Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Bush’ Category

War Presidents?

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It’s hard these days to keep up with the big picture. Always has been to some extent I suppose. Look at the various global fundie groups, still stuck in the Middle Ages. That includes plenty of Christians and Jews, just to be clear. Change is especially true in the case of the USA, where in a few short years the USA has gone from being doomed by peak oil, to being on the top of the heap again because of fracking.  Shortly the USA will be an oil exporting nation again, something that a few years ago would have been regarded as a joke.

Good news, right? Not really. It’s as if Spain in the 18th century, after pissing away the fabulous wealth they looted from the new world, discovered the world’s greatest gold deposits just outside of Madrid. Not sure what would have happened, but it more than likely would have involved Spain raising huge armies. (That’s what they did with their New World bonanza.) The world would be a different place now, we might even be speaking Spanish in the USA. For make no mistake, the world’s greatest and in some ways only, frackable oil deposits, are all in North America. In other words, the USA will more than  likely spend this new found wealth on armies and foreign adventures.

Yeah, yippee kay yay. So this brings me to the point of this post, all else aside, the ability of the US president to be a war leader is going to be pivotal in how all this all plays out. For those who are unversed in military history, the ability of historical figures to lead and inspire armies varies wildly. It’s not an easy job. Few do it well, most get high marks just for avoiding absolute calamity. Most people are incapable of assessing these sorts of skills. Here then is my semi-expert opinion on the war leader skills of recent US presidents.

Jimmy Carter: He was only commander-in-chief for one military operation that I recall, Operation Eagle Claw. This was the attempt to rescue the American hostages held in Iran after the Iranian revolution. It was a micro-managed fiasco from the get go, and the only blessing is that they didn’t even make to to Tehran, where if they had stayed true to form, it wold have made the Blackhawk Down incident look like a picnic. I like Jimmy Carter, but as a war leader he’s a fail. I rate him a D-.

Reagan: Well, he was more a figurehead president than an actual president, and there wasn’t a lot going on during his terms aside from the beginning of the “borrow and spend” era of American government. He did have the guts to pull out of Lebanon after the Marine Barracks bombing, instead of going on a multi-trillion dollar revenge spree. And there’s no doubt he would have given very inspiring speeches if there had been an actual war. He certainly gets at least a  B grade in my opinion, we could do a lot worse when it comes to war presidents.

Bush I: Sound and fury signifying nothing, the Bonnie Prince Charlie of war presidents. He managed to win a war that he couldn’t possibly lose, Gulf War One, and accomplished exactly nothing in the process. Other than inspiring the creation of Al-Qaeda, something that oft gets overlooked in his bio. His record in World War Two was uninspiring as well. Frankly I think the man was a coward who led like a coward, it was no surprise to me that he didn’t get re-elected even after his great” victory over Iraq. There were also some terrible war crimes committed on his watch, which matters to me. The only positive thing I can say about his war record was that all sorts of people noticed how he suddenly got all presidential and inspiring when Kuwait was invaded. Yeah, if it takes a war to get the president enthusiastic about his job, he’s a crappy president. I give him a D as a war leader.

Clinton: Sigh. Well, the man was a draft evader, which speaks volumes to me. At least a draft dodger is honest about what they are doing. What can I say, the man managed to commit terrible war crimes without actually fighting any wars. There’s not a whole lot else to go on, but he was an effective manager in other realms. I’m pegging him as a C, there’s easily better and worse war presidents. He wouldn’t be inspiring, but at least he might get the job done.

Bush II: What can I say, I rank him as one of the most catastrophically bad war leaders in American history. His reaction to 9/11 was cowardly in the extreme, one of the most hysterical over-reactions in history. Just his reaction when informed the nation was under attack speaks volumes. He managed to launch two of the stupidest wars in American history, and acted with almost comic buffoonery after his “great victory” over Saddam. His only accomplishment is that so many sheepified Americans actually thought he was some sort of inspiring war leader defending the country. Yes, he gets an F.

Well, a B, a C, two Ds and an F. No George Washingtons here. Plenty of room for debate and dissent I expect. Next post, Romney and the guy he’s running against! That will be fun.

(The above image is about as Public Domain as it gets, having been painted in 1851. It’s the famous “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. It’s filled with historical inaccuracies. And the original was destroyed in a British air raid in World War Two. I’m sure they weren’t too upset by that, the crossing was followed by the Battle of Trenton, a humiliating and history changing defeat for the British.)

Written by unitedcats

July 17, 2012 at 10:34 am

Ready for your $28,000 bailout tax?

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brinks

The Bush administration throwing money at a problem is nothing new, but still, the sheer audacity of it all is mind boggling at this point. Another $800 billion “economic stimulus” package was just announced, and apparently Congress doesn’t even get to vote on this one. They abrogated their war making powers decades ago and gave them to the President, apparently now the President can simply spend as he pleases. Granted, all Congress has  done is rubber stamp his outrageous expenditures the last eight years, but now they aren’t even going to go through the motions anymore?

This brings the total of bailout payments and guarantees to $8.5 trillion.  Or $8,500 billion. Try $8,500,000,000,000. Or about $28,000 for every man, woman, and child in America. This number represents about 60% of the GDP, the market value of all the goods and services produced by a country in a year. It’s a big number. It’s a huge number. This is the biggest spending binge by the US government since World War Two. Of course in World War Two America got something for all the spending: tanks, planes, ships, infrastructure, and the creation of millions of jobs if not entire industries.

All we have gotten for the trillions spent so far is vague promises that somehow shovelling money into the hands of the people who made the mess in the first place is going to fix the problem. In a nutshell: profligate, irresponsible, and deregulated lending has created the biggest “bubble” in history. Lot’s of people saw where this madness was leading too as far back as the eighties.  I (and my august father) recommend this link to understand just how crazy this was. And now, rather than fixing the core problems or letting the bubble collapse, all the Bush administration is doing is keeping the bubble inflated with huge injections of funny money.

I mean, notice how every time they throw money at this crisis, the problem gets worse? Of course it does, if all they need to do is continue what they were doing and the government will give them pallets of money, what possible incentive do the financial wizards have to change their ways? They don’t, in fact they are lining up at the White House for further bailouts. Who wouldn’t want free money?

To put it mildly, this is not going to end well. We are like Wile E Coyote in the old Roadrunner cartoons, we have already run off the cliff and are standing on thin air, but most Americans still haven’t looked down yet. It’s a long way down folks. I’m going with the people who are predicting that it’s all going to come crashing down early next year and we are going to see a financial collapse that makes what we have seen so far look trivial in comparison. One might even claim that this is the plan, that all Bush has done is set Obama and the Democrats up for the biggest fall in history. I think that’s giving them too much credit though, so far Bush’s track record makes clear that he never changes course and thinks all problems can be solved if one throws enough money at them. This would be a terrible way to run  a fruit stand, as a strategy for running a country it is a recipe for unprecedented disaster.

I mean seriously, how long could a business could stay afloat if their fiscal policy was “borrow and spend?” We’ve reached the end of the Yellow Brick road…and we’ve been tricked. There is no Emerald City, the wizard is a con man, and all we will find there is the biggest tax bill in history…and a note from the mega rich that say “So long suckers.” That $28,000 isn’t going to come from the offshore accounts of the rich, it’s going to come out of the taxpayer’s pockets for decades to come. That’s Bush’s legacy, higher taxes forever.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone, because the next one is going to be a lot bleaker.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is a low resolution reproduction of just a portion of the original image, it is not being used for profit, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, arguably the opposite. Credit and Copyright: Time, Inc. Click here to see the original full image, note the expression on the guard in the truck’s face. It was taken in 1945, I guess he as trying to look tough. By today’s standards he looks, well, check it out for yourself.)

Written by unitedcats

November 26, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Seven years after the almost hysterical overreaction to 9/11, is America coming to its senses? One can only hope.

with 8 comments

Seven years after 9/11 and there are starting to be signs that America is finally emerging from 9/11 hysteria. Maybe it’s the time gone by, maybe it’s the incredibly expensive (and failed) war on terror, maybe 9/11 is finally being put in perspective by a vastly bigger problem, the economic meltdown.  9/11 was a hell of a thing, like everyone I was mortified when I turned on the TV that day. However, within days, if not hours, I was more mortified by America’s reaction to it. By the next day I was pretty sure that the response to 9/11 was going to be vastly more expensive and counter-productive than the failed war on drugs. And sadly, if anything, I underestimated just how expensive and counter-productive the so called “war on terror” was going to be. At least I wasn’t the only one who felt the same way, but public voices speaking rationally were few and far between those days. Susan Sontag was one of the few not jumping on the Islamofascist hysteria bandwagon, she said it better than I could have:

“The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgement that this was not a ‘cowardly’ attack on ‘civilization’ or ‘liberty’ or ‘humanity’ or ‘the free world’ but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?”

I was pretty much afraid to speak my mind in the months following 9/11. That was far more scary to me than the fantasy threat posed by Osama Bin Laden, I knew the chances of another attack like 9/11 was basically zero, and that even if it happened, my chances of being caught by it was still basically zero. On the other hand, I knew that if I said something “unpatriotic” in front of the wrong person I could be beaten or worse. And what a big effing thrill that was.

In any event, the point I am trying to make is that because of a sensationalist media and an ideologically driven administration, a terrible crime was parlayed into a world changing event. I mean, let’s look at this. A few dozen guys conspired to hijack four planes and fly them into buildings. A few dozen guys. This wasn’t Pearl Harbor. This wasn’t the Alamo. This wasn’t a “war of civilizations.” This was a small terrorist group that got lucky. No more and no less.

How should America have responded to 9/11? We should have hardened cockpit doors, taken up the Taliban’s offers to turn Bin Laden over for trial, had a memorial for the victims…and gone on with our lives. It wouldn’t have hurt either to examine why Al Qaeda came into being and started attacking the USA, and why the people who were supposed to be defending America were asleep at the switch. Instead we were panicked into borrowing and spending trillions of dollars in an open ended war against “evil.” Seven years later some sane voices are starting to be heard. The former head of Britain’s intelligence agency for example has called the response to 9/11 a huge overreaction. Even the US State Department has gotten into the act and ried to get people to tone down the rhetoric.

I mean, what has the War on Terror accomplished? Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq are all more unstable and generating more terrorism than before 9/11. Al Qaeda has spread to a dozen or more countries it wasn’t in before 9/11. Jihadists in Spain and England were inspired to commit acts of terror. And the world’s opinion of America and its foreign policy is at the lowest ebb ever. All this for only twenty thousand dead and maimed GIs and a multi trillion dollar debt? Not to mention a vastly expanded US government and a serious erosion of our civil rights? To defend ourselves against pirates, bandits, and outlaw groups? This was beyond stupid, and I can only hope the fog continues to lift from people’s eyes.

Am I saying the USA should have ignored Al Qaeda. Of course not. However, a military response was not the way to go. (And I’m pretty sure invading and occupying two countries counts as military force, not to mention missile and air strikes in at least two other countries.) This is borne out by the first comprehensive study of how terrorist groups end. RAND recently studied 648 terrorist groups that were active between 1968 and 2006. What as the most common way for them to end? 43% of them were ended via political means, IE negotiation. 40% of them were destroyed by police and intelligence action, usually by locals. 10% of terrorism groups achieved victory. And lastly, 7% of terrorist groups were destroyed by military force. So much for “you can’t negotiate with terrorists,” apparently in the real world it’s seven times more effective than military force as a response to terrorism.

As I’ve said before, terrorist groups have always been with us, and they always will. A sensible restrained flexible foreign policy and adequate police/intelligence work is the best way to both prevent and deal with terrorism. And, most important of all, don’t panic.

(The above image of America’s all-too-common response to any perceived threat is public domain under US copyright law. Doing research for this article I came upon an interesting example of just how much 9/11 has been pumped up and inflated into a world shaping event. Check out this link about the USS New York. No offence intended to anyone involved, but this is emotional self indulgence to the point of creepiness in my opinion. The whole idea of building  a warship out of the steel from the WTC strikes me as being adolescent or even infantile, not to mention the web site’s almost Messianic tone. Aren’t grown-ups supposed to be running the country?)

Written by unitedcats

October 22, 2008 at 9:12 am

Posted in Bush, History, Terrorism, World

The money-changers are holding the economy hostage, and our leaders say we should agree to all their demands. What would Jesus do?

with 5 comments

Outraged yet? You should be.

Outraged yet? You should be.

I woke up this morning and the enormity of the $700 billion “bailout” finally sunk home. This is, simply put,  a $700 billion tax break for the rich. This is the largest upwards transfer of wealth in history. This is easily the most brazen crime ever committed, with a straight face our “leaders” are asking us for $700 billion to give to the banking and finance industry. Nearly three decades of deregulation and tax cuts for big business, and now they need a bailout on the backs of the American worker? This is a crime, this is madness. Yes, this is in fact, really serious.

Since the Reagan era America has been a land of opportunity for the wealthy. Tax cuts, deregulation, and a compliant Congress allowed them to prosper as never before. There is no doubt that since the eighties the USA has seen one of the greatest upward transfers of wealth in history. The people at the very top own a vast percentage of America’s wealth, and it’s been growing vaster for decades. This isn’t debatable, this isn’t in doubt, this isn’t some conspiracy theory…this is plain unvarnished fact. The last few decades has been a gilded age for the people at the top in America, anyone who says otherwise is a liar or a fool.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the rich being rich. There’s nothing wrong with working hard, being successful, and making a lot of money. The problem I have is with what the rich do with their ever increasing share of the wealth. If they were building factories, farms,  and mines, in America, it would be a good thing. The rich could also invest in alternate energy, research, infrastructure and a whole host of other ventures that would not only make them richer, they would create wealth and jobs for the rest of us. This is not what they have done. Again, this is not debatable in any honest way.

Instead of investing in America, many of the wealthiest turned Wall Street and America’s centralized financial system into a giant casino, where the game was always rigged in favour of the house. They piled up a huge amount of paper money, money that was creating basically by moving money around and then borrowing against it. And they especially created money every time they loaned out money, so money was loaned out willy-nilly. And now that it is clear they irresponsibly loaned out money to people who don’t  have the ability to repay, the taxpayer is supposed to buy these “toxic debts” so that the financiers can keep the enormous profits they have made the last few decades? This is literally $700 billion of pork for the finance industry. Usually at least pork puts some locals to work, this just puts a tax bill in everyone’s pocket. And allows the money changers to keep running the show.

This is not a Democrat issue, or a Republican issue, this has nothing to do with conservatives or liberals.  This is not about the elections or the debates. This is our so called leaders sticking us, the American public, with the biggest tax hike in history. And then they will give the money to the people who made this mess in the first place. Holding the economy hostage unless we pay them is extortion, and Bush  and Congress want to simply pay the blackmailer’s off? We should be freeing the economy from the money changers, not paying them off. I’m not stupid, I know what happens when a blackmailer gets paid…they just come back later for more.

Anything is better than simply handing seven hundred billion dollars to the people who said everything was fine a few weeks ago. It’s not too late America, if we don’t act today and stop this bailout for the  banks, we will no longer be hostages tomorrow. We will be slaves. Am I exaggerating? Not really, by many standards this is the most extreme proposal in US history…and if we let it happen it will be the greatest example of putting good money after bad in history. Not to mention the greatest theft in history.

Wake up America, it’s time to vote the bastards out.

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Matthew 21:12-13

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, it is not being used for profit. The text of this article may be freely reproduced for educational purposes so long as it it properly attributed to Doug Stych. I know this is a rapidly emerging story, the reason they are in such a hurry is to pull the wool over our eyes. I don’t give a rat’s ass what Congress agrees too, the American people shouldn’t put up with this.)

Written by unitedcats

September 25, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Bush, Business, Politics

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

with 5 comments

I was writing a post about my ten favourite military blunders (did you know Custer’s men were drunk?) but seeing as the collapse of the west’s financial system is a fairly important story, I thought I’d press on with that. I’ve done more reading, and many thought  provoking comments were left on my last post, so once again into the breech. Bush and Paulson still want $700 billion, a lot of people are getting their backs up, though how serious resistence is remains to be seen. In no particular order, more thoughts and observations on Bush/Paulson’s demand: “$700 billion or the economy gets it.”

Someone pointed out that when people say “you have to take this offer right now,” it’s usually a sign that you are being handed the short end of the stick. In fact it’s a used car salesman tactic. It’s also a bit suspicious that this is being presented as the “only” option. I’ve done a lot of reading and there are a lot of ideas about what to do about this financial crisis from people with expertise on the subject, and handing Bush a blank check isn’t very high on the list of proposed solutions.  Just for starters, how about letting the people who made this mess go bankrupt, and help out the Americans who were screwed by unscrupulous lenders?

Speaking of which, a commenter pointed out that while greed in high places led to this, lots of poor people took loans they couldn’t afford in their own attempt to get rich. Isn’t it their fault as well? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that everyone is ultimately responsible for the consequences of their actions. No, and it’s a resounding no, in the sense that one half of the population is below average when it comes to judgement and intelligence. Is it OK for smart educated people to manipulate lesser intellects into ruinous agreements? No. If a society allows the rich to simply prey upon the poor, everyone suffers ultimately. It’s called usury, and even the ancients understood how destructive it could be.

Moving right along, another commenter pointed out that capitalism pretty much has to have credit to keep going. I mean, buying a home or  a car requires credit. And both small and large businesses require it, at least for the most part.   So of course we have to bail out the finance industry so that they may continue to provide credit so that business may continue. Right? Wrong. The idea that bailing out the big guys is the only solution assumes that the centralized credit market that has grown over the past few decades is the only way to go. That’s a hell of an assumption, especially considering its performance. At the core centralized banking creates something called malinvestment, I recommend studying the Austrian Business Cycle Theory to understand the concept.

I certainly agree from my readings that the centralization of the credit market is the problem, not the solution. So propping up the centralized credit system may make things better in the short run, but at best it is a stopgap measure that just continues a failed system at public expense. It’s not that there isn’t any money out there to be loaned, it’s that we have allowed only the central pools of money to be the entire nation’s (and by extension the western world’s) source of credit. Not only did there used to be regional banks, there was a time a few decades ago when interstate banks weren’t even allowed so that a bank failure would only be a regional problem. This centralization of USA/western credit is what the Chinese are talking about when they say that the bailout is an American attempt to rule the world’s financial systems.

And it’s an attempt that is doomed to fail, because the system it is meant to revive is already dead. The bailout is just a Frankensteinian effort to animate a corpse for a few more months until the whole mess can be passed on, or to dump blame on Congress if they fail to pass the bailout. Ahmadinejad may be a out there in some ways, but his comments that we are seeing the end of the American Empire are sadly right on the mark. China and its friend’s finances are in great shape, it’s America and its allies that are going down the tubes.

“Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.”

—Ezekiel 18:13

(The above image and quotes are both safely beyond copyright protection. The title quote is from Shakespeare. The bible quote is from the King James Bible. And the image is of a painting painted in 1798 by Vincenzo Camucci. It’s a painting of Caesar being assassinated, though I chose it to represent the  seriousness of the current situation, the possible death of the Republic…and the end of our current would-be Casar’s reign. I don’t know what is going to happen after Bush leaves office, but it’s going to be a hell of  a ride.)

Written by unitedcats

September 24, 2008 at 8:42 am

Posted in Bush, Business, World

Bush’s Gloves Come Off: Give me 700 Billion Dollars Right NOW…Or Else!

with 19 comments

I like how Al Jazeera put it: “US treasury to use taxpayers’ money to buy bad debts from financial institutions.” That pretty much covers it, short, succinct, factual. In many ways this is the biggest story of the Bush administration, if not the biggest story in decades. Yes, the Bush Administration wants the US taxpayer to cough up more money than has been spent on the war in Iraq, and they want it now, and they want it no questions asked. I’m not sure if they want it in small unmarked bills, but it wouldn’t surprise me. What do they want it for? To buy up “bad loans” to avoid the collapse of the financial system. In other words to bail out the hyper-rich folks who made this mess in the first place. Right.

There are so many things not only wrong, but frightening, about this situation that people should be marching in the streets demanding answers. At the beginning of last week we weren’t even in a recession, and a week later we need to cough up 700 billion dollars to prevent economic catastrophe? That should be ringing alarm bells all over the country. The fact that they want the money with no judicial or congressional oversight is also scary. I mean, they just want to hand out the money as they please, and no one has any say over it?

For one thing, the Bush administration doesn’t exactly have a record of spending money wisely. The opposite in fact. They can’t account for hundreds of billions of dollars in spending as it is, but we are supposed to trust them with a blank check for another 700 billion? Secondly, the Bush administration’s strategy for almost every situation seems to be classic “put good money after bad.” IE they never admit they made a mistake and the solution to all problems is to persevere or even redouble their efforts. Well, their efforts have already led to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

This has been called the biggest theft in history as well. And I certainly can’t disagree. More than $2000 for every man woman and child in the USA is going to be pulled out of our pockets to buy “bad debt” from the people who made the bad debt in the first place. How is rewarding people for their greed and lack a foresight going to make things better? Of course the Bush administration says we will get the money back someday, they have a plan to be revealed later. I mean, I’m not making this up, the proposed bill for this bailout out is three pages long and has basically  no details.

At least some in Congress are planning to fight this. The Bush administration says that to do nothing would be even worse. Frankly I’m willing to take the chance, since “do as I say or the bogeyman will get you” is wearing rather thin as an argument. We’ve borrowed and spent nearly two trillion dollars for pointless wars and “homeland security” as it is, now they need nearly another trillion to ward off catastrophe again? I’m sorry, but this is simply the final chapter in the long saga of the Bush administration, they couldn’t just sell the country’s assets, so they just borrowed every dime they could and gave it to their business cronies. And this is just the final blatant step in the same, more hundreds of billions of dollars being given to Bush’s buddies while the taxpayer gets handed the bill.

It’s also extremely troubling to me that they are asking for basically dictatorial powers to get and distribute this money. Granted Bush has pretty much acted above the law and the Constitution during his entire administration, but this time they have blatantly asked Congress to rubber stamp their imperial prerogatives. When Caesar had himself declared dictator, at least he was popular. (Caesar also managed to catch his Bin Laden I should add.) I don’t think Bush is going to be any more popular as a dictator than he is as a president.

Lastly, what most scares me about this, is that I don’t think it matters one way or the other. Two decades of deregulation (IE putting the fox in charge of the hen house) and “borrow and spend” have finally reached their inevitable conclusion, the collapse of the financial system. There isn’t going to be any fixing this because the damage done by the upwards transfer of wealth in the USA has grown too large to contain. And it’s  safe bet that transferring another trillion dollars upwards isn’t going to help, if anything it will make the situation worse. In fact I have a suspicion that one main purpose of this request is simple, if Congress refuses this money, the Bush administration will be able to blame them for the unfolding economic tsunami.

And there is no doubt, an economic tsunami is rolling through the western economies. When I said the economy was hosed last week, I was off the mark. It’s much worse than anyone thought, this coming week is scary. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but there’s going to be some major changes in the coming days, last week was just preview. This week may be the opening of the last act in the Fall of the American Empire. Some are now saying that the USA government will go bankrupt in the spring. I think it’s already bankrupt. This $700 billion is just putting lipstick on a corpse. Very expensive lipstick that I apparently have no choice but to help pay for.

On the plus side there’s going to be lots to blog about.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, and I don’t know who to attribute it too, some nameless blogger I think. And don’t get me wrong, while Bush and company are the last and sleaziest of the crowd that got us here, every administration and almost every politician since Reagan has been a part of the looting of America. This is not about party politics, this is about most Americans partying while their leaders robbed them blind. Well, the party is over, brace yourself for the mother of all hangovers.)

Written by unitedcats

September 22, 2008 at 9:02 am

Posted in Bush, Business

Did Bush Blink?

with 9 comments

In what can only be described as a breathtaking about face, there are reports that the USA will be establishing limited diplomatic relations with Iran, including sending diplomats to Tehran for the first time in nearly thirty years. The US is also breaking with policy and sending a top diplomat to European talks with Iran. The claim is that we are doing this to show how the USA and Europe are united in their opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, but since the Iranians seem unlikely to agree to our demands at this point, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the USA has blinked in our standoff with Iran.

This isn’t getting much attention in the western press, but I think it’s an important development for a number of reasons. The main one being that if this is true and the USA does send diplomats to Iran, it pretty much signals the end of any attack on Iran by the USA or Israel. I mean, unless Bush is pre-positioning hostages to be seized in the event of hostilities, I can’t imagine American diplomats in Iran as being anything other than the start to normal relations. We made our peace with communist China and Russia, maybe peace with Iran is now around the corner?

And boy, if I was wrong about an attack on Iran, I’m happy to be wrong. It would certainly prove my oft repeated points about how difficult it is to predict the future, and no matter how much ones knows about a topic, a person’s understanding is always limited. Only the profoundly ignorant think they know all the answers about a complex subject like world affairs and foreign relations.

Aside from celebrating stepping back from the abyss, it’s also very curious trying to understand why Bush has suddenly backed down. Granted maybe these reports are exaggerated, and maybe this is some Machiavellian maneuver to get Iran to drop its guard or set it up for some pretext to attack, but for the sake of argument let’s assume Bush has blinked, and that elations with Iran are going to improve. What could have caused this abrupt change?

One of the possibilities is pictured above. Those are reportedly Russian jets now stationed in Armenia, where they act as a deterrent to Turkey…and have been patrolling Iranian airspace at Iran’s request. And Sunday Iran and Russia are signing a comprehensive energy agreement that basically means that Iran will be supplying much of Europe’s natural gas via Russia. The Russians announced some time ago that they would consider an attack on Iran to be an attack on Russia, and they have apparently quietly put their money where their mouth is.

Another possibility is that the rich and powerful may have finally put their foot down and told the Bush administration that there needs to be a diplomatic solution to this problem, because the costs of a war with Iran could be devastating to our already struggling economy. In the final analysis foreign policy is about control of wealth and resources, and national governments usually act in their own selfish interest despite flowery rhetoric about human rights or democracy. I’m not ready for ten dollar a gallon gas, and I’m pretty sure GM isn’t thrilled about the idea either. “What’s good for GM is good for America” may be a truism, but in this case it might be very close to the mark.

Of course, what about Israel? Well, despite their threats, they have also recently begun to do the unthinkable, talk with their enemies. In fact more than that, they have exchanged prisoners with Hezbollah. Hardliners in Israel and elsewhere are apoplectic about this, since Israel exchanged hundreds of prisoners and bodies for two dead Israeli soldiers, but this isn’t about horse trading, it’s about diplomacy. This signals that Israel and Hezbollah can negotiate with each other, and that on some level at least Israel is trying to normalize relations with Lebanon.

Trying to step back and look at the big picture, I suspect that while this is good news simply because the threat of war is receding, it’s bad news for America. In fact some have even suggested that basically this signals surrender in the War on Terror, which is a euphemism for the War for Oil. I think that might be a bit of a stretch, but I do think it signals the beginning of the retreat from the New American Century. The USA is not going to be able to dominate the world, in fact Iraq is likely the high water mark of the American Empire. Could this even be a sign that reality based thinking has finally become fashionable in the Bush administration?

Nah. Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image of a Russian Sukhoi Su-30 is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. I have no idea who to credit it too, the Russian military? Those are Su-30s and that is Mt Ararat in the background, so I think it’s an authentic photo. Russia is re-emerging as a major regional military, economic, and political power; and yes, we can blame Bush and Mr Clinton for that.)

Written by unitedcats

July 18, 2008 at 6:49 am

Posted in Bush, Iran, Peace, War, World

The USA is Going to Attack Iran

with 3 comments

Another week gone by, another week spent perusing the news in the faint hope of gleaning some truth from a mass of lies, distortions, and misinformation. Another week of raving at the injustice of it all. Another week of struggling to put into words my alleged insights about this fascinating spinning hunk of rock we’re trapped on. Another week of cursed reruns on TV, record oil prices, and feline drama. Yes, another normal week at Doug’s Darkworld.

And this week’s insight: Bush is indeed going to attack Iran, either directly or through his Israeli proxies. (Though some might reasonably claim it is we who are Israeli proxies.) I know it’s a ghastly idea and a million things can go wrong, but that didn’t stop Bush from invading Iraq now, did it? The reason I have come to this morbid conclusion is the observation that the Bush administration still seems to think that they are in control, and that any failures of their plans are due to the machinations of others. In other words dear readers, it’s all Iran’s fault that Bush’s glorious freedom revolution is stalled in Iraq and Afghanistan. So if we just topple this one last obstacle to success, the forces of evil will be in disarray, America’s losses will be justified, and Bush’s glorious democratic values will sweep all before them. Bush’s legacy will be secure, his critics confounded, and he can pass the baton to McCain and let that old warhorse enjoy the spoils of Bush’s victory. Sound of the Star Spangle Banner playing softly in the background…roll credits over pics of smiling Iranian children throwing flowers at our troops.

Back in reality, who the hell knows what will happen if we attack Iran. Someone asked me how many US soldiers would die in event of a US attack on Iran, and for fun I ran a few scenarios:

  • Limited USA attack, limited Iranian response. They fire a bunch of scuds at our bases in Iraq, we blow up their suspected nuclear facilities. A few dozen, maybe even a few hundred GIs die.
  • The USA launches waves of attacks/conducts a serious air war like the recent Israeli attack on Lebanon. Huge numbers of Iranian missiles are fired at our bases in Iraq, they fire sunburn missiles at our carriers. A few dozen GIs die, maybe a few hundred, maybe even several thousand if a sunburn hits a carrier.
  • The USA launches a nuclear war, invades, or in some other fashion the attack escalates to a total war. Who the hell knows. Tens of thousands of American troops would be in harm’s way. Maybe Iran already has a few nukes squirrelled away. Maybe Russia gives them nukes to fight back with. Maybe WW3 breaks out. Maybe something else no one ever expected too horrible to contemplate happens. Reality is a bitch.

Short answer: 90% likelihood of American losses being in the 0-500 dead range. 9% chance of up to ten thousand dead. 1% chance of some figure over ten thousand. Of course there are many people who simply cannot accept the idea that any war America launches could go catastrophically wrong for America. I mean, the good guys can’t lose, can they? What kind of Hollywood movie would that make?

Well, this was going to be a Through Thick and Thin post but too late for that now. Have I mentioned the sunburn missile? The Russians are maybe a decade ahead of the US in the design of anti-ship missiles, and since none of them has been used in combat yet, it’s not really known how dangerous they are. Many analysts are very concerned though. The sunburn travels at over 3500kph (2000 mph) at 5m (15 feet) above the waves! As it approaches the target the missile does violent zig zags to defeat USA anti-missile defences. The sunburn has a range of over one hundred miles, which means that when fired at a ship there would only be minutes (at most) to react, and only a few seconds for the ship’s anti-missile systems to fire.

Yes, the USA is working on systems to defeat the sunburn, but theory and practise are two different things. In theory the Iraqis were going to greet us with flowers, in practise they have allied themselves with Iran and asked us to leave. That’s gratitude for you.

Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is public domain under US copyright law, it was taken by a federal employee during the course of his duties. Credit: Official U.S. Navy photograph taken by a combat cameraman aboard USS Kalinin Bay (CVE-68.) This is the Escort Carrier USS St Lo exploding after being struck by a Kamikaze attack in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, it sank less than an hour later, over 150 Americans died. I chose it to illustrate the unpredictability of war, and the real costs associated with same. The St Lo was sunk by a Japanese attack in the later days of World War Two at a time when the US had concluded the Japanese were not capable of launching a major attack, using a weapon the USA had neither known about nor anticipated.)

Written by unitedcats

July 11, 2008 at 7:33 am

Posted in Bush, History, War

Through Thick and Thin

with 4 comments

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Well, fighting has broken out in large areas of Iraq as the Maliki government takes on the Mahdi Army. Bush has it covered though, yes, this massive increase in violence shows that the surge is working! In fact, he said that this violence is a “positive moment!” Let me see if I understand this: Violence goes down = surge is working. Violence goes up = surge is working. I have been under a lot of stress lately and I’m real tired, maybe that’s why this doesn’t make any sense to me. Possibly a gentle reader can explain to me why no matter what horrible thing happens in Iraq, things are always improving according to the Bush administration? What’s even more alarming, is that the media does along with this, as well as huge numbers of Americans.

It sure seems to me we are now in a situation reminiscent of Vietnam. We are supporting a corrupt, unpopular, undemocratic government and under the impression that with enough firepower and money we can turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse. Ain’t going to happen, the Mahdi army is vastly more popular than Maliki could ever dream to be, and attacking him is going to make things worse, not better. This is about politics by the way, this article does a good job of explaining the current situation in Iraq. It’s all pretty depressing.

Moving right along, in science news, a voice recording from 1860 has been discovered. This predates the previous known oldest recording by 17 years. It’s a French lady singing a song, likely it will be available on the Internet at some point. It’s also cool because it brings to mind the holy grail of historical voice recordings. There is a remote possibility that the voice of Abraham Lincoln may be preserved in some forgotten archive somewhere. In fact it’s gotten even more likely, since this recently recovered recording was recorded with the same method used to record Lincoln’s voice. Yes, an inventor may have visited Lincoln and recorded his voice if historical anecdote can be believed. Wouldn’t that be wild?

I used to be a big Lincoln fan. I’m not so much anymore. He may be America’s greatest example of the proverbial “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” He was certainly a fair and honourable man, there seems little doubt of that. However, more than anyone, he was the genesis of the federal government being an entity with a life of its own that not only runs the country, but claims the “divine right” to do so and crush anyone opposed. “Homeland Security” traces its roots to the Lincoln administration, and ultimately it’s not a pretty picture. And we must remember that Lincoln bears a great deal of responsibility for a war that killed and maimed more than a million Americans. In any event, I’ll make a stand-alone post about this some day and people can pillory me for my take on Lincoln.

APOD published this cool colour picture of Mercury. Not much else to say, except that what is visible is pretty hot and bright. Mercury always faces the Sun the same way the Moon always keeps the same side facing Earth. So one side of Mercury is over 400C degrees while the dark side is as cold as -170C. Both are well outside the range of human comfort, so we won’t be seeing any Mercury colonies in the near future. Some day there might be scientific outposts, and it’s a good place to monitor the Sun from, so who knows.

There was a flurry of concern when it was announced that the Mars rovers might be mothballed because of budget cuts. Fortunately it was an accounting error or some such and the decision was quickly reversed. I mean, a big chunk of change was spent getting them there, they are still producing invaluable scientific data about Mars, and it costs trivial amounts of money to keep them going. It would be nuts to shut them down to save af ew pennies. Here is an image of Martian clouds drifting by taken recently by Opportunity. Mars doesn’t have clouds very often, and not much is known about them.

In local news there are running protests and anti-protests at the Marine Corps recruiting centre. They are small actions, a dozen people or so usually. Nobody really pays it much mind, and I’ve long ago gotten over being upset about it. I still think they’d be better off picketing a gas station, but Bush’s refusal to institute a draft to fight the war has given peace protesters few targets. It’s a clever strategy on the Bush administrations part, but spin and politics has always been their forte. Who cares if avoiding a daft means we are hiring tens of thousands of mercenaries at fabulous cost and wearing out our army with serial deployments in Iraq, the peaceniks are foiled and there is little chance of effective domestic resistence to the war. That’s what matters, right?

Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image of smoke rising from the Green Zone in Baghdad is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is an historically important image. Credit: Copyright © 2006- 2008 Alalam Inc. And as far as attacks on the Green Zone go…I forecast a 90% chance of further flurries of rockets and mortar shells.)

Written by unitedcats

March 28, 2008 at 8:48 am

Posted in Bush, War, World

4000 Dead…a Foundation for Peace?

with 2 comments

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Bush spoke yesterday about the 4,000 brave soldiers he has sent to their deaths in Iraq…he said they “…laid a foundation for peace.” I have a few questions about that…

Iraq is the world’s number two failed state, second only to Sudan, this is a foundation for peace?

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead, this is a foundation for peace?

Millions of Iraqis are displaced, this is a foundation for peace?

A trillion dollars has been spent on the Iraq War, with trillions to go, mortgaging our future is a foundation for peace?

There is now an active Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, there was none before we “liberated” Iraq, this is a foundation for peace?

Tens of thousands of American veterans have life-changing injuries, this is a foundation for peace?

One out of three Iraq War veterans will have permanent mental or physical ailments from the war, this is a foundation for peace?

60% to 70% of Iraqi children suffer from psychological trauma, this is a foundation for peace?

I’m having a pretty hard time understanding this. How is destroying a foreign land, scarring an American generation, and indebting our grandchildren building a foundation for peace? I just don’t see the connection. In fact Iraq looks like a foundation for endless violence, suffering, and war. Can we nominate Bush for the “fighting for peace is like f**king for chastity” award now? When the president has to say that these 4,000 brave Americans “were not lost in vain,” they most definitely were lost in vain.

I don’t have a problem with people who supported this war in the beginning. They were deceived by people who think the ends justify the means, even if that meant lying to the American public. I just don’t understand how anyone can still support this war, the cost is far beyond any possible benefit at this point, and there’s no end in sight.

Israel has been unable to force the Palestinians into a compliant western mold in decades, Iraq is a far more fractured land than Palestine ever was. It’s lies or madness to claim that we are making progress in Iraq. We are the problem, not the solution. Even one American life was too many to sacrifice on the alter of Bush’s boyhood dream of being a “war president.” Nothing Bush says can fix the mess he has made, in fact it’s the worst sort of appeasement for him to give speeches defending his failure and calling it a success. He lied us into this war, don’t let him lie his way out of it.

God rest the souls of all who have died in this senseless war, God grant peace to their families, and Dear God…please lead us out of this mess.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit and copyright: Joe Wezorek. Click on the image to see a larger version…and the faces of those who sacrificed themselves for Bush’s fantasy.)

 

Written by unitedcats

March 25, 2008 at 9:07 am

Posted in Bush, War

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