spending isn't due to laziness or corruption, but rather Baghdad's inability to determine where its money is needed most and how to allocate it efficiently.
[Iraq Looking at Oil Surplus, Big Profits]
At the time I noted that the U.S. seemed to be holding the Iraq to much higher standards than anything WE've been able to meet: "Baghdad's inability to determine where its money is needed most and how to allocate it efficiently" certainly can be NO WORSE than OUR inability!

I'm still waiting for an update on Laura Bush's children's hospital!... no, wait: here it is!
In addition, the audit said many reconstruction projects were being described as complete or otherwise successful when they were not. In one case, the U.S. Agency for International Development contracted with Bechtel Corp. in 2004 to construct a $50 million children's hospital in Basra, only to "essentially terminate" the project in 2006 because of monthslong delays.

But rather than terminate the project, U.S. officials modified the contract to change the scope of the work. As a result, a U.S. database of Iraq reconstruction contracts shows the project as complete "when in fact the hospital was only 35 percent complete when work was stopped," said investigators in describing the practice of "descoping" as frequent.
"De-scoping". Cool. Nice job if you can get it!

Stop the madness!

Friday, April 25, 2008

What's "middle class"?

For the candidates: here are household income percentiles (2006 = last available year). Source: Census Bureau.
20%-ile: $20,035
40%-ile: $37,774
median : $48,201
60%-ile: $60,000
80%-ile: $97,032
95%-ile: $174,012
80% of U.S. households made $97,000 or less in 2006. The 80th percentile seems like a reasonable upper limit for the "middle class".

Politicians & pundits who pretend that an income of $200,000 represents the "middle class" are simply out of touch.

Presented as a public service.

Our out-of-control Defense Department

Lesson on How Not to Build a Navy Ship
Published: April 25, 2008
New York Times
... The program’s tribulations speak to what military experts say are profound shortcomings in the Pentagon’s acquisitions system. Even as spending on new projects has risen to its highest point since the Reagan years, being over budget and behind schedule have become the norm: a recent Government Accountability Office audit found that 95 projects — warships, helicopters and satellites — were delayed 21 months on average and cost 26 percent more than initially projected, a bill of $295 billion.

Single examples of waste are just that: single examples. In an of itself, the single example proves nothing. In this case, however, the single example is representative of "profound shortcomings in the Pentagon's acquisitions system".

Several worrisome specifics are cited:
"... a policy of letting contractors take the lead in managing weapons programs has coincided with an acute shortage of government engineers trained to oversee these increasingly complex enterprises."
[the primary contractor] had virtually no shipbuilding experience. But in keeping with a Pentagon policy that called for letting big military contractors run complex projects with minimal government supervision, the Navy made the companies primarily responsible for all phases of development — from concept studies to detailed design and construction."
"In theory, the contractors’ business and technological acumen would save taxpayer dollars. But the Navy agreed to reimburse the companies for cost overruns rather than setting a fixed price, leaving little incentive to hold down costs."
There's more - but this is enough.

We recently learned that DoD awarded a $300Mn contract to a start-up company to provide ammunition to our Afghan allies, with no oversight & no controls. What did the $300Mn pay for? 40-year-old, degraded Chinese bullets!

The article notes that the new "littoral ships" were conceived as a response to attack on the U.S.S. Cole by a small craft. The Navy desired an "asymmetric response" to counter this "asymmetric attack". In terms of $$$, the response is certainly asymmetric: a $500,000,000 ship to combat a $2,000 Zodiac!

The military is wedded to high-tech solutions to low-tech problems. Heck - it's wedded to high-tech solutions searching for a problem!

I've said before: U.S. taxpayers don't mind paying taxes if they believe they're getting something for the $$$ spent. Over and over we find ourselves paying for high-tech weapons systems that cost more than advertised, perform poorly, and simply fail to address current real defense needs.

We are currently losing two wars to third-world insurgents... at an ADDITIONAL cost of more than $100,000,000,000 per year.

Advice to ultimate Dem Presidential Candidate: fund maintenance of current assets; kill EVERY currently funded new project. Initiate 1-2 year review of current, real Defense needs, and fund new projects accordingly.

Stop the madness!

A fantasy: McCain is right!

Real news:
McCain e-mail tries to link Obama, Hamas
Published: April 20, 2008
WASHINGTON, April 20 (UPI) -- An e-mail soliciting contributions to U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign suggested that Hamas wants Barack Obama to win the White House.
Fantasy news:
Pew Poll Finds 100% of World Leaders Support Obama
Swordfish WireServices
25 Apr 2008
Albuquerque, April 25 (SFWS) -- In a poll of Chief Executives from every country in the world, Pew Research found 100% prefer Obama to McCain. In democracies, Pew also asked leaders of the opposition which candidate they preferred; all responded "Obama!"

"What the U.S. needs is someone who can repair the damage done across the globe by the Bush Administration," replied British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Mr. Brown's comments were echoed across the geographic & political spectrum. India's Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh replied, "Another flight-suit garbed, strutting warrior in the Oval Office is the last thing the planet needs."

Even Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki praised Sen Obama. "Maybe it would help to have someone interested in pursuing diplomacy. It's clear the present Administration has no vision for movement forward in Iraq!"
Hamas is simply in touch with reality!

Okay - it's a fantasy. Who knows, maybe the real wire services will pick up the story!

Sadr keeps trying to play nice (at least with Maliki)

Iraq's Sadr tells fighters to observe truce
By Wisam Mohammed
25 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr pulled back from confrontation with the government on Friday, asking his followers to continue to observe a shaky ceasefire and not to battle government troops.

Sadr, whose call for calm was read out in a major mosque in Baghdad, said a recent threat of "open war" was directed only at U.S. forces, not the Iraqi government.

[emphasis added]

Al Sadr continues to exhibit restraint with respect to the Iraqi government - he really seems to want to play politics nicely. (Maliki, on the other hand, continues to prefer military and police action against Sadr's followers.)

Sadr has been very consistent in his anti-American position: that's what brought him to prominence back in CPA days. His newspaper published articles critical of the U.S. occupation; Bremer closed the paper & issued a warrant for Sadr's arrest (on murder charges). Sadr's militia fought U.S. forces to a stand-still in Najaf.

He has consistently maintained pro-Iraq policies, and objects strenuously to partitioning the country. He wants to participate in upcoming provincial elections. The Maliki government is terrified of Sadr, and keeps doing whatever it can to prohibit Sadr's participation in the political process and to radicalize his followers.

Stop the madness!

The rhetoric continues: "Iran is bad!"

US official: Iran boosting support for Iraqi insurgents
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
25 Apr 2008
WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff accused Iran on Friday of "ratcheting up" its arms and training support to insurgents in Iraq, and warned that the U.S. has the combat power to strike Tehran if needed.

Yesterday I noted that Sadr's supporters are now being rhetorically linked to Hezbollah, described as a client of Iran.

It's been quite some time since I've revisited my delusional grand conspiracy theory. Given recent provocative anti-Iran, anti-Sadr rhetoric, and the introduction of "Hezbollah" into the rhetorical mix, I think it may be time to become delusional again.

Brief summary for new readers: Don't count on elections in November!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A personal tactical objective

For the past few years, Grant Barrett, lexicographer-at-large, has published a NYT article on neologisms: words and phrases that have, at least temporarily, entered the English language.

I have a nominee for this year's list: "W".

Used as a predicate adjective, the equivalent of FUBAR:
"This situation if FUBAR."
This situation is W.
Used as a verb, the equivalent of "to screw the pooch":
"He really screwed the pooch on that one!"
He really W'd that one!
Used as a noun, the equivalent of "reverse Midas touch"
"Whatever he touches turns to shit."
He has W.
This is a really fun challenge to my readers: use "W" frequently in daily conversation, emails, webposts... let's get it included in next year's list!

How did this happen?

Reviewing my posts, I note that I devote almost all my attention to
the U.S. economy
How'd that happen?

Every once in a while I mention Constitutional issues - the presumed foundation of this blog - but most of the time I'm ranting about foreign policy & economics.

Warning: my substantive knowledge of foreign policy & economics - combined - can be written in large block letters on a postage stamp!

I have at least eighth-grade Civics to inform me regarding the Constitution! This is my relative strength!

Don't worry: posts will continue to address news I find... absurd! If this leads me into uncharted waters, so be it.

Thanks for visiting!

More "Just for fun!"

Which ONE of the following two countries holds national Presidential elections?
a. Iran
b. Saudi Arabia

Which ONE of the following two countries holds national Parliamentary elections?
a. Iran
b. Saudi Arabia

Which ONE of the following two countries allows women to vote?
a. Iran
b. Saudi Arabia

Which ONE of the following two countries allows women to hold pubic office?
a. Iran
b. Saudi Arabia

Which ONE of the following two countries allows women to drive?
a. Iran
b. Saudi Arabia

Which ONE of the following two countries allows women to own a business?
a. Iran
b. Saudi Arabia

Which ONE of the following two countries is our ally?
a. Iran
b. Saudi Arabia

Just for fun!

Which ONE of the following four countries has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty?
a. Iran
b. Israel
c. Pakistan
d. India

Which ONE of the following four countries is a member of the "axis of evil"?
a. Iran
b. Israel
c. Pakistan
d. India

To which ONE of the following four countries did W's Administration SELL nuclear capability?
a. Iran
b. Israel
c. Pakistan
d. India

To which ONE of the following four countries has a former U.S. military officer been accused of funneling nuclear secrets?
a. Iran
b. Israel
c. Pakistan
d. India

From which ONE of the following four countries did North Korea obtain its uranium-based nuclear capability:
a. Iran
b. Israel
c. Pakistan
d. India

Which ONE of the following four countries does NOT possess a nuclear weapon?
a. Iran
b. Israel
c. Pakistan
d. India

... how a sane country responds to W's bullying

India rejects US advice to pressure Iran
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG, Associated Press Writer
Wed Apr 23, 2008
NEW DELHI - India tartly dismissed American advice that it press Iran to give up its nuclear program, saying it does not need "any guidance" on foreign relations.

Note the adverb: "tartly"!

This is the appropriate response to the neighborhood bully.

[If only W could learn from this example how to rhetorically deal with bin Laden!... for that matter: if only Congressional Dems could learn from this example how to deal with W - "tartly dismiss" his bullying!]

Stop the madness!

Still the bully...

White House says Syria 'must come clean' about nuclear work
By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer
24 Apr 2008
WASHINGTON - The White House said Thursday that North Korea's secret work on a nuclear reactor with Syria was "a dangerous and potentially destabilizing development for the world," raising doubts about Pyongyang's intention to carry through with a promised disclosure of its nuclear activities.
[Press Secretary Dana Perino:] "The Syrian regime must come clean before the world regarding its illicit nuclear activities."

Note: Syria is among Iraq's Arab neighbors - the folks we want to help Iraq rebuild.

Why are we making nasty noises at them?... Do we think this is the way to get 'em on board in Iraq? Has W ever considered the adage:
You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

The alternative explanation being floated across progressive blogosphere is that this not-so-new N.Korea/Syria "news" is a not-so-subtle attempt by Cheney to undermine current diplomatic efforts with the North Koreans.

Either way, it's REALLY STUPID!

Stop the madness!

Why is al Sadr so special?

Iraqi PM: political blocs returning to government
By MAZIN YAHYA, Associated Press Writer
24 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister said Thursday that all political blocs have agreed to return to the Shiite-led government — a potentially important sign of success in efforts toward national reconciliation.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's optimistic remarks came a week after lawmakers with Iraq's main Sunni political bloc said the group has agreed in principle to return to the government nearly nine months after quitting the Cabinet.

A return of the Sunnis would be a boost to al-Maliki and seen by Washington as a significant step forward.

[emphasis added]

Getting the Sunnis to rejoin the Government is a big deal.

Meanwhile, al Sadr - with his large Shi'ite following - is still treated as a pariah.

I note that Maliki dare not send Iraqi troops agains Sunni militias, most of which are on U.S. payroll. He has no problems sending Iraqi troops against al Sadr's Mahdi Army... the U.S. would be tickled pink if al Sadr just went away.

Al-Sadr may restart full-scale fight against US in Iraq
By HAMZA HENDAWI and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writers
24 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD - Muqtada al-Sadr is considering setting aside his political ambitions and restarting a full-scale fight against U.S.-led forces — a worrisome shift that may reflect Iranian influence on the young cleric and could open the way for a shadow state protected by his powerful Mahdi Army.

A possible breakaway path — described to The Associated Press by Shiite lawmakers and politicians — would represent the ultimate backlash to the Iraqi government's pressure on al-Sadr to renounce and disband his Shiite militia.

By snubbing the give-and-take of politics, al-Sadr would have a freer hand to carve out a kind of parallel state with its own militia and social services along the lines of Hezbollah in Lebanon, a Shiite group founded with Iran's help in the 1980s.

[emphasis added]
Note the sources cited: "Shiite lawmakers and politicians" - members of Maliki's coalition, who have been working overtime to marginalize al Sadr.

"Fair and balanced" reporting!

Note also: "al-Sadr" and "Hezbollah" are now mentioned in the same sentence... with the added info that Hezbollah was "founded with Iran's help."

That little sleight-of-hand comes courtesy of a recent report by Refugees International (Cleric Sadr key player in helping poor Iraqis: report), which suggested that Sadr's organization was playing much the same humanitarian role in Iraq that Hezbollah was in Lebanon... tho' the report attempted to clarify that this analogy was just that: an analogy - not meant to imply any link between Hezbollah/Iran and Sadr.

Seems the Associated Press is still drinking W's Kool-Aid.

Stop the madness!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Framing: Dems need to work with headline writers!

Yahoo News headline:
All eyes turn to Indiana in bitter Democratic race
Same sentiment, presented with more positive spin:
Energized Electorate Eagerly Eyes Indiana Election
Dems need to frame the story better!

Old news

U.S. military says kills 15 gunmen in Baghdad
By Dean Yates
23 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. troops said on Wednesday they killed 15 gunmen overnight in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad where fighting has raged for weeks between militiamen loyal to Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and security forces.
Once upon a time, official U.S. military publicists avoided "body counts" like the plague - as reminding the U.S. public too much of Viet Nam.

Sometime in the past year or so (maybe longer - as noted previously, my memory ain't all that great) this policy was scrapped in favor of reporting numbers of bad guys killed. The thought seems to be that maybe U.S. public will perceive that we're in fact accomplishing something: we're killing bad guys.

As in Viet Nam, however, it seems that, no matter how many we kill, there are always more bad guys.

It's difficult to measure progress towards a strategic objective when no strategic objective has been articulated. I guess you have to measure something. Number of bad guys killed is easy.

Stop the madness!

In honor of Earth Day: recycling

This is basically the same article/comment I posted earlier today. The headline has changed, which suggests additional comment:
US general urges Sadr to do more to stem bloodshed
by Hassan Jouini
23 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD (AFP) - A US general urged Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday to do more to halt attacks by his loyalists on the security forces, as Baghdad was rocked by fresh fighting that killed 21 people.
Okay - both the headline & the lead paragraph now suggest that the general is doing something more than just "hoping": he is now "urging". I guess that's a move in the right direction.

But... what's in it for al Sadr? Suppose he responds positively to this new American overture, and in fact reins in his militia. What has to to expect in return?

Based on recent history, he can expect two U.S./Iraqi responses to his generosity:
1. U.S. & Iraqi forces will take advantage of Sadr's restraint by stepping up arrests of his supporters.
2. U.S. Administration & military spokemen will cite Sadr's generosity as sign of weakness.
There's a predictable third response that probably doesn't concern al Sadr too much: U.S. Administration & military spokesmen will interpret Sadr's generosity as proof of Iran's meddling in Iraq.

Does the U.S. general have any quid pro quo in mind? If Sadr uses his influence to reduce attacks on U.S. & Iraqi forces, what does the general promise in return? I've seen nothing to suggest any such reciprocity has been proposed.

Stop the madness!

Our national Strategic Objectives

Every once in a while I'll revisit these:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
[Preamble, U.S. Constitution]

There you have it - our six national strategic objectives:
to form a more perfect union
to establish justice
to insure domestic tranquility
to provide for the common defense
to promote the general welfare
to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity
Would it be too much to ask our Representatives, Senators, Candidates, and others in the political arena, to begin ALL policy discussions from this foundation?


Ah! I remember!!

A few days ago I remarked that I'd had a brilliant idea for an analogy with our Iraq "decapitation" policy, but had forgotten it (Memory: I used to have one!).

Well - I just recalled the analogy: British policy during the American Revolution. (The immediately preceding post to this one reminded me!)

The British assumed if they killed the head, the body would die.
They took New York.
They took Philadelphia.
They took Charleston.

Did it work? No.

We captured Saddam. We killed or captured all the 52-deck of 'most wanted' Baathists. We killed Zarqawi. Somehow the bad guys are still out there.

Stop the madness!


No. 2 US commander hopes al-Sadr will stop attacks
By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press Writer
23 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD - The No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq expressed hope on Wednesday that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr would use his influence to stop his followers from attacking U.S. and Iraqi forces as clashes spread to the outskirts of Baghdad.

Where to start?

"Hope": our only strategy. Several previous posts have noted this Administration's "magical thinking" worldview, in which reciting the right incantation is presumed to immediately change the "facts on the ground." A few previous posts have noted the military's adoption of this worldview, with ever-expressed "hope" that things'll turn out just dandy... but no actual planning to move towards a satisfactory end-state.

Today we see this yet again: a top U.S. commander in Iraq "hopes" that al Sadr will rein in his militia. Meanwhile, what is U.S. policy towards al Sadr & his Mahdi Militia? We attack them at every opportunity, and encourage our Iraqi allies to do the same!

Without looking up all the sources, I feel reasonably certain that most policy-makers have observed that there is no purely military solution in Iraq, but that a political solution is required. At least, these are the words they mouth in public.

When push comes to shove, what's been our sole response to difficulties? Military action - even passing up opportunities for political engagement when they present themselves.

How did we respond to al Sadr's August cease-fire - which held through last month? We targeted leaders of his organization for arrest, and continued to launch military raids in his Baghdad base of Sadr City. Here was an opportunity to encourage the Maliki government to engage Moqtada in political discussion... and we cheered when Maliki launched a military offensive against Sadrists in Basra!

How have past military actions against the Mahdi Militia ended? Not well. Since our first encounter with Sadrist forces in Najaf in 2004, every time the U.S. military has engaged the Mahdi Army the engagement has resulted in a public relations boon for al Sadr. No - his militia has never "won" a battle against the U.S., but they've never outright lost one, either. In every case, they've lived to fight another day.

Once upon a time, W was fond of using the American Revolution as an analogy for Iraq. He never got it right, somehow identifying the U.S. occupation with the American Patriot cause. Even casual students of the American Revolution know that the number of battles won by Colonial forces can be counted on fingers of one hand (Saratoga, Trenton, Cowpens, Yorktown). Number of engagements Colonials lost is large. But - somehow the Continental Army survived all the losses to fight another day. And every day the Continental Army remained in the field - however ineffective a military force it might have been - contributed to the Patriot victory.

Eventually the British public & Parliament had had enough - the cost in blood and treasure of the American Revolution to the British Crown was too high to be sustained. Sound familiar?

So, yes, let's keep "hoping" al Sadr reins in his militia... BUT - maybe we should start pursuing policies that might encourage this result!

Stop the madness!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fun W bashing

I was going to ignore this, but couldn't resist The Guardian's headline:
Bush appears on US game show as approval ratings hit record low
Ewen MacAskill and Elana Schor in Washington,
Tuesday April 22 2008
Final confirmation that George Bush has too much time on his hands came last night.

Well into the lame-duck stage of his presidency, with his duties at the White House increasingly minimal, Bush found time to put in an appearance on the popular game show 'Deal or No Deal'.
The real story however is this:
His appearance came as a USA Today/Gallup poll showed Bush now has the highest disapproval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the poll. It found 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing while 69% disapprove.

The previous disapproval record of 67% was set by Harry Truman in January 1952 at the height of the Korean war.
A plea to future historians: write off the W years. Publish no books, scholarly articles, essays, memoirs... just ignore him... forever.

My sincere thanks...

... to voters in Pennsylvania's Democratic Primary today!

With 98% of precincts reporting, looks like just over 2.2 million folks exercised their franchise! Cool!

And the truly wonderful news?
Voter Turnout Across Pennsylvania Ranged from High to Higher
KYW Newsradio
by KYW's Tony Romeo
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Pennsylvania’s top election official believes that voter turnout across the state may have run as high as 50 percent on this Primary Day.
Voter turnout was only 21 percent in the 2004 primary.
An energized electorate is a glorious sight!

Oh, yeah: congrats to both Senators Clinton & Obama for energizing the voters, and to Sen Clinton for her victory!

Again: thanks!

A public service

In addition to GAO report, last week saw the publication of another study related to our supposed "counter-terrorism" efforts, this one focused on Iraq. Written by Dr. Joseph J. Collins, Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College since 2004, and published as an "occasional paper" under the auspices of the National Defense University, the report is titled:
Choosing War:
The Decision to Invade Iraq
and Its Aftermath
Click the title to get to .pdf version on National Defense University website.

Provided as a public service.


Good news? ... or just a fun headline?

Masturbation may prevent prostate cancer

[Full disclosure: I didn't read the story... ]

GAO report + commentary

This is many days old - I'm commenting now because someone else provided really good commentary that I'll try to paraphrase accurately.

First: As folks have likely already heard, the GAO released a report on U.S. counter-terrorism progress last week:
The United States
Lacks Comprehensive
Plan to Destroy the
Terrorist Threat and
Close the Safe Haven
in Pakistan’s Federally
Administered Tribal
Not a particularly succinct title, but at least it's informative!

On tonight's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, correspondent Rob Riggle provided excellent commentary regarding the report. The video isn't posted yet; neither is a transcript, so what follows is a paraphrase from memory - likely not quite accurate:
"In 2001 we got a report, bin Laden determined to strike U.S. from bases in Afghanistan. Now we get another report, bin Laden determined to strike U.S. from bases in Pakistan. Seven f-ing years later and we've come full circle. We could have ended up here if we'd done NOTHING!"
Riggle goes on to note the influence this report'll have on W: "Oh, yeah. This president is very responsive to written criticism!" (Again, all quotations are remembered... but I'm confident the substance is accurate!)

Why is the most penetrating analysis these days found on The Daily Show & The Colbert Report? Something's gone seriously wrong with MSM. (Yeah - I know I'm not the first to make this observation!)

Stop the madness!

More good economic news

Existing home sales fall in March
Tue Apr 22, 2008
WASHINGTON - Sales of existing homes fell in March, the seventh drop in the past eight months, as the spring sales season got off to a rocky start.

Let's just keep thinking happy thoughts!
Bush: economy not in recession, in slowdown
Tue Apr 22, 2008
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Tuesday said the U.S. economy was not in a recession but was experiencing a slowdown.

"We're not in a recession, we're in a slowdown," Bush said at a news conference at the end of a two-day summit with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
"Don't use the 'R' word! Don't ever use the 'R' word!"

The only problem with drowning out bad news by covering your ears and singing "la-la-la, I can't hear you!" really loudly is that... well, the bad news is still there when you stop singing and uncover your ears.

We failed to implement effective counter-insurgency tactics in Iraq because Rummy decided the enemy weren't "insurgents". Up until late December, W touted the "fundamental strength" of the economy. Now he can't bring himself to say the 'R' word.

Yes, words do matter. If you can't diagnose the illness, you're unlikely to prescribe an effective treatment.

How much longer?

Stop the madness!

Economic news, and W's "Just in Time" response

Oil prices near $118 in Asia after setting record near $120
By GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press Writer
22 Apr 2008
SINGAPORE - Oil prices steadied Wednesday after climbing in the previous session to a record near $120 a barrel on the weakening U.S. dollar and concerns about unstable supply amid firm global demand.

Thank goodness W's on top of the situation:
Government to release proposed fuel economy rules
By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Apr 22, 2008
WASHINGTON - The next generation of new cars and trucks will need to meet a fleet average of 31.6 miles per gallon by 2015, the Bush administration proposed Tuesday, seeking more fuel-efficient vehicles in the face of high gasoline prices and concerns over global warming.
Whew! For a minute there I thought we were really in trouble.

Good to see W taking timely action on this issue!


Monday, April 21, 2008

"... deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

White House challenges release of visitor logs
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer
21 Apr 2008
WASHINGTON - A federal appeals court sought compromise Monday between a liberal group demanding the names of White House visitors and the Bush administration, which says releasing the names would erode the president's power.

"... releasing the names would erode the president's power."???

Yes, indeed - and that's the point!

The Framers, G-d bless 'em, feared Executive Power! That's why the U.S. Constitution grants the Executive very few real powers! THEY WERE RIGHT!

How can "We the people of the United States" give our consent to actions of which we are ignorant?

National Security, State Secrets??? These are cloaks behind which our Government hides.

No - the current Administration is not unique.
"Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

This arose as a quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887:

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Another English politician with no shortage of names - William Pitt the Younger, The Earl of Chatham and British Prime Minister from 1766 to 1778, is sometimes wrongly attributed as the source. He did say something similar, in a speech to the UK House of Lords in 1770:

"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"
We the people own OUR government. Let us assert our ownership rights!

Stop the madness!

More good $$$ news

Retail gas hits record $3.50 a gallon as oil marches higher
By ADAM SCHRECK, AP Business Writer
21 Apr 2008
NEW YORK - Rising gasoline prices tightened the squeeze on drivers Monday, jumping for the first time to an average $3.50 a gallon at filling stations across the country with no sign of relief.

I'm really hoping that Dem campaign managers are reading the headlines! This election oughta be a cakewalk: "Ya want this to continue? Vote Republican!"

Repeat after me: "Run on W's record." "Run on W's record."

Middle-class income? Ha!

Iraq? Ha!

If you're a Dem running for office this year:
Run on W's record!
Stop the madness!

Frustration with Google! [update]

I've been trying to find an on-line analysis on the direct economic impact of the 9/11 attacks.

The best I can find (suitably annotated) are three "google book" results, which show excerpts from the books in question & don't permit copy/paste.

Anyway, here are the books, if anyone wants to buy one of 'em:
Dealing with Terrorism: Stick Or Carrot? By Bruno S. Frey
Handbook of Defense Economics By Keith Hartley, Todd Sandler

... Great! ... now I can't find 3rd reference!
... anyway, the upper-end estimate for direct cost of 9/11 costs comes to about $100Bn, based on these sources. (There really were three sources - don't know what became of the third!)

[Update: I still can't find the 3rd "google book" reference, but did find a .pdf reference:
Calculating Tragedy: Assessing the Costs of Terrorism
Bruno S. Frey, Simon Luechinger and Alois Stutzer
This source puts total direct costs of 9/11 at about $60Bn. I'll continue to use the $100Bn figure for rhetorical purposes.]

What have been direct costs of Iraq fiasco?
From National Priorities Project (which tends to be the lowest of all estimates!):
Yep - in DIRECT costs, the Iraq war has cost us more than one 9/11-scale attack per year since 2003!

The argument that they'll come after us here if we don't fight 'em there sort of goes up in smoke!

Note: I do not mean to be crass in assigning $$$ value to 9/11 - but $$$ seem to be 'currency' which W and his minions understand.

The "direct cost" method of comparison seems the fairest - we'd be paying for indirect costs - increased airport security, etc. - with or without Iraq war. Similarly, the projected ultimate cost of Iraq war (care for Veterans, long-term economic impact, etc.) don't figure in National Priorities Project numbers.

It would have been cheaper for bin Laden to launch a 9/11-equivalent attack on U.S. every year since we invaded Iraq than to have invaded Iraq!

[Note: if any of my readers can provide well-documented web-source for direct costs of 9/11, I'd appreciate it!]

Stop the madness!

The madness continues

I've taken a break from blogging for the past few days - especially from posting items regarding Iraq. It has been refreshing. Now I know why: whether or not I'm paying attention, our Government continues to be stupid!
Rice praises Iraq unity as cleric threatens war
by Lachlan Carmichael
Sun Apr 20, 2008
BAGHDAD (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a surprise visit to Baghdad on Sunday said Iraqi leaders were more united than ever, as Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr warned of a war against the government.
At least it's fun to see a headline writer with a sense of irony!

... and just to highlight SoS Rice's overall effectiveness:
Rice fails to clinch Arab commitments on Iraq
by Lachlan Carmichael
21 Apr 2008
MANAMA (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Sunni-led Arab allies on Monday to try to persuade them to back Iraq's Shiite leadership but failed to clinch any concrete commitments on debt relief or diplomatic presence.
What a surprise!

Stop the madness!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"It is finished."

At long last, I've finally completed my work on facsimie edition of Bella C. Landauer's Gilbert and Sullivan Influence on American Tradecards. I'm sending copy of finished product to N-Y Historical Society tomorrow for final approval.

Then... on to eBay! If I sell 3 I'll recoup all expenses.

Next: the much larger, "everthing you always wanted to know about G&S trade cards but were afraid to ask." On the plus side: the larger work will be standard 8.5x11.

The Landauer pamphlet is 5.5x8.5 - with verso/recto printing, this presented many challenges to a person with extremely limited spatial intelligence (me). To get it right I put together a mock-up, with cards & text paper-clipped to pages. Even now I don't understand some of the very weird alignments needed to make it work!


Friday, April 18, 2008

It seems so long ago!

Back when I started this blog, in the dim mists of history... November, 2007 (6 months ago!), oil had only recently broken the $90/bbl price point, and it was an open question whether it would ever really get to $100/bbl.

Gas prices push closer to $3.50 a gallon, oil hits $117
By JOHN WILEN, AP Business Writer
Fri Apr 18, 2008
NEW YORK - Retail gas prices set new records Friday on their seemingly relentless march toward $3.50 a gallon, and diesel prices pushed further above $4 a gallon. Crude futures, meanwhile, surged to a new record of $117 a barrel.
The question has been answered: Yes, oil really did get to $100/bbl.

Any bets on peak price in next 12 months?

Thank you, W!

"Axis of Evil": we TALK with N. Korea!

U.S. to hold nuclear talks in Pyongyang
Fri Apr 18, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. team will have talks in Pyongyang next Tuesday and Wednesday on how to verify any declaration North Korea may make about its nuclear programs, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

Why is it okay to talk with North Korea - who has a demonstrated nuclear capability, a huge standing army, and no love of the West - but not with Iran?

Mind you - I'm not criticizing the diplomatic initiative directed toward Pyongyang... Just wondering why we can't try something similar with Tehran.


Out NOW!

The madness continues.
The previous post was titled, "Deja Vu all over again".
This post could easily use the same title:
Iraqi troops face off with Sadr followers
By Aref Mohammed
18 Apr 2008
BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi troops cordoned off the Basra office of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday and prevented his followers from praying in a move that seems sure to inflame tensions between the government and militiamen.
When will it end?

What are we accomplishing? What are we trying to accomplish?

Out NOW!

Stop the madness!

Deja Vu all over again

At first I thought this was a mistake - some junior editor re-posting an article from earlier in the week. But, no. This really is a new story:
Police: Iraqi troops abandon position after attack
By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Writer
18 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD - A company of Iraqi government troops in Sadr City retreated when they came under attack from Shiite militiamen who used the cover of a sandstorm, police said Friday.
This is the second such incident reported this week (Iraqi Unit Flees Post, Despite American’s Plea, NYT, 16 Apr).

U.S. sees Iraqis in control in Baghdad in a year
Two observations:

1. Happy times are always in the future - typically in 6 months to a year. When the year is up, happy times are still in the future. They never arrive.

2. The headline - and the article - reports only U.S. belief that Iraqis will control Baghdad - not Iraq. Just the capital city. Why is this not cheering?

Stop the madness!

"Iraq's Arab identity": another concern

This article, Rice says Arabs must shield Iraq from Iran's sway, continues to provide little nuggets, though this post is more "refining" than "mining."

I'm just wondering what Iraq's northern neighbor, and our NATO ally, Turkey, thinks about Rice's call for a regional pan-Arab movement:
"What they need to do is confirm and work for Iraq's Arab identity," she said. "That in and of itself will begin to shield (Iraq) from influences of Iran that are nefarious influences," Rice said at a news conference.
Now, Turkey may appreciate the dismissive attitude towards the Kurds implied by Rice's statement, but they might get just a little nervous about Rice's suggestion that Iraq's Arab neighbors work to confirm Iraq's Arab identity: Turkey is ethnically Turkish (who'd a thunk?).

Did this concern ever occur to Rice?

Stop the madness!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hard questions for the candidates

Having read voluminous commentary on last night's Dem debate, I opted not to seek a transcript.

From what I can gather, Sen. Clinton performed well, Sen. Obama less so, and the moderators both were the big losers.

George Stephanopoulos apparently responded to criticism by stating that they simply asked the candidates "hard questions".

Hoping that there'll be no more Dem debates, I here suggest some "hard questions" for the candidates in the general election debates:
For Sen. McCain: Is the Riemann Hypothesis true? Is it provable? If not, can you provide a counterexample?

For Sen. X (Clinton/Obama): Is there an odd perfect number? If yes, in what way is it related to Mersenne primes? If not, what are the implications for the truth-value of the Riemann Hypothesis?

For Sen. McCain: If you had to choose, would you prefer to strip & masturbate on national television, or fellate Osama bin Laden in private?

For Sen. X (Clinton/Obama): same question.
These seem like appropriately hard questions that'll catch the candidates off guard and help the electorate make a choice between 'em.

Claiming the prize!

In a post on 31 March I made the cynical prediction that:
W's Administration and the U.S. military in Iraq will now use Iran's "interference" in Iraq as justification for demonizing Iran and promoting military action against the Tehran regime.
Okay, I'll concede that the "promoting military action against the Tehran regime" part of this prediction has yet to be realized explicitly, but I'll take Rice's statements from the rich vein as completely fulfilling my cynical prediction:
"What they need to do is confirm and work for Iraq's Arab identity," she said. "That in and of itself will begin to shield (Iraq) from influences of Iran that are nefarious influences," Rice said at a news conference.
Rice said Iran must stop its "malign actions" in Iraq, where Washington says Tehran has stoked violence and was behind the latest fighting in the southern city of Basra.
I'll take the generally belligerent, demonizing tone towards Iran as a proxy for direct threats of military action against Iran.

The cynical prediction did imply that Iran's role in brokering Basra cease-fire would be used to assert Iranian "interference" in Iraq. I got this one dead-on!
Rice said Iran must stop its "malign actions" in Iraq, where Washington says Tehran has stoked violence and was behind the latest fighting in the southern city of Basra.
... tho', as noted below, W's Administration is playing fast & loose with facts in suggesting that Iran was "behind the latest fighting in the southern city of Basra." I'll take the reference to Basra as a complete fulfillment of at least that part of my cynical prediciton!

I'd set myself a deadline for this prediction: 21 March 2008.
It is today 17 March.
I win!

Stop the madness!

a very rich vein of ore to mine!

As I re-read the article cited below (Rice says Arabs must shield Iraq from Iran's sway), I keep finding new nuggets.

Here's my latest discovery:
Rice said Iraq should be "fully reincorporated" into the Arab world by its neighbors, who have been suspicious of Maliki's government and its ties with Iran.
[SecState Rice] will have a very difficult time with the Gulf states in convincing them that the Maliki government is anything other than the cat's paw of the Iranians," said [Iraq expert and ex-CIA analyst Bruce] Riedel, now with the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
That's right: Iraq's Arab neighbors view Maliki's government as a puppet of... Iran! Wow - great job, W!

Stop the madness!

Uh-oh! This guy is making sense!

Al-Qaida leader: 5 years of US in Iraq brought 'failure'
By PAKINAM AMER and KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writers

17 Apr 2008
CAIRO, Egypt - Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader claimed in an audiotape released Friday that five years of U.S. involvement in Iraq brought only defeat, and said President Bush will be forced to pass the problem to his successor.

Ayman al-Zawahri alleged that by heeding advice of his top commanders in Iraq and guaranteeing a heavy American military presence after July, Bush was "covering up for the failure" of his Iraq policies.

"If the American forces leave, they will lose everything. And if they stay, they will bleed to death," he argued.
I'm not a big fan of al Qaeda or al-Zawahri, but this is the most direct, honest assessment of W's Iraq fiasco I've read recently.

Note: I dispute the assertion that "[i]f the American forces leave, they will lose everything." We'd at least start recovering from W. We'd stop bleeding $100Bn/year. We'd no longer be part of the problem.

[For what it's worth: W's apocalyptic vision of Iraq if American forces leave is perfectly consonant with al-Zawahri's claim that by leaving America would lose everything.]

Stop the madness!

More lies & more stupidity

This is a continuation of the previous post.
(It occurs to me I could recycle this post's title pretty much forever!)

The same article cited below (Rice says Arabs must shield Iraq from Iran's sway) goes on to note that
Rice said Iran must stop its "malign actions" in Iraq, where Washington says Tehran has stoked violence and was behind the latest fighting in the southern city of Basra.
[emphasis added]
This is simply a lie.

Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki decided - on this own time, at his own time - to assert central government authority in Basra, using Iraqi military forces to do so. The operation was a disaster, with Iraq government forces confronted by well-armed, well-disciplined native Iraqi forces loyal to Moqtada al Sadr.

Iran's involvement? Members of Maliki's government implored Iran to broker a cease-fire with Moqtada's Mahdi Army.... and Iran complied - helping bring an end to Maliki's disastrous Basra incursion.

Our policies seem to be deliberately designed to drive Moqtada towards Iran, and to strengthen Iran's influence within Iraq.

Have we ever suggested to Maliki that he engage in diplomacy with al Sadr? (al Sadr has made it perfectly clear he has no intention of dealing with U.S. occupation forces - but he seems honestly willing to play a political role in the Iraqi government, if Maliki would allow it.) As far as I can tell, Maliki simply fears al Sadr's political strength, and wants to keep his party from participating in provincial elections in the fall. I don't have the numbers handy, but I believe al Sadr's political following is considerable - a legitimate popular movement. The kind of thing that W ought welcome: grass-roots democracy!

What do we do instead? We invade al Sadr's Baghdad base in Sadr City, and condemn his militia - alone among all the militias in Iraq - as outlaw. (Recall: we've put Sunni militias in Anbar on our payroll, as "Awakening Councils"... and the Badr Brigade is the militia of Maliki's faction.)

Stop the madness!

arrogance & ignorance

[Aside: may I suggest this post's title as a decent title for a book on W's foreign policy?]
Rice says Arabs must shield Iraq from Iran's sway
By Sue Pleming
Thu Apr 17, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday she would press Iraq's Arab neighbors hard next week to do more to support Baghdad's government and shield it from Iran's "nefarious influences."
"What they need to do is confirm and work for Iraq's Arab identity," she said. "That in and of itself will begin to shield (Iraq) from influences of Iran that are nefarious influences," Rice said at a news conference.
Who are we to tell Iraq's neighbors what to do? We created this chaos. Deliberately. By choice. Based on our arrogance & ignorance.

"Iraq's Arab identity"? ... What about the Kurds? Remember? The ethnic group that controls the only stable part of Iraq???

Most of Iraq's Arab citizens confess Iran's Shi'ism - not Saudi, Syrian, Jordanian, Kuwaiti Sunnism.

Given the ethnic & religious strife now rending Iraq, is it really appropriate to appeal to ethnicity as a unifying principle?... and invite Iraq's Arab neighbors to start participating in Iraq's internal ethnic strife?

... and why must we continue to demonize Iran? [I note that we're talking to the third member of the "axis of evil": North Korea!... and they already have nuclear capability!]

Who's responsible for the vast majority of violence in Iraq? We are.

Condi: take a vacation.

Stop the madness!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Juan Cole explains Iraq succinctly

If folks are not aware of Juan Cole's excellent Iraq-focused blog, Informed Comment, please visit it! Among other things, Dr. Cole is fluent in Arabic, and provides translations from news published in that language.

Today he provides a very brief but concise summary clarifying recent violence:
The massive violence in Iraq on Tuesday underlines that in the north, the US is mainly fighting Sunni Iraqis, some of them neo-Baathists. It is a misnomer to call the resistance "al-Qaeda," since most of them are not foreign fighters but Iraqis, and none of them has Usamah Bin Laden's telephone number.

The recent propaganda push by Bush and his aides to blame Iran for most of Iraq's ongoing instability is revealed as grounded in false premises. The Sunni guerrillas who hit Baquba, Baghdad, Ramadi and Mosul were completely unconnected to Iran.
He goes on to cite a Reuters post that suggests that some (many?) arms from Iran are simply being smuggled by entrepreneurs (W's beloved "free market" at work):
At the very end of the Reuters post quoted below, we see an implicit acknowledgment that what Iranian weapons have come into Iraq have often come in via freelance smugglers using donkeys.
[the referenced Reuters post]:
NEAR KHANAQIN - Iraqi border guards clashed with smugglers trying to bring in 170 roadside bombs stacked on mules near Khanaqin in Diyala province, on the border with Iran, a border guard source said.
"Well, who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"
[Chicolini (Chico Marx), impersonating Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx), Duck Soup, 1933]

Visit Informed Comment! You'll be rewarded for your effort!

Stop the madness.

The price of unilateralism: a small example

British sailors captured by Iran were in disputed waters: report
16 Apr 2008
LONDON (AFP) - Fifteen British troops who were held by Iran for two weeks last year were in disputed waters when they were captured, not in Iraqi waters as the government had publicly claimed, The Times reported Thursday.

Citing documents released by the defence ministry under Freedom of Information laws, the newspaper said the contingent of Britons was captured because the US-led coalition in Iraq had unilaterally designated a maritime boundary for Iraq and Iran without informing the latter.

We draw the lines, but we don't tell anyone else where we drew 'em... then we get all huffy when the other guy acts like he doesn't know where the lines are!

Key word: unilaterally. We just upped & decided where the border was.

Suppose Cuba were to decide on its own where Cuba ends and Florida begins... without telling us. There could be lots of rather unhappy sports fishermen landing in Cuban jails!... but Raul could cite U.S. precedent for his actions!

Will I still be alive when the damage W has done is finally fully repaired?
I think the actuaries are agin' me!

Stop the madness!

U.S. "hopes": our pathetic foreign policy!

U.S. hopes Saudi Arabia, others to offer Iraq help
By Sue Pleming
Wed Apr 16, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is hopeful Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations will offer diplomatic and financial help to Iraq at a conference of its neighbors next week, said a senior U.S. official on Wednesday.

Any chance we've done any prep work with the Saudis and others to maybe give hope a chance?

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and the top U.S. commander there, Army Gen. David Petraeus, visited Saudi Arabia on Monday to urge Riyadh to do more in Iraq and the senior U.S. official said there may be an announcement at a ministerial-level conference of Iraq's neighbors and other major powers in Kuwait on April 22.

"I think Crocker and Petraeus are very persuasive fellows ... There may be an announcement at the meeting. It is possible," said the official, who spoke on condition he was not named.
On Monday? How long has this conference been on the books?

A foreign-policy based only on hope, absent any positive actions to achieve our goals, is simply pathetic. But sadly, typical of W's brilliant leadership.

Cheney was in the region not too long ago. Did he talk up Saudi-led assistance when he had the chance?... or was he just begging for cheaper oil?

How 'bout Condi?... nevermind.

We continue to hope, never to plan. Never to prepare the ground for success. I bet W's one heck of a gardener! (Just out of curiosity: does W actually produce anything on his Crawford ranch?)

Stop the madness!

More not-so-good war news (this from Afghanistan)

Busy in Iraq, U.S. also faces surging violence in Afghanistan
By Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers
Tue Apr 15, 2008
WASHINGTON � While America's attention remains focused on Iraq, violence is escalating in Afghanistan, worrying senior U.S. defense officials and commanders who're struggling to find some 7,000 more American and European troops to combat resurgent Taliban and al Qaida forces.

The Rumsfeld Doctrine: "Just enough troops to lose." [Tom Friedman]

The Rumsfeld Doctrine: the gift that keeps on giving!

Opium-poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is at record levels.

Karzai's government controls Kabul (I think), but nothing else.

... and we can't come up with 7,000 troops?

[Oh! I almost forgot: the al Qaida mentioned in the McClatchy lead is the genuine, bin Laden-led article! You know, the folks who attacked us on 9/11!]

Stop the madness!

There's a Dem debate tonight... I'll miss it

... this time not so much on principle - I simply have another commitment: off to see production of H.M.S. Pinafore, presented by an English touring company!

I assume there'll be a transcript published eventually (but I understand ABC is being stingy with permissions).

If there are any fireworks, feel free to let me know!

One small step... but a step, nonetheless

U.S. military frees AP photographer in Iraq
By Dean Yates
16 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer working for the Associated Press in Iraq was freed from U.S. military custody on Wednesday after being held for two years, the news agency said.
The U.S. military had accused Hussein of working with insurgents in the country. AP has repeatedly denied any improper links and said Hussein was only doing his job as a journalist.

Hussein, 36, was freed after the U.S. military conducted a review of his status and decided he was no longer a security threat. That followed a decision by an Iraqi judicial panel that dismissed allegations against Hussein and ordered him released under an amnesty law passed by parliament in February.

Note: it was an Iraqi court that set this in motion, finding that Hussein's case fell within the scope of recently passed amnesty laws. The court made no finding of fact regarding the charges against Hussein.

Now, on to Gitmo!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why are we there?

Iraqi Unit Flees Post, Despite American’s Plea
Published: April 16, 2008
BAGHDAD — A company of Iraqi soldiers abandoned their positions on Tuesday night in Sadr City, defying American soldiers who implored them to hold the line against Shiite militias.

Forgive me: wasn't the battle in Sadr City billed as "a Proving Ground for Iraq Military"?

Recall: "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down."

We're still waiting.

Stop the madness!

They can't be "fixed"!

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.

[U.S. Constitution]
Which word(-s) don't they understand?

FBI says problems with letters fixed
The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
WASHINGTON -- The FBI is resisting legislation that would put more restrictions on domestic surveillance of Americans' private records, saying the agency already has tightened its rules to crack down on wrongful use of national security letters.
So-called "National Security Letters" are UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

How do you "fix" unlimited, UNCONSTITUTIONAL Executive over-reach?

We are in a nasty Catch-22 here: it seems to be virtually impossible to contest so-called "National Security Letters" in court. The plaintiff first has to establish that he/she has "standing" - that he/she has in fact been the target of an UNCONSTITUTIONAL search by way of a so-called "National Security Letter". ... BUT, the law precludes anyone from knowing if he or she has been so targeted!

This is absurd!

For what it's worth, there's a name for a nation that asserts the unlimited right to spy on its citizens:
Police State!
Stop the madness!!!

McCain economics, part deux

Others (sorry, I can't now find the sources) suggest a couple of other reasons McCain's "gas tax holiday" is maybe not such a great idea.

1. The oil companies claim to be operating at full refining capacity. So? So, whatever reduction in fuel prices is likely to be off-set by increase in price oil companies choose to charge. This is the miraculous market at work! All the "gas tax holiday" will accomplish is to transfer wealth from us (the consumers) to Big Oil. Great idea.

2. Once on "holiday", the gas tax'll be devilishly difficult to reinstate. Republicans will chant in unison: "The Democrats are increasing your taxes again!" No matter that McCain's proposal is a term-limited holiday. Once it's gone, who's gonna bring it back?
"He's gone, he's gone
Nothin's gonna bring him back
He's gone."

[The Grateful Dead, He's Gone]

Memory: I used to have one!

Not too long ago - within the past 2 or 3 days - I had a brilliant idea for a post, related to "decapitation" as a failed tactic in Iraq. It was motivated by some non-Iraq reference - but for life of me I can't remember what that reference was. An episode of "Law and Order"? A newpaper article? Who knows?

[note: whether it's age, or alcohol, or past use of 'other drugs', I notice more and more frequently that I walk into a room and ask myself, "Why did I come here?"]

The decapitation theme is still valid, even if I can't recall the brilliant analogy.

Much of our Iraq "strategy" has been based on the assumption that if we just get the head, the body will die.

The biggest coup was capturing Saddam. We assumed this would end the insurgency. It didn't.

We issued a clever 52-card deck of "most wanteds", assuming that when we caught these guys, all would be well. It wasn't.

We hailed the killing of al-Zarqawi as ending the the threat of the so-called "al Qaeda in Iraq". It didn't.

I think there's a lesson here: popular insurgencies don't die with the death of the presumed leader. They are popular - etymologically, "of the people".

We've never understood our enemies. This is not good.

Stop the madness!

McCain's economics

McCain proposes break in gas taxes
By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer
15 Apr 2008
PITTSBURGH - John McCain called Tuesday for the federal government to free people from paying gasoline taxes this summer and ensure that college students can secure loans this fall, proposals aimed at stemming the public's pain now from the troubled economy.

One of my colleagues & I agree on very little when it comes to politics & policy. One of the exceptions is our shared belief that high gas prices promote conservation. If you want folks to burn less fossil fuel, make it expensive. If you want to incentivize alternative energy, make gas expensive.

Cutting the gas tax is a politically expedient proposal - with bad long-term effects. Not only does it encourage burning more gas, but it also cuts govt revenue at a time we are experiencing record deficits. The short-term effects will be painful... but it might help U.S. automakers decide to make fewer gas-guzzlers and more energy-efficient vehicles - a good thing in the long run. (As my colleague points out, high gas prices are likely to be more effective than more stringent CAFE standards in promoting energy-efficient vehicles.)

McCain seems to have exactly one economic idea: cut taxes.

I'm confused

Iraq bombings, clashes kill 62
by Salam Faraj
15 Apr 2008
BAGHDAD (AFP) - A spate of bombings across Iraq and a fresh surge of fighting between Shiite militiamen and US forces in east Baghdad killed at least 62 people on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said.

A car bomb outside a courthouse in the central city of Baquba, a stronghold of Al-Qaeda, killed at least 40 people and wounded 80 in the most devastating attack in the violence-wracked country in a month, police said.

[emphasis added]
I thought the so-called "al Qaeda in Iraq" was staging its last stand in Mosul. They're in Baquba, too? Anywhere else?

Stop the madness!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Air power: someone else noticed!

Several past posts (also here, and here) have noted the futility of air power in guerilla warfare.
Now, someone else has noticed!
As noted many times before (also here, and here): if you want to know what folks'll be talking about next week, read this blog today!


this, that, and t'other

Ain't this blog ever updated???

Yeah, well... I've got all of a dozen readers, the advertisers aren't knocking down my virtual doors... deal with it!

Meanwhile: OSW's Tosca has ended. We had very good houses - both in size & in responsiveness - for all 4 shows. My wife is delighted it's over: I'll be home more!

Other folks (Atrios, Digby) are picking up on badness of torture. Loyal readers: you saw it here first!

Lots & lots of 'horse-race' commentary out there. Devoted readers will recall: I don't cover the horse race!

Atrios uses phrase, "The reverse Midas touch". Faithful readers may recall my query:
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!
It's heartening to see mainstream blogger use the same mythological reference.

Wow! Did he really say that?
"I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button."
[Rep. Geoff Davis, R-KY, referring to Sen. Obama (emphasis added)]
"BOY"??? 40 years after MLK's assassination. Wow!

What am I really working on? Two publications: facsimile edition of Bella C. Landauer's Gilbert and Sullivan Influence on Amerian Treadecards, and related, "Everything you always wanted to know about Gilbert & Sullivan Tradecards (but were afraid to ask)". Now have New-York Historical Society's permission to include the former as a chapter in the latter... in addition to permission to publish the former as a stand-alone pamphlet.

My lone commenter refers me to Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I think I'll look into this organization!


Sunday, April 13, 2008

For the record (again)

This isn't "news" - the event in question was first reported more than a week ago.
Rep. Monique Davis to atheist Rob Sherman: `It’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!'
Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune
3 Apr 2008
The following exchange between atheist activist Rob Sherman of Buffalo Grove and Ill. Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) took place Wednesday afternoon in the General Assembly as Sherman testified before the House State Government Administration Committee.
[Ill. State Rep]Davis: This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous--
And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!
... Get out of that seat!... You have no right to be here!

[emphasis added]
"You have no right to be here!"???

... and note the value-laden, pejorative verb: "spew"!

I first addressed the broad issue of the non-believer's place in America in response to Romney's faith-focused speech. There I expressed that as an agnostic,
I am disturbed by any implication that my non-belief in any way excludes me from civic life, or somehow makes me an inferior, even second-class citizen.
I stressed that my country's founding document, the U.S. Constitution, makes it clear that religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
... and that a close reading of the Constitution found no justification for asserting that it establishes a "foundation of faith" upon which my country rests.

When public officials - whether appointed or elected - use their public positions to deny the non-believer a role in our participatory democracy, I am alarmed. When Rep. Davis asserts that the very idea of atheism is dangerous, and that by virtue of his non-belief, a U.S. citizen has no right to address a public forum, I am alarmed.

Given the degree to which the so-called "religious right" has directed political discourse in this country in recent years, I have little doubt that there are many other "Christian" public servants who share Rep. Davis's attitude, and who would impose their beliefs on the rest of us if given the chance.

[Note: I am not anti-religious. I just don't believe. For a more-or-less concise summary of my attitude toward religion in general and the Judeao-Christian tradition in particular, see my Apologia.]

Saturday, April 12, 2008

To whom is he speaking?

In W's 10 April address to the nation, he rather abruptly informed us that we had to stay in Iraq to fight Iran.
"Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century -- al Qaeda and Iran."
To whom is W addressing these remarks?

He delivered the speech not during prime-time, but at 11:24 a.m.! Who was watching? The media, certainly. The American public? We all work for a living!

... and anyway, my sense is that the American public has long since tuned out W on Iraq.

So, to whom was he speaking?

Well, I'm not sure he actually thought about this - 'thought' does not seem to be one of his strong points - but I'd bet a few $$$ that his listening audience included bin Laden & Iran's Ahmadinejad.

And how might they interpret W's words?:
"Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century -- al Qaeda and Iran."
"Hey, we're the biggest, meanest, coolest dudes on the block!"

A debating tip for W:
If you want to win the war of words, don't deliberately enhance your opponent's reputation among his would-be followers.
Whenever W cites the existential threat to America posed by al Qaeda & Iran, he does nothing but bolster these guys' reputation among their followers!

Stop the madness!

Iran NIE a game-changer... NOT! (part 6, I believe)

When the U.S. Intelligence community released its latest assessment of Iran back in late November 2007, it was hailed as a "game-changer", providing no basis for W and his minions to continue to spout bellicose threats against Iran.

At the time I observed:
Change the game? Come on folks, this is the W Administration! Let's not be too quick to forget their history!
Noting that W had treated the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report as a quaint, historical document the day it was released, I assumed - correctly, as it turns out - that W would be equally dismissive of the Iran NIE.

The past several weeks have seen W's anti-Iran rhetoric ramping up. Even Iran's constructive intervention in brokering the recent Basra cease-fire is interpreted simply as "interference" in Iraq.

W has proclaimed Iran to be one of the two great threats facing this country in this new century.

Ambassador Crocker has cited Iran's continuing interference in Iraq as a continuing destabilizing force.

If we've not attacked Iran by Oct 2008, I'll be truly surprised!

Stop the madness!

What really matters

I am occasionally reminded by others of what really matters.
Who you are makes a difference
Thanks, Mark!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cynical prediction: it took less than 2 weeks to be fulfilled!

On 31 March (a cynical prediction) I wrote:
W's Administration and the U.S. military in Iraq will now use Iran's "interference" in Iraq as justification for demonizing Iran and promoting military action against the Tehran regime.
I even provided a restricted timeframe: 3 weeks.

Iran triggering Shiite "backlash" in Iraq, US ambassador claims
11 Apr 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Iran can never conquer Iraq and is even stirring a Shiite "backlash" there by backing militias fighting the Iraqi government and US-led troops, the US ambassador to Baghdad said here Friday.

"The Iranians are not going to take over Iraq," Ambassador Ryan Crocker told reporters after his testimony this week before Congressman who voiced concern about Iran's influence, especially in recent fighting.

[emphasis added]
Crocker went on to emphasize that
"No one is talking about a war with Iran. I want to make sure that is not the headline here."
This might discredit my cynical prediction... if it weren't for W's speech yesterday, in which Iran was cited as one of the "two greatest threats to America in this new century."

I'll count it as half-a-point for now. I've got till 21 April to get full fulfillment of prophecy.