“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Increasingly Loathsome Wesley Clark

Wesley Clark, The hero of Waco, is taking shots at McCain's military service, questioning his leadership capacity in comparison to whom? Barack Obama?

Clark has best been described as a vain, pompous, brown-noser.

He answers his own argument in that he is an opportunistic example of why one who once wore a uniform is not necessarily qualified for anything.

Take a look back at the perfumed prince:


David H. Hackworth
April 20, 1999


NATO's Wesley Clark is not the Iron Duke, nor is he Stormin' Norman. Unlike Wellington and Schwarzkopf, Clark's not a muddy boots soldier. He's a military politician, without the right stuff to produce victory over Serbia.

Known by those who've served with him as the "Ultimate Perfumed Prince," he's far more comfortable in a drawing room discussing political theories than hunkering down in the trenches where bullets fly and soldiers die. An intellectual in warrior's gear. A saying attributed to General George Patton was that it took 10 years with troops alone before an officer knew how to empty a bucket of spit As a serving soldier with 33 years of active duty under his pistol belt, Clark's commanded combat units -- rifle platoon to tank division - for only seven years. The rest of his career's been spent as an aide, an executive, a student and teacher and a staff weenie.

Very much like generals Maxwell Taylor and William Westmoreland, the architect and carpenter of the Vietnam disaster, Clark was earmarked and then groomed early in his career for big things. At West Point he graduated No. 1 in his class, and even though the Vietnam War was raging and chewing up lieutenants faster than a machine gun can spit death, he was seconded to Oxford for two years of contemplating instead of to the trenches to lead a platoon.

A year after graduating Oxford, he was sent to Vietnam, where, as a combat leader for several months, he was bloodied and muddied. Unlike most of his classmates, who did multiple combat tours in the killing fields of Southeast Asia, he spent the rest of the war sheltered in the ivy towers of West Point or learning power games first hand as a White House fellow.

The war with Serbia has been going full tilt for almost a month and Clark's NATO is like a giant standing on a concrete pad wielding a sledgehammer crushing Serbian ants. Yet, with all its awesome might, NATO hasn't won a round. Instead, Milosovic is still calling all the shots from his Belgrade bunker, and all that's left for Clark is to react. Milosevic plays the fiddle and Clark dances the jig. 'Stormin' Norman or any good infantry sergeant major would have told Clark that conventional air power alone could never win a war -- it must be accompanied by boots on the ground.

German air power didn't beat Britain. Allied air power didn't beat Germany. More air power than was used against the Japanese and Germans combined didn't win in Vietnam. Forty three days of pummeling in the open desert where there was no place to hide didn't KO Saddam. That fight ended only when Schwarzkopf unleashed the steel ground fist he'd carefully positioned before the first bomb fell.

Doing military things exactly backwards, the scholar general is now, according to a high ranking Pentagon source, in "total panic mode" as he tries to mass the air and ground forces he finally figured out he needs to win the initiative. Mass is a principle of war. Clark has violated this rule along with the other eight vital principles. Any mud soldier will tell you if you don't follow the principles of war you lose.

One of the salient reasons Wellington whipped Napoleon in 1815 at Waterloo is that the Corsican piecemealed his forces. Clark's done the same thing with his air power. He started with leisurely pinpricks and now is attempting to increase the pain against an opponent with an almost unlimited threshold. Similar gradualism was one of the reasons for defeat in Vietnam.

Another mistake Clark's made is not knowing his enemy. Taylor and Westmoreland made this same error in Vietnam. Like the Vietnamese, the Serbs are fanatic warriors who know better than to fight conventionally in open formations. They'll use the rugged terrain and bomber bad weather to conduct the guerrilla operations they've been preparing for over 50 years.

And they're damn good at partisan warfare. Just ask any German 70 years or older if a fight in Serbia will be another Desert Storm. It's the smart general who knows when to retreat. If Clark lets pride stand in the way of military judgment, expect a long and bloody war.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

CBS Calls This a School Prank Gone Wrong.

Uniondale High School Classroom Profile
  • Students Per Teacher 11.8
  • Enrollment 1,839
  • Economically Disadvantaged 23.1%
Breakdown by Ethnicity
  1. White 1.4%
  2. Black 68.8%
  3. Hispanic 28.8%
  4. Asian/Pacific Islander 0.6%
  5. American Indian/Alaska Native 0.4%

New York City Schools

NEW YORK (CBS) ― A school prank gone wrong on Long Island is caught on tape.

Police said a group of students, dismissed early from Uniondale High School during the June 10th heat wave vandalized a 7-11 store.

They're seen grabbing items off shelves and throwing items on the floor. According to police, they also stole candy and beverages from the store.

Three teenagers are charged with riot and petty larceny.

Can the Dollar be Saved?

Why is Bernanke only using words to help stabilize the dollar? Because he does not have the currency to do it. The Treasury has somehwere around $75 billion in foreign currency reserves with which it could intervene. Turkey, Poland and Libya each have more. China, alone added $75 billion in May.

Look at these headlines:

China's foreign reserves at $1.8 Trillion


China's foreign reserves, already the world's largest, rose to US$1.8 trillion at the end of May but growth slowed, a government newspaper reported Friday.

The reserves grew by US$40.3 billion in May, well below the April increase of US$75 billion, the China Securities Journal said, citing data from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange.

(Brazil) CENTRAL BANK: Foreign reserves exceed US$200bn for 1st time

SÃO PAULO, 6/27/08 - Brazil's foreign reserves have exceeded US$200 billion for the first time and reached US$200.231 billion.


Nigeria: Foreign Reserves Rise to $60.84bn

Posted to the web 23 June 2008
Aminu Imam

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Thursday said that Nigeria's foreign currency reserve rose to $60.84 billion in mid June from $59.16 billion it recorded at the end of May.

Mumbai,India, June 28: The country’s forex reserves jumped $1.79 billion to $312.48 billion for the week ended June 20 from $310.68 billion in the previous week. Foreign currency assets rose to $302.74 billion, up $1.78 billion, from $300.95 billion a week back. Gold reserves and special drawing rights during the week were static at $9.20 billion and $11 million, respectively. The country’s reserve position in the international monetary fund rose $5 billion to $524 million during the week.

Russia piling up gold and currency reserves

RBC, 26.06.2008, Moscow

Russia's gold and currency reserves stood at $558.7bn as of June 20, up $7.2bn, or 1.3 percent, from the previous showing. Combined with a $70.5bn rise over the previous 18 weeks, reserves have climbed a total of $77.7bn, or 16 percent, in 95 working days. The rapid increase in reserves can be attributed to the euro's significant advance against the dollar on international exchanges, as well as a stepping-up in the Central Bank's purchases of foreign currency on the domestic market. As a result, Russia has somewhat narrowed the gap separating it from China and Japan, the global leaders in terms of reserves, which exceed $1.75 trillion in China and amount to roughly $1.015 trillion in Japan.

Supermodel, Ruslana Korshunova, Death Ruled a Suicide

A permanent solution to a temporary problem. How bad could it have been? I posted a video of her taping a perfume commercial. Look at the irony at 1:20 as she gets frightened while being up on a ladder.

NEW YORK (Hollywood Today) 6/29/08 – The life of successful fashion model Ruslana Korshunova was cut short Saturday afternoon after the young Kazakhstani fell from the balcony of her apartment in Lower Manhattan to the pavement below. According to an anonymous police source cited by local newspaper Newsday, Korshunova’s death, which occurred just four days before her 21st birthday, was being treated as a suicide.

It isn’t always psychologically easy for models who are suddenly flush with money and attention at a very young age. Drugs and a decadent lifestyle are always a temptation. Yet there was construction underway on the balcony which could mean it was accidental. And a cut in the temporary netting could indicate something more nefarious.

Korshunova dropped from the ninth floor of the Water Street building, which was under construction, at approximately 2:30 p.m. According to the New York Post, there was a gap (apparently cut) in the construction netting covering the balcony. Additionally, both publications reported that police found no obvious signs of struggle inside the model’s home.

Korshunova, who was represented in New York by IMG Models, had previously appeared on the covers of major magazines, including international versions of Elle and Vogue, and had done extensive work for a variety of major designers, including Vera Wang and Libertine.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

More on Obama' Birth Certificate

June 27, 2008
Obama birth certificate mystery still unsolved
Clarice Feldman American Thinker

Controversy swirls among conservative bloggers over questions that have been raised over the authenticity of Barack Obama's birth certificate posted at the Daily Kos and (a different one) posted at his campaign's "Fight the Smears" website. Yesterday Jim Geraghty of NRO dismissed the claim that they were fake:

I spoke to Ms. Okubo[ Director of Communications of the State of Hawaii Department of Health]late Wednesday afternoon, and she said she had seen the version of Obama's certificate of live birth posted on the sites. While her office cannot verify the information on a form without the permission of the certificate holder (Obama), she said "the form is exactly the same" and it has "all the components of a birth certificate" record issued by the state. In other words, she sees no reason to think the version posted on Obama's web site and Daily Kos is not genuine.

The "embossed seal" in question is, she said, probably on the back of the document provided to Daily Kos, but not visible (as in another certificate posted on Israel Insider for contrast). She thinks the difference in visibility can be attributed to the pressure used when applying the seal.

(jmh), a commenter at Just One Minute, who does know what she's talking about, says, not so fast, Jim:

Contra [Geraghty's] admonition, the birth certification question may, in fact, be a related issue [to Obama's missing legislative records]. On the technical side, I suspect that Ms. Okubo is not very familiar with what a scanner picks up at a 300ppi resolution (as in the image Kos posted). Embossing works by actually deforming the paper itself, so no matter how light the impression might be, if it were even barely discernable on one side of a page, it would necessarily distort the pattern (and show up in the pixels) on the reverse. Indeed, high resolution scanning often picks up more than is immediately visible to the naked eye, not less! When a simple ink stamped date does show through on the reverse, Ms. Okubo's hypothetical makes almost no sense. I was suspicious of the Obama certification, but when I saw the comparison document that Isreal Insider posted, it certainly removed any doubt in my own mind.

I have no idea why the Obama campaign would take such a risk. I've even wondered if perhaps his mother didn't list a father at all, but who knows? For some reason, however, I keep thinking back to that early campaign story about an attempt to gain access Obama's passport records. It turned out to have been made by Obama's own staffers, not someone else's oppo research team, which seemed peculiar at the time, and which was never explained, IIRC. Why were they trying to see - or feel the need to check -- what the passport office had on file? [emphasis added]

I admit to the uncomfortable feeling that I'm verging on truther territory here, but considering how clean the Obama slate seems to have been wiped, and how few of his past associations -- which keep turning up by ones and twos in a blog here, or a report there -- actually show up on his c.v., my antennae just keep buzzing away. It may be exceedingly difficult to put the puzzle together because the pieces are currently so dispersed, but there's a story here.

Obama on Taxes

The chart tells the tale. The Republicans have not stopped spending and in fact have increased non-discretionary spending by increasing present and future obligations. Where do you go from here?

What Obama means by tax the wealthy
Here's a closer look at how the Democratic candidate defines well-off for different households, and what his proposals will mean for them.

By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN
Last Updated: June 28, 2008: 9:52 AM EDT

Special Report

NEW YORK ( -- Most voters are aware that Barack Obama wants to raise taxes on high-income taxpayers if he's elected president in November.

But what does the Democratic candidate mean by high-income? Who'd be affected and how? While the Obama campaign must still settle on more details about their plans, outlines are starting to emerge.

To start, Obama frequently cites $250,000 as the line between those who would be subject to higher taxes and those who wouldn't.

Indeed, under Obama's tax plan, married couples with at least $250,000 in gross income are likely to see their taxes go up if Obama is elected president.

But what about single filers? The line for them would likely be about $200,000, according to an Obama adviser.

Those groups could end up paying anywhere from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars more to Uncle Sam than they do now, according to estimates from the Tax Policy Center.

From income to Social Security to estates, we take a look at four areas where the high-income set and the very well off may be subject to a bigger tax bill in an Obama administration.

Income taxes

Obama would restore the top two income tax rates to their pre-2001 levels of 36% and 39.6%. Currently they're 33% and 35%.

Obama's proposal would also reinstate some limitations on how much of a given deduction or personal exemption high-income taxpayers may take.

However, not everyone in the top two brackets would necessarily be affected by the rate increase. Much depends on whether they've been subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) in the past.

You're supposed to calculate your tax liability under both the regular income tax code and the AMT. If your bill under the AMT is bigger, you must pay that.

The Obama rate increase would certainly narrow the spread between the two - since the amount owed under the regular code would go up. The question is would the amount you owe because of the increase exceed your AMT bill.

"Until the regular tax starts exceeding the [AMT bill], you won't have an increase," said John Battaglia, a director in the private client advisors practice of Deloitte. "But if people are deep into AMT, it wouldn't matter."

For example, if the rate increase would mean you owe $2,500 more under the regular code, but your AMT bill is normally $5,000 more than your regular bill, you would still pay the AMT.

Payroll taxes

In addition to wages up to $102,000 - the current cap on salary subject to the payroll tax, which funds Social Security - Obama would also tax amounts over $250,000.

In other words, income between $102,000 and $250,000 would be protected.

Obama's stated goals are to better fund the Social Security program - which faces a long-term shortfall - and to make the system more progressive. Currently, the vast majority of Americans pay the Social Security tax on 100% of their income because they don't make more than the $102,000 wage cap. By contrast, very highly paid taxpayers only pay Social Security tax on a portion of their income. People who make $204,000, for example, only pay the tax on 50% of their income.

The rate at which salary is taxed for Social Security is 12.4% (half of which is normally paid by employees and half by their employers).

Obama hasn't said whether the money from wages and salaries over $250,000 would be taxed at the same rate. If it were, the person making $300,000 in gross income - $50,000 above the $250,000 watermark - would pay an additional $3,100 into the system annually (6.2% x $50,000).

We also don't know whether the benefits promised to the highest income workers would go up as a result of their paying more into the system.

"Those are details that Senator Obama would want to work out on a bipartisan basis with Congress," an Obama adviser said.

That lack of specificity concerns some tax experts. "If Obama is hinting that those making more than $250,000 would pay a higher payroll tax rate ... it would fundamentally change the way Social Security operates and run the risk of making the program look less like social insurance and more like welfare," Tax Vox blog editor Howard Gleickman wrote for the Tax Policy Center.

Investment income taxes

Long-term capital gains used to be taxed differently than dividends, which were subject to one's top income tax rate. Under the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, gains and dividends are treated equally. Currently the most one would pay is 15%.

Both rates are scheduled to rise by 2011 - long-term gains to 20% and dividends would once again be taxed a taxpayer's top income tax rate for dividends.

Obama would continue to treat gains and dividends equally and would keep the current rate in place for everyone except high-income households.

He hasn't specified how high he'd like to make the rate, but observers expect and Obama himself has virtually said that the new rate likely would fall between 20% and 25%.

Estate tax

Finally, Obama's proposals to tax wealth are not only defined by income levels.

When it comes to family wealth, for instance, Obama favors maintaining the estate tax, which is scheduled to be repealed in 2010 for one year. But he would limit its reach.

Obama would freeze the estate tax exemption amount at $3.5 million - up from its current $2 million level and the $1 million level it's set to revert to in 2011. He would also keep the current top rate of 45%, which is below the 55% it is set to revert to in 2011.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Sensible Natural Gas Alternative to Imported Petroleum

A full tank of gas supplies the GX with a driving range of approximately 220–250 miles.

No pie in the sky here. Honda makes the car and so can all the rest. Most existing cars can be modified. Use a little imagination and set up the distribution.

Gazprom Pushing Natural Gas for Cars in Europe

Russian energy giant Gazprom wants to set up a network of service stations across Europe for cars fuelled by natural gas. Gazprom controls a quarter of the world's gas reserves.

Gazprom plans to increase its presence in Europe's gas retail business, the company's chief executive announced on Friday, June 27. Currently, few cars in Europe run on natural gas, in part because there are few places to tank up.

"We are proposing to our European partners the creation of a network of natural gas stations in Europe with the participation of Gazprom," Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller told a shareholders' meeting in Moscow on Friday, June 27.

Natural gas is seen as cheaper and more environmentally friendly than regular fuel. While the idea has yet to catch on in Europe, natural gas is widely used in cars in Argentina, Brazil, India, Iran and Pakistan.

For the moment, Miller said he doesn't see any "realistic alternatives" to hydrocarbons. He also panned biofuel, which he blamed for leading to a global food crisis.

Gazprom eyes liquid gas

Gazprom supplies a quarter of Europe's gas. It is also aggressively moving into the liquid natural gas (LNG) market. Gazprom wants to control 20 or 25 percent of the LNG market in the upcoming years, Valery Golubev, Gazprom's deputy chief executive said on Friday.

Russia's first LNG project on the far eastern island of Sakhalin is due to start production later this year. Gazprom's large Shtokman field in northern Russia is due to come online in 2014, executives said.

Banking on government support

Miller sees a rosy future for Gazprom. Its strong ties to the government give it a huge growth potential and it aims to become the world's energy leader, the CEO said Friday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who took office last month, previously served as chairman of the state-controlled gas giant. Gazprom announced Friday that Medvedev's replacement as chairman will be former prime minister Viktor Zubkov.

DW staff (th)

Obama, Born Again with a New Birth Certificate? (hat tip: Charles)

Link Here for an analysis of this certificate.

Forget the Birth Certificate. There Are More Relevant Records.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jim Gerraghty, National Review

More than a few readers have asked me what I think of this article from a publication called the Israel Insider, particularly a section which suggests a Hawaiian state official has doubts about the birth certificate posted on Daily Kos and Obama’s StopTheSmears site:

Janice Okubo, Director of Communications of the State of Hawaii Department of Health, told Israel Insider: "At this time there are no circumstances in which the State of Hawaii Department of Health would issue a birth certification or certification of live birth only electronically." And, she added, "In the State of Hawaii all certified copies of certificates of live birth have the embossed seal and registrar signature on the back of the document."

I spoke to Ms. Okubo late Wednesday afternoon, and she said she had seen the version of Obama’s certificate of live birth posted on the sites. While her office cannot verify the information on a form without the permission of the certificate holder (Obama), she said "the form is exactly the same" and it has "all the components of a birth certificate" record issued by the state. In other words, she sees no reason to think the version posted on Obama's web site and Daily Kos is not genuine.

The “embossed seal” in question is, she said, probably on the back of the document provided to Daily Kos, but not visible (as in another certificate posted on Israel Insider for contrast). She thinks the difference in visibility can be attributed to the pressure used when applying the seal.

I know I was one of the guys who wondered if there was something there when Obama initially refused to provide his birth certificate to PolitiFact. It seems many people continue to think that they will uncover something that will prove Obama was born in Kenya and is therefore ineligible for office of the presidency. As I wrote in the initial post, this scenario is “rather unlikely, as it would require everyone in his family to lie about this in every interview and discussion with those outside the family since young Obama appeared on the scene.” I would add this would require Obama to lie about his birthplace in every interview going back to Harvard Law.

There are, however, other documents in the past of the Democratic nominee that would be worth a close examination. For example, they may not even exist anymore – a convenient destruction – but Obama’s office records from his service in the state legislature, particularly the correspondence, would be an interesting resource in learning more about his efforts in state government.

The Illinois State Archives told Judicial Watch that they never received any request from Senator Obama to archive any records in his possession. Similarly, in 2007, Obama said to Tim Russert that his records were “not kept.”

MR. RUSSERT: You talked about Senator Clinton having records released from the Clinton Library regarding her experience as first lady, and yet when you were asked about, “What about eight years in the state senate of Illinois,” you said, “I don’t know.” Where, where are the—where are your records?

SEN. OBAMA: Tim, we did not keep those records. I...

MR. RUSSERT: Are they gone?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, let’s be clear. In the state senate, every single piece of information, every document related to state government was kept by the state of Illinois and has been disclosed and is available and has been gone through with a fine-toothed comb by news outlets in Illinois.* The, the stuff that I did not keep has to do with, for example, my schedule. I didn’t have a schedule. I was a state senator. I wasn’t intending to have the Barack Obama State Senate Library. I didn’t have 50 or 500 people to, to help me archive these issues. So...

MR. RUSSERT: But your meetings with lobbyists and so forth, there’s no record of that?

SEN. OBAMA: I did not have a scheduler, but, as I said, every document related to my interactions with government is available right now. And, as I said, news outlets have already looked at them.

MR. RUSSERT: Is your schedule available anywhere? Are—the records exist?

SEN. OBAMA: I—Tim, I kept my own schedule. I didn’t have a scheduler.

I have no idea how Obama's statement that "every document related to state government was kept by the state of Illinois and has been disclosed and available" can be in line with the statement from the Illinois State Archives. Is there some separate archive for state legislators?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Hare and the Tortoise (or is Obama trying to Give McCain a Heart Attack?)

Obama plans to run McCain ragged across the US
3 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Democrat Barack Obama is broadening the playing field against his Republican White House rival John McCain with a nationwide trawl for votes that could, if successful, produce a landslide.

Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe on Wednesday outlined the 50-state strategy the Illinois senator is pursuing for November's election, designed to stretch the poorer McCain campaign's resources to the limit.

"We're simply not going to wake up on November 4 worried about one state," Plouffe told a press briefing at Democratic Party headquarters, adamant that this election would be unlike the knife-edge contests of 2000 and 2004.

"We have a lot of different ways to get to 270," he said, referring to the magic number of electoral votes needed for victory in the election.

In 2000, Florida was the unforgettable battleground that handed victory to George W. Bush after much legal wrangling. In 2004, Bush won re-election when Ohio, by a wafer-thin margin, went against Democrat John Kerry.

Plouffe said Obama's "first strategic goal" was to retain Kerry's states. Of those, McCain scents opportunity among the white working-class voters of Michigan and Pennsylvania, and in independent-minded New Hampshire.

But in turn, Obama is intent on flipping Republican red states that have not voted for a Democrat in years, including Virginia, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa.

Two polls in recent days have given Obama a double-digit margin over McCain among registered voters nationwide, although these are still early days in the general election campaign.

A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey Tuesday said that in a head-to-head contest, Obama had 49 percent support against 37 percent for McCain. Newsweek last Friday had Obama ahead of McCain by 51 percent to 36.

But as Plouffe noted, the general election will be fought state by state and not on an imaginary national battlefield -- just like Obama's primary campaign that saw off the dogged challenge of Hillary Clinton.

Much of Obama's yawning lead comes on the back of Clinton supporters rallying behind the Democrats' new champion after the bruising nominating epic.

What interests the campaign brains such as Plouffe and Obama strategist David Axelrod are surveys in key states, levels of enthusiasm for the election contenders, and the extent of their grassroots organizations.

On those metrics, McCain trails Obama, who has become the first candidate since the Watergate scandal to reject public financing for his campaign, so reversing his vow to work with the Republican to preserve the system.

With a three-to-one fundraising advantage over McCain, Obama will be free to pile up advertising and get-out-the-vote operations in far more states than Kerry could ever compete in.

The Democrat is now airing his first general election ad, a patriotic ode called "Country I Love," in 18 states including Republican bastions such as Alaska, Montana and North Dakota that Plouffe says will be in play in November.

But beyond costly advertising, the Obama campaign is also taking a leaf from Bush's book to mobilize local supporters -- a "persuasion army," in Plouffe's words -- who can knock on doors and spread the word among friends and family.

That is where levels of motivation become crucial. The LA Times poll found that among voters who plan to vote for McCain, more than half were "not enthusiastic" about the Republican.

"McCain is not capturing the full extent of the conservative base the way President Bush did in 2000 and 2004," said Susan Pinkus, director of the LA Times poll.

"Meanwhile, Obama is doing well among a broad range of voters. He's running ahead among women, black voters and other minorities. He's running roughly even among white voters and independents."

The recent polls have given Bush record-low approval ratings, and found far more voters identifying themselves as Democratic instead of Republican, which could portend the Democrats tightening their grip on Congress in November.

But historically, voters have liked one party in the White House and another in charge of Congress. Therein lies hope for McCain and his promise of assured leadership in troubled times.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Air Force Nuclear Security Lacking

US says its nuclear arsenal in Europe is poorly guarded
  • Air force finds inadequate security at most bases
  • Leaked report suggests withdrawing some bombs
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
The Guardian, Thursday June 26, 2008

The leaked Nuke document here

Most American bases in Europe where nuclear weapons are stored have inadequate security, a secret internal US air force review has found.

The report, which was ordered after the US air force lost track of six nuclear cruise missiles last August, found that "support buildings, fencing, lighting and security systems" were in need of repair.

In some cases, it was found that conscripts with less than nine-months experience were being used to guard the nuclear weapons. Elsewhere private security guards were used to protect the bombs.

The report recommends that the US nuclear arsenal in Europe be consolidated to "reduce vulnerabilities at overseas locations". That would involve the withdrawal of significant numbers of US nuclear weapons from Europe.

The US air force does not publicise details of its nuclear arsenal, but it is believed that it has up to 350 bombs in seven bases, including up to 110 B61 bombs at Lakenheath in Suffolk.

It is not clear whether Lakenheath is one of the bases that fall short of Pentagon security standards, but the report states that "most sites require significant additional resources to meet [US department of defence] requirements."

The current stockpile in Europe is only a fraction of its cold war size. Analysts say the residual arsenal, consisting of free-fall bombs rather than missiles, is of little military significance in the 21st century.

"They fulfil no military function. They are a political symbol for Nato," said Paul Ingram, of the British American Security Information Council. "Withdrawing them from Europe would be the logical next step in nuclear disarmament."

The classified US report, entitled Air Force Blue Ribbon Review of Nuclear Weapons Policies and Procedures, was circulated internally in February. But the Federation of American Scientists, an independent watchdog group, obtained a leaked copy this month and has published it on its website (

Hans Kristensen, an FAS nuclear specialist, wrote: "The main implication of the ... report is that the nuclear weapons deployment in Europe is, and has been for the past decade, a security risk ... This contradicts Nato's frequent public assurances about the safe conditions of the widespread deployment in Europe."

The leaked review has triggered a political storm in Germany, where the Social Democrats, a partner in the governing coalition, this week called for the removal of all nuclear weapons from the country as a result of the findings. But the Christian Democratic Union, of Chancellor Angela Merkel, has argued against making any quick decisions, saying that the weapons remain a factor in Germany's defence.

The air force review was triggered by an incident in August last year when six cruise missiles with nuclear warheads were flown across the US, from North Dakota to Louisiana, by mistake. The B-52 bomber that took them was supposed to have taken unarmed cruise missiles. The warheads sat unguarded for 30 hours before their absence was noticed.

As a result of the inquiry, the US air force chief of staff and the air force secretary resigned earlier this month.

As well as unearthing shortcomings in security in Europe, the review found the equipment used to transport nuclear weapons was aging, there were "potential vulnerabilities" in the convoys used to move them, and "stubby pencil" note-keeping was used to keep track of them.

Step 1 Talk about raising Interest Rates

Fed talking tough on the threat of inflation

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are updating Teddy Roosevelt's admonition to speak softly and carry a big stick. The Fed policymakers are starting to raise their voices while brandishing the stick even though they don't appear ready to use it.

When the Fed concludes a two-day meeting on Wednesday, it is widely expected that the central bank will express more concerns about inflation and in that way signal that rate increases could be on the way.

However, at the same time, private economists are widely in agreement that the Fed will not actually start raising interest rates, given how weak the economy is at the moment.

"The Fed is caught between a rock and a hard place," said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University. "The economy seems to be slipping into a recession at the same time that inflation is getting worse."
I made my prediction here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"You're gonna miss me when I'm gone."

Musharraf tried to tell us, "You're gonna miss me when I'm gone."
The New York Times
June 24, 2008
Leadership Void Seen in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan is in a leaderless drift four months after elections, according to Western diplomats and military officials, Pakistani politicians and Afghan officials who are increasingly worried that no one is really in charge.

The sense of drift is the subject of almost every columnist in the English-language press in Pakistan, and anxiety over the lack of leadership and the weakness of the civilian government now infuses conversations with analysts, diplomats and Pakistani government officials.

The problem is most acute, they say, when it comes to dealing with militants in the tribal areas that have become home to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Although the political parties and the military all seek a breather from the suicide bombings and nascent insurgency that have roiled Pakistan in recent years, there are fundamental disagreements over the problem of militancy that they have not begun to address, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats say.

The confusion is allowing the militants to consolidate their sanctuaries while spreading their tentacles all along the border area, military officials and diplomats warn. It has also complicated policy for the Bush administration, which leaned heavily on one man, President Pervez Musharraf, to streamline its antiterrorism efforts in Pakistan.

If anyone is in charge of security policy in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats say, that remains the military and the country’s premier intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, which operate with little real oversight.

While the newly elected civilian government has been criticized for dealing with the militants, it is the military that is brokering cease-fires and prisoner exchanges with minimum consultation with the government, politicians from the government coalition, diplomats and analysts said.

Politicians in both the provincial and central governments complain they are excluded from the negotiations and did not even know of a secret deal struck in February, before the elections.

“You see a lack of a coordinated strategy between the federal level and provincial level, and that includes the ISI and the military, who are clear players,” said one Western diplomat with knowledge of the tribal regions, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. “You see it even on principles of negotiation and combined strategy.”

One newspaper, the weekly Friday Times, satirized the situation with a front-page cartoon showing the country’s main political players riding in a plane, all issuing different instructions.

Since coming to power in February, the fragile coalition government, run by Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has been engrossed in internal wrangling over removing President Musharraf.

The coalition is barely functioning after half its ministers left the cabinet in May in a dispute over whether to reinstate 60 high court judges dismissed by Mr. Musharraf last year.

For now it is just accepting the military’s decisions regarding the militants, said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general who is now a political analyst. He characterized the country as suffering from “institutional paralysis and a dysfunctional government, signs of which are showing already.”

The American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, also described the government as “dysfunctional” just before leaving his post earlier this month.

“I have a feeling that no one is in charge and that is why the militants are taking advantage,” Mr. Masood said. “It is a very dangerous situation because what is happening is the Afghan government is getting desperate.”

The frustration is such that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan threatened this month to send troops into Pakistan to pursue Pakistani militant leaders.

That Pakistan’s government appears broken is not surprising, analysts say. Pakistan’s civilian institutions were atrophied by eight years of military rule, and the country’s major political parties were left rudderless by the absence of their leaders, who lived in exile much of that time. The assassination of Ms. Bhutto in December left her party in even deeper disarray.

The military remains the country’s strongest institution, having ruled Pakistan for about half of the country’s 61 years of independence. But it is proving to be an increasingly fickle and prickly partner for Washington. United States and NATO officials are still struggling to decipher the intentions of the army’s new chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Last fall, at the time of his appointment, American officials spoke approvingly of General Kayani, who seemed well aware of the threat the militants posed to Pakistan, and of the dangers of peace deals that have allowed the militants to tighten their grip in the tribal areas.

But despite at least $12 billion in aid to Pakistan from Washington for the fight against the militants since 2001, General Kayani has recently shown a reluctance to use the military for counterinsurgency operations, suggesting that the task be left to the much weaker tribal force, the Frontier Corps. He has encouraged the civilian government to take the lead.

Part of the confusion stems from the shift in power from military rule, after President Musharraf stepped down as head of the army in December, to the new civilian government, one Western military official said. “Kayani is being careful not to get too far out in front and is trying to determine who is in charge,” he said. “We all are.”

The uneasy balance between civilian and military authority was demonstrated this month when the finance minister, Naveed Qamar, revealed details of the defense budget to Parliament for the first time in 40 years. While Mr. Qamar called it a “historic moment,” the document was a mere two pages.

Parliament, tied up with budget negotiations until next month, has not discussed security or militancy. “We do understand this is the biggest issue, and after the budget session it will have to be addressed,” said Farah Ispahani, a Pakistan Peoples Party legislator.

Meanwhile, the military under General Kayani has quietly pursued its own policies, politicians from the government coalition, diplomats and analysts say. The military and ISI negotiated a little-known truce with the tribes and militants of North Waziristan just days before the Feb. 18 elections, a senior government official in Peshawar confirmed.

The deal was so secretive that few in the government know its contents even today. “The civilian government is in the back seat, or not even in the back seat,” said the Western diplomat, who did not want to be identified because of the critical nature of the remarks. The military also began negotiations with the most powerful of the Taliban commanders, Baitullah Mehsud, in January, just weeks after the government accused him of masterminding Ms. Bhutto’s assassination.

An official agreement with the Mehsud tribe has not been completed, but the military has already pulled back from some positions, put in place a cease-fire and exchanged prisoners with the militants.

Western officials are suspicious of the deal. Mr. Mehsud is accused of dispatching scores of suicide bombers in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the agreement initially included no prohibition on cross-border attacks.

Only after strong pressure from the United States and other allies did the military insert such a clause this month, according to a senior official close to the negotiations. In the meantime, cross-border attacks increased by 50 percent in May, NATO officials in Afghanistan say.

The provincial government in the North-West Frontier Province has also expressed its reservations about the deal. Officials from the Awami National Party, a Pashtun nationalist party that leads the government in the province and which is also part of the national coalition, complained that they have not been included in the military’s decisions.

“Our main demand is that we should be included in negotiations,” said Wajid Ali Khan, a party official. “We don’t know with whom they are talking.”

Moreover, the central government’s point man for counterterrorism, the acting interior minister, Rehman Malik, has appeared to have an uneven grasp of developments.

This month he announced in Parliament that the peace deal with militants in the Swat Valley, just outside the tribal areas, had been scrapped. But he retracted the statement the next day, after the provincial government insisted the deal was still on.

Officials of the Awami National Party have complained that his comments undermined their negotiating position. Afrasiab Khattak, a senior official of the party, and other party officials are confident they can make the peace deals in their province work. But few believe that the deals brokered by the military in the tribal regions will last more than a few months, including military officials themselves, senior government officials in Peshawar say.

More fighting and violence is almost certainly on the horizon. What the plan will be then, no one seems to know.
I am struck by how similar Pakistan and Mexico are. They both have weak police forces ill-equipped to handle well equipped thugs operating in friendly havens. The bad guys are so entrenched that they run police through a hamburger grinder. At some point, the military is required and if the bad guys are well-financed and equipped and have been unimpeded for years, the military could be overmatched.

When one side has no problem detaching hands or heads, there are no Geneva conventions which apply. The problem is that no one quite knows how to approach the situations we are seeing develop around the world. At one time, the necessary amount of brute force could be applied, the bodies buried and the rest would be history. No longer, though. With the proliferation of NGO's the days of simple solutions are over. Nowadays, COIN is the coin of the realm. For better or worse, governments and militaries better learn it. Strict written policies and Codes of Conduct must be written and strictly adhered to for practical as well as self-preservation issues lest one find him or herself hauled before a court or a government body.

Mexico has its hands full and for the most part, so far, the killing is inter-gang. Pakistan is in a vacuum, any bets as to who or what steps into that vacuum?

It may take some time for the world to figure out that it can't lawyer its way out this mess.

God Bless George Bush - (Bobal)

Perfect Pitch
The Bush Paradox

June 24, 2008

Let’s go back and consider how the world looked in the winter of 2006-2007. Iraq was in free fall, with horrific massacres and ethnic cleansing that sent a steady stream of bad news across the world media. The American public delivered a stunning electoral judgment against the Iraq war, the Republican Party and President Bush.

Expert and elite opinion swung behind the Baker-Hamilton report, which called for handing more of the problems off to the Iraqi military and wooing Iran and Syria. Republicans on Capitol Hill were quietly contemptuous of the president while Democrats were loudly so.

Democratic leaders like Senator Harry Reid considered the war lost. Barack Obama called for a U.S. withdrawal starting in the spring of 2007, while Senator Reid offered legislation calling for a complete U.S. pullback by March 2008.

The arguments floating around the op-ed pages and seminar rooms were overwhelmingly against the idea of a surge — a mere 20,000 additional troops would not make a difference. The U.S. presence provoked violence, rather than diminishing it. The more the U.S. did, the less the Iraqis would step up to do. Iraq was in the middle of a civil war, and it was insanity to put American troops in the middle of it.

When President Bush consulted his own generals, the story was much the same. Almost every top general, including Abizaid, Schoomaker and Casey, were against the surge. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was against it, according to recent reports. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki called for a smaller U.S. presence, not a bigger one.

In these circumstances, it’s amazing that George Bush decided on the surge. And looking back, one thing is clear: Every personal trait that led Bush to make a hash of the first years of the war led him to make a successful decision when it came to this crucial call.

Bush is a stubborn man. Well, without that stubbornness, that unwillingness to accept defeat on his watch, he never would have bucked the opposition to the surge.

Bush is an outrageously self-confident man. Well, without that self-confidence he never would have overruled his generals.

In fact, when it comes to Iraq, Bush was at his worst when he was humbly deferring to the generals and at his best when he was arrogantly overruling them. During that period in 2006 and 2007, Bush stiffed the brass and sided with a band of dissidents: military officers like David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and outside strategists like Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and Jack Keane, a retired general.

Bush is also a secretive man who listens too much to Dick Cheney. Well, the uncomfortable fact is that Cheney played an essential role in promoting the surge. Many of the people who are dubbed bad guys actually got this one right.

The additional fact is that Bush, who made such bad calls early in the war, made a courageous and astute decision in 2006. More than a year on, the surge has produced large, if tenuous, gains. Violence is down sharply. Daily life has improved. Iraqi security forces have been given time to become a more effective fighting force. The Iraqi government is showing signs of strength and even glimmers of impartiality. Iraq has moved from being a failed state to, as Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations has put it, merely a fragile one.

The whole episode is a reminder that history is a complicated thing. The traits that lead to disaster in certain circumstances are the very ones that come in handy in others. The people who seem so smart at some moments seem incredibly foolish in others.

The cocksure war supporters learned this humbling lesson during the dark days of 2006. And now the cocksure surge opponents, drunk on their own vindication, will get to enjoy their season of humility. They have already gone through the stages of intellectual denial. First, they simply disbelieved that the surge and the Petraeus strategy was doing any good. Then they accused people who noticed progress in Iraq of duplicity and derangement. Then they acknowledged military, but not political, progress. Lately they have skipped over to the argument that Iraq is progressing so well that the U.S. forces can quickly come home.

But before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

Life is complicated. The reason we have democracy is that no one side is right all the time. The only people who are dangerous are those who can’t admit, even to themselves, that obvious fact.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Musharraf may not be the only one in trouble

While looking for some news story which would explain the sudden pessimism over Afghanistan, I found something pretty darn outrageous.
Put oil firm chiefs on trial, says leading climate change scientist

· Testimony to US Congress will also criticise lobbyists
· 'Revolutionary' policies needed to tackle crisis

* Ed Pilkington in New York
* The Guardian,
* Monday June 23, 2008

James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech (pdf) to the US Congress - in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming - to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the "perfect storm" of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

In an interview with the Guardian he said: "When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime."

He is also considering personally targeting members of Congress who have a poor track record on climate change in the coming November elections. He will campaign to have several of them unseated. Hansen's speech to Congress on June 23 1988 is seen as a seminal moment in bringing the threat of global warming to the public's attention. At a time when most scientists were still hesitant to speak out, he said the evidence of the greenhouse gas effect was 99% certain, adding "it is time to stop waffling".

He will tell the House select committee on energy independence and global warming this afternoon that he is now 99% certain that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has already risen beyond the safe level.

The current concentration is 385 parts per million and is rising by 2ppm a year. Hansen, who heads Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, says 2009 will be a crucial year, with a new US president and talks on how to follow the Kyoto agreement.

He wants to see a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, coupled with the creation of a huge grid of low-loss electric power lines buried under ground and spread across America, in order to give wind and solar power a chance of competing. "The new US president would have to take the initiative analogous to Kennedy's decision to go to the moon."

His sharpest words are reserved for the special interests he blames for public confusion about the nature of the global warming threat. "The problem is not political will, it's the alligator shoes - the lobbyists. It's the fact that money talks in Washington, and that democracy is not working the way it's intended to work."

A group seeking to increase pressure on international leaders is launching a campaign today called It is taking out full-page adverts in papers such as the New York Times and the Swedish Falukuriren calling for the target level of CO2 to be lowered to 350ppm. The advert has been backed by 150 signatories, including Hansen.
I told you... Pogroms....

Can We Change Afghanistan?

On his way to Jeffersonian Democracy.

I have argued against the long war concept for pragmatic reasons. Simply stated and IMO, the US temperament and political system will not sustain a long war. It has never happened. We pretend in the US that diversity and multi-culturism is a sign of strength. In countries such as Afghanistan, they know that tribalism means survival. The tribes in Afghansitan barely understand the concept of nationalism. For us to believe that we can convert them to our beliefs is hubris, dangerously unhinged.

The Democrats (and McCain) are arguing that Afghanistan is the war we should be focused on. They do not give a credible explanation for a reasonable achievable outcome. They are also not being challenged. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda should have been punished after 911. The punishment should have been violent, ugly and short. It should have been cold blooded revenge, nothing more, nothing less.

From The Sunday Times
Simon Jenkins
June 22, 2008

Stop killing the Taliban – they offer the best hope of beating Al-Qaeda

The British expedition to Afghanistan is on the brink of something worse than defeat: a long, low-intensity war from which no government will dare to extricate itself. With the death toll mounting, battle is reportedly joined with the Taliban at the very gates of the second city, Kandahar. There is no justification for ministerial bombast that “we are winning the war, really”.

What is to be done? In 2001 the West waged a punitive retaliatory strike against the hosts of the perpetrators of 9/11. The strike has since followed every law of mission creep, now reduced in London to a great war of despair, in which the cabinet can do nothing but send even more men to their deaths.

In seven years in Afghanistan, America, Britain and their Nato allies have made every mistake in the intervention book. They sent too few troops to assert an emphatic presence. They failed to “hit hard and get out”, as advocated by Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary. They tried to destroy the staple crop, poppies, and then let it go to warlords who now use it to finance suicide bombers, among others.

They allowed a corrupt regime to establish itself in the capital, Kabul, while failing to promote honest administration in the provinces.

They pretended that an international coalition (Nato) would be better than a unitary command (America), which it is not. They killed civilians and alienated tribes with crude air power. Finally, they disobeyed the iron law of postimperial intervention: don’t stay too long. The British ambassador threatens “to stay for 30 years”, rallying every nationalist to the insurgents’ cause.

The catalogue of western folly in Afghanistan is breathtaking.

Britain went into Helmand two years ago on the basis of gung-ho, and gung-ho still censors public debate. Yet behind the scenes all is despair. A meeting of Afghan observers in London last week, at the launch of James Fergusson’s book on the errors of Helmand, A Million Bullets, was an echo chamber of gloom.

All hope was buried in a cascade of hypotheticals. Victory would be at hand “if only” the Afghan army were better, if the poppy crop were suppressed, the Pakistan border sealed, the Taliban leadership assassinated, corruption eradicated, hearts and minds won over. None of this is going to happen. The generals know it but the politicians dare not admit it.

Those who still support the “good” Afghan war reply to any criticism by attempting to foreclose debate. They assert that we cannot be seen to surrender to the Taliban and we have gone in so far and must “finish the job”.

This is policy in denial. Nothing will improve without the support of the Afghan government, yet that support is waning by the month. Nothing will improve without the commitment of Pakistan. Yet two weeks ago Nato bombed Pakistani troops inside their own country, losing what lingering sympathy there is for America in an enraged Islamabad. Whoever ordered the attack ought to be court-martialled, except it was probably a computer.

We forget that the objective of the Afghanistan incursion was not to build a new and democratic Afghanistan. It was to punish the Taliban for harbouring Osama Bin Laden and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for Al-Qaeda training camps. The former objective was achieved on day one; the latter would never be achieved by military occupation.

A moment’s thought would show that any invasion that replaced the Taliban with a western puppet in Kabul would merely restore the Taliban as champions of Afghan sovereignty. The Americans sponsored them to be just such a puppet in the 1980s, funding some 60,000 foreign mercenaries to join them against the Russians. Intervention reaps what it sows.

Two things were known about the Taliban at the time and they are probably still true. First, under outside pressure their leaders were moving from the manic extremism of their “student” origins, even responding to demands to curb the poppy harvest. The present Nato policy of killing the older leaders and thus leaving young hotheads in charge is daft.

Second, the Pashtun Taliban are not natural friends of the Arab Al-Qaeda, despite Bin Laden being given sanctuary by the Taliban’s Mullah Omar. Bin Laden helped the Taliban by murdering Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Tajik leader, but that put a Tajik price on his head, which no man wants. Then the 9/11 coup made the Taliban pariahs even within the region.

I have yet to find reason to doubt the Afghan experts who predicted in the aftermath of 9/11 that Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda had become “unwelcome guests” in 2001 and that his days in Afghanistan, and probably on earth, were numbered.

Seven recent books on relations between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban discussed in the current edition of The New York Review of Books scream one policy message: do not drive Al-Qaeda, set on crazy world domination, into the arms of the Taliban, set only on Pashtun nationalism. Do everything to separate them. Western strategy has done the precise opposite.

The only policy that meets the original objective is one that supports anyone in the insurgent areas with sufficient authority to deny sanctuary to international terrorists. There is now plainly no way that Nato can do this.

There is much murmuring among realists that “we” should talk to the Taliban, as if we were Her Majesty’s Government dealing with the IRA. The parallel is absurd. American special forces and Anglo-Canadian units in Afghanistan are, as they jokingly admit, rather like Taliban mercenaries, who snatch and hold towns for a while but are unable to command local loyalty. They cannot hope to garrison every settlement.

Hamid Karzai, the outgoing Afghan president, is the only one who can talk. He is no fool and has been attempting to do what Kabul rulers have always done: cut deals with whichever provincial commanders appear to control territory and can forge alliances with local Taliban or whoever. That may not be the grand strategy beloved of western think tanks, but it is the realpolitik of Afghanistan.

The same realpolitik applies to the other player in the game, Pakistan, whose civilian rulers are trying to contain an army of doubtful loyalty and seek peace in tribal areas way beyond their control. Here Al-Qaeda has again forged a lethal alliance with the Taliban, drawing on an inexhaustible supply of young militants from Pakistan and abroad, as in the 1980s. The best policy would be to hurl money at Pakistan’s impoverished non-madrasah schools, rather than starve them and pour 80% of aid into a corrupt Pakistan army.

The Taliban’s chief objective is not world domination but a share of power in Afghanistan. While they cannot defeat western troops, they can defeat Nato’s war aim by continuing to build on their marriage of convenience with Al-Qaeda, which supplies them with a devastating arsenal of suicide bombers.

What is sure is that Al-Qaeda, as a (grossly overrated) “threat to the West”, will not be suppressed without Taliban cooperation. This means reversing a policy that naively equates “defeating” the Taliban with “winning” the war on terror. Fighting in Afghanistan is as senseless as trying to suppress the poppy crop. It just costs lives and money.

While it is implausible for the West to withdraw from Kabul at present, the attempt to establish military control over provincial Afghanistan is merely jeopardising the war aim. Security within the country now depends on fashioning the patchwork of alliances sought, however corruptly, by Karzai. It means dealing with reality, not trying to change it with guns and bombs.

It therefore makes sense to withdraw soldiers from the provinces and forget “nation-building” in the hope that Karzai can exert some leverage over local commanders to separate the Taliban from the Al-Qaeda cells in Pakistan. This is a race against the most appalling strategic catastrophe, a political collapse in Pakistan that may open a new and horrific front involving Al-Qaeda.

It is madness to prolong an Afghan war that can only undermine the most unstable nuclear power in the world, Pakistan. The war is visiting misery on millions and destroying western interests across central Asia. As for the claim made in parliament last week that the war is about safety on Britain’s streets, that is ludicrous.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ruled by Fools

Are Democrats foolishly playing a losing hand? This week a Dem talking point against US oil exploration was that the oil companies are exploring only a fraction of the existing lease areas in the Gulf of Mexico. To the 70% of Americans in favor of expanded drilling, this may not matter. They want relief. But for now, the Democrats continue to frame the issue in partisan terms:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, said speculators have been driving up the price of oil internationally — and that the industry has explored only 8 million of the 39 million Gulf acres it already has under lease. He said the Bush administration and the oil industry are using gas prices to hoodwink the public.

"Clearly, Americans are being gouged," said Nelson. "But we cannot allow the administration to take advantage of the situation to give away the store before the president leaves office."

Democrats seem to be united in their opposition to increasing US domestic oil production. Instead they once again accuse Republicans of being in bed with big business. Their solution is to impose more taxes on the oil companies for their "windfall profits" but they also agree that speculators have been contributing to the spiraling oil prices.

Saudi king blames oil prices on speculators, taxes

King Abdullah has blamed soaring oil prices on speculators, high fuel taxes in consuming countries and increased consumption in developing countries.

Abdullah said the kingdom is ready to meet any "additional needs in the future." But he did not specifically say Saudi Arabia would increase oil production beyond the 9.7 million barrels a day production it has already announced.

The king suggested the creation of an energy initiative to help poor countries confront the high cost of fuel.

The U.S. and other Western nations have put increasing pressure on Saudi Arabia to increase production, saying insufficient oil production has not kept pace with growing demand.
Goldman Sachs has been the golden boy of Wall Street as it continues, quarter after quarter, to show a profit even as lesser firms such as Bear-Stearns disappear altogether. Although their reported first quarter profits were less than a year ago, they are still in the black in large part due to their to speculation in the oil futures.

A convergence of circumstances and short-sighted policies has resulted in a perfect storm which will require more cooperation and less partisan politics. Democrats continue to blame the money grubbing capitalists but eventually they will have to face the political realities. As consumers pay higher prices at the pump, those who offer no relief will pay higher prices at the polls. Democrats are accusing politicians like McCain and Florida governor Charlie Crist of flip-flopping on the drilling issue but something tells me it won't be long before we see more and more poll reading, finger in-the-wind Democrats change their tunes. When it comes to drilling, it's a no brainer; either get on board or commit political suicide.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Can America see through a racial charlatan?"

"They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"

Obama Drops Pre-Emptive Race Bomb
Rick Moran American Thinker

The 2008 Presidential race finally got underway yesterday as Barack Obama used his race to try and innoculate himself against criticism:

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama said on Friday he expects Republicans to highlight the fact that he is black as part of an effort to make voters afraid of him.

."It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy," Obama told a fundraiser in Jacksonville, Florida. "We know what kind of campaign they're going to run. They're going to try to make you afraid.

"They're going to try to make you afraid of me. He's young and inexperienced and he's got a funny name. And did I mention he's black?"

He said he was also set for Republicans to say "he's got a feisty wife," in trying to attack his wife Michelle.

We expected it, of course. It is his greatest political weapon and he will use it again and again, shamelessly accusing the GOP of bringing up his race (even, as this proves, when they don't) in order to deflect criticism away from he and his wife for anything they say or any associations in their past.

The press will let him get away with it because they are terrified of being accused of racism themselves.

Let me just say to those doubters who may believe otherwise, take a walk through the comments section of this blog and others. See how many Obama advocates simply dismiss any opposition to their candidate as "racism." It is this simple minded sophistry that the candidate will use in order to quiet opposition to his programs once he is elected as well.

It has been asked "Is America ready for a black president?" Maybe a more relevant question would be "Can America see through a racial charlatan who will shamlessly use the color of his skin to avoid debating the tough issues and call his opponents "racists" for disagreeing with him?

Placing Things in Perspective

Taliban announce suicide bombers have entered Kandahar .

The suicide bombing tactic eventually proved unsuccessful for AQ in Iraq. The tactic, aped by the Taliban in Afghansistan, seems to be having a similar affect if this report by Aljazeera is indicative. An operation by local and international troops appears to have cleared Taliban fighters from the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city.

The Afghan National Army said more than 1,000 troops, aided by Nato soldiers and helicopter gunships, has driven insurgents out of Arghandaby. The Afghan defence ministry reports 56 rebels had been killed.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"We need a real Chocolate City...some folks need to get used to this" - Spike Lee

Spike Lee backs Obama
Fri Jun 20, 2008 8:08pm B
By Randall Mikkelsen

SILVER SPRING, Maryland (Reuters) - Director Spike Lee, whose movies often cast a sharp eye on U.S. racial politics, predicted a presidential victory for black Democrat Barack Obama that would mark a "new day" for the United States.

"It's going to be before Obama, 'B.B.,' and after Obama -- 'A.B.' -- and some folks need to get used to this," Lee said. "And I'm going to be at the inauguration -- getting my hotel reservation now."

The director of films including "Do The Right Thing," and "Malcolm X," spoke on Thursday evening at the Silverdocs film festival outside Washington. The festival is one of the major showcases for nonfiction films.

Silverdocs honoured Lee for his documentaries including "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," about Hurricane Katrina, and the Oscar-nominated "4 Little Girls," about the fatal 1963 bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, a milestone in the civil rights movement.

Lee said that like Katrina in 2005, the levee breaches now flooding the Upper Midwest were a sign of misplaced priorities by the national government. "That's going to change, though," he said. "We need a real Chocolate City," an apparent reference to the prospect of the United States under Obama, who would be the first U.S. black president if elected in November.

The term "Chocolate City" has been used affectionately by African-Americans to refer to Washington and other predominantly black cities, and was the title of a 1975 album by the funk band Parliament. Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was criticized for racial divisiveness after Katrina for urging residents to rebuild a "chocolate New Orleans."

Lee later explicitly endorsed Obama, as someone who would set the right course. "It's not an if ... he changes the world. He changes how the world looks at the United States," Lee said.

It would be good for artists, too, who he said reflect the atmosphere around them. "It's going to be a new day. Not just a new day, a better day."
(more here )

It may take some getting used to.

Did The Messiah Fly Too Close to the Sun?

McCain can beat Obama if he goes at him and continuingly keeps him on the defensive exposing him for what he really is, another ordinary very ambitious politician who will do anything, say anything and stage anything to get elected.

That will not budge the hard core Left who does not care. They share the same lust for power in their quest to complete their elitist world view.

It could help with a crucial three or four percent who actually believe in the Obama.

Here's hoping my guy has the steel teeth.


Obama’s Decision Threatens Public Financing System

Published: June 20, 2008

From the moment that the public financing system was created in the wake of the Watergate crisis, it was viewed as an imperfect way to rid politics of the excesses of special-interest money.

But now, with the decision by Senator Barack Obama to become the first presidential candidate to forgo public money, the system is facing the most critical threat to its survival.

At various times in its three-decade life, the public financing system has been declared close to its demise. Yet, every four years, it has continued to survive, with all presidential candidates since the system began in 1976 accepting public money to run their general election campaigns — and the spending limitations that come with it.

Yet, while candidates have accepted these limitations, large sums of special-interest money have continued to enter politics through inventive loopholes used by major contributors to get around the law’s restrictions.

Over the years, these loopholes have come in different names and different forms. Back in the 1990s, there was “soft money,” a flood of unlimited and unrestricted donations given to party committees, leading to influence-peddling excesses that were laid bare in a Clinton-era Senate investigation.

That type of giving was outlawed, and a few years later came the rise of “527 money,” named for a section of the tax code that regulates independent spending.

In recent years have come the “bundlers,” or wealthy individuals who gather donations from other rich donors. They are the Rangers and Pioneers and other titled donors that are the descendants of the Republican Team 100 fund-raising juggernaut of the first President Bush.

But Mr. Obama’s decision to opt out of public financing — along with the ability of the Internet to let candidates raise large sums of money from small donors — may do more to shatter the system than all of the loopholes it has spawned.

As structured, each presidential candidate stands to receive $84 million in public money. This money is gained from the $3 check-off on federal taxpayer returns, which the major party candidates can use to run a general presidential campaign from the end of each party’s convention to the November election.

Each political party can also raise and spend money to support its candidate. Donors can give up to $28,500 to party committees, as well as often-unlimited amounts to 527s, nonprofits and a bevy of other committees that exist outside the formal party structure, to influence the election.

Yet even candidates with as many wealthy connections as George W. Bush or who are as adept at fund-raising as Bill Clinton took public money for their general presidential campaigns. Senator John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, has said he would remain committed to the public finance system, but he may well be the last major candidate to do so.

“Obama’s decision may not be the death knell of public financing, but it certainly is close to it,” said Anthony J. Corrado Jr., a campaign finance expert and professor of government at Colby College. “Public financing has become a system of last resort, rather than the jewel of the campaign finance system. Rather than being a source of funds, candidates accept public money kicking and screaming.”

Even the Supreme Court, in a 2003 decision upholding the McCain-Feingold measure that banned soft money from politics, recognized how difficult it is to shut off the spigot of special interest money in politics. “Money, like water, will always find an outlet,” the court wrote.

These days the outlet is the Internet, the tool that enabled Mr. Obama to break his promise that he would accept public funds.

But the use of the Internet to raise campaign money at least plays into the spirit of campaign finance reform, some analysts said, and possibly does more to rein in the influence of big donors and special interests than 30 years of restrictions imposed by federal law.

While collecting contributions through the click of a button has contributed to the record-breaking sums of money raised this election — for the Democratic primaries alone, Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton raised around $500 million — it has also made it easier for average Americans to participate in the financial end of politics.

Reformers have long said the current system forces candidates to spend a disproportionate amount of time raising money and courting the wealthy and others with special interests who can easily raise it.

But by showing that he could raise large sums from small donors — 47 percent of the $263 million Mr. Obama received has come in amounts of $200 or less — Mr. Obama has made the argument that he has achieved online what the public finance system has been unable to do. And he has been freed from the necessity of spending countless hours fund-raising.

“The reality is that the amount of money that comes from the government is not enough to run a modern presidential campaign,” said Larry Makinson, a consultant to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington group that tracks campaign donations. “The amount Obama has raised from small contributors has been unprecedented. There has never been an infusion of small dollar donors like this.

“And,” Mr. Makinson said, “he got there by snubbing the campaign finance system.”