Archive for October, 2007

October 27th, 2007

Castro & Schlesinger books coming out

1. Arthur Schlesinger, historian and aide to FDR and JFK, died earlier this year at a fine old age, and left a lot of journals for publication.

I imagine we may hear for the first time what he really thought of Kennedy’s murder. But maybe not.

The book is due in November, and a small excerpt appears in the current Vanity Fair, along with a passel of never-before-seen Jackie & JFK photos.

God the mag stinks with fashion smellers. $4.50 off the newsstand.

Bonus, however: The issue also contains a piece by Christopher Hitchens — a gent who helped me stitch together the very first issue of the print New Combat — kinda apologizing in a backdoor way for beating the war drum so articulately that he inspired a talented young videogamer from California to enlist and go get his head blown off.

2. Fidel Castro is publishing a memoir in November: My Life. There’s a nice chat with him at the Guardian. E.g.:

Guardian: In 2005 the CIA announced that you have Parkinson’s disease. What comment do you have about that?

Castro: It must be a confession of what they haven’t been able to do for so long: assassinate me. If I were a vain man, I might even be filled with pride by the fact that those morons now say they’ll have to wait until I die. Every day they invite some new story – Castro’s got this, Castro’s got that. The latest thing they’ve come up with is that I have Parkinson’s. Well, it just doesn’t matter if I get Parkinson’s. Pope John Paul II had Parkinson’s and he travelled all over the world for I don’t know how many years.

October 27th, 2007

Correction re Dissent in America

I was wrong to report in my 9/11 broodings that the misdeeds of the people running American policy under baby Bush have passed without so much as “a censure from Congress, or a Molotov cocktail or a tossed cream pie.”

Here, my favorite neo-fascist, baby Kristol son of Irving, samples just desserts.


That’s the spirit.

October 27th, 2007

9/11 Syndrome films:
Land of Plenty
Fay Grim
Sorry, Haters

These rather unknown but fine films are all about people on the rack of life post 9/11, sliding down into their seats as they enter the Terrordrome.

The first two, however, are gentle things that work toward healing.

The last — like most mental illnesses you’ll find in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manualruns a chronic course.

1. Land of Plenty — by Wim Wenders — is a low-key gem about a young woman (Michelle Williams — wonderful) returning from Israel to find her last known relative: a Vietnam-vet uncle on a self-appointed mission to secure Los Angeles County from terror.

Note: It was shot with a Panasonic DVX-100, an inexpensive digital video camera that I used in a filmmaking course this summer. Looks great; end of debate.

Wim has made two of my favorite films, Wings of Desire and Until the End of the World.

Bonus: His recent Don’t Come Knocking got creamed by critics — but having just seen it I don’t see why. Sam Shepard as an aging Western star who flees the set to find what’s missing. Tim Roth as the completion-bond bounty hunter sent to track him down. They wind up in Butte, Montana, where Jessica Lange and others are waiting.

2. Fay Grim is a superior sequel — by Hal Hartley — to his odd success Henry Fool. The story takes a turn into the 21st century when it turns out Henry was not a mad drunk after all, but a CIA fool once tight with the charismatic leader of the mujahadin in Afghanistan during the 80s, and now on the run from his employers, in the person of Jeff Goldblum.

Parker Posey plays Henry’s honeypie wife, Fay. Sweetly stimulating.

And James Urbaniak is great as a garbageman turned poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature who defines a cool New Jersey state of mind.

3. Sorry, Haters stars Robin Wright Penn as a NYker who works for a reality TV show — Sorry, Haters! — that showcases the lives of the rich and famous of Hip Hop and what not. No wonder she’s going mad, and daydreams while jamming forks into her palms about fixing 9/11. She seems to have a plan — but needs a nice Arab cab driver to carry it out.

October 26th, 2007

Mind of Bush now and then

1. Bush seems to have startled people by using the term “world war three” to describe the mideast should Iran overflow.

Here’s a piece re same by Scott Ritter, whom I admire.

It was widely reported in 2002 that neo-con types on the White House staff were jubiliantly referring to the Clean Break war they were then arranging (phase one Iraq) as “world war four.” The Cold War having been number three.

Here’s a piece by Paul Farrell, a Wall Street commentator, reacting to Bush’s comment and worrying about the costs (spiritual and material) of “world war four.”

There doesn’t seem to have been much substance in Bush’s comment. The video (linked above) seems clear he wasn’t threatening to make world war three, but, rather, stated that Iran has threatened to destroy Israel (quote please) and that, therefore, a nuclear Iran would be cause for the major powers to worry about world war three.

I have thought for a long time however that the war we began in March 2003 cannot get smaller without getting bigger, and that attacking Iran would mean engaging the SCO – Russia, China et al. And it’s beginning to seem that the Congress under Donkeys is going to give Bush a green light on Iran. Might be best then to join Farrell in speaking of World War Three as already underway.

The upcoming meeting with Putin will be interesting. At recent meetings he has either ignored Bush, or not shown up, or, most recently, delivered a scathing denunciation sans diplomatic veneer.

2. As jaded as one may already be re the mind of baby Bush, this transcript from his meeting in February 2003 with the Spanish prime minister, weeks before launching the war … takes the cake.

The idiot rich kid in full bloom.

Has there ever been such a careless ass on the world stage?


[From The New York Review of Books, our best periodical.]

Following is the transcript of the conversation between George W. Bush and José Marìa Aznar in Crawford, Texas, on February 22, 2003. It is an English translation of the text published in El Paìs on September 26, 2007.

President Bush: We’re in favor of obtaining a second resolution in the Security Council and we’d like to do it quickly. We’d like to announce it on Monday or Tuesday [February 24, 2003].

Prime Minister Aznar: Better on Tuesday, after the meeting of the European Union’s General Affairs Council. It’s important to maintain the momentum achieved by the resolution of the European Union summit [in Brussels, on Monday, February 17]. We’d prefer to wait until Tuesday.

PB: It could be Monday afternoon, taking the time zone differences into account. In any case, next week. We’re looking at a resolution drafted in such a way that it doesn’t contain mandatory elements, that doesn’t mention the use of force, and that states that Saddam Hussein has been incapable of fulfilling his obligations. That kind of resolution can be voted for by lots of people. It would be similar to the one passed during Kosovo [on June 10, 1999].

PMA: Would it be presented to the Security Council before and independently of a parallel declaration?

Condoleezza Rice: In fact there won’t be a parallel declaration. We’re thinking about a resolution that would be as simple as possible, without too many details on compliance that Saddam could use as [an excuse to stall via] phases and consequently fail to meet. We’re talking with Blix [the UN chief inspector] and others on his team, to get ideas that can help introduce the resolution.

PB: Saddam Hussein won’t change and he’ll continue playing games. The time has come to get rid of him. That’s it. As for me, I’ll try from now on to use a rhetoric that’s as subtle as can be while we’re seeking approval of the resolution. If anyone vetoes [Russia, China, and France together with the US and the UK have veto power in the Security Council, being permanent members], we’ll go. Saddam Hussein isn’t disarming. We have to catch him right now. Until now we’ve shown an incredible amount of patience. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we’ll be militarily ready. I think we’ll get the second resolution. In the Security Council we have the three Africans [Cameroon, Angola, and Guinea], the Chileans, the Mexicans. I’ll talk to all of them, also Putin, naturally. We’ll be in Baghdad by the end of March. There’s a 15 percent chance that at that point Saddam Hussein will be dead or will have fled. But those possibilities don’t exist until we’ve shown our resolve. The Egyptians are talking to Saddam Hussein. It seems that he’s indicated that he’s willing to go into exile if they let him take $1 billion and all the information that he wants about the weapons of mass destruction. [Muammar] Gaddafi has told Berlusconi that Saddam Hussein wants to go. Mubarak tells us that in those circumstances there are many possibilities that he’ll be assassinated.

We’d like to act with the mandate of the United Nations. If we act militarily, we’ll do it with great precision and focus very closely on our objectives. We’ll decimate the loyal troops and the regular army will know quickly what it’s about. We’ve sent a very clear message to Saddam’s generals: we’ll treat them as war criminals. We know that they’ve accumulated a huge amount of dynamite to blow up the bridges and other infrastructure, and blow up the oil wells. We’ve planned to occupy those wells very quickly. The Saudis will also help us by putting as much oil as necessary on the market. We’re developing a very strong humanitarian aid package. We can win without destruction. We’re already putting into effect a post-Saddam Iraq, and I believe there’s a good basis for a better future. Iraq has a good bureaucracy and a civil society that’s relatively strong. It could be organized into a federation. Meanwhile, we’re doing all we can to attend to the political needs of our friends and allies.

PMA: It’s very important to [be able to] count on a resolution. It isn’t the same to act with it as without it. It would be very convenient to count on a majority in the Security Council that would support that resolution. In fact, having a majority is more important than anyone casting a veto. We think the content of the resolution should state, among other things, that Saddam Hussein has lost his opportunity.

PB: Yes, of course. That would be better than to make a reference to “all means necessary” [he refers to the standard UN resolution that authorizes the use of "all means necessary"].

PMA: Saddam Hussein hasn’t cooperated, he hasn’t disarmed, we should make a summary of his breaches and send a more elaborate message. That would, for example, allow Mexico to make a move [he refers to changing its position, opposed to the second resolution, that Aznar heard personally from President Vicente Fox on Friday, February 21 during a travel stop he made in Mexico City].

PB: The resolution will be tailored to help you as best it can. I don’t care much about the content.

PMA: We’ll send you some texts.

PB: We don’t have any text. Just one condition: that Saddam Hussein disarms. We can’t allow Saddam Hussein to stall until summer. After all, he’s had four months already in this last phase, and that’s more than sufficient time to disarm.

PMA: That text would help us sponsor it and be its coauthors, and convince many people to sponsor it.

PB: Perfect.

PMA: Next Wednesday [February 26] I’ll meet with Chirac. The resolution will have started to circulate by then.

PB: That seems good to me. Chirac knows the reality perfectly. His intelligence services have explained it to him. The Arabs are sending Chirac a very clear message: Saddam Hussein should go. The problem is that Chirac thinks he’s Mister Arab, and in reality he’s making life impossible for them. But I don’t want any rivalry with Chirac. We have different points of view, but I would want that to be all. Give him my best regards. Really! The less he feels that rivalry exists between us, the better for all of us.

PMA: How will the resolution and the inspectors’ report be combined?

Condoleezza Rice: Actually there won’t be a report on February 28, the inspectors will present a written report on March 1, and their appearance before the Security Council won’t happen until March 6 or 7 of 2003. We don’t expect much from that report. As with the previous ones, it will be six of one and half a dozen of the other.

I have the impression that Blix will now be more negative than before about the Iraqis’ intentions. After the inspectors have appeared before the Council we should anticipate the vote on the resolution taking place one week later. Meanwhile, the Iraqis will try to explain that they’re meeting their obligations. It’s neither true nor sufficient, even if they announce the destruction of some missiles.

PB: This is like Chinese water torture. We have to put an end to it.

PMA: I agree, but it would be good to be able to count on as many people as possible. Have a little patience.

PB: My patience has run out. I won’t go beyond mid-March.

PMA: I’m not asking you to have indefinite patience. Simply that you do everything possible so that everything comes together.

PB: Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola, and Cameroon have to know that what’s at stake is the United States’ security and acting with a sense of friendship toward us.

[Chilean President Ricardo] Lagos has to know that the Free Trade Agreement with Chile is pending Senate confirmation, and that a negative attitude on this issue could jeopardize that ratification. Angola is receiving funds from the Millennium Account that could also be compromised if they don’t show a positive attitude. And Putin must know that his attitude is jeopardizing the relations of Russia and the United States.

PMA: Tony [Blair] would like to extend to the 14th.

PB: I prefer the 10th. This is like good cop, bad cop. I don’t mind being the bad cop and that Blair be the good one.

PMA: Is it true that there’s a possibility of Saddam Hussein going into exile?

PB: Yes, that possibility exists. Even that he gets assassinated.

PMA: An exile with some guarantee?

PB: No guarantee. He’s a thief, a terrorist, a war criminal. Compared to Saddam, Milosevic would be a Mother Teresa. When we go in, we’ll uncover many more crimes and we’ll take him to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Saddam Hussein believes he’s already gotten away. He thinks France and Germany have stopped holding him to his responsibilities. He also thinks that the protests of last week [Saturday, February 15] protect him. And he thinks I’m much weakened. But the people around him know that things are different. They know his future is in exile or in a coffin. That’s why it’s so important to keep the pressure on him. Gaddafi tells us indirectly that this is the only thing that can finish him. Saddam Hussein’s sole strategy is to stall, stall, and stall.

PMA: In reality, the biggest success would be to win the game without firing a single shot while going into Baghdad.

PB: For me it would be the perfect solution. I don’t want the war. I know what wars are like. I know the destruction and the death that comes with them. I am the one who has to comfort the mothers and the widows of the dead. Of course, for us that would be the best solution. Besides, it would save us $50 billion.

PMA: We need your help with our public opinion.

PB: We’ll do everything we can. On Wednesday I’ll talk about the situation in the Middle East, and propose a new peace framework that you know, and about the weapons of mass destruction, the benefits of a free society, and I’ll place the history of Iraq in a wider context. Maybe that’s of help to you.

PMA: What we are doing is a very profound change for Spain and the Spaniards. We’re changing the politics that the country has followed over the last two hundred years.

PB: I am just as much guided by a historic sense of responsibility as you are. When some years from now History judges us, I don’t want people to ask themselves why Bush, or Aznar, or Blair didn’t face their responsibilities. In the end, what people want is to enjoy freedom. Not long ago, in Romania, I was reminded of the example of Ceau¸sescu: it took just one woman to call him a liar for the whole repressive system to come down. That’s the unstoppable power of freedom. I am convinced that I’ll get that resolution.

PMA: That would be the best.

PB: I made the decision to go to the Security Council. In spite of the disagreements within my administration, I told my people that we should work with our friends. It would be wonderful to have a second resolution.

PMA: The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism.

PB: I am an optimist, because I believe that I’m right. I’m at peace with myself. It’s up to us to face a serious threat to peace. It annoys me to no end to contemplate the insensitivity of the Europeans toward the suffering Saddam Hussein inflicts on the Iraqis. Perhaps because he’s dark, far away, and a Muslim, many Europeans think that everything is fine with him. I won’t forget what [former NATO Secretary General, the Spaniard Javier] Solana once asked me: why we Americans think the Europeans are anti-Semites and incapable of facing their responsibilities. That defensive attitude is terrible. I have to admit that I have a splendid relationship with Kofi Annan.

PMA: He shares your ethical concerns.

PB: The more the Europeans attack me, the stronger I am in the United States.

PMA: We will have to make your strength compatible with the support of the Europeans.

October 20th, 2007

Second Wave of Housing/Credit Crunch Blues underway

Posted in Money by ed

I suppose almost everyone knows that the anniversary of the 1987 stock market crash was noted yesterday by a 360 point selloff in the Murdoch (formerly Dow Jones) Industrials.

The stock market had recovered in zooming fashion from the mid August swoon as the credit crisis bloomed. But now it seems we have begun the second wave of selling, prompted by bad earnings reports that not only forecast more surely recession but also indicate that the banks and the financial system they manage have been damaged more severely than thought a few weeks ago by the credit crisis precipitated by the failure of mortgage-backed bonds. Which bonds have been failing because of dropping home prices and ill-advised home loans.

Click on the MONEY category link to the right here if you’d care to see prior postings on the crisis.

And if stories about “CDOs” again perplex, see our explanation.

Or go to for extensive coverage of the macro-economic imbalances that underlie material life in these United States in the age of baby Bush.

Or see Naked Capitalism — a great one-man band re high finance.

The ’87 crash was huge — the Dow Industrials were down 22%, which today would be roughly 3,000 points. I remember I was walking around the Upper West Side, near Lincoln Center, with a femme friend from college. We saw people gathering in disturbed flocks, peering at TVs through store and cafe windows.

The big crash, it turned out, was a one-day wonder. Our current problems are not.

But the markets are better cushioned now than they were in the 80s. And the Federal Reserve is now likely to reduce rates more steeply and perhaps more quickly than was thought a few weeks ago. Difficult to call next week’s action, but the bias is certainly now again down.

And the prospects for the mortgage and housing businesses are not getting better.

No doubt we’ll muddle through, in the end. Rich getting richer and so on.

October 18th, 2007

Onion re Yankee-Cowboy war anthem etc

The Onion (America’s Finest News Source) newscast team has its pulse on our subterranean homeland blues:

Country stars sing Bring it On (to New York).

Al Qaeda unhappy with Freedom Tower construction delays.

Rep. Benjamin Sinclair introduces the Ocular Penetration Restriction Act.

October 15th, 2007

Peter Galbraith on Iraq

Posted in Geopolitics, Mideast & Oil by ed

Here’s some recent chat by one of our best people on Iraq, Peter W. Galbraith, son of John Kenneth, and formerly our first ambassador to Croatia, deployed there by Bill Clinton during the Yugoslavian wars.

He has been publishing invaluable pieces on Iraq in The New York Review of Books since our invasion in 2003, and has written a concise, no-nonsense book about its devastating effects: The End of Iraq.


By the way:

In 1991 PG was on the staff of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, and on the ground in Iraq during the deadly chaos following our declared victory in the Gulf War — and we published his report on the humanitarian crisis there in the print New Combat.

Two years later I sat with him in our embassy in Zagreb and learned a ton about what was going on before heading into the war zone proper — for PG, certainly, a waste of precious time, but for me quite amazing and (again) invaluable.

October 6th, 2007

Barber kills himself at city council meeting

Posted in Death, These United States by ed

From the Associated Press:

A barber who killed himself at a city council meeting Thursday hadn’t seemed suicidal during a private meeting three weeks earlier, the mayor said Friday.

“It’s a sad situation,” Mayor Johnny Piper told Nashiville’s WTVF-TV. “You don’t … know what people go through in life.”

Piper had met with Ronald “Bo” Ward and his wife after the barber requested a meeting about his rezoning request.

When that request was denied by a 7-5 vote Thursday night, Ward pulled out a small handgun and shot himself in the head.

“Y’all have put me under. … I’m out of here,” Ward said before firing.