Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Top Republican Myths about the Crotch Bomber Affair"

When Juan Cole speaks, 'ex cathedra' as it were, I find myself paying attention.

I hear these on tv or from Reps. Pete Hoekstra and Peter King and Sen. Joe Lieberman.

1. President Obama did not speak publicly swiftly enough. In fact, Bush was silent for 9 days after the shoe bomber attack in 2001.

2. Bush would have tried Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant. Well, he tried Richard Reid the shoe bomber in civilian courts.

3. Yemen is the issue. In fact, Yemen's government is actively bombing al-Qaeda cells, and complains that the US never shared its info on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with Sanaa.

4. A US war on al-Qaeda in Yemen is next. This way of thinking is foolish. Yemen is not a cake walk, folks

Col. Pat Lang, former Defense Intelligence Agrency head for the Middle East, is an old Yemen hand and delivers a blunt warning against the US getting militarily involved there.

I have been to Yemen twice, before and after unification, and have traveled outside Sanaa. I've spoken publicly in Arabic in front of big audiences and interacted with Zaidis, Salafis, Sufis. It is an extremely complicated society with multiple ecological zones. It is an arid, tribal (segmentary-lineage) system. Most of the scholars I know who work on Yemen have been kidnapped by tribes or thrown in jail by the government at least once. People are either Arab nationalists or Muslim ones. They have very little use for outsiders. If the US tried to establish a big presence there, they would make the Iraqi resistance look half-hearted and weak-kneed.

Anybody who thinks they are going to dominate this has another think coming:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Crony Capitalism, Redux

Via The Real News Network, an interview with
Dr. Robert A. Johnson currently serves on the United Nations Commission of Experts on International Monetary Reform under the Chairmanship of Joseph Stiglitz. He is also the Director of Economic Policy for the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI) in New York. Dr. Johnson was previously a managing director at Soros Fund Management where he managed a global currency, bond and equity portfolio specializing in emerging markets. Prior to that time, Dr. Johnson was a managing director of Bankers Trust Company managing a global currency fund. He also served as Chief Economist of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee under the leadership of Chairman William Proxmire (D. Wisconsin) and before that, he was Senior Economist of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee under the leadership of Chairman Pete Domenici (R. New Mexico).


Nothing has changed in legislation, regulation, and that's very haunting. Many, many people now can see that the House bill that was just passed by Barney Frank's committee is really not up to the task. If you say to yourself, "Does Goldman Sachs still get to engage in proprietary trading with government guarantees?" the answer's "yes" under the new legislation. Could the collapse of AIG, where the credit default swap market collapsed, happen again if this bill were law? The answer is probably yes. Will the next Treasury secretary, like Henry Paulson was last fall, be able under new legislation to engage in crony capitalism, where it can hand out bailouts at his discretion, or does he have to follow rules? The current House bill does not make them follow strict rules that will penalize the bankers. I don't think that this is as much a failing of intellect as it is a failure of will, given the role of money in politics and given the power of the financial sector's money in lobbying.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Terror! The TERROR!!!!

On his 538blog, Nate Silver does what he does best: crunch numbers. The results are instructive:

Not going to do any editorializing here; just going to do some non-fancy math. James Joyner asks:
There have been precisely three attempts over the last eight years to commit acts of terrorism aboard commercial aircraft. All of them clownishly inept and easily thwarted by the passengers. How many tens of thousands of flights have been incident free?
Let's expand Joyner's scope out to the past decade. Over the past decade, there have been, by my count, six attempted terrorist incidents on board a commercial airliner than landed in or departed from the United States: the four planes that were hijacked on 9/11, the shoe bomber incident in December 2001, and the NWA flight 253 incident on Christmas.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics provides a wealth of statistical information on air traffic. For this exercise, I will look at both domestic flights within the US, and international flights whose origin or destination was within the United States. I will not look at flights that transported cargo and crew only. I will look at flights spanning the decade from October 1999 through September 2009 inclusive (the BTS does not yet have data available for the past couple of months).

Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.

These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 mles flown. This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune.

Assuming an average airborne speed of 425 miles per hour, these airplanes were aloft for a total of 163,331,261 hours. Therefore, there has been one terrorist incident per 27,221,877 hours airborne. This can also be expressed as one incident per 1,134,245 days airborne, or one incident per 3,105 years airborne.

There were a total of 674 passengers, not counting crew or the terrorists themselves, on the flights on which these incidents occurred. By contrast, there have been 7,015,630,000 passenger enplanements over the past decade. Therefore, the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

Again, no editorializing (for now). These are just the numbers.
There is no doubt in my mind that this 'event' will be used to tighten the screws on ALL travellers, though it is going to be significantly harder on more darkly complexioned people with "furriner names, botyh to get on airliners and to avoid the stares and fears of their fellow travelers...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tia Torrez, Diva of Pit-bull Rescuers, on "Ellen"

Normally, I'd put this on W,D&W, but I think this page gets more hits:

Pit-bulls & Parolees is a fabulous program...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Bushevik Decade: It WAS "the worst of times..."

Via Juan Cole's Informed Comment, an assessment of the WORST 10 features of the Bushevik years.
By spring of 2000, Texas governor George W. Bush was wrapping up the Republican nomination for president, and he went on to dominate the rest of the decade. If Dickens proclaimed of the 1790s revolutionary era in France that it was the best of times and the worst of times, the reactionary Bush era was just the worst of times. I declare it the decade of the American oligarchs. Just as the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union allowed the emergence of a class of lawless 'Oligarchs' in Russia, so Neoliberal tax policies and deregulation produced American equivalents. (For more on the analogy, see Michael Hudson.)

We have always had robber barons in American politics, but the Neoliberal moment created a new social class. At about 1.3 million adults, it is not too large to have some cohesive interests, and its corporations, lobbyists, and other institutions allow it to intervene systematically in politics. It owns 45 percent of the privately held wealth and is heading toward 50, i.e. toward a Banana Republic.

Thus, we have a gutted fairness doctrine and the end of anti-trust concerns in ownership of mass media, allowing a multi-billionaire like Rupert Murdoch to buy up major media properties and to establish a cable television channel which is nothing but oligarch propaganda. They established 'think tanks' like the American Enterprise Institute, which hires only staff that are useful agents of the interests of the very wealthy, and which produce studies denying global climate change or lying about the situation in Iraq. Bush-Cheney were not simply purveyors of wrong-headed ideas. They were the agents of the one percent, and their policies make perfect sense if seen as attempts to advance the interests of this narrow class of persons.It is the class that owns our mass media, that pays for the political campaigns of 'our' (their) representatives, that gives us the Bushes and Cheneys and Palins because they are useful to them, and that blocks progressive reform and legislation with the vast war chest funneled to them by deep tax cuts that allow them to use essential public resources, infrastructure and facilities gratis while making the middle class pay for them.

Here are my picks for the top ten worst things about the wretched period, which, however, will continue to follow us until the economy is re-regulated, anti-trust concerns again pursued, a new, tweaked fairness doctrine is implemented, and we return to a more normal distribution of wealth (surely a quarter of the privately held wealth is enough for the one percent?) It isn't about which party is in power; parties can always be bought. It is about how broadly shared resources are in a society. Egalitarianism is unworkable, but over-concentration of wealth is also impractical. The latter produced a lot of our problems in the past decade, and as long as such massive inequality persists, our politics will be lopsided.

I'll merely list the ten headings here. Go to the site for the details:
10: Stagnating worker wages and the emergence of a new monied aristocracy.
9. The USAs unhealthy healthcare system: Health and food insecurity increased for ordinary Americans...
8. The environment became more polluted.
7. The imperial presidency was ensconced in ways it will be difficult to pare back
6. The Katrina flood and the destruction of much of historic African-American New Orleans, and the massive failure of the Bush administration to come to the aid of one of America's great cities.
5. The Bush administration's post-2002 mishandling of Afghanistan, where the Taliban had been overthrown successfully in 2001 and were universally despised.
4. The Iraq War, which the US illegally launched a war of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, displaced 4 million (over as million abroad), destroyed entire cities such as Fallujah, set off a Sunni-Shiite civil war, allowed Baghdad to be ethnically cleansed of its Sunnis, practiced systematic and widespread torture before the eyes of the Muslim Middle East and the world, and immeasurably strengthened Iran's hand in the Middle East...The cost of the Iraq War when everything is taken into account will likely be $3 trillion.
3. The great $12 trillion Bank Robberry, in which unscrupulous bankers and financiers were deregulated and given free rein to create worthless derivatives, sell impossible mortgages to uninformed marks who could not understand their complicated terms, and then to roll this garbage up into securities re-sold like the Cheshire cat, with a big visible smile of asserted value hanging in the air even as their actual worth disappeared into thin air.
2. The September 11 attacks on New York and Washington by al-Qaeda, an organization that stemmed from the Reagan administration's anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s and which decided that, having defeated one superpower, it could take down the other.

And the grand-daddy of 'em ALL:
1. The constitutional coup of 2000, in which Bush was declared the winner of an election he had lost, with the deployment of the most ugly racial and other low tricks in the ballot counting and the intervention of a partisan and far right-wing Supreme Court (itself drawn from or serving the oligarchs), and which gave us the worst president in the history of the union, who proceeded to drive the country off a cliff for the succeeding 8 years. And that is because he was not our president, but theirs.
So endeth the lesson for today. Itae, missa est.

You are of course free to concoct your own list, and actual results may vary...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Late to the Ball: Jane Hamscher Sees the Light

FDL (finally) gets "off the schneid, sending a mass-mailing to "members":
The Senate's health care bill must be killed.

It is an ungodly mess of errors, loopholes, and massive giveaways. When the American people find out what's actually in this bill, they will revolt. Congress and President Obama have no choice but to do better for health care than this bill.

How bad is the bill?
  1. Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations -- whether you want to or not
  2. If you refuse to buy the insurance, you'll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS
  3. After being forced to pay thousands in premiums for junk insurance, you can still be on the hook for up to $11,900 a year in out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  4. Massive restriction on a woman's right to choose, designed to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court
  5. Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-ays
  6. Many of the taxes to pay for the bill start now, but most Americans won't see any benefits -- like an end to discrimination against those with preexisting conditions -- until 2014 when the program begins.
  7. Allows insurance companies to charge people who are older 300% more than others
  8. Grants monopolies to to drug companies that will keep generic versions of expensive biotech drugs from ever coming to market.
  9. No reimportation of prescription drugs, which would save consumers $100 billion over 10 years
  10. The cost of medical care will continue to rise, and insurance premiums for a family of 4 will rise an average of $1000 a year -- meaning in 10 years, you family's insurance premium will be $10,000 more annually than it is right now.
There's the obligatory petition. Sign it, if it will make you feel better; it won't do anything MORE than that, of course. As a salve to your rage/conscience, and absent pitchforks, burning brands, and tar & feathers, it's a (pathetic) substitute...

(I note with interest that I am still on the mailing list, even though I was ostracized on the blog. Go figger, huh?)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Just Shut Up For Now! Quit Bitching! We'll Fix It Later!"

The So-Called "Health Care Reform" Bill Was ALWAYS
Going to Be the SHITTIEST Possible "Compromise."

And whatever else happens, that is what we are going to end up with: the shittiest possible compromise. There is going to be a bill, let there be no doubt about that, so abandon hope that they'll just get disgusted, pack the whole thing in, and start over with Medicare for all. Nagahapun. We are going to get a shitty bill.

But we are also getting, if not the explicit promise, at least the rhetorical reassurance that, as bad as this bill may be, Congress can always (and assuredly WILL) come back to it and repair the more egregious faults "later." So, they tell us, accept this "piece of shit" bill as evidence of our good faith, and as a token of our earnest intention to further address this vital issue, they say. No, it doesn't have everything everybody wanted, right now. That was unpossible; but we can fix it. Later.

Which is fine. With one caveat: If we are to accept these assurances and reassurances, isn't it impingent upon those counseling that we be satisfied and await the return of the wheel, to answer one simple question:
Since the onset of the Raygun era, please name ONE major piece of social legislation which passed Congress under the caveat/promise that Congress would return to it, and "improve" it, but which just HAD to be passed in the shitty condition in which it was passed and signed, to which the Congress then later returned to "improve" it for the people?

One which SHOULD have been revisited and which at the time the Dims said they WOULD revisit, when they had the Congress back--but which wasn't, afaik--was the Bankruptcy Bill of '06, with which the Obamanable Sno-Job played all tricksy with his votes voting for cloture, against the bill on the floor. But there are others: NCLB, DOMA/DADT, FISA, PATRIOT, Clinton's Communications' Act of '96, the punitive "End-Of-Welfare," Partial Birth Abortions, etc...

It seems to me that folks who counsel quietude in the face of this catastrophic clusterfuck that this bill embodies, imploring taht because this is only the first step we should not oppose it, and that it will be revisited and improved, to provide relevant, contemporary examples of cases in which a truly shitty bill, being passed and signed, was later revisited and "improved--made more fair, more just--since the Bidness coup de etat in '80.

As Chris Floyd noted a couple of weeks ago, in this debate, one side is lying and the other side isn't telling the truth. The liars are the ones complaining that this health insurance reform initiative is equivalent to capitulation to Moscow and the assault on the Ancien Regime, while others are pretending it isn't a massive give-away to the CorpoRat State, with few or no restraints upon the private industry to maintain competition or hold down costs.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


HUELGAMOS, todos y general!!!!!!!!!!

Realy! If you wanna change things, we need to organize, and organize around a specific act. So let's organize a nation-wide general STRIKE. There is no other act available to a civic population to bring about the halt to objectionable State policies and practices.

That is, for 24 hours, nothing moves, except vital emergency/life-saving equipment. The disaffected populace then uses the ensuing chaos to leverage our/its democratic demands.

Yes, it would likely be met with violence from the operatives of the corpoRat State. Yes, likely there'd be some blood spilled, though the strikers needn't be the ones instigating it. The Bosses' bullies can be relied upon to shoot first. They ALWAYS do. As Emma Goldman said, there is no change without revolution; and revolutions need heroes and martyrs.

Unfortunately, the mere act of organizing such an act of national civil disobedience--and probably my mere suggestion of it here, advocating for it--could (and obviously WOULD) be prosecuted as "terrorism" under the PATRIOT ACT, which defines organized anti-commercial interference or activity such as a general strike as a "terrorist act."

No, Really!

By the way: Who now remembers the Obamanable One's pledge to "reform" the PATRIOT ACT? It was part of the pledges to provide more openness and transparency in the GWOT, or whatever the fuck it's being called now...Din't happen. Didja notice?

Don't you remember?

Well, you're not supposed to, actually...HEY! Look, over there, it's TIGER WOODS!!!!!!

And one supposes it could be worse: Obama might have meant to reform the Patriot Act like he's 'reforming' health insurance.

But then we're totally fucked, anyway.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blackwater Is Some Dirty, Dirty Shit

In the RV community, they distinguish when flushing their tanks between gray and black water. Gray water is contaminated with soap, or other organic waste from the sink. Blackwater is contaminated with shit. It seems a prophetic name.

Terry Gross interviews Jeremy Scahill on the latest revelations about Eric Prince and Blackwater/Xe/United Training Corp, the mercenary army founded by a man who is regarded even within his own organization as a messianic, 'christian fundamentalist crusader," who is implicated in crimes including murder with respect to his involvement with the US aggression in Iraq and the rest of Central Asia. You need to listen to the interview, which will be on-line this afternoon (Dec. 16) after 5pm. He's got a lead article in The Nation, this week, too. He charges that Prince is "gray-mailing" the Obamanabler:

In the article, Prince is revealed not just as owner of a company that covertly provided contractors to the CIA for drone bombings and targeted assassinations, but as an actual CIA asset himself. While the story appears to be simply a profile of Prince, it might actually be the world's most famous mercenary's insurance policy against future criminal prosecution. The term of art for what Prince appears to be doing in the VF interview is graymail: a legal tactic that has been used for years by intelligence operatives or assets who are facing prosecution or fear they soon will be. In short, these operatives or assets threaten to reveal details of sensitive or classified operations in order to ward off indictments or criminal charges, based on the belief that the government would not want these details revealed. "The only reason Prince would do this [interview] is that he feels he is in very serious jeopardy of criminal charges," says Scott Horton, a prominent national security and military law expert. "He absolutely would not do these things otherwise."

If he's right, Jeremy Scahill probably should NOT utilize "general aviation" until Eric Prince is either dead or in prison. Blackwater is America's largest private Army, what anywhere else would be recognized and understood as a "para-military, private militia." Is anyone in the Obamanabler outfit trying to STOP this?

Yeah, right. This was Jeremy Scahill talking about the subject on Democracy Now, in August, this year.

This is an earlier example.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dept. Of N-CHEAT*: Rich Countries Hijack Global Enviro-Crisis Conference

*N-CHEAT: "Nobody Could Have Ever Anticipated That." Chris Floyd declaims on the approaching global "Boiling Point": how the US, Britain, and other 'developed countries are planning to impose their will on the matter of what's acceptible to combat global chimate change on the Copenhagen Climate Conference next week, when the Obamanable Snow-job Man, and Gordon Brown storm into the international klieg lights to close the summit. This sounds familiar, nest, paw?:
The Copenhagen talks have become captive of what we might call the "Reform Syndrome"; i.e., the absolute, urgent imperative to put together a crappy deal that gorges the rich and hobbles the poor in egregious ways -- but which can be palmed off on a compliant media and a diverted public as some kind of "reform." The important thing is that an illusion of positive action be created -- while the same-old same-old keeps grinding on behind the scenes.

This scenario has been playing out in the most crude and brazen fashion during the "debate" over health care "reform" in the United States, which has seen a "progressive" administration literally sell its "reform" agenda to the very corporate interests that are the ostensible target of the reforms, allowing them, again literally, to write most of the "reform" legislation themselves.

And this has been the modus operandi of most of the international climate change efforts, which have seen no appreciable reduction in the pollution that is driving the destabilization of the planet -- but has seen the creation of vast new "carbon trading" markets an other speculative ventures for the rich and powerful to feast upon.
Floyd has a disconcerting way of connecting dots in patterns that do not earn him much esteem in the way of fans of the status quo. To round out this argument, he links the global Rulers' indifference to resolving climate change with a similar indifference to the suffering of Palestinians under the Israeli thumb in Gaza, and the escalation of the war in AfPak-ville, and concludes:

Yes, who could possibly have foreseen that the avatars of such a system would seek to exploit the growing anxiety over climate change to augment their own dominance? Whatever happens to the planet -- or to the Iraqis, or to the Afghans, or to the millions of people going down in the flood of financial flim-flam and health care "reform" scams -- the elites will remain as they are now: well-wadded, well-protected, and well-connected in their fortified enclaves of privilege and power.

To paraphrase John Ging: We are running out of words to describe how bad it is around here.
At the risk of redundancy, Floyd (and a soul-mate, Arthur Silber) keep the words coming, however. And good on 'em. Cuz words are the only universal solvent...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Somebody Needs To Put A Pointy-Toed, Shit-Encrusted, Corral-soaked Nakona Up Harry Reid's Ass, Forcefully!

Jane Hamsher (FDL) has finally come to her senses, and recognized that "they're determined to fuck us."

No, Really!

Harry Reid Slips Lifetime Limit Into Senate Bill
By: Jane Hamsher Friday December 11, 2009 8:34 am
When President Obama gave his speech on health care on September 10, he promised that there would be no limit on lifetime benefits under the health care bill:
They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick.
(Apparently he either was flat-out lying like a limp sack of runny shit, or hadn't checked in with his official Health Insurance Parasite. I dunno which would be worse--W)

Harry Reid didn’t agree evidently. Reid, who is solely responsible for crafting the bill that he introduced in the Senate, decided that there should be a limit on lifetime benefits. So when people get sick and have huge bills for things like biologic drugs that cost $50,000 or $100,000 a year, whose bills could become “unreasonable” because Congress is granting drug manufacturers “indefinite monopolies” (per Henry Waxman) that prevent generics from coming to market to compete with them, Harry Reid thinks they should eventually be cut off:
A loophole in the Senate health care bill would let insurers place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses such as cancer, prompting a rebuke from patient advocates. (That boot to which I allude above? Got any cowboys with cancer out there?--W)

The legislation that originally passed the Senate health committee last summer would have banned such limits, but a tweak to that provision weakened it in the bill now moving toward a Senate vote.

As currently written, the Senate Democratic health care bill would permit insurance companies to place annual limits on the dollar value of medical care, as long as those limits are not “unreasonable.” The bill does not define what level of limits would be allowable, delegating that task to administration officials.

Adding to the puzzle, the new language was quietly tucked away in a clause in the bill still captioned “No lifetime or annual limits.”
People are asking who put this in the bill. The only person who could put this in the bill is Harry Reid. As Majority Leader, Reid alone is responsible for combining the bills that came from the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate HELP Committee into the bill that went to the floor of the Senate. But neither of those bills had a lifetime limit on benefits. That was manufactured solely by Reid–in violation of the promise made repeatedly by President Obama.

Reid is also manipulating procedure to keep the Dorgan drug reimportation amendment, which would save both the government and consumers hundreds of millions of dollars, from coming to a vote.

Notice that Reid never uses the powers he has against Joe Lieberman.

I wonder why...
I imagine he's under orders from on high. Remember Holy Joe was the Obamanable O-man's "mentor" in the Senate.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

For The Sake Of The Energizer Bunny, Ivo Must GO

At 4,085 square miles, Salar de Uyuni in Southwest Bolivia is the world's largest salt flat. Those salts contain large amounts of sodium, potassium, magnesium and lithium, and these days, it's the last element on that list that is attracting attention. According to the USGS, Bolivia has 35% of the world's lithium resources, and since in the coming years, electric cars and plug-in hybrids that use lithium-ion batteries are expected to greatly increase in numbers, this could mean big changes for Bolivia, South-America's poorest country. The photo below was made there.

For some time I have wondered why the US Govt has conceived such an animus against Ivo Morales, the indigenous (non-Hispano) former coca-grower who was the first indigenous leader ever elected to the presidency of Bolivia some years ago. THis occurred much to the chagrin of the hemispheric oligarchs. And this alone was enough to put a target on his back; there have been hints of thwarted coups and other events aimed at removing Morales from office. During his tenure, Busheviks went so far as to offer US aid to the land-owners and colonial barons of the Bolivian altiplano if they would rise against Morales. And Obama has not let up the pressure.

But other than the "usuall" mortal animus borne by Washington toward ANY even remotely leftish leader ANYWHERE in its self-claimed direct (hemi)sphere of influence, I had not figured out why Morales was the subject of such strenuous efforts to unseat him. He hasn't provoked Washington at all like, say, Chavez did and still does. What gives, I asked myself?

Now I know.


Bolivia owns the largest natural store of lithium in the world. Lithium has become the basis for the de facto tachnology ofr the battery-driven society. In Bolivia, there is enough lithium for 4.8 BILLION electric cars.

And suddenly it became clear why the last two USer regimes were so eager to teplace the populist Morales.

If they failed, the vast wealth accruing from this unlikely but plentiful resource might actually redound to the benefit and prosperity of the Bolivian people--descendants of the Maya which were obliterated 500 years ago by the Spaniards in their ruthless pursuit of the riches of the Americas. They bashed children's heads against trees and tossed babies to their dogs--onstead of to the bank accounts of the dominant euro-american elite. And THAT would NEVER do. If any of those ancient injustices were allowed to be redeemed, such a thing could spread, dangerously.

So, Ivo Must Go.

And were I he, I would utterly eschew the services of small, privately owned aircraft, since there appears to be an engeineering anomaly peculiar to such planes, in that they often blow up and crash when occupied by the targeted leader...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Of Peace Prizes and War-fare, and Their Dubious Congruity

It is just the least bit incongruous, to me, anyway, that the most recent recipient of the international prize honoring the foremost peacemaker in the world would--just the other night, on the very eve of his sojourn to accept his prize, and further to enjoin the world to more comity on combating global climate change--not only NOT reduce the USer commitment to war in Afghanistan, but actually committed 30 THOUSAND more soldiers to be sent into a war that is neither necessary nor, in any rational sense, winnable.

But then it would seem equally incongruous that such a peace-maker would be worried about ‘winning’ any war, wouldn’t it?

At all events, the fatal mistake--the miscalculation--is that Karzai cannot rule a unified country, because the country will not unify with him in power. But, in order for Obama's "policy" to even look remotely plausible, he has to pretend that there is a reliable central government in Afghanistan. But Obama's "required" by the "logic" of the "discourse" he's conducting--Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of a world power--to regard Karzai as the legitimate ruler of an equally sovereign State, because his 'strategy' requires within a given--albeit "flexible"--time period, turning over authority, in the form of a 200,000-man army and a police force twice that size, to a Central Government in Kabul: Karzai's government, which was just fraudulently returned to power.

Which, one might legitimately suspect, even the 'lowly villagers' in Afghanistan probably know is a recipe for totalitarianism as bad as or worse than that which they experienced under the Taliban. Maybe a dictatorial kleptocracy IS worse than a putatively egalitarian theocracy. In any case, civil war is almost inevitable there, and Obama--instead of backing away from it--committed us to be, once again, on the wrong side of history.

Afghanistan is riven by ethnic rivalries and animosities. The Taliban is Pashto, who comprise about 40-45% of the population. Not only that, but the Taliban comprise the ruling theocratic hierarchy of the Pashto people, who are uncompromising adversaries of the Tajik/Usbek "northern alliance," and will never, ever accede to the puppet Karzai's nepotistic narco-kleptocracy. By attacking the Taliban, and allying with the US, Karzai is alienating his tribal base (such as it was/is), and he doesn't have many friends in the north, either...He's relying on US support to keep him alive until the army and the police are "trained."

So much for Obama's Afghanistan policy. Even his militarist supporters were today (Sunday) admitting no significant decline in the Murkin boot-print for between three and five MORE years, minimum.

Obama's domestic policies are equally suspect, if not wholly corrupt:
  • His education policy, under Kommandant Arne Duncan, is pure, test-driven, militaristic corporatism and charter schools where the rules can be suspended.
  • He's not even trying to rein in the Wall Street banksters, who have ALREADY begun to spin the next bubbles; he has not re-engineered any separation between commercial and investment banks; indeed, if anything, he's made them MORE intertwined.
  • Don't even get me started on the gigantic, epochal, astonishingly vulgar and felonious corpoRat clusterfuck that is the "health-care-reform" effort. When the final vote comes, in January, after the SoTU (so the fucktards and the Pukes can smirk about it) it will not be ANY different than if it had been held a year earlier.
  • He's not given any indication he'll try to block the NBC/Comcast merger, so he's not gonna use the FCC to block further media monopolism "consolidation."
  • He's still pursuing Bushevik challenges to laws and regulations of dubious constitutionality to begin with into the Supreme Court.
And now, he's gonna put another 30K poor, dumb-fuck GIs in harm's way in Central Asia, entirely at the behest of the Military/Industrial complex.

Yeah, he says they're temporary. But the Obamanauts on Sunday tv were at pains to say the "promise" was "flexible."

So here's how it'll work out: He puts in another 30k, and "PROMISES" (cross his sincere, little heart) he's gonna withdraw 'em in 2011.., well actually, he doesn't even say "withdraw." He says "begin to withdraw." So 2011 rols around and to redeem the "promise" he withdraws a couple of companies or a battalion. Promise kept.

Slicker even than the Clenis, imho. Cuz he could withdraw even just a coupla companies and accomodate the "LETTER" of his promise.

In "speech act theory," you can lie by implicature, and this fucker's a past master of the art...

What will it take to disabuse the faithful of the fanciful notion that their Mocha Messiah is NOT just another supplicant kneeling at the zipper of the Oiligarchs/Owners for his chance to give FELLATORY satisfaction and receive the rewards for loyal service (see, e.g., the CLENIS' disporting himself extravagantly in the company of GHWB, and the Oligarchs).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is It Only Me Who Recalls "thePrez" Saying He'd "Restore" the Constitution ?

I ask because I think I distinctly recall that one of the reasons to elect him was to "restore" the Constitution. I am pretty sure he said he'd "do something" about the most egregiously intrusive aspects of the PATRIOT ACT, too.

But I am (suddenly) not sure.

Because it is now becoming part of the Obamass liturgy that he never promised nuttin!. Now I know Obama ran the most cautious, carefullest, closest, most non-committal campaign EVAR! It was all just wishful projection, according to doting acolytes. (And even if he did, he's only been in office 10 mos and yadda yadda yadda...)

So it is possible I only projected what I wanted to hear from him, and that he never said anything at all that would or should have led me, or anyone else, to actually believe he really meant to actually undo or repair the damages from the Busheviks' rape of the Constitution, and/or to repeal or rescind--or at least rewrite-- the worst parts of the PATRIOT ACT...But I am pretty sure he did actually "say" something about it. And it sounded a LOT like a 'promise.'

And if he did, it seems like this would be a good--and EASY--place to start to redeem a promise. Because he could do SOMETHING, in this case, buy doing abso-fucking-lutely NOTHING.

All they'd have to do is let the Appellate decision stand.

But, sadly, no. The fascist futhermuckers are going ahead to get the SCROTUS to uphold the challenged parts of the law. Which illustrates nothing to me so much as the truth of the wisdom: They're all on the same side, and it's not where WE are...

Via Project for the Old Ameican Century/White Rose Society blog, consider

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging a law that treats human rights advocates as criminal terrorists, and threatens them with 15 years in prison for advocating nonviolent means to resolve disputes.

The case is known as Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, and is the first case to challenge a portion of the Patriot Act before the Supreme Court. The case, originally brought in 1998, challenges the constitutionality of the law that makes it a crime to provide “material support” to groups the administration has designated as “terrorist.”

The plaintiffs, led by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), charge that the law goes too far in making speech advocating lawful, nonviolent activity a crime. The lower courts have unanimously declared several provisions of the law – including one added by the Patriot Act – unconstitutionally vague because they encompass speech and force citizens to guess as to their meaning.

The case challenges those aspects of the “material support” statute that criminalize pure speech – specifically the prohibitions on providing “training,” “personnel,” “expert advice or assistance,” and “service.” Under the law, any speech that falls within these terms – no matter how peaceable and nonviolent – is a crime if communicated to, for, or with the collaboration of any organization placed on a list of “foreign terrorist organizations” maintained by the State Department.
Among its most outspoken critics is Chip Pitts, president of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He told us, “In the eight years since passage of the original Patriot Act, it’s become clear that the escalating political competition to appear tough on terror — and avoid being accused of being “soft on terror” — brings perceived electoral benefits with few costs, with vital but fragile civil liberties being easily sacrificed.”

He added, “President Obama’s flip-flop on Patriot Act issues does as much damage as did his flip-flop on the FISA Amendments Act and telecom immunity last year. But it’s imperative that we fight, while we still can, to comprehensively reinsert requirements for fact-based, individualized suspicion, checks and balances, and meaningful judicial review prior to government intrusions.”
I will here stipulate that I am NOT a Constitutional Law professor, and neither am I a SCROTUS scholar. Still, it does seem to me that, if "thePrez" and his AG were actually sincere in their alleged, tentatively, faintly suggested possibility of a desire to actually revoke some of the most egregious bullshit of the PATRIOT ACT, and not just blowing the usual shit out their asses and calling it gravy, they have a simple expedient in this case: Don't fucking appeal the fucking appellate fucking decision, you fucking asswipes!!

Done! It's that fucking simple.

But of course that ain't gonna happen, because no president, especially one on such already shaky grounds (he's a one-termer, the designated "Negro" scape-goat for all the GOPukes' sins of the last 50 years since Nixon), ever wants to surrender tools he can use to cover his own ass, or abet his own designs...


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You Thought I Was Pessimistic? Here's Pessimistic!

I claim Fair Use, and present the whole, brilliant, depressing thing (Emphases supplied--#W). And consider, as you read this, George Monbiot's eloquent query last night, at the climate change debate with those fuuking tools Sir Nigel Hogwash, and Eric "We'll Adapt!" Lindborn: "Are you feeling lucky, punk?" Cuz any outcome other than the very-best-case scenario is, from this point on, unimaginably bad...
Blowing hot air won't halt global warming
Tuesday 01 December 2009 Jim Jepps
You may be aware that the fate of every subsequent generation of human life is being decided in Copenhagen over the next couple of weeks. (Pretty much all life on earth as we know it, actually, nest paw?--W)

As a news story, many media outlets have decided this isn't quite exciting enough to hold your attention so they've tried to spice it all up a bit.

We're told in worried tones that the BNP's climate change denier-in-chief Nick Griffin will be attending. We're not told that he will neither be allowed to speak, vote or influence discussions in any way whatsoever - best not spoil a good scare story.

We are asked to speculate on whether President Barack Obama has a spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye when speaking about the international climate summit.

Does the destiny of the world hang on whether (Obama) has a headache on the crucial day?

This focus on political celebrities rather than concrete proposals has more to do with Hello (think People--W) magazine than news. Conjecture about whether there will be a binding agreement rarely goes beyond the personalities of the great and the good.

Just how binding are binding agreements anyway? Sadly, if we look at the recent past it seems that the best we can hope for is a piece of paper that gets reassuring headlines and then is forgotten.

In 1997 various governments got together and set out the Kyoto Protocol which, simply speaking, was an agreement to cut their levels of emissions by the year 2012.

Even leaving aside the fact that the world's leading polluter (That would be US--W) had chosen not be part of the agreement, the actual results of Kyoto are pretty flimsy. Precious few of the nations who put their name to the protocol are even close to meeting their targets and those who don't won't face any consequences.

At least the consequences they face will be the ones we all end up living with.

In Bonn in 2001 at a similar summit, Western nations agreed to pay $410 million (£247.7m) a year towards a global fund for "climate change adaption" in the developing world.

Even this paltry sum, which fell far short of the chair's recommendation of $1 billion a year, was nevertheless seen as a step forwards.

When the BBC's World Service investigated the two UN accounts that had been set up to hold and distribute this money they found something extremely disturbing.

By 2009 there should have been a minimum of $2.9 bn (£1.75bn) deposited into these accounts, but in fact less than a tenth of that amount had been paid up.

When investigating why just $260m (£157m) - less than a year's commitment - had been paid, it turned out that no-one had read the small print.

In fact the governments concerned had simply written this money off against aid that they were going to pay for anyway - aid that came with strings attached as part of those nations' foreign-policy agendas.

The calculated ambiguity of the agreement allowed rich governments to pay lip service to combating climate change and helping the developing world while in fact continuing with big business as usual.

This means we have a situation where even small commitments are not subject to any tracking or scrutiny and certainly no democratic control.

In 2007 at the G8, the major industrialised nations agreed to halve their CO2 emissions by 2050, a long-term goal requiring current governments to do absolutely nothing in the pretence that others will meet their commitments for them.

Of course, the G8 were the ones who said they were going to make poverty history. I wonder how that's going? The millennium development goals were simply thrown out the window the moment the economic situation changed. These commitments mean next to nothing and yet we're asked to hang our hopes on them because there is precious little else to cling on to.

Expecting major polluters to sort out the climate is like putting hooligans in charge of your neighbourhood watch. You're worse off than if you had nothing at all because you're handing over responsibility to those with no interest in changing the current system.

The basic injustice, that those who have contributed least to climate change - the poor - will be those most vulnerable to its effects and forced to go begging to those nations who have created this situation, is something that we tolerate because we feel there is no alternative.

There will be a number of delegations from indigenous peoples from across the world at Copenhagen.

They are coming to show the richest that they exist, and that our behaviour intimately affects their habitats and livelihoods. If their voices are heard it will be without sincerity. You need a pile of money to stand on in order to get their attention.

To a great extent, these conferences are distraction exercises where leaders come to smile at problems they have no intention of doing anything about.

Indeed, if they really wanted to address climate change they'd have to tackle a runaway economic system that they have no control over.

With the best will in the world we're unlikely to see any serious challenge to industry from our world leaders. The same system that has economically crippled nations in Africa and Latin America is not going to suddenly be their salvation.

A treaty set out by the richest nations on Earth is unlikely to address the complex problems they are creating.

A pot of money for poorer nations so that they can cope with the destabilisation of the environment would have to deal with poverty, lack of infrastructure, conflict, floods and droughts, health, education and energy needs.

That isn't going to happen within our current economic framework.

More than this, the majority of action to curb carbon emissions has to happen where they are produced long before the direst effects of climate change are felt. There's no use giving money to the international poor and telling them to clear up our mess.

Nor is there any point in thinking we can just wait until we're feeling the direct effects of climate change before addressing the problem.

We've seen for ourselves recently in Cumbria (Think "New Orleans, Autumn, 2005", for a a likely metaphor--W) how even a developed nation can be brought to a standstill by flooding. If we multiply this event by 10 and place it in a poor nation, what treaty is going to deal with that?

The facts are that the overwhelming number of commitments made at these summits are never kept and those that are, are simply too little too late.

The action we need has to be global, it needs to challenge our economic system and it needs to come from below.

If we're ever to develop that ethical foreign policy we once talked about, we simply cannot leave it up to summits of world leaders to wave around meaningless pieces of paper.
The fate of the world is too precious to be left to these clowns, but since it is probably too late now to actually do enough to forestall disaster, what can another meeting hurt?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Remember "The October Surprise?"

It was widely bruited about--mostly "unofficially"; in fact strenuously denied--in the aftermath of the release of the USer hostages in Iran on the very day of Raygun's inauguration in Jan., '81, that Raygun's owners/managers had committed treason "negotiated behind the scenes" with the Iranian mullahs to deny then-President Jimmy Carter the opportunity of a propaganda coup of an "October surprise" and potentially swing the election by gaining the hostages' release himself.*

The ill-fated 'arms-for-hostages' imbroglios which eventually tainted the last two years of the Raygun regime is symptomatic of the quids-pro-quo extracted by the mullahs for their cooperation. But direct evidence of the complicity (in actual treason) of two highly placed CIA operatives--GHW Bush and Bill Casey--in the negotiations with the Iranians has not been systematically gathered.

Until now.

Because the inordinately ambitious and extraordinarily skillful Robert Parry has published an exhaustively thorough, documented, and sourced summary of the events, personalities, and consequences of those events to which I intend this post to direct your attention:

Much of the controversy over the October Surprise mystery has centered on several alleged secret meetings in Europe between senior Republicans – including then-Reagan campaign chief William Casey and Reagan’s running mate George H.W. Bush – and Iranian officials, including senior cleric Mehdi Karrubi.

A variety of witnesses, including Iranian officials and international intelligence operatives, have described these contacts, which have been denied by Bush and other top Republicans.

Though official U.S. investigations have generally sided with the Republicans, a substantial body of evidence – much of it which has been kept hidden from the American people – actually supports the October Surprise allegations. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

In addition, other incriminating evidence was buried in the annex to the January 1993 report by the House October Surprise Task Force, including two letters, one from former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr to the task force in December 1992 and another, the translation of a 1980 letter from Iran’s then-acting foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh to Iran’s Majlis or parliament.

Bani-Sadr’s letter described the internal battles of the Iranian government over the Republican intervention in the 1980 hostage crisis. Bani-Sadr recounted how he threatened to expose the secret deal between Reagan-Bush campaign officials and Islamic radicals close to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini if it weren’t stopped.

Bani-Sadr said he first learned of the Republican “secret deal” with Iranian radicals in July 1980 after Reza Passendideh, a nephew of Ayatollah Khomeini, attended a meeting with Iranian financier Cyrus Hashemi and Republican lawyer Stanley Pottinger in Madrid on July 2, 1980.

Though Passendideh was expected to return with a proposal from the Carter administration, Bani-Sadr said Passendideh instead carried a plan “from the Reagan camp.”

“Passendideh told me that if I do not accept this proposal, they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my [radical Iranian] rivals. He further said that they [the Republicans] have enormous influence in the CIA,” Bani-Sadr wrote. “Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination.”

Bani-Sadr said he resisted the threats and sought an immediate release of the American hostages, but it was clear to him that the wily Khomeini was playing both sides of the U.S. political street.
Parry treats the history comprehensively and the politics with an appropriate amount of skepticism. This piece is a must-read if you are trying to understand the story of USer intervention in Central Asia.

*According to the US Code, conducting personal negotiations with international state entities in opposition to the elected Authority's own agenda, is cause for action as treasonous. LBJ had an opinion on it.