Monday, August 29, 2005

General Glut's Globblog: Another inflation post

General Glut's Globblog: Another inflation post: "I wonder, in fact, if contined Fed tightening combined with a drop in oil prices -- say to the low $50s/barrel -- might shake what little general inflation exists right now completely out of the economy."

Yikes! This could be very unpleasant.

Explanation: inflation, even in large doses, is seldom more than annoying and demoralizing; deflation is downright dangerous. Deflation, for example, can bring a large part of investment spending to a sudden halt, plunging the economy into depression.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ezra Klein: More on Media Bias

Ezra Klein: More on Media Bias: "The real problem isn't the long-time hackery of the press corps, but the fact that we've lost three elections in a row now, never put the time into building a progressive media movement, and have let Republicans kill Labor. We've got no base to strike back from.

"We have to make one. That's what this is all about. All the blogging, the Air America's, the Phoenix Project, the magazines, the conference calls, the Center for American Progress, all of it. It's about getting to a place where we don't have to wish the press would do more, because we can take what they do and make it into more. But that's our job, as activists and partisans. We know the press sucks. They've been doing that for years now. That's what my whole last post was about; hell, that's what this whole blogging thing's about. But they're not sucking particularly bad right now. They're just being their general, bumbling selves. We have to stop wishing they'd rise up, shake off their shackles, and do our jobs for us. Because, in the end, there's no substitute for winning. Not even a strong press corps."

Ezra is the best young (very young) commentators out there.

And, this is critical to understand. Wishing for the Perfect Storm is often wishing that the Press would do "our job" for us. A political storm involves people mounting the barricades, so to speak, and few of those people will be journalists. (Though some may, in fact, be journalists or have some kind of Media platform. Shouting "J'Accuse!" from your backyard is not going to cut it.)

a sufficient storm may never come

I think that the Republicans are pursuing an agenda of income redistribution, which, necessarily, will not win the support of a political majority on its own merits, for the obvious reason that it is not in the interest of a political majority. Motivating the religious right to a high level of activity, combined with the local organizational weakness of the Democratic Party in the old South, Florida, Ohio and Texas, is barely enough to get the Republicans elected.

But, close only counts in horseshoes, and the Democrats do not have the institutional strength to take power. The Media is now entirely in the hands of the corporate right-wing; the union movement consists of a corpse, a crook and a pipsqueak; Republican control of state legislatures has allowed them to gerrymander the House to an extent that Democratic control is only a remote possibility, even in conditions dire to Republican prospects. The Senate remains only a remote possibility as well; the Republicans can easily control the Senate without a majority in the country. Without control of one house of Congress or the other, exposure of Republican corruption — the Democrat's strongest card cannot be drawn from the deck, let alone played. Democrats need a huge swing, to gain power, and I suspect that Republicans can shift just enough to deny them such a huge swing, even post catastrophe.

In 2008, the Republicans may well decide to let a Democrat get elected President, and then hooverize the poor sucker, by forcing her to raise taxes, withdraw from Iraq, devalue the dollar, etc. — all predictable consequences of the Republican policies aimed to build a plutocracy, the side-effects of which will be blamed on the Democrats. Control of all Media will make the blame game, and hooverization, easy.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hullabaloo sees the need for the cleansing power of the perfect storm

Hullabaloo: "I have never been much of a revolutionary. Even when I was young I tended to cringe at any kind of earnest, 'to the barricades' kind of thinking. I tend to think in smaller strategic and tactical terms rather than large sweeping movements. However, I have come to realize that this is one of those times when something has to happen from the ground up. Washington has become a kind of aristocrisy, with all the attendant inbred, insular, corruption that eventually befalls a ruling elite.

"The biggest sickness in our politics is this top down, elitist mentality in which people are fed a diet of information, entertainment, products and ideas that are focus grouped, soulless and commercial --- and which are then filtered through a ruling media class that is so psychologically cramped, so emotionally sterile, so stuck in their own feedback loop that they are presenting a totally distorted version of reality. It's important that we look elsewhere for wisdom and leadership."
Hullabaloo: From Spencer Ackerman at the New Republic via Hullabaloo:

"The Bush administration . . . is defending the idea that the Constitution empowers the president to conduct war exclusively on his terms. A series of memos written by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 effectively maintained that any law restricting the president's commander-in-chief authority is presumptively unconstitutional. . . . .For the administration, its expansion of executive power is synonymous with victory in the war--regardless of the real-world costs to the war effort."

Bush really is trying to establish an authoritarian state, with the President as a dictator. The Constitution's separation of powers and civil liberties have been jettisoned, and the Administration fights tooth and nail anything from Congress or the Courts, which would challenge this assertion of untrammelled power. So far, the courts and Congress have been pretty subdued in their response. I don't think many really get how determined the Bushies are, on this point; many, I suspect, dismiss the criticism as partisanship.

If some kind of storm doesn't sweep this away, the Constituiton may actually be lost. And, that's no joke.

Thomas McKelvey Cleaver sees storm clouds gathering

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » Good Morning All You East Coast Liberals: "Dark clouds have been forming out over our national horizon for quite awhile now. It’s entirely possible to see the flashes of distant lightning and hear the echoing thunder over the cacophony of voices crying out about the daily news from the war in Iraq.

"There’s the possibility of a flu pandemic that could literally alter the state of human existence on the planet; the oil crisis may be asking people to choose between filling the tank and putting food on the table for a long time to come; the coming housing bubble may knock the pins out from under our “growing economy” as I read that housing here in the Lower Left Corner is now considered 50 percent overpriced; four senators - three Republicans and one Democrat - have just returned from Point Barrow, Alaska, and have publicly stated they now believe the Arctic is melting."

Gosh, he's good. He goes on to recall the time, when some rat fleas arrived in Europe bearing the Black Death. And, I was just hoping to get rid of the conservative majority.

Bird Flu Replicating Map (Updated Aug 22) -- by Penguinzee

Bird Flu Replicating Map (Updated Aug 22) -- by Penguinzee: "Franc Robert and The Agonist."

Some people think avian flu will trigger the global flu pandemic we have all been waiting for, since Gerald Ford's Presidency.

I am dubious about the idea that this will really get out of control.

But, the experts are worried. And, this map is scary. Go look at it.

The Carpetbagger Report » Got oil?

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » Running on Empty: "Here’s another dark cloud that’s no longer out on the horizon, but just a few miles away, close enough to smell the rain and both hear and see the lightning simultaneously, as the first stinging droplets hit your face in the rising wind."

The thing about Peak Oil is neither that oil will become and stay astronomically expensive any time soon -- it won't -- nor that we will "run out" any time soon, either -- we won't. What will happen -- or rather has happened, is that worldwide growth in oil consumption is constricted to production capacity, and production capacity is near its all-time peak. "All-time peak" means not just a world record, so to speak, but as high as it will ever be in all the millenia of earth's continued existence. As in, ain't going higher than it will be in roughly 2010.

The immediate consequence is that oil supply has become an order of magnitude more fragile and risky, than in the past. Occasional spikes in oil prices are likely to be a feature of the next few years, at least until governments and oil companies work out a system of reserves.

So, yes, an oil price spike is likely to be an element of the Coming Perfect Storm.

Bush is what he is

The Blogging of the President: "Bush was not an idealist, he isn't an idealist. Iraq was a pragmatically conceived idea not to promote 'needed change' in the Middle East, but to nail a stake through the foot of the government so that it could never be liberal again, and to create the conditions for a vast river of pork to flow to constituencies that would create a permanent Republican control of the government. . . . There is no evidence what so ever that Bush believes in Democracy. He certainly doesn't promote it here, and his party doesn't practice it in Congress. . . . What Bush does practice is plutocracy - there's clear evidence that he believes in a society run by the very very rich. He also believes in theocracy - as he has stated on many occasions, a "faith based" nation is his objective here in the United States."

Daily Howler: It is about class, not competence or ethics

Daily Howler: When Harris reports on the Whitewater mess, the press corps' misconduct disappears: "you have to see what is really involved—the steady dissolution of progressive instincts in the face of the mainstream culture’s big pay-offs"

The hope that a "perfect storm" might sweep away right-wing stupidity has to be dulled by the realization that George W. Bush may be a product of broad social and economic trends, including the emergence of stricter, class stratification in American society.

It's kind of a distressing realization. And, it makes one wonder if class consciousness will prevent the society at large from realizing fully and completely what a total disaster the presidency of GWB has been.

Calculated Risk: Housing and Trade: Virtuous Cycle about to Become Vicious?

Calculated Risk: Housing and Trade: Virtuous Cycle about to Become Vicious?: "If housing cools down (prices do not need to collapse), this will lead to lower equity withdrawal. In turn this will lead to a slow down in GDP growth and lower imports.

"Lower imports might lead to a lower trade deficit, depending on the strength of exports. This could lead to less foreign CB investment in dollar denominated assets. And this could lead to higher interest rates followed by lower housing prices and the cycle repeats.

"The result: a Vicious Cycle with lower housing prices, less consumption and higher interest rates."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » It's the war, stupid

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » It's the war, stupid: "Bush isn't popular anymore — we get it. "

Am I being excessively paranoid to regard these declining poll numbers with foreboding?

When there was an election in prospect, terror warnings came fast and furious on any downtick. Now, he just seems to sink.

Would the Bushies hype a terror threat? Obviously, they would. Would they allow a terror threat to continue? Osama and Zarqawi live, don't they?

Some people in Bush's Party, have opined that a major terror attack in the U. S. would be the end of the Constitution -- I can't tell if they want a major terror attack for that reason, or not. Really, I can't tell.

And, the thing I would most like to know about the poll numbers on Bush's performance is: is there a prophylaxis, here? Personally, I have always found Bush smarmy and horrible; does the movement in the polls reflect conversion to my point of view? If there were a major terror attack now, would a majority interpret that as a Bush failure? Would they blame Bush for doing a bad job? Or, would they rally behind him?

I remember Watergate quite well. I thought Nixon was a liar and a crook, but I thought Nixon was a patriot above all. As the noose tightened, Nixon did the right thing(s), and I was confident that all would turn out all right, because I wasn't really worried that Nixon would, say, stage a coup. As hateful as he was, Nixon had a loyalty to the country. He dumped Spiro Agnew, and appointed the stolid Ford, for example; he knew what was coming. He yielded to the Supreme Court; he knew what was coming. Those were acts of political courage and decency, which strengthened the country, and they were taken at great personal cost. They don't excuse castrating the war on poverty, bombing Cambodia, the imperial Presidency, or any of the rest.

The problem is, I don't know what Bush's limits, his points of honor, might be. He is a man, who clearly doesn't not have an appreciation of history. He says he doesn't care about his "legacy." And, I don't know much about the people around him; Cheney, etc. seem increasingly deranged.

When I see these declining poll numbers, and the worsening prospects in Iraq, in the economy, which drive them, I wonder how Bush will respond to the increasing humiliations, to which he will be subjected. The current regime has been remarkably ruthless in their pursuit of power, and their use of power; how ruthless will they be, in attempting to hang on to power?

If they thought a terror attack, or the prospect of one, would restore their fortunes, would they hype the possibility? would they fake aborting one? would they let one happen?

I don't trust that they wouldn't, if they thought it would work to their advantage. So, I would really like to know, if the finally disapproving American people would view a terror attack, now, as a failure of Bush policy. Would the mere fact of a terror attack trigger calls for Bush's resignation? If Republicans began to think that such a scenario was at least as probably as the country rallying to Bush's side, I would feel a good deal safer.

Economist's View: The Never Ending Greenspan Story

Economist's View: The Never Ending Greenspan Story: Andrew Balls of the Financial Times: "Mr Greenspan took over at the Fed on August 11 1987 – less than two weeks before “Black Monday”, when the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 22.6 per cent; the largest daily fall in the history of the US stock market. Mr Greenspan’s immediate response, saying the Fed would pump money into the financial system to maintain liquidity, helped to put an end to worries about how the central bank would fare after the departure of Paul Volcker, his predecessor. … Mr Greenspan has cemented the Fed’s anti-inflation credibility but his reputation has been built on the flexibility he has shown. The challenge for his successor will be to match Mr Greenspan’s record of getting the big calls right. …"

For those looking for a trigger point on our looming economic problems, the replacement of the Fed Chair, at the end of 2005 -- assuming Greenspan lasts that long, his health is not good -- may be one. Fear and uncertainty can be focused by the changeover. And, I, for one, had forgotten that a stock market crash had followed his accession.

The adults in the Republican Party have signalled that Bernard Bernake will be Bush's choice. But, does Bush know that?

The Rude Pundit

The Rude Pundit: "Around the nation, the majority of Americans now cringe with gut-churning fear and shame whenever they hear George W. Bush speak. "

There's no particular insight in Rude's post, and the quoted sentence is one of the few, which can be quoted in a family blog.

But, it really ought to be recalled that it is not a good idea to elect a lazy, stupid, ignorant man, President. The fundamental mistake of the 21st century was made by the American people, in electing this guy, who had none of the characteristics, likely to be make for a good President. You can say, we really did not elect him; the election in Florida was stolen, and, of course, you would be right. And, in 2000, he presented a better face in prospect than he delivered. But, in 2004, a lot of people voted for him, knowing full well what they would get. Again, you could argue that the corporate right-wing media has a tendency to drown out more sensible, elite opinion, which might lead people, who don't pay much attention to politics to better electoral decisions. And, again, you could say, Kerry was not all that appealing.

Still, and all, Bush is a really bad President, and the reason we expect catastrophe ahead, is because of his leadership -- his really bad, really unwise leadership. Though his position of leadership might have something to do with our unwise followership, this being sort of a democracy and all. It would be a good thing, in the long run, if more people had the same gut reaction of nausea and revulsion, which I feel, when confronted with the President fumbling through a speech or press conference.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Beware the Storm of someone else's making


via Hullabaloo, Norman Mailer, February 20, 2003, before the Commnonwealth Club of San Francisco:

"Terrorism and instability are the reverse face of Empire. If the Saudi rulers have been afraid of their mullahs for fear of their power to incite terrorists, what will the Muslim world be like once we, the Great Satan, are there to dominate the Middle East in person?

"Since the administration can hardly be unaware of the dangers, the answer comes down to the unhappy likelihood that Bush and Company are ready to be hit by a major terrorist attack, as well as any number of smaller ones. Either way, it will strengthen his hand. America will gather about him again. We can hear his words in advance: 'Good Americans died today. Innocent victims of evil had to shed their blood. But we will prevail. We are one with God.' Given such language, every loss is a win."

As Bush's popularity shrinks, we now enter the period of greatest danger to the Constitution and to our democracy. Bush is going to be tempted to invite terrorism in the U.S., in order to restore his own stock and power, and, perhaps, not incidentally, to finally wipe out democracy.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Daily Kos: The Angry Right feels the barometer dropping

Daily Kos: The Angry Left: ". . . what I really want to know is why conservatives are so angry. Always snarling and snapping about evil liberals. Heck, they control everything. If something's wrong, it's their fault. Not the powerless Democrats snipping at their heels.

"If Democrats had the trifecta I'd be in heaven. It'd be bliss. Everyday would be a party. Confetti, good beer, and party hats, all around.

"But not them. They're still angry.

"Of course, now that I think about it, if Democrats had the trifecta and they fucked shit up as bad as these jokers have, then I suppose I'd be angry. It must be hard seeing the real world make a mockery of everything you stand for."

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Andy McCarthy at NRO kicks some dust in the air

The Corner on National Review Online: "For what it’s worth, this is where I get off the bus. . . . even if I suspended disbelief for a moment and agreed that the democracy project is a worthy casus belli, I am as certain as I am that I am breathing that the American people would not put their brave young men and women in harm’s way for the purpose of establishing an Islamic government. Anyplace."

This isn't a conservative sighting a storm cloud; this is a conservative becoming a storm cloud. Conservative notices the gathering storm What might have been: "It's time for us conservatives to face facts. George W. Bush has pissed away the conservative moment by pursuing a war of choice via policies that border on the criminally incompetent. . . . .

"While we remain bogged down in Iraq, of course, Osama bin Laden remains at large somewhere. Multi-tasking is all the rage these days, but whatever happened to finishing a job you started? It strikes me that catching Osama would have done a lot more to discourage the jihadists than anything we've done in Iraq."

"What really annoys me, however, are the domestic implications of all this. The conservative agenda has advanced hardly at all since the Iraq War began. Worse yet, the growing unpopularity of the war threatens to undo all the electoral gains we conservatives have achieved in this decade. Stalwarts like me are not going to vote for Birkenstock wearers no matter how bad things get in Iraq, but what about the proverbial soccer moms? Gerrymandering probably will save the House for us at least through the 2010 redistricting, but what about the Senate and the White House?"

This is a hopeful sign. It is one thing for liberals, consigned to the political wilderness to use coming storm rhetorical frames to express their fears of the consequences of bad policy, combined with hope that those undesired consequences will oust the hated ones. But, when conservatives sight the storm clouds, you can begin to think they are real. The storm is coming.

Of course, Democrats could still screw this up. The key is contained in a Bainbridge addendum: "I still think that's probably the worst possible strategy. But I'm very angry at Bush for having gotten us into this mess in the first place. And, as per the Powell doctrine, I do think it's time for the administration to come up with both a viable long-term goal and a clear exit strategy."

A Democrat calling for withdrawal is opening himself up to be blamed for losing Iraq: "the Democrats made us cut and run."

The right thing for the Democrats is to focus on making Iraq stick to Bush like hot tar, feathers to be added later.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

General Glut's Globblog: Mr. Housing Bubble

General Glut's Globblog: Mr. Housing Bubble: "Of the 20 most overvalued cities, sixteen are in California including Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego and Los Angeles."

The crash is coming and the location of the crater is predictable. Oh, my.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Whiskey Bar: Elephant Trap

Whiskey Bar: Elephant Trap: "given where things stand now, if the Dems don't do well next year, either Shrub and company will have pulled off a miracle in Iraq, the economy will have entered supply-side heaven, or we'll know for certain that we're effectively living in a one-party state."

Yes, it certainly looks like the Perfect Storm is coming: Iraq War going south, the economy going south, scandals looming.

But, it is always possible that the Democrats are so weak -- and they (meaning the political leadership) is pretty damn weak -- and the Republicans so entrenched, that the Democrats will fail to win either house of Congress. A lot depends on gaining control of the Senate and/or House of Representatives. Without the investigative power of a Congressional committee, the Democrats have little hope of cracking open the rotting core of Republican malfeasance.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » Sunday Discussion Group

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » Sunday Discussion Group: "Over the last fifty years or so, we have become a nation of primarily selfish, isolated, fearful (or bored), purpose-less, tasteless, non-passionate and uncompassionate, artless, incurious, brain-dead consumers, unaware of any past, willing to bankrupt any future, i.e., perfect targets for what (little) the GOP has to offer.

"This isn't just an abstraction. Most of us have our own house in our own cul de sac, our own (individual) car(s), our own rooms, our own TVs, our own iPods plugged into our own ears, our own cell phones, our own cubicle or office, our own computer, our own water bottle, in-home laundry, private baths/toilets, shopping for anything over our home computer. We are not required to share anything with anyone anymore and, partly from that, we have forgotten how to stand in anyone else's shoes.

"The Democratic Party used to see election as the means to realizing many worthwhile goals, most of which required the power of government to enforce or to amass the wherewithal for achieving. Many of those massive, transformative goals have already been achieved. We seem to have shrunk away from follow-through on the rest and on recognition of any new ones.

"Getting elected has become much more expensive and demanding of the time and attention of candidates and party officials. The GOP has always had a corporate goose to lay its golden eggs, and labor has basically collapsed. Still, these are just excuses. What's lacking are the kinds of GOALS the party used to proclaim, even foolishly, always with hope and a call for common sacrifice … large-scale, transformative goals for the downtrodden, for nation and the world. Without those, we have become, and will continue to be, only a poor (in several senses) version of the GOP.

"The only significant Democrats I see on the national scene at the moment are the ghosts of Kennedy/Johnson, the hopes of Barack Obama, and the reality of Cindy Sheehan."

Wow. Thank you, Ed Stephan.

A useful reminder that the ascent of the Republican Right has not been a flash in the pan, and has not been unrelated to the decline not just in the fortunes of the Democratic Party, but in its strength, as well. The advent of Bush was the culmination of some long term trends, which are not likely to be swept away in any political storm. (But, we'll see. We live in hope.)

Power Line: Defeatist Triumphalism at the Times

The liberal blogosphere is pointing to Hindrocket's beginning the "Mother of All Blame Games":

Power Line: Defeatist Triumphalism at the Times: "there is only one man whose views about Iraq will really matter for the next three and a half years. His name is George W. Bush, and he isn't going to cut and run. Nor can Rich and his ilk significantly impede the efforts of America's armed forces.

"In the medium and long term, what happens in Iraq is up to the Iraqis. It is certainly possible that they might forfeit what the Bush administration and America's armed forces have given them: a chance at freedom and the opportunity to live in peace with their neighbors. But if the Iraqis fail, it won't be because liberals stampeded the United States into abandoning them."

If the coming perfect storm is the narrative refuge of the liberal, fearful of the consequences of Bush's catastrophic Presidency, and "hopeful" that Bush will at least be blamed for his failures, the above is the narrative refuge of the Right Wing: blame the liberals.

Bush is the tool of a vast movement, whose aim is to establish an authoritarian plutocracy at home and an Empire abroad. They have adopted the rhetoric of liberalism, though. They have pretended to want to establish democracy in Iraq. And, as they fail in their pretended aims, they will blame the liberal Democrats, who, in fact, have been completely out of power during the whole sorry adventure. And, they will continue to scheme to achieve their real aim: an American Empire, dominating the world (and, not incidentally, the world's oil supply). Even more, they will cling to power.

If the faint, perverse hope of liberals is that the vast right-wing conspiracy might be swept away in the debris of their own catastrophic failure, the hope of the right-wing is that the falling debris will fall on the liberals. No matter the degree to which liberals may judge the consequences of the actions of BushCo to be undesirable, the right will continue to build an authoritarian state and American Empire. They are determined to drive liberalism out of American politics. And, if they are given half a chance to "hooverize" some hapless Democrat, for acting in even a half-way responsible way, they will do it.

They have their narrative script ready, and they will repeat it endlessly. That may be all it takes.

Angry Bear: Stupid is as Stupid Does

Angry Bear: " 'Declare Victory and Come Home' was one of my favorite blurbs some 35 years ago [during the Vietnam War]. Today, it would be an incredibly stupid thing to do – unless your only agenda was a Rovian GOP victory in 2006. Why do I sense that our worst nightmare is being designed right now in the White House?"

Bush has lost the Iraq War. The passage from the Washington Post, which has prompted Angry Bear's musings:

"The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say. "What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. 'We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning.' "

This blog is dedicated to looking for the consequences of Bush's stupidity, as they arrive on the horizon. Knowing that Bush's Presidency will, to a large extent, be the ruin of the United States, the country we love, we wryly note our own perverse hope that the catastrophic consequences of Bush's Presidency at least envelope Bush and his political allies. The one dividend -- the one positive -- we hope for, is that the collective greedy stupidity be swept aside, flushed out of the American political system for a generation or two, while the country recovers and rebuilds.

Now, Angry Bear offers us a reminder that Bush voters may, in fact, be too stupid to realize that the U.S. has lost Iraq in a big way.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Mark A. R. Kleiman: "About f*cking time" Dep't

Mark A. R. Kleiman: "About f*cking time" Dep't: "Really, you can't make this stuff up. From today's WaPo:

"At his meeting with his war cabinet yesterday, Bush reviewed the latest developments but reported no new direction. The administration has set up seven interagency groups focused on its main priorities in Iraq. These are providing security and training Iraqi forces, building national political institutions, restoring energy and other services, tackling economic problems, establishing rule of law, enlisting international help, and improving strategic communications.

"Now they're figuring out what the priority areas are and setting up groups to work on them? Now?

"Maybe if they'd been doing that back in the summer of 2003 -- when Rummy was dismissing the looting as no biggie and telling his subordinates he didn't care whether Iraqi civil servants got paid or not -- instead of making 'Mission Accomplished' banners for the President to stand in front of, we might have actually accomplished the mission.

"Of course, that would have required giving the need to make peace work in Iraq precedence over patronage and crony capitalism in the management of the occupation. The problem with despising 'reality' and those who pay attention to it is that sometimes reality bites back.

"The latest pro-Bush talking point is that all opposition to the war is based on nothing but Bush-hatred, and that those who now oppose the war would support it were it being waged under a different President. That omits the possibility that, under a different President, it would have been waged more competently."

Bush has lost the war in Iraq, and there really is nothing, which can be done about it now. In terms of a coming political storm, this creates some difficulty for Bush. Bush would welcome a simple-minded anti-war movement. Bush can blame all his failures on the left. Its not logical, but it is the kind of rhetoric, which works with people on the Right, who believe in the efficacy of prayer, and such. To them, Bush's failure in Iraq may well be because unnamed, invisible people on the Left are "rooting for" the insurgents in Iraq or Al Quaeda. People like Mark A. R. Kleiman are not pacifists, and they despise protest movements on general principle. But, they also do not like the total waste of losing a war, through corruption and incompetence. If those, who oppose the Iraq war on pacifist or other anti-war principle, can make common cause with the Kleimans of this world, then a political storm capable of sweeping Bush and his Republican co-conspirators out of power, is possible.

Those, who are anti-war are far less numerous, persuasive or politically potent than those, who oppose losing a war, by means of corruption and incompetence.

No clear finish line in Iraq - Highlights -

No clear finish line in Iraq - Highlights - "'It's a race against time because by the end of this coming summer we can no longer sustain the presence we have now,' said retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who visited Iraq most recently in May and briefed Cheney, Rice and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 'This thing, the wheels are coming off it.'"

Bush has lost Iraq.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The looming economic disaster: a simple outline

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Global Excess Liquidity?:

Brad DeLong has provided a simple, brief explanation of the economic problem looming over the country:

"Where I see the potential problem is that the dollar is overvalued and may--any moment--fall by 40% or more, should international currency speculators decide that the dollar's run is over and should central banks decide that keeping the value of the dollar high is now too expensive. The United States currently imports 16% of GDP. A 40% price rise in 16% of GDP is a one-shot 6 percentage point increase in the price level. The Federal Reserve is not going to let the inflation rate jump far above 3% per year: it will respond to a falling value of the dollar and the resulting accelerating inflation by raising interest rates far and fast. Thus should a sudden 40% (or more) fall in the dollar take place, a big recession follows.

"The way to try to head off this potential problem is to try to make sure that the decline in the dollar takes place slowly and gradually. Slowly shrink the federal government budget deficit--even move the government budget into surplus. Take other steps to shrink gross domestic purchases relative to gross domestic product. Allow other currencies to slowly appreciate relative to the dollar so that the supply shock delivered by dollar decline is spread out and small in any one time period.

"But raising interest rates is not a way to head off this potential problem. A balanced increase in interest rates would not affect the dollar, and leave the dollar overvaluation problem as serious as ever. An increase in U.S. interest rates would make dollar-denominated assets more attractive, and increase the magnitude of the dollar valuation problem. An increase in U.S. interest rates would raise U.S. unemployment. And to what gain?"

Like the War in Iraq, this economic situation presents a very real threat of "Hooverization." That is, the Bush administration may well succeed in pushing this problem off onto whoever is fool enough to get elected President in 2008. Putting off this economic disaster to 2009 or beyond is certainly feasible, and, for the conspiracy theorists among you, many of Bush's proposals on taxes, Social Security, etc., are loaded out there in 2009-2011, creating, in effect, timebombs, for whomever follows George "Apres Moi" Bush.

The kind of soft landing Brad describes was accomplished, more or less, by Clinton in the 1990's. Don't bet on Hillary doing such a great job. And, don't bet on a Republican at the Federal Reserve cooperating with a Democrat. The right-wing want deflation. The merely rich and very rich are not concerned about losing their jobs, and are more than willing to sacrifice the American middle classes to preserving the value of their claims on the U.S. treasury. Better 10% unemployment, blamed by the corporate right-wing media on a Democrat, than a bout of (wage) inflation. Rising wages are so icky!

Bird Flu Replication

The Agonist | thoughtful, global, timely: "Bird Flu Replication"

What are the possible elements of a political "perfect storm"? Who were (will be?) the four horsemen of the apocalyse? War (arrived, thank you); famine (housing bubble about to burst?, China not interested in restocking Wal-Mart?); Pestilence.

Ah, pestilence. This is the crew, who, last year, managed to screw up the flu vaccine supply. And, this year, the world awaits the mutation of bird flu into some lethal epidemic, while they fart around. Hmmm. But, not content to place a single bet, when something as essential as pestilence is concerned, you will be happy to know that the Bushies are loosening the rules on mercury contamination of the environment, and, as a special bonus, are doing their level best to avoid discovering "mad cow" disease.

War, famine, pestilence. Coming together for the big reunion tour.

Wait, I said, four horsemen, didn't I. The fourth horseman is the the Antichrist. Gee, I wonder who wants that role? News | The Iraq war is over, and the winner is... Iran News | The Iraq war is over, and the winner is... Iran: "The Iraq war is over, and the winner is... Iran"

This blog is about the "Coming Perfect Storm" -- that is, the rhetorical political narrative, which hopes that Bush's failures as a leader lead to some sequence of events in which he, his fellow Republicans, and his politics, are discredited and driven from power. Those, including myself, who believe that Bush is unwise, expect that his policies will have undesirable consequences.

The truth, of course, is that the Coming Perfect Storm is a form of perverse, wishful thinking, as well as a recognition that politics is drama, theatre. It is not actual "cause and effect" in a sense , which a policy analyst, trained in economics or the other social sciences might recognize, which matter, to the course of events. It is the moral import of dramatic narratives, enacted on the political stage, which matter. Watching the car wreck, which is the Bush Administration, and being powerless to help or hinder, all one can do is hope that some drama arises, which brings these morons their just desserts and puts the country on a better course.

The sad possibility looms that no catastrophe will ever consume the Bushies, or that the catastrophe will come, and consume the innocent. A Democrat could be elected President in 2008, and then be blamed, when he has to raise taxes and withdraw from Iraq, dooming the Democrats to permanent minority status. In dramatic narrative, that outcome would be termed ironic.

But, we live in hope, however perverse that hope may be. It is only 2005, and a long time, before 2008 rolls around. Some elements of the Perfect political storm are already in place. The most important one is firmly in place. The U.S. has lost the war in Iraq.

That outcome is unalterable. It is possible, I suppose, that the Iraqis have not yet lost the war in Iraq, but I doubt it. But, a "U.S." victory is now beyond the realm of possibility.

From now until the U.S. withdraws in ignominy, Bush has to cope with having lost a war he chose to fight.

Now, we wait on the economy, and the Democrat's doubtful ability to secure some base of power in the 2006 election.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Kevin Drum sights a storm cloud on the horizon

The Washington Monthly: "one thing is pretty certain: the next oil shock — and there will be one eventually — is going to be worse than any previous shock. Fasten your seat belts."

Monday, August 8, 2005

That Hissing Sound - New York Times

That Hissing Sound - Paul Krugman: "the U.S. economy has become deeply dependent on the housing bubble. The economic recovery since 2001 has been disappointing in many ways, but it wouldn't have happened at all without soaring spending on residential construction, plus a surge in consumer spending largely based on mortgage refinancing. Did I mention that the personal savings rate has fallen to zero?

"Now we're starting to hear a hissing sound, as the air begins to leak out of the bubble. And everyone - not just those who own Zoned Zone real estate - should be worried."

OK, so here is one essential element of the perfect storm, an economic recession driven by a large, irresitable momentum in the economy, to wit, the collapsing housing bubble.

It should be said, and Krugman did not say it clearly enough, that, "the" housing bubble is really a great many local housing bubbles, spread across the English-speaking world, and varying in intensity. Lots of areas have not been affected. Others will be affected intensely.

There are some other economic threats out there as well. The Chinese may decide that they like revaluation. Something may happen, which causes spikes in gasoline prices.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: "Hated and Not Feared"

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: "Hated and Not Feared": "In his classic work, The Prince, Machiavelli wrote 'a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated.' In other words, the best position to be in is to be feared and loved; the next best is to be feared and not hated; and the prince should avoid being hated and feared. Tellingly, Machiavelli did not even consider the possibility of being hated and not feared - presumably because a prince in that position would not be a prince for very long.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the situation in which the United States now finds itself. Fear of American power is diminishing, while animosity toward U.S. policy is increasing. We are, in short, in the worst situation possible, and as a consequence we can expect further grim challenges ahead."


Hullabaloo: "Honestly, this blind defense of Palmiero has little to do with loyalty. It's about Bush's faith based approach to everything. If he believes it, it must be true. He does not use reason to come to conclusions. He makes decisions based on feelings and beliefs and 'instinct.' In this case, his instinct is that Palmiero is a good guy and therefore could not have lied. His 'instinct' is that creationism makes sense and therefore, is as legitimate as evolution. His 'instinct' was that Saddam was a threat and therefore, we had to invade.

"We have a man with a child's mind running this country. Millions of us can see this as clearly as we can see his face on our television screens. People can call me an elitist and a snob for pointing this out but I will never stop. It's like telling me it's rude to notice that the sun came up this morning or that gravity exists. It is observable fact that this president is intellectually stunted. I'm not going to pretend otherwise so that certain people's feelings don't get hurt. I'll lose my mind. "

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Swing State Project

Swing State Project: "It's over. Paul lost by about 4000 votes--he got 48.2% of the vote at the end of the night. We didn't take the seat, but holy shit was this a win for the 50 state strategy, the netroots, and the future of the country--the grassroots of the Democratic Party."

The super-geeks will mark this down as a Democratic "victory" because it was close, but, you know what? "Victory" is actually winning, and reasonable, realistic people did not win in Ohio's 2nd District tonite. Too little too late, will not achieve power, no matter how "close". The country is looking more and more like one dead lobster.