Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
From The New Yorker:
Interviewing President Bush aboard Air Force One a few days before his second inauguration, a Washington Post reporter noted that American forces in Iraq had neither been welcomed as liberators nor found any of the promised weapons of mass destruction. “The postwar process hasn’t gone as well as some had hoped,” the reporter ventured. “Why hasn’t anyone been held accountable, either through firings or demotions, for what some people see as mistakes or misjudgments?” The President’s reply—as iconically Bushian as “Bring ’em on”—came to mind last Tuesday night as the big blue waves started rolling in. “Well,” he said back then, “we had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 election.”
Actually, it was more like an impunity moment. “Let me put it to you this way,” Bush had said the day after John Kerry’s concession. “I earned capital in the campaign—political capital—and now I intend to spend it.” And spend it he did. Whatever he had left over after he blew a wad trying to turn Social Security into a bonanza for the financial-services industry was squandered on an unending skein of assurances that the war in Iraq was going fine. By last week, the coffers were empty, and not even the hurried-up sentencing of Saddam Hussein to be hanged by the neck until dead could refill them. The accountability moment had arrived at last.
Americans have had enough, and their disgust with the Administration and its congressional enablers turned out to be so powerful that even the battered, rusty, sound-bit, TV-spotted, Die-bolded old seismograph of an American midterm election was able to register it. Thanks to the computer-aided gerrymandering that is the only truly modern feature of our electoral machinery, the number of seats that changed hands was not particularly high by historical standards. Voters—actual people—are a truer measure of the swing’s magnitude. In 2000, the last time this year’s thirty-three Senate seats were up for grabs, the popular-vote totals in those races, like the popular-vote totals for President, were essentially a tie. Democrats got forty-eight per cent of the vote, Republicans slightly more than forty-seven per cent. This time, in those same thirty-three states, Democrats got fifty-five per cent of the vote, Republicans not quite forty-three per cent. In raw numbers, the national Democratic plurality in the 2000 senatorial races was the same as Al Gore’s: around half a million. This time, despite the inevitably smaller off-year turnout and the fact that there were Senate races in only two-thirds of the states, it was more than seven million.
This election was a crushing rebuke to Bush and his party. The rest is interpretation. Nearly everyone agreed that public anger about the Iraq catastrophe was paramount. To the surprise of much of the political class, exit polls suggested that corruption was almost as formidable a factor, especially among Independents and disaffected Republicans. On the right, some commentators complained that the G.O.P.’s problem was that it hadn’t been conservative enough: too much spending, too much nation-building, too much foot-dragging on abortion and the like. Others took comfort in the hypothesis that, because a number of Tuesday’s new faces are Democrats of a (relatively) conservative stripe, the election was actually a victory for the ideology, if not the party, of George W. Bush. In a blog post titled “All’s Well on the Conservative Front,” Lawrence Kudlow, of National Review, pointed to the “conservative Blue Dog Dems who won a whole bunch of seats” as proof that “Republicans may have lost—but the conservative ascendancy is still alive and well.”
Maybe. Or maybe those Blue Dogs won’t hunt. In truth, the great majority of Capitol Hill’s new Democrats will be what used to be called liberals, and in every case Tuesday’s Republican losers were more conservative than the Democrats who beat them. Moreover, the fate of ballot initiatives around the country suggests that, on balance, the conservative tide may be ebbing. In six states, mostly out West, proposals to raise the minimum wage won easily. Yes, seven ballot measures banning same-sex marriage passed, albeit by smaller margins than has been the pattern; but one, in Arizona, was defeated—the first time that has happened anywhere. Missourians voted to support embryonic-stem-cell research. Californians and Oregonians rejected proposals to require parental notification for young women seeking abortions, and the voters of South Dakota overturned a law, passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor eight months ago, that forbade abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, except when absolutely necessary to save the mother’s life. Rick Santorum, the Senate’s most energetic social conservative, went down to overwhelming defeat—man on dog won’t hunt, either, apparently.
A more persuasive analysis than the all’s-well theory holds that Tuesday’s debacle reveals the limitations of the “mobilize the base” strategy, which Karl Rove devised on behalf of his boss, and which has required the Republican Party to entrust itself entirely to a hard core of taxophobes, Christianists, and dittoheads. Rove’s strategy, this analysis suggests, seemed to work only in 2000 (when Bush came in second at the ballot box) and in 2002 and 2004 (when its weaknesses were masked by fear of terrorism). Traditionally, America’s two big political parties have been loose coalitions, one center-left and one center-right. Rove transformed the Republicans into something resembling a European-style parliamentary party of the right, politically disciplined and ideologically uniform. This year, in response, many on the center-right acted like Europeans, too: they voted not the man (or woman) but the party (Democratic). That sealed the fate of Rhode Island’s popular senator Lincoln Chafee, among other remnants of moderate Republicanism. For the center part of the center-right, there was nowhere to go except to the center part of the center-left.
The day after the election, at a press conference in the East Room of the White House, the curtain rose on Act III of “Oedipus Bush.” On one level, the current President Bush was all crisp decisiveness as he announced the replacement of his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, with Robert Gates, a former C.I.A. director and the president of Texas A. & M. University. Below the surface, but only a little below, something altogether more unsettling was going on. Rumsfeld was one of the first President Bush’s least favorite people; Gates is one of his most trusted confidants. He is also an active member of the Iraq Study Group, which is headed by another of the father’s intimates, James Baker. The group’s report, expected in the New Year, will offer the outlines of a different course in Iraq—an offer the President may be unable to refuse. At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld yields to Gates; in the Oval Office, adolescent rebellion gives way to sullen acquiescence.
Bush said some of the right things at his press conference, but he chose his words carelessly. He congratulated the “Democrat leaders” and promised bipartisanship—a goal he is unlikely to advance by referring to his hoped-for new partners by a name calculated solely to annoy them. Impressions are inherently subjective, of course; but he looked like a man who at that moment would much prefer to be commissioner of baseball, the job he longed for in 1993, before falling back on running for governor of Texas. It has been obvious for some time that, as President of the United States, George W. Bush is in very far over his head. He does not know how to use power wisely. He will now have a Democratic Congress to restrain him, and, perhaps, to protect him—and us—from his unfettered impulses. This may not be the Thanksgiving he was looking forward to, but the rest of us have reason to be grateful.
— Hendrik Hertzberg
An Academy Award-winning documentary, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003) consists mostly of interviews with Robert McNamara and archival footage. Sounds dry but it is a must see. It features original music by Phillip Glass, amazing and creative editing, and gut-wrenching footage. But it is most amazing because it ever so delicately lasers in on the capacity of the human for deceit: self and otherwise via McNamara’s simultaneous desire to absolve himself of blame, and yet not confess to error.
When asked who was to blame, McNamara says “The President,” then one shot later recants. Apparently, everyone and anyone but not him. Similarly, the protagonist says that his family was torn up by his tour of duty in the high stress Defense job, but “they all benefited.” McNamara begins the drama as a sympathetic character, but his unwillingness to come clean on any issue dissipates all that and more by the end. It was said that the truth will make you free; the last shots of the film show a truly bound man, bound in lies and deceits of his own making. Still crazy after all these years……………….
The 11 rules are worth repeating:
1. Empathize with your enemy.
2. Rationality will not save us.
3. There’s something beyond one’s self.
4. Maximize efficiency
5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war. (
6. Get the data.
7. Belief and seeing are often both wrong.
8. Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning.
9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.
10. Never say never.
11. You can’t change human nature.
More on McNamara from Wikipedia: His memoir, In Retrospect, published in 1995, presented an account and analysis of the Vietnam War from his point of view. Reviews were very mixed. The book was viewed as McNamara's attempt to apologize for his role in the war, but it also has been seen as shifting blame to other people and as an attempt to transform his image from an architect of the war into a virtual opponent. Also Noam Chomsky points out that McNamara in his memoir does not appear to be "sorry" for the Vietnam War itself, but rather to be "sorry" because it has been a waste of resources for the
A picture of McNamara's 1995 meeting with General Vo Nguyen Giap hangs in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, near pictures of John Kerry, Elmo Zumwalt, Warren Christopher, and other American dignitaries who visited Vietnam after normalization of relations between the two countries.
During their 1995 meeting, Gen. Giap asked McNamara, how a country so rich could not afford history books, because
On January 5, 2006, McNamara and most living former Secretaries of Defense and Secretaries of State met briefly at the White House with President Bush, to discuss the War in
Special thanks to son Franklin S. Sarkett for recommending.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Friday, November 10, 2006
SILVER. According to research consultancy CPM, in 1990, there were around 2.2 billion ounces of silver held in above-ground stockpiles. As recently as 1995, there were 1.4 billion ounces of bullion in stockpiles. Today, there are probably only about 300 million ounces. That's a 50-year low...
Economic disaster ahead says GAO chief.
What is the "real" federal deficit?
GOLD..."Gold was an exception to mean reversal. In a hyperinflation ... you could wait till doomsday for the gold price to correct....."