Monday, September 29, 2008

Stay of Bailout

Looks as if we're safe for a couple of days, as the criminal community has failed to reach a division-of-spoils agreement. And now, as befits deeply observant Jewish people, they're taking a couple of days to contemplate repentance on the occasion of the Feast of Trumpets.

The news accounts have suggested that opposition to the robbery came from the supposedly opposed ends of the celebrated "political spectrum" -- conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. To the unknown extent to which this is true, it paints at least a slightly cheerful picture: people with principles of one kind or another rejecting the business-as-usual synthesis of crap being shoveled by the functionaries of the Mushy Middle.

Meanwhile, I was going to wax sarcastic about the idea of the hell-minions of DC feeling the need to knock off for a couple of days' worth of religious holiday. But, on second thought, what a good thing! Just because the supply of religious Jews in the Congress is undoubtedly very thin -- that's no reason for all our Congresscritters, Jew and Gentile alike, not to observe Rosh Hashanah. Let them all take some time off ... a couple of weeks, even! And even though they're 95% Satan-spawn, by all means, let every one of our rulers observe not only Holy Week, come Eastertime, but maybe an entire Holy Month! If anyone knows some good Buddhist or Hindu or Shinto holidays that could be the cause of some lengthy legislative absences, by all means, let's hear them. And why shouldn't the Congress knock off for Ramadan -- that's pretty much a whole month, isn't it? You see where I'm going with this. Let safety spread across the whole of the calendar!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Duh-mockracy on Stage

So, I'm sitting here typing the previous post and listening to Grampaw Angry-Pants and Sen. Yes-We-Can having a little one-up contest to see who is the more obsequious servant to Twelve Tribes™, Inc., and who hates Iran more. We have a murderous cokehead in the Oval Office now, and we will soon have either a murderous Alzheimer's patient or a murderous confidence man taking his spot. (Do you sense a theme here? What do these men have in common?) At times like these, a great big Imperial money meltdown sounds like not only a great idea, but a downright necessity if a whole 'nother raft-o-people are to escape slaughter.

Last second update: Grampaw has counted the number of letters in "KGB" correctly! Out-freakin'-standing.

Be sure to vote, now. Voting changes things. My high-school "government" teacher told me so. On the other hand, he was a football-coaching moron, too, wasn't he?

Me: Wrong Again

Yesterday (and below), I claimed that the skids were greased and the deal was done. The money boys who own our supervisors already had their 5-feet-in-diameter supply hose inserted into the treasury, and El Presidente was about to close the switch to start the 50,000-horsepower pumps. Then, suddenly, the deal wasn't done, and everybody was mad; and today, there seems to be uncertainty:
Central banks step in as bail-out fears mount

By Norma Cohen, Economics Correspondent

The Bank of England moved on Friday to inject longer term cash into money markets as part of a co-ordinated effort with the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank.

The intervention came after White House talks over a $700bn bailout for the US financial system broke up late on Thursday without agreement.
Now, the Big D.C. Bustup may be nothing more than puppet theater for the edification of the rubes (us). It may be that the idea is to ratchet up the fear; the WaMu failure/seizure would serve admirably as one part of the set dressing in the Theater of Money Terror. That proves nothing, of course; with our supervisors being complete strangers to truth, and the corporate, complicit, etiolated remnants of the press being little more than our supervisors' publicists, we're reduced to guessing. It may be that the Great Financiers will be somewhat delayed in starting the pumps; it's even (faintly) possible that they won't get it done at all. I still think they will. If I'm wrong, I'll be glad -- oh, very glad! -- to say so.

We shall see.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Done Deal

How many parties rule us? We have a how-many-party system, you keep telling me? Now I have to decide whether to believe you, or my lying eyes:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Warned of a possible financial panic, key Republicans and Democrats reported agreement in principle Thursday on a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry and said they would present it to the Bush administration in hopes of a vote within days. Emerging from a two-hour negotiating session, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the Banking Committee chairman said, "We are very confident that we can act expeditiously."
Now, there's something about which I can agree with Sen. Dodd. I, too, am very confident that they can -- and will -- act expeditiously.

Folks, we have "government" by the ruling class, for the ruling class, and they aren't going to get themselves off our necks. If we don't do it, who's gonna? And no, I'm not talking about voting Obama, either.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We Do Love Our Wars

I saw something today that was excerpted from Kurt Vonnegut's unpublished papers. And, although we are of course completely preoccupied with how confidence in the markets can be restored, it's worth a few minutes to read. Here's a small taste:
It was a routine speech we got during our first day of basic training, delivered by a wiry little lieutenant: “Men, up to now you’ve been good, clean, American boys with an American’s love for sportsmanship and fair play. We’re here to change that.

“Our job is to make you the meanest, dirtiest bunch of scrappers in the history of the world. From now on, you can forget the Marquess of Queensberry rules and every other set of rules. Anything and everything goes.

“Never hit a man above the belt when you can kick him below it. Make the bastard scream. Kill him any way you can. Kill, kill, kill – do you understand?”

His talk was greeted with nervous laughter and general agreement that he was right. “Didn’t Hitler and Tojo say the Americans were a bunch of softies? Ha! They’ll find out.”

And of course, Germany and Japan did find out: a toughened-up democracy poured forth a scalding fury that could not be stopped. It was a war of reason against barbarism, supposedly, with the issues at stake on such a high plane that most of our feverish fighters had no idea why they were fighting – other than that the enemy was a bunch of bastards. A new kind of war, with all destruction, all killing approved.

A lot of people relished the idea of total war: it had a modern ring to it, in keeping with our spectacular technology. To them it was like a football game.

[Back home in America], three small-town merchants’ wives, middle-aged and plump, gave me a ride when I was hitchhiking home from Camp Atterbury. “Did you kill a lot of them Germans?” asked the driver, making cheerful small-talk. I told her I didn’t know.

This was taken for modesty. As I was getting out of the car, one of the ladies patted me on the shoulder in motherly fashion: “I’ll bet you’d like to get over and kill some of them dirty Japs now, wouldn’t you?”

We exchanged knowing winks. I didn’t tell those simple souls that I had been captured after a week at the front; and more to the point, what I knew and thought about killing dirty Germans, about total war. The reason for my being sick at heart then and now has to do with an incident that received cursory treatment in the American newspapers. In February 1945, Dresden, Germany, was destroyed, and with it over 100,000 human beings. I was there. Not many know how tough America got.

And seriously, folks: if we didn't love war so much, we wouldn't be contemplating this "economic meltdown" either. War, after all, is the polluted spring from which flows both material debt and ruinous destruction -- physical, mental, and spiritual.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Just Say NO -- Or Maybe Something a Little Stronger

After listening to NPR during my morning travels, I was going to write yet another lunchtime post about this. But I see where Slacktivist has said it much better than I would have:
When in the course of human events a purportedly democratic official demands that the people give him $700,000,000,000 -- no strings attached, by week's end, or else -- then the duly elected representatives of the people have one and only one responsible response: Say "No."

Better yet, say "Hell no."
There's more; go read it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Woooooooo -- hoooooo!!!!!

It's official: I have arrived.

Friends, I think what this means is that I can spend all the money I have, plus a whole ton that I don't have, on insane "investments." When it doesn't work out, I know the gummint will force you all to bail me out. Because ... I'm too big to fail!

Ah, it's good to be the king.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Say What You Mean

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.

--- George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"
The genius of George Orwell is again illustrated by today's words from Mr. Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury and one of the Chief Thiefs in Washington. (Yes, I know it's "thieves," but then you lose that nice internal rhyme.) Let's just listen to him talk:
The underlying weakness in our financial system today is the illiquid mortgage assets that have lost value as the housing correction has proceeded. These illiquid assets are choking off the flow of credit that is so vitally important to our economy. When the financial system works as it should, money and capital flow to and from households and businesses to pay for home loans, school loans and investments that create jobs. As illiquid mortgage assets block the system, the clogging of our financial markets has the potential to have significant effects on our financial system and our economy.
Well, that certainly paints a vivid picture: both money and debt are fluids (liquids or gases, we know not, but fluids in any case) that are supposed to flow through "the system" (plumbing, maybe?). But there's good debt and then there's bad debt: this latter is those pesky "illiquid mortgage assets," meaning loans that no sane person would ever make with his own money, nor would any honest person ever make with anyone else's money. These are assets only in the sense that the borrower's going to pay them back, which he's not -- so, they are really assets in the same way that the pile of fragrant turds that your neighbor's dog left in your yard are assets. They're the sort of assets bought voluntarily only by lunatics. So, anyway, these block and clog the system, so we're supposed to think of them as hairballs in the drain pipe, and be grateful to Plumber Paulson for removing them, or even heroically trying to remove them, so that your system flows again. Let's try translating Mr. Paulson into clear English:

It's very important that many people who have a lots of money be able and willing to lend it to both you, the American people, and to the U.S. government. This is very important because the American people consume many goods and produce very little, and thus their continued consumption requires that they borrow; and the same is true of the government, which produces absolutely nothing that anyone would willingly buy, and spends money at unbelievable rates; it must, then, either tax you at rates that you cannot and will not pay, or borrow, or print counterfeit money. Many of these people with money don't have it any more, because they lent it to many of you, whose declining real incomes (see the parts about "produce very little" and "print counterfeit money") make it impossible for you to pay it back. This is very bad. If the lenders don't have money, they can't lend it; and in an economy that runs on debt, there has to be lots and lots of lending going on.

Returning to Mr. Paulson:
As we all know, lax lending practices earlier this decade led to irresponsible lending and irresponsible borrowing. This simply put too many families into mortgages they could not afford. We are seeing the impact on homeowners and neighborhoods, with 5 million homeowners now delinquent or in foreclosure. What began as a sub-prime lending problem has spread to other, less-risky mortgages, and contributed to excess home inventories that have pushed down home prices for responsible homeowners.

A similar scenario is playing out among the lenders who made those mortgages, the securitizers who bought, repackaged and resold them, and the investors who bought them. These troubled loans are now parked, or frozen, on the balance sheets of banks and other financial institutions, preventing them from financing productive loans. The inability to determine their worth has fostered uncertainty about mortgage assets, and even about the financial condition of the institutions that own them. The normal buying and selling of nearly all types of mortgage assets has become challenged.

These illiquid assets are clogging up our financial system, and undermining the strength of our otherwise sound financial institutions. As a result, Americans' personal savings are threatened, and the ability of consumers and businesses to borrow and finance spending, investment, and job creation has been disrupted.
Again, we see money being metaphorically turned into other things in order to put a picture in our minds, so we won't notice what's really going on because we're mesmerized by the picture. Again, our system is being blocked and clogged by illiquid assets that are also somehow frozen and parked on balance sheets, and those poor banksters have a problem: they don't know what these assets are worth! I have a simple suggestion that can be useful to anyone with such a problem. If you don't know what something is worth, sell it. What the buyer will pay is what it's "worth." If no one will buy it ... guess what? It's worth nothing. Of course, that's not really acceptable information, is it?

And how is it that Americans' personal savings are threatened? Well, gee ... I wonder if maybe the banksters used other people's money -- yours, maybe -- to buy all these worthless loans? Bingo.

Moving along:
The federal government must implement a program to remove these illiquid assets that are weighing down our financial institutions and threatening our economy. This troubled asset relief program must be properly designed and sufficiently large to have maximum impact, while including features that protect the taxpayer to the maximum extent possible. The ultimate taxpayer protection will be the stability this troubled asset relief program provides to our financial system, even as it will involve a significant investment of taxpayer dollars. I am convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative -- a continuing series of financial institution failures and frozen credit markets unable to fund economic expansion.
Ah, yes, remove these illiquid assets: another stupid metaphor (a spatial one this time). But actually, there will indeed be some removal going on. Your gub'mint is going to reach into your pocket and remove the swag necessary to make good the banksters' losses. Or, wait a minute: you don't have that swag in your pocket, do you? So they can't simply tax you for it. What they'll do, then, is to borrow some more from the rest of the world, meaning that it'll theoretically be your children's children's problem; or they'll fire up the printing presses and debase the currency still more (there goes even more of your real income, and here comes $5 or $6 gasoline).

I can't take any more of Mr. Paulson. Let's go back to Orwell:
Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.
As my old Dad used to say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hope Is Where You Find It

O Weary Masses of the World, lift up your eyes and dare to hope! Look to America, the indispensable nation, the last best hope of mankind, the shining city on a hill! Open your eyes, and see your salvation approach!

The Empire may have maxed out its last credit card. The zero-percent-introductory-rate balance transfer game may just about be finished. Can't buy no bombs if you don't got no money, nohow.

As we paddle our canoe gently downriver, I'm thinking maybe I hear a soft-in-the-distance rumbling, roaring sound ahead:
The Federal Reserve said that it would make it easier for companies to access the central bank's cash by accepting a wider range of assets, including equities, as collateral for direct loans to investment banks.

The Fed, which is due to meet tomorrow to decide interest rates, also raised the size of the pool of available loans to $200 billion and suspended rules that prevent banks from using deposits to fund their investment banking businesses.
Hmmmm, that couldn't be a big waterfall up ahead, could it? Naaaaw, it must not be a waterfall. That would be bad.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

No Need to Feel Sorry for Americans

They're already feeling plenty sorry for themselves:
NEW YORK (AP) — Relatives of victims killed at the World Trade Center are observing moments of silence to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The ceremony at ground zero included moments of silence at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. — the times that two hijacked jets slammed into the twin towers. Two more moments of silence were to be held at the times the towers fell.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened the ceremony by telling the tearful audience: "Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day our world was broken."

Other ceremonies are being held throughout the day around the country, including in Washington and in Pennsylvania. Barack Obama and John McCain are due at ground zero to pay silent respects.
Whether there was any big, officially-organized twentieth anniversary remembrance in Iran for the 290 passengers on the Airbus civilian jetliner that was blown out of the sky by the U.S.S. Vincennes, on 3 July 1988, I can't say; if there was, our corporate/government news sources either didn't know or didn't find it newsworthy. Given the prevailing conditions in Iraq, I don't suppose there's much in the way of organized self-pity over the million or so, give or take a few hundred thousand, who've been slaughtered as a result of fully-bipartisan U.S. foreign policy since 1990, from Bush War I through the sanctions regime of the Clinton years, which claimed hundreds of thousands of children, through Bush War II and the subsequent occupation/colonization. Besides, it isn't as though there's a single, particular day to point at there; our bellicose devotion to Iraqi Freedom™ overshadows the whole of the calendar.

In the terrorism of 11 September 2001, a total of 2,819 people were killed. That's about one-fifteenth of the total number of traffic-accident deaths in the U.S. that year (42,116). It's one-tenth of one percent of the 2,416,425 people who died from all causes in the US that year. Still, it pleases our mass-murdering supervisors that we should all be expected to wallow in a synthetic orgy of self-pity from time to time throughout this day.

To Hell with it, say I, and most especially to Hell with our supervisors. Seven years ago, 2,819 people were killed by a criminal conspiracy. The people who directly did it died in the act, and are thus beyond the short reach of imperfect human justice. No doubt they were directed, supported, and enabled by a relative handful of other guilty people, who would be appropriate subjects for some constitutional remedy such as letters of marque and reprisal. But that's not what happened. The fact remains that we are "governed" by war criminals for the benefit of corporate war profiteers and one particularly-favored Middle Eastern democracy ... and it must be the sort of governance that we deserve, since the US citizenry is too well armed to be so governed without at least its passive consent. No, we howled for this brutal and ruinous pseudo-war, and we begged our supervisors to take as many of our remaining liberties as might please them, in a futile and contemptible exchange for a nonexistent security that our supervisors cannot provide, and would not even if they could.

And there lies the true shame and sorrow of this day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

There's No Fool Like a Greater Fool

Well, well. We, collectively, are the Greater Fool:
The greater fool theory ... is the belief held by one who makes a questionable investment, with the assumption that they will be able to sell it later to "a bigger fool"; in other words, buying something not because you believe that it is worth the price, but rather because you believe that you will be able to sell it to some one else for an even higher price.
In this case, the "greater fool" theoretician-investors were perfectly correct in thinking that there would, eventually, be a corps of idiots available to populate the layer below them on the pyramid, because Uncle Sugar is able to draft you and I for the purpose:
Fannie and Freddie were chartered by Congress, and so historically, investors — especially foreign ones — have bought their debt because they believed it was backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, akin to Treasury bonds.

The takeover makes that guarantee explicit for the time being. Paulson said the issue of whether there should be a government guarantee would have to be resolved: "We're going to have to decide whether we want to have government support for private profit."
And that's a neat summary of state capitalism for you, right there. It combines the worst of both worlds: it's collectivist in the sense that every man's supposed property is "his" only at State sufferance; but it differs from full-up Marxism in that it provides explicity for the reaping of profits by private individuals who are favored by the State. Who are these favored folk? From my position in the dark recesses of the mushroom farm, I cannot say. It's clear, though, that the sources of the swag must be many, and the recipients few; otherwise, the game doesn't work. One thing that you and I, gentle reader, can be sure of is that each of us has a slot to fill in the bottom level of the pyramid. I'm no enthusiast for Brother Karl Marx, but I can't dispute that a lot of what we see around us is easier to understand in the context of a class analysis than in any other way. Leona Helmsley is supposed to have said, "Paying taxes is for the little people." However much (or little) truth may have been in that, I think we're going to see that ownership in the twin pigpiles of Fannie and Freddie is also going to be for the little people.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told NPR that the primary reason for the rescue was the discovery of a "capital deficiency that needed to be addressed." In other words, they didn't have an adequate cushion against further losses in the deteriorating housing market.

Paulson said that investors have become "increasingly jittery here and around the world" and unwilling to provide added capital for Fannie and Freddie. He said the action was taken to ensure the continued availability of mortgages and to protect taxpayers. Currently, Fannie and Freddie are providing financing for more than two-thirds of all mortgages originated in the U.S.
"Increasingly jittery." That's one way of putting it, I suppose; "smart enough to read the writing on the wall" might be another. Clearly, we're at a point where the available swag has already been looted, and few are foolish enough to voluntarily join the party. The hour has come for the Greater Fool to make his appearance.

Hello, fellow fool!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Local Puzzle Update

Now I almost feel bad for picking on the Disenfranchised One. (Speaking of which, I'm also kind of wondering: does she know what that word means?)

Anyway, she's changed her header image. I guess she figures it's better if it's interspecies:

Thing is, it's still a great big elephant, and its partner, while now a different kind of animal, is still little. I guess the subtext here is that Republican pederasty is fine, as long as the victim's a Democrat. Or a small(er) animal. Or something.

Any way you look at it, that's one skeevy pachyderm. (Look it up, Jennifer.)

As a lady I know from the message-board days asked one day, earlier this year: "Is there anyone left in the Republican Party who still makes love to women? Aside from the women, that is."

Pretty funny.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

National Puzzle

I have nothing profound for today. But Will Grigg does.

In his caption, he asks an excellent question:
Where do God and family fit if "Country" -- meaning the government -- comes first? Republican cultists perform on cue at the GOP convention.

Let me recommend the whole piece to you. Mr. Grigg offers an unusually thoughtful and nuanced take on the Palin Phenomenon in the context of Imperial twilight.

Purely-Local Puzzle

Sure, I'll admit it -- I might rubberneck just a little bit as I slowly roll past an overturned tractor-trailer that's spilled an enormous cargo of nasty little Indonesian-made rubber novelties all over the grass on the highway median. And I slide over [link removed -- she must not be proud of her work!] every now and then, too, just to see what's piled up on the shoulder of the roadway.

Look -- I get that she's a hater ... she says so herself, and who am I to dispute her? But I do have to wonder: she's a fully-automatic GOP-bot, right? Can it be that she really doesn't know what this little graphic refers to?

Hint for the "disenfranchised" one: the big elephant ... well, let's just say that what the big elephant is doing to the little elephant is neither wholesome nor attractive.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tuneful Interlude

From William Grigg at Pro Libertate, in turn quoting from Ron Paul's speech at the "Rally For the Republic:"
Aimee Allen sang the song “(The) Universal Soldier” for me because I asked her to do that. It talks really about the essence of decision-making. It talks about should you strike and not participate any longer.

It’s the universal soldier that allows the power-mongers around Washington to exist. It’s always done by getting the young people and making them feel that, if they don’t participate, they’re unpatriotic. I think of the story of the early days of WWI, on Christmas Eve, when the Germans and the British took a break and began singing Christmas carols. And then, on the morrow, the leaders came back and said, “You will go back to killing one another.”

As a young man, as a doctor, I was drafted. There were times that people were starting to resist, but I marched off and I was the Universal Soldier. What we need today is the Universal Champion of Liberty.

Everything Has Its Price

So, I'm on my way home from the day job last night, and it's going on 6 pm, and I'm listening to NPR. It would usually be "All Things Considered" at that hour, I think, and maybe it still was, but it was all Republican convention coverage. (Sorry, don't know that I can link a particular broadcast, and I'm too lazy to try just now ... maybe you heard it.) I happened to catch a live interview with Kansas senator Sam Brownback, who's all Christian-conservative and pro-life and all of that, and he was being asked about The Sarah Palin Thing. Now, here's where I wish I could link to the interview, because I can't quote him exactly; I was just doing the old-school driving and listening to the radio procedure. But I think I can paraphrase him fairly. What he said was: McCain really wanted Joe Lieberman, but, you know, it's a shame, but that just wasn't getting any support among the delegates when it was floated, and it just couldn't be done. Because, you know, there are some basic differences between Joe Lieberman and us on, you know, the social issues. I had a speech prepared to put his name into nomination, but it just wasn't happening, and it's a real shame, because, you know, he's really with us on security.

Well, I got to thinking: there the whole thing is, in a nutshell. Summed up so neatly. People like me, people who don't think it should be legal to kill babies, people who acquired criminal records back in the Operation Rescue days ... we're supposed to be supporting the GOP, and we're supposed to be tickled pink with "leaders" on the order of Sen. Brownback. In my mind, Sen. Brownback can usefully serve as a symbol for the whole GOP. He says he's "pro-life," and I have no reason to believe he's lying. I'm willing to assume that he is "pro-life," whatever he may understand that to mean. But, you know, he has his priorities. First of all, he's got to have his war. No matter what else, he's going to get his war on. The entire party: they may profess some mild interest in circumscribing abortion, at the margins. They may affect to think that the inverted fraternity getting all gay-married will weaken marriage (although their own serial adulteries apparently don't). They may nod politely to the idea of low taxes and small government (although, not lately). But first things first: they will get their war on. The rest of that stuff is, at most, boob-bait for folks like me.

Die, GOP. Go on ... die a little. You literally cannot die fast enough to suit me.

It's Just Like Old Times

Or at least it might be, if them Roooskies will oblige:
BAKU, Azerbaijan — The Bush administration plans to announce a $1 billion package of aid to help rebuild Georgia after its rout by Russian forces last month, administration officials said on Wednesday, as Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in the region to signal support for Georgia and other countries neighboring Russia.
As Lord Darth Cheney would be quick to point out: a billion? Mere chump change. Not worth talking about, considering the potential benefits:
The aid — along with Mr. Cheney’s visit — is sure to increase tensions with Russia, whose leaders have accused the United States of stoking the conflict with Georgia over its two separatist regions, by providing weapons and training to the Georgians. President Dmitri A. Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin have also complained that humanitarian supplies delivered by the American Navy and Air Force since Russian forces routed Georgian forces and occupied parts of the country were a disguise for delivering new weapons.

Administration officials have dismissed those accusations as baseless.
Speaking of the potential benefits, there they are: we can get our Cold War on! These newfangled "fourth-generation," low-intensity conflicts/occupations aren't working out so well. That nagging little trickle of dead and wounded just never seems to stop, and you're not creating any demand for the really sexy shoot-'em-up hardware -- the ultrastealth fighter aircraft and such -- that are fun to watch, fun to talk about, and that really fuel up the profits tank for LockMart and GenDyn and Boeing and Northrop Grumman. How excited can you get over yet another piddling contract to up-armor HMMVs? Time to go back to a Good War of the sort we know how to run, and that gets Tom Clancy warming up his word processor again!
The aid package, which is expected to include money for rebuilding Georgia’s infrastructure and its economy, is scheduled to be detailed in Washington later on Wednesday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the official said. President Bush is also expected to release a statement.

It is not clear whether the package will include any direct military support, which officials have acknowledged they are considering.
Instant translation: Oh hell yes, it's "direct military support." If "officials" were vigorously denying it, we'd have to consider it only "likely;" since they're not, the rating goes clear up to "lead-pipe cinch."
The aid package reflects an intensification of the administration’s support for Georgia, though President Bush and his senior advisors have yet to settle on any punitive actions against Russia.
Yeah, in much the same way as I personally have yet to settle on my exact and specific plans for spending my first trillion dollars. Russia is a net exporter of energy. Russia heats Europe, and Europe can see from the calendar on the clubhouse wall that winter's coming. What do the Russians have to fear -- they're maybe going to get kicked out of the G8? Hear that vodka-fueled laughter!
Mr. Cheney arrived on Wednesday in Azerbaijan on the first of three stops in the region the Russians consider their “near abroad” in what one of his aides last week described as an effort to bolster countries in the face of their more assertive neighbor. Mr. Cheney is scheduled to visit Georgia on Thursday, followed by Ukraine.
Yes, these are places the intransigent Russians consider their "near abroad" -- that is, they are places that actually border Russia. This would be as opposed to, say, the U.S. and Iraq, which are half the world apart. Apparently, irony is dead at the New York Times.
While Mr. Cheney’s plans to visit Azerbaijan and Georgia were made before Russia’s military operation in Georgia, the trip took on added significance following the conflict, which began on the night of Aug. 7, when Georgian forces tried to seize control of South Ossetia, only to be driven back when Russian forces poured into the country.

Although a ceasefire ended the fighting, Russian forces have still not withdrawn from parts of Georgian territory near South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia. Russia last week recognized both as independent countries, a move that has failed to win any international backing.
Hmmmmm ... wonder how much "international backing" Russia needs to recognize independent countries? That might not be the sort of enterprise that really requires a Coalition of the Willing.
Azerbaijan, like Georgia, is a former Soviet republic that has sought closer ties to the West and the United States, and it is considered a vital crossroads for oil and gas from the Caspian Sea.

Underscoring the point, Mr. Cheney’s first meetings here in Baku were with representatives of two international oil companies: William Schrader of BP Azerbaijan and Robert Satmalchi of Chevron, according to a spokeswoman, Megan M. Mitchell. She said they discussed “their assessments of the energy situation in Azerbaijan and the broader Caspian region — especially in light of Russia’s recent military actions in Georgia.”
There's a couple of paragraphs that surely need no comment from me. If it's necessary for us to pick one or more wars -- direct or proxy -- with the Russians in order to secure appropriate business conditions for BP and Chevron ... well, consider it done, Darth Cheney says.

And by the way, Obama/Biden supporters: has the "change" ticket gone on record denouncing our idiotic "foreign policy" vis-a-vis Russia? Short answer: nope. They're fully on-board. Don't you just love our good old American democratic 1.0000001-party system?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Das F├╝hrerprinzip

I'm tellin' ya, some days I think I'll just replace the entire template of this-here blog with a redirect to IOZ. Other days, he just pisses me right off, so that wouldn't do. But today's one of the "some" days:
The utter crassness and apparent unanimity of the Donk's pivot on the Importance of Experience, now that they have some dummy chick to whale on, is the sort of Soviet touch that makes me suspect our empire may be perne in a gyre, as the poet put it, of greater speed than I'd be otherwise inclined to believe. At first the Experience line was vague, just a thin notion that Palin lacked the requisite CV, that maybe she was a little underqualified, but hey, we'll keep your resume on file for a year and maybe call you if something opens up. Now, however, it has coalesced around the idea that We Live in a Dangerous World. How can this bimbo Keep Us Safe.
There's more. You should go read it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

"A Journey of a Thousand Miles ... "

... begins with a single step:
Step 1 - We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable.
Here is a little glimpse into those unmanageable lives:
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The president and first lady were surprised but thrilled by the selection of Sarah Palin to be John McCain’s running mate, Laura Bush said Monday in her first reflection on the GOP national ticket.

“I’m proud I’m going to get my wish to vote for a Republican woman,” Mrs. Bush said.
O Modern Conservative: it's time for you to take a long, unblinking look into the mirror.

You have a problem. You have an elephant problem.

You felt strong and carefree when you tipped back the glass and voted for Ronnie Reagan. I'm not being all holier-than-thou here ... I took a big snort of Ol' Ronnie, too.

You felt all stylish and grownup and sophisticated with your George Herbert Walker Bush cocktail in '88. So did I. I know how it was.

You had another shot of Bush One in '92. I didn't join you for that one -- I was in my first step or two -- but I understand. Anything would be better than Billy C., right?

Next time, no more happy party atmosphere; you were drinking purely for anesthesia. You held your nose, steeled your gut, and tossed back an oily-looking glass of Dole '96. Didn't taste good, did it? And oooohh, man -- that aftertaste! Especially when, within months, you were seeing Viagra commercials featuring Bobby D., and Pepsi commercials in which he was creepily drooling over tomorrow's megaskank, Britney Spears. Good times, huh?

Then, in 2K, things just got worse. You found yourself back drinking out of the Ol' Bush jug -- the newer vintage this time -- without being able to remember why. Same story in '04. Both times, the alternative seemed to involve another beverage from That Other Distillery that also didn't seem particularly healthy. (You were right -- it wasn't -- but you had alternatives that went unexplored.)

And now, here it is, 2008, and you find yourself facing yet another Most Important Election Ever. (Funny how that seems to happen at clock-regular four-year intervals, isn't it?) "Aw, what the heck," you say, "one more can't hurt."

Wait. Stop. Look at the mirror. Like what you see? Do you look like that stylish, debonair fellow -- only a little tipsy! -- out celebrating on the town, the guy you thought you remembered being? Or do you look more like a stinking, unshaven stumblebum who's about to be kicked out of yet another downscale bar?

Come on -- let's get a cup of coffee and a sandwich. Bankrupt though you are, one thing you really can afford is a big ol' double shot of the truth, and I'm buying. Truth is, you don't have a "movement." Truth is, you don't have a political party. Truth is, you don't have a voice in the media. You have a rough, rough road ahead of you. I don't see any political "success" in your future. You're going to have to admit that you've been wrong about some things, and foolish about many more things still.

There are a few good things that you can look forward to, though. You can look forward to speaking honestly, without any regard for "party unity" or the necessity of winning this year's Most Important Election Ever. You'll be able to call a clown a clown, and not have to choke down your gorge as you make excuses for the inexcusable. You'll be able to exercise what George Orwell said was the essence of freedom: being able to say that two and two make four. And when the question is "what's the cube root of 537" and you're temporarily in doubt, you'll be able to just say so. It's liberating.

Anyway, I'm Jim Wetzel, and I'm a recovering conservative. I've been sober for a little over eighteen years now. There's a meeting here as often as I can manage it, and there are daily meetings in lots of other places, too.

I'm hoping to see you around.