Sunday, November 27, 2005

Is this president going to be capable of responding to reality?

Daily Kos: Sy Hersh's new New Yorker article "Up in the Air": "is this president going to be capable of responding to reality? "

Very interesting article on Daily Kos, quoting a Sy Hersh/Wolf Blitzer interview, concerning Hersh's latest New Yorker article.

Hersh has extensive sources, and great personal values. He is truly a great reporter; what he reports about the past, is usually scrupulously accurate. What he says, in television interviews, about future prospects, "where things are headed" is often a tad overdramatized.

Nevertheless, what he says, is worrisome. The great political storms feed off of the obtuseness of those in power. The country has decided that it wants out of Iraq. The Army has concluded that it has to get out of Iraq soon, to survive as an effective force. A President, who was awake, would lead the country out of Iraq. This President may well not be aware that the country and the Pentagon have made this decision to withdraw from Iraq.

The policy of this Administration has not been to withdraw from Iraq, ever. No preparations for withdrawal have been made. The training of Iraqi forces has been little more than P.R.; the Iraqi forces are not capable of operating independently of U.S. forces. This is by design. And, this design, which is the President's design, is going to make the withdrawal, which the country and the Pentagon want, into a catastrophe.

The Congress, before or after the 2006 elections, will step in, and force withdrawal. But, Congress does not do a good job of leadership. The Congress cannot force the President to lead, to plan a sensible withdrawal.

The President may permit a token withdrawal, but all that will accomplish is to weaken the U.S. position.

The whole house of cards, which is the Iraqi puppet government, may well collapse.

Hullabaloo contemplates the cleansing power of the perfect storm

Hullabaloo contemplates the cleansing power of the perfect storm:

"I've always thought that in order to really put a monkeywrench into the modern GOP's political machine it was important to take out prime movers Rove, Delay, Reed and Norquist. The CIA leak scandal has wounded (perhaps mortally) Karl Rove. Ronnie Earle has weakened Delay in preparation for the coup de grace Abramoff scandal that may just take down him, Reed, Norquist and a bunch of others in short shrift.

"It doesn't mean that the machine will be irreparably broken, but it won't work as smoothly as it did with the original parts. Those men have unique gifts that they honed over a long period of time to create a very efficient political mechanism. It may not be that any one of them going down would make the difference, but all of them going down at virtually the same time certainly does. "

A Note of Caution: whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. works both ways.

Friday, November 25, 2005

It's kind of snowballed

Even Supporters Doubt President as Issues Pile Up - New York Times: "'I don't know if it's any one thing as much as it is everything,' said Ms. Martin, 49, eating lunch at the North Market, on the edge of downtown Columbus. 'It's kind of snowballed.'

Her concerns were echoed in more than 75 interviews here and across the country this week, helping to explain the slide in the president's approval and trustworthiness ratings in recent polls.

Many people who voted for Mr. Bush a year ago had trouble pinning their current discontent on any one thing. Many mentioned the hurricane and the indictment of a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, which some said raised doubts about the president's candor and his judgment. But there was a sense that something had veered off course in the last few months, and the war was the one constant. "

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: "there is no debate about withdrawing American troops from Iraq. That's over. What we have is posturing and positioning over the political consequences of withdrawal. The White House and the president's partisans will lay down a wall of covering fire, calling anybody who considers withdrawal an appeaser, to allow the president to go about the business of drawing down the American presence in Iraq in time to game the 2006 elections."

See, for comparison, Digby from Hullabaloo, who thinks Bush will game the 2006 elections, but never actually withdraw from Iraq.

Blaming the Democrats for "losing Iraq" is the game, here. But, it is very risky business for Bush. He really could lose Iraq, in the process.

The Washington Monthly: the Storm passes over hot water

The Washington Monthly: "With Scanlon squealing and a couple dozen other officials getting nervous, there's no telling how far this could go. Once these guys start ratting each other out, the sky's the limit."

The War on Liberals

Not so long ago, the Bush Administration was conducting a campaign of intimidation against those, who opposed the War in Iraq.

"We've been hearing for some time now
, from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, that Americans who dissent from Bush's war strategy are being 'treasonous,' 'pro-Saddam' and 'anti-American,' and from the likes of Andrew Sullivan and David Horowitz that liberals now represent a 'fifth column' of potential traitors who would aid the enemy. Now, from the repulsive Michael Savage sector, we're also hearing that such dissenters are a threat and should be arrested."

But, there was no anti-war movement to speak of, for a long-time. Those, who had sincere doubts, kept quiet. And, there is still no "movement" per se, just a consensus, that the war was a mistake and is a mistake.

The Political Storm has come, and the reality that Bush is incompetent can now be freely admitted.

But, now we can revisit the earlier analyses, and wonder what shoe will drop next. What was the point of demonizing an anti-war left, which did not exist?

Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis: XIV: The War on Liberals: "What hasn't happened yet is that the thuggishness has not directed itself on any kind of large scale at all (there have only been a few isolated incidents); neither has the Bush regime made any kind of open signal that such activities are viewed approvingly.

"If they do signal such an alliance, however, then I am convinced that the nation is in serious danger of submerging under a tide of genuine fascism."

There's a scary thought. The cited article is an old one. I am citing it, because I was thinking about fascism and Bush's fascist ambitions.

The Great Political Storm, which has already begun -- which began with Katrina -- is bigger than anyone yet realizes. The corruption scandals are like the warm water of the Gulf, which fueled Katrina and Rita -- they are just waiting to wind things up.

But, other alternative futures are also out there. Another terrorist attack? A more or less fake attack, for political purposes?

Cheney's resignation would signal that the grown-ups in the Republican Party have stepped in. But, if he sticks around . . . ?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hullabaloo asks if the storm will be over soon.

There are still many pundits and politicians, who think the political storm will be over soon. Bush will recover some of his popularity. In the interest of political self-preservation, the Bush Administration will start withdrawing troops from Iraq, and the American public will be placated. The economy is still strong. Move along folks; the show's over; nothing to see here.

Digby challenges the idea that Bush will ever withdraw from Iraq:

Hullabaloo: ". . . Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsefeld and George W. Bush . . . honestly believe that we have been perceived as weak by the rest of the world. They've always thought this. This isn't a political calculation, they really believe it. They went into iraq with the idea that they had to show those hinky arabs that we are not going to be pushed around. When they say that everyone from Nixon on down behaved like cowards, they really mean it. This is their world view. "

"It is a deep article of faith that the reason we were hit on 9/11 is because we failed to respond to the terrorists and others . Therefore, we must make them respect and fear us by being violent and dominating.

"I am of the opinion that alienating our allies, exposing ourselves as having an intelligence community that can't find water [when] they fall out of a boat and then screwing up Iraq in spectacular fashion, we have destroyed our mystique and have made this country less safe. We were much better off speaking softly and carrying the big stick than flailing around like a wounded, impotent Giant.

"I see no reason to believe that these people see that. They believe that to "cut and run" is the equivalent of emasculating this country and that is what puts us at risk. George W. Bush is not bugging out."

Here's the thing about Iraq. Doing it at all was a mistake. Doing it with too few troops was a mistake. Following up the invasion with a corrupt and incompetent reconstruction was a mistake. And, all of these mistakes were made with deliberate determination by the same people, who will continue to be in charge for the next three years.

And . . . and, these morons will never see that they have made a mistake. That is, ultimately, the source of all political storms. Political storms are dramatic events, which function to teach the nation what it refuses to learn by the processes of consideration and deliberation. Political storms are ill-conceived worldviews colliding with reality, with consequences. In America's Iraq War, a swaggering, arrogant, ignorant attitude toward the rest-of-the-world has become manifest as foreign policy and war, and it is a disaster. And, it will continue (for America) until our body politic learns something from it.

[Of course, the Iraqi Civil War is a political storm for Iraqis, too; for them, it is much, much darker, exposing a level of corruption, frustration, ignorance, violence and hatred, which is appalling. Whatever the Iraqis learn, whatever they salvage, it will not redeem America.]

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Corruption Inquiry Threatens to Ensnare Lawmakers - New York Times

Corruption Inquiry Threatens to Ensnare Lawmakers - New York Times: "The Justice Department has signaled for the first time in recent weeks that prominent members of Congress could be swept up in the corruption investigation of Jack Abramoff, the former Republican superlobbyist who diverted some of his tens of millions of dollars in fees to provide lavish travel, meals and campaign contributions to the lawmakers whose help he needed most."

The Daily Howler

The Daily Howler: "a spell has been lifting around this conduct—conduct which has bamboozled press and public for years. In film, we see such a spell lift at the end of The Natural, and earlier, at the end of On the Waterfront. Sometimes, after too many years, people see through the tricks of bosses. And yes, such a spell seems to be lifting now, after these past several years."

TPMCafe || Following the country, some distance behind

TPMCafe || Following the country, some distance behind: "is the basic Democratic Party strategy. The elected officials are afraid, for good reason, to be ahead of public opinion. Out there, in the zone of leadership, they know they will be assaulted by the Administration and its agents in the media, from Fox to Woodward. They know that the mainstream media will be witnesses to alleged crimes and cover them up in the name of a privilege that the courts do not recognize. They know that the media will report whatever is dictated by the White House. They note that careers are destroyed by getting in the way of the political attacks mounted by the right. Their hope is that by following, instead of leading, public opinion they will be handed a majority in the Senate or the House, or at least some more seats, and then in 2007 they can gain a little more influence over political power. The Presidential election will commence in earnest at the beginning of 2007, and in that context they hope that the R's will pick a nominee like Goldwater in 64 -- that is, someone who is certain to lose. This strategy is not ill-informed. It is fairly common in politics. It reflects lessons of America as it exists today. "

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Edge: TURING'S CATHEDRAL by George Dyson

Even while the political storm gathers and blows, it may be that innovation and progress is leading inevitably to something more transcendant than climate change.

Edge: TURING'S CATHEDRAL by George Dyson: "My visit to Google? Despite the whimsical furniture and other toys, I felt I was entering a 14th-century cathedral — not in the 14th century but in the 12th century, while it was being built. Everyone was busy carving one stone here and another stone there, with some invisible architect getting everything to fit. The mood was playful, yet there was a palpable reverence in the air. 'We are not scanning all those books to be read by people,' explained one of my hosts after my talk. 'We are scanning them to be read by an AI.'"

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Carpetbagger Report � Blog Archive � When the wheels come off

The first great Storm has passed over this Administration and left it waterlogged and gasping for air.

For the Great Republic, a period a prolonged weakness in the Executive may be a tonic, as Congress regains its accustomed independence and power. That, in addition to the weakness of Bush, is what I read in the litany quoted below:

The Carpetbagger Report � Blog Archive � When the wheels come off: "Bush purports to be on the comeback trail, in large part because, unless he's impeached, he has nowhere to go but up. So, how's this week gone for the beleaguered president? Let's see…

"* The Republican House rejected Bush-backed spending cuts.

"* The Republican majority of the Senate Finance Committee rejected Bush's capital gains tax cuts.

"* The Republican House rejected Bush's demands to drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"* A growing, bi-partisan consensus emerged to ignore Bush and curtail the Patriot Act.

"* The Republican Senate rebuffed the White House on torture and the Republican House is poised to do the same.

"* The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Bush's call to make his first-term tax cuts permanent has practically zero support.

"* Bush's drive to privatize Social Security was declared dead.

"* Bush's trip to the Summit of the Americas really didn't go well.

"* And voters in a reliably 'red' state rebuffed the president and elected a Democratic governor, fairly easily."

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

The Washington Monthly

The Washington Monthly: "THE NEW PROGRESSIVISM"

It is an odd aspect of the nation's current state of being, that up to two-thirds of the population agrees that things are seriously out of whack with the country, that the country is headed in the wrong direction, etc, BUT there is no agreement whatsoever on what should be done. We have a consensus on problems, but no consensus that any of our problems should be addressed with an actual solution.

Iraq is exhibit 1: more than 60% of the population appears to agree that Iraq was a bad idea from the get-go, and/or that our present policy there is a waste of blood and treasure. Iraq is a problem.

But, do we agree on a solution to our Iraq problem, or even agree that a solution might be desirable or feasible?

There are two obvious possibilities. We cut our losses by getting out. The other is, we summon whatever resources are necessary to achieving some worthy goals.

People fear to embrace withdrawal, because it might make things even worse.

People are unwilling to make the additional sacrifices and effort, which would be necessary to achieve much of anything in Iraq.

Futility appears to be the order of the day.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

The Daily Howler

The Political Storm is upon us. Bush has Nixon-like approval ratings. But, the Democrats cannot seem to pull themselves together. The Daily Howler explains, why Hurricane Plame is not rising to Category 5 status anytime soon:

The Daily Howler: "“One bright spot for the Republicans is the low regard in which many Americans hold the Democrats. The public sees the Democrats as disorganized, lacking in clear ideas or a positive alternative to the GOP agenda, and bereft of appealing leaders.” For once, the public is right."

David Smith's Don't get suckered by the house price rally

For a long-time, part of the rhetorical expectation of a coming "perfect" political storm has been an anticipation of an economic crack-up, due to unwise Bush policies. The only problem with this scenario -- in its most exaggerated form a replay of 1932 -- is that, for the most part, Bush's actual economic policies are aimed at fairly gradual grinding down of the middle class into dust and the steady but not calamitous decline in U.S. economic and political primacy in the world. Bush is destroying the economic power and prosperity of most Americans at a fairly rapid pace, but without the kind of unmistakeable catastrophe, which visited Herbert Hoover, and without the prospect of any such crisis overtaking us. Without such a crisis, and the political storm it creates, it may be difficult to change policy.

Nevertheless, many have predicted such a crack-up, and one element has been the housing bubble, which has affected some areas in the U.S., as well as the U.K. and Australia. Here is a helpful reminder that, putting aside the requirements of a "sexy" narrative aside, reality points toward stagnation, not crash.

David Smith's Don't get suckered by the house price rally: "A crash is, of course, much sexier than a period of stagnation, so I don’t blame the BBC. Many parts of the media have been itching for the crash to happen. . . .

"A whole industry has built up around the crash story, with websites, weblogs (blogs) and newsletters. I can only think this is driven by schadenfreude - pleasure in the (potential) misfortune of others.

"So am I smug? The crash school will say that the pain has merely need deferred, and that rising claimant unemployment, an increase in repossession orders and the latest figures showing a 46% year-on-year rise in personal bankruptcies are harbingers of doom. Maybe the crash of 2005 will become the crash of 2006."

Saturday, November 5, 2005

"Media Matters"; by Jamison Foser ... [Media Matters]

This blog was founded as a way for me to make notes on the phenomena of a certain kind of political narrative: the anticipation of disaster precipitating political change.

The great examples in American history have been 1860 and 1932 -- the Civil War and the Great Depression/New Deal. Long-entrenched, reactionary political power was overthrown and new ideals and institutions were put in place.

For anyone with sense, George W. Bush was a disaster waiting to happen. The policies were so bad, that consequences were sure to follow. And, they have. The political storm has begun.

It is interesting, though, that the news media continues to resist. Even though Bush is a manifestly bad President, many commentators seem to want him to do well. (Heck, I want him to do well, or, at least better; I just do not expect, at this late day, that he will do better.)

"Media Matters"; by Jamison Foser ... [Media Matters]: "Bush poll numbers keep dropping; media figures keep predicting 'rebound'"

Friday, November 4, 2005

The economic storm is yet to come

I think Bush's low poll numbers are remarkable, in part, because the economy has not really tanked yet. Americans, politically, are remarkably narcissistic politically -- they vote their pocketbooks, and a President's popularity is ordinarily tied to the economy, stupid. If the economy does well, the President does well -- in the polls, at least.

Nixon had not just Watergate to usher him out of office, but OPEC and the Oil Crisis. Bush has managed to get below 40% approval, without high unemployment. Bush has had high gasoline prices, in addition to the Libby indictment, and gas prices probably account for more of his distress than Libby. Could things get worse?

Oh yeah, things will get worse.

Economics focus | Checking the depth gauge | "Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan's immediate predecessor as chairman of the Federal Reserve. He recently said that he thought there was a 75% chance of a currency crisis in the United States within five years.

It is easy to see how this might happen. America's current-account deficit is running at a record 6% of GDP this year, and on existing policies it will continue to widen. America's net foreign liabilities are already 23% of GDP, and economists at Goldman Sachs calculate that this figure will reach more than 60% by 2020, even if the current-account deficit stabilises at 5% of GDP (see chart). Other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have sustained large external deficits for long periods, but America's borrowing is much bigger in absolute terms. It is eating up around 75% of the excess saving of Japan, China, Germany and other countries with current-account surpluses. If the dollar did not have the advantage of being the world's main reserve currency, America would already be in serious trouble. Instead, the willingness of Asian central banks to lend to the United States has allowed its deficit to keep growing for longer. Nevertheless, the deficit is unsustainable: sooner or later it will need to shrink, and that will involve a cheaper dollar."

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