Saturday, March 25, 2006

Russia, Unmasked

Thanks to the release of the captured Iraqi Intelligence Service documents, we now know that the former superpower and our supposed partner in the war on terror instead has allied itself with our enemies -- namely, the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. The Pentagon confirmed this evening that intelligence gathered during Operation Iraqi Freedom shows clearly that Russia passed vital intelligence to Saddam before and during the war, including our plans for capturing Baghdad:

Russia had a military intelligence unit operating in Iraq up through the 2003 U.S. invasion and fall of Baghdad, a Russian analyst said Friday as the Pentagon reported Moscow fed Saddam Hussein's government with intelligence on the American military.

Iraqi documents released as part of the Pentagon report asserted that the Russians relayed information to Saddam through their ambassador in Baghdad during the opening days of the war in late March and early April 2003, including a crucial time before the ground assault on Baghdad.

Pavel Felgenhauer, a respected independent Moscow-based military analyst, told The Associated Press the report was "quite plausible."

He said a unit affiliated with the Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Department, known by its abbreviation GRU, was actively working in Iraq at the time of the U.S. invasion. The unit apparently was shut down after the fall of Baghdad.

This betrayal carries some consequences, both for the US-Russian relationship and our current negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. Moscow deliberately gave Saddam information that, in the hands of a competent military leader, would have resulted in the deaths of many American soldiers and Marines. Vladimir Putin has strong ties to the Russian intelligence community, so this can't be dismissed as a rogue operation, especially given the high profile of the Iraqi situation and the involvement of Putin's diplomatic corps.

Putin allied himself with Saddam and against the US, presumably to protect its commercial interests. However, one cannot discount the motivation Putin has for re-establishing Russia as a power base in the post-Soviet world. He has played at restarting the Great Game for the last several years in Southwest Asia, trying to gain the upper hand over the Anglosphere in the oil-producing regions.

And that brings us to Iran. After finding out that Putin has a habit of supplying tyrannical enemies of the Western nations with military intelligence to use against us, the last country we should trust with Iran's nuclear program is Russia. We can also kiss off the UN; as long as Russia has its veto, that route will lead nowhere. Russia has revealed itself to be a major part of the problem in the Middle East, and we should stop pretending that they are part of the solution.

At least now we know why the CIA and John Negroponte wanted these documents to remain sealed.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Church Sign Smackdown!


































Helen in full makeup Posted by Picasa

Helen Thomas

The Great Dane of the Washington press corps, has been the voice of honest journalism for over 175 years, and a thorn in side of both Batman and Commissioner Gordon. Her tough, take-no-prisoners style of questioning has often been mistaken for thinly disguised partisan attacks with question marks at the end of them, but she has inspired generations of progressive journalists with her dauntless courage in the face of a fascist administration, and the throes of a crippling mental illness. Since she was diagnosed with severe senile dementia in 1971, she has been unafraid to broach the questions more rational and sane reporters wouldn’t dare to. It’s a miracle she can even remember who she is, let alone find her way to the White House for one of Bush’s Lie Sessions, and she deserves his respect. If the Shrub won’t confess his crimes against humanity, bring our troops home from Iraq, legalize marijuana and step down for the good of America, then he should at least do it for her.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Deficit Demagogues

The New York Times seems to have misrepresented the facts in an editorial taking Senate Republicans to task over budget deficits.

Whether this was simply the result of carelessness, or a purposeful misrepresentation is hard to say. Whatever the case, the editorial paints a distorted picture.

Says the Times:

Republicans want voters to believe that the deficit is the result of spending increases alone — not tax cuts. That's false. The swing from a $236 billion budget surplus in 2000 to a $371 billion deficit today is a huge deterioration in the nation's fiscal balance, equal to 5.3 percent of the economy. Of that, fully 62 percent is due to lower tax revenues.

There are two major problems with this analysis.

First, the Times falsely conflates lower tax revenues in FY 2001 with the Bush tax cuts, neglecting the fact that Bush's tax cuts weren't even implemented until calendar year 2002, and also chooses to ignore the fact that other elements having a greater impact on the federal budget's receipts were at play during those two fiscal years.

The period the Times cites includes two budgets under President Clinton (FY 2000 and FY 2001). And as we all know, two major events with financial ramifications occurred in calendar years 2000 and 2001, before the Bush tax cuts were even implemented. One was the bursting of the stock market bubble in 2000 and the other was the 9/11 attack the following year.

In 2000 the stock market bubble burst, which adversely affected the revenue the federal government derived from capital gains taxes. This can be seen in the reduction of the surplus between 2000 and 2001. According to data in the federal budget, the surplus shrank from $236 billion in FY 2000, to $128 billion in FY 2001, or more than $100 billion.

(The scope of the stock market bubble, and its impact on the budget surpluses in the last four years of the Clinton Administration is not to be underestimated. In 1996, the total stock market capitalization in the US was about $4.5 trillion; by 2000, the total stock market capitalization in the US was over $14 trillion. This more than tripling of stock prices in four years was accompanied by growth in earnings of only about 70%. This separation between stock price growth and earnings growth is the definition of a stock market bubble. The $ value of the bubble can be placed in the neighborhood of $5 trillion. If half of those stock gains were realized, about $500 billion in capital gains taxes would have flowed into the US treasury between 1997-2001 -- as a direct result of the stock market bubble and nothing else. This flow does not represent a recurring income stream over time.)

The next year the 9/11 attacks occurred, which cost the economy about $1 trillion.

A large result of these two events was a budget deficit of $158 billion in FY 2002. That represents a two-year swing from surplus to deficit of about $390 billion. The first Bush tax cut went into effect in 2002, with an estimated worth of around $75 billion.

Claiming the 2002 Bush tax cut is responsible for the two-year swing between 2000-2002 is pure hogwash.

Further, after FY 2002 the Times doesn't account for the cost of the Iraq war, which is somewhere around $80-100 billion per year since FY 2003, nor does it account for other defense spending increases. Nor does it account for the across-the-board spending increases in areas like education, Medicare and Medicaid, or homeland security.

(The deficit in FY 2003 was $377 billion; in FY 2004 it was $412 billion; in FY 2005, it was $318 billion.)

How the Times can seriously reconcile these facts with what was written in the editorial is a mystery, known perhaps only to Gail Collins and Paul Krugman.


With George Bush's approval ratings at record lows, the media and the Democrats are piling on over the perceived lack of success in Iraq. But the one story they are completely ignoring is that the economy is on fire. By every measure, were are in the middle of an economic boom. The stock market...the housing market...and now the employment market are all booming.

Just how good are things? According to a report issued yesterday by an employment consulting firm, college graduates are facing the best job market since 2001. The CEO of the firm who wrote the report says that were are approaching full employment. In fact, in some industries, there are shortages. Employers are expecting to hire 14.5% more new college graduates this year.

The overall unemployment rate is at 4.8%. That's very low. If a Democratic administration were in power, we would be hearing and seeing stories about how we've never had it so good. But as it stands, with a Republican in the White House, all of that is swept under the rug. Instead, all we hear about is Iraq.

Just another day at the office for the biased liberal media.


An interesting little nugget of information worked its way out of the Zacarias Moussaoui's death penalty trial yesterday. An FBI agent testified that after he arrested Moussaoui on August 16, 2001, he told his superiors that the Al-Qaeda was planning something...he told them not once, but 70 times. The FBI failed to conduct an investigation, and the rest is history. So what happened?

August 16, 2001 was almost a month before 9/11. What's worse, on 8/18/01, the agent who testified told his superiors in a memo that he was suspicious that Moussaoui was a terrorist who might be trying to hijack airplanes. The reply from headquarters? Nothing. They yawned and put his memo in File 13. So what was the problem?

The mainstream media will report the headline that the FBI bungled a warning on 9/11. While that's true, you have to read all the way to the end of the story to know why. The agent who testified opened an intelligence investigation on Moussaoui. In order to get a warrant to search Moussaoui's belongings, the agent needed Justice Department approval. There was a barrier in place between criminal and intelligence investigations put there by....drum roll please...the Clinton Justice Department, specifically former Assistant Attorney General and 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick.

It is a tragedy that the FBI did not investigate further. Maybe they could have stopped 9/11 from happening. But make no mistake of where the blame lies...and it's not with the current occupant of the Oval Office. When the final history of 9/11 is written, the lion's share of the blame will be placed squarely on the Clinton administration.

Strawmen Sure Do Get Around

A few days ago, the AP's Jennifer Loven wrote a strange "news" report on George Bush's supposed predilection for strawmen in his speeches. Loven wrote that the usage of the rhetorical device 'some say' indicates a dishonest approach to argument and debate:

When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

He typically then says he "strongly disagrees" — conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

Of course, this argument is ludicrous. Often in debates, politicians do not want to get specific about the origin of an argument -- and in the examples Loven cites, the arguments have been made by so many people that one could take an entire day trying to recount the specific citations.

If these are strawmen, then apparently the practice isn't limited to Bush. A few of Loven's colleagues use them as well, as evident in the President's press conference this morning:

Q Good morning, sir. Mindful of the frustrations that many Americans are expressing to you, do you believe you need to make any adjustments in how you run the White House? Many of your senior staffers have been with you from the beginning. There are some in Washington who say ...

Q Some say they are tired and even tone-deaf, even within your party who say that maybe you need some changes. Would you benefit from any changes to your staff? ...

Q You said you listen to members of Congress, and there have been growing calls from some of those members for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ...

My, those strawmen sure do get around, don't they? Can we look forward to Loven's next exposé to focus on the dishonest rhetoric and demagoguic attitudes of her brethren in the Exempt Media? I would love to read that analysis.

Speaking of the presser, I didn't get much of a chance to listen to it except for a few excerpts. I think Bush did a fine job in a forum he dislikes. He remained firm while sounding (especially on paper) coherent and relaxed with a hostile press, especially the doddering fool, Helen Thomas. I especially liked her allegation that Iraq never did anything to this country, forgetting that Saddam tried to assassinate George H. W. Bush when he visited Kuwait after his presidency, an act that resulted in Bill Clinton ordering a missile assault on Iraqi intelligence assets in Baghdad. Saddam's security forces repeatedly fixed anti-aircraft missiles on our pilots while they enforced and patrolled the no-fly zone, and the first attack on the World Trade Center involved a man who got a Kuwaiti identity during Saddam's occupation of his neighbor.

Bush hit the target when he talked about the difference between a September 10th point of view and a September 12th point of view:

Our foreign policy up to now was to kind of tolerate what appeared to be calm. And underneath the surface was this swelling sense of anxiety and resentment, out of which came this totalitarian movement that is willing to spread its propaganda through death and destruction, to spread its philosophy. Now, some in this country don't -- I can understand -- don't view the enemy that way. I guess they kind of view it as an isolated group of people that occasionally kill. I just don't see it that way. I see them bound by a philosophy with plans and tactics to impose their will on other countries.

The enemy has said that it's just a matter of time before the United States loses its nerve and withdraws from Iraq. That's what they have said. And their objective for driving us out of Iraq is to have a place from which to launch their campaign to overthrow modern governments -- moderate governments -- in the Middle East, as well as to continue attacking places like the United States. Now, maybe some discount those words as kind of meaningless propaganda. I don't, Jim. I take them really seriously. And I think everybody in government should take them seriously and respond accordingly. And so it's -- I've got to continue to speak as clearly as I possibly can about the consequences of success and the consequences of failure, and why I believe we can succeed.

But he made his best point when the issue of the NSA surveillance program arose:

I did notice that nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program. That's what they ought to be doing. That's part of what is an open and honest debate.

I did notice that, at one point in time, they didn't think the Patriot Act ought to be reauthorized -- "they" being at least the Minority Leader in the Senate. He openly said, as I understand -- I don't want to misquote him -- something along the lines that, "We killed the Patriot Act." And if that's what the party believes, they ought to go around the country saying we shouldn't give the people on the front line of protecting us the tools necessary to do so.

Many of us have vented our frustration at the lack of direct communication from this White House on the war, the economy, and other issues. This started to change towards the end of last year, but in January the effort seemed to stop. George Bush needs to hold conferences like this more often; he always manages to outperform expectations when he does, and the American people like his direct manner when interacting spontaneously with the press and with audiences for his speeches.

He needs to continue this effort, and not just to make himself more popular. The war effort hangs on his ability to keep the American electorate from panicking and withdrawing their support. Speaking about the issues of the war and his plans for victory is as necessary for that effort as the Humvees he's sending to Iraq for the new Iraqi Army. Without a much more energetic effort of the kind we saw today, Bush will lose this war by default.