Sunday, January 31, 2010

KSM - Blutarsky?

OK - is it just me or does KSM look like our old departed John Belushi (RIP)? You know that picture where he's grimacing and got his back hair showing on his neck etc., right? Maybe I've just been smoking too much crack, and starting to hallucinate...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

(Another) Terror Haven with Drug Money

No, I'm not talking about Mexico! Talking about Yemen-Somalia and the drug that helps drive their economies and addict their men...Sound familiar? Think Afghanistan, another lawless terrorist breeding ground...Taliban funding their arsenal and bribing warlords from drug trade cash.

Proximity between Yemen / Somalia - an easy boat ride across the Red Sea. Further, both countries' economies and social / political dynamics are significantly influenced by "q'at" which is an amphetamine-like stimulant. (I hope I don't get in trouble but I've tried it - only once, cross my heart - it's nice, reminds my of my days dippin' Copenhagen but a lot more potent and tasty). It is highly addictive and consumed by the majority of men in both countries. Making strategy on terror needs to take drugs into account. And also energy, but that's another topic for another time.

Speaking about this geography Somalia and Yemen - we've openly been there for decades - no surprises on what's happening there! On an extremely personal note - RIP to our brothers who passed there - broke my heart...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Fronts with the Enemy?

My observation is that we may be seeing new fronts in our battle with those who seek us harm. A couple of fronts are known, and in fact (in my opinion) a natural development of the sleeper cell model favored by the enemy:
  • American-based / "home grown" terrorists sympathetic to Al Qaeda
  • The move towards Yemen, which similar to Somalia provides an excellent opportunity for Al Qaeda to regroup...more about Yemen another time
In addition however there could be additional fronts developing. I hope I'm wrong! And I am uncertain about the facts upon which this analysis is based (media reports) - but here goes:

Intel manipulation - the tragic killing of 7 CIA operatives by an allegedly "turned" double agent. Intel is in my opinion absolutely fundamental to winning our battle - the basis of our strategy, our military operations whether traditional or SOF (special operations forces) counterinsurgency, and basically anything we do etc. Intelligence must be extremely challenging anyway, as one of my simplifying rules about the Middle East is that it generally goes back to tribes (see a previous post); if true then this makes it quite challenging to infiltrate the enemy. However this instance seems to go several steps beyond - not only a very painful loss for the families on a personal level, and for America as a tough blow in our battle - but these were apparently some very heavy hitters, their loss will be felt.

Has the enemy taken intel to a new front?

Socially acceptable branding - "Jihad" vs. "Terrorist" - the 5 young "Americans" (all of Middle East origin) arrested in Pakistan who allegedly proclaimed they had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or any terrorist organizations, but rather rallied around "Jihad" to support Muslims against occupiers. In Pakistan, and across most of the Middle East, this gets a favorable reception...

Has the enemy opened a new front to win hearts and minds?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Agassi - Balls to the Wall

Gotta love Andre Agassi! His father - an Iranian Olympic boxer - was domineering and pushed Andre, against his will, to succeed at all costs as a tennis champ. The new revelations are that Andre "hated" tennis! And felt so bound to his image that (in addition to indulging in crystal meth for the better part of a year) he actually had a hair weave...and his biggest fear was that his piece would fall off, exposing his glistening bald pate!

Anyway I find his story quite inspirational - he has decided to build his life and has found happiness, love and meaning. A 9th grade dropout, he is a huge education proponent, putting his money and his time behind it...among other things he sponsored a new charter school in a tough Las Vegas neighborhood which last year sent 100% of their graduates to college.

Balls to the Wall!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where I Stand on Health Care Reform

OK - so by now you've seen I'm a capitalist (despite my Wall Street background)...and generally speaking I like free markets, and am against government solutions to issues best solved by the private sector...but I have to weigh in on health care reform.

The system is broken. Prices are out of control (I know - I just cut health insurance by 35% - down to "only" $1250 per month!). Insurance companies have literally made a living out of denying claims. My answer is - consistent with (ironically) my free market principles - competition! I want the government to provide a solution to compete with private insurers, and I want competition across state lines.

And anybody - anybody at all - who is going to challenge that - what about the human cost??? Let's assume that the current administration is full of it (likely so) and it will not be "budget neutral". So what - we're going to pay extra out of our pockets for our sick brothers and sisters? Give me a break, we're still a quarter of the world's economy and by far the richest country in the world, and we can't afford a literal life and death issue for our own people? What's happened to us, are we that greedy? I'm not talking about a factory worker or store clerk, who's barely getting by...but what about those of us who have a couple of nickels to rub together?

Let's get it together here and take care of our people. Another area that I don't see being emphasized is our own ability to proactively manage our wellness - exercise, diet, sleep, stress, etc. are demonstrably linked to health and wellbeing. I don't have the numbers but I am certain that we could save tens of billions of dollars in health care just from preventive actions and proactive health management.

Let's go for a little bit of humanity here!

Dick is a Dick!

Dick Cheney - from the maker of the great movie...unvested options from his Halliburton days, who steered us into the Iraq invasion from which surprise surprise! Halliburton won billions in no-bid, cost-plus contracts...that disgusting intersection of business and government that is polluted and in my opinion literally steals from the hard work of our fighting force, who are literally sacrificing their lives! On top of our hard-earned taxpayer subsidize a hard-on without a plan...

Same Dick is now continuing his Dickly habits, spreading fear, in this instance getting us to resist having Gitmo prisoners on US soil for fear that they will break free and do us harm...does the Dick think we are stupid??? We have the hardest core gang-bangers in maximum security, in places that have never been breached, and we can't securely contain a few Jihadists?

We are Americans - what we (used to at least) call "The Free and the Brave"!

Dick it's time you quit being a Dick, retire quietly and let historians take their view.

Mood(y) Swings

This is about the economy - not sure if everyone realizes how close to plunging over the cliff we actually came. There's a lot of anger towards Wall Street, much of it justifiable in my opinion (although the scorpion's nature is to sting - the tiger can't change it's stripes - and Wall Street feeds on markets, just the way it's wired).

There are a lot of other stakeholders in creating this crisis but there are two in particular that I feel have emerged relatively unscathed given their culpability. First are the politicians, and I'm not talking about the lack of regulation...but this disgusting quid-pro-quo between politicians and Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac - whenever government and business intersect, look out!!! I fundamentally resent the revolving door between these quasi-private institutions and politicians and the links between the two. So bottom line, in my opinion, politicians used our taxpayer money to underwrite non-creditworthy mortgages, with the objectives of:

- helping people who couldn't otherwise afford it to purchase home - very noble goal (although in my cynical opinion it was done primarily to buy votes) with unintended consequences namely the triggering of the sub-prime meltdown which triggered the economic collapse
- creating a pool of blank check funds - Fannie / Freddie et al were expected to be incredibly generous political donors
- arranging a soft, cushy landing for people who were hand-picked to ensure that the pig would continue to get well fed, in other words continuation of the "win-win" political / mortgage business (but "lose-lose" for taxpayers)

Anyway forgive my diatribe, just nobody's really called them out and I'm a bit down on politicians...but the other massive culprit is the rating agencies. These f'ers were paid a lot of money to give "unbiased" ratings - but lo and behold Moody's, S&P et al were on the lam! So investors (who also have some culpability but that's for another time) who were relying on "independent" risk assessments of incredibly complicated securities were out and out lied to!

So someone from within Moody's has blown the whistle - and said that the old practices continue! And now the ex-head of compliance for Moody's is testifying...

Stay posted