Monday, August 28, 2006

Dick's dollars

I know this isn't exactly new news, but I've been thinking over the weekend about an old-ish story (May) from Kiplingers' that was mentioned on a blog or two last week.

The gist of the story is that the Cheney family's financial disclosure forms indicate that the co-president is betting rather heavily on "a rise in inflation and interest rates and on a decline in the value of the dollar against foreign currencies."

Which, for just about anyone else, would be fine. Nothing wrong with hedging against a decline in the dollar.

But Dick Cheney, perhaps the most powerful vice president in history, can do as much as anyone to influence the direction of the dollar (with, to take a CRAZY example that would never happen in the REAL world: overspending and overborrowing and engaging in endless, grotesquely expensive military adventures).

So a guy with that clout betting on the decline of the dollar: isn't that more than a little like insider trading?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lucy and the football

Anyone asking how exactly we know to trust the people who told us about this plot?

Just as a matter of procedure, y'know, Trust but verify.

So depressing to watch the cable news nets yesterday. These guys are PUMPED. This is what they do best--sow fear in business travelers.

On MSNBC they trotted out a couple of "terror analysts" whose comments struck me as bizarrely scripted.

Hey, all that they say about this plot may be true, or it may all be about domestic politics again, on both sides of the pond.

Given the limited info we have (and we'll be reliant on what other data UK and US intelligence deigns to release), here's a pretty good rumination from Rigorous Intuition:
The crawl on MSNBC Thursday night read Terror in the Sky: Mass Murder on an Unimaginable Scale! Well, no; and I mean no to everything.

There is no terror in the sky, unless you're Iraqi or Lebanese, or reside in northern Israel or any of the world's other free-fire zones and might expect to see death fall from it. Or unless we can include the sky itself, churning with strange weather and unwholesome artifacts, and a sun that now seems to burn an alien white. Because if we look up, we may just catch our breath.

The mass murder never was, and the unimaginable scale! was imagined more than ten years ago, and given the name Project Bojinka. Substitute the Pacific for the Atlantic, and toss in the assassination of the Pope and the crashing of a plane into CIA headquarters for good measure, and you have a thwarted operation that's earned its exclamation point. But 2006 isn't 1995, and today citizens of the great crusader nations must be reminded, repeatedly and at the pleasure of their minders, just how vulnerable they are, and therefore dependent upon the same dark mills of empire that intentionally exacerbate those vulnerabilities.

"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big," boasts a naturally unnamed White House official in the AFP story "Bush Seeks Political Gains from Foiled Plot." Bush and Blair conferred last weekend on the "imminent attack" (though neither man was sufficiently moved to break off their vacations), and the White House tooled its response to Joe Lieberman's defeat at the hands of a "far left" cut 'n runner accordingly. The thwarting of the plot (with a man inside, as is the custom in plots both thwarted and unthwarted) became itself a time bomb, rigged to detonate in the faces of populist leaders who even modestly reflect the now conventional wisdom that the war is an abject failure (at least according to how failure is conventionally understood). This would be a reminder and an example that the threat is real, though the threat was no less real - and possibly more real - when Bojinka was foiled in 1995.

Last night on the RI forum, "sunny" wondered "So, if the plot was foiled, why was the terror alert raised? That in itself tells me everything I need to know."

Let one happen, stop the rest. Should we to be grateful then that, for whatever reason, they stop some?

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Under pressure. Please, God, if I am ever in a city that is being terror-bombed, please let me have the sang-froid and wit of this sign-maker.

Pic from Beirut, from the AngryArab.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Paging a third-party candidate

Somebody run for President!

Viable or not, I don't care. Ralph. Bill Moyers. Gus Hall, where are you now? (I know, I know).

There's overwhelming popular support among regular folks for an impartial approach vis a vis Israel's attack on Lebanon ("65 per cent of respondents think the U.S. should not take either side"), but that 65 percent equals zero in the House and Senate, where AIPAC is literally penning House resolutions.

The disconnect between the Democrat War Party and its constituency has never been more pronounced than it is on the question of the widening wars in the Middle East.

From here, it looks like voters are helpless to stop the runaway train that at the moment keeps the U.S. from pulling out of Iraq, supports the terror bombing of Lebanon, and will ultimately lead to military attacks on Syria and Iran.

Billmon's The War Party is an astute analysis first of the mighty hole the U.S. has dug itself with its recklessness in the Middle East to date, and then a (properly) despairing lament that antiwar Americans have absolutely no political representation in either of the major parties.

What's become clear to me is that the Democratic Party (even it's allegedly anti-war wing) will not try to stop this insanity, and in fact will probably be led as meekly to the slaughter as it was during the runup to the Iraq invasion. Watching the Dems line up to salute the Israeli war machine, hearing the uncomfortable and awkward silence descend on most of Left Blogistan once the bombs started falling in Lebanon, seeing how easily the same Orwellian propaganda tricks worked their magic on the pseudoliberals -- all this doesn't leave too much room for doubt. As long as World War III can be sold as protecting the security and survival of the Jewish state, I suspect the overwhelming majority of Democratics will support it.

.... I think the moment when I realized the Dems once again were going to be -- would always be -- dutiful spear carriers for the neocons was after Howard Dean and company treated the Iraqi prime minister's recent visit to Washington as an opportunity to do a little pro-Israel pandering of their own.

... The lesson learned from the Democratic reaction to the Israel's war of choice is that the Dems are only likely to oppose war as long as the war in question can be framed as a fight against Iraqi insurgents and/or Shi'a death squads, rather than a fight for Israel. But the Iraq occupation isn't going to fit neatly into that frame much longer. In fact it's already slipped out of it. The Dems -- always a little slow on the uptake -- just haven't realized it yet. But when the time comes to choose (for Israel, or against war with Iran) I fully expect to see Ned Lamont in the front ranks of the pro-war phalanx, right next to the last great white Democratic anti-war hope, Howard Dean.

People tell me I shouldn't get hung up on this because, you know, if the Dems get in they'll make sure the seniors get their Social Security checks a little faster -- or they'll keep the Supreme Court out of the hands of legal madmen or do something about global climate change or save the whales or whatever else it is that's supposed to make the Democratic Party infinitely preferable to the Republicans.

It's not that I discount these differences entirely -- although they're easily oversold. But compared to the fate that awaits the republic, and the world, if the United States deliberately starts a war with Iran, those other considerations start to look pretty insignificant. I mean, we're talking about World War III here, fought by people who want to use tactical nuclear weapons. I'm supposed to put that out of my mind because the Dems might be a little bit more generous about funding the VA budget??? I'm sorry, but that's fucking nuts.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's all their fault

When asked who was responsible for the civilian deaths in Qana, Peres -- a former Israeli prime minister -- said, "Totally, totally it's (Hizbollah's) fault."
Human Rights Watch thinks otherwise:
Israel/Lebanon: Israel Responsible for Qana Attack
Indiscriminate Bombing in Lebanon a War Crime

Robert Fisk was on Democracy Now last night and had this to say about the Qana bombings and the outrageous—and unchallenged—rationale offered by Israeli generals and politicians:

It’s quite clear from listening to the IDF statement today that they believe that family deserved to die, because 90 feet away, they claim, a missile was fired. So they sentenced all those people to death. Is that what we're supposed to believe? I mean, presumably it is. I can't think of any other reason why they should say, “Well, 30 meters away a missile was fired.” Well, thanks very much. So those little children’s corpses in their plastic packages, all stuck together like giant candies today, this is supposed to be quite normal, this is how war is to be waged by the IDF.

The fact that when they made these comments, they went unchallenged on television, was one of the most extraordinary scenes I’ve seen. I got back from Tyre on a very dangerous overland journey on an open road, which was under air attack, and I got back, and just before the electricity was cut, I saw the BBC reporting what the Israelis had said, but without questioning the morality that if someone fires a missile near your home, therefore it is perfectly okay for you to die.