war, what is it good for? laughing all the way…

Only in the US is there rich humour in War – on defenseless countries.

Have you heard the joke about the missing what’s its name? Comic relief for those exceptionalists who visit death and destruction on ‘enemies of civilisation’. This classic joke remains ever fresh, as posted by FAIR as the peerless George W. had them rolling in the aisles with his timeless ‘those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere’. And the event at which the comedian had them ‘rolling in the aisles’? The Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner, as reported by FAIR:

“Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere,” Bush cracked while showing slides of administration officials searching the White House. The routine elicited laughter from the audience of politicians and media figures.

Of course, to see it is to ‘believe’ it with its consequences:

A minor detail: Over one million Iraqis were slaughtered, millions injured and maimed, millions displaced and homeless – figures had to be independently estimated as the extent of the slaughter and destruction had to be hidden. Infrastructure (water, sewage and electricity systems) deliberately targeted and completely destroyed very early in the joke. A mere 4,801 US and its allies dead. For the generously underestimated cost of US$1.4 trillion – Stiglitz and Bilmes have estimated the actual costs will be upwards of US$6 trillion. Shock and Awe for TV and its ever fascinated US viewers. In the US, Iraq’s fate is a joke for most of its politicians and media personalities. Read the rest of this entry »

i have a dream – and its unintended consequences…

To keep Dr King’s Dream alive, on 14 January 2011 Peter Hart of FAIR posted an article from Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon of the same blog. Dated 4 January 1995, the title of their article is, ‘The Martin Luther King You Don’t See on TV’ that highlights the cynical glossing over of Dr King’s philosophy by the US corporate media…

On Wednesday, 28 August 2013, the predictable sanctimoniousness of the preening pretenders should be sufficient to ensure the farce is one to be missed.

Of the principal aims of Martin Luther King’s march on Washington, DC in 1963 two were, to achieve social justice and to achieve meaningful jobs, employment, for all qualified, willing and able to work. Were he here today he would see a dearth of opportunities amid crass materialism. Not only that, he would also see a dearth of the intended beneficiaries and a surfeit of the wrong beneficiaries, beneficiaries who would fit perfectly the apt description Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, both deceased, had for such folk.

We look to Dr King’s Sermon at RiversideChurch in New York City on 4 April 1967 for lessons after those 50 years of his march, when much of mainstream media are busy re-creating the history of their subtle involvement in racism in denouncing Dr King at the time.

One observation Dr King made then was,

“…As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action. But, they asked, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government….”

Dr King also reflected on ‘noblesse oblige’, the additional responsibilities from being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace,

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the “brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ…”

[Bold added for emphasis.]

His statement juxtaposes nicely with this observation from Tom Englehardt in his Praying at the Chapel of St Drone,

You get a sense of this from the language of the piece itself.  (“A parallel, more cloistered selection process at the C.I.A. focuses largely on Pakistan…”)  The president is presented as a particularly moral man, who devotes himself to the “just war” writings of religious figures like Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, and takes every death as his own moral burden.  His leading counterterrorism advisor Brennan, a man who, while still in the CIA, was knee-deep in torture controversy, is presented, quite literally, as a priest of death, not once but twice in the piece.


Of course, thought about another way, that “terror Tuesday” scene might not be from a monastery or a church synod, but from a Mafia council directly out of a Mario Puzo novel, with the president as the Godfather, designating “hits” in a rough-and-tumble world.

[Bold added for emphasis.]

Englehardt is writing of another winner of the Nobel Prize, an awardee who never had a track record in anything before being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

In the profitable game of war (and now the fabricated and very lucrative terror industry), Dr King observed,

“…We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for our troops must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create a hell for the poor…’

[Bold added, as indicated, for emphasis.]

Nothing changes but the name of l’ennemi du jour, as the title holder for ‘greatest purveyor of violence in the world today’ has remained unchanged.

And if we look at some of the reality Dr King’s Dream has realized: Gen Colin Powell and his test tube and his evidence of WMD and rewards; Dr Condoleeza Rice and her evidence of WMD and policy of torture and rewards; Dr Susan Rice and her Viagra of Libya and genocide in Rwanda and rewards; revolving door, Attorney-General Holder of bankers too big to jail, Covington & Burling representing Chiquita, of pardoning Marc Rich and rewards; and, then, President Barack Obama. Republican or Democrat, only difference is in spelling. And they are all clean and articulate, and lack the ‘dialect’, fitting neatly the observations of Messrs Biden and Reid regarding one. In contrast, there is Congressman John Lewis.

The Dream has an even longer way to go to realisation, as corporate control of society and the economy has become even tighter.

…it defies any code of morality…

As if it wasn’t hard enough to remember the names and how to pronounce them, then came the challenge to match the names with the countries, and remember which of these countries must be denounced for misbehaving in his backyard by failing to grovel. Now this, the Secretary of State has to deal with another secular Arab country called Syria (not in Latin America) and whether it should be destroyed and its leader deposed like Iraq and Libya for those lucrative business and military contracts.

Is this all Snowdenian timing – the release of information that discredits the utterance of the official just as the lie, presented as fact, is about to register with the public, and adds the evidence to show that the liar is not only aware of, but also complicit in, the lie being propagated. Or is it just comic timing of circus clowns?

The US Secretary of State expresses his outrage:

“…It defies any code of morality. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons, is a moral obscenity. By any standards, it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable…”

And given his outrage, if he is speaking of what follows, we allow a small sample of analysts to examine the evidence. From firedoglake (FDL), CIA Files Show America Helped Saddam Hussein As He Gassed Iran. An excerpt from FDL

To be clear, the United States government not only knew that Saddam was using chemical weapons they were helping him effectively use them by providing actionable intelligence to him. Perhaps this underwrote some of the confidence by the Bush Administration – packed to the gills with former Reagan officials –  that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction going into the 2003 invasion.

From Common Dreams comes, US Complicity in ‘Some of the Most Gruesome Chemical Weapons Attacks’ Revealed

As the U.S. and its allies weigh the possibility of military intervention in Syria over the use of chemical weapons, new reporting by Foreign Policy reveals details of how the U.S. helped Iraq launch multiple chemical weapons attacks during the Iran-Iraq war.


Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

The magazine reports that formerly unnoticed documents in the National Archives in addition to information obtained in interviews with former intelligence officials “are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.”

And from the journal that accessed the official sources to expose what has been an open secret for years. Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

Of course, in the case of Syria there is no such evidence implicating the government on this occasion, just as there was none on the last – though the impression remains that its opponents may have been culpable. The jaded do surmise wearily that these febrile fabrications arise whenever any favoured faction that is wreaking the intended destruction fails to make the expected gains.

So, then, the evidence is there. What action will be taken? And what lesson is there from Martin Luther King, whom the pretenders will be quoting on Wednesday, 28 August 2013, and with whom they will seek to associate themselves? We already know what the corporate media will say. And the question for extra points: which secular Arab or Moslem country has not been attacked, damaged, or destroyed by the US and its Western allies in the last ten years? The value of those Arab and Moslem lives, well…

any end to the summers plague?…

This will come only with the banishment into oblivion of the third still highly visible member of Time magazine’s ‘The Committee to Save the World‘. It was not long before the world would find out which ‘world’ these people did save with taxpayers’ money and which world paid the penalty. Yet, there is One who openly campaigns for him to be the Governor of the Central Bank (Federal Reserve) of the United States, a decision with even greater worldwide implications.

How does the rational world, the world of ‘untainted’, highly respected experts and analysts see this? Let us count the ways, and with necessarily selected excerpts, suggestive of the richness of the full articles.

No need to mention the name Brooksley Born. We can overlook The Warning, the Frontline documentary of 2009, a line in which would provide the title for the book by Simon Johnson and James Kwak. [Of course, the documentary still makes for timely viewing in the very barren desert of cable ‘news’ and ‘talking heads’.]

We can start off with one circumspect observation from Krugman:

Cardiff Garcia mocks the WH position as being that they want a pushover who would be fun to have a beer with during a crisis — and there’s enough truth there to make it sting.

All in all, this whole episode is not making anyone think better of Obama’s judgment.

Dean Baker does some refereeing as an alert Bette Middler does battle with Neil Irwin of Bezos’ WaPo;

Things are getting hot and heavy as the battle for Fed succession moves into the second half. Earlier this week, the Washington Post’s Fed reporter, Neil Irwin, decided to go head to head with Bette Midler over some unflattering tweets about Larry Summers and his prospects for becoming Fed chair. As a public service, Beat the Press is refereeing the exchange.

Ms Midler led off with the tweet:

“HUH. The architect of bank deregulation, which turned straitlaced banks into casinos and bankers into pimps, may be next Head Fed: Summers.”

Baker would subsequently examine brazen attempts at historical revisionism on The Candidate. Read the rest of this entry »

a curmugeon’s journey through economath…

For the many of us who have long left chalk or magic markers in the class room, and who still have vague memories of AER and its dense math some good news. And yes, from RGD Allen to Taro Yamane, as Edith Piaf would sing, ‘Je regrette rien’.

Here are a few posts, a rich smorgasbord, on the use of mathematics in economics that should provide some enjoyment and incentive for some maths calisthenics. And as we see from the quality of writing, and literary and intellectual reach, of the writers we appreciate the importance of communicating with clarity and concision, and, at times, doing so with dollops of irreverence – the likes of Month Python and The Princess Bride have enlivened many an otherwise rigorous post.

Just one post from Noah Smith on the usefulness of mathematics, or, rather, his disenchantment with much of its use, in economics is all it took. That post, A few words about math, on Noahopinion, harmless sounding enough, was sufficient to get the ball rolling, prompting posts on other blogs.

Krugman would jump in with his, The Point of Economath And Bryan Caplan jumps in response to Krugman, Economath Fails the Cost-Benefit Test, which prompts Krugman to jump back in response to Caplan, More Economath

Now, macro. Suppose somebody says something like “Well, government borrowing drives up interest rates, and higher interest rates depress private investment, so increasing government spending in a slump is actually contractionary.” People who try to do economics without any kind of mathematical modeling do indeed say things like that — and it’s very hard to explain why it’s self-contradictory nonsense without a bit of math.


All that said, yes, there’s a lot of excessive and/or misused math in economics; plus the habit of thinking only in terms of what you can model creates blind spots. I gave a set of lectures about that. (Actually, the reason I read Haberler back when was because I wanted to see if there were “lost” insights in macro comparable to the ones that had been temporarily suppressed in geography and development. I couldn’t find any; pre-Keynesian macro was just a mess).

This post comes across as a fairly comprehensive, very informative post in Magic, Maths and Money, Oedipus and the difficult relationship between maths and economics Read the rest of this entry »

…farce? ¿o, meterse en honduras?…

The power of power to surpass its own hypocrisy. From a post at firedoglake.com

Compare and contrast… The post suggests that the police force of St. Lucia incurred the wrath of the US government, and will not benefit from the superb training the US provides the local police force; this, because of alleged egregious, extra-judicial behaviour of some members of the force.

Then, again, if we consider that US$1.0 billion or so of that approx US$1.3 billion in ‘aid’ (weapons, etc.) to Egypt flows annually to the military industrial folk – most in the US and the balance to the elites of the Egyptian military, then it makes sense? And that thing of having a regional enforcer of fearsome and facilitating reputation, slight difference from St Lucia…

Irony just keeps dripping, and becomes a torrential downpour. An article on FAIR examines a documentary with one segment on Guatemala and the other on Honduras. That documentary presented on This American Life was sufficient to win a prestigious journalism award. But like Caesar’s Ghost, egregious omissions would command the stage. The FAIR excerpt of an article from NACLA:

Given Reagan’s collaboration with and defense of Rios Montt, along with a Guatemalan judge’s finding of “sufficient evidence tying Rios Montt to the Las Dos Erres massacre” (Reuters5/21/12), one would expect an acclaimed public radio show to make this obvious connection in the course of an hour-long episode titled “What Happened at Dos Erres?” (This American Life,5/25/12).


Reached by phone, one of Glass’s in-studio interviewees—Kate Doyle of the National Security Archives—said she and Glass had had a wide-ranging discussion in which she highlighted the active U.S. role in Guatemala’s conflict. The show ultimately aired a greatly shortened segment with Doyle, which excluded that content.

[Montt would be convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in Guatemala on 10 May, 2013 with the verdict being overturned on 20 May, on questionable grounds.]

And on Honduras:

This American Life also excluded any reference to the fact that after appointing Sánchez, Honduras’s post-coup leader Lobo designated Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, accused of past ties to death squads (AP7/1/12), as the national chief of police. And, naturally, the show’s breathlessly favorable treatment of charter cities avoided the 2012 death-squad-style murder of human rights lawyer Antonio Trejo, Honduras’ most prominent charter-cities opponent (NACLA, 2/19/13.

And from elsewhere, The Guardian,  would come evidence to put the role of policy and its forceful implementation in context:

It was a role made for Steele. The veteran had made his name in El Salvador almost 20 years earlier as head of a US group of special forces advisers who were training and funding the Salvadoran military to fight the FNLM guerrilla insurgency. These government units developed a fearsome international reputation for their death squad activities. Steele’s own biography describes his work there as the “training of the best counterinsurgency force” in El Salvador.

[One accused merchant of death, Col Inocente (sic!) Orlando Montano, would be discovered working in the US as his extradition to Spain was sought. Instead, he may be charged in the US with immigration violations, less embarrassing to both parties.]

So then. Is it that the accused St. Lucian police officers were guilty of being insufficiently ‘fearsome’? After all, we now have as regional role model, Honduras

with today’s first sip of coffee…

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound…




…ars longa, vita brevis…