Friday, August 29, 2008

Free press

But free for what?

An alert commenter at Moon of Alabama points out some clashing headlines and news reports on the latest SCO meeting:

1. NYT: Security Group Refuses to Back Russia's Actions.
2. AFP: Russia wins backing from China, Central Asia over Georgia.

So which is it? Bhadrakumar does his usual excellent analysis at the Asia Times, and the answer is clearly that number 2 is far closer to actuality than number 1:
If the struggle in the Caucasus was ever over oil and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) agenda towards Central Asia, the United States suffered a colossal setback this week. Kazakhstan, the Caspian energy powerhouse and a key Central Asian player, has decided to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia over the conflict with Georgia, and Russia's de facto control over two major Black Sea ports has been consolidated.
my emphasis. snip...
In his press conference in Dushanbe, Medvedev underlined that his SCO counterparts, including China, showed understanding of the Russian position. Moscow appears satisfied that the SCO summit also issued a statement on the Caucasus developments, which, inter alia, said, "The leaders of the SCO member states welcome the signing in Moscow of the six principles for regulating the South Ossetia conflict, and support Russia's active role in assisting peace and cooperation in the region." The SCO comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Now the NYT headline is not false per se, SCO did not explicitly back Russia's actions and the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhzia. China has issues with regions declaring independence backed by major powers (Taiwan!) so they must have been hesitant to give a blanket approval. Russia must have understood that, and been satisfied by the support it did get.

The NYT totally omits the part about Kazakhstan. Who cares, you may ask, about Kazakhstan. Well, the Russians and the US do, a lot:
From Moscow's point of view, Nazarbayev's words are worth their weight in gold. Kazakhstan is the richest energy producer in Central Asia and is a regional heavyweight. It borders China. The entire US regional strategy in Central Asia ultimately aims at replacing Russia and China as Kazakhstan's number one partner.
So, apart from doing a disservice to their readers by reinforcing the administrations propoganda line, and omitting important facts from the story, the paper of record will shape the argument in the presidential campaign. How can the US have an intelligent discussion of the security issues in play when the information they are given is willfully distorted to suit a narrative that has little connection with reality? Obviously, it cannot.

The other important point that Bhadrakumar makes is that Russia has now assured itself ports on the Black Sea. What with the Ukraine still in the balance, that is a very important strategic asset. Once again, no mention of that in our 'free press'. How much freedom can we stand?

McCain speaks!

"I could pick Britney Spears for VP and the brain dead Americans would love it, I was a POW!"

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Watching the Democratic Feel-Goodathon today is like taking a trip to another planet. While the political game has always been played in much the same way here in the US, the disconnect between actuality and politics as played in these extravaganzas has grown so huge that even the few words that make any sense are lost beneath the mass of formalistic bullshit that must be repeated, again and again.

The Democrats, and Obama, are going to run a campaign based on a narrow set of policies that they hope will convince the electorate. Global warming! Health care! Better wars! They turn a blind eye to the actuality that this is no longer a country where electoral politics has a grasp on the real levers of power, some levers are there, but they no longer have any effect on the course of the nation. This was obvious during the Clinton administration.

Since then, the Republican kleptocracy has corrupted the institutions of government to a point where the US is now a banana republic. Even if Obama is elected, which I doubt, he will be unable to do more than conform to the predetermined path. From the moment he takes office, there will be unrelenting pressures from the corporate media, the corrupted justice department, and possibly the military that will make the Arkansas Project seem like a walk in the park. Neo-con foreign policy, neo-liberal economic policy, a police state to quiet the grumblers, and a continuing march towards the gated community for the few and mega-slums for the rest, that is the future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Strange days

The WaPo has a follow-up to the NYT tale of the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, AKA, Khalilzad, going off the reservation, wining and dining with Zardari, widower of the late Bhutto, martyr of our ally Pakistan. Going out of channels. Please read it, then come back.

The article is a strange counterpoint to the NYT article. In contrast to the latter, the tone is breezy, and takes some liberties with Ambassador Khalilzad's dignity:
Khalilzad, a voluble, Afghan-born political appointee who previously served as ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, was rebuked recently by the senior official for South and Central Asia affairs for planning to give "advice and help" to Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of assassinated former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Voluble, Afghan-born, rebuked. Ouch. And then there is more on the President of Afghanistan theme:
Indeed, Khalilzad has done little to dispel rumors that he is considering running for president of Afghanistan, seeking to oust Hamid Karzai.
Answering a question we asked before, we then learn that it is Condi that has Khalilzad's back:
State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said yesterday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice retains "full confidence" in Khalilzad, who is known as "Zal" in diplomatic circles. Another U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, put it more bluntly: "Zal can do no wrong. The vice president is growing weary of his unpredictability, but the president thinks he's still a rock star."
Comment is almost superfluous after that paragraph, we are in full bizarro mode. In a real world, Condoleezza Rice would have to respond for her lack of competence, or lack of authority, if what the WaPo says is true. Why is Negroponte, rather than Condi chastising Zal for going out of channels? Who is in charge?
In mid-2007, Negroponte took up the task of delivering a "stern warning" to Khalilzad, saying the department had been "alerted to the existence of a separate channel." Khalilzad said it would stop. Three days later, Khalilzad had dinner with Bhutto, prompting a sarcastic e-mail from Boucher making clear he knew about the dinner.
The buck must stop at Condi, because Feckless Leader thinks he's a rock star, or somebody is. Will Condi take the fall here? What is going on?

One diplomatic success

What with all the excitement of conventions, an ex-hot wars in the Caucasus, hostile fleets in the Black Sea, Afghanistan heading south, Pakistan heading south, and al-Maliki of Mesopotamia giving directives to Feckless Leader himself, it may be hard to notice that the six-party talks with North Korea seem to have struck a reef, and are, perhaps, headed into the depths.

The issue for the North Koreans is the US designation of them as a 'state sponsor of terrorism', while the US says it won't do that until it has 'independent verification' that they have really and truly dismantled their nuclear program.

So, N. Korea now says that it has suspended disablement, and might start rebuilding the whole project again.

The talks had been touted as a diplomatic success for the administration, basically putting relations and denuclearization back at the level they were at the end of the Clinton administration. Not a high bar of success, but hey, who's counting anyway.

Because this is so low on everyone's radar screen, it's hard to even try to get a picture of what is really going on. N. Korea claims the US is now insisting on 'extra inspections' that were not part of the agreement. From here it looks like the Bush administration is once again running a bait-and-switch operation. The question is, why?

1000 words

(h/t Ezra Klein)

Monday, August 25, 2008


This article, by the NYT reporters Helene Cooper and Mark Mazzetti, is a classic in its own right.

Its task is not to inform the reader, but to send a message from one faction of the ruling gang to the other. The opening paragraph:
Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, is facing angry questions from other senior Bush administration officials over what they describe as unauthorized contacts with Asif Ali Zardari, a contender to succeed Pervez Musharraf as president of Pakistan.
says everything of import in the article, Khalilzad has contacts with Zardari that are outside normal channels. Someone is pissed.

The Cheney administration does almost everything out of channels, but usually doesn't like to talk about it. Khalilzad's actions, as described, are normal. 'Channels', for the empire of supermen, is a myth you have to overcome. Action is what counts, not foolish concerns about protocols and chains of command.

The source is, naturally, anonymous, but one State Department official is put on the front lines:
“Can I ask what sort of ‘advice and help’ you are providing?” Mr. Boucher wrote in an angry e-mail message to Mr. Khalilzad. “What sort of channel is this? Governmental, private, personnel?” Copies of the message were sent to others at the highest levels of the State Department; the message was provided to The New York Times by an administration official who had received a copy.
Then we learn who is behind Mr. Boucher's expression of displeasure:
Administration officials described John D. Negroponte, the deputy secretary of state, and Mr. Boucher as angry over the conduct of Mr. Khalilzad because as United Nations ambassador he has no direct responsibility for American relations with Pakistan. Those dealings have been handled principally by Mr. Negroponte, Mr. Boucher and Anne W. Patterson, the American ambassador to Pakistan. Mr. Negroponte previously was the United Nations ambassador, and Ms. Patterson the acting ambassador.
So this is a struggle between Khalilzad and Negroponte over running the Pakistan shipwreck. Negroponte just fired a shot, by means of the NYT, at Khalilzad. Once again, out of channels. Why, an innocent might ask, do we have a Secretary of State, if not to determine with the President the nation's policy towards Pakistan, and to manifest it through the diplomats under her direction?

Well, the Secretary of State is not mentioned in the article. If Cooper and Mazzetti asked any questions about this affair to Condi, they are not reported. If they didn't, well why not? Well, as I said above, the purpose of the article is "to send a message from one faction of the ruling gang to the other". Stenography, as practiced by C&M and the other jokers at the Gray Lady, doesn't permit question outside the defined area at issue. Condi is not part of this discussion, capisch'?

Just as an added fillip, the article mentions that Khalilzad irks others:
because of speculation that he might seek to succeed Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan
Better watch out Zalmay, your wish just might come true. Visions of Alexander Burnes!

Friday, August 22, 2008


The Asia Times man in Karachi, Syed Saleem Shahzad, looks at the prospects for war or peace in Pakistan. It looks like war.

Musharraf, he points out, had a nuanced policy towards the Pashtuns, Taliban in Afghanistan OK, al-Qaida sometimes OK, some Taliban in Pakistan OK, others not OK. The new government is putting them all in the same basket, and probably that means war is coming. That will make the US happy, and maybe take some pressure off Afghanistan for a while, but Pakistan under the best circumstances is a fragile country, more united by what it is not (India) than by what it is. If Pakistan unites the Pashtun against them, there will be hell to pay.

The Pashtun are about as tough as people get, but they have seldom been united. Against the British, it would usually be a Mullah, or a Fakir who would unite them for a while. Now the Taliban are trying to perform the same roll, but they are also subject to factionalism. But that could change if Pakistan tries to move in force into the tribal areas, circumstances can make people unite under a leader.

Risking to unite the Pashtuns against Pakistan is a dangerous game, but US money makes politicians take risks, even if they know better. The Pashtun gave the British fits until they left, but they've never really challenged Pakistan. The semi-independence of the tribal regions is written in the Pakistan constitution, so that helped guarrantee the peace. The Durand Line, part of the current boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan divided not only Pashtuns, but even individual tribes. They've never liked it, and if Pakistan pushes too hard, there could be a serious attempt to break up the status quo that has existed since Pakistan independence. And if Pakistan disolves into chaos, kiss Afghanistan goodbye. There would be no way to supply the US and NATO.

The disease spreads

The Mississippi Supreme Court has banned the publication of a dissent by one of its own justices.
In other words, Presiding Justice Oliver Diaz of Ocean Springs disagreed with a court decision and wanted to write about it. His fellow judges said, no, he couldn’t and they apparently stopped the court clerk from filing Diaz’s statement into the record.

Diaz's document also wasn’t made available to the public, as every other order and dissent are.

"My job as a Supreme Court justice is to write opinions and dissents, when necessary," Diaz said later Thursday. "I was prevented from doing so by a majority of the court."
The new American freedom, championed by the Bush administration, to be able to silence those (for now, in government) whose views differ from that of those in power, is gaining a rabid following throughout the land, it seems.
(h/t Notes From Underground)


Or, capitalism on the march!
The Big 3 Detroit-based automakers are seeking about $25 billion in federal loans as they struggle to ride out a steep downturn in U.S. auto sales, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The plan is for the government to lend some $25 billion to the automakers in the first year at an interest rate of 4.5 percent, or about one-third what the companies are currently paying to borrow, the report said.
4.5%? So they are currently paying 13.5% to borrow money on the open market? Ouch!

Here's more directly from the WSJ, which has the unfortunate habit of disappearing articles behind their paywall when you least expect it.
What's more, the government would have the option of deferring any payment at all for up to five years.
And why would the government defer any payment? Because the 'Big Three' say, "Pretty please"?

Blog Simple also has some financial difficulties, what with the slow economy and rising prices. We will continue to refrain from asking our readers to contribute, you probably have your woes as well, but why can't we climb on the gravy train from Washington? Bail us out Congress, and we'll happily join hands with you on or national march to hell.

UPDATE: That was quick, turns out that they're asking for $50bn. Pretty soon they'll be talking real money.
(h/t Moon of Alabama)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Get a clue, Europe!

Hossein Askari, a professor of international business and international affairs at George Washington University, has an article in the Asia Times that points out what we have been hammering on here at Blog Simple: the fact that Europe is tying itself into almost complete dependence on Russian gas supplies by bowing to US pressure to isolate Iran. It is hard to conceive of a more craven and self-defeating position, but so it is.

So what's the solution? Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it shouldn't be said. I'll let Prof. Askari say it:
There is a solution to the problem at hand - accept Iran's right to peaceful nuclear enrichment accompanied with the condition that Iran will agree to a number of safeguards (including the most intrusive inspections to date) to guarantee, as much as humanly possible, that it will not develop nuclear warheads. A former senior US diplomat has put forward a similar proposal, forming a consortium to implement enrichment in Iran.

A comprehensive safeguard approach could serve as a model to enhance the future of non-proliferation and is the only peaceful approach to a resolution of the nuclear standoff with Iran.

Time is running out for Europe if it wants an alternative to a Russian monopolist for securing its energy needs. It will take time to bring additional Iranian gas on line and to build the needed pipeline system for its delivery. It is high time for Europe to abandon the notion of "secure" pipelines through Georgia and reliance on oil and gas from Russia and a Russian network for its delivery.

What about US?

Condi, still working despite it being vacation season, went to Poland for the signing of the anti-RussianIranian anti-missile missile treaty. The US had been holding out over Polish demands that the US agree to defend Poland on a front-line basis, beyond its obligations through NATO. The Georgia war was enough to override any second thoughts the US might have had.

The Czechs are also part of the deal, since they will be hosting the radar stations that will make the whole thing work.

The deals, though, are not yet really finalized:
The agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic, both members of NATO, must still be ratified by their Parliaments.
Well and good. But why doesn't the US need to get the Senate to sign off on a treaty that obligates the US to defend another nation outside NATO? It's not like there would be any problems getting the Democrats to line up once again and swear fealty to Feckless Leader. I guess he wanted to show that he didn't need no stinkin' Senate ratification. But is an executive agreement binding on the next executive? Beware, Poland!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pakistan one-two-three

Well, that was quick:
A day after their unified effort ousted President Pervez Musharraf, the two major parties in the governing coalition fell into disarray on Tuesday when they failed to agree on the restoration of the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
It looks like it will be difficult now to choose the next president without a parliamentary majority. And the more things stay in a political limbo, the more likely becomes an intervention by the military. Advance notice of a coup would be a visit by Negroponte.

Hopefully, tomorrow we won't be reading that the military has taken over again.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Everyone's favorite ex-blogger Billmon still occasionally cranks out a post on a diary at dkos. Today he gives a retrospective to the current goings on in Georgia:
Anatomy of A(nother) Fiasco
where he reminds us of what we didn't hear, how NATO came to be, under the mute but potent activities of the bipartisan Congress, the unwieldy monster it is today. Moving the eastern boundaries of NATO from the Oder to 135 miles of St. Petersburg was undertaken without any meaningful debate, in fact, hardly any debate at all. The latest resolutions have yet to be fully consummated, but are now directly linked to a hot war:

Once again, the US enlargement lobby sprang into action. In February of last year, with the newly born Democratic Congress still waiving its little arms and spitting up mucus, Dick Lugar (the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and Joe Biden (the committee’s nominally Democratic chairman) introduced the "NATO Freedom Consolidation Act". Like its predecessors, the bill authorized the President to immediately begin treating the Ukraine and Georgia as full-fledged NATO allies in all but name – with weapons sales, military advisors, etc. Senate cosponsors included Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and, naturally, John McCain (R-POW).

Also like its predecessors, the bill was whisked through both houses of Congress with about as much deliberation as a resolution praising the Future Farmers of Benton County for their fine showing at the Iowa State Fair – with no hearings, no debate, no roll call votes. President Bush signed it into law on April 9, 2007. The White House put out an official statement marking the occasion. It was one sentence long.

Since then, there have been two more resolutions to pull the foot dragging Europeans:
This led to another flurry of activity by the congressional expansion lobby. In January of this year, another resolution was introduced, again demanding that NATO open its doors to the Ukraine and Georgia. This time the list of cosponsors included Biden, McCain and Joe Lieberman – as well as both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It was passed by unanimous consent. And when the NATO summit nonetheless elected to pass on the Ukrainian and Georgian applications (promising, vaguely, to revisit the issue at a later date) the Demopublicans quickly came back with yet another resolution blasting the Russians for a long list of alleged violations of Georgian sovereignty and praising the NATO summit for "stat[ing] that the Republic of Georgia will become a member of NATO" – when, in fact, the summit had made no such promise. Up is down. Black is white.
So, you got your war, bipartisan chums. A little hot war, and the prospect of a big cold war. Who knows, with McCain maybe even a big hot war.

But NATO now is no longer a self-defense pact, it's a tool for projecting US power globally. When NATO gets in the way, perhaps by being a bit too concerned over civilian casualties, the US just elbows it aside:
The United States is planning to take control of all military operations in Afghanistan next year with an Iraq-style troop surge after becoming frustrated at Nato’s failure to defeat the Taliban.
Europe is to blame for much of this. Their kowtowing to Bush has become more blatant and emptyheaded even as his policies have come to grief. It's no use waiting for another administration, Europe, the next one could be even worse, more probably it will be more of the same, in a bipartisan way, you understand.
(h/t Moon of Alabama)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Economic Warfare 101

Paul Rogers, writing at openDemocracy, looks at the growing trend of global economic warfare, and especially how that is affecting the Afghan war, which is now entering its eighth year. Time flies.

The American way of war requires a huge amount of supplies, especially fuel. It's estimated that 90% of those supplies in Afghanistan goes through Karachi, Pakistan. It then travels by truck, mostly, to Kabul and Kandahar.

Taliban attacks on this transport in Afghanistan and the border regions are getting more effective, while it is said that al-Qaida is setting up cells to strike in Karachi. Karachi is a huge, chaotic city, perfect for urban guerrilla warfare.

The latest consensus, held by such military geniuses as Barack Obama, that the US needs to up its troop presence by at least 10,000 in Afghanistan to avoid the continuing degredation of the military situation. That would only make the supply problem more difficult. Russia had offered to allow non-military supplies (fuel!) to cross its territory, the events in Georgia seem to rule that out. The lifeline from Karachi is vital, so it is a huge exploitable weakness. If al-Qaida really has any operational capability (something I'm not convinced of), it might start there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Condi the Clown

Condi and Feckless Leader were almost competitive with each other in issuing demands to the Russians, as Saakashvili signed a ceasefire that approached total capitulation, with Condi looking on. Bush said Russia 'must withdraw from all Georgian territory', Condi says they must withdraw 'immediately', but the ceasefire expands Russia's role as 'peacekeeper' outside of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This agreement has been modified from that signed by Russia, saying that Russia will withdraw from populated areas in Georgia. Russia has yet to agree to the new terms, and has sent troops south from Gori, perhaps to remind Condi of that.

Saakashvili continues to talk like a total idiot, coming up with things like:
“There can be no negotiated capitulations and negotiated dismemberment of smaller countries by bigger ones,” Mr. Saakashvili said.
in front of Ms. Kosovo herself.

Condi seems totally unable to think of diplomacy as anything else but another photo op between shopping expeditions. Why not talk to the Russians, one might ask, if one were unfamiliar with the mindset of the leaders of the West. No, we let the French negotiate, pop in for the signing of a ceasefire, while ignoring the content of the agreement, and issuing demands that the Russians will totally ignore, as they well should.

The feckless one then headed off, mercifully, for two weeks in Crawford. I would think that Condi needs to resume her vacation as well, the shopping in Tbilisi is very haphazard, especially if the Russians approach.

UPDATE: Times Online has the best take I've read so far on what has actually happened. The title says it well, "Georgia forced to accept a Russian occupation", but read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


It ain't pretty folks, it is what it fucking is.

Musharraf out?

The NYT is reporting that Perves Musharraf, dictator President of Pakistan, faced with the threat of impeachment, is on his way out and expected to resign in the next few days.

It's been almost nine years since he gained power, so he's been quite a survivor for that part of the world. It is arguable that he was brought down by the GWOT, the Pakistanis were unwilling, in the long run, to be the front line troops in Feckless Leader's excellent adventure.

It's anyone's guess if the new political reality there will be able to cope with the monumental problems the country faces, Pashtun (what you call Taliban) insurgency, India/Kashmir, the soaring cost of essentials, etc.

The new army chief, Kayani, seems to be allowing politics to go on without intervention from the army. But if the politicos are unable to deal with the above problems, the old pattern might emerge. Unfortunately, as in India, democracy often means a more extreme foreign policy against their neighbor, and Pakistan can't afford that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An army of many

So far, only the Wall Street Journal has reported this story (and it now seems to be behind their pay wall):
Third Officer to Plead Guilty In Troop-Supply Plot
The article reports that a 'boatload of people' were involved:
"We're talking about a boatload of people actively engaged in a conspiracy," said a U.S. official familiar with the case. This official believes there may be as many as 30 U.S. Army officers involved and "70 or more of their relatives and associates engaged as facilitators."
US officers identified in the article are:
  • Maj. James Momon Jr. - pleading guilty
  • Maj. John Lee Cockerham Jr. - pleading guilty
  • Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph - pleading guilty
  • Maj. Gloria Davis - committed suicide
There is no mention in the article of who their superior officers were, but we do know that Lt. Col. Selph reported directly to Gen. Petraeus.

Massive corruption by 'as many as 30' Army officers just isn't very interesting to consumers of the US press, one must think.

A delicate moment

Bhadrakumar has an interesting take on the Georgian affair, that the provocation of a Russian reaction there was a calculated move to bring Georgia into NATO.

I'm not sure that he's right, but certainly today's announcement that the US is sending 'humanitarian' aid to Georgia via the US military seems to indicate that the US is going to establish a military presence in Georgia, with or without NATO alongside.

And whether or not this announcement has caused the Russians to move into Gori is just a guess. But Bush is sending troops, planes and ships to Georgia, and that is a huge escalation. A Russian response is sure to follow, and the situation is getting riskier by the moment.

The Terrible Twos

Happy Birthday to us all!
Blog Simple is two today!
Watch out!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The new way of war

Send in the hedge fund managers!

The invasion was backed up by a PR offensive so layered and sophisticated that I even got an hysterical call today from a hedge fund manager in New York, screaming about an "investor call" that Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze made this morning with some fifty leading Western investment bank managers and analysts. I've since seen a J.P. Morgan summary of the conference call, which pretty much reflects the talking points later picked up by the US media.

These kinds of conference calls are generally conducted by the heads of companies in order to give banking analysts guidance. But as the hedge fund manager told me today, "The reason Lado did this is because he knew the enormous PR value that Georgia would gain by going to the money people and analysts, particularly since Georgia is clearly the aggressor this time." As a former investment banker who worked in London and who used to head the Bank of Georgia, Gurgenidze knew what he was doing. "Lado is a former banker himself, so he knew that by framing the conflict for the most influential bankers and analysts in New York, that these power bankers would then write up reports and go on CNBC and argue Lado Gurgenidze's talking points. It was brilliant, and now you're starting to see the American media shift its coverage from calling it Georgia invading Ossetian territory, to the new spin, that it's Russian imperial aggression against tiny little Georgia."

The really scary thing about this investor conference call is that it suggests real planning. As the hedge fund manager told me, "These things aren't set up on an hour's notice."

(h/t Chris Floyd)

Clown show

BBC headline:
US warning to Russia over Georgia
But the text of the report lacks the word 'warning', or anything that resembles it.

Meanwhile, Cheney arose from his coffin to announce:
On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney told Georgia's pro-American president that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States," Cheney's office reported.
I bet that 'Cheney's office' got this little tragedy a-rollin', what with Feckless Leader frolicking in Beijing, and Condi out shopping. The miscalculation and hubris all fits into the pattern of both the Afghan and the Iraqi wars. Hopefully the consequences in human terms will be much less, but that now depends on Russian restraint, and Georgian good sense.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Truthiness and consequences

Scott Horton runs through the latest developments in truthiness at the DoJ.

It doesn't look good:
In other administrations, the fact that two senior Justice Department officers were refusing to cooperate with a criminal probe would be shocking news. The fact that they had to be subpoenaed to answer questions about their official conduct at the Justice Department would grab headlines. For the Bush Justice Department, however, it’s just another day, hardly any different from those that preceded or will follow it. Indeed, the sense among senior Justice staff with whom I have spoken is that Schlozman and Spakovsky are, relatively speaking, small frye. The focus remains on the investigation of the U.S. attorneys’ scandal, which involves serious allegations of wrongdoing and the prospect of a criminal probe of the Department’s four most senior political appointees, starting with Attorney General Gonzales. Still the real focus of inquiries into the scandal is not on the Justice Department at all, but rather its former political puppetmaster, Karl Rove.
This is way worse than the bad old days of Watergate, the task of cleaning the Augean stables needs another Hercules, and I doubt that it is Obama. In fact, I don't think anyone will even attempt to clean it up. There is no mystery as to why Congress has sat on their hands for the last two years when faced with such utter corruption, they, or most of them anyway, are a part of the whole rotten system that is breaking down before our eyes.

Scott concludes with this:
Truth is about to attempt to recapture the Justice Department. And the institution’s reputation and future hang in the balance.
Really, it's the future of the country, because even if the DoJ has always sided with money and power, playing by the rules was a big part of the game. Once the rules are gone, it's all just personal power that counts, defended and expanded by the usual tools of such gangsters.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Despite the pronunciamento in the last post that the anthrax investigation was over, it's facts and fictions to be relegated before long to the obsessive gaze of the conspiracy theorist, we're still ready to be happily surprised.

Firstly, the quality of some posts out there have made so much sense even NPR managed to get off the FBI bandwagon, for a while. To be specific, all these bloggers and blogging journalists have made significant points:
  1. Glenn Greenwald, Glenn focuses on the ABC report that tied the attacks to Saddam
  2. Larisa Alexandrovna (At Largely), many posts, lots of good questions
  3. Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel), many posts, lots of good questions
  4. Dave Neiwart at firedoglake
  5. Simon Owens, at the happily named Bloggasm, follows up on Greenwald
  6. Meryl Nass, M.D. an actual anthrax expert, who made the non-expert point that the FBI has failed to place Ivins at the scene of the crime, the New Jersey mailbox. Highly recommended.
The press, despite their normal reflex to instantly go into lockstep, continue to maintain a rather unconvinced tone in the reporting of the FBI's golden moment.

We shall continue to monitor the situation.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

It's over

Now that the FBI has announced that Dr. Ivins carried out the anthrax attacks alone, and provided a selective document dump to show how right they are, we know that once again a major crime in the USA is found to have a single, dead culprit.

Tidy, huh?

Of course the whole thing reeks of manipulation, but that is a smell we've gotten used to. Reporters think it is a type of perfume, I believe. The FBI spent years trying to railroad Hatfill, using the same evidence they've now used to convict Ivins, one size fits all evidence is A-OK for the guardians of the press.

The only remaining question is how long before bringing up the subject and expressing doubts about the official story will be enough to label one a conspiracy theorist, or an 'Anthrax Truther', and make one unfit for polite company. It won't be long, I bet.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Camel Club

Justin Raimondo points out another piece of the anthrax puzzle, the persecution of Ft. Derrick scientist Dr. Ayaad Assaad:

Assaad, an American citizen born in Egypt, worked for USAMRIID in the early 1990s and was involved in a conflict with a group of Ft. Detrick employees who dubbed themselves the "Camel Club." As detailed in a series of eye-popping pieces by Dave Altimari and Jack Dolan of the Hartford Courant, this cabal was engaged in systematic harassment of Assaad and other Arab-American employees at the facility, including putting obscene and racist poems on his desk and presenting him with a rubber camel adorned with a sex toy. The Camel Club's harassment of Assaad had a distinctively ideological edge, one that pre-dated the "invade their countries, bomb their cities, and convert them to Christianity" meme that later became so popular with post-9/11 neocons of a Coulterish stripe.

In September 2001 – before the news of the anthrax letters broke, but after they had been postmarked – a letter addressed to the "Town of Quantico police" was received that accused Assaad of being a terrorist who was planning to wage biological warfare against the U.S. on American soil. As the first anthrax letters were opened, Assaad got a call from the FBI. Agent Gregory Leylegian wanted to have a little talk with him.

This fits very closely with the tone of the anthrax letters themselves, an attempt was made to incriminate Muslims in general, and Dr. Assaad in particular. Could the 'Camel Club' be the perpetrators of the attacks? From the outside (lacking any evidence beyond the hogwash fed to the press), it sure looks plausible. Could one of the club also be there as a spy or counterspy who motivated the group, and also provided information to the outside? Did the Camel Club provide the information to ABC?

It looks like the FBI is going to try to incriminate Ivins as a lone nut. They already tried with Hatfill, it didn't work, but try, try again, right?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Drip, drip, drip

It never fails to amaze us , a managed press campaign that sets out to destroy the reputation, and to create a guilty aspect, involving a 'suspect' in a famous crime.

In it, the press/law enforcement tango swings and sways to the beat, story follows story, sidetracks are cut off, and a narrative is built. Often, the narrative bears little resemblance to the truth.

Wen Yo Lee was a good example, so was Steven Hatfill, and I fear the story of Bruce Ivins is being built on the same lines. Ivins however, will not be with us to assert his innocence or fight for his rights.

So far, despite the relative unanimity of the press in accepting Ivin's guilt as proven, the story itself seems strange enough to be inspiring some good work in the blogosphere.

1. The whole history of the affair is intimately wound about 9/11, the bandwagon of fear was inflated by the speculation that the anthrax attacks were either by al-Qaida or Saddam. Glenn Greenwald has documented how ABC News, in particular, was involved in the scheme.

2. The 'therapist', Jean Duley has been the primary source of attacks on the moral fiber of Ivans. Ms. Duley seems to have had some issues of her own, and seems to be prime fodder for FBI disinformation tactics. Once more via GG.

3. The Brad Blog has discovered that Mr. Ivins was a registered Democrat, countering some press that said he was a right wing fanatic.

Yet to be discussed is the unfortunate demise of Mr. Ivins. Because of the strange wording of some news reports, there was some implication that Mr. Ivins was already in hospital when he was stricken. This has not been confirmed, nor discussed. Mr. Ivin's last moments remain described only as death by overdose of 'prescription Tylonol and codeine'. We await, with bated breath no less, further developments in this area.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Good times

Stax/Volt tour of Norway, 1967.

Game, set, match

MK Bhadrakumar looks at the details and implications of a deal that Russia's Gazprom just signed with Turkmenistan.
Gazprom, Russia's energy leviathan, signed two major agreements in Ashgabat on Friday outlining a new scheme for purchase of Turkmen gas. The first one elaborates the price formation principles that will be guiding the Russian gas purchase from Turkmenistan during the next 20-year period. The second agreement is a unique one, making Gazprom the donor for local Turkmen energy projects. In essence, the two agreements ensure that Russia will keep control over Turkmen gas exports.
Gazprom will be paying a lot more than they did to Turkmenistan, but they have locked up the gas for twenty years. Russia will be delivering the gas to Europe, and participate in it's distribution to China.

The US had hoped to bring Turkmenistan's gas to Europe via the proposed Nabucco gas pipeline, without any gas it will probably never be built. The fantasy of building a pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India may now be buried, as well.

The Europeans are now almost wholly dependent on Russia for natural gas. Their only alternative is Iran, but Europe's slavish obedience to Washington keeps that possibility from being realized.

Cheney's militaristic strategy is in shambles. The US has expended huge sums of money on military bases that serve no earthly purpose, wars grind on in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Russia and Central Asia sit back and count their Euros.

This story has been almost totally unreported in the US, I wonder why.


Glenn Greenwald takes us on a merry trip down memory lane, back to when anthrax attacks were on everyone's lips. As he reminds us, ABC News claimed that "four well-placed and separate sources" said the anthrax contained bentonite, which was linked to Saddam Hussein. ABC News refuses to divulge who these sources were, even though they were clearly lying. Does not four separate sources telling the same lie indicate a conspiracy?

Convenient, ain't it

Anthrax scientist commits suicide as FBI closes in
Closes in, after seven years, that is rich!
Such good timing, but such primitive methods, 'prescription' Tylenol and codeine, yuk.
Dead men tell no tales, nor do those who settle in a court of law, Bruce Ivins has joined the great parade, while Steven Hatfill gets his $5.82 million.
God protect us from conspiracy theories, let childlike faith in our journalist heroes save us!
Yeah, it shall be wondrous, how soon it shall drift down the memory hole!