Friday, June 29, 2007

Programmer's Paradise?

No, lawyer's paradise. Check it out.

(h/t MaxSpeak)

Policy collapse

Two article in the Asia Times highlight the shipwreck of US foreign policy under the Cheney administration.

The first 'A pipeline into the heart of Europe' by M K Bhadrakumar discusses Putin's latest moves in cementing energy deals with Europe, and just how successful he has been. For a summation from the article, this works pretty well:
As per the assessment by an American area specialist, "Western energy policies in Eurasia collapsed in May 2007. During this month, Russia seems to have conclusively defeated all Western-backed projects to bring oil and gas from Central Asia directly to Europe ... Cumulatively, the May agreements signify a strategic defeat of the decade-old US policy to open direct access to Central Asia's oil and gas reserves. By the same token they have nipped in the bud the European Union's belated attempts since 2006 to institute such a policy."
The second, 'US-Iran: Taking talks to the next level' by Kaveh L Afrasiabi discusses the possibility that the US-Iran talks might move beyond discussing Iraqi security to discussing the nuclear standoff in the works. This might be spurred, the article notes, by various factors, the political pressure of the Democrats (not perhaps as big as stated), and the slowing of momentum for further UN sanctions due to European interest in Iranian proposals to reactivate the IAEA inspections.

We've just been the beneficiaries of a four part article in the WaPo about Dick Cheney and his lock on US policy. What the article didn't get into was just how disastrous those policies have been, and how European policy (despite the lip service they continue to pay) has been forced to adapt to these facts:

1. Central Asian energy reserves are being locked up by Russia.

2. Middle East energy reserves are highly exploited, only Iraq and Iran have the potential to increase production, and the only way the US will be able to allow this is to withdraw from Iraq and wait until the carnage stops.

3. The Europeans are leery of over-reliance on Russia, but their other alternative is Iran.

4. Russia profits from high energy prices, tension with Iran keeps prices high, war would make prices skyrocket.

5. US options seem restricted, either attack Iran, or don't attack Iran.

So Russia is in a win-win situation, and the Europeans are being pushed by their own energy needs to undermine US policies. The US positions continue to deteriorate, and because of the paralysis of having policy being fought over publicly, appears to have no chance of effectively changing directions.

If any good comes from all this, it would recognition in Washington that the unilateral policies of the past, and that includes those of Clinton, need to change. The US is going to have to pay the bill for many years for the Iraqi adventure, Democrats and Republicans can continue to kid themselves that a meaningless government in Baghdad passing some law that gives their oil to the US is going to help pay for it, but thats just a way to put off the inevitable. The defeat is there for all to see if there is the courage to look. But a change of course will need a new group of people in charge, and that's not likely. Once again, Clinton's policies, though much better run than Cheney's, were not different in their essence.

It's purely speculative, but I believe that the bureaucratic skills that brought Cheney to the seat of unchallenged power are the same that made him overstretch so badly in foreign policy. Just because people like Rumsfeld can help you grab internal power does not make them reliable guides to the power and weaknesses of the US military. It is a problem of empires that the main goal is getting and holding power, it's not about being successful in running the empire's relations in war and peace with the outlying states. An external disaster may bring down the emperor, but it remains to be seen if it will.

Iraq and Israel?

The so-called left leaning British press, represented here by the Guardian, writes about the newest 'terror attacks':
The failed car bombing carries chilling echoes of explosions in Iraq and Israel, where similar crude devices have killed hundreds.
Talk about staying on message. Feckless Leader has said that Iraq can turn out like Israel, so the two must be reinforced in our little minds as being associated.

I can't remember the last car bomb in Israel, could our reporter being referring to the bombing in Lebanon of the UN troops?

In any case, the car bombs in Iraq (like that in Lebanon) have nothing to do with the car(s) in London. Those in Iraq are filled with high-explosives, not gasoline. They may be crude, but they don't emit telltale smoke before not exploding.

Isn't there a way of stirring up fear in the populace without making yourself into a total ass?

Fill 'er up!

To be a reporter in today's press, it is essential that one can keep a straight face. But it can't be easy when you have to report breathlessly that a suspected terror car is found with 'significant amounts of gasoline' in it.

They're trying to whip up as much hysteria as possible, back when the bullshit plot to blow up 10 airplanes was being pushed we ended up unable to carry a tube of toothpaste in our hand luggage. Maybe now we'll only be able to fill up with half a tank of gas.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cheney in chains

The floodgates seem to have opened up on our dynamic VP, unquestioned leader of the fourth branch. The WaPo continues today with part four of its four part series, which, for all its flaws is a must read. They also have an OpEd today by Sally Quinn who says that Republicans all want to be rid of the now toxic Cheney.

Ms. Quinn shows her beltway insider credentials by proposing a replacement. Guess who? Right, the next President, Fred Thompson. Why not give him some warm up time as VP, especially since now that is the most powerful position in the country, as I'm sure Liz Cheney has informed him. Why Thompson, you may ask, but Quinn has the answer:
Everybody loves Fred.
Even you and me, though we may not yet be aware of it. Talk about insider knowledge, Ms. Quinn must frequent cocktail parties by the dozen to get that smart. Why a VP needs to be loved is something the OpEd left unanswered, perhaps another installment will clue us in.

Still, I remain unconvinced that Cheney is done. He may be down, but he is not yet out. He has peppered the government with people who answer first to him, and then, maybe, to their superiors in the supposed chain of command. His policies have been challenged with success only in the case of the N. Korea talks, and that game is certainly not finished. And there remains the question, who will take him down?

Please, do not say Feckless Leader. The WaPo series presents the dynamic of the Bush/Cheney relationship as one of Cheney being able to guide Bush on policy. That overlooks a key fact, that Cheney is de facto Commander in Chief. He was on 9/11 and I have no reason to believe that he is not to this day. It's hard to believe that someone with their finger on the button is going to be ousted by John Warner, or whoever other Republican clown that speaks up, without a serious fight.

If anyone can win that fight with Cheney, he will be forced to take his place. Bush needs hands on management, leaving him to his own devices is simply too risky. That was the whole flaw of putting a half-wit in the Presidency, he will always need a keeper. The people who put him in office obviously got more than they bargained for with Cheney, they might get even more with Cheney's successor.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Armies of the night

Laura Rozen of War and Piece has a very interesting comment from an 'editor friend' of hers about the Cheney article in the WaPo.

It starts:
A careful reading of the story of Cheney's coup against a feeble executive reveals that paragraphs 7 through 10 were written and inserted in haste by a powerful editorial hand. The banging of colliding metaphors in an otherwise carefully written piece is evidence of last-minute interpolations by a bad editor whom no one has the power to rewrite.
And concludes:

A key element of the coup is also ignored: the role of the press as revealed in the Libby scandal ... : Note in particular paragraph seven the phrase that Cheney's subversive roles "went undetected." The correct verb is "unreported."

This series is a landscape of an internal war. Parts of it are still smoking and some reputations are visibly dying--anonymously, for the moment. The journalistic graves registration people will go in later and tag the corpses.

So the 'bad editor' mushes up the point of the article, of which this is only part one of four, and the article was also delayed until the end of June when Washington has already fallen into its summertime snooze. I do think that is only part of the story, that the article was printed now is also a sign that elements are pushing back as strongly as they can to try to limit the power of Cheney at this juncture. The 'bad editor' must have been a last minute compromise.

To make sense of the signs of a press war, especially an internal one, is like trying to track a battle in the middle of the night. The last thing the press likes to do is report on itself, even less than on Dick Cheney.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Red hair and black leather... favorite color scheme:
1952 Vincent Black Lightning

(h/t Sadly No!)


It's practically in the bag, so Blog Simple will go out on a limb and tell you the future:
Fred Thompson will be elected the next president of the United States.
Look who he's getting for advice.
The only alternative I can see at this point is Dick Cheney himself, but then he wouldn't be elected, would he?


As Glenn Greenwald and others have noticed, all the people the US kills now in Iraq are 'AlQaida'. It's no coincidence that this new nomenclature follows on the heels of the 'surge' and the appointments of Generals Petraeus and Odierno to run the excellent adventure.

From the fantasies of Rumsfeld to the present day, our military has always taken the position that reality is what they choose to show you, or more often, tell you. The explanation of the current action is a direct reflection of this belief. In trying to get a glimpse of reality, we need to keep that in account, and look for other explanations; the ones we are given must be false.

Strategically, without a dramatic escalation of the scorched earth policy, the war is lost. There aren't another 50,000, 100,000 or 200,000 troops available to stabilize the situation, as the WaPo sagely advises today. The only question now is how long the current position can be maintained. The surge is sacrificing the future capabilities of the military for a holding action, to prevent a looming disaster.

Petraeus was brought in to run the holding action, and to convince the public that it is an offensive strategy. Despite the extra troops, Baghdad remain mainly out of control, the Green Zone is being targeted regularly by mortars in what has been described a 'range finding' activity, and now the US is forced to attack the outlying cities to try to stem the encirclement and subsequent cut off of the capital.

Anbar has gone mostly quiet, but at the price of further arming the insurgents, and letting them, in the guise of police, control the streets. The US is kidding themselves even more than us if they believe these people won't attack when the time comes.

Air strikes are up, but air strikes don't work unless you are trying to target military infrastructure, which hardly exists, or terrorize the population, which seems redundant at this point.

But the press and Congress continue to believe, our Democratic candidates, those with a chance of being nominated at least, swill the kool-aid and smack their lips as if it was the finest wine. They talk about leaving 50,000 non-combat troops in Iraq for the next decades as if on command. The press has forgotten the term 'insurgent', they're all 'AlQaida' now. Congress will continue to write the checks and 'support the troops'.

When reality takes hold which it must, at least on the ground in Iraq, there are only two choices that I can see, deal with the insurgents for a orderly withdrawal, or carpet bomb the country into rubble, I hope for the former, but expect the latter.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Wonders never cease

Christopher Hill went to North Korea today. Hopefully, John Bolton died in a fit of apoplexy, and there isn't some agreement where Condi gets to run the negotiations while Cheney gets to nuke Iran.

I doubt there is any such agreement, Cheney and company are probably biding their time before throwing another monkey wrench into the negotiations, it's not like it's all that hard to make the North Koreans bolt from the negotiating table.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

In the dark

Glenn Greenwald today looks at an Op-Ed by Richard C0hen of the Washington Post. The bulk of Cohen's column talks about the selfless sacrifice that marks Scooter Libby's life and how that means to all right thinking people (such as himself) that there is no way that Scooter should have to do time, and what a grave affront to humanity it would be if he did.

But the heart of Greenwald's analysis is this little phrase by Cohen, speaking about politics:
As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.
As Glenn says, this could be the official motto of our press corps.

And how does Cohen and merry band know what is best to keep in the dark? Tim Russert said that he classified everything he heard from government officials as off the record unless he was told otherwise, but this motto covers a lot more ground than telephone calls from Karl Rove. It is an instinct for what the public should know, and the higher one rises in the press corps the more ingrained and instinctive the knowledge is. A simple reporter might easily err on the side of shining a light where there should be darkness, but a good editor will notice the gaff and straighten he or she out.

Take the tragic case of Gary Webb. He focused his reporter's light on CIA support for drug dealers who were also involved in US efforts in Central and South America. That was something best left in the dark, but the editor of the San Jose Mercury News didn't understand that either and the reports were published. Instantly a whole army of reporters and pundits were denouncing the reports, the SJMN renounced Webb, and he ended up killing himself, a warning to all. I bet his editor still feels bad about that.

Before the 2004 election, the NYT knew that it was best not to mention the illegal NSA warrantless spying. It was something best left in the dark, just as is their motivation for printing it months later.

That is truly 'freedom of the press' for Richard Cohen, the freedom to support the interests of the political class and their attendant lackeys such as himself. The freedom to choose what the public needs to know in support of the political class, and what they don't need to know. He knows that, and that's why he and his crew make the big bucks.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


The Daily Yomuri Online has reported that the $25M has been transfered out of the BDA and Macao and is now nestling snugly in New York at the Fed.
Soon, it should be off to a bank in Russia and then to the DPRK. The next step would be for the reactor to be shut down, and talks resume.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Fed to the rescue!

Seeing is believing, but it might just be that this time the $25M is on its way to North Korea. China Hand speculates that an order was given to Treasury to find a solution to the impasse, and supposedly the solution is to 'launder' the money through the Fed, yes that's the Federal Reserve Bank. Commenter David to the same post at China Matters says the money is already on the way, and he's got a good track record.

We'll see if it's in the nick of time, but fearless Republican lawmakers are questioning the deal. I guess they're asking if Treasury can undo something Treasury has done, and they're asking the GAO to rule on it which is somewhat ironic since the Republicans, the Bush administration and Cheney in particular have ignored the GAO as much as humanly possible.

Is that the final volley from the Cheneyites? Will the deal go down? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Vladimir to the rescue

Or, Russia saves Condi from Treasury, maybe.
Quid pro quo, the possibilities are endless.
I'll really believe it when I hear those atoms cooling down in the DPRK.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Gonzales wakes up

And only The Onion gets the SCOOP!

Turkey and Kurdistan

M K Bhadrakumar at the Asia Times analyzes the current strategy of Turkey regarding the PKK, the Kurds in general and Iraq in the article Turkey not done with the Kurds.

I'll forgo my usual whining and complaining about the lack of this type of story in the US press, analysis made without blinding repeating the world view of unnamed administration officials is beyond them, so let us bless the silence, and read the Asia Times.

The view of the article is that an invasion is unlikely, at least at present. I'm sure that Turkey's annoyance level is relatively high from the current PKK offensive, but they have sense enough to not waste energy and manpower for difficult gains while risking offending the US. And while they remain opposed to an independent Iraqi Kurdistan (or semi-independent) there is good reason to wait and see what develops.

Despite the support of the US, and Kurdish cooperation with US military efforts, an independent Kurdistan, even with Kirkuk as a part, seems a dubious proposition to me, and possibly to the Turks.

Why dubious?

Kurdistan is landlocked, and would be dependent on its neighbors for everything but air transport. The neighbors would be: a hostile Iraq, a hostile Turkey, and a probably hostile Iran. Even if you've got the oil, how do you get it to market? The Kurds main allies now are the US and Israel. Both are far away and operating in their own interest. The US policy in this area is seemingly made by madmen and/or idiots, it changes with the wind and makes no sense, while Israel is not capable of doing more than backing up the US.

Turkey will not export Kurdish oil, the US wouldn't allow Iran to export Kurdish oil, so the only alternative is Iraq. So, Kurdish independence in dependent on a stable, friendly regime in Iraq, hardly a good bet at this time. I hope the Kurds don't overplay their hand here, and believe too much in US assurances. They're worth very little these days.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I am Paris Hilton

BDA blues

Japan Focus, a peer-reviewed e-journal has an authoritative summary of the BDA affair:
Banco Delta Asia, North Korea’s Frozen Funds and US Undermining of the Six-Party Talks: Obstacles to a Solution

A point that the author makes and I wish to emphasize is the following:
The US media seems reluctant to pose this simple question to US officials. With the apparent single exception of Kevin Hill of McClatchy Newspapers (and a blogger who calls himself “China Hand”), the media has not done its homework on Patriot Act Section 311. Thus, at one of the State Department's recent daily press briefings, a reporter asked: "Can we then conclude that using this 311 section of the Patriot Act is like a far more powerful tool than anybody imagined?" Section 311 is not some creature of the US regulatory patchwork run amuck. All that is required to stop a Section 311 action is a few instructions published in the US Federal Register.
I believe that this media blindness is intentional. This is a perfect example of how the press thinks and works, if the facts do not fit the view you wish to present, you ignore them, and since you ignored them, they don't exist.

Why is this case ignored in particular? I can only hypothesize that since the apparent policy paralysis is due to a lack of leadership, Feckless Leader must be given a free pass. "Protect Bush at all costs" must be a mantra for the US press.

Unfortunately, most bloggers refuse to recognize this. There is very little coverage of this BDA matter in the blogs, and despite the excellent work of China Hand and Kevin Hill, what coverage there is ignores them, and parrots the know-nothings of the AP, NYT, and WaPo.

Hopefully, at least in this matter, Japan Focus will push this forward but I, for one, am not holding my breath.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Paris in chains

With headline space occupied by the struggles of Paris Hilton, it's natural that the US press has little space left to inform us about the struggles of Pervez Musharraf to remain in power half a world away in Pakistan. This Guardian article, while inexcusably overlooking the poignant aspects of Paris's return to jail, describes a General that seems to be losing his grip.

Other parts of the world seem to have strange priorities.

Pace is out

Marine Corp General Peter Pace will be replaced as the head of the Joint Chiefs. On the surface at least, Pace was a Rumsfeld yes-man, as are the current leaders in Iraq, Petraeus and Odierno.
Gates seems to be moving deliberately to replace Rumsfeld's crew, it will be interesting to see if Petraeus will follow Pace out the door.
Supposedly, Pace will be replaced by a Navy man, Adm. Mullen. In what may be more than a coincidence, Gen. Abizaid was replaced as head of CENTCOM by Adm. Fallon back in March.


It's not easy these days to look at the future of the United States with any sort of optimism. The last six years have shown us that much of what we've claimed to be is a lie, and what we really are is not better, but rather far worse than most of the rest of humanity.
Thus it is almost a shock to get good news from unexpected quarters. But the rulings by military judges on the captives at Gitmo shows that residues of intelligence, honor and decency still live where one could expect them to be already extinguished.
Scott Horton writes as good an article as any I've read in a long, long time about this. If you'd like to enjoy a touch of optimism, I suggest you read it.
(h/t The Poor Man Institute)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Gee, eight?

Whatever one's opinion of Putin may be, it's hard to deny that he knows how to conduct his nation's diplomacy, in contrast to the US's crew of mealy mouth losers.
His proposal for a joint US-Russian radar defense system moves the ball back into play, and does so in a way that's hard to refuse without proving the Russian's point that the radar missile system was directed at them.

On the global warming front, Merkel caved and Bush gave nothing but words. The lack of European courage, not to mention leadership, in all facets of world affairs is stunning. The end of the Cold War and the growth of the EU should have done the opposite, but the failure of democratic alternatives in Europe has made their subservience to the Anglo alliance complete.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Big Picture

Despite the superficial differences that get all the press, the majority, and especially the powers that be, of both the Democratic and Republican parties are enthusiastically behind the continuing build up of the US war machine.

The commitment to a unipolar world, dominated by the force of US arms is a given, rather than an object of discussion.

This domination of the nation's discourse means that matters that otherwise might seem important are discussed only on the fringes. For example, the cost of this unchallenged build up is hardly mentioned. Of course that is made easier by the fragmentation of spending bills, the Iraq/Afghanistan wars are funded outside the defense budget, as is the mushrooming intelligence budget.

Robert Dreyfuss, over at the new-look TomDispatch, puts together some numbers and some projections about defense spending and the problems of Financing the Imperial Armed Forces.

The steps and counter-steps on the world stage are the subject of M K Bhadrakumar's article at the Asia Times, US missiles hit Russia where it hurts. As the relentless efforts of the US establishment to relegate Russia to third-world status continue, the installation of US missiles and radar in Eastern Europe is just one of the steps in the attempt to restart the Cold War, and once again triumph. The specter of a first-strike capability by the US is the basis of a dangerous tension that is sure to grow unless the US rethinks its policies, and there is no one in the political establishment that has the slightest intention of doing that.

Russia is not laying down for these efforts, and this is why Putin is no longer presented as a friend, but rather as an anti-democratic (whatever that means), assassinating, scheming child of the Kremlin.

So we've got to expect things to continue to move in the direction of a ratcheting up of global tensions. The controlling interests of the US economy, and thus US policy, are firmly established on a path to greater military spending and more energetic efforts to control everyone not aligned with their interests. The future does not bode well for us or our children.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mother Nature's children

Stay for all of this one (about 8 1/2 min.), it's got hungry lions, Cape Buffalo posses, and frustrated crocodiles. Wow!

(h/t Unfogged)

Is it just me...

...or is there anyone else that finds it strange for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to write a letter attesting to Scooter's character?
I guess with the war going so well, Pace finds he has lots of free time to take dictation write such sincere missives, at the behest of no one, naturally.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Time to talk Turkey?

Turkish troop massed on the border with Iraq and the US violating Turkish airspace, does a situation like this come under the job description of the War Czar?
(h/t Laura Rozen)