“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."
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
...but it wasn't "rape-rape." OK Hollywood scum, put this little factoid into your debate:
Roman Polanski plied drink and drugs into a thirteen year old, went to fuck her, found out she was not on the pill, and plowed her up the ass. Say what?
Yesterday, a few cautious Democratic senators buried the 'public option,' the government-run health care plan whose supporters assure us will not force out private plans.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chair of the committee, said that the public option would keep the legislation from getting the 60 votes it needs to clear the Senate. He voted against it.
All Republicans and a few Democrats voted against both measures, Rockefeller's went down by a 15-8 vote; Schumer lost 13-10. The White House reacted:
As the President said in his Joint Session address, health insurance reform legislation must provide more choice and competition in the health insurance market in order to drive down costs and provide affordable options to Americans who are uninsured or forced to shop in the expensive private or small group market,” White House spokesman Reid Cherlin said in an email. “He believes making a public option available on the insurance exchange is a good way to achieve those goals. He has said he is open to other constructive ideas of increasing choice and competition. He will work with Congress to ensure that under health insurance reform, Americans who cannot find affordable coverage will always have a choice.”
Who do you believe, Ron Paul or Howard Dean?
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The move by CNOOC, the Chinese state-controlled oil giant, to acquire concessions in 23 prime blocks could create conflict with western oil groups including Shell, Chevron, Total and ExxonMobil who already own stakes in the blocks.
If all CNOOC’s bids were accepted they would double China’s oil reserves in Africa where China has sealed a number of successful oil-for-infrastructure deals in recent years in countries like Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The letter, dated August 13 and published by the Financial Times newspaper detailed talks between CNOOC’s representative in Nigeria, Sunrise, and the office of Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua.
While rejecting CNOOC’s initial offer – rumoured to be between $30bn-$50bn (£1.8bn-£31.4bn) and it added: “Your interest in all the listed blocks will be considered if your revised offer is favourable.”
It remains unclear from the letter whether the 49pc stakes CNOOC is seeking would come from the holdings of western oil major or their joint-venture partner, Nigeria’s state owned oil company.
A spokesman for President Yar'Adua confirmed that negotiations with Sunrise/CNOOC and “all other” industry stakeholders were ongoing, adding that “the federal government has not taken any final position on the issue.”
A cash-rich China has used the global financial crisis as an opportunity for a strategic expansion in oil and other commodities that it needs to fuel its rapidly expanding economy.
Nigeria’s parliament is currently debating a bill to restructure the country’s energy sector which is riddled with corruption and in desperate need of investment.
However any deal between Nigeria and China would have to overcome a number of political hurdles following a number of failed oil-for-infrastructure deals with the previous administration which became mired in damaging corruption allegations.
Those difficulties have led some analysts to speculate that the Nigerian authorities might be using the Chinese offer to extract more favourable terms from western companies already holding concessions.
China’s popular image in Nigeria was damaged by recent reports that China had requested permission to cremate 30 Nigerians who had died in Chinese jails after being arrested on fraud, immigration or drugs offences.
A committee of Nigerian MPs responded by calling on Nigeria’s government for a tit-for-tat investigation into the immigration status of the 20,000 Chinese estimated to be resident in Nigeria.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the head of the House of Representatives Committee on the Diaspora, told a press conference that Nigeria could no longer accept a situation where its people were being "maltreated and dehumanised abroad".
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Honduras has told the OAS to stay home. It certainly should repudiate the egregious interference in its internal affairs by Brazil. Today Honduras has threatened to revoke Brazil's diplomatic credentials for harbouring ousted president Manuel Zelaya in its embassy.
"If the status of Zelaya is not defined within 10 days, the [Brazilian] embassy will lose its diplomatic condition," Carlos Lopez Contreras, the de facto foreign minister, told a news conference on Sunday.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, called on the Honduran government to "cease harassing the Brazilian mission".
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ambassador Rice: Good afternoon everybody. Speaking as president of the Council I want to make a statement on behalf of the Council as follows: Members of the Council heard from the Foreign Minister of Brazil today. Council members stressed the importance of respecting International Law through preserving the inviolability of the Embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa, and other protections afforded it by the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, and ensuring the safety of individuals on its premises. They condemned acts of intimidation against the Brazilian Embassy and called upon the de facto government of Honduras to cease harassing the Brazilian Embassy and to provide all necessary utilities and services including water, electricity, food and continuity of communications. Respect and protection of the inviolability of diplomatic premises is a universally accepted principle of international relations.
The members of the Council call on all parties to remain calm and to avoid actions that escalate the situation or place individuals at risk of harm.
The members of the Council voiced support for the regional mediation efforts facilitated by the OAS, including those by President Arias, to reach a peaceful solution.
I’d like to take questions on Honduras first, if there are any, and then we can move to other topics.
Reporter: Is the Security Council willing to go and (inaudible) take any actions (inaudible)?
Ambassador Rice: No, I think this constitutes the response of the Security Council to the information provided it today.
Reporter: Did you and the Foreign Minister of Brazil talk after the meeting? What did you talk about?
Ambassador Rice: We had a private conversation; I am not prepared to share it.
Reporter: This is the right place to bring this type of discussion? I mean this subject was being discussed by the OAS and now it is at the Security Council?
Ambassador Rice: The issue of the Embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa was the subject that the Security Council discussed, not the larger, not primarily the larger situation.
Reporter: Not the larger political?
Ambassador Rice: Not primarily, no.
Reporter: Is it true that the United States was not happy that this subject was brought to the Security Council?
Ambassador Rice: No, we are the president of the Council and we acted in accordance with the wishes of the Council.
Reporter: Will you have another meeting about this issue?
Ambassador Rice: No, I don’t anticipate another meeting at this time on this issue.
Reporter: Is there anything else that the Security Council can do besides condemning the situation?
Ambassador Rice: This was the case brought by the government of Brazil of the circumstance of its Embassy in Tegucigalpa that was discussed. I have shared the Council’s reaction to that. And the Council looks to the regional mediation to continue its work on the larger political question of Honduras.
Reporter: Was it unanimous, your statement?
Ambassador Rice: This is a consensus statement.
The US is fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stating the need for a constitutional system. A so-called timber baron, Zelaya decided he wasn't satisfied with being a legal president for the constitutionally prescribed one term limit and wished to emulate the other Latin leftists and become a president for life.
The US should be applauding Honduras, not condemning it. but then we have our own leftist administration to contend with. Too bad for Honduras.
Honduras vows to close Brazil embassy, cracks down
Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:45pm EDT
By Patrick Markey and Gustavo Palencia
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras' de facto government threatened on Sunday to close Brazil's embassy for harboring ousted President Manuel Zelaya and moved to suppress dissent, defying international pressure to give up power.
The government, which took power after a June 28 coup, also denied entry to an Organization of American States delegation that had hoped to help broker a solution to the crisis.
The moves were aimed at stifling opposition and sending a clear message that it would not allow the leftist Zelaya's return to power under any circumstances, but they will also likely bring further international condemnation.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he would ignore a 10-day deadline set by de facto leader Roberto Micheletti to decide what to do with Zelaya, who is holed up with his family and some supporters in Brazil's embassy in the capital.
"Brazil will not comply with an ultimatum from a government of coup mongers," Lula told reporters at a summit of African and South American leaders in Venezuela.
Lula also demanded an apology from Micheletti, but the government instead warned that Brazil would lose its right to have an embassy in Honduras if it ignores the deadline.
Zelaya was overthrown in a military coup on June 28, but he secretly returned from exile last Monday, sparking a tense standoff with the de facto civilian government that has promised to arrest him on charges of treason.
Hundreds of soldiers and riot police have surrounded the embassy all week, while protesters have mounted almost daily marches to demand Zelaya be reinstated.
Friday, September 25, 2009
There are many reasons to fire Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and all of them are contained within his 66-page "assessment" of the war in Afghanistan.
The document is fascinating, just as the work of zealots is always fascinating. As a high priest of the politically correct orthodoxy, McChrystal has laid out a strategy to combat Taliban jihad in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan without once mentioning Islam, and forget about jihad (fireable offense No. 1).
The resulting black hole leads the commander to conclude, for example, that the reason the 99 percent-plus Muslim people of Afghanistan are "reluctant to align with us" is due to the "perception" -- eight years and untold billions in largesse after we entered the country -- "that our resolve is uncertain." Nothing so simple as what a member of the Afghan parliament recently told the Economist: "The Taliban tell them the Koran says they have to fight the Crusaders and they believe them."
No, it's all our fault. Seizing on the Left's all-time favorite villain, the general blames us -- our troops -- for the Afghan people not liking us. And that, according to the report, is why we're losing this war (fireable offense No. 2).
To win what McChrystal describes not as a battle in the war on global jihad (fireable offense No. 3), but rather as "the struggle to gain the support of the (Afghan) people," (fireable offense No. 4), he writes that we must "connect with the people" -- the same "people," he acknowledges, who "can often change sides and provide tacit or real support to the insurgents" (fireable offense No. 5).
Turning battle-hardened Marines into Miss Congenialities who "must be seen as guests of the Afghan people" doesn't mean our men have to wear swimsuits, but they do have to take off their armor (fireable offense No. 6). "Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces," McChrystal writes, "we have operated in a manner that distances us -- physically and psychologically -- from the people we seek to protect."
Frankly, McChrystal is "pre-occupied" with what he calls "population protection" in a manner that "distances" him -- psychologically and emotionally -- from the men and women under his command (fireable offense No. 7).
That a general could write so disparagingly of the means to preserve his soldiers at least to fight another day is despicable. But this is what zealots do. They serve theories, not men; they see visions, not reality. And that theory, that vision is akin to the familiar Marxist notion, likely imbibed during PC school days, that denies that identity, religion and culture matter. In the resulting tunnel vision, the so-called hearts-and-minds strategy looks like a winner.
This is the underlying basis of the counterinsurgency warfare now in vogue. "Hearts and minds" is not only the flawed rationale behind "nation-building," it also inspires the restrictive rules of engagement finally causing unease at home. This strategy -- now framed as "the battle for the support of the (Afghan) people" -- must be junked as a fraud if our military is ever to be used effectively and appropriately.
Remember, Iraq was a "hearts and minds" war, too. Early on, Gen. David Petraeus ordered signs posted in every barracks asking: "What Have You Done to Win Iraqi Hearts and Minds Today?" Many years, billions and casualties later, behold OPEC-participating, Israel-boycotting, Hezbollah-supporting Iraq. Does it count as a "hearts and minds" victory? The "ungrateful volcano," as Churchill called it, never let us fill up a humvee for free, and even after everything we've put into the country doesn't grant us staging rights for an attack on Iran (or anywhere else).
The zealots call that success, and want to repeat it in Afghanistan. But any more such "success" will break us completely.
Still, the war goes on, and far from Afghanistan. Jihadists learned from the Taliban rout not to rely on one safe haven, "creating many safe havens, one to replace the other," as Jamestown Foundation analyst Murad Batal Al-shishani puts it. Besides the Af-Pak region, he writes, varying jihadist presences exist in regions including Yemen, Somalia, Central Asia, Lebanon and, yes, even Iraq. Plus, I would add, the leading cities of Europe and the United States.
For this global war, we not only need a new general, we need a completely fresh re-assessment.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Rufus, your assertion that the US is still number one in manufacturing completely misses the point. Our current position is based on where we started from and on the tremendous inreases we have seen in productivity. Even so it's now estimated that in the next ten years China will pass us to take the number one spot in manufacturing..
The gross manufacturing numbers are mere factoids thrown out by clowns like Tom Friedman and the financial elites on the east and west coasts who would be content for the US to turn into the next Dubai, a financial services paradise. However, what's important is the percentage of GPD that manufacturing represents. It has gone from over 25% 50 years ago to around 10% today. Employment in manufacturing has dropped from about 50% of total employment to less than 10%. We have lost about 3 million manufacturing jobs in the last decade.
This effects everything from middle class jobs to GDP to national security. It's been estimated that every $1 of manufactured sales price supports about $1.40 in other economic activity. This compares to about $.50 for the wholesale and finance industries. That's almost a 3:1 multiplier advantage for manufacturing jobs.
Likewise the middle class in this country was built on manufacturing jobs. Early on they shared in the benefit of the productivity increases. Now real median income has been flat for the past 30 years. Without an industrial base and a vibrant middle class the US will decline. And all these clowns in Washington and New York will stop laughing when their financial services jobs are shipped overseas because it can be done cheaper.
Most important though is that we need a strong industrial base for national security reasons. Critical industries such as tool making are being exported in the name of globalization. You'll remember that as soon as we entered WWII, the auto factories shut down and the next day started building vehicles, motors, planes, etc. to support the war effort. Can't happen again if the manufacturing base is located in China.
It was interesting to note that after 9/11 GM and Ford donated $millions towards the relief effort in NY. Toyota sent a sympathy card
Friday, September 25, 2009
President Barack Obama declared Friday that Iran is on a path to confrontation with world powers unless it agrees to "come clean" and disclose all its nuclear activities. He said he would not rule out military action.
Obama joined the leaders of Britain and France in accusing the Islamic republic of clandestinely building an underground plant to make nuclear fuel that could be used to build an atomic bomb. Iranian officials acknowledged the facility but insisted it had been reported to nuclear authorities as required.
"Iran's action raised grave doubts" about its promise to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only, Obama told a news conference at the conclusion of a G-20 summit whose focus on world economic recovery was overshadowed by disclosure of the Iranian plant .
Obama seemed to hold out limited hope that a meeting next week between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers would lead to resolution of the nuclear standoff.
"When we find that diplomacy does not work, we will be in a much stronger position to, for example, apply sanctions that have bite," he said. "That's not the preferred course of action. I would love nothing more than to see Iran choose the responsible path."
When we find that diplomacy does not work? How long have we been trying diplomacy? How many years ago did George Bush back off and let the Europeans resolve the issue? This 2005 article, IRAN: Nuclear Negotiations shows how ridiculous and hollow President Obama's statement really is:
What is the status of Europe's nuclear negotiations with Iran?
They are in trouble. Since October 2003, Iran and three members of the European Union (EU)--Britain, France, and Germany--have engaged in negotiations to ensure that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons. The Europeans have asked Iran to relinquish its uranium-enrichment program because the technology can easily be adapted for military uses. Iranians, however, say they will not give up what they see as their sovereign right to enrich uranium as part of a peaceful nuclear program. In recent weeks, the stances of both sides have toughened. A last-ditch attempt at reviving the talks will take place in Geneva May 25.
The G8’s members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Commission attends as well. What does this group have in common? Why it is European and Anglo-Saxon based.
Of course Obama is not going to like it.
Obama is President and Obama is an American, but further clarification is needed.
Sired by an absentee African father, raised by a cultural vagabond and then white grandparents, Obama turned angry, rebellious and black.
Obama is about paybacks, transfer payments, and is dealing stealth reparations to the American public.
Obama and his people share the 'Reverend Wright-ious' brand of contempt for the European-centric Americans. Slick and slim and his angry black wife are the epitomes of hyphenated Americans, where the primary weighted part precedes the hyphen.
Obama's Americanism is not exactly front and center. It never was. It never will be.
September 25, 2009
Summit Shocker: Obama to Announce Expansion of Global Cooperation
Fox News has learned in a surprising late-night twist, on the eve of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, that President Obama will announce Friday morning a significant expansion of the consortium of countries that tackle global economic and climate change issues.
Mr. Obama will tell reporters that the G20, comprised of 19 industrial and emerging-market countries plus the European Union, will supplant the smaller Group of Eight nations, G8, as the go-to group for solving the world’s economic ills.
“This decision brings to the table the countries needed to build a stronger, more balanced global economy, reform the financial system, and lift the lives of the poorest,” the White House said in a statement.
The G8 will retain its national security focus, but be replaced by the broader G20 on the issues of climate change, financial regulatory reform and global imbalances.
President Obama pressed for the change at the last G8 Summit in Italy, expressing his displeasure at the unwieldy array of G8 meeting variations.
Mr. Obama said, "There is no doubt that we have to update and refresh and renew the international institutions that were set up in a different time and place. What I've noticed is everybody wants the smallest possible group, the smallest possible organization, that includes them. So, if they're the 21st largest nation in the world, they want the G-21, and think it's highly unfair if they have been cut out."
Though the news itself was an unexpected turn, the reasoning behind it was written in the tea leaves Thursday when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner sang the praises of broadened global cooperation; making special note of the strides China, a non-G8 country, has made in financial reforms. The more inclusive approach will allow countries such as Brazil, China, and India, who have griped about not being part of the G8, to now have a bigger stake in strengthening global cooperation and economic stability. President Obama also supported their inclusion, noting fewer meetings would be more effective.
The G-20 started ten years ago as a group of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors from industrialized and developing economies, but has involved Heads of State Summits, such as the one taking place Friday.
The G8’s members are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Commission attends as well.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Sung to the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' at an American government school in Burlington, New Jersey.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
"We are content and happy if Obama can stay forever as the president of the United States," -Moammar Kadafi,
Fidel Castro, former Cuban leader on Wednesday called the American president's speech at the United Nations "brave" and said no other American head of state would have had the courage to make similar remarks.
In a speech at the United Nations on Tuesday, Obama acknowledged that the United States had been slow to act on climate change, but said Washington was now prepared to be a full partner as the world confronts the threat.
He said developed nations that have caused much of the climate change the planet has suffered have a "responsibility to lead," but added that rapidly growing nations must do their part as well.
That admission of America's past errors "was without a doubt a brave gesture," Castro wrote in comments published by Cuban state-media Wednesday.
Let's be clear, Obama has sided with socialists and left-wing groups his entire adult life. He brought that propensity into the office of the US President. He is backing the Marxist Zelaya in Honduras.
Brazil is blatantly using it's embassy to side with Zelaya.
Honduras is on the verge of civil violence and the blood will be on the hands of Obama and his left wing soul brothers. It is a disgusting and shameful exposure of the true Barack Hussein Obama.
It is being reported in this Tico Times article that:
"Concerned for the safety of embassy officials, the Brazilian government has asked the United States for protection if necessary, something the northern superpower seems willing to give."
I find it hard to believe that the US military will be misused to protect Brazil's interference in an internal Honduran affair, but we shall soon see.
U.S. prepared to back Brazil in Honduran crisis
By Chrissie Long
Tico Times Staff
Planes in Honduras have been grounded and the de facto government is extending curfews, hoping to stem violent outbreaks following the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
Meanwhile, Roberto Micheletti, the former congressional president who assumed the presidency in Zelaya's absence, encouraged Hondurans to remain strong and “not to lower their guard,” according to a Tuesday article in the Honduran daily La Prensa. He also said he won't chase down Zelaya, who is holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital.
The deposed president, who was marched out of his home at gunpoint on June 28, arrived at Brazil's embassy on Monday and has been broadcasting messages to his supporters from a Venezuelan television station.
Thousands of Zelaya supporters, who gathered outside the embassy to cheer on the ousted leader, clashed with police who, according to Human Rights Watch, used “excessive force” while attempting to disperse the crowd.
Concerned for the safety of embassy officials, the Brazilian government has asked the United States for protection if necessary, something the northern superpower seems willing to give.
“I am sure we will provide assistance, but we are in the midst of discussions on how to do so,” said Ian Kelly, White House spokesman, in a press conference on Tuesday. “It's a very sensitive situation and we don't want to get into the details (of what actions we will take) … but we are willing to offer our help.”
The U.S. Embassy, which was closed Tuesday for reasons relating to the uncertain political situation, posted a message on its Web site that a decision to reopen “will be taken during the course of the day.” Meanwhile, the embassy urged U.S. citizens living in Honduras to register with the embassy. (The U.S. State Department will be post the latest security information on its Web site).
French residents living in Honduras were warned to “stay in and not to move until further notice” in a message appearing on the French Embassy's Web site on Tuesday.
“This is a situation that could play out in many different ways,” said Luis Guillermo Solís, political analyst and former professor at the University of Costa Rica. “But it's a good opportunity for the parties to reshape the negotiations, as the situation has caused both sides to become seemingly radicalized.”
With the international community (except Panama) unwilling to recognize the November elections and Micheletti consequently turning his back on the lead mediator, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the situation was becoming increasingly tense daily. But Zelaya may have opened a window of opportunity, Solís said.
“It would be a shame if a four-month crisis turned into a four-year problem,” he told The Tico Times. “One would have hoped that the elections would be a way out of the crisis, but that is not possible if there is no agreement (between the Honduran government and the outside world).
“If there's no agreement, there's no guarantee that the elections in November would be fair and transparent,” Solís added.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
We are to believe that Obama, the Democrats and NATO have the political will to commit the US to the long, long mission in Afghanistan. That is too serious to be laughable. It is absurd and we do not have to go back to Viet Nam to get a hint as to how this will end.
We have been here before and as a matter of fact, we still are. It is called 'International Community' nation building in Kosovo & Bosnia.
According to a story in The Washington Post:
"The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure."
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."
His assessment was sent to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30 and is now being reviewed by President Obama and his national security team.
McChrystal concludes the document's five-page Commander's Summary on a note of muted optimism: "While the situation is serious, success is still achievable."
But he repeatedly warns that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat is likely. McChrystal describes an Afghan government riddled with corruption and an international force undermined by tactics that alienate civilians.
Let's face facts and look at previous NATO nation building efforts in European Muslim conflicts, notably Bosnia and Kosovo. That has been going on for 14 years.
$14 billion and 14 years later, Bosnia is a living experiment of real time nation building. It is a country dictated to by Brussels and Washington. They are the bastard children of the Dayton Agreement.
Along with continued presence of NATO in Bosnia, the US and Nato attack on Yugoslavia resulted in the creation of Kosovo, another Muslim country (after Albania) in Europe. Kosovo is a criminal state run by drugs, organized crime and human traffickiing for prostitution.
Yet, Bosnia and Kosovo are a walk in the park compared to Afghanistan. Before we indulge in wishful thinking in Afghanistan, let's look at Bosnia and Kosovo.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The question is basic to deterrence; How many weapons are necessary to deter an attack? Five, ten twenty, two hundred, two thousand? If the US radically reduces its nuclear arsenal, would that not be an incentive for most any power to merely accumulate a half dozen and join the club?
Barack Obama ready to slash US nuclear arsenal
Pentagon told to map out radical cuts as president prepares to chair UN talks
President Obama's decision to order a review comes as he takes the rare step of chairing a watershed session of the UN security council.
Barack Obama has demanded the Pentagon conduct a radical review of US nuclear weapons doctrine to prepare the way for deep cuts in the country's arsenal, the Guardian can reveal.
Obama has rejected the Pentagon's first draft of the "nuclear posture review" as being too timid, and has called for a range of more far-reaching options consistent with his goal of eventually abolishing nuclear weapons altogether, according to European officials.
Those options include:
• Reconfiguring the US nuclear force to allow for an arsenal measured in hundreds rather than thousands of deployed strategic warheads.
• Redrafting nuclear doctrine to narrow the range of conditions under which the US would use nuclear weapons.
• Exploring ways of guaranteeing the future reliability of nuclear weapons without testing or producing a new generation of warheads.
The review is due to be completed by the end of this year, and European officials say the outcome is not yet clear. But one official said: "Obama is now driving this process. He is saying these are the president's weapons, and he wants to look again at the doctrine and their role."
The move comes as Obama prepares to take the rare step of chairing a watershed session of the UN security council on Thursday. It is aimed at winning consensus on a new grand bargain: exchanging more radical disarmament by nuclear powers in return for wider global efforts to prevent further proliferation.
That bargain is at the heart of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which is up for review next year amid signs it is unravelling in the face of Iranian and North Korean nuclear ambitions.
In an article for the Guardian today, the foreign secretary, David Miliband, argues that failure to win a consensus would be disastrous. "This is one of the most critical issues we face," the foreign secretary writes. "Get it right, and we will increase global security, pave the way for a world without nuclear weapons, and improve access to affordable, safe and dependable energy – vital to tackle climate change. Get it wrong, and we face the spread of nuclear weapons and the chilling prospect of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists."
According to a final draft of the resolution due to be passed on Thursday, however, the UN security council will not wholeheartedly embrace the US and Britain's call for eventual abolition of nuclear weapons. Largely on French insistence, the council will endorse the vaguer aim of seeking "to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons".
Gordon Brown is due to use this week's UN general assembly meeting to renew a diplomatic offensive on Iran for its failure to comply with security council demands that it suspend enrichment of uranium. The issue has been given greater urgency by an International Atomic Energy Agency document leaked last week which showed inspectors for the agency believed Iran already had "sufficient information" to build a warhead, and had tested an important component of a nuclear device.
Germany is also expected to toughen its position on Iran ahead of a showdown between major powers and the Iranian government on 1 October. But it is not yet clear what position will be taken by Russia, which has hitherto opposed the imposition of further sanctions on Iran.
Moscow's stance will be closely watched for signs of greater co-operation in return for Obama's decision last week to abandon a missile defence scheme in eastern Europe, a longstanding source of irritation to Russia.
"I hope the Russians realise they have to do something serious. I don't think a deal has been done, but there is a great deal of expectation," said a British official.
Russia has approximately 2,780 deployed strategic warheads, compared with around 2,100 in the US. The abandonment of the US missile defence already appears to have spurred arms control talks currently underway between Washington and Moscow: the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, said today that chances were "quite high" that a deal to reduce arsenals to 1,500 warheads each would be signed by the end of the year.
The US nuclear posture review is aimed at clearing the path for a new round of deep US-Russian cuts to follow almost immediately after that treaty is ratified, to set lower limits not just on deployed missiles but also on the thousands of warheads both have in their stockpiles.
The Obama strategy is to create disarmament momentum in the run-up to the non-proliferation treaty review conference next May, in the hope that states without nuclear weapons will not side with Iran, as they did at the last review in 2005, but endorse stronger legal barriers to nuclear proliferation, and forego nuclear weapons programmes themselves.
"The review has up to now been in the hands of mid-level bureaucrats with a lot of knowledge, but it's knowledge drawn from the cold war. What they are prepared to do is tweak the existing doctrine," said Rebecca Johnson, the head of the Acronym Institute, a pro-disarmament pressure group. "Obama has sent them it back saying: 'Give me more options for what we can do in line with my goals. I'm not saying it's easy, but all you're giving me is business as usual.'"
I was wondering why, when the economy looks for the "green shoots" of consumer confidence and increased spending, the banks aren't lending. It seems that despite the need to stimulate the economy, the money is being used in a shell game to recapitalize the banks and finance the massive Federal deficit.
US credit shrinks at Great Depression rate prompting fears of double-dip recessionWe have a failed international financial system, a plummeting dollar, unprecedented Federal spending, tight credit, and skyrocketing foreclosure rates. In the midst of all this, it looks as though the gamblers have deserted Las Vegas for the siren call of Wall Street.
Both bank credit and the M3 money supply in the United States have been contracting at rates comparable to the onset of the Great Depression since early summer, raising fears of a double-dip recession in 2010 and a slide into debt-deflation.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor
Published: 11:59PM BST 14 Sep 2009
Professor Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research said US bank loans have fallen at an annual pace of almost 14pc in the three months to August (from $7,147bn to $6,886bn).
"There has been nothing like this in the USA since the 1930s," he said. "The rapid destruction of money balances is madness."
The M3 "broad" money supply, watched as an early warning signal for the economy a year or so later, has been falling at a 5pc annual rate.
Similar concerns have been raised by David Rosenberg, chief strategist at Gluskin Sheff, who said that over the four weeks up to August 24, bank credit shrank at an "epic" 9pc annual pace, the M2 money supply shrank at 12.2pc and M1 shrank at 6.5pc.
"For the first time in the post-WW2 [Second World War] era, we have deflation in credit, wages and rents and, from our lens, this is a toxic brew," he said.
It is unclear why the US Federal Reserve has allowed this to occur.
Chairman Ben Bernanke is an expert on the "credit channel" causes of depressions and has given eloquent speeches about the risks of deflation in the past.
He is not a monetary economist, however, and there are indications that the Fed has had to pare back its policy of quantitative easing (buying bonds) in order to reassure China and other foreign creditors that the US is not trying to devalue its debts by stealth monetisation.
Mr Congdon said a key reason for credit contraction is pressure on banks to raise their capital ratios. While this is well-advised in boom times, it makes matters worse in a downturn.
"The current drive to make banks less leveraged and safer is having the perverse consequence of destroying money balances," he said. "It strengthens the deflationary forces in the world economy. That increases the risks of a double-dip recession in 2010."
Referring to the debt-purge policy of US Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon in the early 1930s, he added: "The pressure on banks to de-risk and to de-leverage is the modern version of liquidationism: it is potentially just as dangerous."
US banks are cutting lending by around 1pc a month. A similar process is occurring in the eurozone, where private sector credit has been contracting and M3 has been flat for almost a year.
Mr Congdon said IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is wrong to argue that the history of financial crises shows that "speedy recovery" depends on "cleansing banks' balance sheets of toxic assets". "The message of all financial crises is that policy-makers' priority must be to stop the quantity of money falling and, ideally, to get it rising again," he said.
He predicted that the Federal Reserve and other central banks will be forced to engage in outright monetisation of government debt by next year, whatever they say now.
ht: Mark Levin
Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a wild ride.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Sense of Triumph in Moscow
Euphoria over Obama's Decision To Shelve Missile Shield
By Moritz Gathmann in Moscow Spiegel
Moscow is triumphant over Obama's decision to cancel his missile shield plan. But it is no foregone conclusion that Russia will harden its line against Iran. And Poland and the Czech Republic will also expect overtures from the United States.
The decision by Washington not to install a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic has prompted Russians to breathe a little easier on Thursday. It is also fueling a sense of triumph.
The main reason for President Barack Obama's decision was "Russia's uncompromising position on the issue," said the clearly pleased Russian foreign policy expert Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the foreign policy committee of the Federation Council of Russia, the country's upper legislative chamber. And Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Duma's foreign relations committee, said he sees evidence that today's American government has a better understanding of the Russians' concerns.
With his decision, Obama has removed a significant barrier to relations between Washington and Moscow, where the missile defense shield had always been seen as a slap in the face. "George W. Bush wanted to show that he didn't care a bit about Russia's opinion," Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Moscow's Russia in Global Affairs magazine, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. He sees Obama's step as being important primarily in psychological terms. The promised "restart" in Russia-American relations is bearing fruit, he said.
One year ago in August, just after the start of the war between Russia and Georgia over the renegade republic South Ossetia, Warsaw and Prague quickly moved to sign agreements with Washington regarding the installation of the American missile defense shield in their countries. But Barack Obama, who would be elected president a short time later, showed very little enthusiasm for the project -- even during the days of his presidential campaign. After he entered office, Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine and even Georgia became less strategically important to him. After all, the US was mainly concerned with finding a way out of the financial and economic crisis.
The question now is what Russia will offer the United States in exchange for freezing the missile program in Poland and the Czech Republic?
Was Shelving Part of a Deal with Moscow?
In March, months before Obama's official state visit to Moscow, the first news leaked of what that horse-trading might include. The Moscow daily Kommersant reported on a secret letter in which Obama apparently demanded a harder course from the Russian president against Iran. In exchange, Washington would freeze its missile shield plans. But officials disputed that any kind of "deal" was being made. Obama did, however, confirm that missile defense appeared to be less important in reducing the threat from Iran. Still, Russia's policies toward Iran have hardly changed: Moscow continues to be in favor of negotiations but opposes tougher sanctions.
It's also unlikely Russia will suddenly adopt a firmer stance towards Iran. "The US will be disappointed," Lukyanov said. "The American idea that Russia holds the key to a solution to the Iranian nuclear problem is a fantasy." At best, he said, Russia could intensify its diplomatic efforts.
Nevertheless, the Russians have made concessions to the US on the issue of Afghanistan. In 2008, Moscow began permitting the transport of American supplies over Russian territory. And on Sept. 6, Russia also started allowing American aircraft to transport military supplies for Afghanistan through Russian airspace. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reached a deal on that issue during the US president's official visit.
4,500 US Overflight Rights over Russian Territory Per Year
The deal, which permits up to 4,500 US Army flights per year, was extremely important to the Americans. The Russian transit routes provide an important alternative to the main routes through Pakistan, where American convoys are often attacked by Taliban insurgents. Russian politicians have also expressed again and again that it is in their vital interest that the Taliban not be allowed to get the upper hand in Afghanistan.
And the freezing of the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic will also doubtlessly improve Russian-American relations. But there are still plenty of problems on the agenda. The START treaty on the reduction of strategic nuclear warheads, for example, expires in December. Lukyanov says he believes that, following Obama's decision on Thursday, few barriers will stand in the way of the successful signing of a successor treaty this year.
The main current source of tension for the relationship between the US and Russia actually lies further away, in Georgia and Ukraine. Both of those nations were supported in their anti-Russian ways by the former American administration headed by George W. Bush, who held out the prospect of NATO membership.
Ukraine and Georgia as a Bone of Contention
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose attitude to Obama's predecessor was sycophantic, may be on his last legs politically. But in the last few months Yushchenko has steered a confrontational course in regard to Russia. On Jan. 17, 2010, there will be a presidential election in Ukraine. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has already made it clear that he no longer wants to see Yushchenko in the position. Lukyanov is convinced that "it could get very unpleasant for Russia during the election campaign." Some of the candidates will use a pro-West, hard core anti-Russian stance to further their political aims.
Things are not altogether peaceful in the former Soviet republic of Georgia either. A new attempt by the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, to take back the renegade states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia cannot be ruled out completely. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the US is still delivering weapons to Georgia -- something the Russians naturally do not like. In July, the Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin threatened any country that was delivering weapons to Georgia with sanctions.
In Poland and the Czech Republic, they are nervously anticipating what Obama may offer as a replacement. "There will be an American presence but it will take a different form," Lukyanov said. What form that presence takes will determine future relations with Moscow.
"Russia doesn't have any problems with non-strategic rockets," Lukyanov says. "But if the US opens a military base, then we will have the same situation that we had with the missile defense system."
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Barack Obama surrenders to Russia on Missile Defence
By Nile Gardiner World Last updated: September 17th, 2009
Telegraph Hattip Rufus
I blogged a couple of weeks ago that the Obama administration was about to abandon its plans for Third Site missile defence installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. I wrote then that “if enacted, this would represent a huge turnaround in American strategic thinking on a global missile defence system, and a massive betrayal of two key US allies in eastern and central Europe. Such a move would significantly weaken America’s ability to combat the growing threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missile program, and would hand a major propaganda victory to the Russians.”
It now looks as though the president has surrendered to Russian demands to kill off Third Site. Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard is reporting that:
“According to reliable sources, Obama administration officials are on their way to Poland and the Czech Republic to deliver very bad news. The administration intends to cancel completely the missile defense sites that had been promised to these governments by the previous administration.”
Goldfarb also links to a post by leading defence expert Gary Schmitt, who writes:
“Guess who’s coming to dinner (in Warsaw)? Four senior Obama officials, including Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security “Sandy” Vershbow, are apparently in the air right now on their way to Poland. Why? If the Washington hot rumor mill is right, to deliver the news to the Poles and then the Czechs that the administration has decided not to go forward with a missile defense system for Europe and the United States against the budding missile threat from Iran.”
This is bad news for all who care about the US commitment to the transatlantic alliance and the defence of Europe as well as the United States. It represents the appalling appeasement of Russian aggression and a willingness to sacrifice American allies on the altar of political expediency. A deal with the Russians to cancel missile defence installations sends a clear message that even Washington can be intimidated by the Russian bear.
What signal does this send to Ukraine, Georgia and a host of other former Soviet satellites who look to America and NATO for protection from their powerful neighbour? The impending cancellation of Third Site is a shameful abandonment of America’s friends in eastern and central Europe, and a slap in the face for those who actually believed a key agreement with Washington was worth the paper it was written on.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Obama: No quick decision on troops to Afghan
By BEN FELLER (AP) –
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Wednesday there will be no quick decision on whether to send more U.S. troops into the widening war in Afghanistan, saying "my determination is to get this right."
The president's comments came one day after Adm. Mike Mullen, his top military adviser as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endorsed an increase in U.S. forces as likely necessary to battle a deepening insurgency. The U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, also has delivered a grim assessment of the war and is expected to follow up soon with a request for thousands of additional troops.
"I'm going to take a very deliberate process in making those decisions," said Obama, taking questions from reporters as he sat in the Oval Office with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "And so I just want to be absolutely clear, because there's been a lot of discussion in the press about this: There is no immediate decision pending on resources."
Even as Obama spoke about a methodical war review, administration officials were briefing key lawmakers on McChrystal's review and on White House proposals for 46 benchmarks to gauge progress in the stalemated Afghan war and the hunt for al-Qaida in neighboring Pakistan.
The Obama administration's road map to winning the war in Afghanistan relies heavily on clearing terrorists from Pakistan, according to the list of benchmarks provided to lawmakers.
Stabilizing Pakistan always has been a key part of the administration's strategy for South Asia. But its prominence in the long-awaited benchmarks for the Afghan war signals a longer regional view than just gauging whether the conflict is being won.
"It's going to be much broader than just combat troops," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after being briefed by top Obama administration officials Wednesday about an on-the-ground assessment of the situation in Afghanistan. "Everybody ought to realize that this is a much broader issue than that."
His Republican counterpart on the committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., emerged from the briefing calling the proposed Obama benchmarks "a start," but not specific enough.
The president has already ordered 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, increasing the U.S. commitment there to 68,000 by year's end. Yet violence in Afghanistan has soared to record levels. More U.S. troops — 51 — died in Afghanistan in August than in any other month since the U.S.-led invasion in October 2001.
Obama faces mounting pressure on what do next, both from an anxious and war-weary public and from members of his own Democratic Party. He said he will follow his plan of doing a broad assessment of military, diplomatic, civilian and development efforts in Afghanistan before deciding his next steps.
"One of the things that I'm absolutely clear about is you have to get the strategy right and then make determinations about resources," Obama said.
"You don't make determinations about resources — certainly you don't make determinations about sending your men and women into battle — without having absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be."
Asked if U.S. and NATO forces were winning the war in Afghanistan, Obama did not answer directly.
But he said it is clear that "we have lacked as clear of a strategy and a mission as is necessary in order to meet our overriding objectives."
Obama described that as disrupting the al-Qaida terrorist network so that it cannot launch attacks on the U.S. and its allies. "That has not yet occurred," he said.
Harper said the Taliban in Afghanistan do not constitute a viable alternative government and in that sense, progress had been made. But he said "we are concerned about the strength of the insurgency" and in Afghanistan's ability to take long-sought, day-to-day responsibility for its own security.
Canada, which has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, plans to withdraw them in 2011.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Hattip Sam: Thanks!
There is something eerily disturbing about the cult of personality that is being cultivated around this President. Make sure you watch the very end of the video.