Saturday, January 03, 2009

Just another day in the life and death of Iraq LXXXV

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I explained back in October why I haven't been adding much to this ongoing series lately. Although I still blame the media for its negligent coverage of the situation in Iraq, there is no denying that Iraq isn't as deadly as it used to be. Indeed, according to both the Iraqi government and the non-governmental Iraq Body Count, the number of civilian deaths was down by two-thirds last year compared to 2007. (The official number is 5,714, whereas IBC puts the number between 8,315 and 9,028.) U.S. military deaths were also down, from about 900 to about 300.

But let's keep this in perspective. Civilians deaths may have declined significantly from 2007 to 2008, but there were still thousands and thousands of them. I suspect that the official number is low, but even if the IBC range is high the number of deaths was still about 6,500 to 7,500. And 2009 has gotten off to a predictably violent start:

At least 23 people have been killed in a suicide bombing in a town south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, police say.

About 110 people were also injured in the attack at a gathering of Sunni Muslim tribal leaders in Yusufiya, 20km (12 miles) from Baghdad.

Don't get me wrong, the decline in civilian deaths is nothing if not a positive development. It's just that the level of violence in previous years, which may have been unsustainable even without the surge (which was only partly responsible for the decline), shouldn't be the sole standard by which to judge the current level of violence.

The numbers are down, but the context is that Iraq remains an incredibly violence place. There is much blame to go around, to be sure, but it is the Iraqi people who are suffering.

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Quote of the Day: Allawi on Bush's "utter failure"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Initially, I thought our QotD today would be Burris's stupid "We are the senator" comment -- and, if you ask me, there's no way he should be Obama's replacement -- but former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's assessment of Bush's Iraq policies is easily more significant:

Yes, Bush's policies failed utterly. Utter failure. Failure of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, including fighting terrorism and economic policy. His insistence on names like "democracy" and "open elections", without giving attention to political stability, was a big mistake. It cast shadows on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Egypt, and I believe this will be remembered in history as President Bush's policy.

Bush thinks history will vindicate him and his policies (and the Iraq misadventure in general), but I suspect history will prove Allawi right.

(Although I agree with Yglesias that Allawi, once a U.S. ally/puppet and would-be Iraqi overlord, "shouldn't be taken too seriously." Allawi may be right about Bush, but he doesn't have a lot of credibility.)

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The terrorists have won

By Libby Spencer

The greatest weapon a terrorist has isn't a bomb, it's fear. If we allow ourselves to diminish our humanity and toss our common sense out of fear of terrorism, then they've won without lifting a finger. This latest bit of security theater is a prime example.

Officials ordered nine Muslim passengers, including three young children, off an AirTran flight headed to Orlando from Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon after two other passengers overheard what they thought was a suspicious remark.

And what was this highly suspicious remark? They were speculating about which seat on a plane is safest, one assumes in the event of a crash. This is a conversation I've had myself with fellow passengers at some point in the course of many years of plane travel. There are certain sections of an aircraft that are marginally safer.

By the way, these "Muslims" are American citizens. Somehow I think if it was a group of white Christians on their way to a revival meeting, this would never have been an issue.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Friday, January 02, 2009

The Reaction in review (Jan.2, 2009)

A week's Reactions that deserve a second look:
Looking back and looking forward to a Happy New Year!


By Carol Gee: "Any sign that demilitarization is coming?" -- A post focused on the Obama Transition possibilities for directorial appointments as DNI and at the CIA, asking why only military men.

By Mustang Bobby: "The culture of victimhood" -- Bobby's got a great post here; a thorough reminder of all the silly whining by "wronged" Republicans who can't take responsibility for their massive failures.

By Creature: "More legacy polishing" -- Creature, like most of us, is disgusted with Bush admin whining about how misunderstood they have been. Related reading: "The legacy tour continues"


By Capt. Fogg: "Fortune 21 - who's the dumbest of us all?" -- Fogg reacts to Fortune Magazine's top 21 feats of stupidity in 2008.

By Carol Gee: "Saying Hello To 2009" -- A post about Bush's war in Iraq, the Middle East and the military; it is related to an earlier post, "Saying goodbye to 2008," good-riddance reactions to Republicans' lousy leadership.

By J. Thomas Duffy: "Top Ten Cloves: Ways Harry Reid and Democrats can keep Roland Burris from taking Senate seat" -- Do not miss Duffy's latest cleverness which Reid would do well to read; includes Bonus Burris-Blagojevic Hijinks.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Happy New Year" -- Our esteemed
founder and editor's "Happy New Year" greeting card and personal newsletter; it is a look back at his 2008, as well as looking ahead to 2009.

By Capt. Fogg: "Wise to the words" -- Fogg enlists his helpful consultant, Dr. Syntax, to remind us of latest least favorite "linguistic transgressions."

By Carl: "In the rearview mirror" -- All who love Carl's work, and we are legions, will truly enjoy his personal reactions to the 2008 blogging year, along with his anticipations in 2009. Related: (re 2008 predictions) "Year in Review," and though, "Nobody asked me, but..." (2009 predictions).

By Libby Spencer: "The book larnin' president" -- Libby's reaction to the revelation that Bush indeed reads, ". . . you can lead a man to a book, but you can't make him absorb the content, or take any lessons from it."


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Minnesota Senate -- update 8" -- Michael has been sterling about reporting on this very interesting election tussel.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Ignorance and racism, alive and well in the GOP" -- Regarding the CD sent out to party members, Michael asserts, with some good reason, that ". . . many Republicans, it seems, are unabashedly racist -- and in a complete state of denial about it." Includes Capt. Fogg (he's the best) vs. Anonymous comments.


By Creature: "Macho doesn't work as foreign policy" -- This succinct reaction to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict says it all for many of us.

By Carl: "Capt Obvious! Your story is up!" -- Carl's very thoughtful and useful post on kids and premarital sex.

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On Palin and Thatcher

By Michael J.W. Stickings

What a great start to 2009. I have the flu, or something very much like it, and I've been in bed for most of the past two days.

But I did want to mention that my latest piece at The Guardian was posted today:

Hockey Mom, you're no Iron Lady.

It's a response, first developed in this post, to the ridiculously silly assertion by some on the right -- notably John O'Sullivan -- that Sarah Palin is (or could very well be, given how allegedly amazing she is) the second coming of Margaret Thatcher.

It's just the sort of delusional craziness we've come to expect from conservatives.

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Any sign that demilitarization is coming?

By Carol Gee

Under the Bush administration the United States was introduced to several new national security wrinkles, sold to us as ways to keep us safe. Within the framework of a president claiming unitary authority as the commander in chief, the measures included: 1) preventive, or preemptive, war with Iraq; 2) secret, warrantless wiretapping through massive data mining within the U.S.; 3) authorization to suspend habeas corpus and to torture; 4) politicization of the Justice Department; and 5) successfully co-opting the leaders in Congress as well as Intelligence Committee chairmen.

"Hold on Mr. President-elect!" -- What are the chances of the "military-industrial complex" becoming less influential in the Obama administration? There are ominous signs that it may not happen any time soon. First, a couple of personnel issues cause me some concern.

Intel baggage, the DNI and the CIA -- Transitioning into national security competence and being able to "hit the ground running," is not turning out to be easy for President-elect Obama. He lacks extensive intelligence experience, though he did propose that the DNI have a fixed appointment like that of the FBI Director. The President-elect has yet to name his Director of National Intelligence or a new CIA Director. Serving currently are DNI Mike McConnell and CIA Director Michael Hayden, who came later in the Bush administration. Both of the current officials are military men and are willing to stay on in their positions. The CIA was blamed for the intelligence failures before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as the bad prewar intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs. The CIA was also involved in the rendition of captured terrorism suspects to countries known to use torture, secret prisons all over the world for high-level captives, as well as the use of torture in interrogations. According to a recent (12/3/08) Washington Post analysis by by Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus, "Experience will be prime asset for Obama's Spy Chiefs." To quote:

President-elect Barack Obama faces a dilemma in selecting his top intelligence advisers: finding experienced leaders who understand the challenges facing the various U.S. intelligence agencies -- but who are untainted by the controversies and problems that have plagued the intelligence apparatus during the Bush era.

. . . Prominent voices in the intelligence community and the Obama camp have argued that a seasoned professional is needed when the country is waging two wars and a campaign against terrorism, and that a newcomer would face an excessively steep learning curve.

Pincus cont'd:

[DNI] Mike McConnell warned against yet another structural overhaul for a community that has been the subject of 41 high-level studies since 1946

. . . The creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2004 was in part an attempt to forge a clear chain of command; yet the restructuring has led to new squabbling over turf and control over the intelligence community's budget, which currently totals $47.5 billion. Some independent experts have argued that the office is an unneeded layer of bureaucracy, and many in Congress have called for reducing its size.

. . . While acknowledging that reforms are still needed, intelligence officials expressed concern that reformers could inadvertently reverse hard-won progress achieved over the past three years. . . . "For the first time, there's someone who wakes up each morning and has the interest of the entire intelligence community as his No. 1 job," office spokesman Richard Willing said.

. . . Other frequently mentioned candidates for top intelligence posts in the Obama administration include retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair, seen as a favorite for director of national intelligence; Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), formerly the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee; and John Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary who is also considered a candidate to eventually succeed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, whom Obama has nominated to remain at the Pentagon.

In related matters, 1) This comes from Glenn Greenwald at (11/26/08): "Exceptional news: John Brennan won't be CIA Director or DNI." And 2) This was by Jeff Stein from CQ Politics (12/5/08): "Send Dollar Bill to the CIA" To quote:

The former New Jersey Democratic senator (1979-97), presidential candidate and NBA star — so named for the $500,000 contract the Princeton grad and Rhodes scholar landed with the New York Knicks — impressed many a CIA official when he served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI).

“I distinctly remember briefing Bradley on counterintelligence and other intelligence matters and being blown away by how serious, informed, and supportive he was,” James Olson, a former head of CIA counterintelligence now teaching at Texas A&M, said by e-mail.

People are betting that this will be the headline when President-elect Obama names his new Director of National Intelligence: "The New Team: Dennis C. Blair." I am ready to accept this news because Blair would, in my opinion, be a huge improvement over Admiral McConnell, whom I believe has become deeply compromised under Bush. The story comes originally from the New York Times author Mark Mazzetti and it was published November 22, 2008. It is one of a series of profiles of potential members of the Obama administration. A former four-star Admiral, Blair was in the Navy for 34 years, with much of his work in the intelligence field. Born Feb. 4, 1947, in Kittery, Me., Blair graduated from Annapolis. In addition to being a high achiever, "a workaholic," and an avid fisherman, he is married, with two grown children, a son and a daughter. He worked at the Central Intelligence Agency and served on the National Security Council. He also directed the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, and, to quote,
. . . commanded the Kitty Hawk Battle Group and the destroyer Cochrane. In civilian life, Mr. Blair was president of the Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit largely financed by the federal government to analyze national security issues for the Pentagon, from 2003 to 2006.

Admiral Blair was an occasional adviser to Mr. Obama in the Senate, but the relationship was short and it did not include being a close adviser during the campaign. He is close to the Clintons, however; he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford with Bill Clinton. He is very smart, an Asia expert and evidently a good leader. He commanded the U.S. Pacific fleet and, to quote,
. . . is considered adept at running sprawling organizations, seemingly a prerequisite for heading an office that is still grappling with the task of fusing 16 spy agencies.

. . . In his own words: ''The use of large-scale military force in volatile regions of underdeveloped countries is difficult to do right, has major unintended consequences and rarely turns out to be quick, effective, controlled and short lived.'' (Congressional testimony, Nov. 7, 2007)

Mazzetti reports that Blair "carries as baggage," quote:

Had to step down as president of the Institute for Defense Analyses amid concerns that his positions on several corporate boards constituted a conflict of interest. The Pentagon's inspector general later concluded that he had violated the institute's conflict-of-interest standards by serving on the board of a military contractor working on the Air Force F-22 jet while the institute was evaluating the program for the Pentagon.* The inspector general found, however, that Mr. Blair did not influence the organization's analysis of the F-22 program. Another possible hindrance: The selection of a retired admiral to the national intelligence post could fuel worries about the militarization of intelligence. . .

[*see] Correction: November 26, 2008, Wednesday A brief profile on Monday about Dennis C. Blair, who is among the candidates for top positions in the Obama administration, gave an incomplete description of findings by the Pentagon inspector general's office on his role as president of the Institute for Defense Analyses, which conducts research for the Defense Department. While the office concluded that Mr. Blair had violated the institute's conflict of interest standards by serving on the board of a military contractor working on the F-22 fighter program while the plane was under evaluation by the institute, it also found that he had not influenced the institute's analysis of the program.

Mazzetti added that Blair speaks Russian, and that "he was in the same Naval Academy graduating class as Oliver North and Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. He was passed over for chairman of the Joint Chiefs by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who considered him too independent and was wary of his views on engagement in Asia."

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The culture of victimhood

By Mustang Bobby

One of my favorite episodes from the late and lamented comic strip Calvin and Hobbes shows Calvin, the six-year-old Everyman, exclaiming, "Nothing that happens is my fault! My family is dysfunctional and my parents won't empower me! Consequently, I'm not self-actualized! My behavior is addictive functioning in a disease process of toxic codependency! I need holistic healing and wellness before I'll accept any responsibility for my actions!"

Hobbes replies, "One of us needs to stick his head in a bucket of ice water."

Calvin marches on, proclaiming, "I love the culture of victimhood."

This seems to have been the mantra of the conservative movement and the Republican party in particular in 2008, and it will likely continue on as the Bush administration whimpers to an end. Everything bad that happened on their watch wasn't their fault. No one could have predicted that Osama bin Laden would fly planes into skyscrapers. No one could have predicted that a major hurricane would strike the Gulf Coast and break the levees. No one foresaw that there would be a terrible backlash of terrorism and hatred against Americans unilaterally attacking and invading a sovereign country ruled by a braggart dictator, and that invading said country would need a lot more than just a few thousand troops. No one could have predicted that the housing bubble and the E-Z credit market would burst because of lax regulation and insider connections on Wall Street and bring down major brokerage houses and threaten the existence of the last major manufacturing companies in the United States. And no one could have predicted that putting politics ahead of competency would give us a government of loyalists who couldn't run a business on their own but voted the right way in 2000.

Except, in every case, a lot of people did predict that all of those things would happen, and some of them lost their jobs for having the temerity to point it out.

This is not altogether a surprise from the party that calls on everyone else to show personal responsibility -- wags their finger and shakes their jowls at everyone else for their moral and political failings -- yet populates the prisons with their own senators on the take. It's not that the Democrats or anyone else doesn't have these failings, too, but at least they don't go around raising money on someone else's hypocrisy. And for a party that calls itself the bastions of more freedom and limited government, they certainly seem to have a list of exceptions that include women controlling their uterus, same-sex couples wishing to get married or adopt children, or failing banks that need a hand-out so they can still have their big Christmas party blow-out and year-end bonuses.

And yet when they're held to account for it, they're the victims here. Alberto Gonzales says he is just as much a victim of terrorism as everyone else and honestly can't understand what he did to earn him so much scorn. Vice President Dick Cheney has no idea why his poll numbers are so low, but then, he says he doesn't care about things like that. White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley can't understand why America couldn't see what a likable and compassionate person George W. Bush really is.

Since nothing that happens is their fault, it has to be someone else's, right? Blame the media for not seeing the wonderfulness of George W. Bush. Blame them for not seeing the mavericky goodness of John McCain. Blame them for not following up on the truth behind Barack Obama's birth certificate or that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's outbursts were just a clever cover-up for Mr. Obama's true Muslim beliefs. Blame the media and the moon and the stars for causing the financial markets to melt down just as John McCain was pulling ahead in the polls in September, and blame David Letterman for making him look like a panic-striken ditherer. Blame the voters for being too stupid to see through the charade of celebrity, and that all that "no-drama Obama" was really a clever plot by the hysterical lefty blogosphere to make him appear that he's calm and in control. But he smokes! That's a sure sign he's weak!

The Religious Right deserves their own pew for wailing about being the victims. They spew hatred and bigotry about gays and lesbians, equate same-sex marriage with criminal acts, pour millions of dollars into a campaign of misinformation and demagoguery to revoke a right granted by the Supreme Court of California, and then get all weepy and whiny when -- too late -- the provoked gay community fights back. The intolerant have the chutzpah to claim they're the victims of religious bigotry. My, my.

People who are capable of adult behavior and mature thought processes would take the lessons that were taught them and learn from them. But apparently that's not the way it works for the conservative mind. No, the way to really get back into the good graces of the American people is to proclaim that what we really need is more finger-pointing, more demonizing, more race-baiting -- "Barack the Magic Negro" is just the curtain-raiser. We need more of Sarah Palin, more of Joe the Plumber, more union-busting, more poor people going to the emergency rooms for their health care, and more smiting down of the queers by the hand of God to really teach this country a lesson.

In one respect, I hope they cling to this mantra of victimhood because it really does make it easy to mock them and dismiss them as the infantile alibiers that they have become. As Paul Krugman notes,
Will the Republicans eventually stage a comeback? Yes, of course. But barring some huge missteps by Mr. Obama, that will not happen until they stop whining and look at what really went wrong. And when they do, they will discover that they need to get in touch with the real “real America,” a country that is more diverse, more tolerant, and more demanding of effective government than is dreamt of in their political philosophy.

Maybe what they need is Calvin's holistic healing and self empowerment...but the bucket of ice water solution sounds good, too.

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Nobody asked me, but...

Special 2009 Prediction Edition

This was so successful last year...I guess I got lucky...that I thought I'd do it again this year.

India/Pakistan - This I think will be the most important story of 2009, what happens on the subcontinent. We saw the beginnings of a serious conflict starting with the assassination of Bhutto in December 2007, and moving right through the Mumbai attacks last year. Already today, India is accusing Pakistan of a soft touch in dealing with terrorists. This could be a horrendous situation and if I had to pick the flash point of the next world war, this is it. Remember, they are both nuclear powers. Pakistan is bordered by China and Iran, as well, so not good.

Israel/Palestine - Sort of a no-brainer, to be sure, but a challenge to President Obama, nonetheless and likely to be dominating the news this winter and the end of the year, I think.

The Economy - Again, a no-brainer. What hasn't been talked about much in this country is how global this downturn truly is. China has already enlisted the aide of several western economic consultants to guide it through this recession, but as the Bush administration has shown, there's a flu in the economy that swamps even seasoned policymakers. China becomes the linchpin of the global economy, because while America is still the strongest economic force, much of that is due to China's willingness to do just about anything to make a buck.

Energy - I'm going out on a limb here, but my guess is Barack Obama will deal with two birds using his stone of economic recovery: the bad economy and US energy policy. Universally, it is agreed that the US has to shed its dependence on foreign fossil energy sources, and while there is a strong dispute coming from the neaderthals still, over global warming, it seems pretty clear that renewable energy will play a much bigger role in our policy than ever before.

Obesity - With a healthy (if smoking) President in office who has the attention and respect of the country, and can shed his shirt without embarrassing himself, I think the country will finally begin a serious dialogue regarding obesity. That the recession will have people reconsidering their food choices to begin with will help, altho fast food is cheap and easy to get and that will hamper efforts to deal with this problem head-on. Governor Patterson of New York state is already calling for an "obesity tax" tax on sugared soft drinks. I expect this will be expanded to include fatty foods.

Africa - I dropped this from number one to number six this year, because I think things have stabilized a bit, with the Zimbabwean elections now passed, even if the results are muddled. The impact of the economic downturn on the Horn of Africa and sub-Saharan nations like Somalia will play a big role in whether things heat up again or not. I don't think the effects of the downturn filter to Africa until 2010.

Weather - Calling nature twelve months out is always risky, and I was tempted to moderate this topic by calling it "Global Warming", but the fact is, I think we're in for a helluva ride from Mother Nature this year. When you have tornadoes at Christmas in Alabama (not exactly in Tornado Alley), you have the set-up for a horrendous early Spring.

Terrorism - I agree with Joe Biden. I think Barack Obama will be challenged early in his term, just as both Bush and Clinton were, by a terrorist attack, possibly on US soil. Now, this does not mean the attack will be successful, just that there will be an attempt. I think Obama one-ups Bush and Clinton and foils it.

Afghanistan - The winding down of the US presence in Iraq will bring renewed attention to the tenuous situation in Afghanistan, particularly now that Pakistan has re-opened the Khyber Pass. Taliban forces are already making a mockery of the US efforts there, with Kabul being one of the few places where people can go about their business freely. Obama has already stated his intent to increase his focus on that situation.

Cuba - This one will create some waves, but I predict the US will finally end its ridiculous embargo on Cuba. In terms of the side effects of this policy, as the BBC article I've linked to points out, it is a symbolic gesture, largely (I regularly bring Cuban cigars and rum into the US and Customs doesn't even blink an eye, altho if they read this, I expect I'll be strip-searched in two weeks when I return from my trip), but the signals that it sends will be massive.


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More legacy polishing

By Creature

Today, taking center stage on the Bush Legacy tour is national security adviser Stephen Hadley and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten:

Bolten said another of his goals when he took over was to try to get the country to see the likable boss he and other aides saw in private, convinced that would boost Bush's popularity. "I failed miserably," he conceded. "Maybe in the beginning of the sixth year of a presidency, that's a quixotic task. . . . But everybody who has actual personal exposure to the president, almost everybody, appreciates what a good leader he is, how smart he is and, especially, how humane he is."

Hadley invoked Bush's 2000 campaign theme in summing up the president's personal qualities. "He has got this great compassion which was not just a slogan, 'compassionate conservative.' It is who he is. It is one of the great things he brought to this office," Hadley concluded. "This is the one thing that just drives me crazy, that somehow this is an arrogant administration, an arrogant president running an arrogant policy. This guy -- one thing he is not is arrogant.

Laughable. Isn't it? Here's the thing, after eight years the American people have gotten to know this president and we all agree he is an incompetent, intellectually incurious, arrogant, stubborn, emotionally detached, ass. Really, folks, enough with the legacy shining, you're just making yourselves look worse.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Fortune 21 - who's the dumbest of us all?

by Capt. Fogg

What were the "dumbest moments in business" during the newly departed annus horribilis, asks Fortune Magazine, which lists their choice for the top 21 feats of stupidity in 2008. Was it the beggars from Detroit arriving in Washington in private Jets or the Man from Chrysler arriving the second time around in a bloated SUV hybrid scheduled to be cancelled? Can any of that compete with investing money with Bernie Madoff , ( number 17) or be more laughable than John McCain telling us the "the fundamentals of this economy are strong."only hours before the Dow fell 500 points on news of the Lehman bankruptcy? (number 13) Maybe number 21; PhilGramm's calling non-optimists a "nation of whiners" and his condescending dismissal of a troubled economy as a "mental recession" deserved to be on top.

It's hard to rank blunders so gross on any kind of scale. It's hard even to count them when the road to Black Monday was so long and so well paved with politics and patriotism and of course, funny as such pratfalls usually are, nobody can afford to laugh.

January may be a rough month "There's going to be a massive sea change in the retail landscape," said Nina Kampler, executive vice president of Hilco Real Estate, which advises retailers on their property management. and the likelihood is severe enough that even the mixed metaphor won't draw many giggles. All in all, this is not a good time to ask the mirror who's the dumbest of them all. It reflects us all equally.

Cross posted from Human Voices


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Saying Hello To 2009

By Carol Gee

And soon we will be saying goodbye to George W. Bush, The Decider, the commander in chief. On the 20th day from today President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office. Between now and then gives us a chance to make judgments about what we would hope our next President might avoid or modify during his tenure. But one thing is certain; there will be change and uncertainty for some time to come.

More than meets the eye -- Many of us are still asking, as did AlterNet's Gary Brecher, "How did we let this guy get away with being a war president#?" Unfortunately, the bill for our current president's so-called "war on terror" is not going away anytime soon. Time Magazine reported recently that the tab will be a trillion dollars#. They say that it is even costlier than expected, "$775,000 a year for one soldier in Afghanistan." In December of 2006, the NYT reported, "The Iraq war will cost more in 2007 than the $110 billion projected by the White House, said the head of the administration’s budget office#." This figure was just a tad off, I would say.

We wondered whether this would ever happen -- "Iraq takes control of the Green Zone from the U.S.," is the headline from the 1/1/09 Yahoo! News. To me war has never been about the threat of WMD, the politics of sectarian divisions within the country, or which brilliant General was in charge. To me the war has always been about the fatalities, both American and Iraqi. To quote:

The United States handed over control of the Green Zone and Saddam Hussein's presidential palace to Iraqi authorities on Thursday in a ceremonial move described by the country's prime minister as a restoration of Iraq's sovereignty.

. . . Violence around Iraq had plunged in 2008, with attacks declining to an average of 10 a day from 180 a year ago. The murder rate in November was less than 1 per 100,000 people — far lower than many cities in the world. U.S. military deaths in Iraq also plunged by two-thirds in 2008 from the previous year, a reflection of the improving security following the U.S. military's counterinsurgency campaign and al-Qaida's slow retreat from the battlefield. According to a tally by The Associated Press, at least 314 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq in 2008, down from 904 in the previous year. In all, at least 4,221 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since the war began in 2003. For Iraqis, the fatalities had also plunged: During 2008, at least 7,496 Iraqis died in war-related violence according to an AP count, including 6,068 civilians and 1,428 security personnel, down 60 percent from 2007.

And we have no idea what will happen in Iraq in 2009 -- On C-SPAN last evening I watched a fascinating presentation by U.S. News' author Linda Robinson, who wrote "Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search For a Way Out of Iraq." Her analysis was solid, her reporting excellent and her conclusion open-ended. In the same vein about a month ago Time Magazine asked, "When the U.S. Leaves, Will Iraq Strut or Stumble?"# To quote:

. . . don't expect peace to break out anytime soon. In a country seething with ancient animosities, it's almost certain that politics will be attended by violence. Ahead of provincial elections in January, there's a potentially explosive Shi'ite-vs.-Shi'ite clash brewing in the south. In Sunni areas to the west and north of Baghdad, a new alliance of tribal sheiks, many of them U.S.-funded ex-insurgents, are challenging the Sunni parties currently in power.

But it is in Kirkuk where the disputes seem most intractable. At its simplest, this is an old-fashioned turf war. The Kurds want the city and its hinterlands to be folded into the northern province of Kurdistan. Turkomans (a distinct ethnic group sharing ancestry with modern Turks) and Arabs would prefer it to remain outside Kurdish hegemony, in the separate Tamim province. Each group points out that the city was once ruled by its forebears. All know that outside Kirkuk is one of Iraq's largest oil fields. Also at stake is the larger, constitutional question of whether Iraq should have a powerful central government, favored by Turkomans and Arabs, or highly autonomous regions, as the Kurds wish. And finally, there are outside influences: Turkey backs the Turkomans and, with Iran, opposes greater Kurdish power.

Even in these tough economic times the remainder of the Military Industrial Complex continues to thrive. See this 12/15/08 essay from Mother Jones: "Back to the future with the Complex." To quote:

Is it possible that one of the Pentagon's contractors has a tripartite business model for our tough economic times: one division that specializes in crock-pots, another in adult diapers, and a third in medium caliber tactical ammunition?

. . . It isn't hard to imagine more civilian firms, especially ones which are already Pentagon contractors, getting into (or back into) the weapons game. After all, when the Big Three Detroit automakers were scrounging around for a bailout just a few weeks ago, they used America's persistent involvement in armed conflict as one argument in their favor. For example, Robert Nardelli, Chrysler's chief executive, told the Senate that the failure of the auto industry "would undermine our nation's ability to respond to military challenges and would threaten our national security." While that argument was roundly dismissed by retired Army Lt. Gen. John Caldwell, chairman of the National Defense Industrial Association's combat vehicles division, it probably wouldn't have been if the automakers made more weapons systems.

Will Presto be the back-to-the-future model for Pentagon contractors in the lean times ahead? Only time will tell. At the very least, it seems that, as long as Americans allow the country to wage wars abroad, require their salads to be shot, and have bladder issues, National Presto Industries has a future.

The wars will move to Afghanistan, or Palestine, or Iran, or Pakistan, or India or . . . We will arm our own soldiers or sell arms to others. The complex seems dug in for the foreseeable future.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo*" and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Ways Harry Reid and Democrats can keep Roland Burris from taking Senate seat

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: If The Senate Democrats Accept Lieberman, Why Not Burris?

10. Since he'll be in Washington, have Rick Warren bring along his "Cone of Silence" and issue that to Burris, as his office

9. Have a debate, between Burris and Caroline Kennedy, winner take all

8. Taking a cue from Obama, Harry Reid can say they are going to text Burris the info on getting into the Senate

7. Tell Burris that, if he comes to the Senate, he'll be the first one Michele Bachmann will have investigated

6. All they have to do is say that Chuck Norris is thinking about taking the seat and the controversy is all over

5. Ring the Congress with the Arizona Minutemen

4. Get Todd Kobus, who tackled Patriots linebacker Junior Seau, to line up Burris as he goes to enter the Senate

3. Shame him - Get Zbigniew Brzezinski to say to Burris, and Blagojevich, "You have a such stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on it's almost embarrassing to listen to you."

2. They can throw their shoes at him, until he gets the hint

1. Inform Burris that they lost the Senate seat in the Bernie Madoff Scandal

Bonus Burris-Blagojevich Hijinks

Deb Cupples: Blagojevic Shoots U.S. Senate the Bird

Attytood: Between Barack and a hard place: Blago picks a senator

Think Progress: Former U.S. Atty: Blagojevich appointment shows he’s ‘crazy like a fox,’ playing to future black jurors

Nate Silver: Reid Has Few Ways to Block Burris Appointment

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

By Michael J.W. Stickings

To all of you, from all of us here at The Reaction, a Happy New Year. We wish you all the best for 2009.


On a personal note, what a year it's been.

With two small children, including a baby, time seems to pass so quickly. My youngest daughter is now over a year and a half old. Hard to believe. I remember the day she was born, and when I first held her, so clearly. My other daughter, now eight, almost seems to be a teenager already. She's growing up so fast. It's scary, in a way, and I'm just trying to take it all in.

And here we are now, still settling into our new house, now our home. I cannot possibly explain the happiness I feel when I look at my family, as I do now, at the end of 2008. I am deeply in love with my beautiful wife. I have two amazing and beautiful daughters whom I adore. I even have a beautiful cat who has been with me through so much over the years. Their happiness is my happiness. They are the wonders of my life.

As for the blog, it was our best year so far, with October and November, in terms of traffic, the best months of the blog's existence. We wrote about so much this year -- it isn't all politics all the time -- but, obviously, the big story for us was the election. This time last year I was in England, watching from afar, preparing for the primary season ahead, but mainly taking a break. Back then, I was an Edwards supporter, more or less, and undecided between Obama and Hillary. I welcomed Obama's win in Iowa, but then also Hillary's in New Hampshire. And then, over time, I grew to be an enthusiastic Obama supporter, declaring my support just before Super Tuesday. There were divisions, then, between those of us on the same side, even here at The Reaction, but we eventually made it through a long and at times bitter campaign and united again behind Obama.

What an incredibly exciting, and anxious, time it was, not so long ago, and then, on Election Day, November 4, we witnessed history. I still cannot explain how incredible that was, and what Obama's win meant to me. It was perhaps the key political moment of my adult life, and, as a blogger, the culmination of so much. I may not be a celebrity blogger, or an A-lister, and this may not be the biggest blog around, but we all worked so hard for this, giving up so much of our time, all of us blogging as a hobby, as something we love to do.

And so I look ahead to 2009 with hope that it is another great year for us, for this blog and for my co-bloggers' and contributors' blogs, but more importantly that it is a great year for us all personally, and for all of you. It is a difficult time, I know, with so much uncertainty and instability at home and around the world, but let us hope that there is significant progress towards a better future in 2009.

Happy New Year to my friends and family, including my family far away in England, to my fabulous co-bloggers, to my friends in the blogosphere, and to all of you, our readers. Be safe out there, be kind to one another, and celebrate in peace.

See you all in 2009.

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Wise to the words

By Capt. Fogg

This being the last day of 2008, it's customary to bring out my consultant Dr. Syntax and air his views about how none of you speak English properly. Indeed there are a number of stupid neologisms, platitudes,clichés, malapropisms and other linguistic transgressions I'm sick of hearing and you should be too.

It seems however, that academia has scooped old Syntax and released a more official list of awful verbal offal yesterday. Michigan's Lake Superior State University has taken it upon itself, or at least the English Department has, to ban a number of recent common usages, and although my cranky friend is a bit offended at the lack of respect and recognition he feels he deserves, he's used to it and he quite agrees with most of their condemnations.

Carbon footprint has been spewed forth from journalistic smokestacks all year and it deserves to be at the top of the list for many reasons, not the least of which is the inherent misunderstanding of basic chemistry. It's the compounds of carbon fouling the air and carbon dioxide is no more carbon than water is hydrogen, nor does either substance lend itself to having footprints. Find a better term, says my friend Syntax, or you may find his footprint on your you know where.

What else has brought forth the wrath of Syntax this year? Green: yes it's easier to type than ecologically advantageous and easier to attach to every trivial thing, action or policy the creativity of Madison Avenue and other enthusiastic simpletons can dream up. A thermos bottle isn't particularly green, for instance, unless it's made by Stanley, and virtually all things advertised as such wouldn't make a bit of difference even if most of the world bought them -- unless being green in the face from disgust counts. Algae is green and we could do with less of it in our rivers and ponds. Organic? Crude oil and snake venom are organic. Don't look for them at Whole Foods.

Syntax, you'll note I'm not calling him "the good doctor" because that's vapid cliché number 147 on his list, remains thoroughly opposed to a number of hackneyed metaphors, so overused that they have often obliterated more accurate and legitimate words. The now permanent fatwa on the carrion metaphor impact has been joined by ass kicking and references to suction to indicate incompetence or disapproval. These stopped being creative or even mildly humorous before you were born. Stop it.

Perhaps it will be another 4 years before we have to arrest anyone for using stumping and campaign trail, but please use the time to think of more direct replacements for these bits of verbal road-kill.

Syntax has nearly beaten efforting and texting to death, as he does with "verbed" nouns in general, but nearly isn't enough, is it?

Euphemisms such as right-sizing don't disguise the fact that your company is firing your department and it just makes your boss more of a jerk then you knew he was.

Changing the sign on your Chinese, Korean, Thai, Indian or Japanese restaurant to say "Asian cuisine" makes you sound like a moron and it's an insult to the ethnicities you're attempting to cover with some gluey "Asian sauce." There's no such category as Asian, Asiatic or Oriental food - or sauce, and yes all three words mean exactly the same thing. And while we're on the subject of food, what the hell is comfort food and what would discomfort food be?

Graphic doesn't mean scary, and issue isn't synonymous with problem or concern. A bowel movement is an issue -- constipation s a problem.

There's been nothing new in rocket science since Newton and as a metaphor for technical difficulty, you'd be better off talking about rocket technology. All you'd lose thereby is the association with the lemmings of language.

Warfighter. Did we really need that one and doesn't it serve to dehumanize a soldier? As the military ( right after the business school) is often at the forefront of promulgating misleading and opaque usage, I'm suspicious, although I will admit with some degree of guilty feelings that I've always liked Overkill.

So anyway, the old man is getting a bit tired of you and the thoughtless way you talk and of having to remind you of it every year. We both know you'll be eating double bacon cheeseburgers in front of the TV by next week regardless of all your resolutions and you'll still be using "fell swoop" and "control freak" as though you knew what you were saying, you reprobate you.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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The legacy tour continues

By Creature

As if hearing from George, Dick, Condi, and Laura weren't enough, here's Alberto Gonzales playing the victim as he tries to shit-shine his forever tarnished image:

"What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service? ... "[F]or some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror."

Alberto, leaving aside your disrespect for the actual casualties of the war on terror, you are not portrayed as evil because you implemented "policies people disagree with." You are portrayed as evil because you helped shape and implement policies people consider illegal. You're lucky we have a feckless and almost equally guilty Congress, otherwise you'd be in jail. If the United States ever finds its footing and becomes a country of laws again, I hope to heck one day you, and your buddy Dick, will be swapping war stories behind the same set of iron bars.

Think Progress has more.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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In the rearview mirror

By Carl

The year is ending today. Please accept my best and fondest wishes for a healthy, and happy New Year. May your best day of 2008 be your worst day of 2009.

I think I suffer from Bush Fatigue. Eight years of a good president is wearing. Eight years of a bad president is exhausting. Knowing full well that he's leaving at the end January, one is tempted to ask if there's any way he can hurry along.

I have hopes for Obama's presidency. They used to be high hopes, until the markets melted away and the economy went in the pan. Now, I just hope he can stop the bleeding and sew up a few of the bigger wounds. He should win a second term (it's hard to unelect a president -- just look at 2004), by which we will have been firmly on the road to recovery.

I think. I hope. It would be hard to imagine a crisis so severe that it would outlast a President's term but there you have it.

Barring a major outbreak of amazing news -- it could happen! -- I should end 2009 about as well as 2008 ends. 2008 saw the collapse of several things in my life, from my health to some family issues that really need to be taken care of. The shocks are over, the regrouping has begun. I figure it will take about a year to recover. This is my time to praise my Jesus for keeping an eye on me, and giving me good friends who have not been afraid to stand up to me and question what I'm all about.

I've made it hard on a lot of you this year, and for that, I am sorry. I've purposely distanced myself in order to give myself some breathing room to examine all that's gone on in the world and in my world. I hope you'll understand. If our friendships cannot survive that, then perhaps we were not meant to be friends in the first place.

I started the year with some goals, and I think I've achieved a few of them. One was to make my blog Simply Left Behind a voice in Blogtopia (©
Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo).

More important, my blog won the Weblog Award. I'm nominated again (I'll link the pages and such later this week). I hope to work my magic one more time.

I guest-blogged at
Crooks and Liars for a week.

More important to me is not to watch my hit counter rack up points every day, but to see my ideas echo along the corridors of Blogtopia and the blogosphere from time to time. Every so often, I'll see someone quote a piece of mine (I can see the incoming links) and read a discussion about the idea. This is good. This is why I blog. I got this massive brain, the size of a planet, and it would be a damned shame to keep all of the thoughts inside. And for convincing me to do this, I have to thank Katrina. Again.

I promise to work harder on this, to hone my writing and critical thinking (and to perfect my grammar and spelling) and make it easier to coalesce the way I see this world into things that can be talked about. I don't have the time, like a lot of the furry mammalian bloggers, to sit and think and read and edit. I write these posts sitting at my desk at work, and even MIS is getting antsy about that much time spent. It means I will have to work harder at making myself clear.

I want to do this without losing sight of something valuable to be: the transparent thought process. A careful reader of my work will notice every once in a while I'll post something disjointed. This simply means I haven't considered everything yet, but that I feel strongly one way already. I don't want to lose that, because in sharing my thoughts, I share a bit of myself with you.

As well, it gives my reader the opportunity to take his or her own journey with me. It's been fun sometimes to correspond, in comments or email, about a nugget of information and see where things go.

2009 projects to be a quiet year, from a blog standpoint. I don't see where Obama has many choices about what he can and cannot do, so I can't imagine he'll make any significantly controversial decisions. We've pretty much hashed out his policies for the first half of the year, and I don't see him as having the courage to take a real risk with the economy as tattered as it is.

I hope I'm wrong, of course. I like watching my hit counter soar!

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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Ownership Society+Unregulated Markets=Crash+Burn

Guest Post by Ted Leibowitz

As mentioned at State of the Day a couple of times back in September, the conservative "ownership society" slogan and blind push has greatly contributed to the economic meltdown currently sucking poor and middle class Americans out their homes and into homeless shelters or the street.

The New York Times ran an in-depth piece on the subject last week.

From his earliest days in office, Mr. Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.

He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities, an initiative that dovetailed with his ambition to expand the Republican tent — and with the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.

For the Bushists, it's another "we couldn't have known" moment like the flying of planes into skyscrapers and the devastation wrought on New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina:

“There is no question we did not recognize the severity of the problems,” said Al Hubbard, Mr. Bush’s former chief economics adviser, who left the White House in December 2007. “Had we, we would have attacked them.”

The fact is they should have seen it coming, there were warnings, but as was typical for the Bush Administration, ideology trumped reality:

Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush’s first chief economics adviser, said there was little impetus to raise alarms about the proliferation of easy credit that was helping Mr. Bush meet housing goals.

“No one wanted to stop that bubble,” Mr. Lindsey said. “It would have conflicted with the president’s own policies.”

Today, millions of Americans are facing foreclosure, homeownership rates are virtually no higher than when Mr. Bush took office, Fannie and Freddie are in a government conservatorship, and the bailout cost to taxpayers could run in the trillions.

Bushco tried to fire the head of the goverment office that oversees Fannie and Freddie, Armando Falcon, Jr., on the day he was to give a speech outlining how the two companies could default on debt and how that could lead to a financial meltown. The report also called attention to Fanny and Freddie's expanding use of derivatives. Does this remind anyone of the 4-star General Eric Shinseki, who the Bush Administration fired because he said it would take hundreds of thousands of troops to pacify post-war Iraq? Shineski's take on things seems to be far closer to the mark than the "intelligence" the Bushists like to blame for the mess they created, so it is good to see that President-Elect Obama has picked the smart guy to be his Secretary of Veteran's Affairs.

Also of note in the article is how the warnings of an economic advisor, Jason Thomas, were completely ignored:

Typically, as home prices increase, rental costs rise proportionally. But Mr. Thomas sent charts to top White House and Treasury officials showing that the monthly cost of owning far outpaced the cost to rent. To Mr. Thomas, it was a sign that housing prices were wildly inflated and bound to plunge, a condition that could set off a foreclosure crisis as conventional and subprime borrowers with little equity found they owed more than their houses were worth.

Read more here. (Believe it or not, there is more! Tons more! Including other Heckuva Job Brownie-like nepotistic political appointments!)

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Stunningly superficial

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In case you missed it, former NSA Zbigniew Brzezinski yesterday called out Joe Scarborough -- directly to his face -- on his "stunningly superficial knowledge" of the situation in the Middle East.

Specifically, Brzezinski said: "You know, you have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on that it's almost embarrassing to listen to you."

Hilarious. And right on the money.

For more on the substance of the exchange, see Steve Clemons.

(I can't seem to get the video to work, but both links above take you to it.)

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The book larnin' president

By Libby Spencer

I couldn't bring myself to read Rove's column announcing Bush is really a closet braniac because he's such a prodigious reader but I choked down Richard Cohen's column to find out what he read. Hundreds of books they claim. It's probably true. It's not like he spent a lot of time socializing.

All I can say is I don't find the mere fact that he had an ongoing contest with Karl over who could read the most books all that compelling a case for Bush's intellect. I might best sum up my reaction by saying, you can lead a man to a book, but you can't make him absorb the content, or take any lessons from it.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)


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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Minnesota Senate Recount -- update 8

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Update 8? Something like that? See here.)

The latest: "Franken lead at 50 with absentees left to count," according to the Star Tribune. And a winner may be declared as early (late) as next week in what is "on track to go down as the closest Senate election in U.S. history. Franken's current lead is two one-thousandths of a percent. Put another way, that's one vote for every 58,395 cast."

Senator Al Franken.

Get used to it.

(Assuming that everything goes as anticipated from here on out. Franken's lead should expand with the counting of the unopened absentee ballots, but, of course, Coleman could -- and at this point likely will -- launch a court challenge.)

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Ignorance and racism, alive and well in the GOP

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You would think -- would you not? -- that a contender for the top spot of a major American political party who sent out a CD to party members with the song "Barack the Magic Negro" on it would no longer be a contender.

Oh, how wrong you would be.

Because this is the GOP we're talking about, and many Republicans, it seems, are unabashedly racist -- and in a complete state of denial about it, mainly because they're just too damn ignorant to know any better.

As the Politico is reporting, Chip Saltsman's fortunes haven't quite dimmed as expected. The former head of the Tennessee GOP is even benefitting from the controversy, with party members actually rallying to his side.

Consider these representative comments:

-- Mark Ellis (chairman, Maine GOP): "When I heard about the story, I had to figure out what was going on for myself. When I found out what this was about I had to ask, 'Boy, what’s the big deal here? because there wasn't any."

-- Carolyn McClarty (committee member, Oklahoma GOP): "I don't think he intended it as any kind of racial slur. I think he intended it as a humor gift. I think it was innocently done by Chip."

-- Paul Reynolds (committee member, Alabama GOP): "Chip probably could have thought it through a bit more, but he was doing everyone a favor by giving us a gift. This is just people looking for something to make an issue of."

Really? People are just making "an issue" of this? It's no "big deal? "Magic Negro" isn't a racial slur? It was just a "gift," and all in good fun?

Surely these three idiots aren't alone. The song was first played on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, and I'm sure that many Republicans laughed heartily at its racist depiction of Obama.

As Carol noted, not all Republicans are amused, but it's a pretty damning indictment of what really makes the GOP tick.

(Make sure to read Capt. Fogg's post on the controversy from last Saturday.)

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Year in Review

By Carl

OK, so it's the penultimate day of 2008.

I wait all year to use that word, "penultimate". It reminds me of the Parker ballpoint I got for graduating from junior high school.

Careful readers of my blog might recall that, back on January 4, I ran a special "Nobody Asked Me, But..." in which I predicted the top ten stories of 2008.

Let's look at those predictions again:

1) Sub-Saharan Africa - What can be said about what I picked as the most important story of 2008 except that I hate being right.
Cholera and ebola outbreaks in Zimbabwe and the Congo, a stolen election in Zimbabwe that's threatening to overrun South Africa, tribal warfare in Nigeria, Somalia in chaos again... did I mention the pirates?

2) Global Warming - Well,
what can I say? Two devastating wildfires in Santa Barbara, tornadoes at Christmas (!?), Hurricane Ike and five other storms touching down in the US as well as Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (which killed 85,000 people, tho you never read about it), and 87 tornadoes on Super Tuesday. Apparently, God didn't like His choices much.

3) Oil -
Crude futures averaged $100 a barrel this year, and that's with the high of $147 a barrel in June. This likely caused #7 below.

4) 2008 Elections - I'd say I was right about this being an important story. I'm tempted to say this should have been swapped with number 2 for importance. The Congressional races were, as I pointed out, the real story of the general election. Even now, the entire story has not been written, as Minnesota is taking its time announcing the winner of its senate race.

5) Biotechnology - Believe it or not, this was a big year for biotech. For example, despite the cool Spring temperatures and June floods, the corn crop was the second largest ever produced in America, thanks to biotech. Soy had it's fourth largest crop. And who can forget the
Gardasil battle? The genes for lung cancer were identified. And the crowning achievement: the transplant of a patient's windpipe grown from her own stem cells.

6) Beijing Olympics - pictorial proof:

7) Economic disaster - Your 401(k) lost 40% of its value in 2008 alone, 50% since October 2007. The Bush administration, yet again, proved its inability to respond to any crisis that didn't involve sending troops in.

8) Nationalism - I put this forward as an economic issue, never imagining that when the US sneezed, the world might catch its flu. No one really stepped up to absorb weakened US companies. We saw Saudis invest heavily in Citigroup, but they already had sizable investments there.
Nomura Holdings did buy Lehman Brothers, but any chance of GM or Ford being bought is in abeyance as the bailout program is rolled out. I'd take this one off the list.

9) Indonesia - Again, I focused on natural disaster in Indonesia. This was a bit of a gamble, to be frank. altho I couched it in terms of "near term". Java did suffer some landslides, and many other parts of the island chain had fires, floods and landslides as the year closed. Estimates are that some 500-1,000 people died as the result of these events. The prediction I made was for a catastrophic event to occur. These were mostly do to deforestation and bad land management practices.

10) Avian flu -
Fewer human deaths this year than last, however the disease remains as virulent in the avian population as ever and is spreading farther afield now. However, this is pretty disturbing news.

I'll have my predictions for 2009 up on Friday. Tomorrow, I look back on the year passed with a bit more reflectivity.

That's right, I'll put on my tin-foil hat!

(Cross-posted at Simply Left Behind.)

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