Archive for December, 2006

December 31st, 2006

Ayles Ice Shelf cracks at the North Pole

Posted in Earth Agony by ed

Al Gore focused on the collapse of the Larsen ice shelf into the sea off Antartica in An Inconvenient Truth. I remember watching those photos, across that month in 2002, as the expert commentators reeled. It seems something similar is happening up north:

Ancient Ice Shelf Snaps, Breaks Free in Canadian Arctic

The Associated Press, December 28, 2006

TORONTO — A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a “major” reason for the event.

The Ayles Ice Shelf — 66 square kilometers (41 square miles) of it — broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.

… “This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years,” Vincent said. “We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead.”

The ice shelf was one of six major shelves remaining in Canada’s Arctic. They are packed with ancient ice that is more than 3,000 years old. They float on the sea but are connected to land.

… Using U.S. and Canadian satellite images, as well as seismic data — the event registered on earthquake monitors 250 kilometers (155 miles) away — Copland discovered that the ice shelf collapsed in the early afternoon of Aug. 13, 2005.

… Copland said the speed with which climate change has effected the ice shelves has surprised scientists.

“Even 10 years ago scientists assumed that when global warming changes occur that it would happen gradually so that perhaps we expected these ice shelves just to melt away quite slowly,” he said.

aitposter.jpg How long, Adonai, how long?

December 29th, 2006

Must see new 9/11 demolitions documentary

New this past September (five years since) is the best documentary yet on the demolition of the Twin Towers and 7WTC: “9/11 Mysteries, Part 1: The Demolitions.”

This is a mature, rounded and well-founded argument.  Brought to you by the good folks at 911weknow.com.

911mysteriesposter1.jpg Pop some corn. Invite some friends.

December 29th, 2006

Activist lawyer, journalist, defenestrated?

Posted in These United States by ed

LAWYER FALLS TO DEATH AT HOTEL
Police suspect Paul Sanford committed suicide

By Julia Reynolds, Monterey Herald Staff Writer

In what police describe as a “probable” suicide leap, a prominent Monterey Bay Area attorney fell at least nine floors to his death at the Embassy Suites Hotel Monterey Bay in Seaside the morning before Christmas.

Shortly before 9:30 a.m. Sunday, officers found the body of Aptos attorney Paul Sanford in the west end of the hotel lobby, where he had landed on a large ventilation grate.

Police Capt. Steve Cercone said horrified guests were eating breakfast in the atrium at the time, and a number of witnesses saw Sanford fall from somewhere between the 9th and 12th floors.

… He appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 beside Elk Grove resident Michael Newdow when he argued unsuccessfully that the words “under God” should be stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance.A passionate believer in “a dynamic Constitution,” Sanford always carried a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket, Mills said. “He was a champion of the downtrodden, he represented homeless people in Santa Cruz, and fought for free speech,” Mills said. “He did a run across America. You name it he’s done it. This is a real shock and a loss to the community.”

Mills said Sanford decided in recent years to add journalism to his many occupations.

Almost immediately, he caused a stir after he joined the White House Press Corps in 2005, making waves as the first reporter to ask then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan whether the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name might be considered an act of treason.

“There has been a lot of speculation concerning the meaning of the underlying statute and the grand jury investigation concerning Mr. Rove,” Sanford asked. “The question is, have the legal counsel to the White House or White House staff reviewed the statute in sufficient specificity to determine whether a violation of that statute would, in effect, constitute treason?”

McClellan was apparently flustered by the question and replied that “those are matters for those overseeing the investigation to decide.”

… Friends and associates expressed disbelief at the news of Sanford’s death and that it was ruled a suicide, saying Sanford seemed happy and had made many plans for this week and in coming months. Mills said he and Sanford recently decided to open a shared law office to serve Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, something Sanford was looking forward to doing…. Mills said he had spoken to Sanford’s wife, Paula, and that she also was in shock. He said Sanford, a father of two, was a devoted family man.

“This is a horrible thing for his family. He would never have intentionally put his family through that trauma. Something’s not right, it doesn’t make sense.”

Police said that before Sanford fell, hotel housekeepers saw him pacing the hallway of an upper floor. Cercone said Sanford’s car was parked next to the hotel, and he was not checked in as a guest.

Police declined to state exactly why they ruled the case a suicide.

Mills said he and Sanford often met at Chili’s restaurant next to Embassy Suites Hotel Monterey Bay because the KRXA studio was nearby. …
Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648-1187 or jreynolds@montereyherald.com.

(End of article from The Monterey Herald)

December 29th, 2006

Neologistical Amusement

Posted in Arts & Private Life by ed

The Washington Post runs an annual neologism contest.

Part One, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Part Two, in which readers are asked to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition:

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

9. Karmageddon (n): It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you’re eating.

16. Ignoranus (n): A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

My offering for Part Two: Eblaborate (v): To go on and on counterproductively in an effort to make a point.

December 20th, 2006

Iranian elections looking hopeful. But is the Petrodollar Imperative still kicking?

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

If the early reports of the Iranian elections hold and are instituted, it seems they may exert a moderating influence on the Iranian government — and thus perhaps on the attack-dog elements in Tel Aviv and Washington.

However:

On Monday Iran stated its intention to convert their dollar assets to euros — and to start selling oil in euros instead of dollars.

Next day Tony Blair gives a hyperventilating & fire-breathing (must hurt) speech calling for a united global campaign against Iran. High vitriol. Seemingly from out of nowhere.

And, also Tuesday, the Pentagon announces its intent to frighten Iran by sending aircraft carrier groups to the Persian Gulf.

(Odd, in a way, in that the Navy is scared s–tless by missiles Iran possesses that were made in China to sink big ships. (Recall the shocking destruction of a Brit cruiser in the Falklands war by a French Exocet missile.) Aircraft carriers may be today where battleships were (in the US Navy mind) on December 6, 1941.)

However that may be, threats to sell oil outside the dollar, followed by threats of war, preceded the American attacks on Iraq in 1991 and 2003. Perhaps then the line in the sand is the universal petrodollar regime.

The once almighty dollar is down roughly a third against the euro since the latter was born, and the consensus among finance brains is that the slide will continue into the foreseeable future. Alan Greenspan, for one, surprised the world last week by saying just this, and that it made sense to him that fat holders of foreign exchange (e.g., Japan, China) would continue to diversify out of dollars.

Talk of the petrodollar scheme as irresistable casus belli is old hat among armchair stangeloves. The thesis: the Americans will do anything to protect the dollar from the collapse sure to ensue if people started buying oil in, say, yuan (the Chinese currency). Such people would no longer have to buy dollars to buy oil, and this huge steady drop in demand for dollars would cause them to crash against the major liquid currencies (euro, yen, swiss franc, pound sterling). Americans would experience Weimar-like hyperinflation and their fat-assed so-called lifestyle would go down the toilet.

But it may be that the world turns, and that the increasingly global ruling class is restructuring and relocating its business so radically that the benefits of a lower dollar are perhaps approaching break-even point with the costs. It may be that the owner-operators of the US are less worried about the dollar than the armchairists realize.

Nevertheless, it’s provocative and cause for pause to find the Pentagon rattling sabres and Mr Blair spitting foam for a global crusade the very day after the Iranian announcement. Perhaps, then, it remains indeed unwritten law: If the “wogs” try to sell oil outside the dollar, they get war.

If so, the revived Anglo-American martial passion will gel well with the fire-breathers in Tel Aviv. I read the Jerusalem Post every day. The Menance of Tehran seems to loom large there; the desire for war brazen. Perhaps, despite the encouraging election reports out of Tehran, the war of Iranian pacification first dreamt in public by Richard Perle in 1995 is back on the front burner. To protect the wheezing dollar. Perhaps we’ll know sooner than later.

December 13th, 2006

Your Handy REAL ESTATE Update

Posted in Money, These United States by ed

1. NY Times Doing its Best.
2. NY 3rd Qtr Home Prices Held Up Better Than Most.
3. Mortgage Rate Trend Turning?
4. Primary Mortgage vs Home Equity Lines
5. My Big Decision
——————–

1. The NY Times is doing everything it can to keep the local real estate bubble from popping.

– Earlier this week:

“WOMEN UNAFRAID OF CONDO COMMITMENT — By Christine Haughney
While some men wait for deals, women spend, especially in Brooklyn. And word of mouth is a powerful tool. One friend talks to another, who in turn talks to another friend, who …”

This story focused on single women buying new luxury condos in DUMBO, where you hear and perhaps feel the subways rattle across the Manhattan Bridge every six minutes. The developer selling the units declared himself “Amazed!” at recent displays of femme financial fortitude.

– And now today:

“BUYING AS A TEAM — By Amy Gunderson
Mixing friends and real estate has its share of risk, but splitting a property among multiple owners often makes financial and practical sense.”

Go team go. Buy con-dos.

2. The NYC area is one of the few nationwide showing median price growth from 3rd Quarter 2005 to 3rd Quarter 2006. See attached PDF, from the Nat’l Assoc of Realtors.

No doubt sales volume decreased (our co-op here in Brooklyn certainly has seen fewer sales this year). But price, the NAR says, has been holding on.

How long, Adonai, how long?

3. Mortgage Rates. I am calling a mid-term bottom. Locked my refinance today at 6.0%.

Rates for NYC apartments peaked around 7% in May or so, have been coming down since August. Dipped last Tuesday to 5.875, just for a day. Flat 6.0 since. My best guess now heading back up, after a bad day at black rock.

The charts for the 10-year Treasury (best proxy for mortg rates, or rather, for the Residential Mortgage-Backed bonds that are the basis of the mortgage business) are horribly conflicted — strong trend lines pointing both up and down, depending on parameters chosen.

Meanwhile the fall’s stream of poor economic news (good for bonds usually) has been marred the past week and again today by signs of economic life (wages, service-sector “growth”, today retail sales and crude oil drawdowns). So the bond traders are selling, and their measurable hopes for Fed rate cuts have been pushed back from early 2007 to June or so.

Today eg the Treasury tried to sell more November 2016 bonds and got a poor response. And so tomorrow the new December 10-years look to get same treatment. Reflected in the TNX chart, which you can access here. Use the stock symbol “TNX” to get a chart of the yield on 10-yr U.S. Treasuries, which tracks mortgage rates pretty well. See the abrupt upward shot today, which seems likely to follow thru. (As the purchase price of a bond goes down, its effective yield goes up, since you’re paying less for the same amount of interest.)

4. Rates on Mortgages and Home Equity Lines Move Differently.

As said, primary mortgage rates float with the bond market.

(The whole biz is based on the banks’ ability to sell the mortgages they lend out into trusts that in turn issue & sell mortgage-backed bonds, thus distributing the risk of lending to dubious characters like me among the global institutional investing public. So if the bond market gets tight, the mortgage banks feel the lack of buyers and tighten up on new lending.)

But rates on Home Equity Lines (even though these home loans also get routinely securitized and sold as bonds to the public) float not with the bond market but with the Prime Rate.

And the Prime Rate almost never changes unless the Fed changes the limits on the two short-term banking rates that it regulates.

(Yesterday the Fed met and made no change. Increased rates 17 times/months in a row since 2004, then stopped earlier this year. People now waiting for a decrease since recession seems all but certain soon.)

So — all this fall we had mortgage rates coming down because the bond market was going up, because the bond traders saw poor economic performance in the weekly and monthly data.

But the Fed hasn’t yet budged on the same data. And so the Home Equity Line rates are as high as they were in March.

And now (as said) the bond market seems to be tanking a bit, and so mortg rates will start rising.

5. And So — What to Do If One Is Looking to Sink Oneself into the Mire of Home Debt?

The Home Equity Lines will get cheaper if the Fed ever lowers rates. Meanwhile primary mortgages got cheaper all fall, but, if I’m right, they’re about to start getting more expensive.

A fortiori: If new war breaks out in the mideast — between Iran and Israel/US, I mean — then it seems oil will skyrocket and that’ll really scare the bond traders (higher primary mortg rates) and probably forestall any Fed decrease for foreseeable future (no Home Equity rate decrease).

Even without new war, oil has been going up since the elections from its odd dip this fall to 54 or so. (I think Exxon wanted you to vote Republican.) Think it closed around $62 today. $74+ the high earlier this year.

And OPEC meets tomorrow. General expectation is for production cuts, which will increase oil price. (But, as chatted earlier this week, there are jokers in the woodpile and a chance of no cuts, either to make things easier for the fat-assed American Christmas, or perhaps for the coming war.)

All of which to explain why I locked my 6.0% refinance of my primary mortgage today. Seems better than using a home equity line, despite the flexibility of the latter. (Actually I’ll probably use a little of both, in the end.)

Funds to be used to make a movie. Nothing better to do.

December 10th, 2006

Speculating on Oil & War

Posted in Mideast & Oil, Money by ed

A minor speculation, offered for amusement, to be tested this coming Thursday when OPEC meets.

1. In the past weeks several OPEC oil ministers told the press that cuts in oil production will be agreed to at the meeting, to prop prices in the face of the early autumn’s precipitous and surprising drop.

(“Surprising” (i) heading into winter and (ii) given tense mideast affairs. Some wags along the way suggested that the price drop was due to the Oil Mafia ( the big four companies that control oceanic distribution and many pipelines) loosening distribution channels in an effort to encourage Americans to vote Republican in November. Along “the economy, stupid!” lines. Cheaper gas prices leading to a vote for the status quo.)

(Same or similar wags had earlier in the year speculated that the Oil Mafia was squeezing distribution channels in an effort to keep oil at $70 a barrel — at which price the vast oil shale deposits of Colorado’s western slope become economically viable sources of crude.)

2. Last weekend Cheney flew unannounced to Saudi Arabia, met for two hours with King Abdullah, then flew back to wherever it is the Vice President sits in the Age of Terror.

My speculative surmise at the time: Dick and Abdullah talked turkey about the quickly evolving and dissolving mideast and Washington scenes — and in particular about an imminent Israeli attack on Iran.

3. A. Then, this past Thursday (Pearl Harbor Day), the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. suddenly spoke up on the price of oil, contradicting not only brethren OPECs but his own oil minister. The ambassador told the press that current prices — $60ish (they’d risen from the low 50s since the elections) — were acceptable and that the “consumer economies” should not be disrupted.

Ie, OPEC should NOT cut production at the upcoming meeting. See here and here for more.

3B. If indeed an attack on Iran is pending, it would be sensible for Cheney (last Neocon standing in Bushworld) to clue the Saudis in — and to ask that rather than ratchet production down they prepare to pump it up. To compensate for disruptions of Iranian and, who knows, perhaps Russian supply.

(Iran sends the lion-share of its oil east to China. Russia heats a good deal of Europe with gas and is the third (?) biggest holder of oil reserves. Both China and Russia supply Iran with fancy weapons and moral support, most recently by inviting Iran as a “special observer” to the annual Shanghai Cooperation Organization summer summit. The SCO is often referred to as “the asian NATO” and one of its chief tasks has been to push back American intrusion into the Istans of central Asia since the fall of the Soviet Union.)

3C. It might seem odd that Saudi Arabia’s US ambassador would call in the press to talk oil production up. But it makes sense, in the scenario we contemplate, because the Saudi OIL MINISTER, Naimi, is perhaps the world’s most eminent Oil Man, a life-long employee since childhood of Aramco, well known to refuse to suffer fools gladly — and following the odd comments of his ambassador Naimi repeated for the press his position that production should be cut by a million barrels a day to work off a glut. (And note that in speeches across the past several post-9/11 years Naimi has routinely blamed high oil prices on the Oil Mafia — ie, on distribution choke-ups, rather than true lack of supply.)

4. And then on Friday (yesterday), The Wall Street Journal of all people published a piece asserting that there should and would be no OPEC production cuts, citing anonymous “cartel officials”:

OPEC Unlikely to Cut Production Further: WSJ
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — With oil prices back above $60 a barrel and the global economy slowing, OPEC is likely to refrain from further tightening its oil spigots when cartel ministers meet next week, according to a media report Friday. Barring big moves in crude-oil prices in the next few days, OPEC probably won’t call for a reduction in output when cartel ministers meet Thursday in Abuja, Nigeria, The Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition, citing unnamed cartel officials.”

This WSJ story had the markets abuzz Friday, and the price of oil fell, having run up all during the week in anticipation of the OPEC meeting and in reaction to the heat in mideast capitals.

5. And now today (Saturday) the OPEC President and several oil ministers have come out rather annoyed with the Wall Street Journal to repeat their views that production should indeed be cut, somewhere between 0.5 and 1.5 million bbls.

6. AND SO

It looks like the Americans, perhaps indeed first thru Cheney in his visit to Abdullah last weekend, were trying to get the Saudis to sway OPEC away from production cuts. Pushing the poor Washington ambassador out there into the klieg lights. But the oil ministers have reasserted themselves and on Monday traders will again be expecting production cuts and thus pressure for higher prices.

So. Let’s see on Thursday who won this little battle.

If production is not cut, prices will fall back below $60, and I’ll tally another Occult Signal of an impending attack on Iran, which I imagine will send oil shooting toward $100 a barrel and perhaps engulf the world in flames.

You can check prices on oil, orange juice, pork bellies and the like (slightly delayed) here and get nice charts for same here.

POST SCRIPT

Well, look at this. Hot off the wires on Sunday:

Iran’s oil man saying production cuts should be substantial enough to push oil back to $70 as floor.

And from Dubai, China’s Assistant Sec’y of Foreign Affairs reaching out for a special relationship with OPEC, expressing concern for the stability of the oil flow and speaking of Iraq in particular:

China Wants to Start Direct Negotiations With OPEC
Associated Press 12/09/2006
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — China wants to start direct negotiations with OPEC to secure a stable oil supply and an equitable share of the oil market, a top official said here, in comments that underline the Chinese economy’s rapidly growing energy needs.

Zhai Jun, China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs, told conference participants in Dubai that his country was trying to develop “a negotiating mechanism with OPEC.”

“Only through this can we maintain security and stability of our oil imports,” Zhai said in a speech to the Arab Strategy Forum here.

Soaring demand for oil in rapidly industrializing China has been blamed as one of the chief causes for oil prices that have spiraled higher over the past two years.

Zhai, speaking in Chinese, appeared to refer to another cause for higher prices — instability in oil producing countries like Iraq and Nigeria — when he said China wants to step up efforts to end strife that destabilized the oil marketplace.

“We need to eliminate these hot spot issues,” he said.

China is an increasingly big consumer of raw materials and has been seeking a greater voice in pricing of several commodities. The country, which Zhai said imports six percent of the crude traded globally, has been setting up strategic oil reserves and aggressively seeking new suppliers in Africa and South America to help diversify its crude supply. Zhai termed it the “global race for energy.”

“China’s influence is growing in the Arab world,” he said.

He said the Asian giant was opening its energy sector to outside investment and looking to cooperate with foreign partners across its oil sector. Zhai said the country was looking for more formal ties with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, but didn’t elaborate.

“Currently we’re making preparations to establish a dialogue mechanism with oil producers,” the Chinese diplomat said. “We want to participate as much as possible in some of the big decision processes on the world stage.”

During a visit by OPEC president Sheik Ahmad Fahad Al Ahmad Al-Sabah to China last year, the two sides discussed “institutionalizing” a dialogue, acknowledging China’s increasing importance as an importer of oil and gas.

China imported 136 million tons of crude in 2005 and produced 181 million. The Arab Strategy Forum brings together business, academic and political leaders from around the world to discuss development and political issues of global interest.

December 9th, 2006

Jerusalem Post & Palestinian premier slouching toward Armageddon

Posted in Mideast & Oil by ed

1. Interesting piece (posted as a comment below) in The Jerusalem Post, following upon last week’s turmoil in the mideast and this week’s arrival of Baker/Gates in D.C. as the new voices of American foreign policy. (Gates was confirmed by Senate after saying the US policy in Iraq was garbage in, garbage out. And Baker’s Iraq Study Group released it’s recommendations: Turn the Bush policy on its head.)

Today the lead editorial in The Jerusalem Post responded — with an angry and rather frightened & frightening assessment of the new American policy. And concluded with a call to Olmert & co. to “immediately” strike Iran’s nuke facilities and “regime command and control centers.” Of course they know this would mean war.

War, then, before the Dems take over Congress? Or enhanced sabre-rattling?

Was this why Cheney flew to Saudi Arabia for two hours last weekend? Getting ducks in line best he could? Including perhaps a suggestion that the production cuts OPEC has been signaling the past few weeks (for the meeting this coming Thursday the 14th) should be turned off; that the oil suppliers of the so-called Western democracies may soon have to ratchet production up rather than down, to compensate for the disruption an attack on Iran would produce.

Idle speculation that one hope goes unrealized. But there’s no lack of clarity about the Likud’s reaction (in the Jerusalem Post piece) to the new (old) faces in Washington.

2. MEANWHILE the Palestinian premier in Tehran echos the fey Iranian prez’s calls for Israel’s destruction:

QUOTE Mr Haniyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, speaking at Friday prayers at the University of Tehran, said: “The world arrogance [a reference to the US] and Zionists … want us to recognise the usurpation of the Palestinian lands and stop jihad and resistance and accept the agreements reached with the Zionist enemies in the past.Ignoring US and British calls to recognise Israel, Mr Haniyeh said: “We will never recognise the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem. END QUOTE

It does seem the genie is out of the bottle. Israel’s future, as its past, is war, and it seems a war Israeilis cannot win. They can keep fighting in perpetuity, as the Jerusalem Post calls upon them to do. But peace through war seems at best now a nightmare.

It IS very much like Syracuse and Athens. The former an affluent colony of the latter, planted in Sicily during the height of classical Athens, ca 450 bc.

Syracuse flourished but from the start had to fight to carve out their space. Athens sent troops to assist to Sicily. But slowly its colony at Syracuse, outnumbered, died. But not before drawing Athens into a much larger war with its powerful Greek neighbors, who banded together to defeat the Athenians. Upon which the famous foundational Athenian democracy collapsed, to be succeeded by a parade of tyrannical cabals.  Along the way Socrates was compelled to drink hemlock for corrupting young minds with questions.

That seems the template. Israel is for most geopolitical intents and purposes a bumptious American colony, like Syracuse affluent but alone among angry neighbors who fail to forgive and forget a foundational war of conquest.

Israel may or may not have been in dire peril in 1992 (when the Likud lobby began its campaign to realize the U.S. mideast policy we see in progress today).  But today Israel’s survival does seem at stake.  Its attack on Beirut this summer was a horrendous war crime that no Arab among 200+ million will forgive or forget.  Hezbollah has now been vested with the prestige of Al Qaeda and seems intent upon toppling the Lebanese government. Iraq continues to devolve.  And China and Russia continue to signal muscular support for Tehran.  The cult of war has won out.

Perhaps nothing but war was possible for an Israel hoping to found itself in Palestine in 1948.  Yet there was an alternative, at the time — a proposal to site the Jewish homeland in South America.

One of Rumsfeld’s chief intellectual “mentors,” I’m sorry to say, was Robert Goldwin, an practical philosopher associated with my undergrad college for a while before he went to Washington.  Goldwin (Jewish) was somewhat influential at the time of Israel’s founding, argued for the Guyana alternative, and thought it a fatal & tragic (in wake and light of the nazi assault) error when the brits and americans consented to make the zionist theories real, authorizing, among other things, the claim on Jerusalem, which seems as absurd as the legends that plague serbian politics. Goldwin’s mantra was “America is the Promised Land.”

However that may be, here we are, fifty-eight years later, the foundational war having never ceased in peace, with the Palestinian premier calling from Fortress Tehran for the liberation of Jerusalem. While the sharp woman at The Jerusalem Post shouts “Bring it on!” There seems no way to stop this war. Three generations have been decimated by it. They shall overcome to the bitter end. How deeply the U.S., Russia, Iran and China share the cup seems the only question.