The World is Pissed

Barack Obama. Global Financial Crisis, E.U., Emerging Markets, France, G-20, IMF, Iran, NATO, Prague, Robert Gibbs, Russia, Strasbourg, UK
March 29, 2009

Obama Will Face a Defiant World on Foreign Visit

WASHINGTON — President Obama is facing challenges to American power on multiple fronts as he prepares for his first trip overseas since taking office, with the nation’s economic woes emboldening allies and adversaries alike.

Despite his immense popularity around the world, Mr. Obama will confront resentment over American-style capitalism and resistance to his economic prescriptions when he lands in London on Tuesday for the Group of 20 summit meeting of industrial and emerging market nations plus the European Union.

The president will not even try to overcome NATO’s unwillingness to provide more troops in Afghanistan when he goes on later in the week to meet with the military alliance.

He seems unlikely to return home with any more to show for his attempts to open a dialogue with Iran’s leaders, who have, so far, responded with tough words, albeit not tough enough to persuade Russia to support the United States in tougher sanctions against Tehran. And he will be tested in face-to-face meetings by the leaders of China and Russia, who have been pondering the degree to which the power of the United States to dominate global affairs may be ebbing.

Mr. Obama is unlikely to push for specific commitments from other countries on stimulus spending to bolster their own economies, White House officials acknowledged Saturday in a teleconference call, despite the fact that administration officials would like to see European countries, in particular, increase their spending to try to prompt a global economic recovery.

“Nobody is asking any country to come to London to commit to do more right now,” said Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs. Instead, world leaders at the meeting will try to “do whatever is necessary to restore global growth,” Mr. Froman said.

The challenges stem in part from lingering unhappiness around the world at the way the Bush administration used American power. But they have been made more intense by the sense in many capitals that the United States is no longer in any position to dictate to other nations what types of economic policies to pursue — or to impose its will more generally as it intensifies the war in Afghanistan and extracts itself from Iraq.

“There is a direct challenge under way to the paradigms that America has been trying to sell to the rest of the world,” said Eswar S. Prasad, a former China division chief at the International Monetary Fund. The American banking collapse, which precipitated the global meltdown, has led to a fundamental rethinking of the American way as a model for the rest of the world. Yet even as his presence stirs opposition to particular American policies, Mr. Obama is being welcomed by many Europeans as an embodiment of American ideals.

In Prague, where Mr. Obama will stop later in the week, local officials are installing a hot line for residents to find out about street closings. In Strasbourg, France, site of a NATO meeting, protesters are planning an “international resistance camp” with antiwar actions designed to press Mr. Obama to get American troops out of Afghanistan. In Istanbul, his last stop, workers are polishing up the Hagia Sophia basilica-cum-mosque-cum-museum for the expected visit.

“The rest of the world is yearning for him,” said Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard economist. “On the one hand, they’ll all be criticizing him, and criticizing the American model. But they all want to hear that he does have a miracle to deliver.”

The quandary has left senior advisers to Mr. Obama scrambling to come up with a way for him to project both American power and the new cooperative international model that his aides have been promising.

Mr. Obama will try to show confidence that his stimulus and economic program will work, administration officials said, while conceding that it may take time. He will say that he has put all the pieces in place to fix the American economy, while acknowledging that in a global system nations cannot put up walls to protect their individual economies.

Robert D. Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, said the president “must demonstrate to the world that he understands that it’s not just about saving ourselves.”

And Mr. Obama must try to do all of that in the middle of a global recession for which most of the world blames the United States. “The U.S. brand name has clearly suffered from this crisis, and the rest of the world is no longer willing to sit quietly and be lectured by the United States on how they should conduct economic policy,” Mr. Rogoff said.

A senior Obama administration official acknowledged that it would be harder for Mr. Obama to exhort other countries to adopt the American model. But Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said Saturday in the conference call that Mr. Obama “is going to listen in London, as well as to lead.”

“Many of the things we’ve done in the past week demonstrate that America is leading by example,” he said.

In the past, American officials traveled to India, Brazil, China and South Africa and lectured government officials on the need for open markets, free trade and deregulation. But now some of those very policies — particularly deregulation — are viewed as the culprits for the recent economic collapse.

“Emerging markets now think they can do what they want without hectoring from the United States,” said Mr. merging Markets, Prasad, the former monetary fund official.

Compounding the problem for Mr. Obama is that the route that he has chosen to lead the United States out of the mess — heavy government spending — is not available to many other countries. European governments, for instance, are far more lukewarm about enormous stimulus programs because they already have strong social safety nets, and more fears of inflation, than does the United States.

So when Mr. Obama meets with other world leaders in London, he will be confronting a philosophical divide, with the United States on the defensive not just on economic issues like trade and financial regulation but also on a variety of national security and diplomatic matters.

After he leaves London, Mr. Obama will go to the French-German border for a NATO meeting at a time when European governments, under pressure from their populations, are looking for the exit doors in Afghanistan even as the United States sends more troops and money.

Administration officials had initially said they hoped to get more troop contributions at the NATO meeting; now they do not even talk about securing more troops from the Europeans, in a tacit acknowledgment that the forces will not be coming.

“I hope that Afghanistan will not be Obama’s war, because it should be owned by all of us,” said NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

But there are already twice as many American troops as NATO troops in Afghanistan, and “Europe will never be able to match the numbers of the Americans in Afghanistan,” Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said. The NATO summit meeting, he said, “will not be about troop contributions.”

In Prague, Mr. Obama will confront an Eastern Europe nervous about Russian attempts to reassert itself in an area that Moscow views as its backyard. Mr. Obama has taken pains to reassure Russia that his administration will tread carefully regarding Bush administration plans to locate a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Yet in placating Russia, Mr. Obama has raised hackles in Poland, where officials seek closer ties to the United States.

Bill Maher | February 8 2008 | Part Six

Al Gore, Barack Obama, Bin Laden, Blogs, Buffoonery, Douchebaggery, Election 2008, France, Healthcare, Hillary Clinton, Humor, McCain, Neocon, Politics, Right-Wing Talking Points, Scaife, Tullycast, Wall Street, Writers

Part Six

add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

United Staes is Last in Providing "Timely and Effective Medical Care"

France, Healthcare

Via: AFP:

France is tops, and the United States dead last, in providing timely and effective healthcare to its citizens, according to a survey Tuesday of preventable deaths in 19 industrialized countries.

The study by the Commonwealth Fund and published in the January/February issue of the journal Health Affairs measured developed countries” effectiveness at providing timely and effective healthcare.

The study, entitled “Measuring the Health of Nations: Updating an Earlier Analysis,” was written by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It looked at death rates in subjects younger than 75 that could have been prevented by timely and effective medical care.

The researchers found that while most countries surveyed saw preventable deaths decline by an average of 16 percent, the United States saw only a four percent dip.

The non-profit Commonwealth Fund, which financed the study, expressed alarm at the findings.

“It is startling to see the US falling even farther behind on this crucial indicator of health system performance,” said Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen, who noted that “other countries are reducing these preventable deaths more rapidly, yet spending far less.”

The 19 countries, in order of best to worst, were: France, Japan, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Some countries showed dramatic improvement in the periods studied ” 1997 and 1998 and again between 2002 and 2003 ” outpacing the United States, which showed only slight improvement.

White the United States ranked 15th of 19 between 1997-98, by 2002-03 it had fallen to last place.

“It is notable that all countries have improved substantially except the US,” said Ellen Nolte, lead author of the study.

Had the United States performed as well as any of the top three industrialized countries, there would have been 101,000 fewer deaths per year, the researchers said.


9/11, Bin Laden

I’m going to remain calm.

But I get physically ill at the thought of this weasel;

cute language columns vs. 625,000 Iraqis dead…

I know I know,,,but we have to start calling the Joe “turning a corner!”Liebermans and William (uh) Safires and Thomas (next 6 months!) Friedmans and David “Mealy Mouthed” Brooks’ on their complete and utter full-of-shitness/wrongness/assness… They were wrong about everything and are still wrong….wrong!

But they’ve just numbed us out with all their antics and just last week the President used the Iraq-Al-Qaeda connection yet AGAIN!

I mean WTF!?







International Herald Tribune

The disc of terror : LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Friday, February 13, 2004

I must take issue with William Safire’s contention that an intercepted document, allegedly written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, establishes a clear link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. (“Saddam’s links to terror, on disc,” Views, Feb. 12) This highly suspect message refers to ongoing and future operations to maintain a destabilized Iraq. It suggests, if anything, that the U.S. invasion and occupation has encouraged terrorist networks to team with Iraqi nationalists in order to focus on a common enemy.

To claim that because Al Qaeda may now be operating in Iraq confirms that the terror network was there under Saddam’s regime is yet another poor attempt to justify President George W. Bush’s pre-emptive war.

Buck Rutledge, Knoxville, Tennessee


International Herald Tribune

Follow our plans : LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Thursday, January 22, 2004


Thomas Friedman tells the Europeans to let Turkey join the European Union, or else (“Turkey, the EU and history,” Views, Jan. 12). William Safire solves the Kurdish question by telling the Kurds this and the Turks that. (“How to answer the Kurdish question,” Views, Jan. 15).

.There seems to be agreement between the two columnists: The world needs to be told what to do, or else.

Fons van Mourik, Tannay, Switzerland

William Safire, minister of disinformation

The New York Times runs corrections when reporters get a middle initial wrong. So why does its conservative columnist get away with glaring errors that shape world affairs?

By Barry Lando

Pages 1 2

February 21, 2004 | With daily revelations of how the White House made use of faulty intelligence to bolster its political agenda, the media is also beginning to examine its own role in the affair. There’s plenty to examine: Take, for instance, William Safire and the New York Times, frequently cited as a conduit for official disinformation.

A recent example was his trumpeting of the sensational charges published last November in the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine. The article proved, according to Safire, “that Saddam Hussein’s spy agency and top al-Qaida operatives certainly were in frequent contact for a decade, and that there is renewed reason to suspect an Iraqi spymaster in Prague may have helped finance the 9/11 attacks.” Those charges were based on the leak of a secret memorandum from Douglas Feith, a senior Pentagon official, to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

Safire had been pounding on the Prague connection since November 2001, two months after the 9/11 terror attacks. Fired anew by the Weekly Standard’s story, he fired off two imperious columns of his own, demanding action from FBI Director Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I’d also assign new agents to follow up leads in Prague,” he advised.

“Intrepid journalists,” Safire assured his readers, “will ultimately bring the full story of the Saddam-bin Laden connection to light. In the meantime, the F.B.I. should stop treating 9/11 as a cold case.”

Sounds pretty sensational indeed, except for the fact that the Pentagon immediately issued an unusual statement declaring that reports claiming that the new information proved there had been contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq “are inaccurate.”

Further, the Pentagon continued, the leak “was deplorable and may be illegal.”

The memo consists mainly of 50 excerpts drawn from raw intelligence reports from four U.S. agencies from 1990 to 2003. They are vague, mostly unsourced and far from conclusive. Indeed, according to several retired intelligence officers, the memo represents the same kind of ideological cherry-picking of intelligence that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the first place.

In short, the original headline-making conclusions are now seen by most to be threadbare. But not to Safire, who has made no mention of the Pentagon denials and remains incredulous that anyone might doubt the charges.


That, of course, is vintage Safire. Which might be fine if he were writing for a small town paper in Northern Maine. But the fact is that, whether Times editors like it or not, for most readers, Safire’s charges also carry the weighty validation of the planet’s most important newspaper of record. It’s a problem the Times has yet to face.

I speak from the experience of looking into three Safire columns attacking France.

Countries cannot sue for libel. Otherwise, France would have quite a case against Safire and the Times. Safire’s wild charges in a three-column barrage last year helped to deepen the war-related alienation between the U.S. and France. And though erroneous, they have entered the realm of historical verity — and remain there to this day, thanks to the Times.

What is particularly outrageous is that Safire and his sources were allowed to continue their campaign using the Times and the International Herald Tribune as their podium — even though the editors of both papers had been advised that the charges didn’t hold water.

Further, according to Times policy, neither Safire nor his editors are under any obligation whatsoever to correct those errors.

Safire’s main accusation was that French companies, with the knowledge of French intelligence services, helped supply vital rocket fuel components to Saddam.

As a former producer for 30 years with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” I looked into Safire’s claim. I concluded that his story was based more on Francophobia than fact, built on flimsy evidence and biased reporting.

Safire’s case has two parts. The first is that a French trader, CIS Paris, was the key intermediary enabling a Chinese company, Qilo Chemicals, to ship a product known as HTPB to Iraq. HTPB is used as a “binder” for solid rocket propellants. His charge is based on quotes from an exchange of e-mails, leaked to Safire from “an Arab source.” The most damning message was sent Sept. 4, 2002. In that e-mail, James Crown of Qilo Chemicals wrote, “Thank you for your order to our HTPB-III! We just have sent a 40′ container to Tartous (Syria) last month.”

According to Safire, the chemical was received there by a trading company that was an intermediary for the Iraqi missile industry, the end user. The HTPB was then trucked across Syria to Iraq. According to Safire, it was the French connection — CIS Paris — that made the whole deal possible.

CIS Paris president Jean-Pierre Pertriaux makes no secret of his long-term relationship with Iraq, including brokering materials destined for military ends, like HTPB. He also admits having contacted the Chinese company, Qilo Chemicals. Like many such brokers, he skirts the law. By acting only as a go-between, strictly speaking, he would not be breaking any French or European export regulations, if the HTPB were not exported from France.

But the key point is that, according to Pertriaux, he was never able to consummate the deal for HTPB. When contacted by phone, James Crown of Qilo also claimed he’d never completed the sale.

What about the e-mails cited by Safire?

Read in their entirety, they make no sense, one sentence contradicting the next. Indeed, carefully analyzed, the whole convoluted exchange of e-mails quoted by Safire doesn’t hold together, which may be why Safire quotes sparingly from them.

Safire also noted that Pertriaux claimed the deal with Qilo Chemicals was never consummated, but there was no way that denial would blunt his attack.

His target wasn’t a single French trader but the government of France. CIS Paris, he charged, would never have been able to pursue its trade without the knowledge of French intelligence. “French intelligence has long been aware of it,” he wrote.

Safire was right on that point, but totally wrong on his conclusions. In July 2002, both the U.S. State Department and the Defense Intelligence Agency warned France of CIS Paris’ attempts to purchase various products for Iraq’s arms industry. The French immediately investigated CIS’s activities but found nothing illegal. They requested more information from the United States — information that might permit France to intercept any eventual delivery.

The U.S. authorities never replied.

“We’re still waiting,” says a French source close to the investigation.


So why did the deal between Qilo Chemical and CIS Paris never go through? Because, despite the lack of response from the U.S., the French continued to monitor CIS Paris’ activities and, in August 2002, when it looked as if CIS Paris was about to make a firm order, the authorities warned CIS Paris to back off. “There are many different ways to exert pressure,” says the French source.

It wasn’t just one private French broker involved with Saddam’s rocket program, Safire continued, but firms controlled by the French government itself.

“I’m also told,” he wrote, again with no attribution, “that a contract was signed last April in Paris for five tons of 99 percent unsymmetric dimethylhydrazine, another advanced missile fuel, which is produced by France’s Societe Nationale des Poudre [sic] et Explosifs (SNPE). In addition, Iraqi attempts to buy an oxidizer for solid propellant missiles, ammonium perchlorate, were successful, at least on paper.”

The Times’ columnist concluded his vitriolic attack: “Perhaps a few intrepid members of the Chirac Adoration Society, formerly known as the French media, will ask France’s lax export-control authorities about these shipments.”

The French government immediately investigated Safire’s charge. The conclusion: SNPE exported neither product to Iraq, nor to any Middle Eastern country — other than the state of Israel.

I submitted an Op-Ed piece to the Times ticking off the many serious flaws in Safire’s column. Within hours, editor David Shipley replied that under Times policy, the Op-Ed page did not run pieces that quarrelled with its own columnists. He didn’t question the points I made in my article. He suggested I write a brief letter to the editor.

Fine, I thought, can’t argue with New York Times policy, but at least they’d been advised of the errors in Safire’s report. I also e-mailed Safire saying I’d found problems with his column and would like to talk with him. There was no reply.

Just a few hours later, though, the Times published another vitriolic Safire salvo, “French Connection II,” continuing the same erroneous blather about the French and Saddam’s rocket fuel, this time targeting President Chirac.

Now the Times, like most newspapers, maintains that pieces on its Op-Ed page represent the personal views of their columnists. Their relationship is with the publisher, Op-Ed editor David Shipley told me, not with the editors. They are not subject to the same meticulous checking as more mortal Times reporters.

That lack of editorial oversight may make for provocative columns, but most readers don’t recognize such fine distinctions, which is understandable. Particularly when, as in the case of those Safire columns, we were not presented with opinion but opinion disguised as investigative reporting — in reality a pretense, a caricature of investigative reporting. One would expect such explosive charges to be subject to the Times’ famous editorial checks and balances.

But one would be wrong.

With the imprimatur of his august paper, Safire’s charges were picked up by newspapers and Internet sites around the globe, and consecrated as fact “reported in the New York Times.” They fueled the firestorm against the French — and they continue to do so.

I wrote a rebuttal that was published in Le Monde and by The Times bureau in Paris immediately asked for a translation of the Le Monde article and I thought that ended the matter. I had demonstrated that Safire’s charges were seriously flawed, if not completely false. At the very least, I had given the Times editors the specific facts behind my charge that they were giving Safire’s wild fiction a totally undeserved platform. No one from the Times contacted me or questioned my article.

Incredibly — at least as I saw it — a few days later, the Times published yet another column by Safire, continuing his same fabricated charge; this time, he challenged the CIA to reveal what it knew about France’s role in shipping rocket fuel to Iraq. (Why won’t the CIA tell all? Aha, another government coverup!)

The next day, Safire’s column ran in the International Herald Tribune, as had the first two Safire attacks against France. The editors there also knew Safire’s charges had gaping holes, but they had no choice in the matter. Since the paper is owned by the Times, its editors are required to republish the Times’ star columnists without question.

As Walter Wells, the managing editor of the IHT wrote me: “It’s apparent that Safire — like Krugman or Friedman — has free rein in his columns, even when he’s dead wrong.”

This is not the first time William Safire has been accused of mistaking fiction for fact, floating charges based on information leaked by unnamed high-level sources. After the World Trade Center attack, it was Safire who claimed as “undisputed fact” that, just five months prior to 9/11, Mohamed Atta had met secretly in Prague with a top-ranking Iraqi intelligence officer. In the supercharged months following 9/11, that accusation was the journalistic equivalent of tossing a lighted match into a powder keg, bolstering the case of those pushing for the U.S. to topple Saddam.

Over the following months, however, other more serious reporters found that Safire’s reporting was, once again, flimsy at best. It was based on erroneous information from Czech intelligence, and was finally denied by Czech President Vaclav Havel himself. But the best evidence of Safire’s ongoing error was that Colin Powell, desperate to demonstrate even the shakiest link between al-Qaida and Saddam, made no mention of that supposed Prague meeting to build the U.S. case before the United Nations

Safire, typically, has never backed down, inventing one conspiracy after another to explain away the Czech denials. The truth about Atta, Safire promised — and the French rocket fuel companies — would be uncovered once U.S. forces had taken Baghdad and had access to all those secret files and Iraqi officials. Well, the U.S. forces have been there now for months, and we’re still waiting. Now, he announces, he’s found proof of the Atta-Iraq connection in the memo leaked to the Weekly Standard. The memo, you’ll recall, that the Pentagon called inaccurate.

And this is the New York Times, mind you, a paper that regularly runs a “Corrections Box” to fess up to the most picayune of inaccuracies, from an incorrect middle initial to the misspelling of a company name — but not to innuendo and error on its Op-Ed page.

Recently, editor David Shipley wrote a piece attempting to explain the makeup of the Times Op-Ed page. I thought that was an ideal opening to submit another article. Using the Safire anti-French diatribes as case in point, I suggested it was a bit too much to expect the average reader to comprehend that while the Times stands behind the facts on its news pages, it can set a much lower standard for the “facts” presented by its columnists.

Shipley suggested I send the piece instead to Times ombudsman, Dan Okrent. Okrent, in reply, said I raised some interesting points which, one day, he might deal with.

On Feb. 15, in an astonishing admission, Okrent wrote that one issue that has attracted his attention is “whether columnists should be free, as they are now, to decide whether and when to publish corrections of their own mistakes.”

Is all of this old history? Not really. Just Google “Safire” and “France.” You’ll find scores of sites around the world that still carry Safire’s venomous opinions as indisputable fact, backed by the credibility of the New York Times.


9/11, Bin Laden

tullycast1.jpgI’ve posted the entire Bill Maher Real Time show from tonight, May 25th featuring Michael Moore, Ron Paul, P.J. O’Rourke and Ben Affleck.
Bill really nails it when it comes to his New Rules for Friday May 25th…



9/11, Bin Laden

tullycast1.jpg I posted the best of the discussion by Rep. Harold Ford Jr., Garry Shandling and Sean Penn from Real Time With Bill Maher.
The idea of a “War On Terrorism”, WMD’s, the vote by Congress to give authorization to the President to use force against Iraq and the millions of young Muslim men who hate America are all discussed.