Archive for April, 2008

April 29th, 2008

The World’s in love with War again

Oh dear.

It does seems Butch & Sundance (Washington & Jerusalem) are assembling their case for Mo Bigger Wo.

Yesterday, Exhibit B: a passel of glossy photos to justify war upon Iran.

And now Exhibit C: US allegations of Iran training lebanese Army of God soldiers.

West Texas Intermediate crude’s working the $120 mark these days, $116 this morning.

It seems to me Mo Wo helps McCain (sorry to say) defeat the Donkey in November, whoever (s)he may be.

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It seems to me the world has returned to where it was 100 years ago — a state of war between its ears. It’s come about through a broad philosophical embrace that has been decades in the making:

– A revival of the Futuristic love of the machine and its ability to supercede spirit and waste humankind. A century ago it was railroads and automobiles, cannon and machine guns; today, the computer.

– A perhaps cynical resurrection, for narrow cause (most obviously in Washington, the cause of Israel) of the notion that war is not only the inevitable relation of modern states (organized by Nation and living off industrialism), but that it is Right and Good that it is so — the most discredited sort of Social Darwinism, applied internationally,

In short: A revival of Nazism, now generic. Limits on domestic police power and international violence that the Nations and states of Industrial Civilization labored and suffered for 200 years to establish are being tossed out the window as we speed to dog knows where.

The world sped along similarly in 1937. The Germans had intervened in the Spanish Civil War and were bombing civilians from the air. The Japanese were raping China. The second world war, which will forever mark the supercession of man by machine, had in fact begun, as FDR noted that year at Chicago:

“The landmarks and traditions which have marked the progress of civilization toward a condition of law, order, and justice are being wiped away.

“Without a declaration of war and without warning or justification of any kind, civilians, including women and children are being ruthlessly murdered with bombs from the air. In times of so-called peace, ships are being attacked and sunk by submarines without cause or notice. Nations are fomenting and taking sides in civil warfare in nations that have never done them any harm. Nations claiming freedom for themselves deny it to others. Innocent peoples and nations are being cruelly sacrificed to a greed for power and supremacy which is devoid of all sense of justice and humane consideration.

“To paraphrase a recent author, ‘perhaps we foresee a time when men, exultant in the technique of homicide, will rage so hotly over the world that every precious thing will be in danger, every book and picture and harmony, every treasure garnered through two millenniums, the small, the delicate, the defenseless-all will be lost or wrecked or utterly destroyed.’

“If those things come to pass in other parts of the world, let no one imagine that America will escape, that it may expect mercy, that this Western Hemisphere will not be attacked, and that it will continue tranquilly and peacefully to carry on the ethics and the arts of civilization. If those days come, “there will be no safety by arms, no help from authority, no answer in science. The storm will rage till every flower of culture is trampled and all human beings are leveled in a vast chaos.”

The current revival of the Futuristic love of war is a movement that Bush-Cheney are certainly now leading. But its possibility, in the US, rests on the spiritual (non) foundation — Abgrund — mislaid in the 80s, during the Reagantime. Materialism. Egoism. The notions that everything is just business, and greed good, that self-improvement means going to the gym not the library …

One could go on. There was a distinct and multifarious cultural revolution, led by television and consolidated by corporate takeovers of the business organs of culture, that many of us remarked upon repeatedly in shock at the time, and that in retrospect seems to have undermined the republic, producing what any evening spent taking in the “news” makes manifest: a shallow, impassive, apolitical body politic upon which something as eccentric, rank and destructive as Bush-Cheney may light and feed without fear of disturbance.

The great banking crisis of 1907 — cured by JP Morgan and a few friends, and which led to the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank to keep such things from recurring — came back last year on the century mark precisely.

And it’s plain that the police state ethos has been on the rise in America as the currency has been collapsing … New York often feels like Berlin circa 1928, where and when Walter Benjamin mused in One Way Street.

But if we’re currently having our 1907, when may we expect our 1914?

FDR, again, at Chicago, 1937:

“The present reign of terror and international lawlessness began a few years ago. It began through unjustified interference in the internal affairs of other nations or the invasion of alien territory in violation of treaties …”

That would be March 2003. What’s to be done?

If we are to have a world in which we can breathe freely and live in amity without fear-the peace-loving nations must make a concerted effort to uphold laws and principles on which alone peace can rest secure. The peace-loving nations must make a concerted effort in opposition to those violations of treaties and those ignorings of humane instincts which today are creating a state of international anarchy and instability from which there is no escape through mere isolation or neutrality. … There must be recognition of the fact that national morality is as vital as private morality.

The last sentence rings and echoes momentously. For to dare speak of National — that is, International — Morality is to fly in the face of the so-called Empiricism of the British Foreign Office that permitted and justified that tiny island nation’s domination of so many far flung peoples. It is to reject the Realpolitik of Metternich and Lord Palmerston’s bedrock bon mot that States have no Friends, only Interests.

The National Security Apparat of the United States had inherited the British Empiricism in its mother’s milk, and since its ascension to global power in the first war had embraced it with many a journal article and book and campaign. All the more remarkable, then, to see FDR elaborate his challenge:

“There is a solidarity and interdependence about the modern world, both technically and morally, which makes it impossible for any nation completely to isolate itself from economic and political upheavals in the rest of the world, especially when such upheavals appear to be spreading and not declining.

“There can be no stability or peace either within nations or between nations except under laws and moral standards adhered to by all. International anarchy destroys every foundation for peace. It jeopardizes either the immediate or the future security of every nation, large or small.

“It is, therefore, a matter of vital interest and concern to the people of the United States that the sanctity of international treaties and the maintenance of international morality be restored. …

“The situation is definitely of universal concern. The questions involved relate not merely to violations of specific provisions of particular treaties; they are questions of war and of peace, of international law and especially of principles of humanity. …

“The moral consciousness of the world must recognize the importance of removing injustices and well-founded grievances; but at the same time it must be aroused to the cardinal necessity of honoring sanctity of treaties, of respecting the rights and liberties of others and of putting an end to acts of international aggression. …

“It ought to be inconceivable that in this modern era, and in the face of experience, any nation could be so foolish and ruthless as to run the risk of plunging the whole world into war by invading and violating, in contravention of solemn treaties, the territory of other nations that have done them no real harm and are too weak to protect themselves adequately.

“Yet the peace of the world and the welfare and security of every nation, including our own, is today being threatened by that very thing. …

“War is a contagion, whether it be declared or undeclared. It can engulf states and peoples remote from the original scene of hostilities. … If civilization is to survive the principles of the Prince of Peace must be restored. Trust between nations must be revived.”

One can see and hear the entire speech here.

And note that Vladimir Putin recapitulated in conscious paraphrase a good part of it at Munich in February 2007 — substituting, however, for Japan and Nazi Germany, the United States.

Continue, then, to expect things to continue to get worse before they get better. We lean beside Benjamin at his window in Berlin.

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April 24th, 2008

Mo Dowd’s purty funny this mornin’

Posted in 2008 Elections by ed

Dr Seuss brought to bear:

The time has come. The time is now. Just go…. I don’t care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Hillary R. Clinton, will you please go now?!

April 24th, 2008

The Sane Society: US leads world in “prisoner production”

As we pack our lives into pickup trucks and head down the dusty road of dearth for Depression, the Times is good to point out that by at least one measure of socioeconomic production the US is still number one.

An old friend who was raised to hate the Soviet Union always refused to grasp that since the advent of the War on Drugs the US has a higher rate of incarceration than the Reds at the height of Stalinism.

(One angle: Seems we freed the slaves then put them in jail.)

Do we live in a Sane Society?

There are other measures. Suicide rates. The now fairly well entrenched fad of adolescents massacring fellow students.

I’ve never, at least since the passing of Santa Claus, been a faithful Christian. But since that same time it has also been clear, in the bones if not between the ears, that the American Civilization (as certain stodgy Brit historians insist on calling it) or, better, the Scientific Civilization, which in the west succeeded Christendom immaturely when the latter blew its brains out in 1914, is off its rocker.

Ungovernable. At odds with the Kind-of-Being-that- is-Human. Chronically mass murderous. And (the most Inconvenient Truth of all) suicidal.

But the new Grand Theft Auto is dynamite. And there’s always Second Life when your first one gets snuffed. (Or …? How does that work?)

April 21st, 2008

Italian elections: Berlusconi, Northern League, stomp

If I were a free man, I would live in Italy.

But the dollar/euro is killing that pipedream.

Silvio Berlusconi, too, just won a third tour as prime minister, atop a right-center coalition led by the erstwhile recessionist Northern League (which, generally thinking, considers the poverty and corruption of the South un-Italian and, at least in bygone years, wanted out of the rather abstract republic cobbled together by Cavour (brain), Mazzini (heart) and Garibaldi (sword), not so long ago).

But Italian societies, throughout the peninsula and down into Sicily, are so strong that it seems to matter much less what goes on in the state capital.

Vuolo una vita nuova, dolce e simpatica — c’e un sogno, vero. Pero, io sono uomo, devro [dream] … Triste — ventri anni fa, io parlatto la lingua comme un matto etruscano ….

April 20th, 2008

Practice run for martial law?

Posted in American Gestapo by ed

Sheriff describes recent three-state sweep by Fed police as “training for martial law.”

April 15th, 2008

Brit economist fearing worst: “1929 Once Again”

Posted in Money by ed

If trying to figure out whether to buy or sell (stocks, houses …), probably best to grit your teeth and read Ann Pettifor’s latest at the Guardian.

Among other things, she has a remarkable speech from Churchill that seems to describe our credit crisis with perfect accuracy.

If the precedent were to perfectly pertain … Cash would be cool (as opposed to deflating assets).

April 14th, 2008

Impression: Bush on global warming

A funny imposter.

April 11th, 2008

Hot off the press:
Carl Oglesby interview

Aha, a new interview with Carl Oglesby:

– former head of Students for a Democratic Society.

– author of one of the best conversations about US politics of the postwar era — The Yankee and Cowboy War (1977) — which tries to make sense of the domestic terrorism the US experienced from Dallas November 1963 through Memphis and Los Angeles 1968 to Watergate, and is wonderfully written.

Also turns out he was tight, man, with Hillary back in the day:

Oglesby: It was a friendship, a comradeship, within the context of the movement. She and I, for a while, were warm with each other. She and I were semi-close. I always liked her. I thought she was bright and had a lot to say. A friend of mine mentioned me to her not long ago, and according to him she got a case of the shakes. I think it was because she could imagine if any of her considerable enemies on the right wanted to do her in they would be happy to discover a relationship between her and me. Especially given this lie that I was a “Maoist.” I mean, no way! I was the last thing from a Maoist!

Reason: Did you see her when she was first lady?

Oglesby: I wouldn’t begin to be in touch with her now. I know what her enemies would do with a piece of information like that. They would defame me and defame her. There’s no point in it.

Reason: Is there today within her a trace of New Left anti-imperialism?

Oglesby: You got me. I don’t know much about her positions. What I think I know about Hillary Clinton is that she is honest and she’s good-hearted. She’s smart and she has lots of energy and she’s tough. I’m all for her. It’s too bad she and Barack Obama are having a faceoff. Both are good people. But she’s my guy.

Cool.

Hey man, it looks like maybe he read my 9/11 requiem. Here’s me last September:

George W. Bush is an emotionally disordered son of a famous man who found some ground beneath his feet when he was turned into a millionaire by some Cowboy financiers from Texas and told he could ride with them and wear a Stetson.

And here’s Carl last week:

Oglesby: He’s tried to adopt the Cowboy look. He is a Yankee, went to all the Yankee schools, had Yankee money in his blood. He goes to Texas, buys himself a pair of cowboy boots and a Stetson hat, and tries to speak with a bit of a drawl.

Cool.

Oglesby: He’s a phony. He’s a bad actor. He’s no more a cowboy than you or I—probably a good deal less. But his handlers grasped that there is a basic collision between the neo-Union and the neo-Confederacy.

Solid.

Oglesby: The Civil War is not over. Its issues continue to echo. Bush II emerges from that process. He is a Cowboy, as I use that term, and represents the movement of the Confederacy from the East to the West.

Right on.

April 9th, 2008

What people love and hate about America

Posted in These United States by ed

I guess …

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April 8th, 2008

Casus belli in Iran, pointless chatter in the Senate

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

As dust tries in vain to settle upon the latest fiasco in Bush’s War (?) and peacemaking terrorists gather garlands from grateful Iraqis, this story looks like the invitation so anxiously awaited by the Likud to go ahead with long anticipated airstrikes on Natanz:

Iran has begun the installation of 6,000 advanced centrifuges in its Natanz uranium enrichment facility, according to state media reports quoting the president.

The announcement on Tuesday marks Iran’s “national day of nuclear technology”, commemorating the day in 2006 when Iran first produced uranium sufficiently enriched to make atomic fuel.

Hard to imagine how even the spoofsters at Psy Ops Mossad could have come up with a more provocative script.

What’s that cheshire cat got up his sleeve?

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A response in kind?

Meanwhile Martin & Lewis, err, Rowan & Martin, err, Petraeus & Crocker were treated to polite applause and a few catcalls in the Senate, but jolly jowls were absent on both sides of the aisle.

Neither McCain nor Hillary said anything to stir the typesetters. (If Obama was there I missed him in the bathroom.) Bush-Cheney & Co have contrived to make Iraq one big Improvised Explosive Device and nobody on the Hill wants to touch it in the run up to the November sweeps.

Yet it has never been more clear, as poor Maliki totters, that Pottery Barn Rules rule.

And yet … even the White House seems to have gone dark. Perhaps as the script gets rewritten to make room for the shocking victor in the GOPher beauty pageant.

(Then again, Little Jimmy Grimaldi sez don’t put it past the Dark Side to slip some sugar into McCain’s Gulfstream gas tank. Romney the Robot is the Real Raygun and if Israel got permission from Cheney to Go and Big John goes down in fame and flames, Mitt’s the Man, a shoe-in come November.)

April 8th, 2008

credit, housing outlook: bleak

Posted in Money by ed

A thoughtful interview posted at Naked Capitalism (always worth a peek).

April 3rd, 2008

Jumpin’ Jersey Jim Cramer hosts Hillary

Posted in 2008 Elections, Money by ed

Yesterday Madam Clinton got in the ring with the half-hinged impressario at Mad Money. See the video.

April 3rd, 2008

Strategic Petro Reserve up large

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

Across the winter I suggested a few times (here , here and here, to begin) that the oddly juicy behavior of the price of oil (in face of global slowdown) might have something to do with the Pentagon stockpiling extraordinary amounts in anticipation of an attack, probably by the Israeli air force, on Iran.

(Since last summer, Israeli sources and authorities had been indicating that April 2008 is the point beyond which they are not willing to go without doing something.)

Well. Today the US Strategic Petro Reserve figures were released. Here is the reaction of Adam Micheal at Minyanville, who follows oil:

Crude Thoughts

Today we found out that the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Resource (SPR) rose to a record 700.9 million barrels, and is increasing at a rate of 62,000 barrels a day.

Why would the U.S. be increasing reserves with oil over $100? The government’s own Energy Information Agency projects crude to fall for the next two years, why wouldn’t the U.S. wait for lower prices to top off our SPR? It didn’t feel the need to keep filling after Katrina and oil was only $50/barrel.

With gasoline at $4/gallon, you would think the political forces would want oil down going into an election, not the other way around. Perhaps there is something the government knows that we do not???

I would also note that I have been hearing increased “Iran chatter” again. All these rumors regarding Iran over the past year have proven false, but the fact that the US is increasing oil reserves has certainly got my attention, especially after Vice President Cheney was in the Middle East in the past few weeks where you would think lower oil prices would have been one of his objectives.

I would also note that President Bush is meeting with President Putin this weekend – I wonder what they will be discussing. Something is not adding up here…

Well. There you go.

Also noted here this past November was the fleeting passage of a story across the Dow Jones wire stating that the U.S. had begun to accept barrels of crude from the oil companies in lieu of taxes:

Meanwhile … the U.S. is secretly stockpiling oil, in preparation it would seem for the enlarged mideast war that would crack open should Israel or the U.S. or both attack Iran. A business story last week reported that the USG is accepting payment in kind from the oil distributors — ie, accepting barrels of crude rather than cash for taxes and fees.

(This story came and went in a day with no followup — ie was blacked out. Good luck finding it now. I didn’t save a copy, unfortunately. Will try to find one somewhere.)

To find, today, that the SPR is at an all time high, and increasing at (so it seems) an extraordinary rate, …

Well. There you go. Nothing to do now but zap some popcorn, sit back and see how badly Bush-Cheney want McCain in the White House next year …