Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 30, 2008

Short Thought

Anybody who is long oil, i.e. bets on higher crude prices, has an interest to instigate War on the 70+ million people of Iran.

Oil rises to record on concerns about Iran

Posted by b on June 30, 2008 at 19:40 UTC | Permalink | Comments (9)

Taliban or Local Strongmen?

The weekend's action around Peshawar in the Pakistani province Khyber Agency seems to have been a ruse. The Pakistani government sent in local paramilitaries to fight alleged Taliban there. But there was not much of a fight at all. The LA Times writes:

With plenty of warning from officials that troops were coming, Islamic insurgents in the mountainous Bara district outside Peshawar, the provincial capital, had simply melted away, disappearing into a remote valley to the north.

It may have been even more of a show as Syed Saleem Shahzad reports for ATOL:

Riding with the paramilitary convoys was Haji Namdar, the chief of the self-proclaimed pro-Taliban organization Amal Bil Maroof Nahi Anil Munkir that is based in Khyber Agency. His presence was meant to be a secret as his organization was supposed to be one of the targets of the operation.

He was taken along to ensure that encounters with militants were kept to a minimum, as was the case - only four people were arrested and none killed.

The groups temporarily pushed away were local warlords rather than some threatening Taliban. LAT:

[A]lmost no one in Bara's dusty and deprived main town had anything bad to say about the vanished warlord, Mangal Bagh, an illiterate bus driver-turned-cleric. Bagh maintained law and order, people said, and the shadow government he set up in recent months was more effective than the state-sanctioned one.

As his constituency seems to like him, the man will certainly be back.

The whole campaign was simply a big show put up by the government of Pakistan which is under pressure from Washington and NATO to do something.

Just like the U.S. blames every problem in Iraq on Iran, NATO and the U.S. see every problem in Afghanistan connected to alleged Taliban in Pakistan's eastern provinces.

The Canadian journalist Graeme Smith says that is wrong. In an interview form Kandahar with RealNews he explains that the center of the insurgency is in Afghanistan. Even if a wall would be build between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he says, the insurgency would just go on as before.

The insurgency uses hit and run methods on a larger scale. They take control over some towns and disperse as soon as 'western' troops show up and start dropping bombs. Then the insurgency moves into another area and repeats the scheme. There are too few 'western' troops to prevent this.

The result is that people do not feel safe under the protection of the government and its heavy handed 'western' enforcers. Kabul loses legitimization and the Taliban start to get tolerated by the people or even win their direct support.

This year Taliban attacks on U.S./NATO and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan are up by 40%. Civilian casualties are up by 60%. That certainly does not indicate that 'western' forces are winning the contest. They drop bombs whenever they have 'intelligence' about the whereabouts of some alleged Taliban leader or group and inevitably kill many civilians. Yesterday 33 'militants' were killed. How many of those were civilians? How many people were wounded in that attack?

Who are these people to turn to for security and to feel safe and protected? Just like the people in Bara, Pakistan, the Afghanis will likely look for local strongmen. The 'western' media will then again mistake those for 'Taliban'.

Posted by b on June 30, 2008 at 16:00 UTC | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 29, 2008

Entitlement to Credit

Tony Pugh writes for McClatchy on Credit ripoff: How a $100 purchase turns into a $1,000 debt

The story is about subprime credit cards, how much of a rip-off these are and how finally the regulators are going after some bad behavior by the card issuers. That is all reported well as it should be. To spike an otherwise dry story, the author adds some human interest.

A former Navy hospital corpsman with disabilities, [Wendy] Adams received a popular subprime card — the Aspen MasterCard — in June 2006. She was approved for a $350 credit limit, but when the card arrived, Adams said, she'd already been billed for $285 in processing fees, leaving her only about $65 in available credit.

The above is all we learn on how Ms. Adams got the card. She must have in some way signed up for it. The processing fees are outrages, yes, but why then did she get that specific card? Was she scammed or did she not read the conditions and fees attached to it? The reporter does not let us know.

Adams said she promptly called and canceled the card.

That cancellation was never confirmed in writing by either side and the credit card issuer added interest costs, late fees and over-limit fees to the cards balance. A year later Ms. Wright finds that she owes some $1000+ on that card.

Now that is a problem. But still I wonder why she took out the card in the first place and why she did not cancel it in writing. She signed up for a card, the issuing company checked her credit records and sent her a card. That service was provided for a fee. Why did she believe that the cost for the already provided service would go away when she cancels the card? If you buy a car on credit but do not use it don't you still have to pay for the car?

Ms. Adams now has a credit counselor and some help from the Better Business Bureau. But unless the dispute is solved, her credit rating stays negative. Why is that a problem?

"Because of this, we can't buy our own house. We can't take the tax write-off. We have to pay rent. We have nothing to show for it. We can't buy a car. I can't get a credit card. Our credit is screwed," Adams said angrily.

There goes my last compassion for Ms. Adams. Entitlement to credit is not a human right. She and her also disabled friend can not pay $1,000 they own the credit card company. But they complain about not being able to buy a house AND a car AND more stuff because of the dispute.

Next to reading contracts Ms. Adams should also learn a bit about tax-write-offs. You only get write-offs on taxes that you owne. How much would that be in her case?

"I'm a disabled veteran. I have no money. I make $1,200 a month in disability. I can't work. I'm trying to go back to school, so I don't have $1,100 to fork over to a company that doesn't follow the rules," she said.

Sorry lady, you are a hopeless case.

I am all for better and stricter regulation of credit card issuers. They practice usury, they are vultures and there should be laws to protect their prey. But the reporting on the case does not show any wrongdoing by the company. Yes, the fees and interests are outrageous, but they are also legal. Nobody held a pistol to Ms. Adams' head and made her sign the dotted line.

There are people like Ms. Adams who feel entitled to a house and a car and further credit even as they are unlikely to ever be able to pay for it. Those people are in need of some harsh lessons and the credit card companies provide these. That is the only point where they do deliver a real service and deserve their fees.

Posted by b on June 29, 2008 at 16:09 UTC | Permalink | Comments (79)

Hersh on Ongoing Operations Against Iran

Seymour Hersh on Iran: Preparing the Battlefield - The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.

There is not much new information in the piece. Hersh mostly pulls together many know bits and pieces on U.S. activities versus Iran.

Hersh confirms the existence of a new secret presidential finding first reported six weeks ago by Andrew Cockburn of Counterpunch.

The finding allows for support of groups hostile to Iran as well as for direct operation by U.S. special commands and by the CIA within Iran including the use of 'defensive lethal force.' It is supported by bipartisan funding of up to $400 million. U.S. operations against Iran are not new, but have now been 'significantly expanded.'

Admiral Fallon, who was been dismissed as Centcom commander, was, according to Hersh, not kicked out over disagreement about an attack on Iran, but for insisting on unity of command and protesting against special force operations that are run outside of the regular chain of command.

According to Hersh groups used to make trouble in Iran include:

  • Ahwazi Sunni Arab groups in south-eastern Iran.
  • Baluchi groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran including Jundullah, the 'army of god', a radical al-Qaeda like group
  • the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, PJAK, that operates in Iraq's northern region.
  • the Mujahideen-e-Khalq cult, MEK, also operating from Iraqi grounds

Hersh reports also that U.S. special operation groups have seized Al Quds commanders in Iran and taken them to Iraq for interrogations.

CIA and the military joint special operations command disagree on using these groups and some of the tactics.

There seems to be an up tick of incidents within Iran that may be related to the U.S. operations there.

Hersh notes that these are 'regime change' operations that have nothing to do with nuclear issues. This new wave of such operations was initiated after the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran published in December found that there is no active military nuclear program in Iran.

Regime change in Iran and control over Iran's natural resources as well as the routes into Central Asia are strategic U.S. foreign policy goals which have bipartisan support. All other issues, including the squabble over nuclear stuff, are simply ways and means to reach those goals.

UPDATE:

Somehow I missed the most important sentence of the piece. FCL caught it:

But a lesson was learned in the incident [IRG/US Navy 'interaction in the Gulf]: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. “The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” he said.

Posted by b on June 29, 2008 at 8:12 UTC | Permalink | Comments (14)

June 28, 2008

Missing Answers on the Pashtun Troubles

There is a fight building up in western Pakistan where some local warlords from the Khyber area under the banner of the Taliban seemed to be near to get control over Peshawar. The Pakistani government sent a few troops and is shelling some alleged warlord camps.

Peshawar and the Khyber Pass region are the route of two thirds of the supplies for 'western' troops in Afghanistan.

In all the reporting about these power struggles in west Pakistan and about the resistance in Afghanistan (if one can separate these at all) two issues are missing.

1. According to this UNHCR request for donations (pdf) there are still 2.1 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Most of their refugee camps are around Peshawar. What is their role in this conflict? What is their position? How do they contribute to the fights in Pakistan and in Afghanistan?

2. Over the last decades many workers from Pakistan have been guest working in the Gulf region. In the 80s they were mostly in Saudi Arabia, now more are in Dubai and Oman. Some estimates say that at times 10% of the male workforce of Pakistan was working in the Gulf region. Pakistan has a Sufi tradition. The radical interpretation of Islam the Taliban adhere to is in the Wahhabi tradition of Saudi Arabia. The guest workers and lots of Saudi money were the vehicle to bring Wahhabism to Pakistan. How much control and influence do the Saudis have over the Taliban position? What is their stand on the trouble in Pakistan and the resistance in Afghanistan?

I have yet to find reports and analysis that really dig into these strategic questions. Answers to those questions and strategic concepts following from these are more important than another ten thousand 'western' or Pakistani troops here or there. If there is some radical Islam movement, it is likely Wahhabi. Has anybody ever developed a strategy against that and its source?

Posted by b on June 28, 2008 at 19:17 UTC | Permalink | Comments (15)

June 27, 2008

No Post Today

No post today. Well except this one, which has no real content/links because I am busy or whatever.

Seymour Hersh is said to have a piece out this weekend about U.S. clandestine operations in Iran. That might be interesting and we'll look at it when it appears.

In other news, casualties in Iraq are up, casualties in Afghanistan are up and the U.S. economy is tanking.

As GM reaches a new low let's remember "What is good for GM is good for America." 

  • GM has a problem funding health care for its workers. Universal health care would be good for GM and America.
  • GM has a problem with fuel efficiency. Better fuel efficiency standards would be good for GM and for America.
  • GM has a problem with defaults on unregulated loans. Regulated loans would be good for GM and for America.

So that phrase (which is false in its origin) still holds.

Posted by b on June 27, 2008 at 19:18 UTC | Permalink | Comments (24)

June 26, 2008

Juan Cole and the Iraq Public Opinion

Prof. Juan Cole points to an air attack by the U.S. forces in Iraq which killed another family and concludes:

This sort of thing is why the Iraq public wants any Status of Forces Agreement between the Iraqi government and the US to ensure that US forces can only deploy force with the agreement of the Iraqi government.

That conclusion is nonsense.

The 'Iraq public' certainly never asked for or wants a Status of Force Agreement. All available polls find that the majority of the Iraq public wants the U.S. forces to completely leave Iraq.

Indeed only U.S. puppets in the Green Zone, who's position depend on backing by U.S. forces, do argue for such an agreement.

To what purpose is Prof. Cole making this false assertion?

Posted by b on June 26, 2008 at 9:38 UTC | Permalink | Comments (51)

The Guardian's Mysterious Tsvangirai Op-ed

Morgan Tsvangirai is the 'western' supported opposition leader in Zimbabwe who runs against Robert Mugawe.

Yesterday the British Guardian published an op-ed by Tsvangirai which called for military intervention. That op-ed has since been taken down from the Guardian website.

Today the Guardian publishes a letter by Tsvangirai, that delegitimizes yesterdays comment which is still available via the Google cache:

Why I am not running

Morgan Tsvangirai

My people are at breaking point. World leaders' bold rhetoric must be backed with military force

...
Our call now for intervention seeks to challenge standard procedure in international diplomacy.
...
We envision a more energetic and, indeed, activist strategy. Our proposal is one that aims to remove the often debilitating barriers of state sovereignty, which rests on a centuries-old foundation of the sanctity of governments, even those which have proven themselves illegitimate and decrepit.
...
We do not want armed conflict, but the people of Zimbabwe need the words of indignation from global leaders to be backed by the moral rectitude of military force. Such a force would be in the role of peacekeepers, not trouble-makers. They would separate the people from their oppressors and cast the protective shield around the democratic process for which Zimbabwe yearns.
...

The op-ed also spits with hate towards Mugawe calling him "a power-crazed despot." Picking from the above comment, the 'western' media repeated the call for military intervention.

Today there is a full retraction of the above. In his letter to the Guardian Morgan Tsvangirai now writes:

An article that appeared in my name, published in the Guardian (Why I am not running, June 25), did not reflect my position or opinions regarding solutions to the Zimbabwean crisis. Although the Guardian was given assurances from credible sources that I had approved the article this was not the case.
...
By way of clarification I would like to state the following: I am not advocating military intervention in Zimbabwe by the UN or any other organisation.

I find no editorial explanation on the Guardian website on what happened here.

  • How did the Guardian get the first piece?
  • Who assured the Guardian that the piece was written or at least authorized by Morgan Tsvangirai?
  • How did the Guardian check the claim that its was authorized?

Conspiracy minded people will smells an 'Information Operation' campaign by some USuk group that forgot to make sure that they really held the strings of their puppet. There may be other non-nefarious explanations. The Guardian urgently needs to tell why and how this happened.

Posted by b on June 26, 2008 at 7:46 UTC | Permalink | Comments (14)

June 25, 2008

The War On Tourism

As someone who has traveled quite a but in the U.S., on business trips and on vacation tours, I am dismayed with all the new regulations that make such trips psychological and physical very uncomfortable.

Consider:

  • The U.S. will pick up at least 15 personal data entities about someone coming from Europe through the flight operator. It will keep that data for at least 15 years and may distribute it to who knows who.
  • The traveler will have to fill out some some stupid from on a U.S. government website at least three days prior to boarding the plane.
  • On arrival the guest's laptop may be seized without cause and without knowing when, if ever, it will be given back. Data on a mobile phone or memory sticks may get copied.
  • Also on arrival fingerprints will be taken and checked against some mysterious database. Soon the same procedure will apply when the traveler leaves the country.
  • The newest idea in Congress is to charge some $25 entrance fee to the U.S. Guess what for ... to promote foreign tourism to the U.S.

Sometime in 1999 my boss sent me off on an emergency trip (twelve hour notice) to San Fransisco to cut a fast deal with some dot com venture. I was booked from Hamburg to Frankfurt to Washington DC to SF on Lufthansa and United. Because of bad weather in Frankfurt and congestion delays in Heathrow I ended up flying Hamburg, London, LA, SF by three airlines I had not booked with and arrived just in time but without my luggage. On the way I hacked a business and negotiation plan into my laptop and exchanged some highly sensitive emails with my boss.

We actually cut the deal after some very personal negotiations but ended up paying too much to the U.S. partner. Today such a business would be impossible. The airlines will no longer allow such emergency flight switching, sensitive data on a laptop may kill your company and not many managers like the personal disparagement that now comes with the entry of the U.S.

Not one of the above measures would have prevented 9/11. What is their purpose? Cui bono?

I will likely never again canoe through the everglades, hike the woodsin sight of Mount St. Helens or visit the Jamestown railroad museum in east California. That is sad, but there are nice places elsewhere too. Not everyone fights in this war on tourism.

Posted by b on June 25, 2008 at 18:57 UTC | Permalink | Comments (20)

Flathead's Reality

Flathead attempts to rewrite history:

That also helps explain why Iraqis initially never took ownership of their governing institutions, like the Coalition Provisional Authority, or C.P.A. They never fought for it. It was handed to them.

---

Citing UN Security Council Resolution 1483 (2003), and the laws of war, the CPA vested itself with executive, legislative, and judicial authority over the Iraqi government from the period of the CPA's inception on April 21, 2003, until its dissolution on June 28, 2004.
...
The CPA was created and funded as a division of the United States Department of Defense, and as Administrator, Bremer reported directly to the Secretary of Defense.
Wikipedia: Coalition Provisional Authority

Why do they even pay this guy?

Posted by b on June 25, 2008 at 5:57 UTC | Permalink | Comments (7)

June 24, 2008

Bushian Diplomacy

Bush cancels South Korea trip.

The people of South Korean were unwilling to serve him Texan steaks.

Posted by b on June 24, 2008 at 19:00 UTC | Permalink | Comments (21)

Zimbabwe - 'His Ward Abandoned Him'

When the 'western friendly', neo-liberal ruler of Kenia Mwai Kibaki manipulated the election results, the U.S. and other 'western' powers backed him and urged the somewhat socialist and winning opposition politician Raila Odinga into a 'national unity' government.

When the 'western unfriendly', somewhat socialist ruler of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe manipulated the election results, the U.S. and other 'western' powers backed the neo-liberal opposition politician Morgan Tsvangirai and tried to prevent a 'national unity' government.

But now something went wrong. The opposition candidate Tsvangirai gave up and took refuge in the Dutch embassy.

On page 1 of the conservative German daily Franfurter Allgemeine Thomas Scheen is frank in  explaining some relations (my translation and emph.):

If Tsvangirais retreat is serious and not only a tactical maneuver he will have to justify this to the foreign money sources who financed his campaign in the first election round, especially to America and Great Britain.

When ZANU-PF forged the first rounds result and Tsvangirai fled to South Africa the American ambassador there is said to have ordered him back to finish the campaign. The same ambassador last week vehemently refused to agree to a stop of the second election round and to allow the forming of a national unity government. He declared the second election round to be a matter of survival for the country. Now his ward abandoned him.

I'd say the only people Tsvangirai will have to 'justify' this to are his voters. That is also exactly what he plans to do.

Anyway. Zimbabwe Under Siege, was written by Gregory Elich six years ago and published in Swans Commentary. It captures the colonial, political-economic background of the Zimbabwe issue that is still so much in play today. It is not short, but well sourced and well written. I recommend it.

Posted by b on June 24, 2008 at 7:31 UTC | Permalink | Comments (7)

June 23, 2008

Josh Marshall Hit By Electric Shock

Josh Marshall is Shocked, Shocked ... that General Motors starts a crash program to develop an electric powered car.

It's sort of inspiring to see an American company try something so ambitious.

Let's just say that I can not find the company which killed its own EV-1 inspiring for building it again. 

Anyway here comes the whopper:

On a related note, I've been finding myself thinking more and more about alternative energy sources -- or more specifically non-fossil fuel energy sources. [...] [A]s I got older and thought more about politics and began to write about it for a public audience, I cannot say it's ever been a real focus for me.

So Marshall, a historian and journalist, has written about U.S. foreign policy and internal U.S. political bickering without ever considering the main driver of these? Fossil fuels and how to profit from them? Oh boy ...

But that's changed over the last several months: most of the key issues that face us today, from environmental issues proper, to our geostrategic position vs. other great powers and the future of our economy, all turn on our reliance on fossil fuels. Not just 'foreign' ones, all of them.

Higher gas prices really seem to wake people up. Hi Josh, welcome to the party. But I am shocked, shocked ... to find that only now people like you are starting to think. What again was Gulf War I about? Pistachios?

It's not hard to imagine historians of 50 or 100 years from now writing the history of our period -- stretching back almost forty years now -- around that central focus.

Oh really?

No. Those historians will wonder how companies like GM could come up with a crash program for electric powered cars without being pressed by journalists to explain where the electricity for those cars would come from.

They will find, 50 or 100 years from now, that journalists of that time believed that
electricity was apolitical and would forever come in unlimited amounts out of wall sockets.

Posted by b on June 23, 2008 at 18:28 UTC | Permalink | Comments (30)

Iran War Fantasies

The New Yorker has a looong piece on arch-zionist and casino multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson. In a small scene described therein, the 'richest Jew in the world' (his words) talks of someone this blog has taken some interest in:

After Emerson’s presentation, Pooya Dayanim, a Jewish-Iranian democracy activist based in Los Angeles, chatted with Adelson. Recalling their conversation, Dayanim observed that Adelson was dismissive of Reza Pahlevi, the son of the former Shah, who had participated in the Prague conference, because, Adelson said, “he doesn’t want to attack Iran.” According to Dayanim, Adelson referred to another Iranian dissident at the conference, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, whom he said he would like to support, saying, “I like Fakhravar because he says that, if we attack, the Iranian people will be ecstatic.” Dayanim said that when he disputed that assumption Adelson responded, “I really don’t care what happens to Iran. I am for Israel.”

When Richard Perle brought Fakhravar to the U.S. in April 2006, the 'student leader' did not speak English and was seen by fellow Iranian exiles as the fraud he is. Now the third riches guy in the U.S. listens to his fantasies of Iranians giving flowers and candies as thank-you for shock and awe.

That's quite a career step.

Flowers and candy expectations and even more dangerous fantasies about a 'cakewalk' are also in a recent pamphlet from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an AIPAC too-dumb-to-think think tank.

It is the master narrative for the TV talking heads and 'experts' that will 'discuss' how easy the U.S. will win against Iran shortly before that war begins. John Bolton is already explaining that the Arabs will be 'delighted' when Teheran gets bombed.

While the U.S. people may not be keen for another war, expect less resistance from Europe than there was against the Iraq war. The propaganda campaign against Iran here in Germany is running at full pace. For a while I had the fantasy that the EU-3 are doing the sanction and negotiation bidding with Iran to stall another U.S. aggression by running out the time of the Bush administration.

But that seems no longer to be the case. The EU foreign police head Solana was in Teheran just ten days ago to deliver a new offer (pdf) of negotiations about 'incentives' (there was nothing new in it) if Iran stops enrichment. In May Iran distributed a new proposal (pdf) of its own, offering international industrial partnership in its enrichment facilities.

Despite the possibilities of further talks, without giving Iran time to officially answer the EU-3 proposal and without having issued any response to the Iranian proposal, the EU today put new sanctions on Iran's biggest national bank and froze Iranian assets.

This step came much too early for being part of a stalling strategy.

Posted by b on June 23, 2008 at 16:54 UTC | Permalink | Comments (14)

June 22, 2008

Economic War Between OPEC and the U.S. Financial System

Oil markets are in a bubble driven by speculation. While peak oil is a real concern, it does not explain recent short term price moves. People drive less now in the U.S., China has increased its subsidized oil prices by 17.5% and airlines have stopped flying certain routes. Supply has stayed fairly constant. Still prices are going up.

The speculation is driven largely by U.S. financial entities that trade in unregulated commodities with over the counter derivative contracts. F. William Engdahl has explained how the mechanisms works and Pam Martens points to the massive involvement of Citibank and other big players.

The OPEC folks are pissed. They know the prices they are selling their oil for are far below the top prices in the commodity markets and they know that some of the barrels they offer find no buyers. They do know that it is speculation that drives this. The current too high prices will make people develop other energy sources and will destruct the long term demand for their product. They learned that lesson in the 1970s and do not want to repeat it.

At the same time there is a serious systematic attack on OPEC underway in U.S. politics. A year ago Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, called for more legislative and presidential action to take on OPEC in the Jewish World Review. In May Hillary Clinton said OPEC 'can no longer be a cartel'. This week saw calls for action against OPEC from mainly Democratic legislators and op-eds on the issue in two major papers. On the same day the LA Times and the  NY Times headlined these Sue OPEC.

The Saudis have called for an international meeting on oil prices that is taking place right now. Pat Lang thinks they are very serious about the issue.

The U.S. position is that there is no speculation and no action needed:

US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said on Saturday that speculators were not forcing up global oil prices, which nearly hit 140 dollars per barrel this week.

"There is no evidence that we can find that speculators are driving futures prices," Bodman told a press briefing ahead of Sunday's summit in Jeddah that will bring together consuming and producing nations to address the global energy crisis.

Bodman isn't even lying. He can not find the evidence because the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission allows U.S. financial institutions to trade unregulated and unsupervised in the London ICE Futures market. If you don't look for evidence, you will not find any.

OPEC, and especially the Saudis, will have to think of new ways to pressure the U.S. for more regulation in the future markets. They also have to look at serious local inflation issues connected to their currency peg to the dollar. I can think of several possible tools available to them to help on both issues. Watch the dollar to go down much further when this economic war escalates.

This leaves the question why the U.S. administration is allowing such speculation that will likely hurt its party in the next election and might bring serious economic harm. I believe this is out of necessity.

Financial institutions lost about $1 trillion in the credit bubble and many of them are in dire state. The Fed gave them $500 billion in fresh money taking junk bonds as collateral and keeps the interest rates much lower than justified. The banks now again have the money to speculate in the markets and to use the profits from these speculations to heal their balance sheets.

The commodity bubble is to a large part a concerted action to keep the USuk financial system alive. Consumers all over the world and the oil producer have to pay for that.

If the Saudis see this the same way than I do, they will recognize that only severe financial action will stop the scheme.

Posted by b on June 22, 2008 at 18:48 UTC | Permalink | Comments (30)

June 21, 2008

Cheney and Friends

by Antifa
lifted from a comment

While it is heartening to hear that bombing Iran is not an act reasonable people would take, that has no bearing on the state of mind within the Cheney bubble. Cheney and Friends are logical and dedicated and skilled about their crazy ass plans. Cheney and Friends look at consequences like reasonable people do, in fact they look at consequences first and foremost, and all consequences come second to keeping America on top, period and permanently.

If the fall of America is to be the consequence, well then a whole lot of hell will have to go down on its enemies first.

The people who want to bomb the hell out of Iran are supremely logical about it, and have been since '79, and have been pushing American hegemony by military means since '89 in the halls of government, and have been actively planning it to the last nut and bolt since 2000.

They've drawn up the several thousands of targets, set a perfectly logical order for them, set aside the fuel and spare tires and chow for the sailors, and parked the carrier fleets on station in the Gulf and the Mediterranean. Ready to shoot. Tomorrow will do, or the next day, or the next. Ready.

Meanwhile, they keep the PR and diplomatic chaos and military position in place until any reasonable excuse arrives to pull the trigger. Any reasonable excuse will do. Polish troops attacking a German radio station will do just fine ...

In 1941, President Roosevelt put an oil embargo in place against Japan to rein in their military adventurism. At that point, it became an absolute economic imperative for Japan to break that stranglehold. War or collapse were their options, and time was short.

America faces a similar stranglehold in the coming decade, yea even now. It was not put in place by an enemy nation, but by the relentless squeeze of peak demand for oil. If America is to keep its place atop the global economy, others have to accept that unipolar world.

Not a likely scenario, absent overwhelming force to put it in place. America is a great, debt-ridden, bloated, staggering economic powerhouse, "too big to fail" and yet it can collapse as quickly as the Soviet Union did. Just as fast, and just as thoroughly.

What would bring on that rapid collapse? Losing the petrodollar, the reserve currency status of the fiat dollar that has let America live way beyond its means for nearly half a century. We get to print endless money, with no apparent consequence to ourselves. Other nations that do that hit the canvas, real quick.

Cheney and Friends, Cheney and the amoral, apolitical elites who simply want to see this economic empire remain a going concern look at the Middle East as America's right, and property. The idea of sharing, or competing fairly for those resources, is beyond the pale. It is something sweet and reasonable people would discuss on a blog somewhere. Not the real world.

In Cheney's world, reality involves tactical nukes, and the will to use them. That act alone will send a message that will reverberate throughout this New American Century.

Like Japan in '41, the oil crunch impends. Either that Iraqi, Saudi, Kuwaiti, Iranian, and Caspian petro wealth all gets sold under the fiat dollar regime, or America has to start living within its means, all of a sudden like.

And America as it exists now, as it is currently owned and operated, simply cannot do that. The current political arrangements cannot survive that.

It was completely unreasonable of Japan to attack America in 1941, as in "What the hell were they thinking?" unreasonable. But they saw no other choice. Like Cheney and Friends now, the Japanese honchos sat around and said things like, "Just 24 hours of decisive action will change the whole world."

To the honchos atop our government and economy, America has no other choice but to defend its economic role in the world, even by nuclear means if necessary. So the rational option is . . . take our oil from whomever is in the way.

If the American people get in the way, that's their problem. Hence we see all the domestic impoverishment and repression coming rapidly into force at home. The American population needs to be under control.

Both political parties know this crunch is coming, long since, and both parties know the option is stark. If there was a gentle way down off this pole, the time to exercise it passed many years ago.

To the people atop our government and empire, there is only one reasonable course, and that is force.

The fact that other reasonable people find this option unlikely and irrational means precisely nothing. When 24 hours of decisive action will change the whole world, what reasonable honcho can resist it?

Posted by b on June 21, 2008 at 13:51 UTC | Permalink | Comments (29)

Midsummer Open Threat

Comment early, comment often ...

News & views ...

Posted by b on June 21, 2008 at 5:46 UTC | Permalink | Comments (116)

June 20, 2008

Torture Week

It was torture week, with a few hearings and a bit of remarkable reporting on the issue.

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."
Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (ret.)

There is not much to add to that.

I recommend everyone to read McClatchy's series written by Tom Lassiter on torture and Gitmo, the Warren Strobel story with the above Taguba quote and the one on how cases like this may now proceed through the courts:

The Taliban tortured Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al Ginco. They thought he was a U.S. spy. Then, U.S. soldiers called the Syrian native an enemy and shipped him to Guantanamo.

... where he was again tortured.

Declaring torture illegal was one of the big cultural achievements of mankind. This administration and this Congress have taken us back to the middle ages.

The U.S. needs to think seriously about how to change a system that allows such aberration.

Posted by b on June 20, 2008 at 18:16 UTC | Permalink | Comments (4)

Michael Gordon's New Beat: Bomb Iran

There is a fresh sign that an attack on Iran is in the cards. The New York Times has put Michael A. Gordon on the bomb-Iran beat. Gordon, you will remember, co-wrote with Judith Miller a bunch of the false Iraq-WMD pieces. But unlike Miller he was not fired and lately his task has been to write Petraeus schmooze pieces from Baghdad.

But now he writes about an attack on Iran and the NYT editors put the baloney on page A01:

Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
...
Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli defense minister who is now a deputy prime minister, warned in a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that Israel might have no choice but to attack. “If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack,” Mr. Mofaz said in the interview published on June 6, the day after the unpublicized exercise ended. “Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable.”

Only nine paragraphs later does Gordon find the space to somewhat hint that Mofaz's assertions are wrong. Iran does not have a 'program for developing nuclear weapons'.

Gordon also has this false line:

In late May, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran’s suspected work on nuclear matters was a “matter of serious concern” and that the Iranians owed the agency “substantial explanations.”

The 'serious concern' the IAEA expressed (pdf) related to the false accusations the U.S. made towards Iran, not to Iran's work on nuclear matters.

The alleged studies on the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle project remain a matter of serious concern.

The 'alleged studies' are a matter of concern for the IAEA, not 'Iran's suspected work'. A small but important difference.

Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner wrote a study about the propaganda build up towards the War on Iraq: Truth from These Podia Summary of a Study of Strategic Influence, Perception Management, Strategic Information Warfare and Strategic Psychological Operations in Gulf II.

Gardiner is now writing at Spinwatch and recently put up this graph:

Gardiner notes:

The volume of English language articles on Iran has increased by over 50% in the past few months. The President has used his trips as a way to magnify the Iran message.

All of this looks and feels like we are being set up for military operations against Iran in the same way we were set up for the invasion of Iraq.

Recently Israel agreed to a ceasefire with Hamas, started negotiations with Syria through Turkey and even offered talks with Lebanon. Obviously Olmert wants to pull the teeth that might bite back in the case of an attack on Iran. These preperations, propaganda about Iran's involvement in attacks in Iraq, the general increased message volume on Iran and Michael Gordon's assignment to his new beat are signs that some campaign is likely to happen.

Posted by b on June 20, 2008 at 7:15 UTC | Permalink | Comments (24)

June 19, 2008

Democrats Cave In Again

As expected, the Democritters in Congress caved in on telecom immunity:

The agreement would also pave the way for companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to shed the nearly 40 lawsuits they face for allegedly participating in a prior version of the NSA program, which have cast a shadow over their reputation on Wall Street and Main Street. To win immunity, they would have to pass review from a U.S. District Court.

Laura at War & Piece has a two good question to Pelosi that gets to the gist of the issue:

Doesn't that actually endorse and extend to private actors the Nixonian view that if the president says it's legal, it's legal, regardless of what the law says and the Constitution says? Wouldn't that set an awful precedent that an administration could get private actors to do whatever they wanted including breaking the law?

Answers: Yes and yes.

Why do Democrats choose to support this? Maybe they do really want that precedent?

I fail to see other reasons here.

Posted by b on June 19, 2008 at 16:13 UTC | Permalink | Comments (11)