Sunday, July 31, 2005

World Not Set To Deal With Flu

World Not Set To Deal With Flu: "Public health officials preparing to battle what they view as an inevitable influenza pandemic say the world lacks the medical weapons to fight the disease effectively, and will not have them anytime soon."

Can the same Bush Administration, which bought all of last year's flu vaccine from an incompetent manufacturer, with a faulty plant in Britain, screw up a "surprise" pandemic of a deadly bird flu? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Economist's View: Stiglitz on China and Why U.S. Economic Advice is Discounted

Economist's View: Stiglitz on China and Why U.S. Economic Advice is Discounted: "Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001, discusses why yuan revaluation will have little effect on the trade balance, why yuan revaluation could be bad for the U.S., why China wants a stable exchange rate, and why China has little reason to take economic advice from this administration"

Stiglitz says "stability", when that is only one "half" of the Chienese policy. China has made private investment in manufacturing for export very profitable, by BOTH eliminating the risk of fluctuating exchange rates and making the Chinese currency cheap relative to the U.S. currency.

Stiglitz suggests at one point that China might choose to cease "investing" in the U.S., and transfer that investment to its own infrastructure. But, that "investment" in the U.S. (the buying of U.S. debt) is what depresses the value of the yuan relative to the dollar, and tilts private calculations of the profitability of investment in Chinese manufacturing.

"Volatility" is hardly the only factor enhancing the profitability of private investment in Chinese manufacturing. Stiglitz is wrong not to say so plainly.

For the U.S. to assume a less profligate course would require that U.S. consumption -- personal incomes, in commonsense terms -- would have to take a hit. In some combination of higher prices for Chinese imports sold at Wal-Mart, or higher savings from paychecks, or higher taxes, Americans are going to have to accept at least a temporary decline in their standard of living.

As a political matter, I doubt that Americans are going to accept the need to consume less, even for a few years, without the advent of some crisis. There is no conceivable political course, which will lead us from our present arrogant, ignorant, fat, dumb and happy state to one, which can be sustained in the long-run. Students of "real business cycles" might focus their attention on this dilemma: you cannot get directly from "here" to "there". Only a "crash" and recession would get individuals to a state, with substantial unemployment and personal anxiety, where policies of increased taxation, personal savings and domestic investment could be accepted together as a "solution."

I submit that we are nearing the point of "hoping" for disaster -- a disaster and a switch to a more far-sighted leadership, willing to rule in the interests of more than one percent of the population.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics: US has little to teach China about steady economy / Comment & analysis / Comment - US has little to teach China about steady economy: "The US economy is growing at a third the pace of China’s. Poverty is rising and median household incomes are, in real terms, declining. America’s total net savings are much less than China’s. China produces far more of the engineers and scientists that are necessary to compete in the global economy than the US, while America is cutting its expenditures on basic research as it increases military spending. Meanwhile, as America’s debt continues to balloon, its president wants to make tax cuts for the richest people permanent. With all this in mind, China’s leaders may not feel they need to seek advice from the US on how to manage either the exchange rate or the economy."

the failed reconstruction of Iraq

The deterioration in Iraq is a predictable consequence of a failed reconstruction, a reconstruction, which failed because of American (read: Republican) incompetence and corruption.

Hullabaloo: "So, people in Baghdad have worms in their drinking water and no electricity during the worst heat of the day. If someone wants to know why they hate us, that's a good place to start.


Kids and the Internet - it's a good thing |

By its very nature, this blog of mine has a pessimistic theme. It is perversely hoping to catch the first stirrings of the whirlwind, which, if it comes and if it is strong enough, will sweep the country clean of its authoritarian political tendencies (i.e. George W. Bush & company).

But, I thought it might be worthwhile to note another major development -- a positive one for the country and the world. Recently, the Republicans were giving credit to the execrable "No Child Left Behind" act, for some notable gains in education -- particularly reading and writing. This might actually be real. After television produced a generation or two of illiterates (a fact that might have a little something to do with the horrifying political complexion of the country), the internet may be reversing the trend, in a big way.

Kids and the Internet - it's a good thing | "My daughter discovered online journals, or 'blogs,' when she was 16. After a lot of negotiating, she was allowed to start her blog on Her 'xanga' had to be accessible by me. She couldn't post her real name, photos of herself, or her location, and I encouraged her to warn her friends not to either. But in keeping an eye on her xanga, I also had access to her friends' xangas. Surprise - this opened me up to a whole new world of insight into today's teenager. These kids can write.

To keep a blog going, you have to have the discipline to write daily. This puts today's young bloggers on the fast track to future Pulitzers. To keep your friends coming back, you have to be interesting, funny, intelligent, relevant. These kids are all that and more. Once I got past the immature spelling and punctuation (along with usual teen slang and vulgarity), I was treated to some of the best poetry I've ever read. All of their blogs together are a veritable anthropological study of high school life. One senior I know has, in four years, transformed from what seemed like functional illiteracy - incomplete sentences, poor spelling - into a blossoming philosopher headed for a major university.

Aside from the keyboard and multitasking skills they've developed, the substance of what they're writing is way beyond what mine was at that age. Sure, their mechanics might be rough at first, but over time that rights itself. What's more important is they've got something to say, and the Internet gives them the means to say it. Don't be surprised if the rising generation of Internet users turn out to be the most articulate and best-informed generation in recent history."

Monday, July 25, 2005

Joint US-Iraqi task force to set terms for US troop exit

Joint US-Iraqi task force to set terms for US troop exit - Yahoo! News: "A joint US-Iraqi committee is to set the conditions under which US troops will hand over security in the war-torn country to Iraqi forces, paving the way for a US exit, the US embassy said.

" 'The joint task force will establish criteria and conditions that will help determine when Iraqi security forces ... will be capable of assuming full responsibility to secure

Iraq,' ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said in a statement.

" 'This task force will establish no timeline; but, instead, identify conditions sanctioned by the leadership of the Iraqi government and the multi-national coalition,' Khalilzad said following a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari.

'As these conditions are met, transfers of security responsibility will be implemented progressively and noticeably to the Iraqi people,' he added.

"US President George Bush has refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of the 138,000 US forces from Iraq, but has said that US forces would stand down as Iraqi forces gradually take over.

"The joint task force will be headed by Jaafari's national security advisor Muaffak Rubaie, and will including representatives from coalition forces, along with those from the Iraqi interior and defence ministries.

" 'The prime minister has directed that the task force meet within the next week and report back to him with their plan in 60 days,'"

The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq appears to loom before us. The Iraqi Prime Minister's interest in moving this along may have something to do with his recent, cordial visit to Iran.

One hundred eighty two weeks to go.

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » How does he find the time?: "George Bush has a somewhat shadowed history of alcohol dependence and a drug-use problem that he has said he simply will not discuss.

He claims that his recovery–his commitment to stop using and abusing–began with and is maintained by divine intervention. While this is a nice story, those who understand drug and alcohol abuse and dependence call this sort of go-it-alone sobriety delusional.

The adoption of singular focus on a few ritual substitutes for alcohol and drugs, to the point that they induce a new kind of dependence, can be just as dangerous to the person. Worse, they can hold at bay the kinds of honesty with self and others that lead to humility, and recognition that nobody's ever recovered, merely in a process of recovering.

Praying and exercising in moderation can be part of a healthy person's life. Moderation is the key.

We have just fininshed the 26th week of the second term of GW Bush. One hundred eighty two weeks to go. He's brittle. He's combative. He's totally self-assured. He's a fool."

Iraq has descended into chaos way beyond West's worst-case scenario

Sunday Independent - Iraq has descended into chaos way beyond West's worst-case scenario: "Last week a pro-government newspaper had an article on the reconstruction of Baghdad. Above the article was a picture of a crane at a building site. But there are no cranes at work in Baghdad, so the paper was compelled to use a photograph of a crane that has been rusting for more than two years and was abandoned at the site of a giant mosque Saddam Hussein was constructing."

Bush made Congress allocate $18 billion as a gift for reconstructing Iraq. What was it spent on?

Why is the U.S. Army sweating it out in Iraq, with too few resources to pacify the country? What is the point?

Iraq: Bush's Islamic Republic

The New York Review of Books: Iraq: Bush's Islamic Republic: "On June 4, Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, attended the inauguration of the Kurdistan National Assembly in Erbil, northern Iraq. Talabani, a Kurd, is not only the first-ever democratically elected head of state in Iraq, but in a country that traces its history back to the Garden of Eden, he is, as one friend observed, 'the first freely chosen leader of this land since Adam was here alone.' While Kurds are enormously proud of his accomplishment, the flag of Iraq—the country Talabani heads—was noticeably absent from the inauguration ceremony, nor can it be found anyplace in Erbil, a city of one million that is the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan Region.

"Ann Bodine, the head of the American embassy office in Kirkuk, spoke at the ceremony, congratulating the newly minted parliamentarians, and affirming the US commitment to an Iraq that is, she said, 'democratic, federal, pluralistic, and united.' The phrase evidently did not apply in Erbil. In their oath, the parliamentarians were asked to swear loyalty to the unity of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Many pointedly dropped the 'of Iraq.'

"The shortest speech was given by the head of the Iranian intelligence service in Erbil, a man known to the Kurds as Agha Panayi. Staring directly at Ms. Bodine, he said simply, 'This is a great day. Throughout Iraq, the people we supported are in power.' He did not add 'Thank you, George Bush.' The unstated was understood."

The single most "promising" storm cloud (disaster) on the Bush horizon has always been Iraq. Bush chose Iraq. And, Iraq is a bigger catastrophe for the U.S. than any thing, which has happened since World War II.

Vietnam was a tragedy for the U.S. precisely because, despite the enormous effort expended, Vietnam really did not matter much to the U.S. It was a not a vital interest to the U.S. or to the world, at large, who ruled in Vietnam. So, when the U.S. finally withdrew, it had minimal consequences for the U.S. national interest. (The human costs for U.S. and for the Vietnamese, were terrible -- that's what made it a tragedy.)

As a tragedy, Iraq is not yet on a scale with Vietnam -- the violence and loss of life, as terrible as they are, have not reached the scale they did in Southeast Asia.

But, the very real national interest in Middle East is much greater. If the U.S. is forced to withdraw from Iraq, as seems increasingly likely, the cost will only begin with the humiliation.

The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate steadily on every level, in every way.

Angry Bear resolves the interest rate conundrum

Angry Bear: "Apparently the renminbi news had no substantial effect on US interest rates.

But that’s not the whole story.

Why do I say that? Because while rates didn’t rise much in the US as a result of the renminbi revaluation, interest rates in most other countries fell, in most cases quite substantially. "

One of the persistent mysteries of the Bush Presidency has been why the financial markets do not appear to be reflecting just what a train wreck his borrow and squander economic policies have been. Policies this perverse and destructive have to have terrible consequences. The thesis (hope?) of a perfect storm is that the consequences are dramatic enough to teach a lesson to the American people. The fear is that, instead, the consequence will not be dramatic -- that the consequence will simply be long, slow decline ("boiling the lobster").

One long awaited event in the unfolding drama, which is the disastrous Bush economic policy was the Chinese revaluation. The U.S. is borrowing enormous amounts from Japan and substantial amounts from China. Borrowing from China, a developing country, is particularly weird, but it serves to highlight the growing power of China relative to the U.S. One important set of events in a perfect storm would be an exercise of power by China to humiliate the U.S., to highlight the change, which the Bush policies have accelerated and exacerbated. The Chinese currency will be rising in value relative to the dollar for many, many years, reflecting a rising economic power in China. But, in the short term, increased Chinese reluctance to continue to loan money to the U.S. government will draw back the curtain, which has obscured the profligacy of U.S. deficits, and impose the pain of high long-term interest rates.

For many months, though, U.S. long-term interest rates have remained stable, even declined relative to short-term rates. It has been a mystery, though many recognized that China's continued purchases of U.S. debt played a part.

Now, the Chinese have revalued, and many expected U.S. rates to rise. (A Chinese revaluation reflects increased reluctance to buy U.S. debt; it is purchases of U.S. debt, which keep the value of the Chinese currency down relative to the dollar.) Only U.S. rates have not risen much, yet.

It is reassuring to see that the world does work the way one imagines -- that is, borrowing and squandering does have predictable consequences. Sadly, events continue to unfold more in a "boil the lobster" way, than the gathering of a storm.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

James Wolcott: Sunday Bloody Sunday

James Wolcott: Sunday Bloody Sunday: "What's rising in Iraq is the spectre of American defeat and Iraqi chaos. We're are past the point when you could counter every article of which you disapprove by summoning Austin Bayfrom the bullpen for a positive spin, or seeking shelter in Winston Churchill's lion shadow, or being warned over and over that 'failure is not an option' (yes, it is). We are past the point of listening to Joe Biden and others say we need more troops on the ground and more international cooperation. Neither cavalry is riding over the hill.

Where the warbloggers are actively denying the spectre of defeat, the political talkshows are passively denying it. Today--Sunday--it was all about the Supreme Court nominee and the Plame leak and not much else. Understandable. But at what point will attention be paid to the full enormity of what's unraveling in Iraq? Or will it be like global warming, which Russert, Stephanopolous, Chris Wallace, and the rest ignore altogether, as if waiting for heatstroke deaths to dot the capital lawns before acknowledging something momentous is happening. They're still waiting for the memo that'll verify what any fool can see."


The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » Sunday Discussion Group: "IMPEACHMENT NEAR FOR BUSH AND CHENEY?

'Patrick Fitzgerald, the Justice Department's Special Counsel conducting the W's Wicked West Wing (W4) scandal investigation, announced today that he has submitted his final report to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees for their use in conducting investigations that many say will lead to the impeachment of President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. Today's announcement comes exactly one month to the day after the Special Counsel unsealed his grand jury indictments against a total of ten individuals on numerous charges, including espionage, treason, violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, conspiracy, perjury, and obstruction of justice.

'Those indicted include seven White House West Wing staffers, including Karl Rove, the President's Deputy Chief of Staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Vice-President Cheney's Chief of Staff, and 5 more. Also indicted at the same time were John R. Bolton, whom President Bush recently appointed to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations without Senate approval during Congress' August recess ; Judith Miller, a reporter with the New York Times, who has been in jail since early July for refusing to cooperate with Fitzgerald's W4 investigation; and syndicated columnist and self-described 'long-time GOP tool' Robert Novak, who for the first time in history deliberately 'outed' an undercover C.I.A. agent, Valerie Plame, with his July 14, 2003 column.

'Since the indictments were handed down, the President fired Rove and Libby, and the Vice-President has had a massive anger-induced heart attack and then lapsed into a coma following his public shouting frenzy demanding that Fitzgerald 'go f**k himself' after the indictments were public unsealed. The Congress has been busy too, having convened special impeachment subcommittees within their respective Judiciary Committees, and fired Bill "

Friday, July 22, 2005

Calculated Risk: Housing, Jobs and Bernanke Revisited

Calculated Risk: Housing, Jobs and Bernanke Revisited: "There is a housing bubble, it is going to burst, and those areas dependent on housing related jobs will experience a snowball economic effect."


But, is it enough to throw the economy, nationwide, into a loop?

In other words, is there a scenario, where this (finally) gets us into serious trouble?

Well, there is, if policymakers make a big boo-boo -- or they find themselves in a circumstance in which a big mistake is almost inevitable. For example, if China and Japan stop financing the U.S. federal deficit, and long-term interest rates are forced up, just in time to exacerbate the bursting of the housing bubble. Or, panicking over signs of inflation picking up, the Fed over-reacts and actually creates a deflation, which, in turn, leads to a kind of financial panic.

Hullabaloo summarizes why we, Democrats, fetishize the Coming Perfect Storm

Hullabaloo: "We just don't have the killer instinct. They do. So they win and we lose. I guess we have to wait for total economic armageddon or nuclear meltdown in which case we will win by default. "

The original thesis of this blog was that Bush is such an unwise leader, that his policies would inevitably lead to catastrophe, and, if the U.S. is lucky, perhaps, the catastrophes will coincide and the bad results will be so unmistakeable, that the Republican Party as presently constituted will be swept from power for a generation. This is a perversely hopeful scenario, in that it requires the country to endure a painful and humiliating period.

One alternative theory is that Bush's foolishness will never lead to catastrophic "moment" and that his supporters are so stupid, they can rationalize any eventuality. The U.S. will decline precipitously, economically, politically and militarily, but like a live lobster in a warming pot, the political majority of Americans will not notice until we're all cooked. A conservative Supreme Court will strip the government of the legal basis for the New Deal; economic decline will be blamed on globalization, even as Republican corporate executives walk away with $100 million salaries, untaxed, of course; military and diplomatic failure to head off nuclear proliferation and the rise of China and Iran, etc., will be laughed off. With a corporate right-wing media dominating all sources of information, and "electronic voting" eliminating the need for anything more than a show of political campaigning, the country will slip into a fascist state, from which it might begin to recover, circa 2040.

For the really paranoid, there is a variation on the boiled lobster thesis, which suggests that Bush's policies are aimed at "hooverizing" his Democratic successor. His military policy and his economic policy are certain to have disastrous consequences in the long run, but his plan is to be out of office before then. Let a Democrat clean up the mess, and let the Democrats be blamed, say, for having to withdraw from Iraq or raise taxes to cover the deficits.

Whiskey Bar: Spring Time for Khomeini

Whiskey Bar: Spring Time for Khomeini: "the American Conservative (dead tree version) [reports] this:

" 'The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons.

" 'Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States.

" 'Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing -- that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack -- but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.' "

Billmon: "You have to love that last line. I bet that defense goes over REAL big at their war crime trials.

"Seriously, though, I we should all pray (long and hard) that his is just Dick Cheney trying out Dick Nixon's 'madman theory' -- acting like a genocidal maniac in hopes of convincing the other side that you really might be a genocidal maniac. (like the Chinese generals I mentioned above.)

"It's also possible that this is part of some kind of smokescreen being blown to convince the Frank Gaffneys of the world that the administration isn't about to pull a U-turn on Iran policy. But then why leak it to the neoconphobes at the American Conservative?

"It should be obvious why I badly want to believe that this is a bluff or a ruse. The alternative is that the Vice President of the United States and his trained seal are contemplating the ultimate war crime. And the good little Germans in the Air Force are going right along with it -- lest they injure their promotion potential.

It doesn't get any worse than that."

OK, so this is the ultimate "perfect storm" in the offing -- a war crime of such stupendous magnitude that the U.S. would practically have to commit national suicide to atone. Republicans could not just be swept out at the next election; they would have to be arrested and executed. That such a thing is even plausible is to condemn the political situation of the moment, and that reckless, ignorant, cowardly stupid half of the country, which is ultimately responsible.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Taking the Long View

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Taking the Long View: "He elaborated a bit on his book's account of the Easter Island collapse, where a society that could build 80-ton statues 33 feet high and drag them 12 miles, and who could navigate the Pacific Ocean to and from the most remote islands in the world, could also cut down their rich rain forest and doom themselves utterly. With no trees left for fishing canoes, the Easter Islanders turned to devouring each other. The appropriate insult to madden a member of a rival clan was, 'The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth!' The population fell by 90% in a few years, and neither the society nor the island ecology have recovered in the 300 years since.

"Diamond reported that his students at UCLA tried to imagine how the guy who cut down the LAST tree in 1680 justified his actions. What did he say? Their candidate quotes: 'Fear not. Our advancing technology will solve this problem.' 'This is MY tree, MY property! I can do what I want with it.' 'Your environmentalist concerns are exaggerated. We need more research.' 'Just have faith. God will provide.'

"The question everyone asks, Diamond said, is, How can people be so dumb? It's a crucial question, with a complex answer. He said that sometimes it's a failure to perceive a problem, especially if it comes on very slowly, like climate change. Often it's a matter of conflicting interests with no resolution at a higher level than the interests-- warring clans, greedy industries. Or there may be a failure to examine and understand the past.

Overall, it's a failure to think long term. That itself has many causes. One common one is that elites become insulated from the consequences of their actions. "

Saturday, July 16, 2005

General Glut's Globblog: Inflation, shminflation part 4

General Glut's Globblog: Inflation, shminflation part 4: "overall we are looking at incredibly -- and I think potentially dangerously -- low inflation levels."

I don't think people generally, or even economists generally, appreciate just how dangerous deflation is.

Ruling Lets U.S. Restart Trials at Guant�namo - New York Times

Ruling Lets U.S. Restart Trials at Guant�namo - New York Times: "The appeals judges said the Bush administration's plan to try some detainees before military commissions did not violate the Constitution, international law or American military law."

Of course, the Bush plan violates all three. This decision and the willingness of the Republican judges to make it, signal the gradual solidifying of the fascist State. Basically, they have decided that the fuhrer principle applies. (I am not exaggerating.) The rule of law has been lost.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Angry Bear on inflation

Angry Bear: "Has this fall in inflation rates been the result of softening demand, or is there another explanation? If it's demand-driven, is it simply another reflection of this spring's economic 'soft patch', which recent evidence caused some to suggest may have ended in the past month or two? If so, does this mean that inflation rates will begin ticking up again this summer? Or alternatively, is this inflation data circumstantial evidence that the soft patch is continuing, and perhaps the beginning of a more protracted economic downturn?"

There are those, who insist that inflation is higher than it seems.

And, there are those of us, who fear that deflation might pop out from behind clouds of dust, to send the economy into a tailspin.

But, maybe this is all "good news" for the economy, and for Republicans, who hope to put the day of reckoning off until a Democrat arrives in the White House, ready to be Hooverized.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dials Moving Into the Red Zone

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Dials Moving Into the Red Zone: "At the end of 2000 I said that while the U.S. trade deficit was a worry, . . . I would have put the chance of a major dollar-based financial crisis at only one-in-a-thousand.

"By the end of 2003 I said that the chance of a major dollar-based financial crisis was one-in-a-hundred, . . . .

"By the end of 2004 I thought that the chance of a major dollar-based financial crisis was one-in-ten.

"Now I think that the chances are one-in-five. "

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A Hawk Questions Himself as His Son Goes to War

A Hawk Questions Himself as His Son Goes to War: "None of this predetermines the outcome, of course, or foretells the consequences of a muddled success or a blurred failure in Iraq. Historians have the comfort of knowing how past wars played out. But short of clairvoyance, no one can forecast the outcome and the second- or third-order effects of events as they unfold. Five or even 10 years from now, we still may not be able to judge our Iraq venture in a definitive way. Unfortunately, that philosophical detachment is cold consolation in the here and now, as young men and women go off to war."

Others -- Atrios, Brad DeLong, Belgravia -- have quoted Cohen, with regard to his contempt for the incompetence of the Bush administrations.

What interests me is the confusion of narrative with analysis.

In a narrative, one event follows another; the drama is the struggle to overcome and the climax resolves the action; in prospect, there are many contingencies, and we can never forecast the "outcome" in all its manifold glories. We love stories, but stories are not analysis.

Analysis is about systemic necessity. One thing does not "follow" another; one variable relates to another, one thing drives another, and the system functions, the system is under control . . . or not.

Analysis is the basis of science -- it is Newton's laws of motion, Darwin's natural selection. It is dramatic and epic in its own way, but not in the way of Homer's Illiad or Genesis or Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Cohen says, "If we fail in Iraq -- and I don't think we will -- it won't be because the American people lack heart, but because leaders and institutions have failed." And, that belief that we will not fail is defended by the paragraph I quoted above, by the substitution of narrative uncertainties for analysis.

Analysis Cohen is capable of. The article is chock full of pithy summaries of analysis. The analysis all points at one capital fact: the U.S. has failed in Iraq. Over and over again, the U.S. has failed. The U.S. failed most critically in the reconstruction, which has stalled, sucked dry by corruption. The U.S. has failed to keep order -- from the earliest days of large-scale looting down to the cluster screw-up at Abu Ghraib to every damn day.

The present leadership and the present "strategy" has failed. And, the present leadership promises to "stay the course", a failed course.

Cohen says, "For this president, the war is the defining decision of his tenure, and he knows it. Whatever his faults may be, a lack of determination is not one of them. And in war, character -- and above all persistence -- counts for a very great deal."

Yes, character does count for a great deal, and this President's character accounts for the U.S. failure in Iraq. Bush is a coward. Bush is a liar. Bush is a lazy, unaccomplished, callous, seriously uncurious man. If the U.S. had credible plan for the occupation and reconstruction in Iraq, that responsibility goes right to George W. Bush. We did not have a plan, because George does not know enough about history, organization, government or anything else, to realize that that he needed to have one and a good one. He did not demand a good, well-reasoned plan from his subordinates. And, that is why we have failed in Iraq. No plan. And, we have had no plan, becuase of George's weakness of character.

We have failed in Iraq, and as we continue to continue, we continue to fail.

The greatest tragedy is that many Iraqis wanted our success, in order to have their own success, and it is they, more than we, who will suffer the failure in all its prolonged horror.

For George W. Bush, the failure will be the latest in a long, long list of failures, and he may not notice.

Will America notice? And, will America blame the Republicans, as they should? That will not depend on analysis, but on narrative and the dramatic unfolding of events -- the coming storm.

Bursting the Housing Bubble

Angry Bear: "Since the real estate sector has been the main source of job creation for the economy for several years, I'm concerned that the coming RE slowdown will create a large pool of displaced workers that will have to take a substantial cut in pay. Therfore the housing slowdown might have a larger impact on the economy than many economists expect. "

The bursting of the housing bubble is going to have a serious impact on employment.

Friday, July 8, 2005

Decadence, corruption and decay

Salt Lake Tribune - Opinion: "Silverstein details the ballooning of the practice called ''earmarks'' in the federal budget. As it is true of much of what is wrong with our politics, the practice is not new - pork barrel politics has a venerable history - but it is spiraling out of control. The same thing has happened with gerrymandering, also an ancient practice, and campaign contributions. They've always been part of politics, it's just that now they are so much more so. Indeed, what have been just deplorable flaws in our system are now eating the whole system - the flaws are getting bigger than the functioning, with the result that serving the public interest is rapidly disappearing. "

Whether connected to the prospect of a cleansing storm or not, an alternative vision of the trends facing the political culture is one in increasing corruption, corruption, which is eating away the foundation, hollowing out the institutions of American life.

Here's Billmon noticing the decline of pundritry:

Whiskey Bar: Forever Blowing Bubbles: "There is no doubt in my mind that the existence -- and seeming indestructibility -- of 'analysts' like Jim Glassman is one of the key reasons why we have asset bubbles. Since the collapse of the Nasdaq bubble in early 2000, I've watched, first with amazement, then with a kind of morbid fascination, as Glassman has continued his flourishing and no doubt lucrative career as a financial pundit and supply-side snake-oil salesman, instead of being banished to the get-rich-quick infomercials on late night cable, which is where he belongs.

"Perhaps if the collapse of his Dow 36,000 theory had done more lasting damage -- if we had breadlines and soup kitchens instead of a booming real estate market -- Glassman would have gotten his just rewards: universal ridicule and a well thumbed page in the history book of error, like poor professor Irwin Fisher, who never lived down his pronouncement, just days before the '29 crash, that stocks had reached a 'permanently high plateau.'

"Or maybe not. Glassman is a product of the closed loop of modern punditry, in which career success has absolutely nothing to do with being right about anything, and everything to do with being ideologically au courant and politically well connected. In other words, Glassman is to the financial markets what Charles Krauthammer is to Iraq -- a symbol of the triumph of a consensus fantasy over a subversive reality."

Billmon extends his thought, by reflecting on a gathering of rich people, to contemplate "ideas.":

Billmon: "If you want supporting evidence for my thesis that the American 'marketplace of ideas' is in an advanced state of decay, you could do worse than read some of Liquid List's posts from the Aspen Institute's 'Festival of Ideas' conference."

If I had some links available, I would link to people contemplating the decline of corporate America, where once great organizations have been stripped of their expertise and worn to a frazzle. The collapse of Enron and the debacles at WorldCom, Adelphia, Tyco, and the rest, are merely symptoms of the greed and incompetence, cases, where things got so bad that they became actually felonious. Much of the rest of corporate America is teetering on the edge of the precipice, because of decades of bad leadership and budgets tightened to send the bonuses due to top management into the stratosphere.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

TPMCafe || Hope on the Fourth of July

TPMCafe || Hope on the Fourth of July: "Act III has finally begun. The methedrine-like Mission Accomplished militarism has turned to chaos, ugly revelations, and melt down.

I keep hearing the Leonard Cohen song in my mind, 'There are cracks in everything; that's how the light gets in,' and this regime is finally and seriously cracking up. "

Monday, July 4, 2005


Hullabaloo: "...At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced."

Frederic Douglass, 1852

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Whiskey Bar: Have Another Slice of Yellowcake, Karl

Whiskey Bar: Have Another Slice of Yellowcake, Karl: "Which naturally raises the question of whether Fitzgerald's team and the FBI have been talking to each other lately, and what they may have been talking about. If there are strands of evidence that tend to walk the responsibility for the production and/or disseminaton of those forged documents back to this side of the Atlantic, and if any of those strands lead towards the U.S. government, or 'an internal working group dealing with Iraq' . . . well, Rove (and others) might find that perjury charges are the least of their worries."

Oh, we live in hope. Please, let some semblance of professionalism rescue us from these ruthless, would-be autocrats . . .

Friday, July 1, 2005

AMERICAblog: Because a great nation deserves the truth

AMERICAblog: Because a great nation deserves the truth: "Failure here is not an option."

This is it. What the Republican right-wing has been working toward for a generation: a radically conservative judiciary led by a radically conservative Supreme Court.

For 70 years, since FDR's court-packing scheme panicked the Supreme Court of the gilded age into allowing the New Deal to move forward, the Supreme Court has been the sure guardian of the advance of liberalism and idealism. That is about to be reversed.

This is not about the coming of a storm -- this is about cooking the lobster, about bringing the pot to a boil, at which point the lobster is dead and ready to be buttered.

Morons will say that court appointments are unpredictable. Not this court appointment. This one will be very predictable. This one will be Scalia, if we're lucky, and Thomas, if we're not.

Liberal politics of all kinds will be dead for a generation or two, made completely impotent by a judiciary, which will simply find nothing to enforce, even when the liberals manage to write something into law. There will be no personal right, which will not be completely eviscerated as to substance. (A Scalia will at least preserve the empty form of rights; a Thomas will toss it all out.)