Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Maliki's Baghdad

So the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has demanded that U.S. troop remove checkpoints surrounding Sadr City in Baghdad. The Americans have agreed and withdrawn from the areas.
In the bloody Kabuki dance that is Iraq, it's impossible to draw any firm conclusions from this (or any) news, we can be sure that spinning is going on, that lies are being told, but what they are, much less where the truth lies is a mystery that may only be resolved in time.
As my faithful readers may recall, I've speculated before that the current troop build up in Baghdad (and Iraq as the troop level is raised to 150, 000) is a response to significant security risks in these harrowing days before the midterm elections. An explosion of violence in Sadr City would mean serious fighting and casualties, and worse, more bad news for the Republican candidates. This is to be avoided at all costs.
So I read the entrails like this, Sadr is more and more calling the shots in the Iraqi government. He is also very pissed about the recent mega-bombing that was coincident with the cordon. Sadr, through Maliki, let the Americans know that if they didn't back off all shit was going to break loose. The Americans spun this that Maliki is now such a brave and democratic leader he can assert himself with his country's occupiers. So everybody's happy now, and if just this week can pass everything is gonna be alright. Tick-tock.


To me the most striking thing about this country's current leadership is not their dishonesty, their stupidity, their lack of any shred of decency, or their profound disrespect for anyone other than their own smug, privileged class; no it's their obvious moral (and physical) cowardice that jumps out in front of me and makes me want to puke.
Thus it's refreshing to know that Americans can still be courageous, not just in battle, but on the front lines of politics and civil struggle. TomDispatch has an article by Elizabeth de la Vega that shows someone who's shown more courage than Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Frist or Hastert could ever collectively conceive. Read it, it'll do you good.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween treats

Via lukery

Wrong turn

Via Pat Lang, ABC news had a story of a Halliburton truck driver in Iraq whose convoy made a wrong turn. He was videoing the trip, and you can see what happened.

Friday, October 27, 2006

More great moments in diplomacy

The Asia Times discloses that Bolton's trip to South Korea has been postponed at the last minute.
The prospect of John Bolton, fiery US ambassador to the United Nations, careering through Seoul, making speeches denouncing North Korea, attempting to talk South Korean leaders into hard-nosed enforcement of the UN sanctions against the North, was more than South Korean officials could bear.
A day or two after getting word that Bolton would be coming to Seoul, his visit was abruptly canceled, even as underlings at the US Embassy were trying to negotiate a schedule.

The reason ostensibly was that he would be tied up giving a
lecture or two in Japan, but behind the cancellation was one simple fact: President Roh Moo-hyun simply did not want to see the man, and Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was off to Beijing trying to work out how to keep North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from ordering up yet another nuclear test.
I assume 'careering' in the first paragraph was meant to be 'careening'. Anyway, it's nice to have available news sources that point out embarrassing little details like that. Certainly Pravda and Izvestia couldn't be troubled.

Friday Cassie Blogging

On the beach.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Headline headaches and heartburn...

Bush Confesses Dissatisfaction With the Situation in Iraq - Google/NY Sun
Bush's 'Benchmarks' for Iraq Sound Familiar - WAPO
Conceding Missteps, Bush Urges Patience on Iraq - NYT
Bush cites Iraq problems - MSNBC
Bush on Iraq: If We Can’t Win, I’ll Pull Us Out - National Review Online
Unhappy Bush defends Iraq plan - Google/Whittier Daily News

Here, the only thing that is 'news' is the NRO story. There are bombshells such as:
Beyond that, the president seemed to be considering a plan to refine the country’s governmental structure in a way that would accommodate the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurd populations without dividing the country.
That gives us insight into THE DECIDER's mind, strateregy and the horrible alternatives that only a Preznit must face; but even if it just won't work and the Iraqis have let us down and HE loses faith and has to bite the bitter bullet, he'll be man enough to face it:
"If we can’t win, I’ll pull us out," the president said. "If I didn’t think it was noble and just and we can win, we’re gone. I can’t - I’m not going to keep those kids in there and have to deal with their loved ones. I can’t cover it up when I meet with a family who’s lost a child. I cry, I weep, I hug. And I’ve got to be able to look them in the eye and say, we’re going to win. I have to be able to do that. And I’m not a good faker."

Run away, run away

I think that Tony Blair has finally found the way forward:

British troops in Iraq likely to be halved after success

I take it as a signpost for GWB.

Firefox 2.0

I installed Firefox 2.0 today and so far it seems a good, if not spectacular improvement over 1.5.
The ability to close tags with one click is nice, and the live spell checker is a godsend for the spelling-challenged such as I.

The Emerging Giant

Is... drum roll... Russia!
The Asia Times, one of the best international news sites, has a two part article on the emergence of Russia from it's seemingly imminent collapse in the 90's. Part I gives an excellent summary of the steps the US took to drive Russia to the brink, and the counter-steps by Putin to maintain and advance a viable state.
Part II describes in some detail its current activities in energy and defense in response to ongoing US efforts for 'full spectrum dominance' and 'nuclear primacy'.

In an earlier post (Control Freaks) I linked to another ATimes article that described Russian and Chinese moves to counter the string of bases the US has constructed across Central Asia. The Iraq War should be looked at as part of that strategy, and that's why the US cannot withdraw from Iraq without giving up on its plans. Iraq was to be the cash cow and the military structure that was to enable the rest of the plan. The Cheney strategy's raison d'etre is to guarantee not just US access to the energy resources, but the control of these resources by the US and its oil companies, not the governments of the 'Stans or that of Russia for that matter.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

From bad to worse

In an ominous and under-reported development, Israeli PM Olmert has brought Avigdor Lieberman and his party into the ruling coalition. Lieberman's party is mostly made up of recent Russian immigrants, and they basically favor expelling the one million Arab citizens of Israel. He once advocated bombing the Aswan dam in Egypt. That's not the sort of level-headed guy you would want to be the vice-premier or a Minister of Strategic Threats. He also favors a presidential system, Olmert also signed on to this, though only because it won't happen with the current Knesset.
Haaretz has an editorial that plumbs the depths that Olmert has sunk to in order to preserve his government.

Monday, October 23, 2006


It's been my suspicion that the current operation in Baghdad (Operation Together Forward) is not what it's been sold as, an attempt to curb sectarian violence. Rather, I hypothesized that the resistance was starting to make things too difficult in terms of supplying and defending the Green Zone. A couple of things have occurred that tend to confirm my suspicions:
1. The destruction of a US ammo dump in Camp Falcon in Baghdad. This video (in Arabic) shows continuous explosions, with a much larger one (at about 3'20") follow later by a huge explosion with a mushroom cloud (at about 3'50). I do doubt the latter was a tactical nuke.
2. I've obviously no way to judge the veracity of the person being interviewed in this by Robert Dreyfuss. If what is going on is as he says, things are reaching a crisis state.
3. The latest consultations amongst the defense establishment. Are they just about blueprints for Maliki?
4. Casualty reports at a very high level.
For the administration, the highest priority would be avoiding disaster before the election. Even for the most paranoid among us (like me), it's hard to believe that the US population is so stupid, and/or the election process so rigged that a collapse in Baghdad wouldn't provoke a Democratic win.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Weekend Dillon Beach Blogging

Cassie the Intrepid and I went to the beach yesterday. If you're not familiar with the Northern California coast, let us say that the weather there is changable, varying between cold and clammy when the fog is in, to very cold and windy when it's not foggy. However, a few days each year, usually in October, the wind stops, the fog goes away and even the icy water seems, well, less icy. That's the day we had yesterday, so even though we lost our tennis ball early, a great day was had by all, as the pictures attest.

The tide was going out and these fellows passed the time swimming upstream.

Pellicans in formation.

Looking down Tomales bay, Point Reyes is on the right.

Cassie looks at me oddly as I yell "You'll be sorry!" to the folks getting married under the chuppa. (Just kidding.)

My head hurts

I've just read, again, the latest from the NYT on US plans for Iraq: "U.S. to Hand Iraq a New Timetable on Security Role". It's the policy bookend to an earlier, more political, WAPO article discussed below.
Lots of anonymous administration and Pentagon officials tell us about plans that aren't complete, but are really being considered. There's a blueprint, there are deadlines, there will be consequences if Maliki and friends don't step up to the plate and deliver. The White House denies everything:
In a statement issued Saturday night, a White House spokeswoman, Nicole Guillemard, said the Times'’s account was "“not accurate"”, but did not specify what officials found to be inaccurate.
Rumsfeld continues tripping out in Bizarro world:
He emphasized the urgency of transferring more security and governing responsibilities to the Iraqis. "“It'’s their country,"” he said. "“They'’re going to have to govern it, they'’re going to have to provide security for it, and they'’re going to have to do it sooner rather than later."
But Mr. Rumsfeld was quick to play down expectations: "“There'’s no doubt in my mind but that some of those projections we won'’t make; it will be later, or even earlier in some instances. And in some cases, once we meet the projection, we may have to go back and do it again."”
While Bush continues to resolutely promise victory:

In his radio address on Saturday, Mr. Bush emphasized that the administration was staying flexible in its planning and would "“make every necessary change to prevail."

Saying the goal of victory was "“unchanging,"” he added: "“What is changing are the tactics we use to achieve that goal. Our commanders on the ground are constantly adjusting their approach to stay ahead of the enemy, particularly in Baghdad."

So, what is this article really saying, what's its purpose? It is primarily a place holder for the elections, a courtesy, one of many, from the NYT to the Bush administration to give the impression that something is changing. The only analysis of the actual situation in Iraq, and if Maliki has any capability to accomplish the milestones his masters are preparing is in the last paragraph:

The decision about how far-reaching to make the blueprint is likely to be influenced by what Mr. Maliki and his ministers say they can reasonably accomplish. But American officials are discussing if they should specify whether Iraqi officials deemed incompetent or corrupt should be replaced, one official said. Officials are also considering a timetable for the Iraqi Defense Ministry to have in place systems for paying, feeding and equipping its units, jobs that are still overseen to a large degree by American advisers and by contractors, some of whom have not performed well, officials said.

So really, any milestones the US gives Maliki are still dependent on things he has no control over. So the whole meaning of the article is destroyed by the last paragraph. That's why my head hurts.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Must read alert!

Daniel Ellsberg in Harpers, The Next War

A hidden crisis is under way. Many government insiders are aware of serious plans for war with Iran, but Congress and the public remain largely in the dark. The current situation is very like that of 1964, the year preceding our overt, open-ended escalation of the Vietnam War, and 2002, the year leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In both cases, if one or more conscientious insiders had closed the information gap with unauthorized disclosures to the public, a disastrous war might have been averted entirely.

Prediction #4 (no war on Iran before the election) is still how I would call it now, but I should note that the USS Eisenhower task force will now have reached the operations area for an attack on Iran. Despite the possibility of a completely unprovoked and unannounced attack, my guess would be that a manufactured or magnified incident (see Israel/Hezbollah) would be the causus belli of any sudden attack, especially before the elections.

The Economist

I used to subscribe to The Economist. Despite its conservative bent, in the 90's when I returned from Italy, it was one of the few ways to get an international view of the news. As the 90's progressed The Economist regressed, until by 2000 they had become largely indistinguishable from the run of the mill news mags, though still with a larger focus that lost its insight by kowtowing to Bush/Blair and company.
Anyway, the online version is now open to the general public (no more paywall), hopefully this might spur some other changes (like dumping that Lexington hack).

Post Toasties

paradox, over at The Left Coaster analyzes the Washington Post's latest effort at saying and reporting nothing about the Iraqi trainwreck, Major Change Expected In Strategy for Iraq.
What, though, is the purpose of the article? To convince the public that change is a comin'? To put pressure on the Administration to alter the 'stay the course' rhetoric that grows more absurd each day?
If the latter, it doesn't seem to have worked.
Bush: I Won't Change Strategy in Iraq
Cheney: Iraq War Going 'Remarkably Well'

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Cassie Blogging

And Happy Birthday Miriam!!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why I'm right

Returning once again to prediction #1, the upcoming failure of the Dems to take control of any house of Congress, here is my (and the Republicans) trump card: fixing the elections.
Take a gander at this article A loaves & fishes/Holy Ghost victory for the GOP in November?
In Ohio alone, four election boards have already eliminated some 500,000 voters since the 2000 election---ten percent of the state's electorate---from the registration rolls in four Democratic counties. No similar purges have occurred in rural Republican counties. The Democrats have said or done very little about it.
The article also asks some questions about John Kerry's and the Democrat's conduct during the election of '04, which brings up the questions:
Do the Democrats really want to win?
Could it be that the reign of corruption that the Rovians have installed has other beneficiaries?

Control Freaks

There's lots of interesting analysis of international affairs around today on the web. Paul Rogers at openDemocracy has another excellent post on the mind set that our leaders bring to military matters and international relations. He points out that despite the latest noises that might indicate some re-thinking going on in the White House (see this post below), there is no real indication that the current policies will change. In fact, the new National Space Policy is more of the same, it requires unilateral control of space by the US. This 'control at all costs' mind set is the bottom line that excludes any change in policy in Iraq and the world.
Meanwhile, over at the Asia Times there is a two part article (Part 1, Part 2) on the strategies being pursued by Russia and especially China to counter the threat that US unilateralism poses to them. The control at all costs strategy, exemplified by the string of bases in Central Asia, has resulted in going from two regimes that fight border skirmishes with each other, to two nuclear powers that have a unified strategy of energy cooperation, defense coordination and resistance to US international policies.

If the Democrats Win

As my faithful readers might recall, I posted up some predictions about events and results leading through the upcoming midterm elections. There I fearlessly predicted that the Democrats would not take back either house, and I'm not backing down!
But what would happen if they did? Greg Grandin over at TomDispatch recounts what happened the last time the Democrats took back Congress in a midterm election, that was in 1986. As he points out, not only did they get punked by Ollie North over Iran-contras, the people who ran Iran-contras have been in charge of the country for the past six years. Greg does a good job of analyzing the reasons for their collapse in 1986, read it for yourself and ask, "Is there any reason to believe this time will be better?"
As he says:
If the Democratic Party wants to halt, or even reverse, its long decline and avoid yet again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, it will need to do more than investigate the six-year reign of corruption, incompetence, and arrogance presided over by Cheney and company. Progressive politicians who protest the war in Iraq will have to do more than criticize the way it has been fought or demand to have more of a say in how it is waged. They must challenge the militarism that justified the invasion and that has made war the option of first resort for too many of our foreign-policy makers. Otherwise, no matter how many tanks they drive or veterans they nominate -- or congressional seats they pick up -- the Democrats will always be dancing to Ollie's tune.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Pat Lang has a post by Richard Sale, the UPI reporter. Sale reports that 'administration sources' say that 'the dimensions of the catastrophe has finally sunk in' to Dear Leader in reference to Iraq, and that he will possibly announce troop withdrawals (after the election, natch).
He goes on to say that Bush is 'increasingly pessimistic' about attacking Iran, though he was gung-ho earlier in the year. Military briefings have changed his perspective, we're asked to believe.
However, Cheney is still pushing for an attack, though Bush reportedly is 'more skeptical of Cheney' since he noticed that Cheney's earlier Iraqi project is in the shit-can.
Let's say I'm not convinced. Cheney has always called the foreign policy shots, and Bush may have listened to Powell or Condi for a few minutes but the bottom line is that Cheney, by hook or by crook, gets his way. The big non-surprising news here is that Cheney still wants to attack Iran. I think the big question is: When?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

And to the Republic...

...that ain't there anymore to stand for.
So Bush has signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, effectively removing most of the protections that make a republic a viable form of government.
Of course, it's all just to protect us, but if you happen to be one of the unfortunates that Bush designates a enemy combatant, you have no rights of habeas corpus, no protection against any torture that Bush says isn't torture (see below for what they did to Padilla) and you can be locked away for the rest of your (hopefully) short, miserable life without anyone knowing anything more about you. As an added bonus, when after 36 hours in a stress position they ask you if your friends are also terrorists for the ninetieth time and you finally say yes, they can lock them up too, and use your testimony against them.
So put your hands over your hearts, America, and pledge to something that doesn't exist anymore. Maybe it will mollify your keepers.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Musical Mayhem!

Via Really Small Fish, one of the best YouTubes yet:
Album covers run amok.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jose Padilla

The Bush administrations fundimental hostility to the rule of law is exemplified by the case of Jose Padilla. Glenn Greenwald has a must read post that shows clearly the sewer we now inhabit. Read the link in the update at the end, too.
Where's the fucking outrage, America?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ali Mohamed

The Foley affair has accomplished one thing that the administration must enjoy, it pushed the Woodward book back in the news cycle and the blogosphere. In particular, the July 12. 2001 meeting between Condi and Tenet opened up areas that cry out for more analysis.
The news that the meeting was known to the 9/11 commission, but not included in the final report has revealed the commission as a fraud and its report as a political cover-up, designed to absolve everyone from blame (except the purported hijackers and Bin Laden), and to blind our eyes to the questions that weren't asked, and the events that were not investigated.
I've no particular theory about what happened before, during or after 9/11, but I am now convinced that there has been no real effort by the government to find out what happened, and a very real attempt to present a narrative based on political considerations.
One of the strange stories that seems to cry out for an explanation, that I had only a passing awareness of, was the role of Ali Mohamed. He was a U.S. citizen, an operative for the CIA and FBI, and a member of the U.S. Army. As an article at Global Research explains: "The 9/11 Report mentioned him, and said that the plotters against the U.S. Embassy in Kenya were '“led'” (their word) by Ali Mohamed. That'’s the Report'’s only reference to him, though it'’s not all they heard."
There's a lot more in the article, put on your tin-foil hats and go and read it. Especially interesting is the role that Saint Patrick Fitzgerald has played in it since the early days of the '93 bombing of the WTC.
I had been wondering why there has been push back against 9/11 investigators lately. Might this story be one of them?
(h/t xymphora)

Boom or bust

Arms Control Wonk has the low-down on the NK nuclear test. It appears the test was probably a failure, though it could have also been a bluff. The size of the blast was less than one kiloton, but putting together up to 1000 tons of high explosives to bluff a failure seems remote, a successful first-time plutonium blast should yield 10-20 kilotons.
So the best guess now is a failure.
There's talk that they might try another test in a few weeks, but unless they are testing a different design that seems useless. Having an arsenal of nukes with a 50/50 chance of going off gives deterence a bad name.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


The US has already stated that they would 'not tolerate' a nuclear North Korea. Today, just to show that everyone means business, China and Japan also stated that they 'will not tolerate nuke test'.
So now, we'll see what that means, as NK has apparently successfully tested their very first nuke. Boycotts, blockades, or belligerence? Or blessed bullshit?
Well, depending upon the sanity of the actors involved (admittedly a tricky business), the third option is now off the table. The device tested will already have been replicated for other 'tests', and everybody knows it. Nobody but NK knows how deliverable it is, but Tokyo is not far.
We're now at the point that Cheney and his agent Bolton have aimed for. Now we'll really get to see how crazy they really are.
We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Republican Saint

"Plato Foley goes further. He says with an innocence possible only for a Greek Republican, not a an 'Christian' 'American', that there would be no Platonic philosophy lawmaking at all if there were not such beautiful youths in Athens Congress: it is only their sight that transposes the philosopher's lawmaker's soul into an erotic trance, leaving it no peace until it lowers the seed of all exalted things into such beautiful soil. Another queer Republican saint! One does not trust one's ears, even if one should trust Plato Foley."
-F. Nietzsche D. Hastert
Twilight of the Idols Republic

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Rockin' with Yacht Rock

Via the Poor Man Institute, I've become acquainted with a new musical term, Yacht Rock. Referring mainly to the late '70s, early '80s domination of the charts by such groups as the 'Doobie Brothers' and 'Loggins and Messina' with their smooth sound and frequent use of sailing imagery, this article explains how YR is relating to yesterday's and today's kids via YouTube.
As a public service, here is a dramatic representation of its defining episodes, I recommend you check it out:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Episode 7

Episode 8

Episode 9

Episode 10

Iranian opposition

Here is a very interesting article from openDemocracy about an ayatollah in Iran who disputes the political role of Shiite Islam.
And over at Counterpunch, discussing the only other theocratic state in the world (not counting the Vatican), Uri Avery points out the current impossibility for Israel to talk peace with Syria, and for him to have lunch in Damascus.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More on the F word

Over at TruthDig, Stan Goff has a must read article Sowing the Seeds of Fascism in America. Stan's a 30 year Special Forces veteran, he knows that of which he speaks. It's long and it's chilling.
(h/t Bernhard at Moon of Alabama)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Victory, victory is our cry...

Ever the optimists, Congress included in a military spending bill twenty million dollars "for commemoration of success" for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lacking a real V for victory type event, the money remains unspent. But fear not, if and when the victory occurs next year, the 20M has been rolled over to next year, to be spent on a "day of celebration" in DC.
The mind continues to boggle...

Scooter scoots?

Over at TomDispatch, Elizabeth De la Vega discusses the possibility of a preemptive Presidential pardon of Scooter Libby. I heartily disapprove of the preemptive pardon (as done by Ford for Nixon), it leads to obvious possibilities of abuse such as pardoning your entire administration. But let's face it, such travesties are now part and parcel of the American Experience.
And just in case you didn't already know, she also informs us that the title of the Ukrainian national anthem is "Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet".

Pirates of the Mediterranean

Via The War in Context, this article in the NYT points out historic parallels between 9/11 and the burning of the Roman port at Ostia in 68 BCE by pirates, a 4th generation force.
The basic parallel drawn is that the Romans, like the Americans, were panicked enough to place authority in a single individual. The Romans gave that authority to Pompey, later to Julius Caesar in Gaul, and the republic was toast.
In Spengler's philosophy of history, the path from republic to empire is inevitable, and he places Rome of that period and current western civilization at the same epoch in his schema, "the moment when money is celebrating its last victories, and the Caesarism that is to succeed approaches with quiet, firm step".
It's hard to imagine George Bush or Dick Cheney in the roles of Pompey the Great or Julius Caesar, but perhaps History likes making sick jokes, and the joke's on us.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Line of succession

Let's not forget that Denny Hastert is third in the line of succession to the Presidency.

Who's going to wag the dog?

With both the Woodward and Foley waves breaking over the media and barely a month to go before election day, time is getting short to divert media attention to other matters.
I've got my finger to the wind, but the breeze is fitful. It's too late, perhaps, for a build up of 'tensions', that leads me to suspect there will be a 'big event'. Let's just hope not too many people get hurt.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Quiz and more

If you've read and followed the links in the post Waterboarding 101 below, this one is easy.
What is the main goal of the torturer?
1. To stop an immenent attack on America
2. To find the whereabouts of Osama
3. To get false confessions
4. Fun

Answer: 3

Juan Cole has an important post up today that puts America's new obsession with torture in perspective. As I read it, the crux is that the US needs to create an imaginary enemy to justify the huge expense of a network of bases in the Middle East and Central Asia. But by all means, read it yourself.
These bases have been nicknamed 'lily pads', since they are maintained by a force of only a few thousand troops, but can support 40,000 or more. But since the Al Quaida threat that they are supposed to defend against is imaginary, what is their real goal? If it is to defend oil infrastructure, and support the regimes of the area, one need only look at Uzbekistan to see how the strategy is countered, you get ordered out by the local dictator, and then you leave because to cannot do anything else.
So, is this just another incredibly expensive boondoggle, justified by torture? Is there really a strategic sense to these bases, can they really project enough power to control countries and oil infrastructure? Despite the bases, we must look awfully distant to a central asian nation such as