Saturday, January 26, 2008
A riveting slide show of events at the Gaza - Egypt border can be seen here (<-- click)
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Of course it is all tied to what has been called the "subprime" scandal, but even this leaves many not closely involved in financial matters trying to understand what it's all about.
Watch this video to get a clear understanding of how financial markets actually work:
Sunday, January 20, 2008
President Bush hovers at the lowest approval ratings of any US President in recent memory, recently presided over the unqualified repudiation of his policies through the midterm electoral loss of both houses, and now struggles to manage massive indicators of economic downturn (including China and Abu Dabi in deals for Citibank's $18 bn shortfall, Merril Lynch's $ 8 bn fourth quarter loss, the Morgan Stanely $5.6 bn 4th quarter loss, and much else). President Abbas lost control of Gaza to Hamas in democratic elections, and whose Fatah party are in shootouts and violent confrontations with Hamas in Gaza, and Olmert gasps for air in the thin and unforgiving political atmosphere following the Lebanon attack-and-military-debacle, as well as investigations related to personal, corruption scandal.
One might imagine Abbas to be the most courageous of these three considering the extreme risk any Muslim figure - especially one from the region - takes when engaged in real or imagined collaboration with US and/or Israel. But apart from the possible courage of Mr. Abbas, and whatever good might be ascribed to Messrs Bush and Olmert, the fact is that none exercises sufficient sovereignty, enjoys sufficient positive good will, or commands a sufficient, domestic majority to implement anything they might agree upon with one another. None (save perhaps Mr. Abbas) are even in any way remotely identified with peace. All three currently suffer under the persistent weight of military misadventures (Lebanon for Olmert, Iraq for Bush, and Gaza skirmishes for Abbas).
Poor Abbas was humiliated and Olmert mocked by Egypt's willingness to transport 2,000 Gazan Hajjis directly into the strip contra the Abbas-Olmert plan for their return to Gaza from Mecca. Thus the political, economic, and military insufficiency of these dialogue partners preclude the possible expectation of peace or progress from these conversations.
The second reason the Bush, Middle East tour bodes no hope for peace, is due to the addled and unfocused agenda for the journey. It was called a peace mission though a major purpose what to foment enmity and belligerence toward a major country in the region (Iran). Bush was overt and unashamed in his effort to rally Gulf Arabs into an anti-Iran bloc. He was bent on further isolating Tehran diplomatically and economically, without giving up the option of a military attack on Iran. This bellicose, anti-Iran quality of the tour, defines the word peace out of proper analysis of the tour. And even this met with no success. "The Arabs are afraid of Iran, especially the Saudis and the emirs who rule the small oil-rich states situated just across the Gulf from the Persian giant," writes Scott McLeod out of Cairo for Time, but while "they are inclined to agree with Bush's worries about Iran's nuclear intentions. But they are even more concerned about another U.S. war in the Gulf. Arabs would never want Washington to get too cozy with Tehran. But they've had enough Texas gunslinging."
The second contaminant to "peace seeking," was the cap-in-hand supplication for more and cheaper oil from Saudi King Abdullah. Bush's plea drew little sympathy from oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which said production levels appear normal, despite Bush's odd declaration that he thinks "thinks Abdullah understands the pain Americans are suffering at the pump," Are we talking about the same Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah who gave the Bush family $127,600 in jewelry and other presents last year, including a diamond-and-sapphire jewelry set for first lady Laura Bush that was valued at $95,500. This is the man Mr. Bush is sure understands the pain Americans are suffering at the pump?
The third and most egregious part of the tour that offends the notion of peace is the fact that, far more than behaving like a genuine peace ambassador, Mr. Bush instead resembled most closely an arms merchant. Presently a nuclear nation, Pakistan and US ally Musharaf teeter on the brink of implosion and falling into the hands of radical, militant clergy. Data from Fiscal Year Series report of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) of the Department of Defense explains that the United States signed arms transfer agreements with Pakistan in excess of $3.5 billion. The late Dr. Bhutto could not see through US efforts and Condi's request to help transition Pakistan from military rule. Now in the name of "peace" president Bush offers Israel a $30 billion arms deal, and Saudi Arabia (the home origin of all 9-11 "bombers") a 20 billion dollar arms deal. In essence the Bush notion of being on a mission for peace is to have the United States arm to the teeth, and intensify internecine "Muslim" hatreds, in the worst tinderbox and most unstable theatre of incurable hatred our race has ever known.
At the end of his negotiations with Abbas and Olmert, his efforts to foment tensions in the region, his supplication for more and cheaper oil, and his efforts to broker 50 billion dollars in US arms sales to the most strife ridden and unstable area in the world, and despite the fact that neither Israel nor its Arab neighbors assured Bush that they will do what the United States asks on issues ranging from democratic reform and unauthorized Israeli housing expansion to high gas prices, Bush nevertheless seemed tickled at the end of his tour. "I'm feeling quite feisty here," Bush said Tuesday, pronouncing himself to be in "a great mood" as the closely watched trip drew to a close. A day earlier he had collected enormous gold medallions in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, accepting the Saudi medal with a slight bow of the head and a double kiss for his host the king.
Feisty perhaps. A joke? No sadly, not a joke.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
This is not merely and purely an issue of religious freedom. It is also the wedge and icon of the decades long power battle between "the generals" and elected governments in Turkey.
In addition to plain fights over power, there is a genuine ideological dimension as well. The secular establishment (including the military) sees attempts to lift the ban as threatening Turkey's "secular principles." In the past,
One cannot look at this just cynically though. The legitimate points of concern from the side of the secular elite is the express fear that lifting the headscarf ban could put pressure on women to wear ever more conservative attire, and open new avenues for the government to impose strict versions of Sharia law on public and private life. These are highly sensitive issues that often dominate the national agenda.
Still on principle alone it is necessary to side with Erdogan who insists that lifting the ban is nothing more than a question of individual liberty.
This claim to simplicity is not true in the context of Turkish power politics, and highly charged questions involving culture, religion, and even Turkey's own directions on policy and international relations. Still, even in such complex and complicated issues of politics and policy, it remains necessary to uphold the ideal of personal liberty, especially in the arena of religious freedom. We cannot be comfortable when governments impose on the free expression of personal faith. We do not want Turkish Muslims barred from their sacred obligations any more than we would hope to see such constraints and impositions on Muslims citizens in Holland, Germany, or France.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
That's a pleasant belief. Here is what has happened within days of this remarkable declaration:
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Mullen Says He Favors Closing Terror Prison As Soon As Legal Issues Are Worked Out
The chief of the U.S. military said he favors closing the prison here as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been "pretty damaging" to the image of the United States.
"I'd like to see it shut down," Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday in an interview with three reporters who toured the detention center with him on his first visit since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last October.
LOOK AT HOW LONG AGO - US LEADERS WERE ACTIVE ON THESE ISSUES!Here is an investigative report (MSNBC) from as far back as November 2006!
The inside story of criminal investigators who tried to stop abuse
By Bill Dedman
Updated: 7:34 p.m. PT Oct 23, 2006
Their account indicates that the struggle over U.S. interrogation techniques began much earlier than previously known, with separate teams of law enforcement and intelligence interrogators battling over the best way to accomplish two missions: prevent future attacks and punish the terrorists.
In extensive interviews with MSNBC.com, former leaders of the Defense Department’s Criminal Investigation Task Force said they repeatedly warned senior Pentagon officials beginning in early 2002 that the harsh interrogation techniques used by a separate intelligence team would not produce reliable information, could constitute war crimes, and would embarrass the nation when they became public knowledge.
The investigators say their warnings began almost from the moment their agents got involved at the Guantanamo prison camp, in January 2002. When they could not prevent the harsh interrogations and humiliation of detainees at Guantanamo, they say, they tried in 2003 to stop the spread of those tactics to Iraq, where abuses at Abu Ghraib prison triggered worldwide outrage with the publishing of graphic photos in April 2004.
IN THE MIDDLE OF LAST YEAR, EVEN ROBERT GATES PUSHED TO SHUT DOWN GITMO!
From CBS News
Report: Gates Pushed To Shut Down Gitmo
Defense Secretary Argued For Closing Of Terror Prison During First Weeks On Job(CBS/AP) In sharp contrast to his predecessor, Defense Secretary Robert Gates reportedly tried to shut down Guantanamo.
Gates, who succeeded Donald Rumsfeld last year, pushed in his first weeks as defense secretary for closing the detention center at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, arguing that its image was so tainted that any military trials there would be viewed as illegitimate, according to The New York Times.
He was overruled, however, after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other government lawyers objected to moving detainees to the United States, the Times said in a report posted on its Web site Thursday night. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed with Gates, but Vice President Dick Cheney's office took the same position as Gonzales, the report said, citing unidentified senior administration officials.
I DO NOT HAVE SPACE OR TIME TO FULLY AIR THIS UNIMAGINABLE HISTORY.
Concerned readers should also pause to take in the year old article to see the political tactics taken by this administration waging legal battles and political smears to maintain its interrogation program at Gitmo.
Gitmo Defense Counsel Stand Accused
Wednesday, January 17, 2007; 12:00 AM
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Last night I took note of how the candidates handled the outcome and how they addressed their supporters once the results became clear.
Such on-the-ground politics is a thrilling part of the American political process. Candidates are close among volunteers and the voters, very personal, yet carry out this work under massive national and media attention. This blend of intimate, person to person politics, in high intensity, high-stakes, impassioned activity is a formula for the arising of fervid emotion and can provide a very helpful lens through which to take in candidates.
As numbers became clear each candidate came out to address his or her supporters, responding to victory, something less than victory, or simply defeat. These speeches are at once thanks and good-bye to genuine, loving supporters, but also speeches to the nation. With emotions so high and the personal so close, these make for good speeches to watch closely.
John McAin should have had the most thrilling night of all, since he was the runaway victor in his party after having been left for dead just weeks ago. For some, sad reason McCain acceded to deliver a travesty of a speech prepared by some hack. He stumbled through a poorly written screed so riddled with grammatical negatives that McCain himself ended up confused. Even its compulsory "end-with-a-show-stopper" clattered about, entangled in its 3-parts, the crowd erupting part way through, while McCain had to quiet them down only to get through a deflated, closing zinger, a most unfortunate energy to announce one's resurrection.
Ron Paul, the Ross Perot of 2008 with wildly devoted followers, ended up in his concession speech excitedly reiterating his plan to dissolve the Federal Reserve, excitedly reporting that his supporters are burning up dollar bills. Not exactly the stuff of political gravitas.
New Mexico Governor Richardson (whom I tend to like as a personality) was unprepared, and said as close to nothing as possible.
Of these, the most important two speeches to watch were those of Senators Clinton and Obama.
New Hampshire results pulled Senator Clinton from the jaws of death. Iowa had shown her vulnerability, and Hillary haters and the vapid commentariat raced to write her obituary though not a single American vote had been cast in a single primary (Iowa being a caucus).
Senator Clinton showed an important strength and important weaknesses in her speech to thank and congratulate her supporters. On the positive side, without a prepared speech, she stayed on message. In essence in what should be an extremely emotional moment, Senator Clinton simply continued to campaign. Her degree of focus and purposefulness in an emotional moment of political rescue emits the political maturity of a candidate that must be taken seriously. (Regardless of whether one ascribes this focus to a "healthy" or problematic place).
Obama did the same. He too stayed highely focused while fully engaging and embracing his New Hampshire supporters.
Senator Clinton paused to acknowledge her Democrat competitors, as did Senator Obama, but this act, just as the speeches themselves proved to reveal the colossal difference between these two candidates.
Barack Obama took the stage before a deafening crowd, and after strenuous effort to gain sufficient calm to be able to speak, the very first words from his mouth were unqualified congratulations for Senator Clinton. He demanded of his purely partisan supporters, "give her a hand," and paused with a silent insistence that this crowd summon up that unexpected and unwanted ability. The applause for Senator Clinton at Obama's request gradually swelled almost as though Obama willed it from his people. Only then did Obama turn to yet another example of his superior oratory. What a burden it must be to run against that. But true oratory is not a glued on skill. That only goes so far. The true question is not how hard it is to run against his oratory, but how hard it is to run against him.
Senator Clinton on the other hand, in the fading exhale end of her remarks acknowledged her Democrat opponents beginning her list with even those who'd already withdrawn from the race! At the end of this long list, the END (!), she included mention of Senator Obama, a silly disjunct from reality, as though the Illinois Senator is just another in an insignificant list of primary hopefuls.
It is this difference (namely the manner in which each of these candidates publicly acknowledged the other) that showed in such high relief also in the speeches themselves. Hillary's speech extended her campaign strategies, whereas Obama's speech reprised his vision.
Senator Clinton very clearly continued to shade and shave the campaign strategy and message chiseled by her architects, whereas Obama seemed to need only to draw upon that which sits within. It leads one to feel, or at least to suggest that in Senator Clinton's remarkable discipline to stay on point we experience a menacing political discipline and calculation, whereas with Senator Obama one feels ease, and the relative absence of calculation. Being on point is being himself. The political discipline seems to spray forth in the wake of a harmonizing vision.
If it is true that Obama represents an impassioned presence, and Clinton represents the ultimate political machine and mastery, then we truly have a momentous race to behold, one about which no one should be neutral.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
In many ways the dynamics harken to the enduring problem of Jerusalem, particularly the pilgrimage site Masjid Al Aqsa.
The religious rite of pilgrimage, when contaminated by religio-political elements including violence and security, make for a very complex set of elements and dynamics.
The Haj takes the same elements beyond Israel's jurisdiction into tense international relations with Muslim-state neighbors.
(Do not forget to click through these reports for access to the full articles.)
clipped from www.nytimes.com
Egypt allowed about 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims to cross back into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday
Israel had demanded that they travel back to the Gaza Strip via an Israeli-controlled border crossing, Kerem Shalom, where they could undergo Israeli security checks. But Hamas refused
saying that its supporters could be arrested by Israel.
Israeli officials suspect that some of the pilgrims brought back large sums of money and other contraband for Hamas.
The Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, which rules from the West Bank, went to great efforts to organize an official quota of about 1,000 Gaza pilgrims, who were to travel to Saudi Arabia and back via Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
At the time the official stance of the Pakistani government was that Dr. Bhutto died from a head wound and was not shot.
This article reports the Pakistani government backing down, (as Scotland Yard heads to Pakistan to assist in investigating Dr. Bhutto's death).
clipped from edition.cnn.com