Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween memories

David Seaton's News Links
For an expatriate, perhaps more than for others, his true "fatherland" is his childhood. Halloween, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, tugs on many memory strings.

The best Halloween I ever remember was in the tiny west central Illinois town where my grandmother was born and raised. I spent a lot of summers there, but I was only there that once at the end of October... I can't remember why. I was about ten or eleven at the time.

My small town friends were much more fun for devilment than my little city friends. Country boys know how to rig things and build things and shoot and all kinds of things that city and especially suburban kids would never dream of. In Evanston it was all "treat" and no "trick", but in my granny's hometown, the practical jokes were pretty fierce. I remember two tricks played on unfriendly adults that night that will give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

The first house had a big, heavy front door, which opened inwards -- that was the key to the trick -- we took a garbage can and filled it with water... it took about ten of us little fiends to carry it silently up on the victim's porch and lean it against the door, ring the doorbell and run like hell to hide in the bushes. What exquisite pleasure to hear the victim's footsteps approaching the door, to hear the door being unbolted, to hear the can fall, to hear the scream as all the water poured into his house, to hear all the swear words following us as we ran off.

The second trick was just as cute. It involved a piece of aluminum foil, a large soft and malodorous canine excrement and a can of lighter fluid. The contributing dog was a cross between a great dane and a mac truck, just to give you some idea of what I'm talking about here.

First the megaturd was placed on the aluminum foil and generously soaked with lighter fluid. Then, the most intrepid of us sneaked Indian fashion onto the victim's front porch and unscrewed the porch light, plunging the whole area into total darkness and then, with great caution, the foil package was placed in front of the door and the bell rung.

As the victim's steps were heard approaching the door, a match was lit and as the door was being opened, the match was thrown onto the lighter fluid soaked "treat".

The flame flared up about three or four feet in the air.

Naturally the victim seeing his porch ablaze promptly stomped out the fire and was left standing alone in the dark wondering what it was that smelled so bad and why the raucous laughter of horrid little boys was fading off into the night.

They the say the boy is father to the man. I hope it's true.

Happy Halloween! DS

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

History to Bush: quo vadis... turkey?

"As long as George Bush is commander-in-chief of the US military and he and his advisers are intent on getting the US into a shooting war with Iran, Iran is the issue." Josh Marshall

David Seaton's News Links
Webster defines the word, "surreal" as, "marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream". That Bush, failed in Iraq, struggling in Afghanistan, could, may very well... in fact, probably will, start another war... very soon, has all the qualities necessary to fill Webster´s definition.

Dream? Nightmare? Why quibble?

Philip Stephens wrote in his Financial Times column that "the White House once again seems hell-bent on being outwitted in the court of global opinion; and, maybe, on making a strategic miscalculation that could make the war in Iraq look like a sideshow."

There is much speculation that all of this is to be done for Israel's benefit:
Both the Israel lobby, AIPAC and Norman Podhoretz, a senior foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani and the "godfather of neoconservatism", beat the drum ceaslessly for a war with Iran, but according to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, Israeli "Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said a few months ago in a series of closed discussions that in her opinion that Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel"

David Ignatius wrote in the Washingon Post,"Military action would be irrational for both sides. But that doesn't mean it won't happen. I wish the Bush administration could see that with each step it takes closer to conflict, it is walking toward a well-planned trap."

"Irrational", sister to "surreal" is the operative word.

As Paul Krugman said, "All of this would be funny if it weren’t so serious." Fareed Zacharia wrote in Newsweek, "This would all be funny if it weren't so dangerous." Russian President Vladimir Putin commented, "I think running around like a lunatic -- with a razor and waving a red banner -- isn't the best way to solve this kind of problem". And a New York Times editorial said, “With a different White House, we might dismiss this as posturing — or bank on sanity to carry the day, or the warnings of exhausted generals or a defense secretary more rational than his predecessor. Not this crowd.”

Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Los Angeles Times columnist, Rosa Brooks has come right out and accused Bush of being clinically insane. Rosa Brooks is not only a columnist, she is also a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center who specializes in international law, human rights, law of war, state failure, terrorism and rule of law issues. So this is not some bag lady shouting on a street corner. She wrote, "What's a constitutional democracy to do when the president and vice president lose their marbles? The U.S. is full of ordinary people with serious forms of mental illness -- delusional people with violent fantasies who think they're the president, or who think they get instructions from the CIA through their dental fillings. The problem with Bush is that he is the president -- and he gives instructions to the CIA and military, without having to go through his dental fillings."

Certainly the declining months of Bush's raj are reminiscent of those old Hollywood films about the Roman empire... Nero and his magic violin, Caligula and his consul horse. The world hanging on the product of a diseased brain. DS

Michael Hirsh: Another Turn of the Screw - Newsweek
Abstract: For some people, it all felt unnervingly like a lurch back to 2002—the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration's announcement of wide-ranging sanctions against Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Defense Ministry—as well as its major banks—tarred much of Tehran's officialdom as rogues, terror supporters or proliferators. Russian President Vladimir Putin, displaying his gift for anti-American metaphor, likened the Bush officials to "mad people wielding razor blades." Democratic lion Sen. Robert Byrd thundered: "Congress will not be kept out of the loop while this administration plots another march to war."(...) their new approach does seem to cut off the possibility of high-level negotiations with the current Iranian government, at least for the present. Even a key U.S. ally, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, says the sanctions alienate U.S. officials from the only real decision makers in Iran. "The Revolutionary Guards … are the ones who are running the Iranian government," Zebari said last week. While Bush administration officials insist that Tehran intends to build a bomb, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is concerned that Iran wants eventually to become a "virtual nuclear- weapons state," like Japan. That is, it wants to have the technology, industry and expertise to produce a bomb on short notice, but doesn't necessarily want to make or test one. ("Yes, that is what we are doing," a senior Iranian envoy, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told NEWSWEEK last week.) Many Iranians hint that this would be a sufficient strategic deterrent, unless the United States attacks first. READ IT ALL

Monday, October 29, 2007

A little dry humor

David Seaton's News Links
Above is a picture of a golf course in the middle of a desert. Take a close look, because when someday in the future you tell your grandchildren that at the beginning of the 21rst century, millions of liters of drinking water were used so that people could hit a little ball around in the middle of a desert with a stick, they are going to think that you have Alzheimer. DS

Much of U.S. Could See a Water Shortage - Associated Press
Abstract: An epic drought in Georgia threatens the water supply for millions. Florida doesn't have nearly enough water for its expected population boom. The Great Lakes are shrinking. Upstate New York's reservoirs have dropped to record lows. And in the West, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is melting faster each year. Across America, the picture is critically clear - the nation's freshwater supplies can no longer quench its thirst. The government projects that at least 36 states will face water shortages within five years because of a combination of rising temperatures, drought, population growth, urban sprawl, waste and excess. "Is it a crisis? If we don't do some decent water planning, it could be," said Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of the Denver-based American Water Works Association.(...) "We've hit a remarkable moment," said Barry Nelson, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The last century was the century of water engineering. The next century is going to have to be the century of water efficiency." The price tag for ensuring a reliable water supply could be staggering. Experts estimate that just upgrading pipes to handle new supplies could cost the nation $300 billion over 30 years. "Unfortunately, there's just not going to be any more cheap water," said Randy Brown, Pompano Beach's utilities director.(...) Australia is in the midst of a 30-year dry spell, and population growth in urban centers of sub-Saharan Africa is straining resources. Asia has 60 percent of the world's population, but only about 30 percent of its freshwater. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists, said this year that by 2050 up to 2 billion people worldwide could be facing major water shortages.(...) Coastal states like Florida and California face a water crisis not only from increased demand, but also from rising temperatures that are causing glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise. Higher temperatures mean more water lost to evaporation. And rising seas could push saltwater into underground sources of freshwater.(...) "We just passed a crossroads. The chief water sources are basically gone," said John Mulliken, director of water supply for the South Florida Water Management District. "We really are at a critical moment in Florida history."(...) Californians use nearly 23 trillion gallons of water a year, much of it coming from Sierra Nevada snowmelt. But climate change is producing less snowpack and causing it to melt prematurely, jeopardizing future supplies. Experts also say the Colorado River, which provides freshwater to seven Western states, will probably provide less water in coming years as global warming shrinks its flow.(...) "The need to reduce water waste and inefficiency is greater now than ever before," said Benjamin Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the Environmental Protection Agency. "Water efficiency is the wave of the future." READ IT ALL

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bush: not worthy to tie Rudy's sandal?

"On foreign policy and presidential power, Rudy is Bush without the soft edges." - Josh Marshall
David Seaton's News Links
If you thought that George W. Bush was the worst that the American electoral system could come up with, you were very wrong.

Bush, at least, has the "virtue" of his mental limitations. He lacks the ability to master detail and the knack of administrative leadership that Giuliani possesses in abundance. Bush's ineptitude has saved the world from Bush's "success": Giuliani has the drive and the focus to bring Bush/Cheney to fruition.

In short, Bush in his bumbling way could turn out to be no more than Giuliani's "John the Baptist". He is also the perfect Republican candidate to defeat the probable Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. Here is another "American Nightmare" in progress. America's 300 year long "winning streak" is obviously at an end. DS

David Greenberg: Rudy a Lefty? Yeah, Right. - Washington Post
Abstract: You wouldn't know it from reading the papers, but the favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination is a confirmed right-winger. On issues such as free speech and religion, secrecy and due process, civil rights and civil liberties, pornography and democracy, this moralist and self-styled lawman has exhibited all the key hallmarks of Bush-era conservatism. That candidate is Rudolph W. Giuliani. As any New Yorker can tell you, the last word anyone in the 1990s would have attached to the brash, furniture- breaking mayor was "liberal" -- and the second-to-last was "moderate." With his take-many-prisoners approach to crime and his unerring pro-police instincts, the prosecutor-turned-proconsul made his mark on the city not by embracing its social liberalism but by trying to crush it.(...) To a New Yorker, the idea of Rudy as a liberal or even a moderate is unreal, topsy-turvy -- like describing George McGovern as a hawk or Pat Buchanan as a Zionist. The case for Giuliani's moderation rests mainly on three overblown issues -- guns, gay rights and abortion -- and even in those cases, his deviation from conservative orthodoxy is far milder than is usually suggested. The "social" and "cultural" issues that divide Americans encompass much more than guns, gay rights and abortion. They include state support of religion; the legitimacy of dissenting speech; the president's right to keep information secret; the place of fair procedures in dispensing justice. The Bush administration's hard-line stands on these matters have polarized the nation as much as the Iraq war has. And on these issues, Giuliani is just as hard-line as the man he'd like to succeed. If you've managed to keep liking President Bush, you'd have no trouble loving President Giuliani.(...) Those who deem Rudy a liberal might also recall his plan to fund parochial schools with city money. His goal went far beyond letting Bible groups meet after hours in public classrooms: The mayor personally phoned Cardinal John O'Connor to hatch a plan that would have placed public school students in church-run schools with overtly Christian curricula -- including catechism and excluding sex education. It was the real liberals on the school board who stopped the plan. Beyond religious issues, a second conservative trait defined Giuliani's tenure: his Cheney-esque appetite for executive power. In 1999, for example, he directed (without the City Council's permission) the police to permanently confiscate the cars of people charged with drunken driving -- even if the suspects were later acquitted.(...) When Bush ran for president, his slippery slogan of "compassionate conservatism" convinced many Washington journalists that he was a moderate. When he then pushed a right-wing agenda, they were stunned. They hadn't looked hard enough at his record. Likewise, if Giuliani becomes president, he will probably emerge as an unabashed social conservative -- as seen in his judicial appointments, his efforts to aid religious schools, the free hand he gives the government in fighting crime and terrorism, and an all-around authoritarian style. Let's not get fooled again. READ IT ALL

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fire and Water, Black and White, California and New Orleans

"I can only imagine what the Superdome would have been like with massage therapy, big-screen TVs and live rock bands, not to mention food, water and perhaps port-a-potties to suppress that lingering moldy urine smell." Shawn Brown
David Seaton's News Links
The American memory is notoriously short, but the Southern California disaster coming so soon after Katrina makes comparison inevitable.

It's would be an easy, a cheap shot, if it weren't so tragic, so obviously unjust... so unjust as to bring tears of impotent rage to the eyes of anyone raised to believe that, as an old slave owner once wrote, "All Men are Created Equal".

A musician, Shawn Brown has written the best comparison of the two disasters that I've read so far: a little masterpiece.

Shawn's are words that had to be written and they are words that should be read. DS

Shawn Brown: Katrina vs. The Witch - Los Angeles Times
Abstract: I know it shouldn't surprise me very much to learn that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and local government agencies, have reacted in a slightly different manner to the recent fire disaster in Southern California than their counterparts did after Hurricane Katrina. After all, in the current election-year political climate, when you compare the relative economic clout of the Southern California communities affected by the fires with that of the Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi Gulf coasts, it really isn't a shocker to find out that the evacuees in California come out ahead. We are talking about the difference between a population heavy with Caucasian millionaires, with houses valued at more than $750,000, and people of "the Chocolate City" and surrounding areas, where most of the residents lived below the poverty line. I was also not surprised to hear insurance companies in Southern California talking about settlements forthcoming within the next two weeks to a month, and homeowners planning to rebuild as quickly as possible. I also would expect that lessons have been learned by the ongoing, painfully slow and ineffectual response that the government and private sector eventually ... somewhat implemented for Katrina victims. In Southern California, the National Guard was deployed within 24 hours in key positions to protect "structures" from looting; massive cattle ranches, horse stables and many multimillion-dollar summer homes were spared because of to their government's timely diligence.(...) I also admit that television images of a specially equipped DC-10 DC-10 flying over, dropping 30,000 gallons of fire retardant between the firestorm and my good friends in Malibu gave my soul a gentle, warm, almost fuzzy feeling. Also, the cockles of my heart were warmed in the blink of an embattled politician's eye when I was told that the air conditioning was working quite well at Qualcomm Stadium, which was among several shelters that had been opened up to evacuees. It made me proud to be a registered voter, albeit in Southwestern Florida, where some folks are still living in FEMA trailers as a result of 2004's Hurricane Charlie.(...) I can only imagine what the Superdome would have been like with massage therapy, big-screen TVs and live rock bands, not to mention food, water and perhaps port-a-potties to suppress that lingering moldy urine smell. READ IT ALL

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rosa Brooks accuses Bush of being clinically insane

David Seaton's News Links
The article below is by far the roughest thing I've ever read about Bush in a mainstream publication. In this article Rosa Brooks actually accuses Bush and Cheney of being clinically insane. Dynamite!

Rosa Brooks is not only a columnist, she is a a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center whose scholarly work focuses on international law, human rights, law of war, state failure, terrorism and rule of law issues. So this is not the rant of some blogger in pajamas (heh, heh).

Breaking with News Links traditions, I'm quoting the article in full, because a column this rough about the chief of state could get a journalist thrown in jail is some countries that are widely considered democracies.

In fact any country where you can write something this hard about a sitting chief of state and not be "disappeared" can be considered a democracy. In American jurisdiction it turns out that Bush is having people disappeared, so the more places the article can be found the better. DS

Straitjacket Bush - Los Angeles Times
Forget impeachment.

By Roda Brooks
25 October 2007

Liberals, put it behind you. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney shouldn't be treated like criminals who deserve punishment. They should be treated like psychotics who need treatment.

Because they've clearly gone mad. Exhibit A: We're in the middle of a disastrous war in Iraq, the military and political situation in Afghanistan is steadily worsening, and the administration's interrogation and detention tactics have inflamed anti-Americanism and fueled extremist movements around the globe. Sane people, confronting such a situation, do their best to tamp down tensions, rebuild shattered alliances, find common ground with hostile parties and give our military a little breathing space. But crazy people? They look around and decide it's a great time to start another war.

That would be with Iran, and you'd have to be deaf not to hear the war drums. Last week, Bush remarked that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III . . . you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." On Sunday, Cheney warned of "the Iranian regime's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and to gain hegemonic power . . . [we] cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions." On Tuesday, Bush insisted on the need "to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat."

Huh? Iran is now a major threat to Europe? The Iranians are going to launch a nuclear missile (that they don't yet possess) against Europe (for reasons unknown because, as far as we know, they're not mad at anyone in Europe)? This is lunacy in action.

Writing in Newsweek on Oct. 20, Fareed Zakaria, a solid centrist and former editor of Foreign Affairs, put it best. Citing Bush's invocation of "the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon," ZZakaria concluded that "the American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. . . . Iran has an economy the size of Finland's. . . . It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are . . . allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?"

Planet Cheney.

Zakaria may be misinterpreting the president's remark about World War III though. He saw it as a dangerously loopy Bush prediction about the future behavior of a nuclear Iran -- the idea being, presumably, that possessing "the knowledge" to make a nuclear weapon would so empower Iran's repressive leaders that they'll giddily rush out and start World War III.

But you could read Bush's remark as a madman's threat rather than a madman's prediction -- as a warning to recalcitrant states, from Germany to Russia, that don't seem to share his crazed obsession with Iran. The message: Fall into line with administration policy toward Iran or you can count on the U.S.A. to try to start World War III on its own. And when it comes to sparking global conflagration, a U.S. attack on Iran might be just the thing. Yee haw!

You'd better believe these guys would do it too. Why not? They have nothing to lose -- they're out of office in 15 months anyway. Après Bush-Cheney, le déluge! (Have fun, Hillary.)

But all this creates a conundrum. What's a constitutional democracy to do when the president and vice president lose their marbles?

The U.S. is full of ordinary people with serious forms of mental illness -- delusional people with violent fantasies who think they're the president, or who think they get instructions from the CIA through their dental fillings.

The problem with Bush is that he is the president -- and he gives instructions to the CIA and military, without having to go through his dental fillings.

Impeachment's not the solution to psychosis, no matter how flagrant. But despite their impressive foresight in other areas, the framers unaccountably neglected to include an involuntary civil commitment procedure in the Constitution.

Still, don't lose hope. By enlisting the aid of mental health professionals and the court system, Congress can act to remedy that constitutional oversight. The goal: Get Bush and Cheney committed to an appropriate inpatient facility, where they can get the treatment they so desperately need. In Washington, the appropriate statutory law is already in place: If a "court or jury finds that [a] person is mentally ill and is likely to injure himself or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty, the court may order his hospitalization."

I'll even serve on the jury. When it comes to averting World War III, it's really the least I can do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hunger, the cure for mass obesity (how's that for optimism?)

David Seaton's News Links
A Spanish friend of mine says that I have too gloomy a view of world affairs, "catastrofista" he calls me.

My friend is a sardonic, lapsed Catholic and not likely the type to be joyously awaiting "rapture", you know, the kind of person who sees every horror in the newspapers as a sign that Jesus is in the starting gate, champing at the bit, raring for the Last Trump. People like that get a lot of fun reading the papers and watching TV news nowadays

I've selected an article from the sober, Financial Times on a global food shortage. It seems that according to the UN, 854m people around the world haven't got enough to eat (of course in the United States poor people die of obesity related diabetes, but that's another story) also we are looking at several wars, any one of which could bring on a recession or a hecatomb and to top it off, at this moment, the next President of the United States is either going to be Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton.

I really wonder what my optimistic, Spanish friend is smoking. I wish he would pass me some.

Rising prices may herald the first global food shortage since the 1970s - Financial Times
Abstract: When the United Nations held its annual World Food Day last week to publicise the plight of the 854m malnourished people around the world, its warning that there “are still too many hungry people” was a little more anxious than usual. Finding food to feed the hungry is becoming an increasingly difficult task as growing demand for staples such as wheat, corn and rice brings higher prices. That is leading all nations – rich and poor – to compete for food supplies. Food security is not a new concern for countries that have battled political instability, droughts or wars. But for the first time since the early 1970s, when there were global food shortages, it is starting to concern more stable nations as well.(...) countries are starting to question whether they can afford to keep feeding themselves. Wheat and milk prices have surged to all-time highs while those for corn and soya­beans stand at well above their 1990s averages. (...) “The world is gradually losing the buffer that it used to have to protect against big swings [in the market],” says Abdolreza Abbassian, secretary of the grains trading group at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. “There is a sense of panic.”(...) (...) The difficulties are compounded because the importance of food in overall consumer spending is negatively correlated with income levels . For example, food is more than 60 per cent of the “consumption basket” measured by economists in sub-Saharan Africa, whereas it is 30 per cent in China and only 10 per cent in the US, according to the IMF.(...) Grain exporting countries have consequently started restricting the amount of grain they export, postponing sales or imposing in some cases prohibitive export tariffs to keep their local market well supplied, avoiding politically damaging food price increases. (...) The European Union has suspended its “set-aside” rules that bar farmers from planting cereals on 10 per cent of their land. The rules were designed to avoid over­production but Brussels is now worried that there will not be enough cereals to meet demand. (...) In the near future, demand for agricultural raw materials is likely to continue rising in world markets as countries that have previously been able to meet their own food needs start importing more, increasing the global challenge of feeding populations. Don Mitchell, an economist at the World Bank, says: “Although China and India are relatively self-sufficient in food, some economists doubt that this can continue as incomes rise and [think] that they will need to rely much more on imports.” The FAO expects India to import more wheat and China to increase imports of coarse grains to supply feed to its livestock industry. Both countries are also expected to increase imports of oils that are used in food production, such as palm oil. The World Bank estimates that cereal production will have to rise by nearly 50 per cent and meat output by 85 per cent between 2000 and 2030 to meet projected global demand. READ IT ALL

Birds of a feather: meet Hillary's new best friend

Matt Drudge, Scumbag a tout faire

David Seaton's News Links
Hillary Clinton makes Richard Nixon, up till now the phoniest politician I can think of, look like Abraham Lincoln.

This story of her teaming up with Matt Drudge would be considered over the top in any political satire.
This lady is a parody of herself.

Hypocrisy is easy to come by in any facet of public life, but Hillary's brand really stands out. What is so outstanding is that Hillary's hypocrisy is so transparent and spontaneous. Since transparency and spontaneity are antithetical to hypocrisy, Hillary Clinton can be said to be breaking new ground in phoniness.

Who knows, voters, aided by special interest groups, may yet use her to write a shining chapter in the tragicomedy that the 21rst century presidency of the United States has become. DS

Hillary Clinton woos man who nearly ruined her husband - Guardian
Abstract: A decade ago, the internet journalist Matt Drudge was very nearly Bill Clinton's ruin, after leaking the story of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. These days, Drudge is one of Hillary Clinton's best kept secrets. During the presidential campaign, the Drudge Report, once known as the scourge of Democrats, has betrayed a surprisingly soft side for the woman previously viewed by diehard Republicans as the mother of all that is liberal and permissive in America. When Ms Clinton had a coughing fit during a speech in New Orleans last summer, Drudge reacted with genuine concern, telling listeners to his Miami radio show: "Hillary dear, take care of yourself. We need you," according to New York magazine. On another occasion, he confessed: "I need Hillary Clinton. I need to be part of her world. That's my bank." Yesterday, it emerged that the caring went two ways. The New York Times reported that the Clinton campaign had grown adept at using the Drudge Report to leak news that could steal the thunder from rivals, or to solidify her position as the frontrunner for the Democratic party's presidential nomination for next year. (...) Aside from the bond with Drudge, however, her relationship with the media has remained frosty. In the early primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa, she has reportedly permitted just one unscripted press conference since announcing her campaign last January. Other candidates routinely have two or even three such media "availabilities" a day. Ms Clinton's events typically also allow less time for questions from the audience than the other Republican and Democratic contenders. At an event in New Hampton, Iowa earlier this month, she was obliged to apologise to a man she accused of asking questions planted by her opponents. "She is one of the most isolated candidates in modern American history. Everything is stage-managed," said Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia. READ IT ALL

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reagan and Thatcher burn in California

David Seaton's News Links
Global Warming is or isn't really taking place, but, be that as it may, California, the center of the world's communication industry is burning down and burning up.

California has evacuated a quarter of a million people. Many rich and influential people have lost their palatial homes to a drought induced fire: people who "create reality".

This means that as far as California is concerned climate change is real and that will be California's message to the world. So anybody who says Global Warming doesn't exist will be facing "Hollywood" with all that word contains in communication power.

The reason that conservatives resist this issue so consistently is that to solve climate change will require not only big government, taxes and regulation, but also binding international treaties. It means the end of the Reagan-Thatcher revolution and the end of right wing libertarianism. As Paul Krugman put it, "Leave it up to the free market, and in a few generations Florida will be underwater."

Obviously the contemporary conservative mind set is ideologically unprepared to deal with this problem, thus its resistance to admit its existence. DS

Eugene Robinson: Forecast: Heavy Weather - Washington Post

Abstract: Atlanta is so parched that it's running out of water. The canyons of Southern California are ablaze. Here in Washington, temperatures have been climbing into the 80s -- in late October. Can all this be blamed on that "inconvenient truth" that Nobel laureate Al Gore keeps warning us about? Is climate change -- often imprecisely called "global warming" -- loosing plagues upon the land? No. Not exactly. Maybe. Probably not. Could be. Nobody knows. You can pretty much take your pick, since it's not possible to link any specific meteorological event -- the strength of the fire-fanning Santa Ana winds in Southern California this year, for example, or the rainfall deficit in the Southeast, or an unusually balmy fall in the Northeast -- with climatological changes that take place over decades or centuries and span the globe. The weird weather does tend to concentrate the mind, though. Even George W. Bush acknowledges the scientific consensus that climate change is real. Most people, even conservatives, now have no problem taking the next step and acknowledging that human activity -- the burning of fossil fuels and the release of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -- is causing climate change, or at least accelerating it. Beyond those fundamentals, though, are a couple of even more inconvenient truths that few seem ready to come to terms with. One is the fact that if climate change follows its projected course, many people around the world will suffer. But some people, as George Orwell noted, are more equal than others. "It's the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit," said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Gore.(...) Conservation is essential, but it won't solve the problem. Capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground may sound like a magic bullet -- all the politicians love it -- but there's no guarantee that the gas won't eventually just seep back out into the atmosphere. Making ethanol from corn is great for Iowa farmers but doesn't radically alter the energy equation. Nuclear power offends many sensibilities, including mine, but almost surely has to be part of any truly effective solution. That brings me to the other, really inconvenient truth. As Pachauri recently told the U.N. General Assembly: "The inertia of the system that we have is such that climate change would continue for decades and centuries even if we were to stabilize the concentration of gases that are causing this problem today, which means that adaptation is inevitable." READ IT ALL

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Don't ever expect Russia to cut us an inch of slack

"At the Cold War's end, the United States was given one of the great opportunities of history: to embrace Russia, largest nation on earth, as partner, friend, ally. Our mutual interests meshed almost perfectly. There was no ideological, territorial, historic or economic quarrel between us, once communist ideology was interred." Patrick J. Buchanan
David Seaton's News Links
One of the strangest things that has happened to me since September 11th, 2001, is finding myself agreeing so often with paleo-conservative, Pat Buchanan. I don't agree with him on one single domestic policy issue that I can think of, but on foreign policy I find him strangely sound... and the quote above, totally.

The way the United States treated Russia at the collapse of the Soviet Union will haunt America for decades. It is without a doubt the stupidest, most frivolous, mistake in our history. It even dwarfs the invasion of Iraq for destructive idiocy. The answer to the question as to why and to whose benefit all this was done is another one for "future Chinese historians" to settle.

We are beginning to harvest the bitter crop sown then. Vladimir Putin went to Tehran to be photographed with Ahmadinejad in the middle of a US diplomatic offensive to isolate Iran… in order to isolate the United States.

It is important to realize that most countries rich in natural resources were formerly ruled by a collection of ex-colonial masters that now calls itself the European Union. It was their natural wealth that caused them to lose their independence in the first place. So it is difficult for them to see that the plans America has for democratizing them are any other than a modern version of the “mission civilisatrice” or “white man’s burden” of former days. Most countries that are rich in natural resources are much more afraid of the USA than they are of Iran.

When Americans defend their sovereignty, it is called "patriotism", when others do; it is called "nationalism". Around the world countries that have nothing more in common than the desire to maintain their sovereignty in the face of US destabilization are banding together: Witness the unlikely alliance of Iran and Venezuela. By standing up to America on the Iranian question, Russia shows resource rich, third world countries that it is protecting their sovereignty. In doing so Russia greatly enhances its own prestige in countries that own oil, natural gas and strategic minerals, commodities whose prices are rising steadily.

Putin’s Russia thus becomes the defender of nationalist sovereignty against internationalist subversion. This is a total role reversal of the cold war, where the Soviet Union tried to change other countries’ political systems by subversion or military action and the US was seen by nationalists as a barrier against Soviet subversion. It is noteworthy that the Latin American military officers that once vigorously persecuted “Marxist Internationalism” now have no problem supporting present day leftist governments that seek to maintain national sovereignty in the face of "Capitalist Internationalism". (read globalization)

I agree with my "guru", William Pfaff when he says, “the serious danger today to America is its pseudo-Marxist ideology of aggressive world security hegemony.” Putin, judoka that he is, is exploiting America's use of its power to rebuild Russia's own power and thus her sovereignty, a sovereignty that was itself seriously threatened by the United States during the Yeltsin period. DS

Patrick J. Buchanan: Who Restarted the Cold War?
Abstract: "Putin's Hostile Course," the lead editorial in The Washington Times of Oct. 18, began thus: "Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Moscow is just the latest sign that, more than 16 years after the collapse of Soviet communism, Moscow is gravitating toward Cold War behavior.(...) "(A)t virtually every turn, Mr. Putin and the Russian leadership appear to be doing their best in ways large and small to marginalize and embarrass the United States and undercut U.S. foreign policy interests."(...) Missing from the prosecution's case, however, was the motive. Why has Putin's Russia turned hostile? Why is Putin mending fences with China, Iran and Syria? Why is Putin sending Bear bombers to the edge of American airspace? Why has Russia turned against America? For Putin's approval rating is three times that of George Bush. Who restarted the Cold War?(...) Russia let the Berlin Wall be torn down and its satellite states be voted or thrown out of power across Eastern Europe. Russia agreed to pull the Red Army all the way back inside its border. Russia agreed to let the Soviet Union dissolve into 15 nations. The Communist Party agreed to share power and let itself be voted out. Russia embraced freedom and American-style capitalism, and invited Americans in to show them how it was done. Russia did not use its veto in the Security Council to block the U.S. war to drive Saddam Hussein, an ally, out of Kuwait. When 9-11 struck, Putin gave his blessing to U.S. troops using former republics as bases for the U.S. invasion. What was Moscow's reward for its pro-America policy? The United States began moving NATO into Eastern Europe and then into former Soviet republics. Six ex-Warsaw Pact nations are now NATO allies, as are three ex-republics of the Soviet Union. NATO expansionists have not given up on bringing Ukraine, united to Russia for centuries, or Georgia, Stalin's birthplace, into NATO.(...) While Moscow removed its military bases from Cuba and all over the Third World, we have sought permanent military bases in Russia's backyard of Central Asia.(...) Under presidents Clinton and Bush, the United States financed a pipeline for Caspian Sea oil to transit Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Black Sea and Turkey, cutting Russia out of the action. With the end of the Cold War, the KGB was abolished and the Comintern disappeared. But the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House and other Cold War agencies, funded with tens of millions in tax-exempt and tax dollars, engineered the ouster of pro-Russian regimes in Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia, and sought the ouster of the regime in Minsk. At the Cold War's end, the United States was given one of the great opportunities of history: to embrace Russia, largest nation on earth, as partner, friend, ally. Our mutual interests meshed almost perfectly. There was no ideological, territorial, historic or economic quarrel between us, once communist ideology was interred. We blew it. We moved NATO onto Russia's front porch, ignored her valid interests and concerns, and, with our "indispensable-nation" arrogance, treated her as a defeated power, as France treated Weimar Germany after Versailles. READ IT ALL

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Palestinian Question of William Pfaff

David Seaton's News Links
In a sense I make my living reading the newspapers and for me the world's best columnist on international affairs is an "American in Paris" named William Pfaff. His byline has appeared in the Paris Trib for many years with occasional appearances in such prestigious venues as The New York Review of Books.

He is the columnist's columnist. He has had an enormous influence on me and my work and I would describe him as the "anti-Thomas Friedman".

He has just written about the best thing that I have read recently about the situation Israel finds itself today. He has boiled the most complex of problems down to the simplest of questions. Guru jai, jai, Guru maharaj!

The emphasis and color are strictly my own. DS

William Pfaff; A Question for Israelis
Abstract: The question is this: suppose that Israel is given all that its government seems to want. No Palestinian state, Israel continues colonization, annexing more of the Palestinian territories, or even all of them. What then? What will happen to the Palestinians in the years ahead? What would the land of Israel, and what now are the Palestinian territories, look like in 50 years?(...) The question is what is to be done now. Forming a new state for the Palestinians is the solution that is being attempted. This why Condoleezza Rice has made seven visits to Israel this year. She wishes to bring the parties to a meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, next month, to advance the creation of such a state. It is hard to expect much to result from this initiative, since Israel gives no evidence of wishing to see progress in the matter. The government’s announcement of still another seizure of Palestinian land in Jerusalem a few days before Secretary Rice’s arrival seemed a deliberate slap in her face.

One must ask the Israeli government the following question. Suppose, as is probable, that no American administration, now or later, puts any obstacle in the way of whatever you want to do. Suppose there were no effective international pressures on you to stop colonization and land seizures. Suppose that no Palestinian state is created. What are you going to do about the Palestinians?(...)

American opinion is shifting. The Walt-Mearsheimer book had had an effect. The deliberate Israeli sinking of the USS Liberty in 1967 has been taken up again in the mainstream press. War in Iraq and the possibility of attack on Iran has increased popular concern about Israeli influence on American policy. Israeli human rights groups have denounced the treatment of the Palestinians, and recently have accused the Israeli authorities of trying to force Palestinians needing emergency medical help in Israeli hospitals to collaborate with Israel’s security services as a condition for treatment.

How long can this continue, even as a purely practical problem of physical control of a hostile population? The Palestinian population continues to grow more rapidly than Israel’s, and the average age grow younger, producing cohorts of young people who are politically radicalized, ready to turn again to violence to be free of these conditions of life. There are certain to be new Palestinian uprisings.

In international law, Israel is responsible for these people. What methods of permanent control does it envisage? There are some in Israel who hope their misery will force the Palestinians to abandon the territories. But to go where? In what conditions, and under what compulsion?

(...) I am not asking this for polemical purposes. I am asking a practical question. What is Israel going to do with these people? The problem exists, and however convenient to ignore today, it will have to answered. READ IT ALL

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The very merry un-president

Caught in the headlights of history

"The public mood is not just dark. What's darker than dark?" Zogby said. "The mood is getting ugly."

David Seaton's News Links
We are living in a very special time. What an alignment of the planets!

It should give us some comfort to see how basically unsinkable the USA is.... touch wood. DS

Bush, Congress at record low ratings: Reuters poll
President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress registered record-low approval ratings in a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday, and a new monthly index measuring the mood of Americans dipped slightly on deepening worries about the economy.

Only 29 percent of Americans gave Bush a positive grade for his job performance, below his worst Zogby poll mark of 30 percent in March. A paltry 11 percent rated Congress positively, beating the previous low of 14 percent in July.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, a new measure of the mood of the country, dropped from 100 to 98.8 in the last month on worries about the economy and fears of a recession, pollster John Zogby said.

"Since the last time we polled we have had the mortgage crisis, and we are hearing the recession word a whole lot more than we've heard it in the past," Zogby said.

"There are things that happened in the September polling that drove the number down a bit, and they are mostly economic worries," he added.

The Index, which debuts this month, combines responses to 10 questions on Americans' views about their leaders, the direction of their country and their personal situations. Polling for the Index began in July, and that month's results provide the benchmark score of 100.

A score above 100 indicates the country's mood has improved since July. A score below 100, like the one recorded in September, shows the nation's mood getting worse. The RZI, which will be released the third Wednesday of each month, had remained at 100 in August.

"The public mood is not just dark. What's darker than dark?" Zogby said. "The mood is getting ugly."

The national survey of 1,011 likely voters, taken September 13 through September 16, found barely one-quarter of Americans, or 27 percent, believe the country is headed in the right direction. Nearly 62 percent think the country is on the wrong track.

About two-thirds of Americans think the value of their homes will stay the same or drop in the next year, and about one-third expect a recession in the next year amid a housing slump and credit crunch.

The poll also found little confidence in U.S. foreign or economic policy, with 68 percent of Americans rating economic policy as just fair or poor and 73 percent calling foreign policy either fair or poor.

Most of the polling was done after a speech by Bush and testimony to Congress by the top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, indicating the United States would make some reductions but planned to keep high troop levels in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Zogby said continuing uncertainty about Iraq contributed to the bad public mood and helped push down ratings for Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

"I think we are seeing an anti-institution mood here," he said. "Post-Katrina, and now with Iraq and the economy getting worse, people just don't have faith that anybody is solving their problems."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How many divisions (investment funds) has the Dalai Lama got?

David Seaton's News Links
The Dalai Lama is a great spiritual leader, I follow his discourses with great interest, indeed reverence. However, as a chief of state, I can't see that he is a great example of the democratic principals that George W. Bush says he is committed to bringing to the world with fire and the sword.

As I understand it Tibet's chief of state is chosen when a group of monks show a child personal effects of the last chief of state and if he recognizes them as his own, then he becomes the new chief of state... Come to think of it, that's not a whole lot different to the way Bush got to chief of state himself. Still I don't see why it was absolutely necessary to offend China on democratic principals. Because China is in a position to express its displeasure in many interesting ways.

People who understand money tell me that there is a liquidity crisis in the world, a rather desperate shortage of cash.

China has a huge amount of cash. They want to invest it in the west. It seems to me that this information doesn't square with the photo above.

In the same way I don't understand the timing of the Armenian genocide vote in the US Senate, I don't understand the timing of the photo above. Somebody is going to end up being humiliated and I don't think it's going to be the Chinese. DS

Martin Wolf: The brave new world of state capitalism - Financial Times
Abstract: Globalisation was supposed to mean the worldwide triumph of the market economy. Yet some of the most influential players are turning out to be states, not private actors. States play a dominant role in ownership and production of raw materials, notably oil and gas. Now states are also emerging as owners of wealth. This is creating widespread concern. Does that narrow focus make sense? The broad answer is No.(...) In all, they control some $2,200bn, with $2,100bn in the top 20 funds. The seven biggest belong (in order of estimated size) to Abu Dhabi ($625bn), Norway ($322bn), Singapore – GIC ($215bn), Kuwait ($213bn), China ($200bn), Russia ($128bn) and Singapore – Temasek ($108bn).(...) The sovereign funds remain far smaller than official foreign currency reserves (approximately $5,600bn). But the expectation is that these funds will grow rapidly, possibly to exceed official currency reserves in a number of years. If recent growth were to continue, the total value would reach $13,000bn over the next decade. This might then be 5 per cent of total global financial wealth.(...) Many sovereign wealth funds should raise no concerns whatsoever. The worrying ones are only those that do seek dominant positions or outright ownership of strategically important businesses. If the fund belonged to a government deemed potentially hostile, the concern must be bigger. It would be reasonable to keep control of companies operating in defence or high technology out of the ownership of funds belonging to any foreign government, let alone a potentially hostile one. But interesting questions arise elsewhere: what would people feel about Chinese government ownership of a big media operator?(...) the owners of the sovereign wealth funds need to understand their own best interests. They should manage their money professionally and transparently. This is also the way to minimise friction with host countries. If they refuse to abide by these principles, they must expect trouble. Yet trouble should not go out of its way to look for them: far, far worse things can happen than for China to come to the west bearing the chequebook it has earned by its people’s remarkable efforts. READ IT ALL

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bush is sowing a death wind

David Seaton's News Links
The Bush administration is using "democracy" as a geopolitical tool: in the case of Burma as a weapon against China. The marching Monks were unknowingly marching for Washington, their deaths are on Bush's head.

The desire to be sovereign, especially among former colonies, is one of the strongest forces in international relations.

Around the world countries that have nothing more in common than the desire to maintain their sovereignty in the face of US destabilization are banding together, witness the unlikely alliance of Iran and Venezuela. This is the yeast where something massive could sprout.

So much hostility, cutting across ethnic, cultural, religious and ideological barriers is a powerful negative energy to face. This is really sowing the whirlwind. The United States will end up paying heavily for interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. In fact it is already paying heavily for all its mischief now. DS

F. William Engdahl: The geopolitical stakes of 'Saffron Revolution' - Asia Times
Abstract: Here some not-so-publicized facts help. Behind the recent CNN news pictures of streams of monks marching in the streets of the former capital city, Yangon, calling for more democracy, is a battle of major geopolitical consequence. The tragedy of Myanmar, whose land area is about the size of George W Bush's Texas, is that its population is being used as a human stage prop in a drama scripted in Washington by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the George Soros Open Society Institute, Freedom House and Gene Sharp's Albert Einstein Institution, a US intelligence asset used to spark "non-violent" regime change around the world on behalf of the US strategic agenda. Myanmar's "Saffron Revolution", like the Ukraine "Orange Revolution" or the Georgia "Rose Revolution" and the various color revolutions instigated in recent years against strategic states surrounding Russia, is a well-orchestrated exercise in Washington-run regime change, down to the details of "hit-and-run" protests with "swarming" mobs of monks in saffron, Internet blogs, mobile SMS links between protest groups, well-organized protest cells which disperse and re-form. CNN made the blunder during a September broadcast of mentioning the active presence of the NED behind the protests in Myanmar. In fact the US State Department admits to supporting the activities of the NED in Myanmar. The NED is a US government-funded "private" entity whose activities are designed to support US foreign policy objectives, doing today what the CIA did during the Cold War. As well, the NED funds Soros' Open Society Institute in fostering regime change in Myanmar. In an October 30, 2003 press release the State Department admitted, "The United States also supports organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and Internews, working inside and outside the region on a broad range of democracy promotion activities." It all sounds very self-effacing and noble of the State Department. Is it though? In reality the US State Department has recruited and trained key opposition leaders from numerous anti-government organizations in Myanmar. It has poured the relatively huge sum (for Myanmar) of more than $2.5 million annually into NED activities in promoting regime change in Myanmar since at least 2003. The US regime change effort, its Saffron Revolution, is being largely run, according to informed reports, out of the US Consulate General in bordering Chaing Mai, Thailand. There activists are recruited and trained, in some cases directly in the US, before being sent back to organize inside Myanmar. The US's NED admits to funding key opposition media including the New Era Journal, Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma radio. The concert-master of the tactics of Saffron monk-led non-violence regime change is Gene Sharp, founder of the deceptively-named Albert Einstein Institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group funded by an arm of the NED to foster US-friendly regime change in key spots around the world. Sharp's institute has Rbeen active in Myanmar since 1989, just after the regime massacred some 3,000 protestors to silence the opposition. CIA special operative and former US military attache in Rangoon, Col Robert Helvey, an expert in clandestine operations, introduced Sharp to Myanmar in 1989 to train the opposition there in non-violent strategy. Interestingly, Sharp was also in China two weeks before the dramatic events at Tiananmen Square.(...) US-backed regime change in Myanmar together with Washington's growing military power projection via India and other allies in the region is clearly a factor in Beijing's policy vis-a-vis Myanmar's present military junta. As is often the case these days, from Darfur to Caracas to Yangon, the rallying call of Washington for democracy ought to be taken with a large grain of salt. READ IT ALL

Monday, October 15, 2007

Armenia outs AIPAC

David Seaton's News Links
One of the most interesting things that comes out of the Armenian vote is that it is now obvious that AIPAC is NOT repeat NOT an Israel lobby. AIPAC is not even really a Jewish lobby, it's an AIPAC lobby. It exists for it's own promotion, Israel is merely a pretext, not an end in itself.

Israel is the last country in the world that wants problems with Turkey. You could say that in the long run Israel's survival in the Middle East depends more on Turkey than on the USA.

If AIPAC had really put Israel first they would have used their influence to block the resolution, but they didn't do it because that would have put a major dent in their Holocaust shakedown. So this affair at least has the merit of showing us everybody's true colors.

In a sort of perverse way the Armenian resolution has put to rest the "double loyalty" accusation. AIPAC's loyalty is only to AIPAC, not to Israel. For AIPAC Israel is simply another instrument in its moral-blackmail toolbox, to be sacrificed to "higher" interests whenever necessary. All you can say to the Israelis is mazel tov, with friends like these...

After this rant.

One thing I'd like to make clear is that I don't begrudge in any way the success that Jewish people enjoy in the USA. I am not worried at all about the influence that such an industrious minority has carved out for themselves. Nor do I think it abnormal that they feel concern for Israel. I have Irish-American relatives that used to pass the hat for the IRA. Rather I am worried about my own tribe.

Mine is a tribe that once produced, in no particular order, Emerson, Melville, Edison, Ford, Graham Bell, Mencken, Carnegie, Jefferson, Franklin, Thoreau, Whitman, William and Henry James, John Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes jr., Lincoln, Roosevelt, Hemingway and John Ford to name just a few. Now about all we can cough up is a parasitic geek like Bill Gates.What has happened to my tribe? Is it something "they" put in the hamburgers?

I am grateful to America's Jews for taking up the slack and filling the vacuum produced by the decadence of my tribe. Without its Jews, the United States would be like an obese version of Australia. The problem is with America's institutions, not the with the people who game them. There is a humorous Spanish saying, "contra el vicio de pedir está la virtud de no dar", "against the sin of begging, is the virtue of not giving". Or as Nancy Reagan has it, "just say no". DS

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Draft Al Gore... Spare the world Giuliani

"Mr. Gore’s central argument is that “reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions” and that the country’s public discourse has become “less focused and clear, less reasoned.” This “assault on reason,” he suggests, is personified by the way the Bush White House operates. " NYT review of "The Assault on Reason"

"Al Gore is a serious man confronted by a political system that is not open to a serious exploration of important, complex issues. He knows it." Bob Herbert - NYT

David Seaton's News Links
Al Gore is the only serious, mainstream, "household word" type, public intellectual left standing in a country that has produced giants like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. While I would never put him in anywhere near the same league with those titans, there is no other American political figure at this time with Gore's intellectual capacity, experience and any chance of ever being elected president (he was elected once already, after all).

Gore has identified and made his own property the two gravest problems facing America and the world today: global warming and America's deficit of democracy. This alone, whatever other merits he may possess, marks him as a historical figure.

I think Gore is wise not to run for President and to unnecessarily expose himself again to the insult and ridicule which is now what passes for public debate in the USA, but I think that the Democrats are foolish not to draft him. The present field of Democratic candidates is made up of dwarfs in comparison to Gore.

There is some idea that the Democrats are predestined to win the next presidential election... This idea is entirely erroneous in my opinion. The forces able to create and press such an unlikely dunce as George W. Bush upon the American people (twice!) are still there and certainly will marshal up every dirty trick in their massive repertoire. The two leading Democratic candidates, Hillary and Obama are singularly vulnerable to the sort of garbage that these people can brew up. Oscar, Emmy and Nobel Peace Prize winners a tad less.

The leading Republican candidate. Rudolph Giuliani is uniquely suited to exploit the weaknesses of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They would both be electable if it weren't for Al Qaeda, but Al Qaeda will still be there in October 2008.

Osama bin Laden has done very well with the Republicans and he has no reason to want to change. A Giuliani presidency could be even worse than Bush, especially with people like Daniel Pipes and Norman Podhoretz advising him. If Osama had his 'druthers' I'm sure he'd pick Rudy. And one big bomb in the right place, at the right time and I doubt if the American people would be in any mood to elect either the first woman or the first African-American president of the United States.

Perhaps the country is not ready for somebody that is really as serious as Al Gore is just yet. Another failed presidency might do the trick. After four years of Rudy Giuliani and the ensuing nightmare of war and corruption, the American people might be finally "ripe" for Al Gore.

The Democrats could save us all of this by drafting Al Gore now, but I doubt that they will. DS

Friday, October 12, 2007

The world gazes into the great American navel

David Seaton's News Links
Talk about your lobbies. We have all been watching the Jewish one, when the Armenians of all people have just derailed US foreign policy big time.

Precisely at the moment that the Turkish army is about to invade Iraqi Kurdistan and terminally destabilize whatever might be left of Iraq, the Senate passes this "Armenian genocide" resolution. This could literally put in jeopordy the lives of thousands of American soldiers... (not to speak of millions of Iraqis).

Between the Jewish, Cuban and now the Armenian (???), lobbies, any idea of a coherent US Foreign policy is literally collapsing. Any American pretense at world leadership dissolves in this endless nonsense. Quelle bordelle! DS

Armenian sway over US lawmakers - BBC
Abstract: Despite a direct appeal by US President George W Bush, lawmakers in the US have backed a description of the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks after 1915 as genocide. While Armenia welcomed the vote by a panel in the US House of Representatives, Turkey condemned it as "unacceptable" and has recalled its ambassador to Washington for "consultations". (...) Ahead of the vote, senior administration officials warned that if the resolution passed, Turkey could cut access to military bases needed for US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its passage "would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in Nato and in the global war on terror", Mr Bush said from the White House Rose Garden. Nonetheless, the non-binding resolution passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee by 27 to 21, a first step towards holding a full vote in the House of Representatives. Given that Armenians represent only about 1.5m of America's 300m population, what has won them such influence over the US Congress - and perhaps the nation's foreign policy? Part of the answer lies in the organisation and determination of the Armenian-American lobby groups, says Dr Svante Cornell, of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) are among the most powerful. Another factor is that the Armenian-American community is largely concentrated in important states such as California, Michigan and Massachusetts, Dr Cornell said. "You have basically a number of places where the Armenian issue is very important in local politics - especially for anybody wanting to get elected in California," he said. "The Turkish lobby is much less organised and much less rooted in an electorate than the Armenian lobby." READ IT ALL

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Israel needs Monty Python to do them justice

Israel confirmed Tuesday it is building a new road for Palestinians in the West Bank, prompting charges an increasingly separate road system is meant to seal Israeli control over a swath of land near Jerusalem as the sides try to revive peace talks. Meanwhile, Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian militant early Wednesday during a raid on a West Bank town, Palestinians said. Israel has said the 10-mile road will help connect Palestinian communities that would otherwise be cut off by a loop of the Israeli separation barrier that is intended to reach deep into the West Bank. Palestinian and Israeli critics accused Israel's government of creating "facts on the ground" before peace talks and said it was undermining trust. Associated Press
David Seaton's News Links
I think that only Monty Python could make the definitive film about Israel and the "peace process". Only their eye for mendacity and senseless cruelty covered with unctuous hypocrisy could do this never ending nightmare justice. DS

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pakistan not Iran at the end of Ramadan

Pakistan's government is losing its war against emboldened insurgent forces, giving al-Qaeda and the Taliban more territory in which to operate and allowing the groups to plot increasingly ambitious attacks, according to Pakistani and Western security officials.
Griff Witte, Washington Post
David Seaton's News Links
Pakistan, not Iran, is the "most dangerous" country in the world. Iran may someday have the atomic bomb, but Pakistan already has it. Al Qaida resides in Pakistan, not Iran. If Al Qaida ever get its hands on an an atomic bomb it will be in Pakistan not Iran. The Shiite Iranians are not going to give it to a Sunni terrorist. Pakistan is where the mother of disasters is just around the corner, waiting to happen. The terror attacks on the USA, Spain, Britain and the ones foiled in Germany were inspired by Al Qaida, not Iran.

Al Qaida is also now the official brand of Algerian Salafism. Algeria, with Pakistan is the largest source of potential terrorists with EU passports. Morocco is not far behind. With the children of Pakistani immigrants in Britain and the children of Algerian immigrants in France and the children of Moroccan immigrants in Holland being radicalized, the European Union is in a sense "surrounded". Certainly Americans shouldn't feel smug, the passport holders of Britain, France and Holland can travel to the USA without visas. And as the recently aborted German attack shows some young, "native*" Europeans (*definition: white folks, who don't get constantly pulled over to have their car's papers looked at ) are also feeling the pull of Osama's smoke.
The phenomenon of extremist converts should worry us for it shows that Islam can be decoupled from its native religious and cultural background. Al Qaedism is becoming a universal, radical ideology of protest. Young Westerners in search for the most brutal anti-Western position find Osama bin Laden's ideas seductive because they are ethically hermetic.(...) (bin Laden) has very consciously begun fishing for supporters who share the backward concept of Islamism for non-religious reasons. The secular religions of climate rescue and globalization criticism meet bin Laden's doctrine of divine salvation. Disillusioned of the world, unite! "Wherever the believer happens to be, he is part of a virtual society, with which he shares the same set of norms," writes the French Islam expert Olivier Roy about the attraction of Islamism. "Only two radical protest movements in the West still claim to be internationalist: the anti-globalization movement and radical Islamists.... Al Qaeda has clearly occupied an existing space of anti-imperialism and protest.... Al-Qaeda is a successor to the ultra-left and third-world movements." Die Zeit - Wall Street Journal
The holy month of Ramadan finishes this Friday and it looks like when the Al Qaida and the Taliban have had their fill of food and drink, all hell is set to break loose in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda has been in the process of a decisive ideological and strategic debate over the past few years. At times it developed fault lines that brought forward extremists in the organization, whom the Sunni and Shi'ite orthodoxy of the Muslim world calls takfiris.(...) The aim of the takfiris now is to extend the current insurgency against the establishment in the North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal areas of Pakistan into a large-scale offensive to bring down the central government or force the government to support their cause. The US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Pakistan's post-September 11, 2001, about-turn into the camp of the United States led to a marriage of convenience among the flag-bearers of Ibn Taymiyyah's ideology, zealots of al-Qaeda and experts in Giap's guerrilla strategy - former officers of the Pakistani armed forces who were upset with Pakistan's policy reversal, which included abandoning the Taliban. These groups joined forces to take control of the state through a popular revolt or by using violent means, or force on the state apparatus to support the battle against the Western coalition in Afghanistan. The alliance has had some success, notably in the Waziristans, where in effect a rigid Islamic state prevails beyond the control of the central authorities in Islamabad. Indeed, the highest level of casualties in the history of the Pakistan Army has forced Pakistani leaders to speak of stopping operations in the Waziristans, saying it is a wrong war. Asia Times - Sep 26, 2007

(P)lans for a mass uprising on the back of renewed insurgency activity are far from shelved, and could be implemented with vigor at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan next week, with tens of thousands of freshly trained men pouring into Afghanistan. The key lies in Pakistan's tribal areas, from where the Taliban draw recruits, have training camps and run their logistics. The Pakistani Taliban and Islamabad signed peace agreements in February 2005 and September 2006, under the terms of which the Pakistani Army cut back its troop levels in the tribal areas in return for militants stopping their attacks on the Pakistani Army and forces in Afghanistan. In July the Taliban abandoned the treaties following the storming of the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad by government troops. The mosque was an outspoken supporter of the Taliban movement and many militants used it as a sanctuary. Since then, the Pakistani military has re-engaged militants in the tribal areas, severely choking their supply arteries. In the past 10 days, however, militants have launched at least nine carefully planned operations against security positions in both North Waziristan and South Waziristan, and in towns in North-West Frontier Province(...). As a result, all security operations against the Taliban and their al-Qaeda colleagues in the tribal areas have stopped, and by all accounts the army is running scared. It is estimated that Pakistan has 100,000 troops and 1,000 military posts along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. From the military's perspective, the situation is exacerbated by a political hiatus in Islamabad. President General Pervez Musharraf stands for re-election in Saturday's presidential polls, after which he is expected to step down as military head and prepare over the next few months for a civilian consensus government, most likely with former premier Benazir Bhutto. No new plans to tackle the problems in the tribal areas can be expected until this situation is settled. The Taliban and their supporters now have the breathing space to replenish stocks and prepare for their new push into Afghanistan. It is envisaged that at least 20,000 fully trained fresh men from at least 16 entry points along the Durand Line that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan will be sent into Afghanistan.(...) From the daring attacks on Frontier Constabulary forts in Bannu in NWFP, where fresh hostages were taken, to suicide attacks on military and paramilitary convoys in the Swat Valley, the militants' intelligence network is doing its job. In all cases, the targets have been accurately pinpointed, and the operations carried out according to plan. The attacks have swiftly reached into the Swat Valley and send a clear message to the commanders in their barracks in Peshawar to pull back their troops or face the music. Indeed, the latest offensive against the army has sent shockwaves through military headquarters in Rawalpindi, and it is even feared that they could spread to big cities such as Karachi, Lahore and the capital Islamabad. Asia Times - Oct 5, 2007
The situation in Pakistan is utterly fluid, while Iran is under a stable, if unattractive, leadership. Obviously if we blovate about Iran and ignore the peril of Pakistan we are being manipulated.
Hearing that bombing was now a 50/50 possibility before President Bush leaves the White House, Riaz Mohammad Khan, the Pakistani foreign secretary, covered his face with both hands in mock horror. It was too horrendous a prospect to contemplate. Pakistan enjoys close relations with Iran, and its status as a major non-NATO ally would then evaporate in nationwide recriminations. Pervez Musharraf would join history’s oubliette. Yet there is a growing realization that for Israel, a nuclear Iran is an existential crisis. Arnaud de Borchgrave - UPI
The article below from the New York Sun about "Cyber-Qaida" turning on a dime when they found their security compromised comes from Pakistan not Iran. We are looking at a well oiled organization swinging into action. Iran, even Iraq and certainly Israel are mere sideshows compared to what is happening in Pakistan. DS

Qaeda Goes Dark After a U.S. Slip - New York Sun
Abstract: Al Qaeda's Internet communications system has suddenly gone dark to American intelligence after the leak of Osama bin Laden's September 11 speech inadvertently disclosed the fact that we had penetrated the enemy's system. The intelligence blunder started with what appeared at the time as an American intelligence victory, namely that the federal government had intercepted, a full four days before it was to be aired, a video of Osama bin Laden's first appearance in three years in a video address marking the sixth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. On the morning of September 7, the Web site of ABC News posted excerpts from the speech. But the disclosure from ABC and later other news organizations tipped off Qaeda's internal security division that the organization's Internet communications system, known among American intelligence analysts as Obelisk, was compromised. This network of Web sites serves not only as the distribution system for the videos produced by Al Qaeda's production company, As-Sahab, but also as the equivalent of a corporate intranet, dealing with such mundane matters as expense reporting and clerical memos to mid- and lower-level Qaeda operatives throughout the world.(...) One intelligence officer who requested anonymity said in an interview last week that the intelligence community watched in real time the shutdown of the Obelisk system. America's Obelisk watchers even saw the order to shut down the system delivered from Qaeda's internal security to a team of technical workers in Malaysia. That was the last internal message America's intelligence community saw. "We saw the whole thing shut down because of this leak," the official said. "We lost an important keyhole into the enemy."(...) The founder of a Web site known as, Nick Grace, tracked the shutdown of Qaeda's Obelisk system in real time. "It was both unprecedented and chilling from the perspective of a Web techie. The discipline and coordination to take the entire system down involving multiple Web servers, hundreds of user names and passwords, is an astounding feat, especially that it was done within minutes," Mr. Grace said yesterday. READ IT ALL