Showing posts from January, 2009

Hidden Bonuses Enrich U.S. Government Contractors

This is from Bloomberg.

Private contracting is justified as a means to save money through efficiencies that supposedly are not available when government does its own work. Of course government is often inefficient but other things being equal it should cost more to have work done privately since the private contractor wants to make a profit. It seems though that private contractors are not only guaranteed profits but also bonuses and sweetheart contracts that rip the public off. The ripoffs are so bad that even a business news outfit such as Bloomberg feels obligated to blow the whistle.

Hidden Bonuses Enrich U.S. Government Contractors (Correct)
By David Dietz
Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator Kit Bond shifted in his chair at a 2005 congressional hearing, poised with a question on national security. He turned to Treasury Secretary John Snow, who was seated at a witness table.
Was Snow sure, asked Bond, a Missouri Republican, that a Treasury Department computer on order for $8.9 mi…

Israel Plans more Gaza Strikes

It seems that any strikes that Israel makes are just retaliatory or routine or anything but violations of the ceasefire. No move to open the borders yet either it would seem. No word of criticism from the west.

Israel Plans More Gaza Strikes
Hamas Avoids Retaliation, Trying to Cement Ceasefire
Posted January 30, 2009
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz cites top “decision-makers” as saying the attacks against Hamas and other groups in the Gaza Strip would continue in spite of the continuing efforts by the international community to negotiate a ceasefire. One source is quoted as saying the attacks were meant to show Hamas that strikes would not go unanswered.
But as Israel continues to ratchet up what it is calling retaliatory attacks, Hamas’ own response has been extremely muted. While Israel’s attacks on Hamas have caused numerous casualties (mostly civilians), Hamas hasn’t caused even property damage in Israel.
Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who Israel threatened to assassinate earlier in …

Vietnam: Auto Sales Up

This is from VNA.

Any of the big three would just gasp at a 37 per cent sales growth. However the total numbers are much less impressive. For every car in Vietnam there are 21 motorbikes. Traffic must be fun in big cities such as Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Auto sales up, but downturn starts to bite
14/01/2009 -- 12:09 PM
Hanoi (VNA) – Most carmakers worldwide are bemoaning the nosedive in sales in 2008, while carmakers in Vietnam boasted a 37 percent sales growth last year.Despite falling sales in the last four months of the year, strong sales in the first seven months of the year was attributed to the overall growth rate, according to the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (VAMA), which represents 17 leading automakers in the country. Total sales reached 110,186 units.Japanese-invested Toyota , topped the list with 24,421 units sold, up 21 percent year-on-year, followed by domestic truck and bus maker Vinamotor, with 20,887 units, up 281 percent.Kia assembler Truong Hai ran…

Turkish PM walks out of Davos

One wonders why Peres was given 25 minutes to speak at Davos. Were the Palestinians given equal time! Apparently the Turkish response less than half that time was too much. Peres at least tried to cool things down afterwards.

Turkish PM gets hero's welcome after shouting match with Israeli leader
Last Updated: Friday, January 30, 2009 7:35 AM ET
CBC News

Thousands of jubilant supporters greeted the Turkish prime minister as he arrived home early Friday after a heated exchange with the Israeli president over his country's Gaza Strip offensive.
Over 5,000 people, many waving Turkish and Palestinian flags, gathered at Istanbul's Ataturk airport to welcome Recep Tayyip Erdogan when his plane touched down at 2 a.m.
Hours earlier, Erdogan clashed on stage with Israeli President Shimon Peres at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
One banner held by a supporter outside the airport gate called him The Conqueror of Davos.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erd…

Mitchell urges Israel to open Gaza crossings

Mitchell has a daunting and probably impossible task at this juncture. Israel is continuing to choke off supplies of all sorts from Gaza. Israel continues to pound areas where there are tunnels in spite of the cease fire. This apparently is not supposed to be a violation of the cease fire. However if Hamas resumes firing rockets no doubt this would be a clear violation of the cease fire! Hamas is blamed even when another group fired one rocket!

Mitchell urges Israel to open Gaza crossings Fri, 30 Jan 2009 13:41:30 GMT

The 75-year-old former US senator says the Obama White House will strive to achieve peace in the Middle East.US Middle East envoy George Mitchell urges Israel to open the crossing points into the Gaza Strip amid a shaky ceasefire with Hamas. "To be successful in preventing the illegal trafficking of arms into the Gaza Strip, there must be a mechanism to allow the flow of legal goods," Mitchell, who is on his first Mideast tour, told reporters Thursday. Israel dem…

Blackwell licence in Iraq not renewed.

This is hardly a surprise given the actions of Blackwell in the past. It shows that Iraq is finally gaining some real power at least on issues such as this. The State Dept. will have to find a new security firm as it still uses Blackwell in Iraq. This is from

January 29th, 2009
The Iraqi government has informed the US embassy today that it will decline to renew Blackwater Worldwide’s license to operate in the nation. This will require the security contractors, still being used by the State Department, to leave the nation once the joint US-Iraq committee finishes drawing up its formal guidelines for contractors.
According to Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the decision came as a result of “improper conduct and excessive use of force” by the contractor, still infamous in Iraq for its 2007 killing of 17 civilians in Baghdad.
The move was hardly a surprise, as the State Department was advised over a month ago to look for a replacement security …

Philippines: 4.5% growth in 2008

This is from the Tribune (Manila)

This rate is down a lot from the 7.2 percent growth in 2007 but given the global depression it is not all that bad. Interesting that about ten percent of GDP comes from overseas worker remittances. With the global economy in recession some of those workers will no doubt return to the Philippines increasing unemployment. There will probably be a decline in remittances as well.

4.6% growth slowest in 6 years but still surprises
The government announced yesterday that the economy grew 4.6 percent last year, the weakest since 2002 but better than expectations, after growth came in at 4.5 percent in the last quarter.
The surprising growth rate was achieved after the government revised the third quarter figure to a five percent growth from the initial 4.6 percent.
Full-year growth for 2008 was also down from the 7.2 percent the previous year which had been a 30-year high and economic officials said they expected the economy to continue expanding this y…

Obama the Imperialist.

Obama was not really elected on an antiwar ticket except perhaps in the minds of some anti war groups who approved of his plans to withdraw from Iraq. On Afghanistan and Pakistan Obama never hid the fact that if anything he was more bellicose than Bush!
This article gives some interesting historical background on the type of moral or humanistic imperialism that Obama represents. It is worth noting is that opposition to this point of view comes both from libertarians and also realists who see interventionism as unwarranted unless vital US interests are at stake. Not only does present imperialism use as an excuse for intervention real disasters in areas such as Darfur but also the concept of failed states and the all ecompassing war against terror. As a failed state, Somalia, where Islamists were able to gain power is an example of how the war against terror drives US imperialism. The US saw the Islamists simply as actual or potential anti-US terrorists rather than as giving some semblan…

Chomsky: Neither the US nor Israel is a genuine party to peace.

With his usual sarcasm Chomsky rips into Obama's mideast policy and shows that there is really no basic change in US policy in the Mideast. Events today in which Israel has resumed some bombing and closed off the borders again shows how contemptuous Israel is of the US. It is attacking again just as the US peace envoy arrives! Of course no one seems to think that Hamas should be part of the process except to commit suicide by ensuring that it receives no more arms. Heck they can still employ little kids to throw stones at the Israelis!

Neither The US Nor Israel Is A "Genuine Party To Peace."By Noam Chomsky January 28, 2009 "Information Clearinghouse" -- Barack Obama is recognized to be a person of acute intelligence, a legal scholar, careful with his choice of words. He deserves to be taken seriously - both what he says, and what he omits. Particularly significant is his first substantive statement on foreign affairs, on January 22, at the State Department, when…

Philippines: Panasonic to close plant.

This is from Reuters. This is just another sign that the global downturn is impacting the Philippines.

UPDATE 1-Panasonic likely to post loss, close plants-Nikkei
Tue Jan 27, 2009 11:45pm GMT

TOKYO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp (6752.T) is likely to report an annual net loss of about 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) on restructuring charges, weak demand for consumer electronics and the effects of the strong yen, a newspaper said.
It would be the first net loss in six years for the company, formerly known as Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd.
Panasonic also plans to close three plants, including two of its three plants that make electronics parts in Malaysia, the Nikkei business daily said without citing sources. The third plant to be closed is in the Philippines, the Nikkei said.

Border closes, Israel promises more Gaza strikes.

This is from

So an Israeli soldier is killed and Israel kills a farmer launches an air strike etc. The original attack was not even by Hamas. No matter. They also simply punish the whole Gazan population by closing off the border. However these actions are just the beginning claims Israel. What will Obama have to say? It won't matter since unless the US is willing to take genuine punitive action against Israel by cutting off military aid etc. the US seems to have little say in what Israel does.

Border Closes, Israel Promises More Gaza Strikes
Rival Faction Carried Out Attack, But Israel Still Blames Hamas
Posted January 27, 2009
Credit for the roadside bombing which killed an Israeli soldier along the Gaza border earlier today has been claimed by the Jihad and Tawhid Brigades, an al-Qaeda linked group which has repeatedly clashed with Hamas. Still, the Israeli military says that even though Hamas didn’t carry out the attack, it is still responsible for it because th…

Juan Cole: Afghanistan: Obama's Vietnam

This is from Salon.

On interrogation and closing Guantanamo and exiting Iraq as Cole mentions there is a departure to a considerable extent from Bush tendencies but on Pakistan and Afghanistan Obama is actually more aggressive than Bush and is intending to have his very own surge in Afghanistan.
The recent drone attacks confirm this continuation and expansion of Bush policy.

Obama's Vietnam?Friday's airstrikes are evidence Obama will take the hard line he promised in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he should remember what happened to another president who inherited a war.
By Juan Cole
Jan. 26, 2009
On Friday, President Barack Obama ordered an Air Force drone to bomb two separate Pakistani villages, killing what Pakistani officials said were 22 individuals, including between four and seven foreign fighters. Many of Obama's initiatives in his first few days in office -- preparing to depart Iraq, ending torture and closing Guantánamo -- were aimed at signaling a sharp turn a…

Greenwald: Continuing Bush policies in Israel and Afghanistan

This is from Salon.

On the Middle East Obama's tone is perhaps a bit lighter than Bush but there is the same strong slanting towards Israel as well as completely ignoring Hamas in negotiations in favor of Abbas who has absolutely no power in Gaza. The US, Europe, and Israel seem to agree that one of the key players in any peace process is to be completely isolated. Many Arab states of course go along with this even though it means that they face more conflict on their own streets and help recruit radical Islamists for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
It should be obvious to any observer that with respect to Afghanistan Obama is if anything going to be more aggressive than Bush ever was. The drones still continue to fly over Pakistan as well killing guilty and innocent alike.

Glenn Greenwald
Monday Jan. 26, 2009 07:02 EST
Continuing Bush policies in Israel and Afghanistan
By all accounts, the U.S. is suffering extreme economic woes. We continue to borrow trillions of dolla…

Russia Stops US on Road to Afghanistan

This is from the AsiaTimes.

There is material in this article that you just do not see in the mainstream western media reports. For example that Afghanistan's dealings with third countries are subject to US veto. The article is correct in saying that Afghanistan is "notionally"sovereign. In reality it is occupied by the US and NATO.
It seems that the agreement with Russia re transporting goods through Russia is dependent upon some benefits to be negotiated. The US is obviously trying to establish a strong presence in former Soviet Republics such as Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan while Russia and China as well are trying to counteract US influence in the area.
The article points out that supplies transiting through Pakistan are stolen in huge amounts as well as being attacked otherwise.

Jan 27, 2009

Russia stops US on road to Afghanistan
By M K Bhadrakumar
Precise, quick, deadly - the skills of a soldier are modest. But then, US Central Command chief General David Petra…