Monday, September 8, 2008

Thirty Years after Camp David

What was the real accomplishment of Jimmy Carter in forging the Camp David Accords, and allowing the Shah of Iran to be driven out of office?  What impact did his actions, and inaction create for us today?  Does his world perspective present a model to be avoided or embraced?

Bruce Walker lays out a powerful and damning linkage of causal events that lead right to the major issues we are struggling with today.  

Thirty Years after Camp David

By Bruce Walker
Thirty years ago Jimmy Carter tried to change the world by getting the leaders of nations to agree.  The result, in September 1978, was the Camp David Accords.  Did it work?
Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, the respective leaders of Egypt and Israel, did reach some basic agreements and since then Egypt has stopped trying to drive Israel into the sea.  After four wars in twenty five years, the Arab-Israeli wars stopped.  The accords are universally considered the highlight of an otherwise dismal presidency, perhaps the only good thing that Carter ever did.  But the accords also failed.........
When someone is sick, he thinks that pain relievers like Camp David are cures.  Morphine and aspirin have their place in a doctor's bag, but they cannot replace penicillin.  And any doctor who mistakes an analgesic with an antibiotic does.  MORE....

Tony Bennett On Piano Jazz


Tony Bennett On Piano Jazz

Bennett has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, with numerous platinum and gold albums to his credit, as well as 15 Grammy Awards. In 2006, at age 80, Bennett released his best-selling album to date. The Grammy-winning Duets featured Bennett collaborating with the likes ofJames Taylor, Barbra Streisand, Elvis CostelloStevie Wonder and John Legend, among others.
Bennett continues to split his time between his two lifelong passions: music and painting.
Originally recorded March 10, 2004. Originally broadcast Nov. 2, 2004.  MORE....

Tony Bennett (300)


  • "I Thought About You" (Mercer, Van Heussen)
  • "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams" (Koehler, Harris, Moll)
  • "While We're Young" (Wilder, Engvick)
  • "Twilight World" (McPartland, Lee)
  • "Last Night When We Were Young" (Arlen, Harburg)
  • "Don't Worry 'Bout Me" (Bloom, Koehler)
  • "All of Me" (Marks, Simons)
  • "Blackberry Winter" (Wilder, McGlohon)
  • "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" (Ellington, Russell)

An Interesting Economics Lesson

An interesting economics we're all linked, whether we like it or not........

U.S.-China Cash Flow Depends On Fannie, Freddie

Listen Now [4 min 14 sec] add to playlist
Workers stack used electronics at a recycling drive in Brooklyn, New York
Bob Sacha/NPR
Workers stack used electronics, many of them made in China, at a recycling drive in Brooklyn, New York.
Morning Edition, September 8, 2008 · With the U.S. government announcing on Sunday that it would take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, public attention shifted to questions close to home. How would the bailout affect average taxpayers and home buyers? What would the final cost be?
Those are big concerns, but the domestic repercussions may be eclipsed by those overseas. That's because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play central — if quiet — roles in maintaining the U.S. position in the global economy. The system is at once incredibly complicated and surprisingly simple.  MORE....

Zap Mama On Mountain Stage

Zap Mama On Mountain Stage

Zap Mama
Brian Blauser
Lead singer Marie Dualne spent several years developing Zap Mama in the U.S. before returning to Brussels, Belgium.


  • "Bandy Bandy"
  • "Affection"
  • "1000 Ways"
  • "Tomana"

NPR.orgSeptember 8, 2008 - A truly eclectic band, Zap Mama draws from styles as far-ranging as Afrobeat, soul, jazz and drum 'n' bass to create its unpredictable Afro-European sound.
Lead singer and founder Marie Dualne was born to an African mother and Belgian father in the Congo, and raised in French-speaking Belgium. Her family was harbored by pygmies in the Congolese forest in the midst of revolution. Though Zap Mama began as a female a cappella quintet, the group has matured and molded its sound into the multicultural melting pot that it is today. Led by Dualne's voice, the band features turntables and background vocals in addition to keyboards, bass, guitar and drums.
This set features live performances of songs from Zap Mama's latest CD, Supermoon, but it opens with a reworking of "Bandy Bandy," from the group's previous record, Ancestry in Progress.


What is most enlightening in this production by NPR, is that as a society we've handed the keys to the inmates.....once again we've seemed to have lost sight  of the fact that the Constitution isn't a suicide pact....

.....Pelican Bay was designed to break the gangs. But locked down in isolation, Enriquez and his cohort remained defiant. They concocted simple but effective communication networks. They passed messages through visitors and legal mail — mail that guards aren't allowed to read. They taught themselves exotic dialects and American Sign Language to fool prison staff. And they thrived in a culture of impunity.....
A secret to Enriquez's success was his transforming punishing isolation into a sort of sanctuary. Rival gangs couldn't get to him, and most cops and prosecutors thought their job was already done. After all, Enriquez was serving two life sentences. The prison couldn't do much more to punish him. But lifers have time to think and scheme.......Drug profits flowed to prison. Drug dealers on the street sent checks and money orders to gang leaders behind bars, under the noses of California prison staff. Enriquez and his associates socked away tens of thousands of dollars. He invested in bank CDs and government bonds. The accounts were only frozen after he defected.
"And we already had it planned out that California would be carved up … into slices, with each member receiving an organizational turf," he says.....
The Mexican mafia's campaign against drive-by shootings had another benefit: good PR. "They saw that as a way into being more respectable, in the eyes of sympathetic do-gooders, city leaders, church leaders," author Blatchford says......

Listen Now [13 min 49 sec] add to playlist
This is part one of a two-part report.
Rene Enriquez
Courtesy of Rene Enriquez
Rene Enriquez's most prominent tattoo is a black hand on his chest, a symbol of the Mexican mafia.

Revealing Secrets

Rene Enriquez's meetings with officials were videotaped. He explains to police the organizational structure of the Mexican mafia, how inmates circumvent security measures in prison visiting rooms, and how money is laundered. Watch the video.
Rene Enriquez in 2007
Courtesy of Rene Enriquez
Enriquez, in leg irons, waiting for a 2007 meeting with law enforcement agents.
All Things Considered,September 6, 2008 · The life of a high-level mobster is a staple of books and Hollywood films. But most real-life gang leaders don't tell their stories. The code of silence runs deep; breaking that code can be fatal. That's especially true if the mobster is behind bars.
But one former leader of the Mexican mafia — a violent group formed in California's prisons — did just that.
Rene Enriquez, nicknamed Boxer, who once killed for the gang and also ordered the deaths of men and women in prison and on the streets of Los Angeles, ended up opening his life to the police and sharing many of the organization's secrets.
When he decided to defect in 2002, Enriquez became the highest-level Mexican mafia leader to work with the cops.  MORE....

Radiohead: Live In Concert, September 5, 2008 - Download a copy of this show by subscribing to the All Songs Considered Live Concerts podcast.  MORE....
300 Radiohead performing livePhotos of the Show
Jesse Groves
Radiohead performs live at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Aug. 28, 2008.

Universal truth.....

It must be a universal truth.... you're better off standing and fighting, than running away......

Survival Guide: Elephant Charge

Sarkozy threatened to leave stormy Russian talks

TBILISI (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened to walk out of stormy talks with Russian officials before securing a deal with President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday on withdrawing troops from Georgia, a French official said.
The four-hour talks at a castle near Moscow yielded an agreement by Russia to completely withdraw its forces from Georgia's heartland in a month but it did not commit to scale back its military presence in two Georgian separatist regions.  MORE....

(By the way, we have no idea what aspect of Vlad Putin, Pres. Sarkozy is referencing....)

The 65 mpg Ford the U.S. Can't Have

The 65 mpg Ford the U.S. Can't Have

Ford's Fiesta ECOnetic gets an astonishing 65 mpg, but the carmaker can't afford to sell it in the U.S.
The ECOnetic will go on sale in Europe in November

If ever there was a car made for the times, this would seem to be it: a sporty subcompact that seats five, offers a navigation system, and gets a whopping 65 miles to the gallon. Oh yes, and the car is made by Ford Motor (F), known widely for lumbering gas hogs.
Ford's 2009 Fiesta ECOnetic goes on sale in November. But here's the catch: Despite the car's potential to transform Ford's image and help it compete with Toyota Motor (TM) and Honda Motor (HMC) in its home market, the company will sell the little fuel sipper only in Europe. "We know it's an awesome vehicle," says Ford America President Mark Fields. "But there are business reasons why we can't sell it in the U.S." The main one: The Fiesta ECOnetic runs on diesel.  MORE....

U.S. Ambassador to Russia William Burns (L) drinks champagne with Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, after signing documents in Moscow May 6, 2008. Russia and the United States signed a long-awaited civilian nuclear cooperation pact  that will allow firms from the world's two biggest nuclear powers to significantly expand bilateral nuclear trade.

WASHINGTON: The Bush administration formally withdrew an agreement for civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia from congressional consideration on Monday.
"The president has notified Congress that he has today rescinded his prior determination regarding the U.S.-Russia agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation," the State Department said in a prepared statement. "We make this decision with regret."
The step is the most meaningful show of displeasure the United States has yet made over Russia's military action in Georgia. But it stops short of the more aggressive measures that some have proposed.
The White House has stepped up economic aid to Georgia, but it has so far ruled out providing military assistance. Similarly, the White House has not sought to impose economic sanctions against Russia or to revoke its membership in the Group of Eight, despite the strong warnings tha American officials issued as the crisis was unfolding that Russia would face consequences for its actions.....The withdrawal of the pact, which was submitted to Congress in May, could cost Russia billions of dollars in potential earnings, but will also unravel a program that is central to President George W. Bush's hopes of safely spreading the use of civilian nuclear energy.
The agreement would have cleared the way for extensive commercial nuclear trade, technology transfers and joint nuclear research between the two countries. And it would have allowed Russia to move forward with the lucrative business of importing, storing and possibly reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from U.S.-supplied reactors around the world.
"The Russians have some very ambitious goals in developing their civilian nuclear reactor export industry," said Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "and to get to some of the newer markets, they have to have the United States stamp of approval."....MORE....

World Issues

Russia's China Relations
A peaceful settlement over territory in the Russian Far East despite shaky relations in the West.  See Video..MORE....

Israeli Strategy After the Russo-Georgian War

By George Friedman
The Russo-Georgian war continues to resonate, and it is time to expand our view of it. The primary players in Georgia, apart from the Georgians, were the Russians and Americans. On the margins were the Europeans, providing advice and admonitions but carrying little weight. Another player, carrying out a murkier role, was Israel. Israeli advisers were present in Georgia alongside American advisers, and Israeli businessmen were doing business there. The Israelis had a degree of influence but were minor players compared to the Americans.
More interesting, perhaps, was the decision, publicly announced by the Israelis, to end weapons sales to Georgia the week before the Georgians attacked South Ossetia. Clearly the Israelis knew what was coming and wanted no part of it. Afterward, unlike the Americans, the Israelis did everything they could to placate the Russians, including having Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert travel to Moscow to offer reassurances. Whatever the Israelis were doing in Georgia, they did not want a confrontation with the Russians.
It is impossible to explain the Israeli reasoning for being in Georgia outside the context of a careful review of Israeli strategy in general. From that, we can begin to understand why the Israelis are involved in affairs far outside their immediate area of responsibility, and why they responded the way they did in Georgia.
We need to divide Israeli strategic interests into four separate but interacting pieces:
  1. The Palestinians living inside Israel’s post-1967 borders.
  2. The so-called “confrontation states” that border Israel, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and especially Egypt.
  3. The Muslim world beyond this region.
  4. The great powers able to influence and project power into these first three regions.

The Palestinian Issue

The most important thing to understand about the first interest, the Palestinian issue, is that the Palestinians do not represent a strategic threat to the Israelis. Their ability to inflict casualties is an irritant to the Israelis (if a tragedy to the victims and their families), but they cannot threaten the existence of the Israeli state. The Palestinians can impose a level of irritation that can affect Israeli morale, inducing the Israelis to make concessions based on the realistic assessment that the Palestinians by themselves cannot in any conceivable time frame threaten Israel’s core interests, regardless of political arrangements. At the same time, the argument goes, given that the Palestinians cannot threaten Israeli interests, what is the value of making concessions that will not change the threat of terrorist attacks? Given the structure of Israeli politics, this matter is both substrategic and gridlocked.
The matter is compounded by the fact that the Palestinians are deeply divided among themselves. For Israel, this is a benefit, as it creates a de facto civil war among Palestinians and reduces the threat from them. But it also reduces pressure and opportunities to negotiate. There is no one on the Palestinian side who speaks authoritatively for all Palestinians. Any agreement reached with the Palestinians would, from the Israeli point of view, have to include guarantees on the cessation of terrorism. No one has ever been in a position to guarantee that — and certainly Fatah does not today speak for Hamas. Therefore, a settlement on a Palestinian state remains gridlocked because it does not deliver any meaningful advantages to the Israelis.

The Confrontation States

The second area involves the confrontation states. Israel has formal peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. It has had informal understandings with Damascus on things like Lebanon, but Israel has no permanent understanding with Syria. The Lebanese are too deeply divided to allow state-to-state understandings, but Israel has had understandings with different Lebanese factions at different times (and particularly close relations with some of the Christian factions).
Jordan is effectively an ally of Israel. It has been hostile to the Palestinians at least since 1970, when the Palestine Liberation Organization attempted to overthrow the Hashemite regime, and the Jordanians regard the Israelis and Americans as guarantors of their national security. Israel’s relationship with Egypt is publicly cooler but quite cooperative. The only group that poses any serious challenge to the Egyptian state is The Muslim Brotherhood, and hence Cairo views Hamas — a derivative of that organization — as a potential threat. The Egyptians and Israelis have maintained peaceful relations for more than 30 years, regardless of the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Syrians by themselves cannot go to war with Israel and survive. Their primary interest lies in Lebanon, and when they work against Israel, they work with surrogates like Hezbollah. But their own view on an independent Palestinian state is murky, since they claim all of Palestine as part of a greater Syria — a view not particularly relevant at the moment. Therefore, Israel’s only threat on its border comes from Syria via surrogates in Lebanon and the possibility of Syria’s acquiring weaponry that would threaten Israel, such as chemical or nuclear weapons.

The Wider Muslim World

As to the third area, Israel’s position in the Muslim world beyond the confrontation states is much more secure than either it or its enemies would like to admit. Israel has close, formal strategic relations with Turkey as well as with Morocco. Turkey and Egypt are the giants of the region, and being aligned with them provides Israel with the foundations of regional security. But Israel also has excellent relations with countries where formal relations do not exist, particularly in the Arabian Peninsula.
The conservative monarchies of the region deeply distrust the Palestinians, particularly Fatah. As part of the Nasserite Pan-Arab socialist movement, Fatah on several occasions directly threatened these monarchies. Several times in the 1970s and 1980s, Israeli intelligence provided these monarchies with information that prevented assassinations or uprisings.
Saudi Arabia, for one, has never engaged in anti-Israeli activities beyond rhetoric. In the aftermath of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, Saudi Arabia and Israel forged close behind-the-scenes relations, especially because of an assertive Iran — a common foe of both the Saudis and the Israelis. Saudi Arabia has close relations with Hamas, but these have as much to do with maintaining a defensive position — keeping Hamas and its Saudi backers off Riyadh’s back — as they do with government policy. The Saudis are cautious regarding Hamas, and the other monarchies are even more so.
More to the point, Israel does extensive business with these regimes, particularly in the defense area. Israeli companies, working formally through American or European subsidiaries, carry out extensive business throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The nature of these subsidiaries is well-known on all sides, though no one is eager to trumpet this. The governments of both Israel and the Arabian Peninsula would have internal political problems if they publicized it, but a visit to Dubai, the business capital of the region, would find many Israelis doing extensive business under third-party passports. Add to this that the states of the Arabian Peninsula are afraid of Iran, and the relationship becomes even more important to all sides.
There is an interesting idea that if Israel were to withdraw from the occupied territories and create an independent Palestinian state, then perceptions of Israel in the Islamic world would shift. This is a commonplace view in Europe. The fact is that we can divide the Muslim world into three groups.
First, there are those countries that already have formal ties to Israel. Second are those that have close working relations with Israel and where formal ties would complicate rather than deepen relations. Pakistan and Indonesia, among others, fit into this class. Third are those that are absolutely hostile to Israel, such as Iran. It is very difficult to identify a state that has no informal or formal relations with Israel but would adopt these relations if there were a Palestinian state. Those states that are hostile to Israel would remain hostile after a withdrawal from the Palestinian territories, since their issue is with the existence of Israel, not its borders.
The point of all this is that Israeli security is much better than it might appear if one listened only to the rhetoric. The Palestinians are divided and at war with each other. Under the best of circumstances, they cannot threaten Israel’s survival. The only bordering countries with which the Israelis have no formal agreements are Syria and Lebanon, and neither can threaten Israel’s security. Israel has close ties to Turkey, the most powerful Muslim country in the region. It also has much closer commercial and intelligence ties with the Arabian Peninsula than is generally acknowledged, although the degree of cooperation is well-known in the region. From a security standpoint, Israel is doing well.

The Broader World

Israel is also doing extremely well in the broader world, the fourth and final area. Israel always has needed a foreign source of weapons and technology, since its national security needs outstrip its domestic industrial capacity. Its first patron was the Soviet Union, which hoped to gain a foothold in the Middle East. This was quickly followed by France, which saw Israel as an ally in Algeria and against Egypt. Finally, after 1967, the United States came to support Israel. Washington saw Israel as a threat to Syria, which could threaten Turkey from the rear at a time when the Soviets were threatening Turkey from the north. Turkey was the doorway to the Mediterranean, and Syria was a threat to Turkey. Egypt was also aligned with the Soviets from 1956 onward, long before the United States had developed a close working relationship with Israel.
That relationship has declined in importance for the Israelis. Over the years the amount of U.S. aid — roughly $2.5 billion annually — has remained relatively constant. It was never adjusted upward for inflation, and so shrunk as a percentage of Israeli gross domestic product from roughly 20 percent in 1974 to under 2 percent today. Israel’s dependence on the United States has plummeted. The dependence that once existed has become a marginal convenience. Israel holds onto the aid less for economic reasons than to maintain the concept in the United States of Israeli dependence and U.S. responsibility for Israeli security. In other words, it is more psychological and political from Israel’s point of view than an economic or security requirement.
Israel therefore has no threats or serious dependencies, save two. The first is the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a power that cannot be deterred — in other words, a nation prepared to commit suicide to destroy Israel. Given Iranian rhetoric, Iran would appear at times to be such a nation. But given that the Iranians are far from having a deliverable weapon, and that in the Middle East no one’s rhetoric should be taken all that seriously, the Iranian threat is not one the Israelis are compelled to deal with right now.
The second threat would come from the emergence of a major power prepared to intervene overtly or covertly in the region for its own interests, and in the course of doing so, redefine the regional threat to Israel. The major candidate for this role is Russia.
During the Cold War, the Soviets pursued a strategy to undermine American interests in the region. In the course of this, the Soviets activated states and groups that could directly threaten Israel. There is no significant conventional military threat to Israel on its borders unless Egypt is willing and well-armed. Since the mid-1970s, Egypt has been neither. Even if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were to die and be replaced by a regime hostile to Israel, Cairo could do nothing unless it had a patron capable of training and arming its military. The same is true of Syria and Iran to a great extent. Without access to outside military technology, Iran is a nation merely of frightening press conferences. With access, the entire regional equation shifts.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, no one was prepared to intervene in the Middle East the way the Soviets had. The Chinese have absolutely no interest in struggling with the United States in the Middle East, which accounts for a similar percentage of Chinese and U.S. oil consumption. It is far cheaper to buy oil in the Middle East than to engage in a geopolitical struggle with China’s major trade partner, the United States. Even if there was interest, no European powers can play this role given their individual military weakness, and Europe as a whole is a geopolitical myth. The only country that can threaten the balance of power in the Israeli geopolitical firmament is Russia.
Israel fears that if Russia gets involved in a struggle with the United States, Moscow will aid Middle Eastern regimes that are hostile to the United States as one of its levers, beginning with Syria and Iran. Far more frightening to the Israelis is the idea of the Russians once again playing a covert role in Egypt, toppling the tired Mubarak regime, installing one friendlier to their own interests, and arming it. Israel’s fundamental fear is not Iran. It is a rearmed, motivated and hostile Egypt backed by a great power.
The Russians are not after Israel, which is a sideshow for them. But in the course of finding ways to threaten American interests in the Middle East — seeking to force the Americans out of their desired sphere of influence in the former Soviet region — the Russians could undermine what at the moment is a quite secure position in the Middle East for the United States.
This brings us back to what the Israelis were doing in Georgia. They were not trying to acquire airbases from which to bomb Iran. That would take thousands of Israeli personnel in Georgia for maintenance, munitions management, air traffic control and so on. And it would take Ankara allowing the use of Turkish airspace, which isn’t very likely. Plus, if that were the plan, then stopping the Georgians from attacking South Ossetia would have been a logical move.
The Israelis were in Georgia in an attempt, in parallel with the United States, to prevent Russia’s re-emergence as a great power. The nuts and bolts of that effort involves shoring up states in the former Soviet region that are hostile to Russia, as well as supporting individuals in Russia who oppose Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s direction. The Israeli presence in Georgia, like the American one, was designed to block the re-emergence of Russia.
As soon as the Israelis got wind of a coming clash in South Ossetia, they — unlike the United States — switched policies dramatically. Where the United States increased its hostility toward Russia, the Israelis ended weapons sales to Georgia before the war. After the war, the Israelis initiated diplomacy designed to calm Russian fears. Indeed, at the moment the Israelis have a greater interest in keeping the Russians from seeing Israel as an enemy than they have in keeping the Americans happy. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney may be uttering vague threats to the Russians. But Olmert was reassuring Moscow it has nothing to fear from Israel, and therefore should not sell weapons to Syria, Iran, Hezbollah or anyone else hostile to Israel.
Interestingly, the Americans have started pumping out information that the Russians are selling weapons to Hezbollah and Syria. The Israelis have avoided that issue carefully. They can live with some weapons in Hezbollah’s hands a lot more easily than they can live with a coup in Egypt followed by the introduction of Russian military advisers. One is a nuisance; the other is an existential threat. Russia may not be in a position to act yet, but the Israelis aren’t waiting for the situation to get out of hand.
Israel is in control of the Palestinian situation and relations with the countries along its borders. Its position in the wider Muslim world is much better than it might appear. Its only enemy there is Iran, and that threat is much less clear than the Israelis say publicly. But the threat of Russia intervening in the Muslim world — particularly in Syria and Egypt — is terrifying to the Israelis. It is a risk they won’t live with if they don’t have to. So the Israelis switched their policy in Georgia with lightning speed. This could create frictions with the United States, but the Israeli-American relationship isn’t what it used to be.
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Russia says to send nuclear warship to Caribbean
The Russian Navy's 19,000-ton nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great is seen in this June 2003 file photo. (Stringer/Reuters)Reuters Photo: The Russian Navy's 19,000-ton nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great is seen in this June 2003...
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday it would send a heavily-armed nuclear-powered cruiser to the Caribbean for a joint naval exercise with Venezuela, its first major maneuvers on the United States' doorstep since the Cold War.

Russian officials denied the mission was linked to a naval standoff with U.S warships in the Black Sea, but it will take place at a time of high tension between Washington andMoscow over the conflict in Georgia.
Washington has played down the significance of the exercise.....  MORE....

McCain get's Barack Rolled

McCain get's Barack Rolled.....

The man who brought us Barack Roll is back with a hilarious treat. So John McCain gave his big Republican nomination acceptance speech in front of a giant video screen. What could possibly go wrong with that? 

Barack Roll

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