Two Non Stories (And One Future Story)

Russia Says It’s Ready to Arm Saudi Arabia,” by Lyuba Pronina, The Moscow Times, http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2005/02/10/043.html, 10 February 2005 (from Democratic Underground).

Landmark Civic Polls Start Today,” by Raid Qusti and Nasser Al-Salti, Arab News, http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1&section=0&article=58768&d=10&m=2&y=2005&pix=kingdom.jpg&category=Kingdom, 10 February 2005.

In the first non-story, our near-ally Russia agrees to sell military equipment to our near-ally Saudi Arabia, building on a base of selling to near-allies China, India, and Morocco

Moscow is preparing its first major defense contract with Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest arms buyer that has traditionally spent its petrodollars on U.S.-made weapons.

The deal is part of a strategy aimed at diversifying Russia’s arms buyers away from China and India, Sergei Chemezov, general director of state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport, told reporters Wednesday.

Russia also signed an arms contract with Morocco last month, he said, the first since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Make that, outdated military equipment.

Rosoboronexport has orders of $12 billion through 2007, but Chemezov said that this year Rosoboronexport can expect to make $1 billion less in revenues.

“The reason? Our companies cannot produce more modern weapons. [The industry] is in need of investment either from private companies or from the state,” he said. “Today we sell weapons that were designed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.”

By itself, this is a puny deal. It’s chump change for obsolete and useless rockets. It is notable because it shows Saudi displeasure about… something. This signals they don’t like something that is going on, or something that we are making them do. Now what could that be?

Saudi citizens are set to cast their first ballots in history when Riyadh region goes to the polls in the first of a landmark municipal elections.

Today’s polls in Riyadh and surrounding areas are the first of three rounds that will eventually see elected representatives take up half the seats on 178 municipal councils across Saudi Arabia.

The remaining seats will be filled by government appointees. The rest of the country will vote in March and April.

“Democractic-style” elections in Araby. This is the second non-story. It’s only for local councils, and only for half of local seats at that. I could care less about women not voting — heck, even a 10% suffrage would be an improvement. But a vote for half the seats on useless councils is the bare minimum. The bare minimum we are forcing them to do.

Asked about the reasons of the substantial differences between the total number of voters in the Riyadh region and of that in the Eastern Province, Prince Mansoor attributed the larger number in the Eastern Province to the efforts exerted by the local committee’s chairman Prince Abdul Aziz Al-Muqrin.

These elections are phony. But that the Eastern Province is a different polity is not. The Iraqi Shias have their country, and when the decrepit and cynical Tehran government is overthrown the Persians shall have theirs too. And with free Shia across the desert, and free Shia across the gulf, the Eastern Province Shia shall wake up. And from their dreamlands they will take their freedom and their oil from the Riyadhi Wahabis.

And that will be the story of the House of Saud.

Sino-American Military Connectivity

Rumsfeld to visit China, eyes hot line for defense,” by Bill Gertz, The Washington Times, http://www.washtimes.com/national/20050208-115248-4196r.htm, 9 February 2005. (from “).

After a rocky (pre-9/11) start, the United States and China are building up military ties

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has agreed to visit China this year and the Pentagon is discussing the creation of a telephone hot line to the Chinese military, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

“We’ve agreed in principle and [Mr. Rumsfeld is] interested in going,” a senior defense official said, noting that no date has been set.

The article does not have a Barnettian take, but it’s fits nicely into his theories. The Taiwan issue still has to be cooled down, but both nations want a closer relationship.

Our Enemy Pakistan?

Tora Bora and Nuclear Nightmares,” by George Friedman, America’s Secret War, pg 223, 2004.

Pakistan pays tribe al-Qaeda debt,” BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4249525.stm, 9 February 2005.

Is Pakistan an enemy of the United States in the Global War on Terrorism? George Friedman seems to think so

Most countries of concern to the Untied States granted access to U.S. agents and troops to search for and secure nuclear facilities. Some did not, and the United States began to think of ways to destroy facilities in these countries — Iraq, Iran, LIbya, and, above all, Pakistan . Pakistan was the key, because it had the closest connections to Al Qaeda and the least cooperative intelligence service, in spite of the apparent cooperation of Pakistan’s President Musharraf. The United States didn’t really think that the Iranians would provide Al Qaeda with nuclear weapons. The Iranians were too cautious, and their own program was too undeveloped. The Iraqis were a greater threat, but they seemed not to have extensive contact wiht Al Qaeda. The North Koreans were much too concerned with regime survival to risk it — and they were being watched too carefully. Pakistan was seen, of all these ountries, as the most unstable, most pro-Al Qaeda, with the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation, making it the biggest problem. It was not the only one, just the most immediate.

More dangerous than Iran or Iraq and less rational than North Korea. That’s saying something!

Why, with that description, we could expect Pakistan to be making cash payments to al Qaeda

Pakistan says it has paid 32m rupees ($540,000) to help four former wanted tribal militants in South Waziristan settle debts with al-Qaeda.

Oh.

Korean Anti-American Music Video

Fucking USA,” by Rob Pongi, Rob Pongi, http://www.robpongi.com/pages/comboFUCKINGUSAHI.html, 9 February 2005 (from One Good Move).

Rob’s description

This is a very shocking anti-American propoganda video made by North Koreans and previously broadcast on South Korean and Japanese Television. English translation titles by Rob Pongi.

Note: This video does not reflect the views of Rob Pongi nor those of anyone else associated with RobPongi.com. War is not the answer. Peace! Used by legal permission.

There are some Chinese characters, so it is not meant for DPRK internal consumption. Note the very low quality of koreanimation. If South Korea can give us the Simpsons, and Japan InuYasha, then this is inexcusable. Perhaps OFK can shed some light on the matter?

The lyrics, as supplied by the translator

Bush Evil
Bush Evil
Bush Evil

Fuckn’ USA

We clearly remember
the blood and tears we shed
And you were the cause
of our country’s division.

Fucking USA!

And we won’t forget all
of the horrible massacres

You are a country of murderers.

Fucking USA!

But if America is such a righteous country,
then why can’t we say what we want to say?

Have you made use into slaves
of our own precious land?

So now we are yelling
We are against America!

You stole the Olympic
Gold model from us
[??? — tdaxp]

You are a dastardly thief

Fucking USA!
You are a dastardly thief

You have the ability to steal everything
and go on a rampage

You are a monstrous thief

Fucking USA!

Do you hear Bush’s violent threats

Such an audacious country!

Fucking USA!

You threaten war in North Korea
and intrude in our internal affairs

You are a country of gangs

Fucking USA!

But if America is such a righteous country,
then why can’t we say what we want to say?
And we’re worried about what kind of damage
we could get from America

So Now we are Yelling
Yankee Go Home

Hmmm. Doesn’t seem too pro-Yankee, that’s for sure.

But as my House left the northeast well nigh two centuries ago, I can’t say I’m too pro-New-England myself.

Iraq’s Transitional National Assembly Projection

National Assembly Projection,” by “Stephen,” Iraq Election Discussions, http://iraqelect.com/index.php/archives/2005/02/08/national-assembly-projection/, 8 February 2005.

Iraqi ElectionsDiscussions projects the final outcome considerably better than mine.

Seats – Party/List
140 – United Iraqi Alliance (Shi’ite)
68 – Kurdish List
40 – The Iraqi List (PM Allawi)
3 – Natl Elites & Cadres (Moqtada al Sadr)
3 – People’s Union (Communist)
3 – Iraqis List (Pres. al-Yawer)
3 – IMIK (Islamist Kurdish)
15 – Other parties
275 – TOTAL SEATS

Visually,

medium_new_iraqi_assembly_projection.jpg

(Chart courtesy of OpenOffice.org Calc)

Combined, this gives a UIA-Kurdish coalition nearly 76% of the votes in the TNA. Consider the Basic Law’s three-fourths rule, where a Constitution can be created with 75% of the Assembly votes and no need of provincial approval, this could be a very powerful government. Of course, UIA is already a coalition and it’s likely that at least some UIA Assemblymen are sympathetic to either Allawi or Sadr.

It is wonderful to see what the government of a free Iraq looks like. Long live democracy in the Greater Middle East!

Friedman, Flit(tm), and Oil

Corner and Kill Friedman,” by “TM Lutas,” Flit(TM), http://www.snappingturtle.net/jmc/tmblog/archives/005197.html, 5 February 2005.

Tom Friedman is reviving his fly me to the moon dream, and TM Lutas isn’t having any of it

In reality, productive reform requires more capital flowing into a society, not less.

If productive reform requires more capital, then we can only sanction regimes we have given up on transforming.

The spur of peaceful reform in South Africa was a growing international sanctions regime.

But more relevantly, why do the Gulf Emirates have better governments than mainland Arab states? It is because they have come to grips with limited oil. They realized they could no longer buy internal support from oil revenues.

Cornering a regime and killing off an economy leads people straight into the arms of the extremists, in this case the Islamists. Under crushing, punitive sanctions in the ’90s, Saddam started getting awfully religious for a secular tyrant. He changed the national flag to include a religious saying in arabic script. He famously gave enough blood to write out an entire Koran, and he also went on a mosque building spree with some really unusual architecture cropping up. If an authoritarian regime doesn’t have money to stay in power anymore, fanaticism is cheap, if dangerous.

This Geo-Green strategy is one that will put these societies in a corner and when they lash out at us (perhaps in another 9/11?) we’ll have to kill them off.

The Iraq analogy is poor. Oil is perfectly fungible and it is extremely hard to have an effective oil sanctions regime. Iraq subverted UN sanctions and our “allies” to buy loyal Sunni elements we are fighting now.

“Fanaticism” may be financially cheap, but it is very dangerous for the regime itself. Regimes guided by fanatics do not last. This is why there are so few of them, even in the Gap. And fanatics experiments with fanaticism have proven so dangerous (Salafist elements are complicated the Ba’ath 4GW war) it further undermines the “Fanaticism = Cheap” argument.

Instead of doing that, we need to lead them out of their current dead end and give the elite an exit strategy that makes lashing out to retain power highly unattractive.

If they wanted out of their end, a “shrink the Gap” GWOT would not be needed. We could rely on the Global Herd and Golden Straightjacket and all the other wonderful talk of the 1990s. But too many leaders do not want to lose power and too many societies cannot handle the content flows.

I don’t see how $18 a barrel oil is going to get us there.

Emerging Core states will require a lot of energy. This will require oil unless a disruptive technology is exploited. High prices would make that more likely. Why build a substitute when the original good is just as cheap?

Farm Subsidies Welfare Queens (and Kings)

Another Year at the Federal Trough: Farm Subsidies for the Rich, Famous, and Elected Jumped Again in 2002,” by Brian M. Riedl, Heritage Foundation, http://www.heritage.org/Research/Budget/bg1763.cfm, 24 May 2004 (from Instapundit through Sibby Online).

Bush’s effort to cut agriwelfare farm subsidies is heroic. If successful it will prevent a small number of agriwelfare queens from eroding natural liberty and trampling on our trade partners.

With agricultural programs designed to target large and profitable farms rather than family farmers, it should come as no surprise that farm subsidies in 2002 were distributed overwhelmingly to large growers and agribusinesses–including a number of Fortune 500 companies. Chart 2 shows that the top 10 percent of recipients received 65 percent of all farm subsidies in 2002. At the other end, the bottom 80 percent of recipients (including most family farmers) received just 19 percent of all farm subsidies.

medium_heritageagriwelfare.gif

Some beneficiariesof farm subsidies include…

# David Rockefeller, the former chairman of Chase Manhattan and grandson of oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, who received 99 times more subsidies than the median farmer;
# Scottie Pippen, professional basketball star, who received 39 times more subsidies than the median farmer;
# Ted Turner, the 25th wealthiest man in America, who received 38 times more subsidies than the median farmer; and
# Kenneth Lay, the ousted Enron CEO and multi-millionaire, who received 3 times more subsidies than the median farmer.

Taking farm subsidies on at the same time as Social Security is brave. I wish President Bush luck.

Cobuyitaphobia Triumphant

Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina to Step Down, Bloomberg.com, http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000006&sid=aZHjzxEHJ7fk&refer=home, 9 February 2005 (from Slashdot).

In its entirety

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) — Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina will step down, effective immediately.

Chief Financial Officer Robert Wayman will be interim CEO, Hewlett-Packard said in a Business Wire statement today. Patricia Dunn will be chairwoman.

Short. Direct. Good.

I called this years ago. IT mergers do not work. It takes a genius like Lou Gerstner to successfully integrate a smaller competitor. I’m not away of any “merger of equals” in the field that has ever worked.

Fiorina’s poor executive decisions and abrasive style made her enemies from day one. It’s good to see reality catch up to her.

By Their Lies You Shall Know Them

Some 30 Killed in Iraq Violence,” by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/02/some-30-killed-in-iraq-violence.html, 9 February 2005.

Taking a step back from his moreinterestingtheories, Juan Cole reports

The same newspaper reports that Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, a prominent leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars, claimed on Tuesday that the Americans would never have agreed to one-person, one-vote elections so soon if it had not been for the pressure put on the US by the Sunni Arabs. He thus takes credit for the fact that Iraqi is holding elections at all. That allegation strikes me as unlikely.

Is he serious? No. Should we believe him? Of course not. But Kubaisi’s statement still tells us something.

The Sunnis lose from true democracy in Iraq. They are losing in the elections right now. One-man one-vote elections are not god for their interests. They are only taking credit for the elections because many Sunnis now view the elections are irreversible.

Hopefully, the slow Sunni cave-in is true. Hopefully the civil war is nearing an end. And hopefully the democratic revolution can continue to spread throughout the Middle East.

Best Prime Minister, Ever

Photo Album,” Yulia Timoshenko – personal web site, http://www.tymoshenko.com.ua/eng/photo/ (from South Dakota Politics).

medium_tymoshenko-desk2.jpg
The peacefully rising of the Ukrainian people, especially those in the Catholic west, called the “Orange Revolution” was important. The Clinton-McCain Statement was important. That Ukraine is now on the border of the future is important. Partially for democracy in that land. Partially for democracy throughout the former Soviet reich. And partially to bring the world Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko.

This photo, and more, available from Madame Prime Minister’s gallery. Is it possible for any human being to be more like the ideal Dagny Taggart?