Feb 28, 2008

Tight packing for the middle passage

Slave ship Brookes during the middle passage

The capture of Africans and their transference to holding compounds in west Africa was the first stage of the operation. The transfer by ship to the Americas was the “Middle Passage,” with the transfer of surviving slaves to markets and plantations as the final passage.

The author of the words to "Amazing Grace" is established, but the melody was written by a guy who was the master of a slave ship to the Americas, and the source of the tune, the melody, is just stated to be "Unknown." The chances that he actually used the tunes from the Africans in the hold become overwhelming if you watch a really good black singer performing it (think Harry Belafonte, Paul Robeson, Muddy Waters) to sixty thousand black men of the Promise Keepers in a stadium and the entire audience humming and moaning the melody with the singer.
Note on revenge

Perhaps the best argument against revenge is that it’s entirely unnecessary. Tout s’arrangera. Things take care of themselves, of which one of the most stunning examples is African Americans themselves. They did not want to come here, after all, and no one forced you to ship them out to the western hemisphere in “tight packing,” or to make all that money out of them, and every single little bit of trouble they give you now demonstrates the relentless operation of divine justice. (Thank you, Mr. Dante Alighieri, of Florence, Italy.)

Note for the happily benighted

For the happily benighted who feel that our great-great-grandparents may have done this sort of thing but we know better, I offer the comment of an American general in Iraq, mystified by all the fuss about Abu Ghraib: “But they’re only Iraqis!”

Note on comparative value of human life

We absorbed the message of the BBC correspondent kidnapped in Gaza (three months of unrelenting daily petitions for his release by endless lines of the great and the good – he was eventually released unharmed) compared to the Al-Jazeerah journalists picked off – actually a full frontal assault with tanks on their hotel - and the hunt for the small girl missing in Portugal compared to the coverage given to small girls gang raped and murdered with their families in Iraq. We got the message, and screw you too, squire.
An interesting contrast

The Chinese Minister of Food and Drugs was executed last month, for permitting practices during his tenure that resulted in deaths from contaminated supplies. FDA (the Food and Drug Administration) follows precisely the same practices as the minister did in smoothing the path of the pharmaceutical companies in obedience to the law makers in congress. The possibility of personal responsibility, and possible execution, would certainly galvanize the head of the FDA into significantly better performance, as the patience of the population wears thin with repeated disasters. (If you’re off to the beach anywhere in the USA - except California outside LA - remember to keep your mouth shut to avoid eating turds from the leaking sewage pipes.)

Note on number of religions

I always thought there must be getting on for a hundred or so religions because I could think of a dozen or more, but about three years ago some one did a survey and recorded over 10,000 (ten thousand) world wide from the Afghanistan Animists thru the Zoroastrians. It would be true to say that nowhere are there people who do not have their own way of living, know what gods they worship, who owns things, what’s right and wrong, their culture/religion, their way of doing things.

Note on musical concerts

The Gamelan orchestra in Bali starts playing from the advertised beginning of the concert. They play mostly classical traditional pieces, with some limited improvisations allowed. They call the gamelan performance “the music of time.” People drift in and out, sit down and listen, and then leave again. When the last person has left and the place is empty except for the orchestra, the musicians pack up and go home.

Feb 27, 2008

In praise of France

France is the only country in the EU without an American base on its soil, I believe, and is notorious, in addition to a love of food, for having “the law made on the street.” For any who weren’t watching I’d like to point to the law presented by the then Prime Minister, M. de Villepin, on hours and wages, which immediately produced mobs on the streets demanding the retraction of the law. M. de Villepin immediately withdrew the law, thereby demonstrating that he is not only indubitably a gentleman, but faithfully upholds the traditions of his country.

The current American version of this, “Here, just memorize these talking points and go through them in reply to any question you’re asked about anything,” is neither attractive nor workable.

Personal responsibility for your actions, more especially if you occupy a position of authority, is not confined to M. de Villepin, however, but is standard in many other places. Japanese ministers are not required to commit ritual suicide if they screw up, but a very open and immediate acknowledgement of failure, acceptance of responsibility, and immediate resignation can not be avoided.

Other countries are not less but more demanding. The public execution of the Chinese Health Minister, for failures in oversight resulting in deaths, suggests that retiring to your garden to write your memoirs is still light punishment. The action is a welcome contrast to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, where looking after the interests of cronies in the pharmaceutical companies, with the help of cronies in congress is a daily routine.

Some promising green shoots are emerging, Somaliland for one, (No, not Somalia nor Eritrea, do your own googling) though having successfully established in an admittedly small but viable stretch a working system providing peace, stability, and prosperity, they are immediately in danger of attempts to undermine them. See the attempt of the Islamic Courts Union to provide peace and stability, immediately smashed by Ethiopian army marching in and left looking foolish as they await further orders. The Ethiopians have no self interest at stake in not having peace and stability in Somalia, just the reverse.

And some very interesting things are happening in Mauretania. Let’s hope the WH won’t notice, being too occupied trying to get their Dicks out of the Middle East meat grinder. Statements from contestants for the 2008 presidential election offer no hope of any change, merely an intensification of the doctrine of the crazies. Barak Obama’s promise to strike wherever they wished inside Pakistan, with or without that country’s permission, merely adds another country, Pakistan, to the existing list of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq that must be attacked, and Hillary Clinton will keep troops and bases in Iraq, so voting Democrat changes nothing.

That does not mean other countries are without fault or have no skeletons to hide. In the case of France, there’s the blowing up of the Rainbow Warrior in harbor in New Zealand, and in the case of China the recent – August 3, 2007 – order to all Tibetan Buddhists that any one considering reincarnation must apply for permission in writing to the Chinese government will occupy a prominent place on many future comedy lists. The point is more that it is not blunders, stupidities, or negative qualities of people or nations that should be highlighted, but what can they do, what are they good for? You have a previously unsuspected escaped axe murderer among your acquaintance? Forget the western “scientific” notion of trying to find the causes – you’ll never find them. Try the Taoist approach – what is he useful for? How about timber trimming, log chopping and splitting, and general firewood provision?

“A man should mend old shoes if he can do no better to aid the republic.” - Jonathan Swift.

We have become accustomed to the fact that a majority of the neocons, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Podhoretz, Wolfowitz, Perle, and so on, are not only Jewish but solidly linked to the Israeli government, but how come the main – and most effective – critics of the neocons, are also Jewish? Keith Olbermann, who has done as much – and probably more - to demolish the previously solid stone wall of neocon pretensions as anyone else, is certainly Jewish, and so also one would guess from her first name is his frequent guest, Rachel Maddow, the sharp edge of the progressive liberal movement. How come that two per cent of the population of the USA provide not only the ruling junta, but also the main opposition? Is this a demonstration of a Jewish conspiracy to control everything?

You’re asking the wrong question, and demonstrating your own brainwashing into accepting the racist classifications. We’re all inextricably mixed, and what you should be asking is “How come the majority of the population, the White Anglo Saxon Protestant ruling majority in America, has failed to provide as effective a champion? There are some very effective WASP opponents of the neocons, but how come the best and sharpest of them come from that same two per cent?”
Applause is certainly in order.

Feb 25, 2008

The heart is on the left but the wallet, alas, is on the right

"In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." F. Nietzsche
The Irish and the law of karma

Cromwell brought in a garrison of Scottish Protestants to keep the ignorant Irish Catholics under proper control.

Jonathan Swift has dealt with the savageries inflicted on the Irish. On his tombstone it says that here he lies where cruel indignation (saeva indignatio) no longer tortures his soul. Personally I'm not sure that's entirely true, that simply dying brings peace to the passion of rage that inspired Swift. Certainly the Irish who fled the potato famine and settled in Boston, Mass, now give unstintingly to the cause, without worrying too much whether the money will feed orphans or buy explosives, as long as it fights the hated English. "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge." I would hope that some at least of the current rulers of England have the intelligence to see that every reduction and softening of the cruelties inflicted by their ancestors produces a proportional reduction of the rage for revenge on the part of the Boston Irish, saving them immense and unavailing labor in the present. Intelligence is always to be admired, and stupidity to be regretted, but I admit I don't have much hope that this recognition of how karma works exists anywhere within the British ruling classes. Their snouts are too deep in the trough for anything to register, probably, certainly not the shade of the gaunt dean with his scatological loves and his grim humor. I wouldn't want to put a single dime on the likelihood that what the British Upper Classes don't notice doesn't exist, however.

Unpleasant in the extreme though the Northern Irish Protestant record is, we can't in practice solve the problem by shipping them all back to Scotland.

One element in this is usually ignored, however. It is clearly not in the best interests of Britain to be hostage to the Northern Irish. John Major's government was not the first to depend on the Ulster Protestants for a parliamentary majority, i.e., to stay in government at all, and he, like many governments before him, simply had to give them pretty much whatever they wanted, if he wanted to stay in power. This puts the Ulster Protestants in the position of the most hated of all school kids, the bully supported only by an older, tougher brother. By all means let the Scottish Protestants stay there, and hey, good luck dealing with your neighbors, and let us know how it all comes out. Blowing up people does not in any way provide an end or a solution to the problem. Indeed, to go back to where we started, that's precisely what created the problem in the first place. Ask the Boston Irish. The children's teeth are still set on edge hundreds of years after the fathers ate sour grapes. 2/17/02

“All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man in the street,
The lie of authority
Whose buildings grope the sky.
There is no such thing as the state
And no one exists alone.
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police.
We must love one another or die.”
W.H.Auden – September 1, 1939


The Coup, Indonesia, 1966

How we lied to put a killer in power

Revealed: Healey admits role in British dirty tricks campaign to overthrow Indonesia's President Sukarno

By Paul Lashmar and James Oliver 16 April 2000

The world's press was systematically manipulated by British intelligence as part of a plot to overthrow Indonesia's President Sukarno in the 1960s, according to Foreign Office documents.
The BBC, the Observer and Reuters news agency were all duped into carrying stories manufactured by agents working for the Foreign Office.

Last night, Denis Healey, Labour's defence secretary at the time, admitted the intelligence war had spun out of control in Indonesia. At one point the British were planting false documents on dead soldiers. Lord Healey even had to stop service chiefs from taking military action. He said: "I would not let the RAF drop a single bomb although they were very anxious to get involved."

The left-leaning Sukarno was overthrown in 1966 and up to half a million people were massacred by the new regime. Now a Foreign Office document obtained by the Independent on Sunday reveals the full extent of the "dirty tricks" campaign orchestrated from London, and how the world's journalists were manipulated.

A letter marked "secret and personal" from propaganda expert Norman Reddaway to Britain's Jakarta ambassador, Sir Andrew Gilchrist, brags about the campaign which aimed to destabilise Mr Sukarno by suggesting his rule would lead to a communist takeover. One story "went all over the world and back again", writes Reddaway, while information from Gilchrist was "put almost instantly back into Indonesia via the BBC".

This included an allegation, with no apparent basis in reality, that Indonesian communists were planning to slaughter the citizens of Jakarta. Reddaway, a specialist with the FO's Information Research Department (IRD), writes: "I wondered whether this was the first time in history that an ambassador had been able to address the people of his country of work almost at will and virtually instantaneously."

Showing his low opinion of journalists, he boasts that "newsmen would take anything from here, and pestered us for copy". He had been sent to Singapore to bolster British efforts to overthrow the Indonesian president and support General Suharto. His brief from London had been "to do whatever I could do to get rid of Sukarno", he revealed before his death last year. He therefore embarked on an extensive campaign of placing favourable stories with news wires, foreign correspondents and the BBC, and also used the pages of Encounter, an influential magazine for the liberal intelligentsia which, it later emerged, had been funded and controlled by the CIA.
His letter even suggests that the Observer newspaper had been persuaded to take the Foreign Office "angle" on the Indonesian takeover by reporting a "kid glove coup without butchery".

Last month, Abdurrahman Wahid, the country's current president, gave his support to a judicial inquiry into the massacres of 1965-66 and, in an interview broadcast on state television, promised to punish those found guilty.

Newly discovered cabinet papers show that British agencies, including MI6, had supported Islamic guerrillas and other dissident groups in an effort to destabilise Sukarno. The disorder fostered by the British led to General Suharto's takeover and dictatorship, and a wave of violence unseen since the Second World War. The massacre set the stage for almost 35 years of violent suppression, including the 1975 invasion of East Timor, which was only reversed last year.

The cabinet documents (which are separate from the revelations of Reddaway) were uncovered by David Easter, a historian at the London School of Economics. His research – which is published this week in the journal Intelligence and National Security – shows that the cabinet's defence and overseas policy committee asked the head of MI6, Dick White, to draw up plans for covert operations against Indonesia in January 1964. According to Dr Easter, these operations began in the spring of that year and included supplying arms to separatists in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and Sulawesi.

These actions were complemented by a propaganda campaign run out of Britain's Far East HQ in Singapore by the IRD, which had close connections with MI6. The unit was behind stories that Sukarno and his tolerance of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) would lead to a communist dictatorship in Indonesia. Reddaway was a key part of this. His letter, written in July 1966, was released to Churchill College, Cambridge, which holds the private papers of Sir Andrew Gilchrist.
Last night, Lord Healey owned up to the Foreign Office misinformation campaign.

Lord Healey said: "Norman Reddaway had an office in Singapore. They began to put out false information and I think that, to my horror on one occasion, they put forged documents on the bodies of Indonesian soldiers we had taken. I confronted Reddaway over this.

"The key thing here is that Indonesia was infiltrating its troops into Borneo and had organised a coup against the Sultan of Brunei with whom we had a treaty. So we reacted similarly. I think it has been long known that British Special Forces – the SAS, SBS and Gurkhas – were used to tackle the Indonesians. But everything was done on the ground. I would not let the RAF drop a single bomb although they were very anxious to get involved."

Lord Healey denied any personal knowledge of the wider MI6 campaign to arm opponents of Sukarno. But, he added: "I would certainly have supported it."

According to one of the country's leading commentators on security matters – Richard Aldrich, a professor at Nottingham University – the episode shows Britain's post-war operations at their most effective. "It represents one of the supreme achievements of the British clandestine services," he said. "In contrast with the American CIA, they remained politically accountable and low-key. Britain has a preference for bribing people rather than blowing them up."

Professor Aldrich added that modern journalistic deadlines had made today's media even more open to manipulation than it was 30 years ago.

News World Pacific_Rim © 2000 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd.
Our bloody coup in Indonesia

Britain colluded in one of the worst massacres of the century

Isabel Hilton, Wednesday August 1, 2001, The Guardian

As Megawati Sukarnoputri struggles to hang on to control of Indonesia in the latest round of political upheaval, news has been published of how the British government covered up one of the worst massacres of the 20th century. The slaughter in 1965 - of up to a million alleged communist sympathisers - was carried out by General Suharto, who ousted Megawati's father, President Sukarno, to become Indonesia's military dictator. What is still less well known is that the British and American governments did not just cover up the massacre: they had a direct hand in bringing it about.

In the era of decolonisation and the cold war, ex-colonial powers were intent on preserving their economic interests in former colonies while setting up nominally independent governments. But the natives, inconveniently, did not always see their interests as consonant with those of their former colonial masters. Patrice Lumumba in the former Belgian Congo, Sukarno in Indonesia - both argued for economic as well as political self-determination. Lumumba was assassinated with the connivance of Belgium, the US and the United Nations. In Indonesia, the British and American governments succeeded not only in engineering the result they wanted (the replacement of Sukarno with General Suharto), but in selling a false version of events that persists to this day.

Roland Challis, a former BBC south Asia correspondent, has described how British diplomats planted misleading stories in British newspapers at the time. But there is also evidence that the British and US responsibility for the fall of Sukarno goes back to the event that triggered it - an alleged left-wing coup attempt in 1965. The British were keen to get rid of Sukarno because he was pursuing a policy of confrontation with Malaysia. The US was convinced that Sukarno would drift towards communism - a far bigger potential headache for US interests than Vietnam.
Sukarno was hugely popular and an assassination would have unpredictable consequences: at worst, it might benefit the Indonesian Communist party, the PKI. The army was divided on the merits of a move against him. There was one man, though, who was willing to help - the commander of the strategic reserve, General Suharto. The challenge was to engineer Sukarno's downfall and, simultaneously, the elimination of the PKI.

In October 1965, a group of what are still described as "progressive army officers" kidnapped and brutally murdered six army generals, apparently in preparation for a coup. The motives of the group remain a matter of dispute. At the time, they were alleged to be in sympathy with the PKI. They have subsequently been described as pro-Sukarno nationalists in revolt against their rightwing superiors. But a study carried out at Cornell University in 1966 discovered that what most of the officers had in common was not any association with the PKI, but a connection with General Suharto.

Lt Col Untung, the alleged leader, was a successful military officer who was a known anti‑communist. Some of his colleagues had been trained in the US where it is unlikely that any communist sympathies would have escaped notice. Suharto subsequently dismantled the unit and the group's alleged links with the PKI became the pretext for the massacre of up to 1m people. After a series of closed show trials and staged confessions, the leaders were said to have been executed, but there is no independent evidence that the executions took place.

It has been known for more than 10 years that the CIA supplied lists of names for Suharto's assassination squads. What is less widely known is that the supposed pro-communist coup that triggered the crisis was almost certainly also the work of the CIA. Sukarno was finally removed from power in 1967. Suharto, meanwhile, was offered economic aid and the British lifted their embargo on sales of military aircraft. Suharto's massacres were whitewashed in a campaign of disinformation in which the British government willingly participated. The operation to "save" Indonesia, according to enthusiastic reports in, amongst others, the Atlantic Monthly, was a resounding success. "Suharto," Atlantic Monthly assured its readers, "is regarded by Indonesians who know him well as incorruptible ... In attacking the communists, he was not acting as a western puppet; he was doing simply what he believed to be best for Indonesia."

Best for Indonesia, in Suharto's view, was the granting of lucrative concessions to western mining and oil companies. It was the beginning of a post-independence economic order that continues today. After 32 years, Suharto was finally overthrown. By then, even the US government had to admit that he was one of the most corrupt dictators of the 20th century.

Feb 21, 2008

Free yo' mind, yo' ass will follow

Free yo’ mind, yo’ ass will follow.

Brazil has been openly building uranium enrichment facilities for some time, and they’re not pretending it’s for power stations. They want to become a nuclear power, and play with the big boys. Condy Rice hasn’t talked up a storm about that one.

Both India and Pakistan were allowed to become nuclear powers, but no attack by the militant Hindu nationalists of the RSS, nor from the militant Moslems of Pakistan has resulted.

It would have been nice if Article 6 of the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty, under which the nuclear powers undertake to “reduce and then eliminate entirely” their nuclear arsenals, had been honored. That was why the other signatories agreed not to acquire nukes, of course, but now it’s water under the bridge.

Once you catch on you’re dealing with scam artists, you stop giving them more rope.[1]

Meanwhile, the Greenland ice cap, two miles thick (but twice the area of Brazil?) is melting. Far from taking ten thousand years, as previously predicted by our experts, it takes about ten seconds since the melt flows down crevasses to the rock surface under the glacier and creates a slipway.

It’s amazing how quickly being up to the butt in raw sewage concentrates the mind on what’s important. [i.e. NOT being up to the butt and so on.]
[1] Compare “The poor people line up to throw their votes into the box, like pieces of waste paper into the rubbish bin.” Mu’ammar Al-Qhadhafi, The Green Book, with “Every five years, the rich get two of their friends, Mr. A and Mr. B, to stand for election, and you are allowed to choose between them.” Bernard Shaw, Every Woman’s Guide to Politics, and with Ambrose Bierce, “Every four years you’re allowed to detach the full leech and attach a new empty leech.”

New battle zones



For mental orientation, south is the top of the map. (So also is the bottom, of course, and the sides.)

“The Russian media trumpeted the findings of a Moscow scientific mission to the region which boasts "sensational" geological discoveries enabling the Kremlin to make the territorial claim. Populist newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda - a cheerleader for Putin - printed a map of the North Pole showing a "new addition" to Russia, a triangle five times the size of Britain with twice as much oil as Saudi Arabia.

The six-week mission on a nuclear ice-breaker claimed that the underwater Lomonsov ridge is geologically linked to the Siberian continental platform - and similar in structure. The detailed findings are likely to be put to the United Nations in a bid to bring it under the Kremlin noose, and provide the bonanza of an estimated 10 billion tonnes of gas and oil deposits as well as significant sources of diamonds, gold, tin, manganese, nickel, lead and platinum.

Under current international law, the countries ringing the Arctic - Russia, Canada, the US, Norway, Denmark (Greenland) - are limited to a 200 mile economic zone around their coastlines. Currently, a UN convention stipulates that none of these countries can claim jurisdiction of the Arctic seabed because the geological structure does not match that of the surrounding continental shelves. The region is administered by the International Seabed Authority - the authority now being challenged by Moscow.


A previous attempt to claim the oil and gas resources beyond its 200 miles zone five years ago was rejected - but this time Moscow intends to make a far more serious submission to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The head of the government-funded expedition Valery Kaminsky, director of the All-Russian Oceanic Scientific Research Institute, said he has key photographic evidence to prove the geological claims. "These are very interesting facts for the world community," he said.

Yuri Deryabin, head of the Institute of North European Countries, said: "I estimate Russia's chances to gets its piece of the Arctic pie highly enough - but the main battle is just starting." He acknowledged the negotiations would be "complicated".

The claim is likely to provoke an outcry from green groups but there is also Russian opposition. Sergei Priamikov, of Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, said the notion was "strange" and warned other countries could make counter claims. Canada "could say that the Lomonosov ridge is part of the Canadian shelf, which means Russia should in fact belong to Canada, together with the whole of Eurasia", he observed drily.”

“…Russia has decided that the United States is weak enough, now it has most of military and equipment bogged down in the Middle East, to not put up much of a fight over who owns what in the Arctic Circle, so it has decided to announce a plan to annex an astounding 460,000 square miles of international territory. That's equal to the land mass of Italy, Germany and France, combined.

…the countries bordering the Arctic will fight over the land that is losing its shield of ice and snow, and the North and NorthWest trade routes that are opening up now the sea ice is diminishing. They will fight over it all.

… an ice-free Arctic will be the most coveted prize in the history of modern humankind. Unpolluted, unexploited, unclaimed, undeveloped, unpopulated.”

Flunking the art of war by John Walsh

At the very least China's President Hu displayed a sense of humor in presenting a book, of all things, to George W. Bush on his recent visit to the United States. And the choice of Sun-Tzu's fifth century B.C. classic, "The Art of War" was tantalizing. Since Dubya certainly will not penetrate too far into it, I decided to have a look, so that at least one American would honor the Chinese gift by actually reading it. This provided me a rare patriotic surge, much like the rush when I put my tax return in the mailbox.

Sun-Tzu did not disappoint. At almost the very beginning of the second chapter I found a near perfect description of Dubya's ill-fated war on Iraq. To quote:

"Master Sun said: The art of warfare is this:

"In joining battle, seek the quick victory. If battle is protracted, your weapons will be blunted and your troops demoralized. If you lay siege to a walled city, you exhaust your strength. If your armies are kept in the field for a long time, your national reserves will not suffice. Where you have blunted your weapons, demoralized your troops, exhausted your strength and depleted all available resources, the neighboring rulers will take advantage of your adversity to strike. And even with the wisest of counsel, you will not be able to turn the ensuing consequences to the good. There never has been a state that has benefited from an extended war."

What a simple and concise description of the quagmire in Iraq! Here Sun-Tzu is providing counsel for an invading army. For the invaded, or in our era for the colonized or occupied, protracted struggle and the inevitable atrocities committed by the invader are both keys to victory. It is certain that the military and the neocon architects of the war know these classical principles of warfare even if Dubya is clueless. One is led to suspect that the neocons knew that a quagmire would ensue in Iraq, and in fact there is evidence for this, but they did not care. They had other goals. (Think Mearscheimer and Walt.*)

In the third chapter, Sun-Tzu makes some further pertinent observations.

"Master Sun said: The art of warfare is this:

"It is best to keep one's own state intact; to crush the enemy's state is only a second best. The highest excellence is to attack strategies; the next to attack alliances; the next to attack soldiers; and the worst to attack walled cities. Therefore the expert in using the military subdues the enemies forces without going to battle."

In other words going to battle is a sign of weakness, a sign that other means were not available. The very fact that the U.S. wages war on Iraq is a sign either of weakness or lack of wisdom, the latter a failure to perceive one's own interests. (Think Mearscheimer and Walt again.*)

In Chapter 13, "Master Sun said:

"Intelligence is of the essence in warfare ­ it is what the armies depend upon in their every move."

And this has a dual application. In Iraq the Americans are surrounded by the Resistance; it seeps into their every pore like water even though they inhabit the desert. And so the Americans have no intelligence, and all the Abu Ghraib's in the world will not extort the information they want. One does not readily betray one's family and friends.

Finally, in the very first words of Chapter 1, Sun-Tzu offers perhaps his most important observation which we have left for last:
"Master Sun said:

"War is a vital matter of state. It is the field on which life or death is determined and the road which leads to either survival or ruin, and must be examined with greatest care.

"Therefore to gauge the outcome of war we must appraise the situation on the basis of the following five criteria, and compare the two sides by assessing their relative strengths. The first of the five criteria is the way (tao). The way (tao) is what brings the thinking of the people in line with their superiors."

(Think the polls that show the overwhelming majority of Americans feel that the war in Iraq is a mistake and not worth fighting, certainly not worth dying for. This amounts to bad tao for Bush and his accomplices in both War Parties.)

BOO!

The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise; military chiefs red-faced Source: dailymail.co.uk Published: November 10, 2007 Author: MATTHEW HICKLEY

When the U.S. Navy deploys a battle fleet on exercises, it takes the security of its aircraft carriers very seriously indeed. At least a dozen warships provide a physical guard while the technical wizardry of the world's only military superpower offers an invisible shield to detect and deter any intruders.

That is the theory. Or, rather, was the theory.

Uninvited guest: A Chinese Song Class submarine, like the one that sufaced by the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board. By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.
The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

One Nato figure said the effect was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik" - a reference to the Soviet Union's first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age. The incident, which took place in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan, is a major embarrassment for the Pentagon.

Battle stations: The Kitty Hawk carries 4,500 personnel. The lone Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines. And the rest of the costly defensive screen, which usually includes at least two U.S. submarines, was also apparently unable to detect it.

According to the Nato source, the encounter has forced a serious re-think of American and Nato naval strategy as commanders reconsider the level of threat from potentially hostile Chinese submarines.

It also led to tense diplomatic exchanges, with shaken American diplomats demanding to know why the submarine was "shadowing" the U.S. fleet while Beijing pleaded ignorance and dismissed the affair as coincidence.

Analysts believe Beijing was sending a message to America and the West demonstrating its rapidly-growing military capability to threaten foreign powers which try to interfere in its "backyard".

The People's Liberation Army Navy's submarine fleet includes at least two nuclear-missile launching vessels. Its 13 Song Class submarines are extremely quiet and difficult to detect when running on electric motors.

Commodore Stephen Saunders, editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, and a former Royal Navy anti-submarine specialist, said the U.S. had paid relatively little attention to this form of warfare since the end of the Cold War. He said: "It was certainly a wake-up call for the Americans.

"It would tie in with what we see the Chinese trying to do, which appears to be to deter the Americans from interfering or operating in their backyard, particularly in relation to Taiwan."

In January China carried a successful missile test, shooting down a satellite in orbit for the first time.

Feb 20, 2008

The Dalits

The Dalits

Note recent contortions in India, our Indo-European cousins as we know from language and culture, not like those Semitic fanatics. No one, of course, may allow their shadow to fall over the food prepared for a Brahmin since that would pollute it, and the Brahmin may no longer eat it. Right at the bottom of the rigorous caste system are the Dalits, the Untouchables, who clean toilets and perform other tasks I won’t clag up your memory with. The Dalits have recently started to convert in droves to other religions, especially Christianity and Buddhism, forsaking the incredible benefits of Hinduism and giving the ex Stuerm Staffel Pope, aka “God’s Rottweiler,” a fine recruitment opportunity. A number of Indian states have countered this threat to deprive them of their divinely ordained labor by re-defining religions, having to alter existing definitions of those in the Indian constitution to do it. (Robin Williams “The Iraqis are writing a new constitution? Hey, take ours. We’re not using it.”) Jainism (probably the world’s oldest surviving religion, characterized by extreme reverence for other living beings. They’re the folks that wear cotton masks to avoid inadvertently sucking in some helpless bug.) and Buddhism are re-defined as mere branches of Hinduism. They have not, so far, tried this tack on Christianity.

“Sorry lads, nice try but no cigar. Now get back to polishing that toilet till I can see my ass in it!” Sound familiar?

Good religions and bad religions – Who would Jesus bomb?

“When the emissary of President Kennedy arrived to brief de Gaulle (the French president) on the Cuban missile crisis, he brought with him a folder of photographs of the Russian-installed missiles on Cuba, but de Gaulle waved the folder away. "I do not wish to see the photographs," he said. "We accept the word of the president of the United States. Please tell him that we shall give him our full support." Those were the days!

One of the ineradicable traits of humanity is that once they've caught on to you as a pathological liar, they stop believing you…

The complex arguments on the "little jihad," resisting the annihilation of your community versus the "big jihad," resisting your urges for self aggrandisement, [and making an effort (the literal meaning of jihad), perhaps by giving up drinking, or smoking, to have the excellent one (i.e., God) not be too ashamed of his creation. The results of ignoring this possibility are fairly catastrophic.] are about to be rendered irrelevant by the latest initiative of the Bush administration, which is to re-translate the Koran, and change the educational system in Saudi Arabia. It really is intolerable that you should be dealing with a fixed text of 1400 years ago that every Moslem is obliged to learn in the original language. The new system will omit such concepts as "jihad" entirely, in order, to quote the BBC report on the subject, to "accustom young Saudis to the realities of the job market." Indeed, some of our leading experts on the "realities of the job market," Andy Fastow and the other Enron executives, may well be given the job of the necessary "counseling" to correct some of the outstanding misconceptions. Among these are that "democratization" means free elections, since the Shia majority might result in an Islamic republic, which we clearly can not allow.

Americans do not lie or cheat, as you do not seem to be aware. If you doubt this obvious truth, I invite you to sign on to the Publishers Clearing House to win one of their many multi-million dollar prizes. Cheating and lying is the exclusive activity of orientals, Arabs in particular, and Moslems above all. This is what made it necessary to appoint as head of the Iraqi Governing Council one Ahmed Chalabi, who transferred all depositors' assets from his Petra Bank to his Caribbean accounts and escaped disguised as an old woman in the boot of a taxi. It was his fearless description of the multiple weapons systems in Iraq, and their exact location, that allowed Rumsfeld to say "We know where they are," coyly referred to by the UK as "single source." That no Iraqi above moron level would trust him with a single piastre proves beyond doubt the benighted state of the Iraqi "insurgents."

Fortunately help is at hand. The re-organization of the Saudi educational system will punish as "support of terrorism" any monetary support of all those lads in skull caps rocking backwards and forwards as they memorize the Koran, since this is a "bad" religion, and force you, willing or not, to hand over your taxes to these other lads in skull caps rocking backwards and forwards as they memorize the Torah since this is a "good" religion. The current government of the US is reluctantly forced to adopt and enforce these measures since they are under oath of loyalty to the US constitution, which rigorously and unequivocally demands a separation of church and state.

Feb 19, 2008

Finance for the stout hearted - the invisible elephant

The invisible elephant it’s not polite to mention

(Only to be found under many layers of technical chat from the happy talkers of Goldman Sachs)
That oil is priced in dollars (technically referred to as the fact that the US dollar is a “petrocurrency,” in fact the only petrocurrency) has been called by economists “like having a mint in your backyard.” The US can in practice print as many billion dollars as it likes, and pump these into the pool of “Outside the country dollars, internationally held dollars,” technically known as M3, which the US government decided to make secret a few months ago.

Since any country that buys or sells oil, which includes pretty much all countries on earth, must keep on hand a large pile of US dollars in order to be able to buy oil, or received for selling it, even the billions of dollars pumped into the world pool of US dollars by Mr. Bernanke’s printing press doesn’t have much more effect than Thor’s attempt to drain the drinking horn presented to him in the hall of the ice giants, not knowing that the other end of the drinking horn had been placed in the ocean.

“…You want foreigners to buy your worthless debt but not your brands or your technology? Well, why don't you look around for another group of suckers instead?”… Chan Akya – Dear Dinosaurs (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/IJ20Dj01.html)

THE BEAR'S LAIR Level 3 storm about to hit Wall Street By Martin Hutchinson

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/IK03Dj04.html

There's a mystery on Wall Street. Merrill Lynch wrote off $8.4 billion in its subprime mortgage business, a figure revised up from $4.9 billion, yet Goldman Sachs reported an excellent quarter and didn't feel the need for any write-offs. The real secret of the difference is likely to be in the details of their accounting, and in particular in the murky world, shortly to be revealed, of their "Level3" asset portfolios…

…From November 15, we will have a new tool for figuring out how much toxic waste is in investment banks' balance sheets. The new US accounting rule SFAS157 requires banks to divide their tradable assets into three "levels" according to how easy it is to get a market price for them. Level 1 assets have quoted prices in active markets. At the other extreme Level 3 assets have only unobservable inputs to measure value and are thus valued by reference to the banks' own models.

Goldman Sachs has disclosed its Level 3 assets, two quarters before it would be compelled to do so in the period ending February 29, 2008. Their total was $72 billion, which at first sight looks reasonable because it is only 8% of total assets. However the problem becomes more serious when you realize that $72 billion is twice Goldman's capital of $36 billion. In an extreme situation therefore, Goldman's entire existence rests on the value of its Level 3 assets…

…There has been no rush to disclose Level 3 assets in advance of the first quarter in which it becomes compulsory, probably that ending in February or March 2008. Figures that have been disclosed show Lehman with $22 billion in Level 3 assets, 100% of capital, Bear Stearns with $20 billion, 155% of capital, and J P Morgan Chase with about $60 billion, 50% of capital. However those figures are almost certainly low; the border between Level 2 and Level 3 is a fuzzy one and it is unquestionably in the interest of banks to classify as many of their assets as possible as Level 2, where analysts won't worry about them, rather than Level 3, where analyst concern is likely.

The reason analysts should worry is that not only are Level 3 assets subject to eccentric valuation by the institution holding them, but the ability to write up their value in good times and get paid bonuses based on their capital uplift brings a temptation that few on Wall Street appear capable of resisting. Both Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch are reported to have made profits of more than $1 billion on their holdings of Level 3 assets in the first half of 2007, for example, profits on which bonuses will no doubt be paid at the end of their fiscal years. Given that we have had five good years on Wall Street, years in which nobody has known the amount of Level 3 assets on banks' balance sheets... it would not be surprising if many banks' Level 3 assets had become seriously overstated, even without any downturn having occurred…

THE ROAD TO HYPERINFLATION - Fed helpless in its own crisis By Henry C K Liu

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JA26Dj05.html

For the insurers to maintain the necessary triple-A rating, their capital reserve would have to be repeatedly increased along with the premium they charge. There will soon come a time when insurance premium will be so high as to deter bond investors. Already, the annual cost of insuring $10 million of debt against Bear Stearns defaulting has risen from $40,000 in January 2007 to $234,000 by January of 2008. To buy credit default insurance on $10 million of debt issued by Countrywide, the big sub prime mortgage lender, an investor must as of January 11, 2008 pay $3 million up front and $500,000 annually. A month ago, the same protection could be bought at $776,000 annually with no upfront payment.

Feb 17, 2008

Cookbooks ancient and modern

The coming of Anubis

The signs are as follows, the first one being the entrance into London of a giant replica from the tomb of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun of the jackal-headed Egyptian god of the dead Anubis, and the second being the mummy of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun being put on display back inside his tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt.

The importance of these events…lies in Tutankhamun’s and ancient Egypt’s adherence to the Cult of Amen which has subsumed Western Christianity for over 1,500 years to the point we see today that they have all become worshippers of the sun (son) even to ending their prayers with the ancient Egyptian invocation to this ‘hidden’ god of the sun by saying “Amen”.

If the ancient Egyptian prophecies are true, the sending forth by Tutankhamun from his grave the god of the dead, Anubis, does indeed presage a world destined to become one of death and destruction on a scale not seen since the last age when our earth was overturned.

Dr. Henry Kissinger proposed in his memorandum to the NSC that ‘depopulation should be the highest priority of U.S. foreign policy towards the Third World.’ He quoted reasons of national security, and because ‘the U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less-developed countries ... Wherever a lessening of population can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resources, supplies and to the economic interests of the U.S.’

By 1990, production for the Department of Defense amounted to 83% of the value of all manufacturing plants and equipment in the US. Only 17% of the US manufacturing base actually made products not meant to kill.

How to fix the game in three easy lessons

1. The mainstream media's attitude is perhaps best typified by the story of Fox News and the Monsanto Growth Hormone. A team of reporters, Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, researched the effects of synthetic bovine growth hormone on cattle and discovered that a great deal of evidence exists that people who consume the meat or dairy products from treated cattle can suffer adverse health effects. Monsanto got wind of the story and together with dairy associations pressured Fox News to shut the story down. Fox News ordered the reporters to change the story, the reporters refused and Fox fired them. The reporters sued and LOST on appeal when the court ruled that since there is no law requiring the media to tell the truth about anything, the mainstream media are within their legal rights to fire reporters who refuse to lie! As a side note, that legal precedent is troubling when one realizes that our national elections are counted by a privately owned company, owned jointly by the TV networks (who are not bound by law to tell the truth) and not subject to either citizen or governmental oversight.
(Compare Stalin’s “It’s not who votes that counts, it’s who counts the votes.”)

2. Helmut Kohl, previously German head of state, was distinguished, among other things, by the fact that he never won an election in his life. Every time he personally stood for election, he was defeated by his opponent. Perhaps it was the stomach. Germany uses a hybrid proportional representation system, under which, in addition to the candidates directly elected, each party has the right to appoint a certain number of representatives, reflecting the total number of directly elected seats they won. Because of his eminence in the party, Helmut always got appointed to one of these.

Israel uses a similar system, and one of the purposes of the primaries of the Likud party, to make up the list of party stalwarts who would occupy appointed seats, produced a major scandal. One of the successful candidates was a woman no one had ever heard of, at least in political circles, who turned out to be the daughter of a capo di tutti capi of the Israeli mafia, and examination of how she had got on the list revealed that there was a regular trade in the sale of these positions. At about $400,000 apiece, if memory serves, that's a reasonable franchise payment to make for a juicy slice of divvying up the $4 billion per year that US taxpayers currently contribute to the Israeli coffers, apart from free tanks, missiles, fighters and so forth. The undeniable fact that these appointed positions were being sold, by the testimony of various witnesses, was the scandal, and involved Omri Sharon, Ariel's eldest son.

3. The US presidential candidates debates are organized by, and tightly controlled by, the Presidential Debate Commission, but it’s a private company, see? It’d be like trying to take the contract for the Miss World competition away from the company that has the contract. Private company set up jointly by the Republican and Democratic parties, the RepublicoDemocrats, you might say, but a private company with a contract nonetheless.

On October 26, 2007 Merrill, Lynch, (aka the “Thundering Herd,” reflecting their huge participation in US financial markets) announced that it was writing off entirely several billion dollars worth of financial securities rated on its books as triple A, (AAA), the highest level of sound value possible. If the rating system can rate as AAA securities that are in effect worthless, how reliable is that rating system? To go a little further, how useful is the official inflation indicator, which excludes food and energy, useful for people who do not eat, use no electricity, and never fill a car’s gas tank? It does allow the US government to state without fear of contradiction that inflation is under control, the official “core” inflation, useful for people who do not eat etcetera, showing a very small rise.

For the insurers to maintain the necessary triple-A rating, their capital reserve would have to be repeatedly increased along with the premium they charge. There will soon come a time when insurance premium will be so high as to deter bond investors. Already, the annual cost of insuring $10 million of debt against Bear Stearns defaulting has risen from $40,000 in January 2007 to $234,000 by January of 2008. To buy credit default insurance on $10 million of debt issued by Countrywide, the big sub prime mortgage lender, an investor must as of January 11, 2008 pay $3 million up front and $500,000 annually. A month ago, the same protection could be bought at $776,000 annually with no upfront payment….THE ROAD TO HYPERINFLATION - Fed helpless in its own crisis By Henry C K Liu January 26, 2008

As the home-mortgage industry continued to reel in January from the Countrywide Financial Corp. debacle, a federal bankruptcy judge learned that the company, in at least one case (with others suspected), had not only backdated crucial documents but fabricated them altogether and then told the judge the company was merely trying to be "efficient." A court had approved the recasting of a client's debt to Countrywide in March 2007, closing the case, but the next month, Countrywide "discovered" a way to get extra money and thus created three letters supposedly sent to that client before March 2007. However, Countrywide later acknowledged that the letters were actually written after March 2007 but that making up documents was merely "an efficient way to convey" information. [New York Times, 1-8-08]

GDP lies and statistics By The Mogambo Guru

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/IK09Dj02.html

Total Fed Credit was up last week by $3.8 billion, which seems like a lot of money to us proletariat working trash, but it is mere chump change to the American banking system, which can literally compound that money to infinity at their whim, thanks to the magic of insane levels of fractional-reserve banking and zero required reserves against new deposits or loans. In short, the banks are corrupt scum, just like always, and that is why history shows that all financial crises are always caused by the banks.

The biggest hubbub was when the GDP came in at 3.9% growth, thanks to a reported 0.8% inflation! Hahaha!

… the simple Occam's Razor-like answer is that it is made possible by the government lying its corrupt head off, and how this means that we ought to rise up in an angry, drunken, mindless mob and storm Washington, DC, in protest, and drag these liars and corrupt trash all out into the street and kick their lying, nasty butts out of town, down the road, and into a swamp where they would live the rest of their stinking lives eating bugs and getting eaten by bugs, which, even then, is too good for them.

Rex Nutting of the Economic Report explains …that in pure Orwellian bizarro gibberish, "Inflation was low because oil prices surged," which he says can be explained by noting that "In GDP math, sometimes one plus one equals zero."

At first, I thought that he was insulting me by expecting me to believe such stupidity - that price inflation would fall because oil went up in price, but he holds up the actual news article from MarketWatch.com, which confirms that "As odd as it sounds, the government reported that inflation was at a four-decade low in the third quarter, primarily because import oil prices rose so much."

And sure enough, there is the actual sentence, "If you don't understand that, welcome to the confusing world of national income accounting, where up sometimes is down, and where sometimes one plus one can equal zero."

…Shelley Smith, who's in charge of figuring the price index for the government's Bureau of Economic Analysis, …said sometimes the mechanical formula produces some "quirky, nonintuititive relationships".

"Most of the time," it is explained, "the government's formula doesn't produce any weird numbers, because the mathematical quirks all cancel each other out. But in the just concluded third quarter, it did produce quirky numbers that don't accurately reflect reality, even though they are correct from an accounting point of view."

And from that "accounting point of view", the way it works is that prices of imported goods rose at a 10.3% annual pace in the quarter, but that import prices are subtracted from GDP, and thus somehow subtracted 1.3 percentage points from inflation, even though the prices of imports went up! Hahaha!

The Daily Reckoning. Copyright 2007, The Daily Reckoning.

Note: The term “Cookbook” is taken from a science fiction story about the arrival of aliens from another world who rapidly establish peace and prosperity throughout the world. Their handbook “How to serve humanity” is cracked by some rascal of a hacker who is found rolling around in hysterics by his room mate. “It’s a cookbook.”

Feb 16, 2008

A word from our sponsors

Leaving aside for the moment the contentious issue as to whether the right to bear arms referred specifically to narrowly defined local bodies, [which should be useful once states have been persuaded to enlist Blackwater as a state run militia] rather than meaning that any clown who wants one should be able to purchase a fully automatic assault weapon, the general drift of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA’s) assertion of the right to fearsome weaponry can be taken a step or two further.

Being able to purchase shoulder fired missiles, for example, would do wonders for our ability to get rid of those annoying helicopters that regularly fly over, and, to take the last logical step, nuclear bunker buster weaponry would allow the next crazed gunman literally to take out the entire town that has been steadily driving them nuts over the years in one go. Should red blooded Americans be deprived of these opportunities?

Suggested economic and geopolitical strategy
1. Print mountains of dollars on Mr. Bernanke’s fine machine.
2. Shovel dollar mountains into oil fields.
3. Light blue touch paper.
4. Retire rapidly.


The weighing of the heart against the feather of truth


Anubis, the jackal headed on the stand facing Osiris, eats the heart if the weighing goes against you.

Feb 15, 2008

Finance for the fainthearted

The current “credit crunch” can be simply explained.

Technical

Technically put, the leveraging has to be wrung out of the system before the system can work again.

In words of one syllable, more or less

Let us say you have made a bet, which the local branch of Ladbroke’s or your local betting shop has accepted, of $100 that we will have a white Christmas. $100 has certainly disappeared from your wallet, or large men in dark suits will be round to break your legs, but what is the value of what you have received in return? If you win the bet, and snow falls abundantly around December 24 and 25, the betting shop will pay you $150, true, but what is the exact value of your betting slip while we wait for Christmas to arrive? Put another way, what would one of your acquaintances pay you to take over the bet because you need money in a hurry? Certainly something less than $100, but while you wait you may be tempted to say the value is the $100 you paid, [Note: If true, betting shops would soon be bankrupt, rather than being the reliable money spinners they have always been.] and your natural greed may persuade you to say the value is $100, or even $150. If you are a private punter, no one will take much notice of what you say, but if you are a corporation, nothing can stop you, except the credulity of your creditors, from making the value anything you choose. The bet is certainly an asset, since profit may arise from it, [though its value may be zero if you lose the bet] but the exact current value of the asset is a more doubtful matter.

Now suppose you decide not to sell this asset – the $100 bet you have at the betting shop – but to use it as a deposit, to borrow money against it. You go to your local bank, and sweet talk the manager – who may have his own reasons for going along – into having you deposit your betting slip at the bank, and allowing you to use it as security for $50 of credit to be used for other purposes. Bravo! You have now leveraged your asset, though its value has not changed by a whisker. Wouldn’t it be simpler to keep your $100 in your wallet? Indeed it would, but you’d then be simply Joe Bloggs, owner of $100, with no leveraging involved.

It was customary in the past for companies to put you in their pension plan, meaning that if you turned up for work every day for forty years, the company would continue to pay you almost the same amount as your salary for the rest of your days.

According to all judicial decisions handed down by US courts recently, the company is free to say, after your forty years, sorry, we need the money to pay our chairman his golden parachute, and so we can not, after all, pay you the promised pension.

The obvious counter to this, to refuse politely every offer of pension plans, get every penny you are owed the moment it’s due, and stick it under the mattress or buy your kids some decent food while there’s still any to be had, is resisted fiercely not only by companies for obvious reasons, but also by the government, which really needs to know how much you’re good for that it can get its hands on. The great advantage of leveraging, from both their points of view, is that every penny is accounted for in a clear paper trail. Getting the security lads to dive under your mattress every so often would take a great deal more effort.

If you have a job, and get a credit card on the strength of it, you’re leveraging a bet that you won’t be fired, or that, even if you keep your job, you’ll overspend. (Credit card companies make no money out of people who settle their accounts every month.) If you have a house and a mortgage, you’re leveraging a bet that the house will be worth more in thirty years than all the principal and interest you’ve paid in that time. If the price of houses suddenly goes down instead of up, you’re screwed, of course. You still owe all the money you borrowed to buy it.

Mr. Alan Greenspan, head of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, during all of George W. Bush’s presidency up to the time that Bernanke, the current head, took over, is now a consultant in a private company, and correctly considering himself now a private citizen has recently published a book, The Age of Turbulence. One quotation from this book immediately hit the headlines, that “the reason for the invasion of Iraq was oil, as every one has known all along,” a statement rather refreshing in its openness. Every one has indeed known that all along, just as the US installation of the Shah in Iran was also to get hold of their oil, which even the most rabid Republicans have so far not denied. Clearly, however, the White House decided they can not have their main financial expert say that, and Mr. Greenspan has done a series of TV interviews, around three a day by my count, - rather like General Petraeus, who had an immediate lunch break declared on him when he said that he did not know if the invasion of Iraq made America any safer, and came back after lunch with some qualifications – in which Mr. Greenspan used his considerable learning and charm to run through various episodes of his early life, and tied the oil question firmly to preventing Saddam getting his hands on sixty per cent of the world’s oil supplies by attacking Saudi Arabia from Kuwait in the first Gulf War. So it goes.

On the question of the housing situation, however, Mr. Greenspan remained truthful and illuminating. It is not merely that homeowners can not sell their houses and are having them re-possessed and auctioned off at a record rate because no one can obtain a loan to buy them, nor even that a number of mortgage companies and builders have gone bankrupt and more are likely to. Worse than either is the overhang of about two hundred thousand new homes that the builders have constructed that remain unsold. For the builders, to maintain a new house with no one in it is an exorbitantly expensive and ultimately pointless process likely to drive many more house builders to bankruptcy, but until this overhang of 200,000 homes has disappeared, owners of houses presently occupied are not likely to have much luck trying to sell their houses, and hence the gloomy forebodings of experts on the housing crunch. The bet made by house owners that their houses would be worth more in thirty years than the principal and interest they have been paying for thirty years turns out to be a losing bet as the price of houses goes down ever further though their debt to the mortgage company goes higher as unpaid interest is added, and makes it very unlikely they’ll be rushing off to the department stores to spend lots of money, and so the department stores are in trouble too. This is called “the effect on the economy.”

Feb 13, 2008

They come here because we’re over there.

The US’s War In Darfur By Keith Harmon Snow November 23rd, 2007 Black Agenda Report
http://www.countercurrents.org/snow231107.htm

The Darfur region of Sudan possesses the third largest copper and the fourth largest uranium deposits on the planet, in addition to strategic location and significant oil resources of its own.
Darfur is reported to have the third largest copper and fourth largest uranium deposits in the world. Darfur produces two-thirds of the world’s best quality gum Arabic—a major ingredient in Coke and Pepsi. Contiguous petroleum reserves are driving warfare from the Red Sea, through Darfur, to the Great Lakes of Central Africa. Private military companies operate alongside petroleum contractors and “humanitarian” agencies. Sudan is China’s fourth biggest supplier of imported oil, and U.S. companies controlling the pipelines in Chad and Uganda seek to displace China through the US military alliance with “frontline” states hostile to Sudan: Uganda, Chad and Ethiopia.

Seeds

Monsanto has a great deal more to answer for than dumping dioxin in the south west of the United States, of which it is also guilty. The dioxin appears now to have got into the water table.

Specifically, Monsanto is the chosen instrument of strangling the world’s farmers, so that they’ll all have no alternative to trying to make it over here to become illegal aliens, very cheap labor. Monsanto develops a seed, see, incapable of reproducing itself, i.e., the seeds from the plant can not grow a new plant. To get seed for next year’s planting, you have to go back to Monsanto to sell you a new lot of seeds. The entire argument over this proceeding then gets moved to the “intellectual property and copyright” discussions you’re holding with various Asian and African countries.

(In case you think the copyright problem is a specifically Asian problem, might I point out that the long queues of people lined up for the world premiere of “Revenge of the Stith,” the latest in the Star Wars series, were offered complete copies of the movie on CD or DVD by the touts in New York at $5 each? I might? Well, thank you.)

The high road to this piece of attempted highway robbery has just been laid in place in Iraq, where, under the special rules and regulations the US is able to impose on its colony, mere description of any plant, say, date palms, is sufficient to secure a patent on it, which patent can then be enforced under existing copyright and patent regulations and “intellectual property” negotiations. Neat, huh?

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: only nut cases want to be president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed people ran for class president. – Kurt Vonnegut

Feb 4, 2008

Gothic characters #1 - Michel de Nostradamus

Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II, king of France, did not accept the recommendation of her advisors to put to death Michel de Nostradamus (named after the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris) for having caused, by forecasting it, the deadly wound of her husband. King Henry II had declared a joust to celebrate the wedding of his daughter, with himself playing a leading part in it – a very typical case of a boring old fart going through male menopause but insisting on joining the teenagers in shooting baskets instead of decently taking a more retired senior position, every one knows dozens of examples, I’m sure.

Unfortunately, very late in the jousts, with Henry II still in the fray, the wooden shaft of the jousting lance of his opponent, in shattering on Henry, shot a bunch of wood splinters through the visor of his helmet, penetrating into the left eye. (Michel’s accurate prediction of this bizarre event is what brought the young monk, who had a reputation as sort of brujo, or one with mystical powers (like Gus Dur in Indonesia), as one whose visions accurately predicted the future, to the attention of the authorities.

Instead of putting Michel to death as recommended by her advisors, Catherine recruited the young monk as her assistant. (The Medicis did not rise to their position of pre-eminence in medieval Italy by listening to their dumb advisors.)

The medical experts of the day confessed themselves flummoxed by the problem of removing the bunch of wood splinters penetrating the left eye and an unknown distance into the brain behind it. They researched it thoroughly by subjecting already condemned criminals to the same condition with the help of a bunch of wood splinters and a mallet, and found they could not remove the splinters without killing the patient. Stalemate. Henry died in great pain.
Catherine’s problem was to protect her young son, now declared king, and to help in this she recruited Michel, whom she had, after all, just rescued from the gallows. Michel explained that desirous though he was of giving all possible aid to the gracious lady, he was unable to do as she asked. It was more like catching a glimpse of another room through a crack in the toilet wall: you could watch stuff happening, but there was no one to ask for an explanation. Or to put it another way, Michel only watched events happening in a very narrow focus, exactly from the eyeball to the slice of room in view; there was no “Expand to overview or site map” control.

Nevertheless Catherine was adamant. She had to know what would happen in the future so that she could take the appropriate steps to plan for her son. Michel had better get started in double quick time.

Michel de Nostradamus did his best and produced his most famous predictions, including the reference to “Hister” which everyone has received as meaning Hitler, (you remember him, surely, little feller with a scrubby moustache, very fond of Jewish people and long walks?) in addition to other events after this Hister fellow, including the death of most plants and animals on earth[1]. (“Hister” for “Hitler” was generally viewed as a natural typo, given Michel’s description of how things worked, and the other details fitted too neatly to be ignored.)

[1] Predicting the future, or indicating high probability paths, is more possible than usually allowed. H.G.Wells, the British writer, successfully predicted, in 1901, 1903 and until his death in 1946, not only the invention of the tank, aerial warfare and the resulting removal of the distinction between combatants and the civilian population, but also the atomic bomb, indeed he coined the phrase to describe it. Wells’ friend Snoddy educated him on the radiation that leaked from uranium and the Hungarian born scientist Szilard got his inspiration to try for a chain reaction (achieved by using a neutron to bust open the atom) from his reading of Wells’ Things to Come and The World set Free. Szilard took out a patent on his chain reaction process, and also persuaded Albert Einstein to join him in writing a letter to Truman urging the production of an atom bomb “before the Germans do.” This resulted in the Manhattan Project and the use of the first atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Wells became bitter towards the end of his life that all his warnings had been ignored, and wanted his epitaph to read “God damn you all, I told you so.”

Feb 3, 2008

Pathan

Highly secret local knowledge that only forty million Pathans know about. Burn before reading.

The 40 million Pathans (Pashtuns) are the world’s largest tribal group, divided into roughly equal parts by a 1,400 mile long border drawn by a 19th century British colonial official that has never been of any interest to any one except mapmakers, certainly not to half the Pathans living in Pakistan or the other half living in Afghanistan on either side of the border. Historical and literary scholars may remember the bitter proverb quoted by Rudyard Kipling’s Kim: “Trust a Brahmin before a snake, a snake before a harlot, a harlot before a Pathan,” the modern version of which might run: “It is the classic Afghan way to smile and pocket bribe money, and tell foreigners what they want to hear, only to attack them in the night.” Pathans seem sure the Americans, like the British, the Russians, and the Greeks before them, will go home eventually.

(2006)"Doubts were expressed about an attack on the world’s poorest country by the world’s richest country, but all doubts were swept away by patriotic fervor. Even the French announced “We’re all Americans now.”

So how goes the war? Arnaud de Borchgrave reports as follows:

“Three years ago the Taliban operated in squad sized units. Last year they operated in company sized units (100 or more men). This year the Taliban are operating in battalion-sized units (400-plus men). So reported retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, professor of international affairs at West Point, after his second trip to Afghanistan to assess the balance of forces.

“The former Clinton administration drug czar and commander of the 24th Infantry Division in the Gulf war, Gen. McCaffrey concluded that in the last three years, Taliban has reconstituted the obscurantist movement that took Afghanistan back to the Middle Ages in the 1990s. "They are brutalizing the population," said the general's written report, "and they are now conducting a summer-fall campaign to knock NATO out of the war, capture the provincial capital of Kandahar, isolate the Americans, stop the developing Afghan educational system, stop the liberation of women, and penetrate the new police force and Afghan National Army (ANA).

“Taliban now have "excellent weapons" and "new field equipment" -- prized by the equipment-poor ANA -- and "new IED [improvised explosive devices] technology and commercial communications," Gen. McCaffrey said. "They appear to have received excellent tactical, camouflage and marksmanship training," and "they are very aggressive and smart in their tactics."

"The Afghan Army is miserably underresourced," the report concluded. "This is now a major morale factor for their soldiers. They have shoddy small arms -- described by Defense Minister [Abdul Rahim] Wardak as much worse than he had as a Mujahideen fighting the Soviets 20 years ago.

"Afghan field commanders told me they try to seize weapons from the Taliban who they believe are much better armed. ... [They] have little ammo... no mortars, few machine guns, no MK19 grenade guns, and no artillery... no helicopter or fixed transport or attack aviation now or planned ... no body armor... no Kevlar helmets... no light armored wheeled vehicles.

“The Afghan National Police is even worse off than the army: "They are in a disastrous condition, badly equipped, corrupt, incompetent, poorly led and trained, riddled by drug use and lacking any semblance of ... infrastructure."

Would history be of any help? Those who can read it have an alternative to repeating it:

“Britain …. fought 3 Afghan wars (the last in 1919 using more or less the same technology as today - aircraft, bombs, poison gas, and so on) to little effect. [Blair] might then have avoided committing Her Majesty's Forces to a 4th (illegal) Afghan War on the side of the Americans - and ironically, the British contingent is deployed in the Helmand area where the 1st Afghan War got off to a bad start (only a Dr Brydon from the 13th Foot (Somerset Light Infantry) surviving the massacre).”… 10/21/2006

The Bali Climate Change Conference, 2007

Ecologists will probably remember this event as just another of the many times the USA blocked any real action on climate change [Actually, it was far too late anyway, so cheer up] but it was remarkable in other ways, too.

[Wednesday August 30, 2006, Guardian - Richard Alley's eyes glint as we sit in his office in the University of Pennsylvania discussing how fast global warming could cause sea levels to rise. The scientist sums up the state of knowledge: "We used to think that it would take 10,000 years for melting at the surface of an ice sheet to penetrate down to the bottom. Now we know it doesn't take 10,000 years; it takes 10 seconds."]

The conference, including Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, the USA – they sent the guy from the famous Minnesota toilet cubicle scandal – and all the other countries of the world, was held in the [very expensive] Nusa Dua end of Bali, one of the most beautiful spots on a very beautiful earth, where the Hindus of Java went en masse when Java got taken over by Islam.

It only came out later that the Indonesians were using a large number of tanks of polyfluorocarbons, (those gases that leak out of old refrigerators world wide that everyone thought had been banned world wide – you’d be amazed at some of the things stashed away in cupboards in Indonesia – ) to air condition the sumptuous quarters and meeting hall of all those wankers up there talking. This may [or may not] be connected to the fact that the chairman of the proceedings broke down in tears and left the podium. It does however demonstrate that even our fabled ability to run important meetings and conferences is sadly full of holes.

The surge worked

Well, that’s not quite what happened, if you were watching.

Throw up for a moment on the blank screen of your mind the standard map of Iraq: Kurds in the north with lots of oil, Sunni Arabs, Saddam’s old troops, in the middle with no oil, and the Shia in the south with lots of oil. [If you think of the whole Sunni/Shia thing as rather like the Catholic/Protestant thing in Ireland, good!]

The original American action was to refer to Saddam’s old troops, all million strong of them, who’d kept the local population in abject terror for thirty years, as “insurgents,” the baddies, the guys from Saddam and Chemical Ali downwards had to be hunted down, put on trial, all of them.
Meanwhile, back at the barn, Ahmed Chalabi had apparently carried through the fiendish Iranian plot to have the Americans remove their number one enemy – never forget the Iraqis are Arabs, the most easterly line of defense, indeed, and the Iranians are Indo-Europeans, just like us; they never forget it – and though his contributions were valuable in the original push for the war, you’d obviously not rely on him as your best friend or trust him with your mother’s washing. The actual “government” of Iraq was at least theoretically in the hands of Mr. Al-Maliki of the Dawa party, whom you may remember from the Beirut hostage crisis as the holder of the hostages, including Mr. Terry Waite. In this case also it was clearly unwise to assume friendly intentions.

Thirty thousand extra troops were really not a significant addition to the hundred and fifty thousand already there, but the Americans pulled off this fantastic coup, - I can almost hear the chortles of whatever genius dreamt this one up – of saying to these million or so Sunni Arabs of Saddam’s old army “Hey, you need weapons? Here’s umpteen cases of machine guns with ammo. Helicopters? Let us give you a few.” And so on. These were gratefully received, although the tribal sheikh who made the deal with the Americans was assassinated two days later, indicating some resentment on someone’s part. Nevertheless, the Sunnis were now fully armed and took up their old policing duties with enthusiasm, aided by the huge concrete walls the Americans were erecting around various districts in Baghdad itself. Not to mention the six month cease fire announced by Moqtada Al-Sadr and the Mahdi army. This cease fire is coming to an end with the ten day festival of Ashura on January 20, 2008, and will probably not be renewed, said Mr. Al-Sadr.

Gothic characters # 2 - Mr. Schickelgrubr, of the previous thousand year empire, aka Mr. Hister

[Note: The following does not mention that Alois Hitler was Adolph’s stepfather, not his biological father, and that the entire piece is therefore a waste of time. Blessed Bertrand Russell protect us! Adolph kept his full blood sister, Anna Schicklgrubr, safe in an asylum throughout the war. – Ed]

http://www.libertyforum.org/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=news_history&Number=295585606&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=21&part=

“The sole irregularity in Hitler's ancestry was the illegitimacy of his father. Because he was born out of wedlock, Alois Hitler bore the maiden name of his mother, Maria Anna Schicklgruber, for a good portion of his life. Even after his mother finally married [his father], Johann Georg Hiedler, Alois retained the name Schicklgruber. Not until he was 39 years old did he reclaim his proper family name, which he spelled and pronounced in the manner which the world has come to know: Hitler!(3)

“Yet this illegitimacy in itself is not significant or even unusual. As the anti-NS historian Bradley F. Smith notes in his well-researched and generally impartial book Adolf Hitler: His Family, Childhood and Youth (1967):

“Although illegitimacy was frowned upon by the authorities, especially the Catholic Church, it was common in the Austrian countryside. In some districts, 40 percent of births were illegitimate. The figure for Lower Austria as late as 1903 was still 24 percent. An illegitimate child in a peasant household, therefore, was not an unusual phenomenon .... "(4)

“[In Graz, Frank claims that he learned Alois' mother had been employed by the Jewish family Frankenberger, that she had become pregnant while in their employ, and that the family paid her support money in later years on the assumption that the child's father was the young Frankenberger ....]

“[Perhaps the most widely-read recent biography of the Leader is John Toland's Adolf Hitler (1976). Ignoring the investigations into Frank's story by Der Spiegel, Bradley and Maser--all of which were available to him--and spurning any personal research into the matter, Toland says that Alois Hitler's father was probably a man from the neighborhood. There is a slight possibility that Hitler's grandfather was a wealthy Jew named Frankenberger or Frankenreither; that Maria Anna had been a domestic in this Jewish household in Graz and the young son had gotten her pregnant. (15)

“He goes on to cite Jetzinger as one source for this story, remarking that Jetzinger's book is "generally accurate." It should be noted that Toland [Ed.--1912-2004] may have a personal psychological motive for wishing to believe the discredited "Jewish grandfather" tale: He himself is a race-mixer with a Japanese wife and thus may be overly eager to project his own lack of racial integrity onto others.]”

Conversations with Jesus

Many times when I am troubled or confused, I find comfort in sitting in my back yard and having a vodka and cranberry along with a quiet conversation with Jesus. This happened to me again after a particularly difficult day.
I said "Jesus, why do I work so hard?" And I heard the reply, "Men find many ways to demonstrate the love they have for their family. You work hard to have a peaceful, beautiful place for your friends and family to gather."
I said, "I thought that money was the root of all evil." And the reply was, "No, the LOVE of money is the root of all evil. Money is a tool; it can be used for good or bad."
I was starting to feel better, but I still had that one burning question, so I asked it. "Jesus," I said, "what is the meaning of life? Why am I here?"He replied. "That is a question many men ask. The answer is in your heart and is different for everyone. I would love to chat with you some more, Senor, but for now, I have to finish your lawn."

Feb 2, 2008

A Turkish Puzzle Ring

You may have missed the current kafuffle over headscarves in Turkey, in its way instructive on a number of topics. The much revered founder of the Turkish state, one Kemal Ataturk, was determined to drag his country kicking and screaming into the nineteenth century (as someone said of Ireland) and become a truly European type country, industrialized, secular, not dominated by Islam or ruled by greasy eunuchs. To make sure his heritage is preserved, the military keeps a watchful eye on everything, always ready to step in and throw out any government, no matter how popularly elected, that looks in danger of denting the secular Ataturk heritage, and is willing to issue rulings on quite trivial things, which rulings must, of course, be obeyed. The population has always remained almost entirely Moslem, and the military sees its job as making sure the division between mosque and state is preserved, and that some evil-doer doesn’t suddenly turn the place into an officially Moslem state, like Pakistan.

In pursuit of this aim, the military issued an edict some time ago forbidding women to wear headscarves in any public place, headscarves being standard wear for Moslem women. (The reasons for this are fascinating, and you may like to consult St. Paul on the subject, in his advice to women to cover their hair “because of the angels,” and Genesis on how the “sons of God beheld the daughters of men that they were fair,” which caused the kind of results you might expect from some red-blooded angels, and all kinds of problems, all caused by seeing women’s hair, apparently, but I won’t bother you with all that.) The military wanted to stop public display of Islamic symbols, fearing it might lead to worse excesses, and the young women studying to be lawyers, doctors, sanitary engineers, and television personalities suddenly found that they could either continue their studies, or continue wearing headscarves as they believed their religion commanded them to, but not both. The majority, being young and spirited, tended to say “Screw you, Jack, if I wanna wear a headscarf I’ll wear one, and you look pretty stupid in your ticket collector’s cap and that big belly, if I may say so” and were therefore banned from attending classes or even going in to the local municipal office or the public library.

The fact of complete military control over even minor matters is one of the reasons preventing Turkey being acceptable to the EU as a member. The other reasons are similar, and all of the conditions Turkey failed to meet explain why the EU felt able to resist enormous pressure from the USA to admit Turkey. (Not that it’s any of the USA’s business in the first place, of course. They would certainly be highly miffed if the EU tried to persuade them to grant statehood to Puerto Rico.) When a very pro-Islamic party was recently elected in Turkey to replace the geriatric incumbent, people wondered if girls would now be allowed to wear headscarves. No chance, apparently. The military has decided it’s too risky, and the girls will have to stay out of school if they won’t take them off.

Bearing headscarves and bearing children belong to different orders of magnitude, but a pro military regime which approves of controlling the one would definitely chummy up to another military regime which approves of controlling the other. The Turks, much feared for their savagery in battle, are responsible, by the bye, for a number of things we now see as distinguishing marks of Islam. Mohammed (PBUH), a junior member of a good merchant family, started life as a program manager for a company owned by a woman rather older than he was, who eventually proposed marriage to him, and he accepted. This should warn us his world was not what we’d now call Islamic. It was the Ottoman Turks who had the custom of “hareem,” and the sultan used to wander in, when fancy took him, to the separate palace where he kept all his nookie guarded by large guys with important items of equipment removed. He might actually tell one to report for duty that night, an almost unbearable honor, but probably he’d look at a few with interest and exchange a few words. Persons thus honored got to wear a badge saying “smiled at by the sultan” and the others had to kiss their butts and make their tea and so forth.

These Turkish customs became the model of correct behavior during the hundreds of years the sultans were the head of Islam, right down to the remote and dusty province at the extreme limit of their empire called Arabia. Those in between not quite wealthy enough to afford a separate establishment and eunuchs for guards tended to adopt the Syrian habit of sticking a bag over their head if they went out, and forbidding by law contact with any male except relatives. Still, most life went on inside, of course, and the typical Damascus house, all blank stone walls from the outside, looks terrific on the inside, all fountains, and gardens, and balconies. Your typical bedu would be convinced you were deranged if you suggested any such thing to him, of course. “Who the hell’s going to look after the goats?” If you think the women spend all day inside the tent painting their toe nails while the lads get the work done and haul in the tucker for them, you’ve never been in a large family.