Friday, July 29, 2005


I'll be on vacation next week with no access to a computer. Back on Aug. 8.

In the meantime, here is a random list of 25 songs off of my IPod to fill the rest of this space:

Moonlight Becomes You - Bing Crosby
Love or Confusion - Jimi Hendrix
I'll Be Seeing You (In All The Old Familiar Places) - Bing Crosby
Tombstone Blues - Bob Dylan
Slither - Velvet Revolver
If I Can't Have You - Bee Gees
Body and Soul - Coleman Hawkins
Soul Kitchen - The Doors
Pardon Me - Incubus
Rockin' Chair - Louis Armstrong
This Little Girl of Mine - Ray Charles
Lester Leaps In - Count Basie Orchestra
We're An American Band - Grand Funk Railroad
Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams - Bing Crosby
That'll Be The Day - Buddy Holly
You Make My Dreams Come True - Hall & Oates
She's No Lady - Lyle Lovett
Runnin' With The Devil - Van Halen
Good Vibrations - Beach Boys
Dreamtime-Shake It Up - John Waite
Don't Be Cruel - Elvis Presley
Walk On - U2
Riverboat Shuffle - Frankie Trumbauer Orchestra featuring Bix Biederbecke
You Got Lucky - Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Oye Como Va - Santana

Why we went to war

Over at TPMCafe today, former CIA analyst Larry Johnson goes point-by-point through the lies and deceptions being propogated by the GOP to cover up their complicity in the Valerie Plame scandal.

FACT 1--Valerie (Plame) Wilson was undercover and occupied a sensitive position.

FACT 2--Valerie (Plame) Wilson's relationship with the CIA was not known until revealed by Robert Novak's column.

FACT 3--Valerie Plame Wilson did not send her husband on the trip to Niger.

These are things that should be obvious to anyone living in the “reality-based community” as opposed to the fantasy world inhabited by most Bush apologists these days.

But the thing I found most interesting was a discussion by one of the commenters trying to understand the real motivation behind the Bush administration’s rush to war in the first place.

I've been thinking bsout this for a while trying to come up with a plausible reason.  My first assumption is that nothing we have been told so far is it: Building Democracy in Iraq?  Please, Cheney barely tolerates democracy here, he could give a rats ass about it in Iraq.  There has to be a real politik reason; Cheney, Rumsfeld - these guys cut their teeth under Kissinger.  WMD?  If anything the Bush admin knew better than anyone that they didn't exist.  Oil?  Sure it is about oil, everything in the Middle East is, but still why invade?

Here is the scenario that I think makes sense, assuming that Bush, Cheney et al aren't total fools this is my guess as to what happened:

1) The stuff we did in the 90s (bombings and so on) was more effective at destroying Sadaam's WMD capabilities than we realized.

2) It was very much in Sadaam's interested to make sure that no-one realized this. His power rested on both Iraqis and his neighbors thinking he was still strong.

3) After 9/11 the CIA, State Department and UN started looking at Sadaam more closely and began to see how much of a paper tiger he was. (Both Kay and Blix have said they knew he had no WMD)

4) Everyone in the Bush admin who looked into this realized it too, the CIA and State department working independently came to the same conclusions.

5) Sadaam called Bush's bluff and said the inspectors could come in. The last thing Bush wanted was for the inspectors to prove once and for all that Sadaam was toothless.

6) Hence the rush to war.

7) The real motivation for the war wasn't that Sadaam was strong and a threat; it was just the opposite, he was becoming too weak! We need a balance of powers in the Middle East - Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Saudia Arabia.

8) The plan was to quickly topple Sadaam, put Chalabi in power and have a new, more reliable ally as our counterweight to Iran (remember we backed Sadaam in the war with Iran).

9) That blew up in their faces, both because they didn't prepare for the aftermath and didn't understand just how much of a mess Iraq's infrastructure had become.

10) What also didn't help is that Chalabi was playing them for fools while secretly working for Iran.

Ultimately I can see a valid motive here, allowing Iraq to disinigrate into chaos as Sadaam crumbled from within would leave it ripe for take over by Iran. But here is the thing, by doing it the way they did they totally lost any chance of success. The likely end result is now Iraq aligned with Iran, with at best an independent Kurdistan in the north aligned with Turkey (how ironic is that? The thing Turkey most feared may now very well be in their best interest! Losing a little territory along the border and their Kurdish citizens may be worth having another staunchly secular regime with decent Oil revenue opposed to Iran as a neighbor).
If we had waited for Sadaam to crumble under the weight of his own corruption and Iran tried to move in to the void we could have put together a coalition of Arab states to join us in protecting Iraq from the Persian aggressors.

A very interesting analysis. I don’t agree with it entirely, but it makes a lot of very valid points.
I think there is no question that the timing had mostly to do with the Republican’s desire to have the public perception that they were taking a strong and aggressive stand against terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. This was especially important on the eve of the 2002 mid-term elections when Republicans were trying to regain control of the Senate. And once they committed to that aggressive course of action they set the ball rolling on a track where they could not turn back without undermining that desired public perception. Backing down in any way and allowing U.N. inspectors to prove that there were no WMDs would have been seen as a political victory for Democrats who were challenging Bush’s post-9/11 leadership in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election.
Supporting the war became a political imperative and at that point the truth became expendable. Intelligence that supported the war scenario was thrust front and center regardless of how shaky its credibility (i.e. the centrifuge tubes, the mobile bioweapons lab, etc.) while intelligence that ran contrary was ignored and/or refuted vigorously - which of course is what led to the outing of Valerie Plame’s identity.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

GOP selling pork for votes

In yet another ugly display of arm-twisting, bribery and threats, House Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay assured passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) last night by holding the vote open 47 minutes past the traditional 15-minute deadline.

The 217 to 215 vote came just after midnight, in a dramatic finish that highlighted the intensity brought by both sides to the battle. When the usual 15-minute voting period expired at 11:17 p.m., the no votes outnumbered the yes votes by 180 to 175, with dozens of members undeclared. House Republican leaders kept the voting open for another 47 minutes, furiously rounding up holdouts in their own party until they had secured just enough to ensure approval....

This sounds awfully similar to the bribery and threats that the GOP used to pass its Medicare boondoggle last year.
We may not know right away (or ever) if House members were threatened the way they were during the Medicare vote, but it is clear that bribery was on the table.

The last-minute negotiations for Republican votes resembled the wheeling and dealing on a car lot. Republicans who were opposed or undecided were courted during hurried meetings in Capitol hallways, on the House floor and at the White House. GOP leaders told their rank and file that if they wanted anything, now was the time to ask, lawmakers said, and members took advantage of the opportunity by requesting such things as fundraising appearances by Cheney and the restoration of money the White House has tried to cut from agriculture programs. Lawmakers also said many of the favors bestowed in exchange for votes will be tucked into the huge energy and highway bills that Congress is scheduled to pass this week before leaving for the August recess.

Remember how Republicans were supposed to restore integrity and honesty to government back when they took control away from entrenched Democrats? Yeah, me neither.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Easy Rider

My brother-in-law who is serving with the Louisiana National Guard in Iraq is scheduled to come back home in November. His wife (my sister) has promised to let him get a Harley-Davidson when he gets back which will become his primary mode of transportation to and from work. She and the four kids have laid claim to his truck during his absence.
As you can see from this photo, he is already eagerly anticipating the new “Easy Rider” lifestyle he will be adopting when he gets back stateside.

Quagmire update

John Derbyshire over at NRO is one conservative who occassionaly makes sense - and thus makes his ideological cohorts uncomfortable. Here he is today making a salient point about the unexpected length of Bush’s war in Iraq: is a fact that no American, in March 2003, thought we would have a huge army planted in Iraq 2 and a half years later. The administration did not even hint at such a possibility...

Our war against the Empire of Japan, 1941-45, lasted 1,347 days. The current war in Iraq, against a rabble of Arab hooligans, has lasted 861 days. If it lasts as long as WW2, it will end on November 25 next year. Do you really think it will have ended by then? Do you really think that Zarqawi and his gangs are as formidable an enemy as the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces? Do you really believe we are doing this right? Really?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Cheap Sunglasses

Originally uploaded by mwthomas87.
I would like to thank the person who left his Ray-Ban sunglasses at the Sears Parts & Service Center in College Station, Texas about 17 years ago.
I was working there that summer while finishing college and found the glasses on the counter. I placed them on a shelf underneath the register and there they sat for the next several weeks. Eventually, I claimed them for my own.
They are really nice sunglasses - smokey black lenses and a wire frame that wraps around your ears to hold them in place - much more expensive than I could have afforded back then.
Up until that point I was never able to hold on to a pair of sunglasses longer than a couple of months before I would lose them. I probably went through a dozen pair of cheap, $5 sunglasses before I latched on to this pair and never let go. The fact that I still have these glasses after 17 years is quite amazing to me. I’ve always assumed that if I had bought them myself I would have lost them long ago.
Funny how that works.
Today they are a bit worn and one of the lenses pops out on occasion, but I dare not let them go. It’s not like I found these glasses, after all. It’s more like they found me.