Friday, November 30, 2007

FOIA blues

I am shocked, shocked I tell you, about this news:

November 29, 2007 -- AFTER a year and a half of stalling, the US Treasury finally complied with The Post's requests for information about The President's Working Group on Financial Markets - by delivering 177 pages of crap.

In essence, the Treasury's Freedom of Information officials said that the Working Group - affectionately nicknamed the Plunge Protection Team - doesn't keep records of its meetings.

How interesting and convenient!

Included in the 177 pages that the Treasury said responded to our request on the actions of The President's Working Group were 53 pages on which something was redacted - blacked out so that the discussion was unreadable.

Many of those 53 pages contained no words at all - just a big black blob.

Starting in June of 2006 The Post asked for an accounting of the actions of The President's Working Group, which was formed under President Reagan. The Group seems to have the ill-defined task of keeping an eye on the financial markets. We also asked for e-mails related to our request through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

I guess we'll never know the level of intervention since last summers meltdown. How much of the stock markets does the treasury own? How much can it afford to own?

The klepto-plutocracy really doesn't see the need for you, dear citizens, to have a clue about what they are up to. Just remember that it's for your own good.

Saudis step up

M K Bhadrakumar runs through the developments in Pakistan, concentrating on the return of Sharif and what that means for the next phase. One thing that is of particular interest is the role that Saudi Arabia took in getting Musharraf to accept the return of his old antagonist.

It seems the most important step the Saudis have taken so far that asserts independence from Washington. Bhutto was brought in to share power with Musharraf as set up by Negroponti, that possibility seems much more remote now, and with Saudi backing the Pakistanis can keep their independence in the 'war on terror'.

The US press is so concerned with playing the stenographer for the administrations policy positions, and those positions are so muddled, that it is hopeless to try to understand world affairs without other sources. Thank you, Asia Times!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Nobody is going anywhere in Iraq, no matter what happens:
This is the Catch-22 of Bush administration policy in Iraq. The worse things go, the more our military is needed; the better they go, the more our military is needed.
It's the best catch of all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Jezebel Spirit

More Blake

"Compel the poor to live upon a crust of bread, by soft mild arts.
Smile when they frown, frown when they smile; and when a man looks pale
With labour and abstinence, say he looks healthy and happy;
And when his children sicken, let them die; there are enough
Born, even too many, and our earth will be overrun
Without these arts. If you would make the poor live with temper,
With pomp give every crust of bread you give; with gracious cunning
Magnify small gifts; reduce the man to want a gift, and then give with pomp.
Say he smiles if you hear him sigh. If pale, say he is ruddy.
Preach temperance: say he is overgorg'd and drowns his wit
In strong drink, though you know that bread and water are all
He can afford. Flatter his wife, pity his children, till we can
Reduce all to our will, as spaniels are taught with art."
- William Blake, from The Four Zoas
(h/t wood s lot)

Happy B Day!

William Blake turns the big 250! I'll never forget, I hope, running into Blake by accident (no Blake in high school English, at least back in the olden days). It was, of course, his incredible The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and in my intellectual and spiritual development it still stands as a milestone. A hat tip to Chris Floyd, who also has a tribute to the old engraver.
The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


Well, oops again

Under investigation:
A NATO airstrike killed 14 laborers working for an Afghan road construction company that had been contracted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to build a road in the mountainous province of Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan, officials said.

The strike occurred late Monday night in the Norgram district of Nuristan when the Afghan workers of Amerifa Road Construction Company were sleeping in tents after a day’s work.

“Fourteen of our mechanics and laborers were killed as they were asleep in their tents,” said Nurullah Jalali, the executive director of the construction company. “We just collected pieces of flesh from our tired workers and put them in 14 coffins.”
“I can’t confirm that at this time, we, I.S.A.F., believe that we were able to successfully target a Taliban leader in that area and at that time,” the spokesman, Maj. Charles Anthony, said. “As far as the allegation of civilian casualties goes, that is under investigation.”
Bonus suicide tactic, hold your breath until you read the results of the 'investigation'. But at least we don't have to worry about the dead workers wives and children, they were already rich:
The victims of the episode on Monday night were all Afghans who were working for $5 a day to build the road, Mr. Jalali said. His company has been contracted to build 273 miles of road in 10 provinces of Afghanistan, and the major contracts are with the American military.
What, not with NATO?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Round the world

The staff at Blog Simple has been remiss lately, holiday highs and that stuffed by turkey feeling has led to a dearth of posts.

But not all can be attributed to the above, the current world situation, as presented by the press has continued in the mold of the alternate reality set up by the administration and the Greatest Genereral EVAR Petraeus. The main task of the US government, Congress, the military, and of course the press, is to maintain a state of 'everything's OK', just move along and do your holiday shopping. Let's take a quick tour, and see how the line is being spun, and how long it can continue.

Australia - Howard is out, but the new guy still loves us, just not quite so much as to continue getting their soldiers blown up in Iraq. Afghanistan will still be OK for that, for now.

Afghanistan - the Taliban now control most of the country, NATO members are tiring of getting blown up, though their subservience to Feckless Leader remains impressive. One of the great untold stories of the past seven years is the that European unity has meant less, not more independence from Washington. In any case, the invasion of Afghanistan has been shown to be a total failure for the US, but that will not be admitted into polite discourse for some time to come.

Pakistan - Bhutto's back, Sharif is back, and Musharraf seems to be stepping down as army chief. That is to say that no one knows what's really going on with our nuked up chum. The inner contradictions of Pakistan could blow sky high any moment, so let's pretend that everything is OK.

Iraq - the surge is working! The US, just to prove that it won, is going to keep troops there FOREVER! With all that good news, talking about a million or so dead and four million refugees is just millions of sour grapes, unworthy of consideration. The possibility that things could get even worse is unspeakably unlikely.

Israel/Palestine - today's conference has been a real treat. They've come out of it with a plan to have a plan about negotiating. On one hand you have a propped up nebish (Abbas), who is supposed to negotiate with an incompetent booby (Olmert) who has no intention of allowing a Palestinian state ever. But let's believe it can work because it makes the time pass better. Also, foreign minister Livni's quaint suggestion that the Israeli Arabs can soon be shipped out to the bantustans that will be the new Palestine is something we in America should not ever talk about so I won't link to it.

Money - Atrios's term about the bad debt that has accumulated in the banks and brokerage houses - the big shit pile(s) - is no big deal. Some people will still pay good money for shit piles, that's because they're optimists! And probably, they'll do OK because the final owner of the shit pile will be you and I, dear reader, in our role of sucker (taxpayer) of last resort.

Politics - on the Dem side, the big question of whether Clinton's lover is truly gay, or just bi, remains unanswered. With the Thuglicans, Freddie seems to be slipping, and Blog Simple watches that with consternation. But we need to remember that the question is not whether he's senile and incompetent, it's whether his teflon coating can hold up over the next months. But his handlers need to get him back to looking like a real live person, the challenge of convincing Americans to vote for a cadaver is daunting, if not impossible.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mixed Messages

The down side to stenography by a news organization is the need for an editor to mind the message.

Newspaper headlines on the net are changeable in an instant, and who has the energy to commemorate some of the more discordant moments?

But the article:
Bush Praises Musharref

followed by this:
U.S. Eyes Pakistan's No. 2 General

on the WaPo front page stand as a testament to discordance, witting or unwitting.

And I love this watch your back photo, attached to the second article:

Don't count out Musharref, he's a wily old bird, with eyes in the back of his head.

UPDATE: What strikes me most about the press coverage of Pakistan is the ingrained faith that the spin is the reality, while reality is never allowed to peek through the door. It's even worse than Iraq. The US continues, and needs to continue, to bribe Pakistan to be an unwilling participant in the war in Afghanistan, mainly by permitting the supplying of the ongoing disaster to cross its territory. The possibility that other factors beyond the US hegemony can exist in Pakistan is never even hinted at. The Cheney administration will go to the end believing (or trying to make us believe) that the only reality is what you see in the... WaPo.

Mistakes will happen

The biggest collapse we are facing at this moment is that of the Anglo-world empire. Even the Brits, so tried and true, seem to have big problems carrying on as a serious country.
For a suitable fee, we at Blog Simple might consider taking up the reins.
No, forget it.
(h/t Arthur Silber)


Regular readers of Blog Simple know that I disapprove of our excellent adventure in Arabia, that is the Iraq war. The greed, stupidity, arrogance and all around incompetence that has marked it have brought me past the brink of despair when thinking about the good ol' USA, a country that could have been compared perhaps to most others, and now seemed to be launching itself into a pariah status that only a few others in history could match or exceed.
But the infusion of 'Bushies' unto all the nooks and crannies of the bureaucracy it starting to bear such strange fruit that we might soon need a new category in the history of nations. Take this for example:

When Jordan Fox was serving in Iraq, his mother helped organize Operation Pittsburgh Pride, which sends thousands of care packages to U.S. troops from his hometown, which prompted a personal “thank you” from the White House. When Fox was seriously injured in Iraq, the president sent what appeared to be personal note, expressing his concerns to the Fox family.

But more recently, Fox received a different piece of correspondence from the Bush administration.

The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

Hatred has always seemed the most destructive of emotions, I've tried my whole life to avoid it and its consequences, but I find I cannot help myself, I hate these bastards.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Let Freedom Ring! (quietly)

The true test of freedom of the press is not the right to print anything you want, it's the right to not print anything you want.

It's especially impressive when all of the major media in the US somehow decide not to print something that seems rather interesting to the public, even as the foreign press is clamoring for the story.

Congress is also free not to investigate anything they don't want.

Free, freer, freest!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

That was easy

I was going to write a post about the latest US/Pakistan developments as reported by the NYT, but fortunately found out that the excellent Helena Cobban beat me to it.

Read it.

The NYT news article she reviews is indeed a masterpiece of the genre of lick spittle obedience to its anonymous sources and the messages they wanted to convey. If nothing else, the NYT has the best paid stenographers in the land, and they paid three of them for this!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Kick it, Charlie Brown!

Breathless news from Josh Marshall, the Dems might filibuster Mukasey. Naturally, this was predicted here last week. Just to go out on a limb, Blog Simple is going to predict that any filibuster effort to kill the nomination will fail, and that Lucy will pull the ball away.

Pakistan dances to a different drummer

Blog Simple likes to look at the big picture without the moralizing that sometimes creeps into our posts on US politics (torture bad), and we try to keep up with the big picture by going beyond the NYT and WaPo version.

To that end,China Matters has always been a great source, pointing us in directions that we hadn't thought or heard of before, such as with the N. Korea talks.

This latest post is a must read, putting China's relationship with Pakistan in perspective, and showing how the latest events in Pakistan are tied to that relationship.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Waterboarding, the advanced course

This post, from an expert, should make it clear even to the most benighted minds, such as that of Feckless Leader, the incoming AG, or Congress, that the US government is now a criminal regime engaging in torture. It is violating the law, the Constitution, and international treaties.

It's actions are about to be condoned and encouraged once again by Congress. Now that the new Grand Inquisitor, Mukasey, is to be confirmed, we're told that Congress might pass a law banning torture. This Charlie Brown/Lucy with the football act has got to stop. They ain't gonna pass no law, face it you idiots, vote Republican or vote Democratic, you are voting for torture.

Turnips Unite!

Blog Simple, when commenting upon economic news (gloomily, of course), always wishes to placate our readers with the fact that our writers and staff are wholly insulated from, and ignorant of, macro-economic mechanisms. We look at these events in the light of political occurrences, and only when they cross the threshold of mainstream news do we hazard a comment.

Still, the word meltdown springs to our lips of late, not based on vulgar calculations from the balance sheets, only from the gurgling of the press.

Simple facts make it clear that the real estate market has been jobbed, mega-billions siphoned off from loans foredoomed to fail. Much of that money will go to purchase politicians, security companies, and media control.

But at least real estate has some underlying value, however inflated.

But the coming meltdown of consumer credit will dwarf that of real estate. Without the backing of any asset, other than a service economy, US consumer credit is hovering above the howling void. The new bankruptcy law will try to salvage a few drops of blood from us turnips, it can never be enough.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A penny for the Guy!

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder, treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Diplomatic Genius at Work

Stand back in awe:
"The United States has never put all of its chips on Musharraf," Rice said, urging Pakistan to get back on the road to democracy, and warning U.S. aid to its ally was under review.
(h/t Larisa Alexandrovna)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Department of Oops

I guess we can classify the news from Pakistan as another diplomatic triumph for Condi, even though she has called it 'regrettable'.

Lucky that Bhutto went to visit her family in Dubai the other day, it saves Musharraf the trouble of booting her out.

I would expect this will mean the end of the 'all out war' in the northern tribal areas, Musharraf is going to need his army in the cities. This is not good news for the US/NATO in Afghanistan.

UPDATE: Benazir Bhutto has returned to Pakistan. Aides say they expect her to be placed under house arrest. Blog Simple admires her courage, we would have stayed in Dubai.

Friday, November 02, 2007


The breathless reporting of the confirmation of Mukasey as AG has provided much amusement here at Blog Simple.

The whole farce was played out with much aplomb and earnestness by the cast: the Nominee, Congress and the Press, that one looks back at the sneakily enacted FISA bill as one would look back at the dark ages. Here there was no sneaking about, our newfound national devotion to torture was discussed in open terms, and the proposed chief law enforcement officer of the land has stated proudly that he just doesn't understand the concept.

Torture, smorture, says Mukasey, and who can doubt such an honest man. Who can doubt the sincerity of those that support his position of incomprehension, such as Feinstein and Shumer.

Now we have the weekend to wonder if filibuster talk will start and add to the hilarity. Joy.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Land of the Free!

You know you're a in free country when you can have a torture debate.