Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Taking a page from Rummy's playbook

The latest market travails and inability to stem job losses reminded me that one of the things that was so frustrating for me in the chaotic aftermath of the Iraq invasion was that it didn't have to be that way. A carefully thought out occupation and integration plan would have gone a long way towards producing the outcome that Mr. Bush had envisioned. The problem was that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld saw the Iraq War as an opportunity to promote his agenda of transforming a long moribound military into a 21st Century fighting force. Transforming the military was and is a laudable goal. Focusing resources on light, rapidly deploying forces with a heavy reliance on emerging technologies was the logical next step after the end of the Cold War. Unfortunately, Mr. Rumsfeld's rigid adherence to transformative strategies left us with too few boots on the ground and too many ad-hoc decisions on the fly. We had attempted to get inside the enemy's decision cycle and instead had found them inside of ours and without the means to defeat them. It wasn't until we dispensed with "fighting the war with the Army you have" and replaced it with fighting with the Army you need to win (i.e. the surge) that the fortunes of the Iraqi people turned around. One might argue that this (long overdue) flexibility was the most transformational measure of all.

So how is the bungled Iraq war like our faltering economy? Simply, it is the most important task before us but agenda driven politicians are using it as an opportunity to transform government institutions in ways that might be laudable but are hardly stimulative. It is possible, even likely in a Keynesian world, that transformative measures can be stimulative. However, when they are used, at best, to re-create obsolete institutions or, at worst, to simply further a political agenda, without regard for job creation or economic stimulus they serve only to distract from those vital goals. The Democrats in Congress have larded up the Stimulation Package with so many of these "progressive" ideas that have been sitting on their desks for 20 years that the bill cannot possibly fulfill it's mandate: saving our economy. Ms. Pelosi, meet Mr. Rumsfeld. You have both hijacked worthy causes to promote your pet causes.


  1. I just spent 15 minutes typing a comment that fucking blogspot nuked when I previewed it. So dude, fix your preferences please.

    The gist was that your paragraph one could have one last sentence appended to it: "And oh yeah, Rumsfeld was a megalomaniacal douche."

    As for para two - you know I'm going with your "at worst" motive, though I think it can be simplified a bit. Every political agenda can be boiled down to most politicians one and only real goal, which is reelection. And since most of the electorate have begun to believe it's the government's job to fix things that aren't working for them personally, and that doing something, anything, is progress, we can expect to see Congress sign up for any "stimulus package" that points a fire hose of tax dollars at whatever they believe is the problem for the most people. Please don't stop to think debate goes beyond getting their share to something substantive like "will this thing even work?"

    (Note - I retyped it, then copied it, then tried to resubmit. And it fucking disappeared again. So I've pasted - heh heh - and am trying again.)

    (Note the second - no joy. Trying IE instead of Firefox, but dude, you need to change how these comments are submitted)

    (Note the third - nice message saying to try again. This kinda sucks)

  2. Brad, sorry you had problems. I changed my preferences in January to make it easier. This is as easy as it gets.

  3. OK. This is a test of the comments section as a non-signed-in user because Brad is a whiner. Though, to his credit, he perservered and was able to post his inane comment.

  4. Wow. That was easy. I typed words. Then I selected my profile (Name/URL) then I clicked "Post Comment." Then they appeared in the comments section.

  5. Now I'm trying the preview function.

  6. No problemo avec le preview functionata.

  7. Now trying it in Firefox. avec preview.

  8. Still no probs.

  9. Robey: We have a difference of opinion on Iraq, well on BushBama's wars, in general. I am against them. Full stop. I'm not interested in arguing the rightness or wrongness of the causes. We'll never agree and neither of us will convince the other of anything.

    I've always found Rumsfeld's presence at the center of this very confusing. Nothing about his career to the point of the beginning of the invasion of Iraq suggested that this was central to any philosophy of his.

    I think Rumsfeld is a bright guy. He'd been an honorable public servant as a US Representative and in the Ford White House. I think he did a good job as CEO of Searle, managing them through the expiration of the NutraSweet patent. Why would he give up a great job at Searle for a shitty one at Defense when these war game fantasies had never been anything that had interested him in the past?

    My belief is that he did it as a favor to Cheney and discovered to his dismay that these macabre plans were Cheney's and to a lesser extent, Colin Powell's. I found Rumsfeld's awkward press conferences very sad, really. I don't know. Maybe he was drunk or had taken downers or something. I know I would have in his position of having to sell that bullshit even to an adoring press at the time. [I'm thinking of Maureen Dowd's referring to him as a "rock star" right now!]

    Come 2006 when he got the boot, he had not only lost interest in selling the "lean 21st century fighting force" idea, he'd lost interest in fighting the wars and had grown to be very suspicious of the "causes" themselves. He presented Bush with an exit strategy that would have had every active duty US soldier and reservist back home by last Christmas. For this, he was booted in favor of a true believer in the dribs-and-drabs continuual war strategy backed by both Bush/Cheney and now Obama.

    I dread the reemergece of Colin Powell on the main foreign policy stage. As an adopted Panamanian, I feel much about him as a Kosovar Muslim might have felt about Milosevic.

    There are hawks and there are doves. There are interventionists and there isolationists. All have ownership of some fraction of the truth. And then there is Colin Powell. He's special. He's a sadist. He's a coward. He's a liar. His self-aggrandizement knows no bottom.

    Mininster Of Housing And State, Balbina Herrera, who in 1989-1992 as Mayor Of San Miguelito was the most radical anti-American leftist politician in Panama, has made her peace with President George H W Bush (#41) to the point that you could even call them friends. She's a damned sight closer to Bush,Sr, than she is to Barack Obama whom one would think she'd gravitate towards. I'm glad she did it. I think she's a first rate politician and I've always had a lot of respect for the way #41 conducted his presidency on domestic, economic, and foreign policy. His hideous campaign rhetoric hid one of the truly underrated American presidents.

    There is no forgiving Colin Powell. When Bush 41 gave Powell the stand down order because Noriega had taken refuge in a church and it was only a question of time before his surrender, Powell roasted yet another densely populated urban area and loosed his troops to do the psyops thing throughout the capital. Small stuff like rape and defacing Catholic churches, you know, boys will be boys stuff?

    Compare, if you will, the cool collected Powell lying through his teeth at the UN with Rumsfeld's tortured anxiety-ridden incomprehensible press conferences. I surely did and had no trouble separating the bastard from the well-meaning guy jammed-up in a situation he'd never anticipated.

  10. Brom, I really enjoy your unique ability to provide an informed counterpoint to conventional wisdom. Even when you agree with the striped bass, it is for a different (often obscure) reason. No totem is safe in your world.

  11. Also:
    "We'll never agree and neither of us will convince the other of anything."

    You shouldn't assume I'm as closed minded as you are.

  12. Robey: You seemed pretty adamant in your support for these wars. War is not a subject people are "kind of, sort of, guess so" about.

    That was my only assumption about you. I obviously don't think you're closed minded and I doubt you think I am because everything you wrote in the penultimate comment belies that point of view about me.

    I find doctrinaire opinion very, very boring and I've always been a contrarian in my work as an off-shore derivatives fund manager, sports bettor and owner of a thoroughbred racing stable. I'm also a political contrarian. I really feel comfortable with a baseline libertarian point of view but I put my progressive and sometimes anarcho-syndicalist, neo-Keynsian, or Veblenite spin on it. I also am a lover of free markets and a finance gearhead. I'm a pacificist. I believe strongly in single-payer health care. I'm very soft-on-crime. I'm a fiscal conservative.

    I meant every word I wrote about GHWB. I thought he was a good-to-excellent president. And I meant everything I wrote about Donald Rumsfeld, as well. I didn't care for the Bush Admnistration but in the end, Rumsfeld was definitely the least worst in my estimation, anyway (outside of O'Neill, John Snow and Tony Snow). As you can tell, I hold Obama beneath contempt as well.

    My candidates (even though I'm not eligible to vote in the US) were, in order: Kucinich, Paul, Clinton, Edwards, Richardson, Romney, Obama, Biden, Huckabee and I thought the rest were shit.

  13. We see Nancy Pelosi the same way, I guess, but whereas you dislike her for it, I like her for it.

    I think that her social conscience provides -- believe it or not -- an element of fiscal conservatism to the Madness Of King Barack Obama and his Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, Timmy and Larry. These endless bailout packages rewarding the rank swing from the heels gambling of the 15 largest banks at the expense of EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY AND BUSINESS IN AMERICA IS UNCONSCIONABLE AND NO FUCKIN WAY TO STIMULATE AN ECONOMY.

    Pelosi's much cheaper, down-bracket, direct stimulus measures get high-velocity money into consumers hands and the hands of owners of small businesses. God knows where the gifts to the banks go. I just know a Panamanian buddy of mine who founded a small investment bank in St Louis specializing in small underwriting of cement, concrete and paving companies, didn't qualify for any "stimulus" and he had to shut his doors and lay off 100 people.

    Doing it the "progressive" Pelosi/Buffett/Voelcker way would not invite inflation the way Obama's plans are doing and actually help people in need. If these pckages were designed by Pelosi, they'd come in at $300 MMM, all for homeowners, the poor, the working class, middle class, small business and entrepreneurial incentives. Any aid to failing mega-banks would be in the form of a credit line secured abroad.

    Pelosi may not be your cup of tea but I think she's way smarter, tougher and more compassionate than Obama is. She's certainly not a homophobe like he is. Basically, Obama's just lost. In way over his head, without the slightest desire to learn anything. He just practices his speeches and buzzwords, like Reagan, but at least when Reagan got into something like US-SOVIET SUMMITRY he would hit the books hard.

    I love that when she saw that Obama was going to be a typical Republican-style drug warrior bent on maintaining Colombia as a client state and keeping the civil war going, she went down with Lee, Jim McGovern (D-MA), Waters and Woolsey to meet up with Liberal opposition leader Senadora Piedad Cordoba and with Cordoba they met Conservative President Uribe and have begun a peace process of their own, everybody pressing both the "autodefensores" and the FARC to lay down the weapons and become legitimate far-right and far-left parties in government. A bold brave, non-ideological step, that may end up saving lives. 60,000 people per year are killed in Colombia. A boy only has a 90% chance to make it to 30 years old no matter what social class he comes from.

    Obama just doesn't have the chops to deal with something like this. He has no idea what Colombians are like. They are like small Russians. Very bright. Very morbid. Very tough. There are more universities per capita in Colombia than anywhere in the hemisphere except the US. Colombia boasts the world's greatest living novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of 2 Nobels. And they take no shit. If you come as an honest broker, you can get an audience with Uribe and with Cordoba but if you do the typical Obama lecturing thing, forget it.

    I think Obama is best off staying out of Latin America and letting Clinton handle these things. She has a good feel for the region, and a lot of repsect here that he doesn't have.

  14. Rejoinders:

    I was teasing you. I like to think my modest critical thinking gives me the courage to consider multiple views. I ain't afraid of no opinions. Also, as a Republican in NYC who listens to both NPR and Rush Limbaugh (and yells at both) I live behind enemy lines. I wouldn't have a single friend if I did not respect the well thought out liberal world view. I do wonder if 41 had been a pacifist if you'd choose to live in Panama today. Would you consider living in Venezuala today? (Comparison is based on military leaders running the country. The women are beautiful in both.)

    Paulson should never have adopted the British model of buying equity in banks. He could have hired your friend who seems to know how to value MBS's and make a market for them. I work for a bank so I am slightly biased. Still, you have a point in that there needs to be an increase in demand for credit, not just bigger tier one capital ratios at the banks.

    I like Uribe though I reject his attempt to run for a third term. Is he still considering that? I would love to see Ingrid Betancourt (?) become President. She could ride in on a wave of reconciliation then go all medievel on the FARC. Do you REALLY think the FARC has the capacity to become a Sinn Fein? Didn't they stop having a legitimate political agenda a long time ago? I did not know about the Columbian psyche but I recall liking their fans better than the Panamanians at a Copa D'Oro match in the Meadowlands. And of course, Juan Pablo Angel is pretty highly regarded around these parts.

    Nor should your buddy have received any (direct) stimulus money. However, had the package focused on infrastructure like it should have, there would have been a great need for project financing of the type you mentioned. I guess it depends on where his capital was coming from though. As a lifelong company man, I am always in awe of the entrepeneur and hope your friend ultimately achieves great success.

    Could not agree with you more about our American Idol President. Sad. I was trying to keep an open mind (grin).

  15. Holy shit. Robey - I like the new guy even if he's way smarter than me. We do agree on a fair amount (I think), so maybe I'm not as close to a helmet and short bus as I feel sometimes.

    K's Nuts: I'd like to hear more about why you feel the way you do about Powell: not that I disagree (or agree for that matter), I'm just interested. I'm not as familiar with his career as ar you, though I have a clear memory of disliking him during the first Gulf War.

    As for Obama, well I'm an atheist, so the whole idea of a second coming is nonsensical and the whole savior thing is lost on me. I do know that on the topics on which he and I might theoretically have some common ground, he's a let-down (not that I think any politician has the balls to advocate legalization of drugs, opening the borders, or suggesting that people ought to be allowed to to marry anyONE or anyTHING that they desire - or as many anyones or anythings as they desire for that matter....to name three).

    But I'm burned out after all the writing I did on this shit leading up to the election, and frankly this just isn't snarky enough for me, nor are there enough poop jokes. So I'm going to shut up now and go back to insulting defenseless assholes like Thomas L. Friedman.

    Oh - and if I have typos (spelling, grammar or otherwise) in this post, well you can suck it. I'm too lazy to proof this shit tonight, and once again your blog won't post my comments....(it may be my ad-blocker - which is what most smart fellers use). Nope - got a nice "your request could not be processed" message - now I'll enable third party cookies and try again....

  16. OK - It's the third party cookies issue, which a LOT of people block because that's how all the advertising companies follow you. Just thought you'd like to know. You can try too - in FF, go to tools, options, privacy, then uncheck the third party cookies box and you too will be unable to post a comment.

  17. I like cookies. It's how I get to see ads that say "Meet Hot Girls in Brooklyn" , they also let me read the NYT without having to log in every time. Oh and Friedman was on Imus this morning. Did you know that the NYT is like a bakery? They make lots of bread and cookies and people in Brazil and China can buy them but they're still going out of business.

  18. The fuckin Walrus is a show, fellers. I saw a recent one of his "columns" which managed to hit all the high notes: the Indian cabdriver who prefers PINGs to TaylorMades, the Wi-Fi access in Saigon, how he was against the wars from the start, how he hates "the rich." Wow.

    R: On Colombia, I like Uribe, too. He has been hamstrung by the US's Plan Colombia every time he's tried these things with the AUDs, FARC, Piedad Cordoba, Sarkozy, Chavez, etc.

    I agree that if Ingrid runs she wins as Green Party fusion candidate with 80% of vote. Uribe's in a tricky spot with the third term. The fiscal (attorney general) has him and his campaign manager and the head of the secret police dead to rights on a series of campaign finance and constitutional violations. My sense is that if he retires and devotes himself to the peace accord and to promoting his son's profile in the Conservative Party, he won't have legal trouble.

    If he goes for extra-constitutional 3rd term, he'll be indicted.

    Also, YES, I do think an RUC/Sinn Fein end result is possible between the AUDs and the FARC. I'm bullish on the intelligence of the Colombian people and their fatigue with extremism.

    I'd really like to see what the Minister Of Finance, A. Carrasquilla Barrera is capable of WITHOUT a civil war in the background. He's been amazing at fiscal policy during the Uribe years and is one of the great economic minds in government in the world today, I think, anyway.

    @ BRAD: Thanks for nice compliments. I don't think I'm smarter than you are, by the way.

  19. @KN: Every literate walrus in America is flipping out that you've compared that charlatan Friedman to their kind. I'd suggest you avoid trips the the Central Park Zoo the next time you're back in NYC (where another elected official is trying for a third term, or was the last time I could bear reading anything about him).

    I despise Friedman - thinking it might be a laugh, I went to hear him speak (free admission) down here once a few years ago and was stunned that people actually bought that shit. Irritated me so much I didn't actually find it funny. I did, however, review his most recent tome (without reading it of course - I have a habit of that - reviewed the Sex and the City movie without seeing it either) on my blog last fall, though it wasn't therapeutic: I still want to choke him.


    If there's one element to Obama I've discovered it's that he LOVES the BIG PINK PEOPLE most. Then, the Neo-Con/Neo-Lib Zionist IMF crew. Then, the Religious Right. Overall, when K-Street wants his opinion, they tell him what to say.

    So, the Big Pink People will be preserved at all costs even if it does mean something weird on the Blagojevic tapes causes Obama's own impeachment. Whatever else he may be, he's no fan of African-Americans or Latinos.

    Why should he be any fan of Blacks and Latinos? As a Democrat, he'll get the 85%+ he needs and be done with it.

    This brings us to Panama. I'm glad I had a youtube with Herrera's own words about #41 GHWB, because I just read in Oppenheimer's column that the Obama Administration has broken with 35 years of Democratic Party tradition as PRD allies, and are supporting Martinelli's CD over Herrera's PRD.

    The reason according to Oppenheimer is that the White House perceives the wealthy White man on the Center-right ticket to have Big Sammy's interets better than Balbina Herrera would.

    The view is that Torrijos has been "too Latino" meaning he doesn't hate Chavez. This desite Torrijos being a wealty White man. A wealthy LEFT WING WHITE MAN. And that's the problem.

    So, it's a brand new day in America. New president, new party....why not toss away everything the Clintons did and back the guy who perhaps can help with little recolonization here and there.

    Oppenheimer points out that Obama's miscalculated badly on this because there are so few policy difference between Herrera and Martinelli. There is only the "rakataka" of Herrera which is a MUST TO AVOID FOR OBAMA. One presumes that the open "gayness" of Cesar Gaviria, the chairman of the Americas Summit on the 20th, may be enough to keep Obama away, in favor of Clinton.

    Here sure is a situation in which Obama's homophobia is a big plus for me. I'd much prefer HRC there than Obama. The Big Dog and HRC are beloved throughout the region while Obama has more or less gotten under every leader's skin. So, if not wanting to deal with Gaviria's gay cooties in the traditional handshake keeps him away, so much the better.

    The rumor going around about the new Kennedy-Hatch Public Service thingy is 180 derees differnt than Bachmann's calling it a "liberal indictrination camp." What's happening is that the "youfs" of the Act will be taking certain classes but not in art history nor how to be liberal.

    They'll be taking indoctrination classes in all sorts of stuff Michelle Bachmann would like. Domestic and International espionage and psyops. Not all of course, but "the best and brightest as judged by Gates, Henry The K, Obama and Emmanuel.

    Christ, they're only joining that program because they want to be a little conservative but are too chicken to join the armed forces! How effective or scary can they be? All of the UIGEA guys have attorneys and political connections who can make anything happen. And it's pretty damned easy to figure out which gringo who can't speak Spanish and can't make the grade in the military or CIA is on the prowl as a PAINTBALL equivalent of Angleton's boys.

    Well, that's violation of the Geneva Convention right there.

    So, I'm expecteing mischief all related to banking systems and the series of laws of of privacy and independence of contract. But mischief is the word. Only mischief. These aren't seasoned operatives. They're KIDS.

    Martinelli likes the idea of these little putzes around about as much as Herrera does, as in not at all because they sicken him. At least according to Oppenheimer. And they sicken him on two levels: (1) they're gringo numbnutses (2) they're gringo numbnutses sent by a Black president a rich White dude like Martinelli reflexively dislikes to begin with because of his generation, money, and White European pride.

    He probably finds Obama more distasteful than his "rakataka" opponent.

    That's Andres Oppenheimer's opinion but he's a pretty canny observer of all things Latino, has a sophisticated way of seeing weird things and is an equally good writer in English and Spanish.

    Martinelli may be "loco" and none too bright but none too bright here means "real sharp" up there. He's bummed out that Herrera was thinking a zillion moves ahead of him and established these close ties with GHWB and all the Texas Moderate Republican money. Hey, any port in a storm, right? Look, if Martinelli wins, I'M COUNTING ON HIS RACISM TO INFORM HIS PAN-LATINNESS! How weird is that?

    The Clinton Global Initiative with GHWB and equal partner only costs Herrera Obama and the DLC. She's got the progressives and the moneyed Republicans.

    This is interpretation from Oppenheimer and what I read in the dailies here. She made it pretty clear in that campaign youtube that she and GHWB were now thick as thieves. I sure wasn't making it up. My prediction that Gregory Craig would show Obama the way on Latin America was probably the worst prediction I've ever made! Is Craig even in the White House yet? Or are his Latin entanglements keeping him at Willimas & Connolly for the time being?

    At the end of the day, I reckon this is all how INTERESTED PARTIES such as myself analyze things. I've yet to see any indication that Obama's victory was one of "We Won," other than during the election night itself.

    I still kind of like Barack Obama despite it all because I think he's bright and has a good sense of humor. Unlike The Big Dog, and more like a Reagan or a W, it all must seem very daunting and there's too much for him to know, so he listens to his K-Street advisors. The Big Dog often depended on advisors, too but he read and read and read until he had an opinion.

    The overwheming win of Obama combined with the self-immolation of the Republicans have cut Obama way too much slack in the line. I wouldn't mind a chance to hip him to understand a lot of these nuances he seems to be missing in favor of his own self-styled jingoism.