Iraq. The economy. Repeat.

As I’ve said before and will say again, yes, but after pointing out a couple of things I will refine what I’ve been going on about a little more clearly.

First, Iraq — if I’ve not mentioned it before, you really should be going to the iCasualties site on a regular basis. From that we can learn:

  • 141 American military deaths this year so far.
  • 2817 Iraqi deaths so far — that have been reported, at least.

Further, going from there to the Reuters summation of reports in Iraq, these are the type of things that can happen on any given Sunday or Monday:

* TIKRIT – Two U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Salahuddin province, the U.S. military said. Two other U.S. soldiers, two Iraqi security volunteers and a civilian translator were wounded.

* BASRA – A local councillor in a town near the southern city of Basra was assassinated in front of his home by unknown gunmen, police said.

* MOSUL – A roadside bomb struck a police car in the northern part of the northern city of Mosul, wounding two policemen, police said.

* BASRA – Iraqi forces arrested a gang responsible for kiddnapping and killing doctors, clerics and women in Basra, said Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf.

* MUSAYYIB – A U.S. drone aircraft crashed near Musayyib, south of Baghdad, and was recovered, the U.S. military said.

* BAGHDAD – Four bodies were found around the capital on Monday. BAGHDAD – U.S. forces killed three militants on Monday morning who had shot a rocket-propelled grenade at their patrol in New Baghdad in the southeast part of the capital, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD – A U.S. drone aircraft fired a Hellfire missile at three heavily-armed militants in Sadr City, east Baghdad, on Sunday night, killing all of them, the U.S. military said.

SOUTHERN IRAQ – The Iraqi Defence Ministry said Iraqi forces killed 30 militants in southern Iraq over the past 24 hours.

BAGHDAD – Militants fired a rocket on Sunday that landed in the Kadhimiya area of northern Baghdad, killing one civilian and wounding eight, the U.S. military said. Also in Kadhimiya, an improvised explosive device detonated in front of a U.S. patrol, killing one civilian and wounding three, the U.S. military said.

And so forth. Spelling out the implications hardly seems necessary but let me remind everyone that this is now seen as an ‘improved’ situation. It is, comparatively — and that’s the only level it has improved on. But hundreds of people are still dying in droves. You can’t explain that away with a handwave.

The questions have all been asked before but note how they are no nearer a resolution — how long is this all going to take? How much is it worth? Is it worth it all? What is the purpose of continuing? There are melodramatic and foolish things which could and have been said all around on this issue but a little more hardheadedness at this point would not go amiss. For everything like Petraeus getting nominated to head Central Command, there’s a report on how the patchwork coordination of reconstruction efforts is a bureaucratic disaster. For every bit of waffle that Rice delivers, say, you get stuff like this:

Iraq is resisting U.S. proposals for a pair of new bilateral security agreements, saying it expects Washington to compromise on “sensitive issues,” including the right to imprison Iraqi citizens unilaterally, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Monday.

Other problematic areas now being negotiated, Zebari said in an interview, are provisions in U.S. drafts to give American contractors immunity from Iraqi law and allow the United States to conduct military operations without Iraqi government coordination. “These are the main ones, but there could be others,” he said, among them “issues of sites, of locations, of access” by U.S. troops.

Even after Blackwater the whole issue of the contractors is still up in the air. Are you surprised? Why, if you are? Why are you surprised about ANY of this?

As for that economy, where to start? (Right now, understandably, people are jawing about gas prices, but I admit that given the growing worldwide food crisis I think there’s a bigger problem to think about — higher gas prices in comparison are the type of problems you want to have, trust me.) Anyway, there’s this piece on Moody’s as credit raters which is instructive, and elsewhere here’s a little something:

Default notices — the first step toward foreclosure — were sent to owners of 110,000 California homes from Jan. 1 to March 31, according to La Jolla- based DataQuick Information Systems. That’s about 1.4% of the homes in the state.

Defaults are up 143% from the same period last year. Homeowners in default can avoid foreclosure by catching up on payments, refinancing or selling. But fewer are doing so.

Just 32% of the properties in default will avoid foreclosure, DataQuick estimates, down from 52% a year ago.

There are other examples.

There is something interesting to note, however, about the tone of the comments in the LA Times blog linking to that story at a lot of places. A couple of examples:

It would be fascinating to learn how many of these foreclosures were to illegal immigrants.

Just another reason why Americans are fleeing Mexifornia.

I’m not surprised. I moved to the mid-west – flyover country to the elitists on the coasts. But we’re not having forclosure problems. Anyway, every time I visit California, I shake my head at the high degree of materialism goin going there. I’m glad I left.

As other comments on the blog indicate, this story was apparently linked by Drudge — and that could explain a lot of things. Yet there’s another slew of comments worth noting, the ones saying things like “Most mortgages are being paid just fine, this is a nonstory!” What’s implied there, simply put, is that there’s a status quo which is — potentially, conditionally — content and not feeling affected by the larger situation — at least, not yet.

What’s the larger point to make here? Nothing deep — this is only a refinement of something I’ve long since concluded — but still can be pointed out. It goes something like this:

According to this official US Census notice from 2005, voter turnout in the US presidential election was 64% of the potential electorate, up from 60% four years previously. Turn this around, though — this meant that 36% didn’t vote, and that this 36% in fact consisted of the biggest voting bloc of the presidential election, larger than the numbers for Bush or Kerry. That’s a big chunk of people who shrugged and thought ‘heck with it’ — setting aside questions of good citizenship, the implied meaning of their ‘vote’ is that they felt that it didn’t matter to their lives who was in, whether because they thought things wouldn’t change anyway or that they were just fine as they are or whatever. It is an embrace, however conscious, of a status quo that is believed to be generally inalterable.

The meaning of that requires more time and research than I can put into it, though doubtless it’s been done. As the primaries grind on and looking further ahead into the future becomes less of a projection, I find myself wondering about that 36% and what will change this time around. We hear a lot of talk about energized voters among the Democratic Party supporters and I think this is a true statement, though prone to potential misreading (thus John Cole’s take on Pennsylvania votes last night — when he says “What is shocking is the turnout- 2.5 million Democrats versus 750k Republicans voting statewide. That can not be good for the GOP down-ticket this fall,” he is right but at the same time the Republican race has long since been decided, so I would be cautious out of seeing a specific sign here).

But as long as that chunk of the nonvoting populace — and more specifically its near cousin, the ‘undecided until the election is almost here’ group, which is way larger than political junkies ever realize and which is almost invisible to many of them unless they’re regularly speaking with nonjunkies — is up for play, along with the implicit conservatism of that group (not in a political sense per se, but again, in a sense of ‘things are fine as they are,’ however conveyed), then November ain’t a done deal for the Democratic Party by a long shot. Congress, I’ve no doubt, will stay Democratic and will probably become even more so. But the presidency is still up for grabs.

So to conclude, when I keep mentioning ‘Iraq, economy,’ I am operating with a basic projection of the data to hand, combined with my own thoughts on the American electorate as a whole and how our society has functioned over the years. This projection tells me, right now:

  • If some combination of Iraq and the economy, or even one of them, gets so noticeably bad that the implications are inescapable, the GOP gets the blame because of the current inhabitant of the White House. McCain loses, the Democratic candidate wins.
  • If Iraq and the economy both maintain themselves at the level they are at now — causing discontent and some concern but not otherwise going obviously and immediately to hell in a handbasket, yet — then barring some complete disaster on his part, which I don’t rule out at all, McCain wins. He wins in a close election perhaps, but he wins.

In both cases, it comes down to the non-voting bloc and the undecided bloc — the majority of voters. There are other factors and there will be other things that come up that nobody even knows about yet, and if my projection turns out to be wrong, it’s wrong. I’m obviously talking big here but this is just my own cockeyed view. But it’s the possible pair of futures that makes the most sense to me and which looks beyond the primaries to November, when it all comes together.

It’s all down to the calendar. There’s still over half a year to go. And so, we wait.

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3 Responses to “Iraq. The economy. Repeat.”

  1. ChenZhen Says:

    I think you’re right about what issues it’ll come down to, but that’s one heck of a prediction. With gas prices going where they’re going, it’s hard to imagine the economy not being a source of contention after a long summer of paying $4 a gallon.

    I’d like to think that one wouldn’t have to ‘root’ for things to go badly if we want a Democrat to win. Things have gone badly, and I don’t think that people are going to forget that in the next 6 months.

    But I’ve made a prediction of my own, ’cause on my blog I’ve stated that the debates will sink McCain, separate from anything else that’s going on. So, I’ll hi-5 ya on that. lol

  2. Ned Raggett Says:

    ‘Rooting’ for things to go bad is a harsh way to put it but I see what you’re getting at. I do think ultimately that there’s been enough undercurrents going on that the GOP face an uphill battle but everyone predicting a huge defeat already is jumping the gun big time.

    As for gas, McCain’s deal about ‘hey, just lift the tax for a bit’ is a classic bit of bait-and-switch which would pay him dividends — at least at this point.

  3. Hell has frozen over — Karl Rove and I agree on something « Ned Raggett Ponders It All Says:

    […] Vague sentiments all but at least prefaced with the ‘too early to know,’ which is the core part. And there’s other stuff in the piece which is of general interest — otherwise, though, he’s coming pretty close to what I said a few weeks back: […]


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