Thursday, November 19, 2009

Obama Contracts Asian Flu, The Politics of Heroin, Chairman Putin v William Browder

Dana Milbank
EJ Dionne Jr

"Obama's reluctance to be challenged in public is more problematic. It sends a message to the world that contradicts his claim to the Chinese students that he is a better leader because he is forced "to hear opinions that I don't want to hear." - Dana Milbank
"Obama didn't just offer bromides about hope and change. He made specific pledges. You'd think that the newly empowered Democrats would want to deliver quickly." - EJ Dionne Jr
"Ugh! I know you must get so frustrated because you're all about accountability!" - Sarah Palin
Today's pundits are mostly critical on Barack Obama's trip to Asia. The most salient point was that he showed up at an economic conference without an American plan for Asian trade. This may hurt us in this area in the near future, and letting China exert more influence in the region will hurt India right now. The good news is that he behaved in a polite manner, which scored brownie points with the Chinese, and he didn't throw up on anyone like Bush the Senior, or pull a Merkel, with uncalled for intimacy by massaging any foreign leader like Bush the Junior... The bowing thing is a non-issue, showing confidence in yourself to give a sign of respect, than not bowing and exhibiting an xenophobic arrogance like his wimpy critics...

another Bush legacy...

Afghanistan is called the second most corrupt nation in the world. It produces 90% of the world's supply of heroin. The Taliban had shut down almost all heroin production, and it was started up again by the CIA, who have a history of trafficking in heroin from Asia. This situation was developed by the Bush administration's rules of engagement back in 2001 and 2002. Our soldiers there were not allowed outside of Kabul, only the CIA was in the countryside, looking for al Qaeda. They had to forge relationships with local warlords, who used the money and opportunity to expand opium poppy production. You might say that Donald Rumsfeld was the Godfather of Afghan opium...

In his blog at Foreign Policy,Thomas Ricks relates the cycle of corruption touted by David Kilcullen, who probably knows more about counterinsurgency than anyone else on the planet. He relates that: "... a Western diplomat in Kabul told him that the government there reminds him of the Nationalist Chinese government in 1949, with an urban elite trying to scrape together as much wealth as they can before time runs out and they have to scoot.

Kilcullen described a "cycle of corruption" that is destroying Afghanistan:


Leads to

Rapacious behavior of government officials

Leads to

Rage and alienation of the people

Leads to

Operating space for the Taliban

Leads to

Growing Taliban strength

Leads to

Taliban encouragement of poppy cultivation

Leads to

Poppies producing funds that corrupt government officials

Leads to

More corruption

And so on...

The urban elite gathering funds can describe the situation in any country, from the families of Somali pirates driving their Mercedes, to all countries receiving US economic and military aid. A minister in Afghanistan recently received a $30 million bribe from China, and this is on par with the amounts of money being skimmed. When Paul Bremmer was in charge of Iraq he imported $1 billion in cash, transported over by military aircraft, and distributed in bribes. When asked by a Congressional committee run by Henry Waxman what he did with the money, he used the excuse that he couldn't recall... This cycle could also describe the corrupting influence of lobbyists on Congress, my favorite bugaboo, with the American Taliban being the disaffected religious right and other mentally ill political extremists. Instead of poppies insert your favorite flower of corruption, from AIG or Goldman Sachs to the drug companies or insurance industry that gives the millions of dollars to the lobbyists to tempt your representative in Congress...

Today Karzai said that the Afghan military should be able to take over all operations from NATO within five years...

more than just trading partners...
Now we can turn to a strange case of institutionalized Russian corruption, proving that Iran is not the only one to trump up charges and jail people for self interest. And just like in Iran, the suspect dies while in jail after being tortured: "A 37-year-old Russian lawyer for an international investment fund, Hermitage Capital Management, died in a pretrial detention center on Monday, nearly a year after he was arrested in an escalating feud between the Russian authorities and the company, Russia’s Interior Ministry announced on Tuesday. The lawyer, Sergei L. Magnitsky, who was in charge of the tax practice at the Moscow law firm of Firestone Duncan, died of toxic shock and heart failure in the prison hospital, said Irina V. Dudukina, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s Investigative Committee."

This lawyer was a pawn who got caught by trawling officials trying to strike back at: "Hermitage Capital and its owner, William F. Browder, once among the most prominent foreign investors in Russia. Mr. Browder was widely known for accumulating large stakes in companies like Gazprom, and then badgering them to fight corruption in their ranks and provide greater transparency. In 2005, without warning, he was barred from Russia.

Last year, Mr. Browder accused the Russian authorities of using his Russian companies to embezzle $230 million from the Russian treasury. He said that when he complained, the police began a campaign to intimidate his representatives, including Mr. Magnitsky. The authorities, meanwhile, have accused Hermitage of failing to pay about $17.4 million in taxes. Mr. Magnitsky was working as outside counsel for Hermitage when he was arrested and held without bail in connection with the tax case."

Ruling interest in Gazprom was bought by Prime Minister Vladimer Putin after William Browder was kicked out of the country, and business was back to usual. There are cases under investigation linking Mr Putin to poisoning a journalist in Britain, and others involving the silencing of his critics. Along with the yearly beatings and deaths of immigrants, Russia still has some serious social issues that were ignored by Dimitry Medvedev's state of the union speech, preferring to stick to safer economic issues. See, the Bush administration wasn't so bad, and Lynne Cheney is just an amusing attack weasel let out on the chain by her abusive father. Dick only accidentally shot a friend in the face, it could have been oh, so much worse...

how about some late night jokes? Notice any similarity between the first joke and some material in my blog for the past couple of days? Glad to have that reader from Los Angeles:

"Liz Cheney said on Fox News that her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, should run for president in 2012. In fact, that's apparently in the Mayan calendar too, you know. Cheney becomes president, and then the whole world ends. That's exactly what happens." –Jay Leno

"President Obama arrived in China yesterday. And to foster the spirit of good will, he wore the traditional clothes made by the children of China. You know, L.L. Bean, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Nike, Reebok." –Jay Leno

"And experts now say China wants a bigger role in world events. Really? What, being our landlord is not enough now?" –Jay Leno

"Oh, you know what happened on this day in 1973? Richard Nixon uttered his famous line, 'I am not a crook.' That's back when being a crook could actually hurt a politician's career. See, now it's just part of the job." –Jay Leno

"President Obama winding up his Asian tour this week. There's a switch. Something American in China. You never see that." –Jay Leno

"And yesterday, while speaking in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People, President Obama paid tribute to China for its economic successes. And you know something: it's amazing what can be accomplished with child slave labor. It's fantastic." –Jay Leno

"And the Postal Service announced last week the Post Office lost $3.8 billion last year. I've got a good idea. Let's put the government in charge of healthcare! Fantastic idea!" –Jay Leno

"And last night in New York, for the third time in two weeks, Vice President Joe Biden's motorcade was involved in a traffic accident. Remember the old days when the Vice President would just shoot you? No wonder they want universal healthcare." –Jay Leno

"And Congress now looking at a possible amendment to a bill that would allow passengers to check guns on Amtrak. That's amazing, isn't it? They figured out a way to make Amtrak even more dangerous." –Jay Leno

"And the Boston Teachers Union is stopping 200 teachers from getting their bonuses for good job performance. The union says teachers, good and bad, should all get bonuses. Even the Obama Administration is calling this socialism." –Jay Leno

"Former Vice President Dick Cheney is in the news. Cheney slammed President Obama for bowing before the emperor of Japan. Cheney said, 'Come on, it's not like he's the CEO of Exxon.'" –Conan O'Brien

"It's been announced that President Obama's first state dinner at the White House is going to be held in honor of the prime minister of India. Guests are encouraged to wear black tie and to bring any laptops with tech problems." –Conan O'Brien

"Sarah Palin is still dominating the news here. Last night, she was in an interview with Barbara Walters. She was asked to rate Obama's performance as a president on a scale of 1 to 10. And Palin was like, 'Oh, that's easy, F.'" –Jimmy Fallon

"In a new interview, President Obama said that the people could lose confidence in the U.S. economy if our debt continues to grow. And Americans were like, 'Uh, way ahead of you, dude.'" –Jimmy Fallon

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