the situation facing Obama (and us)

October 9, 2008 § Leave a comment

The core as I see it,of what is happening,is that we have debt, and the question is, who will pay it? the bankers want to shift debt (theirs) to taxes (ours). What looks like minor issues, but are profound, are details in play like getting communities to lower real estate taxes so people have money to pay mortgages, and home prices can rise, making those mortgages inflate (again) in value. But then sales taxes will replace property taxes and these market place taxes are regressive.

This struggle is likely to be the key struggle of the Obama presidency,which means progresives pushing against big money in a perhaps losing battle, with Obama trying to mediate. A collapse of course would be terrible, but a debt prison would also be terrible. Is it possible to get beyond this struggle to deal with the other large systemic issues?

I am inclined to be pessimistic. After all, the rich can hire half the poor to protect themselves from the other half of the poor. Where would you and I be in such a struggle? As has been pointed out, the tactical situation will be different by inauguration. Imagine a bankers revolt saying to Obama, protect the financial system (and its 28 % of all business activity in the US economy in 2007), or we will form a coup against you in the name of the public necessity and good of the people. Will he rich pay the debt, or the rest of us?

FDR could play off the bankers against the rest of the economy, mostly agriculture and manufacturing. Now the bankers have much more power and there is little force that can stand up with a confrontation. We can hope, but what would it be? And,is not Obama’s course of action, centrist and “to protect the financial system because we need it” going to be the course?

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Balance of issues

September 6, 2007 § Leave a comment

We are all distracted by Iraq/Iran and the presidential election.

It is plausible that the strategy of the administration is

  • 1. Make the economy safe for its friends. Solidify the plutocracy.
  • 2. invest in a risky but not essential investment in a war to get control of the ME. This is good because it supports the Military Industrial complex that our friends own,  loss is not really significant but we can bankrupt the welfare economy by the justification of a security  But is distracts press and people from the underlying financial strategy.
  • 3. Make the Republican party the vehicle for this politics
  • 4. Keep the Democrats hobbled by new deal issues the voting public no longer cares about, and make it so there is not enough money to keep new deal policies in place.

Note that in real terms, the war in Iraq is small scale compared to wars in the past. Bush himself is a part of the strategy because he is not affected by the claims of those outside the narrow circle. The shift in economic power towards the few under the rule of corporate law is the key movement of our time.

On the CIA

July 25, 2007 § Leave a comment

 

Corrupt and undemocratic practices by the CIA have prevailed since it was created in 1947. However, US citizens have now, for the first time, been given a striking range of critical information necessary to understand how this situation came about and why it has been impossible to remedy. We have a long, richly documented history of the CIA from its post-World War II origins to its failure to supply even the most elementary information about Iraq before the 2003 invasion of that country.
Declassified CIA records
Tim Weiner’s book Legacy of Ashes is important for many reasons, but certainly one is that it brings back from the dead the possibility that journalism can actually help citizens perform elementary oversight on the US government.
Until Weiner’s magnificent effort, I would have agreed with Seymour Hersh that, in the current crisis of US governance and foreign policy, the failure of the press has been almost complete. American journalists have generally not even tried to penetrate the layers of secrecy that the executive branch throws up to ward off scrutiny of its often illegal and incompetent activities. This is the first book I’ve read in a long time that documents its very important assertions in a way that goes well beyond asking readers merely to trust the reporter.
Weiner, a New York Times correspondent, has been working on Legacy of Ashes for 20 years. He has read more than 50,000 government documents, mostly from the CIA, the White House and the State Department. He was instrumental in causing the CIA Records Search Technology (CREST) program of the National Archives to declassify many of them, particularly in 2005 and 2006. He has read more than 2,000 oral histories of American intelligence officers, soldiers and diplomats and has himself conducted more than 300 on-the-record interviews with current and past CIA officers, including 10 former directors of central intelligence. Truly exceptional among authors of books on the CIA, he makes the following claim: “This book is on the record – no anonymous sources, no blind quotations, no hearsay.”
Weiner’s history contains 154 pages of endnotes keyed to comments in the text. (Numbered notes and standard scholarly citations would have been preferable, as well as an annotated bibliography providing information on where documents could be found; but what he has done is still light-years ahead of competing works.) These notes contain extensive verbatim quotations from documents, interviews and oral histories. Weiner also observes: “The CIA has reneged on pledges made by three consecutive directors of central intelligence – [Robert] Gates, [James] Woolsey, and [John] Deutch – to declassify records on nine major covert actions: France and Italy in the 1940s and 1950s; North Korea in the 1950s; Iran in 1953; Indonesia in 1958; Tibet in the 1950s and 1960s; and the Congo, the Dominican Republic, and Laos in the 1960s.” He is nonetheless able to supply key details on each of these operations from unofficial, but fully identified, sources.

Asia Times Online :: Asian News, Business and Economy – The life and times of the CIA

Bush and Iraq.

July 24, 2007 § Leave a comment

 

Jon Cohen and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post: “Most Americans see President Bush as intransigent on Iraq and prefer that the Democratic-controlled Congress make decisions about a possible withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. . . .

“[B]y a large margin, Americans trust Democrats rather than the president to find a solution to a conflict that remains enormously unpopular. . . .

“Many would like Congress to assert itself on Iraq, and about half of poll respondents said congressional Democrats have done ‘too little’ to get Bush to change his war policy. . . .

White House Watch — News on President George W Bush and the Bush Administration – washingtonpost.com

The problem is that the administration lacks competenece at strategy and diplomacy. I think the situation we are in is as follows:

1. We were very wrong to go into Iraq

2. We might have been wrong to go into Afghanistan earlier. Afghanistan represents the same imperial power denying reality (our support of the Taliban against the Soviets)

3. We have stirred up a massive reaction against us, not only from within Islam, but all our Allies: Europe, Japan, Latin America.

4. To pull out of Iraq now would leave a much stronger Islamic fundamentalism and secular Islamic hatred of the US in place and entrenched.  It would also probably lead to increased cross border violence in the Middle East.

5. This logic should lead to the conclusion that we should stay.

6. But the reality is the U.S. does not have the diplomatic skill to participate in and help create the necessary multilateral relationships to carry out this policy.

7. Further, the U.S. goals for oil and bases in the Middle East would not be let go off by this administration and hence a modest strategy of trying to win friends and stabilize the Middle East is undermined by these closely held goals of the administration.

8. The result is we lack all credibility that in fact requires a change of heart and perspective towards the deeper dilemmas of the Middle East and to abandon our narrow support of economic interests and our support of Israel in its current belligerent form.

9. It follows that the only viable path is to announce that we give up the bases and the embassy and start withdrawing troops.

10. Since the White House will not agree to this Congress must take stronger steps to withdraw authorization and to fund only a drawdown of the troops and equipment.

11. This leaves to a later date the issue of the reorientation of American policies at the strategic level.  That puts great pressure on whoever wins the next presidential election.  Problems with Afghanistan and Pakistan are too likely to lead the next administration to find continuity in policy and not do the necessary reorientation.

US and the new Pakistan. Iran

July 24, 2007 § Leave a comment

 

A change of US plan for Pakistan
The Pakistani Supreme Court standing up to President General Pervez Musharraf was not a part of the US-envisaged plan, and Washington has quickly had to rewrite the script. Ideas of a united “moderate center” with a former premier at the core are in the bin. Expect a US military raid into Pakistan, followed by the declaration of a state of emergency. – M K Bhadrakumar

Asia Times Online :: Asian news hub providing the latest news and analysis from Asia

and, same source

US lawmakers unite to demonize Iran
While they may quibble and occasionally outright quarrel over defense funding and a timetable for exiting Iraq, there is one issue that draws whole-hearted support from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill: confronting Iran.

An american japanese looks at the US.

July 18, 2007 § Leave a comment

 

I do believe that there is a need in this country, both psychically and politically, to create enemies for the domestic population to focus on, and it’s better if these enemies are of – how might I put this? – a darker hue. For a while, with incidents like the case of Wen Ho Lee [the Chinese-American scientist accused of espionage, whose case was dismissed except for one minor charge], it seemed that the target was going to be China. But then came September 11 [2001], and the focus switched to the Muslim world and the Middle East.

Asia Times Online :: Japan News – A Japanese, born in the US of A

From Juan Cole

Meanwhile, the Voice of America reports that the Bush administration will freeze the assets of persons or organizations that attempt to destabilize Iraq. VOA says:

“President Bush has signed an order that allows the U.S. government to block the assets of any person or group that threatens the stability of Iraq.
The order exempts the United States.”

Quoting from Asian Times Headlines


The way to go in Iraq

Iraq’s government has not met one of its US-assigned benchmarks and, with the exception of the revenue-sharing law, they are unlikely to be met. But even if they were, it would not help. Provincial elections will make Iraq less governable, while the process of constitutional revision could break the country apart. The Iraq war’s intellectual boosters, meanwhile, insist the “surge” is working, and are moving to assign blame for defeat. They have already picked their target: the American people. – Peter Galbraith (Jul 18, ’07)

Al-Qaeda regrouping points to US attack
Al-Qaeda has focused on promoting worldwide unity among jihadi groups – Sunni and Shi’ites – more in recent months than at any other time since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US. There has been demonstrable progress in achieving this Islamist unity, which al-Qaeda wants in place before its next attack. – Michael Scheuer (Jul 18, ’07)

The terrorist threat to the US homeland
The US faces a persistent terrorist threat over the next three years, especially from al-Qaeda, says the National Intelligence Estimate released on Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Al-Qaeda is pushing other extremist groups to adopt its efforts to supplement al-Qaeda’s capabilities, according to the Estimate.

quoted from Agonist

BBCA huge underground lake has been found in Sudan’s Darfur region, scientists say, which they believe could help end the conflict in the arid region.

Some 1,000 wells will be drilled in the region, with the agreement of Sudan’s government, the Boston University researchers say.

Analysts say competition for resources between Darfur’s Arab nomads and black African farmers is behind the conflict.

“Much of the unrest in Darfur and the misery is due to water shortages,” said geologist Farouk El-Baz, director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing, according to the AP news agency.

“Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, will help the peace process, and provides the necessary resources for the much needed economic development in Darfur,” he said.

The team used radar data to find the ancient lake, which was 30,750 km2 – the size of Lake Erie in the US – the 10th largest lake in the world.

Scott Horton this morning

America’s armies have always relied in some way on contractors. However, the dramatic expansion of the role and number of contractors in Iraq is changing the culture of American warfare. According to the Los Angeles Times’s T. Christian Miller, newly released figures show that the number of U.S.-paid private contractors exceeds that of American combat troops—even after the surge. More than 180,000 civilians—including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis—are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times. This number is significantly higher than the 160,000 soldiers and few thousand civilian government employees currently stationed in Iraq.

The implications for a new force in US politics is all too obvious.

Asia Times Online :: The tortured world of US intelligence

June 23, 2007 § Leave a comment

 A few excerpts. I am not knowledgeable abot the details, but the general tone of cutting through the fog and the human realities of “enemies” feels right. Worth a reading, this first of a five part article.

With President George W Bush’s choice of ex-Central Intelligence Agency director Robert Gates to take over the Pentagon, this most uninformed of presidents unwittingly gave us back vital pages of our recent history. If Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the neo-conservative claque in the second echelon of the administration are all complicit in today’s misrule, Gates personifies older, equally serious, if less recognized, less remembered abuses. His laden resume offers needed evidence that Washington’s tortuous, torturing foreign policies did not begin with the Bush administration – and will not end with it.

In the late summer of 1918, US troops landed in north Russia and in Siberia, part of a joint military intervention with the French, British and Japanese to aid the monarchists and turn the tide against the Bolsheviks in the Russian civil war; meanwhile, across America, an accompanying Great Red Scare loosed mass arrests, persecutions and deportations of foreign radicals of every stripe. It was “a moment of political repression”, wrote noted historian Howard Zinn, “unparalleled in United States history”. In a sweeping onslaught of reaction, all-American Wichita would, by 1919, imprison and try hundreds of its citizens, assumed seditious, if not terrorist, simply for having joined, or worked for, a union.

And what about Goldberg’s contention that charter schools also perform better? Well, Bush’s Education Department found that charter schools nationwide under-perform, with test scores showing “charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools.” (The Bush administration responded to the report by announcing it would sharply cut back on the information it collects about charter schools.)

What America’s analysts and policymakers lost in their stunted worldview was the sheer complexity, contradiction and paradox of the Soviet Union, all relevant to informed policy. Missing between myopia and phobia was the authentic alternative to the Baltic syndrome’s policy by caricature: an intellectual openness and seriousness, honesty and sensibility, that might have led to genuine insight, to actual “intelligence” that could have saved lives and fortunes, even moderated the Kremlin tyranny and hastened its end.

The postwar Soviet leaders were creatures of their preconceptions and preoccupations, and of their odious politics, as much as any ruling class in history. Yet to relegate them to caricature, to ignore the touchstones of their lives, was ultimate folly. What American specialists saw were not fearful, compromised “human beings like ourselves”, but monstrous, implacable, mythically evil enemies in ill-fitting suits, to be opposed at all costs, with the end – the “defeat” of Russia one way or another – justifying the means.

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News – The tortured world of US intelligence

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