Monday, December 22, 2008

Covering Up The Story About The Cover-Up!

Obama's legacy will soon begin and what he can do to save and further Capitalism will play a sgignificant part. (See 1 below.)

George Friedman revisits the role of "Deep Throat" and what keeping the wraps on the FBI's spying role on the White House means to journalism. The story about the story has relevance because the cover up source also became covered up! (See 2 below.)

Israel - no good options. Another analysis of Hamas and Gaza. (See 3 below.)

Barak defends his view of what can be done about Hamas and concludes you cannot destroy an ideology. A weak excuse - a failed policy. Is Barak an Archie Moore who often stood their taking blows as he covered himself? (See 4 below.)

Appointing Caroline tells more about ourselves than about her according to Victor Davis Hanson. (See 5 below.)

Has Russia's announced supplying of sophisticated air defense systems presented Obama with his first foreign policy challenge? Is Russia testing Obama's mettle as Kruschev did Kennedy? (See 6 below.)

Off to Costa Rica for an extended holiday so this is the last memo until Jan 4 or later. To all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, A Happy Channukah and all best wishes for a year of peace and good health.


1) The new U.S. president will be judged by whether he can save capitalism.
By Fareed Zakaria

The great sociologist Max Weber described the power of charisma as "a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities." Some of Barack Obama's supporters have at times sounded as if they saw "the One" in these terms. His birth, background and eloquence, they believe, give him almost magical qualities. There's no doubt that Obama is intensely charismatic and that it provides him with unusual political capital.

But very soon—say on Jan. 20, 2009—his powers will start to mutate, and they will derive less from his persona and more from his office. He will shift, in Weber's terminology, from wielding charismatic authority to legal authority.

In January, Obama will gain the authority to run the government of the United States of America, and that is why he sits atop this list. No matter how charismatic, were he the president of Kenya, he would not be in this position (or, like the real president of Kenya, not even on this list). For all its problems, for all the battering it has taken, the United States remains the single most important country in the world—able to exercise influence in every realm and on every continent in a way that no other major power can. It remains, in the words of the German writer Josef Joffe, "the default superpower." Add to this Obama's special qualities, and the relief much of the rest of the world feels at seeing the end of the Bush administration, and you have a heady combination.

But presidents cannot simply remain charismatic symbols. They are forced to tackle the problems at hand, and their influence then grows— or ebbs—based on how they handle those challenges. However impressive they were as human beings, it was not in being but in doing that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt built their enormous reputations. Whatever Obama may have thought when he began this journey, at a time when the war in Iraq was foremost in many voters' minds, whatever his campaign promises, his presidency will be judged on how he handles the economic crisis that now envelops the United States and the world. For Obama to be remembered as a great president, he has to do nothing less than rescue capitalism.

The first task is perhaps the most difficult: to restore confidence to Americans, and indeed to the world. While there has been much elation over Obama's election, there remains a deep pessimism across the country that is having adverse effects on the economy. People and corporations are still not doing much by way of buying, borrowing or lending —the heartbeats of modern capitalism. The political system has moved on to the automobile bailouts and the fiscal stimulus, but the original problem of trust in the financial system has still not been fixed. "Credit markets are still fundamentally broken," says David Swensen, chief investment officer of Yale University.

How to restore confidence? It's not as easy as it sounds. After all, George W. Bush has pretty consistently projected an air of confidence, one that tends to get people even more worried than they need to be. Perhaps this is because Bush's calm often seems utterly disconnected from the realities around him; he appears thoroughly unaware of the facts on the ground, whether in Iraq, Louisiana or Afghanistan. Like Bush, Franklin Roosevelt also projected optimism, but he took great pains to recognize and describe the depth of the difficulties the country faced. In his first fireside chat, Roosevelt explained the basics of banking to the American people and then asked for their help in getting the system working again. "It is your problem no less than mine," he said, enlisting them in the cause at hand.

The next step is to give people a sense that the financial system is stable and predictable. Swensen, who after Warren Buffett is perhaps the most successful investor in recent decades, argues that this has been the crucial flaw in the Bush administration's actions. "Markets need certainty and predictability," he says. "And the administration's actions have actually increased uncertainty and unpredictability. Its measures have been ad hoc, its response to each institution has been different, its reasoning has been opaque—all this creates confusion, and that drives capital away." Swensen's own solution is a simple and systemic one: have the government guarantee all money-market funds, with no limits, for six months. He argues that the government has to eliminate some degree of risk in order to get people to borrow and lend again. "Right now the government is not facilitating private capital flows; it is substituting for private capital flows. That doesn't solve anything."

The final way that Obama can create confidence is to reform the system itself. His administration will inherit a government that has taken on an extraordinary set of obligations in the private sector—ownership in banks, guarantees of commercial debts, loans to the automobile industry. Carefully retreating from these obligations to restore a market economy will be as complex an exit strategy as the one from Iraq. But if Obama is able to reform government rules and regulation—and thus the American economy—it will give people around the world renewed confidence in the American system. It was only after Japan was able to put in place a new system of tough auditing, after all, that its own banking crisis abated.

Obama will find many dire challenges in his inbox, but none—not Iraq, not Russia, not Pakistan, China, Afghanistan—is as important as this one huge task: to restore confidence, certainty and reform to America. It's a lot easier said than done. But if he manages to pull it off, people might well start wondering whether Barack Obama has some supernatural powers after all.

2) The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism
By George Friedman

Mark Felt died last week at the age of 95. For those who don’t recognize that name, Felt was the “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame. It was Felt who provided Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post with a flow of leaks about what had happened, how it happened and where to look for further corroboration on the break-in, the cover-up, and the financing of wrongdoing in the Nixon administration. Woodward and Bernstein’s exposé of Watergate has been seen as a high point of journalism, and their unwillingness to reveal Felt’s identity until he revealed it himself three years ago has been seen as symbolic of the moral rectitude demanded of journalists.

In reality, the revelation of who Felt was raised serious questions about the accomplishments of Woodward and Bernstein, the actual price we all pay for journalistic ethics, and how for many years we did not know a critical dimension of the Watergate crisis. At a time when newspapers are in financial crisis and journalism is facing serious existential issues, Watergate always has been held up as a symbol of what journalism means for a democracy, revealing truths that others were unwilling to uncover and grapple with. There is truth to this vision of journalism, but there is also a deep ambiguity, all built around Felt’s role. This is therefore not an excursion into ancient history, but a consideration of two things. The first is how journalists become tools of various factions in political disputes. The second is the relationship between security and intelligence organizations and governments in a Democratic society.

Watergate was about the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. The break-in was carried out by a group of former CIA operatives controlled by individuals leading back to the White House. It was never proven that then-U.S. President Richard Nixon knew of the break-in, but we find it difficult to imagine that he didn’t. In any case, the issue went beyond the break-in. It went to the cover-up of the break-in and, more importantly, to the uses of money that financed the break-in and other activities. Numerous aides, including the attorney general of the United States, went to prison. Woodward and Bernstein, and their newspaper, The Washington Post, aggressively pursued the story from the summer of 1972 until Nixon’s resignation. The episode has been seen as one of journalism’s finest moments. It may have been, but that cannot be concluded until we consider Deep Throat more carefully.

Deep Throat Reconsidered

Mark Felt was deputy associate director of the FBI (No. 3 in bureau hierarchy) in May 1972, when longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died. Upon Hoover’s death, Felt was second to Clyde Tolson, the longtime deputy and close friend to Hoover who by then was in failing health himself. Days after Hoover’s death, Tolson left the bureau.

Felt expected to be named Hoover’s successor, but Nixon passed him over, appointing L. Patrick Gray instead. In selecting Gray, Nixon was reaching outside the FBI for the first time in the 48 years since Hoover had taken over. But while Gray was formally acting director, the Senate never confirmed him, and as an outsider, he never really took effective control of the FBI. In a practical sense, Felt was in operational control of the FBI from the break-in at the Watergate in August 1972 until June 1973.

Nixon’s motives in appointing Gray certainly involved increasing his control of the FBI, but several presidents before him had wanted this, too, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Both of these presidents wanted Hoover gone for the same reason they were afraid to remove him: He knew too much. In Washington, as in every capital, knowing the weaknesses of powerful people is itself power — and Hoover made it a point to know the weaknesses of everyone. He also made it a point to be useful to the powerful, increasing his overall value and his knowledge of the vulnerabilities of the powerful.

Hoover’s death achieved what Kennedy and Johnson couldn’t do. Nixon had no intention of allowing the FBI to continue as a self-enclosed organization outside the control of the presidency and everyone else. Thus, the idea that Mark Felt, a man completely loyal to Hoover and his legacy, would be selected to succeed Hoover is in retrospect the most unlikely outcome imaginable.

Felt saw Gray’s selection as an unwelcome politicization of the FBI (by placing it under direct presidential control), an assault on the traditions created by Hoover and an insult to his memory, and a massive personal disappointment. Felt was thus a disgruntled employee at the highest level. He was also a senior official in an organization that traditionally had protected its interests in predictable ways. (By then formally the No. 2 figure in FBI, Felt effectively controlled the agency given Gray’s inexperience and outsider status.) The FBI identified its enemies, then used its vast knowledge of its enemies’ wrongdoings in press leaks designed to be as devastating as possible. While carefully hiding the source of the information, it then watched the victim — who was usually guilty as sin — crumble. Felt, who himself was later convicted and pardoned for illegal wiretaps and break-ins, was not nearly as appalled by Nixon’s crimes as by Nixon’s decision to pass him over as head of the FBI. He merely set Hoover’s playbook in motion.

Woodward and Bernstein were on the city desk of The Washington Post at the time. They were young (29 and 28), inexperienced and hungry. We do not know why Felt decided to use them as his conduit for leaks, but we would guess he sought these three characteristics — as well as a newspaper with sufficient gravitas to gain notice. Felt obviously knew the two had been assigned to a local burglary, and he decided to leak what he knew to lead them where he wanted them to go. He used his knowledge to guide, and therefore control, their investigation.

Systematic Spying on the President

And now we come to the major point. For Felt to have been able to guide and control the young reporters’ investigation, he needed to know a great deal of what the White House had done, going back quite far. He could not possibly have known all this simply through his personal investigations. His knowledge covered too many people, too many operations, and too much money in too many places simply to have been the product of one of his side hobbies. The only way Felt could have the knowledge he did was if the FBI had been systematically spying on the White House, on the Committee to Re-elect the President and on all of the other elements involved in Watergate. Felt was not simply feeding information to Woodward and Bernstein; he was using the intelligence product emanating from a section of the FBI to shape The Washington Post’s coverage.

Instead of passing what he knew to professional prosecutors at the Justice Department — or if he did not trust them, to the House Judiciary Committee charged with investigating presidential wrongdoing — Felt chose to leak the information to The Washington Post. He bet, or knew, that Post editor Ben Bradlee would allow Woodward and Bernstein to play the role Felt had selected for them. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee all knew who Deep Throat was. They worked with the operational head of the FBI to destroy Nixon, and then protected Felt and the FBI until Felt came forward.

In our view, Nixon was as guilty as sin of more things than were ever proven. Nevertheless, there is another side to this story. The FBI was carrying out espionage against the president of the United States, not for any later prosecution of Nixon for a specific crime (the spying had to have been going on well before the break-in), but to increase the FBI’s control over Nixon. Woodward, Bernstein and above all, Bradlee, knew what was going on. Woodward and Bernstein might have been young and naive, but Bradlee was an old Washington hand who knew exactly who Felt was, knew the FBI playbook and understood that Felt could not have played the role he did without a focused FBI operation against the president. Bradlee knew perfectly well that Woodward and Bernstein were not breaking the story, but were having it spoon-fed to them by a master. He knew that the president of the United States, guilty or not, was being destroyed by Hoover’s jilted heir.

This was enormously important news. The Washington Post decided not to report it. The story of Deep Throat was well-known, but what lurked behind the identity of Deep Throat was not. This was not a lone whistle-blower being protected by a courageous news organization; rather, it was a news organization being used by the FBI against the president, and a news organization that knew perfectly well that it was being used against the president. Protecting Deep Throat concealed not only an individual, but also the story of the FBI’s role in destroying Nixon.

Again, Nixon’s guilt is not in question. And the argument can be made that given John Mitchell’s control of the Justice Department, Felt thought that going through channels was impossible (although the FBI was more intimidating to Mitchell than the other way around). But the fact remains that Deep Throat was the heir apparent to Hoover — a man not averse to breaking the law in covert operations — and Deep Throat clearly was drawing on broader resources in the FBI, resources that had to have been in place before Hoover’s death and continued operating afterward.

Burying a Story to Get a Story

Until Felt came forward in 2005, not only were these things unknown, but The Washington Post was protecting them. Admittedly, the Post was in a difficult position. Without Felt’s help, it would not have gotten the story. But the terms Felt set required that a huge piece of the story not be told. The Washington Post created a morality play about an out-of-control government brought to heel by two young, enterprising journalists and a courageous newspaper. That simply wasn’t what happened. Instead, it was about the FBI using The Washington Post to leak information to destroy the president, and The Washington Post willingly serving as the conduit for that information while withholding an essential dimension of the story by concealing Deep Throat’s identity.

Journalists have celebrated the Post’s role in bringing down the president for a generation. Even after the revelation of Deep Throat’s identity in 2005, there was no serious soul-searching on the omission from the historical record. Without understanding the role played by Felt and the FBI in bringing Nixon down, Watergate cannot be understood completely. Woodward, Bernstein and Bradlee were willingly used by Felt to destroy Nixon. The three acknowledged a secret source, but they did not reveal that the secret source was in operational control of the FBI. They did not reveal that the FBI was passing on the fruits of surveillance of the White House. They did not reveal the genesis of the fall of Nixon. They accepted the accolades while withholding an extraordinarily important fact, elevating their own role in the episode while distorting the actual dynamic of Nixon’s fall.

Absent any widespread reconsideration of the Post’s actions during Watergate in the three years since Felt’s identity became known, the press in Washington continues to serve as a conduit for leaks of secret information. They publish this information while protecting the leakers, and therefore the leakers’ motives. Rather than being a venue for the neutral reporting of events, journalism thus becomes the arena in which political power plays are executed. What appears to be enterprising journalism is in fact a symbiotic relationship between journalists and government factions. It may be the best path journalists have for acquiring secrets, but it creates a very partial record of events — especially since the origin of a leak frequently is much more important to the public than the leak itself.

The Felt experience is part of an ongoing story in which journalists’ guarantees of anonymity to sources allow leakers to control the news process. Protecting Deep Throat’s identity kept us from understanding the full dynamic of Watergate. We did not know that Deep Throat was running the FBI, we did not know the FBI was conducting surveillance on the White House, and we did not know that the Watergate scandal emerged not by dint of enterprising journalism, but because Felt had selected Woodward and Bernstein as his vehicle to bring Nixon down. And we did not know that the editor of The Washington Post allowed this to happen. We had a profoundly defective picture of the situation, as defective as the idea that Bob Woodward looks like Robert Redford.

Finding the truth of events containing secrets is always difficult, as we know all too well. There is no simple solution to this quandary. In intelligence, we dream of the well-placed source who will reveal important things to us. But we also are aware that the information provided is only the beginning of the story. The rest of the story involves the source’s motivation, and frequently that motivation is more important than the information provided. Understanding a source’s motivation is essential both to good intelligence and to journalism. In this case, keeping secret the source kept an entire — and critical — dimension of Watergate hidden for a generation. Whatever crimes Nixon committed, the FBI had spied on the president and leaked what it knew to The Washington Post in order to destroy him. The editor of The Washington Post knew that, as did Woodward and Bernstein. We do not begrudge them their prizes and accolades, but it would have been useful to know who handed them the story. In many ways, that story is as interesting as the one about all the president’s men.

3) No good options
By Gerald M. Steinberg

The on-again, off-again, coordinated but unwritten ceasefire or temporary truce between Israel and Hamas may or may not be over for now. With such a thin foundation, no direct communications between leaders and divisions among factions within both the Hamas and Israeli leaderships, the uncertainty and confusion is understandable.

Beyond the fiery threats from Hamas leaders and the brutal psychodramas focusing on kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, as well as Israeli election rhetoric, this quasi-truce has served the interests of both sides. The rocket and mortar attacks during the previous year had brought the Israeli town of Sderot and its neighbors to the breaking point and perhaps beyond. In Gaza, Israel's responses were causing damage to Hamas. There were good reasons for a brief respite.

But this truce was also problematic. Hamas, as a revolutionary fundamentalist group linked to the Iranian agenda, has placed itself on the front lines. If it were to reach a long-term accommodation, tacit or more formalized, Hamas would be ideologically or politically indistinguishable from Fatah.

From the Israeli perspective, the Gazan version of Hizballah, with similar weapons and strategy, is also viewed as highly threatening. Israel depends on deterrence through the threat of effective response to attack, and in this regard the 2006 Lebanon campaign was not successful. Allowing Hamas to acquire a supply of rockets with increasing range has exacerbated this weakness. In addition, the failure to obtain the release of Gilad Shalit as part of the original ceasefire is subject to increasing criticism among the Israeli public, and has become an election issue for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Indeed, the Olmert government's strategy toward Gaza following the latter's coup against the Palestinian Authority and Fatah is generally seen as a failure. The policy of isolation and blockade did not lead to a collapse, as had been hoped. And following Arafat's lead, the Hamas leadership did not start to act "responsibly" and take the welfare of its citizens into account after it took power. In addition, Israeli reliance on Egypt also failed as Cairo proved too weak to stop the flow of arms and explosives or influence the Hamas leadership.

On this basis, for many Israeli decision-makers the argument for a large-scale ground operation to disarm Hamas and destroy its leadership has become stronger, particularly as Sderot is again being bombarded and Ashkelon is likely to follow. If an IDF incursion is necessary, it is better to get it over with earlier, including likely military and civilian casualties as well as international condemnations, rather than waiting for Hamas to accrue even more deadly missiles. Since there are political costs in waiting until the Obama presidency begins, such an operation may come before January 20. And if it is successful, a greatly weakened Hamas will also help President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority regain power in Gaza.

But those who urge caution note the potential for major Israeli casualties and the absence of an exit strategy. Israeli re-occupation of Gaza would be very costly diplomatically, militarily and economically, while a quick exit would be seen as a victory for Hamas. In other words, if Israel launches a major operation to end the missile attacks it will need a clear-cut success and will have to accept the accompanying costs.

As an alternative, some analysts have suggested that an international force be sent to keep the peace in Gaza. But this is highly unrealistic: any foreign "peacekeepers" would quickly become targets for terror attacks as well as for political manipulation. Here again, the Lebanon example is instructive--the "new and improved" UNIFIL, operating under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and European command, is no more capable than the pre-2006 model. Furthermore, in discussing international forces in Gaza the Palestinians and their allies would insist on including the West Bank in this mandate, thereby creating a conflict with Israel.

A few other participants in this debate continue to call for "talks" and negotiations with Hamas, citing the progress in relations between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland or between China and Taiwan. But these cases do not involve radical Islamist factions: the nature of the core conflict is very different, as is the regional environment. The governments of the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom cooperated to bring about negotiated settlement, but in the Middle East most of the outside governments, such as Iran, Syria and Libya, are part of the conflict.

The bottom line is that there are no good options. But if Hamas remains undeterred and the rocket attacks continue, Israeli leaders will have to choose a military scenario, with the hope that their objectives can be achieved.-Published 22/12/2008 ©

4) Analysis: Barak maneuvering between Cairo and Livni
By Yaakov Katz

Hamas on Monday proved what the IDF has been saying for the past three-and-a-half years since the disengagement from the Gaza Strip - that all terror attacks from Gaza are under Hamas's auspices and control.

Since the cease-fire collapsed in November, several groups have been behind the rocket fire into Israel - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Each group had its own interests; some just wanted to terrorize Israel and others didn't want the crossings to open and take away business from the lucrative smuggling industry along the Philadelphi Corridor.

But on Monday, Hamas showed the world it was in charge.

After a barrage of close to 20 projectiles on Sunday and some 30 over the weekend, by Monday night only a handful of Kassams and mortars had fallen in Israel.

The lull had come at the behest of Egypt, which is playing a fascinating role in the current round between Israel and Hamas.

Last week, in private talks between Israel and Egypt, Cairo told Israel that it was willing to turn a blind eye to an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. On Sunday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry sent a different message, publicly warning Israel against massive military action against Hamas.

Also on Sunday, the Egyptian consul-general in Tel Aviv, Sameh Nabil, surprised the Defense Ministry when he asked Defense Minister Ehud Barak to grant a personal request from Suzanne Mubarak, wife of President Hosni Mubarak, and enable an Egyptian humanitarian shipment into Gaza.

On Monday, Egypt warned Hamas that if it didn't stop the rocket attacks, Israel would embark on an assassination campaign against all the terror chieftains in Gaza.

"Egypt is trying to play both sides of the fence in Gaza - attempting to help Israel and Hamas at the same time," one senior defense official explained Monday.

"Ultimately though, what motivates Egypt is one thing - the interest of Egypt."

In the midst of all of this, Barak is playing an interesting role himself. In his public appearances, Barak is trying to distinguish himself as the elder and responsible statesman among politicians all vying for the title of "most aggressive" by issuing daily calls to topple the Hamas regime by conquering the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu visited Sderot and laid out his plan for what needed to be done to stop Hamas. On Monday, Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni convened a forum, called "Kadima's Security Forum," to discuss the situation in Gaza.

One politician who particularly raised the ire of Barak's office was Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who called on the defense minister to "wake up from an illusion that the cease-fire is good for Israel."

With elections exactly 50 days away, all of these statements need to be taken with a grain of salt. They are mostly campaign slogans.

As revealed on Sunday, Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have already decided on extensive military action in Gaza. The question left undecided is the timing of the operation.

One factor is the weather; thick clouds over Gaza impair the IAF's ability to strike at targets and provide air support for ground forces.

Barak does not believe that it is possible to "topple the Hamas regime." It may be possible to severely weaken the group's military capability, but an ideology cannot be destroyed. Defense officials fear an Israeli operation might only help Hamas tighten its grip on Gaza.

As a result, what is most likely is an operation that will return the situation in Gaza to what it was for the majority of the cease-fire, before it began to collapse following an IDF operation in Gaza in November.

There is no one way to make this happen, but one thing is for certain in the IDF - Israel needs to be allowed to strike back.

5) Desperately Seeking Caroline
By Victor Davis Hanson

The probable appointment of Caroline Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of former President John Kennedy, to fill Secretary-of-State nominee Hillary Clinton's New York Senate seat is both laughable and yet a parable for our bankrupt times.

Consider aristocratic entitlement. Ms. Kennedy apparently spends a great deal of her time divided between her Park Avenue Upper-East-Side Manhattan townhouse and her hereditary estate on Martha's Vineyard. She has had no real experience with the ordinary lives of New Yorkers, either a few dozen blocks away in Harlem (despite a sudden ad hoc lunch last week with the Rev. Sharpton at a soul food diner) or the state's rural towns to the north.

Ms. Kennedy is about as undiverse as one could imagine. She was educated at exclusively private schools among those of her like race and class. Her financial security is due to either inheritance or marriage; there is no evidence of a self-employed stellar legal or business career. But there is plenty of evidence that Ms. Kennedy reflects the current Democratic Party's obsession with celebrity and Hollywood-like imagery--as we see from the recent politicking of everyone from Oprah to Sean Penn, the Senate run of comedian Al Franken, and the messianic cult that surrounds Barack Obama, from his vero possumus Latin seal to his mass rallies with Greek temple backdrops.

Press reports suggest that the current political junkie Ms. Kennedy was an erratic voter in the past. In any case, her positions on both state and national issues are perhaps doctrinaire liberal in the Kenndyesque sense. But we can only assume, rather than know, that, since she has not in the past voiced any strong views about anything in any detail. Unlike dozens of veteran, hard-working and savvy New York state and federal office-holders in the Democratic Party, who would be both qualified and happy to serve out Sen. Clinton's term, Ms. Kennedy has never run for, or held, public office. Her only prerequisites for Senator are her pedigree from her father and her purported celebrity mystique passed on from her mother Jackie. She certainly has shown none of Hillary Clinton's grittiness, traipsing over the rural haunts of America in a bright blue pantsuit, quaffing boilermakers at biker bars and reinventing herself as a sort of Annie Oakley everywoman, clinging to guns and religion.

In 2007 Ms. Kennedy was, in fact, a strong Hillary Clinton donor and supporter, but jumped ship and joined Obama once he surged in the polls at the beginning of the year, when the national media and the fossilized icons of the Democratic Party underwent some sort of ecstatic catharsis and mass hysteria akin to what Euripides's Bacchants experienced on Mt. Kithairon.

That savvy metamorphosis into an Obamiac explains Ms. Kennedy's sudden me-too piggy-backing into national politics. Indeed, her current newfound political zeal seems predicated on the larger Obamania craze, a sort of brand name groupthink in which romantic liberals imagine a return of JFK's lost Camelot.

Her supporters shrug and in embarrassment cite the similar political dynasties of the Bushes or Clintons, and, mindlessly, point to other familial connections that helped jumpstart contemporary careers as diverse as those of Andrew Cuomo, Richard Daley, or Mitt Romney. But all of these scions of well-connected or famous fathers ran for office, met the public, endured the press corps, and for years lost and won elections--something that heretofore Ms. Kennedy has not yet attempted.

Then there is the problem of pretension. Kennedy's Harvard and Columbia educations are cited as proof of her qualifications, as well as her authorship of a variety of edited and co-authored books. But there is no reason to believe that her attendance at the Ivy League was any less facilitated by the powers that be than was the caricatured academic career of the similarly well-connected George Bush, likewise a child of a President. And so just as few in the media cited George Bush's Ivy League degrees as proof of his erudition, why should we do anything different with Ms. Kennedy about whom we know far less than the former successful two-term Texas Governor (who held his own with, or bested, in six televised debates Ivy Leaguers Al Gore and John Kerry?

None of the Kennedy books are works of real scholarship or originality; most instead draw on her family name and reflect insider connections within New York publishing. Her coauthored books with Ellen Alderman on the law are reminiscent of her father's Profiles in Courage--and the inordinate contributions of Theodore Sorensen in that murky shared endeavor.

Much is recently made of Barack Obama's evocation of the 'Best and Brightest' Kennedy coterie, as he draws heavily on so-called "smart" people from the Ivy League. But the media's current heavies in the financial meltdown--President George Bush, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, SEC head Chris Cox, former director of Fannie Mae Franklin Rains, and Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Barney Frank all have in common only Harvard degrees, which apparently are requisites to have overseen financial disaster rather than tools to have prevented it.

Finally, there is the third charge of hypocrisy. George Bush, we were told ad nauseam was born on third base and thought he had hit a triple. But when it comes to Ms. Kennedy, her liberal lineage and assumed charisma weirdly nullified the same tired media charges of entitlement that have been customarily leveled against almost every affluent, well-connected Republican politician from Mitt Romney to George Bush.

There were also several liberal media complaints against Gov. Sarah Palin, most prominently three--that she lacked experience for high federal office; that she avoided the media whenever possible; and that she either would not or could not opine on world affairs.

But Gov. Palin had been an elected official for some sixteen years, winning and losing elections until assuming the governorship--always at odds with an entrenched male hierarchy that had run Alaska for years. Through it all, Palin mothered five children without either capital or connections. She endured at the very beginning of her national run a vicious press as interested in ridiculing her as a rube in fancy store-bought clothes as it is catching a glimpse of Caroline's glitzy labels.

We know in our hearts that Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, who mercilessly grilled pro-life, Christian Sarah Palin with the poor white twang, would pull in their talons--if given the chance to dialogue with Caroline. Yet there is no evidence that Caroline Kennedy knows any more about Waziristan than did Sarah Palin; there is a great deal of evidence that it is far more difficult for a nobody mom of five to make it through the electoral process into national politics from Alaska than it is for a Kennedy daughter of a President to be appointed from the Upper East Side to fill a liberal New York Senate Seat.

Caroline Kennedy is no doubt a fine individual who by all accounts has led an exemplary life. But her proposed appointment to the US Senate is a rare reflection of ourselves--the glittering of the aristocracy in the left's vision of an otherwise egalitarian America, the notion that blue-chip certification conveys status and wisdom rather than proven excellence through the life-school of hard knocks, and the ethical bankruptcy of the media that has no principled notion of disinterested inquiry, but now serves as an fawning appendage of the Left.

In short, appointing Caroline Kennedy to the Senate from New York tells us a lot more about ourselves than it does even her.

6) That first foreign challenge

DURING the fall campaign, Joe Biden ruminated aloud about a foreign policy challenge that a President Obama would have to confront early on. That challenge has come even sooner than Biden anticipated. To test Barack Obama's intentions, if not his mettle, Russia recently announced it plans to go forward with the on-again off-again sale of an advanced air defense system to Iran.

The military purpose of the S-300 air defense system would be to hinder the United States or Israel from setting back Iran's nuclear program with an air assault on Iranian nuclear sites. Russia has no interest in helping Iran obtain nuclear weapons, but President Dmitry Medvedev and his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, may want to lay down a marker even before Obama takes up his responsibilities in the Oval Office.

They want to show Obama they have valuable cards to play. If he wants their cooperation on Iran, they want some quid pro quos. They want the cancellation of President Bush's plan to deploy a dubious missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. They are no less adamant in opposing Bush proposals for NATO expansion that would include Georgia and Ukraine.

The Russians are also eager to reach agreement on three arms-control treaties signed during the Cold War or in its immediate aftermath. The Bush administration has been reluctant to renew the START I agreement on reducing strategic nuclear weapons. That agreement is set to expire next Dec. 5, and Russia wants a follow-up treaty.

The Kremlin also wants to revise the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. Since many of its former satellites are now in the Western camp, the numbers of permitted weapons have tilted against Russia. And the Russians dislike the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty because it bans the cheaper, shorter-range ballistic missiles that balance America's long-range arsenal.

A good augury for Obama's early Kremlin challenge is that both Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Henry Kissinger visited Moscow this month for high-level discussions. Lugar met with a counterpart in the Russian Duma, and Kissinger held talks with Medvedev and Putin.

These two go-betweens may bring Obama a message about the Kremlin's terms for repairing a relationship that deteriorated dangerously under Bush. Because the missile defense system is flawed and because key European allies already oppose NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, Obama will have a chance to trade low-value cards inherited from Bush for crucial Russian cooperation on proliferation, terrorism, and energy security. Obama has the cards. Now he has to play them right.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merge with Saudi Arabia - They Own and Owe Us!

Power from 'Wind Farms' apparently a lot of hot air.

The key is nuclear but Obama is opposed to nuclear. Obama has not explained why he is opposed to nuclear but the utility industry is not likely to build many additional plants because regulatory constraints are too cumbersome, lawsuits from NIMBY's and resultant delays too costly and thus returns too low considering the huge investment required.

The government could build these plants and lease them to public companies but anything the government touches costs more and takes longer so not likely to get nuclear relief in the next 20 years.

Obama also does not like drilling for oil because it despoils the land, disturbs the animals and drilling for oil takes time and money and with the price of oil where it is there is no incentive to drill. In fact, many oil companies are shelving plans to explore and refiners are going to be cutting back because their profits are being reduced.

No relief from domestic drilling any time soon.

What does that leave - coal. Yes, we have plenty of that but it is deemed too dirty by "Greens' so we need to reduce coal production.

We could build more dams but then that would probably impact various fish species and of course the 'snail darter' crowd would not be happy so cancel that idea.

Well we still have the sun but it does not always shine where it would be useful so
that creates a problem.

I guess we will just have to start walking to work but then all the jobs are leaving to go overseas so even that is not a solution.

We really have a problem.

Maybe we could merge with Saudi Arabia? They already own a lot of our debt, they are dependent upon our military for their survival, owe us something for 9/11 (or were the Israelis behind that attack?) and they already fund many of our eastern elite colleges and, as I recently pointed out, fund our presidential libraries. (See 1 below.)

Russia needs money to offset the decline in their oil revenue so they are ramping up their weapons trade and there are always willing buyers with cash among Hezballah- the righteous defenders of Lebanon. Fearing Russians will gain an advantage as the weapon supplier of choice and needing money ourselves the U.S. is also competing for Hezballah dollars.

The fact that these American weapons might be used against Israel or even find their way deployed against our own forces seems to have escaped the "thinkers" in GW's administration.(See 2 below.)

Olmert has found a way to to accommodate Arab demands that Israel return territory. He simply has ceded land where Israelis once sought to live, raise families and work in peace. (See 3 below.)

Sometimes names describe a person very well. I recently read where a woman commented that Madoff made off alright.

Israel's Ambassadress to the U.N. reminds the Palestinians they have gained little for their efforts but then their needle seems to be stuck. (See 4 below.)

Out before he is in? (see 5 below.)

If you detect this memo has a harsh sarcastic edge to it then you are observant. The more I read and hear, the more I think about what I read and hear, the more bitter I become. Sorry, but that's the way I am feeling.


1) Wind Energy will be an early test of Obama's White House Staff
By Glenn R. Schleede

President-elect Obama has said that he would promote "wind farms" as one way to create more jobs. This idea is consistent with popular wisdom about wind energy and, therefore, sounded good while Mr. Obama was in the Senate and during his presidential campaign.

The problem for Mr. Obama now is that this popular wisdom is wrong. Contrary to reports issued by various wind energy advocates, "wind farms" provide few energy, environmental, or economic benefits and create very few jobs - far fewer than could be achieved if the money were used for other investments. Also, wind energy has adverse impacts that advocates like to ignore.

Difference between campaigning and governing

"Good ideas," even if costly, can be useful during a presidential campaign. Once elected, however, presidents typically find that they have many more "good ideas" thrust upon them by staffers, campaign contributors, special interest groups, and heads of departments and agencies than their Presidential budget can accommodate, or that have benefits outweighing true costs.

Therefore, all presidents need effective procedures and trusted staff with discernment skills near at hand who can tell them whether the claims made by proponents of various "good ideas" are really true and whether a proposal will be cost-effective in meeting his goals.

The question now is whether Mr. Obama's White House and Executive Office staff will have the capability and "clout" to protect him from being pressured to adopt unworthy proposals. This will be a test for NEC Director Larry Summers, Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes, ERAB Staff Director Austan Goolsbee, and OMB Director Peter Orszag and their staffs.

Clearly, President Bush did not have effective procedures or staff in place to protect him from bad proposals, including those from his Department of Energy (DOE) and its constituents. DOE demonstrated that it could not be relied on to provide objective analysis -- or to put the public interest ahead of special interests. A recent, relevant example is the highly misleading report -- prepared by DOE, the National Renewable Energy "Laboratory" (NREL), and the wind industry - that suggested that the US could get 20% of its electricity from wind energy.

False Popular Wisdom about wind energy

The wind industry, its lobbyists, and other wind advocates have, for more than a decade, greatly overstated the environmental, energy and economic benefits of wind energy and understated or ignored the very high true cost of electricity from wind energy as well as its adverse environmental, ecological, economic, scenic and property value impacts. With assistance from DOE and NREL (using tax dollars), the industry has misled the public, media, and government officials. They have secured federal and state policies, tax breaks and subsidies that have:

Shifted billions of dollars in tax burden and other costs from "wind farm" owners to ordinary taxpayers and electric customers, and
Misdirected billions in capital investment dollars to energy projects ("wind farms") that produce very little electricity - which electricity is low in value because it is intermittent, volatile, unreliable with little of it, if any, available on hot weekday afternoons in July and August when electricity is most needed and has high value.

During the last 4 years, the facts about wind energy's true costs and benefits have begun to emerge, even in the media, but they have yet to be understood by most government officials who continue to parrot wind energy advocates.

False claims that "wind farms" provide large economic and job benefits

Quite likely, Mr. Obama's campaign statements about potential economic benefits and jobs from building "wind farms" were based on some of the misleading "reports," "analyses," or "studies" produced during the past year by the wind industry, other renewable energy advocacy groups, and DOE and NREL.

Such documents are a real disservice to sound government policy making because they are based on unrealistic assumptions and faulty economic analysis. They greatly overstate local and state job and other economic benefits. In the case of wind energy, they typically employ one or more of the following basic flaws and faulty assumptions:

1. Ignoring the fact that much of the capital cost of "wind farms" is for equipment purchased elsewhere, often imported from other countries. About 75% of the capital cost of "wind farms" is for turbines, towers and blades - many of which are imported and add to the outflow of wealth from the US.

2. Assuming that employment during project construction results in new jobs for local workers -- when most "wind farm" construction jobs are short term (6 months or less) and the overwhelming share of them are filled by specialized workers who are brought in temporarily.

3. Assuming that the very few permanent "wind farm" jobs are new jobs filled by local workers - when, in fact, these few permanent jobs are often filled by people brought in for short periods. Some "wind farm" owners contracts with suppliers of wind turbines and other equipment for maintenance work with the result that no "new" jobs for local workers are added.

4. Assuming that temporary workers who are brought in for short periods live and spend their pay checks -- and pay taxes -- locally when, in fact, these workers spend most of their wages where they and their families have permanent residences -- where the workers spend most of their weekends and where they pay nearly all of their taxes.

5. Assuming that the full purchase price of the goods and services purchased locally (often minimal in any case) has a local economic benefit. In fact, only the local value added may have a local economic benefit. This truth is illustrated by the purchase of a gallon of gasoline -- let's say for $2.00. Only the wages of the service station employees, the dealer's margin, and the taxes paid locally or to the state will have a local or state economic benefit. Economic benefits from the share of the $2.00 that pays for the crude oil (much of it imported), refining, wholesaling, and transportation generally flows elsewhere.

6. Assuming that land rental payments to land owners for allowing wind turbines all have local economic benefit. In fact, these payments will have little or no local economic benefit when the payments are to absentee landowners OR if the money is spent or invested elsewhere or is used to pay income taxes that flow to Washington DC or state capitals.

7. Using "input-output" models that spit out "indirect" job and other economic benefits that, in effect, magnify (a) all of the overestimates identified above, and (b) use unproven formula and data to calculate alleged "multiplier" effects.

8. Ignoring the environmental and economic costs imposed by "wind farm" development, which include but are not limited to (a) the environmental and ecological costs associated with the production of the equipment, (b) constructing and operating the "wind farm" (e.g., site and road clearing, wildlife habitat destruction, noise, bird and bat kills and interference with migration and refuges), c) scenic impairment, (d) neighboring property value impairment, and (e) local infrastructure costs.

9. Ignoring the fact that electricity produced from wind turbines, has less real value than electricity from reliable generating units -- because that output is intermittent, volatile and unreliable. Also, the electricity is most likely to be produced at night in colder months, not on hot weekday late afternoons in July and August when demand is high and the economic value of electricity is high.

10. Ignoring the "backup power" costs; i.e., the added cost resulting from having to keep reliable generating units immediately available (often running at less than peak efficiency) to keep electric grids in balance when those grids have to accept intermittent, volatile and unreliable output from "wind farms."

11. Ignoring the fact that electricity from "wind farms" located in remote areas generally results in high unit costs of transmission due to (a) the need to add transmission capacity, (b) the environmental, scenic and property value costs associated with transmission lines, (c) the electric transmission "line losses" (i.e., the electricity that is produced by generating units but is lost during transmission and never reaches customers or serves a useful purpose), and (d) inefficient use of transmission capacity because "wind farms" output is intermittent and unpredictable and seldom at the capacity of the transmission line that must be built to serve the "wind farm."

12. Ignoring the fact that the higher true cost of the electricity from wind is passed along to ordinary electric customers and taxpayers via electric bills and tax bills which means that people who bear the costs have less money to spend on other needs (food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care -- or hundreds of other things normally purchased in local stores), thus reducing the jobs associated with that spending and undermining local economies that would benefit from supplying these needs.

13. Perhaps most important, ignoring the fact that the investment dollars going to "renewable" energy sources would otherwise be available for investment for other purposes that would produce greater economic benefits. "Wind farms" have very high capital costs and relatively low operating costs compared to generating units using traditional energy sources. They also create far fewer jobs, particularly long-term jobs, and far fewer local economic benefits. "Wind farms" are simply a poor choice if the goals are to create jobs, add local economic benefits, or hold down electric bills.

Unfortunately, many of the faulty assumptions and incorrect economic analyses described above are present in an "economic model" called JEDI (for Jobs and Economic Development Impact model) that was developed for NREL by a wind industry consultant-lobbyist. This "model," paid for with tax dollars flowing through DOE, has been widely promoted by NREL and DOE. Outputs from the model are being used by developers to mislead citizens and local governments in areas where developers wish to build "wind farms."

The upcoming test

In summary, the facts about wind energy - yet to be acknowledged by many DOE and other government officials -- demonstrate that "wind farms" with their huge (40+ story) wind turbines produce relatively little electricity; the electricity that is produced is intermittent, volatile, unreliable and low in value; and the true economic and environmental costs of electricity from wind is high.

Because wind turbines cannot be counted on to produce electricity at the time of peak electricity demand, areas experiencing growth in peak demand or needing to replace old generating units will have no choice but to add reliable generating units - whether or not they add wind turbines. If wind turbines are built, electric customers will end up paying twice; once for wind turbines and again for reliable generating capacity.

In fact, "wind farms" are being built primarily because of extraordinarily generous federal and state tax breaks and subsidies available to their owners - not because of their environmental, energy or economic benefits. Wind industry spokesmen have indicated that two-thirds of the economic value of "wind farms" is derived from just two federal tax breaks (i.e., wind Production Tax Credit and 5-year double declining balance accelerated depreciation). Other federal and state tax breaks and subsidies add to benefits enjoyed by "wind farm" owners - all with the costs borne by taxpayers and electric customers.

The wind industry lobbyists and other wind energy advocates have already mounted efforts to expand or extend the huge wind energy tax breaks and subsidies that are already costing taxpayers billions of dollars. The weeks and months ahead will reveal whether President-elect Obama and his White House and Executive Office staff will develop an accurate understanding of the true costs and benefits of wind energy - or whether they will be guided by the false "popular wisdom" that has been promoted by the wind industry, DOE, NREL, and other wind energy advocates.

2) US-Russian race to arm Lebanon with heavy weapons

The United States and Russia are bidding hard against each other to give the Lebanese army heavy weapons, a contest which Israeli diplomacy has failed to deter,

Defense ministry official Amos Gilead arrived in Moscow Friday, Dec. 19 only to watch his train leaving the station: Sophisticated Russian S-300 air defense systems were already speeding toward Tehran to guard its nuclear sites and MiG-29 fighter jets had been pledged to Lebanon.

In Washington, too, Israeli diplomats pleaded in vain with Bush administration leaders to refrain from giving Lebanon tanks and a fleet of combat helicopters. Ten Cobras have led the way. They argued that there are no safeguards against American hardware falling into the hands of the Lebanese terrorist Hizballah, whose leaders vowed again Friday to destroy the Jewish state by launching a regional conflagration.

The spillover has a precedent: In the Israel-Hizballah war of 2006, the Lebanese army, then only lightly armed, let the Shiite terrorists fire missiles at Israel's Mediterranean naval ships from its coastal radar positions.

Next time round, Israel faces a far tougher, upgraded arsenal of anti-air missiles made in Iran and Russia -supplied in the last two years by Tehran and Damascus, plus the new influx of US-made tanks and helicopters.

Israel's strategic standing has thus been allowed to drop another notch thanks to the spineless incompetence of Israel's current leaders, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak.

David Hale of the state department announced the US package for Lebanon Friday, Dec. 19, while denying Washington was competing with Moscow after the Russians gave Beirut a gift of 10 MiG fighters. After meeting Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora in Beirut, Hale said that, in addition to M-50 Supersherman tanks, the US package under preparation included "air support capabilities (helicopters) with precision weapons and urban combat gear." He did not go into numbers or types of weaponry.

The US was helping the Lebanese army "to maintain internal security and fighting terrorism in Lebanon," Hale said.

al Qaeda has relocated some of its Iraq terror force to Lebanon and that UNIFIL's peacemakers had been placed on the alert in the southern Sidon-Ain Hilwa region where the incoming jihadis were preparing attacks for Lebanon and across the border into Israel as well.

American official visits to Beirut have become more frequent in recent weeks.

In late November, the head of the US Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, held talks with Lebanese leaders, followed on Dec. 10, by the coordinator of anti-terror operations at the state department, Dell Dailey.

The last arrival, Hale, may choose to play down the competition with Moscow, but military sources see American and Russian military instructors working cheek by jowl to teach the Lebanese army how to use their respective weapons, especially air defense tactics. Close competition in these circumstances is bound to lead to the piling on of advanced hardware offers by the contestants. The big American military mission in Beirut at the moment will no doubt be followed by a Russian delegation of comparable size.

Washington has not prevented Moscow from building up a rival military presence in Lebanon capital, a development in which Israel has a high security stake. Whereas Russia's strategic orbit focused earlier on new naval bases in Syria's Mediterranean ports of Latakia and Tartous, it has since stretched to a military foothold 250 km to the south, right up to Israel's back door from Lebanon.

While the tanks America is giving Lebanon are ageing models, Israeli military experts comment that they form the nucleus of the Lebanese army's first tank corps, along with its first helicopters – two valuable resources coming within the Hizballah's grasp and in whose use Iranian officers will quickly instruct them.

A group of Hizballah operatives recently paid a secret visit to Moscow and asked for Russian hardware. The Russians did not respond. But by supplying the Lebanese army with heavy equipment along with experts and instructors, it has opened the way for these assets to be diverted to the Shiite terrorists.

Jerusalem is too busy spinning fairy tales about the feasibility of peace with Syria to pay proper attention to the hectic, hostile activity on Israel's northern border.

3) 'Israel has given up its sovereignty over territory near Gaza'
By Yanir Yagna and Barak Ravid

Residents of a Gaza-area community on Saturday accused the government of having abandoned them in the face of ongoing cross-border attacks by Palestinian militants.

"The state of Israel ceded its sovereignty over Gaza-area communities because of electoral considers dictate to the Israel Defense Forces what to do," fumed a resident of Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

He made the comments at a ceremony to mark the birthday of kibbutz member Jimmy Kedoshim, who was killed in May in a mortar attack launched by Hamas militants.

The Kfar Aza resident added: "We entered the truce from a position of weakness, they told us that this is because of Gilad Shalit. 180 days have passed and Gilad Shalit is still in captivity and the mortar shells are still hitting the kibbutz."

Earlier Saturday, Vice Premier Haim Ramon blasted Defense Minister Ehud Barak's policy on the Gaza Strip as a "total failure" as Palestinian militants in the coastal territory pounded southern Israel with a barrage of rocket and mortar fire.

"Barak's policy has suffered a total failure, is seriously harming the residents of the South and the national security of the State of Israel, and is causing inestimable political damage," said Ramon.

The Vice Premier also said he demands that outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hold an urgent discussion in order to immediately change Israel's policy with regard to Gaza.

In light of the upsurge in cross-border attacks from Gaza, Kibbutz Movement Secretary-General Ze'ev Shor called on Barak and Olmert to declare the reinforcement of homes in Gaza-area Israeli communities as a national priority.

"A general [Israel Defense Forces reservist] call-up order needs to be issued in order to finish this within two months," said Shor, speaking at a conference in the North on Friday.

4) Undaunted diplomacy

The wood-domed meeting chamber of the UN was mostly empty of delegates when Ambassador Gabriela Shalev took the podium a few weeks ago at a session devoted to expressing solidarity with the plight of the Palestinians.

Shalev, wearing her customary tailored black pantsuit, was undaunted. With aplomb, she began her retort to a series of speeches from Arab ministers decrying Israel as an apartheid state.

"Some may feel satisfaction at repeatedly passing General Assembly resolutions or holding conferences that condemn Israel's behavior, but one should also ask whether such steps bring any tangible relief or benefit to the Palestinians," she said. "Has any of this had an effect on Israel's policies, other than to strengthen the belief in Israel, and among many of its supporters, that this great organization is too one-sided to be allowed a significant role in the Middle East peace process?"

She looked up, narrowing her eyes as she gauged her audience, and then dropped her punch line: The words weren't hers, but instead belonged to former secretary-general Kofi Annan. Somewhere in the hall, someone coughed. Quickly, Shalev read through the rest of her address, pleading with her colleagues to stop "bashing" Israel and instead - in a sly reference to Barack Obama - "discard the politics of blame and engage in politics of hope."

The message wasn't new: In a similar speech last year, former ambassador Dan Gillerman - widely known as a charmer with an almost Borscht Belt sense of humor - drew on Marilyn Monroe's infamous "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" performance to call on his colleagues to celebrate Israel's birth, rather than focus on the failure to redress the claims of the Palestinian people.

But Shalev, frank almost to a fault and blessed with a contract lawyer's eye for tactical advantage, saw the opening to make a new point. At 67, she is old enough to remember dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv with her father after the newly created UN voted to support the creation of the Israeli state on November 29, 1947 - and, as one of Israel's foremost legal minds, she was canny enough to spot an opening to remind the gathered delegates that they had every power to help the Palestinians toward the same goal by backing the bilateral peace process.

"This is diplomacy, but this is also lawyering," Shalev, who came to the UN after a distinguished career as a law professor, told The Jerusalem Post a few days later in her office at the Israeli mission. "You talk to people you don't agree with. Contract law is all about finding out what the other party is interested in, and then figuring out how to use it to get what you want."

Though her speech didn't appear to have any immediate effect - the assembly delegates went ahead and voted to renew a series of resolutions condemning Israel - Shalev said she was undeterred in her goal of cultivating support wherever she could find willing partners.

Shalev said her main objective in the coming months will be to broaden the scope of the country's portfolio at the world body, continuing a push to be increasingly vocal on issues from economic aid for Africa to women's rights, and find new friends along the way.

"There are 194 countries in the UN, and there are so many whom we never reach out to," she said, naming New Zealand and other Pacific Rim countries among her first targets.

Shalev's charm offensive has also included delegates of moderate Arab countries - Qatar and Bahrain among them - whose leaders are being assiduously courted by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres from Jerusalem for help supporting the bilateral peace talks with the Palestinians.

"We can offer them help on different issues, and despite the image of the UN as just talk, it is important - they realize that we are just human beings, as they are," Shalev said. She quoted the novelist Amos Oz, who inverted the famous hippie dictum "make love not war" into "make peace not love."

In many ways, it's a continuation of the strategy employed by Gillerman, a businessman who left the UN in July after five years as Israel's envoy during which he cultivated close personal friendships with his counterparts from hostile countries to lay the groundwork for progress in committee chambers.

Gillerman's approach was a break from strategies employed by previous ambassadors - among them Binyamin Netanyahu, whom veteran UN-watchers described as a "clever, avuncular, funny" but "needlessly abrasive" diplomat.

"That was a mixture of his style and his intellect and his stances," said Thomas Weiss, a political scientist at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. "But he was unwelcome in so many places and unwelcome negative publicity outshone whatever he did."

Shalev, by contrast, is routinely described as polite and humble - and also as quietly brilliant. Lawyers recount the story of an exam she aced as a third-year student in a class taught by Aharon Barak, former president of the Supreme Court - despite finishing only one out of three questions in the time allotted. The tale has acquired the air of urban legend, but Shalev, when pressed, admits it is true - though she coyly claims it says more about the mind-set of the professor than about her own talent.

Former students also describe her as relentlessly curious. One said he proposed a paper comparing Dutch and Jewish law, and found Shalev receptive despite her lack of expertise in either subject.

"She knew nothing about it but she really was interested," said Raffi Kornitzer, now a lawyer in Jerusalem. "She is open-minded and always willing to hear and to learn new things."

But the same spirit of curiosity that served her well as an academic sometimes looks a little like naivete at the UN, where last night's avid conversationalist can become a stone-faced stranger in the General Assembly hall.

"I thought this would be much smoother and not so much double-speak - there is this difference between the small talk at the champagne receptions and what goes on in the chambers," Shalev said, noting an experience with one Arab diplomat in particular who would not be seen speaking to her in public.

When asked whether there was anyone she would not want to try to speak with, she demurred, saying that of course she would not sit down with ambassadors from sworn enemies of Israel like Iran and Libya - but noted that it would be an interesting conversation to have one day, if circumstances changed.

"Maybe one day - why not? It's engagement," she said. "Whom do you want to talk to, your friends? The ones who already agree with you? No."

5) Senate-for-sale case threatens new chief of staff

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is legendary in Illinois political circles for not picking up the phone or returning calls, even from important figures like the state's senior senator, Dick Durbin.

But there was always one call Blagojevich regularly took, say his aides, and that was from Rahm Emanuel — his congressman, his one-time campaign adviser and, more recently — and troubling for Emanuel — one of his contacts with President-elect Barack Obama's transition staff.

The friendly rapport Blagojevich and Emanuel shared over the years has suddenly become a troubling liability for Emanuel and the new president he will serve as chief of staff.

Emanuel and Obama have remained silent about what, if anything, Emanuel knew of the governor's alleged efforts to peddle Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Emanuel did contact the governor's office about the appointment and left Blagojevich with the impression that he was pushing Valerie Jarrett, a close Obama friend, so he wouldn't have to compete with her in the White House for Obama's attention, said a person close to Blagojevich. The person was not authorized to talk about the governor's discussions regarding the vacancy and requested anonymity.

It was not clear whether Blagojevich inferred Emanuel's motive for advocating Jarrett, or whether Emanuel discussed the appointment with Blagojevich directly or with John Harris, the governor's then-chief of staff who also is charged in the case, according to the source.

Emanuel's refusal to discuss the matter publicly, and the few comments offered by Obama to date, have prompted questions about Emanuel's ties to Blagojevich and what fallout he'll face as the criminal case unfolds, although sources have said he is not a target of prosecutors. Even so, any hint of scandal for Emanuel threatens to tarnish Obama's promise of new political leadership free of scandal and corruption.

Obama has said he will release a full accounting of his transition staff's interaction with Blagojevich and his aides over his Senate replacement once he receives the OK from prosecutors sometime this week. Until then, Obama has said it would be inappropriate for him or his aides to comment further.

Prosecutors refer in the 76-page complaint to the governor's discussions on FBI tapes about a "president-elect advisor," believed to be Emanuel, but they do not specifically cite contacts with Emanuel or anyone on Obama's transition staff.

Instead, the taped conversations reveal Blagojevich telling others to float his idea by the president's adviser of forming a nonprofit that he hoped would, with Obama's help, receive millions of dollars that the governor could tap later.

Blagojevich said he didn't want the idea associated directly in conversations about the Senate appointment or filling Emanuel's seat in the House, according to the complaint. However, Blagojevich is quoted as saying "I want it to be in his head" for later discussions about Emanuel's successor.

It was Blagojevich who, seemingly out of nowhere, yanked Emanuel into his scandal when answering reporters' questions the day before his Dec. 9 arrest, invoking his name in an apparent attempt to shrug off any perception of wrongdoing.

He said he wasn't concerned about a report in the Chicago Tribune that confidant and former aide John Wyma's cooperation had helped lead federal prosecutors to tape the governor's conversations.

Big deal, Blagojevich said. He said he's "always lawful" whenever he speaks, and he was confident Wyma has been "an honest person who's conducted himself in an honest way. That's the John Wyma I know and it's the John Wyma that Rahm Emanuel knows and a lot of other people know."

Blagojevich is right. Wyma does have ties to both him and Emanuel, those close to both have said. And Wyma's clients contributed to both — more than $100,000 to Emanuel's campaigns and causes, and more than $445,000 to Blagojevich's, according to campaign finance records reviewed by The Associated Press.

Wyma and his attorney, Zachary Fardon, did not respond to interview requests.

Emanuel's defenders say he is hardly an ally of Blagojevich.

"They were in different worlds personally and politically," said Peter Giangreco, a political consultant on Blagojevich's 1996 congressional campaign and his two gubernatorial races. "They only dealt with each other because they occupied the same political geography."

Emanuel's effort to promote Jarrett or anyone else for Obama's vacant Senate seat was more a part of his new job description and less a reflection of close ties, Emanuel's supporters have said.

But there was more to their relationship than a polite acquaintance. The two share a political past, rooted on Chicago's North Side, and a friendly relationship — although not a close friendship — that made Emanuel the obvious choice to push Obama's preferences to fill his vacant Senate seat, current and former Blagojevich aides said.

They at times joined forces politically, like in 2005 to promote importing prescription drugs from Canada and in 2006 to push for an increase in the state's minimum wage. Blagojevich, his aides say, wasn't shy about seeking the help of Emanuel, referred to in a 2006 Tribune article as his "Washington-based mentor."

Blagojevich was a congressman before he was governor and he represented the Fifth District, a small but heavily populated district in Chicago's northern and western suburbs, not far from O'Hare International Airport. His rise to Congress has been well documented of late, including the help he received from powerful Chicago Alderman Dick Mell — his now-estranged father-in-law.

When Emanuel returned to politics in 2002 after some years spent in investment banking, he targeted Blagojevich's Fifth District seat as he launched his reformist campaign for governor.

Due to his personal wealth and his national fundraising base dating to his work in the Clinton administration, Emanuel didn't have to go to Mell or to powerful unions because he already had acquired political clout.

Nancy Kaszak, who ran for Congress against Blagojevich in 1996 when both were state representatives and had a nasty battle against Emanuel in 2002, said she believes Mell quietly backed Emanuel. On Election Day that year, she recalls, Mell's poll workers passed out literature for both Blagojevich and Emanuel. Mell declined to be interviewed for this story.

Emanuel has described himself as a one-time adviser to Blagojevich. David Wilhelm, one of Emanuel's close friends who worked with him in the Clinton White House, informally assisted on that campaign for Blagojevich.

Emanuel, who has declined to comment since Blagojevich's arrest, told The New Yorker magazine over the summer that he, Wilhelm and Obama met once a week during the 2002 race to plot campaign strategy for Blagojevich. Wilhelm has said Emanuel overstated the group's role.

Also, Emanuel, Blagojevich and Obama all have hired David Axelrod, the Chicago political consultant who helped engineer Obama's presidential victory. Axelrod helped Blagojevich in 1996 and Emanuel in 2002.

The coming days will offer the first answers about Emanuel's recent interaction with Blagojevich and discussions about filling Obama's Senate seat.

Obama already has insisted that his aides did no bartering with Blagojevich to advance candidates for the appointment. But refusing the deal is only the first step to fighting corruption in a political culture that promotes it when others look the other way, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said earlier when announcing the charges against Blagojevich.

"We're not going to end corruption in Illinois by arrests and indictments alone," the prosecutor said. "What's going to make the difference is when people who are approached to 'pay to play' first say no, and, second, report it."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Picasso, Clinton Both Had Their Blue Periods!

This from a fellow memo reader, a conservative who voted for Obama. Being a conservative and a lover of history I just could not resist posting. (See 1 below.)

This will keep the press and media busy for quite some time. Can Hillary be an impartial Secretary of State - of course she can. Why? Because she is so trustworthy. She proved that when the disappearing documents finally re-appeared on her table back in The White House during the Watergate mess. (See 2 below.)

The party's over? Certainly, Lina Monk thinks so. Before I was sent this by a fellow memo reader, I pretty much posed the same question in a recent memo entitled: "Americans Enjoy Being Shorn By Their Politicians?" (See 3 below.)

A long time friend of mine has just written a book which I have not read as yet but intend to do so. The author began his career as an analyst, became director of research at a prestigious counseling firm, then its Chairman. He made a veritable fortune following his own advice. Very conservative and astute. (See 4 below.)

Olmert runs into wall over Syrian demands. (See 5 below.)

Israelis continue to get hammered by Hamas while Olmert is busy trying but failing to give away more Israeli land to Syria. (See 6 below.)

I certianly could be wrong but I believe Obama's pre-inaugural activities and efforts are meant to disarm, create the appearance of being a centrist, drum up support from the press and media, even at the expense of ticking off his far Left supporters. However, when he takes office he will more than satisfy the most Liberal with proposed policy changes. Right or wrong, I believe he is as slick as 'Ole Willy,' probably as bright but possibly not as astute politically, though, both know how to wiggle around the truth - is is is. Old Bill could charm the clothes off anyone and as a matter of fact often did. Clinton is a political artist and like Picasso both had their Blue Period. Will Obama make us blue as well?

Granted I could be wrong and surprised by Obama. Perhaps he is a centrist and figures there are more centrist votes than extreme Liberals ones and is already gearing up for his re-election. That said, Obama did not run a centrist campaign. Is he prepared to disavow all his campaign rhetoric? I just do not believe so.

Starting with a trillion dollar spending program may sound like just what the patient needs considering his pain and suffering but I also believe it is financial over-medication and will create more problems later. Colds often take a week to end. Treating them often takes seven days.

I am sure Obama and his advisers sincerely believe we have pneumonia and a trillion dollars of monetary oxygen and anti-biotics will cure us. Having already pumped over 700 billion into the patient, with little result to date, no one seems to be deterred from spending more.

Have a great weekend as we approach Christmas and Channukah!


1)For those who don't know about history ... here is a condensed version:

Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups:

1. Liberals
2. Conservatives

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement.

Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the Conservatives by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q's and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement.

Some of these Liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as girlie-men. Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer, mostly Bud. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservative s are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, athletes, Marines, airline pilots and generally anyone who works productively. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America . They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Here ends today's lesson in world history:

It should be noted that a Liberal may have a momentary urge to angrily respond to the above before forwarding it.

A Conservative will simply laugh and be so convinced of the absolute truth of this history that it will be forwarded immediately to other true believers and to more liberals just to piss them off.

And there you have it. Let your next action reveal your true self...

2) Clinton dumps 2,922 pages of donor info
By: Mike Allen

Former President Bill Clinton beat his end-of-the-year deadline for disclosing the 208,000 donors to his foundation and presidential library, as part of the agreement that allowed President-elect Barack Obama to name Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as secretary of state.

The list is here — all 2,922 pages.

It’s a classic Washington dump, where reporters get a barrage of information and have to hunt for the news — in this case, any surprising names. And there were a few.

The list includes a number of donors who have strong views on, or are major players in, some of the trickiest issues Hillary Clinton will confront as Secretary of State. The list also includes former members of Lebanese and Ukrainian parliaments, as well as major American backers of Israel.

Slim-Fast founder S. Daniel Abraham, who gave between $1 million and $5 million, is a member of the board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee whose bio boasts he “is a close friend of many of the leaders of the Middle East, with whom he consults regularly.” Bill Clinton wrote the forward to Abraham’s 2006 book “Peace is Possible.”

Univision lead investor Haim Saban, who gave between $5 million and $10 million, was a confidant of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and has openly wielded his political clout to try to push U.S.-Israel policy rightward.

The American Jewish Committee contributed $100,000 to $250,000.

A division of the controversial private security firm Blackwater – which provides State Department security in Iraq, but was accused of mishandling a 2007 shootout there – gave between $10,000 and $25,000.

The $450,000 contribution from the wife of fugitive businessman Marc Rich got a lot of attention towards the end of the Clinton presidency, but there are at least two felons listed as having donated $100,001 to $250,000, though they gave before their convictions.

Powerhouse lawyer William S. Lerach was sentenced in February to two years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme.

And Jim Levin, a Clinton fundraiser who slept at the White House several times, plead guilty to defrauding the Chicago public schools.

The foundation gave The Associated Press an early look at the data, in an effort to set a storyline that other news organizations would follow.

AP's Beth Fouhy and Sharon Theimer reported this morning: “Former President Bill Clinton's foundation has raised at least $41 million from Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments that his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, may end up negotiating with as the next secretary of state. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave $10 million to $25 million to the William J. Clinton Foundation, a nonprofit created by the former president to finance his library in Little Rock, Ark., and charitable efforts to reduce poverty and treat AIDS. Other foreign government givers include Norway, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei, Oman, Italy and Jamaica.”

The story did not point out that the Saudis gave at least $1 million to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Tex., along with elaborate gifts that included gold and silver camels.

A Clinton Foundation news release said: “The William J. Clinton Foundation today published its list of all contributors since its inception in 1997, with gratitude for the contributions they have made to sustain the work of the Foundation and its charitable initiatives. … The Clinton Foundation has received contributions of all sizes, from people of all means. The median gift amount over the life of the Foundation is $45. Nearly 90 percent of gifts (179,000 contributors) are valued at $250 or below, with 12,000 individuals contributing $10 or less. In addition, in a sign of the significance of the cause and the effectiveness of the work, a noteworthy 57,000 contributors gave more than once to the Foundation and/or the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.”

According to the William J. Clinton Web site, here are the 18 largest donors:

Greater than $25,000,000
The Children's Investment Fund Foundation

$10,000,001 to $25,000,000
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Stephen L. Bing
COPRESIDA-Secretariado Tecnico
Fred Eychaner
Frank Giustra, Chief Executive Officer, The Radcliffe Foundation
Tom Golisano
The Hunter Foundation
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The ELMA Foundation
Theodore W. Waitt

$5,000,001 to $10,000,000
Government of Norway
Nationale Postcode Loterij
Haim Saban and The Saban Family Foundation
Michael Schumacher
The Wasserman Foundation

By Linda Monk

The Crash of 2008, which is now wiping out trillions of dollars of our people's wealth, is, like the Crash of 1929, likely to mark the end of one era and the onset of another.

The new era will see a more sober and much diminished America . The 'Omnipower' and 'Indispensable Nation' we heard about in all the hubris and braggadocio following our Cold War victory is history.

Seizing on the crisis, the left says we are witnessing the failure of market economics, a failure of conservatism. This is nonsense. What we are witnessing is the collapse of Gordon Gecko ('Greed Is Good!') capitalism.

What we are witnessing is what happens to a prodigal nation that ignores history, and forgets and abandons the philosophy and principles that made it great.

A true conservative (Rep or Dem) cherishes prudence and believes in fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets and a self-reliant republic. They believe in saving for retirement and a rainy day, in deferred gratification, in not buying on credit what you cannot afford, in living within your means.

Is that really what got Wall Street and us into this mess -- that we followed too religiously the gospel of Robert Taft and Russell Kirk? 'Government must save us!' cries the left, as ever.

Yet, who got us into this mess if not the government -- the Fed with its easy money, Bush with his profligate spending, and Congress and the SEC by liberating Wall Street and failing to step in and stop the drunken orgy? For years, we Americans have spent more than we earned. We save nothing. Credit card debt, consumer debt, auto debt, mortgage debt, corporate debt -- all are at record levels. And with pensions and savings being wiped out, much of that debt will never be repaid.

Our standard of living is inevitably going to fall. For foreigners will not forever buy our bonds or lend us more money if they rightly fear that they will be paid back, if at all, in cheaper dollars. We are going to have to learn to live again within our means.

THE PARTY'S OVER! Up through World War II, we followed the Hamiltonian idea that America must remain economically independent of the world in order to remain politically independent. But this generation decided that was yesterday's bromide and we must march bravely forward into a Global Economy, where we all depend on one another. American companies morphed into 'Global Companies' and moved plants and factories to Mexico , Asia, China , and India , and we began buying more cheaply from abroad what we used to make at home: shoes, clothes, bikes, cars, radios, TVs, planes, computers.

As the trade deficits began inexorably to rise to 6 percent of GDP, we began vast borrowing from abroad to continue buying from abroad. At home, propelled by tax cuts, war in Iraq and an explosion in social spending, surpluses vanished and deficits reappeared and began to rise. The dollar began to sink, and gold began to soar. Yet, still, the promises of the politicians come. Barack Obama will give us national health insurance and tax cuts for all but that 2 percent of the nation that already carries 50 percent of the federal income tax load.

Who are we kidding?

What we are witnessing today is how empires end. The Last Superpower is unable to defend its borders, protect its currency, win its wars, or balance its budget.
Medicare and Social Security are headed for the cliff with unfunded liabilities in the tens of trillions of dollars. What we are witnessing today is nothing less than a Katrina-like failure of government, of our political class, and of democracy itself, casting a cloud over the viability and longevity of the system. Notice who is managing the crisis. Not our elected leaders. Nancy Pelosi says she had nothing to do with it. Congress is paralyzed and heading home. President Bush is nowhere to be seen. Hank Paulson of Goldman Sachs and Ben Bernanke of the Fed chose to bail out Bear Sterns but let Lehman go under. They decided to nationalize Fannie and Freddie at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of billions, putting the U. S. government behind $5 trillion in mortgages. They decided to buy AIG with $85 billion rather than see the insurance giant sink beneath the waves. Unelected financial elite are now entrusted with the assignment of getting us out of a disaster into which an unelected financial elite plunged the nation. We are just spectators.

What the Greatest Generation handed down to us -- the richest, most powerful, most self-sufficient republic in history, with the highest standard of living any nation had ever achieved -- the baby boomers, oblivious and self-indulgent to the end, have frittered away.

Added Comments: How do WE THE PEOPLE put the villains who are responsible under oath and sit them down at public hearings to determine whose necks should meet the guillotine? Hypocritically, those who had oversight responsibility such as Senator Chris Dodd [Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee] and Barney Frank [Chairmen, House Financial Services Committee] who helped get us into this mess are on every TV channel voicing their righteous indignation and pompously sitting on their elevated platform glaring down at those they are chastising and grilling, trying to pass the blame to others.

WE THE PEOPLE should be on the elevated platform in judgment and execution of the likes of Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and the rest of the band of thieves and conspirators who are responsible for the financial collapse of the USA . To name just a few of the culprits: Henry Paulson Jr, Secretary of the Treasury Alan Greenspan & Ben Bernanke -- Chairman Federal Reserve Christopher Cox, SEC Chairman.

But not to worry -- YOUR PUBLIC SERVANTS who fear being voted out of office will take their self-awarded Golden Parachute Congressional Retirement, give WE THE PEOPLE the finger one last time and head for their safe havens as the World Citizens they are. However, before they waddle off into the sunset, they will go on record one last time denouncing corporate greed, lavish salaries, and bonuses for their key felons at Fannie May, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers & AIG.

Meanwhile, WE THE PEOPLE fiddle while Rome burns and were too lazy and indifferent to vote them out of office.

4) Special Offer:

Former investment advisor Solon P. Patterson is offering to cover S&H as well as sales tax on purchases of his newly published book Ten Rules for Real Wealth (list price of $8.95).

The book is available on

5) Olmert's bid to revive Syrian track runs into blank walls

Syrian president Bashar Assad: No compromises

Israeli caretaker prime minister Ehud Olmert has been warned that the trip he booked to Ankara for next Monday will be an exercise in futility. Damascus let it be known Friday. Dec. 19, that acceptance in advance of its "borders document" was the pre-condition for direct peace talks. This six-point document covers Israel's withdrawal -not only from the Golan but also from another slice of territory, the northeastern bank of the Sea of Galilee and Hamat Gader region, which is part of pre-1967 Israel.

This maximalist approach, say sources in Washington, Jerusalem and Ankara, aims at notifying US president-elect Barack Obama and designated secretary of state Hillary Clinton that Damascus' "borders document" is a take-it-or-leave it proposition. Syrian leaders appear to believe that after he takes office, Obama will assign American partners to the negotiations who will tilt their tenor against Israel.

Israeli opposition leaders from right and left say that, as a provisional head of government until the Feb. 10 general election, Olmert has no moral or public mandate to go ahead with the initiative. He therefore has no valid business in the Turkish capital. This view was shared even by his own Kadima party colleague, Tzahi Hanegbi.

Opposition Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu said the post-election government he expects to lead next year would not be bound by any "Olmert-Livni concessions to Syria" or abandon the Golan.

Syria put forward the "borders document" Tuesday, Dec. 16, three months after indirect talks with Israel brokered by Turkey were bogged down: The Israeli side refused to define in advance the limits of its territorial withdrawal, while Syria withheld a prior commitment to break with Tehran, Hizballah and the Palestinian terrorists, for the sake of a peace accord.

It was published shortly before the arrival in the region of Dennis Ross, one of Obama's senior Middle East advisers. The sense in Damascus is that Ross will have an important role in putative Syrian-Israeli-US negotiations in the future. However, DEBKAfile's sources in Washington say his future assignment is still unknown, as is the Obama team's perception of the US role in the talks.

6) IDF's post-truce signal to Hamas: Same old rules unless you go too far

Military sources report: Minutes after Hamas declared the six-month "truce" was over and non-renewable at 6 a.m. Friday, Dec. 19, the Israeli Army spokesman had this to say: "Quiet will be met by quiet but we will not hesitate to respond to missile offensives."

Whereupon, proving the threat was hollow, Hamas fired three missiles, followed by

sniper fire which drove farmers from their fields at Kibbutz Nir Oz and damaged vehicles.

Unnamed defense officials admitted that a large-scale Israeli military operation to stamp out the missile offensive and destroy Hamas weapons stockpiles was not on the cards at this point. The IDF would stick to air strikes against missile cells and Hamas installations, however ineffectual barring major changes on the ground.

One military source commented: "The chief of staff (Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi) is too smart to be caught in this trap (of a major operation) with his hands tied."

The IDF spokesman then explained that in the current period of electioneering, there would be no one to back the chief of staff at home or in a world plunged in a struggle for economic survival."

The official added: "Hamas has missiles capable of reaching targets north of Ashkelon."

People in Sderot, Ashkelon and other targeted Israeli communities responded with outrage. They ask how Hamas, like the Lebanese Hizballah, were allowed to upgrade their deadly arsenals during the watch of defense minister Ehud Barak and Ashkenazi in a period before any election campaigns.

The population bordering on the Gaza Strip has opened up bomb shelters, is rehearsing emergency drill routines and bracing for the worst. Some will inevitably head north, particularly after the army spokesman's comment: "The IDF will strike only in the event of many casualties and a change in the general picture."

The Hamas was thus given to understand that Israel's virtual do-nothing military policy would change only if it fires too many missiles or kills too many civilians. Otherwise, the IDF will abide by the current rules dictated from Gaza and Damascus, which leave the initiative with the Palestinian terrorists and permit only a strictly controlled Israeli response.

In the first 18 days of December, when the notional ceasefire was still in force, Palestinian terrorists slammed 83 Qassam missiles and 52 mortar shells from Gaza into Israeli civilian locations.