mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

November 14, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s apparently petroleum week here at L-HC. The previous post tackled the subject of researchers innovating to produce practical biomass (as opposed to the wrong-headed impractical but politically potent corn) ethanol as a petroleum substitute. Now, a look at U.S. oil policy itself.

It’s just downright amazing how much smarter Thomas L. Friedman has become since the NYTimes no longer charges to read him on line. 😉

Today, he tells some truths, and challenges the presidential candidates to do the same, regarding our treasonable dependence on OPEC petroleum.

thomaslfriedman

In the wake of 9/11, some of us pleaded for a “patriot tax” on gasoline of $1 or more a gallon to diminish the transfers of wealth we were making to the very countries who were indirectly financing the ideologies of intolerance that were killing Americans and in order to spur innovation in energy efficiency by U.S. manufacturers.

But no, George Bush and Dick Cheney had a better idea. And the Democrats went along for the ride. They were all going to let the market work and not let our government shape that market — like OPEC does.

So, we all understand by now why George III and his evil puppeteer took the horrible course they’ve chosen, and taken us along for this devastating six-year and counting ride.

But Friedman has a legitimate point: why have the “loyal opposition” not pushed for a tax at the pump?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda – New York Times

One has to love the proposed debate Friedman sketches for us.

His tax finances people who hate us. Mine would offset some of our payroll taxes, pay down our deficit, strengthen our dollar, stimulate energy efficiency and shore up Social Security. It’s called win-win-win-win-win for America. My opponent’s strategy is sit back, let the market work and watch America lose-lose-lose-lose-lose.” If you can’t win that debate, you don’t belong in politics.

And one has to admit that none of the serious candidates (i.e., candidates one can take seriously — sorry Dennis!) possess the steel to conduct such a debate. Not in Iowa, where present policy is just fine by the corn farmers. Not in New Hampshire where taxes are probably synonymous with Satan.

President Bush squandered a historic opportunity to put America on a radically different energy course after 9/11. But considering how few Democrats or Republicans are ready to tell the people the truth on this issue, maybe we have the president we deserve. I refuse to believe that, but I’m starting to doubt myself.

The war, $100/barrel oil — it’s all so wrong. January 20, 2009 can’t come soon enough, but if our petroleum policy stays hostage to the oil guys, the domestic automobile manufacturers and the corn farmers, all of whom are perfectly satisfied with the status quo, we’ll remain in desperate straits.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm141: More false optimism on the Iraq war

September 13, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

So it’s MUDGE‘s hometown paper, the oh so conservative Chicago Tribune.

So, Steve Chapman, also of Reason magazine, is on its editorial board.

So, it’s not your father’s (or grandfather’s or great-great-great-grandfather’s Tribune.

chitrib

Petraeus the latest general with rose-colored glasses

Steve Chapman

September 13, 2007

Gen. David Petraeus says the Iraq war is going well, and I believe him. I believe him the way I believe the coach of a perennial football doormat who, every August, assures fans he expects a winning season. Coaches don’t get paid to admit they’re bound to lose, and generals who are tasked with military missions don’t get paid to announce that they can’t get the job done.

Petraeus is, by all accounts, an experienced, capable and intelligent commander. So when he says that “the security situation in Iraq is improving,” the natural impulse is to trust his battle-seasoned judgment. The Bush administration encourages this notion by suggesting that the opinions of military commanders are the only sound guide to policy.

But if high-ranking military officers are a good barometer of the future, I have a question: Where are the generals who told Americans when things were about to get worse in Iraq, as they have over and over? Which of them warned that insurgent attacks would steadily proliferate in 2005, after elections that were supposed to quell violence? What guy with stars on his shoulders forecast that Iraqi civilian deaths would double over the course of 2006?

Who told us that last year’s military strategy of “clear and hold” would fail — as even the administration admitted afterward that it had? Who predicted that the average number of Americans killed each month this year would be 34 percent higher than last year?

Not the top brass, which has consistently taken an optimistic public stance since the beginning. In November 2003, Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, said achieving victory would require hard work but said “it will be done.” In November 2004, Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler said we had “broken the back of the insurgency.” In March 2006, Abizaid assured us, “We are winning.” Three years ago, Petraeus himself said that “18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress.”

But of course, there’s been no progress, except for Halliburton, and maybe the outfit that supplies the Pentagon with body bags and the guys who furnish Walter Reed with prosthetics. Their business is, I’m sure, over the top.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

More false optimism on the Iraq war — chicagotribune.com

This week’s championship level performances by Petraeus and Crocker fooled very few — except for 535 of our finest citizens who were elected to represent the 300million of us who count on them to get to the truth.

If confident predictions by generals could be taken as gospel, this war would have been over long ago. But the totality of evidence gives no more reason to think we will do any better in the future than in the past. Given the choice, it’s better to have commanders who believe they can overcome any adversity than commanders who are easily discouraged. But sometimes, as we have learned repeatedly in Iraq, optimism is just another word for self-delusion.

Steve Chapman, from his right-of-center point of view, has no trouble seeing through the cock-eyed optimism.

It’s not just the knee-jerk peace-niks who want our young people home. Establishment type Tribune writers want that too.

Saw a bumper sticker the other day:

January 20, 2009

Bush’s last day

Congress, do the American people, especially its courageous women and men combatants, have to wait that long?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm138: Tired and Disgusted, Stop the Lies!

September 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Poking around this evening, looking for some perspective on this day in recent history, as well as the 2nd day of the Congressional hearings on the Iraq war.

Faithful reader may recall seeing our anticipatory post the other day.

Found this fiery analysis:

smirkingchimp

by Timothy Gatto | Sep 11 2007 – 3:26pm |

Today is September 11th, 2007, and we have finally heard from “The General” on the situation in Iraq. Let me be the first to thank him, before yesterday I thought we were just treading water, now thankfully, I know that the forces of “good” and the soldiers of “Christ” are actually winning this confrontation with the forces of evil. I am so glad that I took time from my busy day to hear his report. I can now hold my head high, for now I understand, thanks to General Petraeus, where we are headed in our “Global War on Terrorism”; we are “turning the corner” and with that statement, I would just like to comment on this fact. The truth is, we have turned the corner so many times, we are precisely at the point at which we took up this journey, the corner is familiar and I realize that beyond this corner is another, and beyond that another


The other shoe fell, and we did not learn anything new.

The time for “listening” is rapidly coming to a close. The American People have been listening to this administration and we have heard nothing except misinformation and propaganda. The very same lies that the government told during the Vietnam War are being told today. The same results that we achieved in Vietnam will no doubt be echoed in Iraq. The very idea that you can win an “occupation” of another nation is the question here, not the question of whether or not we can defeat an “insurgency”. The fact remains that if we don’t ask the right questions, or if we don’t face the truth about what we are really doing in Iraq, we can’t possibly expect a favorable outcome, especially if we can’t even decide what it is that we seek.

Check out the balance of Gatto’s argument:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Tired and Disgusted, Stop the Lies! – The Smirking Chimp

What grabbed me was this challenge:

Americans can accept that we have no voice as to what is being done in our name, or we can stop blindly accepting authority and stand for what we believe. We can link arms and stand our ground, or be swept away like so many in history before us. We can argue about the correct way to demonstrate and oppose what our government is doing until our voices are permanently silenced, or we can put away the semantics of dissent and do whatever it takes to get the truth to the American people.

I looked back on a story we clipped from mid-July, a story from the Fox News watching heart of this country:

“I don’t know that you can win,” she said of the chances of victory in Iraq. “But if you can’t accomplish what you need to accomplish, get them out of there. There’s been enough. One is too many.”

What’s it going to take to galvanize this country to make the changes that must be made?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm134: The DC Establishment versus American public opinion – Glenn Greenwald

September 9, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

As we post Sunday afternoon, the week upcoming seems to have the potential to be a watershed in U.S.A. politics, perhaps even history.

For this is the week that General Petraeus testifies to Congress regarding the state of the surge.

Here’s an interesting take on what should be obvious by now: the perception of the executive and legislative branches regarding the conduct of the war has never been more antithetical to what U.S. citizens believe.

greenwald

The DC Establishment versus American public opinion

The Washington Establishment has spent the last several months glorifying Gen. David Petraeus, imposing the consensus that The Surge is Succeeding, and most importantly of all, ensuring that President Bush will not be compelled to withdraw troops from Iraq for the remainder of his presidency. The P.R. campaign to persuade the country that the Surge is Succeeding has been as intense and potent as any P.R. campaign since the one that justified the invasion itself. While this campaign has worked wonders with our gullible media stars and Democratic Congressional leadership, it has failed completely with the American people.

Ever since the Surge was announced (and allowed) back in January, Conventional Beltway Media Wisdom continuously insisted that September was going to be the Dramatic Month of Reckoning, when droves of fair-minded and election-fearing Republicans finally abandoned the President and compelled an end to the war. But the opposite has occurred.

The newly elected Democratic Congress, elected to make changes, instead drank the Kool-Aid:

Democratic Congressional leaders — due either to illusory fears of political repercussions and/or a desire that the war continue — seem more supportive than ever of the ongoing occupation (or at least more unwilling than ever to stop it). They are going to do nothing to mandate meaningful troop withdrawal. Most Republicans are hiding behind the shiny badges of Gen. Petraeus and his typically sunny claims about Progress in Iraq, and they, too, are as unified as ever that we cannot end our occupation.

The American people have been paying attention all these months, while Washington has been living in its own insulated bubble.

But what is notable about all of this, if not surprising as well, is that the overwhelming majority of the American people now harbor such intense distrust towards our political and media elite that they are virtually immune to any of these tactics. Several polls over the past month have revealed that most Americans do not trust Gen. Petraeus to give an accurate report about Iraq. And a newly released, comprehensive Washington Post-ABC News poll today starkly illustrates just how wide the gap is between American public opinion and the behavior of our political establishment.

In fact,

More significantly still, overwhelming numbers of Americans understand what the D.C. Establishment refuses to accept: namely, that even if there are marginal and isolated security improvements, there is still no point in continuing to stay in Iraq. Large majorities want the number of U.S. troops in Iraq decreased (58-39%); believe overwhelmingly that a decrease should begin “right away,” rather than by the end of the year or next year (62-33%); and favor legislation now to compel troop withdrawal by the spring (55-41%).

Okay, go ahead and read, including Greenwald’s update, which notes that he was writing about this dichotomy between government and its citizens in May:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Glenn Greenwald – Political Blogs and Opinions – Salon

We’re being beat up on all fronts (the economy, real estate, our mortgages, our kids’ toys).

But, despite all of the distractions (and a paranoid person might start to wonder…), the public seems to be more intelligent than its “leaders.”

In one sense, it is quite unhealthy in a democracy for such a large majority of Americans to so distrust the political and media establishment that they even believe in advance that war reports from our leading General will be nothing more than self-serving and misleading propaganda. But in another, more important sense, when a democracy’s political establishment becomes as rotted and deceitful and corrupt as ours has become — enabling the most unpopular President in modern American history to continue what is so blatantly a senseless war for years and years, in complete defiance of what Americans want — the one encouraging sign is that a majority realizes how corrupt our establishment is and has stopped believing anything they say.

General P, Monday most of us real people will be holding our fingers in our ears and saying “la la la.”

We’ve seen through the propaganda.

People, call your Senators! Email your Representatives!

Let’s get real.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

__________________________________________

Football is back!

What does that have to do with this post?

Nothing, of course. This is a serious post regarding a critically serious issue.

Everything. Because MUDGE finds himself seriously distracted during football season.

Especially during the weekend, when the college and professional games are played.

But, we’ll rally. So to speak. We may discuss football in a future post.

Or maybe not. Not an expert by any means. Just a fan of the game. And, by fan, I’m not implying anything about fantasy football. Which has nothing to do with being a fan, and everything to do with gaming, or gambling, neither of which this writer is into whatsoever.

Unless we’re talking poker. Also a future post?

It’s really it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm127: Sunni Rule Again in Iraq? – Early Warning

September 4, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The always dead-on military analyst, William Arkin of the Washington Post has this to say regarding George III’s sudden visit to Iraq on Monday.

arkinearlywarning
Posted at 08:17 AM ET, 09/ 4/2007

President Bush’s surprise eight-hour visit to Iraq yesterday will be read by many Iraqis, and by many others in the Islamic world, as part of a great conspiracy. The conspiracy’s goal? To create an American-Sunni alliance, restore the Sunni minority to power and suppress the Shiite majority.

No one doubts that the intended audience of Bush’s photo op was Congress and the American public. But, as has been typical of Washington’s initiatives in Iraq from Day One, perceptions of the visit — by the Iraqi people and by our potential adversaries — was ignored.

Interesting isn’t it how the president stayed out of Baghdad, in favor of a Sunni stronghold?

For weeks, the administration and the military have been pointing to Anbar as a success. Local Sunni tribal leaders have broken with al-Qaeda in Iraq, the argument goes, throwing in their lot with the United States. The U.S. has responded by arming and training Sunni militias and freelancers. Oh, if the rest of the country could just follow suit, the United States could leave a safe and stable country. (Put aside for a moment what happened to the Iraqi Army and police force in this process. At this point, the United States is clearly ready to accept progress from whatever quarter it can get it.)

So, the U.S. didn’t have a quarrel with all Sunnis, just the one? What an unsettling symbolic visit for anyone who cares about Iraq’s future as a democracy, and for long-term stability in the region. Read on:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Sunni Rule Again in Iraq? – Early Warning

And whether we civilians are thinking on it or not, the endgame seems to be war with Iran.

Anyone else find this disturbing?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm126: Iraq = Vietnam – Compare with Care

September 3, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

We and the world tackled this topic last weekend, but the NYTimes had something useful to say last Friday:

nytimes

AS the nations of Europe leapt to arms in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson’s mind turned to President James Madison and the war with England in 1812.

“Madison and I are the only two Princeton men who have become president,” Wilson observed ominously in a letter, noting that tensions with Great Britain over its naval blockage of Germany recalled earlier disputes with England about freedom of the seas. “The circumstances of the War of 1812 and now run parallel. I sincerely hope they will not go further.”

His fears were unfounded. Great Britain became an ally in World War I, Wilson’s alma mater notwithstanding. But his knack for reading — or misreading — historical parallels hardly stands out in the annals of American presidents and public officials.

President Bush sent historians scurrying toward their keyboards last week when he defended the United States occupation of Iraq by arguing that the pullout from Vietnam had led to the rise of the genocidal Khmer Rouge in neighboring Cambodia. His speech was rhetorical jujitsu, an attempt to throw back at his critics their favorite historical analogy — Vietnam — for the Iraq war. His argument aroused considerable skepticism from historians and political scientists, who note that the United States’ military action in Vietnam was among the factors that destabilized Cambodia. But Mr. Bush’s statement also revived a perennial question. Whenever a public officials starts to say “the lesson of,” is that a cue to stop listening?

The Times references some interesting parallels: the Cuban missile crisis of 1963 (Kennedy denied his advisors’ attempts to justify bombing Cuba by comparing the crisis to the pre-WWII Munich appeasement) is their most interesting example of attempts to find historical parallels where none exist. Take a look:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

War – History – Iraq – Vietnam – Korea – War of 1812 – New York Times

It’s common to attempt to understand complex situations by making associations to (hopefully) understood events of the past.

But those historic events themselves were of course complex, in the case of Vietnam/Cambodia probably still incompletely understood (after all, who ended with command of the battlefields?) and should resist a simplified reduction. However,

“People alight on the likeness with an event in the past, and it helps them to understand something when they can associate it with something familiar,” Professor May said in an interview.

The key of course is whether the comparison is apt. Just can’t give the Bush administration credit for considered reflection, unless the reflection is about how to award more spoils to their Halliburtons.

Wisdomquotes.com tells me that George Bernard Shaw said, “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.” Even that concept seems beyond the capability of the intellectually bankrupt administration of our very own George III.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm116: Lies, Lies, and More Lies, in History-Illiterate America – The Smirking Chimp

August 26, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

There have been a number of refutations of George III’s infamous Iraq/Vietnam comparison statement of this week. Here’s an excellent one:

smirkingchimp

by Larry Beinhart | Aug 25 2007 – 7:44pm |

George Bush — and other Iraq War supporters — have argued that if we withdraw from Iraq the result will be like the slaughters — the killing fields -in Cambodia.

Here are the facts:

  • The killing fields were real. The genocide against their own people was committed by the Khmer Rouge.
  • The Vietnamese — the Communist Vietnamese — were the people who went in and put a stop to it.
  • The United States then supported the Khmer Rouge.

MUDGE isn’t doctrinaire about history. He won’t trot out George Santayana (yeah, okay, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”).

On the other hand, the world isn’t some Magic Slate, wiped clean every night, starting afresh every day, sparkling and new.

Some middle ground is preferred between codgerdom (we who remember everything, just before we start to forget everything) and Gen Y, who seemingly haven’t bothered to learn anything outside the narrow confines of MySpace and YouTube.

So take a look at the rest of this cogent posting:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Lies, Lies, and More Lies, in History-Illiterate America – The Smirking Chimp

The old analogy of ships of state is an apt one. The USA sails through history, accumulating barnacles which slow it down and inertia and ponderousness cause it to stay on a course way longer than necessary or advisable.

And, the generals are fighting the last war (albeit as we heard again from the White House this week with very selective memories).

The result, as we all can see, is that change comes rarely, if at all. War is still prosecuted for the same (often obscure or selfish) reasons; the face of the enemy changes, but that’s a detail.

What the generals have not yet worked out is a successful solution to the conundrum of asymmetric warfare.

Mentioned this in a comment over at Monte Asbury’s Blog (a new regular read, courtesy of A View from the Bridge at ClapSotronics): all of our accumulated $trillions of military spending did not protect us from 19 guys with airline tickets. The $trillions don’t protect Iraqi civilians nor our courageous but under-protected troops from Saudis with a clunker and some plastic explosive.

Vietnam was one of the first indicators that asymmetric warfare was a tougher challenge than the generals and their political masters had ever before faced.

Our vaunted economic might, capable of purchasing the most advanced technology and putting it and manpower in overwhelming numbers into the field, a formula that worked so well in the period roughly corresponding to the Industrial Revolution in North America (i.e., 1830-1950, Mexican Wars through WWII), didn’t protect us from a determined enemy in pajamas (albeit with powerful friends — of course, think of France’s role in our own Revolutionary War).

Have the generals and admirals and the politicians learned from this? Not well enough.

And of course the incredible irony is, that the White House finally agrees with the Cindy Sheehan and the kneejerk peaceniks: Iraq = Vietnam.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE