Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Presenting the Grand Heresiarch of the Ancient, Hermetic, and Occult Order of the Shrill

It's Andrew Sullivan! Shriller than five Krugmans!! More Mad than Michael Moore!!!

Andrew Sullivan | The Daily Dish : Fiscal blather: The man has added over $20 trillion in fiscal liabilities to the next generation. And he brags about alleged future savings of ... $40 billion. He makes the line-item veto the criterion for fiscal responsibility, knowing it will never pass. He says his proposal last year was designed to "save social security." But it had no long-term impact on the costs. To deal with the entitlement crunch, after five years in office, he proposes ... a commission! And urges Washington to avoid "partisan politics." I'm sorry but this is duplicitous when it isn't pathetic.

Unrepentant on illegal wire-tapping. But the "statute" to which he refers specifically sets up a court for the kind of warrants he says he doesn't need to ask for. Classic Bush: ignore the actual criticism; set up a straw man; and then whack it with a big baseball bat. And you know what? It worked extremely well. "We will not sit back and wait to be hit again." Great line. Best defense. Avoids the basic issue. Keep going ...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ex-Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin Joins the Order

Yes, we can now reveal that ex-Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin has joined the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill, in a measured, polite, and sober way:

WSJ.com - 'We Must Change Policy Direction' : Some would argue that our reasonably healthy GDP growth in the last few years -- driven largely by the Federal Reserve Board's accommodative monetary policy and the disposition of consumers to spend based on high housing prices and lower interest rates -- indicates that we can stick with the economic policy status quo. I believe this would be a serious mistake. Median real wages and median family incomes have been roughly stagnant for the past five years.... Private sector job growth has been the lowest of any recovery since the '30s. Most importantly, the longer-term underpinnings of our economy are unsound.... Re-establishing seriousness of purpose regarding economic policy... will require our political system to do what it is not doing today: making choices that are very difficult politically... putting aside ideology in favor of facts and analysis....

[O]ur future economic well-being is threatened by large current and projected fiscal deficits, huge increases in entitlement costs... personal savings rates of approximately zero, public school system inadequacies, and high health care costs. But our political system is... failing to make the difficult decisions required. Political leaders... have taken on critically important economic issues, as President Clinton did on deficit reduction, trade liberalization and global economic crises... as Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill did on Social Security in 1983....

(1) We should re-establish sound fiscal conditions for the intermediate term (the 10-year federal budget window) and put in place a real plan to get entitlements on a sound footing for the long term. (2) We need a strong public investment program -- paid for... -- to promote productivity growth, to help those dislocated by technology and trade, and to equip all citizens to share in our economic well-being and growth. (3) We must pursue an international economic policy that continues global integration, especially multilaterally, and proactively addresses our other international economic interests, including combating global poverty. (4) We should work toward a regulatory regime that meets our needs and sensibly weigh risks and rewards. Our strategy should reaffirm market-based economics as the most effective organizing principle for economic activity, while recognizing the critical role of government in providing the many requisites for economic success that markets, by their very nature, will not provide.

Broad participation in economic well-being and growth is critical, both as a fundamental value and to realize our economic potential.... [I]n 1979 it took 44 people with average earnings in the bottom half of the population to equal each person in the top 0.1 of 1%, while in 2001, the last year in that study, that number was 160.... The proponents of supply-side theory who assert that tax cuts will wholly -- or even significantly -- pay for themselves (through increased growth and federal tax revenues), appear to be no more accurate now than they were in the '90s.... Virtually all mainstream economists take the view that sustained long-term deficits will crowd out private investment, increase interest rates, reduce productivity and reduce growth. And the far greater danger is that these various imbalances could at some point lead to fear of fiscal disarray and concern about our currency, causing sharply higher interest rates in our bond markets and the risk of a sharp exchange-rate decline. Also, very importantly, the evidence of the early '90s strongly suggests that sustained deficits can undermine business and consumer confidence. The adverse impact on interest and currency rates has not yet occurred, partly because business has had relatively low levels of demand for capital -- but most importantly because of vast capital inflows from abroad (until recently, predominantly from central banks supporting the dollar to subsidize their exports). This is not indefinitely sustainable....

I believe that the most realistic way forward is for the president to bring together the leaders of both parties and both houses to make these decisions with joint political responsibility. Everything should be on the table, including cost discipline, progress toward entitlement reform, and judgment as to the revenues needed to close current deficits and provide the functions the American people expect of government. These include public investment in education, basic research, infrastructure and other requisites for a successful economy as well as national security and the entitlement costs of an aging population. Finding the balance that best promotes economic growth in this context could well call for revenue increases as well as spending discipline, as evidenced by the '90s, when a mixture of spending cuts and targeted tax increases was followed by years of strong growth, powerful job creation and rising incomes. Moreover, any revenue-increasing measures should reduce, not exacerbate, our growing income gap....

None of this is easy, but our economy could well be at a critical juncture for the longer term. To realize our bright future and to minimize the risk of serious difficulty, we urgently need our own sense of mission to meet the challenges facing our economy.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Meyerson Fhtagn!! Meyerson Fhtagn!!

Howard Meyerson of the Washington Post is shrill!

Bush the Incompetent : Incompetence is... hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians... the hash... of his war in Iraq... Hurricane Katrina... Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things... the president's own initiatives.... [L]itanies of screw-ups. Yesterday's New York Times... the first official assessment... reconstruction... in Iraq... "gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting [and] secrecy."... [T]he president's prescription drug plan... is his most mind-boggling failure.... Pharmacists are not resisting the program; seniors are not planting car bombs to impede it.... [P]eople are trying to get their medications covered under the program.... [T]his is a contingency for which the administration was not prepared....

Initially, Part D's biggest glitch seemed to be the difficulty that seniors encountered in selecting a plan. But since Part D took effect... the most acute problem has been the plan's failure to cover the 6.2 million low-income seniors whose medications had been covered by Medicaid. On New Year's Day, the new law shifted these people's coverage to private insurers. And all hell broke loose. Pharmacists found that the insurers didn't have the seniors' names in their systems, or charged them far in excess of what the new law stipulated -- and what the seniors could afford. In California fully 20 percent of the state's 1.1 million elderly Medicaid recipients had their coverage denied. The state had to step in to pick up the tab for their medications. California has appropriated $150 million for the medications, and estimates that it will be out of pocket more than $900 million by 2008-09. Before Jan. 1 the Bush administration had told California that it would save roughly $120 million a year once Part D was in effect.

California's experience is hardly unique. To date at least 25 states and the District have had to defray the costs to seniors that Part D was supposed to cover. What's truly stunning about this tale is that... they always knew that these 6.2 million seniors would be shifted into the plan on the first day of the year. There were absolutely no surprises, and yet administration officials weren't even remotely prepared. No such problems attended the creation of Medicare itself in the mid-1960s....

[F]inancially beholden to both the drug and insurance industries, the Bush administration and the Repsublican Congress mandated that millions of Americans have their coverage shifted to these most byzantine of bureaucracies. This is, remember, the president's signature domestic initiative, just as the Iraq war is his signature foreign initiative. How could a president get these things so wrong? Incompetence may describe this presidency, but it doesn't explain it. For that, historians may need to turn to the seven deadly sins: to greed... sloth... Incurious George.... [T]he key question for this administration is that of the great American sage, Casey Stengel: Can't anybody here play this game?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Five Octaves Above Middle C...

So shrill that only dogs can hear him, is Eric Alterman:

Eric Alterman : So we’ve gutted the budget for reconstruction in Iraq, something that may make sense, given that we’re not really conducting any, and are incapable of providing the necessary security to do so, but at the same time, we’ve destroyed what was a functioning country. True it was a totalitarian dictatorship run by mass murderer, but it functioned for most people. It no longer does. As unbelievable as it appears, we seem to have made Iraq a worse place than it was before. Look here and here if you think I exaggerate. (And keep in mind, as my young friend Paul McLeary demonstrates here, that it is damn hard and dangerous to do any solid reporting in that chaotic environment.)

Remember, I opposed the war even though I calculated at the time that it would include what I called the “liberation” of the people of Iraq. (Leftists attacked me for using that term unironically.) As a realist, I didn’t think what I then believed was that their liberation would justify its cost. Well, amazingly, the Bush administration was too incompetent to accomplish even that—and this is outside of the fact that they had to lie to the country to get us in there.

Really, there is nothing, nothing that justifies this war any more and nothing that justifies the faith anyone has that the Bush administration can make it any better. (Take a look here at what Eliot Weinberger heard about Iraq in 2005 if you doubt that.) Perhaps it will happen. But that would sure be a break from the past. I seem to recall from freshman philosophy that somebody big, David Hume, argued that just because the sun has risen in the East and set in the West every day since time immemorial is no argument for the fact that it will necessarily do so tomorrow. Still, I think it’s a good bet. And I think it’s a good bet that the Bush administration will continue to screw up Iraq even worse than before.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

William M. Arkin of washingtonpost.com Joins Our Ranks!

Welcome, William M. Arkin! It's good to see yet another employee of washingtonpost.com succumb to shrill unholy madness, and howl his shrill screeds of Bush hatred though the night!

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com : Col. Thomas M. Pappas, once commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, and the senior intelligence officer responsible for military interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison, has now been given immunity.... [T]here will never be a connection made between the goings on at Abu Ghraib and the top ranks of either the Pentagon or the Bush administration.... Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the one time commander of the Guantanamo Bay prison and the supposed inspiration for Abu Ghraib's operations has invoked his right not to incriminate himself.... Pappas' nonjudicial proceedings resulted in a written reprimand and forfeiture of $4,000 pay per month for two months. Seven enlisted military policemen have so far been prosecuted for treatment of detainees. Private Charles A. Graner received a 10-year prison sentence.

The military calls it different spanks for different ranks....

Here's how it works: An Army Colonel in Iraq talks to his direct commander and liaises with adjacent commanders. He occasionally talks to the one-star staff officers, special assistants and executive aides to the two and three stars. The staff jockeys are themselves strap hangers and note takers in video teleconferences.... But... when sensitive matters -- including issues of personality and high level assignments -- are being discussed, the general officers "meet" privately on the VTC without back seaters in the room. Or they talk on the phone.... I wrote almost two years ago, when the Abu Ghraib scandal was first breaking... that I didn't believe that an "order" would ever be uncovered, that a direct connection would ever be made between the soldiers in those cell blocks and officers at a higher level.

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, one of the few heroes... testified before Congress that a "failure in leadership, lack of discipline; no training whatsoever; and no supervision" led to the mistreatment. I wrote then that "In the context of what was going on in Iraq [in 2003], a muddled, leaderless, unsupervised, high-pressure environment at Abu Ghraib led military policemen and their intelligence brethren to turn into a mob."

Heads should certainly roll, I said, but more important, I thought we should learn the lesson: "that we, represented by the American fighting men and women stuck in the muddled and hopeless endeavor of Iraq, are in way over our heads."

We still haven't learned that lesson.

The real crime of the wars since 9/11 is that when it comes to any kind of "sensitive" -- read controversial -- actions and policies, there are no explicit written orders. Without rules, without oversight, without accountability, with such a high octane and high pressured overblown -- almost manic -- enterprise, it is no wonder that many of the participants think that they are saving the world and thereby take liberties in their day-to-day efforts.

Monday, January 09, 2006

We welcome Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz to the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill:

Howard Kurtz : The larger issue is that much of the press has abandoned reporting on health and safety regulation until disaster strikes. How many reporters have dug into the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration, which under the Bush administration was run by a former Utah mine manager until last year? About as many as did pieces, before Hurricane Katrina, on why a former Arabian horse official was running the dysfunctional bureaucracy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Heck of a job. "I have tried to get the general press interested," says Ellen Smith, owner of the trade publication Mine Safety and Health News. "I just kind of gave up." The mine agency has received scant coverage, even as it has changed -- critics say softened -- the Clinton administration%u2019s enforcement approach. Since 2001... The Post has published three staff-written stories on mine safety not related to a specific accident; the New York Times, two; Wall Street Journal, one; Chicago Tribune, one; and Los Angeles Times and USA Today, none. 60 Minutes did one segment on a mine safety whistle-blower.

Perhaps the most persistent reporter has been Ken Ward of West Virginia's Charleston Gazette, who says that under the Bush administration, the mine safety agency "started clamping down on folks like me" and "people we dealt with all the time were all of a sudden instructed not to talk." Ward says the agency didn't tell the Gazette of a media conference call last week: "It's pretty amazing that a federal agency would hold a briefing on the biggest mining disaster in West Virginia in 40 years and exclude the biggest paper in the state."Labor Department spokesman David James says the call was put together on the fly and there was no attempt to exclude the Gazette.

Former Iraq Viceroy Paul Bremer has joined the shrill unbalanced Critics of George W. Bush. Welcome, Paul! Pick up your black hooded robe covered with eldritch symbols at the laundry, and report to the North Pond for lessons in transforming yourself into your tentacled cephalopod form. The Scaife Foundation has paid your room, board, and fees through June.

Kevin Drum writes:

The Washington Monthly: BREMER ON IRAQ....On Dateline last night, Paul Bremer confirmed something that he briefly alluded to last year: we never had enough troops on the ground to keep order in Iraq, and both George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld knew it.

Bremer said he sent a memo to Rumsfeld suggesting that half a million soldiers would be needed, three times the number deployed by the Bush administration.

"I never had any reaction from him," the former diplomat told NBC's Brian Williams on "Dateline."

Although he never heard back from his direct boss, Bremer said he discussed his concerns with Bush, who told him he would seek troops from other countries, but did not mention increasing U.S. forces.

...[T]hat half million number is pretty stunning. It's one thing to tell your boss you need more troops, but it's quite another to tell him you need three times as many as you have. That's the kind of warning that really ought to make someone sit up and listen, and if Bremer is on the level here it means that Rumsfeld and Bush screwed the pooch even worse than we thought -- something I'm not sure I would have thought possible until now.

Silly Kevin. He is a valued member of the Order of the Shrill, but apparently not too bright. How long will he take to learn that the Bush administration is worse than he imagined, even after taking account of the fact that the Bush administration is worse than he imagined?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Republican Senators are Shrill and Unbalanced

Apparently emboldened by the chattering masses' debate over whether the President's oath to preserve, protect and devend the Constitution of the United States, President Bush has signed the anti-torture bill with two fingers crossed behind his back, reserving for himself the right to do whatever he pleases should he feel likes it tell you it's necessary for your safety.

We, however, are shocked, SHOCKED to hear that Republican Senators McCain, Warner, and Graham have been driven to shrill unholy madness by the mendacity, malevolence, sheer disconnection from reality, and desire to be appointed dictator of the George W. Bush administration.

''We believe the president understands Congress's intent in passing, by very large majorities, legislation governing the treatment of detainees," the senators said. ''The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the administration's implementation of the new law."


Separately, the third primary sponsor of the detainee treatment law, Senator Lindsey O. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told the Globe in a phone interview that he agreed with everything McCain and Warner said ''and would go a little bit further."

''I do not believe that any political figure in the country has the ability to set aside any . . . law of armed conflict that we have adopted or treaties that we have ratified," Graham said. ''If we go down that road, it will cause great problems for our troops in future conflicts because [nothing] is to prevent other nations' leaders from doing the same."

And here, we thought that no political figure in this country has the ability to set aside any law because we didn't want a king in the first place or we'd still all be British.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

William Arkin is shrill and opinionated. Somebody call Washington Post national political editor John Harris:

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com : By the end of 2006, the United States will have fewer than 100,000 troops in Iraq and will be well on its way to withdrawing its forces, Osama bin Laden will still be at large, Iran and Syria and North Korea will be safe from U.S. military attack.

I'm not going to hedge on my predictions for the New Year. Basically, nothing will really be different. Dick Cheney will still be there, and though there won't be a major terrorist attack in the United States -- strike major, there won't be any -- the administration will still manage, despite approval ratings in the toilet, to jerk the American public around "fighting" a war on terror that should hardly be labeled a war anymore.... Congress for its part will hold anemic hearings on NSA spying and will continue to make believe the super-bureaucracy of the Director of National Intelligence solves our "intelligence" problems. It will throw money at the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon and the intelligence community who will all argue that they are turning the corner getting it right in their post 9/11 revamping.

Despite Abramoff and signs of multi-billion dollar scandals in Iraq reconstruction, the Beltway ruling classes will prosper in 2006. There is nothing they love more than indeterminate national security debate, hearings, and bureaucracies reorganizing and turning corners: There are lunches and seminars and study trips and consulting contracts to aid in government deliberations.

Here are my ten five predictions for the coming year: 1. Iraq... the priority for the administration and the military will be turning over the problem not winning the counter-insurgency. Conventional wisdom says that there will be a modest reduction of U.S. forces to some 130,000. I say 100,000, with substantial forces, particularly support personnel, moving to Kuwait and the Gulf states. 2. War on Terrorism: A half dozen or more al Qaeda lieutenants will be captured in 2006 -- how many number three's can there be? -- with the core of the old organization remaining shielded in western Pakistan. Meanwhile the new organization of anti-American independent terrorist cells only loosely affiliated with al Qaeda will continue to grow outside Iraq and Pakistan as experienced fighters and wannabes organize to attack.... 3. NSA Spying: Congress will have passed no new laws regarding NSA spying in 2006, and its hearings on the subject will "reveal" that the actual program of spying on targeted individuals was less extensive than previously thought. None of it will explain why the Bush administration felt it needed to circumvent a law.... I say that the NSA story is about something else: A far more massive intrusion into the private lives of all Americans being conducted in the name of data-mining and link analysis. 4. Iraq, Syria, North Korea: Despite two developing WMD and a third other mischievously meddling in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, these countries couldn't be safer in 2006. With U.S. coalitions weak and U.S. forces still overwhelmed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration won't even be contemplating real military action a la 2002-2003.... 5. China: It is the one to watch in 2006. The U.S. military in 2006 will continue to retool post-Iraq for the next "peer competitor" (read enemy), one finally worthy of all those lunches and seminars and study trips and consulting contracts to aid in government deliberations.... Conventional wisdom will conclude that it is only "prudent" for the United States to start planning for the potential of conflict with the second superpower, so grateful will it be for an opportunity to leave the Middle East. I say invest in China and Southeast Asia. I may not make you money in 2006 but the best way to avoid the U.S. military addiction of creating enemies, especially big one, is to rejoice in the prosperity and growth of others.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Contributions from Those Who Do Not Know Their Shrillness

Glenn Greenwald, who'd probably be Shoggoth at Large of the Order if he had any idea who we are, reports on wingnuts who have finally snapped back to the other side.

It’s true that Paul is not saying that Bush broke the law, only that it’s an "open question" - but that really is like a defense attorney suddenly ceasing to defend his client in open court and declaring his client’s guilt to be "an open question." When one's own attorney admits the real possibility of guilt, that is a rather strong indictment. To even read on Powerline that it is an "open" and "difficult" question whether George Bush broke the law is amazing, and quite revealing.

Conservative condemnation of Bush’s illegality is growing. Hardcore conservatives with unimpeachable conservative credentials, from Bob Barr to Reagan Justice Department official Bruce Fein have aggressively argued that Bush’s conduct is intolerably illegal and dangerous.

Wow! Grover Norquist is shrill!!

TIME.com: Bush Says, Bring It On; the Critics Will -- Jan. 09, 2006 -- Page 1 : But the NSA operation--and particularly Bush's decision to bypass the generally amenable Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for authorization--has drawn fire not only from liberal Democrats but also from some of the most conservative in Bush's party, in which government restraint is a fundamental precept. "There is a test of Republicans on this," says activist Grover Norquist, normally a White House ally. "The country will let you get away with this in the wake of 9/11, but that doesn't make it right." And even if Republicans are prepared to bless Bush's program, they know it theoretically would have to mean extending such sweeping Executive power to, say, a President Hillary Clinton...