Saturday, November 25, 2006


Russian Israelis or Russian "Putinists?"

According to news media accounts, all signs point to "Putinists" as the culprits for the murder of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former Russian K.G.B. officer killed by radiation poisoning in London.

However, lost in the shuffle is the fact that, while working for the K.G.B., Litvinenko had been instrumental in the investigation of so-called oligarchs, mostly Jewish Russians with Israeli connections, who had abused their power and came close to controlling the State.

One of them, Boris Berezhovsky, had appointed himself Prime Minister during the Yeltsin era. There was a minor scandal when it became known that he (like most of the oligarchs) had acquired Israeli citizenship, but he gave up his Israeli passport and everything was in order again.

These oligarchs were a tiny group of entrepreneurs who exploited the disintegration of the Soviet system to loot the treasures of the state and amass fortunes amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars including control of Yukos, the largest energy producing company in Russia.

At one point, they had almost reached their objective of taking control of the State. Eventually, it was Putin to put an end of their abuses with the incarceration of Mikhail Khodorovsky (presently in a Siberian jail) and caused others such as Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezhovsky to flee to Israel and England.

How the murder of Mr. Litvinenko will eventually play out is unknown at present and it is unlikely that the truth and nothing but the truth will ever be revealed in full.

What is highly likely, however, is that his life story will become a must-see movie when it is brought to the screen.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Buenos Aires...a city where stealing has been elevated to an art

"W's" daughter Barbara was just another victim of what has become a true epidemic in Buenos Aires, Argentina: theft.

I too had been to San Telmo for dinner, an older part of the city that has been rehabilitated.

Since I had lived in B.A. many years ago, I was fully aware that theft was a problem. But I had never seen anything that comes even close to the skill displayed by thieves these days or the number of thefts being reported.

On day two, I was "welcomed" with the loss of my laptop in what was a highly skilled, incredibly daring operation. About an hour later, in what was a totally separate incident, another member of our party also fell victim to thievery. He had just cashed $100 and when he got home realized that that the money was no longer in his possession.

In both cases, it was a "joint venture" operation in that one individual distracted the potential victim while the other disappeared with the loot.

Advice for anyone traveling to Argentina: BE CAREFUL...leave your laptop at home and take all precautions given that the skill displayed by these robbers was truly amazing.

Paulson and Bernake head for Beijing

Be careful what you wish for....

An article in today's New York Times begins thus:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 — Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. has enlisted Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, to join an unusual delegation of cabinet members to China next month that will press for changes in Chinese economic policies long criticized by the administration and Congress, officials said Wednesday.
Wow! With the heavy artillery en route to Beijing, the Chinese leadership must be quaking in its boots.

Since U.S. interest rates have remained relatively low even in the face of 17 rate hikes by the Fed, due in large part to cheap imports from China and other rapidly developing nations, one cannot help but wonder what effect pressure by the U.S. to accelerate the reevaluation of China's currency will have on inflation and, ultimately, interest rates.

As usual, U.S. demands are one-sided. Again, quoting the Times:
Because China exports far more than it imports, it has piled up reserves of foreign currencies that are expected to approach $1 trillion in coming months. China owns several hundred million dollars in American-denominated debt and may be eager to use its reserves to purchase American companies, a step that faces resistance in Congress.
Needless to say, U.S. companies have moved in force into China and are, increasingly, taking stakes in Chinese corporations.

Again, from the Times:
But criticism of the Chinese has not been limited to the Democrats. Many Republicans in Congress have assailed China for its military spending, and the administration says China has fallen short in helping to defuse crises in Iran, North Korea and Sudan.
This at a time when Bush-Cheney and their right-wing cohorts are spending roughly half a trillion dollars a year for defense.

What would you do if you ran China?

Charlie Rangel's exercise in awareness

Well aware that re-instituting the draft is an exercise in futility at this point in U.S. history, the question then becomes: Why is he stickin' out his neck and inviting criticism by proposing an issue that is almost universally opposed?

All indications are that his is a remainder to the American people that the issue of 'fairness' should be considered at this crucial time.

After roughly six years of GOP "occupation," the rich have grown super-rich due to Greenspan's generosity (cheap money) and tax cuts that favored the investment class. A glance at Wall Street tells the whole story as private investors, flush with cash, swallow public companies and "flip" them over making zillions in the process. But, I digress....

Much more outrageous is the fact that our nation was dragged into an unprovoked war, fought largely by those who can't afford to buy even one share of Google, let alone invest in one of the many hedge funds that have sprung up during this euphoric "wealth creation" for...the wealthiest among us.

To find a son or daughter, of those who most strongly advocated war on Iraq, volunteering for this battle is next to impossible since their parents would do whatever it takes to keep them safe at home.

After all, who would inherit the great wealth our "fearless leaders" are accumulating with their investments in, say, the Carlyle Group where earning "blood money" has been the order of the day?

As the gap between rich and poor in our nation becomes increasingly embarrassing, one can only hope that decent individuals, such as Charlie Rangel, continue speaking out if for no other reason than to point out that FAIRNESS is indeed still an American issue.

Charlie would like rich people to feel the pain, too.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Time is running out...Where to from here?

Will the "Iraq Study Group" set up by "W" have the last word, or will Poppy lead the way out of Iraq once the Baker-Hamilton Commission issue its anxiously awaited recommendations?

And now that "neocons" such as Adelman, Perle and their right-wing Israeli cohorts have fallen out of favor and are busily blaming "W" and Rumsfeld for the (predictable) "disaster" they triggered in Iraq, what new "brilliant" foreign policy strategies are they cooking up?

And now that Joe Lieberman was, amazingly, handed the power to switch the Senate back into GOP hands, will he remain loyal to Democrats or will he listen to his right-wing cohorts in Israel and vote with the hawks?

The problem with individuals with dual allegiance to Israel and the U.S., in that order, is that ignore the fact that policies Israel supports are not always in the best interests of the U.S.

The question then becomes: Will U.S. foreign policy be devised in the U.S., or will the influence of TelAviv continue to be the commanding force that has led to such an incredible mess in the Middle East?

Will "W" start serious negotiations with Syria and Iran, or continue treating them as outcasts, as demanded by right-wing Israelis and some right-wingers in the U.S.?

Will Prime Minister Olmert be open to restart negotiations with Palestinians and get serious about the establishment of a Palestinian state, given that such a move is imperative if peace is to come to the region or, will the next two years of "W's" administration trigger an all out war in the region?

Will Israel attack Iran's nuclear structures and, thereby, undoubtedly trigger another major conflict with or without U.S. blessing?

Given the pressures from all sides, time is rapidly running out for the White House.

The question that remains to be answered is: "Does Father Know Best" or, will his stubborn kid continue throwing temper tantrums that have inflicted so much unnecessary pain and suffering, particularly in Iraq?

The lesson to be learned: Never allow inexperienced individuals take on tasks that are WAY over their heads, or allow individuals with dual allegiances to implement policies that are not, FIRST and foremost, in the U.S.'s best interests.