ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Iraq Study Group vs. Reality

I mean, if this is what passes for realism these days, I think I'll have to opt for idealism... or xanaduism... or something.

I mean, if engaging this guy and asking for his help in putting Iraq back together again is ridiculous on the face of it - given the fact that he's the one with pushing Iraq off the wall (to keep with the Humpty-Dumpty metaphor).

Oh, and have I mentioned that President Tom is completely insane and wants to kill us all?

Follow God or vanish, Ahmadinejad tells West
Dec 06 5:14 AM US/Eastern

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned Western leaders to follow the path of God or "vanish from the face of the earth".

"These oppressive countries are angry with us ... a nation that on the other side of the globe has risen up and proved the shallowness of their power," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in the northern town of Ramsar, the semi-official news agency Mehr reported Wednesday.

"They are angry with our nation. But we tell them 'so be it and die from this anger'. Rest assured that if you do not respond to the divine call, you will die soon and vanish from the face of the earth," he said.

The outspoken president also maintained Iran's defiance over its controversial nuclear programme, saying it was on course to fully master nuclear technology.

"Thank to God's help, we have gone all the way and are only one step away from the zenith.

"We hope to have the big nuclear celebration by the end of the year (March 2007)," Ahmadinejad said, echoing comments he has made on numerous occasions in recent months.

A defiant Iran has refused to suspend its uranium enrichment work, a process that the West fears could be extended to make nuclear weapons.

Iran however insists its nuclear programme is solely aimed at generating energy.

France's Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Wednesday after a Paris meeting on Tehran's nuclear programme that the UN Security Council is agreed "there will be sanctions" on Iran, though their extent is yet to be decided.
Iran's telling us that they're going to kill us with nukes and we're relying on the French Foreign Minister's determination as to the extent of sanctions against Iran? PEACHY!!!!

I know, I know... there isn't anything that can't be worked out diplomatically. As the Iraq Study Group points out on page 37:
Dealing with Iran and Syria is controversial. Nevertheless, it is our view that in diplomacy, a nation can and should engage its adversaries and enemies to try to resolve conflicts and differences consistent with its own interests. Accordingly, the Support Group should actively engage Iran and Syria in its diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions.

The Study Group recognizes that U.S. relationships with Iran and Syria involve difficult issues that must be resolved. Diplomatic talks should be extensive and substantive, and they will require a balancing of interests. The United States has diplomatic, economic, and military disincentives available in approaches to both Iran and Syria. However, the United States should also consider incentives to try to engage them constructively, much as it did successfully with Libya.
I guess we'll have to stop shipping all of our precious goods & services to Iran... I mean, we have a lot of economic disincentives that we can use as leverage.

Listen... let's face facts. We've got nothing. They think we're too chickenshit to act militarily in either Syria or Iran... Until they have a real fear that that might happen, what would incent them to help us one iota?

What turned Libya around? Was it our diplomatic efforts? or was it the fact that we just ripped through Iraq in 3 weeks? This isn't rocket science, but if you put 10 Washington "players" in an air-conditioned room for a year, it might just look like rocket science.

***UPDATE***
NRO's John Podoretz has this excellent observation about the "realism" of Jim Baker in the Corner:
The Delusional James Baker [John Podhoretz]
"As for Syria, Baker said that as Secretary of State to President George H. W. Bush he made 15 trips there in the early 1990s, 'and we made them change 25 years of policy.'" This sentence appears in today's Los Angeles Times. And it's interesting. Because Syrian policy changed in no way during the first Bush administration. Rather, it was Baker who muddied U.S. policy for the purpose of sucking up to Syria so that he could claim its support, or at least its refusal to oppose, the Persian Gulf War. To that end, Baker criticized his own State Department's inclusion of Syria on the list of states that sponsor and commit acts of terrorism. Quoth Baker at the time: "We believe that, so far, Syria was put on the list without any justification." Syria's inclusion, he complained, was "meant for political objectives rather than analyzing an objective situation.”

Syria, then and now, is one of the world's two leading state sponsors of terrorism, and Baker knew it, and he lied through his teeth. But the key thing to note here is that Syria did nothing differently after Baker's suck-up from what it had done before. Nothing.

If Baker really believes his actions changed Syrian policy during his tenure as Secretary of State, then he's not the clever and cynical man I took him for. Rather, he's a delusional fool.


Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Blast from the past

On the 65th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, this post from Transterrestrial Musings is fun. The media has sure changed in 65 years. The best was this paragraph however, which brought back a "blast" from the past.

Some enterprising and innovative people have carried the analysis further. In one sequence shown in the documentary, a man built a wooden model of the ship in his pond, and filmed himself dropping lit firecrackers on it from above, to demonstrate how preposterous was the notion that ships could be sunk by bombs. They seemed to have no effect other than a slight scorching of the deck, and the sturdy little toy remained afloat.

He was proud of his own small part in uncovering the cover up. "Other than the fact that the ship is wood, which is much weaker than steel, and I used firecrackers instead of iron bombs, and that there was no ammunition magazine aboard to explode, this is a perfect simulation of what the Roosevelt administration claims happened to the Arizona. But there the ship floats, to show to one and all the administration's lie. And how convenient of Roosevelt to die a year and a half ago, so he can avoid having to answer these questions."

The moonbatter with the chickenwire.



Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lou Dobbs - Call Your Office

Saw this wonderful post over at Cafe Hayek, a wonderful econoblog.

Almost three years ago, Scott Kirwin was Wired's pissed off programmer ("The New Face of the Silicon Age," issue 12.02). Tossed from his job and raging against globalization, he had launched the Information Technology Professionals Association of America to lobby against offshored work and imported workers. These days, Kirwin still works with computers. He's just less pissed: In June, he shuttered the ITPAA. "I don't view outsourcing as the big threat it was," he says. What changed? Well, Kirwin found better work as an analyst and software architect. And he noticed that the talents that make him valuable – open-mindedness, a willingness to take risks, flashes of ingenuity – couldn't be reduced to a spec sheet and emailed to Hyderabad. If more Americans develop such abilities, Kirwin believes, the use of Indian programmers could even improve our economic outlook. Outsourcing isn't going away, he says. "But in the end, America may be stronger for it."
It's amazing how things work out. I've been discussing how the anti-outsourcing kerfluffle was ridiculous since this blog's inception. And given the current unemployment rate (up to an depressing 4.5%) and the increasing lack of skilled workers, this isn't surprising to me.

What I find amazing is that Lou Dobbs & Co will continue to peddle their idiocy on a daily basis - and many in America will eat it up.

One anecdotal remark from today... returned home from a church event and son had a goodie-bag. In the goodie bag were a variety of items, but first to be put to use was a stamp that had a nativity scene... the stamp prominently displayed a label that said, "Made in China."

I turned to my wife and said, "We cannot allow there to be a Baby-Jesus-Stamp-Gap!!!" (Ala Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove ("Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!") At some point in America's economic past, small trinkets and toys like this were made domestically. Is it absolutely necessary that the US retain an absolute competitive advantage in Baby-Jesus-Stamps? Or running shoes? Or in Help Desk services?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

I DEMAND A PUBLIC TAKEOVER OF THE UTILITIES!!!

At least, that's the only real solution to the power outages here in Missouri, right?

I mean, the regulated monopoly system that's currently in place only benefits the regulated monopoly and those that oversee it - ie, the politicians that can get on their high-horse and demand an action. It's truly the power of "political pull" that is in full effect with regard to the utilities and Missouri's Public Service Commission. (my [comments] throughout):

Missouri: Ameren on the hot seat
By Jeffrey Tomich
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Wednesday, Dec. 06 2006

Missouri's top utility regulator put AmerenUE on notice Tuesday: Find a way to
stop the mass power outages.

Missouri Public Service Commission Chairman Jeff Davis gave the utility 30 days
to come up with a plan.

"The response that these things just happen — that's well and good — but that
line only works once a decade," Davis said in an interview while en route to
St. Louis to get a firsthand look at last week's storm damage.
[Pure political posturing on his part.]

The storm marked the fourth time in Davis' 2 1/2-year tenure as head of the PSC that hundreds of thousands of customers were left in the dark after a major
storm. About 96,000 Ameren customers in Missouri and Illinois still were
without power as of 10:32 a.m. today.

While nothing can be done to completely storm-proof the local power grid, Davis
said he's tired of answering questions from upset customers.

"We've got to get some answers to people, and we've got to get them now," Davis
said. "I don't want to be back here six months from now with 500,000 customers
out of power."
[Davis is the protector of the consumer!!]

The heightened tension between Missouri's largest electric utility and the
five-member body that regulates it comes as the commission is considering a
request to increase electric rates by $361 million a year. Increases for
homeowners would be capped at 10 percent. Commercial and industrial customers would pay more.
[Oh, that's just lovely... glad that my electricity rates are decided by 5 people, instead of the power of millions of individual choices (in the form of a free market sytem). I think the old saying could be modified to be "a million heads are better than five."]

AmerenUE said last week's storm that left a thick coat of ice on trees, poles
and power lines, prompting many to snap, is unprecedented in its 100-year
history. [Except for the three other outages in the past 2 1/2 years] The utility made the same argument when back-to-back thunderstorms left almost a million people without electric service in the bistate area in July — some for as long as nine days.

The utility, too, is exasperated.

"We understand the commission's frustration," Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said Tuesday. "We share that frustration. Everyone is looking for an
easy answer. Everyone wants to make this better, but our priority is getting
everyone back on."
[That says it all! Do they understand the consumer's frustration? No, their only concern is the commission that regulates them.]

Davis and three other commissioners said they couldn't comment on the pending
rate case, which comes down to the utility's costs and determining how big of a
profit AmerenUE is allowed to earn.
[oh, lovely... what a great, New Deal-era system we're still living under.]

But customer service also could be considered by the commission.

"In general, performance is a factor that can be taken into account in setting
a return," Commissioner Steve Gaw said
[What paragraph is this? It took them this long to mention the customer and customer service!!!!]

[...]

Warren Wood, head of utility operations for the PSC staff, inspected the storm
damage Monday in north St. Louis and was returning with Davis on Tuesday. What
he saw reinforced the need for the commission to adopt a series of
recommendations made last month as part of a 153-page report on the summer power outages, he said.
[A 153 page report was developed in November... in response to a power outage this summer?! That's called being responsive if you're a bureaucrate.]

[...]

Davis said addressing the tree-trimming backlog and other actions clearly don't
go far enough.

"People want solutions and people are looking to me as chairman of the
commission to get them solutions," he said. "Offer us some solutions or it's
going to be us offering the solutions."
[ummm, Mr. Davis... how about offering me the solution of choice????]
And this gets to the heart of the matter. When utility deregulation was a possibility, many of its critics laughed, asking who in the heck would care about one power company over the other.. I mean, how can electricity be differentiated?

Well, when your service is down and the utility is a monopoly, they have little incentive to upgrade their systems by burying power lines instead of relying on overhead lines from the early 20th century. And it's unlikely that they will respond to consumer demands for greener power by investing in R&D... what's the point when the money keeps rolling in without a single threat from a competitor?

They also have little incentive to resolve the problem of an outage, other than the potential political backlash (see above example) or the short-term loss of revenue. It's not like any AmerenUE customer can even threaten to go to a competitor.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Don't Forget the Heroes

PilotEarnsDistinguishedFlyingCross_files/image003.jpg

Pilot Earns Distinguished Flying Cross

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2006 — Back in March in Iraq, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Hill, with the 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, was piloting her Kiowa Warrior when the lead chopper came under heavy fire. She drew the fire away, simultaneously providing suppressive fire for the troops engaged with the enemy on the ground.

A rocket-propelled grenade hit her, damaging the helo’s instrumentation, but instead of focusing on her predicament, she established communication with the ground forces and continued to provide them with aerial weapon support until the soldiers reached safety.

As she turned her attention to the aircraft, which was losing hydraulic power, the helo took on machine-gun fire, a round crashing into one of Hill’s ankles. Still, with a damaged aircraft and an injury, she landed at Forward Operating Base Normandy, saving her crew and aircraft.

Vice President Richard Cheney presents the Distinguished Flying Cross to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Hill in a ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ky. on Oct. 16. U.S. Army photo

For her actions she was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross by Vice President Richard Cheney at Fort Campbell, Ky., on Oct. 16.

“It’s was a once-in-a-lifetime thing to get the award and then have the vice president come and award it to you,” she said. “It’s just incredible for any soldier.”

Recalling that day in March, Hill reflected, “I was actually just glad I didn’t pass out and very happy I was able to help the ground guys out, and get our helicopter down safely on the ground.”

I hope that the Iraq Study Group and those hoping for us to cut & run, "pull a Frenchie," or redeploy to Okinawa recognize the valor of soldiers like Chief Warrant Officer Lori Hill.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Sunday, December 03, 2006

NRO on the Iraq Study Group

National Review Online provides some additional insights on the Iraq Study Group. They also provide some advice to the Bush administration - throw it in the trash.

One for the Wastebaskets

By The Editors

The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG) is turning into a parody of bipartisan commissions. Such commissions are often driven by their own internal dynamics rather than by any connection to the real world. So it is that the ISG has apparently blended a Republican option to keep fighting in Iraq with a Democratic option to adopt a timetable for withdrawal by next year, and come up with a recommendation of withdrawing American combat troops (perhaps to their Iraqi bases) on a non-specified timetable. If this is so, any costs of distributing the report should be saved by printing it and then immediately depositing it in the nearest wastebaskets.

It shouldn’t be surprising that five Republicans and five Democrats sitting around a table can’t come up with any ready solutions to Iraq. First, there are genuine, deep divides between the two parties that can’t be bridged by a few elder statesmen, no matter how exalted or well-meaning. Second, there are no ready solutions, at least not in the sense of magic bullets that wouldn’t already have occurred to people much more expert in military strategy and Middle Eastern affairs. As the admirably plainspoken former GOP senator Alan Simpson, an ISG member, said of Washington’s expectations of the commission: “If they think this noble group of ten are going to solve this issue, I think people are doing a little bit of heavy breathing.”
[...]
[The Iraq Study Group's recommendations are just] dressed-up surrender in Iraq. As soon as the U.S. began such a redeployment, the security situation would worsen and the political environment would further deteriorate. It would become clearer that the anti-American Moqtada al-Sadr had bet correctly against us, and he would have a chance of commanding the most effective fighting force left standing in Iraq. The theory is that a U.S. withdrawal to bases would pressure Prime Minister Maliki to begin to crack down on the militias and purge the extremists in his midst. But the opposite would likely be the case. The men with guns would be more empowered — and they aren’t the moderates. Maliki might not be the most adept politician, but he would be able to see — and unfortunately, probably already has — which way the wind was blowing, and would tilt even further toward Sadr.

The U.S. needs to fight more in Iraq, not give up. That means sending more troops to Baghdad. Yes, we should be training more Iraqi units and embedding more American troops with those units, but there is no substitute in the near term for more U.S. troops on the ground. Only we can stabilize Baghdad, and only a better security situation there can provide the conditions necessary for the kind of political progress that might turn the war around.

The apparently risible recommendation of the ISG has a silver lining, however. It will make it easier for President Bush to politely dismiss its findings, and — we hope — do what’s necessary to try to save Iraq.

I have little hope that the Iraq Study Group (which apparently sought advice on strategy from a failed presidential hopeful - who, by the way, served in Vietnam) will produce anything that actually is actionable.

I hope Bush has the cojones to hold a press conference at which he shreds the document with the press looking on in astonishment, exclaiming, "But, Mr. Bush!!! That's the Iraq Study Group Report!!! Our only salvation in Iraq!!!!!!"

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Steyn on the Iraq Study Group

I don't seem to recall anything in the Constitution that stipulated that our foreign policy was to be determined by a Blue-Ribbon panel... and Mark Steyn hits that point hard in today's Chicago Sun-Times:

Iraq is just test of will for America
December 3, 2006
BY MARK STEYN Sun-Times Columnist

James Baker's "Iraq Study Group" seems to have been cast on the same basis as Liza Minnelli's last wedding. A stellar lineup: Donna Summer, Mickey Rooney, the Doobie Brothers, Gina Lollobrigida, Michael Jackson, Mia Farrow, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Jill St. John. That's Liza's wedding, not the Baker Commission. But at both gatherings everyone who was anyone was there, no matter how long ago it was they were anyone. So the fabulous Baker boy was accompanied by Clinton officials Leon Panetta and Bill Perry, Clinton golfing buddy Vernon Jordan, Clinton's fellow sex fiend Chuck Robb, the quintessential ''moderate'' Republican Alan Simpson, Supreme Court swing vote par excellence Sandra Day O'Connor . . .

God, I can't go on. I'd rather watch Mia Farrow making out with Mickey Rooney to a Doobie Brothers LP. As its piece de resistance, the Baker Commission concluded its deliberations by inviting testimony from -- drumroll, please -- Sen. John F. Kerry. If you're one of those dummies who goofs off in school, you wind up in Iraq. But, if you're sophisticated and nuanced, you wind up on a commission about Iraq. Rounding it all out -- playing David Gest to Jim Baker's Liza -- is, inevitably, co-chairman Lee Hamilton, former congressman from Indiana. As you'll recall, he also co-chaired the 9/11 Commission, in accordance with Article II Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states: "Ye monopoly of wisdom on ye foreign policy, national security and other weighty affairs shall be vested in a retired Representative from the 9th District in Indiana, if he be sufficiently venerable of mien. In the event that he becomes incapacitated, his place shall be taken by Jill St. John." I would be calling for a blue-ribbon commission to look into whether we need all these blue-ribbon commissions, but they'd probably get Lee Hamilton to chair that, too.

Don't get me wrong, I like a Friars' Club Roast as much as the next guy and I'm sure Jim Baker kibitzing with John Kerry was the hottest ticket in town. But doesn't it strike you as just a tiny bit parochial? Aside from Senator Kerry, I wonder whether the commission thought to hear from anyone such as Goh Chok Tong, the former prime minister of Singapore. A couple of years back, on a visit to Washington just as the Democrat-media headless-chicken quagmire-frenzy was getting into gear, he summed it up beautifully:

''The key issue is no longer WMD or even the role of the U.N. The central issue is America's credibility and will to prevail.''

As I write in my new book, Singaporean Cabinet ministers apparently understand that more clearly than U.S. senators, congressmen and former secretaries of state. Or, as one Baker Commission grandee told the New York Times, ''We had to move the national debate from whether to stay the course to how do we start down the path out.''

An ''exit strategy'' on those terms is the path out not just from Iraq but from a lot of other places, too -- including Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Venezuela, Russia, China, the South Sandwich Islands. For America would be revealed to the world as a fraud: a hyperpower that's all hype and no power -- or, at any rate, no will. According to the New York Sun, ''An expert adviser to the Baker-Hamilton commission expects the 10-person panel to recommend that the Bush administration pressure Israel to make concessions in a gambit to entice Syria and Iran to a regional conference . . .''

On the face of it, this sounds an admirably hard-headed confirmation of James Baker's most celebrated soundbite on the Middle East ''peace process'': ''F - - k the Jews. They didn't vote for us anyway.'' His recommendations seem intended to f - - k the Jews well and truly by making them the designated fall guys for Iraq. But hang on: If Israel could be forced into giving up the Golan Heights and other land (as some fantasists suggest) in order to persuade the Syrians and Iranians to ease up on killing coalition forces in Iraq, our enemies would have learned an important lesson: The best way to weaken Israel is to kill Americans. I'm all for Bakerite cynicism, but this would seem to f - - k not just the Jews but the Americans, too.

It would, furthermore, be a particularly contemptible confirmation of a line I heard Bernard Lewis, our greatest Middle Eastern scholar, use the other day -- that ''America is harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.'' To punish your friends as a means of rewarding your enemies for killing your forces would seem to be an almost ludicrously parodic illustration of that dictum. In the end, America would be punishing itself. The world would understand that Vietnam is not the exception but the rule.

It has been strange to see my pals on the right approach Iraq as a matter of inventory and personnel. Many call for more troops to be sent to Baghdad, others say the U.S. armed forces overall are too small and overstretched. Look, America is responsible for 40 percent of the planet's military spending: It spends more money on its armed forces than the next 43 biggest militaries combined, from China, Britain and France all the way down the military-spending hit parade to Montenegro and Angola. Yet it's not big enough to see off an insurgency confined to a 30-mile radius of a desert capital?

It's not the planes, the tanks, the men, the body armor. It's the political will. You can have the best car in town, but it won't go anywhere if you don't put your foot on the pedal. Three years ago, when it was obvious Syria and Iran were violating Iraq's borders with impunity, we should have done what the British did in the so-called ''Confrontation'' with Indonesia 40 years ago when they were faced with Jakarta doing to the newly independent state of Malaysia exactly what Damascus and Tehran are doing to Iraq. British, Aussie and Malaysian forces sent troops on low-key, lethally effective raids into Indonesia, keeping the enemy on the defensive and winning the war with barely a word making the papers. If the strategic purpose in invading Iraq was to create a regional domino effect, then playing defense in the Sunni Triangle for three years makes no sense. We should never have wound up hunkered down in the Green Zone. If there has to be a Green Zone, it should be on the Syrian side of the border.

Perhaps the Baker Commission's proposals will prove not to be as empty and risible as those leaked. But, if they are, the president should pay them no heed. A bipartisan sellout -- the Republicans cut and the Democrats run -- would be an awesome self-humiliation of the United States. And once the rest of the world figures it out, it'll be America that's the Green Zone.

From the Iraq Study Group leaks that I've heard, I've lost my enthusiasm for blogging... I hope I'm wrong about the remaining two years of W's presidency, but the administration's reaction to the ISG recommendations will be one of the first indications.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler