Sunday, March 30, 2008

Iraq Has Failed Its Latest Test

And with the failure of this test they have given another clear sign that the Surge has also failed. The assault on Basra by the Iraqi Army has not worked.

The best available Iraqi division (the 14th) was stopped cold and then counter attacked by a part time, untrained force.

That was only the first indication of failure; later events have made the scope of the failure more clear. The government forces have been displaced from key positions over much of the South. The Mahdi Army and forces aligned with it have been able to take control of portions of many major towns and religious centers. The security forces in a number of cities are being reported to have surrendered to, or joined with, the militias. To top it all off, the US and UK forces have provided air power to the Iraqi forces (understandable since Iraqis don't yet have a viable air wing even after five years). What is less understandable is the fact that the US and UK had to provide specialized ground forces and field artillery support. The Mahdi Army was able to beat the Iraqi army with al-Sadr publicly encouraging his people to honor the cease fire, making me wonder what could happen if he did call for an uprising.

The addition of US and UK forces into the fight has led Muqtada al-Sadr to become more serious about ending the current conflict. He has encouraged his followers to disavow anyone who carries weapons and targets government institutions, charities and political party offices while continuing calls for a negotiated settlement. He is also demanding the release of those captured and amnesty for his supporters. The involvement of our forces makes it imposable for any militia to win on the battle field but it also makes it clear the the Iraqi army has lost and it is al-Sadr's forces that beat them.

Now that the US has stepped in, al-Sadr knows he cannot win outright, so he is working for a return to the status quo. He knows his message has been sent and received. While making a pronouncement of restraint and national brotherhood, he was able to affirm the right to self defense for his followers and still stop the Iraqi Army. This time not only did al-Sadr's followers stop the Iraqi Army, they were able to push them back. It has become all too clear that the Iraqi Armed forces are unable to do the most basic of tasks without US and UK support and are still easy targets for the militias.

What is more distressing is that the motivation for this military adventure is now coming clear. This is a political civil war within a religious civil war. The Shia Factions are fighting for political control in the South with an eye on the elections this Fall. The current party in charge wants to make sure they remain in power, and to do this they want to weaken al-Sadr in the south. This conflict is over the political control of the provinces and unfortunately the US has taken sides. This explains why the Mahdi Army was a target, but Nuri al-Maliki's friends, the Badar Brigade (another independent force), has been left alone and in fact has been involved in some of the attacks on the Mahdi Army.

Anyone that thinks the Surge has worked clearly doesn't understand what moving an additional 30,000 US combat troops into this area was meant to do. Our goal was to create space for political reconciliation. There was never any doubt that the US Army could impose its will over any region of Iraq where it had sufficient forces.

The question is, did the Iraqi government have the ability to work together to build a new nation? The answer to this question and the degree of the success of the Surge should now be clear to everyone.



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Friday, March 28, 2008

Fridays Fantastic Links

Sacraments Wholesale looks at the proposed cigarette tax.


We have a list of historically flawed movies that can be found in Millard Fillmore's Bathtub


No More Mister Nice Blog knows just how disgusting some Republicans are.





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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is Lap Dancing Really This Important

Here in South Carolina we have bad schools, underfunded higher education, a failing medical delivery system, a sick and undereducated population, bad roads and countless other problems to deal with; So which of these issues are our legislators focusing on now?

Lap Dances

Exotic dancers would have to stay six feet from strip club customers and those businesses would have to close at midnight under a bill being considered by House lawmakers.


and why is a 'Tennessee-based lawyer' leading this effort?






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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Events In Iraq Are A Test

Of both the viability of the Iraqi armed forces, it's current government and in many respects the prospects for the Surge.

If the Iraqi army is able to retake Basra, secure the other restive cities and clear out the various independent groups that are exercising governmental authority, there is reason to hope that the national government in place may in due time be able rule their land.

If they fail, If they have to rely on US and UK forces to do their job, if it is air power and not their army that fights, it is a clear indicator that our surge in Iraq has been a waste of resources. We have spend five years building up the Iraqi armed forces and police, their performance in the field is a test of both their ability and our strategy.

Unless one of the major factions makes the decision to step back, and delay the final confrontation, we should know by the weekend just what the final grades are.





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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Who Couldn't See This Coming

Fighting breaks out in
Al-Basra
.
BASRA, Iraq - Iraqi forces clashed with Shiite militias in the
southern oil hub of Basra on Tuesday as a security plan to clamp down on
violence between rival factions vying for power in the region began. Rival factions from Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and criminal gangs have been
competing for control of Basra.

AP Television News video showed smoke from explosions rising over the city and
Iraqi soldiers exchanging gunfire with militia members.


A couple of points to remember when you consider this. The Shia actually control the government, yet factions of this group don't want them in charge. The strongest and most militant militias are either currently aligned with the government or observing a truce. The government is admitting they don't control the second largest city in Iraq, and this city was the most stable of all the major Iraqi cities.

It is very unlikely that this flare up will do much, in-fact it feels like a practice or trial run. But, it is a safe bet that this is just a small taste of where we are headed if we follow the path we are on.




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Monday, March 24, 2008

Issue Driven Christians and Habitual Dishonesty

There has been a quite fascinating little dust-up that allows all to see the serial dishonesty that some Christians are willing to engage in when their issue is involved. In this case it is evolution, a movie and the scientist who were interviewed for it.

In short, these self professed Christians created a phony movie and lied to the various scientist they wanted to interview about the nature of the project. When one of the main targets of the movie tries to attend a showing of the film, they refuse him entry and threaten him with arrest, and then lie about everything involved in the incident, what happened and why it happened.

Serial lying, from a group claiming to want to promote honesty fairness and in the end christian values.

They seem to have fallen into the trap that is all to common, believing that the ends justify the ends, and that since their cause is noble (at least in their twisted little minds) any action, no matter how vile, is justified.

In the end it just make them and by association all Christians (most especially those with some sympathy to their issue) look like liars and frauds and to be honest, idiots.




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Friday, March 21, 2008

A Rough Week For South Carolina

We are making a name for ourselves, but it isn't one that most if us would embrace.

We have teachers fighting in school halls, we have police making high speed pursuits thought apartment playgrounds, and intentionally running down fleeing suspects, our highest ranking member of congress makes us again wonder is it what you can do, or how well you are connected, and we have a horse abuse story on the front page of the paper.

Some might consider these string of events unusual, but for those of us who live here, it isn't a real surprise.




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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How Can Anyone Know?

Our dear leader is again making claims that are beyond any verification. Today, on the 5th anniversary of our attacking Iraq, he has decided that 'it' was worth it.

Since we have no clue how this war will end, since the invasions cost is almost incalculable at this point but well into the hundreds of trillions of dollars and since making any type of real analysis of the success of any venture means having a firm grasp of what the cost and the benefit are, how can he, in good conscience, make this claim?

We are not anywhere close to knowing the end result of his foolishness and to pretend otherwise is grossly dishonest.

There is an old saying that I have tried to use to guide my actions; "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." I guess our president has never heard it.





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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Welfare

We all know about the famed welfare queens, but they are nothing compared to the kings of welfare, US corporations. In today's Washington Post E. J. Dionne Jr. has this to say.

Never do I want to hear again from my conservative friends about how brilliant capitalists are, how much they deserve their seven-figure salaries and how government should keep its hands off the private economy.

The Wall Street titans have turned into a bunch of welfare clients. They are desperate to be bailed out by government from their own incompetence, and from the deregulated regime for which they lobbied so hard.


He is right.

We seem to have forgotten something basic about capitalism.


It is the responsibility of every business to make as much money as they can, by any means they can. It is the job of government to place and enforce limits on how business operate. Currently, we remove restrictions and then fail to enforce the few rules that do exist, then when a failure occurs, we bail them out.

Corporate lobbyist and republican politics have created some mutant form of capitalism that rewards incompetence and punishes workers.





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Monday, March 17, 2008

McCain Campaigns In Iraq

Staging yet another photo op with SC's own Sen. Graham, John McCain dropped in on the folks of Iraq look around.

Unfortunately for Lindsay and John, they were not able to visit the market where Lindsay got such a great deal on floor covering. It appears that it is no longer under friendly control.

But, I don;t think that will prevent them from claiming that everything is coming along wonderfully.


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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Free Market bailouts

When various plans were announced to help out home owners who were overextended in some of these creative mortgage loans some on the left felt they did to little, others on the right felt they did way to much. There argument is we are a free market society, and risk and failure are important part of that.

Of course when the group in trouble is not some poor or middle class family, but a billion dollar corporation, well new rules apply. Just another reminder that free market forces don't apply to the rich, but the poor, well, even when we have a bail out, you are still going to get screwed.




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Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday's Links

A few interesting post from last week that may be worth your time.

Over at South Carolina Politics a look at privatization and war.


We get a reality check from the Agonist.


Ed at Dispatches From The Culture Wars has some interesting statements from some one time leaders of the religious right






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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Classic Republican Corruption

It seems that there is a real mess a-brewin in Philly.

Investigations indicate that the director of Housing and Urban Development has a friend in Philadelphia who had his eye on a piece of land. There was only one problem, the land was owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

So, the director of HUD asked (told) the Philadelphia housing authority to cut a deal and transfer the ownership of the land to his friend. When the folks in Philly said, thank you but no, this propriety is to be used for the benefit of the many poor, not the well connected rich, Alphonso Jackson (head of HUD) got angry and then got busy working on his revenge.

E-Mails indicate that his form of revenge was to strip about $40,000,000.00 in Federal funds from the Philadelphia housing authority.

How typically Republican: When their efforts to work an insider deal that appears would benefit few, at the expense of many are blocked, they decide that the way to punish those who made the morally correct choice by striping funds from the disadvantaged in our society.

Disgusting, but in no way surprising.





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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Honest Republican

The House just approved a new outside panel to review ethics complaints against lawmakers. This is a necessary step in the never ending battle to clean up D.C. . In arguing against this bill, one Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R- Ks) made a statement that makes it very clear exactly what is wrong with to many of the politicians in DC.

"If you have a single ounce of self-preservation, you'll vote no."



In effect, we are screwed if anyone every looks at how we behave while we are in office. Not a very reassuring statement coming from an elected official in a party known for it corruption.




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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer

I have to agree with John Cole at Balloon Juice.

Who the hell does he think he is? Like Tim, I think prostitution should be legal, but really, who does this jackass think he is? He has spent his career aggressively prosecuting individuals, then holding elaborate press conferences in which he pompously attempts to seek not only justice, but to shame people, humiliate them and ruin them.

And now, we find out that he is no better. In other words, just another pompous moralizing hypocrite who thinks everyone else should live by rules he can’t, only this time he has a (D) after his name instead of an R.


With me it is not the act, but the hypocrisy involved in the act. I do not care what you do and who you do it with, as long as consenting adults are involved. But, preaching one thing, and doing another is something I am loath to forgive.






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Monday, March 10, 2008

Where Is The Fire?

It happened again. Yesterday while driving home from Charleston, just south of the I-95 / I-26 interchange, I notice a spot in the distance behind me over in the left hand lane. I check back a little bit later and the spot is clearly a police car, moving fast. I check my speed, it is on cruise at just past 70, so I am safe, he must be after someone else.

Then the car passes me. It is the Isle of Palms police department.

We are a good 50 miles away from the Isle of Palms, I doubt he has any valid reason for his low level flight north. This is just a person who is in a rush, and 70MPH is just to restrictive. But they are not alone, it is clear that this officer is not the only one who knows that traffic laws just don't apply to them.




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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Another Science Saturday

A couple of neat news items this week.

A six footed octopus has been found in England,

















and the Grand Canyon has been given a new birthdate, and it is much older.








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Friday, March 07, 2008

No Friday Links

I just have not had time to do much reading this week, but I did notice something about today's news reporting that just felt wrong.

Today there were 2 major terrorism incidents. In Iraq over 50 people were killed in a bombing, and in Israel, 8 people were gunned down in a seminary. What is disturbing is which story has had the lead all day.



In a nation where our armed forces are ultimately responsible for the security, where we have hundreds of thousands of citizens at risk, where we are spending millions of dollars an hour to keep calm, a land where for the last 5 years our government has kept telling us things are getting better, 50 people are blown up, and it can not stay on the front page of the news. And this is not just MSNBC, but CNN, and on and on and on. 8 people are killed in a nation where we have no direct responsibility for the population's safety and no troops directly exposure to risk, and it leads in the news, all day.

I am not sure what it means, but is sure leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Overloaded

I am starting a new job and the workload is impressive. It is so overwhelming that I have had little time to even watch, much less be offended by the news.

The only piece of news that has caught my eye was voter turnout in Texas. That was astounding.