Thursday, May 31, 2007

Words and Reality

We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.
-unnamed Administration official

TomDispatch has the transcript of a graduation address by Mark Danner to the UC Berkeley Department of Rhetoric, entitled "Words in a Time of War - Taking the Measure of the First Rhetoric-Major President". The speech goes deeply into our problematic relationship with argument in these ultra-modern times, basically, words in the service of power have triumphed over words in the service of reality. Mark starts off with a bang:
When my assistant greeted me, a number of weeks ago, with the news that I had been invited to deliver the commencement address to the Department of Rhetoric, I thought it was a bad joke. There is a sense, I'm afraid, that being invited to deliver The Speech to students of Rhetoric is akin to being asked out for a romantic evening by a porn star: Whatever prospect you might have of pleasure is inevitably dampened by performance anxiety -- the suspicion that your efforts, however enthusiastic, will inevitably be judged according to stern professional standards. A daunting prospect.
But if he was really intimidated, he still performed like a seasoned stud, and used it to put together a deep look at the many dilemmas brought about by the belief that power trumps reality.
As they say, read it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The way forward

Feckless Leader has said that it might just be for the best if we keep a wee bit of troops in Iraq for the long term, kind of like South Korea.

It could be that he's just talking out of his hat, Georgie has no known responsibilities in the executive branch, his utterances might reflect policy, they might not. One never knows.

The Plan has always been to have a major presence in Iraq, but the Plan has struck a reef and is taking on water, lots of it. While blithe optimism is definitely a moral booster for the hard core, grim facts on the ground will have to be noticed. The 'surge', always a stopgap measure, seems to have only made matter worse, that is, precipitating towards disaster.

Disaster might come sooner, or later, but Iraq has starkly delimited the extent of American power. The cost alone makes it unworkable, the Democratic run congress can keep cutting $150B checks every six months, but it's still not enough, it's never enough.

What remains to be seen is when the powers that be will make a new plan, and what that will be. Other powers are entering into the scene, the US will have to start making deals, and at least in private, stop acting like the master of the universe, nobody believes it anymore.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Here we go again...

round and round.

Raw Story has an article from AFP that indicates to the discerning reader that the US is unable to move forward with the talks with North Korea.

It's reported that the US is asking the DPRK to go ahead and shut down their plutonium producing reactor and the US will in return pledge to find a way to get the infamous $25M money to them from Banco Delta Asia.

According to US representative C. Hill, it's very complicated, so all North Korea has to do is trust the US and everything will be OK.

Of course, back on February 13, when an agreement was announced, the deal was that the US would get NK the funds, and then the reactor would be shut down.

What's complicated is that the Department of the Treasury has blocked the money and the State Department cannot convince them to unblock it, despite having given assurances that they would. Now the State Department wants North Korea to believe that they will unblock the money in the future, as soon as the 'complications' are resolved.

It's really mind-numbingly ridiculous, but so it goes. The US government wants the DPRK to take on faith that the US government can resolve its own inner contradictions, someday.

So N. Korea starts testing missiles, which at least makes sense.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Who's in charge?

M K Bhadrakumar at the Asia Times provides an excellent analysis of the current situation between Iran and the US, and what that means for the upcoming talks about stabilizing Iraq. So far, he says, things don't look too good:
First, Washington has adopted an inexplicably obdurate stance over the detention of five Iranian diplomats who were kidnapped by US forces in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil in January. Their continued detention is illogical insofar as their kidnapping itself has turned out to be a fiasco, a case of mistaken identity. The US has turned down the Iranian request for consular access to the detainees, sought through the International Committee of the Red Cross.
As one would suspect, the arrest and accusations against Haleh Esfandiari by Tehran can be linked to the Iranian hostages in Iraq. As far as I can tell, this linkage is never made in the US press, while all the academics file on stage to voice their outrage and protest the innocence of Esfandiari, the idea that some sort of quid pro quo is going on is never mentioned.

But for all the bluster and blather that the US puts forward, the facts on the ground remain unchanged:
The talks on Iraq may have become a sideshow. Iran rightly estimates that the United States' Iraq quagmire is after all not going to vanish. With just two days to go, Tehran had yet to name its diplomat to sit across the table from Crocker.
Perhaps another reason the Iranians have not named the diplomat is that they don't know who they'll be talking to, in the sense that they don't know who is in charge of US foreign policy. Reports of a half-crazed VP trying to block the good Condi from actually negotiating are surfacing, and Feckless Leader seems as confused as ever, as badger says:
Who would be so idiotic as to assign foreign policy in one place to the Secretary of State and policy in a nearby place to her rival the Vice-president? And I would say the answer is that it is someone who would be idiotic enough to approve of the Cheney-Bandar scheme, then later, perhaps during a lucid spell, decide to let the rival group have it shut down.
Badger's post focused on the current flair up in Lebanon, and the reporting that the AlQaeda type group involved has been funded by the US and the Saudis at the instigation of Cheney. Add that to the Iranian confusion and the still blocked North Korea talks and we see a administration that shows no sign of knowing what they are doing.

But let's face it, so far, when push has come to shove, Feckless Leader has always backed Cheney.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


The new scourge...

(h/t Matthew Yglesias)


The Democratic Party, emboldened by their election victory against all odds, the machinations of Karl Rove, the press, and Joe Lieberman, celebrated their triumph the other day by rolling over and being Feckless Leader's bitch once again.

It's no surprise, but I still feel disappointed that the show was so pitifully lacking in drama. True, take a look at almost any congresscritter and you're looking at a spineless, mendacious, mercenary sack of shit with an expensive haircut that would sacrifice their electorate and the nation for a fat campaign contribution or some time on camera.

Look who's still in Feckless Leader's corner, after all. All the big money and thus all the big media still prop up and mop up after one disaster after another, saving just enough time to mock John Edwards for his haircuts and speaking engagement fees, or Al Gore for being fat.

So the best and safest thing for the Dems, in their frightened little world, is to lay low, don't rock the boat and just try to keep enlarging their share of the trough. The wars won't go away and might even be helpful in '08. The meltdown of the military, the installation of a banana republic Justice Department, the continuous erosion of the middle class, and the marginalization of the poor are things that can wait, too.

Making a stand is more than difficult, it's impossible when there is no conviction that things can change, that they need to change. The blind American public is led by bozos with their heads up there collective asses and it's going to have to get a lot worse before they'll bother to notice. But all the lies we're spoon fed on a daily basis will be paid for, and the more the day of reckoning is postponed, the higher the price will be.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Godfather Part IV

(h/t No Quarter)

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Waiting Game

China Matters has an excellent post up that summarizes the North Korea - Banco Delta Asia matter, and does some high level speculating on what it all means.

His conclusions are that the affair is essentially an inter-US dispute, the Treasury Dept., working at the behest of the neo-con Cheney cabal, have managed to delay if not deter the State Department sponsored six-party agreement that would shut down the DPRK's reactor and thus curtain their production of plutonium.

And as the post is titled 'Neo-Conundrum' we are pointed to the crux of the matter, the madding lack of meaning, the political incomprehensibility of this conflict.

We have been pushed, gently but firmly, to believe that the administration is divided between the 'neo-cons' and the 'realists'.

The neo-cons are Cheney, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Rumsfeld, Bolton, Leavey, etc.; the realists are Rice, Gates, Paulsen and ???.

In the middle, evidently, sits Bush, who if we are to believe has any control over the actors, seems to manage by some incomprehensible random system. Rice has been given space, it seems, to pursue the talks. The Treasury Department, it seems, has been given space to sabotage the talks. The net result is confusion, certainly amongst US allies, while US foes look on with bemusement and wait.

I guess there's nothing for us to do but wait as well. The history of this matter, and the administration's apparent schizophrenia in determining policy in general remain as opaque as ever.

Other Talking Heads

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Give me that old time religion?

Don't, please. From the Navy Times:

Navy veteran David Miller said that when he checked into the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City, he didn't realize he would get a hard sell for Christian fundamentalism along with treatment for his kidney stones.

Miller, 46, an Orthodox Jew, said he was repeatedly proselytized by hospital chaplains and staff in attempts to convert him to Christianity during three hospitalizations over the past two years.

He said he went hungry each time because the hospital wouldn't serve him kosher food, and the staff refused to contact his rabbi, who could have brought him something to eat.[..]

He described the Iowa City facility as an institution permeated by government sponsorship of fundamentalist Christianity and unconstitutional discrimination against Jews.[..]

The hospital's chaplains and staff, Miller said, have the attitude that you either accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior and you are saved, or you are damned.

He said he has tried to resolve the problems with the hospital's administration without success.

The infiltration of the military by Christian religious nuts seems almost complete. Since it is self-perpetuating, how can this process can be reversed, or even stopped? It's just too late, unless one thinks of them as the brown shirts of the Third Reich, then they could be taken out by the SS, which is small consolation.
(h/t Crooks and Liars)

The War Czar

Well, they finally found someone, so now we get to be told that we need to 'give him a chance'.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush has chosen Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Pentagon's director of operations, to oversee the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as a ''war czar'' after a long search for new leadership, administration officials said Tuesday.

In the newly created position, Lute would serve as an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser, and would also maintain his military status and rank as a three-star general, according to a Pentagon official.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush had not yet made an announcement.

Creation of the new job comes as the administration tries to use a combat troop buildup in Iraq to bring a degree of calm so political reconciliation can take hold.

The White House has sought a war coordinator to eliminate conflicts among the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies -- and to speak for the president at times.

The idea that a serving general can 'speak for the president at times', that he will have authority over the civilian Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense seems to be a further dismantling of the constitution. According to his bio at the JCS site, he was Director of Operations at CENTCOM from June 2004 to September 2006, so he presided over the unraveling of both Iraq and Afghanistan. From the dates of his service, I suspect he is a Rumsfeld yes-man, and will probably now answer directly to Cheney, putting him directly over both Gates and Rice in the chain of command, such as it is.

If this report is true about the current commander of CENTCOM, it will be a good indication of the reason for having a war czar if he starts to get rid of people who disagree with escalation, such as Adm. Fallon. Since this has followed hard on Cheney's mysterious visit to the Middle East, my paranoia level has ticked up a notch.


Laura Rozen of War and Piece has an excerpt from today's testimony by James Comity. It describes the scene around AG Ashcroft in intensive care as Gonzales and Card try to get him (Ashcroft) to sign off on warrantless wiretapping.

Laura then concludes with this, which is right on:
Gonzales comes off as an almost sinister figure in Comey's account. But think of this too. That these events transpired almost three years ago, yet until the opposition party came to power in January, the Republican led Judiciary committee never bothered to seriously investigate these events, indeed the warrantless domestic spying program that Comey and Republican appointee colleagues deemed without a legal bases has still not been seriously investigated. In so many ways, the system hasn't worked, democracy truly failed under one party rule. It's the Gonzales yes men who have triumphed over the Comeys until and even now.
Meanwhile, David Stout of the ever so serious NYT describes the scene as 'titillating'.

Monday, May 14, 2007

What's going on?

With the US press continuing to minimize events and refrain from reporting anything below the surface in Pakistan (the WaPo doesn't have any reference to Pakistan on the front page of their web site), and the BBC following obediently along, the Asia Times has a good summary of the events in Pakistan.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Don't worry, be happy

I repeat that over and over when confronted with facts that seem to be a cause for worry. Fortunately, the efficacy of my mantra is also enabled by our national press; they also want me to be happy, except in very rare occasions when I'm supposed to be very, very afraid.

Take Pakistan, for example. There were serious riots in Karachi on Saturday, complete with gunfire from non-government sources. Twenty-nine reportedly dead, or twenty-seven, or something. The NYT reported on the riots yesterday, in today's news cycle the news is off the main headlines, and down under the 'world' title. There is no update for today, even though Pakistan has already seen Sunday fade into night.

Pakistan is essentially a military dictatorship, armed with nuclear weapons, and with close associations with terrorist groups, yet somehow what occurs there is only fitfully newsworthy. Since I know that the NYT is keen to preserve my tranquility (except in key moments), couldn't they at least do an update to assure me that peace has returned to the streets of Pakistan? Don't they realize I can go to the BBC and find out that riots continued today with more deaths and that the death toll from Saturday is now thirty-four?

Oh well, back to my mantra...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

It's over, again?

Via commenter David at China Matters:

U.S. bank helps clear hurdle to shut reactor
The Bush administration has found a U.S. bank willing to accept $25 million in North Korean funds, and officials hope the transfer -- the final hurdle to the closure of the North's main nuclear reactor -- can take place in the next few days, The Washington Times has learned.
No word yet about who the bank is:
U.S. officials did not identify the American bank, although they suggested that it is not one of the bigger and more recognizable institutions.
To resolve this problem that is rooted in conflicting US policies, it evidently took a sit down between SoS Rice and Treasury Secretary Paulson:
The highly unusual decision to let North Korean money labeled by the Treasury as "dirty" be deposited in a U.S. bank -- entailing full access to the international financial system -- was made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., officials said.
US negotiator Christopher Hill is upbeat:
"This time, I think we really do have something," he said.
Hill's optimism could be looked at with some skepticism, as he's maintained that the little problem was about to be solved in a day or two for the last two months.

Will this really be the end of this saga? It's interesting that this scoop is from the Washington Times, read and believed by all good neo-cons, and with an owner that has a lot of interest in matters Korean.

Just in case you were wondering...

Which God or Goddess are you like?
Your Result: Jesus

You are God's lovechild. You love all and most love you. You help those who need it, and those too. The girls all chase you, and some boys too. You love to have fun, but you keep a serious life of working as well.Congratulations!! You are Christ!!

The Christian God
Goddess Bast
You are your own God or Goddess
God Zeus
Goddess Sekhemet
Which God or Goddess are you like?
Make Your Own Quiz

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Waas up?

Murray Waas, one of America's few journalists of note, has a new article in the National Journal. He has received, via an unnamed 'senior executive branch official', copies of emails that were not turned over to Congress, that show:
The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
As emptywheel at The Next Hurrah points out, one of the seeming ramifications of all this is that Griffin is not legally the US Attorney. Oops.

But what I'm waiting for is when the White House will maintain that they didn't have to turn over the emails because they were privileged Presidential communication. If so, wouldn't that make Bush as guilty as Rove or Gonzales of obstruction of justice?

In happier times, Nixon went down for less.

And who do you think the 'senior executive branch official' is?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Pretty funny...

...for those with a morbid sense of humor.

Alpha-dog Cheney takes a trip and the congress-critters scurry on up to the White House in his absence to whine and complain to Feckless Leader about how Iraq is screwing their election chances. Rice, Gates, Rove and Snow were all there, passing out hankies.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dicking around

Cheney's off to the Middle East today.


What parts of the Rice agenda (assuming she does have an agenda) will he be sabotaging this time?

Will anyone be happy to see him?

Will he meet with the two Abdullahs? I don't think they like him. I bet he does meet with Bandar.

He'll also be dropping in on the USS Stennis. That gives me that queasy feeling that something's going to happen. I sure hope not.


Cryptome, a site dedicated to legally publishing documents that might not please the powers that be, was giving notice by their ISP that they were being closed down, without any explanation.

The guy who runs the site speculates that it might have to do with their publication of documents relating to Deepwater, a large project to modernize the US Coast Guard.

As usual, attempts to gag people have the opposite effect. I hadn't heard of Deepwater before, though its trials and tribulations have been in the press, and there have been congressional hearings on the matter. Reportedly 60 minutes will soon be bringing the issue to a larger slice of the general public.

There are three main problems with Deepwater as revealed by Michael DeKort:
  1. 110 foot USCG boats were modified to be 123 feet long. After the modifications, the boats are not seaworthy, eight boats have been modified and all 8 have been decommissioned.
  2. Radios were installed that cannot resist the elements (i.e. rainfall).
  3. Communications cabling was used that is not shielded, and thus vulnerable to interception. Also, the cabling was not 'low-smoke' and presents a fire hazard.
Michael DeKort is a whistle-blower that worked for Lockheed-Martin. To be heard, he made a video, available on YouTube, to point out the mess, he has now testified to Congress.

The security problems are covered in depth by James Atkinson, who also testified before Congress. Though more complex than boats that fall apart in six foot seas, this stuff is far more dangerous, and shows even more clearly how deeply the corruption has penetrated.

We have to assume now that this type of corruption is widespread throughout the Defense industry. If this is SOP for Lockheed-Martin then they are doing it on other projects. Billions are being stolen, useless or inferior equipment is being supplied to the armed forces, but it takes many months or years to bring one egregious example to the notice of the press and Congress.

I suppose this is normal when you have gangsters at the highest level of government, but it's still shocking to me how pervasive it is in a relatively short amount of time. If nothing else, these people are industrious!


South Korea has reportedly stepped up to the plate and will handle the funds from the BDA through their state-run Export-Import Bank, says China Matters. Barring further shenanigans by Treasury, that should allow the DPRK to shut down their reactor and for talks to continue.

In the comments to that post, commenter David links to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune that quotes the owner of the bank saying that the US government specifically asked them to continue to handle DPRK banking after they reported that a North Korean deposited counterfeit US dollars in an account.
But Au said 'agents of the United States' told him not to terminate dealings with the North Koreans after his firm reported an incident in 1994 that he described as the only one 'in which a significant quantity of counterfeit U.S. dollars was deposited with the Bank by a North Korean client'.
Certainly, this whole affair has given the world a portrait of the United States government as untrustworthy, dishonest, and incompetent. Just as certain, the portrait is an accurate view of the US after six years of Feckless Leader's reign of error.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Monica Cries

Bloomberg takes us into the strange world of the United States Department of Justice, where young women hire and fire US Attorneys, and have to bear the sadness it all brings:
Monica Goodling, at the time an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, sobbed for 45 minutes in the office of career Justice Department official David Margolis on March 8 as she related her fears that she would have to quit, according to congressional aides briefed on Margolis's private testimony to House and Senate investigators. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity.
I'd have hoped that Regent University graduates were made from sterner stuff, and not wilt when told that they would have to take the fall. Shades of Mary Astor! Still, a little emotion in front of Congress will make for good theater, so let's hope Monica doesn't have an accident before then.

(h/t TPM)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Glenn Greenwald today (warning, ad wall) points to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Harvard Government Professor Harvey Mansfield.

The professor argues that the power of the President is greater than the 'rule of law', citing Machiavelli's The Prince as the authority for this view.

What goes unstated is that democracy, i.e. the power of money to influence and control political power, is based on the rule of law. Money is not a unified power, its distribution makes politics in democracies a competitive process. Without the rule of law, political rule will become master over economic forces.

Logically, the WSJ should be a champion of the rule of law and the primacy of economic power.

It is surely a sign of end times that the major powers in this country are eager to give up their power to the Mayberry Caesars.

That the goose that lays the WSJ's golden egg should be killed so that Feckless Leader can rule the roost sets a new standard for irony. One can only stand in awe and say to the ghost of Oswald Spengler, "Dude, you were so right!".