Archive for March, 2009

March 28th, 2009

Dem Builderburgers ain’t so bad,
heck, I seen worse

An American in Ireland, Richard Moore, worries often aloud about the world in articulate, informed style — at the moment about the Bilderbergers. Just now I dashed off a reply email that without trying hard encapsulates a view of the world (if not a Worldview):

The Bldbrgers are good and useful to consider. They don’t Run the World but they give insight into some of the people involved in the high level struggles to operate and endure the world.

They express a more European point of view than, eg, the Davos gatherings, which are more technocratic and global and American influenced. This European view is caught in our time in the middle, and I tend to sympathize with it.

I mean — the world today is dividing in a new way:

1. Russia and China, among the major powers, are still nation-states. Their owner-operators are still wed to their Nations (ie People). These powers can be read fairly easily as to what their interests are and how they are likely to behave to protect and forward them.

2. The US since the advent of the bomb has been ceasing to be a nation-state (if indeed it was ever a good idea to consider it as such).

(The bomb brought pressure to control events globally and to do so without major-power war; this pressure has been bending the minds of the people who run the National Security Apparat since the end of the war 1945. This is one big reason why the Apparat has grown so strong in Washington while the Congress has almost ceased to exist as a policy making body and the White House careers back and forth, with presidential heads more often than not winding up on platters.)

The owner-operators of the US began to reassert themselves behind Reagan’s smile and broad shoulders, having gone to school on the lessons of Vietnam (an educated working class is not a good idea, reliable pensions are not a good idea, fairly free and balanced mass media are not a good idea) and having realized that the technological revolution meant (re capital) that Globalization was the ticket.

To be extremely brief then: The US since the war has been morphing from something like a nation-state to a thing bestride the globe with two primary interests: to float the National Security Apparat (chiefly the Pentagon but also the mature so-called intelligence agencies) and to float the large globalizing corporations. Responsibility of the owner-operators for and to the Nation (ie People) has become almost neglible.

(Even the most Progressive voices among the American owner-operators are corporate-centric, as if someday Google may just blast off into space, Silent Running with Hughie, Dewey and Louie … )

3. Europe occupies too a rather new and strange space — having undertaken the Euro Union. But the traditional bonds between the component ruling classes and Nations (Peoples) — born of millenia of strife and tight geography — are still rather strong.

The Bilderbergers convey this uneasy place in the middle — between the brute classico Russian and Chinese nation-states and the global military-industrial enterprise based in the U.S.

Europe: Trying to “compete” with the run-amok North American colossus, while trying (as always) to survive the “Asian Hordes,” while trying to maintain the distinctly European take on the Individual-in-Society.

For my money, Europe’s approach to Modernity (the technological civilization that in the West succeeded Christendom) is superior to the American, the Russian and the Chinese. European societies seem to me superior.

So then — even though my own feet are rooted in the Working Class, I don’t find the Bilderbergers as alarming as some. (And I have always valued the reports from the chamber that Mr Estulin has been channeling for some time now.)

Rather, I find the entire careering planet alarming. Chiefly the unbridled advance of science these past two centuries, which has created monstrous wealth, technological processes and weapons that have left us and the earth at the mercy of forces I think NO one or one body of people has a chance to control, let alone govern. Everything put together sooner or later falls apart, as Paul Simon noted circa Watergate.

My view of Europe’s “superiority” doesn’t mean, of course, that if one had to bet on the Last Man Standing he should bet on the European Union. Indeed, many have been writing that the current financial crisis may ruin it.

Would Europe survive the Union’s disintegration? In some fashion, surely. Might that seismic de-centralizing move actually, despite costs, show us something of the way out of Modernity’s disaster? Too much to hope for, I suppose.

March 28th, 2009

Age of Obama:
Status Quo 2, Change 0

Well the votes this past week came in.

FINANCE

Geithner’s patchwork Smart-Money-to-the-Rescue approach to fixing the banking system — Paulson II — has received the presidential imprimatur. The question now is how long the US will limp along as Japan did thru the 90s. Obama has eschewed the bold moves the world was hoping for last November.

As if in reaction: the Chinese officially called this past week for the a new international currency to replace the dollar as the world’s “reserve currency.” The notion makes no sense, in a way (arbitrageurs would simply constantly trade thru the shell currency to whatever sovereign currency they sought, and in that way designate one of the latter as the de facto “reserve currency”). But it expresses a point of view that bodes ill for Washington’s ability to fund itself going forward.

PAKGHANISTAN

The prez gave a big speech. No surprises. Putting his stamp on the policy Gates-Mullen began to implement under Bush-Cheney after the banishment of the Likud Lobbyists post 2006 elections.

Obama has consented to the escalation the Pentagon wants. Has consented to the the Apparat’s plan to downgrade the Kabul government of elected President Karzai in favor (again) of Men We Can Work With selected from the quasi-existent rogue Northern Alliance — foreigners (non Afghan, non Pashtun) from the north. Has put Gates-Mullen-Petraeus in charge of policy. Can now go to the beach.

March 22nd, 2009

The Audacity of Nope:
Obama & Brits (?) will install new Afghan leader to leave Karzai begging

Posted in Mideast & Oil, President Obama by ed

If the Guardian is correct in this rather earth-shaking report, it’s an odd move for Obama to make to say the least.

A public coup, provoked, plain and simple (as the Guardian piece notes), by the likelihood of President Karzai being re-elected this year. Democracy Now? Sure kid sure. Welcome to the Audacity of Nope.

A new chapter in the renewed attempt by the Anglo-American machine to get whatever the heck it is it wants over there.

The idea is said to have originated with the US, supposedly as a result of a review of policy ordered by Obama.

Steve Cohen, Likud Lobbyist, part of the team that brought you the Iraq war, has been all over the press since Obama took office explaining, as if on behalf of the government, his warlike views for the region.  Perhaps he is indeed Obama’s sixth-column NGO pointman.

But Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s Special Envoy to Pakghanistan, will be the one “implementing” the installment of the parallel governor, according to the Guardian.

“European allies” unnamed are said to approve the American plan.  I wonder if that means Gordon Brown and friends.

To what end this public coup?

As hinted in prior days and weeks:  To put together a new Pax enforced by a league of (non-afgahn) Northern Alliance enforcers?  The current piece suggests perhaps so.

To expedite a war across the border into Pakistan?  Not quite polite public chat yet.  First steps first.

Maybe the Guardian’s wrong …  But I doubt it.

In any case — it seems the Americans and some Europeans believe they own Afghanistan.   And Obama says Me too.

Look in vain, here as anywhere else in the MM since the One took office, for even a question, let alone answer, as to what the American strategic aims are and what national interests are served by occupying and trying to turn Afghanistan into a public puppet.

Will Russia and China laugh up their sleeve?  Will they fail to supply the dissenters with arms?  Charlie Wilson’s War on its head? Welcome to the Room.

March 19th, 2009

Birthday Twitter:
Cut the Idle Shit

Posted in Death, Reading, Writing by ed

M

IT OCCURS to me to mark if not celebrate my birthday with Twittering reports from the frontlines of life across this March 19.

Also: to add a sub-category — Writing — to the Conversation database under Arts & Private Life.

Why didn’t I think of that before?

Because I never write about writing here, it would seem.

Right, then. Well, at the moment:

Going thru paper markup. Best readings are on paper, not screen — as this afternoon, sitting in the 58 degree sunshine on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, overlooking the tail end of the East River and the harbor, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street melting, melting …

What can ever be more stately and admirable to me than mast-hemmed Manhattan, river and sunset and scallop-edged waves …?

The current screenplay, set in Brooklyn, stars Walt Whitman: The heroine, a fifty-year old black woman, shares his surname, his spirit, and perhaps his blood. 

This darn script is dear to my heart, being about facing death, which a number of close people have done in recent years. No one ever wins. The story is about not losing.

“Great, great … Sounds like an art film. Black and white? Great, great …”

M

M

I’ve never worked on a script longer than four months before.  But this one, the seventh, since … August 2006. Many drafts, each greater spiritually, and now materially, by the latter which I mean the deadly page count, now less than 130, which puts it in the realm of things sendable to strangers in the movie biz.

All the other scripts: Political stories.  Character-driven low-key thrillers, one might say.  Graham Greene stuff, one might dare.

Was told re these stories in 2003 — when my fine Old School agent, so proudly acquired with much time and labor, threw up his hands and retired to Paris in response to the invasion of Iraq …

I was then told to stop writing novels, and write screenplays again instead, the novel being dead.

Now it seems they all say nobody anywhere reads an unsolicited screenplay — so write it as a (crummy) book first.

To their credit, they don’t say “novel.” As if to acknowledge in tacit passing, hey, it’s not like we sell novels. We sell books. To movie producers.

When asked in the 80s to name America’s important writers, Gore Vidal replied that it was no longer possible for a writer to be important.

This may have something to do with why I rarely read American novelists my age or younger.  Rarely can I bear to.  (I do mean the real novelists, not the schlock-meisters.)  No, I find even our writers of their generation pretty intolerable and at best tolerably interesting.

Television’s to blame, of course, not only for writers’ lack of facility and style and gravitas, but also for a kind of sophisticated naivete that has made high-brow literature, once again, an art of Consent. 

I was born roughly on the cusp, in 1958.  TV was thin in the 60s, esp early on. And almost all of it was made for adults. 

Today the Tube baby talks. And teaches infants and children how to be people. Shallow Consenting chatterboxes. Who go on to produce the crudest blockbusters. The Alienist. The Lovely Bones.

When Klatuu came to visit, he didn’t sit with a great novelist to talk turkey about the fate of mankind. He sat with a technologist. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on our writers. That they’re no longer competent intellectuals. No longer interesting. No longer capable of speaking with Klatuu. Nobody is. And so he talks with the generals.

But all that aside, I think I don’t read neighboring novelists because novels are about worlds.  This is why they’re so important and thrilling when one is young. They introduce us to the worlds. 

But by 50 one has met the world one shares with neighboring writers.  Knows its irritating little habits. Very hard at that point for a neighbor to interest one in his bemused account of growing up in an artistic family on the Upper West Side.

So one flees to the foreign writers, whose worlds are still largely unknown, even if one has been travelling and reading there for decades. 

And one flees to the past.  The wealth of novels in English from prior centuries is …

Yes.  My greatest treasure.

M

booksfallingbig.jpg

M

Before this past Thanksgiving the Brooklyn script was 160 pages. A sperm whale beached. Didn’t matter, however, since the sworn intent was to produce it myself.  Late 2006. Before Wall Street, where I tend to make my living, blew itself to bits.

So now the page count does matter. Cutting back to the 120s, oi … Wasn’t easy.

One would think it’d be easy to simply sit at computer and type one’s own pen-to-paper comments into Movie Magic Screenwriter.  But no …

This wine actually helps — by dulling sensibilities that otherwise would revolt and insist on thinking better about this next comment upon a sentence that has already been retouched a hundred times …

Amid the thickly marked pages, in the third of the heroine’s four scenes with her Death & Dying shrink, a particularly tricky comment repeats four times. And thrice with a Bang:

“Cut the Idle Shit!”

A familiar sort of comment. Not easy to deal with.  Would prefer something specific and editorial per se.

And what’s with the caps? Who is this ass?

M

poet.jpg

M

I don’t know who painted this last. Let’s say the Midtown Master.

The first, of course, is by Paul Klee: The Twittering Machine.

Then Death and Fire. Also by Klee.

Then a painting by David Dalla Venezia, whom I met at one of his exhibits years ago, somewhere in Italy.

March 17th, 2009

Big Bro what big eyes you have

Security at the recent inauguration included a hypergagagigapixelled camera.

Investigate faces in the crowd with handy zoom.

And check out baby Bush.   Strangelove at his side.

March 16th, 2009

Deja vu all over again:
PNACker promotes
perpetual world war.
Obama-Gates-Mullen: Me too

armyafghan2.jpg

The Times in the person of familiar fool-tool Thom Shanker explained this weekend why the Pentagon must be redoubled to fight not just one, not just two, but several wars, indeed many, simultaneously …

The piece focuses on Gates and anonymous brass, and is clear that the movement to re-tool the Pentagon for perpetual occupation of new far flung places (and thus for continual “counterinsurgency” warfare) is front and center.

This unilateral militarist movement became policy with the installation of Bush-Cheney, after a struggle during the 90s, post collapse of Soviet Union, among the hearts & minds of Washington and Wall Street.

And Obama — by making no changes atop the Pentagon and hiring generals to run most of the remainder of the foreign policy establishment — is doing little more than shout Me Too.  No Change We Need.  Very little change at all.

While the policy is not eccentric, Shanker quotes at some length a familiar Beltway cretin named Donnelly selling it.

Donnelly was the “Principal Author” of Rebuilding America’s Defenses — that manifesto of global conquest issued in September 2000 by Likud Lobby organ The Project for the New American Century (founded in 1997 by Perle, Wolfowitz, baby Kristol, the Kagans, etc, to promote a US war on Iraq).

Sounding like Rumsfeld, Principal Author Donnelly encourages Obama to sound like Cheney:

QUOTE

Thomas Donnelly, a defense policy expert with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said he believed that the Obama administration would be seeking to come up with “a multiwar, multioperation, multifront, walk-and-chew-gum construct.”

“We have to do many things simultaneously if our goal is to remain the ultimate guarantor of international security,” Mr. Donnelly said.

“The hedge against a rising China requires a very different kind of force than fighting an irregular war in Afghanistan or invading Iraq or building partnership capacity in Africa.”

END QUOTE

Preparing to win a nuclear war with China is a primary concern of the 2000 manifesto. Consolidating the Pentagon’s new empire in Africa is a more recent now familiar clanging bell.

Donnelly plainly needs a hole to drain the swamp between his ears.

As for Shanker, who willy nilly figured loudly in a disinformation campaign years ago designed, by Brit-Franco interests, to confuse and deflect US policy and thus ease the Bosnian state and people into oblivion … Something more like an Egyptian dungeon perhaps …

But, again, while the salesmanship may here be eccentric, the policy is mainstream, although largely unreported upon in the mainstream.    And so far Obama seems entirely in step with it. Enter the War Room.

armyafghan1.jpg

March 16th, 2009

Fusion energy update /
Gore sees global plan coming together

Posted in Earth Agony by ed

Here’s that compromised fellow at the Times with an encouraging update on the practical side of what has always been possible.

Then again, it’s rather late.  Too bad the Oil Mafia ran so much of Washington in the 20th century.

But … Al Gore (glad to say) is still stumping.  Stiff upper lip eh what?

March 16th, 2009

AIG payouts (not news)

Posted in Money by ed

This is interesting — to see where AIG distributed its bailout money — but not news, in the sense that it was clear last fall that the prime reason for pumping governmental money in was to allow AIG to fulfill its obligations under the gross ton of credit default swap protection it sold during the decade.

And that Goldman Sachs is number one on the list is also no surprise.   This takes us back of course to the Lost Weekend during which Lehman was almost bought but Paulson declined to provide “encouragement,” precipitating instead Lehman’s bankruptcy the next day.

Then and now it seems it was the pending failure of Goldman (triggered by AIG failing to honor the CDS it entered into with Goldman) that persuaded Paulson, that same Monday, to change his mind and start bailing.

March 13th, 2009

Things Getting Rough:
Pakghanistan & China

When I worried (in the penultimate sentence of an essay about zombies) about things soon “getting rough” for the new President, I was thinking foreign affairs.

And was thinking of President Kennedy, who was blasted by the Bay of Pigs raid on his 76th day in office.  Things were never the same.  The White House’s struggle thereafter to gain control of American foreign policy and change course might best be imagined as one long scraggling slide off a cliff.

But to return to current affairs:

1. Iraq.

Mass murderous bombs are going off again.  Very bad for the Pentagon song that both McCain and Obama began to sing last spring, a coro castrati.  For if the Surge there was not simply a Success — if the relative calm of 2008 was tactical and keyed in good part to the American audience/elections — if the basic animosities (Shia, Sunni, Kurd) and political questions (who shall control the state?) have not been soothed by General Petraeus’s community policing, what then?

And with what effect on the marketing of the Iraqi Surge’s young cousin on Iran’s eastern borders?

2.  Pakghanistan.

Benazir Bhutto’s murder.  The rocky greeting given her widow-successor, Zardari, after his first address to parliament. (During the reception unhappy campers blew up the nearby Marriott, home to yankee journalists and diplomats.)  The attack on the Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay by a Paki assault team.

And, meanwhile: the mass-murderous missile attacks by the Americans in northwest Pakistan, which began circa Labor Day and which yesterday killed 21 people identified — in first reports — as “militants aligned with a Pakistani Taliban leader,” and wounded fifteen others.

Note that three weeks ago, a similar first report by American authorities, claiming that 15 of 16 killed were “militants,” was revised to acknowledge that 13 were random walkers — indeed, “civilians.” The Army general in charge issued not an apology but “deepest condolences” and a week later the New York Times observed in an editorial:

Almost no one wants to say it out loud. But between the threats from extremists, an unraveling economy, battling civilian leaders and tensions with its nuclear rival India, Pakistan is edging ever closer to the abyss.

Such were the trends inherited by Obama and, for his part, left on Cruise Control.

In the past ten days they have coalesced into a major political crisis — based on widespread anti-Americanism — that might leave Islamabad looking more like the Federally Administered Tribal Areas than the capital of a large industrialized state armed with nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile across the border ….

Today the Times relays White House views (elaborating upon Obama’s comments in a pub’d interview last weekend) sketching the new US plan for Afghanistan:  Lots of carrots and a stick or two, to tease out from among the Evil feuding warlords those We Can Work With, and to encourage those to enforce a sort of peace (stability, equilibrium) that at least does lip service to the quasi-installed, quasi-foreign government in Kabul.

Or maybe President Karzai and Kabul will be abandoned in public, in favor of something even more Realistic with the so-called Northern Alliance warlords (non Afghan and non Pashtun) who Bush-Cheney found, however briefly, to be Men We Can Work With.

This range of possibilities seems to be the Petraeus Plan at the moment. Maybe it’s the best Obama can do with a long-neglected and seemingly pointless situation.  Maybe it’s the best way Home. (Then again, whatever happened to that Unocal pipeline?) One might hope.

But the Times piece also talks about transferring US attention and resources to Pakistan. And so perhaps (as surmised here since erstwhile CIA director Hayden’s belligerent speech of December) the new Afghan policy will be best understood (largely in retrospect) as what the Pentagon thought best to quickly stabilize Afghanistan to allow it to function as the staging of a boots-on-the-ground war in the FATA across the border.

And what further necessities might that incursion give birth to?  Where will the Petraeus Plan really lead?  This is the relevance of the Bay of Pigs precedent.  (See the “blasted” link above.)

3.  China.

It’s hard to imagine serious trouble breaking out between China and the US right now, since they both have so much at stake in the effort to stabilize the global economy.

And gee, surely the Obama honeymoon (internationally — like Gorbachev’s) has more legs than this?

But for the files if nothing else (you realize you have fallen into my filing cabinet?), one must note:

– the seemingly silly quasi-naval confrontation off the Chinese coast.  The Times says the American vessel is a submarine hunter.  But gee, the South China Sea is exceedingly shallow.  Perhaps “spy vessel” is best?  Recall the Mayaguez, during Ford. In any case, now we’re sending in ships with guns and missiles mounted in plain sight.

–  the Chinese premier expressing worries about getting stuck holding the bag on a trillion in US Treasury bonds. Various voices over there have been expressing concern for some time, and more than a year ago Peking began to swap dollars for gold, but this is the most salient signal to date.

Surely Uncle Sam and China must be friends.  Surely.

Yet it’s a signal of how big a worry the current problems could become that Obama had an unscheduled sit with the Chinese Foreign Minister at the White House yesterday.

Did a Bruce Lee boxed set change hands?

HOWEVER THE CURRENT contretemps may work out, things are indeed getting rough.  The Prez is going to have much less time on his hands to muse about where precisely to suggest his arm’s-length adjuncts apply their Band-Aids to the buboed bodies of the big banks and the health care system.

One must temper expectations, of course. Things since November 1963 (of which I have no memory — I was five) have indeed never been the same.  A hundred years hence, Chinese grade-school textbooks will use Julius Caeser’s crossing of the Rubicon River and the murder of JFK to illustrate how republics by and for people morph into empires run by and for the state’s military-money complex.

Nevertheless, Obama has a few miles of blue water left as the pounding of the lee shore drifts to his ears. As an aid to navigation, Robert Dallek points out this morning that LBJ walked away with neither Guns nor Butter from the White House, after one elected term.

A cautionary tale about Imperial Overreach.  It’s worth noting in addition that not one president, but three, back then, were handed their heads by the brassy entrepreneurs of the Vietnam war.

March 12th, 2009

Charles Freeman,
DNI’s choice for NIC chair,
axed by Likud Lobby

The hydra of the National Security Apparat, which sprouted another half dozen heads post 9/11, is a wonder to behold in motion.

President Obama appointed as the new Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, a Navy admiral and, judging by his words during his confirmation hearings, a good man and a well informed curious thinker about world affairs, who, on the flow chart, now sits atop all other agency heads notoriously defensive of their overlapping turf.

Director Blair then nominated Charles Freeman as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, also a new post, and new organ, post 9/11. The AP reported soon after:

Freeman, who was U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf war, has harshly criticized the Israeli government, the Iraq war and the war on terrorism in general.

Blair said Freeman’s strong opinions are exactly why he wants him to be chairman of the council.

“I think I can do a better job if I am getting strong analytical viewpoints than if I am getting pre-cooked pablum,” Blair said.

This encourages one’s opinion of Director Blair, and it would seem Mr Freeman’s appointment would be a step toward actually changing Bush-Cheney foreign policy.

But Mr Freeman is indeed well known for criticizing Israeli policy in public.  Two years ago he observed:

“Left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them and enrage those who are not.”

And so, this week Mr Freeman’s nomination was axed by various declared friends of Israel within the Beltway, led, sorry to say, by New York’s Senator Schumer.

The Times explains that:

critics who led the effort to derail Mr. Freeman argued that [his] views reflected a bias that could not be tolerated in someone who, as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, would have overseen the production of what are supposed to be policy-neutral intelligence assessments destined for the president’s desk.

By this argument among candidates most qualified to sit atop the American so-called intelligence community are these chumps:

see-no-evil.jpg

One recalls that eight years ago the reins of US foreign policy were handed to a clique of gargoyles whose gross Israeliocentric views had long been public. One may wonder.

One may not know what to think.

The Middle Ages knew that dismembered heads often mutter for ten seconds or so after receiving their severance, as Mr Freeman yesterday having taken back his name:

“Israel is driving itself toward a cliff, and it is irresponsible not to question Israeli policy and to decide what is best for the American people.”

One shouldn’t be surprised at Obama’s withdrawal of support for Mr Blair, given that the father of the President’s chief of staff was an Irgun terrorist (sidekick to Menachem Begin). It’s surprising, and mildly encouraging, that Blair dared nominate Freeman at all.

But one supposes Rahm has now lit into his hide and no more such nonsense will be heard from the heights of National Intelligence.

March 11th, 2009

Online: The letters
of Thomas Jefferson

Posted in Reading, These United States by ed

Great resource. With an effective search engine.

March 11th, 2009

Banking system bells toll for thee,
Mr President
(This is not a test)

Posted in Money, President Obama by ed

For once I agree with Mr Friedman of the Times:

QUOTE: I wake up every morning hoping to read this story:

“President Obama announced today that he had invited the country’s 20 leading bankers, 20 leading industrialists, 20 top market economists and the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate to join him and his team at Camp David.

“We will not come down from the mountain until we have forged a common, transparent strategy for getting us out of this banking crisis,” the president said, as he boarded his helicopter.(emphasis added)

END QUOTE

The world — for good reason — expected Obama to deal with the banking system on Day One, as did FDR (literally).  Instead he has Ironically Detached himself and hired Doogie Howser to run the Treasury.

It seems the political side of Team Obama has persuaded the President he should focus on more positive aspects of economic policy and leave the dirty, no-win banking system business to expendable underlings.

“No win” means: the options are Nationalization (the Seidman way!) or Dawn of the Dead (Zombies, depression and chronic deflation).  Neither generates good press.

But the US stock markets tumbled about 22 percent in 30 calendar days following Geithner’s address of Feb 10.  This measures the volume of hope/expectation that had built up since election day, as if behind a dam.  Geithner’s geeky manner and ludicrous grab-bag of vague old ideas blew a hole in the dam.

The pell-mell size & steepness of this latest market crash is exceedingly rare and means the prez cannot afford to play it cool. Friedman’s daydream is right on.  Get on TV and talk tough love about the big banks then put on your parka and gas up the helicopters.

Perhaps events will sweep the sleepy Admin up in any case. After yesterday’s WSJ report re “contingency plans” for Citigroup, many are now expecting to soon see C in receivership.  Beware the Ides of March.

Or St Paddy’s Day.

Chances are (I guess) the stock markets would react positively to the seizure of Citi. Ding Dong the Zombie’s Dead …    Credit markets likely a different story short and mid term.  (There don’t seem to be any private buyers, even at the current $1 per share fire sale.)

But if Obama-Geithner continue to dither, Dow 6000 as Abgrund is baked into the cake, and the chart suggests 4000 may be the Urgrund.

This is not a test of presidential Coolness Under Fire.

Get out the frickin’ fire hose.

March 10th, 2009

Privatized so-called Intelligence: Legacy of Ashes as
Prelude to Terror

Came across this Times magazine piece by Tim Weiner while musing about Petraeus and Lansdale in Pakghanistan and Vietnam. It’s adapted from Weiner’s excellent CIA book of 1995, Legacy of Ashes, and touches on Lansdale among other interesting things.

And it takes one back to that fled world, post Soviet Union before 9/11, when dreams of Peace Dividends and calls for the dissolution of the CIA were in the air, the latter from the likes of New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan:  The CIA is impossibly inpenetrable and corrupted — ungovernable.  Better to start over from scratch

Fled is that music.

But even way back in 1995 all that was something of a cover story, or, rather, an effect of a cover story — an approach to policy distorted and frustrated by the privatization of America’s covert ops capacity, so to speak.

Journalist Joseph Trento (with whom on points I disagree) touches on this firmly in his book Prelude to Terror – The Rogue CIA and America’s Private Intelligence Network (2005).

The privatization of what had been since the CIA’s founding in’ 47 its bread and butter work (intelligence collection being merely its cover, its day job) was touched off by:

(i) the cashiering by Nixon in 1973 of CIA director Richard Helms, a career spook back to the OSS — the Man with dirty hands Who Kept the Secrets — and

(ii) attempts thereafter to clean the Augean stables, both by presidents — appointing a string of clean-hands DCIs: James Schlesinger, William Colby (who died soon enough in a boating accident) and Stansfield Turner — and by Congress — with the Rockefeller and Church hearings in the Senate, culminating with the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

But when one cleans the stables, what happens to the manure?

( Side Show: An illuminating unintended consequence of the attempted purgation:  George HW Bush’s prez campaign in 1980 was staffed by a lot of retired guys in trenchcoats.

And his victory in 1988 was the first signal failure of US presidential exit polls.  A problem that then slept until … 2000.  And 2004.  Dem Bush boys just don’t poll properly … )

Here’s a recent interview with Trento — worth reading and listening.

To return to Weiner:  The ongoing privatization of the black bag work the CIA did for corporate and other chums in the good old days leaves somewhat moot, even in 1995, the isolated “What to do about the CIA” question. For the problem is now larger and more insinuated throughout the military-industrial complex (Eisenhower’s term now ringing somewhat quaint) than during the days of Gentleman Spy Allen Dulles. 

Post 9/11, instead of following Moynihan’s lead by simplifying (in order to clarify) the National Security Apparat, a stampeded Congress slapped on several more layers of bureaucracy.  And meanwhile the private sector in this growth industry expanded as never before, under Cheney’s guiding hand in particular.

Today’s rather cleansed CIA, then, is something of a front, more akin to the straight-shooting Pentagon than the dirty-tricks outfit of the golden age.

The dirtiest business — the most unpatriotic business — has been outsourced. To small and mid-sized firms owned and operated by ex-CIA, DIA, FBI, ATF and SS agents, ex-Army Rangers and ex-Navy Seals …

Prouty’s Secret Team in teeming blasted bloom.

M

March 10th, 2009

Taliban Here, There
and Everywhere?

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

An expert quoted by the Times t’other day sought to support current notions of battling so-called insurgents in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas by noting:

“The Taliban are entrenched and move quickly from one area to another.”

Can it be …?  Why — those Taliban are amazing!

Or don’t quite exist.

Shall you destroy even the sand, Sahib,
you who strike from afar?

March 10th, 2009

Age of Obama, Six Weeks On
He talks with the Times:
MOS. MOR = SOS

Posted in President Obama by ed

The audacity of nope …

The big interview out this past weekend was so Changeless and dispiriting I didn’t bother to post something front and center.   Nevertheless, it is the signal insight into the President’s mind six weeks or so on the job.

So here FWIW was my quick reaction, foreign affairs thru health care to finance.  The skinny: MOS. MOR. SOS.

The other day I asked an old friend — who worked on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign and ever after as a pro bono lawyer in New York — what he thought of the new prez.

“Disappointed. It’s pure Beltway. He’s not reaching out.  But I’ve been disappointed since 1968.”

March 8th, 2009

NYker re David Foster Wallace

Posted in Death, Reading by ed

The last word, for now, I guess.  Worth reading.

March 4th, 2009

Dead deadbeats cough up

Posted in Death, Money by ed

Apparently it pays to dun the dead.

Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer?

Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks?

Why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hmm.

This fellow might be in’s time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries.

Is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt?

Will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures?