Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Eagle in Winter, Bear in Summer

The Neocons are scared out of their mind. They have to be. The last five days showed the world just how empty and meaningless US power is outside of the delusions of the Kagans and Kristols of the world. The Russians stomped a potential NATO member flat, ignored the UN, ignored the US, and finally cut a deal...a deal brokered by the French.

The US had absolutely nothing to say about the outcome of the conflict. Bush was at the Olympics. Condi was on vacation. Nameless One emerged from the Nameless Lair to give McCain his talking points. McCain peed in his pants, saying the Russians were the scariest thing ever.

After nearly 7 years of hearing how The Great Brown Beturbaned Horde was going to force Sharia Law on the Dhimmiverse with their Terrah Beams, when the Russians actually march in with a TANK COLUMN on an idle Thursday, the Neocons are beside themselves, reacting with kneejerk shock and empty rhetoric.

US power was utterly useless here. American values, American pride, America's troops, America's freedom-spreading Tom Clancy powered Hyperstate meant precisely jack-shit to the Russians, who called our bluff, bitchslapped Georgia like an abused spouse, and now are busy telling all the world "The clumsy bitch fell down the stairs again" and are daring us to say otherwise.

And there's nothing we can say. We've got our own abusive relationship with Iraq and Afghanistan, having killed hundreds of thousands and occupied both countries for years all over lie after lie after lie. The Russians occupy Georgia for five days, and all we can do honestly is say "Well, um...yeah." Anything else elicits the response you saw the world give us: We didn't factor into any goddamn thing. That's got to be outright depressing to the Neocons.

Convinced that we were forging our own reality, the Russians reminded the world that we're a bunch of loudmouthed jagoffs who are hopelessly stuck in the Middle East fighting a war we can't win, that has cost us trillions of dollars, our world standing, our sanity and our economy. The captain of the football team just got pantsed in front of the entire high school, and he's wearing Aquaman underoos.

And after telling us we must be scared of a country with a military about 1% of ours, a country with a real military waltzed in, beat up our proxy, and left. We're a joke now. Somebody finally called our bluff.

Who will call it next? Somebody will certainly do so now. Maybe China. Maybe Iran. Maybe Russia again. It's far past time for us to get out of Iraq and change our entire foreign policy agenda. If McSame is President, we will be at war because somebody will yank our chain and he will respond like the bully he is. If Obama is President...maybe we can get our standing back.

Maybe. Given where our economy is heading, it's a moot point. Our time is over. The next few years will be full of harsh realities for America and its people. It's going to be bad, folks, very very bad. Our economy is on the brink right now, and only funny Fed money is keeping us in Big Macs and mani/pedis. It's going to fall apart in 2009, and we're going to land on our faces hard.

If McSame is in charge, those harsh realities will lead to a global war. More than ever I am convinced of that. He will lose his temper and decide we HAVE to have oil and power in the Middle East for America's very survival. We will be in a bloody shooting war that will engulf the globe and will last for a generation...or it may be brutally short and nuclear.

If Obama is in charge, we will still have a tough road ahead. I foresee unemployment in the double digits, and Americans really, really hurting across the country. The world will be facing a recession, and America I honestly believe will be in a borderline depression. but a way out of it that doesn't involve the draft.

The lesson of August 8 is that America is at a crossroads. We can go with another path, or we can go straight down the road to Hell that we have been on. The world has served us notice.

It's up to us to choose a path in November. Cheesy, but that's what's at stake. When this country hits the skids over the next four years, who do you honestly want in charge, the guy who thinks the path that got us into this mess is the way out, or the guy with the new ideas?


BillO says it's Double U Double U Eye Eye Eye out there. We have to stop the Russians before they invade and take our loofahs.
But the message is sent: I, Vladimir Putin, and Russia can do whatever we want to do, and you can’t stop us because we have the oil. Now, its the same thing with Iran. Who props up Iran? Russia. Why? Because Russia wants the United States weakened. And Russia knows that Iran wants to dominate the oil in the Gulf. So Russia sells Iran weapons, blocks any sanctions against them, and he’s playing the double game. Putin is a real villain. Now, this is World War III on the horizon, ladies and gentlemen.


Break Out The Booze And Condoms!

No, seriously. Apparently the War in Iraq is over and we won and everything. So when can we bring the troops home?
With victory in sight, why would we quit? The steady -- but not total -- withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is freeing up forces to fight in Afghanistan. But Afghanistan is not the central front in the war on terror. Al Qaeda is hiding in Pakistan, a nation we are not going to invade.
You can almost hear the word "yet" in there.

And people wonder why the neocons are nothing more than a sick joke these days.

Global No-Confidence Vote: The Perfect Storm

Oil has plunged, the dollar is at a six-month high, and things are now looking up for the US, right? Well, remember, the dollar's strength is coming at the weaknesses of other currencies, and the recession that infected the US has spread to other countries now. The Asian and European economies are slowing down from their breakneck pace. In the short term the dollar looks good, and oil hedge money is flowing from commodities to the dollar. In the long term, we're going to be back on the downward slide.

There is now an increasing probability that the global economy - not just the US - will experience a serious and protracted recession. Macro developments in the last few weeks suggest that now all of the G7 economies (the group of the major advanced economies including US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Canada) are already in a recession or close to tipping into one. Other advanced economies or emerging markets (the rest of the Eurozone including Spain. Ireland the the other Euro members; New Zealand, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and some other South-East Europe economies) are also on the tip of a recessionary hard landing.

And once this group of twenty plus economies enters into a recession there will be a sharp growth slowdown in the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and other emerging market economies. The IMF defines a global recession as a global growth rate below 2.5% as emerging market economies usually grow much faster (6%) than advanced economies where growth averages about 2%. For example, a country like China - that even with a growth rate of 10% plus has officially thousands of riots and protests a year - needs to move 15 million poor rural farmers to the modern urban industrial sector with higher wages every year just to maintain the legitimacy of its regime; so for China a growth rate of 6% would be equivalent to a recessionary hard landing. It now looks like that, by the end of this year or early 2009, the global economy will enter a recession.

Just in time to greet our new president. It's not that the dollar is strong, it's the weakness in the dollar is now spreading to other currencies like the British Pound.
The pound slid to its lowest level in almost 21 months against the dollar after an industry report showed U.K. house prices fell in July, adding to evidence the economy is slowing.

The currency snapped a three-day gain versus the euro after the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said the number of real-estate agents and surveyors reporting lower prices exceeded those reporting gains by 83.9 percentage points last month as the credit squeeze brought the market to a ``virtual standstill.''

``The pound is still being swept along by a broader dollar move,'' said Michael Metcalfe, head of macro strategy at State Street Global Markets in London. ``There is also an assumption the Bank of England will have to capitulate and focus on growth rather than inflation.'' Investors should sell the pound versus the dollar, Metcalfe said.

The pound fell as much as 0.7 percent to $1.8969, the weakest level since November 2006, and was at $1.8990 by 5:41 p.m. in London, from $1.9108 yesterday. The British currency has lost 4.8 percent against the dollar in the past month. It slipped to 78.43 pence per euro, from 78.03 pence.

All 11 regions in the U.K. tracked by RICS showed negative price balances on the month, the group said today.

Property values declined by the most in at least a quarter of a century in July, HBOS Plc reported on Aug. 7. Banks have curbed lending as they nurse losses and writedowns from the collapse of the U.S. subprime-mortgage market that have totaled about $493 billion worldwide.

As the problems in the US spread: housing prices falling and energy prices and food prices rising, credit markets griding to a halt, and consumer spending down, the rest of the world will suffer the same problems as the US, affecting the whole global market. Financial losses continue to pile up, signaling we still have a long way to go.
"You're going to continue to get write-offs from the financial sector," he added. "Investors will either look past that or periodically they are going to stare at that with shock and cause sell-offs."

Besides the writeoff, UBS will split off its investment banking unit that made it Europe's top casualty of the credit crunch—and scared off wealthy clients—a move that analysts said signals the sale of the beleaguered business.

The world's biggest banker to the rich gave in to shareholder pressure to restructure on Tuesday, admitting there were problems with its one-bank model as it reported fresh writedowns and clients withdrawals in the second quarter.

UBS joins U.S. peers Citigroup and Merrill Lynch in taking more big hits in the quarter from exposure to risky mortage assets.They remain the three hardest hit banks and investors are still worried about yet more subprime costs.

JPMorgan said trading conditions have "substantially deteriorated" in the third quarter compared with that of the second, and spreads on mortgage-backed securities and loans have "sharply widened." The estimated losses exclude hedging, the firm said.

The writedowns were partly driven by Merrill Lynch's recent decision to sell $30.6 billion in risky debt to Lone Star funds for just $6.7 billion, or about 22 cents on the dollar, FT said.Merrill's move ratcheted up pressure on rivals to cut the values of their own subprime assets as they grapple with mounting debts and weakening economies.

So keep in mind that the commodities bust will be short-lived. Oil will rise again and soon as the Euro, pound, yuan and yen continue to weaken. The dollar and the US economy is not surging forward, we're simply dragging down the rest of the world to our level.

Be prepared.

We Come Not To Praise Caesar...

...but to sift through the ashes and giggle a bit. Tom Maguire covers The Atlantic's autopsy on the Hillary Campaign.
Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence—on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to “do the job from Day One.” In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel.
We didn't want a manager, but a revolutionary. Tom brings up a good lesson however:
Had Hillary won, perhaps we would be lauding the creative ferment she created by tolerating and encouraging the factional in-fighting, and we would be deriding Barack for, I don't know, having failed to anticipate the extent of his Jeremiah Wright problem. Winners write the history; losers have it written about them.
A harsh lesson, but it doesn't make it any less true. Ask John Edwards, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, Al Gore (Nobel Prize or not, he's still inventing internets and feeding unborn children into his private jet's fuel tank) and oh, any other loser wishy washy non-Clinton Dem over the last 20 years.

Like Mike

Phelps, that is.
Michael Phelps carved his name among the Olympic greats on Tuesday, smashing another world record in the pool to join Mark Spitz and Carl Lewis in an elite group on a record nine career golds.

An imperious victory in the 200 meters freestyle also gave the 23-year-old American his third gold in Beijing as he seeks to overtake Spitz's other record, seven golds at a single Games.

Three golds down, five more chances to go.
Phelps could overtake compatriots Lewis and Spitz, "Flying Finn" runner Paavo Nurmi and Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina, all on nine golds, when he swims two more finals on Wednesday.
Most dominant Olympic athlete of all time? Hard to argue against the man should he win any more auric accoutrement. Ten gold medals would make him the best of the best, even if he does fall short of Spitz's 7 golds in one Olympics. Frankly, since the relay was his least favored event for take gold in, he could very well end up with 14 gold medals, obliterating the career mark in just two Olympic games. You'd have to put him at the top of most any sports bar/water cooler argument.

Howard And Kumar Go To Ohio

How cool is this: Howard "BYAAAAAAAAH!" Dean and Kal Penn, "Kumar" from the Harold and Kumar films, will be in town tomorrow for a DNC voter drive event over on Montgomery Road.

Try to leave your nookular bong at home.

Equal time for the Other Team: McSame has a new downtown Cincy campaign office opening on Thursday.

And finally...

Because I'm pretty sure you want me to get off the Georgia thing already, John Cole wraps the whole thing up with the important lessons.
Saakashvili thought he was a player in the game, when really he was just the ball. In fact, because of our possible behind the scenes antics, not only may we have falsely emboldened the foolish leader of Georgia, we may be responsible for a large part of the perception of him in Russia:
Second, if Russia really is entering Georgia in force, it’s about to become a different sort of game altogether. Russia has no reason to do that unless it’s gunning for regime change. Attacking Gori is right at the bleeding edge of plausible self-defense; Gori is near the border, and has been the forward base for Georgian operations in South Ossetia. But going beyond Gori, landing forces on the Georgian coast, or attacking in force out of Abkhazia, would be something else again.

There are undoubtedly plenty of people in Moscow who’d like to try. Russia’s leaders view Saakashvili as obnoxious and dangerous: for American readers, it’s sort of like how conservative Republicans feel about Fidel Castro. You know how, for fifty years now, a certain minority of Americans have entertained fantasies about landing in Havana and slamming that sonofabitch up against the wall? Like that. Except the Russians have the power to actually do it.

Maybe people are just that dumb after all.

Missed It By That Much

The always awesome Digby weighs in on Georgia.
If Bush, Cheney and their oil buddies (they only seem to get really excited these days when there's a bunch of oil or pipelines at stake) have been making promises the US can't keep, it only serves to create a sort of martyr cause for them to use down the road. In fact, it's possible that's the whole point. Push for NATO, push for military involvement, push for permanent presence. That seems to be the neoconservative longterm energy plan ---- rule the world. Same as it ever was.

Oh, and the conservos should probably soft peddle the self-righteous screeching about how the Russians broke the law and invaded for the purpose of "regime change" and occupation. I'm pretty sure we recently trademarked that particular move.

Georgia as bait for the bear in order to push for a permanent containment presence around Russia makes a disturbing amount of sense, so much so given the previous actions of this administration that it's eerily prescient. We left them high and dry just like the Iraqi Kurds in the first Iraq War, and it became the basis of our eventual second Iraq War.

The other theory is that we gave Russia the go-ahead to jack up Georgia, but we get a country to be named later (Iran? Perhaps seems too big of a prize unless you factor in that it would make Russian oil all that more valuable to Europe, but China would certainly want a voice in that mess and it's doubtful a three-way deal like that would be reached, unless China got, say, a green light in Tibet.) Still, the Georgians honestly thought they would win in the long run. Maybe they still will, if the objective was to unite the West (and its cash inflow) against Russia, and that means propping up strongmen like Georgia's lovely example of a tactician President.

It's a good deal if you can get both the US and the EU to back your "democracy".

Either way, the whole situation stinks, and we've got to drastically update our foreign policy next administration.

Even A Broken Grandfather Clock...

...is right twice a day.
Military intervention is out of the question. Economic sanctions, given Russia’s oil and Europe’s need for it, are a pipe dream. Diplomatic ostracism and moral stricture won’t even save face.

Instead, Europe — both western and eastern — along with the United States and the concerned former Soviet Republics need to sit down, conference, and plot exactly how these new democracies are to maintain their independence and autonomy in the next decade. Hopefully, they will reach the Franklinesque conclusion that “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Between getting his obligatory shots in at Russian "thugs" and the "morally bankrupt American Left" (as opposed to the morally bankrupt American Right that got us into Iraq) even Hanson has to admit we've got zilch in the quiver right now.

That's got to be a scary thing to admit to these guys, but then again, their job is to project that fear all over the American people. I expect we'll see efforts to portray Russia as even more dangerous than all those Islamofascists terrorists out there combined.

Post-Conflict Wrap-Up

I've argued that the Russo-Georgian conflict is clear proof that A) the Bush/Clinton Rent-A-Strongman foreign policy cannot work any longer in a post-"US invasion of Iraq" world, and that B) McSame is a 100% continuation of this failed policy only much more belligerent and short-tempered. I believe Obama mathematically has to be better, that he is mouthing the words but his actions will be different. I have to hope that because our current policy must change.

Other folks whose opinions I respect have come to the same conclusion.


  • The Russians have apparently decided that the Georgians have had enough. But will they, you know, actually leave?
  • Does Michael Phelps's ninth career swimming gold medal make him the Greatest ever?
  • Wachovia is the latest bank in talks with Federal regulators over auction-rate securities and the punishment for dealing in them as the market for them collapsed.
  • Many states, short on cash, are considering the "iTax" on digital downloads.
  • Got your copy of the 20th Anniversary Madden '09 yet? Two words: Online Leagues.
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