Extraordinary Renditions

Germany has issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA operatives. It seems they kidnapped a German citizen, flew him to Afghanistan, and interrogated him. The victim claims he was tortured. The Secretary of State has allegedly apologized for the incident since it was mistaken identity.

Imagine that. The wrong guy.

Can we go one step further and say that the same thinking that led to kidnapping the wrong people on foreign soil may have led to the wrong people being interrogated elsewhere?

The issue is systemic. The thinking is endemic. "Everything has changed since September 11." Not our allies, it seems. Not the legal structure of the world. Not the need to communicate with others about our intentions in a bid to get their cooperation.

Just as Russia can't kill on foreign soil and get away without consequences, the U.S. can't kidnap people and interrogate them in other countries. Maybe this is all just leftover Cold War ego.


Predictions for the 21st Century

Econo-Girl is relisting her predictions at the end of this post for reference.

In my family's little German village of Bad Kissingen in 1899, a group of people became convinced that the world would end in 1900. So they gave away their possessions and walked to the top of the mountain, waiting for the inevitable. And waited. And waited.

You can guess the ending.

In a sense, those doomsayers were right, though. The world was ending, but just the world as they knew it.

We are in a similar situation now. We can't see what will happen next. We think the world will end. It won't. It just will be inexplicably and unpredictably different. I don't think its horrible that the Western world is forced to turn to alternative fuels quickly. There is no other way they would do it. Venezuela and Brazil will be in ascendancy and the U.S. will have to change how we deal with them. Not horrible, just different. Russia will be like a nasty old man whose time on the stage is ending. There will be a brief blip from oil and space technology, but it won't last. Every nation in the Middle East will be forced to confront the internal struggles it masks by fighting one another. It may or may not be violent.

Taken in another light, these are not horrible things. Just things to adapt to.


Centrufigal forces within Islam are now unstoppable, and every nation is going to be affected.

Europe and the U.S. will find fuel efficiency and alternative fuels to be fascinating very soon, and worthy of their attention and resources like never before. It will be amazing how quickly alternative fuels become cost-effective.

Russia will see its interests rise again. The immediate demand for oil will have them strutting around again like the old days. Maybe then Putin will smile. Europe will not be as calm the next time Putin throws a tantrum.

Venezuela will become even more insufferable. Brazil will join them.

The trade embargo against Cuba will be lifted.

Israel will have to confront its own problems and grapple with a potential civil war. The religious right will not be a winner in that one.

The political force that is modern Islam is a powerful one. Now let's watch them use that power to kill each other.

U.S. War with Iran

It's possible. Econo-Girl has chatted about the possibility before. While Admadinejad is a loudmouth who rarely backs up his words, he better watch it this time. The U.S. may just pick up the fight.

Admadinejad distracts Iranians from internal problems by beating the anti-Zionist drum. He is betting that Bush does not have the political backing to start warring with Iran.

But that's the thing with Bush: he doesn't always do the expected thing. He certainly doesn't listen to all points of view. Doubtless his advisers will tune carefully to Bush's signals to find out what he really wants to hear and then reflect it back to him..

So Ahmadinejad better think again before taunting the tiger. It's a little irrational and in need of restoring its reputation.


Celebrities and Politics

NEWSFLASH: No one cares what you think, Madonna. The same goes for Jane Fonda or any other celebrity. Yes, they will climb over each other to get a photo with you. It doesn't mean a thing. Yes, reporters will score an easy story to write about you. They don't care, either.

Just shut up and smile, for God's sake.

Al Jazeera Readers on Closing Guantanamo

Econo-Girl has increasing respect for Al Jazeera. Right now they are hosting an open forum on readers' opinions on closing Guantanamo Bay.

Many of the comments are from Americans. Still, in a futile bid to get Americans exposed to foreign perspectives, Econo-Girl links to it. Click on the title to this post to see the comments.

From the Czech Republic, Franta Vrna writes: "[A]nyone who believes that Islamic terrorists are a real threat to Europe or the USA is naive. The main objective for these islamist groups is to seize power in countries of their origin, from which they have been kicked off."

From Belgium, Van Zwam writes: "It should be closed now and those responsible for organising it should be sent to court on charges of crimes against humanity."

From Bangladesh, Jahwa Macs writes: "Guantanamo is a symbol. Closing guantanamo is not the real problem. The creator of guantanamo must stop. "

From the U.S., R. Keeter writes: "There are numerous accusations of torture and mistreatment of the detainees in Guantanamo. However, none of the complainants has any evidence to support their allegations. In fact, I have spoken with a variety of military police personnel that have worked in Guantanamo, and they state unequivocally the detainees receive excellent treatment."

From China, Will writes: "Whether you count the men at Guantanamo as ordinary prisoners or prisoners of war, their certain inalienable rights such as those the USA was founded upon - like the right to fair trial by members of the public, the presumption of innocence until found guilty by said court and the right not to be tortured. Or would the USA not consider stress positions, sleep deprivation, mock executions and being smothered with your own excrement to be torture?"


Sunni vs. Shiite

The bloodshed in the Palestinian Authority is the beginning of the entire region disintegrating. Centrufigal forces within Islam are now unstoppable, and every nation is going to be affected.

Europe and the U.S. will find fuel efficiency and alternative fuels to be fascinating very soon, and worthy of their attention and resources like never before. It will be amazing how quickly alternative fuels become cost-effective.

Russia will see its interests rise again. The immediate demand for oil will have them strutting around again like the old days. Maybe then Putin will smile. Europe will not be as calm the next time Putin throws a tantrum.

Venezuela will become even more insufferable. Brazil will join them.

The trade embargo against Cuba will be lifted.

Israel will have to confront its own problems and grapple with a potential civil war. The religious right will not be a winner in that one.

The political force that is modern Islam is a powerful one. Now let's watch them use that power to kill each other.

Usama bin Laden to Allah: I could have been a contender!

What Do You Think?

Surely even you can see the writing on the wall. The best you can do now is damage control and hope that you aren't sent to prison. Then you can spend the rest of your life contemplating yourself as a torturer.


Eat the Poor

Who are those stupid people lolling about wanting our hard-earned money? Don't tell me how hard it is to work two full-time jobs to feed your family. Econo-Girl doesn't care!

And now you get a tax break for health insurance. Heh heh heh. You don't pay taxes. What does that mean? You get nothing! Old George Bush is keeping up his end of the bargain all right. Eat the poor! You will solve poverty!

Reading List for the Ambitious Terrorist

You may hate it, but eventually you will have to communicate with the people you hate to get something done. Communicate with something other than a bomb, that is. These books are a good start on how to do that.

  • Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Paperback)
by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Bruce Patton (Editor)

Introduces the concept of a win-win resolution.

  • Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies
by John Paul Lederarch

Field stories of building coalitions in war-torn lands.

An Iraq Exit Plan

The U.S. can get out of Iraq. Here 's how: Have a referendum on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission related to Saddam Hussein's era and its aftermath.

The logic is that the Iraqis will have to be willing to keep the peace all on their own. Getting along will mean having to get over the injustices done to them one way or another. And that applies to everyone.

But they won't be willing to. They won't be willing to find a way to get past revenge and on to reconstruction.

And that's when the U.S. can get out of Iraq and save face. When the referendum is voted down.

We can't make the Iraqi government have a referendum. So we can do it online ourselves. It would be a total farce, of course. But relative to other plans, not such a bad idea.

Or the referendum can be shown in another way, such as stopping violence to talk.

There needs to be a way that the Iraqi people can show their commitment to moving forward. And fail. Then we have an out.


Space Race: Military Might in the Sky

China shot one of its own satellites out of the sky the other day. This is important because it implies that China could shoot one of our satellites out of the sky. Not that they said they would do that, far from it. China went out of its way to inform Japan and the United States of its action.

More important is that supremacy of space will determine who the next superpower is.

Controlling space means controlling the skies, communications and transportation. So China has thrown its hat in the ring. That little missile has hit a big target indeed.

Stay tuned. The fallout should be big.

Anna Politkovskaya

The Committee to Protect Journalists are on one side, Mother Russia on the other.

The Committee to Protect Journalists insists that Russian prosecutors were investigating Chechen police related to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Russian officials deny this claim.

What Econo-Girl thinks happened was that Russians told this "investigating Chechen police" story to visiting U.S. journalists so they wouldn't look so bad. The visiting U.S. journalists told it to The Committee to Protect Journalists, who leaked it.

Newsflash: the Russians were lying. They aren't investigating who killed Anna Politkovskaya. They don't care. Just like they don't care about the other dozen journalists killed since Putin came to power. And they never will.


War vs. Universal Health Care and Free College Education

So what is it with these Republicans? If anyone had suggested that we spend billions improving our education system, make college free, and gave everyone health insurance, they would have been called a Socialist.

But given the chance to spend billions to kill people, they're all over it.

George Bush is looking for a legacy that isn't Iraq, and he's stumbled on the availability of health insurance. So tomorrow night we will hear a speech that he could have made at the beginning of his reign, but he was afraid of looking weak or not pandering to his base.

Now that he's desperate, America is starting to get what it needs: universal health care.


Fashion, Anorexia and Media

Econo-Girl is going to tell a little story from her time in Saudi Arabia.

It was after the first Gulf War when Econo-Girl went to Saudi Arabia. There were no images of women's bodies anywhere. All pictures of women were ones where they were draped in black cloth.

At the time, Econo-Girl was obsessed with her weight. She had been on diets on and off since she was nine. "Am I fat?" was a constant worry.

That trip to Saudi Arabia was three weeks long and Econo-Girl gained about ten pounds while there.

The funny thing is, though, I felt thin as a whistle. No advertisements peered down on me showing me what I should look like. No air-brushed photos held an ideal not even pre-teen models could reach.

The experience taught me the power of imagery and advertising. So, yes Giselle, the fashion industry is part of the anorexia problem. Let's eat cheesecake and be merry!

Iran: Inflation and Sanctions

Well this seems to be Ahmadinejad's week all right. The cost of tomatoes has tripled, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning Iran's nuclear program, three thousand people a month are dying from pollution in Tehran, housing prices are skyrocketing - it's hard to imagine what else could happen to get the guy down.

Americans of a certain age will remember the political kiss of death that inflation was to Jimmy Carter.

Let's try to step into Ahmadinejad's shoes.

  1. Ahmadinejad is facing open discontent from Iranians because of his loudmouth antics. They feel Iran has already suffered enough from isolation, why is this guy adding to it? Iranians correctly feel that isolation leads to a worse economy;
  2. Kids and older people are dying from not being able to breathe because of the pollution;
  3. The UN Security Council passed a resolution against Iran's nuclear program;
  4. Inflation has kicked in, which always gets an electorate angry.

So what does Ahmadinejad do? He decides to test missiles and start military maneuvers. This guy just doesn't get it. He isn't listening to his people and he isn't listening to the world. Not a recipe for political success.

Econo-Girl is most interested in how Ahmadinejad will react when he is voted out of office. Will he threaten the Iranians with military action too?


Mocking the Pope

The Catholic Church has tried to stop the MTV cartoon "Popetown" from being shown in Lithuania through legal action. It has failed.

Banning speech is generally not an effective way of suppressing it. And let's not forget You Tube, Blogger, etc as a means of getting around any local restriction. In effect, there is no way to prevent a message from reaching an audience if you're determined enough.

All this makes the stance of the Lithuanian Catholic Church puzzling. Why fight for something that will only promote a message you don't like? Somebody get those priests Blackberrys.

Click on the title to this post for the free one paragraph summation.

Let's Invade Cuba!

Econo-Girl joined the communists last night. Not in an ideological sense, just sat in the same audience with them to watch a film.

The film criticized the U.S. economic blockage of Cuba. It referred to the damage done to the Cuban people. While Econo-Girl doesn't accept all of it, there is some truth in what they describe.

Then, in a fit of irony, the film talked about how the Cuban economy had been run by the subsidiaries of transnational companies. Hmmm. What do they think will happen when the blockade ends? The U.S. companies will run in there like money is raining from the sky.

And then, the Cuban government will be answering to the transnational companies investing in its infrastructure. It will be like an invasion. Be careful what you wish for.


Ahmadinejad In Trouble

One of the challenges of being an obnoxious loudmouth is that you need to deliver the goods to keep your support. That's where Ahmadinejad is failing. He promised lower food prices and Iranians are upset at the price of tomatoes in Tehran.

Let's set aside for a moment how 3000 people are dying each month in Tehran from pollution. People have to be upset at that.

Econo-Girl is impressed at the ability of the Iranian people to hold a leader to account by examining the bottom line. Yes, if oil profits will be used to lower the cost of food, then its success will be shown in the supermarket. And if it can't be seen there, it hasn't been a success.

Americans don't seem to have such a single-minded focus. Like when President Bush told us that Saddam Hussein had a role in 9-11, then told us that he sponsored terrorism, then told us that even though no weapons of mass destruction were found Saddam Hussein was still a threat to the U.S. and getting rid of him was a good thing.

And how many Americans have supported President Bush all along this logical chain, never sticking to the initial promise and looking for its fulfillment? A lot.

So it seems the Iranians are more adept at measuring the promises of their leaders. Good for them.

Death Series - Fighting Radical Islam in a Democracy

Banning offensive speech doesn't work.

Australian authorities are outraged at DVDs one of the their citizens produced called "Death Series" where some young man who can't get attention any other way calls for extreme measures of violence against Jews and women. He (and Econo-Girl is not using his name deliberately) encourages parents to teach their children that martyrdom is the greatest thing they can achieve.

Econo-Girl is interested particularly in the approach of Australia in trying to contain this boy's ideas. They begin criminal prosecution against him for inciting terrorism. Religious leaders, including Islamic leaders, condemn his message.

Has it occurred to these leading Australians that their condemnation encourages people to support this boy's radical ideas?

Econo-Girl recommends making people aware of the message in the DVDs "Death Series" but don't mention the name of the "cleric" at all. Ask mainstream Islamic clerics to review the quality of the message in the DVDs and distribute that, not as parental outrage, but as a studied and academic criticism of its message. Outright banning is not the solution. Neither is criminal prosecution alone.

Outright banning of a DVD only appeals to the emotional adolescent who is the target of these rantings. Counter the message and the messenger. And don't promote the messenger by naming him. Recognize the need this boy is fulfilling and try to fill it in a constructive way. See the appeal of his DVD as a warning that the spiritual needs of some are not being met. And address them.

Applicable Al-Anon saying: If the dog is hungry, feed the dog.


Press Freedom and Violence

When Econo-Girl attended a conference held by the International Bar Association, she saw cultural differences in law firsthand.

As Americans, it is easy to be arrogant about the value of pure speech. We do not worry about our nation dissolving after an article is published. We do not have a history of killing our neighbors every twenty years or so.

Somalia has a very recent history of bloodshed. It is natural that they wouldn't want more. So the Somali government put a limit on freedom of speech - which was soon lifted. The global complaints the temporary suspension of four newspapers brought probably pushed their hand.

But again, Econo-Girl wants to point out that the media in general does not accept responsibility for its actions.

Litvinenko Will Never Die

Scotland Yard wants to continue its investigation into the murder of Litvinenko by going to Russia again, but this time asking the questions themselves. The Russians aren't too hot about this idea. But surely they couldn't expect that the British were going to let this one go. No one would.

After all, when Italy suspected the CIA of kidnapping people on its soil, not even killing them, didn't they convene a court to look at it? No nation is going to tolerate a foreign assassination on their soil.

Litvinenko will never die.


From Russia: Commentary on U.S. Foreign Policy

Econo-Girl almost choked when she read Pravda today. Talk about another view of current events.

The front page of Pravda mentioned the "murder" of two of Saddam Hussein's "associates." Not execution, mind you. Murder.

There is a section called "What is on George Bush's mind today?" The publishers of Pravda must not have a very good opinion of George Bush's mind, since they haven't posted an article there for eight months. Previous to that, they posted an article once a month. Do your own analysis.

But the most interesting tidbit is the April opinion piece on U.S. interventionism. "USA: Caring or Interfering?" Listen to their perspective.

"[T]he haste to jump into the Balkans when had the USA and the European Union left things to evolve on their own, controlled by those who understood the local social and ethnic fabric, the horrors perpetrated by Croats, Muslims and Serbs would have been at worst limited and easier to control."

WHAT!?!?! It was a directed genocide. And listen to this description of Slobodan Milosevic:

"[T]he fact is that all Slobodan Milosevic was doing was to rid his country of the scourge of Islamist terrorism, namely the KLA. Curiously, as Washington had sided with Bin Laden, it also wined and dined the KLA leadership on Capitol Hill."

Now Econo-Girl is aware that Pravda specializes in revisionist history. And there will be those among her intrepid readership who will mock her shock. But part of her mission is to offer differing perspectives to the American mind. And yes, I have very few readers. But you are one of them!

Saddam Hussein's Execution Prompts Copycat Suicides

The media has a role in the news it covers. It is time to take responsibility for that.

Econo-Girl has never linked to the video clip of Saddam Hussein's execution. There 's a reason for that. There is no news value in it for the mass audience. The same holds true for the beheading of U.S. hostages.

And while we're on the subject, the same applies to media coverage of 9-11-01. The same gruesome and pointless footage was shown for one solid week. Only PBS earned my respect by providing meaningful coverage. The rest of them just repeated themselves over and over again for days on end while feeding on human desperation.

And how about school yard killings? The U.S. media coverage of those inspires other psychos to do the same thing.

Young boys have killed themselves imitating the execution of Saddam Hussein. There should be a violence restriction as well as a sexual content restriction on video and photos. Violent images are more damaging than sexual ones.

Click on the title to this post to read the article in the Jerusalem Post.


DreamWorks Shame in "The Kite Runner"

Child actors in Afghanistan were paid only $10,000 to appear in a movie "The Kite Runner." Now they are are being ostracized by their towns and family members have lost their jobs.

For God's sake, give the kids and their families more money. DreamWorks should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, but they probably aren't. DreamWorks took advantage of ignorant peasants and it is disgusting.

Click on the title to this post to see the BBC article.


Teenagers at Guantanamo Bay

"The most dangerous people on Earth" is how Condi Rice refers to our prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Let's apply some logical deduction to that statement, shall we?

To be one of the most dangerous people on Earth, you need an education. Pure evil alone is not enough. Did we consider Jeffrey Dahmer one of the most dangerous people on Earth? No. He certainly was a dangerous person. One who caused a lot of damage. But he does not make the list of the most dangerous people on Earth.


Because he did not endanger a way of life, he did not impact thousands and thousands of people's lives, he did not motivate others to follow his path, he lacked the knowledge and skill to disrupt any nation's infrastructure.

All those skills require a mechanical engineer, a doctor, a chemical engineer, etc. People like that will know how to hit a system in its weakest points. They will have the intellectual and organizational skills to plan, organize, recruit and execute a complex operation. They will be able to pick and plan based on maximum damage. They will be able to blend into a population.

Jeffrey Dahmer could not do any of these things.

Now let's look at the idea of teenagers as some of the most dangerous people on Earth. No teen will have the education and the experience to be able to pull off a major terrorist attack. How then could they be among the most dangerous people on Earth? They can't.

Even if, supposing for a moment, the teens held in detention at Guantanamo Bay were evil and depraved, the extent of damage they could do alone is limited to individual actions, or little more than that. No teenager is motivating hundreds of people to strap bombs on their backs and blow themselves up.

Studies have shown that humans don't reach moral maturity until the late twenties. So it is easier to pull teenagers into violent activities than it is adults.

Conclusion: There is no reason on Earth for any teenager to be held as a terrorist at Guantanamo Bay. Oh, and for all of you jerks who say "if you knew what I knew, you would think differently" Econo-Girl can only say this: I know everything you know, and you're still fucking wrong.

Death Penalty: Take the Al Jazeera Poll!

Over 52% of Al Jazeera online readers are opposed to the death penalty. Interesting factoid.


The End of Al Qaida II

Econo-Girl feels the need to expand on her earlier analysis. Al Qaida had the idea that the cause of their brand of Islam could be advanced better if other Muslims weren't at their throats. A good idea, if hardly original.

So that's how they started out. If Sunni and Shiite were not exactly co-recruiting, then at least they weren't killing each other. The new dynamic allowed Al Qaida to focus on attacking the West.

Then came Iraq. To take on the U.S. in Iraq, Al Qaida started fighting between the Shiite and the Sunni by attacking the Sunni. Yes, that has hurt U.S. success in rebuilding Iraq. But it has eliminated Al Qaida as a global political force.

By attacking Shiites in Iraq through Zarqawi, Al Qaida has opened the door to sectarian attacks on themselves. Their ostensible goal of an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East is gone.

Econo-Girl has said it before, and she means it. There will be high level assassinations within the radical Islamic community. Maybe not immediately, but it is coming.


U.S. Forces Storm Iranian Consulate

Shocking and bold is how Econo-Girl would describe reports of U.S. forces storming a consulate and arresting diplomats. It's not that she disagrees with this action. The Iranians have a long history of hiding crimes under diplomatic cover.

So, Iran, how does it feel? You've got this diplomatic ground you put your consulate on, and an armed group of men and women storm it and take hostages. Sound familiar? IT'S WHAT YOU DID TO US! They have sent a diplomatic letter of protest. (Note to ETA: even the Iranians can use words rather than bombs.)

The United States accuses the Iranians of feeding and supplying the insurgency by calling it "meddling in Iraq." Rather ironic since we invaded the place. What could be more meddlesome than that? Anyway, we are probably right. Most likely Iran is causing trouble in Iraq.

The bottom line is President Bush is deadly serious about getting stability in Iraq. He wants and needs a success. And while Econo-Girl does not condemn seizing the Iranians, she points to the interwoven nature of the entire region. It's never just as easy as pulling weeds from the garden. Will the Iranians strike back against Israel? Will our next war be with Iran? George Bush is upping the ante big time and pulling in more countries than just Iraq.

Yes, they were there already in some form. Understood. But not at the level that they could be. If Iran would choose now to declare war against Iraq and the U.S. it would not be the first time they engaged in a self-defeating war.

As an aside, Econo-Girl wonders about the extent Iran has foreign Muslims in its equation. Are they counting on them to cause problems in the U.S. and Europe as a tool in its diplomacy? It would be the kind of thing Iran would think of. It would be overreaching, in Econo-Girl's opinion.


Pollution Kills

Al Jazeera has an article about the number of deaths related to pollution in Tehran, Iran. They claim about 3000 people a month die from pollution. My God, that's a serious problem.

The main sources of the pollution are fuel-inefficient cars and a lack of wind to carry it off to poison someone else's lungs. Click on the title to this post to see the Al Jazeera article.

Econo-Girl likes to joke that global warming has been very good to Washington, DC. Our winter temperatures are very mild, even seeing 70 degrees in January. And, yes, she is linking pollution to global warming, sinner that she is.

The pollution death toll in Iran is a warning to all Earth citizens. Unless you have a back-up planet to escape to, we need to take the well-being of our environment seriously.

Terror, Trust and Bombs

So the terror group ETA of the Basque region in Spain bombed Madrid Barajas Airport, and then tells Spain that the cease-fire is still in effect. Two people were killed.

"Oh, you're not upset at that little bomb, are you?" ETA has, in effect, said to the Spanish government. The ETA has expressed its frustration with the government "ceaselessly putting obstacles in the way of the democratic process.'' See Bloomberg.com for full article.

How about the obstacle of having your negotiating partner blowing up airports? Killing people? What was that? A punctuation mark on a particularly emphatic statement?

What's interesting about ETA's position regarding this bombing is the insight it gives into the thought process of a terror group. The ETA doesn't even consider the bombing a violation of the cease-fire. (Note to ETA: bomb = fire.) It views the bombing as a method of communication. In creating an inherently dangerous situation, it does not accept the blame for the consequences. In their minds, the bomb was an acceptable and managed risk because they warned the airport ahead of time. Perhaps the ETA risk analysis is more akin to our risk analysis before crossing a busy street.

The ETA phrasing implies that the bomb was a statement. That, in turn, implies they haven't yet learned to use actual statements to express themselves. So they turn to bombs.

As a friend used to say, if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

In the fallout to ETA's bombing, they will find out there is something more powerful than a bomb: credibility.


Russia, Belarus and Oil

Russia is accusing Belarus of diverting some of the oil flowing through its pipelines. It seems that the pressure in the oil pipeline going through Belarus had dropped noticeably. Russia is blaming Belarus for this because they think Belarus is siphoning off oil from the pipeline going through their country.

Germany and Poland are reliant on Russia's oil as well as other European countries, so this is a big deal. The Polish Economy Ministry assured everyone publicly that Poland had enough reserves right now and there was no need for worry.

The keyword here is PANIC. There needs not to be a PANIC about OIL in EUROPE. It is that panic that Russia is playing with.

So what can be done? What would really happen if Russia cut its oil supplies to Europe? Would they honestly sit by and let thousands of people freeze to death? Perhaps. One thing that would definitely happen is that Europe would find an alternative to oil as fast as possible. Russia would become an international pariah. I doubt Putin really cares about that. He just misses seeing the fear in their eyes.

Magazine for the Fun, Fearless Female !

See the Hong Kong version of Cosmopolitan magazine by clicking on the title of this post. OK, OK, look at the pictures since it is in another language. But the pictures are great.

The advertising links to Cosmopolitan magazine in Hong Kong say "Fun and Fearless Female."

Now Leisure Lad is always accusing little Econo-Girl of thinking too much. And she is sure that others would agree when she observes the difference in advertising approaches between the U.S. and Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong presumption is that a regular woman would be fearful, wouldn't it? And from an advertising perspective, that fearful women who wanted to be fearless would buy this magazine.

But is Econo-Girl being ethno-centric here? Maybe the cultural leap from Hong Kong to the U.S. highlights these issues to us clearly, whereas we can't see our own problems.

For instance, Cosmopolitan magazine in the U.S. is obsessed with informing American women that they need improvement in the bedroom. Every issue has some article about "pleasing your man", and "what he really wants." So every issue is all about references to the sex life of the American female as inadequate and generally devoid of gymnastics.

And realistically speaking, isn't that worse?


Atomic Israel

So how is it different when Israel raises the atomic threat, than when Iran does it?

Well, let's see. Iran has a history of being taken over by political nutballs and using extreme rhetoric against its adversaries that usually don't lead to anything.

Israel has a history of attacking with little or no warning and engaging in extreme military responses.

So when Israel, or someone with credibility, hints that Israel will use nuclear force to eliminate Iran's nuclear potential, the globe shudders. Especially when delivered through a media vehicle like Britain's The Sunday Times.

Quickly Israel has moved to deny any such idea. Click on the title to this post to see an article in The Australian.

But remember, the world of diplomacy is primarily one of words. Just the suggestion that Israel would attack Iran in this manner will have an effect. Maybe it will temper the Big Mouth In Tehran into worrying more about his own political base.

If that's the case, then it wouldn't be such an unproductive balloon.

Brown vs. Blair on Terror and Iraq

Tony Blair has made Britain's alliance with the United States the hallmark of his foreign policy to a dizzying extent. In lockstep, you might say.

Blair's successor, Mr. Brown, has promised to change that approach.

Rather than increasing the number of troops in Iraq, Mr. Brown has promised to reduce them "by thousands." What this signals is not only a break with Tony Blair, but a distancing from Washington.

In Econo-Girl's opinion, it's about time.

How has it been to Britain's advantage to be so close to the U.S.? What did Tony Blair think they were getting out of it? It really is unclear.

The distance Mr. Brown proposes also comments on President Bush's leadership in Iraq and the war on terror in general. Not very favorable comments, that is. What Mr. Brown is saying is Mr. Bush's strategy has not worked. He is saying the world can expect different things from Britain in the near future.

Econo-girl eagerly awaits.


Pit Bull Puppy Training

Refer to The Dog Walker's Handbook for more details.

Pit bulls are sweet, nice dogs. We saw an adorable little pit bull puppy at the park yesterday. For a while, Econo-Girl and Leisure Lad ran an unofficial pit bull rescue in Columbia Heights, DC. People would just dump them on our lawn, and we would find good homes for them.

Most shelters just kill them.

For every dog that comes into our home, we start immediately taking food out of their mouths. From the first minute. And toys. socks, etc.

Another thing we do is to put our faces near the dog and scratch their bellies. Since we primates insist on putting our faces near dogs, even strange ones, Leisure Lad and myself want our dogs to be very used to that.

Actually, in dog world it is considered very rude and aggressive to put your face near a dog's face. It's a great way to get bit in the face.

We also have the dog around children and other dogs as much as we can, so they can get used to it.

Remember, you are your dog's leader. He looks to you for protection and guidance. So provide it. Don't be one of these people who hides behind an imposing dog, thinking it is their protection. It's not good for you or the dog.


Lisa Belkin of the New York Times called many issues related to trust in her article this morning. She outlined all the instances in daily living where we trust strangers.

She ought to know. As a reporter, she induces the trust of people all the time, only to print what they say in the paper. She even outlines how she does it in her article about her nanny.

Then, she has the nerve to lament how her trust was violated. This would be a good example of being unable to examine yourself, Lisa. Make a note of it.

Interviewing A Nanny

There are certain staples in interviewing someone for a position of trust. The New York Times ran a story today by Lisa Belkin about her nanny, and Lisa broke several key rules.

Let's highlight some of the things you should never do:
  1. Ignore bad references.
  2. Trust your instinct over the facts.
  3. Think not much harm can be done if the person is with your child only a short time.
  4. Put class and cultural considerations in the equation.
  5. Too much trust in gadgets.
You don't ignore bad references because these people have had experience working with the person and know them better than you do.

You don't trust your instincts over the facts because instinct is based on experience, and no one has had a perfect life. We all have blind spots where we really, really want to believe something is true when it isn't. Also, it's too easy to lie to yourself based on convenience.

You don't trust lack of opportunity because unless you lie, cheat or steal on a regular basis yourself, you don't really know what a lack of opportunity looks like.

We all feel more comfortable with people like us. Get over it.

This last point has nothing to do with interviewing nannies. Econo-Girl just wants to point out one last time that polygraphs are bullshit.


Note To Dateline NBC Predators

OK you guys. Econo-Girl is going to tell you a secret. There is no fourteen-year-old girl in America who is going to meet you for anonymous sex. Anywhere. At all.

I know, I know, you have frustrated dreams of early adolescence you never resolved. We get it. We just don't care.

This fact does lend credibility to all the cries of "I never did this kind of thing before!" Of course you didn't. No fourteen-year-old girl wants anonymous sex. Period. So the only meet-ups available to you are police and reporters.

The funniest ones are the ones who have watched To Catch A Predator on t.v. already.

A friend of Leisure Lad's says that in society's continual bid to control sex. the shame and blame have shifted from the young woman to the man. There has to be an outcast in all this, and now it is the older male.

Interesting idea.

Al Qaida - The End

The end is starting for al Qaida as a global player. Their movement combined the forces of the Sunni and Shia towards a common goal: an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. Their goal never included conquering the United States or even Europe.

The attack on 9-11, and later ones in Europe, came from the failure of the radical Islamic movement to convince moderate Muslims to adopt the twisted ways of groups like al Qaida over ideas of the West.

So al Qaida got this idea. "Let's attack the West directly! Then they will take their ideas out of here and everyone will agree with us!" Not very far-sighted, but then these people are living in caves.

Econo-Girl is not saying that al Qaida isn't dangerous, it is. Econo-Girl is saying that al Qaida is falling in on itself. Soon, if Econo-Girl may deign to predict, al Qaida will be riven by factionalism and they will start killing each other. Because that's what these terrorists do. They kill their enemies, and that includes similar but rival factions.

Be prepared for some intra-al Qaida assassinations.


George Bush Promises "No Backrubs" for Merkel

Imagine you are the elected leader of a major Western power. And in front of everyone, the President of the United States walks up behind you to rub your shoulders. Isn't that very odd? Econo-Girl thinks so.

Well, it seems that President Bush has promised to restrain himself the next time he sees Germany's Chancellor.

Do you think he has the hots for her? Or was it some good-old-boy ploy to get her off her game? Hmmm.

Steve the Poet

Econo-Girl has been reviewing her posts lately and they are all rather depressing. So time for a change of topic.

We've got someone crashing in our living room. Yes, it is the infamous Steve the Poet. As a general point of information, Steve was our dog walker until one of the dogs got away one too many times and had its leg broken. So we fired him.

Anyway, he is back for a little while until he gets on his feet again. Actually, Econo-Girl thinks Steve is quite a good poet, but like all good poets, he will be best known after his demise. And what's there to write about if he isn't suffering?

He should be gone by next Friday. We'll see how it goes.


Death Penalty Quote of the Day

"You know, having that death penalty in Virginia just keeps me from pistol-whipping the waitress, snapping her neck and killing all the customers. An impulse control thing." Leisure Lad at the Breakfast Table

Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz

Are the rumors true? Have they broken up? What does this mean for the world economy?

Econo-Girl must confess sympathy for people chased around by the media to the point where every romantic miscalculation of youth is news around the world. It's got to be a strain.

The media machine will now need someone else to feed on.

Oprah in Africa

As Econo-Girl trolls the international news for juicy and amusing tidbits, she is struck by the absence of Iraq on many front pages across the world. She is also struck by the headline stories about Oprah EVERYWHERE.

That woman is the most powerful woman on Earth! She headlines in SouthEast Asia, Europe, and Africa with her effort to "change how a woman is seen in Africa." My goodness, and Econo-Girl thought Hilary Clinton was ambitious.

For roughly fifty thousand years, the African culture has been developing just fine without Ms. Winfrey. Granted, women are treated like crap in some places there. It will be interesting to see if Ms. Winfrey will be able to pull this off without the usual violent backlash that attends a change like this.

In Pakistan, the rise in women's power there has led to men randomly throwing acid in the faces of women in the street. Let's hope Ms. Winfrey's planned transition for Africa will go more smoothly.


Terror and Torture

In the prisons of Egypt, Islamic terrorism of today was born. The Egyptian government rounded up radical Islamists and tortured them in their prisons. The Egyptians felt threatened and that is how they reacted.

So a movement of religious zealots was further radicalized by torture. The result was a violent version of Islam that started spreading throughout the world.

Torture doesn't solve anything. It doesn't win a political or theological argument. It doesn't dissuade people from their beliefs. And it certainly doesn't prevent terrorism. Torture promotes terrorism.

It is Egypt and their use of torture that has brought us to the struggles we are having today. Thanks, Egypt.

And it is in the coming decades that we will see the effects of our abuse on our detainees.

Guantanamo - The Abuse

A Federal agency is validating the claims of detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay. Of course, this is after the election and the bureaucrats feel safe now. But Econo-Girl predicts this is but the beginning of a long and interesting year.

Click on the title to this post for a link to the story.

Tahiti Travel

Think of Tahiti. Scuba diving, snorkeling, beach, paradise. About 100,000 tourists go there every year. Tahiti is 119 islands with great beaches and ocean breezes. Go shark feeding, on a safari on Bora Bora, or lounge on a glass bottom boat.

Sounds great. Now go read their paper, the Tahiti Pacifique. Econo-Girl hasn't had a laugh like this in a long time. It is in French, of course. So click on the title to this post to see their English version.

That's right, a full page diatribe on how we really need to learn French if we want to read their paper. They should not be asked about providing an English version since it is so ridiculous.

To support this argument, they cite U.S. Bureau of Census statistics on the number of Ukrainians living in Hawaii. It seems the number is analogous to the number of Americans living in Tahiti. We wouldn't expect the papers in Honolulu to publish a Ukrainian edition, would we?

Well, let's see. We would if 100,000 tourists a year from the Ukraine were coming to Hawaii. There would be some kind of Ukrainian edition of the local newspaper, just for the sake of advertising if nothing else.

But tell that to the Tahiti Pacifique. Rather narrow in their perspective, they do not make the cut for an Econo-Girl permanent link.


Saddam Hussein's Execution - Take the Al Jazeera Poll!

Yes, my little dumplings. There is a popular poll right now on Al Jazeera's front page on whether or not Saddam Hussein should have been hung.

Vote now! Click on the title to this post and let the world know what you think!

Saddam Hussein's Execution and U.S.

The thing about democracy is that we may not always like what some other country chooses to do. Was it ill-advised to execute Saddam Hussein now? Too soon to tell. The Sunnis would be upset no matter when Saddam Hussein was hung and at least they're not rioting. So far.

Granted, the jeering did nothing to enhance the perceived legality of the execution. Nor did it enhance the credibility of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that it was carried out in such a non-professional manner.

The taunts of "al-Sadr" by the onlookers shouldn't be taken as a sign of that pseudo-cleric's strength. They were just trying to get under the skin of Saddam Hussein.

What the U.S. can really take away from Saddam Hussein's execution is other people have their own minds. If the U.S. makes a point of endorsing a candidate, relevant voters will rebel. No nation's leader will allow themselves to be seen as taking orders from the U.S. So they will rebel too, even if their choice is ill-advised. And that includes Iraq. Yes, we fought a war to get rid of Saddam Hussein I mean, give Iraqis their freedom.

But that's the thing about a gift. Once you give it, it's theirs.

Advertising, Materialism and God

Econo-Girl watched a fascinating documentary on PBS on advertising and how it works. The basic point was that since products cannot reasonably be differentiated by quality of product any more, advertising seeks to associate feelings and impressions with a product to get people to buy it.

So an ad creates a certain feeling about the group of people who supposedly use the product. People want to be in that group of people, so they buy the product.

Since seeing that documentary, Econo-Girl can chuckle at the silly ads for a computer chip that just shows people dancing and waving their arms in the air. And the car ads that show more mountains and forest than car.

People may feel a lack of belonging, leading to spending to try to belong to a group as defined by an advertisement. What ever happened to religious groups? Or clubs? Or hobbies? Econo-Girl always said if you aren't a geek about something, you are boring about everything. And it's generally true.


The War on Santa Claus

With cries of "I don't want to see a fat man dragging a bag behind him when I think of Christmas" there is a movement underfoot to ban images of Santa Claus in the Czech Republic. The goal of this Czech grass roots movement is to maintain the focus on the baby Jesus.

Odd that none of the Czech papers reported it though. Econo-Girl found it in a South African paper. To see the full article, click on the title to this post.

What? "World Opinion Split Over Saddam Hussein's Execution"

It seems that in Turkey, the online publication Zaman.com has found a professor who thinks that Saddam Hussein's execution was illegal. This man's opinion is the basis for an article quoted in the title above.

And in TANJUG in Serbia at http://www.tanjug.co.yu/news.aspx?rbx=2&rbxn=Serbia%20and%20World, the Serbian Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic said that the execution of Saddam Hussein will be a disaster for Iraq.

Econo-Girl thought her readers might be interested in another perspective, especially one so divergent from what is heard here in the U.S.
We're certainly not hearing anything like that here.

Saddam Hussein's Execution

The world is simply different now. Expectations of privacy are passe, even at an execution. No concept of dignity attaches anymore as everyone has a mobile film recorder with them at all times. The most indecent, ill-thought action can be viewed by the entire world.

Not only that, it can define your whole life. Imagine spending the next fifty years having to explain why you spat out that birthday cake and it landed on the cat. Did you aim the semi-chewed sweet at the cat? Were you a cat-hater? My cat saved my life, you know. Such are the conversational openers you would hear for the rest of your life.

And Saddam Hussein is no exception. In the end, his defining moment was his execution. And Econo-Girl cannot complain about the sneaky filming of his death. What relief it must bring to those who suffered from Saddam Hussein's evil to see his reckoning. "There! That's the man who killed my family! Ha! He is not so big now!"

In a global spiritual sense, wouldn't the fear that you might be on t.v. cause a person to temper their behaviour? Econo-Girl thinks so. And if one were a despot, wouldn't the idea that one day you would have to answer for your choices influence them?

Not really. After all, Econo-Girl is sure that Rumsfeld never thought so.