Okay, so maybe he isn’t on drugs…

Greg Palast begins his commentary on President Bush’s State of the Union Address last night:

There was that tongue again. When the President lies he’s got this weird nervous tick: He sticks the tip of his tongue out between his lips. Like a little boy who knows he’s fibbing. Like a snake licking a rat.

In his State of the Union tonight the President did his tongue thing 124 times — my kids kept count.

I’m guessing that drugs would suppress that nervous tic. Maybe I’m wrong.

Other things are scary. Palast points out that to “‘give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers.'” is to “creat[e] a federal citizen profile database.” It is a post hoc justification for the accumulation of personal information under the auspices of the National Security Agency.

As if oil prices were’t already high enough, Bush wants to double the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. You might recall that the idea here was to buy oil when prices are low. So either the Bush administration is arguing that prices will be far higher than at present or that they are currently too low (doubling the Reserve will surely increase demand, pushing prices higher) and that the oil companies haven’t made enough money.

Gap between rich and poor continues to widen

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The new [Congressional Budget Office] data document [shows] that income inequality continued to widen in 2004. The average after-tax income of the richest one percent of households rose from $722,000 in 2003 to $868,000 in 2004, after adjusting for inflation, a one-year increase of nearly $146,000, or 20 percent. This increase was the largest increase in 15 years, measured both in percentage terms and in real dollars.

In contrast, the income of the middle fifth of the population rose $1,700, or 3.6 percent, to $48,400 in 2004. The income of the bottom fifth rose a scant $200 (or 1.4 percent) to $14,700.

You’re supposed to quit while you’re ahead

So, if the Iranians are supplying arms to fuel the insurgency in Iraq, where are the guns? Anthony Cordesman, a former Defense Department official and military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington says, “We are still making arguments from authority without detail and explanation. We’re making them in an America and in a world where we really don’t have anything like the credibility we’ve had in the past.” It seems the groups receiving Iranian aid are nominally US allies. So, “[s]ome U.S. officials have also suggested that Iran, a Shiite theocracy, has provided aid to the Sunni insurgents, who have led most of the attacks against U.S. forces,” but “Sunni insurgents in Diyala don’t appear to need outside suppliers. They exploit massive weapons stashes containing materiel dating back to the Iran-Iraq war, when Hussein had a major military base in the area.

There is a claim that “U.S. forces have picked up specially shaped charges used to make roadside bombs capable of penetrating advanced armor, he said, with markings that could be traced to Iran and dates that were recent.” But despite displaying evidence of other weapons finds, “U.S. officials have declined to provide documentation of seized Iranian ordnance despite repeated requests.”

Kicking Bush when he’s down…

My favorite professor argued last night that George Bush has gotten so far out of hand that something big will happen in the next six months.

Eric Alterman, in his Altercation newsletter from Media Matters for America, brings us the following two quotes:

  1. Harry Reid: “This morning, I’d like to be clear: The President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking Congressional authorization.”
  2. Nancy Pelosi: “The president knows that because the troops are in harm’s way, that we won’t cut off the resources. That’s why he’s moving so quickly to put them in harm’s way.

So it’s finally looking like the Democrats are showing some backbone. But Pelosi is still the one who very loudly proclaimed that “impeachment is off the table.” Democrats have shown no sign of re-evaluating this view even since Bush has removed any doubt that he’s delusional by threatening to take on Iran and Syria even when the United States is already overextended in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is now easy to criticize Bush. Nearly the entire country is doing it. So Democrats can do so without appearing to shift from their claim to “govern from the center.” This criticism is therefore unimpressive.

I am remembering J. Herbert Altschull’s criticism of the credit often given the press for bringing down Nixon. He wrote that Nixon’s fall was really precipitated when congressional Republicans had had enough.

I’m deeply, deeply suspicious that the same will need to happen here. It certainly won’t be the press, and it sure doesn’t look like it will be the Democrats.

My professor thinks the Democrats will tell the Republicans that Bush is their man, and their responsibility. He’s out of hand, and needs to be brought back within a constitutional regime.

My problem with all this is that even if they do impeach Bush, it would be Cheney who succeeds him.

America a “rogue state?” No, it couldn’t be.

John B. Judis argues we have crossed the line into the status of a “rogue state” without even the pretense of justification for our support of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia.

It’s Iraq writ small. And it can’t be blamed on Donald Rumsfeld…. [T]here was no justification for Ethiopia’s invasion. It was a clear violation of the U.N. charter. The neighboring people have been feuding for centuries, but Ethiopia’s Christian government could not cite a significant provocation for its attack on the Muslim country and its Islamic government. If anything, Ethiopia’s invasion closely resembled Iraq’s invasion in August 1990 of Kuwait. But, instead of criticizing the Ethiopians, the United States applauded and aided them.

I think Judis is rather late to the conclusion. And from what I hear of the world, the world would think Judis is rather late to the conclusion.

But this wasn’t just about supporting the Ethiopian invasion. Referring to US airstrikes supposedly aimed at Al Qaeda “on January 7 and 8 in Somali border towns,” Judis argues that these will enhance Al Qaeda recruiting efforts:

[T]he United States claimed its bombs were intended to kill an Al Qaeda operative supposedly connected to the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. But he was not among the victims; nor were other Al Qaeda members. Then reports began trickling in of civilian deaths from the AC-130 gunships that the United States supposedly sent to hunt down the single terrorist. According to Oxfam, the dead included 70 nomads who were searching for water sources. The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, estimated that 100 were wounded in an attack on Ras Kamboni, a fishing village near the Kenyan border. The Economist, which is not an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, wrote, “The Americans used the AC-130, a behemoth designed to shred large areas instantly, in the knowledge that the killing fields would be cleared before journalists and aid workers could reach them.” It’s a war crime to kill civilians indiscriminately.

“Now is not the time to talk”

According to the Times of London, “US forces have been ordered to detain Iranian agents in Iraq” and Britain is joining a United States naval force aimed at “chang[ing] the behaviour of the Islamic regime in Tehran.” Two US aircraft carrier strike groups will be positioned in the Persian Gulf region and Patriot missile batteries will be deployed. “Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, described the build up as an evolving strategy to confront Iran’s ‘destabilising behaviour.'”

“There is a distinct possibility that the current cold war could turn hot,” [Dr Ali Ansari, an Iranian expert at the University of St Andrews] said. “This is an accidental war waiting to happen. Even with the best will in the world crises are not easily managed. Before you know it you can lose control of the situation.”

The article supports an impression of the US aligning itself against Shi’ites:

The US military build-up is seen as an attempt by Washington to ease concerns among its traditional Arab allies in the region, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, whose leaders have spoken out repeatedly against the danger of Iran extending its influence across the Middle East.

War stories that don’t make sense

President Bush called for over 20,000 more troops to be sent to Iraq. It will evidently take months for all these troops to get there and filmmaker Michael Moore points out that this will merely return troop levels to what they were last year; the situation wasn’t under control then either.

I heard a rumor that these troops were going to be sent to the border with Iran to protect against an Iranian retaliation for an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, due to occur by the end of February. But 20,000 troops doesn’t seem likely to be enough for that job either. If the Israeli strike happens as the rumor predicts and the Iranians retaliate in a conventional manner as the rumor predicts (two very big ifs), the 20,000 troops will be far too little, far too late.

So if none of this makes any sense, the only thing that makes sense is to try and figure out whom the intended recipient of this message is and what that message actually is. I’m guessing the people in that part of the world have a far better sense of the situation on the ground than most Americans; they won’t be impressed either. And it seems like most Americans strongly oppose any escalation; they won’t be impressed.

If there’s a message here, it seems to be one of increasing presidential detachment from reality. I don’t think I even wonder what Bush is saying to those portraits that hang on the White House walls.