Apr 29, 2008

The crazies

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity: Source: TruthOut.org Published: August 28, 2006


Author: Dahr Jamail / Ray McGovern An Interview With Ray McGovern By Dahr Jamail August 28, 2006

“Well, this is the policy that is being implemented now. You can read it, it’s in the text: “We will go after Lebanon. We will find a pretext which will justify us going after Lebanon big time. Next, Iran. Next, Syria. And of course Iraq came in the preceding paragraphs. The plan is laid out there. Anyone who doesn't take that seriously dismisses it at their own peril.”

During the Veterans for Peace National Convention in Seattle, I conducted an interview with Ray McGovern. McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

In this first installment of this short interview series for Truthout, I asked McGovern what he thought of the fact that Israel had been planning their attack on Lebanon for well over a year.

Ray McGovern: The most important thing, from our perspective, is to determine what role the US government played. It's very clear that the US government not only gave the green light to the Israelis, but actively encouraged them to do what they are doing now, and then blocked diplomatic efforts to prevent them, to halt them, or to have an immediate cease-fire. That much is clear. You can even read Charles Krauthaumer, who says precisely that: that we are proud that we not only gave the permission, but we encouraged them to do precisely what they are doing.

Now, the question arises, why? What in God's name would possess our so-called neo-con leadership to persuade this new fledgling Israeli government, which represents in my understanding a right-wing fringe of the Israeli people and not at all the Israeli people as a whole, just as our government represents the extremist right wing of the Republican Party? These so-called neo-conservatives who pretty much mounted and successfully waged a putsch of our government early in this administration, what in God's name do they have in mind?

The tactics they used seem to be identical to the invasion of Iraq. We called it "shock and awe." Well, a lot of the Lebanese, as well as the world populace, are shocked and awed quite enough, thank you very much, by what the Israelis are doing. It's incredible that we would see that they would take out the infrastructure of a whole country as a way of "retaliating" against the capture of two Israeli prisoners of war, the capture of them, rather than the kidnapping of two Israelis.

So, obviously this thing was planned well in advance, and the timing really gives me great pause, because this was a situation where there were glimmers of hope that the neo-cons in our government were taking a back seat to more enlightened and more flexible policy, specifically vis-à-vis Iran. It looks very much to me, from what the president, Condoleezza Rice and others have said, that this could be used, and may be designed to be used intentionally, to go after the Iranians and the Syrians on the pretext that they were the ones who really put Hezbollah up to this, as well as Hamas in Gaza. And now we really have to go to the source and destroy the authors of this.

That sounds extreme, but we're dealing with people who ... well, in my days in government, were widely known as "the crazies." I kid you not. This was the case from the very top levels of government, and I can speak personally of that, down to the lowest analysts in the CIA.

I'd come in on a Monday morning and somebody would say, "Hey Ray, guess what the crazies did on Friday afternoon." And I'd know exactly what the allusion was to. It would be [Paul] Wolfowitz, it would be [Richard] Perle, it would be that whole coterie of folks. Now, to his great credit the first President Bush had the good sense to keep close to him people with good sense. General Brent Scowcroft, his National Security Advisor, Jim Baker, his Secretary of State, and they told him, "Mr. President, you can't get rid of the crazies because the right wing of our party would be up in arms, so let Perle and Wolfowitz hang around at the middle reaches of the Pentagon, but for God's sake don't let them get this country into trouble." And he did. And he listened. And when Wolfowitz came out with that crazy report in 1992 that foreshadowed all this business, the Defense Policy Review, and someone leaked that to the New York Times, Baker and Scowcroft went right into the president's office and said to the first President Bush, "You've got to disavow this right away." Which he did.

Now, imagine our surprise, those of us who knew about the crazies, when we found them in the key policy-making positions. Not only they, but the likes of convicted felon Elliot Abrams, who is running our policy toward the Middle East right out of the White House as Deputy National Security Advisor, right now as we speak.

So it seems to me what has happened here is that they have, together with the infamous Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal, of which Colonel Wilkerson, Colin Powell's Chief of Staff often speaks, Cheney/Rumsfeld and this coterie of neo-conservatives plus Elliot Abrams, who fits that category, had decided, "Well, we're going to input the rest of that famous study that several of them wrote back in 1996, called, 'A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.'"
Why do I mention that? I won my intelligence spurs as an analyst of Soviet affairs. We used to take very seriously reading Pravda and the ideological visionary statements that came out of the Soviet Union. Karl Marx, Lenin and all of the rest of them. They had to be taken seriously and often we found very conclusive clues as to what they had in mind.

So, it's not a big effort to go and put PNAC in your URL line and download some of the documents from the Project for the New American Century and the "Clean Break" study, and you will see that all of this was very well presented to Netanyahu when he was elected Israeli premier. In the first instance, it was too radical even for Netanyahu, and that's saying something.

Well, this is the policy that is being implemented now. You can read it, it's in the text: "We will go after Lebanon. We will find a pretext which will justify us going after Lebanon big time. Next, Iran. Next, Syria." And of course Iraq came in the preceding paragraphs. The plan is laid out there. Anyone who doesn't take that seriously dismisses it at their own peril.

I see this as the first step, having encouraged Israel, and the supreme irony is that this young Israeli government doesn't seem to realize that this is hardly in the long-term interests of Israel. It's hardly even in the medium-term interests of Israel. Israel cannot survive without making peace with its neighbors. It cannot survive if it takes up the sword every time it pleases, because the US is not going to survive in that area either. Witness what's happening in Iraq, to which very little attention is being paid.

The bottom line here, in my view, is that both the US and the Israelis are in perilous circumstances now. That they will be run out of the Middle East in the next couple of years. That is exaggerating, but my point is that their policies are failed policies. Unless Israel changes its tune, and decides that shock and awe is not going to work over the long term, I fear for Israel's future because I'm concerned about that. And of course I'm concerned about the US GIs we have in Iraq.

The whole situation seems terribly sad, terribly unfixable, and terribly dangerous insofar as this: if the plan is to use what's happening in Lebanon as a pretext, of which these PNAC documents really speak, if that's what's afoot here and we're going to say Iran is behind all of this and we have to go to the source and prevent Iran from supplying rockets to Hezbollah and so forth, then the Israelis, whether with our without our permission this time, take some shots at Iran from the air and our blue-suited generals decide we can bomb the heck out of their suspected nuclear sites and go ahead and do so, then we will have WWIII. Then we will have Iran wrecking the economy of the western world by hitting the oil heads in the Gulf or blocking the Straight of Hormuz. The Iranians can retaliate, and it seems idiocy, it seems just craziness for the US to be thinking about going after Iran.

These policy-makers are so naïve, they have no concept of what this will do to the Chinese, or even the Russians. The Chinese have long term oil deals with Iran. They're not about to as they would put it, "sit idly by" and watch us do this to Iran. They have all kinds of potential to hurt us and to hurt us very badly. And they will, if we start to attack Iran.

Not only that, but if you're worried about the price of gasoline, you might want to invest in the company that's building new meters for the pumps because they are going to have to add another digit. It's not going to be nine dollars a gallon anymore; it's going to be ten dollars a gallon. You don't have to trust McGovern for that - listen to what the Saudi ambassador is saying about that, listen to what the Saudi foreign minister is saying. So, for Americans who don't really care very much about what is happening in Lebanon, even though they know what is happening, well they ought to look to their pocketbooks at least and think that if this is part of a long-term strategy to go after Iran, and the economic consequences for our country are going to be so severe that we're going to have to pay ten dollars a gallon for our gasoline, maybe then the self-interested Americans will wake up and say, "The morality of this doesn't bother us much, but hey, please don't do it because we don't want to have to pay $10 per gallon."

That's not cynical, I'm sorry to say, that's real. Because Americans really haven't been affected by this war, and Americans really haven't been informed about this war. In Vietnam we had photos, we had journalists who were not embedded or in bed with the government. That was a huge difference between that situation and the one which exists now.

I like to refer to what my four-year-old granddaughter said when she saw me on TV. When it was all over she went to my daughter and said, "Mommy, that was grandpa. That means the other people are real too." Now, that's sort of cute on the surface, but think about what that means. If you don't know someone in the picture, the other people aren't real too. And we're deprived even of the pictures of the carnage that's going on in Iraq, and now in Lebanon. And we have to fess up to that and realize that unless we get our hearts involved in this, as well as our minds, we're not going to be able to stand up and do our duty as American patriots and face down this situation and say to our government, "Enough. Enough. No more carnage. Bring our troops home from Iraq. And reign in this Israeli government that is using your helicopter gun ships, your fighter-bombers, your tanks, etc."

Because if only for self-enlightened interest, you have to remember, folks, that there are 1.3 billion Muslims out there and they are watching this every night on Al Jazeera and some of the other Middle Eastern outlets and they are mightily, mightily disturbed at this. And the actions of our government have put our position in the Middle East and in other Muslim countries back to the likes of when we did the crusades.

DJ: What is your perspective on the possibility that the US could take the present day situation in Lebanon and use it as a pretext to wage war against Iran?

RM: If you are talking about pretexts, there doesn't have to be much reality behind the pretexts. We saw that in Central America. We were told that the Soviets were going to use the Nicaraguans as pawns to come up into Texas, remember? Did Ronald Reagan really believe this?
They don't really have to plant anything - they've got the Iranian missiles there [southern Lebanon] there are stories about Iranian soldiers in there advising them, stories which to my knowledge are not true. But if they want to use this as a pretext to take off after Iran, they are free to do so.

Who would do it? As with the case with respect to Iraq, Iran poses no danger to the US. I repeat, no danger to the US. Iran has not started any wars in that part of the world. They hate us for other reasons. They hate us because they had a democratically elected government in 1953 and we overthrew it because we wanted their oil, pure and simple. They know that, and they are used to it, and they don't want it anymore.

DJ: How does this lead into Iran, if you are the policy-makers in Israel/US?

RM: What we have here is that Israel does feel threatened. Why? Because the Israelis have a nuclear monopoly now in the Middle East, and most people believe they have about 300 nuclear weapons which they can fire from missiles and submarines and whatever else. And Iran and their other neighbors have none.

Now, if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon, would that be a threat to Israel's security? I don't think so. They'd have to be suicidal to mount an attack on Israel because they would be obliterated. What would it give Iran? It would give Iran a certain modicum of what we used to call deterrence. It's a word that's dropped out of the vocabulary of Washington but it worked for 40 years after WWII. It would give them a measure of deterrence. So if the Iranians, say 10 years from now, saw the Israelis about to pounce on Syria and do what they are doing to Lebanon, in this case to Syria, perhaps the Ayatollahs would say, "Now wait a minute, we know of your plans. Don't think that you can do this with impunity."

And this would give the Israelis pause. Up until now, they have had free reign, they have been unencumbered in doing whatever they hell they please in the West Bank, in Gaza, and now in Lebanon, with the support of the US government and military, and they don't want to lose that kind of freedom of action. So they are hell bent on preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. In that sense they see a threat.

Now, our government ... On inauguration day 2005 Dick Cheney found it necessary to say that Iran was a terrible threat, the top of the list of threats to us. That it should not get a nuclear weapon. And that the Israelis just might go ahead and take that capability out and let the rest of us pick up the pieces.

He said that in such a way as to indicate that that would be fine with him, it's a possibility, and why not? Since then, the president in the US has time after time talked about "our ally Israel." That "our ally Israel" deserves our support, and if "our ally Israel" is attacked, we will automatically spring to its aid under our defense treaty.

Now, Americans who might be reading this, listen up, as we used to say in the Army. There is no treaty of mutual defense between the US and Israel. That's a lie. It's a misrepresentation; juridically speaking Israel is not our ally.

I've often been interested in that. When I started out as an analyst I wondered, why is there no treaty? And I concluded, very understandably, that this was a mark of US prudence. Why would we want to tick off the Arabs even more than we already have? Why would we want to be juridically obliged to engage in hostilities in the Middle East?

But guess what? That wasn't the case at all. In 1967 after the first Arab/Israeli War, we offered Israel a mutual defense treaty with the rationale that perhaps this would give the Arabs pause from attacking Israel again, and give us a certain leverage over the Israelis. And guess what? The Israelis said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

I was surprised to hear that. I asked the people who were involved in this, who happen to be involved in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, including one person who was actually in the process of making this overture to Israel. I said, "Why did they turn it down?" He said, "Ray, mutual defense treaties require clearly defined international boundaries. And the Israelis, after they took the occupied territories in '67 and '73, didn't want any part of clearly defined international boundaries. And also, the Israelis really like to be able to do what they want to do. If they want to attack Iraq and take out the Osirak nuclear reactor as they did in 1981, they don't want to have to ask Washington, they just want to do it. So they didn't want to be inhibited by any of the normally accepted norms of behavior. If you have a mutual defense treaty, you usually tell the other partner what you're going to do, if you are going to invade or bomb another country."

So what's the upshot of all of this? There is no mutual defense treaty between Israel and the US. But why does the president say there is? Well, I don't know why he says there is. General Scowcroft, his father's National Security Advisor, told us, "Sharon just has him wrapped around his little finger." He had our president "mesmerized," according to Scowcroft.
In any case, he has made it out that there is a defense treaty with Israel. So, the Israelis are smiling all the way to the bank and saying, "Hey, we have no treaty obligations on the one hand, and yet we've got just as good as a treaty because the president either really believes there is one or he's going to act as if there is one. So we've got the best of both worlds. We can have our cake and eat it too."

That, to me, bespeaks a violation of the admonition of our very first president, who happened to be a general and knew about this kind of stuff. George Washington warned us, very vividly, against entangling alliances. The kind of alliances where the perceived needs of another country become inextricably woven around what we perceive to be the needs of our country. When, in fact, those needs do not coincide.

DJ: What are some of the intermediate steps US/Israeli policy makers might take before beginning a war with Iran?

RM: So this is a very important factor here, and I mention that because if this president is going to proceed on the assumption that Israel is a mutual defense treaty partner of ours, and Israel takes off after Iran and takes the first shot (and they do have the capability, not of doing the whole job, but of doing half or 3/4 of it, with our weaponry of course, our smart bombs and everything else) then, as Cheney pretty much explicitly said, we will be in the position of picking up the pieces. Because Israel is our ally, and we'll be involved in what will be the most dangerous situation that our country has faced since Pearl Harbor.

We'll be involved in a major war in the Persian Gulf with a country that has done us no wrong, has posed no threat to us - but has in Israeli eyes caused a possible longer-term threat - a country that has incredible oil resources which the Chinese desperately need, which the Indians desperately need. And we'll have a major world conflagration there, because I'm sure the Iranians will - I'm sure - do the kinds of things that will put the world economy back several steps, drive up the price of gasoline to over $10 a gallon, and cause all manner of trouble to our troops in Iraq.

Our troops in Iraq are incredibly vulnerable. The Iranians can send three Revolutionary Guard Divisions right across that border into Iraq within a week or two. And our guys are busy with the resistance on the part of most of the Iraqi population. We're not deployed to contain an invasion from Iran. Indeed, the Iranians wouldn't even have to do it themselves. All they have to do is encourage their Shia allies to cut our lines of communication and cut our supply line between Kuwait and Baghdad, an easy thing to do, and our guys would be in deep kimshei. Because what happens then? The only option the US would have would be to use these clever mini-nukes. That really scares me because the people advising this president are convinced that these mini-nukes are just a little more powerful than high explosive weaponry and our air force is so precision targeted that we can cope with this kind of thing. Not only if the Iranians pour across the Iraqi border, but if the North Koreans start to fool around ... and this is idiocy. Anyone who knows about either of these situations, the Middle East or Korea, knows that these are not options, and if they are options everyone will suffer monstrous losses.

DJ: What is the solution for this dysfunctional entanglement between the US and Israel regarding their failed policy in the Middle East?

RM: It is very hard to perceive a solution to the entanglement between our country and Israel. No one has more power than the Israeli lobby. We know the study that professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt did was criticized, as they predicted, as being anti-Semitic. But they didn't tell half of the story. They omitted, for example, the USS Liberty.

Let me tell you about the USS Liberty. It was off the coast of Israel during the 1967 war. It was an intelligence collection ship. The Israelis knew what it was. The ship had a great big American flag flying on top of it. On the 8th of June, three days into the war, Israeli fighter bombers reconnoitered the ship and then came back an hour later and did their damnedest to sink it. Not only that, but torpedo boats participated in this, knowing that it was a US ship. 34 US sailors were killed, 171 US sailors were severely wounded. The ship limped back on its own power into Malta.

In the midst of all this, during the engagement, the commander of the 6th Fleet, having been apprised of what was going on, immediately ordered fighter bombers to do battle with whoever was attacking the USS Liberty. Guess what happened? They were called back halfway. They were called back halfway. By whom? By President Lyndon Johnson and by Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara.

When the sailors who survived got off that ship, they were allowed to sleep one night. The first thing the next morning, they were told they would be court-martialed if they ever mentioned that Israel had deliberately tried to sink their ship. They were sworn to secrecy. And that secrecy held for about 20 years, but now the story is out. The navy lawyers who were cajoled into suppressing the real story have come out and told exactly what the story was.

Why do I mention all this?

Among other things, Admiral [Thomas Hinman] Moorer, who had been chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, did his own investigation and came up with the fact that the Israelis did this.
Now, Congress suppressed this information, our press suppressed this information, so what effect did this have on the Israelis? I think the Israelis concluded that this was pretty good - that they could literally get away with murder. They could literally get away with murder, and the US government would not criticize Israel even if they killed 34 US soldiers and wounded 171. That was 1967.

Since then, the Israeli lobby in this country has become even more powerful. And the money they disperse to various candidates, congressman and senators has become even more grandiose, and it's not possible to discuss this or get politicians to be honest about this sort of thing. So what do we have to do? I think we just have to plug away at the media and do alternative media, studies and articles and point out that this is precisely what George Washington warned against and that Israeli interests are not the same as ours. That the neo-cons have great difficulty distinguishing what they perceive to be Israeli interests and those of the US and we have to adopt a more balanced policy.

I'll conclude by pointing out that over the last several decades, US policy has been very consistent in the Middle East. Two major objectives: 1. To secure the safe provision of oil and natural gas; 2. To secure the state of Israel within secure and internationally recognized borders.

Now, in a sense, George W. Bush's policy is consonant with those two aims. The only difference is that he thought it was OK to start a war of aggression to achieve those aims. And that's a little different, I would suggest. What we have now is a policy that was adopted at the very first meeting of the National Security Council (NSC), on the 30th of January, 2001, well before 9/11. That was a meeting in which two things happened. Number one, the president said: "This honest broker business in the Middle East, this attempt to mediate between the two and adopt some sort of even-handed policy - that's for the birds. We're jettisoning that. We'll tilt towards Israel. Who knows this fellow Sharon?" Colin Powell, Secretary of State, raises his hand, "Yeah, I know him." Bush says, "Well, I think we'll just let him cope with the Palestinians the way he wants to. Sometimes a show of force can do a lot of good."

How do we know all this? We know all this because Paul O'Neill, the secretary of the treasury, was there. He was aghast, and he looked at Powell and described Powell as "startled." This is the first time Powell knew about this. So he gently, in his manner, remonstrated and said, "Mr. President, that would give Ariel Sharon a free hand." Bush responded, "That's all right, let's see what happens."

Well we know what happened. Ariel Sharon did have a free hand, and most people forget that he didn't wait 24 hours after 9/11 before sending his US-built tanks into the West Bank and wreaking havoc there.

That was a major departure in US policy, and it has caused all manner of reverberations in the Middle East.

The second part of that NSC meeting on the 30th of January, 2001, was devoted exclusively to Iraq. The president himself made it clear that Condoleezza Rice, who was national security advisor at the time, would be orchestrating these meetings and had orchestrated this one.
At that point she said, "George Tenet [resigned director of the CIA] has a photo he brought along with him, and he would like to show it." So Tenet put up a satellite photo of a building in Iraq, and he said, "We suspect that this building is involved in chemical/biological warfare agent production." Someone asked, "Do you have any corroboration?" Tenet said, "No, we don't have any corroboration. We just suspect that this might be the case."

He took the picture down, and the conversation immediately proceeded to which targets in Iraq would be the best to hit first. This was the 30th of January, 2001, 10 days into the first term of the regime of George W. Bush. And most of that first meeting was devoted to how we get Saddam.

Paul O'Neill, who has reported all of this in great detail, was shaking his head as he left that meeting, saying, "I just don't understand. There must be something I don't get. But I never thought the primary policy of this administration would be to invade and get Saddam. What kind of threat is he posing?"

So that's the way the Middle East policy was laid, and of course George Tenet, to my great regret, showed himself a willing pawn in the shell game, showing a picture and saying, "Well, we suspect this might be a really dangerous sort of thing." And Condoleezza Rice, having orchestrated the thing, said, "See! Let's go to Don Rumsfeld now. What about the targets, Don?"
The whole thing is so corrupt. The whole thing is so disingenuously deceitful that it's hard to believe that our elected leaders and the people they appoint could be so corrupt.

DJ: What might a first step be toward bringing US/Israeli relations into a more functional paradigm?

RM: Our job now is to get the truth out about the realities of US/Israeli relations. We have to be willing to be called anti-Semitic. We have to be willing to face what happens whenever somebody says, "Hey, there's an elephant in the living room. There's an elephant in the living room, and its name is Israel."

We have to be willing to approach this in a more objective way. We have to be willing to openly discuss it, at least as freely as they do in the state of Israel. There is much freer discussion there in their press. We have to be willing to do this, because the truth will set us free.

The bottom line, really, is that we do Israel a great service, as well as doing a great service for our own country, by pointing out the short-sightedness, the myopia that attends this policy - that you can just bomb the hell out of a country, that you can send rockets and tanks to catch a resistance group like Hezbollah. It never has been done. You will not be able to defeat Hezbollah any more than you'll be able to defeat the resistance in Iraq.

The sooner that both our countries realize that, the sooner that that truth gets out and the American people know that's the truth, the sooner we can hope for some change in policy.
Still, vouching for the defense of Israel - nobody wants to see Israel pushed into the sea, but that's not the problem. Israel's not going to be pushed into the sea with 300 nuclear weapons. They've got to make peace with their neighbors.

You have to take official pronouncements pretty seriously. Take those from Osama bin Laden. In our media coverage of his press announcements, they leave out something that they find inconvenient. And what they find inconvenient is what he says about the motivation for what he and other insurgents are doing. And that is that they are acting out of extreme hatred for US policies, the primary policy being our one-sided support for the state of Israel, vis-á-vis the Palestinians. Also, of course, our support for the corrupt regimes in places like Saudi Arabia.

I remember Osama bin Laden, just a couple of months after 9/11, included a story in his tapes. The story depicted an Arab camel driver. The camel driver was tying up the camel across the street from where another camel was. And the other camel was at the hands of a butcher and the butcher was hacking into this camel in the full sight of this other camel driver and his camel. The Arab camel driver's camel broke his ropes and ran over and bit the butcher's hand off.
Osama's comment on this was, "So it will be. So it will be with Arab mothers who see their children being slaughtered, being hacked to death. They will rise to the occasion and bite the hand of the invader."

I should add that when the 9/11 Commission was preparing their report, something that escaped media attention was that in the midst of their drafting, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, was captured. On page 147, even though this commission was appointed to look into the background, and why it all happened, there is just one sentence that says Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, when asked why he devised the 9/11 plan, said, "I did it out of violent hatred for the effects of one-sided US support for the state of Israel." Then there is a footnote at the back of the book that says [paraphrased], "Indeed, this is what Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's nephew, said, after he tried to knock down one of the Twin Towers in 1993 and was arraigned, convicted and sentenced to 243 years in a Federal Prison." What he said was, "I'm proud to have done this deed, I'm sorry I failed to knock down the whole building. But I did it out of my extreme violent hatred for US policies, one-sided in the favor of Israel."

None of that has appeared in the American press, but it happens to be part of the reality. If we want to stem terrorism, we have to be a little more enlightened, educated and sensible. Because the way you defeat terrorism is the same way you defeat malaria.

With malaria you find the swamp that breeds mosquitoes and you station sharp-shooters all around that swamp and you try to hit every one of those mosquitoes when they try to leave the swamp, right? Not really. What you do is you drain the swamp.

Now, we have to drain the swamp of legitimate grievances that come from over four decades of concentration-camp type living on the part of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Of grievances that come from our support for dictatorial regimes like the one in Saudi Arabia. We have to address those grievances.

If you believe what the president says about why they hate us, "They hate our freedom," well I have a bridge of mine in Manhattan that goes to Brooklyn I'd love to sell you. You have to look a little deeper than that. The reason they hate us is because they have these un-redressed grievances and there are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world and they see, every night on their TV, what is going on. They see the Israelis using our weaponry to suppress their brothers and sisters.

Osama bin Laden uses the line about the Palestinians in his addresses because it is effective. Even if he doesn't truly believe it himself, it is effective because the broad majority of Muslims listening know these un-redressed grievances all too well, and that is why it is effective as a rallying cry.

We all warned before the invasion of Iraq that the recruiting lines for al-Qaeda would go around the corner. If we thought we would lessen the threat of terrorism by going into Iraq, we were sadly mistaken - because before we attacked Iraq, there were no terrorists in Iraq. I repeat: There were no terrorists in Iraq.

What Saddam Hussein was doing was paying some of the families of suicide bombers who did their dastardly deeds in Israel, or elsewhere. But that was the extent of the terrorism in Iraq.
But now Iraq is teeming with terrorists. This is important because if, as I believe to be the case, one of the main reasons the US thought they would invade and take over Iraq was to make that part of the world safer for the state of Israel, then the situation now is just the opposite of that.
The situation now is much more precarious with all of these terrorists in Iraq. Israel is much less safe, and the bottom line as far as US policy is concerned is that it's much more difficult to contemplate withdrawing forces from Iraq under these conditions.

If you put yourself in the place of the Israelis, I can understand the concern, of course. During the first Gulf War there were 39 Scud Missiles shot towards Israel. That's pretty scary. So the Israelis were hell-bent and determined to make sure there were no scuds left in Iraq.

As we know, Colin Powell said in his infamous speech in front of the UN on February 5, 2003, that our best estimate was there were about two dozen scuds left in Iraq. Now, he happened to be off by only 24, because there were no functioning scuds in Iraq. But if I were an Israeli citizen, I'd like to make damned sure that was the case.

Well, they did make damned sure that was the case. But they could have done that through traditional intelligence sources. They didn't have to do that by encouraging the US to invade Iraq and clean it out, because the results speak for themselves. An upsurge in terrorism, very long recruiting lines for al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the others, and no draining of the swamp. No coherent policy toward addressing the grievances of those who then become terrorists.
Don Rumsfeld, he'll scratch his head as he did two years ago and say, "You know, I just don't understand what would possess someone to put a bunch of explosives on their body and blow themselves up just to kill other people. Why do people act this crazy?"

My advice to Secretary Rumsfeld is he really ought to tune into Al Jazeera for just one evening and see the diet that 1.3 billion Muslims are getting - a diet of weaponry provided by the US to the state of Israel and to others, weapons that are used against Arabs and Muslims, people who have been repressed for more than 50 years now. And that would give Don Rumsfeld some insight as to why people act this "crazy."

I'd suggest that our policy is more deserving of that label than the terrorists.

DJ: Do you see any time-frame within which the Bush administration would like to drag Iran into this?

RM: It's hard to discern whether Iran would come before Syria. The best thing to do would be to read the "Clean Break" document, and some of the others and try to figure it out for yourself, because they've had to adjust things a bit.

But as far as Iran is concerned, which would be the main threat, the way I see it, the reason I give such urgency to the question is because the president is in real trouble. His numbers are very low. There are these midterm elections coming up in November and the stakes are really high. Because if the Democrats take the House, my view is that John Conyers wouldn't wait two weeks before initiating impeachment proceedings against the president for due cause. What would that mean? That wouldn't necessarily mean conviction, because who knows what would happen in the Senate, but it would mean the president would be bogged down for his last two years in defending himself for crimes committed. Demonstrable crimes. Witness only the violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Deliberate violation. Admitted violation, where the president brags about having authorized violation 29 times.

Why do I cite that among other indignities? That happens to be one of the indictment counts that the House Judiciary Committee passed to impeach President Nixon in 1974. So it's an impeachable offense, demonstrably by precedent.

All I'm saying is that the president has to look with great concern at a takeover of the House by the Democrats. Not only will he be under the gun, but every committee will be looking into crimes and misdemeanors by other departments and other agencies. And the next two years would be completely wasted in terms of his achieving more of the neo-con agenda.

Not only that, there is personal liability here. Take torture for example. When the president decided he'd like the CIA to start torturing folks who were captured in Afghanistan, they came back to him and said, "We have 12-13 people who are willing to do this, they are all special-ops guys from Vietnam and know how to do this. But Mr. President, we have this little paper we'd like you to sign."

It was then and only then that the president called in Alberto Gonzales, his White House Counsel and said, "Hey, can I authorize this torture of Taliban and al-Qaeda?" Gonzales goes to the vice president's lawyer, David Addington, who then drafts this memo that Gonzales signs. This is the one, dated January 25th, that says Geneva is quaint and obsolete and according to Gonzales, "you don't really have to worry about international law like that. However, Mr. President, there is unfortunately US Law, 18 US Code 2441, called the War Crimes Act, and it has very, very stringent penalties, including death, and it's all tied explicitly to the provisions of the Geneva Convention. So that's a little sticky, but we believe there is a reasonable basis in law where you can escape prosecution if at some later date some mean-spirited special prosecutor is appointed and decides to move against you juridically."

Now, there wasn't and there still isn't a respectable lawyer in this country who says that was a good opinion. But George W. Bush acted on that opinion, and two weeks later, on February 7, 2002, he wrote a memorandum that parroted this business and said in the final bottom line, "As a matter of policy, the US Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva."

Now my friends, that is the loophole through which Don Rumsfeld drove the Mack Truck of torture. "To the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity." Who decides that? Don Rumsfeld and his folks. So what I'm saying is these people are criminally culpable, in my view, criminally liable under US Code, criminal statute for war crimes. This is something that has to worry them, and it's precisely why they are trying to change the law. They are trying to change the US War Crimes Act of 1996 to permit the kinds of things that they've already done. I've never seen the likes of it.

How does this all play out?

If I were they, I would be very receptive to a Karl Rove and a Dick Cheney who would come up and say, "Mr. President, we have to do something to prevent this. And the best thing we can think of is: you did pretty well as a war president. You like that role. So we think if we take off after Iran, because of course it is threatening Israel, and juice that as the justification and the fact that they are still trying to get a nuclear weapon - we can make people think that. Then you'll be a war president again. It's risky, these damned armed-forces guys are a bunch of cowards and warn that all hell could break loose, but look at the downside here. Let's say the Democrats take the House. We are in very deep kimshei. So this is what we advise. We advise using these smart bombs, and the Air Force guys say they can do it, even though the Army and Marines are being a bunch of wimps about this, they are afraid of having to go in and clean up after the Air Force. But the Air Force guys say they know where most of the targets are and the Israelis could start it. We could finish it up. The domestic ramifications would be OK because of the control of the media and the Israeli lobby and there's a good chance that if you could become that kind of war president, maybe it would be accompanied by a minor terrorist incident - which we could certainly arrange - you have a decent chance of hanging onto the House."

Is that Machiavellian? Is that un-American? Is that beyond the pale? Yeah, it is! But I would not put that past this crew. Watching Cheney, watching the lawyers they got out of the yellow pages to justify torture and stuff like that, I would not put it past them. I would say that the sycophants that have risen to the rank of general, I'm talking about the armed forces now and especially the Air Force, that they would probably tell Cheney and Rumsfeld what they thought they wanted to hear, "Yeah, we could do the job." And we'd have Vietnam all over again when the Air Force told MacNamara, "Yeah, we'll bomb the hell out of them and they'll come to their senses."

So that's what worries me. And you ask about the timing - I think the timing is just as likely to happen in the next couple of months before the election, that there is this additional incentive to do it before the election. And I must say that not all of my colleagues agree, and I dare say most people think it won't happen until early next year, but that's how I come at it and that's the rationale that I use.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has reported for the Guardian, the Independent, and the Sunday Herald. He now writes regularly for Inter Press Service and Truthout. He maintains a web site at dahrjamailiraq.com.

Apr 27, 2008

Lives of the rich and famous

Have yourself a lonely little Christmas by Julie Burchill, Guardian, Saturday December 23, 2000

'The prospect of my first Christmas as a free agent - no one's daughter, mother or wife - is incredibly exciting, and not a little overdue'

A few weeks ago, I read a feature in the Daily Mail by Paul Burrell, the former butler to the late Princess of Wales - "My rock," she called him. Burrell has been as loyal and devoted a friend to the Princess since her death as he was during her life, and I'm sure what he wrote - "What would the Royals buy for Christmas?" - was intended to be a soft-focus, sepia-tinted glimpse of a much-missed fascinator at a nostalgic time of year.

I must say, though, that, in the picture it painted of the deluxe isolation of the Windsors, and especially of the vulnerable and fragile girl who became their brood mare par excellence, I found this romp through the royal wish-list easily as chilling as any treacherous Highgrove phone conversation transcript or bland Buck Pal message of sympathy. With the media currently wetting itself over Prince William, it wouldn't hurt for a minute to remember his mother, without whom he wouldn't have ended up looking like that. Not with Camilla Parker Bowles as a mum.

Each Christmas, Burrell would help the princess locate, wrap and despatch more than 200 presents. Featuring heavily among these would be aromatherapy kits - which, for me, have come to symbolise the fragrant solitude of the modern civil sex war, as bored housewives and career girls too good for the miserable men on offer wallow in candle-lit limbo in aromatherapy baths called such things as Sensuality and Afterglow while their putative suitors download barnyard porn in their locked studies. Then there would come the Smythson address books, in hand-bound goatskin, £195, in which the princess and her circle might carefully write the personal details of all those close friends whose husbands and wives they would one day sleep with, if they hadn't already.

I find it particularly poignant that she was apparently a collector of Halcyon Days enamel boxes; all that clutter, to soften that harsh, blaring life - £85 for a poxing empty tin box! You can see why the firm has got four royal warrants, for its products' extortionate hollowness echoes the Windsor way. To obscure her loneliness even further, here comes her army of Herond hand-painted china animals, from £55 for a tiny "frog prince" to £4,000 for a limited-edition giraffe. "Each year, I would ensure that the latest edition was carefully wrapped and placed inside the princess's stocking, which I had filled on Wills' and Harry's behalf," reports Burrell, and what a wealth of estrangement and loss there is in this good servant's innocent testimony.

Diana would, according to Burrell, turn to Turnbull & Asser for bespoke shirts, ties and dressing gowns for her faithless husband and stolen sons - I mention this only because the appropriateness of the name of this hawker of haberdashery to the ruling classes is so delightful. (Almost as gorgeous as my husband's divorce lawyers, Hart & Loveless!) From J Floris would come scented candles, fragrances and vaporising oils - the princess was particularly fond of Seasonal Spice at this time of year, doubtless to drown out the pong of paranoia, the stink of betrayal and the whiff of cordite coming off Balmoral.

Price's candles - a dozen for £6.90 - would provide the lighting at every royal dining table, ensuring that daylight was not let in upon the magic and, even more important, that the hated face of the spouse opposite could be mutated - after a few tots of The King's Ginger Liqueur, available only from Berry Bros & Rudd of St James - into the welcoming features of the beloved.

From the General Trading Company - "an Aladdin's Cave for those in Sloane Ranger territory" - Diana would buy those tragic cushions whose mottos became so horribly apt with the unfurling of her miserable life. I'M A LUXURY FEW CAN AFFORD - GOOD GIRLS GO TO HEAVEN; BAD GIRLS GO EVERYWHERE - THOSE WHO SAY THAT MONEY CAN'T BUY YOU HAPPINESS DON'T KNOW WHERE TO SHOP. She would also pick up china sweet dishes, no doubt for her fellow bulimics to display their poison of choice. And she might grab a monogrammed washbag for her husband from Eximious, By Appointment To The Prince Of Wales, in which he might keep those all-important unguents for removing the stench of his adultery.

Silver monogrammed key chains (£40 upwards) make a perfect gift for men and women alike, apparently, and are so much more appropriate than the cufflinks saying "Gladys" and "Fred" which the ever-sensitive Prince Charles wore to dinner on the first night of his honeymoon, only to be amazed when his unreasonable, hysterical wife showed distress at his continuing devotion to his mistress. (In an interesting insight into the cesspit that is the Parker Bowles mind, isn't it attractive how the very idea of working-class names, attached to such obviously classy pieces of ass as herself and Chas, struck her as being such a hoot?)

Much is made of Diana's "lonely" Christmases in later years, but I bet they seemed like heaven after being locked up with the Addams Family all those years. She did have family, after all - sisters and a brother who would have been happy to have her. But what people who are trapped in the tradition of the family Christmas fail to realise is that, once you have made good your escape, voluntary or otherwise, the prospect of living through the whole dreary panto again, this time with another set of personality disorders and ancient grudges, is not an especially attractive one.

There is a lot of cant talked about The Family at Christmas, with those such as myself - preparing to face my first Christmas as an orphan - the focus of pity and concern from those who will be enmeshed in the bosom of theirs. But far from each family becoming a Holy Family at this time of year, it seems to my jaded outsider's eyes that, with a few lucky exceptions, most families become royal families, waving expensive geegaws at each other to divert attention from each other's dismay at having to play the same old tired roles - harassed housewife, bluff paterfamilias, exasperated adult children - that we spend the rest of the year struggling so valiantly to escape.

Though I loved my parents to bits, the prospect of my first Christmas spent as a free agent - no one's daughter, mother or wife - seems incredibly exciting and exotic, and not a little overdue. So don't all you family types feel too sorry for us solitaires. In return, we'll try not to feel too sorry for you, stuck with your families this Christmas, when you'd far rather be with those you love.

Winston Churchill

Churchill’s wife, Lady Churchill, had an ongoing and permanent affair with Beaverbrook, the press baron. All during the war and before it she went and got shagged regularly by Beaverbrook. It must have been incredibly painful for Churchill, but it did leave him free to concentrate on the war, and during the last years of his life on his funeral. In his social class people did not get divorced, and he could no more change the culture of the British Upper Classes than any one else could.

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound demonstrated irrefutably that being born and raised in the American Midwest, the Bible belt, need not limit your actions or achievements in any way.

Ezra became a real Chinese scholar, with mountains of translations of Chinese texts to his credit, and an even larger mountain of superb poems in Chinese style. T.S. Eliot, his friend, called him “il miglior fabbro” [the better maker].

Ezra developed a number of hobby horses, or passionately held beliefs, one of which was a total opposition to interest, i.e., the money you receive for lending out money, which practice he regarded as the root of all evil.

Living in Italy in World War II (1939-1945) Ezra defiantly joined the forces of Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, the fascist (I’m not insulting him – that’s what he called himself, complete with the fasces, the bundle of rods with an axe in the middle that the lictors carried in ancient Rome, signifying their power to chastise or execute wrong doers on behalf of the people, whose representatives they were.) Benito was allied to the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, in Germany, and the Japanese, known as the Axis powers, in their fight with Britain, America, France, and so on, known as the Allies, and so Ezra’s action made him the perfect example of a traitor to his country, as the main English language apologist on the radio for the Axis powers. When captured Ezra was put in a large cage and kept there.

His poem The River Merchant’s Wife, a letter performs a trick worthy of a science fiction feature, transporting you instantly inside the head of a Chinese lady. It is also the best example - there aren’t many of them - of a poem on love inside marriage.


If you’re going to stick your head into the hornets nest of Pakistan politics, please hold tightly to the principle “If you think you understand, you don’t understand.”

First thing to get straight is that Pakistan is a feudal society, with a handful of important families literally owning the land, landlords to all the people living there, down to what the peasant must pay the money lender for enough to buy a goat. The Bhutto family is one, and the biggest and most important, of these ruling families. Nawaz Sharif is the head of another. The Bhutto turf in Sindh is the heart of Pakistan, and its most important province. The PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) is the family, and the family is the party.

Second thing is the Inter-Services Intelligence agency of Pakistan, the ISI, which has been called “an empire within an empire,” who were the main backers, almost the creators, of the Taleban in Afghanistan. (They’re also the people who hosed down the area where Benazir Bhutto was killed, effectively making any kind of forensic examinations impossible.) There is absolutely no reason to think the ISI has abandoned the Taleban, Mullah Omar included, and every reason to think that the current successes of the Taleban have the support of the ISI.

Personal details: Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was executed by the government of Zia Al-Haqq, [“He has forgotten the truth.”] ruler of Pakistan, so the family enmity to military rulers has a long history.

Yeshua bin Youssef

More light, more light!

The easiest way to find out what that fellow Issa ben Yusuf, aka Jesus of Nazareth, was on about, is just to read what he said, near as we can make out, but you must dump overboard all the expert theological opinion first.

After you have done this, you will discover a cache of some of the most hip and up-to-date advice you could ever hope to find. (Example: When arrived at any kind of party, celebration, or other official function, do not make a dive for the vacant seats of honor in the front row, only to be unceremoniously kicked out by the master of ceremonies. Stick with the rabble, and let that same master of ceremonies come over and say “Me dear chap. What are you doing down here? Come up to the front here.”)

A typical example might be: “The birds of the air have their nests, and the little foxes have their holes, but the son of man has not where to lay his head.” If you listen to the experts, they will tell you that this refers to himself, i.e. “son of man” always means “me, the Son of God,” but if this were really a “Don’t these people know I’m a celebrity? Where’s the hot water?” kind of whinge, no one would have thought it worthy of being remembered. If you merely use the brains God gave you on the text, however, it becomes clear he’s saying “In a way animals and birds have it easy. They know exactly where they live, how they act, the proper steps to finding a mate and so on, but humans are somehow supposed to adapt to whatever kind of situation they fall into.” True, oh king.

This is reminiscent of the famous “last words of Goethe,” which were supposed to be “Mehr Licht, mehr licht,” [More light, more light] but which it has been pointed out were probably “Dreh’ mich, dreh’ mich” [Turn me over for Gawd’s sake, I’m [gag gag] choking!” Nothing is more likely than this kind of misunderstanding, or subsequent revision, of history. The removal of the head of the third Shogun was simply not allowed to appear in any Japanese historical records, in order not to “Encourager les autres,” [Encourage the others.]

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach died in 1750, after sixty five years spent entirely in his native Germany. It would be nice to think that living beings who flit around the globe have some advantage over this method of proceeding, but the likelihood any of them can produce a more impressive result are remote to put it mildly.

“To create a self as solid and unmoving as Mount Fuji” is described by the Japanese master swordsman as the first necessary step. Accusations that Mr. Bach spent long sermons fooling around with a chambermaid in the wine cellars only increase my admiration.

Johann Sebastian Bach's son, CPE Bach, was known as "the Great Bach" in the eighteenth century. He spent twenty eight years as court musician to "der alte Fritz," Frederick the Great of Prussia, and inaugurated the "Stuerm und Drang" period of storm and turmoil.

Apr 26, 2008

Poetry, archery, money, and mitochondrial DNA

Poets were excluded from Plato's republic on the reasonable grounds that they were all liars.

"Poetry makes nothing happen," says W.H.Auden.

"Poetry is more important than bread," says another poet.

"Poetry is imaginary gardens with real toads in them," says Marianne Moore

"Poetry is a voice you can hear," says some body else.

Ancient Persian education consisted of two items, to shoot with the bow and to tell the truth.

Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2007 22:50:27 -0400 Subject: Re: I've added you as a friend on Facebook...

…You may have got out of France just in time, by the way. Sarkozy’s prime minister has just announced the bad news that France is bankrupt. This would explain Sarkozy’s visit to the White House and his foreign minister Kouchner’s attacks on Iran. Pakistan was really totally bankrupt too when Musharraf joined the “War on Terror,” and got rewarded with billions of dollars, without necessarily being able to help very much, and so you might say the French are doing a Musharraf. Gotta keep that lolly rolling in…

Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 15:55:27 -0400

Tracing direct genetic links has advanced by leaps and bounds. Geneticists are quite certain they can identify what they call the "original Adam," an East African male sixty thousand years ago. Humanity appears to have suffered a cataclysmic destruction between seventy and eighty thousand years ago, almost certainly caused by the eruption of the Toba super volcano in Indonesia, which blanketed the earth from the sun and caused a winter of several years duration that wiped out most life on earth, including human, and produced the ice capped Arctic and Antarctic. More than one line of descendants of humans came from the survivors, but none of them appear to have lived on except that of “the original Adam,” hence the title.

The lady, for example, who is governor of the Hazara province in central Afghanistan, who does not even cover her face though she wears a head covering, rules a tribe all directly descended from Ghenghis Khan, emperor of all men, we know for quite certain - a result of having all the best looking women reserved for the great khan after every battle.

Mitochondrial DNA, transmitted only through the mother, is even more useful, providing a time clock, as well as establishing that all humans alive now are descended from a surprisingly small number, about ten thousand humans, perhaps as few as two thousand, who survived a world wide cataclysm between seventy thousand and eighty thousand years ago.

That Jefferson had the M168 mutation on the Y (the male) chromosome pins him down as one of the descendants of the "original Adam," an East African male sixty thousand years ago. Jefferson displays those characteristics quite dramatically that scientists on the Kenyan island of Pate and in the research centers of the US think they can distinguish, a jutting jaw, expansion of the rear skull, a very complex language system, and a capacity for invention that makes him "the first distinctively modern" human, later spreading from East Africa through Asia and Europe.

The relevant point of all this is that it is precisely the complex language ability that the experts pick as crucial in making this original Adam so successful. All his cousin strands died out.

Even more important, perhaps, than the complex language ability of this ancient Adam from East Africa is that in his time the bow and arrow technology, of which the Pate islanders are still masterly practitioners, was created and perfected.

Note: Whatever it means in the USA the meaning of the V sign in the UK - hand held knuckles down, lifted upwards two or three times - is the exact parallel of the US middle finger of the right hand, "flipping a bird." During the second world war the Morse code V sign, three shorts and a long, was used by Britain as a radio station identification signal, and generally thought to stand for Victory, but its origins are much older. The legendary long bow men of Agincourt and Crecy, using a "clothyard shaft," an arrow about a metre in length, certainly wreaked havoc among the French nobility, owing to the unsporting habit of allowing commoners to attack the nobility, but the power of the long bow was certainly much greater than the bolt of the crossbow, and the French retaliated by cutting off the index finger and middle fingers of the right hand from any bowmen they captured. Waving those two fingers derisively at an opponent therefore signified "Hey, Froggie, I've still got my firing fingers."

(Refreezing the Arctic Al Gore’s long list of proposals, even if all carried out to the letter, would have very little effect on slowing global warming, which has long passed its tipping point. A mechanism for re-freezing the Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets does exist, however, but it is in the hands of Mother Earth, and as the clinically depressed computer tells the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “You won’t like it.”

Mitochondrial DNA, transmitted only through the mother, provides a very useful time clock, and establishes that all humans alive now are descended from a small number, about ten thousand humans, who survived the world wide cataclysm between seventy thousand and eighty thousand years ago.

Seventy four thousand years ago the Toba supervolcano erupted on the island of Sumantra in Indonesia. The thousands of tons of volcanic ash and gases thrown into the atmosphere appear, from geological evidence, to have produced a global winter without sunshine that wiped out most life on earth, including human, and produced a general drop in temperatures of about five degrees Celsius, about twelve degrees Fahrenheit, somewhat larger at the north and south poles.

Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, the site of the famous “Old Faithful” geyser that tourists come to see, is the site of an even bigger super volcano, and one that has erupted three times, according to the geological record, at very steady intervals some six thousand to eight thousand years apart. The last eruption was six thousand years ago. The caldera (circular pit marking the site of the eruption) is so large that it roughly coincides with the boundaries of Yellowstone Park itself, and the magma chamber some five miles down measures approximately fifty by twenty by ten kilometers. Checking the 1923 surveyor sea level measurements against today’s establishes that the ground over the magma chamber has actually risen by seven hundred and forty millimeters since 1923.)

Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 15:21:08 -0400, Subject: Halloween and All Saints 2007

…Might I, at this time of all round financial stress, run through some ancient Jewish traditions on money? I might? Well thank you for your courtesy.

The most wonderful of ancient Jewish traditions, regrettably not present in modern systems, is the cancellation of all debts at the end of every seven years. Imagine your entire mortgage debt disappearing after seven years!

“Keep your assets in cash, charge cost and ten percent, don’t do business with people you don’t know and trust,” might be a rough rendering. Note how closely it hews to the bedrock. No “Senior reverse mortgages” or other baroque schemes there. One might perhaps add a comment or two (“Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry,” – Hamlet , Act III - ) but even without those, it’s a handy all purpose no nonsense basic financial primer.

Just thought I’d mention it.

The Acid Slingers of Pakistan

We all agree, I trust, that assigning blame is not the primary, or even a particularly worthwhile activity (See the Japanese proverb, “Fix the problem, not the blame.” The Japanese have a system that works perfectly adequately, as many cultures do, of having the blame carrier appear, can in hand, to offer his humble apologies for mistakes made, (Seppuku (hara kiri) is not required, but farting around by the prisoner in the dock will not be tolerated.) to offer his resignation and we also agree, I trust, that when people have their own working perfectly fine system, we should not pour out our lives and our energy and our wealth in the pointless effort of trying to stop them just because they might not turn out to be best buddies of the Americans.

Having established all that what about the following situation?

It is a common occurrence in many areas of Pakistan that a boy refused by a girl to be his girl friend, goes to a local shop where they sell these things, purchases a quantity of acid which he then throws in the face of the recalcitrant young lady.

Before getting inundated by even worse horror stories, let me say yes I know about the habit of the “old men” (Zanzibar?) of having the eyelids cut out of girls disobedient to the commands of the old men, and wander round the island with their dead dried out eyes warning the rebellious to get in line.

But allowing our above agreement (that if countries and cultures have their own working system why the hell should we try and change it?) is the situation with the acid throwers of Pakistan any different? I would argue yes it is, (though I’d leave the old men of Zanzibar alone for the moment until we can organize a posse to hand them over to the ladies with the dead eyeballs.) because even Pakistanis do not by any means all support it, many are trying to eradicate it, and because it is demonstrably in open opposition to the Holy Koran and Sharia law.

If then we attain a provisional working agreement to consider the situation, let me propose the following:

The shops that sold the acid, a well known local chain, immediately have their entire property, building and stocks seized, and ownership transferred – without delay, gentlemen, please – to a cooperative owned in common by all the scarred and unmarriageable victims of the acid throwing.

The acid thrower becomes the personal slave of the woman in whose face he threw the acid. She literally owns him – some exemption in statutory bans on slavery will have to be made – [For those who object, for cosmetic reasons, to any acceptance, let alone statutory establishment, of slavery, would you mind please explaining your position to the eastern European girls in Tel Aviv brothels? Oh, they are not slaves, it’s a business arrangement! Well, OK, I don’t want to disturb your business arrangements, but I have some new bodies for you, mostly males, I’m afraid, but some quite young and good looking, and even the older ones could be sold to Myanmar for ammunition haulers, I’d say. Casting your net a bit wider, you might say, expanding business opportunities! Go for it.] and the lady can, should she wish, loan to friends or even sell the luckless protagonist of male ownership of every one and everything – It’s OK, we have the same bunch over here in the States claiming exactly the same thing.

October, 2007
Insane economic news of the day By The Mogambo Guru - April 4, 2008
Things are getting weirder and weirder out there, and I am getting weirder and weirder in the semi-gloom of the Mogambo Bunker Of Ultimate Paranoia (MBOUP), like when I (for some reason) weirdly thought that if I called 911 to report the emergency of a rampant 20% monetary inflation that is going to lead to unbelievable consumer price inflation, which will lead to food riots and societal breakdown, it might do some good!

The reason I did that was that I am just about to give up using the Mogambo Method Of Societal Change (MMOSC), variously called "crazy drunkard screeching and writing hate mail to the Federal Reserve, Congress, the Supreme Court, the United Nations and all the other lying, thieving, scumbags of the world, most of them Marxist trash who depend on the damned Federal Reserve and their own central banks to create so much money so that they can finance their loathsome socialist/communist agenda". It did not, obviously, work.

Well, the 911 operator is, I am sorry to say, just as stupid as the rest of the people around here, and she did not think that an explosive 20% growth in the money supply was an "emergency" either, even after I explained to her, like I patiently explain it to my neighbors, how she was beyond stupid if she didn't think that zillions of dollars being jammed into the economy was an "emergency" - because it is! We're going to be murdered by inflation! And murder is an emergency!

"Hell," I told her, "Get up off of your lazy fat butt and look around you! Inflation in consumer prices is already zipping along at terrifying levels!"

I even told her how even the laughably low "official" government estimate of inflation is a terrifying 4%, and the new "official" government Gross Domestic Product Deflator (used to wring out the effects of inflation from raw GDP data) is 2.4%!

Well, apparently calling her "stupid fascist moron worthless lowlife goon-squad trash" was violating a half-dozen or so laws, and after being reminded of it, I knew that the 911 emergency system was just another government agency in league with those Federal Reserve and Congressional devils, and I hung up in rude dismay.

So now you know how weird things are getting, and thus you are primed for a recap of the Insane Economic News Of The Day (IENOTD), such as Total Fed Credit, the magical ultimate source of credit, which turns into debt and literally into money if someone borrows from a bank, being down a whopping $9.3 billion last week! Zounds!

And as more Insane Economic News Of The Day (IENOTD), the Fed's personal stash of US government debt is down another gigantic $48 billion last week! $48 billion! In one week! One freaking week! In fact, the Fed's stash of US Securities Bought Outright is down a whopping $151 billion in the last 12 months alone, and this mighty drawdown leaves them with only another $629 billion!

If you want a little MORE of some hold-onto-your-hat IENOTD, how about the fact that last week total reserves in the banks was $44 billion, and of that, a negative $62 billion was "non-borrowed"! Does that make them "borrowed"? Hahahaha! What? Hahaha!

I have to admit that I never was much good with negative numbers, and so I am having a Very Hard Time (VHT) getting my faltering few functioning brain cells around the concept that "free reserves" in the banks are a sudden, staggering negative $75 billion! Total reserves are only $44 billion, but "free reserves" are a negative $75 billion? What in the hell is going on here? It feels like we are going backward through a time warp or something!

I mean, the banks should be loaded with money, as Rick Ackerman of Rick's Picks says, "Since August, the US has thrown more than a trillion dollars of rescue money at the banking system in a desperate attempt to restore confidence."

And as more Insane Economic News Of The Day (IENOTD), gold went down! Hahaha! This is truly, truly insane, because if there was ever a time when gold should be soaring, this is it! But it ain't! Yet.

All of this is taking a toll on the dollar, and Bill Bonner here at The Daily Reckoning writes, "In terms of what a dollar will buy in the United States, a dollar is down around 25% so far this century. In terms of what it will buy in Europe, it is down by about 50%."

Please notice the way the two sentences seem so well written, so informative, yet non-threatening. Now, notice that since this century is only eight damned years old, this makes the sentences seem even more grotesque if they are emended to, "In terms of what a dollar will buy in the United States, a dollar is down by around a whopping 25% in the last eight short freaking years, and in terms of what it will buy in Europe, the dollar is down by a staggering 50 freaking percent in the last stinking short eight years, too!"

Naturally, I think that this is a good opportunity to remind the viewers at home that gold, as a store of value, has gone up in price to compensate for the loss of buying power of the dollar, which is only one of the beauties of gold!

Apparently in response, Mr Bonner then said, "In terms of gold, it has shrunk 75%"!

Naturally, my computer-like brain instantly deduces that since the dollar has lost 25% of its buying power for a market basket of goods in the last eight years, but the dollar has lost 75% of its value against gold, then gold is not only a store of value; sometimes you can actually make money on it! Like now! Whee!

Richard Daughty is general partner and COO for Smith Consultant Group, serving the financial and medical communities, and the editor of The Mogambo Guru economic newsletter - an avocational exercise to heap disrespect on those who desperately deserve it.

“When I consider the curious habits of dogs, I am forced to conclude that man is a superior animal.
“When I consider the curious habits of men, I confess, my friend, I am puzzled.” – Ezra Pound

Poetry great and small

"No fear lest dinner cool!"

Milton, on meal of fruits and vegetables prepared by Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.

"I measured it
From side to side;
T'was three foot high
And two foot wide."

Wordsworth, Poet Laureate of all England

"Blow, blow, thou western wynde.
The small rain down doth rain.
Christ! that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again."

Anonymous, Medieval Britain

Apr 17, 2008

The next banking crisis - Credit Default Swaps

The average price/earnings ratio of stocks in the S&P 500 index is 21, already over the maximum of its normal range. In what is generally agreed to be a slowing economy, one would expect a P/E of about 10 at the minimum end of the range. The three stooges, however, to borrow the phraseology of a local wag, led by “Helicopter Ben” Bernanke, print ever more dollars in their mysterious determination not to let the Dow Jones fall below 12,000. After all, the Zimbabwe stock market shows the biggest gains of all the stock markets in the world! (“Helicopter Ben” is also, of course, faithfully performing his regular exercises on the karma bicycle, Pour in money and oil costs more - oil rises in price so print some more money - pour in money oil costs more .) Meanwhile, the next crisis for the banking system is already upon us.

Credit Default Swaps are one of the many new financial instruments burdening our system. It is in many respects very similar to the bond insurance system, which tried to make sure that when you bought, let us say, a local municipal bond, to build a new gymnasium for the local school, perhaps, you did not depend on your local municipal authority to remain solvent, even wealthy, enough to repay the bond, and the interest on it, but you had a special group of “bond insurers,” such as Ambac, one of the “monoline” insurers, so called because they are allowed to insure only one industry, the bond industry, who charged a fee for guaranteeing that your bond would never be defaulted on. To actually possess sufficient funds to repay all the bonds which they insured these companies would have to possess vast sums, which, of course, they did not have, but under the beneficent “self regulation” policies in force, no one ever checked to see if they actually had enough money at their disposal to pay out on the policies they provided, and under the beneficent rule of the three stooges, the government, that is, the tax payer, will be forced to stump up all the money to make good on these insurance policies. At least that seems the most likely outcome.

Credit Default Swaps (CDSs) are a very similar operation. If a borrower defaults on a loan, the money borrowed is lost. Insurance against this is provided by Credit Default Swaps, i.e., an insurance company undertakes to make good the loss if the borrower defaults. Unlike real insurance companies, however, who are regularly inspected to make sure they have enough in assets to pay off on the insurance policies they write, the CDS insurers have no one checking them, with the result, of course, that they collect their premiums as long as the borrower does not default, and declare bankruptcy the moment the borrower does default. If they planned well, only the “limited partnership” covering this particular loan need be bankrupt. This is thin comfort for the payer of the CDS insurance premium, who finds his insurance premium provided nothing except a free income for the insurance company and he has never had any real cover.

Why is this a show stopper for the whole system? Because although some high net worth individuals do purchase local municipal bonds for a new school gymnasium, the main buyers of these bonds are the pension funds of teachers and such, and these always have a stipulation in their founding documents that they can only invest in Triple A rated securities, copper bottomed guaranteed totally safe investments. The triple A label can only apply if the bonds are insured. If no insurance company exists that actually has enough cash to repay all the bonds they insure, the teachers pension fund has no alternative to going back to their founding documents and saying “Security exists not. Triple A rated bonds are a snare and a delusion. We can only keep our assets in cash,” essentially declaring the system unworkable.

(To illustrate the general impossibility of the current system, or lack of it, "derivatives" are also insured, and the amount of derivatives currently outstanding adds up to about ten times total world GDP, i.e., ten times the production income of all the countries in the world. To pretend that any company can "insure" this level of "assets" is clearly fraudulent.)

How much can the teachers pension fund, or Joe Bloggs, expect if they keep their assets in cash? Certainly nothing like the five per cent or three per cent currently advertised. A money market account in U.S. dollars will bring you in about one and a half per cent, once you have paid the tax for taking any money out, and a similar account in Euros or Yuan with tax deducted at source, about one per cent, though you will benefit from any upgrading against the dollar. This would leave the teachers pension fund saying to their members “We are putting your savings into an account where your money will be worth much less when you take it out than when you put it in. Best advice, hang on to your own money.”

Credit Default Swaps: Derivative Disaster Du Jour by Ellen Brown

http://www.opednews.com/ Headlined on 4/10/08:

When the smartest guys in the room designed their credit default swaps, they forgot to ask one thing – what if the parties on the other side of the bet don’t have the money to pay up? Credit default swaps (CDS) are insurance-like contracts that are sold as protection against default on loans, but CDS are not ordinary insurance. Insurance companies are regulated by the government, with reserve requirements, statutory limits, and examiners routinely showing up to check the books to make sure the money is there to cover potential claims. CDS are private bets, and the Federal Reserve from the time of Alan Greenspan has insisted that regulators keep hands off. The sacrosanct free market would supposedly regulate itself. The problem with that approach is that regulations are just rules. If there are no rules, the players can cheat; and cheat they have, with a gambler’s addiction.

In December 2007, the Bank for International Settlements reported derivative trades tallying in at $681 trillion – ten times the gross domestic product of all the countries in the world combined. Somebody is obviously bluffing about the money being brought to the game, and that realization has made for some very jittery markets.

"Derivatives" are complex bank creations that are very hard to understand, but the basic idea is that you can insure an investment you want to go up by betting it will go down. The simplest form of derivative is a short sale: you can place a bet that some asset you own will go down, so that you are covered whichever way the asset moves. Credit default swaps are the most widely traded form of credit derivative. They are bets between two parties on whether or not a company will default on its bonds. In a typical default swap, the "protection buyer" gets a large payoff if the company defaults within a certain period of time, while the "protection seller" collects periodic payments for assuming the risk of default. CDS thus resemble insurance policies, but there is no requirement to actually hold any asset or suffer any loss, so CDS are widely used just to speculate on market changes.

In one blogger’s example, a hedge fund wanting to increase its profits could sit back and collect $320,000 a year in premiums just for selling "protection" on a risky BBB junk bond. The premiums are "free" money – free until the bond actually goes into default, when the hedge fund could be on the hook for $100 million in claims. And there’s the catch: what if the hedge fund doesn’t have the $100 million? The fund’s corporate shell or limited partnership is put into bankruptcy, but that hardly helps the "protection buyers" who thought they were covered.

To the extent that CDS are being sold as "insurance," they are looking more like insurance fraud; and that fact has particularly hit home with the ratings downgrades of the "monoline" insurers and the recent collapse of Bear Stearns, a leading Wall Street investment brokerage. The monolines are so-called because they are allowed to insure only one industry, the bond industry. Monoline bond insurers are the biggest protection writers for CDS, and Bear Stearns was the twelfth largest counterparty to credit default swap trades in 2006.

These players have been major protection sellers in a massive web of credit default swaps, and when the "protection" goes, the whole fragile derivative pyramid will go with it. The collapse of the derivative monster thus appears to be both imminent and inevitable, but that fact need not be cause for despair. The $681 trillion derivatives trade is the last supersized bubble in a 300-year Ponzi scheme, one that has now taken over the entire monetary system. The nation’s wealth has been drained into private vaults, leaving scarcity in its wake. It is a corrupt system, and change is long overdue. Major crises are major opportunities for change.

The Wall Street Ponzi Scheme

The Ponzi scheme that has gone bad is not just another misguided investment strategy. It is at the very heart of the banking business, the thing that has propped it up over the course of three centuries. A Ponzi scheme is a form of pyramid scheme in which new investors must continually be sucked in at the bottom to support the investors at the top. In this case, new borrowers must continually be sucked in to support the creditors at the top. The Wall Street Ponzi scheme is built on "fractional reserve" lending, which allows banks to create "credit" (or "debt") with accounting entries. Banks are now allowed to lend from 10 to 30 times their "reserves," essentially counterfeiting the money they lend. Over 97 percent of the U.S. money supply (M3) has been created by banks in this way.

The problem is that banks create only the principal and not the interest necessary to pay back their loans, so new borrowers must continually be found to take out new loans just to create enough "money" (or "credit") to service the old loans composing the money supply. The scramble to find new debtors has now gone on for over 300 years – ever since the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 – until the whole world has become mired in debt to the bankers’ private money monopoly. The Ponzi scheme has finally reached its mathematical limits: we are "all borrowed up."

When the banks ran out of creditworthy borrowers, they had to turn to uncreditworthy "subprime" borrowers; and to avoid losses from default, they moved these risky mortgages off their books by bundling them into "securities" and selling them to investors. To induce investors to buy, these securities were then "insured" with credit default swaps. But the housing bubble itself was another Ponzi scheme, and eventually there were no more borrowers to be sucked in at the bottom who could afford the ever-inflating home prices. When the subprime borrowers quit paying, the investors quit buying mortgage-backed securities. The banks were then left holding their own suspect paper; and without triple-A ratings, there is little chance that buyers for this "junk" will be found. The crisis is not, however, in the economy itself, which is fundamentally sound – or would be with a proper credit system to oil the wheels of production. The crisis is in the banking system, which can no longer cover up the shell game it has played for three centuries with other people’s money.

The Derivatives Chernobyl

The latest jolt to the massive derivatives edifice came with the collapse of Bear Stearns on March 16, 2008. Bear Stearns helped fuel the explosive growth in the credit derivative market, where banks, hedge funds and other investors have engaged in $45 trillion worth of bets on the credit-worthiness of companies and countries. Before it collapsed, Bear was the counterparty to $13 trillion in derivative trades. On March 14, 2008, Bear’s ratings were downgraded by Moody’s, a major rating agency; and on March 16, the brokerage was bought by JPMorgan for pennies on the dollar, a token buyout designed to avoid the legal complications of bankruptcy.

The deal was backed by a $29 billion "non-recourse" loan from the Federal Reserve. "Non-recourse" meant that the Fed got only Bear’s shaky paper assets as collateral. If those proved to be worthless, JPM was off the hook. It was an unprecedented move, of questionable legality; but it was said to be justified because, as one headline put it, "Fed’s Rescue of Bear Halted Derivatives Chernobyl." The notion either that Bear was "rescued" or that the Chernobyl was halted, however, was grossly misleading. The CEOs managed to salvage their enormous bonuses, but it was a "bailout" only for JPM and Bear’s creditors. For the shareholders, it was a wipeout. Their stock initially dropped from $156 to $2, and 30 percent of it was held by the employees. Another big chunk was held by the pension funds of teachers and other public servants. The share price was later raised to $10 a share in response to shareholder outrage, but the shareholders were still essentially wiped out; and the fact that one Wall Street bank had to be fed to the lions to rescue the others hardly inspires a feeling of confidence. Neutron bombs are not so easily contained.

The Bear Stearns hit from the derivatives iceberg followed an earlier one in January, when global markets took their worst tumble since September 11, 2001. Commentators were asking if this was "the big one" – a 1929-style crash; and it probably would have been if deft market manipulations had not swiftly covered over the approaching catastrophe. The precipitous drop was blamed on the threat of downgrades in the ratings of two major monoline insurers, Ambac and MBIA, followed by a $7.2 billion loss in derivative trades by Societe Generale, France’s second-largest bank. Like Bear Stearns, the monolines serve as counterparties in a web of credit default swaps, and a downgrade in their ratings would jeopardize the whole shaky derivatives edifice. Without the monoline insurers’ triple-A seal, billions of dollars worth of triple-A investments would revert to junk bonds. Many institutional investors (pension funds, municipal governments and the like) have a fiduciary duty to invest in only the "safest" triple-A bonds. Downgraded bonds therefore get dumped on the market, jeopardizing the banks that are still holding billions of dollars worth of these bonds. The downgrade of Ambac in January signaled a simultaneous downgrade of bonds from over 100,000 municipalities and institutions, totaling more than $500 billion.

Institutional investors have lost a good deal of money in all this, but the real calamity is to the banks. The institutional investors that formerly bought mortgage-backed bonds stopped buying them in 2007, when the housing market slumped. But the big investment houses that were selling them have billions’ worth left on their books, and it is these banks that particularly stand to lose as the derivative Chernobyl implodes.

A Parade of Bailout Schemes

Now that some highly leveraged banks and hedge funds have had to lay their cards on the table and expose their worthless hands, these avid free marketers are crying out for government intervention to save them from monumental losses, while preserving the monumental gains raked in when their bluff was still good. In response to their pleas, the men behind the curtain have scrambled to devise various bailout schemes; but the schemes have been bandaids at best. To bail out a $681 trillion derivative scheme with taxpayer money is obviously impossible. As Michael Panzer observed on SeekingAlpha.com: "As the slow-motion train wreck in our financial system continues to unfold, there are going to be plenty of ill-conceived rescue attempts and dubious turnaround plans, as well as propagandizing, dissembling and scheming by banks, regulators and politicians. This is all happening in an effort to try and buy time or to figure out how the losses can be dumped onto the lap of some patsy (e.g., the taxpayer)."

The idea seems to be to keep the violins playing while the Big Money Boys slip into the mist and man the lifeboats.

As was pointed out in a blog called "Jesse’s Café Americain" concerning the bailout of Ambac: "It seems that the real heart of the problem is that AMBAC was being used as a "cover" by the banks which originated these bundles of mortgages to get their mispriced ratings. Now that the mortgages are failing and the banks are stuck with them, AMBAC cannot possibly pay, they cannot cover the debt. And the banks don't wish to mark these CDOs [collateralized debt obligations] to market [downgrade them to their real market value] because they are probably at best worth 60 cents on the dollar, but are being held by the banks on balance at roughly par. That's a 40 percent haircut on enough debt to sink every bank involved in this situation . . . . Indeed for all intents and purposes if marked to market banks are now insolvent. So, the banks will provide capital to AMBAC . . . [but] it’s just a game of passing money around. . . . So why are the banks engaging in this charade? This looks like an attempt to extend the payouts on a vast Ponzi scheme gone bad that is starting to collapse . . . ."

The banks will therefore no doubt be looking for one bailout after another from the only pocket deeper than their own, the U.S. government’s. But if the federal government acquiesces, it too could be dragged into the voracious debt cyclone of the mortgage mess. The federal government’s triple A rating is already in jeopardy, due to its gargantuan $9 trillion debt. Before the government agrees to bail out the banks, it should insist on some adequate quid pro quo. In England, the government agreed to bail out bankrupt mortgage bank Northern Rock, but only in return for the bank’s stock. On March 31, 2008, The London Daily Telegraph reported that Federal Reserve strategists were eyeing the nationalizations that saved Norway, Sweden and Finland from a banking crisis from 1991 to 1993. In Norway, according to one Norwegian adviser, "The law was amended so that we could take 100 percent control of any bank where its equity had fallen below zero."

If their assets were "marked to market," some major Wall Street banks could already be in that category.

Benjamin Franklin’s Solution

Nationalization has traditionally had a bad name in the United States, but it could be an attractive alternative for the American people and our representative government as well. Turning bankrupt Wall Street banks into public institutions might allow the government to get out of the debt cyclone by undoing what got us into it. Instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul, flapping around in a sea of debt trying to stay afloat by creating more debt, the government could address the problem at its source: it could restore the right to create money to Congress, the public body to which that solemn duty was delegated under the Constitution.

The most brilliant banking model in our national history was established in the first half of the eighteenth century, in Benjamin Franklin’s home province of Pennsylvania. The local government created its own bank, which issued money and lent it to farmers at a modest interest. The provincial government created enough extra money to cover the interest not created in the original loans, spending it into the economy on public services. The bank was publicly owned, and the bankers it employed were public servants. The interest generated on its loans was sufficient to fund the government without taxes; and because the newly issued money came back to the government, the result was not inflationary.

The Pennsylvania banking scheme was a sensible and highly workable system that was a product of American ingenuity but that never got a chance to prove itself after the colonies became a nation. It was an ironic twist, since according to Benjamin Franklin and others, restoring the power to create their own currency was a chief reason the colonists fought for independence. The bankers’ money-creating machine has had two centuries of empirical testing and has proven to be a failure. It is time the sovereign right to create money is taken from a private banking elite and restored to the American people to whom it properly belongs.

Apr 16, 2008

Food riots, and starvation coming?


"As in all famines and plagues, the weakest suffer and die first; in this case we are seeing the weakest and poorest countries suffering first.

"The combination of being a poor country and also being a country that imports a large amount of their basic foodstuffs will surely prove most deadly; read the list above to see the first victims.
"Even the wealthy countries that are dependent on food imports will soon be having a very hard time as a larger and larger amount of their foreign exchange revenue goes to food imports while grocery store prices double and triple.

"But how about the exporters of grain and other food, such as Russia, Ukraine, USA, Brazil, Canada? Russia and Ukraine and other grain exporters have already slapped stiff tariffs on exports, effectively stopping them and thereby retaining a bread supply for their citizens. The USA, Canada, and Brazil have not; all indications are that they will continue to pre-sell their harvests to the highest bidder until there is no more food left to export and their own people are starving. At that point (next fall or winter, I'd say) the people of Brazil will rise up and put a stop to the business, while the people of Canada and the US will humbly beg their lords and masters for a spoonful of gruel; if that gruel is only forthcoming through slavery, they will embrace slavery. I don't think I'm being overly dramatic here. I expect to see mass starvation in the USA by next winter, but no revolution and little protest. The Americans will starve and die, still afraid to do more than whimper."

Apr 15, 2008

The world is a supermarket

While the store was crowded with customers the manager of a South American supermarket discovered that a fire had started in his establishment. Fearing that customers would flee with their groceries unpaid for if he raised the alarm, he ordered the exit doors to be locked. In the ensuing blaze many hundreds of people died, and the incident was widely reported in the world press in 2005.

Weren’t all his groceries also destroyed in the fire? Yes, of course. Weren’t all the cash registers, cash, checks, and financial records also destroyed? Yes, of course.

The British poet William Empson describes how the piece of land he bought lies at the center of a cone of ownership. He owns the grass and the trees, the birds that fly onto his land and broadening out into the heavens like a searchlight beam his ownership embraces stars and planets that swim into and out of the searchlight beam. Empson earned the cash to buy his land. The US government recently took the easier path of simply declaring “ownership of space,” all of it. Down in “Hell’s pointed exclusive enclave, where all owners meet,” Empson declares is the other end of his cone of ownership.

The husband and father feels a bit itchy after a hard day at the office? A new consignment of girls from Lithuania has just arrived at the massage parlor. Having declared the earnings of workers in the sex trade to be legal, and therefore taxable, the German government found itself in a logical dilemma in paying unemployment benefits to a woman who refused to provide sexual services to her employer. Was she not refusing legal employment? Yes, she was.

Won’t the voters elect people who throw out these laws? This problem is well within the competence of our technicians. In the hundreds of elected officials in California in 2004, how many incumbents lost their posts? Rumor says not a single one. Reliable figures would be interesting. Is this confined to the rich developed countries? Not at all. In Algeria and Burma (now Myanmar) the party winning a landslide majority was declared illegal by the government that controlled the military, Sudan continues to send in government forces to eradicate the people unlucky enough to live over oil fields, and the legally elected government of the Palestinians in another landslide continues to be described as "Islamic extremists."

Ownership is ownership, after all. How did the ownership come to be in those hands, particular countries and particular groups of people within a country? That’s where you require the philosophy of “Intelligent Design.” Noah must have had not one but two Tyrannosaurus Rex on the ark, and it is not for us to wonder how he kept them under control. The entire system has been designed by a superior intelligence.

“I thought the problem was terrorism.” Indeed it is. What do you call a declared strategy of “Shock and Awe,” to terrify a population into abject surrender and handing over their daughters for questioning by massive military force? When a government does it, that’s security. When anyone else does it, that’s insurgency, terrorism.

“This is a very bad animal. When attacked it will defend itself,” Voltaire.

Sunday, 2 Oct 2005