“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."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Islamic acid: Ten Pakis arrested in Afghanistan for spraying acid on school girls.

Where traditional societies usually assign the role to men of protector of woman and children, it is not quite the Islamic way. Islamic men, who seem to have some serious wanker problems get especially freaky around woman.

If they were real men, surely, they would promptly and with extreme prejudice end the practice of acid washing their woman and girls. Not so with the scourge of Islam, the HIV of religion. What a pathetic disgrace. Does Islam have no shame?


10 suspects arrested for acid attack on schoolgirls in S Afghanistan 2008-11-25

KABUL, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- Ten suspects on charge of spraying acid on schoolgirls have been arrested in southern Afghan province of Kandahar, said General Dawud Dawud, deputy chief of Interior Ministry on Tuesday.

"Afghan police and security forces have detained 10 Pakistani nationals suspected of committing the acid attack on teachers and schoolgirls on Nov. 12 in Kandahar city, capital of Kandahar province," Dawud told newsmen in press conference in Kandahar.

He said that those suspects admitted they received money for 100,000 Pakistani Rupees each (around 1,200 U.S. dollars) from Taliban militants based in the Pakistan tribal area.

"One special bank account has also been set up by Interior Ministry for treatment and other relief assistance of the victims," Dawud added. "The detection operation is still going on."

Armed men riding on motorbikes on Nov. 12 poured acid on schoolgirls and teachers who were on their way to school, injuring four teachers and 11 schoolgirls, six of them seriously, according to Interior Ministry.

The fundamentalist Taliban insurgents during their 6-year regime closed down girl schools and confined women to their houses.

Mumbai Lesson - Buy a gun, learn how to use it and carry.

Islamic murdering maggot. The little cocksucker, Azam Amir Kasab, 21, from Pakistan, is still alive.

Preparations for the atrocity may have began a year ago in a remote mountain camp in Kashmir Photo: AP

There appear to be 300 dead in Mumbai, killed by five two-man killing teams using mostly hand weapons. Government could not protect them before hand, while it happened, and will not be able to protect others, or you, next week or next year.

Like the police, governments can investigate after the fact, but rarely intercede and protect unless there is a controlled environment such as an airport. An airplane suicide attack such as 911 is unlikely. Another Mumbai is practically guaranteed.

In the Telegraph article, they describe the training and motivation of the killers. It was formidable.

From my experience in Central America, I can assure you that private security guards are practically useless. They are poorly paid, predictable in their placement and habits, obvious to identify and easy to intimidate or in this case kill. Most will simply flee at the first sign of a serious challenge. That is our natural instinct, flee and stay alive. Your reaction and that of most others would be the same. However, there is an important difference.

If a person trained with a private weapon cannot flee, is armed and finds themselves trapped on a restaurant floor such as in Mumbai, they become highly motivated to survive. Five or six others randomly seated and scattered through other parts of a hotel radically changes the math.


300 May be dead in India

The audacious attack which took a year to plan
The attack was planned with military precision.

By Rahul Bedi in Bombay and Sean Rayment, Security correspondent
Last Updated: 10:44PM GMT 29 Nov 2008 Telegraph

Ten terrorists dedicated to fighting for an independent Kashmir were selected for an operation from which they were likely never to return.

The tactics were relatively simple: to strike at multiple targets while simultaneously slaughtering as many civilians as possible before going "static" in three of the locations within the city.

But such a plan would require a year of planning, reconnaissance, the covert acquisition of ships and speed boats as well as the forward basing of weapons and ammunition secretly hidden inside at least one hotel.

Nothing would be left to chance. Even the times of the tides were checked and rechecked to ensure that the terrorists would be able to arrive when their first target, the Café Leopold, was full of unsuspecting tourists enjoying the balmy Bombay (Mumbai) evening.

The preparations for the atrocity began a year earlier in a remote mountain camp in Muzaffarabad, in Pakistan- administered Kashmir, according to the interrogation of a 19-year-old believed to be the only member of the terrorist unit to be captured alive.
The Sunday Telegraph has been shown details of the interrogation which provide the first clues to the identity of the terrorists and the amount of detail which went into the planning of the operation.

Kamal has revealed to his interrogators that most of the volunteers spoke his native Punjabi and that all of them were given false names and were discouraged from interacting with each other beyond what was barely necessary.

During the months of training they were taught the use of explosives and close quarter combat. It was ingrained upon every man that ammunition would be in short supply and therefore every bullet should count.

The terrorists were also taught marine commando techniques such as beach landings at another camp at the Mangla Dam, located on the border between Pakistan-administered Kashmir and India's Punjab province.

Kamal revealed that once their training was complete, his team of four travelled to the garrison town of Rawalpindi, where they were joined by another six terrorists, who had been trained at other camps close by.

It was in Rawalpindi that the 10-man team were briefed in detail with digitised images of their prospective targets – the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Hotels, the Jewish Centre and the Victoria Terminus railway station. Each member of the team memorised street names and routes to each location. Kamal told his interrogators that most of the targeting information came from a reconnaissance team which had selected the targets earlier in the year.

From Rawalpindi, the team then moved to the eastern port of Karachi where they chartered the merchant ship MV Alpha and headed for Bombay.

It was during this crucial phase, as the cargo ship headed into the Arabian Sea, that the terrorists appeared to almost lose their nerve. The Indian navy, Kamal revealed, were very active, boarding foreign vessels and searching their holds. The terrorists thought their plan might be compromised so on the night of 15th/16th November, the teams used their inflatable speed boats to hijack a local fishing boat, the Kuber.
Kamal also admitted to his interrogators that three of the Kuber's four crew were immediately murdered, while the ship's captain was ordered to sail for the Indian coast. When the Kuber was within five miles of the coast, the terrorists slit the captain's throat and transferred back into their inflatable speed boats and headed for the lights of Bombay.

On landing the 10-man team, stripped off their orange wind breakers and began hoisting large heavy packs onto their shoulders.

Kashinath Patil, the 72-year-old harbour master, who spotted the boats moor alongside the harbour wall was immediately suspicious and asked them what they were doing. "I said: 'Where are you going? What's in your bags?'" Mr Patil recalled. "They said: 'We don't want any attention. Don't bother us."

The terrorists then split into two-man teams and launched their attacks.
Major General RK Hooda, the senior Indian commander, acknowledged the group, the Deccan Mujadeen, were better equipped and had a better knowledge of the battleground than India's soldiers.

After the battle, one member of India's National Security Guard, who led one of the assault groups against the terrorists occupying the Taj Mahal hotel, said they were the "best fighters" he had ever encountered.

He said: "They were obviously trained by professionals in urban guerrilla fighting. They used their environment and situation brilliantly, leading us (the NSG) on a dangerous chase through various tiers of the hotel which they obviously knew well. Their fire discipline too was excellent and they used their ammunition judiciously, mostly to draw us out.

"It was amply clear they came to kill a large number of people and to eventually perish in their horrific endeavour," he said. "Negotiating with the Indian authorities or escaping was not an option for them."

Neeta, the sister of Harish Gohil, who was shot dead by the terrorists, mourns over his body at his funeral in Mumbai. Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Choose Your Weapon

Why are The British Creating So Many Muslim Terrorists?

As a young American airman stationed in England during the sixties, I learned an early lesson in British sanctimony. (The British have a particular talent when it comes to instructing Americans.) At parties and social functions, my accent would be targetted by the hard lefties and I would be treated to remediation on Viet Nam, American racism and British enlightenment regarding multi-culturalism.

At that time, the British grand multi-cultural experiment was a work in process. To the English elite opinion makers, contemporary England was depressing pale in complexion and too monotone in her tongue. They fixed all that and drew in the masses from their former empire.

Some of their grand ideals have not worked out so well, specifically among the young Muslim middle class. The Independent begins to notice:


British Muslims have become a mainstay of the global 'jihad'
Analysis by Kim Sengupta
Saturday, 29 November 2008

More than 4,000 British Muslims have passed through terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to security agencies, providing a fertile recruitment pool for the Islamist international jihad.

Men from the UK's Kashmiri community have joined groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, the prime suspects in the Mumbai attacks, which have been fighting against Indian forces in Kashmir. Others from a Pakistani background are in the ranks of the Taliban and other groups taking part in action against British and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

A former commander of the British force in Helmand, Brigadier Ed Butler, has revealed that his troops had come across British Muslims in southern Afghanistan. "There are British passport holders who live in the UK who are being found in places such as Kandahar," he said. "There is a link between Kandahar and urban conurbations in the UK. This is something the military understands, but theBritish public does not."

Last year, RAF Nimrod intelligence-gathering aircraft tracking Taliban radio signals in Afghanistan heard insurgent fighters speaking with Yorkshire and Midlands accents.

As well as fighters joining their ranks, groups such as Lashkar also benefit from funds raised on their behalf in the UK by the Muslim community. It has also been claimed that some of the aid money donated for the earthquake disaster relief three years ago was siphoned off for militant groups.

Lashkar, previously known as Jaish-e-Mohammed, has forged links with al-Qa'ida in Pakistan and are said to have shared training camps. One of their most famous recruits was Rashid Rauf, accused of being a key member in the plot to blow up transatlantic airliners, who was recently reported to have been killed in an American missile strike.

British Muslim recruits have also been involved in other conflicts. Asif Hanif, 21, from London, killed three people and injured 55 by blowing himself up in Tel Aviv. A companion, Omar Sharif, 27, from Derby fled the scene after explosives strapped to his body failed to detonate and was later found dead, his body washed up on an Israeli beach.

Somalia's transitional government has accused Britain of being the main source of money and men for the fighters of the Islamist Courts Union (ICU), a fundamentalist group, in the country. The then deputy prime minister, Hussain Mohammed Aideed, declared: "The ICU's main support was coming from London, paying cash to the ICU against the government. Among those who died in the war with the ICU wereBritish passport holders."

The Independent, in Mogadishu after the Somali capital was taken over by Islamist forces last summer, discovered a significant number of young Somalis who had returned to fight for the Islamists from the diaspora in the West. Half a dozen young men, including two brothers from Wood Green in north London, were acting as bodyguards for Sheik Yusuf, one of the main Islamist commanders. One of the brothers, Hamid, said at the time: "The true Muslims are the only ones who are honest and who are patriots. We are doing our duty by fighting for the cause of Islam, which is above all countries."

Britain has also been accused of being the centre where a number of terrorist plots abroad were planned. Moutaz Almallah Dabas, a Syrian-born Spanish citizen accused of helping those who took part in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, was extradited from London to Spain after the discovery of links between the attack and an alleged cell in England.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Terror and death in Mumbai

Mumbai looks good from the air.

"They were in no hurry. Cool and composed, they killed and killed
The young men came to by boat to unleash a night of carnage on the 'gateway to India'. Americans and British tourists were targeted, but Indians made up most of the victims"

Randeep Ramesh in Mumbai, Duncan Campbell and Paul Lewis, Friday November 28 2008 00.01 GMT
The Guardian, Friday November 28 2008

The gunmen, most of them apparently in their twenties, wearing T-shirts, black shirts and jeans, came ashore in black and yellow inflatable rubber dinghies. Armed with automatic weapons, and carrying rucksacks packed with hand grenades and explosives, they abandoned their landing-craft on the beach, from where they would have been able to make out the outlines of their targets, some of Mumbai's most famous buildings.

It would appear that they had landed earlier, around 8pm, in a larger vessel at Sasoon dock and then used the dinghies to get closer to their targets in the heart of the city.

"Six young men with large bags came ashore, after which the two who remained in the boat started the outboard motor again and sped off," said one witness. "They were fair, chikna [well-off] and looked around 20, 22, 25 years old. They said they were students. When we tried to find out what they were doing, they spoke very aggressively, and I got scared."

Within two hours, the young gunmen were causing mayhem in the city that has always prided itself as being the hospitable gateway to India.

The targets for the attacks were clearly chosen for their iconic value, whether as symbols of Mumbai's power and wealth, cultural centres associated with western values or places where foreigners would be gathered. The inclusion of the headquarters of an ultra-orthodox Jewish group was obviously intended to send its own message.

By 9.15pm, the Leopold Cafe, a popular haunt for travellers for more than a century, and close to the Taj Mahal hotel, was under attack. A watering hole for writers and artists, it is also patronised by backpackers hoping for work as western extras in Bollywood films. Five men wielding AK-47 rifles charged in and opened fire without asking anyone to identify themselves. They lobbed hand grenades at the horrified onlookers.

"All of a sudden there was automatic gunfire. The whole place fell apart. It was tremendously loud. My husband and I were hit, as were lots of people," said Diane Murphy, 58, from Northumberland, who was shot in the foot. Her husband Michael, 59, is in intensive care after being shot in the ribs. As the couple dived to the floor, other diners, including Germans and Americans, ran into the kitchen or neighbouring rooms. It was only after a siege lasting several hours that some made an escape.

"We knew they were closer than they had been for the whole four hours. There were grenades going off, we started breaking the windows and ripped down curtains to make a rope," said David Gross, an Australian. "People were sliding out, like you're taught to do ... it was a one-storey drop on to broken glass." They scattered, leaving behind bloodstains and missing shoes.

A few minutes later, the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus, previously known as the Victoria terminus, a world heritage site and one of India's busiest stations, was the scene of mayhem, with blood spattered across the station forecourt and platforms. Gunmen shot up the reservation counter of the station, randomly sprayed passengers, believed to be entirely composed of Indian travellers and commuters, and fled. "They just fired randomly at people and then ran away. In seconds, people fell to the ground," said Nasim Inam, a witness.

Cafe worker Pappu Mishra said two men dressed in black walked into the station pulling guns from their bags and shooting commuters. "Their audaciousness was breathtaking," he said. "One man loaded the magazine into the gun, the other kept shooting. They appeared calm and composed. They were not in the slightest hurry. They didn't seem to be afraid at all." At least 10 people were killed.

By 9.30pm, another team of gunmen were attacking the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, best known just as the Taj, the city's premier hotel. Despite the security arrangements of a venue well aware that it might be a target, the gunmen appear to have had little problem gaining access.

"I was in the main lobby and there was all of a sudden a lot of firing outside," said the Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, one of a delegation of European parliamentarians in Mumbai in advance of a European Union-India summit. "A gunman appeared in front of us, carrying machine gun-type weapons. And he just started firing at us ... I just turned and ran in the opposite direction."

Guests fled to their rooms and knotted curtains and sheets, which they lowered out of windows, and clambered down to safety. Some did not make it. Ralph Burkel, 51, a media manager from Munich, leaped from an upper floor window of the hotel to escape but fell heavily. He was able to reach a friend on his mobile phone who recounted that he was in agony. Burkel told him: "I've broken all the bones in my body. If no one helps me right now, I won't make it." He died before he could reach hospital.

Inside the hotel, the gunmen confronted guests and shouted: "Who has American or British passports?" Dining by the pool was Dalbir Bains, who runs a shop in Mumbai. She ran upstairs to the Sea Lounge restaurant, where around 50 other people were taking refuge. They hid under tables in the dark, hoping the gunmen would not find them and hearing the sounds of explosions elsewhere in the hotel. They managed to escape just before dawn.

There were bursts of automatic fire as other guests scattered. The shooting was followed by a series of explosions, just after midnight, that set fire to parts of the hotel. Screams could be heard from inside the hotel as flames burst from upstairs windows.

At least two of the gunmen were killed by police in the fierce battle to retake the hotel. Hermant Kerkare, the head of the police anti-terrorist squad and one of the most high-profile officers in the country, who was personally leading the operation, was one of the victims. There were repeated attempts by black-clad Indian commandos to take the hotels and free the hostages.

Even as this battle raged, Nariman House, the home of an ultra-orthodox Jewish group in south Mumbai, was coming under attack. Another group of gunmen had commandeered a police vehicle which allowed them to approach the HQ of the Chabad Lubavitch group. Two people are believed to have been killed and there were still reports last night of up to 10 Israelis being held hostage in the city.

By now the number of the attacks in the city was making it almost impossible for the police to keep up. Within moments, they were hearing reports of shooting at the Oberoi Trident hotel, part of one of the most prestigious chains of hotels in India. By 9.35pm guests there were trapped and in panic. "Save us", read a banner hung from one of the upper floor windows.

Alex Chamberlain, a British citizen who was dining at the Oberoi, told Sky News that a gunman ushered 30 to 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and ordered everyone to put up their hands.

"They were talking about British and Americans specifically," he said. "There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: 'Where are you from?" and he said he's from Italy and they said 'fine' and they left him alone. And I thought: 'Fine, they're going to shoot me if they ask me anything' and thank God they didn't," he said. Chamberlain said he managed to slip away as others were marched upstairs to be kept as hostages.

Another guest fleeing from the Oberoi hotel was Mangho Kripalni, 84, who moved from India to New York as a young man and was taking his two daughters and granddaughter to India for the first time. "I just came here to show my family India but now I don't know why I did that," he said.

It would not be until the following morning that commandos were sent in to rescue people trapped inside. Two hotel staff, one security guard and two terrorists are thought to have been killed at the hotel.

While guests in both hotels spoke of some gunmen asking for Americans and Britons, the death toll made it clear that, by a vast majority, the main victims were Indians and that any foreigner was regarded as a suitable target. Among the dead are Japanese, Italians, Germans and Australians and among the guests rounded up were Yemenis, Spaniards, New Zealanders, Turks and Israelis.

The violence was far from over. As police sped from attack to attack, a taxi was blown up in Vile Parle at around 9.55pm. Gunmen also attacked Cama and Albless hospital and GT hospital, causing fresh panic. The hospital is known as a place where women and the children of the poor are treated and there was puzzlement as to why it had been added to the target list of the attackers. While there were reports of shooting, it was unclear how many died.

Also targeted by the gunmen was the 70-year-old Metro cinema, known as a popular hang-out for foreigners and cineastes as it shows English language and foreign films as well as being a popular venue for the premieres of mainstream Bollywood spectaculars.

As the sun came up yesterday morning and the city counted the cost, police declared a curfew around the Taj Mahal hotel, warning people to stay out of the area as black-clad commandos ran into the building seeking the gunmen and looking for remaining hostages and booby-traps. Soldiers moved from room to room, systematically flushing out gunmen. By 8.40am, all the hostages at the Taj had been rescued.

By the afternoon, bodies and guests who had been held as hostages were slowly emerging from the hotel. Witnesses reported at least three bodies, covered in white cloth, being wheeled out on trolleys. Other, some clutching luggage, were helped into ambulances.

"We're going to catch them dead or alive," Maharashtra home minister RR Patil told reporters. "An attack on Mumbai is an attack on the rest of the country."

While police and troops mopped up in the city, the Indian navy said its forces were boarding the cargo vessel suspected of being the mothership for the dinghies. Navy spokesman Captain Manohar Nambiar said that the ship, the MV Alpha, had recently come to Mumbai from Karachi, Pakistan. For a while, it seemed as though a new dimension was entering the equation but, after the ship had been boarded and searched, it was cleared and allowed to sail on. No weapons on traces of them were found on board and the naval statement confirming the all-clear came as Pakistani authorities warned that India should not accuse them of playing a part in the plot.

By 3.19pm yesterday the death toll had mounted to at least 119 people as police made attempts to flush out the remaining gunmen, around a dozen or so of whom remained holed up inside the hotels and Jewish centre. One man told reporters he had seen many bodies inside.

At Saint George hospital in south Mumbai, 63 people were confirmed dead, most from bullet wounds. Hospitals throughout the city started issuing lists of the dead and wounded as Mumbai began to count the cost of the massacre. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

Russia just looking for a friend in Venezuela.

According to the Russian analyst, the United States will just have to get used to the Hugo Chavez's of the world. That certainly would take some getting used to, especially while countries like India are being attacked by terrorists and Russia is selling arms and weapon systems to all comers. The World has taken a decided turn to her ugly side and it is difficult to find news encouraging for the future.

Russia acts as if she will suffer no consequences from a less stable World and means to profit from whomever, wherever, whenever.

Nice. Real nice.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"...the gracious gifts of the most high God..."

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.


"Show us your passports"

"They told everybody to stop and put their hands up and asked if there were any British or Americans," said Alex Chamberlain, a British businessman. "My friend said to me, 'Don't be a hero, don't say you are British'. I am sure that is what this is all about. They were talking about British and Americans specifically."


With the possible exception of the "floating" Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur which was made famous by the James Bond film Octopussy, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel in Bombay is India's best-known and best-loved hotel.

For any serious foreign investor, businessman or wealthy tourist visiting India's commercial capital, "The Taj", as it is universally known by the cognoscenti, is always the first choice.

With best rooms in the superior old wing costing more than £250 per night - more than 250 millions Indians can expect to earn in a year - the hotel offers a world of secluded luxury, away from the grinding poverty and infrastructural decay of Mumbai.
Legend has it that its creator, a Parsi industrialist called Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, commissioned the building after being refused entry to the now-defunct Apollo Hotel, which had a strict Europeans-only policy.

However with its colonnades of shops stuffed with the world's most expensive brands, what Bombay's rich set consider the ultimate in cosmopolitan luxury, would equally be perceived by Islamist ideologues as a symbol of Western decadence.

Over the years guests have included The Queen, the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser and the Beatle John Lennon, to name but a few of the notable personalities to have checked in to the magnificent old wing.

More recently the hotel hosted the guests for Bombay leg of Liz Hurley's two-week extravaganza of a wedding, with guests dashing straight from the front door to waiting motor launches to take them to the privacy of waiting super-yachts in the harbour beyond.

To have pictures of burning Taj Hotel broadcast around the world will have a deeper impact than even perhaps the terrorists intended, striking a blow against a symbol of Indian wealth and progress and sending shivers down the spine of some of the richest and most powerful people on the planet.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How is the Obama and the transition going?

Frankly, not too badly. So far he has taken a very pragmatic conservative and middle of the road approach in both his statements and his selection of cabinet nominees. His talk about bold steps in fiscal stimulation was sensible and his statement that when things get better, he intends to go through the budget line by line to take out unnecessary and wasteful programs and spending was reassuring. 

Obama has set a sober and restrained tone in his rhetoric. Yesterday, when pressed for a number on the fiscal stimulus, he wisely refused to throw out a number.

In tone and demeanor, Obama is serious and sensible. The man talks like he knows what he is doing. His reported decision to keep Gates on in Defense is cautious and pragmatic. Obama has probably distressed more on the left than he has on the Republican Right.

Will this last? We should all hope so. There will come a time when we will disagree. For the moment, let's hope that how he has begun is an indication of how he will lead.

Yesterday, Rufus observed that he was impressed with the way President Bush was handling the transition. I agree. The system is working and that is something that in which we can all take pride.

Does Obama's Citizenship Status Matter?

bobal linked to an article  which posed this question:

If someone were to violate the law by manufacturing a forgery in order trick the public, would that be enough evidence for members Congress to conduct hearings and for a court to issue an order for the critical records, including the original long-form birth certificate (signed by the doctor) to ensure that the U.S. constitutional requirements for office were not violated? After all, Congress is sworn to uphold and defend that Constitution, and the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are "guardians" of the Constitution. That's their job, isn't it?

Does the country want to go there? Does it care about Obama's citizenship status or is the economic crisis so paramount that this issue can be swept under the rug and anyone who brings it up dismissed as a wing nut? 

Monday, November 24, 2008

Forget the Franklins. We are going for Clevelands.

You didn't even know President Cleveland was on a note, well he is, and on a big one. The necessary reflation will result in the printing of lots of these. Someone will get blamed, but there were plenty of architects of the eventual inflation in our future.

Plan accordingly.

US Backs $300 billion in Citigroup Assets

They never sleep. Now we know why.

November 23, 2008
Summary of Terms

Eligible Asset Guarantee

Eligible Assets: Asset pool consisting of loans and securities backed by residential real estate and commercial real estate, and their associated hedges, as agreed, and other such assets as the U.S. Government (USG) has agreed to guarantee. Each specific asset must be identified on signing of guarantee agreement. Assets will remain on the books of institution but will be appropriately “ring-fenced.”

Size: Up to $306 bn in assets to be guaranteed (based on valuation agreed upon between institution and USG).

Term of Guarantee: FDIC standard loss-sharing protocol: Guarantee is in place for 10 years for residential assets, 5 years for non-residential assets.

Deductible: Institution absorbs all losses in portfolio up to $29 bn (in addition to existing reserves) Any losses in portfolio in excess of that amount are shared USG (90%) and institution (10%).

USG share will be allocated as follows:
UST (via TARP) second loss up to $5 bn;
FDIC takes the third loss up to $10 bn;

Financing: Federal Reserve funds remaining pool of assets with a non-recourse loan, subject to the institution’s 10% loss sharing, at a floating rate of OIS plus 300bp. Interest payments are with recourse to the institution.

Fee for Guarantee -
Preferred Stock: Institution will issue $7 bn of preferred stock with an 8% dividend rate (under terms described below). $4 bn of preferred will be issued to UST. $3 bn will be issued to the FDIC.

Management of Assets: USG will provide institution with a template to manage guaranteed assets. This template will include the use of mortgage modification procedures adopted by the FDIC, unless otherwise agreed.

Risk Weighting:
Institution will retain the income stream from the guaranteed assets. Risk weighting for assets will be 20%.

November 23, 2008

Dividends: Institution is prohibited from paying common stock dividends, in excess of $.01 per share per quarter, for 3 years without UST/FDIC/FRB consent. A factor taken into account for consideration of the USG’s consent is the ability to complete a common stock offering of appropriate size.

Executive Compensation: An executive compensation plan, including bonuses, that rewards long-term performance and profitability, with appropriate limitations, must be submitted to, and approved by, the USG

Corporate Governance: Other matters as specified November 23, 2008

Preferred Securities

Issuer: Citigroup (“Citi”)

Initial Holder: United States Department of the Treasury (“UST”).

Size: $20 billion

Security: Preferred, liquidation preference $1,000 per share. (Depending upon the available authorized preferred shares, the UST may agree to purchase preferred with a higher liquidation preference per share, in which case the UST may require Citi to appoint a depositary to hold the Preferred and issue depositary receipts.)

Ranking: Same terms as preferred issued in CPP.

Term: Perpetual life.

Dividend: The Preferred will pay cumulative dividends at a rate of 8% per annum. Dividends will be payable quarterly in arrears on February 15, May 15, August 15 and November 15 of each year.

Redemption: In stock or cash, as mutually agreed between UST and Citi. Otherwise, redemption terms of CPP preferred terms apply.

Restrictions on Dividends: Institution is prohibited from paying common stock dividends, in excess of $.01 per share per quarter, for 3 years without UST consent. A factor taken into account for consideration of the UST’s consent is the ability to complete a common stock offering of appropriate size.

Repurchases: Same terms as preferred issued in CPP.

Voting rights: The Preferred shall be non-voting, other than class voting rights on (i) any authorization or issuance of shares ranking senior to the Preferred, (ii) any amendment to the rights of Preferred, or (iii) any merger, exchange or similar transaction which would adversely affect the rights of the Preferred. If dividends on the Preferred are not paid in full for six dividend periods, whether or not consecutive, the Preferred will have the right to elect 2 directors. The right to elect directors will end when full dividends have been paid for (i) all prior dividend periods in the case of cumulative Preferred or (ii) four consecutive dividend periods in the case of non-cumulative Preferred.

November 23, 2008

Transferability: The Preferred will not be subject to any contractual restrictions on

Executive Compensation: An executive compensation plan, including bonuses, that rewards long-term performance and profitability, with appropriate limitations, must be submitted to, and approved by, the USG.

Summary of Warrant Terms

Warrant: Institution will issue a warrant to UST for an aggregate exercise value of 10% of the total preferred issued to USG (in both transactions) ($2.7 bn).

Exercise Price: The strike price will be equal to $10.61 per share (the 20 day trailing average ending on November 21, 2008). The warrants issued to UST are not subject to reduction based on additional offerings.

Term: Ten years, immediately exercisable, in whole or in part.


__________________________ _______________________________


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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Obama Takes Off the Velvet Glove with Automakers

"Yes boss"

Obama aide promotes job plan, warns automakers

By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writers – Yahoo News

WASHINGTON – After more than two weeks of virtual silence on the economy, President-elect Barack Obama's transition team burst on the scene with new ambition and urgency Sunday, demanding swift passage by Congress of a massive two-year spending and tax-cutting recovery program.

Obama aides called on lawmakers to pass, by the Jan. 20 inauguration, legislation that meets Obama's two-year goal of saving or creating 2.5 million jobs. Democratic congressional leaders said they would get to work when Congress convenes Jan. 6.
Though Obama aides declined to discuss a total cost, it probably would far exceed the $175 billion he proposed during the campaign, but would not immediately seek to raise taxes on the rich. Some economists and lawmakers have argued for a two-year plan as large as $700 billion, equal to the Wall Street bailout Congress approved last month.

With the wounded economy worsening, the Obama team's new assertiveness was a recognition he needed to soothe financial markets with signs of leadership. It also foreshadowed a more hands-on role by Obama to influence congressional action during the final weeks of the transition.

Obama planned to introduce his economic team on Monday, including Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council. Obama also has settled on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary.

"We don't have time to waste here, " Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said. "We want to hit the ground running on January 20th." Echoing that, the second-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said, `We expect to have during the first couple of weeks of January a package for the president's consideration when he takes office."

Added Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee: "We're out with the dithering. We're in with a bang."

Obama's team didn't limit itself to the long-term economic recovery. Axelrod warned automakers, seeking billions in government help to stave off collapse, to devise a plan to retool and restructure by next month. Otherwise, he said, "there is very little taxpayers can do to help them."

Axelrod couldn't resist taking a jab at the Big Three executives, who left Congress empty-handed last week after flying into Washington in corporate jets and pleading for money. "I hope that they will come back to Washington in early December — on commercial flights — with a plan," he said.

The emphasis on the economy began Saturday when Obama outlined the framework of a plan to save or create 2.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. The scope of the recovery package is far more ambitious than what Obama had spelled out during his presidential campaign, when he proposed $175 billion of spending and tax-cutting stimulus. The new one will be significantly larger and would incorporate his campaign ideas for new jobs in environmentally friendly technologies — the "green economy." It also would include his proposals for tax relief for middle- and lower-income workers.

But there were no plans to balance the tax cuts with an immediate tax increase on the wealthy. During the campaign, Obama said he would pay for increased tax relief by raising taxes on people making more than $250,000.

"There won't be any tax increases in the January package," said one Obama aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the Obama package have not been fleshed out.

Obama could delay any tax increase to 2011, when current Bush administration tax cuts expire.House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio urged Obama to make that explicit. "Why wouldn't we have the president-elect say, `I am not going to raise taxes on any American in my first two years in office?'"

In a sign of where the congressional debate might lead, Boehner called for lowering capital gains and corporate income taxes.

Some economists have endorsed spending up to $600 billion to revive the economy. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and former labor Secretary Robert Reich, a member of Obama's economic advisory board, both suggested $500 billion to $700 billion.

"I don't know what the number is going to be, but it's going to be a big number," Goolsbee said. "It has to be. The point is to, kind of, get people back on track and startle the thing into submission."

While Obama in the weekend Democratic radio address said his plan "will mean 2.5 million more jobs by January of 2011," aides said the figure was a net sum of jobs created and jobs saved that would otherwise disappear without government help.
The adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity said the plan would likely slow down job losses in 2009, but that new jobs probably would not be evident until 2010.
Obama's plan is both an economic and a political blueprint. By not including tax increases, he silences one potential Republican objection to his plan. If successful, the scope of his plan would set the stage for his other legislative goals, including expanded health care, permanent changes in tax rates and a comprehensive overhaul of energy policy.

"This package is designed to be a down payment to get his entire agenda started," the aide said.

Axelrod appeared on "Fox News Sunday" and ABC's "This Week." Schumer was on ABC, Hoyer and Boehner on Fox and Goolsbee was interviewed on "Face the Nation" on CBS. Reich appeared on "Late Edition" on CNN.

We are all Doomed and are going to die.

Canadian environmentalists say that the coming 23 year long cooling cycle is just a blip on way to true warming damnation.

New satellite indicates cycle of global cooling

November 20, 2008 Spokesman Review

Several Canadian environmental scientists agree the new Jason satellite indicates at least a 23-year cycle of global cooling ahead.

This oceanographic satellite shows a much larger than normal persistent Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Cooler PDO phases usually last 21 to 25 years, so we could be quite chilly as a planet until at least 2030, maybe longer.

However, based on long-term climatic cycles, there is another cycle of intense global warming, due by 2031 to 2038, when many of our weather cycles "collide in chaos."

These alternating natural climatic cycles defy the so-called climate consensus that human-emitted carbon dioxide was completely responsible for the recent cycle of global warming that began in the late 1970s and peaked in 1998. But, I do believe that human activities are enhancing environmental problems.

The Earth's previous warming phase from 1915 through 1939, which peaked in 1936 creating the infamous Dust Bowl, was about as warm as the recent cycle of global warming.

The last cooler cycle of global temperatures occurred from late 1939 to early 1976, peaking (or bottoming) in 1973. The harsh winters during World War II helped the U.S. and its allies defeat the Germans and later assisted our GIs in the Korean War because of extremely heavy snows and subzero temperatures north of the 38th parallel.

In the past 10 years, especially the past couple of years, the Earth's overall climate has cooled a bit, even though CO2 emissions have soared on a worldwide scale. However, as mentioned last week, temperatures continue to be much above normal in the Arctic regions. Only time will tell on where we go from here.

As far as our local weather is concerned, a parade of Pacific storms marched across the Inland Northwest during the first 13 days of this November. Then high pressure moved into the region, giving us mostly dry and cool and mild afternoon temperatures.

Our overall weather pattern should turn toward the wetter side. I now see some measurable snowfall around the Thanksgiving holiday into early December. The first half of the winter of 2008-09 should produce above normal amounts of snow.

Temperatures should be colder, however, with subzero readings expected around the Jan. 11-18 full moon cycle as a huge Arctic high pressure ridge moves in from the north into Eastern Washington and North Idaho as well as the surrounding regions of the Northwest.

It still looks better than a 50 percent chance of a brilliant White Christmas in the Inland Northwest, considerably higher probabilities than usual for the season.

The rise and fall of the femme fatale, Veronica Lake.

The rise and fall of Hollywood's ultimate femme fatale

By Paul Whitington
Saturday November 15 2008

Eighty-nine years ago yesterday, a baby girl called Constance Frances Marie Ockelman was born in deepest Brooklyn. Hardly the name that launched a thousand ships, but a couple of surnames later Veronica Lake would become box office gold in the early 1940s, a sultry blonde who slyly enticed the world from behind her famous peek-a-boo hairstyle.

Though her birth name might not suggest it, Lake was actually an Irish-American (three of her four grandparents were Irish, two of them first generation), and her extraordinary life is a salutary tale of the perils that befall the fading Hollywood starlet.

Constance Ockelman's father Harry worked for an oil company, and the family moved around America as his job required. In 1932, when she was 11, he died in an industrial explosion in Philadelphia, after which her mother (also Constance) married a newspaper man called Keane, which became her daughter's new family name.

Young Connie was promptly packed off to an austere Catholic boarding school in Montreal, which she hated, but things looked up when the entire family moved south to sunny Florida in the mid-1930s. Her striking looks began to get noticed, but Connie was a troubled child by all accounts, and her mother would later claim she was diagnosed with a mental illness.

The defining event in her young life came when the family moved again, this time to Beverly Hills, in 1938. Connie, who had excelled in a high school play, was enrolled by her mother in the renowned Bliss-Hayden School of Acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, and took to acting like a duck to water.

Within a year, the 19-year-old had landed her first film part, a small role as a co-ed in an RKO picture called Sorority House. Lake would never be anyone's idea of a great actress, and she herself once remarked that "you could put all the talent I had into your left eye and still not suffer from impaired vision". But the camera absolutely loved her, and her screen charisma soon got her noticed.

She appeared in her first three or four films as either Connie or Constance Keane, but when Paramount producer Arthur Hornblow Jr was casting her in her first major role he suggested she change her name to Veronica Lake, as it suited her looks better.

The film in question was I Wanted Wings (1941), a routine drama about the lives and loves of three Air Corps recruits, but it proved to be her breakthrough. Her elfin looks and tiny physique were most unusual for the time, and the lick of platinum blonde hair that covered her right eye quickly became a trademark.

Among those who noticed Lake was maverick screenwriter Preston Sturges, who had just persuaded Paramount to allowed him to direct his first film. He cast her opposite Joel McCrea as the quirky love interest in his daring satire Sullivan's Travels (1941). The salutary tale of a self-important Hollywood director who decides to slum it with the depression poor in order to "know trouble", it was a wonderfully dark commentary on Hollywood's values or lack of them. And Lake was charming as the wise-ass starlet to whom McCrea takes a shine.

Her star was soaring, and in her next film she was cast opposite the man with whom she would form her most enduring screen partnership -- Alan Ladd. In fact, the pair were teamed for amusingly pragmatic reasons. At something under five foot six, Ladd's unimposing stature often required his leading ladies to stand in trenches while he resorted to lifts. The 4ft 11 1/2 inch Lake was the perfect miniature partner, and they would appear together in five films.

Their first was perhaps their best -- based on a story by Graham Greene, This Gun for Hire (1942) was a stylish tale of murder, blackmail and femmes fatales, and is now considered a noir classic.

Almost overnight Lake had become a huge star, and could seemingly do no wrong. Women across America slavishly tried to copy her peek-a-boo hairstyle, so much so that once the US entered the war Veronica appeared in an ad that graphically highlighted the dangers of sporting the do while working with heavy machinery.

But success apparently went to her head, and she acquired a reputation for being difficult. Eddie Bracken, who co-starred with her in the 1943 musical Star Spangled Rhythm, afterwards remarked that "she was known as 'The Bitch' and she deserved the title". And the novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler privately referred to her as 'Moronica Lake'.

Her career took a turn for the worse in more ways than one with the 1944 film, The Hour Before the Dawn. During filming she tripped on a cable while pregnant, and began haemorrhaging. The child, her second with husband John S Detlie, was born, but only survived a week. By the time the film came out her marriage was over, and though she'd marry a further three times, none of them were happy-ever-afters.

As for The Hour Before the Dawn, though it was far from a terrible film, Lake's portrayal of a treacherous Nazi spy went down badly with the public, and her dodgy German accent was lampooned by the critics.

As quickly as it had risen, Veronica's star began to fail. There was one further triumph, with Alan Ladd in the Chandler classic The Blue Dahlia (1946), but by the late 1940s Lake was considered news, and in 1948 Paramount cancelled her contract.

Thereafter, drinking heavily, she struggled to sustain her career, appearing on television and in the odd bad film. The IRS pursued her for unpaid taxes, and by the late 1950s she was drifting between cheap hotels in New York, and was arrested more than once for public drunkenness.

She hit the headlines in the early 1960s when she was discovered working as a barmaid in Manhattan. This led to some TV work, but nothing could stem her precipitous decline.

Estranged from her four children, she lived in squalor and imagined the FBI were pursuing her. She died, alone and practically destitute, on July 7, 1973, a few months shy of her 54th birthday.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hillary Clinton accepts post as Secretary of State

It could have been worse.

Senator Hillary Clinton has accepted Barack Obama's offer to become US Secretary of State, as the president-elect moved at rapid speed to assemble an all-star cabinet amid steep challenges at home and overseas. Telegraph

Friends of the former First Lady told American news organisations that she had firmly decided to give up her seat as a senator for New York and become the international face of the man who thwarted her presidential ambitions in a long and sometimes bitter battle for the Democratic Party's nomination.

Other reports said Mr Obama will nominate Timothy Geithner, 47, as his Treasury Secretary. As head of the New York federal reserve bank he has been involved with the $700 billion bail-out of Wall Street, which he will take charge of if confirmed.
As a former treasury official, Mr Geithner has invaluable Washington experience and will be considered a wise choice. Stocks soared as news of his appointment reached Wall Street.

He will probably be joined around the cabinet table by Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor, who has been reportedly selected as commerce secretary after losing out to Mrs Clinton as secretary of state, the most prestigious job beneath the presidency.
With Mr Obama likely to name his economic team in full within a few days, and Mrs Clinton's decision clearing the way for other foreign policy posts to be filled, he is set to complete many of the most important slots in his administration at uncommonly early stage.

His choices for the positions of health secretary, attorney general and homeland security are Tom Daschle, Eric Holder, and Janet Napolitano, respectively, though they remain subject to approval by his vetting team.

Though news about some appointments has leaked out, to the frustration of the Obama camp, his transition from winning candidate to president is proceeding at a pace and with a smoothness that has impressed political observers.

Mr Obama and his aides have understood that with the financial markets very jittery and economic confidence subsiding a calm and orderly changeover was paramount.

His administration will feature veterans of the Bill Clinton administration and politicians rewarded for their early support of during the primaries, such as Mr Richardson, Janet Napolitano, the Arizona governor tipped to become head the Homeland Security Department and Tom Daschle, who will run health.

His recruitment of Mrs Clinton in particular honours Mr Obama's pledge to appoint an all-star cabinet, or a "team of rivals", of strong personalities who will speak their minds and provide contrasting views.

But some have criticised her management skills – her new department has 19,000 employees – and questioned her foreign policy experience at a time when the country is conducting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing growing pressure from Russia, Iran and China.

Obama supporters have also raised concerns that a politician with such a large power base would happily follow anyone else's orders. Some have been unable to forgive Mrs Clinton for her strong criticism of Mr Obama during the primaries, when she launched an advertisement questioning whether the nation would want such an inexperienced politician answering the White House hotline at 3am.

Mrs Clinton, 61, evidently had her own doubts, and was uncertain if she should give up her Senate seat from heavily Democratic New York, which she could most likely have occupied for the rest of her career.

The only hesitation about her within the Obama camp was removed after Mr Clinton co-operated fully with the vetting team's investigation of his network of overseas donors to his global charity.

The former president is understood to have promised not to conduct speaking engagements or seek funds from sources that might present a conflict of interest with the foreign policy his wife would be pursuing.

Hasta la vista Ass Hole

British terror mastermind Rashid Rauf 'killed in US missile strike' in Pakistan.

By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter Telegraph
Last Updated: 11:07AM GMT 22 Nov 2008

Rauf has been on the run since escaping from a Pakistani jail nearly a year ago Photo: AP

Rashid Rauf, 27, who grew up in Birmingham, was killed along with at least three other militants in the attack on the house of a local tribesman in the North Waziristan area. A US drone targeted the home in the village of Alikhel, part of a district known as a stronghold for al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

"The transatlantic bombing plot alleged mastermind Rashid Rauf was killed along with an Egyptian al-Qaeda operative in the US missile strike in North Waziristan," a senior security official said. Rauf, who has been on the run after escaping from a Pakistani jail nearly a year ago, was said to have played a key role in a liquid bomb plot targeting transatlantic airliners in 2006.
Rauf, a British national who used to live in Birmingham, escaped from Pakistani authorities after appearing before a judge in an Islamabad court in December last year. At the time, he could have faced extradition to Britain within weeks.

After the escape, Khalid Pervez, a city police official, said that Rauf managed to open his handcuffs and evade police guards taking him back to Adiala prison in the nearby city of Rawalpindi. After the escape, 12 policemen were questioned and two had been accused of assisting the escape or negligence. Despite a huge manhunt, he was never recaptured.

Rauf was arrested in Pakistan in August 2006 along with seven other suspects, after a tip-off from British intelligence, over alleged attempts to blow up 10 transatlantic jets.
News of the liquid bomb plot paralysed global air travel, prompting authorities to implement stringent security measures at airports around the world.

Police believe that the plan was for different passengers to carry peroxide-based liquid explosive in drinks containers and detonators disguised as electronic devices and combine them on board.
The arrests sparked a security alert and mass flight cancellations as well as restrictions on carry-on luggage.

A dual citizen of Britain and Pakistan, Rauf was married to a relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the head and founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, an Islamist militant group in Pakistan that has been linked to al-Qaeda. Azhar has lived in Bahawalpur, a city in eastern Pakistan where Rauf had also settled.

A senior Pakistani official called Rauf "an al-Qaeda operative with linkages in Afghanistan." "Enjoy your raisins."

Rauf is understood to have left Birmingham following the stabbing to death of his uncle, Mohammed Saeed, 54, near his home in Alum Rock in April 2002.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More Results of US Stupidity in Latin America

As trade with Costa Rica grows, so does Beijing’s influence in Latin America. US influence will decrease. The Colombian Free Trade agreement is a prime example. Why are we ruled by fools?

Hu’s Visit Reflects China’s New Clout

By Gillian Gillers
Tico Times Staff |

For the first time in history, a Chinese president has visited Central America, a former bastion of Taiwanese support and a region that the United States has long considered its backyard.

During Hu Jintao's visit to Costa Rica on Monday, the two nations agreed to begin negotiations on a free-trade agreement and work together to expand Costa Rica's national oil refinery.

China will also open a center here to spread Chinese language and culture, and the China Development Bank will offer $40 million in credit to the cash-strapped Banco Nacional.

Hu spent about 24 hours in Costa Rica with his wife, Liu Yongqing, and a delegation of about 110 people, including government officials, journalists and advisers. Separately, about 100 Chinese businessmen visited this week to meet with their Tico counterparts.

“China is ready to intensify its contacts with Costa Rica's government, Congress and political parties,” Hu said at a press conference Monday.

Hu's visit here, followed immediately by trips to Cuba and Peru, highlights China's growing influence in Latin America, where the U.S. has been largely politically absent.

In courting Latin America, China appears to be seeking raw materials, new export markets and diplomatic support from the region's 12 countries that still back Taiwan.

China's gifts to Costa Rica are a reward for President Oscar Arias' decision in June 2007 to recognize China and end a 63-year relationship with Taiwan, according to a secret memo that a Costa Rican high court recently made public.

During Hu's visit, China agreed to free up additional funds for a national soccer stadium in La Sabana Park, on the western edge of San José. China will invest $83 million in the stadium, to be built over the next two years by the Chinese firm Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group.

Also this week, China National Petroleum Corporation agreed to help Costa Rica expand its national refinery in Moín on the Caribbean coast. The expansion, set to more than double the refinery's capacity, could take up to five years and cost $1 billion, to be divided between the two nations, said José León Desanti, president of Costa Rica's National Oil Refinery.

After the United States, China is Costa Rica's second most important trading partner, and commercial ties are set to strenghten over the next few years.

Trade officials will hold the first round of talks on a free-trade agreement Jan. 19 in San José, and negotiations will likely finish by early 2010, said Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz.

China is also donating 320 square meters of space to Costa Rica at the next World Expo, an international fair scheduled in Shanghai from May through October 2010.

Some companies are ahead of the game. Florida Bebidas, a subsidiary of Florida Ice & Farm, signed an agreement with the Chinese distributor Powersun on Monday to sell fruit juice and Imperial beer to Chinese consumers. Florida Bebidas will also distribute the Chinese beer Tsingtao here.

Trade with China has grown dramatically over the last five years. In 2002, just 0.64 percent of Costa Rica's exports went to China, compared to 9 percent in 2007. Ruiz said he expects exports to China to grow 11 percent under a free-trade agreement.

China is also seeking to strengthen cultural ties with Costa Rica through a new Confucius Institute, set to open soon at the University of Costa Rica (UCR). The center, funded jointly by the two nations, will offer Mandarin classes to students, teachers and the general public.

Costa Rica will be the eighth country in Latin America to have a Confucius Institute, joining Brazil, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba and Mexico.

China's generosity has impressed Costa Ricans and filled some of a niche once occupied by the United States. When asked in July to name Costa Rica's best friend, 25 percent of Ticos said China, while 29 percent named the United States. Two decades ago, 58 percent of Ticos considered Uncle Same the best, said Carlos Denton, president of CID-Gallup.

“The U.S. is disengaged,” Denton said. “That's why Costa Ricans aren't as conscious of the U.S. as a friend as they were 25 years ago.”

In the early 1980s, the U.S. pumped millions of dollars into Costa Rica's Central Bank to prop up the country's teetering economy. But the USAID mission in Costa Rica closed in 1996, and last year the Washinton, D.C., gave Costa Rica just $7 million in direct aid.

“The clasped hands have disappeared from Costa Rica,” Denton said, referring to the USAID emblem.

The United States is still Costa Rica's No. 1 destination for exports and the top source of tourists. And next month, Costa Rica is expected to join the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

Still, as Costa Rica diversifies its exports, commercial ties with the North American giant have become less important. In 2002, half of Costa Rican exports went to the U.S., compared to 35.2 percent in 2007.

While China's ambitions in the region have raised eyebrows in Washington, U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Peter Cianchette seems unfazed. Stronger ties to China, he said, do not detract from Costa Rica's relationship with the United States.

“This isn't a zero-sum game,” he said.

And we did it without one Chinese component

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The shattered dreams of George Bush the Humble

Are you as taken aback by this video? In it George Bush is elegant, humble and articulate. There is no way the man in this video could have foreseen the present condition of the country he led for eight years.

Will Rogers once said, "He never met a man he did not like." That was far too generous. A journalist, one of the Alsop brothers, dying of cancer, said, "He never met a man he could not feel sorry for."

Henry Kissinger on the end of hubris:


An end of hubris
Nov 19th 2008
From The World in 2009 print edition

America will be less powerful, but still the essential nation in creating a new world order, argues Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state and founder of Kissinger Associates


The most significant event of 2009 will be the transformation of the Washington consensus that market principles trumped national boundaries. The WTO, the IMF and the World Bank defended that system globally. Periodic financial crises were interpreted not as warning signals of what could befall the industrial nations but as aberrations of the developing world to be remedied by domestic stringency—a policy which the advanced countries were not, in the event, prepared to apply to themselves.

The absence of restraint encouraged a speculation whose growing sophistication matched its mounting lack of transparency. An unparalleled period of growth followed, but also the delusion that an economic system could sustain itself via debt indefinitely. In reality, a country could live in such a profligate manner only so long as the rest of the world retained confidence in its economic prescriptions. That period has now ended.

Any economic system, but especially a market economy, produces winners and losers. If the gap between them becomes too great, the losers will organise themselves politically and seek to recast the existing system—within nations and between them. This will be a major theme of 2009.

America’s unique military and political power produced a comparable psychological distortion. The sudden collapse of the Soviet Union tempted the United States to proclaim universal political goals in a world of seeming unipolarity—but objectives were defined by slogans rather than strategic feasibility.

Now that the clay feet of the economic system have been exposed, the gap between a global system for economics and the global political system based on the state must be addressed as a dominant task in 2009. The economy must be put on a sound footing, entitlement programmes reviewed and the national dependence on debt overcome. Hopefully, in the process, past lessons of excessive state control will not be forgotten.

The debate will be over priorities, transcending the longstanding debate between idealism and realism. Economic constraints will oblige America to define its global objectives in terms of a mature concept of the national interest. Of course, a country that has always prided itself on its exceptionalism will not abandon the moral convictions by which it defined its greatness. But America needs to learn to discipline itself into a strategy of gradualism that seeks greatness in the accumulation of the attainable. By the same token, our allies must be prepared to face the necessary rather than confining foreign policy to so-called soft power.

Every major country will be driven by the constraints of the fiscal crisis to re-examine its relationship to America. All—and especially those holding American debt—will be assessing the decisions that brought them to this point. As America narrows its horizons, what is a plausible security system and aimed at what threats? What is the future of capitalism? How, in such circumstances, does the world deal with global challenges, such as nuclear proliferation or climate change?

America will have to learn that world order depends on a structure that participants support because they helped bring it about
America will remain the most powerful country, but will not retain the position of self-proclaimed tutor. As it learns the limits of hegemony, it should define implementing consultation beyond largely American conceptions. The G8 will need a new role to embrace China, India, Brazil and perhaps South Africa.

The immediate challenge

In Iraq, if the surge strategy holds, there must be a diplomatic conference in 2009 to establish principles of non-intervention and define the country’s international responsibilities.

The dilatory diplomacy towards Iran must be brought to a focus. The time available to forestall an Iranian nuclear programme is shrinking and American involvement is essential in defining what we and our allies are prepared to seek and concede and, above all, the penalty to invoke if negotiations reach a stalemate. Failing that, we will have opted to live in a world of an accelerating nuclear arms race and altered parameters of security.

In 2009 the realities of Afghanistan will impose themselves. No outside power has ever prevailed by establishing central rule, as Britain learnt in the 19th century and the Soviet Union in the 20th. The collection of nearly autonomous provinces which define Afghanistan coalesce in opposition to outside attempts to impose central rule. Decentralisation of the current effort is essential.

All this requires a new dialogue between America and the rest of the world. Other countries, while asserting their growing roles, are likely to conclude that a less powerful America still remains indispensable. America will have to learn that world order depends on a structure that participants support because they helped bring it about. If progress is made on these enterprises, 2009 will mark the beginning of a new world order.