Re: What He Saw

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Sybil Vane has a post up on this over at the Bitch Collective, too. He'll sell alot of books, I'm sure. But where was all this insight when he was happily speaking on GWB's behalf?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:10 AM
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That doesn't answer the question of "Why Iraq?" It answers the question of "Why War?" but you have to look deeper to figure out what it is about Iraq that compelled him so, especially since nobody but gullible fools thought invading Iraq would transform anything.

No offense.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:11 AM
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1: me too! Me too! Me too! Obviously in mine I just swear a lot and make no real points. That's my role.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:12 AM
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The president's real motivation for the war, he said, was to transform the Middle East to ensure an enduring peace in the region.

Bull. Shit.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:13 AM
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Every argument for the Iraq war is going to be attributed to me, isn't it? I can take it!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:15 AM
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5: I actually wasn't reading you (or, really, most any blog) then, and weirdly there's a gap in my recall of the archives, so, yes.

4 gets it right. The President's real motivation for the war was to have a good ol' war he thought he could win clean and show up ol' dad. Shit, he -- and others -- said as much at the time. If this keeps little Scottie out of jail I'll be (well, I'll remain) pissed.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:17 AM
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Huh? I thought that at the time, the motivation was mostly flex our muscles, old enemy, national greatness, wartime president is King, etc. Maybe "transformation" could be applied imprecisely to the idea that we'd get an oderint dum metuant effect calming the region. But the idea of transformation to democracy? Almost entirely a later rationalization.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:18 AM
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I think the surprise is supposed to be what the memoir reveals about McClellan, not about Bush.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:19 AM
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I mean, I buy that they wanted to transform the region; I just think they figured invading somebody or other and puttin' the fear of Uncle Sam into the brown-colored-types would be enough to do it. As far as "why Iraq" you have to imagine Saudi Arabia and Likud had a fair bit of say in that one.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:22 AM
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8: that he's a coward who doesn't want to get in trouble? Big damn surprise there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:22 AM
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From 2004, a classic from PJ Crowley, "Why We Went In: Version 10.0"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:24 AM
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He's a political legacy. Weak-minded by administration standards; couldn't sustain the doublethink and had an attack of sanity.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:27 AM
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The President's real motivation for the war was to have a good ol' war he thought he could win clean and show up ol' dad. Shit, he -- and others -- said as much at the time.

I don't think there was a motivation, or even a dominant one. Invading Iraq was like going to Applebee's: everyone can get something they like, but no one gets anything done very well.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:28 AM
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11: That's great.

# Version 3.1 - Saddam tried to buy uranium ore in Niger
# Version 3.1.2 - Well, that was what the British told us
# Version 3.1.3 - Did we tell you about Joe Wilson's wife?
# Version 3.1.4 - Do you know a good lawyer?

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:29 AM
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13: and, you know, it was what they did last time, and it just seemed like the easiest option, all things considered. They knew just what targets to hit!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:30 AM
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9 gets it right. The long-standing desire to transform the region to make it friendlier to increasing US oil needs.

Yes, I realize that's a terribly written sentence fragment.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:30 AM
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I thought part of the answer to "Why Iraq" was that the administration assumed that the Iraqi army would be a pushover after a decade of sanctions.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:30 AM
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12: Yes, and he had better get used to having about 5 new assholes. Actually the interesting thing will be to see how this plays out, a test of the press. Back in '04 the useless, dickless press was willing to play along with the slandering of Richard Clark and the blackmailing of Paul O'Neill. The twist in this one is that he calls them out as well, so I think they will gang up on him big time from the high moral ground of their own pretensions. (But I do think a larger portion of the populace is seeing through this BS.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:34 AM
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I mean, I buy that they wanted to transform the region; I just think they figured invading somebody or other and puttin' the fear of Uncle Sam into the brown-colored-types would be enough to do it.

But the idea of transformation to democracy? Almost entirely a later rationalization.

Taken together, I think these comments get it about right. There were varied constituencies in the administration pursuing different (and partly incompatible agendas), and they converged on the idea of liberating Iraq from Saddam. That one explanation is right does not make all the others wrong. I'm not even convinced that GWB personally had one "real" reason; with all his advisors telling him all the wonderful consequences that would result from the invasion, the whole thing probably seemed like an egg-laying wool & milk sow.

Establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in the Middle East supported by a pliant client state other than Saudi Arabia (for whose royal family the U.S. bases were a political liability) was undoubtedly part of the grand design.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:35 AM
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Ogged is cocky and defiant now, but when the war crimes trials begin and he has to account for his actions in a court of law, he'll be singing out of the other side of his mouth.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:37 AM
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18: dude his book is BS. This is exactly the fig leaf everybody needs to prove their bona fides as tough-mindedly independent from the Bush administration exactly when it doesn't matter any longer. Who gives a crap what the press thinks, or how spunky little Scottie is in his temper tantrum? They all did their damage long since, and are looking for a face-saving out.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:38 AM
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the whole thing probably seemed like an egg-laying wool & milk sow

Yup. I suspect the dominant opinion was something along the lines of "we can't even begin to imagine all the different ways it'll be awesome!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:39 AM
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10: It sounds from what I've read elsewhere that he's surprisingly harsh for a former spokesman. Does Ari Fleischer have a memoir?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:39 AM
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23: From what I understand (I tried to avoid actually watching them), McClellan was a lot less facile and smooth-tongued than Fleischer.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:41 AM
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23: yes, and it's rather different in tone, but then again, it was published quite a while ago, and probably written shortly after Bush's reëlection.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:42 AM
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It was difficult not to appreciate, at times, Fleischer's skill. I almost wonder if he left when he realized the material he had to work with was getting too difficult.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:44 AM
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McClellan was a lot less facile and smooth-tongued than Fleischer.

Fleisher would just say anything, and he got away with it because he had a compliant press corp. I don't think "smooth-tongued" actually best describes him.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:44 AM
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Also, Fleischer's involved in Freedom's Watch, so probably still not going to write a McClellan type of memoir. Then again, Freedom's Watch is having problems getting much done.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:45 AM
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21: Well yes there is that, and it really is a different thing from those 2 books as you point out . I am actually more interested in the press reaction with regard to their own past behavior than Scottie's or Bush's.

So Tweety is right and I reject and denounce myself in 18. (But it should help cement Bush's reputation among the credible.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:45 AM
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I'd be happy to trade McClellan for Cheney, Bush or Rove. The guy is ratting in hopes of a shorter sentence. I say give it to him.

Bush really did have big international plans, which he screwed up with his fratboy ineptness, but his primary goal was the transformation of the US: militarization, the unitary Presidency, the weakening of civil liberties, deregulation, lower taxes, the complete restructuring (reduction) of government services, the remaking of the electoral system (voter suppression), Republican control of the media, Republican control of the federal bureaucracies, and the destruction of the Democratic Party.

He would have succeeded if he hadn't fucked up the Iraq War. As it is, the Democrats will have to work very hard to undo the damage. Bush's legacy is enormous; even if he only got a third of what he tried for, that's an enormous accomplishment.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:47 AM
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On the transformation of the middle east question, I wouldn't be surprised if they - or some significant subset of "they" - thought about it in Mackinder-esque terms, with Iraq standing in for "the Heartland."


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:49 AM
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The guy is ratting in hopes of a shorter sentence.

But what's he saying that's not already common knowledge? What's he saying he had specific knowledge of? What's he saying that could be used to indict anybody? He's covering his own ass whilst very careful staying on the inside of the line of things that are already out there.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:49 AM
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I'm not even convinced that GWB personally had one "real" reason

I'm convinced Bush's real reason was the 2004 election. Anything else was just fringe benefits.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:50 AM
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What's he saying he had specific knowledge of?

The Plame stuff?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:54 AM
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War crimes. Mass murder. Pure-D Nazi-level shit, in quality if not quantity.

Ya know, if Bush had walked onto the Senate Floor, shot Russ Feingold in the head as the Republican side of the aisle cheered and the Democratic side studied their desks, gotten away with it, gotten re-elected, and we were as we are talking about Obama moving on bringing the country together getting us healthcare we might have a better feeling as to where this nation is. It's dead.

Yeah,, we got a lot of real problems not enough votes for impeachment corrupt judiciary blah blah blah. The motherfucking Republicans are still there, will be as they were and in the way of solutions and progress. I hate everything that tells me c'mon fuggedaboutit and get back to normal. Normal will really suck. Might as well get weird.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:57 AM
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34: nope. He says he saw them go off in a room together at a suggestive time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:58 AM
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As KR says in 19, the whole thing was overdetermined.

It's still unclear what our strategic purpose is in being there today, which is a bigger problem going forward. The fact that there is no clear goal to accomplish means there's never a reason to leave.

The unstated goal seems to be getting some kind of pliant puppet government to the point where it no longer needs actual U.S. troops (just U.S. $) to maintain power. We haven't even settled on who the puppets should be, though.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 10:58 AM
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37: you're suggesting this is a problem to who, exactly? They don't want to leave.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:01 AM
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We're pretty much in the court of public opinion, Sifu. I don't see how McClellan could have committed actual criminal offenses. So I was speaking metaphorically.

Based on what he's said, he can be subpoened, however, for example on the Rove-Libby allegation.

It goes without saying that he's saving his own ass, but he doesn't seem to be holding back. (He says some nice things about Bush, but he doesn't let him off the hook entirely. Certainly no one will think better of Bush after reading this).

Certainly McClellan saying something has more news value than Atrios saying exactly the same thing would have, and McClellan does come forward with some new factual details. The biggest positive effect of this will be to destroy the morale of a few of the diehards and loyalists. They're pretty demented, but not all of them are completely impervious to reality, and a lot of them are crooks who won't fight for a lost cause.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:02 AM
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Right, they want a colony, it's helpful to "them". They don't want a public debate, and the lack of any goal besides "victory!" is quite useful. I mean it's a problem to people trying to use logical argument to push throught the screen of bullshit around this war.

But if there's one lesson of the last five years, it's that logical argument is useless against bullshit.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:05 AM
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40 to 38.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:05 AM
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It's still unclear what our strategic purpose is in being there today

Our strategic purpose in still being there today through January 2009 is so that the GOP can try to blame the incoming Democratic administration for "losing" Iraq, when Bush was *this close* to turning it all around.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:07 AM
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Why did McLellelan write the book?

For money. Because he can, because there will be no consequences, because his fans who buy it will consider it side-splittingly funny while they plan & prepare for the next season of atrocity. They're laughing at liberals. They have a hell of a point.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:08 AM
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42: I disagree. There's a permanent faction of the military/FP establishment playing a long game, and they will try to keep an Obama administration committed to occupying Iraq as well. There's some chance they will succeed too.

They want nothing less than a colony in the heart of the Middle East. This piece by Noam Chomsky is very interesting on the possible long-run strategic goals of the occupation.

If the United States were compelled to grant some degree of sovereignty to Iraq, and any of these consequences would ensue, Washington planners would be facing the collapse of one of their highest foreign policy objectives since the Second World War, when the United States replaced Britain as the world-dominant power: the need to control "the strategically most important area of the world." What has been central to planning is control, not access, an important distinction. The United States followed the same policies long before it relied on a drop of Middle East oil, and would continue to do so if it relied on solar energy. Such control gives the United States "veto power" over its industrial rivals, as explained in the early postwar period by influential planners....Vice President Dick Cheney made the same point, describing control over petroleum supplies as "tools of intimidation and blackmail"--when used by others.

Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:16 AM
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Oddly, Chafee's book also exonerated himself while blaming Democrats. Chafee and McClellan both accuse their putative adversaries of not playing their role well. There's nothing really unintelligible about that; they both did get disgusted and quit. Both could have done a lot better than they did at the time, but when they point fingers at the Democrats and the press they're right. (And I may add, Democrats who supported Chafee as a "moderate" have a lot to answer for too.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:17 AM
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That Chomsky excerpt seems to be arguing for a Mackinder-like approach on the part of the US.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:21 AM
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From the WaPo article, this is pretty rich:

"Like many Americans, I am concerned about the poisonous atmosphere in Washington. I wanted to take readers inside the White House and provide them an open and honest look at how things went off course and what can be learned from it. Hopefully in some small way it will contribute to changing Washington for the better and move us beyond the hyper-partisan environment that has permeated Washington over the past 15 years."

Yeah, see, the problem was partisanship, and it started with Clinton.

What a piece of shit. Fuck him and his bullshit book.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:22 AM
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Self-aggrandizement plus naive idealism; sounds like Bush to me.

It sounds nearly like the definition of an Authoritarian. Stick him in the influence of an amoral Social Dominator like Cheney and you've got the recipe for disaster.

As for 40 - logical argument is useless against Authoritarians. They can't do it and it confirms their persecution fantasies.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:24 AM
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it will contribute to changing Washington for the better and move us beyond the hyper-partisan environment that has permeated Washington over the past 15 years."

They think they can roll Obama on just about everything. I think they're right.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:26 AM
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I guess the one good thing that can come of this is that it might help remind people, in some small way, what an unbelievable series of horrors the past several years have been.

I was thinking about Apo's 33 on the way to lunch, and it had me recalling Mission Accomplished and the flight suit, and my god, what vast evil has been wrought. Always good, I suppose, to remind people of that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:27 AM
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47:

The problem is not partisanship. The problem is authoritarians haplessly "running" our country while the ultrarich loot the treasury.

All that in the context of unsustainable global 'development.'

But what do I know? I'm "crazed."


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:29 AM
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Is there anyone in the Bush administration who could give a speech/write a book that would have an impact like the famous Khruschev secret speech denouncing Stalin?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:30 AM
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42: I disagree. There's a permanent faction of the military/FP establishment playing a long game

I'm talking about GWB's motivations. Different players obviously brought a host of different ones to the table, but Bush has never exhibited any sort of capacity for understanding a long game, much less playing one.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:32 AM
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There's a permanent faction of the military/FP establishment playing a long game, and they will try to keep an Obama administration committed to occupying Iraq as well. There's some chance they will succeed too.

I absolutely agree. If I trusted Obama to successfully resist that I would be more enthusiastic about him. worship the ground he walked on. In Hillary's case, I just can't see her resisting the geopolitical guys at all once she's in office.

My theory, which jelled only recetnly, is that the military / intelligence / international relations establishment has been autonomous and dominant since 1941, and that no election result ever changed much of anything. 1973-1980 was a sort of bump on the road, but after Vietnam those guys would have needed to retool regardless of who was President, and in the end Carter played their game in Afghanistan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:33 AM
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Okay, hold the phone. I take it all back:

In another section, McClellan describes Bush as able to convince himself of his own spin and relates a phone call he overheard Bush having during the 2000 campaign, in which he said he could not remember whether he had used cocaine. "I remember thinking to myself, 'How can that be?' " he writes.

Because he was too fucked up on coke to remember, Scottie!

Seriously I want the book by Laura, after the divorce, about his drinking and memory lapses and angry spells. I want the book by the head of the NSA that lays out every single political use of wiretaps. I want the tell-all jailhouse confession by Rove where he cops to every single ratfuck.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:34 AM
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My theory, which jelled only recetnly, is that the military / intelligence / international relations establishment has been autonomous and dominant since 1941, and that no election result ever changed much of anything. 1973-1980 was a sort of bump on the road, but after Vietnam those guys would have needed to retool regardless of who was President, and in the end Carter played their game in Afghanistan.

Exactly the thesis of Carroll's House of War. The creation of a permanent standing army, and the building of the Pentagon, basically set the course.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:35 AM
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but Bush has never exhibited any sort of capacity for understanding a long game, much less playing one.

Bush has been very close, maybe closer than he is to anybody else including family, and maybe as close as anybody else in the world, to the Sauds.

I don't know what Bush knows or thinks, but Cheney didn't grow up with Bandar.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:36 AM
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the building of the Pentagon

They originally used horsehair as insulation, apparently. When the plane hit the building on 9/11, the stench of burning horsehair (and everything else) was supposedly quite something.

And the inside of that place is dingier than you might imagine.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:37 AM
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I like the idea of Scottie spending his whole time in the White House cocking his head, much like a scottie, and thinking to himself, in the purest of gawrshy tones, "How can that be?" Over and over, all day, every day.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:38 AM
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since 1941

I was reading about the late 40s a while back and I got the sense that from late 45 to 47 there was a period in which it seemed possible to scale back a lot of the military/intelligence state as part of demobilization, but once it was institutionalized with the National Security Act it was pretty much there to stay.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:38 AM
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58: well, they built it in like a year.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:38 AM
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The president's real motivation for the war, he said, was to transform the Middle East to ensure an enduring peace in the region.

Man, I'd like McClellan to write the book of my faults! "My client's real motivation for taking the young lady to dinner was just to make double-dog sure she was well fed that evening....the resulting pregnancy, of course, was regrettable, but his intentions were laudable."


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:40 AM
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53:

I thought we had the Bush thing already figured out.

Here is the son of a very powerful man who had nearly every privilege and yet was pretty much a ne'er do well. He lived in his Dad's shadow and the best he could do was playing the jokester cheerleader for God's sake. When he tried business he failed and was bailed out by his Dad's pals. He tried to drown his sorrows but even that didn't work, so he borned himself again to get a "get out of hell free" card, but even that didn't do it. He undeservably got elected President by being a useful tool and farted around with that awhile when 9/11 happened. Suddenly he had been given a divine purpose. God finally revealed his divine plan for G W Bush. What loser could turn that down? Not GW.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:41 AM
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I'm still waiting for the memoir that includes this scene.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:41 AM
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Suddenly he had been given a divine purpose. God finally revealed his divine plan for G W Bush. What loser could turn that down? Not GW.

In this particular case, B's theories about the assholishness of those called applies in spades.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:42 AM
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Is there anyone in the Bush administration who could give a speech/write a book that would have an impact like the famous Khruschev secret speech denouncing Stalin?

I doubt it. And I doubt that McClellan's memoir will be remembered beyond July.

This administration has had impressive success at squelching any violations of the omerta by insiders (O'Neill and Dilulio were not true insiders, nor was Clarke). Compare the tell-all memoirs that emerged from the Reagan administration: his budget director reveals that he cut taxes in full knowledge that huge deficits would result! his Chief of Staff revealed that he scheduled summit meetings around the advice of his wife's astrologer! McClellan's book is notable for its novelty, but don't expect it to change the terms of debate or news coverage.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:44 AM
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63 is fantastic. It should be on Bush's White House page.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:45 AM
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Reagan was successful on his own terms, though.

Just to keep everyone cheered up, the rumors and trial balloons about attacks on Iran are starting up again. (Israel, Asia Times, Lieberman, Bolton). All during 2006 I expected this, but apparently he Bush was willing to lose Congress and wanted to save his trump card for a real election. We'll see.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:48 AM
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As long as we are in the "paranoid" region of world politics - take a look at who decided what the global business world would look like after World War II. Take particular look at the 1973 meeting of the tri-lateral commission.

Or maybe "global development" and "globalization" are just a happy coincidence along with the increasing gap between rich and poor.

Yeah, I must be 'crazed.'


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:50 AM
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69 makes me sort of agree with 69.last... that took a trip into the weirder-than-I-can-really-get-there-with.

68: I dunno, the sources you mention are -- at least right now -- somewhat marginalized. I'm (extremely) cautiously optimistic, as I have been for a while now, that we'll get through the next election without that happening.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:52 AM
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Lieberman is not exactly marginalized.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:54 AM
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One last point - after WWII it was pretty much hoped that nuclear power would provide a very bright and sustainable future as far as energy was concerned.

For that reason a 'constant growth' model for the world economy was reasonable.

In my opinion the US oil peak in 1970 followed by the oil 'crisis' of 1973 should have been enough to warn the powers that be that constant growth was not sustainable, but Reagan shut that idea down and allowed the constant growth idea to become even more firmly entrenched in global economics.

So here we are. Global peak oil and no good replacement.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:55 AM
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71: not exactly, but he's increasingly (not increasingly enough, but anyhow) a man without a country.

72: I don't think there's a unitary "powers that be" in evidence. The Republicans have no interest in heeding that sort of warning, and anyhow have lots of interest in keeping growth in energy consumption linearly coupled to growth. They get the energy profits, after all.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 11:59 AM
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McClellan was never involved in policy, so how could the book be of any substance. The story of Rove and Libby going into a room and had a conversation IYKWIMAITYD is a joke.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:03 PM
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having a conversation


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:04 PM
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It was difficult not to appreciate, at times, Fleischer's skill. I almost wonder if he left when he realized the material he had to work with was getting too difficult.

Fleischer was the best press secretary GWB could have dreamed of. I sometimes watched his performances despite myself just to marvel at the skill on display. Other press secretaries understood their job as managing the flow of information to the press in such a way as to flatter the boss; Fleischer was the first to take this thought to its logical conclusion and understand his job as giving the press no information whatsoever. The press never laid a glove on him.

McClelland tried to step into the position thus redefined and couldn't do it, because he had a tragic flaw; unlike Fleischer, he was capable of feeling shame. Fleischer could do the proverbial piss on your leg and tell you it's raining, and do so while making you feel guilty for not appreciating the wonder of warm, yellow, alkaline rain. McClellan only lasted as long as he did because he maintained a strict policy of knowing nothing, so that he could give non-information with a modicum of sincerity. Once he got in a position of actually knowing something and having to fumble for an answer without lying, he couldn't hack it.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:06 PM
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Guys, let's not be too enthusiastic about replicating the winger talking points about McClellan. There are still people out there for whom McClellan's revelations will make a difference, even if we don't care. Everything isn't about us.

I'm looking forward to seeing him on Olbermann on Monday.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:14 PM
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Bush has never exhibited any sort of capacity for understanding a long game, much less playing one.

I think people underestimate his shrewdness. Also, he grew up in an environment saturated with the presuppositions of empire. You wouldn't have to be brilliant to pick up on the idea that long-run U.S. hegemony had to be maintained, and the Middle East was crucial in doing that.

In my opinion the US oil peak in 1970 followed by the oil 'crisis' of 1973 should have been enough to warn the powers that be that constant growth was not sustainable, but Reagan shut that idea down

Andrew Bacevich has made an interesting argument that the key turning point was late in the Carter presidency, with the announcement of the "Carter doctrine" on U.S. control over the Persian Gulf. He sort of sees Carter as a tragic figure, who saw where we were going but in the end couldn't resist it.

Of course, you could just argue Reagan would have done this if Carter hadn't. But U.S. militarism has unfortunately been pretty bipartisan since WWII. The resistance has come from oppositional popular movements outside of DC.

One reason I like Ron Paul and think he could be important is that he is vocally trying to bring a right-wing constituency into those oppositional movements.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:14 PM
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77: Everything isn't about us.

On here it is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:19 PM
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My theory, which jelled only recetnly, is that the military / intelligence / international relations establishment has been autonomous and dominant since 1941, and that no election result ever changed much of anything. 1973-1980 was a sort of bump on the road, but after Vietnam those guys would have needed to retool regardless of who was President, and in the end Carter played their game in Afghanistan.

This assumes that we knew in 1941 that we would win the war. Of course plans would be made, but the outcome was very much in doubt. It further assumes that the named establishment knew we would win the Cold War, which was also not a straight line development. Nefarious intent and twirling moustaches are less obvious than you seem to think.

I think 63 wins.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:27 PM
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WE HAVE RESPONSIBILITIES. AMERICA IS LOOKING TO UNFOGG-ED FOR GUIDANCE. WHAT TO THINK OF SCOTT MCLELLAN? IS ELI LAKE UGLY? NAKED MAIDS: YES OR NO?


Posted by: A Nation Confused And Adrift | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:28 PM
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the key turning point was late in the Carter presidency, with the announcement of the "Carter doctrine" on U.S. control over the Persian Gulf. He sort of sees Carter as a tragic figure, who saw where we were going but in the end couldn't resist it.

The Carter doctrine was hardly an earth-shattering novelty. It merely formalized what had previously been universally understood: that the U.S. would interpret attempts by a hostile power to gain control of Gulf oil supplies as an act of war.

Before the Shah was deposed, such a pronouncement was superfluous; the U.S. had a reliable client state in the region and a buffer against Soviet expansionism. The fall of the Shah changed the situation in ways led to the formalization of the Carter doctrine.

1. The revolution exposed the weakness of despotic puppet states and the power of revolutionary Islam (especially w/r/t the shiite majority in Iraq and the shiite minorities in other countries)
2. Left the Northern flank unguarded, a danger that was reinforced by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
3. Left the U.S. without a proximate land-based platform from which to defend the Gulf. Indeed, the most immediate consequence of the Carter doctrine was to scramble Pentagon procurement priorities in favor of enabling a mobilization from Diego Garcia in the distant Indian Ocean to defend the Gulf.

In terms of actual foreign policy priorities, I'm not sure the Carter doctrine changed anything (though more knowlegeable people should feel free to chime in). Would the U.S. still have supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan? I expect so. Supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war? Probably. Supported the North in the Yemeni Civil War? Almost certainly. Played footsie with the House of Saud? Definitely. Cultivated Jordan as an ally? Equally definitely. Intervened in Beruit? Not sure, but it's a stretch to say that the Carter doctrine demanded it.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:31 PM
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The conspiracy is in your own fevered mind, TLL. What I said was that the establishment which was quite justifiably put in place in 1941 was deeply entrenched by 1945 and has only encountered a few bumps on the road since. That's the same thing people say about the Army Corps of Engineers, the FBI, Bonneville Power, the BIA, and every other entrenched bureaucracy. Except that Defense-Intelligence-Foreign Affairs are several times bigger than all the rest of them put together.

After 1990 they were uncertain who the enemy was, but 9/11 bailed them out. 1990-2001 they claimed that an enemyless world is even more dangerous one than one with an enemy, and they were far more successful with that argument than anyone would have believed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:35 PM
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Sweet baby Jesus, I agree with Emerson. Surely, the end is nigh. (Don't call me Shirley).


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:41 PM
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Everything isn't about us.

You shut your filthy blaspheming mouth, John.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:48 PM
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Before the Shah was deposed, such a pronouncement was superfluous; the U.S. had a reliable client state in the region and a buffer against Soviet expansionism. The fall of the Shah....Left the U.S. without a proximate land-based platform from which to defend the Gulf.

And there's your Iraq war / occupation justification right there.

I think everybody basically agrees on the overall picture, except assigns slightly differing importance to different historical moments.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:48 PM
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In my opinion the US oil peak in 1970 followed by the oil 'crisis' of 1973 should have been enough to warn the powers that be that constant growth was not sustainable, but Reagan shut that idea down

What leads you to think they don't understand this, and haven't been maneuvering since Hubbard to lock in the oligarchies and positional goods?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 12:54 PM
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82: That seems broadly right, though I think there's an intervening period between WWII and the actions against Mossadegh when we're being handed responsibility for the area by the Brits. I also seem to recall that military policy acknowledged the importance of the ME oil prior to Carter, and that the Carter Doctrine had to do with the use of nukes in defense of the area. That would support your contention.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:02 PM
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87 was me

I mean this ain't rocket science. The social dynamics of a society based on land-rents moving to a economy of technology and entrepeneurs/merchants has been understood for centuries, if not not millenia. The rentiers know what will happen when the switch from oil to low-carbon energy..aw hell with it.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:03 PM
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||

Question to Them What Knows: If the Persian Gulf states decouple their currencies from the dollar, as they might, would that mean oil would no longer be effectively priced in dollars by Saudi Arabia and its ilk, or would that be an unrelated issue?

|>


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:03 PM
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86: and, of course, the only reason the Shah was in power in the first place was the coup against Mossadeq that we organized because he was going to nationalize the oil industry.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:10 PM
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If the Persian Gulf states decouple their currencies from the dollar, as they might, would that mean oil would no longer be effectively priced in dollars by Saudi Arabia and its ilk, or would that be an unrelated issue?

One does not necessarily imply the other, but they are obviously related.

Resentment about the U.S.'s privilege of seigneurage has long been an undercurrent to international economic diplomacy. To the extent that the dollar remained a stable store of value, other countries have found the dollar standard to be a convenient medium of exchange, and haven't complained too loudly. But when the U.S. has allowed its currency to depreciate, the resentment has tended to break out onto the surface. (Basically, the U.S. is the only nation that can devalue to increase the competitiveness of its exports *and* decrease the value of its external debt without simultaneously suffering a run on its currency or a loss of access to international credit.)

Saddam's Iraq started demanding payment in Euros for its oil as a finger poke to the U.S. Other oil exporters have started to take the idea more seriously since the value of their dollar holdings has declined.

If the price of oil were denominated in Euros, that would eliminate a lot of the advantage associated with pegging your currency to the dollar.

The WSJ comes at the story from the other direction: the divergent macroeconomic conditions of the US and the Gulf states raises the cost to those states of linking their monetary policy to the Fed. They are suffering the same way that Ireland did under the old EMS system; they can't use interest rate increases to tame inflationary pressures when you are locked into a monetary peg.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:19 PM
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The fall of the dollar still drives up oil prices even though the Saudis price in dollars. E.g. Europe or India can bid up the dollar price of oil using their stronger currencies.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:24 PM
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93: Yeah, that's why I never really understood why people talk about the oil being denominated in dollars as such a big deal. The reason I bet oil prices are stickier in dollars than in pounds or euros is because we consume so much of the damn stuff.

Though I'll admit that until now, I didn't know that even the London ICE denominates oil contracts in dollars. Weird.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:27 PM
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[Reagan]'s budget director reveals that he cut taxes in full knowledge that huge deficits would result!

I'm reading Way Out There in the Blue, Frances Fitzgerald's history of SDI -- really, it's a history ofthe Reagan presidency through the lens of SDI, and she recounts something from Stockman's book that I hadn't heard before; when Haig and some of the Vulcans (maybe McFarlane?) came to him to talk about DoD budgets, he threw out what he thought was a large but defensible 7% annual increase, only he realized after they left that he had agreed to a 7% annual increase starting in 1982 instead of 1980. From 1980 to 1982 the DoD was already getting something like a 20% budget hike, which Stockman thought his proposal was baking in. Then when he realized that he had done, he asked Michael Deaver to negotiate a $40 billion cut in the DoD's budget; Deaver fucked up due to a lack of understanding of the procurement process and negotiated a $4 billion cut instead of the $30 billion compromise cut he thought he was landing.

Really, this sort of ineptitude is nothing new; it's just being repeated in ever-grander and -more-ghastly form.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:31 PM
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The fall of the dollar still drives up oil prices even though the Saudis price in dollars.

True. And that's one of the major constraints on the ability of the U.S. to let the dollar decline further as a matter of policy (that, and the fear that they can only push matters so far before the rest of the world says "fuck that").

A falling dollar still hurts the oil exporters, though, 1. Because the U.S. is such a large consumer of oil, and the dollar price of oil can only climb so far before the U.S. consumer starts to cut back consumption; and 2. Because the oil exporters have vast sums socked away in dollar-denominated assets, the value of which has dramatically declined.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:32 PM
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2. Because the oil exporters have vast sums socked away in dollar-denominated assets, the value of which has dramatically declined.

This one screws China, too. Advantage: George W., the 21st-century Bismarck!


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:38 PM
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Look, everyone knows that we took out Mossadegh because he wore goofy shoes and wouldn't shut up about his damn swimming.

The critical operative was, of course, a musician who feigned an interest in swimming in order to gain entree to his inner circle.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:39 PM
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98 was me. And apparently broke the thread.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:50 PM
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100!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:50 PM
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It was a hollow victory, I assure you.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:51 PM
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Yeah, that's why I never really understood why people talk about the oil being denominated in dollars as such a big deal.

One reason it's such a big deal is that the oil market requires enormous quantities of dollars to facilitate the transactions. Countries other than the United States import about 15 billion barrels of oil per year. At $100 a barrel, that's 1.5 trillion in trade that has to be financed in dollars. Assuming, for the sake of argument, an average monetary velocity of 15, that's $100 billion in banknotes that the Fed gets to print (so to speak; obviously we're not talking about just M1 here). The time value of that money is a substantial subsidy by global oil consumers to the American economy.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 1:54 PM
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Back on the Scotty book, Glenn G. has a post up now about a discussion this morning on the Today Show with the 3 network anchors talking about what kind of job they did in the runup to the war. To Katie Couric's enormous credit, she doesn't think they did a good job. The others may need to take a few days off while their shoulders recuperate from patting themselves on the back.

They are so broken, and we are so fucked.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:01 PM
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102: Yeah, plus a lot of countries are obviously pretty lazy about hedging their currency exposure, or completely fine with the huge dollar exposure their balance of trade creates, so it's probably even more money than just that $100 billion we're talking about.

I always seem to think these things a minute too late for the comment, and to be honest I know very very little about macroeconomics anyway, so I look at it more from the trader's "why the hell aren't you properly hedged to your choice of currency benchmark!" perspective. There are undoubtedly complications I'm not seeing that stem from the sheer size of these money movements and the consequential impossibility of fully hedging them.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:03 PM
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Dispatch from Washington, where my wingnut sister has landed a non-policy job: according to the numerous friends and contacts she has in the various Republican Congressional offices, this is a good time 'to have another kind of job lined up' because 'we're not going to be here in six months.'

In other news, can anyone recommend a French press-style coffee maker that, unlike the three (!) various Bodum styles I've broken in the past nine months, is not particularly fragile? Anything made of Pyrex, or I dunno, titanium, or that ceramic they put on the shuttle?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:30 PM
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105: You know you can get replacement beakers cheaper than buying a whole new pot, right?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:37 PM
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In Pyrex, even.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:39 PM
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105: I have a Bodum press with a plastic carafe. It's probably made of bisphenol, but I haven't managed to break it, which is impressive.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:42 PM
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Wow. OK, the specific parts of 102 that I definitely didn't understand were "monetary velocity," "M1" and "time value," but the whole thing in general is opaque to me. You're saying that pricing oil in dollars is good for America because spending dollars is good for America? Regardless of whether America or Americans are either the buyer or seller?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:43 PM
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106: No, I didn't (as it turns out, two of the pots were Christmas presents, and the third was a friend giving me hers because I shattered mine. I don't even drop them! They just clink in the sink!)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:43 PM
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95: Caspar Weinberger, Reagan's Secretary of Defense, told an interviewer that he knew nothing much about military affairs and primarily saw his job as lobbying Congress for as much money as possible. There's your fiscal conservativism for you.

Weinberger had the same glittery, steely-eyed look as Rumsfeld. I'm absolutely certain that amphetamines were involved. Amphetamines make all your ideas look good.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:46 PM
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110: How do you think I know about the replacement beakers?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:47 PM
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Amphetamines make all your ideas look good.

To yourself, or to others?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:49 PM
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I hate those motherfucking French press beakers. You know when you're most likely to break something? Right before you get your morning coffee. 1/2" stainless steel would be about right.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:49 PM
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I don't know, but shivbunny is going to laugh at me for breaking another one.

Maybe this one.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:50 PM
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No, other people say dumb things like You know, in line 6 you assumed an infinite source of energy, or You know, line 9 assumes the conclusion you come to in line 42.

I suspect economists of heavy amphatamine use too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:52 PM
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115: Looks like less then 1/2" steel.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:54 PM
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I had a stainless steel one at one point from a relative, then ended up giving it to another relative after never using it because I always made drip coffee. It looked kind of like this, but I don't know if it was the same thing.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:55 PM
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Aren't drip coffee people barred from the Unfoggetariat?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 2:56 PM
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Ours is Pyrex, so they make them; a benevolent presspot.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:02 PM
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a benevolent presspot.

So banned.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:02 PM
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115, 118: My parents have the 4-cup version of that. Kind of a pain because you can't see the color of the brew before pouring. This is especially important since I tend to make tea with the french press more often than coffee, but it's still an issue with coffee.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:08 PM
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A lament for a coffee press:

Dumb motherfucker.
I can't believe I broke it
In the summer sun.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:13 PM
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63 is dead on.

Of course, Bush was surrounded (and basically protected) by people who were playing a deeper game. Some of these people had had designs on Iraq since the mid-1970s. James Mann's The Rise of the Vulcans is really good on the longstanding imperialist-paranoia ambitions of Cheney et. al.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:18 PM
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I bought this "unbreakable" (read: plastic) French press about a month ago. I'm sure it will not earn you any coffee snob points, but I find it works pretty well. I admit I am an undemanding user, though. Still, having something I'd not break while washing it in the sink ranked pretty high on my list of criteria, and so far, so good. It was pretty cheap to boot (about $27, shipping included), arrived quickly, and does the job as far as I'm concerned.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:28 PM
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is it better or worse that I use one of the goldtone filter thingies?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:32 PM
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Especially with the French press, but also while grinding, the essence of a good cup of coffee is stance. Knees slightly bent, weight evenly distributed. The equipment obsession is a category error. Be the bean.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:36 PM
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127: how wide, though?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:39 PM
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Fasting and cleansing are also important.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:39 PM
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You're saying that pricing oil in dollars is good for America because spending dollars is good for America? Regardless of whether America or Americans are either the buyer or seller?

It's not just pricing of oil in dollars. It's the fact that the dollar is an accepted medium of exchange worldwide, of which the pricing of oil is but one (very important) manifestation.

If, say, people in Argentina or Chad want to buy stuff from abroad, they can't pay in their own currency. They need to procure an international settlement currency, such as dollars. If the country as a whole wants to import more than it exports, there balance of supply and demand for the domestic currency slips out of balance. Either the country has to borrow foreign currency, or sell assets to foreigners, or allow its currency to depreciate (making imports more expensing and pricing some would-be buyers of imported products out the market).

In the U.S., we have no such worries. Foreigners will cheerfully accept our little pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on them in exchange for actual, valuable goods and services! What a hoot! This is all premised on those foreigners believing that our currency will continue to be accepted by others as legal tender, which assumption rests on certain beliefs about the willingness (or non-willingness) of the U.S. to allow inflation or exchange rate depreciation to debase it.

So seigneurage is a valuable privilege, but a great temptation as well.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:55 PM
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130: weird. As far as I can tell without doing a googlefight (because, really, people) seignorage, seigniorage, and seigneurage are both acceptable, commonly used spellings. I also found your usage of it puzzling for a while, but I think I've gotten my head around it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 3:59 PM
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131: both

Two out of three ain't bad.

130: which assumption rests on certain beliefs about the willingness (or non-willingness) of the U.S. to allow inflation or exchange rate depreciation to debase it.

Isn't it really predicated on more fundamental beliefs about the role of the US in the world economy and world affairs. Is there a dominant currency timeline available somewhere? (I assume there was a pounds to dollars shift sometime early 20th century?)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 4:23 PM
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132: Not a timeline, but this article, The World's Dominant Currency: When Currency Empires Fall by one Avinash Persaud at Whiskey & Gunpowder was an interesting read. (The pros here might have something better.) He says that pounds held on as the main reserve currency well into the 20th century.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 4:33 PM
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Interesting interview on monetary policy, or "How the Fed blew it again".

http://us1.institutionalriskanalytics.com/pub/IRAMain.asp


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 05-28-08 5:55 PM
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To come back to the point, the significance here is in the reaction of people who continue to support the President. They have the usual things to say, and seem way less credible, even to the true believers, than ever before. The delegitimization of this Admin, and Republicanism generally, is a worthwhile project, and each kick on the horse (not yet actually dead, I'm afraid) has meaning and value.


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 05-29-08 5:45 AM
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Did anyone see this quotation from Rahm Emanuel in the WaPo,
"We've put about $45 billion into Iraq's reconstruction . . . and they have not spent their own resources," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). "They have got to have some skin in the game."

Apparently a bunch of people are talking about making the Iraqis pay for their reconstruction through a loan. Ben Nelson (D-in name) and Susan Collins (R-not as bright as Snowe) have a bill proposing this.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 05-29-08 8:11 AM
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PGD,

One reason I like Ron Paul and think he could be important is that he is vocally trying to bring a right-wing constituency into those oppositional movements.

I hadn't heard that reason before but I still don't think that outweighs his barking Libertarian Lunacy.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-29-08 11:08 AM
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135:

To come back to the point, the significance here is in the reaction of people who continue to support the President.

As far as the general public is concerned Bush's support is down to the 25% authoritarian base and the only thing that would change their minds is if one of their trusted leaders like Dobson or Limbaugh came out totally against Bush.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 05-29-08 11:11 AM
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