Archive for the 2008 Elections category

January 8th, 2010

Daniel Ellsberg re Obama /
Bell helicopters in Vietnam & Predator drones in Pakghanistan

Another in Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frog interviews on the National Security Apparat.

Very worthwhile — as they’ve all been. This is number 18. She’s leading one of the most important discussions around.

Ellsberg is measured in assessing Obama, and even so the judgments are bleak. Syncs well with my own black-biled broodings.

Touches on the political consequences of allowing high hopes to fail for lack of leadership. Ellsberg doesn’t mention the Carter-Reaganism dynamic, but what he says brings it to mind.

And he puts the puzzle of the escalation decision in clear terms, observing that neither the top Pentagon brass, nor NS Advisor Jms Jones (retired four-star general), nor Rahm Emanuel — with the fine DC instincts and his eye on the 2010 elections — were pusihng the escalation. (Nor Biden.) And some were on record against it.

Is Obama more of a militarist than Petraeus, whose recent interview in Newsweek shows a mind less than persuaded of any successful outcome over there? Where did the decision come from?

Westmoreland and LBJ


Recall Col. Flectcher Prouty’s history of the Pentagon’s war in Vietnam (which, note, began in 1965) — and which Prouty thinks began almost accidentally, with a big push by Textron and its lobbyists to get the Gov to start buying Bell “Huey” helicopters en masse.

As conglomerate Textron — then as now a major war supplier — was preparing a corporate takeover of Bell Helicopters, a guy from Yale working on Wall Street kept showing up at Prouty’s office atop the Air Force staff in the Pentagon — trying to sell the notion that tactical helicopters would revolutionize counterinsurgency ops …

The Air Force kept saying no. Finally somebody got to somebody on the Nat’l Security Council staff in the White House, and the order came across the river: Let’s buy some more helicopters — and let’s base them across the border from Laos, rather than where all the shootin’s going on. Yeah, let’s put them in Vietnam.

The Huey program was greenlighted — but under CIA auspices. Which perhaps rounds around to explain why a banker out of Yale was lead salesman.

The CIA had opened its first official spy store in Saigon in 1954 (post French defeat at Dien Bien Phu) but our involvement there reached back into the war, when the OSS helped to arm Ho’s nationalists against the Japanese. Some say that the same guys, now wearing CIA badges, including Ed Lansdale, were covertly on the ground again well before ’54, working again with locals but this time to oust the French.

However that may be, Prouty writes that each early CIA Huey base in Vietnam needed some 500 (if memory serves) pairs of Pentagon boots to provide pilots, maintenance, security and support.

And when the bases started drawing fire from local insurgents even more Advisors were needed to Keep the Peace.

Wasn’t long before 16,000 soldiers were in country, under CIA command, shooting at insurgents from behind barricades as the choppers bounced and bombed around the South as Lansdale & company tried to figure out how to win their hearts and minds.

Then, in late ’63, a new President took office persuaded that it was time to let the Pentagon clean house.

Obama and Stanley


The obvious parallel is the CIA’s drone campaign, based in Afghanistan, attacking Pakistan, which began under lame duck Bush-Cheney, August 2008, rather late — perhaps to be sure it was online fait accompli before the new prez came in.

The latter again brings to mind the Bay of Pigs — in particular the panicked revisions to the plan that went on between November 1960, when Kennedy shocked the planners by defeating Nixon, and January when he took office.

Steps were taken to downsize the scheme (quite consciously beyond hope of success) and to persuade the new White House team that the raid had been approved by Eisenhower (not so — rather, by VP Nixon, who headed the CIA oversight committee in Ike’s White House).

The raid came 70 days into Kennedy’s presidency. He wasn’t quick enough to choke it off, but deserves great credit for frustrating the prime motive by refusing its gambit — ie, refusing to send in the Marines to rescue the raid (and execute regime change).

And, of course, he never escalated with the Pentagon in Vietnam. That came after Johnson won his ’64 election.

Obama within weeks of taking office enlarged the CIA drone program.

And now, against the advice and/or instincts of Jones, Mullen, Eikenberry, even it seems Petraeus (four four-star generals) as well as VP Biden and CoS Rahm, he’s escalating the war.

Ellsberg pointedly compares Obama’s decision to that of Johnson (under whom and closely with he worked) in 1965 — and sadly laughs at the notion of turning on a dime and getting out in July 2011. The commitment, he insists, cannot but be anything but indefinite re both time and manpower.

More than puzzling. Why did subordinate Stanley McChrystal win this policy debate? Why was he even involved in it?

And what is the War Aim over there? I STILL don’t see one, and neither it seems does the senior brass.

Let’s see, who makes the Predator drone? Expensive little bombs ….. Who’s their anchor banker …?

In the Land of the Blind …

January 21st, 2009

Inaugural throat clearing

The festivities were joyous and interesting to behold. But life in the Scientific Civilization is no party.

The inaugural address was drafted by a 27-year old and its first scripted sentence — “Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath” — was false.

(There have been 44 distinct administrations but 22 and 24 were presided over by the same American, Grover Cleveland. )

It’s odd, then — superstitiously disturbing in a small way — that the first sentence of this eloquent president, a man concerned like Jimmy Carter with speaking truth to the public, by adopting its conceit and then employing “American,” seems almost to have gone out of its way to misspeak. Spilled wine at a wedding toast …

Moments before uttering his first falsehood, the president smiled as Chief Justice Roberts stumbled in his own attempt to show the world that he’s the very smartest boy in the class.  (Roberts chose to recite rather than read the presidential oath, then flubbed it by first passing over and then misplacing the word “faithfully.”)

Obama — who as a senator voted against Roberts’ nomination — was sharp and smooth to pause when Roberts uttered his error. 

But it seems the president may not have said precisely the 35-word oath prescribed by the main body of the Constitution.  If so, most constitutional wonks seem to think it doesn’t matter given the 20th amendment.  But are right-wing headcases blogging this morning about the new president’s legitimacy?

Cheney in the wheelchair seemed Dr Strangelove, especially as he yanked on a black leather glove while rolling down a ramp exiting the White House.  Mein Fuhrer I can valk


Obama’s talk thru the first half of the speech about responsiblity and sacrifice reinforces worries that the new administration will do little to undo the ill economic effects of Reaganism.

Indeed, it seems (from several reports out of the inner circle aired on the tube Monday and yesterday) that Social Security and Medicaire will be targeted.  Rather startling. To think that a long-anticipated reduction of working-class supports might be attempted by the most powerful Democratic constellation in DC since Reagan, as the GOP smiles from the sidelines.

I continue to get MyObama emails asking for donations without a word as to what purpose the money might be put.  If it turns out that the Congress dominated by Democrats will obstruct Obama’s sacrificial notions, perhaps we will see him go the way of Teddy Roosevelt, who in 1912 left the GOP (under which he had served as Vice President and then President) to form the Bull Moose Party, a short-lived and unsuccessful affair.

A two-party system makes sense in this respect:  it concentrates as much power as may be available for the two basic components of any society:  the Haves and the Have-Nots.  If the class struggle is one of the “childish things” (from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians) that the president’s tweenage writer intended to target yesterday, he and I will probably be disappointed (for different reasons).


The international half of the speech was hopeful.  Several great things were said in simple language.  This morning Obama is suspending prosecution activity at Guantanamo.  One way or another it seems it will be shut down.  If he drags his feet there, however, it will be an early indication of reverting to mean.

The incumbent chairman of the Pentagon, Admiral Mike Mullen, chatted for the tube at the CinC’s Inaugural Ball last night.  He seems a nice fellow and quite deferential to the new CinC, but it remains clear that both McCain and Obama last spring were apprised of and accepted the coming aggressive policy in Pakghanistan.

Mullen’s deference, then, may be deceptive; the policy is a child of the post-Rumsfeld National Security Apparat, seated it seems more in the Pentagon than CIA (although maybe I’m the more deceived).


Also today, wounded Treasury nominee Timothy Geithner is facing his Congressional betters.  His opening statement contained nothing of substance as to how to best spend the remaining $350 TARP cash, nor anything confessional or apologetic about the various missteps, including his own, that led to the current debacle.

But he spoke of a new Obama plan for the banks — and, while introducing Geithner, fomer Fed chairman Paul Volcker told the people’s reps that the rescue would cost several trillion more.

Despite his recent past and ancillary political problems, perhaps Geithner is the best candidate willing to take on the job.  I’m not against him so much as against the idea that he (or any one) is essential for the Treasury post.  It requires neither an artist nor a magician.  Implying that it does continues to obscure what’s wrong.

Recall that an explicit aim — ask Jude Wanniski and Jack Kemp — of Reaganomics was to paralyze the federal government with debt, when it was clear that the Congress would never consent to dismantle the New Deal and take us back to the Gilded Age.  Reagan told the world in his own first inaugural that government is the problem; Wanniski, Kemp, David Stockman & co. then sold a way to take it out of commission.

The current debacle is achieving this aim, however and with however much malice aforethought it may have come about.  Bush-Cheneyism has already more than tripled the national debt left behind by Reagan and Bush pere (who themselves tripled it), and Volcker, as noted, today growled about trillions more while introducing President Obama’s chosen point man.

Also recall the fears of some right-wingers about the globalizing North American Union movement, which, re economics, would dump the dollar and replace it with a new currency spanning Mexico, the US and Canada.  The current debacle may be taking us down that road, in that the one thing all financial pundits seem to agree on is that our $11 trillion and counting national debt means the dollar is toast against Asian currencies.  Long-term and perhaps mid-term (2-5 yrs).

(Against the Euro and the Pound …?   There it’s a race to the bottom, but I guess when dust settles the dollar will suffer the worse. )

Keeping the toasted dollar would work against globalization in many ways. It would reduce the flow of cheap goods from Asia into the US and stimulate the return of domestic american manufacturing.


It may turn out that the best lasting effects of Obama’s presidency will be cultural:  Gangsta hipsters and Identity Politics out of style.  And, most importantly and astoundingly, this residing sense that the Civil War is over and that American society has taken a huge irreversible step in the direction of its ideals.  Things to smile about as we go under.

January 18th, 2009

A Fortiori: Price Controls and
the lingering odor of Reagan

Posted in 2008 Elections, Money by ed


1.  Oppenheimer analyst Meredith Whitney, now celebrated for calling Citigroup a spade in 2007, displeased people early this new year by predicting over $40 billion in further writedowns by the big banks in the first half.

2.  A week later:

(a) Bank of America, which TV had delcared this past fall a survivor (along with Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase), disappoinrts by touching up Treasury and the Fed for another $120 billion (20 in cash and 100 in guarantees) in order to close its fire-sale buyout of Merrill Lynch.  Merrill, recall, went under for being loaded with mortgage bonds; and BoA is blaming December writedowns on those assets for the newly discovered black hole.

(b)  Citigroup announces a plan to give the appearance of dismembering itself, into a Good and Bad bank.  The Bad will contain the marketless structured finance assets at which the feds have already thrown approximately $350 billion in cash and guarantees.  (A measure of how much good has been thrown at the Bad: all of Citi’s common stock could have been bought this past Friday for about $23 billion.)

3.  This same week, foreclosure data for December indicate the trend is still accelerating.

Thus a fortiori:  The need now for PRICE CONTROLS on the wounded segments of the structured finance universe.

(Bernanke, during his first round of TARP salesmanship in October, spoke of a “hold-to-maturity price” for Trouble Assets the program might buy.  That notion would be the basis of a price control regime — ie, valuation based on current and best-guess future PERFORMANCE rather than (non-existent) market value. )


I’m happier with the choice of Larry Summers to head the White House economic team than I was when his name was first floated at Treasury.   He seems in a mood to ream people in high places.  Good.

As for Geithner …  He was part of the problem at the NY Fed.  I don’t understand why Obama thinks he’s golden.  Esp in light of his problems paying taxes.  To tell the public (as this does) that anyone is crucial to New England here is to encourage a kind of superstitious obscurantism about finance.

It seems, rather, that the balls-to-the-wall defense of Geithner has mostly to do with the felt need at Team Obama to ride into DC on a steamroller. Acknowledging that the choice of Geithner was a mistake would blunt big mo.

The choice of FINRA’s Mary Schapiro for SEC is similarly tainted (another top regulator of the current mess) and uninspiring.  I guess they needed a woman and were running out of slots.  Eliot Spitzer was the obvious Change candidate here.

Geithner didn’t pay $34,000 in taxes in two recent years. Spitzer transacted with prostitutes. The defense of Geithner sends an odd message.

The Lincoln train from Philadelphia this weekend, the Lincoln bible coming Tuesday, all seem a bit much — and inapt, in that as Lincoln arrived in the city it was clear near and far that it meant civil war.

(Lincoln was for Unity in the odd sense of being able and willing (after the Free Soil compromise broke) to divide the nation and imperil the state as never since or before over the issue of slavery — which he discussed during his campaign and presidency by talking about Preserving the Union.   I admire him for all of this, and merely wish to point out that he was not about Unity.)

The theme of Obama’s inaugural address is said (on the Sunday talk shows) to be Personal Responsibility and a Call to Sacrifice.  This (again) sounds like Reaganite marketing materials.

Our woes were not caused by irresponsible working class Americans. Most Americans have been sacrificing time and quality of life since the advent of Reagan.

Why then will we be getting this lecture?   Is it (inapt) Cosbyism, aimed at malingering black american males?  If so, it’s way too personal.  Or will it prove to have been a roundabout way to target the rich (with targeted sacrifice)?  Or, most likely, a way to begin watering the rhetoric of the campaign down into middle-of-the-road policy that will do little to address the economic warfare practiced by the owner class upon the working class since the advent of Reagan?

The black woman chosen to read a poem at Obama’s inaugural is telling the tube that Whitman was a poet of “diversity.”   No he wasn’t.  He was the precise opposite — the most potent expressor of universality and American melting-pot newness we have ever had.  But since one in a thousand TV viewers have ever read more than a wisp of Whitman …

Reaganism and the Identity Politics it provoked both need burying.  It remains a question if that’s what Obama’s about.  Indications so far are boxing the compass.

November 13th, 2008

Little Jimmy Grimaldi:
Palin & co. re “Real” America
is prep for martial law

Ed Note:  This was first posted on Halloween.  I bump it up because the Terror-watch drumbeat is getting so very loud.  See comments below.

Little Jimmy Grimaldi is out with his Halloween Message.

Tonight’s topic: Creeping Fascism.


November 5th, 2008

The Morning After

Click here for first reactions, pro and con.

Then comment below.


November 4th, 2008

Election Day

Well, as always, the experience of voting here in leafy, historic Brooklyn Heights was rather moving.

One feels the heady funnelling effect, as people come together along the sidewalks heading for the polling place.  Why does going to the grocery store not feel at all the same?

Like the locusts.  Every four years the members of the Community emerge from their burrows to engage in strictly programmed reproductive rites, behind curtains.

After glancing at the GOP column for familiar local names (none there), I pulled the pure Democrat line.

There was also a Proposition on the NY ballot making it easier for war veterans to claim benefits — an attempt to overcome roadblocks thrown up by Bush-Cheney.  Hell yes.

I recall the letter my father — a Korea COMBAT veteran — received from the Veterans Admin circa 2004, while fighting cancer that killed him in 2006, that his medical benefits were being curtailed.  The opening line:  “As you know, America’s priorities have been changing since the attacks of 9/11 …” or very similar words to same effect.

The clunky mechanical voting machines are set up in the basement of a local public school.  What better venue?

And the associated PTA always has a bake sale — goodies and coffee for people who may find themselves waiting in line.  I got two pineapple muffins and a piece of lemon coconut cake. Let the celebration begin.

After voting I filled out an exit poll.   ABC and CNN were on the header with other organs.

I confessed that I had thought the Donkeys would do best to nominate Hillary.  And, re religion:  None.

I think I made only one boo boo — when asked about who was “qualified” to be First Lady.  Michelle, or Cindy, or Both, or Neither.

I said Neither.   A bit odd, given that the only qualification seems to be marriage to the president.  (Or might somebody someday shack up in the White House?  Stranger things have happened there.)

I guess the correct answer was Both, and that my hasty response was rooted in mild, superficial — unwarranted — dislike for both the wives.

Mrs Obama will do fine.  And, in that she seems to represent more fully than her husband (who along with Boz Scaggs is actually a martian) the cause of African-Americans, I’ll be happy and proud to see her assume the duties of high office.  What a day that was …!

Or … Am I tempting fate with this loose chatter?

It’s 6:14 pm.

November 3rd, 2008

Wasted in the wilderness

Only thing that I did wrong
Was staying in the wilderness too long
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on

The great questions in the air — about how much lasting constitutional and foreign-affairs damage Bush-Cheney have done, about the ways and means of turning things around, and the capacity of the american people to be citizens rather than consumers — leave me for the moment speechless.

I do think the turn in the works is a major turn.

A premise there, however, is that the forces behind the Fascist Shift of the new century are not deeply rooted and are exhausted for now — leaving the new administration a horrible mess, yes, but also a durable mandate and some elbow room.

But — if the premise is false, then four years from now we may see Romney on the verge of victory, and the young Obama already a has-been.

This was one reason why, this past winter, I thought Hillary the better candidate for the Donkeys to nominate — to allow her to absorb the worst of the blast, while holding Obama in reserve.

But …  The hour of doom is at hand.  Let the sun shine

The mandate will not be large.  LBJ in 1964, riding a wave of sympathy re Kennedy’s murder the year before, gathered 486 EC votes and carried 44 states.

Nothing near that is in the cards for Obama.  Rather, somewhere between 289 and 364 votes, with 22 to 27 states, plus D.C.

Clinton got 370 votes and 31 states in ’92. And 379 and 30 in ’96. Plus D.C. in each.

Reagan has the all-time high, against hapless Mondale in ’84, with 525 votes and 49 states.  Then FDR in 1936, against Landon, with 523 and 46 (of 48 total) states. And then Richard Nixon in ’72, contra hapless McGovern.  520 votes and 49 states.

Then again … Even the greatest EC landslides were, roughly speaking, five people voting chocolate and five vanilla.  Fifty-three Pistachio, forty-seven Rocky Road.

Wasted Years

No matter what happens on Tuesday and across the next four years, there is no escaping or re-writing the fact that the failures to apply Due Process in the 2000 election, and to depose Bush-Cheney in 2004, were costly beyond measure and plain evidence that, on the national level, we are not a functioning democracy.

Only thing that we did right
Was the day we began to fight
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on

It’s an open question — whether WE can fight at all.

But … Team Obama has. They’ve run an amazing campaign — principled and potent.

Can the example revive an increasingly impoverished and brain-dead citizenry?

Too Long in Exile

Seems all my NY friends are holing up Tuesday night. Me, I think it’s the first thing in the public sphere worth celebrating since …  Can’t recall.

Let’s have a General Strike on Wednesday. And then, to the business of rebuilding.

Til We Get the Healing Done

Where’s my blue suede shoes?

Aha — a final pre-election postscript:  Great overview from a waning & weeping Laissez Faire fellow in the London Daily Telegraph.

November 2nd, 2008

Election Day a new dawn?

The excitement about election day is palpable in the streets of New York.

Let the sun shine …!

Then all the captains of the West cried aloud, for their hearts were filled with a new hope in the midst of darkness.  Out from the beleaguered hills knights of Gondor, Riders of Rohan, Dunedain of the North, close-serried companies, drove against their wavering foes, pierceing the press with the thrust of bitter spears. 

But Gandalf lifted up his arms and called once more in a clear voice.

“Stand, Men of the West! Stand and wait!  This is the hour of doom!”

October 29th, 2008

Hersh says Beltway background boys are waiting for January 20 to unload dirt on Bush-Cheney

The airy author of this Guardian piece misleads with the notion that Seymour Hersh is the greatest American investigative reporter.

He is, rather, the trusted mouthpiece of hundreds and hundreds in the National Security Apparat.

Nevertheless, it’s good news that he’s expecting rain once the new president has been installed.  Perhaps enough to float criminal prosecution of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Libby, Wolfowitz, Feith, Bush et al.

October 27th, 2008

Alaska’s biggest newspaper endorses Obama

Posted in 2008 Elections by ed

Pretty cool.

October 24th, 2008

Electoral College map Blue Shifts

Posted in 2008 Elections by ed

This NY Times electoral college map incorporates among other things current state polls nationwide.

The map this week evinced a strenthening Blue Shift:

Colorado went from Tossup to Leaning Obama.  And Missouri and Indiana (!?!) went from Leaning McPalin to Tossup.

The week before, Virginia had gone from Tossup to Leaning Obama.

And the week before that, North Carolina had gone from Leaning McPalin to Tossup, and Oregon from Leaning to Strongly Obama.

Obama is gauged to have 196 solid votes and 90 leaning.  270 are needed to win.

Six states are now gauged Tossups:  Nevada, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.

Here’s a site where with a map upon which one can play with the state votes.  (Click and doubleclick on the states to change color.)

October 24th, 2008

Greenspan, global recesssion —
1932 arriving on schedule


Alan Greenspan’s broad confession before Congress yesterday brings to mind the parade in 1932 through those once hallowed halls of big brains from Wall Street and the Fed, all confessing their ideas were bankrupt and that they’d nothing left to suggest.


“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” he told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.


Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?

Mr. Greenspan conceded: “Yes, I’ve found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I’ve been very distressed by that fact.”


On a day that brought more bad news about rising home foreclosures and slumping employment, Mr. Greenspan refused to accept blame for the crisis but acknowledged that his belief in deregulation had been shaken.

“This modern risk-management paradigm held sway for decades,” he said. “The whole intellectual edifice, however, collapsed in the summer of last year.”


As if in reaction, Asian and European stock markets went off the cliff overnight — Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 Index down 9.6%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng down 8.0%, the Financial Times 100 down 5.0% — and the US markets are now following.


Sheer panic and forced selling (by margin callers) aside, the more slightly more concrete cause seems to be data and earnings reports indicating that the credit crisis that began 15 months ago has surely pushed the industrialized world into recession.


By the time FDR took office in March 1933, every bank in the United States was closed.


In general, however, the banking system then was much stronger than it is now.  The crisis of the early 30s was largely a liquidity crisis created by bad austerity policy enacted post 1929 crash, which artificial austerity crushed the general economy.  The crisis of today is an insolvency crisis created by a mountain of bad debt, crushing the finance sector first.


Opportunities and strategies for recovery, then, are likely to be different than they seemed to the bewildered owner-operators 76 years ago.  Last week a bunch of Friedmanesque Chicago-School economists warned that today’s Fed and Treasury were fighting the last Great Depression (as if the crisis were merely a lack of liquidity in the credit system).

served.gifInto all this strides Barack Obama (it seems).

His entry brings to mind the early years of Bush-Cheney, when Secretary of State Colin Powell was repeatedly sent on foreign missions, including to East 42nd street in New York, to explain (as if it were possible) and take flack for the collateral damage of their radical policies.

Will the Obama movement and all its hopes for a new age get crushed by the economic misery that will characterize his four years?  Or will the misery be so widespread that it serves to found and root that new age?


October 22nd, 2008

Tiger and Barack

I keep forgetting to mention this … Came to mind during the late winter, as the primary and golfing seasons got underway.


The astounding play and mind of Tiger Woods these past nine years have something to do with the astounding fact that the United States seem on the verge of electing a black man to the presidency.


Perhaps the point is obvious. If not, click on …


October 21st, 2008

Prez chat

Posted in 2008 Elections by ed

I guess people with televisions have already seen:

McCain on the Letterman show last week.

Hillary after the last debate.  Looking pretty hot.

October 19th, 2008

President Palin at play
in the Oval Office

Posted in 2008 Elections by ed

Pretty funny.

(Rollover and/or click about the office)

October 19th, 2008

Colin Powell’s
endorsement of Barack

Posted in 2008 Elections by ed

Pretty cool.

October 15th, 2008

Enter the Palindrones

Sarah’s perfect.

And there’s more where she came from


October 13th, 2008

From the Archive:
Voting from the Outside in 1992

Democrats sixteen years ago were desperate to boot the GOP from the White House.


October 12th, 2008


Posted in 2008 Elections by ed


Apparently Hillary’s finding it hard to decompress.

October 5th, 2008

The Onion:
McCain unveils Recovery Plan /
Obama’s new attack ads

Posted in 2008 Elections by ed

McCain’s recipe for recovery.

Team Obama says No more Mr Niceguy