Thursday, December 28, 2006

Josh Marshall, prompted by Matthew Ygelsias, notices the dynamic of Bush's search for a "new" Iraq policy:

No actual policy or strategic imperative is driving the move to escalate the conflict in Iraq. The real causes are political and psychological.

To put it simply, the presidential is neither psychologically nor politically capable of leaving Iraq. The 2006 election made it clear the current course can't be sustained politically. Even his own party won't back it. That leaves escalation as the only alternative. All that's left is a rationale for doing so. And that's what the president is now working on.

That doesn't mean that in theory there couldn't be a good argument for escalation, only that whatever it is, it has nothing to do with why the president is in favor of escalation . . .

You can read Josh and Matthew as calling attention to the lack of rational thought in this process, and it is true that that President Bush does not appear to be engaged in rational thought about "how to win in Iraq", but, then, Bush was never so engaged.

One can also read it, though, as a process of collective thought -- the way a body politic "thinks" through an issue, in a sense. A whole lot of people, who have supported the War are being brought around, slowly perhaps, to a recognition of the reality that the Iraq War has been a complete disaster for the U.S., and there's nothing, which can be done, now, to rescue the situtation. This process of collective "thought" is the process of political storm.

There's a political contest going on, between alternative narratives, and that contest between narratives is divorced, for the moment, from analyses of what might change the military or political processes on the ground. Bush is not seeking, analytically, a way to change things in Iraq. Being a bit stunted intellectually, by a lifetime of laziness and incuriousity, he probably never concerned himself with such an analysis. He delegated that job. He's looking for a political narrative, which doesn't involve admitting that he has failed, miserably, in the principal enterprise of his Presidency. As Matthew puts its,
Roughly speaking, the fixed point of the president's thinking is an unwillingness to admit that the venture has failed. For a long time the best way to do that was to simply deny that there was a problem. Political strategy for the midterms, however, dictated that the president had to acknowledge the public's concerns about the war and concede that things weren't going well. At
that point, simply staying the course doesn't work anymore. But de-escalating would be an admission of failure, so the only option is to choose escalation.
The narrative of persistence -- "this is going to a long and difficult fight, but, if we have the determination to stay an indefinitely long time, we will win" -- is a particularly powerful one, for human psychology, but, as Matthew Yglesias notes, it was subverted by a combination of the passage of time without positive results, and the imperatives of the last political campaign.

If you are going to claim progress, you had better have milestones of progress to point to, to refresh your narrative, or the power of the narrative will erode. And, if you acknowledge that things are not going well, then erosion of your narrative accelerates. Neither Josh nor Matthew says it, but escalation has the potential to accelerate the erosion of confidence in a narrative of persistance.

First, changing strategy draws attention to the analysis of ends and means: "what's the goal, and how is what we are doing going to achieve that goal?" in an analytical sense.

Second, if you add resources, and the situation continues to deteriorate, that is hard to reconcile with a narrative that claims merely persisting will accomplish anything.

And, of course, as confidence in the narrative erodes, so, too, does confidence in the narrator(s).

There's been a lot of ridicule, from the Left, of the narrative of persistence. The Right's fall-back position is to blame the Iraqis and/or the Democrats (i.e. "Defeatocrats"). And, we may see many more politicians adopting the posture that we should give the Iraqis, deadlines for this and that, so that we can blame the Iraqis and exit, without admitting that the failure is, largely the fault of U.S. policy and the incompetence of U.S. officials.

Bush, himself, though, appears determined to draw attention to his own incompetence. Less forgiving narratives, than ones that implausibly blame the Iraqis, which feature Bush's incompetence, have the potential to create a political storm of immense dimension and scope.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

There might as well be a drum roll

Greg Sargent notices the AP noticing:

It appears that a new political dynamic may have taken hold as President Bush prepares to reveal his plans for Iraq. Despite White House efforts to diminish public expectations by depicting the future of the war as a long, hard slog, Bush has inadvertenly inflated the public's expecations of him by dwelling so long on choosing his plan for what he calls the "new way forward."

The AP sums it up: "There might as well be a drum roll."

Out of such unintended consequences, political storms are born.

Monday, December 25, 2006

U.S. military deaths in Iraq pass 9/11 toll

Could it get more insane?

OK, so the big news over the last couple of days was the U.S. arrested some Iranian envoys in Iraq and the Iraqi government is pissed. Some day real soon now, someone will notice that the U.S.-backed government in Iraq is closely allied with Iran, even though the U.S. won't even talk to Iran. Could it get more insane?

Well, yes, it could.

It seems like Turkey would like to invade Iraq:

The possibility of Turkish military action in northern Iraq seems all the more likely now that the two countries have started negotiating the circumstances in which Turkey would not refrain from intervening, according to statements made by Turkey's special coordinator to counter the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorism.

It seems the U.S. is none too popular with Turkey right now. A while back, the U.S. captured some Turkish forces in the border region -- it is unclear on which side of the border -- and roughed them up a bit. The incident has since been the subject of a made-for-tv movie in Turkey, in which the Turkish soldiers were cast as handsome heroes and the Americans as, well, ugly bastards.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


I was wrong, to think that the Joint Chiefs would oppose Bush's "Surge" plan.

Kevin Drum summarizes my initial reaction:

So we're not quite sure what we're going to do with them, but after meeting with the new SecDef we're suddenly quite sure we need them. Another courageous moment for our military leadership.

Still, honesty compels me to say that I'm glad this is going to happen. I know this makes me a bad person with no concern
for human life etc. etc. (feel free to expand on this sentiment in comments), but at some point we have to come to a conclusion on this stuff. Conservatives long ago convinced themselves against all evidence that we could have won in Vietnam if we'd only added more troops or used more napalm or nuked Hanoi or whatever, and they're going to do the same thing in Iraq unless we allow them to play this out the way they want. If they don't get to play the game their way, they'll spend the next couple of decades trying to persuade the American public
that there was nothing wrong with the idea of invading Iraq at all. We just never put the necessary resources into it.

The premise of "Coming Perfect Storm" was that Bush's policies, being bad policies, would have bad consequences, and, at least, some of those policies would have consequences bad enough to trigger a "political storm" -- a confluence of events, which form a compelling narrative destructive to the power of at least some political actors and movements. My hope is that Bush and the Republican Right suffer; my fear is that Democrats and the Left will ultimately get the blame.

Politics is theatre and political action is dramatic action. Propaganda works as a tool of politics, because narratives, giving meaning to political action, is often more important to the electorate than the functional outcomes of actual policy.

It would be a misunderstanding to think that I am arguing here, for pramatism, that I have an unstated wish that people would lose their illusions, and become more interested in technocratic policy analysis. There is inherent ambiguity, to policy outcomes; the analysis, which would let us point to this or that event as an outcome depends, fundamentally, on the plausibility of counterfactual narratives. We cannot escape human nature, or the limits of knowledge. As humans, we depend on dramatic narrative to give meaning and direction to our lives and our actions -- individually and collectively. We cannot escape the centrality of narrative, which is built into us.

And, we cannot escape basic limits on knowledge: just to illustrate, consider the importance of policies to prevent bad outcomes. Preventing bad outcomes is a lot of what policy is about; but, the success of such policies is in the things that did not happen -- completely counterfactual things. Drama is built out of what did happen, and how we respond. Bush's gain in political power from preventing the attack on the World Trade Center would have been extremely modest, in comparison to the augmentation of his power and popularity, which was the consequence of failing to prevent it. Such are the paradoxes of political drama.

So, now we are confronted with a war gone wrong. Do we cut our losses by leaving, or do we realize our losses by leaving?

Democrats advocate the first -- that we will cut our losses by leaving; Republicans appear confident that they can sell the latter narrative: "we leave = we lose". The Republican scheme has the advantage that many of the costs and consequences of the failed Iraq policy will come after, after our leaving. In the post hoc, propter hoc world of narrative, it is the work of a propagandist's moment to make the leaving the cause of all that follows, and not the failures of the war policy, occupation and reconstruction policies, themselves.

So, Kevin Drum recognizing this dynamic, hopes that continued failure will gradually and further undermine the Right-wing narrative -- and not incidentally, the credibility of the narrators -- and, ultimately, result in the American People "learning" a moral lesson from the narrative of Bush's Adventure in Iraq. That, ultimately, is the function of a political storm: to create a narrative, which creates meaning and guides and motivates action.

Monday, December 18, 2006

President v. Joint Chiefs: Our Main Event!

Washington Post

The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.
Uh, oh. The natives are restless.

The military does not like to be blamed for failure, and neither do they appreciate being cast into the meat grinder. The professional military, particularly the Army brass, has to be seriously worried that the Army is going to break, if it is not already seriously dysfunctional.

And, the Army realizes that, under the Constitution, "the President Proposes, but the Congress Disposes". The Pentagon warriors are well-aware of who writes the Appropriations Bills. The Joint Chiefs know that they have lots of leverage, that they really can say no to the President and make it stick.

The problem is that Boy George may not be fully aprized of the new political reality.

Blow, storm, blow.

Stab-in-the-Back Two-for-One

Fred Barnes (re)writes history:

The Keane-Kagan plan [for Iraq] is not revolutionary. Rather, it is an application of a counterinsurgency approach that has proved to be effective elsewhere, notably in Vietnam. There, Gen. Creighton Abrams cleared out the Viet Cong so successfully that the South Vietnamese government took control of the country. Only when Congress cut off funds to South Vietnam in 1974 were the North Vietnamese able to win.

There you have it, folks, the Democratic Congress lost Vietnam, when Nixon had it won. Just like the Democratic Congress will lose Iraq, when Bush had it all wrapped up, practically -- well, he's close, or he's going to be close to winning real soon now.

Stab-in-the-Back will be a centerpiece of efforts by the Right and the "Bipartisan" Center and their Serious Pundit Corps enablers to avoid being cast onto the political trash pile, as incompetent, untrustworthy fools. These people are desperate to avoid admitting their governing philosophy, their insistence that a moron can be a great President, has resulted in proximate and unambiguous disaster.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Cheney is the canary in the coal mine

Joseph Galloway notices Cheney:

Did you notice that at every stop on the President’s information-gathering tour this week, there was a very familiar face looming over his shoulder? There was Vice President Dick Cheney, looking as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Should the president suddenly have an original thought or seem to be going wobbly, Cheney will be right there to squelch it or to set him straight.

It can be argued that George W. Bush understood little about war and peace and diplomacy and honesty in government. Cheney understood all of it, and he bears much of the responsibility for what's gone on in Washington, D.C. and in Iraq for the last six years. Keep a sharp eye on him. Desperate men do desperate things.

The country will have to find a way to wrestle power out of Bush's incompetent hands. The situation in Iraq can be made worse, and Bush will make it worse. (See below). The grown-up Republicans have forced Rumsfeld out, and put Gates in, at Defense. But, Mr. Cheney is still there.

At some point, the grown-up Republicans will notice that Mr. Cheney can be a useful sacrifice. Force Cheney to resign. Then, Bush can appoint a Vice-President, who will have all the advantages of incumbency in 2008, but none of the burdens of the Bush-Cheney legacy. The new V-P can take effective power out of Bush's hands for the remainder of Bush's term.

You will know we are entering the Eye of the Perfect Storm, when Cheney leaves. There will be the relief of apparent sunshine and calm.


Larry Johnson, writing at TPM Cafe, looks at what is about to go down in Iraq, and sees the catastrophe to come:

George Bush has made his choice and it is calamitous.

As Larry ably points out, Bush has got the U.S. into a very difficult dilemma, where a normal person would see no good options.

Regardless of your feelings or beliefs about sending more U.S troops to Iraq, you must accept the painful truth that anything we do to salvage or strengthen the existing Shia-dominated government in Iraq redounds to the benefit of Iran. If we weigh in on the side of the Sunni insurgents we run a serious risk that the Shias will attack us in strength and, at least for the short time, cut our supply lines that run through the heart of Shia territory. Moreover, anything we do to militarily challenge Iran will weaken our influence in Iraq and jeopardize the mission of our forces in Iraq.
Bush, true to form, appears ready to choose the course with the greatest cost and risk to the U.S. As related by Johnson and Pat Lang, the plan, evidently, is to "surge" the U.S. military in Iraq, by increasing the numbers in-country by around 50,000, for an unspecified period beginning in March, and concentrate on the twin tasks of defeating the Sunni militias in Baghdad, while disarming the Shia Mahdi Army militia.

As Pat and Larry, separately point out, this is practically an invitation to unite the Sunni and Shia in a co-belligerancy against the U.S. forces. Lang notes:
The carnage implicit in this concept would be appalling. The authors have much to say about the consequences of defeat in Iraq, but, I wonder if they have contemplated what it would be like to fail in their climactic battle and still be required by '43 to stay in Iraq.
So, the carnage in Iraq will escalate, and the political storm building around Bush will escalate with it. It is going to be one long, hot Spring and Summer.

Friday, December 15, 2006

More Charts!

Here's a chart from the esteemed Dr. Pollkatz, which clearly shows that we are about to hit the magic 3000 in body count.

And, here's one from TPM Cafe, which shows the increasing number of attacks in Iraq.

The meaningfulness of the second chart may be enhanced if you know that the last three months of data are unavailable, because the Pentagon has classified the data and is dragging its feet on unclassifying the numbers. Hmmm.

Oh, yeah, and the President is going to announce his new slogan (aka plan) real soon now, like next month (after we pass 3000?? after the country gets a gander at the frequency of attacks in the increasingly chaotic Iraq??).

Now, a critic might note that the body count peaked for August 2004, just as the attack count did, but the attack count doesn't peak in April 2005, though the body count did. The Washington Post was reporting a surge in attacks in April 2005, but the data doesn't reflect that. Curious.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New lows

NBC/WSJ poll - "Bush's overall job approval rating is 34 percent, which is another all-time low for the president in the poll. . .

"As further evidence of that, the poll also finds that 59 percent want the incoming Democratic-controlled Congress to take the lead in setting policy for the country, compared with just 21 percent who want President Bush in charge. 'Those numbers are really stunning,' McInturff says. 'It suggests a presidency that has been whittled down to the ultimate core.' "

As the graphic from Dr. Pollkatz shows, Bush is back in record low territory, as far as his popularity is concerned. A CBS news poll found that: "Three-quarters of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling Iraq" while Bush's overall approval ratings matched the lows he achieved in May 2006.

The political storm has arrived, but it is just getting started, folks. Iraq is going to get worse, and more Americans think Iraq was a mistake at the outset than ever said that about Vietnam. Oh, yeah, and the economy is heading toward recession, and the Congress is going to going to be having hearings on all kinds of Republican corruption. The fun is just beginning.

Barry R. McCaffrey - Who to blame?

Barry R. McCaffrey in the Washington Post: "If we cannot generate the political will to take this action, it is time to pull out and search for those we will hold responsible in Congress and the administration."

McCaffrey, a retired General and network news consultant, is deeply knowledgeable, at least by pundit standards, about the political and military situation in Iraq. But, he has always been one of those pushing a narrative line, which places the blame for losing in Iraq, on those, who opposed the war from the outset, and those, who would have the U.S. withdraw from the ensuing catastrophe.

So, I wonder about this concluding sentence from his op-ed in today's Washington Post. Is this going to be like OJ's search for the real killer?

I think we know who is responsible for the Iraq War. One man chose this war, and chose how it would be fought. Chose.

Not for any good reason he has ever given. But, this was a war of choice. And, the choice was made by a single individual, given the authority to do so.

Choosing to go to war, arguably qualifies as "aggressive war" under the Nuremberg precedents. If we had even half the honor and decency as a country that our blowhard patriots claim, we would try George W. Bush for this and other war crimes, including torture of prisoners.

But, we won't. A blowjob can get a President impeached, but not war crimes.

The great political storm is finally underway, but it will have its limits, and that is a great pity.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Rapid Departure?

Dan Froomkin summarizes the Iraq Study Group report: ". . . realistically, the group's recommendation that Bush withdraw troops to pressure the government to stand up, and pull them out faster if it doesn't, is really just a euphemism for a rapid departure."

Just two problems with this scenario.

1. Bush don't wanna leave.

2. It may well lead to a dramatic meltdown in Iraq, into an even more intense and chaotic civil war. Newsweek's Christopher Dickey on "Every day we move closer to the edge of a humanitarian abyss. Think the Balkans, Rwanda or Darfur, but with this grim difference: the United States won’t be able to stand back from the slaughter and wring its hands in Iraq. It is implicated up to its elbows already, and there’s more to come. Attempts to hold Iraq together by political compromise have failed. If the Americans stay there in any way, shape or form, they’re going to have to choose sides, backing Iraqi “friends” who will do whatever they think is necessary to impose order."

Salvage Job?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "Wolf, it was kind of sad, in a way. This morning when Mr. Bush was handed the Iraq Study Group report, he looked old and tired, the kind of old and tired you look after carrying a heavy load for a long time. The war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster and everybody knows it. The Republicans know it, the Democrats know it, our country knows it and the rest of the world knows it.

And for the first time this morning, it looked like President Bush knows it, too. There he sat, surrounded by his father's friends, looking absolutely lost. And despite the years of experience and wisdom represented at that table, the report contains no magic potion to get us out of, arguably, the biggest, deadliest, costliest and potentially most dangerous mess that this country has been in since World War II. And President Bush caused it.

How difficult it must be to come to terms with the fact that you were not only wrong, but that you are becoming more and more isolated every single day. For the first time this morning, I got the feeling President Bush knows it's over.

Here's the question -- what can President Bush do to salvage the remainder of his presidency? "

Sleepwalking thru the Storm

Senator Rick "man on dog" Santorum: "'We are sleepwalking through the storm,' Santorum said. 'How do those who deny this evil propose to save us from these people? By negotiating through the U.N. or directly with Iran? By firing Don Rumsfeld, (and) now getting rid of John Bolton? That's going to solve the problem?'"

I have been following the interesting evolution of thinking since the November elections, thinking I would deliver some kind of summary post.

I tend to think that the evolution of political thinking is a process vaguely akin to organic chemistry, fluid and difficult to predict, at times, but still regular and understandable, even when surprising.

President Bush is a moron, and his decision to invade Iraq, which was perfectly understandable at the time, even if patently unwise and unethical (not to mention illegal under international law, not that we would let some trivialities trouble us), now begins to seem inexplicable. This progress from something seeming so logical as to seem inevitable to seeming illogical to the point of being inexplicable is a process, akin to organic chemistry.

(When I am speaking of this almost-chemical evolution, of course, I mean to imply nothing about what an objective and prudent assessment would yield, at any point. I am speaking of what is sometimes called, the conventional wisdom, that is, the shared perception, which is public opinion. Public opinion is only loosely related to a wise assessment of reality, and, of course, it is always being actively managed by incompetents and plutocrats, with mixed motives. But, still, it has a logic of its own.)

The true, perfect storm is at last beginning to take shape. It is still very, very early in the formation of this particular event, but it has begun, at last.

And, at the center of this storm of storms, is a vortex formed from the inexplicable nature of Bush's total and complete failure in Iraq, a strategic failure so extreme and total as to defy the expectations and even the vocabularies of Washington's mandarins.

The U.S. has lost, and lost big -- BIG, B I G: BIG -- in Iraq. To salvage even a small sliver of stability out of this chaos, the U.S. will have to humble itself before Syria and Iran, especially Iran. The U.S. policy, the Bush policy, has made Iran the hegemonic power in the Region. We have, in effect, replaced and displaced ourselves. Our ability to withdraw from Iraq, without provoking a general war, depends entirely on our ability and willingness to hand off responsibility for Iraq to Iran, our sworn enemy.

Oy, vey!

The political difficulties are well-illustrated by Senator Santorum, the prime representative of both the totally corrupt and the totally delusional Republican. These people simply do not comprehend reality.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Acephalous: Measuring The Speed of Meme: An Experiment in which You Will Participate, Or Else...

Acephalous: Measuring The Speed of Meme: An Experiment in which You Will Participate, Or Else...

So, this guy wants to prove . . . what? I forget. Something about how high traffic blogs convey ideas, and low traffic blogs . . . I don't know what they do, either.

Well, I got this link from Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly, which is definitely a high-traffic blog, and this has got to be one of the lowest of low-traffic blogs, so I hope this post helps the experiment.

I participated in a 'moment' a while back, where my formulation of a forming meme got a lot of attention, and it was all a matter of blog comments, being picked up, by Kos among others. If I were an academic, I think I would focus on the role of blog commenters -- I am a commenter, really, not a blogger, the present blog not being 'real', because I don't seek people to read it, I just use it like notepaper.

The other thing I would note is that some so-called "memes" are archetypal -- I think blog triumphalism is itself such an archetype, a pre-existing narrative, into which we fit the facts of the present moment, to satisfy our needs and allay our anxieties. They don't really spread; they just emerge from a pre-existing type-space. The concept of a "coming perfect storm" is such an archetype, a rhetorical trope waiting for its moment, if you will.

Anyway, I have done my bit, for the experimenter. Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Yes, Things Can Get Worse . . .

Kevin Drum:
"Conventional wisdom tacitly assumes that the worst that can happen in Iraq is a continuation of the current low-level civil war, resulting in the loss of thousands of Iraqi lives and dozens of U.S. soldiers each month. But as bad as that is, it's worth keeping in mind that the American occupation has actually made the Iraqi situation worse every single year since it began, and will probably continue to make things worse as long as we're there. And the worse the violence, the worse the Iraqi theocracy that eventually takes root in its wake is likely to be.

But that's not all. The dynamics of violence are nonlinear in the extreme, and the odds of an Archduke Ferdinand moment continue to rise inexorably as our occupation continues to make things ever worse and ever more unstable. "

The mid-term election result is really just part of the setup -- a semi-hopeful part -- of the Coming Perfect Storm. The Storm, itself, is yet to hit us, believe it or not.

Bush has been a catastrophically bad President. His policies will have disastrous consequences. The only question considered on this blog is whether the disastrous consequences of those policies will soon form the kind of political theatre, the political drama, which results in "regime change".

Bush and the Republican Right are desperately trying to find some way to blame the outcome of the Iraq War on Democrats. That's the political theatre, which the Republican Right is trying to create.

Meanwhile, events in Iraq, continue to progress, with little interference from Bush or the U.S., because Bush is too big a moron to even realize that controlling the evolution of Iraq and the Middle East is what U.S. policy should be about, not just controlling the media narrative on Fox News and the editorial page of the Washington Post.

Bush has no policy in Iraq, beyond staying, and no goal other than to escape blame.

Unfortunately, for the U.S., others have deeper interests, and the conflicts over those interests are outside the control of the U.S. The chances that Bush is going to be able to simply muddle thru 2 additional years of accomplishing nothing in Iraq has become vanishingly small. And, the chances that events in Iraq will drive a rising political storm in the U.S. are increasing from possible toward probable.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Daily Kos: The Bombs Play On

Daily Kos: The Bombs Play On: "If you are a small minnow or a medium sized fish with knowledge of the corruption past and present regarding any event pertaining to Iraq, your best bet is to consult a lawyer about coming forward. And you need to think about doing it quickly, because the big fish are almost certainly scheming and shredding and setting up to save their scaly hides by blaming the smaller marine denizens: like you."

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Cut and Run?

Handover to Iraqi Army 'set for the end of next year' - World - Times Online:
"American and Iraqi officials have set a date for giving Iraq’s forces responsibility for security across the country.

Under a plan to be presented to the UN Security Council next month, the Iraqi Government would assume authority from coalition troops by the end of next year."

I wonder if this is going to be a lot like Vietnam, with helicopters lifting the last of our guys out of Green Zone just ahead of a revolutionary army?

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Uh Oh!

Polls indicate that Republicans may be rebounding a bit. Prof. Franklin has the very ugly charts.

Billmon explains about The Idiocracy Vote:
what needs to be kept in mind is that at this late stage the remaining independent undecided or soft leaners generally constitute the least informed, least involved and, in many cases, least intelligent segment of the electorate. Or, to be perfectly blunt about it: Many of them are completely . . . clueless, which means they tend to be the most easily manipulated by the kind of limbic, cesspool politics the Rovian machine now specializes in.

I think it's also true that for a stubbornly high percentage of the voters, the default position is still conservative and Republican. Scandals and/or disappointments, such as the Mark Foley case or the Iraq quagmire, may knock them off that position, but there's a built-in tendency for them to drift back. The Reagan coalition may be old and fraying, but it remains the dominant structure in American politics.

That being the case, it wouldn't be surprising to see a very late swing back towards the Republicans -- just as we have in the last two elections.

The key question, of course, is how many of these soft-headed soft leaners will actually turn out on Tuesday.

We live in hope. This is an off-year election. A lot rides on who actually shows up, in what will be the highest turnout off-year election in a long, long time. And, of course, whose votes actually get counted.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall November 4, 2006 10:38 AM

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall November 4, 2006 10:38 AM:
"'But first this Breaking News, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death today in Iraq.'

That is how the Sunday talk shows will begin tomorrow, two days before the U.S. elections."

Will the Corporate News Media follow the Republican script? Will events?

Karl Rove may have miscalculated, in scheduling this little drama right before the election. A wave of violence across Iraq may shout more loudly a message less to Rove's liking, and the American voter may have sufficient GWOT fatigue to be immune to "stay the course" b.s.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Oh, my!

From Professor Franklin via DemFromCT at Kos

Professor Franklin gives the full cautionary warning: "The generic ballot is, of course, only a rough indicator of election outcomes. I also think the current upturn is a political equivalent of 'irrational exuberance' in the sense that the run up in the polls seems likely to seriously overstate the actual vote margin. The current 17 point Democratic margin would be enormous, and even applying the 'Charlie Cook Correction' of subtracting 5 points would still imply a 56-44 Democratic triumph. It may happen, but the generic ballot has virtually always overstated the Democratic lead, and this overstatement seems to get worst as the polling margin increases."

That said, oh my.

Record Numbers Casting Absentee Ballots in Va. -

Record Numbers Casting Absentee Ballots in Va. -
"Voters across Virginia are casting absentee ballots in record numbers this year, signaling not only the growing popularity of early voting in busy lives but also the likelihood of heavy turnout Tuesday, state and local election officials said yesterday."

Oh yeah, and in case you are slow on the uptake:

"The trend is pronounced in Northern Virginia jurisdictions. In Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties and in Alexandria, the number of absentee voters is on track to more than double over 2002, local election officials said.

"In populous, Democrat-leaning Northern Virginia, where a heavy turnout could determine the outcome statewide in the tight U.S. Senate race, the absentee numbers could be good news for Democrat James Webb, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. George Allen."

Whiskey Bar: The Next Wave

Whiskey Bar: The Next Wave: "With four days left until the election, the political wave is nearing the shore. And at this point it looks like a Republican killer. "

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Rats leaving sinking ship

Bechtel pulling out: "Bechtel Corp. went to Iraq three years ago to help rebuild a nation torn by war. Since then, 52 of its people have been killed and much of its work sabotaged as Iraq dissolved into insurgency and sectarian violence.

Now Bechtel is leaving."

Kroll pulls security team out of Iraq: "Manhattan security company Kroll has withdrawn its bodyguard teams from Iraq and Afghanistan after it lost four workers in Iraq, its parent company said Wednesday.

Michael Cherkasky, president and chief executive of Kroll owner Marsh & McLennan Cos., told The Associated Press that the business in the two countries wasn't worth risking the lives of their employees.

In its third-quarter earnings statement issued Wednesday, Marsh & McLennan said that “results for the security group reflected the orderly exit from high-risk international assignments that had limited profitability and no longer fit Kroll's business strategy.”"

Monday, October 30, 2006

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Socialism with German Nationalist Characteristics

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Socialism with German Nationalist Characteristics:
". . . if only Rudolf Hilferding and his ilk had been less blinkered ideologues who sought truth from old books rather than new facts, the SPD could have led a German 'New Deal' that would have been as great a success as Roosevelt's New Deal in America."

DeLong is talking about how the German Social Democrats circa 1931 stood around in policy paralysis as the Nazis and Communists siphoned off their support with programs of public works to overcome the effects of the Great Depression.

DeLong does not draw the implied parallel, I would:

The connection between this historical episode and the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for a New American Century is left as an exercise to the reader."

My own thoughts went to the present inability of liberal economists to fashion some reasonable policy in response to the downsides of globalization.

Looking for realignment

digby looks for realignment:
The Republicans and the Christian Right are leading America on a backward march into the Dark Ages --- and that is stepping on our dreams. As a culture, we have always been idealistic about progress and inspired by new discoveries to improve the lot of the human race. We're about invention and reinvention. It's one of our best qualities.

These people are telling us that those days are over. We have to depend upon brute force, superstition and ancient revelation. Science is dangerous. Art is frightening. Education must be strictly circumscribed so that children aren't exposed to ideas that might lead them astray.

It's a pinched, sour, ugly vision of America. For those who believe that their time on earth is all about waiting for The Bridegroom, perhaps that doesn't mean much. But for the rest of us, things like scientific breakthroughs or artistic achievement are inspirational, soaring emotional connections with our country and our fellow man. It makes us proud. The dark-ages conservatives want to take that away from us.

This country has been divided at 50/50 for some time. That probably cannot continue much longer and a real majority will emerge before long. Tax-cuts have held together the GOP coalition up to now, but their dark vision of the future may be the thing that finally drives the suburban, educated voters to our side of the ledger for a long time to come. We're the ones with the progressive dream of the future and that's as American as a Big Mac and fries."

One of the basic patterns of American politics, is that, as one Party uses a strategy of becoming more radical, as a way of reaching for power, the other Party responds by becoming both more adamant and more moderate.

As Billmon helpfully explains, Karl Rove only wants 51%: "The working assumption seems to be that the partisan divide between Republican and Democrat -- or more accurately, between conservative and non-conservative -- is too deep to fill and too wide to bridge. That being the case, 51% is the best either side can hope for, as well as the most politically effective and efficient majority. In other words, the best of all possible worlds."

The trouble with a 51% solution in a two-party system is that it is inherently unstable. Two-party systems tend to split 55-45 or even 60-40, most of the time; one Party is clearly dominant, and the other merely aspiring. The Republican Party had the dominant role, 1896-1930, and the Democrats had that role, 1932-1982. Oh, sure, the minority Party had a flirtation or two with power, as in Woodrow Wilson's Administration and Eisenhower's. When the dominant coalition grows too large, there's a tendency to sprout third-party movements, as happened in 1912 and 1948. But, that's not what's happening now. What's happening now is just the opposite: the two-Party system has been strengthening, sapping the middle.

As a Party becomes more radical, its leadership become more radical, which, oftentimes, means more stupid and, ironically, more corruptible. Intensity of devotion from radical followers can offset the loss of numbers overall, on election day, but the erosion of the quality of leadership is the more fatal affliction.

What we're looking for in a Great Political Storm is an emotionally arousing moment, in which people form or reform their personal Party political affiliation. The duration of that moment may be a period of months or years, but its consequence can be far-reaching.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Waiting for an Iraq Policy

Whiskey Bar: Babbling Idiots:
". . . there's obviously a hard edge of real desperation -- if not despair -- behind this. America's ruling elites have had things largely their own way for the past couple of decades. But now they're looking at a bottomless quagimire that may have a much bigger disaster (like loss of access to Persian Gulf oil) hidden somewhere in the mud. And they don't have a clue about what to do. They've lost control, which is the last thing any ruling elite can afford to admit.

"Small wonder then, that the policy 'debate' has now crossed the line into complete fantasy . . . "

The continuing deterioration of the situation in Iraq is one of the sure signs that a political storm is coming.

I am hoping that the Democrats gain control the House, and with it the power to investigate the Bush Administration. The old lions of the Democratic Party, men like Waxman and Conyers, will have important committee chairs. These are not men, who nurse ambitions to be President, and they are men with a deep knowledge of the bureaucracy, of where the levers of real administrative power lie.

They won't be able to do much about Iraq. My only fear is that Bush will try to manipulate them into "forcing" a withdrawal and accepting the blame for total failure in Iraq.

But, if Republican Power is to be overthrown, its very foundations will have to be undermined. And, investigation of the corruption involved is necessary.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

How long?

Kevin Drum wonders:: "I wonder how long it will take America to recover from George Bush's uniquely blinkered and self-righteous brand of ineptitude? In the past five years he's demonstrated to the world that we don't know how to win a modern guerrilla war. He's demonstrated that we don't understand even the basics of waging a propaganda war. He's demonstrated that other countries don't need to pay any attention to our threats. He's demonstrated that we're good at talking tough and sending troops into battle, but otherwise clueless about using the levers of statecraft in the service of our own interests. If he had set out to willfully and deliberately expose our weaknesses to the world and undermine our strengths, he couldn't have done more to cripple America's power and influence in the world. Beneath the bluster, he's done more to weaken our national security than any president since World War II."

I think the answer is never.

There's some chance that a political realignment will put the rational adults back in charge, or not.

The loss of America's ability to think and act rationally and competently, goes deep. It is not just that the President is remarkably inept. He has attracted to himself a significant slice of the American electorate -- a working, voting majority -- who, in various ways, are committed to being inept, stupid and corrupt.

Bush's policies have been actively praised and supported by a lot of people: conservative evangelicals, the rich and greedy, closet authoritarians masquerading as libertarians, lots of corrupt Republican politicians and silly Media pundits.

Pointing out that Bush is corrupt, inept and stupid is not going to persuade Bush's base to not support him. They support him, because they are themselves, willfully stupid and corrupt: they see in him, themselves, and they like what they see! You can deride it as bad taste, but they are not likely to be persuaded that they have made a mistake.

Sterling Newberry says that the main trick in politics is to create an implicit alliance, of the rational and the sane against the insane. The rational and the sane are usually not entirely in one Party or other political grouping; the alliance of the rational and the sane is more of a working arrangement, implicit in the interaction of competing elites, which marginalizes "radical" elements across the political spectrum.

The mobilization of Republican power, which culminated in Bush's election, has overthrown the coalition of the sane and rational, which had ruled American politics since the depths of World War II. The combination of the Great Depression and Pearl Harbor allowed FDR to bury the insane, authoritarian, isolationist wing of the Republican Party; it rose from the dead in the McCarthy era, only to bury itself in Goldwater's 1964 campaign.

The coalition of the sane was able to bring down Nixon, when that job had to be done, aided in the final hour by Nixon's own commitment to sanity -- his one redeeming quality.

Whether a coalition of the sane can put the politics of Karl Rove back in a bottle remains to be seen. A political storm is building, the likes of which has not been seen in the United States since the Civil War.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Sorrow and the Pity

James Wolcott: "Nearly everyone of functional intelligence and minimal perception (which, admittedly, leaves out a stubborn third of the American population) acknowledges the violent inferno that engulfs Iraq--a vortex that seems to be gathering strength with each screaming rotation. What's maddening is how the political chatshow discussions of how the U.S. should proceed (i.e., race to the exits in an orderly fashion) sound so divorced from the scale of the horror and misery that have been unleashed. To hear the pundits, think tankers, and public officials drone on with their proposed solutions, you'd think they were discussing how the Ravens might beef up their offense, or what the Mets need to do over the spring to bolster their starting rotation. There's barely an emotional hint of tragically, arrogantly, and unforgivably this country has fucked up."

Mr. Wolcott goes on to cite an excellent post by Billmon on this subject.

I am truly ashamed of what my country has done. Truly ashamed.

A New Course? With the same Crew?

Michael O'Hare:
". . . we're going to be offered a new course to victory, or to something palatable.

Do not stay aboard even for the in-port sailing party of this new course, because the Iraqi disaster was not just a matter of choosing the wrong course, or staying on it too long. The venal, incompetent, corrupt, cynical, deaf-and-dumb management of the mission, from the bridge down to the bilges, would have doomed the enterprise in any case, and the same crew of ideologues, and opportunists will put the new one on the rocks in short order. The problem this administration, and its congressional enablers, cannot escape (even if Rumsfeld is shooed along the plank), is that it is incapable of managing any business it undertakes except sinking its political capital into electoral success. That business has no similarity to extrication from Iraq, and anyway it is in liquidation, with the looters and scavengers already skulking around the works picking up the odd bit of salvage goods. "

Signs of an Impending Meltdown in Iraq | TPMCafe

The Facts of War: Signs of an Impending Meltdown in Iraq | TPMCafe:
"In the last few days the destabilization point has been reached - the attempt to hold the Battle of Baghdad has been lost. As importantly it was lost to an operational offensive by the insurgency, amidst mounting coalition casualties.

These developments put even the ability to engage in a withdrawal from Iraq in danger"

The last President to lose a war was Richard M. Nixon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Alert Everyone You Know

Daily Kos: ACTION ALERT: Blackwell purged Ohio Voter Rolls Oct 1st.- Vote Early.: "Alert a everyone you know in Ohio."

Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell conducted a voter purge on October 1, which eliminated million Democratic votes in Ohio, according this Kos Diarist.

Definitely worth reading. Also, you might consider exercising your 2nd Amendment Rights.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What's the Matter with Kansas?

I am a Democratic living in a Democratic State. I hardly know any Republicans.

I literally do not know who elected our moron-in-chief, and who voted for him after four years of experience with his incompetence and moral confusion is a mystery to me.

I have seen some liberals and Democrats speculate that, maybe, the Religious Right will wake up, and abandon the Republicans this election, or, at least, stay home. That doesn't seem plausible to me, at all. People, who have built their lives around being fooled, don't wake up en masse. Individually, sometimes, yes, but as a group, they rely on the group to maintain their illusions; they voted for Bush because the Group insisted, against observable truth, that Bush was a good and moral man. They believe what the Group says, not their own lying eyes, because they like being part of the Group, and that's the price. No, there will be no shift there.

The people in Virginia who like George Allen, will still be very enthusiastic about him on election day. George Allen is a certifiable moron and racist. His fervent supporters in Virginia do not see those qualities as disqualifications for office.

If there is an electoral shift, it will not be among the true believers. And, it certainly will not be among the greedy rich and corrupt, who have benefitted materially from Bush. No, the shift will come among the secular conservatives, who were once pillars of the Republican Party. People, who were Republicans because they were repulsed by liberal Democrats on a gut level, not because they inhabited a different reality from liberal Democrats. Rational people, who expect moderation and realism, from their political leaders.

There's been a trickle of Republican leaders from the Republican Party into the Democratic party, in response to the failures of Bush and the increasing radicalism and corruption of the Republican Party.

If the Democrats win a durable electoral majority, it will be because they have grown a new conservative wing, a New Democratic Right. Hopefully, it will be better than the racist scum, who dominated the Old Democratic Right, or the corrupt Republican Lite compromisers of the DLC.

Ohio, a State that has been solidly Republican for over a hundred years, that gave us generations of Tafts, is probably going to switch decisively to the Democratic column in this coming election.

Kansas is a State with a Republican heritage going back to Alf Landon, the only Republican Governor elected in 1932, and consequently the candidate a nearly moribund Republican Party ran against Roosevelt in 1936. They are that Republican! Kansas may also go Democratic this Fall, in a big way.

Thanks to Kevin Drum for the pointer.

The Johnson County Sun:
"This is a sneak preview.

As we prepare ourselves to make political endorsements in subsequent issues, I can tell you unequivocally that this newspaper has never endorsed so many Democrats. Not even close.

In the 56 years we have been publishing in Johnson County, this basically has been a Republican newspaper. In the old days . . . we were traditional Republicans. That is, we happily endorsed Jan Meyers for Congress, Bob Dole for U.S. Senate, Nancy Kassebaum for U.S. Senate; virtually every Republican state legislator from here, with a few rare exceptions; and most governors, although we did endorse the conservative Democrats George and Bob Docking and John Carlin.

The point is, I can name on two hands over a half century the number of Democrats we have endorsed for public office.

This year, we will do something different. You will read why we are endorsing Kathleen Sebelius for governor and Mark Parkinson for lieutenant governor; Dennis Moore to be re-elected to the U.S. Congress; Paul Morrison for Kansas attorney general; and a slew of local Democratic state legislative candidates. These are not liberal Democrats. They are what fairly can be described as conservative Democrats, and we can prove that in our forthcoming endorsements. . . .

the shift, frankly, shocks me, because I have pulled the lever over and over since my first vote in 1968 for Republicans. If I was a closet Democrat, I must have hidden it well, especially from myself, since I always beat up on Democrats in my columns. I have called them leftists, socialists, and every other name in the book, because I thought they were flat-out wrong.

And, for the most part, I still do. I am opposed to big government. I have little use for unions. I never liked the welfare plans. I am opposed to weak-kneed defense policies. I have always been for fiscal prudence. I think back to the policies of most Democrats, and I cringe.

So, what in the world has happened?

The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.

You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.

To win a Republican primary, the candidate must move to the right.

What does to-the-right mean?

It means anti-public education, though claiming to support it.

It means weak support of our universities, while praising them.

It means anti-stem cell research.

It means ridiculing global warming.

It means gay bashing. Not so much gay marriage, but just bashing gays.

It means immigrant bashing. I'm talking about the viciousness.

It means putting religion in public schools. Not just prayer.

It means mocking evolution and claiming it is not science.

It means denigrating even abstinence-based sex education.

Note, I did not say it means "anti-abortion," because I do not find that position repugnant, at all. I respect that position.

But everything else adds up to priorities that have nothing to do with the Republican Party I once knew.

That's why, in the absence of so-called traditional Republican candidates, the choice comes down to right-wing Republicans or conservative Democrats.

And now you know why we have been forced to move left."

Friday, October 13, 2006


AlterNet: Does Bush Think War with Iran Is Preordained?:
"The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News, is, as I write, making its way to the Straits of Hormuz off Iran. The ships will be in place to strike Iran by the end of the month. It may be a bluff. It may be a feint. It may be a simple show of American power. But I doubt it.

War with Iran -- a war that would unleash an apocalyptic scenario in the Middle East -- is probable by the end of the Bush administration. It could begin in as little as three weeks. "

I have a very hard time getting my mind to accept as plausible the idea that Bush will attack Iran.

But, the political storm, which would follow, at home and abroad would dwarf anything in this country since the Civil War.

What's Happening Now

Economist's View: Paul Krugman: Will the Levee Break?:
"Here’s what’s happening: a huge Democratic storm surge is heading toward a high Republican levee. It’s still possible that the surge won’t overtop the levee — that is, the Democrats could fail by a small margin... But if the surge does go over the top, the ... Democrats [will]... probably win big."
A powerful metaphor.

Krugman is a numbers man, and what he sees is that this election is very likely to turn into all-or-nothing, a coin-flip where the odds strongly disfavor the coin ending, standing on edge.

here’s the thing: because there are many districts that the G.O.P. carried by only moderately large margins in recent elections, a large Democratic surge — one only a bit bigger than that needed to take the House at all — would sweep away many Republicans holding seats normally considered safe. If the actual vote is anything like what the polls now suggest, we’re talking about the Democrats holding a larger majority in the House than the Republicans have held at any point since their 1994 takeover.
"If" -- now there's a word for the ages. The polls show a Democratic edge of 14%. Polls show a Democratic edge of about 7% in normal times, that is, when the actual vote will split evenly. The Democrats need an actual majority of 7% in the national vote to be sure of taking the House, and that might still leave them without control of the Senate.

Given recent electoral history, no Democrat is going to be anything more than guardedly optimistic.

The storm may yet weaken. ... If that happens, will it mean that Republican control is permanent after all?

No. Bear in mind that the G.O.P. isn’t in trouble because of a string of bad luck. The problems that have caused Americans to turn on the party, from the disaster in Iraq to the botched response to Katrina, from the failed attempt to privatize Social Security to the sudden realization by many voters that the self-proclaimed champions of moral values are hypocrites, are deeply rooted in the whole nature of Republican governance. So even if this surge doesn’t overtop the levee, there will be another surge soon.

But the best guess is that the permanent Republican majority will end in a little over three weeks.

And, then the fun begins?

Given the extent of the corruption and the Presidential overreaching, which has gone on, I would expect Democratic control of either house of Congress to result in multiple Congressional investigations. It will get ugly.

And, I also expect that Republicans will try to maneuver the Democrats into policies that backfire. Job 1 will be to get the Democrats to "force" Bush out of Iraq in a way that allows them to blame the subsequent Middle East catastrophe on the Democrats.

But, that all assumes a Democratic wave washing the Republicans out.

I fear that the levee is the Constitution, and what has topped the levee is the reactionary will to power.

The Constitution created a system of divided government and checks and balances, which results in a pendulum politics, where, for every action, there is a reaction, and where an increasingly radical politics begets opposition from irate moderates.

The Republican Party has been driven for 30 years by radicals, and they've pushed the country and the Constitution about as far as the country can go without breaking. They have been in near total control for five years, and are close to locking down their control, not just of the Executive and the Congress, but of the News Media and the Judiciary, as well.

The Foley scandal has been an odd business, but, typical of the work of our incompetent, right-wing Media, it is as much a distraction as an expose. The economic situation is discouraging only if you are inclined to take the long view; in the moment, most people are doing OK. Gas prices are low. Most people are not on the blogs, and are appallingly ill-informed. The evangelicals will go out and vote Republican as always, vote for torture and corruption and hypocrisy and feel good about themselves, and plenty of Democrats in Massachusetts and California will vote in Districts where it will change nothing.

I see the irate moderates rallying, but I don't see that they have overwhelming strength.

I fear that the Democrats will fail, and should they fail, it won't be just the Party that packs it in, it may well be the Republic.

Only if the Democrats take at least nominal control of the House and close the difference in the Senate to two, so that the remaining three moderate Republicans hold the Senate balance, will the politic process continue. If there are Democrats with the power of investigation, then the tide of reactionary authoritarianism may be turned. Bush will not be able to secure a reactionary, authoritarian majority on the Supreme Court and in the Federal judiciary as a whole. A lot corruption will be exposed; there's a chance that some of the thugs in the Republican Party will be hounded from power.

But, I am not as optimistic that another "storm surge" of opposition will follow, should the Democrats fall short. The pendulum-swinging politic process setup by the Constitution may well have come to a complete stop. Without a Democratic majority returned from the country, the judiciary will not resist the repeal of habeas corpus. Democratic politicians clinging to office will not grow courageous in the face of an unresponsive ballot box or an unfailingly right-wing Media.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

And the Base is beginning to figure it out.

Kevin Drum quotes Tucker Carlson: "It's pandering to the base in the most cynical way, and the base is beginning to figure it out."

There are a number of liberals and Democrats looking for the breakup of the Republican coalition, looking for the evangelicals to desert the secular, corrupt plutocrats, they chose for leaders. And, secular Republican shills, who report on the cynical way Rove and his associates regard the evangelicals, are trotted out. There's much talk about how the evangelicals may be discouraged and stay home on election day.

Yeah, right.

The conservative evangelicals are who they are, because they are deeply committed to never, ever figuring anything out.

Bill Moyer hosted a documentary the other night on PBS about evangelical environmental activism. This was not about anyone figuring anything out. It was about the tribe adopting a new stance and organizing activity. It was authoritarianism in motion.

There's some chance that the leadership of the evangelicals will decide to turn in another direction, which leaves the Republican Party floundering. But, there is no chance that evangelicals are going to spontaneously realize that Bush is a mean, stupid, corrupt bastard.

Monday, October 9, 2006


New York Times/CBS Poll Finds: "Mr. Bush clearly faces constraints as he seeks to address the public concerns about Iraq that have shrouded this midterm election: 83 percent of respondents thought that Mr. Bush was either hiding something or mostly lying when he discussed how the war in Iraq was going."

Day of Reckoning

Fareed Zakaria:
"President Bush says that if America leaves Iraq now, the violence will get worse, and terrorists could take control. He's right. But that will be true whenever we leave. 'Staying the course' only delays that day of reckoning."

Most intelligent people, who have been paying attention and are honest, recognized that Bush failed in Iraq, long before he was making a fool of himself on that aircraft carrier. But, conservative opinion makers have adopted narratives designed to obscure the realization. Fareed Zakaria, one of the most important makers of opinion on Iraq, has dropped the pretence.

Kevin Drum notices the tectonic shift in the conventional wisdom:
"Zakaria is a smart guy, but he's also a person who's good at putting his finger to the wind — and then getting credit for leading the way when he anticipates an imminent shift. That may be what's happening here. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to say something publicly in order to get everyone else to finally admit their own unspoken doubts. This may be the column that breaks the dam and makes withdrawal respectable among the center-right establishment."

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Remember . . .

'No Further Fallout' - "REMEMBER WHEN President Bush promised to restore honor and integrity to the Oval Office? He doesn't either . . . "

(thanks to the shrill Mark Kleiman)

Thursday, October 5, 2006

What Goes Around . . .

Andrew Sullivan:
"Part of me is distressed that the GOP could lose not because of spending recklessness, corruption, torture, big government, pork, and a hideously botched war ... but because of a sex scandal which doesn't even have (so far as we know) any actual sex. But part of me also sees the karmic payback here. They rode this tiger; now it's turning on them. And it's dinner time."

I cannot say I am not enjoying, just a little bit. Still, I remain somewhat pessimistic. New habits of critical thinking and reporting are hard to break. The Associated Press and Fox News, for a time, were identifying Republican predator (is that a redundancy?) Mark Foley as a Democrat! That ol' liberal media just funnin' us now, I guess.

Here's a ray of sunshine from Gary Sargent: "The Washington Post has, for two days running now, been aggressively correcting President Bush's lies about Democrats."

And, in a few short weeks we will see if they still count votes in this country.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

It is October: Surprised, yet?

Bill mon at Whiskey Bar: Fall Classic:
"One of the things that makes watching the Cheney Administration so exciting is that you never know how paranoid you ought to be.

"It would, in a totally perverse way, be carthartic (in both senses of the word) if the real October surprise turned out to be a tactical nuclear strike on Isfahan. At least the uncertainty would be gone. We would know beyond a reasonable doubt that the United States is no longer a constitutional republic, at least not in any meaningful sense, and could respond as our consciences and courage dictate. And I could finally stop worrying about whether I'm being too paranoid.

"Like I said, I don't expect it happen. War with Iran may be and probably is coming, but I doubt it's coming on Karl Rove's timetable.

Still, given the hole the Rovians now find themselves in, and the stakes they're playing for, I'm going to be nervously paranoid each and every day until the polls close on November 7."

Me, being a more traditional Democrat, will be experiencing peak paranoia slightly after the polls closed -- probably, about the time the "results" are announced.

Gas prices and the reported unemployment rate are low, and the stock market is nearing its all-time peak. Coincidence? My paranoia cannot quite decide.

Bush is a challenge for the imaginative mind. On the one hand, he seems a bumbling fool. On the other, he is enormously powerful, tied closely to a variety of enormously powerful organizations and institutions. Added to his apparent foolishness is the ethically-challenged nature of his close associates.

Hmmm. What to think, what to think? What to pray, what to pray?

Trying to Lose?

The Carpetbagger Report:
"is it possible Republicans are trying to lose the elections? I'm only half-kidding. The fact that the GOP isn't competent or ethical is hardly news, but as a rule, these guys are great at politics. All of a sudden, they're the gang that can't shoot straight — on Foley, the NIE, the 'comma,' Woodward revelations, the Taliban, etc.

I find it hard to believe the Republicans are intentionally throwing the campaign cycle, but if they were, wouldn't it look a bit like this?"

Well, yes, it is possible.

There has always been present in Republican policy design elements, which suggest that the Grand Strategy is to let the inevitable disaster happen on a Democratic watch, and then blame the Democrats.

One way to get out of Iraq is to let the Democrats "force" us out of Iraq, and, then, to blame the Democrats for losing Iraq.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Economist's View: This Can't Be Real

Economist's View: Mark Thoma:
"I can't figure out how I ended up in bizarro world where liberals are upset at government intrusion into the private sector, something that is supported and encouraged by conservatives. Even libertarians are largely silent as the government stomps on the marketplace for ideas and engages in other intrusions. And that's just the tip of the bizarro world iceberg these days. There's torture before we know if people are innocent or guilty, spying on private citizens without warrants, throwing people in jail without the right to contest it in court, all sorts of stuff that could only exist in some alternative up is down, bad is good universe. Seriously, this can't be real. "

Oh, it is real enough. Welcome to fascist America.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bring it on!


The truth is that the United States government is presently holding, torturing, and even murdering . . . numbers of people who have no chance in hell of obtaining a lawyer, let alone anything resembling a trial. The government is doing this under the direct orders of George W. Bush. There is no law, no bill, and no legislature who can stop him. If Congress were to pass a law unequivocably banning torture and send it to him, he'd use it for toilet paper. If the Supreme Court were to rule against Bush in the harshest and bluntest language, he'd yawn.

The truth is that there is a rogue presidency and there has been, since January, 2001 (earlier, if you count the stolen election). Certainly, everyone in Washington knows it, but no one dares to admit it. The bill legalizing torture merely enables Congress to pretend they still have some influence over an executive that from day one was governing, not as if they had a mandate, but as if Bush was a dictator. If, for some miracle, the bill didn't pass, every congress-critter knows Bush would keep on torturing.

Better to vote to pass and preserve the appearance of a working American government, the thinking goes. For the very thought that the US government is seriously broken - that the Executive is beyond the control of anyone and everyone in the world - is such a truly awesome and terrifying thought that it can never be publicly acknowledged. If ever it is, if the American crisis gets outed and Congress and the Supremes openly assert that the Executive has run completely amok and is beyond control, the world consequences are staggering. It is the stuff of doomsday novels.

And this brings up the dilemma of a post Nov. 7 world. Apparently, one if not both houses of Congress may be controlled by Democrats. Now what? You think Bush is gonna get impeached? Put on trial for war crimes? Forget it. You think they're gonna repeal the pro-torture law they're about to pass? You can almost certainly forget that, too. Remember: it is crucial to maintain the illusion that Congress still has some say, as it was in November of 2002 about the Bush/Iraq war.

If, for some reason, Congress does decide to move against Bush in some substantive way, there will be hell to pay. Those of us who well remember Watergate remember that while it was genuinely thrilling to have Nixon caught, disgraced, and removed, it was also a time of extreme tension. Would Nixon tough the impeachment trial out, causing the country incalculable harm? It looked for quite a long time that he would. About Bush, there is no doubt.

Since the day after the 2000 election, Bush and his goons have been playing chicken with the very structure of the United States Government, double-daring anyone to try and stop them. If Congress does try - and I'm not talking little things like wrecking Social Security, that'll happen and a dictator can afford to let things like that wait a while, I'm talking atomic bang bang and thumbscrews - he will force the private Constitutional crisis into the open. And there is no guarantee that Bush will lose.

And that is the truth. The Congress has been given an awful choice: Vote to approve torture and the suspension of habeas or show the world that yes, you really do have no genuine power to check Bush.

Of course, all of Congress should vote against the bill anyway. But they won't. And to themselves, they will justify the vote as saying they made a hard choice but made the best one they could for their country.

Me, well...I've gone on record numerous times about how much I dread radicalism and serious national crises (which are two reasons Bush scares the hell out of me). The prospect of an open Constitutional confrontation, Bush vs. the Congress plus the Supremes...Jesus Christ. Perhaps I should understand the Congress had no real choice?

Absolutely not. The time truly is long overdue where there simply is no choice but to say "enough." It should have been enough over the stolen election, or the neglect that led to 9/11, or Schiavo, or the filibuster.* But voting to permit the US government to sidestep Geneva? To suspend habeas? What the fuck is Congress thinking, for crissakes??? Has fascism moved so slowly that only a few bloggers can perceive the inevitable progression? I don't think so.

There's no question about it. Any person in Congress who votes for this - listening, Hillary? - will never get my vote again. Ever, not even for dogcatcher, let alone president. If there is going to be a public Constitutional crisis over Bush's rogue presidency - and there will be sooner or later, guaranteed - bring it on now.

My apologies to Tristero for reproducing the whole post. I intended to edit it down and provide a link, but my editing just did not get very far.

Tristero is hysterical, of course. If you are not, you are not paying attention.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Can anyone explain?

J.D. Henderson asks: "Can anybody explain how this administration is effective, productive, and making America safer . . . ?"

Mr. Henderson has a long list of Bush "accomplishments" for your reading displeasure.

'October surprise'

The Raw Story | Conservative websites claim Rove has been promising GOP insiders an 'October surprise': "Karl Rove has been promising GOP insiders that there will be an 'October surprise' before the midterm elections."


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Making Sense

Colonel Sam Gardner, by way of Billmon at Whiskey Bar:
"When I discuss the possibility of an American military strike on Iran with my European friends, they invariably point out that an armed confrontation does not make sense -- that it would be unlikely to yield any of the results that American policymakers do want, and that it would be highly likely to yield results that they do not. I tell them they cannot understand U.S. policy if they insist on passing options through that filter. The 'making sense' filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran."

I have exactly this difficulty in believing that the U.S. government will take military action against Iran.

I don't think Colonel Gardner is trying to be snarky or ironic. I think he is warning us that the worst President since Harding is going to try to surpass Pierce and Buchanan.

The Big Slumber

Daily Howler: When Al Gore made his formal proposal, the nation's Big Press chose to doze:
"On Monday afternoon, in a speech at NYU, Gore unveiled his formal plan to counter the effects of global warming. And the nation’s big news orgs buried it deep—if they bothered reporting it at all.

The Washington Post gave Gore’s speech 484 words, placing it low on page 2. The New York Times—above-it-all always—gave the story 468 words, and a bottom-of-page 17 placement. And try to believe that this appeared as part of the New York Times treatment:

REVKIN (9/19/06): Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the Gore proposals would create ''economic calamity.”

“He’s been hyping unfounded fears of planetary doom for 20 years,” Mr. Inhofe said in a statement, “and his new proposal would require a wholesale restructuring of our economic system.”

Good God! There isn’t a word in the Times report about the overwhelming scientific consensus on warming. But we did get the hear the crackpot Inhofe add to his famous crackpot claim that ''man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” Verily, we live at a time when the crackpots rule—and the Gores are assailed for their earth tones.

But then, at least the Post and the Times pretended to cover the Gore proposal. According to Nexis, USA Today ran no story at all; ditto the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. And the Boston Globe didn’t cover the story either. Back in the day, the Globe laid waste to major forests, wasting your time with the troubling story of the arthritis pills of the Gores’ troubling dog. They loved pretending that Gore was a liar. But the earth’s future? Pshaw! Boston slept. And the nation’s networks skipped the speech too. In 1999, Brian Williams was deeply troubled by Gore’s polo shirts. But not today, by his thoughts about warming.

Given the silence of those big, lazy orgs, we can perhaps draw some small humor from the AP’s headline on its Gore story: “Al Gore calls global warming a ‘climate crisis,’ decries lack of action by leaders.”

The silence concerning Gore’s major speech deserves a bit of reflection"

The greatest obstacle to a political storm sweeping clean our politics is the corruption and incompetence of Big Media. What else can be said?

Amid the greatest scandals, and potential end-of-the-world crises, Big Media cannot get the basic facts right, cannot tell the truth or effectively inform the Public. An informed Public is necessary for Democracy to function, and the U.S. does not have a Media capable of informing the Public adequately.

FEVER: Gaia has a fever!

Arctic ice melt shocks scientists | "EUROPEAN scientists voiced shock today as they viewed pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe's most northerly outpost to the North Pole."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tristero speculates

Hullabaloo: "Potential October Surprises"

The most obvious one mentioned by Tristero, and, tellingly by Bush himself, is the falling price of gas.

Fiddling with the price of gas is a subtle, but effective way to alter Bush's popularity.

I hope it is not enough to keep the Republicans in charge of Congress, but I am not optimistic about the American People.

TPMmuckraker: Economic Freedom Fund Archives

TPMmuckraker: Economic Freedom Fund Archives: "The Economic Freedom Fund has made its biggest buy of the campaign so far: $446,850* in television ads in Iowa's 3rd District.

The ad, which you can see here, hits Democrat incumbent Leonard Boswell for voting against making Bush's tax cuts permanent. "

I have had various fantasies about how Democrats, liberals and outraged moderates might be motivated to "overthrow" the corrupt Republican leadership in Congress.

But, it is worthwhile remembering that some very rich and determined people are more than willing to fight for Republican corruption.

An awful lot in our politics comes down to the effectiveness of the 30 second ad and the slogan on a bumpersticker.

New York Daily News - Home - Daily News Exclusive: D.C. corruption eruption

New York Daily News - Home - Daily News Exclusive: D.C. corruption eruption: "the FBI has had to triple the number of squads investigating lobbyists, lawmakers and influence peddlers"

Monday, September 18, 2006

What is to Come

The End of Eden:
"James Lovelock fixes his mind's eye on what's to come.

'It's going too fast,' he says softly. 'We will burn.'

Why is that?

'Our global furnace is out of control. By 2020, 2025, you will be able to sail a sailboat to the North Pole. The Amazon will become a desert, and the forests of Siberia will burn and release more methane and plagues will return.'"

War in Iran?

Think Progress » Retired Colonel: ‘We Are Conducting Military Operations Inside Iran Right Now. The Evidence Is Overwhelming.’:
"“The plan has gone to the White House. That’s not normal planning. When the plan goes to the White House, that means we’ve gone to a different state.”"

A war in Iran, without Congressional authorization?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Right, the Good and the Wrong

tristero explains the failure of the Coalition Provisional Authority to Reconstruct Iraq successfully:
"To the right, if you are Good, then you simply cannot, by definition, do wrong. So, when you're looking to fill a position of authority, you don't look for the most qualified in terms of experience. You look for the person who is the most Good. Since being a 'Christian' means you're Good, since being a Republican loyal to Bush means you're Good, that is far more important than Arab language skills. Because what does it matter if you can speak the language if you're not Good? By definition your decisions are Bad!

Therefore, from the Bush administration's standpoint, they truly believed they were hiring the best people possible to bring Iraq rapidly to its feet. Yes, of course, it was cynical politicking. But it was also, at the same time and without contradiction, utterly sincere.

And therefore, not only must Republicans be routed from Congress this fall, but Americans must fight a constant battle to ensure that in the future, these lunatics lose even more influence over the American government and never regain the presidency."

A sizeable number of Americans, to this day, do not understand why it is a really bad idea to elect as President of the United States, a lazy, ignorant, uncurious man.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Old Enough for Deja Vu?

Via Kevin Drum, Charlie Cook:
"As a general rule, election-watchers under the age of 40, regardless of their party or ideology, see the contest for control of the House as fairly close. They foresee Republicans' losing at least 10 seats, but certainly no more than 20, and they put the odds of a Democratic takeover at 50-50, give or take 10 percentage points. As for the Senate, these observers tend to expect Republicans to lose three or four seats, but probably not five and certainly not the six required for Democrats to take charge.

Observers over age 40, meanwhile, tend to see a greater likelihood of sizable Republican losses. They think that the GOP could well lose more than 20 House seats and more than five Senate seats.

Most of the professionals toiling in the vineyards of the party campaign committees and watching individual races most closely are in the under-40 cohort. They tend to see control of the House as a close call and tend to be most conservative on their House seat counts. They're also the least likely to think the Senate will change hands. Invariably, these younger pros acknowledge that for Republicans this is a 'very challenging election cycle,' the euphemism that GOP spokesmen use to keep from saying that 2006 is shaping up as 'a really bad year' for their party. Yet these younger observers focus almost exclusively on where each contest stands right now, employing a sort of political version of the literal interpretation of the Bible.

Older pros, while often one or more steps removed from the day-to-day developments in each contest, appear to read a bit more into the races, placing greater emphasis on the national political environment and what it is likely to mean for contests that are currently too close to call or for Republican incumbents with precarious leads. These relative old-timers vividly remember the midterm elections of 1994, 1986, 1982, and 1974, as well as the presidential year of 1980, when the late Speaker Tip O'Neill's adage '"

It's an interesting observation, and may explain why the great political storm has been so slow to develop. There's a very real generation gap, with those, who came to political consciousness post-Reagan, having become inured to Republican malfeasance and lies to the extent that that they don't believe the country will react.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Defining Moment for America

Washington Post Editorial: "A Defining Moment for America
The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture."

Can any storm wash away this stain on the honor of the country?

Monday, September 11, 2006

P.S. You're Fired

Eric Alterman:
"This nation was doubly cursed on this day five years ago; first by the attack itself, and second by the reaction of our dishonest, incompetent and corrupt leadership’s exploitation of it for their own naked political and ideological purposes. . . . we are a less admirable nation than we were five years ago. We are more warlike, more arrogant, more ignorant, less compassionate, less generous, less free, and thanks to the Bush administration’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq, far less safe."

Bastion of our liberal media that it is, has fired Eric Alterman.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Billmon Explains All

Whiskey Bar: Dog Bites Man:
"I tend to believe it will take a rather massive eruption of reality -- and probably a catastrophic one -- to produce fundamental political change in America, of the kind that might allow a progressive left-wing movement to smash the Rovian machine, break the political stranglehold of private wealth and bring the corporations, including the corporate media, back under some kind of check and balance.

Call me a wild-eyed radical, but I'm hoping for a 1932, or at least a 1980 in reverse, not a 1994 in reverse -- although we all could certainly do without a repeat of the Great Depression or the stagflationary '70s.

In any case, I'm reasonably sure that anything less than a 1932 or a 1980 (that is to say, a full-fledged political realigment) can and will be rolled back fairly quickly by the authoritarian powers that be. If the Carter and Clinton presidencies taught us nothing, they should have taught us that.

We're obviously not looking at a realignment election yet. We're probably not even close (although I wouldn't put money on that proposition.) But it's getting hard to see how an economic and/or foreign policy train wreck can be avoided, one that will eventually force large numbers of voters to fundamentally reassess their existing political loyalties.

Until it happens, though, it's probably best if the corporate dreamweavers and the Rovian propaganda technicians keep their bosses in the power. I still believe (call it an article of faith) that a majority of the voters will eventually figure out they've been had -- sold not just a bill of goods but a counterfeit reality, one that is crumbling in front of their eyes. When that happens, they're going to be enraged, in a way that makes this year's discontent look like the passing tantrum of a grumpy two-year old. We can only pray they'll be angry at the right people."

I can scarcely think of anything to add, although I do pray for a bare House majority for the Democrats, because I think the ability to expose scandal in Congressional investigations is a much needed tool. Still, I can see how that could work against the Democrats, who can be manipulated into being either scapegoats or complicit.

Friday, September 8, 2006

The Mouse that Roared

"a few months back various lefty bloggers were debating the political impact of media consolidation, with the majority opinion seeming to be that it was no big deal.

Guess again."

ABC is spending $40 million to present six-hours of commercial-free propaganda for the far right-wing propaganda film, Path to 9/11.

This comes after the 7 years of Whitewater, the War on Gore that was the 2000 campaign, and the Swift-boating of John Kerry. In the unlikely event that the Democrat claw their way back to power, Disney/ABC will have to be utterly destroyed. Or, the Democrats and democracy have a very short life expectancy.

We have to have a Storm, a very big storm, verging on Civil War, or our country is lost.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

The Consequences

Kevin Drumnotices that the Republicans no longer care about policy and its consequences, they care only about how symbolic measures affect electoral politics:
"This is, by a long measure, the most underreported aspect of the Bush administration's war on terror. Not that they're pursuing the wrong strategy — though they are — but that in the end they don't really care that much one way or the other. Winning the war has always been secondary to winning elections."

They do not care about policy or its consequences.

They care only about power.

It is all about the symbols and the rhetoric. Rational assessment of ways and means is completely ignored.

The Consequences of this cannot be good; the inevitable failure will create a political storm. But will the poltical theatre of that Coming Storm teach an electorate, which has been buying this nonsense, anything?


President Bush: "And so, here on Labor Day, I say to the union members who are here, happy Labor Day, and thanks for supporting leadership that is progressive, smart, capable, and has your best interests at heart."

Monday, September 4, 2006

Bush Iraq Strategy: Truth and Consequences

Mark Kleiman: "The notion that seriously aggravating the threat from Iran, including the very real possibility that Iran will join the nuclear club, could be justified by finding a bunch of rusty nerve-gas artillery shells left over from the Iran-Iraq war doesn't pass the giggle test."

Landmines in the Political Storm to Come

It is more of a hypothesis than a thesis, but I think that Rove's Grand Strategy for Republican Power ad infinitum has two components: plan A is to use faux populism and control of Big Media to create the propaganda necessary to hold onto Power and to consolidate the Bush building-a-fascist-State project in the near-term.

If Plan A fails, ruined by Bush's personal penchant for total and abject failure in every venture of his life, then Plan B is to dig the country into giant holes with the deficit/tax-cuts and with the Iraq War, and, if the Democrats are pushed by events into Power, to ruthlessly exploit the pain caused by Democratic attempts to get the country out of those holes to discredit the Democratic Party for a generation, returning to Power after a short interval to consolidate their Authoritarian State.

The deficit, and the financing of the deficit with Social Security taxes, is one of those two giant holes.

The obvious "solution" to the problem of the huge national debt is inflation. I think Sterling Newberry is right: Bernanke is an inflationist.

The situation of the U.S. and world economy has assumed a posture of dynamic stability. As everyone knows, it is nowhere near a position of static (i.e. equilibrium) stability. (It has not been my observation that world trade, national economies or even industries customarily assume anything like a static, long-term equilibrium; people, who analyze them as if they do need to get out of the classroom more; a different analysis is necessary to understand whatever stability is observed).

But, I think what is more likely to happen is that the U.S. will embark on an increasingly inflationary course, in order to prolong the stability of the world economy. Bernanke is an expert on the Great Depression, and fears deflation above all things, and as a conservative inflationist, he's sees deflation as a threat to the plutocracy, as it proved to be in 1932, much to Bernanke's evident regret; the U.S. economy is awash in dollar liquidity, and the greatest danger is that vast sums accumulated in the Persian Gulf and China will drive up asset prices in the U.S. while driving down savings so far that a general inflation is triggered by runaway consumer spending. Bernanke will choose inflation to protect the plutocracy, with even the slightest encouragement from whoever occupies the White House in 2009, and has to right Bush's fiscal disaster, while coping with the willy-nilly expiration of numerous tax cuts, constituting a huge, involuntary tax increase designed by Republicans, but exploding under a probable Democratic regime.

To keep the world economy stable on its current dynamic path, U.S. inflation has to be higher than Chinese inflation, to provide the Chinese enough headroom to ensure that China doesn't accidently slip into deflation, while trying to maintain its currency's peg to the dollar. Chinese deflation, triggering a Chinese recession, which could be extremely sharp after such a long and massive growth spurt, would bring the whole house of cards, which is the current pattern of world trade, tumbling down.

Inflation is a classic way out of a debt crisis. But, with the marketed debt primarily in inflation-adjusted and short-term paper, inflation will fall most heavily on Social Security, where the trust fund consists primarily of non-marketable debt, with no inflation protection. Ricardian equivalence will manifest as a giant default on the SS trust fund, by means of inflation, and, of course, an excuse for the Plan B Restoration Republicans of 2012 to finally axe SS altogether.

Sorry to be such a pessimist. But, I think Democrats really need to be more aware and articulate about the extent to which Iraq and the Deficit are the twin landmines of American politics. Getting out of Iraq or staying in Iraq -- either one -- is going to have catastrophic consequences for the U.S. and the Middle East, for which Republicans and Big Media will blame the Democrats.

Getting out of the current economic situation, in which the U.S. standard of living is propped at least 5% to 10% higher than can be sustained, given our negative savings rate, our dwindling manufacturing base and the hollowing out of corporate America, is going to be very painful, and Republicans will both blame the Democrats and do all they can to block or sabotage any policy, which will make the collapse of the Bush economy any less painful for the middle class.