Tales from the Trail

from MediaFile:

Obama tech dinner photos offer fodder for Silicon Valley Kremlinologists

ObamaCarIt’s Kremlinology day in Silicon Valley as industry-watchers pore over the details of the two photographs released by the White House of President Obama’s big dinner with the lords of the tech world.

Who sat where, who was drinking what, and what does it all signify, were among the top questions under debate the morning after the commander-in-chief and fourteen guests broke bread at the house of venture capitalist John Doerr.

If proximity to the president is the key measure of clout, then Facebook wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Steve Jobs won top honors, with both executives flanking Obama at the dinner table, as can be seen in this picture.

The White House denied press photographers access to the event, so Reuters and several other media outlets are not publishing the photos. But you can find them here.

Whether the White House's official dinner-table photo was deliberately shot from an angle to show only Jobs’ back was a subject of speculation, coming a day after the National Enquirer published photos which seemed to show Jobs -- who is currently on medical leave from Apple -- outside a cancer center looking particularly frail.

Washington Extra – Analyze This

A confusing labyrinth. That is how the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) described the American development effort in Afghanistan, in a damning report on how $17.7 billion in aid and reconstruction money was doled out to 7,000 contractors between 2007 and 2009 with little or no coordination.kabul

With all the criticism that surrounds the Afghan government and the tactics employed by the U.S. military, the major shortcomings in the West’s development effort in Afghanistan sometimes seem to get too little attention. The U.S. Special Representative to the region Richard Holbrooke once said he had “never seen anything remotely resembling the mess” he inherited in terms of the development effort, while former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani once described the aid effort to me as “dysfunctional and lacking accountability.” It is a view shared by many experts, who see it as a major reason why the West has failed to win more Afghan hearts and minds, and why things are now not going as well as President Barack Obama would have hoped.

Incredibly, SIGAR had tried to analyze contracting in Afghanistan for the years 2002-7, but found much of the data the government agencies had compiled prior to 2007 was “too poor to be analyzed.”

The coming conflict with China

2008 was the last presidential election when voters didn’t know or care about the candidates views on China, argues political risk analyst Ian Bremmer.

NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/Bremmer’s new book “The End of the Free Market” argues that the Chinese economic model — which he calls state capitalism — is so fundamentally different from Western free market capitalism that tensions and economic conflict are inevitable in the years ahead.

The main goal of China’s state-directed capitalism is to harness economic growth to ensure political stability and keep the Communist Party in power, Bremmer says.  And since the financial crisis, China has seen the United States and the West as “less indispensable”.