Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Logic of Empire

Zbigniew Brzezinski [former National Security Advisor]: "According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the mujahideen began during 1980s, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul."
Le Nouvel Observateur*: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?
Zibigniew Brzezinski: "What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Empire? Some agitated Moslems [sic] or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"

The United States operates 761 military installations worldwide with a total of over a quarter million personnel in 39 countries (including Osama Bin Laden's homeland of Saudi Arabia) according to the FY2008 DOD Base Structure Report. In July, 1998 the US refused to ratify the treaty establishing an international criminal court with jurisdiction over individuals. The basis for the refusal was that its "unique position" makes its personnel especially vulnerable to spurious charges of war crimes. On the last day of a deadly decade, a federal court judge threw out charges against five Blackwater (renamed Xe) mercenaries for the 2007 deaths of seventeen Iraqi civilians in Nisoor Square, Baghdad. Prosecutors built their case against the shooters on tainted evidence despite advice to the contrary from senior Department of Justice officials. Iraqis are understandably disillusioned about the dismissal. Said one wounded victim, "There is no justice. I expected the American court would side with the Blackwater security guards who committed a massacre in Nisoor Square." However, the court's written opinion dismissing the case was ninety pages long!

*January 15-21, 1998; Les Révélations d'un Ancien Conseiller de Carter

Monday, December 21, 2009

US PERSON is taking a Christmas break. Come back in the new year for more high impact blog at PERSONA NON GRATA.
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cleaning Up the Mess

Some good news as the Christian holiday approaches: the American Smelting and Refining Company, ASARCO, agreed to a settlement of its pollution liabilities in nineteen states it was announced on December 10th by federal officials. Grupo Mexico, the parent company, is providing $1.79 billion for the bankrupt concern as payment to clean up 80 superfund sites created by the company's mining operations. ASARCO was a venerable name in the mining business, operating for 110 years as a vertically integrated holding company and then as an Arizona based copper mining and refining company. It filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on August 9, 2005. Grupo Mexico purchased the company in bankruptcy proceedings. Two of the more significant superfund sites affected by the settlement are the Tar Creek site in Ottawa County, Oklahoma and the Bunker Hill site in the Coeur d'Alene basin of northern Idaho. The Tar Creek site is highly contaminated by mine tailings deposited in mounds and retention ponds near residential communities and developed areas. Some of the piles are 200 feet high [photo] and contain lead, cadmium and zinc. The Bunker Hill site is on public land used by wildlife and migratory birds as habitat. Land, ground water and surface waters have been contaminated by mining operations. Caring for our planet by restoring damaged land is what Jesus would do.

[photo: courtesy EPA]

Friday, December 18, 2009

'Toontime: From Here Scrooge Looks Good

[credit: Pat Oliphant]
"Americans have grown gloomier about both the economy and the nation’s direction over the past three months even as the U.S. shows signs of moving from recession to recovery. Almost half the people now feel less financially secure than when President Barack Obama took office in January...Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans think the economy will improve in the next six months"-- Bloomberg national poll

Thursday, December 17, 2009

America Looses Without Public Option

US Person is big enough to admit he is not always right. His prediction that the Senate bill would contain a public option when it passed turned out to be incorrect. But so are Senators Lieberman and Nelson. The only reason the public option failed in the Senate is because these two senators did the political equivalent of flipping the finger at the American public and their Democratic Senate colleagues. Nelson is called a "moderate", but has a voting record that belies the label. He is sponsored by the insurance industry, and he is holding out for political favors for his conservative constituency. A political hack's opposition to government health insurance is at least explainable. Who knows what goes on in 'Zion Joe's' head? The man campaigned for Robert Kennedy for pity's sake. Maybe his recalcitrance is simply political payback for Democratic opposition to his reelection or his failed presidential bid as suggested by the Washington press. One thing is certain he is not representing the desires of his state because the Connecticut legislature recently passed a statewide public health health care bill over the Republican governor's veto. The state program includes a public option! Why a Democratic state re-elects a senator that does his level best to derail progressive programs, and vote with the opposition on important policy matters is difficult to explain without considering the overriding importance of money in Washington. If the Senate bill actually requires the establishment of private non-profit insurance options, there is at least some hope that America will eventually get health care right. Emphasis on eventually because the Senate's protection of the insurance industry will not be corrected by what they have fashioned so far. The key to controlling health care costs has always been formulating price competition in a market gamed by the insurance companies. Either a new government insurance plan or extension of Medicare would have been a down payment on reform. Now, both proposals are off the table because just one senator would not put his foot on the alleged "slippery slope". The mendacity at work in Washington is of a level beyond description.

The Senate bill, even without a public option, must survive three cloture votes and the Senate-House conference committee process, the product of which is also subject to filibuster in the Senate by the forces of greed and ignorance. All because the Senate majority's will to act decisively in the interests of the American people has been enfeebled by the money power. Former Democratic party chairman Howard Dean says the Senate bill as it now stands "does more harm than good"; a conclusion starkly supported now that Americans will not only pay more than anyone else for health insurance, but they will be required by law to pay more to achieve near universal coverage. Legislators of courage and integrity have one more opportunity to inject reform into this deeply addicted process at the conference committee. We can only hope they prevail.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Deciding the Fate of Earth in Copenhagen

Besides the spectacle of Danish police bashing protesters, one of the few accomplishments of the global talks in Copenhagen will be the REDD (Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation) agreement. As US Person advised his readers before {10.26.09}, there is widespread agreement among the delegates that preserving forests from total destruction is an effective means of reducing global warming. Forests are prodigious carbon sinks because of transpiration. Details need to be worked out, but major areas of disagreement such as defining the rights of indigenous forest inhabitants like the Penan, have been worked out through compromise. Observers are confident a final agreement will be announced, probably timed for the arrival of Forty-four so he can make another speech claiming progress. Actually, precious little progress has been made on reducing carbon emissions primarily because of US and Chinese intransigence on setting reduction targets. Even the appearance of Al Gore reprising Moses with news of rapidly melting Greenland icecap and rising Atlantic sea levels failed to move negotiations forward. However, REDD will set up a payments scheme for poor countries as incentive for preserving intact forests. In return for contributions, rich countries will be able to claim carbon credits to partially offset their industrial emissions. As a Wilderness Society consultant put it, forests "have become a pot of money or a get out of jail free card". Yes, Virginia, life really is like a Monopoly® board.

Plug-In Hybrids: Too little, too late?

GM has tapped California as the place for rolling out the Chevy Volt in 2011. GM has even commissioned a catchy jingle to educate consumers about the plug-in EV which plays at auto shows were the Volt is on display. The price will not be inexpensive, $40,000, primarily because the car's lithium ion batteries will cost around $14,000. Besides the price tag a new analysis sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and the Department of Energy may give pause to consumers willing to commit to a greener type of personal mobility. The report says that because of the higher front end costs to consumers--as much as $18,000 per car-- plug-in electric vehicles (PHEV) will not overtake internal combustion vehicles in the US car market for decades. The report estimates that with consumer acceptance there could be as many as 40 million PHEVs on the roads by 2030, but a more realistic number is 13 million. Even with government subsidies and advancements in battery technology bringing the cost down, PHEVs are not expected to impact carbon emissions until 2030. Gas consumption for extended range PHEVs like the Volt are significantly less than (<) current hybrids (55%). But because they are recharged from the electric grid, emissions from generating stations must be accounted for. If drivers are conscientious about charging their EVs a night when the electrical load is reduced, the current ramshackle electric grid could handle the new consumption.

The report assumes no breakthrough advancements in battery technology which could tip the balance in favor of electric vehicles. Nor does the study account for the possibility of charging more for gasoline to reflect the environmental and social cost of fossil fuel consumption. Former GM Vice Chairman and gear head* Bob Lutz thinks that gasoline beyond $4.00 a gallon will be necessary to motivate die-hard internal combustion enthusiasts to switch to electricity. Such an idea is a fiscal godsend for a future of expanding federal deficits, but is political heresy. Lutz is quick to disclaim any advocacy for higher gas prices, and is cautious about demand for his company's new electric car. Total demand by 2015 may only be in the range of 250,000 to 300,000 units. GM plans to introduce 8-10,000 units during the first year of production. The company has been roundly criticized for crushing its first electric car, the EV1, which it also introduced in California. Some commentators see battery prices dropping much more rapidly than the report assumes due to increases in longevity, recycling potential and energy density. Tesla VP Diarmuid O'Connell says his ion battery chemistry is already achieving 8% storage improvement per year which is equivalent to 2x over ten years. Nissan has announced its new Leaf PHEV already has 2x energy density. Owners of the Leaf will lease their batteries, thus reducing the car's purchase price.

*The 77-year-old executive laid down a challenge to owners of four-door sedans to beat his time of 2:56.321 around a wet Monticello Motor Club track set in his US$62,020 Cadillac CTS-V. He was beaten by a 21 year old driving a BMW M3 with a time of 2:50.424.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chart of the Week: 'Bubbles' Bernanke Blows Harder

[charts courtesy Weiss Research]
The charts show the massive increase in the US monetary base. Chairman 'Bubbles' Bernanke has created the most rapid increase of monetary expansion in US history. Milton Friedman would be proud. Before the Lehman Bros. collapse in '08 it took 14 years for the Federal Reserve to double the dollar supply. In less than four months Bernanke's Fed doubled it again. The Obama administration has made a policy decision to stop deflation at the cost of a stable dollar. That is why monetary and fiscal stimulus now amounts to an estimated one third of the GDP, or ten times more than the average post-war recession. Translation: bad for Joe Sixpac, but good for Gold Sacs.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Zion Joe Provokes Democrats

'Zion Joe' Lieberman has been asking for it for so long, that he ought to hang a sign on his back reading "Kick Me". But the men's club known as the US Senate has it rules by god, and Henry Reid is such a nice guy. Joe vowed to join the Republicans and vote against any health care bill the Democrats want to pass. There are several things the party could do to convince him to vote for reform:
  1. finance a viable progressive Democratic challenger in the Connecticut primary. This has been done once before with limited success because the opposition candidate was weak;
  2. strip him of his coveted Homeland Security chairmanship;
  3. use the reconciliation mechanism to pass a reform bill without Joe Lieberman's support.
US Person thinks the leadership should do all three and perhaps more. Because as the Washington Post points out in an opinion piece, "he's willing to directly cause the deaths of hundreds of thousand of people in order to settle an old electoral score". Just a few months ago Zion Joe was advocating expanding Medicare to include 50-65 year olds*. Certainly the leaders have the support of the party's rank and file to take action against a senator that does not negotiate in good faith. 81% think the Majority Leader should take Joe's chairmanship. And 73% think he should use reconciliation which requires only 51 votes to pass a reform bill. 84% want Joe to be challenged in the next primary if he refuses to support reform. Tell the leaders Joe should shape up or ship out.

Hubris in Oslo

Herr Docktor Alfred Nobel owned Bofors, the Swedish armaments manufacturer, and among other things he invented dynamite. So appalled was he by new explosive's destructive power and a dubious legacy to the world, that he funded the Nobel Prizes in his will. So the irony of Forty-four claiming the most recognized award for peacemaking while conducting two wars was somewhat diminished. You do have to give the speechmaker in chief some credit for not laughing out loud. Unable to rationally justify the wars currently being waged as dire necessities of self defense, he brazenly hurled a broadside defending war in general because the world is a fallen place in which evil works. Did the Nobel committee miscalculate? Not pacifist he is. Or does his award explain why Ghandiji was ignored? Forty-four's "just war" rhetoric is just a notch above the Charlatan's jingoist crusade talk. The rhetoric notwithstanding, the stark fact is war is America's business, and as we should know by now the business of America is business. The US has fought five major conflicts in the sixty-five years since VJ day. Don't believe US Person? Then watch this video introduced by the outrageous but always insightful, Max Keiser on his show On the Edge:

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Toontime: From the Boyz @ Gold Sacs w/ ♥

[credit: Tom Toles]
Wackydoodle sez: Blankfein must have read the news from Beijing*!

The Wall Street bank is altering the compensation scheme for its top executives after coming under intense public pressure to stop paying its management committee huge cash bonuses that one senator called "obscene". Instead of cash, the managing executives will receive restricted stock. Some observers think the move has more to do with window dressing of its operating statement because the deferred compensation scheme does not start to vest until next year. Therefore the first charge to expenses will not be until 2010. Gold Sacs has repaid with interest its $10 billion in loans from the Treasury. Despite the need for government support the bank paid employees a near record $16.7 billion in the first nine months of 2009.

*China executed a securities trader convicted of embezzlement on Tuesday. The death sentence is believed to be the first ever in the industry. Sixty-five million of stolen yuan are still missing.

Indigenous People Declare Park

Update: Five Penan communities on the Baram River have sued logging giant Samling for violating their indigenous land rights. They are demanding land titles to 80,000 sq. hectares of rainforest, nullification of four timber licenses plus compensation for damages. In the suit the Penan people will prove their use of the affected forest since before recorded time. They claim the timber operators have wrongfully trespassed on their customary forest with heavy equipment and destroyed a substantial area of forest they use to gather natural products for barter trade as well as fruit trees and crops. A Malaysian government report confirmed allegations by Penan that a number of indigenous girls and women have been sexually molested and raped by logging company employees. For more information on the suit and supporting evidence contact the Bruno Manser Fund in Basel Switzerland.

{First Post 12.5.09}On the island of Borneo [map], seventeen native Penan communities have declared a "Penan Peace Park". The November 17th declaration is destined for controversy because all of the land within the park boundaries has been leased by the Sarawak state government to a giant timber company, Samling. The last remnants of primeval forest on the upper reaches of the Baram River were declared a nature reserve by Penan leaders. The Penan are the last indigenous rain forest hunter-gatherers. They engage in agriculture since the 1950s, but still depend on the forests for food, medicine, and raw material for handicrafts and shelter. Their entire culture is centered on the life-giving forests that surround them. Despite repeated assurances from the Malaysian government to preserve an area for the Penan, logging companies continue to clear the forest. The Peace Park covers an area of about 629 square miles around the Gunung Murud Kecil mountain range on the border with Indonesia, and between national parks on either side of the border. One of the headmen at the ceremony in Long Ajeng village said, "we wish to live peacefully together with neighboring tribes and as fully recognized Malaysian citizens." The dedication was attended by about 200 Penan. A Swiss citizen who lived with Penan in the 80's to help their struggle to preserve their home, Bruno Manser, disappeared into the forest in May 2000 and is presumed dead. A fund was set up in his honor to help indigenous people in Sarawak protect the forest from total destruction. GREEN KUDOS to the Penan!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Last Wild Horse Back from Edge of Extinction

In the November 13 issue of Science journal, a researcher from the University of Vienna School of Veterinary Medicine, says the world's last wild horse*, Przewalski's (Equus ferus prezewalskii) which has survived for millennia almost unchanged in the Gobi desert, has reached a population level necessary to insure its long term survival. The distinctive ancestral horse was confronting near extinction due to habitat loss and competition from domestic animals, mostly goats and sheep, which are notorious for eating every green thing in their path. The last wild herd was sighted in 1967. Efforts to breed the horse in captivity began in zoos and reserves. China started a breeding program in 1985 and after two decades of effort began breeding large numbers of horses. Two reintroduction projects in Mongolian national parks have brought the species back from the brink. Hustai (Khustain Nuruu) National Park has 171 horses living in the wild and Takhin Tal has about 115 horses. The report in Science concluded that 140 individuals would be enough to constitute a robust starting population to insure long term survival. One conservation measure that seems to be working is paying livestock herders to keep their herds off the reserve ranges. The horse is still critically endangered but has been upgraded from "extinct in the wild" by the Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

*America's mustang or Australia's brumby are considered feral animals.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Forty-four and the Status Quo

Forty-four's calculation is simple: deliver enough superficial adjustments to the status quo to make a politically defensible argument that he brought "change" to America, thus ensuring his re-election in 2012 against weak opposition from a rump party. It is the same political parlor game his politically successful predecessors have played, earning him the name of just another number in the long line of White House occupants. This strategy can be deduced from the major policy decisions he has recently made. He allows Wall Street banksters, wielding "financial weapons of mass destruction", to lean on his Secretary of Treasury{11.28.09}, and then reappoints a Federal Reserve Chairman considered by experts to be an architect of the bubble economy. He escalates the war in Afghanistan under the fig leaf of a fuzzy withdrawal timeline full of caveats. He abandons the public option for health insurance in order to make a deal with a few intransigent members of his own party, rather than deliver on his campaign promise. And he pursues a private negotiating strategy at the Copenhagen climate summit intended to settle for an unenforceable political promise instead of a binding legal agreement. How do you spell failure?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Israel Attempts to Preempt Jerusalem in Palestine

Developments in the Levant have not been good news for the American administration as its client state, Israel, continues to push annexation of Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Last month, Zionists clashed with Palestinians in Sheik Jarrah after a Palestinian family lost its home to a court order for eviction. Three families have been evicted in the predominately Arab neighborhood in the last year. A Jewish settlement association won its legal claim to historic Jewish ownership of the land and has plans to build a large housing complex there. The neighborhood is just north of the Arab Old Quarter. Israel claims sovereignty over all Jerusalem including the eastern sections taken from Jordan in the 1967 war and has maintained a consistent public stance that there will never be "two Jerusalems". The Israeli hard line is encouraged by American fundamentalists who wish to see Jewish control of the Holy City of God, predicted in various Bible passages to occur at the parousia. The United Nations has called the demolitions, evictions and flow of settlers "provocative actions" that "make resuming negotiations and achieving a two-state solution more difficult". Of course stating the obvious does not deter Israel. In 2008 Israel revoked the residency permits of more Palestinians from East Jerusalem than during any other year since the 1967 war. Zionist Avigdor Liberman, the foreign minister in Israel's coalition government, reaffirmed their willingness to continue the absorption of East Jerusalem despite Prime Minister Netanyahu's call for a ten month moratorium on building. Settlers have installed fake foundations in East Jerusalem in an attempt to circumvent the freeze which allows builders to complete construction already in progress.
[photo: Arab resident Rafaq al-Kurd is restrained by his wife, NY Times]

Chart of the Week: U-6 the Real Measure of Unemployment

Last week's corporate media meme was the drop of .2% in the unemployment rate. The rate drop was caused by people becoming detached from the labor market. "Those not in the labor market" increased by 291,000. Nevertheless the news powered a rise in the dollar index and a sharp drop in gold prices. At 10% the official rate is grim enough, but if you look at U-6 [last line], the broadest official measure of no and under employment, the picture is even worse. U-6 counts people with part-time jobs because of economic reasons, people who want a job but are discouraged, and people whose unemployment benefits have stopped and have fallen off the roles. This statistic is much closer to what it feels like to Joe Sixpac. U-6 is at 17.2% and slated to rise into 2011. Hard times are definitely here.

[chart: Mike Shedlock @]

Monday, December 07, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

'Toontime: Nobel Winner With A Plan

[credit: Steve Sack]
Wackydoodle asks: Does that bird have an invitation?

On Sunday the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev released a draft treaty for European security. Mr. Medvedev expressed the belief that a treaty is necessary to dispel lingering Cold War mentality, and put peace and stability primarily in the hands of the United Nations Security Counsel where the principle of undivided security can be implemented with an established mechanism. The President began working on the idea of a European treaty after the border conflict with Georgia, which he believes could have escalated into a large scale war. Western reactions to his circulated draft were predictably cool. The Secretary General of the western military alliance, NATO, said that there will be a response to the Russian president's suggestions.

A related development was the expiration of the START-1 agreement at midnight today without a replacement treaty for further reductions in nuclear arsenals. Negotiations in Switzerland between Russia and the US are hung up on verification details. However, both presidents pledged to keep working toward an agreement in a joint statement released by the Kremlin. The new goal is for an agreement by the end of this year.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Chart of the Week: Fed Forever Blowing Bubbles

This compound chart shows the state of play in the world markets. The Fed policy of deflating the US dollar (US$ Index) to inflate a new economic bubble in commodities is having the intended effect. The stock market is up (DJ Industrials Index) as are the commodities markets (DJ Commodities Index) led by a parabolic bull market in gold (spot price over $1200). Short term rates (3month T bill) are headed to zero, thereby encouraging dollar carry trading. But if you measure the stock market gains in hard money (gold) instead of devalued dollars, the rally is an illusion since one Dow share is worth only 8.8 ounces of gold or 12% less than 3 months ago.
[chart: Gary Dorsch @ www.]

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Starving Bears Resort to Cannibalism

Polar bear males are known to kill new cubs in the spring to bring the sows back into estrous. Infanticide is a method of natural selection shared with other large predatory land mammals such as lions. But polar bears living in the Hudson Bay region of Canada may have resorted to cannibalism because sea ice is hardening later each year preventing them from hunting their usual prey--seals. Eight cases of apparent cannibalism by males have been reported to conservation organizations. A retired scientist who studied the Churchill, Canada population for thirty years says that the number of reported cases is large. The bears of Hudson Bay were forced to wait on shore for four months without food until freeze up. The Bay used to freeze in November, now in early December it is still not solid enough for bears to hunt. In 2004 four bears drowned attempting to hunt on unstable ice.

There are also reports of cannibalism from the Beaufort Sea area in Canada's far northwest corner. Some of the discovered carcasses are adult females which is inconsistent with breeding behavior. The timing of the kills in early December is also inconsistent with mating because female polar bears will not be receptive until spring. The first confirmed cannibalistic killing occurred in 2004 when an adult male was observed attacking a female who had just given birth to cubs in her den. The male dragged her carcass away and partially consumed it. The cubs were killed when the den collapsed from the attack. The impact of climate change on the western Hudson Bay population has been significant according to both the USGS and the Canadian Wildlife Service. There has been a 22% decline in the number of bears at Hudson Bay in the last seventeen years. US Person is calling for a few climate change deniers to engage in a practical experiment at Hudson Bay. Their results will be shared with his readers which he believes would be much more probative than some imprudent e-mails betwixt frustrated and concerned scientists.

[photo: National Geographic]

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Obama's War

Forty-four will double down in Afghanistan "preferring not to hand anything off" to the next president, and will tell the American people that they cannot afford to allow a fundamentalist Islamic regime to take power if they want to sleep soundly in their beds at night. He will be guilty of the same conflated rhetoric before a captive audience used by Forty-three to justify the invasion of Iraq. It did not matter to Shrub that Saddam Hussein was not supporting Al Qaeda. Saddam probably considered the Islamic extremist, Osama Bin Laden, a dangerous adventurer who was playing with fire. Similarly, the Taliban is not Al Qaeda. Even the Pentagon admits there are perhaps only 100 Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. The very fact the United States and its NATO allies have been unable to defeat the Taliban after eight years of fighting indicates they have popular support in the country. Such support is entirely understandable given the secular government propped up by the United States is a only a few levels of integrity above a narco-cartel. Forty-four's justification for more troops will overlook the fact that the Taliban is an outgrowth of the mujahadeen supported by the US. They successfully ousted the Soviet Union in a jihad, and went on to win a devastating Tajik-Pashtun civil war from which Afghanistan has never fully recovered. It is typical of American imperial arrogance that the after the Islamic fighters played pawns' role in the Cold War, their fundamentalist fervor fanned by the CIA was largely ignored. If the Pentagon estimates of Al Qaeda strength are anywhere near accurate then the US can credibility claim it has issued sufficient "pay back" to leave in an orderly manner. Forty-four rejects any comparison between the Vietnam and Afghanistan conflicts, but the factors he choses to differentiate them with, while reasonable are superficial, since both conflicts arise from the decades long effort to maintain worldwide US military dominance. Imperial America was viciously attacked, but the man responsible is still at large and hiding in Pakistan.

Osama Bin Laden was in the country when the Taliban took power as a warlord's guest, but one not unreservedly welcomed despite the Pashtun code of hospitality. The xenophobic fundamentalists concluded the pan-Arab Al Qaeda presence a liability, preventing them from achieving international legitimacy. In 2000 the Taliban initiated talks with the EU, facilitated by businessman Kabir Mohabbat, to transfer bin Laden out of the country. The Taliban's offer was transmitted to the US ambassador in Germany. Mohabbat was put on the US payroll from November 2000 to late September 2001 by which time he had been paid $115,000. Despite the attack on the USS Cole the new regime in Washington failed to immediately follow up with Mohabbat's offer from the Taliban. According to Mohabbat, as reported by Counterpunch, Taliban leaders were flown in two C-130s to a meeting with US officials in Quetta shortly after the attacks of September 11th. Mohabbat acted as a translator at the meeting. There the Taliban leaders agreed to three American demands: the immediate handover of bin Laden; extradition of foreigners in Al Qaeda who were wanted by their home countries; and the closing of Al Qaeda bases and training camps. Incredibly, the Charlatan did not capitalize on the opportunity presented to him, literally on a silver platter, to kill or capture the mastermind behind the terror network. After the US had started bombing the stark Afghan countryside from 40,000 feet, Mohabbat relayed a renewed Taliban offer to hand over bin Laden. He was told by a US consulate general in Islamabad, "the train had moved". Eight years later the war is stalemated, and Osama is still at large. So much for change you can believe.