Saudi Arabia

A different perspective on Iran

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1C888mSyD7s&feature=youtu.be

Iranian-American activist, Saghar Erica Kasraie, has made a video outlining her view which contradicts the propaganda machine glorifying the Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.

As an example, The NY Times’ obituary, titled, ‘Qassim Suleimani, Master of Iran’s Intrigue, Built a Shiite Axis of Power in Mideast‘ reads like he was a veritable patron saint rather than a terrorist.

In Kasraie’s opinion there are many more Iranians celebrating his death than made out by the media. Her Facebook page has dozens of interesting videos depicting the oppression of the Iranians at home.

You be the judge.

SBS impartiality & Amanda McKenzie’s colossal clumsiness

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Good to see the SBS has made sure it has an impartial position on topics such as climate change remains steadfastly in line with its charter. It not only avoided enlargening the font in bold of certain choice words spoken by Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie but it also refrained from putting a picture of the broadcaster’s ultimate boss holding a lump of coal. The irony is that the Climate Council guru’s facts were, unfortunately, wrong.

PM Scott Morrison’s facts were by and large correct. Never mind that they disagreed with McKenzie’s narrative. Good to see that SBS followed up with a rigorous line of questioning to get her to point out exactly where the PM was out of line. Sadly, that was a bridge too far for the alarmist journalists.

Presumably “colossal bullshit” should have been evidence enough. The Climate Council did release a statement but instead of countering fact, it just produced its own interpretation of what it wanted to hear, rather than point out where Morrison had blatantly told porky pies.

For instance the Climate Council stated:

Morrison statement: “Australia is responsible for just 1.3 per cent of global emissions. Australia is doing our bit on climate change and we reject any suggestion to the contrary.”

Fact-check: Australia is the 17th largest polluter in the world, bigger than 175 countries.  We are the third-largest exporter of fossil fuels in the world. 

CM: It is irrelevant. Australia’s GHG as measured by the IPCC, IEA and Eurostat are 1.3% of human-made CO2. It is the truth from sources that align with the Climate Council. It only shows that the previous 16 countries absolutely dwarf us by comparison. China is 29.3% on its own.

Furthermore to make statements that our coal exports should be counted in our emissions number is the same argument as saying that every imported passenger car, transport truck and commercial jet should have emissions docked against America, Japan, Korea and the EU.  That would be consistent

Morrison statement: “And our Great Barrier Reef remains one of the world’s most pristine areas of natural beauty. Feel free to visit it. Our reef is vibrant and resilient and protected under the world’s most comprehensive reef management plan.”

Fact-check: In 2016 and 2017, the Great Barrier Reef was severely damaged through back-to-back bleaching events which killed half of all corals on the planet’s largest living structure. Australia’s current goal, if followed by other countries, would sign the death warrant of the Great Barrier Reef. 

CM: Maybe she should speak to Professor Peter Ridd and question why the James Cook University faculty lost (although still not completely settled due to an appeal) all aspects of the unfair dismissal case against it for Ridd’s refusal to buckle to the cabal’s orthodoxy. The reef is not dying. It is thriving. So much so that Greenpeace needed to use a picture of bleached coral in The Philippines to distort the truth because the GBR presented no such photographic opportunities.

Morrison statement: “Our latest estimates show both emissions per person and the emissions intensity of the economy are at their lowest levels in 29 years.”

Fact-check:  Australia has the highest emissions per capita in the developed world. It is true that Australia’s emissions per capita have fallen more than most countries [is that colossal bullshit?], but this is from an extraordinarily high baseline [so what?] and has largely been driven by rapid population growth. Even with this drop, we still have the highest per capita emissions in the developed world. Our emissions per capita are higher than Saudi Arabia, a country not known for its action on climate change. Ultimately, our international targets are not based on per capita emissions. 

CM: Australia’s CO2 emissions per unit of GDP since 1990 have fallen 33.9%. Wrong Amanda, Canada has higher emissions per capita at 16.85 vs our 16.45. Unless under Justin Trudeau Canada has lost developed nation status which is highly possible! Saudi Arabia is 19.39. So, in fact, your comments are incorrect.

We could go on. So if Amanda McKenzie wants to throw the PM under the bus with profanity it helps if she actually provided accurate figures.

Perhaps the most colossal bullshit to come from McKenzie was this,

Over the winter we saw bushfires burning across Australia while the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic were on fire. A major new report shows that suburbs in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne could experience serious sea level disasters every year on our current trajectory.

It would appear that the Australian seaside property prices aren’t at (excuse the pun) fire-sale prices and that the bushfires in the Amazon, Australia and the Arctic are not related to climate change. The truth is that the acreage lost to bushfires have fallen 24% over the last 18 years. Unless NASA is lying.  Maybe the Climate Council has been channelling the Sierra Club CEO Aaron Mair?

 

Dictator with term limits

While no one can doubt that Trump polarizes opinion, do his detractors honestly think they will win the debate by mowing a giant phallus into a lawn? Will this attempt to (literally) take the moral low ground somehow swing those who hold different opinions?

If the dictator moniker were true he would be the world’s most incompetent executor of such an office. Sadly Trump has between 1.5 and 5.5 years (likely the latter) to remain as DOTUS. Instead of 99% of the population voting for him like a Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un or Hitler, Trump will likely garner around half. If Americans truly wanted a real dictator they would be better off voting for someone who could get 99%. Sadly democracies don’t operate like that.

The Queen, who long remembers the 80 year relationship which preserved her monarchy, knows that after Trump leaves office, the UK will still continue to have a strong bond with America. Her Majesty won’t resort to petty snubs of its head of state because she feels the need to kowtow to the intolerant mindsets of a few.

Will Americans want to see politicians like Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry show such conditional support for American democracy? Did she call for protests when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia visited? A man with pretty questionable actions regarding journalists in embassies. No she did not.

There are far more effective ways to show courtesy to visiting dignitaries. As CM mentioned yesterday, Trump’s tweets are unstatesmanlike. It doesn’t make Thornberry or Khan’s any better.

Perhaps the Queen is sending the world a message about “the long game.” She probably knows a thing or two about diplomacy as the world’s longest serving monarch. Her state dinner invitation list is the perfect representation of who she feels needs prioritization. What an embarrassment that the UK government did not extend the invite in the first place.

God save our Queen!

How well do Americans know their Defense budget?

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The US spends more than the next 9 countries combined when it comes to defence. What is probably lost on many Americans is the spiraling cost of funding the veterans who served. The US is forecast in 2020 to spend almost as much on the Dept of Veterans Affairs (VA) as China does on military spending. The direct cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has driven the indirect costs of treating those who served almost 5-fold since the war began. US politicians have passed increase after increase.  Have these increases been thought of in context of the trend? Or do annual increases just get signed off as a reflex action?

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If we put the VA budget next to the defence budget, the former has grown from 14.8% of the latter to around 29% between 2000 and 2020. The number of veterans receiving disability compensation has grown 2 million in 2000 to 4.3 million in 2016. A total of 7.2 million veterans are actively seeking services or payments from the VA, up from 5.5 million in 2000.

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Spending per veteran by priority group also reveals sharply higher costs. This is not an exhaustive list of priorities, but the main 7.

Priority 1

• Veterans with VA-rated service-connected disabilities 50% or more disabling
• Veterans determined by VA to be unemployable due to service-connected conditions.

Priority 2

• Veterans with VA-rated service-connected disabilities 30% or 40% disabling

Priority 3

• Veterans who are Former Prisoners of War (POWs)
• Veterans awarded a Purple Heart medal
• Veterans whose discharge was for a disability that was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty
• Veterans with VA-rated service-connected disabilities 10% or 20% disabling
• Veterans awarded special eligibility classification under Title 38, U.S.C., § 1151, “benefits for individuals disabled by treatment or vocational rehabilitation
• Veterans awarded the Medal Of Honor (MOH)

Priority 4

• Veterans who are receiving aid and attendance or housebound benefits from VA
• Veterans who have been determined by VA to be catastrophically disabled

Priority 5

• Non service-connected Veterans and non-compensable service-connected Veterans rated 0% disabled by VA with annual income below the VA’s and geographically (based on your resident zip code) adjusted income limits
• Veterans receiving VA pension benefits
• Veterans eligible for Medicaid programs

Priority 6

• Compensable 0% service-connected Veterans.
• Veterans exposed to ionizing radiation during atmospheric testing or during the occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
• Project 112/SHAD participants.
• Veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.
• Veterans of the Persian Gulf War who served between August 2, 1990, and November 11, 1998.
• Veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
• Currently enrolled Veterans and new enrollees who served in a theater of combat operations after November 11, 1998 and those who were discharged from active duty on or after January 28, 2003, are eligible for the enhanced benefits for five years post discharge.

Priority 7

• Veterans with gross household income below the geographically-adjusted income limits for their resident location and who agree to pay copays.

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Countries have an obligation to look after the troops that sustain injury, physical, mental or otherwise. The question is whether politicians are cottoning on to the mounting relative increase in healing the veteran community to the spending on weapons of war?

There are 19.6 million veterans in the US. By 2045 this is expected to dip below 12 million. With 2.1 million serving active duty military personnel and reserves, the overall costs of healing may not come down anytime soon.

What it does say is that there is a massive need to work out how to reduce the costs to the VA without impeding improving healthcare and benefits for veterans.

Do arms suppliers have a moral compass?

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40 murdered children in Yemen.  The Saudi logic behind the attack was that the Houthi rebels were training these kids as soldiers. A far-fetched claim. Yet where has the condemnation of Saudi’s role on the UN Human Rights Council been? Countless civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi military are nothing new. Where was the outrage then? The decades long proxy war has only accelerated since the assassination of former Yemeni dictator President Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017.

CNN looked to put the blame of this latest tragedy at the feet of US defence companies. Surely the Europeans are just as blameworthy for selling the Tornado or Eurofighter aircraft that likely dropped the American ordinance on these kids? Mattis has openly criticized the Saudi attack in this instance.

Arms deals are a dirty business. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Unfortunately these dangerous toys rarely come with a “please use responsibly” section inside the box of instructions. Some might argue that in certain cases users are not of the appropriate age bracket to play with them. Bribery scandals (aka incentives) are often more notable than the weapons deals themselves. Yet have there been incidences of arms suppliers turning down multi-billion dollar contracts?

If we go back in history, the Americans refused to release the source codes to the Saudis in a potential multi-billion dollar US jet fighter sale that would have allowed certain weapons (the US weren’t prepared to supply) to be fired. Even if the Saudis bought the US jets and sourced the banned weapons on the black market they wouldn’t be able to be fired.  Instead the Saudi’s bought the Panavia Tornado because the Europeans were happy to sell a similarly capable platform that the US refused to sell. UK defence contractor BAE Systems won a long term maintenance contract known as Al-Yamamah as a result of this Tornado deal. Why not bash the Brits for taking advantage of the US putting regional security ahead of arms sales in Saudi Arabia?

Perhaps we could question the moral fibre of the US refusing to sell the F-22 Raptor attack fighter to the Japanese. The Japanese top brass pleaded for the plane but US Congress refused to approve it claiming the billions required to redo all of the computer systems and source codes to ensure it had a lower capability than the USAF plane. The reality was more likely to prevent a leakage of its capability (something that had occurred when the Japanese ordered Aegis destroyers). The result was Japan didn’t get them even given its peaceful history post WW2.

Should we bash the Russians for supplying military hardware has been behind the deaths of over 100,000 Syrians? Or Ford for making the car that ran down people in Westminster?Or should we question the operators of these tools?

If we really want to get petty the Paveway Mk-82 bombs responsible for killing these kids were sold to the Saudi’s in a deal made in 2013 under the Obama administration. Was it Obama’s fault in allowing the sale? CM doesn’t believe he is but interesting that CNN left the period of sale out. Easier to attack the $110bn arms sales going forwards.

40 dead children is a tragedy. Arms deals are far from if ever holy. The instruments of death are sadly not always deploy in manners which are either moral or ethical. The Iranian backed Houthi almost sunk a French made Saudi frigate in the Red Sea at the beginning of last year. Several Emirati patrol boats have been severely damaged by the Houthi in the same area, the most recent incident occurring  last month. There are countless skirmishes along the Yemeni/Saudi border.

Unfortunately the Saudis and several other gulf states are key allies of the US in the proxy war against Iran/Russia. Do not expect a wholesale change in US arms deals with Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future.

In closing perhaps people might question China’s new interest in the Middle East? Many may have missed it has deployed 5,000 troops (including special forces) in Syria since 2017. Geopolitics seldom look to protect the rights of anyone other than the home side. Don’t pretend it does otherwise.

Musk to be investigated by SEC over tweets

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CM has always thought that Elon Musk is the ultimate salesman. CM has also wrote that the biggest risk to being a short seller was then”cult” status of the company. On any rational investment grounds the stock is ridiculously priced but as the old adage goes, “the market can stay irrational longer than you can remain solvent!

Tesla is a car company that is worth more than GM, Ford & FiatChrysler combined. One that trades at 5x Daimler in valuation terms, a luxury competitor that is in the sweet spot of its product line up and rudely profitable.

Back in June, Musk bought $35mn worth of shares in Tesla. The whole idea that someone is willing to fork out $75bn on a whim seems somewhat implausible. Is it safe to assume that all of 100s of lawyers, bankers and brokers would need a little bit of time to prepare the necessary documentation to cement such a ridiculous sum? Or is money now just so free and easy that a billionaire deploys a vault full of cash loaded full of Zero Halliburtons into a private jet after a few phone calls?

SEC enforcement attorneys had already been gathering general information about Tesla’s public statements on manufacturing goals and sales targets. Now SEC attorneys are investigating whether his tweets about securing funding were factual.

CM is not accusing Musk of insider trading albeit as a matter of course the SEC should investigate when he knew about his mega financier. One wonders how it is that we know so little about the buyer, the term sheet, the question of shareholder approval and how “secure” it is? Taking it private will remove the lens of quarterly reporting but it doesn’t remove the fact of how dreadfully the company is run or how amateur production is. Even if public scrutiny is removed, the problems of profitability don’t disappear and the need for funds, credit ratings etc if he taps public markets for debt capital remain.

If Musk pulls it all off and the company becomes a roaring success then CM will gladly eat a whole humble pie and openly admit it was wrong.

As to the SEC investigation let’s hope it has learnt the lessons of its bumbling incompetency over Bernie Madoff and doesn’t miss anything that might be bleeding obvious.

Israel to deduct terrorist salaries from PA transfers

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No sooner had Australia announced it would no longer give money directly to the Palestinian Authority (PA) than the Knesset put into law a previous bill that sought to deduct terrorists’ salaries from the roughly $130 million in monthly tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of them. PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh said,

The Palestinian presidency strongly refuses to accept this severe decision, which damages the foundations of the relations since the Oslo Agreement to this day…If this decision is implemented, it will prompt important Palestinian decisions to deal with it.”

How is it that even with the Oslo peace process coming into effect in 1993 that the PLO carried out 4,000 attacks till 1999. The Israelis so desperate (under Ehud Barak of all people) for peace gave the PLO 95% of their territorial demands yet they still kept up the attacks killing more than 1,000 Israelis, a total exceeding the previous 25 years combined. So the foundations of the Oslo Agreement remain flakey at best. 

What Abbas’ spokesman is technically saying is that they openly admit to spending money on terrorist salaries (nothing new) when their very own people want monies to be allocated on services (education, sanitation, water, electricity, healthcare) that benefit the whole. The press doesn’t report the 1,000s of Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals.

While Israel remains an open, democratic and multi-ethnic society the PA has proven itself to be an intolerant, corrupt and self-serving dictatorship which has little interest in serving its constituents as the comptroller of its first ever audit revealed. International aid money lined the pockets of the leaders of the PLO. The French money laundering authorities discovered that Arafat’s wife’s bank account had amassed $3bn over 20 years. It is ironic that most of the original founders of the PLO didn’t live in the Palestinian Mandate when Israel was created. Arafat was born in Egypt. 

At the time of the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, 90% of Palestinian Arabs lived in Transjordan. At the time there was no movement to create a Palestinian state. It is somewhat ironic that no Arab outrage ensued when Jordan annexed the West Bank (what we know as the occupied territories) in 1950 blatantly disenfranchising the Palestinian Arabs in the process. Even then they never fought for self-determination. In fact it wasn’t until the PLO was first established in 1964, a time the West Bank belonged to Jordan, that they started to pursue it.

The irony of many leaders in Palestine is the blatant hypocrisy. In 2014, during the last conflict, former Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh sent his daughter across the border to Israel for emergency medical treatment. On what grounds does a father trust his daughter to his mortal enemy to save her? Yahya Sinwar, a prisoner in an Israeli jail for murdering 12 Israelis was given life saving surgery after being diagnosed with cancer. He was released in a prisoner exchange in 2011 and took over from Haniyeh as leader of Hamas yet swears “we will tear out their hearts” of the very people who saved him.

What might have escaped many is that in the last few months terrorists have burnt more than 30,000 dunam (7,400 acres) of land near the border with Gaza. Israel’s honey industry has almost been wiped out. Israel is under pressure to do something to stop such destruction. Iran is the biggest headache for Israel at present. Despite digital diplomacy, the last thing the country wants to invite is a conflict with Iran-backed Hamas.

However do not be surprised if some skirmish kicks off on the border in coming months to contain the fire bombing of farmland. It will have nothing to do with cutting out payments to terrorists and martyrs although don’t be surprised if that pretext is used.

Israelis truly want peace. Yet the PA will only accept one which requires the destruction of the Jewish state. Ask yourself whether you would sign an agreement with that as a clause? Exactly.  Even Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, said several months ago,

In the last several decades, the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given…It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the table or shut up.”