Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Kristol balls

Bill Kristol is so out there he makes "Nutty Norman" Podhoretz sound like a voice of reason. His article in the Neocon Post, claiming that Bush is a giant among preznits has brought him a lot of acclaim. Let's look at it.

I suppose I'll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush's presidency will probably be a successful one.

Bill, meet harmless ridicule. I think you're going to be firm friends.

Let's step back from the unnecessary mistakes and the self-inflicted wounds that have characterized the Bush administration.

So when deciding whether he's been a fuckup, let's ignore his fuckups.

Let's look at the broad forest rather than the often unlovely trees. What do we see?

A fuckup.

First, no second terrorist attack on U.S. soil

Bill's forgotten the anthrax thing and the sniper guy.

Let's remind Bill that terrorist attacks were not actually common before 9/11, and those that happened were mostly directed at American interests overseas.

Anyone remember Beirut? Big bombing of marines? USS Cole?

Why attack them? Well, terrorists tend to aim at military targets because the military is the expression of power they most despise. And once you have created outrage with a spectacle, your day-to-day terrorism is going to be mostly against the hated military.

And where is the hated military? Iraq. Is there much terrorism there then?

-- not something we could have taken for granted. Second, a strong economy -- also something that wasn't inevitable.

I wouldn't get into a discussion on the economy with a rightard. It's likely to hurt your head. But describing America's economy as "strong" displays a remarkable ignorance of what a strong economy consists of. Kristol thinks that growth is everything. Ho hum.

I'll quickly show why it isn't.

Take my finances (no, really, take them). I make x amount of money, and spend x - 1 each year (I am a follower of the Micawber school of home finance), which makes me happy. If I spend x + 1, I am pretty much in trouble, because x doesn't grow much.

Let's say I go to my friendly neighbourhood bank and borrow as much as they'll give me. Actually, I'll go to every possible source of credit and borrow. I could probably get another x.

I would then have tons of money to spend on consumer goods. My household economy would BOOM.

You've probably figured out what the problem is. Once the money's spent, I am left with the repayments, which will depress my household economy. Not by as much as it expanded, true, but sufficiently to hurt. And if I didn't use the money wisely, oh dear, it's all negative.

That's a simple lesson in economics, but far more than anyone on the right seems to grasp. Or if they grasp it, they lie about it.

And third, and most important, a war in Iraq that has been very difficult, but where -- despite some confusion engendered by an almost meaningless "benchmark" report last week -- we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome.

The mind boggles when considering how the outcomes that are possible in Iraq can be considered successes, unless our aim was to create a complete fucking mess out of the place. Which it might well have been.

The economy first: After the bursting of the dot-com bubble, followed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we've had more than five years of steady growth, low unemployment and a stock market recovery. Did this just happen? No.

No, it's almost entirely fuelled by debt. See the lesson above for why this is not a good thing.

Bush pushed through the tax cuts of 2001

Not the cause of growth.

and especially 2003 by arguing that they would produce growth.

Which they did not. They actually did the opposite, and the Fed had to step in by slashing interest rates, fuelling a debt-powered pseudoboom.

His opponents predicted dire consequences.

Watch this space.

But the president was overwhelmingly right.

Not even close. All his tax cuts did was transfer money to the wealthy. Who do not create growth. Unless you are a purveyor of yachts.

Even the budget deficit, the most universally criticized consequence of the tax cuts, is coming down and is lower than it was when the 2003 supply-side tax cuts were passed.

It would fucking want to be!

Note the words he has slipped in: "supply side". These are the Holy Grail of rightard economics. The idea is that if you give rich people tax cuts, they will all go and build factories, which will increase production, which will automagically increase demand, and we'll all live happily ever after. The supplysiders' deadly enemies, sane peop^H^H^^HKeynesians believe this is bullshit, and that rich people will just squander the money on yachts and football clubs, if they spend it at all.

Supply-side economics is just the latest excuse for making the rich richer. It doesn't make economic sense. I don't have the time or inclination to debunk this utter bullshit here, but interested readers can google Paul Krugman, and take it from there.

Bush has also (on the whole) resisted domestic protectionist pressures (remember the Democratic presidential candidates in 2004 complaining about outsourcing?), thereby helping sustain global economic growth.

I'll bet you're glad about that when your job goes to India.

The year 2003 also featured a close congressional vote on Bush's other major first-term initiative, the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Liberals denounced it as doing nothing for the elderly; conservatives worried that it would bust the budget. Experts of all stripes foresaw great challenges in its implementation. In fact, it has all gone surprisingly smoothly, providing broad and welcome coverage for seniors and coming in under projected costs.

Actually, the liberals were right.

So on the two biggest pieces of domestic legislation the president has gotten passed, he has been vindicated. And with respect to the two second-term proposals that failed -- private Social Security accounts and immigration -- I suspect that something similar to what Bush proposed will end up as law over the next several years.

Not a fucking chance on Social Security. No Democrat preznit will ever pass what he proposed. His immigration proposal was reasonably sane, and yes, something similar but perhaps more humane is probably inevitable. Unless Americans are fucking idiotic enough to vote in Fred Thompson.

Meanwhile, 2005-06 saw the confirmation of two Supreme Court nominees, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Your judgment of these two appointments will depend on your general view of

fascists. If you like fascists, you'll like them. If you don't, you won't. Don't let's pretend they are anything else. They are bought-and-paid-for corporatists, and so far out on the right, they had to extend the wing specially for them. They are disasters for America, and yes, they will be Bush's legacy: an ultraconservative Supreme Court that will chisel away at individual rights. They've already attacked a woman's right to a late termination and desegregation, and they're barely even warmed up.

the courts and the Constitution. But even if you're a judicial progressive, you have to admit that Roberts and Alito are impressive judges (well, you don't have to admit it -- but deep down, you know it).

How would I know it? Their judgements are only loosely based in law, rather products of ideology. I don't think anyone, not even Roberts and Alito themselves, thinks they are really very good legal minds.

And if you're a conservative constitutionalist, putting Roberts and Alito on the court constitutes a huge accomplishment.

Conservative constitutionalists? Roberts and Alito fucking hate the constitution. They were appointed because the fascists who have control of power in America need to water down the constitution so that they can project power as they wish.

What about terrorism? Apart from Iraq

There is no "apart from Iraq". It's like your wife and kids are gunned down in the street. Only the wife survives. Bill cheerily breaks the news to you: "Apart from the kids, they're all fine."

there has been less of it



Nope. Try to remember that you were going from a low base, Bill.

and abroad

What fucking planet is this guy living on? I'm living on the one in which a bomb went off in Pakistan yesterday, shortly after the government stormed a mosque. Just the latest in a very long line of terrorist incidents.

than many experts predicted on Sept. 12, 2001.

For values of "expert" approaching "idiot".

Any "expert" who predicted increased terrorism after 9/11 has been proved right. What many did not realise was that Iraq would become an enormous focus of militancy.

So Bush and Vice President Cheney probably are doing some important things right.

They have managed to radicalise thousands of young men in the Muslim world. Well done, W and Dick.

They have made no net impact on AQ. Well done, guys.

They have not ended the threat from Islamic militants, not even close.

The war in Afghanistan has gone reasonably well.

One suspects that if Bill came to your door, and you punched him several times in the face, he'd claim that you were "reasonably friendly".

Western Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf's deals with the Taliban are apparently creating something like havens for terrorists, is an increasing problem. That's why our intelligence agencies are worried about a resurgent al-Qaeda -- because al-Qaeda may once again have a place where it can plan, organize and train.

B-b-but Musharraf is our ally. Want to bet I can't find some Bill Kristol "why we must support Musharraf" bullshit?

These Waziristan havens may well have to be dealt with in the near future.

Oh dear. Because we've done such a bangup job of "dealing with" Afghanistan and Iraq.

I assume Bush will deal with them, using some combination of air strikes and special operations.

Yes, I expect he will. He'll probably be delighted to bomb yet another Muslim nation.

As for foreign policy in general, it has mostly been the usual mixed bag.

Which is a polite way of saying "a fucking disaster". Clinton's foreign policy had its flaws, but it was by contrast mostly a success.

We've deepened our friendships with Japan and India

and ruined our friendships with most of Europe, all of the Muslim world and most of Latin America. The Chinese aren't keen on us either.

we've had better outcomes than expected in the two largest Latin American countries, Mexico and Brazil


and we've gotten friendlier governments than expected in France and Germany.

A roundabout way of saying France voted in a cryptofascist, and Germany is suffering from a Thatcherite. Who doesn't like Bush much.

China is stable. There has been slippage in Russia. The situation with North Korea is bad but containable.

These are words that really don't have any meaning. What does China's being "stable" mean? What is "slippage" in this context? Russia fucking hates the US and is taking it on over missile defences, resources and the third world. It opposes US policy in nearly every sphere. There's no "slippage" because it always has. The rightards convinced themselves that because Putin is a nasty rightard himself, all would be fine.

But wait, wait, wait: What about Iraq? It's Iraq, stupid -- you (and 65 percent of your fellow Americans) say -- that makes Bush an unsuccessful president.

You got it, Bill. Improving relationships with Brazil and India are not cutting it when put next to the elephant in the lounge room.

Not necessarily.

Not necessarily. You have completely fucked another country, completely fucked it, so that it is now an unliveable hellhole, in which your soldiers get murdered daily, and murder the locals daily in return, with no end in sight, and no idea of what the end even looks like. That is "not necessarily" bad?

First of all, we would have to compare the situation in Iraq now, with all its difficulties and all the administration's mistakes, with what it would be if we hadn't gone in.

Before: we had electricity, water, an oppressive government that rarely bothered us and cousin Ahmed still had legs.

After: cousin Ahmed does not consider it an improvement.

Saddam Hussein would be alive and in power and, I dare say, victorious, with the United States (and the United Nations) by now having backed off sanctions and the no-fly zone.

Why? We kept it up for many years. Why would we have given in?

He might well have restarted his nuclear program

He might well have converted to Christianity, repented his sins, and paved the streets of Baghdad with flowers.

and his connections with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups would be intact or revived and even strengthened.

See? These fuckers will just lie. If the facts don't work, which they rarely do, they just lie and lie and lie, and hope that repetition will trump veracity. These people have no shame. No one has ever produced a scrap of evidence for links between Saddam and AQ. And they never will. Because you have to be demented to think that there were any.

Still, that's speculative, and the losses and costs of the war are real.

Well yeah. Let's put everything in the balance.

In one pan of the scales we have a mean strongman, who had created a stable, reasonably prosperous and functioning nation at some human cost. Left in place, he might have... erm... created some ridiculous propaganda and whacked a few Shiites.

In the other we have a blasted wasteland, in which about 1500 different armed groups vie to whack each other, American soldiers and the general populace. And half a million corpses.

Bush is a war president

Only because he started a war.

and war presidents are judged by whether they win or lose their war.

No, actually. They are also judged by whether they should have started one in the first place.

So to be a successful president, Bush has to win in Iraq.

Well, that's your thesis fucked then.

Which I now think we can. Indeed, I think we will.

Bill also believes in fairies.

In late 2006, I didn't think we would win, as Bush stuck with the failed Rumsfeld-Abizaid-Casey strategy of "standing down" as the Iraqis were able to "stand up," based on the mistaken theory that if we had a "small footprint" in Iraq, we'd be more successful.

Like most thinkers on Iraq, I too believe America would be more successful with a very small footprint there. I'd say no footprint at all would be about the right size.

With the new counterinsurgency strategy announced on Jan. 10, backed up by the troop "surge," I think the odds are finally better than 50-50 that we will prevail.

Bill needs to enlarge his vocabulary. The word he's looking for is not "think" but "fantasise".

We are routing al-Qaeda in Iraq

A tiny militia group.

we are beginning to curb the Iranian-backed sectarian Shiite militias

Who run most of the country and are backed by the Iraqi government.

and we are increasingly able to protect more of the Iraqi population.

This is too ludicrous to comment on. Tell that to the people of Kirkuk who got smeared across one of its markets the other day.

If we sustain the surge for a year and continue to train Iraqi troops effectively, we can probably begin to draw down in mid- to late 2008. The fact is that military progress on the ground in Iraq in the past few months has been greater than even surge proponents like me expected, and political progress is beginning to follow.

What teh fuck?

Most "surge proponents" accept that teh surge has been a dismal failure, with no prospect at all of "success". Petraeus -- Lord Surge himself -- thinks the US will be committed to surging for decades


Iran is a problem, and we will have to do more to curb Tehran's meddling

Damned Iranians! Meddling in the business of their neighbours and coreligionists. How dare they!

-- but we can.

Oh dear. I hope Iranians are not making long-term plans.

So if we keep our nerve here at home, we have a good shot at achieving a real, though messy, victory in Iraq.

Note that Bill does not outline what a victory would actually look like. This is because the rightards plan to call it a win no matter what.

But can Bush maintain adequate support at home? Yes.

He's doing a fine job of it so far.

It would help if the administration would make its case more effectively and less apologetically. It would help if Bush had more aides who believed in his policy, who understood that the war is winnable and who didn't desperately want to get back in (or stay in) the good graces of the foreign policy establishment.

It would help if it wasn't a total fucking disaster, which even the dimmest are beginning to realise.

But Bush has the good fortune of having finally found his Ulysses S. Grant, or his Creighton Abrams, in Gen. David H. Petraeus.

I found a love, of my very own.

Petraeus!! Modern genius of warfare!!

Look, Alexander the fucking Great could not "win" in Iraq, and he'd be willing to murder just about everybody in the place if needs be.

If the president stands with Petraeus and progress continues on the ground, Bush will be able to prevent a sellout in Washington.

Trans: If Bush stands firm, we'll be able to claim a win when the Dems cut and run as soon as they get the chance, then we'll whine for the next 20 years about how we woulda coulda shoulda won it, just like we did about Vietnam, our last really big fuckup.

And then he could leave office with the nation on course to a successful (though painful and difficult) outcome in Iraq. With that, the rest of the Middle East, where so much hangs in the balance, could start to tip in the direction of our friends and away from the jihadists, the mullahs and the dictators.

Not a fucking hope. Not even in your wildest dreams, and Bill, if I may say so, your dreams are pretty fucking wild.

Following through to secure the victory in Iraq and to extend its benefits to neighboring countries will be the task of the next president.


Bush broke it and now you have to fix it, buddy.

And that brings us to Bush's final test.

I think St Peter will be administering that one, dude, but do tell...

The truly successful American presidents tend to find vindication in, and guarantee an extension of their policies through, the election of a successor from their own party. Can Bush hand the presidency off to a Republican who will (broadly) continue along the path of his post-9/11 foreign policy, nominate judges who solidify a Roberts-Alito court, make his tax cuts permanent and the like?

Let's fucking hope so!

Let's face it though, your best chance is a military coup. I mean, Americans are fucking idiots, yes (they almost voted in Bush twice), but they are not completely retarded. If the GOP candidate looks anything like another Bush, the Dems will probably sweep the board.

Sure. Even at Bush's current low point in popularity, the leading GOP presidential candidates are competitive in the polls with Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

Because Clinton and Obama are both horrible.

That and because America is deeply polarised.

Furthermore, one great advantage of the current partisan squabbling in Washington is that while it hurts Bush, it also damages the popularity of the Democratic Congress-- where both Clinton and Obama serve.

Congress is unpopular because it is not antagonistic enough. Typical though of a rightard to describe the attempts of Congress to pursue its role in overseeing the executive and Bush's attempts to avoid oversight altogether as "partisan squabbling". By framing it in this way, the right hopes to influence the press, and consequently Americans' views, so that the latter don't start thinking that it could actually be a good thing that their leaders are held accountable.

A little mutual assured destruction between the Bush administration and Congress could leave the Republican nominee, who will most likely have no affiliation with either, in decent shape.

Trans: Vote Thompson. He hasn't been a senator for years.

And what happens when voters realize in November 2008 that, if they choose a Democrat for president, they'll also get a Democratic Congress and therefore liberal Supreme Court justices? Many Americans will recoil from the prospect of being governed by an unchecked triumvirate of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

They didn't mind it when Congress was a rubber stamp for the Bushistas.

So the chances of a Republican winning the presidency in 2008 aren't bad.

My chances of fucking Angelina Jolie aren't bad either, by that measure.

What it comes down to is this: If Petraeus succeeds in Iraq, and a Republican wins in 2008, Bush will be viewed as a successful president.

If you click your heels three times, you will be back in Kansas.

I like the odds.

He doesn't, you know. He knows as well as we all do that Bush will be viewed as one of the worst presidents America has ever suffered. Petraeus won't succeed in Iraq unless we admit we were trying to create an absolute fucking shambles and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. If a Repug wins in '08, it can only be in spite of Bush, not because of him. Yeah okay, it's possible. There are plenty of Americans who hate people, because America is one fucked-up place. The candidates are in utter disarray right now, but sure, the GOP could get behind someone like Thompson and try for the Reagan effect -- you know he's fucking useless but at least whoever's pulling his strings hates people as much as you do.

And if the Dems win, and Iraq is declared to be a terrible defeat? Well, Bill will have forgotten the bet he took here, and will be writing about how, really, Iraq was a tremendous success and Bush a tremendous president, because ultimately, reality is not a challenge for guys like Bill. They just totally ignore it because it doesn't ever intrude into the Washington bubble.


At 2:07 pm, Anonymous $Zero said...

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not to mention that in doing so, there's a very good chance that it will turn into actual income for you -- via paypal.

just thought i'd mention it.

the pace will be picking up quite a bit in a few weeks, so... keep it in mind.

writing paradigms are about to shift.



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