Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ralph Peters
on: June 15, 2010, 04:07:04 PM
The trillion-dollar Afghan battlefield
By RALPH PETERS
Posted: 12:10 AM, June 15, 2010
Afghanistan just got its worst news since the Soviet invasion three decades ago: American geologists have charted as much as a trillion dollars' worth of mineral deposits in that tormented landscape.
Up to now, Afghanistan's internal factions and neighbors have been fighting over worthless dirt, Allah and opium. Assigning the battlefield a trillion-dollar value is not a prescription for reconciliation. Expect "The Beverly Hillbillies" scripted by Satan.
Even were Afghanistan at peace, its endemic corruption would generate a grabocracy -- a Nigeria, not a Norway. Throw in inherited hatreds and the appetites of its neighbors, and Afghanistan may end up more like eastern Congo, a playground for state-sanctioned murderers and looters.
Beyond reportedly vast deposits of rare minerals (lithium, etc.) essential to popular technologies, there's copper, cobalt, iron and gold in them thar hills. Afghanistan never before offered so much to fight over.
Instead of making life easier for our troops, the finds will make it harder to disengage. Washington will succumb to arguments that we need to preserve access to these strategic resources, even though it's far cheaper to buy them than to prolong a military protectorate. (US firms won't get the good contracts, anyway.)
We already provide strategic security for Chinese mining interests in Afghanistan -- having been chumped by the Karzai government out of the gate. Now the Chinese will arrive in hordes, bribing and smiling.
The Russians will also take a renewed interest. And the Iranians have already crept into western Afghanistan (where key deposits are located). The potential for violence spilling across more borders -- including into unstable Central Asia -- will be enormous.
But the gravest danger of an all-out shootin' war comes from Pakistan and India. Until the revelation of these finds, Islamabad (which continues to support the Afghan Taliban) just wanted strategic depth in the event of a war with New Delhi, while India had engaged in Afganistan just to frustrate Pakistan.
Now Pakistan, a country in which the powerful have already stolen all there is to steal, will develop delusions of grandeur about controlling Afghanistan's subsurface wealth. And India's swelling economy will develop a sudden hunger for Afghan minerals.
China will side with Pakistan, exploiting Islamabad as a proxy. Iran may line up with China and Pakistan, as well. Pakistan will turn up the heat in Kashmir. The "Great Game" of yore is about to become Monopoly played with corpses.
Afghanistan's one hope was that, eventually, outsiders would leave it alone. That hope's gone now. Development of a full-blown mining industry will take decades, but that just means decades of violent competition.
Back in the happy-face United States, optimists insist that these Afghan finds will fund good government, security and development. Ain't gonna happen. A country living on aid and opium won't go Harvard Business School when megawealth floods in (the opium trade won't disappear, either). And the environmental damage will put BP to shame.
Meanwhile, we can't manage the war we've got. The CIA, at least, keeps killing al Qaeda terrorists across the border in Pakistan. But our troops, in the words of one fighter on the ground, just "patrol, patrol and patrol, making themselves IED magnets."
Afghan National Army training is showing progress, but President Hamid Karzai just dumped his two most pro-American ministers, and our ballyhooed Kandahar offensive -- delayed yet again -- has begun to seem like "Brigadoon" with body armor.
It's high time to ask ourselves the basic question about Afghanistan that we've avoided since we made the decision to stay: What do we get out of it?
"Chinese access to strategic minerals" is not an adequate answer.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Why now?
on: June 15, 2010, 02:34:21 PM
U.S. Geological Survey
Workers taking part in a 2006 U.S. Geological Survey mission in AfghanistanSummary
In a June 13 story, The New York Times revived interest in Afghanistan’s potential mineral wealth, which has long been suspected. The country’s mountainous terrain indicates the likelihood of such deposits, and in 2007 the U.S. Geological Survey published a study reporting much of what is being said in the media today. But the challenges of extracting the minerals and bringing them to market in an economical and competitive way remain extraordinarily daunting.
The potential for mineral extraction in Afghanistan has generated immense press in the last few days, following a June 13 New York Times story on an estimated $1 trillion in mineral deposits believed to exist in the country and a June 12 statement by U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus characterizing Afghanistan (with caveats, of course) as having “stunning potential” economically.
Yet much of what is being discussed dates back to two studies done in 2006-07 by the U.S. Geological Survey in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development and Afghan geologists. The results of these studies were published in 2007 by the U.S. government, and their findings have now reportedly been verified by a small, Pentagon-led team, which will release its report at a conference in Kabul scheduled for July 20, according to a spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry. There also is increasing talk of lithium deposits in particular, one of the reasons behind the current coverage. Statements regarding Afghanistan’s potential mineral wealth have been made in the recent past, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai using the $1 trillion figure at least as early as February of this year and Petraeus using it when discussing the matter in December 2009.
U.S. Geological Survey
A map from the 2006 U.S. Geological Survey mission in Afghanistan, including GPS and magnetic base station locations
(click here to enlarge image)
The China Metallurgical Group has already committed $3 billion up front and $400 million thereafter to secure the rights to the Aynak copper mining district in Logar province. Verification drillings were done last year, and a temporary camp is now being prepared, though a massive railway, power plant and smelting facility remain to be built. The Hajigak iron-ore deposit also was examined in an area about 100 kilometers west of Kabul, in Bamyan province, but the Chinese pulled out of the bidding, which was later canceled following a corruption scandal involving the Chinese company and the Afghan Ministry of Mines during the Aynak bidding process. The Chinese experience shows that what little progress is being made in terms of foreign investment in Afghan mining projects is already slowed by problems relating to poor infrastructure, awkward logistics, security threats, and corrupt or opaque negotiations.
The potential presence of large mineral deposits in Afghanistan has never been in doubt — the country’s mountainous terrain indicates the likelihood of such deposits. The challenge is extracting the minerals and bringing them to market in an economical and competitive way, and this challenge remains extraordinarily daunting. Afghanistan is an underdeveloped country with extremely poor infrastructure, including no rail connection to the outside world (though one is under construction to Masar-i-Sharif in the north). Though the nature of a mineral deposit and the economics of its exploitation can vary considerably — even within a single country — pulling ore out of the ground and moving it a great distance is a logistically intensive proposition, even with relatively developed road and rail networks.
Technically, developing sufficient infrastructure in Afghanistan is possible, but the cost of doing so is almost certain to drive the costs of mineral investment, extraction and transportation far above what can be recouped on the global market.
STRATFOR has been focusing and continues to focus on how these reports came about just in the past week. There is clearly a media blitz now under way, and it is important to understand why. Over the next few years there will be little meaningful impact on the ground in Afghanistan in terms of investing in and developing the country’s minerals. The key question at this point is how Washington will play this mineral-wealth story to serve its interests in the region, especially as the United States struggles to break a stalemate in southwestern Afghanistan and force the Taliban to the negotiating table. But local mistrust of U.S. intentions may counter any potential benefit of playing up Afghanistan’s economic potential.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: June 14, 2010, 11:20:23 AM
"726,000 Palestinians left Israeli-controlled territory between 1947 and 1949." Crafty, do you think nearly three quarters of a million people wanted to leave their home voluntarily?"
Mostly they left because they were told to get out of the way while the Jews were being wiped out.
"As for the question, "How do christians and jews and other minorities get treated in the muslim world? Better or worse than what Israel does?"
The answer is probably worse, but is that relevant? I mean to what standard should Israel be held? To the lowest or highest? For us
to say that we treated blacks in America better than some other countries, or for South African whites to say they treated blacks in South Africa better than most does not make it right. Israel is a democracy, a thriving, modern, educated country; they are held to a higher moral standard than some backward Middle Eastern or African country or two bit dictatorship. I like to think in most of the industrialized educated world, before the law, people should be treated equally."
Forgive me, but this is specious drivel. The hatred of the Jews in this part of the world has been going on a long, long time and well pre-dates the existence of Israel itself. In this context Israel's achievements in protection of rights under law is nothing less than remarkable. In the context of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmnpMXOpaM4&NR
what you seek is Israel's suicide.
I'm signing off from responding to you on this.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ
on: June 14, 2010, 08:23:04 AM
For 97 years the 12 regional banks of the Federal Reserve system have operated relatively free of political interference from Washington. The looming financial reform bill threatens that independence, not least through an effort to impose new presidential appointees at the regional banks.
The biggest underreported threat comes from Subtitle I, Section 1801 of the House financial reform bill titled "Inclusion of Minorities and Women; Diversity in Agency Workforce." Sponsored by California Democrat Maxine Waters, the provision requires each federal financial agency, the Fed Board of Governors and the 12 regional Fed banks to "establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion."
So what else is new, you say? Don't the feds already dictate racial and gender hiring? Yes, they do, through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and assorted other federal laws. As a matter of racial and gender diversity, the Waters provision is at best redundant.
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.But Ms. Waters and the House are hunting bigger game—to wit, the political allocation of credit. They want to put a network of operatives at the highest level of government who are responsible for making sure that regulators put the hiring of, and lending to, minorities at the top of their priority list. The House provision makes that very clear by making each diversity officer a Presidential appointee who must be confirmed by the Senate. The post, says the bill, will be "comparable to that of other senior level staff."
The law says this diversity czar will "ensure equal employment opportunity and the racial, ethnic and gender diversity" of the work force and senior management of these institutions. More ominously, this creature of Congress and the White House will also be charged with "increas[ing] the participation of minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the programs and contracts" of each agency and conducting "an assessment" of stated inclusion goals.
Mull over that one for a minute. Having recently lived through a financial mania and panic caused in part by political pressure for "affordable housing," Congress will now order regulators to allocate credit by race and gender. Isn't the point of this financial reform supposed to be to make regulators better judges of systemic risks, which means focusing on financial safety and soundness? If the Waters provision passes, federal regulators will have to put racial and gender lending at the top of their watch list when they do their checks on the banks and hedge funds they are regulating.
This is especially pernicious at the Fed regional banks, which have long operated independently of political intrusion. Federal Reserve bank presidents aren't appointed by the President precisely to avoid Treasury and White House control. They are appointed by their regional bank boards.
However, in another threat to Fed independence, the Senate bill departs from that tradition by making the president of the New York Fed a Presidential appointee. Blame for this Congressional intrusion goes to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and former Goldman Sachs executive Stephen Friedman for orchestrating the selection of former Goldman economist William Dudley as Mr. Geithner's replacement at the New York Fed.
Mr. Friedman chaired the search committee to replace Mr. Geithner even as he increased his ownership of Goldman shares. Though this violated Fed rules, Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn and the Board of Governors gave Mr. Friedman a conflict-of-interest waiver. Congress has now seized on this to justify putting the New York Fed chief on a Washington political leash.
The Waters provision will also give Congress and the White House a new and powerful lever to influence the operation of the 12 regional Fed banks. Accusations of racial or gender indifference, much less outright bias, are politically deadly. With the threat of such an accusation in their holster, the Waters czars will have enormous clout to influence Fed governance and regulatory decisions, perhaps including monetary policy.
Fed regional presidents are often the main proponents of tight monetary policy. The presence of a diversity czar is one way Congress and the White House can intimidate these regional presidents to go along with the policies they favor. No Fed bank president will want to take the risk of being hauled before Congress to answer a report that the banks under his jurisdiction aren't racially or gender sensitive enough in their lending.
This political sway is already clear from how meekly the Fed as an institution is bowing to the Waters provision. The Senate bill doesn't have the same provision, so it could be removed in the House-Senate conference that begins this week. But we're told that Fed officials in Washington have told the regional banks to keep quiet because it can't be stopped and Ms. Waters and the House might punish them if they try. In other words, the political intimidation is already obvious even before the provision becomes law.
The public debate over Fed independence has focused on Congressional demands for an audit, but that's benign compared to the threat of political appointees sitting on the senior staff of the regional banks and Board of Governors. While masquerading as reform, the Waters and New York Fed provisions are the most brazen attempt to hijack central bank policy since its founding nearly a century ago.
The law will make it harder for regulators to do what ought to be their main job, which is making sure that they don't again let a credit mania run out of control. It's one more way in which this much vaunted reform will make the financial system even more politicized, and thus more vulnerable to another panic.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pelosi: "You'll have to pass the bill to find out what's in it."
on: June 14, 2010, 08:03:11 AM
How the New Wealth Taxes Will Hit You
By LAURA SAUNDERS
The health-care bill that Congress passed in March contained two surprising new taxes to help pay for the changes: an extra 0.9% levy on wages for couples earning more than $250,000 ($200,000 for singles) and a new 3.8% tax on investment income on those same people (technically, people with "adjusted gross incomes" above those amounts).
Each tax signals a radical change in policy. For workers, the extra 0.9% levy puts a progressive element in what used to be a totally flat tax. The 3.8% tax on investment income also knocks down a longstanding wall by applying a "payroll" tax to unearned income. Until now, FICA taxes for Social Security and Medicare have applied only to wages, not investment income.
While many details remain unclear and the Internal Revenue Service hasn't issued any guidance, here are preliminary answers to the most important questions taxpayers are asking.
These taxes take effect in 2013, two elections away. Might they be repealed first?
Not likely. "Congress would have to undo the health reform, and budget constraints would still be there," says Clint Stretch of Deloitte Tax. "Even if Republicans take control of Congress, President Obama holds the veto pen until Jan. 20, 2013."
How does the 0.9% tax work?
If Joe and Mary each earn $175,000, their total employment income is $350,000. Currently they owe 1.45%—$5,075—of regular Medicare tax, and their employers owe a matching amount. In 2013, the couple will owe an extra 0.9%—$900—on their wages above $250,000, which is $100,000. Their employers pay nothing extra.
What about the 3.8% tax on net investment income?
This levy is keyed to "modified adjusted gross income," with a threshold of $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for singles. (This is simply adjusted gross income for nearly everybody except expatriates, who must add back certain exclusions.) The tax is a flat 3.8% on investment income above the threshold.
How would this work?
Example 1: John and Jane, a married couple, have $400,000 of AGI—$200,000 of wages plus $200,000 of investment income. Because they have $150,000 of investment income above the $250,000 threshold, they would owe an extra $5,700.
Example 2: Anne, a single filer, earns $40,000 but has an investment windfall of $190,000, for total income of $230,000. Because she has investment income of $30,000 above her $200,000 threshold, she would owe $1,140 of additional tax.
Example 3: Retirees Mary and Bill have no wages but they do have a taxable IRA payout of $90,000, plus investment income of $150,000, for a total of $240,000. They don't owe the new tax, because they have no investment income above the $250,000 threshold.
What is investment income?
Interest, except municipal-bond interest; dividends; rents; royalties; and capital gains on the sales of financial instruments like stocks and bonds. The taxable portion of insurance annuity payouts also counts, unless it is from a company pension. So do gains from financial trading, as well as passive income from rents and businesses you don't participate in. All are subject to the 3.8% tax on amounts above the $250,000 or $200,000 threshold, as described above.
Not taxed: Distributions from regular and Roth IRAs and other retirement accounts, including pensions and Social Security, and annuities that are part of a retirement plan. Life-insurance proceeds, muni-bond interest and veterans' benefits don't count, nor does income from a business you participate in, such as a Subchapter S or partnership.
Could the 3.8% tax apply to gains on the sale of a home?
Yes, if there is a taxable gain above the $500,000 ($250,000, single) exclusion for gains on the sale of your residence.
Example: Fred and Fran, who bought their home in a New York suburb for $50,000 in 1972, sell it in 2013 for $1 million. After subtracting the $50,000 cost and $500,000 exclusion, they have investment income of $450,000. If they also have a taxable IRA payout of $70,000 and a pension of $30,000, they would owe the tax of $11,400 on $300,000.
What happens if a taxpayer who owes the new tax on investments also has a large itemized deduction—say, medical expenses or a theft loss?
Even if taxable income is zero because of deductions, he or she could still owe the 3.8% tax. Example: Myra is a single filer with investment income of $100,000 and wages of $200,000. But during the same year she loses $300,000 in a Ponzi scheme. She pays no income tax, but she still owes the new Medicare tax of $3,800 on her net investment income, says Sharon Kreider, a tax expert in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Does the 3.8% tax affect trusts and estates?
Yes, and it can hit them hard. The tax is levied on investment income as low as $12,000 that isn't paid out to beneficiaries. Some believe the tax may also hit children's unearned income subject to the "kiddie tax" if the parents owe it themselves.
What professions are able to avoid this tax?
Ms. Kreider and others see a sweet spot for real-estate professionals. The law deems their rents to be "active" income, so they wouldn't be subject to the investment tax. Often they don't owe self-employment taxes on that rental income, either.
What steps do experts recommend to minimize these taxes, other than taking capital gains before 2013 or buying municipal bonds?
• Examine both your regular and investment income: the higher your regular AGI, the more likely that your investment income will be subject to the new tax. So while Social Security and pensions don't count as investment income, they raise AGI. This makes Roth IRA conversions even more attractive for many. "Roth withdrawals don't raise AGI and aren't investment income," says Vern Hoven, a tax expert in Gig Harbor, Wash.
• Reconsider a defined-benefit pension if you're eligible—say, you're in a small business or have consulting income, says Mark Nash of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Pension payouts don't count as investment income, and the older a taxpayer is, the more he can contribute.
• Taxpayers selling assets should consider installment sales, says Ms. Kreider, if spreading out the income would minimize the new tax.
• For some, life insurance may become more attractive. Because life-insurance proceeds at death aren't subject to this tax, a taxpayer could buy a policy, borrow from it and settle up at death, avoiding income tax on investment gains within the policy. But Mr. Nash cautions that the savings must outweigh the fees and other disadvantages such policies may have.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: June 13, 2010, 10:19:44 PM
I could swear there is a word "specious" , , , anyone have a URL for a good dictionary?
I did not say equal, I said one helluva lot closer to equal than vice versa in the Muslim countries, none of whom are surrounded by suicidal killers screaming "Death to the Muslims" as they target Muslim women and children. C'mon man, get serious.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: June 13, 2010, 05:14:24 PM
JDN, I found that that Makdisi piece to be remarkably specious. Its kind of tough to live with side by side with folks like this preacher and his congregation, but in Israel Arabs get citizenship, to vote, to be Muslim, to bring law suits, etc. Try the other side of that coin in any of Israel's neighbors.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmnpMXOpaM4&NR
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Knife and Anti Knife
on: June 13, 2010, 04:57:52 PM
I can see I need to clarify some things here.
1) As "I" define things, all four of StillJames's scenarios are defensive. You are defending yourself from attack. When I say "offensive" here I am talking about , , , initiation.
2) I'm not sure why Herb is bringing here something I said on another forum that I did not have time for at the moment, but since he has I will take a moment to comment that I am not really sure why what I wrote above is being taken as/being presented as meaning that I am advocating giving poor quality, unrealistic knife attacks. Surely with DLO-1, DLO-2, and DLO-3 out there it should be pretty fg clear by now that I believe in training to solve realistic knife attacks?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ciudad Juarez and
on: June 13, 2010, 01:22:32 PM
19 slain at Mexico rehab clinic, 16 in second city
By OLIVIA TORRES and DANICA COTO Olivia Torres And Danica Coto – Fri Jun 11, 11:57 pm ET
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – At least 30 gunmen burst into a drug rehabilitation center in a Mexican border state capital and opened fire, killing 19 men and wounding four people, police said. Gunmen also killed 16 people in another drug-plagued northern city.
The killings marked one of the bloodiest weeks ever in Mexico and came just weeks after authorities discovered 55 bodies in an abandoned silver mine, presumably victims of the country's drug violence.
The bullet-riddled bodies of 14 men and two women were found Friday in different parts of Ciudad Madero, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, where violence has surged this year amid a turf battle between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas gang of hit men. Authorities earlier said 20 were killed but reduced that to 16. Police had no information on suspects. It was the deadliest day in Tamaulipas drug violence since 18 gunmen were killed during a series of coordinated attacks on soldiers in April.
Another round of killings occurred late Thursday at the Faith and Life center in Chihuahua city, about 210 miles (350 kilometers) south of Ciudad Juarez and the border with El Paso, Texas, state police spokesman Fidel Banuelos said.
On Wednesday, unidentified assailants killed one man and wounded another at a rehab center in Ciudad Juarez, which has become one of the world's most deadly cities because of drug violence.
More than 60 people have died in mass shootings at rehab clinics in a little less than two years. Police have said two of Mexico's six major drug cartels are exploiting the centers to recruit hit men and drug smugglers, often threatening to kill those who don't cooperate. Others are killed for failing to pay for drugs or betraying a dealer.
The men at the Faith and Life center were roused out of bed shortly before 11 p.m. and placed face-down along a hallway, the center's director, Cristian Rey Ramirez, told The Associated Press.
Ramirez was alerted to the attack by a telephone call from the center's pastor.
"He tells me, 'You know what, come here because they just killed everyone,'" Rey said. "There was no warning."
The attackers left messages accusing the victims of being criminals, Banuelos said.
Four other people were hospitalized, two in critical condition and two in serious condition, officials said. Most of the victims ranged in age from 30 to 40, with some older, and included a blind man, said the Rev. Rene Castillo, a minister who gives weekly sermons at the center, which opened 11 years ago.
"Everyone is so scared now," he said. Violence is "all everyone talks about, especially with all the threats that have been made," he said.
It was the first such attack on the center, although two men and a woman were kidnapped there in April 2008 while attending a memorial service, Banuelos said. The three-story, baby-blue concrete building houses addicts for 90 days, although some of those attacked had been there for up to two years, Castillo said.
Among the victims was Jose Luis Zamarron Barraza, a heroin addict who arrived home a year ago from the U.S., said a relative who declined to give her name out of fear. She did not know Zamarron's age. He entered the center a year ago, she said.
"The only crime he committed was to use drugs and want to get clean," she said. "He was really happy because he was about to leave. ... He almost made it."
President Felipe Calderon, whose war with drug cartels has seen nearly 23,000 people killed since he took office in late 2006, issued a statement condemning the shootings.
"They are outrageous acts that reinforce the conviction of the need to fight criminal groups who carry out such barbaric acts with full legal force," he said.
The federal government promised in February to invest $7.7 million in rehab centers and related programs in Ciudad Juarez. But plans for Mexico's first government-run drug rehab center have stalled for unknown reasons.
The government did open two small offices in Ciudad Juarez two months ago that provide counseling and prevention services.
Chihuahua state Health Secretary Octavio Martinez Perez said the Faith and Life center had a license and regularly met all state requirements.
"It is regrettable and tragic," he said.
In other presumably drug-related violence, authorities discovered three bodies, one of which had been decapitated, in the Pacific Coast state of Guerrero on Thursday and Friday.
One of the bodies was found Friday in the town of Iguala accompanied by a note. Police did not reveal what it said.
A second body was found Thursday in the town of Tecoanapa leaning against a cement post, its head placed between its knees, police said. Attached to that body was a message written on cardboard whose contents authorities declined to release.
The third body was found Thursday with signs of torture in Taxco, a colonial-era tourist town known for its silver jewelry. In late May, authorities discovered a mass grave in an abandoned silver mine on the outskirts of Taxco that had become a dumping ground for apparent victims of Mexico's drug violence. Authorities found 55 bodies before ending their search last weekend.
Also in Guerrero, two gunmen died Thursday after attacking a military convoy while two brothers, including a 16-year-old boy, died Friday during an ambush. No further details were available.
Associated Press Writer Olivia Torres reported this story from Ciudad Juarez and Danica Coto from Mexico City. AP Writer E. Eduardo Castillo in Mexico City contributed to this report.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / They've an eye on you, but not you on them?
on: June 13, 2010, 09:35:54 AM
Are Cameras the New Guns?
In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.
Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.
The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.
Massachusetts attorney June Jensen represented Simon Glik who was arrested for such a recording. She explained, "[T]he statute has been misconstrued by Boston police. You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want." Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley agrees, "The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law - requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense."
The courts, however, disagree. A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler's license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.
In 2001, when Michael Hyde was arrested for criminally violating the state's electronic surveillance law - aka recording a police encounter - the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld his conviction 4-2. In dissent, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall stated, "Citizens have a particularly important role to play when the official conduct at issue is that of the police. Their role cannot be performed if citizens must fear criminal reprisals…." (Note: In some states it is the audio alone that makes the recording illegal.)
The selection of "shooters" targeted for prosecution do, indeed, suggest a pattern of either reprisal or an attempt to intimidate.
Glik captured a police action on his cellphone to document what he considered to be excessive force. He was not only arrested, his phone was also seized.
On his website Drew wrote, "Myself and three other artists who documented my actions tried for two months to get the police to arrest me for selling art downtown so we could test the Chicago peddlers license law. The police hesitated for two months because they knew it would mean a federal court case. With this felony charge they are trying to avoid this test and ruin me financially and stain my credibility."
Hyde used his recording to file a harassment complaint against the police. After doing so, he was criminally charged.
In short, recordings that are flattering to the police - an officer kissing a baby or rescuing a dog - will almost certainly not result in prosecution even if they are done without all-party consent. The only people who seem prone to prosecution are those who embarrass or confront the police, or who somehow challenge the law. If true, then the prosecutions are a form of social control to discourage criticism of the police or simple dissent.
A recent arrest in Maryland is both typical and disturbing.
On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III's motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.
The case is disturbing because:
1) Graber was not arrested immediately. Ten days after the encounter, he posted some of he material to YouTube, and it embarrassed Trooper J. D. Uhler. The trooper, who was in plainclothes and an unmarked car, jumped out waving a gun and screaming. Only later did Uhler identify himself as a police officer. When the YouTube video was discovered the police got a warrant against Graber, searched his parents' house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment, and charged him with a violation of wiretapping law.
2) Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman said he had never heard of the Maryland wiretap law being used in this manner. In other words, Maryland has joined the expanding trend of criminalizing the act of recording police abuse. Silverman surmises, "It's more [about] ‘contempt of cop' than the violation of the wiretapping law."
3) Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley is defending the pursuit of charges against Graber, denying that it is "some capricious retribution" and citing as justification the particularly egregious nature of Graber's traffic offenses. Oddly, however, the offenses were not so egregious as to cause his arrest before the video appeared.
Almost without exception, police officials have staunchly supported the arresting officers. This argues strongly against the idea that some rogue officers are overreacting or that a few cops have something to hide. "Arrest those who record the police" appears to be official policy, and it's backed by the courts.
Carlos Miller at the Photography Is Not A Crime website offers an explanation: "For the second time in less than a month, a police officer was convicted from evidence obtained from a videotape. The first officer to be convicted was New York City Police Officer Patrick Pogan, who would never have stood trial had it not been for a video posted on Youtube showing him body slamming a bicyclist before charging him with assault on an officer. The second officer to be convicted was Ottawa Hills (Ohio) Police Officer Thomas White, who shot a motorcyclist in the back after a traffic stop, permanently paralyzing the 24-year-old man."
When the police act as though cameras were the equivalent of guns pointed at them, there is a sense in which they are correct. Cameras have become the most effective weapon that ordinary people have to protect against and to expose police abuse. And the police want it to stop.
Happily, even as the practice of arresting "shooters" expands, there are signs of effective backlash. At least one Pennsylvania jurisdiction has reaffirmed the right to video in public places. As part of a settlement with ACLU attorneys who represented an arrested "shooter," the police in Spring City and East Vincent Township adopted a written policy allowing the recording of on-duty policemen.
As journalist Radley Balko declares, "State legislatures should consider passing laws explicitly making it legal to record on-duty law enforcement officials."
Wendy McElroy is the author of several books on anarchism and feminism. She maintains the iconoclastic website ifeminists.net as well as an active blog at wendymcelroy.com.
The author of this post can be contacted at email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items
on: June 12, 2010, 05:01:45 PM
A goodly percentage of my Founding Father Quotes come from this group as do several of my posts. In short I think them very good and worthy of my support , , , and yours.
In my recent essay on Army and Flag Day, we launched our 2010 Independence Day Campaign.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Karzai doubts success
on: June 12, 2010, 11:30:05 AM
Granted this is the NYT, and as such is a Pravda, but it reads very plausibly to me.
I have posted here for a long time about incoherence of our strategy , , ,
Karzai Is Said to Doubt West Can Defeat Taliban
By DEXTER FILKINS
Published: June 11, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two senior Afghan officials were showing President Hamid Karzai the evidence of the spectacular rocket attack on a nationwide peace conference earlier this month when Mr. Karzai told them that he believed the Taliban were not responsible.
In January, Hanif Atmar, then the interior minister of Afghanistan, gestured during a medal ceremony in Kabul. He and another top official have resigned from the Hamid Karzai government.
Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, in Kabul on Wednesday. He also resigned his position.
“The president did not show any interest in the evidence — none — he treated it like a piece of dirt,” said Amrullah Saleh, then the director of the Afghan intelligence service.
Mr. Saleh declined to discuss Mr. Karzai’s reasoning in more detail. But a prominent Afghan with knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Karzai suggested in the meeting that it might have been the Americans who carried it out.
Minutes after the exchange, Mr. Saleh and the interior minister, Hanif Atmar, resigned — the most dramatic defection from Mr. Karzai’s government since he came to power nine years ago. Mr. Saleh and Mr. Atmar said they quit because Mr. Karzai made clear that he no longer considered them loyal.
But underlying the tensions, according to Mr. Saleh and Afghan and Western officials, was something more profound: That Mr. Karzai had lost faith in the Americans and NATO to prevail in Afghanistan.
For that reason, Mr. Saleh and other officials said, Mr. Karzai has been pressing to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the country’s archrival, Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime supporter. According to a former senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzai’s maneuverings involve secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials.
“The president has lost his confidence in the capability of either the coalition or his own government to protect this country,” Mr. Saleh said in an interview at his home. “President Karzai has never announced that NATO will lose, but the way that he does not proudly own the campaign shows that he doesn’t trust it is working.”
People close to the president say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzai’s behalf. The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer of 2011.
“Karzai told me that he can’t trust the Americans to fix the situation here,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He believes they stole his legitimacy during the elections last year. And then they said publicly that they were going to leave.”
Mr. Karzai could not be reached for comment Friday.
If Mr. Karzai’s resolve to work closely with the United States and use his own army to fight the Taliban is weakening, that could present a problem for Mr. Obama. The American war strategy rests largely on clearing ground held by the Taliban so that Mr. Karzai’s army and government can move in, allowing the Americans to scale back their involvement in an increasingly unpopular and costly war.
Relations with Mr. Karzai have been rocky for some time, and international officials have expressed concern in the past that his decision making can be erratic. Last winter, Mr. Karzai accused NATO in a speech of ferrying Taliban fighters around northern Afghanistan in helicopters. Earlier this year, following criticism by the Obama administration, Mr. Karzai told a group of supporters that he might join the Taliban.
American officials tried to patch up their relationship with Mr. Karzai during his visit to the White House last month. Indeed, on many issues, like initiating contact with some Taliban leaders and persuading its fighters to change sides, Mr. Karzai and the Americans are on the same page.
But their motivations appear to differ starkly. The Americans and their NATO partners are pouring tens of thousands of additional troops into the country to weaken hard-core Taliban and force the group to the bargaining table. Mr. Karzai appears to believe that the American-led offensive cannot work.
At a news conference at the Presidential Palace this week, Mr. Karzai was asked about the Taliban’s role in the June 4 attack on the loya jirga and his faith in NATO. He declined to address either one.
“Who did it?” Mr. Karzai said of the attack. “It’s a question that our security organization can bring and prepare the answer.”
Asked if he had confidence in NATO, Mr. Karzai said he was grateful for the help and said the partnership was “working very, very well.” But he did not answer the question.
“We are continuing to work on improvements all around,” Mr. Karzai said, speaking in English and appearing next to David Cameron, the British prime minister.
A senior NATO official said the resignations of Mr. Atmar and Mr. Saleh, who had strong support from the NATO allies, were “extremely disruptive.”
The official said of Mr. Karzai, “My concern is, is he capable of being a wartime leader?”
Page 2 of 2)
The NATO official said that American commanders had given Mr. Karzai a dossier showing overwhelming evidence that the attack on the peace conference had been carried out by fighters loyal to Jalalhuddin Haqqani, one of the main leaders fighting under the Taliban’s umbrella.
“There was no doubt,” the official said.
The resignations of Mr. Saleh and Mr. Atmar revealed a deep fissure among Afghan leaders as to the best way to deal with the Taliban and with their patrons in Pakistan.
Mr. Saleh is a former aide to the late Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary commander who fought the Soviet Union and the Taliban. Many of Mr. Massoud’s former lieutenants, mostly ethnic Tajiks and now important leaders in northern Afghanistan, sat out the peace conference. Like Mr. Saleh, they favor a tough approach to negotiating with the Taliban and Pakistan.
Mr. Karzai, like the overwhelming majority of the Taliban, is an ethnic Pashtun. He appears now to favor a more conciliatory approach.
At the end of the loya jirga, Mr. Karzai announced the formation of a commission that would review the case of every Taliban fighter held in custody and release those who were not considered extremely dangerous. The commission, which would be led by several senior members of Mr. Karzai’s government, excluded the National Directorate of Security, the intelligence agency run by Mr. Saleh.
In the interview, Mr. Saleh said he took offense at the exclusion. His primary job is to understand the Taliban, he said; leaving his agency off the commission made him worry that Mr. Karzai might intend to release hardened Taliban fighters.
“His conclusion is — a lot of Taliban have been wrongly detained, they should be released,” Mr. Saleh said. “We are 10 years into the collapse of the Taliban — it means we don’t know who the enemy is. We wrongly detain people.”
Mr. Saleh also criticized the loya jirga. “Here is the meaning of the jirga,” Mr. Saleh said. “I don’t want to fight you. I even open the door to you. It was my mistake to push you into the mountains. The jirga was not a victory for the Afghan state, it was a victory for the Taliban.”
Mr. Karzai has been seeking to build bridges to the Taliban for months. Earlier this year, the president’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, held secret meetings with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy commander, according to a former senior Afghan official.
According to Gen. Hilaluddin Hilal, the deputy interior minister in an earlier Karzai government, Ahmed Wali Karzai and Mr. Baradar met twice in January near Spin Boldak, a town on the border with Pakistan. The meeting was brokered by Mullah Essa Khakrezwal, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Kandahar Province, and Hafez Majid, a senior Taliban intelligence official, General Hilal said.
A Western analyst in Kabul confirmed General Hilal’s account. The senior NATO official said he was unaware of the meeting, as did Mr. Saleh. Ahmed Wali Karzai did not respond to e-mail queries on the meeting.
The resolution of that meeting was not clear, General Hilal said. Mr. Baradar was arrested in late January in a joint Pakistani-American raid in Karachi, Pakistan. But Mr. Karzai’s attempts to negotiate with the Taliban have continued, he said.
“He doesn’t think the Americans can afford to stay,” General Hilal said.
Mr. Saleh said that Mr. Karzai’s strategy also involved a more conciliatory line toward Pakistan. If true, this would amount to a sea change for Mr. Karzai, who has spent his nine years in office regularly accusing the Pakistanis of supporting the Taliban insurgency.
Mr. Saleh says he fears that Afghanistan will be forced into accepting what he called an “undignified deal” with Pakistan that will leave his country in a weakened state.
He said he considered Mr. Karzai a patriot. But he said the president was making a mistake if he planned to rely on Pakistani support. (Pakistani leaders have for years pressed Mr. Karzai to remove Mr. Saleh, whom they see as a hard-liner).
“They are weakening him under the disguise of respecting him. They will embrace a weak Afghan leader, but they will never respect him,” Mr. Saleh said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: June 12, 2010, 12:54:23 AM
ARMED ARIZONAS By Massad Ayoob
Particularly after the recent murder of an Arizona rancher who had turned in to authorities a quantity of drugs he’d found cached on his property, Arid Zoners have taken to arming themselves with a new level of determination. They are well aware that they may find themselves up against VERY heavily armed people: see the photo below taken by law enforcement at what was reported to be a Zeta Cartel training camp just south of the border.
A good friend of mine who is heavily into teaching concealed carry classes in Southern Arizona, and supplemental courses for soldiers out of Fort Huachuca, with whom he is very well connected due to his own long and honorable Army service, tells me there is much interest among the ranchers in learning defensive employment of military style rifles. Makes sense to me. I’ve seen a recovered firearms training manual recovered by US law enforcement from cartel members, which indicates that they are attempting to train themselves to a military Special Forces standard. Folks with combat skills like these will be moving fast and taking advantage of hard cover: this makes it important to have a gun in the car that can send bullets punching through auto bodies and heavy, tempered window glass. Multiple, fast-moving targets require lots of ammo, too: twenty-round and larger magazines make sense here.
The US Border Patrol is struggling valiantly to contain the problem, but is short of manpower and budget. THIS VIDEO shows some of the scope of the problem.
During our sojourn on the border, we had an M4 in the car, and also my idea of an ideal “car gun,” Springfield Armory’s super-handy, super-controllable SOCOM-16 semiautomatic rifle in caliber 7.62mm NATO. Didn’t need it, of course, but it provided a sense of being ready for the worst…
Could such hardware ever be necessary on American streets? FBI Director Robert Mueller knows the answer. Read IN ITS ENTIRETY his 2009 speech HERE where he discusses the possibility of an American Mumbai.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Eh tu, Moscow?
on: June 12, 2010, 12:36:37 AM
Et Tu, Moscow?
ADAY AFTER RUSSIA JOINED ITS FELLOW permanent U.N. Security Council members in passing a fresh round of sanctions against Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, coolly told state-run Al Alam TV that “Iran has been under sanctions and economic, technological and political blockade for more than 30 years — we got used to it.”
Iran may be used to a lot of things, but it is having an exceptionally difficult time getting used to the idea of Russia — long considered Iran’s primary power patron — hanging Tehran out to dry. Iran made no secret of its displeasure with Moscow in the lead up to the sanctions vote, releasing statement after statement warning the Kremlin of the consequences of turning its back on Tehran. Now having received the sanctions slap in the face, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is showing his defiance by canceling his trip to the Russian and Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tashkent on June 11, while Iran’s oil minister has postponed a June 22 visit to Russia.
This is by no means the first time Iran has been betrayed by its Russian ally. After all, Russia voted in the affirmative the previous six times the Security Council passed sanctions resolutions against Iran. Those previous sanctions were a symbolic show of force against Iran, and everyone, including Iran, knew they lacked real bite and suffered from the enforceability dilemma. This latest round of sanctions will face the same enforcement challenges and were careful to avoid touching Iran’s energy trade so as to get Russian and Chinese buy-in. That said, this did not end up being a fluff resolution.
The newest resolution expands travel and financial sanctions on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps entities — a preponderant force in the Iranian economy. The sanctions also go beyond inspections of Iranian air cargo to the seizure and disposal of Iranian contraband traveling by air or sea that could be used for military purposes. Instead of calling on states to exercise vigilance and restraint in the supply, transfer or sale of offensive weapons to Iran, the new resolution bans all of the above. Like previous resolutions, this one bars Iran from all enrichment-related activity, but now also emphasizes the construction of new nuclear sites. In short, this sanctions round expands the list of things Iran supposedly cannot do, while it allows action by interested states to interfere with a broader range of Iranian activities.
“This is by no means the first time Iran has been betrayed by its Russian ally.”
No sanctions resolution would be complete, however, without its caveats. With no real legal mechanism to enforce across international boundaries, the level of adherence to the sanctions will be left for individual states to decide. A closer look at the sanctions text also reveals a number of loopholes by Russian design. For example, Iran may be banned from nuclear and enrichment activities, and other countries may be banned from making nuclear investments in Iran, but Russia contends that in projects like the Bushehr nuclear power plant (and even future projects), it is not making such an “investment” if Iran is the one paying for the construction and training, and if the project and training are taking place on Iranian soil. Russia was also careful to include enough fine print in the clause banning arms sales to Iran to exempt a long-threatened Russian sale of the S-300 air defense system to Iran.
With more holes than Swiss cheese, the sanctions are by no means a call to war. But Iran’s biggest fear goes beyond the actual text of the sanctions and into the meat of the negotiations currently taking place between Russia and the United States.
STRATFOR has been closely tracking a coming shift in Russia’s foreign policy, one that would emphasize pragmatism over belligerence in dealing with the United States over thorny issues like Iran. Russia hopes to obtain much-needed Western technology and investment to modernize its economy and ensure Moscow’s long-term competitiveness in the global system. While the United States and Russia have (for now) agreed to disagree on more contentious issues like U.S. military support for Poland and Georgia, the Russian decision to move against Iran with this sanctions resolution is quite telling of the progress made thus far in U.S.-Russia negotiations. And for those outstanding points of contention, Russia still has the S-300 and Bushehr levers to wave in Washington’s face should its negotiations with the United States take a turn for the worse. Meanwhile, Washington has just acquired a very useful tool to bolster its negotiating position vis-a-vis Iran: the prospect of Russia abandoning its premier Mideast ally.
The Iranians have long known that their alliance with Russia stood on shaky ground, but they also worked fastidiously to try to keep U.S.-Russian relations as agonizing as possible to avoid being put in this very position. This is not to say Iran would be coming to the negotiating table empty-handed when it faced Washington. After all, Iran still has very strong levers against the United States in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan that it can use at a time of its choosing. The question, then, is whether that time may be approaching. As Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Thursday, “It is now the Islamic republic’s turn to make the next move.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care
on: June 10, 2010, 08:50:51 PM
Dear Policy Patriots -
Major Campaign to Sell ObamaCare - to You! This week, Politico and The New York Times published two devastating revelations:
Multimillion Dollar Propaganda Campaign. According to Politico, White House allies, led by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Victoria Kennedy, the widow of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, are set to unveil a $125 million public relations make-over for ObamaCare. This unprecedented propaganda campaign is designed to last until the law is fully in place in 2014 and to convince you and millions of your fellow countrymen that up is down, that black is white and that ObamaCare is good for you.
Advice to Candidates: Avoid Voters, Avoid Talking about Health Care. You're not likely to see TV images of candidates confronting angry voters at town hall meetings this summer. The reason? As The New York Times reports, members of Congress who voted for ObamaCare have "heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question and answer sessions." Among the recommendations to lawmakers: "Hold events in controlled settings...without the worry of being snared in an angry confrontation with seniors."
ObamaCare Propaganda Aimed at Seniors - Paid for with Your Tax Dollars! During the debate over ObamaCare, the Obama Administration threatened health insurance companies who informed seniors of the possibility that they could lose Medicare Advantage (MA) benefits. However, the health insurance companies were telling the truth. In fact, the information they used came from the Administration's Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Chief Actuary of Medicare. Medicare's Chief Actuary predicted that under ObamaCare as many as 7.4 million beneficiaries will lose their MA plan altogether and another 7.4 million will experience a loss of benefits. Incredibly, the forthcoming ObamaCare media blitz will target these seniors and claim that Medicare Advantage enrollees will be better off under ObamaCare.
Sebelius Threatens Insurers Publicly. ObamaCare stripped $200 billion from federal payments to Medicare Advantage plans. And no knowledgeable person is in doubt about the consequences of that. As one expert explained, "Washington can't slash $200 billion out of Medicare Advantage and then try to shift the blame...when those cuts inevitably result in higher premiums and benefit reductions for seniors." Nevertheless, on Monday Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius threatened health insurers, warning them not to increase premiums and co-payments when they submit their 2011 Medicare Advantage bids to the federal government. This is a clever ruse - getting ready to blame the victim for the results of a crime the administration has already committed.
The Vaunted Seniors' Rebate Check: Penny Wise... This week the Obama Administration will advertise its efforts to provide health care for seniors, citing a one-time, $250 health care rebate check that 80,000 seniors will receive this week and as many as four million may receive in the coming months. What the President won't mention is that the four million seniors who receive a check represents less than 10 percent of the Medicare population and that the seniors who benefit are among the nation's wealthiest Medicare beneficiaries. The check only goes to those not already receiving Medicare Extra Help. Finally, the rebate check comes in the midst of rising prescription drug costs for all seniors, not just 10 percent. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell explained earlier this week, "for every senior who receives a check, more than three other seniors will see an increase in their prescription drug insurance premiums."
...Pound Foolish. Not only will the President fail to distribute a check to 9 out of 10 seniors, but the one-time check pales in comparison to ObamaCare's pilfering of seniors' health care. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), ObamaCare cuts Medicare spending by $8,980 per senior over the next ten years. Consider also that:
The Chief Medicare Actuary Warns against Cuts in Senior Care. They urge that the Administration's planned $500 billion cuts in Medicare could jeopardize the access to care seniors receive.
The Chief Medicare Actuary Predicts Seniors Lose Coverage. They say that $206 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage (MA) will result in 7.4 million beneficiaries who will lose their Medicare health plan.
The CBO Puts a Number on Lost Benefits. Seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage (MA) will lose an average of $816 per patient in 2019.
Premiums Will Rise, Says CBO. The CBO estimates that Medicare prescription drug coverage premiums will increase by 9 percent as a result of the Democrats' health law.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I'm shocked, absolutely schocked , , ,
on: June 10, 2010, 08:46:54 PM
The seven experts who advised President Obama on how to deal with offshore drilling safety after the Deepwater Horizon explosion are accusing his administration of misrepresenting their views to make it appear that they supported a six-month drilling moratorium -- something they actually oppose.
The experts, recommended by the National Academy of Engineering, say Interior Secretary Ken Salazar modified their report last month, after they signed it, to include two paragraphs calling for the moratorium on existing drilling and new permits.
Salazar's report to Obama said a panel of seven experts "peer reviewed" his recommendations, which included a six-month moratorium on permits for new wells being drilled using floating rigs and an immediate halt to drilling operations.
"None of us actually reviewed the memorandum as it is in the report," oil expert Ken Arnold told Fox News. "What was in the report at the time it was reviewed was quite a bit different in its impact to what there is now. So we wanted to distance ourselves from that recommendation."
Salazar apologized to those experts Thursday.
"The experts who are involved in crafting the report gave us their recommendation and their input and I very much appreciate those recommendations," he said. "It was not their decision on the moratorium. It was my decision and the president's decision to move forward."
In a letter the experts sent to Salazar, they said his primary recommendation "misrepresents" their position and that halting the drilling is actually a bad idea.
The oil rig explosion occurred while the well was being shut down – a move that is much more dangerous than continuing ongoing drilling, they said.
They also said that because the floating rigs are scarce and in high demand worldwide, they will not simply sit in the Gulf idle for six months. The rigs will go to the North Sea and West Africa, possibly preventing the U.S. from being able to resume drilling for years.
They also said the best and most advanced rigs will be the first to go, leaving the U.S. with the older and potentially less safe rights operating in the nation's coastal waters
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Austrian Business Cycle Theory
on: June 10, 2010, 04:29:58 PM
Austrian Business Cycle Theory: A Brief
Daily Article | Posted on 5/7/2001 by Dan Mahoney
The media’s favorite phony solution to the economic downturn is for the
Fed to drop interest rates lower and lower until the economy registers an
upturn. What is wrong with this approach? Printing money—which is what
reducing interest rates below the market rate amounts to—is an artificial
means of recovering from the very real effects of an artificial boom. This
point, however, is completely lost on most commentators, because they
haven’t the slightest understanding of the Austrian theory of the business
This article gives a brief overview of the theory, which provides an
explanation of the recurrent periods of prosperity and recession that seem to plague capitalist societies. As
Salerno (1996) has argued, the Austrian business cycle theory is in many ways the quintessence of Austrian
economics, as it integrates so many ideas that are unique to that school of thought, such as capital structure,
monetary theory, economic calculation, and entrepreneurship. As such, it would be impossible to adequately
explain so rich a theory in a short note. (See Rothbard  for greater details.) However, an attempt will be
made here to indicate how those relevant ideas come together in a unified framework.
Man is confronted with a world of physical scarcity. That is, not all of our wants and needs, which are practically
limitless, can be met. Outside of the Garden of Eden, we must produce in order to consume, and this means that
we must combine our labor with whatever nature-given resources are available to us. As inherently rational
beings, men have come to recognize many ways of solving this problem, such as peaceful cooperation under the
division of labor leading to enhanced productivity, and private property rights permitting economic calculation
so that different courses of action can be meaningfully compared.
(This is not to say that man has perfect foresight and always correctly anticipates the outcome, good or bad, of
his actions; only that man acts purposefully—and so always judges ex ante a course of action to lead to a
preferred state of affairs—and is capable of distinguishing success from failure and acting accordingly.)
However, it would help to consider the course of economic development from a simplified example, that of an
isolated "Robinson Crusoe" situation. The circumstance faced here is that one must somehow combine one’s
labor with available resources to produce goods for consumption (e.g., food, shelter, etc.). For example, I can
pick berries by hand, and this will produce a certain level of consumption. However, if I wish to have a greater
level of consumption, I must create some means of increasing my berry collecting—for example, by building a
rod to knock berries from bushes and a net to collect them as they fall to the ground.
Unless these means are nature-given, however, I must build them myself, and this will take time—time during
which I cannot pick and consume berries with my old method. Thus, during the time I am making my new,
presumably more efficient, method, I must have some way of sustaining myself. This can only come about if I
have saved (i.e., abstained from consuming) a sufficient amount of berries in the past, so that I may work on
other approaches now. (For more on this process, see Rothbard , ch. 1.)
Let us be clear about what is happening here: One is not simply switching from consumption to production;
rather, one is switching from one form of production to another. One cannot consume something until it has been
produced, so all production processes involve foregoing consumption. The question, though, is what must be
done to switch to a supposedly more effective means of production.
Obviously, if the rod-and-net system, presumably more productive, had required the same amount of time to
construct as the hand-picking method, I would have engaged in this approach to begin with. Since acquiring the
increased productivity comes with a cost—namely, time spent away from using the old method to facilitate
production and, thus, consumption—there must be some means of paying that cost.
Of course, not all lengthier production processes are more productive. But at any given time, man always
chooses those production processes that can produce a given amount of output for consumption in the shortest
amount of time. A process that takes longer to arrive at the final stage of output will only be adopted if it is
correspondingly more productive. In the Austrian conception, greater savings permit the creation of more
"roundabout" production processes—that is, production processes increasingly far-removed from the finished
product. This is the role of savings, and we can ask what determines a particular level of savings.
Time preference is the extent to which people value current consumption over future consumption. The key point
of the Austrian business cycle theory is that interventions in the monetary system—and there is some debate over
what form those interventions must take to set in motion the boom-bust process—create a mismatch between
consumer time preferences and entrepreneurial judgments regarding those time preferences.
Let us return to the Crusoe example above, and consider attempts to construct more productive means of berry
extraction. What constrains me in this endeavor is my level of time preference. If I so enjoy current consumption
that the thought of increased future consumption cannot sway me from foregoing sufficient berry-eating now,
my rod-and-net system will not be built. In the context of fractional reserve banking, printing up berry-tickets
cannot change this fact.
As a numerical example, consider the case where hand-picking yields twelve berries a day, and I am simply
unwilling to go without less than ten berries per day. Suppose further that my time preference falls so that I am
willing to save two berries a day for seven days (leaving aside issues such as perishability, which obviously do
not apply to a monetary economy). I will then have a reserve of fourteen berries. Assume I work one-fourth of a
day on my new method of berry production and spend the remaining three-fourths of the day on producing
berries with the old technique. The old method will give me nine berries a day, and I can use one berry from my
savings to meet my current consumption needs.
If I can finish the rod-and-net system in fourteen days (the extent of my reserve), then everything is fine, and I
can go on to enjoy the fruits of my labor (no pun intended). If I misjudge however, and the process takes longer
than fourteen days, I must temporarily suspend production (or at least delay it) to fund my current consumption,
as, by assumption, I value a certain level of current consumption over increased future consumption (the essence
of time preference). The point is, sufficient property must exist for me to lengthen the structure of production,
and this property can only come from (past) savings. If my time preference does not enable sufficient property to
become available for creating this production process, my efforts will end in failure.
Lest it be thought this example is artificial, consider the situation where my needs are nine berries a day. It
would appear that I can still work one-fourth of a day on the new technique without having a previous cache of
savings, since the remaining three-fourths day of labor with the old method will meet those needs. Two things
should be noted, however. First, my time preference must first fall from a daily consumption of twelve berries to
nine berries. Second, and this is the key point, had I saved previously, then I could spend that much more time on
building the new method, thus bringing it into increased production of berries that much sooner. Savings remain
key to this process of capital construction, and savings are driven by time preference. Indeed, time preference
manifests itself in savings.
This same process of using savings to fund current production for future consumption goes on in more complex
economies. (Of course, with the introduction of more than one individual, recognition of increased productivity
under the division of labor becomes possible, thus raising man above the subsistence level and making possible a
pool of savings.) At any given time, the individuals in society are engaged in production to meet some "level" of
consumption needs. In order for more lengthy—and, hence, if they are to be maintained, more productive—
processes to be entered into, it is necessary that some individuals have refrained from consumption in the past so
that other individuals may be sustained and facilitated in assembling this new structure, during which they
cannot produce—and thus, not consume—consumption goods with the methods of the old structure.
The thrust of the Austrian theory of the business cycle is that credit inflation distorts this process, by making it
appear that more means exist for current production than are actually sustainable (at least in some renditions; see
Hülsmann  for a "non-standard" exposition of ABCT). Since this is in fact an illusion (printing claims to
property ["inflation"] is not the same thing as actually having property; see Hoppe et al. ), the endeavors
of entrepreneurs to create a structure of production not reflecting actual consumer time preferences (as
manifested in available savings for the purchase of producer goods) must end in failure.
Any kind of economy above the most primitive does not, of course, engage in barter, but rather uses money as a
medium of exchange to overcome the problem of the absence of a double coincidence of wants. It must be
stressed, though, that apart from this unique role, money is itself a good, the most marketable good. To be sure,
money is valuable to the extent that others are willing to accept it in exchange. However, money itself must first
have originated as a directly serviceable good before it could become an indirectly serviceable good (i.e.,
money). This is the thrust of Mises's regression theorem (Mises ; Rothbard , ch. 4).
Like any other exchange, one may find after the fact that it was not to one's liking; for example, one may find
that the money good is no longer accepted by "society." There is nothing unique about money in these respects.
What is unique about money is its use in economic calculation. Since all exchanges are, ultimately, exchanges
involving property, a common unit for comparing such exchanges is indispensable. In particular, the amount of
money as savings represents a "measure" of the amount of property available for production processes. (Indeed,
to even maintain a given structure of production requires some abstinence from consumption, so that production
dedicated to maintenance instead of consumption may be undertaken.)
Holding cash (in your wallet, in a tin can in the backyard, etc.) is not a form of saving. Cash balances can
increase without time preferences decreasing, as they do when one saves. (In fact, one saves because one's time
preference falls.) One can increase one's cash balances by decreasing one's spending on consumer AND producer
goods. To save is to decrease one's spending on consumer goods and increase one's spending on producer goods.
The fact that saving usually involves an intermediary (i.e., a bank) to permit someone else to spend on producer
goods does not change this fact. Money is inherently a present good; holding it "buys" alleviation from a
currently felt uneasiness about an uncertain future. (See Hoppe  and Hoppe et al.  for a discussion
of the nature of money.) Lending out demand deposits, or claims to current goods, cannot facilitate the purchase
of producer goods (for the creation of future goods at the expense of current goods), apart from the juridical
The crucial thing about money is that it permits economic calculation, the comparison of anticipated revenues
from an action with potential costs in a common unit. That is, one acquires property based on a judgment of the
future by exchanging other property, and this is impossible—or, rather, meaningless—to do without a common
unit for comparing alternatives. Money is property, and under a monetary system which makes it appear that
more property exists for production than actually exists, failure is inevitable.
One need not focus on whether entrepreneurs correctly "read" interest rates or not. Entrepreneurs make
judgments about the future and, of course, can always potentially be in error; success cannot be known now.
However, judgments will be in error when one is confronted with the illusion of a greater pool of savings than
actual consumer time preferences would justify. This is precisely the situation established by the banking
system—as intermediaries between savers and producers, or "investors"—as currently exists in the Western
world. The system ensures error, though of course it does not preclude success; thus, the existence of genuine
economic growth alongside malinvestments.
This analysis is not a moralistic insistence that an economy be ultimately founded on something "real." It is a
recognition that mere subjective wants cannot will more property into existence than actually exists. Should a
monetary system give the illusion that the time preferences of consumers, as providers of property for production
purposes, is smaller than it actually is, then the structure of production thus assembled in such a system is
inherently in error. Whatever plans appear to be feasible during the early phase of a boom will, of necessity,
eventually be revealed to be in error due to a lack of sufficient property. This is the crux of the Austrian business
Dan Mahoney, Ph,D., mathematics, works for Mirant-Americas. firstname.lastname@example.org
Hoppe, Hans-Hermann, 1994, "How is Fiat Money Possible? - or, The Devolution of Money and Credit," Review
of Austrian Economics, 7, 2.
Hoppe, Hans-Hermann, Jörg Guido Hülsmann, and Walter Block, 1998, "Against Fiduciary Media," Quarterly
Journal of Austrian Economics, 1, 1.
Hülsmann, Jörg Guido, 1997, "Knowledge, Judgment, and the Use of Property," Review of Austrian Economics,
Hülsmann, Jörg Guido, 1998, "Toward a General Theory of Error Cycles," Quarterly Journal of Austrian
Economics, 1, 4.
Mises, Ludwig von, 1981, The Theory of Money and Credit, Liberty Fund.
Rothbard, Murray N., 1983, America's Great Depression, Richardson and Snyder.
Rothbard, Murray N., 1993, Man, Economy, and State, Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Salerno, Joseph T., 1996, Austrian Economics Newsletter, Fall 1996.
See also The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle Study Guide .