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Monthly Archives: November 2011

World Security 2

November 30th, 2011 - 3:24 pm

How many nuclear-armed countries does Obama want in Asia?: Foreign Policy explains how the Administration’s drive for a nuclear “Global Zero” is leading to a nuclear armed East Asia. Related search; the NYT reports “ North Korea reported brisk progress in building a new nuclear reactor and producing enriched uranium on Wednesday.” Washington urges them to stop.

Looming Sequestration Impacts Defense: “Last week’s failure by the so-called Super Committee to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction means that the Pentagon’s budget will automatically begin to be slashed by $600 billion over 10 years starting in January 2013. But the committee’s failure will begin reverberating across the industry almost immediately—possibly taking out the nation’s biggest weapon system—the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).”

Russia Considers Blocking NATO Supply Routes to Pakistan: “Russia said it may not let NATO use its territory to supply troops in Afghanistan if the alliance doesn’t seriously consider its objections to a U.S.-led missile shield for Europe, Russia’s ambassador to NATO said Monday.” Not a problem. Hillary is on the way with a Reset Button.


World Security

November 30th, 2011 - 1:04 pm

Rotten: “Infiltrated by up to a dozen CIA spies, Hezbollah, the official party of God, is taking hits to its prestige—and revealing its weakness… Hezbollah’s entire prestige is built on the idea that it is a highly disciplined organization that is nearly impossible to infiltrate.”

Now Might Not Be the Best Time to Hire Pakistani Mercs: Perhaps seeking to mollify ruffled Islamabad’s feelings, the State Deparment decides to hire Pakistani embassy guards. “The State Department recently announced it’s seeking local Pakistani guards to keep its diplomats safe at the embassy in Islamabad and consulates in Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar. Those guards will need to ‘deter potential terrorist attacks,’ according to a contract pre-solicitation, by ‘restricting entry of unauthorized personnel, operation of walk-through metal detectors, and hand-held detectors.’”

Hope they pay them well. The Strategy Page says suicide bombering is a popular occupation in the Islamic world because work is degrading, money is scarce and martyrs are rewarded by Allah.


Ten Days of the Condor

November 30th, 2011 - 10:03 am

The Fed and other central banks have acted to bail out the Euro:  “The central banks are providing liquidity to the financial system by lowering the price on existing dollar swaps, making it easier for banks to get access to dollars.” The Wall Street Journal says it’s just aspirin. Europe remains in financial intensive care. “The coordinated action doesn’t directly address Europe’s government-debt and budget woes. Instead, it is aimed at alleviating the impact of those troubles on global markets.” Zerohedge reports the decision to buy the aspirin came on Monday with one member of the Fed dissenting.

“The European debt problem can’t be solved by liquidity provisions alone,” Bank of Japan Gov. Masaaki Shirakawa said at a hastily arranged news conference. “The step is meant to buy time for European countries to proceed with their fiscal and Berenberg economist Christian Schulz said the move was largely a symbolic gesture aimed at restoring calm.

Seven Years of Lean: The price that may have to be paid for a European recovery was foreshadowed by its estimated effect on Britain, where officials told the public that average household incomes were going to drop by 7.4% over the next seven years. If all goes well, Britain can regain its 2002-2003 level of income by 2016. The very recent past were the “good old days” and we are unlikely to see them for a long, long time.


Now for the hard part: money and messaging

November 29th, 2011 - 4:45 am

One of the most sobering factoids about Barney Frank’s resignation is that he was re-elected 16 times before finally deciding he had had enough. Sixteen times. Leo Linbeck, you may recall, noted in a letter published some days ago on this site that this was no surprise. Death from natural causes far exceeded defeat at the ballot box as a source of Congressional turnover. Barney and his like are dug in more solidly on Capitol Hill than the Imperial Japanese Army was on Iwo Jima. The only time Barney was ever going to leave was when he felt like it. Can they ever be turned out otherwise?

L3 described a plan to challenge the incumbents where they were most vulnerable; at the primaries. But vulnerability is a relative thing. The incumbents are supported by the media monopoly on messaging, and they’ve got all the bucks. Even at their most vulnerable the incumbents have have all the big battalions on their side.

But not all is lost. The summit of Surabachi may be distant, but there’s a way up and L3 gives us an update on the efforts to ‘break the cycle of incumbency’ and elect new candidates into office after the Read More. He describes the necessary adjuncts to challenging the incumbents in primary campaigns, whether Democratic or Republican.  To break their stranglehold on power one must challenge their monopoly on messaging and money. Analysis shows there may be as many as 100 seats that are vulnerable. Since only 4 incumbents lost a primary in 2010, maybe, just maybe an America in the crisis year 2012 can do better than cycle out 4. But I’d better let Leo explain things.


The Fatal Words

November 28th, 2011 - 3:53 pm

Two words feature prominently in news from the Middle East today: “blast” and “clinging”.

More explosions in the Iranian nuclear city? “Conflicting reports have emerged from Iran over an explosion heard in the central city of Isfahan, close to the country’s sensitive nuclear facilities. … Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency was one of the first media organisations to report the explosion, saying it was heard at 2.40pm local time (1110 GMT). Fars quoted the deputy governor, Mehdi Ismaili, as confirming a sound that the news agency reported was loud enough to be heard across the city. The agency, however, removed the article from its website sometime later.”

Gunmen again target Egypt’s gas pipeline as blast halts exports to Israel and Jordan: “The attack on the pipeline was the second this month and the eighth since the popular uprising that ousted longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in February.”



November 28th, 2011 - 2:17 pm

Prognosis, Not So Good: Fitch Ratings said it was revising its outlook on the U.S. credit rating to negative from stable, while keeping its ‘AAA’ rating intact.

Barack Obama pledges support for EU leaders amidst debt crisis: At a meeting with Presidents Barroso and Rompuy, “I communicated to them that the United States stands ready to do our part to help them resolve this issue. This is of huge importance to our own economy.” Maybe this translates to, the Fed will lend the Europeans money through the IMF. He couldn’t mean that, could he?

Time to Abandon the White Working Class: Not a bad move since there’s no work, so there’s no future in coalescing with the working class. The New York Times explains that Obama’s strategists have decided to abandon the old coalition in favor of one based on aristocrats and serfs — you know, the 99%.

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.


A Tour d’horizon of the Mental Lanscape

November 28th, 2011 - 1:31 pm

Good thing the fires weren’t set by Climate Deniers. The GAO says, “The total number of fires ignited by illegal border crossers on federal lands in the Arizona border region is not fully known, in part because federal land management agencies have not conducted investigations of all human-caused wildland fires that occurred on these lands, as called for by agency policy, and the agencies do not have a strategy for selecting fires they do investigate. Of the 422 human-caused wildland fires that occurred on Forest Service, Interior, or tribal lands and burned at least 1 acre from 2006 through 2010, only 77 were investigated. According to land management agency officials, the lack of trained fire investigators was the primary reason for the limited number of investigations. Of the investigations conducted, 30 identified illegal border crossers as a suspected source of ignition.”

Suppose you have an urn with 422 red and blue marbles. You reach in and draw 77 marbles from the urn without replacement. Thirty marbles of the 77 are blue. How many blue marbles would you guess were in the urn?

Real Climate Scientists Can Do Statistics:  Fortunately such trivial problems do not bother those who guide the destiny of our planet. A recently stolen trove of 5,200 emails taken from the University of East Anglia, known as the Climategate II emails shows that the BBC routinely sought advice from global warming scientists on economy, drama, music… and even game shows.  And right they were too, since one of them, Phil Jones, is ranked one of Britain’s hundred top scientists.  One one hacked email Jones seeks help from a colleague on an esoteric matter.


What Happened Since Last

November 28th, 2011 - 11:55 am

Here are some notes from all over.

Bug zapper: Germany deploys a vehicle mounted laser system that can burn UAVs out of the air. Could this be the end of UAV domination?

Blueseed: Maybe the answer to government regulation is to create businesses headquartered on the Global Commons.  One company is creating a new jurisdiction in waters off the Bay Area. “Because of the United States’ current immigration and regulatory regime, bold and creative entrepreneurs from around the world aren’t given the chance to come to Silicon Valley and develop the technologies that could be creating jobs and propelling the economy forward. … Our team is creating a high-tech visa-free entrepreneurship and technology incubator on an ocean vessel in international waters. Our facilities will be a short ferry ride away from Silicon Valley so that great ideas and talent from around the world can live, work, and play while having convenient access to the San Francisco Bay Area.”

The Last of the Royal Navy: The flight of businesses to the high seas will doubtless be met, for the first time in decades, by liberal demands to expand the Navy! Never mind hunting down enemies, just find the tax evaders. One Navy which won’t be doing any hunting any time soon is Britain’s Royal Navy. Now down to 29,000 personnel, the force that formerly ruled the waves is too small to operate 2 aircraft carriers, assuming the government bought them according to First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope.


Waiting for the Cavalry

November 27th, 2011 - 4:02 pm

“The International Monetary Fund is being lined up potentially to help Italy and Spain amid growing fears that a European rescue scheme will not be able to prop up the countries.” The size of the package is given at US$800 billion.

Reports in Italy suggested that the IMF is drawing up plans for a €600 billion (£517 billion) assistance package for the country. Spain may be offered access to IMF credit, rather than a rescue package, to avoid it being “picked off” by the markets in the coming weeks.

The United States is the largest contributor to the IMF, with 17.72% of its shares, two and half times the next largest, which is Japan. By those proportions the American share in the assistance package would be on the order of $141 billion.



November 26th, 2011 - 12:13 pm

The New York Times reported yesterday that non-continental banks were preparing ‘contingency plans’ for the breakup of the Euro.

Banks including Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital and Nomura issued a cascade of reports this week examining the likelihood of a breakup of the euro zone. … Major British financial institutions, like the Royal Bank of Scotland, are drawing up contingency plans in case the unthinkable veers toward reality, bank supervisors said Thursday. United States regulators have been pushing American banks like Citigroup and others to reduce their exposure to the euro zone. In Asia, authorities in Hong Kong have stepped up their monitoring of the international exposure of foreign and local banks in light of the European crisis.

But banks in big euro zone countries that have only recently been infected by the crisis do not seem to be nearly as flustered. Banks in France and Italy in particular are not creating backup plans, bankers say, for the simple reason that they have concluded it is impossible for the euro to break up.