Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans Cops Ordered To Stop Rescue Operations And Prevent Looting

Thousands of people still need to be rescued from flood waters in New Orleans, but because armed gangs of thugs are running wild in the city, the mayor has ordered the police to stop the looters instead. The Associated Press has the story:

NEW ORLEANS - Mayor Ray Nagin ordered 1,500 police officers to leave their search-and-rescue mission Wednesday night and return to the streets to stop looting that has turned increasingly hostile as the city plunges deeper into chaos.

"They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas — hotels, hospitals, and we're going to stop it right now," Nagin said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The number of officers called off the search-and-rescue mission amounts to virtually the entire police force in New Orleans.

Amid the turmoil Wednesday, thieves commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break the glass of a pharmacy. The crowd stormed the store, carrying out so much ice, water and food that it dropped from their arms as they ran. The street was littered with packages of ramen noodles and other items.

Looters also chased down a state police truck full of food. The New Orleans police chief ran off looters while city officials themselves were commandeering equipment from a looted Office Depot. During a state of emergency, authorities have broad powers to take private supplies and buildings for their use.

Managers at a nursing home were prepared to cope with the power outages and had enough food for days, but then the looting began. The home's bus driver was forced to surrender the vehicle to carjackers.

Bands of people drove by the nursing home, shouting to residents, "Get out!" Eighty residents, most of them in wheelchairs, were being evacuated to other nursing homes in the state.

"We had enough food for 10 days," said Peggy Hoffman, the home's executive director. "Now we'll have to equip our department heads with guns and teach them how to shoot."

At one store, hordes of people from all ages, races and walks of life grabbed food and water. Some drove away with trunkloads of beer.

At one point, two officers drew their guns on the looters, but the thieves left without incident. One of the officers said he was not going to arrest anyone for snatching up food and water.

One young man was seen wading through chest-deep floodwater, carrying a case of soda, after looting a grocery store.

"It's really difficult because my opinion of the looting is it started with people running out of food, and you can't really argue with that too much," Nagin said. "Then it escalated to this kind of mass chaos where people are taking electronic stuff and all that."

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she has asked the White House to send more people to help with evacuations and rescues, thereby freeing up National Guardsmen to stop looters.

"We will restore law and order," Blanco said. "What angers me the most is that disasters like this often bring out the worst in people. I will not tolerate this kind of behavior."

John Matessino, president of the Louisiana Hospital Association, said he had not heard of anyone breaking into the hospitals, but he added that thieves got into the parking garage at one hospital and were stealing car batteries and stereos.

New Orleans' homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert, said looters were breaking into stores all over town and stealing guns. He said there are gangs of armed men moving around the city. At one point, officers stranded on the roof of a hotel were fired at by criminals on the street.

Authorities said an officer was shot in the head and a looter was wounded in a shootout. The officer and looter were expected to survive.

Where is our war time preznit in this crisis?

New Orleans is a city under siege. It is also a catastrophic disaster area. Police officials, the mayor of New Orleans, the Governor of Louisiana, and National Guardsmen and women already on the scene have spoken repeatedly about how desperate they are to get more help. Governor Blanco told Larry King tonight that the military is on the way to New Orleans "but please hurry."

And yet three days after a Category 4 hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast and six days after a Category 5 huricane was forecast to hit, the New Orleans police force doesn't have enough manpower to deal with both search-and-rescue operations and looting, so they've taken most of the police from the rescues ops and asked them to stop the looting.

Where is Our Great Leader in all of this? What was he doing while New Orleans was drowning and looters running wild?

Oh yeah, I remember, he was playing guitar in San Diego...

Associated Press: Not Enough National Guard In New Orleans; Armed Gangs Run Wild Through City

Surprise, surprise:

Hands Full, Officials Are Helpless Against Looters

Published: August 31, 2005
Filed at 4:40 p.m. ET

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- With law officers and National Guardsmen focused onsaving lives, looters around the city spent another day Wednesday brazenly ransacking stores for food, beer, clothing, appliances -- and guns.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she has asked the White House to send more people to help with evacuations and rescues, thereby freeing up National Guardsmen to stop looters.

''Once we get the 3,000 National Guardsmen here, we're locking this place down,'' Mayor Ray Nagin said. ''It's really difficult because my opinion of the looting is it started with people running out of food, and you can't really argue with that too much. Then it escalated to this kind of mass chaos where people are taking electronic stuff and all that.''

Amid the chaos Wednesday, thieves commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break the glass of a pharmacy. The crowd stormed the store, carrying out so much ice, water and food that it dropped from their arms as they ran. The street was littered with packages of ramen noodles and other items.

Looters also chased down a state police truck full of food. The New Orleans police chief ran off looters while city officials themselves were commandeering equipment from a looted Office Depot. During a state of emergency, authorities have broad powers to take private supplies and buildings for their use.

At one store, hordes of people from all ages, races and walks of life grabbed food and water. Some drove away with trunkloads of beer.

At one point, two officers drew their guns on the looters, but the thieves left without incident. One of the officers said he is not going to arrest anyone for snatching up food and water.

One young man was seen wading through chest-deep floodwater, carrying a case of soda, after looting a grocery store.

John Matessino, president of the Louisiana Hospital Association, said he had not heard of anyone breaking into the hospitals, but he added that thieves got into the parking garage at one hospital and were stealing car batteries and stereos.

Officials tried to balance security needs with saving lives.

''We're multitasking right now,'' said New Orleans Police Capt. Marlon Defillo. ''Rescue, recovery, stabilization of looting, we're trying to feed the hungry.''

New Orleans' homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert, said looters were breaking into stores all over town and stealing guns. He said there are gangs of armed men moving around the city. At one point, officers stranded on the roof of a hotel were fired at by criminals on the street.

The Times-Picayune newspaper reported that the gun section at a new Wal-Mart had been cleaned out by looters.

Authorities said an officer was shot in the head and a looter was wounded in a shootout. The officer and looter were expected to survive.

Great. Armed looters are running all over a flooding, burning city where thousands of people still need to be rescued and authorities don't have enough manpower for either the rescue or security operations.

Thousands more troops are needed to take control of the situation. And where are large segments of the National Guardsmen and women?

In Iraq.

New Orleans Mayor: Hundreds, Maybe Thousands Dead, City Uninhabitable


NBC, MSNBC and news services
Updated: 4:52 p.m. ET Aug. 31, 2005

NEW ORLEANS - In a shocking assessment of Hurricane Katrina’s lethal
destruction, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Wednesday he feared that thousands had died in his city alone and that the entire city would have to be evacuated.

The grim estimate came as Army engineers struggled to plug New Orleans’
breached levees with giant sandbags and concrete barriers, and the Pentagon
ordered 10,000 more national guard troops to the region to help with rescue and
relief efforts.

Nagin said there will be a “total evacuation of the city. We have to. The city will not be functional for two or three months.”

NBC affiliate WDSU reported that Nagin was moving all city government operations to Baton Rouge.

Nagin estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people remained in New Orleans. He said 14,000 to 15,000 could be evacuated in a day.

Refugees to be moved to Houston

Most of the refugees still in the city — 15,000 to 20,000 people — were
in the Superdome, which had become hot and stuffy, with broken toilets and
nowhere for anyone to bathe. Those people were to be taken to Houston's
Astrodome on hundreds of buses.

The mayor's estimate of the number of dead was far higher than those of other public officials and there was no immediate way to confirm its accuracy. In Mississippi, officials said that at least 100 people were killed by the storm and indicated the toll will almost certainly go much higher.

“We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water,” Nagin told reporters, adding that there are others dead in attics.

Asked for a number, he said, “Minimum, hundreds. Most likely, thousands.”

Public health emergency

Shortly before Nagin's remarks, the Bush administration declared a public health emergency across the Gulf Coast.

U.S. Health Secretary Michael Leavitt told reporters that experts will be sent to monitor potential disease outbreaks.

The Pentagon's announcement to deploy 10,000 more National Guard soldiers to the region will supplement some 11,000 guard soldiers on state duty in the four states, according to the Guard.

475 buses to be used

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco told NBC's "Today" show Wednesday
that she wanted the Superdome evacuated within two days.

But floodwaters surround the Superdome, so getting buses to the ramps will be difficult, if not impossible. That could mean using boats to ferry evacuees to the buses.

Officials in Houston later said those evacuees would be sent on 475 buses to the Texas city, 350 miles away. The Houston Astrodome's schedule was cleared through December to accommodate them.

Blanco said that trying to fix the levees has been “an engineering nightmare.”

At the same time, sections of Interstate 10, the only major freeway leading into New Orleans from the east, lay shattered, dozens of huge slabs of concrete floating in the
floodwaters. I-10 is the only route for commercial trucking across southern Louisiana.

“This is a nightmare,” Blanco said, “but one that will give us an opportunity for rebirth.”

Good God, if the mayor of New Orleans is correct and thousands are dead in the city, the death toll would surpass 9/11.

Again, unfathomable.

While Bush played his guitar...

...and partied with John McCain...

...levees failed in New Orleans...

...streets flooded...

...looters did some "political shopping"... owners took matters into their own hands (since there weren't enough National Guardsmen to protect citizens)...

...people waited to be rescued...

...even animals waited to be rescued...

...80% of New Orleans sat under water...

...people in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama tried to pick up their lives...

...and our war time preznit sent America a message...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

80% of New Orleans Under Water

This is horrific:

MSNBC staff and news service reports
Updated: 1:39 p.m. ET Aug. 30, 2005

NEW ORLEANS - Already showered with death and devastation by Katrina’s howling winds and drenching rains, the city braced for more misery Tuesday as water poured through broken levees.

Details on where the levees had given way were hard to come by, but the most serious breach appeared to be "a large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new 'hurricane proof' Old Hammond Highway bridge," according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"The breach sent a churning sea of water from Lake Pontchartrain coursing across Lakeview and into Mid-City, Carrollton, Gentilly, City Park and neighborhoods farther south and east," the newspaper said.

“There’s a serious leak and it’s causing the water to continue to rise,” New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin confirmed. Adding to the problem were malfunctions in the system the city uses to pump out floodwaters.

So far, Nagin said, the historic French Quarter and central business district had not been badly flooded.

But Tulane University Medical Center Vice President Karen Troyer-Caraway said the downtown hospital was surrounded by 6 feet of water and officials were considering evacuating its 1,000 patients.

'Whitecaps on Canal Street'
“The water is rising so fast I cannot begin to describe how quickly it’s rising,” she said. “We have whitecaps on Canal Street, the water is moving so fast.”

"No one anticipated this," NBC News' Brian Williams reported earlier, standing knee-deep in floodwaters in the quarter.

The rising waters and failing pumps in the below-sea-level city were thwarting rescuers' efforts to pull hurricane victims to safety and assess the damage, but "many, many reports" of bodies floating in the flood tide made clear the deadly impact on the Crescent City, said Nagin.

"We probably have 80 percent of our city under water," Nagin added, "with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet. We still have many of our residents on roofs. Both airports are under water."

Television footage showed plenty of other problems for New Orleans, including buildings on fire. And police said they had made a number of arrests for looting.

The developing nature of the disaster made it impossible for officials to give specific accounts of which portions of the city were flooded, but aerial video showed standing water and destruction literally everywhere.

Somebody should have anticipated the flooding. They knew at least one levee had been breached last night. It doesn't take a genius to figure that more levees might break under the pressure of the flood waters. Why didn't the preznit return from his vacation and coordinate efforts both BEFORE and AFTER the hurricane hit? Why didn't he send in National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and other forces to support the levees and keep the lake waters from flooding into the city?

Because he was partying in Arizona, that's why.

That's our "War Preznit" for you...

UPDATE: Attytood is reporting that money earmarked for the New Orleans levee system was diverted to the Iraq war efforts instead:

It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.

-- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

This picture is an aerial view of New Orleans today, more than 14 months later. Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of the city and the sun is out, the waters continue to rise in New Orleans as we write this. That's because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through a two-block-long break in the main levee, near the city's 17th Street Canal. With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide may not stop until until it's level with the massive lake.

There have been numerous reports of bodies floating in the poorest neighborhoods of this poverty-plagued city, but the truth is that the death toll may not be known for days, because the conditions continue to frustrate rescue efforts.

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars. (Much of the research here is from Nexis, which is why some articles aren't linked.)

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to this Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness:

"The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.

The Lake Pontchartrain project is slated to receive $3.9 million in the president's 2005 budget. Naomi said about $20 million is needed.

'The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink,' he said. 'I've got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of settling). Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And we're going to have to pay them interest.'"

That June, with the 2004 hurricane seasion starting, the Corps' Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:

"'The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don’t get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can’t stay ahead of the settlement,' he said. 'The problem that we have isn’t that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can’t raise them.'"

The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work with higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004 that the feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.

The 2004 hurricane season, as you probably recall, was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane- and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs. According to New Orleans CityBusiness this June 5:

"The district has identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations in St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. Those projects are included in a Corps line item called Lake Pontchartrain, where funding is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million this year to $2.9 million in 2006. Naomi said it's enough to pay salaries but little else.

'We'll do some design work. We'll design the contracts and get them ready to go if we get the money. But we don't have the money to put the work in the field, and that's the problem,' Naomi said."

There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:

"That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.

But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late. One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach. The levee failure appears to be causing a human tragedy of epic proportions:

"'We probably have 80 percent of our city under water; with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet. Both airports are underwater,' Mayor Ray Nagin told a radio interviewer."

Washington knew that this day could come at any time, and it knew the things that needed to be done to protect the citizens of New Orleans. But in the tradition of the riverboat gambler, the Bush administration decided to roll the dice on its fool's errand in Iraq, and on a tax cut that mainly benefitted the rich.

And now Bush has lost that gamble, big time. We hope that Congress will investigate what went wrong here.

The president told us that we needed to fight in Iraq to save lives here at home, and yet -- after moving billions of domestic dollars to the Persian Gulf -- there are bodies floating through the streets of Louisana. What does George W. Bush have to say for himself now?


And as usual, the preznit will escape responsibility for this disaster by claiming it was an Act of God that could not be averted. After all, how can you blame Preznit Bush for a natural disaster?

Leaving aside the question of whether global warming is causing the increase in intense hurricanes the past few years (and Bush has done NOTHING to alleviate the effects of global warming), let's ask if New Orleans would be better off today if the money earmarked for the levee system hadn't gone to Halliburton instead?

Louisiana, Mississippi Devastated By Hurricane

From The New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 30 - With parts of this city under 20 feet of water and a death toll in the region that is reported at 55 and certain to climb, the Gulf Coast began today to confront the aftermath of one of the most devastating storms ever to hit the United States.

Floodwaters from a canal that leads to Lake Ponchartrain were sending more water into already flooded areas of New Orleans, and Mayor C. Ray Nagin said in a television interview that the city was 80 percent under water, with some of it 20 feet deep.

Hundreds of residents have been rescued from rooftops, and as dawn broke rescuers in boats and helicopters searched for more survivors. The death toll in just one Mississippi county could be as high as 80, Gov. Haley Barbour said. Preliminary reports on Monday put the toll at 55.

"The devastation down there is just enormous," Mr. Barbour said on NBC's "Today" show. "I hate to say it, but it looks like it is a very bad disaster in terms of human life," he added, referring to Harrison County, which includes Gulfport and Biloxi.

"This is our tsunami," Mayor A. J. Holloway of Biloxi, Miss., told The Biloxi Sun Herald.

The New York Times also reports that hurricane relief efforts have been hampered by the overseas deployment of National Guard units in Iraq:

State National Guard units, already strained by long overseas deployments, joined federal, state and private organizations yesterday in a broad effort to provide relief in areas thrashed and flooded by Hurricane Katrina.

The American Red Cross said it was undertaking one of the largest emergency operations in its history, and federal disaster-relief teams descended on stricken areas across the Gulf Coast. Private volunteer groups prepared to deliver hot meals to hundreds of thousands of residents made refugees by the storm and the flooding it caused.

Even before the storm hit the coast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had positioned 23 disaster medical assistance teams and seven search and rescue teams around the region.

It also delivered generators, tarps and stockpiles of water, ice and ready-to-eat meals, agency officials said.

FEMA also sent two teams of veterinarians to provide care to any injured pets or other animals.

More than 5,000 National Guard troops were called up over the weekend to assist in relief operations, despite the burden of providing troops to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tens of thousands more may be called as the extent of the damage becomes clear, officials said.

National Guard officials said many of the troops mobilized for storm duty had recently returned from overseas combat zones.

Some 3,500 Louisiana National Guard troops were on active duty to help with housing, security, power generation, food distribution and debris removal, with 6,500 more available.

Mississippi called up 850 National Guard troops, and Alabama mobilized more than 1,500. Officials said nearly 100,000 additional members of the Guard from the Southeast were available on short notice.

The Alabama contingent includes military police, engineers and Special Forces who have all recently served in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Lt. Col. Robert Horton of the Alabama National Guard.

"We are prepared to respond to any natural disaster and to support the war on terrorism," Colonel Horton said. "We just have to deal with both missions."

So what was the Preznit doing as a huge swath of the nation dealt with the devastation of "our tsunami"?

He was yucking it up with supporters at a Bamboozlepalooza Tour appearance touting his Medicare reforms.

How out of touch is that?

UPDATE: Holy shit, John McCain met Bush at the airport with a fucking cake yesterday as Katrina was blasting through Louisiana and Mississippi:

Many parts of Louisiana and Mississippi have been completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi compared the devastation of Katrina to the tsunami last year. At least 80 people have been killed by Katrina (though the death toll is expected to climb), insurers are estimating damage at $9 billion dollars.

And what was Preznit Bush doing while millions of Americans were desperately trying to survive the third most powerful hurricane to hit the United States mainland?

He was partying with cake and laughing it up with his fellow Kool Aid drinkers.

(Thanks to Rob at AmericaBlog for the heads up on Bush's "Let Them Eat Cake" photos.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Kentucky Governor Pardons Everyone Involved In Hiring Scandal

From the Associated Press (Via

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Gov. Ernie Fletcher on Monday granted blanket pardons to current and former members of his administration who have been charged in an investigation into alleged improper hiring.

The move came on the eve of Fletcher's appearance before a grand jury investigating his administration's hiring practices.

"I cannot allow state government to continue to be consumed by this game of political 'gotcha,' paralyzing our ability to serve you, the people of Kentucky," Fletcher said at the Capitol Rotunda.

Fletcher said he would appear before the grand jury but would not testify. The grand jury was impaneled in June and has charged nine current and former members of Fletcher's administration with misdemeanor violations of the state's personnel law for allegedly basing hirings on political considerations rather than merit.

Some of those charged are senior members of the administration, including deputy chief of staff Richard Murgatroyd and acting Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert. Fletcher said the senior managers provided "inadequate oversight" of younger people.

Also among the nine is a former Fletcher administration member who has been indicted on 22 felony counts of evidence or witness tampering.

Fletcher said anyone who violated the law could face penalties imposed by two administrative agencies that are also investigating.

Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo said in a statement that Fletcher has "slammed the door on the public's right to know what wrongs his administration has committed."

Fletcher, a Republican, repeated his accusation that Stumbo has been carrying out a political vendetta and compared most of the charges that have been brought to minor violations of fishing laws.

A spokesman said state government paid $1,200 for satellite time to beam the governor's remarks around the state.

Prosecutor Scott Crawford-Sutherland has said the grand jury's investigation will continue even if Fletcher issues pardons.

Fletcher's decision was criticized by Democratic state legislators, with Rep. Kathy Stein saying the pardons are grounds for the General Assembly to consider his impeachment.

"He is showing a broad disrespect for the criminal justice system that every other citizen in the commonwealth must live with," Stein said.

Mike Duncan, a Kentuckian and general counsel to the Republican National Committee, said Fletcher should be commended for the pardons.

"I think the governor made the right decision because we need to move the state forward," Duncan said.

Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for Kentucky History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky University, said pardons could cut both ways with voters.

"Pardons are risky, absolutely," Gershtenson said. "They inevitably create at least some perception that there's some guilt. Why pardon if somebody isn't going to ultimately get convicted?"

I suppose this will be the new Republican strategy to avoid prosecution in criminal cases. Pardon the alleged wrongdoers right after the indictments and blame the case on "overzealous" investigators.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Plamegate case isn't headed into similar waters. Republicans have already been laying the groundwork for tarring special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as "overzealous" in his pursuit of the people involving with leaking covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's name to the press. Preznit Bush will be loathe to lose both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby if Fitzgerald comes down with conspiracy, perjury and/or obstruction indictments, so why not just issue blanket pardons to everyone involved? He can say (and Paul Begala suggested a similar strategy for Bush to offer Plamegate pardons at Huffingtonpost), "The government must operate at a time of war. Karl and Scooter are essential to the operations of this administration and as such I cannot let them be forced to defend themselves against an overzealous, partisan prosecutor."

Why not? If Bush pardons Libby and Rove, his poll numbers probably won't go much lower than they already are. Let's face it, there's about 33% of this country who think George W. Bush is the second coming of Jesus H. Christ and would be happy to crown him Caesar if Karl Rove so wanted. Those 33% won't care if Bush pardons Rove and Libby to avoid criminal prosecutions. I wouldn't be surprised if Bush pardons Jack Abramoff down the road too, and I would certianly expect him to issue pardons for Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, and Tom Delay if any of these republican party stalwarts are indicted or convicted in the Indian casino scandal.

And Tweety-Bird Matthews keeps telling us how the Republicans won the 2004 elections because of "values" and "morals".

Why Aren't the Twins Fighting This War?

Here's a heartbreaking story from (Via Atrios):

U.S. Army Specialist Tomas Young has some questions for George W. Bush. He's never met with the Commander-in-Chief who sent him into Sadr City, Iraq in a canvass covered truck during a massive uprising in that city on April 4, 2004. The same city on the same day that Cindy Sheehan's son Casey was killed.

Tomas was lucky. He was only paralyzed from the chest down. Amongst other things he'd like to ask of Bush, is why he won't allow funding for stem cell research which might eventually restore the spine that he lost in Bush's War. A spine, as Tomas explained to us yesterday on The BRAD SHOW, which apparently Bush has never had.

Tomas and his new wife Bree (also pictured), came to Crawford from Kansas City on their honeymoon to "stand" in support of Cindy Sheehan.

Now here's a picture of Preznit Bush's twin daughters doing what they do best - falling down drunk:

Why aren't the Bush twins fighting this war? Why aren't Cheney's daughters enlisting? Why aren't the children of other pro-war politicans taking the fight to the terrorists in Iraq? Editor & Publisher reports that many pro-war politicians are starting to be asked that very question:

Press Wants to Know if Pro-War Officials Will Send Their Own Kids to War

By E&P Staff

Published: August 27, 2005 7:45 PM ET

NEW YORK It's a question from the press sure to be posed more and more as the months go on, directed at public officials who continue to support the Iraq war: If you believe in the cause so deeply, why aren't your own kids signing up? Most prominently, President Bush (through his press spokesmen) is now hearing it, but it's now trickling down to the congressional and state level.

Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, a strong backer of Bush policy in Iraq -- who has two sons age 24 to 35 -- heard the query yesterday, from a Boston Herald reporter. Romney, who has promoted National Guard recruitment, replied, a bit angrily, that he has not urged his own sons to enlist -- and isn't sure whether they would.

The Herald tossed the question as Romney as he was honored by the Massachusetts National Guard. "No, I have not urged my own children to enlist. I don't know the status of my childrens' potentially enlisting in the Guard and Reserve," Romney said, his voice tinged with anger, the Herald reported.

Neither the Romney children nor the governor have served in the military, a Romney spokeswoman said.

More than 1,100 guardsmen and women from Massachusetts are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 28 Massachusetts soldiers killed so far.

"I don't think you should be so 'rah-rah' for a war that you aren't willing to send your own family members to," Rose Gonzalez of Somerville, whose mother, a state employee, was deployed to Iraq in January, told the Herald. "If he thinks the war is so just and so important and we shouldn't pull out, then he should encourage his own sons to go."

Nancy Lessin, a spokeswoman for Military Families Speak Out, said, "This is just one more politician who is willing to risk the lives of our loved ones and celebrate sending them off into a war that we never should have [been] in."

It's easy to support a war when you never have to place yourself or your own flesh and blood in danger. All pro-war supporters, whether they are politicians or not, should be asked how they can support a war they are not willing to fight (or send their own kids to fight). Perhaps Americans would have been less eager to invade Iraq and more questioning of the administration's various rationales for the war, if more than just military families had been asked to sacrifice.

Two final notes: Mitt Romney will make the perfect Republican presidential candidate in 2008 - he's a chickenhawk war supporter who's happy to keep his own kids safe here on the homefront while sending other people's kids to die.

I also bet Romney will be happy to "Swift Boat" his fellow Republican presidential candidate and twice-wounded Vietnam war veteran Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as being an Iraq war "defeatist" who supported "a cut-and-run" strategy. Hagel has been highly critical of the Bush administration's war policy from the beginning and has stated more than once he believes the United States is losing the war. While you would think Hagel's veteran status and actual combat experience would innoculate him from charges that he's a "defeatist," we saw during last year's presidential election that chickenhawks like George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Mitt Romney have no problem impugning the record of a war veteran.

Robert Novak Says '06 Could Be A Tough Year For GOP

The preznit's tanking poll numbers, the consistently low marks voters give to both political parties in the Congress and an unpopular war rapidly approaching Vietnam levels of support should concern members of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

But as the party in power holding majorities in both the Congress and the Senate and a preznit who's approval ratings are hovering around 40%, the Republican Party has a lot more to lose next year in the midterm elections. Even Beelzelbob himself, Robert Novak, seems to think so:

Mired in August's dog days, the National Republican Senatorial Committee last week released a four-page opposition research paper on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. The female Democratic senator deserving greater scrutiny, however, was Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. A vulnerable Stabenow appears headed for a second term, pointing to broad GOP failure.

The hard truth is that the NRSC's 2006 recruitment under Sen. Elizabeth Dole's chairmanship has mostly failed. The remote possibility of Rudy Giuliani running was the only conceivable threat to Clinton. Stabenow offered a more realistic target, but recruitment of a viable challenger fell short. That has been such a familiar pattern in this election cycle that once-high hopes for expanding the Republican Senate majority have given way to apprehension about losing seats.

The summer after a president's re-election often brings anxiety for the party in power; that is particularly true this year because of an unpopular war.


While the NRSC was Hillary-bashing, Stabenow was getting off the hook. She is a non-charismatic reflexive liberal (100 percent by the Americans for Democratic Action's measurement last year) who received only 49 percent of the vote while barely unseating Sen. Spencer Abraham in 2000. Furthermore, Stabenow was slipping in the polls as this summer began. She looked like the best incumbent target for Republicans in any ''Blue'' state.

But Republican regrets poured in from Michigan. Rep. Candice Miller, the strongest GOP challenger, bowed out early. So did Rep. Mike Rogers, another potential star challenger. Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land indicated she is running for re-election. Jane Abraham, the former senator's wife, thought it over but then said no. The latest to regret was Domino's Pizza CEO David Brandon. The probable nominee is black clergyman and former Detroit City Councilman Keith Butler, who faces a steep climb against an incumbent senator.

The NRSC did not get the candidates it wanted in the two ''Red'' states with the weakest Democratic incumbent senators: Ben Nelson in Nebraska and Bill Nelson in Florida. In Nebraska, President Bush named Gov. Mike Johanns, who seemed a sure winner over Nelson, as secretary of agriculture. The two strongest remaining GOP possibilities -- Gov. Dave Heineman and Rep. Tom Osborne -- are running against each other for governor. That leaves former state Attorney General Don Stenberg, who lost to Nelson in 2000, and a self-financed political neophyte, Peter Ricketts, among others.

In Florida, the Republican establishment tried and failed to find an alternative to Rep. Katherine Harris. But now that Harris is clearly the candidate against Nelson, the NRSC still has not embraced her.

It remains to be seen if two other vulnerable Democrats in ''Red'' states -- Robert Byrd in West Virginia and Kent Conrad in North Dakota -- will have a free ride. The credible challengers -- Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Gov. John Hoeven (N.D.) -- may not wish to risk uphill races in a climate negative for Republicans. If they do not run and win, the Republicans could be looking at an overall loss of two seats that could climb to four.

When Dole made a late run after the 2004 elections to overcome Sen. Norm Coleman's lead for the NRSC chairmanship, Coleman backers expressed doubt she would succeed at recruiting. But it would be unfair to make Dole the scapegoat. Recruiting responsibility is shared by the White House and the Republican National Committee. Beyond a recruiter's skills is widespread fear that 2006 will not be a good year to run as a Republican. That mind-set should worry strategists more than Hillary Clinton's ideological aberrations.

At most, there are five Republican Senate seats in danger: Conrad Burns (Mt), Rick Santorum (PA), Mike DeWine (OH), Lincoln Chafee (RI), and perhaps Jon Kyl (AZ).

Santorum already trails his challenger, Bob Casey, Jr., always a bad sign for an incumbent. Santorum also has higher dispproval ratings than approval ratings and Democrats are pretty confident they can knock him off in 2006.

DeWine also polls low (42% approval rating; 43% dispproval rating) and will be dragged down by the Coingate and Pensiongate scandals plaguing Ohio's Republican Party. The Democratic message in Ohio in 2006 is going to be "The Ohio Republican Party is crooked" and DeWine is going to have a tough time winning reelection even if Democrats are not successful in recruiting Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett for the '06 race.

With various allegations swirling about his ties to Republican uber-lobbyist Jack Abramof, Montana Senator Conrad Burns has ethical problems of his own to deal with next year. Burns is polling at 48% approval and 42% disapproval, so a strong challenger will be needed to take him out. But if more damaging revelations of Burns' ties to Jack Abramoff/Tom Delay come out, Burns could go down.

Lincoln Chafee is a fairly popular Republican in Rhode Island (55% approval; 37% disapproval). Nonetheless Chafee is no shoe-in for reelection. Chafee's problems are twofold: as a "liberal" Republican, he is facing a challenge from the right in a primary, then will be tied to Preznit Bush by his Democratic challenger in the general election. Preznit Bush is really unpopular in Rhode Island (29% approval rating; 68% disapproval rating) and Democrats are already spreading the message that Chafee is controlled by Karl Rove and Preznit Bush in tough Senate fights like the John Bolton vote. This Democratic message could be undermined, however, because Chafee joined the "Gang of Fourteen" in defeating the "nuclear option" vote in the Senate to kill judicial filibsuters.

Jon Kyl of Arizona polls under 50% (49% approval: 33% disapproval), which is why he is considered a possible risk in '06. Arizona voted for Preznit Bush in '04, but he currently polls at 45% approval and 52% disapproval, so Kyl may have to run away from the preznit to win reelection.

On the Democratic side, if Novak is correct and both Nelsons are safe, then Democrats should have an easy time defending both Robert Byrd in West Virginia and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Both Democrats are popular (Byrd has 65% approval and Conrad has 69% approval). Republicans would really need to recruit strong challengers to make these races truly competitive.

Maria Cantwell of Washington polls under 50% (47% approval; 37 disapproval), so Democrats do need to keep an eye on her releection bid as well as Debbie Stabenow's chances (46% approval; 38% disapproval).

Democrats also have to defend three open Senate seats (Minnesota, Maryland, and Vermont) while Republicans only have to defend Bill Frist's open seat in Tennessee. All three states with Democratic open seats voted for John Kerry while Tennessee supported Bush. If the preznit's popularity is any indication of party support in '06, Republicans are in trouble. Bush's highest poll rating in all four states is 43% in Tennessee; he polls in the low 30's in the other three states.

As the Preznit's poll numbers continue to slide (40% in Gallup and Harris; 36% in ARG), Republicans will be running as far away from the preznit as they can in all but the reddest of red states. The war, gas prices, stagnant wages, jobs, ethical problems (Coingate, ), and Plamegate (especially if two top Bush aides - Karl Rove and Scooter Libby - are indicted) all create problems for the Republican majority. If the Housing Bubble bursts in the next year and the economy slides into a recession as a result (which some economists are now whsipering), then all bets are off for the party in power maintaining its majorities, no matter how flawed the oppostion party is.

You know Republicans have to be concerned about the way the numbers of shaping up when even Beelzelbob Novak is saying '06 could be a bad year for the GOP.

NOTE: Poll numbers used in this post come from SurveyUSA's August 2005 tracking polls.

Boston Globe Takes On Karl Rove

A nice editorial from The Boston Globe on Karl Rove:

Rove's role

August 28, 2005

SOME WHITE House sympathizers have attempted to portray Karl Rove's role in the Valerie Plame scandal as that of a statesman, seeking to provide President Bush with the best information possible on Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions so that Bush could set policy based on facts. This has been met with deserved skepticism. Rove's career, even before he became Bush's deputy chief of staff, is rich with reasons to think his motives in helping to identify Plame as a CIA agent were far darker.

After all, Plame's identity was revealed in a Robert Novak column on July 14, 2003, just eight days after her husband, Joseph Wilson, had embarrassed Bush over his Iraq war rationale. And Rove had talked with Novak on July 9.

As John Roberts, the Supreme Court nominee and federal appeals court judge, wrote last month in another context, the fact that ''sometimes dogs do eat homework" is no reason to ignore more-logical explanations.

Rove's record has been consistent. Over 35 years, he has been a master of dirty tricks, divisiveness, innuendo, manipulation, character assassination, and roiling partisanship.

He started early. In 1970, when he was 19 and active as a college Republican -- though he didn't graduate from college -- Rove pretended to volunteer for a Democratic candidate in Illinois, stole some campaign stationery, and used it to disrupt a campaign event. Later, in Texas, he gave testimony in court that was embarrassing to an opponent of one of Rove's clients, even though it was not true, according to the book ''Bush's Brain," by two veteran Texas newsmen, James Moore and Wayne Slater.

Negative attacks have often been the center of Rove's strategies. In a race between Texas Governor Mark White and his Republican opponent, Bill Clements, Rove wrote in a memo: ''Anti-White messages are more important than positive Clements messages."

Often Rove has skated on the edge of being identified with certainty as the author of dirty tricks. In 1986, the discovery of a planted listening device in Rove's own office was widely publicized, damaging the Democrats. Many suspect that the source was Rove himself. This was never proven, but Moore and Slater say, ''Karl Rove remains a prime suspect." In 1989, Texas populist Jim Hightower was damaged by grand jury leaks for which, Moore and Slater say, ''Rove remains the most likely source."

Again, most of the personal slurs against candidates who had the temerity to run against Rove's clients have not been pinned on Rove personally, but they follow a pattern. George W. Bush ousted Ann Richards from the Texas governor's office in 1994 after a whisper campaign focused on a small number of Richards appointees who were lesbians and even suggested that Richards was gay. Bush himself stoked the fire, saying some Richards appointees ''had agendas that may have been personal in nature."

In 1990, Hightower's integrity was smeared. A federal investigation of his expenses produced news stories, but no charge, despite Rove's telling Washington reporters that Hightower and several aides ''face the possibility of indictment."

In South Carolina in 2000, rumors circulated that John McCain was gay, had a black child, had a Vietnamese child, and got special treatment while a POW in Vietnam. In 2004, a direct link was established between the Bush campaign -- of which Rove was ''the architect," in Bush's words -- and the libels against John Kerry from the swift boat veterans. With such a history, is it possible that Rove encouraged the Catholic bishops who questioned Kerry's fitness to take Communion?

Earlier this year, he none-too-subtly bestrode the church-state amalgam that helped elect Bush, telling a sympathetic and enthusiastic audience in Washington that conservatism is ''the dominant political creed in America." Always on the attack, Rove said just this June that liberals want to ''prepare indictments and offer therapy" to terrorists.

According to Moore and Slater, the strategy of attack has been constant throughout his career. ''Rove didn't just want to win; he wanted the opponents destroyed."

Rove's connection to the Valerie Plame story was the center of attention in mid-July but cooled fast after Bush nominated Roberts to the Supreme Court on July 19. A LexisNexis search reveals 1,944 stories mentioning Rove in the week prior to the nomination, dropping to 1,111 during the week after. Now, with Bush in Crawford for a prolonged vacation, the story has nearly disappeared -- only 169 references in a late-August week.

Still, more is likely to come out after Labor Day. A special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, is expected to finish his two-year investigation this fall. His goal was to find the person who leaked Plame's identity as an undercover CIA agent -- a serious offense in the view of Bush's father. He and many other commentators have deplored the idea that the leaker may have been seeking political retribution at the expense of national security.

So attention will inevitably turn back again to Karl Rove, who did talk with Novak and other reporters who wrote the story but who is now being portrayed by some as a neutral researcher in the Valerie Plame case. Yes, and sometimes dogs do eat homework.

Repeat it with me: Frog-march!!! Frog-march!!! Frog-march!!!

Fun, isn't it?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Associated Press: Economic Crash Coming?

All is not well with the American economy.

Americans are in debt up to their eyeballs. Their savings rate is next to nothing. Their government spends more than it takes in. Their nation imports more than it exports. Oil prices are hovering near $70 dollars a barrel and energy costs have hurt all levels of economic activity. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan believes that housing and stocks are overvalued and will fall as interest rates rise (and so far, the Fed shows no signs of halting its rate-raising campaign any time soon.) When the Housing Bubble bursts, the economy risks falling into recession, as most economic activity these days is related to the real estate boom.

The Associated Press examined the problems in the economy and wondered if a crash could be in the nation's future:

Experts warn that heavy debt threatens American economy

The Associated Press
You owe $145,000. And the bill is rising every day.

That's how much it would cost every American man, woman and child to pay the tab for the long-term promises the U.S. government has made to creditors, retirees, veterans and the poor.

And it's not even taking into account credit card bills, mortgages — all the debt we've racked up personally. Savings? The average American puts away barely $1 of every $100 earned.

Our profligate ways at home are mirrored in Washington and in the global marketplace, where as a society America spends $1.9 billion more a day on imported clothes and cars and gadgets than the entire rest of the world spends on its goods and services.

A new Associated Press/Ipsos poll finds that barely a third of Americans would cut spending to reduce the federal deficit and even fewer would raise taxes.

If those figures seem out of whack to you, if they seem to cut against the way you learned to handle money, if they seem like a recipe for a national economic nightmare — well, then, at least you're not alone.

A chorus of economists, government officials and elected leaders both conservative and liberal is warning that America's nonstop borrowing has put the nation on the road to a major fiscal disaster — one that could unleash plummeting home values, rocketing interest rates, lost jobs, stagnating wages and threats to government services ranging from health care to law enforcement.

David Walker, who audits the federal government's books as the U.S. comptroller general, put it starkly in an interview with the AP:

"I believe the country faces a critical crossroad and that the decisions that are made — or not made — within the next 10 years or so will have a profound effect on the future of our country, our children and our grandchildren. The problem gets bigger every day, and the tidal wave gets closer every day."

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan echoed those worries just last week, warning that the federal budget deficit hampered the nation's ability to absorb possible shocks from the soaring trade deficit and the housing boom. He criticized the nation's "hesitancy to face up to the difficult choices that will be required to resolve our looming fiscal problems."

Certainly, there are those who feel such comments bring to mind the preachers who predict the end of the world at a specific time and place, and have always been wrong. And undeniably, borrowing isn't all bad — easy access to money has been a critical tool in building America's businesses, from mom-and-pops to multinationals.

But something has changed. More than two centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin warned: "He that goes aborrowing, goes asorrowing." Now, a laugh-til-you-cry commercial portrays a man with a beautiful home and car declaring: "I'm in debt up to my eyeballs. I can barely pay my finance charges. Somebody help me."

The epidemic of American indebtedness runs from home to government to global marketplace. To examine it, let's start at home.

Americans used to save, but no longer. Back in the 1950s, a generation of Americans who had survived the Depression and Second World War saved roughly 8% of their income. The savings rate rose and fell slightly over the decades — it went as high as 11% and as low as 7% during the "greed is good" 1980s — but now those days are only a memory.

In the charge-everything start of the new millennium, savings have plummeted: to just 1.8% last year, below 1% since January and at zero in the latest estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The lack of savings is mirrored by a rise in debt. In 2000, household debt broke 18% of disposable income for the first time in 20 years, meaning debt eats almost $1 in every $5 American families have to spend after they get past the bills that keep them fed and housed. (That figure hasn't dropped. Credit card debt alone averages $7,200 per household.)

Many people take comfort in the rising value of their homes, and its spurred record home-building and buying, with new construction making places like Las Vegas the fastest-growing in the nation. But a home translates into wealth only when you sell it — and there's a vigorous debate over whether the housing boom is becoming a bubble that will burst.

"It seems like, with the younger generation, that they want to have now what it took us years to get," says Jo Canelon, a 46-year-old social worker in Statenville, Ga.

"I see people younger than me with comparable jobs that drive new vehicles and have a boat and mortgage and things," says Canelon, who responded to the AP/Ipsos poll. "And I just wonder about their debt."

Canelon sees echoes in the rise of obesity: a pervasive I-want-it-now attitude no matter what the consequences. To her, debt's a symptom of disease, and one that's spreading.

If she's right, the government is sick, too.

Leaders are elected by the people they serve, of course, and the American people seem to want the best of both worlds — tax cuts and government services — while they hope the dollars sort themselves out. They worry about the nation's problems, but not enough to agree on a course of action to fix them.

The AP/Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults taken July 5-7 found that a sweeping majority — 70% — worried about the size of the federal deficit either "some" or "a lot."

But only 35% were willing to cut government spending and experience a drop in services to balance the budget. Even fewer — 18% — were willing to raise taxes to keep current services. Just 1% wanted to both raise taxes and cut spending. The poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The nation's political leaders could hardly be said to have a mandate calling for fiscal responsibility.

A few years ago, government finances were the strongest they've been in a generation. Then came a turnaround — and a stunningly quick one. The budget surplus of $236 billion in 2000 turned into a deficit of $412 billion last year. The government had to borrow that much to cover the hole between what it took in and what it had to spend; a difference that's called the federal deficit.

Blame the bust of the dot-com boom, the ensuing recession, President Bush's federal tax cuts, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bush has gotten his share of brickbats, from both the right and the left, for the spending while he's in office. Still, the federal deficit isn't as big as it was in the worst of the years under President Reagan as a percentage of the overall economy.

Some note things are getting better: The latest reports project a deficit of $331 billion for 2005, nearly $100 billion less than expected. Outstanding debt — the amount of securities and bonds that must be repaid — is far below what it was in the early 1990s.

But bigger worries lie ahead.

The nation's three biggest entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — make promises for retirement and health care (for the elderly and the poor) which carry a huge price tag that balloons as the population grows and ages.

Add it up: current debt and deficit, promises for those big programs, pensions, veterans health care. The total comes to $43 trillion, says Walker, the nation's comptroller general, who runs the Government Accountability Office. That's where the $145,000 bill for every American, or $350,000 for every full-time worker, comes from.

Simply hoping for good times to return won't erase numbers like that, Walker says.

"There's no way we're going to grow our way out of our long-range fiscal imbalance," he says, adding that the country must re-examine tax policy, entitlement programs and the entire federal budget.

"I really do not believe the American people have a real idea as to where we are and where we're headed, and what the potential implications are for the country if we don't start making some tough decisions soon," he says.

The dangers are clear as day to Felicia Brown in Saginaw, Mich. To her, it's the leaders who ignore them, she says.

"We're stealing from our children's future and our grandchildren's future," says the cashier and mother of three, who also responded to the AP/Ipsos poll. "We're led off on this belief that we should buy, buy, buy. Everyone needs a big house, everyone needs a new car every two years. We're spending all this money on that, and we're not saving anything."

Some people, however — including economists — think the picture isn't so gloomy.

Ben Bernanke, who recently left the Federal Reserve Board to serve as President Bush's top economic adviser, has argued that the problem is not with the United States. The trouble lies overseas, where people want to save rather than spend their money. The key is to encourage other countries to spend and invest more, he says, though he also believes that the federal budget needs to be balanced.

By raising the issue of foreign investment, Bernanke touches on another area that scares economists — America's inexhaustible desire for foreign goods.

The trade deficit — the difference between what America imports and what it exports — is the highest it's ever been, both in absolute numbers and in comparison to the size of the economy.

As a society, Americans are on track this year to spend $680 billion more on foreign goods such as Chinese-made clothes, Japanese-made cars and Scandinavian cell phones than overseas buyers do on American goods. The crush of arriving, Asian-made products recently spurred the Port of Los Angeles to switch to 24-hour operations.

Nearly two decades ago, the country fretted over a trade imbalance equal to 3.1% of the overall economy, or the gross domestic product. It's more than twice as big now, roughly 6.5%.

Here's how economists, from former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to analysts at the International Monetary Fund, explain the danger: Americans, who go into debt to keep living a life beyond their means, are spending more and more of that borrowed money to buy goods from overseas.

At the same time, the government provides more services to the public than it can afford to — and goes into debt to cover the cost.

Other nations actually purchase that debt, in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds and notes. Those bonds have increasingly been snapped up not just by private investors but by foreign banks. Japanese investors hold the most U.S. debt, but China has been buying more than any other country in recent months.

The biggest trade deficit is with China, too, at $162 billion. Japan is next, at $75 billion.

In a very real sense, the U.S. economy is dependent on the central banks of Japan, China and other nations to invest in U.S. Treasuries and keep American interest rates down. The low rates here keep American consumers buying imported goods.

But the lack of fiscal discipline in the United States is undermining the value of the American dollar, thereby lowering the value of the U.S. Treasuries in foreign banks. As the dollar's value drops, other nations' willingness to keep investing cannot last, says Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University.

If those banks reduced their dollar holdings or were simply less willing to invest so much, it could spark a sharp fall in the value of the dollar. And that could create a host of economic problems.

Economists and business leaders are closely watching China's decision last month to uncouple the value of its currency, the yuan, from the dollar and tie it instead to a basket of different currencies. The move could make the dollar's position less exposed to a quick shift by international investors — or it could spur those investors to look elsewhere and leave the United States' position more precarious.

In the end, Roubini, Walker and others say, disaster is still avoidable, but it's going to require the American people and the country's leaders to clean financial house — to reduce the federal deficit and the trade deficit. Global economics may drive some changes: if Japanese cars cost more, for example, Americans may buy less-expensive GMs.

If not, the future poses some frightening what-ifs:

• What if the dollar plummets? Do stocks follow? How about pensions?

• What if interest rates soar? How would all the new homeowners, who stretched to buy with adjustable and interest-only loans, cover their mortgages?

• How would consumers with record credit-card debt make their payments? Would they stop buying? Stop taking vacations? What will happen if they go bankrupt? New rules going into effect later this year make it harder on such debtors.

• How would government, which depends on the taxes of a strong economy to operate, keep all its promises?

Roubini says time is critical because the worse debt becomes, the more vulnerable America is to shocks in the global economic systems — another spike in oil prices, another major terrorist attack, another major military conflict.

OK, now back to you. No one's asking you to write a check to cover that $145,000, not yet. But the pressures are building around the world, in Washington, and in America's homes to straighten out our finances or get ready for a real mess.

"We're living beyond our means," Roubini says, "and we have to get our act together."

Preznit Bush told us after 9/11 that it was the American consumer's patriotic duty to"buy, buy, buy" and keep the American economy going. Chairman Greenspan lowered interest rates to 1% (a 45 year low) and enabled both the Housing Bubble and the scary levels of consumer debt as Americans refinanced their home mortgages and splurged on their credit cards to take vacations and buy luxury items.

Now Greenspan worries that Americans spend too much and don't save enough?

Guess what, Uncle Alan? When the crash comes, it's partly your baby. You helped create it by lowering interest rates to historically low levels after 9/11 and by encouraging consumers to refinance their homes and buy on credit to keep the American economy going.

You got your wishes. People borrowed, people bought, and the economy came out of recession.

And now you have to take responsibility for your actions.

When Americans lose their homes because they're overextended, it's your fault.

When Americans can't make the payments on their credit cards and have to declare bankruptcy, it's your fault (although under the new bankruptcy law signed by Preznit Bush that goes into effect in October, Americans are going to find that declaring bankruptcy no longer relieves them of their debts!).

When Americans can't retire because they've refinanced their homes two and three times and have to work long past 65 to make the mortgage payments every month, it's your fault.

When the government falls further and further into debt and has to raise taxes and cut services, it's your fault (you could have killed Bush's three tax cut plans had you so choosen).

When the crash comes and millions of Americans lose their jobs and their homes, it's your fault.

Sorry, Uncle Alan. This Frankenstein mess of an economy is partly your creation, partly Bush's creation, and partly the Congress' creation.

There will be no sidestepping blame when the worst hits.

Shia And Kurds By-Pass Sunnis On Constitution

More bad news for the Bush administration on Iraq. The Associated Press reports:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqi negotiators finished the country's new constitution Sunday without the endorsement of Sunni Arabs who helped prepare it, dealing a blow to the Bush administration and setting the stage for a bitter campaign leading up to an October referendum.

Several of the 15 members on the Sunni panel said they rejected the document because of disagreements over such issues as federalism, Iraq's identity and references to Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baath party.

Sunni Arab negotiators later said in a joint statement that they had asked the United Nations and Arab League to intervene.

Gee, I wonder how the Bushies will spin this blow as a victory on the Sunday talk shows this morning?

What time does the civil war start again?

And just how horrifically godawful and bloody is it going to be?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Pro-War Supporters Get Violent In Crawford

From Reuters:

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - Thousands of Iraq war supporters and protesters staged competing rallies near President George W. Bush's Texas ranch on Saturday as he warned Americans to brace for more sacrifice in Iraq.


Police made a handful of arrests, including three people for disorderly conduct at the spot where Sheehan began her vigil along Prairie Chapel Road, which leads to Bush's ranch.

Across town in Crawford, other parents of soldiers who are serving or have died in Iraq countered Sheehan with their own raucous rally that started with a prayer.

Organizer Howard Kaloogian accused Sheehan of "giving hope and encouragement to our enemies."

The crowd, which organizers said topped 3,000 but appeared closer to 1,500, chanted "Cindy, Go Home" and compared her to Jane Fonda, whose visit to a North Vietnamese gun site in 1972 earned her the nickname "Hanoi Jane."

In one heated moment, members of the pro-Bush crowd turned on what they mistakenly thought were a group of anti-war protesters, cursing them, threatening them and tearing down their signs. A police officer rushed the group to safety.

In protest against Sheehan, the parents of several soldiers killed in Iraq had their sons' names and photographs removed from a symbolic gravesite set up by anti-war activists.

"We in no shape or form want his name associated with what's going on here. It's a dishonor to him," John Wroblewski, 53, said of his son, who died in Iraq last year.

Sounds like many of these pro-war supporters are angry enough to go from fighting the war on the homefront to fighting the war on the battlefield.

And yet they would rather fight Cindy Sheehan and her supporters than take on the terrorists.

Well, that should help accomplish the mission.

Knight-Ridder: Iraqi Forces May Need Years Of Preparation

Here's another Bush talking point on Iraq blown out of the water by reality. Tom Lasseter from Knight-Ridder explains why it may be years before Iraqi security forces are ready to take over full-time military operations from the United States:

HIT, Iraq - American Sgt. LaDaunte Strickland, sweat pouring down his face, stared at the four Iraqi soldiers sitting in the shade of a truck.

They were supposed to be helping Strickland and a group of U.S. Marines man a vehicle-control point, a basic operation in which troops hope to catch insurgents at traffic stops they set up quickly on the roadsides.

"Come on. Come on! Get up," said Strickland, 30, of Cleveland, stabbing a cigar in the air to make his point. "Damn, will you PLEASE get up!"

The Iraqis didn't stir. Without an interpreter - a common occurrence - the Iraqis didn't understand Strickland, no matter how loud he got.

Three weeks of patrols and interviews in restive Anbar province suggested that Iraqi security forces will need years of preparation before they're ready to take charge of the complex and violent tribal areas of western Iraq. President Bush has said repeatedly that U.S. troops will withdraw only when Iraqi troops are ready to take over.

Many of the Iraqi troops were in poor condition, unable or unwilling to complete long foot patrols without frequent breaks. They often didn't know what to do in complicated situations, standing back and letting American Marines and soldiers take the lead.

Most of the Iraqi troops interviewed were Shiite Muslims - the majority religious group in Iraq - who were long oppressed by Sunni Muslims, Anbar's predominant ethnic group but a minority across Iraq. That history creates obstacles to establishing trust with the locals.

In Fallujah, after a U.S. assault last November routed the insurgency that had demolished the town's police force, the Interior Ministry sent in troops from its Public Order Brigade. Residents accuse the battalion of being a de facto Shiite militia.

Marine Maj. Shaun Fitzpatrick, 36, of San Antonio said the Marines were aware of the sectarian problems and were hoping to put a predominantly Sunni police force on the streets in coming months. Until then, he said of the public-order troops, "Basically, they're Shiite and they're from Baghdad or Basra (a Shiite town). We've had problems. There are inevitable cultural clashes."

In the meantime, insurgents are attacking new police stations and intimidating contractors.

The Iraqi National Guard, heralded last year as the answer to security in the area, has been disbanded because morale was low and insurgents had infiltrated it. The old national guard trucks, with their blue emblems, now sit rusting. As with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the predecessor to the national guard, American officials say the new Iraqi army and police will establish security in places such as Anbar.

However, the police force has collapsed in Ramadi, the provincial capital. Two divisions of Iraqi soldiers - a total of 12,000 men - are to establish security, but so far only 2,000 are available, and half of them lack basic training.

Hit, a city of 130,000, has no police force. North of Hit, in Haditha - near the site of attacks that killed 20 Marines this month - the police chief handed over all the patrol cars to the Marines in January.

"He said, "We can't protect these anymore,'" said Maj. Plauche St. Romain, the head intelligence officer for the Marine battalion that oversees Haditha, Haqlaniya and Hit. "He turned in the uniforms and (armor) vests, too."

That police chief was assassinated in April.

"It was pretty obvious what happened with the police. Their police stations got blown up and a lot of them were murdered," said Army Maj. William Fall, 48, of Cresson, Pa., who oversees Iraqi security-force operations in Ramadi.

Marine Capt. John LaJeunesse, who works with the police in Ramadi, said it wasn't fair to put too much blame on the police. Those who've remained to get trained and be part of the new force haven't been paid in two and a half months, he said.

So far, a little more than 5,900 police officers have been screened for all of Anbar, about half the number needed. Most of those still must be trained, said LaJeunesse, 30, of Boise, Idaho.

"The ones that stay are working without pay, and the insurgents are threatening their families," he said.

During a recent operation in Haqlaniya, a squad from the Iraqi Intervention Force, one of the more seasoned units in Iraq's army, swept through neighborhoods looking for insurgents. One of the soldiers was so overweight that he had trouble putting on his flak vest.

During a raid on a suspected insurgent hideout, the Iraqis discovered they'd forgotten their bolt cutters. Instead of sending someone back to get them, they tried breaking a lock off an outside gate with the butts of their AK-47s. By the time they were through, they'd made so much noise that everyone in the neighborhood was aware of their presence on what was supposed to be a stealth operation.

When they arrived at their second objective, still without bolt cutters, the men wanted to use grenades to breach the door.

Their supervisor, U.S. Army Capt. Terrence Sommers, stepped in and said they'd risk hurting themselves and would give away their position to insurgents.

"They've still got a ways to go," said Sommers, 34, of Trenton, N.J.

One of the Iraqi officers, Maj. Ahmed, said his men were less than motivated because they didn't understand why the Americans kept sweeping through towns and moving on without leaving troops behind to secure them.

"The people are scared to give us information about the terrorists because there are many terrorists here. And when we leave, the terrorists will come back and kill them," said Ahmed, who gave only his first name out of fear of retribution from the insurgents. "The army has to stay in these cities; that way we would have control. But this way, no, it doesn't make any sense."

On a nighttime raid in Ramadi this month, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Chris Chapin, a military adviser to the Iraqi army, said he hadn't been able to get the Iraqi troops to mount a platoon-sized operation. Chapin had no interpreter with him, and none of the Iraqis could speak English.

"We definitely need to do something about this interpreter thing," said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony James, 33, of Vicksburg, Miss. "I don't see things changing here. We're not reaching the people."

Because the Iraqis and Americans couldn't communicate with one another, they frequently ended up wandering in the middle of the street, yelling commands in English and Arabic and heading in opposite directions.

Chapin, 39, of Proctor, Vt., walked around at one point, yelling, "Lieutenant, where is my lieutenant?" Two of the target houses were within a block of each other, and the entire neighborhood was probably aware of the soldiers' presence, blowing any chance of making a quiet entrance.

"They're always getting bunched into a gaggle, especially at night. I think it's because they're scared," said Sgt. Adam Detato, 24, of Montoursville, Pa. "Between the language barrier and a lot of them having a fifth-grade education, it's hard to teach them our tactics."

In Hit, Strickland finally managed to get three of the Iraqi soldiers to help him with the checkpoint. The fourth remained in the shade, making hand gestures indicating that he needed a light for his cigarette. Within five minutes the other three were making frequent motions toward the sun and then in the direction of the base. "Finish?" they asked. "We finish?"

A Marine standing nearby suggested to Stickland that maybe the answer was to train Iraqis as traffic police, give them orange vests and have them do traffic stops on their own.

Strickland laughed. "Yeah, until the muj finds out the Americans gave them the vests; then they'll kill `em," he said, referring to the insurgents by the Arabic word for "holy warrior," mujahedeen. "When they have problems, these guys will just leave their uniforms and walk off."

Not enough American troops to secure the towns after sweeping insurgents from them and poorly trained, poorly paid, and frightened Iraqi troops ready to leave their uniforms and run off at the first sign of trouble.

Not exactly a plan for success.

Bush Asks Others To Sacrifice While He Bike Rides The Summer Away

From Reuters:

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush, assailed by sagging poll numbers and criticism from anti-war protesters camped outside his ranch, called on Saturday for Americans to show resolve and brace for additional sacrifice in Iraq.

Bush, who personally intervened this week with a key Shi'ite leader in a bid to broker a deal on Iraq's constitution, said Iraqis were "making the tough choices and compromises necessary for a free and peaceful future."

With almost 1,900 U.S. troops dead in the Iraq conflict, Bush is under mounting pressure from critics to finish training a new Iraqi security force and bring the soldiers home.

Bush supporters and anti-war protesters, including relatives of soldiers who died in Iraq, were slated to face off this weekend with rallies near the president's 1,600-acre (648-hectare) Crawford ranch, where he has been spending much of August on vacation.

Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq in April 2004, has been holding a vigil outside the ranch seeking another meeting with him to press for the quick withdrawal of U.S. troops. She will be countered by other soldiers' families who back the U.S. action in Iraq.

In his weekly radio address, Bush acknowledged the job for U.S. soldiers was not yet done.

"Our efforts in Iraq and the broader Middle East will require more time, more sacrifice and continued resolve," he said.

Bush has said withdrawing now would only embolden insurgents who have sought to derail the drafting of an interim constitution.

"And when Iraqi forces can defend their freedom by taking more and more of the fight to the enemy, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned," he said.


Bush's message was part of renewed push to counter critics of his Iraq war policy and boost his standing in the polls.

The latest Gallup survey showed that just two in five Americans approved of the job he was doing while 56 percent disapproved of his performance.

Compared to other post-World War Two presidents at this point in their second term, only Richard Nixon had a lower job approval rating and he was in the midst of the Watergate scandal, Gallup said. The others were all above 50 percent.

So the Preznit says others must sacrifice and show resolve while the Preznit himself wiles away the summer in Crawford bribing the White House press corps with beer and potato salad, riding his bike like a fucking eight-year old and ignoring the anti-war protests down the road at Camp Casey II.

But at least he has a plan to get us out, right? I mean, "when Iraqi forces can defend their freedom by taking more and more of the fight to the enemy, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned." That sounds like a good plan, doesn't it?

After you read this Knight-Ridder piece by Tom Lasseter on the strength of the insurgency in the Anbar Province, you realize that Iraqis will never, ever be able to "defend their freedom" or "take more and more of the fight to the enemy." I quote the article in full:

U.S., insurgents locked in stalemate

By Tom Lasseter

Knight Ridder Newspapers

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Insurgents in Anbar province, the center of guerrilla resistance in Iraq, have fought the U.S. military to a stalemate.

After repeated major combat offensives in Fallujah and Ramadi, and after losing hundreds of soldiers and Marines in Anbar during the past two years - including 75 since June 1 - many American officers and enlisted men assigned to Anbar have stopped talking about winning a military victory in Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland. Instead, they're trying to hold on to a handful of population centers and hit smaller towns in a series of quick-strike operations designed to disrupt insurgent activities temporarily.

"I don't think of this in terms of winning," said Col. Stephen Davis, who commands a task force of about 5,000 Marines in an area of some 24,000 square miles in the western portion of Anbar. Instead, he said, his Marines are fighting a war of attrition. "The frustrating part for the (American) audience, if you will, is they want finality. They want a fight for the town and in the end the guy with the white hat wins."

That's unlikely in Anbar, Davis said. He expects the insurgency to last for years, hitting American and Iraqi forces with quick ambushes, bombs and mines. Roadside bombs have hit vehicles Davis was riding in three times this year already.

"We understand counter-insurgency ... we paid for these lessons in blood in Vietnam," Davis said. "You'll get killed on a nice day when everything is quiet."

Most of Iraq is far quieter than Anbar. But Anbar is Iraq's largest province and home to the Arab Sunni minority, which dominated the government under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. It's the strategic center of the country, and failure to secure it could thwart the Bush administration's hopes of helping to create a functioning Iraqi democracy.

Military officials now frequently compare the fight in Anbar to the Vietnam War, saying that guerrilla fighters, who blend back into the population, are trying to break the will of the American military - rather than defeat it outright - and to erode public support for the war back home.

"If it were just killing people that would win this, it'd be easy," said Marine Maj. Nicholas Visconti, 35, of Brookfield, Conn., who served in southern Iraq in 2003. "But look at Vietnam. We killed millions, and they kept coming. It's a war of attrition. They're not trying to win. It's just like in Vietnam. They won a long, protracted fight that the American public did not have the stomach for. ... Killing people is not the answer; rebuilding the cities is."

Minutes after he spoke, two mortar rounds flew over the building where he's based in Hit. Visconti didn't flinch as the explosions rang out.

During three weeks of reporting along the Euphrates River valley, home to Anbar's main population centers and the core of insurgent activity, military officials offered three primary reasons that guerrilla fighters have held and gained ground: the enemy's growing sophistication, insufficient numbers of U.S. troops and the lack of trained and reliable Iraqi security forces.

They described an enemy who's intelligent and adaptive:

- Military officials in Ramadi said insurgents there had learned the times of their patrol shift changes. When one group of vehicles comes to relieve another, civilian traffic is pushed to the side of the road to allow the military to pass. Insurgents plan and use this opportunity, surrounded by other cars, to drop homemade bombs out their windows or through holes cut in the rear floor.

- The insurgents have figured out by trial and error the different viewing ranges of the optics systems in American tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Humvees.

"They've mapped it out. They go into the road and try to draw fire to see what our range is and then they make a note of it and start putting IEDs that far out," said Army Maj. Jason Pelletier, 32, of the 28th Infantry Division, referring to improvised explosive devices, the military's term for homemade bombs. "It's that cat-and-mouse game. They do something, we react and they note our reaction," said Pelletier, who's from Milton, Vt.

- Faced with the U.S. military's technological might, guerrilla fighters have relied on gathering intelligence and using cheap, effective devices to kill and maim.

Marines raided a home near their base in Hit and found three Sudanese insurgents with a crude map they'd drawn of the American base, including notes detailing when patrols left the gate, whether they were on foot or in vehicles and the numbers of Marines on the patrols.

The three men also had $11,000 in cash in an area in which insurgents pay locals $50 to plant bombs in the road.

The guerrilla fighters in Hit have used small, yellow and pink, Japanese star-shaped alarm clocks - similar to those popular with little girls in the United States - as timers to detonate rocket launchers and mortar systems aimed at Marine positions. They frequently use sawed-off curtain rods planted 50 or so yards away to calibrate the ranges to nearby bases. One of the two Marine positions in the city receives mortar fire almost daily. Patrols from the other base are hit by frequent roadside bombings.

Instead of referring to the enemy derisively as "terrorists" - as they used to - Marines and soldiers now give the insurgents a measure of respect by calling them "mujahedeen," an Arabic term meaning "holy warrior" that became popular during the Afghan guerrilla campaign against the Soviet Union.

Military commanders in Anbar hope to combat the insurgency through a multi-pronged strategy of political progress, reconstruction and training Iraqi security forces.

However, there's been less political progress in Anbar than in Iraq's Kurdish north and Shiite Muslim south, the violence there has stymied progress in rebuilding towns destroyed in the fighting and Iraqi forces are still a long way from being able to secure the province.

U.S. officials hope that a strong turnout in national elections in December will turn people away from violence. They expressed similar hopes before last January's elections. However, while those elections were a success in many parts of the nation, in Anbar the turnout was in the single digits.

"Some of the Iraqis say they want to vote but they're worried there'll be a bomb at the polling station," Marine Capt. James Haunty, 27, of Columbus, Ohio, said recently. "It's a legitimate fear, but I always tell them, just trust me."

Less than five minutes after Haunty spoke, near the town of Hit, a roadside bomb down the street produced a loud boom followed by a funnel of black smoke.

Many Sunnis in Anbar say they'll vote against the constitution in October, as they've felt excluded from the process of drafting the document.

While fighting has badly damaged many towns and precluded widespread reconstruction efforts, Marines in Fallujah are working to make that city a centerpiece of rebuilding. Fallujah residences sustained some $225 million in damage last November during a U.S. assault aimed at clearing the city of insurgents, according to Marine Lt. Col. Jim Haldeman, who oversees the civil military operations center in Fallujah.

Homeowners have received 20 percent of that amount to rebuild homes, and will get the next 20 percent in the coming weeks, Haldeman said. Families are walking the streets once again and shops have reopened. The sound of hammers is constant, and men line the streets mixing concrete and laying bricks out to dry.

Even so, of the 250,000 population before the fighting, just 150,000 residents have returned. And the insurgency has come back to the area.

Iraqis are still a long way from being able to provide their own security in Anbar. As with much of the province, Fallujah has no functioning police force. Police in Ramadi are confined to two heavily fortified stations, after insurgents destroyed or seriously damaged eight others.

The Iraqi national guard, heralded last year as the answer to local security, was dissolved because of incompetence and insurgent infiltration, as was the guard's predecessor, the civil defense corps.

The new Iraqi army has participated in all the Marines' recent sweeps in Anbar, in a limited way. While the Iraqi soldiers haven't thrown down their weapons and run, as they have in the past, many of them are still unable to operate without close U.S. supervision.


Tom Lasseter made regular trips to Fallujah in the summer and winter of 2003, interviewing tribal sheiks and residents there before the town fell to insurgents. He wrote extensively about the brewing unrest in the region, and the misunderstandings and conflicts between residents and the U.S. military units stationed there. During that period he was able to walk freely throughout the town with a translator.

He was last in Fallujah without military escort in early 2004 when insurgents overran the downtown police station. After men repeatedly pointed AK-47s at his chest and face and threatened to shoot him, he decided not to return except with American troops. Insurgents took over the town that April.

He reported on troops in Ramadi last summer, and wrote about the scaling back of patrols there and low morale among troops. He returned to Anbar province in November, when U.S. troops retook Fallujah in the worst urban combat since Vietnam. For this series of stories, Lasseter spent three weeks in the province this month embedded with Marine and Army units in Haqlaniya, Haditha, Hit, Ramadi and Fallujah.

If we accept the preznit's timetable for withdrawl (turning security over to an able Iraqi military) , we're going be in Iraq until the fucking Rapture happens and Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson fly over our heads heavenward like the Snoopy ballon at the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Insurgents have infiltrated the Iraqi security forces. Iraqi security forces are nowhere near ready to take over their own security, no matter what Preznit Bush says. And the insurgency is so smart, so adaptive, and so professional that American military forces now call them "mujahedeen" - holy warriors - just like the Afghan rebels who drove the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the Eighties.

The war is lost. The military on the ground in Iraq knows it, the generals at the Pentagon know it, even many in the American public seem to be coming to that realization.

Only Preznit Bush, holed up on his Crawford Ranch with his mountain bike, and Vice Preznit Cheney, resting comfortably in his coffin at an undisclosed location in Wyoming, seem to think the war can still be won.

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