Friday, August 15, 2008

Putting It All Together

At AmericaBlog, John Aravosis arrives at the crux of McSame's hard-on for small Eastern European countries with oil.
Earlier this week John McCain declared that all Americans are (former Soviet) Georgians, oddly comparing the "crisis" in Georgia, a country most Americans have never heard of, nor do they need to ever hear of it, to the Soviet occupation of Berlin. Then it hit me. No wonder McCain has devoted the entire week to talking about the Georgian cris. As has already been reported, McCain's top foreign policy adviser took hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby for Georgia. And now, suddenly, John McCain devotes an entire week of his campaign to championing the cause of a government that paid his top foreign policy aide hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But why should Johnny Mac pretend that there's a conflict of interest? He's sooooooo good at ignoring reality and history already.

So Much Stupid I'm Going To Need A Second Machete cut through it all.
Once again, the Europeans, and their friends in the pusillanimous wing of the US Left, have demonstrated that, when it come to those postmodern Olympian sports of synchronized self-loathing, team hand-wringing and lightweight posturing, they know how to sweep gold, silver and bronze.
Because you got the "straw-man shooting, team reality-ignoring, and lightweight logic" medals down pat, Skippy.

There's a routine now whenever some unspeakable act of aggression is visited upon us or our allies by murderous fanatics or authoritarian regimes. While the enemy takes a victory lap, we compete in a shameful medley relay of apologetics, defeatism and surrender.
Unless we're the ones committing these unspeakable acts like bombing and killing thousands of Iraqis and Afghans and then screaming about how we were right to do so, but who's counting?

The initial reaction is almost always self-blame and an expression of sympathetic explanation for the aggressor's actions. In the Russian case this week, the conventional wisdom is that Moscow was provoked by the hot-headed President Saakashvili of Georgia. It was really all his fault, we are told.

It was. Remember, Georgia invaded South Oseetia first. What Russia did was a direct result of that.

What's more, the argument goes, the US and Europe had already laid the moral framework for Russia's invasion by our own acts of aggression in the past decade. Vladimir Putin was simply following the example of illegal intervention by the US and its allies in Kosovo and Iraq.

Which is true. This does not make Putin right. It makes him following our lead as the bastion of democracy in the free world.

It ought not to be necessary to point out the differences between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Mr Saakashvili's Georgia, but for those blinded by moral relativism, here goes - Georgia did not invade its neighbours or use chemical weapons on their people. Georgia did not torture and murder hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Georgia did not defy international demands for a decade and ignore 18 UN Security Council resolutions to come clean about its weapons programmes.

It ought not to be necessary to point out what Saddam Hussein did was wrong as well. What he did wasn't justification for invasion of Iraq and killing far more people than he ever did. Equally, it ought not to be necessary to point out that two wrongs don't make a right. In this case, four wrongs (Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia, Russia's invasion of Georgia, the US invasion of Iraq, and Saddam's brutal crimes against his own people) dont' make a right. But thanks for playing, Gerry.

Note the international community is trying Radovan Karadzic in a court of international law. We could have subjected Saddam to this as well...but Serbia isn't full of oil.
And unlike Iraq under Saddam, Georgia is led by a democratically elected president who has pushed this once dank backwater of the Soviet Union, birthplace of Stalin and Beria, towards liberal democracy and international engagement.
We have a democratically elected President as well. It doesn't make him automatically morally correct in all things, as I've pointed out.

The Kosovo analogy has a more resonant ring of plausibility to it and has been heavily exploited by the Russians in defence of their actions. But it too is specious. It is true that South Ossetia and Abkhazia, like Kosovo within Serbia, are ethnic-minority-majority regions within a state that they dislike. But that's where the parallel ends.

Unlike Serbia, Georgia has not been conducting a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the people of these provinces. In the 1990s Serbia had firmly established its aggressive intentions towards its minorities with ugly genocidal wars against Croatia and Bosnia. And in any case the two Georgian enclaves have been patrolled by Russian “peacekeepers” for the past 15 years.

Kind of silly for the democratically elected President of Georgia to choose to aggressively invade them, eh?

We need to be morally clear about what is going on in Georgia. Perhaps Mr Saakashvili was a little reckless in seeking to stamp out the separatist guerrillas. But to suggest that he somehow got what he deserved is tantamount to saying that a woman who dresses in a miniskirt and high heels and gets drunk in a bar one night is asking to be raped.

Your analogy is...disingenous at best, insulting and idiotic at worst. Georgia didn't get drunk. It invaded South Ossetia with tanks. It did that same thing you're so angry at Russia with, only it did it first. Did this justify what Russia then did? No. Both Georgia and Russia were in the wrong here, and people died because of it.

If shifting moral blame won't relieve us of our responsibilities then surely defeatism will. Whoever is right or wrong, the critics say, we can't do anything about it. In the past week, the familiar parade of clich├ęs has been rolled out to explain why it is all hopeless. The Russian bear, pumped up by all that oil wealth, is reasserting power in its own backyard. The US and Europe, their energy sapped by endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, can only stand by and watch.

There's something odd about listening to European governments speak about the futility of diplomacy. They are the ones who usually insist that military force alone can achieve little and who say that diplomacy must be given a chance. But now they seem to say that, since we can't stop Russia militarily, there is nothing else we can do.

Actually, the argument is there's nothing the US and Europe can do MILITARILY. Diplomacy indeed was employed. Just not by the US, with Secretary of State Condi Rice, America's top Russia expert, refusing to interrupt her vacation over this. Some diplomacy.

But we can make life very uncomfortable for Mr Putin. Russia is not the Soviet Union. Its recent (relative) prosperity depends on its continuing integration into the global economy. It sets great store by the recognition that it gains from a seat at the high table with the great powers in the G8. It wants to elevate that status farther by joining the World Trade Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Punitive measures will hurt us too, of course: Russia could cause trouble over Iran and holds an alarmingly large quantity of US official debt. It could play havoc with the West's energy supplies.

Here you are actually largely correct. We can indeed take sanctions against Russia. Russia is large enough to take sanctions of its own against both the EU and the US.

The Europeans don't much like the idea of any of this. So this week they demonstrated the same sort of resolve that they showed in the Balkans in the early 1990s, when they stood by as genocide unfolded on their own continent.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, in his capacity as head pro tempore of the EU, came back from a trip to Moscow and Tbilisi, waving a piece of paper and acclaiming peace in our time.

But the one-sided ceasefire that he negotiated was more or less dictated to him by Mr Putin. It not only left the Russian military in place in the disputed enclaves. It allowed them free rein to continue operations inside the rest of Georgia.

That disastrous piece of European diplomacy finally seems to have stirred the US into tougher action. Goaded by John McCain, who has been brilliantly resolute in his measure of Russian intentions over the past few years, the Bush Administration at last dropped its credulous embrace of Mr Putin and upped the ante with direct military assistance to Georgia and threats of tougher diplomatic action.

But we should never forget what Mr Sarkozy and his EU officials got up to this week. There can be no clearer indication of the perils that threaten the West if the EU gets its way and wins more clout in the world.

The alternative to this process, invading offending countries in the name of liberation and regime change, has worked so well...

This, remember, is the same EU that wants to take over foreign and security policy from member states, an institution that is always eager to pump itself up at the expense of democratic institutions in those member states, but which crumbles into puny submission when faced with authoritarian bullying overseas.

It was a great Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympic movement on the famous principle that “the important thing is not winning but taking part”.

The EU today seems to have adapted that slogan to fit its own desired global role - the important thing is taking part and not winning.

Nobody "wins" in a conflict like this. There are only losers. Like this article.

This Week On Dirty Jobs

Some rather disturbing footage of a TV reporter on the ground in Georgia under fire while on the job and carrying on with her work after getting shot at and grazed.

Just a little perspective. This is real, folks. I may crack jokes about the situation, but let's try not to forget that live bullets are designed to hurt things, and are pretty effective at it.

A Series Of Toobs

Epic Republican Netroot Attack Fail in three easy steps:

1) Be a Republican incumbent in Congress. This already means you're losing the fight. Today's contestant is Rep. Virgil Goode from VA's 5th.

2) Neglect to do your homework when attacking netroots supports for your Democratic opponent, in this case Tom Pereillo.

3) Commit Epic Failitude when your opponent's vast network of soul-devouring liberal evil ends up being a 14-year old who just outsmarted you on the intarwebs.

Stimulus -- Response

Steve Niva has a pretty fascinating article up at CounterPunch explaining the rise of the female suicide bomber in Iraq. What makes it fascinating is Niva's position that the change has nothing to do with gender politics of women in Muslim countries or the supposition that the surge is making it harder to carry bigger bombs (as we've been told by the media on a number of occasions) and everything to do with the fact it's a relatively intelligent tactical shift on the part of the insurgency.
The escalation in female suicide bombings across Iraq has led to a flurry of media efforts to identify a specifically gender-based motivation for this increase, resulting in a bewildering array of psychological and cultural explanations about what is allegedly driving the "mind of the female bomber." The rise in Iraqi female bombers, we have been told, is the result of depression, despair, revenge, cultural subordination to men, sexual abuse, and a host of other factors largely attributed to their gender. For example, a long New York Times article alleged that most female suicide bombers suffer from depression or a lack of purpose in the wake of a male family member's loss, whether due to death or detention by the U.S. military. The article also referred to the influence of "oriental culture" and sexual abuse on women's choices, suggesting that the subordinate role of Sunni women in rural, conservative families is what drew them to undertake suicide attacks.

The relentless search for a gender-based explanation to account for the increase in Iraqi female bombers, however, is fatally flawed for two important reasons.

In the first place, the journalistic search for a gender-based motivation for Iraqi female suicide bombers has done little more than illustrate that there is simply no single demographic or psychological profile for them. According to various accounts, some are single and some are married, and while some have expressed depression over lost loved ones or relatives, others have simply expressed a desire for revenge, and still others have expressed strong nationalist or religious reasons for taking such desperate actions against a foreign occupier.

Such diverse motivations among Iraqi female bombers affirm the growing consensus among scholars of suicide bombings more generally that there is simply no single profile for suicide bombers of any gender, except for the fact that suicide bombings are largely undertaken in a context of foreign military occupation, where the primary individual motivation for both men and women is opposition to occupation combined with a variety of personal grievances. While pointing out that "95 percent of female suicide attacks occurred within the context of a military campaign against occupying forces," one student of female suicide bombings, Lindsey O'Rourke, concluded in a largely corrective op-ed in the New York Times that "the main motives and circumstances that drive female suicide attackers are quite similar to those that drive men."

But secondly, and more importantly, the search a gender-based motivation for female suicide bombers ultimately tells us very little about why there has been such a dramatic upsurge in Iraqi women committing suicide bombings now, and only since the U.S. military adopted its "surge" strategy in 2007. The question of timing and context is paramount. It is highly doubtful that Iraqi women only began confronting depression or despair over lost family members, let alone conservative cultural norms, after 2007.

Maybe if we got out of Iraq, there would be fewer suicide bombers in Iraq? Just saying.

Global No-Confidence Vote: Underwater And Sinking

Your assignment today is to read your Roubini. It's a bit weighty, but important. We're starting the backslide into the twilight, folks. I'll highlight the important bits for you.
Recent economic, financial and geopolitical events suggest that the decline of the American Empire has started. After the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a brief period where the world switched from a bipolar balance of two superpowers to a unipolar world with one economic, financial, geostrategic superpower, or better, hyperpower, i.e the United States. But by now three factors suggest that the US has squandered its unipolar moment and that the decline of the American Empire – as the US was in effect a global empire – has started.

Let us explain how and why...

First, the US squandered its power by relying excessively on its hard military power in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan and in its unilateralist foreign policy – including economic issues such as global warming - rather than relying more on its soft power of diplomacy and multilateralist approaches to global policy issues.

Second, regardless of mistaken US policies the rise of other economic and financial powers – the rise of China, the recent resurgence of Russia, the process of economic and political integration in the European Union, the emergence of India, and the rise of other regional powers such as Brazil, South Africa and Iran – implies that the relative economic, financial and geopolitical power of the US will be reduced over time. We are indeed slowly moving towards a multipolar world where there will be a balance of Great Powers rather than the hegemony of a single hyperpower. While on military terms the US is still the only superpower even its military power is now restricted by imperial overstretch and its armed forces being bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan; thus, Russia has now been able to flex its muscle in its Central Asian backyard and humiliated the US – not just Georgia – in the latest conflict on South Ossetia. For the Bush administration having supported Georgia by words only and show its impotence – or unwillingness - to support an ally in spite of the administration push to have Georgia join NATO shows the limits of the American power. The US is at fault for effectively letting Georgia start a reckless attack on South Ossetia. Russia has scary and dangerous neo-imperial goals but deeply flawed US foreign policy of encircling a paranoid Russia allowed the worst nationalist tendencies of the Russian bear to reemerge.

Third, and more important, the US squandered its economic and financial power by running reckless economic policies, especially its twin fiscal and current account deficits. The last time around the current account started to go into negative territory in 1991 after a brief surplus during the 1990-91 recession. In the 1990s the growing US current account deficit was driven by a private investment boom – the internet technological revolution – and thus the accumulation of foreign liabilities of the US was driven by FDI and M&A activity, i.e the US accumulated foreign liabilities in the form of equity rather than debt. But since 2001 the further worsening of the US current account deficit was driven instead by growing fiscal deficits - especially in the 2001-2004 period – caused by unsustainable tax cuts and by the buildup of spending on foreign wars and on domestic security and since 2002 by the collapse of household savings and boom in investment in unproductive stock of housing capital that the housing bubble induced. And while the weak dollar is now inducing a modest improvement of the external deficit the looming sharp increase in fiscal deficits - that the current recession and financial crisis is inducing - will cause a return of twin deficits in the coming years. By now the US is the biggest net borrower in the world – running current account deficits still in the 700 billion dollars range – and the biggest net debtor in the world with its foreign liabilities now over 2.5 trillion dollars.

Let's review, class. 1) We did some really cool stuff after the USSR fell, but we got cocky and made assholes out of ourselves over the last 20 years. 2) Everybody else saw what we did right, copied it, and left out the stupid mistakes we made like invading a country halfway around the world. Twice. 3) Those mistakes we made are now costing us trillions (yes, with a T) and the other countries footing the bill are realizing that it's economic stupidity to let us get away with borrowing $2.5 trillion to throw a $3 trillion dollar war.

Result? The fun is now over. The pain is already beginning for many of us.

It will only get worse...much worse. Even the good news is bad right now. Take for example the housing rebound in Cleveland.

The good news in the worst housing slump since the Great Depression is that the market in Cleveland is recovering. That's also the bad news.

The Cleveland area led the nation for home price gains in April and May with an 18 percent jump in the lowest price tier of the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index after values fell to levels last seen in 2000. The median home price was $117,500 in the second quarter, 15 percent higher than the prior three months, the National Association of Realtors said in a report today.

A housing revival in this city of 438,000 on the shore of Lake Erie may portend deeper drops in U.S. markets. Prices for entry level homes in Cleveland had to tumble 37 percent from a September 2005 peak to an almost 11-year low in March before enticing first- time buyers. That may be a sign that U.S. markets with the biggest price increases during the 2000 to 2005 boom have much further to fall before stabilizing, said David Blitzer, chairman of Standard & Poor's Index Committee.

``The areas of the country that saw prices go through the roof and then fall into the basement won't be the first ones to see an upturn,'' Blitzer said in an interview. ``It's more likely to come in a place like Cleveland or other Midwestern cities that largely missed the boom.'' Cleveland never experienced the big home-price gains of its coastal counterparts such as New York or San Francisco.

Gains were more modest as Cleveland, like other cities in the Midwest, saw jobs in steel, automotive and manufacturing shipped overseas.

In other words if you start expecting that housing prices in the US will begin to stabilize in 2009-2010 at 35-40% below market highs across the country, that's a total economic meltdown. Housing prices have already plummeted 15-20%. Another 20-25% will annihilate our economy. Already the drop in housing has been enough to trigger talk of a global recession. Another equally bad drop over the next 12 months will spell disaster for the US. Trillions in real estate value will vanish and as Roubini has pointed out, we're already trillions and trillions in the hole from the Bush years.

Whoever our next President is, they will be facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It's vitally important to understand this, becuase it should be the basis of your vote this November. You will most likely be losing another 15% or so off the value of of your home. Already, a full one-third of all people who bought a home in the last five years owe more on their homes than the home is worth. Another 15-20% drop in home equity values will push millions and millions more American families into this position -- the "underwater mortgage" -- and our economy and the world economy will all suffer greatly over the next several years.

Among Americans who bought homes since the beginning of 2003, some 29.1% are in negative equity according to research by, an online specialist in house values. For those who bought in 2006, as many as 45% have mortgages under water in comparison to the sale value of their property.

"For homeowners who need to sell, this is a gravely serious situation," Stan Humphries, Zillow's vice-president of analytics, told Bloomberg News.

"It can also be harmful to communities where the number of unsold homes adds more houses to inventory and puts downward pressure on prices."

The latest figures on house prices showed a year on year drop of 9.9%.

Worst hit are previously booming areas such as Los Angeles, where prices are down 27%, and Las Vegas, which has seen a drop of 21%.

Citigroup's housebuilding analyst, Josh Levin, yesterday predicted that property prices could continue falling through 2010 and possibly 2011.

While many of us would like to see strong progressive programs in place under a new Obama administration, the reality of the situation is that this economic disaster will dominate the entire 2009-2013 term and the money for these programs will not be there. Many tough economic choices are going to have to be made, but all of them start with America getting back on financial track by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We simply cannot afford them anymore.

Not only is ending the war morally correct, financially it is the only way to save our economy. We're staring at a multi-trillion dollar collapse triggering the loss of hundreds of trillions in derivatives that will decimate the global financial system if we do nothing. Obama at least seems to recognize this danger. McSame does not understand the danger ahead, and he has admitted as such. More than anything else, this is the logic behind who I am voting for in November. I'm hoping that more people will come to realize this logic as well.

Cross-posted over at BooMan Tribune.

You Forgot Poland

Seems that infamous Bush-Kerry debate point of "You forgot Poland!" has paid off in the long run now that we can stop pretending that Eastern European missile shield nonsense isn't there specifically because of our good friends, the Russians.
Poland and the United States have signed a preliminary deal to place part of a U.S. ballistic missile defense system in Poland, a plan that has drawn sharp objections from Russia.
Of course it would.
The United States has also agreed to help Poland modernize its military, which it requested as a condition of its support for housing the missile defense system.

"Our political and military cooperation moves to a different higher level." Radoslaw Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, said, after the signing.

Thursday's agreement comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and Russia over Moscow's invasion of Georgia, a U.S. ally.

A highly placed source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told CNN that the agreement between Washington and Poland was clearly aimed at deterring Russia, not preventing rogue missile attacks from Iran. The latter has been cited as a reason for installing the defense system.
Given the history of the country, you really can't blame Poland for not wanting to being invaded again by Large Country With they let the US in without the whole invasion stigma and let us deal with em. We've done a bang-up job so far. Gee, I wonder how much money "modernizing Poland's military" is gonna cost us. Should Poland get invaded, we can always loan them Patrick Swayze. WOLVEREEEEEEEENS!


  • Stopping Michael Phelps is not an option, and containment is out of the question.
  • 9/11 families lose their case to sue the Saudi Royal Family.
  • Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is in fact a Democratic superdelegate and is hoping to get to go to the convention. The Obama camp has replied by saying he needs to just go. Away. Period.
  • The Feds reveal more of their case against Senator Toobs.
  • After close to five years, the most anticipated and controversial PC game in quite some time, EA's Spore, has gone gold, green-lighting a September 7 release date.
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