The Talking Dog

November 30, 2005, Prez: Let Operation Cut and Walk Commence

In a scripted speech given at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, on the subject of Iraq, the President confirmed that the United States will be withdrawing troops from Iraq to bring the number to 99,000 or less (100,000 being the magic "too many") not less than 30 days before next November's all-important Congressional mid-term elections. Of course the President promised there would be no artificial timetables for withdrawal; that's why the timetable he laid out will be organic: naturally tied to the American political election cycle.

As usual, the expected babble-crap that oozed from the President's lips ("We will stay the course!" "We will not cut and run!" "Dissent is treason!" "War is peace!" "Ignorance is strength!" "Freedom is slavery!") drew polite applause from the assembled captive midshipmen. (The underclassmen, at least, have some hope that the President will be out of office by the time they graduate; the upper classmen, of course, expect to have no such luck.)

The fact of the matter is we have long ago achieved the officially stated pre-war goals (disarm Saddam's Iraq, effect regime change, establish a democratic government, and maintain Saudi oil hegemony within OPEC by keeping Iraqi oil offline by completely undermining any sense of civil order within Iraq's borders and by opening its borders to terrorists). The fact is, then, that we really have achieved the purportedly limited goals we set out to. The problem, of course, is that the supergeniuses who assumed we would be welcomed with flowers failed to comprehend that what we were, in fact, doing was creating a likely power vacuum in a very nasty part of the world. Worse... we were creating hundreds of thousands of blood grudges in a revenge-based society... a society where everyone was armed before we started... where we brilliantly made one of our first acts to fire thousands of soldiers and Iraqi civil servants out of some misguided ideology (and desire to... get this... save money.) So... we have opened up a big can of whoopass...

"The enemy"... mostly almost entirely former Baathists... will happily wait us out... or more likely, try to extend the status quo ad infinitum if they can. They know bloody well that once American forces leave, they will have to take on (Iranian-backed) Shiites seeking payback (the Shia death squads have already started; former Ambassador Negroponte has got to be proud) in an all out civil war ... even at the risk of knowing that there will be a likely American response of carpet bombing urban areas, or shelling from offshore... with few if any soldiers and marines on the ground to act as targets anymore. So they have little to lose by keeping up their attacks... largely because it keeps us around... Most ironic and paradoxical: they know that continuing to attack American forces will likely lengthen our stay, as there remains (justifiable) fear of abandoning Iraq to the power vacuum (that we have created.) Let me repeat the irony here: by making life a living hell for American ground troops, and by forcing the right-wing to spout the "dissent is treason" line all over again ("we won't cut and run" and similar horse-s***), the Baathists know that they are extending our presence in Iraq (because it's simply not stable enough for us to leave.)

Is there a solution?

Of course there is! It's... an artificial timetable for withdrawal... nothing at all like the 30-35% troop reduction over the next ten months (that will actually happen) of course. Nothing like that at all. Because Amurrkins don't cut and run, no sirree.

NO. We'll be having some troop redeployments, of course. But only because now the Iraqi units are fully trained and are able to assume the duties of securing their country's future. Yes, that's the ticket.

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November 28, 2005, Payback's a bitch

So it would seem in Iraq, as evidence mounts that organized Iraqi military, mostly Shia units of the kind we are attaching the future of Iraqi security to, have been carrying out kidnappings and executions of Sunnis from Sunni neighborhoods.
This, of course, is the perceived pay-back for years of abuse of Shia at the hands of the Sunni dominated Baathist government (or perhaps, for other grudges of shorter or longer standing.)

These revelations emerge at the same time that the nascent Iraqi government attempts to try former Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein for various crimes against the Iraqi people. Indeed, the trial has been adjourned for a week so that the defense team of Saddam and other high Baathist government officials can replace defense counsel who were recently murdered.

Can Saddam Hussein (and his co-defendants) be afforded anything resembling a fair trial under these circumstances? Should Shia militiamen with a tendency to murder civilians be placed in charge of security in Iraq? These sorts of facts lead to questions that answer themselves in undesirable ways.

The resounding "NO" as the answer to both questions are for the same reason: Iraq is simply not ready for either event right now. Yes, of course it would be emotionally satisfying to give Saddam Hussein a kangaroo court, and then take him out and shoot him; he would afford any of us nothing better. Ah, but we're supposed to be better than he is. This is supposed to be the new Iraq. Which takes us to those military units that wantonly abuse Sunni civilians...

Right now, it just doesn't look like Iraq is ready for us to hand back full control to it. It's unfortunate that our military imperatives (we have stretched our manpower resources to an unsustainable level, and for that reason alone, must draw down to some degree) and, of course, our domestic political imperatives (36, 37% presidential approval polls less than a year before mid-term Congressional elections) mean... the Iraqis will soon get a lot more control over their own affairs...

OTOH, of course, Iraq will have its parliamentary elections in just two weeks or so; perhaps some kind of a consensus toward a national future can be reached then. Perhaps the Iraqis will sort out their differences, and Shia and Sunni (and Kurd) will figure out how to get along in the joint project of re-forming their own nation, and order can be restored, and a peaceful, prosperous Iraq, grateful to us for its liberation, can go forward into the new Middle East as a bright beacon of freedom and democracy.

Maybe. Certainly, all that would be a good thing... no, it would be a great thing. That's just not how you bet.

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November 27, 2005, Novak to testify before Plame grand jury

Bet you're thinking as I was that we were talking about Bob "Prince of Darkness and Karl Rove's best friend in the whole world who isn't named Bush" Novak. Ha! We're talking about Time's Viveca "No Relation" Novak.

It seems she was talking to Karl Rove's lawyer in the middle of 2004... Why? How the hell do I know? Presumably, that's one of the things that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will be asking.

We can't really tell where this investigation is heading, but for those of us still naiively clinging to notions of American justice, this at least means that Karl is sufficiently interesting to Fitz to keep asking questions about him. Or of course, he may intend to ask Ms. Novak something completely different, and of no relevance to Rove at all.

All we know for sure is that the Washington power establishment and press establishment are so hopelessly intertwined, and frequently in bed together (often literally), that the criminal justice system may prove to be the only avenue from which the people will learn the truth about the workings of their own government.

Well, at least we have blogs... otherwise, I suppose, people like me might actually chose to do something that might make a damned bit of difference in their ever-dwindling free time...

Hope springs eternal for a bloody red Fitzmas... but we probably no better. We know that Fitzmas will probably be as big a disappointment this time as all the other times... Looks like I picked a bad day to give up drinking...

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November 26, 2005, Harbin-ger of the future

This week's visit to Pravda gives us this account of a major toxic spill (estimated to be an astounding 100,000 tons) of RBS (really bad s***), including heavy concentrations of benzene, that has emptied into a river that forms the water supply for the large-ish Chinese city of Harbin (4-5 million, despite the Pravda account of 10 million)...

The spill is on its way to the Russian border, where it will, in turn, effect the water supplies in various Siberian locales, all complicated by the extreme cold freezing the river... the Russians may, it looks like, deal with this one better than the Chinese... for one thing, the Russians can blame the Chinese for causing this in the first place.

Once again, the Chinese government officials decided to do what they usually do when something bad happens: lie about it, and indeed, deny that there was anything wrong. It seems to have taken weeks before full details of the plant explosion hundreds of miles upstream of Harbin have come to light, and appropriate public notice gone out about avoiding the water. Obviously, local bureaucrats fear repercussions about having failed in the first place, so as usual, damage control efforts are hampered by... well, you know the rest.

Government officials reacting slowly and inappropriately, and then "spinning" if not outright lying about it, to the detriment of their constituents...

Glad that sort of thing only happens in China.

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November 25, 2005, Ooops...

Not much else to say about the evidently inadvertent release by an Iraqi guard of Abass Hussein Alwan al-Amry,
a suspected Iraqi bomb-maker
, indeed, among the first if not the first such "insurgent" bomb-maker linked to a roadside bomb by forensic evidence. Mistakes will be made... recall the accounts that 70-90% of those we held at Abu Ghraib were completely innocent of anything. Amidst this aggressive capture net, there follows a rapid-release effort... and, once in a while, if nothing more than a file-notation to the effect of "hold indefinitely-dangerous dude" is taken for the bad-ass prisoners... well, mistakes will happen. In that sense, this is nothing all that unusual: all human systems are not fool-proof, and dangerous prisoners are, on occasion, released unintentionally.

Still, in a world where the United States takes it upon itself to round up whomever it feels like with scant if any due process and then argue it can hold whomever it likes forever and do with whomever it likes whatever it likes... perhaps we should look at some examples of the omniscience of such a system, and whether it justifies the omnipotence the system claims for itself...

One might want to look at, say, the United States' own decision to release Nabil al-Narabh (to Syria no less) a terror suspect who had risen to 27th on our FBI's most wanted list.

Or, as I learned during my interview with Joshua Dratel, attorney for Guantaimo Bay detainee David Hicks, that one Mahmoud Habib, an Australian national suspected of being an Al Qaeda hand-to-hand combat instructor, and quite possibly an instructor for the 9-11 highjackers, was released to Australia, just ahead of his lawsuit challening his previous "rendition" to a friendly neighborhood cooperative nation for "interrogation" prior to his sojourn in Cuba.

One might, say, look at the big picture, and ask if, given all of these rather serious mistakes, if maybe we should, oh... ask some questions? Just asking...

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November 22, 2005, It's blockbuster day...

So much going on, I don't even know where to start...

Bruce the Veep, who has been hot, hot, hot of late, sends us this gem: a report that the President was informed by the CIA of no link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein... get this... ten days after the 9-11 attacks. In its usual counter-constitutional way, the Bush Administration has refused to share this report (a famous "PDB", or Presidential Daily Briefing) with the Senate Intelligence Committee... as Drudge would say... "developing"...

Meanwhile, the White House has dismissed reports that in 2004, British PM Tony Blair talked the President out of an intended bombing attack against the Al Jazeera broadcast network's headquarters in Doha, Qatar. It would certainly be consistent with the Bush Administration M.O.: Al Jazeera had the audacity to broadcast a view of events from Iraq that the Bush Administration wasn't happy with. Further, Al Jazeera operations in Iraq and Afghanistan had been the subject of American attacks (perhaps intended... perhaps not...) before. Of course, a plan to attack the only independent broadcast journalist in the Arab world, in the heart of the capital of one of our most important allies in the region (Qatar was a key staging area for the invasion of Iraq), would have been so ill-advised that maybe even the Bushmen would have thought better of it... Well, once again... developing...

And at last... a story near and dear not only to me (I have actually interviewed two of his lawyers...) but to all freedom and constitution loving Americans concerned with the President's purported authority to lock up citizens at his whim... it seems that the Government, a few days ahead of having to write a responsive brief to his petition for review to the U.S. Supreme Court, has decided to charge former "dirty bomb suspect" and "unlawful combatant" Jose Padilla with a variety of conspiracy counts in Miami of all places... Of course, while the Government will argue that holding a U.S. citizen in limbo in a military brig for over three years will be mooted by this sudden change of heart (both of Padilla's lawyers that I spoke to indicated that they were looking forward to the day their client was indicted!), it's up to the Supreme Court as to whether it will accept review, and if it does, whether it decides this is a live issue...

And I haven't even mentioned Israel's upcoming national elections in which wildman PM Sharon has bolted the Likud Party he helped found to form his own liberal/moderate party, one of the nation's largest private employers, General Motors, announces massive plant closings, which still won't save it money,
and Branjelina (that's Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) take their do-gooding act on the road to Pakistan earthquake victims, which, let's just say, is a tragic wasted opportunity to show the Moslem world (and the only country in the Moslem world confirmed to have nuclear weapons) that we are committed to aiding it in its hour of dire need... so if it takes Hollywood stars to call attention to it and maybe get those people some help... well, so be it...

But on the whole... all you can say is... what a day!!!

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November 21, 2005, Reprehensible cowards

One might suppose that would be Dick Cheney's answer to a group of over 100 Iraqi officials lawmakers who, at a pan-Arab conference in Cairo, demanded a timetable for the departure of all foreign troops from Iraq.

Gutless bastards. Damned cowards. Let's just let Mean Jean Schmidt deal with them, shall we?

Things do seem to be unravelling on that script. Honestly, if this "pullout timetable" talk persists for more than a few more days, it may make it really embarassing when the withdrawal plan that's on Rummy's desk gets implemented (lest the GOP lose one or both Houses of Congress in the '06 mid-terms by continuing to have their President offer no end in sight to a by-then- even- more-unpopular-war.)

It seems the President can't get back from his lackluster trip to Asia soon enough.

Damn. Can't anyone stay on message? We're tough! We will stay the course! We won't cut and run! We didn't get a harumph out of you!

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November 20, 2005, See Dick Run Torture Chambers

Former aide to former Secretary of State Larry Wilkerson has continued his irritating-to-the-Administration disclosures, by pointing out that "guidance" for our Defense Department's various methods of torture masquerading as "interrogation" originated in the office of the Vice-President (hat to tip to a recently peripatetic Bruce the Veep.)

While the likes of ignoramuses such as Lynndie England and Charles Graner are the poster-children for American torture, it is painfully obvious to all but the most dishonest knee-jerk supporters of the Bush Administration that the policies associated with... relaxing what had at one time been strict American standards for humane treatment of those our military captured during combat operations... originated at a somewhat higher pay grade than buck private or sergeant.... probably at, oh, at least, officer... or perhaps general officer... or perhaps cabinet secretary... or perhaps the White House.

Col. Wilkerson adds credence to the last one, and surprise, surprise, the Howling Harpy of Halliburton appears to be... as Stansfield Turner recently told us... the Vice-President in charge of torture. Unclear where all this is going, of course. It's unclear whether the feckless Bob Woodward will prove to be a Deus ex Machina for Scooter (and hence, Dick Dastardly) (btw, Bruce-- on fire he is-- sends us this from the Times of London establishing that Woodward's source is current NSC advisor (and yellowcake non-vetter vetter) Steven Hadley.

While such a revelation may or may not help Scooter, who will now argue, of course, that he might well have heard about Valerie Plame's secret agent status from "a journalist," i.e. Bob Woodward-Ho... why was Hadley telling Woodward, especially back when Hadley was Condi's number one aide?

That could take things right back to where they were before: Dick's lap. Worse, Junior himself may have some 'xplainin' to do.

Personally, I hope 5-Deferment Dick is suffering from all of this... anticipation.
Of course, I know better.

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November 19, 2005, Woodward Ho!

Yes, that's a pun... and a pretty good one, actually, to describe the new military-industrial-journomedia complex that has arisen since we permitted defense contractors to own broadcast networks, and Whoreporate America realized that reporting on the government was so much more effort than having access to high government officials and simply printing their prepared press releases as fact without further review.

Which takes us to this story in Time by one Viveca (no relation) Novak, about WaPo Assistant Managing Editor and reputed investigative journalist Bob Woodward's interaction with "his source" (which we can all guess was probably actually more than one source, i.e., Karl, Scooter and quite possibly Dick Dastardly himself). Look carefully at what the piece says: "the Source" gave explicit permission for Woodward to talk to the Special Prosecutor... but not to publish the story (I suppose, not to publish attribution of the story to "The Source").

Note Woodward's slimy self-serving interpretation: this meant he couldn't talk to anyone (including, seemingly, his own company's higher management and attorneys) or, of course, the Special Prosecutor, about a matter of national import in which he himself was in up to his tushy. So, even though Woodward had relevant information on one of the most important criminal investigations of the day, even though his employer was presumably under subpoena for the very information Woodward was holding back because "The Source" wouldn't wet poor Wobert pubwish it (boo hoo)... Woodward stood mute...

As our good buddy John Emerson suggests, we need an actual major liberal newspaper in this country.
Because if Judy Miller and Bob Woodward have just taught us, "even the liberal" New York Times and Washington Post... don't qualify.

But the hell with a liberal newspaper. We'll just take an honest news source. [Those of you who come here for such an honest news source are already ahead of the curve, but at 138 hits a day or thereabouts, and many of those from Google inquiries about sex with dogs, our "circulation"
is a little less than we would be hoping for a "national" newspaper or media source.]

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. But after his giving the current President fellatio to rival that received by the previous President, we all should have known better than to expect anything approaching honesty (or even "non-criminality") from Mr. Woodward. Fool us once...

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November 18, 2005, More tidings of the Fitzmas Season?

Hard to say; Special Traitorgate Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been remarkably good at keeping leaks to veritable non-existence... so there is no official explanation for his asking to convene a new federal grand jury.

We can safely assume that "Official A", otherwise known as "Karl Rove" may still be in legal jeopardy, as the investigation goes on. Of course, until such time as he becomes the second sitting White House official in 130 years to face indictment (the other being Irv Lewis "Scooter" Libby)...

Frankly, given other crap going down today, including a former CIA director lauding Dick Dastardly, America's "vice-president for torture", House Republicans were so freaked by the traction John Murtha was getting with his call for a six-month pullout that they've scheduled their own straw-man vote calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, all while Iraq itself was having a very, very bad day... make me think that Dick and Roy and Bill and the gang can't wait for the calming influence of the President himself to return to American shores.

Because the White House and their allies in Congress... are not having a good day.

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November 17, 2005, Gentlemen-- to the Swift-boats!

Thus would appear to be the cry of Republicans to save the honor of... the Republic... against a pansy-assed pussy shit bastard, decorated combat hero and career Marine and now Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania John Murtha, who, outrageously, called the Iraq war a failure and urged that all U.S. troops be brought home within six months. Just what is this guy thinking? Does he have no idea of the effect that this will have on White House staffers and the 101st Fighting Keyboarders? Fortunately, it looks the Swift-boaters are already mobilized, as Scott McLellan has already called Murtha, who as SecDef, Dick Cheney regarded as a key warmongering ally, "Nancy Pelosi's new Michael Moore". So take that, beeyutch.

Meanwhile... Vice President Dick Dastardly continues his daily tirades. It is just not good news when the President crosses the international date-line, and can only make miscues that are not for the appropriate news cycle, leaving America to actually have to see who its actual leader is. Not good; it might well explain why, as bad as the President's numbers have been, Dick's overnights are starting to approach those of General Zod.

Not to worry, Dick: the President will soon be back in town, and Bob Woodward seems committed to helping you keep your dirty little secrets... Et tu, Bob? It's all about access to the tough guys' table, isn't it? Tough guys like Vice-President Dick "5 Deferments" Dastardly...

What do I think of an independent press and the people's right to know? I think
they would be excellent ideas...

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November 16, 2005, 83,000 foreigners can't all be wrong...

Well, let's not go there; that appears to be around the total number of foreign nationals detained by the United States (officially, that is) in various aspects of the "war on terror", according to this Grey Lady report. Very few of the detainees, by number at least, appear to be detained for the years and years that detainees have been held in, say, Guantanimo Bay, Cuba.

Perhaps many of the detainees have actual intelligence value; or perhaps few or none do. That's just it: we have no idea.

And remember: these are the above-board, official detainees, rather than the invisible "ghost" prisoners that the CIA is having fun with... somewhere.

We don't know. In some sense, how are we going to get any useful information if we don't pick up people and interrogate them? OTOH, if we violate local, international and American law in the process...

Well, never mind. As Drudge would say... developing...

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November 13, 2005, "I was wrong"

Without further explanation, let me reprint an e-mail I received this morning from former senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards:

Dear Seth,

I was wrong.

I wrote these words about my vote to authorize the Iraq war in a Washington Post op-ed piece and I want to share my views with you as well.

Almost three years ago, we went into Iraq to remove what we were told -- and many of us believed and argued -- was a threat to America. But in fact we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.

It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a very dear price. It is not right, just or fair that we made a mistake, but they pay for that mistake.

The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.

While we can't change the past, we need to accept responsibility because a key part of restoring America's moral leadership is acknowledging when we've made mistakes or been proven wrong -- and to show that we have the creativity and guts to make it right.

The argument for going to war with Iraq was based on intelligence that we now know was inaccurate. The information the American people were hearing from the President -- and that I was being told by our intelligence community -- wasn't the whole story. Had I known this at the time, I never would have voted for this war.

George Bush won't accept responsibility for his mistakes. Along with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, he has made horrible mistakes at almost every step: twisting intelligence to fit their pre-conceived views about Iraq's threat; failed diplomacy; not going in with enough troops; not giving our forces the equipment they need; not having a plan for peace.

Because of these failures, Iraq is a mess and has become a far greater threat than it actually ever was. It is now a haven for terrorists, and our presence there is draining the goodwill that our country once enjoyed, diminishing our global standing. It has made fighting the global war against terrorist organizations more difficult, not less.

The urgent question isn't how we got here, but what we do now. We have to give our troops a way to end their mission honorably. That means leaving behind a success, not a failure.

What is success? I don't think it is Iraq as a Jeffersonian democracy. I think it is an Iraq that is relatively stable, largely self-sufficient, comparatively open and free, and in control of its own destiny.

A plan for success needs to focus on three interlocking objectives: reducing American presence; building Iraq's capacity; and getting other countries to meet their responsibilities to help.

First, we need to remove the image of the imperialist America from the landscape of Iraq. American contractors who have taken unfair advantage of the turmoil in Iraq need to leave Iraq. If that means Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, then KBR should go. Such departures, and the return of the work to Iraqi businesses, would be a real statement about our hopes for the new nation.

We also need to show Iraq and the world that we will not stay there forever. We've reached the point where the large number of our troops in Iraq hurts, not helps, our goals. Therefore, early next year, after the Iraqi elections and a new government has been created, we should begin the redeployment of a significant number of troops out of Iraq. This should be the beginning of a gradual process to reduce our presence and change the shape of our military's deployment in Iraq.

Most of these troops should come from National Guard or Reserve forces. That will still leave us with enough military capability, combined with better trained Iraqis, to fight terrorists and continue to help the Iraqis develop a stable country.

Second, this redeployment should work in concert with a more effective training program for Iraqi forces. We should implement a clear plan for training and hard deadlines for certain benchmarks to be met. To increase incentives, we should implement a schedule outlining that as we certify that Iraqi troops are trained and equipped, a proportional number of U.S. troops will withdraw.

Third, we must launch a serious diplomatic process that brings the world into this effort. We should bring Iraq's neighbors and our key European allies into a diplomatic process to get Iraq on its feet. It's not just in America's security interest for Iraq to succeed, but the world's -- and the President needs to create a unified international front.

Too many mistakes have already been made to make this easy. Yet we must take these steps to succeed. The American people, the Iraqi people and -- most importantly -- our troops who have died or been injured there and those who are fighting there today deserve nothing less.

America's leaders -- all of us -- need to accept the responsibility we each carry for how we got to this place. Over 2,000 Americans have lost their lives in this war; and over 150,000 are fighting there today. They and their families deserve honesty from our country's leaders. And they also deserve a clear plan for a way out.


John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden... any time now. We're waiting.

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November 11, 2005, Try to remember the kind of September...

You won't be able to, because this September, thanks to the combination of increased oil imports as a result of Gulf Coast disruptions caused by Hurricane Katrina (and later Rita) and decreased exports as a result of a strike at Boeing plants, and because of Walmart shutting out American suppliers in favor of sole-source Chinese contracts that would be blatantly illegal under American law (the article doesn't say that, but we all know its true), America's trade deficit hit a record at over $66 billion in September.

Apparently, some deal with China has been reached to limit textile imports, but a t the moment, China has not yet agreed to re-value its currency (the yuan), which many feels unfairly encourages exports and discourages imports here. Of course, it should be noted, that Europeans also deal with the Chinese, and do not have nearly the kind of trade imbalance we do with them. So go figure.

Anyway, China continues to pile up our pieces of paper that we tender for their manufactured products, like clothing and t.v. sets and toys, and in due course, cars, building products, and everything else you can think of. Except oil. Which we are also importing like nobody's business.

Yes, yes, it's an ever more integrated world, and I do not for one second suggest that, for example, tariffs or starting a trade war with China, or currency restrictions, or anything like that will result in anything other than disaster. It's just that I think we would be better advised to take a look at our yawning trade gap (just a generation ago, this country was the world's largest creditor nation, instead of by far the world's biggest debtor.) You see, if we addressed the tri-partite reason for our debtor status-- our oil imports, our willingness to import "cheap" goods from locales that do not employ shall we say First World labor or environmental standards (for which our own people are desperate, we having not raised our minimum wage from $5.15 per hour since 1993), and our staggering government deficit-- we might find ourselves, as a nation, in better stead...

Or we can wait until outside forces do all of those things for us. In ways we might not like quite as much.

Also, in my usual "talking dog nonsequitur" manner, check out Dave Johnson's take on the President's sudden turning against those (fools) who supported him on the war, back when he needed their support most. Dave and I have been exchanging e-mails on the subject, and Dave makes the excellent point that a "yea" vote on the war resolution in the fall of 2002 could have easily been portrayed as a patriotic act-- giving the President the national security authority he represented that he needed based on the need to trust him in that area, a trust he betrayed. The problem is, no one has called him on that point... and so, three years later, here we are...

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November 9, 2005, WTF...?

A series of suicide bombing attacks have killed dozens in three Western-affiliated hotels (Days Inn, Grand Hyatt and Radisson) located in Amman, Jordan. Most of the 57 dead appear to be Jordanian nationals, many of them attending a wedding.
The M.O. of coordinated attacks in an Arab country closely aligned with the United States should come as no surprise to anyone; as usual, the victims are primarily innocent locals, with no particular dog in the larger fight.

God damn it. On a day that finally saw the war criminal Judy Miller "retire"... we now get this God damned escalation in the war Judy (and her Times overlords, who share in her criminal culpability) helped divert resources from, and thereby make sure that we could, as a practical matter, never win. Not that the Iimperium really wants to: A.Q. is an extremely useful bogeyman to have out there-- even more useful when it's killing "them" instead of "us".

So thanks again, Judy, for your service to the Imperium.

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November 8, 2005, Ahead of the curve

The U.S. Supreme Court granted review in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, a case brought by a detainee at Guantanimo Bay challenging the military tribunal process and other issues. As you will recall, this very blog interviewed Mr. Hamdan's lead civilian counsel Neal Katyal, around a month ago.

Professor Katyal was kind enough to respond to my request that he answer some follow-up questions, by noting that, at this point, he is telling all media sources, big dogs and talking dogs alike, that he has no comment at this time (a decision I certainly respect.) It looks like the case will be argued around March, when, very likely, Judge Sam Alito may well be on the Court.

No matter. On this election night where the mayor of my city (who had no problem turning large portions of Manhattan into a police state in August and September of last year) was handily reelected, though by a far smaller margin than he thought, and a respected senator running against an apparent outright criminal in our neighboring state, managed to pull it out... it might be a good time to take a broader look at the actions of the Republic. The Hamdan case will at least force someone to take a look.

Nothing much at stake, except, oh, separation of powers and whether or not this nation is bound to follow its own treaties. Nothing much at all.

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November 6, 2005, See Dog Run

Your talking dog finished today's ING New York City Marathon in a stunningly mediocre finishing time of 5 hours 40 something minutes... thus, reversing the effectiveness of last year's strategy of running Washington, D.C.'s Marine Corps Marathon a week before... this year, evidently, I didn't fully recover from the earlier marathon (perhaps driving back from it wasn't the greatest of ideas...). Live and learn... we'll have to consider this in planning next year's mishugas.

The City came out in its usual gigantic and enthusiastic numbers, Mrs. TD and the Loquacious Pup and Mr. Crabcakes were out on the course cheering, along with millions of others. At this, my fifth NYC in a row since the life-changing and life-affirming post 9-11 NYC Marathon, I'll probably keep the streak alive as long as my physical condition enables...

I find the physical exhaustion followed by the complete mental and emotional release put me in a state of balance and relaxation that are necessary to deal with our country turning into a South American military junta (hat tip to Bruce the Veep.) I suggest everyone out there find some similar release... dark times are ahead, it seems.

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November 5, 2005, The World as we find it...

First, we'll start with a quick trip to our comrades at Pravda, particularly our old buddy Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey who takes aim at our European friends (and not us stateside!), with this analysis of the riots in France with a broader eye at European behavior writ large.

Next, I coin a new phrase over at The American Street (at least, I haven't seen the phrase before); anyway, I'm shocked... shocked, I tell you... to hear that Halliburton not only overcharged the Iraqi people, but delivered them substandard work as well ("Your Halliburton dividend check, Sir? Thank you...")

The (current) President has been met in Argentina with flowers being strewn by people just ecstatic to see the beloved American leader at the summit of the Americas.

The (former) President has some... issues... with our excellent Iraq adventure.

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November 3, 2005, Hill Bill Spills and Drills

That would be a bill that passed the senate on a more or less party line vote and purports to simultaneously cut medicare and medicaid funding as well as farm subsidies, while also permitting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, budget cuts estimated to run around $30 billion over the next few years, or $6 billion next year, or in any event, maybe 2% of the federal budget deficit, although coupled with the latest round of tax cuts for the rich ($70 billion), the measure will actually make the deficit still worse!

The alleged fiscal conservative party, through "starve the beast" tax cuts for the upper middle class, rich (and let's not forget the super-rich), has... managed to increase federal spending dramatically year in, year out since they obtained total control of government, while managing to increase the amount of paper obliging us to pay principal and interest and held by our Chinese and Japanese friends... by trillions of dollars.

There's a simple answer of course (hint: reimpose the tax rates in place on January 20, 2001, which, rather than counter-stimulative, were, in fact, in place during the most impressive in dollar terms expansion in American history, i.e., the Clinton years.) And the only way we'll get there is to vote out the party of plutocracy and war-profiteering, commencing in one year with the all important mid-terms.

We'll see: given the seeming implosion of the Bush Administration (stanched temporarily by Alito TM ... take for those nasty headaches... see your spin-doctor and ask about Alito TM today), this script may write itself. But these days, never underestimate Democrats ability to miss an opportunity.

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November 2, 2005, Faruq you

Well, well. It seems we have an... embarassing situation. It seems that a key Al Qaeda player just kind of walked out of American custody at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Omar al-Faruq, purportedly an organizer of Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia and confidant of OBL himself, was captured in Indonesia, and rendered to us.

Interestingly, Mr. Faruq's disappearance (apparently, he picked a lock and slipped past an Afghan guard) has become an issue at a military trial in Texas of Sergeant Alan Driver on charges of abusing prisoners in Afghanistan (you will note that its always a sergeant; it seems the military under the Bush Administration can't bring itself to assign criminal responsibility for implementation of its... legally questionable policies... on anyone above the rank of sergeant. Troubling, no?)

Anyway, one can check out my interviews with lawyers for Hamdan and Hicks to realize that we are holding any number of inconsequential schmucks at Guantanimo Bay while simultaneously either outright releasing, or... in this case, allowing a key Qaeda player to escape... who seem far more... dangerous... when it appears that those players might, oh, reveal embarassing evidence of abuse, for example.

If al-Faruq is as dangerous as he is purported to be, it shouldn't let us sleep too easily knowing that our government decided to put him the kind of facility where he could pick a lock and sneak past one Afghan guard... seems we should have taken the security of a key Qaeda player... a little more seriously.

Of course, that's just me.

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November 1, 2005, Miers' Regret

The Grey Lady gives us this discussion of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, a case where soon-to-be-Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. dissented in part in a case challenging various Pennsylvania state laws designed to reduce access to abortion.

The part at issue, which reads like an audition to be this President's nominee at this time, would require married women to notify their husbands to obtain an abortion... not encourage it, or suggest it... but require it, even in the case of abusive or criminally abusive husbands. A 6-3 Supreme Court held the other way in a decision by Chief Justice Rehnquist, meaning... Sam Alito is to the right of Bill Rehnquist.

None of this should be surprising. Harriet Miers was a blank slate, but we had little reason to believe she was anything other than a moderate Republican. Yes, she was likely to be a monarchist-- giving the President a blank check on executive power. OTOH, on social issues, it was unclear she was going to have a need to go out of her way to lead us forward... into the 19th century and beyond... No, I didn't think much of her, myself, but then... who cares what I think?

Democrats just wasted a triple play so that assholes-- and I mean ASSHOLES-- like my state's senior senator (yes, Chuck Schumer, I mean you) can have their press conferences about how THEY are "protecting women's right to chose". So, because Harry Reid had no abillity to impose discipline, or show any leadership at all, the right wing was allowed to eat Harriet Miers alive.
The triple play: (1) criticize the right wing for poisoning the process-- spouting the inflammatory rhetoric without even the opportunity for hearings, and especially tying religious extremists to the Miers' opposition; (2) criticize the President for rampant cronyism... mostly pointing to Mike Brown and officials other than Miers, though the message would be clear, and most importantly, (3) lining up 40, 41, 42, hell, maybe all 45 Democrats committed to support Miers, and pick off liberal and moderate Republicans, and then publicly say "hey wingnuts-- trash her all you want-- we have the votes for confirmation".

The "careful" approach-- watching the extreme right wing eat a moderate Republican-- has led us right to Sam Alito. What do I think of our American opposition party? I think it would be an excellent idea.

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