Thursday, November 29, 2007


The boom’s over. Boom? More like a pop. The artificial high caused by the Bush Administration’s tax decreases coupled with a fortuitous development of markets abroad in which US companies were increasingly vested, gave first the stock exchange a good old heave-ho upwards and with it, the housing market.

Only you can’t build an economy on hot air and promises and soon, the housing bubble burst and the age of “more-people-owning-their-homes-than-ever-before-in-the-USA” as touted by FOX News came to a crashing end. It was followed by an almost 10% correction in the stock market which started just two weeks after Peter Barnes and Jenna Lee also of FOX News fame said:

“We don’t know why everyone’s worried – things are looking great!”

This isn’t about FOX News, but they embody the Bush Administration’s hear, see and speak no evil mentality. Everything is swell all of the time. But it isn’t, as the New York Times reports today:

Credit flowing to American companies is drying up at a pace not seen in decades, threatening the creation of jobs and the expansion of businesses, while intensifying worries that the economy may be headed for recession.

Outstanding commercial and industrial bank loans, and short-term loans are both down by 9% since August. It’s the first time that this source of cash has shrunk so rapidly since – well ever actually, since the Fed started tracking such things back in 1973. Ironically, this development which has alarmed the Fed, caused them to make a statement hinting that interest rates would be cut again in the near future which sent the stock market soaring.

It’s the same sort of superficial nonsense that will cause the spokespersons of this Administration to shrug their shoulders and ask “who’s worried.” But the truth is, we all should be. The consequences of this development will primarily affect small businesses who are already finding it very hard to get a loan form a bank. A year ago banks were throwing money at small companies but those are finding now that they cannot increase their line of credit.

It stops them hiring and stops them from investing and that is a sure sign of bad things to come. All I can do is hope that if the country plunges into a full blown recession, it at least elects a Clinton into the White House in 2008 to clear up the mess that the Republicans have left behind.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Corrupt to the Core

The corruption and disease that has permeated the Bush Administration is so incredibly convoluted and pervasive, that even special prosecutors investigating Bush appointees are being investigated.

Karl Rove’s office was being investigated by Scott Bloch’s bureau amid allegations that the staff of the former used government agencies to elect Republican officials, which is a no-no. Now Bloch himself has come under fire as reported by John Wilke in the Wall Street Journal:

At the same time, Mr. Bloch has himself been under investigation since 2005. At the direction of the White House, the federal Office of Personnel Management's inspector general is looking into claims that Mr. Bloch improperly retaliated against employees and dismissed whistleblower cases without adequate examination.

The real question is: is there a single person left in this corruption addled administration that yet has no mark on them and no skeleton in the closet? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Surge is Working - Not.

Euphoria about Iraq is gripping the right. Violence is down as 162,000 now operational troops provide some semblance of security. “The surge is working!” Is the cry. Only it isn’t and the Bush White House knows it.

The original aim of the surge was to provide breathing space for the Iraqi government to come together and begin to legislate. Reducing the violence was not an aim but a means to get there. However despite the encouraging drop in bombings and sectarian attacks, Iraq’s government remains rooted to the spot, frozen and unable to move.

It’s yet another example of the underestimation of the way third world nations function by the American ruling class. Let’s go back a few years, back to the toppling of Iran’s first duly elected Prime Minister. The reason things came to a head was because the British underestimated the Iranians. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which was ostensibly part of the British government, treated Iranians like dirt. The refinery workers earned less than 50cents a day, slept in ramshackle metal tenements cobbled together with no running water and no sanitation let alone electricity. A communiqué at the time by a British Diplomat described Iranians as being motivated by:

“an unabashed dishonesty, fatalistic outlook and indifference to suffering… The ordinary Persian is vain, unprincipled, eager to promise what he knows he is incapable or has no intention of performing, wedded to procrastination, lacking in perseverance and energy but amenable to discipline……although an accomplished liar, he does not expect to be believed….”

Now, being brutally honest, one could probably say that that could be taken as a pretty close description of how many Americans might view Iraqis today. It isn’t because Iranians or Iraqis are like that. It’s because our differences in culture make us see them that way.

At the bottom of this, is a belief that we can outwit them and that they won’t even mind even if they realize they are being outwitted. This outlook cost the AIOC its foothold in Iran. Whilst American companies were viewed at the time as being fair – Aramco was offering Saudi Arabia 50% of it’s profits, the Anglo-Iranian was stuck on 15% of profits from books cooked so that less than $100,000 a year flowed to Iran from His Majesty’s coffers. The result was a revolution and the privatization of Anglo-Iranian under the leadership of Mossadegh. The British were so incensed that they brought about his downfall using the Americans who were coerced into worrying that Iran would fall into Soviet hands.

This little piece of history is vitally important today, because it highlights the fact that we in the West still believe we can nation-build and that we can mold those nations to our liking. Nothing can be further from the truth and today, the evidence is in Iraq where the surge has worked, but it has failed. The Iraqi government will not divest itself of all its resources and hand them over to British and American oil companies just as the Iranians refused to back then.

To counteract this threat, the US is rapidly building military bases on top of oil platforms and fields. It’s truly like a vision of the apocalypse in Mad Max where countries will finally wage battles for the last drops of oil in fortresses defended by the West.

Already, as reported in a New York Times article, the original aim of the surge has already been changed to accommodate the latest developments:

While Bush officials once said they aimed to secure “reconciliation” among Iraq’s deeply divided religious, ethnic and sectarian groups, some officials now refer to their goal as “accommodation.”

So accommodation is the new ‘reconciliation.’ What this means in real terms is that the surge is not working as part of a solution for the country ‘Iraq’, but that it is part of the ongoing catastrophic quagmire that that land has become. Unable to reach consensus on any broad issues let alone details, the Iraqi government will falter and trip until the USA loses patience with Maliki. Desperate they will search for an alternative and like a Jack in the Box, up will pop one of the skeletons that has been plaguing the country for the past 25 years. The end result will be a crippled country, bereft of any income whilst its natural resources are plundered by an insatiable Western metal juggernaut of SUVs and a poverty stricken population with only the knowledge in their hearts that they were robbed. Together, that will most certainly provide the ultimate breeding ground for radicalism and hate towards the West.

Well done Mr. Bush. Your legacy is set to go.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Plame Won't Go Away

That the Bush Administration lies is nothing new. However, that a former Bushie, namely Scott McClellan has come forward in a new book and said: “They lied about Plame and used me to cover it up” is.

In what is sure to be a controversial move, former White House spokesman McClellan says that his statements about the involvement of Rove and Libby in the Plame affair were simply fodder to keep the press wolves at bay. The Raw Story quotes from his new book:

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," writes McClellan. "So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby."


"There was one problem. It was not true," he writes. "I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself."

This was what George Bush said on February 11, 2004:

"If there’s a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is,”...“If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of."

Only George already knew and sure enough, he did take care of them. He took care that they were never prosecuted.
Anyone who still supports Bush still care to bleat “where are the lies?”

Monday, November 19, 2007

Backing The Wrong Horse, or 'The Impasse'

Back in 2001, in the wake of the September attacks, those famous words fell: “with us or against us.”

Of course the world was with the USA back then with regards to an anti-terrorist stance, but was divided when it came to what to do about it. Allies had to be found and bullied into compliance. With Afghanistan as the target, Pakistan was an interesting proposition and Musharraf seems to have been told in no uncertain terms, “if you don’t help, we’ll bomb your country back to the stone age.” In fact that is precisely what he was told.

So Musharraf helped. Sort of. It was a decision by the Bush Administration made much like their other decisions: shallow, brash, arrogant and not thought through. Pakistan’s weapons escalation programme which was designed to keep it abreast of India had it developing nuclear weapons back in the 1990s. In fact, Pakistan joined the “Nuclear Club” with the detonation of its first warhead in 1998. So Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld et al, decided that a country with a rife potential for turning radical, peppered with madrassas especially in the North, run by a military dictator and armed with nuclear weapons should be “our friend” and would be immune to the sort of threats and criticism that have, for example been thrown at Iran.

But here’s the problem. Now you have a Pakistan devolving into chaos and possible civil war, populated by Muslims who are not America-friendly, poor and therefore a hotbed for religious fanaticism and possibly harboring Osama Bin Laden and the USA can’t even forcefully impose sanctions to reign it in.

You might ask: “well what would a neocon do?” The answer appears in an article in yesterday’s New York Times. Frederick W. Kagan of the right wing, I’d go so far as to say radical right wing American Enterprise Institute, proposes an invasion of Pakistan – the Neocon solution to all their problems. Now why am I not shocked?

He proposes that the USA invade Pakistan, help sympathizers fight the common enemy, establish bases and secure peace and order whilst we wait for the country to stabilize. Now where have I heard that before? More worrisome is that invasion seems to be the order of the day. Invade Iran, invade Pakistan as if it were possible, but what it mainly does is gnaw away at the bare thread of credibility by which this country still hangs.

The only real conclusion of this mess, which has positioned a real nuclear threat in a virtually untouchable space, whilst concentrating on an Iranian hand-puppet who has nothing, is that Bush and his strategy, not only effed this country up, but he’s managed to eff the world up - an almost intact world he held in his hand on September 12, 2001.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Upcoming Earthquake

2008 will be a stellar year for the Democrats. As of now, not a single Republican candidate has shown that he has the ability to lead anything but a lukewarm campaign and the various scandals, problems and flip-flops surrounding them will sink their ship even before it gets down the slipway.

No one, but no one really takes McCain seriously anymore. Giuliani has sunk himself with his Kerik scandal, the latest being that celebrity book publisher Judith Regan was asked to lie in order to protect Giuliani. Who wants a President who can be impeached before he’s even taken office. Mitt Romney doesn’t really stand a chance and Ron Paul, though in a way I’d love to see him as a front runner won’t make the numbers. Mike Huckabee is coming up fast but his campaign will lose steam when the primaries start. Fred? Fred who? Oh, Fred Thompson. Yawn.

Of course it’s early days yet, but the writing’s on the wall. Bush has made such a dog's dinner of running the country that no Republican candidate necessarily wants to be associated with him whereas traditionally, the most successful candidates always got a boost from the incumbent President. At the same time, the Republican candidates can’t lean too far away from their aggressive chicken hawk stance that they’ve been holding onto for the past five years for fear of being accused of flip-flopping.

It’s going to be a landslide and with all probability, Hillary’s going to make it into the White House. This is great because it’ll almost be like having Bill as President again and it’ll drive the Republicans nuts. Of course the negative side is that Republicans will spend the next eight years trying to impeach her for some imagined offense.

As for the House, there are a number of retirements for various reasons. In all however, 3 Democrats are retiring:

Micaehl McNulty (NY)
Mark Udall (CO)
Tom Allen (ME)

McNulty has simply had enough after 10 (yes ten) terms, whilst Udall and Allen are running for the Senate.

On the Republican side however, we have 16 retirements:

James Saxton (NJ) - retiring aged 64
Heather Wilson (NM) – running for Senate
Jerry Weller (IL) – scandals
Jim Ramstad (MN)
Deborah Pryce (OH)
Rick Renzi (AZ) – scandals
Ralph Regula (OH) – 82 years old
Dennis Hastert (IL) – scandals
Ray LaHood (IL)
Steve Pearce (NM) – running for Senate
David Hobson (OH) – 71
Duncan Hunter (CA) – Running for President
Tom Tancredo (CO) – Running for President
Terry Everett (AL) – 70
Chip Pickering (MS)
Barbara Cubin (WY) – probably being asked to go after threatening to hit a person in a wheelchair

Whilst the democratic seats are pretty safe, the Republican ones are hotly contested. It gets even better (or worse depending on which party one is affiliated with). The DCCC, headed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland has $20 million in the bank to help out in tough races for the House, whereas the NRCC, run by Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, has only $2 million in the bank offset by $4 million worth of debts. Cole has already said that he can't help GOP candidates much and is trying to get rich businessmen to fund their own campaigns as candidates, a strategy that historically has had no success.

The only thing standing in the way of the Democrats sweeping away the presidency and making considerable gains in the house are the Democrats themselves. If they don’t rapidly grow a backbone and a decent sized pair of cojones, I can see people turning away from them again by the time elections are up.

United and strong they can make mincemeat out of the GOP which has been left in tatters after eight years of neocon frenzy. I can’t wait.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

When Things Go Bump in the Night

When Turkish helicopter gun-ships fired on villages in Northern Iraq this morning, they certainly weren’t out to defeat the PKK. The attack which occurred on abandoned Kurdish villages came at dawn and it was a distinct ‘up yours’ not only to the Kurds in the North, but to the Bush Administration. It sends a strong signal to Washington that Turkey will defend its interests.

The Bush Administration has maneuvered itself into a similar position with the Kurds and the Turks as it has with the Shia and the Sunni. In short they’ve managed the impossible: to alienate everyone. The US government now officially supports the Kurds in the Northern provinces whilst declaring that the PKK is a terrorist organization. At the same time, the Turks are declared to be best buddies and allies, but are told that attacking Kurdish positions inside Iraq is a no-no.

The Huffington Post, which quotes aTurkish Colonel as its source reports that clashes have been going on for a whole day but that this is the first such strike inside the Iraki border.

This brings up two points:

1. The escalation in the North is the worst possible case scenario in which sporadic fighting in Iraq develops into an all out war between the Turkish forces and the Kurdish Peschmerga. The United States is now in such a position that it is unable to support the Turks and unable to prevent them from invading.

2. The fact that the US Government evidently feels it has the right to invade whomever and wherever they please but are able to dictate the rules to others is not going to sit well in the Middle East. It will increase the feeling that the USA is only focused on its own vested interests.

This latest step is a logical follow up to every single event so far and has been predicted by many people. It remains to be seen how the Bush Administration reacts to the latest developments but if history is anything to go by they’ll manage to eff it up. Stay tuned for an all out war in the North.

Brought to you by the Administration that would never have thunked it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Tale of Kasim

Kasim Al Safar is a name that is going to haunt the Pentagon for weeks if not months to come. No, he’s not one of Al Qaeda’s number two’s, he also isn’t head of some new, obscure but upcoming terrorist organization. In fact, Al Safar was a friend of the Bush Administration’s and may very well still be a friend of the Pentagon’s.

Not having learned that trusting people is a very different thing in the Middle East than it is here despite their run in with Allawi, the Bush Administration thought long and hard about how to quell the insurgency back in 2004 when it was rapidly gaining speed. Now you’re thinking: they entrusted Al-Safar with making sure that as few weapons as possible got into Iraq, a tactic which may have only slowed the insurgency a little, but which at least would have had some positive effect. You would be wrong.

Bush Administration officials paid Al-Safar large sums of money to import and distribute weapons in Iraq. They were supposed to go to the new police force and the new army. But Al-Safar, bless his soul is a business man so he set up a business selling guns. Quite illegally, but with apparently full knowledge of the Pentagon.

Now you’re thinking: clever! He and the USA could make money from these weapons by selling them to the ‘good guys’ instead of giving them away. Wrong! Kasim sold the weapons to whoever showed up with cash including insurgents that struck at US troops and terrorist PKK members who attacked Turkish troops with the very same guns. You can’t believe it can you? Nor could I. But the whole sordid tale of how the USA lost some 190,000 firearms in Iraq between 2004 and 2006 is in this New York Times article. To quote John Tisdale, a retired Air Force master sergeant who managed an adjacent warehouse:

“This was the craziest thing in the world, they were taking weapons away by the truckload.”

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Torture of Mukasey's Confirmation

Last night George B. Mukasey was unfortunately confirmed as AG to follow in the footsteps of Alberto I-Do-Not-Recall Gonzales, which I am sure he will do diligently. His confirmation sends very much the wrong message to the world about the position of this country on torture and it was a confirmation which was brought about by another spineless show by the democrats who allegedly believe that anyone in Leadership at the Department of Justice was better than no leader at all. I beg to differ, but that is for another time.

I’ve read a lot of material going back and forth about torture and whether waterboarding is torture and whether what the Americans did to Iraqis at Abu Ghraib constituted torture or not and whether it was OK to torture someone if you had an imminent threat. There is an easy way to determine this so I looked up and arranged to have dinner with Dr. Uwe Jacobs, Director of Survivors International, a non profit organization based in San Francsisco.

Survivors International or SI aid victims of torture in a number of ways and to do so, they established a protocol which is designed to determine whether a person has been tortured or not. Their guidelines and protocol for determining the occurrence of torture has been adopted by the United Nations and is effectively a manual for psychologists, doctors and nurses and others around the globe for ascertaining the incidence of torture. In short, Dr. Uwe Jacobs’ opinion on torture is quite categorical and his opinion is that there is not the least smidgen of doubt, that waterboarding leaves deep long lasting psychological scars and quite unquestionably constitutes torture.

The United States Department of Torture, which must exist by now and if it doesn’t, it should, may beg to differ, but they are by far in the minority. Being American doesn’t make one automatically right and the Global View is that waterboarding is torture. To quote Dr. Jacobs:

“It’s insane that there’s a debate about it.”

Then we of course get to the discussion about imminent danger. That is that some say that torture is justified if one believes a person to have information which could save hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. This is a bogus argument which has been confirmed as being erroneous time and time again. Information obtained under duress is not reliable, that’s the bottom line. But even if it were, what then?

Simply put, torture of any kind crosses an ethical boundary which, when crossed, puts one on the same footing as the evil which one is purportedly attempting to prevent. It even sets the precedent which gives others carte blanche to do the same and worse. A society that tortures, for whatever reason, can no longer claim to be civilized. It’s a simple as that and a society that tortures, can also no longer claim the moral high ground nor the distinction of being a victim. A society that tortures becomes oppressor and tyrant.

That is why George B. Mukasey should never have been confirmed as Attorney General of the United States. Someone who cannot distinguish this simple fact should not even be running Saddam Hussein’s Justice Department.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

State of the Nation

George W. Bush, President of the United States and pride of some straggling remains in the Republican Party signed a measure on September 28 2007, to increase the limit on the debt ceiling to $9.815 trillion, representing an increase of over a trillion, more than ten percent. Five weeks later the US debt has reached and breached $9 trillion for the first time.

Reuters reports:
In approving the debt limit increase, Congressional lawmakers said the $850 billion increase should be large enough to allow the government to continue borrowing into 2009

The amazing thing is that Congress and the Senate went right along with it and no one is batting an eyelid. Why? Because the way the Republican leadership has structured the fiscal year and the strains of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are exerting a monumental toll on the US economy. The Democrats are afraid to pull funding because the Democrats are afraid of pretty much everything these days especially of being called unpatriotic.

Of course the picture still looks rosy, the DOW hovering around 14,000 points threatening again to break records and the NASDAQ is climbing new highs daily. But the stock market is not an indicator of national fiscal health. Especially during the recent developments regarding globalization, US companies have really become Chinese companies or Eastern European companies. There are emerging markets all over the world in which you automatically partake if you invest in an American product. The ever weakening dollar is also allowing the US trade deficit to shrink but at what cost?

This well known graph shows how the National debt, which soared under Reagan and Bush 41 actually dropped under Clinton. It is actually possible to reduce the National debt whilst increasing expenditure on health care and education. It actually works if one isn’t busy pandering to one’s friends in the defense industry.

Quo Vadis America? Of course there will be a gaggle of Neocons who adamantly deny that there’s anything wrong and if one listens to FOX News it would appear that everything was right. But it is not and the collapse of the housing bubble should tell us there is more afoot. But this isn’t a country where introspection has any room to grow. It’s a country where the sub-prime disaster is already treated as a minor ache. The financial catastrophe that is still sending shock waves around the globe has been forgotten by many here.

But who are we forgetting? There are still families floundering in the rough seas of foreclosures and evictions, families left with very little on their backs whilst their properties are snapped up for a pittance by the wealthy. Sure it is everyone’s responsibility when they borrow money to know what they are borrowing at how much and from whom. But many people don’t have the necessary education to make them leery of low interest AMRs and do not understand the mechanics of negative amortization. They were suckered in to purchasing expensive real estate by people promising them the moon. They were coerced into making false income statements by agents only intent on selling. An entire real estate bureau was shut down recently here in the Bay Area in California, the heads led off in handcuffs and all the computers confiscated because they convinced low income families to falsify their income statements in order to qualify them. This may seem like a small thing but it points at a bigger picture. A country obsessed with racing ahead and damn the consequences.

But the consequences are the people of this country. They are being trodden on as the gap between rich and poor yawns open again. Everyone who calls themselves a patriot should be concerned about this because America is not the lump of earth upon which we sit, but the people who populate it and under the Bush Administration’s Fiscal Disaster Tour they are the ones who ultimately will have to pay the balance.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Deadliest Year So Far

Yahoo News reports:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Five U.S. soldiers were killed in two separate roadside bomb attacks in Iraq on Monday, the U.S. military said, making 2007 the deadliest year for U.S. forces in the country.

The Idea behind the Iraq War may have been born out of diverse concepts, a gaggle of politicians all wanting something personal, something for themselves. But with the fourth year coming to a close and about 800 to 900 troops dying each year it's a wonder that anyone still thinks this was worth it.

Of course republicans are trying to hold their breaths until 2009, see no evil, do no evil and hear no evil style, when, in a wheesy explosion of halitosis laden dusty musty air, they'll blame the Democrats for the failure in Iraq. They will do it. Mark my words.

Off Topic - Follow Up

As many of you know, my wife and I have had a bit of a bumpy ride this year with good things and not so good things happening all at once. I always feel that I should share this stuff with my online community as it's part of who I am.

Following my orchiectomy I had a week of rest but was soon fit enough to work again. We more or less got our house ship shape to move in to, the floors got done and most of the trim was finished. The biggest problem is that although the house is larger in square footage than our apartment was, it has only one large closet, whereas our previous abode had four. Closets are great spaces for rubbish and useless items to accumulate and when you move to a new home where these unsightly medicine balls and giant hammock chairs that one’s partner thought at one stage were such a great idea to buy, cannot be stored out of sight, one has a problem. A small one I admit but there you go.

One of the reasons for my lack of posts is also that ComCast screwed up getting us set up with our internet and television connections and in fact, we still don’t have a home phone. I hated the idea of switching to ComCast but it will save us money in the end if their lousy service doesn’t drive me round the bend first.

I started chemo-therapy on Thursday last week and after a day of feeling fine on Friday, I spent the entire day Saturday blowing my cookies although there were no cookies to blow. It got so bad that I ended up in the ER where they filled me up with fluids, gave me an intravenous anti-nausea drug and sent me home, telling me to come back if it should start up again. So far no hair loss to report, although that isn’t something that’s been worrying me: first off I have a lot of it (hair that is) and secondly, it would spare me the expense of a haircut due in December. My next round of chemo is in three weeks and I’m hoping to be better prepared.

With regards to my wife’s pregnancy, it looks like we may lose one of the twins, which does not seem viable to survive, another pretty common IVF occurrence. Its been hard to live with that fact but we are grateful to be pregnant at all so we’re hoping the second baby will survive and be fine.

There’s still a lot of work to be done on the house itself and I have to somehow work in order to keep some kind of income flow going but all in all and considering everything we’ve been through we’re doing well. Not least because of the extraordinary support from our community and friends - even clients - which is quintessentially American in its selflessness. It just wouldn’t happen to the same degree in other countries and we are bother extremely grateful for it.