Thursday, April 06, 2006

Radar-evading Fajr-3Iran, for its own part, has engaged the same war of images and rhetoric. Just-completed war games by the Revolutionary Guards featured photos and glowing descriptions of the success of a number of new weapons ostensibly built in its own defense industry, which was developed as a result of its 1980s war with Iraq. Among the weapons featured during the games was a high-speed torpedo the Iranians call "Hoot"Chinese-built Silkworm missile: such a torpedo signals not only the West but the entire world that Iran intends to menace the vital oil tanker traffic in the Strait of Hormuz should war break out between Tehran and any Western alliance. This torpedo would complement the Iranian arsenal of Chinese-made Silkworm missiles already poised to destroy maritime traffic, military or civilian, in the Strait.Iranian land-to-sea Kowsar missile Among other new weapons touted by the Iranians during the war games were the radar-evading, multiple-independently-targetable warhead Fajr-3, and the medium-range land-to-sea Kowsar missile, along with yet another apparently improved version of the Shahab 3, a delivery vehicle in developmental transition from a regional danger to a missile that could possibly throw nuclear payloads into European capitols, putting it into the Mark IV class and putting Iran on the map of only a handful of nations that could project destructive force extra-regionally.

But despite the representations in the Iranian media that the nation's arsenal now includes weapons that can not only deliver considerable firepower but do so with sophisticated radar-evasion and counter-measures technology, there is no evidence that Tehran can test the capabilities of its devices with anything other than its own, possibly weak defenses, radar, and counter-measures, which leaves the nations planning attack with little reason to alter a course that might already be set for war despite any concessions Iran might make or that its supporters, Russia and China, might offer in guarantees on the Persian nation's behalf with regard to the non-weapons nature of its nuclear research and development program.

This is not to say that Iran will be as easy to overrun as Iraq turned out to be: Iran has a far more developed military capability that has been unhampered by the crippling sanctions imposed on Iraq after the first Persian Gulf War. Aside from the possibility of brutal infantry and artillery warfare, Iran's new weapons systems could very well cause significant damage to military assets of the attacking nations. The particular focus on missiles dedicated to maritime targets during demonstrations in Tehran's recent war games indicates that both military and civilian ships are at no small risk of destruction. Even the robust defense systems common on modern U.S. aircraft carriers and other warships can be overwhelmed by incoming fire, and this is particularly true if the advertised velocity of attacking torpedoes is in excess of 220 mph as Iran claims in the case of the Fajr-3. Moreover, whether or not land-to-land missiles in Tehran's arsenal are particularly accurate, using them against densely populated areas like the Green Zone in Baghdad or the center of Tel Aviv will result in large-scale property destruction and loss of life, even if—as could be the case—casualty rates among allied combatants remain relatively modest.

Having in the above exposition set forth a few of the many weaponry-related parameters facing the forces possibly preparing for an attack on Iran to the putative end of destroying its alleged nuclear weapons production program, this article finishes by addressing not why this war is so likely, but why it is not. The concern among some is that, because Iran has claimed that it will soon open an oil bourse of its own, and that contracts on this platform will be denominated in euros rather than dollars, the United States must necessarily attack Iran in order to prevent a major challenge to the pre-eminence of the American dollar as the denominating currency of choice in global trade. As a backdrop to this proposition, the fact that Saddam Hussein had made plans to start euro-denominating Iraqi oil contracts has led some to hold that the real reason the United States attacked Baghdad was to the end of preventing this from happening. Fueling current worries are articles such as one in late March published in Khaleej Times claiming that Arab nations like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are already in the process of unloading American dollars in favor of euros.

In and of itself, news like this isn't particularly significant. Its primary purpose is to affect the political climate in the United States: Khaleej Times, cited above, is a quasi-governmental news media source to some extent known for the occasional story intended to stir up sentiments about this issue or that matter of concern to the rulers in the United Arab Emirates. However, the current situations, both with respect to the prospect of war with Iran and with respect to the matter of the currency that will denominate international commodity contracts in the years to come, call for some reconsideration of the events that led up to the on-going war in Iraq.

Such a re-assessment must begin with how the denominating currency matter played as a motive for invading Iraq. Saddam Hussein's plan to begin denominating Iraqi oil contracts in euros instead of dollars was transparent; but the impact would not have been significant because Baghdad was selling oil only through the UN-sanctioned oil-for-food program, so Iraq's contribution to the world supply of oil being extracted and refined into usable fuel products was minimal. Saddam's Iraq was no longer the major petroleum supplier on the world stage that it once had been, so any level of contracts suddenly switching away from dollar valuation would have been fairly insignificant in the large scheme of international trade.

The shift would, nevertheless, have had some notable impact insofar as it would have opened a door for wider consideration of the euro as a denominating currency, especially for those disinterested in allowing the United States to have a technical hegemony merely by virtue of the central importance of its currency in global commodity trading. Realistically speaking, some "market basket" of currencies might be an ideal endpoint for many countries and companies in their global buying and selling arrangements, but as the standardized, globally accepted replacement for the U.S. dollar as the denominator, such a market basket valuation mechanism is still at least a few years (and probably more) away.

As international trade now stands in the here and now, the U.S. dollar is not the currency of choice because the United States is some big, nasty, schoolyard bully; it is instead the attractive currency because it is the powerhouse: the amount of dollar-valued contracts (and therefore, assets) across the globe is simply staggering. Both as a stock of value and as a medium of exchange, the greenback is light-years beyond any other currency on planet Earth. That's the reality, not some speculative claim.

The U.S. dollar is implicitly backed by a staggeringly massive, deep, long-standing government and a military umbrella second to none. The dollar is also backed by a nearly incalculable present value of future expected cash flows from American enterprise and labor; and of no insignificant importance, that dollar is backed by the indisputably most powerful engine of internal tax revenue generation and external war-making power the world has ever seen. The greenback has been around as a sign and symbol of the continuity of the United States in its sovereign status for scores of years. No currency on Earth can compare to it—not in level, not in depth of markets, not in assuredness that claims it represents on the central bank of the United States will be satisfied.

All of the above is not to wave some "We're Number One" flag. It's simply the reality, and it's a reality that the United States government is not alone in grasping fully. Any nation that would fancy otherwise does so at its own peril and at great threat to the currency it would pretend to the summit.

The Europeans are not stupid. Their halls of finance are staffed by some of the most brilliant, some of the savviest, some of the most cultured men and women the world has ever known. As great as the United States is in its fine moments, Europe is a continent of nations whose peoples have continuous legacies going back thousands of years. These are people who understand the great experiment now underway in the union of the European nations. The 21st Century will be better for a great counterbalancing force against the twin dynamics of the U.S. and China, as well as against and with the lesser but still important dynamics of emerging nations and economic trading regions. The series, "The 21st Century," sets forth some of the perils the European Union faces from the designs of the American neo-conservatives and the planners in the Pentagon. It remains the case that this union of the European nations can meet the challenges of dispiriting forces from abroad, but perhaps recent thoughts and concerns will in the end overwhelm optimism about and hope for Europe.

That caution being noted, with respect to their full understanding of how to conduct their respective and integrated portfolio of finance, though, the Europeans know very well that their new currency, the euro, is in no way, shape, or form up to handling the enormous, constant, day-in-day-out, year-in-year-out task of being the denominator in any large-scale global market: the euro hasn't been around nearly long enough; the understanding of what it really is will continue to evolve, particularly as new nations are added to the European Union and as the central bank more fully defines and asserts its role; and the sheer depth of value carried in the amounts of it in circulation just doesn't exist yet. And those factors will remain possibly for years if not a decade or more the combined and profound deterrent to using the euro as a perfect or even preferred substitute for the greenback in international trade. The euro just cannot of its own sovereign backing handle the massive currents of modern trading. It simply can't.

Neither, of course, can the yuan; and part of this is because the yuan has been used by the Communist Chinese Party as a toy for internal growth at the expense of other nations, most particularly the United States. Pumping yuan out in staggering amounts for years has done nothing to increase the depth of the yuan; in fact, it has had the opposite effect, and it's only a matter of time until that "miracle growth" of the Chinese economy (nearly 10% by some estimates) evaporates into a spiraling, destructive inflation that only the most draconian of Chinese central bank monetary policy regimes could bring under control. Astute analysts must be as unimpressed by China the miracle economy as by China the nascent bastion of Asian freedom: sustainable real growth and sustainable civil freedom remain illusions in China, despite hopes of naïve, post-Communist Era internationalists. The sinophiles of the West may very well come to be sorely disappointed by the outcomes of the great Chinese experiment in market reforms shallowly cast as the precursors to political and human rights reforms. In the final analysis, even setting aside the wasted prayer of burgeoning, democratic processes and open, liberal society in China, no international trading regime worth its salt would be interested in denominating anything important in yuan.

And no European finance minister in his or her right mind would be interested in having any major global commodity market use the euro as the denominating currency, either. Germany—the 800 hundred pound gorilla of finance in the EU—is rumored to have already told the Iranians to lay off this idea of a Tehran oil bourse running its show in euros; and this is no mere result of idle European aversion to the limelight or fear of offending the Americans: the euro in an Iranian oil bourse would put the European central bank front and center in a world well beyond its current capacity. The market for euros just isn't deep enough, and an entire oil trading circuit jumping up and down on such a fragile platform would put the European currency structure (and therefore the emerging, unified European economy) at great and unnecessary risk of effectively becoming a financial derivative hedging a wildly price-volatile commodity.

This does not mean some Arab nations will not make aggressive moves to switch from dollars to euros for at least some of their reserves and transactions. Following in the footsteps of Iran, which switched from dollars to euros in 2002, Syria recently announced that it was moving from denominating foreign currency transactions in dollars to euros, largely as a reaction to recent pressures placed upon it by the United Nations concerning political meddling in the affairs of Lebanon, pressures the leadership in Syria believe are the work of the United States acting on orders from regime-change advocates in Israel. Such moves to euros are in some ways symbolic, but even to the extent that they represent real change in the covenants of international contracts, they are minor when measured against the total value of all contracts forming and outstanding.

The Iranians are planning to do something no one wants them to do, just like Saddam before them. Although not the principal reason the American neo-conservatives are interested in the war, to the end of preventing a wholesale flight to euro denomination of inordinate numbers of commodity contracts, the Europeans are going to be on the bandwagon to bomb Iran back to Hell.

And they really are on that bandwagon. They have recently rejected without even summary consideration a six-point proposal passed by Tehran through the Russians, and they've been a willing conduit for "intelligence" information out of Tehran that has the heavy-handed smell of an Iranian dissident group (possibly connected in some way to the family of the former Shah) operating out of Paris.

This whole complicated situation raises the entirely disturbing possibility that the American neo-conservative warhawks who still infect the halls of power in Washington were not so all alone in their desire to invade Iraq back in 2003. It is entirely possible that there were forces within the European Union that were willing to tacitly go along with the invasion while presenting an exterior appearance of moral outrage for the consumption of domestic constituencies.

Worse, there is no reason to believe that the Europeans and their central bank are any more excited now about having the euro take the stage than they were three years ago.

Concerns deepen even more, though, as the long-standing power of the dollar becomes subject to more and more erosion, both materially and in the perception of the world at large. The new Chairman, Ben Bernanke, of the Federal Reserve behaves like some political shill with not a clue as to how to command respect in either global or domestic financial markets. Already, his official documents are getting well-deserved derision for their transparent political bias, and he appears to be unconcerned about the high-stakes danger his weakness of independent will could create for the international confidence in the dollar.

Should the global markets, because of the combination of inadequate individuals in the government and a Fed Chairman too much a political hack to do what needs to be done, truly lose confidence in the power, endurance, and long-term stability of the U.S. dollar, all bets are off—at least in the long run—on the dollar as the global denominating currency for the 21st Century; and should the dollar be abandoned, the alternatives will offer the safety of an illusion right before they, too, collapse just like the greenback from which traders jumped in absolute desperation.

Fortunately, wholesale abandonment of the dollar is a remote possibility. A war against Iran will ensure that remains the case, and this will not be because the American neo-conservatives are particularly concerned about such an event: they—the architects of this era of degraded American status in the world, huge and persistent federal budget deficits at home, and a progressively more menacing presence to both peoples of other countries and citizens of the United States—care only about control of resources, land, and ideas across the globe. Money is an incidental concern to those driven to power by the frightful demon of some sense of destiny. For the Europeans collaborating to agitate to yet another war, alliance with these neo-conservatives is a matter not of ideological compatibility so much as it is a situation of necessity if the EU is to emerge strong in both sovereignty and currency to confront both the United States and China on the battlefield of resource, land, and ideological control in the decades to come.

But although the motives may be different, the alliance of the United States and the European Union in this coming moment will nonetheless serve to bring more bloodshed and destruction to a century already born from the womb of nearly incalculable catastrophe and wholly wanton war.

The Dark Wraith has spoken.

 Published 4/06/2006 11:05:00 PM  

<< 44 Comments Total
 Anonymous blogged...

I saw this relevant link on Andrew Sullivan's blog,

and this relevant post on Kevin Drum's blog.

- oddjob

Fri Apr 07, 10:48:01 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good morning, OddJob.

Thank you for those links. The Andrew Sullivan article was published this morning, so it might be the case that a broad discussion could build over the coming days, even in the relative absence of intensive mainstream American media coverage of this on-going story.

I notice that the Washington Monthly entry specifically addresses the concerns within Israel about the escalating confrontation between Iran and the West. In my article, I deliberately avoided the somewhat usual non-mainstream rhetoric about Israel being behind the drumbeat for war. Although it is clearly the case that elements within the Israel military and general population do want the matter of Iran's nuclear program handled in an aggressive manner, I am not convinced that they hold sway right now. That is not to say that they don't have their advocates, particularly with the ranks of the American and British neo-cons: men like Feith, Wurmser, Abrams, and others have for years been advocates of regime changes across the Middle East, and their position is in no small part linked to their on-going relationships with factions within Israel. That, however, does not mean there's some "Israeli conspiracy" to get a war on with Iran. Israel could take serious damage in a military conflagration, and the stage could be set for years of extraordinarily heightened tensions.

It seems to me that the emerging perspective among the neo-conservatives within the Bush Administration and in some of the private think-tanks is that, despite the general belief that our invasion of Iraq has turned into a fiasco, the regime change in Baghdad has in fact turned out better than expected. It is my understanding that in the late 1990s, Feith and his gang were planning for a Middle East broken into small, relatively powerless states; and as Iraq descends into sectarian violence and ultimate civil war, the eventual equilibrium will be a shattered state, with the Kurds going their own way and the Sunnis going theirs, and with the Shi'ites controling the oil-rich rump state that remains after the inevitable break-up.


If the neo-cons really do see their actions so far as leading to their desired ends, there's no reason for them to stop applying the method, which means Iran and Syria are high on the hit-parade list.

That, of course, is really exciting news: considering all the expense and loss of life in the occupation of Iraq, imagine the fun we'd have in Iran.

The Dark Wraith shudders at the numbers.

Fri Apr 07, 11:29:37 AM EDT  
 Donviti blogged...

as always a helluva read.

You seem to be poo pooing the little theory that the US attacked Saddam in part b/c of his wanting to convert to Euros. Or I could me misreading (highly likely)

Isn't it plausable however that regardless of the real effect it would have globally on the dollar that the significance of him doing so would be more symbollic and ultimately the first domino to fall in the middle east regarding a conversion?

Also I don't know how big a part it plays in the scheme of your article here but there wasn't a mention of the Chinese factor...weren't they also seeking oil from Iraq? Or does that even matter when speaking in the context of your article?

Fri Apr 07, 11:49:50 AM EDT  
 Mr. Shakes blogged...

Good afternoon, Dark Wraith.

This Fajr-3 missile that the Iranians are developing sounds a lot like a short range MIRV. I find it Interesting that a nation with no ambitions to a nuclear arsenal should be developing the Cold War weapon of choice.

When you say that war with Iran is now inevitable, are you also implying that given the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, the most sensible course of action for us to follow would be to attack Iran? It occurs to me that there is now a strong case to that effect. If the Iranians really are holding us by the short and curlies economically, if they really are attempting to develop nuclear weapons, if really they do fund Islamic terrorism and if they are well positioned to expand their power given the instability we have fomented in the region, then it does seem, does it not, as though we ought to crush them.

If this is the case, and I have not decided quite what I think about this question, yet, then it seems to me that a confrontation with Iran was inevitable even before we went to war with Iraq. In which case, the neo-cons grand plan has placed us at a great disadvantage, as the Iraq situation obviously weakens our hand considerably.

Should we go to war with these people?

All right – I gotta get back to it, this day has just been insane.

Fri Apr 07, 01:49:40 PM EDT  
 Solitaire, Apex, NC blogged...

You're a good writer, you are, but your sentence structures are so full of negatives that I have a hard time following what you are trying to say versus what you are saying is not, versus what you are not saying. Sometimes, I know I'm not getting it.
The bottom line is that we ARE going to attack Iran, right?

Fri Apr 07, 02:23:39 PM EDT  
 theBhc blogged...

Hi Wraith,

Excellent piece. The rumblings of an attack on Iran is looking to be a solution to a number of nascent problems, the euro denomination, the PNAC agenda. But another developing, though still only imagined, project would also suffer from such an attack. See my post regarding the plans for not only the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline deal but a much larger pan-Asian pipeline grid, detailed in Energy Security Insights by Siddharth Varadarajan from The Hindu.

Asia's Big Plans.

An attack on Iran would certainly pre-empt this entire project, a project that would surely threaten the PNAC "benevolent global dominion" scenario.

I'd be curious to know what think about this.


Fri Apr 07, 03:06:45 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

The rumblings of an attack on Iran is looking to be a solution to a number of nascent problems, the euro denomination, the PNAC agenda.

And in true "Wag the Dog" fashion, I daresay said attack - timed correctly - will address yet another problem... (Hat tip, RawStory.)

- oddjob

Fri Apr 07, 03:37:56 PM EDT  
 theBhc blogged...


Yes, I suspect you are entirely correct about this.

Fri Apr 07, 05:21:15 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, OddJob.

Suffer me a brief note about the polls showing Bush's approval rating in the ground.

What I'm seeing is a series of polls over the past month or two that have approval ratings very close to one another. Even though this last one is slightly below previous, it's within a statistical margin of error of others published recently. This tells me—speaking here as a teacher of statistics—that these polls are all finding exactly the same value with a bit of sampling error moving the derived result around the true point.

I would take a stab at 35%, and this number isn't changing from one poll to the next. It's what some commentators are calling "the base" of Bush's support. It's not going to yield, it's not going to soften, and it's not going to go away.

But most of all, it's not "Bush's support": he doesn't own it. Instead, he's merely the latest beneficiary of that base's need for a figurehead to which the group's devotion to ideals can be externally affixed. It's one thing to believe within yourself that you're right, and it's another to have a compatible group that agrees with you, but it's quite something more and altogether necessary to have a figurehead of great importance that you can believe is on your wavelength.

Thirty-five percent is a pretty large number for a core of support. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's frighteningly large as far as an unyielding substrate of reliability goes.

This base, in my judgment, has always been around, but it has a tendency to go deep and get very quiet for years at a stretch. The causes of this are not simple, and those causes have never been properly studied; but I can assure you that the base was there after McCarthy got flogged into silence, it was there after Nixon got humiliated, and (on its own, curiously) it went deep in the first and only term of George H.W. Bush. In this last instance, it was losing its cyclical desire to project itself onto the political landscape even in the last years of the Reagan Administration.

But mark my word, the base—when it rises, and especially when it rises in synchrony with a less virulent strain of Republicanism flexing its muscles—is just as potent as any political force could be in a democracy.

That 35% is the base of Right-wing extremism in the United States.

And that's a darned big percentage of Americans too stupid for their own good...

or everyone else's.

The Dark Wraith has opined.

Sat Apr 08, 12:17:08 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, theBhc.

Thank you for coming over here and offering some commentary and insight. Those pipelines in Asia Minor have been causing more wars and rumors of wars than they're worth. The whole collapse of negotiations between the West and the Afghan Taliban functionaries was no small factor in the decision by the United States to turn a country of such ruin into a country of even greater ruin.

What's interesting to me is that China is getting terribly cozy with Iran at no small long-term expense to U.S. interests. This is one of the reasons I cite in asserting that the Bush Administration has been a stunning failure in international diplomacy. Across the globe, we're getting out-maneuvered, and it's just driving me up a wall.

For God's sake, can't the Bush Administration do anything right? Forgive me for letting my old-time conservatism come out, but we're talking about a supposedly rabid bunch of pseudo-conservatives who can't seem to keep one single Latin American country from going Socialist! It's the funniest thing, when you think about it: here we have the whole Bush/Cheney gang strutting massive firepower and hot rhetoric, and yet they don't seem to know how to deal with someone as minor as Hugo Chavez. The Bush people rattle some swords and hire some incompetent Colombian thugs who are themselves so incompetent they spend most of their time sitting around at their border camps admiring the weaponry the American spooks gave them. And Chavez just keeps rolling right along, staying popular and thumbing his nose at Bush.

What chance do the neo-cons at the White House think they have against emerging chessmasters like the boys in Beijing or even against far more seasoned political gamesmen in the Middle East and Europe?

Forgive me. I'm getting started on a rant, here, and I promised myself I'd start a rant-rationing program this week. Doing so during the Bush Administration is turning out to be as difficult as starting a diet while working at an all-you-can-eat diner: the temptation to throw caution to the wind is just overwhelming sometimes.

But in response to your note of observation, this was what I meant by the neo-conservatives' obsession not with greenbacks and related matters, but rather with resource, land, and idea control. They don't understand, however, that the use of military force is but a small component in a much larger, very subtle, on-going game that must be played; and it's a game not of pure, instant domination, but rather a matter of balance of power, where the whole idea is to keep the fulcrum as far away as possible so only slight moves are necessary to have strong effect on heaving events the way we want.

We're losing the world even as we project brute force upon it. That means the fulcrum is not only too close to us, it's just about right under our collective crotch.

That's very uncool, and it's the result of letting children play in a world where even the most seasoned of adults don't always get what they need. It's going to take us a long, long time to repair the damage the fools in Washington have wrought.

The Dark Wraith shall quit, now, before the urge to rant rears its ugly head once again.

Sat Apr 08, 01:02:04 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Solitaire, Apex, NC.

Actually, the obtuseness was rather a deliberate exercise in conveying the cloudiness of my crystal ball. Unfortunately, I wish it were a bit more opaque, but I wish even more that the room in which it sits had a little lower wattage on the lighting.

The events during the Bush Administration—with cautionary predecessors I tended to ignore before Desert Storm—have informed me that my understanding of certain aspects of history was small and misguided.

What if many of the wars about which we learn in history classes and books were not the culmination of complex events that preceded them, but were instead the fulfillment of simple intentions? Rather than the terrible consequence of lost opportunities, errors in judgment, and failed alternatives, what if most wars were deliberate, unavoidable, and inexcusable detainments of vast resources to the purposeful end of violence wholly intended by certain people who had no quarter for any possible other action?

How many people do you suppose saw both the first and second Iraqi Wars as runaway trains that were inevitable long before they started? In retrospect (and maybe even at the times), doesn't it strike you that neither of those wars could have been averted, and the reason they couldn't is that those who didn't want them were wholly powerless?

Many of my fellow bloggers knew in the months before the siege of Baghdad in March of 2003 that such a thing would be incalculably stupid and entirely avoidable.

And yet, it happened. It happened on cue, it happened with extraordinary violence, and it happened without any of the arguments against it having any weight whatsoever.

It was (to quote some 19th Century philosopher) a historical inevitability.

How strange it is, then, that I sometimes now fancy myself as something other than a mere chronicler of the immutable past unfolding under the guise of a changeable future.

In retrospect, now, it's as strange as imagining that I could study wars of the past to the end of learning how to help avoid wars of the future.

The Dark Wraith has thus spoken with characteristic and rather maddening obtuseness, once again.

Sat Apr 08, 01:56:52 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

where the whole idea is to keep the fulcrum as far away as possible so only slight moves are necessary to have strong effect on heaving events the way we want.

We're losing the world even as we project brute force upon it. That means the fulcrum is not only too close to us, it's just about right under our collective crotch.

With respect, don't you have that analogy backwards? With the fulcrum far away you have to move your side very far up and down to get not much on the other end.

The fulcrum is the balance point of the political clout in the situation, and you want that as close to you as possible so that when you simply twitch slightly the other side gets thrown several hundred feet in the air and has to go to the hospital with broken legs after landing.

That's the way we used to be......

- oddjob

Sat Apr 08, 01:57:01 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

Oh, and I agree with you about the base, except during the Nixon era it was at 25%, or so I deem it based upon his support at his nadir.

Still a stunningly high number, and it's even worse today.......

- oddjob

Sat Apr 08, 01:59:36 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, OddJob.

It's interesting that you put it that way, and you're right. To my mind, if I'm sitting on a teeter-totter and I'm wanting to lift a large person on the other side, I want the fulcrum away from me so I have more effect on the other person's mass. Strangely, though, I see the physical mechanics point you're making.

The Dark Wraith needs to lie down for the evening and work out why there's such an unusual lack of consistency in how he's thinking about that.

Sat Apr 08, 02:06:49 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

The disjunction happens because while when the fulcrum is close to you only minimal motion is required to attain great results, that minimal motion requires great effort to accomplish, and so requires great strength.

And we had all that, too.....

- oddjob

Sat Apr 08, 02:47:59 AM EDT  
 ballgame blogged...

I have a couple of thoughts regarding your post:

One, I've always assumed that the 'right wing crazy' portion of the population was about 15%, and the overal rightward tilt of American politics could be tied pretty directly to the corporate media spin machine, which has operated with increasingly tight discipline since the 1970s. At the same time, I've been repeatedly befuddled at Bush's "low" approval ratings of 35%-40%, wondering, what the hell more does Bush have to do? Your suggestion that the "right wing crazy" base is actually much larger and in the range of 35% is logical and frankly leaves me aghast.

Two, you allude to some personal ("old time") conservative leanings, and comment on the Bush administration's inability to curtail the development of Latin American socialist regimes like Chavez's. Do you oppose these developments, or were you just speaking from the perspective of the neocons' own agenda (which presumably you oppose)? (Please forgive me if this is a stupid question; I'm a first time visitor.)

Finally, like many progressives, I tend towards a rather cynical pessimism regarding the path of national and world events. Your succinct, well-reasoned, and insightful analysis suggests that my somewhat morbid outlook has in fact been rather pollyanna-ish, as compared to humanity's actual trajectory.


Sat Apr 08, 10:47:09 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, ballgame. Welcome to The Dark Wraith Forums. I trust you will find the writing and comments here worth return visits and more of your good commentary.

OddJob noted that, at the nadir of Nixon's popularity, he was in the 20 percent range. It seems to me that the time in which this occurred was the low ebb of Right-wing extremism in this country. For one thing, the demographics were favorable to a large majority of Americans being open to a more liberal society and to the use of institutional mechanisms to achieve progress in the social sphere.

I don't know how old you are, ballgame, but the pressures on the American society at that time were multi-dimensional and enormous. It was quite an era, the culmination of political, technological, scientific, and cultural grinders that had been working for a long time to shake the 19th and early-20th Century cobwebs off the American experience.

God! but it was a time; and it had the effect of committing upon the harsher elements of our society quite a quelling effect. In fact, I would honestly say that, for a while, anyway, it almost got to the point where the critical mass of hatemongers feeding each others' attitudes could have disappeared.

Of course, the critical mass didn't vanish. It was still around: in Middle America, in the free-style churches, in the homes of extremists and their bretheren, the poorly educated.

And without getting into some conspiracy theory claim, there really were extraordinary pools of wealth and the men controlling them, men who individually and collectively blew upon the still-glowing embers of blackness in the hearts of the extremists.

It wouldn't take long, of course, for the fires to rage once again. Reagan was everything for which the black-hearted people and their weak sympathizers could have hoped. He coded to race-baiting through anti-welfare nonsense, he coded to imperialists through anti-Communist bluster, and he coded to hate through phony calls to old-fashioned common sense.

We now—you and I, as well as everyone of a progressive mind—sit in the curious time that straddles older generations still festering with hate, along with their spawn among those too young to remember where that mentality was taking us in the bad times of other eras.

It won't get better, either, ballgame. We might very well have a sliver of light come in November, but the numbers are vastly against us: the fertility rates among the secular and especially among the religious extremists far outstrip ours, and our educational system has collapsed in wholesale abandonment of what we used to consider the ideal of the broad, deep, powerful, "liberal" education.

Now, let me address your question about why I wear (to no small extent, proudly) the moniker of conservatism. The best way I can show how I think is by encouraging you to read the "Open Letter to Bill O'Reilly" I published here in November. You can also see my way of thinking on display in "The Belt of Justice," which has not yet sunsetted from this main page.

My sympathies in Latin America are terribly divided, as they always have been. I am no Communist; I am not deluded into denying or downplaying the appalling brutality to which Socialist movements can and have often been taken in countries in the throes and aftermaths of revolutions. But that having been said, the reasons for these spasms of disjunction and discontinuity can be laid right at the doorstep of American (and before that, European) imperialism.

America needs to work in its own interest, and I shan't suffer hot-rhetoric arguments to the contrary. The fundamental flaw in the American policy is and has been for generations the idea that our biggest enemy is leaders and groups militating for the most basic of human, civil, and economic rights of their peoples. It just leaves me nearly speechless that the Right wets itself every time some Anti-American speech is made somewhere in Latin America, and yet for more than a century that same Right wing eagle eye hasn't been able to even so much as notice the complete chokehold a cluster of American and European corporate behemoths has had on every aspect of our foreign policy. It just drives me to no end of distraction that there is this utter lack of grasp among both Republicans and Democrats that free enterprise is indeed the heart and soul of the material wealth of a nation, but corporations are not citizens of this or any country on Earth; and as such, they have no right whatsoever to prevail upon our institutions, our government, and our armed forces to ensure that the fields of the world are fertile for their modes of production.

Were we to configure our foreign policy in a manner other than how we do and usually have, we would find that the points where American interests diverge from those of other nations are considerably fewer in number than we think. Were we to use the diplomatic skills we were refining to such high order from our errors of the '50s, '60s, and '70s, we would be able to mitigate and even thwart dangers long before they became threats.

But instead, the Electorate wants to run to the simplicity of brutishness, to the siren song of international violence. It all feels better, it all sounds right, and it all has the clarion call of promise that comes to anyone contemplating domination as a means of peaceful coexistence.

And it all falls apart in the end.

That, ballgame, is how I as an old-fashioned type of conservative think.

The Dark Wraith does hope you'll return.

Sat Apr 08, 01:13:40 PM EDT  
 PoliShifter blogged...

The 34% Bush Supporters are just racists, homophobes, and pseudo-Christians. They will support anyone, no matter how atrocious they are, as long as they are Republican and claim to be pseudo-Christian.

In regards to the NeoCons and Corporatists, the goal is world domination and they will stop at nothing unless they are stopped by The People.

Excellent work Dark Wraith. The world is a better place with you in it.

Sat Apr 08, 01:21:07 PM EDT  
 PoliShifter blogged...

Excuse me, or don't excuse me, for blog whoring...

Why George Bush may be the greatest president we ever had

Sat Apr 08, 01:30:49 PM EDT  
 blackdog blogged...

Good afternoon, Dark One.

Excellent post and some great comments as well. I know when I am out of my league and will not attempt to expound on any of this, except to think that the strange attempt by the usa to rule the world seems more likely to head us down a path the USSR recently took. In other words, the breakup of the usa. With the 35% base we've become ungovernable.

I too beat my head against the wall trying to understand the motive in our foriegn policy which seems only to place us more at risk. We certainly can't kill everyone, can we?

And congratulations on making it into the finals, you deserved it.

I'm hearing the supreme idiot on the radio saying something about border security. Anyone ever see "Viva Max"?

Sat Apr 08, 02:04:32 PM EDT  
 theBhc blogged...

Hi Dark,

You've got quite a discussion going here and I am hesistant to comment further after your lengthy replies. But that won't stop me, anyway.

Just a quick note on your dismay about the lack of, putting it mildy, diplomatic savvy on the part of this administration. I suggest that this is not simply a lack of ability or even a display of incompetence, but, rather, it is the position of this administration that diplomacy is not an employable tool. The Bush admin. openly disdains reasoned accord and compromise. No one demonstrates this better than John Bolton and his under-the-table appointment as UN ambassador by Bush was testement enough of this. This administration is loosing control in many arenas for precisely the reason that they have never believed in anything but military force to control things, which is now demonstrating for the world just how limited American military might is. We are now seeing the results of just such a painfully misguided view of power, control and community.

Sat Apr 08, 02:18:22 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, PoliShifter.

Feel free to blogwhore any time you feel like it. You're part of the community here at The Dark Wraith Forums.

And while I've got your attention, let me offer you some unsolicited advice. You and your blog, Pissed on Politics, were recently knocked by what I call a CyberShift Troll. Fortunately, it let go of you pretty quickly, and there is only a relatively small chance that it will return. Nevertheless, you be careful: CyberShifters are dangerous as Hell, and the reason they're dangerous is because they're convinced that they're fully aware that they're "just playing." The mental illness in those cats is the conviction they have that they're fully in control of the alternate persona they consistently play when they're causing trouble on blogs.

Fortunately, this kind of troll is pretty rare; but so help me God, every last one of them, sooner or later, materially hurts someone. I've seen them; I was, myself, nearly destroyed by one a long time ago; and I've watched them come in and eventually cause harm to a target that got in their gunsights.

As my old, Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors would have said, "You be careful out there, PoliShifter. The world is full of Englishmen."

And while I have no concern for Englishmen as such, unless they're Bush-loving Tories, I am most decidedly concerned when I see one of these modern equivalents of a Flying Dutchman pass across the horizon.

The Dark Wraith has given his rather oddly contorted advice.

Sat Apr 08, 02:31:41 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon, Mr. Shakes.

It's interesting that you noted the similarity of a new Iranian missile technology to the famous MIRV (mulitple, independently targetable re-entry vehicle) assemblies we and the Soviets championed more than a generation ago.

The difference between the MIRVs and the Iranian multiple warheads is that the latter are not re-entry vehicles, as such, to the extent that they are not going as high nor as far as ICBMs; thus, the Persian versions don't "re-enter" the atmosphere. That, by the way, limits the efficacy of any independent targeting, at least to some extent, but it also could, again and to a modest extent, limit air interdiction, interception, and neutralization opportunities.

Is war with Iran inevitable? To the mind of a neo-conservative using the blueprints of the PNAC, Iran cannot be left to its own sovereign devices: it's too big, too anti-American, and just too darned rich in resources. To that mindset, if we don't take it, the Chinese or the Europeans will, if not militarily, then certainly in terms of binding commercial ties.

To the neo-conservatives, that just cannot happen if the United States is going to have security in the 21st Century.

In that way, then, Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program is an opportunity for pre-text, but not a genuine reason for attack.

I am fairly well convinced that the danger of war will rise considerably until after the November elections; but even if the Democrats take control of both Houses of Congress, there is ample evidence that, if one pre-text is insufficient to garner support, then there is always another waiting to be tried that will silence the critics just long enough to get the rock rolling down the mountain, at which point it will be too late for anyone to reconsider the wisdom of pushing the destructive boulder off the cliff in the first place.

The Dark Wraith will, therefore, stay clear of the hills as long as he feels the occasional caution of rubble landing around him.

Sat Apr 08, 02:53:11 PM EDT  
 Mark blogged...

One intersting factor about all American analysis of the future is that it makes seriously flawed assumptions about the future nature of this ‘alliance’ with Europe – assumptions that NO mainstream european politician or analyst (not even British Conservatives) will subscribe to .. namely that it will continue in broadly the same format that it currently exists .. and that the US has the means force that continuation.

Whilst the USA is in the undisputed number one spot from a military strength point of view (and damn well should be when you consider that it spends an unsustainable and bankrupting seven times more than its nearest rival, China) it is equally true that the USA’s number one spot in other respects is far more vulnerable than is generally recognised and relies entirely on the continued cooperation of both Germany and Britain.

The other factor not to be overlooked is that one of the strongest currencies (and certainly the strongest economy and by far the strangest stock and commodity market) in Europe is not currently a part of the EURO mechanism .. but will be – possibly even by the time that the US is in a position to take the situation in Iran beyond sabre rattling.

What is also forgotten is that Britain’s WWII financial obligations to the USA come to an end this year – unlike the rest of Europe, Britain didn’t benefit from Marshall Aid and has struggled to pay off debts to the US, which in today’s money equate to trillions of dollars and have accounted for much of America’s economic power and military spending over the last 65 years … gradually freed from that obligation, the British economy has gone from being the dead-duck economy of the western world, to the model European economy … and it aims to stay that way.

If push comes to shove in Iran, Britain will go with Europe rather than with the USA (that isn’t even open to question) … and it is far from a given that Europe will go with the USA without exploiting one massive weapon that isn’t generally taken into account – the level of investment that Britain and Germany have been pumping into the USA (investments which are there for all to see in the US State Department’s own published data and which are EACH far greater than the COMBINED investments which the investments that most American’s get paranoid about, those being made by Japan and China) and which have left Europe in a position of having the ability to take a mighty firm grasp on one of the US President’s balls - if an when they choose – because those investments are pretty crucial to sustaining the viability of the Dollar economy. That economic weapon WILL be used to secure get massive concessions from any American President before he can be assured of anywhere near the level of European cooperation and ‘alliance’ that he has enjoyed in Iraq and which it is generally assumed that he will enjoy in the future.

Sat Apr 08, 06:08:23 PM EDT  
 Mark blogged...

... continued:

That said, I agree with your concluding paragraph .. I just don’t think the game will be played out the way that most people in America (or the world) imagine that it will be – and it certainly will not be played out on the basis of a strong alliance that pays succour to the neocon agenda; because what a generally Social Democratic Europe (where most of the economic right is way to the left of even the Democratic party and has a very different set of social and cultural aspirations for the wider world) sees as a dispiriting force is very different to what the neocon's, the Pentagon and even America generally identify as a dispiriting force … in fact there is NOTHING more dispiriting and distasteful to Europe than the neocon agenda taken as a whole.

Too many Americans assume that a shared cultural background ultimately ensures loyalty and equates to shared future interests.

Sat Apr 08, 06:09:39 PM EDT  
 PoliShifter blogged...

Hi Dark Wraith,

are you referring to a commentor that dropped by my blog recently?

Or are you talking about something else?

Thanks for the advice, I will be carefull.

Tom Harper of Who Hijacked Our Couuntry recently told the tale of how one of these trolls tracked an IP address to a person's work place and then proceeded to call that person's work place to let the employer know that their employee was blogging from work.

At any rate, we do indeed need to be careful. It's the wild wild west.

Any suggestions on how to protect myself?

Sat Apr 08, 06:50:13 PM EDT  
 Mr. Shakes blogged...

Hi, Mark.

I think Europe still has very long way to go before it is any sort of position to cow the United States, either militarily or economically. Even within the Franco-German alliance that lies at the EU's heart there is tremendous disagreement over exactly what "Europe" is, and what it should become. Britain, meanwhile, is trying to play both ends, and take what it can from the EU, while at the same time cosying up to the US in an effort to land exclusive trade contracts and defense cooperation. I don't see any signs that either the British people or the mandarins of Whitehall are aching to throw the nation's soverignity into the arms of mother Europe. Especially if in doing so they were to put their lucrative position as middle-man at risk. The other smaller states are merely there to squabble over who gets the most financial aid from the EU's bloated budget. In short, I don't think that a truly united and confident European State - one with a single unifying vision to drive it forward - will arise anytime in the near future. And it is only such a state that would be capable of standing against Anerican imperialism.

Also, the US did not build its military machine and prosperity on the back of the pennies Britian threw it in the years after WWII. And yes, when one considers the output of the US economy over the last 60 years, even a number in the trillions can be considered pennies. It was instead the tremendous resources, both natural and human, the organization of these resources in a manner more efficent than anywhere else in the world and a national work ethic that borders on insantiy that have powered America's rise to eminence. Despite the decay in the nation's government all of these factors are still present, and could easily come to the fore once again if something can be done about the corruption in Washington.

Finally, the economic weapon of which you speak - this threat of removing European capital from US markets - isn't much of weapon. When one considers that in pulling the trigger the EU would at one stroke destroy their own economies. All of that cash couldn't be sucked back over the Atlantic in one instantaneous and massive ATM transaction, and would require the cooperation of many competing institutions, each of which would stand to lose a ton of money by playing along. It just isn't going to happen.

So to address the wider point, until Europe gets its shit together it isn't going to have any choice but to dance whatever tune Washington calls, and it isn't going to get its shit together anytime soon. Certainly not in time to derail events in Iran. Only the American people could do that (maybe).

Sat Apr 08, 07:35:48 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, PoliShifter.

Yes, I was referring to the troll that pounded a couple of your comments threads last week.

You cannot make yourself bullet-proof, but you can take all kinds of precautions. While not wanting to fatigue readers here at this moment with such things, a few simple matters can be addressed summarily.

◊ Don't immediately click on a link a commenter gives unless you know and trust the commenter or unless you know the domain of the link to be a relatively trustworthy site. (Hover on a link to see the URL in the bottom, left-hand corner of the browser frame.) Otherwise, if you're curious about a link but are just not sure it's legit, right-click on the link and go to and "Copy Shortcut"; then paste the link into Notepad and save if for a while until you can copy and paste it from that Notepad .txt file into the address bar at a computer other than your own, like one at the university. Just make sure the computer you're going to use to go to the site is secured against hostile actions from Websites.

◊ Don't hand out your personal information like candy. Get really worried about online, new friends who are interested in getting personal with you as far as your name, location, and such matters are concerned. And don't be a damn fool about sex come-ons that seem to be coming out of nowhere. (The number of guys on this Earth whose political blogging could actually turn a reader on is approximately zero; so if it looks like that's happening, don't believe it for a split second.) The reason I bring this up is because you were being pulled by a weird, subtle little seductress gambit that operates in the background with that troll and a couple of others I've seen. Here's the rule: if you're a real and legitimate blogger, your blog isn't your personal lonely hearts club. People who come to your site might very well become lasting friends and allies (I consider a substantial group as such in the case of The Dark Wraith Forums), but that comes with time; and if you have any God-given sense at all, you'll know the people worthy of allowing close to your personal life. Just don't hand your neck on a silver platter to some crazy.

◊ If you're on a fast connection to the Internet, consider getting some stealth software. The problem in general with this type of stuff is that it runs you through a "proxy," which will slow you down big-time; so if you're running on a modem connection, stealth software is generally going to drag your Website load times down to a crawl.

◊ As long as you're in Blogger, you needn't worry about the average troll finding out anything about you through your blog's server; but if you go to private hosting, you need to find a host that will do certain things to protect you. In the event you're going to private hosting, ask some questions, and think about some bluffing strategies. Major names in journalism will get attacked and smeared, but they're relatively safe using their own names. We don't have the benefit of protection by virtue of fame: the world will not miss us if we're gone. That means we are far more responsible for ensuring our own safety.

Do I sound paranoid to you? Well, I am, and I have good reason to be. Before I got wise, I didn't worry too much about things like privacy and security in my Internet writings.

I almost lost everything—including, at the end, my life.

(Others weren't as fortunate.)

The Dark Wraith hopes he has scared the Hell out of some bloggers he really likes and wants to see stay around for a while longer.

Sat Apr 08, 11:13:14 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, the Bhc.

Yes, I shall stipulate that incompetence is only the outward expression of an underlying contempt for diplomacy that pervades the neo-conservative mindset. Two matters in this regard come to my mind.

Many are the people in this country who dismiss and repudiate the tools of a profession because of their utter lack of ability to handle the type or level of intellectual understanding required in the discipline. That is not to say that, just because one cannot or prefers not to engage certain subject matter, the person is going to be this way; but I live day over day in a world of academia where I see people completely damn a subject, and they do so from a platform of inability or disinterest.

Just this past semester (to provide an example that is not current, of which there are many), one of the students in a remedial math class became quite loud in her working group as she went on about how none of the math we were doing had anything to do with the "real world" that she had to live in. I might note that this student was failing miserably, not even showing up for one test before that diatribe. Another student, equally unable to grasp the material, wholeheartedly agreed, and both looked around as they began their mutual chorus, hoping to drum up support for their position.

Interestingly, whether it was out of fear, respect, or genuine belief otherwise (and I like to think it was largely the last of these), they got no supporting agreement from others, even though there were many in that class struggling to barely pass.

I should note in passing that the subject under consideration for that day was complex numbers, and the project in the working groups was actually using complex numbers to calculate voltages and total resistance across circuits.

With that anecdote in mind, I wonder the extent to which one becomes a neo-conservative because a lack of ability to understand and use skills of reasoning and discourse predisposes one to repudiate the science and art of diplomacy as a set of usable and powerful tools in conflict resolution. In a man like a John Bolton—or even a George Bush, for that matter—is it possible that we are in the presence and rule of men incapable of diplomacy, and in their deficiency, they become utterly and wholly spiteful of it?

The other matter of which I am thinking has to do with an unfortunate and very old tradition in certain aspects of education, especially at the high school level. I bring this up because I once said in an academic discussion group that history as it is taught in high schools and as it is popularized in the broader culture, including movies, is unjustifiably biased toward militarism and other forms of violence as the principal points of interest. It seemed to me, and I said it as such, that we teach the history of Western Civilization as a series of wars between which are fillers of failed diplomacy and a smattering of irrelevant fluff about politics and human nature.

I got my head eaten off for this open speculation, so I later got my hands on a high school history textbook and went through, page by page, and counted those that dealt with wars, battles, and general violence. I found that, in almost 300 pages, more than 100 were entirely or in focus devoted to wars, battles, and general violence. Another one I found (one edition out of date), had somewhat more of its content similarly devoted.

In other words, of all the possible stories, issues, and stuff in history, perhaps a whopping third or more is the story of death, destruction, and misery. Interestingly, in the past few years, I've seen a considerable downplaying of wars in at least some history books; but it seems to me that many generations not just here in this country but in so many cultures around the world and through time have framed the story of their rise, existence, and perhaps even decline in terms of the influence of war as the mechanism of choice for survival.

Is this really the case? At least for me, it's hard to reject that notion: I grew up learning far more about wars throughout history than I did about all of the other ways people lived and died.

In that light, it seems to me that the neo-conservatives are the distilled product, in purified form, of an inter-cultural mentality that sees violence, domination, and physical conflict as the sole way that problems get solved between nations, tribes, peoples, and ideologies.

Perhaps I am seeing this in a distorted way, but I cannot help but wonder if the neo-cons and some of their Right-wing fundamentalist cohorts simply cannot believe that the world of people can proceed without violence as its principal mode of progress and—at least with the fundamentalists—the only way it could possibly end in good form.

The Dark Wraith finds this possibility terribly troubling.

Sun Apr 09, 12:02:07 AM EDT  
 The Fat Lady Sings blogged...

Good evening, Dark Wraith. How in gods name can we sustain a war with Iran? I agree - we may just have to do it – especially if they are hell bent on blowing Israel off the map. But who’s gonna fight it and with what? You cite China’s involvement. OK – but is China really that stupid? Or are they cozying up to Ahmadinejad in an attempt to tweak America’s nose? There is another line of thought about all this - that Iran is bluffing the hell out of McStupid and his idiot cabinet in an attempt to gain leverage and a seat on the world stage. Have you read about the conflicts going on betwixt The State Department and the DOD? covers it quite thoroughly. Our diplomats are being killed regularly. Our government isn’t protecting them. Did you see the footage of our Venezuelan Ambassador being chased down by kids on motor-bikes and egged? It could just as easily have been bullets. No one helped him. Not the Venezuelan police – and certainly not the usual Marine guards. Why? Bush didn’t supply him with any. An Ambassador - and he was left on his own without any visible protection. So you say going to war with Iran is unavoidable – even necessary. Well, I sure as hell hope not!

Oh and Blackdog? I certainly have seen Viva Max! I am a huge fan of Peter Ustinov, not to mention Jonathan Winters. Hell – I used to sneak out to watch Johnny Carson when I was a kid just to catch Winters act. The man’s a genius! And yes – I did get your point.

Sun Apr 09, 12:43:03 AM EDT  
 The Fat Lady Sings blogged...

OK - Something wierd happened to my comment. And part of it's missing. So - here's the missing part, and I have no earthly explanation for the rest.

Have you read about the conflicts going on betwixt The State Department and the DOD? covers it quite thoroughly.

Sun Apr 09, 01:15:01 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Fat Lady Sings.

Actually, in my series, "The Valerie Plame Scandal," as well as in the comment threads from the individual posts of that series, I addressed inside rumors of substantive differences that were opening up between various branches of the government involved in intelligence matters. In fact, rumor had it that Valerie Plame was in transition from the CIA to the State Department at the time her troubles with the Bush Administration came to a head. That whole aspect of the story has disappeared from the radar, and now all we hear is that she was a CIA operative. Nothing is said these days about the move she was supposedly making and how that would have been related to the fact that it was Colin Powell whom witnesses said was personally, in his very hands, holding a dossier on her during a trip to Africa with Cheney less than two months before she got outed.

The truth of the matter is that the State Department had been suffering serious isolation, especially while Powell was in charge; but the situation hasn't changed all that much, even though a dyed-in-the-wool neo-con like Condoleeza Rice is now in charge. The problem is that State is just chock full of career diplomats, bureaucrats, and technocrats, all of whom have developed old, tried-and-true habits from years of doing things in a fairly well-behaved manner. Even a number of the Reagan-era people still at State are every bit as tempered and intelligent in their actions and judgments as the people from the Clinton era.

As I understand it, the blood purges that occurred in many departments never reached way down into the ranks of these agencies, although in some, like the CIA, there have been people who have quit in disgust at the high-handed stupidity of the cronies at the top.

More importantly, at least in my judgment, are the long-standing rumors of a schism within the DoD itself, and purges have not eliminated a serious wall of rather moderate officers at the Pentagon who have no use whatsoever for Bush, Rumsfeld, and their ilk. Soldiers will do what they must, but that doesn't mean you won't hear them say what's on their minds... provided you know where to listen and exactly how to listen. Read the Army Times and other not-entirely-official military rags, and you'll see some interesting outright and coded discontent coming through.

But returning to the State Department and its battles with other departments, the Bush Administration has moved a substantial amount of intelligence gathering and interpretation muscle into the Pentagon, and it's being overseen by neo-con ideologues. Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, of whom I wrote in "Stone, Sand, and the Writ of History," has laid out in many articles this effective overthrow of military intelligence by unseasoned, intemperate Bush Administration cronies.

This transfer of power from the CIA and the State Department to the DoD and NSA has in no small ways compromised intelligence gathering, analysis, and policy prescription functions as they were for decades carried out by people far and away better at such activities. The suspect circumstances surrounding the failure of CIA intelligence regarding the events of September 11, 2001, notwithstanding, we were in far more capable hands before Bush than we have been since his Administration made such radical and wholly inadvisable shifts in the balance of power among agencies charged with protecting American interests both here and abroad.

Unfortunately, nothing can be done for the time being. We have almost three years of neo-con nonsense still in front of us.

May the gods have mercy upon our sorry souls.

The Dark Wraith will continue apace with his plans for an underground bunker.

Sun Apr 09, 01:58:09 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, blackdog.

I hadn't commented to you because I was actually rummaging around to see if I could locate a copy of Viva Max at the library. Unfortunately, I couldn't, but I do recall enough about it to see your point in bringing it up with regard to border security.

It would be a strange thing, indeed, if the Mexicans made a cross-border incursion to retake part of Texas. It seems to me that it wouldn't do much good to call in the National Guard to quell such a disturbance, given that so much of the Guard is now otherwise disposed. And the very idea that we're going to beef up our border security with several tens of thousands of extra personnel is just plain laughable: where exactly are we going to get all those people?

Oh, I know.

The Dark Wraith must now post the quote of the day.

Sun Apr 09, 02:08:48 AM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good afternoon.

The following is the essence of a comment I posted several hours ago on the thread from her post "The Iran Plans, regarding Seymour Hersch's new article by that title in the New Yorker.

Below are the points of note I made on the comment thread at Shakespeare's Sister:

◊ In a manner similar to the disinformation being conveyed by Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress in the years and months preceding the U.S. attack upon Iraq in 2003, several Iranian dissident groups—one of some note based in Paris—are attempting to shape policy-makers' judgments with respect to Iran. Although the Iranian dissident groups are entirely ineffective in or inattentive to propaganda disseminated to the public at large, they have been surprisingly effective in moving both refined and raw information products into the stream of data for the intelligence communities of Europe and the United States. To see some of the public propaganda products (and to see how poorly developed this public aspect is), go to the Foundation for Democracy in Iran. A more well-developed campaign against Iran can be found in the documents of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Paris, a group that legitimately highlights the shocking, systematic monstrosity that is the Iranian theocracy, but which also might be the source of phony nuclear production facilities blueprints that were passed through a Russian asset, who then moved them (knowing they were doctored) into the hands of European operatives, who used them to increase their own threat assessment regarding Iran.

◊ Is Iran a nuclear threat? It doesn't matter at this point.

◊ Will nuclear weapons be used on Iran? Probably not. Although Congress resisted requests to fund robust, earth-penetrating nuclear devices, the test in June of a conventional ground penetrating weapon, Divine Strake, will give the Western coalition some assurance that Iran's below-ground nuclear facilities will be compromised sufficiently to effectively end its nuclear program, regardless of whether or not it was a weapons program.

◊ Is a war with Iran inevitable? Certainly not. Between now and October, the neo-conservatives in the Bush Administration and their sympathizers in Europe could all suddenly have a unified change of heart and become peace-loving, mellow, vegetarian Buddhists.

That, obviously, is a real possibility.

The Dark Wraith keeps a straight face as he lays out the scenarios.

Sun Apr 09, 01:33:41 PM EDT  
 PoliShifter blogged...

Hi Dark Wraith,

unfortunately I have to disagree slightly.

I think we will attack Iran and I do think Bush will use Nukes. He will justify the use of nukes on the guise of "saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of US soldiers" as he tries to compare himself to Truman.

I think the nuke bunker buster stories making the circuit are just a dry run to see how the public will react. If here is no major outcry, then they will move toward the use of "small, tactical" nuclear devices.

Which is why I asked today, Will you let King Bush Nuke Iran?

Sun Apr 09, 05:14:05 PM EDT  
 blackdog blogged...

To the FLS and the Dark One, my regards this afternoon.

The most interesting point about "Viva Maz" was that all of the Texans thought the invaders from Mexico were communist mad-dog Chinese.

Was it a hillariously funny flick? Hell yes. To get through the security thrown around the Alamo you had to use passwords like "Richard Widmark" or "John Wayne". Anyone from the old film "The Alamo" which I was fortunate enough to see in it's first release in a theater way back when in Texarkana, TX with my cousin Kieth.

Being that I was raised in Arkieville, I couldn't understand the hooping and hollerin' from all those Texicans at the time.

But to place me in the proper place, someone play the Razorback fight song. I'm as stupid and dim as anyone else. I do so love my East Arkieville, I sure hope the Ivory Billed turns up. That would crown everything I believe in.

Oxbows and prairie, meandering rivers and lots of native birds. Bugs too. Used to have the best butterfly collection around, way back when. Built crystal radios using real quartz then too. Amplitude Modulation.

The times, they have really changed. And I haven't been keeping up.

Sun Apr 09, 05:19:52 PM EDT  
 PeterofLoneTree blogged...

"Did you see the footage of our Venezuelan Ambassador being chased down by kids on motor-bikes and egged? It could just as easily have been bullets. No one helped him. Not the Venezuelan police – and certainly not the usual Marine guards. Why? Bush didn’t supply him with any. An Ambassador - and he was left on his own without any visible protection." -- Fat Lady Sings

My own personal theory on this incident is that certain parties might have been hoping for a more serious outcome, thereby enabling the U.S. to declare war on Venezuela. Was our Ambassador "set up"? And if so, by whom?

Sun Apr 09, 05:27:40 PM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...


I found the peak oil theory to be notably absent from your analysis of the run up to Iraq and now potentially Iran. Is controlling untapped oil resources a major factor in the motivations of the Neocons in your opinion? If you deem this to be a significant driver how can we expect China to react to a strike against Iran?

Sun Apr 09, 07:06:11 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Anonymous.

I am certainly glad you brought up China in this looming situation; but first allow me to address peak oil.

I have discussed that issue on previous occasions, but soon I must deal with it head on in a full post. Speaking in summary and in no small part from the perspective of a former oil and gas entrepreneur, as well as a financial economist with a background in science and mathematics, we are around peak right now. The claims that we have certainly passed it are premature, in my judgment, but more importantly the peak is dimensionally dependent upon oil prices: as the prices of petroleum products move aggressively upward over the coming few years, two things will happen: far more oil exploration and extraction will come to bear, particularly in places like coastal Cuba and Asia, and oil consumption in the Western Hemisphere will finally begin to react somewhat more to the high prices. In other words, the fall-off from the peak of production will be shallower, and the year over year escalation in demand will be slightly lower than projections now indicate. One very grim part of this I've noted before is that, as nations become energy starved, environmental concerns, especially with respect to habitat preservation, will go out the window: lands set aside will have no chance of remaining undisturbed in the wild rush to pull hydrocarbons out of the ground.

If there's any good news in this, it's that the rising prices will also make alternative technologies finally become viable as alternatives in use. Of even greater benefit is the high prices of hydrocarbons will make research on and development of alternative energy production mechanisms very attractive. Some of my consulting work was with companies that had alternative energy production technologies, but the costs of R&D to get the products ready for market were just prohibitive (as were some of the regulations with which we dealt); but what were show-stopper costs for us in the mid-1990s will seem pretty darned attractive when oil is floating around $120 per barrel.

Now, about China and its reaction to Iran. As I've noted here at The Dark Wraith Forums previously, China is making all kinds of efforts to be friendly with Iran. One of my greatest criticisms of the Bush Administration is that its foreign policy is so dominated by a bullying militaristic approach to diplomacy that we have ended up being out-maneuvered all over the planet by China (as well as by the Europeans and even to a small extent by the Russians acting on their own).

China has all kinds of commercial deals already signed or in the works with Iran, and much of this is to the end of securing for China a continuing source of oil for the burgeoning Chinese industrial economy. I discuss at some length the long-term geo-political consequences of this issue in my series, "The 21st Century."

Here's what I think about China's reaction to a possible attack by the United States on Iran, and I shall gladly accept round criticism for this judgment, so all readers should feel free to tell me that I'm off my rocker. But first, hear me out.

When all is said and done, our armed forces are awfully good at war. Put into bad situations, the U.S. military performs badly not because of its own weakness, stupidity, or incompetence, but rather because the leadership puts it into situations where "winning" is so ill-defined that nothing could be accomplished that would meet the criteria to qualify as victory. (As an example of this, what exactly constitutes, in the minds of the neo-cons, "victory" in Iraq? Think about that carefully: what does our armed forces have to do to have history call this one as a "win" for our soldiers?)

Okay, given that our military can do a job pretty well under the right circumstances, let's assume the right circumstances could exist for an attack upon Iran aimed only at degrading its nuclear research and development infastructure. If that's what we want to do, then our attack will specifically not destroy Iran's oil extraction and transport facilities in any way, shape, or form. We might have to do some short-term damage to their infrastructure, especially around ports, since the Iranians will have missiles like Silkworms peppering those facilities, and those missiles will be a threat to maritime traffic, especially on the hairpin at the Strait of Hormuz.

But other than for bombing runs necessitated by such tactical interests as protecting traffic traveling the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman from missiles and the laying of underwater mines, there is no reason to believe that we're going to materially degrade the oil production capabilities of Iran. (This does not mean that the price of oil will not go through the ceiling; it will, but that will be the result of the normal reaction of oil traders going bananas as if the world is coming to an end.)

So what does this mean? Iran will still be a huge oil producing nation; it will have just had a prized research and development effort spanning maybe more than 15 years wrecked, and its huge redneck population that supports President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be raging in the streets screaming "Death to America! Death to the Great Satan!" And the Iranian religious leadership—some of whose clergy in the higher ranks none too thrilled about this whole confrontational gambit Ahmadinejad has been playing—will have to shut its collective, critical pie hole and let the bloody situation play itself out to the radicals' favor.

So what does that mean about China? Oh, that's simple: China will have no problem whatsoever with Bush blowing Iran back to Hell.

Don't you see? It's perfect for Beijing: China can publicly scream bloody murder about what an outrage the attack is, Iran sees its only powerful ally in the world as China, Iran still has all of its oil production facilities, and it will need ungodly amounts of money to rebuild from the consequences of having been bombed so massively that its economy starts to reel backwards again after finally in the past few years beginning a decent growth trend.

Guess who's going to be the beneficiary of Iran's oil if we attack?

If you guessed China, you guessed right.

If we continue our current course of letting China play all over the world without any effective counter-diplomacy, China wins in the long run. If we attack Iran, China wins in the short-run, too.

So China will be making all kinds of rumblings discouraging us from bombing Iran; and at the same time, China will be sitting back, quietly whispering, "Do it."

That's how the Dark Wraith assesses the matter.

Sun Apr 09, 10:22:53 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, Peter of Lone Tree.

You are correct: that incident in Venezuela was an instigated affair, and it was done at the behest of some really stupid people in the United States intelligence community. I swear, the cabal trying to start something with Venezuela is about as clownish as the CIA cats years ago who tried to assassinate Fidel Castro with the exploding cigar. (Now, that, Peter, would be an ugly way to go, even if the cigar were a delicious Havana.)

Last year, in the continuing efforts of American spooks to look like the biggest doofuses on Earth, they tried a bizarre stunt with pumpkins (pumpkins! for God's sake) placed all over the sidewalks and streets of Caracas. The pumpkins had anti-Chavez, pro-overthrow sayings on them. The whole incident did nothing but weird people out down there and convince just about everybody that those opposed to Chavez were a few scoops of burger short of a taco.

This is getting a little ridiculous, but I'll tell you one thing: my early assessments that Hugo Chavez was something of an oaf have changed considerably. Having seen the way he deftly handles the continuing annoyance of the American troublemakers—managing to keep his own ranks from giving the United States any meaningful pretext for an attack—I am genuinely impressed. Although he comes off with really stock rhetoric that I see from lesser post-revolutionary waddlers, he's actually one darned smart cat.

Now, you won't ever see me waving a Viva Hugo banner or anything like that, but anyone who can give the neo-cons fits like he can gets me to do what I always do when I like someone's methods: Chavez makes me grin.

The Dark Wraith misses the old days when one's sympathies were easier to define.

Sun Apr 09, 11:52:20 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Good evening, BlackDog.

I suppose I should mention my occasional visits to Arkansas in years gone by. I did a considerable amount of freelance consulting in Texas, and I occasionally had a stopover at the Little Rock airport. In those days, it was more like a big version of a small-town airport, but I liked it because it had such a simple layout, so I would go to no end of effort to head through there instead of through the Dallas-Ft. Worth unfathomable canyon of an airport. After a few stops in Little Rock, I started driving to Texas and making a point of going through Arkansas because it reminded me so much of where I had grown up as a young child: the feel of rural and small-town America was so prevalent, and I liked that because I had to spend so much of my life otherwise in the big cities of the U.S. and other countries.

On one trip, I bought a cookbook: Arkansas Family Cooks, by Wilma Knoll. I still have that book, and I love it dearly. The recipes are simple: simple ingredients, simple instructions, great results. (Mrs. Knoll, by the way, donated all proceeds from sales of that cookbook to a scholarship fund for the College of Pharmacy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.)

Here's one of my old favorites from the book:

Nite Before Breakfast Casserole

4 slices white bread (cubed)
1 lb. sausage (brown, drain, crumble)
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. dry mustard
8-10 oz. Cheddar cheese

Grease or Pam a 10 in. to 14 in. baking dish. Place bread cubes on bottom. Cover bread with crumbled sausage. Beat eggs with milk and dry mustard. Pour over bread and sausage. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Bake in 350 degree oven 45 minutes before breakfast. Serves 4 to 6.

Now, that, BlackDog, is good cooking.

The Dark Wraith has just made himself hungry.

Mon Apr 10, 12:22:45 AM EDT  
 Anonymous blogged...

That's how the Dark Wraith assesses the matter.

oddjob concurs. The Chinese have played high stakes poker longer than virtually any other nation on the planet. While they had their decades of madness under Mao, that ended 20 years ago. To my way of thinking what we see now from them far more resembles what they have historically been.

There's a reason the nations surrounding it both grudging regard China with great respect and simultaneously hate its guts.

And it's no accident that the Chinese word for China means "the center of the world". They are very worthy opponents in the chess game that is international politics.

- oddjob

Mon Apr 10, 11:08:01 AM EDT  
 My Pet Goat blogged...

Good evening Mr. Wraith,

I would imagine that abandonment of the dollar might temper some of the apparent enthusiasm regarding immigration "rights". Speaking of which, are we going to be reading your dissertation on the economic impacts of some of the proposed immigration reforms any time soon?

As a side note, I'm personally aghast that you've mislead your newer readers on the true nature of your Nite Before Breakfast Casserole recipe. Some of us know darn well that your use of sausage is simply some sort of diversionary cover for your love of Spam.

Mon Apr 10, 10:39:48 PM EDT  
 Dark Wraith blogged...

Funny you should mention that, Mr. Goat.

Spam is what I sometimes actually use in the recipe. I wanted to reproduce the recipe exactly as it was in the book, but I suppose I should have parenthetically noted the highly prized alternate meat (by-)product possibility.

That, of course, would have been for the more refined culinary experts among readers, of course.

The Dark Wraith doesn't want to get in over his head with haute cuisine.

Mon Apr 10, 11:43:52 PM EDT  

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