Archive for May, 2007

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Good soldier Schweik, American style

May 23, 2007

Catching up on a bit of last week’s news, from IPS via Think Progress. Good news, this time.

I’ve mentioned earlier some of the mounting evidence that Robert Gates has been dragging his heels on Bush’s push to get his war on in Iran. Now it appears that Gates has an ally in high places.

Admiral Fallon was appointed head of Central Command, the regional armed forces command which includes Afghanistan and the Middle East, when John Abizaid was dismissed for failing to support the “surge”. Prior to this, only Army generals had held this critical post, and it was widely speculated that the Navy got theplum because any attack on Iran would perforce be largely a naval operation based in the Indian Ocean.

On May 14, IPS reported that back in February Fallon put the kibosh on Administration plans to send a third aircraft carrier group to the Gulf.

Admiral William Fallon, then President George W. Bush’s nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed strong opposition in February to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM.

Fallon’s resistance to the proposed deployment of a third aircraft carrier was followed by a shift in the Bush administration’s Iran policy in February and March away from increased military threats and toward diplomatic engagement with Iran. That shift, for which no credible explanation has been offered by administration officials, suggests that Fallon’s resistance to a crucial deployment was a major factor in the intra-administration struggle over policy toward Iran.

Think Progress goes on to note:

One source said Fallon sent a memo that “insisted there was no military requirement for” for an additional carrier.

This was an act of courage and patriotism on Fallon’s part. But such courage is perhaps becoming easier to muster. After all, there are multiple reasons why the White House would be reluctant to fire him over this.

First, they only just hired him; and with their talking point about Congress having to “listen to the generals in the field”, it would be particularly embarrassing to oust him because they didn’t cotton to his advice.

Second, in order to carry out the Iran blitz, they’d have to replace him with another non-Army commander, telegraphing their intentions just a little too blatantly.

Most important, they’ve just gone through the humiliating search for their “war czar”. And they found appetite among top personnel for the Iraq war so weak that they were finally forced to reach down to the three-star level to find a willing Lieutenant General. Enthusiasm for a Persian War runs even lower in the uniformed military. How would it make them look if they had to put some Colonel in charge of CentCom?

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This way to the egress

May 21, 2007

Barbara Ehrenreich, delivering the commencement address at Haverford:

You know, they say it’s not so easy to get out of Iraq. Well, I have a plan: Thousands of Iraqis flee their country every day. Just find out how they’re getting out and take the same route!

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Twelve gates into the city

May 19, 2007

Beliefnet had an interesting piece on the microdemographics of religion in America, and its effect on politics. They identify 12 major religio-political groups, which they call “the twelve tribes”, and order them from most conservative to most liberal. In particular, they find that evangelicals are far from being monolithic, and that the religious right and religious left are nearly the same size. The right has had more impact because of their superior electoral organization.

For each group, their size is given both as a percent of the electorate, and as a percent of 2004 voters. Composition by ideology and political party, basic religious views, church attendance record, motivating political issues, and trend lines, fill out the picture for each bloc. Here I’ll just pick out several of the more prominent or interesting.

  • Religious Right: 12.6% of electorate and 15% of 2004 voters. Highly orthodox white evangelical Protestants, 87% of whom attend church at least weekly. 44% of them are located in the South.
  • Heartland Culture Warriors: 11.4% and 14%. Regular churchgoers, conservative theologies, Catholic or mainline Protestant or smaller groups like LDS. Vote primarily, like the RRs, on social issues, but also on foreign policy. (The rest of Bush’s base.)
  • Moderate Evangelicals: 10.8% and 9%. 35% of them attend worship at least weekly. 61% want to increase taxes on the rich to fund antipoverty programs. Side with RR on social issues, but less central to their voting decisions. Went for Clinton, then for Bush.
  • The religious left: 12.6% and 14%. Theologically liberal Catholics, mainline and evangelical Protestants. Less church-bound (less than one-quarter report weekly worship attendance) and pluralistic in their beliefs (two-thirds agree that “all the world’s great religions are equally true and good”.) Growing and trending more Democratic. Voted mainly on foreign policy in 2004.
  • Seculars: 10.7% and 11%. Non-religious, atheists and agnostics. Not surprisingly, the most liberal on social issues. Steadily growing, and 2:1 Democratic.
  • Black Protestants: 9.6% and 8%. Quite conservative on social issues, but they’re trumped by economic concerns.

I seem to fall between (theologically) the “Moderate Evangelical” and (politically) the “Religious Left”. It’s a pleasant surprise to learn how much company I have.

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The Decider as The Fixer?

May 16, 2007

The source here, Arnaud de Borchgrave of UPI, is a George W. booster and not particularly trustworthy. (This throwaway tidbit appears in an article which makes the patently silly claim that Bush outdid Karl Rove in a book-reading contest, in which he polished off more than two books a week for a year.) But he certainly does have sources close to the White House so for what it’s worth:

When a recent visitor asked him what assurance he could give about his successor in 2009, President Bush replied, “we’ll fix it so he’ll be locked in.” The visitor left perplexed and wondered whether that might mean the United States would be in a wider war in the region by then. In any event, it didn’t sound like twilight time for Bush.

In the last few months, there have been more and more signs that, however dearly President Shooter and Junior would like to pull a McCain and Bomb-bomb-Iran, it is growing steadily less likely. Condi, the Secretary of Defense, and a large phalanx of top generals appear lined up against it. But over the same period that cocky I’m-getting-away-with-it grin has been virtually welded onto Junior’s face. So I dunno.

It’s disconcerting when the only way to find out what your own government is up to is to hire Kremlinologists thrust out of work in the early nineties. Last fall the electorate finally hired Congress to find out for them. But in the six years since Congress last attempted any such effrontery, a Great Wall of Shinola has been erected around the entire executive branch, and to date, no polite request for information nor brassy subpoena has been able to scale it.

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Reducing your photon footprint

May 15, 2007

Black may be the new green.

The usual form of computer screen text display, black characters on white background, uses 60 or 70% more wattage than white on black display. So one teensy favor you can do to mother earth is to move your web searches to blackle, which uses the Google engine but presents the results in the more efficient format.

Some tell me it makes them squint. After the years I spent in the seventies and early eighties on those Apple II and IIe dot marix, no-descender text screens, it feels to me just like coming home. See what you think. From what we all learned in the IIe days, though, and subsequently forgot, I’ve got two words for the blackle techies: Think Gold.

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My, these MREs are tasty all of a sudden

May 15, 2007

I’m a few days late mentioning it, but the brass has clamped down on blogs and emails home from soldiers in Iraq. Every syllable must now be cleared with the boys upstairs. (A later decree blocks Youtube and MySpace altogether, except for those grunts rich enough to afford and maintain their own laptops and ISP connections.)

It’s bad enough that all those libruls and Senator Reid are bitching about the war, boldfacing our enemies or whatever, and demoralizing the troops. But they’ll be damned if they let our troops start demoralizing our troops. That’s just giving way too much away to the enemies of freedom.

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But will he fizz when he pops?

May 10, 2007

I had another one of those hypnopompic microdreams this morning.

It looks like my subconscious and my rational mind have different evaluations of the state of the Purgegate probe. What I think is, since Alberto Gonzales (AGAG) is the only firewall between Karl Rove and the truth, Bush will retain him at all costs. That will last until the Congress sees fit to impeach him, or if the fires have not died down, until late next spring, when the election will be close enough that Congress won’t have time to break down the White House stonewallthat stands behind the firewall.

But my dream was of Rove’s face. On it was plastered the usual smug smile, and he was apparently unaware that there was a large corkscrew planted in his mouth.

So my subconscious believes that Rove will not be able to keep a cork in it much longer. He will somehow be dragged to the Hill to testify. I earnestly hope old SC is smarter about this than I am.