Monday, March 31, 2008

Amateurs, cowards, disloyal

James Joyner writes at Outside the Beltway:
The Iraqi Army has, once again, proven itself to be a collection of amateurs, a substantial number of whom are cowards and/or disloyal. AP’s Charles Hanley provides a timeline of our efforts to stand up a competent force capable of fighting without American support and concludes, “Year by year, the goal of deploying a capable, free-standing Iraqi army has seemed to always slip further into the future.” It’s hard to argue with that assessment.
Perhaps true, but it fails to confront the real problem. The Iraqi army has been formed to fight against their own people for an occupying power and their lackeys in the Green Zone. Whatever the faults of the Iraqis, when they are fighting in what they perceive as their own interest they are assuredly not cowards. As for disloyal, to what, the US?

When I read commentary like that, it's clear why America has failed in being the world's hegemon. The inability to think without putting one's little self at the center of the universe and expecting the rest of the world to be brave, competent and loyal in your interest just does not work. Time to try a different strategy, or give up.

We rule you

Diplomacy is not a concept that the current administration holds much truck with, but this latest example of 'tact' is unbelievable.

The US embassy in Switzerland has posted on the front page of their website a demand that the US be allowed to see the gas contract between the Switzerland and Iran. The Swiss foreign ministry has declined comment. The Swiss foreign minister, who signed the contract, pointed out that the contract is a deal between two sovereign nations and is in line with Switzerland's strategic interest.

Just to add injury to insult, the website goes on to threaten Switzerland's status in representing US interests in Iran and Cuba. It seems to me that is probably a thankless task anyway, but the US has obviously pulled out all the stops to convince the Swiss that we run their foreign policy.
(h/t Left I on the News)

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wright's Letter to the NYT

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright wrote a letter to Jodi Kantor of the New York Times.
Read it.
(h/t Ken Silverstein)

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Abyss

If you have the stomach for it, read Scott Horton's latest, The Torture Team. It is a quick and easy to read summary of the facts that prove that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and many others of the worst administration in history are guilty of the crime of torture. Until all those involved are out of office, and incarcerated for their crimes, the entire country is blighted by the horrors they have inflicted on their helpless victims. And though they may not be legally guilty of crimes, the press has been more than happy to lie, obfuscate, minimize and turn plain words into euphemisms to hide these policies and crimes.

It seems that may change, Horton points out:
A number of the details and connections are about to be illuminated. Next month, Palgrave Macmillan will bring out Philippe Sands’s new book, The Torture Team, which will connect the dots and show how this group engaged in a joint enterprise for the purpose of introducing a regime of torture in American detention facilities. The first teaser for the Sands book will appear on the cover of the next issue of Vanity Fair.
We've got enough blights already, these cannot be borne in the long run if we're to avoid sinking ever further into the abyss.

What's going on?

The most successful part of our excellent adventure in Iraq has been control of news. This success continues up to the present, the ridiculous statements of Feckless Leader are repeated without comment throughout the reporting cycle as somehow giving meaning to the events on the ground. The events on the ground are reported in a total piecemeal fashion, there is no attempt to go outside and see if things are changing other than in the 'official battles' in Basra and Sadr City. Even there, Maliki's collapse is painted over as best it can.

For example, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica is reporting (in Italian) that Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, a city of 500,000, is now wholly in the hands of Sadr after a brief battle left 15 dead. CNN, on the other hand mentions briefly 4 dead there, no mention of control, and quotes Iraqi Interior Ministry for that news. The Italians have an interest in Nasiriyah because they were stationed there (and lost 30+ troops), but there are cities throughout the south where there is no word on events. How many of these are now overtly in Sadr's hands?

Obviously reporting from Iraq is difficult, but the main problem is not lack of resources, it's the lack of will in pulling together known facts and putting together an assessment of the situation, even if that means having to contradict Feckless Leader.

As the bodies pile up, it's going to be more and more difficult to pull back from all out war. This certainly cannot be good news for McCain, nor for the (hopefully!) dying days of the Bush/Cheney administration. The Iraqi 'army', creation of the Greatest General EVAR Petraeus, is unequal to the task, it's basically unequal to any task except collecting its salary and being an unending fount of dollars for corruption. The US can bomb Basra into rubble, but without US ground troops, Basra will remain mostly in Sadr's hands.

Hard decisions are going to have to be made, Basra is a cash cow and letting 2mn barrels of oil per day go up in smoke is not an attractive option. Sadr has left the door open for negotiations, and that seems the only way out. Let's see how they spin that one!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

US/Iran puzzle 2

Abu Aardvark posts about a Saudi newspaper article that seems to shore up Bhadrakumar's theory, that I posted about previously, that the US/Iran confrontation may be moving towards negotiation. The Saudi article says that Iran and the US are cooperating to take Sadr out, and that Maliki and the Badr militia are attacking at Tehran's bidding.

This may or may not be true of course, but if so, I wonder if the Iranians are making a strategic error. Sadr seems to be the only Shiite leader that really has the support of the masses, the rest depend on patronage and outside help to get their business done, and at the end of the day their soldiers might not be willing to fight and die to advance US/Iranian interests. If the US does a turn around and attacks Iran, how willing will the Iraqi army/Badr brigade be to counterattack in Iraq? The Mahdi army may not be the best equipped and trained out there, but they've shown that they are willing to fight. If the Iranians follow the Americans in blindly backing their guys, no matter what the situation on the ground is, they could risk losing an effective deterrent to a US attack.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

US/Iran puzzle

At the Asia Times, M K Bhadrakumar takes a contrarian view of the next steps in US/Iran relations. He sees a possibility that the administration has decided to negotiate with Tehran:
Arguably, Bush's interviews signify that "unconditional talks" may have begun with Iran. Everything - almost everything - he said indeed had a caveat. But then, isn't that how negotiations commence without loss of face between any two stubborn adversaries?
And as another piece in the puzzle, he points out:
Besides, Tehran remains on the lookout for a shift in the US stance on the Nabucco gas pipeline sourcing Iranian gas via Turkey for the European market. Last week, Switzerland's Elektrizitaetshesellschaft Laufenburg signed a 25-year deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company for the delivery of 5.5 billion cubic meters of Iranian gas annually. The agreement was signed during the visit of the Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey to Tehran.
So, maybe the Swiss are also seeing a calming of the waters. They seldom move when the seas are rough.

Unfortunately, unmentioned is the possibility that two parts of the administration are struggling for control over Feckless Leader's brain. Trying to understand this administration's goals through the optic of realpolitik just might not be possible, and it is more in the area of psycho-pathology that answers can be found.

Anyway, I certainly agree with his opening sentence:
The coming few weeks are going to be critical in the standoff between the United States and Iran as the upheaval in the Middle East reaches a turning point.
Let's hope he's right about the rest.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Most commentary and news reports about the fighting in Basra have concentrated on Iraqi issues, but it might be opportune to remember that this latest action, evidently provoked by arrests of Sadr officials, started during the latest round of saber-rattling versus Iran. Could we be seeing an upping of the ante?

There is growing concern, however, that Iran could respond to such US accusations. "This is pretty serious, and if the Iranians do not back down rapidly this will escalate," says Martin Navias, an analyst at Britain's Centre for Defence Studies at King's College in London. "The US has a number of problems with Iran, mainly the nuclear program and its behavior in Iraq. There are many people in the Bush administration who want to hit Iran."

While Iraqi troops fought with Shiite militants in Basra Tuesday, a contingent of Coalition troops, including British and US forces, mobilized at Basra's border with Iran to prevent militiamen from escaping or smuggling in ammunition and weapons, according to a senior security source in the city who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his remarks.

When troops mass at an international border, especially if one side just accused the other of 'arming terrorists', the situation is very dangerous. This danger goes beyond the plans of the presidents and generals, any asshole on the ground, on either side of the border, can start a shooting war. We're getting closer.

Basra burning

One of the features of our excellent adventure in Iraq is its opacity. The US military is partially responsible, its unannounced but clear 'death or internment' policy for any reporters not on the team, plus the fact that those reporters on the team are usually partisan hacks makes guesswork an essential part of creating any likely scenario for events.

Take today's news that fighting has broken out between Sadr militia and 'government troops' (a euphemism for the Badr brigades, another militia). Sadr is considered a 'nationalist', while the Badr boys were under the Iranian umbrella during Saddam, they must have continuing contacts with Tehran, but the US always accuses Sadr of being the recipient of Iranian arms and training. Talabani, a Kurd, has a love fest with Ahmadinejad and no one blinks, but Iran, says Petraeus, is supplying the rockets that hit the Green Zone.

Anyway, whoever they are, the Sadrists and the Badrists are going at it hammer and tongs in Basra, Kut, and Baghdad, as well as other places we've never heard of. The supreme war master, Maliki, is supposedly on hand in Basra to direct the action. The Iranians, who seem to have covered both sides of the bet watch and wait.

We, on the other hand, must wait along with Feckless Leader for the 'foundations for peace for generations' to get started being more than foundations. And, as we think about the 4000 US military deaths, remember along with White House Press Secretary Dana Perino that "It is a sober moment". Damn, just when I want a drink.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


The Fed, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank are exploring the feasibility of using taxpayers' money to shore up the mortgage-backed securities market, the Financial Times reported on March 22, without saying where it obtained the information. A Fed official denied to Bloomberg News that day that it's in discussions to buy mortgage debt.
Feasibility! That's a good one.

With the good ol' USA not being very solvent in this time frame, and the Bank of England (funny it's not British) looking not so bloody good, it seems beholden to the provident Europeans to pony up.

"But why us?", they whine.

"Because we rule you."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Too late

Paul Rogers covers the release of a new European Union study on climate change and a UN study on glacier melt. First, the bad news:

Moreover, as the problems intensify the scale of measures needed to address them also expand. The evidence that existing carbon emissions will have their severest impact over at least the next three decades mean that plans for a 50% cut in global carbon output by 2050 - which, it is true, go beyond what was proposed barely five years ago - have already become woefully inadequate. Analysts may differ on the details of what is really required, but a consensus is beginning to emerge that 80% cuts are needed a long time before 2050 - including deep cuts by 2012-15, i.e. in the next five to seven years.

Now for the... nope, there ain't no good news. To imagine the world able to cut 50% of carbon output by 2050 is fantasy, 80% cuts are unimaginable.

So significant upheaval, especially in the poorer (southern) part of the world is inevitable, and it going to start pretty soon. The main focus of the European document is on how to contain that upheaval, with some feel-good parts about partial amelioration.

I believe that the US will also experience growing chaos within the next decade. The southwest now has a huge population that is dependent on a river/dam system that is already strained to its limits. The federal government, the only organization with the power to structure changes in less damaging ways, is currently run by the kleptocrats. They don't care. If and when a reason based group takes up the so-called reins of power, they will find that the reins have been cut, and if they rock the boat too hard to get them back, they will be eliminated, one way or another. Mass dislocations will be overseen by private police (think Katrina), who will protect the resorts of the rich and keep the desperate at bay.

Europe has a good chance to survive in a less traumatic way. Their institutions (mostly) have not yet been corrupted by a kleptocracy, and at least they recognize the dangers. It might be time to start packing.

Oh, really

Bloomberg headline:

Commodities Drop, Rally in Dollar, Stocks Vindicate Bernanke

Financial reporting is not usually on my radar screen, except in times of crisis such as these. Blog Simple's budget is not in the range where fluctuations in the market mean much, so the general tenor of day to day business reporting is not something much noted around here.

So whether this type of article is typical, or extraordinary is something you'll have to judge for yourself. But that a couple of days of falling commodity prices and rising stock prices (after months of serious movement in the other directions) means that Bernanke strategy of dumping liquidity on the banks has been vindicated seems beyond absurd.

Wasn't the purpose to ease the credit crunch and get banks to lend to one another again? Has that been accomplished? Shouldn't we wait at least a week or two before scheduling the Triumph of Wall Street?

Thursday, March 20, 2008


William Polk (who I mentioned before in this post) has written a guest post at Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog. I'm reading his Understanding Iraq at present, like Violent Politics it's informative and concise. Also, he has the good sense to live in Vence.

There he gives a detailed assessment of the chances of going to war with Iran, and frankly, it scared the shit out of me. Polk's credentials include:
William R. Polk was the member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia from 1961 to 1965 and then professor of history at the University of Chicago where he founded the Middle Eastern Studies Center. He was also president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs.
So he's not one of your hot-headed bloggers that get all that well deserved opprobrium from the MSM.

If it does come down, I would think that the middle of summer would be avoided, I've heard that visibility in the Gulf goes way down. So it would be in the next few months, or the fall. Fall would mean election season, it could be more dicey, politically. That close, McCain might prefer to blow up the world himself.

Today's latest idiocy from Feckless Leader doesn't help calm my nerves:
"The problem is the government cannot be trusted to enrich uranium because one, they've hidden programs in the past and they may be hiding one now, who knows; and secondly, they've declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people -- some in the Middle East," Bush said. "And that's unacceptable to the United States, and it's unacceptable to the world."

Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation specializing in nuclear policy, called Bush's statement "uninformed" and "troubling."

"Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason," he said. "It's just not true."

Asked to explain Bush's comment, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said he spoke in "shorthand," combining Iranian threats against Israel with concerns about Iran's nuclear program.

So now Feckless Leader speaks in shorthand. Oy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five years

Yep, it's been five years since the excellent adventure in Iraq began. Time flies, don't it.

To mark the day, Feckless Leader gave one of his usual blathering speeches: success, worth it, but it's fragile, blah, blah, blah.

They pretty much don't try anymore, why bother, no one listens anyway. $12B a month to preside over slaughterhouse seems a curious definition of success, and nothing seems fragile about it, it's good for the long haul as long as the money holds out.

We can look towards a future with three basic forks in the road:
  • Status quo - the most likely for the next year and beyond. It's got all logic against it, it's utterly hopeless but inaction has really been, apart from Iraq, the most dominant characteristic of the administration.
  • Expansion - Iran, Syria, etc. There's no money, no army, no allies, but plenty of bombs just aching to go boom. This would end any hope of returning the US to its good old plutocratic ways, the present kleptocracy would need to morph into more sinister forms of personal rule.
  • Rollback - most likely only if there is a significant domestic meltdown. Likewise, probably the end of the plutocracy. If Obama can really change our current political paralysis, engineering a rollback from Iraq would, by itself, put him in the ranks of the great statesmen of all time. Dream on.
I'd be tickled pink if I thought that there was any hope in the current election extravaganza. I don't. Mechanisms are now in place (they have been for a while) that ensure America's subservience to a small minority who, with the loss of manufacturing, really have no need for the vast majority of the population. Economic breakdowns, environmental collapse, and political impotence will put the mechanisms into action, probably this decade, surely the next.


You want more?

You get it. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have $200B more to fool around with, since new rules announced today allow them to keep less capital on hand, and thus more to lend out.

The announcement marked a stunning and, some say, risky change of course for the administration and the regulator that supervises the companies.

As recently as last fall, senior administration officials had been urging Congress to adopt tighter regulations on the companies that would limit their flexibility to hold mortgages. The concern by some officials, including the current and former chairmen of the Federal Reserve, has been the implicit guarantee of government backing in case either company defaults on its debts, which are huge.

The Bush administration has repeatedly said there is no such guarantee, but investors continue to believe — as evidenced by their willingness to lend to Fannie and Freddie at lower rates of interest — that the companies are “too big to fail” and that the government would mount a taxpayer bailout in case of a default.

But at least in the short term, Wednesday’s decision reduces the cushion of money that supports the companies’ borrowings — and also stands between the companies and a possible taxpayer bailout should they encounter any major problems.

“I think it’s very dangerous and it’s a sign that people are very frightened,” said Thomas H. Stanton, an expert on the two companies. “At a time in which finance companies are holding questionable assets and facing losses, regulators typically require more capital, not less.

With its shaky record as a prognosticator, the state of the Union is strengthened when Blog Simple forecasts gloom and doom, so here's the prediction. One or both of Fannie and Freddie will go belly up this year and will be bailed out by the government. This move today made that much more likely. In the article:
“If the markets continue to decline, Fannie and Freddie will be two of the bodies on the beach,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, managing partner of Federal Financial Analytics, a consulting company. “The argument is settled that the less capital the companies hold, the more risk they take.”


The ABCs of the financial situation by Roubini:
This is the most radical change and expansions of Fed powers and functions since the Great Depression: essentially the Fed now can lend unlimited amounts to non bank highly leveraged institutions that it does not regulate. The Fed is treating this run on the shadow financial system as a liquidity run but the Fed has no idea of whether such institutions are insolvent. As JPMorgan paid only about $200 million for Bear Stearns – and only after the Fed promised a $30 billlion loan – this was a clear case where this non bank financial institution was insolvent.
It's short, read it all, and then tremble. Because it's not about economics, it's about politics. The Treasury of the United States is being (has been) delivered up to the kleptocracy. You think you've got money? You've got shit!

When the $800B Fed funds are tapped out, they (the Fed) have the power to print all the paper money that might be necessary to prop up the Big Shitpile. How many trillion will that be? It makes the attempt to loot Social Security look like knocking over the local Fast and Easy Mart.

It's the validation of unlimited leverage, and the fact that it cannot be allowed to fail. From LTCM to the present, the monetary powers have been at the peak of their dominance. The failure of the United States political establishment to come to grip with this will, in the estimation of Blog Simple, lead to their marginalization from world power. There is no real reason that most of the US cannot be allowed to descend to third or fourth world conditions. A security apparatus is in place for it, and ready to spring into action.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


But at the NYT, at least in the headline, you call it progress: Progress in U.S.-Russia Talks
The United States and Russia announced on Tuesday they had agreed to negotiate a “strategic framework” that would formally put in writing the basic elements of their relationship, but the two sides failed to end the deep division over American plans to base missile defenses in Europe.
Also, no word in the article about proposals to supply Afghanistan through Russia.

Take my money, please

The .75 rate cut the Fed just announced was not enough to please Wall Street, stocks tumbled from the euphoric levels of the morning, but the fact remains that the Fed is now loaning money at less than inflation. Why not borrow?

Well, I just wrote the above and stocks have already jumped back up. My suspicion is that the Plunge Protection Team was given a pep-talk by Feckless Leader yesterday that made clear that the stock market was to be supported around this level (12,000 Dow) for the foreseeable future. How much money do these guys have to play with?

The administration is desperate to avoid political means in this crisis. Keeping it in the private sector masks both their incompetence and their total alignment with the money powers that created the mess. My prediction is that this is just the beginning, the monetary means that Bernanke has used so far are approaching their limits, and printing money will be the only option left for him.

When the next batch of T-Notes goes up for sale, the last disastrous auction may just be a precursor of the shipwreck of US government finances, when nobody will buy them. So, in the words of Feckless Leader, John McCain, and the captain of the Titanic, stay the course! You ain't seen nothing yet.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Nobody wants our T-Notes

I didn't see this anywhere in the US press, I guess we can only take so much bad news at a time:
Foreign investors veto Fed rescue

Asian, Mid East and European investors stood aside at last week's auction of 10-year US Treasury notes. "It was a disaster," said Ray Attrill from 4castweb. "We may be close to the point where the uglier consequences of benign neglect towards the currency are revealed."

The share of foreign buyers ("indirect bidders") plummeted to 5.8pc, from an average 25pc over the last eight weeks. On the Richter Scale of unfolding dramas, this matches the death of Bear Stearns.
Damn foreign ingrates!
(h/t Sadly, No!)

No limit

From the NYT:

In a potentially even bigger move, the Federal Reserve also announced its biggest commitment yet to lend money to struggling investment banks. The central bank said its new lending program would make money available to the 20 large investment banks that serve as “primary dealers” and trade Treasury securities directly with the Fed.

Much like a $200 billion loan program the Fed announced last Tuesday, this program will essentially allow the government to hold as collateral a wide variety of investments that include hard-to-sell securities backed by mortgages. But Fed officials told reporters on Sunday night that the new program would have no limit on the amount of money that can be borrowed.

I guess that's what Feckless Leader calls 'strong and decisive action'. Money for shit, all you want, no limit.

Gathering Storm?

Scott Horton has an article at Harper's: The Gathering Storm at Justice.
It's based, in part, on a longer piece in a law review by an ex-US attorney, John McKay: Train Wreck at the Justice Department.
As described by Horton, in 'Train Wreck;, McKay describes a 'torrent of lies under oath' by:
Participants in the conspiracy to misdirect Congress included Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, Associate Attorney General Will Moschella—the top three figures at the Justice Department—and a stream of staffers led by Michael Elston, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling.
There is an investigation by the Inspector General of the DoJ that is supposed to be released this spring. Scott then appears to get all optimistic as he envisions Mukasey appointing a special prosecutor. Why would Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor? And at the end he veers off into science fiction:
But we should also keep in mind that the jurisdictional basis for the Inspector General’s review is formally limited to the Justice Department and its employees. Therefore the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives should convene its own hearings to follow up on the trail to the extent it goes into the White House. In particular the involvement of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers must be fully tested, using the subpoena power, and invoking the power of impeachment if necessary. No claims of Executive Privilege may be lawfully raised to obstruct these hearings, and they should proceed as a matter of urgency and priority.
Congress already has plenty of material to justify an impeachment inquiry. They don't use it because of fear, I believe, fear that the administration will ignore an impeachment inquiry, and we'll just have to face the fact that we live in a de facto dictatorship. So no matter how damning the IG report is, not much will come of it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Two Questions

  1. Isn't it odd that we are not permitted to know the amount of the bailout of Bear Stearns?
  2. What are we, schmucks on wheels?
Wait, I can answer those. The answer to question 2 is 'yes', and thus the answer to question 1 is 'no'.

UPDATE: A price has been put on the so-called bail-out, $30B. Of course the bail-out didn't save Bear Stearns, it just protects JPMorgan Chase as they pick over the wreck and try to find some value amongst the shit.

Why Eliot had to go

Greg Palast points out some strange coincidences in the take down of Eliot Spitzer. Seems that he was going to speak up about the administration's blocking of state enforcement of predatory lending practices.

The kleptocracy's latest scam, dumping Fed money on the banks in exchange for shit was coming down at the same time. Luckily, there was a chink in Eliot's armor, you know where, and they knew it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It can't happen here

Until it does:

(h/t Scott Horton)

NATO and Putin

Vladimir Putin will be attending the next NATO conference in April, and seems to be bringing some goodies to the table. M K Bhadrakumar takes a look at that and other aspects of NATO/Russia relations.

The main points:
  1. Germany and France both oppose efforts by the US and Britain to bring the Ukraine and Georgia into NATO in the near future.
  2. Russia is offering use of its territory to bring supplies into Afghanistan, but only if it becomes a partner in the venture, with some say-so on goals and means.
  3. That this is even considered means that Pakistan is looking shakier as the vital link in the Afghan war.
  4. As the US economy continues to tank and the price of oil and gas continues to rise, and while US foreign policy has failed to do anything but provide security and encouragement for Israel's expansionist policies, Europe is looking elsewhere for partners. Russia has the money to be an expanding market for European goods, and they're going to need markets since the US economy is heading south, probably for the long term.
  5. Finally, the Central Asian energy producers have been corralled by Russia:
Besides, post-Soviet Russia's influence in Central Asia has peaked even as the first real possibility of the emergence of a "gas OPEC" involving Russia and the Central Asian countries has appeared. This may well outshine all other foreign policy legacies of Russia in the Putin era. Russia has been for long seeking an association of former Soviet gas producers and exporters on the pattern of the oil cartel. Russia and the Central Asian suppliers - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan - have now agreed that starting in 2009, they will switch to the European price formula.

The move, which bears all the hallmarks of the Kremlin, elevates energy cooperation between Russia and the Central Asian producers to an altogether higher level of coordination and common strategy in foreign markets. The implications are far-reaching for European countries and the US. Russia has checkmated US-sponsored trans-Caspian energy pipeline projects.
Meanwhile, Condi and Gates are going to be talking to their Russian counterparts in Moscow on Monday and Tuesday, just as Cheney visits the Middle East. It should be interesting.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

R.I.P. Eliot Spitzer

As the dust settles over the Spitzer affair, and the details of Eliot's expensive habits become what's left of the story, it's a good time to remember the important points of the case. The technique will be used again soon, I predict.
  • He was brought down by a conspiracy of people both inside and outside government, working together.
  • The story of the bank turning him in to the IRS for the withdrawals from his account is mostly bullshit, but a warning to all those with fancy habits who are not Republicans.
  • The charge of structuring, i.e. repeatedly moving money in amounts less that $10K to avoid the requirement to declare all cash transactions over $10K will be more and more useful to investigate those whom the government wishes to fry. In a few years or so we'll be needing $10K for a heavy shopping day at the mall. These limits that are made in the depths of time will sooner or later embroil everyone, while the currency changes, the laws don't.
  • The press played its part to the hilt, every headline screamed that Eliot was 'involved in a prostitution ring' or a 'sex ring' or some such folderol about someone who was paying money for sex. These things do not happen by chance, press orchestration was the core of the whole operation. The Rove control of the press remains the dominant media paradigm for the foreseeable future.
  • The good that Eliot did, calling some of the Wall Street pirates to account, will be interred with his bones, the evil of being a hypocritical little shit will live on.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gone Falloning

There's been a lot of attention over the resignation of Adm. Fallon, head of CENTCOM. Most bloggers I've read seen to think he was pushed because of the Esquire article that generated some press.

It seems like an orchestrated departure to me. But orchestrated by whom?

Fallon was brought on by Gates, who pushed Abezaid out, and forced Pace out, and brought in the Navy.

Gates seems to have lost his man at the center of things, would the supreme bureaucrat let his guy at the center of things go for a magazine article? But Fallon now (on March 31, to be exact) can say what he wants to. Could that be the motive of his resignation, and the rest a distraction? We'll know if he does open his yap around April Fools Day, and we can suspect if he meets with an accident in the meantime. It's dangerous out there.

Cheney's little jaunt to the Middle East, seemingly improvised, also fits into the time frame of Fallon's departure neatly. Was it prompted by Fallon's resignation?

Apart from imploring our faithful allies to pump more, faster, faster (like Eliot Spitzer living out his 5K dream), Cheney's visit will probably take him to CENTCOM headquarters for a little pep talk.

Control of operations in that part of the world is a delicate question. The episode of the Iranian motorboats, among others, indicates that there are elements in the military that are obedient to the neo-cons, and screw the chain of command.

Things are heating up, here at Blog Simple we will continue to monitor the situation, and keep you up to date.

Shit into Gold

The latest munificence from the Fed, $200B to lend to banks for 28 days with the banks putting up part of their shitpile (mortgage backed securities), sent the market in to a buying frenzy today. And why not? The money means the securities can snooze quietly at the Fed, the security insurers have the pressure taken off them, at least partially, and there's an extra $200B to invest in sure things like the stock market. Win, win, win!

So lets party like it's 1999! When things start to look bad again, the Fed can always print up another chunk and take more of the shitpile as collateral. If money were real, this game would have a finite limit, but it's not real. All you have to do is keep on believing.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Honey Trap

The story of Governor Spitzer's downfall has all the features that make American journalism the marvel of the modern world. We do it better than anybody else.

Eliot got caught, and good. A sting by the surveillance state has nailed a card carrying member of the same fraternity. Karl Rove's magic still rules the realm.

As the NYT says in a big online headline:
Spitzer Is Linked to a Sex Ring as Client

Sex Rings are new to me, but I guess we'll be told what they're all about. I hope it doesn't involve piercing.

As for the morality, cryptogon nails it:
Elite deviance is par for the course in these circles. The remarkable thing here is that the activity involved an adult woman.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Shrill on steroids

Scott Horton:

The curtain continues to fall over American democracy. Americans understandably are sickened by the tragi-comedy that spreads itself across this stage. But their faith in another presidential election and another leader is misplaced. They need to reserve their faith not for the new, but for the old: for the constitutional model that the Founders left. It needs to be forced to work. And all those who undermine it must be held to account. That includes the should-be watchdogs, who slobbering at the prospect of a few drug-drenched sirloins hurled their way, are failing in their duty to protect their true masters: the American people.

We live in the age of the Great Betrayal, in an age in which too few are willing to state the obvious. There is still time to check the progress of tyrannical power, but the hour grows late, and the sounds of alarm no longer seem to register with a somnolent populace.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

King Feckless the First

I know it's beating a dead horse, but when an elegant beating takes place we can still marvel at the grace and style of it, however useless it may be.

So it is with Scott Horton's latest look at the logic of the Attorney General of the United States, Michael Mukasey. Cast your eyes on this gem from Jonathan Turley as quoted by Horton:
Mukasey was saying that lawyers could not be charged criminally because the president ordered them to commit the act — and that the president could not be charged criminally because lawyers told him he could do it.
Or as Horton phrases it himself:
It is not the law that is king in America. Rather it is the president who has assumed the royal prerogatives of the king. He does not serve the law and cannot be made to obey it, because he is the law. And if he directs others to disobey the law, then their conduct can likewise be no crime, because “the king can do no wrong.”
So this is where we are as the elections approach. Since when do Kings abdicate because of elections?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


This article goes briefly through Roubini's twelve points on how a global recession (depression) is on its way.

At the end, the author asks "Can anyone stop this classic Shakespearean tragedy before the dramatic climax? Probably not, says Roubini."

I'm sure Feckless Leader would take issue with Roubini, covering one's ears and shouting "Everything's great!" has always worked for him.
(h/t srg)