Thursday, September 29, 2005

Something may have just gone very, very wrong in Iraq

The Blogging of the President: "As many of you here know, I have from the beginning asserted that the incompetence of GWB and his team were going to ruin Iraq. However something happened today which made me think that matters were worse than even I had considered. What happened is that today marked Iraq's first known female suicide bomber."

Check it out: oldman explains why, if this marks a trend, it is very sad and very scary.


Eschaton: "Price are going to be 50 to 100 percent higher for residential consumers than in previous year."

the coming perfect storm

The "topic" of this blog is the "Coming Perfect Storm" -- that event, or more likely, set of events, which serves to redirect the course of the country and to bring a halt to right-wing, Republican dominance.

In the political history of the United States, there have been a number of political storms, which have served to sweep one political coalition out of power, and another, into power. The American Revolution was the product of a series of such storms -- dramatic political events, interpreted and narrated by participants in such a way as to create American nationalism. The Civil War was the largest such political storm. The 1929 market crash and the Great Depression, which followed, occasioned the political storm, which carried FDR and the Democratic Party into office, and political dominance, which lasted into the 1970's. The Watergate scandal, which finally flushed Nixon out of office, was one of the smaller such storms.

Such storms are, in a sense, built into the American constitution. The Constitution was deliberately designed, with federalism and with a separation of powers at the Federal level, to prevent any transitory majority from consolidating power. Such a long consolidation would end the Republic, as Caesar's consolidation of power ended the Roman Republic. But, ordinarily, political coalitions broad enough to maintain a majority in Congress and elect the President have to be so broad in their appeal, in a large and diverse country, as to be necessarily moderate and centrist. Historically, persistant coalitions have had a limited, basically generational duration.

The coalition, inaugurated by Nixon and his "Southern strategy" of appealing to white, southern racists, has culminated in George W. Bush -- mediocre, lying, incompetent, authoritarian, corrupt, just like his progenitor.

Political storms are events of political drama -- they acquire their power and meaning more from the narratives attached to them than from the substance of the disruption, conflict and suffering they occasion. And, the "hope" of a political storm is a rhetorical device, a wishing for the just downfall of those to whom one is opposed, politically, but powerless to frustrate or remove from office, without large numbers of people having a change of heart.

When a President as incompetent and unwise as George W. Bush achieves high office, a political storm is certain to follow his failings and their inevitable fallout. Corruption and arrogance make overreaching likely, and stupidity and ignorance make failure probable if not inevitable. Watching the storm clouds gather at the horizon and make their way across the plain, sport consists in trying to anticipate the elements, which will draw the whirlwind.

Corruption and scandal are inevitable elements. Incompetence plays its part. Tragic and comic subplots are certain to emerge.

The Fall of George W. Bush will be one of the biggest and most consequential political storms in American history, if for no other reason than that George W. Bush has been, arguably, the worst President in American history -- certainly a worthy rival to Franklin Pierce and Warren G. Harding.

America may well be forced to admit that it has lost a war, an important war. Vietnam was a larger conflict, but the tragedy of Vietnam entailed its unimportance; losing in Vietnam had few consequences for the U.S. Losing Iraq is a terrible blow to material and vital interests, as well as to U.S. prestige. Losing as the U.S. has, in a miasma of corruption, torture, and incompetent expedience does as much damage to the image of the U.S., as it does to our material interest in Mideast oil.

More uncertain is the damage, which Bush's deficit spending has done to responsible politics and to the economic prospects of the U.S. Voters are more responsive to the business cycle, than to any other kind of political "argument."

I am intently conscious that the wish for a political storm is compensation for a feeling powerlessness in the face of American decline. The Republican program has undermined the basis for American prosperity, particularly the American middle class, and it has done so by small increments cumulating in large changes. It may be that Republican authoritarianism reflects social changes, which are irradicable. Rather than a political storm wiping out right-wing Republicanism, there may be no political storm, or, perhaps, a hapless Democrat will be made the fall guy -- a Democrat elected President in 2008 will be forced withdraw from Iraq, increase taxes, cut Medicare, and devalue the dollar; the Republicans will blame the Democrat for the consequences of Republican policies, and the Democrats will remain out of power for another generation.

Mark A. R. Kleiman: Bush's drinking

Mark A. R. Kleiman: Bush's drinking and Dreier's sex life: "someone who drank heavily from age 15 to age 40, decided (under pressure from his wife) that he had a problem, and quit abruptly, and who goes back to drinking when under heavy profesional pressure, is at high risk of spinning out of control, especially if he's someone who after almost twenty years (mostly) off the bottle regards his drinking years as 'the good old days.'"

For those of us, who watch Bush, and see a moron, inarticulate and insecure in the extreme, there's an element of curiosity, not dissimilar to what one experiences, passing a car wreck on the highway. Those, who heard the same simple words, simple sentences, and simple platitudes, with which W. addressed his "War on Terror" and saw a gratifying "moral clarity" were never inclined to see the truth in the thesis that he was what AA types call a "dry" drunk -- a non-drinking, but also not recovering, alcoholic. But, those of us with a more critical idea are beginning to wonder if George is still dry, and seeing evidence that he's hitting the bottle. This has some very frightening implications, and could well become an element in the gathering political storm

Ira Reiner in the Los Angeles Times: Legal railroading disguised as efficiency

Legal railroading disguised as efficiency - Los Angeles Times: "THE SENATE Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005 this week. This legislation, ostensibly designed to make the justice system more efficient, is a Trojan horse whose transparent purpose is to strip the federal courts of virtually all of their jurisdiction to review state criminal court proceedings.

"Essentially, the legislation would eviscerate the role of the federal courts in ensuring that innocent people are not mistakenly convicted of crimes and that state courts do not send people to prison in violation of their constitutional rights. It would restrict habeas corpus rights, which are enshrined in the Constitution, date back to the Magna Carta and guarantee that you can go to a court and tell a judge that you are being held illegally. "

The Republicans are relentless in their efforts to create a Fascist State.
The Coming Perfect Storm is a blog given over to citing instances of wishing for, or expecting a dramatic "political storm" to sweep away the right-wing Republican machine, which has a lock on power in the Federal government. The history of the United States includes many instances in which a governing coalition has overreached, split internally, collided painfully with reality or simply been the victim of unfortunate events, and been driven from power, with dramatic results. Politically aware commentators, hostile to the Bush agenda, are given to wishful thinking, in the face of a liberal inability to marshal a political majority.

The Bush Presidency is busy making institutional changes, which will have a far-reaching effect on the American economy, society, and body politic. Some of these serve to reinforce and buttress the Republican majority governing coalition. Democrats have fallen short in their efforts to form a new governing political coalition, partly from an internal failure of leadership and institutional weakness, and partly because Republican efforts to change the country have had an effect. There are virtually no liberal voices in the American media, today, but more than 40% of Americans still believe that the media has a "liberal bias," because Republicans and their lackeys in the corporate, right-wing media keep telling them as much.

The future of the Republic is in the balance. The current Republican majority is working hard to build a fascist state -- authoritarian, corrupt, serving the interests of business corporations and the very wealthy at the expense of the poor and whatever remains of the middle class.

The American Constitution was deliberately designed to make political majorities inherently transitory. That is the only security for freedom, within the structure of the American Constitution. A series of economic and military catastrophes may be enough to awaken the electorate and make them confront the nature and ill intentions of the Republican coalition to which they have entrusted power. Or, the Republicans may finally succeed in "boiling" the American lobster with gradual measures, destroying the Republic and installing in its stead a fascist State.

There are two ways, in which the Republican triumph might play out. Republicans may retain majorities in both houses of Congress in 2006, and by means of those majorities, both suppress the myriad corruption scandals now beginning to plague their leadership, and the Republicans may or may not elect a President in 2008.

Electing a Democratic President in 2008, while retaining a Republican Congress or a closely divided Congress may actually work in favor of the Republicans. If the economic reckoning made inevitable by Republican profligacy and the reckoning with disaster in Iraq can be postponed long enough, a Democratic President will have to impose the painful correctives. A Democrat will have to withdraw from Iraq, for example, and Republicans can "blame" her for the American defeat in Iraq. A Democrat will have to raise taxes, and cut benefits, to pay for the national debt made to balloon by Republicans.

Bad Republican policy under George W. Bush is a timebomb, but if it can be made to go off under a Democrat, the Republicans may be able to secure their long-term hold on political power, and to make permanent the changes in American society, which favor the very wealthy and large corporations at the expense of everyone else.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

KR Washington Bureau | 09/28/2005 | Forecasters thinking recession could be coming

KR Washington Bureau | 09/28/2005 | Forecasters thinking recession could be coming: "Economic forecasters and Wall Street analysts are quietly hedging their bets after months of rosy reports about a vibrant U.S. economic outlook. They're now mentioning the growing possibility of recession ahead.

"Why? Soaring gasoline prices, nightmarish home-heating costs this winter, plunging consumer confidence, rising interest rates and falling new-home sales.

"Similar energy-price spikes, rising interest rates and housing slowdowns played important roles in past recessions. While most forecasters caution that recession remains unlikely, they nevertheless are dusting off the R-word, which almost all of them brushed aside before hurricanes Katrina and Rita."

Bush's economic stewardship has been so irresponsible, it would be difficult to imagine a really rosy future. But, timing is everything. My own feeling is that the appointment of a successor to Greenspan might be a triggerpoint. Especially if Bush appoints a moron. I don't really know who Bernacke is, just that he has wanted the job all of his life and is well-prepared for it; Bernacke is the odds-on choice, but appointing a competent individual is so unlike Bush that we should wait and see. And, when I say I don't know Bernacke, I mean that I have no reason to either trust or distrust the conventional wisdom about him. Candidate number two is Martin Feldstein, who is a widely respected economist, and, also, something of an idiot. Some economists completely lose the ability to think in a detailed and objective way about economics, and Feldstein lost his ability to think and act wisely long, long ago. But, Bush could, conceivably, go into left field and pick a baseball player or a businessman or worse. Whoever is chosen is going to cause anxiety in the markets. Greenspan's own appointment triggered a market crash, and things were actually going fairly well at the time.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Carpetbagger Report: Criminal Republicans

The Carpetbagger Report � Blog Archive � Sunday Discussion Group: "The Republican White House is under a criminal investigation.

"The Republican House leader is under a criminal investigation.

"And as of this week, the Republican Senate leader is under a criminal investigation.

"All at the same time."

There are two ways to view these developments. The optimistic one is to think that these are clouds on the horizon, signals of the coming political storm, which will sweep the Rethugs out of power.

The other more realistic way is to recognize that the rule of law, itself, is under attack.

This is not the criminal justice system catching up with Republicans; this may be the latest Republican assault on the rule of law. Instead of a political scandal of Katrina/Rita proportions, we will get precedents, which will give Rove, Frist and maybe even, DeLay, practical immunity from prosecution.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Fafblog! Darkness falls: Update from the Gay Apocalypse

Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog.: "Darkness falls, my friends, bleak omens of final things. Over the last year or so we've seen, despite the best of intentions and the heartiest crushings of civil rights, the foreboding spread of Gay throughout the world as you know it, leading us inevitably, as James Dobson pointed out, towards the destruction of the earth.

"The Netherlands has already been destroyed by a falling meteor, Belgium by a shambling horde of flesh-devouring zombies, and all of Spain recently spontaneously burst into flame shortly after legalizing gay civil marriage. Canada and Massachusetts can't be far behind, with expert gayologists noting that the increased appearance in these regions of incest, man-on-turtle love, cannibalism, and Yog-Sothoth the great and terrible, key and keeper of the gate, indicates that their relative economic and social stability will soon give way to a hell-blasted nightmare world in which the living envy the divorce rates of the dead."

I suppose point of view on the coming apocalypse is telling.

Hullabaloo: Dirty Rats

Hullabaloo: "I have long agreed with the old saying that if you want to kill the snake you've gotta go for the head. In the case of the modern Republican Party, it's a four headed hydra consisting of Karl Rove (strategy), Tom DeLay (party enforcer), Ralph Reed (christian right) and Grover Norquist (movement organizer.) They all interact with one another at the nexus of K Street and the RNC. They may be taken down by one guy -- their good friend, ex uber-lobbyist, Jack Abramoff. (Uncle Karl, of course, is likely in even deeper shit.)

"The Democrats have never exploited (or never been able to exploit) the sheer criminality of this gang. "

Nixon was laid low by two enterprising metro reporters at the Washington Post, cooperating with Deep Throat, an FBI official with envy and a conscience.

Could men so powerful actually run afoul of the legal system?

Ian Welsh: the coming Winter of the American Republic

The Blogging of the President: "For over thirty years now deliberate government policy has impoverished the working and middle classes; burdened them with debt and bled them dry – put their wives to work and taken from them their rights. Athens was born of debt relief and so was America – of the right of men who had failed to start again free of their debts. The post war America; the most prosperous society in history was created on the back of the GI Bill – the flood of veterans into universities, the refusal of men who had fought for their country and seen their friends die to accept that they were worthy of anything less than a full role in their country.

"Such an America – where debtors were not enslaved to creditors; where the poor had defense against the rich; where any man might be educated, is in decline. Education is for those with money, and not for the underclass – year after year the price of university rises faster than incomes; the sources of public funds dry up with those that remain requiring the aspiring scholar to place himself in debt till middle age. And creditors have packed bankruptcy courts with their hand-picked judges while changing bankruptcy law to allow debt to chain their borrowers such that they might works decades for their new masters.

"Such an America is an America where only those who have already may dare – only the truly rich can risk failure in such a society, and so only they can truly dare the risks required for success. Such an America; one where education is for those who would already get it; and good education is only for those who are affluent; is an America where the chains of ignorance weigh heavy and where bigotry and intolerance can rise again.

"And so we find ourselves in late autumn. Winter, truly, is not far off. Winter, for nations and people, is not a fixed thing – not a fixed span of months, years or even generations. When Spain fell to winter – how long before a new weaker spring arose? Still, for some, the thaw does come early and a new cycle is begun.

"For America winter is no longer avoidable. The course was set over 30 years ago, and the choice to make the final plunge, to make the final liquidation of good will and cold hard cash, was made in 2004.

"So now, near Autumn’s end, with the wind howling outside, there are two tasks for the wise: to provision for winter, and to prepare for the struggles during that time. Will there be a new American Republic? Will there rise a true Empire? Will there be a long wasteland, redolent of the fall of Spain? Will there be civil war? How will the new America be forged? And whose blood will it be quenched in?"

On this blog, the question has often been posed: are we waiting for a perfect storm to sweep the Republican fascist state away, or are we lobsters in the pot, waiting for the water to boil?

Ian makes the case that we are simply watching the rapid decline of the Republic, in the autumn of its years.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Kevin Drum: The other 50% has me a little edgy, though.

The Washington Monthly: "Of course, we can always hope there won't be a crisis in the next three years. In fact, as Brad DeLong notes, there appears to be at least a 50% chance that there won't be.

"The other 50% has me a little edgy, though."

What's he talking about? He's talking about the hollow Treasury Department, where many, many chairs sit empty. And, he's talking about the possibility of financial crisis, with no Treasury Department capable of responding.

When Greenspan retires, there will follow, within a month or so, a day of panic. That day of panic could be turned into something more, by an incompetent Treasury.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Oh, Rita!

Tropical Storm Rita seems headed toward Galveston, as Hurricane Rita.

I wouldn't plan on driving anywhere soon.

Talking Points Memo: Oh that's a good sign.

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: September 18, 2005 - September 24, 2005 Archives: "The Office of Federal Procurement Policy handles procurement policy for the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

"Until Friday the Administrator of the office was David Hossein Safavian.

"Today he was arrested on a three count indictment."

British Soldiers Clash With Iraqi Police in Basra

British Soldiers Clash With Iraqi Police in Basra: "Heavy clashes erupted Monday between Iraqi police and British soldiers based in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, witnesses said."

Clusterfuck Nation by Jim Kunstler : Another Country

Clusterfuck Nation by Jim Kunstler : Another Country: "Take a good look at America around you now, because when we emerge from the winter of 2005 - 6, we're going to be another country. The reality-oblivious nation of mall hounds, bargain shoppers, happy motorists, Nascar fans, Red State war hawks, and born-again Krispy Kremers is headed into a werewolf-like transformation that will reveal to all the tragic monster we have become.

"What we will leave behind is the certainty that we have made the right choices."

". . . It really won't take another jolting event like a major hurricane or a terror incident or an H4N5 flu outbreak to take things over the edge -- though it is very likely that something else will happen. George W. Bush, and the party he represents, are headed into full Hooverization mode. After Katrina, nobody will take claims of governmental competence seriously."

". . . serious problems on-the-ground are going to affect the more ephemeral elements floating around in the financial ether: the value of the dollar, the hazard in hedge funds, the credibility of institutions. By October, the hurricane season will be ending and the stock market crash season will be underway. It is hard to imagine that companies like WalMart really believe they will keep their profits up when their customers are paying twice as much as they did a year ago to heat their houses and fill their gas tanks.

"Meanwhile, does anybody remember a place called Iraq?"

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Angry Bear Predicts the Future

Angry Bear: "Running the government poorly has consequences. Those consequences have been mostly borne by the citizens of Iraq so far (and only very indirectly by US taxpayers), but now the residents of the Gulf coast are feeling their effects first-hand. I hope that I'm wrong, but the sad history of the US reconstruction effort in Iraq provides a grim suggestion of what we may expect in New Orleans over the next few years. "

The corruption and incompetence on display in Iraq have been on display at a distance. This is where we get up close and personal.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Whiskey Bar: The Prattle of New Orleans

Whiskey Bar: The Prattle of New Orleans: "There's no point in parsing every point in Shrub's big speech last night -- not when we've learned, through bitter experience, that there's rarely a connection between the real world and the text on his teleprompter."

Bush speeches have been the kiss of death to a number of initiatives, in one way or another.

Katrina may have been the beginning of the Perfect Political Storm -- the Katrina Reconstruction promises to be nearer to the main event.

Incompetence, Corruption, Arrogance and Callous Indifference are the Four Horsemen of the Bush Apocalypse. Shorter Bush speech: saddle up, my hardies!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

via Calculated Risk: US Bank Economist: Recession Imminent

via Calculated Risk: Economist Tucker Hart Adams: Recession Imminent: "The economy stands at a fork in the road as we move through 2006, and we can make an equally compelling case for a year that ends in recession for the nation and most of the industrialized world. If the Chinese economy crashes, if Asian central governments stop buying U.S. government securities and interest rates move up 150-200 basis points, if there is an outbreak of trade protectionism in the U.S. that spreads around the globe, if the housing bubble bursts, if U.S. debt and deficits – consumer, government and/or current account – become unmanageable, if oil prices continue to rise – any combination of these and perhaps no more than a single one makes a recession inevitable. In terms of a mild recession, it is only a question of when it occurs, in 2006 or a year or so later. At some point U.S. consumers must bring their debt under control and housing prices must reflect demand for living space rather than Ponzischeme speculation. At worst, the eerie parallels with 1929 turn out to be predictive and we face a long period of difficult economic times."

The best analogy I can think of is driving on ice: the car begins to slide; the right thing to do is to steer with the slide, in the hope that you will regain control as the car resumes normal forward motion; the natural impulse is steer away from the slide, but unfortunately, that natural impulse will ensure that you lose control and the car will spin. Right now, the Federal Reserve appears to be in control. I say, appears to be in control, because the Federal Reserve is deliberately and periodically raising the Federal Funds Rate, with the announced intention of heading off inflation. That's the Federal Reserve's normal function, steering the economy away from inflation. But, there are icy patches on the road ahead. Any number of factors -- a spike in oil prices stands out -- might cause the Federal Reserve to overreact, to tighten hard, when it should be accomodating.

The Federal Funds Rate is the shortest of short-term interest rates. Long-term rates have remained mysteriously low for some time, helping to drive a housing bubble, which has affected many local housing markets in much of the English-speaking world.

I suppose the worst case scenario is the Fed responding to an apparent uptick in inflation, driven by higher oil prices, with higher interest rates. Higher long-term rates depress the go-go housing markets, which ends the boom in construction, causing a recession. Oil prices have only spiked, and they fall suddenly -- there is no inflationary pressure, but interest rates are higher anyway; a wave of bankruptcies, which start with a decline in housing prices, scare people into a sudden shift toward saving. Consumer demand collapses, and the recession is sharp and deep. The decline in consumer demand scares business, which limits investment, which further deepens the recession. China decides to allow its currency to rise relative to the dollar, which raises prices at Wal-Mart, further scaring consumers. China allowing its currency to rise, though, also means that interest rates have to remain high, choking off early recovery.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » An inside job

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » An inside job:

The Carpetbagger notices a bunch of "inside the Oval Office, tell-all" stories, which make Bush look really bad:

"It's not unreasonable to wonder — not accept as fact, just wonder — if the wheels have finally come off the Bush machine. If all was well in the West Wing, we wouldn't see anonymous aides telling Time and Newsweek what a schmuck the president is."

I personally think the "coming perfect storm" -- the political storm, which may serve to sweep the Republicans from power -- has only just begun, if it has begun at all.

The fundamental political alignment of coalitions, which underlies the Bush Presidency and the Republican "majority" has not changed. Katrina is a fast moving event; political change requires a sustained or repeated trauma to impress itself on the nation's political psyche. The news media has not been transformed from sycophants to polished professionals overnite.

There's a more or less fixed diversity of political worldviews, and profound political change is associated with their alignment into coalitions.

Some part of the Bush coalition -- many only the ill-informed, non-aligned middle-of-the-roaders, without ideological committments -- has had its confidence shaken by Katrina and its aftermath. That's all that has happened. It is significant, but not for itself. Its only lasting effect will be to make the middle-of-the-roaders easier to reach with a negative narrative about Bush, the next time.

The next time: what will it be? Flu epidemic? Withdrawal from Iraq? Economic recession? Collapse of the dollar? A second hurricane? Terrorist attack? Revelations of corruption.

Personally, I favor "corruption." Reconstruction in New Orleans and environs will occasion lots of corruption, and it will not be invisible for being remote, as it was in Iraq. And, in Louisiana, you have Democrats watching things unfold and not very honest Democrats -- set a thief to catch a thief?

Corruption is the one issue, which has the potential to separate Bush from a significant part of his coalition, because it gives the Democrats opportunities to spin out a narrative, which distinguishes what Democrats want, from what Bush wants, in concrete, financial terms.

Post Ombudsman: A Stumble Amid the Good Stuff

A Stumble Amid the Good Stuff: "As it turned out, the information was wrong. Blanco had declared a state of emergency on Aug. 26, before the hurricane made landfall. That was easily checkable, but it wasn't checked. The source of the statement was a single anonymous Bush administration official. The story did not explain why this official had been granted anonymity to take a potshot at the governor or whether reporters had pressed on this issue. And editors allowed it into the paper that way.

"The Post moved quickly to correct this. The paper's Web site,, posted a correction that same day in red letters at the top of the news story, which was quite visible and effective. The newspaper ran a correction the following day, a two-sentence item that was not even the lead in the daily correction box on Page A2 and, oddly, did not mention that the source of the information was 'a senior Bush official.'"

This so pisses me off.

The Washington Post has adopted a policy, which allows it to funnel right-wing propaganda.

Sunday, September 11, 2005 Supporters Question Iraq War Tactics

Bill Kristol: "'The president knows we have to win this war. If some of his subordinates are trying to find ways to escape from it, he needs to assert control over them, overrule them or replace them,' Kristol wrote. 'What the president needs to do now is tell the Pentagon to stop talking about (and planning for) withdrawal, and make sure they are planning for victory.'"

I've got news for Bill Kristol. The U.S. has lost the Iraq War. Not surprisingly, they are aware of that fact at the Pentagon. The Pentagon is planning on the only basis one can plan effectively, reality.

Informed Comment: Where we stand today is not a good place

Informed Comment: "On the fourth-year anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the US, it is important that we take stock of where we stand. We do not stand in a good place. The US military is bogged down in an intractable guerrilla war in Iraq, which most Muslims view as an aggressive neo-imperialism. Afghanistan is still unstable. The major al-Qaeda leaders are still at large, and recently struck London. Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans on 8/30 have demonstrated that the US government is unprepared to deal with major disasters, and that Bush administration priorities have often been capricious."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » A flood of political fallout? Don't count on it

The Carpetbagger Report » Blog Archive » A flood of political fallout? Don't count on it: "In a country where people were smart and rational and fundamentally decent, yes, that's exactly what would happen. Unfortunately, the United States is none of those things right now."

What's "that"? What would happen? Bush would be out on his ass, of course. Will that happen, literally or figuratively? No.

Carpetbagger (Morbo) goes on:

"It amazes me that after five years plus of the Bush Gang, some journalists still "misunderestimate" him. This is a man who never admits a mistake, a man surrounded by the most craven partisan political operatives imaginable, a man who completely and utterly lacks any shred of a conscience, a man who cares about one thing and one thing only: the acquisition and maintenance of power for the most extreme elements of his party. They will say and do anything to hold on to that power, and if it means lying through their teeth, shifting the blame to innocent people and engineering phony good news, so be it.

"Bush went to New Orleans and said inane and offensive things. On the way down, he said he was looking forward to the visit, then realized that was a dumb thing to say and said he wasn't. Once on the ground, he reminisced about partying there. He made a few cursory visits with victims in one of the nicer shelters, then told everyone he was leaving but that he would not forget them. It was without a doubt the lamest performance by a president during a natural disaster ever and illustrated the depths to which this man is hopelessly out of his element.

"Not much to work with there, right? But Bush doesn't have to burnish his reputation on his own. If he did, we would have been shed of him a long time ago. What saves him is that he has the most cynical team of political jackals the world has ever known at his side. They are no match for progressives, many of whom foolishly continue to believe in the inherent decency of humankind.

"That Bush team knows it has a powerful ally on its side: the natural cluelessness of much the nation. They know that if you repeat something enough, with sufficient force, many Americans will start to believe it — no matter how outlandish or disconnected from the truth it is.

"Don't believe me? Then ask yourself this: What percentage of the American public still believes Saddam Hussein was tied to Sept. 11, 2001?

"Even now, as corpses are dragged out of wretched waters of New Orleans, as the sick and elderly die and newly minted orphans cry themselves to sleep at night in squalid shelters, even as desperate people wander the streets looking for missing loved ones or pack themselves into tents in strange cities, Team Bush has its priorities straight — not helping the victims, of course, but finding ways to pin the blame for their total and abject failure on someone else.

"Watch them work their magic in the days and weeks to come. Watch them and be disgusted. But above all, be ashamed. Be very ashamed. "

That's the hard truth. 40% of Americans despised Bush before Katrina, and despise him even more intently after the storm.

30% of the American People thinks Bush is a god and support him absolutely and are willing to believe anything good about him, however disconsonant with reality. A small fraction of those people are grossly rich, and actually benefit personally from Bush policies, and another important fraction serve the rich, and benefit personally, as well -- they have careers in journalism or politics, which their own mediocrity would otherwise never earn them. A whole bunch of that 30% are ignorant and stupid.

That leaves the 30% in the middle -- the uninformed, uninvolved middle, upon whom the corporate right-wing media and the Bush propaganda machine work their magic. These are the people, for whom a political argument is not an exercise in logic, but rather in hypnosis; they are not drawn into the endless dispute, rather they are drawn into a trance, by our endless political displays. And, in that trance they come to believe whatever "suggestions" are repeated endlessly and with the right degree of confident sonorousness.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

The Washington Monthly: Kevin Drum doesn't think Bush's boat has sunk

The Washington Monthly: "Is this the Bushies' usual attack and divide strategy? Sure. But it's a pretty savvy version of it, and as the press retreats into its usual faux cluelessness and Republicans start circling the wagons, there's a good chance that it will work. Last week's images of New Orleans may have been searing, but counting on institutional memories to last longer than a week is usually a sucker's bet. It'll be business as usual by October.

I don't think there's any question that Katrina will hurt Bush a bit, especially since he's been hurt by so many other things during the past year. It's just one more nail in the coffin. What's more, it's always possible that it will pave the way for some future screwup to do him even greater damage. Taken by itself, though, I suspect the White House will weather Katrina a lot better than New Orleans did. The press just isn't much interested in investigating the incompetence storyline that's the real lesson here."

The Carpetbagger Report » How serious is it?

The Carpetbagger Report "How serious is it?': "Last week, there was ample criticism in Republican circles about the president's ineptitude. Newt Gingrich called the emergency response 'impossible to defend.' Rich Galen, a Republican consultant in Washington, compared the president's rosy remarks about progress in New Orleans to ''Baghdad Bob' saying there are no Americans at the airport.' The Washington Times, the Union Leader, and National Review — three of the most conservative news outlets in the nation — all expressed deep concerns about the president's competency.

"And then these guys figured out just how serious this is.

"The reality is that Bush's presidency, if Republicans abandoned Bush on Katrina, could very well have reached an unrecoverable state. It seemed to be heading in that direction, right around the time the president told a national television audience, 'I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.'

"That was last week. This week, they're in full Swift-Boat mode. I guess it's cold comfort to know that, just below the surface, many Republican officials seem to be well aware of the administration's incompetence, even if they won't admit it out loud."

Yep. It is so serious, the Republicans are going to lie about it. That's news . . . not.

What makes this real storm the beginning of a political storm is the prospect of worse, yet to come. Iraq is too remote, geographically and media-wise, for a majority to have yet faced up to the reality that we have lost that war of choice, in the way that failure in New Orleans was unavoidably obvious.

New Orleans is not over. Don't get me wrong. Bush, being incompetent, is still capable of creating situation in which, say, innocent people are shot by nervous, exhausted National Guardsmen. That is coming. And, it is as predictable as a consequence of Bush's leadership failures as the failure of the levees. (But, it will be easier to pretend that Bush had nothing to do with it.)

But, Iraq is not over yet, either. Iraq is a complete and total failure, waiting for the final denouement.

And, then there's the economy. There's difference of opinion on the state of the economy, founded on a difference in interest. The very rich have benefitted tremendously from Bush's economic policies, by design. So, some people are quite pleased with what Bush has wrought. People, with a broader view of the "national interest", however, will have noticed, not just that the middle class has seen its situation stagnate, but that the country has been eating its seed corn. The deficits matter. The soaring national debt matters. And, will have consequences. The housing bubble is over, and as it comes down, there's good chance a vicious circle of collapsing consumer spending and confidence in the dollar will bring the economy down with it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

James Wolcott: The Long Hot Summer, the Long Cold Winter

James Wolcott: The Long Hot Summer, the Long Cold Winter: James Wolcott quotes Lee Mikles, a Wall St. short seller: "Bottom line, the consumer is broke and he doesn't know it yet. But he is about to find out. All the buckets that propelled consumer spending are empty now, whether it is the increase in mortgage debt, the increase in consumer debt or the reduction in the savings rate. No one statistic will tip the scale at the end of the day. But one very obvious and very curious statistic is that we have dipped into a negative savings rate for the first time. That is not only unsustainable, it is sustainable only for a few months. That's important to note because it tells you consumers are borrowing money to make debt payments."

Now, that Katrina's ill-wind has shown a few more people that the Emperor has no clothes, we have only to await imminent economic collapse. Oh, joy.

Bush has pursued economic policies that give profligacy a new meaning. It has been done in the service of making the very wealthy, wealthier still, at the expense of everyone else. Now, we come to the expense part, where the incomes of the American middle class join the poor in actual decline.

Will there be a noticeable crisis, or will the decline be obscured and gradual, more warming the lobster in the pot?

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Whiskey Bar: The Power of Spin

Whiskey Bar: The Power of Spin:

I've been a little distressed by the Washington Post poll, which showed the country still evenly divided on Bush, despite the shameful spectacle on display in New Orleans. Billmon, however, has comforting words:

"When the Post did its survey Friday night, the result was still something close to a draw. But public opinion tends to react to events with a lag. I wouldn't be surprised if Bush's numbers look a good deal worse in a few days, as the death toll rises and the full story of our national disgrace continues to unfold. Spin can be a powerful force, as can journalistic stupidity and the willful suspension of disbelief. But reality has a few tricks up its sleeve, too."

Saturday, September 3, 2005

It looked like a storm, but maybe not . . .

Republicans see what they want to see: "The survey also found that Americans were sharply divided over the performance of Bush and local, state and federal governments in the aftermath of Monday's storm. Slightly less than half -- 46 percent -- approve of the way Bush has handled relief efforts while 47 percent disapprove, a result that might offer some cheer to beleaguered White House staffers who feared a stronger negative reaction.

The early response got equally mixed reviews, with 48 percent rating the federal effort as excellent or good and 51 percent saying it was not so good or poor -- views deeply colored by party affiliation. According to the poll, 68 percent of Democrats rated the government's performance as 'not so good' or 'poor,' while 66 percent of Republicans judged it to be 'excellent' or 'good.' This finding shows this national emergency has not united Americans the way the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did.

Slightly more than four in 10 say the government response revealed serious problems in federal emergency preparedness overall, while a majority (54 percent) disagreed."

If this poll is accurate, the American people are idiots.

Revealed Truth

Andrew Sullivan notices: "Well, I guess their mask has now slipped. . . . None of this is good news. The death toll because of the administration's incompetence is a human tragedy. At a deeper level, as a believer that we have to win in Iraq, I worry that the public's trust in anything this administration says about reality may soon disappear altogether. The will we need to persevere in Iraq depends to some extent on trust in the administration. The trust, already battered, may now collapse. This calamity happened in a region where support for the president was relatively strong. It benefits none of us - least of all the beleaguered Iraqis - that this has happened and is still happening. But we know now at least how the citizens of Iraq must feel - besieged, bereft of sufficient security, and reassured by smug Bush administration pabulum. They're on their own, just as surely as the remaining citizens of New Orleans were left to fend for themselves. But, hey, stuff happens, doesn't it?"

Andrew Sullivan, an extremely articulate but seriously disturbed individual -- English Catholic Tory turned American gay activist conservative; its no wonder he's confused -- somehow has consistently failed to notice two things regarding the War in Iraq:

1.) secular American liberals do not "sympathize" in any way with the crazy, religious fascism of Islamic terrorists

2.) Bush couldn't care less about Iraq or democracy, and has allowed corruption and incompetence to turn Iraq into a total disaster.

With the evidence of New Orleans staring him in the face, he notices the parallels with Iraq. Hmmm.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Waiting for a Leader

Waiting for a Leader - New York Times: "George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, . . ."

The N.Y. Times editorial page has begun to see GWB on television as we see him -- repulsive.

Does storm follow storm?