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Posted at 1:01pm on Jul. 11, 2007 Iraqi Government Fails to Meet Benchmarks

And in Other News, The Sun Rose in the East this Morning…

By Mark I

Note by Jeff: Embedded documentarian JD Johannes weighs in over at his site with this pithy perspective:

The Democratic controlled Congress has yet to meet hardly any of the benchmarks they set for themselves.

Maybe we should declare the United States a failure.

The mainstream media and the left went all agog yesterday over the leak from the impending July 15 status report to Congress on the effectiveness of the troop surge in Iraq.

A progress report on Iraq will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform[s], speeding up the Bush administration's reckoning on what to do next, a U.S. official said Monday.

One likely result of the report will be a vastly accelerated debate among President Bush's top aides on withdrawing troops and scaling back the U.S. presence in Iraq.

The "pivot point" for addressing the matter will no longer be Sept. 15, as initially envisioned, when a full report on Bush's so-called "surge" plan is due, but instead will come this week when the interim mid-July assessment is released, the official said.

While it is definitely not a comforting report, that the elected government of the Iraqi people has been thus far unable to mend political fences for the benefit of the people who entrusted it with power, the hysteria with which the report has been greeted by Democrats, the media, and the left is vastly premature and overblown. To demonstrate the truth in that statement, one need only Google the words “Iraqi Government misses deadline.”

Read on…

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Posted at 1:02am on Jul. 11, 2007 History?!?!?! That's So BORING!!!

Especially When It's Inconvenient To One's Side Of The Partisan Divide

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Kevin Drum seems not to like it when I get exercised over a particular bloggable issue so let me address him that I basically sat in my chair and had a good bellylaugh over this. Apparently--and this is the latest pronouncement from the Reality-Based Community--we are not supposed to study things that happened 74 years ago, or perhaps longer. We're certainly not supposed to pay attention when it is revealed that an icon of the Democratic party (a) violated free market principles by assigning to himself the power to decide what the price of gold was on a particular day; and (b) did so by using the quack "science" of numerology to guide him.

Dude: I don't care how long ago this pathetic and frightening policymaking fiasco occurred. It is appalling that it ever happened and in order to make sure that no President ever again thinks of arrogating unto himself/herself the authority to engage in command-and-control decisions concerning issues best left to the market, it behooves those of us who actually are serious about policymaking and historical lessons attendant to policymaking to point out such travesties for the historical record . . . the better to avoid such trainwrecks in the future. As anyone familiar with basic price theory will tell you, prices need to be determined in a free market because only then will we have genuine and accurate information concerning the supply of the priced commodities relative to the demand for those commodities. When some would-be political demigod comes along and decides that he knows better than the free market and starts determining prices willy-nilly, that tends to demolish any chance that the rest of us will have accurate information concerning commodities whose prices are governed the capricious and arbitrary whims and fancies of that would-be demigod.

Price controls don't work. Price controls never have worked. Price controls never will work. Meaningless excuse-mongering concerning Roosevelt's desire to induce inflation does precisely nothing to explain away his arrogance and his breathless disregard for any semblance of intellectual rigor and policymaking discipline when it came to setting prices. It doesn't even pass the laugh test. I'll agree with Kevin Drum when he says that "there was method" to Roosevelt's madness. Yeah. Said "method" involved using the number seven in random mathematical combinations without any rhyme or reason to the combinations to set the price of gold on the world market. No Hollywood screenwriter could think up something so mind-bogglingly insane.

Of course, if a Republican President engaged in this kind of nightmarish policymaking, we would never hear the end of it . . . even if this hypothetical Republican President was in office 74 years ago, or longer. And Kevin--Dude, if I may--if you're so hung up on the need not to beat dead historical horses, why don't you write a post telling Democrats to stop raising the specter of Herbert Hoover at the drop of a hat?

Or did you suddenly get excited and passionate about history again upon reading that last sentence?

UPDATE: A grammatical edit has been made in response to this kind comment from one who is certainly aware of the embarrassment that comes with the commission of grammatical errors.

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Posted at 12:36am on Jul. 11, 2007 Not So Free Trade--The Clinton Redux

Hillary Clinton Was For Clintonomics Before She Was Against It

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

I am the kind of person who likes to give credit where it is due so when people ask me to list a big policy issue Bill Clinton got right during his Presidency, I am always happy to mention trade. Give the man credit; if you are a free trader like me, you have to appreciate the fact that Bill Clinton pulled the Democratic party from a protectionist stance on trade to the embrace of a relatively robust free trade position. I mean it wholeheartedly when I say that this was a big policy issue that the Clinton Administration did as well as it could have with the cards that it was dealt. (Yes, the Administration could have done more, like demand fast track authority in 1997, but it was still fighting strong elements of protectionism in the Democratic party and I am willing to make allowances for that sort of thing).

All of this is a prelude to noting this post by Dan Drezner, who, like me, is a free trader and who states that he is worried about Hillary Clinton's--and Barack Obama's--stances on trade. He should be. When it comes to Hillary Clinton, she certainly is willing to trash her husband's trade legacy:

. . . One of the central tenets of Clintonomics was its embrace of globalization; indeed, a convincing argument can be made that Clinton did as much to advance the cause of free trade as any president of either party in the past 50 years. Yet as far as I can see, none of the top-tier Democratic runners has come close to offering a full-throated endorsement of this aspect of Clintonism. And although that may come as no surprise with regard to Obama or John Edwards, the distance between Hillary and her husband on the topic is both noteworthy and telling--not just about the brass-tacks electoral calculations behind her policy positions, but about the shifts now under way in Democratic economic orthodoxy.

Just how far apart are Mr. and Mrs. Clinton on the question of global economic integration? The gap is yawning. For the former president, three sweeping and historic trade agreements did much to cement his reputation as bone-deep internationalist: the passage of NAFTA, the ratification of the Uruguay Round of the gatt, and the extension of permanent normal trading status to China and its inclusion in the WTO.

But for the current senator, much of this apparently seems dubious, at least as a road map to the future. "We just can't keep doing what we did in the twentieth century," she told a reporter from Bloomberg, adding that we may need "a little time-out" before the enactment of any further trade deals. Accordingly, in 2005, she voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Last month, she announced her opposition to the South Korean Free Trade Agreement. She has backed legislation that would impose trade sanctions on Chinese goods unless Beijing stops holding down the value of the yuan. She has even repeatedly spouted skepticism about the wisdom of NAFTA--while stopping short of blaming her husband for its deficiencies. "NAFTA was inherited by the Clinton administration," she informed Time magazine. "I believe in the general principles it represented, but what we have learned is that we have to drive a tougher bargain."

Read on . . .

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Posted at 12:32am on Jul. 11, 2007 The True Reality-Based Community In Iraq

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

It is personified by General David Petraeus:

The head of US forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has told the BBC that fighting the insurgency is a "long term endeavour" which could take decades.

Speaking to the BBC's John Simpson in Baquba, Gen Petraeus said there was evidence that the recent troops surge was producing gains on the ground.

But he warned that US forces were engaged in a "tough fight" which will get "harder before it gets easier".

His comments come as US calls for a rapid troop withdrawal gather strength.

Gen Petraeus was keen to emphasise that the ongoing unrest in Iraq is not something he expects to be resolved overnight.

"Northern Ireland, I think, taught you that very well. My counterparts in your [British] forces really understand this kind of operation... It took a long time, decades," he said.

"I don't know whether this will be decades, but the average counter insurgency is somewhere around a nine or a 10 year endeavour."

Alas, he will not be given even remotely enough time to complete this mission. And he will unjustifiably be set up as one of the fall guys when the plug is pulled on his efforts.

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Posted at 12:31am on Jul. 11, 2007 The Possible Outlines Of A Post-Surge Iraq

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The Bush Administration--having failed to make any kind of serious effort to ensure the existence of public support for the reconstruction effort in Iraq, now is beginning to offer the outlines of a new, post-surge plan:

. . . the president has mapped out a best-case scenario for Iraq on Jan. 20, 2009, that would still see considerable numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, but in a different role. If events work out as Bush hopes, aides said, U.S. forces by then will have sharply reduced their mission, pulling out of sectarian combat and focusing instead on fighting al-Qaeda, guarding Iraq's borders and supporting Iraqi troops. Instead of operating under a U.N. mandate, the United States would negotiate an agreement with the Iraqi government for a smaller, long-term presence.

Such a reduced mandate would resemble the vision advanced in December by the Iraq Study Group, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former congressman Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.). A Pentagon study last year concluded that even the more limited mission would require about 120,000 U.S. troops, compared with about 160,000 today, according to administration officials. But officials said it could be done with 60,000 to 100,000 troops.

Bush hopes the net result would be a situation stable enough that the next president -- even a Democrat with an antiwar platform -- would feel confident enough to sustain some form of U.S. mission despite domestic pressure to pull out altogether. But Bush aides said they are acutely aware that every forecast they have made for Iraq over the past four years has proved wildly optimistic.

We have essentially gone from "we need more troops" as the demand before the surge to "we need less troops" a mere three weeks after the surge has been fully implemented, without any kind of serious rationale for the change. This is utterly bizarre and illogical and only serves to throw our policy in Iraq into a state of vast confusion. And it is certainly not as if the Iraq Study Group report is without its problems.

Perhaps once our troop presence is diminished, we can go back again to pining for the existence of more troops. It would appear to be the pattern, after all.

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Posted at 12:29am on Jul. 11, 2007 What Will Happen If The U.S. Withdraws From Iraq?

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Ryan Crocker, the American Ambassador to Iraq offers an answer:

As the Senate prepares to begin a new debate this week on proposals for a withdrawal from Iraq, the United States ambassador and the Iraqi foreign minister are warning that the departure of American troops could lead to sharply increased violence, the deaths of thousands and a regional conflict that could draw in Iraq's neighbors.

Two months before a pivotal assessment of progress in the war that he and the overall American military commander in Iraq are to make to the White House and Congress in September, Ryan C. Crocker, the ambassador, laid out a grim forecast of what could happen if the policy debate in Washington led to a significant pullback or even withdrawal of American forces, perhaps to bases outside the major cities.

"You can't build a whole policy on a fear of a negative, but, boy, you've really got to account for it," Mr. Crocker said Saturday in an interview at his office in Saddam Hussein's old Republican Palace, now the seat of American power here. Setting out what he said was not a policy prescription but a review of issues that needed to be weighed, the ambassador compared Iraq's current violence to the early scenes of a gruesome movie.

"In the States, it's like we're in the last half of the third reel of a three-reel movie, and all we have to do is decide we're done here, and the credits come up, and the lights come on, and we leave the theater and go on to something else," he said. "Whereas out here, you're just getting into the first reel of five reels," he added, "and as ugly as the first reel has been, the other four and a half are going to be way, way worse."

Unfortunately, there is no way to put into words just how chaotic Iraq is going to get if there is a precipitous withdrawal--as it increasingly appears clear that we will.

So we are going to have to see images. And the images will be horrifying.

There really is no other way to say it. And there is no way to put into words just how bad it is going to get in Iraq once American troops are forced to leave before the reconstruction effort is completed.

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Posted at 1:53am on Jul. 10, 2007 Misanthropy Justified

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The following passage from this editorial made me spring out of my chair and pace around in abject disbelief and not a little anger:

Some mornings during the autumn of 1933, when the unemployment rate was 22 percent, the president, before getting into his wheelchair, sat in bed, surrounded by economic advisers, setting the price of gold. One morning he said he might raise it 21 cents: "It's a lucky number because it's three times seven." His Treasury secretary wrote that if people knew how gold was priced "they would be frightened."

The Depression's persistence, partly a result of such policy flippancy, was frightening. In 1937, during the depression within the Depression, there occurred the steepest drop in industrial production ever recorded. By January 1938 the unemployment rate was back up to 17.4 percent. The war, not the New Deal, defeated the Depression. Franklin Roosevelt's success was in altering the practice of American politics.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose the price of gold using the same methods with which you or I would choose PowerBall ticket numbers. If that doesn't frighten and outrage you, I don't know what will.

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Posted at 1:51am on Jul. 10, 2007 From The Department Of Double Standards

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Consider this report on Nancy Pelosi's six month tenure as Speaker of the House and the following excerpt from it:

"We would have these private meetings when she was [House minority] leader where she was decisive, focused, even dismissive of people at times," [Representative Barney] Frank said. "I'd say to her, I'd beg her, 'Please, Nancy, be this person in public.' "

Gosh, I had always thought that being "dismissive" of people was a bad thing. Certainly, we have been told that Republicans like President Bush ought to be faulted because they are dismissive of the opinions of others. Now we are told that actually, being dismissive is a sign of strength and leadership.

Does . . . not . . . compute. Would it really be too much to ask that we get some consensus regarding this issue? I would like to know just precisely what traits and behaviors I am supposed to expect from our political leaders.

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Posted at 5:51pm on Jul. 8, 2007 Just In Case You Need A Reminder Of What Is At Stake In Iraq

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Here is something worth reading--again:

AT least one of the suspects being quizzed over the alleged plot to set off car bombs in Britain was in recent contact with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, senior security officials said yesterday.

Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command SO15 is understood to have uncovered evidence that in the months leading up to the attacks one or more of the suspects communicated by telephone or e-mail with terrorist leaders in Iraq.

The development has fuelled a theory that the failed attacks in London and Glasgow were designed as a farewell to Tony Blair to punish him for his role in Iraq. Details of the Al-Qaeda role in the three failed car bombings are expected to emerge over the next few days.

The development suggests that intelligence received by MI5 earlier this year about a possible Al-Qaeda attack to mark Blair's departure was accurate. A report in April by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) warned that a senior Iraqi Al-Qaeda commander had outlined details of a big attack on Britain.

The report said the commander "stressed the need to take care to ensure the attack was successful and on a large scale". It was aimed "ideally" to take place before Blair stepped down. It said JTAC, which is based at MI5's London headquarters, was "aware that AQI [Al-Qaeda in Iraq] . . . networks are active in the UK".

The group is said to be led by a mysterious Egyptian known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri. He took over from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who was killed during an American airstrike last year.

You know all those people who said that if we fail in Iraq, al Qaeda will use the country as a launching pad for terrorist attacks on Western soil? Remember them? Sure you do. And maybe now it is time for all of us to admit that they might have had a point.

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Posted at 5:50pm on Jul. 8, 2007 Sarah Baxter Is A Journalist Who Is Misinformed About The Surge

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Consider the following paragraph from this story, relating to Colin Powell's statement that he tried to talk President Bush out of invading Iraq:

The surge's lack of demonstrable success is creating fissures in the Republican party as well as putting enormous pressure on the Democratic presidential candidates to favour a rapid pull-out, which Gates fears could leave Iraq in chaos.

The surge only got fully implemented a little over three weeks ago. To derisively note a supposed "lack of demonstrable success" concerning the surge is to blatantly misrepresent the facts on the ground.

Either Sarah Baxter does not know better and therefore needs to brush up on current events, or she chose to mislead her readers. In any event, this entire episode doesn't exactly reflect well on the profession of journalism, now does it?

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Posted at 5:48pm on Jul. 8, 2007 Jules Crittenden Catches The New York Times In A Moment Of Unguarded Honesty

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Go over and look. But be warned: The New York Times's brand of honesty is not for those with weak stomachs.

It never occurred to me that a national American newspaper could make it clear that it barely blinks an eyelash at the possibility of murder on a mass scale in Iraq in the aftermath of a precipitous American departure. I guess I overestimated the Times in that regard.

Relatedly, you can catch Natan Sharansky in a moment of unguarded honesty here. Of course, one need not belabor the point that Sharansky's honest opinions are far more grounded in ethics, logic and basic humanity than are those of the New York Times.

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Posted at 11:44am on Jul. 8, 2007 What Might Have Been

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

In running for the Republican Presidential nomination, Rudy Giuliani could have finessed the abortion issue by stating that while he was pro-choice, he was also anti-Roe. Given that many pro-abortion rights advocates--including law professors like Laurence Tribe--believe that Roe was a badly written decision, Giuliani's could have mollified Republican primary and caucus voters by stating that even though he disagreed with many of them about the need for abortion to be available as an option, they could all agree that abortion ought to be taken out of the federal sphere and left as a policy matter for states and localities exclusively. Instead, Giuliani opted not only to embrace abortion rights, but to support the badly written, badly reasoned decision in Roe, thus causing Republican primary and caucus voters to view him with suspicion.

Now, Giuliani appears to have committed yet another blunder with Republican voters. And it's a doozy:

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani ran into a buzz saw of opposition Saturday when he explained his opposition to a flat federal income tax.

Giuliani addressed a group of about 500 people in a standing-room only crowd at a town hall meeting at the University of North Florida, answering questions for about 30 minutes on a variety of topics from Iraq and Iran to Social Security and his plan for tax cuts.

Several dozen people jeered when Giuliani, in response to a question, said he would not be in favor of a flat tax.

"I have to study it some more," the former New York City mayor said. "I don't think a flat tax is realistic change for America. Our economy is dependent upon the way our tax system operates."

Giuliani emphasized he supported a simplified tax system and cuts in federal taxes, including elimination of the so-called death tax, but his response to the flat tax question brought some cat calls and jeers. "I have a real question whether it would be the right transition for our economy," he said.

There's more. Read on . . .

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Posted at 11:42am on Jul. 8, 2007 Mais Pourquoi?

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Why is Christine Boutin--someone who appears to have little relation, at best, to reality--a member of Nicolas Sarkozy's Cabinet?

A senior French politician, now a minister in President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, suggested last year that U.S. President George W. Bush might have been behind the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to a website.

The www.ReOpen911.info website, which promotes September 11 conspiracy theories, has posted a video clip of French Housing Minister Christine Boutin appearing to question that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group orchestrated the attacks. Boutin's office sought to play down the remarks.

Asked in an interview last November, before she became minister, whether she thought Bush might be behind the attacks, Boutin says: "I think it is possible. I think it is possible."

Boutin backs her assertion by pointing to the large number of people who visit websites that challenge the official line over the September 11 strikes against U.S. cities.

"I know that the websites that speak of this problem are websites that have the highest number of visits ... And I tell myself that this expression of the masses and of the people cannot be without any truth."

Boutin's office sought to play down the remarks, saying that later in the same interview she says: "I'm not telling you that I adhere to that position." This comment does not appear on the video clip on ReOpen911.

I realize that in France it is generally hard to fire people. But arranging for Mme. Boutin to go off and spend more time with her family should be a relatively easy matter thanks to her outlandish and unsupportable comments, n'est-ce pas? I mean, if the best that you can do to argue in favor of bizarre and goofy 9/11 conspiracy theories is to say "well, there are a lot of websites that raise suspicions and gee, not all of them can be wrong!" then maybe it is high time to give up the profession of politics and take up another line of work.

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Posted at 5:34pm on Jul. 7, 2007 Behold The Two Questions Of The Day In Zimbabwe

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

"Where is it you said we are going? And what's with this handbasket?"

President Mugabe has ordered petrol stations to slash the price of fuel by 70 per cent in a desperate bid to bring down the world's highest rate of inflation. Mr Mugabe ordered the price of fuel to be cut to 18p per litre, as his politburo announced plans to "tighten and intensify" price controls.

Shops have already been ordered to reduce prices as the President seeks to beat hyper-inflation that he fears may spark civil unrest and drive him from power.

State radio called on the movement of war veterans -- a reserve unit of the armed forces made up of former guerillas who fought to end white rule more than 25 years ago -- the youth militia and the women's league of Mr Mugabe's ZANU(PF) party, to report to party headquarters. Observers believe that the groups have been summoned to support trade inspectors, police and state secret agents in enforcing the price cuts.

Supermarkets, shops and warehouses are being forced to sell produce at prices far below the cost of replacing stock. The operation has been accompanied by state-approved looting as hungry Zimbabweans, impoverished by Mr Mugabe's ruinous economic policies, loaded cheap goods -- which were often resold on the black market the same day at far higher prices.

Lawyers have denounced the forced price cuts as illegal, while many businessmen have been arrested for failing to comply. "It's all by edict in the state press," said one lawyer who asked not to be named. "And even if they did make it official, it would be in violation of the Constitution, for depriving people unlawfully of their property. It is legalised looting and legalised theft."

Mr Mugabe's onslaught is seen as a response to repeated forecasts that Zimbabwe's wild inflation will bring the economy to a halt within six months and cause civil upheaval that will drive him from power.

"Mugabe is taking these forecasts very seriously," John Makumbe, a political commentator, said. "But he thinks he can bring down inflation by manipulating it manually. He doesn't realise it will rocket even higher. It's unbelievable." Yesterday, traders in the capital's predominantly Indian business area had placed detachable steel-grilled gates outside their shop doors, ready to be shut at short notice.

Apparently, there is a race between Mugabe, Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to see which "leader" can destroy his economy the fastest. And each of the three is trying his best to win.

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Posted at 11:50pm on Jul. 6, 2007 Where Michael Moore's Health Care Plans Are Implemented . . .

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

There, policy disasters await:

'I haven't seen Sicko," says Avril Allen about the new Michael Moore documentary, which advocates socialized medicine for the United States. The film, which has been widely viewed on the Internet, and which officially opened in the United States and Canada on Friday, has been getting rave reviews. But Ms. Allen, a lawyer, has no plans to watch it. She's just too busy preparing to file suit against Ontario's provincial government about its health care system next month.

Her client, Lindsay McCreith, would have had to wait for four months just to get an MRI, and then months more to see a neurologist for his malignant brain tumor. Instead, frustrated and ill, the retired auto-body shop owner traveled to Buffalo, N.Y., for a lifesaving surgery. Now he's suing for the right to opt out of Canada's government-run health care, which he considers dangerous.

Ms. Allen figures the lawsuit has a fighting chance: In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that "access to wait lists is not access to health care," striking down key Quebec laws that prohibited private medicine and private health insurance.

In the United States, 83 House Democrats voted for a bill in 1993 calling for single-payer health care. That idea collapsed with HillaryCare and since then has existed on the fringes of the debate--winning praise from academics and pressure groups, but remaining largely out of the political discussion. Mr. Moore's documentary intends to change that, exposing millions to his argument that American health care is sick and socialized medicine is the cure.

It's not simply that Mr. Moore is wrong. His grand tour of public health care systems misses the big story: While he prescribes socialism, market-oriented reforms are percolating in cities from Stockholm to Saskatoon.

Mr. Moore goes to London, Ont., where he notes that not a single patient has waited in the hospital emergency room more than 45 minutes. "It's a fabulous system," a woman explains. In Britain, he tours a hospital where patients marvel at their free care. A patient's husband explains: "It's not America." Humorously, Mr. Moore finds a cashier dispensing money to patients (for transportation). In France, a doctor explains the success of the health care system with the old Marxist axiom: "You pay according to your means, and you receive according to your needs."

It's compelling material--I know because, born and raised in Canada, I used to believe in government-run health care. Then I was mugged by reality.

Check below for the rest . . .

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