The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.
Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.
Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.
Several hundred people, from as far away as California and Maine, are expected to attend a criminal trial in Baraboo next week for a Sauk County dairy farmer charged with offenses related to the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk.
If convicted, Vernon Hershberger faces up to a year in jail, and thousands of dollars in fines, on charges that he distributed milk from his Grazin' Acres dairy farm without a milk producer's license, operated a retail food establishment and dairy plant without licenses, and violated a hold order placed on his dairy products after a raid on his farm.
With few exceptions, Wisconsin prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk to the public because it may contain bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses.
Advocates for raw milk say it contains nutrients, enzymes and bacteria that boost the immune system and have other health benefits.
The Hershberger case has become a rallying point for the raw milk movement nationwide, with supporters hoping that an acquittal could help other farmers who have run into trouble for distributing unpasteurized dairy products to the public.
The trial begins Monday and is expected to last four or five days. Hershberger's supporters have rented the Al Ringling Theater, across the street from the courthouse, to monitor the proceedings and stage a raw-milk rally.
Supporters from California, Maine, Vermont, Michigan and other states are expected to attend. Guest speakers at the rally include Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party's 2004 presidential candidate.
"Everybody realizes this case is pretty significant," said Gayle Loiselle, a raw-milk advocate from Dousman.
"It starts with Vernon having the strength to stand up to state government. A lot of other farmers have just caved and said they would stop selling raw milk. He is fighting back and is getting support at a national level," she added.
State officials have said the case against Hershberger is about licensing rather than the safety or benefits of raw milk. "There is a raw-milk law passed by the state Legislature, and that's what we go by," said Jim Dick, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Hershberger has said that no license law exists that would allow him to sell raw milk to the public, and that's why he doesn't have a license. His supporters have framed the issue in terms of personal choice and free will.
Milk started being pasteurized because of the thousands of illnesses each year related to spoiled milk. Raw milk has a very short shelf life, too short to enable it to be widely transported, stocked in stores, stocked in home refrigerators, and finally consumed. Refrigerated and pasteurized milk will last over two weeks. Raw milk might last four days before it begins to sour.
Arguments for pasteurizing
- Nonpasteurized, raw milk, according to the CDC, was responsible for 86 reported food poisoning outbreaks between 1998 and 2008 and 2 deaths in that time period.
- Raw milk may carry bacteria that may be harmful to people with a poor or non-functioning immune systems.
- The pasteurized milk has a longer shelf life leading to less waste.
Arguments for allowing farmers and consumer to purchase raw milk
- Proponents of raw milk have stated that the raw milk should be marked and the consumer should be able to decide if their immune system can handle the possibility of bacteria.
- Raw milk provides many nutrients, vitamin and enzymes that are helpful to human development and health.
- Raw milk has been produced and consumed for thousands of years without the fear of over zealous FDA agents tracking down any possible violators and throwing them in prison.
- What happened to choice?
If someone wants to buy and consume raw milk what business is it of government? More people have experienced sickness or death due to the consumption of alcohol than raw milk. We should ban the sale of alcohol…wait, we have already tried that.
If you don't want to drink raw milk, then by all means; don't.
When ranking raw milk in the continuum of harmful products, I have to conclude that raw milk is extremely low on the harmful index. But yet, the FDA has pursued this with all the tenacity of a Mullah tracking down a Christian in Pakistan.
Does it make sense to ban raw milk? Absolutely not. Proper safety precautions are needed when harvesting the milk, then the product aneeds to be properly identified and give the consumer a choice between pasteurized and raw.
This is just another in the myriad of examples of government over reach. It has become too big and too intrusive. The government needs to stay out of my refrigerator. The choice of what I do to my body should be kept between my farmer and me.
When the Benghazi attack first unfolded it was obvious to me that the attack was handled with gross negligence, incompetence and bad judgment. This event further infuriated me by the Obama regime's bad decision to cover it up, obstruct every attempt to uncover the details and then lie to the American public and the world about what had happened.
In my September 20 2012 blog, I took particular offense at the State Department buying time on Pakistani TV to propagate a despicable lie that the You-Tube video was to blame for the attack at Benghazi. This lie wasn’t well constructed; it fell apart with the slightest questioning. Interestingly, the US media believed the lies; hook, line and sinker.
I have blogged about the Benghazi incident many times, but based on the latest testimony in the congressional hearings, I couldn’t refrain from another blog. In a previous blog, I had stated, “Many on the right want to impeach Obama for criminal negligence; however I believe that this is gross incompetence rather than criminal behavior. In either case, this event indicates that Obama does not deserve four more years.”
I would like to retract that statement. The lies, stonewalling, obstruction as well as the incompetence and not making an attempt to save the American citizens at the consulate are grounds for impeachment.
I am thoroughly disgusted with the Obama administration and their antics regarding the Benghazi investigation.
I would like the administration to answer a few questions::
- Why isn’t secretary of State, Clinton, not in prison for lying in a congressional hearing?
- Hillary’s testimony of “What difference does it make..” and "it doesn't matter" is a stark contrast to Greg Hicks’ emotional testimony in which close, dear friends were killed by the administration's inaction. Despite your best efforts to sweep it under the rug, Hillary, it does matter.
- Why hasn’t an explanation been given to the families of the fallen citizens on why their family members were not rescued at the first sign of the terrorist attack?
- Why was the crew of the C130 stationed in Tripoli told to stand down during the first hour of the attack?
- Why was the CIA complex in Benghazi told to stand down when attempting to help?
- Why has the mainstream media worked over-time to protect and cover the administration for the blatantly heinous misrepresentation of gross incompetence?
- There is testimony stating that there were drones being flown over the consulate and annex during the attack. Washington had real-time coverage of the events. Why would they plead ignorance?
- Who gave the orders to stand down?
- Why were the talking points created by the CIA scrubbed of any reference to a particular group, Islam, security warnings, potential threats or terrorism?
- We have an apologist in chield who never ceases to apologize around the world for America, how about apologizing to the American people for your corruption and failures?
From ABC news:
When it became clear last fall that the CIA’s now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story.
ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.
Summaries of White House and State Department emails show that the State Department had extensive input into the editing of the talking points.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland raised specific objections to this paragraph drafted by the CIA in its earlier versions of the talking points:
“The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.”
In an email to officials at the White House and the intelligence agencies, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland took issue with including that information because it “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either?”
The paragraph was entirely deleted.
The draft went on to specifically name the al Qaeda-affiliated group named Ansar al-Sharia.
Once again, Nuland objected to naming the terrorist groups because “we don’t want to prejudice the investigation.”
After the talking points were edited to address Nuland’s concerns, she responded that changes did not go far enough.
“These changes don’t resolve all of my issues or those of my buildings leadership,” Nuland wrote.
After that meeting, which took place Saturday morning at the White House, the CIA drafted the final version of the talking points – deleting all references to al Qaeda and to the security warnings in Benghazi prior to the attack.
Internal memos also show that the state department personnel were expected to tow the official line. Within days, Mr. Hicks said, after raising questions about the account of what had happened in Benghazi offered in television interviews by Susan E. Rice, the State Department superiors gave him a scathing review of his management style. Hicks was “effectively demoted” to desk officer at headquarters, in what he believes was retaliation for speaking up. The scathing review came after 22 years of stellar reviews.
From other news outlets:
The Obama administration has lied, stonewalled, bullied, and intimidated – the true marks of an open and transparent administration. And, with a few notable exceptions, the American media haven’t just let them get away it; they’ve helped.
The Washington Post’s Twitter account inexplicably mocked those Tweeting about the case as “Chick-fil-A lovers.” AP even called it a “GOP” hearing, to make sure readers saw it as partisan.
A Politico story about CBS showed the truly insidious nature of media bias on this story and how the network held back Emmy award-winning reporter Sharyl Attkisson. “CBS News executives see Attkisson wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue, network sources have told Politico,” wrote Dylan Byers. So much so that Attkisson is “in talks to leave CBS ahead of contract”.
The Times piece, “Diplomat Says Questions Over Benghazi Led to Demotion,” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/us/politics/official-offers-account-from-libya-of-benghazi-attack.html?nl=us&emc=edit_cn_20130508&_r=2& detailed State Department retaliation against one witness, saying “the prospects for the 2016 presidential election” could be impacted.
Of course, the article minimized that impact. “Mr. Hicks offered an unbecoming view of political supervision and intimidation inside the Obama administration,” wrote the Times staffers.
The Times Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, took her own paper to task. “My sense is that, starting last fall, The Times has had a tendency to both play down the subject, which has significant news value, and to pursue it most aggressively as a story about political divisiveness rather than one about national security mistakes and the lack of government transparency,” she concluded.
The media outlets like the Times, Washington Post, CBS, CNN, NBC, etc. are not interested in the news, they are interested only in propaganda. This story doesn’t fit the narrative that the Obama administration is the most ethical and transparent administration in the history of civil government. It is a narrative that they took so much care and attention to build. They can’t let one little event tear it down.
Question of the day:
"There were lots of mistakes in Benghazi," former director of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency Gen. Hayden said, "The question is, just at what level were they finalized?"
The White House emails on the Benghazi talking point revisions say that State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland was raising two concerns about the CIA’s first version of talking points, which were going to be sent to Congress: 1) The talking points went further than what she was allowed to say about the attack during her state department briefings; and, 2) she believed the CIA was attempting to exonerate itself at the State Department’s expense by stating that CIA warnings about the security situation were ignored.
The White House held an off-the-record meeting with certain reporters on Friday to discuss the recent developments about the Benghazi assault, Politico reported.
The meeting reportedly began around 12:45 p.m. and pushed the regularly-scheduled on-the-record White House press briefing back to 1:45 p.m. That briefing was running more than 30 minutes late.
According to Politico, the off-the-record meeting was announced after ABC News reported that the Obama administration’s State Department gave “extensive input” in editing the CIA’s now-discredited talking points about the attack.
How dare those journalists at ABC go rogue and report on facts instead of the carefully crafted narrative. The regime has to make an example of these insubordinates. The regime certainly wouldn't want others to follow ABC's lead. Who knows, but if this precidence takes hold journalists may actually evolve from being politcal hacks. Can't have that.
Notes from the congressional hearings:
- Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) read from an email sent on September 12, 2012 from Beth Jones, the acting assistant secretary for Middle Eastern affairs at the State Department to her superiors. She had identified Ansar al-Sharia as the responsible party for the attack. The State Department knew who had attacked the consulate and why it was attacked long before the You Tube video explanation was developed.
- Special Operations Command (SOC) Africa commander, Gibson, was furious when a stand down order was given, preventing Special Forces from intervening in Libya. He wanted to “airlift the staff to safety” the hearing was told. The information on who gave the stand down order is classified.
- Greg Hicks on Wednesday also revealed that he was told by Obama administration officials not to talk with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) unsupervised.
A State Department lawyer accompanied the delegation and tried to be in every single meeting he was involved in, Hicks claimed.
Chaffetz, who traveled to Benghazi after the attack to investigate, also claimed back in October that the administration assigned a State Department attorney to follow him in his every “footstep” during his investigative trip.
- The drones were launched 17 minutes into the attack, but the drones were not weaponized.
- The congressional hearings will result in nothing. The guilty will be exonerated and the innocent will be persecuted and demonized.
“The Navy reprimanded a former strike group commander, Admiral Gaouette, March 25, 2013 five months after he was fired for swearing and allegedly making racially tinged comments that resulted in his being flown off an aircraft carrier deployed to the Arabian Gulf,” according to the Navy department press release.
Admiral Chuck Gaouette, the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group commander was relieved in September 2012. His subordinates aboard the carrier explained that Admiral Gaouette became enraged over an event and swore at his superiors in a diatribe that contained racial and ethnic overtones. No details of the ‘event’ were given.
My guess: Admiral Gaouette was going to violate the order to stand down and as a result was relieved of duty.
White House spokesperson, Jay Carney, responded to Republican charges of a cover-up by saying that Benghazi is old news. "Let's be clear," said Carney. "Benghazi happened a long time ago.” Everything was investigated months ago and there is nothing new to cover.
Well, Mr. Carney, you have not given the American people any answers to the myriad of questions that persist. Your arrogance and condescension is breathtaking.
The Obama administration's reaction to the Benghazi attack last September was guided solely by politics, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan charged Friday.
"Because the White House could not tolerate the idea of Benghazi as a planned and deliberate terrorist assault, it had to be made into something else. So they said it was a spontaneous street demonstration over an anti-Muhammad YouTube video made by a nutty California con man."
This gave the Obama administration an out on being forced to take military action, she added.
"If what happened in Benghazi was not a planned and prolonged terrorist assault, if it was merely a street demonstration gone bad, the administration could not take military action to protect Americans there," Noonan wrote.
In the end, she said, it was the election campaign that drove the administration's handling of the tragedy.
The regime was banking on the ability of the press corps to sell this fabrication to the American people without question.
In a statement to ABC, Carney notably insulates the West Wing and not the State Department by saying “the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and nonsubstantive.”
After several years of the Syrian civil war, the Free Syria rebels have appeared to have battled the Assad government to a stalemate. In mid March, the Syrian government reportedly used chemical weapons against the insurgents in an attempt to get the upper hand. The US did not respond to the violation of the ‘red line’ agreements but Israel did. The Israeli Air force conducted strikes into Syria on May 3rd and May 5th.
According to Syrian activists, the Israeli Airstrike targeted the following locations:
- 105th Brigade (Republican Guard)
- 104th Brigade
- Missile Brigade (Qasioun Mount)
- Arms Depot (Qasioun Mount)
- Jamraya Scientific Research Centre
- Defense Factories near the town of Hameh
- One location near the premises of the Fourth Division in Qudsaya
- Arms Depot for the Fourth Division in Qudasya
- Scud Missile base between the towns of Ma’arbeh and al-Tal.
Response to the Israeli raid:
- Radio_FreeSyria unconfirmed reports Assad ordered forces to mobilise in Golan Heights-set to declare war on Israel
- According to an Israeli channel, Israel has officially cancelled all schools/day jobs tomorrow in case Syria decides to attack Tel Aviv.
- According to AlArab_Qatar, Israeli directed 12 raids in Syria predominantly in Damascus and its suburbs
- Israel's Channel 10 is reporting a loss of contact with two Israeli warplanes over Syria
- Interfax news agency: Russian naval command moved 6 warships from the Black Sea in the direction of the Syrian port of Tartus to accompany the 6 that are stationed off of the Syrian/Lebanese coast.
- China voiced criticism of the Israeli attack
"We will not accept to be humiliated," Syrian information minister Omran al-Zoubi said at an afternoon press conference, according to ABC News. "We are all in a state of anger. We are abused by this attack," he added.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah paid a visit to Tehran and brought back assurances that Iran will step up its military involvement in Syria. He also claimed that Khamenei’s representative in Lebanon will take part in building the new strategy in Syria, acting in tandem with Islamic groups that threaten Iran’s interests in Syria.
Russian and Chinese response to the attack
"We are looking into and analysing all the circumstances surrounding the specially worrisome reports of the May 3 and May 5 Israeli air strikes," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement quoted by AFP, "A further escalation of the armed conflict severely raises the risk of creating centers of tension in Lebanon as well as in Syria, and also destabilizing the still relatively stable situation in the region of the Israeli-Lebanese border," the statement said.
The Russian foreign ministry also urged the West not to politicize the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria, which officials suggest has now been carried out by both sides.
China on Monday also implicitly criticized Israel's air strikes in Syria, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu arrived in Shanghai for a visit.
"We are opposed to the use of force and believe that the sovereignty of any country should be respected," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing when asked about the raids.
She added that China urged all sides to "exercise restraint and refrain from actions that may escalate tensions".
Why did the attack take place?
There are a number of likely scenarios under which the Israelis could have used in defense of the attacks.
The New York Times quoted U.S. officials saying the strike targeted Iranian Fateh-110 missiles headed for Hezbollah. Israel is actively working to dis-arm Hezbollah.
Some experts believe that Israel wants to eliminate Iran’s closest ally in the region. Assad has had close ties with the Iranian government for many years. Syria had funneled fuel and support into Iran while an embargo was imposed on Iran. In return Syria had received weapons and military aid.
Israel may have also acted on the US’ behalf. Late last week, there were loud calls for retaliation against Syria for using chemical weapons. The Obama administration had downplayed those demands, but perhaps they gave Israel to green light to conduct the attack.
Clearly, both the US and Israel have actively sided with the Free Syria rebels against the Assad regime. The US has been arming and training the rebels while Israel has provided intelligence.
In April, several SCUD missiles from Syria landed in the Golan Heights region. Israel had threatened to respond to those attacks. However, the Assad regime had accused the rebels of firing the missiles and denied accountability.
Possible coordination with Free Syria rebels
According to Jordanian sources, the rebels initiated clashes with Syrian forces in northeast Rankous in Damascus; Daraya city in the Damascus countryside; and also in the villages of Homms, al-Alqamieh, Tunaibeh and Menneg in the Aleppo countryside, immediately following the Israeli raids. It appears that the rebels had coordinated the attacks against the Assad regime with Israel.
“Almost the moment the Israel Air Force departed was the moment the rebel advance began,” added an Egyptian intelligence source.
Israel, however, denies any coordination or support for the rebels.
Aftermath of the raid
The battle lines are more clearly defined after the raid. Israel, Turkey, US and the Gulf States are backing the Free Syria rebels while Iran, Russia and China are backing the Assad regime.
Syria was one of the countries targeted by the Islamists during the Arab spring when the governments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Ivory Coast were overthrown. Syria failed to fall because of the heavy support from Russia and Iran. The Assad regime fought the Islamic insurgents back and was able to retain control in major portions of the country. The Israeli raid allowed the rebels to continue in their advance after fighting to a stalemate.
I doubt that Russia will sit idly by while Syria is over run.
Turkey is also a key player in the Syrian civil war. Turkey is home to at least three military training bases for the Syrian rebels. In October 2012 Turkey and Syria had traded across-the-board mortar fire, putting Turkey on a war readiness. The conflicts with Syria go back many years and covers conflict over water rights, damming the Euphrates River, control of the Kurdish regions, Turkish abuse of Syrian refugees, trade conflicts, influence in the newly established Morsi Regime in Egypt, etc. Erdogan may want greater regional control and influence and views Assad as an opponent to greater control. Regardless of the cause of conflict, Turkey is perhaps the most active enemy of the Assad regime.
I fear that the Israeli raid did little more than putting the Middle East onto a path for more war that will pull larger nations into the conflict.
Britain's sterling was the reserve currency for most of the world for nearly 200 years... for most of the 18th and 19th centuries.
It continued to play this role until after World War II, when America was forced to prop up Britain's economy with foreign aid. The Marshall Plan spent billions to help European countries rebuild.
Unfortunately, after WWII Britain pursued poor fiscal policy. In an effort to repay war debts, the government nationalized all of the major industries and began a wealth redistribution program. Pretty soon the country was flat broke.
The final straw for Britain came in 1967, in a point of desperation the Labour Party decided to "devalue" the British currency by 14%, overnight. They believed this would make it easier for people to afford their debts.
In reality, what it did was make anyone holding British sterling 14% poorer, overnight, and it made everything in Britain much more expensive in the coming years.
And for the country as a whole, it ushered in an economic collapse.
Britain experienced the "Winter of Discontent" in the late 1970s, when the government put a freeze on wages. There were continuous strikes in nearly every sector... grave diggers, trash collectors... even hospital workers. Things got so bad at one point that many hospitals were reduced to accepting only emergency patients. And mothers giving birth had to bring their own linens.
In 1975, inflation in Britain skyrocketed to 26.9%.
The government also imposed what was known as the "Three Day Week" in 1974. In short, businesses were limited to using electricity for only three specified consecutive days' each week and they were prohibited from working longer hours on those days. The government passed measure to restrict pay increases to below 5%, and set some price controls. This was done to control the rate of inflation.
Television companies were required to cease broadcasting at 10:30pm... to save electricity.
And the world began to move away from the pound as the world’s reserve currency when nations became uneasy about the stability of England’s currency.
The value as the reserve currency is important. If Spain wants to buy oil from Yemen, it needs to convert its money to the reserve currency to make the payment for the oil.
The US dollar has been devalued by 10% since 2010. The faith in the dollar, as a stable currency, is beginning to wane; especially for nations with net exports, such as China, India and the Middle East.
If China receives dollars in exchange for a shipment of Ipads, the value of the dollars is less than the value of the Ipads at the end of the transaction.
As a result, there is a "run" away from the dollar. Many of our creditors, like China, India and Japan, are getting out of the dollar via strategic commodities, like copper, gold, and oil. That's partly why commodity prices are increasing. However, the run away from the dollar would be much more profound if there was another stable currency to run towards. Fortunately for the US, the Euro is experiencing more issues than the dollar.
There is a segment of investors in the finance industry who believe that the decline as the reserve currency could have a significant impact on the economy.
As investment banker and author James Rickards writes in his new book Currency Wars: "If the currency collapses, everything else goes with it... stocks, bonds, commodities, derivatives and other investments are all priced in a nation's currency. If you destroy the currency, you destroy all markets and the nation."
Barron's reported... "The demand for dollars from the rest of the world has been of inestimable benefit to the U.S. economy. It quite simply allows Americans to consume more than they produce and save less than they invest; in other words, to live beyond our means."
Sam Zell, the 60th richest man in America according to Forbes Magazine, said in an interview with CNBC: "My single biggest financial concern is the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency. I can't imagine anything more disastrous to our country. I'm hoping against hope that ain't gonna happen, but you're already seeing things in the markets that are suggesting that confidence in the dollar is waning. I think you could see a 25% reduction in the standard of living in this country if the U.S. dollar was no longer the world's reserve currency. That's how valuable it is."
Bill Gross, founder, managing director and co-CIO of PIMCO wrote recently:
"The future price tag of printing six trillion dollars worth of checks comes in the form of inflation and devaluation of currencies..."
And George Melloan of the Wall Street Journal echoed these sentiments when he said:
"Indeed, it is unlikely that Americans themselves will escape the inflationary consequences of current Fed policy.... The Fed is financing a vast and rising federal deficit, following a practice that has been a surefire prescription for domestic inflation from time immemorial."
The latest sign of a move away from the dollar as a reserve currency is that China and South Korea recently came to an agreement that allows firms to settle deals in either the Chinese yuan or the South Korea won (KRW) instead of the U.S. dollar. "The agreement is part of a push among emerging countries to internationalize local currencies after the global financial crisis," reports Bloomberg.
Zha Xiaogang, a researcher at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, recently said:
"The shortcomings of the current international monetary system pose a big threat to China's economy."
China appears to be phasing out the U.S. dollar because of its frustration with the U.S. government's mismanagement of our currency.
Alan Wheatley, a global economics correspondent for Reuters recently wrote:
"Fed up with what it sees as Washington's malign neglect of the dollar, China is busily promoting the cross-border use of its own currency, the yuan.
"Displacing the dollar, Beijing says, will reduce volatility in oil and commodity prices and belatedly erode the ‘exorbitant privilege' the United States enjoys as the issuer of the reserve currency at the heart of a post-war international financial architecture it now sees as hopelessly outmoded. In fact, in the past couple years, China has signed international currency agreements with Germany, Brazil, Russia, Australia, Japan, Chile, the United Arab Emirates, India and South Africa."
China and Russia took one of their first big steps to replace the U.S. dollar back in 2010.
China Daily reported...
"The two countries were accustomed to using other currencies, especially the dollar, for bilateral trade. Since the financial crisis, however, high-ranking officials on both sides began to explore other possibilities."
To settle their ordinary trading of about $50 billion per year, they no longer first convert to U.S. dollars.
Japan and India also recently signed a currency deal linking their currencies closer together, and lessening their dependency on U.S. dollars.
These agreements are part of a trend that started a few years ago, when a group of the world's most powerful countries, including the Gulf States, China, Japan, Russia, and France, got together for a meeting – WITHOUT the United States being present at the meeting.
Veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk reported on this event in Britain's newspaper, The Independent. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/06/arab-states-have-launched_n_310826.html
"In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealing for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese Yen, Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar."
Fisk also interviewed a Chinese banker who said:
"These plans will change the face of international financial transactions. America... must be very worried. You will know how worried by the thunder of denials this news will generate."
This is why big U.S. companies like McDonald's and Caterpillar have begun using what are called "dim-sum bonds" when buying and selling to the Chinese. These are securities denominated in the Chinese currency (the renminbi) by non-Chinese borrowers.
In 2010 about 67% of all global transactions used the US dollar as the reserve currency. By 2020, the projection is that about 50% of global transactions will use the US dollar as the reserve currency. What does this mean for the US?
Bill Gross was quoted by Bloomberg, saying: "We've told all of our clients that if you only had one idea, one investment, it would be to buy an investment in a non-dollar currency. That should be on top of the list."
Jim Rogers, investor, writes: "The dollar is not just in decline; it's a mess. If something isn't done soon, I believe the dollar could lose its status as the world's reserve currency and medium of exchange, something that would lead to a huge decline in the standard of living for U.S. citizens like nothing we've seen in nearly a century."
In every instance, throughout history, where a government has tried to inflate its debts away, it has ended in disaster.
This is why World Bank president, Robert B. Zoellick, in a speech at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, recently said: "The United States would be mistaken to take for granted the dollar's place as the world's predominant reserve currency. Looking forward, there will increasingly be other options to the dollar."
And this is why the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently published a paper calling for a new global world currency.
The IMF, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the intergovernmental organization that oversees the global financial system and has created a currency called "Special Drawing Rights," or SDRs. SDRs represent potential claims on the currencies of IMF members.
SDRs can be converted into any currency, based on a weighted basket of international currencies. When the IMF lends money, it typically does so via SDRs. Until recently, the SDRs were rarely used a medium of exchange, but it has started to gain steam, especially with the creation of SDR-denominated bonds, which could reduce central banks' dependence on U.S. Treasury Bonds.
The Fund also suggested that certain commodities, such as oil and gold, which are traded in U.S. dollars, could be priced using SDRs.
It’s hard to predict the outcome for the US currency. Some nations are strongly pushing for a new reserve currency while others are content to stay with the dollar. Further, it is increasingly more difficult to determine the effect of the decline of the dollar as the world reserve.
When England lost its status as the reserve currency it was a very rapid decline and the transition to the dollar (away from the pound) was universal. The best guess is that the decline of the dollar will be gradual and it will not be universal; there will be a gradual let-down but will not fade to zero.
England has had little in terms of good economic conditions since losing the reserve currency. The government is subsisting on an austerity budget. If the US loses its status as the reserve currency it will mean an end to the quantitative easing and austerity measures may be imposed.
Dzhokhar is currently on the run from police after a shoot-out last night that killed his brother, Tamerlan.
Dzhokhar is a 19-year-old reportedly from Kyrgyzstan who has been living, for the past year, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
He was the recipient of a $2500 scholarship from Cambridge for high academic achievement in 2011.
There is not much known about Dzhokhar, until his Facebook account is accessed. In his Facebook account he describes himself as a follower of Islam and a Chechen.
His brother, Tamerlan’s Facebook account, provides more insight. Tamerlan felt lonely and as an outsider in Boston; "I don't have a single American friend, I don't understand them," he writes.
Tamerlan had also posted videos dedicated to the prophecy of the Black Banners of Khurasan. The prophecy states that an invincible army will come from the region of "Khurasan."
I am filled with pity for these two brothers. I hurt for them. I think that my hurt stems from the fact that I have kids their ages. My kids and their friends are idealistic, energetic, hopeful, inquisitive, and have a strong sense of fairness. And those are the characteristics of well-adjusted, emotionally healthy kids. These brothers had to believe many, many lies to deprive them of emotional health; lies about their faith, lies about others, lies about themselves, lies about life, liberty and happiness, etc.
- They believed the lie that death and violence is a solution to their plight
- They felt lonely and outcast; and they may have believed the lie that it would always remain that way.
- The high level of anger, rage and hate they needed to commit this act of terror must have overwhelmed any sense of compassion or rational thought. They believed the lie that they had to give in to hate and rage.
- Probably used as a pawn by hateful groups encourage the destructive behavior. (The 19 year old kids I know are eager to get started in life with career, family, adventure) They may have believed the lie that these hateful groups wanted the best for them.
If only they had known the peace and joy that comes from forgiveness and love, things could have been much different.
The events in Boston yesterday were horrible, disgusting and tragic. I was sickened at the sites and sounds of the explosions. But I remained glued to news coverage following the Boston bombing.
I find it completely unfathomable that someone would want to increase the amount of suffering in a suffering filled world.
Most of the news coverage would not venture into speculation on who had committed the atrocity and why it was done. The news, in large part, remained focused on the human suffering in the aftermath of the explosion. The speculation will undoubtedly start soon.
Some liberal news sites appeared eager to blame conservatives:
Charles P Pierce, Esquire Magazine, wrote: “ BOSTON — This is just breaking, but at least two explosions occurred in downtown Boston near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Several people were injured and two have been reported dead. There are reports of people missing limbs. Obviously, nobody knows anything yet, but I would caution folks jumping to conclusions about foreign terrorism to remember that this is the official Patriots Day holiday in Massachusetts, celebrating the Battles at Lexington and Concord, and that the actual date (April 19) was of some significance to, among other people, Tim McVeigh.”
CNN national-security analyst Peter Bergen was questioned by reporter Jake Tapper about the explosions, and he said some of the information will become clear when police reveal what kind of explosive was used. But to Bergen this bombing reminded him of Oklahoma City and would not be surprised if a “right-wing extremist” was involved.
David Axelrod doesn't think that it is a coincidence that it happened on April 15th, 'Tax Day'.
A few conservative commentators; including Joseph Farah said that if he were a betting man, the odds would have to be in favor of some connection to Islamic extremism.
One person commented to me: “This type of explosive is completely banned; the gathering of material used in an explosive is banned, the building of this explosive is banned, the possession of this explosive is banned, the usage of this explosive is banned. How is it possible that there are still explosives?” This is, of course, a commentary on human nature; bad people do bad things regardless of the laws. All of the laws in the world have no effect on someone with evil intent.
It appears that there were more bombs that were planted, only 2 went off. The bombs were crude and it has the appearance of being a single person; perhaps with a mental illness. A significant element in this type of destructive events is the copycat of prior tragedies. Just as the Newtown shooter, Lanza, wanted to copy the Norway shooter, there is some probability that someone wanted to create havoc to get into the news and recognition; similar to Adam Lanza.
I don't think that it is an act of foreign terrorism because only an 'insider' would have the intimate knowledge of the Boston Marathon. Example, the finish line is most crowded at the 4 hour mark. Of course, it is possible that the Saudi National, who is under surveillance, was in Boston long enough to gather the needed details.
Dmitry Orlov, a Russian immigrant, moved to the Boston area just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In 2011, Dmitry wrote the book, ‘Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects’, detailing his experiences in the Soviet Union and the parallels to the US experience.
I have highlighted a few notes from his lecture series and book.
Orlov's analysis, gained through personally experiencing the Soviet collapse, shows us that this collapse was more a factor of economic problems caused by a crash in oil revenues than by the Regan/Brezhnev arms race that was credited by so many westerners for fomenting this collapse. When the oil-glut of the 1980's caused the price of oil to fall radically, the Soviet income from their inefficient state run petroleum industries crashed (it basically cost them about as much to pump and refine their oil as the export price per barrel), and the result was a cash flow crunch that could not sustain the rest of their state-run economy.
The US faces the same conditions that the Soviet Union had faced prior to their collapse.
· Out of control government spending
· Rising unemployment
· Devaluation of the currency
· Reduction of goods produced
· Reduction in demand for domestically produced goods
· Civil unrest
· A society that demands more and more handouts from government
· Imbalance in Import/export
· Unsustainable debt
· Fabric of human decency unraveling
· Polarization between groups of people (finding the scapegoat for the troubles)
· Corrupt political system, incapable of reform
· Delusions of grandeur which prevents a realistic discussion of facts
By the end of the Soviet Union the delusion of grandeur kind of wore thin. Everybody knew that the problems weren’t just cosmetic. It wasn’t just a rough patch. You know, it wasn’t something that, “Oh, we’ll just get over by trying the same thing a little bit harder.”
People realized that what they had been trying for the past 70 years basically didn’t work.
But in the United States, people are, most people are very far from realizing that what they’ve been doing basically doesn’t work and will probably be devastating. So there isn’t really that realization at all.
A national collapse has multiple aspects to it. In 2007 we had witnessed a burst in the housing bubble and it affected the stock markets, but politically, socially and culturally the effect was not major. In the coming collapse all phases of life will be dramatically affected; financial, commercial, political, social and cultural; as happened in the USSR.
In the Soviet Union, there was an instantaneous ‘snap’ and everyone knew that the party was over. The most compelling example of lots of minds suddenly going "snap" is, to my mind, happened with Boris Yeltsin standing atop a tank, and being asked the question: "But what will become of the Soviet Union?" And his answer, pronounced with maximum gravitas was: "Henceforth I shall only refer to it as the FORMER Soviet Union." And that was that. After that, whoever still believed in the Soviet Union appeared as not just foolish, but actually crazy. For a while, there were a lot of crazy old people parading around with portraits of Lenin and Stalin. Their minds were too old to go "snap".
A list of comparisons and contrasts between the US and USSR are shown below to show the conditions in society.
Family and civic life
In the Soviet Union two and three generations of a family lived in government supplied housing free of rent. The family unit relied on itself for survival. Money only had a token value even before the collapse. The standard of value or barter was vodka. The families were close-knit, not terribly happy, but each member had to meet their expectation to fulfill the needs of the family. The family has a plot of land on which they grew enough for themselves and enough to barter. The family also lived near public transportation and had access nearby businesses or other family members.
After the collapse, not much had really changed in the civic life and family life in the Soviet Union; just the rations became smaller.
The US consists of isolated individuals. Example, a family in Pennsylvania has 2 children; these children go to college and then one gets a job in Florida and the other gets a job in Texas. The family, then, communicates by skype. The family and its members are solely reliant on their jobs for income; ie food, shelter, transportation, etc.
After the collapse the US family will be isolated from each other and helpless; but with a sense of entitlement. It has nothing to barter with and incapable for supplying its own needs. Further, the housing will be repossessed, producing a flood of refugees. The result is that people will be isolated in a sea of strangers, with nothing. Families do not grow their own food and without oil and money food can’t get from the growers to the consumers.
There’s this iron triangle of House-Car-Job, and the entire landscape is structured so you have to have all three or your life falls apart. People have to be creative in escaping from that constraint.
The US and Soviet Union are vastly different in their approach to energy.
In the Soviet Union there was a surplus of oil with the government being funded by exports to Europe and Asia. The government controlled the creation and distribution of the oil exports and could centrally plan it for maximum returns.
During the collapse, the government instituted price controls and mandated a significant amount of supply for the businesses and citizens; ensuring survivability. Rationing and shortages were common, but it was dealt with.
The US imports 65% of its oil and doesn’t tap the reserves. The companies that drill for the oil and distribute the oil always sell to the highest bidder.
During the collapse, the US companies and citizens will not be able to bid for the oil because they will not be able to compete with China, Japan or Europe for the oil. As a result, only pockets of the US will have access to energy.
The Soviet education system was generally quite excellent. It produced an overwhelmingly literate population and many great specialists. The education was free at all levels, but higher education sometimes paid a stipend, and often provided room and board. The educational system held together quite well after the economy collapsed because it was small, efficient and self-sustaining. Universities sold their ideas and labor to private businesses. They also maintained farms and livestock, tended by the students. The problem was that the graduates had no jobs to look forward to upon graduation. Many of them lost their way.
The higher education system in the United States is good at many things – government and industrial research, team sports, vocational training… Primary and secondary education fails to achieve in 12 years what Soviet schools generally achieved in 8. But the institutions are not sustainable or economically feasible. The massive scale and expense of maintaining these institutions is likely to prove too much for the post-collapse environment. (Actually, the education system was not sustainable even in a good economy; it was just that the debt was covered over by a big credit card.) Illiteracy is already a problem in the United States, and we should expect it to get a lot worse.
This, of course, is all the more reason to remove one's children from state and state-supported education. Alternatives such as homeschooling and distributed/community-supported schooling can all continue in a collapse situation.
The US does not have an actual free market, but what it does have (a foul hybrid of state-controlled/state-influenced markets and free markets) has indeed failed during times of severe shortage. This lends further weight to the benefit of creating, supporting, and engaging in voluntary exchange and cooperation outside of state/corporate control.
This is not to say that there will not still be shortages, but relying upon the state and its corporate bedfellows to manage them is not a viable option.
It’s important to understand that the Soviet Union achieved collapse-preparedness inadvertently, and not because of the success of some crash program. Economic collapse has a way of turning economic negatives into positives. The last thing we want is a perfectly functioning, growing, prosperous economy that suddenly collapses one day, and leaves everybody in the lurch. All storms are advertised beforehand with the darkening clouds. No storm ever struck on a clear day without a moments warning.
It is not necessary for us to embrace the tenets of command economy and central planning to match the Soviet lackluster performance in this area. We have our own methods, that are working almost as well. I call them “boondoggles.” They are solutions to problems that cause more problems than they solve.
Just look around you, and you will see boondoggles sprouting up everywhere, in every field of endeavor: we have military boondoggles like Iraq and Afghanistan, financial boondoggles like the doomed retirement system, medicare and welfare, medical boondoggles like Obamacare, legal boondoggles like the intellectual property system. The combined weight of all these boondoggles is slowly but surely pushing us all down. If it pushes us down far enough, then economic collapse, when it arrives, will be like falling out of a ground floor window. We just have to help this process along, or at least not interfere with it. So if somebody comes to you and says “I want to make a boondoggle that runs on hydrogen” – by all means encourage him! It’s not as good as a boondoggle that burns money directly, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Advice from personal experience
Certain types of mainstream economic behavior are not prudent on a personal level, and are also counterproductive to bridging the Collapse Gap. Any behavior that might result in continued economic growth and prosperity is counterproductive: the higher you jump, the harder you land. It is traumatic to go from having a big retirement fund to having no retirement fund because of a market crash. It is also traumatic to go from a high income to little or no income. If, on top of that, you have kept yourself incredibly busy, and suddenly have nothing to do, then you will really be in rough shape.
Economic collapse is about the worst possible time for someone to suffer a nervous breakdown, yet this is what often happens. The people who are most at risk psychologically are successful middle-aged men. When their career is suddenly over, their savings are gone, and their property worthless, much of their sense of self-worth is gone as well. They tend to drink themselves to death and commit suicide in disproportionate numbers. Since they tend to be the most experienced and capable people, this is a staggering loss to society.
If the economy, and your place within it, is really important to you, you will be really hurt when it goes away. You can cultivate an attitude of studied indifference, but it has to be more than just a conceit. You have to develop the lifestyle and the habits and the physical stamina to back it up. It takes a lot of creativity and effort to put together a fulfilling existence on the margins of society. After the collapse, these margins may turn out to be some of the best places to live.
Dmitry Orlov responded to the label of ‘cynic’ and ‘fear-monger’ by a member of the audience at the Heartland Institute in Chicago.
Some say, “The Soviets had little chance to make democratic institutions work.” That’s not entirely true. Perestroika and Glasnost were all about democracy, and in my opinion it had the same chance of success as the hopelessly gerrymandered system that passes for democracy in the US, (although much less than any proper, modern democracy, in which the Obama regime would have been put out of power quite a while ago, after a simple parliamentary vote of no confidence and early elections). The problem is that, in a collapse scenario, democracy is the least effective system of government one can possibly think of (think Weimar, or the Russian Interim Government) – a topic I cover in Post-Soviet Lessons.
Lastly, I don’t think calling me a cynic or fear-monger is exactly accurate: I’ve been in the US a long time, watching the system become progressively more dysfunctional with each passing political season. It seems to me that it is not necessarily cynical to be able to spot a solid trend, but that it could be simply observant.
In spite of all this, I believe that in every age and circumstance, people can sometimes find not just a means and a reason to survive, but enlightenment, fulfillment, and freedom. If we can find them even after the economy collapses, then why not start looking for them now?
Some other advice that Orlov provided in the post presentation questions is that all 401k savings should be liquidated. Use the money to pay down debt, buy land and buy gold. “There is nothing good in store for your 401k. It will either dwindle down to nothing as the market collapses, hyper-inflation will render it valueless or it will be confiscated by the government as seen in Argentina, Spain, Portugal and England in the 1960’s.
The US is extremely polarized. The Feds and Patriot groups are positioning themselves for greater conflict. In order to find the root of the dissatisfaction with the Federal government, I had interviewed a number of ‘Tea Party’ advocates and read articles by the Patriot groups.
From everything that I have heard and read, the impending clash of force stems from a conflict of ideology. On one side of the conflict is Obama and liberal Democrats who want to fundamentally transform America into a modern more European style economic and political model. On the other side of the conflict are traditionalists who want to adhere to the original intent of the Constitution.
Leading the charge to maintain the original intent is Stewart Rhodes, a Yale Law school graduate and former congressional staffer of Ron Paul. He is leading a group known as ‘Oath Keepers’. The spokespeople for a few of the Patriot groups include Pat Buchanan, Ted Nugent, Mychal Massie, Alex Jones, Laura Ingraham, Allen West, Ron Paul, etc. The membership of the various Patriot groups exceeds 2 million, according to some estimates.
In 2010 nine members of a militia group, Hutaree, were arrested as a ‘preventative measure’.
"They talked about doing a covert reconnaissance exercise," said Barbara McQuade, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Michigan, in an interview with CNN's Drew Griffin.
Eric Holder was aware of who these people were and what they were planning because of the informants that were placed in the group by the Justice department. The facility in which the group met was wire tapped and the activity was closely monitored.
The group was charged with possession of weapons and conspiracy to use the weapons. The group had gathered materials necessary to manufacture IEDs, the indictment alleges.
Nine members were charged with seditious conspiracy, teaching the use of explosive materials and possessing unregistered and illegal weapons.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Hutaree as a "Patriot" group militia and is categorized under the heading of a hate group or fringe organization.
"Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the 'New World Order,' engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing or advocate or adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines," the Law Center said in a report, "Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism."
The Law Center also defines Patriot groups as "militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to remove personal liberties from liberty-loving Americans."
Instead of seeing the Patriot groups fade as a result of this high profile arrest, the opposite has happened. The arrest seemed to anger and justify the activities of the Patriot groups; causing new groups to pop up replacing the one that was lost.
Ideas in conflict:
States rights: The idea is that the federal government should be weak and that the states should determine their own fate and laws. The Oath Keepers believe that the Constitution outlines a Federal government that sets the currency, conducts foreign affairs, interstate commerce and defends the country against enemies (both foreign and domestic). The charter for the Federal government also includes policing the border, conducting a census, creates treaties, etc. But in effect, the policies of the federal government should be of no consequence to the average citizen.
The states on the other hand, have the authority to set their own policies governing day to day affairs of the citizens. The states will develop a competitive environment for citizens and businesses.
By allowing individual states a wide berth of operating conditions, the entire span of ideology will be covered. If an individual prefers safety over personal liberty that individual can find a state that caters to that preference. Some states could focus on the environment while others could focus on manufacturing and industry.
The United States is structured as a loose confederation of states. The states yield minimal rights to the federal government, but the federal government is the ultimate arbiter in disputes between states.
Taxation: The Oath Keepers believe that the Federal government does not have the right to impose an income tax. That right is reserved for the states. It was Franklin Roosevelt who had usurped that authority by stacking the Supreme Court with justices who were sympathetic to the strong Federal government.
Second amendment: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” According to the Oath Keepers, ‘not be infringed’ means precisely that no laws can be created to curb, limit or infringe on the ability of an American citizen to own any weapon that they wish to own. In fact, they believe that taxing the weapon or ammunition is unconstitutional because the tax infringes on the citizen’s ability to own or use the weapon.
The second amendment has nothing to do with hunting; the amendment is designed to make the state and federal governments fearful of its citizens. The citizens should have all of the power in the country.
Public education, public healthcare: The federal government was not given the charter to establish public education, public healthcare or public anything. The states are permitted to set these up, but it is not required.
Gold Standard and the Federal Reserve: The constitution does not allow for fiat money or a Federal reserve. The monetary supply was of keen interest to the founding fathers. President Andrew Jackson reiterated the need for a control on the currency and a currency that is backed with assets.
President Wilson created the Federal Reserve after passing the Federal Reserve Act, but only after creating a panic to ensure its passage.
Capitalism: The Oath Keepers believe that unfettered capitalism will cure its own ills. Of course, most of the self-regulation will take a longer period of time. If a food manufacturer uses substandard ingredients in its product, its competitors will make it known to the consumer. They also believe a private agency will arise (similar to the UL or Consumer Report) that will provide the consumer confidence in a product.
The Federal government should not own businesses or ‘for profit’ enterprises, nor should it own tools of manufacturing.
Charity: Government spending on social programs is not charity. It is a re-distribution of wealth. To take from one person by force to give to another is extortion. Non-profit organizations and churches should care for the poor and disabled by providing schools, hospitals, shelter and food. In exchange for service to the poor, the non-profits pay no income taxes, properties taxes and are not subject to the regulations of the ‘for-profit’ organizations.
Citizens should never look to government as a provider; only as an arbiter and enforcer.
Global Governance: The groups will not answer or pay taxes to anyone or anything outside of the US. This includes the United Nations, Cap and Trade or any other mechanism that extracts money from the US citizens for causes outside of the US.
Slippery slope: For decade the backers of the constitution and Patriot groups have begrudgingly relented as the constitution was dismantled. The dismantling began under the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson, but took an enormous step forward during the Roosevelt administration.
Most groups are open to changes to the constitution. If changes are desired, the originator of the change should state the purpose of the change, the final objective of the change and the problem that it hopes to solve. A national debate should be held and it should be ratified of 2/3 of the states. But this process was not followed during the creation of the Federal Reserve, Social Security administration, the IRS, and any number of unconstitutional governmental entities.
Prior to the Obama administration, most presidents have nibbled away at the edges of the constitution. But Obama appears to be determined to wipe away the remaining vestiges. Beyond the trampling of the constitution, Obama is willing to identify the Patriot groups as terrorists. He is actively working to undermine the groups by putting informants into the groups and de-legitimizing the groups. The perception is that Obama is using outside organizations to label the Patriot groups as ‘crazy, paranoid, black-helicopter Neanderthals’. Obama and Holder appear to go out of their way to antagonize the Patriot groups, as if they are looking for a fight.
Obama, to these groups, represents an ideology that is more socialist than the Republic as established by the constitution.
Now, Patriot groups have put a stake into the ground and said ‘no further’. They have taken an oath to support the constitution; not the Federal government.
In the clash of ideology, many groups have been pulled into the fray. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is perhaps the main supporter of Obama and the transformation of America. In the (SPLC) 2009 report The Second Wave: Return of the Militias, Larry Keller, wrote that the Oath Keepers "may be a particularly worrisome example of the Patriot revival." Stewart Rhodes responded to this book and claim that there is nothing to worry about if only the US would return to its original intent and charter.
The US Federal government needs to divest itself of power; giving it back to the states and to the people.
The Federal government has sensed the showdown and is actively working to get the upper hand in the conflict; it is banning weapons, even semi-automatic weapons, it is buying up all ammunition, making it difficult to find bullets, it refuses to make drones off limits to US citizens on US soil, etc. But mostly, the federal government is demonizing law abiding US citizens who want to maintain the original intent of the constitution. One person claimed, “I wouldn’t be demonized if the Feds were content to allow me to exercise my constitutional rights.” Another comment was, “I am tired of being mocked and ridiculed by my government and media for holding true to our founding documents. Those documents should still our guiding principles.”
Can a compromise between the Feds and the Patriot groups be achieved? I doubt it, especially since the Feds are not interested in compromise.
My perspective is that I am highly cynical of our government. I don’t believe that the federal government is acting in my best interest nor is it living up to its charter. I am completely dis-heartened to see how far decay and corruption has seeped into our society and government. With this degree of decay, it is bound to fail soon. But I will not conspire or take up weapons against the government.
I have been exhorted to be part of a group, because “sooner or later the government will come after you because of your beliefs”. My response is that I aware that Obama and Holder do not share my beliefs and might erode my personal liberties even further, but I will not defend myself physically from the government.
I am the eternal optimist and I will continue to hope that our condition improves, despite evidence to the contrary.
Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez died March 4th at 4:25 p.m. at a military hospital in Caracas, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on state television. Hugo Chávez died at the age of 58 after struggling with cancer for 2 years.
The media response to his death provides very different accounts of his life and legacy. On one hand, Cristina Kirchner gave Chávez a eulogy that compared him favorably to God. At the opposite end are many Venezuelan dissidents and refugees in the Miami area who claim that Chávez was the devil. Can both accounts of Chávez be accurate?
What type of legacy does Chávez leave in Venezuela and the world?
1. Was Chavez a dictator?
Publications from around the world, including the London Telegraph, New York Times, Huffington Post, etc, all asked the same question in the lead story on Chávez; “Was Chávez a dictator?” The answer is complex. He certainly had qualities that pointed towards him being a dictator, but he also allowed some dissention and opposition. Nor did he get to change the Constitution to his liking.
Chavez did not seem to mind good stiff opposition. In fact, he relished it. He needed an opponent to attack and vilify, however, he did stack the deck. In his presidential campaign in 2012, his campaign consumed 9.5 hours per day of programming on the public TV stations, while his opponent was allowed only 3 minutes. Chávez also uses the national chain of grocery stores, gas stations, schools, medical facilities as campaign tools. His picture is plastered everywhere to let the people know who was providing for their needs. On 7 October 2012, Chávez won election as president for a fourth time by defeating Henrique Capriles with 54% of the votes. Henrique ran a spirited campaign, but in the end Chávez had the full weight of the media and treasury behind him; far too much for Henrique to overcome.
In the 2006 Presidential campaign, one TV station gave his opponent more than 3 minutes of air time in one day and their license was revoked. As a result the media is very conscience of Chávez’s demands. Once a media outlet license is revoked, there is no recourse. All of judges are sympathetic to Chávez and no lawyer will take up the cause that they are bound to lose. Chavez and his National Assembly had the power to appoint and remove judges; a power that was often used.
Chávez had full control of the courts, economy, health care system, monetary supply, media, education, military and oil exports. He did not tolerate much diversity of opinion. There was no balance to his authority and no checks to his power. But Chavez was benevolent and tried self-restraint in some areas.
New York Times contributor Rory Carroll in his obituary of Chavez provides the best answer to the question:
The endless debate about whether Mr. Chávez was a dictator or democrat — he was in fact a hybrid, an elected autocrat — distracted attention, at home and abroad, from the more prosaic issue of competence. Mr. Chávez was a brilliant politician and a disastrous ruler. He leaves Venezuela a ruin, and his death plunges its roughly 30 million citizens into profound uncertainty.
Underinvestment and ineptitude hit hydropower stations and the electricity grid, causing weekly blackouts that continue to darken cities, fry electrical equipment, silence machinery and require de facto rationing. The government has no shortage of scapegoats: its own workers, the C.I.A. and even cable-gnawing possums.
Reckless money printing and fiscal policies triggered soaring inflation, so much so that the currency, the bolívar, lost 90 percent of its value since Mr. Chávez took office, and was devalued five times over a decade. In another delusion, the currency had been renamed “el bolívar fuerte,” the strong bolívar — an Orwellian touch.
His elections were not fair — Mr. Chávez rigged rules in his favor, hijacked state resources, disqualified some opponents, emasculated others — but they were free.
The comandante, as he was known to loyalists, used his extraordinary energy and charisma to dominate airwaves with marathon speeches (four hours was short). He might blow kisses, mobilize troops, denounce the United States, ride a bike, a tank, a helicopter — anything to keep attention focused on him, not his performance.
2. Champion of the poor
As part of his strategy of food security Chávez started a national chain of supermarkets, the Mercal network, which had 16,600 outlets and 85,000 employees that distributed food at highly discounted prices, and ran 6000 soup kitchens throughout the country.
The worker-owned Mercal Network acted as a substitute for corporations, which he relentlessly propped up with government funding. The grocery stores would deliberately sell food below market value so as to run capitalist alternatives out of business.
In 2010, Chávez supported the construction of 184 communes, housing thousands of families, with $23 million in government funding.
Chávez built schools and hospitals (Barrio Adentro, a chain of medical facilities) around the country. Inaugurated nationwide in 2003, Barrio Adentro initially was so popular with the poor that it helped Chavez win a crucial 2004 referendum and hold on to power. It has brought basic healthcare to the barrios, providing free exams and medicine as well as eye operations that have saved the sight of thousands.
But the system siphons resources and equipment away from the poorest public hospitals, which have four-fifths of the nation’s 45,000 hospital beds and where the public still goes for emergency and maternity care, as well as for most major and elective surgeries.
The finances and organization of Barrio Adentro are “a black box and not transparent, so it’s impossible to analyze it for efficiency,” said Dr. Marino Gonzalez, professor of public policy at Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, the capital.
The specialist kidney unit at El Algodonal hospital in a suburb of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, is completely empty. There are no patients, no staff…just nothing.
Despite boasting four dialysis machines, doctors here have been turning patients away since the hospital’s water treatment plant broke down. Without running water the hospital was forced to shut down.
As President Hugo Chávez was shuttled back and forth to Cuba for cancer treatment, the spotlight has been on health services in Venezuela.
Crumbling public hospitals are struggling to treat patients who often face long waits.
Doctors and nurses have held strikes to draw attention to their working conditions and the lack of basic supplies.
Chávez had built the hospitals but did not provide infrastructure to feed the hospitals with electricity, sanitation and water. Many hospitals became monuments to his simplistic vision of care.
A national chain of gas station was created by the administration with the mandate to sell gasoline at $.18 per gallon.
Chavez used oil to as a ‘Good Will’ directive. He distributed low cost or free oil to Cuba and Nicaragua; also sold substantially discounted oil to London, Argentina and anywhere that poor people need help.
Teresa A. Meade, wrote that Chávez's popularity "rests squarely on the lower classes who have benefited from these health initiatives, low cost energy and similar policies poverty rates fell from 42 to 34 percent from 2000 to 2006.
Bloomberg news praised Chávez’s efforts to help the poor, “Chávez’s most enduring and positive legacy is his shattering of Venezuela’s peaceful coexistence with poverty, inequality, and social exclusion. He was not the first political leader who placed the poor at the center of the national conversation. Nor was he the first to use a spike in oil revenue to help the poor. But none of his predecessors did it so aggressively and with such a passionate sense of urgency as Chávez did. And no one was more successful in planting this priority into the nation’s psyche and even exporting it to neighboring countries and beyond. Moreover, his ability to make the poor feel that one of them was in charge has no precedent.”
3. Family, friends and allies used the presidency for personal gain
Criminal Justice International Associates (CJIA), a risk assessment and global analysis firm in Miami, estimated in a recent report that the Chávez Frías family in Venezuela has “amassed a fortune” similar to that of the Castro brothers in Cuba.
According to Jerry Brewer, president of CJIA, “the personal fortune of the Castro brothers has been estimated at a combined value of around $2 billion.”
“The Chávez Frías family in Venezuela has amassed a great fortune since assuming the presidency in 1999,” said Brewer in an analysis published in their website. The family has accumulated significant assets in Venezuela and in foreign holdings.
Brewer said that Cuba is receiving about $5 billion per year from the Venezuelan treasury and in oil shipments and other resources.
“We believe that groups within the Chávez administration have extracted around $100 billion out of the nearly $1 trillion in oil income made by PDVSA since 1999.”
According to the ‘Economist’, “Although Venezuela is the world’s fifth largest oil exporter and has among the world’s largest proven reserves, Chávez’s slush fund has been fraying at the corners. It is staffed by political appointees and its payroll is bloated. PDVSA’s output has declined some thirty percent between 2002 and the present. Venezuela lacks the investment and technology to develop its offshore deposits, but international energy companies have been reluctant to invest in a Chávez -run Venezuela. Under Chávez, PDVSA has invested twice as much in social programs as in its energy-related businesses.”
A typical example of fraud was seen in the nationalization of Cargill, a US based food supplier.
Cargill, which is privately owned, has been doing business since 1986 in Venezuela, where its operations include oilseed processing, grain and oilseeds trading, animal feed, salt, and financial and risk management.
It had 2,000 employees in 22 locations in Venezuela, according to its Web site. The Cargill subsidy in Venezuela was headed by Lorenzo Mendoza at the time of the nationalization effort. Chávez said, "We will expropriate all the plants of Cargill. Mr. Mendoza, be alert. Because then you will go out and order your pricey lawyers and I don't know what to say that this is a violation of the constitution. Well, fine. If you want to fight with the government, brother, there you go.”
Of course, Lorenzo Mendoza fought the nationalization efforts by Chavez in the courts, but to no avail. In the end Cargill was found guilty by the courts of violating price controls and forced to turn control of operation over to the government.
Chávez placed a family member in the leadership position of the Cargill operations. Immediately, multiple highly paid positions were given to friends and acquaintances. Within 2 years, the Cargill plants needed government subsidies to remain solvent.
4. Masterful oratory skills
His skillful rhetoric, which filled supporters with utopian dreams, was used to justify the radical change of Venezuela’s democratic institutions and the free markets towards a government/crony run banana republic.
Hugo Chávez’s folksy charm and forceful personality made him an extraordinary politician. His enviable ability to win a mass following allowed him to build a powerful political machine.
Ever the showman, Chavez would jump from theology to jokes, and from Marxist rhetoric to baseball metaphors in building an almost cult-like devotion among followers.
His "Alo Presidente" ("Hello President") program on Sundays routinely lasted eight or nine hours or more, exhausting weary cabinet ministers sitting alongside him, as well as journalists and others who were required to sit through it and appear to be engaged.
5. Did not combat corruption
In 2003, after 4 years of presidency, the economic outlook in Venezuela was bleak. The economy had shrunk by 27% over the prior year, unemployment was at 20%, inflation was running at 30% per year and food shortages were common. Chávez began to institute price controls and started the nationalization drive which resulted in the acquiring of more than 1,000 companies or their assets.
His Bolivarian regime used the ‘acquired’ assets to reward supporters and punished opponents, giving rise to enormous corruption and the creation of a new class of greedy oligarchs with political connections.
The worst aspect of the Chávez years was the soaring crime rate. Venezuela has become one of the most violent countries in the world, with nearly 20,000 murders recorded in 2011 and a homicide rate that some experts say is four times greater than in the last year before Mr. Chávez took power.
But the prisons are filled; not with violent criminals but with political offenders.
Chavez just turned a blind eye to violent crime and corruption. It seemed to be low on his priority list.
6. Foreign diplomacy
Chávez had embraced rogue regimes, while being hostile to the US. Mr. Chávez eagerly accepted Fidel Castro as his mentor, providing Cuba with cut-rate oil. He strongly aligned himself with Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia. He set up the Union of South American nations and the Bank of the South.
Chávez sided with every country that showed signs of opposition to the US; most notably Iran. Iran declared a day of national mourning on Wednesday after the death of Hugo Chávez, who shared the Islamic Republic's loathing for U.S. "imperialism".
"Hugo Chávez is a name known to all nations. His name is a reminder of cleanliness and kindness, bravery, dedication and tireless efforts to serve the people, especially the poor and those scarred by colonialism and imperialism," Ahmadinejad said.
While Chávez, make close friends with Castro and Ahmadinejad, he had made enemies with surrounding countries including Columbia, Peru and Chile.
But most of all, he had a visceral hatred for the US. Addressing the U.N. General Assembly in 2006 a day after then-U.S. President George Bush, he called Bush the "devil". "Yesterday the devil came here. Right here," Chávez said. "And it still smells of sulfur today."
Shortly after the UN speech he expelled the American ambassador to Venezuela, “Go to Hell; Yankee shit” he exclaimed on Venezuelan TV.
Chávez was not much kinder to President Obama, in 2011 he said; "You are a fraud, Obama. Go and ask many people in Africa, who might have believed in you because of the color of your skin, because your father was from Africa. You are an Afro-descendant, but you are the shame of all those people."
One political observer said that Chávez liked to use the US as the political straw dog. He told the people of Venezuela that the US was the root of all their problems; hunger, unemployment, illiteracy, poor healthcare, etc. He then attacked the US with great ferocity to demonstrate his commitment to the downtrodden; that he cared about them. But in the end, nothing really changed.
Israel was also on Chávez list of loathed countries. In a 2006 interview regarding the Palestinian plight and Israeli construction in the West Bank, he said, "Israel criticizes Hitler a lot, so do we, but they've done something very similar, even worse, than what the Nazis did."
Chavez’s mistreatment of Jews has been documented in a study by the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University. According to the study, Chavez relentlessly relied on conspiratorial fears of Jewish influence over banks, played on anti-semitism in the election against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles and even warned his people, “Don’t let yourselves be poisoned by those wandering Jews.”
England and Spain were also routine targets for Chávez; particularly Tony Blair.
7. The economist
Univision put together a devastating article titled “5 Ways Hugo Chávez Has Destroyed the Venezuelan Economy” shortly after Chávez’s death, and the list would embarrass any politician, let alone one who held power for over 10 years. In short, the article accuses Chávez of reducing the Venezuelan economy to a one trick pony dependent on oil, of crippling private business with its extensive nationalizations and other regulations, of destroying Venezuela’s currency, of allowing inflation to skyrocket, and of permitting a drastic increase in crime.
Between 2007 and 2010 alone, private investment in the Venezuelan economy dropped by 43 percent. The Venezuelan currency, the Bolivar, is down 66 percent in value since 2008. Inflation has been at a stunning 23 percent during Chávez’s reign.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) reported that the GDP of the Venezuelan economy grew on average by 11.85% in the period 2004–2007. However, the growth in GDP did not translate to a steady improvement in the standard of living; mostly because of the high inflation rates.
Price controls were a key feature of the Chávez presidency. The harshest penalties and imprisonment were reserved for both who were attempting to utilize a ‘Capitalist’ system by selling products for more money than allowed.
In December 2002 Chávez fired more than 18,000 employees of Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company, and replacing its board in response to a two-month general strike that paralyzed oil production. The strike was the culmination of many factors. The price controls, implemented by Chávez, forced management to cut the pay of its employees. Company management also did not like Chávez’s dictatorial style and resented cronies given high pay and high positions with no accountability.
But Chávez had some wins in the myriad of losses in attempting to get the economy moving.
8. Chavez and the Catholic Church
Chávez had a rocky relationship with the Cardinals and the Catholic Church. He claimed to be Catholic, wore a crucifix and spoke of Jesus and the Virgin Mary but he seemed to go out of his way to antagonize the church and church officials.
When Cardinal Ignacio Velasco died in 2003, the Venezuelan strongman declared the pro-democracy cleric was “in hell.”
“Every day we turn another cheek. I have no cheeks left because every day there is a new insult,” Velasco said of his nemesis the year before he died.
At Velasco’s wake, Chávez’s followers brandished pictures of the cardinal with devil horns and hurled stones while chanting Chavista slogans.
Carinal Velasco was succeeded in Caracas by Rosalio Castillo Lara, who was equally vilified by Chávez. Castillo Lara was once asked if he’d like to give Chavez a blessing. “More than a blessing,” the cardinal responded. “I’d give him an exorcism.”
In 2002, Chávez accused the Venezuelan bishops of being a “tumor” for his revolutionary goals and demanded that the Vatican not intervene in the internal affairs of the country.
Castillo Lara was succeeded by Cardinal Urosa in 2007. Chávez didn’t wait for the new cardinal to be installed before hurling the insults. “If Christ were still alive and physically present, I’m completely sure he’d take them out with whippings,” Chávez said of Urosa and other Church leaders.
“Now this cardinal comes out, because he has been sent here by the dirty ones, the little Yankees, to try to frighten the people by speaking of communism, that communism has arrived,” Chávez said of Urosa. “Listen, he’s a troglodyte.”
“On various occasions the president has offended me verbally, exposing me to public ridicule. I totally reject these aggressions that are unworthy of the one who carries them out,” Urosa said in an interview. “Instead of reflecting and pondering the arguments put forth and rectifying his line of conduct, he limits himself to insult and offend.”
The President’s relationship with Catholicism was a source of great debate in Venezuela, where a majority of the population identify themselves as Catholic. Some had claimed that Chávez’s religious overtones were merely a prop as part of his political campaign. Others believed that Chávez would not allow other people in Venezuela to receive reverence and praise. Cardinal Velasco was a well-liked priest and any good press about the Cardinal seemed to anger Chávez. Another thought was that Chávez was enraged over his inability to control the church and Cardinals. Chávez had almost complete control of all aspects of life in Venezuela. It was only the Catholic Church that was outside of his control or influence.
He surprised the press in April 2012 when he showed up at a Catholic church in his hometown of Barinas to attend Holy Week services. He wore a rosary around his neck and prayed for strength to fight his illness. Perhaps this was his attempt to make peace with the church.
9. Fundamentally transformed the country
Shortly after coming to office, Chávez modified the constitution, but not completely to his liking and aggressively set out to rig elections and stifle adversaries in the legislative branch and the courts. Hugo incrementally silenced the independent news media, eventually silencing most voices of opposition by bully tactics and economic intimidation.
The 2009 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders noted that "Venezuela is now among the region’s worst press freedom offenders."
Chávez was careful to steer the country towards a Cuban-style authoritarian regime. He started slow, but in his second term as president he abolished term limits and dramatically radicalized his agenda.
Chávez defended his "revolution" as a long-overdue crusade to close the gap between rich and poor in Venezuela, which combines huge oil wealth with grinding poverty and widespread unemployment.
Venezuela became extremely polarized during his tenure. Those who benefited from his politics loved him dearly, while those who lost their homes, businesses and careers to him or his henchmen, loathed him intensely. There was no middle ground regarding Chávez; either he was the messiah or he was the devil.
“There’s no doubt that Hugo Chávez transformed Venezuela,” said Robert Pastor, a former U.S. National Security Adviser for Latin America under President Jimmy Carter. “One can debate whether the policies he pursued actually helped the masses, but you cannot question the fact that the majority felt that he was a leader who cared about them.”
10. Famous quotations:
AFTER A FAILED COUP AS AN ARMY OFFICER, 1992
"For now, lamentably, the objectives we sought were not achieved. ... New situations will come and the country must definitively get on the path to a better destiny."
AS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, 1998
"Cuba is a dictatorship."
Nationalization plans? "No, absolutely nothing."
Hand over power in five years? "Of course, I am willing to give up power even earlier."
AFTER TAKING OFFICE, 1999
"I swear in front of my people, that over this moribund constitution, I will push forward the democratic transformations that are necessary."
11. Items of note:
- He led a failed coup in 1992 to overthrow the Venezuelan government. He was imprisoned for 2 years for his involvement in the coup.
- A baseball fan and amateur pitcher, he admired Nestor Isaias Chavez (no relation), a Venezuelan who pitched for the San Francisco Giants in the 1960s.
- Like Fidel Castro, he wanted to play professional ball in the U.S.
- During a 1999 visit to New York, he threw out the first pitch at a Mets game at Shea Stadium.
- He rang the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange.
- Embraces the doctrine of “Liberation Theology”.
- He claimed to be a ‘Trotskyite”.
- Loved to give long speeches, his longest was 9 hours and 42 minutes long.
Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez described the “two faces” of Hugo Chávez he had interviewed: “One to whom good luck had given the opportunity to save his nation and the other an illusionist who could go down in history as just another despot,” he wrote in the Colombian magazine Cambio.
12. My thoughts
Chávez will mostly be remembered for his anti-US rhetoric and his embrace of all things anti-American. He will be remembered as a demagogue with a silver tongue but failed to diversify a Venezuelan economy that earns 95 percent of its revenues from energy exports, curb the wasteful spending on patronage projects and public works, and avert importing most of Venezuela’s food in a country with abundant agricultural resources. Inflation has averaged over 25 percent in the last two years, and shortages of basic consumer goods are rampant.
But Chávez cared about the poor.
The most bizarre eulogy would have to go to Greg Grandin of the ‘Nation’ periodical.
Chávez cheerleader, Greg Grandin, eulogized, “Chávez was a strongman. He packed the courts, hounded the corporate media, legislated by decree and pretty much did away with any effective system of institutional checks or balances.
But I’ll be perverse and argue that the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chávez was authoritarian but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough. It wasn’t too much control that was the problem but too little.”
The link below is a pretty fair assessment of the Chavez legacy; which is a mixed bag.
The news regarding the trillion dollar F-35 program is getting worse. The fleet has been grounded following the discovery of cracks during routine inspections.
The F-35 conjures up images of bloat; extremely costly, poor performance, over weight and only kept alive through pork barrel spending.
A watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight, said the grounding is not likely to mean a significant delay in the effort to field the stealthy aircraft. “The Pentagon’s current management is hooked on the airplane and refuses to admit it is a failure,” claimed the watchdog group.
"The F-35 is a huge problem because of its growing, already unaffordable, cost and its gigantically disappointing performance," the group's Winslow Wheeler said. "That performance would be unacceptable even if the aircraft met its far-too-modest requirements, but it is not."
The turbine problem, first reported by Politico Pro, arose as the Pentagon has sought to persuade Congress to cancel the automatic cuts, which could force the military to reduce its budgets by about $500 billion over the next 10 years. The first installment of the cuts is scheduled to start on Friday, and it may force the Pentagon to delay buying three of the approximately 30 F-35 planes it had planned to order this year.
Its weight stems from the desire for this aircraft to serve in every role ever conceived by all branches of the military. About 550 lbs of extra air frame is needed to accommodate the impact of carrier landings. Extra avionics is needed for surveillance programs. The low radar signature also adds weight. The result is an aircraft with considerably lower performance levels than the F-22; the aircraft launched 10 years ago.
- F-22A carries twice as many air-to-air missiles as the F-35A
- F-22A tactically employs at nearly twice the altitude and at 50% greater airspeed than the F-35A
- Gives air-to-air missiles a 40% greater employment range and increased lethality
- Increases air-to-ground weapons employment range
- F-22A can control more than twice the battle space of the F-35A
- F-22A AESA radar has more T/R elements than F-35 radar
- F-22A in production...F-35A initial operational capability date is 2013…key in considering F-15Cs need to be replaced now
- Only the F-22 features vectored thrust, giving it twice the maneuverability of an F-35
- The F-22 can turn at twice the rate of an F-35
- The F-22 is more expensive than the original projection of the F-35 but the gap is narrowing.
The F-35 did not hit the desired performance targets. Instead of revising the aircraft, the targets were reduced.
The F-35 is only capable of a turn performance of 4.6g down from 5g, which was downgraded from the plan of a 6g plane (which is less than an F-4, Mirage IIIE, or a Mig-17).
It is also slower in acceleration tests from mach 0.8 to 1.2 than planned (it is now 43 secs, which slower than an F-4, Mirage IIIE or Mig-17)
It also has a much lower top speed than the Mirage IIIE, a plane that was retired from the RAAF in 1988, and it is also slower than the Navy’s current main aircraft the F/A-18.
An Australian pilot commented on the F-35 after a test flight, “Compared to our first supersonic fighter (the Mirage), the F-35 has less range, it is slower, it is less agile at most heights, all of which mean it has less survivability. Due to the low weapons volume it can take, the chances of it surviving a visual fight with the 4th gen fighters is pretty poor, and stealth will not save it. Currently JORN (our over the horizon radar system) can spot one of these pretty easy. JORN has a little trouble tracking it, but more than enough to narrow down an area and get fighter in visual range, pretty sure other countries will be able to do the same. More to the point; it would mean the tankers (needed to support the F-35) would also be exposed or require more assets to protect it.”
The response from Lockheed Martin is that the F-35 not an air superiority fighter, such as the F22, but rather it is a multirole aircraft. The evaluation criteria as a pure fighter (maneuverability, acceleration, top speed) are not based on the original scope of the F-35.
The F-35 is also designed to have a low radar signature. Its shape has no right angles, which reflect radar waves, and a special “fiber” coating make it difficult to detect on any enemy radar. Low heat emissions and an ability to carry armaments in an internal weapons bay instead of mounted on wings and underneath the fuselage further enhances its stealth capabilities.
A spokesman for Lockheed Martin said: "“The F-35 is a stealth aircraft and by definition it is less vulnerable than any fourth generation fighter flying today. We don’t consider this a major issue. We have demonstrated very good vulnerability performance and we continue to work this with the Joint Program Office.”
New technology doesn’t come easily or cheaply. In many occasions we will need to limp along with the new technology before running. However, at some point the determination needs to be made on whether or not the technology is mature enough to use on a mass production basis. In the case of the F-35, the technology issues are exacerbated by poor tactical decisions and implementation.
In the 2010-2011 school year there were 15 virtual charter school available to students in Wisconsin and they totaled about 4000 students in enrollment.
In June of 2011 twenty nine virtual schools were accepting students into their programs. The attendance at the virtual charter schools had jumped from 4000 in 2010 to 5250 in 2011. Enrollment cap were still in place and thousands of students remained on the waiting list. On-line groups applied political pressure to raise the cap limit. After Governor Walker removed the cap on the number of students who can use the state's open enrollment system to enroll in virtual charter schools, the enrollment increased by 40% in the 2012-2013 school year.
Some of the on-line learning organizations include:
Wisconsin virtual academy
K12 virtual academy
I Forward Charter school
JEDI Virtual school
Kettle Moraine Global charter
Within the next 3 years the number of students in an on-line K12 program is expected to double.
Hagemeister, school administrator of the Merrill — Bridges Virtual School, said the school is in the process of hiring eight more on-line teachers but was admittedly unprepared for such a large first-year enrollment because it did no marketing.
“It started with just a local program that grew, and we didn’t really anticipate the response we were going to get,” he said.
Enrollment at eAchieve increased by16 percent, but it also spent more than $400,000 on marketing its new name.
Declining enrollment has substantially affected 30 of 51 school districts in south eastern Wisconsin. Mukwonago has seen a 2.9% decline. All five of the Ozaukee county school districts have seen at least a 2% decline. MPS saw a 1.4% decline. The decline is product of lower birth rates, open enrollment, school choice, an increase in home schooling and an increase in on-line learning.
The declining schools are struggling to stay afloat. A decline in enrollment equates to a decline in funding, because of the funding formula. But the schools still need to be heated and maintained, transportation is still required, administrators and teachers are still needed; but for fewer students. The result is that many districts are facing budget cuts beyond what they thought was a bare-bones budget last year. With declining enrollment, slowing economic growth, more retiring teachers and a cap on revenues, the schools will be facing budgetary issues every year for the foreseeable future. The schools will cut programs and staff which serve only to push more students into an online school. This will, in turn, create even more cuts in the school. And a viscous cycle ensues.
However there are a few exceptions, Franklin, Greenfield and Pewaukee schools have seen about a 2% increase in enrollment.
The state loves the virtual on-line school because it costs much less to administer. A traditional student costs the district and state about $12000, but an on-line student costs less than $5000. The on-line student requires no transportation, no locker, no lunch, no desk, no floor-space, no heat, etc. But virtual schools can't field a football team or offer drama, music and after school clubs. Nor can it cater to special needs children.
Overall, the trend is clearly towards an on-line educational model and away from the brick and mortar school. The difficulty is getting school districts to come to grip with the changing educational climate and transform themselves accordingly.
The number of retired teachers is overwhelming many school district budgets. In several New York school districts, there are more retired teachers than active teachers on its payroll. When the retiree pension program was created many years ago, this scenario was not envisioned.
The New York City school districts have the greatest liability because its health benefits are the most generous. It takes only 10 years of employment to vest for lifetime retiree health benefits, which begin upon retirement at any age and require no retiree premium contributions. They even reimburse retirees over age 65 for the full cost of their Medicare Part B premiums. A number of teachers have put 10 years of employment in multiple districts and draw pensions from each.
Webster Tarpley has been making the rounds on all of the conservative media outlets over the past 2 months. My first thought was that Webster Tarpley is much too liberal to interest a conservative audience. Why would Tarpley be in such demand to people like Michelle Malkin, Press TV, Alex Jones, Dennis Praeger, Christopher Walken, Russia Today, Laura Ingraham, Mychal Massie and others?
Tarpley was a member of the Democratic Party and ran for office on the US Labor party ticket. In the 70’s and 80’s he considered himself to be to the left of mainstream Democratic ideology, but he thinks the mainstream Democratic Party no longer represents American interests. He came up through the Ivy League cabal and was the head of several liberal think tanks such as the Schiller Institute. Tarpley was employed by the Italian parliament in the late 70’s to investigate high level assassinations and terror connections. Since that time, Tarpley has maintained close connections within the Red Brigade and Hamas. He rose to prominence after he wrote a scathing biography of George H. W. Bush in which he accuses President Bush of antagonizing the Middle East radicals to benefit the Military industrial complex. He believes that George H W Bush was the start of a new agenda to undermine the influence of the US around the world and push a globalist agenda.
Since the Benghazi terror attack, Tarpley has surfaced publicly to disclose the truth (from his perspective) behind the event. I have paraphrased Tarpley’s contention: The consulate in Benghazi was actually a base for covert operations. It served as a clearing house for weapons and ‘freedom fighters’ en route to Syria (via Turkey). Prisoners (political and combatants) were also housed at the consulate (outside the influence of US laws and due process). The Benghazi consulate was the covert operations base that the US government denied having.
The attack on the consulate was orchestrated by Sufyan Bin Qumu, a US double agent who spent several years in Guantanamo and released earlier in 2011. Qumu had joined with Khalifa Hifter who was instrumental in the over throw of Gaddafi. Khalifa Hifter defected from the Gaddafi regime and created his own militia with money from the CIA, according to his own book ‘Manipulations Africaines’ published by Le Monde Diplomatique. In essence, we had rogue double agent CIA agents attacking a state department agency to release detainees. When the CIA was called by the State Department to help intervene in the conflict, they were reluctant to fire on their own agents.
To this date, the attack is not being investigated or prosecuted, because it would raise more questions than it answers. Also, there is nothing to investigate, everything is known. The only goal of the Obama administration is to sweep this under the rug as soon as possible.
Tarpley, in his interviews and appearances, has sharply attacked Obama on a number of fronts. He believes that Obama has betrayed Democratic Party principles. He claims that Obama is not for the middle class worker but actively supports and is supported by Wall Street. He cites documents showing Obama to be a Globalist; serving interests other than US interests. Obama and Bush have the same international objectives; only that Obama raised the stakes tenfold. Where Bush dared only to stick his toe, Obama has jumped in with both feet. Obama and Bush both served the Military industrial complex. But where Bush funded the military through US taxation, Obama funds the military through foreign purchases. Both have also actively deflated the value of the US dollar and drove up debt. Tarpley contends that although the methodology used by both Presidents was different, the results are the same. Therefore, he concludes that both Presidents are serving the same master. However, where Bush only introduced the Globalists to the US public, Obama is advancing their agenda.
Transparency is something that Obama campaigned on, but once in office, the tune changed. Tarpley shows that with Executive Order 13489, Obama bans access to his records the first day in office with this executive order. Executive Order 13489 section 3(d) states: "If the President decides to invoke executive privilege, the Counsel to the President shall notify the former President, the Archivist, and the Attorney General in writing of the claim of privilege and the specific Presidential records to which it relates. After receiving such notice, the Archivist shall not disclose the privileged records unless directed to do so by an incumbent President or by a final court order." Tarpley complains that Obama has no interest in transparency. This executive order is virtually the same as Executive Order 123283, which President George W. Bush issued early in his presidency and was a point of contention for Obama during the campaign.
According to Tarpley, the actions of President Obama are showing his allegiance to corporate interests; while his rhetoric is quite the opposite. Obama is artificially forcing the gasoline prices to remain high, hurting primarily the lower and middle income Americans. Obama is forcing the electricity cost to remain high, hurting primarily the lower and middle income Americans. Obama is choosing political correctness over a quality education in the public schools, hurting primarily the lower and middle income Americans. Obama is not doing much about the high cost of a college education, which hurts primarily the lower and middle income Americans. The ethanol mandate is farce, driving up food costs hurting primarily the low and middle income Americans. High unemployment hurts the low and middle income Americans. Obama is perpetuating the cycle of poverty, hurting primarily the lower and middle income Americans. The $2.2 billion per year cell phone program benefits the lower income Americans, but is ridiculous. Even the taxation designed to hit the high income brackets the hardest raises very little taxes and does nothing to bring income disparity into line.
Tarpley claims that there is a grand conspiracy behind the actions of our government; credit default swaps, a 15 trillion dollar Ponzi scheme perpetrated against the American public; a rigged stock market; repeated 700 billion dollar windfall tax cuts for the rich when the economy is teetering on collapse; a street full of homeless people including veterans; carefully orchestrated bank failures; a healthcare system written only to boost big pharma's profits; hundred billion dollar bailouts for the very crooks who ran economy into the ground; an unconstitutional ‘execution by drone’ program; a dramatic expansion of Bush's wars of choice; and a Congress that has been bought and paid for by the lobbyists. But I fail to see the conspiracy behind any of these activities; it has been done in the open for all to see. I think that this just amounts to corrupt politicians, writing corrupt laws to benefit themselves at the expense of the US citizens.
Tarpley lists the connections between Obama and elitist organizations (Tri-Lateral Commission, Bilderbergs, Tides Foundation and CFR) and analyzes the connections in conjunction with the legislation and policies that Obama pushes. Actions such as Obama’s rejection of the Keystone pipeline are indications of his allegiance to the elitists. The oil will get from Canada to US via one method or another. Without the pipeline, the oil will be shipped by rail. Warren Buffet and other elites own the railways and make an enormous profit by the transport of oil. The pipeline would be more efficient, less costly, create thousands of jobs and is better for the environment, but it doesn’t serve the elitist masters.
Tarpley’s book, ‘Obama: the postmodern Coup’, spends a great deal of time dissecting the Carter administration because Carter and Obama have one great commonality; Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski was the key advisor to Carter. He is also a key behind the scenes advisor to Obama. Zbigniew Brzezinski had supported Obama through Columbia and Harvard and influenced his foreign policy.
Enclosed is a quote from Tarpley’s, ‘Obama; the unauthorized biography’, “Obama was chosen, because his own desire to become someone embodied by a synthetic mythology of hope and unity that is betrayed by the policies of economic privation that he becomes the politically correct salesman to seduce and polarize Americans into the next phase of imperialism and economic fascism.”
The fascinating element about both of Tarpley’s books on Obama is that I could think of about a dozen conservatives who had written nearly identical books about Obama, including Jerome Corsi, David Maraniss, Aaron Klein and Jack Cashill.
With all of that said, I was amazed to find the hard core conservatives and Tarpley so united over their disdain for President Obama, the military industrial complex, foreign entanglements, Neocons, governmental/corporate collusion, elitist control, failed economic agenda and Wall Street bailouts. Apart from a few social issues, I think that they agree on more than they disagree.
Recent articles, interviews by Webster Tarpley.
http://www.presstv.com/detail/2012/12/30/280875/syria-rebels-unleashed-genocide-machine/ (In this interview, Tarpley calls for the impeachment of Obama.)
I agree with only about 60% of Tarpley’s opinions, but it is certainly worth hearing.
In 2010, Attorney General Robert McClelland stated that the Australian federal government was seeking to streamline Australia's anti-discrimination laws and make them what he called more user-friendly.
Five pieces of legislation dealing with race, sex, disability, age and the work of the Human Rights Commission would be consolidated into a single comprehensive law.
The proposed new Human Rights and Anti-discrimination Bill describes unlawful discrimination as unfavorable treatment of another person on account of their possessing one or more protected attributes.
In further defining unlawful conduct, the new bill equates unfavorable treatment with harassment and other conduct that offends, insults or intimidates another person.
The new laws will extend to the workplace, shops, schools and warfare; to every facet of public life. Australians' behavior and conversations in schools, shops, playgrounds, clubs, pubs and sporting fields will be covered by the anti-discrimination legislation drafted by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.
Hurt feelings are set to become the legal trigger for compensation claims.
A law that makes it illegal to ’insult’ or ‘offend’ someone else sounds utopic at the surface level, but it has the potential to go very wrong; producing a land of lawsuits.
Constitutional law professors Nicholas Aroney, of the University of Queensland, and Sydney University's Patrick Parkinson, have told the Senate inquiry the "heavy-handed" laws blur the line between illegal discrimination and social norms.
In favor of the proposed law are Muslim groups and the LGBT groups. Muslims Australia spokesman Keysar Trad says members of the community in Australia are regularly discriminated against on a number of fronts -- most publicly as the victims of hate speech.
He says the federal government is being asked to provide greater protection against discrimination on the grounds of religion under the new legislation.
The government’s attempt to modernize Australia’s anti-discrimination laws attracted a hornet’s nest of criticism this week from Christian churches, bloggers, employers, unions and civil libertarians.
The on-line media outlets were the first to cite objections to the proposed laws. A spokesman for a news site said that the business of newscasting is offensive to someone or something. For example, if a politician, in a rare occurrence, was caught in a scandal, the news report on the scandal is offensive to the politician who was caught in the act. The job of the film critic or food critic would be eliminated. The sports page would also be gone. An athlete or team could take offense to a news article about their poor performance.
Catholic Cardinal George Pell and the shop assistants’ union – unlikely allies – both decried the draft laws as “the first step towards totalitarianism”.
Catholic hospitals fear a challenge to their bans on abortion and birth control, while a Melbourne academic claims transgender men will start taking over the women’s restrooms.
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope fears the legislation could limit public debate to “innocuous, sterilized conversation”. “The council is not a racist organization but we defend a person’s right to express racist sentiments,” he told the inquiry. “Being democratically elected does not give a government a mandate to stifle voices with which it does not agree. If a person is physically or emotionally abused, the issue is not racist expression, but instead a problem with violence or aggression which should not be tolerated”.
Cardinal Pell agrees with Mr Cope; “Discrimination is a regular and necessary part of daily life,” he wrote in News Ltd papers on Sunday. “We discriminate between friends and foes. Society discriminates between criminals and the law-abiding … (and) by choosing only the best students to study medicine or law and the best athletes to represent Australia. Governments choose which immigrants they will accept and those they expel.”
Critics are also alarmed that the burden of proof will be reversed, so that people accused of discrimination will have to prove their innocence. And each party will have to pay their own legal costs, regardless of who wins.
FECCA Chairman Pino Migliorino says the new legislation shifts the onus of proof for an alleged unlawful insult onto the accused, instead of the claimant bearing the responsibility as it stands in the current anti-discrimination laws. The accused stand guilty until he/her exonerates him/herself.
Employer groups predict the changes will result not in a lawyers’ picnic, but a lawyers’ lunch – long-running and very expensive. State governments are complaining the federal laws will interfere with their power to arrest criminals, suspend driving licenses, segregate sexual offenders away from children or ban the mentally ill from owning guns.
David Goodwin, a member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s productivity committee, describes the law as “manna from heaven for no-win, no-fee law firms. Bosses are going to have to become the thought police,” he says. “It’s unworkable”.
This law will do nothing to curtail offenses, because anyone can be offended by anything if they want to. It also becomes apparent that this law, drafted by lawyers, is solely created to protect the interests in their law practices; insuring a steady stream of income at the expense of society.
On January 31st, after months of outrage with Attorney General Nicola Roxon as the target, Roxon has asked her department to redraft sections of the legislation to remove a clause that would have prohibited conduct that "offends or insults". "It seems to me clear that there are better options than the one that's being proposed and we'll take it forward from there."
Fellow Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull has welcomed Ms Roxon's decision to back down on elements of the bill, "I'm sure everyone who cares about free speech, which is almost all Australians, would be very pleased that she's recognized that the bill that she was proposing was outrageous."
To me it appears that the attorney general has little respect for Democracy, personal liberties and the freedom of expression but has retreated from her objectives for the moment for no other reason than to keep her job. But, at heart, she has Totalitarian tendencies; otherwise she never would have proposed this legislation.
Matthew 18:7 states that because man is imperfect, offenses and hurts will occur in life. The two sources of offense and hurt is at both ends of the relationship. The other person may intentionally insult you, but you may also misunderstand perfectly good intentions and be offended. But in either case, we should not allow offenses in life to produce a heart of bitterness. However, it can't be legislated.
Text taken from www.news.au.com.au
Phil Mickelson made the news earlier this week when complaining about the taxes that he pays to the Golden State. He mentioned the idea of moving to Florida to save millions in taxes.
“There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state and, you know, it doesn't work for me right now,” he said. “So I'm going to have to make some changes."
California voters in November approved Proposition 30, which, in addition to raising the state sales tax, carries a menu of new tax brackets that hit millionaires like Mickelson hard.
Phil was defended by Tiger Woods who claimed that taxes were a key element in his decision to move from California to Florida.
- A 12.3% top state tax rate, up from 9.3%, on income above $1 million.
- A 1% state mental health surcharge levied on incomes above $1 million.
- A 3.8% Medicare tax rate, which includes a new 0.9% Medicare surcharge on earnings above $250,000.
And since Phil is self-incorporated, he pays an additional:
- 1% in state disability insurance taxes.
- 6.2% for state unemployment taxes.
- 1.2% in federal unemployment taxes (also paid by corporations in Florida).
- 0.1% in state employment training taxes.
On top of the income taxes, Californians pay high usage fees and property taxes (in comparison to Florida).
In 2012, Phil’s income was $61 million in winnings and endorsements. Gregg Wind, a partner at Wind & Stern, an accounting firm in Los Angeles, claims that Phil could save about $8 million on his 2012 taxes by moving to Florida.
Phil Mickelson back-peddled from his comments on taxation after getting hit with the firestorm that it had created and apologized for his insensitivity.
Comments made about Phil:
“He is a pampered 1%er”
“un-patriotic and selfish”
“Flee-bagger, avoiding the payment of his fair share”
And many comments that can't be repeated here.
My thoughts on Phil:
People pay to watch you play golf, not to talk politics. Don’t wade into politics and economics unless you have a backbone and can take some heat. If you want to move to Florida, go ahead and save $8 million, just don’t advertise it or politicize it. In this environment of hyper political polarization, it is best not to speak your mind if you are an entertainer…unless you are a liberal entertainer. But at least Phil was not advocating for a policy or policy change, he was just venting, and so would I if I was losing $8 million.
I have been following the conflict in Syria with great interest and I am trying to get an understanding of the cause of this conflict and how it will affect the region. US media sources have implied that the conflict is a natural home-grown rebellion against the dictatorship of Assad. Of course, I believe that this is a much more complex issue.
Forces aligning with the Syrian rebels:
- Saudi Arabia and Qatar have both pledged $300 million in support of overthrowing the Assad regime
- Turkey has provided bases for training the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
- Egypt and Libya are supplying the surplus weapons to the FSA
- NATO and the US are actively supporting the rebels
- Sunni Muslims
- An economic depression has created fertile grounds for anti-government resentment
Forces aligning with the Assad regime:
- Iran has provided weapons and funding to Assad
- Russia has provided weapons and military intelligence to Assad.
- China has been a vocal supporter of Assad and has denounced the rebels.
- The minority population in Syria consisting of Alawite Muslims, Druze, Christians, Kurds, Shi’ite Muslims and Jews are fearful that the Islamist rebels will follow the lead of Egypt once they have control
The official Israeli position is that they are neutral on the conflict. But Israel has been at war with the Syrian funded Hezbollah for many years and Israel is officially still at war with Syria since 1974. According to an IDF website, Israel is concerned that if the Assad regime is toppled, Syria could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists and engage in a cold war similar to Egypt. Others, however, see a regime change in Damascus as serving Israeli interests because the effect would be Iran's loss of its key regional ally.
Unlike the Egyptian revolution, in which most Israelis agreed that the overthrow of Mubarak was bad for Israel, there is no such consensus about the overthrow of Assad.
What we know:
- In 2011, a contract was signed between Iran, Iraq and Syria to build a natural gas pipeline by 2016 from Iran’s giant South Pars field to the Syrian Mediterranean coast in order to supply Europe with natural gas.
- Turkey is the current exporter of natural gas to Europe, originating from the Russian oil fields and the Caspian Basin.
- The Ba’ath party has a long history of conflict with Islamist extremists and Salafists. This includes the 1982 crack-down in the city of Hama; known as the Hama massacre by Sunni Muslims.
- A treaty of mutual assistance was signed between Tehran and Damascus
- With the rise in tension between Iran and the Gulf states, the US has benefited greatly. The latest contracts to sell F-15 fighter jets to the Royal Saudi Air Force is valued at $30 billion, the United Arab Emirates bought an anti-missile system and Chinook helicopters worth $4.5 billion, and Oman ordered fighter planes for $1.4 billion.
- The US is paying massive amounts of foreign aid to Middle East countries. This includes $1.56 billion annually to Egypt.
- The total value of Syrian contracts with the Russian defense industry likely exceeds $4 billion, according to Jeffrey Mankoff, an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies Russia and Eurasia Program.
- China and Russia vetoed another Security Council resolution in October that would have called for the condemnation of Assad for the Syrian conflict.
- The Russian-Syrian economic trade exceeds $20 billion annually
- The German newspaper Bild had revealed that members of the BND (German intelligence) stationed on ships near the Syrian and Lebanese coast and at the NATO base near Adana collect intelligence on the movement of Syrian government troops and share this information with the forces of the FSA
- Elements of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood have surfaced in Syria among the FSA forces.
- The EU has slapped an oil and arms embargo against Syria
- Obama had created an executive order to impose sanctions against Syria http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/syria_eo_08182011.pdf
Claims by Assad:
Assad had claimed that the unrest in Syria is not an uprising but a Qatari-instigated aggression designed to dominate the country and ensure Qatari access to the Mediterranean Sea for its gas export.
Position of US politicians:
- Senator John McCain has been leading the charge to declare war against the Assad regime.
- President Obama expressed great concerns about the alleged atrocities committed by the Assad regime.
- Hillary Clinton has indicated support for the FSA
- Representative Ron Paul has been critical of the US sanctions against Syria and the administrations’ support of the FSA
Four main voices have emerged to provide objective data about the conflict;
Professor Michel Chossudovsky, director of Centre for Research on Globalization
Jonathan Steele, former foreign editor of the Guardian and Middle East analyst
Aleksey Pushkov, the chair of the Russian parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs
Professor Guenter Meyer is chairman of the German Middle East Studies Association (DAVO), president of the European Association for Middle Eastern Studies (EURAMES), and chairman of the International Advisory Council of the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES).
The best summation of the situation:
Patrick Seale, Middle East analyst wrote, “The Middle East is facing an acute danger of war, with unpredictable and potentially devastating consequences for the states and populations of the region. A "shadow war" is already being waged - by Israel and the United States against Iran; by a coalition of countries against Syria; and by the great powers against each other. A mere spark could set this tinder alight.”
Syria has had the misfortune of being the host of a major conflict between multiple nations: Iran against Saudi Arabia and the US and NATO against Russia. And the Islamic extremists are at war with the secular government. Syria appears to be chosen because of its strategic alliances. It appears that the sponsoring Middle East nations are vying for control and the US and Russia are vying for the defense contracts, as well as US opposition to Iran. Turkey is in it to be the sole supplier of natural gas to Europe. About 10 nations have a vested interest in the conflict in Syria and are pouring fuel on the fire.
This conflict is similar to the Vietnam War in which Vietnam was essentially the host nation for the US-China war. But in this case the US is creating strange bed fellows. In an attempt to oppose and isolate Iran it finds itself in league with Islamic extremists.
I try to prioritize the issues in my life. At the top of my priority is my relationship with God, my family, friends and neighbors. My career (ability to support my family) is my second priority. My service to my state and country is a third priority. My personal liberty, freedom and pursuit of happiness is a fourth priority. Everything else is a fifth priority.
Therefore political issues like gun control, taxes, government, health care are a low priority. I certainly have opinions on these matters, but I will not allow them to take a high priority. On occasion, the issues, such as taxes and gun control, may impact my ability to provide for and protect my family. And with greater regularity, the issues have had some impact my liberty and pursuit of happiness. But so far the political issues, even the latest proposed changes, have not infringed on my top priorities...and for that I am grateful.
The parable of 'The Good Samarian', as told by Jesus, is an excellent analogy in placing a high priority in maintaining a good relationship with my fellow man.
The Good Samaritan
Luke Chapter 10
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
To understand the parable by Jesus, the reader must understand who the Samaritans were. There is much debate over the origins of Samaria, but most historians believe that the Samaritans are of Jewish origins, from the tribe of Ephriam and Menassah, who had lived on the east side of the Jordan river. They were taken into captivity by Assyrians centuries earlier and then later returned to the area of Canaan. During the time of Jesus there were roughly one million Samaritans living in the region. But there was tremendous hatred and conflict between the Samaritans and the Jews. The Jews believed that the Samaritans were perverting the Jewish faith with their own customs, laws and traditions. And the Samaritans accused the Jewish people of bigotry, condescension and persecution.
The second aspect of the parable that the reader needs to know is that the priests were required to do good. They had a motto similar to “Malice towards none and charity towards all.” The Talmud commanded the priest to be shepherds who would tenderly lead and care for the flock. But if a priest touches anything dead or unclean, they are also declared to be unclean and must undergo a long purification process.
As in every parable, the real subject matter is the nature of Jesus and how he deals with man. The beaten, broken and bruised man is you and me. We have been robbed by this world, beaten down, bruised and battered. We are vulnerable and prone to wounds and destruction (both self-destruction and destruction at the hands of others).
The religious leaders, who are commanded to help and are more concerned about rules, regulations and appearances. When the religious leader saw the broken, bruised man lying at the side of road, his first thought was for himself and the tremendous inconvenience the situation would produce. The priest was fearful that the broken man might cost him something in terms of money, time and reputation. Just the purification process, following the help to this man, would be a long inconvenient ordeal.
The temple worker represents the common working man. Since he worked in the temple, he was considered to be a decent, upstanding citizen, highly respected. The worker passed by the broken man without helping because it was unproductive; not profitable. He is busy running from one job to the next, not concerned about the plight of his fellow man. His God is his belly and money is his top priority. Of course, every now than then, he might do a good deed for the purpose of maintaining a good reputation, but it is not his heart.
The Samaritan of this parable is Jesus. He is hated by the Jewish people. He is rejected, despised and persecuted.
The broken man, over the course of his life, was almost certainly involved some kind of hurtful action against the Samaritans, thus against Jesus. Doubtless, the broken man would not want help from Jesus (the Samaritan), but he was helpless; in no condition to object.
But when Jesus sees the broken man, he sees past the personal animosity and conflict between the cultures and has compassion on the man. Jesus looked beyond the faults to see the need.
Jesus placed the broken man on his donkey, took him to the hospital and then a care facility; paying for it from his own pocket. The cost to Jesus was very high. But in the parable, the Samaritan (Jesus) is depicted as riding a donkey, not walking, signifying that he had some means. But he wasn’t being driven in a chariot, implying great wealth. The depiction is that the hospitalization and care for the broken man may have cost the Samaritan a considerable portion of his assets.
The command by Jesus to the religious expert, who questioned him, to be a good neighbor was a shock to the man’s system. There was no possible way that he would have the necessary compassion to spend much of his money to help a man that he hated. At this point the religious expert turned around and left Jesus. He understood that all of his religious training, education, wealth, prestige and understanding would never get him into right standing with God and his fellow man without self-sacrifice, faith and compassion.
The key to the passage is grace, mercy and compassion. More precisely, it is the depths of grace, mercy and compassion God has towards man...and the depths of self-sacrifice that is required for us to deal with our fellow man in a similar fashion.
Grace (as displayed in the parable) is the unmerited compassion of God on man.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself, knowing that the cost can never be repaid.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself, knowing that the cost can never be repaid, repeatedly.
But it is more.
Grace is the unmerited compassion of God on man, who has rejected God and has animosity towards God, but God gives it at great cost to himself, knowing that the cost can never be repaid, repeatedly, not grudgingly and with a open hand and open heart.
The parable commands us to go and do the same, thereby making our relationship with our fellow man a very high priority. But at this point in my life, I doubt that I have the ability to have this level of compassion on someone that I fundamentally disagree with. However, it is my goal.
I had listened to a speech given by P.J. O’Rourke on May 6, 1993 for the opening of the Cato Institute's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Once I got past the sarcasm, I found his wit to be unique. His style of political humor is harsh and he is not overly concerned with political correctness. O’Rourke reflects a by-gone era of satirical art.
O’Rourke may be a bit calloused but I share his disdain for big government.
I have enclosed a few of his most famous quotes.
- Freedom is not empowerment. Empowerment is what the Serbs have in Bosnia. Anybody can grab a gun and be empowered. Freedom is not entitlement. An entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It's not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the "right" to education, the "right" to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's dependency. Those aren't rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle.
- Government subsidies can be critically analyzed according to a simple principle: You are smarter than the government, so when the government pays you to do something you wouldn't do on your own, it is almost always paying you to do something stupid.
- I'm a registered Republican and consider socialism a violation of the American principle that you shouldn't stick your nose in other people's business except to make a buck.
- There are just two rules of good governance in a free society: Mind your own business. Keep your hands to yourself.
Keep your hands to yourself, Bill.
Hillary, mind your own business.
- Neither conservatives nor humorists believe man is good. But left-wingers do.
- The forces of safety are afoot in the land. I, for one, believe it is a conspiracy— a conspiracy of Safety Nazis shouting "Sieg Health" and seeking to trammel freedom, liberty, and large noisy parties. The Safety Nazis advocate gun control, vigorous exercise, and health foods. The result can only be a disarmed, exhausted, and half-starved population ready to acquiesce to dictatorship of some kind.
- I can understand why mankind hasn't given up war. During a war you get to drive tanks through the sides of buildings and shoot foreigners— two things that are usually frowned on during peacetime.
- Moscow has changed. I was here in 1982, during the Brezhnev twilight, and things are better now. For instance, they've got litter. In 1982 there was nothing to litter with
- The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it.
- Many reporters, when they go to work in the nation’s capital, begin thinking of themselves as participants in the political process instead of glorified stenographers.
- Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
- Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum.
- Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
- The second item in the liberal creed, after self-righteousness, is unaccountability. Liberals have invented whole college majors— psychology, sociology, women's studies— to prove that nothing is anybody's fault. No one is fond of taking responsibility for his actions, but consider how much you'd have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favor abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal view.
- You can't shame or humiliate modern celebrities. What used to be called shame and humiliation is now called publicity. And forget traditional character assassination; if you say a modern celebrity is an adulterer, a pervert and a drug addict, all it means is that you've read his autobiography.
- The principal feature of American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things — war and hunger and date rape — liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things.... It's a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don't have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.
- There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.
- Health care is too expensive, so the Clinton administration is putting Hillary in charge of making it cheaper. (This is what I always do when I want to spend less money — hire a lawyer from Yale.) If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free.
- Government is a health hazard. Governments have killed many more people than cigarettes or unbuckled seat belts ever have.
- Advocating the expansion of the powers of the state is treason to mankind
- Biotechnology is a worry. What if they take genetic material from wet noodles and blowfish and splice it into politician chromosomes and create a Clinton administration?
- Ecology is the science of everything. Nobody knows everything. Nobody even knows everything about any one thing. And most of us don't know much. Say it's ten-thirty on a Saturday night. Where are your teenage children? I didn't ask where they said they were going. Where are they really? What are they doing? Who are they with? Have you met the other kids' families? Now extend these questions to the entire solar system.
- Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.
- Remember, FDA employees are serious about fear. We pay these people to panic about an iota of rodent hair in our chili, even when the recipe calls for it. FDA employees are first-class agonizers, world champions at losing sleep. When Meryl Streep got hysterical about Alar, they actually checked the apples instead of Meryl's head.
- When a private entity does not produce the desired results, it is (certain body parts excepted) done away with. But a public entity gets bigger.
- We’re told cars are dangerous. Is it safer to drive through South Central Los Angeles than to walk there? We’re told cars are wasteful. Wasteful of what? Oil did a lot of good sitting in the ground for millions of years. We’re told cars should be replaced with mass transportation. But it’s hard to reach the drive-through window at McDonald’s from a speeding train. And we’re told cars cause pollution. A hundred years ago city streets were ankle deep in horse excrement. What kind of pollution do you want? Would you rather die of cancer at eighty or typhoid fever at nine?
- I wonder how many of the people who profess to believe in the leveling ideas of collectivism and egalitarianism really just believe that they themselves are good for nothing. I mean, how many leftists are animated by a quite reasonable self-loathing? In their hearts they know that they are not going to become scholars or inventors or industrialists or even ordinary good kind people. So they need a way to achieve that smugness for which the left is so justifiably famous. They need a way to achieve self-esteem without merit. Well, there is politics. In an egalitarian world everything will be controlled by politics, and politics requires no merit.
- When a government controls both the economic power of individuals and the coercive power of the state this violates a fundamental rule of happy living: Never let the people with all the money and the people with all the guns be the same people.
- The only really good vegetable is Tabasco sauce. Put Tabasco sauce in everything. Tabasco sauce is to bachelor cooking what forgiveness is to sin.
- I am no stranger to loud noise. I've been to a Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels concert. And I once dated a woman with two kids.
- One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on.
- On page 8 of Earth in the Balance, Al Gore claims that his study of the arms race gave him "a deeper appreciation for the most horrifying fact in all our lives: civilization is now capable of destroying itself." For the most the us the most horrifying fact in many of our lives is that our ex-spouse has gotten a hold of our ATM card.
- Imagine a weight-loss program at the end of which, instead of better health, good looks, and hot romantic prospects, you die. Somalia has become just this kind of spa.
- The morning meal was served in traditional socialist fashion— very slowly, with the courses out of order so that the jelly arrived half an hour after the toast and the coffee didn't come until we'd called for the check.
- Wherever there's injustice, oppression, and suffering in this world, America will show up six months late and bomb the country next to where it's happening.
The current era of political satire produced by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert is significantly different from the satire of a past era. I feel that the new satire is a bit 'dumbed down' in order to be digested by its consumers. I also feel that it has become more crass and sacrilegious. Whereas the satire from the bygone era of O'Rourke, Will Rogers and HL Mencken is refreshing, with a little bite and great wit.
After the Newtown shooting, the National Rifle Association, with roughly 4.3 million members, deactivated its Facebook page, had stopped tweeting on its Twitter account and had been issuing a "no comment" to any media outlet seeking a response.
But late Tuesday, the group broke that silence with a statement:
"The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters -- and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."
There are two major forces at work within the NRA. With the increased talk of gun control, the NRA has added an average of 8000 members per day and has received an large influx of contributions. But since the statement was released, the NRA website has been overwhelmed by member furious at the thought of the NRA softening its opposition to gun control. Of course, the official statement didn’t explicitly state that it would moderate its position, but it gave a tone of moderation.
The NRA is seen as the primary restraining force to gun control, but its members believe this it is also providing less restraint against government than is desired.
Some NRA members have demanded to see the books to determine if money was a factor in the new moderate tone. With just a cursory look at the main sources of revenue in December, it became clear that Karl Rove may have influenced the NRA into a softer stance. The NRA has received over $600,000 in donations from Crossroads GPS and Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads. Although this amount of money is significant it represents a small percentage of income. During the 2012, the NRA spent a total of $17.6 million on political campaigns; including $243,000 on Tommy Thompson’s Senate campaign.
Karl Rove is not a well-liked individual in conservative circles. His support of many pro-choice, big government candidates has angered many conservatives, but his disdain for the second amendment is a particularly sore spot.
The NRA is a 501(c)(4) group and is not required to disclose its donors. But in order to maintain 501(c)(4) status with the Internal Revenue Service, social welfare must be the main focus of these groups, so they cannot have more than half of their overall spending go toward politics. Therefore the expenditures are public documents.
Many NRA members are openly talking about their displeasure with the NRA and joining the GOA (Gun Owners of America), a gun rights lobbying group which is much more rigid in its ideology. But with the tremendous influx of new members and money, the NRA appears to have momentum and even the most conservative members do not want to hurt that momentum. Thus they are stuck between great displeasure over the lack of response by the NRA and the excitement of the rise in membership.
While members look for a convenient spot to jump ship, the lament is that nearly every conservative group gets hijacked by moderates sooner or later.
The shooting has forced me to develop a list of priorities. At the top of the list is faith, then love, then freedom, then honor and duty. Way down on my list is life. If I have lived a life of faith and love in a free manner; and if my life is one characterized with courage, convictions and character, then I am ready to go at any time. I will die some day; one out of one people will die. The probability of me meeting my end is quite high…as it is with my children. It is not a matter of if I will die, it is when. I can't give something a high priority when that something is inevitable.
For me, this isn’t just talk. Since the death of my brother, I have learned to live everyday as if it was my last. Every morning that I wake, I give thanks to God, “Lord, it appears that you have given me the privilege and opportunity to see the dawn of another day. In this new day, help me to find another area of my life to surrender to your will and your ways. Show me another person to love today and lead me in your Truth. (For this is only one Truth, one Way and one life; and it is only found in Jesus) And if you take me out of this world today, let me go with a clear conscience, a pure heart and a genuine faith.”
I have repaired the broken areas in my life. I have gained a clear conscience with acquaintances and family. I have forgiven all those who have wounded me. And I am at peace with God. I am ready.
If I have left this life in a gruesome manner at the hands of a criminal, don’t grieve for me. I am in a better place. Instead grieve for the person who took my life; that person is living in torment, unable to see the life, love and freedom that Jesus has to offer. But forgive that person, because I already have.
When discussing the increase in tax rates, not all consequences of the increase are being analyzed. A big factor to consider when raising taxes is that people will not want to pay more in taxes and will do just about anything to avoid paying taxes.
Effects of tax rate increase in Britain
In the 2009 tax year in Britain, more than 16,000 people reported annual income of more than 1 million pounds (equal to about $1.6 million today). Then in late 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a member of the Labour Party, introduced a new 50 percent top income tax rate for high-income earners. After that, the number of people reporting income of at least 1 million pounds fell to 6,000.
“It is believed that rich Britons moved abroad or took steps to avoid paying the new levy by reducing their taxable incomes,” The Telegraph reported.
Instead of raising revenue, the tax hike cost the U.K. 7 billion pounds ($11.2 billion) in lost revenue for 2011.
In 2011, the government of Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that it will lower the top rate from 50 percent to 45 percent, a move the Labour Party officials have called a “tax cut for millionaires.”
Since Cameron’s government announced the lower top rate, the number of Britons reporting income of at least 1 million pounds has risen to 10,000.
Anecdotal data from France
Mayor Daniel Senesael of Nechin, about a kilometer inside Belgium near the French city of Lille, claims that French actor Gerard Depardieu has bought a home and set up legal residence in his small town, lured by the food, the people, the lifestyle — and lower tax rates than back home.
The Socialist government under French President Francois Hollande has infuriated many ultra-rich in France by presenting a 2013 budget that would tax top earners at 75 percent over the first €1 million of annual income. Belgium's top rate is 50 percent.
Depardieu is not alone in his quest for lower taxes. Alexander Kraft, head of Sotheby's Realty, France, said: "The result of the presidential election has had a real impact on our sales. “A large number of wealthy French families are leaving the country as a direct result of the proposals of the new government.”
Inquiries from wealthy French for London homes worth more than five million pounds soared by 30 per cent in the first three months of this year, UK estate agency statistics showed.
Gilles Martin, a Swiss tax consultant, reported the same trend. "Since the socialists came to power in France, I have been deluged with inquiries from rich French people who would rather pay their tax in Switzerland," he told Switzerland's 20 Minutes newspaper.
Jean-Marc Ayrault responded to the report of flight of the wealthy with an outburst. "Those who are seeking exile abroad are not those who are scared of becoming poor," the prime minister declared after unveiling sweeping anti-poverty measures to help those hit by the economic crisis.
These individuals are leaving "because they want to get even richer," he said. "We cannot fight poverty if those with the most, and sometimes with a lot, do not show solidarity and a bit of generosity," he added.
The Hollande government is concerned that the tax increases may not track according to the projected revenues. Mr Hollande has since introduced other hefty new charges on capital gains and inheritance, while increasing France's wealth tax and an exit tax for entrepreneurs selling their companies. The changes are designed to tap into the wealthy even if they choose to leave.
While Mr Ayrault opted not to mention Mr Depardieu yesterday, the Gallic star drew fierce criticism from liberal politicians and commentators.
Socialist MP Yann Galut called for the actor to be "stripped of his nationality" if he failed to pay his dues in his mother country, saying the law should be changed to enable such a punishment.
Benoît Hamon, the consumption minister, said the move amounted to giving France "the finger" and was "anti-patriotic".
However, Depardieu is not alone as an ex-pat in Nechin. Among Mr Depardieu's neighbors in the village of Nechin will be members of the Mulliez family, who own the Auchan supermarket chain.
Since 2007, at least 18 states have raised their cigarette taxes to over $2 per pack. In New York, the tax on cigarettes is $4.35 a pack, and an additional tax in New York City boosts the total to $6.46 a pack; $1.50 is New York City tax; $0.61 Prepaid Sales Tax.
But the cigarette tax in Virginia is just 30 cents a pack, so smugglers can buy bulk quantities of smokes in Virginia and sell them in New York and other high-tax states at a huge profit — a racket known to police as “smurfing,” according to The Economist.
One individual, who was apprehended, claims to have sold on average 5000 packs of cigarettes per month at a profit of $2 per pack. The cigarettes are purchased in low tax states such as Virginia or from Indian Reservations and resold in New York City.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimates that illegal cigarette sales cost local, state and federal governments nearly $10 billion a year.
The bottom line is that New York is taking in much less revenue than expected from the increases in cigarette taxes.
New York City is spending a tremendous amount of time and effort to reduce tax evasion. The following statement was posted in October 2012 by the NYC department of Finance:
The sale of cigarettes within New York State and New York City is regulated by federal, state, and local law and enforced by the New York City Department of Finance and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Finance is engaged in an active campaign against those who try to evade the cigarette tax. This includes an advertising campaign to educate the public, an ongoing effort to bill and collect from those who have purchased untaxed cigarettes, and legal action against those who engage in cigarette tax evasion and fraud. We are also placing sellers, advertisers, shippers, and purchasers on notice and informing them of their legal obligations and responsibilities concerning New York City and State laws.
I seriously doubt that the sternly worded statement will change the purchasing habits of New York residents.
The tax increases approved by the Government of Mariano Rajoy in late 2011, includes increasing the income tax rate, a tax on savings, increases in VAT taxes and sales taxes. These taxes were designed to generate a 4.3% increase in tax revenue. However, from the data compiled in early December 2012, the results show a decrease in revenue by 3.5%.
To deal with the shortfall the government is considering an additional round of taxation: remove the shelter deduction retroactively (about 6,000 million euros) of credits for contributions to private pension plans (2,000 million); impose an increase and not only to gas taxes, but also to fuels, and an excise tax increase (alcohol, tobacco, soft drinks…) or implement new environmental taxes.
My guess is that the new taxes will not help achieve the desired revenues, either. People will work hard to avoid paying it.
According to MSN, about 100,000 more people moved away from California in 2011 than relocated to the Golden State, according to the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The trend for 2012 is showing an increase in the exodus from California when compared to 2011.
So, where are these Californians going? The Census Bureau calculated that the most popular destination is Texas, with 58,992 residents relocating there in 2011 along with a number of California companies.
Joel Kotkin, demographer, addresses the causes of the exodus, "Basically, if you don't own a piece of Facebook or Google and you haven't robbed a bank and don't have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak." The Golden State's fastest-growing entity is government and its biggest product is red tape.
Housing is merely one front of what he calls the "progressive war on the middle class." Another is the cap-and-trade law AB32, which will raise the cost of energy and drive out manufacturing jobs without making even a dent in global carbon emissions. Then there are the renewable portfolio standards, which mandate that a third of the state's energy come from renewable sources like wind and the sun by 2020. California's electricity prices are already 50% higher than the national average.
The people who are leaving are upper middle class. Their income has been dramatically affected by the tax increases in 2009. This is already on top of the high cost of living.
A worker in Wichita might not consider those earning $250,000 a year ‘middle class’ it would be considered wealthy, but "if you're a guy working for a Silicon Valley company and you're married and you're thinking about having your first kid, and your family makes $250k a year, you can't buy a closet in the Bay Area," Mr. Kotkin says. "But for $250k a year, you can live pretty damn well in Salt Lake City. And you might be able to send your kids to private schools and own a three-bedroom, four-bath house."
Mr. Kotkin lists four "growth corridors": the Gulf Coast, the Great Plains, the Intermountain West, and the Southeast. All of these regions have lower costs of living, lower taxes, relatively relaxed regulatory environments, and critical natural resources such as oil and natural gas.
Take Salt Lake City. "Almost all of the major tech companies have moved stuff to Salt Lake City." That includes Twitter, Adobe, eBay and Oracle.
Then there's Texas, which is on a mission to steal California's tech hegemony. Apple just announced that it's building a $304 million campus and adding 3,600 jobs in Austin. Facebook established operations there last year, and eBay plans to add 1,000 new jobs there as well.
In a study performed by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, the data suggest that many cost drivers—taxes, regulations, the high price of housing and commercial real estate, costly electricity, union power, and high labor costs—are driving businesses to locate outside California.
Proposition 30, which passed a referendum in November, is projected to raise $6 billion in additional revenues. However, the projected revenue increases will not close the gap in the $16 billion deficit. The state spending will shoot to $130.7 billion this year, up $8.9 billion over last year.
The State Budget Crisis task force estimated that the burden of debt totaled at least $167 billion and as much as $335 billion. In addition to this debt, California still owes the Federal Government $14 billion in unemployment compensation, and public schools $10 billion.
Paying down the state’s ever growing credit card bill is on track to spend 8.9%, or about $8.6 billion, of the state general fund budget in the current fiscal year.
Even if California fully procures the $6 billion in revenue from proposition 30, next year’s deficit will be larger than this year’s deficit…prompting new rounds of tax increases…prompting an increase in the rate of exodus.
Preserving one's wealth is truly a strong driving force. However, this force is not generally recognized by politicians who attempt to separate people from their money.