Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I'm very comfortable with where we are and what we've achieved substantively," he said.Let us look at some of the substantive achievements:
- Iraq - almost 6 years of war, country destroyed, 1 million dead, 4.5 million refugees, what little state exists answers first to Tehran. Cheney and cronies make lots of money. The press lies and distorts to aid the ongoing destruction.
- Afghanistan - 8 years of occupation in war, country destroyed, Taliban controls 70% of the country, dire military situation, Pakistan disintegrating. Cheney and cronies make lots of money. The press lies and distorts to aid the ongoing destruction.
- North Korea - in possession of nukes. Big plus for the non-functioning but super expensive missile defense shield, less so for those actually threatened by the nukes. The press lies and distorts just for the hell of it.
- Georgia - idiotic war started by crony. Total failure. Cheney and cronies make lots of money. The press lies and distorts to aid the ongoing destruction.
- US - The end of the constitution and the rule of law. Worst economic difficulties since the Depression with no end in sight. Trillions thrown at problems with no transparency or accountability. Cheney and cronies make lots of money. The press lies and distorts to aid the ongoing destruction.
Friday, December 19, 2008
On the drawing board
The US is working on the idea of ferrying cargo for Afghanistan via the Black Sea to the port of Poti in Georgia and then dispatching it through the territories of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. A branch line could also go from Georgia via Azerbaijan to the Turkmen-Afghan border.He points out that this might have the advantage of bringing those countries into the NATO orbit, and continue the encirclement of Russia and China.
It seems to me though, that the cost and complexity of such a plan make it unlikely to ever get it off of the drawing board. It would also be very vulnerable to disruption, and still subject to Russian pressure. Still, an interesting idea.
The old one two
Since Congressional Republicans preferred to use the occasion to dance on the UAW's carcass, it took Feckless Leader's omnipotent powers to get the money for Detroit. There being no unions on Wall Street, Congress should be handing out the $350bn forthwith, especially since they don't need to even reconvene.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The other cheeks
Picking a stupid asshole like Warren for the inauguration can only be seen as a deliberate and pointed insult.
This 'bring us together' technique requires only an infinite supply of cheeks to turn by the DFHs and their fellow travelers.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Failure is an option
And, it has no consequences. The buck don't stop at all.
The head of the SEC says they failed to act. Shouldn't the minimal charge of incompetence be enough to make his immediate resignation an afterthought? This is a fucking banana republic with imported bananas.
The Federal Reserve cut the main U.S. interest rate to as low as zero and said it will buy debt as the next step in combating the longest recession in a quarter-century and reviving credit.And the markets are up! Who'd a thunk it?
Monday, December 15, 2008
Mohammad Shakir Afridi, president of the Khyber Transport Association, in the northwestern city of Peshawar said: "We have stopped supplies to foreign forces in Afghanistan from today.
"We have around 3,500 trucks, tankers and other vehicles, we are the major suppliers to Afghanistan, transporting about 60-70 per cent of goods."
The main problem is not the trip through the Khyber pass to Kabul, but rather the terminals around Peshawar where:
Hundreds of Nato and US-led coalition vehicles have been destroyed in the last two weeks after depots were targeted by hundreds of militants in northwest Pakistan.
The US, in its disingenuous way, maintains that everything is hunky-dory, but it isn't convincing defense analysts.
The whole problem is another of those incredibly stupid strategic blunders that the Cheney administration is famous for. Adding the additional burden of more troops just makes it worse. Pretending that you can bring all that stuff through Russia and Central Asia is following up idiocy with delusion. But what other choice is there?
Sunday, December 14, 2008
It being the $2 trillion that the Fed has distributed to various unnamed entities:
The Federal Reserve refused a request by Bloomberg News to disclose the recipients of more than $2 trillion of emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers and the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.snip...
The Fed responded Dec. 8, saying it’s allowed to withhold internal memos as well as information about trade secrets and commercial information.It's not even news that there is no longer the pretense that this is not a functioning democracy by any known definition, national security matters are too sensitive to trust to the public, now financial matters are to remain behind the veil. What's left? Fuck all.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The bitterest message of all for the reconstruction program may be the way the history ends. The hard figures on basic services and industrial production compiled for the report reveal that for all the money spent and promises made, the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the convulsive looting that followed.That's from an article describing an unpublished Pentagon report that documents how Iraq has been
Asserting, as the quoted paragraph above does, that Iraq has been restored to its pre-war condition, by any scale, is a lie, just like the lies the Pentagon's report exposes.
Let's face it, when it comes to lying, the NYT had just better shut up.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Mad about Madoff
Remembering us in our recent past, whining and moaning about $100bn a year, off budget, for the Iraq and Afghanistan disasters makes us humble, now that's just small potatoes. As for $14bn for GM, hardeeharhar.
Compared to the almost late governator of IL, Blagojevich, who might have been angling for hefty six figure sums in his relentless quest for graft, Mr. Madoff has been very much out of the media focus. The victims, who are not nobody, seem to be trying to get a little press now, to ease their distress. Fat lot of good it'll do them.
The press is working to create a narrative around this new example of disaster capitalism, but the victims are no longer just the debris of the third world, foreign or domestic. We're seeing whole new sectors being sucked down into the pit:
The dictature of money marches on, tending to its material peak... And now something happens that is intelligible only to one who has penetrated to the essence of money. If it were anything tangible, then its existence would be forever - but, as it is a form of thought, it fades out as soon as it has thought its economic world to finality, and has no more material upon which to feed.
U.S. Helps African States Fend Off IslamistsOf course, the reality is the opposite, the US presence will encourage Islamic militancy. It also will undoubtedly destabilize the government of Mali, the main focus of the article.
American and Malian officials acknowledged there were other hurdles to overcome. The Pentagon needs to explain better the role of its new Africa Command, created in October to oversee military activities on the continent, and to dispel fears that the United States is militarizing its foreign policy, Malian officials said.So, the unfortunate Mali will have years of the presence of US advisors. How long before the US is forced to support them by bombing some 'terrorists'. How long before Mali is destroyed like the other US 'projects'?
American officials say their strategy is to contain the Qaeda threat and train the African armies, a process that will take years. The nonmilitary counterterrorism programs are just starting, and it is too early to gauge results.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The congressional panel overseeing the $700 billion economic rescue plan laced into the Treasury Department today for misleading Congress over how the money is being used.
"We've been lied to. We've been bamboozled. What we have here is one big mess," said Rep. Davis Scott (D-Ga.), who like several others on the House Financial Services Committee focused on the fact that the hundreds of billions of dollars used to shore up the capital position of banks is not being felt in the form of easier credit for homeowners and businesses.
"Why has Treasury not generally required financial institutions to engage in specific mortgage foreclosure mitigation plans as a condition of taxpayer funds?" the panel asked.
Because you didn't require Treasury to do anything, bubulas, you just gave them the money. And now that the car manufacturers got their little slice of the pie, you are going to give Treasury, and thus the bankers, another $350bn, and they'll do what they damn well please with that too.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Patrick Fitzgerald has orchestrated a media event. I doubt this is really about Blagojevich. Watch out for more pressure on Obama.
Why wait for the inauguration?
Nuristan is a non-Pashtun province in eastern Afghanistan. There have been high NATO casualties there, and there is no reason to expect the security situation to improve.
MoA links to a video of a lecture by an anthropologist that worked for the State Department there in Nuristan (about 40 minutes, very interesting). The guy, David Katz seems very bright and has a lot of insight into why things are so bad there. But before the ending, he repeats the holy mantra that keeps everyone in line and not thinking. I quote him:
We can't allow Afghanistan to revert to a stiuation where the bad guys can gather and do harm to us. And the bad guys could gather and do harm to us as we saw on 9/11.This mantra, repeated ad nauseaum but never logically justified, in going to ensure that the US stays in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. The ability of intelligent people to allow their minds to be hijacked by slogans or mantras, wittingly or unwittingly, makes policy changes impossible.
The war in Afghanistan is a failure that risks to spawn other, graver failures. Unless the incoming administration is able to see behind the slogans, and they've shown little evidence that they can, the fifth Afghan war's inevitible, bloody result will be either US/NATO defeat or unimaginable slaughter, probably both.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Afghanistan History 101
- When the US invaded, there was virtually no opposition or fighting. The insurgency has come about because of the failure of the occupation to address the concerns of the Afghans, primarily security.
- This fits the pattern of US invasions, such as Vietnam, Panama, and Iraq. Destruction of the people and infrastructure is part of the deal. The US does not do nation building anymore.
- Most Afghans do not want the Taliban, but they have little choice, since only the Taliban can deliver security.
(h/t Lenin's Tomb)
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Petraeus and Pakistan's needs
Indeed, in an event that is either the sign of the ever-increasing militarization of U.S. foreign policy or a signal that international aid to Pakistan must conform to America’s security strategy—or both—none other than the head of the U.S. Central Command, General Petraeus, discussed Pakistan’s needs at the IMF annual meeting.In my last post, I looked to the possibility of a military coup in Pakistan, it may be that I was wrong, and the coup has already occurred, but it was by the US military under the direction of Gen. Petraeus. Why bother having Kayani or whomever take over when Petraeus seems to have taken everything and everyone under his growing wing?
If it goes after LET, a client organization of the military if there ever was one, it risks uniting them with the Pakistan Taliban:
In this anarchic situation, the Jamaatut Dawa (LET), with its well-defined vertical command structure under the single command of Saeed, could commit its several thousand members, virtually a para-military force, to the cause of the anti-state al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani militants.If it doesn't, it is risking a military confrontation with India, and will have to do so without any support from the US. That could end with the disolution of the Pakistani state.
It wouldn't surprise me if there was a coup in the near future. That might be the only thing that would allow a breathing space to develop by focusing attention inwards. Zardari and Gilani have to listen to the people to bolster their shaky political positions, and in these situations the people have a tendency to let emotions cloud their judgment.
Also, Rabia at Grand Trunk Road has some good links and interesting commentary on the nature of Pakistani politics.
Parliament on ice
Since the PM rules at the will of parliament, this raises some interesting questions as to the new source of PM Harper's mandate. He seems to be depending on an appeal to Canadian's sense of fairness, he did win a plurality in the last election, and he proposes that his plurality should triumph over a coalition majority. Fair's fair, even if it doesn't make sense.
The head of state, Governor General Michaëlle Jean, is Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in the ex-colony. Evidently she was able to follow Harper's strange logic, and since she was probably too busy to speak herself, Harper said for her that she agreed and that was that.
Harper supposedly will allow Parliament to reconvene on January 27 of the new year, a gracious gesture, when he will have a super great budget to submit. It will be so super great, I guess, that the majority will forget their willful ways, and submit themselves to the plurality.
In the meantime, I have just one piece of snarky advice for Canadians, just chill.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Reading this NYT article, with half a byline by noted stenographer Eric Schmitt, makes me think that tensions are being intentionally raised, seemingly by the DoD:
A former Defense Department official said Wednesday that American intelligence agencies had determined that former officers from Pakistan’s Army and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped train the Mumbai attackers.Since the anonymous official was formerly of the DoD, it stands to reason that he got his cue to go public and his information from someone still on active duty.
This comes out as Condi pays a visit to India, and can't make her job of calming things down any easier. India has already demanded that 20 fugitives be turned over. Pakistan has already declined. Pakistan has begun implying that India is behind the riots in Karachi, though they started before the Mumbai attack. (Incidentally, the NYT has not reported on the rioting in Karachi, at least according to their news search.)
Once again, the DoD and State seem to be working at cross purposes. Hopefully, this idiocy will end in the Obama administration. And, hopefully it won't be too late.
Dumber and dumbest
But now even middle class kids are just going to have to suck it up and get ready for a life on the margins. Unless, of course, they're great athletes, we do need to keep recruiting football and basketball players to keep up the American way of life. Rah, rah.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
They undoubtedly give daily thanks to their liberators.
Such a wonderful war we're waging. Right, COIN clowns?
BAGHDAD — About 1,000 Asian men who were hired by a Kuwaiti subcontractor to the U.S. military have been confined for as long as three months in windowless warehouses near the Baghdad airport without money or a place to work.Great job, Gates, Petraeus, Mullen, Odierno, etc.
If that's the case, at least the US must be one of the safest places to be. It has spent $41bn since the 2001 anthrax attacks on the bio-terror threat. 15,000 scientists, including for a time Bruce Ivins, are working on the threat. We are actually in a state of emergency, though Homeland Security says there isn't really an emergency. See if you can figure this out:
On October 1, 2008 DHHS Secretary Leavitt, in consultation with DHS Secretary Chertoff, issued a Declaration of an anthrax emergency, invoking the provisions of PREPA for anthrax countermeasures through 2015 (http://www.kansascity.com/105/story/846427.html) . On October 10, additional Declarations were issued for smallpox, botulinum toxin and radiation sickness emergencies. Secretary Chertoff acknowledged to Secretary Leavitt in a September 23, 2008 memorandum there was no evidence of an anthrax emergency, but that the non-negligible risk of a future anthrax epidemic was sufficient to declare an emergency and trigger PREPA’s liability protections.And the US will be even safer soon, because we're going to be stationing 20,000 combat troops in the homeland, ready to respond to terrorist attacks, public unrest, and crowd control.
I mean, how safe can you get? You might be out of work, homeless, hungry and hopeless, but unless something goes really wrong you can sleep easy at night in your cardboard box knowing that the government is doing everything, and spending everything it can to protect you from dangerous terrorists. Don't you feel better already?
Monday, December 01, 2008
Does not compute
Blog Simple has often spoken of, nay, trumpeted our ignorance of the finer points of economic policy, and while the times have changed in that we are devoting more energy to try to understand our current clusterfuck, don't come here for the last word, please.
But when we read that Bernanke is proposing that the Fed buys long term Treasury bonds to influence their yield, the jaw drops, the eyes glaze over, and the need for strong drink grabs the body in a steely grip.The alternative might be the fate suffered by the unfortunate gentleman pictured above. He, too, needed a drink.
The proposal assumes that the US can print all the money it wants to, and prop up the value by buying some of it back. Insanity doesn't even begin to describe it.
M K Bhadrakumar looks at the big picture, India/Pakistan/US/China relations, and the tensions that need to be managed.
Syed Saleem Shahzad says the operation was supposed to be an attack in Kashmir that was hijacked by al-Qaida. He also points out that there is now rioting in Karachi, something you would need to dig out of the US press, and that there was a successful attack on a transport hub in Peshawar by the Taliban.
Paul Rogers examines the pattern of similar attacks since 9/11, and how the Mumbai attack represent an escalation of planning, execution, and results. The fact that ten or so people can bring India and Pakistan to the brink of war shows the fundamental instability of the region, and the precariousness of US policies to avoid such a war.
al-Qaida or al-Qaida like attacks usually follow a pattern of multiple targets and high civilian casualties by design. However, they seem to be one-time affairs, they either lack the capability, or do not want to try follow-up attacks. Hopefully that will continue, as another attack on India now might precipitate a disaster with immense consequences.
More of the same
The dream that Gates is going to shift the emphasis from military action to 'nation building' is built on ignoring the long record of the past four years. In Iraq, there has been no emphasis on nation building, the emphasis has been on reducing American casualties by bombing everything that moves. That strategy has been rather successful towards its unstated aim. In Afghanistan, the same strategy has been tried, with less success.
Both countries are hell-holes of misery, the fact that the press ignores the misery, disease, starvation, refugees, as well as the constant air strikes does not lessen them.
Let's face facts, people, keeping Gates on means a continuation of current policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.