Nota Bene #17

Appearing weekly, Nota Bene attempts to provide an overview of the week’s news. Meanwhile, in its appendix, we cull trenchant comments to articles and posts, as well as those heard in person or emailed.

Last week General Petraeus said, “The rockets that were launched at the Green Zone were Iranian-provided, Iranian-made rockets.” His statement, along with testimony he’s expected to give in Washington next week, writes Damien McElroy of London’s Telegraph, “could set the stage for a US attack on Iranian military facilities, according to a Whitehall assessment.” Was kinda hoping we could dodge that bullet before Bush left office.

Could Barack Obama be more liberal than he seems? Mike Vogel at the Politico: “During his first run for elected office, Barack Obama played a greater role than his aides now acknowledge in crafting liberal stands on gun control, the death penalty and abortion– positions that appear at odds with the more moderate image he’s projected during his presidential campaign.” The horror!

In “Why Americans Never Vote for What They Really Want,” Gabor Steingart of Der Spiegel comments on our divided selves. Americans are troubled by all the right things: injustice, the economy, the infrastructure. But when “it comes to putting these ideas into practice, Americans quickly lose their wistful gazes. Their eyes begin to narrow until they resemble the slits in a piggy bank. . . . only to turn around and pick [John McCain].”

At Inter Press Service, Dahr Jamail reports on the recent Mahdi Army Offensive: “‘This failure takes Iraq to point zero and even worse,’ Brigadier-General Kathum Alwan of the Iraqi army told IPS in Baghdad. ‘We must admit that the formation of our forces was wrong, as we saw how our officers deserted their posts, leaving their vehicles for militias. . . . leaving us wondering what to do.'”

At Asia Times Online MK Bhadrakumar comments on how Iran put a stop to the recent violence in Iraq. “Tehran keeps silent about its role. But to be able to summarily cry halt to cascading violence. . . in about 48 hours, well, that’s an altogether impressive capability. . . . [The Iranians] managed it with felicitous ease, as if they were just turning off a well-lubricated tap.”

At Mother Jones, Justin Elliott interviews Patrick Cockburn about wild and crazy Muqtada al-Sadr. “In fact he’s very cautious, never pushing things too far, trying not to be pushed into a corner.” Rats, just when we thought we had found the next Ayatollah Khomeini.

An inability to declare outright victory in Iraq is one thing. But what if our military was actually defeated? Impossible, you say? Military analyst William Lind explains how at “The American military’s endless ‘we’re the greatest’ propaganda has convinced most people that the U.S. armed forces cannot be beaten in the field. They are the last in a long line of armies that could not be beaten, until they were.” [Emphasis added.] All we have to do is attack Iran. (Supply lines cut off, exit routes blocked, that kind of thing.)


Julie Petrik is an accomplished free driver (no oxygen tank). Read about her “Sub-zero free-diving with a Beluga whale” in London’s Telegraph. Breathtaking. Or just another way to annoy animals in the wild?

New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports on how “In Economic Drama, Bush Is Largely Off-Stage.” “‘The good news for Bush is he’s got Paulson, who’s got some real credibility on these issues,’ said John Feehery, a Republican strategist. ‘Paulson is doing a pretty good job of looking like he’s doing something.'” In today’s America, what more can you ask?

Meanhwile Huffington Post’s Bonddad writes: “It’s also important to remember the Fed is as much a political player as it is an economic player [and] has to help manage the public’s economic expectations. As such, it has to ease the public into a certain economic frame of reference. This is why yesterday was the first time we heard the Fed use the word ‘recession.'”

At Salon, Andrew Leonard asks, “Want to see ‘The Great Depression: The Sequel‘? Here’s a handy three-step do-it-yourself action plan. 1. Continue to ignore growing income inequality and govern the United States for the benefit of the rich at the expense of the many. 2. Continue to whittle away at the safety nets that exist to cushion Americans from economic ill winds. 3. Continue to weaken government oversight of Wall Street.” As have many, he reminds us of the “extraordinary fragility” of modern capitalism.”

At Slate Dahlia Lithwick, as expected, has some trenchant comments inspired by the release of the Yoo torture memo: “The dangerous presumption that there are two legitimate sides to every question, including settled ones: This is a peculiar hallmark of Bush administration’s existentialist thinking. Witness Michael Mukasey, whose ability to turn settled legal questions (‘water-boarding = torture’) into exercises in First Officer Spockian Deep Thought (‘water-boarding might be torture. Or it might not. Fascinating problem. Hmmm’).”

Four years later, History News Network has polled historians again on who is the worst president ever. 61% named Bush; 98.2% termed his presidency a failure. As if to rub it in, a pie and bar chart are included. Said one historian: “When future historians look back to identify the moment at which the United States began to lose its position of world leadership, they will point — rightly — to the Bush presidency. Thanks to his policies. . . China is rapidly becoming the manufacturing powerhouse of the next century, India the high tech and services leader, and Europe the region with the best quality of life.”

Why does Bill work himself into a lather over getting Hillary into the White House? Out of love? To return to the White House? No, according to R.I., he just fears her wrath if they don’t succeed: “You promised me that if I stuck by you. . .” Not enough rooms in their Chappaqua house to escape that.

7 replies »

  1. This Petraeus assurance that those weapons were Iranian – is that anything like Cheney’s assurance that the Iraqis had WMDs? Or am I just being difficult?

  2. Dr. S: No proof yet, apparently. Even if true, cause to start WWIII?

    Dr. D: Thanks. Hope you don’t think I’m intruding on the bull’s turf by also using quotes. (I’ve always had a soft spot for quotes. That’s one reason I’m one of QB’s biggest fans.)

  3. Great stuff, Russ. Especially that piece on Bill and the wrath of Hillary. As for Great Depression II: The Sequel – I think we’re already there. We just haven’t realized it, yet.

  4. Jim, This market correction and unleveraging is a walk in the park compared to the Panic of 1857 when the stock market fell by 50% in one day, and there was virtually no money at all to borrow. Anecdotal stories relate that interest rates during the panic went to 1500% for call money. Inflation was running at 30% per month for a 5 month period. The naysayers that complain about our national debt should study their history. The Civil War experienced the highest debt/GDP of any time in history. The government actually borowed 1.875 billion dollars(in 1861 dollars) to finance the war, and the first issue of bonds was at 12%. Subequent refinancing of that debt was at 9% and 7.25% Our debt relative to GDP is miniscule compared to those times. There could, and should be a recession, as recessions are a necessary part of the economic cycle. How severe it is, is anyone’s guess. However, the stock and bond markets are predicting a soft landing. The interesting thing about the stock market is that it’s had an upward drift of 9% per year, average, for the past 125 years. There should be some good bargains in the stock market in the near future, or maybe right now. There’s good bargains in the bond market right now, as some yields are approaching 21%, if one knows where to look. I always liked the old saying,”Buy when there’s blood in the street, and sell when the trumpets are blowing.” Very sensible advice. While I don’t see a depression in the cards, we could easily see a 1970’s type of economic malaise. Assuming that 1970’s style malaise is a possible scenario, one could easily adjust one’s portfolio to reduce the risk, and possibly make a few bucks.