Thursday, August 31, 2006
In the film, Bush is killed by a sniper, and the investigation quickly focuses on a Syrian-born man. It will air in October on Channel 4's More4 digital channel, as well as at the Toronto Film Festival in September."
Sterling concentrates mostly on an analysis of the military situation, but at the end, he wonders, whither the Media? For those of us looking for the coming political storm, which surely must follow from the debacle in Iraq, this is, obviously, a critical piece.
The Media has become a corporate, right-wing monolithic propaganda machine. Will they turn on their masters? Or, will their Masters turn on their creature, George W. Bush?
Or, will the Master of Media blame the Iraq debacle on the opponents of the war?
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Gary Hart notices Bush's fascist state project.
Friday, August 25, 2006
"By just about every measure, our strategy is not succeeding. Common sense would dictate that we cut our losses and get out as soon as feasible, leaving the Iraqis to settle matters in their own way. But that would be taking a leap into the great and highly dangerous unknown, perhaps creating problems more vexing than those we currently face. Opponents of precipitous withdrawal raise “out of the frying pan, into the fire” scenarios — and they may be right. If so, staying the course and working for improvement is the only logical choice unless at some point the chaotic situation absolutely forecloses that option."
Matthew sums it up:
"Trainor clearly has a grip on reality that many of his fellow contributors lack. . . . And yet his argument here is that opponents of withdrawal are correct to oppose withdrawal if and only if opponents of withdrawal are right. But, obviously, we shouldn't leave if withdrawal opponents are right. The question is are they . . . right?"
The answer to this Delphic conundrum is really not all that difficult. Are we willing and able to not merely stay, but to act to improve the situation for the long-term?
Bush has so little concept of what needs to be done, that the whole debate over what to do, short of precipitous withdrawal, is frozen. Iraq has many dire problems. Are we willing to do anything about them?
I don't think Bush is either willing or capable of helping the Iraqis. He has no idea what to do, beyond a stupid persistence. Even if some of his advisers had some bright ideas, the Decider-in-Chief lacks both ambition and discernment.
I don't agree with those on the Left, who glibly say the situation is, in principle, hopeless, or minimize the inevitable losses down the road as Iran takes over the Middle East.
I think, with sufficient effort and expense, Iraq could be transformed. Half a million American troops on the ground and $60 to 80 billion in additional reconstruction funding, diligently spent, and I could see the U.S. really accomplishing something.
Withdrawal or not would become a moot point; a strong Iraq would ask the U.S. to leave, forthwith.
As it is, we are in the position of the idiot cook, who has put the pot on the stove, and seeing it boil, puts a lid on, hoping to stop it from boiling over. Our lid just makes it worse.
If we are not willing to do anything more, than we should take the lid off, and flee the kitchen, and accept what follows. If Iran ends up dominating the region, so be it. Oil is fungible, and we should use a lot less, anyway.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?
Dr. Frank is not asserting that Bush is hearing voices, only that he is not entirely accepting of reality.
I have noted elsewhere that the whole Republican Party is increasingly hostile to reality. I am not sure that makes either Bush or the Republicans as a whole "psychotic", but I am keeping my eye on the threat to attack Iran.
I really do not expect the U.S. to attack Iran, partly because I do not think Bush would get sufficient backing from Congress. Bush's Republican backers in Congress are rallying, though. I presume a certain rational calculation permeates the deliberations of the Bush Administration, despite the history of bad judgement.
But, I could be completely wrong. Maybe, the President really has lost his grip. I know a President initiating a second war in the Middle East, without the backing of the country, would create a Perfect Storm, that would dwarf anything before in American history.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
It is hard to tell if the Administration is trying to flee from the disaster forward into war with Iran, or whether they are preparing for ignominious withdrawal from Iraq.
Either, occurring next year in the midst of recession, and investigations by Democrats in charge of the House, would create the conditions for a Perfect Storm of truly titanic proportions. Bush seems determined to achieve a degree of unpopularity as President that even Nixon failed to achieve.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Economist's View: Income Inequality Follow-Up from Paul Krugman:By the way, Larry Bartels in Princeton's politics department shows that there's a strong correlation between party control of the White House and inequality trends even in the short run; see http://www.princeton.edu/~bartels/income.pdf. It's kind of a mysterious result, but worth pursuing."
Sunday, August 20, 2006
I had one of those zeitgeist moments, where I participated for a few seconds in the growing blogospheric consciousness about what Lamont's victory over Lieberman means for the changing shape of the Democratic Party.
One of the prime reasons that the Perfect Storm has been so slow in coming, despite Bush's overreaching and disastrously foolish policies, is that Democratic Party and American politics is stuck in a corrupt mode. That corrupt mode is making it difficult for the Democrats to respond rationally and effectively to the Republicans, despite the emergence of a degree of extremism, insanity and corruption, which would, ordinarily be electorally fatal in American politics.
Matt has been writing some detailed articles explaining how and why the Democrats in Washington are so feeble.
"By any definition, Iraq is in a state of civil war. Indeed, the only thing standing between Iraq and a descent into total Bosnia-like devastation is 135,000 U.S. troops -- and even they are merely slowing the fall. The internecine conflict could easily spiral into one that threatens not only Iraq but also its neighbors throughout the oil-rich Persian Gulf region with instability, turmoil and war.
The consequences of an all-out civil war in Iraq could be dire. Considering the experiences of recent such conflicts, hundreds of thousands of people may die. Refugees and displaced people could number in the millions. And with Iraqi insurgents, militias and organized crime rings wreaking havoc on Iraq's oil infrastructure, a full-scale civil war could send global oil prices soaring even higher.
However, the greatest threat that the United States would face from civil war in Iraq is from the spillover -- the burdens, the instability, the copycat secession attempts and even the follow-on wars that could emerge in neighboring countries. Welcome to the new 'new Middle East' -- a region where civil wars could follow one after another, like so many Cold War dominoes.
And unlike communism, these dominoes may actually fall. . . .
Considering how many mistakes the United States has made in Iraq, how much time has been squandered, and how difficult the task is, even a serious course correction in Washington and Baghdad may only postpone the inevitable."
With two more years to run, Bush has a very good chance of presiding over total chaos in the Middle East. Wheee!
"The GOP is a victim of its own success: Because the party has been successful at conflating Iraq and the war on terror, Kohut says, its efforts to talk about terrorism now are failing because they're getting overshadowed by the public's far more pressing concerns about the Iraq war. So the more Republicans talk about 'terror,' the more people are reminded of the disaster they've created for us in Iraq.
In a way, it's like the political equivalent of quicksand: The more the Republicans thrash around to extricate themselves from this morass, the deeper into it they sink."
It is kind of the way the vortex forms, just before it carries all the water down the drain.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Here's the kernal:
"The Reactionary movement is about creating a hard boundary between inside and outside. From this flow two simple principles: what happens inside is justified by the rules, this is "morality", and any violation of the boundary justifies the use of maximum, indeed unlimited, violence, this is "clarity". . . .
"It is important to stop and feel this visualization of the world, inside a tank, a world where the game itself and the normal patterns of behavior regulate everything, without any need for state intervention. Then a protective hard shell, and outside a group of foul genocidal demons from whom those inside must be protected at all cost. It is a simple world to live in. It rationalizes certain kinds of behavior, and it gives 'freedom', stay in the tank, and you do not have any burden of thinking about consequences or outcomes beyond those that can be simply extrapolated from your own actions.
"It also justifies an almost unlimited budget for prisons and the military - because a thicker tank is always better, and the forces of evil are everywhere. This simple view of space gave the Reactionary movement its clarity, and it also created the Reactionary movement's way of solving everything. Create a tank, demand that everything inside the tank simply run, and then hammer or slaughter any threats to the tank.
"But why did this work in the United States, of all places . . . ?
"This worked because it was targetted at people who had fled from urban areas to suburbia. The Reactionary movement[s] really argued that when there was a break down of boundaries in the 1960's there was a break down of society and the economy. Suburbia good, cities bad. Quiet good, noise bad.
"It [worked] because it could be sold to consumers, who, in fact, were presented with a system which, in their day to day experience, was what the right wing said day to day experience should be about. Consumers make decisions based on the immediate and immediately visible signals they see. The Reactionary movement's view of 'inner space' corresponded with this. Threats to that are external and violent. This corresponds to the consumer's view of the world that bad events come from rapid and violent dislocations, such as a mugging or a car accident or a lay off. The Reactionary movement then argued that bad things would not happen if only the outer tank was thick enough, and the inner space was fumigated of alien influences.
"Consumers accepted this: keep out the bad guys, fumigate the people who don't "act like us", who are merely infiltrating bad guys, and all will be well. . . .
"In fact, the society that consumers lived in was the reverse - the tank which they saw as normal, omnipresent and stable, was a product of a great deal of deliberate planning, and a great deal of deliberate engineering. Prices, advertisments, goods and services were all regulated, activity was subsidized, the economy monitored constantly. There was no consumer tank, except in the minds of consumers.
"However, this [reality] created a complex and uncertain sense of political space, where as the Reactionary movement['s shell], in its various forms, presented a simple view of political space. Kill the baddies, keep them out, and all is well, is about a simple a view of political space as can be drawn.
"This worked because of the hypnotic power of nomos - the ordinary laws and customs which a community runs on. The nomos is what is normal. Morality is nothing more than the brain's way of organizing the normal patterns of behavior internally.
"Moral clarity on the right was, and is, the fundamental principle, because maintaining the simple view of political space, and the simple faith in simple rules the sole end of intellectual and rhetorical activity. Nothing else matters.To generate a Reactionary movement, all one needed to do is create a demon, a nomos and a boundary that separated the two. Rhetoric falls out of this almost immediately, since it is all about either emphasizing the evils of the demon, the self-justifying good of the nomos, and the importance of having an absolute and simplistic boundary between the two.
"In short every Reactionary rhetoric could be reduced down to "zero tolerance" and "axiomic good". Reactionary attacks boil down then to proving that someone or something isn't pure good, and therefore must be pure evil."
". . . Reactionary movements that disagree with each other violently on actual issues [have] worked together with . . . seemless efficiency [because] The[y] were all defending an inside from an outside, and they were shoulder to shoulder with people who were emotionally like themselves. More important than agreement on dogma, as an agreement about the enemy. The enemy wasn't a particular enemy, it was a concept, a concept of a different kind of political space. While government, terrorists, gays, inner urban street toughs, activist judges might have been the nominal enemies, the real enemy was having to be present in ones own actions. The real enemy was having to look where you were going, and think about the implications of what you were doing.
Here are some additional epigrammatic tidbits (some from comments):
while the public is rejecting Bush, it has not yet rejected the reactionary nomos. Much of the public is looking to try and do the same thing the same way and get a different result.
Freedom is just another way to say, wtf:
The Reactionary system predicates, not a formally coherent set of beliefs, but a particular sense of political space. It argues that if people adopt particular a particular nomos, and rigidly separate "inside" from "outside" [with a rigid "shell"), then that is the best possible society.
While what, exactly, the inside is about is a matter of wild disagreement between reactionaries, the kind of nomos [moral political space] is not. It is one where people do not have to think about the consequences to others of their actions beyond a very limited range. [The moral order or nomos requires respect for others like yourself inside the shell, but doesn't require consideration for "evil" others outside the shell.] That's "freedom" as they define it.
I couldn't help to think about some rightwing economist, whose name I cannot remember, pondering outloud about global warming, and wondering if we should really impose costs on ourselves to prevent displacing 60 million people in Bangladesh. Even though economists are trained to think about externalities, per se, it did not seem to occur to him that there is something morally askew about the prospect of Americans enjoying their SUVs at the expense of 60 million poor Asians flooded out of practically their whole country.
The ready way in which Bush and his apologists put "terror suspects" outside the rule of law would stand as another example of how this political structuring a psychological/political space and of nomos works.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
It is fascinating to me that Lieberman-Lamont has had this huge impact in terms of bringing the liberal blogosphere to self-awareness about how moderates and principled conservatives have been transformed, against natural temperment, into partisan Democrats, by the mendacity of Bush Republicans.
At the same time, an older generation of pundits and politicians are being cast out of the Democratic Party, or fleeing it.
And, Republican commentators are revealing just how much they appreciated the Joe Liebermans.
It really is a kind of realignment in American politics. It has only affected a small number of hyper-aware (politically) people. But, it will spread.
Monday, August 14, 2006
I am largely in agreement with this analysis, but not necessarily with the interpretation. Democrats, particularly Democrats on the left, but really, all Democrats, tend to be tone-deaf with regard to low-information voters. Many professional Democrats -- I'm talking about people, who advise and manage campaigns and buy ads -- are themselves low-information voters and don't even know it. But, the independents are the lowest of low information voters; they are hard to reach; they don't know much about politics, because, basically, they don't want to know much. They like the few opinions they have, and want those opinions confirmed; they don't want to think that the country is in the hands of madmen.
Democrats, regular partisan and well-informed Democrats want to hear the Democratic politicians commit themselves to aggressive political conflict with the despised Republicans. The independent voter does NOT want to hear any such thing, but does need to hear it. The broadcast Media, firmly in the hands of a corporate Right-Wing, is the primary source of what little news the independent voter gets, and they are not going to convey the Democratic message, unless forced, Katrina-style.
The era of ideas, debate, and moderation is gone (for now), not by our choice, but by theirs. That is Lieberman's problem and an ever shrinking number of holdouts. I really am angry about the loss of a worldview and approach that I valued. "
In the political divisions of the 1960's and 1970's, the craziness of McGovern was recognized and the craziness of Nixon was not. The crazies were nurtured in the Republican Party, through Iran-Contra and David Stockman's mendacious fiscal policy. The rejection of the crazy Left of the Democratic Party became a defining element of political identity for both the Reagan Democrats and Clinton's DLC.
The crazies have been in charge of the Republican Party for a decade or more, and the Republicans have controlled the country for 5 years running.
If the coalition of the sane is to reassert itself successfully, it will have to do so entirely within the Democratic Party. Democrats defining themselves in contradistinction to 60's radicals, who are long extinct except in the imaginations of fools, no longer works. Bipartisanship, as a formula for power on behalf of sanity, for power on behalf of decency and rationality, no longer works. The Republican Party stands four square for torture, national bankruptcy, perpetual war, fake science and corporate corruption; no one can compromise on policy with a Republican Party gone insane, and expect a sane result.
Lieberman did not understand the clear political implications of these two political developments: the rise of Republican insanity or death of bipartisanship. The Democrats will have to define themselves as not-insane, not-Republican and persuade the country to reject Republicanism with all the shrill disgust, which can be mustered. Then, the Democrats will have to take power, and cooperate and compromise among themselves to arrive at sane and practical policy.
On present trends, I guess the Democrats cannot avoid taking control of at least one house of Congress. The trickier thing may be getting the brand of sanity on Democratic policy compromises.
Democrats have been trying to get policy proposals together, like they were re-packaging soap for a national ad campaign.
They face two critical problems. One is that what they need to sell, nationally, is the ability of liberal and conservative Democrats to compromise with each other, to arrive at rational policy and a reasonable way forward.
On a number of issues, Republicans have been refusing compromise and forcing gridlock on controversial issues. Democrats can only win nationally by being on both sides of many of those issues, and selling, not the ideology of any representative Democrat, but the ability of Democrats to forge compromises, which move the country forward. There should be pro-life and pro-choice Democrats, both; the trick is to sell the idea that Democrats, unlike ideologically committed Republicans, can compromise productively on ways, which both preserve individual autonomy and reduce the frequency of abortion.
The ability of Democrats to compromise, practically and productively, has to be sold in place of a bipartisanship, which no longer works for the country, because compromise with the radical and insane Republicans is no longer possible.
The rejection of 60's radicalism, which has defined the identity of so many DLC-type corporate-whore Democrats of the center can not longer be tolerated, if Democratic compromise is to replace a defunct "bipartisanship". Conservative Democrats from conservative regions have to sell respect for the pragmatic and idealistic qualities of progressive and liberal Democrats from the Northeast and the big cities, and vice versa.
The other big problem for the meister of the Democratic message is that the country needs a radical change of direction. Republicans may have pursued a radical change of direction since the 1960's, if not the 1930's, but, after the success of the New Deal, they always sold small changes in direction, better management, etc. Nixon sold himself as a hard-headed, more practical liberal; Reagan spoke the idealistic language of the New Deal even as he was chipping away at the foundation stones. Democrats do not have the luxury of such Whiggish incrementalism.
Everything about the Republican program of shifting the tax burden onto the future middle class, of perpetual war and infinite debt in the service of Oil, of raping the land and polluting the air to create "economic opportunity", is wrong and has to change.
Selling the country on the ability of Democrats -- conservative, moderate and liberal -- to compromise productively is going to be easy compared to the task of confronting the country with the necessity of completely changing direction, in order to find a way forward.
The country may need several more years of catastrophic Bush failures -- more Iraq, more Katrinas, economic recession -- before a majority are really willing to accept that a complete change of direction is necessary and desirable.
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
One of these days, I hope to write some insightful piece about how damaging to the truth is engaging in "debate" with these right-wing thugs. Till then, I will treasure the words of better men than I.
Friday, August 4, 2006
"'Time is running out for Republicans. Unless something dramatic happens before Election Day, Democrats will take control of the House. And the chances that they’ll seize the Senate are rising toward 50-50.
'The electoral hurricane bearing down on the GOP looks likely to be a Category 4 or 5, strong enough to destroy at least one of the party’s majorities. The political climate feels much as it did before previous elections that produced sizable upheavals, such as in 1994, when Democrats lost 52 House seats, eight Senate seats, and control of both chambers.'"
Just when I was feeling good about the political re-alignment promised by Lieberman's imminent defeat in Connecticut, Billmon has to remind me about the continuing insanity of the Bush policy in the Middle East, and its consequences.
"If the United States were to begin pulling troops out of Iraq now, it would be interpreted correctly throughout the Middle East as an open admission of defeat -- one that would likely lead fairly quickly to a complete American evacuation of the country. (Maybe not literally by landing helicopters on the roof of the embassy, but all in the region would understand the military reality that as the force grows smaller it will become progressively more dangerous to keep it in Iraq.)
Such an outcome could force well Iraq's Shi'a political leaders to snuggle up even more tightly to Iran, if only as a matter of physical survival. If the full-scale civil war everyone seems to expect were to break out following an American withdrawal, Baghdad might even feel compelled to call in Iranian troops. At a minimum, Iran could be left with enormous influence over, if not outright control of, the Iraqi government and its security forces. Access to Iraqi air space would give Iran a direct resupply corridor to Syria, and, through Syria, to Hizbullah. A ground presence could provide Tehran with a direct ground link -- call it the Ayatollah Khomeini Trail -- assuming the Kurds could be bought off and/or intimidated, or the Sunni belt pacified (one shudders to think of what that might involve.)
Presto: one Shi'a crescent to go.
Of course, it might not actually come to this -- or if it did it might not come quickly. But the fact remains that the U.S. Army is the only significant force standing between Iran and it's closest allies, and thus between Iran and Israel. If, as it now seems, Washington and Jerusalem both perceive Iran as the primary threat (and/or target for aggression) in the region, then there is no real distinction between America's occupation of Iraq and Israel's intended re-occupation of southern Lebanon. They are, in essence, both part of the next war.
It seems increasingly probable that that war will come soon -- perhaps as early as November or December, although more likely next year. Israel's failure to knock out Hizbullah with a rapid first strike has left the neocons even deeper in the hole, enormously ratcheting up the pressure to try to recoup all losses by taking the war to Damascus and Tehran.
In other words, it's almost time for the ultimate "flight forward" -- the one that finally pushes the Middle East into World War III."
Having warned us of Armageddon, Billmon then goes on to analyze his fears regarding the political potency of the Democratic Party. Ok. That's not usually where the topic of WWIII takes me first. But, fair enough: the Democrats have taken the better part of 3 years just to get themselves to the point where they kind of, sort of, agree that Bush's Iraq Adventure is a disaster. Politically, they have not really figured a way out, or what their alternative policy would look like.
It does look like Bush wants war with Iran.
Frankly, whether the Democrats support or oppose, does not seem to me, to matter much. It is still wildly hypothetical.
I have always thought the Democrats are wildly naive, politically as well as substantively, to propose withdrawal in any form, which is not preceded by some other form of massive aid to the Iraqis. But, no one is paying any attention to me.
I am really not too concerned about WWIII starting between Iran and Israel. Iran does not have that kind of military power or reach, even if they had access to the airspace or the landroutes between Israel and Iran, there's not much they could do, because they lack the logistical capacity.
Iran may well end up dominating Iraq. Just let it happen, say I.
Bush is insane. That's the critical realization. His narrative, which ends in the urgency of war, is based on that insanity. The dangers here do not really exist on the existential scale, which all this drama presupposes.
Bush may well attack Iran. Such an ill-advised adventure would bring down his Administration and American dreams of Empire, and be a tragedy for many thousands. It might even bring down the American Way of Oil, with it. And, that, in the long run, could well be a good thing.
The School of Experience is a tough school. The entrance requirements are low, but the curriculum is extensive and the teaching methods rough. Still, some will learn in no other.
The Democrats will be able to fashion a reasonable alternative to Bush's insanity, when the American People are finished learning from it.
After a long period in coma, the American political constitution (sic: small c) may be creaking into life, trying to right the balance after the long, dark night of the soul, which has been the catastrophic Presidency of George W. Bush.
The signs are faint, but a political realignment seems about to happen. Assumptions about political dynamics, which have been "true" since 1932, since 1968, since 1994, appear ready to wash away, as a small, but important part of the Republican Party migrates to the Democratic Party.
Bipartisanship was the center of power in U.S. politics for a long time. It was part of a pattern established by FDR in the New Deal and, especially, WWII. It was how the liberal consensus of the 1950's expressed itself -- a way for liberal Republicans and liberal Democrats to combine to wield policymaking power, which the dominating conservative wings of both their respective Parties would prefer to have denied them. And, it was how Reagan ran his revolution, creating a Congressional majority his Party did not actually possess.
Bipartisanship was struck a mortal blow by Whitewater, died in Florida, and was pronounced dead by the five coroners of the Supreme Court.
The critical thing for the country is to get policymaking power again into rational hands. There was a time, when that meant the cool, moderating environment of bipartisanship, where the radicals of both parties could be excluded. But, now the majority party, the party in power, has gone totally insane. You cannot compromise with insanity and come out of it with anything but insanity. You get monstrosities like the minimum wage increase married to an estate tax cut. Or, the current Republican proposals to repaint Bush's Kangaroo Court military tribunals AND extend their jurisdiction to everyone!
The sane, the decent, the secular and the rational remnant of the Republican Party is asking for refugee status in the Democratic Party. They bring the promise of an electoral majority and political power. For the sake of the Country, not the Party, for the sake of the Country, we must disenthrall ourselves of the political past, and embrace the new political alignment and make it work.
Thursday, August 3, 2006
"All over the world, autocratic-minded rulers, from Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to Russia's President Vladimir Putin, have learned that de facto control of the political content of television is perhaps the most important lever of power in our day. They have learned that it does not matter politically if 15 or even 25 percent of the public is well informed as long the majority remains in the dark. The problem has not been censorship but something very nearly censorship's opposite: the deafening noise of the official megaphone and its echoes--not the suppression of truth, still spoken and heard in a narrow circle, but a profusion of lies and half lies; not too little speech but too much. If you whisper something to your friend in the front row of a rock concert, you have not been censored, but neither will you be heard."
hat tip to Ezra Klein, who adds this:
"The problem isn't a lack of information, or the obvious censorship of a police state, but the projection and absorption of misinformation and spin. I always come back to, as example, the polls showing that Americans knew more about Clinton's health care plan directly after his first speech than after nine months of round-the-clock media coverage. By tuning into the press coverage, they felt informed on the plans outlines. They were not. But it's infinitely harder to convince someone that what they 'know' is wrong rather than that what they don't know is important."
Media consolidation has resulted in an homogenous corporate right-wing media, which is practically a propaganda machine for the extreme Right-Wing. PBS/NPR, which was created as a non-advertising supported alternative institutional media has been completely co-opted by right-wing foundations and corporate "identity" sponsorship, which looks like advertising.
In this "news media ecology", the netroots are an alternative channel for creating and propagating critical narratives. They are not a political movement. They are an injection of antibiotics into a body politic about to succumb to the equivalent of a systemic staph infection. The antibiotics make the body politic feel worse, because killing off some of the multiplying staph triggers the release by the staph of toxins, in the form of slime campaigns and desperate attempts to suppress the vote. But, the antibiotics are all that prevent the body from slipping into a coma.