Tuesday, July 31, 2007

RIP again

Michelangelo Antonioni. Another, like Bergman and Kurosawa, who opened eyes to the potential of film making. He also made one of my favorite actresses, Monica Vitti, a star.
TCM has had L'Avventura on lately, but I would like to see L'Eclisse, La Notte, and The Passenger again soon.

Do you know the way to Sharm el-Sheikh?

This is the kind of statement that needs more than raised eyebrows:
Mr Gates earlier said that an essential goal for their trip was to reassure moderate Arab leaders that the US's intervention in Iraq was designed to bring peace to the region.
I'm sure that 'moderate Arab leaders' (moderate = support US policies) have their own views after 4 years of war what the US intervention was designed for. In any case, spreading democracy is now unmentioned when talking to the moderate princes and potentates of the region.

It's hard to say what the real purpose of the Bob and Condi show is, so far it's been nothing but platitudes and arms sales. The meetings in Sharm el-Sheikh have concluded, the only interesting fact I've seen is that Rice met with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia there, before flying on to Saudi Arabia. Was some kind of spade work necessary before meeting with Abdullah? Also, Jordan's Abdullah will also be in Saudi Arabia, rather than Sharm el-Sheikh, maybe he got his signals crossed and was waiting at the Dead Sea.

Speaking of Jordan, I don't see it on the list of countries receiving the latest bounty from the US. I wonder if Jordan has thrown their lot in with the Saudi king, and any benefit to them will be after today's meeting.

Geography is down!

A hit, a palpable hit:

Dateline Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt
Rice and Gates traveled to this Dead Sea resort to meet Tuesday with Arab leaders as part of an 11th-hour effort to get their assistance in helping Iraq's fledgling government survive sectarian strife and political infighting. At the same time, the U.S. officials want Saudi Arabia and its neighbors to use financial pressure on Iran as a way of discouraging its nuclear ambitions.
That's me, putting in bold the transfered body of water. Or was it the town that was transported. Anyway, the above article is from the WaPo, but written by the AP where the actual War on Where Thing Are is being fought.


Monday, July 30, 2007

The Bob and Condi Show

Or, beware geeks bearing gifts.

The Secretaries of Defense and State are leaving for a swing around the Middle East, visiting our friends and coming with about $63B in arms deals that lets them know that they really are our friends.

Would we sell armaments to our enemies? Don't answer that.

Israeli representatives in the US Congress, who number in the hundreds, quickly protested the sale of $20B in high tech weaponry to the Saudis, while the Israelis themselves seemed more sanguine. After all, the Saudis have to actually pay for their's, while the Israelis get their $30B bonanza paid for by the US, not a bad deal. The Egyptians too are getting $13B, they too have the key to the US treasury. The Saudis have never posed a threat to anyone, and the only use they will have for satellite guided bombs is target practice. Anyway, who owns the satellites?

So, with all those arms promising tons of good will, what good news can we expect Bob and Condi to bring back to the land of the free? Will we get a chorus of bomb, bomb, bomb Iran? Will the Saudis, Egypt and Jordan agree to handcuff Hamas? Or could our traveling troupe be bringing word of some shift in US policy from what has been no policy at all? Could this be a sign that the Middle East portfolio has been removed from Cheney's grasp for good and delivered to the 'realists'?

Stay tuned, Blog Simple is on it!


Two guys who meant a lot to me for very different reasons passed on into the great parade today, Ingmar Bergman and Bill Walsh.

Bergman was 89, and was one of the most productive and challenging film directors of all time. For all the blood, gore and guts we see in movies, I've never seen anything that made mortality real like Cries and Whispers. The list of great movies he made is long, among my favorites, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, and Fanny and Alexander. It's hard to overemphasize his genius and importance to great film making.

Bill Walsh was the coach of the San Francisco 49ers football team. He found players that suited his style, that of intelligence and innovation, and gave San Francisco fans a run that stands out in the history of the sport, but especially of sport in San Francisco. He won three Super Bowls, his successor won 2. Compare that to one world title by the NBA Warriors, and exactly none by the SF Giants of MLB. Thanks, Bill!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A beautiful symmetry

Like clockwork.
1. NYT article relays 'senior officials' frustration with our friends and allies the Saudis.
2. Administration announces $20B weapons deal with the Saudis.
3. Congress points to NYT article and weapons deal, hisses, fumes, spits.
4. Administration announces $30B weapons deal with Israel.

Gates and Condi are off to the Middle East, should be fun, especially with Uncle Dick in recovery.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bizzaro World is the new reality

Back in the early days of Feckless Leader's reign, one of his acolytes informed us about the new state of affairs:
That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality.
At the time, most of us thought that the statement was an example of hubris, and that reality would bounce back for a little ass-biting.

Looking back now I can see he had a point, it's just that the reality that was created is really, really strange. Lets look at some of the strangeness around the world:
  • Pakistan - within a few days, the US states that Musharraf has the situation under control, then that he doesn't and we might just have to do some excellent bombing. We are also delivering 25 F-16s to Pakistan.
  • Iraq - we are arming Sunnis to fight Shiites while the Shiite Maliki protests and wants the Greatest General EVAR Petraeus replaced. The US is pissed at Saudi Arabia for, that's right, arming Sunnis and not loving Maliki. Bush listens to Petraeus because he wrote the book on counter-insurgency, and he likes Maliki, too. Iran is arming the Shiites who are not fighting the US, usually, and Iran too like Maliki. Even though he is well liked, we just might have to replace Maliki since he's not on board with Petraeus, who is the Greatest General EVAR.
  • Saudi Arabia - they are our friends, even if they arm the Iraqi Sunnis, we still sell them high tech weaponry. The Saudis have other faults, they tried to bring Hamas and Fatah together, undermining the US policy of supporting democracy except in Palestine. Prince Bandar got paid huge bribes to buy weapons from Great Britain, but it's OK because it's a national security issue and the money was put into bank accounts that were government accounts that Bandar just controlled. The Saudis have so much fucking money anyway that nobody cares.
  • Israel/Palestine - Palestinians elected Hamas who then had a coup and replaced Fatah in Gaza. Fatah, who legitimately lost the election runs the West Bank and gets money to fight Hamas, but not too well in Gaza.
And that's just a small slice of our empire of strangeness. Here on the home front thing are, if anything, even stranger, but that shall, perhaps, be the subject of another post.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Scapegoat

Here he is, all trussed up with his red tie and ready for the slaughter...

Thank heavens it will be a symbolic killing, blood is so distasteful to our sensibilities lately.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Putin the popular

Mike Whitney reports the strange tale of a 'secret' meeting in Moscow between Putin and a whole flotilla of American éminence grise. Kissinger, Schultz, Rubin, Nunn and others were all there two weeks ago.

I think it's reasonable to think that this was a follow-up to the failure at Kennebunkport, what these gentlemen are asking of Putin is still a mystery in its details. I wouldn't doubt that they are trying to bribe him, to get him to play their kind of ball and somehow reverse (with Russia's help) the shipwreck of American policies under the Cheney administration. But I doubt that Putin has forgotten how the US, led by these same gentlemen, used all its power to try to drive Russia into anarchy and oblivion when the USSR fell, and he has told them in polite terms to go fuck themselves, as Cheney might say.

As Whitney points out, it looks like it didn't work, so the Brits started up their bullshit Litvinenko campaign again, for all the good that will do them. (It's really hard to believe the depths to which GB has sunk, lapdog is inadequate as a description.) Russia continues to cement long term deals in energy and infrastructure with Europe and Asia, and the risk of a war with Iran only makes them stronger. Cheney has so thoroughly fucked things up for the US that it really doesn't have any leverage.

Even though the press is kind enough to shield our tender eyes from the spectacle, as there has been no US reporting on this meeting, the facts are out their for friends and foes alike. I would think that Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East crew are realizing that they've been backing a loser, and not just a loser, but an insanely belligerent one that cannot be trusted in the slightest.

So, I suggest that you distinguished gentlemen make better use of your time by trying to rid the world of Cheney and his chimp, and come up with a new foreign policy that has some contact with reality. Better yet, just crawl off into your holes and disappear for good.
(h/t Moon of Alabama)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

South of the border

McClatchy does a follow-up on the pipeline sabotage in Mexico. There's been minimal coverage here in the US despite the fact that Mexico is the second largest oil exporter to the US (Canada is number one).

Some of the things to note:
  • the sabotage was expertly done
  • the action was in the central part of the country, guerrilla actions are usually restricted to the south
  • bombing pipelines is common in Columbia
  • a drug war is raging in many parts of Mexico
Despite the claims by the EPR, I don't think a criminal motive (extortion) should be overlooked as a possibility. In any case, look out for further attacks, Mexico is a fragile state under huge pressures. And what happens there might happen here.

The flop flipped

Bhadrakumar at the Asia Times points out the 180 degree turn in US policy towards Pakistan over the last week.

On July 17, assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher once again confirmed that the US expected Musharraf to be successful in combating the 'extremists'. Within 48 hours, that sunny expectation was no longer operative, and threats of direct intervention in the border regions by the US and NATO were the new line:
Three top-ranking US officials spoke in unison over the weekend, hinting at direct US military strikes inside Pakistan - White House spokesman Tony Snow, White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend, and National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell.
Mr. Bhadrakumar points out the the only event in that time period that might have provoked such an abrupt about face was Pakistan's Supreme Court ruling that the firing of the Chief Justice by Musharraf was illegal. Evidently, the rule of law in Pakistan is just as dangerous as the rule of law in the US to the administration.

According to the article, what we have to expect now is emergency rule in Pakistan, along with a bombing campaign in Waziristan. Certainly, that would be a dangerous roll of the dice, but the US is dependent on Pakistan for most of the logistic support for the excellent Afghanistan adventure, and evidently only Musharraf is trustworthy enough to guarantee that support.

It will be interesting to see if Mr. Bhadrakumar is correct in his prediction.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Busy, busy, busy...

No, not me. I've been enjoying the Oregon coast, and thus on a blogging hiatus.

But Feckless Leader has been on a roll of sorts, signing an executive order that allows him to freeze assets of anyone who threatens "the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq" or who "undermin(e) efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq." Who might this be applied to? Move On?

He also said that the Justice Department will not allow Congress to pursue contempt proceedings, once again pronouncing the executive above the law, and Congress a useless appendage of the rule of said executive.

I'll say this once again, the only choice left open to the Democrats and Congress is to start an impeachment investigation. That is the only available path to contest the acts of this administration, anything else is just buying time and hoping that free elections will be allowed to be held in '08. There is no reason to believe this can happen unless you stick your head in the sand (or another dark place) and pretend that the last 6+ years never happened.

It's great that Cindy Sheehan has the balls to be pushing impeachment, though hardly enough. The cowardly remarks of Conyers today, that "elections are our only recourse today" because there aren't enough votes for impeachment are nothing but a way to avoid the risk and responsibility of confronting the stonewall. If FL defies an impeachment subpoena, Congress will know that the line has been drawn. They do not want to know.

Very little time remains, and I'm not very hopeful. Unless Congress grows a spine, or someone deep in the administration flips, there will be no way to stop the trip to Mussolini land. And our first dictator will have been a dunce!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Infrastructure wars

This totally flew by my radar screen until today:

Mexico's Pemex restores pipeline damaged in intentional explosion

That's probably because it has been almost totally ignored here in the land of Freedom of the Press. Seems like a small leftist guerrilla group set off several explosions, damaging a gas pipeline between Mexico City and Guadalajara. Some big factories were forced to close down.

Also, the pipeline has not gone back online as of that article on Friday and there is no word yet today if it has indeed been repaired.

It seems to me that this type of 4th generation warfare is going to be more and more prevalent, is very hard to stop, and can have severe economic consequences. I don't know if these people got their idea to blow up a pipeline from Iraq, but the lessons of that war are available worldwide, another benefit of the excellent adventure.
(h/t Postman Patel)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Will it blend?

That is the question.

(h/t BAGnewsNotes)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Firm, firmer, firmest!

Both the WaPo and the NYT have decided that the adjective of the day when describing Feckless Leader is 'firm'.

Despite Failures in Iraq, President Holds Firm is the website front page headline of the WaPo, while the NYT goes with A Firm Bush Tells Congress Not to Dictate War Policy.

I can only guess that Bush's performance at the latest presser, plus his 'stay the course' strategy that hasn't changed since day one of the excellent adventure are the reasons for this description, though I have found some other terms that I find more apt: stubborn, obtuse, delusional, and yes, feckless. But I don't get paid the big bucks to write headlines, I guess it just goes to show that journalistic ability leads to unanimity. The last word that achieved this kind of ubiquity was, of course, bold. When Bush was bold, bold was the adjective written in MSM heaven. Not that he's not bold now, it's just that firmness has supplanted boldness as the virtue du jour.

It's touching that our press corps is willing to help in this latest offensive to ward off political disaster. Other witting, or unwitting accomplices are:
1. The Stock Markets, hurray for more money!
2. Gas Prices, down, despite oil at $77 a barrel!
3. General Petraeus, Bush listens to our generals, at least when they say what he wants!
4. Al Qaeda, they're everywhere and planning to attack!
5. British doctors, proving that socialized medicine leads to Terror!
6. Congress, lily livered poltroons!

Stay tuned to see if such splendid firmness is going to be enough to stem the advancing tide of reality! Sixteen months until Fred rides to the rescue in his pickup! Wait until the adjectives start flying for him!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Precious freedoms

The Grand Poobah himself, Feckless Leader, told us today that everything was going swimmingly in Iraq. He's also been passing out orders to private citizens and Congress, basically informing them that he is our Commander in Chief, and that we should all just shut up and listen.

The private citizens are also Republicans, so their reaction was, naturally, to bow and genuflect, while our guardians of freedom in Congress said something on the lines of, "Oh, really.", in a soft but disappointed voice. That's telling him, Congress!

It's good that Pelosi has taken impeachment off the table (unlike nuking Iran), because talk of impeachment might anger Feckless Leader and he would have to take stronger measures against Congress. We wouldn't want to lose our precious freedoms to score political points, would we?

Despite my love of my precious freedoms, I would still like to see the start of impeachment, just to see how Bush would push his executive privilege diktat in the face of an impeachment investigation. I'm fairly certain that he would not cooperate, and that possibility is what really scares Congress. Better the sham of a democracy than no democracy at all, right?

Monday, July 09, 2007


Michael Isikoff has this quote in his Newsweek article about Bush's 'deliberations' about commuting/pardoning Scooter Libby.
Cheney did not directly weigh in with Fielding, but nobody involved had any doubt where he stood. "I'm not sure Bush had a choice," says one of the advisers. "If he didn't act, it would have caused a fracture with the vice president."
What is the hold that Cheney has on Feckless Leader? Sure, Bush is intellectually negligible, he has no interest in actually governing, and if Cheney hadn't fucked everything up so badly he would have had good reason to ride out the end of his term in quiet uselessness. But that is not the current situation, the wars are going south, the Republicans are flipping out, and Cheney is still pushing for another war. Is that why Gates just canceled his Latin America trip? Is he a counterweight to Cheney in foreign policy and able to fortify Bush to resist Cheney? Condi isn't and never has been, but then, neither was Powell.

So what would a fracture mean?

Friday, July 06, 2007


Remember the (justified) outrage when the Taliban blew up the giant cliff Buddhas, back in the days before they were 'free'?
It seems they had some unlikely forerunners.


Joseph Galloway asks a question:
Why is it that the Bush administration, in its dying throes, looks remarkably more like an organized crime ring than one of the arms of the American government? A poorly organized and run crime ring, truly, but a crime ring nonetheless.
My (Blog) Simple answer is that they look like an organized crime ring because that is exactly what they are.

Mr. Galloway then says what needs to be done:
It is past time to throw the rascals out of office, and I mean ALL the rascals of whatever party or political persuasion. If they didn’t participate then they closed their eyes to the rot, and by this I cheerfully include the Democrats in Congress who now control Congress and haven’t done anything but talk about doing something.
But he doesn't say how.
(h/t Froomkin)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Not a bang, but a splat

What with the Libby affair exploding like a balloon full of shit, the blog waves are full of comment, outrage, and bloviating. The press reports the 'facts' and these are used as the basis of the commentary.

What has struck me most about the reports is that great attention has been paid in attributing the decision to commute to Bush and Bush alone. Based on that, the commentary has been critical of Bush and his unitary actions. Cheney, who is the clearest beneficiary of the decision (after Libby) is not mentioned. The WaPo, one of Libby's biggest supporters, has an article by Michael Abramowitz, "A Decision Made Largely Alone" that manages to relate the Bush position without even mentioning Cheney. Bravo!

Forgive me for calling bullshit. This has Cheney written all over it, and once again goes to show who is in charge. It also once again reinforces the nature of the Cheney regime, who's primary nature can be described by the term 'gangsterism'. Bush is the fall guy, it's a natural part for him and the only part (but one) that he still might have to play.

The prosecution of Libby was an attempt by the old establishment to reign Cheney in. It has clearly failed and there doesn't seem to be a backup plan around. Please don't say Congress because it hurts my sides when I laugh too hard. So there are almost eighteen months left for the Cheneyites to run things and cement their power for the future. That is going to be the most interesting part of the next eighteen months, how can the gang preserve its power against the difficult problem of the elections? Let's look at some possibilities and their pros and cons.

1. Rely on the press and the stupidity of the American electors to put a Cheneyite in power. The most obvious candidate for this is Fred Thompson, he's right out of the Reaganesque mold of a Hollywood airhead who does what he's told while keeping the press all hot and bothered by his 'leadership qualities'. The other side of this will be the usual character assassination campaign against the Democratic candidate. Election fixing will be available to tip the balance if it gets too close. The major benefit of this is that the facade of normalcy will be maintained. The risk is that the stupidity of the Americans might have limits, this risk is exacerbated by negative economic factors. The housing market is a ticking bomb, if it goes off Fred might not be enough.

2. Play the terrorism card. This could be done in a variety of ways, but the effect of any of them could mean a radical and apparent transformation of the country. It fits in well with the character of the actors, and has a giant repressive apparatus at its beck and call. It is risky, as all big changes are.

3. Go back underground. Allow Clinton (or Obama) to be elected, it's not that she's going to change the Bush policies very much, there can be many scandals found or invented to keep the press happy and the public distracted. Many of the moles that have been installed won't be chased out, and will be ready for action when called upon. The risks are mostly in the realm of paranoia, but gangsters are by necessity paranoid. Others can be gangsters, too, and putting other hands on the main levers of power makes you rely on their normalcy.

Oh, Happy Fourth.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bring it on

Bush celebrates the fourth 'Bring it on Day' by commuting the sentence of Scooter Libby. Libby still has to pay a $250,000 fine but I'm sure his friends will step up to the plate for that.
I'm also sure the Washington Post and the New York Times will be happy that our long national nightmare is over.