Sunday, July 29, 2007

A summer treat for the News Links faithful

Summer light in the Sierra de Guadarrama
David Seaton's News Links
On Wednesday, August first, God willing, I will start one of the month long European vacations that are the envy of the entire world. I'm not going very far, really, just to my weekend place in the Guadarrama mountains outside of Madrid, with no running water and only solar electricity, where I hope to read, sleep, think, write, walk in the woods and generally repair my mind, soul and body from reading, thinking and writing all year long about that evil fool, George W. Bush and all who sail in him. If all goes well, I shall be back, full of piss and vinegar at the end of August.

I began this blog in November of 2006 and according to my Google tracker in that time I've had 62,222 unique vistors who have spent an average of eight minutes on my site. I have no idea how good that is, but I am grateful for each and every visit and each and every second of their time.

My tracker(s) also show me that I have a "hard core" of readers that visit me on a daily basis from all over the world; and of course I am especially grateful to them for their kind attention and perseverance. Needless to say that the faithful attendance of that hardy band is the greatest motivator to continue in the effort of producing the News Links blog.

In appreciation, I would like to leave the readers of News Links a little gift to keep them busy till we meet again in September.

I got my start as a political commentator producing dossiers of articles for corporate clients and I continue to produce them. At the end of the year (for me the year ends in August) I produce several rather huge PDF collections of "must reads" for these corporate customers. One of these is called, "The Best of Season" and consists of approximately one article a week from September to July. These are articles that at the end of the season still look timely or even prophetic and should be read again or read with especial attention if the reader missed them the week they were recommended.

So to cut to the chase, I have uploaded this 78 page (8 point) dossier to the internet as a zipped PDF and invite you to download it and read it at your leisure. I'll be in town and online till midday Tuesday, so if there is any glitch or hitch in downloading or unzipping the file, please tell me right away.

This is the link

I hope you all have a wonderful August and I hope to see you all again in September. DS

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Professional sport scandals ... a return to the small town

David Seaton's News Links
NBA, Tour de France, Formula One... We live where two vectors cross: big money and this village-like movement of information.... Everybody's on the take and everything gets found out quickly. Either they shut down the information system or we are all going to have to walk the straight and narrow... just like people in a small town have always had to do. All the old ladies lurking behind the lace curtains watching everything. DS

NBA-WSJ: Toronto Star columnist Dave Feschuk says that not only whistle-blowers are vulnerable to greed and gambling. "Donaghy's is a rare case that will likely only illustrate how easy it is to earn large sums of money with the power of a whistle," Mr. Feschuk writes. "The truth is, many athletes and coaches are possessed of similar powers of influence over any given game. People say salaries are too large for today's athletes to risk their livelihoods by laying bets, and someone at yesterday's press conference asked Stern if the referees might be due raises to reduce the incentive to bet. Stern pointed out that Donaghy made $260,000 (U.S.) last season, and you only have to look at the gambling habits of wealthy athletes -- many engage in it, and often -- to understand it's not necessarily about needing the money. They crave action. And it's not difficult to foresee, for those most susceptible to bad decisions, how the debts might mount up, how the lines might become blurred, how the life-wrecking mistakes might get made."

Tour - BBC: Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen has been sacked by his Rabobank team and kicked out of the race.(...) Rasmussen's sacking follows the high-profile positive drugs test on pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov in a dramatic 24 hours for the Tour. Vinokourov's Astana team were asked to withdraw from the race and Cofidis have also pulled out following the positive test on their rider, (...) Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said: "The important thing is not that he has been sacked by his team but that he will not be at the start of the stage tomorrow. (...) "One cannot mock the Tour de France impunitively like those riders," he added, referring to Rasmussen, Moreni and Vinokourov. T-Mobile rider Patrick Sinkewitz crashed out of the race in stage eight days before he was revealed to have failed a drug test in training before the race began.

Ferrari Spies - Guardian: Ferrari's lawyers have claimed that it is "likely" McLaren are leading the world championship only because their chief designer had access to the Italian team's secrets. In a document obtained by the Guardian and the Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera, Ferrari say that losing the title would cost them well over €5.5m. The document, lodged with the high court in London last Friday relating to an ongoing case taken out by Ferrari against McLaren's chief designer, Mike Coughlan, sets out in greater detail than ever before their accusations in the sabotage scandal that has divided formula one.(...) They add that if McLaren wins this year "Ferrari will suffer loss of at least €5.5m" in payments under the agreement that governs the constructors' championship. But, in addition, they "may suffer loss in respect of damage to the Ferrari brand" - sponsorship and sales. However, the team's claim does not put a figure on the damages that Ferrari is seeking from the British couple. The next stage will be for Coughlan and his wife to submit their defence to the court. Trudy Coughlan is claimed to have arranged for documents belonging to Ferrari to be scanned to disk. They allegedly contained a wealth of detail about the Maranello team's operations - down to "freight rates, which would enable a competitor to evaluate the amount of material shipped from Ferrari's headquarters in Italy to each grand prix".

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hugo Chávez, the man who ate Dubya's lunch

David Seaton's News Links
A friend of mine, who is a top executive in Spain's giant oil firm, Repsol and who has been traveling all over Latin America and especially in Venezuela for over 20 years, tells me that the loss of US influence in South America since 9-11 is unbelievable for a veteran observer like he is. Spanish bank executives, who dominate the financial sector in Latin America, tell me the same story.

Hugo Chávez is living proof that all the talk about America's unique, hegemonic superpower status is so much horse manure. The world is already multi-polar and soon will be more so. The war in Iraq has undressed the United States. The cold war will be seen as a garden party compared to what is coming. DS

The Holocaust denier, the radical socialist, and their axis of unity - Guardian
Abstract: A billboard of Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looms over a motorway in Venezuela, marking the entrance to a factory designed to produce three things: tractors, influence and angst.(...) The influence, less visible but real enough, is for Mr Chávez and Mr Ahmadinejad, two presidents who hope this and other ventures will project their prestige and power. The angst, if all goes to plan, is for Washington. Veniran might be tucked away in the backwater provincial capital of Ciudad Bolívar but it is part of a wider attempt by Mr Chávez to forge a common front against the United States. The socialist radical is using Venezuela's vast oil wealth to strike commercial and political deals with countries that challenge the US such as Iran, Belarus, Russia and China, as well as much of Latin America and the Caribbean, to rebuff what he refers to as the "empire". "Chávez is a global player because right now he has a lot of money that he is prepared to spend to advance his huge ambitions," said Michael Shifter, an analyst with the Inter-American Dialogue thinktank. "He has worked tirelessly to upset US priorities in Latin America."(...) Supporters say he has worked tirelessly to support the poor and marginalised, for example through a $250,000 (£121,000) loan to help farmers in Bolivia's lowlands build a coca industrialization plant, part of an effort to turn the leaf into cakes, biscuits and other legal products instead of cocaine. "For years we have wanted to do this but no one would support us," said Leonardo Choque, leader of the Chimoré federation of coca growers. "Then the Venezuelans come and offer us a loan with very low interest rates. And no conditions." Venezuela is also funding a new university nearby. In contrast the US is accused of bullying Andean nations into destroying coca crops without promoting equally lucrative alternative livelihoods - a big stick and a small carrot.(...) Iran is to help build platforms in a $4bn development of Orinoco delta oil deposits in exchange for reciprocal Venezuelan investments. The 4,000 tractors produced annually in Ciudad Bolívar are small beer in comparison but they have a symbolic value as agents of revolutionary change. Most are given or leased at discount in Venezuela to socialist cooperatives that have seized land, with government blessing, from big ranches and sugar plantations. Dozens have also been sent to Bolivia to support President Evo Morales, a leftwing radical and close Chávez ally, and last week dozens more began to be shipped north to Nicaragua, whose president, Daniel Ortega, is another Chávez ally and longtime bugbear for Washington. The first batch was timed to coincide with the 28th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution.(...) A colleague who asked not to be named said the Iranians had been warmly welcomed. "I love it here. It's hot and sunny and they eat rice, just like back home. Except here I go out salsa dancing." Mr Chávez inaugurated the factory in 2005 with the then Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami. He has struck up a friendship with his successor, Mr Ahmadinejad, and hailed their "axis of unity". "The relationship is fundamentally geopolitical rather than economic," said Mr Shifter. "It tells the world that Iran, an international pariah, is welcome in Latin America, which is traditionally regarded as the strategic preserve or 'back yard' of the United States." READ IT ALL

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Spain's Willy Sutton caught

David Seaton's News Links
It's probably unfair to America's legendary, master bank robber Willy Sutton to compare him to Spain's Jaime Jimenez Arbe, known until yesterday only as "El Solitario". Willy never harmed a hair on anybody's head and "The Loner" is a diagnosed paranoiac and an ice cold killer. You could only make the comparison because of the length of time he has been operating and the elaborate care Jimenez Arbe has taken in disguising himself. He made partial latex masks to disguise his eyebrows and cheeks, wore Scotch tape on his finger tips, carried a metal crutch to fool the metal detectors and wore a bullet proof vest to work. He pulled over thirty robberies since 1993 and once machine gunned two Guardia Civil traffic cops, who pulled him over... probably only because they saw him without a disguise.

He lives in nice house in an affluent suburb of Madrid and has a large collection of Eric Clapton records. Police think that he planned that the job in Portugal, where he was caught, to be his "farewell performance"... He was about to retire to Brazil where a Brazilian girlfriend is waiting for him. Spanish law is not very punitive, he'll probably be out in 12 years. DS

Spain's most wanted robber, "The Loner", arrested - Reuters
LISBON (Reuters) - Spain's most wanted robber, accused of killing three policemen and holding up more than 30 banks disguised in a false beard and a wig, was arrested on Monday in Portugal, Spanish and Portuguese police said. The man known until now only by his nickname "The Loner" was in disguise and armed with a submachinegun in preparation for another bank robbery when he was arrested in Figueira da Foz, a coastal city 200 km north of Lisbon, police said. "We're very pleased. He's the most wanted criminal in Spain, a very cruel criminal," Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Rubalcaba told reporters in Lisbon. Police named The Loner as 51-year-old Jaime Jimenez Arbe. Rubalcaba said police had trailed him for weeks and Spain would request his extradition. The Loner, whose heavily disguised face has graced Spanish news bulletins for years thanks to footage from security cameras, would enter banks with a metal crutch and a submachinegun hidden under a bulky jacket. Despite a varying wardrobe of long, dark wigs, police had suspected that the man probably in his 40s, was bald and really lightly built underneath layers of clothing and a flak jacket.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Iraq: crime and punishment

David Seaton's News Links
This article from the New York Review of Books by Peter W. Galbraith is about as clear and complete an analysis of America's disaster in Iraq and Iraq's disastrous encounter with America that you are likely to find anywhere. If you can still stand reading about it, a must read.

However having said that, I have to insist that this otherwise fine article is obviating what for me is a key point: the criminal nature of America's intervention in Iraq and the necessity of a catharsis that determines the criminal responsibilities of those who led the country to war and punishes them with a severity corresponding to their crimes.

It should be pointed out to those who are unmoved by the sufferings of the people of Iraq, that America's young men and women who have been maimed or killed in Iraq, have not just "died in vain", which is an absurd idea. (Is an automobile accident or colon cancer "dying in vain"?) What has happened to them is far, far worse: they have been mutilated or killed while carrying out a criminal enterprise, as if they had been shot while robbing a gas station or a convenience store. That should not be allowed to stand. DS

Iraq: The Way to Go - New York Review of Books
Abstract: The Iraq war is lost. Of course, neither the President nor the war's intellectual architects are prepared to admit this. Nonetheless, the specter of defeat shapes their thinking in telling ways. The case for the war is no longer defined by the benefits of winning—a stable Iraq, democracy on the march in the Middle East, the collapse of the evil Iranian and Syrian regimes— but by the consequences of defeat. As President Bush put it, "The consequences of failure in Iraq would be death and destruction in the Middle East and here in America." Tellingly, the Iraq war's intellectual boosters, while insisting the surge is working, are moving to assign blame for defeat. And they have already picked their target: the American people. In The Weekly Standard, Tom Donnelly, a fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote, "Those who believe the war is already lost—call it the Clinton-Lugar axis—are mounting a surge of their own. Ground won in Iraq becomes ground lost at home." Lugar provoked Donnelly's anger by noting that the American people had lost confidence in Bush's Iraq strategy as demonstrated by the Democratic takeover of both houses of Congress. (This "blame the American people" approach has, through repetition, almost become the accepted explanation for the outcome in Vietnam, attributing defeat to a loss of public support and not to fifteen years of military failure.) Indeed, Vietnam is the image many Americans have of defeat in Iraq. Al-Qaeda would overrun the Green Zone and the last Americans would evacuate from the rooftop of the still unfinished largest embassy in the world. President Bush feeds on this imagery.(...) But there will be no Saigon moment in Iraq. Iraq's Shiite-led government is in no danger of losing the civil war to al-Qaeda, or a more inclusive Sunni front. Iraq's Shiites are three times as numerous as Iraq's Sunni Arabs; they dominate Iraq's military and police and have a powerful ally in neighboring Iran. The Arab states that might support the Sunnis are small, far away (vast deserts separate the inhabited parts of Jordan and Saudi Arabia from the main Iraqi population centers), and can only provide money, something the insurgency has in great amounts already. Iraq after an American defeat will look very much like Iraq today—a land divided along ethnic lines into Arab and Kurdish states with a civil war being fought within its Arab part. Defeat is defined by America's failure to accomplish its objective of a self-sustaining, democratic, and unified Iraq. And that failure has already taken place, along with the increase of Iranian power in the region.(...) In laying out his dark vision of an American failure, President Bush never discusses Iran's domination of Iraq even though this is a far more likely consequence of American defeat than an al-Qaeda victory. Bush's reticence is understandable since it was his miscalculations and incompetent management of the postwar occupation that gave Iran its opportunity. While opposing talks with Iran, the neoconservatives also prefer not to discuss its current powerful influence over Iraq's central government and southern region, persisting in the fantasy—notwithstanding all evidence to the contrary—that Iran is deeply unpopular among Iraq's Shiites and clerics. (At the same time, US officials accuse Iran of supplying Iraqi Shiite militias with particularly lethal roadside bombs.)(...) In the parts where we can accomplish nothing, we should withdraw. But there are still three missions that may be achievable—disrupting al-Qaeda, preserving Kurdistan's democracy, and limiting Iran's increasing domination. These can all be served by a modest US presence in Kurdistan. We need an Iraq policy with sufficient nuance to protect American interests.Unfortunately, we probably won't get it. READ IT ALL

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Iran's bomb... the skinny

David Seaton's News Links
The Persians, though strict in their religious practice, are eminently rational. They are just as rational as Khrushchev's USSR. They would not start an atomic exchange that would mean the annihilation of their country. The biggest problem brought on by the Iranians having a bomb would be that all the other countries in the region would want one too. That would not mean an atomic free for all, but it would mean that Israel's freedom of action would be forever curtailed. It would be impossible for the USA to encourage Israel to continue a war like the one against Hezbollah last summer until it "finished the the job". Any action by Israel that could remotely lead to a general war in the Middle East would have to be snuffed out at the first whiff of smoke. This would certainly cramp their style, and many Israelis would not tolerate that restraint. DS

The riddle of Iran - Economist
Abstract: “The Iranian regime is basically a messianic apocalyptic cult.” So says Israel's once and perhaps future prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. If he is right the world is teetering on the edge of a terrifying crisis. While the world has been distracted by Iraq, Afghanistan and much else, Iran has been moving relentlessly closer to the point where it could build an atomic bomb. It has converted yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride gas. Now it is spinning the gas through thousands of centrifuges it has installed at the underground enrichment plant it built secretly in Natanz, south of Tehran. A common guess is that if it can run 3,000 centrifuges at high speed for a year, it will end up with enough fuel for its first bomb.(...) If Iran really is no more than the “messianic cult” of Mr Netanyahu's imagination, it would be worth running almost any risk to stop it acquiring nuclear weapons. But as our special report argues, Iran is not that easy to read. Iran is a self-proclaimed theocracy. Yet it has conducted foreign relations since the revolution of 1979 in a way that seems perfectly rational even if it is not pleasant. Its president, the Holocaust-questioning Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is widely reported to have threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”. But in fact he may never have uttered those precise words, and there is both ambiguity and calculation behind the bluster. Look closer and Mr Ahmadinejad is vague about whether he means that Iran should destroy Israel or just that he hopes for Israel's disappearance. Knowing that a nuclear attack on Israel or America would result in its own prompt annihilation, Iran could probably be deterred, just as other nuclear powers have been. Didn't Nikita Khrushchev promise to “bury” the West? Since Israel has memories of a real Holocaust, it may not set much store by that “probably”. This newspaper continues to believe that even for Israel containment of a nuclear Iran would be less awful than a risky pre-emptive attack that would probably cause mayhem, strengthen the regime and merely delay the day Iran gets a bomb. Yet the whole world still has a huge interest in preventing that day from coming. Even if Iran never used its bomb, mere possession of it might encourage it to adopt a more aggressive foreign policy than the one it is already pursuing in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. READ IT ALL

Unoriginal title - Baghdad/Saigon: dejá vue, all over again

David Seaton's News Links
Bush can prattle on about "victory" till he is blue in the face, but this news item from the Washington Post says all that needs to be said about the direction the war in Iraq is taking... taking with breakneck speed. DS

Envoy Urges Visas For Iraqis Aiding U.S. - Washington Post

Abstract: The American ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan C. Crocker, has asked the Bush administration to take the unusual step of granting immigrant visas to all Iraqis employed by the U.S. government in Iraq because of growing concern that they will quit and flee the country if they cannot be assured eventual safe passage to the United States. Crocker's request comes as the administration is struggling to respond to the flood of Iraqis who have sought refuge in neighboring countries since sectarian fighting escalated early last year. The United States has admitted 133 Iraqi refugees since October, despite predicting that it would process 7,000 by the end of September. "Our [Iraqi staff members] work under extremely difficult conditions, and are targets for violence including murder and kidnapping," Crocker wrote Undersecretary of State Henrietta H. Fore. "Unless they know that there is some hope of an [immigrant visa] in the future, many will continue to seek asylum, leaving our Mission lacking in one of our most valuable assets."(...) Overall estimates of the number of Iraqis who may be targeted as collaborators because of their work for U.S., coalition or foreign reconstruction groups are as high as 110,000. The U.N. refugee agency has estimated that 20,000 Iraqi refugees need permanent resettlement. In the cable he sent July 9, Crocker highlighted the plight of Iraqis who have assumed great risk by helping the United States. Since June 2004, at least nine U.S. Embassy employees have been killed -- including a married couple last month. But Iraqi employees other than interpreters and translators generally cannot obtain U.S. immigrant visas, and until a recent expansion that took the annual quota to 500 from 50, interpreter-translator applicants faced a nine-year backlog. As a result, Crocker said, the embassy is referring two workers per week to a U.S. asylum program. Outside analysts and former officials say the number of Iraqi staffers at the embassy has fallen by about half from 200 last year, while rough estimates place the number of Iraqi employees of the U.S. government in the low thousands. A 43-year-old former engineer for the U.S. Embassy who gave his name as Abu Ali said Iraqis working with Americans at any level must trust no one, use fake names, conceal their travel and telephone use, and withhold their employment even from family members. Despite such extreme precautions, he said they are viewed as traitors by some countrymen and are still mistrusted by the U.S. government. "We have no good end or finish for us," said Ali, who quit the embassy in June and moved to Dubai with his four children. READ IT ALL

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Turkey: The Islamist Paradox

David Seaton's News Links
This article from the New York Times is chock full of paradoxes if you follow the Bernard Lewis, neocon reading of Islam.

The neocon nightmare is that democracy might mean Islam in the Muslim universe. Certainly if Turkey becomes a democracy by becoming more rather than less Muslim, it will shoot a million holes in the neocon narrative. It will also mean that no matter how moderate an Islamist Turkish government is, a government not run by the army and more responsive to the people's opinion will certainly be more pro-Palestinian and less hand in glove with Israel than the "secular" governments have been to date.

In short, Sunday's elections in Turkey may change the face of the Mediterranean and the Middle East... and beyond. DS

Turkey’s Election May Prove a Watershed - New York Times
Abstract: For 84 years, modern Turkey has been defined by a holy trinity — the army, the republic and its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Each was linked inextricably to the others and all were beyond reproach. But a deep transformation is under way in this nation of 73 million and elections this Sunday may prove a watershed: liberal Turks, once the principal political supporters of the nation’s ruling secular elite, are turning their backs on it and pledging their votes to religious politicians as well as a broad new array of independents. They say they are fed up with attempts by the elite to use religion to divide Turks and that Turkey, a predominantly Muslim democracy with a rapidly growing economy, needs to relax its controlling approach towards its own citizens in order to become a modern democracy. “This election is a power struggle between those who want change and those who don’t,” said Zafer Uskul, a prominent constitutional lawyer and human rights advocate who is running from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-inspired party in southern Turkey. “Religion is just an excuse.”(...) Now, as the election approaches, unleashing a power struggle between the nation’s secular elite and a group of religious politicians who draw their support from Turkey’s lower and middle classes, a vocal new civil society may just tip the balance, and help offset the danger of rising nationalism. The number of independent candidates running have more than tripled compared to the last election, many of them members of smaller parties that would not clear a 10 percent hurdle. “You heat water to 99 degrees, and it’s still water,” said Baskin Oran, an opinionated political science professor running as an independent candidate in Istanbul. “You heat it one more degree and it’s not water any more. This one degree is the year 2007.”(...) Inherent in Turkey’s progress was a strange contradiction. The state excluded religion from public life, and looked down upon religious, traditional Turks as backward — yet when those people became more integrated in public life, it condemned them as enemies of the state. “Secular urban forces headed by the army look at these people as if they were aliens from outer space,” said Dogu Ergil, a sociology professor at Ankara University. “But they are the products of the very regime that left them out.” READ IT ALL

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What a useless bunch

US Senate

David Seaton's News Links
It wouldn't be correct to say that words are inadequate in describing the United States Senate's failure to do anything effective in bringing the war in Iraq to a close. Here for example is handy list from synonym. com:
Similarity of adj useless
2 senses of useless
Sense 1
useless (vs. useful)
=> cast-off(prenominal), discarded, junked, scrap (prenominal), waste
=> futile, ineffectual, otiose, unavailing
=> inutile, unprofitable
=> unserviceable, unusable, unuseable
Also See-> ineffective#1, uneffective#1, ineffectual
#2; unprofitable#1; unserviceable#1

Sense 2
=> unhelpful (vs. helpful)
In the words of the immortal Sam Cooke, ".... Hunh! ...reckon that ought to get it!" DS

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


"Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active in a striking force, and 98 per cent passively sympathetic" TE - Lawrence

David Seaton's News Links
The vast majority of the victims of Islamist terrorism are Muslims themselves and most attacks occur in Muslim countries. For every non-Muslim, killed or wounded literally thousands of Muslims have died all over the world. Islamist terrorism is basically an Islamic problem of which the west receives only the overflow because of the its direct interference in the affairs of those countries. There appears to be a revolution in the making in the Islamic countries against what are perceived there as repressive regimes, regimes which are at the same time subservient to western -- read American -- interests. Islam is seen by many as and effective "iindigestible" defense against western domination. Of course, practically everything that the Bush administration is doing and has done to fight even peaceful Islamic movements is making things much worse. The behavior of the Bush administration is disturbingly similar to previous administration's activities in Central and South America in the 70s, and 80 and many of the people involved are the same.

As an ideological cover for the counter revolution America's neocons have substituted "Islamo-fascism" for communism and invented the racist term "Eurabia", to describe a decadent Europe, invaded and soon to dominated by violent, primitive, and especially more fertile Muslims.
This is simply rubbish. If there are many Muslims in Europe today it is for historical and economic reason: long standing European colonialism in the Magreb and Africa, poverty in their countries of origin and Europe's need for cheap labor. This is not an "invasion".

The agitpropism "Eurabia" is one of the most sinister and counterproductive ideas being shopped around by the neocons. The eminent orientalist, Bernard Lewis is the neocon's guiding star in all things Muslim. As Gideon Rachman (who so happens to be Jewish) wrote in the Financial Times, "Mr Lewis equates Osama bin Laden and Muslim immigrants. They are all part of the same attack on Europe. This seems a little rough on many of my neighbours in London. My local postman, hairdresser and convenience store owner are all Muslims. So are the schoolgirls who play football at my children's school - incongruously clad in headscarves and shorts. As far as I can tell, none of these people is intent on destroying western civilisation from within."

If this seems to be simply a soft, morally relativist, multiculturist view, it also extremely practical.
As TE Lawrence (of Arabia) said, "Rebellions can be made by 2 per cent active in a striking force, and 98 per cent passively sympathetic". This struggle is about information. What is vital for western countries, in order to avert attacks, is to have very good advance information about who is a potential bomber and who isn't and who their contacts are and where their funds come from... and that information is only in the mosques and in the Muslim communities themselves. If the Muslim community in general perceives indiscriminate hostility toward themselves from non-Muslims of the sort that the "Eurabia" thesis implies, then it will be difficult for peaceful Muslims (Lawrence's 98%) to communicate with non-Muslims and logically that information about "suspicious" members of their community (Lawrence's 2%) will not be easily forthcoming, and that will mean that more attacks will succeed and that in turn will create more indiscriminate hostility and therefore less information will be forthcoming... A vicious circle if ever there was one.

So right after Al Qaeda itself, the most dangerous enemy of European security is the neocon's Islamo-fascist, paranoia scenario. DS

Monday, July 16, 2007

Beckham to LA... a note from Madrid

David Seaton's News Links
David Beckham has left Real Madrid to play for the Los Angeles Something or Another.

When he came to Madrid, Real was European champion and while he was here, Madrid won absolutely nothing at all... if you don't count the current first division championship which Barcelona literally threw away and Madrid was able to pick up off the floor in the last game of the season after playing dreadful football all year long.

Becks was hired originally as a marketing coup and he sold a lot of Real Madrid tee-shirts to young Japanese girls, he also displaced a far superior player, Luis Figo.... one could go on and on. The bottom line is that Real Madrid made a lot of money and didn't win anything. A veteran British sportscaster once described David Beckham as having a "good right foot and a horrible wife" and I think that is bang on. Los Angeles is perfect for them... I don't think they'll ever leave. DS

PS. I almost forgot, in the four years he was in Spain he never learned two words of Spanish.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Islam versus Marxist-Leninism

David Seaton's News Links
What makes the situation today more explosive than the cold war in the difference in ideological potency between Islam and Marxist-Leninism. Marxist-Leninism had a great attraction for young, nationalist intellectual elites in the third world and gave them an organizational structure, international connections and financing for forming a revolutionary vanguard and cadres.

However Marxism never had much attraction in itself for the masses in Muslim countries (or any other for that matter) and neither did proletarian internationalism. A traditional "ultra-nationalist-international" is a contradiction in terms. But, Islam squares that circle: Islam works on the level of the most militant, nationalist chauvinism, while at the same time being totally international constantly searching for common denominators among Muslims everywhere.

In the cold war equation there was no wild card factor like Israel, which at the same time stimulates nationalist and internationalist feelings among the masses and elites alike in Muslim countries. This is what makes political Islam so revolutionary... Really, all that was necessary was to add modern communications (Internet and Satellite TV) and the Israel/Palestinian/Iraq conflict to the waiting Umma to get critical mass. DS

Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Peak Oil" goes mainstream

David Seaton's News Links
I've selected an excellent article from the Telegraph to illustrate the idea that "Peak Oil" has gone mainstream. It is no longer an idea sneered at by "hard nosed realists" as "flaky" or the province of people who go around hugging trees.

The Telegraph is a conservative newspaper of the moldiest sort, not at all "touchy feely", so that any tendency they might have to sympathize with anything like a granolist world view can be readily discounted.

This, then is an article you can show without fear to any skeptical, curmudgeonly relative without fear of being scoffed to scorn. DS

Tom Stevenson: Expensive oil is here to stay, so let's explore what that means - Telegraph

Abstract: The latest report from the International Energy Agency makes scary reading. You don't have to be a "peak oil" doom-monger to believe the world faces an energy crunch. Investors, and everyone else for that matter, need to think through the implications of a significantly higher oil price.(...) You can argue about when the gap between our thirst for oil and our ability to find more of it becomes a major problem, but few now claim that it isn't an issue. There are two sides to the energy squeeze, neither of which looks good. On demand, we all know that energy use is rising but it is questionable whether we have really taken on board the scale of the increase. Population growth is part of the problem, with a rise from six billion people to perhaps nine billion, made worse by rising levels of prosperity. More people are using more energy per head. As Van der Veer says: "China and India are entering the energy-intensive phase of their development. This is the point when people buy their first television or car, or board a plane for the first time. Most people in China and India have never boarded a plane yet." The modern industrial world does not just use a lot of oil, it is fair to say that current western civilisation would not be possible without it. Oil gets us from A to B, it heats us, it fertilises our food, it keeps us clean, it is a constituent of pretty much every man-made thing we touch. Given the developed world's addiction to oil, what is surprising is not that China's oil demand is doubling every 10 years but that it is not growing even faster. The other side of the energy conundrum is supply. Here the harsh truth is that the easy oil has already been tapped. We have already used up the oil and gas that is easy to extract. So while the International Energy Agency thinks there might be as much as 20,000 billion barrels of oil and gas hidden under the earth - as much as 400 years' supply - most of it will never see the light of day. There are also serious doubts about how much oil is really left. Saudi Arabia, for example, has reported reserves of 260 billion barrels every year for the past 15 years, despite having produced about 100 billion barrels over that period. It is no coincidence that Opec production quotas are determined by claimed reserves.(...) What is worrying is that the oil price is at record levels when we have not yet had the first hurricane of the year (expect a big one in 2007, the experts say) or any serious upheavals in the Middle East.(...) Longer-term, the higher cost of conventional energy is good news for alternative energy producers. Wind power, solar energy and biofuels all become more viable as the oil price heads into uncharted territory. Looking a generation and more ahead, I think the unspoken truth about the looming oil crisis is that the so-far inexorable march of globalisation should not be taken for granted. In the great sweep of history, the 200-year oil age may be seen as a blip before a return to a more sustainable, more local economic system. I'm just not betting my pension on that brave new world arriving any time soon. READ IT ALL

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Larry and the Pharisees (what a name for a band!)

David Seaton's News Links
One of America's most amusing blood sports is the outing of pharisees. One of America's most useful citizens is Larry Flynt. DS

Flynt, Palfrey target D.C. 'hypocrisy' - The Politico
Abstract: Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, already on a hunt for Washington sex scandals, has teamed up with a powerful new ally: "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey. It's an alignment born from coincidental interests: Flynt wants to expose Washington hypocrites, and Palfrey has a long list of people who probably qualify. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) became their first victim when a Flynt investigator linked his name and honorable title to an old telephone number on Palfrey's client list. Vitter's exposure on Tuesday should put any other conservative Republican with sexy skeletons on notice: Start practicing your mea culpa. It's déjà vu for many on Capitol Hill who lived through Flynt's first, successful 1998 sex-scandal bounty hunt, conducted at the height of the sex-driven impeachment drive against President Bill Clinton. With a promise of millions but a payout of less, Flynt managed to expose the sexual promiscuity of former House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois, former impeachment prosecutor Bob Barr and -- his biggest catch of all -- the almost-Speaker Bob Livingston, another Louisianan, who confessed to adultery and resigned from Congress when he was on the brink of succeeding Speaker Newt Gingrich. (Gingrich's affair was not exposed by Flynt; that came later.) Most folks on Capitol Hill, for now, are hoping Vitter is an isolated incident. READ IT ALL

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hamas' stand - Los Angeles Times

The right to exist: I kill, therefore I am
David Seaton's News Links
This article makes an interesting read. By taking control of Gaza, Hamas has gained an international audience for its message. Alexander Haig of unhappy memory had this to say in The Wall Street Journal, "Let us not delude ourselves. The recent Hamas conquest of Gaza is a signal defeat for the United States that goes well beyond the particulars of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have sought to deny the Islamic terrorists a territorial base in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere. Now they have won one on the Mediterranean."

And Haig neglected the worst part about Hamas... They are strictly Palestinian nationalists and have nothing to do with Al Qaeda and its agenda, an "inconvenient truth" that degrades the neocon, "Islamofascism" narrative. Hamas are converting Gaza into a laboratory for their future role in a Palestinian state and a loudspeaker for their agenda, which, as this article from the Los Angeles Times proves, strikes many sympathetic notes to western ears. DS

Hamas' stand - Los Angeles Times
Abstract: The writings of Israel's "founders" — from Herzl to Jabotinsky to Ben Gurion — make repeated calls for the destruction of Palestine's non-Jewish inhabitants: "We must expel the Arabs and take their places." A number of political parties today control blocs in the Israeli Knesset, while advocating for the expulsion of Arab citizens from Israel and the rest of Palestine, envisioning a single Jewish state from the Jordan to the sea. Yet I hear no clamor in the international community for Israel to repudiate these words as a necessary precondition for any discourse whatsoever. The double standard, as always, is in effect for Palestinians. I, for one, do not trouble myself over "recognizing" Israel's right to exist — this is not, after all, an epistemological problem; Israel does exist, as any Rafah boy in a hospital bed, with IDF shrapnel in his torso, can tell you. This dance of mutual rejection is a mere distraction when so many are dying or have lived as prisoners for two generations in refugee camps. As I write these words, Israeli forays into Gaza have killed another 15 people, including a child. Who but a Jacobin dares to discuss the "rights" of nations in the face of such relentless state violence against an occupied population? I look forward to the day when Israel can say to me, and millions of other Palestinians: "Here, here is your family's house by the sea, here are your lemon trees, the olive grove your father tended: Come home and be whole again." Then we can speak of a future together. READ IT ALL

Monday, July 09, 2007

From Lost into the River

The Seventh Seal - Bergman
David Seaton's News Links
The Spanish expression, "de perdidos al río" (from lost into the river) means that a situation bad enough on its own count, (being lost) is further aggravated (by falling into the river). It means, of course, "from bad to worse", but I think you'll agree with me that it's a whole lot juicier.

Those were the words that leaped into my mind on reading this article from The Wall Street Journal, de perdidos al río. With the oil supply tightening terminally... what a time for the USA to get its butt royally kicked in the Middle East. DS
IEA Warns of Impending Crunch in Gas Supply - Wall Street Journal
Abstract: In a dire forecast, the Paris-based International Energy Agency is warning of an impending crunch in the supply of oil and natural gas needed to power world economic growth in coming years. The IEA is the energy watchdog of the world's 26 most-advanced economies, and its pessimistic assessment is contained in its latest annual medium-term forecast to 2012, which was released Monday. The agency expects oil supply to be tighter in coming years than it had previously forecast, with little prospect of relief except a possible easing should world economic growth falter.(...) The IEA now forecasts that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will have precious little spare capacity left to pump extra oil by 2012. It also expects supply increases from non-OPEC oil producers and biofuel producers to start flagging after 2009. Natural-gas markets will also be tight because of inadequate supply increases, limiting the ability of consumers to switch between oil and natural gas. Still, demand for oil and gas is expected to grow at a brisk pace in the years to 2012.(...) OPEC spare capacity, the safety cushion in the world system, is expected to remain constrained until 2010, then shrink to minimal levels by 2012, when the exporters collectively will only be able to pump a paltry extra amount -- the equivalent of 1.6% of world demand. While the IEA didn't say so, the shrinking of OPEC's spare capacity in the past decade has made the oil market skittish about any development that could conceivably threaten supply, resulting in volatile markets and prices.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The New York Times pulls the chain on Iraq

David Seaton's News Links
This is how the New York Times, who had a great deal to do with promoting the war in Iraq, advocates "cutting and running".

Now, I am in favor of the US withdrawing immediately from Iraq, but I think two thing have to be done first. The first is relatively easy and the second nearly impossible.
  • First: A regional peace conference under the auspices of the UN Security Council with an agreement leading to Iraq becoming a ward of the UN. Neighboring countries would supply troops and administrators during a transition period to restored autonomy. The object then would be a general Middle East peace conference on all questions including the Israel/Palestine question.
  • Second: Impeachment, arrest and extradition of all those responsible for the war to an international tribunal specially formed in the Hague; again under UN auspices.
If the United States led this process, especially the second point, it might recover some of its capacity to give moral leadership, something which Americans find fundamental for their self-esteem. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of globalization hangs on both these points. DS

The Road Home - Editorial - New York Times
Abstract: It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.(...) Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong. The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles. A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda. That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate. The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse.(...) This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading. READ IT ALL

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Islam and the new technologies

David Seaton's News Links
For me nothing is more fascinating than to see how Islam, a religion usually associated with traditional societies, has been empowered and propelled into action more than any other ideology by the new technologies.

I think it is a huge mistake not to accept that this Islamic "awakening" is a huge, worldwide movement of historic and irreversible proportions and not to positively engage those Islamists who are not exclusively engaged in violence. Putting all these people into one sack is idiotic. DS

From frontline attack to terror by franchise - Financial times
Abstract: In late 2004, a 1,600-page treatise outlining a vision of a new al-Qaeda was posted on jihadi websites. Entitled The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance, it was drafted by Abu Musab al-Suri, a Syrian mechanical engineer who had fought alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and who has long been considered a leading ideologue for al-Qaeda. Its central theme was that al-Qaeda should be less of an organisation and more of an order, in which a central base would provide primarily ideological guidance to semi-autonomous cells around the world, loosely tied to each other.(...) Whether by coincidence or design, his vision of the post-September 11 al-Qaeda has become a reality. Six years after terrorists struck New York and Washington, al-Qaeda as an organisation has been severely undermined, its haven in Afghanistan destroyed and many of its leaders captured or killed. But the violent fanaticism promoted by al-Qaeda has not only survived, it has proliferated – helped, many experts say, by the conduct of the US-led “war on terror”. The al-Qaeda order indeed appears to be thriving, with new footholds emerging just as old ones are being suppressed. While crackdowns in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, for example, seem to have reduced the jihadi threat for now, frontlines are expanding in North Africa and Lebanon. Attacks by al-Qaeda-inspired militants have not reached the spectacular scale of September 11 but they have multiplied in numbers and diversified in geographic reach. Arab security officials say self-recruitment, largely through the internet, is replacing the radicalisation that once took place in mosques and religious schools.(...) Iraq has established itself as the most important new frontier. It plays the role of Afghanistan in the 1980s, a magnet for Arab militants looking for jihad, or holy war. The US invasion and continued military presence, meanwhile, have provided a new powerful narrative for recruiting jihadis in the Middle East and in Europe. Even more alarmingly, according to counter-terrorism officials, al-Qaeda in Iraq is aspiring to act as a regional base, sending militants to wage attacks abroad – including against tourist resorts, for example, in India. “Strategically Iraq is the new source of manpower, a platform to operate against the west and a source of high-level expertise from former Iraqi army officers,” says a western official.(...) “Algeria is one example that illustrates that there’s a correlation between home-grown Islamists and those coming back with skills and techniques learned in Iraq. And how does that apply to Europe? Well it’s right on Europe’s back door,” says a senior US military officer. In all this, it hardly matters, many experts say, whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive. Christopher Heffelfinger, a senior analyst at West Point in the US, says: “I actually think he may be dead. But it’s irrelevant. His ambition was to set up an Islamic awakening. I think he’s done that.” READ IT ALL

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Hamas: a partner for "truce", not peace

David Seaton's News Links
In the end the Israelis -- and the "international community" they lead by the nose -- will prefer dealing with Hamas, because if they agree to a "truce", they will keep it themselves and will enforce it on the other factions. No Palestinian body who recognizes Israel's conquest of Palestine will ever be able to do as much. DS

Hamas's latest coup - Guardian
Abstract: Hamas received early rewards. Richard Makepeace, the British consul general in Jerusalem, became the first Western diplomat to meet Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister. British officials insisted the only reason for the meeting was to discuss the fate of Alan, but the precedent was set and the recognition was granted. As one British official remarked when Alan's release first appeared imminent: "If they do free him, what do we have to do in return?" This meeting between Makepeace and Haniyeh partly explains the determination of Hamas to free Alan. If they could achieve his freedom, they would demonstrate an ability and a credibility that was lacking in Fatah - despite its international recognition. But Alan's case was just a symbol of a broader message that Hamas wants to send out to the international community and Israel. This is that they can impose peace and security and be trusted to carry out their commitments if they are addressed directly. Although there is no doubt that Alan's position as the only full-time western correspondent in Gaza meant he was well-known and respected by the Hamas leadership, this alone would have counted for little. His plight was a test of their ability to govern. Their success in securing the release puts into sharp focus the failure of their Fatah counterparts to have any effect on the kidnappers. In a telling comment, Alan described how his kidnappers were "comfortable and secure" until Hamas took control. Then they became "very nervous", and he felt for the first time there was light at the end of the tunnel. The effectiveness of Hamas has long been recognised by the highest echelons of the Israeli army. Senior officers have commented in private that they would trust Hamas to live up to any deals that were made between them. However, dealing with Hamas is a political step the Israeli government is not yet ready to take. READ IT ALL

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Any color you want as long as it's Islamic

David Seaton's News Links
The "west's" (includes Japan) biggest mistake in the Muslim world has been to attempt to maintain a colonial dominance of these countries through proxy regimes denominated "moderate": corrupt, authoritarian regimes who maintain simultaneously a subservience to "western" interests and a cruel, police state apparatus to keep their fellow citizens in check. Naturally these regimes have little or no credit, either inside or outside their borders. The people of the Muslim countries seem to have come to the conclusion that the only ideology or identity that the "empire" cannot engulf and devour is Islam and they are increasingly desirous of some form of Islamic government. The "west" can only choose finally between "practical" (fight, preach, feed and teach) Islamism such as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas or nihilist terror of the Al Qaeda and Salafist variety. DS

Our second biggest mistake in the Middle East - London Review of Books
Abstract: The problem for Hamas is that its constituency – the rank and file – and the wider Islamist movement have now embarked on a period of introspection. What is apparent – and this can be ascertained on any number of Islamist websites – is that the mainstream Islamist strategy of pursuing an electoral path to reform is now being questioned. This will have an impact well beyond Palestine – most obviously in Egypt and Jordan. Three events have triggered this reassessment: the sanctions imposed on the Hamas government; last summer’s US-backed war to destroy Hizbullah in Lebanon; and the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which raises not a peep of protest from Europeans. Continued Western hostility towards all Islamists, however moderate their policies, has also frustrated the grass-roots. At a conference held in Beirut in April, the senior Hamas official present, Usamah Hamadan, was strongly criticised by Fathi Yakan, the leader of Jamaat Islamiyah in Lebanon, for having embarked on the electoral route in the first place. Yakan pointed to the failure – experienced by all Islamists without exception – of those who have participated in their national parliaments. No MP or deputy, from Islamabad to Cairo, or anywhere in between, has succeeded in bringing any significant change to their society. At the same time, young Egyptians in the Muslim Brotherhood have been debating whether their eighty-year-old movement has lost its way. Commentators have been arguing that for it to sit in parliament – while its leaders are being interned, its economic base is being attacked, and legislation is being passed aimed at excluding movements with a religious basis from elections – undermines its credibility and invites derision. The movement, it’s suggested, is too big, rigid and ungainly, and needs to be rethought – and perhaps broken up. At issue in these discussions is whether moderate Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah will manage to retain their influence over this process of radicalisation; and whether they will survive as a cohesive, disciplined political bloc. Sunni Islamist movements are increasingly concerned at the spread of small Salafist groups that verge on the nihilistic in their disdain for political ideology and in their belief that to set fire to the remnants of colonial power is in itself enough to raise the revolutionary consciousness they hope for. Salafist groups are beginning to make inroads in Gaza, as they have already done in Iraq, Lebanon and North Africa.(...) Over the middle term it is possible to predict that a greater number of Palestinian citizens of Israel will become radicalised, as well as members of the Palestinian population as a whole. Israel’s ‘moderate’ friends among Arab leaders may disappear. It may also encounter Islamists not only in the Palestinian government, but at the Jordanian and Egyptian frontiers; and conflict with Iran, were it to occur, might finish up by sweeping away many of the region’s landmarks. This prospect may not disturb the slumbers of the Europeans, who will dismiss it as alarmist, even if their record of reading events in the area has been less than inspired. But these are the scenarios that are being taken seriously by thoughtful Islamists in the region. We should hope – that may be all we can now do – that moderate Islamist movements manage to navigate these turbulent times, in spite of European attempts to prevent Islamism, which is clearly now the dominant regional current, from reshaping Middle Eastern societies. These attempts are opening space, not for the moderate pro-Western secularists whom Europeans seek to empower, but for those who believe that to build a new society you must first burn down the old one. READ IT ALL

Monday, July 02, 2007

Russians in Israel: easy come, easy go?

Russian immigrants to Israel - 1992
David Seaton's News Links
Probably nothing changed the face and the character of Israel as much as the massive migration of Russians who could prove any Jewish origin to Israel during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent chaos and poverty of the Yeltsin era. There were very few committed Zionists among them; the "aliyah" to Israel was seen as a way to escape the Russian catastrophe and to obtain a western passport and prosperity. Israel saw this huge jump in their population made up of highly educated and cultured "Europeans", in contrast to the Moroccan, Yemenite and Ethiopian Jews, as an enormous blessing. The blessing turns out to be quite mixed. Now, while Israel is in constant danger and Russia's economy is beginning to prosper, many are having second thoughts. It could be highly demoralizing to Israeli society in general if the Russians start to return to Russia in sizable numbers: a negation of the whole myth of return. DS

45% of former USSR immigrant students do not see future in Israel - Haaretz
Abstract: Some 45 percent of high school students who immigrated from the former Soviet Union do not believe they have a future in Israel, according to the preliminary results of a new study due to be published in a few months. Only 65 percent would define themselves as Israeli, the study found. However, 88 percent would accept a hyphenated definition, such as Israeli-Russian.(...) Some 30 percent of the respondents said Israelis could teach them nothing, while 40 percent saw no need to study Jewish tradition or the Bible. Some 82 percent saw nothing worth learning from in Israeli culture, and 90 percent felt similarly about Israeli behavior. The study also found that the longer they were in Israel, the more likely the students were to define themselves as mehagrim (migrants) rather than olim (immigrants, but with the connotation of "to a better place"). Thus, after three years here, 68.6 percent defined themselves as olim, while after six years, only 23.6 percent did so. READ IT ALL

The conundrum of America’s economy - Economist

"The market was so leveraged, and the instruments so complicated, that no one seemed understand what would happen if it all began to unwind." - Economist
David Seaton's News Links
That is the key phrase, everything.... and I mean EVERYTHING, revolves around things that nobody understands. DS

The conundrum of America’s economy - Economist

Abstract: There are plenty of ominous signs. The housing market, long the mainstay of America’s economic boom, is sagging. Defaults in the subprime lending market grow ever more worrisome. The core inflation rate, which excludes food and energy, is not exactly subdued: consumer prices were up by 2.2% in May from a year ago. Add in the tepid GDP growth and the mix is making consumers nervous.(...) As vexing a concern is the effect that a slowing housing market will have on the mountain of debt and debt-related instruments that were issued to finance the boom. The most frightening aspect of the problems at two hedge funds run by Bear Stearns, both heavily exposed to the subprime-mortgage market, was not that a big bank had been plunging into risky assets; it was the revelation of how little anyone knew about the risks involved. The market was so leveraged, and the instruments so complicated, that no one seemed understand what would happen if it all began to unwind.

The link with Iraq - Leader - Guardian

David Seaton's News Links
Opening Pandora's Box or the Gates of Hell, feel free to choose your metaphor. What is beyond argument is that due to the criminal idiocy of Bush, Blair and friends we are all in for a world of pain... Well as Rumsfeld said, "stuff happens". DS

The link with Iraq - Leader - Guardian
Abstract: When it argued for the invasion of Iraq, the British government placed the national interest at the centre of its case. Not only would the invasion contribute to international order, Tony Blair said, but it would cut off at its roots the threat of terrorism in the UK. Many disputed the link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein and pointed out that war and occupation might assist extremist organisations recruiting British Muslims, giving terrorism a spurious (but, to the wrong-headed, compelling) moral justification.(...) Can it be denied that the invasion encouraged a growth in al-Qaida's threat and influence? It is time for a new prime minister to revisit these arguments. The daily carnage in Iraq is perhaps hard to acknowledge for members of the cabinet involved in the chain of events that led finally to this hellish instability. Each and every day ordinary Iraqis are victims of the sort of mayhem planned for London and Glasgow last week. Most civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan are at the hands of non-western forces, yet it is still the west that gets the blame - and, indeed, it has some responsibility for the context in which they happen. That techniques from Iraq - petrol and gas canisters placed in cars - seem to have been exported to the UK is more than symbolic. It is not proof of a direct link with al-Qaida, nor should it absolve the would-be bombers from condemnation. Yet it is wrong to claim there is no link to Iraq. Indeed, this past weekend there appeared to be some striking, if grotesque, parallels.(...) Gordon Brown's new government has to find a form of words that acknowledges Britain's role in creating - unintentionally - the conditions for instability, civil war and mayhem. It has to find not just the will to disengage over time (such a will already exists) but the language to convince listeners that this is now the government's settled purpose.(...) After Suez, Britain's friends in the world held faith with a confidence that decent parts of our public life never wavered in their opposition to the ill-fated adventure, and represented another side of the British character. As a new prime minister seeks to rebuild Britain's international reputation, an early signal that this tendency is winning the argument, and shall prevail, would be both right and in our national interest. READ IT ALL

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Thought for the Day... Robespierre

Robespierre's Death Mask
David Seaton's News Links
Here is a little Sunday thought for the day from somebody who actually put his ideas into to action and took the consequences. DS
"Now, what morals can a people have when its laws seem designed to encourage furious activity in the thirst for riches? And what more certain means of exacerbating that passion can the laws take, then to stigmatize honorable poverty, and reserve all the honors and the power for wealth?" Robespierre - April 1791