Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Pat Buchanan and William Kristol Lead This Week's Shrill...

Salon reportes:

Salon.com Politics: Pat Buchanan asked President Bush to tell the American public the “Unvarnished Truth” about the current situation in Iraq. For starters, Buchanan would like the President to tell us why we are really there. Referring to “One of the greatest bait-and switches in the history of warfare," Buchanan again reminds us of the now-discredited reasons Bush and his neocon advisers at the Pentagon used as a pretext to war with Iraq: WMDs, ties to 9/11 and al-Qaida. Since the initial invasion, we have suffered over 1,300 servicemen and women killed, over 10,000 wounded, and enormous setbacks to our prestige and national reputation as a result of prisoner abuse scandals. Our risk of suffering another terrorist attack is greater than ever.

Buchanan has been critical of the Iraqi incursion for some time. But he uses some of his strongest language yet in urging Bush to abandon his neocon advisors and lose the spin control. And he's not alone. In the past week, several of our nation’s top military and civilian security officials have come out repeatedly against both the decision to invade Iraq and the Pentagon’s handling of the occupation. Even stalwart Bush supporter William Kristol has admonished Defense Secretary Rumsfeld for both his poor war planning and his handling of post-war Iraq. Rumsfeld’s exchange in Kuwait recently with the National Guard soldier over the continuing lack of armor for military vehicles seemed to even put some the last Republican diehards over the edge.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Has Donald Rumsfeld Joined the Shrill?

A claim that the latest Robert Novak column reveals the hidden secret that the latest shrill unbalanced critic of George W. Bush is... Donald Rumsfeld himself:

From AndrewSullivan.com:

www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: Rummy's own self-defense is... revealing.... If you read Bob Novak's column today, it's hard not to see Rumsfeld's flunkies or Rummy himself doing some energetic spinning. Here's the key paragraph:

Rumsfeld is often bracketed with the neocons, but that is incorrect. In a long political career that dates back to his election to Congress in 1962, he has not even been associated with the traditional conservative movement. In the run-up to the attack on Iraq, he was not aggressively pressing intervention by force of arms, but instead was shaping a military response to fit President Bush's command.

Translation from Rummy: "This is Bush's war, not mine. I never really wanted it. I don't believe in the democratic transformation of the Middle East. I don't want to shift gears from my lean, mean fighting machine concept to one of a military that has to be big enough to impose a new order on societies where liberty has never had deep roots. I'm just taking orders." You can either see this as true (my view) - in which case, Rumsfeld really is the wrong man for the president's Wilsonian agenda. Or you can see this as disloyal spin: in which case, Rummy has lost confidence in the war he was obliged to run...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

We Welcome James di Benedetto

We welcome James di Benedetto to the Order of the Shrill:

The Eleven Day Empire: These People Have Jobs Why, Again?: This is, of course, madness. The whole point of having plainclothes air marshalls is that they NOT be immediately recognizable. Sure, SOME of them probably should be wearing suits or sportcoats. And some of them should be in sweatpants, a dirty shirt, and generally look like they got about 5 minutes of sleep the night before. And some of them should be wearing jeans and a polo shirt. And... You'd think this wouldn't be a terribly difficult concept to grasp, but apparently the folks in charge of the program are none too bright. Fire them. Fire them now.

Lech Walesa Is Shrill! Of Europe Are Drawing Closer

Shrill screeds of Bush hatred from the founder of Solidarity:

WSJ.com - At Expense of U.S., NationsOf Europe Are Drawing Closer: "America failed its exam as a superpower," says Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity trade-union leader who became Poland's first post-Communist president. "They are a military and economic superpower but not morally or politically anymore. This is a tragedy for us."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Is Shrill

Ladies and gentleman, please put your tentacles together for the new Grand Heresiarch of the Order of the Shrill, Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel!

Deteriorating conditions in Iraq are a consequence of "the arrogance and incompetency of the civilian leadership at the Pentagon," Sen. Chuck Hagel said Monday Increasing violence and instability spring from "the accumulation of a series of bad judgments," the Nebraska Republican said.

Pointing to decisions to disband the Iraqi army, dismantle the Baathist government bureaucracy and attempt to secure the country with an inadequate number of U.S. troops, Hagel suggested "the buck does stop somewhere." ...

"It's always the uniformed military that has to bear the brunt of bad decisions," Hagel said. "They do the dying and the suffering," he said, and their families sacrifice, too.

Never will he utter "a criticism of the warrior," Hagel said, but the military's civilian leaders must be held accountable.

"I went through one of these wars," he said. As a member of the Senate, he said, "I am not going to stand back and allow it to happen again."

Hagel was twice wounded as an Army sergeant in Vietnam.

"These men and women deserve leadership that is worthy of them," Hagel said. When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "flippantly dismisses" a young soldier's question about lack of protective armor on military vehicles in Iraq, Hagel said, "that is not worthy."

When it was discovered Rumsfeld's signature on letters of condolence to slain soldiers' families was signed by an auto-pen rather than by the secretary himself, Hagel said, "that tells me an awful lot." ...

Responding to questions from students, Hagel said he believes the United States needs to seek more international cooperation rather than simply exercise its military might.

"I would put a whole new focus on diplomacy, building coalitions of common interest," he said. "We have strayed from that very wise course."
Senator Hagel, I believe I speak for everyone here tonight when I say "ph'nglui mglw'nafh Hagel R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn."

Friday, December 17, 2004

Man, That's a Lott of Shrill Senators

Trent Lott, to be precise:

"I'm not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld," Lott told the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce (news - web sites) on Wednesday. "I don't think he listens enough to his uniformed officers."

Rumsfeld has under heavy criticism since a soldier asked him last week why the combat vehicles used in the war in Iraq (news - web sites) don't have the proper armor. Both Rumsfeld and President Bush (news - web sites) have said more vehicle armor will be shipped to Iraq.

Lott, speaking to the civic club Wednesday, said the United States needs more troops to help with the war and a plan to leave Iraq once elections take place in late January. The Mississippi Republican doesn't think Rumsfeld is the person to carry out that plan.

"I would like to see a change in that slot in the next year or so," Lott said. "I'm not calling for his resignation, but I think we do need a change at some point."

We asked the Magic Eight Ball to translate that last bit. It said:
Answer hazy. Why hasn't the President fired him?
We're also uncertain regarding the specific mention of uniformed officers. I mean, most officers are in uniform. Are there some other officers out there, commanders who don't wear a uniform and probably spend 40% of their time slacking off or something, yet have the ear of the Secretary of Defense?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

New York Times Coverage of the Other Order

New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd checked into the Ward Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken saying nothing but "shills. shills.... aigh!" over and over. Dr. Hastur eventually realized she'd suffered a serious break at the thought of the number of members of the Order of the Shill who are fleeing to the Order Of The Shrill, driven to sheer unholy madness by the mendacity, incompetence, malevolence, incompetence, sheer disconnection from reality, and sheer connection to incompetence of the Donald "Why Do I Still Have A Job?" Rumsfeld defense department.

He has surrounded himself with so many sycophantic generals that it took a grunt from Tennessee to point out that the defense secretary has no clothes - or armor for his troops. He has taken the greatest military in the history of the world and pushed it to the breaking point.

Some people think he's toast, now that conservatives like John McCain, Chuck Hagel and Bill Kristol have turned on him - and now that the grumbles are getting louder in the military, from Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf and the TV generals to the rank-and-file reservists who have other jobs to go back to.

In her lithium inspired fervor, Dowd has a new plan for our troops abroad: branding*.

If the Olympics can attract top corporate sponsors, why can't Rummy's Global War on Terrorism? Bring it on, Bank One!

Picture this: a truck rumbling across the desert on the evening news, completely armored and emblazoned with golden arches. Or a fleet of Visa Humvees. You know Donald Trump would love to slap his name on a few Chinooks. The 82nd Trumpborne.

Now, we were usually the first ones seen running for the door after the marketing V.P. said "global brand strategy", but we're pretty sure that there are a few things that IBM would like to stick their name on more than the corpses of the sons of daughters of America, sent abroad for a fool's errand. But then, what do we know?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Nouriel Roubini Is Shrill!

And boy is he shrill! Worst case of shrillness this month!

Dr. Mbogo to the Shoggoth Wing, stat!

Nouriel Roubini's Global Economics Blog: December 2004 Archives: In another example of the economic brilliance of our MBA President (who taught him economics and when?) and of his economic team, Dubya just found out today the Holy Grail that will eliminate in an instant our trade deficits.

Bush told reporters that the trade deficit was "easy to resolve. People can buy more United States products if they're worried about the trade deficit."

Very deep and profound concept and idea...and altogether wrong on all matters of economic substance. As any freshman in Economics knows, the current account deficit is, by definition,equal the excess of the country's expenditure relative to its income; so if a country spends more than its income, it will have a current account deficit, regardless of its preferences for domestic or foreign goods. If we spend more than we earn, if we have lower savings (because of the huge budget defitics) than our real investment, the current account will be and remain in a large deficit. Also, the demand for imports depends mostly on relative growth rates across countries and relative prices of foreign goods relative to foreign goods (i.e. exchange rates). So, assuming the trade deficit will disappear will not change it by a iota. And too bad that the masses of red state evangelicals on their way to join the social and economic lumpenproletariat crave and can only afford the good and cheap Chinese goods that made the fortune of Wal Mart.

It is not surprising that Dubya displays a crass ignorance of Economics 101 ("let us assume we import less" is his basic solution to our trade problems). It is a little more shocking that no one in his economic team his giving him any parental guidance on basic economics. But maybe not that surprising. With Lame Duck Cheerleader-in-Chief Melting Snow still kept warm for a little while in sinking Treasury, with his Under Secretary for International Affairs (of "there is no problem with the current account deficit" fame) on the way out (as one would assume as the most lame U/S for Int. Affairs ever), with NEC being headless after stealthy & gagged Friedman kept his mouth shut for two years and finally exited, with CEA also headless as the smart Mankiw may wonder why the hell he risked his stellar academic reputation for becoming associated with such economic buffons at the White House, the Chief Ecomomic Strategists at the White House are now Mr. Rasputin Karl Rove and that Most Eminent Economist called Dick Cheney who, today, opened the White House economic summit by pushing again for making the tax cuts permanent and privatizing Social Security, two policies that will certainly lead us to fiscal bankruptcy in the next decade.

With this Motley Crew running our ecomomic non-policies in a time of falling dollar, massive fiscal and current account deficit, even the most conservative Wall Street Journal op-ed page was begging last week for a strong Treasury Secretary in the Rubin tradition and pleading the White House to dump Snow, only to be rebuffed the next day. As the hapless WSJ editors had to admit and beg under a "Stronger Treasury" headline:

"The larger issue is why the Bush Administration has settled for a weak Treasury...on economic policy he has preferred to run things out of the White House, and sometimes even Karl Rove's hip pocket....The financial world is a far more unsettled place, for starters...Inevitably, when interest rates rise, there are going to be financial casualties to be cleaned up. Mr. Rove knows a lot, but we doubt he knows how to work out the next Long Term Capital Management failure, much less handle a dollar crisis...."

Of course, the next day, the White House reconfirmed lame duck and lame non-leader snow-flaky Snow to the Treas job after letting him hang wet and dry for two weeks; take that WSJ Editorial Board for being real influential in your arch-conservative White House! They told you to get lost the same day you pleaded for a stronger Treasury.

The only solace is that, by the time a year from now these reckless policies - with dumb-wit economic nullities such as Rove and Cheney in charge and Snow cheerleading-in-tow - lead to a hard landing of the dollar, a bond market rout, a LTCM-style meltdwon, and a ugly economic slowdown, Greenspan will step down from his Fed job and may be chosen as Treasury Secretary when Dubya gets desperate enough.

Given that Alan is the smartest guy in town and knows better, one will hope that he will reverse his support of the Bush tax cuts (his worst call in 20 years at the Fed), he will emphasize that fiscal restraint must include not only controls on spending but also reversals of some of the reckless tax cuts on high incomes, dividends, capital gains and estate taxes and that he will suggest to reform Social Security along the lines of what he brilliantly did 20 years ago when he headed the Commission that rescued our Social Security system: i.e. raise a litte the payroll tax, lenghten the retirement age and control modestly benefits. I.e., real reform Social Security that maintains its Security and its Social element rather than the mother of all smoke and mirrors shell-games "privatization" that would create another $5 trillion of transition costs and lead us on the same path as Argentina that similarly bothched its social security privatization and ended up defaulting on its entire public debt.


William Kristol Is Shrill!

The latest shrill America-hating critic of George W. Bush and his administration is William Kristol:

The Defense Secretary We Have (washingtonpost.com): Decisions on troop levels in the American system of government are not made by any general or set of generals but by the civilian leadership of the war effort. Rumsfeld acknowledged this last week, after a fashion: "I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person and I guess that's fine." Except he fails to take responsibility.

All defense secretaries in wartime have, needless to say, made misjudgments. Some have stubbornly persisted in their misjudgments. But have any so breezily dodged responsibility and so glibly passed the buck?

In Sunday's New York Times, John F. Burns quoted from the weekly letter to the families of his troops by Lt. Col. Mark A. Smith, an Indiana state trooper who now commands the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, stationed just south of Baghdad:

"Ask yourself, how in a land of extremes, during times of insanity, constantly barraged by violence, and living in conditions comparable to the stone ages, your marines can maintain their positive attitude, their high spirit, and their abundance of compassion?" Col. Smith's answer: "They defend a nation unique in all of history: One of principle, not personality; one of the rule of law, not landed gentry; one where rights matter, not privilege or religion or color or creed. . . . They are United States Marines, representing all that is best in soldierly virtues."

These soldiers deserve a better defense secretary than the one we have.

Norman Schwartzkopf Is Shrill!

Keening Blasphemy Kevin Drum modems in the details:

The Washington Monthly: RUMSFELD UNDER FIRE....We all know that John McCain isn't a big fan of Donald Rumsfeld, and Chuck Hagel isn't a surprise either. But Stormin' Norman? "I was angry by the words of the secretary of defense when he laid it all on the Army, as if he, as the secretary of defense, didn’t have anything to do with the Army and the Army was over there doing it themselves, screwing up." Good point. Plus there's the fact that Rumsfeld was lying through his teeth about armor production already being at capacity, and how there was nothing more he could do about it. That was bad too.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Senator McCain: Tell Us How You Really Feel!

With President George W. Bush's election in the bag, Senator McCain can go back to pointing out that the emperor is slightly naked. Today's target: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It seems the Senator might be displeased with the Secretary's performance, although he might be a bit murky about his exact feelings:

Asked about his confidence in the secretary's leadership, McCain recalled fielding a similar question a couple weeks ago.

"I said no. My answer is still no. No confidence," McCain said.

Yeah, we're not sure exactly what that's about. Does it involve an aiiigh! or a Ph'nglui. We aren't sure. We'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Edmund Andrews of the New York Times Is Shrill

Aaaiii! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Andrews R'lyeh wagn'nagl fhtagn! Aaaiii!!!

The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Economic View: Social Security Reform, With One Big Catch: OF all the arguments being made to replace part of Social Security with private retirement accounts, few are more seductive and more misleading than the prospect of earning higher returns. Get ready to hear a lot about this next week.... Under the current system, investment returns from Social Security are "abysmal," Mr. Bush said in one recent speech, because the trust fund is allowed to hold only low-yielding Treasury bonds.... According to the Social Security Administration, Treasury bonds can be expected to yield a real annual rate of return of about 3 percent. Equities, by contrast, can be expected to earn 6.5 percent.

That assumption is crucial to arguments that personal accounts can reduce Social Security's long-term shortfall - which the government estimates to be at least $3.5 trillion. Most of the proposals to overhaul Social Security call for steep reductions in future benefits that would be offset by the higher returns people would presumably earn on their investments. Stephen Goss, the Social Security Administration's chief actuary, has endorsed the assumption of higher returns. In evaluating the major proposals for putting some payroll taxes into personal investment accounts, Mr. Goss estimated that even people who hedged their risk by mixing stocks and bonds could expect an average return of 4.45 percent.... "The entire argument is absurd," said William C. Dudley, chief United States economist at Goldman Sachs. "These returns weren't free. You are getting these returns precisely because you are taking on risk."...

Mr. Goss of the Social Security Administration suggested that returns in the future might be even higher than those of the past. "A consensus is forming among economists that equity pricing as indicated by price-earnings ratios may be somewhat higher in the long-term future than in the long-term past," wrote Mr. Goss.... In an interview last week, Mr. Goss acknowledged that many experts believe investment returns should be adjusted for risk and that the common proxy for a risk-free return is the real yield earned on Treasury bonds....

Other government analysts take a much more conservative approach. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which is run by a former chief economist in President Bush's own Council of Economic Advisers, assumes that equities and bonds will earn no more than Treasury bonds... the White House's own Office of Management and Budget recently made the same assumption....

The more basic question is this: Should a rational person believe that Social Security's very real financial shortfall can be reduced just by shifting from bonds into stocks?...

Monday, December 06, 2004

Pandagon Is Shrill

I wonder what Frist says when family members tell him they caught VD from a toilet seat?

Pandagon: Frist in Flight: Think Bill Frist went home and retched on shame after this? Or think he congratulated himself on a dodge well done? And conservatives? If your majority leader can't safely repudiate the "HIV-travels-through-sweat-and-tears" crowd, don't ever, ever complain to me about Democratic fringe groups. Ever.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Introducing The Order Of the Till

Time was, you couldn't leave the Executive Branch and come back two days later asking for handouts. Now we don't know if this was what drove people into the Order of the Shrill, and not, say, the mendancity, malevolence, incompetence, and sheer disconnection from reality of the George W. Bush administration, but an awful lot of former high level government officials have been turning up shrill lately.

Most of them, actually.

In an effort to make sure that wasn't the issue, the government ethics office has abandoned testing of their shiny new wrist slapper.

Lobbying Prohibitions Eased For Former Top Officials

Until now, senior officials at Cabinet departments and agencies had not been allowed to lobby former colleagues for a full year after leaving office -- a rule designed to prevent an obvious conflict of interest. But, in a notice in the Federal Register, the ethics office issued a new rule invoking its power to declare that "a former senior employee who served in a 'parent' department or agency is not barred . . . from making communications to or appearances before any employee of any designated component of that parent."

So don't worry about getting your hand caught in the till! Now they have their own order and everything.