Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Annals of the Kleptocracy

After the news that $15bn dollars have not been accounted for in Iraq, we now learn that the Pentagon is unable to oversee sums that now amount to $152bn.

The US now spends more on its so called 'defense' than the rest of the world combined. This giant river of money, corruption, torture, murder and general sleaze is held up to the nation as a paragon of virtue, and it cannot be challenged politically. Try to watch a sporting event that isn't funded by the DoD, you have to watch tennis or soccer to escape its pervasive bullshit.

Its hand now reaches into areas of diplomacy, policing, disasters, and anything else that might be construed as 'defense'. Read this Tomgram and realize that this is the future. Realize that it is going to cost you a lot. Realize too that the graft and corruption is never going to go away while you sit on your ass and pretend that Obama or Clinton will change jack shit.

Another traitor

I must say that I always thought that Scott McLellan a most consummate booby, but he certainly has struck a nerve in the White House. Thus we must send out mad props to him for his book and the new role he has assumed for the administration, traitor and Benedict Arnold.
(h/t A Tiny Revolution)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Economics translated

(h/t thistle at American Samizdat)

Attack and response

A new Asia Times article claims that "Bush 'plans Iran air strike by August'".

The article is sourced to:
a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously
who also says that:
Two key US senators briefed on the attack planned to go public with their opposition to the move, according to the source, but their projected New York Times op-ed piece has yet to appear.
The attack will possibly be on Iran's Revolutionary Guard bases near the border with Iraq, where they are supposedly training and equipping Iraqi 'Special Groups'.

If Feckless Leader is so feckless as to conduct such an attack, and I fear that he is, the next question is, "What would be the Iranian response?".

I see four basic scenarios:
  1. Do nothing except protest and go to the UN.
  2. Respond through black ops.
  3. Stage a limited counterattack, perhaps some missiles on US bases in Iraq, or in another country on the Gulf.
  4. Massively counterattack.
Option 1 would be an invitation for another attack. Negotiation and diplomacy are other words for weakness in the administration's vocabulary. The Iranians must know this.

Option 2 is pretty much like option 1, except that it is more likely to bring on another attack, and sooner.

Option 3 would put things on a quid pro quo basis, theoretically, and the US and Iran could spend some time and energy bombing each other while, hopefully, trying to deescalate. Of course it could lead to a massive counterattack by the US.

Option 4 would mean war, with no going back. But since the other options seem to lead to it anyway, why wait? Naturally, this has got to be well understood by the US, so what benefit is there to a limited attack?

Let's hope the 'retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state' is full of shit.

UPDATE: Cernig at Newshoggers says that the unnamed official is Richard L. Armitage. That does up the 'full of shit' possibility.

Monday, May 26, 2008


John McCain:
I am running for the office of commander in chief.
I think the Germans called it der Führer.
(h/t digby)

Enemy action

Fox News commenter Liz Trotta found a way to get a chuckle:
Trotta: "And now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, uh Obama. Well, both, if we could."
This was followed by a mealymouthed apology, ignoring the fact that she grouped the presidential candidate with America's favorite terrorist.

It's getting really dark out there.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Clinton's coincidence

Going by the old Auric Goldfinger maxim, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action, Hillary Clinton's remark today that she's staying in the race because Robert Kennedy was assassinated would be a coincidence. Huckabee was the first to bring up Obama as a possible target. Huckabee did apologize, as did Clinton, but she apologized to the Kennedys, not to the front runner. Senator Clinton is proving in this race that she is capable of saying just about anything, leading me to suspect that she is capable of doing anything. I'm not an enthusiast for Obama, but I'll feel a lot better when she is out of the race.

If McCain makes a similarly idiotic and irresponsible remark, we'll know we've got something.

UPDATE: It turns out that Clinton made a similar comment back in March. One, two, three.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bought by billionaires

Two excellent articles that illuminate what's what and who's who in Israeli politics.

They're both on the same theme, the ownership of many (most?) Israeli politicians (and generals) by Jewish billionaires who don't live in Israel. Both are written by Israeli Jews.

The first, by Daniel Levy, concentrates on Sheldon Adelson, the casino developer, and his sponsorship of the recent conference in Israel hosted by Shimon Peres and attended by Feckless Leader. It seems that Mr. Adelson is no longer enamored of PM Olmert, whether that might have something to do with Olmert's current legal difficulties is not discussed, but suspicious minds wonder. Adelson would like to have Bibi Netanyahu be the next PM.

The second, by Uri Avnery, takes a more historic view of the phenomenon, and talks more specifically about Talansky, he of the envelopes of cash placed in Olmert's hot little hands.

Both are must reads, if you want to understand the shadow politics and policies of the Middle East.

A piece of peace

The Arab mediators in Qatar have evidently been successful in making the Lebanese factions agree to a settlement. Sounds to me like Hezbollah got what they wanted, and the move against them earlier this month not only backfired militarily, it utterly failed politically.

I guess the Saudis really are going off the reservation if they'll support this. A lot of money went down the drain, but we don't need to sit shiva for their doubloons, they've got enough to spare.

We now await the US/Israeli response to their defeat. Based on prior happenings, it could get ugly. The Saudis seem to have closed the door on trying to dominate Lebanon, and the US is left without any leverage. Time to return to the car bomb?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


M K Bhadrakumar takes a look at US policy in the Middle East following Feckless Leader's victory tour, and finds it 'in tatters'.

Bush and the neo-cons, both American and Israeli, wanted a 'new' Middle East, and it looks like they're going to get it. But it is hardly what they envisioned, which was basically the same structure, but with uncontested domination by the US. Instead, the structure itself may be on the way out.

The new technologies of warfare that are proving most effective are those used to make occupation, if not impossible, then too expensive to be used by a country in economic difficulty even without the cost of interminable wars of occupation. That is the lesson for all to see from the invasion of Iraq, and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

So what policy tools remain for the US? Destroying the nation states created after the fall of the Turks just means opening up the region to other political realities. Cajoling the kings and dictators to do its bidding is not working any more, they realize that in order to remain in power they need to adapt to the situation on the ground, not the fantasies of an ex-cheerleader. Diplomacy, assuming that an outbreak of sanity occurs in the US, might help, but it would be a reversal that would take years to implement, the poisons stirred up by the neo-cons will not settle anytime soon.

As Bhadrakumar says:
The point is, the historic failure of the Iraq war is yet to be fully grasped. On a regional plane, as the Iraq war interminably rolls on, the situation is fraught with the immense consequence of the unraveling of the entire system of states that was created in the Anglo-French settlement after the fall of Ottoman Empire in 1918. The Iraq war has triggered Shi'ite empowerment and unleashed historical forces that lay chained for centuries. Its geopolitical significance is yet to sink in as winds of change sweep across the entire region.
What boggles the mind is that a presidential candidate would willingly choose to identify himself with these failed policies. McCain's running as Feckless Leader II reveals the deeps crisis of US politics, another legacy of the neo-con madness.

Monday, May 19, 2008


In an earlier Blog Simple post, a scorecard was kept of Feckless Leader's latest trip to the Middle East, starting in Saudi Arabia. (The visit to Israel is still too startling for us to appreciate without more time for reflection.) After Saudi Arabia, by a rigorous accounting, we had adjudicated that Bush's tally was even, and the finale at Sharm-el-Sheik would prove decisive. And yes, so has been.

At the tip of Sinai, Bush proceeded to lecture the so-called rulers of the Arab world, those who are not now EVIL, instructing them in their responsibilities, duties and obligations towards the upcoming paradise in the Middle East, starting just as soon as Iraq get straightened out.

The message was simple. "You are mine, bitches!', and who could contest? Mubarak did discretely showed his displeasure by getting the Egyptian press to cry and moan, but nobody seems to care, oddly enough. If the rest of the potentates got peeved, well tough shit, ragheads.

Going out in his own inimitable style, our Feckless Leader rides off into the sunset a success in the first phase in the new millennium's great war.

Confounded, ridiculed, and pissed on were the Arab allies, while Israel was definitively brought into a mystic alliance of GOOD to combat the EVIL that threatens us all.

Our new leader will have some strange shoes to fill.

Clair Patterson

I had never heard of Clair C. Patterson until I recently read of him in "A Natural History of Time" by Pascal Richet. M. Richet's very enjoyable book recounts Western man's attempts to date the earth, from the endless time theories of the Greeks, through the interpretation of Biblical tales, to the present. As of now, the current word is that the earth is 4.55 billion years old, and it was Clair Patterson that did that dating fifty years ago.

While doing his research, Patterson also discovered something else, that mankind was poisoning itself with lead. Much of the credit for eliminating lead in gasoline (and elsewhere) goes to him. The following is from "A Short History of Nearly Everything", by Bill Bryson:

It would prove to be a hellish campaign. Ethyl was a powerful global corporation with many friends in high places. (Among its directors have been Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell and Gilbert Grosvenor of the National Geographic Society.) Patterson suddenly found research funding withdrawn or difficult to acquire. The American Petroleum Institute canceled a research contract with him, as did the United States Public Health Service, a supposedly neutral government institution.

As Patterson increasingly became a liability to his institution, the school trustees were repeatedly pressed by lead industry officials to shut him up or let him go. According to Jamie Lincoln Kitman, writing in The Nation in 2000, Ethyl executives allegedly offered to endow a chair at Caltech “if Patterson was sent packing.” Absurdly, he was excluded from a 1971 National Research Council panel appointed to investigate the dangers of atmospheric lead poisoning even though he was by now unquestionably the leading expert on atmospheric lead.

To his great credit, Patterson never wavered or buckled. Eventually his efforts led to the introduction of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and finally to the removal from sale of all leaded gasoline in the United States in 1986. Almost immediately lead levels in the blood of Americans fell by 80 percent. But because lead is forever, those of us alive today have about 625 times more lead in our blood than people did a century ago. The amount of lead in the atmosphere also continues to grow, quite legally, by about a hundred thousand metric tons a year, mostly from mining, smelting, and industrial activities. The United States also banned lead in indoor paint, “forty-four years after most of Europe,” as McGrayne notes. Remarkably, considering its startling toxicity, lead solder was not removed from American food containers until 1993.

But no good deed stands unchallenged by the Bush administration:
The Bush administration is considering doing away with health standards that cut lead from gasoline, widely regarded as one of the nation's biggest clean-air accomplishments.

The Environmental Protection Agency said this week that revoking those standards might be justified "given the significantly changed circumstances since lead was listed in 1976" as an air pollutant, claiming that concentrations of lead in the air have dropped more than 90 percent in the past 2 1/2 decades. Battery makers, lead smelters, refiners all have lobbied the administration to do away with the Clean Air Act limits.
Later, Patterson denounced the hold of utilitarianism in science. As David Neiwert reports, the utilitarians will leave no one behind in their effort to use science for power and profit, no matter what the cost:
Bush's FDA has just announced that it is going to scrap American participation in the Declaration of Helsinki -- the major international accord on ethical principles guiding physicians and other participants in medical research on human subjects. This isn't a decision involving mere medical bureaucracy -- it in fact clears the way for ethics-free drug testing, especially beyond American borders, and it means people will die, sometimes horribly.
Clair Patterson died in 1995. The world desperately needs more scientists who think and act as he did.
(h/t Later On for links to some of this material)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Howlin' Wolf

Et tu, Dems?

If it isn't enough to have Feckless Leader roaming the Middle East bringing confusion to our ostensible friends and glee to our manufactured enemies, the Democrats in Congress show that when it comes to sticking a foot in the mouth, Bush has not yet cornered the market.

The bright idea that if the Saudis won't pump more oil to keep us fat and happy in our SUVs, we won't sell them $20bn in arms is one of those equations that boggles the mind. Never mind that our blessed ally Israel seems be able to bitch slap the Secretary of State whenever they want (I'm not saying its a bad idea), they get our arms for free with nary a word of criticism.

But, of course, there are other solutions for the Saudis, who don't even actually use the high priced weapons they buy. They can buy them from the Russians. Yet maybe Congress didn't know that, the US press has kept pretty quiet about it, oddly enough. Listen, the Saudi are doing us a favor buying our arms, not vice-versa. Capisc?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chalmers Johnson

Gotta sing it from the mountaintops people:
It is not news that the United States is in great trouble. The pre-emptive war it launched against Iraq more than five years ago was and is a mistake of monumental proportions—one that most Americans still fail to acknowledge. Instead they are arguing about whether we should push on to “victory” when even our own generals tell us that a military victory is today inconceivable. Our economy has been hollowed out by excessive military spending over many decades while our competitors have devoted themselves to investments in lucrative new industries that serve civilian needs. Our political system of checks and balances has been virtually destroyed by rampant cronyism and corruption in Washington, D.C., and by a two-term president who goes around crowing “I am the decider,” a concept fundamentally hostile to our constitutional system. We have allowed our elections, the one nonnegotiable institution in a democracy, to be debased and hijacked—as was the 2000 presidential election in Florida—with scarcely any protest from the public or the self-proclaimed press guardians of the “Fourth Estate.” We now engage in torture of defenseless prisoners although it defames and demoralizes our armed forces and intelligence agencies.
Unless basic facts are recognized, politics is shit, a stinking veneer over the clusterfuck. Voices in the wilderness...

UPDATE: Definitely read the whole thing. It's a review of Sheldon Wolin's "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism". Needless to say, Wolin's book will soon be added to Blog Simple's library.


Investors, this is a growth industry.

BTW - The article by ERIC SCHMITT and TIM GOLDEN is as 'NYT whorish' as the best of Michael Gordon or Judith Miller. Give these guys a raise!

Well Fuckabee!

Ha, ha! Talk about shooting oneself in the balls.

Travels with Chumply

Feckless Leader's whirlwind victory tour continues... on to Saudi Arabia.

His mission:
1. Make an ass of himself asking for more, better, cheaper oil.
Result I - FAILURE, in that he didn't get what he asked for,
Result II- SUCCESS, in that he did make an ass of himself.

2. Stiffen the resolve of the Saudis to continue backing losers in Lebanon.
Result I - FAILURE, too late, they already lost. Everyone knows it but him.

3. Have Saudi Arabia join the brand new fight against EVIL.
Result I - SUCCESS, the Saudi FM:
warned Tehran that its support to what he termed Hezbollah's "coup" in Lebanon would affect Iran's relations with Arab and Islamic countries
Result II - FAILURE, Saudi Foreign Minister disavowed by king:
King Abdullah seemed to quickly dissociate himself from his foreign minister's dire warning to Iran. On Wednesday, the Saudi ambassador in Tehran, Osama bin Ahmad al-Sonosi, called on the chairman of Iran's Expediency Council, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to hand over a letter from the Saudi monarch containing an invitation to the Iranian cleric leader to visit Riyadh to attend the International Islamic Dialogue Conference.
Result III - SUCCESS, gets the Saudis to make asses of themselves.

4. After failure in point 1, offers the Saudis nuclear technology that the Israelis can then bomb.
Result I - SUCCESS, the Saudis love fancy useless shit like all the arms they keep buying.
Result II - FAILURE, what if Bin Laden takes over? Oops.

Preliminary total:
This could be the awesomest trip ever with even one more success, and no failures. We'll be watching!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Appease this!

It was a particularly ugly set of delusions Feckless Leader put on display in front of the Knesset, accusing US Democrats of being appeasers because they, like his Secretary of Defense, would talk to the Iranians. The Iranians are 'evil' like the North Koreans, and you just don't talk to evil, except of course when you do, and then it's OK, because you do it, and not the Democrats.
His exceptionalism has moved way beyond the good old American variety, it's now a holy war of the US and their faithful holy partners the Israelis against the malevolent evil of the iranalqaidasyriahezzbollahsadr fiends. He is, and thus by extension the US and anyone supporting his policies, intrinsically Good. This is delusion on an epic scale. It's like his keepers have thrown in the towel and are letting him run amok. The Israelis, who are basically led by the same gang that rules the roost here, seem willing to follow this clown down the road to hell, though they should know better.

Others aren't. Take the Lion of Mesopotamia, Maliki. He just wants to stay alive by playing his two masters off against each other. As Gareth Porter points out, he just ruined a Petraeus media extravaganza that would have upped the ante with Iran. Back to the drawing board, oh super Generalissimo!

The funny thing is that the Democrats have been appeasers. They (and the media) appease Bush and continue to whistle and look up in the air as the ship of state sails toward the reef. I've lost hope that it can be turned.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Comedy gold

Fafnir interviews Hillary Clinton.
See, the truth is funny.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I'd just like to point out that I, too, have given up golf.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What a trip

It looks like Lebanon has pulled back from the brink, as have the Shiites in Sadr City. Doubtless they all want to concentrate on welcoming Feckless Leader back to the Middle East.

Mr. Olmert too must be happy to see the leader of the free world drop in on him for Israel's birthday celebration. Let's face it, anyone looks good set next to FL, even those on their way out of public office due to bad habits, like accepting suitcases full of cash.

Feckless Leader will also be paying a visit to his (and our) second best friends, the Saudis. Once again he will come begging for lower oil prices, which didn't seem to work out so well after his last visit. But that's George for you, try and try again is his motto, and failure just seems to whet his appetite for more.

Finally, Egypt gets to be visited, and since they are still recipients of American largess, they can't very well say no. Maybe Mubarak will ask George to lower the price of food, but I wouldn't waste my time, if I were he, George will just give him a lecture on the blessings of the free market, which applies to everything but oil.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Olmert's omerta

Haaretz has this cool video/article about the tribulations of PM Olmert. Never an 'agora' (penny) did he take for himself. Talk to my attorney he says, but, whoops, the attorney may be talking too much.

The timing, with the 60th anniversary fest, the possible 'peace' with Syria, the possible 'war' with Iran, the strangulation of Gaza, makes for conspiratorial thinking, a vice we try hard to avoid. But it sounds like PM Olmert is going down, and in Israel, as in the good ol' USA, that means keeping one's lip zipped or having it zipped for you, perhaps inside a body bag. To your health, Mr. Olmert!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Black days

We like to be light hearted around Blog Simple, it's in our mission statement and all, but sometimes it's hard. The idiotic race for the Democratic nomination, the super-airhead McCain waiting to be king, the stock market euphoria over free government money, they all go to blacken our cheerfulness. But we could be resilient if we could join with the rest of our countrymen in forgetting the benighted nation of Iraq. Forgetting the current mayhem in Sadr City.

It seems easy, the MSM, the 'progressive' blogosphere all have other concerns, and there is, truth be told, a dearth of 'hard news' from reputable sources.

Why can't we just forget it, since we don't really know what's going on?

But we do know, all of us, don't we? It's mass murder.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

He's back!

John Negroponte is now setting up death squads in Pakistan, according to the Asia Times.

The article says that mid-level Pakistani army officers are being trained and financed directly by the US to go after 'key figures' of the militants in the tribal areas. How this will be done in unspecified, it should be easier for Pakistani officers to infiltrate such groups than it would be for Americans, but that still doesn't mean it can be done effectively. And moving regular troops out of the border areas means leaving more space for militant operations.

While the Central American death squads did take out 'key figures' when possible, their main strategy was terrorizing villages that might give support to guerrillas. That will not be so simple in the wild areas of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.

If true, this strategy also has far ranging implications for the Pakistani army. It undermines the chain of command, and as these officers move up in rank, will mean that the US will have 'underground' operatives at high levels (not excluding that they do already). I wonder what the new government of Pakistan thinks about all this?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Happy May Day!

For furriners. But not Amurikans.
PS Did you know that May 1 was proclaimed the international labor day to commemorate the Haymarket riots?