Saturday, September 7, 2013

Long Hiatus

We've been absent for almost 8 months.  This is due to two factors.

1.  The subjects that we normally address are becoming repetitive largely because of the apparently insatiable appetite of governments and people for doing the same thing over and over in anticipation that the results will be different.  They won't be and frankly, we are tired of talking about them.  A word to academics who believe that their writings and opinions will be adopted by their intended targets: don't hold your breath.

2.  We are actually busy with actual work trying to impact lives on the ground outside of the grand, time constrained projects conducted by most of the big donors.

So, check back once in a while and we might have time to post.  Take a look at the company web site - - follow us on LinkedIn and let us know how we can help you.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Elliot Abrams - Glass House - Throwing Stones

Shorter Elliot Abrams (former Secretary of State) interviewed on BBC about Hillary Clinton – “she will be only remembered for flying around gathering frequent flyer miles and accomplishing nothing important.”
Why does anyone take this guy seriously?  It’s like the media constantly going to talk and get "experienced opinions" from big time loser and whiner in-chief John McCain as if he has any credibility on any subject.
Eliot Abrams – a short history:

1. Covered up US complicity in crimes committed in El Salvador for President Reagan.
2. Lied to Congress about Iran-Contra.
3. Disbarred for lying to Congress under oath.
4. Planned, with the help of Condi Rice and President Bush II a devastating civil war in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah resulting in a stronger Hamas and removal of Fatah.
5. Promoted an Israeli attack against Syria as part of Israel’s FUBAR war in Lebanon – luckily declined by Israel.
6. Bought and paid for by the Israeli Lobby in Washington.
7. Neo-conservative and advisor to wonder-boy Paul Ryan who is wrong about everything.
This  is the lying, disbarred lawyer and architect of the disastrous neo-con policies under Reagan and Bush II that virtually bankrupted the US, destroyed US credibility, made more enemies than friends and who want the US to bomb Iran and mount another stupid, illegal war in the Middle East.  We are supposed to listen to him about a Secretary of State who spent a full four years repairing the damage done by neo-con policies that also happen to support, without question, the apartheid government in Israel?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

American Pundits Strike Another Blow in Support of Teh Stupid

Every once in a while I venture into the world of the US media to see how they compare to my normal viewing habits (BBC and, the best, al Jazeera).  I am never disappointed with the flimsy knowledge (as opposed to low intellect) and poor caliber of analysis, the latter being based on the flimsy knowledge of, like, you know, actual facts.  It is very likely that the poor awareness by most Americans who actually care to know what is going on in the real world (as opposed to the pure fantasy world of Republicans) is the proximate result of being forced (there is little choice) to listen to the crap doled out by Very Smart People.

Case in point. NBC Meet the Press and its lineup of shallow thinkers like Ted Koppel,  Bob Woodward (who has exactly zero foreign policy depth and is an overrated writer to boot), Andrea Mitchell and Jim Demint (this has to be a bizarre joke).
According to Teddy, “we’re entering one of the most dangerous periods this country has ever known” Koppel, the nefarious groups around the world are ganging up on the US now and for the foreseeable future.  What color is the sky on his planet, I wonder?  He certainly remembers the Soviet Union.  How about Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan?  Now those were real threats.  Just exactly does he think weighs in at that level?  Somalia? Yemen? Chavez’s Venezuela?  Hey Teddy, no one on this planet offers a credible threat.
Does he really think that small, regional and mostly intra-state conflicts have anything on the real inter-state wars that raged during the 20th century and that these small conflicts threaten US in a substantial way? Furthermore, the fact that the world has more democracies, even though some are struggling, and a very intertwined economic structure making state violence extremely unlikely makes his assertion all the more, well, stupid.
He also seems to think that Afghanistan is a future threat although the US is getting out.  What does he think the US should do?  No answer to that from the Very Important Pundit.  Then, of course, he talks about al Qaeda.  Listen to the whole thing…because according to him, the decimated, dismantled and generally ineffective terrorist group is about to take over Pakistan.  Nobody – nobody with any knowledge believes that.
His next stop is, amazingly, Syria.  Aside from the horror that is genuinely unfolding in this sectarian civil war – about which he seems oblivious, the conflict started damn near two years ago and there is not a scintilla of evidence that the US is even inclined to get involved (fortunately). Is it a problem for Turkey?  Damn right. Does Turkey have an army, navy and air force to protect itself. Check.  Is a disintegrating Syria a threat to the US? No.  
He goes on to talk about Iran.  What a surprise.  He’s wrong there as well but you’ve really got to listen to him spew out un-educated garbage based on Bush talking points.  Would Iran react to a unilateral strike from Israel?  I expect so. So what and with what? Koppel appears to forget he is a news reader, not a serious analyst of anything.
Then comes Woodward, who suddenly  is a foreign policy expert. Really? He’s writing a new book on it, seemingly, called “Meltdown”.  This is utter bullshit.  There is no meltdown going on, rather the reverse.
All the statements on this show were patently false - yet the same people keep popping up to offer their highly paid misinformation.  Unfortunately, the "facts" are fed to a public with the attention span of a gnat and who take the statements by a parade of uninformed Very Important Pundits at face value.  I didn’t hear any faux comparison of Mali to Afghanistan, but then I was opening a beer and probably missed it. 
Shame on the American media for falling to the level it has and promoting stupidity for revenue generation.  They did it for Iraq 2003 too.
I’ll wait another year before indulging in this type of self-inflicted pain again.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Depardieux...or is that Asterix...Confusion

This is actually blog post Number 500 and the first for 2013.  So - I thought it should be decidedly unserious and focus on the enormously amusing antics of Cyrano and Asterix - also known as that slightly rotund alcoholic and sometime actor, Gerard Depardieux.

Gerard, upset by the new socialist president of France and, not to put too fine a point on it, his plan to tax those with incomes in excess of $1 million at a rate of 75% (which is a little outlandish) has obtained a Russian passport to exhibit how put-out he feels. 

However, he has now taken the plunge into Russian politics with a loud yelp in support of Vladimir Putin and his not so subtle move toward an oppresive state. 

In a supposedly secret telephone interview he also heavily criticised the anti-Putin stunt that the Pussy Riot all-female punk band performed last year in Russia's main cathedral. With talking points that could have been written by the Kremlin, Depardieu said that the band members would have received worse treatment had they gone to an Arab country and performed in a mosque.

"Imagine if these ladies walked into a mosque -- they would not come out alive..." 

Yes, well. Nothing like lowering the bar.  Sort of like saying that the Russian government is slightly less barbaric and crushes any decent with less vigour than chopping off heads in a public square in Saudi Arabia.

Two band members are currently serving two-year sentences in Russia's notorious manual labour camps.

He then said, "But when I say such things in France, I am considered an idiot."  No, Gerard, not just in France.

But, then he dives straight in the muddy water of Russian politics

Gratuitous remarks involved dishing out severe criticism of the opposition, who are not enamoured of Putin's 13-year rule were the norm. 

"The Russian opposition has no programme -- it has nothing," he told Rossiya state television's weekly program.

Then the remark designed to win over his new fellow citizens:

"Unfortunately, the masses are stupid. Only the individual is beautiful." 
Russia's first post-Soviet protests exploded last year in response to a fraud-riddled parliamentary election in which Putin's party barely got past the post.

But it get's dumber:

Depardieu said the opposition had "very smart people" such as former chess champion Garry Kasparov in its ranks. "But that is good for chess and not much else."

So - he leaves a free and open society in France because he doesn't like the idea of high taxes, to go to Russia - demonstrably un-free and un-open and with a flat 13% tax rate which played no part in his decision.

Gerard - fat, dumb and being an alcoholic are rarely a good life style choices.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Putin Throws Assad Under the Bus

When you lose this guy, time's up.

On Thursday, President Putin said this about Syria and Assad:

"We are not concerned about the fate of al-Assad’s regime. We understand what is going on there and that the family has held power for 40 years. Undoubtedly, there is a call for changes.”

“We are worried about a different thing – what next? We simply don’t want the current opposition, having become the authorities, to start fighting the people who are the current authorities ... and [we don’t want] this to go on forever.”

During the past several months, the opposition forces have consolidated gains, holding most of the north and opening up new fronts in the south. After a year of scattered fighting and assaults, they have now carried out coordinated attacks that are stripping away territory from the Assad regime which is looking more and more like a well-armed militia than coherent national fighting force. Russia knows this and is likely planning its pull-back from the Middle East. Does Iran? Probably.

But, there is a grain of truth in President Putin's remarks yesterday.  The Arab Spring has resulted in an upsurge of hard line Islamists, such as the Salafists in Egypt and similar groups in Syria.  The conventional wisdom was that if the Assad regime fell, those who peacefully demonstrated for fundamental rights a year ago would be able to consolidate and reconstruct a largely secular Syria but one that included Islamic principles.  That is unlikely to happen, and we can see from Iraq and Egypt, that those who wanted democracy are likely to end up with a new government that is neither liberal or democratic.  

President Putin is also correct in his concern that the fighting could go on forever.  Syria's opposition is united by only one thing - to remove the Assad regime. Once that is accomplished, what then?  One merely has to look at Egypt and its looming governance crisis.

Then there are the Kurds who have been largely disconnected from the fighting but not the opposition. Will they have a role to play within a new government or will they reflect on their wider interests with their government in northern Iraq?  If fighting erupts in northern Iraq between the Baghdad government and the Kurdish autonomous region - an increasingly likely scenario given the possibility of no Kurdish representation in the Iraq government - will it spread to engulf Syria?  Ankara is also likely looking at that possibility.

So, the complexity of the state of play in Syria is reflected in the entire region at this point while the US and Europe seem to be trying to find a way to engage in the regime change process so as to have influence in the new Syria.  Hence the labelling of the Ansar al-Jebhat al-Nusra li-Ahl al-Sham (Supporters of the Front for Victory of the People of Syria) or simply Jebhat al-Nusra (Support Front) by Washington as a terrorist organization in an attempt to sift out extremist.

As the end game approaches, the complexity will increase as Iran, seeing an ally swept from power, struggles to reset its relationship with Syria, while Turkey moves to create a stable transition that does not involve a Kurdish uprising that could spill over into its territory and the West maneuvers to prevent extremist elements from coming to power.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fathoming China's Foreign Policy

What on earth is China doing?  While smiling and proclaiming it wants good relations with its neighbors, China has embarked on a foreign policy frolic that lays claim to the entire South China Sea, has intercepted Malaysian seismic study vessels in Malaysian waters claimed by China, aggressively challenged Japan over islands lying within its self-declared maritime borders,  instigates a nationalistic fervor resulting in smashed windows and destruction of Japanese car dealerships in China and deliberately provokes other countries – the Philippines being a prime example – with its legally absurd sovereignty claims (considering it is a signatory to the Law of the Sea Treaty). 

One can only assume that the People’s Liberation Army has acquired a tad too much influence and control over the government policies.  Backlash is in the air - and water.
Every country in the region, as far away as India, now wants the US to increase its presence. The  newly elected Japanese government, while not actively hostile, is discussing rearmament and vows to take a more forceful stance toward China (not good considering the history involved).  The only exceptions for China are Pakistan and North Korea, not exactly the best group of friends.
This could not possibly be the result desired by Beijing.  It is exactly a case of “not what I say, but what I do” and what China is doing is irritating everyone – from Japan to South East Asia to India.