Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bush, Pakistan and the Economy

Let's summarize where we are at the end of 2007. By putting Afghanistan on the back burner from 2002 to late 2005, Bush has endangered what may have been a winnable war that was in direct response to the 9/11 attacks. Republicans, on days when it's convenient, keep peddling the myth that Osama bin Laden is irrelevant but Bush let him escape into Pakistan. Al Qaida has somewhat regrouped. Pakistan is in trouble on various fronts. Obviously the assassination of Bhutto makes things more difficult and Condi Rice's Pakistan diplomacy is in tatters. Condi Rice is a foreign policy lightweight just as her replacement as national security, Stephen Hadley, is a lightweight. Both have the advantage, however, of being loyal to Bush. Both are also easy for Dick Cheney to steamroll to some degree. We have a profoundly dysfunctional foreign policy team in the White House.

Much is made of the lessening violence against our troops in Iraq. On one level, there has been some progress. On another level, there is a profound lack of realism in America's media when it comes to understanding Iraq. All we're doing, at most, is cleaning up Bush's mess. It is still a war we did not need. More important, Iraq is an albatross around our necks imposed on us by Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney and the neocons. Iraq is slowing down our economy and inflation is finally rearing its head. The war has endangered our position in the world. It is also a factor in Afghanistan and Pakistan since we devoted far too much of our resources to Iraq. It is Pakistan that has the bomb, not Iraq or Iran. We knew that when we first went into Afghanistan. Condi Rice has tried to make up for various failures by pressuring Pakistan in ways that obviously have blown up in her face. Cowboy diplomacy, even in Rice's slightly modified form, does not work.

I don't expect Bush to suddenly discover rationality. But every Republican in Congress should stop protecting this incompetent. There are things that can be done. For example, if Cheney can't be impeached or forced to step down, it would not take much to limit the powers of his office. Cheney's powers are defined by Bush, not by the constitution. With help from Republicans in Congress, Cheney's freedom of action could be greatly reduced. Another step would be for Bush to bring into his administration high profile envoys to help the United States regain some leverage in foreign policy before things get too far out of hand. The United States needs people like Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft, George Mitchell and Madeleine Albright: two Republicans and two Democrats. Will it happen? Probably not. But can our nation afford to drift another 13 months? Probably not.

The stock market went down sharply again today, almost two hundred points, for the umpteenth time in the last six months. Of course, the markets have repeatedly recovered from recent losses. But the turbulence on Wall Street is a sign of danger and weakness in the American economy. Some of that weakness can be traced to the hundreds of billions being wasted in Iraq. They can be traced to the lack of an energy policy for the last seven years. They can be traced to Republican corruption in Washington across a wide front, but particularly in the last two years when it came to holding mortgage companies accountable. Republicans depend too much on donations from the real estate industry and bankers. So obvious problems in lending practices, including outright fraud, were ignored by the Bush Administration.

Sometimes I pick up the paper and I don't know whether to laugh or weep. Today, I laughed when I read the following story by Gary Rivlin of The New York Times:
From the riverboats of the Midwest and tribal casinos scattered across the country to gambling halls in less exotic parts of Nevada, operators are reporting slowing growth rates in recent months. In a number of places, revenues are actually down, sometimes by 5 percent or more.

The differences reflect a wider disparity within the economy.

Businesses in a variety of sectors that attract the most affluent customers and take advantage of foreigners from countries with strong currencies who are drawn to the glitter of Las Vegas and Manhattan are doing very well, while those dependent largely on middle-class buyers are having a harder time.

In Las Vegas, one extra factor has been a booming Chinese economy, as wealthy Asian players are risking -- and losing -- money in record numbers inside the city's most exclusive VIP lounges.

For most Americans, even gambling is in a slump. But we're getting money back from the Chinese! That's a pitiful way to erase some of our red ink. When I started thinking about it, I stopped laughing.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to All!

The words inspired by Jesus of Nazereth are still meaningful 2000 years later: peace, love, compassion and fellowship.

And in the spirit of sharing and giving, Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Dangerous Games of Bush and Company

I sometimes suspect that President Bush is quietly trying to back away from and clean up the worst of his crimes in an effort to stay out of jail when he leaves office and the records of his tenure are exposed for the next president to see. Who knows? But the signs continue to grow that Bush will go down as the worst president in American history. And the most dishonest.

We already know that Bush and his White House colleagues lied their way into a war with Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction despite the claims of Bush and a host of neoconservatives. Other claims about Iraq were also proven false. For two years now, Bush and company, with the paranoid Dick Cheney being the loudest voice, have been making claims about Iran that also turn out—surprise!—to be false. Iran apparently discontinued its barely begun nuclear weapons program back in 2003. Oops.

Now some of the same neoconservative clowns who were screaming for war in Iraq in 2002 and couldn't understand why so many analysts in the CIA and State Department were so reluctant to see weapons of mass destruction that we now know did not exist are now claiming the CIA is again botching the intelligence. If neoconservatives don't hear what they want to hear, they are nevertheless adept at blaming the messenger. Think Progress has the story:
Norman Podhoretz, widely reputed to be the “godfather” of neoconservatism, has been one of the most aggressive hawks clamoring for war with Iran. Podhoretz laid out the “The Case For Bombing Iran” in a June cover story in the right-wing Commentary Magazine. He insisted that the Iranians were very close to developing a nuclear weapon...


Yesterday’s NIE proved Podhoretz’s claims were false. Rather than modify his views on Iran, Podhoretz — who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 — aired a nasty conspiracy theory yesterday, attacking the authors of the NIE and accusing the intelligence community of deliberately “leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush:”

Podhoretz is one of those fellows who insisted Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that the situation required an American invasion. He has no evidence to back up his current claims about Iran but obviously the CIA is lying. It's a strange world many of these right-wingers live in.

As for Bush and Cheney, how long have they known their claims about Iran have been, to put it politely, somewhat off the mark? Obviously Bush is being less than truthful when he says he didn't know. The president of the United States doesn't know what his own intelligence agencies are saying? Now that's embarrassing, criminal or just plain weird.

Lying, however, is not unknown to Bush and his advisers. Even out of office, Karl Rove still runs interference for his boss. Think Progress has that story too:
With an appearance on Fox News Sunday this weekend and an op-ed in the Financial Times on Sunday, former Bush political adviser (and new Newsweek contributor) Karl Rove has been busy injecting himself into the public discourse this week. Rove drew “a range of protesters” to a speech at Duke University last night, where he claimed “the United States has nothing to apologize in its conduct in the world."

These are the words of a man who led the White House Iraq Group whose purpose it was to sell a war the United States did not need based on justifications that were false. If nothing else, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush owe an apology to the American people.

Rove only last week claimed that the Bush Administration did not pressure Congress to back him up on Iraq just prior to the 2002 election. A number of Democrats who were in on the discussions and even some Republicans dismiss Rove's fabrication. Rove, of course, is a serial liar and a calculating one at that. He believes that if you lie often enough and loud enough, a fair number of foolish people may believe you. He also noticed a long time ago that the Washington press corps loves controversial lies, even if it is too lazy in this era to correct those lies. Rove's methods certainly worked in the beginning. But most of America has caught on to Karl Rove and the many other lies emanating from the Bush White House.

The election is a year away and it's not certain how the American people will vote. There is a new set of Republican presidential candidates who are just as right-wing as Bush, but several have an advantage over the current president: as wrong as they are for America, three or four of them are a bit more competent than Bush and would quite ably continue the damage that has been done to our nation in the last seven years.

**Personal Note. I haven't posted much lately because of a large and very interesting editing project I've been working on. I will try to do better.

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