Tuesday, January 24, 2006

US Army Stretched to the Breaking Point

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

Read the rest in YahooNews.
Permalink 5:21 PM

Ford and the American Jobs Creation Act

From Alan Sloan in the Washington Post (via MaxSpeak)
It's almost enough to make you laugh -- bitterly, of course. Here was Ford Motor Co. announcing yesterday that it had cut 10,000 jobs last year and that it will cut up to 30,000 more. But shedding jobs at muscle-car acceleration rates didn't stop Ford from pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars courtesy of the American Jobs Creation Act.

The Act in question encouraged U.S. companies in 2005 to "repatriate" profits made overseas and pay only 5.25 percent tax on them rather than the standard 35 percent. In Ford's case, it saved the company $250 million, but as we can see, did little to "create jobs" in the US.

What's amazing about politicians is that they will pass some piece of legislation under the assumption that it will bring about some goal--such as, creating jobs, stimulating the economy, etc.--but then there is never any follow-through to see if it actually accomplished the stated goal.

I wish politicians could be forced to make falsifiable claims. That is, if they make some kind of claim about the benefits of some policy, they should be forced to make it like a scientific hypothesis: If this or that testable condition does not come to pass within such and such a frame of time, then we will officially consider our policy to be a failure. I know it's not possible to make government into a science, but it should at least be possible to learn from past mistakes.
Permalink 4:48 PM

Katrina and Other Little White (House) Lies

The Bush administration has a systematic response to any embarrassing question: Lie. Or, to be a little more charitable: feign a memory lapse. The most recent example is the Hurrican Katrina disaster. According to The New York Times, Bush was warned about how devastating Katrina might be to New Orleans:
A Homeland Security Department report submitted to the White House at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, hours before the storm hit, said, "Any storm rated Category 4 or greater will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching."
Yet, in a television interview a few days later, the President said:
"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees"
I guess he didn't read the memo, or forgot it.

Some other examples:
  • Condoleeza Rice (about the World Trade Center attacks): "No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon...into the World Trade Center, using planes as a missile." In fact, Condoleezza Rice was the top National Security official with President Bush at the July 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa. There, "U.S. officials were warned that Islamic terrorists might attempt to crash an airliner" into the summit, prompting officials to "close the airspace over Genoa and station antiaircraft guns at the city's airport." [Sources: Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01]

  • George Bush (about Enron CEO Kenneth Lay): "I got to know Ken Lay when he was the head of the—what they call the Governor's Business Council in Texas. He was a supporter of Ann Richards in my run in 1994. And she had named him the head of the Governor's Business Council. And I decided to leave him in place, just for the sake of continuity. And that's when I first got to know Ken. …" In fact, The Bush-Lay relationship can be traced back at least a half decade before the 1994 race. It grew out of the Houston social circle where oil tycoons have long rubbed shoulders with political players – and where Ken and Linda Lay had grown close to George H.W. and Barbara Bush in the 1980s. Since 1988, when Lay backed the elder George Bush in his run for the White House, Enron and its executives have written big checks for one Bush initiative after another.

  • Scott McClelland (about lobbyist Jack Abramoff): "...I just told you what I know at this point, and the President doesn’t recall meeting him and he certainly doesn’t know him." In fact, In President Bush's first 10 months, GOP fundraiser Jack Abramoff and his lobbying team logged nearly 200 contacts with the new administration as they pressed for friendly hires at federal agencies and sought to keep the Northern Mariana Islands exempt from the minimum wage and other laws, records show...The meetings between Abramoff's lobbying team and the administration ranged from Attorney General John Ashcroft to policy advisers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, according to his lobbying firm billing records.

  • [Update] Bush on wiretaps (April 20, 2004): "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so." In fact, President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior intelligence official said Friday night...Bush on Friday refused to discuss whether he had authorized such domestic spying without obtaining warrants from a court, saying that to comment would tie his hands in fighting terrorists.

  • [Another update] Bush (on whether the United States secretly moved terrorism suspects to foreign countries that torture to obtain information) "We do not render to countries that torture, that has been our policy and that policy will remain the same". In fact, A Swiss investigator for the Council of Europe, reviewing claims of secret prison scandal and global transportation of terrorist suspects, reports that evidence pointed to the existence of a system of "outsourcing" of torture by the US and that it was highly likely that European governments knew it existed.
Permalink 11:06 AM

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Uniter Not A Divider

I always thought that was just a totally cynical slogan--like "fair and balanced." But if he can get Al Gore and Bob Barr to work together... Well, you have to give credit where credit's due. I have not known of such a remarkable feet of unitifying since He Who Shall Not Be Named got Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt to work together.

Imagine if he had directed that talent to the Middle East. He could have had Sharon and Arafat patch things up years ago.
Permalink 12:45 AM

Monday, January 16, 2006

Female Heads of State Popping up All Over

In recent weeks or months, women have made a number of firsts as heads of state. In November, Angela Merkel became the first woman Chancellor of Germany.

Yesterday, South America elected its first woman head of state, the new president of Chile Michelle Bachelet.

Today, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the new president of Liberia. She is the first elected female head of state in the continent of Africa.

Of course, Ireland (former President Mary Robinson and current President Mary McAleese), England (former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher), and Israel (former Prime Minister Golda Meir) have all had women elected to top national offices.

[Update] Rich Magahiz mentions the Philippines' Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I also left out Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan.
Permalink 10:18 AM

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

He Shot the Pope, but other than that...

From Feministe via Annie

[Comment: This is an actual AP article, and as far as I know, the last line is a simple, but unfortunate cut-and-paste tragedy from a different story.]
Permalink 7:12 PM

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ariel Sharon

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has suffered a massive stroke and is hanging on to life. Even if he survives, his political career is over. It's not clear whether his fledgling centrist political party, Kadima, can survive without him. On the one hand, public opinion polls in Israel show that the new party is popular, even if Sharon is not at its helm. On the other hand, the party does not have any credible popular leaders besides Sharon. Sharon's second in command, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is an experienced politician but is not especially popular or charismatic. The other famous member of Sharon's party is former Prime Minister from the Labor Party Shimon Peres, who is 83 years old, a little old for leading a brand new party.

I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by Sharon's actions in office. I expected him to be a hardliner on the Palestinian issue, like his fellow Likud Party member Benjamin Netanyahu. This impression is partly due to my (perhaps false) interpretation of Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount as an intentional provocation to the Palestinians. (According to some reports, the Palestinian violence in 2000 was in the works long beforehand, and was not a response to Sharon's visit.) But Sharon has made a number of unilateral moves in the direction of peace, such as giving up the Gaza Strip. These moves made Sharon unpopular in his own conservative Likud Party while earning him new respect from some progressives in Israel and in Europe. However, among Arabs, Sharon was never able to overcome the stigma from his role in the massacre of Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon in 1982.

An interesting pair of quotes about Sharon:
"We say it frankly that God is great and is able to exact revenge on this butcher. ... We thank God for this gift he presented to us on this new year," (Ahmed Jibril, leader of the Syrian-backed faction Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine).

"God has enmity against those who divide my land. For any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, `No, this is mine,'" (Evangelist and 700 Club Founder Pat Robertson)
Permalink 2:34 PM

Lou Rawls

Lou Rawls died today of cancer. I'm not sure if Kyle remembers this, but when we were little, (too young to buy our own music), about the only popular records our family owned were, for some odd reason, an album by Leslie Uggams and another album by Lou Rawls. I loved his smooth, rich voice. I don't actually remember much about that album except that it contained this song:

You'll never find, as long as you live
Someone who loves you tender like I do
You'll never find, no matter where you search
Someone who cares about you the way I do

Whoa, I'm not braggin' on myself, baby
But I'm the one who loves you
And there's no one else, no-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh one else

You'll never find, it'll take the end of all time
Someone to understand you like I do
You'll never find the rhythm, the rhyme
All the magic we shared, just us two

Whoa, I'm not tryin' to make you stay, baby
But I know some how, some day, some way
You are (you're gonna miss my lovin')
You're gonna miss my lovin' (you're gonna miss my lovin')
You're gonna miss my lovin' (you're gonna miss my lovin')
You're gonna miss, you're gonna miss my lo-o-ove

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh (you're gonna miss my lovin')
Late in the midnight hour, baby (you're gonna miss my lovin')
When it's cold outside (you're gonna miss my lovin')
You're gonna miss, you're gonna miss my lo-o-ove

You'll never find another love like mine
Someone who needs you like I do
You'll never see what you've found in me
You'll keep searching and searching your whole life through
Whoa, I don't wish you no bad luck, baby
But there's no ifs and buts or maybes

You're gonna, You're gonna miss (miss my lovin')
You're gonna miss my lovin' (you're gonna miss my lovin')
I know you're gonna my lovin' (you're gonna miss my lovin')
You're gonna miss, you're gonna miss my lo-o-ove

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh (you're gonna miss my lovin')
Late in the midnight hour, baby (you're gonna miss my lovin')
When it gets real cold outside (you're gonna miss my lovin')
I know, I know that you are gonna miss my lo-o-ove

Let me tell you that you're gonna miss my lovin'
Yes you will, baby (you're gonna miss my lovin')
When I'm long gon
I know, I know, I know that you are gonna miss
Permalink 11:34 AM

Iraq War: That's a Lot of Money

In Talking Points Memo Cafe,
Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes plan to present this week a paper estimating the cost of the Iraq War at between $1-2 trillion. This is far higher than earlier estimates of $100-200 billion.
My handy-dandy built-in Windows calculator accessory says that works out to about $30,000 per Iraqi. I've often wondered about whether it would work for the US to just dissolve the military and instead to bribe countries into doing what we want. We could have offered Saddam Hussein $2 billion to step down, offered each high-level member of the Baath party $1 million to quietly get out of Iraq, and still had enough money left over to bribe all the Sunnis in Iraq to peacefully support a new government.
Permalink 10:37 AM

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Iranian Nukes and the CIA

Please tell me this story isn't true...

Via Mercury Rising (in Avedon Carol's comments)

In The LA Times,
WASHINGTON — In a clumsy effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear program, the CIA in 2004 intentionally handed Tehran some top-secret bomb designs laced with a hidden flaw that U.S. officials hoped would doom any weapon made from them, according to a new book about the U.S. intelligence agency.

But the Iranians were tipped to the scheme by the Russian defector hired by the CIA to deliver the plans and may have gleaned scientific information useful for designing a bomb, writes New York Times reporter James Risen in "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."
Could this possibly be true? Is the CIA really this stupid?
Permalink 2:29 PM

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Gratuitous, Mean-spirited Post

Will Collier of VodkaPundit writes:

Just for the record, I've got nothing at all against the new Pope.

But I dare you to look at this picture and not imagine him saying, "Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side!"
Permalink 12:24 PM