Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 30, 2006

WB: Hizbullah Cheerleader Watch

Billmon:

Hizbullah Cheerleader Watch

Posted by b on August 30, 2006 at 03:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (121)

Breaking Levees

A year ago Billmon wrote: When the Levee Breaks

As a living, functioning city, then, New Orleans has ceased to exist. Even if it can eventually be resuscitated, the patient's long-term prognosis is grim. Just as yesterday was a catastrophe in slow motion, the future of the Crescent City is likely to be a slow, lingering death by drowning: the environmental equivalent of pulmonary edema. In that sense, New Orleans is the canary -- peacock might be the more appropriate bird -- in the mine of global climate change. If melting ice caps continue to push sea levels rapidly higher, its death may also await many of the world's other low-lying cities.

The death will not only come to such cities.

Global warming will induce huge migration waves away from the low-lying coasts and new deserts. For Katrina refugees the experience and situation is sad and uprooting. But there are means for them to survive without violence. The conflict for and over Katrina refugees is a soft one.

The skirmishes resulting from desertification in Darfur are deadly. A one meter rise in sea levels will result in a loss of 16% of land, densely populated, in Bangladesh. Whereto will those people flee? Throughout this century hundreds of millions will have find new homes.

The levees the U.S., the EU and others are building on their boarders will break when that wave arrives. Populists will declare this new migration period to be an invasion of barbarians and the fighting will be fierce, deadly and on a very large scale.

Posted by b on August 30, 2006 at 05:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

WB: Unintentional Irony Department

Billmon:

Mark Twain himself couldn't write a satirical finish that clever.

Unintentional Irony Department

Posted by b on August 30, 2006 at 02:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

August 29, 2006

Diwaniya - "not hurtling out of control"

DIWANIYAH, Iraq -- When the Bush administration talks about the progress it is making in Iraq, it points to places like this provincial capital about 100 miles south of Baghdad. The population is overwhelmingly Shiite, and the region is fairly calm by comparison with the capital. But even here in Qadisiyah province, the transition to full Iraqi sovereignty is taking longer than it should.
[...]
The situation in Iraq is difficult, but the sense of panic in the Washington debate just doesn't match the situation here. It's bad, but it's not hurtling out of control.
Iraq: Still Worth Some Waiting, David Ignatius, WaPo, August 27, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 29 — At least 27 people were killed today when a leaking pipeline where they were siphoning oil exploded outside Diwaniya, Iraqi officials said.
[...]
One official said that the looters had taken advantage of the turmoil that engulfed the southern city on Monday when Iraqi Army soldiers clashed with members of a militia loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric. At least 28 people died during the fighting.
[...]
Gasoline has been chronically in short supply in Iraq, and its price has skyrocketed, from about 4 cents a gallon to about 67 cents a gallon now at the official price, as part of an agreement with the International Monitary Fund.
Pipeline Blast Follows Clashes at Iraqi City, NYT, August 29, 2006

Posted by b on August 29, 2006 at 11:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

OT 06-82

Some news & views:

The NYT has a long piece about the British "moisture on planes" terror scare.

The supects were under surveilance for a year after several tips form the British Pakistani community. The apartment they used was bugged with police video and microphones. They are now said to have wanted to make an HMTD explosive (here is a recipe) which is difficult to make, takes several days to prepare, is not a fluid and extremly sensitive. In summary - that explosive, if it was involved at all, was definitly not suitable for the alleged act.

Some suspects did not have passports and none of the had a plane ticket.

The case was blown when the Pakistani police, at the urging of U.S. officials, arrested a guy connected to the plotters (a fact the NYT forgets to mention) i.e. for political timing reasons.

Ironically today U.S. secretary of homeland security Chertoff in a Washington Post OpEd uses the above case to call for even more international air passenger data to be handed over to his agency. Mr. Chertoff, there were no passengers ...

---

In a report about clashes in Iraq, it is alleged that a big fight occured  between the Iraq military and the Sadr Mahdi militia. But reading through it, it is difficult to find a fact that really points to Sadr forces. I have the feeling someone is setting this up. Oh, by the way, after a few paragraphs on Sadr, we learn that nine U.S. soldieres were announced dead yesterday.

---

Atrios points to this graphic on housing prices now being 200% of their historic value. The return to the means will include a lot of pain.

---

Looking at Eastern Europe, this Guardian comment says what is obvious but seldom mentioned:

Had the eastern countries not thrown out the baby with the bathwater in the early 90s by adopting the massively deflationary IMF/EU prescription, their economies would now be in better shape and much of the current wave of migration could have been avoided. The large-scale labour exodus we are witnessing may benefit the CBI and western multinationals but certainly not most western workers, who are seeing their wage rates depressed. But the biggest losers are the eastern countries, deprived of so many young, talented and productive people.

Your news & views in the comments ...

Posted by b on August 29, 2006 at 01:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)

August 28, 2006

Diplomatic Baggage

This story on Venezuela is quite weird and I do not find any source to point out what really happened. But what is told here is pure spin:

Government officials from the United States and this country are intensifying their verbal sparring after Venezuelan customs authorities this week seized diplomatic baggage from the United States that contained military hardware.

Why would diplomatic baggage contain ANY legitimate military hardware?

Brian Penn, a spokesman for the American Embassy here, told local news media this week that the diplomatic bags seized Thursday contained replacement parts for ejector seats for the Venezuelan military. The United States banned sales of arms and military equipment to Venezuela in May, citing a lack of cooperation on antiterrorism efforts, though it said pre-existing contracts could be honored.

If there is an arms ban, why deliver such at all if there is a ban? More interesting, why deliver such equipment in diplomatic bags and not in a regular transport?

Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman in Washington, told The Associated Press on Friday that the United States had requested an “immediate explanation of the entire incident,” claiming the search violated international treaties on diplomatic baggage. “The impounded cargo consisted of household effects of a U.S. diplomat and a shipment of commissary goods,” Mr. Vasquez said.

Mr. Penn, the U.S. embassy spokesman talks of ejector seat, essentially rockets, but the State Department takes of household effects and commissary goods - which is it?

Here we learn:

[Venezuelan Justice Minister] Chacon said U.S. shipping documents allegedly sent to the Venezuelan air force declared that the plane was also transporting cartridge devices, detonator fuses, rocket motors and pliers _ none of which had been ordered by the Venezuelan military.

"The only thing that the Armed Forces have requested are the (ejection seat) propulsion motors for the OV10 Bronco planes," Chacon said.

"As of today, the Venezuelan air force has not received from any U.S. official any part."

So the U.S. claims there was ordered military stuff in the baggage. The alleged shipping documents talk of other relevent weapons too, though never received.

It may be that the Venezuelan military (air force) needs some detonator fuses to prepare for a coup against Chavez, or maybe the U.S. embassy is importing some stuff for other clients.

Anyhow, the background might well be this: Venezuela to export half a million barrels of oil to China per day by 2009

Posted by b on August 28, 2006 at 04:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Real Wages Fall

The NYT headline writer had trouble to express the truth, so it went with this:

Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity.

But the simple truth is, real wages not only do not rise with productivity, sea levels or the number of bad TV shows, real wages are falling. From the article:

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

The trick is bargaining power. How can that be reestablished?

Posted by b on August 28, 2006 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

August 27, 2006

Heavy Water What?

The NYT is back to spread disinformation about a perceived U.S. enemy. NYT staff reporter Michael Slackman writes: Iran Opens a Heavy-Water Reactor

On Saturday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a provocative, if symbolic, gesture by formally inaugurating a heavy-water reactor. The Iranians say the plant would be used for peaceful power generation. But nuclear experts note that heavy-water facilities are more useful for weapons because they produce lots of plutonium — the preferred ingredient for missile warheads.

That paragraph hardly includes a relevant fact:

  • Iran did not open a heavy-water reactor, but a plant to produce heavy water. It is building a heavy-water reactor, but that reactor will not open any time soon. The now opened plant will have a capacity of 16 tons of heavy water per year. The 40 megawatt research reactor to be build will need about 80 to 90 tons of heavy water to start operating. It will not be finished before 2009 and the needed amount of heavy water will only be available on an even later date.
  • The experts claiming that heavy-water reactors are more useful for weapons than for electricity production should explain why all 18 operational Canadian nuclear plants are heavy-water types and why Germany and France do use heavy water research reactors as neutron sources for material science projects
  • The perfect ingrediant for missile warheads is definitly not Plutonium. About 99.999+% of missile warheads in this world use non-nuclear explosives. Iran has neither the missile- nor the nuclear technology to produce any threatening guided rocket with a nuclear warhead.

Starting with headline up to the very end, the readers of the article are not informed about the issue but dragged into assumptions of an immediate danger.

Judith Miller would have been proud had she written that piece.

Posted by b on August 27, 2006 at 04:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

WB: Cluster Fuck

Billmon:

Having the U.S. government investigate Israel's use of cluster bombs is like having the Unibomber investigate the London subway bombings.

Cluster Fuck

Posted by b on August 27, 2006 at 01:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

August 26, 2006

Weekend OT

Enjoy ...

Posted by b on August 26, 2006 at 02:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (69)

August 25, 2006

"Crush ... Without Inhibitation"

There are many known facts to support these four thesis:

  • Israel claims a historic right to conquer and to ethnic cleanse the Jordan West Bank - the Bush administration does support and furthers this;
  • the Zionist lobby in the U.S has achieved an extremely high influence level;
  • Israel is nurtured as a strategic asset for U.S. interests in the Middle East;
  • the U.S. administration did recommend and expected Israel to "crush" Hisbullah "without inhibitation".

If a critic of AIPAC's role in U.S. policy would say such, the AIPAC and the ADL would be  quick to brand that person as a defaming anti-semite.

But what do they say about a Jewish attorney from Maryland claiming the above in a Haaretz OpEd?

Since June 1967, there has been rigorous debate about the wisdom of retaining the territories that came into Israel's hands in the Six-Day War. Yet, almost no individual with a whit of appreciation for Jewish history would deny the essential right of the Jewish people to return and repopulate these territories that already millennia ago served as the cradle of the Jewish people.
[...]
American support for Israel's claim to Judea and Samaria reached its crescendo in President George Bush's April 14, 2004 letter to then prime minister Sharon, acknowledging that it would be "unrealistic to expect ... a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949 ..."

This U.S. support for Israel did not arise in a vacuum. Israel's protectors in the United States, in the plethora of Jewish organizations that dot the American landscape and at the grass-roots level, have relentlessly struggled to shore up this support.
[...]
In a similar vein, consecutive Israeli governments and their U.S. supporters have worked for decades to ensure that Americans recognize the support that Israel provides in the Middle East. Through careful coordination - from important contacts at Defense Department levels, to meticulously managed visits to Israel by members of Congress, as well as by way of grass-roots lobbying and advocacy - Israel's role as a reliable ally and strategic asset of the United States had become an almost unassailable truth.
[...]
Short of erecting a billboard on Rehov Kaplan, it would have been difficult for the Bush administration to have more strongly communicated to the Israeli government its desire for the Israel Defense Forces to crush - forcefully, vigorously and without inhibition - Hezbollah's forces.

Though the ADL may not touch this, the Arab press will definitly reprint the appropriate sections for a wider digestion.

Who's interest is furthered here?

Posted by b on August 25, 2006 at 04:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Fragile

by James Parker & beq

beq wrote yesterday:

My SO, James, and I have been working together on a project all summer.

This is a piece for an outdoor sculpture show in an industrial area of Richmond that is slowly becoming a gallery/artist's community and there is a successful micro-brewery in the district as well.

We installed it a little over a week ago at the brewery and the opening is tomorrow night. I've been trying to get good nighttime photos of it because it is lit from outside and within. It's hard because it's basically colorless and the etched glass panels are very subtle. It suggests an urban kiosk and we are making a statement about the environment and human effect and the risk to the future.

The website for the exhibition is here. I warn you that it is interactive and tedious.

There is bigger version (150kb) of the picture available and a detail view (240kb).

Posted by b on August 25, 2006 at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

August 24, 2006

Why This Report?

So why did they release this stuff?

Laura Rozen yesterday linked to a report (PDF, 700kb) titled "Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States."

The report was announced to have been written by staff of the House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence - Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy. It turns out, as Laura documents and the Washington post confirms, that it was written by Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA officer who had been a special assistant to neocon John Bolton and is still in the administration. Fleitz has to be seen as a Cheney front man. He might have had some role in the Plame fiasko.

I did read the report yesterday and struggled to understand why it has been released.

On page 1 is a picture of Ahmadinejad behind a lectern that has "The World Without Zionism" pinned to its front. On page 3 are three Ahmedinejad quotes. One refers to the state of Israel, one to the Holocaust as a justification for Israels existence and one to nuclear technology. Page 15 shows a map with the reach of Iran's ballistic rockets, demonstrating that the existing rockets barely cover the Middle East (the center of the firing range is Kuwait and the outer 4,000 mile circle is of a rocket that does not exist.)

To an open minded reader, the pamphlet does hint to but does not present any fact of Iran being a danger to the U.S.. It seems focused on Iran as an assumed danger to Israel. It critizises the U.S. intelligence community for not coming up with any proof that any of the presented dangers are real.

The purpose of the document, as described by the New York Times and Washington Post, is said to be to demonstrate that Iran is an urgent threat and to castigate the intelligence services for not coming to the same conclusion.

This is the same thing that was done before the War on Iraq, but then the grilling was done in private with Cheney visiting the CIA and intimidating agents in private meetings. The propaganda part was done under cover of anonymity by administration chills through outlets like NYT's Judith Miller and others and was based on stove piped false intelligence from the DoD's special office. Later the CIA had to take the blame for the bullshit intelligence conclusions on Iraq's WMD.

But to now blame the intelligence services for not being aggressive enough in coming to frightening conclusions on Iran is counterproductive. This blame guarantees that any future CIA claim of a danger from Iran will not be taken seriously. If the CIA tomorrow says any Iran nuke is an imminent threat (as it and others repeatedly did over the years), everybody will point to the pressure applied through this document and nobody will believe the reports, whether they are right or wrong.

On the propaganda side the report cites various unclassified ambiguous tidbits on possible Iranian WMDs and then blows at the intelligence services for not having aggressively confirmed these reports.

How does this help the neocon case?  It just emphasizes that the facts presented are no such thing and that there is not a bit of really clear evidence the warmongers can build on.

So, again, why has this been published?

Are the neocons so far out of their mind that they fail to see how this hurts their case? Or are they right to assume that this will frighten anyone but me?

What is their reasoning behind this?

Posted by b on August 24, 2006 at 03:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

August 23, 2006

OT 06-81

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 23, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (85)

The Bush Boom Party is Over

The U.S. housing bubble is popping. Interest rates are up and will not go down soon. Many people who recently signed Adjustable Rate Mortgages will learn that they can not afford their houses. But by then housing markets will be down and foreclosure will come. More offers will further turn down the market prices. Construction workers will lose their jobs. Homebuilders will shut down.

This will get really nasty next year when $1 trillion in ARMs are in for readjustment. Finally the Bush boom party is over.

The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes and condominiums dropped by 4.1% in July from June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.33 million - the lowest level since January 2004. Economists were forecasting the pace of sales to fall to 6.55 million.
The fragile housing market.... 
Resource Investor

Some illustrating headlines:

Housing affordability drops to record low, home builders say 
Market Watch
Affordability conundrum: Prices dip, yet homes remain out of reach
Palm Beach Post
Affordable homes still scarce here
Los Angeles Daily News
Luxury housing market sliding
phillyBurbs
Chill cast over KC housing market 
The Kansas City Star
It's a housing market for buyers
Arizon Daily Star

Debtors on Borrowed Time
Press of Atlantic City
Homeowners feel pinch of mortgage rate
Washington Times
Study Warns of Homeowner "Rate Shock"
Consumer Affairs

Stalled housing market clouds Lowe's outlook
Houston Chronicle
Weak housing-market hurts Toll Brothers' profit
The Salt Lake Tribune
Dollar May Decline on Speculation of Cooling Housing Market
Bloomberg

Posted by b on August 23, 2006 at 11:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (158)

The Vultures Circle Beirut

Upcoming donor meetings to raise funds for rebuilding war-damaged Lebanon could be an opening for Western lenders to look for fresh commitments from Beirut to resume politically difficult economic reforms.
[...]
Western lenders are signaling they are willing to help with overall economic support if Lebanon agrees to adopt reforms, possibly seeking an International Monetary Fund program as a signal of its commitment to reform and to frame how donor money could be best used.
Donors may insist on Lebanese economic reforms

Good luck with that. The few hundred millions the west will pull out of its backpocket to salve its bad consciences are not needed. Saudi Arabia did come up with a gift if $1 billion alone. Other Middle East countries did or will follow - no strings attached.

Adding insult to injury, Wolfowitz's(!) Thiefdom Central also tries to get into the game:

The World Bank will reallocate $40 million in previously approved loans for post-war rebuilding in Lebanon and will help verify immediate reconstruction needs as donors consider how much aid to give, a senior bank official said on Monday.
[...]
Saba said the bank would also conduct an economic and social assessment for Lebanon that would review expenditures and budgets for sectors such as health and education.
World Bank moves to help Lebanon rebuild

Let me guess the gist of that World Bank assessment: Hospitals should be privatized, an urgent need to introduce school fee and a Neocon approved Israel friendly curriculum.

The Hisbullah will chuckle and send them back to New York.

Posted by b on August 23, 2006 at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 22, 2006

Rumsfeld Out - Who In?

George W. Bush, Sep 20, 2001:

Either you are with us, or you are withl the terrorists.

Doing a bit of Kremlinology I come to the conclusion that Rumsfeld will be fired as soon as somebody else is found to take the job.

It took more than a year to find anyone willing to take the job of Secretary of Treasury John W. Snow, so it may well take a while a find a replacement for Rumsfeld.

But the case here is much more urgent than the Snow replacement ever was.

Rumsfeld is a political liability for the current administration AND he now did get into the way of the neocon's plans.

Those Republican politicians who will have to fight to get reelected need him to leave immediately. The neocon warmongers need him to get out of the way in time for the next cakewalk. But those two timelines differ and that ensures a conflict within the administration.

Karl Rove knows that Rumsfeld is a huge problem in the path of keeping a majority in both Congress chambers. He let other people know that Rummy has to be fired and he did ask his selection for the next presidential election, McCain, to take care of the issue.

Yes, this is speculative, but follow me along the trail:

Seymore Hersh, Aug 14, 2006 in The New Yorker:

Some current and former intelligence officials who were interviewed for this article believe that Rumsfeld disagrees with Bush and Cheney about the American role in the war between Israel and Hezbollah.
[...]
A Western diplomat said that he understood that Rumsfeld did not know all the intricacies of the war plan. “He is angry and worried about his troops” in Iraq, the diplomat said.
[...]
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on August 3rd, Rumsfeld was less than enthusiastic about the war’s implications for the American troops in Iraq.

Seymore Hersh, Aug 14, 2006 on Democracy Now:

Well, what's interesting about Rumsfeld, because for the first time -- and not everybody agreed, but people that -- you know, I’m long of tooth, Amy, and I’ve been around this town a long time, and obviously, since 9/11, a lot of people talk to me. And for the first time, Rummy doesn't seem to be on board, is what I’m hearing.
[...]
Rumsfeld is very concerned about the 150,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, who are potentially in a very untenable position. There's no question Iraq’s lost. There's a lot of question about what we're doing in Afghanistan. We're sort of 0-for-2 in those two. And so, Rumsfeld was not happy about this policy, about going in in a protracted war in Southern Lebanon with Nasrallah
[...]
[T]o get back to Rumsfeld, there's no question that Iran has enormous influence inside Iraq, dominated now by the Shia, Shia Iran, and I think Rumsfeld’s concern, I was told, is that a protracted war against Nasrallah will only cause the Iranians, in support of Hezbollah, to start squeezing our troops in Iraq.

Laura Rozen, Aug 18, 2006:

Has Bush called some people to inquire if they would be willing to replace Rumsfeld? In the past ten days?

Laura Rozen, Aug 22, 2006:

Bush has put out a quiet feeler to replace Rumsfeld in recent weeks. He was politely turned down by at least one candidate he personally called. Unknown: is this one of many candidates Bush has sounded out?

Laura Rozen, Aug 22, 2006:

Reading the transcript of President Bush's press conference yesterday, which was heavily focused on promoting staying in Iraq, even while acknowledging the strain to the American psyche of the task, it's interesting who he does not once mention. [...] But he does not once mention Rumsfeld or refer to him. Is that a random omission, or notable, that he doesn't once mention the cabinet secretary charged with running the war when talking about the war?

McCain, Aug 21, 2006 Bloomberg via LA Times:

McCain repeated his criticism of President Bush for using too few troops in Iraq and his lack of confidence in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Yet McCain said he remained confident of Bush's ability to handle the Iraq war and called for a greater U.S. military commitment, rather than a troop withdrawal, in the face of warnings that Iraq could be sliding toward civil war. "We cannot lose this," McCain said. "It will cause chaos in Iraq and in the region."

McCain, Aug 20, 2006 in Meet The Press

SEN. McCAIN:  [..] I’ve had strong differences with Secretary Rumsfeld on this issue and other aspects of the war. The, the, the standing down of the Army, rather than hiring them. The, the failure to do a series of measures which were important as part of our effort to control Iraq.
[...]
MR. GREGORY: Do you think Secretary Rumsfeld should keep his job?

SEN. McCAIN: That’s up to the president of the United States. The president picks his team and the president—as long as the president has confidence in him, then he’ll keep that team.

MR. GREGORY: Even at this stage of the war, you think, you still stick to that position that it’s up to the president?

SEN. McCAIN: Because elections have consequences. The president has the right to pick his team. I’ve been asked a number of times if I had confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld and the answer is no.

MR. GREGORY: But you still think he should stay in place if the president wants him.

SEN. McCAIN: I think the president should pick his team and I will support the president’s selections.

Journalist John Harwood Aug 21, 2006 in Meet The Press

MR. HARWOOD: And, David, that’s where the domestic politics is going to go in the near term. I talked to a top Democrat strategist yesterday who said, “What we’re going to do in the fall is try to focus on accountability questions on Rumsfeld, try to look at some way of pressuring the administration and Republicans in Congress on Rumsfeld.” And when that happens, you will have a moment when Republican candidates may have to choose, are they going to stick with the administration or are they going to try to go along with Democrats on some resolution, for example, calling for the president to replace Rumsfeld as a way of showing daylight between themselves and the Bush administration.

This looks like Rummy finally did get a bit of a lesson from his Generals and does now does see the consequences of risking the troops in Iraq. But as more he is developing some kind of lobotomized conscience the less valuable he gets for the next round of bombing the Middle East into something New.

This while he is the perfect negative figure the democrats can use that does not have a preeminent positive presidential aura.

The neocons would prefer Lieberman as a candidate for Rumsfelds position. But Lieberman first has to win or lose the election in Connecticut  before he is available.

That is too long a wait for those republican candidates who have to win their race on the same date.

So this may well turn out to be a struggle between the neocons, Cheney essentially, and the more political minded, i.e. Rove. That is going to be a quite interesting fight.

So who will be Rumsfeld replacement and when will that change of command be announced?

Posted by b on August 22, 2006 at 04:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

Connecting the Battlefields

In the Middle East the battlefields of Lebanon and Iraq are deeply connected.

BLITZER: In today's "Welcome to the Future" report, is a show- down looming with Iran over its nuclear program? And are Tehran's missile tests an ominous sign of things to come? CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has the latest -- Barbara?
[...]
STARR: Analysts say support for a strike against Iran would be tough. U.S. forces in Iraq would have to be protected from Iranian retaliation. U.S. military assets such as tanker aircraft and ships must be put into position. A U.N. peacekeeping force first must be deployed in Lebanon to protect Israel.
CNN - The Situation Room, August 21, 2006 (emphasis added)

Here some Pentagon folks spilled out what was obvious to smart observers. The Israeli attack on Lebanon, launched when Hizbullah was dumb enough to give some pretense, was part of the plan to attack Iran.

Either Israel would have a decisive victory, as some expected, or a third force would go in to protect Irael from any retaliation through Hisbullah in the case of an attack on Iran.

At first the U.S. and Israel called for NATO troops, but the European NATO members did kill that idea very fast. Who wants to play cannon fodder for Israel, especially under U.S. command?

The French stepped in and Cirac, asshole that he might be, made a smart move. He hinted at promissing lots of troops and after the ceasefire was approved at the UN, he did forget that offer.

The Germans said no too, and Israel refuses to have UN troops from Malaysia and Indonesia on its border. Olmert now tries to recruit in Italy. But the Italians make this unsensitive request for Israel to stop the ongoing shooting first.

Even if some European countries will come up with a paper-force, what this force should do is still open. Without another UN resolution, nobody will really show up and the chances for another resolution are slim.

To get to a new resolution might even require another full fledged fight between Israel and Hizbullah. With the trouble Olmert is already in, he is unlikely to start this soon.

But the coming attack on Iran will require two other issues to be solved.

The administration helpers lately have pointed a lot to Muqtada al Sadr as the key source of violence in Iraq. This is of course nonsense. While al Sadr's folks in Iraq may be part of the violence, the militia of other Shia fractions, Sciri and Dawa, as well as the various Sunni groups are in the mix too. So why pick on Sadr?

As far as I can tell Muqtada has been the only one in Iraq who bluntly stated that an attack on Iran would be answered by him with calling for all out war on the U.S. troops in Iraq. No other Shia fraction has so far publicly joined this call.

Before an attack on Iran can happen, al Sadr must be neutralized or the U.S. troops in Iraq will be sacrificed for the higher good of a flattened Teheran.

The third obstacle to an attack on Iran is Syria and here the plans are not clear yet. Syria might be bought out of its alliance with Iran by a peace deal that would give them back the Golan heights. But the Israeli government is not yet ready to do such a deal.

The only other chance to neutralize the Syrian rocket force aimed at Israel is through a massive air strike and ground attacks by special forces. But given the sad state of the IDF, the outcome of such a strike is quite doubtful.

All three condition for a strike on Iran, a neutralized Syria, Hizbullah controlled through some third party and al Sadr imprisoned or killed, are not in place and are unlikely to be in place soon.

In this configuration an attack on Iran is still possible, but the costs for the U.S. and for Israel are currently too high.

But things may have changed a year from now and the project itself is definitly not off the table.

Posted by b on August 22, 2006 at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

WB: Package Deal

Billmon:

[S]o far I haven't seen anything that looks even remotely like accountability -- just the by-now familiar mixture of Orwellian lies, PR spin, carefully rigged investigations and phony rhetorical tricks (like Olmert's, which could have been ripped right from the lips of Donald Rumsfeld).

If Israel is still different from America, it sure the hell isn't apparent in the behavior of its political and military elites, from the Prime Minister on down.

Package Deal

Posted by b on August 22, 2006 at 01:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

August 21, 2006

WB: A Close Relationship

Billmon:

[F]or Shrub to argue that being the former colonial power in Lebanon makes France the ideal candidate to pull quasi-occupation duty there now says a lot about the character of the "new" Middle East.

A Close Relationship

Posted by b on August 21, 2006 at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

WB: Dead Man Talking

Billmon:

This is like Spiro Agnew saying it was all Tricky Dick's fault.

Dead Man Talking

Posted by b on August 21, 2006 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

WB: Hedgehog Defense

Billmon:

I think if Shrub were ever forced to let go of his vision, his one big idea, it would not only crush his fragile ego, it would leave him completely incapable of making any sense at all out of his presidency, out of America's role in the Middle East, out of the universe.

So now he's imitating the hedgehog as literally as any human being can -- he's rolled himself up into a defensive ball, spines out. He has nothing useful to say and absolutely no strategy beyond hunkering down and passively defying reality.

Hedgehog Defense

Posted by b on August 21, 2006 at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

"Revolutionary" and "Scarcity"

by citizen
(lifted from a comment)

At LeSpeakeasy, b real brought up for question Bookchin's use of the terms "revolutionary" and "scarcity". I answered there, and will cross post here:

About scarcity:

I took Bookchin to mean something like what Malooga referred to the other day with the story of yeast in a culture – Two outcomes, either the yeast run out of sugar and die off for starvation (scarcity) or they don’t run out of sugar but do end up awash in a wealth of toxins that also kill off the culture (post-scarcity). Malooga I thought was citing a kind of nightmare, and I think it is the one that Bookchin could see coming all too well.

About revolutionary:

I dislike this term for a couple reasons, but for the main problem is that it seems to be begging for arrest. I imagine Bookchin chose it because he wanted to be absolutely clear about the conservatism of most so-called revolutionaries, because he wanted to declare that the capitalist rules/game serves humanity 0%, and therefore must eventually betray us all, and so with such an opposition there can be no accommodation, only opposition. The game MUST be changed.

But since I see no need to discredit myself as a proponent of humane society, and because I agree with you that revolution is imagined by most readers in a reactionary imagery, I would prefer a term more like “communalist,” and so did Bookchin in the end.

But I wanted to start with “Listen, Marxixt!” because so many at MOA clearly identify with the left, and I want to discuss what it means to identify and ‘steer’ left. I am grateful to Bookchin for putting so clearly that “appearing” left is a disaster. For Bookchin, nothing was to be idolized, and especially not ones politics. Politics are to be worked out in dialog, and that can never be done honestly when one wants to appear to know all the answers.

A question now being addressed at MOA: do we identify with particular anti-imperialists simply because they fight imperialism? If we fail to make such solidarity, do we make ourselves tools of the capitalist game/rules? My guess is that Bookchin’s take on fashionable Marxians offers some guidance:

Let us contrast two approaches, the Marxian and the revolutionary. The Marxian doctrinaire would have us approach the worker--or better, "enter" the factory--and proselytize him in "preference" to anyone else. The purpose?--to make the worker "class conscious." To cite the most neanderthal examples from the old left, one cuts one's hair, grooms oneself in conventional sports clothing, abandons pot for cigarettes and beer, dances conventionally, affects "rough" mannerisms, and develops a humorless, deadpan and pompous mien.

One becomes, in short, what the worker at his most caricaturized worst: not a "petty bourgeois degenerate," to be sure, but a bourgeois degenerate. One becomes an imitation of the worker insofar as the worker is an imitation of his masters. Beneath the metamorphosis of the student into the "worker" lies a vicious cynicism. One tries to use the discipline inculcated by the factory milieu to discipline the worker to the party milieu. One tries to use the worker's respect for the industrial hierarchy to wed to worker to the party hierarchy. This disgusting process, which if successful could lead only to the substitution of one hierarchy for another, is achieved by pretending to be concerned with the worker's economic day-to-day demands. (Listen, Marxist!)

The last line here is tough on us - it demands that we stop fooling ourselves, and choose real strengths rather than make believe ones. Bookchin seems to demand that we not pretend to care about people whom we know nothing about, Rather, if we are honest, we will forthrightly state that we do not know Hassan Nasrallah, and that any opposition we have to anti-freedom imperial politics is based on very local intimate knowledge that we actually can speak to authoritatively. Any sympathy we might have for someone fighting empire in Lebanon is speculative.

However, it is not speculative to say, we are against babies screaming pitifully for milk because an American made bomb has destroyed the baby’s mother. We can speak as authorities on babies crying because we have heard them and knew that the one thing for the hungry baby is its mothers breasts - living breasts preferably. And no armament profit will excuse that murder, that double murder. And of course the armament profit will not even bother to excuse such murders, but will simply sweep them aside. That is reason enough, reasons we understand, to oppose the bombing.

We can speak as authorities on the evil of murdering mothers by bombing them in their beds at night, or while cooking for their families in the day, because we know that every child has one mother, only one irreplaceable mother. We do not have to pretend exotic knowledge and concerns – we already know enough about what it means to be a Lebanese human being, because we know what it means to be a human being.

We have our own ‘bombed-out’ city of New Orleans, and know the human need in a capitalized society for assistance from the government. We know that Cuba prevented casualties from hurricanes. And we know that Lebanese displaced people are being housed without being imprisoned, that HB is already rebuilding houses. What is the US and Louisiana state record in like matters? I support the people who actually build communities. My sense is that Bookchin is saying to first revolutionize the hearts around you, and demand to have a say in how your community plans and directs itself. Then, as a community, decide which other communities to support. My sense is that the Bookchin answer for most is to build community assemblies, and lobby to have them support other communities in the world.

This seems more demanding to me, and so perhaps revolutionary because it would demand that we first revolutionize oneselves. Rather than talking first about whom we support, better we should work to understand the point of working to create local assemblies, then actually create general support for local assemblies, then to create actual local assemblies, THEN to work to get that popular assembly to speak in the voice of popular sovereignty, and it could say – “stop bombing mothers.”

That’s revolutionary.

Posted by b on August 21, 2006 at 03:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (139)

OT 06-80

News, views and other issues ...

Posted by b on August 21, 2006 at 01:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (99)

August 20, 2006

The Cauldron

What Next? ask Daniel L. Byman, director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies, and Brookings Institution's  Kenneth M. Pollack in a piece on the Iraq civil war. It is a quite bleak outlook.

They explain how other civil wars in Ruanda, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Lebanon spread into neightbouring countries, splintered off new guerilla groups and escalated far beyond their starting cause. This, they say, will happen in Iraq too. It is Michael Ledeen's wet dream of a Middle East cauldron coming true.

The piece is riddled with historic ommissions (the Taliban did get support from Pakistan's ISI they say, but the CIA's major role is not mentioned) and the usual anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian propaganda (the countries many Iraqis already fleed to are named, except Syria and Iran, who did take several hundered thousand refugees.) But I recommend to read it, because the scenario given is realistic and very probable.

Their recommendation to the U.S. is to stay involved by setting up very large refugee camps and by threatening Iran away from engaging in Iraq. The former recommendation is not marketable to the U.S. taxpayer and will therefore not happen. The later threat has already been made and is very well on its escalation route.

To have the U.S. stay in the area and to have it play the players certainly guarantees a longer and more brutal war in the Middle East than all scenarios without U.S intervention.

But then, that may be what these Democratic pundits may really have in mind.

Posted by b on August 20, 2006 at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

August 19, 2006

UNIFIL Problem Solved

Tactics is the art of organizing an army. They consist of a bunch of concepts and moves to defend or conquer some territory. But when I visited the Germany army officer courses, they somehow skipped this variant:

Major-General Moshe Kaplinsky, Israel's deputy chief of staff, said his country intended to keep unmanned "outposts" in southern Lebanon.
Stand by Hizbullah says Lebanese army

 

Thinking about it, unmanned outposts are a great idea. Unless Ferengis are around, those should be quiet peaceful places.

Here is a bit more on Kaplinskys new concept:

Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky supported Halutz's sentiments in an interview with Army Radio, saying that the IDF would maintain several outposts in Lebanon even after the IDF withdraws from the area.

Still, Kaplinsky emphasized that the presence would be maintained "without physical forces in the field."
Halutz: IDF will stay until LAF arrives

The French have immediately recognized the particular advantage of this tactic and have now promissed to maintain at least three divisions strength of unmanned outposts to support UNIFIL in South Lebanon. I am sure Mrs. Merkel will be happy to add a lot of German presence without physical force.

So why are the Israelis complaining?

Posted by b on August 19, 2006 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

A Symptom

This is not the ailment, but a symptom of a sinking empire:

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's second-largest carmaker, said first-quarter profit rose 39 percent on increased sales of fuel-efficient Corolla and RAV4 vehicles in the U.S. and a weaker yen.
...
Toyota is spending a record 1.55 trillion yen in the year ending in March to expand production in North America, Europe and Asia, and plans a Texas factory this year and a factory in Russia in 2007.
Toyota's Profit Rises 39% on Higher U.S. Sales, Yen - Aug 4, 2006

---

The Ford Motor Company, which is struggling to keep its grip on second place in the American car market, said Friday that it would cut by one-fifth the number of vehicles it plans to build in the final three months of the year.
...
Together, Ford and General Motors are shedding tens of thousands of jobs, closing more than two dozen plants and cutting billions of dollars of costs. But those measures are effectively canceled out when automakers cannot sell the vehicles already on the showroom floors.
Ford Is Slashing Production 20% for 4th Quarter - Aug 18, 2006

Posted by b on August 19, 2006 at 02:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (52)

Weekend Open Thread

News & views ... Enjoy!

Posted by b on August 19, 2006 at 02:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (51)

WB: Stability

Billmon:

So instability is good, but Hizbullah is a force for instability, which is bad. But Hizbullah lost the war, which is good, so it can't be a force for instability any more, which could be bad or good, depending on what day of the week it is and whether or not Shrub has been hitting the sauce again.

Stability

Posted by b on August 19, 2006 at 12:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

August 18, 2006

WB: Uncle Sam to the Rescue

Billmon:

Uncle Sam to the Rescue

Posted by b on August 18, 2006 at 01:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

WB: Being and Nothingness

Billmon:

Being and Nothingness

Posted by b on August 18, 2006 at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

August 17, 2006

WB: False Labor

Billmon:

It's the rare supertanker that has the brass (or the bilge water) to begin an op-ed in the Washington Post with such a blatant, obscene lie ...

False Labor

Posted by b on August 17, 2006 at 03:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

The Freedom of Oil

The "democracy" argument on Iraq is melting away:

“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month ...

Here is Bush's official (final?) replacement:

[L]eaving before we complete our mission would create a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, a country with huge oil reserves that the terrorist network would be willing to use to extract economic pain from those of us who believe in freedom.

(Emphasis added)

Posted by b on August 17, 2006 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

WB: Sticks and Stones

Billmon:

It's a very cold day in hell when I agree with Rush Limbaugh about anything.

Sticks and Stones

Posted by b on August 17, 2006 at 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

OT 06-78

Other topics ...
and a link to the older OT.

Posted by b on August 17, 2006 at 12:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (98)

WB: A Different Kind of Cluelessness, Part II

Billmon:

Like all polices, our relentless promotion of stability in the Middle East had a price, and now we're paying it.

In that sense, if no other, America is "responsible" for the rise of what Shrub likes to call Islamofascism. His own rhetoric about democratization (a.k.a. the "forward strategy of freedom") implicitly recognizes this. It's an effort, albeit a hopelessly naive and contradictory one, to address a problem that Will has decided simply doesn't exist -- that is, outside the blogosphere's "fog of paranoia."

A Different Kind of Cluelessness, Part II

Posted by b on August 17, 2006 at 12:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

WB: Propaganda Broadcasting Service

Billmon:

Next up on the new, improved PBS: Morning Rendition, All Things Conservative and Hot Air.

Propaganda Broadcasting Service

Posted by b on August 17, 2006 at 12:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

WB: The Reckoning + Alphonse & Gaston

Billmon:

But until Hizbullah clarifies its intentions, I think the Alphonse & Gaston shtick is going to continue -- long past the point where it strikes even me as funny.

II. Alphonse & Gaston

---

If the goal is to restore trust, and public confidence in the state and its armed forces, then Israel's military and political elites are going to have to come clean and admit the full scale of their failure -- and explicitly renounce the long-obsolete notion that Israel's security can be guaranteed by military force.

I. The Reckoning

Posted by b on August 17, 2006 at 12:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

August 16, 2006

WB: Home is Where the Sink Hole Is

Billmon:

But what makes things different -- and potentially more exciting -- this time around are the gaudy new financing gimmicks Kevin mentions: no money down loans, interest-only mortgages, ARMs that reset to truly usurious rates, etc. If and when these loans blow up, which they will, they could leave many home "owners" with no alternative but to sell and sell quickly -- or simply mail the keys back to the bank.

Home is Where the Sink Hole Is

Posted by b on August 16, 2006 at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

He was Puzzled ...

Some fiveteen hours ago, when reading the NYT story and the AP dispatch cited below, I thought everybody will do a post on this. Nobody in my bookmarks did - which about tells you the real story.

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended.
Bush Said to Be Frustrated by Level of Public Support in Iraq

Well, whatever Bush supporter attended that meeting, (and only Bush supporters did,) according to records:

There was no official government estimate, but reporters at the scene said hundreds of thousands of people had taken to the streets.

But really, there were only 10,000, or so ...

So why do they hate us?

An average of more than 110 Iraqis were killed each day in July, according to the figures.
...
United Nations officials and military analysts say the morgue and ministry numbers almost certainly reflect severe undercounts, caused by the haphazard nature of information in a war zone.

Many casualties in areas outside Baghdad probably never appear in the official count, said Anthony H. Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research group in Washington.
Iraqi Death Toll Rose Above 3,400 in July

Posted by b on August 16, 2006 at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

WB: Reversion to the Mean

Billmon:

Virginia is almost down to the Texas level now, which is about six standard deviations below the mean. It's time for something better -- or at least a little better, like Jim Webb.

Of course, Allen's latest crack makes it clear that even a Macaca (whatever the hell it is) would be a big improvement.

Reversion to the Mean

Posted by b on August 16, 2006 at 01:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

WB: Is It Safe? + Stranger Than Fiction

Billmon:

II. Stranger Than Fiction

Bush: So what's it about, Antonio?
Blair: Well, this guy kills this Arab and then he . . .
Bush: Sounds like one of Clancy's books. Can I borrow your copy?

---

I. Is It Safe?

Posted by b on August 16, 2006 at 01:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

WB: Facts on the Ground + Paths of Glory

Billmon:

I wonder if any Israelis will object to the fact that so many lives were spent to take a pair of vanity objective in a pointless, last-minute offensive. Or do they see that as just part of the way wars are waged in the Middle East?

II. Paths of Glory

---

But the last word, as Pat Lang points out, usually goes to the side that winds up in possession of the battlefield. Hizbullah doesn't look like it's going anywhere. The IDF, the other hand, seems to already be looking to clear out of Indian country as fast as possible. (Hey, it's what Custer would have done if he'd been smart.) So it looks like all of Bush's canned speechifying is going to be trumped by Hussein Kalash's plain statement of fact.

"We're still here."

I. Facts on the Ground

Posted by b on August 16, 2006 at 12:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

August 15, 2006

WB: But What About the Second Amendment?

Billmon:

I trust the NRA is taking notes.

But What About the Second Amendment?

Posted by b on August 15, 2006 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

WB: The Facts of Life

Billmon:

The Facts of Life

Posted by b on August 15, 2006 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

WB: A Liar, a War Criminal and a Thief

Billmon:

Halutz bought the house while his soldiers bought the farm.

A Liar, a War Criminal and a Thief

Posted by b on August 15, 2006 at 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

Fake Terror

Craig Murray and Christopher Reed are very suspicious about the foiled terror plot in the UK. I personally think the whole thing is fake. Says Murray:

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

It is another 20 some days until the British police will have to come up with something indictable. Until then the pols and the media can go on to push this particular terror button.

After that, another one will be needed. Any ideas yet?

Posted by b on August 15, 2006 at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

August 14, 2006

WB: Your 2006 Hizbullah Cheerleading Squad

Billmon:

Your 2006 Hizbullah Cheerleading Squad

Posted by b on August 14, 2006 at 11:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

State of the IDF

This short Haaretz piece summarizes the current state of the Israeli Defense Force.

"If our fighters deep in Lebanese territory are left without food our water, I believe they can break into local Lebanese stores to solve that problem," Brigadier General Avi Mizrahi, the head of the Israel Defense Forces logistics branch, said Monday.

Mizrahi's comments followed complaints by IDF soldiers regarding the lack of food on the front lines.

"If what they need to do is take water from the stores, they can take," Mizrahi told Army Radio.

According to Mizrahi, the logistics branch is prepared for the possibility that combat soldiers will have to remain in Lebanon during the winter.
IDF general: Troops lacking food can steal from Lebanese stores

Bad moral, unprepared operations, command hybris.

I tend to think of this as the effect of turning away from a socialist Kibbutzim philosophy to a society based on the neoliberal greed idol.

Hat-tip: Cloned Poster

Posted by b on August 14, 2006 at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (59)

OT 06-77

Other news & views ...

Posted by b on August 14, 2006 at 02:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (86)

 
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