Friday, August 31, 2007

Bizarre GOP VP Suggestions

Bill Bennett?

Tommy Franks?

Unless your name is Pawlenty or Huckabee I don't want to hear it.

MORE: Here's a funny little piece: In March Larry Sabato placed David Vitter on a long list of possible VP picks. I think it's safe to say he will not be on any future short lists.

You Mean the Two of You Haven't Been Getting Along?

I found this post over at the Corner pretty amusing:

Craig Resignation Watch [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

He's announcing his plans in Boise know, Saturday of Labor Day weekend, making every political reporter in America angry.

Sorry you're vacation's ruined, K-Lo, but I would imagine that Larry Craig has little reason to consider the holiday plans of the press at the moment.

An Object Lesson in Pissing Your Credibility Away

Tony Palmeri defends Ward Churchill. It's a great companion to his previous defense of Kevin Barrett.

So the lesson I'm taking away from this essay is that if you have a batshit insane conspiracy theory (that doesn't really stand up to much scrutiny) or if you have something utterly offensive to say, Palmeri's cool with that; but if you want to serve your community, well, then it becomes time to examine your resume critically.

This should go over real well ...

Limey Green

There is a lot to be said that this is not happening in an American city first.

Gays and the GOP

This is probably the best assessment of The Republican party's relationship with the gay community:

From the top of the party to the bottom, few Republicans personally and viscerally dislike gay people. President Bush has had friends he knew were gay. So has Vice President Cheney. Even the most prominently and vigorously anti-gay Republican, Sen. Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum, had a gay spokesperson whom he defended when his homosexuality became known.

The big, open secret in Republican politics is that everyone knows someone gay these days and very few people – excepting some committed anti-gay activists – really care. It’s one of the things that drives religious conservatives crazy because it makes the party look like it’s not really committed to traditional sexual morality.

So to keep religious conservatives happy the party has done two things. First, it has steadfastly resisted efforts to ease anti-gay discrimination in public policy, even when Republican politicians know better. I can’t tell you how many Republican staffers told me, for example, that their bosses privately opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment but would be voting for it anyway.

The best evidence for the "talk a big game" explanation was the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that President Bush floated around during the 2004 election. Discussion of that idea summarily died shortly after John Kerry's concession speech. At various local levels Carpenter's assessment probably does not hold much water, but among the national party I think it's pretty accurate.

Should Cops be Journalists?

When was the last time you heard a reporter just state the obvious during an interview?

Actually, they do it all the time, but the bar is much lower for people who are not in elected office. I realize there is a certain decorum that must be maintained between the government and the press, but the dynamic here is amazing: a local police agency completely unintimidated by the power of Craig's office.

Annals of Narcotics Law Enforcement

This is your brain on drugs:

Man arrested after woman tells cops he offered her cocaine for lap dance

A 36-year-old Sheboygan man was arrested early Thursday after police say he offered a woman cocaine in exchange for a lap dance.

The man, arrested about 12:30 a.m. outside Club Michigan, 908 Michigan Ave., also stored his ID card with the drug, making ownership easy to determine, said Lt. Jeff Johnston of the Sheboygan Police Department.

Annals of Divorce

I know dissolving a marriage can be a traumatic experience that can leave all parties involved very bitter a disillusioned with the human condition but isn't this taking things a bit too far?

Caren Ann Burke, 821 Pleasant Way, filed a petition Aug. 23 in Outagamie County Circuit Court to change her name to Caren Ann bin Laden.

Burke, 49, who listed her occupation as unemployed, paid a $155 filing fee for the petition and incurred further expense to take out the required legal notice in The Post-Crescent.

Now, I would imagine such a drastic action would be interpreted by some to be a political statement, but that turns out to not the case for, uh, Ms. Burke/bin Laden:

Called at her home, Burke, when asked about the name change, said, "I don't have to explain that to a reporter. It is really none of your business. At this point, it is a private matter."

In the space on the petition for a reason, Burke put "divorce from Rory S. Burke."

But here's the best part of the whole story:

A Lexis-Nexis search of Wisconsin public records did not find anyone with the last name of bin Laden in the state.

No shit ...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

More on Allawi

* Allawi now has two financial backers, neither of whom may need to be disclosed according to FARA ...

* Back in Iraq, the man himself is courting the Kurds ...

* Matt Yglesias and Eric Martin notice David Ignatius taking a shine to Allawi ...

* But if you think Ignatius might have signed on to the BGR campaign, than you haven't read Krauthammer, who clearly has:

Maliki is not just weak but unreliable. Time is short. We should have long ago -- say, when national security adviser Stephen Hadley wrote his leaked memo last November about Maliki's failure -- begun working to have this dysfunctional government replaced.

* And in an onion of shilling here's a Weekly Standard post citing a RedState post by Rep. Thad McCotter (R - Never Heard of Him) saying the Iraqi government is broken and actually an impediment to progress.

* Laura Rozen catches a few other Allawi-related pieces.

Burkee/Walz on the TV

Take it away, Mr. Schroeder.

Timing Your Commute

Why do Governors always seem to wait until the last possible minute to commute the sentences of convicted criminals?

Does it really take that long to review a case? Are they waiting for further exculpatory evidence? Is crafting a budget a higher priority? Does the victim's family frequently lobby for an expedited execution? Does it take a long time for a public outcry to develop in support for the prisoner?

Or does the drama build the closer the execution comes giving the granter of clemency an almost God-like status as someone who holds life and death in his or hands? Does a governor become more merciful the closer the death of the inmate becomes?

If that's the case, isn't that kind of cruel and/or unusual?

Just a thought ...

Sadr City under Siege?

I'm clearly missing something here:

Baghdad, Aug 30, (VOI)- Iraqi security forces have besieged Sadr City in eastern Baghdad and sealed off the city's main outlets, eyewitnesses said.


"Last night was calm and the city witnessed no clashes or unrest, so residents were surprised at today's siege," another eyewitness said.

The siege came one day after the decision taken by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to freeze al-Mahdi Army for six months.

The decision was taken after recent speculation and accusations against al-Mahdi Army of being involved in the violent acts in the city of Karbala, where scores were killed and injured.

Wouldn't the declaration of a cease fire curb any supposed influence in Karbala? Wouldn't it be worth waiting at least a few days to see if this is true or not? Isn't this the kind of insult the security forces would want to avoid?

Welcome Chris Hayes Readers! (and Hopefully Steve Jobs)

We'd like to thank Mr. Hayes for sending a little traffic our way and hope some of his readers have the chance to kick off their shoes, stick around for a while, etc. Why is there anything we can get you all to drink while you're here?

Most importantly, Hayes' magnanimousness exponentially increases the chances of our humble operation coming to the attention of Mr. Jobs, and quite frankly we are just not above shameless attempts to rake in the shwag.

And when that doesn't work I'm sure we'll find another way to capitalize on a little recognition from a journalist whose work we respect and admire.


Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together!

The Bush Administration tries to rekindle some of that old public relations magic one last time with a September saber-rattling roll out to bomb Iran:

They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty."

I can't fathom a leader taking a country to war with less than 40% support, but then again nothing these guys do has made a damn lick of sense -- why should they start now?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Obama on the Mortgage Mess

Writes an article for FT, in which he proposes legislation to address the problem, and joins Chris Dodd and HRC as the only presidential candidates who seem aware of the problem. Mitt Romney's personal fortune has even been directly affected by the meltdown, yet nothing from his campaign (that I'm aware of, at least) on the matter.

From The Economist:

The Republican candidates have not said much. And the Democrats will gain the upper hand if they successfully link housing woes to the broader economy. The Republicans might do well to recall the election in 1992. The reputation of the first President Bush on the economy was sealed by anaemic growth and job losses. However America’s growth rate in the first three quarters of 1992, the election year, was actually almost double that of the last three quarters of 1991. It was too late. Bill Clinton took the advice of his campaign strategist. He hammered home a message of Republican economic mismanagement and ensured that the electorate took care of his housing needs for the next four years.

This may be indication that yet another one of the pillars in the mythology of Republican competence may be about to tumble, namely that the GOP is a better steward of the economy. The Republican brand can't afford to lose that third leg of the stool since Iraq and a corrupt congress have already demonstrated that the party of national security and "family values" isn't really the party of either.

Thanks, Wyoming ...

The state with the fewest people in the union moves its primary to January 5th.

MORE: Apparently, Wyoming holds caucuses, not primaries.

Coach vs. Gov.

This is an absolutely fascinating list that compares the salaries of head coaches at major state flagship universities with the governors of that state. For example, here's Wisconsin:

Gov: Jim Doyle, $137,000

HPC: Bret Bielema, Wisconsin football, $1.3 million

... Wherein HPC stands for "highest paid coach."

There's a million things to be said about this list, but I'm going to go for one of the more banal observations and point out the states whose football program didn't make the cut:


Gov: Sarah Palin, $125,000

HPC: Dave Shyiak, Alaska-Anchorage ice hockey, $112,000

(NOTE: There is no college football in Alaska)



Gov: Jim Douglas, $144,000

HPC: Mike Lonergan, Vermont men’s basketball, $150,000

(NOTE: Vermont has no state-funded college football teams)

[via SE]

Speaking of Haley Barbour...

We've been talking about Haley Barbour's Washington lobbying shop all week and now we finally have the opportunity to talk about the man himself.

The news -- surprise! -- is less than positive. Normally, I'd excerpt a particularly juicy graf or two, but in this case it's best to just read the whole piece by Steve Clemons.

Christopher Hayes Totally Owes Us Royalties!

Check out the title of this post by Christopher Hayes ...


You heard it here first, folks! And we don't even have an iPhone! But if Steve Jobs wants to reward us with an iPhone for our efforts to remake the lexicon in Apple's image, he's more than welcome!

Allawi's Financiers are still a Mystery

This is not exactly what Allawi told Wolf Blitzer last weekend when he said he was being supported by a source he was not at liberty to divulge:

In filing papers with the Department of Justice, required for compliance with [Foreign Agent Registration Act], BGR's Dan Murphy registered Allawi as the sole foreign principal the firm would be representing, checking of the appropriate box to confirm that he was not being “financed by a foreign government, foreign political party, or other foreign principal.” If an Iraqi is indeed paying for Allawi’s US activities, BGR is required by law to disclose the identity of the financier.

Perhaps even more interesting is that Allawi apparently really knows his way around K Street:

Years ago in a similar situation, for example, Allawi revealed the person who would be paying his Washington lobbyist bills. IraqSlogger has acquired a copy of the FARA registration documents concerning Allawi’s 2003-2004 relationship with another DC firm, Theros & Theros.

T & T's FARA filing marks the box indicating that Allawi was being financed by a foreign entity, and later explains that all fees and expenses associated with the contract would be paid by Dr. Mashal Nawab, “a close friend and admirer” of Allawi. Nawab’s total expenditure reached an estimated $340,000.

Nawab is an Iraqi-British physician based in the UK, whose family reportedly acquired wealth through oil investments. IraqSlogger was unable to locate Nawab to inquire about Allawi’s latest financier, but his previous financial contributions make him a plausible candidate.

Burkee/Walz: Getting Retro

In an effort that in no way, shape or form resembles Newt Gingrich's famous Contract with America, Team Burkee/Walz have signed a "Pact with the People" proving once and for all that bipartisanship = alliteration.

Here's the text of the Pact:

  1. Fiscal Responsibility. I pledge that as your representative in Congress I will not, during times of economic growth, vote in favor of any legislation that relies on deficit spending. I will also support a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment.
  2. Term Limits. I pledge that, if elected, I will serve no more than three consecutive terms.
  3. No Lobbyist Gifts. I pledge that, if elected, I will refuse any financial gifts from lobbyists or other organizations, including meals, travel and lodging.
  4. Daily Debates. I pledge that, if I win my party’s nomination, I will debate my opponent at least once each day that I am in the district during the campaign.
  5. Issue-Oriented Campaigning. I pledge that, in the course of the campaign, I will not run negative ads or engage in personal attacks against my opponent.
  6. No PAC Money. I pledge that I will only accept contributions from individuals to my campaign and will reject any support from political action committees or other outside organizations.
Cynics will call this stuff a gimmick, but guess what: it's worked before.

Ball's in your court, Tex.

Questions that Still Need Answers Part VI

Well, this project is officially over.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Keeping Our Eye on the Ball

Iyad Allawi is still making his power move ...

Between Allawi's column in the Washington Post and his much hyped interview on CNN this weekend it is fairly clear that there was a broad public relations campaign element that was arranged by BGR to correspond with the more personal Washington lobbying effort.

But that PR effort has hit a brick wall in a news cycle that is being dominated by the Alberto Gonzales resignation and a Senator in a sex scandal (seriously, on a normal week, all people would be talking about would be the attempted suicide of a certain movie star). So while the media combs over every public bathroom between Boise and Boston, I'd imagine that Allawi's handlers will focus on the behind the scenes machinations of returning their client to power, holding off until the Petraeus report comes out in few weeks.

Meanwhile, in an entirely unrelated development (wink, wink, nudge nudge), the American Enterprise Institute will be beating the Iran drums during the lead up to the report's release:

The chronological juxtaposition of the Surge panel September 6 and the roll-out of Ledeen’s book September 10 underlines the balance that AEI and other hawks (including the vice president’s office) are trying to achieve between their two top priorities at the moment – sustaining the Surge well into next year and rallying Congress and the public behind an attack on Iraq [sic. - I think Lobe means Iran here -JB] before the end of Bush’s term, if by then “diplomacy” does not achieve the desired results of 1) freezing its nuclear program and/or 2) halting Tehran’s support for its Shi’a allies (including the Maliki government) in Iraq.

Allawi and his hired guns seem to be banking on building the perception that by putting their man back in power the administration will be able to accomplish #2.

In case you missed it, here's Allawi's performance last Sunday on CNN. You have to admit, that he's getting his money's worth just in the "non-denial denial" training alone.

Adventures in 24/7 Media!

Weekly Standard edition

I love it when I see Matthew Continetti on TV because all kinds of great things happen. For those who are unfamiliar with Continetti's oeuvre, just flip through the the pages of the Weekly Standard, where he is something of that periodical's resident wunderkind. Now, I don't agree with the assessment that the young neocon is what some have called a "once-promising talent" (his reporting may be adequate, but his writing -- not so much), but I do think that if I had cribbed from Continetti's love letters to Rudy Giuliani when I was in fourth grade, Becky Sanders and I would be happily married with four kids right now.

Alas, it was not meant to be! But that may be just as well because Becky went on to marry Ron Berger (what an asshole!) and, well, let's just say that time has not been good to either of them...

But I digress ...

Anyway, a few years ago this Continetti fellow, at the tender age of (I think) 23, published a book called The K Street Gang, about the rise and fall of Jack Abramoff. To promote said book, Continetti's publisher booked him on the Daily Show, and when the day of his appearance arrived, Continetti strolled out across the stage and took his seat across the table from the show's host, absolutely petrified with the thought of sparring with John Stewart. As it happened, Stewart treated the young author with kid gloves, but to date Continetti remains hands-down the single most nervous guest (in my viewing) ever to have appeared on the show.

Since then he's become the bright young face that the Weekly Standard pushes in front of a TV camera when it has a point to make or when a news organizations is looking for the neocon perspective. And my how little Matty has grown up since those first steps in front of the camera in New York! Now he appears far more confident, comfortable and just as unwaveringly full of shit as the rest of his colleagues.

Case in point:

A few minutes ago, MSNBC ran a report on the scandal and then called on three talking heads to discuss it. The whole segment ran about five minutes. One of the participants was Matthew Continetti of the neocon rag the Weekly Standard, who used half of his alotted time to express his utter indignation that MSNBC would devote time to something as tawdry as the Craig matter while ignoring a recent Newsweek report about al-Qaeda. "I think it says something about American media that we’re talking about Senator Craig and not this very important piece in Newsweek," Continetti harrumphed.

Which, of course, raises the question: If talking about Craig is so offensive, why did you agree to do the segment?

I actually caught the segment myself and it was so ridiculous that the moderator couldn't contain a "ppssshhhaww!" after listening to Continetti's plea for a return to sanity.

If that kind of flagrant self-righteousness sounds familiar, let me just say this: Continetti is also developing some of William Krystol's verbal idiosyncrasies too.


Now that's some serious somnambulism.

"The Perfect Crime"

"So, who's up for a killing spree in Idaho to do some constitutional beta-testing?"

For some much needed context (which has nothing whatsoever to do with Sen. Craig), click here.

Marx and ... Milton?

Talk about an odd couple, but that is not stopping Eric Nilsson from undertaking a bold project.

Here's the first installment.

Back at You

Independent Thoughts, a local Kosh blogger, was kind enough to include The Chief in his blog roll -- and we're only all too happy to return the favor.

We're Not Hardcore Techies...

... but this makes us drool: a laptop that fits in your pocket.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Clive Crook on "Starve the Beast"

Here's the full text of an article by Clive Crook we linked to earlier discussing the "starve the beast" theory.

Why the Sen. Craig Story is Awful News

If you haven't heard about the story of the conservative U.S. Senator from the Gem state being arrested for allegedly soliciting sex in the Minneapolis Airport bathroom -- you may find the story here.

Have you had the opportunity to take in the schadenfreude?

Good. Now let's get back to business. Tomorrow, after the luridness of the story wears off, the fact that Craig will be up for re-election next year will start to become a larger part of the story. I'd imagine that given the circumstances the voters back in Idaho can expect a retirement notice in the months to come ... which means that Rep. Bill Sali will now have a pretty good chance at entering the the most exclusive club in the world.

If you don't know who Sali is, fire up Google, kick back and prepare to marvel at the man with the reputation of being the most hated Republican among Republicans.

His unfavorables are ungodly high for a freshman congressman, but Sali now has access to Washington insider money (in addition to his favored status with the Club for Growth), and that kind of support can go a long way in a place like Idaho, which is already staunchly Republican.

Whether he wants to run or not, there will be talk of Sali moving up in the world in the weeks ahead, and that's not good.

MORE: Patrick Ruffini mentions Sali in his list of possible successors, but only in passing, which gives me hope. Apparently there is no shortage of more qualified (and more sane) candidates to replace Craig, and that's about the best someone can reasonably ask for from Idaho.

EVEN MORE: Stu Rothenberg is just as sanguine. [via PW]

MORE STILL: Mark Ambinder gets day two going with both a clinical analysis and a look at the personal toll events like these take on those in the immediate circle of the accused.

Questions that Need Answers, Part V

I am extremely skeptical that changing the municipal government to an elected mayor format will do much good. I'm willing to listen to some arguments, and in the last week or so I've convinced myself of some of the merits of a mayoral system, but there are still a lot of questions that I will need concrete answers to before I acquiesce to the concept. So here are some of my questions, in no particular order.

1.) Pay

2.) Expectations

3.) Hiring & Spending Power

4.) Campaigns

5.) Staff & Bureaucracy

This could have gone under #3, but what are you going to do?

Obviously, one person can not be expected to run a whole city by him or her self, so what kind of support staff will the mayor be allowed to assemble around him? Are we just going to give him or her a secretary or will the mayor be allowed to hire the number of people he or she believes is necessary to assist him? Will these people need to be approved of by the council or can their appearance on the payrolls be at the discretion of the mayor?

Will candidates be required to anticipate how many people they pay to hire as support staff while running for office?

Will the mayors be responsible for creating a budget for their office or will the council do that?

What will be the relationship between the mayor and the department heads? Will the dept. heads have more autonomy (and therefore more responsibility?), or will the mayor have to micromanage everything they do?

Will the mayor get updates from the dept. heads via meetings or will he or she be expected to actually get their hands dirty and go out into the field to meet some of the other city workers?

Will the mayor be the final arbiter of any grievances filed against the city on behalf of employees?

Will the mayor take the lead on negotiations with the city employees' union?

Will the mayor have the ability to fire any one who works for the city for whatever reason?

Questions that Need Answers, Part IV

I am extremely skeptical that changing the municipal government to an elected mayor format will do much good. I'm willing to listen to some arguments, and in the last week or so I've convinced myself of some of the merits of a mayoral system, but there are still a lot of questions that I will need concrete answers to before I acquiesce to the concept. So here are some of my questions, in no particular order.

1.) Pay

2.) Expectations

3.) Hiring & Spending Power

4.) Campaigns

Sweet Jesus, I sure hope every one is very clear what we're getting ourselves into in this department. Kent Monte is on the track with this one:

The Mayor will have to "put up or shut up" or risk being ousted in the next election. The flood gates will open. If you think that the Castle/Esslinger race was expensive (over $20k combined) stand back. This will make that one look small. The ONW will take sides, the political parties will get involved (despite the "non partisan" tag) and there will be quite a mud slinging affair between the "sides" that will form. It will be a popularity contest like you have never seen before and we will be lucky if we get a candidate that can find his ass with both hands and a flashlight to run the city.

This is pretty accurate in my estimation. It will be expensive, it will be messy, there will likely be a primary involved in which the crowd is thinned. There will be a "North side" candidate, a "West side" candidate, a "Chamber" candidate, an "average Joe" candidate, and likely some crazy whack job who hates everything and everybody and wants nothing more than a platform from which to whine.

There will be TV commercials, mailers, LWV forums running on a continuous loop on OCAT until what seems like the end of time. The people of Oshkosh will have precise knowledge of how long 60 seconds is because they will be hearing Kathy Propp's voice interrupting candidate's to tell them that their time is up in their sleep.

And anyone who lift's a finger to help out one of the candidate's -- let's there name be used as a supporter, say, or helps do some campaigning, or, God forbid, gives money to -- will become an official member of that candidate's "good old boys" club (see #3 above).

How will this thing be funded? Will there be limits? Same rules as the council seats or, because the nature of the race will be fundamentally different, will there be different rules?

What will the primaries look like? Will we thin the crowd be narrowed down to the top 2 candidates or three? How long between the primary and the run-off will there be 4 weeks? 6 or 8 weeks?

Have we even settled on how long the term will be? 2 years or 4? How often can we expect to enjoy this semi-annual ritual of civic division?

Will sitting members of the council be allowed to run for the office if their term is not yet over or will they have to give up their seats?

Provided that the mayor's pay is close to $100,000 (See #1 above), won't an incumbent mayor have a money advantage over the person making an average wage in Oshkosh?

Will third parties be allowed to campaign for their respective candidate? Will these third parties have to register with the city? Will third parties from out-of-town be welcome to enter the debate? What if one of those third parties is a development firm from Phoenix that has eyes on the old Pioneer Inn land? Can they throw their two cents in two?

Will the campaigns be partisan?

Will the election always be in the spring? Why not November?

What happens if there should be a (God forbid) tie?

A Post that Will Blow Your Mind!

I'm pretty sure this headline single-handedly disproves Aristotle's principle of non-contradiction.

Allawi Armageddon

The Allawi-Maliki drama has gone mainstream now, bursting through to the conventional print press.

American Footprints retraces some of the former praise that Robert Blackwill has had for Allawi in the past and questions the former prime minister's Iraqi popularity among Sunnis (reputed to be more favorable than Maliki's):

Back to exaggerated Allawi-boosterism, though. Perhaps the situation has changed since that election, and there is now "strong support" for Allawi in the Sunni community (with Allawi being a tolerable option faced with the alternative of a Shiite controlled government continuing in power). It is hard to know without seeing actual poll numbers conducted by reputable, non-partisan firms that are not on the payroll of, or influenced by, the many media-manipulating allies that Allawi has, literally, employed. Suffice it to say, there is ample reason to strongly doubt that Allawi has strong support in the Sunni community, and such support is entirely contingent on Allawi's ability to sell himself as useful at countering Shiite power (and such usefulness will expire when the Sunnis believe they can achieve their goals without him).

The earliest we could find that of Allawi looking to make a return to power was in March of this year, and Abu Aardvark saw it similarly so:

The idea that the road to power in Baghdad lies through DC lobbyists is not a particularly strange one, especially given the experience of Iraqi exile politicians in 2002-2003. It's also worth noting that Allawi's bid for a return to power is nothing new - his candidacy has been pushed by the Saudis and other Arab states, and by some Americans since last fall. I warned about this Allawi gambit back in March:

Will Iyad Allawi, the rotund one-time Iraqi Prime Minister and current London resident, be the next Prime Minister of Iraq? He certainly seems to want the job, and he suits the Bush administration's agenda suspiciously well. But his return to power would not only fail to end the civil war - it would also signal a decisive end to democratic aspirations in Iraq and the Arab world, increase America's role at a time when most Americans would prefer to leave, and pave the way to a confrontation with Iran.

Annals of Television: Brewtown Edition

People are sick of TV shows that are set and/or filmed in Los Angeles. So they're coming to Milwaukee!

McDougall said that 90 percent of TV series tape and film outdoor scenes in the Los Angeles area and all the locations there have become overexposed with viewers. He said he hopes to explore Milwaukee as a fresh alternative.

Cross your fingers, Oshkosh, for that sequel to Meet the Applegates!

Signs of, er, Progress?

For all of the billions of dollars that has been spent trying to divert kids from street gangs, the arms/narcotics trade, street violence it's good to see that effort finally paying off.

Slinging crack on the corner? That was so five years ago. Now all the hardcore kids are keeping their hands busy with mortgage fraud.

Inner city youth of America: forget the Wharton School. In ten years you will be required to flash your gang signs to be granted access to Goldman Sachs board meetings.

A Spy in the House of Representatives?

Actually, there have probably been plenty. The most notable of recent years was Porter Goss, the ill-fated DCI who failed to "clean up" CIA when appointed by Bush to succeed George Tenet.

But beleaguered out-going Rep. Rick Renzi?

Interesting ...

Tom Petri jumps aboard the Mitt Romney band wagon.

He's the first state congressional Republican to endorse a candidate.

On the other side of the aisle Reps. Gwen Moore is supporting Barack Obama, Tammy Baldwin is on Hillary Clinton's side, and David Obey has cast his lot with John Edwards.

Neither Sens. Kohl or Feingold have publicly made their preferences know.

He Gone

Gonzales is out as Attorney General.

Damn, we're good!

MORE: Just watching the noon hour news and I have to say: My, how the mighty Bush Administration media machine has fallen ... seeing split screens occupied by Gonzales on one side and Michael Vick on the other -- both leaving their respective halls of justice -- is not the visual I'm sure the White House was going for.

MORE STILL: Acting Attorney General Paul Clement is from Cedarburg -- who knew?

Watergate II: The Sequel?

Some dudes broke into Chris Dodd's Hartford office Saturday night, but unlike the bungling "plumbers" that broke into the now infamous Washington landmark this crew was a set of bona fide cat burglars:

The police said they believe that the suspects jumped from the roof of a building next door onto the fire escape of the building that houses Mr. Dodd’s office and broke in through a second-story window. The burglary occurred between 10 and 11 p.m., they said.

(emphasis added)

Hey, if you're going to commit a felony against a sitting member of the U.S. Senate, you might as well do it with a little style, right?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Questions that Need Answers, Part III

I am extremely skeptical that changing the municipal government to an elected mayor format will do much good. I'm willing to listen to some arguments, and in the last week or so I've convinced myself of some of the merits of a mayoral system, but there are still a lot of questions that I will need concrete answers to before I acquiesce to the concept. So here are some of my questions, in no particular order.

1.) Pay

2.) Expectations

3.) Hiring & Spending Power

What will be the mayor's ability to hire and fire City Hall employees, contractors, consultants, temporary & seasonal employees, interns and the like?

This is extremely important. Oshkosh is, again, a small town. There's a lot of people who are related to a lot of other people in town. There are a lot of other people who went to school with even more people in town. And there are plenty of people who have done business together over the years with all sorts of other people in town. So what becomes our definition of croonyism and of graft and of kickbacks?

Will the mayor be able to hire family members to jobs in the city government? What about extended family, like cousins or in-laws? If the answer is automatically no -- what happens when these people are actually qualified and would be good for the job?

What about granting city contracts to friends or relatives or people who have done business with the mayor in the past? If there is a competitive bidding process in which all offers are essentially equal and the contract goes to the know entity, will this qualify as graft?

Will a mayor who has been perceived as making decisions during his or her time in office that benefit a certain party be forbidden from accepting employment with said party upon leaving office or will this simply be deemed poor form?

Will we need to create a panel to oversee any of the above instances should they arise? If so, who will be eligible to serve on the panel and how will it be selected?

The point of most of these questions is that anybody who assumes a position of power at City Hall will bring his or her own "good old boys" network with them into office. Everyone will have one -- if you don't have your own "good old boys" network you will not get elected because no one single person gets elected to a city-wide office on his or her own.

So, will every consulting gig automatically have to be audited or just the ones that are given to people with whom the mayor has a prior relationship?

Will the incoming mayor have to make a list of all prior contacts that may result in a conflict of interest upon taking office -- a sort of "full disclosure" measure?

Questions that Need Answers, Part II

I am extremely skeptical that changing the municipal government to an elected mayor format will do much good. I'm willing to listen to some arguments, and in the last week or so I've convinced myself of some of the merits of a mayoral system, but there are still a lot of questions that I will need concrete answers to before I acquiesce to the concept. So here are some of my questions, in no particular order.

1.) Pay

2.) Expectations

What will be the expectations of the Mayor?

Will he or she be blamed for losing jobs, something that will likely be entirely out of the control of the office? Will the mayor be blamed for not creating jobs? We have been predicting less than ideal economic times in the months ahead, times that subject Oshkosh to the mercy of larger nation and worldwide financial forces -- will the mayor have to deal with these, even if he or she has no real means of doing so?

Obviously, mayoral responsibilities will include making sure the buses run on time, that snow is plowed in the winter, pot holes, etc. But what about crime? Oshkosh historically has very little crime and is rather sensitive to even the slightest up-ticks in statistics -- will the mayor be blamed?

What kind of relationship will the mayor have with the police force? Will the mayor be in charge of hiring a new chief of police, if necessary? What about the DA's office -- an entirely separately elected office? Will the mayor be expected to influence the order of various prosecutions? Or will that be entirely inappropriate? What would have been the mayor's job in the Engstrom case?

Will the mayor have to be in parades, gives keys to the city, occasionally humiliate him or her self for the amusement of the town at, say, a dunking booth during Sawdust days?

Will the Mayor have veto power over the council's various motions and whathaveyou? Will there be an override?

Will the mayor be in charge of the budget? Or do we leave that up to the city council?

Will the mayor be an advocate for his employees at City Hall or for the people that elected him? Or both depending on the circumstances? When are those circumstances?

Will it be necessary for this person to have gone to college? To have government experience? To have prior management experience? Is an 8th grade English teacher any less qualified than the CEO of Oshkosh Truck?

What will the mayor's relationship be with the school board? With the school district? With the Superintendent? With the teachers at the schools?

Will the mayor be asked to be an "ambassador to the world" -- someone in charge of bringing businesses to Oshkosh? Will the mayor have a budget to take potential business owners looking to relocate or expand to Oshkosh to dinner or maybe for a round of golf? Will the people of Oshkosh get pissed if their mayor is hitting the links at Whistling Straights and taking out-of-towners to dinner at the Country Club on the tax-payers dime (even if that means more jobs potentially coming to town)?

What if he or she's too busy making the buses run on time to do that job -- will we find someone else to do it? Will the mayor find someone else to do it?

Will the people of Oshkosh accept their mayor saying "That's not my problem"?

Will the mayor be expected to "recuse" him or her self when dealing with an issue where there is a clear conflict of interest? What happens then? Is there a deputy mayor the duty then falls too? Is this someone on the council? Oshkosh is a small town and many people might have to withdraw themselves from deciding a particular issue because of their familiarity with a person involved -- will we need to create an "order of succession" to help mitigate this?

Will the mayor have anything to do with approving liquor licenses or any other licenses?

Will the mayor be expected to lobby the state on pertinent issues?

Will the mayor be in charge of property taxes or the mayor just be scapegoat fr when people want to complain?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think it does qualify as a good place to start.

Questions that Need Answers

I am extremely skeptical that changing the municipal government to an elected mayor format will do much good. I'm willing to listen to some arguments, and in the last week or so I've convinced myself of some of the merits of a mayoral system, but there are still a lot of questions that I will need concrete answers to before I acquiesce to the concept. So here are some of my questions, in no particular order -- a first in a series...

1.) Pay

How much will the mayor make? This is not an inconsequential issue. Right now the only city-wide elected official in Rep. Hintz -- and his pay (which is supplied through the state) is upward of $45,000 a year or a little less than the typical family of four in Wisconsin. The city manager earned $104,000+ this year.

Are we as a city prepared to pay the winner of a mayotal election $100,000 a year?

That kind of money is about twice the median family income ($49,000) in Oshkosh. There will be griping.

If we lower the annual salary, what incentive do potentially qualified candidates, who perhaps make more money in the private sector, have to serve their community? This will be a full-time job. Will we require the mayor to give up any stake he or she may have in a local business so to not create any potential or perceived conflicts of interest? Are we basically going to be asking the mayor not to make any more money than his salary allows him?

That will deter people from running. $100,000 is a lot of money, but it goes quickly when there's a family to feed and kids who want to go to college, etc.

Plus there's the life after office that potential candidates need to think about. Unlike being a state representative, who can go on to do lobbying or consulting or something of that nature after they finish their time in office, we don't know what kind of life lies ahead for the future ex-mayors of Oshkosh. They will likely not be eligible for pensions (unless they're in office for decades, but given the age that most people are elected to other positions in the city and their typical tenures, I doubt that will be a frequent problem) -- again another thing that may deter otherwise qualified people from pursuing the position .

Will the Mayor get raises? If so, who makes that decision? Certainly not the Mayor, right? Who would vote for someone who gives himself a raise? Will this be a performance-bases issue taken up by the council or merely a routine cost of living adjustment?

What kind of expense account will the Mayor be given? Does he get to keep whatever isn't spent at the end of the year? Will that lessen the incentive for him or her to actually get out of town and woo businesses to Oshkosh?

What are we looking at for vacation days -- 2 weeks a year for the first term, 4 a year for each successive term. And sick days? And personal days, etc.

What happens if we elect an amazing mayor who blows the minds of everyone in town and turns Oshkosh into the most kick-ass city in North America -- and some other city starts courting him or her with a huge pay raise? Will the council have the authority to suddenly double or triple this guy's salary or would we have to say adios?

All of this is incredibly important to determine. If we make the equivalent to what the city manager get now, a lot of people will suddenly develop a keen interest in city politics because they will see it as an opportunity to make more money. If we lower it, do we risk alienating people with executive experience who can make more in the private sector?

Executive experience is in ungodly short supply in Oshkosh, fresh ideas and bold thinking are even rarer, so we have to start to ask ourselves what kind of premium are we as a city willing to put on that combination and determine what the appropriate compensation should be.

We Must Protect this House (of Saud)!

Read this article from FT on the Saudi Arabian effort to train an "oil infrastructure defense force." Check out how the author describes what recruits are being trained to do:

The force already numbers about 5,000 personnel, a Saudi adviser said on Sunday. They are being trained in the use of new surveillance equipment, countermeasures and crisis management under a programme managed by US defence group Lockheed Martin, according to the Middle East Economic Survey in Nicosia.

The recruits are learning about laser security and satellite imaging from Lockheed on behalf of the Sandia National Laboratories’ Defense Systems and Assessments Unit – a US government run unit in New Mexico, said MEES.

[scene missing]

Members of the new force, responsible for external and internal security, are being heavily vetted and largely recruited from outside the security forces because of the nature of its task, but it will include members of the existing forces.

(emphasis mine)

I must be confused with what is exactly meant by "external and internal security" here. Are we talking about inside and outside the refineries and other facilities? Or are we talking about inside and outside the country?

On one level the foreign/domestic nature of this security detail would make some sense since Saudi Arabia is, after all, an oil exporting country and getting the oil from point A to point B is half the battle (hey, there are still pirates in those international waters).

But on another level this description sounds like the Saudis are establishing a kind of petro-CIA. Saudi Intelligence (the General Intelligence Directorate or, in Arabic, Mukhabarat) has a reputation for operating more like a bank than spy agency -- at least when it was run by Turki al-Faisal -- and I know very little of how it handles domestic intelligence issues (but I can take a guess), so it's interesting to see the country organize this kind of hands-on security force instead of just bribing foreigners all the time.

I'm kind of curious about the other kinds of training these guys will get -- i.e. will they all become experts in petroleum fire-fighting techniques too?

Drunk in New Jersey

There are simply a million reasons to love this article.

Just How Much Influence does Scientology have with the GOP?

Alright, so when Mitt Romney came out and "admitted" (let's face it, it's next to impossible to distinguish when Romney's being candid or scripted) that his favorite novel was "Battlefield Earth," everyone had a good laugh and there were a few amusing conversations about whether the movie was embarrassingly awful or awesomely awful, and it was all fun and games and something of a pleasant diversion from the seriousness of the race.

Romney is not, after all, running to be the Helen D. Lockwood Professor of English at Vassar.

So imagine my surprise when I was reading this:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's unexpectedly strong second-place showing in the recent Iowa Republican straw poll is widely attributed to his support for the FairTax.

Okay ... That's a perfectly acceptable lede ... Everything sounds perfectly reasonable ... I'm not really sure what all of this business about the "FairTax" is, but I get feeling that an explanation is on the way.


For those who never heard about it, the FairTax is a national retail sales tax that would replace the entire current federal tax system. It was originally devised by the Church of Scientology in the early 1990s as a way to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service, with which the church was then at war (at the time the IRS refused to recognize it as a legitimate religion). The Scientologists' idea was that since almost all states have sales taxes, replacing federal taxes with the same sort of tax would allow them to collect the federal government's revenue and thereby get rid of their hated enemy, the IRS.

Excuse me?

Since when did the GOP start commissioning tax policy white papers from Scientologists? Will the Raelians be offering their input on foreign policy matters too?

Allawi on CNN

Iyad Allawi was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer this morning, who took note of the David Ignatius op-ed we relayed yesterday and asked him where the money to finance his contract with BGR was coming from:

While the BGR-Allawi contract calls for Allawi to make $50,000-a-month payments over six months, Allawi said the money wasn't his own but instead was coming from an Iraqi supporter of Allawi's Iraqi National Accord political party.

Allawi refused to identify the financial supporter by name.

Allawi said he'd return to Iraq in the days ahead to press his "fight for our country."

The whole Allawi-Maliki mess brings up an interesting point that is actually being talked about on CNN even as I type: is a democracy even possible under the current circumstances in Iraq? There are several U.S. military personal -- in uniform -- openly saying they doubt it on the record.

That's extraordinary.

What Were the Lessons of Vietnam?

I don't know, let's ask the Vietnamese ...

[via Lew Rockwell]

MORE: ... or ask Christopher Hitchens.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wisco & the 82nd Airborne

The jaw-dropping article written in the New York Times by seven members of the 82nd Airborne division featured a student from Marquette University.

What, What, What!

Bring back the Gonzometer!

All Allawi, All the Time

Here's a some more assorted Allawi news for today:

Hands down the most interesting reads of the day goes to Harper's Scott Horton:

Then as time progressed, I grew less dismissive. I heard that the “town was flooded with Allawi money.” It was “being spread around everywhere and was drawing results.” How could that be? Where would Allawi get loads of money? And surely you don’t mean to tell me you can buy influence that crassly in Washington? (No strike that, I’m not that naïve.)

(emphasis mine)

Flooded with Allawi money? Sorry, I might not have $300,000 to take powerful people out to dinner with, but that's nothing in Washington.

I would presume that since Pennsylvania Ave. is currently awash in Allawi cash (at least according to the quote), that there are other recipients working for the same end as BGR. Horton points to a piece by ABC's Justin Rood which suggests that some of those funds are coming from the Arabian Peninsula:

It has been widely reported that Ayad Allawi and his political group, the Iraqi National Accord, received CIA funding from the early 1990s until as late as 2004 and consulted with CIA officials about setting up a domestic intelligence service for the Iraqi government. In 2004, Allawi was made the interim prime minister until elections could be held. Experts also believe he is supported by Gulf states wary of Iran’s influence in the Iraqi government.

The Washington Post's David Ignatius actually goes as far as to name those "Gulf states":

The Bush administration, beyond the daily temperature readings about the progress of the U.S. troop surge in Baghdad, is making a subtle but important shift in its strategy for the Middle East -- establishing containment of Iranian power in the region as a top American priority.

A simple shorthand for this approach might be "back to the future," for it is strikingly reminiscent of American strategy during the 1980s after the Iranian revolution. The cornerstone is a political-military alliance with the dominant Sunni Arab powers -- especially Saudi Arabia. The hardware will be new arms sales to Israel, Egypt and the Saudis. The software will be a refurbished Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


In "back to the future" mode, the name being mentioned these days is Ayad Allawi, a former Baathist who was interim prime minister and has strong support among Sunnis, even though he's a secular Shiite. Allawi has bundles of money to help buy political support, but it comes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, rather than the United States.

No seems terribly willing to explain the Gulf-Allawi connection. That claim seems to run counter to the possibility, brought up by Steve Benen, that Allawi's is being funded by a relative who pilloried Iraqi defense appropriations funds while briefly in office.

There is, of course, just like Rood's piece, the ever-present mention of Iran almost immediately following Allawi's name:

The administration will continue to "turn up the heat" on Iran, says the State Department official. The United States will press for a third U.N. resolution next month imposing sanctions on Iran's nuclear program. America is readying a new weapon in the impending designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. That would squeeze the guard and all of the businesses it owns -- banks, trading companies, tech companies that are part of the nuclear program -- and seek to divide President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, himself a product of the guard, from Iran's less fanatical majority.

So if you're going to be walking away from those two excerpts with two things on your mind, let them be "Iran" and "Money."

Moving on ...

If all this talk about "coup by lobbyist" is hard to swallow, Juan Cole brings news of concrete talk of an actual good old fashioned military coup:

A rumor is circulating among well-connected and formerly high-level Iraqi bureaucrats in exile in places like Damascus that a military coup is being prepared for Iraq. I received the following from a reliable, knowledgeable contact. There is no certitude that this plan can or will be implemented. That it is being discussed at high levels seems highly likely.

"There is serious talk of a military commission (majlis `askari) to take over the government. The parties would be banned from holding positions, and all the ministers would be technocrats, so to speak. . . [The writer indicates that attempts have been made to recruit cabinet members from the ranks of expatriate technocrats.]

The six-member board or commission would be composed on non-political former military personnel who are presently not part of the government OR the military establishment, such as it is in Iraq at the moment. It is said that the Americans are supporting this behind the scenes.

The plan includes a two-year period during which political parties would not be permitted to be part of the government, but instead would prepare and strengthen the parties for an election which would not have lists, but real people running for real seats. The two year period would be designed to take control of security and restore infrastructure.

. . .[I]t is another [desperate plan], but one which many many Iraqis will support, since they are sick of their country being pulled apart by the "imports" - Maliki, Allawi, Jaafari et al. The military group is composed of internals, people who have the goal of securing the country even at the risk of no democracy, so they say. "

Does anyone have a damn clue what the hell's going on in either Baghdad or Washington?

The Allawi Mess

One blogger is calling the arrangement between Iyad Allawi and Barbour, Griffith and Rogers the foundation for a "thoroughly modern coup" and the more things begin to slowly take shape the more it becomes difficult to disagree with that assessment.

As we noted yesterday, Allawi's bloc has "left the building" and is no longer participating in Nouri al-Maliki's government, resulting in "political mayhem" or, in the words of CNN's Senior Baghdad Correspondent Michael Ware:

[T]here is no government here and anyone who says there is either delusional or trying to spin a line. There's nothing here for America to work with.

So Allawi's efforts to destabilize the Iraqi national government have apparently succeeded. If Americans are wondering why anarchy hasn't swept over the street of Baghdad yet, it's because most of the basic law and order functions of Iraq are controlled by the sectarian militias, something that says a lot about just how weak the "federal" government is/was.

But Allawi knows damn well he can not rise to power without the imprimatur of Washington. Yesterday we relayed how former Ambassador Robert Blackwill was chauffeuring Allawi around DC and now Blackwill's BGR colleague and former Sec. Rice adviser Philip Zelikow (who also co-authored a book with his ex-boss in the mid-1990s -- the two have a well-known close bond) is doing some TV appearances for the effort.

So BGR has now supplied Allawi with handlers (Blackwill), surrogate spokesmen (Zelikow), a communications apparatus (, presumably behind-the-scenes strategists ... as the elements fall into place this looks more and more like a campaign for office. The only thing missing is a rapid response team...

Enter an entirely unrelated development at the Pentagon. From TP:

In advance of the September White House report, the Pentagon is launching “a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week Iraq Communications Desk that will pump out data from Baghdad — serving as what could be considered a campaign war room.” “I would not characterize it as a war room,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. “It’s far less sinister than that. It’s more like a library.”

Now there's not yet any indication that this unit will be working for the sake of Allawi. The order to assemble the Iraq Communications Desk came from Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, who spent a long career as a defense contractor before holding several high-ranking national security-related positions during the current Bush Administration ... though, wouldn't it be interesting if England went on to work for a certain lobbying firm sometime in the not-so-distant future?

But returning to the "war room," which in this case is only part of the story. The bigger picture will be the discussion in the U.S. about Gen. Petraeus' September report on the progress of the surge (which will likely be prepared in some manner by the White House). The current Iraqi government will not be receiving glowing reviews in the report, no matter who writes it, which would put al-Maliki is a position of almost untenable weakness with the power that is propping him up. At that point, presuming there is any government left, he might face a no confidence vote or simply resign all together.

So if I may be allowed to speculate for a moment, I think it is not unreasonable to theorize that the PR blitz being made by BGR has been timed to coincide with the release of Petraeus' report on the progress of the surge in hopes that the inevitable less-than-optimistic news will lead to the ouster of al-Maliki. The resulting power vacuum would then be effortlessly filled by Allawi, who has already been doing what he can to legitimize the current Iraqi government.

Yet here's what amazes me: $300,000 can't get you a decent single family home in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, but it can get you the prime minister's mansion of an oil-rich Middle Eastern country?*

What an absolutely confounding world we live in...

* [I know it's not that simple and will actually take up this matter from a different -- and rather odious -- perspective later today, time and energy willing.]

Sweet Jesus!

I thought stuff like this only happened in movies, but Good God:

According to the Sheriff’s Department, Leonard Fields, 55, of Appleton was driving eastbound on Y on his way to work. Fields drove around three road-closed signs before the railroad crossing. When attempting to cross, his vehicle got hung up on the tracks.

The conductor on a north-bound Canadian National train spotted Fields near the tracks and then saw the car on the tracks. The train’s engineer was able to stop the train before it hit the car.

So does anyone believe you when you call in late to work and use this as your "excuse?"

Moral of the story: do not ignore "Road Closed" signs.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Say, What Else do You Suppose BGR Lobbies For?

Spencer Ackerman has been doing yeoman's work on the Allawi issue (here, here, here and here), but here's an interesting note from Nibras Kazimi on BGR lobbyist Robert Blackwill:

Wait a minute? Wasn’t this self-same Blackwill the one who instated Allawi as Prime Minister in the first place when the CPA was terminated in mid-2004?

Why! Yes it is!

So Blackwill is now being paid by Ayad Allawi. It’s not a pretty picture, is it? Is Blackwill being paid for his services on Allawi’s behalf the first time around, or is he being paid to try again? It's dizzying!

Blackwill was also U.S. ambassador to India, a good ambassador according to many. I guess he made many friends there, as one would, and it seems that within his Indian circle of friends is a corporation called Reliance Industries, Ltdhe’s now their lobbyist in DC through BGR.

Reliance Industries was heavily implicated in the UN’s Oil-for-Food scandal, yet they still managed to land the largest oil deal in post-Saddam Iraq, signed in the spring of 2006. Coincidence? No, since Blackwill’s BGR also represents Nechirvan Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government; Barzani signed the deal with Reliance.

(emphasis in the original)

And this is coming from someone who didn't like the chances of an Allawi power grab earlier in August.

And now a couple of random scattered thoughts:

*** I've been trying to go back and see when Allawi started to tinker with retaking the Prime Ministry (a phrase I sure as hell have never seen, but am going to run with anyway) and right now it appears as if this campaign started in earnest in March.

*** A few bloggers are making hasty comparisons to Ngo Dinh Diem.


Here's more on Oshkosh Truck's ongoing role in the MRAP saga -- which now has a kick ass element of industrial espionage to it.

This, by the way, is a picture of the Bull model being developed by Truck in conjunction with Ceradyne and Ideal Innovations.

It really does look like a bull, doesn't it?

Who's Behind Allawi?

We know who's in front of Iyad Allawi -- namely, Barbour, Griffith, and Rogers -- but who's backing him?

Allawi's power play seems to be something that's been in the works for several weeks now. Earlier this month a handful of cabinet members loyal to Allawi balked at participating in further government meetings. Then came his commentary in the Washington Post -- which must have taken some time to arrange. Then came news of the allawi-for-iraq business. Now the former prime minister is pulling his party out of the government entirely.

So why would the U.S. want to replace al-Maliki with Allawi? Iran:

Ayad Allawi, who timed his re-entry on the political scene perfectly with this editorial on Saturday demanding that Iraq (meaning the US) take a much harder line on Iran and Syria. "The United States is indispensable to peace and security in Iraq and the greater Middle East," writes Allawi, as he cannily suggests that the US should reduce its "combat role" in Iraq. Allawi here is no doubt echoing the Democrat position of "re-deployment," which is another word for "onward into Iran."

That kind of hardline stance would find a lot of favor in neocon policy circles, who could be footing the bill for Allawi's $300,000 lobbying fees.

[Here's a New Yorker piece on Allawi.]

MORE: Steve Benen suggests an Allawi relative may have "appropriated" some of his current wealth before leaving office.

What If?

Hillary Clinton thinks another terrorist attack on American soil would help the GOP -- and I couldn't disagree more.

Absence of a terror attack since 9/11 has been the only good thing to happen to the Bush administration during its time in office and has been used as the justification for a number of controversial domestic security polices (i.e. wire-tapping). If an attack were to happen they would no longer have that card to play, the public would start to question the ultimate utility of measures that infringe on civil liberties, the competency issue would come up yet again, and it would likely mark the death nail in the coffin of the myth of Republican superiority in national security affairs.

This is the administration that basically throws a parade every time they arrest a group of brown-skinned men with Middle Eastern accents who are suspected of plotting an act of terror, has developed a GULAG of black sites around the world used for extraordinary rendition, has practice some extremely dubious legal tactic in the Moussaoui and Padilla cases, and is currently running a human right nightmare in Guantanamo all in the name of defending the homeland. All of that becomes suspect after another terror attack.

Obviously, no one wants to see another attack, but if one were to happen there's simply no way the country would rush back into the protective arms of the GOP like it did after 9/11. Republicans have simply lost too much of their "security capital" on Iraq and have acquired too much baggage on the terrorism issue for that to happen.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Best. Post. Ever.*

Neoconservativism summed up in one sentence

"I spent a week in Iraq recently, and here's what impressed me most: the Americans." - Bill Kristol.

From Abu Aardvark.

* By "Ever" we pretty much mean until something equally as cool comes our way.

More Whispers Abroad

On Monday we blogged about a possible coup attempt in Baghdad and today it would appear that's those rumors are valid. Furthermore, it appears as if that coup is being orchestrated from Washington (more here).

So, what does all of that mean?

Let's start with what little is left to crow about:

For years now the Bush administration has trumpeted the "free and fair" elections in Iraq as being sign of success. While it may be a sign of progress -- and, arguably, a justification for calling Iraq a "democracy" -- it is far from a sign of triumph. But if the U.S. allows/instigates a coup (or some other transfer of power that lacks an election element) it can pretty much negate any sort of political progress made since the evasion. That's been the whole reason for the surge and the whole reason why American troops are still there -- to offer the security necessary to expedite political progress. That justification will be null if sometime in September Ayad Allawi takes control of and effort to organize the government basically is asked to start over from square one.

That should be enough to send some of the most outspoken of war critics into hysterics. Hell, it should be reason enough to start bringing the troops home, but the absolute mind-boggling thing is that won't happen. There wont be serious plans for a troop withdraw in Iraq until at least January 2009. The President has too much invested in this horror show to pull out between now and then: why would he quit now and thereby accept full responsibility for this fiasco when he can let someone else do it down the line whom Bush can later blame for the failure because he or she did not have the resolve to follow through on Bush's vision?

The only thing that can get President Bush to roll out plans for withdraw would be a hypothetical scenario that could be called the "Ramadan Offensive." Just like the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the RO would be a coordinated, nationwide surprise uprising against American-held positions and forward operating bases across Iraq. From a tactical stand point, something like couldn't be successful, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be devastating and send a very clear message that we are no longer welcome. The American public would notice and say, 'Enough is enough.'

But that won't happen. There are too many elements in Iraq too busy fighting each other to be able to coordinate a necessarily massive operation of that nature. So we're stuck there until someone else moves in to the White House and every day that goes by between now and then the U.S. is diminishing it's stature in the world, destroying its military, and further inflaming resentment among potential terrorists around the world -- and that's just on the days when the administration isn't doing anything absolutely insane, like planning a coup.

MORE: From the Hill:

When President Bush stands in front of the cameras and tells the world you’re doing a great job, that’s your cue to run for the hills. It means you’re a marked man.


I knew then and there Maliki should start running for the hills. That kind of public support from President Bush can only mean one thing: Maliki is a marked man.

I'm going to put on my gambling hat on now and say it'll happen in September, because -- as Andrew Card would say -- "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

Maybe He was Just Speaking French?

I admit it: I, too, am susceptible to the occasional giddy thrill that accompanies trashy gossip. For most people this comes via movies stars and assorted celebrities, but I prefer to get me kicks from Eastern seaboard elites. Why? Because even the slightest deviation from their rather rigid social protocol automatically becomes a magnificent comedy of manners.

Case in point:

Over on the Upper East Side, there's a funny little tempest going on between the principal of the fancy bilingual Lycée Français and the parents of two children enrolled there. Apparently the principal, Yves Thézé, who seems like a paranoid, controlling sort, got it into his head that the mother of these children had sent some anonymous hate mail to him about the school, and informed the parents that their children would no longer be welcome at the school...Well, except then they relented. And the same might happen with the Lycée kids, because the parents are suing the school. The Observer tried to get to the bottom of the mess and were met with a fantastic response.
Several calls from the Transom to the Lycée's lawyer, Shelley Kehl, were not returned; nor were repeated calls to Mr. Cunha. When Mr. Thézé was finally reached by phone, the head of school breathed heavily into the receiver for a few moments before abruptly hanging up.
Now that's comedy!

My Cover is Blown!


Dept. of Obvious Headlines

Normally we'd save this for the day's Econ Round-up but the title of this piece made us giggle, so we're sharing it now:

"Countrywide CEO sees recession ahead"

That's like a headline that reads: "Recently dumped man foresees lack of sex in the future"

Great Moments in Parliamentarian Debate

"This will shut that fucker up."

You should really read the whole e-mail exchange -- great stuff!

Someone Call Kevin Barrett!

This will provide plenty of fodder for his next book, tentatively titled "More Batshit Insanity from a Paranoid Whack Job."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Today's Econ Round-up

Pie in the Sky Edition

The Panic of ’07: Not 1907, but 2007 -- an interesting, albeit long, look at how we got here.

Income inequality is currently in overdrive:

The growth in total incomes was concentrated among those making more than $1 million. The number of such taxpayers grew by more than 26 percent, to 303,817 in 2005, from 239,685 in 2000.

These individuals, who constitute less than a quarter of 1 percent of all taxpayers, reaped almost 47 percent of the total income gains in 2005, compared with 2000.

Consumer confidence takes a nose dive...

Another lender turns off the spigot, slashes jobs…

Market corrections: take-overs help get the stock market back on pace. A good thing for stocks, (maybe) at the moment, but take-overs usually mean job cuts down the line…

And speaking of which: Realtors are beginning to look for new jobs...

In California, a consumer group calls for a 6 month moratorium on foreclosures. Basically, this would serve as a "Six Month Period for Everyone to get Their Shit Together" ...

...And this doesn't really have much to do with anything, but Goggle is launching a new feature called Google Sky, which I bet will turn a generation on to astronomy in a way previously unimaginable. I was a huge fan of Keyhole, and was thrilled when Google bought their satellite imaging services (and made said services free of charge). Google Earth is more than just nifty time killer: it's something that has subsequently made unwitting cartographers of all who use it.