Thursday, October 27, 2011

U.S. Economy: Pulling growth out of their stinky butts

Everybody can take off early today and go out to celebrate the grand new economy. We'll soon be getting those raises we haven't seen in several years, and all those people who've been unemployed finally have something to look forward to:
U.S. Economy: Growth Accelerates as Consumers Spend More - Businessweek: "Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. economy grew in the third quarter at the fastest pace in a year as Americans reduced savings to boost purchases and companies stepped up investment in equipment and software.

Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 2.5 percent annual rate, up from 1.3 percent in the prior three months, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. Household purchases, the biggest part of the economy, increased at a 2.4 percent pace, more than forecast by economists."
As usual, we have this huge uptick in consumer spending, at the same time consumer sentiment is in the tank. And home sales are up, even though home prices went down over 4 percent. What the hell is going on here?

If the figures aren't fudged, what miracle explains these contradictory phenomena? The economy can't be riding the up and down escalators at the same time, yet these figures seem to suggest this is the case.

Euphoria is also ascribed to Europe supposedly solving its debt crisis. This was only done through a variety of dubious agreements that still must be put into effect with money the Europeans don't have. They talk about billions of Euros as if its nothing -- and perhaps it is nothing. Still, it's enough to make it appear, for the moment at least, that Europe at least has the will to solve its problems.

What's lacking is the way...

The US is also whistling past the graveyard. There is no plan to put people back to work. Government action on the economy is limited to trying to bolster up the TBTF banks, since the only interests that really count are those of the obscenely wealthy -- which depend primarily on their investments. Investors and stockholders, hedge fund managers, bankers -- they're the ones who pay for the political campaigns, so theirs are the voices that are heard.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse drank herself to death

I confess I've never heard any of Amy Winehouse's records -- even though I have been in rehab. I knew about the dissolute part of her persona from reading too many gossipy stories in the British press about her. She was no doubt a mess, so how surprised could one be reading about the coroner's verdict in her death:

Amy Winehouse died from too much alcohol: "Soul diva Amy Winehouse died with empty vodka bottles in her room and lethal amounts of alcohol in her blood - more than five times the drink driving limit.

British coroner Suzanne Greenaway gave a verdict of "death by misadventure", saying the singer died of accidental alcohol poisoning when she resumed drinking after weeks of abstinence.

"The unintended consequence of such potentially fatal levels (of alcohol) was her sudden and unexpected death," Greenaway said on Wednesday."

It's been fairly commonplace to make note that she passed at the age of 27, like many other musical legends of our times -- the 27 Club, it's called.

While that's a good point, her passing is most like that of Hank Williams, who drank himself to death in the back of a car on the way to a gig on New Year's Eve in 1953.

That would've been a hell of a duet.

US politicians growing impatient with OWS protests

Depending on where you look there's some coverage today of events in Oakland, CA and Atlanta last night, when OWS protesters were arrested. According to the conventional narrative being circulated in the corporate media today, mayors in cities with OWS protests are growing "impatient" with the demonstrations:
Atlanta, Oakland arrests show impatience with Occupy Wall Street - "More than two months after protesters launched the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, patience is wearing thin in some cities, including Atlanta and Oakland, where police have begun to crack down on local demonstrations against corporate greed and big financial institutions."
In the capital of spectacle, the USA, we grow tired of spectacles that last more than their allotted span of a couple of weeks. After that, they become a burdensome nuisance, straining city budgets for police overtime and associated expenses. It costs lots of money to suppress dissent -- and face it, in the land of the free, this kind of stuff isn't supposed to happen.

Well, that's wishful thinking at its best. Some thoughtful writers, like Glenn Greenwald, have finally started thinking about what's different this time, that's finally evoked a popular response that not only endures, but seems to be picking up steam as time goes on. In a sense, when it reaches a point like this, the authorities will feel obliged to come down hard on the protesters, lest things start getting out of hand.

Interestingly, when these mass protests began sweeping Tahrir Square in Cairo, nobody was talking about how unpleasant the smell of human excrement was, or how it interfered with business. Sensitivities in the US must be more finely tuned than in underdeveloped countries, where it's expected that protesters take their grievances and bodily fluids home with them, and not annoy the tourists.

The government is gradually turning up pressure against the OWS demonstrators, hoping to discourage the protests from growing and spreading, One wonders how long it'll take before rubber bullets are replaced with real ones...

Lindsay Lohan naked for Playboy

We read with breathless anticipation the full report on what Lindsay Lohan will reveal in her upcoming Playboy mag debut:
Lindsay Lohan -- FULL FRONTAL Nude for Playboy | "Lindsay Lohan didn't wuss out for her Playboy shoot -- TMZ has learned, the actress will BARE ALL in her upcoming spread ... i.e. the holy trifecta ... or as one source close to Playboy put it, "boobs, ass, and vag."
As we previously reported, Lindsay recently locked down a nearly-million-dollar deal with PB for a full pictorial -- and yesterday, she finally wrapped her 4-day shoot."
The obvious question, at least from these quarters, is just what LL has that no other girl has got. Whatever it is, is it worth a cool $1 million. One would venture to say, NO! But then, what would you expect from a curmudgeon?

While the report in TMZ goes on to state that the model insisted the photos be "tastefully done," it would seem more important that the product reflect the standards of Ms. Lohan and the readers of Playboy -- which suggests the photos ought to be a lot less tasteful than what will appear on newsstands.

Cheap, tawdry, sensational -- these are the words that describe the Lohan phenomenon. Get her on all fours, barking like a dog, and that will be the consummate artistic statement by this self-indulgent puff-ball of insecurity.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Political risk consultancy: Money for nothing

Do people actually make money writing this stuff? Do they actually find paying customers for such obviousness?
FEATURE-With Gaddafi dead, Libyans wary of the enemy within | Reuters: "Political risk consultancy Stratfor estimates that Libya has up to 140 tribes but only 30 have any particular significance and ubiquitous hatred for Gaddafi united Libya's factitious population during the battle to oust the despot after 42 years.

But with the dictator gone, some wonder how Libya's 6 million people, scattered thinly across the vast desert country and long plagued by regional and tribal rivalries, will remain in agreement to face the daunting challenge of nation building.

"The prospect of increased friction or violent conflict between the country's tribes, clans and ethnic groups (specifically between the Arabs and Berbers) remains a serious source of concern," risk consultancy Maplecroft said in a report released in August."
When you look at the imperial dreamers here in the West -- we frequently refer to them as neocons -- you can easily see their strategy for places like Libya: divide and conquer.

What happened to Libya may look like the peoples' victory over a tyrant, but the fact is an ugly one: they were had by outsiders who want their resources, and will swiftly kick the source of their popular support to the curb now that they've solidified their grip on power.

See how quickly this regime restores commercial ties with the MNCs and IMF. The wealth of Libya will be carted out of the country non-stop, until every last morsel has been devoured by the rapacious imperialists.

This is not about the popular will. That was an illusion to draw people together in order to serve the agenda of outsiders who are used to getting their way -- and then getting away with it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

So the West finally "accepts" Islamists?

Now that it's preferred dictators have been overthrown in Egypt and Tunisia -- and with a little more active participation, Libya -- the West finally is seen as cozying up to the idea that Islamists are people the US and its lackeys can deal with:
Trust Tunisia | Reuters: "“One of the shifts that hasn’t been talked about is how much more the West is willing to accept the reality of a political landscape in places like Tunisia and Egypt that will include the existence of Islamist groups,” said Dalia Mogahed, the director of the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, which polls public opinion across the Middle East. “The West has realized that it isn’t up to us to decide whether they can run.”"
Is this really, really that much of a surprise?

After all, the US is mainly interested in control, and it can exert control either by controlling a dictator directly like Mubarak, or absent that, a perfectly workable arrangement can be worked out with fundamentalist sorts -- like the Taliban -- who the US instructed Pakistani intelligence to bring to power as a result of the Afghan civil war in the 1990s.

The primary idea seems to be -- has been since the good old days of the Cold War -- that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. If fundamentalists were against modern movements like trade unionism, and opposed leftist political organizations, they were worthy of CIA support.

The US will be perfectly all right if hardline Muslim states come to replace the shaky dictatorships that have been the model of progress in the Arab world, as far as the US is concerned.

The only system that the US cannot abide is real pluralism, free elections and governments who are subservient to the will of the people. That's a system, after all, that is not allowed to exist in the US or our closest European and Asian allies -- people can be 80 percent opposed to government policies (TARP, Iraq war) and they are enacted anyway.

Why should we expect any less from our new friends in the MENA countries?

Death of Gaddafi: Give it a rest

It may be in poor taste to put it so bluntly, but isn't all the hand-wringing over the circumstance of Gaddafi's death like beating a dead horse?
Libya to investigate Gaddafi’s death - The Washington Post: "BENGHAZI, Libya — Libya’s interim government said Monday it will investigate the death of Moammar Gaddafi under international pressure, but authorities remained divided over what to do with the former leader’s decomposing corpse after four days of public viewing."
What will such an exercise reveal? It will probably be a bit like the "autopsy" that reportedly was performed: was the bullet hole in the corpse's head not obvious enough?

Now this new "government" can't even decide what to do with the body, for pete's sake. Can these imposters not even give the man the decency of a proper burial, without further posturing for the cameras?

Hillary Clinton was impressed enough by these new "leaders" that she paraded her ass around with them on the evening news. Could she maybe ask, politely of course, that they at least show a little compassion on a guy who, after all, was willing to accept the US' prisoners for torture. Isn't that the least that can be arranged, for old times' sake.

As it stands, Gaddafi's corpse lies a-moldering in

Fundraising idea for Obama's campaign

We read with interest this dispatch from Zanesville, Ohio, where the owner of a tattoo parlor is offering to donate the proceeds from tattoos to exotic animals abandoned by their owner last week:
Tattooing raises money for surviving Ohio animals: "People getting tattoos have helped the surviving exotic animals from an Ohio farm where the owner opened the cages and then killed himself last week.
Tattoo artist Billy White says he'll donate the proceeds from tattoos of tigers and other exotic animals that customers bought through Saturday at his shop in Zanesville, the city near Terry Thompson's farm."
The idea of getting a tattoo in exchange for contributions to a worthy cause seems a perfect fit for at least one fundraising operation that needs a boost:

Barack Obama ought to get a drawing of a Wall Street banker tattooed on his ass, with the words "I love fatcats" stenciled in below it.

What better way for Obama to make up for the time he referred to them as "fat cats" and hurt their feelings? He'd be showing his sincerity, going where no even Mitt Romney would dare to go.

Just think of the effect on all the other presidential candidates -- how on Earth are they going to top a stunt like this?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Michele Bachmann: The Idiots' view of Iraq withdrawl

Michelle Bachmann went on Meet the Morons today and was determined to turn the war's only good news into a massive fail:
Michele Bachmann: U.S. got "kicked out" of Iraq - CBS News: "(CBS News) Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann on Sunday joined the chorus of GOP contenders lambasting President Obama for his decision to withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq by the end of the year. She contended that the United States had been "kicked out" of the country "by the very people we liberated," and that the decision was "more politically-based than military-based.""
So determined to make a bad situation worse, the clowns vying to replace the current simpering tool in the White House have not learned the lesson a Republican politician in another era succinctly formulated: "Let's declare victory and get out."

It is not adequate to have squandered not only the goodwill of the world and massive amounts of money, as far as mental defectives like Bachmann are concerned. The US should forego a graceful exit, and instead draw attention to its clownish and ham-handed foreign policy.

Bachmann described her preferred outcome, something that she described as a "temporary transition" -- as though the US presence in Iraq hasn't dragged on long enough already. Iraq's refusal to allow US troops to operate outside of Iraqi law "disrespected" a nation that "put a lot of deposit into this situation in Iraq," she explained.

In other words, Iraq owes the US for destroying the country and killing or displacing its people, and in order to show gratitude should either accede to US demands or demand full reimbursement for the $700 billion the US has spent turning Iraq into a basket case.

Not only is Ms. Bachmann a barbarian, but her math skills are a little deficient. If it were just $700 billion that the US squandered in Iraq, that would be a bargain. A more realistic figure runs about $2 or $3 trillion -- enough to bail out a few big banks, with bonuses all around on Wall Street!

Bachmann may think that if she repeats the line about the US having "liberated" Iraq enough times, that will distract her audience from considering the true result of the US invasion and occupation of that unluckly land. But to make things even worse, she complains that our departure only bolsters Iran's stature and influence in the region -- an outcome that was pretty inevitable once the US overthrew a Sunni Muslim regime in favor of one dominated by the Shiite majority. Besides Ahmad Chalabi, the US government didn't have a very deep bench among Iraqi Shiites, and when faced by resistance by the Sadrists, it was either cut a deal or find ourselves in a really intractable situation. The US cut the deal.

All this is completely lost on a dim bulb like Bachmann, however. She's the spokeswoman for people from the Tea Party who don't get it, and don't want to get it. Talk tough, throw around some weight, get your way -- this is their magical solution to every foreign policy mess the US gets into.

The problem is, the US is not that kind of empire any more, and these wars of choice have only hastened the day when the rest of the world has figured it out. It's only Michelle Bachmann and her loyal followers who think it's still 1955.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Eric "Kiss Off" Cantor talks to select few

Poor Eric Cantor gets so nonplussed when he has to deal with people who aren't simpering sycophants. He canceled a appearance at Wharton School in Philly this weekend because it was open to the public! Seeing protesters outside of your venue, and risking one's perfectly coiffed hair in a confrontation with a hostile questioner are kinds of challenges a top leader in our oligarchic republic cannot abide.

Better for this professional politician from a safe district to stick to dealing with the real tough issues, meeting with rich business interests who wish to regurgitate Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute talking points: - Biotech owners seeking clarity: "--Several biotech business owners told Rep. Eric Cantor that federal regulations and incentives are often overlapping, mismatched and confusing.
Cantor, the House majority leader and Republican from the 7th District, held a roundtable discussion with half a dozen business owners at the Virginia BioTechnology Research Park in Richmond this week.

Businesses represented included renewable resources; bakery systems that allow mass production of breads such as hamburger buns; pharmaceuticals; and diagnostic health care companies.

Cantor said he was there to hear from businesses that are success stories and wanted the business owners to talk about how federal policy changes could help them be even more successful.

In a comment that has become common during this recession, several of the speakers talked about needing more consistency and less complexity in the federal rules that affect them."
This has become a favorite talking point of business elites: they just can't plan to expand and hire workers and do the things that lead to a robust economic recovery when they're in such suspense about government regulations! Give 'em a break!

The only thing we don't hear is how 30 years already of dismantling of the government's regulatory apparatus, and letting businesses write the rules to regulate themselves in a way that ensures a monopolistic free-for-all has left them feeling so overburdened with regulations!

When BP's oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, there was any number of horror stories about how the regulators were in bed with the industry, and spent more time partying than regulating. Ditto the so-called regulators at the SEC who were supposed to restrain the big Wall Street firms from crashing the economy -- but instead were otherwise occupied, watching porn, for example.

The legislative record in DC is littered with horror stories of how industry writes the rules under which they operate, and yet this is somehow unsatisfactory. Recall the alleged reform of the healthcare system -- known as "Obamacare" -- which was negotiated behind closed doors between the administration and the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, and which resulted in a system where everyone is compelled to buy insurance -- no matter how crappy or expensive.

One can go on and on, but it would probably be a healthy exercise for readers to take the time themselves to look into the "revolving door" between defense contractors and the Pentagon. When it comes to rules and regulations, what prevents the US military from being the world's biggest polluter? If your answer is "nothing", you're correct.

Fact is, industry is all for government regulation when it profits them -- which it often does. This is why corporations find shills like Eric Cantor so useful. He can steer business and benefits to his benefactors at the expense of the general public, and then claim that he's working hard to bring jobs to Americans.

With the debased regulatory regime of the past 30 years, you would think the US would be riding high on a wave of prosperity -- but all we hear is that the regulatory burden is too onerous, taxes are too high and big business is under siege like never before.

This is Eric Cantor's fight -- for the corporations and the wealthy, who feel a sense of entitlement that would make a welfare queen blush. To Cantor, the Occupy Wall Street protesters are an unruly mob, instead of the majority of voters -- FOX News watchers included -- who are fed up with a system that corrupt and not working for the people.

No wonder Cantor doesn't want to speak at any event where he might had to answer to the average citizen. It's also why his worthless ass needs to get a nice, cozy job as a lobbyist and quit pretending he represents the people.

Class warfare is okay against US' enemies

If you didn't hate MoMo Gaddafi before, you'll be absolutely livid when you read this tidbit from LA Times:
As Libya takes stock, Moammar Kadafi's hidden riches astound - "Reporting from Washington— Moammar Kadafi secretly salted away more than $200 billion in bank accounts, real estate and corporate investments around the world before he was killed, about $30,000 for every Libyan citizen and double the amount that Western governments previously had suspected, according to senior Libyan officials.

The new estimates of the deposed dictator's hidden cash, gold reserves and investments are "staggering," one person who has studied detailed records of the asset search said Friday. "No one truly appreciated the scope of it."

If the values prove accurate, Kadafi will go down in history as one of the most rapacious as well as one of the most bizarre world leaders, on a scale with the late Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire or the late Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines."
There's a lot of manipulative prose in this piece, and it seems to be narrowly written to elicit outrage and a gold-plated toilet bowl of envy among readers, who up until now have only had to deal with the late leader's dictatorial rule. Now we learn he was a crook, too.

Funny, many a US puppet has been implicated in a similar predilection for monumental avarice. Indeed, this seems to be the primary motivator used by the US and CIA to draw prospects into their grip. If Gaddafi seems to have been particularly adept at this, what's so bad about that?

After all, great disparities in wealth are a hallmark of the US economic system, and among our most powerful political figures this is praised rather than condemned. Is there a double standard at work here?

Of course there is, but among the shortcomings of the US oligarchy, hypocrisy is hardly the most noxious of its moral failings.

We read somewhat later in the LA Times piece that many grubby hands are clutching for a piece of the loot:
Though Kadafi's foreign investments would seem to offer a bonanza for the transitional government, it is struggling to reclaim the money because of legal barriers created by a U.N. freeze on Libyan assets and national laws designed to ensure seized assets are only released to the legal owner.
This so-called "transitional government" consists of the US-sponsored lackeys who did the ground fighting for a piece of Gaddafi's stash, and now they're looking for the money they were promised. They are the Ahmad Chalabis of the Libya invasion -- except that the US government is angling for a better outcome this time, and not the travesty of Iraqi liberation.

As for the legal owner of that money, who exactly determines legal questions in situations such as this? And who could make a claim on these billions of dollars floating around in a legal limbo?

If you're interested in the last bastion of the "rule of law" in this bastardized system the US has constructed to administer international law, this will be it. All the other rules about sovereignty and law of war and human rights have flown out the window, but contract law and the fights that pit corporation against corporation are a sterling example of how the system still works -- for the wealthy and well-connected.

It's hardly worse for Gaddafi to have held on to his money, for all the good it'll do.

Friday, October 21, 2011

U.N. slimeballs call for Gadhafi death investigation

One reads this with incredulity:
U.N. calls for Gadhafi death investigation - "Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- The United Nations and two major human rights groups called Friday for an investigation into the death of Moammar Gadhafi amid questions over the final moments of the late Libyan strongman's life.
"There seem to be four or five different versions of how he died," the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement. "More details are needed to ascertain whether he was killed in the fighting or after his capture.""
Had it not been for the good offices of the UN in lending its imprimatur to the "humanitarian intervention" in Libya, there would be no reason to investigate the circumstances behind the murder of MoMo Gaddafi.

As it was, with a security council resolution to impose a "no fly zone" over the country, the brave hypocrites of NATO would not have the requisite cover to engage in their own Do-Fly zone, and the relentless bombing of the government forces in the civil war being waged by NATO proxies.

The UN is simply a tool of the US and European "superpowers," as they have been described by Pepe Escobar, with the Russians and Chinese hanging back and letting the Western powers hang themselves rather than exercising their vetoes. This must make sense according to some calculation that isn't obvious -- at least to this writer.

Is it crocodile tears, or an effort to save some face as most of the world watches the events in Libya with mixed feelings -- no sorrow for Gaddafi, but bewilderment at how brazen the NATO offensive was in removing an impediment to commercial exploitation of Libya's resources?

Face it, regardless of the circumstances of Gaddafi's death, his removal was deemed necessary, and choosing not to exit voluntarily, he decided to die taking his last stand, and not as a coward. The UN cannot legitimate or excuse what it has wrought by its subservience to the wealthy and powerful.

So much for the UN charter, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Bravo, UN!

Joe Bageant on the recklessness of financial elites during the depression

From the editors of The Automatic Earth, a very pertinent quote from one of the great American authors of our time, Joe Bageant. Sadly, Joe passed away earlier this year, but waste no time checking out his essays online at -- or better yet, go buy one of his books!

Joe Bageant:

"The US postwar rural out-migration was initiated - though in a different way and for different reasons - by the same corporate-financial powers that caused the earlier tragic migration of workers in search of work during the Great Depression. Endless footage of the Dust Bowl has subsequently made it synonymous in American minds with the Great Depression, even though they were two separate events.

The Dust Bowl affected only a portion of the country. But, according to the average American's grasp of the history - to the degree that we have one at all - those ten million Americans "riding thumb" and hopping rail cars all came out of Oklahoma, which had a population of about two million at the time.

We never see documentaries or movies about the corporate malfeasance of unregulated stock markets and commodity speculation, banking and other enterprises of the already rich that ruined more rural Americans and farmers than the Dust Bowl did. But we do see and read about those very few urban investors who jumped off the twentieth floor during the 1929 stock crash.

The recklessness of the financial elites and the layer of speculators that cushioned them blew away millions of Americans - folks who never saw a stock certificate in their lives. As Depression-era migrant Grace Pample told me in one of the most poetic summaries I have ever heard from the mouth of one of my own people,

"It was the big-money men, it was them who made us to rise and blow across the land like the Russian thistle, like gypsies in the dust""

US to exit Iraq after 9 humiliating years

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq as finally reached a dead end. After the world's superpower broke international law to wage a war of aggression against a nation that posed no threat, the US went on to commit heinous war crimes and literally wreck a nation already reeling from a decade of debilitating sanctions. Without the means to defend itself, the regime and the nation was toppled in a spectacular, if barbaric, show of "shock and awe" that rankles to this day.

After a wild ride of civil war, ethnic cleansing and millions of displaced persons, and after the deaths of anywhere from 500,000 to a million people, enough order was brought out of chaos -- after the US "surged" in cash payments to co-opt its adversaries -- to allow a civilian government to form, which while dysfunction did manage to forge an agreement with the occupier to vacate its presence by the end of 2011.

This the event announce with such fanfare by the Imposter-in-chief, Barack Obama.
Obama announces end of Iraq war, troops to return home by year end - Political Hotsheet - CBS News: "
President Obama announced Friday that the United States will withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, effectively bringing the long and polarizing war in Iraq to an end.

"After nearly 9 years, America's war in Iraq will be over," said Mr. Obama.

He said the last American troops will depart the country by January 1 "with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops."

"The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward, and our troops are finally coming home," he added, saying in the White House briefing room that U.S. troops "will definitely be home for the holidays." "
This is not the outcome the US military wished for. It had held out hope -- and desperately implored the Iraqis -- that it be allowed to remain, if only in an "advisory" or "training" capacity, but these solicitations were firmly rejected by the Iraqis. No politician -- regardless of the inducements DC might offer -- would dare accede to this bargain with the devil, which would have invited a reignited civil war and hell to pay for anyone presumptuous enough to allow the hated occupier to remain for a single day.

The US administration will portray this ignominious exit as a triumph of our gallant troops in the war against terror, or in the name of freedom,, or any of a number of patently false declarations that the mission was accomplished, and that our exceptionally good, benevolent and generous nation has achieved "success" in its warm and fuzzy goals.

The US public may be clueless, but the rest of the world is not -- especially the Iraqis. They saw their beautiful country savaged by barbarians from across the sea, who wanted only one thing: oil. Despite all the protestations and appeals to patriotism and our better natures, this was a squalid and debauched grab for the wealth of another peoples' nation, done with impunity and utter disregard for all civilized norms of behavior. The invasion and all the despicable machinations of the US and its coalition "partners" in crime was a rotten and damnable exercise in naked power by a demonic cabal of neoconservative monsters who saw the world as its own personal playpen. They sought to enrich themselves and their cronies by committing a coup against the government they led, and auctioned off the pieces of Iraq as if they were their personal property.

While to US media busily portrays opponents of their masters' imperial project as cold-blooded, remorseless killers worthy of execution without any due process, US presidents and the sycophants are lionized and awarded Nobel Peace prizes, or get multi-million-dollar book deals and $150,000 speaking engagements to recite a bastardized, self-aggrandizing history of their calamities -- not the ones they suffered, but the ones they caused.

Barack Obama is a liar and a chump who claimed to be against the Iraq war from the beginning, and yet was content to allow the US occupation to continue indefinitely -- had it only been possible to arrange. Still, the US presence -- in its billion-dollar embassy complex, staffed by 1,000 "diplomats," along with a mammoth mercenary army -- will continue uninterrupted.

As with almost everything the US touches, nothing is as it appears to be. When the occupation ends, it will probably only be beginning. Iran is the next stop for "real men" among the neocon cadres, and there is practically nothing that these power-mad gamblers in DC aren't willing to try in the never-ending quest to extend the regime of the petrodollar.

Killers of Americans dead, but what about the victims of Americans?

It really is appalling to read something like this, which breaks down the heart-wrenching toll of US victims of nasty terrorists, guys like bin Laden, Gaddafi, a few lesser lights of the worldwide terrorist conspiracy:
Open Channel - After Gadhafi's demise, biggest killers of Americans now are dead: "Since May 1, U.S. intelligence and special operations forces, or foreign forces working with U.S. intelligence and special operations forces, have killed the leading terrorists who targeted and killed more Americans than any others in the past 25 years.
Not only did the U.S. kill Osama Bin Laden on May 1, but also took out — "removed from the battlefield" — three of the jihadists they had identified as potential successors to bin Laden in the hours after the attack. Also, Somali forces loyal to the U.S. killed the mastermind of al-Qaida's East Africa embassy bombings. With 224 killed, 12 of them Americans, the attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were the group's deadliest attack before 9-11.
As for Moammar Gadhafi, it was his intelligence service that has been strongly linked to the attack on PanAm 103 in December 1988, which until September 11 was the single worst terrorist attack directed against the U.S., killing 269 people. "
After bin Laden's alleged attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, the US retaliated by launching the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), otherwise known as "the long war" or a war that will not end in our lifetimes. On its face, the operation to overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan could be portrayed as justified retribution for hosting bin Laden -- although under closer scrutiny, it appears that the campaign against the Taliban had been conceived and planned long before 9/11.

Then there's Iraq, where the Bush administration made a case for war against Saddam Hussein by alleging the dictator was somehow in cahoots with the 9/11 plotters, and that the Iraqis were bristling with weapons of mass destruction, and could hit the US and allied targets within minutes. While more credible sources attempted to expose these tall tales about WMD, the decision to go to war in our times is more dependent on an effective PR campaign than a real, material threat. Everyone recalls the masterful "big lie" that the US wouldn't dither in carrying out an attack against Saddam, lest "the smoking gun turn out to be a mushroom cloud."

Obviously, when there's a war, people die. In the contemporary version of warfare, they often die in great numbers, particularly innocent civilians, who happen to be caught in the crossfire, or simply have the bad luck to become the euphemistic "collateral damage." US service personnel also die, although the military goes to considerable lengths to remove the brutality and horror of war from the TV screens of the nation, preferring a version of war that resembles an exciting video game.

While there was a great loss of innocent lives in the events of 9-11, and some military casualties in events like the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, the biggest killers of Americans, as the headline of the story heralds them, have been nowhere near as prolific as the leaders of the US when performing as stand-ins for the grim reaper. While it's far easier to gather statistics for US persons who've lost their lives in violent acts, one has to do a bit of research to find the equivalent numbers among the victims of the Red, White and Blue. Indeed, the Pentagon makes a point of making it known the "We're not in the business of doing body counts," although it has been revealed by Wikileaks publication of purloined confidential US documents that this assertion is false.

The website at provides a good overview of the death toll of all major conflicts (not exclusively US-related), as well as references to source material. It's not presented in tabular form, however, so it doesn't present totals for each conflict. documents 9,759 Afghan civilians killed in the US operation to topple the Taliban and dominate the country through its proxy leader, Hamid Karzai.

The story in Iraq -- where the US invasion was based on especially dubious pretext -- the figures are staggering, if in dispute. They range from a US military guesstimate of 77,000 Iraqis killed in the conflict, up to a Johns Hopkins University study printed in the Lancet in 2006 that suggested the number was 601,000.

The beat goes on, and so does the killing, with the US engaged in various countries like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and recently extended to Uganda, in a never-ended, blood-soaked crusade to make the world safe for US domination -- and exploitation by various commercial interests.

However horrific the acts of individuals like bin Laden and Gaddafi, none can hold a candle to the US government when it comes to prolific death and destruction around the world. It would be refreshing to read, occasionally, some acknowledgment of the awful toll of US imperialism around the world.

But don't hold your breath.

Who is this broad?

Hillary Clinton and her faithful buttboys on the ground in Pakistan,
or some other forsaken hell-hole over there

When I saw this photo, my first reaction is, who is this bimbo? It's supposed be another on those tedious pieces about Hillary Clinton upbraiding our "allies" like Pakistan for not carrying out the prime objective assiduously enough. She does look like a bureaucratic functionary, but Hillary? C'mon, must be the wrong ID...

On the other hand, what difference does it make? What difference does Hillary's trip make? The same old same old, with her doing a victory dance in Libya, giving a pep talk to Hamid Karzai in Kabul, and finally, telling the Pakistanis that they aren't doing enough to justify all the money we send 'em:
Clinton Calls for Pakistani Crackdown - "U.S. and Afghan officials have long contended that Pakistan's powerful military spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, has supported the Taliban leadership, which is based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, and the Haqqani network, which is based in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan.
The Haqqanis, these officials say, are responsible for a series of recent high-profile attacks in Kabul, including an assault on the U.S. Embassy."
Whoopie shit! Ain't it a war or something?

Funny how quickly the US foreign policy establishment forgets how much their clients have done for them. When it was time to give the Soviets a black eye in Afghanistan, the Pakis were right there, funneling weapons in and bringing the heroin out to help pay for the CIA's secret war. And when it was time for the agency to blow dodge, it was our friends in Islamabad who hooked us up with the Taliban, as a fiercely anti-modern, fundamentalist movement we could count on to keep Afghanistan in the dark ages.

It wasn't the Pakis fault that times changed, and the US needed a new boogey man to help it fend off any notions of a peace dividend after the calamitous and unforeseen disintegration of the old reliable Soviet adversary.

Anyway, Hillary is over there dressing down the wavering friends whose support we so desperately need, though we have little to offer them but a few billion dollars in payoffs to the military and politicians. Your money just doesn't buy what it used to any more -- have you noticed?

Most interesting to those who pay attention to such things is the ascension of the Haqqani network as a new object of the US' wrath. Once the Seal Team Six massacre of Osama bin Laden, there was a little less cachet to the campaign against al-Qaeda. With the head guy of the evil terrorist network sleeping with the fishes, the was a void in the Hall of Calumny which was in urgent need of having a new enemy enshrined, so that in the everlasting crusade against killers of innocent life, the US military security establishment would not be bereft of drone targets.

From out of nowhere, we've now witnessed the ascension to the pinnacle of enmity of this heretofore anonymous league of bad guys and evildoers. In order to publicly proclaim the seriousness of the threat and the bonafide badness of the new foe, Hillary was dispatched to Pakistan to show the crazy muslims that SHE MEANS BUSINESS!.

That's all you know, and all you need to know. Let the hostilities begin!

Arabs seem to be slow learners

This article came across a while ago, and attempts to sum up feelings in the Arab world over the demise of MoMo Gaddafi:
Arabs see Gaddafi's death as lesson to other tyrants | Reuters: "(Reuters) - For many Arabs, the humiliating capture and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, the longest-serving Arab leader, is a lesson to other tyrants in a region that has overthrown three long-serving rulers this year."
It's fine to want to be rid of your tyrants, but there's a difference between freeing oneself and having another outside power come in and lop the head off the current oppressive regime.

Their motives are usually no more benevolent than the guy they replace.

It's kind of shaky to generalize and stereotype, but when it comes to the Arab world, those people seem to catch on pretty slow when it comes to discerning what's in their best interests. People in the US have the same affliction, of course, but at a minimum there were the trappings of a functioning civil society with ostensible democratic values and the rule of law.

The Arab world, in contrast, seems to be flailing about. They hate the current dictator but can't seem to shake his hold on power. It takes NATO, for example, to dislodge a Gaddafi, and what do the people get at the end of it all?

This transitional government is already being courted by the likes of Hillary Clinton, the she-wolf of the evil empire, that fits a client state's political leadership to the policy of the IMF and multinational corporations, instead of the other way around.

Egypt's people gave Mubarak the boot, but for their trouble, what did they get? A full-bodied military dictatorship, with the civilian leadership in the hands of religious fundamentalists. This is not a good formula for political freedom and economic prosperity; it seems more attuned to continuing the status quo in relations with the regime's benefactors in the US and Europe.

The Libyans, in particular, ought to wait another six months before they really start celebrating. Until the smoke clears and the new rulers show their true allegiances, it's premature to claim victory for a popular movement that, after all, would never have had a chance without NATO's bombs.

The victory belongs to NATO, not the Libyans.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Obama lies: Gaddafi death is warning to iron-fist rulers

Poor, dumb bastard, was no worse than the guys in the "coalition" who killed him,
and they deserve to be held to the same standard -- but won't be

The people at Reuters have a terminal case of rectal rumination, when they compose such an obviously absurd paean to freedom and democracy by the Nobel Peace Prize winning killer in the US oval office.
Obama: Gaddafi death is warning to iron-fist rulers | Reuters: "(Reuters) - President Barack Obama hailed Muammar Gaddafi's death on Thursday as a warning to authoritarian leaders across the Middle East that iron-fisted rule "inevitably comes to an end," and as vindication for his cautious strategy toward Libya.

Obama joined U.S. politicians and ordinary Americans in welcoming the demise of Gaddafi, who was for decades regarded as a nemesis of American presidents, and also claimed some of the credit for the Libyan strongman's downfall."
The death of Gaddafi is no such thing, at it takes and especially venal and corrupt politician to mouth such bald-faced, self-serving propaganda.

Let's put it as plainly as we can: The US and its allies murdered Gaddafi because he had the temerity to suggest selling Libyan oil denominated in a currency besides the petrodollar. The US' equally craven and corrupt NATO allies were complicit in this travesty, seeking advantageous terms for access to Libya's natural resources.

What will not happen is the end of iron-fisted rule in Libya. The domination of the country's economic resources, if mismanaged under Gaddafi, will become ever more subject to the whims of the international banker cartel and the multinational resource extraction industries.

The Libyans might be celebrating now, but in six months the national mood will no doubt have become soured on the new liberators -- who arose not from some organic, internal movement but marionettes directed by foreigners with an agenda that did not include improving the lives of the average Libyan citizen.

They finally offed MoMo, so we can be happy!

Well, the NATO coalition finally achieved a hard-won "success" as it's minions on the ground finally dispatched the dictator Qaddafi today in a Libyan ditch. So ends the West's most recent "humanitarian intervention," with a bold stroke for freedom and prosperity for the oppressed Libyan population:
Moammar Kadafi dead: Deposed Libyan leader killed - "Reporting from Cairo— Deposed Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, declared dead Thursday, was an eccentric junior military officer who seized power in a coup and 42 years later lost his country in a bloody revolt as rebels backed by NATO warplanes swept into his battered capital, Tripoli.
Libya’s transitional prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, said Thursday that the 69-year-old former strongman had been killed, but there were conflicting accounts of how he died. One report indicated that he died after being found hiding in his hometown, Surt, in what appeared to be a concrete drainage pipe. Another said he was in a convoy bombed by NATO warplanes."
Now that the celebrations can begin, we can commence with the collective amnesia and rewriting of history that usually accompanies these types of colonial interventions in the 3rd world.

We can go about forgetting that Qaddafi had hit the last straw with his proposal to establish a new currency in which to sell his country's oil, the gold dinar. Once one of these tinpot dictators steps over the line and challenges the supremacy of the almighty petrodollar, his regime's days are numbered.

All who know the history remember what became of Saddam in Iraq, when he announced that he would begin selling oil denominated in Euros.

Of all the slimy false pretexts for an imperial intervention, this one's UN resolution to impose a no-fly zone to protect the civilian population turned out to be the most cynical abuse of the world body yet. NATO proved to be an instrument for western hegemony over the former colonies of the late European powers, who still covet the resources of their former subjects -- and don't mind using their military muscle to steal them.

We live in a world ruled by power financial interests. The empowerment of the Libyan Transitional Council is simply the local face of international bankers and multinational corporations, who pursue with laser-like focus on the exploitation of resources and peoples for their own self interest. When Qaddafi was a pliant and cooperative vassal to this system of control, he could be feted by the likes of Tony Blair and Barack Obama. Once he'd outlived his usefulness to these piranhas, his bloodied corpse was left behind as a reminder to all those who dare to oppose.

Farewell, MoMo. You had a good run while it lasted, and now the Libyan people can discover just how much better off they will be under the new bosses.

For their sakes, one hopes for a post-war resolution that resembles that of Baghdad after the US toppled Saddam.

Wicked Witch of the West lectures Pakistan

Hillary Clinton took her traveling road show to Pakistan, urging in the strongest possible terms that the government and security service there get in line and help ensure US "success" in its futile crusade in neighboring Afghanistan:
The Associated Press: Clinton in Pakistan seeking strong antiterror push: "ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is in Pakistan to personally deliver a blunt Obama administration demand that Pakistani authorities step up counterterror efforts against insurgents operating on the border with Afghanistan.
Clinton arrived in Islamabad on Thursday from Afghanistan, where she pointedly told Pakistan that it must be part of the solution to the Afghan conflict. She says the U.S. expects the Pakistani government, military and intelligence services to take the lead in not only fighting Pakistan-based militants but also in encouraging Afghan militants to reconcile with Afghan society."
US government officials have now overseen the exit of Qaddafi in Libya and Hillary was there to give our henchmen a pat on the back; then she flew to Kabul to give Karzai the business for not taking US objectives for his country seriously enough. It's tough being Secretary of State these days -- when the real action in in the Pentagon and CIA.

Still, the show must go on, and Hillary is nothing if not a player. She goes where the script writers send her and she dresses down uncooperative politicians in the countries straining at the US leash. Pakistan, with mortal enemy India cozying up to the Americans as a counterweight to China, is seeking a more reliable friend and patron than the poobahs in DC. Ms. Clinton is sure to let them know that the US is their bestest best friend, and they'd better not forget it!

Of course, Hillary isn't dumb. She knows the US position is weak, and that no one would give a whoop if the US fell into a deep hole and couldn't get out. Since no one will taunt a wounded grizzly bear, however, those who are tired of western arrogance in their region will not be too scrupulous in policing rogue elements within the military and security services, to ensure they won't help those who are making the lives of these American interlopers miserable.

So, Hillary is wasting her time but it's still an opportunity for the rest of us to observe how tenuous the position of the US is in them thar hills.

San Antonio courthouse break-in: Can't we take a joke?

The frenetic and splenetic state security apparatus just got clocked by a bunch of merry, drunken Moroccan tourists who broke into a San Antonio courthouse and proceeded to acts like fools -- albeit very un-threatening fools.

The right-wing new-o-tron worked itself into a tizzy over these peculiar antics, with convinced that it was a serious plot by dirty muslim sand niggers bent on destroying the country in league with Barky Obama, and that a cover-up is afoot. See how the maniacal plot takes shape:

First, from a "legitimate" news source:
San Antonio courthouse break-in may be just a prank, police say - "San Antonio authorities say five Moroccan men caught breaking into a downtown courthouse early Wednesday appeared to be pranksters, not terrorists.
Surveillance video from inside the courthouse showed two of the men wearing sombreros and waving a gavel, according to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who gave a briefing outside the courthouse Wednesday. He said the men appeared to "just be some guys on a prank."
Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz said the men speak little English but were cooperating with investigators with the help of an interpreter. All five were arrested on suspicion of burglary.

Sheriff's Deputy Chief Dale Bennett told The Times that the sombreros were taken from the courthouse law library and that some of the men appeared to be intoxicated when they were arrested.

The men, who were unarmed, were dressed casually (as seen on KSAT-San Antonio) and did not resist when they were arrested, Bennett said."
But this is not enough grist for a couple of chickens pecking in the front yard, so the jihad-watchers and Muslim baiters come back with an extended riff on the usual conspiracies that only they have the highly evolved senses to detect:
It may be true that the group of five French-Moroccans, three of whom have names on the FBI’s watch list, are not connected to terrorism and just made a very big mistake. However, there is more than enough reason to suspect that this isn’t the case, and the media and government officials have a duty to recognize that. There may be a bigger story here, but in part due to political correctness, it will fade away and be forgotten.
The previous quote came from some guy is a member of and Christian Action Network, which are both adjuncts to the execrable attempt by fundamentalists to hijack the US military establishment and turn it into a hammer with which to pummel the Islamic world -- New Age Crusaders, in other words.

One is reminded of the old Mick Jagger quip, "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke," but of course these people are already fucked in the head, and they don't need any encouragement to carry their misguided mission to the next level of insanity. This whole country is tied up in knots over boogey men creeping about, taking photographs of "landmarks" and bringing about the end of our cherished and most top-notch civilization.

We seem to have been seduced by the idea that malevolence has reached a new crescendo, that our enemies are more crafty and demonic than ever before, and that the threats to our way of life are an ever-present danger, when the fact is, the government itself is the biggest threat to liberty and security, having evolved to the point where we are no longer individual actors, but resources to be allocated and expended in the most productive, profitable manner.

And so it is that it becomes more and more difficult to accept as a fact that there are still some few humans left among us who get drunk and do crazy and foolish things without any deep-seated ideological agenda or desire to kill vast numbers of people.

What leads the hard-heads to demand iron-fisted response to mere fooling around? Truly, are we taking ourselves so seriously that a stupid prank cannot be what it is any more?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stuck and fuc't in Afghanistan

George Dubya Bush rode into Kabul with both barrels blazing, as he led the US into an American Century of Error. Now, we're stuck trying to put down the Pashtun majority in their own country, Afghanistan, locked in a deadly embrace with a corrupt, criminal regime that has become nothing but an irritant to the population.

Bush's choice to lead Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, was the oil industry's man, and according to analyst Wayne Madsen:
Karzai, the interim Prime Minister of Afghanistan, was a top adviser to the El Segundo, California-based UNOCAL Corporation which was negotiating with the Taliban to construct a Central Asia Gas (CentGas) pipeline from Turkmenistan through western Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Karzai, the leader of the southern Afghan Pashtun Durrani tribe, was a member of the mujaheddin that fought the Soviets during the 1980s. He was a top contact for the CIA and maintained close relations with CIA Director William Casey, Vice President George Bush, and their Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) Service interlocutors. Later, Karzai and a number of his brothers moved to the United States under the auspices of the CIA. Karzai continued to serve the agency's interests, as well as those of the Bush Family and their oil friends in negotiating the CentGas deal, according to Middle East and South Asian sources.

When one peers beyond all of the rhetoric of the White House and Pentagon concerning the Taliban, a clear pattern emerges showing that construction of the trans-Afghan pipeline was a top priority of the Bush administration from the outset.
Today, Hillary Clinton slithered into Kabul on her latest tour of US sandbox nations. After making nice with the new, NATO-installed regime in Libya, she came bearing desperate imprecations to her Afghan client-puppet. Unfortunately, Karzai has found it less risky to play both sides in an intractable conflict that holds nothing but tears for the US leadership, as control of the ground proves to be unmanageable for a weary, financially strapped hegemon:
The Associated Press: Clinton in Kabul to push Afghan reconciliation: "KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is encouraging Afghanistan's wary leadership to keep up Taliban reconciliation efforts and boosting counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan as the Obama administration presses ahead with troop withdrawal plans.
Clinton arrived in Kabul late Wednesday on an unannounced visit and was scheduled to see President Hamid Karzai, other top Afghan officials and civic leaders on Thursday. Her trip came after Karzai expressed frustration with attempts to woo Taliban fighters away from the insurgency amid increasing attacks by the Taliban-allied, Pakistan-based Haqqani network.
Clinton was also to underscore the importance of linking Afghanistan to its neighbors, a consideration for a regional conference in Istanbul in early November, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. sees a political settlement with the Taliban as key to ending the war and is pushing Karzai to lead and expand a reconciliation drive, although the Taliban has indicated no public interest in such a deal. A secret U.S. effort to spark negotiations earlier this year angered Karzai."
It seems to be a bad, bad case of imperial hubris at work, where Washington can't go all in or pull all out, either. The military has dug in, with its "enduring" bases, for the long haul, while the budget writers on Capitol Hill try to make 2+2=5, and somehow continue a ruinous level of funding that continues to escalate against all the negatory indicators.

This is the true extent of American exceptionalism: we are peerless in stupidity and fatally resistant to the lessons of history. Our leaders have talked themselves into a box, from which they cannot extricate themselves. US prestige is at stake, but so is an economy that depends on free-spending stimulus provided by the war machine. Pull the plug on war, and entire communities' economies collapse (we really have it made in Virginia!).

Not that anyone is especially looking forward to this hard landing, but since it's inevitable and no one seems empowered to stop it, perhaps the solution is to allow the collapse to happen, and hope that we're wiser when picking up the pieces. In that respect, we're on a similar track with the too-big-to-fail banks and the world economy, which is being run into the ground by the geniuses in the international banking cartel.

Too big to fail has failure written all over it. So does the US' Afghan adventure, like the Soviet Union's before it.

Reuters teases readers with story about militant videos

Headlines like the one on this Reuters story draw people in by hinting that readers will be able to check out these sensational videos, but it's all a tease. As readers and consumers of the product of our corporate media in the US, everything is filtered through intermediaries, who can ensure that the spin is appropriate to advance the oligarchy's interests.

In the present instance, we have "militants" who control the tribal lands of "Pakistan," but that presumes that there is something natural and organic about Pakistan's dominion over these lands and people. As with the other national borders in the region, Waziristan is a construct of the imperial powers, whose legacy is a patchwork of ethnic groups populating manufactured political entities.

It is never explained how the US has any kind of legal or extra-territorial rights over this land, or exactly what business the US government has blowing up people by drone warfare, simply because they oppose US aims to control the region.
Videos show militants' reach in northwest Pakistan | Reuters: "(Reuters) - If U.S. policy makers need proof of how little control Pakistan has over its strategic border region with Afghanistan, all they need to do is watch videos available on YouTube of militants believed to be terrorizing the streets of North Warizistan.

Armed men in black with balaclavas freely roam the streets of one of the biggest towns in North Waziristan, where the United States wants Pakistan's military to launch an offensive against militant groups.

There are no signs of security forces as the men belonging to a militant hit squad created to hunt suspected U.S. spies throw a man into a station wagon and pin him down.

Nervous bystanders keep their distance. Another man looks horrified as militants haul him off a pick up truck. Both are shown in another video being blown up by explosives placed at their feet."
All this assumes that the militants, rather than fighting foreign interference in their native lands, are the aggressors and terrorists. It is presented as a given that collaborators with the Americans should be accorded special rights and recognition for their selfless acts on behalf of freedom and justice, instead of worms and traitors selling out their countrymen for money.

This drone warfare is a very dirty business, and there is no reasonable legal or moral justification for blowing up people simply for the crime of opposing the foreign domination of one's country, or the wanton murder of innocents who happen to be in the way of the imperial project.

In fact, the US never really makes its goals in the region explicit -- at least, not in a way that's at all coherent and convincing. With al-Qaeda on the run, what are the US' objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan? We are told this fight is our solemn duty, and those who died must not have died in vain, but as always the bottom line is the money -- just follow the money.

We are stomping the shit out of these people because somebody is going to get paid. It's seldom more complicated than that.

Ghosts of the neocons haunt Turkey

We can thank Uncle Dick and the Neo-cons for this latest eruption of sectarian tensions in the Middle East sandbox where we so often play the dirty geopolitical game. By creating a defacto Kurdish state within Iraq, the US has sprinkled the seed of armed conflict in a region already rife with it. The US' strategy was to weaken Saddam Hussein by using the Kurds as pawns. While the Kurds have been historically made victims of imperialism, this US gambit to advance its narrow goals has the effect of creating major headaches for friend and foe alike:
The Associated Press: Turkey launches incursion into Iraq: ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish soldiers, air force bombers and helicopter gunships launched an incursion into Iraq on Wednesday, hours after Kurdish rebels killed 24 soldiers and wounded 18 others in multiple attacks along the border.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had launched large-scale operations, including "a hot pursuit within the limits of international law."
He did not elaborate, but added, "We will never bow to any attack from inside or outside Turkey.""
The Turks are certainly not blameless -- they have a history, so to speak, of oppressing ethnic minorities in the interest of consolidating the power of the Turkish majority. Still, this incitement of a war between Turkey and the Kurdish mini-state in Iraq is a recipe for further bloodshed and turmoil.

Never let it be said that Washington is oblivious to these consequences, however. Foreign policy goal #1 seems to be destabilization of countries where the US can't directly control the situation. By keeping factionalism alive and thriving, the neocon agenda of divide-and-conquer speeds along at full throttle -- and the fallout will be someone else's problem.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If Cain has a chance, how about the country?

While the Politico belabors the question of whether Herman Cain has a chance at becoming the GOP nominee and president, is that really the real pertinent question? See if you can spot the obviously corrupt nature of the discussion:
Does Herman Cain really have a chance? - Political Hotsheet - CBS News: "Polls suggest that Herman Cain is one of the front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination. So why is it that most political insiders privately dismiss his chances?

The one-word answer: Money.

The conventional wisdom in Washington - and it is grounded in recent history - is that you can't win a presidential election without wealthy donors behind you. "
According to Politico, then, Cain's principle deficit is financial. That he's a former corporate henchman, Federal Reserve Bank honcho and supported by the Koch brothers financial empire is somehow studiously overlooked, while the insiders busy themselves with the question of who can put together a better traditional political operation.

The questions that really matters is, does the US have a chance when its leaders are at the beck and call of those with the money to finance their media and PR operations. Politics has ceased to have any meaning the the conventional sense,, and has devolved into a contest of big economic interests competing against one another for a perceived advantage in extorting favors and benefits out of the government.

Herman Cain is simply the latest hired clown of the influence-buying machine, and the level of cynicism that propels his candidacy is so audacious as to astound even the veteran hucksters of this political circus. If anything gives one a sense of futility in the continuation of the current system, this ought to be your wake-up call.

New from the "brain" of McCain

A bleating loser, if there ever was one, is John McCain on Obama's latest foray by bus in search of his lost electoral mandate:
McCain blasts Obama's tour -- and his bus: "It sounded like a reprise of the 2008 election.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blasted President Obama yesterday for his criticism of the Republican jobs plan, the motives behind his bus trip to North Carolina and Virginia -- and even the bus itself.
"I've never seen an uglier bus than the Canadian one he's traveling around on," McCain said. "A Canadian bus touting American jobs.""
Obama will never reclaim the support of his erstwhile followers, nor will this slithering snake of a politician redeem himself by mouthing insincere platitudes.

As for McCain, for shame, senator!

The guy who unleashed the abundantly vacuous Sarah Palin on a hapless and uninterested public, creating a greasy spectacle of a loser's loser being flayed alive for public expressions of insipidness, stupidity and general ineptitude. The paltry Palin, into the meat grinder, proved that hamburger is on the menu when it comes to an intellectually starved electorate.

Who is this guy to criticize a winsome opportunist on the other side of the political badminton net, when he groveled so low for votes that he's still got abrasions on his chin?

Why stop at "stolen valor"? What about stolen honor?

This is yet another example of imperial overreach on the part of the federal establishment and associated interest groups. The feds bestowed upon our gallant republic a law against a very narrow variety of lying, in which one claims military honors not rightfully earned. Now the supreme court will consider a challenge:
Stolen Valor Act gets hearing - News - "WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court will decide whether telling a lie about yourself is a crime -- if the lie claims military medals you didn't earn.
The court said Monday it will rule on the constitutionality of a law making it a federal crime to claim falsely, either in writing or aloud, that one has been awarded the Medal of Honor, a Silver Star, Purple Heart or any other military medal.
The Stolen Valor Act, which passed Congress with overwhelming support in 2006, has been used only a few dozen times, but the underlying issue of false claims of military heroism has struck a chord in an era in which American soldiers are fighting two wars."
If this is indeed a pressing matter requiring immediate and legal efforts to curtail its effects from eroding some treasured American values, or whatever patriotic clap-trap you want to apply, why not let's go the extra mile, and get some bang for our bucks:

Why not make it a crime for politicians, either in spoken or written communications, to lie about their records, or that of their opponents, or to otherwise embellish or distort the record of their accomplishments? This, it seems, is a far more grave challenge to our nation that some drunk fuck at the bar claiming he won the Medal of Honor in Grenada or some such.

Why punish the underachiever, who in any case probably will accomplish even less once he's to the point of claiming false glory, and not the striving politico, who for 40 pieces of silver goes out and rapes his constituency with relish, while speaking loads of pure bullshit on the campaign trail in order to con folks to vote for his sorry ass?

Too bad, but since it's the politicians who enact these laws, we'll probably be reading of prosecutions of resume embellishers in civilian life, while lying politicians go about their business with impunity.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Richmond Fook Festival

I read the news today, 200,000 folk at Richmond's Folk Festival over the past weekend. This was billed at Richmond at its best -- meaning that elements from the lower class did not disrupt the fun of suburban frolickers by behaving badly. No marauding youth gangs beating on one another, or innocent bystanders; no promiscuous gunfire or sleazy sexual encounters fueled by a drugs-sodden frenzy.

Nope, this was the sanitized, corporate city that hies itself to the 'burbs after 5 p.m. weekdays, and hardly ever looks back unless it's to the safety of the riverfront enclave centered around the Federal Reserve Bank. It's where Richmond comes to play, when it's not Richmonders doing the playing...

Speaking of the FED, one might wonder whether this kind of communal outpouring of support for the "best" the city has to offer might have been more productively applied to one of the OWS demonstrations against the corporate-security-oligarchical state, but alas, no one is worrying about that now. Everybody's too busy having fun, as you'll see:

The welcome mat is out... notice the dour looking guy on the left.

Nice tattoo: Tele Hog

Strolling along with grandiose corporate landmarks in the distance

Pause for instructions

Free festival besieges visitors with appeals for donations -- why not charge admission?


Inertia on the James

Let us entertain you

The human parade, wearing shades

Take a break, for gosh sake

Is there ever a moment without a word from our sponsors?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

'Occupy' blows up in Italy; can it happen here?

The establishment press, regardless of how sympathetic it may be to the plight of working people -- is still stuck in its role of trying to characterize the "Occupy" movement in a way that doesn't challenge the status quo in any meaningful way. People may be angry, and a certain amount of anger is understood and tolerated, but things still must stay within bounds -- and never undermine the fundamental assumptions undergirding the US' economic system.

Today, the protests went global, which is to say that protesters in other cities in Europe, in particular, held demonstrations in solidarity with the people in New York and other US locations. Our protests have been remarkably well behaved, with a heavy hand coming down from somewhere to keep a certain orderliness and decorum in the proceedings. In effect, the movement seems to be required to prove that it has good manners in order to be taken seriously -- as if there's a snowball's chance in hell that the powers that be actually give a flying fuck about Occupy's critique of the US class system.

The dark flip side is described in this dispatch from CBS, but its source is completely incidental: the same sort of report seems to blanket the media, where the organizers of Occupy are being judged on their ability to keep the protests like unto a genteel tea party:
"Occupy" protests go global, turn violent - CBS News: "(CBS/AP) ROME - Italian police fired tear gas and water cannons Saturday in Rome as violent protesters turned a demonstration against corporate greed into a riot, smashing shop and bank windows, torching cars and hurling bottles.
The protest in the Italian capital, which left dozens injured, was part of the "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations against capitalism and austerity measures that went global Saturday.

Tens of thousands nicknamed "the indignant" marched in major cities across Europe, as protests that began in New York linked up with long-running demonstrations against government cost-cutting and failed financial policies in Europe."
In the US the authorities will use the threat of force, or actual force, at will to suppress the anger and frustration that is boiling just under the surface here on the streets. And this is not limited to a white-shirt NYPD slugging a woman protester as has happened recently. Violence in places like Italy is the specter that our media projects about the protests in order to preemptively create a justification for the more extreme forms of response that are likely to follow as the protests gather force and the true sharp pain of the austerity knife starts to slice through flesh and to the bone.

One only need remember how the government ultimately dealt with the anti-war protests of the 1960s, and what finally brought the movement to a screeching halt: the government murders of protesters at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970. That was no joke, and no accident, and there's an atmosphere and an infrastructure created since 9-11 that will allow the hammer of repression to come down without hesitation on those who willfully interfere with the orderly transfer of wealth from the working class to the oligarchs.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Retail sales make counter-intuitive move up

The US economy continues to bumble along, with today's featured economic headline the September retail sales number -- which showed an unexpected increase of 1.1 percent.
Retail sales rise, economy seen accelerating | Reuters: "(Reuters) - U.S. retail sales in September grew at the fastest pace in seven months as consumers shook off concerns about a weak stock market and political gridlock, giving a bit more momentum to the economic recovery.

The data, which beat economists' expectations and eased concerns the U.S. could slip back into recession, overshadowed a separate report showing a surprise drop in consumer confidence in early October.

The Commerce Department said on Friday that retail sales rose 1.1 percent in September, with strong auto purchases providing a big boost. Sales for August and July were revised higher as well.

"Reports of the consumer's demise have been greatly exaggerated," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist eat Pierpont Securities in Stamford, Conn."
If the consumer's demise is not so final as has been rumored so far, one wonders where Joe and Jane Citizen are coming up with the scratch to soothe their consumerist itch. Their incomes are stagnant, and the unemployment rate is officially 9.1 percent and in fact closer to 16 percent. If people continue to spend, either they're pulling the money out of their asses or they've got a new piece of plastic -- or two.

Besides, the global ponzi scheme is only being kept aloft one day at a time, and when the bottom really drops out -- which it most assuredly will -- there won't be any excess cash floating around to keep customers coming into a mall near you. Hear about OWS? Well, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Perry claims he is a miracle worker!

You gotta have faith, because if you just use your common sense you'd never believe what Rick Perry is selling today:
First Read - Perry calls for creating jobs through energy production: "WEST MIFFLIN, PA -- Seeking to refocus his campaign after a month of controversies and shaky debate performances, Texas Gov. Rick Perry visited a cavernous steel plant outside of Pittsburgh Friday to unveil his plan for job creation through reform of the energy industry.
Speaking here at U.S. Steel's Irvin plant, Perry said that his proposal -- which would open protected land for oil and natural gas production as well as lift federal regulations on the energy sector -- will create 1.2 million jobs.
"Today, I offer a plan that will create more than a million good American jobs across every sector of the economy and enhance our national security. And the best news is it can be set in motion in my first 100 days," he told a crowd of hard-hat-wearing steelworkers."
Just because Rick Perry says so, doesn't mean it IS so.

We've been routinely been fed this line that the reason the nation's energy resources aren't tapped is because of government regulation, and that the way out of our economic woes -- and high energy prices -- is the "drill, baby, drill."

About all they're going to drill is another hole in their listeners' heads, in case they need one, to pour this crap into. Think the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the mammoth oil spill that resulted was caused by over-aggressive regulation of BP and the other polluters? Sure, the government hasn't opened all the potential areas up for exploration and exploitation, but considering that the industry has plenty of opportunities in places to which they already hold leases, they've got plenty to keep them busy -- if they want it!

No, Perry and his ilk are blowing smoke, as usual. Where there are pathetically weak regulations now, they'd simple weaken them even more. Or simply eliminate them altogether. Think the oil industry doesn't develop more refining capacity because of onerous regulatory burdens? How about, instead, that they're limiting supply in order to keep prices elevated? How can an industry that owns the politicians that write energy policy be held back? It just isn't happening.

The hardhats listening to Rick Perry may like the sound of millions of new jobs, since after all, they may need a new one once the steel mill closes down and moves production to China. Even if new jobs do come, however, they won't be in manufacturing or anything that pay enough to support a middle-class lifestyle. Eventually, Americans won't even be able to afford the burgers they'll be flipping, if the oligarchs that Perry and his fellow politicos work for have their way.

As economist Michael Hudson says, Obama is working to lower the standard of living in the US by 30 percent, and is doing yeoman service to his masters by pushing for the dismantling of social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Rick Perry or Mitt Romney or any of the rest of them would do no less, but it's Obama who has the constituency to actually pull such a thing off, so in that respect he's far more valuable to TPTB than any of the strivers on the GOP side

It's simply a matter of convincing the Yahoo Nation to put enough GOP lawmakers in congress to make this 80-year-old dream of the plutocracy a reality, and dismantle the New Deal once and for all. It's taken longer than anticipated, but the past 30 years have been a period of exceptional progress on the quest for ultimate wealth concentration.

The wrench thrown into this process has been thrown in New York City with the Occupy Wall Street movement, as it now spreads throughout the country. This has raised the stakes for the travelling demagogue revue that's spreading the gospel of more, and more profitable, wars, as well as more exploitation and repression at home, by means of the well-oiled propaganda machine the oligarchs have constructed with single-minded resolve since the 1970s. There's enough energy on both sides of the equation for some very interesting pyrotechnics to come about, if by no other cause than an explosive chemical reaction that's beginning to take place in the streets.

Palin and Perry and Obama have their orders, but they aren't miracle workers and as the sorry state of the economy strips the finish off these clowns, we'll begin to see the fake smiles and empty blandishments' effectiveness wear off like a cheap whisky drunk. I'd love to see one of those hardhats punch Rick Perry in the face.

tough talk bolsters national security credentials

is it this simplistic and obvious nowadays that politicians establish their bona fides thus:
Elizabeth Warren talks tough on Iran - "U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren left the door open yesterday to military action against Iran in the face of that country’s growing nuclear threat — bolstering her national security credentials as she looks to challenge U.S. Sen. Scott Brown on one of his bread-and-butter campaign issues.
“Our number one responsibility is to protect Americans from terrorism, that’s our job, so being tough on terrorism is enormously important,” said Warren yesterday at a campaign stop in Gloucester."
elizabeth warren, the brazen consumer advocate who gives republicans serious heebie-jeebies for her reputed leftish politics, simply apes the war-mongers and, presto, she gets cred on national security.

for a campaign consultant, who creates his candidate by painting her in broad strokes with a fat paintbrush, this is probably how it is done -- with the media following along as happily as puppydogs.

for the US, however, it's a disturbing and appalling spectacle: just advocate for more war, and ms. candidate insulates herself from charges of being weak on national "defense" -- when it's primarily offensive, in two senses.

shame on elizabeth warren. if you can't say anything sensible, why doesn't she just shut up?