Monday, March 30, 2009


The Zubaida story gets stranger and stranger.

He was a key source in the 9/11 report and the whole creation of the Al-Qaida boogeyman, and now we are learning:
  1. His information was extracted by means of torture.
  2. His information about future attacks, though copious, when analyzed at great expense was worthless.
  3. He was not a member of Al-Qaida before 9/11.
  4. None the less his testimony is central to establishing the 9/11 narrative. He is cited many times in the footnotes of the report.
  5. His confessions have been taped.
  6. The tapes have been destroyed.
The usual explanation as to why the tapes were destroyed is to cover up the crime of torture.

But the tapes would also establish a narrative of how information was exchanged between tortured and torturer.

The main use of torture is to extract a confession in line with the desires of the torturer. Is that why the tapes were destroyed?

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Nicholas Schmidle has written An Idiot's Guide to Pakistan at Foreign Policy.

It doesn't go into a lot of detail, especially about the people in the mix, but it does help clarify some facts that tend to be obscured in the run of the mill jibber-jabber that passes for journalism here in the US.

I'd like to get a detailed critique of the article, and that hopefully expands on it, if anyone can point me in that direction, I'd appreciate it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Craig Murray, who was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, and is now an author and blogger, has written a post on his blog that he asks to be disseminated as widely as possible.

The post's subject is the admission by the British FCO (Foreign Ministry) that they use the 'intelligence' obtained by means of torture. Though they personally do not torture. They say.

Being from a country that not only uses intelligence obtained by means of torture, but tortures somewhat gleefully itself, it's kind of hard to get all riled up at the Brits, but Craig thinks it's important. It certainly is interesting to see not just the moral turpitude of the ruling class, but also their intellectual turpitude. They'll say any dumb shit thing if it sounds good to them.

Anyway, read and disseminate!

Joe's joke

VP Joe Biden, a wholly owned subsidiary of the banking industry, sponsor of the bankruptcy bill that is now coming into its own, helping to drive Americans into destitution, piped up on his trip to Europe:
At a news conference in Vina del Mar, Mr Biden said: "I would hope the protesters give us a chance, listen to what we have to say and hopefully we can make it clear to them that we're going to walk away from this G20 meeting with some concrete proposals."
I bet there will be some 'concrete proposals', such as giving lots more money to Joe's bankster friends.

Coincidentally perhaps, while standing tall for his plutocrat masters in Europe, Joe is the beneficiary of a puff-piece in the NYT, touting him as an influential free speaker in the Obama administration.

Why protesters should heed his words is a question that Joe is not asked. I doubt that he cares about the protesters anyway, his laughable statement was probably asked for by Gordon Brown, whose country may soon have to declare bankruptcy itself. Brown too has been throwing lots of money at British banks, so I'd expect that Brown and Biden see eye to eye on financial matters. But Joe's joke is telling none the less, nobody (but the banks) trusts the political leadership to protect their citizens, all it can do is tell them to 'shut up'.


Obama's escalation of our excellent adventure in Afghanistan, and its ostensible motivations, prove that the ghost of 9/11 is not dead, that it never will be dead, and can and will be used to justify whatever half-assed policy needs justification.

The difference is that Obama and his crew seem to believe that the US can 'win' against Al-Qaida, while for Bush/Cheney it was just an excuse, they never gave a shit about Al-Qaida, regarding them as useful boogeymen to sway the rubes.

But Obama's emphasis on Al-Qaida means that a self-fulfilling mechanism is being set up, combating terrorism with troops and drones will just produce more terrorists. The obvious loser in this equation is Pakistan. Already singled out for their support of 'some' Taliban, more US pressure will only weaken the tottery unity that has emerged since the deal in Swat and the end of the 'long march'.

And if Pakistan breaks up, what then? The 17,000 troops, plus the 4,000 'trainers' is a drop in the bucket for Afghanistan, throw Pakistan into the mix and troop levels will have to rise quickly. Despite the rhetoric of making this a regional issue, Russia, China and Iran are going to continue to sit on their hands. To bad that 9/11 and the Al-Qaida boogeymen don't work with them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Two stories in Haaretz today:

Israel's UN ambassador: Netanyahu committed to peace

Netanyahu, Lieberman 'struck secret deal for West Bank construction'

Netanyahu is as committed to peace as Olmert, Livni, Peres, or Barak, i.e. ready willing and able to mouth platitudes for public consumption while acting to make sure there is no practical way for it to come about. Naturally, the top story was covered by the NYT, while the second, not.

Monday, March 23, 2009

move along

The end of the AIG bonus saga is nigh, $50 million is being returned, says NY AG Andrew Cuomo.

Congressional outrage has evidently been defused:
In Washington, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said that efforts to recover bonuses like the ones at A.I.G. through punitive taxes would be delayed.
And press outrage, and thus public outrage will be allowed to dwindle into the twilight. Zzzzz...

Glenn Greewald had a post last weekend praising the virtues of public anger, but I fear he fails to realize that such public outrage depends on its being pushed, sanctioned and amplified by the media. Then, when the media decides that the moment for outrage is over, the public anger returns to being the private anger of senile old codgers such as myself. Maybe there are more of us than before, but so what?

The US public remains distant from any display of public anger such as demonstrations, civil disobedience and strikes. Though docile, easily distracted, and intellectually stunted, the public is collectively suffering enough that it is ready to be given another villan to be identifed and attacked, but who that is will be determined by the media and their masters. The public's fear and outrage will be a tool in factional disputes, but useless for its own struggles.

Ultimately, the passage from a passive fascism to an active one will be driven by public anger. Be careful what you wish for, Glenn.

he's desperate. Do what he say.


So Geithner's plan is now out there, and another trillion thrown at the banks, added to the 1.2 trillion that Bernanke printed last week make the market go wild. And why not, there's a shit load of money out there, and buying equities might help the balance sheets, but will it loosen up credit?

The banks are continuing to reduce credit and charge more for it to US small businesses and consumers in a self-fulfilling cycle of doom; that is the gun pointed to the head of Obama, and like Sheriff Bart, Obama's own administration is helping hold the gun to his head.

The naysayers, Krugman, Yves Smith, Calculated Risk, et. al. have pointed out how bad the plan is, despite the bells and whistles it is nothing more than another transfer of money from the government to the banks, and they (banks and administration) will not take the gun from the head of the US government (themselves). Why should they? When this trillion is gone, they'll be back for more, and Obama, Geithner, and Summers will be ready once again to do the Cleavon Little shtick:
Hold it. The next man makes a move, the n***** gets it...Drop it! For I swear, I'll blow this n*****'s head all over this town. Oh Lordy-lord, he's desperate. Do what he say. Do what he say.
(Asterisks inserted to avoid showing up in some idiot's google searches.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Our popular president

Unless he is playing his cards really close to the vest, and fooling everyone, including me, in the process, the path that Barack Obama has set in his administration is that of the eternal candidate.

Popularity is the goal, and the communication assets at his disposal are being used to boost and maintain his popularity. Town-hall meetings, appearances on Leno, etc. are part of a PR campaign that hides the lack of policies that confront the US economic meltdown, the perpetual wars, the environmental emergency, and the erosion of constitutional protections.

Instead, we get PR, and an insulting (to the voters) continuation of Bush/Cheney's most egregious policy failures. Since the media favored those policies from the beginning, and have renounced them only in the most superficial way, they see nothing strange about this. It's normality, something they cling to with all their strength and will.

But reality has a way of creeping in, and going Boo! when you least expect it. Failure to talk about the growing world-wide protests, the accelerating instability of governments, and the economic misery of growing numbers of Americans doesn't make them any less real, it is just more temporizing, as we saw in the last two years of the Bush administration. Obama, Gates and Geithner keep kicking the ball down the road, hoping things will miraculously get better, but the problems are just festering under the media blackout.

Obama got elected as a relative unknown. His main talent is his communication skill, but opting to follow the polls rather than lead the country shows an unmistakable lack of perception, both of the problems and what it might take to confront them. The clock is ticking.

The new plan

We have been told that decision time is approaching for the new plan for Afghanistan/Pakistan. Whatever that plan is, it will surely continue the process of unifying the two conflicts in terms of US policy, for better or for worse.

This article by Paul Rogers points out that we may be looking at a three front war, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan (let's leave out Iran now, just for sanity's sake), and two article at the Asia Times go over the possibilities. M K Bhadrakumar gives his usual excellent analysis, while Pepe Escobar gives a summation of what he thinks the plan will entail, and why it might extend the war into Pakistan proper:
The new mix will likely feature an ongoing wild goose chase for "good Taliban"; an expanded Central Intelligence Agency-operated drone war (a George W Bush policy decision); assorted CIA and special forces cross-border attacks (also a Bush policy decision); more carrots for the Pentagon-friendly Pakistani army (and Inter-Services Intelligence); more US troops in Afghanistan (starting with the announced 17,000 who will hit Helmand province before summer); and more training for the Afghan army.
The new "strategic" Petraeus front is in and around Quetta, a teeming urban center and the capital of the vast, mostly deserted Pakistani province of Balochistan. Quetta now happens to be historic Taliban Central, harboring, among others, according to US intelligence, none other than The Shadow, Taliban leader Mullah Omar himself.
The possibility of expanding the war into Balochistan was previewed in a NYT article that is wholly dependent on unnamed sources, that we can assume gives the view point of the Petraeus power center.

It really is mind-boggling that they are seriously discussing bombing a large, densely packed city in a country that is struggling to stabilize an extremely difficult political situation. Sure, they might get the leaders to allow it, the army wants more money so they can pretend they can go to war with India, the politicians want more money, well, because, but to permit bombing Quetta is political suicide. The politicos already sound like clowns when they bleatingly implore the US to restrain the current Predator attacks, attacks that leave from airfields in Pakistan.

Sovereignty is not a glass of water, you have it or you don't, and Pakistan's leaders seem unable to grasp the concept. That the US continues to abet their illusions will only lead to further instability, and possible disaster within the year.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG farce

The continuing farce over the AIG bonuses becomes more absurd with each passing day. From proposals to tax them at 90%, or for Liddy to plead for the recipients to return half, the utter lack of perspective makes it clear that this is nothing but a smokescreen.

$160 million dollars is less than one-thousandth of the $170 billion or so that has been funneled to Goldman Sachs and companions through AIG, the larger figure can now be conveniently ignored, and the fact that more hundreds of billions will be spent to patch over the mess remains unmentioned until it will be too late.

After only eight weeks, the Obama administration has run aground. Its conception of taking Bush's policies and tweaking them has failed utterly on the economic front, Geithner now has the same credibility as Paulson, that is, none, and seems unable to propose anything but continuing to fail. The guy needs to go, and quickly.

Bernanke also continues to merrily throw money into the system, the printing presses are running full steam:
As expected, the Fed kept its benchmark interest rate at virtually zero. But in a surprise, it dramatically increased the amount of money it will create out of thin air to thaw out the still-frozen credit markets that have cramped lending to consumers and businesses alike.Despite a trickle of encouraging economic data in the last few weeks, Fed officials have shown no readiness yet to cut back on their unprecedented measures to pump money into the economy.
That's one trillion hot off the presses, it will produce some market euphoria for a while, and then will need to be done again. I wonder when Wen will realize that the dollar is heading for the toilet?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Many, many zeros in the total amount of derivatives out there, which is now $1,144,000,000,000,000, that's $1.144 quadrillion:
According to various distinguished sources including the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) in Basel, Switzerland -- the central bankers' bank -- the amount of outstanding derivatives worldwide as of December 2007 crossed USD 1.144 Quadrillion, ie, USD 1,144 Trillion. The main categories of the USD 1.144 Quadrillion derivatives market were the following:

1. Listed credit derivatives stood at USD 548 trillion;

2. The Over-The-Counter (OTC) derivatives stood in notional or face value at USD 596 trillion and included:

a. Interest Rate Derivatives at about USD 393+ trillion;

b. Credit Default Swaps at about USD 58+ trillion;

c. Foreign Exchange Derivatives at about USD 56+ trillion;

d. Commodity Derivatives at about USD 9 trillion;

e. Equity Linked Derivatives at about USD 8.5 trillion; and

f. Unallocated Derivatives at about USD 71+ trillion.

That's about $190,000 for each man, woman and child currently camping out here on the planet. And wait, that was six months ago.
(h/t Uncle $cam)

The exception

I know it changes nothing, to doubt the conclusions of the 9/11 report is and will remain apostasy, and deservedly receives banishment from the temple of 'serious thinkers', but Newsweek does point out that most of the narrative of the planning was the result of torture. Usually, evidence obtained by torture is thought not to be reliable, this case must be the exception that proves the rule.

I'm sure the commission was told that in this case, in order to stop the pain the tortured told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It's true that the commission did want to question the ringleaders directly, but when told no, they allowed the CIA to torture question for them.

The report also wisely failed to disclose that the facts were obtained through torture:

The commission's report gave no hint that harsh interrogation methods were used in gathering information, stating that the panel had "no control" over how the CIA did its job; the authors also said they had attempted to corroborate the information "with documents and statements of others."

But how could the commission corroborate information known only to a handful of people in a shadowy terrorist network, most of whom were either dead or still at large?

How would the public know that this was the exception that proved the rule?
(h/t Invictus)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bonus babies

Folks are understandably perturbed by the news that AIG is handing out huge bonuses after receiving $170bn from the Treasury and the FED.

What they, and probably you do not know, is that this money is going to deserving workers and bloggers, not bloated bankers shitting into their five figure commodes while destroying the livelihoods of hard working Americans.

Yes! 'Tis true.

I know this because we at Blog Simple have received an email assuring us that we will be among the recipients of the AIG bonuses. They (the organization that is responsible for the distribution) have asked for and received our bank info, and have assured us that a sizable deposit will be made tout de suite. Naturally, they wish to remain anonymous.

So, continue to expect and receive more hard hitting hints and loud laughs than ever before, we're now financed by Timmy Geithner, and maybe by some of you, dear readers.

Friday, March 13, 2009

How low?

Joe Nocera of the NYT seems to take a lot of pleasure in kicking Madoff's victims when they're down.

According to him, the victims weren't just stupid, they were accomplices, and thus, we must imagine, only got what they deserved. What he's really trying to do is absolve the SEC for the role it played as an accomplice, as well as the press itself.

There's no limit to how low the NYT will go in their pursuit of neo-liberal justice. The poor always deserve what they get, while the rich get their just rewards. This is America, bitches!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


New concepts in insurance:
The federal agency that insures bank deposits, which is asking for emergency powers to borrow up to $500 billion to take over failed banks, is facing a potential major shortfall in part because it collected no insurance premiums from most banks from 1996 to 2006.
If only my auto insurance company were so broadminded, they keep wanting me to pay even though I've never made a claim. Listen to a banker:

But James Chessen, chief economist of the American Bankers Association, said that it made sense at the time to stop collecting most premiums because "the fund became so large that interest income on the fund was covering the premiums for almost a decade." There were relatively few bank failures and no projection of the current economic collapse, he said.

"Obviously hindsight is 20-20," Chessen said.

With geniuses like chief economist Chessen around, it's no wonder we're about to end up in the sewer.
(h/t Atrios)


I couldn't have said it better myself (or more accurately, I couldn't have said it that well myself), Ladies and Germs, I give you Glenn Greenwald:
That's the most important truth of American political life: journalists like Fineman (and Ignatius, Marcus, etc. etc.) endlessly pretend to be watchdogs over the political establishment when, in fact, they are nothing more than subservient appendages to it, loyal spokespeople for it, completely merged into it. It's not that we have a press that fails to perform its function. They perform it perfectly. The point is that their function is to amplify and glorify establishment power -- the exact opposite of what Thomas Jefferson thought they would be doing when he advocated for a free press as the supreme safeguard against abuses of power.

Suicide mission

Pakistan's political mess seems to be spinning out of control as Zardari approaches martial law, banning protests, including the lawyer's march, and arresting opposition leaders.

To me, Zardari seems to be eminently disqualified to play the role of Musharraf, and some in Pakistan appear to agree with me:
"It's mind-boggling. Zardari seems to view the affairs of state as wheeling and dealing, rewarding cronies and punishing enemies," said Talat Masood, a retired army general. "If he wants to be a dictator, he is sadly mistaken because the army is not going to be behind him. He is on a suicide mission."
Zardari is off visiting Iran, of all places, at present. Upon his return we shall see if he is really going to pick up the gauntlet and set himself up as Musharraf II, or if the army steps in and puts in a more suitable dictator.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Glenn Greenwald covers the crucifixion of Chas Freeman, guilty of lacking sufficient allegiance to the holy and blessed state of Israel that VP Joe Biden loves. Also, read in full Mr. Freeman's reply to his detractors, as well as his warning to the US.

As far as I can tell, the NYT still has not mentioned even the man's name. We are still ruled by the vilest of gangsters. Obama is nothing but a fresh-faced pawn, or worse.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Bruce Krasting, apart from being an astute commenter on our financial shipwreck, turns out to be a very funny guy.

The transcription of today's secret phone conversation between Volker and Geithner deserves a place in blogger's Valhalla. Bravo!

Civil war

Grand Trunk Road links to some amazing reporting from Bajaur province in Pakistan where the Pakistan army has been engaging the Pakistan Taliban for some time.

What I found most striking was the disconnect between the clear presentation of the war, and the rhetoric that guided the reporting.

It is clearly a civil war, but it is never referred to as such. The army commander that plays a big part in the story, after losing his foot in combat, calls his opponents 'miscreants'.

It's pointed out that the Taliban didn't booby-trap occupied buildings because they lived there and wish to return, but no conclusions on the local nature of the insurgency are offered.

In all wars , but especially in civil wars, it is essential to know who you are, and who your opponent is. Pakistan's civil war seems to be going in the Taliban's favor at least in part because they know, and the 'State' does not.

I fear the State does not because it does not want to know.

It's not that different from the financial crisis and the Obama administration.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Remember the fires in Australia last month? Well. they are still burning even though they've dropped off the press radar since the accused arsonist was caught.

But the truth about why these fires occurred was not discussed at all, the planting of huge tree plantation for the paper industry was not revealed in the press. Arsonists are useful, too, in their own way.

This post at EconoSpeak, cheerily entitled The pulp and paper industry – a paradigm for Australia’s annihilation, describes why fires like these will continue, the tree farms make big money, and damn the consequences. Here are the punch lines, but read the whole thing:
It’s hard to think of a more damaging industrial paradigm than the global pulp and paper industry. The inherent irrationality of consumerism whereby individuals purchase superfluous and easily replaceable paper products at the cost of destroying all the elements of the natural world that keeps our children and our own selves alive. The air is polluted with huge industrial burn-offs of forest biomass. The water is sucked up from the streams and rivers by the thirstiest trees known to man. The soils are depleted by short rotations. Rural towns and communities are burnt to the ground by the inevitable and intense infernos that go hand-in-hand with high fuel loads in a warming and dryer environment. All in the name of getting rid of the wealth-destroying fetters of regulation. Hey! To Australia’s National Security Hotline: I see something suspicious. When all it takes to become an effective terrorist in Australia is to throw your cigarette out of the car on the next hot day.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Capitalist morality

Another day, 15,000 more lucky duckies:
Delphi Corp., the bankrupt auto- parts maker, won permission to cancel health-care benefits for 15,000 current and former salaried workers, saving $1.1 billion as it tries to emerge from court protection amid falling vehicle sales.
So, it has become a duty to remove the employees from the ranks of the insured:
Delphi’s bankruptcy lenders “have made it very clear that the company has a fiduciary duty to terminate the benefits,” Delphi’s lawyer, John Butler Jr., told the judge. “They simply will not support having discretionary liabilities of this magnitude on the reorganized balance sheet.”
I hope that Delphi's employees and retirees don't have the chutzpah to be angry about this, their duty is to shut up and to shovel money at AIG in their role of taxpayers. That's what we call freedom.
(h/t cryptogon)