Monday, January 29, 2007

The Bears - No Respect

If you follow the national sports press, the conclusion is obvious, the Bears may as well stay home, Payton Manning is a man of destiny. No talk of the Colts inability to stop the run. The Super Bowl result is preordained, the Colts win.

I respectfully disagree. No one can argue who is the best quarterback playing on Sunday. Similarly, no one can argue that the Bears possess the superior defense. It's my belief that this is a closer game than the 7 point difference reflected in the point spread. I think the winner will be determined by which team is able to be more successful on the ground. If the Colts revert to the sieve run defense they displayed for most of the season, Peyton may be forced to generate a touchdown every other time his offense has the ball.

That said, I'd rather not see the Colts with the ball with two minutes left in a tie game. I just think, contrary to popular belief, that the Bears will win this game.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Managing Expectations

Reinforcements, surge, augmentation, escalation (let's call it "Plan Y"). You say potato I say potato. At the risk of sounding a bit callous, I think a lot about where we sit politically vis a vis Iraqis about the failure to properly manage expectations.

That failure began with the oversell of the threat posed by Iraq and the sacrifice necessary to extinguish that threat. The failure continued by premature declarations of success, firstly, in the contrived photo op of GWB landing on a aircraft carrier that was purposefully kept offshore and the display of Mission Accomplished banner.

The overselling of the political progress within Iraq, whether it was the drone about the progress (or as it should have been non-progress) of the Iraqi military or police forces, the development of an unworkable Iraqi constitution, or an election that displayed little more than the fractiousness of the Iraq body politic are all emblematic of poor politics. The reality simply did not comport with sales job. Accordingly, the American people are rightly suspicious when the latest proposal is proffered as the only possible course of action. At the same time, any disagreement with the Administration's is seen as cowardly.

The Administration has lost credibility with the American people and appropriately so. The American people are not unwilling to fight the good fight, but not a fight that is waged ineffectually and with an absence of candor. Even the current proposal is overly vague with respect to identifiable and quantifiable goals. Progress in Iraq is an identifiable goal and a worthy goal at that, but it is not readily quantifiable and the Bush Administration seems intent on keeping it that way.

The diehard talking heads that continue to support the Administration talk about the
necessity of Plan Y say they believe it will result in progress within 6 to 9 months. While I don't doubt the American military's ability to wage successful campaigns, the progress spoken of requires substantial changes in the way the Iraqi government and military operates. Is that even reasonable to expect within 6 to 9 months. Count me as a skeptic. More troubling is that this timeframe has not been signed onto by the Administration. Incremental improvements in Iraq over the next 6 to 9 months aren't likely result in a substantial change in the support for the efforts in Iraq.

Despite a mature economy that continues to grow at historical strong rates despite very large increases to oil, Bush is seen as a failed President. I think the primary reason is not that Iraq is a mess, but that he and his Administration has not told the American people how hard assisting in the formation of a sustainable, secular Iraq would be. It matters little to the voters whether that is the result of deception or ineptitude, it is a distinction that for the time being, without a difference. The lesson here is it is better to under promise and over deliver than it is to do the converse.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Upcoming: Bush's State of the Union 7.0

I'm getting that giddy feeling that can only mean one thing, the President's State of the Union is right around the corner. Safe to say there won't be any talk about Iraqis buying yellowcake uranium from Niger. What I am looking forward to is how GWB is going to work switchgrass into the speech. I have no idea if there is any practical basis for switchgrass being discussed as a alternative energy source. I am fascinated every time I hear the President mention it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who's Kidding Who?

The debate raging over the situation of Iraq is more divorced from reality than it was when Paul Wolfowitz testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and claimed that the efforts in Iraq would cost the US far less than $100mm and likely even pay for itself. Let me try to set forward the facts as they stand today: More than 3,000 dead American military personnel; more than 20,000 serious non-lethal American casualties; American public support for American involvement in the Iraqi conflict at its lowest ebb; the Administration and its supporters fervently believe that Iraq must become a sustainable political state; at this point, the Iraqis are incapable of governing and securing a united, inclusive Iraq.

In my view the chances of the Administration regaining the support of the American people for its Iraqi policy - is nil. The dirty little secret is that the Administration is still unable to level with the American people about what it will take to accomplish its goals in Iraq. Irrespective of your position on Iraq, there is no reasonable scenario under which the Administration goals can be accomplished within the next two years. In fact, five years might be the absolute best case scenario. The Iraqis collectively have precious little appetite for the very goals being sold to the American public.

It has been said by a number of political pundits, quite correctly, that the American Administration and the American people can not want this more than the Iraqis. Despite NSC Adviser Hadley's assertions that this plan is the Iraqis plan (and consequently they support it and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary for success), the facts simply do not support that contention. Moreover, the current plan is a single pronged strategy, military without a political component. Thus, even the rosiest conclusion of this initiative is but a beginning.

Given that the administration is not interested in a multi-lateral political solution, what we are left with is a Hobbesian choice, effectively sit back and let the pieces fall where they may or hunker down for what is likely a decade or more or direct involvement in Iraq. The only sustainable argument in support of the later is to operate as a check on the Iranians. In order for that to work it is imperative for the Administration to elevate the perception of the Iranian threat to the US. The President began to lay the groundwork for this political sleight of hand in his speech on Wednesday. The VP, in his remarks on Fox News Sunday fulfilled his role as Administration cudgel by further setting the stage for conflict between the US and Iran by emphasizing its threat to the US.

Note, I stress the threat to the US because I don't believe the Administration can recapture public support if the perceived threat is Israel. The incursion into Iraq on ginned up "intelligence" on the threat posed to the US mainland with its enormous cost in American lives and monies without concomitant success has serious dulled the American public's appetite for war. Thus a casus belli for action against Iran is necessary.

The basis for such action may be found in the upcoming National Intelligence Estimate ("NIE") on Iran that is expected to be completed soon. I expect the Estimate to have much in common with the NIE issued prior to Congress' vote on Iraq, long on descriptions of worst-case scenarios with less ardent views relegated to footnotes or ignored altogether. There has been limited speculation that John Negroponte's reassignment to a less prominent role within the Administration was a precursor to a hawkish Estimate (note, I have a previous post discussing Negroponte's reassignment, interestingly his departure has received precious little attention in the press, overshadowed by the President's revised Iraq strategy).

Finally, I am of the opinion that irrespective of the success new military policy nothing much will change because the Iraqis are not invested in fundamental political change. The Sunnis want to be back in charge, the Shia, even those not interested in direct retribution against the Sunnis, want the spoils of political power and the Kurds want no more than the oil around Kirkuk, relative political autonomy and US protection from the Turks. Until that political landscape changes our efforts in Iraq are a fool's endeavor.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

What are the Appropriate Parameters of "Force Potection"

The military has broad ability to act proactively against perceived threats. The concept seems quite commonsensical and prudent. However, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a threat, too lies in the eyes and minds of those charged with protecting the military. In the post-9/11 world it appears that the perception of what constitutes a "threat" has apparently expanded. They are now operating under the belief that the Patriot Act broadened their authority to engage in investigations within the US. This includes most notably the surveillance of various groups engaged in peaceful protests against the war. This to light when a Vermont church group was subjected to defense department surveillance. Shockingly, Big "Swingin' Dick" Cheney finds these expanded efforts legal and no threat to civil liberties. I don't know about you, but Cheney's assertion assuages all my concerns.

Much to the chagrin of the CIA, the defense department has also expended its intelligence gathering activities overseas. This was an initiative pushed strenuously by former Secretary of State Rumsfeld, whose disdain for the CIA is well-chronicled.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Administration and Defense Officials Attack Attorneys who Dare to Represent Gitmo Detainees

The official in charge of military detainees took the bold and troubling step of challenging those attorneys who dare to represent military detainees at Gitmo. Now, despite the fact that the Administration hs repeatedly stated that the Gitmo detainees are all extremely dangerous individuals that threaten the US and its citizenry, the government seems to be saying that the detainees can have representation, but not real attorneys.

In case anyone were to think that the attack was a mere off the cuff comment, an article in Friday's WSJ containing the same substantive attack appeared citing unnamed government sources. Yet tht wasn't quite enough for Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, the official "spilling the beans." Mr. Stimson, lawyer by training, when asked in the radio interview who was paying for the legal representation, Mr. Stimson replied: “It’s not clear, is it? Some will maintain that they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart, that they’re doing it pro bono, and I suspect they are; others are receiving moneys from who knows where, and I’d be curious to have them explain that.” It's notable that no one within the government has been willing to go on record to criticize Mr. Stimson let alone rebuke him.

Mr. Stimson not only called into question the patriotism of these attorneys but went further. He named the law firms where the attorneys worked, specifically high powered New York and D.C. firms and encouraged corporate clients to move their business elsewhere. The government's chilling actions are a frontal attack on the system of laws and justice in this country.

The process governing the procedures applicable has already been defined legislatively in accordance with the Administration's wishes (thereby short circuiting judicial interpretations like that contained in the Supreme Court's Hamdi decision that the Administration found so objectionable), but apparently that isn't enough. Perhaps the Administration expected that the only counsel available to the detainees would consist of a motley group of young public interest lawyers that could be bullied and ignored while they were labeled as enemies of the US or simply misguided liberals. It is clear from the start that the government isn't interested in a level playing field.

This strikes me as another attack on the concepts of justice that underlies the basis of our republic. That isn't to say that circumstances do not perhaps require procedures more restrictive than those available to criminal defendants in the US, but the government can't set forth rules and then change them when they don't like the results. To do so undermines basic concepts of justice while further ceding the country's ever-eroding moral authority.

Update: The Times Editorial Board weighs in

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sunday News Shows 1/14

What gives, Chris Wallace and Fox News Sunday gets Mr. Happy aka VP Cheney and Russert and Meet the Press only gets Steve Hadley. Don't get me wrong, Hadley's very bright and an engaging interviewee, but for pure star appeal it's no contest. Regardless, Fox News Sunday is a formidable competitor to Meet the Press, while Wallace can't carry Russert's groceries,the Fox All Stars are must watch. Watching Bill Kristol begrudgingly offering support for the President, while holding his nose is priceless. I'm convinced that no one believes Bush is a bigger moron than Mr. Kristol. Thank god for TiVo.

Rudy, Rudy . . . . Dignity has Left the Building

Rudy teams up with Newtie putting in writing how his NYC strategy will work in Iraq. The WSJ is free today if you care to peruse the piece, Rudy is one evil and arrogant bastard, this SOB can't be trusted as far as you can throw 'em.

The core idea of getting Iraqis back to work is a good one and implementation of such an initiative is long overdo. The tenuous comparison to NYC (just coincidently during the period that Tsar Rudy was in charge) added nothing to the core proposition, it was self-serving drivel. Moreover, the facts laid out regarding the success of the NYC workfare initiative are exceedingly thin. So call me a skeptic, but given that Rudy's ramping up a bid for the Presidency in '08, why aren't we provided with more definitive evidence to support the claimed success of the program. Hmmm.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Euphemisms ruled today while Secretary of State Rice was subjected to a panini grill during her testimony on the Hill today. It was the most painful Congressional testimony to watch since Bobby Kennedy grilled alleged members of Cosa Nostra. She got no quarter whatever, the "surge" isn't an escalation it's merely an augmentation. Unfortunately, the political tsunami brewing within the body politic appears ready to subsume the Administration Iraq policy. Secretary Rice was combative as she was battered about by Senators of both parties. The nonsensical horseshit sold by this Administration is being recognized for what it is - horseshit.

The dismissive tone of the Administration, the "we know better, so just do what we say," has run its course. That day has past. The Iraq policy has been such a disaster that unwinding it almost definitionally willbe a disaster. I don't pretend to have the answer, but what is clear is that the US can not want a stable, inclusive Iraq more than the Iraqis do. As distasteful as it is to many, I believe a multi-lateral approach involving the other players in the Middle East may be the best option.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Rudy, Rudy .......

Rudy is on Hannity & Whoever can ineffectually sit next to him following the President's speech. He just compared the problem on clearing and holding areas within Iraq to the problems he faced in NYC, oh my, now that's chutzpah. Barring another serious attack between now an the Republican nomination process, the American public will get a frightening picture of what this megalomaniac is really like. Talk about unhinged, this guy is two cans short of a six-pack. This is not a nice man, his ego dwarfs that of the vast majority of politicians - and that's no small order. What do you think, Bernie Kerik for VP.

BTW Sean Hannity is a nut. He specializes in loaded, closed ended questions. Needlessto say details ain't his long suit.

Irresponsible Reporting

Fox News is an important news source irrespective of your politics. Clearly, it has a slant that differs from that at its competitors, CNN and MSNBC. Given its significant ratings lead over those competitors when does it become embarrassingly disingenuous to continue to cast itself as other than part of MSM (main stream media). I would argue strenuously that the time long since past. Puhhhlease, honesty is a virtue.

Sure, some of the folks on Fox News are crackpots (Namely, Gibson, Hannity, BillO, Bill Sammon etc.), but they represent a constituency. That said, some of the lesser lights at the network are a bit too eager to please their bosses. Witness Fox News anchor, Gretchen Carlson calling Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) a “hostile enemy” of the United States because he has demanded that Congress vote on whether to approve funding for escalation in Iraq. That crap has no place on a reputable news source. Sen. Kennedy ain't the sharpest tool in the shed, but his point of view is in line with a significant number of Americans, loyal Americans that have a strong disagreement with the Administration's current Iraq policy. Referring to such people as enemies of this country is irresponsible and ignorant. In my view such vitriol has no place in the arena of political debate.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Negroponte Ousted?

Last week amongst the barrage of personnel moves within the Bush admin perhaps the most vexing was the move to John Negroponte from National Director of Intelligence to Assistant Secretary of State. The Administration spin was that Negroponte is first and foremost a diplomat, true indeed. But upon reflection why does someone voluntarily give up a position that reports directly to President, in fact, regularly and often daily, for a position, under Sec of State Rice. Odd to say the least.

Reports are now emerging that Mr. Negroponte might have run afoul of VP Cheney and Darth Vader (David Addington). Two specific areas are mentioned - the soon to be issued National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq and domestic surveillance activities. Both make some sense. Negroponte two months back angered Administration zealots (the usual suspects) regarding Iran's current nuclear capabilities. With regard to domestic intelligence activities, longtime CIA, NSA and FBI professionals have frequently (yet carefully) expressed strong reservations with the broad scope the Administration advocates.

The objection is more about how such activities are conducted. The Administration remains steadfast in its intention to broaden presidential authority. What perplexes me is why such power is required for the "War on Terror" (an entanglement that is definitionally interminable) yet we as a republic did not see the need to provide clear legal basis for the executive with regard to these matters. One is sort of forced to conclude that the real reason is a pure and simple power play. I, for one, am a strenuous believer in the balance of powers between the federal branches of government, although considering the dottering dickheads that fill the House and Senate worthy of such a heay position is frightening.

President to Speak Wed. Evening

The President will speak to the nation (at least those willing to listen) Wednesday night regarding yet another change of direction in Iraq. This time the Pres. will announce his intention to increase troops in Iraq by 20,000 combined with new economic incentives theoretically conditioned upon political benchmarks for the pitifully ineffectual Iraqi government. reshuffled the military deck to come up with soldiers that believe (?) the new strategy can work.

Republican support for this strategy is weak within the Administration itself let alone in Congress. Irrespective, I think the President will ultimately get his way - this time at least - but with an extremely short leash. I think this sets up a really ugly late '07 going into '08 for this Administration. This is a tactical and political mess of enormous proportions. I do not believe this "new" stategy has a snowball's chance in hell of working.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I Love Tech

I love gadgets and I love when technology works for me. That said, I consistently feel overwhelmed. I never know whether to feel as though I'm hopelessly deficient, fairly effective or just right (like the baby bear's bed) when it comes to technological competence.

On the positive side, I was an early adopter of both TiVo and HDTV, but my system still confounds me. For instance, I got a PS 3, but haven't hooked it up so that it plays through the sound system nor the high def. Sure,I've got excuses - the components aren't easily accessible and the fact the TV only allows for 2 HD inputs. In order to deal with that problem I bought an external HD switcher box, but my one, brief failed attempt to get that work last week left me feeling inadequate. Moreover, while I got the PS 3 to update via its wireless modem, I've yet to access the online play network. On the positive side, I just got a HD Directv DVR (in addition to my existing 2nd series TiVo) an its working famously.

As far as computer, as I implied above I installed a wireless router that's working fine, although I had to seek outside assistance to secure it. I realize that I needed to upgrade the RAM on my desktop, but despite reading how easy it was to install, I wimped out and hired someone else to do it. While I set up Tivo Desktop without much difficulty and have utilized it successfully for some time, I've had a SlingBox sitting in my office - unattached for at least 9 weeks - UGH! I know I need an external storage unit, but why buy it if I'm not going to be able to seemlessly move my gig heavy multimedia files to it and seemlessly access those files when I want to access them.

I've been blogging for a while, but no one except my extremely gifted and discriminating sister reads it. I've tried to upgrade the blog to encourage better distribution with no success. I think I set up a FTP for the site, but it doesn't work ( or better said I don't know how to use it) so I'm despite having a Technorati account my blog doesn't get updated through the site. I quickly moved my blog to the new Blogger but lost AdSense in the transition - how? I have no idea.

The families Ipods work fine, but I can't seem to change out the playlist on my cool I Audio MP3 player. I was able to for a while, but now I'm still listing to 50 cent first album and the BeeGees greatest hits.

The problem as I see it is that I read too fucking much. I know (mostly) what is possible, but implementation isoften beyond my abilities.

Friday, January 05, 2007

From the Editor - Performance Reviews

I am horrified that my staff has ignored the abundance of topics available and failed to post at all since the beginning of the New Year. The cavalcade of e-mail I have received from the blog's vast fan base demanding insightful, witty banter regarding the issues of the day deserve a response. Rest assured that I have placed the entire staff on time out and prescribed powerful antibiotics to combat anything they may have caught at the 10 day-long party we held at the BFT mansion (btw, thank you again VC investors). Hopefully, the recriminations will result in increased productivity and quality.