Saturday, August 19, 2006
One Mas's Words
Quoting out of context
Why I am Proud to Be a Canadian
The director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said Tuesday that the spy agency avoids racial profiling because it is "fundamentally stupid'' and does not knowingly use information gleaned under torture offshore because the practice is "morally repugnant.''
Thursday, August 17, 2006
The Lebanon War: Israel Was In Lebanon?
Honestly, I would take this reports with a grain of salt, but I would not discount the possibility. Israel does have a history crossborder raids.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - According to the Lebanese police force, the two Israeli soldiers were captured in Lebanese territory, in the area of Aita Al-Chaab, near to the border with Israel, where an Israeli unit had penetrated in middle of morning.
BAHRAIN NEWS AGENCY - The Lebanese Hezbollah movement announced Wednesday the arrest of two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. Lebanese police said that the two soldiers were arrested as they entered the town of Aitaa al-Chaab inside the Lebanese border. Israeli aircraft were active in the air over southern Lebanon, police said, with jets bombing roads leading to the market town of Nabatiyeh, 60 kilometers south of Beirut.
HINDUSTAN TIMES, JUL 12 - The Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement announced on Wednesday that its guerrillas have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. "Implementing our promise to free Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, our strugglers have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon," a statement by Hezbollah said. "The two soldiers have already been moved to a safe place," it added. The Lebanese police said that the two soldiers were captured as they "infiltrated" into the town of Aitaa al-Chaab inside the Lebanese border.
FORBES, JUL 12 - The militant group Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers during clashes Wednesday across the border in southern Lebanon, prompting a swift reaction from Israel, which sent ground forces into its neighbor to look for them. The forces were trying to keep the soldiers' captors from moving them deeper into Lebanon, Israeli government officials said on condition of anonymity.
ASIA TIMES, JUL 15 - It all started on July 12 when Israel troops were ambushed on Lebanon's side of the border with Israel. Hezbollah, which commands the Lebanese south, immediately seized on their crossing. They arrested two Israeli soldiers, killed eight Israelis and wounded over 20 in attacks inside Israeli territory.
And the Hezbullah Won
Please note a few items from this article.
Winning the peace is expensive. With an offer of $10,000 per family to pay rent, buy furniture and rebuild Hezbullah can expect to pay upwards of $850,000,000. That type of money in an empoverished region buys alot of goodwill.
Corruption will cost you. The people in south Lebanon support Hezbullah because it delivers. The Lebanese government is seen as helping the politicians and not the people. In the Middle East Hezbullah's image of being tough and honest is a powerful.
Canada's mission to Afganistan should look at Hezbullah as an operational model, because it has succeeded in a 4th generation warfare environment similar to what Canada is facing in Afganistan.
How do birds breathe?
Rummy and Cheney.. Likudniks?
Andrew Sullivan has an interesting take on the debacle in Iraq.
I have long wondered whether Cheney and Rumsfeld ever believed that their job was to build a new democracy in Iraq. Rumsfeld had dealt with and supported Saddam in the past; Cheney was extremely suspicious of occupying Iraq in 1990. One subversive theory - which I'm not endorsing, just airing - is that both merely wanted to turn the Saddam regime to rubble, and then play along with neocon democracy supporters, while making sure that the military was never given enough resources to do nation-building. Then Cheney and Rumsfeld could prove their point about the impossibility of reforming the Muslim world, and promote the view that we need merely to pummel enemies, project military fear across the region, and deter Islamo-fascism by "shock and awe." The Likud strategy, in other words.
Under this interpretation, Bush was too trusting or dumb to understand the deviousness of their plan to fail in Iraq; Wolfowitz saw it too late and got out; Rice is stuck managing the debris that a democracy-promoting president and a democracy-hostile Pentagon created. The troops were just pawns in Cheney's and Rumsfeld's strategy. This interpretation would mean that incompetence is not the issue. Cheney and Rumsfeld have succeeded: they have turned Iraq into a failed state, removed its capacity to make WMDs, and detonated a regional Sunni-Shi'a war. Now they want to use the same brutalist strategy against Iran. This theory is probably too complex and subtle to be true. The screw-up theory of history is more often the most plausible. But it does make some internal sense - if you assume that Cheney and Rumsfeld are not complete incompetents.
Is the West losing Turkey?
The full article is here.
It a lack of leadership in the west, both in Europe and in the Unitied States. THe problem in the US can be summed up as "George Bush" but can be expanded to describe the authoritarian takeover of the republican party combined with endenic corrpution in Washington. Europe's problem is weakness in the centre. There is no stong pan-european voice, because there are no pan-european elected politicians. THis lack of voice allows the racist and nationalist voices to go largely unopposed and cripples turkey's chance to become a full-member of the European Union.
As the columnist Yusuf Kanli put it in the Turkish Daily News: “Things are changing in Turkey. People are becoming more conservative. Conservatives are becoming more nationalist. And nationalists are becoming racist.” He asks, like many of Erdogan’s critics, why “Turks [should] die in Lebanon for the security of Israel but not . . . in northern Iraq for the security of Turkey”? Lebanon is a diversion, some argue, from Turkey’s own battle against Kurdish separatist rebels in the southeast.
Many others say it will distract the Government from the arduous and expensive task of qualifying for EU membership — and of persuading an increasingly sceptical public that this is still in Turkey’s best interests.
I got that sinking feeling
Real estate markets are less liquid and have higher transaction costs, and since houses are a consumption item as well as an asset, what traditionally happens when the bubble bursts is that sales just dry up. Nobody wants to buy at quoted prices (usually based on previous, overinflated appraisals) but sellers aren't willing -- and often aren't able -- to sell for less. So the market can't clear, as Southern California markets aren't clearing now.The Japanese property bubble, which is the most famous of my lifetime crippled the Japanese economy for a decade (Of course, Japan, being a creditor country did not use the quickest tool to get the markets moving again... Run inflations and get the nomial value of the properties up the level of bubble peak, even if the real values are much lower. They didn't do this because the value of all the Yen denomination debt in the world-- and there is alot--would fall).
This tends to make housing busts last a long time, as home "owners" gradually capitulate to reality and lenders (or in the S&L industry's case, the federal government) slowly write off all that bad debt and dispose of all those foreclosed homes. That's one reason why the collapse in real estate values that accompanied the Great Depression didn't bottom out until the late 1940s.
He goes on to talk about the new financing gimiicks and high levels of speculative investment in the Southern Califoria market (which is also true of the Southern Florida and New York Metro markets) and how this as exascebated the problem and made the danger of this bubble greater then the most.
How hard the bubble falls depends largely on the US federal reserve. The Fed can drop interest rates in the US to try to stimulate the housing market in these markets. However, this makes the US and US national debt less attractive for foreign investors at a time when the Bush administration is rolling up the biggest deficits in the history of the world.
UNIFIL's Problem in Lebanon
Billmon (who seems to be getting better by the day) has some observations on this topic.
A Lebanese general was ordered arrested Wednesday for appearing in a videotape drinking tea with IDF soldiers who had occupied his south Lebanon barracks during their incursion of the country . . Daoud was shown having tea with smiling Israeli soldiers and walking with them in the base courtyard.The Lebanese army is largely a useless organ except for putting down riots. None of its potential opponents are the least bit worried about it. Daoud must have recognized this, and known that the best way to protect his troops was to roll over belly up... if, as a Lebanese christian, he didn't simply support Israel's desire to destroy Hezbullah.
Hizbullah appears willing to ignore Gen. Daoud's Step 'n Fetch It routine -- although any Christian Lebanese Army officers who are tempted to repeat it after they deploy to the south should probably make out their wills first. But will it accept the presence of a large force of French and/or Turkish and/or Malaysian troops in its backyard? One assumes the real reason for the delay in assembling the force is that the French and/or the Turks and/or the Malaysians are asking themselves the same question.
Peacekeeping works when all combatants want out of the fight. Israel wants out, Lebanon wants out... Hezbullah might want out. At this point it has won, it might get more by pushing harder... but then again it might loose part of its support in Lebanon if it pushes the issue. Frankly the amibiguity actually adds to its victory. If it wants peace but wants UNIFIL to be as weak as possible then it just has to play up the ambiguousness of its support for the ceasefire.
[edit UNIFIL not UNIFIL... which stands for United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon. It was created in 1978.]
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Glenn Greenwald has the answer.
This just proves that the best way to get rid of authoritarians is to give them a rope. They will dispose of themselves.
Oil Prices Without the Iraq War
A general concensus amoungst oil analysts is that there is a risk premium on oil of about $8US/barrel. This translates to about $0.24US a gallon at the pumps ($10 give about 0.30 at the pump) or $0.07CDN/Litre here.
On top of the risk premium is the actual shortage of oil from Iraq. Iraq's oil production has collapsed because of insurgent attacks on the oil infrastucture. This represents a loss of about 2.3-2.5 million barrels per day out of a world wide production of 66.7 million barrels per day. This translates to about $10-15US a barrel in extra cost do to low supply. The end of the Iraq war would put the production back on line and sink the price of oil. In addition the added supply of oil would decrease the risk premium associated with oil, but would probably not eliminate it.
I would expect a price drop of $15-20US/barrel giving a reduction of $0.45-60US/gallon or $0.15-0.20CDN/Litre.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Fallujah: The Police Quit
More signs that things are not going well
In Fallujah, meanwhile, hundreds of newly recruited police officers failed to show up for work Sunday after insurgents disseminated pamphlets threatening officers who stayed on the job, according to police officials in the restive western city.
"We will kill all the policemen infidels," read the pamphlets, "whether or not they quit or are still in their jobs."
Fallujah Police Lt. Mohammed Alwan said that the force, which he estimated had increased to more than 2,000, has shrunk to only 100. Alwan said insurgents have killed dozens of policemen in their homes and also attacked family members in a weeks-long intimidation campaign.
A Fallujah police major, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that at least 1,400 policemen had left their jobs since Friday, 400 of them police officials above the rank of officer.
Canadian CB military uniform
The really interesting part of the article isn't that the Canadians have a prototype lightweight CB protective ensemble that doubles as a combat uniform. It's that they have consciously recognized that the terrorist use of CBRN hazards represents a smaller level of exposure and lesser risk than what adversarial nations could cause with NBC weapons. The U.S. military has not come to this recognition yet, primarily because they've been forced to accept this philosophy from the Bush administration's NSC that nations are giving terrorists WMDs and that the threat from terrorists and nation states are equivalent. Read the National Strategy to Combat WMD and the National Military Strategy to Combat WMD and tell me I'm wrong.
A Modest Perspective
Sunday, August 13, 2006
So, What Have We Learned?
First, what stopped this plot was law enforcement. Law enforcement. Not a military invasion of Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, or Iraq. Old-fashioned surveillance, development of human sources, putting pieces together, and cooperation with foreign police and intelligence services.
There have been lots of people, my self included, that have been saying that the concept of "war" is not particularly useful in describing the conflict between the west and salafist terror. Soft power and law enforcement are the two main tools that will win this for us.
Second, the conspiracy—if it resembles the London bombings of last summer—will likely be home-grown, another of the growing jihad "fashion" in Europe that comprises the new street gangs of this world. It is not a religious movement, it is not fundamentalism. These are thin veneers. It is at root sheer violence undertaken by young men resentful of many things (not least the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Lebanon) and ready to kill in return. Under different cirucmstances, it could be Tamils or Red Brigades or Michigan Militiamen, and has been.
I find it odd to be on the other side of a youth political movement.
Third, if al Qaeda was involved (allegedly from Pakistan), we can thank the failure of the war in Afghanistan and the cozying up to Musharraf to destroy them.
Though it was apparently pakistan's ISI (military intelligence) that got the initial breakthrough. And Pakistan's dictator has been doing the West a major favour in fighting to defeat the Taliban/Al Qaeda in the North-West Frontier Province and in Balucstan. Pakistan has suffered the loss of 600 military personel and unknown numbers of civilians and militants. They are paying in blood for helping us.
Fourth, there was no involvement by any American-based “cells,” according the FBI Director Robert Mueller. As many of us have been saying for nearly five years, and as the 9/11 Commission Report showed, there is virtually no plausible American jihad organization at work, and never has been.
Why then is Bush pushing warrantless wiretaps?
Fifth, the plot again reveals how ill-equipped the U.S. Government has been in anticipating plausible attack scenarios and taking steps to prevent them. Liquid bombs were so hard to figure out? Al Qaeda already tried it. DHS has almost completely missed the threat, just as they are missing the vulnerability of cargo holds and God knows what else. Thomas Kean, the former GOP governor and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, called this liquid bomb error “appalling” and wondered, on an NBC program four months ago, why no progress had been made. What are the tens of billions being spent on? This is Katrina II.
Probably what is most striking about the bush administration is its true lack of competence. These people are incapable of day to day administration.
Sixth, and most important, we must end our involvement in Iraq and sharply refocus our presence in the region. The war president’s approach is not working. It’s a diversion from the real threat. It’s a spur to bitter revenge. It’s a big feedback loop that will endanger us for years, if not decades. Our lives are now at stake because the Bush catastrophe has created thousands of new terrorists.
Soft power not hard power... of course the neocons don't think soft power exists... idiots
Point - Counter Point
Brian E. Humphreys
Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that Hizbullah in Lebanon is an authentic grassroots political movement composed of local Shiites, while the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq is an occuping army of foreign infidels. Could that be it?
Cracks in the wall
Part 1: Defining the Authoritarian Personality
Part2: Listening to the Leavers
Part3: Escape Ladders
Edit: Her follow up series can be reached here.