Wednesday, August 24, 2005

We would like to welcome former Bush Speechwriter David Frum, who today joins the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill. Welcome, David! Should you ever feel that your meds need to be adjusted, operators are standing by at 1-877-mad-ness...

David Frum's Diary on National Review Online: By now it should be clear that President Bush's words on the subject of Iraq have ceased connecting with the American public.... Maybe most fatefully: a plurality now say that they believe that the president deliberately misled the country into war....

[S]upporters of the war can do our bit to try to change minds. But the biggest megaphone in the country belongs to President Bush - and much depends on whether he uses it well or badly. He is using it very badly indeed.... Again and again... the president will agree to give what is advertised in advance as a major speech. An important venue will be chosen. A crowd of thousands will be gathered. The networks will all be invited. And after these elaborate preparations, the president says... nothing that he has not said a hundred times before.

If a president continues to do that, he is himself teaching the public and the media to ignore him - especially when the words seem (as his speech yesterday to the VFW seemed) utterly to ignore the past three months of real-world events.

The president could have made news yesterday by itemizing the reasons to regard Iraq more positively than most journalists do... the president could have skipped the good news and delivered a blood, sweat, toils, and tears speech: Yes things are hard, harder in fact than expected, but the stakes remain enormous - and here is why we must win, and why I am determined to fight this thing through to victory. That would be powerful too.

As it is, though, he says nothing, and is perceived to say nothing, and soon nobody will be listening at all, if anybody still is...

Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh David Frum R'lyeh Wagn'nagl Fhtagn!!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Shrillness in Private?

MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews is disturbed by the number of guests who are being driven to shrill unholy madness by the incompetence and mendacity of this war, yet only able to gibber about it in private...

What I keep doing here is asking people on and off camera who come on this program, high-ranking officers, enlisted, former officers. I get sometimes, not all the time, two different versions, the version they give me on the air and the version they give me the minute when we‘re off the air.

The version they give me when we‘re on the air is gung-ho, we‘re doing the right thing, everything is moving along. The version they give me off the air is, Rumsfeld is crazy. There aren‘t enough troops over there. We‘re not taking this seriously enough, or, we shouldn‘t be there, sometimes.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Colin Powell's ex-Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson is shrill:

Wonkette - Bush Diplomats Bum Real Hard on Cold Steel Facts: Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, interviewed for the upcoming CNN documentary "Dead Wrong--Inside and Intelligence Meltdown," tersely characterizes his role in the preparations for his boss's historic Feb. 14, 2003 UN speech making the case for invading Iraq and unseating Saddam Hussein. "It was," Wilkerson says, "the lowest point of my life." The unsourced materials the administration gave to Powell to present were, Wilkerson recalls, "were anything but an intelligence document"; rather, they were "sort of a Chinese menu from which you could pick and choose."

It proved to be something less than a walk in the park for Powell, too. After the invasion, US troops continued trolling for, and failing to unearth, any evidence of WMDs in occupied Iraq. Powell would get periodic updates to that effect from future Medal of Freedom honoree George "Slam Dunk" Tenet:

"George actually did call the Secretary, and said, 'I'm really sorry to have to tell you. We don't believe there were any mobile labs for making biological weapons,'" Wilkerson says in the documentary. "This was the third or fourth telephone call. And I think it's fair to say the Secretary and Mr. Tenet, at that point, ceased being close."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Senator Chuck Hagel is shrill:

In U.S. heartland, anxiety over Iraq, oil - Yahoo! News: Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, acknowledged the U.S. military presence was becoming harder and harder to justify. He believes Iraq faces a serious danger of civil war that would threaten Middle East stability, and said there is little Washington can do to avert this. "We are seen as occupiers, we are targets. We have got to get out. I don't think we can sustain our current policy, nor do I think we should," he said at one stop....

"The feeling that I get back here, looking in the eyes of real people, where I knew where they were two years ago or a year ago -- they've changed," he said. "These aren't people who ebb and flow on issues. These are rock solid, conservative Republicans who love their country, support the troops and support the president."

Hagel said Bush faced a growing credibility gap. "The expectations that the president and his administration presented to the American people 2 1/2 years ago is not what the reality is today. That's presented the biggest credibility gap problem he's got," he said. "I hope he has some sense that something's going on out in the country, that there's a lack of confidence that has developed in our position."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Brendan Nyhan reads the WSJ editorial page so the rest of us don't have to. He escapes back to the protection of his guard of shoggoths just in time, pursued by the shambling WSJ zombies led by Michael Moore, who shamble forward and chant: "Bush administration fiscal policy is responsible!" "Cutting tax rates raises tax revenues!" "Extending the Bush tax cuts isn't expensive!" and, of course, "BRAINS!!!!"

Brendan Nyhan: WSJ agitprop on CBO report: The WSJ continues

A second fact you won't see in many other newspapers is that the federal budget deficit has also declined to close to its modern average. CBO says the deficit will fall to 2.7% of national output in the fiscal year that ends at the end of next month. It is expected to continue to fall to 2.4% of GDP next year and 2.0% in 2010, even if the Bush tax rates stay in place.

But... the Journal's 2010 date is cherrypicked -- the effects of extending President Bush's tax cuts... explode over the next five [years]. Once again, the lesson here is simple: never trust the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

A lesson to place alongside "never get involved in a land war in Asia," "never play poker with a man named 'Doc'," and "never accept a battle of wits where iocane powder is a factor."

Gregory Djerejian Is Shrill

He writes:

THE BELGRAVIA DISPATCH: Yesterday: "Last Throes"; Today: "We Cannot Predict the Length...": From the Caspar Star Tribune (Wyoming's News Source!), we have Dick Cheney:

We cannot predict the length or course of the war on terror, but we know for certain with good allies at our side this great nation will persevere and we will prevail.

Translation: I'm not quite man enough to admit I was full of it with the "last throes" comment, so instead I'll talk about 'dictionary meanings' and avoid discussing Iraq in my public utterances (better to conveniently conflate Iraq under the 'war on terror' rubric which, while accurate, nevertheless, shall we say, conveniently elides the main point).

Hardly Churchillian straight-talk, huh? More by way of Roveian 'stay on message' herdism. But these are mediocre times and we, sadly, appear to be led by mediocre men...Look, if our leaders cannot communicate honestly to their public the real state of play with regard to the most pressing issue of the day--well, they will lose the public's trust and the war effort will be increasingly imperiled because of it.

P.S. And no, the oft-heard locution 'as they stand up, we will stand down' just doesn't cut it as a frank assessment of where the war stands. See Fred Kagan below for some of the reasons such utterances are largely chimerical and bogus at this early stage...

We have reserved a bed for him in the Shoggoth Wing.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Baron Samedi! Ogoun Badagris! M'aidez!!

Duncan Black, one of the High Burning Ones of the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill, is alarmed at reports from scouts Mark Thoma and Brad DeLong, returning from in partibus infidelium, that the Bell Curve zombies are active again.

Eschaton: Christ, has that racist claptrap reared its ugly head again? Racists, idiots, or both. You decide... Bell Curve is a groundhog day causing event. Mention it, and the trolls appear saying the book "hasn't been debunked." Point to numerous debunkings and they erect a few mountains of straw. Burn down the straw, and they slink away for a little while, only to return the next time it comes up and they'll start in again, saying the book "hasn't been debunked."...

Led by Michael Barone and David Brooks, they shamble forward, saying things like "Herrnstein and Murray were right!" "There is lots in the Bell Curve that is correct!" "The _Bell Curve_ has not been debunked!" and, of course, "BRAINS!!!!"

The Tigris River Park

Dexter Filkins is shrill:

A Nation in Blood and Ink - New York Times: [I]n this third summer of war, the American project in Iraq has never seemed so wilted and sapped of life. It's not just the guerrillas, who are churning away at their relentless pace, attacking American forces about 65 times a day. It is most everything else, too.

Baghdad seems a city transported from the Middle Ages: a scattering of high-walled fortresses, each protected by a group of armed men. The area between the forts is a lawless no man's land, menaced by bandits and brigands. With the daytime temperatures here hovering at around 115 degrees, the electricity in much of the city flows for only about four hours a day.

With armed guards in tow, I drove across the no man's land the other day to pay a visit to Ahmad Chalabi, the deputy prime minister. Unlike many senior Iraqi officials, who have long since retreated into the Green Zone, Mr. Chalabi still lives in a private home. To get there, you must pass through a series of checkpoints at the outskirts of his neighborhood, manned by guards and crisscrossed by concrete chicanes. At the entrance to Mr. Chalabi's street, there is another checkpoint, made of concrete and barbed wire, and more armed guards. Then, in front of Mr. Chalabi's house, stands yet another blast wall. When Mr. Chalabi walks into his front yard, even inside his own compound, a dozen armed guards surround him....

Americans, here and in the United States, wait for the day when the Iraqi police and army will shoulder the burden and let them go home. One night last month, according to the locals, the Iraqi police and army surrounded the Sunni neighborhood of Sababkar in north Baghdad, and pulled 11 young men from their beds. Their bodies were found the next day with bullet holes in their temples. The cheeks of some of the men had been punctured by electric drills. One man had been burned by acid. The police denied that they had been involved.

"This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened," Adnan al-Dulami, a Sunni leader, said.

For much of last year, the soldiers of the First Cavalry Division oversaw a project to restore the river-front park on the east bank of the Tigris River. Under American eyes, the Iraqis planted sod, installed a sprinkler system and put up swing sets for the Iraqi children. It cost $1.5 million. The Tigris River Park was part of a vision of the unit's commander, Maj. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, to win the war by putting Iraqis to work.

General Chiarelli left Iraq this year, and the American unit that took over had other priorities. The sod is mostly dead now, and the sidewalks are covered in broken glass. The sprinkler heads have been stolen. The northern half of the park is sealed off by barbed wire and blast walls; Iraqis are told stay back, lest they be shot by American snipers on the roof of a nearby hotel...

This Year's Miskatonic Visiting Scholars Include

Ginmar is back from Iraq and is a Senior Heresiarch in the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill:

ginmar: How to lose a war in a few easy steps: Sadr's men have formed Sharia courts in southern Iraq and have passed sentences and performed executions. Amongst the victims which I personally know of were an unmarried pregnant woman and her four-year old child. The mother was executed in the street with three shots while her child watched. Then the little boy's throat was cut. It takes a fairly long time to die that way. One wonders what his moderate father would think of such things. One knows what Sistani thinks of it: reportedly Sadr was summoned to Sistani's presence in the fall of 04 and reamed out for visiting such destruction on the Iraqi people.

What does this have to do with war? This is what happens when there is no plan for what follows a war, even a successful one. The tribal structure of Iraq complicates matters to an amazing degree, and it's apparent that this was not factored in when plans were made. The tribes took control of their regions eagerly as they had not been able to do when Saddam was in power. In the vacuum created by Saddam's ouster, this control felt like management.... Most critically, maintaing a peace after a war becomes something extremely complicated in a tribal society. In a Muslim tribal society, divided between Sunnis and Shi'ites that has been invaded by a largly Christian country the need for delicacy over rides all others. When one can observe US MPs subduing suspects by placing their feet on them, one can only realize that not enough training was done prior to invasion....

To win the peace, we should have promptly increased troop strength by about two hundred thousand to adequately secure the borders and restore order.... Without enough troops, the country was not secure or safe, and this has increased exponentially. We cannot guard the border; we cannot patrol enough streets and highways. We cannot hear every grievance, much less fix them. The insurgents kill at least one US soldier per day, and at least a couple Iraqi civilians for every soldier.

Prior to the war, civilians enjoyed relative safety. Please note the use of the word relative. Hussein could and did seize people and his sons were notorious for their raping and murdering. The mass graves have been over-reported: the one in Hilla last year contained four hundred bodies. Against that one has to contrast the effects of the bomb in Hilla in February of this year: 125 people died. Do good intentions make these people any less dead?... You patrol the streets, you seal the borders, you get the infrastructure up and running again. You keep the population safe and you let them know that things will be better and that, most of all, the war is over. Instead the war continues....

If we could go back in time, we would have a quarter million more troops flood the country after Baghdad's fall, to line the border and secure the museums, the palaces, the bases, and the weapons. No ammo depot in the country would have been unguarded.... Without security you can accomplish nothing. Security cannot be provided without certain numbers of troops. Therefore you must establish security first. Otherwise you tread water, and the water is heavily mined. We could still turn the sitution around in Iraq if we had enough troops, but the thing to be kept in mind is that we created this situation, we must fix it, and we cannot do it with the numbers we currently have---or don't have. Putting those boots on the ground, however, would mean admitting to any number of fallacies. Some people think that is too high a price to pay.

Perhaps those people should have a nice long chat with Cindy Sheehan and re-assess their concept of the price one pays for war.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dog Days in Arkham!

Here in picturesque Arkham, Massachusetts:

the dog days have set in in earnest.

It was 99F yesterday--but with the humidity it felt like 109F. The fountain pool in front of our tall steel-and-glass building here at Miskatonic University became dangerously hot, and the Watcher in the Water--used to Antarctic temperatures and so unsettled at the best of times--became... well, I don't want to say anything to scare the freshmen. Suffice to say that the opening of a transdimensional portal to the planet Mr. Stross mentioned in his admirable little book soon cooled things off enough to calm it... or, rather, them... down. So forget I mentioned it.

Nevertheless, Paul Krugman is shrill, and so all is right with the world: Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Krugman R'lyeh Wagn'nagl Fhtagn!! Krugman Fhtagn!! Krugman Fhtagn!! KRUGMAN FHTAGN!!!!!!:

Social Security Lessons - New York Times: I'd like to revisit Social Security for a moment, because it's important to remember what Mr. Bush tried to get away with. Many pundits and editorial boards still give Mr. Bush credit for trying to "reform" Social Security. In fact, Mr. Bush came to bury Social Security.... Over time, the Bush plan would have transformed Social Security from a social insurance program into a mutual fund, with nothing except a name in common with the system F.D.R. created.

In addition to misrepresenting his goals, Mr. Bush repeatedly lied about the current system. Oh, I'm sorry - was that a rude thing to say? Still, the fact is that Mr. Bush repeatedly said things that were demonstrably false and that his staff must have known were false.... [T]he administration politicized the Social Security Administration and used taxpayer money to promote a partisan agenda. Social Security officials participated in what were in effect taxpayer-financed political rallies, from which skeptical members of the public were excluded....

[This] is still going on. Last week Jo Anne Barnhart, the commissioner of Social Security, published an op-ed article claiming that Social Security as we know it was designed for a society in which people didn't live long enough to collect a lot of benefits. "The number of older Americans living now," wrote Ms. Barnhart, "is greater than anyone could have imagined in 1935." Now, it turns out that an article on the Social Security Administration's Web site, "Life Expectancy for Social Security," specifically rejects the idea the Social Security was originally "designed in such a way that few people would collect the benefits," and the related idea that the system faces problems from "a supposed dramatic increase in life expectancy in recent years." And the current number of older Americans as a share of the population is just about what the founders of Social Security expected. The 1934 report... projected that 12.7 percent of Americans would be 65 or older by the year 2000. The actual number was 12.4 percent....

[T]he campaign for privatization provided an object lesson in how the administration sells its policies: by misrepresenting its goals, lying about the facts and abusing its control of government agencies. These were the same tactics used to sell both tax cuts and the Iraq war. And there are two reasons to study that lesson. One is to be prepared.... [T]here's still room for another big domestic initiative, probably tax reform. Forewarned is forearmed: the real goals of reform won't be as advertised, the administration will say things about the current system that aren't true, and the Treasury Department will function in a purely partisan capacity...

Remember: for those of you on a tight budget, "used" copies of the Krugmanomicon can be acquired at little more than half price at al-Hazred's felafel cart.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

You Open the Transdimensional Portal with the Eldritch Horrors You Have!!

Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh Rumsfeld R'lyeh Wagn'nagl Fhtagn!! Rumsfeld Fhtagn!! Rumsfeld Fhtagn!! RUMSFELD FHTAGN!!!!!!

U.S. Struggling to Get Soldiers Improved Armor - New York Times: MICHAEL MOSS: [T]he Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks by insurgents. The ceramic plates in vests worn by most personnel cannot withstand certain munitions the insurgents use. But more than a year after military officials initiated an effort to replace the armor with thicker, more resistant plates, tens of thousands of soldiers are still without the stronger protection because of a string of delays in the Pentagon's procurement system....

"We are working as fast as we can to complete it as soon as we can," Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, the Army's deputy for acquisition and systems management, said Wednesday in an interview at the Pentagon.... [B]ody armor remains critical to the military's goals in Iraq. Gunfire has killed at least 325 troops, about half the number killed by bombs, according to the Pentagon.... [T]he Pentagon is relying on a cottage industry of small armor makers with limited production capacity. In addition, each company must independently come up with its own design for the plates, which then undergo military testing. Just four vendors have begun making the enhanced armor, according to military and industry officials.... "Nobody is happy we haven't been able to do it faster," Maj. Gen. William D. Catto, head of the Marine Corps Systems Command, said Wednesday in the interview. "If I had the capability, I'd like to see everybody that needs enhanced SAPI to have it and at the rate we have now, we're going to have months before we get the kind of aggregate numbers we want to have," General Catto said, referring to the thicker plates, known as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert. "That's just a fact of life because of the raw materials paucity and the industrial base."...

Body armor arose as an issue in Iraq shortly after the invasion in March 2003, when insurgents began attacking American troops who had been given only vests and not bullet-resistant plates. The Army had planned to give the plates only to frontline soldiers. Officials now concede that they underestimated the insurgency's strength and commitment to fighting a war in which there are no back lines. The ensuing scramble to produce more plates was marred by a series of missteps in which the Pentagon gave one contract to a former Army researcher who had never mass-produced anything. He was allowed to struggle with production for a year before he gave up. An outdated delivery plan slowed the arrival of plates that were made. In all, the war was 10 months old before every soldier in Iraq had plates in late January 2004...


Four months later, the Pentagon quietly issued a solicitation for the enhanced plates that would resist stronger attacks. At the same time, it worked to make improvements to the vests, including adding shoulder and side protection...

A Warning for New Members of the Crew Team

If a giant cephalopod grabs your ore while you are out on the Miskatonic River, let it have the oar. I speak from experience. It's better if you don't try to wrestle it.

In other news, The Blogging of the President reports that its favorite weblog include:

The Blogging of the President: ...the now on hiatus Shrill blog, partially because its time is past...

The time for Shrillblog is never past! The fact that its editors are too far gone in shrill unholy madness to reliably post is a problem. But we will rise again!