Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sheldon's Shaky Financial Foundation Imperils Freedom's Watch

Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp saw a drop in its stock price from over $100 to a paltry $3 per share. That kind of casino hit has to impact donations, political and charitable. JTA reported:

The Sheldon Adelson-backed conservative group Freedom's Watch "is pretty much kaput," reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. A spokesman tells the paper the future of the group has yet to be decided by its board, but the paper's sources say staff has been paid through the end of the year and "after that, Freedom's Watch is likely to shut its doors permanently."

The Las Vegas Review-Journal article stated Mr. Adelson was "the source of the overwhelming majority of the group's funding as well as the guiding force behind its decisions." It noted his company faced major problems due to the financial crisis.

Sands has suspended construction on projects in Las Vegas and Macau, and the company recently said it was in danger of defaulting on $5.2 billion in credit facilities.

No credit, no loan. No credibility, no vote. Let's hope real freedom is a phoenix and America can rise from its ashes. Unfortunately, the financial flames are still licking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Israel Dangles Carrots to Minimize Blowback

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dangled the carrot of a Palestinian state. He noted an agreement could be reached soon. Olmert also stated the U.S. had not tied Israel's hand on military intervention in Iran or Gaza.

"In principle there is nothing to prevent us from reaching an agreement on the core issues in the near future," Olmert said during a briefing with Israeli reporters. "I believe it is possible. I believe it is timely. A declaration is needed. I am ready to make it. I hope the other side is."

He also stressed the US had not tied Israel's hands when it came to military operations in the waning days of the Bush administration, despite media reports to the contrary.

"I don't remember that anyone in the administration, including the last couple of days, advised me or any of my official representatives not to take any action which we will deem necessary for the fundamental security of Israel, and that includes Iran," he said.

Israel has no government in place to approve Olmert's vision, should he act quickly. Rest assured, his promises are intended to keep recalcitrant Arabs and Palestinians in line, should Israel launch a preemptive military strike.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Secretary Rice Blames Change of Israeli Leadership for Lack of Peace

The Arab League Peace Plan might be a basis for lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, if only there wasn't turmoil in Israeli leadership. Secretary of State Condi Rice offered Israel's upcoming elections as the major cause as her term winds down.

The problem is this alibi doesn't hold water. The peace plan was offered in 2002. Is Condi blaming six years of Israeli leadership turmoil for the missed peace opportunity? Of course not. She's sandbagging for her and George W.'s heavy handed legacy.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is visiting the U.S. Yesterday, he met with Elliott Abrams of Iran-Contra pardon fame.

British Foreign Minister David Milband offered a rationale for an Israeli/U.S. strike when he called Iranian nukes an immediate threat.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pirates of the Arabian

Two world events point to impending conflict in the Middle East, specifically an Israeli raid on Iran's nuclear facilities. First, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak met secretly with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman. Israel needs an air route to Iran. American allies of Jordan and Iraq provide one means to the target.

Israel needs quiet on all other fronts, Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. Jordan pushed the Arab Peace plan, on the table since 2002. Israel dusted it off. Dangling the prospect of peace might tamp down widespread retaliation.

Second, pirate attacks in the Arabian Sea off Somalia are way up. The U.S. Navy used to patrol this huge area. While they couldn't protect every ship, they kept pirates somewhat under control. The uptick in piracy means the Navy isn't there. Where did they go? Maybe the Persian Gulf? We will be ready to contain the blow back from an Israeli strike.

President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert meet this coming week. The two pariahs could finish their dwindling terms with a bang. They have no popularity to lose. Will the heavy handed pair pursue peace through war? If so, they'll need minions.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Private Jet Set in Denver vs. Washington

Can you tell the difference between the pictures above? The top picture are private jets landing in Denver for the Democratic National Convention. The bottom is an auto executive's jet, flown into Washington, D.C. for Congressional bailout hearings.

My question is, did Rep. Brad Sherman ride a private jet to the DNC? If so, did he pay for it using donor money? Were his donors aware of the lifestyle to which so many of our politicians have become accustomed?

If not, Rep. Sherman needs to castigate his big money peers. Surely, some of those DNC Congressmen flew private to their "populist party." How many, other than John Kerry took a private jet? Brad wasn't the only Congressman making those big auto execs squirm. Enough leaders ground their guests into the sidewalk, such that it looked like an orchestrated theme. The question is who they want to pay, corporate chiefs or labor unions? As they move toward a deal, the details will point to the target of their hypocritical shoe grinding.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Caretakers to Take Last Shot at Widow Making?

President George W. Bush invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the White House for a swan song. Both leaders are Chinese melamine tainted dog food. However, the toxic pair can meet to "stategerize" their exit. Might it involve a huge middle finger salute to Iran? Pull it, and kaboom!

Psy ops did their job with today's headline, "Iran said to Have Nuclear Fuel for One Weapon." Actually they don't, but that would require reading the piece. A different Jerusalem Post article talked about P.M. Olmert's schedule:

Under the cloud of an increasing Iranian nuclear threat and escalating violence in Gaza, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert heads to Washington Saturday to part from outgoing President George W. Bush.

While in Washington, Olmert plans to meet with other top American officials including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Richard Cheney and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. He will also visit with members of Congress and Jewish community leaders.

Will the care taking pair exercise their last opportunity for widow making? Both men have track record of violence and a legacy to shore up. Stay tuned...

World Headlines: Iran Has Fuel for One Nuclear Bomb

The New York Times and Jerusalem Post greeted readers with a headline that Iran has nuclear material for one nuclear bomb. One had to get fairly deep into the pieces to find the fuel needs further enrichment for weaponization.

Numerous Israeli leaders said the Jewish state would act before Iran reached a point of no return. How much closer to this point are we? Headlines sell readers to explore the article. Is anything else being sold?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fine Wine & Cheese Middle East Peace Plan

Israeli President Shimon Peres gushed over the Arab League Peace plan at the recent Saudi inspired UN Interfaith gathering. Apparently peace plans grow more desirable as they age. The Arab League first offered the plan in 2002. They blew the dust off last year by reiterating the proposal.

"These expressions in the Arab peace initiative are inspirational and promising - a serious opening for real progress," President Peres said. "We cannot change the past," he said. "However, we can shape our future."

Haaretz noted President Obama's support for the Arab League initiative.

A senior adviser quoted Obama as telling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: "The Israelis would be crazy not to accept this initiative. It would give them peace with the Muslim world from Indonesia to Morocco."

Guess what was on the same page? A piece titled, "U.S. study urges Obama to press Israel over nuclear program." It said:

The Institute for Science and International Security, headed by David Albright, one the world's top experts on nuclear weapons and the prevention of nuclear proliferation, recently released its report urging president-elect Barack Obama to take a number of measures to avoid such an outcome, including convincing Israel to halt production of its nuclear weapons.

From today's Haaretz, a reader could conclude Barack Obama implied Israeli's are crazy as the plan languished for six years. They could decide Obama wants to take away Israel's overwhelming defense capabilities, even their Sampson option.

Why are Israeli newspapers painting Obama as pro-Arab, as weak on challenging Iran? The man hasn't taken office yet. Is there another agenda?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Freedom to Fund & Arm Democratic Foes?

President George W. Bush's administration faces another test as it winds down. Russia announced its intention to buy Israeli made military drone planes. The Russian military was impressed with the performance of such drones in their conflict with Georgia. Haaretz reported:

In the clash, the Israeli-made drones, the Hermes model manufactured by Elbit, were used by the Georgian army. The Israel Aerospace Industries-manufactured Heron model is also vying for the tender. The Israeli drones are made entirely of locally manufactured parts, and therefore do not require U.S. authorization prior to being sold to foreign countries.

While it may not require American authorization, there could be consequences to such a decision. America supplies over $2.5 billion in annual military aid to Israel. But penalties won't come from Tzipi Livni hugging George W. Bush.

President Bush sided with Chevron-Total's freedom to provide capital, i.e. millions of dollars, to the oppressive military junta of Burma. Treasury looked ready to approve a Russian firm's acquisition of a Carlyle Group steel maker. The worldwide financial implosion killed the deal.

George W. recently gave a rousing speech on free markets and free trade. He failed to notice the Wall Street omelet frying on his head. It had a dash of Fannie & Freedie, AIG deal 1 & 2, commercial paper purchase program, TARP, direct capital injections into banks, extending TARP to nonbanks, and approving a potpourri of big names as banks to loot the Treasury, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and American Express.

The point is George W. Bush sides on the behalf of corporations. He chooses businesses over people living in democratic and undemocratic countries. What will his successor do? How might Obama's right hand man, Rahm Emmanuel influence such a decision? Rahm claims service in the Israeli military. He rarely clarifies it for its true nature. Emanuel served as a civilian volunteer, working on military vehicles during the first U.S. Gulf War.

So many veneers, so many conflicts of interest, and so little progress toward peace on behalf of the little people. Will Russia, the enemy of democratic Georgia, soon fly Israeli drone military planes? Stay tuned...

Odd Mix on Front Page

The Jerusalem Post has an unusual mix of headline articles. What do they portend, if anything?

Gilad: We won't let Iran go nuclear
Defense Ministry official tells 'Post' thwarting Teheran will be a challenge, but so was hitting Osirak

Experts to Obama: Don't threaten Iran
New report says attack would almost certainly fail, while sanctions have very little chance of success

Bush unexpectedly meets Livni, Peres at UN
Bush spoke to both Livni & President Shimon Peres on the sidelines of a Saudi inspired UN interfaith conference

If Israel won't let Iran's nuclear program advance and Barack Obama won't do anything to address the looming threat, Israel would be wise to act while they have their best friend's backing.

Israel's President Shimon Peres said in reference to Syria's friends, ""Israel is not interested in having groups of armed Iranians on the Golan hills."

Is this an odd grouping of stories and statements or a chess board with an obvious next move? Time will tell...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bush Ends with Freedom & Free Markets

President Bush promised to do nothing about the free market excesses that brought the world to its financial knees. He failed to claim responsibility for America's role in the global financial debacle. A combination of incentive compensation fueled greed and leverage wound out the RPM's of America's economy until it overheated and the engine seized up.

But George W. did wave the flag for free markets, just days after his administration shifted the use of the $700 billion bailout money. The government won't buy toxic assets to deal with the looming financial meltdown, the one that caused our President to leave his free market footing. Hank Paulson plans to invest the money to shore up financial firms of all stripes.

He noted a few things that I found untrue. For one, he said Americans can buy the goods they want. I have a desire not to buy any food or medicines produced in China or made with Chinese supplied ingredients. Currently, I am unable to exercise this choice due to a lack of consumer information.

Bush's free markets and free trade are full of buyer beware. But hey, we live in a free country, with all kinds of rights. They don't include the right to sue a pharmaceutical company for injuries specified on the product label, the right to get an answer from White House officials, or the right to habeas corpus should a citizen be accused of terrorist activity.

George W. gave a speech for his legacy. It was like his Presidency, "all hat and no cattle."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bush's Corporatist Agenda Trumps Democracy

Burma sentenced fourteen democracy activists to 65 years in prison for forming an illegal organization and illegally using electronic media. Twenty more members of "88 Generation" face sentences up to 150 years for their crimes.

While President Bush took action against the personal assets of the ruling Burmese military junta, he didn't shut off the flow of millions from a Total-Chevron natural gas field. Condi Rice served on the Chevron board of directors prior to joining the Bush administration as head of the National Security Agency. Rice later became Secretary of State.

Israeli newspapers reported President elect Barack Obama could make a similar appointment. General James Jones has been mentioned as a NSA candidate. He currently is a Middle East special envoy and serves on the board of Chevron. Today's WSJ mentioned his candidacy.

The future remains to be seen, but the present is very painful for Burmese democracy activists. Chevron had a record quarterly profit.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Israeli War Moves on Middle East Chessboard

This week saw two big announcements from an Israeli government in transition. First, Israeli-Palestinian peace is dead for the rest of the year. An agreement will not be reached in 2008. This might be understandable given upcoming elections in Israel. Yet, talks remain vibrant and vital.

However, the second is more sinister. A government, that can't plan for peace, can plan for more war. All options remain on the table in regard to an Iranian nuclear threat, but there's more. The Jerusalem Post reported:

In any future conflict with Hizbullah, Israel will likely cite the Shi'ite group's increasing influence within the Lebanese cabinet as a legitimate reason to target Lebanon's entire infrastructure, government sources said.

Lebanon's entire infrastructure? George W. Bush said democracies don't attack other democracies. Fiction, yet again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Freedom to Wade in Dirty D.C. Waters

President elect Barack Obama appointed Rep. Rahm Emanuel as his future White House Chief of Staff. Rahm introduced Barack at this year's AIPAC meeting. Oddly, Mr. Emmanuel didn't clarify his role as civilian volunteer in the Israeli military. During the first Gulf War, Mr. Emanuel worked on Israeli Army military vehicles. Obama's appointment of "IDF tough" Rahm indicates Barack has not yet extricated himself from those dirty D.C. waters. Below is a list of Mr. Emanuel's top contributors. They have a distinctly Wall Street vs. Main Street flavor. As you peruse the list, note the presence of the bailout boys, as well as numerous private equity underwriters (PEU's).

Congressman Rahm Emanuel
2008 Election Cycle
Contributor Total

UBS AG $63,700
AT&T Inc $49,950
Blackstone Group $47,000
JPMorgan Chase & Co $45,700
Grosvenor Capital Management $38,900
Goldman Sachs $32,950
Citigroup Inc $28,500
Lehman Brothers $27,600
National Amusements Inc $26,900
Texas Pacific Group $23,000
Merrill Lynch $20,800
Mf Global $20,400
CME Group $19,650
Carlyle Group $16,250
Morgan Stanley $16,200
Evercore Partners $16,100
Madison Dearborn Partners $16,100
Bank of America $16,000
Kirkland & Ellis $15,500
Bailey Perrin Bailey LLP $13,800
Eton Park Capital Management $13,800

Get out of the pool, Barack! It's the same filthy water you mentioned early in your campaign. Last night, you asked the public to keep you clean in your inspirational acceptance speech. I'm complying. Don't ask, if you don't want to be told. It doesn't look like that "new dawn of American leadership" has broken.

Note 3-17-12:  Two of Rahm's largest donors went bankrupt, Lehman & MF Global.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Israeli Democracy in Action: Freedom to Detain and Torture

Israeli newspapers reported on a petition to the nation's High Court to have Prime Minister Olmert and the head of the country's security services arrested for torture. Despite a 1999 court ruling banning torture of prisoners, petitioners say the practice still exists.

Haaretz reported on a Hebrew University student's detainment. The Chairman of the University's Arab Student Body refused to shake Israeli President Peres' hand. The student was detained for three hours, and his student ID card confiscated until a disciplinary committee could convene to review his conduct. If only he'd been a right wing, settler type of terrorist. (Update: 06:07 11/07/2008 IDF asks police, Shin Bet for info on left-wing figures active in W. Bank)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dog Food Knows Chickenshit When He Smells It

Retiring Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia said "the Republican brand is in the trash can...if we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf."

The head of the Republican brand in the House called Presidential candidate Barack Obama's present votes "chickenshit." Do we need yet another hyper competitive jerk role model for America's youth?

John Boehner, the House Minority Leader, could well meet with a President Obama to govern on behalf of the people. How might that meeting go?

If Boehner says, "Congratulations, Mr. President! I look forward to working with you," we know who the chickenshit is.

Ari's Team Winding Down, Whimper or Bang?

How will the Bush/Cheney team go out, quietly or to the sound of war cannon? Days before the election, President George W. Bush has been in hiding. The usually secretive V.P. Dick Cheney emerged from his man-sized safe to endorse John McCain.

DICK CHENEY: And in three days we'll choose a new steward for the presidency and begin a new chapter in our history. It's the biggest decision that we make together as Americans. A lot turns on the outcome. I believe the right leader for this moment in history is Senator John McCain. John is a man who understands the danger facing America. He's a man who has looked into the face of evil and not flinched. He's a man who's comfortable with responsibility and has been since he joined the armed forces at the age of 17. He's earned our support and confidence, and the time is now to make him commander-in-chief. I'm delighted to support John McCain and I'm pleased that he's chosen a running mate with executive talent, toughness and common sense, our next vice president in Sarah Palin."

Promises of bipartisanship, cleaning up Washington...haven't we heard this before? John McCain's stump points sound surprisingly like the George W. Bush of 2000. We all know W. failed miserably as a "uniter, not a divider." Yet, Ari Fleischer and friends work hard to restore the Bush brand, even as the public treats it like Chinese infant formula.

Ari Fleischer, one of Bush's former press secretaries, said that although Bush is "not prone to talk about legacy," he and his closest advisers are confident that history "will remember him well."

"Would he like to be more popular?" Fleischer added. "Of course he would. Of course it bugs him. But it doesn't guide him or drive him."

After eight long years in office, George W. feels the same. Washington didn't change him, but it snatched his campaign promise to unite the country from his able hands. Bush stated:

"I said, 'You know, I'm not going to change as a person because of politics or Washington' -- that's what I said when I left," Bush said. "I think they appreciate that. I want them to know that, you know, even though I had to deal with a lot of tough issues, that I'm still the same person that they knew before and that, you know, I'm wiser, more experienced, but my heart and my values didn't change."

Really? The alternative view involves Bush shedding the uniter promise like a used condom. In eight years George W. achieved his aim. He made a whole lot of money for his friends. History will prove which view is right and since his rich friends publish the books, there be it.

Obering Warns of Iranian Missiles Hitting Europe

Israel Radio reported "The head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said Friday that Iran was not far from attaining the means of using missiles against all of Europe and against the US in five to six yeaars."

His aim was to convince the Czech Republic to approve a U.S. missile defense system in their country. The West compares the Iranian President to German Adolf Hitler. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn't help his case when he recently threatened to bomb London or send suicide bombers to the U.S. in response to attacks on his country.

The IAEA leaked a report suggesting Iran was testing refinement of spent nuclear fuel. Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear facilities after Saddam reached that proficiency level in 1980's. The rhetoric points towards conflict. America and Israel have two trigger happy lame ducks. Bush & Olmert are just the wingnuts to do it. Let's hope their handlers hold sway and don't allow the Blomert to betray us.