“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Prime Minister Maliki's leadership and the Basra Gamble

..."British forces, which ran Basra until December, have reduced their numbers and largely stay in the city airport. Their laissez-faire occupation strategy allowed the province to flourish in illegal smuggling of products, from autos to fuel. Religious fundamentalism grew to a point where women are openly targeted and killed for their choice of clothes. Political parties, gangs and militias intermixed, both in economics and bullets."...
- Pat Dollard

I highly recommend you visit Pat Dollard.

Questions of timing emerge on Iraq offensive

Backing an operation that has rekindled violence could prove a miscalculation for Bush, some of his allies say.

By Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 29, 2008

WASHINGTON -- As U.S. forces are drawn further into renewed fighting, the potential for deepening chaos in Iraq is raising questions about whether the Bush administration made a wise decision or a costly miscalculation in backing an Iraqi government offensive against Shiite militias.

President Bush said Friday that the offensive answered critics who have accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Shiite Muslim-dominated government of inaction and of favoritism toward Shiites.

"I would say this is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq," Bush said at the White House.

"The decision to move troops, Iraqi troops, into Basra talks about Prime Minister Maliki's leadership."

But some of the administration's allies have begun to question the timing and wisdom of the offensive, which has met with stiff resistance since it was launched Tuesday in the southern city of Basra. Since then, fighting against Shiite militiamen has spread through much of southern Iraq and into Baghdad. Iraqi forces have called in U.S. airstrikes to fend off well-armed groups in Basra, including an attack by a Navy jet on a mortar position.

Signifying the potential difficulty ahead, other U.S. assets, including special-operations forces and spy planes, are expected to join the fight.

Within the Pentagon, officers expressed concern about the rapid spillover of violence into areas where U.S. forces have spent more than a year painstakingly working to restore order, especially the Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad.

U.S. officials have long believed that Iraqi militias should be disbanded. But military analysts inside and outside the Pentagon are questioning whether this was the time and place to do it.

The offensive comes two weeks before Army Gen. David H. Petraeus is to testify before Congress on his plans for Iraq.

Petraeus is known for opening his recent presentations by displaying what aides call his favorite slide: a chart showing attacks in Iraq spiking last year, then dramatically dropping amid the deployment of 28,500 additional U.S. troops.

Pentagon officials worry that the recent violence will mar that otherwise compelling narrative.

The extra troops are scheduled to leave by the end of July, and Petraeus is expected to make a recommendation on whether and how fast troops should be sent home after that.

As violence has spread this week, the relative calm that had been returning to Baghdad was disrupted by images that recalled the sectarian war before the troop buildup: repeated shelling of the fortified Green Zone; demonstrations by outraged Shiites; checkpoints in the slums of Sadr City manned by Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to cleric Muqtada Sadr, who say they are being unfairly targeted in the offensive.

The U.S. Embassy was locked down and Baghdad is under a curfew.

In his White House appearance Friday with Kevin Rudd, the new Australian prime minister, Bush seemed unsure about the reasons for the timing of the offensive, saying he had yet to talk to Maliki about it.

"I'm not exactly sure what triggered the prime minister's response," he said.

Bush said the offensive showed the newfound capability of the Iraqi armed forces and the resolve of the country's leaders, especially Maliki. But Maliki, who traveled to Basra to personally oversee the operation, faces a heavy political cost if it bogs down, and he is already confronting demands that he resign.

The 4-day-old offensive was launched by Maliki to confront those outside the law, Bush said, explaining that Basra is an Iraqi port with goods and services that has drawn criminals.

"This is a test and a moment for the Iraqi government," he said.

"And it is an interesting moment for the people of Iraq because . . . they must have confidence in their government's ability to protect them and to be evenhanded."

But retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, an architect of last year's troop buildup, suggested Friday that Maliki acted out of personal animus toward Sadr, rather than in the best interest of Iraq.

"He's a very impulsive person," Keane said of Maliki in an NPR interview. "I think that's what happened here. I think he's way out in front of what the military realities on the ground are."

Gary J. Schmitt, a military analyst at the American Enterprise Institute who was an early supporter of the buildup, said he believed the administration was taken by surprise by Maliki's decision, but that with provincial elections set for October, the central government had to act.

"Tactically, this might not have been the optimal moment, or they may not have prepared as well as they should have. But I think it was quite predictable," Schmitt said. "With the elections coming, it should have been understood as a necessity."

The operation could also affect the U.S. presidential campaign. Continued violence would hinder the ability of Republican Sen. John McCain, an early supporter of the troop increase, to campaign on the success of that strategy. It would also trip up Bush's hopes of leaving office with Iraq appearing to at last be on a glide path to stability.

To prevent drastic deterioration, Keane suggested, U.S. troops may need to be sent south to aid the Iraqis, who took control of Basra's province three months ago from British forces, which have been rapidly withdrawing from the region over the last year.

"In the near term, the Iraqis wanted to do this by themselves, and I can understand our commanders certainly letting them go ahead and give it a try," Keane said. "We may find ourselves also providing some ground forces, although we would do that reluctantly because of the efforts that we have up north to finish Al Qaeda once and for all."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said any decision to move U.S. troops to southern Iraq would be "a commander's call."

But as American commanders struggle to deal with the end of the U.S. buildup, other Pentagon officials said, a move to send backup units to southern Iraq is unlikely.

Times staff writers Paul Richter and James Gerstenzang in Washington and Tina Susman in Baghdad contributed to this report.


  1. Too bad Bush didn't give conservatives the unwavering support that he gives the likes of Mushie, Maliki, and the Saudi Pigs.

    Like some moronic dumbshit, he always ties their self-serving moves to the highest ideals, and is more than eager to pledge our precious lives, treasure, and national standing toward THEIR Cause.

    I asked Wretch to comment on Kevin's assertion that Maliki is an Iranian Proxy as much, or moreso than Sadr, but he declined.

    Omar of Iraq the Model describes the political context behind the clashes with the Mahdi Army at Pajamas Media.

    This is the first sign of the rising election fever in the south. Word on the street is that Sadrists want to hijack the provincial elections. Everybody knows that their criminal methods can severely reduce the chances for holding fair elections and may grant Sadr’s people huge gains at the expense of other Shiite factions such as the SIIC, Da’wa and Fadheela. The stakes are high for the SIIC in particular whose federal dream in the south, which Sadr is opposed to, hinges on the results of provincial elections.

    "And let’s not forget Iran. Its role in this chapter of the struggle for power in the south is still unclear to observers. Both sides of the conflict are friends of Iran, yet I think Iran will support the SIIC and prime minister Maliki this time.

    It appears, for now, that Iran has begun to abandon this undisciplined movement. Iran has learned over time that Sadr’s militia, although powerful in some regions, is reckless and unpredictable - unlike the rest of the UIA which is consistent and organized in utilizing the power granted to them as the biggest party in the government to their advantage.

    It is true that the grand strategies of Tehran and Sadr are quite the same when it comes to their ambitions in spreading their version of totalitarian Shia Islamism in the region. However, Sadr’s ambitious aspirations are not in harmony with Tehran’s tactical plans. He rejects a federal system in Iraq because he wants to control the whole country, while Iran at this stage is only looking forward to having an ally in a stable Iraqi south.

    This is why supporting the SIIC makes more sense for Iran as the most reliable party that may be able to make the autonomous region in the south a reality—a reality in which Iran has a strategic interest, as it can turn the south into a friendly buffer zone instead of a thorn in its side

  2. "Ethic of Greed"
    Obama Uses term coined by American Fascist.
    Obama blames 'ethic of greed' for economy - Yahoo! News

    Seward Collins - Wikipedia,

    YouTube - Seward Collins The movie

    Amazon - Seward Collins And the Chimera of an American Fascism

    In the American Review, he sought to develop an American form of fascism and praised Italian dicator Benito Mussolini and German dictator Adolf Hitler in an article titled "Monarch as Alternative," which appeared in the first issue in 1933. In that essay, Collins attacked both capitalism and communism and heralded the "New Monarch," who would champion the common good over and against the machinations of capitalists and communists. His praise of Hitler was grounded in his belief that Hitler's rise to power that year heralded the end of the communist threat, as is illustrated by this excerpt:

    "One would gather from the fantastic lack of proportion of our press -- not to say its gullibility and sensationalism -- that the most important aspect of the German revolution was the hardships suffered by Jews under the new regime. Even if the absurd atrocity stories were all true, the fact would be almost negligible beside an event that shouts aloud in spite of the journalistic silence: the victory of Hitler signifies the end of the Communist threat, forever. Wherever Communism grows strong enough to make a Communist revolution a danger, it will be crushed by a Fascist revolution."
    In a 1936 interview that he granted to Grace Lumpkin in the pro-communist periodical FIGHT against War and Fascism, Collins stated: "I am a fascist. I admire Hitler and Mussolini very much. They have done great things for their countries." When Lumpkin objected to Hitler's persecution of the Jews, Collins replied: "It is not persecution. The Jews make trouble. It is necessary to segregate them."

  3. (avoid middleclassness...
    While I go high.)

  4. Beginning to look like the end of the McCain Campaign to me:

    Death Toll Rises in Iraq in Clashes Between Government and Shi'ite Forces
    By VOA News
    29 March 2008

    Iraqi authorities say the death toll from five days of intense fighting between Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militias has surged to more than 200.

    Many of the casualties have occurred in Baghdad's Sadr City, a stronghold of militias loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. A spokesman for the Iraqi Health Ministry says at least 75 people have been killed and nearly 500 wounded in clashes and U.S.-led airstrikes.

    There are reports that dozens of policemen in Sadr City surrendered their weapons to Sadr's forces, saying they could not fight their own people.

    Fighting between Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militias has intensified since Tuesday, when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered a crackdown on militants in the southern city of Basra.

  5. Mark Steyn argues that "a film such as Fitna might not even be necessary were the western news organizations not so absurdly deferential toward Muslim sensibilities that they go out of their way to avoid showing us anything that might cause us to link violence with Islam."

    - Wretchard

    It's all the fault of the em-ess-em.

    Rumsfeld's last major speech on the GWOT, on SEP 11, 2006, before an American Legion audience, IIRC, went on for 15 or 20 mins. about the nature of the current conflict. There were references to fascism, extremism, totalitarianism, fantaticism, tyranny. At no point was there any mention whatsoever of Islam. None, nada, zilch, squat. Given the language, you might've thought we were re-fighting WWII. Constant, though often oblique, reference to it is understandable as (a) we won that war and (b) it was the only US war fought in which public support did not undergo inexorable decline. Be that as it may, it bore no relation to the present and made no mention of the faith of our chief antagonists. It was not a unique omission. Though sometimes we could count on mention of Muslim extremists, more often reference to religion was altogether avoided.

    A different (Democratic) administration might have been criticized and/or lampooned for its remarkable silence in this matter, but so politicized was this godforsaken un-war that Republicans and conservatives seemed to have underwent voluntary lobotomies and could scarce detect any WTF?!-worthy moves on the part of the administration rather than on the part of the usual suspects.

    If you dig online for that Rumsfeld speech (and other, similar Islam-less speeches on the GWOT) you will find more than a few Mark Steyns who lauded it as a fitting reminder of 'why we fight' rather than simply another chance to observe that the most assiduously deferential folks were always the very ones in charge of the whole enchilada.

    It was their most ardent supporters who were busy congratulating themselves for their 'true' (as opposed to the Left's 'phony') progressivism in 'liberating' countless of the bloody motherfuckers.

  6. It was their most ardent supporters who were busy congratulating themselves for their 'true' (as opposed to the Left's 'phony') progressivism in 'liberating' countless of the bloody motherfuckers.

    To quote Cheney: So?

    Go back and look at the Gore video from 1992. While you're there, look at the other Democrat hypocrisies.

    My point is that the situation we find ourselves in today was set in motion many years ago.

    So one has a crystal ball and if at a point in time, the "most ardent supporters were congratulating themselves," is it constructive to beat them over the head ad infinitum?

  7. "My point is that the situation we find ourselves in today was set in motion many years ago."

    Yeah, well, whit, I've been pointing out who paved the way for years now.

    There never was any more happily, indiscriminately interventionist administration than that one.

  8. Particularly galling is the incessant bravo sierra about "Mission Accomplished" which was nothing more than a CiC congratulating sailors returning home after a successful mission. But even that has to be spoiled and spun has been spun into propaganda.

  9. So one has a crystal ball and if at a point in time, the "most ardent supporters were congratulating themselves," is it constructive to beat them over the head ad infinitum?

    Sat Mar 29, 10:52:00 AM EDT

    Depends on how badly you want to avoid a repetition of the past.

    Think that horse is dead?

    Brother I know it's not.

  10. About that banner:

    That was not in any way the admin's idea. That was the carrier commander's doing, a congratulation to all the men and women who had successfully accomplished the regime removal.

  11. It's important to remember how and why we got to where we are, it's imperative to know where we're going.

  12. I didn't think that was so bad, Doug, kinda good really. God loves us.
    Except that darn scrub brush, the kind you use on the white wall tires. Ouch.

  13.'s imperative to know where we're going.

    Sat Mar 29, 11:09:00 AM EDT

    Oh, yes. We'd ALL like to know that.

    Great song by the Talking Heads: Road to Nowhere.

  14. Public records of the sale show Trinity initially obtained a $10 million bank loan to purchase the property and build a new house on the land.

    But further investigation with tax and real estate attorneys showed that the church had actually secured a $1.6 million mortgage for the home purchase, and attached a $10 million line of credit, for reasons unspecified in the paperwork.

    I want to know what that extry 10 million is for? Contractor cost overruns?:)

  15. What are we going to do, retreat to Fortress America? I don't think so, but a "pull back" would be a good thing.

    Gotta go, chores call...

  16. "What are we going to do, retreat to Fortress America?"

    Oooooh, I always appreciate the phony isolationist smear. (Talk to Doug about said Fortress.) Grumpy, whit?

  17. (Actually, talk to Canadian officials and intel people about said Fortress, as you are likely to meet with just as much honesty. Their biggest security problem by far is their border with us.)

  18. I didn't mean that as a swipe at you. It's a thought that I entertain when I feel like saying "to hell with all of 'em." (meaning Euros, Arabs, islamists, and anti-American expats)

  19. Whit and I have been doing mental battle with more imposing foes--gamma ray bursts.

    I wish someone would get Sadr. Realizing a movement isn't necessarily the man, still the city's named after his folk.

  20. One in Ten in Ohio, One in Six in West Virginia

    The democratic congress would blame Bush. Why hasn't he snapped his fingers and done something? Where's Senator Byrd, who has been in there from time out of mind?

  21. Named after his father, which is part of the reason why, bob, he hasn't and won't be targeted.

  22. Saddam targeted his father, didn't he?
    Independent Truckers may have haul halt, protest diesel prices.

    Why is diesel 75 cents higher than gas, here? Diesel is 4 dollars a gallon, gas still 3.25 or 3.30 a gallon. That's a lot of difference, and diesel is easier to refine, isn't it?

  23. With the British sitting around the airport in Basra, Euro-Army is a Fantasy, We Need America

  24. We left our diesel VW with our daughter. (Still a better deal than our old gas-guzzling Jeep, though not our old Volvo, which she had previously.) Bought it back when diesel looked good.

    Maybe rufus (clears throat; I mean Cat Vomit) can chime in on the diesel thing.

  25. No need to apologize. Yeah, I might be grumpy.

    I got up at 3:00 am to find Bob still at the Bar. We shared a few minutes of Coast to Coast.

    Gamma Ray Bursts will take care of all our worldly problems, right bob?

  26. We won't even know what hit us, or that we have been hit.

  27. I think we are importing more refined diesel from other countries and the transition from Low-Sulfur Diesel to Ultra-Low-Sulfur Diesel is constraining supplies.

    Here's some stuff from the EIA:

    Until several years ago, the average price of diesel fuel was usually lower than the average price of gasoline. In some winters when the demand for distillate heating oil was high, the price of diesel fuel rose above the gasoline price. Since September 2004, the price of diesel fuel has been generally higher than the price of regular gasoline all year round for several reasons. Worldwide demand for diesel fuel and other distillate fuel oils has been increasing steadily, with strong demand in China, Europe, and the U.S., putting more pressure on the tight global refining capacity. In the U.S., the transition to low-sulfur diesel fuel has affected diesel fuel production and distribution costs. Also, the Federal excise tax on diesel fuel is 6 cents higher per gallon (24.4 cents per gallon) than the tax on gasoline.
    OUTLOOK FOR 2007 AND 2008
    Retail diesel fuel prices are likely to remain elevated as long as crude oil prices and world demand for distillate fuels remain high. EIA expects that national average retail diesel fuel prices will hover around $2.70 per gallon through 2007 and 2008, primarily due to the forecast for the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil to average near $64 per barrel.

    The phase-in of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) sulfur standards for on-highway and off-highway diesel fuels has the potential to continue to influence diesel fuel prices. The logistics of delivery of ULSD to retail can be a challenge. Most ULSD travels through pipelines on the way to bulk terminals for final transfer by tanker truck to retail stations. Other diesel fuels and petroleum products with a higher-sulfur content in the pipeline, storage, and local distribution systems might contaminate ULSD (jet fuel, for example, can have 3000 ppm of sulfur). If contaminated, it may not be possible to correct an ULSD fuel batch by blending with additional low-sulfur product, and the contaminated batch may have to be returned to a refinery for reprocessing, a difficult and expensive problem. Even without potential delivery problems, it costs relatively more to produce ULSD fuel.

    I went all diesel last year. VW Jetta, F250 for pulling the horses and a YanMar 2420D to clean up after 'em.

    F250 pretty much stays parked. Jetta goes everywhere.

    VW has a Super Jetta slated to come out soon that they claim will get 50mpg.


    The Fitna movie was a nice reminder.

    Fun watching the forces of PC cause LiveLeak and Network Solutions to turn it off. All in the name of all cultures being equal.

    The greatest antidote to radical Islam is sunshine.

    The peer-to-peer revolution continues. Long Live Bit-Torrent.

  28. Trish: That was not in any way the admin's idea. That was the carrier commander's doing, a congratulation to all the men and women who had successfully accomplished the regime removal.

    Nice bit of revisionist history there.

    6/5/03, Doha, Qater:

    "America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished," he said.

    Now the question is who's going to liberate the Iraqis from the Americans.

  29. Bobal: We won't even know what hit us, or that we have been hit.

    Tax cuts for the rich are leaving America wide open for global gamma rays.

  30. 2164th: There are reports that dozens of policemen in Sadr City surrendered their weapons to Sadr's forces, saying they could not fight their own people.

    This was followed by the same policemen lining up at the paymaster's station to collect their customary US taxpayer funded pay check.

  31. Bobal: With the British sitting around the airport in Basra, Euro-Army is a Fantasy, We Need America

    America needs to relocate all of her 737 overseas bases along a contiguous belt between San Diego and El Paso. For training, the forces can play nightly war games in the mile of desert between each base, using their infrared goggles to spot and apprehend anyone going north.

  32. Jesus Christ, no more rice.

    Rice prices jumped 30 per cent to an all-time high on Thursday, raising fears of fresh outbreaks of social unrest across Asia where the grain is a staple food for more than 2.5bn people.

  33. Sometimes being outside the US helps one gain some perspective. Most of what is in the article below strikes me as pretty self-evident but I live outside the US. It would be interesting to see those who live in the US respond. I'll post the whole article because I'm not sure if you can read the article unless logged in:


    From Saturday's Globe and Mail

    March 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM EDT

    Americans are a proud and patriotic people. They live in the world's only superpower. They have the highest standard of living in the world, measured by per-capita income. Today, however, they are perplexed, anxious.

    Powerful countries expect to control many events, not have events control them; the most powerful country expects to control all events, and to respond to the unforeseen in dramatic, conclusive ways. Smaller countries accept that they are takers of world events, and use whatever influence they can, with others, to mould them.

    Americans seem to have lost control of their ability to make decisions that will produce satisfactory results. Their deep faith in and love for their country remains unimpaired; their belief in its ability to get a grip on domestic and international problems has been shaken.

    For some years now, basic problems have gone unaddressed and have worsened in the United States: fiscal and trade imbalances, unfunded liabilities for health care and Social Security, and the design and execution of a foreign policy that has sent U.S. prestige to postwar lows.

    It was not supposed to be this way after the Cold War ended. Supreme militarily, untroubled economically, the U.S. sailed through the 1990s. Russia was down, out and friendly. China was only beginning its spectacular rise. Terrorism had struck, but far away: in Africa and the Middle East. Afghanistan, having thrown out the Soviets, seemed out of sight, in hand.

    The United States could reduce its defence budget (the "peace dividend") and pick and choose its spots to intervene militarily (Rwanda, no; Bosnia, no and yes; Haiti, a little), enjoying a soaring stock market, the high-technology boom, rising housing prices and a balanced budget.

    Today, according to Pew Center polls, 70 per cent of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Eight-one per cent believes economic conditions are "fair or poor." New, depressing economic news arrives almost daily. President George W. Bush's approval rating stands at 33 per cent; that of the Democratic-controlled Congress at 21 per cent.

    A staggering 80 per cent say they want "change." This share of voters far eclipses the share who wanted change after eight years each of presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

    The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were the most evident manifestation of events being out of control. The sense of vulnerability, even fear, does not guide Americans in their daily lives, but it has become part of the country's political discourse and shapes its spending priorities. In addition to the immense bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security, the airport searches and passport requirements, the curtailment of civil liberties, the torturing of prisoners, there was also the invasion of Iraq, the linchpin of the Bush administration's "war on terror."

    The invasion and occupation were supposed to be easy, like a half-hour on the treadmill for a seasoned athlete. Instead, the U.S. is pinned down, caught between two broad options: to maintain or intensify military deployments with as many as 160,000 troops, for a long time, hoping for political stability; or to withdraw from Iraq with the possibility, or likelihood, of sectarian violence and civil war.

    Afghanistan was supposed to be cleared of the Taliban, the friends of al-Qaeda, the murderers of Americans. Instead, the insurgency there has returned with a vengeance in certain parts of the country. Pakistan was supposed to be a reliable ally in the "war on terror." Yet the country has become the most dangerous in the world: unstable, nuclear-armed, run until recently by a dictator, incapable of exerting serious pressure against religious fanatics in its own territory.

    Russia has returned to the world stage in a truculent fashion, featuring the return of 19th-century Great Russian chauvinism. The drunken, friendly Boris Yeltsin has yielded to the stern Vladimir Putin. China has become so economically powerful so fast, and its military budget has increased so rapidly, that Americans wonder how long it will be before their undisputed standing as the world's only superpower will last.


    China also holds more than $1-trillion in U.S. debt, which itself stands above $9-trillion. China's trade surplus with the U.S. remains huge. Jobs continue to move from the U.S. to China. It is cold comfort to hollowed-out towns and workers at empty mills that these moves might keep costs down in the U.S., make companies lean and lower inflationary pressures. Pew Center surveys of world opinion now show support for free trade lowest in the United States of all the countries surveyed.

    The erosion of respect for and the popularity of the United States bothers at least some citizens in a country that is supposed to offer a "light unto the world," to be a repository of values and institutions to which all countries will aspire, now or eventually. To discover through the media or travel or personal experience that the country's standing has declined almost everywhere (India and Japan being two exceptions) is hard for alert Americans to accept.

    Elections are usually fought on domestic issues, even in a country so engaged in the world. Domestically, the sense of losing control permeates many parts of the electorate.

    Immigration has become a huge and emotional issue. For many Americans, whatever they think of immigration per se, a widespread sense exists that the country has lost control of its borders. There are so many illegal immigrants in the United States that a compromise immigration bill foundered in Congress, destroyed by critics who wanted massive deportations and even tighter border measures.

    Immigration opponents play on the loss of jobs, which is in turn linked by opponents to the country's massive and chronic trade deficit. Americans are told that they are the world's best at everything. Yet that assertion doesn't jibe with the trade deficit. The answer to this conundrum must be, in the minds of many Americans: If we are the best and yet we run this kind of deficit, someone else must be to blame. The culprits are therefore: trade agreements that need revision, unfair trading practices and currency manipulation by others. To which the remedies on offer, from both parties, are forms of protectionism and assertive trade policies that will give Americans back control over trade.

    Americans' vulnerability is deepened by how they have run their own country in the past decade. They have compiled deficits on trade, current account and the national budget. States, constitutionally impeded from running deficits, are scrambling to keep their budgets balanced. Americans have become significantly indebted to the rest of the world, a reversal to the historical pattern whereby the dominant power of an age runs a surplus with its colonies and weaker countries. If they peer down the road, Americans see enormous unfunded Social Security and public health entitlements. And they see around them, or at least some of them do, social debts: to the poor and the uninsured. They see a dollar that is losing relative value, a natural outgrowth of the trade deficit but nonetheless a symbol of a less omnipotent currency.

    They are carrying very high personal indebtedness. Their financial institutions, as the subprime mortgage crisis revealed, got caught up in the "irrational exuberance" of debt. They launched a war that cost hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. Fighting a war, Americans also cut taxes on themselves. The chickens of such folly have come home to roost, loudly and persistently.

    Being in debt at home, and in debt abroad, contributes to this sense of not being in control. So, too, does being so heavily dependent on foreign oil, especially when suppliers include such countries as Venezuela, that is anti-American, and Saudi Arabia that Americans do not trust. Looking around the world provides cold comfort for Americans about which countries control large stocks of oil: Arab states, Iran, Russia, Nigeria. At home, all presidential candidates pledge to make their country far less dependent on foreign oil, but no credible plan to do so in the lifetime of any adult American can be crafted.


    None of the Republican candidates, when they were still competing, called for "more of the same," a devastating indictment of the Bush administration from the President's own party. It's one thing to put distance between yourself and an incumbent, since elections are about the future. It's another rarely to mention his name.

    Barack Obama's remarkable appeal is based on the hope that he can, through the charisma of his personality, the force of his rhetoric, and the novelty of his resumé, cut through the gridlock in Washington, loosen the grip of special interests, make government "work again," and restore faith and trust.

    Mr. Obama articulates the hope that Americans can take back control of their destiny by being more respected abroad and more unified at home, to shrink social deficits, transcend the divisions of race, join the struggle against climate change, and use government again as a way of solving problems rather than consider the institution as the country's biggest problem.

    The good news for America, and for those who admire much about the American spirit, is that so many people are engaged in their politics now. Without understanding perhaps the difficult tradeoffs that lie ahead, many of our neighbours are excited by their politics, deeply desirous of changing course, wiser for the errors and failures of the Bush presidency, still believing in their country and its destiny as a force for good in the world.

  34. Your story, D-Day, reminds me how one of my friends dieseled up, after the last gas crisis, back around Carter, ony to see prices plummet later:)

    Bet that F250 would get a whopping 18 mpg, down the Lewiston Hill.:)
    Tax cuts for the rich are leaving America wide open for global gamma rays.

    Under Obama's outlook, I'm rich, and that a crock, I can tell you.

    He should look to Jeremiah Wrigh to balance the budget, pay for foodstamps.

    What this country needs is another 50 cents of fuel tax!

  35. Canadian officials and intel people about said......... Their biggest security problem by far is their border with us.

    It's people like Ash giving the Canadians nightmatres:)

  36. nightmares

    After dad got back from Europe, he said everybody in Italy was a millionaire, why, even a coca/cola costs thousands of lira.

    People in Zimbabwe are super rich.

    Talk about an economic gamma ray burst.

  37. but no credible plan to do so in the lifetime of any adult American can be crafted.

    Ten years of building nuclear power plants would go a long ways. But it's true, we're to blame ourselves for the energy pickle we're in.

    Barack Obama's remarkable appeal is based on the hope that he can, through the charisma of his personality, the force of his rhetoric, and the novelty of his resumé

    This doesn't move me.

  38. Obama is by far the scariest candidate in my lifetime, by far.
    (well, maybe except for GWB,as he turned out)

  39. Brother, D:
    How many Barrels you got in your strategic reserve?

    That's the coolest thing about Diesel v Gas is it is easily safely stored.

    (Kicks self in the ass for giving away our 50+ mpg Chevette/Mitsubishi Diesel.)

  40. I thot it was great, Al-bob.
    Endearing, even, in spite of it coming out of the pie hole of a an evil race baiting demagogue.
    The Brush action at the end being the high point, specially since it rings TRUE to other people's accounts of the menacing presence of Mama Wright.

  41. Beats being a sinner in the hands of an angry God, Doug!