Friday, December 22, 2006

US Allocates $0.5Trillion for Cancer Research

We're approaching one half of a Trillion dollars in war expenditures between Iraq and Afghanistan.

What have we gotten for our money?

- No Bin Laden (Wasn't he the start of this whole exercise?)
- Saddam Houssein, who arguably was the *last* person we should have caught, given how a now-failed Iraq has opened the door wide open to a Iran hedgemony of the entire region. W is no doubt soon to be elected Iran's MVP.

What could we have accomplished if we'd invested One Half of a Trillion dollars in cancer research?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Luckovich: Bush War Slogan Memorial

Mike Luckovich has a great summary of Bush's war campaign:

Shock & Awe
Mission Accomplished
Bring 'Em On!
Making' Good Progress
As the Iraqis Stand Up, We'll Stand Down
Fight 'Em There, Not Here
We Must Not Waver
A Free and Democratic Iraq
Stay the Course
Central Front In the War On Terror
We'll Succeed Unless We Quit
We're Winning
Complete the Mission
New Way Forward

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Glories of Unregulated Markets

The next time some nutcase starts blathering on about how Capitalism should be unfettered and unregulated, ask them how much spam is currently sitting in their inbox.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Democratic Control of Senate Teeters by Johnson

Sen. Johnon just fainted on the hill. Might be a stroke. His Republican governor will surely replace him with a Republican nominee should he be unable to fullfill his duties, thus throwing the Senate back to Republicans.

Hmm... wonder if Polonium is involved?

From TPM:
An update on Sen. Johnson's (D-SD) condition form the Argus-Leader, the major South Dakota paper.

Here's WaPo's update.

A number of you have written in to note, correctly, that control of the senate hinges on Sen. Johnson's ability to serve in the 110th Congress. Were he unable to do so, South Dakota's Republican governor would appoint a Republican and control would go to the Republicans -- a 50 - 50 tie with the tie break from Cheney. That's all we're going to say about that point until we get some definitive word on Johnson's condition.

If we hear more on the senator's condition, we'll bring it to you.

Late Update: The only available information that sheds any light on Johnson's condition is contained in these three grafs from MSNBC ...

Johnson became disoriented during a call with reporters at midday, stuttering in response to a question. He appeared to recover, asking if there were any additional questions before ending the call.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Krugman: Outsourcer in Cheif

Outsourcer in Chief, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times:
According to U.S. News & World Report, President Bush has told aides that he won’t respond in detail to the Iraq Study Group’s report because he doesn’t want to “outsource” the role of commander in chief.

That’s pretty ironic. You see, outsourcing of the government’s responsibilities — not to panels of supposed wise men, but to private companies with the right connections — has been one of the hallmarks of his administration. And privatization through outsourcing is one reason the administration has failed on so many fronts.

For example, ... Saturday’s New York Times describes how the Coast Guard has run a $17 billion modernization program: “Instead of managing the project itself, the Coast Guard hired Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman ... to plan, supervise and deliver the new vessels...” The result? Expensive ships that aren’t seaworthy. ...

In Afghanistan, the job of training a new police force was outsourced to DynCorp International ... under very loose supervision: ... auditors couldn’t even find a copy of DynCorp’s contract... And $1.1 billion later, Afghanistan still doesn’t have an effective police training program.

In July 2004, Government Executive magazine published an article titled “Outsourcing Iraq,” documenting how the U.S. occupation authorities had transferred responsibility for reconstruction to private contractors, with hardly any oversight. ... We all know how that turned out.

On the home front, the Bush administration outsourced many responsibilities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. For example, the job of evacuating people from disaster areas was given to a trucking logistics firm, Landstar Express America. When Hurricane Katrina struck, Landstar didn’t even know where to get buses. ...

It’s now clear that there’s a fundamental error in the antigovernment ideology embraced by today’s conservative movement. Conservatives look at the virtues of market competition and leap to the conclusion that private ownership, in itself, is some kind of magic elixir. But there’s no reason to assume that a private company hired to perform a public service will do better than people employed directly by the government.

In fact, the private company will almost surely do a worse job if its political connections insulate it from accountability — which has, of course, consistently been the case under Mr. Bush. ...

Underlying this lack of accountability are the real motives for turning government functions over to private companies, which have little to do with efficiency. To say the obvious: when you see a story about failed outsourcing, you can be sure that the company in question is ... run by people with strong G.O.P. connections...

The failure of privatization under the Bush administration offers a target-rich environment to newly empowered Congressional Democrats — and I say, let the subpoenas fly. Bear in mind that we’re not talking just about wasted money: contracting failures in Iraq helped us lose one war, similar failures in Afghanistan may help us lose another, and FEMA’s failures helped us lose a great American city.

And maybe, just maybe, the abject failure of this administration’s efforts to outsource essential functions to the private sector will diminish the antigovernment prejudice created by decades of right-wing propaganda.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How Could Anyone Have Predicted This?

Apparently only 49.9% of the American voting public saw this one coming:

"Mr. Bush, Reality on line 3..."


Panel: Bush's Iraq policies have failed

By ANNE PLUMMER FLAHERTY and DAVID ESPO, Associated Press Writers1 hour, 9 minutes ago

President Bush's war policies have failed in almost every regard, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group concluded Wednesday, and it warned of dwindling chances to change course before crisis turns to chaos with dire implications for terrorism, war in the Middle East and higher oil prices around the world.

Nearly four years, $400 billion and more than 2,900 U.S. deaths into a deeply unpopular war, violence is bad and getting worse, there is no guarantee of success and the consequences of failure are great, the high-level panel of five Republicans and five Democrats said in a bleak accounting of U.S. and Iraqi shortcomings.

It said the United States should find ways to pull back most of its combat forces by early 2008 and focus U.S. troops on training and supporting Iraqi units. The U.S. should also begin a "diplomatic offensive" by the end of the month and engage adversaries Iran and Syria in an effort to quell sectarian violence and shore up the fragile Iraqi government, the report said.

It followed by a day the sobering appraisal of Robert Gates, who was confirmed Wednesday as Bush's new Pentagon chief, that the United States is not winning in Iraq.

"Despite a massive effort, stability in Iraq remains elusive and the situation is deteriorating," the independent report said. "The ability of the United States to shape outcomes is diminishing. Time is running out."

The group's recommendations do not endorse either the current White House strategy of staying put in Iraq or calls from Bush's political opponents for a quick pullout or a firm timetable for withdrawal.

"The report is an acknowledgment that there will be no military solution in Iraq. It will require a political solution arrived at through sustained Iraqi and region-wide diplomacy and engagement," said Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record), R-Neb.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats said the ball is in Bush's court.

"If the president is serious about the need for change in Iraq, he will find Democrats ready to work with him in a bipartisan fashion to find a way to end the war as quickly as possible," Pelosi said.

The Iraq panel's leaders said they tried to avoid politically charged language such as "victory," on the one hand or "civil war" on the other, but the words they chose were still powerful. The report says the current strategy is not working and lays out example after example where it has come up short.

As if to underscore that the conflict is hurtling out of control, the military reported that 10 American troops were killed Wednesday, adding to the toll of U.S. forces who have died since the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in early 2003. The United States has about 140,000 troops in the country.

"We do not recommend a stay-the-course solution," said James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Bush family adviser who co-chaired the commission. "In our opinion, that approach is no longer viable."

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., the other co-chairman, said the commission agreed with Bush's goal of an Iraq able to govern, protect and sustain itself but that the administration needed new approaches.

"No course of action in Iraq is guaranteed to stop a slide toward chaos," Hamilton said. "Yet, in our view, not all options have been exhausted."

The report has been widely seen as an opportunity for Bush to pivot from policies blamed in large part for Republican losses in midterm elections last month. Bush praised the group's work, but gave no hint of his next move. He said he would give the findings a hard look and urged Congress to do the same.

"This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq," Bush said after an early morning briefing from the group of five Republican and five Democratic former government officials and advisers. "It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion."

Bush met later with members of Congress from both political parties and said he wanted to cooperate to "send a message to the American people that the struggle for freedom, the struggle for our security is not the purview of one party over the other."

The commission also briefed members of the Iraqi government by teleconference, and one official there agreed that Iraqis must take responsibility for their own security. "Absolute dependence on foreign troops is not possible," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh.

Among its 79 recommendations, the group said the United States should reduce political, military or economic support for Iraq if the government in Baghdad cannot make substantial progress. The report said Iraqi leaders have failed to deliver better security or political compromises that would reduce violence, and it implied that a four-month joint U.S.-Iraqi military campaign to reduce violence in Baghdad is hopeless.

"Because none of the operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi military forces are fundamentally changing the conditions encouraging the sectarian violence, U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end," the report said.

That was a withering evaluation of a central tenet of the Bush military strategy in Iraq. In Baghdad and elsewhere, U.S. forces are supposed to help Iraqi units "clear, hold and build," shorthand for routing insurgents or other fighters from problem areas, securing those areas from further violence and setting a positive future course.

On the highly emotional issue of troop withdrawals, the commission warned against either a precipitous pullback or an open-ended commitment to a large deployment.

"Military priorities must change," the report said, toward a goal of training, equipping and advising Iraqi forces.

The report said Bush should put aside misgivings and engage Syria, Iran and the leaders of insurgent forces in negotiations on Iraq's future, to begin by year's end. It urged him to revive efforts at a broader Middle East peace.

The report laid out consequences from bad to worse, including the threat of wider war in the Middle East and reduced oil production that would hurt the global economy.

In a slap at the Pentagon, the commission said there is significant underreporting of the actual level of violence in Iraq. It also faulted the U.S. intelligence effort, saying the government "still does not understand very well either the insurgency in Iraq or the role of the militias."

The commission recommended the number of U.S. troops embedded to train Iraqis should increase dramatically, from 3,000 to 4,000 currently to 10,000 to 20,000. Commission member William Perry, defense secretary in the Clinton administration, said those could be drawn from combat brigades already in Iraq.

The report noted that Iraq costs run about $8 billion a month and that the bills will keep coming. "Caring for veterans and replacing lost equipment will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars," the commission said. "Estimates run as high as $2 trillion for the final cost of the U.S. involvement in Iraq."


On the Net:

The Iraq Study Group report is available at: