Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Humanitarian War
on: April 05, 2011, 06:22:04 AM
April 5, 2011
IMMACULATE INTERVENTION: THE WARS OF HUMANITARIANISM
By George Friedman
There are wars in pursuit of interest. In these wars, nations pursue economic or
strategic ends to protect the nation or expand its power. There are also wars of
ideology, designed to spread some idea of "the good," whether this good is religious
or secular. The two obviously can be intertwined, such that a war designed to spread
an ideology also strengthens the interests of the nation spreading the ideology.
Since World War II, a new class of war has emerged that we might call humanitarian
wars -- wars in which the combatants claim to be fighting neither for their national
interest nor to impose any ideology, but rather to prevent inordinate human
suffering. In Kosovo and now in Libya, this has been defined as stopping a
government from committing mass murder. But it is not confined to that. In the
1990s, the U.S. intervention in Somalia was intended to alleviate a famine while the
invasion of Haiti was designed to remove a corrupt and oppressive regime causing
It is important to distinguish these interventions from peacekeeping missions. In a
peacekeeping mission, third-party forces are sent to oversee some agreement reached
by combatants. Peacekeeping operations are not conducted to impose a settlement by
force of arms; rather, they are conducted to oversee a settlement by a neutral
force. In the event the agreement collapses and war resumes, the peacekeepers either
withdraw or take cover. They are soldiers, but they are not there to fight beyond
Concept vs. Practice
In humanitarian wars, the intervention is designed both to be neutral and to protect
potential victims on one side. It is at this point that the concept and practice of
a humanitarian war become more complex. There is an ideology undergirding
humanitarian wars, one derived from both the U.N. Charter and from the lessons drawn
from the Holocaust, genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia and a range of other circumstances
where large-scale slaughter -- crimes against humanity -- took place. That no one
intervened to prevent or stop these atrocities was seen as a moral failure.
According to this ideology, the international community has an obligation to prevent
This ideology must, of course, confront other principles of the U.N. Charter, such
as the right of nations to self-determination. In international wars, where the
aggressor is trying to both kill large numbers of civilians and destroy the enemy's
right to national self-determination, this does not pose a significant intellectual
problem. In internal unrest and civil war, however, the challenge of the
intervention is to protect human rights without undermining national sovereignty or
the right of national self-determination.
The doctrine becomes less coherent in a civil war in which one side is winning and
promising to slaughter its enemies, Libya being the obvious example. Those
intervening can claim to be carrying out a neutral humanitarian action, but in
reality, they are intervening on one side's behalf. If the intervention is
successful -- as it likely will be given that interventions are invariably by
powerful countries against weaker ones -- the practical result is to turn the
victims into victors. By doing that, the humanitarian warriors are doing more than
simply protecting the weak. They are also defining a nation's history.
There is thus a deep tension between the principle of national self-determination
and the obligation to intervene to prevent slaughter. Consider a case such as Sudan,
where it can be argued that the regime is guilty of crimes against humanity but also
represents the will of the majority of the people in terms of its religious and
political program. It can be argued reasonably that a people who would support such
a regime have lost the right to national self-determination, and that it is proper
that a regime be imposed on it from the outside. But that is rarely the argument
made in favor of humanitarian intervention. I call humanitarian wars immaculate
intervention, because most advocates want to see the outcome limited to preventing
war crimes, not extended to include regime change or the imposition of alien values.
They want a war of immaculate intentions surgically limited to a singular end
without other consequences. And this is where the doctrine of humanitarian war
Regardless of intention, any intervention favors the weaker side. If the side were
not weak, it would not be facing mass murder; it could protect itself. Given that
the intervention must be military, there must be an enemy. Wars by military forces
are fought against enemies, not for abstract concepts. The enemy will always be the
stronger side. The question is why that side is stronger. Frequently, this is
because a great many people in the country, most likely a majority, support that
side. Therefore, a humanitarian war designed to prevent the slaughter of the
minority must many times undermine the will of the majority. Thus, the intervention
may begin with limited goals but almost immediately becomes an attack on what was,
up to that point, the legitimate government of a country.
A Slow Escalation
The solution is to intervene gently. In the case of Libya, this began with a no-fly
zone that no reasonable person expected to have any significant impact. It proceeded
to airstrikes against Gadhafi's forces, which continued to hold their own against
these strikes. It now has been followed by the dispatching of Royal Marines, whose
mission is unclear, but whose normal duties are fighting wars. What we are seeing in
Libya is a classic slow escalation motivated by two factors. The first is the hope
that the leader of the country responsible for the bloodshed will capitulate. The
second is a genuine reluctance of intervening nations to spend excessive wealth or
blood on a project they view in effect as charitable. Both of these need to be
The expectation of capitulation in the case of Libya is made unlikely by another
aspect of humanitarian war fighting, namely the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Modeled in principle on the Nuremberg trials and the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia, the ICC is intended to try war criminals. Trying to
induce Moammar Gadhafi to leave Libya knowing that what awaits him is trial and the
certain equivalent of a life sentence will not work. Others in his regime would not
resign for the same reason. When his foreign minister appeared to defect to London,
the demand for his trial over Lockerbie and other affairs was immediate. Nothing
could have strengthened Gadhafi's position more. His regime is filled with people
guilty of the most heinous crimes. There is no clear mechanism for a plea bargain
guaranteeing their immunity. While a logical extension of humanitarian warfare --
having intervened against atrocities, the perpetrators ought to be brought to
justice -- the effect is a prolongation of the war. The example of Slobodan
Milosevic of Yugoslavia, who ended the Kosovo War with what he thought was a promise
that he would not be prosecuted, undoubtedly is on Gadhafi's mind.
But the war is also prolonged by the unwillingness of the intervening forces to
inflict civilian casualties. This is reasonable, given that their motivation is to
prevent civilian casualties. But the result is that instead of a swift and direct
invasion designed to crush the regime in the shortest amount of time, the regime
remains intact and civilians and others continue to die. This is not simply a matter
of moral squeamishness. It also reflects the fact that the nations involved are
unwilling -- and frequently blocked by political opposition at home -- from the
commitment of massive and overwhelming force. The application of minimal and
insufficient force, combined with the unwillingness of people like Gadhafi and his
equally guilty supporters to face The Hague, creates the framework for a long and
inconclusive war in which the intervention in favor of humanitarian considerations
turns into an intervention in a civil war on the side that opposes the regime.
This, then, turns into the problem that the virtue of the weaker side may consist
only of its weakness. In other words, strengthened by foreign intervention that
clears their way to power, they might well turn out just as brutal as the regime
they were fighting. It should be remembered that many of Libya's opposition leaders
are former senior officials of the Gadhafi government. They did not survive as long
as they did in that regime without having themselves committed crimes, and without
being prepared to commit more.
In that case, the intervention -- less and less immaculate -- becomes an exercise in
nation-building. Having destroyed the Gadhafi government and created a vacuum in
Libya and being unwilling to hand power to Gadhafi's former aides and now enemies,
the intervention -- now turning into an occupation-- must now invent a new
government. An invented government is rarely welcome, as the United States
discovered in Iraq. At least some of the people resent being occupied regardless of
the occupier's original intentions, leading to insurgency. At some point, the
interveners have the choice of walking away and leaving chaos, as the United States
did in Somalia, or staying for a long time and fighting, as they did in Iraq.
Iraq is an interesting example. The United States posed a series of justifications
for its invasion of Iraq, including simply that Saddam Hussein was an amoral monster
who had killed hundreds of thousands and would kill more. It is difficult to choose
between Hussein and Gadhafi. Regardless of the United States' other motivations in
both conflicts, it would seem that those who favor humanitarian intervention would
have favored the Iraq war. That they generally opposed the Iraq war from the
beginning requires a return to the concept of immaculate intervention.
Hussein was a war criminal and a danger to his people. However, the American
justification for intervention was not immaculate. It had multiple reasons, only one
of which was humanitarian. Others explicitly had to do with national interest, the
claims of nuclear weapons in Iraq and the desire to reshape Iraq. That it also had a
humanitarian outcome -- the destruction of the Hussein regime -- made the American
intervention inappropriate in the view of those who favor immaculate interventions
for two reasons. First, the humanitarian outcome was intended as part of a broader
war. Second, regardless of the fact that humanitarian interventions almost always
result in regime change, the explicit intention to usurp Iraq's national
self-determination openly undermined in principle what the humanitarian interveners
wanted to undermine only in practice.
The point here is not simply that humanitarian interventions tend to devolve into
occupations of countries, albeit more slowly and with more complex rhetoric. It is
also that for the humanitarian warrior, there are other political considerations. In
the case of the French, the contrast between their absolute opposition to Iraq and
their aggressive desire to intervene in Libya needs to be explained. I suspect it
will not be.
There has been much speculation that the intervention in Libya was about oil. All
such interventions, such as those in Kosovo and Haiti, are examined for hidden
purposes. Perhaps it was about oil in this case, but Gadhafi was happily shipping
oil to Europe, so intervening to ensure that it continues makes no sense. Some say
France's Total and Britain's BP engineered the war to displace Italy's ENI in
running the oil fields. While possible, these oil companies are no more popular at
home than oil companies are anywhere in the world. The blowback in France or Britain
if this were shown to be the real reason would almost certainly cost French
President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron their jobs, and
they are much too fond of those to risk them for oil companies. I am reminded that
people kept asserting that the 2003 Iraq invasion was designed to seize Iraq's oil
for Texas oilmen. If so, it is taking a long time to pay off. Sometimes the lack of
a persuasive reason for a war generates theories to fill the vacuum. In all
humanitarian wars, there is a belief that the war could not be about humanitarian
Therein lays the dilemma of humanitarian wars. They have a tendency to go far beyond
the original intent behind them, as the interveners, trapped in the logic of
humanitarian war, are drawn further in. Over time, the ideological zeal frays and
the lack of national interest saps the intervener's will. It is interesting that
some of the interventions that bought with them the most good were carried out
without any concern for the local population and with ruthless self-interest. I
think of Rome and Britain. They were in it for themselves. They did some good
My unease with humanitarian intervention is not that I don't think the intent is
good and the end moral. It is that the intent frequently gets lost and the moral end
is not achieved. Ideology, like passion, fades. But interest has a certain enduring
quality. A doctrine of humanitarian warfare that demands an immaculate intervention
will fail because the desire to do good is an insufficient basis for war. It does
not provide a rigorous military strategy to what is, after all, a war. Neither does
it bind a nation's public to the burdens of the intervention. In the end, the
ultimate dishonesties of humanitarian war are the claims that "this won't hurt much"
and "it will be over fast." In my view, their outcome is usually either a withdrawal
without having done much good or a long occupation in which the occupied people are
North Africa is no place for casual war plans and good intentions. It is an old,
tough place. If you must go in, go in heavy, go in hard and get out fast.
Humanitarian warfare says that you go in light, you go in soft and you stay there
long. I have no quarrel with humanitarianism. It is the way the doctrine wages war
that concerns me. Getting rid of Gadhafi is something we can all feel good about and
which Europe and America can afford. It is the aftermath -- the place beyond the
immaculate intervention -- that concerns me.
This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution towww.stratfor.com
Copyright 2011 STRATFOR.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / KSM to be tried in Gitmo
on: April 04, 2011, 11:42:01 AM
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to Be Tried by Military Commission at Guantánamo, in Reversal
In a major reversal, the Obama administration has decided to
try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for his role in the attacks of
Sept. 11 before a military commission at Guantánamo Bay,
Cuba, and not in a civilian courtroom.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to announce
on Monday afternoon that Mr. Mohammed, the self-described
mastermind of the attacks, and four other accused
conspirators will face charges before a panel of military
officers, a law enforcement official said. The Justice
Department has scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m.
Mr. Holder, who had wanted to prosecute Mr. Mohammed before a
regular civilian court in New York City, changed his mind
after Congress imposed a series of restrictions barring the
transfer of Guantánamo detainees into the United States,
making such a trial impossible for now, the official said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and
on: April 04, 2011, 11:10:16 AM
Pravda on the Beach with a favorable article about the rebels:http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-libya-rebels-portrait-20110404,0,3750535.story
It does resonate with the impressin I have from watching Fox News , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Musical chairs
on: April 03, 2011, 09:55:50 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Sun, April 03, 2011 -- 8:18 PM ET
U.S. Shifts to Seek Removal of Yemen's Leader, an Ally
The United States, which long supported Yemen's president,
even in the face of recent widespread protests, has now
quietly shifted positions and has concluded that he is
unlikely to bring about the required reforms and must be
eased out of office, according to American and Yemeni
The American position began to shift in the past week,
administration officials said. While American officials have
not publicly pressed President Ali Abdullah Saleh to go, they
have told allies and some reporters that they now view his
hold on office as untenable, and they believe he should
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / An example of the three Ss.
on: April 03, 2011, 05:39:05 PM
I'm thinking this could be a racous good time, but certainly a violation of "The 3 S Rule" www.cagevscons.com
*Fights based upon the concept of Convicts vs. LEOs, military, COs etc.
*Various hip hop acts such as "Glock 40"
*various celebrities such as Danny "Machete" Trejo
*Promoted by "Felony Fights"
What could go wrong?!?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU
on: April 03, 2011, 05:25:05 PM
I'm not sure that I agree with that as a theoretical matter, but worth noting with the GM option in the current context is that our Fed is printing so much much that world-wide food prices are soaring. Given that food is a large 5 of family budgets in the Arab world, in a certain, real, and direct sense the upheavals we are seeing are the fault of Obamanomics.
This reality is not likely to change in timely fashion. Given that, I submit the proposition that the GM strategy will be a loser over time, even though we might debate if it were practical in the presence of food price stability.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / As predicted by Glenn Beck
on: April 03, 2011, 10:45:26 AM
Pravda on the Hudson:
JERUSALEM — With revolutionary fervor sweeping the Middle East, Israel is under mounting pressure to make a far-reaching offer to the Palestinians or face a United Nations vote welcoming the State of Palestine as a member whose territory includes all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority has been steadily building support for such a resolution in September, a move that could place Israel into a diplomatic vise. Israel would be occupying land belonging to a fellow United Nations member, land it has controlled and settled for more than four decades and some of which it expects to keep in any two-state solution.
“We are facing a diplomatic-political tsunami that the majority of the public is unaware of and that will peak in September,” said Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, at a conference in Tel Aviv last month. “It is a very dangerous situation, one that requires action.” He added, “Paralysis, rhetoric, inaction will deepen the isolation of Israel.”
With aides to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thrashing out proposals to the Palestinians, President Shimon Peres is due at the White House on Tuesday to meet with President Obama and explore ways out of the bind. The United States is still uncertain how to move the process forward, according to diplomats here.
Israel’s offer is expected to include transfer of some West Bank territory outside its settlements to Palestinian control and may suggest a regional component — an international conference to serve as a response to the Arab League peace initiatives.
But Palestinian leaders, emboldened by support for their statehood bid, dismiss the expected offer as insufficient and continue to demand an end to settlement building before talks can begin.
“We want to generate pressure on Israel to make it feel isolated and help it understand that there can be no talks without a stop to settlements,” said Nabil Shaath, who leads the foreign affairs department of Fatah, the main party of the Palestinian Authority. “Without that, our goal is membership in the United Nations General Assembly in September.”
Israeli, Palestinian and Western officials interviewed on the current impasse, most of them requesting anonymity, expressed an unusual degree of pessimism about a peaceful resolution. All agreed that the turmoil across the Middle East had prompted opposing responses from Israel and much of the world.
Israel, seeing the prospect of even more hostile governments as its neighbors, is insisting on caution and time before taking any significant steps. It also wants to build in extensive long-term security guarantees in any two-state solution, but those inevitably infringe the sovereignty of a Palestinian state.
The international community tends to draw the opposite conclusion. Foreign Secretary William Hague of Britain, for example, said last week that one of the most important lessons to be learned from the Arab Spring was that “legitimate aspirations cannot be ignored and must be addressed.” He added, referring to Israeli-Palestinian talks, “It cannot be in anyone’s interests if the new order of the region is determined at a time of minimum hope in the peace process.”
The Palestinian focus on September stems not only from the fact that the General Assembly holds its annual meeting then. It is also because Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced in September 2009 that his government would be ready for independent statehood in two years and that Mr. Obama said last September that he expected the framework for an independent Palestinian state to be declared in a year.
Mr. Obama did not indicate what the borders of that state would be, assuming they would be determined through direct negotiations. But with Israeli-Palestinian talks broken off months ago and the Middle East in the process of profound change, many argue that outside pressure is needed.
Germany, France and Britain say negotiations should be based on the 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps, exactly what the Netanyahu government rejects because it says it predetermines the outcome.
“Does the world think it is going to force Israel to declare the 1967 lines and giving up Jerusalem as a basis for negotiation?” asked a top Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “That will never happen.”
While the Obama administration has referred in the past to the 1967 lines as a basis for talks, it has not decided whether to back the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — the other members of the so-called quartet — in declaring them the starting point, diplomats said. The quartet meets on April 15 in Berlin.
Israel, which has settled hundreds of thousands of Jews inside the West Bank and East Jerusalem, acknowledges that it will have to withdraw from much of the land it now occupies there. But it hopes to hold onto the largest settlement blocs and much of East Jerusalem as well as the border to the east with Jordan and does not want to enter into talks with the other side’s position as the starting point.
That was true even before its closest ally in the Arab world, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, was driven from power, helping fuel protest movements that now roil other countries, including Jordan, which has its own peace agreement with Israel.
“Whatever we put forward has to be grounded in security arrangements because of what is going on regionally,” said Zalman Shoval, one of a handful of Netanyahu aides drawing up the Israeli proposal that may be delivered as a speech to the United States Congress in May. “We are facing the rebirth of the eastern front as Iran grows strong. We have to secure the Jordan Valley. And no Israeli government is going to move tens of thousands of Israelis from their homes quickly.”
Page 2 of 2)
Those Israelis live in West Bank settlements, the source of much of the disagreement not only with the Palestinians but with the world. Not a single government supports Israel’s settlements. The Palestinians say the settlements are proof that the Israelis do not really want a Palestinian state to arise since they are built on land that should go to that state.
“All these years, the main obstacle to peace has been the settlements,” Nimer Hammad, a political adviser to President Abbas, said. “They always say, ‘but you never made it a condition of negotiations before.’ And we say, ‘that was a mistake.’ ”
The Israelis counter that the real problem is Palestinian refusal to accept openly a Jewish state here and ongoing anti-Israeli incitement and praise of violence on Palestinian airwaves.
Another central obstacle to the establishment of a State of Palestine has been the division between the West Bank and Gaza, the first run by the Palestinian Authority and the second by Hamas. Lately, President Abbas has sought to bridge the gap, asking to go to Gaza to seek reconciliation through an agreed interim government that would set up parliamentary and presidential elections.
But Hamas, worried it would lose such elections and hopeful that the regional turmoil could work in its favor — that Egypt, for example, might be taken over by its ally, the Muslim Brotherhood — has reacted coolly.
Efforts are still under way to restart peace talks but if, as expected, negotiations do not resume, come September the Palestinian Authority seems set to go ahead with plans to ask the General Assembly to accept it as a member. Diplomats involved in the issue say most countries — more than 100 — are expected to vote yes, meaning it will pass. (There are no vetoes in the General Assembly so the United States cannot save Israel as it often has in the Security Council.)
What happens then?
Some Palestinian leaders say relations with Israel would change.
“We will re-examine our commitments toward Israel, especially our security commitments,” suggested Hanna Amireh, who is on the 18-member ruling board of the Palestine Liberation Organization, referring to cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli troops. “The main sense about Israel is that we are fed up.”
Mr. Shaath said Israel would then be in daily violation of the rights of a fellow member state and diplomatic and legal consequences could follow, all of which would be painful for Israel.
In the Haaretz newspaper on Thursday, Ari Shavit, who is a political centrist, drew a comparison between 2011 and the biggest military setback Israel ever faced, the 1973 war.
He wrote that “2011 is going to be a diplomatic 1973,” because a Palestinian state will be recognized internationally. “Every military base in the West Bank will be contravening the sovereignty of an independent U.N. member state.” He added, “A diplomatic siege from without and a civil uprising from within will grip Israel in a stranglehold.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Massacre, what massacre?
on: April 03, 2011, 10:26:55 AM
Remember when a crusading president, acting on dubious intelligence, insufficient information and exaggerated fears, took the nation into a Middle Eastern war of choice? That was George W. Bush in 2003, invading Iraq. But it's also Barack Obama in 2011, attacking Libya.
For weeks, President Obama had been wary of military action. What obviously changed his mind was the fear that Moammar Gadhafi was bent on mass slaughter -- which stemmed from Gadhafi's March 17 speech vowing "no mercy" for his enemies.
In his March 26 radio address, Obama said the United States acted because Gadhafi threatened "a bloodbath." Two days later, he asserted, "We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi -- a city nearly the size of Charlotte -- could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world."
Really? Obama implied that, absent our intervention, Gadhafi might have killed nearly 700,000 people, putting it in a class with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. White House adviser Dennis Ross was only slightly less alarmist when he reportedly cited "the real or imminent possibility that up to a 100,000 people could be massacred."
But these are outlandish scenarios that go beyond any reasonable interpretation of Gadhafi's words. He said, "We will have no mercy on them" -- but by "them," he plainly was referring to armed rebels ("traitors") who stand and fight, not all the city's inhabitants.
"We have left the way open to them," he said. "Escape. Let those who escape go forever." He pledged that "whoever hands over his weapons, stays at home without any weapons, whatever he did previously, he will be pardoned, protected."
Alan Kuperman, an associate professor at the University of Texas' Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, is among those unconvinced by Obama's case. "Gadhafi," he told me, "did not massacre civilians in any of the other big cities he captured -- Zawiyah, Misratah, Ajdabiya -- which together have a population equal to Benghazi. Yes, civilians were killed in a typical, ham-handed Third World counter-insurgency. But civilians were not targeted for massacre as in Rwanda, Darfur, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bosnia or even Kosovo after NATO intervention."
The rebels, however, knew that inflating their peril was their best hope for getting outside help. So, Kuperman says, they concocted the specter of genocide -- and Obama believed it, or at least used it to justify intervention.
Another skeptic is Paul Miller, an assistant professor at National Defense University who served on the National Security Council under Bush and Obama. "The Rwandan genocide was targeted against an entire, clearly defined ethnic group," he wrote on the Foreign Policy website. "The Libyan civil war is between a tyrant and his cronies on one side, and a collection of tribes, movements, and ideologists (including Islamists) on the other. ... The first is murder, the second is war."
When I contacted Miller, he discounted the talk of vast slaughter. "Benghazi is the second-largest city in the country, and he needs the city and its people to continue functioning and producing goods for his impoverished country," he said.
Maybe these analysts are mistaken, but the administration has offered little in the way of rebuttal. Where Bush sent Colin Powell to the United Nations to make the case against Saddam Hussein, Obama has treated the evidence about Gadhafi as too obvious to dispute.
I e-mailed the White House press office several times asking for concrete evidence of the danger, based on any information the administration may have. But a spokesman declined comment.
That's a surprising omission, given that a looming holocaust was the centerpiece of the president's case for war. Absent specific, reliable evidence, we have to wonder if the president succumbed to unwarranted panic over fictitious dangers.
Bush had a host of reasons (or pretexts) for invading Iraq. But Obama has only one good excuse for the attack on Libya -- averting mass murder. That gives the administration a special obligation to document the basis for its fears.
Maybe it can. Plenty of experts think Obama's worries were justified. But so far, the White House message has been: Trust us.
Sorry, but we've tried that before. In 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice waved off doubts about Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions, saying, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." Right now, the Benghazi bloodbath looks like Obama's mushroom cloud.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What is/should be our core strategy?
on: April 03, 2011, 10:22:08 AM
Taking the conversation from the specifics of the moment of the Libyan thread and expanding them to the more general of the Arab world and the Muslim world, to begin the conversation I posit three options.
a) The GM option (and please correct/adjust my description as you see fit GM!): Support bastards where it suits our convenience because the alternative, even though at first it may seem groovy, ultimately is an Islamic Reign of Terror. Problem presented: We are continuously backing anuses and eventually the pressure will build. Furthermore, thanks to the goodness of the American people, a strategy based upon backing anuses will eventually be opposed.
b) The NeoCon option: We need to cast this not as a war between the West/Freedom/Christianity and Islam, but as a war between Civilization and Barbarism. Islamic Fascism becomes ascendant when people see no other choice to thugs like Saddam Hussein, Daffy, Mubarak, Assad of Syria, Saleh of Yemen, etc. Towards that end, we need to let the Arab/Muslim world see that the West can and does support and respect the desire for a freer and more prosperous way of life. Not only will this intuitively be supported by the American people, but it will get us out of the conundrum in which we currently find ourselves. Problem presented: We will enable the takeover by Islamo-fascism. It will be one man, one vote, one time. see e.g. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-islamists-ambitions-20110403,0,1369436.story
c) Fortress America: Self-explanatory.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gold, silver, near a top?
on: April 02, 2011, 08:25:59 PM
Quite contrary in its opinions, but several charts on this site give me pause , , ,http://www.marketanthropology.com/p/chart-of-day.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and
on: April 02, 2011, 06:21:49 PM
That is very funny (and I mean that!) but I also must say that based only on the footage I see of these guys on FOX (not a very scientific menthod!) I like what I see. I see real people with real hope for a freer life and trying to figure out how to make it happen. Remember, when they started it took a lot of testicles to do so. All they knew, and know, is 42 years of Daffy. Of course they look like idiots when they pee away ammo shooting holes in the sky, but ultimately it is easy for us to mock them from the comfort and safety of America.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential
on: April 02, 2011, 06:17:09 PM
In lots of ways I love Bolton, but not only would the Pravdas have it in for him but I suspect he would have quite the tin ear on many domestic issues. Furthermore, has he ever run for anything? There's a lot to be learned about how our political system works before one is up to being a good president , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology
on: April 02, 2011, 06:09:41 PM
My memory agrees with yours, though IIRC it was discussed on the Gilder forum. BTW I have what is for me a large position in CREE now. I am up about 80%.
Here's Tricky Dog's comments on the Gilder interview:
Interesting - nice to know Gilder has not lost all his glitter.
Re: cloud computing - he sounds like his cloud knowledge is a bit shallow - or he was speaking in shallow terms for easy comprehension. Cloud computing is a difficult transition to grasp well. Just came back from Cloud Connect in San Jose last month myself. Happy to give you an update in person - too lengthy to send an email missive.
His emphasis on DPI (deep packet inspection) is challenged - there are certainly opportunities but they are not going to be dominant. The incredible increase in traffic won't allow for DPI to keep up, no matter how good the chips are.
And then there's the rubbish about net neutrality ... he apparently has investments in companies down in the networking layer (e.g. DPI). Silly boy - the network was commoditized a long time ago. The whole issue with providers whining about net neutrality is because they missed the bus and want the monopoly back on their old business. The services layer is where the action is (e.g. cloud computing) and exploiting the crap out of the network is just leeching because you don't have a service play. Gilder is being two-faced when he criticizes the government and goes on about a bridge to the 19th century......
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus, Central Asia
on: April 02, 2011, 10:01:42 AM
Why Russia, Turkey Look Toward Armenia and Azerbaijan
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian announced Thursday that he would personally be on the first civilian flight from Armenia into the newly rebuilt airport in Nagorno-Karabakh when it opens in May. (Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian-backed secessionist region enclosed within Azerbaijan.) Azerbaijan had earlier announced that it would shoot down any plane over its occupied territories. For now, the issue is at a standoff as both sides have laid a challenge that could not only propel the region back into the brutal war of the 1990s, but could also pull in some global heavyweights. That said, STRATFOR is looking beyond the political theater that normally, and incessantly, takes place between Yerevan and Baku to whether this has been orchestrated by the country that has held the peace between the two, Russia.
The southern region of the Caucasus has seen countless struggles in the past century, though one of the most enduring is between the Armenians and Azerbaijanis over Nagorno-Karabakh. Soviet rule from the 1920s onwards stifled these battles for the most part. But as soon as the Soviet Union’s disintegration looked imminent, conflict flared up when Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan, with intention to unify with Armenia. Free of being restrained by Moscow, Azerbaijan defended its territory and a full-scale war erupted, stretching across Armenia and Azerbaijan until Russia brokered a cease-fire.
“Both Ankara and Moscow know that any Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict would not remain contained within the region.”
Though simmering hostilities have continued, there are two reasons the conflict has remained frozen. First, beginning in the mid-1990s, neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan had the resources to continue fighting. Armenia’s economy was, and is, non-existent for the most part. Without the financial means, it would be impossible for Armenia to launch a full-scale war. At the same time, Azerbaijan’s military has been too weak, thus far, to assert control over the occupied lands.
After nearly two decades, the issue is beginning to thaw again as the balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan is beginning to change. Baku has grown exponentially stronger in the past six years. Rich with energy-wealth, Azerbaijan has started creating a modern and competent military and the largest out of the Caucasus countries. Moreover, Azerbaijan’s close ally, Turkey, has renewed its commitment to defend Azerbaijan in any conflict with Armenia, recently signing a strategic cooperation agreement to this end. On the other hand, Armenia has been reduced to a satellite of Russia for the most part, with little independent foreign policy, politics or economy. Being folded under Russia’s wing, Armenia feels protected against its rival. These two shifts have led to an increase in tensions between Baku and Yerevan over whether either is bold enough to revive hostilities.
The involvement of Turkey and Russia is the main cause of deterrence that is holding the two sides back. Both Ankara and Moscow know that any Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict would not remain contained within the region. Each power would be expected by Baku and Yerevan to defend their respective ally — whether they actually would is unclear. Therefore, the standoff has become more about Moscow and Ankara holding back each side and not allowing the instability to become exacerbated to the extent of an open conflict or war.
However, two other issues are also evolving. First, Baku is becoming more powerful than Moscow is comfortable with. It is not that Russia is concerned it cannot handle Azerbaijan on its own, but Russia is attempting to maintain a regional balance by dominating each of the three Caucasus states in its own way. Baku’s resource wealth and hefty foreign connections are beginning to tip those scales in comparison to the other two states. Still, Russia has held back as to not launch a larger conflict with Turkey, which Moscow is wary to provoke.
This is where the second development comes in. Turkey is engulfed in other large conflicts and is one of the key members in the Middle Eastern theater helping the United States suppress the instability. Turkey is struggling within NATO to carve out a leadership role and is embroiled in a standoff with some European NATO members over how extensive the Libyan intervention ought to be. Ankara is also using its influence in the Iranian-Saudi struggle over Bahrain and the Arab world in general. There are also domestic politics to consider, with important elections coming up in June for Turkey. Such a string of endless conflicts also has the United States, which has deep relations with both Yerevan and Baku, preoccupied.
On the other hand, Russia isn’t wrapped up in any of those issues. Moreover, Moscow feels pretty confident these days with its position globally. First, Russia has been largely successful in its resurgence into its former Soviet sphere. Second, as of the past few months, it has even more room to maneuver now that the West is dealing with the instabilities in the Islamic theater. Third, Europe is torn over taking part in those conflicts and its need to focus on its own set of domestic challenges, both economically and politically. Lastly, the conflicts have caused energy prices to soar and many countries to demand more supplies — of which Russia is the winner. Russian international reserves crossed over the $500 billion mark on March 18 for the first time in two and a half years. The last time Russian reserves were in the $500 billion range, Moscow confronted Georgia in August 2008.
If there ever were a time for Russia to look at the more difficult issues it has avoided — like the standoff between Azerbaijan and Armenia or challenging an ascendant Turkey that does not seem to be slowing down, it would be now. It is most likely that Russia is not looking to launch a new conflict, but instead it wants to test how assertive Azerbaijan feels with its strengthening position against Armenia and just how willing Turkey is to dance with the bear. It is easier to feel such things out when the rest of the world is looking elsewhere.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Forbes interviews Gilder
on: April 01, 2011, 09:29:31 PM
Steve Forbes Interview: Gilder On Tech Innovation
Feb. 14 2011 - 12:42 am | 3,108 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments
By STEVE FORBES
Our guest this week is George Gilder, Chairman of Gilder Technology Group, which sponsors Gilder Telecosm Forum, a Web-based conference related to his longtime publication Gilder Technology Report.
Gilder is a member of the board of directors of Wave Systems Corp. and chairman of that company’s executive committee. He is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle and has been a contributing writer for FORBES since 1981.
A noted author, Gilder earned a bachelor’s degree at Harvard University and was later a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy Institute of Politics.
Click through to watch the video of Steve Forbes’ interview with tech guru George Gilder.
Steve Forbes: Good to have you with us, George. With all this pessimism around, at least give us one good thing that’s happened in the last ten years. You’ve talked about the broadband miracle, where we went from way behind to surging ahead.
Gilder: Well, we sure did. The irony about it is this broadband miracle that’s happened in the United States over the last five years or so was totally unanticipated by the people who wanted massive government programs to lay fiber to every remote farmhouse.
Instead we had a 553-fold increase in wireless bandwidth deployed over this period — completely unexpected — that thrust the U.S. into the world lead again in communications. It shows these upside surprises that are the essence of capital creativity. Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t need it and socialism would work. You could plan these great new technologies.
Forbes: As Bell once thought it could do.
Gilder: That 553-fold increase in wireless broadband, nobody imagined really. I mean, it startled me with its speed and overwhelming impact.
Forbes: Well, pat yourself on the back — you called them teleputers years ago. Now we call them smartphones, tablets, iPads. Explain it.
Gilder: I always said that your computer would not be a desktop machine; it would be as mobile as your watch, as personal as your wallet. It would recognize streets. It would recognize speech. It would navigate streets. It might not do windows, but it would do doors and it would, in general, open doors to your future. And these teleputers are really the force that is driving this massive global roll out of wireless bandwidth, which was pioneered in the United States.
Bell’s Law and Moore’s Law
Forbes: Now, before we get to all the things that stand in the way of reaching the true harvest of all of this, explain some of the areas of great creativity. Let’s start with a thing called cloud computing, which I guess you’ve pointed out as Bell’s corollary to Moore’s Law.
Gilder: Yeah. As Gordon Bell, who was one of the great figures of digital equipment and is now at Microsoft, propounded Bell’s Law, which is sort of a corollary of Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law is that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 months or so.
And he projected this into Bell’s Law, which is every ten years you got a 100-fold increase in computing capabilities. And this enables and requires a fundamental change in computer architectures. And we’re seeing it today in the rise of cloud computing.
As Eric Schmidt said, when the back plane of your computer runs more slowly than the network, the computer hollows out and distributes itself across the network. And that’s essentially what is underway today, where the actual computing is almost never done or rarely done in the device that you have in your hand or on your desk.
Forbes: Or in even the software. Now, some would say that’s centralization, which the French tried to do years ago, you remember that. But you see it as profoundly different.
Gilder: You still have a lot of processing power. The teleputer has more processing power than whole IBM mainframes that attempted to centralize computing in the past. Computing is more widely distributed than ever before in history. But nonetheless, a lot of the computing is not done where you happen to be. It’s done at the optimal point.
So what it means is that computing power gravitates to its optimal point geographically. And that’s the advent of cloud computing. And it’s resulted in an efflorescence of creativity and computer architectures because everything now has to run at fiber speed, that is, at the speed of fiber optics, which is the speed of light.
And so all the various devices in the entire computer universe have to be upgraded to fiber speed functionality. And that is the transformation that’s currently underway in the world economy — the upgrade to fiber speed. And it’s really my paradigm which I use as an investor to decide where to put my money and my customers’ money.
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Forbes: So what are some of the companies that you feel are in the forefront of this transformation?
Gilder: Well, there are several in Israel because Israel’s really genius under the gun. That is a very productive environment. EZChip is one. EZChip is a wonderful company that’s completely in the fiber speed paradigm. In the United States, there’s a company called NetLogic, which raises the fiber speed paradigm from just switching packets across the network to actual deep packet inspection.
They have knowledge processors that are crucial in this development of deep packet inspection, which entails looking at the contents of packets at millions of packets a second and collectively trillions of packets a second. This is a major frontier in the world computer industry and there are a number of companies that do it.
But I always look for the chips that embody the crucial functionality rather than the various systems that are developed around those chips, because they change from year to year. But if you get a real edge in the production of the chips, as NetLogic does and EZChip does, you can get an enduring creation of value.
Click through to watch the video of Steve Forbes’ interview with tech guru George Gilder.
Israel And The US Economy
Forbes: Now, you’ve made the point, as a handful of others have, that knowledge is about the past, entrepreneurship is about the future. Even looking at the world today in terms of foreign policy: You say “Middle East” — people think oil. You’ve made the point that Israel, with its brains and what it’s doing in high technology, is really a functional part of the U.S. economy, which is where the real value is.
Gilder: Well, it’s just wonderful that Israel has become a new Silicon Valley just as our own Silicon Valley gets paled over by green goo. Israel is moving to the forefront in developing new technologies that are based on fundamental advances. And these technologies instantly propagate to the United States. So, Israel is a substitute for a somewhat temporarily declining Silicon Valley.
Forbes: So it’s sort of like a baseball team. It’s our farm system.
Gilder: Yeah, it’s our farm system. And it’s just been great. Israel is the key asset in the Middle East. This idea that oil, a fungible element that can be sold anywhere, is comparable to the genius of the Jewish people in Israel is just an absurdity.
Israel is where it’s at in the Middle East. And the leading edge of the U.S. economy today is in Israel, surprisingly enough. I was surprised to discover it, but in the last five years I’ve been increasingly turning to Israel for my new companies.
Telegraph To Teleconference
Forbes: Before we get to what’s made Silicon Valley, as you call it, a valley of green goo and some other obstacles, let’s hit on a couple of the other areas where you see enormous creativity. Interactive video, video teleconferencing and the like. You feel that it’s just exploded in terms of technology.
Gilder: Well, this is absolutely crucial. And this will require another transformation of the existing Internet as great as the transformation from the telegraph to the public switch telephone network 50 years ago or more. That created this great public switch telephone network that could deal with voice — the telegraph system could not deal with voice.
Now, we have this vast data-oriented Internet that hast to be upgraded to do interactive, full-motion, even 3-D video. And that’s a transformation like the transformation to voice. It will require a new network, a completely interactive fiber-speed network. That’s why I’m focusing on fiber speed technologies and the new architectures, new computer architectures that are indispensable to achieve this level of performance.
Forbes: And what are the companies you think are in the forefront there?
Gilder: Well, cloud computing — the immediate field is moving up to layer five, which is sessions. It’s called sessions. And to conduct voice or video sessions across the network in real time, you need to be able to interact between all sorts of different kinds of networks.
And this requires entities called session border controllers, which I think resemble routers in their impact. In previous eras the router dealt with all the different networks at layer three, but now it has to be real time, so it’s as if the whole router infrastructure has to be upgraded to layer five.
And companies like Acme Packet and Audio Codes — which is another Israeli one, and there are lots of others — that are doing that. Then that entails deep packet inspection, because if you’re doing all these things, all different networks across the world, you want to know what the content is of the various packets that are coming to you to make sure they aren’t part of some cyber attack or whatever. That’s why I like these companies that do deep packet inspection, including NetLogic. And Cavium also does chips for that purpose. These chips are going to be increasingly in demand as time passes.
Forbes: Now, another area of creativity you’ve referenced in the past is one that you’ve pointed out has a lot of hype but now really seems to be perhaps coming into its own, nanotechnology.
Gilder: Well, nanotechnology was full of hype at a time when they said, “Oh, we’ve got carbon nanotubes. They’re 100 times stronger than steel and they have all these wonderful characteristics. And we’ll use them to make memory cells or new kinds of transistors.”
In other words, they were trying to retrofit this radically new capability into the old digital computer model. The fact is, nanotubes do all kinds of unique things and they won’t prevail until those unique potentialities are explored. And the one that I’ve invested in myself, a company called Seldon Technologies up in Windsor, Vermont, uses carbon nanotubes to make a straw that you can stick into a septic tank and drink potable water out of it.
Forbes: Is this your NanoMesh straw?
Gilder: The NanoMesh straw. And that’s made with tunable carbon nanotubes. So you can actually change the filtration function that you want to perform in these nanotubes. There are tens of thousands of these devices going to the American military now.
Forbes: So they work.
Gilder: Yeah, they work. And they’re also beloved of NASA because they think it’s the only way they’re going to be able to filter lunar dust. And that’s going to be a big market one of these days. They named Seldon as one of the 50 best technologies, supported by NASA. Nanotubes are beginning to emerge as a really crucial technology and it’s exciting to see it. You’ve been predicting it for decades.
Forbes: I have the hair to show it, too. Now, another area you liked in nanotechnology is building and construction materials. You pointed out that if you’re concerned about global warming, well this is right up their alley.
Gilder: Well, I’m not concerned about global warming.
Forbes: Neither am I. But those worriers can embrace this technology, positive technology.
Gilder: Yeah, this is a positive technology. The one I invested in was called iCrete. And actually Gary Winnick was a leading investor and leader of iCrete, which makes concrete that’s ten times stronger. It enabled the Freedom Tower to get off the ground.
It’s beloved of Frank Gehry. It’s a new way to make concrete that is a fundamentally different chemical binding that yields concrete that’s ten times more durable and more cost effective and thus uses less energy usage in making a building of a particular strength.
Security In The Clouds
Forbes: Now, going back for a moment to cloud computing. Nothing comes without challenges. How about security? How do we keep the hackers at bay since there’s a lot of valuable stuff in the clouds now?
Gilder: Well, I, myself, have been on the board of a company for a long time called Wave Systems that I love. But I really shouldn’t be touting my own company.
Forbes: Why not? As long as it’s full disclosure, the police won’t arrest you.
Gilder: Okay. You never know these days.
Forbes: That’s true.
Gilder: But anyway, they use something called a trusted platform module that is in every computer or every high-end computer and increasingly spreading throughout all of the computer world. And this is appropriate to distributed computing where. Now the firewall is just an obstacle to computing. It doesn’t increase security, it just provides a new focus for attack because the people have left the building.
It’s the end of the LAN. I’ve been talking about LAN’s end for a long time. The local area network is now a planetary utility and that requires that security migrate to the edge. And the way to do that is through trusted platform modules and that’s what Wave uses.
Forbes: So the good guys can stay ahead.
Forbes: Now, you mentioned deep packet — that gets this whole area of regulation, the FCC. What do they want to do with deep packet technology?
Gilder: Well, a lot of people are afraid that deep packet inspection is a threat to privacy. And this is just mischievousness. Deep packet inspection is absolutely critical to our technology and the advance of digital technology, because you can’t really have cloud computing, you can’t have video teleconferencing, you can’t do any of the new promise of broadband without having ways to differentiate among different packets and repudiating all ideas of network neutrality.
You’ve got to treat each packet differently, the way it deserves to be treated. And you’ve got to kick out the criminal packets and cyber warfare packets. And so deep packet inspection is not only crucial commercially, it’s also crucial militarily.
Our great advantage as a country is that we have technology that’s developed commercially and is used by customers all over the place. And thus it can move down the learning curve faster and actually create capabilities which at the high end are useful for defense.
Edward Teller told me, and I’ll never forget it, he made the point way back 30 years ago when I interviewed him. He said that democratic countries have no advantage over totalitarian countries in secret classified defense projects. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union even outperformed the U.S. for a while. They sent up Sputnik first and developed or copied our nuclear technology readily.
Secret projects are not the source of America’s leadership. It was the computer industry and the semiconductors and the software and the proliferating efflorescent private commercial technology that gave the U.S. the world lead in defense and which is the heart of America’s defense advantage today, which is information technologies and pattern recognition technologies. It’s the same with Israel, and that’s why our two countries are so interdependent.
Forbes: Now, talking about regulation, what’s with the FCC? Now the FTC is threatening to get its claws in the Internet. Is it just the bureaucratic imperative of something’s there, you must control it?
Gilder: Yeah. Yeah, it’s just really horrible, this effort to fixate on an existing technology that is changing more rapidly than perhaps ever before in history. I’m describing this transformation from a world essentially of telegraphs, the current Internet, to a world of video teleconferencing, which requires a whole series of fiber-speed breakthroughs that have to exploit the best possible business plans at the front end or they’re going to fail.
For the FCC to intervene and try to manipulate the industry and impose various rules on it that restrict what might be profitable and successful plans that can sustain a new economy, like this new wireless breakout that’s happening today, is just perverse.
Bridge To The 19th Century
Forbes: You’ve referred to many venture capitalists in California and elsewhere as welfare pimps, loony-bin politicians. What in the world has happened? First — as we were discussing before we did the taping — in terms of mistaking Moore’s Law for what you can do with solar panels and energy, and then we’ll get to this addition to government subsidies.
Gilder: Yeah, well, you know, venture capital is absolutely central to the future of the American economy. It’s radically less than 1% of total GDP and yet the companies it supports currently comprise close to 20% of GDP, maybe more now.
It’s just catalytic seminal capital that’s absolutely crucial. And that’s why the worst development in the United States, in my view, in the last few years and at least on the private side, is venture capitalists becoming poverty pimps.
They aren’t any longer generating new wealth. They’re angling to get part of your wealth and my wealth to support their green dreams of medieval energy sources like windmills. I mean, you can’t parody this return to the Middle Ages looking for new technologies. This is what always happens. The government props up the past in the name of progress. The trains – we’re supposed to go back to old train technology of 50 years ago and create a new train network, and people have actually imagined that people will abandon their cars to take trains everywhere.
It’s not that there isn’t a profitable train industry, but the idea that the government needs, today, to make a major new investment in the name of progress and trains or in solar power or in windmills is a parody of creative destruction of Schumpeterian capitalism
Forbes: I call it a bridge to the 19th century.
Gilder: A bridge to the 19th century, that’s right.
Forbes: And then solar panels, the problem there is even though it’s portrayed as futuristic, as you say you cannot get a doubling every 18 months.
Gilder: No. No, I mean solar panels are useful in many niches and solar energy is valuable, but as a replacement to the grid or a replacement for the massive amounts of power needed to fuel electric cars or whatever it is, it’s just a joke. Solar panels are based on the incident sunlight that hits photo detectors. And their size is governed by the wavelengths of sunlight, not by the imagination of engineers who are contriving ever more miniaturized transistors down the Moore’s Law learning curve.
CFOs Know Nothing
Forbes: Finally, a favorite saying of yours, you quote Peter Drucker that CEOs and CFOs, the myth is that they actually know what is happening to their companies. Explain.
Gilder: Well, Peter Drucker is a great genius who has made many wonderful contributions to Forbes and to Forbes conferences. And the last Forbes conference, a CEO conference, he almost fell off the stage. He was really precarious and everybody was just terrified that he was going to be interrogated.
And then finally he pulled himself together and said, “I have only one thing to tell you CEOs. No one, and I mean no one, in your company knows less about your business than your CFO, your chief financial officer.” And what he’s conveying is that businesses are really governed not by what’s going on inside, but the future of them is determined by two groups, customers and investors who are outside the company.
And they can change their minds in an instant. The idea that CEOs and CFOs, by pouring through the financials, can project the future and know what’s happening in the minds of these forces beyond their walls, is quixotic. They don’t know.
That’s why, again, it’s this illusion that the surprises of capitalism can be captured in some computer model or some socialist plan. They can’t. It’s the upside surprises that Peter Drucker said signify the big opportunities. And the other great Drucker statement is, “Don’t solve problems. That plunges you into the past. Pursue opportunities.”
That’s the key entrepreneurial role, pursuing opportunities, which often leaves the problems behind by transforming the whole landscape as wireless broadband did. People thought wireless broadband was a contradiction in terms and it may end up being the dominant form of broadband.
Forbes: So as in the old days, instead of worrying about horse manure in the cities, invent the automobile.
Gilder: That’s right.
Forbes: George, thank you very much.
Gilder: Well, thank you. It’s been great, as always.
Click through to watch the video of Steve Forbes’ interview with tech guru George Gilder.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman
on: April 01, 2011, 04:47:04 PM
Colin: According to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States joint Chiefs, the airstrikes over Libya have destroyed between 20 and 25 percent of Gadhafi’s forward forces, which means at least three quarters are still intact. And Mullen says Libyan tanks and armored vehicles outnumber the opposition 10 to one. Across the Mediterranean, unrest in Syria and the possibility of war between Israel and Hamas is unsettling Turkey. It’s from Istanbul that STRATFOR founder gives us a different perspective on the Middle East conflicts.
Colin: Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman.
George: I’m in Istanbul right now, in a hotel room overlooking the Bosphorus, which is not only an extraordinary site for a tourist, but is really exciting for anyone who’s in geopolitics. This is the point where Asia meets Europe; this is the point where the Black Sea meets the Mediterranean Sea. This is one most fought after spots in the entire world and it’s quite an experience to sit in a hotel room, having a drink and looking out over the Bosphorus.
Colin: It’s a very good place to observe what’s happening in the Middle East.
George: Indeed, one of the reasons I’m here is to get a sense from the Turks, and officials and people of what exactly is going on. This is a wonderful listening post and at this point it is also very important because the Turks are playing a more active role in everything that’s happening.
Colin: George, I’d like to come back to the Turks in the moment. Let’s just look briefly at Libya as it enters the third week of the civil war. We have the military assessment, but on the other side we have the defection of one of Gadhafi’s men with blood on his hands, Moussa Koussa, the former intelligence chief and foreign minister. He’s shown up in Britain and is being debriefed in a safe house. How much of a blow is this to Gaddafi?
George: It’s not clear that’s it very much of a blow. This was his foreign minister. As for blood on his hands, this is a regime that for 42 years had blood on its hands. It’s fairly extraordinary the world is suddenly discovering that Gadhafi and the people around him are monsters. But, on the other hand, that’s important to bear in mind that Gadhafi is on the whole winning. The airstrikes are not effective. They’re certainly not stopping him; he’s been able to move from the defensive to the offense. He’s retaken some territory and the eastern alliance that NATOs clearly backing, whatever it says, is simply not able to gel into an effective military force. I think the Turkish position from the very beginning was that this was a fairly arbitrary war. The decision to move into Libya instead of any of these other countries was random, but, more to the point, that it didn’t be provide any stability for the region. And in fact probably destabilized it somewhat, opening a door they feared for some very radical Islamists and moreover not being able to get rid of Gadhafi. They’re certainly very concerned about what’s happening in Syria. That’s right on their border. They’re also always concerned about what the Iranians are doing, although they try to reach out and have decent relations with them. They’re worried about what’s happening in Iraq. The Turks are generally worried. They’re especially worried about the possibility of another Hamas-Israeli war and the reason they’re worried about Hamas-Israeli war is that if Hamas were to carry out strikes that the Israelis chose to counter with another attack in Gaza, this might strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; it could destabilize the regime there. And the Turks don’t want to see that happen right now. They want to see a stable Egypt; they want to see a stable Mediterranean. So the Turks have many, many things that made him uneasy, and one of the things that makes them uneasy is their NATO partners. They can’t quite figure out what it is they think they’re doing.
Colin: As you said, the Turks are concerned about what’s happening in Syria.
George: It is not so much about democracy versus repression. It is, however, a very long-standing struggle between the minority Alawite regime, which is minority of Shia, and the majority Sunni Muslims. The Sunni Muslims were brutally repressed by the current president’s father years ago. Tens of thousands were killed. This is a rising by them again. The rhetoric, which is used to appeal for Western support, is about democracy and they certainly do mean democracy in a certain sense, but the really important question is the role of the Sunnis in Syria and of the radical Islamists within the Sunni movement. The Turks, however much they move toward the Islamic position in the AKP, are not really interested in the radicalization of their borderland and they’re very concerned about what Syria is going to do. They also I think feel helpless. I don’t think that Assad is particular to taking advice from the Turks. I don’t think the demonstrators are asking for Turkish mediation, although the Turks are prepared to provide it. I think it’s a very uncomfortable position for the Turks to be in.
Colin: Looking ahead, what do you think Turkey’s strategy will be?
George: The Turkish strategy has been to try to avoid entanglements. It’s a policy of 360 degrees, as they put it, and it’s a policy of having no enemies, of being friends with everyone. But of course the greater Turkish power is, the weaker their neighbors become, the more the Turks get involved. And as the United States has found a long time ago, as soon as you get involved, you’re involved on somebody’s side. There’s no such thing as a neutral intervention. That’s a fantasy. As the Turks are drawn deeper into mediation, they will try to resist the temptation to side with one side or the other, but they’re too powerful to simply do that. Every step they take will favor someone. So they’re going to be drawn into a position that they don’t want to be drawn into of taking sides. They’ve liked the past two years of growing prestige, but not really confronting particularly the other Muslim countries.
Colin: But presumably they’ll continue to look east, given that the European Union is deeply divided about Turkey’s possible future membership.
George: I doubt very much that the Turkish leadership at this point is keen on joining the EU. Turkey grew last year 8.9 percent, far outstripping the birthrates of the EU countries. They keep it on the table as something they want to do, because it’s a symbol of their commitment to, if not secularism at least a respect for secular desires to be regarded as a European rather than an Islamic state. So the government will continue to try to become a member, knowing full well that the Europeans won’t accept them and being utterly delighted that they aren’t part of the European Union that’s suffering all of the diseases of the European Union right now. And particularly at a time when you have such a deep divide between France and Germany over a host of issues, but particularly over the Libyan war, the Europeans are not a force to be reckoned with as a whole and the Turks are happy to be staying out of their way.
Colin: George, we’ll leave it there and look forward to hearing more from you in Turkey. George Friedman ending Agenda this week. Until the next time, goodbye.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NIMBY!
on: April 01, 2011, 04:24:51 PM
Note reference to Michele Bachman at the end , , ,http://www.ewg.org/agmag/2011/03/farm-subsidies-paid-to-the-members-of-the-112th-congress/
Cut Spending – But Not My Farm Subsidies!
by Chris Campbell, Amber Hanna and Don Carr
That some members of Congress are farmers is hardly new. Many of the Founding Fathers worked the land. But as the industrial age transformed America’s agrarian society and technology made it possible for fewer farmers to grow more crops on more land, the number of lawmakers actively engaged in agriculture dropped sharply.
We don’t have a firm count of how many farmers are serving in the current Congress, but we do know, based on a recent analysis of the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database, that 23 of them, or their family members, signed up for taxpayer-funded farm subsidy payments between 1995 and 2009.
This would be a good place to point out that just five crops – corn, cotton, rice wheat and soybeans – account for 90 percent of all farm subsidies. Sixty-two percent of American farmers do not receive any direct payments from the federal farm subsidy system, and that group includes most livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers.
Among the members of the 112th Congress who collect payments from USDA are six Democrats and 17 Republicans. The disparity between the parties is even greater in terms of dollar amounts: $489,856 went to Democrats, but more than 10 times as much, $5,334,565, to Republicans.
One reason for the disproportionate number of Republican lawmakers benefiting from farm subsidy programs is the current scarcity of rural Democrats in Congress – casualties of the Tea Party wave that swept into office in November of 2010. (This was despite the Democrats’ decision to bow to the wishes of the subsidy lobby by passing a status quo 2008 farm bill in a misguided bid to hang on to those seats.)
Several new members of Congress who won with tea party support have been less than eager to talk about farm subsidies ever since the news broke last year that they, or their families, personally benefit from those very taxpayer dollars.
EWG doesn’t believe that the payments to lawmakers are improper or illegal. But the fact that so many more Republicans in Congress receive so much more in farm subsidies than their Democratic colleagues does highlight the GOP’s controversial decision to spare those programs from the budget ax – even as it slashes funding for so many others. Consider:
•In January, David Rogers of Politico, and Phillip Brasher at the Des Moines Register, reported that the Republican Study Committee proposed to eliminate the meager federal funding for an organic food growers’ program without even mentioning the the possibility of cutting spending for entitlements that send checks out to largest producers of corn, cotton and other commodity crops – regardless of need.
•Then last week (March 21), National Journal reported that the Republican-led House Agriculture Committee is backing cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – previously known as food stamps – in the face of record enrollment levels triggered by high unemployment. But not even minimal reductions were proposed to the excessive payments to wealthy farms.
The GOP-led support for subsidies also comes at a time when big commodity farms clearly don’t need taxpayer funding.
The farm sector is white-hot, and has generally fared extremely well as recession gripped the rest of the economy. Farm income and prices for commodity crops are soaring. In 2008, $210,000 was the average household income of farms that received at least $30,000 in government payments that year. But according to the House Agriculture Committee and the Republic Study Committee, payments to those farms should stay in place while the record 43 million Americans enrolled in SNAP – millions of whom are unemployed for the first time – face slashes in the help they get to put food on the table.
It’s important to note that two of the Republican senators who collect subsidies – Charles Grassley of Iowa and Richard Lugar of Indiana – have been long-time leaders in the effort to reform federal farm programs. Both have fought to right the gross inequity of sending 74 percent of taxpayer-funded payments to the largest and wealthiest 10 percent of farm operations and landlords. The top-heavy support for the biggest operations puts smaller family farms at a serious disadvantage and works against a more diverse and resilient food production system that could stand up against wild swings in weather or global markets – and provide Americans with a healthier food supply.
Of course, Democratic members of Congress have historically been subsidy recipients too, notably former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Charles Stenholm of Texas and former Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.
Nor is the phenomenon of lawmakers receiving farm subsidies limited to the federal level. Recent media reports have shown that direct payments are even more common in state legislatures in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho and South Dakota.
At EWG, we believe that farmers deserve a reasonable safety net to protect against damage from drought, storms and fickle markets. But the American public’s investment portfolio in agriculture needs to change. It’s indefensible to provide subsidies to well-off farmers and landowners, especially in the face of a booming farm economy and a federal budget squeeze. Meanwhile, farmers seeking modest federal support to protect water, land and wildlife are being turned away for lack of funds.
We’re also committed advocates for government transparency, and it’s deeply disturbing that the public’s ability to see who gets what from the federal farm subsidy system has been curtailed by the Obama administration. Under the Bush administration, the rules allowed the public to see through shell corporations and paper entities to identify the part owners of subsidized farms and show where the money ended up. The transparency pertained to lawmakers as well. For this analysis EWG was forced to resort to harvesting data from members’ disclosure forms. That was an arduous but ultimately worthwhile task when advocating for greater accountability and transparency, and it didn’t use to be necessary.
Some Congress members (or their families) collecting federal farm subsidies are major players in the annual farm subsidy drama, others have only bit parts in terms of the amount of subsidies they receive. Overall, the distribution of subsidies among members of Congress reflects the highly distorted distribution of farm subsidies among farmers and landlords in the United States – between 1995 and 2009, 10 percent of subsidy recipients collected 74 percent of all subsidies.
The current salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year, and members enjoy robust health benefits. But whether major or bit players, members of Congress who receive farm subsidies are part of a system that cries out for reform and poses stark choices between helping wealthy landowners or doing right by struggling farm and urban families and the environment.
Member of Congress who received big or small checks from the federal government include:
US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (in alphabetical order)
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.)
Aderholt’s wife, Caroline Aderholt, is a 6.3% owner of McDonald Farms, which received a total of $3,059,878 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. Additionally she received $338 directly from USDA in 2009.
EWG’s estimate of farm subsidies to Caroline Aderholt, using the percentage share information received by USDA, is $191,580.
Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa)
Boswell is listed as directly receiving a total of $16,235 in subsidies between 2001 and 2008.
Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.)
Campbell is listed as a 1.5 percent owner of the Campbell/McNee Family Farm LLC, which received a total of $10,364 in federal farm subsidies between 2007 and 2009.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Campbell received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $155 between 2007 and 2009.
Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.)
Costa is listed as a 50 percent owner of Lena E Costa Living Trust, which received $2,494 in federal farm subsidies.
EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Costa received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $1,247 between 2006 and 2007.
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)
Farenthold received a total of $1,205 in farm subsidies directly from USDA between 1999 and 2005.
Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.)
Fincher is listed as directly receiving a total of $114,519 from USDA between 1995 and 2009. Fincher’s farm, Stephen & Lynn Fincher Farms, is also listed in the EWG database as receiving a total of $3,254,324 between 1999 and 2009. Fincher and his wife Lynn are each 50 percent partners in that farm.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Fincher and his wife received totaled $3,368,843 between 1995 and 2009.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.)
Hartzler is listed in the EWG Farm Subsidy Database, but no subsidies were directly paid to her. Her husband, Lowell Hartzler, however, is listed as a 98 percent owner of Hartzler Farms, which received a total of $774,489 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. His ownership percentage rose from 53 percent in the years up to 2005 to 98 percent in 2006.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Lowell Hartzler received, based on the percentage share information (assumed to be 53 percent prior to 2006) supplied to USDA, totaled $469,292 between 1995 and 2009.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)
Holt is listed as a 10.5 percent owner of Froelich Land Trust No. 1, which received at total of $33,021 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2008. Holt’s wife, Margaret Lancefield, is listed as a 25 percent owner of Lancefield Farm, which received a total of $23,478 in subsidies between 1996 and 2009.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Holt received, using the percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of $9,337 between 1995 and 2009.
Rep. Timothy Huelskamp (R-Kansas)
Huelskamp is listed as directly receiving $258 in 2002.
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.)
Kline’s wife, Vicky Sheldon Kline, is listed as a 20 percent owner of Sheldon Family Farms LP, which received a total of $23,667 between 2000 and 2009.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Ms. Klein received, based on the percentage share information supplied to USDA, is a total of $4,733 between 2000 and 2009.
Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa)
Latham is listed as part owner of four entities: 33 percent owner of Latham Seed Co., which received a total of $448,925 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2003; 25 percent owner in Latham Hospital Farm, which received a total of $76,612 between 1995 and 2001; 25 percent owner in Latham Kanawha Farm, which received a total of $15,648 between 1995 and 2001; and 3 percent owner in DTB Farms LLC, which received a total of $472,018 between 2003 and 2009.
EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Latham received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $330,046 between 1995 and 2009.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)
Lummis is listed as a 31.33 percent owner of Lummis Livestock, which received a total of $47,093 in farm subsidies in between 1996 and 2002. Lummis listed her ownership of Lummis Livestock in her 2009 financial disclosure form.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Lummis received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $14,289 between 1996 and 2002.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)
Neugebauer is involved in two business entities. He owns 50 percent of Lubbock Land Company Five LTD, which received a total of $3,369 in farm subsidies between 1998 and 1999. He also owns 50 percent of Lubbock Land Company Two LTD, which received a total of $4,608 in farm subsidies in between 1998 and 1999. Neugebauer’s financial disclosure forms for 2009 do not list either company.
EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Neugubauer received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $3,989 between 1998 and 1999.
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)
Noem is listed as having a 13.5 percent share in Racota Valley Ranch between 2000 and 2001 and a 16.9 percent share between 2002 and 2008. Racota Valley Ranch received a total of $3,058,152 in farm subsides between 1995 and 2008. Noem’s 2009 financial disclosure form listed her as a partner in Racota Valley Ranch.
EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Noem received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is $443,748.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)
Peterson is listed as receiving a total of $828 between 2005 and 2009.
Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.)
Rehberg received a total of $7,971 directly from USDA between 1995 and 2002. Rehburg’s wife, Jan Rehberg, also received $51 directly from USDA in 2008. Jan Rehberg also has ownership in two entities that received payments. She has a 33 percent stake in Lenhardt Property LP, which received a total of $517 between 2006 and 2009. She also has a 5.6 percent stake in Teigen Land and Livestock Company, which received a total of $31,890 between 2002 and 2003.
EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Rehberg and his wife received, based on the percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of $9,980 between 1995 and 2009.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.)
Stutzman is listed as directly receiving a total of $179,370 in farm subsidies between 1997 and 2009.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas)
Thornberry listed as William M. Thornberry, directly received a total of $4,306 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 1999. Thornberry is also a one-third owner of Thornberry Brothers, which received a total of $65,326 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. His financial disclosure form in 2009 lists him as an owner in Thornberry Brothers Cattle.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Thornberry received, based on the percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of $26,081 between 1995 and 2009.
US SENATE (in alphabetical order)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)
Bennet’s wife, Susan Daggett, is listed in his 2010 financial disclosure forms as 5.5 percent owner of Daggett Farms LP and LMD Farms LP. Daggett Farms LP received a total of $258,916 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2008. LMD Farms LP received a total of $102,291 between 2000 and 2009.
EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Daggett received, based on the percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of $19,866 between 1995 and 2009.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Grassley is listed as directly receiving a total of $263,635 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)
Lugar is listed as a 9.39 percent owner of Lugar Stock Farm. His wife, Charlene Smeltzer Lugar, is listed as a 7.42 percent owner in Lugar Stock Farm. Lugar Stock Farm received a total of $158,892 in farm subsidies in between 1995 and 2009.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Lugar and his wife received totals $26,710 between 1995 and 2009
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Tester received a total of $159,549 directly from USDA between 1995 and 2009. Testers’ wife, Sharla, is listed as a 50 percent owner of T-Bone Farms – Tester is listed as owning the other 50 percent. T-Bone farms received a total of $282,754 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009.
EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Tester and his wife received, based on percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of $442,303 between 1995 and 2009.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
EWG’S estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Hatch and his wife received, based on the share information provided to USDA regarding Ms. Hatch’s share of Edries N Hansen Properties LLC, is a total of $909 between 2008 and 2009.
Although Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) was the subject of considerable publicity in 2010 over her family’s farm subsidy payments, she is not in this list since she has not received direct payments from USDA. Her late father-in-law, Paul Bachmann, received $259,332 in subsidies between1995 and 2008. Bachmann’s financial disclosure form lists an interest in Bachmann Family Farm LP, receiving subsidy payments income in the $15,001-$50,000 range in 2009, but for unknown reasons, Bachmann Family Farm LP does not appear in the EWG Farm Subsidy Database. If a person is a part owner in a farm, and that farm receives federal subsidies, USDA indicates that that person is a beneficiary of federal farm programs.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, & the US Dollar
on: April 01, 2011, 10:53:17 AM
OTOH, , ,
Non-farm payrolls increased 216,000 in March To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Non-farm payrolls increased 216,000 in March. Revisions to January/February added 7,000, bringing the net gain to 223,000. The consensus expected a gain of 190,000.
Private sector payrolls rose 230,000 in March. Revisions to January/February added 44,000, bringing the net gain to 274,000. March gains were led by health care (+37,000), bars/restaurants/hotels (+35,000), temps (+29,000), accounting/bookkeeping (+20.000), retail (+18,000), and manufacturing (+17,000). The largest decline was for home building (-7,000).
The unemployment rate fell to 8.8% in March from 8.9% in February.
Average weekly earnings – cash earnings, excluding benefits – were unchanged in March but up 2.3% versus a year ago.
Implications: The US labor market is clicking on almost all cylinders and we expect persistently solid payroll growth, month after month, for the foreseeable future. Including upward revisions to prior months, non-farm payrolls increased 223,000 while private sector payrolls jumped 274,000. This strength was confirmed by figures on civilian employment – an alternative measure of jobs that is better at picking up the self-employed and small start-up businesses – which increased 291,000. The increase in jobs pushed down the unemployment rate to 8.8%, the lowest in two years. The “soft” part of the report was that average hourly earnings were unchanged in March. However, these earnings are up 1.7% versus a year ago while total hours worked are up 2.1%. As a result, total cash earnings by workers are up 3.8% in the past year. So far, this is more than enough for workers, as a whole, to keep up with inflation. More timely news on the labor market shows further progress. New claims for unemployment insurance declined 6,000 last week to 388,000. Continuing claims for regular state benefits dropped 51,000 to 3.71 million. News like this is behind the recent increase in “hawkish” comments from Federal Reserve officials. The breadth of the comments suggests some degree of coordination. We believe the Fed wants to make it crystal clear to the financial markets that a third round of quantitative easing is highly unlikely.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: top dog video question
on: April 01, 2011, 10:40:59 AM
Well, you know the saying about assumption Tim
I was there when Tricky and Top Dog went at it. Fascinating match up. When Tricky was at my first seminar in Seattle not so long ago I shared with him some ideas
The Adventure continues , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and
on: April 01, 2011, 08:04:17 AM
Fair enough, but perhaps we can wonder who our true leader is in all this. Is it Baraq? Is it Hillary? Is it Samantha Powers and Cass Sunstein and their patron George Soros?
What Koussa's Defection Means for Gadhafi, Libya and the West
Wednesday marked nearly two weeks since the beginning of the Libya intervention. While the day’s most important headline came as a surprise, others were more expected, and some confirmed what STRATFOR had been saying since the earliest days of the intervention. The most significant event was the defection of the country’s long-time intelligence chief turned foreign minister. The continuing retreat of eastern rebel forces added fodder to the ongoing discussion in Washington, Paris and London as to whether or not to arm them. A pair of anonymous leaks from the American and British governments revealed that CIA and British Special Air Service (SAS) agents have been on the ground in Libya for weeks now, while an unnamed European diplomat admitted that the no-fly zone had been nothing but a diplomatic smokescreen designed to get Arab states on board with a military operation that held regime change as the true goal.
Related Special Topic Page
The Libyan War: Full Coverage
The defection of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa to the United Kingdom came after a “private visit” to neighboring Tunisia, where he reportedly held meetings in his hotel room with four unidentified French officials. (Why it was that Koussa, who has as much blood on his hands as any Libyan official who has been around for as long as he has, wasn’t on the U.N. travel ban list remains unknown.) From there, he flew to London, and news that Koussa had resigned and officially defected followed shortly thereafter. The move creates the possibility that more high profile members of the regime could follow suit if they feel that the writing is on the wall. For the West, Koussa is quite a catch, as he was the long-serving chief of Libya’s External Security Organization – and thus, the de facto head of Libyan intelligence – during the heyday of Libyan state-supported terrorism. Koussa moved (or, some would say, was demoted) to the foreign minister’s post in 2009 and he will be an invaluable resource for the foreign intelligence services that will be lining up to debrief him in London. Though there had been whispers in recent years that Koussa had lost favor with the regime, he was still in a very high profile position, and is surely a treasure trove of information on the inner workings of the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
“Koussa can attain immunity, but Gadhafi cannot – it is politically impossible at this point.”
Koussa will have information on the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772, arguably the two most famous acts of Libyan state terrorism carried out during Gadhafi’s rule. It is ironic that Koussa chose the United Kingdom as his destination for defection, as he will now be (temporarily at least) residing in the same country in which Lockerbie is located. It is likely that a deal was reached between Koussa and the British government, with the French acting as interlocutors, giving him immunity from prosecution in exchange for intelligence on the Gadhafi regime and his silence on the details of the negotiations that led to the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber. The intelligence Koussa provides will aid Western governments in getting a better handle of where Libya’s secret agents are stationed abroad, thereby helping them deter the specter of the return of Libyan state terrorism.
His defection will also only further convince Gadhafi that exile is an inherently risky option. The British and French are the most vocal proponents of pursuing an International Criminal Court investigation against the Libyan leader, and their coordination in bringing Koussa from Tunisia to the United Kingdom has given them a source of testimony for use against Gadhafi in any proceedings that may commence in The Hague one day. Koussa can attain immunity, but Gadhafi cannot – it is politically impossible at this point.
This development will likely only solidify Gadhafi’s resolve to regain control of territory lost since February, or go down with the ship. Indeed, after seeing rebels advance to within a short distance of Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte on March 28, the Libyan army (reportedly with Chadian mercenaries’ help) pushed the enemy back all the way to the east of Ras Lanuf, a key oil export center on the Gulf of Sidra. The air campaign did not stop their advance, and the rebels were openly admitting that they are no match for the much better organized and equipped forces fighting on behalf of the regime.
On the second day of steady rebel losses being reported in the international media, an anonymous U.S. government official leaked that the CIA has been on the ground in Libya for weeks. Similar leaks from a British government source said that the SAS had been on the ground helping coordinate targets for air strikes for a similar amount of time. This news was hardly a revelation at STRATFOR, but it is clear that the leak was intended for the ears of the general public, with the intention to give people the sense that Western forces are somehow in control of the situation and establishing contacts with those who are the potential substitute for Gadhafi. Covert operations have a way of not counting in the public’s mind as “boots on the ground” since they are not seen, only spoken about. They are thus viewed as acceptable to a public that would not accept a true deployment of combat troops. Leaking that the CIA and SAS have long been on the ground in Libya also serves as a form of psychological warfare against Tripoli, as it displays the resolve of those that are indeed pushing for regime change in Libya.
Successfully toppling Gadhafi is now one of the core political imperatives at home for the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and France. For U.S. President Barack Obama in particular, though he is nowhere near having an Iraq moment, Libya still represents his boldest foreign policy move to date. If Gadhafi is still in power as the 2012 presidential campaign heats up, Obama could have a lot of questions to answer.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan "The Bang-Bang"
on: April 01, 2011, 07:49:35 AM
I want to step back from the controversy over Libya and take a look at one definition of what foreign policy is, or rather what its broader purposes might be. Then I want to make a small point.
The other day I came across an extract from a debate that took place in the British House of Commons in July 1864. Benjamin Disraeli, the future prime minister, was arguing that the government's policy in Germany and Denmark was a failure and deserved Parliament's formal censure. In damning Westminster's mismanagement, he drew a pretty good, broad-strokes picture of what a great nation's foreign policy might look like.
First the damning. "Do you see," Disraeli asks, "the kind of capacity that is adequate to the occasion? Do you find . . . that sagacity, that prudence, that dexterity, that quickness of perception" and that mood of "conciliation" that are necessary in the transaction of foreign affairs? No, he suggests, you do not. All these characteristics have been "wanting," and because they are wanting, three results have accrued: The policy of Her Majesty's government has failed, England's "influence in the councils of Europe has been lowered," and that waning of influence has left the prospects for peace diminished.
He stops to define terms: Regarding influence, "I mean an influence that results from the conviction of foreign Powers that our resources are great and that our policy is moderate and steadfast." He seeks the return of a conservative approach. "I do not mean by a Conservative foreign policy a foreign policy that would disapprove, still less oppose, the natural development of nations. I mean a foreign policy interested in the tranquility and prosperity of the world," one condition of which is peace. England should be "a moderating and mediatorial Power." Its interest, when changes in the world are inevitable and necessary, is to assist so that the changes "if possible, may be accomplished without war; or, if war occurs, that its duration and asperity be lessened."
Disraeli's censure motion would narrowly fail and in the end not matter much. But there's something satisfying and refreshing in his clear assertion of basic principles, of beginning points for thinking about foreign policy. A nation, to have influence, must be understood by all to be both very strong and very sober. Prosperity and tranquility are legitimate goals, peace a necessary condition. And there's a paradox as great nations move forward in the world: In order to have a dramatically good influence, you must have a known bias toward the nondramatic, toward the merely prudent and wise. A known bias, that is, toward peaceableness. And here is my small point.
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Benjamin Disraeli at the Bucks election, 1847.
.All this speaks to something I think we have lost the past 10 years—the generally understood sense in the world that the U.S. has a known bias toward the moderate and peaceable. I don't here argue or debate the many reasons, the history, or the series of actions that have brought this about, only to note: It was a lot to lose! I think we want to get it back, or try to re-establish a good portion of it. Because there is great benefit in seeming to be a big strong nation that is unroiled, unruffled and unbattered by the constant high seas of the world. Passivity isn't an option, and what's called isolationism is an impossibility—we live in the world—but we are too much taken by the idea of dramatic action. We've become almost addicted to it, or that our presidents have.
There are always many facts and dynamics that prompt modern leaders toward dramatic and immediate action as opposed to reflection, serious debate, and the long slog of diplomatic effort. But are we fully appreciating that our media, now, seem to force the hand of every leader and require them to decide, move and push forward?
The bias of the media is for action, passion and pictures. It is television producers and website runners who are the greatest lovers of "kinetic" events. They need to fill time. They need conflict and drama. At CBS News years ago there was a producer who called the film, as it then was, of a military or street battle "the bang-bang." The bang-bang was good for a piece. In a good minute-30 report there would be the stand-up opening by the correspondent, the statement of the besieged ruler or the aggrieved rebel, the map with arrows, the bang-bang, and then the closing summation. It was good TV! It is still good TV, and there is more TV than ever.
Every president has to know now that if there is fighting somewhere in the world, if there is suffering somewhere in the world, and the U.S. does not become involved, the scandal of that lack of involvement will become an endless segment on an endless television show full of endless questions. Why the inaction? Why are we doing nothing?
It should be noted that we are fighting now in Libya not because of mass slaughter but because of the threat of mass slaughter. Let's say what the president's supporters can't say and his opponents won't say: If the slaughter had happened, those pictures would have been very bad politically for the president.
Our foreign policy is increasingly driven by the needs of television programmers. I think I'll repeat that: Our foreign policy is more and more being dictated by the people who do the rundowns for tv new shows.
A president who "does nothing" in the face of trouble, who does not respond to the constant agitation of dramatic videotape on television and the Internet, is called weak. He is called cowardly, dithering, unworthy. He is called Jimmy Carter.
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.So he and his administration feel forced to share the media's bias toward action. No longer are leaders allowed to think what previous generations of political leaders knew, or learned: that when 10 problems are walking toward you on the street, you don't have to rush forward to confront them. It's wiser to wait because, life being messy and unpredictable, half the problems will fall in a ditch or lose their strength before they get to you. The trick is to handle with dispatch ones that do reach you. The talent is in guessing which ones they might be.
I know that this particular challenge to foreign policy sobriety is not new and is in fact at least 30 years old. But with the proliferation of media and technology, it is getting more intense. It will never lessen now. It will only build.
There ought to be a word for something we know that is so much a part of our lives that we forget to know it, we forget to see it, and yet it has a profound impact on the world we live in. We forget to fully factor it in, or we do factor it in but don't notice it is a primary factor.
Every leader now must know the dynamic and be an active bulwark against it. He will have to discuss why we cannot allow our nervous, agitating media to demand our involvement in every fight.
A president has to provide all the pushback. Republicans should keep that in mind, too. They'll have the White House soon enough. Some of their decisions will be at the mercy of television programmers too.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and
on: April 01, 2011, 07:44:55 AM
I suppose that could be a not insignificant contributing factor, but personally I place more weight on what Glenn Beck is developing: The establishment of "The Duty to Protect" when authorized by the UN, the subordination of the US to the UN, "getting on the right side" of the Arab world and towards that end, the decoupling of the US from its alliance with Israel.
Prediction (hat tip to Beck): We will see many forces in the UN try to use the "duty to protect" against Israel.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Strassel: Ready, set, , , wait.
on: April 01, 2011, 07:36:25 AM
Ready! Set! Wait.
Ask any grass-roots Republican, and they will tell you that what gets them out of bed in the morning is the prospect of defeating President Barack Obama in 2012. Ask them who is going to do it, and be met with sigh.
The GOP presidential primary race is now—honestly—in early full swing. Candidates are filling out paperwork, snapping up operatives, and prepping for the first debate (just a few weeks away). There is a heady feeling that this Republican contest will prove the most unique in half a century: It boasts an unusually wide-open field and comes at a tipping point for both the party and the country.
All that's missing? Any clear voter enthusiasm for the obvious candidates. Until, or if, a candidate figures out how to become that object of inspiration, this could be a slow ride.
Yes, it's early. Then again, contenders ought to be concerned that even at this stage they've already earned some sticky labels. Mitt Romney: Unreliable. Newt Gingrich: Yesterday. Sarah Palin: Flighty. Tim Pawlenty: Boring. Mitch Daniels: Bush's guy. Jon Huntsman: Obama's guy. Haley Barbour: Southern guy.
These are crudely drawn caricatures. But they are also an acknowledgment that many in the field are starting with very real liabilities, ones the contenders must yet confront. Mr. Romney is going to have to address RomneyCare; Mr. Gingrich is going to have to address marital infidelities; Mr. Barbour is going to have to address the confederate flag. It's as if GOP voters know these discussions must happen and are already weary. They want a candidate who is 24/7 talking about ObamaCare, spending reform, and world leadership—not Bristol Palin's performance on "Dancing with the Stars."
It ought to be of concern to the presumptive field, too, that grass-roots and influential Republicans continue to spend most of their energy and daydreams on people who are either: a) not running—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; b) were all but unknown a year ago—Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and pizza magnate Herman Cain; or c) might not even be Republican—Donald Trump.
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.The polls ought to be even more concerning for "known" candidates. It is one thing for Mr. Pawlenty or Mr. Daniels to be polling in the single digits; they are relatively new names. But what primary voter is unfamiliar with Mr. Romney, who ran second to John McCain? Or Mrs. Palin, the veep nominee? Or Mike Huckabee, of Iowa fame? If history were a guide, one of them ought to be pulling a third of primary voters today. Instead, "there is not a single Republican who can claim support from as many as one in five primary supporters," says GOP pollster and co-founder of Resurgent Republic Whit Ayres. He suggests that some candidates stuck in the low double digits might already have "fatal flaws."
History, in this case, is no guide. The Republican Party has a tradition of nominating the next guy in line. In 1976 it nominated Ford over Reagan: It was Ford's due. Reagan's due came after that, and George H.W. Bush's due after that, and . . . straight through to Mr. McCain. Mr. Romney, for one, is betting that tradition still holds, and that he can burst onto the scene as the anointed one.
Good luck with that. For the first time since the 1940s, the Republican field truly is open. And that is because of a cataclysmic shift in the GOP and independent electorate, one that many in the field seem not yet to have understood. The contenders are out there, dutifully bashing President Obama, chiding Congress for not being tougher, complaining about spending and Libya and gas prices. GOP voters want to hear that. And they want so much more.
This is a group of voters that may not like Mr. Obama, but they respect his skills. They want somebody who can match him in charisma and communication. This is a group of voters disillusioned by Republican behavior. They elected the GOP last year, but mostly as a protest vote against Mr. Obama. They now want somebody—preferably a new face, without the baggage—who can articulate a vision for the party and reassure it that it really is in new, strong, capable hands.
These are voters who every day are seeing national headlines about reformist governors—Wisconsin's Scott Walker, Mr. Christie, Ohio's John Kasich—and making comparisons. That may not be fair, since many of the presidential contenders are no longer in office. Then again, many in the electorate are wondering why they never read these headlines when those contenders were in fact in office.
Put it all together—the desire for a hard-charging, big-thinking, articulate, new face—and the interest in the Christies and Rubios makes sense. That isn't to say that those already getting in can't win over the electorate. But if they want to—if they want to generate the gigantic voter enthusiasm that will be needed to knock off a sitting president—they are going to have to start being the Next (and New) Big Thing. Nothing less, in this environment, is going to thrill.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bill Gross of PIMCO
on: April 01, 2011, 07:28:38 AM
William H. Gross of PIMCO in the firm's April 2011 "Investment Outlook":
That adorable skunk, Pepé Le Pew, is one of my wife Sue's favorite cartoon characters. There's something affable, even romantic about him as he seeks to woo his female companions with a French accent and promises of a skunk bungalow and bedrooms full of little Pepés in future years. It's easy to love a skunk—but only on the silver screen, and if in real life—at a considerable distance. I think of Congress that way. Every two or six years, they dress up in full makeup, pretending to be the change, vowing to correct what hasn't been corrected, promising discipline as opposed to profligate overspending and undertaxation, and striving to balance the budget when all others have failed. Oooh Pepé—Mon Chéri! But don't believe them—hold your nose instead! Oh, I kid the Congress. Perhaps they don't have black and white stripes with bushy tails. Perhaps there's just a stink bomb that the Congressional sergeant-at-arms sets off every time they convene and the gavel falls to signify the beginning of the "people's business." Perhaps. But, in all cases, citizens of America—hold your noses. You ain't smelled nothin' yet.
I speak, of course, to the budget deficit and Washington's inability to recognize the intractable: 75% of the budget is non-discretionary and entitlement based. Without attacking entitlements—Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—we are smelling $1 trillion deficits as far as the nose can sniff. Once dominated by defense spending, these three categories now account for 44% of total Federal spending and are steadily rising. . . . [A]fter defense and interest payments on the national debt are excluded, remaining discretionary expenses for education, infrastructure, agriculture and housing constitute at most 25% of the 2011 fiscal year federal spending budget of $4 trillion. You could eliminate it all and still wind up with a deficit of nearly $700 billion! So come on you stinkers; enough of the Pepé Le Pew romance and promises. Entitlement spending is where the money is and you need to reform it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ:
on: April 01, 2011, 07:25:39 AM
By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
The Obama administration's energy policy is in the midst of transition from being stubbornly ideological to being wholly incoherent. That much was clear when President Obama unveiled his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future this week.
With gasoline prices climbing above $4 a gallon, the administration is talking about tapping our Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a desperate attempt to hold down pump prices. It's also expanding subsidies and incentives for energy supplies that cost a lot more than oil, and it's aiming to reduce our dependency on foreign oil by one-third over the next 10 years.
Meanwhile, in a bizarre turn, Mr. Obama recently expressed enthusiasm for aggressive offshore drilling—in Brazil.
At least the president is practicing the green virtue of recycling. His energy address featured all the greatest hits of past presidential declarations of energy independence, including even George W. Bush's paean to switchgrass ethanol. Yet Mr. Obama's energy "blueprint" will get no further than all previous presidential schemes for the same reason: It is unserious at its core.
There are only two ways to reduce our foreign oil imports: a large oil tax to suppress consumption, or expanded production of domestic oil resources. All of the other bells and whistles—hybrid and flex-fuel cars, biofuels, etc.—will have only a marginal effect on overall oil demand. Higher energy taxes are not in the cards. What about expanded domestic oil production? Mr. Obama tried to thread the needle by claiming to be pro-domestic production, while at the same time embracing the tired talking point that because the U.S. has only 2% of the world's proven oil reserves—about 20 billion barrels—we can't hope to achieve independence from foreign oil from our own resources.
Yet a recent report from the Congressional Research Service that has received surprisingly little attention concludes that the U.S. probably has as much as 155 billion barrels of oil recoverable with existing technology that we simply haven't looked for or have closed off from exploration for political reasons. That's five times the outdated and misleading figure Mr. Obama cites. And there are an additional 700 billion barrels of oil shale and other unconventional hydrocarbons that could be developed here at home. That's more than the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Obama ought to tell the whole story about Brazil, instead of just half of it. He touts the measures Brazil took to improve its energy independence, such as flex-fuel vehicles and biofuels. And yes, Brazil has gone from importing 77% of its oil from foreign sources in 1980 to importing no oil by 2009. A great success story in conservation and alternative energy? Not really. Total Brazilian oil consumption still more than doubled.
The biggest factor is that Brazil increased its domestic oil production over the last two decades by 876% (not a typo). Most of that production has come from offshore exploration.
Brazilians achieved independence from foreign oil the old-fashioned way—they drilled. Instead of tapping our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, how about tapping into our still-in-the-ground oil reserves?
Mr. Hayward is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of the forthcoming "Almanac of Environmental Trends" (Pacific Research Institute).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: DC school voucher program; WI public unions take out the baseball bats
on: April 01, 2011, 07:18:50 AM
We hope the tea partiers don't faint, but House Republicans this week voted 225-195 to restore $20 million in federal spending—for the District of Columbia's school voucher program. This is the program, terminated by Democrats in 2009, that gave some 1,700 D.C. students (virtually all of them black or Hispanic) up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school.
Most District residents ardently supported the voucher program, while the teachers unions—locally and nationally—reviled it. This proved to be an embarrassment to professional Democrats—from the Presidency down to local school boards—who still claim to be the party of the poor but who have no clue how to win elections without prostrating themselves for union support.
Thus in 2009 we had the spectacle of Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, then head of a subcommittee that oversaw the program's funding, stringing along its supporters with intimations of support if they jumped various hoops, such as getting the D.C. Council to support it. The Council did. Whereupon Senator Durbin ginned up a new hoop.
This week the Obama White House put out a statement that it "opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools." It continues to say there is no evidence of academic improvement. As we noted in a 2009 editorial, "Democrats and Poor Kids," the Education Department was in possession then of a study showing gains in reading scores and no declines in math relative to public schools.
The President this week didn't promise a veto, so if perchance it passed the Democratic Senate, he just might sign it. That's the undying optimist in us. The cynical view would be that Mr. Obama will do what the unions say he must to win their re-election cash.
Having lost their fight in the legislature, Wisconsin unions are now getting out the steel pipes for those who don't step lively to their cause. A letter we've seen that was sent to businesses in southeastern Wisconsin shows that Big Labor's latest strategy is to threaten small businesses with boycotts if they don't publicly declare their support for government union monopoly power.
Dated March 28, 2011, the letter is addressed to "DEAR UNION GROVE AREA BUSINESS OWNER/MANAGER," in Racine County. And it begins with this warm greeting: "It is unfortunate that you have chosen 'not' to support public workers rights in Wisconsin. In recent past weeks you have been offered a sign(s) by a public employee(s) who works in one of the state facilities in the Union Grove area. These signs simply said 'This Business Supports Workers Rights,' a simple, subtle and we feel non-controversial statement given the facts at this time."
We doubt "subtle" is the word a business owner would use to describe this offer he is being told he can't refuse.
The letter is signed by Jim Parrett, the "Field Rep." for Council 24 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which is the most powerful union in the AFL-CIO. The letter presents a litany of objections to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's changes to benefits and public union collective bargaining power, describing them as "things that make life working in a 24-7 facility tolerable."
The missive concludes by noting that, "With that we'd ask that you reconsider taking a sign and stance to support public employees in this community. Failure to do so will leave us no choice but do [sic] a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means 'no' to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members."
So even businesses that stay neutral in the political battle are considered the enemy and will be punished. Charming stuff, and especially coming from a union that claims (wrongly) to be losing its constitutional rights. Free speech for others apparently isn't all that important.
On Wednesday we called the telephone number listed under Mr. Parrett's name but his voicemail was full. We then spoke with union officials who said they'd ask Mr. Parrett to call us back, but he never called. He has since confirmed the accuracy of the letter to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which reports that the threat is an outgrowth of a boycott campaign by other unions that has targeted M&I Bank and Kwik Trip because those companies or their executives supported Mr. Walker's budget proposals.
This kind of union thuggery is all too common and is in keeping with the larger political goal of preventing union members from exercising their own rights of free association. The Walker reform that union leaders hate the most would require unions to be recertified annually by a majority of their members and let those members opt out of paying union dues.
Union chiefs like Mr. Parrett know what that means for their political clout. After taking office in 2005, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels used an executive order to end collective bargaining for public workers—a power granted by former Governor Evan Bayh.
The number of state public employees has since fallen to 28,700 from 35,000. But more important, the vast majority of those employees stopped paying union dues. Today, 1,490 state employees pay union dues in Indiana, down from 16,408 in 2005. Similar declines have played out in Washington State and Utah, when those states gave members the freedom to choose.
This is the prospect that has Wisconsin labor leaders so furious these days—furious enough that they'll even threaten the livelihoods of local business owners who won't join them at the barricades. This is the nasty modern reality of government union power.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Polygyny, Mormons, Muslims, and Women
on: April 01, 2011, 07:09:25 AM
By ROSE MCDERMOTT
Polygamy is a popular punchline these days, from HBO's drama "Big Love" to TLC's documentary "Sister Wives" and the Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon," written by the creators of "South Park." Yet plural marriage is as serious an issue as it's ever been—and is even on the rise in the West.
Warren Jeffs, the infamous leader of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints sect, is in an Arizona jail awaiting trial on charges of bigamy and sexual assault. North of the border, Canadian authorities have been trying to nab his co-religionists. In 2009, prosecutors charged Winston Blackmore and James Oler, two leaders of the fundamentalist community in Bountiful, British Columbia, with polygamy.
The case was thrown out on a technicality, but now Canada's anti-polygamy statute, which dates to 1890, is being put to the test in a so-called "reference case." In effect, the government is seeking an opinion from the court on whether the statute is valid. Opponents say that it violates the country's commitment to religious freedom. "Consenting adults have the right—the Charter protected right—to form the families that they want to form," Monique Pongracic-Speier of the Civil Liberties Association has said.
Supporters of the statute say that it's not about persecuting religious outliers or maintaining a traditional definition of family for its own sake. Rather, it is about protecting human rights. The case has begun to inflame passions far from the rural communities of small Mormon breakaway groups.
Polygamy—or more specifically polygyny, the marriage of one man to more than one woman—has been widespread in human history. And it is becoming increasingly common, particularly in Muslim enclaves—including in Paris, London and New York.
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Warren Jeffs is led from the Tom Green County Courthouse in San Angelo, Texas after his pretrial hearing in Jan. 2011.
.A 2006 report by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights reported that approximately 180,000 people were living in polygamous households in France. For decades, France allowed entrance to polygamous immigrants from about 50 countries where the practice was legal. When the French government banned polygamy in 1993, it tried to support the decohabitation of such couples if a wife wanted to move into her own apartment with her children.
In Britain, where immigration laws have banned the practice for longer, there appear to be about a thousand valid polygamous marriages, mostly among immigrants who married elsewhere, such as in Pakistan. Such families are allowed to collect social security benefits for each wife, although the government has apparently not counted how many are doing so.
In the United States, where numbers are more difficult to come by, anecdotal reports indicate underground communities of polygamists in New York City, particularly among immigrant communities from West Africa.
Where the practice remains common in Africa it cuts across religious lines. But in the West, it has been concentrated among Muslims and breakaway Mormon sects. Under Islamic Shariah law, a man is allowed to marry up to four women as long as he can provide for them equally. This should constitute a limiting factor, especially under conditions of poverty. But one way polygamists circumvent this problem is by getting their governments to support unofficial wives whose ambiguous legal status allows them to make claims for aid.
There are more serious problems that come with the practice of polygamy. My research over the past decade, encompassing more than 170 countries, has shown the detrimental effects of polygynous practices on human rights, for both men and women.
According to the information I have helped to collect in the Womanstats database, women in polygynous communities get married younger, have more children, have higher rates of HIV infection than men, sustain more domestic violence, succumb to more female genital mutilation and sex trafficking, and are more likely to die in childbirth. Their life expectancy is also shorter than that of their monogamous sisters. In addition, their children, both boys and girls, are less likely to receive both primary and secondary education.
This is at least partly because polygynist cultures need to create and sustain an underclass of unmarried and undereducated men, since in order to sustain a system where a few men possess all the women, roughly half of boys must leave the community before adulthood. Such societies also spend more money on weapons and display fewer social and political freedoms than do monogamous ones.
When small numbers of men control large numbers of women, the remaining men are likely to be willing to take greater risks and engage in more violence, possibly including terrorism, in order to increase their own wealth and status in hopes of gaining access to women. Whatever their concerns about protecting religious freedom, or demonstrating cultural sensitivity, Western nations should think twice before allowing the kinds of family structures that lead to such abuses.
Ms. McDermott is a professor of political science at Brown University.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Moore: Takers, not Makers
on: April 01, 2011, 07:05:26 AM
y STEPHEN MOORE
If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.
It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?
Every state in America today except for two—Indiana and Wisconsin—has more government workers on the payroll than people manufacturing industrial goods. Consider California, which has the highest budget deficit in the history of the states. The not-so Golden State now has an incredible 2.4 million government employees—twice as many as people at work in manufacturing. New Jersey has just under two-and-a-half as many government employees as manufacturers. Florida's ratio is more than 3 to 1. So is New York's.
Even Michigan, at one time the auto capital of the world, and Pennsylvania, once the steel capital, have more government bureaucrats than people making things. The leaders in government hiring are Wyoming and New Mexico, which have hired more than six government workers for every manufacturing worker.
Now it is certainly true that many states have not typically been home to traditional manufacturing operations. Iowa and Nebraska are farm states, for example. But in those states, there are at least five times more government workers than farmers. West Virginia is the mining capital of the world, yet it has at least three times more government workers than miners. New York is the financial capital of the world—at least for now. That sector employs roughly 670,000 New Yorkers. That's less than half of the state's 1.48 million government employees.
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.Don't expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government. Why? Because in recent years only government agencies have been hiring, and because the offer of near lifetime security is highly valued in these times of economic turbulence. When 23-year-olds aren't willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands. Sadly, we could end up with a generation of Americans who want to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The employment trends described here are explained in part by hugely beneficial productivity improvements in such traditional industries as farming, manufacturing, financial services and telecommunications. These produce far more output per worker than in the past. The typical farmer, for example, is today at least three times more productive than in 1950.
Where are the productivity gains in government? Consider a core function of state and local governments: schools. Over the period 1970-2005, school spending per pupil, adjusted for inflation, doubled, while standardized achievement test scores were flat. Over roughly that same time period, public-school employment doubled per student, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington. That is what economists call negative productivity.
But education is an industry where we measure performance backwards: We gauge school performance not by outputs, but by inputs. If quality falls, we say we didn't pay teachers enough or we need smaller class sizes or newer schools. If education had undergone the same productivity revolution that manufacturing has, we would have half as many educators, smaller school budgets, and higher graduation rates and test scores.
The same is true of almost all other government services. Mass transit spends more and more every year and yet a much smaller share of Americans use trains and buses today than in past decades. One way that private companies spur productivity is by firing underperforming employees and rewarding excellence. In government employment, tenure for teachers and near lifetime employment for other civil servants shields workers from this basic system of reward and punishment. It is a system that breeds mediocrity, which is what we've gotten.
Most reasonable steps to restrain public-sector employment costs are smothered by the unions. Study after study has shown that states and cities could shave 20% to 40% off the cost of many services—fire fighting, public transportation, garbage collection, administrative functions, even prison operations—through competitive contracting to private providers. But unions have blocked many of those efforts. Public employees maintain that they are underpaid relative to equally qualified private-sector workers, yet they are deathly afraid of competitive bidding for government services.
President Obama says we have to retool our economy to "win the future." The only way to do that is to grow the economy that makes things, not the sector that takes things.
Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain and Lieberman
on: April 01, 2011, 07:03:09 AM
Not that I agree with this, but worth noting. Tangential reflection is to wonder what kind of a President McCain would have been , , ,
By JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN AND JOHN MCCAIN
President Obama made a compelling case for our intervention in Libya on Monday evening, and U.S. actions there deserve bipartisan support in Congress. As the president rightly noted, failure to intervene militarily would have resulted in a humanitarian and strategic disaster. Because of our actions, the Gadhafi regime has been prevented from brutally crushing its opposition.
The president was also correct in framing what is happening in Libya within the broader context of the democratic awakening that is sweeping across the broader Middle East—the most consequential geopolitical realignment since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
If Gadhafi is allowed to hang onto power through the use of indiscriminate violence, it will send a message to dictators throughout the region and beyond that the way to respond, when people rise up peacefully and demand their rights, is through repression and slaughter—and that the rest of the world, including the U.S., won't stand in the way.
What is needed now is not a backward-looking debate about what the administration could or should have done differently, but a forward-looking strategy that identifies America's national interests in Libya and works to achieve them.
As President Obama has rightly and repeatedly insisted, a successful outcome in Libya requires the departure of Gadhafi as quickly as possible. It is not in our interest for Libya to become the scene of a protracted stalemate that will destabilize and inflame the region.
While both Arab leaders and public opinion are hostile towards Gadhafi personally—a fact that helps explain the Arab League's unprecedented decision to support intervention in Libya—we are concerned that regional support will waver if Western forces are perceived as presiding over a military deadlock. We cannot allow Gadhafi to consolidate his grip over part of the country and settle in for the long haul.
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A Libyan rebel
.There are several steps urgently needed to prevent this outcome. First, while we understand the diplomatic reasons behind the Obama administration's reluctance to make Gadhafi's removal an explicit goal of the coalition military mission, the reality on the ground is that our coalition's air strikes against his forces must work toward this objective.
In the days ahead, it is imperative that we maintain and if necessary expand our air strikes against Gadhafi's ground forces, which pose a threat to civilians wherever they are. In doing so, we can pave the way for the Libyan opposition to reverse Gadhafi's offensive and to resume their quest to end his rule.
The battlefield reversals suffered by the opposition this week, when weather conditions hampered coalition air strikes, underscore the need for a more robust and coherent package of aid to the rebel ground forces.
The U.S. should also expand engagement with the Libyan opposition, led by the interim Transitional National Council currently based in Benghazi. We have been encouraged by the Obama administration's growing rhetorical support for the opposition, but we hope to see more tangible manifestations of it in the days ahead.
In particular, we and our allies should be providing the council with the communications equipment, logistical support, training, tactical intelligence and weapons necessary to consolidate rule over the territory they have liberated and to continue tilting the balance of power against Gadhafi. We do not need to put U.S. forces on the ground precisely because the Libyans themselves are fighting for their freedom. But they need our help, and quickly, to succeed.
Another immediate priority should be getting humanitarian assistance into eastern Libya and restoring telecommunications access there, where Gadhafi has cut off land lines, mobile networks and the Internet. While top opposition leaders have satellite phones, we have both humanitarian and strategic interests in restoring the ability of people in liberated parts of Libya to communicate with each other and the rest of the world. We should also take steps to get Gadhafi's satellite, television, and radio broadcasts off the air, while helping the opposition air its broadcasting.
Finally, we should follow France and Qatar in recognizing the Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya, and we should encourage other allies and partners to do the same.
Some critics still argue that we should be cautious about helping the Libyan opposition, warning that we do not know enough about them or that their victory could pave the way for an al Qaeda takeover. Both arguments are hollow. By all accounts, the Transitional National Council is led by moderates who have declared their vision for (as their website puts it) Libya becoming "a constitutional democratic civil state based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and the guarantee of equal rights and opportunities for all its citizens."
If there is any hope for a decent government to emerge from the ashes of the Gadhafi dictatorship, this is it. Throwing our weight behind the transitional government is our best chance to prevent Libya's unraveling into postwar anarchy—precisely the circumstance under which Islamist extremists are most likely to gain a foothold.
We cannot guarantee the success of the Libyan revolution, but we have prevented what was, barely a week ago, its imminent destruction. That is why the president was right to intervene. He now deserves our support as we and our coalition partners do all that is necessary to help the Libyan people secure a future of freedom.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. Mr. McCain is a Republican senator from Arizona.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word
on: April 01, 2011, 06:53:59 AM
I like her energy a lot.
Roles Adar II 22, 5771 · March 28, 2011
By Tzvi Freeman Print this Page
A metaphor of the Talmud:
A man works in the field and brings home wheat --but shall he then eat wheat? Of what use is his toil?
His wife grinds the wheat into flour and makes bread.
So too, the tasks of life: A man's spiritual accomplishments only become realized in the material world due to his wife.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters
on: April 01, 2011, 06:31:34 AM
All this week, Glenn has been asking the questions - Who is looking out for Israel? And, who is standing up for freedom here and all over the world? Well, one thing is for certain- we know the answer to these questions is certainly not Iran. They want to take both the United States and Israel down and clear the path for the Twelfth Imam. Tonight, Glenn welcomes a special guest to the program...a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shares some frightening video that proves the regime is indeed preparing for the return of the Twelfth Imam. Plus, CBN Host Erick Stackelbeck.