Wednesday, February 23

The Kyoto treaty and a steamy situation

"Pundita my dear, don't you think Bush could have thrown Europe a bone and signed onto Kyoto? The treaty is so ineffective it wouldn't do any harm to go along with it and besides the US is now missing out on the hot action in emissions credits trading. The trade is going to generate big business, even bigger than the action from the UN Oil for Food program.
[Signed] Boris in Jackson Heights"

Dear Boris:

We appreciate your sarcasm but going along with Kyoto is anything but harmless. Kyoto represents the institutionalization of what's known in the trade as "dartboard" research. But this isn't just bad government-funded medical research we're talking about. This is an issue humanity can't afford to get wrong, and we can't afford to piddle around for a century to come up with the right answers.

Global warming is a fact. But we don't know why the globe is warming and whether the phenomenon is within human control in any significant way. We don't know how much of various human activity, such as industrial fishing, contributes to warming. We have many puzzle pieces but we haven't constructed a good working hypothesis that would allow us to integrate all the data that could possibly relate to presumed reasons for global warming.

Instead, we've seized on one piece of the puzzle--industrial emissions--and diverted billions of dollars to creating solutions that on one side might be worse than the problem, and on other side are completely ineffective.

In the one camp, which represents solutions President Bush is pushing, we've got a bunch of car companies investing billions in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. But has anybody done a study on the environmental impact of the steam generated by gadzillions of hydrogen fuel cells in operation?

At least one study done years ago on the impact of water from jet streams suggested that the cumulative effect of the water released into the atmosphere has a significant impact on the weather.

I don't think the study was pursued because it isn't sexy science; i.e., the line of research doesn't attract big government bucks, and because what airline manufacturer and carrier wants to read that kind of research?

But before billions more are invested, we need to figure out if steam producing solutions are taking humanity from the frying pan into the fire.

Now we turn to the Kyoto camp. Just three countries not under the Kyoto treaty--China, India and US--between them are building 850 coal-fired plants that will spew up to five times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the Kyoto treaty is meant to reduce. This is not counting the emissions from vehicles in China and other developing countries. That's a huge consideration because they're now building, importing and buying vehicles in China and India at the rate of a zillion per minute.

And the administration and monitoring of the Kyoto agreement is so hideously complicated that it calls for yet another massive supranational bureaucratic construct with the attendant waste in resources and, as you hinted with a sledgehammer, a great opportunity for graft.

And then there is the thundering herd of elephants in the living room, which is that China is looming as the biggest problem with regard to industrial emissions, and China doesn't want to sign the Kyoto accord.

So there is a Marx Brothers quality about Kyoto. It solves nothing, goes nowhere, and generates tons of paper (from trees) that are unread by the aides whose job it is to plow through data for their bosses in government. Yet this Nothing has become a foreign policy football and is seriously discussed at state dinners.


Pundita cuts EU and NATO some slack

"You seem opposed to the US continuing with NATO. Some EU leaders seem to want to abandon NATO in favor of an EU defense organization. Yet President Bush is strongly in favor of keeping NATO and strengthening it, and I agree with him. I don't think the US should abandon what has been a very effective organization, and I think the East Europeans who have joined NATO are very strongly in favor of keeping it.
[Signed} Jan in Reston"

Dear Jan:
Pundita is opposed to the State Department being dominated by foreign policy that does not emanate from the White House and opposed to any White House defense/foreign policy that does not serve American interests first. There should be no conflict between an America-first policy and NATO--or between any member country's defense policy and NATO. The idea behind NATO is that member countries pursue their own course within the basic guidelines of NATO membership and come together in times of crisis under a shared leadership to fight a common enemy. Over a period of decades the idea fell into disrepair.

The idea worked during the Soviet era because the alliance countries saw the Soviet Empire as a common enemy, so there was cohesiveness in basic outlook and policy for deciding on which situation merited a NATO response.

The cohesiveness was retained after the dissolution of the Soviet Empire because the shared goal was breaking up the Warsaw Pact--bringing as many former Soviet regions as possible into NATO and integrating them in the NATO-allied European community. But where was the common enemy for this task?

The State Department drifted from a NATO-centric view into a Eurocentric view that was dominated by issues that went considerably beyond the narrow confines of defense. Meanwhile, State had gained more power in Washington than the Pentagon. The flaws in this state of affairs became patently obvious on 9/11.

Yet even after a catastrophic attack on the US exposed how little attention the American defense/foreign policy agencies had paid the world outside Europe, State continued to support a Eurocentric view. State 'went along' with the invasion of Afghanistan because Europe went along with it and so NATO supported it. State openly broke with the White House over Iraq because Europe broke with the White House and NATO followed.

In short, NATO suffers from mission drift and State drifted along with the drift. That doesn't mean the basic principle of the organization is now wrong or that America should abandon NATO. But there needs to be review of NATO policy and tightening up on the organization's purpose. Before this can go forward the major NATO member countries need to review and retool their defense policy for the modern era. The US has made a big start with Bush's Security Doctrine and initiatives, but the State Department has yet to be brought in line with the doctrine and the Pentagon is still retooling--and under wartime conditions.

Europe's challenge is far more complex and difficult. For all the fights inside the Beltway and the disputes between Democrats and Republicans, this nation is not only powerful, it's also very strong--the institutions are strong and cohesive. It's amazing if you look back on how far we've come since 9/11; Americans were able to get it together very quickly on a wide range of complex issues.

Europe, on the other hand, was hit by 9/11 at a time when they were profoundly immersed in integrating at a new level. They were trying to reshape the Continent along very cohesive lines and asking themselves how much cohesiveness they could take.

At the banking and intel levels Europe rallied with stunning speed to help the United States in the critical hours after the 9/11 attack. But once the financial crisis was averted and the initial shock of the attack wore off, Europe was almost resentful that in the middle of all their refurbishing, they had stop and figure out how to respond to the larger issues surrounding 9/11.

Then came Bush's swift actions--the decision to attack the Taliban, the declaration of the war on terror, and the preemption doctrine. Over a period of weeks, Bush threw together a new national security policy for the United States.

Europe wanted time to think and there was no time; the Bush war on terror came together like lightning. Then came Iraq. Part of Europe's anger at Bush about Iraq is a rooted in a 'Stop the World I want to get off' feeling. If the war could just stop for a year and let them sort out what they need to do with regard to working out EU adjustments, they'd probably come around to several of the ideas that Bush threw at them with dizzying speed--and they already have come around in some key areas.

And since 9/11 the Europeans managed to get in a great deal of hard thinking about the issues Pundita sketched with regard to NATO, and they've come upon a serious problem. They've put together an EU constitution that calls for one foreign policy for the entire EU bloc. Because foreign policy rests on defense policy, the question is how a singular European defense policy fits in with NATO.

Also, a defense policy for the EU that's not a joke rests on greatly beefing up the Eurozone military and there's all sorts of questions, including funding questions, to be dealt with in that regard.

Ironically, the need to respond to Bush's shoot-from-the-hip security strategy galvanized the EU leaders to think about all the above much sooner, and more deeply, than they had intended before 9/11. All these defense questions are very sticky, very complex for the Europeans. They thought they could kick the can down the road during the 1990s because there was no looming military threat. Writing in December 2003 about Europe's first draft of a security strategy, Steven Everts of the International Herald Tribune observed:
It has forced European leaders to debate strategies and policies, rather than seek refuge in more familiar discussions on institutions and processes. It has already produced a "new realism" that pervades current debates on EU foreign policy. A year ago it would have been impossible to get all countries to sign up for a European strategic culture "that fosters early, rapid and, when necessary robust intervention."
Not all the EU countries have yet ratified the EU constitution and it's not even clear whether England will accept the idea of a single Eurozone foreign policy run from Brussels. So there is still a lot of sorting out to be done. I think Bush and his advisors recognize this but clearly his approach is, 'America has a war to run.'

War gives no time to construct defense policy from the comfort of the armchair. From that view, sticking with the tried-and-true alliance and doing patchwork repairs to it on the fly makes more sense than trying to build up a new alliance framework or revise the old one from the ground up. So for now staying with NATO makes sense. However, America needs to stick with NATO's original principle; our foreign office and defense agencies need to be very clear on American policy as distinct from the country policies of NATO members and a 'NATO view.'

Short takes on EU security strategy:,,19269-1489226,00.html


Tuesday, February 22

The price of Indian tea in Iran

"Pundita, I'm seeing why you still refer to the Group of 8 as the G7. There's a move afoot to get Russia's membership suspended until Putin toes America's line. Russia's place in the group is still not secure, even though they were supposed to host the G8 summit in 2006.
[Signed] Caesar in San Francisco"

Dear Caesar:

During his Brussels speech Bush spoke of Russia taking their full place in the European community. He criticized Moscow's actions in the context of how they fit with the standards of the EU. Moscow has been very concerned that NATO's expansion is 'surrounding' Russia. Bush's speech seemed to be saying to Moscow, 'Where's the problem? If you keep your nose clean, you can join the WTO and down the line you can join the EU and NATO.'

The problem is that Russia doesn't need to become a part of the Europeon community. Russia sits on the invisible line that divides Asia and Europe. During earlier centuries a series of French diplomats managed to convince Russia's tsars that they were barbarians unless they learned to speak French. But today's Russia doesn't need to fit in with Europe. They can fit in with Asia.

European Union countries as well as the US were deeply involved in promoting Yushchenko--an involvement that included trashing Russia. So if Russia needed a lesson on where they'd stand in NATO and the EU if they joined, the Ukraine affair was it. The lesson is that Russia can be treated as a full-fledged European country only if the people running Russia allow Brussels a big say in how Russia is run.

That's the same message Dame Neville-Jones conveyed to the National Intelligence Conference during her keynote speech--not about Russia but about Europe's view of the United States. She was not speaking in an official capacity but her previous standing in the British government gives her words much weight. Stripped of polite language, the message she passed on is that the EU's idea of improved cooperation with Washington is for things to return to the way they were during the Clinton era. That was the era during which US foreign/defense policy was run from a post box in Brussels.

I add that Neville-Jones is a Good Guy--a very staunch friend of the US war on terror. That's why she squished herself into the middle seat of Coach class to fly from London to Washington just to deliver a heads up to the US defense community.

It's doubtful that President Bush first heard the warning via Neville-Jones's speech. It's obvious that the EU has taken a hard line toward Washington and there's no indication they plan to soften, even if they find agreement over Syria's role in Lebanon. The EU leaders want to have more say in how US defense/foreign policy is run; if they don't get it, they can drag their feet on a host of issues. From that view, Bush's tough stance on Russia can be read as a bone thrown at the EU's demands for more say in US policy.

However, there have been big changes in the world since the US invaded Iraq. The US triumph in Iraq--and it is a triumph--brought up a situation that was greatly suppressed because of Saddam Hussein's aggression in the Middle East. The situation is that Iran is a Persian island in a sea of Arabs. As long as Iran could act to keep Saddam's aggression in check, Arabs were happy to invite Iran to their backyard barbecues. But now that Saddam's threat is removed, Iran is feeling, well, like an island. And they aren't going to reach out to Israel--not as long as the present regime in Tehran is in power.

What would you do, in Tehran's position? For the answer, look at a map. Iran sits on that invisible line that divides the Middle East from Asia. Iran has long been a big purchaser of Russian weapons technology and so they've had good relations with Russia. But to interest Russia in forming a bloc would take more than arms trade. It would take a bunch of countries getting on board.

The map shows that the first choice among the bunch is China. That was Beijing's idea when they formed the hilariously named Shanghai Cooperative. Beijing envisioned an Asian arc of power that included Russia, Iran, India and various satellites, such as whatever Stans the bloc could pry away from US influence.

Put in unpussyfooting language, the Shanghai Cooperative is a pussyfooting attempt to form an Asian version of NATO. Vajpayee had his own idea; he wanted to create an IT trade alliance with China that would leave the EU trade bloc and the US eating dust for the rest of the century.

One sticking point for Vajpayee's party was bringing Tehran on board with the Shanghai Cooperative. The Islamic fundamentalists in Tehran don't say nice about Hindus behind their back. Vajpayee's party represents Hindu nationalism. Iran didn't see why they should be allies with India and vice versa. So the Shanghai Cooperative sort of bumped along in getting off the ground.

Also, Iran and Russia, having many centuries of experience with China, knew that the Chinese have a penchant for never naming anything for what it actually is, if it has unpleasant or forceful connotations. That's why Chinese gulags in Tibet were given names such as Bluebirds Nesting in Feathered Fan.

To boil it down, Tehran and Moscow weren't sure they wanted to be run from a post office box in Beijing. Months passed. Moscow waffled and watched India and China waltz each other around, and Iran lost a lot of money and caused a lot of unnecessary bloodshed while trying to swing things their way in post-Saddam Iraq. Meanwhile, large numbers of Indians were getting more and more steamed at Vajpayee, who was so busy entertaining Microsoft executives and wooing China that he neglected his voter base. In what was a stunning surprise to no one but Vajpayee, the Hindu nationalists were routed last year from the seat in Delhi and the Congress party returned to power.

The thing to write on your hand about the Congress party is that they trust China no further than they can throw it. And with a Sikh in the top post in India--Sikhs being sort of an Indianized Islamic sect with a few nods to Hinduism--Tehran found they could deal with India, after Tehran faced the writing on the wall about Iraq and looked around at the sea of Arabs lapping at their shore.

The upshot is that Tehran is talking up the creation of a common market that would include India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, the Central Asian states, and the Caucasus. Just to show they're willing to put their money where their mouth is, Tehran has dropped import barriers to Indian tea.

Tehran is doing more than agreeing to drink Indian tea. They want India to back them up regarding Tehran's stance on going nuclear. As sweetener, they've offered India a gas pipeline deal and India has reciprocated with all kinds of planned investment in Iran.

Thus, the outlines of the early 21st century are jelling. For all their hi-tech industrial knack, the EU, America, India and China are heavily dependent on regions in Russia, the Caspian Sea states, and the Middle East for energy supplies. Tehran has sized up the situation, and is making a pitch to Russia to play by the new geopolitical order.

Now put yourself in Putin's place listening to the pitch from Tehran. Putin's overriding concern is to build up Russia as a truly sovereign nation and from there a stable democracy. Imagine Dallas, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago running their own foreign policy counter to Washington's. That's pretty much where Russia's at.

Moscow has to get control of the regional governors and the oligarch clans. Putin doesn't want to do it by brute force, in the way China and Iran solved similar problems. So it's messy because Putin and his technocrats are making up solutions and correcting them as they go along.

Washington and Brussels don't care about the mess. They care about oil and gas and gas and oil and oil and gas. Russia has no other use to them other than maybe a place to set up US/NATO bases. Quite frankly, Russia doesn't have all that much offer during this era, aside from energy and a weapons industry left over from the Cold War era.

For now, Putin is trying to keep everyone at bay while he continues to fiddle with structural adjustment in the effort to wrest Russia away from the clan model of government.

The question is whether Bush should approach Russia in the way he indicated in his Brussels speech. His lecture to Russia might be a reflection of pressure from factions in the Democrat and Republican party that want to go along with Europe's lead on Russia.

However, the factions are still living in 1982 and Bush knows this. So we'll have to see what happens in Bratislava, now that Bush made his bread-and-butter speech to the EU and made a pass at placating the factions back home.

Just to throw in more suspense, Pundita suspects that Germany is particularly against the Bush-Putin friendship. Germany, we should all remember, is the most influential member of the European Union.

For more on Iran-India talks:

Sunday, February 20

Chinese spies! Russian arms merchants! German secret police! Is it a remake of Casablanca? No, it's the Ostrich school of defense policy!

"[Secretary] Rice was much tougher on the Russians during their meeting than was generally reported in the US press. So do you think Bush will keep up the heat on Putin over Syria and Iran during the Bratislava meeting?"
[Signed] Chicago Dan"

Dear Chicago Dan:

Is it me? Or has anyone else noticed that the spike in Chechen terrorist attacks in Russia coincided with Moscow's decision to favor Japan over China with a pipeline route and Putin's reluctance to accept China's 'invitation' to have Russia take a larger role in the Shanghai Cooperative.

And as coincidence would have it, terrorist attacks on Russia fell off markedly at just around the time Putin finally decided to:

(a) accept Beijing's 'invitation' to take a greater role in the Shanghai Cooperative

(b) do more oil business with China

(c) forgive much of Syria's debt to Russia and seal an arms deal, and

(d) give Tehran pretty much everything they want with regard to transfer of nuclear technology.

Well, perhaps Pundita reads too much into her haphazard following of news about terrorism attacks in Russia.

In any case, we extract two issues from your question. The most serious issue for the United States is drift toward the Ostrich School of foreign policy.

How is yelling at Putin about Syria and Iran going to convince France and Germany not to sell weapons and dual-use technologies to Syria and Iran? How does huffing at the Kremlin bring the British Foreign Office to cease their Appeasement Initiative toward Iran? And what does upbraiding the Russian arms industry have to do with the fact that the US is currently overrun with Chinese industrial spies?

The key issue is somehow always lost in the shuffle of the day's war and diplomacy news. The issue is that oppression and innovation don't go together.

China defends 'authoritarian' government, but you don't find China sending armies of industrial spies to Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea. No, they send the spies to the US and other democratic countries, where creativity flowers. The spies steal the innovations that come from the brain sweat of peoples who live in freedom. Then the Chinese make cheap knockoffs and sell them at a steep discount. Then they say, "See? You don't have to be a democracy to be a modern trading power!"

Then China gets invited to lunch at the G7 meeting.

If it ended there, we might take it in stride. But US soliders are getting shot at and blown up in Iraq with weapons that have Made in China stamped on their parts--when the stamp doesn't read Made in France or Made in Germany.

Meanwhile, US officials yell at the Saudis for helping to fund terrorist organizations. But selling weapons and WMD technology to the governments who run terrorist armies is a far greater problem.

Show me the Saudi who can operate a wrench and I'll show you a Yemini you've mistaken for a Saudi. The Saudis have a horror of physical labor. So where are the weapons factories in Saudi Arabia? Show them to Pundita.

No. The weapons factories and booming weapons industries are in Britain, Germany, Russia, France, Israel and China. They're in America also but during this era, at least, the American defense industry makes you steal the designs before you sell them to terror-sponsoring governments.

When we call out our allies on the issue, they come up with excuses that wouldn't get past any parent of a three-year old. Some perennial favorites:

"Where is the grand jury indictment showing evidence that X government sponsors terror?"

"We don't recognize those acts as terrorism. They are legitimate protests against oppression."

"Look, you can make a weapon out of toaster parts if you can read the computer code."

"We sold them stuff we dug up from a World War Two bunker."

"I'm a capitalist, not a moralist."

And the ever-popular, "Don't worry, they can't figure out how to detach the rocket launcher from the tank."

The Israelis came up with a creative way to deal with the problem of being attacked by the very weapon designs they sell to governments who turn around and sell them to Israel's enemies: They declared that Israel is perpetually at war.

However, Pundita awards her Ostrich Prize to Germany. To deal with the problem of terrorist attacks launched with weapons that the German defense industry sells to terror sponsoring governments, Germany is readying to become a police state:

Pay for your visits to the wine bar with EFT. No more cash payments for anything, just in case you're thinking of laundering money for a terrorist cell. Retinal scans at the dentist's office, in case you steal cavity filling material and convert it to a bomb. Computer chips inserted in your arm and pet cat, in case you and your cat turn out to be plotting a terrorist act against German wildlife. Minature cameras inserted under every toilet seat, in case you flush WMD down the can during a police raid.

That's just our allies playing ostrich. Now we turn to trading partners who are not allies. China only wants lunch invitations to the G7 meetings because acknowledging their true trade status means they can no longer trot out their favorite excuse.

Whenever you call out China over anything, they lapse into cute pidgin English: "Oh we just poor developing country. We can't wead patent and copyright law. Any weapons we sell is from 1916."

Whenever you snap at the Russians about their customers for arms deals, you get the same excuses our allies trot out. But if you back a Russian into a corner, you learn why it's possible to ace a test in Russian literature by answering, "The deathbed scene" to every question.

Russians are among the world's best storytellers and they don't believe in leaving a dry eye in the house. So Pundita will give everyone a moment to collect their Kleneex box before she lists the litany. Ready?

1. The Russian government has been broke since the Romanovs were overthrown.

2. During the UN embargo of Iraq the Russian government scared up cash to keep the lights burning in the Kremlin by (a) reselling oil they bought at a steep discount from Saddam Hussein and (b) selling Saddam every outdated weapon in the Russian arsenal going back to catapults and pitch arrows.

3. Those avenues of revenue-raising were shut down by the US invasion of Iraq.

4. That's why the Kremlin finally did what they should have done years earlier: go after tax-cheating oligarchs and wrestle back control of their energy sector from the oligarchs before it was sold piecemeal to US and European energy companies acting as fronts for Western banks.

5. Because the Kremlin dealt with reality only after the US invaded Iraq, they confronted their tax problem all at once and in a big hurry. That translated to highly questionable methods in going after the big-bucks tax cheats.

6. That's how two oligarchs with an Interpol warrant out on them ended up at a prayer breakfast at the White House the other week. When oligarchs on the lam from Russian justice are not in Washington sucking up to Republicans they're using Israel and Europe as a bunker for their war against the Kremlin.

7. If all the above sounds vaguely familiar, Beslan was Russia's 9/11. It was the inevitable consequence of many years of the government playing ostrich and not tending to gathering threats that were as plain as day to anyone who cared to look. That might be why Bush and Putin felt a kinship. They had both inherited a national security mess--a mess consisting of layers upon layers of neglect.

8. The big difference between the Putin and Bush presidencies is the advantage that a stable, wealthy democracy confers on America's leader. That meant Bush didn't need to build up a nation and a central government at the same time he declared war on terror.

The democracy that Yeltsin oversaw was a stage show--a carefully managed media event to please the West, in order to draw development/private bank loans. Behind the stage props was a ruin. Putin is trying to forge a Russian nation out of the ruin.

9. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has to scare up vast quantities of cash to keep the lights on and outspend the oligarch clans in order to remain in power. The clans have provided the only real stability Russia has known since the Soviet Union dissolved but they are also the greatest obstacle to Russia becoming a truly sovereign nation, not to mention a healthy democracy.

10. Putin's defense policy must be viewed against all the above considerations and Russia's place on the world map. He has the same policy as Roadrunner. The policy is to survive the day and make sure not to look down while running from one cliff edge to another.

11. With regard to foreign policy, Putin is taking the paths of least resistance that open up. Is that the right thing to do? No. It's dangerously shortsighted. But to take actions according to the long view would require a militarily powerful nation at Russia's back. Any hope Putin had that he might depend on America for back-up in dealing with China's 'invitations' was dashed when he saw American actions in Ukraine. The actions fully supported and encouraged the Yushchenko tactic of demonizing Russia and Putin.

12. So, even if Bush somehow convinced Putin that notwithstanding US actions in Ukraine and Georgia, America would be at Russia's back--the Russian military would not accept Bush's assurances. As with all military, they don't get paid to live on hope.

13. But even if the Russian military trusted Bush to stand by assurances to Putin, Bush is only in office four more years. Who knows what kind of defense/foreign policy will evolve from the next US administration?

14. And even if the Russians could be assured that Bush policy carries forward, geography is still the most important factor in Russia's foreign policy. Russia must find ways to get along with the European trading bloc, China, and Iran.

Now that we've all had a good cry, it's time to run the story through Pundita's handy pocket-sized Malarkey Translator:

Putin doesn't want to rumble with Washington any more than he wants to rumble with Beijing. But what Russia's weapons industry lost in sales to Saddam's regime, they can make up for with weapons sales to Syria. And what they lost from black market oil deals with Saddam, they can make up with sales of dual-use nuclear technology to Iran.

That bottom line brings Russia up against the US-led war on terror. But delivering threats to Moscow is delivering threats to the wrong address. Or rather, Russia should not be near the top of the address list. In their dealings with Iran and Syria, Russia is simply following the lead set by the European Union's most powerful nations. These very same nations are members of NATO--our dear allies.

This said, the US has a war to fight. So Pundita hopes President Bush reads the riot act to Putin over weapon sales to Syria and nuke technology to Iran. We hope even more that Bush trots out the same riot act for every head of state he meets with this coming week.

For their part, Moscow would be within their rights to lodge a formal protest with the US government over the White House inviting oligarchs on the lam to a prayer breakfast, and over the recent "testimony" before Congress by Yukos and Menatep officials.

The latter incident is so outrageous that Pundita, who is rarely at a loss for words, is speechless. Thus, we allow Peter Lavelle at to outline the situation: Yukos' Double Standard.


"Pundita!! The New York Times is going after Bush again! On the eve of his important meetings in Europe!"

"Pundita!! The New York Times is going after Bush again! On the eve of his important meetings in Europe! Have you seen the Times story up on Drudge about the Wead book!? Why doesn't the Times just move into the [UK] Guardian headquarters and free up all that office space in Manhattan?
[Signed] Sleepless in St. Louis again"


From the few reviews now up on Barnes & Noble, which do not mention the tapes in question, it seems the part in Wead's book ("The Raising of a President") that deals with the Bush conversations Wead secretly taped is a small part of the writing.

But from the Times article up on Drudge, clearly the NYT was involved in the controversial part of the book for several weeks prior to the book's January publication. So, given the book's date of publication and the date of the Times article (today), it does seem at this moment that the Times waited until the day of Bush's trip to Europe to publicize the tapes.

According to the B&N website, the Wead offering is published by Atria Books, which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster. If this is indeed the same book the Times story mentions, then the plot thickens.

Simon & Schuster is owned by Viacom, which also owns CBS. That's the same CBS which had their knuckles rapped about the very unbalanced 60 Minutes II treatment of Bush's National Guard Service, to put it politely.

Viacom's problem is that several members of the public loudly charged that 60 Minutes was serving as a showcase for Simon & Schuster books. CBS hotly denied the charge. But since the uproar, 60 Minutes (and 60 Minutes II) are under very close scrutiny.

It might be that 60 Minutes slips in mention of the book, but as of this moment, the 60 Minutes schedule for tonight is not showing any such segment.

To boil it down, there was no way 60 Minutes could do a segment on the Wead book on this evening's broadcast without raising howls from the public. So it's possible that The New York Times was doing Viacom a favor, given that it would sticky if 60 Minutes did a tie-in segment with the Atria book.

Pundita sympathizes with your irritation, but the Times editorial board doesn't seem to think that the United States is at war. So they would not see the timing of their story about the Bush tapes as an attempt to distract Europe from the points that Bush wants to impress on Europe.

On the other hand, the Times probably has more readers in Europe than the US. If so, it would make sense for the Times to spring something on the President just as he's making what is a triumphal return to Europe.

In any case, within a couple days the Times story will be all over Europe. By the time the Guardian and other Bush-bashing Euro rags get finished interpreting the story, this will add fuel to European fears that Bush is a religious fanatic.

Andrew Wallenstein, who did a 12/06/04 piece for the Hollywood Reporter on the Viacom controversy ("Viacom taking more of '60 Minutes' time"), had sobering words about the broader implications.
In fairness, it's hard to blame "60 Minutes" for its story selections considering that it is part of a media conglomerate with many tentacles in an increasingly consolidated industry. From CNN to Fox News Channel to the Big Three networks, all of the major U.S. TV news outlets are now cogs of media and entertainment behemoths.
However, the type of consolidation that the CBS News/S&S partnerships represented is called 'vertical integration,' which is a way for parent corporations to integrate the marketing of products/services that are created by various companies within the conglomerate.

Vertical integration was not conceived to be a way of cooking up stories that are treated as hard news merely as a marketing ploy for a company product. That's exactly how Viacom used vertical integration, until they were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. With some understatement, the CBS News part in the ploy is not an example of ethical journalism.

The best defense is to get to know your friendly conglomerate and all its spinoffs, and keep a close watch on their exercises in vertical integration. Because if you think propaganda is the worst thing that can happen to the nightly news, you don't know how creative today's marketeers can be.

For the full Hollywood Reporter article, go to:


Friday, February 18

Taco Bell: The Final Solution

"Now that it's clear that Germany, France and Britain won't support a naval blockade of Iran do you think America would be justified in going it alone? Also, any ideas on how to respond to North Korea's latest demand?
[Signed] Chuck in Annapolis"

Dear Chuck:

North Korea....Iran....Germany....we're looking but we don't see those countries on our world map. We see a Korean-speaking province of China, a Farsi- and Arabic-speaking province of China, and a German-speaking province of China.

That reminds me; the raccoon mentioned last year that he had to lecture his son on etiquette. The child spit out a mouthful of "very hot strange noodles" that had been a gift from his friend at the German embassy. When his father asked what a nose is for, his explanation for putting fire in his mouth was he thought it might be a new recipe for Wiener schnitzel. Kids.

So you want a naval blockade of Iran, eh? That's leaping over a few steps. A naval blockade is an act of war, which requires teamwork to pull off. How can America fight a war, when half of Washington thinks the war ended with the occupation of Iraq? So first we need a naval blockade of the Beltway. If we use the Coast Guard we might not need to wrangle with the issue of Posse Comitatus. Anyhow, the idea would be that nobody at Foggy Bottom, Pentagon, and Langley goes home for the weekend until everybody gets on the same page.

Once the blockade is up, herd them into movie theaters around the Beltway and sequester Taco Bell to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the theaters. The audiences should stay in the theaters until they've watched every episode of Survivor, Apprentice, and the Amazing Race. In this way they can learn what happens when teamwork breaks down or never gets underway, and they can learn the meaning of good and bad teamwork.

With regard to our dear allies, London and Paris know which side Berlin would come down on, if they took opposition to what Beijing wants. Right now General Cao wants the EU to stall around with regard to Tehran while he scrambles to build up the Chinese navy, which he can then send steaming to the Strait of Hormuz. That means Berlin wants to stall around. If London and Paris say no to Berlin, they might reopen a chapter in history they'd rather not open. Pundita does not blame them for not wanting to reopen it.


Thursday, February 17

Go ask Alice

"Do you think greater cooperation on dealing with Iran can come out of Bush's trip to Europe?"
[Signed] Tom in Sioux City

Dear Tom:

There can't be cooperation between the US and Europe on how to deal with Iran--or any other non-NATO country. That's because the concept of cooperation implies that distinct entities develop common ground. For more than a half century US defense/foreign has been so dominated by the NATO viewpoint that there has been no distinct US policy.

Europe was in such ruin after World War II that the US had no choice but to remain deeply involved in European defense. Now Europe is not in ruins, and the major military threat to Europe dissolved with the end of the Soviet Union. So now it's past time for relations between the US and Europe to disengage from the familial.

What we've seen since Bush announced the preemption doctrine is a recognition of the need to define America as distinct from Europe and NATO. We still have a way to go before a truly American policy emerges but the Bush presidency has made a good start.

The bad news is that until the US ekes out their own patch of policy ground, the US is in the position of the spouse who's trying to get through a messy divorce by sending mixed signals. One week we make demands. The next week we don't find the word 'demand' in our dictionary. Then we ask why Europe is jumping on us. Of course they're jumpy; you'd be jumpy in their position. They don't know where we stand.

Pundita doesn't like to apply psychology to international relations; however, this situation is the exception. The similarities between the present EU-US relations and a messy divorce are so striking that we should deploy a team of psychologists as interlocutor. And throw in a team of divorce lawyers.

We can have good relations with Europe that will carry us through the war on terror--I emphasize good, not necessarily great. Yet first we need to reestablish the relations in the context of 'foreign' relations rather than family relations. Until that happens, Tehran and Pyongyang and a number of other governments will continue to exploit the confused situation. Examples of confused policy are the present US relations with Russia and China, although those two are at the top a long list.

I add that it doesn't seem to be Bush who's confused. But he can't fire the entire State Department and Pentagon. Nor can he order a blockade of Capitol Hill until everyone in Congress decides on what century this is.

That's not even the hard part. Countless US academic departments and policy institutes were born and raised in the NATO paradigm. So they're looking at Bush's American viewpoint in the way the Red Queen looked at Alice: Clearly it's making no sense, so that must mean it's out to destroy civilization.


Friday, February 11

"There was just so much money to be made"

I don't know the total attendance figure for the three day National Intelligence Conference & Exposition but I'd guess it was under 1,000. So even if each attendee and speaker represented, say, 10,000 others working in an area of defense, policing, and private security, and excluding the number of active duty military in democratic nations, they could be characterized as the few who protect the many.

I hasten to add that attendees included a small but vocal minority whose only connection to the defense/security fields was that of Concerned Citizen. Pundita was a proud member of that group and relieved to discover it was represented at the conference. The second day of a conference always finds the ice broken. People you see on the first day remember you the next; conversations strike up, and by the last day Pundita was waving at people who were perfect strangers two days before.

Lunchtime on the second and third days found Pundita chattering like a magpie with people who had shyly avoided conversation with strangers on the first day. By the third day there were no more strangers. The gravity of the conference had sunk in. The theme of this year's Intelcon is "Widening the intelligence domain to include the public" but it could have been subtitled, "The dark side of consumerism in the globalized trade era."

Boomers will recall a fashionable saying during the activist 60s: The enemy is ourselves. Pundita had cause to recall the saying many times during the conference. Somewhere out there was Them during the decade running up to 9/11: the vote-chasing politicians who traded their country's security concerns in exchange for high poll numbers, the appointed officials who for partisan reasons suppressed vitally important issues relating to national defense, the businesspeople who pandered to tyrants in exchange for a piece of 'emerging markets,' the industrial spies and lobbyists who sold to the highest bidder. And of course there was what we call The Enemy: the one who prepared to make war on us.

Yet behind it all stood--us and our demands for faster and cheaper, and our refusal to care or even ask about the real human cost of all that efficiency and cost savings.

And so as Russians watched their children shot in the back while fleeing a schoolhouse in Beslan, they couldn't allow themselves to think too hard on the end of the road for a defense industry that sells to despotic regimes which support terrorist armies.

And so as Spaniards retched at the sight of mangled human body parts strewn around a train station in Madrid, they couldn't allow themselves to ponder overmuch the penalty for refusing to look closely at an immigrant community that functioned as Spain's servant class.

And so as civilian volunteers searched the dust of the World Trade Center for traces of the dead, they couldn't allow themselves to think too hard on the real price for cheap Arab oil.

"There was just so much money to be made," explained one of Pundita's lunch companions on the second day of the conference.

He was speaking of the Bubble Years. His firm, as with all other computer firms caught up in the bubble, knew their products had 'back doors' a mile wide that could be exploited by hackers working for industrial spies, unfriendly governments and terrorists. But velocity, not security, was king. The customer demanded products that were easy to use, priced cheap and above all delivered fast. Those who gave the customers what they wanted quickly raised up trade empires; those who didn't went under.

Have things changed all that much since 9/11? Well, that was partly what Intelcon was about: to discuss where we were on 9/11 with regard to intelligence gathering/security issues, how far we have come, and the ground still to be covered.

The people who came from the four quarters to attend the conference represented a vast improvement in priority-setting. Pundita spied a name tag belonging to a worker for the recreational parks services in a western city--a city that wouldn't likely be near the top of the terrorist hit list. So the voters in that city are awake, and demanding that more tax dollars and attention be given security concerns. The lunch companion that Pundita mentioned--after 9/11 his company snapped out of the dream, and they had the money to restructure their products and priorities around security issues.

The other side of the story was neatly summarized by one speaker, who said that for many companies "risk assessment" still equates to hiring MBAs instead of intelligence analysts. And by a Concerned Citizen, who described herself as a Liberal Democrat who refused to watch Fox cable, but who demanded to be kept better informed about the war on terror.

She was hooted down by Fox loyalists but Pundita took pity on her stated predicament. After the seminar we told her about the John Batchelor program, which looks at the war from the viewpoint of US national security rather than Democrat and Republican party lines. She replied that she would explore the option but added that her real concern was President Bush's lousy handling of the war on terror.

What would she have Bush do? Bomb nations when they threaten to put up trade barriers because of US demands for better security measures at airports and containerized shipping ports? Cut off diplomatic relations with London, Berlin and Paris because they insist that appeasement works? Ship US congressionals to Gitmo when they put pork barrel demands of constituents ahead of vital national and regional security interests?

And just where does the buck stop for all that? If you're a citizen of a democratic nation, go look in the mirror for the answer.


Tuesday, February 8

Pundita attends the National Intelligence Conference & Exposition (Intelcon): Day One

We arrived fashionably late, which in this case was halfway through the luncheon salad course and James Woolsey's keynote speech. This meant we missed the panel discussion of the media that John Batchelor moderated. Pundita consoled herself with Chicken Marsala, roasted potatoes, baby carrots and broccoli, and raspberry chocolate torte a la Hyatt Regency.

We munched in silence. The eight other diners at the ten-seat round table, perhaps after seeing our name tag (which screeched "Just a Member of the Public") avoided looking at Pundita until we piped up, "Please pass the butter" and in a childish bid for more attention set about mashing balls of butter into our roast potatoes.

The ballroom was packed. Pundita gave up trying to count the number of ten-seat tables, virtually of all which were filled, but there might have been as many as 400 diners. We divided our attention between eavesdropping on a conversation next to us and mulling over Woolsey's words.

A man who represented a company that produces some kind of gizmo or questionnaire to supplement the lie detector test told a story to illustrate the effectiveness of the product. It was the kind of story Sherlock Holmes would have liked:

Fires broke out in several places in a man's house. The man, who was seen running from the burning house, was suspected of committing arson for the insurance money. The man admitted that he had started the fires but adamantly maintained that this was accidental. Understandably the investigators did not believe his story, even after he passed a lie detector test.

Finally, the storyteller's company was asked to question the man. It turned out he had told the literal truth, which is why he passed the lie detector test. He had not intended to burn down his house. He had intended to kill himself by carbon monoxide poisoning. He thought that if he made enough smoke by starting small fires, that would do the trick. However, as so often happens with suicide attempts, there is nothing like imminent death to put life's blows in context. The survival instinct took over when the fires got out of control; the man fled in panic, leaving the house to burn down.

The story illustrates the very complex nature of police detective work and defense intelligence analysis. Being 'almost' right can mean the difference between solving a case (or extracting reliable intelligence) and chasing red herring.

Admiral Woolsey's speech, the part Pundita caught, was a thumping call to frame the hate-filled Wahabist doctrine as this era's Communist Threat and marshal the West's resources to battling the newest scourge of humankind.

After lunch Pundita wandered into the tender sunshine of a warm day--warm for this time of year in Arlington. We avoided the benches outside the Hyatt Regency entrance. Spying a bench near an alcove at a little distance from the entrance we settled down to peruse the contents of the Intelcon conference binder.

Hearing a sound behind us we turned to see an African man, dressed nearly in rags, carefully arranging a tattered prayer rug on the ground. He knelt on the rug; we politely returned to the conference book, so to allow him to pray in peace. Later we saw the man outside his taxi, talking with other drivers in the taxi line outside the hotel entrance.

Pundita doesn't like conferences. So many "tracks" and seminars to choose from and after making the choices we invariably wonder whether we're missing something more interesting in a concurrent seminar. This leads to room-hopping, which is impolite.

We doggedly set course for the seminar we'd chosen but halted in dread at the sound of the familiar voice, which had grated on Pundita's nerves over the course of many John Batchelor broadcasts. With never an approving word for the Bush doctrine, with not so much as a smidgen of praise for the US military's invasion of Iraq, with nothing but criticisms and complaints about US intelligence efforts in the Middle East, Yossef Bodansky was among Pundita's least-favorite Batchelor show regulars.

The man looked nothing like his voice sounded. The eyes behind the glasses held no fear of what others thought of him, only piercing assessment. He reminded Pundita of the Peregrine falcon member of our foreign policy team. We blurted, "When are you speaking?" He looked at his watch and replied, "Soon."

Thus, after years of wandering in the desert, Pundita arrived at the heart of the problem with US foreign policy--and learned why Dr. Bodansky is so harshly critical of the Bush administration, the Congress, and the US intelligence community.

His criticism is not political or personal, nor is directed exclusively at the United States. His talk at Intelcon addressed a systemic problem--a massive problem, of the kind that leads to bad defense/foreign policy decisions and a nation's blindness to looming enemy attacks.

With the able assistance of John Loftus (Intecon Program Director), and with wry humor and unfusty examples free of jargon, Bodansky summarized decades of "insider" criticism voiced by the wisest and most experienced defense intelligence analysts. How this interfaces with the formulation of US foreign policy requires the understanding of the American public, if our government is to be prodded to embrace the solutions.

To be continued.

Sunday, February 6

Ambush! World Economic Forum springs nasty surprise on Bush and gets the jump on Richard Gere!

Written in memory of Rick Rescorla's martyrdom on 9/11. The team has asked Pundita to insert a warning: This essay is not for children.

Pundita is still stewing because she is the only American and for all we know the only person on the planet outside banking circles to have noticed that World War V * had broken out. Thus, our spirits lifted at seeing the title of an email sent by one of our favorite war bloggers, Bill Roggio at the fourth rail : "A call to arms."

Upon opening the email Pundita was crestfallen to discover that Bill was only calling for battle against CNN. This is partly over the matter of CNN stonewalling in the face of requests to release a transcript and/or video of a panel discussion at the recent World Economic Forum (WEF). Specifically, the part of the discussion that features a CNN vice president, Eason Jordan, saying that the US military had "targeted" journalists in Iraq; i.e., deliberately killed them.

Mr. Jordan clarified, backtracked or stood by his words, depending on which account you read from those in attendance, but exactly what was said is in dispute and thus, the request for a transcript or video. **

At the end of this post I provide additional links for readers interested in following the controversy about Eason Jordan's remarks. Pundita will not write about the controversy, which is outside our purview. However, we were struck by the venue. How did a panel on news reporting show up at a forum dedicated to economic concerns?

And how did it happen that out of all the news media executives on the planet, the forum invited Eason Jordan, a confessed collaborator with Saddam Hussein's regime and already on record for making inflammatory statements against the US military?

The answer is that the forum organizers were hopping mad because President Bush ignored their meeting. According to the BBC :
As every year, Davos [site of the WEF] was packed with top politicians. Germany, [France,] Britain, Brazil, South Africa, Poland, Pakistan, and many others sent their heads of state or government. But there was one glaring absence: From the US government only the outgoing top trade official (and soon to be deputy foreign minister) Robert Zoellick had made it to the Swiss mountain village. Pity, if you want, Republican Senators Bill Frist and John McCain, who quickly became the designated punch bags for critics of US foreign policy. Mr McCain spelled it out: "There's a lot of Anti-Americanism out there", and promised that President Bush's forthcoming trip to Europe would be a "listening tour".
Clearly, the WEF organizers were not content just to kick Republican senators in the shins. Thus, the panel discussion titled, "Will Democracy Survive the Media?"
The concept of truth, fairness, and balance in the news was weighed against corporate profit interest, the need for ratings, and how the media can affect democracy. The discussion was moderated by David R. Gergen, Director for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. The panel included Richard Sambrook, the worldwide director of BBC radio, U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, Abdullah Abdullah, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, and Eason Jordan, Chief News Executive of CNN. The audience was a mix of journalists, WEF attendees (many from Arab countries), and a US Senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd.
Pundita hesitates to tell American readers too much about the World Economic Forum, lest they find themselves in the ungainly position of finding a point of agreement with America's Public Enemy #2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the mastermind of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Zawahiri did not pick that target out of a hat; the WTC, along with the World Bank and the IMF, symbolized for him the rampant mercantilism that characterizes the Globalist movement, and which forms the basis of the Chirac School of foreign policy. (See "The Central Debate" Pundita sidebar.)

Come to think of it, this is a good place to rename Chirac's school to the more descriptive "Mercantile School." Pundita hastens to add that Zawahiri is barking mad; indeed, he's on record as the first person driven certifiably insane by World Bank policies. (Don't reach for your copy of the Guinness Book of World Records; there are so many candidates for the title that Guinness is still reviewing challenges to Z's claim.)

The World Economic Forum is among a group of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that the Globalist movement spawned, and which attached themselves to the United Nations. The WEF's stated goal is "to make the world a better place." Translation:

World Economic Forum Co-chairs

William H. Gates, Co-Founder, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Microsoft Corporation, USA

N. R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman of the Board and Chief Mentor, Infosys Technologies

Lubna S. Olayan, Chief Executive Officer, Olayan Financing Company

Charles O. Prince, Chief Executive Officer, Citigroup

John A. Thain, Chief Executive Officer, New York Stock Exchange

Daniel Vasella, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Novartis

In other words, the WEF is a bunch of businessmen who want to make a buck in developing countries and find Chirac's justifications for pandering to tyrannies a convenient gloss. Thus, nobody should be surprised that no ranking member of the Bush administration showed at this year's WEF meeting.

What's surprising is that Richard Gere was in attendance. America's film stars are generally so naive about foreign affairs that one doesn't expect them to understand what the WEF is about. But of all the film stars, Richard Gere should be aware that it's NGOs such as WEF that help Red China maintain Face in the world community, which helps the Chinese maintain a tyranny over the Tibetan people and support the tyrannies in Burma and North Korea.

Charles Krauthammer has observed that one shouldn't expect capitalism to have a conscience and that's why we have the judicial system. He meant that business is not the place to expect support for democracy and the freedoms that go with it, but the businessplace can be kept within ethical bounds by application of laws.

However, the transnationalization of capitalism means that global corporations based in democratic countries are free to ignore the dictates in their own societies when they do business in other lands. They take full advantage of their freedom. They cozy up to tyrants who can give foreign corporations the okay for doing business in their countries. They avert their eyes to barbaric tribal customs and government atrocities carried out in the name of maintaining stability. They use organizations such as the WEF to put a pretty face on their utter lack of conscience.

When called out on their evil, they write million dollar checks to the World Wildlife Fund and NGOs fighting AIDS in Africa, and prattle that good business leads inevitably to humane government.

They are the engine that makes the Axis of Weasels turn, which in turn keeps the Axis of Terror spinning. And when it all falls down, when mad mad men such as Ayman al Zawahiri rage to God to wreak vengeance, when their bodyguards and armed enclaves are no longer sufficient to protect them, they run to their own government--the one that protects their freedoms--and scream, "Do something!"

Then men and women of good conscience and stout character have to shed blood and lose their lives to rescue them from their own doing.

And in the still of the night, when their spouses ask, "What did you do at the office today?" they answer, "I made the world a better place, my dear."

CNN and CNN International rose on the back of the Globalist movement and fed on it. Americans who have never seen CNN International--continue not seeing it, if you're watching your blood pressure. If you think CNN is down on America, you should see the international version. The executives defend the content and slant by saying that they have to appeal to audiences outside the USA. Translation: If you want to sell widgets in Saudi Arabia and China, don't report on anything that makes tyrants and barbarians lose Face.

Eason Jordan is a poster child for the Globalist movement. He admitted his corroboration with Saddam's regime only after the US military invaded Iraq. Jordan's heart-wrenching defense of his actions neglected to explain why he didn't move the CNN bureau to safety behind Kurdish lines. That would have allowed the bureau to report to the world about the atrocities that Jordan and others in his bureau knew about, but chose not to report to the world.

The furor over Jordan's admissions died down, or was lost in the shuffle of news about the post-invasion phase of the Iraq campaign. That left unanswered troubling questions raised by Hugh Hewett ; among them:
Has Jordan failed to reveal other non-disclosures [about his knowledge of a murder plot and atrocities] that reasonable people would consider material?

Did Jordan previously disclose any or all of these revelations to any official from the United States government?

Are there any similar non-disclosure deals at work in Cuba, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Burma, or any other country in which CNN maintains a presence?
Mr. Jordan's actions in Iraq are the best answer to the question raised by the Davos panel. Of course democracy won't survive the media, if the media continues to give tyrants "fair and balanced" coverage.

The grimmest irony of the war on terror is that if not for the 9/11 attack, the American people would have continued to follow blindfolded the lead set by the Mercantile School. Now it's a new day, but George W. Bush is just one American. Unless the American Establishment media (and the American wing of the blogosphere) work harder to explain the Bush Democracy Doctrine to the rest of the world, Bush will indeed make his upcoming European tour a "listening" one.

Yet if ever there was a time Europe needed to listen to an American president, now is the time.

* World War V"

* * Sisyphean Musings reports that WEF is making a copy of the video available.

Check Hugh Hewett and Captain Ed for latest roundup on the fast-moving Eason Jordan/CNN story.

And see Carol Platt Liebau for a statement by Eason Jordan

Friday, February 4

Is Banfsheh Zand-Bonazzi actually Michael Graham in drag?

Anyone who has caught Zand-Bonazzi's appearances on the John Batchelor show will sense that a media star is in the making. Ms. Zand-Bonazzi is the editor of Iran Press News , which publishes reports on Iran that the mainstream Western news tend to studiously ignore. But one needs to hear her comments on the old-boy colonialist powers now sucking up to the Tehran tyrants to realize she's missed her calling.

Clearly, Zand-Bonazzi is in possession of a Sahib-0-Meter in excellent working condition. And if she was a Scottish American male working in talk radio she'd be Michael Graham . Graham, a self-described Southern Redneck Conservative Republican, has too much Scottish wit to let any authority off easy, including his own wife ("The Warden"). However, Graham doesn't risk his life every time he speaks on the air, which can't be said for the courageous Ms. Zand-Bonazzi.

Unfortunately, Iran Press News doesn't publish Zand-Bonazzi's very informative "insider gossip" observations about doings in Iran, which she provides for Batchelor's listeners. For those who missed last night's broadcast, she reported that taxi drivers in Iran demand in English to know the nationality of foreigners hailing their cabs. If the answer is "American," the cabbies exclaim, "Welcome! Get in!"

If the answer is any nationality among the Axis of Weasel nations (Germany, Britain, France, Russia, China, etc.) sucking up to the Tehran mullathugs, the cabbies tell them, "Go away!" and refuse to give them a ride.

John Batchelor's advice to Axis of Weasel nationals trying to hail cabs in Iran: Practice an American accent and remember it's no longer the "Brooklyn" Dodgers.

Cut-and-pastes for links in this post:

John Batchelor on WABC Radio (see also Sirius Satellite Radio)

Iran Press News

Michael Graham on WMAL Radio

We interrupt coverage of jury selection for Michael Jackson's trial with news that World War Five has broken out

"Pundita! China and Russia announced more about their plans for joint military exercises, the President of the United States gave a State of the Union speech, the Secretary of State announced a trip to Europe and the Middle East, and you're tattling on a website in China and getting sarcastic about a marriage proposal from a laboratory rat! Is this your idea of keeping your readers informed about US foreign policy issues?
[Signed] Not Born Yesterday in New York

Dear NBY:

Pundita waited in vain for the American news media to get around to announcing that the first battle in World War Five * had been launched. When these things happen Pundita plunges into a dark mood. We snap at the squirrel for leaping onto the conference table and accuse the raccoon of being a Trotskyist. And we lapse into sarcasm. But after all, allowing a lab rat to vent his spleen is not any less important to the grand scheme than endless nattering over what President Bush said and didn't say in the State of the Union address.

If we study the war plan, Syria is next on the list. What more do you need to know? Bush made a nice pitch to the Yushchenko Ukraine lobby. No news there. Let's see, what else.... Tyranny discussion a rehash of the Inaugural address....It was a great State of the Union speech but provided no news on the foreign policy or war front. Not that we're complaining, mind you; the last thing America needs during a war is a commander-in-chief who's bursting to tell all.

With regard to your worry about China-Russia military exercises, kindly read the report ("China Loans Russia 6 Billion for Yukos Deal") that the Chinese website cribbed from The New York Times . Then fit that report with the news via the link above about "Western" banks calling in a marker on Yukos debt. Take special note that both announcements, along with the announcement on more details of China-Russia military exercises, came at virtually the same time.

Pundita is not one of those punditas who cackle "I told you so" but we have mentioned more than once to our readers that West Europe might be staring at the abyss, if big money stashed from Soviet state companies taken over by the oligarchs is pulled from banks in Europe. But they were foolish to bluff at Russian poker and more foolish to attempt to use Ukraine against the Kremlin.

The biggest fool, however, was the US Department of State. They should have stood back from the battles that Putin and the oligarchs were waging against each other. They should have kept in mind that the country they're supposed to serve first and foremost is currently at war.

* cut-and-paste URL for Epoch Times "Western Banks Press Rosneft to Repay YUKOS Loan"


Thursday, February 3

Pundita snitches on China Daily

Even if you paid Pundita to read The New York Times online, we wouldn't do it. What use it to have the little box that says "Remember me" if a website forces you to go through the entire registration process every time you visit? This is no great loss, which doesn't mean we never read anything the Times publishes. If it's up on Drudge, AOL News or another website, sometimes we find our way to a Times report.

That is exactly how Pundita discovered that China Daily stole an article from The New York Times. The China Daily Website was China's first news Website and according to their own blurb, "one of the country's top news portals today." Yes well if they're one of the top news portals, they can credit a source.

The China Daily 02/01/05 report Russia gets US$6b loan for Yukos Deal is a word-for-word republication of the 02/02/05 New York Times report China Loans Russia 6 Billion for Yukos Deal .

Please no letters to Pundita mentioning the time difference between New York and Beijing. The Times story was filed from Moscow. That means the Times paid to have a reporter endure Russian press conferences conducted by Russian oil ministers and whatnot. Or at the least they paid a reporter to sift news wires and write up the story. The China Daily simply clicked and pasted.

There, in a nutshell, is what's wrong with China. The Chinese are the fox in the fable of the Fox and the Grapes. They want to be a world power but they don't want to pay their dues. Chinese counterfeiting, knockoffs, and just plain theft of intellectual property cost Americans untold zillions of US dollars. But if you confront Beijing on the issue, they revert to cute pidgin English, "Oh we just poor developing country. We too poor to observe copyright and patent laws."

But. But! If America protests to Israel about weapons sales to China, General Cao draws himself up to his full height and tells Bush in perfectly grammatical English, "Mind your own business."

Obviously China is no longer a poor developing country, if they can afford to loan Russia 6 billion (that's in dollars, not yuan) to help Moscow with their Yukos problem, and if they are attending the luncheon at the upcoming G7 meeting.

The last time the G7 met it had to be on island in order to keep anti-Globalist mobs from crashing the meeting. Pundita suggests that American corporations spending billions trying to sue Chinese counterfeiters stage their own mobbed protest at the upcoming G7 meeting.

Come to think of it, that's the best idea Pundita's had since we recommended Eliot Spitzer for the job of World Bank president. Law suits are a waste of time but the Chinese government lives in terror of Disorder.
American corporations should contact George Soros for advice on how to stage a Spontaneous Uprising of the People event. But the basic drill is simple: dress up as a Hippie, smear your face with red paint, and hop up and down outside the G7 cordon.

And just think: after The New York Times writes up the story of the spontaneous uprising, China Daily could steal it for their readers. And Wal-Mart could sell the video of the event, which a Taiwan film company throws together from stolen BBC video coverage and titles, "Ninja Revenge: The Next Sequel."

Wednesday, February 2

Rugby revokes his marriage proposal

"Dear Pundita, I just noticed you removed the Comment section from your posts. Also, the Pundita Prize is now missing from your sidebar. Have you revoked the prize?
Claudia in Taos"

Dear Claudia:
The following deleted comments to earlier Pundita essays help explain why I've suspended the Comment Section and removed mention of the Pundita Prize from the sidebar. Perhaps after he's had time to reflect, or until he finds the Spell Check key, the less said about the prize the better. The Pundita Prize for Excellence in American Journalism is still in effect.

"pundiTa, I, Rugby, figuered out the password in my lab sectons computer so now I can writ you evrey nite if I want except I dont. I am very dissipointed in you. you gived a pundita Prize to belmont club insted of real arthor wretchard the Cat. This is discrimeination. now I see you remove sum mension of your Animal Team from your blog heder and put up puff quote about yourself insted. I thoght you were diferent but you are like all humans, vain, with a puffy head. I would have made you my queen, pondita."[*]


"Dear Ms. Pundita, We note that you have written essays that are sympathetic to Russia and Vladimir Putin, who as you surely know is an ex-KGB operative. We also note that rearranging sentences in letters that you publish from the "Sleepless in St. Louis" reader reveals a coded message disguised as a recipe for bouillabaisse. Please be advised we are watching your blog closely. Have a nice day!"

* "Dear pondiTa,I I really apressiate this. I will not be a rat forever. In my next lifetime I will be a rich handsom nanotesnonongist and make you my queen."

It's struck me that he always manages to hit the Caps key when typing his name but for no one else. Yet he lectures Pundita about vanity. We're best rid of this suitor in his next lifetime and all subsequent ones.

The Untouchables

"Pundita, I have an idea about how to improve relations between Moscow and Washington. Sure, Bush asked Putin a dumb question but Putin was dumb to answer with a history lesson. I mean, doesn't Putin watch Chris Matthews and Hannity & Colmes? A history lesson is no way to talk to Americans. You have to package your concept. I learned that from selling on eBay. When Bush asked Putin why he was appointing governors instead of allowing elections, he should have just said to Bush, "My team is The Untouchables. The elections for governors are fixed by the mobs. We're going to appoint governors until we clean up City Hall." Bush would have gotten it right away.
[Signed] Better Rested in St. Louis

PS: I received another weird letter from the post office. I understand about the anthrax attack but put four waterbugs in a plastic baggie with air holes and a little bit of shredded newspaper and lettuce. Now ask yourself, could that make any kind of noise remotely sounding like ticking? I give up. Next time I'm sending spaghetti and just hope the possum and rest of the team like it.

PPS: Re your Monday post on OK Corral I don't think our ancestors invented iron and copper. I think they discovered them."

Dear Better Rested:

Pundita was blowing off steam and taking poetic license in the process, but we're never irritated by a statement of facts. We find your suggestion interesting. The Untouchables are an apt analogy, at least with regard to a part of the situation that Putin's government faced when they began reforms.

(For readers outside the US: in North America "Untouchable" is law- enforcement slang for a police officer or prosecutor who can't be bribed or coerced by criminals.)

Corruption was so entrenched in the Russian bureaucracies that the reformers faced essentially the same situation the Chicago Crime Commission faced in the 1920s. Organized crime was running the State of Illinois. But as Diane Alden points out in an essay for NewsMax, mobsters were only one aspect of a much larger story of corruption in America. Corruption was so entrenched at all levels of government, and at all levels of Illinois civic society, that the commission had to create a secret branch to attempt to fight the corruption.

And The Untouchables were not always untouchable. The team originally consisted of 50 agents, which Eliot Ness put together after reviewing the records of every US Treasury Department agent. Because so many on the team eventually became suspect Ness had to cut the 50 down to 15, and finally to 9. That's what he had, to take on the entire Chicago Gangland: Nine men.

So Russians who think that Americans can't possibly understand what they're going through should learn more about American history. When it comes to corruption in government, America has been there, bought the T-shirt and the video game. The corruption in the 1920s and 1930s was not only the work of crime syndicates, "dirty" cops and corrupt judges. The corruption was endemic. It was a cancer that threatened to kill our democracy.

Americans would probably do well to learn more about that chapter in our history, which isn't taught much in public school. And keep the chapter in mind when following news about Vladimir Putin's government and modern Russia. The Russian government is not only dealing with mobsters but also with the oligarchs, whose wealth and power are mind-boggling.

The Chicago Crime Commission couldn't have imagined the power the oligarchs wielded in the world during the past decade. It's not for nothing that the Russians dubbed those people "oligarchs." Putin's government has been accused of relying on a tight inner circle of ex-KGB agents. I imagine the circle has to be very tight and for the same reason Ness had to cut down the size of his team.

As with Ness, Putin is not a perfect person. But in an imperfect world he's the best bet Russia has at this time to clean up City Hall.

Tuesday, February 1

Lost in Translation: President Putin's history lecture to President Bush

Peter Lavelle's latest commentary Putin's "authoritarianism" vs. the 'commentariat' sent Pundita to Wikipedia for a crash history and overview of modern Russian politics. This still left us experiencing cognitive dissonance regarding the word "governor" in point #3 of Lavelle's discussion.
Appointment of governors is part of Putin's “vertical power” agenda to strengthen Russian sovereignty and against internal (oligarchs and corruption) and foreign (governors making foreign policy) threats..."
I tried and failed to imagine the governors of Rhode Island, Alabama, New York, Iowa and all the other US governors making up their own foreign policy for the United States. In that event, there would be no United States of America, there would be no country.

So what kind of democracy did Vladimir Putin inherit from Boris Yeltsin? How could you have a democracy, of the kind America represents, if there was no real sovereign nation? Seeking illumination, Pundita wrote Peter Lavelle. He responded:
Regional governors experienced enormous independence from the Kremlin for years because there was little the Kremlin could do about it during the Yeltsin years. For a decade Russia's regions were run as private fiefdoms -- with little pretense supporting democracy. Many of Russia's governors ruled poorly with self interest in mind and in the service of oligarchs. This is something that the Kremlin can no longer tolerate. To modernize the economy, strengthen sovereignty, and serve the interests of citizens living in the regions the Kremlin had to do something. While most of the Western world doesn't agree with the
Kremlin's move [to appoint governors], most citizens in Russia's regions accept that they deserve better governance.
Lavelle's clarification puts an exchange between Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush in a new light. In November 2004, at an economic summit luncheon, Bush questioned Putin's decision to eliminate direct elections for regional governors.
"Mr. Putin responded by launching into a 20-minute discourse on the history of Russian federalism from the tsars to Josef Stalin, and Mr. Bush didn't pursue the issue, according to both U.S. and Russian officials." *
Now to an American who is not knowledgeable about Russia, Putin's answer showed no understanding of Bush's question. But once you understand the Russian form of government, Bush's question showed no understanding of the situation in Russia.

Bush is famous for being a fast eater, even at state dinners hosted at the White House, so I suppose if he'd chewed more slowly or dawdled over dessert Putin could have extended the history lesson to include Yeltsin's era. However, I don't think Bush missed too much by leaving off at Stalin's era, at least in terms of governing structure.

As the Soviet Communist party spread from the sophisticated Russian cities, it met with tribal societies and clan governments, which the imperial Russian government had kept at bay with much the same tactics Saddam Hussein deployed in dealing with Iraqi tribes and clans.

Saddam did not remain in power by brute force alone. The Iraqi Baathist knockoff of a centralized western fascist government was window dressing. Behind the trappings was a nomadic tribal society meshed with a traditional decentralized clan society. Thus, Saddam relied on judicious application of bribes and a carefully tended alliances with chieftains.

The Soviet Communist government followed much the same tactic; thus, when the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the window dressing. The aftermath form of government is confusing to an outsider, if you apply the American concepts of nation, governors, democracy, government, etc., to Russia. Yeltsin's "democratic" reforms were more window dressing than democratic government. Another stage show, only this time a democracy stage show. Behind the stage paint was the same old clan system that pre-Revolutionary Russian imperial government had to deal with.

So it's jumping the gun for the Bush administration to launch "a high-level review of relations with Russia in the wake of Kremlin curbs on democracy..." *

First there has to be a sovereign nation, with only one administrative body setting foreign policy. Then there needs to be a national democratic government. Then is the time to start worrying about any perceived curbs on democracy.

All this helps explain an observation under #8 in Lavelle's commentary: "Putin is not a democrat. Putin is a reformer." But still seeking illumination, Pundita asked Lavelle to elaborate. His response:
Putin is not a democrat recognizable to the West. He is primarily interested in creating an economy in which the average Russian voter has the means and interest to participate in politics. After a decade of "oligarch" rule and misguided reforms imported from the West, Putin realizes the only way Russia can be a democracy is when living standards increase significantly--and quickly. He also understands that tough and unpopular social reforms face resistance, but must be passed into law to create a modern Russian economy. Putin, incorrectly called a dictator, is using his personal popularity and control of the legislature to create the foundations of a meaningful democracy--and it won't happen tomorrow.
I think the key concept is "foundations of a meaningful democracy."

It's a shame Putin's work to create the foundations for modern government in Russia has been greatly ignored by Washington policymakers. The struggles to reform Russian government from the ground up are very valuable lessons and with application to many societies struggling toward democracy

* From "Bush Reviews Ties to Russia Amid Rising Tensions" 01/26/2005, The Wall Street Journal