Monday, March 31, 2008

The rite of Spring: Social Security and the End Times.

As the debacle that is our deregulated financial system continues to unfold, the Social security commisioners released their annual "the sky is falling" report. The report is not receiving the love it used to get. It's difficult to argue to Americans that their social security would be better off in the hands of the people who so skillfully fnorked up the markets with their "innovations" and superior expertise.

Paul Krugman takes this occasion to repost his explanation of the Social Security issue.

The Krugmaninator:

Social Security is a government program supported by a dedicated tax, like highway maintenance. Now you can say that assigning a particular tax to a particular program is merely a fiction, but in fact such assignments have both legal and political force. If Ronald Reagan had said, back in the 1980s, “Let’s increase a regressive tax that falls mainly on the working class, while cutting taxes that fall mainly on much richer people,” he would have faced a political firestorm. But because the increase in the regressive payroll tax was recommended by the Greenspan Commission to support Social Security, it was politically in a different box - you might even call it a lockbox - from Reagan’s tax cuts.
The purpose of that tax increase was to maintain the dedicated tax system into the future, by having Social Security’s assigned tax take in more money than the system paid out while the baby boomers were still working, then use the trust fund built up by those surpluses to pay future bills. Viewed in its own terms, that strategy was highly successful.
The date at which the trust fund will run out, according to Social Security Administration projections, has receded steadily into the future: 10 years ago it was 2029, now it’s 2042. As Kevin Drum, Brad DeLong, and others have pointed out, the SSA estimates are very conservative, and quite moderate projections of economic growth push the exhaustion date into the indefinite future.
But the privatizers won’t take yes for an answer when it comes to the sustainability of Social Security. Their answer to the pretty good numbers is to say that the trust fund is meaningless, because it’s invested in U.S. government bonds. They aren’t really saying that government bonds are worthless; their point is that the whole notion of a separate budget for Social Security is a fiction. And if that’s true, the idea that one part of the government can have a positive trust fund while the government as a whole is in debt does become strange.
But there are two problems with their position.
The lesser problem is that if you say that there is no link between the payroll tax and future Social Security benefits - which is what denying the reality of the trust fund amounts to - then Greenspan and company pulled a fast one back in the 1980s: they sold a regressive tax switch, raising taxes on workers while cutting them on the wealthy, on false pretenses. More broadly, we’re breaking a major promise if we now, after 20 years of high payroll taxes to pay for Social Security’s future, declare that it was all a little joke on the public.
The bigger problem for those who want to see a crisis in Social Security’s future is this: if Social Security is just part of the federal budget, with no budget or trust fund of its own, then, well, it’s just part of the federal budget: there can’t be a Social Security crisis. All you can have is a general budget crisis. Rising Social Security benefit payments might be one reason for that crisis, but it’s hard to make the case that it will be central.
But those who insist that we face a Social Security crisis want to have it both ways. Having invoked the concept of a unified budget to reject the existence of a trust fund, they refuse to accept the implications of that unified budget going forward. Instead, having changed the rules to make the trust fund meaningless, they want to change the rules back around 15 years from now: today, when the payroll tax takes in more revenue than SS benefits, they say that’s meaningless, but when - in 2018 or later - benefits start to exceed the payroll tax, why, that’s a crisis. Huh?
I don’t know why this contradiction is so hard to understand, except to echo Upton Sinclair: it’s hard to get a man to understand something when his salary (or, in the current situation, his membership in the political club) depends on his not understanding it. But let me try this one more time, by asking the following: What happens in 2018 or whenever, when benefits payments exceed payroll tax revenues?
The answer, very clearly, is nothing.
The Social Security system won’t be in trouble: it will, in fact, still have a growing trust fund, because of the interest that the trust earns on its accumulated surplus. The only way Social Security gets in trouble is if Congress votes not to honor U.S. government bonds held by Social Security. That’s not going to happen. So legally, mechanically, 2018 has no meaning.

Now it’s true that rising benefit costs will be a drag on the federal budget. So will rising Medicare costs. So will the ongoing drain from tax cuts. So will whatever wars we get into. I can’t find a story under which Social Security payments, as opposed to other things, become a crucial budgetary problem in 2018.
What we really have is a looming crisis in the General Fund. Social Security, with its own dedicated tax, has been run responsibly; the rest of the government has not. So why are we talking about a Social Security crisis?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blog Against Torture Day? It's Always Blog Against Torture Day Here...

On my Live Journal one of my flisters, TK, made the following observation about torture here on Blog Against Torture day:

"The sad thing is, were there to have been such a day ten years ago, the assumption wouldn't be we were preaching against the US, but rather China, or North Korea, or Iraq."

You know, that's an interesting observation... just a few years ago when rumors of such things were starting to percolate into the national consciousness, my best friend dr_strych9, was one of the first people I remember to take this seriously.

It was part of the reason we started all this in the first place. It's always blog against torture day here on the mojowire...

That notwithstanding, myself, Hebisner, and a couple of our other friends did not believe this was happening. Common sense and common knowledge all argued against it... The U.S. was a signatory to a zillion international anti-torture conventions, it's generally accepted that torture produces questionable intel, it ran counter to nearly everything we were brought up to believe about the organizing principles of our nation...

Torture? The United States? No, that was just crazy conspiracy talk, just a degree of separation or so off of Area 51 and Masonic One World Government zeitgeist.

As each revelation has come out, from Bagram Airbase to Abu Ghraib to CIA Black Sites, etc... it's been a disorienting experience, like I went to bed America and woke up in the Bizzaro world "mirror-mirror" version... I keep expecting to see Leonard Nimoy in a gold lamay sash and a cheesy Lee-Paste-On goatee beard to appear and ask me for my agonizer...sorry, obscure Star Trek reference...

But perhaps the saddest thing has been to see our national reaction to this. Instead of righteous outrage verging on revolution to even the idea we had become this kind of nation, there was a kind of apathetic acceptance... Torture? Hey, as long as they keep the terrorists from interfering with "Dancing with the Stars..." then sure, what the hell... hey what's the latest Britney news!?

Oh sure, a few anti-social malcontents and the dirty fucking hippies were complaining, but you know how they go on... they're always complaining about something...

And this lackadaisical attitude seemed to be contagious in that it infected the legislative branch that seemed to be obsessed with doing anything other than exercising their Constitutional duty of executive oversight.

So... quo vadis? Where next? Frankly, I don't know. But what's happened in the last eight years can't just be undone. We can't just walk away from this. If I had "The Answer" I promise I would post if for everyone, but I don't.

But I think people speaking out is good first step...

mojo sends

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Edu policy wonkage: Please wear your protective gear!

Andrew Rotterdam over at Eduwonk weigned in on a education policy debate at the freakonomics blog, which he posted on his website. It's worth reprinting here:

Different schools have different effects on similar students. That is the primary finding from social science research, and a fact around which education policy should be organized. Put more plainly: schools matter. They can be a powerful force to address the gap, and demographics are not destiny for students.

That does not mean that schools can eliminate all social inequality, or that policymakers shouldn’t take common sense steps like expanding access to healthcare and prenatal care in low-income communities. But it does mean that many schools can do much better with poor and minority students, and that holding schools accountable for student learning is neither punitive nor unfair.

Unfortunately, there is a small industry in the education community built around tacitly giving schools soothing reassurance that they really can’t do much better with poor and minority kids than they are today. They can. And rather than attacking the gaps poor students bring with them when they first arrive at school, we actually exacerbate gaps by giving the least to the very students who need the most. Rhetorically, people say that schools matter, but our public policies do not yet systemically reflect it.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Research, such as that by William Sanders and Eric Hanushek, shows that teacher effectiveness is the most important in-school factor affecting student learning. Good teachers can actually close or eliminate the gaps in achievement on standardized tests that separate white and minority students. Conversely, when at-risk students have a couple of lousy teachers in a row, it almost irreparably harms them. Consequently, policymakers should be unyielding in their efforts to ensure that there are effective teachers in every classroom.

Unfortunately, a recent report from Education Week shows that, overall, we are doing anything but. Parents should support these efforts, most of all because good teachers teach; they don’t resort to drilling kids, rote memorization, or other strategies that suck the joy out of learning.

It is not just about training, pay, and accountability for teachers, but also about creating schools where high performers want to be — and are — supported in their work. As former California Board of Education president and Netflix founder Reed Hastings points out: today we have as much a shortage of places where good teachers want to work as we do a shortage of good teachers.

That’s why this is not just a teacher problem, it’s a systemic one. But if we organize the public education system around the idea that teachers and schools matter to student outcomes — instead of implicitly around the idea that they don’t — we’ll see results and gap closing.

[emphasis mine]

A few thoughts to round this out.

First, he makes a critical distinction that is almsot never emphasized enough, that improving schools in low income areas can have a large positive impact, despite the terrible carnage from all of the usual socio-economic ills. It cannot fix them, and it should not be a subsititute for policies to address them. But it can help, and it's worth doing.

Second, the point Reed Hastings makes about teacher working conditions is critical. One of the biggest issues low performance schools have is teacher recruitment and retention. Many people believe the solution to this is higher pay. That's not a bad idea, but I don't think it really is the main issue. The main issue is, those schools suck to work at. Teachers do their time there to work at easier places, where they often take an initial pay cut, and likely won't be able to live close to where they work.

The research on education is often confusing to those of us without graduate degrees in statistics and the social sciences, so evaluting competing methodologies is problematic. Conclusions and remedies are often all across the spectrum. But one thing keeps popping up again and again; teachers. The qualilty of the teacher seems to be a critical factor in poor and good outcomes in most of the research where the subject is relevant. This leads to several questions, foremost among them is, how do we define good teachers? When we do define that, how do we recruit, train, deploy and retain them? Bitching about teacher unions and testing regimens are, to my mind, tangential to these critical questions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

His Rudeness Gets It Right...

You wanna know about the Obama speech in Philly, today?

Here's all you need...

Props to the Rude One...

mojo sends

Monday, March 17, 2008

Helicoper Ben to the rescue!

Outsourced to Mr.Roubini here. Allow me to highlight a point of interest:
This is the most radical change and expansions of Fed powers and functions since the Great Depression: essentially the Fed now can lend unlimited amounts to non bank highly leveraged institutions that it does not regulate. The Fed is treating this run on the shadow financial system as a liquidity run but the Fed has no idea of whether such institutions are insolvent. As JPMorgan paid only about $200 million for Bear Stearns – and only after the Fed promised a $30 billlion loan – this was a clear case where this non bank financial institution was insolvent.[emphasis mine]

We should also remember to consider this Fed Action in light of Mr. Bernanke's area of academic interest; The Great Depression. In particular, the Fed Chair has accepted Friedman and Schwartz's argument that the Fed failed to stem the Depression in the begining by tightening the money supply instead of trying to make it more liquid. To wit:
Ben Bernanke, the now current Chairman of the Federal Reserve, later acknowledged that Friedman was right to blame the Federal Reserve for the Great Depression, saying on Nov. 8, 2002:
"Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry. But thanks to you, we won't do it again." [8]

Bernanke also, (according to Wikipedia, your mileage on this information may vary), did some original research that would tend to support at least part of Friedman and Scwartz's argument:
More recent research, by economists such as Peter Temin, Ben Bernanke and Barry Eichengreen, has focused on the constraints policy makers were under at the time of the Depression. In this view, the constraints of the inter-war gold standard magnified the initial economic shock and was a significant obstacle to any actions that would ameliorate the growing Depression. According to them, the initial destabilizing shock may have originated with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 in the U.S., but it was the gold standard system that transmitted the problem to the rest of the world.[11]
According to their conclusions, during a time of crisis, policy makers may have wanted to loosen monetary and fiscal policy, but such action would threaten the countries’ ability to maintain its obligation to exchange gold at its contractual rate. Therefore, governments had their hands tied as the economies collapsed, unless they abandoned their currency’s link to gold. As the Depression worsened, many countries started to abandon the gold standard, and those that abandoned it earlier suffered less from deflation and tended to recover more quickly.[12]

Its logical to assume that Bernanke is going to interpret his mandate in light of these two points of view, which tend to reinforce a singular point, monetary liquidity is key. Now, we don't have an inflexible currency standard, and we have more levers to pull and buttons to push to inject liquidity. But that does not address the potential solvency issues. As Roubini points out, The Fed is now stepping into an area that is not regulated in any serious way. There is no way to know whether the solvency issues underneath will essentially cause these efforts at injecting liquidity to be futile.

And why are not having a discussion about serious regulation of these markets? It may be fair to argue that bailing out Bear or possibly Lehman Bros might be in the interest of the country as a whole, but that does not in any way negate the obvious fact that it was the unregulated parts of the economy that are most at fault here. It was lending outside that of traditional regulated banking that was the primary outlet for these bad loans, funds that are not required to disclose to the SEC that cooked up these tranch schemes and shipped them all over the world as risk free investments. And now we're on the hook for these A*&holes?

The game here is to hide behind the liquidity issues I pointed out earlier and pretend that the lack of transparency and lack of oversight had nothing to do with it. They clearly do, as they did in the thirties as well. We need to ask why we are assuming the risk, as we are when the Fed essentially guaranteed Morgan's risk to the tune of 30 Billion of our dollars, (Or China's dollars we are on the hook for). It's not too much to ask to require that if we are going to be the guarantor of these markets and institutions, that we can impose some reasonable guidelines over how these markets do business, and that they adhere to some legal framework other than, "I got mine, Frak YOU!".

And maybe our canidates for President could actually talk about these issues. Not to distract from the oh so important topics of belligerent pastors and cranky old New York Congresswomen, . Just sayin.....

This Blog's Economics Commentary Outsourced... Brad DeLong for the duration of the crisis:
There are two ways to read last night's sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorganChase for $2 a share:
1) There were no other bidders. Bear Stearns only other option was to file for bankruptcy this morning. And Bear Stearns's executive were convinced that that was not an option--that not playing along meant that everybody everywhere would look with glee on the filing of every criminal fraud charge against them anyone could think of.

2) Even with the Federal Reserve offering a put on the worst $30 billion of Bear Stearns assets, there is so much garbage in the closet that $2 a share is a fair price.
The market this morning believes in (2). I tend to believe in (1)--especially as JPMorgan is said to have set aside up to $6 billion to deal with litigation when Bear Stearns's shareholders and others claim they got a raw deal...
Through the Looking Glass: You've probably heard that the Fed is dealing with unusual conditions in the financial markets, but you may not be entirely sure what that means. Well, for your amusement, here's a picture...

We're glad the Satellite Of Love is on a nice fixed-rate mortgage with plenty of equity left for prices to normalize and leave us still in orbit. Sure hope the rest of you have kept up with your bilge pump maintenance schedules...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ms. Ferraro, Your Airlock is Waiting...

Cycle this crazy bitch into hard vacuum, pleeze!

For those who haven't been following the Greek Tragedy that is the Clinton campaign's recent spate political tourette's syndrome, yet another proxy has gotten off leash barking and spitting at some hapless local homer reporter who now gets to make his career with a one-off Gotcha moment; to wit:
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

I am not sure what is worse, her original comment or her self-righteous bloviations attempting to alternately spin the comment, while still trying to say what she meant: Barack Obama is only popular because he's black.

Here, have a taste of her flailing on Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer:
"I was celebrating the fact ... the black community came out with ... pride in [Obama's] candidacy. You would think he would say 'thank you' for doing that, instead, I'm charged with being a racist."
For a true sense of desperation, watch the video clip of her frantically trying to run the clock out on Sawyer in the interview. (Thanks to the WaPo for posting this.)

So really, the phrase "if Obama was a white man he wouldn't be in this position" is a celebration of his campaign? That's like "celebrating" President's Day with a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle in a book depository...

Then in a follow-up interview to further defend herself, she apparently just let go of what tenuous grip on reality she had:
"Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up," Ferraro said. "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"
Excuse me, Ms. Ferraro, but what policy issue were you trying to elaborate upon or address when you said: "if Obama was a white man he wouldn't be in this position" Just askin'...

As expected, Keith Olbermann has come out on the correct side of this, during his interview with Howard Fineman. Although Fineman, I think, makes an astute point:
"HOWARD FINEMAN: [...]As you saw, they sent Maggie Williams out with a statement to defend Geraldine Ferraro who's defending herself. So this is the fight the Clintons want, the way they want to fight it."
Fineman may actually be on to something; the truly ugly underbelly of the Clinton campaign. If I'm John McCain right now, I would be praying very hard that Obama is the candidate, because I don't think he wants a piece of the Clinton Mafia.

And frankly, I think that may be the message she is trying to send to Democrats: "Obama is too nice, too civilized to rumble in the fall with the GOP. We, however, have the fighting instincts of cornered wolverines on crank, and rejoice at the sight of blood..."

But doing it by trotting out the corpse of Geraldine Ferraro to do a song and dance number, and then attempt to claw her way out of the net again is not just pandering to the lowest instincts of the electorate, but it's actively damaging the party.

And really, if Ferraro's best push back is the "I know you are, but what am I" rubric of political debate, then the Clinton's need to bench her and get someone who's capable of running with the varsity without embarrassing themselves every time they open their pie hole.

There has been talk the last few days that there might be some talk of an Obama/Clinton -- Clinton/Obama ticket. There are those (myself included) who think this would be a potent combination.

Such an accommodation would have to happen soon, though. If this is allowed to go much longer, the two campaigns will have damaged each other publicly too much for an alliance to be credible in the eyes of Democrats, much less the the rest of the electorate at large.

And I am getting less enthused about the Clinton campaign by the day, especially if they are going to turn to petty racists, and has-been bag-chicks to carry their water for them, all the while waving bloody shirts about the Obama campaign's missteps and gaffes.

mojo sends

They Can't Get No Satisfaction

Gavin M at Sadly, No! knocks it out of the park. Make sure you read far enough in that you get to the sentence that begins...
You folks of the right-wing hue need to know about Devo.
I'll bet you can hear me howling with laughter from all the way out here in outer Redneckistan, where I'm traveling on business.

Update: found in the comments on that thread. I have no choice now but to add the "they did what" tag to this post.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dear Hillary Clinton Campaign:

Shut the fuck up!

This is the kind of thing that is making it easier and easier to choose sides in the Democratic campaign:
"CANTON, Miss. - Hillary Clinton's campaign furthered its efforts to portray her as a political victim Thursday when a top aide likened Barack Obama and his vow to take a new aggressive tone to Kenneth Starr, the Whitewater special counsel whose wide-ranging investigation of Bill Clinton's administration led to his impeachment. [...]
In a conference call with reporters, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said that instead of discussing national security and the economy, Obama has chosen to attack Clinton.

"I for one do not believe that imitating Ken Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president," Wolfson said."
This was actually in response to Obama's pushback against sleazy Clinton attacks trying to tie Tony Rezko's illegal influence peddling in Illinois to the Obama campaign.

And she's going to compare Obama to Ken Starr for suggesting that she make her personal history as transparent as he has with his own past?

If the Clinton campaign believes they can generate some Dem sympathy with some weak-ass push back in drumming up memories of Republican smear campaigns, then they need to find a new dealer, because that dope their smoking is not doing them any favors.

This is a grotesque miscalculation on their part. Memo to Clintonistas: We disliked Ken Starr because he was a political tool of the radical right in their attempt to cheapen our republic's institutions.

To compare Barack Obama to Ken Starr is to make light of the danger posed by a power mad and vaguely insane GOP leadeship, and make it the equivalent of just another meaningless campaign ploy.

It diminishes the actual damage the Ken Starr investigation did to the country and to the rule of law. Thanks Hillary. You have officially signaled that the Ken Starr investigation was really nothing to worry about when you conflate it with simple political posturing during a political camnpaign.

The Clinton people have pissed me off for the last freekin' time and I am now officially tired of holding my nose to vote for them.

I hope Obama buries these people.

mojo sends

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Better Know Your Bible -- v1

In looking up references for the preceding bit, I ran across some truly mind-bending screed. Really ... Drieux, this may even be a bit much for you:
"Procured abortion –a heinous form of cold-blooded murder, a crime scripturally warranting the death penalty that also subjects primary offenders and accomplices to automatic excommunication in the Catholic Church– is less of an offense against God than homosexual conduct. Abortion takes the life of an innocent person. A homosexual act –an abuse of the sexual faculty– denies potential life to a possible innocent person. An aborted person has the opportunity to obtain eternal life. A non-conceived person never has that opportunity."
So I've decided that we could all use some churchin' up, and have the Bible explained to us, so that we might more fully come to know the mind of the Angry Sky Fairy...

Come on, Wirehaters, we know you're lurking out there, muttering curses under your breath, neck veins bulging, as bile rises in your throat while you fantasize about what you'll do to us when Gilead goes public... so help us out with a few bible verses here...

In this first installment, let's tackle Deuteronomy 22: 21-22 in that:
20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel,

21 then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die, because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house; so shalt thou put evil away from among you.
Essentially, here, we're stoning a girl to death for pre-marital sex. Now it says that the menfolk of town have to do this... is that all the men folk? Or can we farm this function out to the male police officers, or something, because that's an awful lot of men in most towns to be stoning one girl to death... I'm just sayin'.

What if she did not "play the whore in her father's house" but took it to a Motel-6. What if it was the back seat of her father's Oldsmobile? What if it were the backseat of her own car? Do we still have to stone her, or are there other deaths for those occasions, like being fed to wolves like Ernest Borgnine in The Vikings?

And what are these "tokens" of virginity? Is it some kind of ID card? A badge? A letter from her doctor?

For the record, the guy who accuses her; if it turns out he's lyin' he gets a fine of a 100 shekels.

mojo sends

There Really Are No Atheists in Foxholes...

... because we keep throwing them out of the service when we find them... [c.f. Soldier's Promotion Hosed for Religious Belief]

You know, it's not like America doesn't have enough problems/enemies without a small cadre of bloviating gasbags trying to make us turn on each other. This is really the basest kind of stoopidity...

According to the U.S. Census and surveys like the American Religious Identification Survey that nearly 15 percent of Americans, that's almost 30 million people, have no religious affiliation. While about a million are identified as "atheist" the others are agnostic, humanist, secular or simply say "No Religion."

How crazy is it that we are tossing 30 million Americans under the bus when it comes to serving our country because they can't profess a belief in God? And the reason for withholding the promotion of this one individual stretches the credulity of the Army to the absolute breaking point: "According to the lawsuit, Hall was counseled by his platoon sergeant after being informed that his promotion was blocked. He says the sergeant explained that Hall would be 'unable to put aside his personal convictions and pray with his troops' and would have trouble bonding with them if promoted to a leadership position."

Would someone please point out to me where in FM 6-22: "Army Leadership" or FM 22-51: "Leader's Manual for Combat Stress Control" or FM 1-05: "Religious Support" it says that the ability to lead your troops in prayer is necessary for unit cohesion and mission efficiency?

Because I can nearly guarantee that when bullets are flying and all hell's broken loose and you are looking to your leaders in the field to get you through alive, you want to see active, swift, calm, decisive leadership ... As for me, if I were in a hot zone and the world is all turned to sound and fury, and I look to my platoon or squad leader, the last thing I want when it's go-time is to see is that person doubled over in a prayer position rubbing their rosary beads...

mojo sends

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ding Dong the Witch Got Canned...

Huzzah to the unbreakable Spocko! No more will the public airwaves be fouled by the ignorant, violent, spittle-flecked rantings of Melanie Morgan, who found her bony ass out on the street this morning without a job.

Apparently, Citadel Communications which owns KSFO got tired of having major, national sponsors bail on them for not wanting their goods and services associated with the Fourth Freekin' Reich...

So Spocko gets a trophy head for the wall... Outstanding work! And we're gonna line up all her little fascisti friends right next to her...

mojo sends

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

phoenix wright, ace attorney, on telecom immunity...


And the answer is?? Dull Surprise!

It's been a few weeks since I have heard about some sort of knuckledheaded debacle from the Bush Administration. Oh wait..

The Gaza Bombshell
After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.
by David Rose April 2008

So, let me see if I have this straight. The White House decides that it wants elections and a legislative body in the Palestinian terrotories. It forces Abbas to hold those elections, even though the Israeli's and Abbas tell them that they aren't ready and Hamas will win a majority if they go ahead. They hold the elections. Hamas wins over 50%. Go ahead and revel in the stupidity here:

Dahlan says he warned his friends in the Bush administration that Fatah still wasn’t ready for elections in January. Decades of self-preservationist rule by Arafat had turned the party into a symbol of corruption and inefficiency—a perception Hamas found it easy to exploit. Splits within Fatah weakened its position further: in many places, a single Hamas candidate ran against several from Fatah.
Everyone was against the elections,” Dahlan says. Everyone except Bush. “Bush decided, ‘I need an election. I want elections in the Palestinian Authority.’ Everyone is following him in the American administration, and everyone is nagging Abbas, telling him, ‘The president wants elections.’ Fine. For what purpose?”
The elections went forward as scheduled. On January 25, Hamas won 56 percent of the seats in the Legislative Council.
Few inside the U.S. administration had predicted the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal with it. “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” Condoleezza Rice told reporters. “I don’t know anyone who wasn’t caught off guard by Hamas’s strong showing.”
“Everyone blamed everyone else,” says an official with the Department of Defense. “We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this?’

Well Condi, other than the Israeli's and Palestinians, who wasn't cauught off guard? Um..everyone who isn't a Fnorktard, which apparently is no one at State or the White House who are supposed to know. And I love the DOD reaction, "who the fuck recommended this?". Well fella's, thats a tough call. There are so many ignorant dumbshits running around the White House, how could you possibly narrow it down? They were probably just relieved it wasn't their fault for once.

The rest of the article is equally bizarre. And just soak in the Hypocrisy of NeoCons like David Wurmser and John Bolten, who gleefully helped push us into Iraq and a monumental debacle, and now have the gall to snipe at Condi Rice and Abrams when they committ a policy screwup, ableit a big one. And now the U.S. will have to talk to and work with Hamas anyway, even after spending the last few years coming up with one demented scheme after another to avoid just that.

You've got to hand it to the bush people, they NEVER disappoint.