Thursday, March 23, 2006

Former USAID Director Andrew Natsios Is Shrill!

Welcome, Andrew to the Ancient, Hermetic, and Occult Order of the Shrill. Practice your moans of unearthly terror this evening: you have a solo in tomorrow's concert:

The Washington Monthly: THE REPUBLICAN CRACKUP CONTINUES.....In Newsweek, Michael Hirsh reports that former USAID Director Andrew Natsios is the latest long-suffering Republican loyalist to finally crack. The CPA, under the authority of Paul Bremer, "didn't hire the best people," he now says. "We were just watching it unfold. They [the CPA] were constantly hitting at our people, screaming at them. They were abusive."

But perhaps this paragraph is more interesting: 'There is much more to come, especially on the little-noticed issue of contracting in Iraq, which the watchdog group Transparency International last year warned could become "the biggest corruption scandal in history." The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction is expected to issue a harshly critical report in May concluding that the CPA did not have disciplined contracting procedures in place, according to several people involved in drafting the report. If the Democrats manage to get control of the House later this year, it's all going to come in an avalanche of subpoenas and new investigations.

It's not censure or impeachment that Republicans are really worried about if they lose control of Congress. It's subpoenas. If they lose the ability to block Democrats from conducting genuine investigations backed by the subpoena power of Congress, the jig is up. And they know it.

I disagree. Even if Democrats have a majority of *some* chamber come 2007, the Bush White House will refuse to submit to subpoenas. It will dare the Congress to impeach, and focus on holding the stupid 2/3 of the Republican senators. We do have a constitutional crisis here.

John Tierney Is Shrill

John Tierney is shrill:

Passing the Dinar - New York Times: Two months before the Iraq war began, David Kay reported to the Pentagon for a job in the agency being formed to run postwar Iraq. Kay, a former Defense Department scientist and weapons inspector in Iraq, was supposed to oversee the police. He assumed this meant preparing for the looting and crime to be expected when any regime collapsed. But those problems didn't seem to be on anyone else's mind, he told me, recalling his first day on the job.

"I said our first priority should be to establish order quickly, but that was considered a peripheral issue," he said. "The attitude was that it's not a problem, and if something happens the military will deal with it. I had one of the worst feelings ever in my gut, that this was going over a cliff."

On his second day on the job, he resigned -- an excellent career move in retrospect, although Kay doesn't believe it took any special clairvoyance. There were tough questions before the war, like figuring out whether Saddam had W.M.D. or forecasting the strength of the insurgency. But the looting and disorder were easily predictable, and Kay wasn't the only one making the predictions, as Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor document in their new book on the war, "Cobra II."

Before the war, Dick Mayer, a former policeman working for the Justice Department, came up with a plan to send in thousands of international police officers to maintain order after the invasion. But Pentagon officials bristled at the expense, and the White House rejected the plan.... Some Pentagon officials did warn of civil disorder and crime, but they didn't do anything about it. They passed the buck to Gen. Tommy Franks, even though he didn't have enough troops or money for the job and showed little interest in postwar planning. He simply assured President Bush that there would be a "lord mayor" in each city and large town to deal with civilian problems.

Looting, crime, mayhem -- that was always someone else's department. The buck-passing reached its most absurd level at a briefing in the Situation Room just before the invasion, when Bush heard about the postwar plan to rely on Iraqis for law enforcement. According to Gordon and Trainor, the president was told of an intelligence report concluding that the Iraqi police "appeared to have extensive professional training."

That was like concluding that Inspector Clouseau appeared to be a master detective. During Saddam's era, when his security forces were the prime enforcers of order, the Iraqi police were notorious for corruption and lethargy. Officers waited for citizens to report crimes and expected bribes for investigating them. To the police, preventing crime, or even doing street patrols, was not their job.... That summer, as Iraqis watched looters and criminals taking control, they kept asking why nobody put a stop to the crime. The answer from officials in Washington, it turns out, is the same one that would have been given by the old Iraqi police: not my job.

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Davey Hume Is Shrill

But I always thought of Davey Hume as a whig. He's surely no throne-and-altar Tory:

The Reality-Based Community: David Hume is shrill by Mark Kleiman:

A too great disproportion among the citizens weakens any state. Every person, if possible, ought to enjoy the fruits of his labour, in a full possession of all the necessaries, and many of the conveniencies of life. No one can doubt, but such an equality is most suitable to human nature, and diminishes much less from the happiness of the rich than it adds to that of the poor. It also augments the power of the state, and makes any extraordinary taxes or impositions be paid with more chearfulness. Where the riches are engrossed by a few, these must contribute very largely to the supplying of the public necessities. But when the riches are dispersed among multitudes, the burthen feels light on every shoulder, and the taxes make not a very sensible difference on any one's way of living.

Add to this, that, where the riches are in few hands, these must enjoy all the power, and will readily conspire to lay the whole burthen on the poor, and oppress them still farther, to the discouragement of all industry.

From the essay "Of Commerce"

Hume was a close friend of Adam Smith and is usually thought of as a Tory,

MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

William Pfaff is Shrill!

William Pfaff is driven into shrill unholy madness by the incompetence, mendacity, and bizarre corpspeak of the Bush administration's new national security marketing collateral:

Intellectual poverty is the most striking quality of the Bush administration's new National Security Strategy statement, issued on Thursday. Its overall incoherence, its clich├ęs and stereotyped phraseology give the impression that Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, and his fellow authors assembled it from the boilerplate of bureaucratic discourse with contempt for the Congress to whom it is primarily addressed.

General Eaton Is Shrill

Who is General Eaton?

the defeatists!: Hell has just frozen over...: "One week after the president flew to the USS Lincoln in May 2003 to deliver his "Mission Accomplished" speech, the Defense Department ordered Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton to rush from Fort Benning, Ga., to Baghdad. His job: To lead an effort to try to rebuild Iraq's military. "I was very surprised to receive a mission so vital to our exit strategy so late," the now-retired general told The New York Times in an account published Feb. 11...

Here is what he says:

A Top-Down Review for the Pentagon - New York Times: By PAUL D. EATON: DURING World War II, American soldiers en route to Britain before D-Day were given a pamphlet on how to behave while awaiting the invasion. The most important quote in it was this: "It is impolite to criticize your host; it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies."

By that rule, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not competent to lead our armed forces. First, his failure to build coalitions with our allies from what he dismissively called "old Europe" has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary. Second, he alienated his allies in our own military, ignoring the advice of seasoned officers and denying subordinates any chance for input.

In sum, he has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down.

In the five years Mr. Rumsfeld has presided over the Pentagon, I have seen a climate of groupthink become dominant and a growing reluctance by experienced military men and civilians to challenge the notions of the senior leadership.

I thought we had a glimmer of hope last November when Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced off with Mr. Rumsfeld on the question of how our soldiers should react if they witnessed illegal treatment of prisoners by Iraqi authorities. (General Pace's view was that our soldiers should intervene, while Mr. Rumsfeld's position was that they should simply report the incident to superiors.)

Unfortunately, the general subsequently backed down and supported the secretary's call to have the rules clarified, giving the impression that our senior man in uniform is just as intimidated by Secretary Rumsfeld as was his predecessor, Gen. Richard Myers.

Mr. Rumsfeld has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his cold warrior's view of the world and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower. As a result, the Army finds itself severely undermanned %u2014 cut to 10 active divisions but asked by the administration to support a foreign policy that requires at least 12 or 14.

Only Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff when President Bush was elected, had the courage to challenge the downsizing plans. So Mr. Rumsfeld retaliated by naming General Shinseki's successor more than a year before his scheduled retirement, effectively undercutting his authority. The rest of the senior brass got the message, and nobody has complained since.

Now the Pentagon's new Quadrennial Defense Review shows that Mr. Rumsfeld also fails to understand the nature of protracted counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and the demands it places on ground forces. The document, amazingly, does not call for enlarging the Army; rather, it increases only our Special Operations forces, by a token 15 percent, maybe 1,500 troops.

Mr. Rumsfeld has also failed in terms of operations in Iraq. He rejected the so-called Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force and sent just enough tech-enhanced troops to complete what we called Phase III of the war %u2014 ground combat against the uniformed Iraqis. He ignored competent advisers like Gen. Anthony Zinni and others who predicted that the Iraqi Army and security forces might melt away after the state apparatus self-destructed, leading to chaos.

It is all too clear that General Shinseki was right: several hundred thousand men would have made a big difference then, as we began Phase IV, or country reconstruction. There was never a question that we would make quick work of the Iraqi Army.

The true professional always looks to the "What's next?" phase. Unfortunately, the supreme commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, either didn't heed that rule or succumbed to Secretary Rumsfeld's bullying. We won't know which until some bright historian writes the true story of Mr. Rumsfeld and the generals he took to war, an Iraq version of the Vietnam War classic "Dereliction of Duty" by H. R. McMaster.

Last, you don't expect a secretary of defense to be criticized for tactical ineptness. Normally, tactics are the domain of the soldier on the ground. But in this case we all felt what L. Paul Bremer, the former viceroy in Iraq, has called the "8,000-mile screwdriver" reaching from the Pentagon. Commanders in the field had their discretionary financing for things like rebuilding hospitals and providing police uniforms randomly cut; money to pay Iraqi construction firms to build barracks was withheld; contracts we made for purchasing military equipment for the new Iraqi Army were rewritten back in Washington.

Donald Rumsfeld demands more than loyalty. He wants fealty. And he has hired men who give it. Consider the new secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey, who when faced with the compelling need to increase the service's size has refused to do so. He is instead relying on the shell game of hiring civilians to do jobs that had previously been done by soldiers, and thus keeping the force strength static on paper. This tactic may help for a bit, but it will likely fall apart in the next budget cycle, with those positions swiftly eliminated.

So, what to do?

First, President Bush should accept the offer to resign that Mr. Rumsfeld says he has tendered more than once, and hire a man who will listen to and support the magnificent soldiers on the ground. Perhaps a proven Democrat like Senator Joseph Lieberman could repair fissures that have arisen both between parties and between uniformed men and the Pentagon big shots.

More vital in the longer term, Congress must assert itself. Too much power has shifted to the executive branch, not just in terms of waging war but also in planning the military of the future. Congress should remember it still has the power of the purse; it should call our generals, colonels, captains and sergeants to testify frequently, so that their opinions and needs are known to the men they lead. Then when they are asked if they have enough troops -- and no soldier has ever had enough of anything, more is always better -- the reply is public.

Our most important, and sometimes most severe, judges are our subordinates. That is a fact I discovered early in my military career. It is, unfortunately, a lesson Donald Rumsfeld seems incapable of learning.

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Impeach Donald Rumsfeld. Do it now.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Peggy Noonan Realizes She Has Conned Herself--and Says That She Wouldn't Have Voted for Bush If She'd Known Who He Was

She looks at Bush fiscal policy and joins the Ancient, Occult, and Hermetic Order of the shrill, saying that if she'd known who George W. Bush really was she wouldn't have voted for him:

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan: Hey, Big Spender Should we have known that President Bush would bust the budget?: Thursday, March 16, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST: This week's column is a question, a brief one addressed with honest curiosity to Republicans. It is: When George W. Bush first came on the scene in 2000, did you understand him to be a liberal in terms of spending?

The question has been on my mind since the summer of 2005 when, at a gathering of conservatives, the question of Mr. Bush and big spending was raised.... Everyone murmured about... how the president "spends like a drunken sailor except the sailor spends his own money." And then someone, a smart young journalist, said, (I paraphrase), But we always knew what Bush was. He told us when he ran as a compassionate conservative. This left me rubbing my brow in confusion. Is that what Mr. Bush meant by compassionate conservatism?

That's not what I understood him to mean. If I'd thought he was a big-spending Rockefeller Republican.... I wouldn't have voted for him.... I didn't understand Mr. Bush's grand passion to be cutting spending.... But he did present himself as a conservative... conservatism is hostile, for reasons ranging from the abstract and philosophical to the concrete and practical, to high spending and high taxing....

How did this happen? In the years after 9/11 I looked at Mr. Bush's big budgets, and his expansion of entitlements, and assumed he was sacrificing fiscal prudence--interesting that that's the word people used to spoof his father--in order to build and maintain, however tenuously, a feeling of national unity. I assumed he wanted to lessen bipartisan tensions when America was wading into the new world of modern terrorism. I thought: This may be right and it may be wrong, but I understand it.... Mr. Bush will never have to run again, and he is in a position to come forward and make the case, even if only rhetorically, to slow and cut spending. He has not. And there's no sign he will....

Mr. President:

Did you ever hold conservative notions and assumptions on the issue of spending? If so, did you abandon them after the trauma of 9/11? For what reasons, exactly? Did you intend to revert to conservative thinking on spending at some point? Do you still? Were you always a liberal on spending? Were you, or are you, frankly baffled that conservatives assumed you were a conservative on spending? Did you feel they misunderstood you? Did you allow or encourage them to misunderstand you?

What are the implications for our country if spending levels continue to grow at their current pace?

What are the implications for the Republican party if it continues to cede one of the pillars on which it stood?

Did compassionate conservatism always mean big spending?

Now Peggy Noonan and the rest of the plastic Republican chattering teeth did not think back in 2000 that Bush's "compassionate conservatism" meant that he was a spender, they thought it meant that he was a liar--and that they were in on the con. The Bush budget strategy, they thought at the time, had four components:

  1. Highball estimates of future budget surpluses in order to make it look like there's more room for tax cuts than there was.
  2. Lowball the costs of the tax cuts by telling people that the AMT will be repealed when you calculate the magnitude of their tax cut and yet keeping the AMT in effect when calculating the revenue cost of the tax cut.
  3. Call yourself a "compassionate conservative" to convince voters you don't want to make elderly emphysema patients front the money for their oxygen cylinders.
  4. Then, when deficits reemerge, say: "Oh. What a surprise. We have to cut way back on federal services and programs after all."

That's the David Stockman quadrille. They thought Bush was lying to everybody else--that, as Andrew Sullivan liked to put it:

Some... get steamed because Bush has obscured this figure or claimed his tax cut will cost less than it actually will, or because he is using Medicare surplus money today that will be needed tomorrow and beyond.... [T]hey miss the deeper point... Bush has to obfuscate his real goals of reducing spending with the smoke screen of 'compassionate conservatism'.... B.S. is necessary for any vaguely successful retrenchment of government power in an insatiable entitlement state.... I just hope the smoke doesn't clear before the spenders get their hands on our wallets again.

Now they are surprised--and shrill--to learn that George W. Bush was lying to them too.

I'm not surprised that she too has been driven to shrill unholy madness by this act of Bushian mendacity. Her copy of the Krugmanomicon is on its way. We ask her to report in her giant evil cephalopod form to Fort Lauderdale, to swim with the dolphins.

Larry Kudlow Joins the Ancient, Hermetic, and Occult Order of the Shrill

Yes. He calls for the Democrats to retake control of Congress this year:

The RCP Blog: A Pathetic State of Affairs - By Larry Kudlow: The Senate budget resolution now in play has dropped Bush's entitlement savings according to Budget Chairman Judd Gregg. Plus, Republican senators are trying to front-load new pork into the resolution even though Gregg wants to hold the line (at least on that).

After all the GOP Congressional talk about newfound budget-cutting religion, including earmark transparency and reform, so far they have produced nothing.

People like Arlen Specter, and many others, are still trying to get their pet projects funded. So, what else is new?

Gregg has thrown in the towel on mandatory spending cuts because he says he doesn't have the votes. Well then, I don't think that the American people should "have the votes" to keep the Republicans in charge of the Senate--or the House for that matter.

Larry: I'm sorry, but we've run out of space. You'll have to hot-bunk in with Shub-Ascalatl for a while, as you get used to your new state of shrill unholy madness.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sandra Day O'Connor Joins the Order of the Shrill!

Nina Totenberg reports:

The Raw Story | Retired Supreme Court Justice hits attacks on courts and warns of dictatorship: Supreme Court justices keep many opinions private but Sandra Day O'Connor no longer faces that obligation. Yesterday, the retired justice criticized Republicans who criticized the courts. She said they challenge the independence of judges and the freedoms of all Americans. O'Connor's speech at Georgetown University was not available for broadcast but NPR's legal correspondent Nina Totenberg was there.

Nina Totenberg: In an unusually forceful and forthright speech, O'onnor said that attacks on the judiciary by some Republican leaders pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms. O'Connor began by conceding that courts do have the power to make presidents or the Congress or governors as she put it "really, really angry." But, she continued, if we don't make them mad some of the time we probably aren't doing our jobs as judges, and our effectiveness, she said, is premised on the notion that we won't be subject to retaliation for our judicial acts. The nation's founders wrote repeatedly, she said, that without an independent judiciary to protect individual rights from the other branches of government those rights and privileges would amount to nothing. But said O'Connor as the founding fathers knew statutes and constitutions don't protect judicial independence, people do.

And then she took aim at former GOP house leader Tom DeLay... she quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group Justice Sunday last year when DeLay took out after the courts for rulings on abortions, prayer and the Terri Schiavo case. This, said O'Connor was after the federal courts had applied Congress' onetime only status of Schiavo as it was written. Not, said O'Connor, as the congressman might have wished it were written. This response to this flagrant display of judicial restraint, said O'Connor, her voice dripping with sarcasm, was that the congressman blasted the courts.

It gets worse, she said, noting that death threats against judges are increasing. It doesn't help, she said, when a high-profile senator suggests there may be a connection between violence against judges and decisions that a senator disagrees with. She didn't name him, but it was Texas senator John Cornyn who made that statement, after a Georgia judge was murdered in the courtroom and the family of a federal judge in Illinois murdered in the judge's home. O'Connor observed that there have been a lot of suggestions lately for so-called judicial reforms, recommendations for the massive impeachment of judges, stripping the courts of jurisdiction and cutting judicial budgets for punishing offending judges. Any of these might be debatable, she said, as long as they are not retaliation for decisions that political leaders disagree with.

I, said O'Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experience of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O'Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a long of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

Welcome, Justice O'Connor! We have reserved the Chaos Suite for you. You can pick up your robe... oh, I see you have your robe...