Friday, July 20, 2007

Krugman Pops Some Bubbles

July 20, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
All the President’s Enablers
In a coordinated public relations offensive, the White House is using reliably friendly pundits -- amazingly, they still exist -- to put out the word that President Bush is as upbeat and confident as ever. It might even be true.

What I don't understand is why we're supposed to consider Mr. Bush's continuing confidence a good thing.

Remember, Mr. Bush was confident six years ago when he promised to bring in Osama, dead or alive. He was confident four years ago, when he told the insurgents to bring it on. He was confident two years ago, when he told Brownie that he was doing a heckuva job.

Now Iraq is a bloody quagmire, Afghanistan is deteriorating and the Bush administration's own National Intelligence Estimate admits, in effect, that thanks to Mr. Bush's poor leadership America is losing the struggle with Al Qaeda. Yet Mr. Bush remains confident.

Sorry, but that's not reassuring; it's terrifying. It doesn't demonstrate Mr. Bush's strength of character; it shows that he has lost touch with reality.

Actually, it's not clear that he ever was in touch with reality. I wrote about the Bush administration's "infallibility complex," its inability to admit mistakes or face up to real problems it didn’t want to deal with, in June 2002. Around the same time Ron Suskind, the investigative journalist, had a conversation with a senior Bush adviser who mocked the "reality-based community," asserting that "when we act, we create our own reality."

People who worried that the administration was living in a fantasy world used to be dismissed as victims of "Bush derangement syndrome," liberals driven mad by Mr. Bush's success. Now' however, it's a syndrome that has spread even to former loyal Bushies.

Yet while Mr. Bush no longer has many true believers, he still has plenty of enablers -- people who understand the folly of his actions, but refuse to do anything to stop him.

This week's prime example is Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who made headlines a few weeks ago with a speech declaring that "our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests." Mr. Lugar is a smart, sensible man. He once acted courageously to head off another foreign policy disaster, persuading a reluctant Ronald Reagan to stop supporting Ferdinand Marcos, the corrupt leader of the Philippines, after a stolen election.

Yet that political courage was nowhere in evidence when Senate Democrats tried to get a vote on a measure that would have forced a course change in Iraq, and Republicans responded by threatening a filibuster. Mr. Lugar, along with several other Republicans who have expressed doubts about the war, voted against cutting off debate, thereby helping ensure that the folly he described so accurately in his Iraq speech will go on.

Thanks to that vote, nothing will happen until Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, delivers his report in September. But don't expect too much even then. I hope he proves me wrong, but the general's history suggests that he's another smart, sensible enabler.

I don't know why the op-ed article that General Petraeus published in The Washington Post on Sept. 26, 2004, hasn't gotten more attention. After all, it puts to rest any notion that the general stands above politics: I don’t think it's standard practice for serving military officers to publish opinion pieces that are strikingly helpful to an incumbent, six weeks before a national election.

In the article, General Petraeus told us that "Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously." And those security forces were doing just fine: their leaders "are displaying courage and resilience" and "momentum has gathered in recent months."

In other words, General Petraeus, without saying anything falsifiable, conveyed the totally misleading impression, highly convenient for his political masters, that victory was just around the corner. And the best guess has to be that he'll do the same thing three years later.

You know, at this point I think we need to stop blaming Mr. Bush for the mess we're in. He is what he always was, and everyone except a hard core of equally delusional loyalists knows it.

Yet Mr. Bush keeps doing damage because many people who understand how his folly is endangering the nation's security still refuse, out of political caution and careerism, to do anything about it.
Something I'd Like to See

Put it in Writing, Chimpy

It really is amazing how quickly this administration can move when their collective asses find themselves on the proverbial frying pan. All of the sudden, pithy sentiments emanate from the varied august wisemen--in sharp contrast to things that merely affect the victimized and the poor, when government's innate sluggishness MUST be allowed free reign. latest modest proposal: I think Chimperor should be forced to write an essay outlining his personal view of the executive branch, that is, his ideas regarding just what powers it retains, how these should be exercised, etc. And, any additional demands should likewise be submitted in writing.

His OWN writing. With witnesses and/or video proving that it really is HIS work.

I can only imagine what might be forthcoming...and my imagination in matters of public policy is...cynical, to put it mildly.
Risk Takers

Last night on Countdown I literally couldn't believe my ears when Olbermann cited the following passage in Eric Edelman's dolchstoss letter to Senator Hillary Clinton:

...such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks in order to achieve compromises on national reconciliation, amending the Iraqi constitution, and other contentious issues.

Um, these risk takers are about to emulate our president--well, almost--and take a month of paid time off (if they REALLY wanted to do a Shrub, they'd go for a full six weeks).

Well, I suppose if your world view considers Scooter Libby an almost prisoner-of-war, as idiot Edelman presumably does, then it's possible a month-long vacation qualifies as "personal risk." After all, an individual lawmaker might up an embarrassingly large tab at a hotel/restaurant in the south of...France. Ouch.

Of course, Edelman, like most others in this administration, can't be bothered with the dead and wounded. I mean, geez: it's as if they went out of their way to make such a splendid little war so goddamned messy. And now Team Bush is being asked to do some most unpleasant contingency planning...for the inevitable loss, a loss that continues to cost us dearly because, according to Chester Crocker (Ambassador to Iraq), we need to "buy time," which, in Iraq, is paid for in local currency: blood.

Oh, at times how I wish there was a hell...because an awful lot of people would one day be rotting in it...
How Will They Tell?

Cheney advises Bush to wash his hands in the fresh blood of Iraqi children...

I guess just to make it official, Dick will officially wield the reins of power for a couple of hours while Shrub relives his misspent youth.

Can you impeach an "acting president?" Just wondering...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's Not Just a Chinua Achebe Novel

Don't say you weren't warned:

Urban planning experts say America's older cities are modern-day Pompeiis - within range of volcanoes of infrastructure failures like New York's. On Wednesday, a pipe, laid in 1924, exploded near Grand Central station, killing one person and injuring 30. Maintaining a sewer system is hardly a sexy political issue, but years of funding neglect and a subsequent lack of maintenance nationwide have left many of the country's engineering systems unprepared to handle future stresses. "We have an aging infrastructure in this country, and we are not doing enough to maintain it and replace it," said Sarah Catz, director of the Center for Urban Infrastructure at University of California-Irvine. "What you saw happen in New York will happen in all types of infrastructures."

The issue is widespread, said Dan LeClair, who teaches city planning at Boston University. "It's not just pipes," he said. "It's bridges, it's roads, it's electrical systems, it's a variety of things that can happen in a man-made environment that can have a disastrous effect." A recent report by the Urban Land Institute determined that America's comparatively low investment in various transportation infrastructure - airports, public transit, railway systems, roads and bridges - has created an "emerging crisis." Of the 30 state transportation planning directors surveyed for the report, 25 said the nation's transportation infrastructure is incapable of meeting the nation's needs over the next decade.

Rarely does infrastructure fail as spectacularly as it did Wednesday, when plumes of smoke billowed as high as the 77-story Chrysler Building. Deterioration takes place slowly, and often, when something breaks down, the impact is minimal - for example, wisps of steam coming out of a city manhole due to a leaky pipe. Bill Miller, who worked for over 30 years as an administrative engineer with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, says the city tended to act only after the fact. "They respond to these systems when problems appear."

And that's just the physical infrastructure. Years of conservative myth-mongering about government has had a profound impact on the social environment in urban settings and even smaller cities. It's not a pretty picture.

In fact, I'd venture that the Keyboard Commandoes and basement warriors wouldn't have to go to Iraq to require donning some of Senator Vitter's favorite garments. They'd shit themselves quickly enough if they got caught in some of the "wrong" sections of almost any reasonably sized American municipality...sections that have been abandoned as thoroughly as New Orleans. Of course, what really makes this disgusting is the almost obscene levels of wealth this country has...

Wealth the wingnuts want all to themselves.

Oh--and you can bet the wingnut tune would change if it was THEIR neighborhood that needed fixing.
Violins on the TV Screen

OK, puns aside, Juan Cole found some television footage that could actually be described in Shrubian terms. Cole also points out that, contrary to Dear Leader's delusional claims, this sort of stuff is routinely self-edited by our brave media lords (lest they lose invites to all the really kewl DC dinner parties).

If you don't have time to watch, maybe read this...or this...and note how the latter is headlined--"US Diplomat Sees 'Progress'--even as Ryan Crocker's direct quote cites "fear" as the word he would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq.

I dunno: maybe Team Bush sees "fear" as progress. That's SOP over here...
Personal Accountability: Just for the Little People

OK, so it was a judge who threw out the Plame lawsuit, and he did so on technical grounds, but nonetheless make no mistake: this is just the beginning of the GOP end-game, where, by hook, crook, or any available means, they absolve their sorry asses of ANY responsibility for their thuggish assault on rule of law since...well, certainly since Bush v. Gore, but you can probably go back a lot further. Shit, just off the top of my head, I can come up with examples of moral depravity if not outright criminal behavior on the part of EVERY significant GOP bigwig since Nixon (including several examples courtesy of St. Ronald the dimwit, who endorsed mass murder multiple times).

Of course this lastest gang thinks they're immune: punishment's for peons.

And our "free press" has no higher ambition than to
DeLay Demonstrates Concern...

...for the native-born blastocysts

Old Tom's really looking out for 'em:

"I contend [abortion] affects you in immigration," DeLay told the Washington-area gathering. "If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn't need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today. Think about it."

Because, you see, it's all about the children, who one day could look forward to a fulfilling career doing Tom's yard work, picking his vegetables, busing his tables, washing his dishes, or otherwise engaged in low-wage day labor. It's nice to know he cares as much about the blastocysts as he does about the kids who had to flee New Orleans when the levees failed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mission Accomplished

That is, if you're a sadistic creep who really doesn't care about ending the killing.
Tag Team Twits

Hmmm...even in red-state strongholds like, ahem, Red Stick, people are sick enough of Chimpy to the point that the local paper will publish a letter arguing for impeachment. You know, I'd bet that if it were a Democratic administration, and if said administration was equally unpopular in, oh, I don't know, New York, California...or Massachusetts...your lords of the national media would be at huperventiling-to-the-point-of-passing out stage, complete with slide/title, theme music, and whatnot, with live reports from in front of the White House every twenty minutes.

But instead, we get...William Kristol and David Brooks, insisting that Team Bush chickenshit tastes just like...chicken salad. Go figure.
Q: What Did the President Get on His IQ Test?

A: drool.

(h/t WIIIAI and First Draft for the picture)
All Nighter

Semantics games aside, at least last night's late-night was an attempt to force action of some kind on an important public policy issue. If nothing else, we at least now know that the GOP supports the slow bleeding of the army and the hemorrhaging of public funds in pursuit of Islamic theocracy in Iraq.

But as I idly tuned in off and on last night, it occurred to me that the flip side is NO similar focus has been placed on what is by far the most important domestic issue facing not just this administration, but this government: the restoration of the United States Gulf Coast, which happens to be a pretty important matter of strategic concern. It's as if everyone just wishes it would go away

This past weekend I spoke to some West Coasters about the Gulf South--they were sympathetic, but genuinely wanted to know if our region was worth rebuilding. Now, aside from the fact that the US is both insanely wealthy beyond our wildest imagination, AND the fact that we're throwing away money hand over fist in Iraq, AND the fact that no one seems to care that taking action against public corruption alone would free up funds for projects, I tried to draw an analogy: will it be worth rebuilding Los Angeles when (not if, but WHEN) the water runs out, or should it be abandoned (and the water WILL run out one day).

It's also a fact that there's hardly any acreage outside of public parks that HASN'T been worked or otherwise engineered to a greater or lesser degree, either with public or private funds. Considering the strategic benefit of the Gulf Coast, i.e., global trade and petrochemical manufacture, you'd think an investment of public funds would be a no brainer. But when a no-brainer meets a government with no brains...

Well, it's frustrating, to say the least.

Oh, and meanwhile, we've got Diaper Dandy Dave and Leopard-Skin Wendy Vitter, um, representing us. Great. Talk about being up shit creek, no pun intended...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bush Auditions...

...for a cameo in an OK Go video.

OK, so maybe I lied a bit. Besides, if this is how he handles a Segway, a treadmill must seem like Mount Everest...
Love Means Never Having to Admit to "Foreign Fighters"

Whod've thought nuance could get so...complicated?

Somewhere, perhaps in an alternate universe, you can hear the sound of a wingnut cranium exploding.
"And Brooksie, You're Doing a Heckuva Job"

Mailbox Accomplished

David Brooks consumes several Big Gulp's worth of Kool-Aid and writes of his experiences.
We're All Adults Here...

I can't take full credit for the graphic above. The real creative work was done by someone posting to a Democratic Underground thread that Oyster linked to. Anyway...

I saw the article and video of our senator with Wendy-Presumably-Number-One for him...foul smelling, rancid tripe has never been more self-served. It's all about them. Oh, how terrible it is for them...and the kids (who've become mighty useful-if-invisible props for the Vitters: when uncomfortable questions are asked, watch how quickly they'll hide behind them).

You know, it was kind of funny, in a pathetic sort of way, to watch Wendy turn her inner Lorena away from hubby and instead bear her teeth to the assembled press...alas, I wasn't able to hear the shouted questions that neither Vitter deigned to answer, but I seriously doubt anyone tried to obtain clarification re: the Bobbit option.

OK...I was about to launch into an extended post, but, you know, that really isn't necessary. Other people have already written far more eloquently. But I'll conclude by noting that this is yet another instance of not just hypocrisy, but also a reflection of a central element of GOP/Neo-con elitism...that is, a reflection of a central belief that they're entitled to a different set of rules. Years ago, in western Europe, where you literally had royalty, this sort of elitism was unashamedly accepted...on this side of the pond, it tends to be masked, although Team Bush is doing their best to make it a de facto standard. And that's what the Vitter's statement yesterday ultimately was: a giant "fuck you, little people, we've got our own rules."

Vitter doesn't deserve to be arrested for soliciting prostitutes, even as prostitutes and Johns get arrested daily. Rush Limbaugh doesn't deserve to get arrested for drug possession, even as millions of individuals languish in prison for...drug possession. Wolfowitz plays fast and loose with the rules to set his girlfriend up in a cushy job...then demands millions in severance pay. Dick Cheney shoots someone in the face...and receives an apology. Daily the administration violates the law...then claims either "executive privilege," or likewise delivers a "fuck you, little people" statement, be it in regards to non-existent WMD, or outing Valerie Plame, or whatever.

No wonder they don't have the slightest qualm about sending others off to die in Iraq for reasons amounting solely to ego. To them, little people are simply so much labor, so much fodder...or so many prisoners. The mob.

You know, that also explains the truly bizarro reaction Babs Bush and Tom DeLay displayed towards NOLA flood refugees...but that could be the subject of an entirely different post.

Monday, July 16, 2007

When I Die, the First Stop Will be a Longer-Than-Expected Delay at Houston George H.W. Bush International

I'm convinced of it. In fact, if there's such a thing as purgatory, I'm certain it will resemble the "B Terminal, Regional Aviation" to such an extent that I'll feel right at home before, eons later, reaching my final destination...unless, of course, I'm going to which case I'll BE at my final destination.

Whod've thought hell would be so chilly?--but I guess Satan sometimes gets a kick out of turning up industrial strength air-conditioning when you're one, essentially captive (the delay was, for various reasons, indeterminate) and two, it's summer, which means the only long sleeve you carried (just in case) was packed away with checked luggage. Ah, that Satan--he can be a real son-of-a-bitch.

By the time my flight left, I could have finished the crossword(s) via brute force/random letter selection.

Anyway...sorry to get off to such a late start...and to be truthful, I had a nice time, under the circumstances: I attended a memorial service for a relative who'd recently passed away--it was not entirely unexpected, although it's still sad when it happens...the service was very nice, and seeing my other relatives was likewise good. It'd been a while since we'd all caught up with each other.

And, take care, Nonc Vic. We miss you...