Friday, October 26, 2007

Potemkin government

When you're the new reality, it's important to make sure the old one doesn't rear its ugly head. Hence a new FEMA technique for press conferences, FEMA workers administrators fake being reporters, ask questions like in a real press conference, while real reporters (such as they are) listen in on an 800 number but can't ask questions.
Talk about innovation! I don't know if the new Brownie, R. David Paulison, thought this one up, but whoever did, heck of a job!
(h/t At Largely)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

World War III

When Feckless Leader puts WWIII on the table, it's a natural reaction to yawn and mutter, "What an asshole."

But M K Bhadrakumar has a different take. He puts it in the perspective of the current maneuvers in the Middle East, and sees some brinkmanship going on. Specifically, he points out that the US is involved in supplying and protecting the PKK, and thus pissing off our Turkish allies no end. US policy has destroyed the old order, where the Turks were our unquestioning friends, and substituted a world where all the players are jockeying for position. Turkey's national interests are now going in another direction from that of Washington, and unpredictable outcomes are inevitable, even in the short term.

The strategic disaster in Iraq has two sides, one is political, and Bush & Co. have been winning that fight against the weakest crew of Democratic politicians in recent memory. Petraeus has managed to lower US casualty rates by alliances of convenience with the Sunnis, matched with unrestrained bombing of whoever shoots back. Damn the women and children, full speed ahead! This keeps the Republicans in line, and Congress ready to pass out another $46B in interim spending.

But that does not relieve the strategic problem. The US wants Turkey to play ball on Iran, but because of its knee-jerk support of the Kurds, with Israeli help, Turkey is being driven to seek out support from the other players. Placating the Sunnis is driving Maliki towards Iran.

The other big powers, Russia and China, are keeping their mouths zipped, and they're right to do so. For WWIII to occur, at least one of them would have to be involved, and though China has strategic interests in Iran and now in Iraq, it's Russia that is the obvious target of Bush's bluster. Putin's trip to Iran scared the crap out of the Israelis, they must see now that their total alliance with the US could have a downside.

And none of this has anything to do with mythical Iranian nukes.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The end?

The Air Force has reported the results of its investigation into the 'loose nukes' incident to SecDef Gates. Four colonels were relieved of duty (no generals, accountability having its limits), and 66 other airmen.

The press seems fully satisfied that public trust has been restored, and all signs are that a large, heavy rock has just been placed over the story, that's all folks, nothing more to see here, move along.

I'm not fully satisfied, as you might have guessed. A couple of points that remain unanswered:
  • Could this have happened before?
  • How and why did this story come out at all? Who leaked it?
  • Apart from loading the wrong pylon, were the procedures followed here the same as were used previously for the decommissioning of the missiles?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Strange trip

So why did Olmert run to Moscow, and not Washington?

DEBKA says Bush is pissed off about it, but you can't believe DEBKA, no matter how plausible they seem. Ms. Information, thy middle name is DEBKA. Anyway, it's a strange and atypical occurrence for the Israeli PM to arrange a top level meeting, in Moscow, with no build up and no advance story. It definitely makes Israel look like a supplicant, not a good idea in that part of the world. They must have had a pretty good reason to go, but what?

The US press has still punted on it, it's just an AP story now. They must be waiting to hear what spin to put on it from their masters. And they can hide for a while behind the Pakistan mess, two big foreign stories are too much for the American mind.

Welcome Home

Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan, seeming engineered by the US to put a patina of democracy on a autocratic ally, got started with a bang.

Some of Bhutto's followers are blaming the Pakistan intellegence agency ISI, everyone else will blame Islamists, al Qaida, and the Taliban. Of course ISI has been closely identified with those groups anyway, so probably everyone is right.

Meanwhile, the Asia Times is reporting that the Pakistan army is about to move massively into the northern areas bordering Afghanistan. We can expect tens of thousands of refugees as the Pakistan air force bombs their own people with spanking new jets supplied by the US, but we can also expect that the rank and file in the army, and lots of officers are going to be disgruntled. Musharraf is a wily bird with a talent for survival, but this time he may not make it. I would expect that the US gave him no choice.

So, as usual, the Bush administration is sowing chaos, death and destruction. Is there anything that these people touch that doesn't turn to shit? Oh, yeah, their bank accounts.

Loose Nukes, another chapter

The story of the 'loose nukes' from Minot to Barksdale has not been a big media event. In the relay race of relating recent reality, the WaPo has been holding that baton tightly in their hot little hands, while the NYT has basically ignored it.

The official story, all told by nameless 'officials', was given its first shaping by Walter Pincus, as described here.

Now they (the WaPo) have trotted out another national security thoroughbred from their stable, Thomas Ricks, to bring us the latest news, there are consequences for such blunders!

In a modern masterpiece, two Air Force 'senior officials' spill their guts out anonymously, and we are informed that, maybe, probably, a colonel will be relieved, and several enlisted personnel will be sacrificed reprimanded. There is also vague talk of criminal indictments on unnamed charges.

From what little we really know, one of the most interesting is questions has been left lying there, unasked. This story was leaked by Air Force personnel to the Military Times. Why did they do that? Why would they do that?

Might those people be the ones 'relieved' and 'reprimanded'?

When the fully transparent and accurate report from the Secretary of the Air Force is published (sound the trumpets) we'll know all this, and more!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Annals of the NSS*

*National Security State

The prevailing narrative, that the extraordinary powers that Bush has claimed and Cheney used were a response to the 9/11 events, has now been shown to be a complete fraud.

Massive illegal spying on Americans by the Bush administration started before 9/11 (illegal spying started long before that), as the Qwest/Nacchio case now establishes. The same players, wearing different hats, Hayden, McConnell, et. al., back in the sunny days of February 2001, asked for the big telecom companies to help them with their surveillance project. Only Qwest demurred, on the advise of council, and strangely enough the chief of Qwest was soon indicted for insider trading and sent up the river for six years.

Congress is now going to retroactively legalize the operations that AT&T, Verizon, etc. performed for the government, for a profit, naturally.

Meanwhile, the confirmation hearings of Mukasey for grand inquisitor AG start this week, without the documents that Sen. Leahy had demanded, before he wisely dropped his demands. Mukasey is an insider of the National Security State, he's been given the most delicate trials to handle and so preserve secrecy as our most cherished value; he is assured the same reverential treatment by the Senate as Hayden or McConnell.

The Qwest/Nacchio case will obviously go nowhere in the press, much less in Congress. Nacchio did wrong, AT&T did right and that's the truth, so help me God. The pleasant trappings of a Republic grow more and more farcical, but the chuckles take place outside the view of the cameras. Cheney's quest for personal power might be over (maybe not), but there will surely be others to follow in his path. It's the nature of the beast and the empire.

Plans have changed

Remember when we (with help from the Saudis) were going to bring Iran to its knees by driving the price of oil down to $40 a barrel? That was back at the beginning of the year.

With the price of crude going to $86 today, that strategery seems pretty remote. Putin and his Iranian friends can afford the finest non-alcoholic champagne at their meeting. Prosit!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sorry, Condi

In my last post I speculated that Condi was too busy shopping or defending her hired guns to do a little repair work on US/Turkey relations. Boy, was I wrong. She was off in Moscow telling Putin how to run his country. It seems that she thinks Russia has too strong an executive.

That's an irony overdose for me, ouch! Does she understand how such statements can injure the minds of young hippos?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Turkey time

We haven't been posting much about Iraq lately, well, we haven't been posting much at all lately, but as far as Iraq goes it seems clear that there has been a shifting of some gears, and it takes time to evaluate what that means.

The most striking development of late is the saber rattling by Turkey. Seemingly responding to an increase in PKK activity in Turkey, they have massed troops near the border with Iraq and gone to Parliament for authority to strike in Iraq.

At the same time, the US Congress has passed a meaningless resolution saying that the Turks (Ottoman Turks, that is) committed genocide against the Armenians almost one hundred years ago. In response, Turkey recalled their ambassador, an act that back in the good old days was usually a prelude to declaring war, it's safe to assume that the good old days are over, at least in that sense.

Still, tension between the US and Turkey means more trouble for Iraq, and for the Kurds in particular. Just the fact that an article like this one in the NYT is published shows that the US military is more than nonplussed by the current developments. If Turkey does cross the border, as they did back in the 90's in a very limited way, the US position in Iraq will take a huge blow. I don't think that will happen, yet, but mistakes are always possible.

Times like these, I foolishly ask myself, where's Condi? Busy buying shoes, busy defending Blackwater, busy doing anything but diplomacy, for sure, but wouldn't a trip to Ankara at least look good?

What the situation does show is that the US invasion and the surge has provoked a power vacuum in the area. 160,000 US troops have done nothing but destabilize a key area of the world. The idea behind the invasion was the opposite. It was to project power and fill the vacuum caused by a weakened Saddam. Bad idea, bad plan, bad execution, bad result. Gen. Sanchez has now gone way off the reservation, and can expect to be hounded by Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh into an early grave.

Meanwhile, Petraeus continues to be the military version of Pinocchio. Accusing the Iranian ambassador to Iraq of being a terrorist is the latest of his exploits, you can see the wires that lead back to Uncle Geppetto Dick Cheney.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fantasy Fred

Frequent readers of Blog Simple should know that we have dubbed Fred Thompson our 'favorite' candidate for POTUS, favorite meaning the person we believe will be elected, not our own personal choice, Dennis Kucinich's wife.

Opting not to join the select group of masochists that watch the presidential debates, we rely on the reportage of our nation's finest news organizations for a summary.

All goes to confirm our prediction. The press noted that Thompson did not drool, nor did he actually babble. Those are given as positives, and validate the consensus that Fred at least held his own, while McCrazy, Ground Zero and Rummy fail to grip.

But I (speaking as the editor of the Blog Simple group) must confess that lately I have had my doubts. A couple of recent news photos of Fred were not flattering, and show a lack of attention to detail by his organization. His lovely wife seems to have disappeared, and that just makes him look older. Basically, he didn't look well, and that's not good for a guy who depends on image. Gruff ol' Fred needs to start taking a pick-me-up, climb in the old pick-up, and exploit some good old fashioned American nostalgia for the country we used to be, and with Fred's help will be again, damn it!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Mind your manners

The boundaries of American conversation are pretty fixed, in polite company at least. Our media is nothing if not polite, with a stainless steel claw for those deemed to violate rules of proper behavior.

When you see someone with an audience behave impolitely, expect chastisement. The blogosphere is rude and impolite, but the audience is scattered. Only a few can make waves on their own, but they remain polite. Certain topics they don't touch, out of politeness, such as discussions of Israel and Palestine.

Glenn Greenwald is impolite. He has violated the rules of proper behavior, he has asked questions that are rude and impolite of those whose eminent positions make them unquestionable. Watch out, Glenn!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Old news today

September has come and gone, before it arrived it occupied a place of honor among the months of this year as a time when decisions would be made, and new roads opened up.

You don't need me to tell you that it didn't work out that way. The successful surge by the administration swept all before it, Congress, press and pundits. The only new roads that might open up are those of additional war and destruction, and that has been left up to the executive branch.

Let's face it, apart from being a noisy way to spread dollars around to the rich and connected, Congress is totally useless in the scheme of things. They want to be useless, keep their snouts in the trough, and fatten.

When Rep. Harman said that Congress was warned of a terror threat to the capitol before voting on the FISA law, it provoked a few mordant chuckles here, why would any self-respecting terrorist bother to blow up Congress?

As for the press, they specialize in yesterday's news today. Sometimes it's by design (the NYT holding up news of illegal wiretapping), usually it just happens, like the latest bombshell that the US tortures. Today's news is not news at all, it's just a press release that goes though the charade of leaks by 'official sources'.

The unasked and thus more interesting questions are:
  • Why was this leaked/disclosed now? (Like the 2005 torture memos the NYT just reported on.)
  • Why was this old news reported now? (Like the report that the Israelis knew that the USS Liberty was a US navy ship when they attacked it.)
That 'news' is unavailable to the masses, even reporters like Hersh don't get into why their sources talk to them.