Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The following is a Fouad's article published today in the Wall Street Journal.
By FOUAD AJAMI
For all its menace and fanfare, Eastern European communism, one of its countless chroniclers observed, left the theater of history on tiptoe. The simple, surprising end came 20 years ago, Nov. 9, 1989, when an apparatchik of the German Democratic Republic read out a note announcing that the border that had cut through Germany would be opened for "private trips abroad." The Berlin Wall had fallen.
A mere two years earlier, in November 1987, there was a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, and even Mikhail Gorbachev—the fourth Soviet leader in three years—gave the appearance of normalcy. But it was too late for such pretense. The subjugation of that "other Europe" had come to an end.
"Gorbachev's role, though honorable, has been exaggerated," British historian Norman Davies writes in his monumental book, "Europe: A History." "He was not the architect of East Europe's freedom: he was the lock-keeper who, seeing the dam about to burst, decided to open the floodgates and to let the water flow. The dam burst in any case; but it did so without the threat of a violent catastrophe."
There were the Hungarians, in October of 1989, on the 33rd anniversary of the crushing of their national rebellion, abolishing the entire ruling Communist apparatus. There were the people in Prague again, a mere two decades after the snuffing out of their freedom, launching their Velvet Revolution. Poland wrote its own distinctive history. Its national church never faltered—a gifted primate of that church, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, rose to the papacy and helped steer his nation's history freedom's way. Its shipyard workers led a movement that made a seamless transition from workers' rights to the cause of national freedom.
It wasn't always pretty, the emancipation of these captive nations. Communism always carried within its doctrine the stern warning that national chauvinisms would spring to the fore were its "internationalism" to give way. Yugoslavia bore out that message. What rose from its graveyard were pitiless nationalisms whose crimes are indelibly etched in our memories. Tito had indeed held together an impossible country. Nor were matters pretty in Romania, no velvet revolution in the twisted, dark tyranny of the Ceaucescus. The march to ballots and free markets was not always an attractive, or a straightforward, tale.
An angry, uncompromising Russian sage, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the oft-told story tells us, came to Washington in the summer of 1975 but was denied the opportunity to meet with President Gerald Ford. The story's significance shouldn't be overdone. Two generations of Americans had done their work "containing" the spread and the appeal of Communism.
But Soviet power seemed at its zenith in the 1970s. The cause of freedom was embattled—Jean-François Revel said a "totalitarian temptation" was in the air. Soviet troops and their proxies were deployed in Vietnam, Cuba, Yemen, Angola, Mozambique, etc. A nativist revolution had plunged Iran, America's "pillar" in the Persian Gulf, into a new darkness, and in affluent Western Europe a willful Euro-Communism had resonance all its own.
It was against this dismal background that Ronald Reagan had risen. He may not have known much about the foreign world, he may not have always been a master of his brief—the details and the execution and the discipline were supplied by his gifted collaborator, Secretary of State George Shultz—but he trusted his own instincts. He had his feel for history's march, his faith in human freedom. He had recoiled from all the talk about America's decline. He had boundless belief in the American mission in the world.
"I do have a strategy," Reagan said after one detailed briefing on the challenge of the Soviet Union: "We win, they lose!"
He was to be vindicated. Where political regimes had taken on an authoritarian cast in the 1970s, the number of countries that chose what broadly could be called political freedom increased by 50% between 1980 and 1990. The American strategic build-up in the Reagan years was of a scale that the Soviet Union could not match.
In Afghanistan, the last battle of the Cold War, the Soviet imperial thrust was broken. American weapons and American will, Saudi money, a Pakistani sanctuary, and a ragtag army of volunteers from the wider world of Islam broke the Soviet will. (We thought well of these volunteers then, they were freedom fighters, the mujahideen, and we nicknamed them "the mooj" in affection.)
It would stand to reason that 45 years of vigilance would spawn a desire for repose. The disputations of history had ended, we came to believe. Such was the zeitgeist of the '90s, the Nasdaq era, a decade of infatuation with globalization. The call of blood and soil had receded, we were certain then. Bill Clinton defined that era, in the way Ronald Reagan had defined his time. This wasn't quite a time of peace. Terrorists were targeting our military installations and housing compounds and embassies. A skiff in Aden rode against one of our battleships. But we would not give this struggle the label—and the attention—it deserved.
A Harvard academic had foreseen the shape of things to come. In 1993, amid this time of historical and political abdication, the late Samuel P. Huntington came forth with his celebrated "Clash of Civilizations" thesis. With remarkable prescience, he wrote that the end of the Cold War would give rise to civilizational wars.
He stated, in unadorned terms, the threat that would erupt from the lands of Islam: "The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other's Other. The 20th century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity."
The young jihadists who shattered the illusions of an era practically walk out of Huntington's pages. We had armed the boys of the jihad in Afghanistan. They came to a conviction that they had brought down one infidel empire, and could undo its liberal rival.
A meandering road led from 11/9 to 9/11. The burning grounds of Islam are altogether different than the Communist challenge. There is no Moscow that serves as the seat of Jihadist power. This is a new kind of war and new kind of enemy, a twilight war without front lines.
But we shouldn't be surprised with some of history's repetitions. There are again the appeasers who see these furies of Islam as America's comeuppance, there are those who think we have overreached and that we are riding into storms of our own making. And in the foreign world there are chameleons who feign desire for our friendship while subverting our causes.
Once again, there arises the question in our midst of whether political freedom, broadly conceived, can and ought to be taken to distant lands. In the George W. Bush years, American power and diplomacy gave voice to a belief in freedom's possibilities. A different sentiment animates American practice today.
For the peoples of Islam, the question can be squarely put: Will they tear down their walls in the manner in which the people of Central and Eastern Europe tore down theirs? The people of Islam are thus sorely tested. They will have to show their own fidelity to liberty. Strangers with big guns and ample means can ride into their midst with the best of intentions and skills, but it is their own world, their own civilization, that is now in history's scales.—Mr. Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, is the author of "The Foreigner's Gift" (Free Press, 2007).Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A25
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I just read this very interesting article from the Wall Street Journal.
Moody's Downgrades Five Dubai Companies
DUBAI -- Moody's Investor Services, the credit ratings agency, Wednesday downgraded five major Dubai-government-controlled companies after the emirate's finance department relinquished its obligations to the firms' debts in late October.
In a statement, Moody's said it downgraded Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group LLC, or DHCOG, to Baa1 from A3, two notches above junk level. DHCOG is effectively owned by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and vice president and prime minister of the U.A.E.
DP World, Dubai Electricity & Water Authority and DIFC Investments saw their issuer and debt ratings downgraded to A3 from A1, while Jebel Ali Free Zone, or JAFZ, had its rating lowered to Baa1 from A3. Emaar Properties' rating was left untouched at Baa1, according to Moody's.
The rating outlook for the first four companies is negative, while DHCOG and Emaar are maintained on review for downgrade, Moody's said in the statement. "The downgrades follow recent disclosures of increased conditionality around when support could be provided to these GRIs [government-related issuers]," Moody's said.
"This includes the specific criteria that will be considered by the recently established Dubai Financial Support Fund when assessing whether financial assistance should be provided." The Dubai Financial Support Fund manages Dubai's debt obligations.
Dubai's government is under no obligation to extend support to any such government-related issuers either directly or through the support fund, Moody's added.
"Moody's is therefore making a greater distinction between its view of the creditworthiness of Dubai's GRIs and that of the Dubai central government, which is itself viewed by Moody's as benefiting from support from the U.A.E. federal government," the agency said.
Dubai's government-related entities are believed to make up the bulk of the emirate's debt pile. Last month, Dubai's government launched global roadshows to market a $6.5 billion debt program, whose prospectus stated that the government has no obligations to the debt of its "government-related entities."
According to the prospectus, "direct debt" of the Dubai government stands at $19.4 billion, much lower than the $80 billion of total debt the government and its government-related entities are believed to owe. DP World had just under $60 billion in liabilities at the end of last year, according to its balance sheet.
In February, a $20 billion bond program was launched by Dubai, to help pay back government and government-related entities' debt. The first $10 billion tranche was subscribed to by the United Arab Emirates' central bank in Abu Dhabi.
Government officials have said the second $10 billion would be issued in October or November but no details have been provided so far. Dubai's Department of Finance declined to comment on when the second $10 billion tranche would be launched.
The Department of Finance previously said the $6.5 billion program is not part of the second $10 billion bond.
"Moody's assumes that the second $10 billion tranche will be funded imminently to further prop up the gradually depleting support fund," Moody's said.
Dubai has nearly $19 billion of debt coming due this year and next, according to regional research house EFG-Hermes. Government-owned property developer Nakheel has a $3.53 billion bond due in December and a $1 billion bond issued by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority in 2004 is due Wednesday.
The $1.93 billion sukuk, or Islamic bond, issued by Dubai's government last week is likely to help pay back such debt, investors have said. The sukuk is part of the $6.5 billion debt program.
"Dubai's recent successful government bond issuance is also likely to be supportive to Dubai's liquidity profile and alleviate some of the pressures that would arise from further bailouts, although the use of proceeds has not been specified," Moody's said.
Write to Maria Abi-Habib at Maria.Habib@dowjones.com
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Simply put, I was speechless!
What on Earth is going on with this world?
And, more specifically, what's going on with Scandinavian countries?
Sweden has recently been the scenario for a new round of attacks against Israel. As Caroline Glick writes: "Led by Sweden, which holds the rotating EU presidency, European governments have demanded that Israel end its provocative behavior."
Even Israeli deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has called for re-examining ties with Sweden.
In a recent story published by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, the Israeli army was accussed of harvesting Palestinian organs. And, when asked to take a position about this, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, he did not speak against such blood libel.
And, according to Ayalon: "We must examine why Israel is being attacked by the Swedes."
As the first shock of the day went by, yesterday I sms'd my former Swedish boyfriend, Anders, a quite clever guy: "Are you guys out of your minds?" To which he responded: "In Norway, yes..." Be it as it may, as you see, Sweden is also misbehaving.
That said, please don't take me wrong. One can love Israel, the beacon of democracy, and also love Muslim and Arab countries and their people. One does not exclude the other.
I explained the atmosphere in Scandinavia because it will help us understand the spirit in which the Nobel Committee chose their 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. And, that committee was formed by three hard-core liberals, a socialist and a sort-of-right-winger.
Now, about the actual choice of Obama. The only actual problem, in my view, is that the president has actually not performed in any way whatsoever to improve life and peace worldwide. He was only elected because there was no other better option to choose over him. And, the American people were desperate to look for an alternative to Bush who basically wasted his chance and ended up being a disappointment to so many.
A majority of us, were hoping that maybe through a miracle, Obama would be our hero. But, so far it has not happened. However, be it as it may, the hastened decision by the Nobel committee has for me the taste of interference in our national affairs, and leaves me with a distaste for this not so subtle manipulation in our internal political affairs.
Be it as it may, a blunder has been committed, a real 'faux pas' by the Nobel committee, which mostly demonstrates the lack of lucidity in their judgement. And, they won't ever be able to erase that in the book of History.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Now, as time has gone by, I receive some looks full with pity from people who the only thing they get to see is a -maybe beautiful- woman riding a red scooter-wheelchair.
For instance, when I have to give my marital status and I say that I am divorced, that announcement is immediately followed by me volunteering that "oh, I wanted it!" and a smile, to reassure my interlocutors that I am not the poor crippled girl abandoned by her husband(s), because I was married twice, and to two wonderful men. Alas, both marriages did not work, but it was due to life developments and to the fact that men and women have once and for all to accept that marriage is a mission that requires two to succeed.
In all, I see polio like the most inherent part of me, a part that though I sometimes have hated because it made me different than so many beautiful-legged women, most recently I have come to learn to love and be grateful for.
For, what, who, would I have been without the polio.
Maybe a superficial beauty, spoiled by an adoring and boring husband and some kids, or maybe one of those spoiled-rotten young women in Manhattan, born to adoring parents who would rush at their baby's least call.... but most likely without the strength of character, the indomitable passion that I feel for life and for the world.
Yes, polio became my impediment for so many aspects in life.
Rather than complain about it, I prefer to think of all the good things that came out of it. Because having to wake up every morning to the sunshine of life, it is a special -not to say a hard- task to get out of bed and walk around... but, that's what it's all about, despite the challenge still get to enjoy the warmth of the sun, of life; still enjoy each pleasure that life gives us.
I wonder what many people may think when they see me on my little red scooter. Obviously she cannot run or jump or even walk like all of us.... so she may not be that much fun.... Yes, probably all that goes through their heads and, who knows, even more daring thoughts -or not. Like, does she even make love, and if so, does she even enjoy it....
Well, that's all very amusing to me, because far from being an ice queen, the reality is totally the opposite.
Yes, what G-d took away from my legs, did give me back in my overgrown very analytical mind. What G-d took away from my legs, my arms, gave me in an exceeding passion for life in all forms, including my communication skills that are so critical in this age of connections and internet but most of all of intense personal interaction.
The magic of polio will continue to influence my life till the end, and I will never regret it, because I am who I am also thanks to that devastating polio.
My friend Eric Haseltine, who is one of the American leading brain scientists, has told me that there are so many scientific progress done lately, that there may be a way to implant a chip on my brain to make work some of the debilitated muscles of my legs or my left arm. That's so wonderful. Yet, the only reaction possible was to tell Eric that nobody will touch my brain to implant that chip, I am very well as I am, thank you very much.
The curious thing is that, sometimes, I forget I have this impediment, that I cannot walk 'normally', like you or the others.
The other day, I had forgotten my blackberry which I had placed on a lower bench, so I turned around to pick it up, but it so happened that I had forgotten that I could not walk well!!! And, I almost fell. I just smiled, because this proved me something else that I will address in another piece where I will try to explain it from another angle.
Meanwhile, let me just say that my mind sometimes actually 'forgets' my physical impediment, and I find that fascinating.
Monday, August 10, 2009
The situation in the US is disastrous. There is no other way to say it.
Naturally, in the middle of this disaster, there are going to be the lucky ones who will be able to build their empires because they are the only ones who will be terrificly positioned to purchase and acquire, for instance, buildings and residences at very inexpensive prices, among other areas, though I tend to think that probably the only one area to invest in, within one or two years, once the real estate market has gone completely down, will indeed be real estate.
Friends are no longer friends, the dire economic and financialsituation is giving place to further greed, not to further understanding and compassion.
No matter which the religion, people are now not thinking of how they can help their friends and their loved ones to go over this very critical situation, but they 'wash their hands' purposelly oblivious of their moral obligations and unwilling to accept the social responsibility that lies upon each of us to be there for the loved ones in need.
This society has produced a serial of criminals, like Madoff, that are the result of the lax morals that inadvertently is taught to its citizens. People no longer have time for discipline, parents are negligent in raising children who are, instead, placed at the mercy of uneducated nannies. And, this situation has deteriorated tremendously with the inexorable passage of time. Thus, as one could expect it, that laissez-faire has produced this generation where leaders are almost nowhere to be found.
Sadly, my only thought right now is, "Quo vadis, America...?"
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I had polio since I was 7-months old; it certainly gave me a different position and approach to
life than the one the majority of body-abled people have in and towards life.
Sure, it was a hard infancy, with major surgeries along the road in the life of the vivacious little girl. As a teenager, with normal hormones, it was even harder, as no one boy would want to look at me. As a university and college student, it was hard because I could not go at the speed of all others. But, I learned so much and so many things. I studied languages, psychology -which I abandoned because there was too much suffering and realized that I would not be able to actually help someone in pain- studied history and political sciences, which I adored, and then it was time to learn communications and to enlarge my experience in life through a variety of positions. Until I decided to be my own boss.
But, to make a long story short, things definitely changed for the better for me the day I decided to move from my crutches to my scooter.
However, my crutches have given me the physical training that I, sadly, do not get with my scooter. But, the advantage, on the other hand, is that my speed is multiplied by hundred with the little red scooter.
So, at the beginning of my days on the scooter, I was crossing Madison Avenue on a Friday afternoon when I see a young blind man turning around, seemingly disoriented, and while there was a huge crowd of 'busy' people going around him, there was no one who stopped to ask him "do you need anything?," "are you all right?," "may I help you in any way?..."
Naturally, I did ask him. It happens that he was disoriented and indeed lost. So, he told me where he was heading, and I volunteered to go with him. I just asked him to hold on to the back of my scooter wheelchair, and promised him to go very slowly, at his speed. I took him almost 4 blocks until his destination. As he was saying good-bye, he said thank you with tears in his eyes.
And, my heart was just too moved thanking G-d for allowing me to help him. Me, and not all those other body-abled people, who had not one second to tell a fellow human being,"let me help you..."
That's why I found the story of Dartanyan and Leroy so wonderful, a lesson of human love and care.
Precisely what we need to be reminded in these very trying days.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Back then, I got in touch with some key figures in the Icelandic government, mostly from the Finance Ministry, trying to see what could be done.
As it happened, in the aftermath of an interview that I realized iwith of one of the leading bankers of the Emirates, I even sounded him out to see if they might have been interested in investing in Iceland -and maybe save her. But, my interlocutor clearly told me "it was way too far away." So I had to abandon the idea as shortly there after the global crisis worsened.
Today, the IMF is encouraging Iceland Central Bank to use rates to boost her Krona, and that may well give some good results.
To read that information: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aLAUu5Zrkfqc
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Some might wonder, what on Earth is she speaking about? Well, let's see my issues at hand one by one.
What I call the "Michael Jackson phenomenon" is simply the mirror of our societies, nowadays increasingly more and more permissive by not providing a solid base of education and a set of values set on steel, and which we should have been the custodians of, to hand to our younger generations.
Instead, materialism took over. as we silently witnessed and in many cases were the acomplices of mothers leaving the homes to become the second breadwinner in their families. With that, naturally, children were left at the hands and -lack of- common sense of so-called nannies who barely in most cases were able to speak the language.
Young American children, especially in the big cities, like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and so on, have been raised in an environment lacking family values and in general human values.
The amount of drugs in middle and high school has been rampant, alcohol and sex, are not far beyond, and a total absence of values such as solidarity, compassion, understanding, are no longer in the vocabulary of our spoiled young brats.
In this picture, fits perfectly the image of a man, gifted but conflictive, who had a very promising, pure and augurious beginning, but someone who somewhere along the road of his life got lost -and I am still trying to figure out what happened to that young and adorable kid from his infancy. Something happened, someone did something to him and no one was there to protect him.
So, while many fans want to forget the dubious moments seeing Jackson in court defending himself of accusations that he had had special moments with young little boys in his house, I simply cannot forget it.
I feel sorry for him and, as my son says, sorry that he did not have a mother like I.
But, I just wanted to paint for you the sad story of our society, because in reality, Michael Jackson's dark side as much as Madoff pitiless side, and so many of those, are the result of what
our society is producing.
Part of our society is our economic system. So, the lack of vision of our financial leaders, is completely understandable if we consider the social picture depicted above.
And, the world, as much as it may have disliked the United States, has indiscriminately copied our style. They did not copy the best of us, but the worse.
And the way up will be long and painful. And, hopefully we will get there before it's too late.
28 June 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Well, for the record, having been at the head of Benador Associates, means that after my experience and our experience with what happened in Iraq and how poorly the Bush Administration handled the whole operation, as a personal conclusion I drew the line there. Since then, I stopped my involvement in politics, especially in the US, as nothing ever changes there. And, most importantly, I do not want to go into any other war unless there is an uncontested success in sight and immediate, non-negotiable withdrawal planned.
Current events in Iran are, in fact, showing exactly what I was hoping for and expecting all along: that the wonderful people of Iran are able to revolt themselves, show the world that it is they and no one else who will take care of letting know their leaders loud and clear what they want or not.
And, with the courage Iranians are showing, it is a lesson for the world, a lesson from a population of roughly 65875223 who is able and willing to let their manipulating leaders that there are boundaries.
I know we all are hoping these protests will be fruitful. But they may just end without provoking any major change. However, the fact that those voices have been forcefully heard throughout the whole world, sure thanks to Twitter and Facebook and so on, is simply amazing.
Times are changing. For the best.
And, it ain't over yet.
Meanwhile, next week, roughly over 30 foreign oil companies have been selected to participate in the auction of oil contracts.
To be followed....
BIG OIL BACK TO IRAQ?
By Anna Aulova
24 June 2009 (CBS) --- Thirty five companies are qualified to bid on foreign oil contracts with Iraq starting next week, the Wall Street Journal reports. The government decided to auction off foreign oil contracts in an attempt to boost up its war torn economy.
The auction is taking place for the first time since Iraq nationalized its oil industry more than 30 years ago. Among top potential bidders are Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Italy's Eni SpA, Russia's Lukoil and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. If all goes according to plan, the new contracts with foreign companies will help Iraq to stabilize six developed fields which have suffered because of the war.
Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has expressed his commitment to staying on the deal despite lawmakers' concerns of legality of the contracts - believed by the parliament to have highly favorable terms for the foreign companies.
According to Wall Street Journal, the oil deal could be key to stablizing Iraq's economy and to its proposed plans to boost oil output from the current 2.4 million barrels a day to 4 million. The companies themselves, are also reported as being eager to receive the contracts due to Iraq's relativly unexplored reservoirs, with some considering the nation as the most important opening of petrolium fields in years. Only about 20 out of the known 80 oil fields have been developed.
Al-Shahristani has stated that the companies with the lowest rates and highest potential profit for Iraq will receive the contracts, according to the article.
Approximately 120 companies were interested in bidding. The contracts will last 20 years and the winning companies will begin work in November.