Monday, September 28, 2009

Oil's Well

The appearance of books like CRUDE WORLD are excellent leading indicators for the continued health and growth of an industry under attack.

Despite the cries of backward-thinking people, the greatest surge of prosperity in human history has been made possible by the existence and use of oil. Energy -- cheap energy -- is the key. Oil has answered many prayers, and yields enormous benefits, even to those who want to believe it is evil.

Some of the world's nitwits have riveted themselves to the notion of Peak Oil, that point where global production reaches its maximum. Then, because oil is a finite rescource, it is believed production will decline as the difficulty of finding and exploiting reserves increases.

Of course we have no idea how much oil is below the Earth's surface. True, global reserves are finite, but our approximations of those reserves are limited by our ability to measure them, and our ability is limited. Thus, today's reserve estimates are obviously low.

But what does it matter. We know oil we will deplete Earth's oil reserves and that it will take at least another 100 years to drain them.

What do we do till then? Wind? Solar? Coal? Nuclear? When it comes to knowing the amount of energy available from specific sources, we know exactly how much wind and solar power are available. Nothing man can do will change the amount of sunlight striking the Earth or the amount of wind sweeping the land.

Thus, when it comes to measuring Peak Sun or Peak Wind, we already know. Those who worship Sun Power make useless claims about the amount of solar energy striking the surface of the Earth. As if it matters to American consumers of electricity how much sunlight strikes the oceans covering 70% of the Earth's surface. Solar panels may someday cover a lot of open land in sunny regions of the country. But not without a fight.

Covering vast tracts of sun-bleached land with solar panels will offend millions of people who will resent and oppose this plan to interrupt Nature's way. Imagine solar panels covering the ground in Monument Valley, Arizona. Of course putting a solar-panel roof over millions of acres of desert land is something that will happen only in the imaginations of Sun Worshippers. There's no chance utility companies will receive approval to convert flat desert land, the habitat of many plants and animals, into solar catchments.

Meanwhile, the nitwit author of this mindless book, seems to have confused the forces of backwardness that have dominated the oil-producing regions of the middle east with the most liberating and powerful modernizing force ever. Nothing gives more evidence of the retarding damage caused by Islam than oil. And nothing shows the retarded dopiness of a misguided polemicist more clearly than one who argues that a middle east culture that wants to return the world to the 7th Century is going to carry the day.

The End of Oil?

The Violent Twilight of Oil

By Peter Maass

Illustrated. 276 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $27

Oil is the curse of the modern world; it is “the devil’s excrement,” in the words of the former Venezuelan oil minister Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, who is considered to be the father of OPEC and should know. Our insatiable need for oil has brought us global warming, Islamic fundamentalism and environmental depredation. It has turned the United States and China, the world’s biggest consumers of petroleum, into greedy, irresponsible addicts that can’t see beyond their next fix. With a few exceptions, like Norway and the United Arab Emirates, oil doesn’t even benefit the nations from which it is extracted. On the contrary: Most oil-rich states have been doomed to a seemingly permanent condition of kleptocracy by a few, poverty for the rest, chronic backwardness and, worst of all, the loss of a national soul.

We can’t be rid of the stuff soon enough.

Such is the message of Peter Maass’s slender but powerfully written new book, “Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil.” Unquestionably, by fueling better and faster transportation and powering cities and factories, oil has been critical to modern economies. But oil has also made possible the most destructive wars in history, and it has left human society in a historical cul-de-sac. Despite much hue and cry today, Maass argues, we seem unable to move beyond an oil-based global economy, and we are going to hit a wall soon.

Maass, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, tends to endorse the predictions of industry skeptics like Matthew Simmons, who argues the earth is about to surpass “peak oil” supplies. Even with the recent fallback in prices, the petroleum that’s left to discover will be harder and more expensive to extract. Last year’s $147-a-barrel oil was just a “foretaste of what awaits us,” Maass writes.

Maass is less interested in crunching oil-supply numbers, however, than in exposing the cruelty and soullessness of human­kind’s lust for this “violence-­inducing intoxicant,” as he calls it. His book teaches us an old lesson anew: that the true wealth of nations is not discovered in the ground, but created by the ingenuity and sweat of citizens. It’s the same lesson the Spanish learned centuries ago when they discovered gold, the oil of their time, in the New World. They piled up bullion but squandered it on imperial fantasies and failed to build enduring prosperity, while destroying the civilizations from which they seized it.

Destruction, or at least a lack of progress, has been the fate of most of the nations unlucky enough to sit on top of large pools of “black gold” today. They have grown corrupted by it, their leaders relieved of the need to show accountability as long as they can buy off well-connected foreigners and pay for the security and protection they need from their own angry, disenfranchised citizens. In starkly titled chapters — “Fear,” “Greed,” “Empire,” “Alienation” and so on — Maass shows how each oil state has found its own way to failure. “Just as every un­happy family is unhappy in its own way, every dysfunctional oil country is dysfunctional in its own way,” he writes.

Equatorial Guinea’s savage leader, Teodoro Obiang, plunders virtually every cent of his nation’s wealth, aided by Riggs Bank of Washington, which sometimes sent employees to the embassy to pick up bulging suitcases of cash. Locals don’t even get the benefit of jobs because the manual labor is supplied by Indians and Filipinos brought in by Marathon Oil. Walking around the capital, Malabo, one night, Maass does manage to find a booming source of local employment: young Guinean girls called “night fighters” because they jostle for a chance to sell their bodies to the oilmen from Texas or Oklahoma. “The men in Malabo might not find jobs in the oil industry, but it is clearly possible for their desperate sisters to earn a few dollars,” he writes. Traveling to Ecuador, Maass discovers graffiti on one of the pipelines that cut through what was once pristine Amazonian rain forest: “Más Petróleo = Más Pobreza.” More oil equals more poverty. For him, it sums up the confiscatory approach that Texaco took to that country, leaving it a stripped land oozing with toxic pollutants.

The major oil producing nations have fared little better. Seventy years after the discovery of its first great reservoir, Saudi Arabia remains a medieval principality with a bare patina of modernity. The country’s long reign as the world’s No. 1 oil supplier has been good for the Saudi princes but a Faustian bargain for the rest of us, having led to the petrodollar-funded spread of extremism and the rise of Osama bin Laden. Post-Soviet Russia has become a kind of petro-fascist state where the head of Lukoil slavishly keeps a picture of Vladimir Putin on his desk rather than photos of his family. Venezuela is resurrecting socialism, this time as farce, under the buffoonish Hugo Chávez, who hosts a TV talk show called “Aló Presidente” while turning his national oil company into a “development agency with oil wells” that furthers his hold on power. Iran’s whole modern history has been twisted out of shape by its oil riches, starting with the American-British coup that toppled Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and restored Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

The unhappiest countries are those where oil has led to war, none more so than Iraq, even if no one will acknowledge the truth about America’s 2003 invasion. “The refining process transforms this black swill into a clear fluid without which our civilization would collapse,” Maass writes. “Quite often a corollary process of political refining occurs to sanitize the truth of what’s done to keep oil in the hands of friendly governments. Just as cars cannot run on unrefined crude, political systems choke at the unfiltered mention of war for oil.” He cites George W. Bush’s claims that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with oil. Still, the question hangs out there: Why was the Oil Ministry one of the only places guarded by United States troops in the early days of looting?

By the end of Maass’s long indictment, one wants the horror to end. Let’s all move on from oil already. Indeed, it is tempting to imagine what sort of globalization we might have today if Max Steineke and his exploratory team from Standard Oil of California hadn’t discovered quite so much petroleum when they pierced Saudi Arabia’s first great reservoir in 1938. If less human ingenuity had been applied to finding oil over the last 70 years, and more to developing other sources of energy, the world economy — and the environment — might be far healthier. The World Trade Center might even still be standing.

But Maass doesn’t fully deliver on the promise of his subtitle. Is this really the twilight of the oil economy? We still seem utterly drenched in the gunk, and the author’s occasional hints at the alternative history that might have been — if only Ronald Reagan hadn’t dismantled those solar panels that Jimmy Carter put on the White House roof! — are not terribly satisfying. He says that the combined technologies exist to move beyond oil, but he doesn’t go into any real detail. In his final chapter, Maass gives us an evocative glimpse of one future alternative he would prefer — a giant wind farm he discovers along Interstate 10 in California. “Set against the blue sky and the brown desert, in rows of rotating white arms that glint in the sun, the turbines have the appearance of futuristic totems waving at us, luring us forward,” Maass observes, before driving on in his car.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cuba Libre

Overturning Cuba Travel Ban May Pass House This Year, Farr Says

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Legislation to end a ban on Americans traveling to Cuba has enough support in the U.S. House of Representatives to win approval by year-end, said Representative Sam Farr, a California Democrat.

The bill to let U.S. citizens resume travel to the Caribbean island except in times of war or cases in which they face imminent danger has 181 votes in the House and needs 218 to pass, said Farr, a co-sponsor of the legislation. The plan is backed by travel groups such as the United States Tour Operators Association and the National Tour Association and human rights groups such as the Washington Office on Latin America and has been helped by President Barack Obama’s election, he said.

“It is believed we can get to this before the end of the year,” Farr, 68, said in an interview in New York. “We haven’t had a policy about Cuba. We’ve had policies about getting votes in Florida and Obama changed that by getting those votes.”

The U.S. ended restrictions on Sept. 3 on Cuban-Americans travel and money transfers to relatives in Cuba. The new rules also allow U.S. telecommunications companies to provide service in Cuba for mobile telephone, satellite radio and television. Exceptions to the 1962 trade embargo on communist Cuba include $500 million per year in agricultural exports, Farr said.

“If you are a potato, you can get to Cuba very easily,” he said. “But if you are a person, you can’t, and that is our problem.”


Obama is under pressure from Latin American leaders to end the trade embargo to help improve relations in the region. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will ask Obama to end the embargo during the United Nations General Assembly this week, spokesman Marcelo Baumbach said Sept. 17.

Obama announced in April he would lift travel limits for Cuban-Americans visiting family in Cuba. At the same time, Representatives Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, both Florida Republicans, issued a statement that the president had made “unilateral concessions to the dictatorship” that would “embolden it to further isolate, imprison and brutalize pro- democracy activists.”

Cuba’s former President Fidel Castro, who handed power to his brother Raul Castro last year, called on Obama to completely lift the trade embargo.

White House officials have said there are no plans to lift the embargo. At the same time, the administration is undertaking a full review of policy toward Cuba with the goal of advancing “the cause of freedom” in the country less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the coast of Florida, Daniel Restrepo, a special assistant to Obama, said in April.

March Proposal

A group of House and Senate lawmakers proposed in March ending restrictions to allow all U.S. citizens and residents to travel to Cuba. Farr said the legislation, known as the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act,” also has enough votes to clear the Senate, where Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and Republican Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming introduced the legislation.

“There’s a lot more openness in the Congress,” Geoff Thale, program director in the Washington Office on Latin America, said in an interview in New York. “Support is building. The travel industry and business community are not just formally in support but actively engaged. That’s why I think we’re going to see a difference.”

Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who is of Cuban descent and sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, has vowed to fight the easing of travel restrictions.

Philip Peters, a vice president and Cuba expert at the Lexington Institute, a public policy research group in Arlington, Virginia, said proponents of the bill may succeed in winning congressional approval as public opinion grows among Americans that U.S. rules on Cuba aren’t in line with much of the country’s foreign policy.

‘Good Shot’

“They’ve got a good shot,” Peters said in an interview. “Certainly right now they’re in striking distance and they’ve got plenty of time left in the session.”

Ending the travel ban may lead as many as 1 million Americans to visit the island every year, Lisa Simon, president of the National Tour Association, known as NTA, said in an interview. It would also help push forward talks on human rights issues, Thale said.

“We’ve had a policy for 50 years of isolating Cuba and it hasn’t done anything about the human rights situation,” Thale said. “I don’t think there is some magic solution. I don’t think ending the travel ban will cause Fidel to say let’s have elections, let’s release all the political prisoners tomorrow. What it will do is open the process of dialogue.”

Obama’s administration has been showing a “gradual relaxation and diplomatic opening” toward Cuba, Thale said. He cited the government’s decision to reinitiate talks on migration and direct mail, and also to put down the billboard operated by the U.S. government outside its special interests section in Havana, which he said often displayed anti-Cuba messages.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Puffing Away while Chewing the Fat

For all the talk about healthcare reform, the most effective change we can introduce gets no media coverage. Worse, the best change is FREE.

Instead of demanding that taxpayers spend massive sums to repair what's gone wrong with out bodies, we can stop spending massive sums on the stuff that's causing most of our problems: Cigarettes, liquor and fatty foods.

If Americans were to stop pumping themselves full of smoke, alcohol and bad food, our national healthcare bill would drop by one-third -- almost overnight. Of course the big piles of tax revenue streaming into goverment treasuries from tobacco and liquor sales would also drop. Probably by more than a third.

When it comes to the national healthcare debate, what are Americans really seeking? Are we expected to expand our medical system to undo vast amounts of self-inflicted damage? Do America's 50 million smokers believe taxpayers and insurers are obligated to cure their lung cancer -- at huge expense to all -- when simply giving up tobacco will save them -- for free?

How many heart bypass operations must we perform -- at an all-in cost of $100,000 -- before Americans improve their diets? It's easy to live without red meat and cheese cake. It costs nothing to eat smart. But the value is beyond measure. Nevertheless, instead of taking matters into their own hands -- and mouths -- millions of Americans want ObamaCare, the program that promises to bankrupt the nation.

When it comes to healthcare, is it possible for a nation to act more foolishly that ours? On one hand people are screaming for government controls aimed at stopping financial abuses that have cost citizens trillions of dollars of net worth. The financial trouble can be traced to easy credit. Too many irresponsible people were loaned too much money. Should we have been surprised by the financial illness that eventually whacked the economy? No.

We're going down the same road with healthcare. The subtext of a national healthcare plan is this: Eat, Drink, Smoke and be Merry, for tomorrow taxpayers will fund your heart bypass operation, your lung removal, and your liver cancer treatments.

Where is the government? Where is our leadership? Is anyone going to demand the same standards for personal behavior that are about to be imposed on our financial institutions? Of course it is impossible for the government to pressure citizens to quit smoking, cut back on the alcohol and eat healthy when we all know President Obama smokes.


Men’s Lost Decade: How Smoke and Cholesterol Shorten Life Span

Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Men who smoke and let fat clog their arteries die a decade earlier than those who don’t.

Scientists looking for a connection between life expectancy and cardiovascular risk factors combed through the Whitehall study, a survey of 19,019 male civil servants that started in London in the late 1960s.

They found that those who had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoked in middle age died about 10 years earlier than the others after reaching age 50. The findings are published in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal. The reduction in life expectancy was even greater when the researchers factored in body mass index and diabetes.

“Our results provide support for the public health policies aimed at achieving modest changes in major risk factors throughout the population to achieve improvements in life expectancy,” wrote the authors, led by Robert Clarke of the University of Oxford.

In the study, the researchers found smoking shortened life by about six years and married men tended to live about two years longer.

Friday, September 18, 2009

NY Hotel Boots Ahmadinejad

It is always a pleasure to see a New York City hotel toss an offensive visitor out the door. In this case, security personnel should have waited until they had the chance to throw him off the roof.

Ahmadinejad gets heave-ho from Helmsley Hotel

September 18, 2009

No vacancy!

The New York Helmsley Hotel last night abruptly canceled a long-planned banquet for next week after finding out that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was scheduled to attend and speak, The Post has learned.

Helmsley representatives told Ahmadinejad to beat it after being informed by the security group United Against Nuclear Iran that the Israel-hating, Holocaust-denying America basher was going to be in the house next Thursday.

Helmsley execs were unaware that Ahmadinejad -- who will be in town for a meeting of the UN General Assembly next week -- was involved in the event until informed by UANI yesterday.

An Iranian student group had booked the space months ago, said Howard Rubenstein, spokesman for Helmsley Properties.

"As soon as Helmsley corporate management learned of the possibility of either the Iranian Mission or President Ahmadinejad holding a function at the New York Helmsley Hotel, they immediately ordered the cancellation of that function," Rubenstein said.

"Neither the Iranian Mission nor President Ahmadinejad is welcome at any Helmsley facility. The Helmsley organization is grateful to United Against Nuclear Iran for bringing this matter to its attention so that appropriate action could be taken."

UANI applauded the New York Helmsley's move.

"We are pleased with the decision by the Helmsley group. Now more than ever, American corporations must realize that doing business with Iran provides legitimacy to a brutal dictator and indirectly supports the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb," UANI President Mark Wallace said last night.

In a letter to New York Helmsley general manager Mark Briskin, Wallace had warned about Ahmadinejad.

"By doing business with the Iranian government, the Helmsley is accepting blood money from a regime that brutally suppresses its own people and that is a danger to global security," Wallace wrote.

"Moreover, by providing a forum for President Ahmadinejad's speech, the Helmsley is serving as a bullhorn for the propaganda of the illegitimate leader of a brutal, theocratic dictatorship."

UANI also threatened a public boycott of Helmsley properties, if the company went ahead with the Ahmadinejad event.

Meanwhile, The Post has learned that UANI today will turn the heat on Gotham Hall, which the group said is hosting another Ahmadinejad banquet and speech Sept. 25.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Anti-Terrorist Raid in Queens. Brooklyn Next?

Burqa-wearing terrorists were nailed in Pakistan. When will the FBI catch Brooklyn-based muslim terrorists using the same cross-dressing disguise? According to Daniel Pipes, professor of middle east studies, a number of robberies in England have been committed by criminals wearing burqas. They have focused on robbing sites where burqas are common. Clearly the burqa beats a ski mask. From every indication, we will soon see criminal, if not terrorist acts, committed by people wearing burqas.

FBI unit set for more anti-terror raids in Queens; Fears of Madrid-style subway bombings

The discovery of cell phones and back packs raised fears that terrorists were planning a Madrid-style subway bombing plot, sources said.

Fearful of a Madrid-style subway train bombing, authorities are poised to make more raids to seize bomb-making materials at locations in Queens, sources said Wednesday.

The FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Squad arrived in New York in anticipation of the offensive to thwart a Denver-based terror cell with ties to Al Qaeda, police sources told the Daily News.

Another source said an earlier raid uncovered nine backpacks and cell phones, raising memories of the March 2004 bombings in Madrid.

A series of terrorist bombs detonated aboard commuter trains killed 191 people. The source said authorities feared a potential attack on the city subway, with its 5.2 million daily riders.

Najibullah Zazi, the Colorado man who triggered a rash of Queens raids Monday, was identified through e-mail, wire taps and a confidential informant as part of the plot, the source said.

Zazi, 25, told The News he had nothing to do with any terrorist activity.

"No. Of course, I'm not a terrorist," the 25-year-old Afghan national said Tuesday.

A source said Zazi, tipped while visiting Manhattan last weekend that he was under surveillance, fled back to suburban Denver.

Even as Zazi, of Aurora, Colo., professed his innocence, counterterrorism agents eyed him as part of the first suspected Al Qaeda cell they've uncovered in the U.S. since 9/11.

A bearded and barefoot Zazi, standing in the doorway of his apartment, said he's a hardworking airport shuttle driver who is married and lives with his elderly parents in the Denver suburb.

"I didn't know anything about who was following me," Zazi said of reports he is under surveillance by the FBI.

He confirmed driving to New York last week to visit friends, but denied involvement in any Al Qaeda bomb plot or terror cell.

Zazi was stopped at the George Washington Bridge on his way into the city, sources told The News.

Authorities later seized his rental car from a Queens street, sources said.

In the car, sources said the feds found documents and papers about bomb-making and bombs. The massive federal response was "an indication of just how serious a threat they see this as," said Frances Townsend, a former counterterrorism adviser to ex-President George W. Bush.

Zazi remained under constant surveillance Tuesday, the sources said.

Zazi said he and his newly hired lawyer plan to hold a press conference Wednesday.

FBI officials would not comment on The News' report that Zazi is indeed the target of their ongoing probe.

Scores of FBI agents inundated Denver Tuesday as they closed the noose on what sources say is a five-man cabal with ties to World Trade Center mastermind Osama Bin Laden's terrorist group.

One of the suspects, purportedly Zazi, recently had returned home from a trip abroad to Pakistan, where the U.S. believes a significant number of Al Qaeda's leaders live, sources said.

Multiple sources told The News the FBI believes it had uncovered an Al Qaeda cell for the first time since 9/11, prompting the unprecedented response.

"The FBI is seriously spooked about these guys," a former senior counterterrorism official told The News. "This is not some ... FBI informant-driven case. This is the real thing."

Zazi, seen last week praying and chatting with other worshipers at the Masjid Hazart Abubakr Islamic Center in Queens, was one of the quintet under intense scrutiny, sources said.

Known around the mosque as "Naji," he ran a coffee and doughnut cart in Manhattan before moving to Colorado earlier this year.

"I left New York because it's hard to live there; the rent is too expensive," said Zazi, who was born in eastern Afghanistan and moved here as a child.

His Queens home was in the same Flushing neighborhood where FBI agents swarmed into three apartments Monday, bashing down doors and carrying search warrants seeking bomb-making materials.

"I didn't know what he was up to," said mosque President Abdulrahman Jalili, 58, after he was contacted by the FBI about Zazi. "Islam is against terrorism. It is a religion of peace."

Red flags about an impending attack went up last week when Zazi visited with several people in a single day, combined with worrisome information collected from wiretaps, sources said.

The Queens apartment raids were triggered by the Denver investigation, Zazi's New York visit and the timing of the upcoming UN General Assembly.

New York authorities also detained several men - later released - in a hunt for bomb-making components, explosive powders and fuses.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said unspecified material was seized from the apartments and shipped for analysis.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Muslim Cross-Dressing Suicide Bombers

Burqa time in old Islamabad. Muslim terrorist killers were about to attack. But police stopped them. And guess what? Yesterday there was a terrorist bust in Queens. A bust of five Afghans.

Connection? Absolutely.

What's next here? No doubt the muslim killers will try the burqa disguise.

Pakistan Police Thwart Attack on Karachi Oil Facility

ISLAMABAD -- Islamic militants clad head-to-toe in women's burqas attempted to attack an oil storage facility in Karachi, raising fears that insurgents are fleeing northwestern Pakistan and infiltrating the nation's main business hub.

Three gunmen, disguised as women, tried to enter the high security facility used by oil companies, late Monday night, Waseem Ahmed, the city police chief, told Pakistani television on Tuesday. When stopped by security guards, militants opened fire, killing one of the guards. The assailants fled during a gun battle, leaving behind their burqas, purses and hand grenades.

"We suspect they wanted to carry out a big terrorist attack which our prompt police action thwarted," said Mr. Ahmed, the police chief, in an interview with the Geo TV Pakistan.

Later Tuesday, police arrested four men suspected to have been involved in the attack. During a house raid in Karachi, Mr. Ahmed said in the television interview that police found additional burqas, women's handbags and weapons. Police suspected the assailants disguised themselves as women to try to slip past security check points.

The arrested men were suspected to have been linked to the militant group led by Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader who was killed last month in a U.S. missile attack in South Waziristan. A large number of militants from Waziristan and other areas fleeing army attacks have been taking sanctuary in Karachi, according to Zulfikar Mirza, the Sindh provincial home minister

One sign of the rising level of insurgent activity, say police and government officials, is the marked increase in bank robberies and kidnapping of wealthy businessmen. They say these activities are carried out by the Taliban to finance their war against Pakistani forces in tribal regions. Most of the bank robberies in the recent months involved militants coming from tribal regions, said Mr. Ahmed, the police chief

Karachi's size -- about 16 million people live in the city -- helps insulate insurgents, providing a degree of anonymity not found in Pakistan's small towns and villages. Those fleeing the fighting in northwestern Pakistan, areas dominated by the ethnic Pashtun, are often taken in by those in the city's sprawling Pashtun neighborhoods. Another potential refuge for fleeing militants: the thousands of madrassas, or Islamic seminaries, spread across the city.

The local city government, which is run by Muttehida Qaumi Movement, a secular political party, has warned against the danger of the city turning into a new base for Taliban. MQM officials have called for screening people coming entering the city from the country's northwest.

Also on Tuesday, police recovered rocket launchers, hand grenades and suicide-bomb jackets from a water drain near a police training institute in Karachi.

Female Problems

A young female resident of Ditmas Park wrote:

Yesterday -- Saturday September 12th -- in the middle of the afternoon - in broad daylight - my girlfriend and I were physically accosted along Cortelyou road by three young men who repeatedly threatened to violently rape us, simply for walking hand in hand down the sidewalk together. We called 911 after we managed to get away from them but only officers on foot responded, and too late to find the men to make a report and press charges.

I have lived in this neighborhood for three years, and I love it...What I don't love about this neighborhood is the amount of cat-calling and harassment I have to face almost every day as a woman walking down the street here.

I can't remember the last time I was able to walk between my apartment on Ocean Avenue and the Q train along Cortelyou without being whistled at or having kissing noises made at me or having to either absorb or deflect off-color or vulgar comments from men of all ages and all races.

This only gets worse when I walk with my girlfriend through the neighborhood. I used to have the sense that this was a safe place for women (and for lesbian and gay couples) but that sense is rapidly fading.

I feel infinitely safer walking alone or with my girlfriend through Park Slope and Prospect Heights, neighborhoods where I also spend a lot of time.

I want to live here in Ditmas Park, to realize all the good this neighborhood has to offer, to invest in the new businesses and to contribute to, participate in and benefit from the thriving sense of community here, but I am starting to feel like the constant threats and misogyny I feel on the streets here (and not in other places in Brooklyn) are not worth the payoff.

What's a girl to do? Anyone care to examine the problem? She's young and good-looking. But she lives near people who were practically raised by wolves. Is there any doubt about the source of the verbal harrassment and menacing aimed at her?

Sure. It's a cliche that white construction workers ogle young attractive women passing by. But that's not what happened. She's having trouble spouting the facts. She was confronted by "three young men" -- who were black and/or hispanic.

A female reader identified as DINGLEberries responded to the young woman's problem with the following:

"Hate to hear this. I have the same problems along Church Ave (though it's more expected along church). "

MORE EXPECTED ALONG CHURCH. We know what that means.

Almost all the residents of the neighborhood around Church Avenue are black and hispanic. At least DINGLEberries is honest about the source of her harrassment. However, her honesty is certain to offend the hyper-sensitive residents around Cortelyou who want to pretend that bad behavior appears among every racial and ethnic group in equal amounts.

What's a girl to do?


The victim said:

"I feel infinitely safer walking alone or with my girlfriend through Park Slope and Prospect Heights, neighborhoods where I also spend a lot of time."

In other words, she's considering the updated version of White Flight. The Girl Goes. That's the only smart move. The threats she faced were serious enough to be criminal, but her tormenters got away before the police reached her. Meanwhile, to make the situation worse, at least two of the candidates running for the city council seat in our district believe the police are guilty of harrassing the black and hispanic residents of the neighborhood. Since most of the complaints from women harrassed between Ocean Avenue and the Q train will identify black and hispanic men as their tormenters, our city councilman will turn this around and blame the women.

So far, the solutions to the problem put the weight on women, advising them on how to avoid attracting attention. Or suggesting they carry pepper spray.

Okay ladies. Apparently it's time to go Muslim and start wearing a burqa. It's on you. Frankly, there's no hope for the idea that the behavior of men will change. Like most behavior, the roots of misogynistic behavior go a long way back. The kids learn it at home.

It's reinforced at school. Anyone who has spent time in NY City public schools knows this. We are living with the blowback of liberal policies that force acceptance of anti-social behavior, which are further reinforced by the behavior of black celebrities, most recently Kanye West, and earlier by Chris Brown when he battered Rhianna. Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston have been at it so long, no one cares anymore. Ike and Tina?

The abuse reached hilarious and ironic heights in the last few days when the videos of the white couple, portraying a pimp and his hooker, were given top-notch service and advice from black staffers, mainly Volda Albert, at the Brooklyn office of ACORN, where the duo sought help getting a mortgage for a whorehouse in which they planned to offer sex with underage girls brought illegally from Guatemala.

Anyway, if local experience is not convincing, take a trip to black, hispanic or muslim country. You will see misogyny on steroids and see that women are slaves in most muslim countries and treated as chattel in black and hispanic countries.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Government Motors, Government Housing, Government Healthcare

Government blabbers are preparing the public for the inevitable. What's that? The announcement informing the taxpayers about the New GM failing to repay the its bailout money. Of course that is only the start. The administration will probably whisper -- only if asked -- about the pension and healthcare benefits of the United Auto Workers that have been shifted to taxpayers.

Management at the New GM may have dreams of repaying the borrowed funds. But the new smaller company with its new smaller revenue stream and the high prospect of disastrous failure for the Chevy Volt, GM's electric vehicle that will sell like the Edsel, is likely to doom all possibilities of repayment.

The Obama administration hopes to recoup the cash given to GM with a sale of stock. Why would investors by the stock of the New GM? As with any company hoping to attract investors, GM must tell a convincing tale of a bright future.

Well, what lies ahead for GM? For starters, an extraordinarily competitive car market. Has the new GM got the goods? Or is the new management offering hype? Too soon to tell. The company seems to have a couple of good models in its portfolio. Is that enough to drive the value of GM's equity to a record high? Not too likely.

If the company lacks enough winning designs, lacks effective marketing, lacks sufficient quality and lacks the power to price its products competitively, is it possible for its stock to soar as high as the Obama administration dreams?

Is it possible for the New GM to pound out a reliable income stream like the tobacco companies? Philip Morris sells cigarettes to addicts. Business is good, but the number of customers is unlikely to grow much. However, investors enjoy big dividend payments. Meanwhile, the government receives huge tax payments from the tobacco companies and huge payments of sales taxes from smokers.

If only smoking was good for your lungs. But, that's another problem for voters and taxpayers. Too bad for GM that it has none of the aspects of tobacco that keep tobacco stocks afloat.

Creeping governmentalism. What's next? Housing. When will legislators decide it's time to relieve the private sector of the burden of foreclosed homes? Will taxpayers get the bill for the collapsed housing industry like they have been handed the bill for the collapsed auto industry? Cash for Clunkers was hugely popular. Has anyone in Washington begun to fantasize about Bucks for Buildings? Dollars for Domiciles?

As painful as a housing plan may be, it will cost pennies compared with the coming healthcare crusher.

Taxpayers face heavy losses on auto bailout

Taxpayers likely to face significant losses on $81 billion auto bailout, watchdog report says

Wednesday September 9, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Taxpayers face losses on a significant portion of the $81 billion in government aid provided to the auto industry, an oversight panel said in a report to be released Wednesday.

The Congressional Oversight Panel did not provide an estimate of the projected loss in its latest monthly report on the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. But it said most of the $23 billion initially provided to General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC late last year is unlikely to be repaid.

"I think they drove a very hard bargain," said Elizabeth Warren, the panel's chairwoman and a law professor at Harvard University, referring to the Obama administration's Treasury Department. "But it may not be enough."

The prospect of recovering the government's assistance to GM and Chrysler is heavily dependent on shares of the two companies rising to unprecedented levels, the report said. The government owns 10 percent of Chrysler and 61 percent of GM. The two companies are currently private but are expected to issue stock, in GM's case by next year.

The shares "will have to appreciate sharply" for taxpayers to get their money back, the report said.

For example, GM's market value would have to reach $67.6 billion, the report said, a "highly optimistic" estimate and more than the $57.2 billion GM was worth at the height of its share value in April 2008. And in the case of Chrysler, about $5.4 billion of the $14.3 billion provided to the company is "highly unlikely" to ever be repaid, the panel said.

Administration officials have previously said they want to maximize taxpayers' return on the investment but want to dispose of the government's ownership interests as soon as practicable.

"We are not trying to be Warren Buffett here. We are not trying to squeeze every last dollar out," Steve Rattner, who led the administration's auto task force, said before his departure in July. "We do want to do well for the taxpayers but the most important thing is to get the government out of the car business."

Greg Martin, a spokesman for the new GM, said the company is "confident that we will repay our nation's support because we are a company with less debt, a stronger balance sheet, a winning product portfolio and the right size to match today's market realities."

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Pen Pals in Cuba

Maybe the pen is mightier than the sword. Maybe enough words from America will overwhelm the tottering Castro regime, which might collapse from the weight, both figurative and literal, of everything Americans have to say about everything.

Would Americans ship weapons to Cuba, as the Cuban regime has suggested? Depends on the definition of "weapons." Firearms? Chemicals? Ammunition? No. It is illegal to send those items through the Post Office. Anyway, why try to send items that lack real transformative revolutionary power? Instead, Americans should are likely to send items that are likely to excite the imaginations of all 12 million Cubans.

Imagine the reception of a catalogue of replacement parts for the ancient US cars that still travel Cuban roads? A revolution in transportation, perhaps? What would the reception of American books and magazines mean to Cubans? The possibilities are endless.

U.S., Cuba to hold postal service talks - diplomats

* US, Cuba to hold talks on resuming direct postal service

* Talks will take place in Havana in mid-September

* They are another sign of thaw in US-Cuban relations

HAVANA, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Talks aimed at resuming direct postal service between the United States and Cuba, which has been suspended for decades, are set to be held in mid-September in another sign of thawing U.S.-Cuba relations, Western diplomats said.

Officials from the U.S. State Department and U.S. Postal Service were expected to attend the discussions in Havana, the diplomats, who asked not to be named, said.

No further details were immediately available and there was no immediate confirmation from the Cuban government.

The talks are part of U.S. President Barack Obama's declared intention to "recast" relations with Communist-ruled Cuba, which for 47 years has been the target of a U.S. trade embargo.

In April, Obama lifted restrictions on travel and remittances sent to Cuba by Cuban Americans with relatives on the island and he has restarted talks on immigration that were suspended by the Bush administration in 2004.

Cuba agreed in late May to resume the immigration discussions and also to a U.S. request for talks on the postal service.

At present, mail between the two countries must go through a third country.

Direct postal service was suspended as a result of the animosity between the United States and Cuba that began soon after the Cuban revolution toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Diplomatic relations were broken off in 1961 and a year later the U.S. launched a trade embargo that is still in place.

The United States has approached Cuba before about resuming direct postal services but Cuba has insisted in the past that, among other things, this must be accompanied by a resumption of regular scheduled commercial flights between the two nations just 90 miles (145 km) apart. Currently, only charter flights are permitted under U.S. regulations.

Cuba is also said to be concerned about the possible delivery by post of items it views as potentially harmful, including chemicals, firearms, ammunition, and technology such as satellite phones.

U.S. express mail service companies such as UPS (UPS.N) and FedEx (FDX.N) cannot operate in Cuba but German-owned carrier DHL (DPWGn.DE) can.

According to John Kavulich, senior policy advisor at the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council in New York, resumption of direct mail would likely draw interest from UPS and FedEx.

"Pressure might increase for UPS and FedEx to have the right to compete with the U.S. Postal Service," he said. The two companies "might not want to service Cuba, but they would certainly insist on the right to compete."

He also said that with direct postal service, Cuba's government agencies would be expected to respond more promptly to U.S. requests and queries than in the past.

"With normalization comes accountability -- a relationship that centrally-planned commercial, economic and political systems are not designed to accept readily," Kavulich told Reuters.

While Obama has moved to improve U.S.-Cuba relations, he has said the U.S. trade embargo will only be eliminated if Cuba make progress on political prisoners and human rights.

Cuba has said it is willing to discuss everything with Washington but has ruled out unilateral political concessions or any shift to capitalism.