Saturday, May 03, 2003

Road Map to ..........?

Much fanfare about the 'quartet' 'road map to peace'...........so no need to revisit it here. But, interesting that Bush and Co. haven't forced Arafat out of retaining control of the PA, despite the ascension of Abu Mazen. Arafat's just yesterday's news, when will these guys understand that he is a major impediment, a symbol of a model that keeps the Palestinian people down? After so many years in the spotlight, why won't the Suptuagenarian terrorist leader just go away? Certainly it's clear that the Palestinians will continue to make no progress with him anywhere near the front of the food chain.

Debka talks in full about the foolishness of discussing an end to terrorist action from Hamas et al in this article. Although obviously slanted, Debka continues to be a top source for intelligence analysis. A fine addition to anyone's link list. I fear the 'road map' to be another mistaken plan, although certainly well-meant. We've been here before, most recently in Oslo in '92.

While the debate rages on about the President's photo-op speech on Friday, the NYTimes had this quote from an 'administration official' buried on page 3 of the story:

"What you are likely to see is not large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction but all of the elements, the precursors, the capacity to put them together quickly." The official speculated that Mr. Hussein "got caught in a trap of his own making."

"He couldn't put them together as long as the inspections were going on" before the war, he said


Say what? You mean it was inspections that had kept the WMD program on hold in Iraq? Isn't that, um, the very definition of containment, the policy that the Bush administration continually complained was a useless one, and foes to war in the Security Council of the UN claimed was working? Hmmmmm..........


keep it in your pants

As if AIDS weren't enough, (and it is)..........here's another venereal disease that's just been isolated in Baboons; could a human population be far behind? I particularily love the description of how it manifests itself in males:

The consequences for male baboons are particularly gruesome, says Elibariki Mtui, of the African Wildlife Foundation in Arusha, Tanzania. "The genitals kind of rot away, then they just drop off,"

nice...............

Friday, May 02, 2003

President's speech seemed ok. I can't say much for the entrance, however. Unnecessarily, the President jet-landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln instead of using a much safer helicopter..........and strolled out on the flight deck in full pilot's regalia.

Either this is a guy who's just having a little fun after a long serious job well done, or this is a regal entrance of a man full of sophmoric love of the military power he has just wielded and continues to wave at the world.............. Let's hope he remembers that he's the CIC, a civilian, in charge of this military.

Thursday, May 01, 2003


Here's a guy having just too much fun...............

Take this job and love it..................

Despite a $3.6 billion emergency measure to keep the state afloat, the $35 billion dollar California budget shortfall will be an ongoing problem. What makes it interesting, of course, is only that California is the first to feel the threat of bankruptcy, while most States of the Union are running huge deficits for fiscal 2004 and staring the same problems straight in the face. California leads the pack, with 30% of it's budget as deficit with NY close behind at 25%. Standard left/right arguments/solutions abound with Gray Davis advocating an increased 1/2% sales tax as Republicans from the state request deeper budget cuts than those already approved by the Governor.

Truth is, both sides are mired in argument instead of solution in this debate. The key with State budgets remain the key for individual budgets, 'don't spend what you don't have'. In good times, politicians on both sides look to make political points with their constituents through burdening the budget, with programs or rebates. Neither side is as eager, when the revenue stream slows, to cut their 'necessary' items. That would require leadership, and, political fearlessness. Because of this, I've particularily admired NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg's handling of the city's budget crunch. While others on the City council and in the State Senate (click here!) have bleated with one-sided obnoxiousness and name calling, Mayor Bloomberg has been non partisan in his approach, being unafraid to employ sweeping municipal cutbacks with pleas for state help, as well as floating the idea of a reincarnated commuter tax. It seems there may be an advantage to electing really, really rich men to serve in public office. Does a man like Bloomberg have anything to fear from hurting a few political friendlies? Nah, you can't send him back to the alderman's desk, like some other political hack. Elect him out, and he'll just go back to running his multi-million dollar media conglomerate. Is there any wonder that he's so low in the polls?? To me that's a VERY GOOD sign, he must be doing something right, willing to take on true responsibility that comes with governing. He's a real leader, just like his predecessor...............


It's my house..........(of Saud)


Today it was announced that the US military will withdraw all military units stationed in Saudi Arabia after more than 10 years of basing there. Of course, the instant rationale for the withdrawal would be the fall of Saddam, as Saudi based units were designed to protect Saudi Arabia and it's oil rich neighbors from Iraqi attack. Robert Baer, writing in this month's Atlantic Monthly, argues that nothing could be further from the truth. He claims that Anti-americanism has reached a fever pitch and that the House of Saud is teetering on the brink of failure. Because of this, and because of perceived promises broken by the Americans on Gulf War I and the Palestinian problem, the Saudi family has practically demanded US withdrawal. In addition, because of US reliance on Saudi oil, Baer urges the US government to pay more attention to the political crisis that's brewing. Baer recalls that 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, while noting that no arrests have ever been made there and indeed, the Saudi family has been much less forthcoming about existing terrorist ties inside that country than, for example, the Pakistani government has been. Saudi Arabia is a nation with no real middle class, and their population would certainly elect a fundamentalist Islamic leadership if given the chance. Are democratic reforms following on the heels of US military withdrawal? The Americans certainly hope not.

This is an intelligent article from a former CIA operative talking about a critical Middle Eastern nation that remains closeted and 'phantom' in it's dealings with it's people and the rest of the world. A must read article..............

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

It's my House..........(of Saud)

Today it was announced that the US military will withdraw all military units stationed in Saudi Arabia after more than 10 years of basing there. Of course, the instant rationale for the withdrawal would be the fall of Saddam, as Saudi based units were designed to protect Saudi Arabia and it's oil rich neighbors from Iraqi attack. Robert Baer, writing in this month's Atlantic Monthly, argues that nothing could be further from the truth. He claims that Anti-americanism has reached a fever pitch and that the House of Saud is teetering on the brink of failure. Because of this, and because of perceived promises broken by the Americans on Gulf War I and the Palestinian problem, the Saudi family has practically demanded US withdrawal. In addition, because of US reliance on Saudi oil, Baer urges the US government to pay more attention to the political crisis that's brewing. Baer recalls that 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, while noting that no arrests have ever been made there and indeed, the Saudi family has been much less forthcoming about existing terrorist ties inside that country than, for example, the Pakistani government has been. Saudi Arabia is a nation with no real middle class, and their population would certainly elect a fundamentalist Islamic leadership if given the chance. Are democratic reforms following on the heels of US military withdrawal? The Americans certainly hope not.

This is an intelligent article from a former CIA operative talking about a critical Middle Eastern nation that remains closeted and 'phantom' in it's dealings with it's people and the rest of the world. A must read article..............
The most fascinating article of the day I've come across is in the NY Times, discussing the inner conversations between Defense and State about the swiftness of returning governmental control in Iraq back to the Iraqis. Apparently, the State Department is much more apt to move slowly in establishing interim authority, afraid that outsiders like Ahmad Chalabi of the invented 'Iraqi National Congress' should gain too much influence in the process. The Pentagon, on the other hand, as the Times puts it, wants to move swiftly to put an Iraqi face on power, according to senior American officials. In light of recent incidents in Fallujah and the general trouble keeping the peace in Mosul in the North, it's not surprising that the military is beginning to chafe at their recent police role, a task for which they are uniquely unsuited. Anti-American chatter and outburst in Iraq seems to follow upon the heels of each succeeding incident, and the military wants out.

Well, Gingrich should be happy, it seems that the Pentagon's will is being followed more closely on this issue than State's. None of this should imply that the coalition is willing to 'hand over' power to the Iraqi people so quickly, as well it shouldn't. As has been noted in these columns and elsewhere, truly free elections among the Iraqis at this point would almost certainly inspire an Iran-like fundamentalist government, of a model already seen as a failure in its host country...........all most universally so. In fact, the US voice is almost entirely agreed at least on this one point, and no timetable for Iraqi independence, whether from State or Defense, whether from the rightside or the leftside of the Congressional aisle, sees less than a 2-year window. The Iraqi delegates meeting with General Garner in Kuwait see an interim Government taking control of basic services by late May, with more responsiblities being undertaken after 6-8 months. Elections, in a truly democratic climate, are still far, far on the horizon.

Hypocritical, I think, to back out of civil administration of Iraq while retaining control of all things political and economic. It's understandable for the military to want Iraqi faces behind the guns, shooting to disperse the crowds, and be able to dodge these incidents altogether. The State Department's desire to move slowly, and coopt all sections of a varied Iraqi demography, including the religious Shiite side, strikes me as a better recipe for insuring long term stability in Iraq. But, either way it goes, it'll be a long haul.....................

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

It's only the beginning.........

The final settlement of the Wall Street analysts scandalhas been signed, and it has amounted to a whopping $1.4 billion dollars, spread through most of the largest brokerage houses on the Street. In the settlement, Citigroup takes the biggest hit with $400 million, which was to be expected, considering they were where lightning rod telecom analyst Jack Grubman was employed. But every major house took one on the chin here including CSFB, Merrill, Morgan Stanley, Goldman, Lehman and JPMorganChase.

This was, of course, a necessary outcome, but instead of philosophically discussing the nature of sin.............let's just list the winners and losers from this settlement:

Winners:
1) Eliot Spitzer: He succeeded in hammering out this agreement where the SEC and Harvey Pitt wouldn't touch it........he's got his big feather and quality issue to catapult him into the Governor's office.
2) Dick Grasso: By arm-twisting his boys on the floor, the NYSE chairman has ended the analyst embarassment for him, while deflecting attention away from his brewing specialist scandal (I'm using the NYPost for links today, an underrated business section ).
3) The Stock Market: While this doesn't completely restore confidence, it certainly helps...............
Losers:
1) Citigroup, etal.: In the wake of the settlement, the major brokerage houses have only begun to visit their misery on this issue. With the trail of damning email following them around, the avalanche of civil suits from investor groups are sure to keep the legal departments of these houses busy in defense for the next decade.
2) Investors: While the settlements amounted to $1.4 billion, less that $400 million will go into the 'fund' to compensate investors. Considering the massive amounts of capital lost in the tech bust, this 'tiny' amount almost guarantees that investors will resort to class action to try and be recompensed, although that is ultimately impossible.

THE BIGGEST WINNERS:

Of course, THE LAWYERS..........how about this quote from an attorney at litigators Rabin, Murray and Frank
"A big thank you to the regulators," he added. "We've filed 30 to 40 Wall Street cases already and based on this settlement we expect to file a lot more."


Wonderful...........................


Monday, April 28, 2003

Ok, we've beat up on the UK Telegraph, let's give them some credit. While I've been slow to comment about these reports of the French 'coaching' of the Iraqi regime before the war, even a little whiff of this kind of complicity between Paris and Baghdad is nauseating. Blair is really putting his fist through Chirac's throat, and who can blame him? He holds all the cards right now.


all right, let's get this straight right from the beginning: I'm amazed at the work done by the US military in Iraq and believe that our actions there were good for Iraq as well as the US, but I'm growing increasingly tired of pundits, the NYPost and the Fox network focussing on specious evidence of WMD programs, screaming "we've found it!" at the top of their lungs, and suspiciously not offering retractions or opposing stories when it turns out to be another red herring. The latest ridiculousness in this vein comes from the UK telegraph, screaming about damning documents that the CIA had already pored over but 'missed'. Here, the telegraph talks about an Al-qaeda envoy possibly scheduling a trip to Baghdad in 1998 for godssakes, looking to ...... establish a relationship between Baghdad and al-Qa'eda based on their mutual hatred of America and Saudi Arabia Follow up meetings? no. Actual records of anyone entering Iraq? no. Anything less than 5 years old? again, no. Now, I'm not suggesting that such a document proves nothing, particularily that the Iraqi government wasn't too keen on the US government and interested in hearing what anyone had to say who shared their dislike. But, to assume from these documents a support, or an established relationship between Iraq and Al-qaeda really goes over the top. I still believe you'd find closer ties to Al-qaeda in Patterson, New Jersey than you will in Baghdad. Well, maybe not, but you get the drift. Look, we know about Iranian ties to Hezbollah in Lebanon, we know that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs are funded by the Saudis through Arafat's Fatah party, but to try and connect Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden has proven to be a useless path. It also tries to deflect commentary away from the search for weapons, which was ostensibly why we went in there.

Can I quote from Secretary Powell's February 5th speech at the Security Council of the UN? Ok, I will:

(After showing satellite photo of bunker:)
...........This is one of about 65 such facilities in Iraq..........Here, you see 15 munitions bunkers in yellow and red outlines. The four that are in red squares represent active chemical munitions bunkers.
How do I know that? How can I say that? Let me give you a closer look. Look at the image on the left. On the left is a close-up of one of the four chemical bunkers. The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions.


and:

We saw this kind of house cleaning at close to 30 sites.


and, speaking of workers in the Iraqi WMD program:

experts at one facility that was related to weapons of mass destruction, those experts had been ordered to stay home from work to avoid the inspectors. Workers from other Iraqi military facilities not engaged in elicit weapons projects were to replace the workers who'd been sent home. A dozen experts have been placed under house arrest, not in their own houses, but as a group at one of Saddam Hussein's guest houses. It goes on and on and on.


That's enough, I think. You get the point. 65 facilities, cleaning at 30 sites, dozens of workers kept home......................where the heck is ANY OF THIS. At the very least, you'd have to conclude that the intelligence that Secretary Powell depended on to make his case at the UN was inflated. At the worst, invented. And, in some Bismarckian way, it's ridiculous to conveniently forget the stated rationale for involvement after the fact, just because things seemed to work out so well. Is this the way we do business in our country now? No, we make our case for action, not take action hoping that we'll stumble upon a case.

We certainly have liberated the Iraqis from a horrible and repressive and destructive and self-concerned dictatorship. That's NOT to be denied. But with a world filled with dictators, our other reasons for involvement in Iraq need to be vindicated. Without that vindication, in it's place will reemerge all the anti-war theories that have been so conveniently ignored recently because of our quick and impressive success.............and that runs the gamut from the simplistic European 'war for oil' to the Maileresque 'quest for empire'.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Last word on Santorum. It's been particularily fascinating for me to see the conservative voice flopping around like a live fish on a boat deck, trying to reconcile their Republican principles with their mainstream parochial morality. I'm not at all surprised by those in political office who will support these views, as it still represents the mass-held opinion of a majority of Republican voters, while being totally out of the realm of reality for conservative pundits and bloggers. Here again, J. Bottum in the Daily Standard finds he is capable of defending Santorum, even without agreeing with him, and goes so far as to ward away: ....(the) New York Times and.......... a steady stream of comments from homosexual and libertarian bloggers. Here, he's referring directly to Andrew Sullivan, who has been relentlessly, and ineffectually, trying to reconcile his beloved party with the freedom of being Gay. Well, Andrew, it's time to get over it. We just haven't come so far yet. While the Democrats have their burdens to bear, which we will poke fun at as easily as we have the Republicans when the opportunity arises, this is just one issue that will remain unresolved for ideologically 'pure' conservatives. Of course Sullivan would find this more grating than other intellectual pundits on the Beltway; Sexual morality (Sodomy) laws hold no fears for heterosexuals, despite the fact that most of the intellectual conservatives who opine on this subject have most probably 'broken' them, while Homosexuals necessarily are 'on the wrong side' of these laws by definition. Funny how the heterosexual world can hold itself apart from this discussion, when Santorum clearly did not want to limit his displeasure only to gays. But, their level of discomfort is obvious and stunning.....................

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