Dec 31, 2008

An infallible test

Here is an infallible test to decide terrorism in any case where large numbers of people (Humans – genus homo) are destroyed:

If the humans are destroyed by missile strikes, smart bombs, or any automatic machinery, it is the people killed who are the terrorists, and those operating the machinery are innocent victims. This is especially true if the killing machinery is entirely human-free, such as robot drones firing hell fire missiles.

If the humans are destroyed, on the other hand, by other humans, who may also destroy themselves in the process as in the case of suicide bombers, then it is the humans destroyed who are the innocent victims, and those doing the destroying who are the terrorists.

Cousin strands of genus homo, such as apes, gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans (orang hutan = “people of the trees”) need not be considered because although they have the necessary two legs, two arms, and head configuration, none have any known experience of manufacturing explosives.

Dec 20, 2008

Iran's nuke

"Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your HONOR. That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse." ---Mark Twain.

“According to an article published Thursday in the New York Times, "Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts."

Webmaster's Commentary:

"Little physics here, folks.

"ALL reactor fuel, with "added purification", can be used in a nuclear weapon.

"It is the "added purification" which is the issue.

"Is Iran actually doing "Added purification"? The IAEA says no. And it is not as trivial as the article implies. Nuclear fuel (what Iran is making) is enriched to 3%. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to 95% or higher. The required equipment, energy, and time needed to go from 3% to 95% is enormous, orders of magnitude larger than that needed for reactor fuel. And impossible to conceal (except under the Dimona reactor, which is, unlike Iran, safe from IAEA inspections.)” Mike Riviero

The present stockpile of US nuclear weapons is sufficient to destroy the entire planet many times over, but Mr. Paul Wolfowitz recently recommended greatly increasing US nukes, and Mr. Gates, Bush’s Secretary of Defense, kept on in Mr. Obama’s cabinet, shares this view.

Quote of the month
“Those people could be offering free bacon flavored aphrodisiacs and there’d be no takers.” (Courtesy Ms. Rachel Maddow)

Dec 19, 2008

The Palestinian Prime Minister

Mr. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Great Britain, and previously for many years Chancellor of the Exchequer or Finance Minister, has achieved the sort of results for the British economy that we have come to expect from our financial experts.

Earlier this week he appeared on newsreels with someone whose name I forget (let us call him Mr. Abu Flan) who was headlined as “Palestinian Prime Minister.”

Now the Palestinian election was chiefly remarkable, not only for the fact that one party won in a landslide, but that it was the only election world wide to take place without allegations of vote rigging, charges of corruption, or other objections, and was agreed by all independent monitors to have been entirely free and fair.

Mr. Abu Flan clearly came from the party that lost the election. What happened to the party that won the election, the freely elected government of the Palestinians? I note a BBC news headline this morning “Palestinian militant Islamist group in Gaza to end six month cease fire with Israel.”

How did this happen?

I think that one morning as Mr. Brown was shaking his Rice Crispies into his cereal bowl one of those plastic kiddy toys fell out, and when he picked it up he read “Congratulations. You have won the right to appoint the Palestinian Prime Minister.”

It seems the kindest explanation.

Dec 15, 2008

Modern media myths

1. Religion and culture are two separate things.
Study of any of the more than ten thousand – by a recent count, from the Afghanistan animists to the Zoroastrians – religions in the world reveals that in practice it is not possible to distinguish between the culture and the religion; in practice they are so closely intertwined as to be indistinguishable, and follow certain predictable paths, mainly that the culture remains and selects what it wants from the religion up to and including physical artifacts.

Statues of the goddess Isis with the child Horus in her arms continued to be venerated in Egypt for example even after the adoption of Christianity only now they were called the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus. The most militant Christian groups in the USA survive the discovery that their leader consumes large quantities of drugs and hires male prostitutes without changing in the slightest their insistence the Bible and only the Bible is the complete word of God. This does involve, of course, a tactful blindness to passages allowing fathers to sell their daughters into slavery, forbidding usury (charging interest on loans), or a blanket death penalty for homosexuals, but Christian groups survive this with equanimity, as do all the other ten thousand religions.

Not every country enjoys the freedoms of Indonesia, with the largest Moslem population in the world, where everyone is constitutionally (which also means in practice, unlike the USA) allowed to change from any religion, including Islam, to any other religion, as many times as they wish.

A number of tactical moves from one religion to another are taking place particularly in India among the Untouchables, the lowest caste. (See “The Dalits” in February 2008 at

2. Western countries have a free press
Western countries do not have a free press. Their media, not only newspapers, but more importantly radio and TV, are tightly controlled. (See Letter to Coral, in November 2008 at on Bill Maher, for some striking examples.)

It would not be difficult to argue that both Russia, which has just announced the formation of a new political party, dedicated to the dismantling of the Putin power structure on its official channel, RT, and India, where a movement has sprung up asserting that the Mumbai bombings are an inside job engineered by Hindu nationalist extremists bent on fomenting war against Pakistan and seizing the Kashmir, have more open media than western countries. It is instructive to compare both of these with the vaporings of Mr. Gordon Brown in Afghanistan, where the whole question why on earth we are fighting there at all was entirely ignored in favor of heavy condemnation of a fifteen year old suicide bomber, - one would have thought that a place where even fifteen year olds are ready to die in order to kill you would be a good place to get out of - or Mr. Bush’s farewell visit to Iraq, where he had shoes thrown at him. The aim was excellent; President Bush had to duck to avoid each shoe. The Baydan company of Istanbul making that particular shoe has reported a fourfold increase in orders and taken on one hundred extra staff.

It is important not to be confused by items such as the cartoons on the prophet Mohammed published in Denmark. It is certainly possible, with expert guidance, to fabricate ways to enrage selected populations, which the cartoons achieved, but the hollowness of the boast that this makes them free can be exposed by comparison with the Viet Cong in Vietnam. Would cartoons have bothered them? Not in the slightest. Would the Abu Ghraib humiliation of draping a woman’s knickers over the head have humiliated the Viet Cong? Not at all. That only worked on a carefully researched population which regarded the genitalia as the seat of honor. Any Viet Cong would have laughed and blown his nose on the knickers.

The group that hijacked the US government in 2000, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Podhoretz, Kristol, Krauthammer, et al, usually referred to as “the neocons,” or neo conservatives, also control the media, in pursuing the “Bush doctrine,” which is that the USA has the right to attack preemptively any country or area that might in the future be capable of posing a threat to it. The casual announcement by this group that the US asserted “ownership of space” (since the earth is surrounded by space this is equal to claiming ownership of the entire universe) is one of many examples that the neocons are not playing with a full deck.

3. Suicide bombers are distinctively Islamic
Wrong again! By far the most successful, both in numbers and elevation of target, are the Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers, always carefully avoided in any discussion of suicide bombers, who actually bagged a sitting Indian prime minister, Rajiv Ghandi.

Two things are noteworthy about this most successful of all suicide bomber groups, the first of which is that they are entirely secular. Their aim is an independent, or at least autonomous, homeland for the Tamil population of Sri Lanka in the north of the island. They have no religious affiliation or interest at all.

The second thing that is noteworthy about the Tamil Tigers is the Tamil culture on the mainland in India, home of the famous Juggernaut, the heavy carriage of the god, under which devout believers threw themselves and were crushed to death to show their devotion. See the connection? If not, go back to Section 1, above.

4. Jewish people are Jewish people
Well, yes and no. Certainly any one is free to enter Judaism, as Jewish folks like Mendelsohn the German composer and friend of Goethe are also free to leave it and become Christian, even if they do not have the luck to live in Indonesia.

The real question is who is a Jew, which has been exercising the Jewish community for some time, and is still a subject of debate. (For the moment, let us leave aside the answer of the rabbi asked that question and his answer “Why, everybody, I suppose.”)

The community of Jewish folks is divided into Sephardi and Ashkenazi. Sephardi Jews are the lineal descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Saul, David, and all those familiar biblical characters. Ashkenazi are the descendants of a semi-nomadic Turkic tribe, the Khazars, originating in Eastern Asia, who decided to adopt Judaism between the 8th and 10th centuries AD.

According to news reports Russian archaeologists have recently found the long-lost Jewish (Ashkenazi) capital, Itil, near the Caspian Sea, and the reports state that Christian, Moslem, and pagan communities also existed in Itil and had places of worship there. See Agence France Presse for Wed Sep 3, 12:08 PM ET at

Zionism, and the state of Israel, is heavily Ashkenazi dominated, and Sephardi Jews are marginalized and ignored as far as possible. This is not surprising as Sephardis include anti Zionist groups like Netturei Karta, and generally espouse the traditionally accepted command to the Jewish people to be good and loyal citizens of whatever country they live in, and leave the fate of the Jewish community in the hands of God. Ashkenazis, on the other hand, take the more robust view perhaps brought with them from the plains of eastern Asia that characterize some of the other waves of peoples from that area.

5. Iran’s Ahmedinejad has called for Israel to be wiped off the map
'Wiped off the Map' – The Rumor of the Century -by Arash Norouzi

On Tuesday, October 25th, 2005 at the Ministry of Interior conference hall in Tehran, newly elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a program, reportedly attended by thousands, titled "The World Without Zionism." Large posters surrounding him displayed this title prominently in English, obviously for the benefit of the international press. Below the poster's title was a slick graphic depicting an hour glass containing planet Earth at its top. Two small round orbs representing the United States and Israel are shown falling through the hour glass' narrow neck and crashing to the bottom.

Before we get to the infamous remark, it's important to note that the "quote" in question was itself a quote – they are the words of the late Ayatollah Khomenei, the father of the Islamic Revolution. Although he quoted Khomeini to affirm his own position on Zionism, the actual words belong to Khomeini and not Ahmadinejad. Thus, Ahmadinejad has essentially been credited (or blamed) for a quote that is not only unoriginal, but represents a viewpoint already in place well before he ever took office.

The Actual Quote:
So what did Ahmadinejad actually say? To quote his exact words in Farsi:
"Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad."
That passage will mean nothing to most people, but one word might ring a bell: rezhim-e. It is the word "regime." pronounced just like the English word with an extra "eh" sound at the end. Ahmadinejad did not refer to Israel the country or Israel the land mass, but the Israeli regime. This is a vastly significant distinction, as one cannot wipe a regime off the map. Ahmadinejad does not even refer to Israel by name, he instead uses the specific phrase "rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods" (regime occupying Jerusalem).

So this raises the question.. what exactly did he want "wiped from the map"? The answer is: nothing. That's because the word "map" was never used. The Persian word for map, "nagsheh" is not contained anywhere in his original Farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase "wipe out" ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran's president threatened to "wipe Israel off the map." despite never having uttered the words "map." "wipe out" or even "Israel."

'Wiped off the Map' – The Rumor of the Century

Word by word translation:
Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem) bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from).

In his speech, Ahmadinejad declares that Zionism is the West's apparatus of political oppression against Muslims. He says the "Zionist regime" was imposed on the Islamic world as a strategic bridgehead to ensure domination of the region and its assets. Palestine, he insists, is the frontline of the Islamic world's struggle with American hegemony, and its fate will have repercussions for the entire Middle East.

Ahmadinejad acknowledges that the removal of America's powerful grip on the region via the Zionists may seem unimaginable to some, but reminds the audience that, as Khomeini predicted, other seemingly invincible empires have disappeared and now only exist in history books. He then proceeds to list three such regimes that have collapsed, crumbled or vanished, all within the last 30 years:
(1) The Shah of Iran – the U.S. installed monarch
(2) The Soviet Union
(3) Iran's former arch-enemy, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein

In the first and third examples, Ahmadinejad prefaces their mention with Khomeini's own words foretelling that individual regime's demise. He concludes by referring to Khomeini's unfulfilled wish: "The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise." This is the passage that has been isolated, twisted and distorted so famously. By measure of comparison, Ahmadinejad would seem to be calling for regime change, not war.

6. A corporation is the same thing as an individual human
Oddly enough a US judge delivered a verdict on this very point in 1841, and took the trouble to point out that his decision served as a judicial precedent to be followed in any later legal proceedings, that the rights and privileges conferred on human persons by the constitution could not be applied to corporations or other groups of people, so that the right to be free of search and seizure, for example, the right to bear arms, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances embodied in the various amendments (the Bill of Rights) could apply only to people, never to corporations or groups of people.

Unfortunately for everyone the judgment was circumvented or otherwise ignored and the current situation is that corporations have all the rights intended by the constitution to apply to people, you know, two arms, two legs, body, and head, well, more or less.

When the government of Canada was facing a vote of no confidence in Parliament in December 2008, which it was certain to lose, which event normally results in an election for a new government, it took the unusual step of calling on the representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to dissolve Parliament. Queen Elizabeth is the sovereign of Canada as well as Great Britain, since Canada is a member of the Commonwealth, and her representative was able therefore to grant the request and Parliament was immediately dissolved. No Parliament, but the government is still the government, and has not lost a vote of confidence.

The petition of the Chagossians, the inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, for redress and reversal of their expulsion from their island by the British and placement in refugee camps for fifty years while their island was handed by the British to the US to establish a military base there, was granted by various courts on a number of occasions. When the final appeal to the highest court possible, the House of Lords, against this judgement was also denied, an “Order in Council” was made to deny the Chagossians the right of return to their island.

What was the first thing Mayor Bloomberg of NY did after amending the constitution on term limits to allow him a third term? “New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his administration wouldn’t send $400 property-tax rebate checks due this month to owners of apartments and houses because the slowing economy threatens to worsen a widening budget gap.” Reneging on your debts and obligations is the first thing you do.

This is the process referred to in the famous expression “You can’t fight City Hall,” meaning that even if your case is clear and legal and correct, the local war lords will invent a law to deny your case if none already exists.

There is however a very serious danger in demonstrating contempt for the law. After all if no one else takes the law seriously, why should you, or anybody else? The successful crowd takeovers in Greece and Thailand and the unsuccessful one in Burma (Myanmar) may be precursors of many more.

And there is a vast range of laws the local warlords have made. The common habit of burying the afterbirth in a child’s birthplace may have a mystical or merely sentimental effect, though harmless in any case, but it will certainly be denied if you have your baby in any western institution under the warlords’ control, since ownership of your own body, like the right to end your life if you choose, is not something the warlords are willing to grant. Foods and drinks you are allowed to consume and at what age, actions you may or may not perform with your lower body, information you are allowed to know about, the list is literally endless.

"Things are in the saddle and ride mankind." Walt Whitman

7. Technology is a modern invention
Quite untrue. Really useful bits of technology, like earthenware pots kept on the terrace that hold deliciously cool water are commonplace, as is the Eskimo igloo built of ice blocks for survival. It is not necessary to know that the slight ooze of water through the earthenware produces a drop in temperature as it evaporates in the heat, nor how the body heat of the occupiers can build up quite a cozy warmth in the igloo to profit from either. “It’s the poor who are the gainers,” says the Daily Reckoning, tougher, more used to deprivation and without investments to lose.

No one expected very much from the G - 20 meeting weekend before last but at least the wrong message might have been avoided. Vague as the statements of the president were, his expectation of "growth" was spectacularly wrong, given the UN description of the current situation, which no one has disputed, "that an entire second planet Earth is required merely to keep our present living standards where they are now." One would hope that the Haitian diet of mud cakes to quell hunger pangs do not become our fate, but "growth" is not on the menu without a second and third planet Earth available to feed the greed.

All informed opinion knows that we have long passed the tipping point for climate change and we can no longer have any effect on what happens in the next fifty years. In addition, for the last eight years a gentleman from the PI (Petroleum Institute) has been editing out all references to climate change in government documents, while the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere has been rising enormously each year, and the Siberian tundra, frozen for the last eleven thousand years, is now melting, releasing large amounts of methane – approximately twenty times as damaging as carbon – into the atmosphere. Below is a report on the conference on global warming at Exeter University. That was in the summer and there’s another in Poznan at the moment. More agonized handwringing, and disasters certain.

“At a high-level academic conference on global warming at Exeter University this summer, climate scientist Kevin Anderson stood before his expert audience and contemplated a strange feeling. He wanted to be wrong. Many of those in the room who knew what he was about to say felt the same. His conclusions had already caused a stir in scientific and political circles. Even committed green campaigners said the implications left them terrified.

“Anderson, an expert at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, was about to send the gloomiest dispatch yet from the frontline of the war against climate change.

“Despite the political rhetoric, the scientific warnings, the media headlines and the corporate promises, he would say, carbon emissions were soaring way out of control - far above even the bleak scenarios considered by last year's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Stern review. The battle against dangerous climate change had been lost, and the world needed to prepare for things to get very, very bad.

"As an academic I wanted to be told that it was a very good piece of work and that the conclusions were sound," Anderson said. "But as a human being I desperately wanted someone to point out a mistake, and to tell me we had got it completely wrong."

“Nobody did. The cream of the UK climate science community sat in stunned silence as Anderson pointed out that carbon emissions since 2000 have risen much faster than anyone thought possible, driven mainly by the coal-fuelled economic boom in the developing world. So much extra pollution is being pumped out, he said, that most of the climate targets debated by politicians and campaigners are fanciful at best, and "dangerously misguided" at worst.” David Adam The Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008

Dec 4, 2008

The mechanics of money

If you have a hundred dollars in your bank account, it is probably not earning interest, and if you leave it there, it will probably earn nothing except the grudging admission of your bank that you are, for the moment, still solvent.

If you take your hundred dollars out, however, and spend it on groceries, something quite amazing happens. The grocery store owner has an extra hundred dollars, he pays off his suppliers with $25 and places a new order, his staff receives $25 in pay which they spend, his wife buys a new dress for $25, the dress store orders another dress, and so on. Your hundred dollars is spent many times over, exactly how many times depending only on the speed of its passing on. Your humble hundred dollars, by virtue of the velocity of money, the speed at which everyone else receives it and spends it, has produced two thousand dollars of spending. This is what happens in a normally functioning economy, a healthy commercial state.

Note that ownership changes constantly. It is no longer "your" hundred dollars as soon as you have exchanged it for groceries (it belongs to the grocery store) but it remains quite clear and trackable (though a hundred thousand dollars would be better for real trackability) that it is the same hundred dollars, constantly changing ownership.

The calculation of a country’s GDP, its gross domestic product, or all the goods and services that country produces, is equally simple: take the total amount of cash in the country, and multiply it by velocity, that is, take all the money being spent on groceries, car repair, payments from abroad, and multiply it by the speed at which it goes round, since the same money can be spent many times over as people receive it and pass it on.

Now imagine that being unemployed, or suspecting that you soon might be, you decide to hang on to your hundred dollars in preparation for possible hard times ahead. Imagine further that the grocery store, noting that sales are slowing down, decides to build up its cash, cut orders to the wholesalers, and lay off some of its staff; imagine that your bank, worried about some unmarketable securities it has on the books from its last president, and unsure whether two or three other banks it deals with might not be going under quite soon, and all loans to them will be lost, also decides to hang on to as much cash as possible; and finally imagine that the government of the country, noting that its revenues are falling, its cities and farms are in trouble and demanding help, and no one is buying what it exports, takes the painful decision to welsh on some of its promises of aid to worthy causes, delays all rebates due, cancels a lot of expensive projects, even wonders about seizing some private assets on dubious grounds, and generally re-adjusts to being a much poorer country, which they are, of course: their GDP, the amount of goods and services produced in a whole year by the entire country has shrunk enormously, and is now much much smaller, most of it no longer being multiplied by anything except one, since its citizens, its municipalities, its financial and commercial institutions, and the other countries that are its trading partners are all tightly clutching their hundred dollars, fearful of the future and suspicious of any attempts to have them spend it.

This is called the credit crunch.

Dec 3, 2008

Bare not thine ear

“Bare not thine ear to that terrestrial sun, nor kiss thy hand unto its servitude.” Sir Thomas Browne

Mr. Obama, president elect of the USA, is legally and by ‘due process’ captain of the ship of state from January 20, 2009. His campaign was very effectively run down to the smallest details, and no reason is visible for possible objections to his victory. Since the US spends more on “Defense,” i.e., the military, than all the rest of the world put together, his declared intention greatly to increase military spending is perhaps the most ominous of many indications of policy direction.

Airlines instruct their passengers that in the event of emergency, parents with children should ensure their own oxygen mask supply first, before seeing to that of the child. Odd as that sounds, its practical benefits are obvious. If the parent passes out, the child can not take charge and save the situation. Similarly, the future captain of the ship of state must safeguard his own survival first. Quite apart from the many threats of assassination openly expressed by attendees at opposition rallies, the survival of his administration, of the team, is also primary, and his strategy is equally direct and effective, to recruit as many of the potential opposition as possible into the team, where they enjoy some of the fruits of power, and have some effect on policy, (the carrot), but are always under direction and can be dismissed and replaced at any time (the stick.)

President Nixon, discovering that the liabilities and debts of the country exceeded its gold holdings by a large margin, rescinded the promise made to redeem all dollars for gold. He took the country off the gold standard, in spite of the constitution’s provision that all money shall only be of gold and silver.

No such animal exists in the United States as a federal election. All elections, including those for federal office such as presidential elections, are held by the separate states under the very different rules of each state. No matter how great the interest of federal authorities in the outcome, they have no place in the process. The decision of the Supreme Court, therefore, of 2000, to halt the Florida recount was entirely unconstitutional.

It may seem a very weak argument to point to the constitution, but without it any authority in the country is no greater than that of any other war lord in history, surrounded by wolves eager to take his place. “A piece of paper” President Bush contemptuously called it, but without that piece of paper, the captain has no map to steer by, no chart showing the reefs and shallows, the lighthouses and the wind directions, nor even where or why he sails. He rules by whim and by force, and any bo’sun’s mate who thinks he can do better is free to replace him if he can.

Since the 2000 election the USA has had the “unitary presidency,” (i.e., the president as effective dictator, the sole source of power in the state, able to legislate which laws he will not obey by presidential “signing statements”) foreshadowed by Nixon. Since that time the statement that the USA has a government not of men but of laws has been a visibly empty one, and men, moreover, such as “Scooter” Libby, “Duke” Cunningham, and Jack Abramov, to mention only a few.

In preparing to take the wheel, therefore, and take the vast ship into a long turn, it is a matter of basic prudence to have all hands continue, as much as possible, to carry out their familiar duties. Some selective replacements can be made later if needed, but nothing would be more disastrous than throwing the engine suddenly into reverse, or more certain to generate massive opposition than replacing the entire crew with sailors unfamiliar with the vessel.

That’s the theory, anyhow.

In foreign policy intelligence is irreplaceable. (Long live the retort to Bush’s “I had faulty intelligence” – “DNA is a bitch!”) Mr. Obama’s knowledge in this area is exceptional, indeed better than any American politician’s for hundreds of years, and also the source of the most intense opposition. Nevertheless, certain aspects of a red and angry boil, a swollen pustule on the verge of erupting, in an area unfamiliar to him, may not have been sufficiently considered.

Many countries have “tribal areas” which they leave severely alone, and some countries like Papua New Guinea are entirely composed of them. The largest tribal group on earth, some forty million in number, are the Pathans (Pashtuns) divided into roughly equal portions, twenty million on each side, by a line drawn by a nineteenth century British administrator in probably the toughest environment on earth, the mountains of the Hindu Kush. (See of February 2008, “Pathan.”)

The Pathans of Afghanistan have this in common with their fellow tribesmen living on the other side of the line in Pakistan, that most of them do not know about the line drawn by the British gentleman over a hundred years ago, and neither do they care. No Pakistani government has ever been able to do anything about them other than leave them severely alone, although it is true that the ISI, the Inter Services Intelligence agency, an “empire within an empire,” has successfully supported, indeed almost created, the Taliban movement. To the question whether the Musharraf government knew of the ISI involvement the reply was given “He is very careful not to know about it,” and that remains a necessary condition of any Pakistani government, no matter “How different, how very different, from the home life of our own dear queen” that situation may be.

This situation is not going to change no matter how many trillion dollars are borrowed and spent on the US military, nor is any war against them going to be successful.

Note: India has ignored for many years a UN resolution that a referendum should be held in Kashmir for the inhabitants to declare whether they wished to join India, join Pakistan, or perhaps opt for complete independence of both. India has always refused to hold this referendum for the very obvious reason that it has no chance of winning it; Kashmiris might vote for independence or union with Pakistan, but clearly they are highly unlikely to vote for joining India.

India is therefore justly hoist with its own petard. The suppurating pustule which is Kashmir is created by India’s refusal to hold a referendum. The Lashkar e Taiba (Army of the Righteous) from Kashmir which is apparently responsible for the attack on Mumbai is only one result of the increasing pressure; there are likely to be more. Similarly, the recent request by the Indian Defense Ministry to the United States to fast track its previous order of $375 million worth of cluster bombs is an ominous indicator of its possible intentions.

Next time the video turns up of the one captured terrorist, incidentally, take a look at his right wrist, with a red bracelet round it, definitely a Hindu, not a Moslem, habit. The nationalistic Hindutva movement is even more determined to cleanse India ethnically by any means necessary and make it a “pure” Hindu state than the Moslems of Kashmir are determined to get the Hindus out.

Seventy five per cent of supplies for US forces pass through the Hindu Kush and Napoleon’s dictum that an army marches on its stomach remains valid. The last time the Taliban tried to close the US supply route they only succeeded for a few hours. Their next attempt, as winter takes a grip, is likely to be longer.

Dec 2, 2008

Kenya Justice

Justice approaches in Kenya

Politicians who orchestrated last year's post-election violence fear they will end up in court at The Hague by Santuri Mwanga, Monday November 24 2008 15.32 GMT

When Kenya erupted into chaos after the 2007 presidential election, the country and some of its leaders were so consumed in the dynamics of the ugly tribal war that they never paused to think of the consequences.

Some were quoted in live news broadcasts threatening even more dire action. Others went on air on popular radio stations calling for the extermination of members of certain communities.
At the time, it looked like the whole country would spiral into a Rwanda-like situation – and therefore some leaders let down their guard and became full-blown jingoists.

They called for international mediation and played up to the foreign media gallery, insisting that the election dispute and the resultant clashes could only be solved by outside means.

And so the then United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, brokered a peaceful settlement resulting in a coalition government, in which the main protagonists of the bloody theatre, incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and his fierce rival for the presidency, Raila Odinga agreed to share power.

Annan also recommended, among other measures, the setting-up of a commission of inquiry into the post-election chaos. The president duly approved the step and at the time, politicians thought it was a good idea. But when its chairman, Justice Philip Waki, presented his findings on October 17 and implicated top politicians from both sides of the divide – the Orange Democratic Movement and the Party of National Unity, headed by Raila and Kibaki respectively – it dawned on them that things might not be as rosy as they expected.

The Waki report recommended that at least 10 suspects in the clashes be tried at a tribunal to bet set up within 60 days of the report being made public – failing which, a secret envelope, which was in the custody of Annan, would be handed over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Now, a fierce debate has erupted over whether the report should be implemented. For politicians have realised that those named in the report are not ordinary Kenyans. They are key figures in the coalition government.

Although no one knows for sure what the Annan envelope really contains, it is now public knowledge that it contains at least the name of the minister for agriculture, William Ruto – who is considered to be the man who rallied massive support for ODM – and the de facto leader of the Kalenjin community and the deputy prime minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is considered to be the most eminent leader of the Kikuyu community after Kibaki. It also contains the names of key allies of Kibaki and Odinga.

Raila, in whose name many people believe the skirmishes happened (they used to sing, "No Raila, no peace") has been supportive of the Waki report. But he has found himself running into a maelstrom of opposition from his ODM party, which dismisses the report as containing "incurable errors". Ruto himself has vociferously dismissed the report and corralled his supporters to do the same. The effect has been that ODM, once seen as a fearsome monolith, is now in danger of splitting.

Uhuru has acknowledged that his name may be on the secret envelope. But he has justified his alleged misdeeds. He has said that what he did was meant to help internally displaced persons, most of whom were from his Kikuyu community. Given a similar situation, he said last week, he would do the same.

The cabinet is said to be split down the middle over the report. Most feel that if it were to be implemented, it would sound the death knell for the eight-month old coalition. Others feel that to end the culture of impunity, those implicated in the report must be brought to book. And many Kenyans want it implemented to serve as a warning to future warmongers.

Early this week ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said that the ICC was ready to try the suspects if Kenya does not do so. It is slowly dawning on the politicians who oppose the report that whether the country sets up a tribunal or not, the international trial at The Hague will happen. It is giving them sleepless nights.

Dec 1, 2008

Let Detroit Go Bankrupt

Op-Ed Contributor, New York Times, 19 November, 2008
Let Detroit Go Bankrupt, By MITT ROMNEY, Boston

IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

I love cars, American cars. I was born in Detroit, the son of an auto chief executive. In 1954, my dad, George Romney, was tapped to run American Motors when its president suddenly died. The company itself was on life support — banks were threatening to deal it a death blow. The stock collapsed. I watched Dad work to turn the company around — and years later at business school, they were still talking about it. From the lessons of that turnaround, and from my own experiences, I have several prescriptions for Detroit’s automakers.

First, their huge disadvantage in costs relative to foreign brands must be eliminated. That means new labor agreements to align pay and benefits to match those of workers at competitors like BMW, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Furthermore, retiree benefits must be reduced so that the total burden per auto for domestic makers is not higher than that of foreign producers.
That extra burden is estimated to be more than $2,000 per car. Think what that means: Ford, for example, needs to cut $2,000 worth of features and quality out of its Taurus to compete with Toyota’s Avalon. Of course the Avalon feels like a better product — it has $2,000 more put into it. Considering this disadvantage, Detroit has done a remarkable job of designing and engineering its cars. But if this cost penalty persists, any bailout will only delay the inevitable.

Second, management as is must go. New faces should be recruited from unrelated industries — from companies widely respected for excellence in marketing, innovation, creativity and labor relations.

The new management must work with labor leaders to see that the enmity between labor and management comes to an end. This division is a holdover from the early years of the last century, when unions brought workers job security and better wages and benefits. But as Walter Reuther, the former head of the United Automobile Workers, said to my father, “Getting more and more pay for less and less work is a dead-end street.”

You don’t have to look far for industries with unions that went down that road. Companies in the 21st century cannot perpetuate the destructive labor relations of the 20th. This will mean a new direction for the U.A.W., profit sharing or stock grants to all employees and a change in Big Three management culture.

The need for collaboration will mean accepting sanity in salaries and perks. At American Motors, my dad cut his pay and that of his executive team, he bought stock in the company, and he went out to factories to talk to workers directly. Get rid of the planes, the executive dining rooms — all the symbols that breed resentment among the hundreds of thousands who will also be sacrificing to keep the companies afloat.

Investments must be made for the future. No more focus on quarterly earnings or the kind of short-term stock appreciation that means quick riches for executives with options. Manage with an eye on cash flow, balance sheets and long-term appreciation. Invest in truly competitive products and innovative technologies — especially fuel-saving designs — that may not arrive for years. Starving research and development is like eating the seed corn.

Just as important to the future of American carmakers is the sales force. When sales are down, you don’t want to lose the only people who can get them to grow. So don’t fire the best dealers, and don’t crush them with new financial or performance demands they can’t meet.

It is not wrong to ask for government help, but the automakers should come up with a win-win proposition. I believe the federal government should invest substantially more in basic research — on new energy sources, fuel-economy technology, materials science and the like — that will ultimately benefit the automotive industry, along with many others. I believe Washington should raise energy research spending to $20 billion a year, from the $4 billion that is spent today. The research could be done at universities, at research labs and even through public-private collaboration. The federal government should also rectify the imbedded tax penalties that favor foreign carmakers.

But don’t ask Washington to give shareholders and bondholders a free pass — they bet on management and they lost.

The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.

In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was a candidate for this year’s Republican presidential nomination.


Wahyusamputra recommends a small historical matter to your thoughtful attention:
In 1921 a severe financial crisis occurred in the USA. The government of the time did absolutely nothing to help any of the companies in trouble but left them to go bankrupt and disappear. Within less than a year the economy righted itself, new companies appeared that exploited the new situation, and you would now find it difficult to find even a mention of the episode in history books. By contrast, entire libraries describe the great depression of 1929. Huge multiple government programs failed to revive the economy until the entry into World War 2 did it for them.