Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 31, 2007

Manifest Tragedy

William Pfaff, a longtime foreign affairs columnist, has a long thoughtful piece in the current New York Review of Books: Manifest Destiny: A New Direction for America. I recommend to read it in full.

As it touches on some discussions we had about a policy of nonintervention being effete and naive, I excerpt some parts and add emphasis to some thoughts that caught my attention.

It is something like a national heresy to suggest that the United States does not have a unique moral status and role to play in the history of nations, and therefore in the affairs of the contemporary world. In fact it does not.
[...]

This is a national conceit that is the comprehensible result of the religious beliefs of the early New England colonists (Calvinist religious dissenters, moved by millenarian expectations and theocratic ideas), which convinced them that their austere settlements in the wilderness represented a new start in humanity's story.
[...]
The nobility of the colonies' constitutional deliberations following the War of Independence, and the expression of the new thought of the Enlightenment in the institutions of government they created, contributed to this belief in national uniqueness.
[...]
A claim to preeminent political virtue is a claim to power, a demand that other countries yield to what Washington asserts as universal interests. Since 1989, when the end of the cold war left the United States the "sole superpower," much has been made of this, with discussion of a benevolent (or even inevitable) American world hegemony or empire—a Pax Americana in succession to the Pax Britannica. While such ideas have not been explicit in official discourse, they seem all but universally assumed, in one or another form, in policy and political circles.
[...]
The UN is a faulty embodiment of international authority because it is an indiscriminate assembly of all the governments of the world, and should, [Rice] argued, be replaced as the ultimate world authority by an alliance or coalition of the democracies. This is a theme frequently promoted in conservative circles in Washington.
[...]
[B]oth the professional foreign policy community and American opinion generally seem to assume that the international system is "naturally" headed toward an eventual American-led consolidation of democratic authority over international affairs.
[...]
The Bush administration and its sympathizers thus see themselves supporting the dominant force in history's development. If history's natural trajectory is toward democracy, US policy is simply to accelerate the inevitable.
[...]
However, it is in the nature of political relationships that an effort to translate a position of material superiority into power over others will provoke resistance and may fail, possibly in costly ways. In the present case, it implies the subordination of others, notably the other democracies that are expected to accept US leadership in a new international order, and may resist this for a variety of well-founded reasons.
[...]
It seems scarcely imaginable that the present administration could shift course away from the interventionist military and political policies of recent decades, let alone its own highly aggressive version of them since 2001, unless it were forced to do so by (eminently possible) disaster in the Middle East. Whether a new administration in two years' time might change direction seems the relevant question. Yet little sign exists of a challenge in American foreign policy debates to the principles and assumptions of an international interventionism motivated by belief in a special national mission. The country might find itself with a new administration in 2009 which provides a less abrasive and more courteous version of the American pursuit of world hegemony, but one still condemned by the inherent impossibility of success.
[...]
The intellectual and material commitments made during the past half-century of American military, bureaucratic, and intellectual investment in global interventionism will be hard to reverse. The Washington political class remains largely convinced that the United States supplies the essential structure of international security, and that a withdrawal of American forces from their expanding network of overseas military bases, or disengagement from present American interventions into the affairs of many dozens of countries, would destabilize the international system and produce unacceptable consequences for American security. Why this should be so is rarely explained.
[...]
A noninterventionist policy would shun ideology and emphasize pragmatic and empirical judgment of the interests and needs of this nation and of others, with reliance on diplomacy and analytical intelligence, giving particular attention to history, since nearly all serious problems between nations are recurrent or have important recurrent elements in them. The current crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine-Israel, and Iran are all colonial or postcolonial in nature, which is generally ignored in American political and press discussion.
[...]
A hard-headed doctrine concerning the responsibilities of people themselves may seem unacceptable when the CNN audience witnesses mass murder in Darfur, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Rwanda, and Bosnia. However an interventionist foreign policy in which the US aggressively interferes in other states in order to shape their affairs according to American interest or ideology is not the same as responding to atrocious public crimes.

The latter may be relatively simple to deal with, as in the case of Charles Taylor, onetime president of Liberia, responsible for several rapacious and exceptionally bloody West African conflicts, now being tried for war crimes in The Hague.
[...]
The United States was fortunate to enjoy relative isolation for as long as it did. The conviction of Americans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the country was exempt from the common fate has been succeeded in the twenty-first century by an American determination to fight (to "victory," as the President insists) against the conditions of existence history now actually does offer. It sets against them the consoling illusion that power will always prevail, despite the evidence that this is not true. Schumpeter remarked in 1919 that imperialism necessarily carries the implication of

an aggressiveness, the true reasons for which do not lie in the aims which are temporarily being pursued...an aggressiveness for its own sake, as reflected in such terms as "hegemony," "world dominion," and so forth...expansion for the sake of expanding....

"This determination," he continues,

cannot be explained by any of the pretexts that bring it into action, by any of the aims for which it seems to be struggling at the time.... Such expansion is in a sense its own "object."

Perhaps this has come to apply in the American case, and we have gone beyond the belief in national exception to make an ideology of progress and universal leadership into our moral justification for a policy of simple power expansion. In that case we have entered into a logic of history that in the past has invariably ended in tragedy.

Posted by b on January 31, 2007 at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

Elites

For no particular reason some search results on various elites:

"elite" - about 32,200,000 English pages

"world elite" - about 303,000 English pages

"american elite" - about 144,000 English pages

"washington elite" - about 48,500 English pages

"british elite" - about 45,900 English pages

"political elite" - about 930,000 English pages

"business elite" - about 300,000 English pages

"media elite" - about 272,000 English pages

"military elite" - about 145,000 English pages

"religious elite" - about 49,200 English pages

"human elite" - about 612 English pages

"communist elite" - about 34,800 English pages

"capitalist elite" - about 28,100 English pages

"socialist elite" - about 920 English pages

"right elite" - about 727 English pages

"left elite" - about 9,100 English pages

"conservative elite" - about 55,200 English pages

"progressive elite" - about 612 English pages

"university elite" - about 12,400 English pages

"union elite" - about 923 English pages

"workers elite" - about 202 English pages

"elite bloggers" - about 10,300 English pages

Now where do I belong?

Posted by b on January 31, 2007 at 02:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

January 30, 2007

Desserts

Mrs. Bush Names Bill Yosses as White House Executive Pastry Chef

Bill Yosses, Bryan Miller: Desserts for Dummies (Paperback)

via Froomkin

Posted by b on January 30, 2007 at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sacrifice?

Tapped speculates: Dick Cheney will be sacrificed

Cheney is the final sacrifice -- the last layer between Bush and the disapproving public, the skeptical media, and the angry Democrats. In one sense, having him there has always provided Bush a human (and humanizing-by-contrast) buffer against the hordes who oppose him and his policies. To sacrifice Cheney is therefore to have sunk to but one level above the very bottom, the core of the presidency itself.
[...]
[H]is neck is moving slowly but inevitably toward the noose. Somebody, after all, has to pay for the complete collapse of the Republican majority and the conservative agenda. And since Bush himself has never paid the price of his own failures in life, it is Cheney who will pay for them next.

Where have I heard such speculation before ? Oh - here:

Negroponte going back to State as deputy may look like a downgrade, but it is a preparation to kick out Rice and to elevate him to Sec. State. She is ineffective for the Cheney/Bush projects and will have to leave. I expect her to resign for personal reasons and to again move into some academic position.

An alternative, but less likely, thought would be a resignation of Cheney for health impediments and Rice taking up his position but without the influence.

The Scooter Libby trial (firedoglake is the place to go to follow the details) already has some not-so-pretty suprises - for Libby and Cheney that is. To suddenly have a serious condidtion would certainly help him to avoid taking the witness stand or worse.

But then - his Iran project is not done yet. These European and Arab allies just don't want to go along.

Then there are those 81+ staffers of his who need to be taken care of (Staff in National Security: 18(!); Mrs. Cheney: 6; Homeland Security: 5; Domestic Affairs: 3; ... .)

So maybe yes, maybe no. The question is probably more when than if. What is your take?

Posted by b on January 30, 2007 at 01:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

January 29, 2007

Perspective

Bea's diligent post is about missing the news on what is really happening in the Middle East.

Today the major media serving, but again missing any real perspective, is this:

Bombing in Israeli resort kills 3

A young Palestinian set off an explosives-laden backpack in a bakery in the Red Sea resort of Eilat today, killing himself and three other people in the first suicide attack against Israel in nine months.

Yes, I do think such a bombing is seriously wrong.

Still I try to see it in perspective. Right now there are some 1,340 Google News links to the Eilat incident. The AP puts out a special - Palestinian Suicide Attacks Since 2001:

During more than six years of Palestinian-Israeli violence, 540 people have been killed in 130 Palestinian suicide bombings.

That's quite some six years of violence. But look what happened just last year on the other side - Palestinains killed by the Israeli Defense Force:

The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip tripled this year, according to an Israeli human rights organisation. B'Tselem said 660 Palestinians had been killed during 2006, including 141 minors. The report claimed that at least 322 of those killed were not fighters.

At the same time, B'Tselem recorded a drop in the number of Israelis killed during the year. Palestinians killed 17 civilians, including one minor, and six members of the security forces.

A cursory and incomplete look at Google News results for the last days lists these accounts:

Another Palestinian killed by Israeli troops, Jan 29 - yet unnamed, Gaza

Palestinian militant killed in Israeli incursion into W. Bank town, Jan 25 - Raji Balawna

Palestinian killed in W. Bank as Abbas meets Israeli FM, Jan 24 - Fadel Balawneh

Palestinian girl, 14, killed by IDF fire near West Bank fence, Jan 20 - Da'ah Abed al-Kadr

Palestinian girl dies of injuries, Jan 19 - Abir Aramin

Palestinian killed in pre-dawn Israeli raid on Nablus, Jan 17 - Muhannad Ghandour

Palestinian killed by unexploded Israeli ordnance in south Lebanon, Jan 16 - Ahmed Houeidi

I realy feel bad doing a tit-for-tat accounting of killings here. But the media slant towards Israeli victims of the conflict is terribly biased.

When will AP put up a special: Deadly IDF Attacks in Palestine Since 2001? Who will print it?

How can we live in peace with each other if we are not told, do not see and do not work to see the perspective of both sides of a conflict?

Posted by b on January 29, 2007 at 04:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

Cauldrons of Malcontent

by Bea

We've spent a fair amount of time this week on Iraq and Iran, but overlooked two other neighboring hot spots, Lebanon and Palestine. In both, this week saw these cauldrons of malcontent nearly boil over. And in both, the US administration's basic approach was the same. So here is an update.

In Lebanon, clashes erupted between pro- and anti-government students in a university cafeteria and then spread out to neighboring areas. The army was called in to contain them. By the time they were over, four people had died and 150 were wounded, and the clashes were called the worst since the 15-year Lebanese civil war ended in 1990. One student wryly observed, as she gazed in sadness at her smashed 6-month old car:

"It is a cursed year for cars," Naameh said. "The year 2006 look of a Lebanese car: smashed and burned."

Naameh's car was parked in the BAU parking lot alongside 200 other vehicles that also had their windows smashed by rioters, and the few that had been set ablaze.

A night curfew was imposed in Beirut and then cautiously lifted a few days later. Schools remained closed. The standoff between the government and the opposition, however, continued without resolution. Veteran Lebanese journalist Rami Khouri warns that Lebanon risks becoming the Mogadishu or the Afghanistan of the Middle East. Another veteran Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk warned:

This is how the 1975-90 conflict began in Lebanon. Outbreaks of sectarian hatred, appeals for restraint, promises of aid from Western and Arab nations and a total refusal to understand that this is how civil wars begin.

Meanwhile, in Paris, a donors' conference organized by Jacques Chirac succeeded, with much fanfare, in raising $7.6 billion for the Lebanese government to help it rebuild from the devastation of Israel's massive onslaught against it last summer, a war which the Lebanese Defense Minister had said at the time had set the country's infrastructure back by 50 years and caused $2.6 billion in damage. Numerous governments made generous pledges of aid, including the US ($770 million). The aid was conditional upon both political stability and the government's economic programme, the core of which is privatization and reduction of the $40 billion debt. These are goals which are, of course, cherished by the U.S. as well:

[M]ost importantly,” Rice said, “our assistance will support the Lebanese government's own ambitious reform program, which demonstrates its commitment to reducing its debt and achieving economic and financial stability.”

She said American businesses are participating in the reconstruction, in areas such as job creation and training, computer technology and the construction of homes, schools and businesses, through public-private partnership programs such as the Overseas Public Investment Corporation.

“This government agency has partnered with Citibank to extend up to $120 million in new financing, through Lebanese banks, for loans to support Lebanese businesses and homeowners,” Rice said, and combined with the government level U.S.-Lebanon Partnership, “these loans will encourage additional private investment and contribute to economic growth.”

But as one Lebanese politician was overheard to ask on al-Jazeera, is it wise for this aid to be given conditionally? What would happen should the political situation change and the opposition come into power with a different economic programme? Would the aid still be forthcoming?

In Palestine, days of violence between Hamas and Fatah supporters in Gaza left 24 dead and hopes for any possibility of national unity in tatters. There, as you may recall, the international community, led by the U.S., had earlier imposed an embargo on aid, and Israel had also withheld Palestinian tax funds, all in an effort to force the rightfully elected Hamas government to heel and play by the rules (i.e., announce that they recognize Israel's right to exist). Gazan blogger Laila observed this week:

It is the first time in history, according to the UN’s John Duggard, that an occupied people have been subject to international sanctions, especially sanctions of this magnitude and rigor.

She described the mood in Gaza:

The Gaza I knew only a few months earlier had changed so starkly and so quickly....

Just one year ago around this time, it was the elation that was unmistakable.

That night in January the surprise election results were announced. The looks on people's faces will be forever seared in my memory. The looks of disbelief and astonishment and jubilation; and those, most importantly, of hope.

For arguably the first time in their history, Palestinians felt they had actively changed their lives for the better, voting out the corruption that had beleaguered them for years.

But the gritty hopefulness of those days is long gone, having since hardened into something more angry and empty and sad.

Sanctions were quick to be enforced. The borders were shut. The people encircled and became impoverished beyond precedent. Gaza was plunged into darkness.

What is most alarming is how all of this unfolded with such purpose and yet with so little protest.

Before our very eyes, global powers have colluded to create a strip of land more isolated than North Korea itself. In so doing, they have sentenced Gaza's residents to a living death in the world's largest internment camp.

Gaza has been cast away into the abyss, its residents left to fend for themselves. They are completely severed from their counterparts in the West Bank and Jerusalem; completely severed from the outside world.

The result is this: Gaza is gradually declining into anarchy and its entire social, political, and economic fabric is unraveling.

And it is this complete decay of whatever semblance of normalcy they had left that makes Gazans more afraid than ever before....

It is more than a mere power struggle. It is a fight for both political legitimacy and the pen that will write history. Who will continue the national historical narrative of the Palestinian struggle?

But the Hamas government has so far refused to yield, turning instead to Iran for a massive infusion of aid. When the Iranian aid was announced, Israel and the US changed their tune and began releasing funds, realizing the shortsightedness of their policy. The US began to pour money into heavy arms for the forces of Abbas to fortify them in their standoff against Hamas. According to one report:

Mr. Bush is very concerned about the destabilizing effect a full-scale conflict between the two groups could have on the region. He fears it could turn into another Iraq. One way of dealing with the concern would be for him to initiate talks with the two groups and see if there is a way forward that would protect Israel's right to exist while at the same time eliminating the risk of civil war between Hamas and Fatah. That is impossible because the United States (and Israel for that matter) do not talk to groups that are dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Mr. Bush also doesn't talk to countries he doesn't like but that's another story. Ever creative, Mr. Bush has another plan. Sell arms.

Mr. Bush is going to pour $86 million into the coffers of Fatah. That is more than the total of all the monies the United States has given the PLO since it was formed in 1994. [Note: This is an error. The PLO was not formed in 1994 but much earlier - Bea]  None of this aid would be necessary if Fatah had not lost the 2006 election. The money will help it regain what it lost at the ballot box. Mr. Bush understands that kind of thinking since he had to go the Supreme Court to become president after losing at the ballot box. According to media reports in late December, with Israel's and the United States's approval, 2,000 AK-47s and two million bullets were transferred to Mr. Abbas's security forces, many of whom are loyal to Mr. Abbas and to Fatah. (Fatah's armed wing known as Al-Aqsa fighters are hostile to Israel and some Fatah folk have launched attacks against both the U.S and Israel but Mr. Bush hopes those people won't be given those weapons.) With $86 million it's a sure bet there will be lots more weapons heading Fatah's way. More arms is a surefire way to bring peace to that region.

As reported here earlier, the policy to pit one side against the other in open warfare was the brainchild of Elliot Abrams and is now bearing fruit.

There is more to report from both these places, but that is enough for now.

And ominously in neighboring Jordan, which has so far remained quiet while absorbing a number of Iraqi refugees the equivalent of 10% of its population of 6 million, there were signs of discontent as well.

In both Palestine and Lebanon, the larger tensions between Iran and the US were being played out at a local level. And the US was relying on a simplistic foreign policy of "Dollars and Guns" -- paying big money locally to put its favored party in power, while failing to address, through wide and inclusive regional diplomacy, the very urgent and real grave underlying concerns and unmet needs that brought both societies to the brink of civil war in the first place. Not, in my view, a recipe for any kind of long-term stability. What do you think?

Posted by b on January 29, 2007 at 02:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

OT 07-011

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 29, 2007 at 01:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (90)

January 28, 2007

We are all Oskar now

by Uncle $cam
lifted from a comment

Where a community has embarked upon organized lying on principle, and not only with respect to particulars, can truthfulness as such, unsupported by the distorting forces of power and opinion, become a political factor of the first order. Where everybody lies about everything of importance the truthteller, whether he knows it or not, has begun to act.

~Hannah Arendt, ‘Truth and Politics’

A Question of Two Truths?* (pdf)

Michel Foucault’s last works tell us that parrhesia is the act of fearlessly speaking the truth. To engage in parrhesia is never, however, a ‘neutral’ act. Parrhesia simultaneously incorporates aesthetic and ethical dimensions. The parrhesiast is someone whose fidelity to the truth becomes the pivot of a process of self-transformation. [For themselves and others, I might add].

Looking for God’s eye I found only a socket—
Huge, pitch dark, and bottomless. Such night
Seethes there it seeps into this world, deepening always;

And around this pit arches a strange rainbow,
The sill of Old Chaos. The void is a mere shadow
Of that vortex devouring our worlds and days!

Best we submit, give up our will, make ourselves tasty, salt ourselves for fates ravenousness hunger. The Eye of Brahma grooms us with appetition.

rgiap's abyss speaks of looking back, but what does a rabbit see while being devoured by the white wolf ...

Does a mango feel pride at the lips of insatiable greed?

I remember the night one of my fathers died, more vividly than kissing my mothers corpse. And to this day still feel a twinge of guilt, because I didn't feel anything the night I pressed my lips to her cold lifeless cheek. I was not there when my mother died but arrived soon after. Rationally, I know looking back, it was because I was in shock.

He died of brain cancer in a make of weeks. One sky blue day at the doctor, gone two weeks later. Surprising how fast we submit. But etched in my soul is the night he died. So drugged on morphine he was catatonic. His body functions were slowly shutting down, I massaged his feet. He was a good man, a hard working man. He was an ink setter for a printing company who worked 70/80 hours a week just to make ends meet. I suspect his company killed him. Poisoned him, as they had others, but alas, that is a different story.

All he could manage to do on his off hours --which were few-- was sit in front of the box, the tit. That became his world, his world view, all he could manage tired and torn down as his was, from working so much for shit pay; his world became small. Sad, but hardly unexpected, in todays times. But I digress, the night before he died I had had a heated scene, an exchange with his pretentious doctor. I had not known that the man was terminal. Doctor X had stopped feeding him two or three days before I got into town, however, Doctor X didn't bother to tell the family that pop was a gonner and didn't have the need?

When I found out he had not been fed, even intravenously, I went into a rage! Not knowing AMA protocol for a terminal human. Within what seemed like hours afterwards, but was only minutes, they fed him at my request, more like demand. I didn't have the wherewithal at the time to understand that the tube in his arm wasn't food, but high doses of drip morphine. I was completely aghast, in my stupor all I could think was that this man was dying and they were denying him at least the precious gift of food, life affirming water; in my mind not only was he doped beyond the pail, I kept thinking, what if underneath, somewhere that we don't know about yet, or talk about, what if he knew he was dying and more, if he would rather not be drugged.

Anyone who has gone through these kinds of life/death ordeals knows of the crazy thoughts that goes through ones mind. I kept thinking, he can't talk, he is to drugged to talk, what if he wants to talk, to communicate in some way, one last time. Visions of what it must be like being trapped or buried alive ran through my head. Does he feel like that? Would he rather go not in a drugged induced state? As I said above, I massaged his feet, I didn't know what else to do.

At some point, as time seamed to sit still, though I continued to rub his feet, it occurred to me to pinch the inner arch of his right foot, there was a reaction, he could feel it! I gripped it harder, not out of meanness, or cruelty, but, well, I don't really know why, it was like the proverbial pinching oneself to see if your real .. to see if your dreaming this ... why was I PINCHING HIM AND NOT MYSELF? What if he wants to talk, but can't, trapped under man's opium. The other synthetic God. I remembered writing a paper in school about the opium wars, the trade wars, the building and financing of Princeton, the West tends to forget the atrocities and pain of death it has done to other countries, the East never does ...

"quinine for malaria, hartshorn for snakebites ... and opium and whiskey for everything else." (Haun 1996)

Is this all we can do, bake (Chemo-thearpy) and dope them? Is this our medical practice? Is this how far humanity has advanced?

Can he recognize me? Does he know where he is at? Does he know he's dying? what if, what if ... it was maddening. But the thing, that got me, the thing that will forever be imprinted on my soul, was looking up and realizing that his lips were dry, it dawned on me in that way that snaps you out of one trance and into the liminal state before another, he can't even drink. O' what cruelty of death, and of life, I thought. I moved to his side, thinking, how many days, hours, minutes has he lain here without water. His parched lips, were magnified in my reeling mind. My mother, walked in about that time, turning, I asked, "mother, how how has it been since he's had a drink"? She replied, 'son he can't drink'. I burst into tears.

It was like being hit with a hammer in the face. Goddamn, Goddamn you God! I moved to his side table there was water there, it was within reach, what if he wanted water but couldn't reach it. My mind was on fire, I was screaming inside my head, what if he's thirsty? What if he's thirsty, what if he's ... and can't even reach for water, thoughts tumbling upon other unfinished thoughts, to be that close to water and not be able to even drink! It was beside his head! On the table beside his head. Imagine not even being able to ... the things we take for granted.

I looked back at his dry cracked and parched lips, there was spittle in the corners of his mouth, but the rest of his lips were white and chalky. I picked up his water cup, there was a dabber sponge on a stick in it, I slowly and gently put it to his lips, tears flowing from my eyes, this man, this man was 6'6, a huge bear of a man, he moaned a sound like a coo of a baby, an infant, an silent organism and then a sigh. He suckled on the dabber stick sponge like it was the last thing he would ever do. It was. I cried for hours and days, the waves of that night washed over me again and again, deeper it went each time, in the days afterward and even as I write this, it comes, it envelops me like the air I still breath.  It is painful, yet I am grateful for it.

And if the great agora (αγορά) does fall another will take his place and another ... such is the world.

I have said before, "AMERICA FEELS LIKE IT'S UNRAVELING..." Because it is. To see it, --It seems-- one must look back at it. It seems one must look (read: see) with the eyes of an MC Escher; this impossible chessboard. It is being unraveled. A POLARIZATION method of the grand shellgame. "Suicidally beautiful."

Many can't see, most will not even look, And here we are, with one and a half political parties dividing up the spoils, pushing the empire ever outwards, apologizing for constant collateral damage, justifying jail and worse for dissenters, claiming citizenship itself is a revocable privilege of good behavior. We are watching the American sun come up on Oskar's view.

Through Oskar's eyes, there could be no illusion of salvaging or steering the situation in certain directions. Just the certainty of waiting it out, getting through the day, week and month. Acting no longer as a participating citizen of a state or society but as a roving soul seeking only to stay on its feet until the storm passed, until the madness burned
out.

A view he did not choose, or think up, or convince himself to hold. It came to him when he opened his eyes. It was there one morning.

America can no more back down from conquering the Middle East than give up the American way of life, the American seat atop the human pile. This madness of our nation will continue to burn until it burns out. No amount of discussion will derail it. The world is being taken step by step into total war, by America.

We are all Oskar now.

*Us or them. Our house made of dawn.

Posted by b on January 28, 2007 at 04:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

January 27, 2007

War on Iran - Imminent

Readers here may get tired of me talking about and linking to all the stuff about a War on Iran.

Sorry folks, but it is going to happen. Cheney/Bush will attack Iran and they will do so pretty soon. Most likely before April/May, before their British poodle leaves his office.

Robberts asks Why Can't Americans See What's Coming?. Well, some see it. But look at the pictures and reports of today's rinky-dink demonstration in Washington D.C. Any slogans against a war on Iran? Anything in the relevant OpEd's or in Congress?

Most people's thoughts and the media attention are about the ongoing war on Iraq. A war on Iran is considered to be an urban legend. Few have even considered what such a totally unjustified war may mean.

Not thinking has consequences.

I am still waiting of some news of another carrier leaving towards the Persian Gulf. Three carriers would allow for a sustained conventional air campaign against Iran. First against air-defense, then against military assets and then on to the real goal - bombing Iranian infrastructure and lives back into the middle-ages.

But if the U.S. goes nuclear, as some assess as likely, two carriers are all that is needed. The other assets, Marines to capture and secure Iranian oil-platforms, mine hunters to clear the street of Hormuz for oil tankers and some "surge" troops in Iraq to protect the bases and to secure logistics are in place.

The "hit" might come anytime now.

Crude oil gained some 10% through the last 10 days, gold some 8%. Lockheed shares did increase by 50% over the last year - ominous signs.

Pat Lang says there are "hundreds of thousands of people from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guard corps already in Iraq." He knows that realm and he definitly does not argue for a war: "We don't need any more wars. Wars are really bad."

When the U.S. bombs Iran, its troops in Iraq are toast. That calculated slaughter again will give justification, and a majority, for again introducing a draft and a total war by the U.S. and Israel on about every country in the Middle East.

Consider the original plans, documented four years ago:

Late last month, The Weekly Standard's Jeffrey Bell reported that the administration has in mind a "world war between the United States and a political wing of Islamic fundamentalism ... a war of such reach and magnitude [that] the invasion of Iraq, or the capture of top al Qaeda commanders, should be seen as tactical events in a series of moves and countermoves stretching well into the future.

These plans are still operative. Some tactical problems in Iraq have slowed them down a bit, but the general strategy is firmly in place.

Americans and their Representatives and Senators have either not noticed or are compliant with this strategy.

There may be still a few ways to fight this, please try to do so now.

Posted by b on January 27, 2007 at 04:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

Weekend-OT

News & views - an open thread ...

Posted by b on January 27, 2007 at 03:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (126)

January 26, 2007

Stalemate?

by Rick
lifted from a comment

Uncle, I checked out your link Is There Something Wrong with the System? and found an excellent discussion there at Huffington Post. I would say the system is broken, but that would imply it was working correctly before. That is not to say some things haven’t gotten better for “We, The People”.

In the two to three hundred years that our country has struggled to become an exemplary nation, there certainly have been successes. There have been definite improvements in human dignity regarding race and creed, definite improvements in social programs for the poor, and generally (except during specific instances of war and economic depressions), definite improvements in our standard of living. In fact, overall, one would have to admit that some positive implementations of socialism have improved many lives here in America.

In that respect, as noted months ago, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the “Ratchet Effect” theory, at least as experienced in the long term. The effects of advanced technology and larger populations work together to require additional socialistic solutions no matter what political persuasion one subscribes to.

I have problems with politicians of the left and of the right, with those who call themselves conservative and those who call themselves liberals. In short, I have problems with political labels, and more recently, I have deep misgivings with those who directly support one party over another without true examination of our broken and corrupt “Two Party System”. Political misuse of labels certainly contributes to our broken political system.

Let me explain by an example:

Last week, Vice President Cheney, in a live television interview, was asked if Hillary Clinton, would make a good President. The response from Cheney was quick and short, and although I don’t have the transcript in front of me, if my memory serves me half-way correct, Cheney answered something like the following: “no she would not, she is a Democrat, and I don’t agree with the principles of the Democratic Party”.

There were not any further details from Cheney on exactly what and why Hillary’s principles were insufficient to run the country. With Rush Limbaugh speaking to over 13 million devoted listeners weekly, and Limbaugh’s distinguished use of divisive tactics, how easy it is for millions of “ditto heads” (and a million or so others that these ditto heads influence) to accept Cheney’s poor response.

Our politicians constantly use labels and division to our detriment. In a less obvious and extreme way, our American political system reminds me of Iraq; that is, labels are used by both parties and even by non-party citizens of America, sort of like Iraqis now being allowed to live or die on whether they are Shiite or Sunni.

Are such labels as left or right, so commonly used, so really important here in America, or do they serve a more devious purpose?

Personally, I consider myself a “Conservative”. And I do not see free enterprise as necessarily an enemy of social cooperation. Now before every social progressive shouts me down with personal attacks in all capital letters, let me further say that for example, just off the top of my head, I would have no problem with:

  1. Socializing American energy (gas, oil, etc.).
  2. Socializing our communication infrastructure.
  3. Having a decent socialized medical program available for all.
  4. Removing and/or changing much of the overly protective copyright/patent rights.
  5. Federal and State funded/regulated campaigning open to anyone regardless of party or persuasion.
  6. Removing from corporations, however possible, any political power/influence on our political system and political decision-making.

The last issue is of most importance. Readers here at Moon have heard me time and time again speak out against Corporatism. It is truly, in my mind, a form of Fascism. The problems in America are readily apparent but naturally not addressed by our "elected" representatives.

The academic definition of Fascism is extreme nationalism. But that definition is surely incomplete in today’s global corporate world. Since even before the East India Trading Company, multinational operating corporations have afflicted populations. But such ill consequences have never been on a scale that the poor and marginal of the world are experiencing today. By the term marginal, I am addressing most of us in the developed world.

Regarding my last post concerning Bush’s State of the Union Speech and Webb’s rebuttal, I wish to expound to further explain some points above.

Again, not to beat a dead horse, and definitely Jim Webb is not a dead horse, but I do fault Webb for being part of the system yet not speaking out more clearly against the ills that this system brings - not only to Americans, but to all people of this world.

Examining his speech once more from annie’s link to Crooks & Liars: First the headline from the linked post:

Sen. Webb’s Democratic Response to the SoTU: The war’s costs to our nation have been staggering

This headline is not too off the mark in summary of the Democratic rebuttal. As noted earlier, no mention of the massive loss of Iraqi lives and treasure.

Concerning Iraq and speech specifics, Jim Webb compares Iraq to the Korean War where Eisenhower called for an end to a bloody stalemate. Looking up “stalemate” synonyms from dictionary.com, one finds: impasse, standoff, standstill.

To be sure, The Iraq War is not a stalemate. And as an aside note, the U.S. continues to maintain troops in Korea, and at some significant cost. Certainly, such an ending for Iraq would have repercussions in the area and would probably not respect the sovereignty of Iraq. And I am not implying that this is what Webb recommends.

Looking at Jim Webb’s impressive background, it is discouraging to see Webb, above all people, quoting Eisenhower in such a manner. For most Internet and independent (independent as to thinking, not relating to the political party) thinkers, and I take the liberty of using “we” here, we think of a different quote by Eisenhower, a quote that warns Americans of military/government corporate collusion.

However, looking at the Iraq picture from a political party point of view – from either the Republican or the Democratic Party, such evisceration is exactly what one can expect.  The political parties have become nothing more than a cancer upon the American people, feeding on our military tax dollars and the dollars we are all but forced to pay to large corporate entities.

I would like to expand more, but again, time is limited. In summary though, it is not just America’s political system that is broken, but America’s religious institutions, social support systems, and unfortunately, even our culture is diseased with some form of this cancer.

Most surprising, is how this cancer has eaten away our religious institutions. Unimaginable that today we see many -so-called “Christians” accepting the notion of torture for the “common good”. I can only explain this by divisive actions (labeling, i.e. distorting the character and removing the human dignity of the detainee), tactics used by those with influence and power.

As a footnote, I refer again to Webb’s reference of an American and Iraqi “stalemate”. Such a characterization is not just an understatement, but such a comparison was wrong on so many levels. As for the understatement, it is surely wrong to compare evils, such as U.S. to Iraqi body counts, but let not any of us ignore the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives lost. Our collective guilt for lost lives is engraved in stone in a monument that stands before the whole world.

Moreover, the question left unanswered, and not even asked, is: “What exactly is to follow this so called “stalemate”. Any attempt to describe the bleakness of Iraq’s future was avoided, a bleakness due totally by faults of our American Congress and President, and I say this with emphasis that American transgressions were performed by Administrations of both political parties, beginning with the first Gulf War, then the sanctions under both Clinton and Bush, then the second invasion with almost full support of both parties, and now the continued totality of U.S. involvement.

What specifically wasn’t said, with all its implications, is that the puppet Iraqi government can not self-exist in its present form. Again, I am more than unimpressed and more than thoroughly disgusted with both of our major political parties. I cannot even imagine the rage that an Iraqi has towards America.

Stalemate? No, there is no stalemate in Iraq. The stalemate is in our broken political system and culture.

Posted by b on January 26, 2007 at 03:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

January 25, 2007

A Presentation

The presentation, Khalilzad said, would include details about who the detained Iranians are and what they were doing in Iraq, as well as information about alleged contraband coming across the Iran-Iraq border.

"We are working to put something together and we will have something for you in the coming days," he said.
Details on Iran's activity pledged, LAT, Jan 25, 2007

---

AFTER SECRETARY OF STATE Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council yesterday, it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.
[...]
Mr. Powell's evidence, including satellite photographs, audio recordings and reports from detainees and other informants, was overwhelming. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, called it "powerful and irrefutable."
Irrefutable, WaPo Editorial, Feb 6, 2003

---

The Powell evidence will be persuasive to anyone who is still persuadable.
Powell's Smoking Gun , WSJ Editorial, Feb 6, 2003

---

more

Posted by b on January 25, 2007 at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

January 24, 2007

VP vs. P

Is Libby, with Cheney's backing, fighting to kick Karl Rove out of the White House? Is this a proxy-fight for the big one? Cheney versus Bush? VP vs. P? Who will win?

To follow the story Murray Waas, firedoglake, Isikoff at Newsweek seem to be good sources.

Isikoff writes:

.. defense lawyer Ted Wells shocked the courtroom and all but tossed the “pardon strategy” out the window. Seeking to rebut Fitzgerald’s contention that Libby had lied about his knowledge of Plame’s CIA employment in order to save his job with Cheney, Wells shot back: “Mr. Libby was not concerned about losing his job in the Bush administration. He was concerned about being set up, he was concerned about being made the scapegoat.”

According to Wells, the chief culprit, or at least the beneficiary of the plot was Rove, described by the defense lawyer as “the president’s right hand man,” whose survival was essential for the president’s re-election. As related by Wells, his client was so worried that Rove’s fate was taking priority over his that Libby went to his boss, Cheney, in October 2003 and complained: “I think people in the White House are trying to set me up. People in the White House are trying to protect Karl Rove.”

Well’s argument was both brilliant and complex-and perhaps difficult for non-news hounds on the jury to follow. But it raised the prospect that the Libby trial will now turn into a horror show for the White House, forcing current and former top aides to testify against each other and revealing an administration that has been in turmoil over the Iraq war for more than three years.

Waas:

While this is going to be a major theme of the defense in the case, and might seem contrived at first glance, Cheney's note was written contemporaneous to the events and apparrently reflected an inherent division-- which I have written about in various National Journal stories-- between the OVP and the White House staff.

There is lots of room for speculation why Libby is not going for a pardon, but for a full assault on the men and women next to the president. I can not believe he does this without Cheney's agreement.

But will Bush give up on Rove without hitting back? That sounds unlikely to me. The Libby trial will now be used to publicly wash a lot of dirty laundry. Maybe this will keep the administration busy enough to stop them from working on other projects. But it could also be possible that other projects will be launched to deflect attention away from the trial.

Anyway, we are up for interesting times.

So what are the (constitutional) consequences of a fight Cheney versus Bush? Is there any precedence? Could you please pass the popcorn?

Posted by b on January 24, 2007 at 08:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

Twelve Month?!

In his State of the Union address Bush mentioned Iran five times. He definitely would like to bomb that country and is looking for reasons to do so.

But in the U.S. the press has started to investigate government claims instead of just repeating them. Without media and public support, a decision to bomb Iran based on unproven facts would lead to impeachment.

But there are still some folks in the U.K. press that are available to spin up reasons to bomb Iran.

Con Coughlin, a so called journalist and the UK's Judith Miller equivalent, has several times peddled neo-con lies and MI6 disinformation.

Today he is at it again with a conspiracy piece based on one anonymous source and full of impossible facts. In the Daily Telegraph he writes: N Korea helping Iran with nuclear testing

North Korea is helping Iran to prepare an underground nuclear test similar to the one Pyongyang carried out last year.

Under the terms of a new understanding between the two countries, the North Koreans have agreed to share all the data and information they received from their successful test last October with Teheran's nuclear scientists.
...
A senior European defence official told The Daily Telegraph that North Korea had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of last October's underground test to assist Teheran's preparations to conduct its own — possibly by the end of this year.
...
As a result, senior western military officials are deeply concerned that the North Koreans' technical superiority will allow the Iranians to accelerate development of their own nuclear weapon.

"The Iranians are working closely with the North Koreans to study the results of last year's North Korean nuclear bomb test," said the European defence official.

"We have identified increased activity at all of Iran's nuclear facilities since the turn of the year," he said.

"All the indications are that the Iranians are working hard to prepare for their own underground nuclear test."
...
Intelligence estimates vary about how long it could take Teheran to produce a nuclear warhead. But defence officials monitoring the growing co-operation between North Korea and Iran believe the Iranians could be in a position to test fire a low-grade device — less than half a kiloton — within 12 months.

The precise location of the Iranian test site is unknown, but is likely to be located in a mountainous region where it is difficult for spy satellites to pick up any unusual activity.

Conspiracy Coughlin has another piece to the accompany the above, The ominous relationship between North Korea and Iran, and he has his editors chipping in with some ridiculous musing of their own: Strange bedfellows – but dangerous none the less

Hmm - so where to start?

North Korea has tested a plutonium bomb. The plutonium was extracted from spend nuclear fuel rods that had previously been used in a nuclear reactor. This after North Korea left the Non-Proliferation-Treaty and IAEA inspectors had left the country.

Iran does not even have the means yet to make nuclear fuel to fill a reactor. It does not have a working reactor either. It thereby does not have any spend fuel rods that could provide plutonium. Its nuclear installations are under IAEA supervision.

To enrich enough Uranium for nuclear fuel, to build a reactor, to "bread" the fuel and to extract plutonium and to prepare a bomb 8-10 years of unhindered, unsupervised nuclear engineering would be needed. It also would have to happen without any of the problems that usually occur in such processes.

But Iran is, according to Coughlin's source, suspected to do a test within 12 month?

A "low grade device - less than half a kiloton" would be much more difficult to make than a multi-kiloton device. It took the U.S. years of experimenting and tests to be able to make small devices. The North Korean test was so small because it was dud, i.e. the test FAILED.

As for satellites and "mountainious regions" - here is something for Mr. Coughlin to learn. Satellites do indeed fly ABOVE the earth and look DOWN. They see things on the surface of mountains just as well as on the surface of a flat desert.

But some basic science and fact checking is not needed for fanatic ideologists who want to start another mayhem in the Middle East. Be they at the AEI or the Daily Telegraph.

Posted by b on January 24, 2007 at 06:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

OT 07-009

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 24, 2007 at 02:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (98)

January 23, 2007

O(_!_)O Speaks

Strolling through a flea market in Berlin one stand with pompous objects caught beq's eyes.


bigger

'Arsch mit Ohren' is a German expression usually picturing a person in some authority.

Germans are serious about their culture. So the recent quarterly research publication of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum discusses Symbolism and Change of Meaning (PDF, German, pg. 4-8) of 'asses with ears.' Kids eat them.

The biggest ass with ears of all will release some stinky hot air tonight.

President Bush tonight will try to change the subject -- and will fail.

says Froomkin.

The expectations are set for some SOTU announcements on new domestic policy initiatives, like a new health care trap.

But Rove is still working in the White House - so I expect something different.

Some international initiatives where Bush can bet on genuine bipartisan support.

Words that come near to a declaration of war on Iran, support for Israel's colonialism and apartheit and a fierce condemnation of today's labor supported General Strike in Lebanon.

Democrats and Republicans will applause those lines.

Yes, there are lots of O(_!_)O around.

What to do about them? Here is an idea:


bigger

---
So who will Bush kiss today? What is his biggest applause line? While you watch or smell the SOTU fart, what is your impression of preparations, buttock-language, content and reactions? Let us know.

Posted by b on January 23, 2007 at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Polls

The good news:

  1. Bush's approval rating is down to 28 %.
  2. People in Kenya, Nigeria and Phillipine still have a somewhat positive attitude towards U.S foreign policy.

But elsewhere? Well ...

The poll shows that in the 18 countries that were previously polled, the average percentage saying that the United States is having a mainly positive influence in the world has dropped seven points from a year ago--from 36 percent to 29 percent—after having already dropped four points the year before.
...
Over two-thirds (68%) believe the US military presence in the Middle East provokes more conflict than it prevents and only 17 percent believes US troops there are a stabilizing force.

The poll shows that world citizens disapprove of the way the US government has handled all six of the foreign policy areas explored. After the Iraq war (73% disapproval), majorities across the 25 countries also disapprove of US handling of Guantanamo detainees (67%), the Israeli-Hezbollah war (65%), Iran’s nuclear program (60%), global warming (56%), and North Korea’s nuclear program (54%).

Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes comments, “According to world public opinion, these days the US government hardly seems to be able to do anything right.”
...
[A] majority of Americans (57%) say that the US is having a mainly positive influence in the world. This is down from 63 percent a year ago and 71 percent two years ago.
World View of US Role Goes From Bad to Worse
Global Views of the US - Questionnaire and Methodology (pdf)

The downtrend is obvious in the U.S. too, but there is still a majority that believes the U.S. to be a positive force.

This number will still have to drop much lower before a general change in U.S. foreign policy attitude can be expected.

Even then nothing will change with the current administration:

CHENEY: Well, Chris, this president, and I don't think any president worth his salt, can afford to make decisions of this magnitude according to the polls. The polls change day by day...
Vice President Cheney on 'FOX News Sunday'

Posted by b on January 23, 2007 at 03:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 22, 2007

Eat or Drive

As long as there are hungry people in this world, is there any moral justification to use eatable crops as fuel?

Corn prices have hit their highest levels in more than a decade, fueled by US government pressure for higher production of ethanol as an alternative power source for cars.
[...]

"The US is pivotal to the corn market, as it accounts for over 40 percent of global production and almost 70 percent of exports," said Helen Henton, head of commodity research at Standard Chartered Bank.
[...]
[E]thanol now consumes 20 percent of the US corn harvest, compared to six percent in 2000, according to USDA estimates.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, US President George W. Bush is expected to issue a new call for higher output of corn-derived ethanol to fuel US automobiles and so lessen the country's reliance on imported petroleum.

In a speech this month, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said that six years ago, the United States had 54 ethanol plants capable of pumping out less than two billion gallons (7.6 billion liters) a year.

Today, more than 100 plants now produce a combined total of more than five billion gallons per year.

"More than 70 additional plants are under construction, expected to increase our production capacity by eight billion gallons. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a lot of corn," Johanns said.
[...]
In Mexico, trades unions plan to lead mass protests on January 31 against steep rises in the price of corn tortillas, which have prompted the government to impose price caps on the country's staple food.

Allendale market analyst Joe Victor said that world stocks of corn are "historically tight" at 86 million tonnes now, compared to a previous low of 89 million in 1983.
Link

The first-world farmers are happy to get their fruits subsidized when they convert them to ethanol. Even when the energy balance of producing ethanol is doubtable, especially when considering the use of high-energy fertilizers. There is quite a debate about this.

Unfortunatly the question of eat or drive will not arise for a single person. Those who decide to drive their SUVs will not lack the food or the money to pay for a meal. They may not even be aware that they are burning other peoples dinner.

But the backslash of global warming and hunger elsewhere will reach the first-world too, through famines, wars and the resulting mass migrations.

Posted by b on January 22, 2007 at 02:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

January 21, 2007

Plan B

In an analysis, filled with truthiness from "senior administration officials", the Washington Post explains how The Surge happened:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had a surprise for President Bush when they sat down with their aides in the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman, Jordan. Firing up a PowerPoint presentation, Maliki and his national security adviser proposed that U.S. troops withdraw to the outskirts of Baghdad and let Iraqis take over security in the strife-torn capital. Maliki said he did not want any more U.S. troops at all, just more authority.

But Bush did not listen to Maliki, his own Generals or the Baker-Hamilton commission:

Bush relied on his own judgment that the best answer was to try once again to snuff out the sectarian violence in Baghdad, even at the risk of putting U.S. soldiers into a crossfire between Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias. When his generals resisted sending more troops, he seemed irritated. When they finally agreed to go along with the plan, he doubled the number of troops they requested.

In reality, half of that "doubled number" will happen February to April, the other half form May to July.

But there was a Plan B that was consider and rejected:

A version of Maliki's surprise proposal during the Amman meeting turned out to be the major alternative considered by Bush, White House officials said. The plan called for ringing Baghdad with U.S. troops while Iraqi security forces fought the sectarian violence in the city. Other U.S. troops in the country would shift to the borders to keep Iranian and Syrian infiltrators out, leaving U.S. forces with one main combat mission -- attacking al-Qaeda elements in Anbar province in western Iraq.

The attribution of this plan as "a version of Maliki's" plan is spin. Maliki did ask for less troops and more responsibility - not for ringing Baghdad.

But the Plan B offered in the above piece is now advertised by no less a war criminal than Henry Kissinger.

Kissinger agrees with Bush's general War On Islam. In the International Herald Tribune he opines:

The war in Iraq is part of another war that cuts across the Shia-Sunni issue: the assault on the international order conducted by radical groups in both Islamic sects. Such organizations as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mahdi army in Iraq and the Qaeda groups all over the Middle East seek to reassert an Islamic identity submerged, in their view, by Western secular institutions and values.

The most important target is the United States, as the most powerful country of the West and the indispensable component of any attempt to build a new world order.

For the new world order in Iraq Kissinger prescribes:

Of the current security threats in Iraq — the intervention of outside countries, the presence of Qaeda fighters, an extraordinarily large criminal element, the sectarian conflict — the United States has a national interest in defeating the first two; it must not involve itself in the sectarian conflict for any extended period, much less let itself be used by one side for its own sectarian goals.

Certainly there is no reason for the indispensables to care about crime and sectarian conflict in the new world order. So what would Kissinger do:

As the comprehensive strategy evolves, a repositioning of American forces from the cities into enclaves should be undertaken so that they can separate themselves from the civil war and concentrate on the threats described above.

The principal mission would be to protect the borders against infiltration, to prevent the establishment of terrorist training areas or Taliban-type control over significant regions.

Additionally Kissinger sees some need for diplomacy to share the burdon and/or for Iran to pay "a serious, not a rhetorical, price for choosing the militant option."

So the Plan B the Washington Post reports on is obviously Kissinger's Plan B, not Maliki's.

As Plan A, the fake surge, will have no significant results in solving the problems, expect this plan B to become operational pretty soon, even though there certainly is an argument against it. WaPo:

The plan had the appeal of not pulling U.S. troops out of the country while still allowing Iraqis to settle their own differences. But Bush worried that such a move might mean losing the war.

"He became convinced that that was not sustainable," Hadley said in an interview. "Let's assume that the sectarian violence does escalate. Are the American military really going to stand outside the city while sectarian violence rages in Baghdad? I don't think so."

While Kissinger, not suprisingly, would be unmoved by possible ethnic clensing happening throughout Baghdad, Hadley expects that the U.S. public and the military will not agree to stand by and watch.

But there is no other alternative for Bush/Cheney.

A real surge, requiring some 50,000-80,000 troops will not happen. A U.S. retreat from Iraq will not happen either as "the new world order" and the "New Middle East" would thereby be stillborn. The only middle way for Bush may therefore be Kissinger's Plan B - and/or escalation into Iran.

This until the U.S. public really finds its voice and unequivocal demands the unavoidable defeat to be recognized and its troops to come home.

Posted by b on January 21, 2007 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

Sunday's News

Open Thread ...

Posted by b on January 21, 2007 at 03:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (59)

January 20, 2007

Primaries

Clinton, McCain, Obama, Giuliani - non of them will win. Who will?

Posted by b on January 20, 2007 at 03:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

"Indispensable"

One does not often finds such an outrageous misinterpretation of history and facts like in this Kaleej Times piece by war-criminal Henry Kissinger. But within his collection of lies, there is a realistic hint for the reason of general U.S. imperialism:

They are in Iraq not as a favour to its government or as a reward for its conduct. They are there as an expression of the American national interest to prevent the Iranian combination of imperialism and fundamentalist ideology from dominating a region on which the energy supplies of the industrial democracies depend.

Posted by b on January 20, 2007 at 03:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

January 19, 2007

Fake Surge

Somehow I get the impression that the "surge" in Iraq is a fake move.

William Arkin remarked a few days ago:

Not only won't there be one single and immediate deployment, but many of the supposed 20,000 are soldiers who are merely being extended in Iraq: it is like a corporate RIF where the numbers are attained through retirements and attrition. Others, moreover, are merely a surge on paper; the number of actual immediate fighters in Baghdad is only about half what the President suggests.

He has some details on unit deployments and some early parts of the surge, in reality units prolonged in their stay will already be home again when the last surge components arrive.

Today General Casey, who was against any surge at all, already announces its end:

Gen. George Casey, the top American commander in Iraq, said today that the additional troops being sent to Iraq could begin to be withdrawn by late summer if security conditions improve in Baghdad.

Improvement of the official security condition improvements that is - not of the number of dead bodies in the street.

Yesterday Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki claimed 400 al-Sadr fighters had been detained. Then there is a Prominent Sadr aide arrested in Baghdad. The arrested guy was a PR functionary for Sadr, not a "high-level, illegal armed group leader" as the U.S. military had propagandized

Al-Sadr had ordered his forces to lay low. The surge announcement might well have been a good moment for him to hand a list of "unwanted supporters" to al-Maliki. Why should he get into the cleanup business himself when the U.S. is willing to and al-Maliki pressured to do such?

The official security conditions are thereby certainly better now. Expect more "progress" like this in pacifying Baghdad - at least more reports of progress with this surge.

Meanwhile the real build up of additional forces is taking place at sea and on air bases.  Retired Air Force General Sam Gardiner suspects: The Pieces Are Being Put in Place - not for an escalation in Iraq that is - that surge is a fake - but for a move against Iran. He recommends to look for further signs of escalation:

Watch for the outrage stuff. The Patriot missiles going to the GCC states are only part of the missile defense assets.  I would expect to see the deployment of some of the European-based missile defense assets to Israel, just as they were before Gulf II.
...
As one of the last steps before a strike, we’ll see USAF tankers moved to unusual places, like Bulgaria.  These will be used to refuel the US-based B-2 bombers on their strike missions into Iran.  When that happens, we’ll only be days away from a strike.

But maybe that is not going to happen. The fake in the fake surge in Iraq may not have been the intention of the White House, i.e. Cheney's shadow government, but a collaborative project of the new Sec. Def. Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prevent a real one.

The neocons initially demanded some 50,000 additional troops in Baghdad. In reality some 5,000 may happen.

If that is indeed so, and some signs are pointing there, Iran may be saved. If the military and Gates can outwit the White House on the surge they even may have ways to prevent an escalation with Iran.

But then, that hope is certainly based on speculation.

Posted by b on January 19, 2007 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (36)

War In Space

The Chinese government demonstrated the capacity to destroy satellites in low earth orbit. 

A rocket fired from the surface did a hard "kinetic kill" of an old Chnines satellite flying at 850 kilometers (530 miles) altitude. As satellites are relative tiny objects, in this case maybe some three yards wide, this was an impressive technolgical achievement.

Aviation Week has some details. The Arms Control Wonk discusses implications here and here. Noah Shachtman at Defense Tech writes about possible countermeasures. There is not much the U.S. can do about it.

The biggest problem is the debris a destroyed satellite leaves in space. Other satellites may collide with such debris and get destroyed too. The Chinese knowingly created a mess and one may ask why they decided to do so. The New York Times gives an answer:

In late August, President Bush authorized a new national space policy that ignored calls for a global prohibition on such tests. The policy said the United States would “preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space” and “dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so.” It declared the United States would “deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests.”

"Bring it on!" said Bush and the Chinese did do so. A Russian general concurs (via Arms Control Wonk):

“We remember Bush’s announcements about monopolization of space and his threat to destroy all unidentified satellites. Therefore it is possible to say that, it is indeed the Americans who are provoking a new arms race in space ” [Ivashov] said, noting that China is compelled to react to such US policy.

If the Chinese are compelled, the Russians of course are too and General Icashov points out that China probably did use some modified Russian technology.

Instead of negotiating a treaty against all weapon use in space, as China and Russia proposed, the U.S. declared it will deny space operations to anyone or anything who might endanger its national interests.

There is still time to get back to the negotiation table and to stop a cold-war weapon race in space. With its good relationships on both sides, would Walmart not be an appropriate arbitrator?

But any real treaty is not in the interest of Lockheed & Co, conservative nuts and general military Keynesianism. A new round of wasting taxpayer dollars is therefore assured.

Posted by b on January 19, 2007 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

January 18, 2007

OT 07-007

News & views ...

and a link to the preceding OT

Posted by b on January 18, 2007 at 05:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

Stay Safe

Parts of the U.S. experience severe winter storms. Europe is not spared either.

Today's weather warning map for Germany is unprecedented. This one was issued an hour ago by the German National Weather Service (DWD).

Orange colored are counties warned of severe storm conditions. Dark red colored are counties where very severe storms are expected.

The forecast predicts up to 100 mph squalls and up to 2.8 inch of rain. For my local city of Hamburg tonight's high-tide may come in some 12 feet above average.

Stay safe, wherever you are ...

Update: Getting worse: Warning map as of 1:30pm local time (7:30am blogtime)

Posted by b on January 18, 2007 at 05:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

Dots To Connect

Several [Baker/Hamilton] commission members, including some Democrats, are discussing proposals that call for a declaration that within a specified period of time, perhaps as short as a year, a significant number of American troops should be withdrawn, regardless of whether the Iraqi government’s forces are declared ready to defend the country.
Panel to Weigh Overture by U.S. to Iran and Syria, NYT, November 26, 2006

---

Saudi Arabia is so concerned about the damage that the conflict in Iraq is doing across the region that it basically summoned Vice President Cheney for talks over the weekend, according to U.S. officials and foreign diplomats. The visit was originally portrayed as U.S. outreach to its oil-rich Arab ally.
Civil War in Iraq Near, Annan Says, WaPo, November 28, 2006

---

Just a few months ago it was unthinkable that President Bush would prematurely withdraw a significant number of American troops from Iraq. But it seems possible today, and therefore the Saudi leadership is preparing to substantially revise its Iraq policy.
[...]
Abdullah may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half, the kingdom could still finance its current spending. But it would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even with today's high prices.
Stepping Into Iraq, WaPo OpEd, November 29, 2006, Nawaf Obaid is an adviser to the Saudi government

---

CNN's The Situation Room mentioned "senior administration officials" who suggested Bush wants more time because he "is planning to do something big" namely, he is "very seriously considering agreeing with John McCain and increasing troop levels."
Bush Planning "Something Big" On Iraq, US News, December 13, 2006

---

The first wave of additional US troops is set to arrive in Iraq at the end of the month, it was reported today, with George Bush scheduled to lay out his "new strategy" for the conflict in a televised address tonight.
Bush to address US on new Iraq strategy, Guardian, January 10, 2007

---

Posted by b on January 18, 2007 at 02:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

January 17, 2007

Israel's Political Mess

Finally war-criminal Lt. Gen. Halutz has resigned as chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force.

Halutz was largely responsible for the bombing of civilians and civilian infrastructure in Israels war on Lebanon last summer.

His resignation comes only a few hour after a prosecutor ordered an investigation into Prime Minister Olmert's handling of the privatization of a state owned bank in 2005.

Olmert's current approval rating in polls is at 14%. He still has a solid majority in the Knesset, but his resignation and new elections would most probably result in a shift to the far right.

Meanwhile the IDF seems to be out of control.

The political situation is Israel looks very unstable to me. One wonders what plans might exist to divert the public interest from the mess.

Olmert yesterday denied that unofficial peace talks have been held with Syria, but today Haaretz reports that even Cheney was informed of these.

What government would deny attempts to make peace with its neighbors? A government that wants war?

Posted by b on January 17, 2007 at 02:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (35)

January 16, 2007

The Global Energy Race

by b real
lifted from a comment

If you haven't read Michael Klare's article, The Global Energy Race and Its Consequences, it's good. But before I get to that, today SecDef Gates gave a very relevant answer to the question of what this ongoing buildup for a military attack on Iran is really about:

Gates said the time is not right for diplomatic talks with Iran, but left open that possibility for the future.

After meeting with senior officials at NATO headquarters, Gates was asked at a news conference what was behind the Bush administration’s decision to deploy a Patriot missile battalion and a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf region - moves announced in connection with a further buildup of ground troops in Iraq.

He noted that the United States has taken a leading role in Gulf security for many decades.

"We are simply reaffirming that statement of the importance of the Gulf region to the United States and our determination to be an ongoing strong presence in that area for a long time into the future," he said.

While "simply" may be an understatement, the reaffirmation is nothing surprising.

In his article on the "global struggle over ever-diminishing supplies of energy," Klare identifies four "basic features" of how this struggle is shaping up. Two of those features are directly relevant to Gates' statement.

* The transformation of the U.S. military into a global oil protection service whose primary mission is to defend America's overseas sources of oil and natural gas, while patrolling the world's major pipelines and supply routes.

* A ruthless scramble among the great powers for the remaining oil, natural gas, and uranium reserves of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, accompanied by recurring military interventions, the constant installation and replacement of client regimes, systemic corruption and repression, and the continued impoverishment of the great majority of those who have the misfortune to inhabit such energy-rich regions. [italics in original]

Client regimes is a key ingredient here. We've seen this in afghanistan, w/ oil-man Karzai, in Iraq, in Somalia, Rwanda, and no doubt others that have slipped my mind or of which I am not currently aware. The Pentagon recently declared their (temporary?) success in installing a client regime in Somalia as a blueprint for future actions in similiar settings. and regime change appears to be the objective of aggression on Iran, though the Somalia model is nowhere near applicable. Instead, should the U.S. attempt such in Iran, it will most probably follow a plan similar to the efforts to bomb the hell out of Iraqis until they turn on their own leaders, which, if attempted again after such stupendous failure in Iraq, certainly qualifies as another high/lowlight in their delusional pathologies.

Back to Gates' remark that "[w]e are simply reaffirming that statement of the importance of the Gulf region to the United States." Klare writes:

Already we have the beginnings of the energy equivalent of a classic arms race, combined with many of the elements of the "Great Game" as once played by colonial powers in some of the same parts of the world.
...
The most significant expression of this trend has been the transformation of the U.S. military into a global oil-protection service whose primary function is the guarding of overseas energy supplies as well as their global delivery systems (pipelines, tanker ships, and supply routes). This overarching mission was first articulated by President Jimmy Carter in January 1980, when he described the oil flow from the Persian Gulf as a "vital interest" of the United States, and affirmed that this country would employ "any means necessary, including military force" to overcome an attempt by a hostile power to block that flow.

When President Carter issued this edict, quickly dubbed the Carter Doctrine, the United States did not actually possess any forces capable of performing this role in the Gulf. To fill this gap, Carter created a new entity, the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF), an ad hoc assortment of U.S-based forces designated for possible employment in the Middle East. In 1983, President Reagan transformed the RDJTF into the Central Command (Centcom), the name it bears today. Centcom exercises command authority over all U.S. combat forces deployed in the greater Persian Gulf area including Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. At present, Centcom is largely preoccupied with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it has never given up its original role of guarding the oil flow from the Persian Gulf in accordance with the Carter Doctrine.

Controlling the spigots too. And, as has been pointed out recently here at MoA, the U.S. is looking to replace Centcom's role in Africa w/ a dedicated African command. That's how serious this "game" is getting. Again, Klare:

When first promulgated in 1980, the Carter Doctrine was aimed principally at the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters. In recent years, however, American policymakers have concluded that the United States must extend this kind of protection to every major oil-producing region in the developing world. The logic for a Carter Doctrine on a global scale was first spelled out in a bipartisan task force report, "The Geopolitics of Energy," published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in November 2000. Because the United States and its allies are becoming increasingly dependent on energy supplies from unstable overseas suppliers, the report concluded, "[T]he geopolitical risks attendant to energy availability are not likely to abate." Under these circumstances, "the United States, as the world's only superpower, must accept its special responsibilities for preserving access to worldwide energy supply."

This sort of thinking -- embraced by senior Democrats and Republicans alike -- appears to have governed American strategic thinking since the late 1990s. It was President Clinton who first put this policy into effect, by extending the Carter Doctrine to the Caspian Sea basin. It was Clinton who originally declared that the flow of oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to the West was an American security priority, and who, on this basis, established military ties with the governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. President Bush has substantially upgraded these ties -- thereby laying the groundwork for a permanent U.S. military presence in the region -- but it is important to view this as a bipartisan effort in accordance with a shared belief that protection of the global oil flow is increasingly not just a vital function, but the vital function of the American military.

More recently, President Bush has extended the reach of the Carter Doctrine to West Africa, now one of America's major sources of oil. Particular emphasis is being place on Nigeria, where unrest in the Delta (which holds most of the country's onshore petroleum fields) has produced a substantial decline in oil output. "Nigeria is the fifth largest source of U.S. oil imports," the State Department's Fiscal Year 2007 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations declares, "and disruption of supply from Nigeria would represent a major blow to U.S. oil security strategy." To prevent such a disruption, the Department of Defense is providing Nigerian military and internal security forces with substantial arms and equipment intended to quell unrest in the Delta region; the Pentagon is also collaborating with Nigerian forces in a number of regional patrol and surveillance efforts aimed at improving security in the Gulf of Guinea, where most of West Africa's offshore oil and gas fields are located.

Of course, senior officials and foreign policy elites are generally loathe to acknowledge such crass motivations for the utilization of military force -- they much prefer to talk about spreading democracy and fighting terrorism.

So, contrary to Paul Craig Robert's simplistic conspiracy-mongering, the (secondary) 'war on terror' is not being waged against Muslims because they are necessarily enemies of Israel, but is being waged against Muslims & any other groups that resist having their governments stuffed w/ client regimes loyal to imperial interests and do not submit to the idea that their natural wealth should wind up benefiting foreigners.

Why is that so difficult to comprehend?

Posted by b on January 16, 2007 at 05:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

January 15, 2007

Labor

Is Stephen Roach correct here or is this just an illusion?

Pro-Labor Politics

Courtesy of globalization, in conjunction with diminished unionized bargaining power and technology-led labor displacement, workers in the high-wage developed economies are being squeezed as never before.
[...]

All this frames the time-honored tug-of-war between capital and labor in a very different context.  With the labor shares of national income at historical lows for the major economies of the industrial world and the shares accruing to the owners of capital at equally high extremes, the stage is set for a pro-labor shift in the pendulum of economic power [..].  Yet the outcome points to more of a political backlash than a worker backlash.  Lacking the wherewithal for collective action, workers in the industrial world have little or no choice other than to put pressure on their elected representatives to take actions on their behalf.

Recent political developments in the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and Australia are especially intriguing in this regard.  In all these cases, the pendulum of political power is now in the process of shifting to the Left.  Lacking in bargaining power in increasingly globalized labor markets, it shouldn’t be surprising that workers are now exercising political power in the polling booth.  No, the increase in the minimum wage is not going to break the back of US cost control [..].  However, I suspect there is a good chance this action could well qualify as the proverbial canary in the coal mine -- the beginning of what could be an important and enduring increase in labor’s slice of the pie in the rich countries of the industrial world.

I don't have not much trust in any political power of workers. I also do not see a significant swing of the pendulum to the Left. Especially not in systems where the financing of political campaigns depends on large donors.

Unionization is still the preferable way for workers to achieve a fair share of the cake they are baking. That of course is the reason why it is fought so much by the capital side.

Posted by b on January 15, 2007 at 10:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

OT 07-006

News & views ... an open thread

Posted by b on January 15, 2007 at 01:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (111)

January 14, 2007

Sunday's News

In today's papers:

- The Pentagon is reading your(?) financial records and the Army allows itself to listen to your phone.

- Chalabi is still in business.

- The UK's SAS and U.S. mercenaries are fighting in Somalia

Excerpts from the relevant articles are below the fold.

NYT: Military Is Expanding Its Intelligence Role in U.S.

The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States, part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.
...
[I]t was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the [national security] letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.
...
In the next year, they plan to incorporate the records into a database at the Counterintelligence Field Activity office at the Pentagon to track possible threats against the military, Pentagon officials said.
...
Congressional officials said members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had been briefed on the use of the letters by the military and the C.I.A. ...

---

NYT: Deletions in Army Manual Raise Wiretapping Concerns

Deep into an updated Army manual, the deletion of 10 words has left some national security experts wondering whether government lawyers are again asserting the executive branch’s right to wiretap Americans without a court warrant.
...
The original guidelines, from 1984, said the Army could seek to wiretap people inside the United States on an emergency basis by going to the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, or by obtaining certification from the attorney general “issued under the authority of section 102(a) of the Act.”

That last phrase is missing from the latest manual, which says simply that the Army can seek emergency wiretapping authority pursuant to an order issued by the FISA court “or upon attorney general authorization.” It makes no mention of the attorney general doing so under FISA.
...

---

WaPo: Officials: Pentagon Probed Finances

These efforts are overseen by the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity agency, or CIFA, which was established in September 2002 by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz.

CIFA is charged with coordinating policy and overseeing the domestic counterintelligence activities of Pentagon agencies and the armed forces. The agency's size and budget are classified, but congressional sources have said that the agency spent more than $1 billion through October. One counterintelligence official recently estimated that CIFA has 400 full-time employees and 800 to 900 contractors working for it.

Bonus: Frank Rich's liberated column: He’s in the Bunker Now

---

You thought this guy was gon? Think again: WaPo: On Iraq, U.S. Turns to Onetime Dissenters

Finally, in 2005, the Shiites and Kurds agreed to reexamine the de-Baathification rules as part of a compromise to get Sunni political parties to support Iraq's new constitution. The agreement called for a revised de-Baathification law to be enacted by parliament.

But that still hasn't happened.

In an attempt to get the process moving, Bush used his televised address last week to call on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to embrace the reintegration of former Baathists. Maliki told Bush recently that he supports a revised de-Baathification law -- but the issue isn't in the prime minister's hands. It's still with Chalabi.

Chalabi is the chairman of the Supreme National Commission for De-Baathification, which continues to have ultimate authority to decide which ex-Baathists can return to work and which cannot. He has prepared draft legislation that calls for easing some elements of Bremer's policy, but he said parliament has been unable to act on it because a majority of the members of the legislature's de-Baathification committee belong to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's political party, which walked out in November to protest a meeting between Maliki and Bush.

Speaking by telephone from Baghdad, Chalabi said he expects progress "pretty soon."

But he said the law will not contain a key demand of the U.S. government: a sunset clause that would abolish the commission, effectively depriving Chalabi of political influence. He called it unconstitutional.

Chalabi said he heard Bush's call for swift action on the de-Baathification law, but he emphasized that he and his fellow Iraqis, not U.S. officials, are in charge of the legislative timetable.

"We don't feel any pressure," he said.

---
Sunday Times: SAS hunts fleeing Al-Qaeda Africans
AN SAS team is hunting down Al-Qaeda terror suspects as they try to flee war-torn Somalia after the crushing defeat of the country’s Islamist forces last week.

The suspects are trapped between invading Ethiopian troops — assisted by US special forces and American mercenaries — and the Kenyan army and SAS troops who are acting as “training advisers” but have been leading operations along the border, providing a “screen” to trap terrorists.
...
The dramatic victory by Ethiopian troops was the culmination of months of preparation inside and outside Somalia by American and British special forces, and US-hired mercenaries.

“The brief was to enter Somali territory with the objective of studying the terrain, mapping and analysing landing sites and regrouping areas, and reporting on suitable ‘entry and exit points’,” one source said.

Posted by b on January 14, 2007 at 06:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (119)

January 13, 2007

Iran Timing

As Glenn Greenwald points out, Bush/Cheney believe they do not need congressional authorization to attack Iran. In this they are supported by the legal opinion of the author of the torture memos, John Yoo. He argues:

"As a matter of practice and history, presidents have used force abroad without any congressional authorization, [..] including the war in Kosovo, which I do not recall Senator Biden challenging as a violation of the Constitution."

Yesterday Laura Rozen wrote about possible findings and/or directives Bush may have signed for an attack on Iran.

Bush certainly has signed a finding allowing the CIA to counter Hizbullah in Lebanon. Secretary of State Rice confirmed authorization by Bush to arrest Iranian diplomats in sovereign Iraq. The recent direct military intervention with U.S. special forces on the ground in Somalia was done without specific congressional authorization (and without any protest.) The administration sees that operation as a blueprint for further missions.

Given the above, there is hardly any doubt that Bush would start an attack on Iran without an explicite authorization by Congress. To threaten the administration with "constitutional conflict" like Senator Biden has done will not deter it. The White House already prepared for this when it recently lawyered up with a specialist for presidential conflict with Congress.

While some like Senator Hagel think that an attack on Iran would be comparable to Nixon's attack on Cambodia, a last "surge" to cover a retreat, I believe the plan is different and bigger.

As Josh Marshall analysed nearly four years ago:

Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan.

To me an attack on Iran seems certain, but what has to happen before it can take place?

First the military assets have to be in place. Currently there is no carrier task force in the Persian Gulf. The Eisenhower is near Somalia while the Stennis will leave Bremerton on Tuesday. For both to reach the Gulf, at least some three weeks are needed.

Unlike earlier I now think it does make sense to use two carriers in an attack because some U.S. allies in the Gulf may deny the U.S. the right to use the bases there for direct attacks on Iran. (BTW - these facilities in Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain are huge.) When we know whereto those Patriot missiles Bush announced to deploy are send, we will also know which air bases will be used in an attack.

The last of the additional five brigades to Iraq (only one is really additional, the others are brigades on extended missions) will deploy in May. As only three of the additional brigades will be needed in Baghdad, the other two may well have the mission to keep the roads from Kuwait to Baghdad open. These are certainly endangered when Iran gets attacked.

That attack will also require the seizure of Iranian oil plattforms and some smaller Iranian islands in the Gulf. Some Special Operation forces and/or Marines will be needed for that. The Expeditionary Strike Group Boxer is currently in the Gulf and just got its deployment extended, but the 15. Marine Expeditionary Unit, i.e. the troops that belong to it, is still in Anbar, Iraq. This element is thereby currently still missing.

On the personal side the military seems to be ready. Even though two ground wars are taking place in the Central Command area, a Navy air power specialist has been installed as CentCom commander.

But I still expect Rice to resign for personal reasons and Negroponte to take her job before the new war gets hot. Especially after the assault on her during last weeks Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, her resignation seems certain. To let it happen after an attack would look like her taking responsibility or showing dissatisfaction and will have to be avoided.

As promised, the Saudis have lowered the oil price and the world wide strategic petroleum reserves are filled up. A temporary interuption of the flow of oil, now or during the summer, will not have a devastating economic effect.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the Israelis are both pressing for war as are Bush/Cheney and the Neocons. With all the nessessary conditions being in place early this summer, I believe an attack arount June to be very likely.

There are ways for Congress to stop the war on Iraq and to prevent one on Iran. But without massive public counterpressure to the lobbying of AIPAC and Israeli hawks, there is no chance that certain Democrats in Congress will vote for one of the possible measures.

Even if there is such public pressure, a USS Maine event can easily be manufactured on short notice and then propagandizes to turn the public mood to war.

The only way out is the U.S. public to take an active stand against this and to be aware of any attempt of manipulation. I am not hopeful for that to happen.

Posted by b on January 13, 2007 at 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

January 12, 2007

Hmm - Who Knows?

art by beq

Got this one from beq.


by beq
bigger

Any idea what the Japanese writing or the abstract figure might depict?

Posted by b on January 12, 2007 at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

OT 07-005

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 12, 2007 at 01:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (85)

January 11, 2007

Insincere Plans

Yesterday Bush just told the U.S. what he was going to do. He did not even attempt to ask for support. He just proclaimed his plans.

He talked about Iraq and, maybe more important, about Iran.

Froomkin analyses:

Bush's new proposal is so internally contradictory, so incremental, so problematically dependent on Iraqi good behavior, and so unlikely to galvanize public support that it seems to me that it's open season on alternate explanations of his motivation.

The things Bush said about Iraq and his plans there are unrealistic and contradictionary.

The U.S., he says, can not leave Iraq because that would be catastrophic. But if Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki does not perform Bush threatens to leave. Maliki of course will take note and not perform.

Five additional army brigades plus 4,000 Marines for Anbar are supposed to be the "surge".

Nine sectors in Baghdad with each having one Iraqi Army brigade, one Iraqi police brigade and a U.S. batallion tasked to "clear and hold" their area - this according to Bush. But Iraq is said to have only mobilized three brigades for this, two of them Kurdish Peshmerga and one from the South.

Since 1991 the Arabic language is not taught in Kurdish schools. The troops from the South are Shia, either Badr corps or al-Sadr folks. The U.S. troops have hardly any competent translators at all. Who will talk to the inhabitants of the Sunni districts these troops are supposed to secure or pacify?

If five brigades are added in Iraq and three U.S. brigades (three batallion each) are assigned to those nine Baghdad districts, what are the other two brigades going to do?

Astonishingly after all the anti al-Sadr propaganda we have recently heard, Bush in his speech did not mention any Shia insurgents in Iraq but in the role of victims:

Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents ... blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam, ­ the Golden Mosque of Samarra,­ in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. ...

Is this the Shia option? Abandon the Sunni and fight on the side of the Shia to gain  control of Iraq?

As Gen. Odierno recently said:

There are some extreme elements (of the Mehdi Army) ... and we will go after them. I will allow the government to decide whether (Sadr) is part of it or not. He is currently working within the political system.

That does not sound to me like the long propagated and expected immediate confrontation with al-Sadr and his army.

But the recent raids and daylong fights along the Sunni Haifa street certainly are open warfare on Sunni forces.

Now lets turn to the Iranian front Bush opened with a diplomatic affront and throughout his speech:

Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

I have not read of any proof for the advanced weaponry shipped from Iran, but as Arkin opines:

There is an ominous element here: When the President pledged to 'seek out and destroy the networks supporting our enemies in Iraq,' to me, that means the threat of strikes on targets in those two countries.

Also there is this weird step of sending a second Carrier Strike Group into the Persian Gulf.

Bush:

I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing ­ and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies.

The Gulf is already crowded with nearly unmaneuverable very large crude carriers. To add a strike group with some 6 to 8 big ships certainly doesn't help traffic control there.

To me this seems insincere. There are enough airports available for the U.S. to attack Iran from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman and elsewhere. Why would one need an additional carrier group, a seagoing airport, but for provocation?

When the fighting begins, the only way out for such a group is a 13 mile wide channel parallel to the Iranian border - not exactly any Admiral's dream ...

So next to incoherant plans for Iraq, we also hear incoherent plans to attack Iran.

Will this attack happen? I do not know. But the results of such an attack would be even more devastating to all parties than the results of the attack on Iraq have been.

Posted by b on January 11, 2007 at 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (44)

January 10, 2007

Just Another Speech

Watching CNN-Intl. - "Bush Speech - The World Reacts" - this 30 minutes before the speech starts - weird.
8:40pm - blogtime

Top headline on whitehouse.gov: President Bush Marks Fifth Anniversary of No Child Left Behind
8:46pm

WaPo "preview": Bush to Warn That New Iraq Campaign Could Be Bloody - well - with 700,000+ dead Iraqis and 3 million refugees, wasn't this bloody enough yet?
9:03pm

Bush on:

GWOT, terror, al-qaida, Sunni insurgence is responsible, situation in Iraq unacceptable, "where mistakes have been made, responsibility rests with me" (consequences?), failure not an option, 9/11,

Baghdad is key, not enough troops - too many restrictions for them, Iraqis will deploy in Baghdad, 9 areas, more than 20,000 additional troops, imbedded with Iraq, mission: help Iraqi troops, difference: clear and HOLD insteead of just clear,

green light to fight secterians in their neighborhood (Sadr?), time to act, Iraq government will act, (lame performance - insecure Bush look - earnestness not earnest), spend Iraqi money,

embeed US troops - 1 US brigade for each Iraqi divisions,  al-Qaeda is in Anbar, wants Islamic "empire", 4,000 additional US troops to Anbar, Iran provides weapons to Insurgents (any proof?), additional Carrier Strike Group, diplomacy with Saudi and Egypt against Iran, Rice to go to ME,

idiology struggle, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, bloody and violent year ahead, Iraq democracy will not be perfect,

consulted with Congress (?), withdrawl would increase need to stay, will adjust to circumstances, Sen. (Ind., Israel) Lieberman adviced, dangerous times, "advance of freedom calling of our time", "ensure our liberty", "sacrifise and resolve", "defide pessimists", "course for new century" - end speech.

20 min speech form WH library - first impression - LAME
(9:25pm)

Dem response speech (Sen. Durbin):
Bush was wrong, is wrong, acting against Generals, Iraqis should take over - US should leave, redeployment will force Iraqis to act
(9:30pm)

CNN has sound, but no pictures, of protests at WH

Obama on: Bush: "no strategy", no military solution, phased redeployment, setting benchmarks for Iraqis, secure Iraqi borders, talking about Bush sending 15,000 or 20,000 more troops when Bush just talked of 25,000+ - (why?)
(9:40pm)
Edwards (D): huge mistake, only political solution, should talk with Iran
Graham (R): Iran would be winner,  support Bush, Gen. Petraeus will do good
McCain (R): excellent speech, new strategy good (what strategy?), no guarantee for success, war is winnable, going to be tough, increase in casualties likely, Petraeus + Lieberman good, ...
Feinstein (D): Escalation, disappointed by speech, Iraq has never known democracy (wrong)
Warner (R): speech based on advise, Bush will brief us, objective analysis needed after briefing, imploding of Iraq would be desaster

CNN: One more comment from each, we have only limited time today, we'll be right back, ADVERTISMENT!!!

10 second statements:
Graham: Petraeus will ask Congress for more - give it to him
Feinstein: Iraqis have to take over - US out, Israel-Palestine
Warner: biggest challenge since 29 years
Edwards: we don't know what's going to happen
(10:03pm)

Speech text via NYT
Whitehouse powerpoint via WaPo

Posted by b on January 10, 2007 at 08:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

Escalation

The plan is to add one brigade of combat troops per month in Iraq over the next five month and to prolong the tours of formations already in Iraq. From a military point of view such a buildup is too slow and too small to achieve "securing the population" even in limited parts of Baghdad.

Being short on infantry troops the commanders on the ground will have to resort to those tools that are available to them but not to the insurgency, air-power and heavy artillery. Yesterday fighting, a mere 1,000 yards from the Green Zone, will repeat on a daily base and such will turn huge chunks of Baghdad into blood drained rubble.

The troops encountered strong resistance as the well-organized insurgents appeared determined to protect their turf or fight their way out, surprising U.S. soldiers who fought in the battle.
[...]
From rooftops and doorways, the gunmen fired AK-47 assault rifles and machine guns. Snipers also were targeting the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. U.S. soldiers started firing back with 50-caliber machine guns mounted on their Stryker armored vehicles. They used TOW missiles and Mark-19 grenade launchers. The F-15 fighter jets strafed rooftops with cannons, while the Apaches fired Hellfire missiles. But the insurgents kept fighting.
[...]
"We fired a TOW missile into a building," he said. "A few minutes later we started taking fire again from the building. Normally, that would have pretty much ended the whole engagement. They were fighting pretty persistently."

"The terrain was in their favor," he added. "It is about as defensible a terrain as you can get."

A determined opposition could be able to stop Bush's escalating. But the Democrats will only come up with some nonsense like an unbinding Congress resolution.

With the forces the U.S. is able and willing to commit, there can be no strategic relevant military achievement in Iraq. Meanwhile the needed political solution is further pushed down the road. This escalation will result in more death, more broken lives, more refugees and more profiteering by the war industry.

What it may achieve is the justification for the next surge to come. What it will certainly not achieve is anything positive for the people of the U.S. or Iraq.

Posted by b on January 10, 2007 at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (33)

January 09, 2007

OT 07-004

News & views - an open thread ...

Posted by b on January 9, 2007 at 12:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

January 08, 2007

Lagavulin Induced Afterthoughts

by annie and beq

bigger

Really hard.

First faux then the knowingness askod was leaving too. We had our day planned, stroll to the market, replace some gorgeous flowers (thanks conchita) we had been enjoying .. tulips would have been nice .. preparing a loverly bloody steak dinner (didn't we all have plans to cook at least one meal when we arrived??) ah, but apparently this was not to be. The best laid plans .. and it's all faux's fault!

Poor askod was going to have to take the bus to Lübeck. Somehow, somewhere on the trip to the airport she planted the seed of a little day trip for us all. So .. when we heard we were going on an excusion little did we know it would be in 15 minutes. b (as usual) whipping up an agenda as easily as he whips us posts (yes, it sometimes only takes him seemingly seconds) propelled us into the car for a day trip complete w/wikipedia instructions and history for LÜBECK!

Although we knew we were traveling w/ the future prime minister of Sweden little did we know he was an expert on baltic sea commerce and conflicts. As per instructions (from b, naturally) our travelogues were read out loud lavishly enhanced by askod's willingness to educate us all. Cut to the chase, there is more in all of this in a less whiskey induced moment when the jet lag wears off but for now we arrived and parked the car in the here and now and walked into a medieval city complete with an encircling river and gates...

The cathedral (one of many, but this one, oh) was bombed in '42 by you know who but rebuilt with the most breathtaking stained glass windows, but before you even enter you encounter it's long history as you approach the door there is a bronze devil sitting on one of the slabs of stone used to build the cathedral.

The story goes that he helped to build the church because he thought it was going to be a wine bar and when he discovered it was to be a cathedral he began to tear it down. The workers promised to build him a wine bar across the street (praise the LORD-AH!).

Then entering the images of skeletons, death and the devil are incorporated into the structure. before we describe the full impact (can we? no, but maybe later) the first thing my eye caught (other thank the 1000 plus ft ceilings) was the modern art piece in one corner composed of ascqued 15 ft crosses complete w/multiple huge nails imbedded in the centers dripping blood swathed in gauze/canvas and multiple layers of swathed plaster , at least 15 of them a 1/3 on rollers which implied perhaps they were used in a procession. the stained glass was unigue (i thought) because more than 1/2 if not 2/3rds of one side of the structure was all of clothed skeletons, devils and skulls. the other side was totally surreal w/ the bombed out windows .. oh words fail me, b's posting the photos.

We aren't doing this place justice but we're hurting from lack of sleep and we haven't even hit the trifeca .. Lübeck just happens to happen to have a puppet museum par excellance .. jesus .. tomorrow. They only displayed a few over 1000 of the 48 thousand ... jeez so much for a relaxing day at the market. 

We are going to seriously miss Camp Bernhard. Always a bit hard (did i say challenge?), but never ever a burden.

Oh! If you happen to have a sweet tooth you can visit Niederegger (Marzipan aus Liebe) (Oh my goddess) and after coffee and cake purchase for yourself your very own little (ahem, anatomically correct) devil.

Posted by b on January 8, 2007 at 04:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Nice on Top

by slothrop

We've had some tit for tats here whether there exists a global capitalist class. I want to argue there is such a class, even  though doing so requires occasional leaps into abstraction. There is a class of hyper-globalized elites. The caricatures  have changed, though. The Man was once the traditional monocled, bejowled fatcat in spats and beaver high hat, crushing the  head of a worker under monstrous black wingtips. Today it is the time-space displacement of capitalist power shared by waning and waxing fortunes of virtually itinerant wealth: think Brian O'Blivion with a Carlyle Group investment account. Stateless,  temporal-less capitalist accumulation built on leveraged finance, speculation conducted less by strategy, least by  entrepreneurialism, and more by exparte bureaucratic contact and insiders with no historical memory. Long live the new flesh.

Finding this class is important, because according to comrade citizen k, if we don't find it, then all we have left to explain power is the Nietzschean uberman. Same as it ever was. Sadder still, without this class, there is no normative politics, because there is no target.

We need to locate this class to also begin to settle another argument once and for all--the one reproduced in unspelled jeremiads from grand signor rgiap: no globalist capitalist class, only good French Capitalist and evil American capitalist; the world here divided between a classic gemeinschaft of greed represented by tasteful capitalism defending when it can family wineries and national cinema, and a gesellschaft of rapacious assholes who watch the wrong kind of football and wouldn't know Babylon from Budapest.

Origins of the Power Elite
A touchstone of the sociology of class analysis was surely C. Wright Mills's Power Elite. What Mills found in  mid-century America was an old-money "metropolitan 400" (the world of knickerbockers and debutantes) combined with the rising status and power of celebrities, corporate managers and bankers, military-industry players, and odd parvenu.

The glue holding all this together was the American corporation. For Mills, the historic transformation of the power elite  is marked first and foremost by the corporatization of economic and political power. This entailed the capture by  corporations of what Schumpeter called "the entrepreneurial gale of innovation,"--the concentration of resources and  theoretical knowledge needed to spin the consumer treadmill. To be sure, as Uncle noted recently, this concentration of power is assured by the 14th Amendment providing the corporation the rights of the individual. And the effect of this transition in the power elite was to make more opaque the existence of a ruling class, hidden as it is behind the legal fiction of a  sovereign corporation.

But, as Mills notes, it was hidden only. And this was and is the ruling class's greatest trick, coinciding with the  usual justification of inequality by the ideologies of patriotism, Horatio Alger bedtime stories (see the wrteched "Pursuit  of Happyness" at a bittorrent near you), and xenophobia.

The shifting character of the power elite, Mills thought, was political, economic, militaristic. One had only to locate  empirically the confluence of wealth and prestige in these spheres to locate a ruling class.

The Third Technological Revolution

But things change. Mills wrote at the apex of the Taylorist labor management revolution and the triumph of Fordist  rationalized mass production and consumption. The power elite of this social formation was the product of specific time and  space constraints. The speed of the mobility of capital was impeded by plain old telephone communication and inadequate  transportation infrastructures in even the US itself. The space of capital's operation was reduced by the scarcity of raw  materials and labor. The combination of these constraints fettered industrial capital to impel a coordination and compromise  with labor and the state. Capital made concessions with labor to divide the surplus more fairly. In the attempt to exclude  the costs of these concessions, capital conspired with the state to create social guarantees for retirement and healthcare.

Well, as fast as you can say "packet switching," the global scope of capitalist exploitation exploded. Digital communication, air transport, improving infrastructure (power, roads, etc.) improved the physical mobility of capital. Most importantly,  manufacturing was progressively deskilled and  Detroit turned to rust while the Maquiladoras sprouted. To put it country  simple, capital junked the New Deal because the former no longer needed to mollycoddle labor. Capital in fact hardly needed  the state any longer to fatten or starve the industrial reserve army of workers. What was needed from the state was muscle to pry open potential markets and provide a guaranteed rate of return on investment, commit to a permanent fiscal crisis by  starving government revenues offset only by borrowing, and create legal regimes sustaining the status quo.

Global Capitalist Workers

The result of this long revolution is what Castells calls "informational capitalism." Capturing the benefits of digital  communications and global mobility of investment is a supposed stratum of workers in the (de)industrialized core including  the "symbolic-analysts" of Reich's Work of Nations who deploy their computing and management skills from anywhere on  the planet. Yet, the world in 2005 was still one in which 1.4 billion workers labored in agriculture (40%) and industry (21%) and services (39%) of which the latter included a tiny fraction of the high-value knowledge work located primarily in the  OECD. To the extent that workers find a liberated mobility in the flows of "timeless time" in cyberspace, the world's workers are chained to the timeclock.

Similarly, the symbolic-analytic productivity made possible by the "flow of spaces" created by information technology, is  realized by a tiny fraction of workers mostly in the OECD, Southern India, and a scattershot of privileged Asian locations.  It is no doubt true that networking work can expropriate ("disintermediate") capitalist commodification of knowledge  products. We see a lot of what Benkler calls "peer production" in software development and even MoA blogging. Yet, the  benefit of this kind of production for most of the world's workers trapped in menial ag and manufacturing jobs is currently  dubious.

But, this globalizing workforce is undeniably expanding. It might be hard to see just where "service economy" ends and  "informational mode of production begins," but the distribution of this work, and arguably knowledge, proceeds.

No More Capitalist Class?

So, all this capital mobility and labor immobility must benefit someone. For Castells, the globalized knowledge work can  (sort of) level the capitalist field of play by reproducing a globally distributed meritocracy. Rewards are doled out to  information society workers based not on inherited, dynastic class position, but by the quality of each contribution to the  networked global economy.

And as for the capitalist class, this is diffused by the distribution of productive knowledge resources. Class conflict is  replaced by the autonomous construction of self and the repeated exploitation of power distributed by networks. No class  without class consciousness; no class object available for contemplation when the unit of analysis in the "information  society" becomes the "network." Sure, incomes will be uneven in similar occupations across sectors, and run-of-the-mill  discrimination will persist. But generally, the meritocracy of distributed opportunities will erode classism.

The Global Capitalist Class

The global capitalist class is therefore, according to the sociological logic of "informational capitalism," virtualized as  the global "flows" of production, consumption, and wealth differentially captured by agents. In this configuration of  assumedly immediate social relations, Mills's "power elite" begins to look like the product of a Borgesian lottery. It's all  there for anyone and no one. As Garnham puts it, the problem is no longer the direct expropriation of wealth from one class  by another, but a problem of the distribution of wealth created by financial speculation. In this plexus of opportunity, the  system is primary, even a reified operation of wealth creation beyond the control of clever individual capitalists.

Well, take this as far as you want. I'm chary of this view, though admit the "virtual" character of this developing  globalization of work and capital obviates traditional analyses differentiating  the interests of the state, culture, class.  The critique of globalization by Peter Gowan, John Scott, Frank Webster and others is greatly relevant, but there is truth to the evolving interdependency of work, investment, conflict implicating French pensioners and German and Indian bureaucrats in the global production of wealth. Acknowledging this developing fact helps some of us better connect this to the contradictory tensions of development, like overaccumulation, which no "informational capitalism" can escape but only distribute among transient losers and winners in the global marketplace.

Posted by b on January 8, 2007 at 03:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

January 07, 2007

Selective Amnesia

by Monolycus
lifted from a comment

It's certainly not done as well as Billmon's "compare-n-contrast" literary style, but even US conservatives are starting to have trouble swallowing the cognitive dissonance that resonates like a death knell from the Republican Party. No amount of selective amnesia is going to wipe away the vile hubris formerly displayed by the likes of such tools as Michael Ledeen or Charles Krauthammer. That these people who have been so incredibly, consistently and demonstrably wrong are still paid to write their "informed opinions", while people like Bernhard, Billmon, Jérôme, Badger, Justin Raimondo (aw, Christ... I could go on and on... and that's not even mentioning the sensible contributors here) are still plugging away in relative obscurity... well today, I'm feeling a little bitter about it.

I'm feeling a little bitter about a lot of things, truth be told.  Maybe it's because I can't bring myself to suffer from "selective amnesia" and turn around on a dime. Maybe it's because I don't think this moment of relative calm will last forever and, while I'm making some tiny progress in my attempts to forgive, I haven't even begun down the road of forgetting. I remember the 1980's pretty clearly... but after Ronald Reagan was canonised for finally pulling off the miracle of quietly dying, I'm beginning to think that maybe I'm the only one.

The Republican Party is showing signs of growing at least a very short-term memory. They were cautioned by Bob Dole against outlawing a minority filibuster a few years back on the grounds that it was never written in stone that they would always be the majority party in the US Congress. It was sound advice that was reluctantly accepted even though it turned out that there was no need for it anyway... they had apparently forgotten that their "opposition" was the Democrat Party, who in their own turn had forgotten where they had left their tickets when they took their spines out to be dry cleaned.

Now it feels like the morning after a drunken bender when the memory of the previous night (or last six years) starts to intrude in uncomfortable little fits and starts. US Rep John Boehner (one of the more aptly named walking suits on Capitol Hill) seems to be amongst the first to show signs of that morning-after repentance. Dimly aware as he sobers up that he behaved like an asshat at the office party, he's entreating the Democrats to be good sports about the whole thing while turning the spirit of the Golden Rule on its ear:

"What we really expect out of the Democrats is for them to treat us as they would liked to have been treated."

Boehner has nothing to worry about. The Democrat Party has no longer memory (or integrity) than the Republicans do. Sure, there'll be some tough talk, but after a few meaningless appeasements and hollow gestures, the Democrat Party will straighten its skirt, walk out of the copy room, and rejoin the festivities while pretending that nothing has taken place. Sadly, the rest of the office will go along with the act and only the cleaning staff, saddled with the duty of disposing of a few indiscreet xeroxes of intoxicated asses, will be any the wiser.

As I mentioned, there will have to be some tough talk and appeasements made before the business-as-usual resumes, so let's all put on our most dour expressions for the morning meeting and pretend that we're going to address the issue of who did what to whom and how we will not abide any talk of it around the water cooler. The Democrats have prepared a 100-hour long power-point presentation about how things are going to be done around here from now on:

Congratulations to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, who begin their new control of Congress today. They also deserve full marks for paying attention while in the minority, because it's clear Democrats learned a few things from Tom DeLay--to wit, how to rush through legislation without any minority participation or public debate.

House Democrats plan to pass a pile of legislation in their first 100 hours, bringing the measures quickly to the floor without committee hearings. These are issues they campaigned on last year and that do well in polls at first blush, such as a higher minimum wage, price controls on prescription drugs and "ethics reform." The rush is supposed to show Democratic resolve to get things done, but it's enough to make us wonder if they're afraid that some of their ideas won't hold up under scrutiny.

There's a lot of bold-sounding initiatives in a short space of time (but we're getting used to that, right?). Let's take a closer look at just one of the proposals being rushed through; namely, the War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007 (introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy [D-Vt]). 

"War Profiteering Prevention".  Wow.  Anti-American sentiments like that should have Cheney organizing a weekend hunting trip tout de suite. Settle down, folks. Nothing to see here. The language of the bill (which nobody ever reads, anyway) makes it absolutely unenforceable except in the most half-assed and inconsistent manner conceivable (read: this will not affect anyone who tows the party line). Turns out that Leahy is only concerned with cracking down on "materially overvaluing any good or service with the intent to excessively profit from the war and relief or reconstruction activities". How's that for taking the fangs out of it? To begin with, you still can "excessively profit" (which means, what, precisely?), just so long as nobody can prove you "intended" to do so. Put that shotgun away, Dick... when you have a net worth as high as yours, it will be awhile before anyone can accuse any single one of your enterprises as profiting "excessively". We have narrower definitions about what constitutes "pornography" (HA!), and that hasn't stopped anyone from making a quick million on the side with it.

So, really, the only obstacle to putting this whole messy bender behind us and penciling the next office party into our DayRunners is the slim chance that one of those aforementioned ass-xeroxes will find their way into the hands of an oblivious spouse or possibly into an interoffice memo. Once again, no worries... the Republicans have been in charge of human resources, and they've already given us the best cleaning staff money can buy... just a few snips:

The White House and the Secret Service quietly signed an agreement last spring in the midst of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal declaring that records identifying visitors to the White House are not open to the public.

The Bush administration didn't reveal the existence of the memorandum of understanding until last fall. The White House is using it to deal with a legal problem on a separate front, a ruling by a federal judge ordering the production of Secret Service logs identifying visitors to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

snip...

In the past, Secret Service logs have revealed the comings and goings of various White House visitors, including Monica Lewinsky and Clinton campaign donor Denise Rich, the wife of fugitive financier Marc Rich, who received a pardon in the closing hours of the Clinton administration.

The memo last spring was signed by the White House and Secret Service the day after a Washington-based group asked a federal judge to impose sanctions on the Secret Service in a dispute over White House visitor logs for Abramoff.

The chief counsel to another Washington-based group suing to get Secret Service logs calls the creation of the memo "a political maneuver couched as a legal one."

"It appears the White House is actually manufacturing evidence to further its own agenda," Anne Weismann, a Justice Department lawyer for 19 years and now chief counsel to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Friday.

snip...

Last year in the Abramoff scandal, the Bush administration, in response to three lawsuits, provided an incomplete picture of how many visits Abramoff and his lobbying team made to the White House.

The task of digging out Abramoff-White House links fell to a House committee that collected the lobbyist's billing records and e-mails. The House report found 485 lobbying contacts with presidential aides over three years, including 10 with top Bush administration aide Karl Rove.

snip...

The Bush administration's agreement with the Secret Service "at a minimum will serve to postpone a final resolution of who these records belong to," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. "This memo reflects the Bush administration's view of American government, which is that the people's business should be conducted behind closed doors."

So, you see? Everything's covered. These things happen... mistakes... blah, blah, blah. Now is the time for us to begin the process of healing by... well, forgetting anything happened.

Get back to work.

Posted by b on January 7, 2007 at 05:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

January 06, 2007

Those New Positions

As I didn´t get much news or reading-time the last two days (I was herding cats ...) just two thoughts on the shuffeling within today's administration and military leadership.

Negroponte going back to State as deputy may look like a downgrade, but it is a preparation to kick out Rice and to elevate him to Sec. State. She is ineffective for the Cheney/Bush projects and will have to leave. I expect her to resign for personal reasons and to again move into some academic position.

An alternative, but less likely, thought would be a resignation of Cheney for health impediments and Rice taking up his position but without the influence.

An Admiral taking over as commander of Central Command is quite weird. The U.S. is involved in two (three if you count in Somalia) land/guerilla wars in Central Command's region and that Admiral has no idea or experience in this.

The only reason for this can thereby be an air/sea, bombing and blockade, campaign against a Central Command adversary with the only reasonable candidate being Iran.

Unfortunately, none of this is good news.

Posted by b on January 6, 2007 at 06:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (48)

Open Thread 07-003

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 6, 2007 at 04:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (88)

January 04, 2007

OT 07-002

Good morning folks - (said by a still-a-bit-drunk b) We'll leave to Berlin in a short while and there may not be a post here in the next two days. Jana's music will get you over the deprivation period ...

Thanks for coming here. Please leave links to news and/or your views in the comments.

Posted by b on January 4, 2007 at 01:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (82)

Makeover

by b real
lifted from a comment

ladies, have i got a makeover for you
... or so went the pitch

reuters: Infamous Guatemalan army unit confronts new foes

A picture of a fierce-looking gorilla emblazoned with the words "Welcome to Hell" once hung over the entrance of Central America's toughest military training center, the notorious "Kaibil" school in Guatemala.

Now, visitors to the base in the Peten jungle are greeted by a cheery painting of a soldier holding hands with a blonde-haired girl. It says, "The Guatemalan Kaibils, respected by their adversaries, loved by the people. Have a nice trip!"

The red-bereted fighters, who once ate dog guts as training, want to leave behind a sordid past of human rights crimes and project a new image as international peacekeepers and a front against rampant drug gangs.

Created in the 1970s to fight a counter-insurgency campaign against Guatemala's leftist guerrillas during a 36-year civil war that left over 200,000 dead, the Kaibils were infamous as one of the most brutal special forces units in Latin America.

of course, the two reporters that crafted this pitch omit the historical fact that the founder of the kaibiles, pablo nuila hub, was a graduate of the united states'SOA, or of the long record of u.s. support that went beyond financial & weapon assistance to counterinsurgency forces in guatemala throughout the cold war period, or that human rights watch reported "parachute and jungle-survival training by U.S. Special Forces for Guatemala's elite Kaibil counterinsurgency troops in the Petén in November 1988", and into the 90's "Green Berets openly trained the Kaibil massacre force", etc etc. just pointing out the influence to help fill in some details, ya know.

When the war ended in 1996, the army's budget was slashed, its ranks depleted, and the highly trained combat force was left looking for a new enemy.

At about the same time, drug trafficking exploded along the porous border with Mexico, from where sophisticated and well-equipped gangs ship cocaine to the United States.

But the Kaibils cannot legally fight the dealers.

"They laugh at us," said Kaibil commander Colonel Eduardo Morales Alvarez, as soldiers on the base were setting up a beauty pageant for teens from the nearby town of Poptun. "They drive past in their cars full of weapons and there's nothing I can do, because I am not authorized," he said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency estimates some 75 percent of cocaine shipped from Colombia to the United States passes through Central America, much of that via smuggler-built landing strips and roads in the lawless jungle region around Poptun.

The drug gangs are so well armed and trained that even the Kaibils, held responsible for savage rapes and mutilations of villagers in the civil war, are worried.

"To be honest, I'm scared," said Morales. "These people are psychopaths, they kill each other like they kill cockroaches."

can you say projection? now times have indeed changed since that jesusfreakgenocidaire rios montt unleashed the kaibile on the children & women of dos erres the day after reagan visited him, complaining "to the press that his Central American counterpart, an evangelical Christian with strong ties to the fundamentalist movement in the United States, was getting a 'bad deal' from his critics ... assur[ing] reporters that Rios Montt was 'totally committed to democracy'"[1]. but to hear the much-hated/feared kaibile claim to be "scared" of drug gangs? stop pissing on my leg & then trying to tell me it's raining. both the u.s. green beret's and the kaibile's were training the mexican army last i heard. they were involved in attacking the zapatista's over a decade ago. and they've recently been on a "peacekeeping" mission in the congo, where six kaibile soldiers were "ambushed" & exterminated earlier last yr. i'd imagine that the buildup in worries about drug gangs in mexico might have something to do w/ the revolutionary tensions ongoing in that country right now.

1. from greg grandin's empire's workshop: latin america, the united states, and the rise of the new imperialism

btw, didja know that illinois rep jerry weller is married to montt's daughter?

Posted by b on January 4, 2007 at 12:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 03, 2007

Cellophan Promotion?

Blogger Attaturk of Rising Hegemon is currently guestblogging at Atrios' linked to a NYT piece and cited from it:

...a prosecutor at the trial that condemned Mr. Hussein to death, said that one of two men he had seen holding a cellphone camera aloft to make a video of Mr. Hussein’s last moments — up to and past the point where he fell through the trapdoor — was Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Mr. Maliki’s national security adviser.

But reading the NYT report now, that part has been changed to:

A prosecutor who attended the execution, Munkith al-Faroun, said he thought one of the invited witnesses had recorded the session on a cellphone, but he could not recall his name.

Spiiderweb and Josh Marshall have followed that story.

Al-Rubaie, Mr. Cellophan, is said to be a CIA asset. If he filmed Saddam's hanging and leaked the video, one must see this as an act of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

The reason to do this can be found in the "Moqtada" chanting during the hanging. Moqtada al-Sadr is still the only force working on a allignment beween Sunni and Shia in Iraq. To have his name chanted during Saddam's excecution and to publish such might have been seen as a reasonable strategy to break that forming alliance.

Meanwhile, suddenly Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki wants to urgently leave his job.

Will al-Rubaie now get his deserved promotion?

Posted by b on January 3, 2007 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

January 02, 2007

Spin

According to this NYT spin piece:

- Gen. George W. Casey and Rumsfeld are responsible for the U.S. defeat in Iraq:

The original plan, championed by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Baghdad, and backed by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, called for turning over responsibility for security to the Iraqis, shrinking the number of American bases and beginning the gradual withdrawal of American troops. But the plan collided with Iraq’s ferocious unraveling, which took most of Mr. Bush’s war council by surprise.

- Bush/Cheney were "uneasy" with that strategy for the last year:

Over the past 12 months, as optimism collided with reality, Mr. Bush increasingly found himself uneasy with General Casey’s strategy.

-  Casey now gets fired:

Mr. Bush seems all but certain not only to reverse the strategy that General Casey championed, but also to accelerate the general’s departure from Iraq ...

- Bush/Cheney, smart as they are, did start a new initiative back in September:

By mid-September, Mr. Bush was disappointed with the results in Iraq and signed off on a complete review of Iraq strategy

- Unfortunatly, politics impeded an earlier implementation:

Many of Mr. Bush’s advisers say their timetable for completing an Iraq review had been based in part on a judgment that for Mr. Bush to have voiced doubts about his strategy before the midterm elections in November would have been politically catastrophic.

We can certainly expect that this will become the official written history of the coming U.S. "sustained surge" or "sacrifices", i.e. escalation of the war on Iraq and Iran.

Those pointing out that these new facts also show that The Decider hides behind storied "decisions" of his underlings, took a year to change a failed strategy and got his soldiers killed by being a political coward are simply traitors who don't support the troops.

Posted by b on January 2, 2007 at 03:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

January 01, 2007

OT 07-01

If you don't comment, I'll end up with painted toenails ...

And now we'll switch back to serious News and Views ...

Posted by b on January 1, 2007 at 08:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (88)

My New Years Resolution

by Uncle $cam
(lifted from a comment)

It has always been my habit to ignore traditions such as New Years resolutions due to the intrinsic value of drunken promises.

This year I have decided to compose a set of fifteen resolutions prior to beginning my yearly ritualistic alcohol fest. They go like this:

I resolve to remember:

  1. In America: We elect Representatives not leaders or kings
  2. Corporations are not living breathing natural persons and thus should never enjoy Constitutional rights as persons.
  3. The first ten amendments of the Constitution of the United States (also known as the Bill rights) are not amendable.
  4. Taxes collected and then spent against the will of the people constitutes taxation without representation.
  5. The Constitution of the United States of America contains no language declaring America "Policeman to the world".
  6. True American Patriots support and defend the United States Constitution NOT a political party or even FOX news.
  7. Defending the United States Constitution is not a criminal terrorist act regardless
    of any legalese contained in the Patriot Act.
  8. A fascist government by definition; cannot enact the will of the people.
  9. If George Bush could become President ANYONE of us could also be President.
  10. Electing lawyers to serve in congress is akin to appointing Mark Foley Boy Scout Troop leader.
  11. The original intent of the FCC was to prevent monopolization of the air waves, not to squelch free speech or hide Janet Jackson's nipples.
  12. Jesus is not a republican.
  13. Jesus is GW Bush's favorite philosopher not his God.
  14. Statutory law often runs ruff-shod over the United States Constitution.
  15. There is no measurable difference between Republicans and Democrats.

Happy New Year.

Posted by b on January 1, 2007 at 05:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

 
Site Meter