Sunday :: Nov 9, 2003

The Gang That Couldn't Rule Straight

by pessimist

This hasn't been such a good week for George W. Bush and his foreign buddies.

Take Tony Blair - Please! Thank You! I got a dozen of 'em!

Fresh from a bout with arrythmia, which shows it's a good thing that he won't be summoned for trial over his Oil War activities, he now has to deal with challenges from Chancellor Gordon Brown over the vagueness of the EU draft constitution and over Labour Party platform influence. Brown, essentially Britain's Greenspan, has another issue to deal with which also affects Blair - rising interest rates. (See same article) The British people are already grumbling. Even heard discussion on the BBC last night over whether Blair has had his day.

Prime Minister John Howard of Australia is also facing interest rate unrest while raisng the hopes of mothers over daycare subsidies opposed by fiscal hawks. And we all thought he was a conservative!

North of Australia, Junichiro Koizumi managed to hang on to his seat but now has to rule with a weakened majority. Japanese voters are becoming impatient for promised changes. He's in for a rough ride, especially if he gives in to Bush and sends troops to Iraq, something the Japanese people aren't too keen on. It might hasten the rise of a two-party political system in Japan - something that has to give George a double plus un-beautiful mind.

Back in the USSR, ol' Pooty-poot has troubles of his own. He seems to be playing political chicken over his attempts at confiscation private businesses while risking someone else to topple him and reestablish a dictatorship in Russia.

In the words of Vladimir Gusinsky, former head of NTV:

I was born and grew up in the Soviet Union and I know fear well. My grandfather was executed by Stalin. My grandmother spent long years in the gulag. Like everyone else I was scared to speak about certain issues out loud. I did not dare to think of challenging the power of the state. Some 15 years ago, I started to lose that fear, as the state we were so afraid of collapsed.

I was certain that fear would not return. Freedom of speech and elections came to Russia. Political parties and politicians emerged who, it seemed, were not afraid of anyone. I and others created NTV, the best television channel in Russia, and then Media-MOST, the largest media company. We built it ourselves, from scratch, without having to purchase privatized state property, and the journalists who worked for us were not scared of telling the truth. I thought this would last for ever.

I was wrong. Having come to power, Putin destroyed our company, shamelessly using the FSB, general prosecutor and obedient courts, and brought the remaining free media under state control. Today all the main TV channels are controlled by the state and the journalists who work there are once again engaged in propaganda.

Damn! Sounds like FAUX NEWS, doesn't it? No wonder Bush thought Putin had a good heart! Putin might achieve that of which Bush has nocturnal emissions dreaming about!

Speaking of the media, Silvio Berlesconi's opponents haven't yet gotten the message that one doesn't mess with Il Duce II. He had managed to get a law passed that blocks any proscecution of him while he's in power, but he has no way to stop any investigations being conducted in the mean time. Seems that he committed fraud in a movie deal with a US company. You know, Scalia's Italian. Maybe we could trade him to the Italian Supreme Court for a jurist to be named later. Berlesconi could use his twisted il-legal mind to get him off somehow, maybe even have him declared dictator for life!

Across the Mediterranean, key Bush Oil War supporter Jose Maria Aznar is stepping down as head of the ruling Popular Party, and has announced that he will not seek reelection in the spring. Maybe he's finally listened to the Spanish people, who have been telling him for a while now that following Bush to Baghdad wasn't such a hot idea. The assassination and the attacks against other Spaniards in Iraq can't have helped any. His replacement, Mariano Rajoy, is expected to mend the broken ties with the rest of Europe. Does this mean we'll have to start calling olive oil freedom fluid?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, George was busy figuring out how to spin the expected market softening after crowing about how well his economic policies work last week.

With third-quarter earnings largely over and continued good economic data already priced in, some say they are now on watch for global factors that could tug stocks down. ``I think there should be consolidation in the coming week,'' said Paul Cherney of Standard & Poor's. ``On a more technical level, we're reaching an area on the chart that means resistance.''

``At this point investors are saying, `Show me the results first and then I will buy,' as opposed to what they were saying before, when the market was undervalued and they were willing to buy in advance on anticipated growth and profits,'' said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo in Minneapolis. ``A change in attitude has occurred.''

``I think it's going to become an event-driven market; there are a lot of things going on in the Mideast and the world that will probably have a bigger impact in the market than the underlying fundamentals or earnings,'' said Robert Mikkelsen, managing director of institutional sales and trading at The Advest Group Inc.

And just like in Britain and Australia, that bad old I-word is peeking around the corner again:

The Producer Price Index, measuring price changes at the wholesale level, gives investors an early read on inflation. Strong indications of rising prices could prompt speculation that the Federal Reserve will soon start to lift its rate target from 1%, a 45-year low. ``The question is: `When?' The stronger data are going to start making people think sooner rather than later, but [the Fed] couldn't possibly do it before March,'' said Mr Cherney. A rise in interest rates, in an attempt to stifle inflation, could hurt stocks as it makes borrowing more expensive for companies and puts the brakes on consumer spending.

Might not be such a good time for Tony Blair to be asking George for a favor:

The Bush administration's policy of indefinite detention without trial at Guantanamo Bay is starting to cause trouble with our closest allies.

The status of two Australians being held there came up in President Bush's meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard who sent troops to fight in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Howard apparently got nothing other than a Bush observation that the imprisoned pair are "part of an ongoing process."

That's the problem. There doesn't appear to be a process, and some have been in prison for two years. The Bush administration says it will hold the 660 prisoners as long it wants, without regard to U.S. law or international treaties. There has been talk of stripped down military tribunals, but the first prisoner has yet to appear before a judge.

And now British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who loyally stood with us on Iraq at considerable political risk, says he wants the nine Britons at Guantanamo either turned over to Britain or tried under proceedings approved by the British. It's little enough to ask of us. For the first time, Blair has put a timetable on resolving the Britons' status "within the next few weeks." The administration is going to have to do something with the prisoners anyway. Accommodating Blair and Howard would be a place to start.

All Blair is really asking us to do is abide by our own standards of due process and the rule of the law. That, too, is little enough to ask.

With friends like these, it's enough to make a man want to rustle up a shady oil deal.

pessimist :: 5:34 PM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!