Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On The Road

Tomorrow we depart for Rome, returning October 8th.

I shan't be posting during that time, but hopefully will return inspired by the wonderful Italian people and not too impoverished by their CPI score of 5.

Brit Soldiers Are Not War Criminals

A team of Blair's government lawyers prosecutes Brit soldiers for battlefield actions - adding the risk of disgrace and imprisonment to the soldier's "normal" combat risks of death or mutilation. No rational soldier will accept that level of risk.

The lawyers' latest coup is to bully the men engaged in this action (my ellipsis):

The 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, held responsibility for the security of Basra, Iraq’s second city, from June to November, 2003, in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Iraq by Coalition forces.

The Battalion, with a total strength of 620 men (including 100 members of the TA (Brit National Guard)), had the task of maintaining law and order and restoring normality in a city of 1.5 to 2 million people, which:
§ had been severely oppressed for over 20 years by the previous regime,
§ which was racked by violence,
§ with a severely fractured infrastructure,
§ through the height of summer,
§ with temperatures of 50-60 degrees in daytime,
§ and never less than 40 degrees at night.


THE TASK
On a daily basis, the battalion faced:
Riots
Looting
Armed Robbery
Smuggling
Violent Black Marketeering
Extortion
House take-overs
Kidnapping
Car-jacking
Shootings
Bombings
Grenade Attacks
Public disorder
All capped with GENERAL TERRORIST ACTIVITY


On a daily basis, the battalion undertook:
Foot & Vehicle patrols
Illegal weapon searches
Capturing former regime personalities
Raiding illegal arms markets
Waterborne patrols on the Shatt Al Arab
Riot Control
Protection of the local infrastructure
Anti-smuggling
Hostage Rescue
Civil / Military affairs...
Police training
Creation and training of the Police Support Unity


But now Blair's lawyers say the Brit soldiers were the real criminals:
A British corporal has become the first soldier to admit to a war crime after pleading guilty to inhumanely treating Iraqi civilians at a court martial yesterday.

Corporal Donald Payne, 35, is one of seven soldiers, including his former commanding officer, to be charged over the death of Baha Musa, 26, an Iraqi hotel receptionist.

Mr Musa suffered a severe beating over a period of 36 hours while in British military custody at a detention centre in Basra, southern Iraq, the court martial at Bulford Camp, Wiltshire, was told.

Julian Bevan, QC, for the prosecution, said that Mr Musa suffered 93 injuries, including fractured ribs and a broken nose. Another Iraqi civilian arrested with Mr Musa in 2003 suffered serious kidney injuries.
Soldiers are trained to kill people, break things, and control their own terror. That involves depersonalizing the enemy and forming strong bonds with their comrades. So making a Regiment-sized team mix the aggression of the battlefield with care of captive assailants is a recipe for disaster.

The politicians and senior officers that decided not to set up separate PoW facilities should take responsibility for this. If they don't, their Army becomes useless.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How Israel May Fight Its Existential War

Earlier posts listed the biggest threats to Israel's existence, explained how its defeat would result in a second holocaust, and showed why Islam is capable of perpetrating this atrocity. This post suggests what Israel will likely do to stay relatively safe.

Timing

When Israel does fight, it'll have to move fast - Islam's friends in the MSM, EU and the UN will move very quickly to block it, using everything from sanctions to forged images to threats of force. Plus Israel can't count on a US that may be controlled by RINOs or Dems.

So, based on past conflicts, Israel will have about 10 days to destroy its enemies.

For maximum effect this attack should be a surprise, but needs to be carried out before Iran gets enough nukes to destroy Israel. That would be about 10 weapons of 200+ kiloton yield. Iran is supported by 2 unsavory nuclear powers - Russia and Pakistan - who might just give Iran the weapons.

Still, allowing for the need to test and weaponize warheads and put together enough delivery vehicles, I'd guess that Israel has about 3 years before that happens, giving it an optimal surprise window about 18-24 months out.

Preparation

Here's what Israel may do in the 18-24 months (as well as changing out its political leadership).

Public Diplomacy Prep

The primary diplomatic goal during this period is to reassure the enemy. So expect negotiations with Syria and Iran, engagement with State's latest nutty land-for-peace roadmap, maybe even the return of some territory.

The secondary goal is to set the scene. Since one objective of the planned war would be to neutralize Lebanon, expect Israel to take a public stance that acknowledges the territorial integrity of Lebanon (actually it just did this). That means the consequence of any future attacks from Lebanese territory will be an act of war by that state.

The final diplomatic goal is to declare a deterrence posture to its nuclear armed enemies - Russia, France, Iran, and Pakistan. This will define the circumstances under which Israel will launch, but be ambiguous about the size of its retaliation.

Information War Prep

Unless it decides to blow up the MSM - which it probably won't - Israel is likely to concentrate on creating noise generators for use during a quick war - false stories and images that muddy the information flow.

Military Prep

The IDF will revise its to training, tactics and equipment to enable it to execute a 10 day knockout war.

Equipment Prep

Expect the IDF to up the number of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles carried by its 3 current subs - the extra 2 German subs will arrive too late. The IDF will also increase its IRBM missile fleet - it's based in the Negev and quite vulnerable to sneak attack from Egypt or Jordan, so expect these missiles to "launch on warning". That means that they're all fired off as soon as any ground, air or space attack is detected coming their way.

A 10-day high intensity war will use lots of munitions, and Israel now knows it can't rely on the US. So it will stockpile and where that doesn't work switch to domestic production. That won't be hard - the US mostly supplies pinpoint weapons used to minimize civilian casualties, and that won't be a requirement in an existential war.

Finally, don't expect Israel to deploy the THEL laser anti-missile defense. It's expensive and depends on an embargo-prone US supplier. Instead expect it to plan on overrunning launch areas or failing that burn them off with tactical nukes.

Covert Ops Prep

The goal here would be to cut off Iranian and Russian oil revenue by interdicting their pipelines.

Pipelines are just long, flimsy and hard to defend tubes full of a highly inflammable liquid. So given the right munitions, small well trained and well-equipped teams of fighters could destroy great lengths of them.

To attack Iran's output, Israel may arm Kurdish fighters, and to attack Russia's it may do the same for the Chechen resistance - if Russia hasn't killed it off.

Alliance Prep

This would be with India, to keep Pakistan in its box. Because of the size of the Pakistani target, India needs very high yield (10+ Megaton) thermonuclear weapons, and its likely that Israel can provide the know-how for this.

The War

This will be violent, driven by the Jewish people's determination never again to walk to the gas chambers without a fight to the death. But it'll be calculated - suicide is a sin to Jews - so expect smarts rather than self-sacrifice.

Israel's war aims will likely be to knock the Iranian threat back 25 years, prevent Russia, France and Pakistan coming to its assistance, and convert the Lebanon to a friend or neutral neighbor on the model of Jordan. A 25 year breathing spell gives the technologically superior Israelis time to neutralize the eventual Iranian nukes - perhaps with space based WMD.

Expect the war to start with Israel taking exception to one of the provocations its enemies regularly provide it with.

To credibly deter Russia, Pakistan and France - who might be tempted to use nukes on Israel later in the war - Israel will probably start by demonstrating a nuclear device. To avoid early escalation, that might be an airburst over a lightly populated area. But a better option would be two EMP bursts high over Syria and Iran - that would kill nobody, cripple their militaries, and declare Israel's capabilities.

The next phase is dictated by geography - Israel needs bases close to Iran to launch its ground and air strikes, and the closest place outside of Iraq is Eastern Syria. So expect an Israeli blitz to destroy the Syrian air and rocket forces, followed by a heavy armored push to roll up its army. The Israeli Arrow BMD system will thin the number of Syrian SCUDs that get through. If Syria uses WMD, Israel will nuke the launch fields and if that doesn't stop the attacks it will nuke Syrian C&C center in Damascus.

With Syria defeated, expect a huge logistics operation to move an expeditionary force to Eastern Syria, plus cruise missile attacks on Iranian missile defense systems. If Iran responds with WMDs, expect Israel to nuke Tehran. If not, expect air, missile and commando attacks on the 40 or so Iranian nuke plants and command centers. (Note that the Israelis would need to fly over Kurdish Iraq - another reason it will help out the Iranian Kurds).

If international pressure to stop the fighting becomes unbearable, Israel will use its nuclear weapons to achieve its war aims quickly.

Aftermath

Israel's enemies (and friends) may enforce an economic embargo via the EU and UN, but Israel can moderate this by replacing lost resources from Iran. Absent sanctions, Israel will withdraw quickly from what's left of Syria and Iran.

If Lebanon is unharmed, expect it to conclude a peace treaty with the victorious Israelis, perhaps granting basing agreements in North Lebanon.

Israel will rebuild its deterrent forces and put them places the Russian and Chinese can't easily hit them.

What happens to the Palestinians depends on their behavior - if they keep up their low level violence, they'll push Israel from Retaliator into Hawk/Bully mode, and suffer the same fate as the Chechens.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Game Theory And The Clash Of Civilizations

In the now undeniable battle between Islam and the West, which group is most likely to prevail? This is an important question for Westerners, since if Islam prevails then many of them will be killed – homosexuals, for example, and the rest enslaved – women more than men. And the standards of living of the survivors will decline to the Muslim norm, an order of magnitude reduction. Here’s an analysis that says we’ll win easily.

Evolutionary biologists use
Game Theory to predict the mix of fighting strategies likely to be stable in populations of the same species. Stability means that any diversion from that mix tends to right itself automatically. If you don’t have time to read the above reference, there’s a nice summary in Chapter 5 of this book (but be sure to read the chapter notes, which correct some errors).

This post extends that approach, treating each of the world’s nations as an entity competing with all the others.

Fighting Strategies

Competing organisms adopt four main fighting strategies to take resources (food, territory, etc) from others of the same species. The labels are 60-ish because that’s when the theory developed.

Hawk
Hawks always fight as hard as they can and only retreat when badly hurt.


Dove
Doves merely threaten, and never fight. Doves always run away from - and thus cede resources to - Hawks.


Retaliator
Retaliators start each conflict as if they’re a Dove, but if physically attacked they retaliate. So they behave like Doves when attacked by Doves, and like Hawks when attacked by Hawks,

Bully
A Bully behaves like a Hawk until an opponent hits back, and then he runs away.

Stable Mixes of Fighting Strategies

You model these by assigning costs and benefits to the components of each strategy, then simulating the effects of changing the strategy mix..

In a fight - even a Dove staring match - both parties pay a time penalty (time spent fighting is time not spent feeding, etc). Then of course the loser loses and the winner takes the object of the fight. And in Hawk fights, losers are either seriously injured or killed.

Putting numbers to these costs and benefits at first shows an all-Dove population is the best since it maximizes benefits and minimizes costs - although both fighters waste time, and the loser loses the object of the fight, nobody pays the cost of being hurt or killed.


But it's not stable - if just one Hawk is added to the mix, he and his successors rapidly spread since they get whatever they want without a fight. Finally a balance is reached where Hawks are controlled by the higher risk of injury or death in confronting other Hawks, so a stable Dove/Hawk mix arises.

The exact Hawk/Dove ratio depends on the values you assign to costs and benefits, but the broad stabilities seem to be:
- Pure Dove groups are invaded by Hawks and Bullies
- Pure Hawk groups are invaded by Doves and Bullies
- Pure Bully groups are invaded by Hawks
- Pure Retaliator groups are invaded first by Doves, then Hawks and Bullies replace both (I’m not convinced by this, and will check the math).

As you’d expect there are many other layers of complexity – real players differ in strength, so for example a weak Hawk won’t fight a stronger Hawk unless the payoff is big enough to justify the risk. And a stable population of (say) 60% Hawks and 40% Doves can mean that each individual plays Dove 40% of the time and Hawk the rest.

Still, for our purposes these complexities don’t matter.

Choice of Fighting Strategies

So what predisposes an individual to be more or less Hawk (or Dove) like? Turns out that in most species, including humans, success breeds success. So Hawk contestants that lose tend to lose more and become more Dovish while winners tend to win more and become more Hawkish.

The World’s Current Contestants

These are the fighting strategies currently adopted by each of the world’s major players. I've used the (arguable) principle that a nation's fighting strategy reflects the strategies of its population, unless it's a dictatorship.

US: Unstable Mix of Retaliator, Dove and Bully
I’ve found residents of recently settled States tend to be Retaliators, while those from the older States tend to be Doves. The population is being colonized by Bullies (the MSM and others).

Mainland Europe: Unstable Dove
All the Europeans I know are Doves. That’s because every one of these nations has known the humiliation of comprehensive defeat and occupation, and as we’ve seen that breeds Doves. Hence Europe’s paralysis when faced with the treat of Iranian nukes and its disdain for the US and Israeli Retaliators. The mix is unstable because it's being infiltrated by Bullies (see below), and that will pull in or create Hawks.

UK: Unstable Mix of Retaliator, Dove and Bully
I find the Dove percentage higher than in the US, the Retaliator mix smaller, and the Bully mix higher (the BBC is state funded and hence huge). The UK isn't pure Dove like the rest of Europe because it has only lost little wars - e.g. the one with the IRA.

Japan: Dove Turning Hawk
Japan was never defeated in the Home Islands, and is anyway more of a warrior culture than, say, Germany. Just read a Japanese adult comic book, and see
here.

Islam: Bully
The bully strategy is used by the aggressive weak, and Islam – as we’re currently seeing – is very aggressive. It’s weak because its social structures prevent economic, technical, intellectual and artistic development.


Here's a bullying example from the WSJ today ($):
In Bosnia and Kosovo, whenever Saudi and Gulf agents offered funds to rebuild war-damaged communities, they insisted first on flattening cemeteries, destroying tombstones and whitewashing mosque décor, on the principle that pure iconophobic Islam abhorred the worship of idols.(This, despite the ubiquity of giant-sized idolatrous portraits, in their own countries, of Gulf and Saudi emirs on public walls -- not to mention currency notes.)
The current rage against the Pope is classic bully behavior – as Stalin observed, the Pope has no divisions - as is shooting a nun in the back and running away.

China: Bully
All dictatorships are bullies, and China is bullying Taiwan.

Israel: Unstable Mix of Retaliators and Doves
So it’ll likely end up Hawks and Bullies.

Which Civilizations Will Win?

Islam will fail because Bullies never win, and the culture lacks the competence and flexibility to adopt a different fighting strategy. It may have temporary successes – the UK and Europe are fat Dove targets – but these will trigger either invasions of or transformations into Hawks and the Bullies will be marginalized.

Israel will (unless nuked out of existence) become truly Hawkish, to the great detriment of its adversaries.

The US will become more Hawkish, ditto.

Japan will overcome China.

So this analysis predicts a rough ride that the Good Guys end up winning, although conflict will be with us forever.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Predictions

This blog tries to make useful predictions about the safety and wealth of the Anglosphere - here are some that are looking good.

1. Blair's Resignation

Our prediction, although not original, was more robust since it was based on a sharp change in his behavior. This was not picked up by the MSM - probably because of its ignorance of managerial behavior.

2. Drop In US Tourism

In March last year I predicted INS fingerprinting and photographing of every Brit man, woman, child & baby entering the US would cut tourism. That was because in the UK those procedures are used only on criminals. That was a correct prediction (my emphasis):

The US share of international travel has been falling since 1992, but the decline has accelerated since September 11, 2001. Since then America has lost an estimated $286 billion (£152 billion) in revenue from foreign tourists.

While global travel has grown by a fifth, the the US travel industry’s share of the world tourism market has shrunk by a third, from 9% to 6%.

Some of this is the falloff immediately after 9/11, but the rest is courtesy the TSA (which gave Brits a really hard time after the Richard Reid attempted bombing), and the INS measures from September 2004.

None of which is to deny the right of the US to do whatever it wants to visitors, allies included. But through lousy execution the US has taken an economic hit well in excess of Iraqi Freedom's $150 billion.

But there's good news - revenues are slowly recovering.

Japan Going Nuclear

We predicted Chinese and NoKo threats against Japan would cause it to build missile defenses and lots of H bombs, dumping its post-WW2 neutrality. It has:
Japan is about to get its most nationalistic prime minister since the 1950s and ardent patriots are celebrating in advance, sensing that their sun is rising after decades of shame.

The resurgence of pride alarms Japan’s principal wartime victims, China and the two Korea's, but it is winning quiet applause from the United States, which foresees an enduring change in Japanese military policy.

The man in waiting is Shinzo Abe, 51, the chief cabinet secretary. He has struck a chord among voters by taking a hard line on North Korea, saying he would strike at missile sites before Kim Jong-il could fire off any weapons against Japan.

In my experience Japanese are natural warriors, and there's some genetic evidence to support that. Their crushing defeat in WW2 pushed them into pacifism, but China and NoKo's provocations just reset them to default mode.

Taiwan Preparing For War

I predict they have nukes, but don't expect them to admit it until they use them against a Chinese invasion. So I've been looking for indirect indicators, and this may be one:
Taiwan will introduce a new home-grown missile defense shield next year...the shield, known as the Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile (ATBM), is “expected to effectively counter the threat of China’s M-9...and M-11...ballistic missiles.” The system will...eventually comprise 12 ATBM missiles batteries and an uncertain number of U.S.-made Patriot missiles and early warning radars.
This is a big system, and may be to defend Taiwan's nuke weapons infrastructure (manufacture and deployment) against pre-emptive missile attack - just as the Russians are now rushing to shield the Iranian nuke program. Taiwan is building its own system because it fears a Dem or RINO president would hang it out to dry.

Other Predictions

The cold fusion destruction of the MSM hasn't happened yet. But don't give up hope!

And the Curse of Gandalf has caused IBM laptops to start catching fire.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Passive-Aggressive Liars

Senator McCain and his supporter Powell's passive-aggressive war on the president has been ascribed to political ambition. But their attempt to stop the CIA interrogating people who commit and plan the slaughter of Americans is dishonest and disgraceful.

McCain's ambition:
McCain isn't on the ballot this fall, but the fight with Bush could put in jeopardy the careful balance he has struck in attempting to fuel his own presidential ambitions.

The 70-year-old senator stokes his considerable crossover appeal each time he wages a high-profile struggle with the president.
Their war against the war on terror (my ellipsis):
The Senate Armed Services Committee defied President Bush on Thursday, with four Republicans joining Democrats in approving a plan for the trial and interrogation of terrorism suspects that the White House has rejected as unacceptable.

The Republican rebellion was led by Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee chairman, with backing from Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine.

The White House had said their legislation would leave the United States no option but to shut down a C.I.A. program to interrogate high-level terrorism suspects.

...(Powell) sided with the senators, saying in a letter that the president’s plan to redefine the Geneva Conventions would encourage the world to “doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,” and “put our own troops at risk.”

As McCain and Powell know, every enemy the US has fought in the last 60 years has tortured and murdered US prisoners.

The Germans and Japanese routinely tortured and murdered allied captives in WW2.

The Chinese and North Koreans tortured, brainwashed and starved US prisoners.

The Vietnamese - as Mc Cain knows - tortured US prisoners.

Hussein's Iraqis tortured US prisoners, and pulled the fingernails off Brit captives.

And the terrorists McCain and Powell want to protect have killed every US soldier (and most US civilians) they've captured - burning them alive, or cutting their heads off. It's not a secret - the videos and images are widely available on Islamic websites.

So it's plain dishonest to say that not making nice to captive terrorists "puts our troops at risk". And stopping the world from "doubting the moral basis of the GWOT" and a dollar might just buy you a cup of coffee.

McCain and Powell just want to poke a stick in the president's eye and they don't care how many Americans die as a result.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hooked On Feeding Corruption

A great US innovation is to tie foreign aid to the honesty of the recipient, and Paul Wolfowitz is causing squeals of rage by applying that principle to World Bank lending. He should keep up the good work.

The squealers:

Britain and other European countries pressed Mr Wolfowitz in April to put greater emphasis on fighting corruption by building institutions in the developing world rather than simply suspending loans.

Critics, who include a clutch of European governments and many senior members of the bank’s staff, claim that the anti-corruption campaign threatens to undermine the bank’s primary purpose of eliminating global poverty by being too ideological, arbitrary and high-handed. “In the same way that the neocons tried to impose democracy on Iraq,” said a source at the bank. “They are trying to impose their own economic and political model on Africa — without recognising the reality of the situation on the ground.”

Of course the "reality of the situation on the ground" is that all aid is tax dollars, pounds, etc taken from productive people in Western economies. If those donors continue to see their taxes fed to corrupt tyrants, they'll vote to cut aid.


But Blair's likely successor thinks otherwise (ellipsis give corruption rankings for the nations referenced):
Britain last night threw down a direct challenge to Paul Wolfowitz’s leadership of the World Bank as the Government announced that it was withholding a £50 million payment in protest at the conditions attached to aid for poorer countries.

The decision by Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary, reflects growing concern over Mr Wolfowitz’s aggressive anti-corruption campaign, which has led to the suspension of mutlimillion- dollar loans and contracts to countries such as Chad (158th, world's most corrupt), India (88th), Argentina (97th), Congo (130th), Kenya (144th), Ethiopia (137th) and Bangladesh (158th, bottom equal with Chad).

The unexpectedly robust public attack by Mr Benn, who is close to Gordon Brown, will sound alarm bells within the US Administration about relations with Britain when Tony Blair departs No. 10.
The £50 million withheld wouldn't keep an African Mercedes dealership going for a year, so I don't see it terrifying Wolfowitz into submission.

And the White House already knows Brown is a hard line Euro-socialist who thinks the taxpayers' money is his own, so no doubt it'll control its alarm.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Death Of The Media: The Movie

To balance the movie about the murder of the President, here’s our outline for the next Hollywood blockbuster.

This is the left’s wish fulfillment (hat tip LGF, my ellipsis):

In “Death of a President,” George W. Bush is murdered after making a speech in Chicago on Oct. 19, 2007. Outside the Sheraton Hotel there are massive, violent demonstrations that recall the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago more than anything of recent times.

The president’s motorcade is stopped by unruly protesters; the police don riot gear and use tear gas. It’s a bad scene, as the faux Secret Service agent who was protecting Bush recalls during the mockumentary part of the film.

…After Bush is killed and Dick Cheney becomes president, it takes about seven months for law enforcement to arrest a Syrian-American for the assassination. He’s tried and convicted.

In the meantime, we meet a black soldier recently returned from Iraq. He is initially suspected but later dismissed. Then it turns out his brother died in the war, and their distraught father has killed himself because of it.

The soldier goes through his father’s things and realizes that his grieving dad was Bush’s real killer. He held the president responsible for his son’s death.

Here’s the plot for a more civilized wish fulfillment:

“Death of The Media” starts with a massive explosion destroying the BBC's London TV center. Reuters and AP footage show Green Helmet (there to receive an honor from the Press Association) displaying body parts – detached yellow-socked feet still inside Gucci loafers, mutilated heads with pink bow ties still attached, eyeballs squished against Linberg eyeglasses, etc.

The world’s unluckiest multiple homeowner is shown grieving - apparently her bijou London residence next door has been cratered.

Next day the remaining BBC offices, and those of AP at Camden Lock, Reuters in Canary Wharf, and AFP in Paris are all quite exploded. That’s quickly followed by the destruction of the editorial offices (and staff) of the LAT, CNN, Minneapolis Strib, Boston Post, WaPo and others.

Kofi Annan immediately makes an impassioned speech to the (somewhat diminished) UN Press Corps stating the attacks were “apparently deliberate murders by right wing bloggers to quell dissent”. Sadly he perishes later that day, when, on a State Visit to the NYT, the building detonates taking with it him and the entire editorial staff and board of directors.

The UN 2IC steps into Annan’s (still smoldering) custom Lobb shoes and demands the Security Council mandates a UN Peacekeeping Force to round up the Right Wing Conspiracy of Bloggers, plus (of course) Hannity, O’Reilly and Limbaugh.

A US veto is overridden by a special resolution proposed by Prime Minister Cameron (regrettably to perish next day when a fawning interview at ITV in London is terminated by that body’s detonation).

The UN’s French/German/Belgian/Iranian Peacekeeping force is mostly successful in arresting the bloggers (although an entire French Army Division surrenders in the Battle Of Coulter’s Front Yard), and the captive bloggers are transported to The Hague to face 6-year trials.

But the explosions continue, even though the Brit government bans airline passengers from carrying laptops with LGF in their browser bookmarks. Ultimately over 40,000 journos are shredded, defenestrated or immolated in every part of the world – from London to the Lebanon, from Biloxi to Baghdad.

Finally the only surviving media outlets are the WSJ and London Guardian. An investigative blogger who escaped the UN has a hunch and shows a Guardian journalist how to turn on a computer and use Photoshop. The very next day the entire editorial staff of that organ is wiped out in an enormous explosion.

The blogger goes on to prove the explosions are caused by excessive use of the Clone command in Photoshop on a specific brand of computer. This causes processor overheating, which blows the battery, which in turn causes a cold fusion blast. So it goes. The WSJ survives because it uses funny line drawings rather than photos.

The film ends with the Chairman of the computer company apologizing for “any inconvenience caused”, and promising to step down to being an ordinary director at some point. The Bloggers are released and return to heroes’ welcomes - while not bitter, they have acquired a visceral hatred for Dutch cuisine.

Stripped of its publicity machine, the Islamic terror campaign disintegrates. Iraq becomes a stable democracy and in 2009 its baseball team wins the World Series. Democratic Persia’s cricket team beats the English at Lords in 2010, maintaining a long tradition. Palestinians start growing tomatoes.

All is right with the world.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Treacherous Tories

Americans who don't believe Blair's successor will end the Brit alliance with the US should look at the words of the leader of the opposition Tories.

Blair's lefty Brit minster of finance, Brown, will probably take over when Blair departs and run things until the next election, probably in 2009. If by then the economy is in the tank he'll lose to the Tories and if not he'll lose to the Tories at the following election in 2013.

Americans accustomed to Tory leaders like Maggie Thatcher won't be surprised that in spite of her poor health (she's had several strokes) she visited Washington on Monday to remember our dead and reaffirm our resolve (WSJ, $):
...she urged Britain and the U.S. to stand firm against "Islamist fanatics who hate our beliefs, our liberties and our citizens. We must not falter. We must not fail. . . . We also need to renew our resolve that, however bitter or lengthy the struggle, this evil shall not prevail."
That same day the man who now leads her party marked the abomination committed on the UK's closest ally and friend with these words (WSJ again, $, my ellipsis and emphasis):

The 39-year-old Tory leader claimed Britain and the U.S. had become "uncritical allies" and needed "a rebalanced special relationship." In a line that must play well with London focus groups, he said: "We should be solid but not slavish in our friendship with America." Though his party backed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Mr. Cameron vouchsafed that they now show that democracy "cannot quickly [be] imposed from the outside." Thanks for the Monday-morning generalship.

On the day marking the worst terrorist atrocity in history, he even chided the U.S. for "stoop[ing] to illiberalism" by running a prison in Guantanamo, where the men who planned 9/11 were just transferred and where no human rights abuses have been found. This Tory wants a "a new emphasis on multilateralism" where the U.N. "confers the ultimate legitimacy."

Cameron also:
...called the (US) administration "unrealistic and simplistic" and attacked the "slavish" bond between Messrs. Bush and Blair.
So Americans should start planning for the loss of their ally.

There's a plus side - this man's election will trigger a flood of capital and talent from the UK to the US, and London's financial center will flip back to NYC.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Blair's Last Sacrifice

A benign interpretation of Tony Blair's saying he'll be gone in 12 months is he's taking a hit for the nation. By staying on he paralyzes the body politic and leaves the military, the cops and MI5 to mop up the bad guys. And he's preventing a populist successor dumping Israel and the historic UK/US alliance.

Blair has consistently said that Islamic nutters with nukes pose an existential threat to the West, that Israel is our front line of defense against them, and the US is the West's best hope of victory.

Unfortunately, left to themselves Brits would appease that threat, abandon Israel, and dump the US alliance. Here's more of the recent
shameful poll of Brit public opinion (my ellipsis):
...73 per cent believe that “the British Government’s foreign policy, especially its support for the invasion of Iraq and refusal to demand an immediate ceasefire by Israel in the recent war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, has significantly increased the risk of terrorist attacks on Britain".
And:

....62 per cent agree that “in order to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks on Britain the Government should change its foreign policy, in particular by distancing itself from America, being more critical of Israel and declaring a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq".

...52 per cent believe that “even though there is no justification for terrorism, the British Government’s foreign policy, especially towards Iraq and the recent attacks on Lebanon by Israel, is anti-Muslim and it is understandable that many Muslims are offended by it”

(Two thirds disagree) that (airport) security checks should be “particularly focused on people who appear to be from the same ethnic or religious background as previous terrorists, rather than treating everyone as if they represent an equal risk”.

But:
...63 per cent believe that “Muslim extremists hate democracy and the Western way of life, and if Britain’s foreign policy were different they would find another excuse for their terrorist activities”.
So Brits are confused - they think if they dump allies & cut and run they'll be safe, but that Muslim terrorists will kill them anyway.

The danger is that Blair's successor, beholden to the increasingly hard left Labour Party, will use this sentiment to advance its anti-Semitic and anti-American agendas.

And that would leave the Brits alone (forget the EU) facing a remorseless enemy.

So I think Blair wants to freeze the game until Brits get rational. It's a fair bet - Islamic terrorists will likely stage more hits, and 1939 showed Brits under serious threat quickly quit appeasing.

Blair will have a horrible time during the interregnum - friends will desert him, enemies will treat him with contempt, and he'll be constantly attacked by the MSM. And he'll have no power to get things done. So if this diagnosis is right, he deserves a medal.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Why America Will Endure And Europe Maybe Won't

America's greatness is rooted in its people, not its leaders or institutions, and that makes it extraordinarily resistant to outside threats. I'm less sanguine about the survival of European societies, including my beloved UK.

Five years ago today, America's people - cops, office workers, firefighters, ATC operators, etc - reacted to the 9/11 attacks. The way they reacted was uniquely American - here are the differences from Europeans I found most striking.

Americans don’t defer

This is a fundamental difference. European governments derive from absolute monarchies, so are largely unchecked - Tony Blair changed the Brit constitution without any debate.

That runs through European life – if there’s a problem, the government is expected to fix it. If the government or media says something, it has to be true.


In contrast Americans distrust their institutions – over 30% think the US government carried out the 9/11 attacks! That’s nuts, but shows a semi-healthy refusal to accept what they’re told.

The MSM in the US and UK MSM are equally lefty - here's the BBC:

...of 19 documentaries on Israel or the Palestinians aired by the BBC from 2000 to 2004 (as compared to only five about the earlier, nearer and far deadlier conflict in the Balkans), almost all were savagely critical of Israel.

This BBC bias works (my ellipsis):
…62 per cent (of Brits) agree that “in order to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks on Britain the Government should change its foreign policy, in particular by distancing itself from America, being more critical of Israel and declaring a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.
However many Americans ignore their lefty MSM and tune in to the conservative talk shows and Fox News, to the bemusement of Annan’s Brit 2IC who thinks Americans must believe what their lefty MSM tells them.

Americans are patriotic

This
9/11 image shows the rescuers immediately after the attack and flags appeared next day on almost every building across the nation - an extraordinary expression of national solidarity. By contrast, there was no Union Jacks when I walked through the devastated City of London after the huge IRA bombing in 1993.

Americans run their own lives

I think it very unlikely that a planeload of Europeans would have reacted the way the United 93 passengers did. Europeans would either have denied the threat or passively waited for someone else to do something.

Americans have high expectations

I once asked a senior executive of a huge Brit Supermarket chain who was visiting the US why Brits didn’t demand bag packers at checkout. He replied, “Low Expectations”.

Life in Europe is full of a thousand inconveniences that people endure, muttering the local equivalent of the Brit “Mustn’t Grumble”.
Thus (my ellipsis):

…just 29 per cent (of Brits) believe that the airport authorities have “overreacted to the threat of terrorism and introduced excessive security measures that cause unnecessary delays without improving safety”... But more than two thirds (69 per cent) disagree.
This after families had been penned, left standing in the rain for hours, and forced to check valuables that were then stolen!

Americans fight back

Americans don't passively accept adversity - the USMC in Iraq has developed the successful tactic of attacking into an ambush!

By contrast, Europeans value the ability to endure adversity.


Americans are optimistic

A poll last year reported a large majority of American retirees expect their fortunes to improve. This streak of optimism runs through American society, and fuels its remarkable economic growth.

All this means that the US will survive and prosper even if Congress and Presidency are controlled by dishonest and/or corrupt pols for the next 8 years.

The European nations are in a much weaker position. Their top-down polities and misinformed and passive populations make them vulnerable to Islamic disruption. They need strong leaders to survive, but there aren't any good ones in prospect.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Is Apple Going Doing An HP?

The MacBook Pro is still giving its users serious problems, pointing to lousy pre-release testing. Good computer companies don't make that mistake, so maybe Apple has the HP disease.

There's a list of current MBP problems here, together with workarounds. I've developed PCs, and IMHO all the problems should have been picked up in the testing of the final preproduction batch.

So either Apple's engineering didn't test properly, or it did and management decided to ship anyway.

The most troubling problem is the overheating, since it prevents the MBP being used as a laptop (unless you have a special thermal pad to put under it). I've taken a look at this with my evaluation Mac Mini, and it's possible the problem is systemic to the new Intel Mac range.

Here's why. My aging Tecra sometimes has to operate at ambient temperatures above 90 degrees (common in summer in the Southern Med when the aircon quits), and that invariably causes Firefox to crash. So when it's hot, I use Opera and IE, which work fine. I'm guessing Firefox's fancy rendering uses Intel functions the other two don't.

I've found that in much cooler environments (low 70s), Firefox on the Mac Mini also crashes repeatedly, as does iPhoto. That's on a Core Duo, several generations ahead of the Pentium in my Tecra. But the instruction sets will be the same (strictly the Core Duo supersets the Tecra's Pentium ).

So it's possible the Apple designers have made a mess of the cooling of the Core Duo processor, at least on the Mac Mini and MBP. That wouldn't be entirely surprising, since the processor was new to Apple.

But what is dismaying is that Apple released these systems with these defects. I used to work with Apple, and it had good engineers who were obsessive about quality. So either they've all gone, or their management has adopted HP-board-style practices.

Before Apple fanboys start strafing runs on DU, an alternative explanation is the Curse Of Gandalf. Of the four candidates for my next laptop, Apple has crashed and, er, burned; HP has hit the rocks; Fujitsu distribution is MIA; and IBM is Chinese. If it's my fault, I'm so sorree.

UPDATE: Sept 12

In view of the interest/intense irritation caused to some by this post, here's my data (it's a tidied up and slightly expanded version of my Comment).

On my old Tecra 8200, the Firefox Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) is (temperatures degrees F):

* Ambient less than 85: infinity - never crashes
* Ambient 86 to 90: about 4 hours
* Ambient over 90: about 20 minutes.

This is a heavily loaded FireFox - 18 tabs, 3 of which run active refreshes. By comparison, Opera with the same tab load never crashes at any temperature, and IE without tabs never crashes at any temperature.

The Mac Mini Firefox running identical tabs to the Tecra in ambient that was always under under 80 degrees had an MTBF of about 30 minutes. Safari never crashed, although I didn't run it a lot.

The Tecra and Mac Mini could be different effects, but - so far as I can make out - the FF code base and hence executed Intel instruction sets are the same.

So we may have a temperature-related fault here that's common to the old Pentium and new Core Duo.

An additional data point is Apple's fix for the heat problems - they run the two fans more. That's a kludge, symptomatic of a design error.

Running the fans more intensely makes the rig noisier (so less cool, pun intended), drives the fans more quickly to the end of their duty cycles (so users will get more fan problems), and drains the battery faster (bad for road warriors). That adds to my suspicion their heat handling guys messed up.

On this analysis, I'd expect user experiences to vary depending on the ambient temperature they run their Intel macs at and the code they run. If they stay cool and/or don't run FireFox, they'll be fine. Otherwise not.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Use For The German Army

The (non US) NATO soldiers actually the fighting in Afghanistan are Brit and Canadian - the other 30+ NATO contingents don't do rough stuff. Fair enough, someone has to run logistics. But the large German contingent should swap its mine-protected vehicles for the useless junk Brit fighters are dying in.

The Brit MSM reports the story in its usual misleading way:
A NATO military chief asked yesterday for another 2,500 troops to be sent to southern Afghanistan to reinforce the Canadian and British battlegroups that have been under fierce attack by the Taleban for the past two months.
Here's the real story (my emphasis):

NATO commanders in Afghanistan are not happy with all the strings attached to their authority by politicians back home. The ROE (Rules of Engagement) for NATO troops contain over seventy restrictions on how the NATO commander may use troops assigned to him. Most of these have to do with where national contingents can be moved, and how much they can be exposed to danger.

In the last six weeks, the NATO force of 20,000 troops has suffered 38 dead, but has killed about twenty times as many Taliban fighters. The NATO troops are good at what they do, but they could do more, and at less risk to themselves, if the NATO commanders had fewer strings attached to who can be used where and how.

Of particular concern is the German contingent of nearly 2,000 troops. Current ROE restricts the German troops to Kabul.

As explained by the German ambassador to Israel, German soldiers are post-heroic (i.e. useless) but they have some good stuff:
...both German and Canadian forces in Afghanistan have mine-protected vehicles. Both forces have had vehicles run over mines (and attacked by suicide bombers). In all cases where mine protected vehicles have been involved, the crews have survived with only minor injuries.
The Canadians need all their equipment, but the Germans don't and and the Brits doing the fighting have lousy protection - over a quarter of our soldiers killed in Iraq died when their flimsy Land Rovers were hit with IEDs, and the proportion in Afghanistan is also high.

So NATO's solution is obvious - give Germany the option of either joining the fighting, or swapping its mine protected equipment for the Land Rovers.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Trust And Dishonest Prosecutors

The legal systems of advanced societies are there to maintain high levels of trust - they catch and punish the dishonest. But when the prosecutors themselves are dishonest, the system breaks down - here are two current US examples.

Judicial systems in all nations tend to despotism because their members get lifetime appointments and so become immune to social control.

Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald

He was given the job of investigating the alleged leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent. Now it turns out that 5 days after he began the investigation he knew:
a) Who had leaked her identity, and
b) That she wasn't a covert agent.

Instead of winding up the investigation he created, in Ann Coulter's restrained words:
...nothing but a perjury trap from beginning to end for anyone who misremembered anything about who told whom what about a low-level nobody at the CIA who happened to be married to a Walter Mitty fantasist.
That makes Fitzgerald a dishonest despot.

New York Attorney General Spitzer

He turns out to be one too (WSJ, $, my ellipsis):
New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office quietly admitted this week that it is dropping certain civil charges against Hank Greenberg, former CEO of AIG. Here ends a monumental story of prosecutorial abuse.

Last year, as the whole world knows, Mr. Greenberg was drummed out of the insurance empire he created after Mr. Spitzer accused him of presiding over a firm that was a "black box" of accounting scandals. AIG settled with Mr. Spitzer, but Mr. Greenberg refused to roll over.

The prosecutor has (now) abandoned nearly every substantive claim he'd made against the insurance titan, claims that helped lose Mr. Greenberg his job.

...when this hoopla broke, Mr. Spitzer astounded even fellow prosecutors by threatening to indict AIG unless it fired Mr. Greenberg. Then he broke further prosecutorial codes by going on national TV to accuse Mr. Greenberg of fraud -- before he'd even filed charges. It was only months later, in the media blackout of the Thanksgiving holiday, that Mr. Spitzer leaked the news that he wouldn't pursue criminal charges. Now he's admitting most of the civil case is also bunk.

Not that any of this matters to Mr. Spitzer now. Surfing along on a wave of prosecutorial "triumphs" -- of which the Greenberg case was feted as one of those most significant -- he is cruising toward the governor's mansion. It's getting harder to believe that many of his suits weren't brought solely for that purpose.
So Mr Greenberg is a brave wealth creator and Spitzer is a dishonest bully, who I hope New Yorkers are smart enough not to elect.

Trust And US Corporate Dishonesty

High levels of social capital (trust) make for healthy, wealthy and peaceful societies, so it's distressing that the emerging Hewlett-Packard scandal reveals dishonesty at the heart of a US icon.

HP turns out to be a cesspit (WSJ, $):
Nine journalists' phone records were targeted as part of an investigation of leaks from Hewlett-Packard Co.'s board, including the personal phone records of a Wall Street Journal reporter, Pui-Wing Tam, according to the company and the California attorney general's office.
That's as well as HP's theft of the private phone records of at least two board directors. The HP board disclaims responsibility for this (it blames outside contractors) but still used the (obviously) stolen goods to sandbag a fellow.

Here's what this does to social capital. If - as HP claims - it's OK to pinch people's private phone records, then anyone can do it. The current board's opponents can access the corporate and private phone records of the rest of that board, of HP's legal department, and HP's outside lawyers. They can use them to find out who instructed the record thieves, and who did the actual stealing.

For example, one of the targets was Tom Perkins, a famous and wealthy man. To steal his phone records the thief needed Perkins' private phone and Social Security numbers, both obviously closely kept secrets - except to the HP board and HR department. He'll have people checking their phone records to find out who did the dirty deed.

So HP becomes a Hobbesian caricature:
...a situation in which there is unrestrained, selfish, and uncivilised
competition...
That's HP
board members members warring against eachother, against HP's legal & HR departments and against its outside contractors.

You can't run a company this way, particularly a software company. People producing software have to be professionally honest - it's too easy not to test properly, or to sweep known problems under the carpet, either way leaving your customers to take the pain.

In good software companies high personal integrity is created by example, from the top and people make big personal sacrifices for quality - missing their kids' concerts, working weekends and holidays etc. They don't do that in a Hobbesian work environment, so quality falls - after this insight, I won't touch an HP product.

Thus low quality erodes the brand, reduces shareholder value, degrades company performance and employment, and ultimately reduces the wealth of the nation.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Kurds - Iran's Palestinians

If the Kurd/Sunni/Shiite coalition in Iraq collapses, Israel gets a great chance to undermine Iran.

The reports of Iraqi civil war are still premature, but there's only so much sectarian slaughter the three communities will tolerate before
breaking apart:
Iraq's leaders have just months to mend their differences or see their country collapse, the speaker of parliament told wrangling deputies yesterday after a car bomb caused dozens of casualties during the morning rush hour.

The United Iraqi Alliance, the dominant Shi'ite parliamentary bloc, is promoting a "law of regional formation" so that the oil-rich Shi'ite south can win self-rule on the model of the autonomous Kurdish north.

Sunni lawmakers have vociferously opposed the draft law on autonomous regions, saying it is a prelude to a carving up of the country, which would leave them with just the resources-poor center and west of Iraq.

Yup. And Sunni terrorists make the point more directly:

Eight persons were killed and at least 38 wounded when a car bomb blasted a busy road in the mainly Shi'ite Qahira district of northern Baghdad during the morning rush hour, said police, who also fear a surge in violence later this week when hundreds of thousands of Shi'ites mark a religious festival.
Iraq will split if the Sunni murder campaign continues - as it may given the Shi'ite counter-murder campaign.

Iraq splitting won't be the end of the world - the nation was invented by the Brits in the 1920s to tidy up remnants of the Ottoman Empire, so there's no strong national identity.

The big winners of the split would be
the Kurdish people (my ellipsis):

Kurdistan is a mountainous region of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, inhabited predominantly by Kurds including 27-28 million people in a ...74,000 sq. mi...area, while according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, it includes a 390,000 km² area.

Others estimate as many as 40 million Kurds live in Kurdistan, which covers an area as big as France.

There's a useful map of the Kurdistan here (scroll down) - you'll see they cover the northern part of Iraq, about 20% of Turkey, parts of northern Syria, and the northern 10% of Iran. Not unreasonably, they want their own nation.

The Kurdish part of Iraq flourished for 10 years under the no-fly zone, and after the liberation Kurds took control of a big slab of Iraq's oil. It's now the most militarily and economically advanced state in the area.

That makes the Turks unhappy because their Kurds have been fighting an IRA-style independence campaign for years and if the Iraqi Kurdish province becomes a state, the Turks may make a grab for it to stop their own Kurds seceding.

That's where Israel comes in. A Kurdish nation would destroy the territorial integrity of its two big enemies - Syria and Iran. To avoid alienating Turkey - a fragile ally of Israel - Turkey's Kurds could be helped to move to territories in Iran and Syria. They'd have at least as much right to the parts of Iran they'd occupy as the Palestinians claim in Israel.

Supporting the Kurds has always made sense for Israel, but it's had its hands tied by the US commitment to create a free and unified Iraq. But if Iraq dissolves, Israeli support of the Kurds would not be perceived as unfriendly by the US.

By arming ex-Iraqi Kurdistan to the teeth, Israel would be playing the same card as Iran plays with Hizbollah and the Palestinians. And by giving Kurds the means to liberate swathes of Iran and interdict its oil, they'll speed up the collapse of the Mullahs.

I hope there are US and Israeli planners working to achieve this - the Kurds deserve their place in the sun.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

H-P's Illuminating Disgrace

Transparency International rates the US as more corrupt than the UK, although my experience of working in both is they're equally trustworthy. Now a report on a boardroom tussle at HP suggests corrupt US public companies may account for the difference.

The data:

World RankingNationCPI Score
11th least corruptUK8.6
17th least corruptUSA7.6

The garage where Hewlett-Packard Co. started in Palo Alto was still there last time I looked, and it grew from there to become the bedrock of Silicon Valley - innovative, open, and honest. Look like that's changed (WSJ, $, my emphasis):

A year and a half after Carly Fiorina was pushed out as chairman and chief executive of Hewlett-Packard Co., the aftershocks of that firing continue to shake the computer company's board of directors.

The latest eruption came at a meeting on May 18, when the board reviewed the results of an extensive investigation into press leaks that was undertaken by new board Chairman Patricia Dunn shortly after Ms. Fiorina departed.

The report, which relied in part on private telephone records, fingered George Keyworth, a longtime director and former science adviser to President Reagan, as the source of many of the leaks about board deliberations.

A boardroom showdown ensued, during which the board voted to ask Mr. Keyworth to resign, and he refused, saying he was elected by the shareholders. Venture capitalist Tom Perkins, a friend of Mr. Keyworth, quit the board on the spot in anger.

While full details of H-P's internal probe remain unclear, it appears to involve a controversial practice known as "pretexting." Under the practice, public investigators apparently call the phone company, and use personal information to falsely represent themselves as another person, in order to obtain that person's records.

H-P board members say the investigation was done by an outside contractor to the company, retained by another outside contractor. Those contractors continue to insist they used only legal methods to obtain the phone records.

But some H-P board members acknowledge feeling uncomfortable with the methods used.

I bet they do! If this is true, the chairman and some board members of HP hired someone to steal another board member's personal phone records.

In the UK this would be a criminal act - the HP board solicited, received and made use of stolen goods. It would also be a personal disgrace for the board members complicit in the act and they'd be expected to resign immediately. And they'd find it tough getting another board position, because institutional investors are suspicious of crooked directors.

And any company that behaves this way at board level is likely to have low ethical behavior right down the line.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

London, Paris and NYC

I find London the nicest city in the world, and had assumed that's just because I was born there - turns out that's not so.

France's best selling novelist is a refugee in the UK and just published a book that's making waves in his native land:
In the book (which will be published in English next year) the author waxes poetic on the joys of living in Britain. He writes of superior baguettes (made by English hands with English flour), our lovely climate (“You never get a completely grey day like in Paris”), the charming locals (“Shop assistants that actually smile at you!”), a more varied intellectual life and a capital city more conducive to love than a moonlit stroll by the Seine. London, concludes Levy, is everything Paris was 40 years ago.

“There are 300,000 of us in the UK now and it isn’t like we all come here just to get a job. It is more than economic. It’s about open minds. You may look uptight with your trench coats and umbrellas, but you are really very relaxed — more relaxed than we can ever be,” says Levy.

“Because of that, when you land here you feel as if you can do anything. The French try to restrain the attractiveness of England by saying it is only for jobs that we should come, but they should forget that. England is the land of opportunity. It is just like America 100 years ago.”
Naturally I agree with this judgment, but it's surprising he appreciates Brit friendliness - I'd thought all French people liked being surly. And in fairness London's pizazz owes a lot to French exiles

And here's a view from NYC:
It's a city of nearly 8 million where Mayor Bloomberg owns a townhouse. Paul McCartney, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Madonna all own homes here, too. It competed to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Architects Daniel Libeskind, Norman Foster, and Richard Rogers are all working here or have recently completed buildings. Rupert Murdoch owns a big, conservative, tabloid newspaper here. The art scene is sizzling, real estate is super-pricey, and sushi-lovers can choose from at least two Nobu restaurants. The business world revolves around a big stock market and lots of new hedge funds.

The list of parallels between New York and London has always been long, but lately, with booming economies in both cities and trendy restaurants moving into old industrial neighborhoods, the two are looking more like mirror images...


"London is by far the closest city to New York on almost every scale," the deputy mayor for economic development in the Bloomberg administration, Daniel Doctoroff, said. "In terms of the number of people, the percentage of people who are foreign born. It's arguable that there is no city that is more similar to New York than London anywhere."
This is as close as any New Yorker will come to admitting his native city is not Numero Uno. What's happened here is the move of the IPO market from NYC to London, courtesy Sarbanes Oxley.

Bear in mind though that we're talking central London - all three cities deteriorate rapidly as you move away from the center.

So central London is tops right now - enjoy it while you can!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Israel's Oil Weapon

Earlier posts listed the eight biggest threats to Israel’s existence, how these might wipe over 90% of Israelis off the map, and explained why the Iranian fear state could perpetrate this second holocaust.

We suggested how this threat may change Israel’s
political, economic, and military posture and how Israel is stronger without allies.

This post is a "What If" analysis of how Israel might confront the threat to its existence posed by oil. We don't advocate the suggested outcomes - merely note they're likely.

Oil prices
rose massively over the past 3 years:
The price of standard crude oil…was under $25/barrel in September 2003…A record price of $78.40 per barrel was reached on July 13, 2006, due in part to North Korea’s missile launches, Middle East Crisis, Iranian nuclear brinkmanship and reports from the U.S department of energy showing a decline in petroleum reserves...
The top 10 oil net exporters in 2004 were:

CountryNet Oil Exports (million barrels/day, 2004)
Saudi Arabia8.73
Russia6.67
Norway2.91
Iran2.55
Venezuela2.36
United Arab Emirates2.33
Kuwait2.20
Nigeria 2.19
Mexico 1.80
Algeria1.68


All except Norway and Mexico are corrupt fear states.

The average price increase since 2003 is about $30 per barrel so over the past 3 years oil consumers paid Russia (2004 GDP 740 billion) an extra $220 billion, and Iran (2005 GDP $181 billion) an extra $83 billion.

That’s why Iran and Russia are playing "nuclear brinkmanship" – it makes them rich - and explains how they can spend so much on weapons.

Eventually the oil will run out and Iran and Russia will decline. But by then Israel and other democracies may be gone.

The ideal solution would be for the world to quickly replace oil as an energy source with nuclear power plants and renewables. But even at current prices only France and Japan – both democracies with managed economies – have done that. The US and UK have market-driven economies that won’t move to replace oil power until they get strong price signals.

To trigger these pragmatists to switch would take a big price hike (to $150?), and we don't know the reduction in supply needed to trigger this increase. We do know that any price hike has to be seen by the market to be permanent - temporary reductions such as Saddam’s burning of Kuwait’s oil fields don’t effect investment decisions.

Still, absent a price/demand elasticity model, it seems likely that the move away from oil would accelerate if the exports of Iran and Russia were permanently and significantly reduced.

So a state such as Israel that faces extinction by those nations could look to reduce their cash flow from oil, by interdicting oil fields, production facilities, and distribution networks.

That still doesn’t solve the problem, since switching to new energy sources will take 20 years, and during that time the oil exporters might get even fatter and happier on the higher prices. However the discounted value of their assets would be undermined, forcing their ruling elites to face up to the need to modernize and democratize. Or they might just start a war, but then they’re headed that way anyway…

So Israel’s geologists, chemists, special warfare units, and targeting people may now be figuring out how to destroy Iran’s and maybe Russia’s oilfields.