Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Code innahet


Just a note to all the faithful readers of News Links. Today I am not blogging because I have a terrible cold. I can hardly breathe, I feel like death warmed up. To top it off, it's the end of the month and I have to rise from my bed of pain to do invoices. Tomorrow I should be okay. Thanks for your patience. DS

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Saban Center weighs in on Iran

Haim Saban (right)

David Seaton's News Links
Since involving the United States in an open war with Iran is a primary objective of the Israeli Likud party and the Israel Lobby in the United States, this report from the Saban Center of the Brookings Institute should be read with extra care.

If the objective were really to stabilize Iraq than it seems obvious that the cooperation of Iran, would be essential. That, in fact was exactly the conclusion of the Baker/Hamilton report.

It is only fair to remember that Iran did not invade Iraq or seek to have Iraq invaded and if it is deriving any advantage from the situation, that is simply due to the criminal idiocy of American policies in the Middle East. DS

US must abandon Iraqi cities or face nightmare scenario- Independent
Abstract: The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.(...) The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region. It warns of radicalisation and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month. Everywhere looms the shadow of Iran. In a "war game" testing US options, the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution found that, as the descent into civil war gathered pace, confrontation between the US and Iran intensified, and Washington's leverage on Tehran diminished. Civil war in Iraq would turn Iran into "the unambiguous adversary" of the US. (emphasis mine. DS) READ IT ALL

Iran is a big ball of string

The US authorities will “take a look at” a controversial agreement signed over the weekend by Royal Dutch Shell that could ultimately lead to a multi-billion dollar investment in Iran, a US State Department official said.(...) US legislation permits President George W. Bush to take action against non-US companies investing in Iran’s energy sector. However, because of concerns over an extra-territorial trade dispute and the risk of further alienating allies, no foreign companies have been penalised to date under the Iran Libya Sanctions Act and the subsequent Iran Freedom Support Act.(...) The agreement does not put a figure on the value of the project. Shell and its partners are still working on cost estimates. But it was suggested in Iran at the weekend that it could be worth $10bn (£5bn). Shell and Repsol would each have 25 per cent of the project, with the National Iranian Oil Company holding 50 per cent. Iran holds the world’s second largest gas reserves, after Russia. Financial Times
David Seaton's News Links
Europe needs a lot of natural gas and does not want to depend exclusively on Russia and Algeria for it. After Russia, Iran has the world's largest supply of natural gas.

The United States, it's Middle East policy driven by its domestic politics, (read the "Lobby")is trying to strangle Iran. In the neocon, "Grand Strategery", Iraq was basically a stepping stone on the way to regime change in Iran... "real men go to Teheran".

Of course this has all gone terribly wrong. Iran is the winner of the war in Iraq. The United States has been seen to fail in Iraq, and as Tony Karon quoted from the Coen brother's "Miller's Crossing" in Haaretz, "'You run this town because people think you run it.' Ergo, when people realize that you don't, then you no longer do."

Europe is not willing to sacrifice strategic energy supplies to make life easier for a lame duck American president whose short hairs appear to be in the possession of the Israeli Likud.

Now the skinny is: does this gang of idiots actually have the chops to sanction European flagship, Royal Dutch Shell? DS

Europe Resists U.S. on Curbing Ties With Iran - New York Times
Abstract: European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.(...) “We are telling the Europeans that they need to go way beyond what they’ve done to maximize pressure on Iran,” said a senior administration official. “The European response on the economic side has been pretty weak.” The American demands and European responses were provided by 10 different officials, including both supporters and critics of the American approach. One irony of the latest pressure, European and American officials say, is that on their own, many European banks have begun to cut back their transactions with Iran, partly because of a Treasury Department ban on using dollars in deals involving two leading Iranian banks. American pressure on European governments, as opposed to banks, has been less successful, administration and European officials say. The main targets are Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain, all with extensive business dealings with Iran, particularly in energy.(...) The administration says that European governments provided $18 billion in government loan guarantees for Iran in 2005. The numbers have gone down in the last year, but not by much, American and European officials say. American officials say that European governments may have facilitated illicit business and that European governments must do more to stop such transactions. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has said the United States has shared with Europeans the names of at least 30 front companies involved in terrorism or weapons programs. “They’ve told us they don’t have the tools,” said a senior American official. “Our answer is: get them.” “We want to squeeze the Iranians,” said a European official. “But there are varying degrees of political will in Europe about turning the thumbscrews. It’s not straightforward for the European Union to do what the United States wants.” Another European official said: “We are going to be very cautious about what the Treasury Department wants us to do. We can see that banks are slowing their business with Iran. But because there are huge European business interests involved, we have to be very careful.”(...) Typically, American officials say, European companies that do business with Iran get loans from European banks and then get European government guarantees for the loans on the ground that such transactions are risky in nature. According to a document used in the discussions between Europe and the United States, which cites the International Union of Credit and Investment Insurers, the largest providers of such credits in Europe in 2005 were Italy, at $6.2 billion; Germany, at $5.4 billion; France, at $1.4 billion; and Spain and Austria, at $1 billion each. In addition to buying oil from Iran, European countries export machinery, industrial equipment and commodities, which they say have no military application. Europeans also say that courts have overturned past efforts to stop business dealings based on secret information. READ IT ALL

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hillary: she came too late, she stayed too long

This country is at a grave crossroads. It craves leadership.(...) Americans hunger for a presidency with some authenticity. Patently synthetic play-acting and carefully manicured sound bites like Mrs. Clinton’s look out of touch. Frank Rich NYT
David Seaton's News Links
Antonio Machado, one of Spain's greatest poets once wrote that "The sound of a clod of earth falling upon a coffin, is a sound of perfect seriousness." War, failure, death and defeat awaken people to reality, that is their virtue: they mature individuals and sometimes they do the same for countries. It's not just Hillary, Bill Clinton would also be too slick today. This is not the 90s, that was the "Belle Époque". It' a different, darker world... one "of perfect seriousness". The Clinton's are a happy memory, these are other times. DS
Frank Rich: Hillary Clinton’s Mission Unaccomplished
Abstract: This country is at a grave crossroads. It craves leadership. When Mr. Webb spoke on Tuesday, he stepped into that vacuum and, for a few minutes anyway, filled it. It’s not merely his military credentials as a Vietnam veteran and a former Navy secretary for Ronald Reagan that gave him authority, or the fact that his son, also a marine, is serving in Iraq. It was the simplicity and honesty of Mr. Webb’s message. Like Senator Obama, he was a talented professional writer before entering politics, so he could discard whatever risk-averse speech his party handed him and write his own. His exquisitely calibrated threat of Democratic pushback should Mr. Bush fail to change course on the war — “If he does not, we will be showing him the way” — continued to charge the air even as Mrs. Clinton made the post-speech rounds on the networks.(...) After six years of “Ask President Bush,” “Mission Accomplished” and stage sets plastered with “Plan for Victory,” Americans hunger for a presidency with some authenticity. Patently synthetic play-acting and carefully manicured sound bites like Mrs. Clinton’s look out of touch. (Mr. Obama’s bare-bones Webcast and Web site shrewdly play Google to Mrs. Clinton’s AOL.) Besides, the belief that an image can be tightly controlled in the viral media era is pure fantasy. Just ask the former Virginia senator, Mr. Allen, whose past prowess as a disciplined, image-conscious politician proved worthless once the Webb campaign posted on YouTube a grainy but authentic video capturing him in an embarrassing off-script public moment.

The image that Mrs. Clinton wants to sell is summed up by her frequent invocation of the word middle, as in “I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America.” She’s not left or right, you see, but exactly in the center where everyone feels safe. But as the fierce war critic Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, argues in a must-read interview at, the war is “starting to redefine the political landscape” and scramble the old party labels. Like Mrs. Clinton, the middle-American Mr. Hagel voted to authorize the Iraq war, but that has not impeded his leadership in questioning it ever since.

The issue raised by the tragedy of Iraq is not who’s on the left or the right, but who is in front and who is behind. Mrs. Clinton has always been a follower of public opinion on the war, not a leader. Now events are outrunning her. Support for the war both in the polls and among Republicans in Congress is plummeting faster than she can recalibrate her rhetoric; unreliable Iraqi troops are already proving no-shows in the new Iraqi-American “joint patrols” of Baghdad; the Congressional showdown over fresh appropriations for Iraq is just weeks away.

This, in other words, is a moment of crisis in our history and there will be no do-overs. Should Mrs. Clinton actually seek unfiltered exposure to voters, she will learn that they are anxiously waiting to see just who in Washington is brave enough to act. READ IT ALL

Losing it

"You run this town because people think you run it."
Miller's Crossing - quoted by Tony Karon in Haaretz

David Seaton's News Links

When we talk about the war in in Iraq being a disaster, we are talking about a lot more than the terrible suffering of the human beings directly involved, we are talking about the crumbling of a system in which we are all stakeholders. Make no mistake: this massive loss of international influence will directly affect the average American's wallet. He or she is going to be sore as hell. DS

Zakaria: Preview of a Post-U.S. World - Newsweek
Abstract: Two things were missing from this year's world Economic Forum at Davos: snow (which arrived eventually) and America-bashing (which did not). There were, of course, lots of American businessmen, activists and intellectuals filling the panels and halls of the conference. There were even a few senior American officials—though no star speaker. But, for the first time in my memory, America was somewhat peripheral. There were few demands, pleas, complaints or tantrums directed at the United States. In this small but significant global cocoon, people—for the moment at least—seemed to be moving beyond America. "There has always been a talk by a senior American official as one of the centerpieces of the Forum," said a European who has advised the Forum for many years—and who asked to remain anonymous because of his relations with U.S. officials. "And in the past, people eagerly anticipated who that would be—Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice. This year, almost no one inquired. We expected disappointment. But there was none. No one even noticed."(...) The ball for every problem is in everybody's court, which means that it is in nobody's court. The problem is that this free ride probably can't last forever. The global system—economic, political, social—is not self-managing. Global economic growth has been a fantastic boon, but it produces stresses and strains that have to be handled. Without some coordination, or first mover—or, dare one say it, leader—such management is more difficult. The world today bears some resemblance to the 1920s, when a newly globalized economy was booming, and science and technological change were utterly transforming life. (Think of the high-tech of the time—electricity, radio, movies and cars, among other recent inventions.) But with Britain declining and America isolationist, that was truly a world without political direction. Eventually protectionism, nationalism, xenophobia and war engulfed it. In a provocative essay in Foreign Policy three years ago, the British historian Niall Ferguson speculated that the end of American hegemony might not fuel an orderly shift to a multipolar system but a descent into a world of highly fragmented powers, with no one exercising any global leadership. He called this "apolarity." "Apolarity could turn out to mean an anarchic new Dark Age," Ferguson wrote, "an era of waning empires and religious fanaticism, of economic plunder and pillage in the world's forgotten regions, of economic stagnation, and civilization's retreat into a few fortified enclaves." That might be a little farfetched. But for those who have been fondly waiting for the waning of American dominance—be careful what you wish for. READ IT ALL

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The mother of all blowbacks... so who needs enemies?

Legionella-Mold-Bacteria-Asbestos Hexavalent Chromium

David Seaton's News Links
It is vitally important for those in America and around the world who are horrified by the direction that Bush and all who sail in him are taking to realize that a great many Israelis are even more horrified than they are. After all when the United States fails in the Middle East, when America's policies crash and burn, the Israelis will be the ones left holding the bag.

Most important when speaking about the complex relationship between certain elements in the Zionist establishment and certain elements in the American establishment is to never, ever use the definitive article "the" when speaking of Jewish people, as in "the Jews". "The" in this context is really antisemitic and yes, despite all smearing of Alan Dershowitz and Abe Foxman, antisemitism does exist and it is a terrible thing that can destroy a society.

It would be catastrophic if the blame for all the approaching disasters is laid at the feet of "the" Jewish people and not just at the very specific feet of "some" very specific Jewish people, who with a huge pack of very influential and specific gentiles like Cheney or Murdoch, have brewed this hellish slop.The people in the American Jewish community who are pushing for war are a minority, just as their gentile co-conspirators are. A lot of them, like their gentile counterparts such as Bush and Cheney, are simply "chicken hawks", acting out their damp fantasies of masculinity on borrowed gonads. Others, Americans, Arabs and Israelis, get killed and mutilated, they merely "reset" their strategies.

As a result of Bush's fine adventure in the Middle East, America's power and influence have deteriorated and will deteriorate much more. This will have a direct effect on America's prosperity and ordinary people's pocketbooks and people will be looking around for a scapegoat... after all "accountability" is an American fetish. Historically in similar situations, the blame has often been laid on "the" Jews.

I live in Spain, my wife is German... Jewish people once lived happily in Spain and Germany and made enormous contributions to the cultures, wealth and prestige of both nations. It is no exaggeration to say that antisemitism subsequently tore both countries apart and left them permanently impoverished and tainted. The only other place where Jewish people have ever lived as safely, happily and productively as Spain and Germany is the United States of America and as the Spanish saying goes, "when you see your neighbors beard on fire, put yours to soak."

It is precisely the Dershowitzes and the Foxmans that are creating the sinister climate that could lead to some terrible ground swell of popular revulsion, that could forever poison the relations between Jew and gentile in America. And what would America be without all the wonderful things its Jewish people are and do?

Antisemitism of the traditional European variety in America would truly be the "mother of all blowbacks": the blowback to end all blowbacks. The ultimate "unintended consequence" from the war in Iraq and the probable war with Iran to come. Wars where, ironically, the Israelis may finally suffer much more than Americans, Jew or gentile, have or will.
"Friends of Israel"... with friends like these who needs enemies?

Many native born Israelis are horrified by the mess Bush is making of their neighborhood. Far from having a sinister agenda, they are caught in a trap. Israel is where they were born and the only place they know, their mother tongue is Hebrew and like most people in the world they have a "place" and no other place to go. Bush is setting their neighborhood on fire. This fine article from Haaretz, by Tony Karon below, will give you a valuable insight into their predicament.

It is of vital importance, then, that the innocent not be tarred with the same brush as the guilty and that the majority of Jewish people, in the USA and in Israel, who are genuinely horrified by the direction that events are taking, be given every kind of sympathy, understanding and support. For it is they and only they who will have to finally "bell the cat" and "slay the dragon". Only shoulder to shoulder with them will we able to stop this tragedy unfolding. DS

Tony Karon: Should Israel be in Bush's back seat? - Haaretz
When Ehud Olmert tells the world that President Bush's invasion of Iraq has made the Middle East safer, at least he can fall back on the excuse that sarcasm is a mainstay of Israeli discourse. But when Olmert says Israel won't talk to Syria as long as President Bush won't, Israelis ought to be worried. More worried, still, when Condi Rice comes hawking fantasies about Israel concluding peace with the Palestinians while Hamas is swept away by Mahmoud Abbas (or is it Mohammed Dahlan?) playing a Palestinian Pinochet, while the likes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt somehow contrive to reverse the train wreck of Iraq and scare Iran back into its shell.

Olmert appears to be outsourcing Israel's strategic decision-making to a White House that has repeatedly demonstrated a catastrophic failure to grasp the realities of the region. Betting Israel's security on the ability of the Bush crowd to transform the strategic landscape in the Middle East is rather like leaving a party in the backseat of an SUV whose driver is cradling a bottle of tequila and slurring his words as he rebuffs offers by more sober friends to take the wheel.

Warning signs have been there for months: When Olmert stumbled into Lebanon last summer, he may have been expecting Washington to play the role of the big brother who would drag him, still swinging, off Hassan Nasrallah, having demonstrated his "deterrent" power without getting himself into too much trouble. Instead, he found Washington impatiently egging him on, demanding that he destroy Nasrallah to prove a point to the Shiite leader's own big brother, and holding back anyone else who tried to break up the fight. As neocon cheerleaders like Charles Krauthammer made plain, the administration was disappointed at Olmert's wimpish performance.

Clearly, the game changed when the United States blundered into Iraq, believing it could transform the region through the application of its overwhelming military force. Sober minds in Washington have concluded that Iraq is lost, but Bush is having none of it - as he made clear last week, he intends not only to up the level of force, but also to begin directing it at Syria and Iran. Those in Israel tempted to welcome this development may be suffering from the same geopolitical psychosis as President Bush: the belief that military force translates automatically into power. If anything, 2006 highlighted the fact that America's overwhelming military advantages have failed to tip the region's political balance in its favor; on the contrary, resorting to military force over the past four years has actually been accompanied by a precipitous decline in America's ability to influence events in the region and beyond, much less impose its will.

As a character in the great gangster movie Miller's Crossing put it, "You run this town because people think you run it." Ergo, when people realize that you don't, then you no longer do.

The failure to impose Pax Americana on Iraq or even Afghanistan has therefore had profound consequences throughout the region. The Iraq Study Group recognized that the United States is simply in no position to dictate terms to its rivals and enemies in the region, and instead advocated pursuing a new stability based on recognition of the real balance of power, rather than the fantasy one concocted by the White House. But Bush remains in denial, pressing ahead with short-sighted, aggressive strategies that will only compound and accelerate the demise of U.S. influence in the region.

Washington's rejection of any talks between Israel and Syria has nothing to do with Israel's security; it is based on U.S. power plays in relation to Iraq and Lebanon, games the United States looks unlikely to win.

And Israelis know that the result of toppling Bashar Assad would be to extend Iraq's "Jihadistan" province of Anbar all the way to Israel's northern border. On the Palestinian front, Israel's security establishment knows that the fundamental flaw in the U.S. effort to topple the Hamas government is that such efforts will actually strengthen Hamas politically and further weaken an already decrepit Fatah. Washington has looked on skeptically at Abbas' efforts to form a government of national unity, and it has prepared for what it appears to assume is the eventuality that these will fail and he'll get on with the business of destroying the Islamists - which is what the Bush administration prefers.

Rice's attempts at social engineering in the Palestinian Authority are giddily detached from reality, and when they fail - as the United States has failed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon - it is Palestinians and Israelis who will pay the price. Moreover, throughout the region it has become clear that even U.S. clients such as Saudi Arabia simply ignore the American line when it doesn't make sense - for example, in engaging with Hamas. Even the Iraqi government has made clear that it has no interest in backing U.S. efforts to confront what Washington calls Iranian "meddling" in Iraq.

So, the idea that the Bush administration is implementing a policy capable of turning the regional dynamic against Iran is equally deluded: No matter how much tacit support they garner from Cairo, Amman and Riyadh for an air strike to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, where would the success of such a strike get Israel or the United States? The lesson of Iraq is that wars of choice based on the suspicion of an opponent's motives and capabilities can produce catastrophic unintended consequences - consequences that will likely be felt more painfully in Israel than in the United States. Military solutions to the region's problems have, quite simply, exhausted themselves. Yet, the Bush administration has resisted recognizing that reality, preferring strategies whose implementation only serves to accelerate the demise of Washington's influence in the region. The irony is that Israel's security establishment is well aware of the folly of many of these U.S. policies. But still, they stay in the back seat.

Even if Washington is unwilling to engage with the realities of the region, Israel has plenty of incentive to independently and directly engage the powers that be in Damascus, Beirut, Tehran, Gaza and Ramallah, along the lines revealed by Haaretz last week in relation to Syria. The reason is simple: It's a safe bet that Assad, Nasrallah, Ali Khamenei and Hamas will be there long after Bush, Rice and their fantasy are wheeled off the stage.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Blind man with a pistol: USA in the Middle East:

"Whether four Islamic absolute monarchies and Israel represent the democratic future in the Middle East seems to me doubtful, but never mind." - William Pfaff
David Seaton's News Links
"Blind Man with a Pistol" was the title of a wonderful Chester Himes, Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones detective novel set in Harlem, however it describes perfectly America's present policies in the Middle East.

Here is the skinny from the excerpted article below,
"Rice's comments were an unusually detailed public explanation of the new American effort to create a de facto alliance between Israel and moderate Arab states against Iranian extremism."
This, in my opinion, is perfectly insane. Israel is pure poison in the entire Islamic world. Israel is probably the one single, greatest, cause of Islamic extremism in the world and the one that attracts the most general sympathy in the "Arab street" for extremist positions.

You may remember that one of the principal achievements of Bush/Baker in the first Gulf War was to maintain Israel on the sidelines during that conflict. If Israel had counter-attacked Iraq at that time, the entire complex web alliances that James Baker managed to weave to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait would have fallen apart instantly.

The infinitely corrupt, "moderate rulers" of "moderate" Arab countries are held in enough contempt by their populations: their positions (vital to US interests) are shaky enough as it is; all they need is to be seen collaborating with the "Zionist entity and the Crusaders" against other Muslims to expose them to all the internal forces that eliminated Anwar el Sadat. These are forces that are infinitely more powerful now than they were in Sadat's day.

As non-Muslims, the United States taking part in what is essentially a family quarrel between Sunnis and Shiites is stupid enough, but to bring Israel in to it is simply insane and shows that the United States is no longer in control of its own foreign policy.

Condoleezza Rice would do well to remember an old Afghan proverb that is applicable in any clan and tribal based society. "Me against my brothers. My brothers and me against my cousins. My brothers, my cousins and me, against the world." DS

Rice's Strategic Reset - Washington Post
Abstract: Rice said the new approach reflects growing Arab concern about Iran's attempt to project power through its proxies: "After the war in Lebanon, the Middle East really did begin to clarify into an extremist element allied with Iran, including Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. On the other side were the targets of this extremism -- the Lebanese, the Iraqis, the Palestinians -- and those who want to resist, such as the Saudis, Egypt and Jordan." America's recent show of force against Iran -- seizing Iranian operatives in Iraq and sending additional warships to the Persian Gulf -- was part of this broader effort to reassure the Saudis and others that, despite its troubles in Iraq, America remains a reliable ally against a rising Iran. "The U.S. has to demonstrate that it is present in the Gulf, and going to be present in the Gulf," Rice told me.(...) Realignment is linked with a new U.S. effort to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Rice is encouraging both sides to explore "final-status issues" -- such as borders, the status of Jerusalem and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to a homeland -- rather than remain deadlocked over the so-called road map.(...) Critics may see Rice's realignment strategy as another high-risk roll of the dice by the Bush administration in a region that is already polarized by the Iraq war and sectarian conflict. These critics may also question the central role of Saudi Arabia, a conservative Islamic monarchy that many Arabs regard as a bastion of the status quo. "The reception will be very skeptical" among some Arabs, cautioned one prominent official who is normally among the most pro-American in the region. "Increasing the fault line between Sunnis and Shiites is a mistake," he argued. State Department officials would counter that it was Iran that moved the fault line by encouraging Hezbollah's provocative behavior in Lebanon. The Bush administration's thinking about realignment helps explain why it has resisted engaging Syria and Iran, as recommended by the Baker-Hamilton report. As Rice put it, "You have a 'pan' movement, across the region. The war in Lebanon crystallized it for everyone. You can't just leave it there. . . . If you concentrate on engaging Syria and Iran, you may lose the chance to do the realignment." READ IT ALL

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Chinese lesson: "Expediency is the mere shadow of right and truth; it is the beginning of disorder. " Lao Tzu

For years - a period coinciding with the rise of China - the US has failed to provide moral or political leadership in tackling the big challenges facing humankind, whether they concern global warming or the peaceful use of space. Crucially, the US has been reluctant to subsume its national interests into multinational efforts to benefit the wider world. Victor Mallet - Financial Times
David Seaton's News Links
This article by Victor Mallet in the Financial Times is a must read. First it is a brilliant analysis of how China is exploiting America's hypocrisy and contradictions to its own benefit in true Sun Tzu fashion. But second it shows what the United States could do to remedy its situation.

As the worldwide BBC poll shows, hypocrisy is America's greatest failing. We talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. Everybody has caught on, is in on the joke... the jig is up. America's power and even its sovereignty may dissolve in this hypocricy.

One of the reason's I have taken such a recent interest in Al Gore, is that he has taken this issue and made himself a worldwide symbol of it. This is potentially a position of practically theurgic political power.

As universal consciousness of the danger of global warming grows, so also, will grow a demand to reverse it and an acceptance of the obvious sacrifices to be made in order to do so. The democratic political energy this will represent for any leader with the power to harness it will be enormous. Logically, the only leader that could effectively do so, for the moment, would be a president of the United States.

Here a truly marvelous contradiction arises. America is the parfait knight and sacerdotal celebrant of capitalism. The United States is the vanguard of the free market. History's purest exponent of market economy, capitalism, but as Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer and successor to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown points out, global warming is "the world's biggest market failure". In global warming, the industrial revolution and capitalism seem to have run into a brick wall; and modern science, heretofore their greatest ally, turns to rend them.

It may end up that the only way for humanity to survive will be a "planned economy", as egalitarian as ship wrecked sailors sharing out their water and rations in a lifeboat.

In short, global warming is the "game changer" to end all game changers. For a president of the United States, it is Excalibur waiting to be wrenched from the stone. The only one who seems to have noticed the sword stuck in the rock is Al Gore, If Gore wins the Oscar, I think it's too late for any other candidate to credibly touch this issue. DS

The geopolitical genius of China's satellite kill - Financial Times
Abstract: For years - a period coinciding with the rise of China - the US has failed to provide moral or political leadership in tackling the big challenges facing humankind, whether they concern global warming or the peaceful use of space. Crucially, the US has been reluctant to subsume its national interests into multinational efforts to benefit the wider world.(...) China's destruction of an obsolete weather satellite, similar to past tests conducted by the US and the Soviet Union, exploits this failure. Both China and Russia have for years urged the US to agree to a ban on space weapons and the use of force against satellites, but the US refused to negotiate, instead announcing a policy last year that boldly asserts US national rights in space.(...) The US is so protective of its sovereignty and complacent about its power that it often refuses to adhere to accepted international norms or contemplate an international regime that might constrain its room for manoeuvre. There are at least three areas in which China is happy to ride on America's coat-tails and the first is human rights. Until the US began detaining people without trial at Guantánamo Bay five years ago, it was possible for US politicians, without hypocrisy, to criticise Chinese Communist leaders for jailing their political opponents. The US could exert real influence on Chinese behaviour. Exchanges of presidential visits between the two countries were in those days preceded by the ritual release of Chinese dissidents into US care; today such visits are more likely to be marked by the ritual purchase of Boeing aircraft as part of China's efforts to reduce the US trade deficit. Chinese officials are not shy to point out Washington's selective approach to human rights. They do not see why resource-hungry China should not support dictatorships in Burma and Zimbabwe if the US does the same in Pakistan, central Asia and west Africa. Nor is there any obvious reason why China should not use its United Nations Security Council veto to protect allies such as Sudan from sanctions when the US does the same for its protégés, including Israel. The second issue is economic nationalism. China, along with several other Asian nations, is rightly accused of using dubious stratagems - including peculiar product standards and health and safety scares - to protect its domestic market from foreign competitors. Yet whenever this issue is raised, China has only to recall a two-year-old dispute that still rankles with Chinese officials: CNOOC, the state-controlled oil group, was stopped from buying Unocal, the US oil company, on spurious national security grounds. Third is the environment. True, air pollution from China has been detected on the US side of the Pacific and Chinese industrialisation threatens the global environment. But why should China take action when the US, still the world's biggest contributor to global warming, has refused to adopt the Kyoto protocol on climate change and has barely begun to take the matter seriously?(...) China is not the only nation to have taken advantage of the plight of the US since it became obsessed by Iraq and Islamic fundamentalism. Authoritarians everywhere - from Russia to Venezuela - have done the same. This month's satellite kill, however, is another sign that no big nation has learnt to play the game of geopolitics as skilfully as China. READ IT ALL

Al Gore: "We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done."

"There is a wild card. On Feb. 25, America will watch the Academy Awards, where the Oscar for best documentary will likely go to "An Inconvenient Truth." If Al Gore wins the Oscar, addresses the nation for two minutes on global warming and the war, then appears on Oprah, Leno, Letterman, Stewart and Colbert, a subsequent declaration of candidacy would put him in the top tier. " Pat Buchanan
David Seaton's News Links
The news about candidates now is mostly about how much money they are raising and how eager they are find correct positions and how much they want the job. It all has the flavor of a reality show, a talent contest, or something with Donald Trump; a slight flavor of Paris Hilton or "Little Miss Sunshine". This does not fit the political mood of the times. This is a very grave and deadly moment, colored by cynicism and war crimes, of doubt, failure and defeat... of betrayal of trust. Of regret.

One of America's biggest regrets must be that George W. Bush stole the 2000 election from Al Gore. If Gore had been sworn in instead of Bush, we know now that we wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Hillary, like Gore's running mate, Joe Lieberman, was all for the invasion of Iraq and would probably support military action against Iran. As for Barack Obama, he was an Illinois state senator at the time... he says he was against the war, but did he inhale?

Having something you want with all your heart, which you have won fairly, literally stolen from you is about as bitter an experience as any man or woman can face in life. I'll freely admit that I never really had any clear impression of Al Gore at all until I observed how he carried himself in "defeat". Gore's reaction showed no bitterness, anger or pettiness. America, with its horror of losing, has not learned what a wise and demanding master the pain of defeat is. Spaniards, who have long experience of both triumph and defeat, say that the bravery of a man is like the taste of a melon, until they are cut open, you don't know what is inside. So now we know two important things for sure about Al Gore: he wouldn't have started the war and that he has a strong heart. Do we really know much of anything of comparable value about any other candidate for the Democratic nomination?

In global warming Gore has found an issue of universal concern and has carved himself a universally recognized position as an authority on it. He did this quietly, patiently and methodically. Even if adopting global warming were only a strategy to recreate his political career, it is such a long headed strategy and so subtly executed that it would prove a capacity of analysis, judgment, self control and execution that have long been (longer than six years) missing from the White House. One thing for sure, Al Gore shouldn't have to beg for the presidency. We cannot turn back the clock or undo the harm undone, but there can be second acts in American life. DS

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

USA tanks in world poll... the beginning of the beginning

In the 18 countries previously polled by the BBC, people who said the United States was having a generally positive influence in the world dropped to 29 percent, from 36 percent last year and 40 percent the year before. "I thought it had bottomed out a year ago, but it's gotten worse, and we really are at historic lows," said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes.
David Seaton's News Links
What appears here as a catastrophe, is in fact, good news. This is not a "every cloud has a silver lining" exercise in mental self-abuse, but a simple statement of fact.

The result of this world wide poll taken by the BBC is not so much a failure of US policy or even its "packaging" (public diplomacy) but rather the triumph of the new technologies of communications and the social networks they are forming.

The fact is that very little has changed in the way the USA operates since the 1980s, and even many of the names are the same: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Negroponte, Abrams. It could be argued that much of what the United States did in Central America during the 1980s was as bad or even worse than what America is doing today in Iraq. The USA was even condemned by the World Court for its actions in Nicaragua, and walked out in a huff when the case went against it. Nothing much happened, Noam Chomsky wrote and lectured tirelessly about all of it to a tiny public, to no avail.

What has changed? The way information moves, that's what. Simply put, in those days of the cellphone-video and the blog it's getting harder and harder to get away with that kind of shit any more. This is wonderful news!

And some of the best news in the WP article I'm quoting below, is the following, "Views of U.S. foreign policy are also becoming more negative among U.S. citizens (...) 57 percent said the United States is having a mainly positive influence in the world, down from 63 percent last year and 71 percent two years ago." One of the most exasperating things for any informed person anywhere has always been the naive-smug attitude of the American people, that somehow they were wonderfully benevolent, generous and universally admired for it. With that mind set, nothing was ever going to change for the better.

If Americans ever change their way of looking at the world and their role in it... If that 57 percent goes down to 40 and the 60 percent that would be in doubt was moved to get together to do something about it, we would be looking at a political renaissance, even a re-founding of the Republic that would benefit Americans and the entire world exponentially. The wonderful thing about this is that the technology and the social networks they generate are quintessentially American, deeply rooted in the oldest cultural and political traditions of its history... (any pioneer family would have understood Craigslist in a minute) there is nothing foreign in this technology and its application to politics, it is rather a return to the roots, a return to the best traditions of the country. Cleaning up America's act would be America's true gift to the world, and believe me the world would be forever grateful. DS

Views on U.S. Drop Sharply In Worldwide Opinion Poll - Washington Post

Abstract: Global opinion of U.S. foreign policy has sharply deteriorated in the past two years, according to a BBC poll released on the eve of President Bush's annual State of the Union address.(...) Nearly half of those polled in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East said the United States is now playing a mainly negative role in the world. More than 26,000 people were questioned for the survey. "It's been a horrible slide," said Doug Miller, president of GlobeScan, an international polling company that conducted the BBC survey with the Program on International Policy Attitudes, an affiliate of the University of Maryland. He said views of U.S. policy have steadily declined since the annual poll began two years ago. In the 18 countries previously polled by the BBC, people who said the United States was having a generally positive influence in the world dropped to 29 percent, from 36 percent last year and 40 percent the year before. "I thought it had bottomed out a year ago, but it's gotten worse, and we really are at historic lows," said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes. Kull attributed much of the problem to a growing perception of "hypocrisy" on the part of the United States in such areas as cooperation with the United Nations and other international bodies, especially involving the use of military force. "The thing that comes up repeatedly is not just anger about Iraq," Kull said, adding that the BBC poll is consistent with numerous other surveys around the world that have measured attitudes toward the United States. "The common theme is hypocrisy. The reaction tends to be: 'You were a champion of a certain set of rules. Now you are breaking your own rules, so you are being hypocritical.' " The BBC survey found that a majority of those polled hold negative views on U.S. policies on a wide range of issues. Sixty-seven percent disapproved of U.S. handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Sixty-five percent disliked the U.S. stance on last summer's military conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, 60 percent opposed U.S. policies on Iran's nuclear program, 56 percent opposed Washington's position on global climate change and 54 percent disapproved of U.S. policies toward North Korea. "If this keeps up, it's going to be very difficult for the United States to exercise its moral suasion in the world," Miller said. The survey of 26,381 people was conducted in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. The polling took place from November to January. Although Prime Minister Tony Blair has been Bush's chief foreign ally in the Iraq war, British views of U.S. policies were particularly negative. Fifty-seven percent of Britons surveyed said the United States plays a mainly negative role in the world; 33 percent said the U.S. influence was mainly positive, down three percentage points from last year. Eighty-one percent of Britons opposed U.S. actions in Iraq, while 72 percent said the U.S. military presence in the Middle East provokes more conflict than it prevents. Just 14 percent of Britons said the United States was a "stabilizing force" in the region.(...) Views of U.S. foreign policy are also becoming more negative among U.S. citizens, the poll found. Of the 1,000 Americans surveyed, 57 percent said the United States is having a mainly positive influence in the world. That is down from 63 percent last year and 71 percent two years ago. READ IT ALL

State of the Union Bright Side: Bush is not a serial rapist

David Seaton's News Links
That's the good news today: unlike our most important ally and frequent role-model, Israel, our president is not a serial rapist. Kinda brings a lump to your throat, now don't it? Remember, you read it first at News Links. DS

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Middle East: God's place and welcome to it

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This is the place where God first spoke and created silence, breathed life and created death. A place where angels speak to shepherds and shepherds speak to sheep.

This is the place where water is walked upon and very little is left to drink and also the place where the waters part, and where the sun stands still and where the moon stops too, but never the spatters of blood caking on the bone dry stones, or the torn flesh and the weeping, screaming, widows.

This is the place where another's eye is worth a city's eyes and another's tooth a thousand of its heads, its land and all its ancient olive trees

Birthplace of justice and mercy, never to return.

God made it, let him have it. DS

Monday, January 22, 2007

Commandos in Karbala... new game

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It's front page news in today's Washington Post and well it should be. The audacity and quality of execution of the commando attack in Karbala, which cost the life of 5 Americans, probably officers of significant rank, opens a cruel new chapter in the ongoing Iraqi fiasco.

This attack sends a powerful message. Only Americans were killed... this in the land of indiscriminate suicide bombers who kill dozens of innocent passersby at random. The message to the USA is its precision. Obviously the message to Iraqis who are willing to cooperate with the American occupation forces is clear: the visitors know perfectly well who is who, but next time they won't make such careful distinctions.

The United States' professional armed forces are well trained and superbly equipped and their advantage in fast moving, high tech "modern battlefield" situations is probably insurmountable. However, in commando work, which is low tech and "personal", training, however exhaustive and "realistic" is no substitute for the "real thing". After their eight year war, unsurpassed for its brutality, the officers and most especially the noncoms of the commando forces of both Iraq and Iran probably have between them more "practical" experience in this sort of face to face, short distance warfare than all the other regular soldiers in the entire world taken together. They add to that experience command of the local languages, exhaustive knowledge of the terrain, cultures, tribal loyalties. And, of course, plenty of inside information. As to motivation, they are fighting a foreign invader who is kafir to boot.

Bush's latest error is declaring what most experts consider an inadequately conceived and undermanned "surge",
a "decisive battle". In this way Bush is inviting the insurgents to take actions like these that play to their comparative advantages and which give the impression that the Americans are not in control. This commando raid in Karbala is probably the first of a series of daring actions to come. With the political climate in the USA solidly against the war, risks taken in this kind of action, could have huge payoffs. In short, although spectacular, this will be no video game. DS

Disguises Used in Attack on Troops - Washington Post
Abstract: The armored sport-utility vehicles whisked into a government compound in the city of Karbala with speed and urgency, the way most Americans and foreign dignitaries travel along Iraq's treacherous roads these days. Iraqi guards at checkpoints waved them through Saturday afternoon because the men wore what appeared to be legitimate U.S. military uniforms and badges, and drove cars commonly used by foreigners, the provincial governor said. Once inside, however, the men unleashed one of the deadliest and most brazen attacks on U.S. forces in a secure area. Five American service members were killed in a hail of grenades and gunfire in a breach of security that Iraqi officials called unprecedented.(...) U.S. military officials said Sunday that they could not discuss the attack in Karbala in detail because it remained under investigation. But they said the version of events provided by the governor's office was consistent with their preliminary findings. After arriving at the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, 60 miles southwest of Baghdad, the attackers detonated sound bombs, Iraqi officials said. "They wanted to create a panic situation," said an aide to Karbala Gov. Akeel al-Khazaali, who described the events with the governor's permission but on condition of anonymity because he fears reprisals. The men then stormed into a room where Americans and Iraqis were making plans to ensure the safety of thousands of people expected to visit the holy city for an upcoming holiday. "They didn't target anyone but the American soldiers," the governor's aide said. After the attack, the assailants returned to their vehicles and drove away. It was unclear how many people participated, and the men's identities and motive remained unclear, but the attack was particularly striking because of the resources and sophistication involved, Iraqi officials said. The men drove off toward the city of Babil, north of Karbala, where they shot at guards at a checkpoint, said Capt. Muthana Ahmad, a police spokesman. Vehicles later recovered contained three bodies and one injured individual. The U.S. military took possession of the vehicles, the spokesman said.(...) "The way it happened and the new style, the province has not seen before," said Abdul al-Yasri, head of the provincial council in Karbala. "And this will make us insist on carrying on the security procedures even on official delegates and diplomats when they are coming to Karbala province." READ IT ALL

China's answer to the hegemonic Howard Hughes

David Seaton's News Links
Why has China's shooting down of one of their own satellites got Washington's knickers in such a twist? Because it goes straight to the cartoid artery of American military power. America's military supremacy is based on overwhelming air superiority: on being able to control the airspace over any country anywhere without suffering appreciable losses.

As we can see in Iraq and Afghanistan American ground forces are limited in their effectiveness even in small, underdeveloped countries. Without its total air superiority, America could never hope to impose its will on Iran and much less the immensity of China. Therefore, defending against the United States, is basically about anti-aircraft technology. If Russia, for example, is selling advanced, but purely defensive, anti-aircraft systems to Iran, the United States protests. Russia is simply "selling Winchesters and whiskey to the Indians". The right to American air superiority trumps any claims to national sovereignty or the basic right of self defense.

Of course, the United States has its own wonderful anti-aircraft technology too and has nothing to fear from an foreign air attack, but here is the irony: to feel safe, Americans must feel able to attack anyone anywhere from the air or outer space with impunity. Nothing less will suffice.

That is probably the most dangerous mentality in the world. On a national level the United State has become like an obsessive neurotic that spends his days washing his hands in terror of microbes. A hegemonic Howard Hughes. What sort of guilt feelings lie at the heart of such a mentality? And in this neurosis is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if the United States is basically a problem of anti-aircraft defense, then the world will ultimately find a solution to that.

The New York Times report below, speculates on why the Chinese haven't made any announcement of their achievement or any comment to alarmed inquiries, Why should they? The message is crystal clear: America cannot humiliate China on the cheap. The United States may be able to get away with doubting Iran's sovereignty, but not China's. DS

U.S. Officials Try to Interpret China’s Silence Over Satellite - New York Times
Abstract: Bush administration officials said that they had been unable to get even the most basic diplomatic response from China after their detection of a successful test to destroy a satellite 10 days ago, and that they were uncertain whether China’s top leaders, including President Hu Jintao, were fully aware of the test or the reaction it would engender. In interviews over the past two days, American officials with access to the intelligence on the test said the United States kept mum about it in hopes that China would come forth with an explanation.(...) It was more than a week before the intelligence leaked out: a Chinese missile had been launched and an aging weather satellite in its path, more than 500 miles above the earth, had been reduced to rubble. But protests filed by the United States, Japan, Canada and Australia, among others, were met with silence — and quizzical looks from officials in The Chinese Foreign Ministry, who seemed to be caught unaware. The mysteries surrounding China’s silence are reminiscent of the cold war, when every case of muscle-flexing by competing powers was examined for evidence of a deeper agenda.(...) The threat to United States interests is clear: the test demonstrated that China could destroy American spy satellites in low-earth orbit (the very satellites that picked up the destruction of the Chinese weather satellite). Chinese military officials have extensively studied how the United States has used satellite imagery in the Persian Gulf war, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in tracking North Korea’s nuclear weapons program — an area in which there has been some limited intelligence-sharing between Chinese and American officials. Several senior administration officials said such studies had included extensive analysis of how satellite surveillance could be used by the United States in case of a crisis over Taiwan. “This is a wake-up call,” said Robert Joseph, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security. “A small number of states are pursuing capabilities to exploit our vulnerabilities.” As a result, officials said, the Chinese test is likely to prompt an urgent new effort inside the Bush administration to find ways to counter China’s antisatellite technology. Among the options are efforts to “harden” vulnerable satellites, improve their maneuverability so that they can evade crude kinetic weapons like the one that destroyed the Chinese satellite and develop a backup system of replacement satellites that could be launched immediately if one in orbit is destroyed. READ IT ALL

Sunday, January 21, 2007


David Seaton's News Links
Now, I'm not endorsing Governor Richardson, but at least he has a real CV. He has amply demonstrated useful skills in all the areas necessary to presidential success, except perhaps, weight management. Check this quick resumé from Pravda:
Mr. Richardson has served as a congressman, as well as United Nations ambassador and energy secretary under President Bill Clinton. Today, he emphasized his international experience in his announcement that he would seek the nomination, saying that as United Nations ambassador, he worked to build alliances and help prevent the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea.

Just this month, he went to Sudan on behalf of the Save Darfur Coalition of groups trying to stem the violence in Darfur, to try to break the deadlock over who would police the region. President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan and leaders of several rebel factions in Darfur agreed to a 60-day cease-fire in separate meetings with Mr. Richardson.

Mr. Richardson, who last year helped negotiate the release of an American journalist charged with espionage in Sudan, has international contacts made as ambassador in the Clinton administration.

Mr. Richardson has been nominated four times for the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the release of hostages, American servicemen and political prisoners in North Korea, Iraq and Cuba, according to his statement.

“The next president of the United States must get our troops out of Iraq without delay,” Mr. Richardson said. “Before I became governor of New Mexico, I served as ambassador to the United Nations and as secretary of energy. I know the Middle East well and it’s clear that our presence in Iraq isn’t helping any longer.” READ IT ALL
In any serious country Richardson would obviously be a much stronger candidate than either Barack or Hillary, but in today's America, his double chin will probably prove as insurmountable an obstacle to stewarding the destiny of the world's only super power as Dennis Kucinich's hair. DS

More Hillary and Barack: picture = 1000 words

David Seaton's News Links
This photo is marvelous! It tells most of the story with one glance. Barack Obama is having the time of his life, as well he should be: if ever anyone was in a win/win position he is. But study Hillary's expression (link to bigger copy). In her eyes you can read sheer terror. The expression in her right eye is one of absolute incredulity, hurt, horror and grief, bordering hysteria. She can't believe this is happening to her. "Please don't do this to me God! Jesus, he's cute...This sonuvabitch has come out of nowhere to spoil my life's greatest moment!", she seems to be saying to herself. For someone of such iron self-control as Hillary Rodham Clinton, it is amazingly revealing. DS

Clinton/Obama: if you don't see what you want, ask for it

David Seaton's News Links
So, for the moment, Democrats seem to be facing the choice between Hillary (stand by your man) Clinton and Barack (black-no-black) Obama.

At perhaps the most omminous fork in the road in the republic's history since the civil war, progressive voters are asked to choose between someone whose every word and gesture have been previously bench tested to ensure a level of triangulation that guarantees her being all things to all men, and... well, someone whose entire life story is a triangulation.

This moment in America's history is a moment of America turning from a republic into an empire; and not some splendid empire, like Victorian Britain's or early Rome, but an instantly decadent empire with the barbarians already in costume at the gates, a fast food version of "Fellinni's Satyricon". At such a juncture, a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket just isn't good enough.

Personally, I am sick to death of all this slickness. It would seem that what is needed right now is someone a bit more "authentic", somebody a bit deep... someone who combines thought and action. A Lincoln, a Roosevelt... even a Herbert Hoover would stand out in this crowd. Perhaps someone of distinction who isn't actually "running" (lovely word) should be drafted as Eisenhower was in 1952. Both the Republicans and the Democrats wanted Ike as their candidate then, and although he seemed a terrible bore at the time, Eisenhower would look like a giant compared to what's being offered this year.

I fear, that at this crucial moment, the Democrats will follow the advice of the seminal philosopher of our times, Doctor Yogi Berra, who once pithily said, "if you come to a fork in the road, take it." DS

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary's in... yawn

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Full disclosure: I don't like Hillary. In no way do I find Hillary sexually threatening, which is the reason that Sharon Stone, renowned, if not exactly for her political analysis, gives for thinking that it's "too soon" for Hillary.

I imagine that I've become too "European", but frankly I couldn't care less what she or any other politician (including her Bill) does or doesn't do in bed. I imagine (if I have to imagine) that she, like most middle aged people who work that hard, is like Lee Dorsey's coal miner: "when Saturday roll around, she too tired fo' havin' fun." Politician's sexual adventures are only interesting when they have previously set themselves up as paragons of virtue, because exposing a pharisee is always glorious fun. But the question is not about, or shouldn't be about Hillary being a woman. Everybody with any experience knows that pound for pound and all other things being equal, women make better managers than men. Women tend to be more realistic than men, for one thing and better listeners, for another. Hillary's being a woman, for me, is her biggest plus.

I think the valid question is more about what sort of a human being she is and what sort of a president of the USA, America and the rest of the world need post-Bush. Certainly such a transparently triangulating, phony as Hillary Rodham Clinton doesn't fill that bill. I also find this "dynasty" thing very, very decadent: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton(?) and remember Jeb (barf) waiting in the wings. Can't a republic of 300,000,000 people do better than that? DS

It's not what you say, it's the way that you say it

David Seaton's News Links
This photograph was taken in the Guadarrama mountains outside Madrid on a beautiful, sunny, winter day. The mountain forest was bathed in Madrid's famous, transparently magic "Velázquez light". It was that light that hooked me on Madrid in the first place and it fascinates me to this day. The play of light and shadows as I walked through the forest, caught my eye and I took the snap. Why blog it? Because I feel that it illustrates one of the fundamental principals of our age. The mountains outside Madrid are famous for the quality of the beef cattle that range freely on public land. The dark patches in the middle of the photograph are samples of common and garden variety Spanish, bovine excrement.
The moral of the story, one that defines our historical period, is that bullshit is beautiful if you light it right.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Common sense makes strange bedfellows

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"Consider what it is we are asking Maliki to do. We want him to use Sunni and Kurdish brigades of the Iraqi Army, in concert with the U.S. Army, to smash the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the most popular Shia leader in the country and the principal political support of Maliki. We are asking Maliki to turn on his ruthless Shia patron and bet his future on an America whose people want all U.S. troops home, the earlier the better. For Maliki to implement fully the U.S. conditions would make him a mortal enemy of Moqtada and millions of Shia, and possibly result in his assassination. Whatever legacy Bush faces, he is not staring down a gun barrel at that." Patrick Buchanan
It never ceases to amaze me: since the war in Iraq began I find myself time and again in agreement with Pat Buchanan, of all people. I can't ever remember being in agreement with him about much of anything before. Is it that common sense makes strange bedfellows? DS

Kissinger speaks out

David Seaton's News Links
"The time has come for an effort to define the shoals within which diplomacy is obliged to navigate and to anchor any outcome in some broader understanding that accommodates the interests of the affected parties."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Notes of a Bushophobe - 1

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As time wears on and nerves wear thin, the question keeps repeating like a cucumber salad: "how did it happen, why is Bush where he is"? To me it is the biggest question of his presidency and its answers could be potentially some of the most revealing x-ray shots of twentyfirst century America, its society and politics. I just have to get started chewing on this theme. The following is just a series of notes and in no way a finished product. As the ideas work up into shape, I will continue to post more "Notes of a Bushophobe" with their appropriate number added on. I would be happy and indeed grateful if readers tore apart my arguments or helped me to support them with their information and links. I promise to publish all comments that aren't obscene (unless they are very funny) or personally abusive. Perhaps the way I reason will reveal more about me than about my subject, but here is a rough outline of my unfolding bushology or metabushology. None of this is terribly original, but I just have to have some method developed to make sense of such a bizarre use of the US presidency. I can't continue to just content myself with ad hoc and ad hominem attacks, pleasurable as they are.

To begin with, the question is why George W. Bush?

I shall not beat around the bush (giggle). It seems to me that the prime mover in bushology is the family's unmatched skill at raising money. None of them, beginning with George H.W. Bush, right down to Jeb, is at all charismatic or even attractive, none of them speak very well or even deliver their writer's material very well. but they always show up with a lot of other people's money when campaigning starts. They have a huge network of "rangers" and "pioneers" who work very hard to raise money for them. Why do they do this? As you may have observed on intense introspection or from what the email universities call "life experience", very few people part with money without hoping for something in return... even noble charities would probably wither if they were not also tax shelters.

Let us look, then, at "exhibit-A", at what I consider one of the most, if not the most revealing thing that George W. Bush ever said in public. It was during the 2000 campaign, long before Osama bin Laden added the flavor of tragedy to American life that makes the Clinton years look in retrospect like the "Roaring Twenties"... partying before the great depression. Bush was speaking at the "Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner" on October 20th 2000. Here is the quote from CBS News:
Bush gazed around the diamond-studded $800-a-plate crowd and commented on the wealth on display. "This is an impressive crowd - the haves and the have-mores," quipped the GOP standard-bearer. "Some people call you the elites; I call you my base."
If we test everything that Bush has ever done since then against that remark, it all falls into place. With this remark in hand let us imagine what the Rangers and the Pioneers expect in return for their money? Here are some easy items:
  • Lower the taxes of the super-rich
  • Destroy expensive entitlements
  • Degrade the federal government
  • Eliminate inheritance tax
  • Tort reform
He hasn't managed all of it, but he has never flagged in his efforts to get as much of it done as he could and I imagine that the Rangers and the Pioneers feel they have gotten their money's worth. One of the most interesting examples to support my theory or "bushology" is that when he won the 2004 election against the hapless John F. Kerry and with a war going on he decided that he had "political capital" that he was going to "spend" on... trashing Social Security. His answer to war of course, was to lower those taxes for his Rangers.

If you look at him like that, as a faithful servant of wealth (especially inherited) his is in no way a "failed" presidency. When he finally leaves office I think his "legacy" will be secure among those he moves and cherishes. Even though most of humanity will consider him the worst president of the US to ever have held that office, among the one per-cent of America's people who are his true base, he will remain forever a revered icon; the anti Franklin Delano (that man) Roosevelt.

So how did he get into the war in Iraq?

They say his father, George H.W. Bush always maintains that pressuring Israel cost him his second term. The "Lobby" did him. For Dubya to escape that fate and get his real agenda completed, I believe that he and Karl Rove decided that instead of James Baker's hostile (fuck the Jews) attitude, that Bush 43 would give the Israelis everything they wanted. For a Republican satisfying the American Jewish community is not as easy as it might seem. American Jewish people are very liberal, they are not against entitlements or unions, they are concerned about poverty and racism and are not totally adverse to big government or even paying the taxes it costs to get it. As Baker also observed to complete his famous quote, "they don't vote for us". And of course among their number are some of America's most efficient and distinguished trial lawyers. Bush's real agenda, then, is not all that attractive for America's Jewish people. The only way to keep them busy and out his hair was to pander to the Jewish community's Achilles heel, Israel.

Israel is a huge subject unto itself that I often cover at length and this is not the place to go into detail. So lets treat it here with analogy and metaphor. Israel has painted itself into a terrible corner, its political life has been degraded and corrupted out of all recognition, it is moving swiftly toward pariah nation status. Keeping Israel's international reputation afloat is like flying a lead balloon and its very existence is threatened by the Islamic renaissance taking place all over the world. For many, perhaps most, American Jews, this is troubling. For some this problem is like a huge toothache, the kind of toothache that doesn't let a person think straight. Bush simply avoids problems by giving the Israelis all they want when they want it. In return they tell American Jews to "go easy" on Bush. And in support, neocon publicists have given him some of the "vision thing" his father lacked. This has been vital in confusing public opinion. Bush and those around him are desperately inarticulate. The Weekly Standard crowd has given him stirring lines to speak.

In short, the game plan is: give the Israelis Iraq/Iran and thus get the American Jewish community out of Bush's hair in order for him to complete his real program and at the same time dress up his administration's limp rhetoric. If this is really in Israel's or the American Jewish community's true interest, Bush could care less. He is like some pill dispensing, "doctor feel-good", the patient's health is not the true object of his practice. He doesn't care about the Middle East's tragedy, the death and destruction or the final fate of Israel. He keeps his eye on the ball and someday that small but hardy band of billionaires will whisper in his ear, "Thanks a million brother, for a job well done!" And he will be happy with that, he doesn't care what the rest of humanity does or feels.

Well that is the rough start of trying to build a theory of George W. Bush. Thank you for bearing with me, as I struggle to make some sense of it all. DS