Wednesday, September 17, 2008

don't worry...

Rembrandt, Beggars at the Door.

"I think still -- the fundamentals of our economy are strong."
John McCain, "Black Monday," September 15, 2008.

"The fundamental business of the country, that is the production and distribution of commodities, is on a sound and prosperous basis."
Herbert Hoover, the day after "Black Thursday," October 25, 1929.

From The American Prospect via Think Progress via Bob Cesca.


jazzycat said...

Are you familar with Franklin D. Raines the former CEO of Fannie Mae and his connection with the Clinton adminstration? Do you think he earned the 90 million for six years at Fannie Mae? Now he is an advisor for Obama......

Is this the change we can count on?

Liam said...

Jazzycat --
If you want to play the adviser game, I could name any one of the countless lobbyists around McCain -- Carly Fiorina, who sunk HP and walked away with a golden parachute, Phil "nation of whiners" Gramm, who wrote much of the deregulating legislation that got us into this mess, etc., but really -- you could do that yourself with a bit of googling.

Look at their policies -- McCain supports the same kind of GOP free-market, deregulating orthodoxy that got us into this mess (not to say a lot of Democrats haven't supported it to). Only in the past day or so has he talked about regulating Wall Street -- another cynical flip-flop (yes I know Obama has flip-floped on things too, but McCain does it on everything). Obama has been a lot more consistent on this.

You have a lot of ammo for attacking Obama (nothing that has really convinced me) but you have yet to say why anyone should vote for McCain. Are you just anti-Obama? I personally have no idea what McCain stands for anymore, since he'll say anything to get votes, but if you have some idea, let us know.

cowboyangel said...

You know, when they're talking about this election in the future, and analyzing what went wrong for McCain, I have a feeling that statement's going to have a prominent place in the discussion. A political theatre blunder of the first order.

The only thing more pathetic is watching McCain twist himself into inhuman contortions by saying he meant "American workers" are strong. And now Palin saying that showing the video clip is an attack on McCain's "verbiage." Ha, ha, ha!!! They're freaking out. Because they know that the "working poor" are going to see it over and over and understand perfectly well what McCain meant.

All Obama has to do to win this election is show McCain saying that over and over again. Along with Gramm's "nation of whiners" statement.

Hey, jazzycat, I'm genuinely curious:

Do you think the nation's on the right track? And has President Bush done a good job?

jazzycat said...

Since I am a conservative, McCain was not my choice in the R primaries. I did not have a clear choice that I liked.

The radical extremism of Obama concerns me greatly! When he says things like, "“We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," I am alarmed. I am alarmed by his thinking on judicial nominations where he said, "the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart." He has made it clear that he affirms the judicial activism of a living and breathing constitution. It is his extreme liberal positions that I object to and not him personally. Like Sarah Palin, he is very charming on a personal level. Until someone like Bobby Jindal (La. governor) or Palin run for president I probably won't have someone I really like.

BTW, are you sure that Gramm had more to do with current meltdown than Clinton adminstration making "affordable" housing availiable to many who could not afford to make the payments thus starting this sequence of events? Did Bush administration offer legistlation in 2005 to give more oversight as Karl Rove said? According to him, it was opposed by over 40 democrat senators and a few Republicans who preferred to do nothing. Have you looked at who received the most campaign contributions from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?

jazzycat said...

”Do you think the nation's on the right track? And has President Bush done a good job?”

I think Bush’s greatest legacy will be that he recognized that Islamic extremism is a very serious threat to the world and USA! He correctly saw that it was nothing short of an act of war that should be fought as a war and not as a criminal legal problem as previous administrations considered it to be. Bush tried to address social security, but you know who opposed him at every turn claiming that we had years to address that problem. His tax cuts worked very good and increased revenue to the treasury as well as bringing about a booming economy up until the last couple of years. We were also in an economic slowdown during Clinton’s last year. Even now our economy does not meet the government definition of a recession. As my previous comment illustrated, there is plenty of blame to go around to both parties for the banking crisis! As a former Air Force pilot, I believe Bush was not aggressive enough in the war on Iraq as the successful surge has certainly pointed out. You do not want me to post all of the hawkish quotes by democrats on Iraq. Many of them were made before Bush even took office. Oh what the heck, I will give you one from Obama’s choice for VP. “Biden on Meet the Press in 2002, discussing Saddam Hussein: ‘He’s a long term threat and a short term threat to our national security… We have no choice but to eliminate the threat. This is a guy who is an extreme danger to the world.’ While the democrats have been engaging in a history re-write, they were very much on board with the war in Iraq in 2002.

No, I do not think the nation is on the right track because of the trend toward socialism and more government control of our lives. For example: I am convinced government run health care would be a disaster.

Deficit spending has been out of control for a long time and although the Republican Congress of the nineties made great progress in that area but then lost their way. It is very interesting that democrats fought the balanced budget tooth and nail, and yet now claim credit for it working in the late nineties. Although Clinton signed it, the Republicans were who wanted it and pushed it through.

Liam said...

Thanks Jazzycat, I get a better idea of where you're coming from.

I like Obama really dislike the GOP, but I'm not particularly partisan or pro-Democrat, so you won't get me defending all of Clinton's economic policies or the Democrats cowardly support of the war. As a matter of fact I voted against my senator (Hillary Clinton) in the senate primary because of her support of that war.

Bush didn't recognize the threat of Islamic extremism until 9/11. At that point, we all did. Instead of going after wholeheartly the people responsible, he attacked Iraq. Although things are better now than they were (for now), the whole thing has been an unmitigated disaster. 4000 Americans dead, tens of thousands wounded, hundreds of thousands Iraqis dead, millions displaced, the entire region destabilized, American influence in the world weakened, Iran strengthened, the deficit through the roof... I could go on.

If you think that was a success, you should vote for McCain. He was calling for an invasion of Iraq before Bush was. And, of course, he praised Rumsfeld before he changed course and started criticizing him.

Booming economy? For the rich. Real wages have gone down for everybody else. The deficit is through the roof. And say what you want about Clinton, all that is happening now has happened after Bush has been on the job for eight years.

Of course, the deficit vs GNP was even bigger under Reagan. This whole "Republicans are fiscal conservatives" thing is just not true.

Health care in this country is a disaster and it's an economic problem as well as a social problem. Solutions apart from universal health care with government intervention? I don't see any. I would personally prefer a much more government-based health care system than what Obama proposes, but hey, I'll take what we can get. McCain's plan (taxable benefits and tax credits for health insurance) will do more harm then good.

Also: "socialism" is not a very helpful word. It can be used to describe anyone from the free-market European Social-Democrats to North Korea. It doesn't really describe what Obama wants to do.

crystal said...

I don't understand this economic stuff at all :(

jazzycat said...

Good point on the range of socialism. I know that I have always had a basic distrust and fear of government control and power. I am amazed at some who do not share my concerns and yet have a strong hate and distrust of corporations and business in general.

Exxon, Wal-Mart, or Microsoft have any power over me unless I choose to be a customer and even then it is extremely limited. However, big government can take my money, regulate my activities, force me to participate in activities that I would prefer not to be involved in (social security and possibly government run health care), and in many other ways restrict and hinder my freedom. Even a little socialism comes at a cost of less freedom. When tyrants rise to power, government control gets ugly as history has shown.

I think America is prosperous and great because of our freedom and capitalistic system and certainly not government planning. Calling health care or anything else a right is absurd. If there are not enough trained doctors, you can call it a right till the cows come home, but all you may get is a band-aid and an asprin. Even food is not a right in America if there is not enough to go around.

Sorry to get on my soap box, but I thought you might be interested in how a common ole conservative views a few things......

crystal said...

Exxon, Wal-Mart, or Microsoft have any power over me unless I choose to be a customer and even then it is extremely limited.

Maybe I watched too many episodes of the X-Files, but I think this is naive. And the idea that things like social security or health care for all is a step in the wrong direction sounds like social Darwinism. But like I said, I don't understand economics.

jazzycat said...

I have never watched the X-files so I missed that point, but I'll bet you do understand economics. I in no way oppose health care for all or solid well run retirement programs (I would even be in favor of a federal mandate for retirement funding by individuals). This does not mean that I think social security is a well run and solid retirement program (it is not) or that I believe it is possible for a government run health care program (even by conservatives) to be effectively run.

I apologize to liam if I have gone to far off topic.....

BTW, I draw social security........

Jeff said...

The distinction between the private sector and the public sector, between corporations and the government, is becoming increasingly blurred and meaningless. We’re not heading for socialism. We are heading for plutocracy, for government by corporations for the sake of corporations. The problem in Washington is not statism. It it is not that government bureaucrats are centrally planning nationalized industries. The problem is that just about everyone in government is owned by lobbyists from the private sector. The connections between Fannie Mae execs and lobbyists and both the Obama and McCain campaigns underscores this.

As for socialism in the USA, Cowboyangel, who has spent time in Europe, has pointed out that we really don’t know what socialism is in this country. People here realize that socialism is coercive, runs contrary to human nature, deadens the spirit, kills initiative, and produces nothing better than mediocrity. The problem is, Republican apologists over the last 25 years have made it sound like everyone who is in favor of regulated capitalism is a red-shirted socialist, and they’ve succeeded in selling that idea to the average man on the street. It has him distracted by the spectre of a "nanny-state" while it ships his job to China or Mexico.

It’s not just our government that has this problem. All governments do. The governments of nation-states are becoming impotent in the face of decisions made at GATT or by the WTO, or other supranational organizations. Nobody votes for any of this stuff. Nobody even knows who these people are. The Birchers used to go on and on about “One World Government” and were derided as conspiracy-minded loons. It turns out that they were right about the basic problem, but they were wrong about the players and the culprits.

Having said all that, what is laughable at this point are the Republic candidates posturing as reformers and regulators, of all things. This, after years of telling us that government is the solution, that government is the problem, and everyhting would be well if all of the se regulations could be shucked off and the free market was left to do it’s thing.

Jeff said...

Sorry, last sentence should have read:

This, after years of telling us that government is not the solution, that government is the problem, and everything would be well if all of these regulations could be shucked off and the free market was left to do it’s thing.

Jeff said...

“We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK"

I’m not sure exactly why that is so alarming, other than that some cold hard facts are being presented. As far as the SUVs are concerned, for instance, Detroit is already deciding that those days are coming to an end. The economic pie can get bigger, yes, to a point. It is an objective fact, however, that the world does have finite resources, particularly when we are talking about fossil fuels, and our population is very small.percentage of the total world population.

Regarding Islamic extemism… Islam does have a problem with fundamentalism. It can’t be wished away. The forces of globalization help to unleash this. All religions have problems with fundamentalism when they feel their existence threatened by the advance of modernity. One half of the world embraces globalization and modernism while the other half retreats into tribalism and fundamentalism in order to rescue their tradtions. We cannot, however, kill our way out of this problem. Liam’s analysis on Iraq is 100% correct, I won’t repeat it all, but I actually think we would have done much better if we had treated it like a criminal problem, with good police work and intelligence. That’s where most of the success has been in the last seven years. The military options have not gone as well. It has caused huge resentment of the USA not only in the Islamic world, but around the rest of the world as well. It has radicalized and alienated muslims who might have otherwise been more eager to help us. You all know how it is when you think someone is atttacking your religion. You circle the wagons.

Jeff said...

Regarding the deficit… Democrats are known as tax-and-spend. Republicans since Reagan are known as borrow-and-spend. Neither side wants to stop spending, but at least the Democrats are actually showing some interest in paying for what they spend.

I didn’t like Bill Clinton. I still don’t. I never voted for him, but I have to give him credit for running surpluses. Before he was elected in 1992, no one thought it was even possible to do that anymore. It wasn’t the Gingrich congress that achieved that. I hate to say it, but it appears to have been his tax policies and those ones reluctantly implemented by Poppy Bush 41. Progressive income taxes seem to have a helluva lot to do with balanced budgets. Reagan & Stockman tax cuts for the wealthy? Exploding deficits. Bush 43 and tax cuts for the wealthy? Exploding deficits. To be fair, the paradigm shift of the internet boom (the internet.. originally a government investment, like the highway system) and the Y2K spending on infratructure helped him a lot.

As for who has more impact and power over our lives, government or corporations…. Apart from what the government takes out of my paycheck, and granted, it is substantial, I feel no negative impact from government in my life whatsoever. On the same paycheck, I’m getting raped on private health insurance. I’m co-paying almost $800 a month, and it doesn’t even cover everything. Now, McCain wants me to pay taxes on top of that, so I’ll be incentivized to opt out for private health insurance. If that turns out to be anything like the intrusive process of getting term life insurance, it will be a horror-show.

I like having my roads plowed, our libraries, our town recycling center, our schools, agencies that keep our water safe to drink, our food safe to eat (although this is slipping), and buildings safe to walk into, work in, and sleep in. I like having policeman to patrol our streets and to have firemen on call to respond to emergencies. Apart from that, the government, strictly speaking, is almost invisible to me.

Let me amend that. I have small children. I like having a TV. So do they. Ask almost every parent - Most would much rather have their children watching public television rather than network and cable programs. There isn’t much my children need to be protected from on public television. On television provided by corporations, I need to worry about the marketing being bombarded at them, the rampant consumerism, the sexploitation, and pushing of shallow values that I find repugnant and the celebration of the lowest common denominator. As for adults, call me an elitist if you will, but I’ll take Masterpiece Theater, Frontline, American Experience, Nova and all of that public tv over the private sector’s standard fare of Desperate Housewives and Ultimate Fighting Championship any old day.

Jeff said...

Regarding the power of large corporations… Some people have the gumption and the smarts to be in business for thmeselves. That’s a great thing. That’s rugged, self-reliant American individualism. From what they tell me, dealing with government red tape all the time can be a real hindrance and a pain to them. Let’s face it, though. Most Americans work for someone else. Fewer and fewer Americans are finding themselves working for mon-and-pop businesses as those businesses get wiped out in their futile attempt to compete with the Wal-Marts and Home Depots of the world. Many of these corporations can hold a town hostage or force towns and states to compete with each other in giving tax breaks to these giants (even allowing them to pocket the sales tax in some instances) so that they’ll locate there, and eventually the old town center goes bust and goes to seed. Customer choice? Pretty soon you have no real customer choice. You have to shop at the union-buster even if you aren’t otherwise inclined to do so. Manufacturing firms that were lured with sweetheart deals can pull up stakes and go offshore at any time. As a result, the town goes downhill. Crime rises. Smart kids leave. Hopeless kids stay. Disillusioned people get into poor habits, have babies out of wedlock, get into substance abuse, etc… There’s a huge social cost to pay for all of this offshoring. I feel no direct threat from the government. They are not the ones who are directly trying to replace me in my job with a foreigner. They merely enable it. It’s my Fortune 500 employer who wants to do that. They are the ones with the green-eyeshades who view me as a cost to get out from under. I have to find new ways to add value every day to keep my place. Every day. I suppose that’s good challenge in a way, but many people who thought they were immune from this sort of thing are finding out that they are not.

People don’t have a right to health care and to food? Yes they do. Human dignity demands it. We are not justified by works, you are right about that, but we are our brother’s keeper. Not just in the individual sense with acts of charity. As the prophets of Israel repeatedly told it, we are called to be a society not just of charity but of justice. Not just as individuals, but a community that supports the rights and needs of the widow, and the orphan, and the needy, and the stranger.

jazzycat said...

You have raised many issues and I must say I have disagreement with many of them and I am not knowledgeable enough to debate the finer points of some of them. I would like to address a few as my time allows in separate comments as you have done. I hope liam does not mind.

jazzycat said...

Regarding the power of large corporations

You make some really good points here and I grant that big business has been abusive in many ways. However, I think you must consider the abuses of “Big Labor Unions” as well in the overall picture. Union bosses have contributed to many ills in our economic system. As you know they are in lock step with and supporters of the Democratic Party and lobby congress just like business lobbyist. Funny how the influence and campaign contributions of big labor never seems to get mentioned as lobbying activity. Even now the partnership of the Democratic Party and big labor is pushing legislation that would eliminate the secret ballot from union elections.

jazzycat said...

Disillusioned people get into poor habits, have babies out of wedlock, get into substance abuse, etc… There’s a huge social cost to pay for all of this offshoring.

I believe you have bought into a very destructive philosophy that is having devastating consequences in our country. The thinking that people are victims and their personal conduct is not their fault is pervasive in our country and is a key talking point of the Democratic Party. People are not hopeless as you say. With resolve, grit, perseverance, and the freedom America provides opportunity abounds. Why do you think so many Mexicans are flooding into this country? It is because they can have a better life here than in Mexico. I admire their work ethic and the fact that many of them send money back to their families in Mexico. I am sickened when I see Democratic candidates play the blame and victim card game.

jazzycat said...

People don’t have a right to health care and to food? Yes they do. Human dignity demands it.

Our Declaration of Independence states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” There is no mention of food or health care in these rights that come from our creator. Food and health care are items that our government has no power to guarantee as rights. Government can aid, encourage, and exhort citizens to produce food and enough doctors to provide these things, but it can’t guarantee them as rights.

I also find it inconsistent that the Democratic Party endorses a right to health care and yet denies a right to life, which IS mentioned in our declaration. All human beings alive spent several months of their lives as fully formed human beings in their mothers’ womb. You mentioned the demands of human dignity, and I would submit that the murder of innocent human beings is not a freedom of choice issue, but is extreme violation of the rights of human beings. Surely, the rest of your paragraph after the quote above would apply to these weakest among us. To use lawyers language, the Democratic Party comes to the human rights table with unclean hands.

jazzycat said...

Regarding Islamic extemism… Islam does have a problem with fundamentalism…………… All religions have problems with fundamentalism

To equate the problem of Islamic jihadist extremism with any other religion is like comparing the problem of an alcoholic living on the street with someone who has one glass of wine on Saturday night. It is my belief that Americans have not fully realized the potential of Islamic fascism. I firmly believe that over time Islamic fascists could actually rule the world. Just because the west has superior technology and military might does not mean that these deranged people could not in time bring us down in my opinion. To believe this can be confronted with the legal system is a total underestimation of this threat in my opinion.

Liam said...

I'm just dropping by to say I'm too busy to comment right now, but I appreciate the conversation that's going on.

Jeff said...


Unions in the USA have pretty much been decimated and obliterated. The percentage of union membership in the private sector is down to about 7.5% Blaming unions for the state of the US economy is a dog that just won't hunt anymore.

Actually, I miss the unions, and the days when workers had the balls to stand up and fight for themselves. Back in the 30s and 40s they were willing to have their heads cracked open before they'd back down. They didn't take any crap, and wouldn't let scabs through the door. Now they just roll over like meek little sheep when they get downsized, outsourced, and offshored.

The golden age of the American economy was in the 50s and 60s, when union membership was at its peak.

I'm glad that you think the flood of Mexicans into this country is motivated by their desire to work. That's the honest truth! A lot of Republicans think they are flooding into this country to go on welfare and to take handouts.

Too many people, though, from slaughterhouse owners to people who want their lawns cut, think they have the right to exploit cheap labor. Enough of that. Immigrants aside, I'm tired of guys living in 4000 square foot houses thinking they can go around offshoring the guys who live in 1500 square foot houses so that they can get a bonus to pay for a 6000 square foot house. "The guy who lost his 1500 square foot house? He shouldn't resent me. That's class warfare! He should just pull himself up by his bootstraps."

The captains of industry have fixed the world's financial system so that capital can move easily and unrestricted across borders. If that's the case, why should we be surprised when labor thinks it has the right to do the same thing? What do borders matter to the guys at the WTO? Absolutely nothing, but they sure want their policies supported by the folks who are desperate to defend them.

I wasn't talking about Mexicans. Did you get the impression that I was? I was talking mostly about white folks in small town America. Grit, resolution, personal responsibility and perseverance? They are great American attributes that are unlikely to go away. I can't help, though, but to be struck by the irony... The stockbrokers and hedge fund managers from Greenwich CT and Ridgewood NJ are using the laudable attributes of the people in small towns in Mississippi to advance their own agendas. They look down their noses at your culture, your values, and your religious sensibilities, but year after year you carry water for them, even though they are screwing your regions economically, because they mouth platitudes about overturning Roe V Wade. I got caught up in that for years too, Jazzycat. No more. Snap out of it, and stop being a sucker. The Republicans have had ample opportunity to overturn Roe V Wade since 1980. They have no intention of doing so, as long as they think it will cost them an election.

On right-to-life we are in total agreement. I'm saddened and disgusted by how the Democrats have handled this issue. How they have turned away cultural conservatives is pretty much the subject of my whole blog..

As for the Declaration of Independence, it should not be confused with the Constitution, but I get what you are saying. One can look at it that way, I suppose. On the other hand, there were a lot of things in America that needed to be fixed. These guys, brilliant as they were, were landed aristocrats for the most part. The Declaration was drafted principally by Deist skeptics and enlightenment thinkers, influenced mostly by the philosophy of John Locke. Me, personally? I look a bit past Deism when I consider what we owe to our fellow man, but I guess a strictly constructionist way of looking at the Declaration and the Constitution is a valid approach.

Jeff said...

On Islamic fascism... I don't think fascism is the right word to use. Just about every religious tradition has had a phase in which fundamentalism has spilled over into violence. Islam happens to be going through such a phase right now.

The term fascism rightly applies today more properly to Russia, and more importantly to China, where virtually everything we touch is now being manufactured.

jazzycat said...

I think a lot of our differences come down to a different perception of reality. If I had yours, I could move closer to your views and vice versa. For example on the following point your made:

Just about every religious tradition has had a phase in which fundamentalism has spilled over into violence. Islam happens to be going through such a phase right now.

I see a threat that is much deeper and greater than your view of thinking of it as a phase. What you call Islamic fundamentalism is in my view faithfully following the teachings of the Koran. I think the percentage of Muslims that agree with having Muslim controlled governments and persecuting non-Muslim citizens is much greater than you. I think the percentage who believe in jihad is also much greater than you.

Terrorism is not the enemy. Terrorism is a TACTIC they are using that over time could be very successful. Have you ever considered what would happen to our economy and basic human needs if these people ever successfully detonated a nuclear device in America? This enemy does not represent a particular country, does not wear uniforms, and cannot be easily identified. Yet they are at war with all who are not strict Islamists.

You see a legal problem similar to vandalism and I see a war with people who want to see us dead and have no reluctance to massacre and kill as many infidels as they can.

Since we do not agree on causes of problems, it is not surprising we don’t agree on solutions. I have enjoyed the discussion and I hope it at least gives some insight into how a conservative views things differently.

Jeff said...


I think you've done a good job of putting the conservative point of view across in a respectful fashion. Thank you for that. I think it's true that we have very different world-views, or perceptions of reality as you put it, but on the other hand, I have voted the GOP ticket in every presidential election since 1984, so your viewpoints are not as alien to me as one might suppose.

As far as I can tell, Obama has never said that the war in Afghanistan is one that should not have been fought and should not be fought. His argument has been that we have taken our eye off the ball and that we have diverted resources and used up men and material in Iraq in what was basically a sideshow, when the real theater and nexus of the problem is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, we are finding that good relations with the locals and the building up of infrastructure is more effective than heavy handed raids and airstrikes, which seem to antagonize the population against us.

David Petraeus is a brilliant general. It is undeniable that he has cleaned up a lot of the mess that was left by the constant stream of mistakes made by his predecessors during the Rumsfeld era. I'm not sure, though, that Petraeus sees the problem in the same terms that you do, with his counterinsurgency vision.

The marines I know say that the surge did help. What was the strategy behind the surge? It was not so much to increase the level and scope of kinetic operations. It wasn't to go on more night-time raids and to cuff more people. It was part of a shift in strategy from "force protection" and "going after the bad guys" to providing more protection to the Iraqi people. If we are achieving success it is due more to our success in providing security to the Iraqi citizens in their own neighborhoods, not because we are treating every Koran believer as an adversary.

Really bad ideas have a way of collapsing under their own weight. Al Qaeda badly overplayed their hand in Iraq. Even the most militantly anti-American Sunni militants got tired of seeing their tribal leaders beheaded, their women threatened, horrific car-bombings, and bodies left on the street every morning with severed heads and hands left on their chests. I take nothing away from our troops, but a lot of what we call the "success" of the surge was due to our paying 500 bucks a month to members of the Sunni Awakening militias to stop laying IEDs against our humvees and to go after al Qaeda foreigners instead. Apparently, these guys knew just about every house where the al Qaeda leaders were holed up. From what I hear, when they decided to go after them it was a massacre.

How it all ends up in the long run is an open question. How long can we keep up an open-ended commitment to pay $500 a month to guys who used to kill our troops? Are they interested in reconciliation with the Shia (and vice-versa), or are they just biding their time and gearing up for an all-out civil war? Can Ray Odierno keep up what David Petraeus has started?

We can't fix Iraq. Only the Iraqi people can do that. Some kind of reconciliation is necessary for that to happen, and those who work for peace like Padraig O'Malley may wind up having a lot more influence on that than American policy-makers.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff and Jazzycat, if you're concerned about terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons, you might want to read Ron Suskind's new book, The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism. Suskind is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Pulitzer-Prize winner. Nuclear terrorism is one of the main threads of the book, and he interviews extensively Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the "former CIA case officer and senior Department of Energy official who monitors the global black market in nuclear materials that terrorists might use to fashion a crude device capable of killing tens of thousands."

It's scary stuff, and we're all concerned about the possibility. Obviously, there are various ways of approaching the problem, and if you ask me, most of them need to be applied at the same time. There's no one strategy to deal with terrorism.

I forewarn you, though, jazzycat, Suskind's book will challenge you on some of your assumptions about the Bush administration. To quote one review: "Mowatt-Larssen's tale of government inaction on this score is nothing short of chilling. He's the one who recounts Bush's clueless question about "this nuclear terrorism thing," as well as another White House meeting so unproductive that this grizzled spook left in a state of nausea."

The most frightening thing to me, and I knew this from reading other books, is how decimated and weakened out intelligence agencies are now, with so many veteran's retiring and moving to the private sector. You read some of the stories here, and it's pretty disheartening. The British and French have much more human intelligence on the ground in the Middle East. We have high-tech toys. Ask the British and the Spanish in their battles against the IRA and ETA which is more important. It's ridiculous.

Suskind's book is a little too optimistic, if you ask me, but it's got a lot of good information in it, and I agree with him that the U.S. recovering our moral leadership is crucial in dealing with this very grave issue.