Thursday, August 17, 2006

More Light Blogging Ahead

I leave tomorrow to join my brother and cousin to celebrate my father's 100th birthday. He missed the century mark by a long shot but still, he was born in 1906. That's a centennial. The three of us will compare memories and photos to see what we know of this man whom I never knew as an adult. We'll be in Delaware. Afterward, I will visit friends in Virgina. And write a contract proposal along the way.

Happy trails to all. I'm outta here.

The Meat Market of Ideas

Democrats are finding favor at lobby firms as the prospects for Democtratic success imporove.

Washington lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate offices are moving to hire more well-connected Democrats in response to rising prospects that the opposition party will wrest control of at least one chamber of Congress from Republicans in the November elections.

In what lobbyists are calling a harbinger of possible upheaval on Capitol Hill, many who make a living influencing government have gone from mostly shunning Democrats to aggressively recruiting them as lobbyists over the past six months or so.


Lobbying managers have for years tended to hire Republicans because both Congress and the White House are controlled by the GOP, and access to officials at both places is lobbying's stock in trade. But, in recent months, many of Washington's top lobbyists said in interviews that their decision-making has been altered by an emerging consensus among election experts that the Democrats will boost their numbers in the House and the Senate in the midterm elections Nov. 7 and have a strong shot of winning a majority in the House.

The People's business. It's the best money can buy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Summary Judgment

Juan Cole calls the final score in the July-August 06 Lebanon war:

...Since the United Nations resolution calling for a halt to hostilities, Prime Minister Olmert, President Bush, Secretary-General Nasrallah, President al-Asad and President Ahmadinejad have all been procliaming the war a personal victory.

I don't know why they would want to claim it.

It was such a stupid war. It was thick-as-two-blocks-of-wood strategy on all sides. It was moronic for the Israelis to plan it out last year. It was idiotic for Hizbullah to cross over into Israel, kill soldiers, and take two captive. It was brain dead for the Israeli officer corps and politicians to think they could get anything positive out of bombing Lebanon back to the stone age and making a million people homeless. It was dim-witted for Hasan Nasrallah to threaten Israelis with releasing poison gases from Haifa chemical plants on them. It was obtuse for the Israelis to confront a dug-in guerrilla movement with green conventional troops marching in straight lines. It was dull of Hizbullah to fire thousands of katyushas into open fields where they mainly damaged wild grass. The few times when the rockets managed to kill someone, it was often an Arab Israeli civilian. Stupid.

A three-way tie for last place. At staggering cost. I swear, human beings are so stupid.

Moving On

Reports of Hezbollah crews opening roads, clearing rubble and retrieving bodies demonstrate a strong civic organization to match the impressive military capability demonstrated against an overwhelming foe.

Hezbollah’s reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network — as opposed to the Lebanese government, regarded by many here as sleek men in suits doing well — was in evidence everywhere. Young men with walkie-talkies and clipboards were in the battered Shiite neighborhoods on the southern edge of Bint Jbail, taking notes on the extent of the damage.

“Hezbollah’s strength,” said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University here, who has written extensively about the organization, in large part derives from “the gross vacuum left by the state.”

Hezbollah was not, she said, a state within a state, but rather “a state within a nonstate, actually.”

Hezbollah is huslting toward massive reconstruction, with the prospect of $150 million in Iranian aid. If they show as much civic acumen as they did fighting Israel, they will will use those funds quickly restore basic services and help families and communities rebuild, further enhancing Hezbollah's reputation. That was basically the US plan in Iraq but it ran hard aground on reality. Hezbollah has a very great advantage over the US in creating civic society in Muslim cultures such as southern Lebanon: members are working and fighting at home. They are in place ,know the 'hood and motivated defend their homes and families. Powerful stuff. In the end, the home team wins.

The war itself ends in a tie with great civilian losses in dead and destroyed infrastructure. Colonel Pat Lang declares Hezbollah the winner based on control of the battlefield.

The vast destruction in Lebanon clearly demonstrated that US military technology can lay waste to vast areas, a capability already well known from Iraq. In the end, though, all that power can only destroy. It does nothing to reconcile long standing grievances born of bitter experience. These hatreds and animosities are root causes not easily dismissed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My Home State

Mockingbird's Medley and Billmon offer good insight into Virginia's latest embarassment.

Violating the Recruits

The Government Accountability Office reports another cost of BushCheney's wars: military recruiting violations are on the rise.

Allegations of wrongdoing by military recruitment personnel rose from 4,400 cases in fiscal 2004 to 6,600 cases in fiscal 2005, with substantiated cases increasing from 400 to almost 630, according to the report. The number of cases found to be criminal violations more than doubled, from 33 to 68.

The increase in violations was noted despite a significant decline in the number of people who joined the military. The number of new recruits fell from 250,000 in fiscal 2004 to 215,000 in fiscal 2005, even as recruiting efforts were significantly boosted, according to the GAO report.

Citing internal Defense Department data, the GAO found that about 20 percent of active-duty recruiters believe that irregularities -- such as coercion, concealing information that would disqualify a candidate and falsifying documents, among others -- occur frequently. A majority of recruiters also reported dissatisfaction with their jobs.

The recruiting effort has become more difficult, especially for the Army, because new recruits know that they are likely to be deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army officials have said that parents, coaches and advisers -- the "influencers" of recruits -- are less likely to recommend that young men and women join the military because of the wars. The low unemployment rate also means that young people have other options.

The recruit numbers are interesting, they show a decline. Generally, the DOD reports that it meets recruiting goals but here we see declining numbers. That means they are either REDUCING manpower requirements (in the middle of two and a half wars, I don't think so)they aren't really meeting their goals and spinning the numbers to look good. The Army would be the place to look. It's the hardest sell and has the most difficult requirements.

I'll take the auditors' numbers.