Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: April 06, 2011, 04:25:24 PM
The piece is not all that it could be IMHO. To my eye, not only is it written with an view to pushing libertarian non-interventionism by the US (so as to maintain our pre-eminent role in the world
) it ignores some of the most poweful reasons that China may not become all that it seems destined to be:
1) Its bookkeeping is seriously dishonest. There is good reason to think it a major bubble, perhaps even larger than ours of not so long ago.
2) The economic model is turning the country into a major toxic dumpsite. Water is polluted and it seems quite likely that it is inevitable that water scarcity will become a major bottleneck in the near future.
3) Weird demorgraphic profile thanks to the one-child policy.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ:
on: April 06, 2011, 02:01:12 PM
By RICHARD K. LESTER
The accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station is still far from resolved. A major public health disaster seems to have been avoided, and the long-term impact on health and safety will be dwarfed by the devastating loss of life caused directly by the huge Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. But the nuclear crisis has badly scared people around the world.
Predictably, longtime antinuclear activists are calling for an end to any further nuclear development. Equally predictably, spokesmen for the industry say the Japanese earthquake was a once-in-a-millennium event and point to the greater safety of newer reactors.
In the U.S., the most urgent need in the wake of the accident is to assess the safety of existing nuclear power plants. Plans to extend the operating life of some 40-year-old reactors for another two decades should be reviewed, and costly upgrades may be required. We must also revisit the longstanding issue of how and where to store spent nuclear fuel. The sensible solution would be to store it in dry concrete casks at one or two central locations. Instead, decades of political dithering have produced only gridlock, so spent fuel remains in increasingly densely-packed storage pools at dozens of sites around the country.
Still, the overall impact of the accident will be fairly small here. The so-called nuclear renaissance wasn't really going anywhere in the U.S. even before the Japanese earthquake. For most utilities, new nuclear plants are simply too big and expensive to contemplate. Only a few such plants would have been built over the next decade. Now some of those may be scrapped.
But that's hardly the end of the story. This year is the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the atomic nucleus, and a little over 70 years since nuclear fission was first demonstrated. In historical terms, that puts the field of nuclear engineering today roughly where electrical engineering was in 1900. Consider what followed: the creation of the electric power grid, television and telecommunications, the revolutions in microelectronics and computation, and much more. None of it was anticipated by the electrical engineers of 1900.
Likewise, no one today can foresee the future of nuclear energy technology at the end of the 21st century. All that can be said with confidence now is that the nuclear power plants of the year 2100 will have about as much resemblance to today's workhorse light-water reactors as a modern automobile has to a 1911 Model T.
In the aftermath of Fukushima, some new technologies already in the pipeline look more promising. New fuel "cladding" materials are being developed that don't react with high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen—the cause of the shocking explosions in Japan. Other new plant designs rely on natural heat conduction and convection rather than electric-powered pumps and valves and human intervention to cool the fuel in reactors that have shut down.
Today's most advanced designs go even further toward the goal of "walkaway safety," that is, reactors that can shut themselves down and cool themselves off without electric power or any human intervention at all. Longer-term possibilities include lifetime fueling, which would allow a single charge of fuel to power a reactor for its entire life—making it, in effect, a nuclear battery. Integrated power plant/waste disposal systems are another promising concept. Here, used fuel never leaves the site and is disposed of directly in stable, dry bedrock several kilometers below the earth's surface (more than 10 times as deep as the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility in Nevada.)
Huge gains in computing power already enable far more precise simulations of nuclear-reactor behavior than ever before. Computational advances will also make it possible to design radiation-resistant materials literally atom by atom and, perhaps, specially tailored nanostructures that could store long-lived nuclear waste safely for tens of thousands of years. All of this can be foreseen today, and much greater advances surely lie over the horizon.
The innovators here will not be today's industry leaders or officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but rather the young men and women who for the last decade have been entering university nuclear engineering programs in growing numbers. They see great engineering challenges in designing new nuclear power systems that are safe and economical, and they see an opportunity to help ameliorate the grave threat of climate change. They know that nuclear energy is the only low-carbon energy source that is already generating large amounts of electricity and can meet the world's fast-growing appetite for power.
After the accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, many of the brightest nuclear scientists and engineers left the field. The management of existing nuclear reactors improved, but technological innovation was slow and incremental.
We shouldn't allow that experience to be repeated. This is not the time for the nuclear industry to circle the wagons: The need for intellectual vitality, flexibility and creativity has never been greater. An already safe technology must be made demonstrably safer—and less expensive, more secure against the threats of nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and more compatible with the capabilities of electric power systems and the utilities that run them. The advantages of nuclear power in displacing fossil fuels are simply too great to ignore.
Mr. Lester is the head of the department of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Where's WeiWei?
on: April 06, 2011, 01:57:12 PM
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei posed an important question about the one-party state in this newspaper's Asian op-ed pages last year: "The question . . . is how a state based on limiting information flows and freedom of speech can remain powerful." And if that's possible, "what kind of monster" will it become?
Mr. Ai's detention Sunday at Beijing's airport as he attempted to travel to Hong Kong brings this juggernaut into sharp relief. The police have provided no information about the 53-year-old's whereabouts or explained why he was arrested. The same day, Mr. Ai's wife, nephew and a clutch of his employees were arrested and questioned. Authorities raided his Beijing studio and carted away computers and other items.
Mr. Ai has thus joined the growing ranks of China's new "disappeared." In February amid the popular Arab revolt, an online petition urged a similar Jasmine Revolution in China. The government has reacted by criminally detaining dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of the country's most prominent human rights lawyers, bloggers, democracy activists and others.
The detention of Mr. Ai is especially notable because of his national stature. The son of a famous poet, he is a prominent artist, film-maker and architect in his own right, a popular Web communicator, and an advocate for the rule of law and individual freedoms. He is also unafraid: In 2009, when Mr. Ai tried to attend the trial of another activist, the police beat him so badly he got a brain bleed that almost killed him. He continued to speak out.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on the Chinese government Monday to "urgently clarify Ai's situation and well being" and called for his immediate release. Germany's Foreign Minister did the same.
The U.S. State Department managed to roll out spokesman Mark Toner, who said the U.S. government was "deeply concerned" but added "our relationship with China is very broad and complex, but it's an issue where we disagree and we continue to make clear those concerns." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama have been mute.
Perhaps the Obama Administration should listen to Mr. Ai, whose op-ed for us included this statement: "Most discouraging to those of us who are fighting for increased freedom is the tendency for developed nations to lower the bar to please China. They make excuses not to concern themselves with violations of human rights. To espouse universal values and then blind oneself to China's active hostility to those values is irresponsible and naive."
The State Department says its top Asia official, Kurt Campbell, is set to visit Beijing Thursday to "prepare for the upcoming Strategic and Economic Dialogue." Maybe that trip should be postponed until Beijing tells the world in which dungeon it has dumped Ai Weiwei.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Our unaccountable Fed
on: April 06, 2011, 01:54:50 PM
By SEAN FIELER AND JEFFREY BELL
'I will maintain to my deathbed that we made every effort to save Lehman, but we were just unable to do so because of a lack of legal authority." So said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in 2009. The statement was striking—not because it was false, but because the Fed lacked explicit legal authority to do so much of what it did during the financial crisis. Drawing the line at Lehman seemed arbitrary, and it proved that the Fed has become an unaccountable power within American government.
Mr. Bernanke's insistence that the Fed is restrained by some obscure statute is central to his argument that the Fed is a body subject to the check of external forces. But it's not. The principal check on its power is the self-restraint of its chairman, a point proven by the Lehman example: Had Mr. Bernanke saved Lehman, who would have enforced the statute that he had violated? No one. That's because the Fed, as currently configured, has no opposing force to rein it in.
In the beginning, it was not so. When the Fed was created in 1913, the gold standard limited its power as did the balance between the 12 reserve banks across the country and the Federal Reserve Board in Washington. Lawmakers thought that the reserve banks would represent regional economic interests in tension with the national political agenda of the board in Washington. Moreover, the Federal Reserve Act imposed a hard constraint on the Fed's balance sheet: 40% of the Fed's notes had to be backed by gold. Finally, the Fed's charter was temporary, lasting only 20 years before requiring congressional reauthorization.
These constraining forces began unraveling almost right away. During World War I, the Wilson administration suspended and then restricted the dollar's convertibility into gold. In 1927, the Fed's charter was extended indefinitely. In 1932, the Glass-Steagall Act effectively unmoored the Fed's balance sheet from gold by allowing government bonds to serve as collateral against the issuance of Federal Reserve notes. And with the passage of the Banking Act of 1935, the Fed's newly expanded powers were concentrated in the Federal Reserve Board, at the expense of the reserve banks. Thus by the mid-1930s, the only remaining check on the Fed's power was statutory.
Statutory supervision of government bureaucracies is usually workable because Congress maintains the power of the purse. But the Fed, which can print money, has no budget constraint. Its profit and loss statement doesn't matter because, unlike every other legal entity, its liabilities are irredeemable. Not having a real budget means that the Fed doesn't have to compete with anyone for scarce resources.
Accordingly, Congress, banks and businesses—institutions that would typically be skeptical of a government bureaucracy's uncontrolled expansion—are instead interested in capturing the Fed for their own purposes. From the Long-Term Capital Management bailout in 1998 to the cleanup of 2008, Congress has come to rely on the Fed's ability to act—and thereby excuse Congress from having to vote on unpopular bailouts. What's more, the government remains dependent on the Fed to help finance its debt going forward. Similarly, banks and big corporations are potential beneficiaries of low-cost leverage and (in the wake of popped bubbles) expedient bailouts.
Thanks to the tea party, there are increased numbers of reform-minded leaders in Congress willing to take on big issues such as the Fed. But even those lawmakers who recognize the Fed's threat to liberty are advocating narrow fixes, such as imposing the "single mandate" of price stability (and removing the Fed's statutory responsibility for full employment). That alone wouldn't impose any meaningful check or balance on the Fed's power.
If the history of the Fed proves anything, it is that no mere rule will take the fiat out of fiat money. And there is no reason to believe that a single mandate would have stopped "quantitative easing." More importantly, what would happen to the single mandate of price stability if and when the Fed violated it? At worst, Congress would hold hearings and be very, very upset. Or it wouldn't do even that, because the most likely reason the Fed would allow inflation to get out of control is to finance Congress's ever-growing budget deficits.
Members of Congress seeking to restrict the Fed's power need to consider what oppositional force is truly capable of hemming it in. One answer is a revived gold standard, which would once again obligate the Fed to redeem dollars for gold at a fixed rate.
Equally effective would be to leave the Fed and the dollar system untouched, but to allow gold a level playing field on which to compete with the dollar. Utah has already taken the first step in this direction by passing a law formally recognizing gold as legal tender. But for the playing field to be truly leveled, all taxes on gold transactions need to be removed and individuals and businesses need to be permitted to report their financial accounts in gold.
While it might not seem obvious to pit the dollar against gold, which has not been used as final money in over 100 years, it would provide a significant restraint on the Fed. Simply allowing gold to be used as currency again would concentrate the minds of the Federal Reserve Board on keeping inflation under control. Competition, after all, would mean that if the Fed doesn't preserve price stability, it will lose its monopoly franchise—not just get a tough talking-to from Congress.
Mr. Fieler and Mr. Bell are chairman and policy director, respectively, of the American Principles Project.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Limbaugh, Prager
on: April 06, 2011, 01:38:00 PM
"The protests in Afghanistan about the burning of the Koran in Florida ... are [continuing]. Never mind that nobody even knew about the burning of the Koran -- it happened more than two weeks ago -- until these devout Muslims brought it up. And never mind that the Koran gets burned all the time when Muslims blow each other up in their mosques. And never mind that the U.S. burned Bibles in Afghanistan back in 2009. Do you remember that? ... The U.S. burned Bibles in Afghanistan in 2009 so as not to offend the locals." --radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh
"The pathetically weak responses from within mainstream, i.e., liberal, Christianity and Judaism have only added to the contempt for the Almighty and religion sown by beheadings and suicide bombings in Allah's name. The liberal Christian and Jewish responses have been to attack fellow Christians and Jews who have focused on Islamist terror. Instead of drawing attention to the damage radical Islam does to the name of the Almighty, liberal Christians and Jews focus their anger on co-religionists who do speak out on this issue and label them 'Islamophobes.' That the Almighty is not doing well in the Western world may trouble the Almighty. But it is we humans who should be most troubled. The moral, intellectual, artistic and demographic decline in Western Europe ... is only gaining momentum. And the consequences of that decline will be far more devastating than all the tsunamis and all the earthquakes that may come our way." --columnist Dennis Prager
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer on Hillary on Syria
on: April 06, 2011, 01:36:01 PM
"Syria is a partner in nuclear proliferation with North Korea. It is Iran's agent and closest Arab ally, granting it an outlet on the Mediterranean. Those two Iranian warships that went through the Suez Canal in February docked at the Syrian port of Latakia, a long-sought Iranian penetration of the Mediterranean. Yet here was the secretary of state covering for the Syrian dictator against his own opposition. And it doesn't help that Clinton tried to walk it back two days later by saying she was simply quoting others. Rubbish. Of the myriad opinions of Assad, she chose to cite precisely one: reformer. That's an endorsement, no matter how much she later pretends otherwise." --columnist Charles Krauthammer
Separately, the Israeli president made the point the other day that we may not be seeing a clash of civilizations/religions but rather more a clash of generations. A point worth considering , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ
on: April 06, 2011, 01:33:14 PM
"Well, so much for dodging entitlements. This year's trendy complaint, shared by the left and the tea party, that Republicans hadn't tackled the toughest budget issues was blown away yesterday with the release of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's budget for 2012. We'll now separate the real reformers from the fiscal chickenhawks. Mr. Ryan's budget rollout is an important political and policy moment because it is the most serious attempt to reform government in at least a generation. The plan offers what voters have been saying they want -- a blueprint to address the roots of Washington's fiscal disorder. It does so ... by going to the heart of the spending problem, especially on the vast and rapidly growing health-care entitlements of Medicaid and Medicare. The Wisconsin Republican's plan is a generational choice, not the usual Beltway echo. That choice is clear enough by comparing the Ryan blueprint with the 2012 budget that President Obama rolled out only two months ago. ... Mr. Ryan proposes to spend $6.2 trillion less, return spending to its modern average of roughly 20% of GDP, and add $4.7 trillion less to the national debt. Mr. Obama would keep spending at 24% of GDP even before ObamaCare fully kicks in, while running annual deficits of $600 billion a year or more despite trillions of dollars in tax increases. ... Since they only control the House, Republicans can't expect to pass all or even most of these reforms this year. But in rising to meet our main fiscal challenges, they are honoring their pledge to voters last year and offering voters a serious governing platform. Mr. Ryan is showing Americans that there is an alternative to Mr. Obama's vision of the U.S. as a high-tax, slow-growth, European-style entitlement state." --The Wall Street Journal
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Short sleepers
on: April 06, 2011, 01:31:08 PM
For a small group of people—perhaps just 1% to 3% of the population—sleep is a waste of time.
Natural "short sleepers," as they're officially known, are night owls and early birds simultaneously. They typically turn in well after midnight, then get up just a few hours later and barrel through the day without needing to take naps or load up on caffeine.
They are also energetic, outgoing, optimistic and ambitious, according to the few researchers who have studied them. The pattern sometimes starts in childhood and often runs in families.
While it's unclear if all short sleepers are high achievers, they do have more time in the day to do things, and keep finding more interesting things to do than sleep, often doing several things at once.
Nobody knows how many natural short sleepers are out there. "There aren't nearly as many as there are people who think they're short sleepers," says Daniel J. Buysse, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a professional group.
Out of every 100 people who believe they only need five or six hours of sleep a night, only about five people really do, Dr. Buysse says. The rest end up chronically sleep deprived, part of the one-third of U.S. adults who get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, according to a report last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To date, only a handful of small studies have looked at short sleepers—in part because they're hard to find. They rarely go to sleep clinics and don't think they have a disorder.
A few studies have suggested that some short sleepers may have hypomania, a mild form of mania with racing thoughts and few inhibitions. "These people talk fast. They never stop. They're always on the up side of life," says Dr. Buysse. He was one of the authors of a 2001 study that had 12 confirmed short sleepers and 12 control subjects keep diaries and complete numerous questionnaires about their work, sleep and living habits.One survey dubbed "Attitude for Life" that was actually a test for hypomania. The natural short sleepers scored twice as high as the controls.
There is currently no way people can teach themselves to be short sleepers. Still, scientists hope that by studying short sleepers, they can better understand how the body regulates sleep and why sleep needs vary so much in humans.
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Most adults have normal sleep needs, functioning best with 7 to 9 hours of sleep, and about two-thirds of Americans regularly get it. Children fare better with 8 to 12 hours, and elderly people may need only 6 to 7.
Wannabe Short Sleeper
One-third of Americans are sleep-deprived, regularly getting less than 7 hours a night, which puts them at higher risk of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and other health problems.
Short sleepers, about 1% to 3% of the population, function well on less than 6 hours of sleep without being tired during the day. They tend to be unusually energetic and outgoing. Geneticists who spotted a gene variation in short sleepers were able to replicate it in mice—which needed less sleep than usual, too.
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."My long-term goal is to someday learn enough so we can manipulate the sleep pathways without damaging our health," says human geneticist Ying-Hui Fu at the University of California-San Francisco. "Everybody can use more waking hours, even if you just watch movies."
Dr. Fu was part of a research team that discovered a gene variation, hDEC2, in a pair of short sleepers in 2009. They were studying extreme early birds when they noticed that two of their subjects, a mother and daughter, got up naturally about 4 a.m. but also went to bed past midnight.
Genetic analyses spotted one gene variation common to them both. The scientists were able to replicate the gene variation in a strain of mice and found that the mice needed less sleep than usual, too.
News of their finding spurred other people to write the team, saying they were natural short sleepers and volunteering to be studied. The researchers are recruiting more candidates and hope to find more gene variations they have in common.
Potential candidates for the gene study are sent multiple questionnaires and undergo a long structured phone interview. Those who make the initial screening wear monitors to track their sleep patterns at home. Christopher Jones, a University of Utah neurologist and sleep scientist who oversees the recruiting, says there is one question that is more revealing than anything else: When people do have a chance to sleep longer, on weekends or vacation, do they still sleep only five or six hours a night? People who sleep more when they can are not true short sleepers, he says.
That All-Nighter Feels Good—Temporarily
Sleep deprivation makes most people grumpy. It's sometimes used as a form of torture. Oddly enough, it can also bring on temporary euphoria, according to a study in the journal Neuroscience last month.
Researchers had 14 healthy young adults stay up all night and all the next day and then compared their reactions with 13 subjects who had slept normally. In one test, sleepless subjects asked to rate a series of images uniformly saw them as more pleasant or positive. "We saw this strange lopsided shift," says lead author Matthew Walker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California-Berkeley.
Brain scans also showed that the subjects who had pulled all-nighters had heightened activity in the mesolimbic pathway, a brain circuit driven by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that typically regulates feelings of pleasure, addiction and cravings.
The boost of dopamine after an all-nighter may help explain why sleep deprivation can alleviate major depression in about 60% of patients, although the effect is only temporary. "As soon as they get recovery sleep, all that mood elevation is lost," says Dr. Walker.
Could the sleep-deprived brain be somehow compensating for the lack of downtime with a surge of dopamine to keep on going? Scientists don't yet know.
Earlier studies have also shown that sleep deprivation amplifies activity in the amygdala, the primitive emotional center of the brain, and reduces it the prefrontal cortex, where higher, more rational thought occurs. It may be that the brain reverts to a more basic mode of operating when it is sleep deprived, Dr. Walker speculates. Alternatively, he says, "we know that different parts of the brain are more sensitive than others to sleep deprivation. It may be that the prefrontal cortex just goes down first."
Although the feelings of euphoria sound great, Dr. Walker warns that operating more on emotion than reason can be very risky. "You are all gas pedal and no brake," he says. That can be dangerous, indeed, if you are in a job that requires both long hours and difficult decision making
.To date, Dr. Jones says he has identified only about 20 true short sleepers, and he says they share some fascinating characteristics. Not only are their circadian rhythms different from most people, so are their moods (very upbeat) and their metabolism (they're thinner than average, even though sleep deprivation usually raises the risk of obesity). They also seem to have a high tolerance for physical pain and psychological setbacks.
"They encounter obstacles, they just pick themselves up and try again," Dr. Jones says.
Some short sleepers say their sleep patterns go back to childhood and some see the same patterns starting in their own kids, such as giving up naps by age 2. As adults, they gravitate to different fields, but whatever they do, they do full bore, Dr. Jones says.
"Typically, at the end of a long, structured phone interview, they will admit that they've been texting and surfing the Internet and doing the crossword puzzle at the same time, all on less than six hours of sleep," says Dr. Jones. "There is some sort of psychological and physiological energy to them that we don't understand."
Drs. Jones and Fu stress that there is no genetic test for short sleeping. Ultimately, they expect to find that many different genes play a role, which may in turn reveal more about the complex systems that regulate sleep in humans.
Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Leonardo da Vinci were too busy to sleep much, according to historical accounts. Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison came close but they were also fond of taking naps, which may disqualify them as true short sleepers.
Nowadays, some short sleepers gravitate to fields like blogging, videogame design and social media, where their sleep habits come in handy. "If I could find a way to do it, I'd never sleep," says Dave Hatter, a software developer in Fort Wright, Ky. He typically sleeps just four to five hours a night, up from two to three hours a few years ago.
"It's crazy, but it works for me," says Eleanor Hoffman, an overnight administrator at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York who would rather spend afternoons playing mahjong with friends than sleep anymore than four hours. Sometimes she calls her cousin, Linda Cohen, in Pittsburgh about 4 a.m., since she knows she'll be wide awake as well—just like they were as kids.
"I come to life about 11 at night," says Mrs. Cohen, who owns a chain of toy stores with her husband and gets up early in the morning with ease. "If I went to bed earlier, I'd feel like half my life was missing."
Are you a short sleeper? For more information on the genetic study, contact Dr. Jones at email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Return of AQ
on: April 06, 2011, 11:19:18 AM
Thank you YA.
In late September, U.S. fighter jets streaked over the cedar-studded slopes of Korengal, the so-called Valley of Death, to strike a target that hadn't been seen for years in Afghanistan: an al Qaeda training camp.
Among the dozens of Arabs killed that day, the U.S.-led coalition said, were two senior al Qaeda members, one Saudi and the other Kuwaiti. Another casualty of the bombing, according to Saudi media and jihadi websites, was one of Saudi Arabia's most wanted militants. The men had come to Afghanistan to impart their skills to a new generation of Afghan and foreign fighters.
Even though the strike was successful, the very fact that it had to be carried out represents a troubling shift in the war. Nine years after a U.S.-led invasion routed almost all of al Qaeda's surviving militants in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden's network is gradually returning.
Over the past six to eight months, al Qaeda has begun setting up training camps, hideouts and operations bases in the remote mountains along Afghanistan's northeastern border with Pakistan, some U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials say. The stepped-up infiltration followed a U.S. pullback from large swatches of the region starting 18 months ago. The areas were deemed strategically irrelevant and left to Afghanistan's uneven security forces, and in some parts, abandoned entirely.
American commanders have argued that the U.S. military presence in the remote valleys was the main reason why locals joined the Taliban. Once American soldiers left, they predicted, the Taliban would go, too. Instead, the Taliban have stayed put, a senior U.S. military officer said, and "al Qaeda is coming back."
The militant group's effort to re-establish bases in northeastern Afghanistan is distressing for several reasons. Unlike the Taliban, which is seen as a mostly local threat, al Qaeda is actively trying to strike targets in the West. Eliminating its ability to do so from bases in Afghanistan has always been the U.S.'s primary war goal and the motive behind fighting the Taliban, which gave al Qaeda a relatively free hand to operate when it ruled the country. The return also undermines U.S. hopes that last year's troop surge would beat the Taliban badly enough to bring them to the negotiating table—and pressure them to break ties with al Qaeda. More than a year into the surge, those ties appear to be strong.
To counter the return, the coalition is making quick incursions by regular forces into infiltrated valleys—"mowing the grass," according to one U.S. general. It is also running clandestine raids by Special Operations Forces, who helped scout out the location of the Korengal strike, U.S. officials said. The twin actions offer a preview of the tactics the coalition is likely to pursue in some parts of the country as its forces hand off chunks of contested territory to Afghanistan's security forces. The process is already under way and is due to accelerate in July.
Precise numbers of al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan at any given time are hard to come by. But officials say al Qaeda camps and gathering spots similar to the one targeted in September are now scattered across sparsely populated Kunar province, a few inaccessible parts of Nuristan province and, most worryingly to some officials, the edges of Nangarhar province. That province sits astride a major overland route from Pakistan and is home to one of Afghanistan's major cities, Jalalabad.
For the most part, al Qaeda has been viewed by Western officials as a declining force in the Afghan fight. Just six months ago, U.S. intelligence estimates indicated only one or two dozen al Qaeda fighters were present in Afghanistan at any given time. Most of the few hundred fighters it had in the region were holed up in Pakistan, hiding from Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes in mountain shelters, and beset by morale and money problems. Some fighters would occasionally cross the border to conduct training or embed with Taliban units, a pattern that had become well established over a decade of war.
Now, the U.S. pullback from northeastern Afghanistan appears to have given al Qaeda the opening it needed to re-establish itself as a force in the Afghan fight, say some U.S. and Afghan officials.
"Al Qaeda tends to navigate to areas where they sense a vacuum," said Seth G. Jones, a senior political scientist at Rand Corp. in Washington who has spent much of the past two years in Afghanistan advising the U.S. military. "There are serious concerns about al Qaeda moving back into some areas of Afghanistan, the places that we've pulled back from."
Al Qaeda's message of Islamic revolution has in recent months seemed increasingly out of sync in a Middle East where a series of grass-roots upheavals are being driven largely by secular young people demanding democracy. But its recent resurgence in Afghanistan suggests that it retains potency in predominately Muslim parts of South Asia where it has put down roots in the past 15 years.
Last year's surge of 30,000 U.S. forces, authorized by President Barack Obama, aimed to inflict enough pain on the Taliban that they would negotiate a peace settlement on terms acceptable to the West. Coalition commanders and civilian officials were initially bullish about the new strategy's chances, seizing on reports from Taliban detainees that a "wedge" was developing between al Qaeda and midlevel insurgent commanders. The insurgent leaders were said to be tired of fighting and increasingly resentful of what they considered the Arab group's meddling in their fight.
The reappearance of al Qaeda fighters operating in Afghanistan undercuts those reports from detainees. "There are still ties up and down the networks...from the senior leadership to the ground level," said a U.S. civilian official, citing classified intelligence.
Interviews with several Taliban commanders bear out that assessment. The commanders say the al Qaeda facilities in northeastern Afghanistan are tightly tied to the Afghan Taliban leadership. "In these bases, fighters from around the world get training. We are training suicide bombers, [improvised explosive device] experts and guerrilla fighters," said an insurgent commander in Nuristan who goes by the nom de guerre Agha Saib and who was reached by telephone.
The two senior al Qaeda operatives killed in the September air strike—identified by coalition officials as Abdallah Umar al-Qurayshi, an expert in suicide bombings from Saudi Arabia, and Abu Atta, a Kuwaiti explosives specialist—are believed to have come across the border from Pakistan's neighboring tribal areas with the aid of the Taliban in the wake of the American withdrawal
The wanted Saudi, Saad al Shehri, hailed from one of the most prominent Arab jihadi families, according to Saudi accounts and jihadi websites. Two of his brothers, including a former Guantanamo detainee, and several cousins were among the founders of al Qaeda's Yemen-based network.
Coalition officials say the senior al Qaeda men were accompanied by one or two dozen lower-level Arab fighters. Their mission was to train locals and get into the fight themselves.
"The raid gave us insight that al Qaeda was trying to reestablish a base in Afghanistan and conduct some training of operatives, suicide attackers," the senior U.S. military officer said. "They found a safe haven in Afghanistan."
A raid in December netted another senior al Qaeda operative, Abu Ikhlas al-Masri, who has long operated in and around Kunar, said another U.S. official. His capture has provided intelligence about al Qaeda's attempts to reestablish Afghan bases, said the official.
There is debate within the U.S. military and intelligence community about the scope of the al Qaeda problem in Afghanistan. The September strike was watched carefully and "was a big deal," said another military official.
But that official and others said the numbers remain small enough to manage and that camps are, at worst, few and far between and largely temporary. And almost all U.S. and Afghan officials caution that al Qaeda isn't yet secure enough in northeastern Afghanistan to use the area as a staging ground for attacks overseas.
Besides, the officials said, having al Qaeda on the Afghan side of the border—where American forces have far greater freedom to strike—rather than in Pakistan has its advantages. The officials said many of al Qaeda's fighters are fearful of establishing too big or permanent a presence in Afghanistan because of the threat posed by U.S. and allied forces.
Kunar and eastern Nangarhar and Nuristan are strategic terrain, which is why U.S. forces first moved in a few years ago. The area is bisected by a web of infiltration routes—mountain passes, smugglers' trails, old logging roads—from Taliban-dominated parts of Pakistan's tribal areas, and the valleys channel insurgents into Jalalabad city. From there, it's a few hours by car to Kabul—and an international airport—on one of Afghanistan's better-paved roads. Islamabad, and another international airport, is a day's drive in the other direction.
The area's blend of ample hiding spots, readily traversable routes and a population historically wary of central authority have long made it a favorite for militants.
The first revolts against Afghanistan's Soviet-backed communist regime began there in the late 1970s. In the past decade, it has become a haven for an alphabet soup of Islamist groups.
Apart from al Qaeda and the Taliban, two of the most potent Pakistani militant groups have a significant presence in Kunar—Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which orchestrated the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. There's also the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, as the Pakistan Taliban are known, and the two other main Afghan insurgent factions, the Haqqani network and Hezb-e-Islami. Rounding out the scene is a smattering of militants from Central Asia, Chechnya and beyond.
Some of the valleys in Kunar "look like what we"—the U.S. and President Hamid Karzai's government—"are trying to keep Afghanistan from becoming," said Rangin Dafdar Spanta, Afghanistan's pro-Western national security adviser.
The fight in the northeast is being waged openly by regular U.S. forces, which are now routinely sweeping through valleys in limited operations that ordinarily last a few days. The operations mostly target Taliban units but sometimes disrupt al Qaeda activities, too, military commanders say.
"There's been several times that we'll get intelligence that there's going to be a gathering, whether it's junior-level leadership, whether it's Taliban, Haqqani or al Qaeda and if we can target those locations than we're absolutely going to do that," said Major Gen. John Campbell, the commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan, in an interview.
More quiet—and more effective, many American officials say—is the U.S. military's secretive Joint Special Operations Command, known as JSOC, which oversees elite units like the Army's Delta Force and Navy Seal Team Six. The groups are working with Afghan intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency to keep al Qaeda off balance in northeastern Afghanistan.
It was a JSOC operation that led to the capture of Mr. al-Masri, the al Qaeda veteran, in December.
The problem, say officials, is that JSOC, with a global counterterrorism mission that gives it responsibility for strikes in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and other trouble spots, is already stretched thin. Relying on it to police Afghanistan's hinterlands as American forces pull out may be unrealistic, some officials said.
"We do not have an intelligence problem. We have a capacity problem. We generally know the places they are, how they are operating," said the senior U.S. military official, speaking of al Qaeda. The problem "is our ability to get there and do something."
—Habib Khan Totakhil contributed to this article.
Write to Matthew Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Attitude of Gratitude
on: April 05, 2011, 05:46:43 PM
BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — A rebel military leader lashed out at NATO Tuesday, saying it was falling short in its mission to protect Libyan civilians. The alliance said ruler Moammar Gadhafi's forces position heavy weapons in populated areas, preventing some airstrikes.
Abdel-Fattah Younis, chief of staff for the rebel military and Gadhafi's former interior minister, said he was asking the opposition's leadership council to take their grievances to the U.N. Security Council, which authorized force in Libya to stop government troops from wiping out the anti-Gadhafi uprising that began Feb. 15.
NATO forces "don't do anything" even though the United Nations gave them the right to act, Younis said. He said bureaucracy means that NATO strikes sometimes come eight hours after rebels' have communicated targets.
"The people will die and this crime will be on the face of the international community forever. What is NATO doing?" Younis said.
NATO last week took control over the international airstrikes that began March 19 as a U.S.-led mission. The airstrikes thwarted Gadhafi's efforts to crush the rebellion in the North African nation he has ruled for more than four decades, but the rebels remain outnumbered and outgunned and have had difficulty pushing into government-held territory even with air support.
The government pushed back rebel forces in a strategic oil town to the east Tuesday, while rebels claimed they fended off an attack by Gadhafi's forces in one of a string of opposition-controlled towns southwest of Tripoli, the capital. The rebels have maintained control of much of the eastern half of Libya since early in the uprising, while Gadhafi has clung to much of the west.
Gadhafi has been putting out feelers for a cease-fire, but refuses to step down as the opposition is demanding. On Tuesday his government announced a new foreign minister: Abdelati al-Obeidi, who has been in Europe seeking a diplomatic solution. He replaces Moussa Koussa, who defected last week.
Al-Obeidi's deputy Khaled Kaim said the opposition council doesn't represent most Libyans and that al-Qaida is exploiting the crisis. He accused nations supporting the airstrikes of supporting terrorism "by arming the militias, by providing them with materials, and the coalition's decision to starve 85 percent of the Libyan population, while there was another course for solving this crisis, which was the political course."
Kaim said "history will not forgive" Libyans who sought foreign help to change the regime. "People will reject them whether they are with or against Moammar Gadhafi," he said.
Some nations, including the U.S., have considered arming the rebels but have not done so.
Brig. Gen. Mark Van Uhm of NATO said Tuesday that airstrikes have so far destroyed 30 percent of Gadhafi's military capacity.
On Monday, the alliance said it carried out 14 attacks on ground targets across the country, destroying radars, munitions dumps, armored vehicles and a rocket launcher. Three-quarters of Monday's scheduled strike missions, however, had to return without dropping their bombs or launching their missiles because Gadhafi loyalists made it more difficult for pilots to distinguish between civilians and regime troops, Van Uhm said.
The general and a doctor in besieged western city of Misrata said Gadhafi's forces had recently changed tactics in there by moving tanks and other heavy equipment to civilian areas.
"They snuck their anti-aircraft weapons and tanks into the city. They are between the apartment buildings and the trees," said the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Younis, however, said civilians have cleared out of areas of Misrata occupied by Gadhafi's forces and that NATO "would have lifted the siege days ago" if it wanted to.
"Children are dying every day and women and men are dying every day from shelling. If NATO waited another week, that will be the end of Misrata. There won't be anyone left."
Asked for a response, NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said: "The facts speak for themselves. The tempo of operations has continued unabated."
Younis' press conference — a rare public appearance by the top commander — was a sharp break in diplomatic protocol as the opposition seeks more airstrikes and other support, including arms, from the international community. The rebels' political leadership also seeks recognition of its council as the only legitimate government in Libya.
The rebels were holding talks with White House envoy Chris Stevens in Benghazi, their de facto capital in eastern Libya. Stevens was trying to get a better idea of who the rebels are, what they want and what their capabilities are, said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity pending an announcement of the visit by the White House.
Stevens' visit could pave the way for U.S. recognition of the Transitional National Council as Libya's legitimate government, although no decision is imminent, the official said. Three countries — France, Qatar and Italy — already have recognized the council.
The Libyan government took foreign journalists to the western city of Zawiya, where an uprising was put down in weeks of battles and the government claimed stability had returned.
Journalists were taken to see a hospital where rebels sought treatment. Nurses there staged a pro-Gadhafi rally for the press corps' benefit.
Massoud al-Deeb was among the many doctors who helped treat the rebels and said that many of them were Libyan locals from Zawiya — which goes against much of the government line that the rebels were expatriates from Egypt and Algeria.
"They are all our people. I helped both sides (rebels and Gadhafi forces)," said al-Deeb. "We had 20-30 injured people every day, mostly with gunshot wounds. We have no statistical data. The injured were sometimes brought in by their families."
The city remained essentially a ghost town, with most of the shops shuttered and buildings pockmarked with bullets and shell fire.
Near the main square, the rebels' former base in Zawiya, a dirt lot was all that remained of a mosque that served as their hospital, jail and meeting place. The government razed it, leaving little but bulldozer tracks deeply scratched into the soil.
Some locals told reporters that the rebels' acts had desecrated the mosque, but a businessman named Mohammad, sitting in cafe, said many people were in fact unhappy with the decision.
"How can you remove a mosque in a central square just like that? It's a Muslim country," said Mohammad, who wouldn't give his last name for fear of reprisals. Even so, he said he wants Gadhafi to stay.
"When the revolutionaries were here, more than 50 percent of people supported them. People thought things would change and improve," he said. "Then the revolutionaries were defeated and they ran away to the west. ... Now I think Gadhafi should stay because I want stability and I want to keep my shop."
Also in the west, a rebel said Gadhafi's forces had attempted to take the mountainous town of Yefren, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southwest of Tripoli, on Monday, but that by Tuesday the rebels had regained control.
Shaban Abusitta, a rebel leader from the town of Nalut, about 125 miles southwest of Tripoli, said youths from Nalut and Zintan farther southwest infiltrated Yefren and helped rebels there fight for the town.
He said that the armed forces had surrounded the town and began launching rockets into Yefren. The rebels, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, attacked the armed forces' lines and were able to push them farther away from the town.
In eastern Libya, Gadhafi loyalists and opponents have fought a tug-of-war for weeks on the road from Benghazi to Tripoli, with a few main towns and oil ports changing hands repeatedly. Though Gadhafi's forces are stronger, airstrikes have helped the rebels hold back an onslaught.
The rebels had managed to take part of the oil town of Brega on Monday, but the rocket and artillery salvos unleashed on the rebels Tuesday indicated the government's offensive capabilities remain very much intact.
"When you see this, the situation is very bad. We cannot match their weapons," said Kamal Mughrabi, 64, a retired soldier who joined the rebel army. "If the planes don't come back and hit them, we'll have to keep pulling back."
Rebel attempts to fire rockets and mortars against the government forces were met with aggressive counter bombardments that sent many of the rebel forces scrambling back all the way to the town of Ajdabiya, dozens of miles (kilometers) away.
Rebel forces have been helped by the arrival on the front of more trained soldiers and heavier weapons, but they are still struggling to match the more experienced and better equipped government troops. In a step toward getting more money for weapons and other needs, a tanker arrived Tuesday near the eastern city of Tobruk to load up the rebels' first shipment of oil for export in nearly three weeks.
The tanker can carry 1 million barrels of oil, less than the 1.6 million barrels Libya produced every day on average before the crisis. Analysts viewed the delivery as a symbolic step forward for a country that had been 17th among the world's oil producers.
Al-Shalchi reported from Zawiya. Associated Press writers Ryan Lucas in Benghazi, Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, Matthew Lee in Washington, Jane Wardell and Cassandra Vinograd in London and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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.”
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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 , , ,