Friday, February 28, 2003

A MUST READ

Charles Krauthammer does it again in this great piece:
France is not doing this to contain Iraq -- France spent the entire 1990s weakening sanctions and eviscerating the inspections regime as a way to end the containment of Iraq. France is doing this to contain the United States. As I wrote last week, France sees the opportunity to position itself as the leader of a bloc of former great powers challenging American supremacy.

That is a serious challenge. It requires a serious response. We need to demonstrate that there is a price to be paid for undermining the United States on a matter of supreme national interest.

First, as soon as the dust settles in Iraq, we should push for an expansion of the Security Council -- with India and Japan as new permanent members -- to dilute France's disproportionate and anachronistic influence.

Second, there should be no role for France in Iraq, either during the war, should France change its mind, or after it. No peacekeeping. No oil contracts. And France should be last in line for loan repayment, after Russia. Russia, after all, simply has opposed our policy. It did not try to mobilize the world against us.

Third, we should begin laying the foundation for a new alliance to replace the now obsolete Cold War alliances. Its nucleus should be the "coalition of the willing" now forming around us. No need to abolish NATO. The grotesque performance of France, Germany and Belgium in blocking aid to Turkey marks the end of NATO's useful life. Like the United Nations, it will simply wither of its own irrelevance.

Love it! Every word and every thought!
Haven't written anything in 2 days, been busy with some personal matters. Also, heavy workload has bugged me down. Will resume if not tonight, then on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

SADDAM'S STRATEGIES

Couple of days ago, I discussed some alternatives Saddam might have and/or exercise with respect to resolving the looming crisis. I mentioned that both exile option and voluntary disarmament option would not be Saddam's dominant strategies. I also talked about another matter--potential burning of oil fields in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This move would render most of oil dependant economies severely punished and could potentially wreak havoc on the third world economies.

Today, as I am looking at Saddam's inteview with CBS News, I see that the the options I discussed and concerns I voiced were, in fact, valid:

1. Saddam flatly refused to go in exile, saying that "we [read:himself] will die in this country and we maintain our honor".
2. He also rejected (but it was mentioned!) a possibility of burning the oil fields: "Iraq does not burn its wealth and it does not destroy its dams."

Based on the aforementioned it's apparent Saddam is anything, but dumb. According to pure "game theory", he is rightly pursuing the dominant strategy. He purposefully limits his alternatives, which is a classic strategic move, a la Stalin's "Scorched Earth" , where the latter ordered everything on the path of Nazis to be destroyed, rather than fall into Hitler's spoils. As Saddam's options diminish and he is presumably backed against the wall, his dominant strategy gets reinforced by timely and effective mix of:

Threats:
- that a great deal of American soldiers will die (implying use of non-conventional weapons by Iraq)
- that Arab Street will rise against Americans and Westerners, etc.

Promises:
- that he will ot destroy the oil fields (although he puts the thought of it out)
- acknowledging that his arsenal includes long range missiles (but denying they breach UN inspectors' claim of being >150km--with only 98km being a UNSC set limit)
- aluding to the fact he IS working on the alternative peacefull disarmament with Russia

Both methods pursue the same goal and differ only in that one is former a negative reinforcement threat and latter-- a positive one. Accordinly, a threat must be credible. Judging by Saddam's resilient defiance of UNSC resolutions for 12 years and his military and negotiating acumen developed by years of being a terrorist and a wartime President, I do not hesitate to acknowledge his credibility. No matter what happens, so far Saddam is playing his cards correctly.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

HOMEWORK

Sean-Paul from The Agonist had a very good post on America's alleged growing unilateralism. It'll be my homework to understand the issues better.

Will report soon.
Not sure what the future brings? Keep buying houses?!

This seems to be the message received from today’s economic releases (see previous post "Today's economic releases"). For better or worse it was a mixed bag: lower confidence and higher home sales? Ironically, the underlying logic is inline with how consumers evaluate their wealth. Since most of the consumers treat their houses as personal piggy banks, in time of declining asset prices and economic sluggishness, homes are perceived as better investments. But is it true? Yes and No.

On average, stocks have outperformed all other investment vehicles available to investors, including housing. Therefore, the stock prices would have a greater wealth effect impact, than housing. That’s a “no”. However, over short periods of economic contraction, houses will outperform. That’s a “yes”, but here’s a curveball:

Do you buy a house live in? or as purely speculative transaction?

According to The Economist research of housing prices for 1980-2001 (via The Motley Fool):
The results were that U.S. residential real estate from 1980-2001 returned a nominal 158% and a real (inflation-adjusted) 20%. That's a nominal compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.11% and real of -- gulp! -- 0.87%. Let's line this up with the S&P 500 over the same period:
1980-2001 Housing S&P 500 (w/o div.)
Total return 185.00% 961.40%
CAGR 5.11% 11.09%

These averages strongly suggest that investors would have been far better off investing in stocks than housing for the last 21 years, and that's not even allowing that we buy houses sort of "on margin" -- paying huge amounts of interest on loans for years.

I guess this is something to chew on, while digesting the numbers (no pun intended).
TODAY'S ECONOMIC RELEASES

Consumer Confidence: 64 (vs. 76.5 expected)
Conference Board index plunged in February to 64 points. All index components were worse off. The index produced lowest numbers since late 1993. Forward expectations are grim as well.
Economists are saying that the low levels of confidence usually correspond to “zero consumption” growth. However, “buying” indications haven’t been affected as much, especially in housing (see below).

Existing Home Sales: 6.09mm (vs. 5.80mm expected)
Strong housing numbers today showed that current interest rates environment and low mortgage rates still offer lucrative deals to homebuyers. An impressive 3% increase from last month (which was slightly revised down) sets yet another record in home sales America-wide, with a small exception in Midwest.

The strength of housing market has continues for a third moth, which in my book constitutes a trend. Even though this trend shows real vigor of the market, it’s unlikely to be sustained over longer period of time. The following factors, in my opinion, will weight high on the housing market:
Declining confidence: job losses, evaporating pensions, increased deficit
Geopolitical concerns: Iraq, North Korea and Atlantic Alliance rift
Rising energy prices: oil and gas
Declining asset wealth: due to tumbling stock markets
Economic recovery: higher rates to put pressure on home prices

(more analysis to follow)

Monday, February 24, 2003

HUSSEIN VS. BUSH: CELEBRITY DEATHMATCH

From the newswire:
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has challenged President George W. Bush to a live international television and radio debate about the possibility of looming military action, CBS News reported on its Web Site Monday. Saddam made the comments in an interview with CBS's Dan Rather. Saddam also flatly denied that Iraq's al-Samoud missiles are in violation of U.N. mandates and indicated he doesn't intend to destroy them or pledge to destroy them as demanded by chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, CBS News reported.

I see few problems with this statement, which might stem from translation:

1. Why would Saddam want to debate a possibility (vs. necessity of military action with a person who threatens to carry that action out? Is it a dare?
2. Saddam has just flatly defied UNSC Chief Inspector and declared his refusal to disarm! Now what?

UPDATE: Ari Fleischer answers my questions:
1. " This is not about a debate. This is about disarmament and complying with the world's instructions that Iraq disarm."
2. " [Saddam] is not facing reality on the issue of the al-Samoud missiles, why would his other statements have credibility? "
ANOTHER ARGUMENT FOR IRAQ INVASION

Okay, so here we have yet another argument for invading Iraq, this time dressed up to address the secular global economic downturn we're in. The article in TimeOnline, written by Nicholas Boles argues that if we don't invade Iraq, Saddam might hit the oil fields of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia:
Iraq is in a unique position to threaten the world’s access to oil. At present, Saudi Arabia accounts for 15 per cent of global oil production and Iraq and Kuwait together account for 7 per cent. Virtually all the Saudi oilfields (and the whole of Kuwait) are within the range of Iraq’s missiles. A single well-aimed nuclear warhead could wipe out 75-95 per cent of all Saudi oil production. So, up to 22 per cent of global oil supplies would be under direct threat if President Saddam Hussein acquired the nuclear weapons he spent most of the 1980s trying to build.

This in turn, as argued by Mr. Boles, will set a chain of horrific events, largely exterminating Third World Countries, bringing OECD members to the brink of economic destruction, etc. All of this is predicated on the notion that the price of oil will get and stay very high, and countries dependant on fossil fuel will suffer mercilessly.

Now, this logic is both true and fallacious at the same time. It's true, because if Saddam get s his hands on nuclear weapons or is not disarmed from his existing arsenal, it's only a matter of time before he makes a credible threat to his neighbors. At thispoint, of course, he will be able to deter the West (much like the North Korean debacle) and will control the economic well-being of all oil dependant states. It's fallacious, since the imminency of Saddam's threat is more long-term, rather than a short-term (whle he is under so much scrutiny, he won't be able to lift a finger without setting off an alarm). This means, that having present, but not carried out threat of war currently is damaging global economy more than Saddam could have in the same timeframe, e.g. the prices of oil are at decade highest, they are substantially higher than pre- and post- Gulf War. This, coupled with tugh existing economic conditions, shrinking output worldwide and rising prices (driven by higher energy costs) is making the 1970s stagflation so ever more likely.

I guess the slogan "Blood for Oil" is a double-edge sword. What do YOU think?
LIGHT BLOGGING TODAY...

...due to heavy workload. Will post few times during the day, though. Consider this an open thread: what would you like to see me write about?

Sunday, February 23, 2003

THE DAY OF THE DEFENDER

Historically, in USSR, February 23rd was holiday--The Day of the Soviet Red Army and Naval Fleet. Nowadays, it's still a holiday, but it's called The Day of the Fatherland's Defender.

When I was in school this used to be an equivalent of Valentine's...Girls would give presents to guys they liked, made us feel good and proud and grown up. Then, on March 8th, on International Woman's Day, we would reciprocate and girls would feel like ladies. It was nice and innocent...until I came of age and learnt which end was up in the Soviet Union. Romance lost its power and I NEVER referred to this day as a holiday for almost two decades.

Now, however, after having lived in the States for 12 years, I lost all my teenage inhibitions and pent up anger at the Soviets (I think). Since it's the day of the motherland defender, I am going to pretend the meaning transcends the borders, idelologies and causes.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend greetings to all American troops stationed in the Middle East, ready to face the evil in the name of MY personal security.

God bless and be safe!

Saturday, February 22, 2003

SOCIALIST MEME

Arrest of USF Professor Sami Al-Arian on the charges of operating a global terrorist organization, Islamic Jihad, unleashed a fury of slander from International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). Now, for those of you who might wonder what ICFI is—go visit the site they operate: WSWS (World Socialist Web Site). I shudder every time I load the site, but the language they use alone is worth the time to comb through this propaganda. But I digress.

While the arrest is made on 50-count indictment, alleging that
” He [Al-Arian] and seven other men…[were] operating a criminal racketeering enterprise since 1984 that supported Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They are also charged with conspiracy to kill and maim people abroad; conspiracy to provide material support to the group; extortion; perjury; mail and wire fraud; obstruction of justice; and attempt to procure citizenship or naturalization unlawfully to help terrorists.”

the Editorial Board of WSWS thinks that
”The indictment and arrest February 20 of University of South Florida (USF) Professor Sami Amin Al-Arian and three other men on terrorist conspiracy charges is an outrageous attempt to railroad individuals to prison because of their political opposition to the murderous policies of the Israeli government and Washington’s complicity in the repression of the Palestinian people. ”

The article rambles on an on, so you’ll just have to read it to understand why I “shudder” at the sheer language.
IRAQ DISARMED: WHEN? HOW? WHO?

Sean-Paul over at The Agonist has incisively listed 6 normative considerations for jus ad bellum, i.e. principles that govern decision on whether to go to war.

I am fairly confident even if one has read, understood and answered items 1 through 4, #5 would be a bit trickier to digest. I know it was for me…Have we, as a country or the world, exhausted all peaceful measures to disarm Saddam? Is it time to finally give up on idealistic notion that a regional dictator of Saddam’s caliber would give up his power and ideology just because his position of power is threatened?

To get through this hurdle, perhaps it’s worth considering this: how much value does a mass murderer inflicting genocide on his neighbors and constituents, a veteran terrorist and an experienced WMD propagator assign to his life or the lives of his people? (See above for a hint).

Still a big debatable, a tad ambiguous? One other way to approach it is to assume Saddam is a rational actor, someone who will go after the winning strategy. The choices are scarce:

1. Exile
2. Voluntary disarmament
3. Involuntary disarmament

Let’s review them closer:

Exile—weak, losing strategy: Where do you go if you’re a power hungry, 35- year dictatorial rule veteran? And what do you do there? What sort of legacy do you leave behind?

Clearly, Saddam has neither a will to go into exile nor any plausible strategy to do it successfully (after all, he doesn’t get a “no assassination” guarantee from either his enemies or the “host country”, which after all has to harbor Hussein!)

Voluntary disarmament—weak, losing strategy: In this case “voluntary” disarmament bears the same consequences as “involuntary”, but doesn’t allow to inflict pain on Saddam’s enemy-Western coalition forces: Saddam loses power, gets removed from office, possibly tried as war criminal in ICC tribunal, etc. All of downside of losing a war, with none of upside in seeing enemy painted “red”? Unlikely.

Clearly, Saddam has no incentive “to disarm”. Also, disarming will effectively show that he successfully defied UNSC resolutions and avoided inspections for 12 years.

While Iraq has no clear deadline to disarm, the fine line between “disarm” and “be disarmed” is going to get increasingly more blurred.

Involuntary disarmament
In Saddam’s twisted mind, this is “double or nothing” strategy. It’s also the strongest one he’s got: he knows it’s inevitable that he will lose power, but at least he’ll go down as a “hero”, a victim of “imperialistic aggression”, a martyr and example to all red revolutionaries to come, etc. etc. etc.

He also knows that he can inflict some damage on western powers coalition, both militarily and economically. Maybe he’s even banking on longer- term ideological damage, since he can capitalize on the current “anti-war” sentiment, which is already causing a rift in alliance.


So as we now think we know what Saddam will do, how do we act? As responsible actors, ethical entities and simply selfish egoists—couldn’t we just give Saddam a CLEAR, SHORT deadline and then act decisively? Most likely it’ll be the same old story, but maybe not. In either case, we’ll get enough proof to rationalize our actions. So here’s without further ado:
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 21 -- The chief U.N. weapons inspector ordered Iraq today to begin destroying its Al Samoud 2 missiles and associated equipment by March 1, setting up a major test of whether Iraqi President Saddam Hussein intends to disarm or face a war for openly defying a U.N. order.

As the events unfold within the next two weeks or so, with another resolution draft on the table before UNSC and the latter’s recent (remains to be seen) determination to put an end to this “cat and mouse” chase, hopefully that item #5 will seize being a moral hurdle for the hawks, chicken hawks, fence sitters, and doves, because #6--Reasonable hopes of success—is sure as hell a “no-brainer”.

Update: Read this post by Matthew Yglesias, where he cites Le Monde's article related to the WaPo's piece I quoted above. It shows how critical it is to read between lines.

Friday, February 21, 2003

"..volunteering as a shield seemed to speed the visa process."

Link via NYTimes. Ridiculous!
HOLY SMOKES...in NYC


Breaking News: (via REUTERS)

A propane barge exploded off New York's Staten Island on Friday, fire officials said. The explosion in the waterway known as Arthur Kill between Staten Island and New Jersey sent plumes of black smoke and flames into the sky.

I can see the smokes from the window of my apartment...more on it as the news develops.

UPDATE: As I am looking at the thick, black smoke rising up about a 1,000 feet in the air and slowly drifting to the east, towards Long Island/Queens, I can't help but feel a sudden deja-vu. This nagging feeling creeps up on me and I realize that I've seen this before...9/11. Despite the fact these two events are totally discrete and opposite in nature, I get a flashback to the time when I was standing in awe and disbelief, watching the twin towers imploding mere 10 blocks away. The sounds of sirens outside and honking cars definitely resemble the environment of 2 years ago; phones are out and I can't reach my girlfriend's family (they live in Staten Island)...very creepy.

I will report later, as I think environmental concerns will take precedent pretty soon, as the air and water contamination will be important to watch.

UPDATE 2:This picture (link via The Agonist) could quite possiblY surpass its irony and become a truism, as the imminent war preparations, Venezuela strike, Nigerian uncertainties, and now the blast at the major NYC oil refinery propelled oil prices upward by a dollar. This comes (as if there's any good time for a tragedy like that) in the worst possible times. My heart goes out to the brave NYC firefighters, who have to endure the burden the most. My main concern is the air and water quality in New York is, however. First it was 9/11 and now this...really very, very sad. I am not even going to get on the "city budget" rant now...


Note: The explostion has just been confirmed to have happened on the Mobil barge, whch contained about a 100,000 of unleaded gasoline...

Thursday, February 20, 2003

HITCHENS ON ANTI-WAR PROTESTS

I wrote about anti-war "peace" rallies before here and here. I expressed my views that the protesters were largely manipulated by pseudo-Communist, pro-Socialist elements which organized the protests. The organizers seemed to push their own propaganda and anti-American sentiment under the pretext of anti-imperialistic, anti-war rallies.

But don't have to take my word for it-- read this article from The Mirror by Christopher Hitchens, I wanted it to rain on their parade. Here's an excerpt:
There are not enough words in any idiom to describe the shame and the disgrace of this.

I went to the last such "peace" demonstration in Hyde Park last autumn and found it was pretty easy to distinguish between the two main tendencies.

These were:

(1) Those who knew what they were doing and

(2) Those who did not.

Among the first tendency - the animating and organising force - were an easily-recognisable bunch of clapped-out pseudo-Marxists who, deep in their hearts, have a nostalgia for the days of the one-party State and who secretly regard Saddam as an anti-imperialist.

They were assisted by an impressive number of fundamentalist Muslims, who mouth the gibberish slogans of holy war but who don't give a damn for the suffering inflicted by Saddam on their co-religionists.

A more gruesome political alliance I have never seen.

Then came the sincere, fuddled stage-army of the good - people who think that a remark such as "peace is better than war" is an argument in itself. Their latest cry is that "inspections" should be given "more time". I am always impressed by sweet people who are evidence-proof.

Now, run this against my posts and you will see that one doesn't have to be a journalist to "see" the dubious nature of these events.
CAN YOU SAY: STAGFLATION (Part II) with a little POLITICKING

In my economic update from last week, I expressed concerns about Industrial Production numbers, as they indicated arguably unsustainable growth. I was alerted by the release and wrote that it might be “flagging” something not so good. Sure enough, the first batch of freshly squeezed econojuice in the morning today was bitter. On to the second installment…

N.B. I noted in my earlier post that 4Q’02 GDP could get a significant revision because of the data, but the economists predict that ue to upward revisions to consumer spending, inventories and construction it might not be that bad. …We’ll see.

Philly Fed 2.3
Wow! Talking about a smack in the face…markets expected the diffusion index to come in around 10-11 barely a quarter, at best.
Every component in the survey has decreased: new orders, shipments, delivery times, and inventories…everything went down. Except, of course, prices paid. So, what does it mean? Slimmer profit margins and still weak demand-that’s’ what! Apparently, businesses are either stalling or are really unsure about the future of our economy. The survey this month included some special questions about geopolitical uncertainties and respondents signaled that 40% adverse impact on hiring, etc. is directly affected by the aforementioned concerns.

Oil & Gas Inventories
A very supportive for oil prices report:
• oil inventories are down
• refinery utilization is up

Report proved to be a strong “bid” for oil prices and it propelled crude above $37. Additional factors that weigh in significantly are, of course: Venezuela (the strike continues, arrests are made, output is nowhere near pre-strike levels, inventories are 50mm barrels below 1 year ago), Nigeria (oil cargo monitoring personnel walked out and some work stoppage was reported, but unclear what the impact is, if any), and Iraq.

Politicking
The war is most likely to start in mid-March. Here’s why:

• Bush is trying to work another UNSC resolution
• US is pulling in more troops to the region
• Climate for troops: the best weather is in March, circa 70 degrees
• Oil futures exhibit complete “backwardation” *

* Each preceding month’s futures contract is more expensive than the following month.
MEMO ON THE MARGIN

According to CBSNews, a patriotic North Carolina restaurateur, owner of Cubbie's, does not serve "french fries". Instead, her serves-- "freedom fries". Here's a lowdown:
BEAUFORT, N.C. — You can get fries with your burger at a restaurant here, but just don't ask for french fries.
Neal Rowland, the owner of Cubbie's, now only sells his fried potato strips as "freedom fries" — a decision that comes as Americans watch French officials back away from support for possible war in Iraq.

"Because of Cubbie's support for our troops, we no longer serve french fries. We now serve freedom fries," says a sign in the restaurant's window.

Rowland said his intent is not to slight the French people, but to take a patriotic stance to show his support for the United States and the actions of President Bush.

"It's our way of showing our patriotic pride," he said, noting that his business has a lot of local military troops as customers.

Rowland said the switch from french fries to freedom fries came to mind after a conversation about World War I when anti-German sentiment prompted Americans to rename German foods like sauerkraut and frankfurter to liberty cabbage and hot dog.

I dont know about you, but I have just learned two things from this:

1. As we load up on "freedom" fries, it's helpful to note that according to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 68% of Americans are overweight and/or obese. So, maybe afterall, there is such thing as "too much" freedom?
2. After 12 years of living in the US, I finally learnt the origins of the word "hot dog".
CHIRAC SPEAKS AGAIN

Is Jacques Chirac insane? Highly unlikely! Does he make any sense? Absolutely not!

In his interview with Time Magazine Paris bureau, French President Chirac once again showed his utter ignorance and complete denial about Iraq disarmament and the irrelevant role UNSC plays in it.
It's up to the inspectors to decide [ed. what would justify war]. We gave them our confidence. They were given a mission, and we trust them. If we have to give them greater means, we'll do so. It's up to them to come before the Security Council and say, "We won. It's over. There are no more weapons of mass destruction," or "It's impossible for us to fulfill our mission. We're coming up against Iraqi ill will and impediments."

“We won”??? I think that Chirac is under illusion he is fighting the war with Hussein already by himself, through UN inspectors. And as to the second part of his gobbledygook- maybe something is getting lost in the translation into French at the UNSC or, maybe, 12 years of inspections is merely a siesta for the ill-fated French hypocrite, so can anyone please tell him that:

1. It HAS been impossible for inspectors to fulfill their mission
2. They DID come up against Iraqi “ill will and impediment”

For Christ sake, man, wake the hell up!?!?

Undoubtedly, Chirac is losing it, as is evident from the following statement:
…if Saddam Hussein would only vanish, it would without a doubt be the biggest favor he could do for his people and for the world.

Vanish??? I think Jacques’s been eating too much of them french fries, I see…Sure, Saddam, an all around nice and understanding guy, would like to do the world a favor. In fact, I am sure he’s packing as I’m writing this little rant.

In any case, what else would you expect from the French leader, other than a dose of Chiracrisy
CAN YOU SAY: STAGFLATION (Part I)

Today is not going to be an easy day to digest for the markets. We have the flurry of economic data coming out and the first batch isn’t looking too good. Slower growth and higher prices spell “cite>stagflation:

Trade Gap - $44.2bn
December trade widened in the worst possible way, with imports rising $2.1bn and exports falling $2.1bn. What does it mean? Well, maybe our economy is growing a tad faster than our trade partners. Is it good? Not really, because gap widening suggests a probable downward revision to Q4’02 GDP.
Big portion of imports gains can be attributed to volatile and extremely high energy, namely oil and gas, prices. An interesting, but economically significant detail: US’ exports to France have dropped.

PPI
Producer prices surged in January a more than expected 1.6%. Much of it, of course, is energy driven, as oil prices are at their highest levels in a decade. But even ex-food/energy prices increase of 0.9% was beyond expectations.

Jobless Claims 402,000 (up 21,000)
Since this is a weekly number and volatile at that, a spike in nation’s unemployment might be largely written-off to “weather” and “holiday” factors. The number is largely an estimate, so some numbers are forecasted.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

THE AGONIST: THOUGHTFUL, GLOBAL, TIMELY

As always, Sean-Paul delivers. A great analysis of Chirac-Hussein relationship.
BREAKING NEWS FROM THE WIRE: PLANE CARRYING 250PPL CRASHES IN SOUTHERN IRAN

...more to follow.

UPDATE: All 270 passengers are presumed to be dead, as the Russian-made Antonov crashed today in Iran. Most of the passengers were Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Iranian hard-liner elite crew, "the defenders of Islamic regime in Iraq". They were allegedly on a very important secret mission...Their most recent "very important secret mission" was renewing fatwa on Salman Rushdie last week (see my post here).
IRAQ: POST-WAR MANAGEMENT

Today’s Opinion Journal featured an article Iraq for the Iraqis by Ahmad Chalabi, leader of Iraqi National Congress (INC). In it, Mr. Chalabi argues that even though Iraqi people, government opposition in particular, are praying for US led “deliverance” from oppression, ”proposed U.S. occupation and military administration of Iraq is unworkable and unwise.” The concerns voiced by Chalabi are:

• loss of essential decision making power to occupying powers;
• loss of sovereignty due to transition of power to unqualified US personnel;
• residual authority for current Saddam’s bureaucrats;

Mr. Chalabi also warned of potential rift in the US-Iraq relationship, should military administration be pursued and concluded his op-ed with the following statement:
” The truth is, there is more to the liberation of Iraq than battlefield victory or the removal of Saddam and his top-tier cadre of torturers. The transition to democracy--the task of exorcising Saddam's ghosts from the Iraqi psyche and society--can only be achieved through self-empowerment and a full return of sovereignty to the people. This is our job, not that of a foreign officer. We are a proud nation, not a vanquished one. We are allies of the U.S. and we welcome Americans as liberators. But we must be full participants in the process of administering our country and shaping its future.”


Analysis
The arguments presented by Mr. Chalabi are consistent with his rhetoric from last December, when he advanced his candidacy to head up the post-liberation government. However, this structure of “government in exile” isn’t effective and was largely dismissed by American administration. The dismissal, however, is not a reflection on capabilities of any government opposition organizations, but simply a logical, rational approach to post-dictatorship country management.

Iraq has been mismanaged for 35 years, ever since the Baathist control of the country. Iraq’s resources have been depleted to serve military expansionist ambitions of Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s commercial and industrial infrastructures- neglected and destroyed. In order to ensure successful democratic future, these infrastructures (governmental, industrial and commercial) must be rebuilt. This is no easy task, as secure and stable interim government must be in place beforehand. Country must be stabilized. That is why an interim military administration have to be implemented.

Conclusion
The following three stages of post-war Iraq management are being discussed (from Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Washington, DC February 11, 2003):

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Stabilization, where an interim Coalition military administration will focus on security, stability and order; laying the groundwork for stage 2.
2. Transition, where authority is progressively given to Iraqi institutions as part of the development of a democratic Iraq.
3. Transformation, after Iraqis have drafted, debated and approved a new, democratic constitution and held free and fair elections, the only way for any future Iraqi government to be truly legitimate.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There is also great work by the Council on Foreign Relations, titled Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq, where long-term vision of post-Saddam Iraq is outlined.

A common vision that threads through all of the aforementioned documents and speeches is a vision that shows there’s a great deal of consideration given to empowering Iraqis to establish a free, democratic, self-governed, prosperous, independent nation.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

SOME COMMENTS FROM THE PEANUT GALLERY

Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize winner, former President and currently a joke of a politician was interviewed by The Mirror, a self-proclaimed "Britain's brightest tabloid newspaper." Jimmy said:
"We want Saddam Hussein to disarm but we want to achieve this through peaceful means."

I just love when people use an action verb "disarm" with something as vague and ambigous as "peaceful means" in the same sentence. Let's see now:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
dis·arm--
• To divest of a weapon or weapons.
• To deprive of the means of attack or defense; render harmless.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, which part of the aforementioned definition would entail peaceful means? Why isn't this sort of obscure statement ever backed up by tangible suggestions on how to peacefully divest and deprive Saddam from his weapons? Oh wait, I know: We can always step up the embargo and strengthen the economic blockade. That ought to teach Saddam a lesson, as well as increase their GDP per capita (less people with same output).
But the following pearl of wisdom is truly worthy of this Idiotarian Supreme and takes the cake. Carter said this about Saddam:
"He obviously has the capability and desire to build prohibited weapons and probably has some hidden in his country."

And so our "hero for doveish Democrats, frequently denouncing wars and conflict whenever they flare"admitted not only that it is obvious Hussein has the desire and capability to proliferate, but Carter also acknowledged Hussein's non-compliance with UNSC resolutions 660, 661,...& 1441. The statement also gives an answer to anyone who is still questioning whether a substantial case for military attack was made by US administration, doesn't it?

Come to think of it-- I am starting to like Jimmy Carter. I'd like to see him speak more often defending "doves" case against war. It makes Rumsfeld's and Powell's jobs so much easier. By the way, the article is a "must read".
CHIRACRISY

Yesterday, at the emergency EU summit in Brussels, French President Jackques Chirac showed his true colors (mainly yellow) by blasting the new candidates for EU membership for their support of US. In what appeared to be the most un-diplomatic "father-like" rude scolding, Chirac chided their behavior as "childish" and said:
"It is not really responsible behavior. It is not well brought-up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet...[]..If they wanted to diminish their chances of joining Europe they could not have found a better way."

Even though President Chirac reminded Bulgaria and Romania that their position is "especially delicate", since their sluggish economies deferred EU entry until 2007, his blackmail effort proved to be futile. What's interesting is that France would use such political doublestandard, while its' kicking and screaming that America is "bullying" everyone both politically and economically. It seems, however, French government has no problems with using political and economical blackmail to weaker east-european countries.

It must have come as total shock to Chirac (to elicit aforementioned statements) that his Machiavellian ploy to gain more international power was impotent. Moreover, when he realized he couldn't put a chokehold Bulgaria & Co. it signaled that France's regional powers are diminishing as well. There was one phrase Chirac used, in particular, that I think illustrates France's mentality and approach to politics very well:
" When you're in the family you have more rights than when you're knocking on the door."

I guess it's getting dark and cold in the EU. I just wish I could ask one question of French President Chirac (a 2003 Nobel Peace Price nominee): In the family of a wider International Comminity, guess who appears to be standing outside, looking in?
SOUTH KOREA SUBWAY TRAGEDY

134 people killed and over 100 missing in the subway explosion of a souterhn Korean city Taegu. A madman is said to start a blaze, by throing what appeared to be an ignited cartoon of mikl into the subway carriage. Innocent and simple enough, but here's the impact:
'If you ignite a flammable liquid like gasoline inside a closed space, what you'll get is something very close to an explosion,'' he said.''There would have been hardly any time to escape.''

I live in NYC. If any of you have ever been up here and taken a tube, you know it's a scary thought to even imagine how easy it would have been to do something like that here...God forbid!

Monday, February 17, 2003

VIVA LA RESISTANCE?

As if in unison, French President Jacques Chirac delivered a statement similar to the one we have heard from Villepin few weeks back, that "would oppose any effort to draft a new U.N. resolution to explicitly authorize war against Iraq at this time." Germany's Fischer, however, reiterated that germany will not stnd in the way of EU and will not rule out military action, although it would have to be a measure of last resort.

I am preparing a larger piece on European politics, so stay tuined...
TOPSY TURVY WORLD OF POLITICS

In her recent inteview with Meet the Press this Sunday, Condoleezza Rice aluded to the fact that even though it is not necessary, another UNSC resolution could be sought, prior to any military action in Iraq. Ms. Rice, therefore, has softened administration's rhetoric on complete and utter irrelevance of UN, a rhetoric mostly asserted by SOD Donald Rumsfeld.

Colin Powell also ensured that his comments last Friday contained a more respectful reference to UNSC. Secretary of State reaffirmed the administration's intent to work closely and consult with the Council regarding a "second resolution" regarding Iraq, should the latter be recalcitrant.

...And Villepin said he wouldn't rule out the use of military force and also kinda, sorta agrees Iraq is in breach...
The Boston Globe:

Study shows US blacks trailing
Immigrants from Africa, Caribbean found to fare better



Despite being new to the country, black immigrants have significantly higher household incomes and a lower unemployment rate than US-born blacks, according to a new study likely to intensify debate about the nature of racial discrimination in the United States.

The study, done at the State University of New York at Albany, finds that the median household income for immigrants from Africa and the West Indies in 2000 was about $7,000 higher than that of African-Americans, whose median household income is $33,500 - one of the lowest of any ethnic group in the United States.


NATO ALIGNS OVER TURKEY

After a long toilsome month, NATO allies have finally reached an agreement to send defensive military aid to Turkey.

Alliance solidarity has prevailed," Lord Robertson said on Sunday. "We have been able collectively to overcome the impasse."

France, who distanced itself from NATO military structure in the 60s was not part of the decision making body. With France out of the way, 18 other allies on the defense planning committee were unanimous, including Germany and Belgium. Agreement language was carefully drafted to acknowledge the necessity of diplomatic measures to resolve current showdown in Iraq and reaffirming that Turkey's plea is satisfied as purely defensive mechanism, in case the war with its southern neighbor breaks out.

The emphasis on working with NATO's more judicial peacekeeping sibling--UN--was strategically made in light of today's EU emergency summit with Kofi Annan in Brussels. Mr. Annan was quotes saying that "the inspection will not go indefinitely", however failing to provide a solid timeline. UNSC, inept of enforcing its own decisions, has acknowledged that it might have to pass yet another resolution, if/when Iraq is proved to be in material breach of Security Council's 17th resolution (1441). I wouldn't have any high hopes for Council's resolve, since ambiguity and vagueness in the language will prevail, much like in 1441. For example, 1441 neither endorses/authorises the use use of force (if Iraq is ddemed to be in material breach) nor rules it out. UNSC's commitment to disarm Iraq does not really go beyond demagogical discussions. Condoleezza Rice, in her interview with Meet the Press yesterday, have summarized this attitute quite eloquently:
"Any time you have a situation in which you are calling for more time rather than calling for Iraq to immediately comply" with U.N. disarmament resolutions, Rice said, "it plays into the hands" of Hussein...[] We need to remind everybody that tyrants don't respond to any kind of appeasement," she said. "Tyrants respond to toughness. And that was true in the 1930s and 1940s when we failed to respond to tyranny and it is true today."

Ms. Rice has reaffirmed US' intent to keep intense pressure on Saddam to disarm and mentioned that he has "weeks, not months" to do so.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

FRENCH FRIES


" In France up to 400,000 people, many carrying posters denouncing US President Bush as a "warmonger" and chanting anti-American slogans, marched through Paris and 50 other cities. Gerald Lenoir, 41, of Berkley, California, said he came to Paris, where 100,000 marched, specifically to demonstrate alongside the French. "I am here to protest my government's aggression against Iraq," he said. "Iraq does not pose a security threat to the States and there are no links with al-Qa'ida."

Above citation is what one could almost exclusively see, had one read numerous recounts of anti-war protests taking place in Europe. However, the real nature of their protest is just...well, I am not sure if there is one. As you can clearly see in the photo (via Alisa), which is just a sample of what could be seen at those sharades parades, it's all the same bullshit propaganda fueled by a pro-PaleoNazi, anti-semitic european sentiment. The protests reek of the same hypocrisy, avoidance and blame shifting as the Syria's speech past friday at the UNSC, where they used Iraqi disarmament conference to push their own agenda of their beef with Israel...disquisting. France also has become so entrenched in her interfaith politicking and so engrossed in her pro-muslim stance due to depenedancy on middle eastern oil, that it has forgotten what's best for her.

If French are such humanitarians, then why don't they look at their African backyard (Ivory Coast), where they allow for slaughter of thousands and misplacement of hundeds of thousands? Standing knee deep in merde and watching...that's a new policy for France- a policy of benign neglect. After the ill brokered by French peace deal, Ivory Coast is in shambles. The ex-colonial power troops are standing on sidelines, as their number one priority is evacutation of some 15,000 French nationals, while the onslaught is slowly brewing. Although having promised to support the democratically elected President Laurent Gbagbo, France has backed down in the face of rebelling northern Ivory Coast muslims...see the pattern? But not Iraq, though! France takes a stance on IraqI It takes stance so arrogant, that it's risking the rift with all it's NATO, UN, and EU friends and allies...

Unquestionably, France is willing to defend it's positions, even though it's foregoing it's best interests, because:

• it's protecting it's own ass from a potential civil unrest from its large muslim minority it cannot control;
• it's diverting International Community's attention from the atrocities it is indirectly permitting in their own backyard;
• of it's rudimentary belief that it can till counterweight US in the matters of world affairs;

France's positions is clear! It is just as clear that it cannot be trusted. It is just as clear that the Old Europe label sticks! Wake up and smell the french fries!
God bless the Italians.

Reuters
Rome Mayor Snubs Aziz After Anti-Israel Comment

"I'm writing to inform you that I find myself obliged to cancel our meeting," Veltroni wrote, according to a copy of the letter sent to Reuters.

"The reason is because of your refusal to answer a question posed to you by an Israeli journalist at a news conference held at the Foreign Press Association (on Friday)," it continued.

"Rome, Mr. deputy prime minister, has always had absolute respect for dialogue and the civil exchange of ideas, not to mention, obviously, freedom of opinion and free access to information," the center-left mayor wrote.

"I cannot accept that a public figure like yourself, the representative of another country, can set a veto and discriminate against someone, denying them the right to express themselves, no matter what position they may represent."
NO BULL-GARIA

France, in it’s bid to create opposition to America and latter’s allies, is using political blackmail against other European countries which expressed their support for US. This just in from Telegraph:
”…Bulgaria has vowed to resist French attempts to bully it into withdrawing support for America's plans to disarm Iraq. Last week the French ambassador to Sofia warned Bulgaria that its pro-American stance could jeopardize its efforts to join the European Union.

"Bulgaria has to consider carefully where its long-term interests lie," Jean Loup Kuhn-Delforge said last week. "When people live in Europe they should express solidarity and think European-style.”

Well, isn’t it a great use of “sticks” and “carrots”? I just have one question: What exactly is “European-style” thinking? That wouldn’t, by any chance, be “a short memory cowardly appeasement” style?

I cannot believe that French can be so dumb, as to still act only when they feel a blade to their throats. Hasn’t history taught them anything at all? Nevertheless, it’s great to see that not all European countries are in denial of what’s really happening here:
”Solomon Pasi, Bulgaria's foreign minister, condemned the French as neo-appeasers. "We all remember the hesitancy of the Allies, who weren't sure whether to attack Hitler. They could have prevented so much," he said.
"We're in a situation where we have a moral imperative to act and act now.”

Saturday, February 15, 2003



Silly lefties:







On a more serious note. Check these pics out!

Washington Post

Anti-War Protesters Hold Global Rallies

Over 2 Million Gather in Cities Around the World to Protest Iraq War


More than two million protesters joined forces around the globe on Saturday to deliver a blunt message to President Bush -- "Give peace a chance and do not rush into war against Iraq."


12 years is some "rush into war" .


At least half a million people marched through the British capital in the biggest peace demonstration in British political history.


Were there any protests when Saddam invaded Kuwait? Are there any protests regarding Syria's occupation of Lebanon? Were there protests when King of Jordan slaughtered 20,000 palestinians in a matter of days? So vicious was the Jordanian offensive that many guerrillas forded the Jordan to surrender to the Israelis rather than fall into the hands of Hussein's security forces. . Any protests around europe about slavery in Sudan? One would think that with all the brain power in Europe they would have avoided the two World Wars.

Am I deflecting from the issue at hand? Not at all. I am showing the lack of consistency and thus lack of integrity by the "anti-war" types when it comes to conflicts and "pursuit" of justice. .

. ...carnival-like atmosphere...

Graying pensioners to dreadlocked teenagers marched side-by-side in a carnival-like atmosphere.


Many go to these protests for social reasons. When there's a festive crowd of people walking through your city carrying colorful banners and balloons while chanting idealistic slogans and singing - you don't want to be left out. You feel like you are making a difference by being a part of it all. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? You don't need to get into minor details like facts and get familiar with the conflict at hand. You just need to join the crowd - maximum activism - minimum effort. The merit of your argument is judged by the number of people in the crowd (never mind the much greater numbers who stayed at home) .

As one British "activist" who planned to travel to Baghdad put it - "I thought it would be hard when we got to Baghdad, but I had no idea the trip would be this awful. I thought the journey would be one long party."
All you need to know is: war is bad and peace is good, and protesting the war is a party.

How can you argue with these gems (all from the same article) like

...one woman protesting in Paris said: "The Americans were stressed by September 11 and now they are going completely overboard."

Over 3,000 of your fellow citizens dying,Al Qaeda trying to get weapons of mass destruction with intension of using them against us, Saddam hiding his WMD for the past 12 years, etc. is kind of stressful. Can't argue with that.

Germans waved banners like:

No Blood for Oil. Sounds pretty fair. I wouldn't want to pay with blood for oil. Can't argue with that either, except that we actually pay money for oil.

Make Love Not War. Excellent advice. Perhaps Europeans didn't make enough love in 1939-1945?

War? No Thanks!. Sounds pretty reasonable. If somebody offered me war, I would be like No Thanks!, too.

In Sofia - Bulgarian capital - one banner read I look at Bush but see Hitler. Perhaps the person(s) carrying that banner need to be reminded that Faced with choosing between military confrontation with Germany and accession to the Axis powers, the monarch and his government had Bulgaria join the fascist bloc on 1 March 1941..

"The whole world is against this war. Only one person wants it," said Muslim teenager Bilqees Gamieldien in Cape Town. Does he mean Osama? (Bet his IQ is Cape Town temperature.)

The article mentions a few more, but you get the drift.


Also, check out Dima's post on anti war protests
The Washington Times
Bin Laden son, al Qaeda terrorists spotted in Iran

U.S. intelligence agencies say Osama bin Laden's oldest son, Sad, is in Iran along with other senior al Qaeda terrorists, as Iranian military forces have been placed on their highest state of alert in anticipation of a U.S. attack on Iraq, according to intelligence officials

Don't we have a fatwa of our own against the guy?

Friday, February 14, 2003

SAY WHAT?

After 14 years of silence, Iranian clerics decreed that fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is still irrevocable and valid. Now, that Rushdie lives in NYC, should I expect to see Revolutionary Guards swarming the street of Big Apple, hunting for Salman? (link)
UNSC- Unbelievably Numbskulled Shortsighted Cretins

Although Colin Powell wasn't mincing words today after the Blix's report to UNSC, he couldn't get through to the dense members of the Security Council. France wanted to have more inspections, more reports, and more extensions; Villepin said:
"The option of inspections has not been taken to an end."

An end? When is the end? What is an end? Eighteen UNSC resolutions and 12 years later, Saddam is "running circles" around UN, laughing in its face, and saying "ne-ne, ne-ne-ne...", with his thumb pressed against his nose and pinky extended. The demagogical, beaurocratical nature of UN is harmfull not only to the disarmament process, but also to the worldwide peace process. Allowing for possibility of more inspections, hinting on viability of more resolutions, and wasting time trying to increase the number of inspectors (rather than enforce compliance), UNSC not only missed the boat in the pivotal role it could have played in the crisis; moreover, it had totally undermined whatver was left of its credibility by allowing itself to be manipulated by Saddam Hussein and likes.

In the former Soviet Union, workers of plants and factories with hazardous materials or environment hazardous to their health recieved a daily ration--payok--of a glass of milk. Powell deserves an intravenous injection of millk for a day, after appearing before the Council. Here is an excerpt from his speech. So simple, so eloquent, so incandescent, and yet...so incomprehensible by the members of Security Council:
I commend the inspectors. I thank they for what they are doing. But at the same time, I have to keep coming back to the point that the inspectors have repeatedly made, and they've made it again here this morning, they've been making it for the last 11-plus years: What we need is not more inspections, what we need is not more immediate access, what we need is immediate, active, unconditional, full cooperation on the part of Iraq. What we need is for Iraq to disarm.

Resolution 1441 was not about inspections. Let me say that again. Resolution 1441 was not about inspections. Resolution 1441 was about the disarmament of Iraq.

I don't know, just don't know how much more lucid it can get.
IRRELEVANT RELEVANCE

Terry over at The Storm asked a question the other day:
"If the US withdraws from the UN, or, if the UN becomes irrelevant, what will the world put in its place?"

I fired back with the "comment" asking Terry why he thought UN was relevant in the first place, anyway? Here's what I got back:
I think that the current global system isn't working. Obviously, the US is the most powerful pole, with smaller powers competing. It's that competition that seems to be tearing the UN apart---it's not just Europe's fault, we've got a part in it.

Terry,
Here's some of my previous thoughts on UN...what do you think of UN now?
In respone to the Agonist's Letter To France And Germany

Naively, Sean-Paul thinks that France/Germany's policy towards Iraq is driven by their personal dislike of Bush. He starts of with:

I do not like our president. He is a jerk. He is rude. He is undiplomatic, brazen and arrogant..
Thus, he wastes no time to build a premise - legitimizing France/Germany's dislike for our President. In fact, further in the article, he writes:

...Put your dislike and mistrust of George W. Bush aside for I do not believe that you Mr. Chirac, or you Mr. Schroeder want to be on the wrong side of history... and ...it is time to put your justified dislike of Mr. Bush aside...

And gently reassures them: ...remember that Mr. Bush will not be president forever.

What is this salty discharge in my eyes? Pass the Kleenex...

There are two fallacies here. One is logical, and the other is factual.

1. Logical

If we were to agree with Sean Paul that Bush is indeed " rude", "undiplomatic", "brazen", and "arrogant" and that's what drives France/Germany's oppositon to the war... Then wouldn't Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schröder be the ones who are "undiplomatic", "brazen", and "arrogant" for basing their foreign policy on their personal dislike of our President?

2. Factual

It is obvious (at least to me) that France/Germany are not basing their opposition to the war on their personal dislike for Bush. Let's look at the facts.

Khidhir Hamza is a former director (of 20 years) of Iraq's nuclear-weapons program. He also happened to write an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, February 11, 2003 ).
According to him:

...France, Germany, and to a degree, Russia , are opposed to U.S. military action in Iraq mainly because they maintain lucrative trade deals with Baghdad, many of which are arms-related.

Example of France's profiteering:

In the two decades before the Gulf War, I played a role in Iraq's efforts to acquire major technologies from friendly states. In 1974, I headed an Iraqi delegation to France to purchase a nuclear reactor. It was a 40-megawatt research reactor that our sources in the IAEA told us should cost no more than $50 million. But the French deal ended up costing Baghdad more than $200 million. The French-controlled Habbania Resort project cost Baghdad a whopping $750 million, and with the same huge profit margin. With these kinds of deals coming their way, is it any surprise that the French are so desperate to save Saddam's regime?

Germany's profiteering:

Germany was the hub of Iraq's military purchases in the 1980s. Our commercial attaché, Ali Abdul Mutalib, was allocated billions of dollars to spend each year on German military industry imports . These imports included many proscribed technologies with the German government looking the other way. In 1989, German engineer Karl Schaab sold us classified technology to build and operate the centrifuges we needed for our uranium-enrichment program. German authorities have since found Mr. Schaab guilty of selling nuclear secrets, but because the technology was considered "dual use" he was fined only $32,000 and given five years probation.
Meanwhile, other German firms have provided Iraq with the technology it needs to make missile parts. Mr. Blix's recent finding that Iraq is trying to enlarge the diameter of its missiles to a size capable of delivering nuclear weapons would not be feasible without this technology transfer.


Russia's profiteering:

Russia has long been a major supplier of conventional armaments to Iraq--yet again at exorbitant prices. Even the Kalashnikov rifles used by the Iraqi forces are sold to Iraq at several times the price of comparable guns sold by other suppliers.

Saddam's policy of squandering Iraq's resources by paying outrageous prices to friendly states seems to be paying off.

As you see, these 3 countries go way back. I am not even mentioning their oil projects with Iraq.

This particular statement (by Sean Paul) - For years the Europeans have criticized America for supporting human rights abusers, and autocratic regimes that you have said we shouldn't support. Do not become hypocrites. - delegates moral authority to the "Europeans". I am assuming that Russia doesn't fall into that category. During the Soviet times they have supported every dictator out there (not to mention that they themselves were not a democracy). As for after... There are a number of oustanding issues over there - freedom of press, human rights abuses in Chechnya, etc. So, I guess this statement is not applicable to them.

Does Sean Paul mean France? Well... Arabs know that they have no better friend in Europe then France. Oh, by the way - all arab states are ruled by dictators. No moral authority there, either.

Germany would not take part in such a conflict even if a United Nations mandate supported the idea. - so their call for international consensus/negotiations/etc is hardly sincere.
TODAY’S ECONOMY NUMBERS

We have seen eight months of steady inventories increase. Today was no exception, as inventories beat street’s expectations and rose by 0.6% in December. The biggest driver was wholesale sector, which sprung by 0.8%. Now, even though the absolute number is signaling businesses expect some pick-up in economic environment, one of the components of the report is “loaded”. As the sales numbers have been somewhat sluggish in the past months, inventory buildup has grown faster than sales. The inventory/sales ratio is at 1.37 and, although it was steady over the past 6 months, illustrates that demand is still not matching the supply of goods. This is not an indication of a “slowing” demand as we have seen in the beginning of this recession, but a noteworthy “flag” to notice when thinking about just how robust the recovery is/will be.

Other economic indicators published today were: Industrial Production and Consumer Sentiment.

Industrial Production: Even though month-to-month growth in IP was nearly double the consensus (0.7%) and is a sharp increase from last month’s negative 0.4%, most of it came from large auto production. The number would have been essentially flat to December & January, if autos were excluded. This growth isn’t sustainable and manufacturing was weak. Ironically, at these levels of inventories, even if (hypothetically speaking) demand were to weaken even further, it wouldn’t decrease production. So, the downside is much smaller, than the upside (if demand significantly picks up). Capacity utilization levels are very low (they’re close to 1975 lows and are close to the absolute lows of the early 80s), but as new orders improve, so does the demand.

Consumer Sentiment: Despite treading above the cyclical low of 1992, the present conditions fell to 95.2 (2 pts). The overall sentiment fell to lowest in decade levels (79.2). Continuing increase in oil prices, shaky employment, weak equity markets and, most importantly, geopolitical uncertainty weights heavily on consumers outlook for the future.

Fixed Income markets haven’t had a chance to absorb the info yet and are selling off heavily into Hans Blix speech (more on that later).

Thursday, February 13, 2003

IDENTITY CRISIS or HOW "LOTR" MADE AHMED CWAZY

Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' spiritual leader, called on all moslems to attack Americans and Westerners, when imminent war with Iraq starts. From WorldTribune:
Hamas has led pro-Saddam rallies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority has allowed the demonstrations, which included the burning of British, Israeli and U.S. flags.

Yassin, isolated in the West Bank, was quoted saying that "...Hamas does not target the killing civilians. We in Hamas do not go out to kill civilians...". So, are we to conclude that Hamas waged jihad on America and UK and treats those countries' nationals as army combatants? Yassin was also seen running around on the streets screaming: "I am The Great Sarumon! Repent, sinners!"
HOLLYWOOD IDIOTARIAN WRAP-UP

Who better to summarize Allah-wood's idiocy and piss off the "left" than...Ann Coulter. In her latest FrontPage Magazine article "Casting-Couch Bolsheviks" Ann ripped a "new asshole" to pretty much every Tinseltown cretin from Kate "drug wafer" Moss to George "Cloo-less" Clooney. Enjoy it, have a laugh...I know I did. (more...)
CREDIT GIVEN WHEN CREDIT IS DUE

George Paine of Warblogging has a very informative piece on recent reports that North Korea (DPRK) has an "untested" missile that might be able to reach the western US. These developments highlight the evergrowing necessity of a coherent strategy of containment from our administration. North Korea is a volatile player capable of interfering with imminent war in Iraq.
The fact is that this is a disturbing development and suggests that the DPRK is deadly serious about enhancing its nuclear deterrent ability.

George raises a question on how to remove North Korea's deterrnet capabilities and offers a suggestion:
The United States should make it its goal to deploy an umbrella of M-THEL, Airborne Laser and Aegis-equipped warship protection around the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to take the edge off North Korea's artillery and nuclear deterrent. Such an umbrella would serve as an adequate ballistic missile defense system (see Is National Missile Defense a Fraud?) and should be capable of saving Seoul from the onslaught of North Korean artillery. Once we have done this we will be in a superb position to negotiate with the North to end its nuclear program and soften its stance towards reunification and domestic issues.

Now, go read it yourselves.
THE DAY AFTER...?

Council on Foreign Relations held another interesting debate on February 5th, called “IRAQ: The war”. It started with Stephen Walt’s and Bill Kristol’s opinions and was followed by two rebuttals (John Mearsheimer, Max Boot). Although, it was interesting debate (read it), it didn’t offer any new insights. Moreover, no speaker touched upon a post-war Iraq maintenance.

I think it’s a given fact we will wage an offensive against Saddam, barring he goes in exile. It’s peculiar to see, nevertheless, people still discussing “pros” and “cons” of this war, given we are already on the brink of it. What I would have liked to see is the debate on how do we democratize Iraq or Middle East. More specifically, I would like to see a plan with tangible arguments. Some of it has already been addressed by CFR. However, the administration hasn’t done nearly enough on it. People are not proactive in their majority, so expecting every John Doe to surf the web for “foreign policy” links is stupid.

I believe that anti-war sentiment would have substantially decreased, had people been given more of “big picture” of the democratic future Middle East, rather than recycled hawkish sentiments and “looped” talk of WMD. The public has no vision (other than that fed to it by the media) of the future in Middle East. It thrives on the current sentiment, which is: Saddam is bad; he’s got weapons; he’s a dictator and a threat; we want to liberate Iraq.
Well, all of this is “fine and dandy”: Doves can go and read Ken Pollack’s The threatening storm, or just read up on “strategies of containment” and draw conclusions from there; Hawks are already on board for war. But that is only a small part of the larger issue with this “war on terror”. I seriously doubt whether we’re equipped to handle guerilla warfare directed against us for prolonged period of time (unless, of course, we apply “a head for an eye” response). That means removing Saddam isn’t a panacea for curing “evil” in the world.

From what I see and hear people say, a lot of skeptics and “fence sitters” are concerned with either moral/ethical reasons of going to war or with financial implications of war (possibly prolonged one) on economy and spending.

Those are very valid concerns and deserve to be addressed and explained to general public. Not everyone holds a Ph.D. in economics and understands the budget. Not everyone realizes the differences and costs of ’91 Gulf War II vs. prolonged engagement, associated with peacekeeping, security, etc. (for example, a 2 months engagement might cost upwards of $200bn and maintaining troops in the region could be another $50bn a year).

Europeans, in particular, view American (administration) attitude as “go in, bomb, and get out- the rest doesn’t matter”. Europe historically has performed post-engagement peacekeeping function, so they feel that the burden will fall on their shoulders again. Not seeing compelling war arguments I the first place, how can they be expected to buy into joining US post-war?

I am very concerned that sluggish support for this administration both domestically and abroad has a lot to do with poor rhetoric from our Administration with respect to ‘future” plans in Middle East. I think it undermines the importance of removing Saddam, liberating the people of Iraq, and establishing democracy in the Middle East.

The strategy of post-war Iraq development needs to be made clear to the public as soon as possible, preferably before the military engagement.

UPDATE: Ohhh, the drawbacks of having a full-time job interfering with blogging...here's a USAToday article outlining Washington's plans on post-war Iraq to be ran by US general:
The plan calls for a U.S. general to be in overall charge for at least two years. An Iraqi council that would include former senior statesmen would provide advice on a transition to a more representative form of government, U.S. and Iraqi sources say...

...With war possibly weeks away, the Bush administration is making public its most detailed vision yet for post-Saddam Iraq, in part to deflect criticism that it has few concrete plans for what to do after an invasion. Though some elements have leaked in recent months, Powell is the most senior administration official to publicly discuss the plan.
...Affirmative Action...(responding to Terry's post)


Terry seems outraged that MIT drops a policy for minorities . In his words:



This is one topic that I'll entertain no argument over. I feel strongly about it. You can clutter my comments all you want and email me all you want. I'm closing my ears and not listening...

...this is because all those who oppose affirmative action to me, they just sound like a whiny bunch of white men who for some reason are bitter that they aren't included in something that helps minorities and oh yea...WOMEN white and black.
That's my position. I'm gonna have to be stubborn as a mule on this one. I'm not listening to the opposition, cause I'm tired of hearing their tired old arguments.



Since Terry decided that he won't entertain this topic any further, I'll just wait till he posts on or complains about racial profiling. Then I'll call him a hypocrite. Liberals have this term that they think is clever and they just looooooove to use it - DWB - driving while black. How about a new one - AWW - applying while white? NBA is predominently black - will Terry support Affirmative Action when it comes to sports? Doubt it.
As for the "whiny bunch of white men" comment... It's more likely that the whiny ones are those who demand preferential treatment and say things like "I'm closing my ears and not listening...". Obviously, Terry doesn't feel that strong about his argument since he can't argue its merits.

Last and not least, here's the Income of Households by Race and Hispanic
Origin Using 1997-1999 3-Year-Average Medians:



White 41,591

Black 26,608

Asian and Pacific
Islander: 48,614


Holy cow, batman! Look at that. An average Asian household earns more then a white one? How is that possible? If you listen to whiny babies who cry about needing preferential treatment you'ld think it impossible to succeed in America if you are not white, and yet...

More facts to chew on:

Over 67% of the foreign-born black population assessed their health as being excellent or very good. This was significantly greater than the 52% of their U.S.-born counterparts....


Fifty-seven percent of foreign-born black families had a household income above $20,000, compared with the 45% of their U.S.-born counterparts.


In addition, foreign-born black populations were more likely to be currently employed; 64% of foreign-born black persons, as compared to 57% of native-born black persons.



The above shows what those who live in immigrant communities already know - foreign born blacks don't have a victimhood stigma and thus are doing better then their american born counter parts.

Associated Press
New bin Laden Tape Claimed in Britain

A British-based Islamic news agency said Thursday it has a new audio recording of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) in which he predicts he will die as "a martyr" this year in an attack against his enemies.


Die as "a martyr" in an attack against his enemies? Bull! Here's what I think:


1) He is dead. We haven't seen him on video since we bombed the hell out of Taliban/Al Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan. Who ever is covering up his death with these "new" audio tapes realizes that this charade can not go on forever. Therefore, bin Laden needs to "die".

2) bin Laden is alive, but very sick. It's no secret that Osama has (or if #1 is true - had) severe kidney problems. Last year, in fact, US intelligence received reports that Osama bin Laden received a kidney transplant in February, 2002.. There was also a report that "the kidney disease had begun to affect bin Laden’s liver and associates were trying to obtain a dialysis machine to stabilize his condition. ". He did not look well in his last videos. According to Dr.Gupta's (CNN's medical correspondent) analysis:

...notice that he has what some doctors refer to as sort of a frosting over of his features -- his sort of grayness of beard, his paleness of skin, very gaunt sort of features. A lot of times people associate this with chronic illness...


He's also not moving his arms... He never moved his left arm at all. The reason that might be important is because people who have had a stroke -- and certainly people are at increased risk of stroke if they also have kidney failure -- he may have had a stroke and therefore is not moving his left side


So if he is alive (which I doubt) - he might have other reasons (then martyrdom) for dying "this year".

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Dennis Miller on Donahue (MSNBC)

Dennis is great, as always. Phil... Well, let's just say that if brains were taxed - he would get a rebate.
posted by Dima at

Boston Globe
MIT drops a policy for minorities

Under investigation by the federal Office for Civil Rights, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has scrapped the minority-only admission policy for two summer programs designed to build science and math skills in high-school students and incoming college freshmen...
...Last week, Princeton University ended the minority-only policy for a summer public service program.


Racism? You bet! Let's see how many lefty blogs will pick this up and condemn it.

Here's something for discussion:

Liberals are against racial profiling. Yet, Affirmative Action is a prime example of profiling based on race.
Hypocrisy? Leave a comment.
NY Post:
CALIF. DEM TELLS KID: DON'T TAKE SUBWAY

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee has told her daughter to stay off the New York subways.

Ofcourse these fears are very unwarranted. After all, according to Lisa, code Orange is just something the administration does when "presidential approval ratings sag". Then again, according to her - United for Peace is a "mainstream organization". I am not sure, but it seems like "mainstream" is the new buzzword for "ultra-left" (just like democrats are no longer democrats - they are "progressives").
Here are just some of the organizations that are under the United for Peace umbrella:

Anti-Capitalist Convergence, Arizona Green Party, Campus Greens, Code Pink for Peace, Feminist Peace Network, Green Alliance, Green Party of NYS, Green Party of the United States, Greenpeace, Socialist Action, Socialist Party USA, Raging Grannies (lol!), Left Party (at least they are honest!), etc.
There are also about a dozen of the usual anti-Israel organizations - ofcourse - without them the party wouldn't be complete. Click here to see the full list.

More on Lisa's nonsense here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Overspill Newswire



WTOP Radio via Drudge:
Missile Launchers Positioned in D.C.
...The protection measures would include Customs Service aircraft flying high, keeping track of air traffic over the metro area, Air National Guard fighter jets patrolling above and Army radar systems positioned alongside Avenger air defense missile systems mounted on HumVees...

UK Times Online
America's 48 hours to kill Saddam
AMERICAN war planners believe that they have little more than 48 hours from the start of a ground war to kill President Saddam Hussein if they are to avoid a protracted conflict and a complicated peace...

Voice of America
CIA Chief Says Terror Attacks Could Be Just Days Away
The information we have points to plots, aimed at targets on two fronts, in the United States and on the Arabian peninsula. It points to plots timed to occur as early as the end of the Hajj, which occurs late this week, and it points to plots that could include the use of a radiological dispersion device, as well as poisons and chemicals," Mr. Tenet said.


Iran Press Service
EIGHTY PER CENT OF IRANIANS SAY "NO" TO THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC
More than eighty per cent of Iranians rejected the present Islamic regime of Iran against near 19 per cent who voted for, according to a poll carried among Iranians worldwide.



UK Telegraph
I am proud of 192 nightclub deaths, says Bali bomber

A chief suspect in the Bali nightclub attack, which killed 192 people, confessed on live television yesterday to his role as a bomb-maker and said he was proud of his work.
COMMODITIES SNAPSHOT

Last week was amazing for fixed income markets culminated in an amazing week for commodities as well: circa 5% rally for Oil, 8% Natural Gas, and Gold perturbing a 7-year high mid-week.

Gold

2yr “close” levels (since 1st SOTU delivered by Bush to the recent one) are:
High 382.1 Feb-5-2003
Low 257.0 April-3-2001

• Last week Gold tested intraday of $390
• As concessions from Iraq (U-2 planes) prompted US$ rebound, gold came off
• Some profit taking was also reported ahead of today’s Greenspan speech (more on that later)
• Gold is seen trading very directionally off US$ and it's not suprising it has so much directionality
• Historically, gold collapses after the crisis. In 1991 we say highs upward of $400 and after the war started-dropped by $40-$50

Oil

• Friday’s “orange” alert news helped WTI Oil Spot Rate breach $35 level. The low on the week was $32 (in anticipation of Oil & Gas Inventories release)
• Monday close was 34.43 (99.40% percentile)
• Inventories’ report on the 5th proved to be bullish for petroleum markets:
a) Crude oil refinery inventories were stable, as refinery inputs decreased
b) They’re still low (14% below even last year’s levels)

• Venezuela took 2nd to Gulf War II concerns place, as strike dissipated slightly and new oil wells were exploited.
• Bloombegr reported that Venezuela’s state oil company fired more people (total of 10.5k or 32% of work force).
• Geopolitical events will be dominant factor, until Iraq crisis is not resolved
Excellent post on BlogsOfWar:

Joseph Goebbels on the English, 1939 (Any of this sounds familiar?):

Today there is still another reason. The English warmongers conceal it. It is crassly egotistic. The English prime minister announced the day the war began that England's goal was to destroy Hitlerism. However, he defined Hitlerism in a way other than how the English plutocracy actually sees it. The English warmongers claim that National Socialism wants to conquer the world. No nation is secure against German aggression. An end must be made of the German hunger for power. The limit came in the conflict with Poland. In reality, however, there is another reason for England's war with Germany. The English warmongers cannot seriously claim that Germany wants to conquer the world, particularly in view of the fact that England controls nearly two thirds of the world. And Germany since 1933 has never threatened English interests. [more]

Go to BlogOfWar for the rest of the post!
AL-JAZEERA IS DIGGING SADDAMS GRAVE

If what al-Jazeera is reporting is half true (which I doubt), it's not going to help Saddam. On the contrary, the following statement, if taken for face valie, is most likely to add fuel into the current crisis mounting for Iraq:
DUBAI, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Fugitive Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden has issued a statement urging Muslim solidarity with Iraq and it will be broadcast later on Tuesday on al-Jazeera television, the Qatar-based satellite TV network said. Al-Jazeera said the statement "urged Muslims to show solidarity and defend the Iraqi people". It did not say if it was an audio tape or a written statement and just ran one line of the message. "We have a statement and we will show it later tonight. It has a message," al-Jazeera editor Saeed al-Shouly told Reuters.

Let's see how the events unfold later on today, before we draw any conclusions.
Silly Bush-haters

From Tatiana's blog:

War is coming anyways but again I am very happy that some people hate Bush and create something like this.

Click on the link that Tatiana is so happy about and note the comment by the person who posted the pic:

I have a stupid anti-war poster, sent by a friend. How about some actual criticism, instead of idiocies like this .

Oh... The irony.
Today's articles on Iraq:

Jerusalem Post:
Israeli expert implicates Iraq in US anthrax attacks.

Accumulated evidence, albeit mostly circumstantial, is nonethless sufficient to implicate Iraq in the wave of Anthrax incidents in America in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, according to former IDF intelligence officer Dr. Danny Shoham...

Saddam has no plans to step down or accept amnesty deal

Asharq al-Awsat, based in London, said it obtained a copy of an Iraqi document to be presented at the Arab League meeting that begins Saturday in Cairo. It quoted it as saying Saddam "has no intention to abdicate out of respect for the trust the Iraqi people bestowed on him in the popular referendum" in October...

Washington Times:

Iraq agrees to U-2 surveillance flights

Iraq agreed "unconditionally" yesterday to allow U-2 surveillance flights over its territory, meeting a key demand of U.N. inspectors as France, Russia and Germany urged the Security Council to strengthen inspections...

..."The Iraqis didn't come forth with the 3,500 scientists on the [pre-1998] U.N. list. They didn't come forth with the biological weapons laboratories. They didn't come forth with many other things that we have specified, that we have talked about, that the secretary pointed out in his presentation last week and that these ministers said Iraq needs to answer for," (State Department spokesman)Mr. Boucher said. "I haven't seen anything that's worth getting excited about."...


Military put in civilian areas

President Bush said yesterday that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is positioning military forces in civilian areas so that he can blame war casualties on the United States and its allies...




Priceless!

From UK's (via Andrea Harris' Spleenville)Times Online:

An anti-war protester from England on trip to Baghdad:

I thought it would be hard when we got to Baghdad, but I had no idea the trip would be this awful. I thought the journey would be one long party. "
Today's papers

UK's The Sun - Send him coward's feather




THE Sun today prints a single white feather to show our disgust at cowardly French President Jacques Chirac.

The Australian daily - Explosives 'moved to Iraq oil fields

IRAQI President Saddam Hussein was moving large amounts of explosives to the country's oil fields, in apparent preparations to destroy them in the case of a US-led military invasion, NBC News has reported...

Israel's Haaretz - U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to start evacuating non-essential staff

The U.S. embassy in Israel said on Monday it would start evacuating non-essential personnel and diplomats' families later in the week, with a U.S.-led war against Iraq looming...

Japan Today - Iraqi diplomat linked to Philippine bombing

Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople on Monday confronted an Iraqi diplomat over an intelligence report linking another Iraqi diplomat to a bombing in the southern Philippines last October that killed a U.S. serviceman and at least two Filipinos...

Moscow Times - Iraq Cancels LUKoil Contract Again

Baghdad on Monday again pulled the plug on LUKoil's $3.7 billion project to develop the massive West Qurna oil field, saying this time it is final, but also held out hope of signing a trade agreement with Moscow worth up to $40 billion over the next 10 years...


Nigeria's Vanguard - Iraqi opposition leader lashes out at France, Germany

A prominent Iraqi opposition leader, Monday, lashed out at France and Germany for blocking US war plans, saying the French were only seeking to guard their oil contracts and German scientists should be interviewed by UN inspectors. But Ahmad Chalabi, who heads the Iraqi National Congress (INC) opposition unmbrella group, said that he was convinced the United States would go to war even if some powers continued to resist a second resolution authorising force. "France’s policy is driven by French commercial and oil interests, they are allied to (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein and they are trying to save him in the hope they can preserve their illicit contracts with him," Chalabi told AFP in Sulaymaniya, one of the main cities of the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq. "France is not popular among the Iraqi people. They are supporting a dictator...