Take Five (Really, Really, Really Fuzzy Math edition)

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ONE: Misunderestimations

This week marked the tenth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq, illegal as in fraudulently undertaken, thereby invalidating any supposed sanction previously conferred either by Congress or the United Nations, and also incomprehensibly immoral, like all crimes against humanity.

There should be no surcease, ever, of denunciation of the criminal horror unleashed on Iraq by the Bush administration and those who helped enable it, the latter largely for shamefully political reasons. In a nation with such a bounteous supply of prisons, there’s plenty of room to house the guilty for the rest of their lamentably natural lives, and their accomplices for some fraction thereof.

I have no hope that either will ever happen.

This week, fifteen months after the last combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the anniversary was marked in George Bush’s “beacon of democracy in the Middle East” with a wave of lethal violence, tersely quantified by the New York Times:

… 57 dead and nearly 190 wounded in separate attacks that included 17 car bombs, 2 adhesive bombs stuck to cars, and a killing with a silenced gun.

This week, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies released the results of a study conducted by its Cost of War Project. The study found:

The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest…

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number…

When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.

Yes, effecting mass death, destruction and chaos is more efficient than ever, yet it still doesn’t come cheap. Of course, that’s not how the Bush junta made its sales pitch. In the run-up to The Decider’s trigger finger getting intolerably itchy, Mitch Daniels, his OMB director, nudged up the saturation on the administration’s already over-saturated blue skies, to obscure what it would really cost in borrowed cash to dust off Saddam Hussein as one would a garden pest and install a compliant regime straight out of whatever remained of Dick Cheney’s wet dreams:

Mr. Daniels would not provide specific costs for either a long or a short military campaign against Saddam Hussein. But he said that the administration was budgeting for both, and that earlier estimates of $100 billion to $200 billion in Iraq war costs by Lawrence B. Lindsey, Mr. Bush’s former chief economic adviser, were too high.

And then he added a scabrous little grace note:

Mr. Daniels cautioned that his budget projections did not mean a war with Iraq was imminent, and that it was impossible to know what any military campaign against Iraq would ultimately cost.

The viciously, deliberately dishonest math behind all this has long been known, although it has constantly been revised upwards. Contrasts were drawn between prediction and reality almost from the outset, despite the best efforts of White House propagandists, supine but incessantly talkative members of Congress, and the jitterbugging marionettes of the mainstream media. The immense gap between the predicted and actual numbers probably still provokes gales of rheumy cackling whenever the old gang gathers around the fireplace for a snifter of brandy or human blood in whatever dank privy the original PNAC signatories still hold their unholy soirées.

TWO: With Fiends Like These…

Over and above the rancor they directed at Democrats, progressives and various other favorite scapegoats for the deleterious effects of their own wretched ideas, participants at CPAC ‘s 40th anniversary shindig last week were also remarkably splenetic toward each other.

Rick Perry brought a McCain/Romney dartboard:

“Now, the popular media narrative is that this country has shifted away from conservative ideals, as evidenced by the last two presidential elections… That is what they say. That might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012…”

Rand Paul was even more bluntly insolent to his elders:

“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered… I don’t think we need to name any names here, do we?”

Donald Trump’s post-speech press conference featured another of the oafish magnate’s swipes at Karl Rove:

“This is the same mind that spent $400 million and didn’t win a race. He’s the most overrated person in politics…”

Louie Gohmert discharged a lot of indiscriminate buckshot, some of which winged the Nixon administration:

“Vietnam was winnable, but people in Washington decided we should not win it.”

Sarah Palin continued her lupercalian vendetta against sort-of-Republican Mike Bloomberg:

“Bloomberg’s not around,” Palin joked as she slurped on a giant soda, “our Big Gulps are safe.”

Brent Bozell dragged in a whole sack of grudges. Against, for example, Paul Ryan:

“… your proposed budget that has the federal government spending $41 TRILLION over the next ten years, with more and more and more spending increases every single year, and assumes all the oppressive Obamacare taxes. Congressman, that’s what liberal Democrats do, not us.

“This is not conservatism. It is, literally, Democrat Lite…”

Against Haley Barbour:

“… my friend, when you call for unity and on conservatives to ‘sing from the same hymnal’ and then publicly trash good conservative groups like Club for Growth for supporting good conservatives, you’re out of tune, and you’re out of line…”

Against the House leadership:

“John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Kevin McCarthy… you, like virtually every single other Republican elected to Congress solemnly vowed to rid us of Obamacare, which you can do simply by refusing to fund it. Why haven’t you done so?

“You’ve done nothing for over two years but give us excuses and more commitments that tomorrow, yes tomorrow, you’ll honor your promises. Gentlemen, where promises are concerned, you are not what you promised to be.”

With all the heated infighting, it’s a good thing attendees could buy a Marco Rubio water bottle in the exhibit hall.

THREE: Minority Report I

Desperate to garner votes from minority groups they mostly would prefer not to have anything to do with, Republicans still don’t seem to understand the difference between genuine outreach and simple smash-and-grab.

Take the CPAC breakout session called “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” chaired by K. Carl Smith, an African-American conservative. What could go wrong? Lots: Continue reading Take Five (Really, Really, Really Fuzzy Math edition)

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Sunday Talks, 2/19/12

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This Sunday’s television talk shows crunch the numbers in President Barack Obama’s new budget proposal and look ahead to the Feb. 28 Republican presidential primaries in Michigan and Arizona.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” House Budget . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 2/19/12

Take Five (Do Not Disturb edition)

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ONE: Fired Up and Ready to Stay Home!

A couple of weeks back, Take Five looked at a CBS News poll which indicated that voter enthusiasm (meaning a lack thereof) could be a huge problem for the Republicans this year.

The Atlantic Wire recently examined other polls that pretty much confirm the hypothesis. A January 30 Pew poll, for example, pegged the number of Republicans happy with their field of candidates at 46%, while those dissatisfied with it were measured at 52%. As has become a cliché this election year, they can’t resist citing yet another Gallup poll purporting to demonstrate that Republicans remain more enthusiastic about this election than Democrats. The only problem with this is that the accumulating empirical evidence suggests it’s not true.

Nate Silver notes that among “Republican identifiers” only, turnout in Iowa was down 11% over 2008 and New Hampshire was down 15%, and while South Carolina’s turnout jumped 20% over the last presidential election cycle, driven by Gingrich zealots, Florida’s was down 16% from ’08. According to CNN, Nevada’s Republican numbers last Saturday were down by one-third from four years ago.

Watch for increasingly desperate and increasingly amusing spin about all this to emanate from Republican Party apparatchiks and pundits in the coming weeks, but they’ll have to really exert themselves to outdo Romney spokesmouth John H. Sununu, who said this with a resolutely straight and characteristically dour face on MSNBC Monday morning:

In an odd sense when turnout is down, contrary to what you are hearing, people are satisfied with the winning and the candidate that’s winning. They are satisfied with Mitt Romney.

Yeah, sure they are. I’m hoping they’re so satisfied they’ll all stay home in November, too. Sununu’s explanation for that will be priceless.

Ron Paul, seemingly unaware that he himself is a candidate, made some caustic remarks about the Nevada and Florida numbers:

“There’s a lot of people not satisfied with any of the candidates out there,” the Texas congressman said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “And that’s why in many ways we’re seeing a lower turnout right now…”

Mr. Paul said Republicans are wondering why they haven’t been offered someone else besides Mr. Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The last time I looked, Republicans were also being offered, aggressively, not only Ron Paul but also Rick Santorum, and not long ago they also had such choices as Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain, not to mention perplexingly premature dropout Tim Pawlenty and even perennial wingnut darling Roy “Ten Commandments” Moore. And then there was the contingent of maybes whose trial balloons, for the most part, never got any altitude: Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani.

I apologize for taxing your digestive tract with this litany of names, gentle reader, but I think it points up the fact that GOP voters have had no shortage of choices; they’ve only had a shortage of remotely acceptable choices, even by famously lax Republican standards.

So Romney remains the frontrunner, his three remaining challengers – for various reasons – will hang around a while yet, and Republican voters are less than impressed with the whole spectacle. Hey, it’s nice to agree with Republicans about something, I guess.

TWO: Y’all don’t come back now, hear?

The Charleston Place Hotel has filed suit against the Southern Republican Leadership Conference for non-payment of a $227,872 bill. The SRLC disputes the charge and has declared its intention to launch a counterclaim. In a statement released Monday, the organization said:

“After prepaying over $235,000 to the Charleston Place Hotel, we at SRLC 2012 had an unprofessional experience that directly and indirectly breached our contract causing great harm and distraction to our attendees, sponsors, and staff. The Charleston Place’s attempt to mischaracterize this legitimate dispute as the SRLC’s walking away from a bill is in keeping with the pattern of deception and misrepresentation that is a significant part of our ongoing disagreement.

“We continue to seek a reasonable and equitable settlement even as the Charleston Place’s Management seeks to sensationalize. We sincerely hope that cooler heads at the Charleston Place will prevail and they will acknowledge serious errors and actions resulting in a fair agreement.”

The conference lined up a Jan. 19-22 stay… and booked nearly every room in the luxury hotel in the center of downtown Charleston, according to the lawsuit. Political consultant Robert Cahaly signed the agreement on behalf of the group…

The hotel wants to hold Cahaly and others personally responsible for the tab, arguing that the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is nothing but a corporate shell Cahaly uses to hide from his obligations, the lawsuit states.

Cahaly has kept a pretty low profile since threatening to sue the SC SLED before turning himself in on an arrest warrant last fall on charges of making illegal robocalls in half a dozen House Districts in the 2010 election. While there don’t seem to be any recent updates about that case, I’m already looking forward to this new one. If the hotel really has evidence that the SRLC is a corporate front for Cahaly, I can’t wait to read the details. It’s also going to be fascinating to see if the organization’s counterclaim is predicated on something more substantial and credible than Charleston Place management being unprofessional, deceptive, sensationalistic hotheads.

THREE: You’re Nobody ’til Rick Santorum Hates You

Fresh off of telling a seriously ill child and his mother that drug companies should be free to charge whatever the hell they want for the boy’s medication, Rick “Mr. Sensitive” Santorum told a gay Missouri man that he didn’t deserve the “privilege” of marriage. In doing so, Santorum briefly opened a wormhole into the strange and uncharted dimension that is his mind when he said:

“[Marriage is] not a right, it’s something that has existed since the beginning of human history as an institution where men and women come together for the purposes of forming a natural relationship as God made it to be. And for the purposes of having children and continuing that civilization. It is an intrinsic good… And as a result of that, we extend a privilege. We extend certain privileges to people who do that because we want to encourage that behavior…”

Actually, Senator, you don’t need to bother encouraging that behavior, since your enthusiastic advocacy of another type of behavior helps ensure that humans, gay or straight, won’t be around to mess up Creation much longer anyway:

A day before Republicans voice[d] their presidential preferences in the Colorado caucuses, Rick Santorum dismissed climate change as “a hoax” and advocated an energy plan heavy on fossil fuels.

True to form, Santorum couldn’t opine on this without dragging his close personal friend, God, into it:

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the earth’s benefit,” Santorum told an audience at the Colorado School of Mines where he was a guest speaker Monday at the Colorado Energy Summit.

“We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through that course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create…”

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania argued that science has been hijacked by politicians on the left, and that climate change is “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life…

“I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face and yet we have politicians running into the ramparts, unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap and trade…”

Small wonder that Sarah Palin’s star has faded; with Rick Santorum in the news, fans of nonsensical word salad can get their fill and more. At least until catastrophic climate change leads to their extinction, that is.

Oh, and about that “sauce” he mentioned… never mind. Continue reading Take Five (Do Not Disturb edition)

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Sunday Talks, 2/5/12

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On Super Bowl Sunday, there’ll still be plenty of presidential politics on the morning television talk shows. (And Obama will be on before the Super Bowl!)

Three Republican presidential rivals will make the rounds: Newt Gingrich . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 2/5/12

Sunday Talks 8/21/11

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Looks like this week isn’t all Republicans all the time…

With President Barack Obama’s Midwest bus tour in the rearview mirror and a major jobs speech on the horizon, the administration is dispatching Obama campaign advisers . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks 8/21/11