Friday, February 08, 2008
Oil prices are at approximately $88 a barrel, although they have dropped from the record high of $100 earlier this month. As Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz recently noted in Vanity Fair, “The soaring price of oil is clearly related to the Iraq war. The issue is not whether to blame the war for this but simply how much to blame it.”
Before the war, economists were predicting that oil prices at just $75 a barrel could potentially send the U.S. economy into a recession. Therefore, the current economic situation should not come as a complete shock to the Bush administration. A look at economists’ pre-war predictions:
“A war against Iraq could cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars, play havoc with an already depressed domestic economy and tip the world into recession because of the adverse effect on oil prices, inflation and interest rates, an academic study [by William Nordhaus, Sterling professor of economics at Yale University] has warned.” [Independent, 11/16/02]
“If war with Iraq drags on longer than the few weeks or months most are predicting, corporate revenues will be flat for the coming year and will put the U.S. economy at risk of recession, according to a poll of chief financial officers.” [CBS MarketWatch, 3/20/03]
“If the conflict wears on or, worse, spreads, the economic consequences become very serious. Late last year, George Perry at the Brookings Institution ran some simulations and found that after taking into account a reasonable use of oil reserves, a cut in world oil production of just 6.5 percent a year would send the United States and the world into recession.” [Robert Shapiro, former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, 10/2/02]
“Gerd Häusler, the IMF’s director of international capital markets, said that ‘purely from a financial markets perspective, a serious conflict with Iraq would not be a very healthy development.’ … Häusler said there could be a repeat of what happened in 1990 following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, when there was a sharp rise in oil prices.” [World Bank, 9/02]
MoveOn has a petition here to tell Congress to “quickly pass a stimulus package” that helps mitigate this “Iraq recession.”
UPDATE: Martin at Scholars and Rogues has more.
QUESTION: Dana, how can the president give a great financial boost to help the ailing economy when it’s being held down by $9 billion a month to pay for the Iraq war? How is he going to really bring that together?
PERINO: Well, I don’t — you know, we’ve been at war, as you know, since September 11th, the day after September 11th, when the president decided we were going to take the fight to the enemy. And during the past several years, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, during those years that we’ve been at war, this economy has been very strong. We’ve had 52 consecutive months of job growth.
And fighting the war and making sure our troops have what they need is going to be imperative to the safety of this nation. The president does not apologize for spending money on national security.
Going forward, what the president wants to do in this short-term package is to make sure that we get enough money moving in the economy so that we can avoid the potential risks of a downturn.
QUESTION: I’m not saying apologize, but that is a fact that on your books, if you’re saying you have a checkbook, you’re writing out your checks for the $9 billion a month, and then you still have other things. You say you want to give incentives to businesses, financially, I guess, and tax relief to consumers. How do you balance those books, though…
PERINO: I think I would flip it around and say I think that members of Congress might be able to find some of their pet projects and their earmarks that they could eliminate, that could help with this package. We’re talking about, you know, 1 percent of GDP that’s going to be robust enough to be able to have an impact.
But the president is certainly not going to shortchange our troops. One of the most important things he can do is make sure that the economy stays strong, that it supports all Americans and it certainly supports the troops.
And it supports the economies overseas as well, in terms of if you look at places like Iraq, we’ve been able to help them over the past several years, as they’re getting their democracy under way, but their economy is starting to improve as well. And so we can start transferring over to the Iraqis more of that responsibility. And the Iraqis right now, I think today, are talking through their budget for 2009. And they’re moving forward in a way that we would want them to. And they were going to take up a lot more responsibility to pay for their own security and their roads and bridges and their schools, all the things that we pay for here.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
WASHINGTON — At the time that the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed videotapes of the interrogations of operatives of Al Qaeda, a federal judge was still seeking information from Bush administration lawyers about the interrogation of one of those operatives, Abu Zubaydah, according to court documents made public on Wednesday.
The court documents, filed in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, appear to contradict a statement last December by Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director, that when the tapes were destroyed in November 2005 they had no relevance to any court proceeding, including Mr. Moussaoui’s criminal trial.
It was already known that the judge in the case, Leonie M. Brinkema, had not been told about the existence or destruction of the videos. But the newly disclosed court documents, which had been classified as secret, showed the judge had still been actively seeking information about Mr. Zubaydah’s interrogation as late as Nov. 29, 2005.
The destruction of the tapes is under investigation by the Justice Department and Congress.
One of the documents, a motion filed by Mr. Moussaoui’s lawyers to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, cites several instances in 2005, including one after the videotapes were apparently destroyed, when government lawyers produced documents to the court that came from the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah.
The document states that on Nov. 29, 2005, government lawyers produced documents, including “intelligence summaries,” about Abu Zubaydah but never told the court about the existence or destruction of the tapes.
A response that was filed to the appeals court by federal prosecutors remains classified, government officials said. Mr. Moussaoui was convicted of terrorism-related charges in 2006, and the government officials said that last month an appellate judge had denied a motion by his lawyers, who argued that the destruction of the C.I.A. tapes meant the Moussaoui case should be sent back to a district court.
The tapes destroyed by the C.I.A. documented the interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah and a second Qaeda operative, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, according to current and former intelligence officials.
After The New York Times notified C.I.A. officials in December that it intended to publish an article about the destruction of the tapes, General Hayden issued a statement to employees.
In it, General Hayden said he understood that the tapes were destroyed “only after it was determined they were no longer of intelligence value and not relevant to any internal, legislative or judicial inquiries — including the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.”
Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, said Wednesday: “The rulings in this case are clear, and the director stands by his statement. Nothing has changed.” A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, said he could not comment on the unsealed documents.
It is unclear whether the C.I.A. notified federal prosecutors in the Moussaoui case about the existence and destruction of the tapes before the matter became public. But one of the documents released Wednesday, a letter from Chuck Rosenberg, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said a prosecutor in the Moussaoui case “may have been told in late February or early March 2006” about the Abu Zubaydah videotapes, but “does not recall being told this information.”
The papers made public on Wednesday were filed in the appeal of Mr. Moussaoui, who was sentenced to life in prison by Judge Brinkema, of the Eastern District of Virginia, in May 2006. The documents were filed in December under seal and made public this week with some redactions.
Mr. Moussaoui attended a flight school in Oklahoma in 2001 but was arrested in Minnesota on immigration charges before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He admitted in 2005 to participating in terrorist plotting with Al Qaeda.
The new documents also raised new questions about a letter sent to Judge Brinkema in October by prosecutors in the Moussaoui case.
In that letter, prosecutors acknowledged that two declarations filed in the case by C.I.A. officials were inaccurate. The C.I.A. officials had denied the existence of video or audiotapes of interviews of certain Qaeda suspects, but the letter said the C.I.A. in fact had two videotapes and one audiotape of interrogations.
Intelligence officials have said the three tapes, which still exist, are separate from the hundreds of hours of videotape of Abu Zubaydah and Mr. Nashiri that were destroyed. It is unclear why the October letter did not mention those tapes or their destruction.
William "Bertram Scudder" Kristol of the New York Times is a douchebag.
by EllisWeiner at HuffPo
February 6, 2008
Fans of smug, mendacious propagandists for plutocracy and militarism: rejoice. William Kristol, who cannot write "get milk, rye bread" on a Post-It without doing so in bad faith, has delivered of himself a paragraph, in his quickly-becoming-self-parodistic column in the New York Times, which raises the envelope of dishonesty and stretches the bar of disingenuousness in exciting new dimensions:
The American conservative movement has been remarkably successful. We shouldn't take that success for granted. It's not easy being a conservative movement in a modern liberal democracy....
Especially when it's not remotely "conservative," but never mind. From the people who put the "con" in Neo-con comes the New Triumphalism: a whiny, self-pitying cry of victory as every element and detail of their project is revealed to have been a lie, a scam, a shakedown, a fraud, and a failure. Except, of course, for the money. Everyone -- from Rumsfeld to Cheney, from the chief commander of Blackwater to the Commander in Chief in the White House (who told the unbearable Chris Matthews, in pitch-perfect Idiot Sophomore, that he intends, as soon as he retires, to "replenish the old coffers") -- will have got their money.
What do the rest of us get? Validation: Reading Kristol, our every prejudice is confirmed. Conservatives (i.e., "movement conservatives," the neo-cons and their fellow travelers, not to be confused with actual conservatives) really are the brainy-but-repressed hyper-dorks of one's high school memory, for whom political debate is an act of revenge against reality, and feeling-right is inseparable from feeling-vindicated.
It's not easy to rally a comfortable and commercial people to assume the responsibilities of a great power.
This, with all the explicit pretension of Miss America announcing her desire to "help people," is the Neo-Con Fantasy: We are the fat, complacent beneficiaries of...dare one call it a too-successful bourgeois society? Whatever. In any case, They are the clear-eyed visionaries, who for our own good must trouble us to attend to History's summons.
Note, shown here in its native environment, the deep right-wing concern with "responsibility" as, inevitably, it applies only to others. A chicken hawk may be a chicken but, God damn it, he's also a hawk. He knows your responsibility when he sees it. Bonus points, too, for "...a great power," hinting at the favorite trope of wing-nut commentators (and hack science fiction writers) everywhere, i.e., that of the "mature society."
It's not easy to defend excellence in an egalitarian age.
Tell me about it -- especially when so many of those doing the defending -- your Kristols, your Podhoretzes, your Goldbergs and, yes, your Bellows -- are legacy hires and/or winners of the nepotism lottery.
It's not easy to encourage self-reliance in the era of the welfare state.
Here, in a mere 13 words (assuming "self-reliance" counts as one), is a book's worth of "conservative" hypocrisy and self-serving. First, the lofty moral intent, so beloved of missionaries and imperialists. Kristol has manfully taken it upon himself to encourage right behavior in others. No, don't bother thanking him. Virtue is its own reward.
But, as is always the case when reading neo-con prescriptions of how others should live, some vocab clarification proves helpful. Clip and save for future reference:
When billionaires get tax breaks, they receive "incentives." When working class families get food stamps, they're the perpetrators (and the victims, really) of "the welfare state." When government serves corporations, it's "a partnership." When government serves individuals, it's "socialism." When William Kristol rides his father's contacts and reputation to a sinecure insulated from any commercial or marketplace consequences -- and suffers not an ounce of setback for having been wrong about everything -- he's showing "self-reliance." When you ask that the FTC at least protect your children from poison in Chinese toys, you're encouraging "the nanny state." Clear?
It's not easy to make the case for the traditional virtues in the face of the seductions of liberation, or to speak of duties in a world of rights and of honor in a nation pursuing pleasure.
"Not easy"? Dude, it's freakin' impossible. But don't blame us, man. Where was Kristol on 9/11? Didn't he hear his beloved Preznit Bush encourage us to go shopping? Even Bush -- gun-slingin', straight-talkin' neo-con hero and, therefore, exemplar of responsibility, self-reliance, and traditional virtue -- conflated "duties" with "pursuing pleasure."
We have "unpacked" barely two column inches out of 16 and a half of this smooth-faced boobie's op-ed, and already it reads like the transcript of the ravings of a schizophrenic. After seven years of sheer failure, corruption, and ineptitude, Kristol sees something "remarkably successful." In the midst of a titanic repudiation of the policies and personalities he's championed for a decade, he wags his finger and lectures us on "duties." At the head of a parade of hypocrites, criminals, and torturers, he wishes to advise us about "honor." He gazes out his paid-propagandist's office window at a country beset with anxieties about jobs, money, health, aging parents, plunging real estate values, conniving drug companies, terrorism real and imagined and hyped, permanently high gas prices, rigged elections, and the real possibility of a generation succumbing to an inescapable downward mobility, and what does he see? "A nation pursuing pleasure."
Who does he think he is? Who does he think we are? And seriously, Pinch: What would this clown have to write to make him unworthy of the Times?Cross-posted at What HE Said.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
President Bush: The [military] families gathered here understand that our troops want to finish the job. [Link]
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): I want to — and I want to tell you something, sir. I just finished having Thanksgiving with the troops, and their message to you is — the message of these brave men and women who are serving over there is: Let us win. Let us win. [Link]
Yet U.S. troops disagree. Yesterday, the Center for Responsive Politics reported that members of the military donated the most not to McCain, but to two anti-war candidates:
Individuals in the Army, Navy and Air Force made those branches of the armed services among the top contributors in the 4th Quarter, ranking No. 13, No. 18 and No. 21, respectively. In 2007, Republican Ron Paul, who opposes U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the top recipient of money from donors in the military, collecting at least $212,000 from them. Barack Obama, another war opponent, was second with about $94,000.
These donations reflect the military’s disapproval with the Iraq war and President Bush’s handling of it. A recent Military Times poll found that just 46 percent of U.S. troops now believe that the country should have invaded Iraq, and only 30 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the war.