Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just sayin'

On every MSM news site, every time the market goes up it's because the bailout is about to be approved, when it goes down it's because it hasn't been approved.

Burnin' down the house

Reminds me of Wall Street.
(h/t The Sideshow)

Hill comes a callin'

In the madcap mess of the six-party talks about North Korean nuclear disarmament, symbols mean more than substance. The visit of Christopher Hill to Pyongyang out of the blue is thus a surrender by the administration to the North Koreans, and the symbolism will probably be backed up by some substance.

But it probably will not work without further concessions. The bargaining chip of the 'state sponsor of terrorism' delisting, supposedly leading to NK accessing lines of credit becomes somewhat moot when lines of credit are going up in smoke. The tyrannical reign of the US Treasury on the world financial scene seems to be winding down, and NK is well aware of it.

Gloomy Gus

Despite the euphoria in the market today (due to what?), that professional pessimist extraordinaire, Nouriel Roubini sees the risk of a systemic breakdown as high as ever.

Why should we believe him? Because of his track record, obviously. When the rest of the economists were handing out high fives and proclaiming the final triumph of neo-liberalism, Roubini saw the storm clouds on the horizon and pointed them out.

But the high fivers are still in charge. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, tried to pass a bill that was pushed by sore-palm Paulson, no hearings were held that would allow anyone such as Roubini make his point that the plan "is totally flawed".

S0 what's next? According to Roubini:
The next step of this panic could become the mother of all bank runs, i.e. a run on the trillion dollar plus of the cross border short-term interbank liabilities of the US banking and financial system as foreign banks as starting to worry about the safety of their liquid exposures to US financial institutions; such a silent cross border bank run has already started as foreign banks are worried about the solvency of US banks and are starting to reduce their exposure. And if this run accelerates - as it may now - a total meltdown of the US financial system could occur. We are thus now in a generalized panic mode and back to the risk of a systemic meltdown of the entire financial system. And US and foreign policy authorities seem to be clueless about what needs to be done next. Maybe they should today start with a coordinated 100 bps reduction in policy rates in all the major economies in the world to show that they are starting to seriously recognize and address this rapidly worsening financial crisis.
If I were Paulson or Bernanke, I'd be listening. But I doubt that they are.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout fails to pass the House

Who's laughing now?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The big payout

Sorry about the pause.

Anyway, finally after a week of posturing in 21th Century US Congress mode, plus John McCain posturing and giving irrefutable proof of his asinine character and intelligence, we're going to piss away $700bn (to start with) in order to do nothing other than temporize. Just as we said.

There is not enough money in the whole wide world to buy up all that bad paper. In modern parlance, it is toxic, whether the leveraging was 40x or 4000x, means now less than nothing, the debts and obligations out there moved in the realm of fantasy, and are now blown away.

We really need a 7 trillion dollar bailout plan or maybe one ten times that.

There is no there there.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wrong foot

The blast at the Islamabad Marriott raises all the usual questions with attacks of this nature, the perpetrators are in little pieces, credit is taken by unknown groups, and the news media tells you what to think, hey, it's their job.

China Matters brings up some interesting points. First of all, he links to an interview with Nawaz Sharif (in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica) who is obviously a very important political leader in Pakistan, but who is basically shut out of the US media reporting on Pakistan. The summary at China Matters gets the gist of the interview.

Then there is the matter of US marines being stationed at the hotel. That would put their lives, as well as other guests of the hotel at risk. Was that done with the knowledge of the US ambassador, or was the DoD off on their own? Hopefully, they weren't dumb enough to think they could keep that from the Taliban (for want of a better word).

So whatever Cheney has up his sleeve for the next months in Pakistan is still anyone's guess. But whatever it is, it seems to have gotten off on the wrong foot.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Paulson's attempt to spook the herd worked, but it's looking like the beasts aren't going to charge as neatly as in the plan, let's put it bluntly, Democrats want their fair share of the loot.

The markets cooperated with a suitable level of panic today, increasing the pressure to do something now before the fire burns the house down, in the charming metaphor used by Mitch McConnell.

Obama has grasped this opportunity to not show leadership with both hands, saying he doesn't want to 'politicize' the negotiations between the White House and Congress. He's also OK with the stampede mentality, saying an agreement should be reached 'this week'. One might think that all this meltdown stuff would improve his election chances, but his inveterate waffling is not taking advantage of the opportunity.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Glenn Greenwald has a good post up that points out that the tactics used to sell Congress on the Fat Cat Bail Out Plan (FCBOP) are the same as those used to sell the Iraq war, WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! The only way to save ourselves is to invade Iraq give $700bn to Fat Cats. Greenwald summarizes the proposed 'plan':

Here is the current draft for the latest plan. It's elegantly simple. The three key provisions: (1) The Treasury Secretary is authorized to buy up to $700 billion of any mortgage-related assets (so he can just transfer that amount to any corporations in exchange for their worthless or severely crippled "assets") [Sec. 6]; (2) The ceiling on the national debt is raised to $11.3 trillion to accommodate this scheme [Sec. 10]; and (3) best of all: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency" [Sec. 8].

Put another way, this authorizes Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes.

If it works, it works. Why mess with success?

The only question left is, will this be the final reaming that the US will undergo at the hands of the Bushies? I think this is the topper, but you never know!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Best campaign quote EVAR

John McCain:
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
(h/t Krugman)

Good cop, bad cop

As pointed out in our last post, one of the Bush administration's favorite tactics is to say one thing, and then either do another, or both say and do another.

After assurances that the US will 'respect Pakistani sovereignty' from CJCS Adm. Mullen, Gates comes out saying:
In an interview with the BBC, Secretary Gates insisted that the United States has the right to launch attacks across the border into Pakistan, and take whatever other actions its deems necessary to “protect our troops”. He refused to answer a question as to whether Pakistan’s government had authorized the strikes, but said he would prefer Pakistan tackle the militants itself. Prime Minister Raza Gilani said his government has warned the US about the attacks, and insists there can be no compromise on Pakistan’s sovereignty.
And here is a novel reason for the cross -border attacks, and some of the backlash they might provoke:
CIA Director Michael Hayden said yesterday that the attacks into Pakistan are designed to “tickle” the militants and examine their responses, but the number of civilians killed in these strikes has alienated the US from what it has long considered among its most important partners in the region. In addition, a large tribe in South Waziristan announced that a jirga yesterday had decided they would take up arms against the Americans if the attacks continue, including attacking across the border into Afghanistan.
The Asia Times also has an interesting article about the new 'facts on the ground' in Pakistan/Afghanistan. As above, these actions seem to work to unite Pakistan, at least in the border regions, against US attacks:
Either way, the US incursions have unprecedented unity between local tribesmen, the Taliban and the rank-and-file Pakistani security forces deployed on the border regions. Tribal sources tell Asia Times Online that the next time American ground forces venture into Pakistan they will meet stiff opposition from these now-combined forces.
Pulling new forces into the war on the other side seems a strange way to proceed, but not so strange for Feckless Leader. Expanding a war without expanding the available forces sets the stage for another, larger disaster than the current Afghan situation. But with winter coming on, probably another administration will have to deal with it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Square one

With all the hoopla over the financial meltdown, it's gone almost unnoticed that North Korea has now affirmed that they are working to restart their nuclear reactor.

AFP says that reactivation could take less than one year, which would put the whole process back at square one for the next US administration.

North Korea is peeved that the US put new conditions on its pledge to take NK off of the 'state sponsors of terrorism list' by requiring intrusive inspections that were not specified when the six-party deal was made. This has become the typical modus operandi of US diplomacy, used also by lackey Sarkozy while negotiating with the Russians. Make a deal, then change the terms accompanied by a press campaign to distort the issues. It didn't work with the Russians, and evidently it's not working with the North Koreans. They've also announced that they don't care if they're taken off of the 'list', so now further negotiations will be hampered by having one less carrot to offer them.

The Bush administration has been struggling mightily to delay all the looming disasters that almost eight years of arrogant stupidity have assembled. Success at any of their endeavors would have been a small miracle, chalk up another one in the failure column.

Buying illiquidity

We've going to get a sweeping plan, no less, to 'fight [the] crisis'.

The government, no matter how steeply discounted the purchases of 'illiquid' assests are, will always be left with a sack of shit. That's why they're illiquid. Initial estimates put the steeply discounted price tag at half a trillion, so count on more.

The Democrats, of course, will line up obediently to vote on the 'sweeping plan' without even debating the giveaway. Why bother? It ain't their money, and they have to go out and run for office on the big issues of the day.

It is said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy:

The program may look more like the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a Depression-era relief program formed in 1932 by President Hoover that tried to inject liquidity into the market by giving loans to banks and other businesses.

And now we get the farce, once again it will be the same thieves that started the mess given the keys to the government's money.

But after the farcical aspects play out, it will be the same old tragedy.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Socialism for thee

but not for me?

Well, the Fed is going into the insurance business, loaning AIG $85bn for an 80% stake. The article says that "until this week, it would have been unthinkable", that's pretty quick for something to become thinkable.

The Fed courteously informed Congress of the facts, and AIG shareholder approval is said not to be necessary, in fact, no more necessary than that of Congress.

Now for the hard truth. This may come as a shock to many, but Blog Simple too has been undergoing 'hard times'. We've been looking for a solution, putting up a PayPal button, blegging directly for funds from our readership, but as the financial crisis grew it became obvious that only direct intervention by the Fed would be enough to bail us out. Hence, we have signaled to Bernanke and Paulson that unless the unthinkable is once again thinkablized, and saving drowning blogs is recognized as being essential to international financial markets, we might have to shutter our virtual doors, and let the chips fall where they may.

Blog Simple assures you, our readers, that when we do give up an 85% stake for varied billions, it will have no effect on our editorial policies or reporting. That is our pledge!

UPDATE: It's confirmed! Bernanke says the check is in the mail.

Trump card

Many of Blog Simple's posts link to articles in TomDispatch. Tom Engelhardt gets some (most?) of the best and most realistic thinkers on world affairs, articles that are so far above the claptrap we're normally fed by the 'distinguished' New York Times and Washington Post that the difference is almost absurd.

Once again, Tom has a must read article, this time by Tariq Ali, that looks at the apparent escalation of the excellent Afghan war into Pakistan. By all means, read the whole thing, but here is the conclusion:

The key in Pakistan, as always, is the army. If the already heightened U.S. raids inside the country continue to escalate, the much-vaunted unity of the military High Command might come under real strain. At a meeting of corps commanders in Rawalpindi on September 12th, Pakistani Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani received unanimous support for his relatively mild public denunciation of the recent U.S. strikes inside Pakistan in which he said the country's borders and sovereignty would be defended "at all cost."

Saying, however, that the Army will safeguard the country's sovereignty is different from doing so in practice. This is the heart of the contradiction. Perhaps the attacks will cease on November 4th. Perhaps pigs (with or without lipstick) will fly. What is really required in the region is an American/NATO exit strategy from Afghanistan, which should entail a regional solution involving Pakistan, Iran, India, and Russia. These four states could guarantee a national government and massive social reconstruction in that country. No matter what, NATO and the Americans have failed abysmally.

Really required, unfortunately, is another way of saying, won't be done. Instead, we have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mullen, jetting off to Islamabad for talks with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Gilani, as well as the head of the Pakistan military, Kayani. Our 'do everything' military has pretty well cornered the market on diplomacy in Pakistan. Sending a military man to placate or armtwist our supposed allies makes one believe that armtwisting is the order of the day. Washington has been coy lately about the delivery of F16 fighters to Pakistan, might that be the carrot being offered? Certainly, to get Gilani and Kayani to sign off on the new cross-border US policy is a tall order. To get them to sign off publicly seems far fetched. If they do not sign off, Pakistan has a trump card to play, as explained in the conclusion to the NTY article linked to above:

On a visit to Britain on Tuesday, Pakistan’s newly elected president, Asif Ali Zardari, was quoted as saying after meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: “This situation doesn’t help democracy. “

When asked about future cross border attacks, Mr. Zardari said: “I don’t think there will be any more.”

In a meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday with Jack Straw, the British justice secretary, Mr. Gilani said that Pakistan’s sovereignty had to be respected.

According to a press statement by the Pakistani prime minister’s office, Mr. Straw said that he “hoped that Pakistan would continue providing passage to NATO convoys through its territory on their way to Afghanistan.

You had better hope so, Mr. Straw, and you too, Adm. Mullen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

No surprise

The tanking stock market and the end of Lehman and Merrill have pretty well knocked Ike off of the on-line front pages. In the reports that are coming out of Texas, there seems to me to be a lack of any big picture. Now we are starting to learn why:

Yesterday in a local report on KTRK-TV in Houston, TX, reporter Wayne Dolcefino revealed that media have been blocked from covering Hurricane Ike’s devastation. In a press conference, Dolcefino pressed Gov. Rick Perry on why media aren’t even allowed to fly over parts of Galveston Island, noting that media access was far better in Mississippi and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Perry tried to brush off Dolcefino’s concerns, but eventually passed blame to federal officials:

DOLCEFINO: That is unprecedented and quite honestly not appropriate because it’s our job to inform people. Why can’t we go to Bolivar and West End?

PERRY: I think when the local officials decide it was appropriate, whether it’s the media or first responders or what have you. The fact of the matter, that is actually a local decision, Wayne, that is made by the local county judge and by the mayor of those —

DOLCEFINO: They don’t control that area.

PERRY: Last time, the state of Texas doesn’t even.

DOLCEFINO: So it’s the federal government?

PERRY: I don’t know.

Governor Perry seems fortuitously uninformed.

Managing news and stealing money are the two major accomplishments of the Bush administration. Despite the early hype, why should Ike be any different.

Corruption II

As a follow-up to Blog Simple's last post about the shenanigans that went down in Kuwait and Iraq, I should point out that TomDispatch has a report by Frida Berrigan that looks at the big picture of corruption. At that lofty level, no indictments are handed out, no one pleads guilty, and few traces are left of the billions that disappear into company coffers.

Not until they arise again, those billions, as campaign contributions, 527s, and ownership and manipulation of the press. Even when wrongdoing is discovered and documented, the consequences are more than benign:

Ironically, the Pentagon isn't even getting what it paid for… not by a long shot. KBR's fraudulent activities have, according to the Government Accountability Office, included the failure to adequately account for more than a billion dollars in contracted funds; the leasing of vehicles to be used by company personnel for up to $125,000 a year (despite the fact that these vehicles could have been purchased outright for $40,000 or less); the purchase of unnecessary luxuries such as monogrammed towels for use in company-run recreation facilities for military personnel; the overcharging for fuel brought into Iraq from Kuwait for military use; the charging to the Pentagon's tab three to four times as many meals as were actually consumed by U.S. military personnel; and the provision of unclean water for U.S. troops.

All of these abuses came to light thanks to investigations by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Pentagon's own Office of the Inspector General, and others, but Halliburton and its former subsidiary got off with little more than such wrist slaps as the revocation of the fuel supply contract and of KBR'S exclusive LOGCAP contract for Iraq. That was recently divided into three parts and put out to bid. KBR was, however, allowed to join the bidding, and is now sharing the contract with DynCorp and Fluor Corporation. Each company has received a $5 billion contract that includes nine one-year options for renewal that could be worth, in total, up to $150 billion, according to Dana Hedgpeth of the Washington Post.

The underlying philosophy behind such massive and continuous corruption goes under the heading 'privatization'. In a sense, privatization can be thought of as the last stage of the capitalist state. The relentless quest for markets and resources has gone around the globe, only nooks and crannies remain. So the search turns inwards, and the big pieces of the state are now in play as both resources and markets. The whole process is greased by financial feedback into the political system. Neither party is immune, and if the Republicans have raised the bar higher than we would have thought possible, the Democrat's silence on these facts show that the bar will not be coming down, no matter who is elected.

In his introduction to the report, Tom Engelhardt concludes with this comment:

In the meantime, let Frida Berrigan take you past the obvious Blackwater issues and into the deeper quagmire of the massive privatization of the American military. It's an issue whose time should long ago have arrived, but don't hold your breath till the media discussion and debate begins.

Media discussion and debate might begin if one of the presidential candidates would bring it up. But both are beholden to the same private powers that are running amok. Private debts are passed over to the state, while public resources are divvied up amongst the jackals at the door. How long can it possibly continue?

Meanwhile, ...the Caesarism that is to succeed arrives with quiet firm step....

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Being a west coaster, and a late riser at that, I expect tomorrow's first perusal of the news should be especially interesting.

The meltdown of the financial system is both alarming and edifying. The sums that are bandied about dwarf even those of the excellent wars in progress. Truly, finance rules, and its earthquakes make even hurricanes move to the back burner.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Blog Simple has commented in the past on revelations of massive corruption in government contracting by the military in Iraq and Kuwait. Despite that (ho, ho) there has been very little reporting about it in the press. The post linked to above links to and quotes an article in the Wall Street Journal, but in the comment section there is a much more complete article by Guillermo Contreras of the San Antonio Express News. At the time, that article was unavailable online (except in said comment, of course).

Since then nothing, at least nothing that my Google news query returned. However, Mr. Contreras has two new articles in the San Antonio Express News that enlarge greatly on what is known.

The first, New federal indictment sheds light on schemes reviews the information in the new indictment, while the second goes into much more detail on the background to the case, including the Wild West ambiance that was Kuwait at the time. Mid-level officers, majors mostly, were handing out contracts worth big money for such banal things as water and fencing:

Almost three years after Cockerham returned to San Antonio, federal investigators have identified at least $125.5 million in tainted contracts for bottled water that Cockerham, based at Fort Sam Houston, steered to companies in Kuwait as part of a scheme to collect $15 million in kickbacks, documents show.

Cockerham and three other contracting officers who worked with him, succeeded him or preceded him also are accused of directing millions in contracts for potable water, latrine maintenance, gray water removal and warehouse work to the firms.

And this is from just one investigation:

They might amount to just a sliver of the problem. Ongoing investigations — 124 of them — are focusing on several current or former officers who served in Kuwait or Iraq, civilian employees, contractors and many of their friends and relatives.

“The investigations involve 286 people, both U.S. and foreign personnel,” Gordon Heddell, the Defense Department's acting inspector general, testified before Congress on July 23. “Much more is anticipated as investigations ready for prosecution mount.”

So far then, the story is that mid-level officers, enabled because of lack of supervision, ran a scheme that netted them tens of millions of dollars. The army says:
“When workload surges and/or staffing shortfalls occur, (our) system of checks and balances is put under stress and opportunities for mistakes and abuse of the system increase,” Donald Bibby, a spokesman for the Army Contracting Agency, the wing Cockerham worked under, said by e-mail.
That may have been true during the heady days following the invasion, but:
Hall is accused of obtaining $17.25 million in contracts for bottled water and security fencing between January 2004 and November 2007
Nov. 2007 is 4 1/2 years after the invasion. It's almost 3 years after the replacement of Rumsfeld by Gates. That system of checks and balances sure did take a long time to get going. And with 124 investigations still ongoing, we're just at the tip of the iceberg.

It will be interesting to see if this, or any other investigation leads up the chain of command. As far as I know, the highest ranking officer accused of corruption was Lt. Col. Selph, who received a relative pittance (a trip to Thailand and a trailer).

The other point of interest is the lack of interest in the press about this story. Big thanks to Mr. Contreras for keeping us posted, and for his excellent reporting. Kudos too to the San Antonio News Express.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pakistan questions

The head of the Pakistan armed forces, General Kayani, today criticized cross-border raids from Afghanistan, and said that Pakistan would defend its sovereignty 'at all cost'.

Almost simultaneously, the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mullen, said he had ordered a strategy to include Pakistan territory.

All this follows a meeting on a US aircraft carrier in between Mullen and Kayani back in late August. So, the question is, are Mullen and Kayani working together, or not? Is it just an act for domestic consumption by Kayani, while he really agreed to cross-border operations? Or was the operation a reply to the truce declared in Bajaur back on Sept. 1, and now that fighting seems to have resumed, the issue will go away?

The difference between having foreign troops raiding one's country, and having Predetor drones flying around blowing things up seems mainly a political distinction, rather than a real concern about sovereignty, so it looks like a political war of nerves from here.


Nouriel Roubini says that victory is here:

Today instead the US has performed the greatest nationalization in the history of humanity. By nationalizing Fannie and Freddie the US has increased its public assets by almost $6 trillion and has increased its public debt/liabilities by another $6 trillion. The US has also turned itself into the largest government-owned hedge fund in the world: by injecting a likely $200 billion of capital into Fannie and Freddie and taking on almost $6 trillion of liabilities of such GSEs the US has also undertaken the biggest and most levered LBO (“leveraged buy-out”) in human history that has a debt to equity ratio of 30 ($6,000 billion of debt against $200 billion of equity).

So now Comrades Bush, Paulson and Bernanke (as originally nicknamed by Willem Buiter) have now turned the USA into the USSRA (the United Socialist State Republic of America). Socialism is indeed alive and well in America; but this is socialism for the rich, the well connected and Wall Street. A socialism where profits are privatized and losses are socialized with the US tax-payer being charged the bill of $300 billion.

Do not worry about the rich, the purges will come and the workers will reap the benefits.

We have some tweaking to do before the state will wither away and die, but at least we're back on the right track.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sweet dreams

If you don't wake up tomorrow, this may be why:
I was initially in favor of funding the Large Hadron Collider—the biggest, most technologically advanced machine ever built. It is a superconductive, superfluid ring in which bundles of heavy atoms are to be accelerated to almost the speed of light and smashed together to replicate the awesome energies of the Big Bang and to create showers of heavy-mass particles found only in those first seconds when the universe was destroyed and re-created. Unfortunately, theoretical calculations show that the LHC could produce two kinds of dark matter—black holes and strange, ultradense quark matter—that are extremely dangerous, as both have been theoretically proven to swallow in a chain reaction the entirety of Earth. Thus, a cosmological bomb billions of times more powerful than the atomic bomb might be created at the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
Well, at least we won't have to listen to election crap. Look on the bright side!


Andrew Bacevich, over at TomDispatch, sums up the past seven years of Feckless Leader and Company. The opening paragraph is succinct:
The events of the past seven years have yielded a definitive judgment on the strategy that the Bush administration conceived in the wake of 9/11 to wage its so-called Global War on Terror. That strategy has failed, massively and irrevocably. To acknowledge that failure is to confront an urgent national priority: to scrap the Bush approach in favor of a new national security strategy that is realistic and sustainable -- a task that, alas, neither of the presidential candidates seems able to recognize or willing to take up.
That McCain is unable to confront the urgent national priority is no surprise, if and when he is elected he can turn it all over to Palin and get back to playing solitaire, or whatever he does in his spare time. He'll have nothing but spare time! If we're lucky, he'll even turn presidential speechifying over to the VP, his head and the teleprompter just don't work well together.

As for Obama, either he doesn't recognize the failure, or he's not willing to admit that he does. If there is to be a new national security strategy, it will not be discussed in this election.

But the question is not if there will be a new national security strategy, it's when. Sooner, in a planned and orderly way would be better, better still if the strategy were explained to the American people, but the end of the current strategy is only a matter of time.


Doing a quick scan across the 'progressive' blogosphere, everywhere it's Palin, Palin, Palin. The Republican candidate for President is almost totally absent, as he is in news headlines. This is a very clever strategy by the Republican puppetmasters, playing reporters and bloggers for chumps.

I'm not saying it's difficult, just clever.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Vetting your life away

How will this play in Peoria?
Palin Billed State for Nights Spent at Home

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

If she can squirm her way out of this one, she is formidable!

UPDATE: A closer look makes me doubt that this will do her in. It could even play up the 'Sarah victim of the Media theme'. But she is on thin ice, the WaPo doesn't do these articles lightly.


It's almost uncanny how this election is shaping itself into the form of '04. A brain dead Republican runs against a Democrat who has shackled himself to the failed policies of the past four years (surge! tax cuts! war on terror!) gratuitously, without any need except that of fear and weakness.

Barak Obama is clearly afraid, afraid of his own shadow one might say. When you are afraid to speak out against failed policies, you will be perceived as weak, in fact, you are weak. John Kerry was a poster boy for such weakness, Obama seems to want to make all the same mistakes.

It's almost too late to change now, the FISA capitulation, the sucking up to the surge, the silence on the collapse of the financial system and its rape of the American treasury leave few issues that can make one a leader. That's not look like a leader, Obama, it's be a leader. Leaders have to make people face uncomfortable facts, leaders have to point the way to deal with said facts.

Obama, Americans are so inured to the steady reaming they've been getting, so bloated on the horseshit that is force fed down their throats, that unless you're willing to take a chance, to point out that their future is spinning down the toilet and they and their children are being cornered into serfdom or worse, you might as well give up now. As Vivekananda said, "There is only one sin. That is weakness..."

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Seizing control

Even in our current bizarro world, this opening paragraph from the NTY about the takeover of Freddie and Fannie deserves some scrutiny:
The Bush administration seized control of the nation’s two largest mortgage finance companies on Sunday, seeking to shrink drastically their outsize influence on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill while at the same time counting on them to pull the nation out of its worst housing crisis in decades.
It's the Bush adminstration that has seized control, not the government of the US, says the article, and the takeover counters F&Fs 'outsized influence' on Wall Street and Capitol Hill. Does it counter the influence, whatever it may be, or just put it under the direct control of the Bush administration. What does that mean, anyway?

And, for the topper, the Bush adminstration is counting on F&F, under their control, to pull the nation out of it's worst housing crisis in decades. This is total bullshit, all this has nothing at all to do with the housing crisis. There may be a housing crisis, but this is about the credit crisis, and a good excuse to raid the US treasury, already submerged in debt.

What we are seeing, in REAL LIFE SLOMO, is the greatest ripoff of government funds of all time. Are you going to speak up, Obama? No, I thought not. Fucking bitch.

Paying Pakistan

There is a large report by Dexter Filkins in the New York Times Magazine, Right at the Edge, that is important in several respects.

Firstly, it says that the US is paying Pakistan to fight the Taliban, and while they want the money, they don't want the fight. In this process, only the Pakistan military counts, the civilian government is left out in the cold.

Next, in Pakistan the old way of dealing with the tribal peoples of the Hindu Kush (Pushtun) was devised by the British, they would pay tribal leaders (maliks), when the tribes would raid outside their areas anyway, there would often be massive retaliation, including confiscation of the flocks and crop destruction. The civilian government of Pakistan is proposing something similar for now, though perhaps without the massive retaliation.

This strategy already seems dead in the water. Just as sometimes would happen back in British times, the different tribes are united behind religious leaders (Taliban is what they're called now). The tribal leaders play ball, or are executed summarily.

Washington's latest upping of the ante, the raid over the border, seems to have pleased no one, only Zardari has muted his criticism so he could grab the presidency. But now, he will be in charge of the army, and as Filkins points out, it is the army that supports the Taliban so they can keep getting US money to fight them. To show how unpleased they are, a bureaucratic snafu seems to have blocked fuel shipments to Kabul, a shot across the USS Afghanistan's bow if there ever was one.

While there are parts of the report that can be seen as the usual labeling and lumping (militants, extremists, Taliban, etc.) plus the normal pro-US tinted glasses, it does point out the ongoing contradictions of the 'War on Terror'. It's some of the best reporting on Pakistan done by an American reporter in a US publication.

What we don't know, but would like to, is, "Why now?".

Saturday, September 06, 2008


President Cheney is exposing other world leaders to EHS (Exploding Head Syndrome) on his current trip. A man whose policies have been a disaster for his own country continues to pretend that they have been a success. His policies of murder and plunder have destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia while he accuses others of threatening peace. His contempt for democracy and the rule of law oozes from his smirking face while he continues to lecture others about democratic values. He issues laughable warnings, and the Russians laugh. Only the New York Times still genuflects before his supposed gravitas.

While Georgia is his latest triumph, he may still have time to push the Ukraine off the cliff. Weaklings like Merkel, Sarkozy, Berlusconi, and Brown may pay lip service to his rantings, but they have no intention of following the US on the merry road to ruin. You can almost see the counters in their heads ticking off the moment until he and Feckless Leader ride off into the sunset.

Unfortunately for them, McCain may be even more dangerous, even if he's less loathsome. Until Europe learns to stand up for their own interests, they'll continue to risk EHS, and worse.

Friday, September 05, 2008

You pay

There was a story that went around in Italy, a storekeeper in Calabria had received 'requests' for protection money from the local mafia ('Ndragheta), so he went to the local officer of the police (Caribinieri) and explained the situation. The Maresciallo had a short reply, "You pay."

The US version from the Wall Street Journal:
The Treasury Department is close to finalizing a plan to help shore up mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to people familiar with the matter. Precise details of Treasury's plan couldn't be learned. The plan is expected to involve a creative use of Treasury's authority to intervene in the two companies, which it won earlier this year, and could involve a capital injection into the beleaguered giants.
Shorter US version, "America, you pay."

The Pakistan war

Pakistan, a country that is a staunch ally of the US in the war on terror / the protectors of bin Laden and al Qaida a complicated place where the US remains clueless, seems about to elect 'Iron Man' Zardari as president, replacing the US's ex-best buddy, Musharraf. A new best buddy, how exciting!

Syed Saleem Shahzad, reporting at the Asia Times, says of Zardari:
Although he is presently holed up in the premier's residence for fear of his safety from militant attacks, he has the security apparatus largely in check to force it to abandon its reservations about the "war on terror".
This would mean both renewed attacks on the tribal regions by Pakistani troops, as well as cross border incursions by NATO and Afghan troops.

Both of these have recently occurred. A sustained attack by the Pakistan army, including aircraft, in Bajaur caused about 300,000 refugees. It has been called off, supposedly to allow the refugees to return home for Ramadan (there was also an outbreak of cholera in the refugee camps). Then, a cross-border incursion by US and Afghan troops killed about 20 Pakistanis, including women and children, and caused such a ruckus that the US ambassador was summoned for an official protest.

This all follows:
Barely a week after a meeting on the US aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean between the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, and the chief of the Pakistani Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, to discuss infiltration points for militants going from Pakistan to Afghanistan and to pin-point al-Qaeda training camps, American special forces carried out two attacks inside Pakistan.
It seems like déjà vu all over again, the president strong man does and says one thing, while the rest of Pakistan's politicians remain strongly against escalating the war into their country. Mr. Shahzad believes that Zardari will prevail:
With his fingers firmly on the levers of power, and with strong American backing, Zardari will lead Pakistan into a new and potentially extremely bloody chapter of which the US special forces' raids into the country are just the beginning.
Musharraf, while toeing the US line on the surface, had the wit to prevent cross border raids, and to keep military pressure on the tribal lands balanced with negotiating and compromise. If Zardari remains a tool of the Americans, there is an extreme risk of widespread revolt in Pakistan. The consequences could both destroy the Pakistan state, such as it is, as well as doom the Afghan war for the US in the short term (it's doomed in the long term, anyway).

So, one might logically ask, why the hell is the US doing this? Is the state of the Afghan war already so precarious that it's necessary to gamble on turning Pakistan into a failed state?

The naughts for naught

Roger D. Hodge takes a look at the 2000s in America, and finds them strange:
The disorder from which we suffer—known among its close observers as Self-Satirizing Syndrome, or SSS—is a cruel one. Not only have we been made to witness the betrayal of almost every promise made by our Founding Fathers, and seen their direst prophesies confirmed, we must also suffer the indignity of seeing our constitutional ideal turned into a shabby mockery of itself. Somehow, by a trick of dialectical cunning, the United States of America has vaulted over the tragic phase of history in favor of a relentless pursuit of historical farce.
I suggest reading the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The right stuff and nonsense

Well, once again Blog Simple's ability as a prognosticator has taken a palpable hit. Gov. Palin will actually be the Republican nominee for Vice President, as the clown show called US politics lays out new groundwork for the future. We live in exciting times, in a sociopathologic sense.

Senator Obama obviously will have to bear the stigma of being sane throughout the campaign. That just doesn't work around here anymore, c-c-crazy is the new ideal. Sure he supports an insane foreign policy, but that is no longer enough. Less taxes means more income, creationism is like science, but better, the Republican party is a bastion of feminism, it's all grist to the cuckoo mill we're now running 24/7.

Hill to the rescue!

South Korea has reported that North Korea has started rebuilding their nuclear reactor.

It took just a few hours for the announcement that Christopher Hill is heading to Beijing, and now that the US doubts that the South Korean report is true.

It's clear that the US demand for unannounced 'international' inspections is a deal breaker, I doubt that North Korea would have agreed to it, regarding it as a loss of sovereignty, so it means that it was tacked on by the US after the deal was signed by all parties, typical of this administration.

So what is Hill going to Beijing for? Will the US climb down, and take NK off of the terrorism list, or is all this unraveling just in time for the elections?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


The increasingly valuable Moon of Alabama gets another scoop. Human Rights Watch, back on August 15th, accused the Russians of using cluster bombs in Georgia, accompanied by a lot of moral huffing and puffing.

Turns out the bombs were of Israeli manufacture, and used by the Georgians. The Georgians have admitted using them. The original report was by one Marc Garlasco, who moved over to Human Rights Watch after working for the Pentagon. HRW has acknowledged cluster bomb use, but has not retracted their now baseless accusations against the Russians.

One must admit that the Pentagon does take information management seriously. It'd be interesting to know how many other operatives are out planting propaganda, and using NGOs as fronts. Lots and lots, I bet.

You're first

The EU gets tough, and projects a powerful pout at Russia,

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French and current EU president who convened the summit, said Moscow's relations with the west were at stake in the Caucasus and that he would go to Moscow next week, along with the European commission president, José Manuel Barroso, and the EU foreign policy head, Javier Solana, to mediate over Georgia but also to gauge Russia's commitment to a values-based relationship with Europe.

"The question is what does Russia want," Sarkozy said of the Kremlin's decision to invade and partition Georgia. "It takes two to tango. The meeting [in Moscow] on September 8 will be crucial for relations between Russia and the EU."

The real question is not the fantasy of Sarkozy, but is that put by Putin: How far are you willing to go? Our national survival is being threatened, we have drawn a line in the sand. Are you stepping over? Our nuclear arsenal is aimed at all European cities, any attack on Russia will risk a counterattack that will utterly destroy you. You're first.

Europe's weakness, at least, makes them fit to understand the rules. It's our best hope.

Monday, September 01, 2008


I've not read this, though I wouldn't doubt that it's already been written, but I think that Palin is going to be dumped by St. John (POW), probably tomorrow. The snowball effect seems to be operative.

Happy Labor Day!

May 1st is the real one of course, but here in Amurika we'll take what we can get.

Amy Goodman arrested at RNC

Imperial stormtroopers have arrested Amy Goodman for being a dirty fucking hippy.

(h/t Uncle $cam)