Posts Tagged ‘term’

Ghoul’s Glossary: From Atrocity (Syria) to CEO (Romney)

July 14th, 2012 Comments off

Atrocity: What a mass murder is called when the world is too blind or timid or divided to prosecute it as a war crime. Synonym (mainly Syr.): Treimseh.

CEO sabbatical: The practice of chief executive officers of a company to absent themselves for several years from actually making decisions, even while they are the only CEO. Related term: Absentee sole owner. Some CEOs buy Chinese companies to which they send American jobs, though only during their sabbaticals, in which case they are not really the ones who buy the Chinese company or send the jobs there, what with being on sabbatical and all.

Grozny: Russian for “peace plan.” The Grozny form of peace plan is often urged by Russian leaders on other countries, such as Syria. Antonym: Peace plan. Related Terms: Treimseh (see above).

Swipe fees: Fees paid by retailers to Mastercard and Visa so that the credit card companies and banks can swipe your money. It is apparently illegal for them to conspire to overcharge the merchants, but it is all right if they conspire to charge individual consumers usurious rates (i.e., rates that are often illegal in the state where the consumer resides). Related terms: usury. (Note that readers in Delaware and South Dakota may encounter a 404 ‘not found’ error if they click on the term ‘usury.’)

Unicorn: 1. Mythical animal with one horn. 2. Black psy-ops operation in which it is alleged to the public that a nuclear power might give its nuclear warheads to small, crazed terrorist groups so as to convince the public that therefore the alleged budding nuclear power must be nuked, so as to make sure that nuclear weapons are never used. Antonym: Sanity.

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Obama Humor at White House Correspondents’ Dinner

April 29th, 2012 Comments off

This is C-Span’s video of President Barack Obama’s mostly tongue-in-cheek address at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

“[Hillary] won’t stop drunk-texting me from Cartagena.”

“It’s nice to be here in the Hilton Ballroom, or what Mitt Romney would call a ‘little fixer-uppper.’ ”

“Jimmy [Kimmel] got his start on the Man Show. In Washington that is what we call a ‘Congressional hearing on contraception.’ ”

“What is the difference between a Hockey Mom and a pitbull? A pitbull is delicious.”

“America’s dogs can’t afford 4 more years of Barack Obama; for them, that’s 28 years!”

“In my first term I ended the war in Iraq; in my second term I will win the war on Christmas.”

“I had a lot more material prepared, but I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew.”

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‘Hype or Reality?’

February 4th, 2012 Comments off

“… However, we must note that Israeli “spin” (if spin is all it remains) about the risk of an attack has reached levels and taken forms that we have not seen in several years.  So, we thought it timely to re-evaluate the factors that might plausibly lead Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli leaders to opt for preventive war.  Beyond development of the Fordo facility, three factors strike us as especially relevant in this regard. 
The first is the prospect of President Obama’s re-election.  Israelis with access to the Prime Minister’s office tell us that Netanyahu and his inner circle have long believed that Obama is politically vulnerable.  From this perspective, ordering an Israeli strike before the U.S. presidential election in November could seem the “smart” play:  it would be very hard for Obama to try to distance himself from the Israeli action (something that, according to Ignatius, the Obama Administration seems to believe it can do) without seriously jeopardizing his re-election; at the same time, if Obama were to win re-election, it is better, from an Israeli perspective, to have this potentially unpleasant business of an illegal war against Iran out of the way before he is sworn in for a second term.  (Recall that, the last time that the Israeli military invaded Gaza, it did so at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, to ensure that the campaign would be over before Obama was first sworn in.) 
The second factor is Israeli perceptions of the strategic fallout from the Arab spring.  Mubarak’s fall, especially, has spooked Israeli political and military leaders.  One might think that, at such a time of tumultuous change and uncertainty in the region, Israel would be best served by hunkering down and staying out of (more) trouble (than it is already in).  But, based on a lot of experience dealing with Israeli national security professionals while we served in the U.S. government, we can envision a scenario in which Israeli decision-makers persuade themselves that this is precisely the time to re-establish the credibility of what Israeli elites like to call their “deterrent edge”—a misuse of the term deterrence, for it really refers to Israel’s ability to use force first, whenever, wherever, and for whatever purpose it wants. 
–Third, with the withdrawal of American military personnel and assets from Iraq, Iraq is left with, effectively, no air defense capability—which means that Israeli planes would have a more-or-less clean shot into Iran through Iraqi airspace. 
We are going to watch this one very, very closely. “

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Will his New Sanctions on Iran Cost Obama the Presidency?

January 3rd, 2012 Comments off

A sharp drop in the value of the Iranian currency as a result of new American sanctions may sound like good news to hawks in the US. But actually this development may signal ways in which Americans will also be harmed, and Obama may have put a second term in jeopardy, cutting off his nose to spite his face.

An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama this past weekend will seek to slap third party sanctions on countries and enterprises that deal with Iran’s central bank. It will go into effect this summer. In effect, the law says that if you buy Iranian petroleum, you cannot do business with American financial institutions. Since the United States is still over a fifth of the world economy, and most institutions with capital need to deal with it, the hope of Congress is that Iran will be left without customers.

The measure, pushed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on behalf of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, might well be a trap for Obama. In an election year, he could not refuse to endorse new sanctions against Iran (the Republican candidates in Iowa are practically running on promising that if elected they will launch a war on Iran; and they are lambasting the president as weak on this issue).

But the new sanctions may well hurt Obama’s own election chances. Iran’s military exercises in the Persian Gulf, aimed at reminding the world that it can play the spoiler and stop one-sixth of the world’s petroleum from reaching the market, helped put Brent crude up to $108 a barrel, a spike helped along as well by news of a jump in Chinese manufacturing.

Those two factors, the likelihood of rising Asian demand for petroleum in 2012, and investor nervousness about how tensions with Iran will play out, will probably keep petroleum prices at historically high levels in 2012, and some analysts believe that there could be a return to the overheated pricing of 2008 before the crash.

It would be much better for the American economy if prices sank back down to the levels of only a few years ago, of $50 a barrel or less.

If the Congressional sanctions actually worked, and took Iran’s roughly 2.5 million barrels a day in exports off the world market, that would take out 80% of Iran’s export income and deeply hurt the regime. But it would also send world petroleum prices through the stratosphere, deeply harming Western economies already teetering on the edge.

Actually, I have to wonder whether the fall in the value of the Iranian currency might not even be good for the country. Nations with pricey primary commodities such as petroleum suffer an artificially hardened currency. In turn, that makes it expensive for outsiders to buy what they make, leading to stagnating industry. Softening the currency should help Iranian exports, a key element of the economy. Iran has had a crash program to expand its non-oil exports, with some success.

Obama cannot hope for decisive help from the only quarter able to offer it in the short term, Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were willing, in the late 1970s, to flood the petroleum markets with their excess capacity for political gain. But Riyadh now no longer wants inexpensive petroleum, because the king is using extra petroleum receipts to bribe the Saudi population into repudiating any “Arab Spring” inside the kingdom. The Saudi government has expanded subsidies so much, in a quest to mollify a formerly angry public, that it probably cannot afford them if prices fall too much. Hence, the Saudis cannot pull Obama’s bacon out of the fire, though they could try to blunt the force of the crisis by pumping an extra million barrels a day or so.

Moreover, the sanctions on those who deal with Iran’s central bank threaten profound harm to the economies of American allies. South Korea is deeply worried about their impact and will seek an exemption. South Korea imports roughly $11 billion a year of petroleum and other products from Iran and sells Iran $6 bn. worth of South Korean manufactures– automobiles, etc. If Seoul cannot buy Iranian petroleum (some 10 percent of its oil imports), that would hurt its economy. If it cannot receive payment from Iran for Hyundais and other exports, that would hurt its economy. In short, some $16 billion a year in trade is at stake for South Korea. That is about 5% of its external trade, a significant hit. And, energy is not like just any other import– it is foundational. In a world where petroleum supplies are already tight, it will not be easy or maybe even possible for all of Iran’s former customers (should they cut Iran off as the US Congress urges) to make up the shortfall from other sources.

In fact, the non-NATO world will likely find workarounds to thwart these new US sanctions sufficiently to allow the regime to survive, even if they do add to the cost of peteroleum and so harm US recovery. Venezuela opened a binational bank with Iran in 2009, which provides a back door for Iranian financial transfers in Latin America.

Russia says it will refuse to cooperate with new sanctions.

And India, for instance, has found ways to pay Iran for its petroleum without dealing directly with an Iranian bank. It uses Halkbank in Turkey. There is talk of simply setting up new private banks in each other’s countries, which would not be under US sanction. There are admittedly drawbacks to the current ad hoc arrangements. Without the security of bank transactions, Indian exporters to Iran are reduced to dealing on a basis of trust with importers. And, Iran this fall was reluctant to accept payment in rupees held in Indian accounts because of a steep decline of the rupee against the dollar. (Iran may rethink this skittishness, given the similar decline in its own currency provoked by the new American sanctions). Still, India needs the petroleum it imports from Iran, and needs to sell its made goods to Iran, and it is likely that ways will be found to keep that trade going, whether the US Congress likes it or not.

For its part, China has been paying for Iranian petroleum with Euros, and if that becomes difficult they are considering just paying in Chinese yuan. China’s Sinopec petroleum company seems completely unafraid of US sanctions and is actually helping develop Iranian fields, something that was already sanctionable under US law. Iran now does $30 billion a year in trade with China, something that the US probably can do nothing about. China and Iran, it is true, have been having some tough negotiations on prices going forward, and China has been able to resort to Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iraq to make up the petroleum shortfall from Iran while the two countries are playing hard ball. But a) this tiff will probably be over by March; b) China is likely to continue to import a lot of petroleum from Iran and c) the world petroleum market is not so saturated that China can probably permanently reduce its reliance on Iranian sources. If it did, that would make it harder for other countries to do so.

In short, even Congress’s more severe sanctions and targeting of Iran’s Central Bank are likely to be ultimately ineffective in changing Iranian policy or undermining the regime. The international community will find work-arounds and close US allies like South Korea, facing major economic consequences, will lobby hard for exemptions. Obama, who was forced into this law and had opposed it, has every reason to grant the exemptions. In other instances, the NDAA will cause American will to be tested. It will take a lot of impudence to attempt to impose sanctions on Chinese banks for dealing with Iran, when Chinese finance is so important to propping up the US economy.

An Iran with its back against the wall will be a formidable adversary for the US and its allies in the Middle East. The 20,000 US personnel at the massive American embassy in Baghdad are vulnerable to reprisals by Iraqi militias allied with Iran. The American war effort in Afghanistan depends for success on Iranian good will. And, Iran can put up petroleum prices incessantly with just a little saber-rattling.

In signing the NDAA (which also allows the US military to arrest Americans anywhere in the world and to hold them indefinitely without trial), Obama has likely done harm to himself. Iranians will suffer some inconveniences and ordinary people may face real hardship in Iran. But the ayatollahs will still have their billions, and the regime will go on enriching uranium and supporting Syria and Hizbullah. The US, on the other hand, will suffer massive opportunity costs (i.e. it won’t do all kinds of things in the economy that it might have otherwise) from a policy of keeping petroleum prices artificially high by bothering Iran.

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Panetta’s favorite term: "It’s a Matter of Time!"

October 3rd, 2011 Comments off

This earlier:

“…“I think we saw in evidence of that in the last election in Iran that there was a movement within Iran that raised those very same concerns that we’re seeing elsewhere, … And I think in many ways, it’s a matter of time before that kind of change and reform and revolution occurs in Iran as well.” …”

This today:

“Speaking in Tel Aviv, … It is “a matter of time” before the Syrian regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad is ousted from power by a popular uprising, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday…”

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Hesham Sallam on Egyptian workers’ plight

June 19th, 2011 Comments off

There’s a very good article by Hesham Sallam, called Striking Back at Egyptian Workers in the new issue of Middle East Report. It details the hostile rhetoric and actions by the military, interim government, and many commentators against the wave of industrial action and strikes that have taken place since the revolution.

This part of Sallam’s piece on the treatment of strikers post-revolution is spot on:

Shortly after the resignation of Husni Mubarak on February 11, Egypt witnessed the rise of what Egyptian authorities and media outlets began describing as ihtijajat fi’awiyya or small-group protests. The Arabic term fi’a simply means “group,” but has acquired negative connotations and might be compared with how the term “special interest” is used to disparage American labor. 

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Manal al-Sharif: update

May 28th, 2011 Comments off

Robert Booth and Mona Mahmood, Guardian, YouTube Saudi woman driver faces further 10-day jail term, 26 May 2011 "Eman al-Nafjan, a teacher and PhD student in Riyadh who writes a blog under the name Saudiwoman, told the Guardian that Saudi conservatives and the wealthy were determined to keep women from driving because it blocks anyone who cannot afford a driver from competing for jobs." Good
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‘Nakba’ on three fronts …

May 15th, 2011 Comments off
(Reuters) – “Violence erupted on Israel’s borders with Syria, Lebanon and Gaza on Sunday, leaving at least eight dead and dozens wounded, as Palestinians marked what they term “the catastrophe” of Israel’s founding in 1948. Israeli troops shot at protesters in three separate locations … 
Israeli and Syrian media reports said Israeli gunfire killed four people after dozens of Palestinian refugees infiltrated the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria,…Witnesses on the nearby Lebanese frontier said four Palestinians were killed after Israeli forces fired at rock-throwing protesters… The Lebanese army had also earlier fired in the air in an attempt to hold back the crowds. On Israel’s tense southern border with the Gaza Strip, Israeli gunfire wounded 60 Palestinians as demonstrators approached Israel’s fence with the Hamas Islamist-run enclave, medical workers said. In Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial hub, a truck driven by an Arab Israeli slammed into vehicles and pedestrians, killing one man and injuring 17 people…”

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How dare Arabs complicate US interests?

April 29th, 2011 Comments off
“The former chief of the CIA on Tuesday praised Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s past cooperation and said his downfall could complicate US interests in the short term.”

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"The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is mostly a "secular" group …"

February 10th, 2011 Comments off

“… DNI James Clapper testified that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was mostly a “secular” group….  “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam,” Clapper told the first ever hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ….  Clapper’s public affairs chief Jamie Smith “clarified” the remarks, telling ABC that Clapper really meant to say that “in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak’s rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation – he is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization.” …  The debate over the real identity and role of the Brotherhood is just starting in Congress, and was at the top of lawmakers’ concerns at Wednesday’s hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Now the White House is reportedly making matters worse by apparently re-examining its position on dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, but also stating that a new Egyptian government should include a whole host of important nonsecular actors …”

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