Saturday, April 03, 2010

"Still the Economy, Stupid" by Mark Shields on - A Syndicate Of Talent

"Still the Economy, Stupid" by Mark Shields on - A Syndicate Of Talent: ..."Evoking the earthy analysis of Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., that it will be difficult for Democrats to run on the campaign slogan, 'Things would have sucked worse without me,' James Carville reminded his friends in the Obama White House that 'the hardest thing to do in all of political communications is: How do you deal with a bad but somewhat improving economy?'...

Greenberg agreed: 'White, blue-collar voters, particularly males, took a big hit in this (current) recession.
As the elites try to make the case (during the 2010 campaign) that this is coming back and economic policies work, they're going to get angrier and angrier.'

To reinforce his point, Greenberg recalled the negative reaction of a group of swing voters he was monitoring to President Obama's boast during the State of the Union speech that his administration had brought the U.S. economy 'back from oblivion.'

Any politician, this year, who tells hurting voters they ought to be more optimistic because of reports of increased corporate profits or big hikes in the Dow Jones average will completely deserve the intense hostility he gets.

For Democrats, Greenberg added another sobering note involving three key Barack Obama 2008 constituencies — unmarried women, Latino voters and young voters. For them, 'the recession has gotten much worse, and they have gotten more pessimistic.'

To reach these understandably discouraged and dispirited voters, Carville revealed he had told White House operatives: 'I wish you would be more about conveying there is a strategy ... a plan that is in place.'

In my personal opinion, not Carville's or Greenberg's, Americans today can be compared to passengers on a subway train that has abruptly stopped between scheduled stops, plunging everyone into darkness. What people are most looking for is the reassuring, informed, authoritative voice who explains what went wrong, what is being done to correct it, what each of us can do to help and when we can realistically expect to return to normal conditions."...

[bth: well put. Thanks Lighthouse for passing this on. If unmarried women, Latino voters and young voters that normally don't vote are discouraged and since Obama isn't running this year anyway, one wonders how in the world Dems will get the vote out?]

YouTube - Willie Nelson - Amazing Grace

YouTube - Willie Nelson - Amazing Grace

California and Florida are missing - election politics?

Amidst Jobs Report, Obama Slips | Taylor Marsh – – News, Opinion and Weblog on Progressive Politics

Amidst Jobs Report, Obama Slips | Taylor Marsh – – News, Opinion and Weblog on Progressive Politics:... "Although the March report is a big improvement from the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost each month during 2009, job growth is effectively stalled and long-term unemployment is eating away at people’s pocketbooks and the nation’s economy. More than two in every five unemployed workers in this country have been unemployed for more than six months. And the situation is getting worse. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) increased by 414,000 over the month to 6.5 million. In March, 44.1 percent of unemployed persons were jobless for 27 weeks or more.

When both unemployed and underemployed workers are counted, there are still some 26 million people without full-time work—a 16.9 percent underemployment rate."...

bth: its the economy stupid. Where is that ugly James Carville when we need him?

#1 Afghan People, #2 Afghan National Security Force -

#1 Afghan People, #2 Afghan National Security Force - "The tactical guys in the field understand the significance of influence. From Command Sergeant Major Michael T. Hall at NATO ISAF HQ:

[The words on this cardboard] encapsulates everything we're trying to achieve in Afghanistan at the strategic, operational and tactical level on a single piece of cardboard that is understood and practiced at every level in Fox Company.

We have all have got to take the mental leap and realize that the best way to protect ourselves and the population is thru the Afghan people and the ANSF.

Everywhere we build trust, there are examples of this. The ANSF are, our relief, treat them that way, help develop them that way, and understand it has to be an Afghan way, or it will not be sustainable and everyone knows that. We have to push as hard as we can, but the push can only be lead by example, and sometimes that doesn't seem to be enough, but, remember, we have tours, this is life for them.

The cardboard reads from Fox Company 2/2 US Marines reads:

Best counter to IEDs: #1 The Afghan people, #2 ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] partners and then metal detectors, dogs, [Afghan] BOSS, [Airplanes], etc. More than 80% of our IED finds have been the direct result of tips from local nationals because of the respect that you show to the people – and because they’ve watched you ruthlessly close with and destroy the enemy. Never forget that the best X-IED TTP’s = #1 the Afghan people & #2 our ANSF partners."

The Weakness of Taliban Marksmanship - At War Blog -

The Weakness of Taliban Marksmanship - At War Blog - "Last week, At War opened a conversation about Afghan marksmanship by publishing rough data from several dozen recent firefights between the Taliban and three Marine rifle companies in and near Marja, the location of the recent offensive in Helmand Province. The data showed that while the Taliban can be canny and brave in combat their rifle fire is often remarkably ineffective.

We plan more posts about the nature of the fighting in Afghanistan, and how this influences the experience of the war. Today this blog discusses visible factors that, individually and together, predict poor shooting results when Taliban gunmen get behind their rifles.

It’s worth noting that many survivors of multiple small-arms engagements in Afghanistan have had experiences similar to those described last week. After emerging unscathed from ambushes, including ambushes within ranges at which the Taliban’s AK-47 knock-offs should have been effective, they wonder: how did so much Taliban fire miss?

Many factors are at play. Some of you jumped ahead and submitted comments that would fit neatly on the list; thank you for the insights. Our list includes these: limited Taliban knowledge of marksmanship fundamentals, a frequent reliance on automatic fire from assault rifles, the poor condition of many of those rifles, old and mismatched ammunition that is also in poor condition, widespread eye problems and uncorrected vision, and the difficulties faced by a scattered force in organizing quality training."...

bth: this is an article worth reading in full especially the comments that follow it.

Pakistan launches offensive on hiding place of Osama bin Laden - Telegraph

Pakistan launches offensive on hiding place of Osama bin Laden - Telegraph: ..."The change in policy was highlighted on Thursday when Major-General Tariq Khan, commander of the Frontier Corps said five of the country's seven tribal areas were now under government control and that operations to retake the remaining two, Orakzai and North Waziristan, would be completed in the next three months.

He told The Daily Telegraph the operations carried out so far, to take out al-Qaeda and Taliban positions, had been kept deliberately low key for maximum impact.

Gen Khan said: 'This will finish in a couple of months. We'll take care of all of them. We're just waiting for the major operations, like Orakzai and North Waziristan, to finish, to spare us the troops to start changing our methodology.'

He said that unlike the offensive in South Waziristan, which began last year and involved 25,000 troops, the strategy in North Waziristan would be to carry out a series of smaller actions.

'Instead of kinetic, concentrated operations, we will start search and cordon and sting operations – for which actually you need more boots on the ground."

[bth: I'm still trying to get my head around what has changed in the Paki military and civilian psyche with regard to the Taliban.]

Pentagon boosting Afghanistan eyes in the sky | Reuters

Pentagon boosting Afghanistan eyes in the sky | Reuters: "Carter, head of Pentagon acquisition, technology and logistics, said the success of the war in Afghanistan would depend largely on being able to get weapons and support services to the U.S. troops headed to the land-locked country, which he described as 'the last place where you would like to be fighting a war.'

'This summer is going to be very critical. If we don't get ourselves in there and get set ... we can't have success,' he told a conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies,

As part of that effort, Carter said he was increasing 20-fold the number of airships hovering over Afghanistan, providing 'eyes in the sky' to troops on the ground.

Equipped with sophisticated cameras and the ability to stream images to U.S. bases on the ground, the airships would help track any activity that could jeopardize the troops, including the burying of roadside bombs.

At the same time, the very visible presence of the airships would keep potential attackers on their guard, Carter said, calling the airships a more affordable way to maintain surveillance than more-expensive unmanned airplanes, which are also being deployed in Afghanistan in large numbers.

Carter did not say which airship model would be added."...

[bth: about fucking time. The air force has been fighting airships and literally locking them up in hangars because of the fear that they will encroach on manned aircraft missions. Likely it is the army that is moving these along and note that their control is being directed by FOBs which seems like a good idea.]

Taliban reading the papers, offering wish list? - Threat Matrix

Taliban reading the papers, offering wish list? - Threat Matrix: ..."The latest Taliban screed also includes what might be considered a 'wish list' [emphasis below mine]:

If America really wants peace in Afghanistan, they should draw up a national strategy of reconciliation,; stop blind bombardment and night raids; release innocent prisoners and remove the blacks list, send black water and CIA agents back home from Afghanistan and close down all secret prisons in American military bases in Afghanistan which are run by intelligence teams of the Special Force.

What's missing here is the Taliban's standard condition that all foreign troops leave before any talks can happen, as well as a more recent call to pull some bad guys' names from the UN's blacklist.

Still, isn't a wish list a good sign if you want to talk to the Taliban? But let's not forget that the Taliban still say they're not willing to lay down arms to show good faith.

Bottom line: So far, the Taliban info-machine has offered a lot of 'want' and not much firm or detailed 'give.'"

[bth: my take is that this offers us something to work with. And what do we get in return? Do we have a wish list? Something the Taliban can say yes to?]

Iraqi forces strike blow to al Qaeda in Iraq's northern leadership cadre - The Long War Journal

Iraqi forces strike blow to al Qaeda in Iraq's northern leadership cadre - The Long War Journal:... "US Forces Iraq believes that the deaths of Juburi, Afri, and Jaburi, along with the capture of the top three extortion emirs, 'will likely greatly disrupt AQI operations and prevent future attacks throughout Iraq' because the terror group receives 'the bulk' of its funding through its extortion operations.

In recent months, Iraqi and US forces have had success in targeting al Qaeda's top leaders in northern Iraq. Along with Abu Na’im al Afri, the former northern emir who was killed on Jan. 5, joint forces also captured the terror group’s administrative emir, the adviser to the sharia emir, and the detainee affairs emir.

On Jan. 22, Iraqi and US forces killed Abu Khalaf, al Qaeda in Iraq's most senior foreign fighter facilitator. Khalaf had been described as one of al Qaeda's top leaders. Based out of Syria, Khalaf reorganized al Qaeda's network after it was severely disrupted by Iraqi and US forces during extensive operations in 2007 and 2008.

The northern city of Mosul remains a focal point for Sunni terror groups. Nine terror groups, including Ansar al Islam and al Qaeda in Iraq, remain active in Mosul. The city's proximity to Syria, a major conduit for foreign fighters entering Iraq, and the historic ethnic divisions between Arabs and Kurds keep Mosul a contested city."

Editorial - Afghanistan’s President Karzai Lashes Out -

Editorial - Afghanistan’s President Karzai Lashes Out - "Mr. Karzai is not only going against the interests of the governments protecting him, but against those of his own people. On Wednesday, the lower house of Parliament rejected a revision of the election law that would have allowed him to appoint all five members of the agency that investigates election fraud and disclosed last year’s irregularities. The United Nations appoints three of the five members.

Mr. Karzai no doubt was embarrassed when Mr. Obama made his first trip to Kabul last Sunday to tell him he wasn’t moving fast enough on improving governance, curbing corruption, advancing the rule of law and devising a plan to persuade insurgents to switch sides. But Mr. Obama was exactly right, and those tasks grow more urgent as coalition forces confront their biggest target yet: the Taliban stronghold in Kandahar.

The pressure on Mr. Karzai has, at times, been applied inartfully, but Mr. Obama is right to hold him to account in ways President George W. Bush did not. He should make clear that Washington will work around him if needed, funneling aid through competent cabinet ministries and helping beef up local governments.

Mr. Karzai is encouraging those who want the United States out of Afghanistan. He risks boiling down a more complicated policy debate to the notion that American lives are being sacrificed simply to keep him in power. It’s hard to think of a better way to doom Afghanistan’s future, as well as his own."

Friday, April 02, 2010

South Korea says torpedo may have sunk navy ship | Reuters

South Korea says torpedo may have sunk navy ship | Reuters: "Initial speculation that North Korea might have sunk the 1,200 ton corvette Cheonan spooked Wall Street last Friday. Share prices dipped partly on geopolitical concerns of escalating conflict between the rival Koreas, and the won dropped against the dollar.

'We believe there is a likely possibility for the sinking to have been because of a torpedo, but we should look at all possibilities,' Kim told a parliamentary committee.

Kim did not say if South Korea thought the torpedo may have been friendly fire or from North Korea, which is still technically at war with the South and has repeatedly threatened to attack ships in the area.

Shortly after the incident, South Korean officials all but ruled out blaming the North."...

[bth: fascinating how S. Korea is doing everything possible to deny that N. Korea was involved - to the point of saying it might have been a friendly torpedo. Friendly torpedo? Really?]

Army: Gays still can be dismissed if they speak up - Yahoo! News

Army: Gays still can be dismissed if they speak up - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON – Reversing course, Army Secretary John McHugh warned soldiers Thursday that they still can be discharged for acknowledging they are gay, saying he misspoke earlier this week when he suggested the military's 'don't ask, don't tell' policy had been temporarily suspended.

The public stumble by a senior service official is an indication of the issue's legal complexity. The Pentagon has said it wants to hear from gay troops as it conducts a broad study on how it could lift the ban, as President Barack Obama wants.

But to do that, gay service members would have to break the law, which prohibits them from discussing their sexual orientation.

Defense Department officials say they plan to hire an outside contractor to survey the troops, and that gay troops won't be punished for sharing their views with that third party.

'Until Congress repeals 'don't ask, don't tell,' it remains the law of the land and the Department of the Army and I will fulfill our obligation to uphold it,' McHugh said in a statement Thursday."...

[bth: oh please. This is nonsense. Obama can suspend enforcement. How in the world is a survey going to be done in this environment.]

Afghan President Rebukes West and U.N. -

Afghan President Rebukes West and U.N. - ..."Mr. Karzai appeared about to agree to the West’s demands to change the election process because, he said, if he did not, Western donors would withhold the money Afghanistan needs to hold the parliamentary elections.

“He wants to portray himself as a national figure who stands against the foreigners,” said Ahmed Wali Massoud, a strong supporter of Abdullah Abdullah, the candidate who ran closest to Mr. Karzai in last summer’s election.

Diplomats quietly worried about another problem: that the anger toward the West would be used by antiwar advocates in countries with troops here to bolster their arguments for withdrawal. “People will hear this and say ‘Why are we helping this man?’ ” said a Western diplomat in Kabul."

[bth: indeed. And why shouldn't people in the west ask, "Why are we helping this man?". Damned good question. This article also didn't mention that his brother was a kingpin in the drug trade around Kandahar. The target of our much advertised June-August offensive.]

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Naval Open Source INTelligence

bth: this has the obvious advantage of being a hell of a system fired from a drone at a moving target such as a fleeing car or boat.

A Boston icon rides to the rescue in flooded Wayland - Local News Updates - MetroDesk - The Boston Globe

A Boston icon rides to the rescue in flooded Wayland - Local News Updates - MetroDesk - The Boston Globe

Washington's Blog - role of blogs

Washington's Blog

I've posted a poll to the right, asking whether blogs are useful or a waste of time. Vote to let us know what you think.
The potential answers are:
1. It is useful, because it informs people of information not covered by the mainstream media.

2. It is useful, because it can help organize people to take action.

3. It is a waste of time, because the powers-that-be do whatever they want, no matter how loudly the people speak out.

4. It is a waste of time, and gives people a way to blow off steam without challenging those in power, and a false sense...

Pro-drilling Republicans unhappy with Obama drilling expansion | Raw Story

Pro-drilling Republicans unhappy with Obama drilling expansion | Raw Story:... "The cold reception from his adversaries can hardly be surprising for Obama and Democrats, given how elusive Republican support has been for all of his major initiatives since taking office.

But his move was largely designed as an overture to conservatives, as the New York Times reported that it was part of an effort to 'help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation.'

Environmental groups and progressives are livid at the move, warning that this gamble will not lower gas prices anytime soon and is unlikely to win GOP support. The latter prediction, at least, has so far proven accurate."

[bth: I don't understand why Obama doesn't couch these moves as part of a broad and all inclusive move to improve domestic energy production - oil drilling, wind, solar, nuclear, coal, etc. Setting up off shore drilling without further action on other issues will inflame the irrational left. I'd have tied this move with a major push toward alternative energy and perhaps an oil import tax to pay for it.]

Facing food shortages and sanctions, Kim Jong Il appears to reach out to China -

Facing food shortages and sanctions, Kim Jong Il appears to reach out to China - ..."Outreach to China comes at a time of sharply increased pressure on Kim's leadership.

On the inside, food shortages have worsened because of botched currency reform that disrupted the private markets that feed most of the country's 22.5 million people. In addition, Kim's medical ills now include kidney failure, and he undergoes dialysis every two weeks, according to the head of a state-run think tank in Seoul.

On the outside, U.N. sanctions are reportedly limiting the North's ability to profit from weapons sales. State trafficking in counterfeit cigarettes and illicit drugs appears to be dwindling. In addition, large-scale food aid from South Korea has stopped until Pyongyang agrees to junk its nuclear weapons.

What North Korea desperately needs is foreign capital."...

[bth: compare this to the Nightwatch analysis that the S. Korean boat sinking came from an external explosion and there were indications that a N. Korean sub was in the area. So is this a one two punch to keep the west off balance and to help negotiate more favorable terms from S. Korea and China? i.e., give us money or we'll cause a war? Also the winter is over. What is it that he needs? Fertilizer?]
War Is Boring: We go to war so you don't have to.

Moscow fears tide of Black Widows - Times Online

Moscow fears tide of Black Widows - Times Online: "Russian security services were hunting for more “Black Widows” yesterday amid fears that the women who blew themselves up in the Moscow Metro were part of a 30-strong suicide squad trained by a Chechen terrorist leader.

Agents from the Federal Security Service (FSB) believe that the women were avenging the death of Said Buryatsky, the leading ideologue of the Islamist rebels in the North Caucasus, who was killed this month in Ingushetia. They were trying to establish whether the attack was a one-off response to his death or the start of a suicide bombing campaign that he had prepared before the FSB tracked him down."...

Buryatsky, a Muslim convert who was born Alexander Tikhomirov, was among six militants killed in an FSB operation in Ingushetia on March 2. The Kremlin described him then as the mastermind behind a bomb attack on the Nevsky Express train between Moscow and St Petersburg that killed 26 and wounded 100 in November.

He was also blamed for the suicide bombing that almost succeeded in assassinating Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Ingushetia’s President, last June and the attack in August that devastated the main police station in Nazran, the Ingush capital, killing 20 officers.

Kommersant newspaper reported that the FSB believed nine of the thirty bombers trained by Buryatsky had blown themselves up. The rest were still at large, raising fears that more were in Moscow.

Mr Yevkurov ordered security services to check on relatives of militants killed in recent police operations in Ingushetia to establish if any were linked with the Metro attacks. The FSB was also said to be checking lists of relatives of those killed alongside Buryatsky, particularly women....

[bth: so it looks like more black widow attacks to come. This is not good.]

Nightwatch - more on the S. Korean ship sinking

"South Korea: The government announced that officials are to stay on emergency alert until the crisis sparked by the sinking of a warship is resolved, Agence France-Presse reported 31 March.

Navy chief Admiral Kim Sung Chan said the ship's munitions storage room did not appear to have exploded and the ship was 'broken in two because of powerful outside pressure or an exterior explosion.' Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said U.S. and South Korean intelligence had satellite photos showing submersible craft moving in and out of a North Korean west coast naval base at Sagot, within range of the offshore islands, before and after the sinking, but the evidence is inconclusive.

North Korea: North Korea broke silence on the sinking today. A representative of a state agency for inter-Korean economic cooperation said North Korea had nothing to do with the sinking of a South Korean warship in the Yellow Sea, Yonhap reported. This was North Korea's first response to the incident since it happened and the official made the statement during a visit to Dandong, China."...

The DEW Line - USAF chief still prefers invisibility (stealth) to invincibility (lasers)

The DEW Line: "The fact that an unidentified B-1B bomber pilot stuck his neck out this morning isn't news. After all, B-1B pilots fly a non-stealthy aircraft with a defective defensive suite. What else do you expect?

But this B-1B pilot stuck his neck out by challenging the chief of staff of the air force on a fundamental point of the service's strategy. Namely, the pilot asked, since stealth is so expensive, why don't we do something else?

Gen Norton Schwartz, to his credit, did not reward the pilot's boldness with an automatic Article 15 disciplinary action and a reassignment to the Adak weather station. Instead, Schwartz heard him out.

What if, the B-1B pilot suggested, the air force equip non-stealthy aircraft, such as the B-1B, with high-energy lasers? The pilot cited the example of the Electric Laser on a Larger Aircraft (ELLA), which involves exactly such a concept. If such non-stealthy aircraft could be more cost-effective than a stealthy platform, could that change the paradigm?

Schwartz wasted no time making clear such a concept would never happen -- not during his own tenure, nor the B-1B pilot's. Why?

'There are those who would say that 'I'm very comfortable being shot at because I can sort of interrupt the process. I feel comfortable with that scenario,'' Schwartz says. 'Well, frankly, I'd just as soon not be shot at.'"

[bth: a youtube video of the conversation is posted on the original site. The pilot has a point. Now if you took it one step further, the Koreans have decided that they can't afford stealth aircraft, so what they are doing to get around the problem is putting stealthy missiles on the aircraft and holding their aircraft at a stand off distance, letting the missiles do the work, then when the path is cleared of threats they can bring their non-stealthy aircraft in plentiful numbers (because they cost less) into the fight. Personally between stealthy missiles and drones I'd say that was a better strategy than the one the US is on.]

Iraq: The Wrong Type of Sand - At War Blog -

Iraq: The Wrong Type of Sand - At War Blog - "CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — On the very long and expensive list of materials that the American military had to ship to Iraq since 2003 and is now shipping out again one might not have expected to find sand.

Yet there it is.

This might seem strange for a country that is 10 parts sand to 1 part water, 1 part oil and 0.1 parts electricity. Counterintuitive. Absurd, even.

However, American commanders overseeing the drawdown of forces and equipment currently under way from Iraq confirm that Iraqi sand was deemed inadequate for the blast walls that have become perhaps the defining visual feature of post-invasion Baghdad and other cities, stretching for mile upon mile around government ministries, airports, military bases and other important buildings.

So, at no little cost, boatloads of more resilient desert had to be floated in from other countries — namely the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. And not just for blast walls."...

“And then you look to see that based on the specs that we have for blast walls, it takes a particular grain and quality of sand. That sand is not in Iraq, so you have to bring the sand in. So that sand actually has to get on barges down in U.A.E., down in Qatar, has to come all the way up here, gets processed through there. You can either do one of two things, you can make the concrete, or you can just bring the sand up into Iraq.”

It’s the same story on bottled water for troops in Afghanistan, he pointed out, because of the lack of capacity to bottle water locally. The water has to be shipped into Pakistan via the port of Karachi and then spends 17 days on the road to Afghanistan. “We pay 45 cents for a bottle of water in Iraq,” he said. “We pay $2.50 for that same bottle of water in Afghanistan.”

That water was also imported to Iraq – the Land of the Two Rivers – after the 2003 invasion is old news to anyone who has seen the crates of Kuwaiti and Saudi mineral water in Iraqi shops.

Even gasoline had to be imported to the nation sitting atop some of the world’s biggest oil reserves, because of the perilous state of security, and Iraq’s oil industry in the years immediately following the war.

But sand?

General McGhee provides the engineering rationale: “This isn’t a wall that you would just put on an interstate some place. These are blast walls, so they have to be reinforced steel. They are real specific about what type of concrete, and the strength of the concrete. And the sand that is up there did not meet the specs for those blast walls, so you have to find the sand elsewhere.”...

[bth: unbelievable. So instead of redesigning the blast walls to local materials which might at worst require making the walls a little thicker, we imported sand into Iraq and now, God willing, we are going to truck this precious sand out again. And as is common knowledge instead of building a water bottling plant in country after nearly a decade of ware we continue to import bottled water and the best part is that that water is purchased from rigged contracts (remember the CIA number 2 that was convicted for routing water contracts to his friends)? This just gets better. But sand.]

When Risk-Return Makes No Sense: How To Deal With An Overvalued Market | zero hedge

When Risk-Return Makes No Sense: How To Deal With An Overvalued Market | zero hedge: "As SocGen's Dylan Grice points out, we have gotten to the point where the Shiller PE demonstrates S&P valuations are now back in the highest valuation quintile: in other words the market is now more expensive than during 80% of the time. The risk-return at this point makes little sense, because as Grice points out the 10 year return using this quintile as an entry point is just 1.7%, compared to 11% for the lowest quintile."...

The Latest Red Flag - The Market's Rate Of Melting Up | zero hedge

The Latest Red Flag - The Market's Rate Of Melting Up | zero hedge: "Based on data going back 90 years, whenever the 12-month rate of change (ROC) in the Dow Jones Industrials Average has exceeded 40 percent, it has generally signaled trouble ahead.

In three cases, a 12-month ROC above that level has only marked a short-term pause, after which the market traded higher.

But on 11 other occasions, similarly rapid advances have been followed by notable corrections, including the collapses that followed the 1929 and dot-com era peaks, as well as the 1987 crash."....

[bth: so if we take the posts that I made previous to this one and add it up we are looking at a melt down of commercial real estate, a continuing worsening of home default rates and stock market that based on probabilities given its recent run up is overvalued and likely to offer little if any positive gains in the near term. So where will people gain wealth? What will drive the the economic engines? We don't have one. There is no rebound in this situation.]

January Fannie Mae Delinquency Rate Climbs To New Record At 5.52%, 14 bps Higher Than December, Double From Year Ago | zero hedge

January Fannie Mae Delinquency Rate Climbs To New Record At 5.52%, 14 bps Higher Than December, Double From Year Ago | zero hedge: "Fannie Mae reported its January total serious delinquency rate for single-family houses: the rate hit a new record of 5.54%, a jump from the December's 5.38%, and double the 2.77% in January 2009. All in all a perfect time for the Fed to be moving away from the mortgage market, pardon, to no longer being the mortgage market."...

[bth: without big gains in job growth - not a reduction in the decline - I don't see how this will do anything but rise. Further with the government stepping out of buying Fannie Mae, I think that can only mean mortgage rates will go up, not down. If that happens how can real estate improve in value? This country is on the verge of a depression.]

March Records Fastest Ever CMBS Delinquency Deterioration In History According To TREPP | zero hedge

March Records Fastest Ever CMBS Delinquency Deterioration In History According To TREPP | zero hedge: "RealPoint has just released its March CMBS delinquency data, according to which delinquencies hit an all time high 6%. Not to be ignored, according to TREPP this number is even worse, at nearly 8%, after the single biggest monthly spike in 30 day + delinquencies.

In February 2010, the delinquent unpaid balance for CMBS increased by another $1.87 billion, up to $47.82 billion from $45.94 billion a month prior. Aggregate delinquency increased despite a slight decrease in 30-day delinquency. The overall delinquent unpaid balance is up almost 300% from one-year ago (when only $11.98 billion of delinquent unpaid balance was reported for February 2009), and is now over 21 times the low point of $2.21 billion in March 2007. The distressed 90+-day, Foreclosure and REO categories grew in aggregate for the 26th straight month – up by $2.88 billion (9%) from the previous month and $29.36 billion (420%) in the past year (up from only $6.98 billion in February 2009).

As Stuy Town is still current on its payment, RealPoint expects an even greater acceleration in CMBS delinquencies over the coming months:"...

[bth: there is about to be a commercial real estate mortgage meltdown. The numbers in the table are default rates by sector. Look what lodging and multifamily have done in the last year alone.]

Poll: More blame Obama for poor economy, unemployment -

Poll: More blame Obama for poor economy, unemployment - "WASHINGTON — Americans anxious about unemployment and the economy increasingly blame President Obama for hard times, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, amid signs of turbulence in November's midterm elections.

Last week's jubilant signing of the health care overhaul, Obama's signature domestic initiative, seems to have given the president little boost. Instead, his standing on four personal qualities has sagged, and 50% of those surveyed say he doesn't deserve re-election."...

In the survey last Friday through Sunday, the president gets tough treatment:

• Obama's standing on four key personal qualities, including being a strong and decisive leader and understanding the problems Americans face in their lives, has dipped. For the first time since the 2008 campaign, he fails to win a majority of people saying he shares their values and can manage the government effectively.

• Twenty-six percent say he deserves "a great deal" of the blame for the nation's economic problems, nearly double the number who felt that way last summer. In all, half say he deserves at least a moderate amount of blame.

The blame directed at his predecessor, former president George W. Bush, hasn't eased, however: 42% now give Bush "a great deal" of blame, basically unchanged from 43% last July.

• By 50%-46%, those surveyed say Obama doesn't deserve re-election.

Obama's approval rating on handling the economy, foreign affairs and the federal budget deficit hasn't significantly changed from February. It has risen a bit on health care, though he doesn't get majority approval on any of the categories....

[bth: fortunately for him an election is between the best of two bad choices. We have no idea who the Republicans can put forward and a look at their starting line up should keep Obama optimistic. That said I just don't understand why it is so difficult for Washington politicians to understand that this is about jobs. Its about the economy stupid. They just don't seem to want to face the issue.]

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holding back job growth? Workers' awesome output -

Holding back job growth? Workers' awesome output - ..."One of the great surprises of the economic downturn that began 27 months ago is this: Businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.

That means high-level gains in productivity -- which in the long run is the key to a higher standard of living but in the short run contributes to sky-high unemployment. So long as employers can squeeze dramatically higher output from every worker, they won't need to hire again despite the growing economy."...

Businesses have certainly not been investing in new equipment that might enable workers to be more efficient -- capital expenditures plummeted during the recession and are rebounding slowly. And the structural shifts occurring in the economy are so profound that one would expect productivity to be lower, rather than higher, as people need new training to work in parts of the economy that are growing, such as exports and the clean-energy sector.

So what's happening? As best as anyone can guess, the crisis that began in 2007 and deepened in 2008 caused both businesses and workers to panic. Companies cut even more staff than the decrease in demand for their products would warrant. They were hoarding cash, fearful that they wouldn't have access to capital down the road.

When demand for their products leveled off in the middle of last year, the companies could have stopped cutting jobs or even hired people back. But they didn't -- payrolls have continued declining.

Instead companies squeezed more work out of remaining employees, accounting for a 3.8 percent boost in worker productivity in 2009, the best in seven years. Which raises the question: Why couldn't companies have achieved those gains back when the economy was in better shape? The answer to that may lie on the other side of the equation -- employees....

[bth: not great mystery here. Export jobs to third world countries to minimize re-hiring, liquidate inventory and minimize work in process which shows a quarterly productivity gain relative to payrolls (cars inventories being liquidated and not replenished), slashing R&D. All these actions will increase cash and show up as a temporary spike in productivity.]

U.S. forces set sights on Taliban bastion of Kandahar -

U.S. forces set sights on Taliban bastion of Kandahar - "KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- U.S. forces have begun the initial phases of a political-military offensive in this Taliban bastion and hope to control the city and surrounding areas by late summer, according to senior U.S. military officials."

Officials have pressed local leaders and tribal elders over the past several weeks to begin holding shuras, or conferences, in Kandahar city and outlying districts, telling them that they must improve governance, address corruption and eject the Taliban. Otherwise, their areas will be the focus of expanding military operations scheduled to begin in June with the arrival of 10,000 new U.S. troops, the officials have said.

Among those specifically warned by U.S. military commanders is Ahmed Wali Karzai, the elected head of Kandahar's provincial council. American officials have for years accused Karzai, the unquestioned power broker in the province and brother of President Hamid Karzai, of administering a corrupt regime and protecting narcotics traffickers. He was also accused of orchestrating voter fraud in August's presidential election.

On a visit here Tuesday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Kandahar the "center of gravity" for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and compared the importance of the offensive to the 2007 "surge" of U.S. troops that helped turn the tide in the Iraq war.

In interviews, senior U.S. military and civilian officials stressed the difference between the operations in Kandahar, an urban area that is the Taliban's heartland, and operations in neighboring Helmand province, where Marines have taken control of the Marja district and installed government officials appointed by the central government in Kabul.

"Marja is rural and was ungoverned," said Frank Ruggiero, the senior U.S. civilian official in southern Afghanistan. "Kandahar city is controlled by the Afghan government." But 80 percent of the Zhari district to the west is controlled by the Taliban, as is 40 percent of the Panjwayi district, to the southwest. There are scattered insurgent operations in the Arghandab district to the northwest, Ruggiero and other officials said.

Together, the three districts and the city proper have a population of 2 million, making Kandahar Afghanistan's second-largest population center, after Kabul.

U.S. officials, including President Obama during a surprise visit last weekend, have pressed the Afghan president to take long-promised action against his brother and other allegedly corrupt officials. But they acknowledge that their limited knowledge of tribal politics here, the power wielded by Ahmed Wali Karzai and a few others and President Karzai's reluctance to act have made it an uphill battle.

Senior administration officials in Washington said overall transition to stability and vastly improved governance in Kandahar must be completed by December, when Obama has asked Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, for an overall review of how the new strategy he announced last fall is faring. The strategy calls for U.S. military withdrawals to begin in July 2011.

"We really don't have much time," said a senior military official on McChrystal's staff of the Kandahar operation.

The political side of the offensive began in earnest last week with a shura in Arghandab organized by the provincial governor, Tooryalai Wesa. When an unrepresentative group of tribal leaders showed up, Ruggiero said, Wesa sent them home with instructions to widen the net of participation. Similar meetings are scheduled throughout the region over the next several weeks.

U.S. officials have urged President Karzai to travel here next month for a provincial shura. The pitch they have made to him, one official said, is "Mr. President, we've got to get going on Kandahar, and we need your help."...

[bth: asking Karzai for help in Kandahar with his brother the center of corruption there is almost laughable except that it is killing Americans. This offensive will succeed militarily because of the overwhelming force we can bring but this long, telegraphed move, the timing to 'succeed' just before the US elections this fall are all stage set up and theater in action. There is no operational security as all our moves are telegraphed months in advance and there is only the most shall token effort at reducing corruption - Karzai and his brother being cases in point.]

Private sector unexpectedly sheds 23,000 more jobs | Raw Story

Private sector unexpectedly sheds 23,000 more jobs | Raw Story: "U.S. private employers shed 23,000 jobs in March, missing expectations for an increase in jobs although fewer than the adjusted 24,000 jobs lost in February, a report by a private employment service said on Wednesday.

The February fall was originally reported at 20,000.

The median of estimates from 35 economists surveyed by Reuters for the ADP Employer Services report, jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, was for a rise of 40,000 private-sector jobs last month.

The ADP report is seen as an early indicator of the Labor Department's employment report due out Friday. However, there can be wide variations because ADP only accounts for private-sector jobs.

Economists expect the Labor Department's report to show employers added 190,000 jobs in March. It would be only the second monthly increase in jobs since the recession began in late 2007. The number could be somewhat inflated because the government hired temporary workers to conduct the 2010 census."

[bth: we need to be adding about 125-250K per month to meet population growth and demographic shifts.]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Missing Iranian nuclear scientist reportedly defected to US | Raw Story

Missing Iranian nuclear scientist reportedly defected to US | Raw Story: "A leading Iranian nuclear scientist has defected to the United States and is working with the CIA, ABC News reported late Tuesday.

Shahram Amiri, a nuclear physicist in his early thirties, disappeared in June 2009 after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage.

ABC said that US intelligence agents described the defection as 'an intelligence coup' in US efforts to undermine Iran's nuclear program.

Amiri's disappearance 'was part of a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect,' ABC reported, citing unnamed people briefed on the operation by US intelligence officials.

On October 7, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki charged that there was US involvement in Amiri's disappearance."...

[bth: this story is 5 months old. One has to ask, why now? Why did ABC News suddenly discover and publicize what has been generally suspected for months?]

Protesters try to cuff Rove, drive him off stage | Raw Story

Protesters try to cuff Rove, drive him off stage | Raw Story

bth: Loves it

Canada tells Clinton troops are leaving

Canada tells Clinton troops are leaving: "OTTAWA (AP) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011."...

[bth: thanks NATO. Danes then Dutch then UK will peal off.]

Rail Surfer's Incredible Run Ends In Horrible Crash (VIDEO)

Rail Surfer's Incredible Run Ends In Horrible Crash (VIDEO)

Mobile Phones Combat Taliban's Afghan "Information Wastelands" -

Mobile Phones Combat Taliban's Afghan "Information Wastelands" - "From Bloomberg-BusinessWeek:

'We found that Afghans in the most-troubled, insurgent- held areas lived in information wastelands dominated by militant propaganda,' [U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke] said March 17. 'We are fighting back with a revamped strategy that puts the people and their ability to communicate at the forefront of our effort.'

Joanna Nathan, author of a 2008 report on Taliban propaganda for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, cautioned that expanding mobile-phone capacity isn't enough to counteract the Taliban. They have dominated the war of words by exaggerating victories and fueling conspiracy theories, she said.

'It's not the words, but how credible is your message,' said Said Jawad, Afghan ambassador to Washington. The U.S. must not only 'respond to propaganda but deliver and make a difference in people's lives.'"

Headley names 6 Pak armymen in Karachi Project - India - The Times of India

Headley names 6 Pak armymen in Karachi Project - India - The Times of India: "NEW DELHI: David Coleman Headley has identified five-six serving officers of Pakistan army among the leaders of the Karachi Project, which seeks to organize attacks on India through fugitive Indian jihadis being sheltered in Karachi by the ISI-Lashkar combine.

Sources said that besides serving Majors Samir Ali and Iqbal of Pakistan army, Headley has told his FBI handlers about the role of one Colonel Shah and at least two other officers of the Pakistan army in the Karachi Project.

On February 26, TOI was the first to report about the role of serving officers of the Pakistan army - Majors Samir Ali and Iqbal - in the Karachi Project. These two have been mentioned in the dossier that was submitted to visiting Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir on February 25."...

War Is Boring: We go to war so you don't have to.

War Is Boring: We go to war so you don't have to.

Hopes Fading for Missing S. Korean Sailors

Hopes Fading for Missing S. Korean Sailors <img src='/www/news/images/ic_korean.gif'>: "Defense Minister Kim Tae-young cautiously raised the possibility Monday that the ill-fated frigate Cheonan may have hit a mine laid by North Korea.

His remark drew attention as Cheong Wa Dae and defense officials had previously sought to downplay the North’s possible involvement in the deadly ship wreck Friday in which 46 South Korean sailors remain “missing in action.”

Answering questions at the National Assembly on the cause of the incident, Kim said, “North Korean mines may have floated into our territorial waters.”

However, he refused to comment on whether the mines had been placed by the North intentionally or had drifted into South Korean waters."...

Kim ruled out the possibility of a blast caused by South Korean mines, and also played down the possibility of a torpedo attack.

North Korea bought about 4,000 sea mines from the former Soviet Union during the 1950-53 Korean War and was believed to have laid about 3,000 of them both in eastern and western waters off the Korean Peninsula, Kim noted.

“Almost all mines were removed, but not 100 percent,” he said. “A North Korean mine was found in South Korean waters in 1984 and another was removed in 1995.”

Both Koreas deployed floating and submerged mines near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto sea border, after the Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Military experts said an acoustic mine might have been triggered by the Cheonan’s propellers. Acoustic mines are activated by the noise of a passing ship’s screws....

With regard to North Korean involvement, U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Walter Sharp also said in a statement that his command didn’t detect any indication that this was the case.

NightWatch: N. Korean diplomatic actions suggest not a deliberate attack on S. Korean naval vessel

..."Diplomacy. General Secretary Kim Chong-il met and dined with the new Chinese Ambassador to North Korea, along with members of the National Defense Commission, Foreign Ministry and Korean Worker’s Party Department heads.

Comment: The event carrying the most immediate diagnostic significance is the diplomacy. When North Korea initiates a provocation against the South, it always goes into a defensive crouch in anticipation of violent retaliation. Internal movement by civilians is restricted and routine diplomatic activities are cancelled, as examples of civilian defensive preparations that parallel military readiness increases.

The routine meeting with a new Ambassador from any country is a strong indicator that the North did not attack the South Korean ship and expects no South Korean attack. The forces on alert are a normal precaution and tripwire.

The nationality of the new Ambassador reinforces the point. The Chinese leaders in Beijing would not have permitted the dinner engagement had they any reason to suspect that the North sank the South’s ship because it would appear to outsiders that China supported a North Korean provocation and the risk of escalation. Chinese national security policy is committed to maintaining stability in Northeast Asia as an essential condition for China’s national development plans.

If South Korea concludes that the North recently and deliberately maneuvered a mine to sink the South Korean ship, the diplomatic dinner in Pyongyang will be interpreted justifiably by Northeast Asians as unconditional Chinese support for provocative actions by the North or as culpable ignorance."...

[bth: fascinating observation by Nightwatch.]

TARP watchdog: Commercial real estate mortgages sinking quickly | Raw Story

TARP watchdog: Commercial real estate mortgages sinking quickly | Raw Story: "By the end of 2010, half of all commercial real estate mortgages in the United States could be 'underwater,' according to the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program watchdog.

Translation: Americans' financial woes are far from over.

The commercial real estate bubble will grow so large that it will become a 'serious problem' that will take at least three years to address, Elizabeth Warren, who chairs the congressional oversight pannel on TARP, told CNBC on Monday."...

[bth: more rough water ahead.]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Attacks on Moscow Metro: Russian Security Forces Find Third Explosive Device - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Attacks on Moscow Metro: Russian Security Forces Find Third Explosive Device - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International: "Two blasts killed at least 38 people on Moscow metro trains on Monday and the city appears to have been spared a third attack. Investigators found a third device in a subway station, and defused it. World leaders condemned the attacks, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed that 'terrorists will be destroyed.'

Russian police found a third explosive device in the Moscow Metro and managed to defuse it after two suicide bombings killed at least 38 people on two metro trains during the rush hour on Monday morning, the RIA Novosty agency reported, citing investigators."...

AT WAR: Kandahar Offensive To Begin In June

AT WAR: Kandahar Offensive To Begin In June: "U.S. plans to push Taliban out before Ramadan in Kandahar. U.S. troops hope to end their offensive against the Taliban in Kandahar by August, before the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, senior military officials told Reuters on conditions of anonymity. Operation Omid, as the offensive is known, will begin in June. After August, the offensive will shift to a 'secure and deliver government' phase, which will last until mid-October.

More details from the AP:

Until the start of major military operations, U.S. troops are working on securing transit routes and persuading the leaders of districts surrounding Kandahar to cooperate with NATO forces."...

[bth: damn it. How about a little fucking operational security? Why not give them the time and date and which road our soldiers will drive down while we're at it? Is this a PR stunt or a real combat mission?]

Father Of Dead Marine Ordered To Pay Legal Fees Of Westobro Baptist Church Protesters

Father Of Dead Marine Ordered To Pay Legal Fees Of Westobro Baptist Church Protesters: "BALTIMORE — Lawyers for the father of a Marine who died in Iraq say a court has ordered him to pay legal costs for the anti-gay protesters who picketed his son's funeral.

The protesters are led by Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church. Albert Snyder of York, Pa., had won a $5 million verdict against Phelps, but it was thrown out on appeal.

On Friday, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Maryland ordered Snyder to pay the costs of Phelps' appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to consider whether the protesters' provocative messages, which include phrases like 'Thank God for dead soldiers,' are protected by the First Amendment.

Lawyers say Snyder already is struggling to come up with the fees associated with filing the brief with the high court."

Westboro Baptist Church

[bth: it's hard to imagine a meaner more hateful bunch of people and to see that they are now going to get money from a dead marine's father for protesting his funeral is just the lowest of low.]

Revenge of the white men - Los Angeles Times

Revenge of the white men - Los Angeles Times: "Millions of white men who voted for Barack Obama are walking away from the Democratic Party, and it appears increasingly likely that they'll take the election in November with them. Their departure could well lead to a GOP landslide on a scale not seen since 1994.

For more than three decades before the 2008 election, no Democratic president had won a majority of the electorate. In part, that was because of low support -- never more than 38% -- among white male voters. Things changed with Obama, who not only won a majority of all people voting but also pulled in 41% of white male voters. Suddenly, there were millions more white men voting the Democratic ticket."

Polling suggests that the shift was not because of Obama but rather because of the financial meltdown that preceded the election. It was only after the economic collapse that Obama's white male support climbed above the 38% ceiling. It was also at that point that Obama first sustained a clear majority among all registered voters, according to the Gallup tracking poll.

It looked for a moment as though Democrats had finally reached the men of Bruce Springsteen's music, bringing them around to the progressive values Springsteen himself has long endorsed. But liberal analysts failed to understand that these new Democrats were still firmly rooted in American moderation.

Pollsters regularly ask voters whether they would rather see a Democrat or Republican win their district. By February, support for Democrats among white people (male and female) was three points lower than in February 1994, the year of the last Republican landslide.

Today, among whites, only 35% of men and 43% of women say they will back Democrats in the fall election. Women's preferences have remained steady since July 2009. But over that same period, white men's support for a Democratic Congress has fallen eight points, according to Gallup.

White men have moved away from Obama as well. The same proportion of white women approve of him -- 46%, according to Gallup -- as voted for him in 2008. But only 38% of white men approve of the president, which means that millions of white men who voted for Obama have now lost faith in him.

The migration of white men from the Democratic Party was evident in the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts. His opponent won 52% of white women. But white men favored Brown by a 60%-to-38% margin, according to Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates polling. Once again, Democrats could not win enough other votes to compensate for the white male gap.

It's no accident that the flight of white males from the Democratic Party has come as the government has assumed a bigger role, including in banking and healthcare. Among whites, 71% of men and 56% of women favor a smaller government with fewer services over a larger government with more services, according to ABC/Washington Post polling.

Obama's brand of liberalism is exactly the sort likely to drive such voters away. More like LBJ's than FDR's, Obama-style liberalism favors benefits over relief, a safety net over direct job programs, healthcare and environmental reform over financial reform and a stimulus package that has focused more on social service jobs -- healthcare work, teaching and the like -- rather than the areas where a majority of job losses occurred: construction, manufacturing and related sectors.


This recession remains disproportionately a "he-cession." Men account for at least 7 of 10 workers who lost jobs, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Blue-collar men have suffered 57% of the job losses. And blue-collar white men, who make up only 11% of the workforce, constitute 36% of those who have lost jobs. In total, nearly half of the recession's casualties are white men, having held 46% of all jobs lost.

In 1994, liberals tried to explain their thinning ranks by casting aspersions on the white men who were fleeing, and the media took up the cry. The term "angry white male" or "angry white men" was mentioned 37 times in English-language news media contained in the Nexis database between 1980 and the 1994 election. In the following year, the phrases appear 2,306 times.

Tarnishing their opponents as merely "angry" was poor politics for the Democrats. Liberals know what it's like to have their views -- most recently on the war in Iraq or George W. Bush -- caricatured as merely irrational anger. Most voters vote their interests. And many white men by the 1980s had decided the Democrats were no longer interested in them.

Think about the average working man. He has already witnessed financial bailouts for the rich folks above him. Now he sees a healthcare bailout for the poor folks below him. Big government represents lots of costs and little gain. Meanwhile, like many women, these men are simply trying to push ahead without being pushed under. Some of them once believed in Obama. Now they feel forgotten.

Government can only do so much. But recall the Depression. FDR's focus on the economy was single-minded and relentless. Hard times continued, but men never doubted that FDR was trying to do right by them. Democrats should think about why they aren't given that same benefit of the doubt today.

David Paul Kuhn is chief political correspondent for RealClearPolitics and the author of "The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma."

[bth: a commentary worth reading twice.]

Hamid Karzai accused of blocking arrest of official - Telegraph

Hamid Karzai accused of blocking arrest of official - Telegraph: "Sediq Chakari, former minister of Hajj, and who is thought to be in Britain has been under investigation into his alleged involvement in a kickback racket which made hundreds of thousands of pounds from poor pilgrims.

Mr Karzai's palace allegedly vetoed his arrest because of his close links to former warlords within the government an international official in Kabul told The Daily Telegraph."

The case adds to continuing international frustration that Mr Karzai is allegedly failing to honour promises to rein in rapacious corruption among his administration and allies.

Two of Mr Chakari's staff were arrested last year allegedly carrying about £260,000 en route from Saudi Arabia where they were dispatched to lease accommodation for Afghan pilgrims.

Prosecutors believe officials were demanding up to £100 per pilgrim from hoteliers and transport firms with contracts to take pilgrims to Mecca.

Mr Chakari, a British passport holder, strongly denied involvement when allegations first arose.

The official said: "There was a plan to arrest him, but a high-ranking official at the palace blocked it because of Chakari's links to warlords in the government.

"A few weeks later he was allowed to depart the country and may now be residing in the United Kingdom because he is a British passport holder."...

New Wars - Stratfor analysis on S. Korean ship sinking

New Wars

Informed Comment: Sadrists Pivotal Party, Vows Liberation of Iraq from Foreigners;
Tehran attempts to Broker Alliance

Informed Comment: Sadrists Pivotal Party, Vows Liberation of Iraq from Foreigners; <br> Tehran attempts to Broker Alliance: "Al-Hayat reports in Arabic on the emergence of the Sadr Movement as the largest Shiite party within the Shiite fundamentalist coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance. The Free Independent (al-Ahrar) party that represented the Sadrists won 38 seats out of the 70 that the INA garnered, making the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Islamic Virtue Party and other Shiite religious components of the list much smaller and less weighty in the coalition's deliberations.

No sooner, the article says, than the election tallies began coming in did the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki begin gradually releasing Sadrist prisoners who had been in Iraqi penitentiaries for years. Al-Hayat's sources say that in Babil Province, orders were received from the government to release members of the Sadr Movement, in an attempt to mollify that group.

Sadrist leader Liqa' Al-Yasin said that the Sadrists have now become the spinal column of the Iraqi National Alliance. He said that the movement had demonstrated that it had a large public base, and asserted that that base is cultured, aware, and abiding by the principles both of Islamic Law and the Nation. Al-Yasin said that the Sadrists would work for the liberation of Iraq and the realization of national sovereignty. [Translation: they want US troops out of their country tout de suite.] He adds that other goals are to gain the release of prisoners and to take some of the burdens off the shoulders of ordinary citizens. Sadrist leaders said that 'the next phase will concentrate on political action to end the Occupation altogether.'

Another Sadrist leader said that the movement has foresworn violence and that they would not take up arms again save in situation of dire necessity.

al-Hayat is also reporting that a couple of days ago representatives of the Sadr Movement and of al-Maliki's State of Law met in Tehran in an Iranian-backed attempt quickly to form a new Shiite-dominated government. In Iran for the talks were President Jalal Talibani and his Shiite vice president, Adil Abdel Mahdi of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.

This move underlines the way in which Iraq's election has geopolitical as well as local significance. Also that Iran is sitting pretty while the US prepares to withdraw."

[bth: Does this mean Iran wins and we leave?]

British forces to withdraw from Helmand under new US plan for Afghanistan - Telegraph

British forces to withdraw from Helmand under new US plan for Afghanistan - Telegraph:... "Such a move could bring back unhappy memories of the 2007 withdrawal from Basra in southern Iraq, which provoked jibes about British forces being bailed out by the Americans.

The proposal is linked to a reorganisation of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces that will split the current Regional Command (South) in two after an American-led offensive against the Taliban in Kandahar this summer.

A senior American officer in ISAF said that 'the Marines will be the primary force in Helmand and Nimruz' while 'British forces will go to a combination of Kandahar and Uruzgan and Zabul'.

British officials opposed to the move argue that the ground-level expertise and knowledge of local power brokers in Helmand, which they have built up over many years, would be squandered in apparent contradiction of the 'know the people' counter-insurgency doctrine put in place by the Nato commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal.

But while acknowledging the political sensitivities, a senior British officer in ISAF said that a new role outside Helmand would be central to Gen McChrystal's campaign strategy, which is based on protecting the main Pashtun population centres.

'Through the microcosm of the UK media lens, a lot of people will say, 'We fought, we've spilt British blood in Helmand and now we're withdrawing',' the official said.

'Completely wrong. We're going to where the main effort is.'

Under Gen McChrystal's plan, Helmand and Nimruz will come under a new Regional Command (South West) while Kandahar, Uruzgan and Kabul will constitute Regional Command (South East).

The US Marines have a strong tradition of independence and a determined preference for operating alone in a single area, as they did in Iraq's Anbar province. Nato has agreed that Major General Richard Mills of the US Marines – who for 18 months commanded ground forces in Iraq's Anbar province – will take command of the new south-western area of Afghanistan.

In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph, Gen McChrystal stressed that Kandahar was of 'tremendous moral importance' to the Taliban because it was their former capital and the birthplace of their leader the one-eyed Mullah Omar.

Asked whether British forces would move to Kandahar, he responded carefully: 'There's a lot of politics involved in where forces go, so rather than start a political debate about where forces are what I'd rather do is just move on with where things are now and let things develop.'

Canadian forces, 2,500 of which are currently based in Kandahar – where British forces won a decisive battle in 1880 that brought the Second Afghan War to an end – are due to withdraw from Afghanistan next year. Some 2,000 Dutch forces in Uruzgan are due to be pulled out by August.

British forces first deployed to Helmand in significant numbers in spring 2006, when 3,300 members of 16 Air Assault Brigade arrived. Their mission was to restore security so that reconsstruction could begin and the illegal opium trade be disrupted.

But they faced an immediate upsurge in Taliban activity and this has continued ever since, leading to regular calls for greater troop numbers. There are currently around 10,000 from the UK in the region, and 248 soldiers have been killed there.

This would leave a vacuum in south-eastern Afghanistan at a time when US Marines are pouring into Helmand as part of President Barack Obama's surge of 30,000 troops, which will soon bring American forces to a level of 100,000, double what they were a year ago. About 20,000 US Marines will be in Helmand by this summer, more than twice the number of British troops there.

Some senior American officers believe the British have become too attached to 'Helmandshire' and have developed tunnel vision.

Although British troops have been praised for their valour, the consensus within the American military is that control of the province has slipped away because of inadequate numbers, poor equipment and thin logistical support.

Senior American officers also believe the British became distracted by defending bases in outlying areas like Musa Qala, Kajaki and Sangin when they should have concentrated on the more-populated central Helmand.

A Washington defence source said that, under the new plan, 'Helmandshire will become Marine-istan.'"...

[bth: this is why Prince Charles came to visit. To keep morale from collapsing. The British infantry aren't given adequate vehicles that can take IED blasts. The Viking was just a cruel joke designed for central Europe and not for IEDs. The lack of helicopters, the contracting of helicopter services to Ukrainian mafia characters flying old Soviet era birds shows the hollowing of British force structures world wide. The lack of enough troops and the evident decision by Brown a couple of months ago to back out of Afghanistan has probably forced this decision on McChrystal. Basra all over again is a real and fearful possibility. The Canadians are bailing and so are the Dutch. A good portion of the surge of American troops will replace the loss of Nato allies. It's a shame , the British infantry and extraordinarily good, competent, loyal yet neglected by a penny pinching home government and a people that don't care. Keep in mind that their entire army is the size of our marine corp.]

Obama Presses Karzai for Crackdown on Corruption -

Obama Presses Karzai for Crackdown on Corruption - "But Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, told reporters on Air Force One en route to Afghanistan that the administration wanted Mr. Karzai to “understand that in his second term, there are certain things that have not been paid attention to, almost since Day 1.”

General Jones said that the Afghan president “needs to be seized with how important” the issue of corruption, in particular, is for American officials."....

Mr. Obama’s visit to Afghanistan came against a backdrop of tension between Mr. Karzai and the Americans that has not substantially abated since Mr. Karzai was declared the winner of an election tainted by fraud. In the wake of last August’s election, the United Nations and the United States, as well as other NATO countries, demanded that Mr. Karzai make major overhauls in the electoral system, tacitly indicating that they might withhold money for the next election if they did not see changes.

Mr. Karzai recently overhauled the Afghan election complaint commission, but made it less neutral by claiming the right to appoint all five members. Currently, three of the members are appointed by the United Nations. The move infuriated some Western diplomats here who saw it as almost a taunt.

Further aggravating tensions was a conference in London at the end of January at which corruption was a major topic and Western officials again made clear that they felt Mr. Karzai had fallen short. Recently, he has strengthened the anticorruption commission, and the attorney general appears to be moving forward on a handful of high-profile cases involving former government figures. Corruption remains pervasive, however, and Mr. Karzai has not used his position as a bully pulpit to change the culture.

“He’s slipping away from the West,” said a senior European diplomat in Kabul.

Mr. Karzai warmly received one of America’s most vocal adversaries, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, on an official visit to Kabul in early March. Mr. Karzai met with him again this past weekend in Tehran, when the two celebrated the Afghan and Iranian New Year together.

Mr. Karzai returned to Kabul only hours before Mr. Obama landed.

Last week, Mr. Karzai made a three-day trip to China, a country that is making economic investments in Afghanistan, notably in its copper reserves, taking advantage of the hard-won and expensive security efforts of the United States and other Western nations....

[bth: Karzai could have been the George Washington of Afghanistan, the Bolivar, but he stole and election, is corrupt as hell, and while Amierican treasure and blood are lost on his behalf he cuts deals with Iran and China. We may need Afghanistan, but do we need Karzai?]

Subway Blasts Kill Dozens in Moscow -

Subway Blasts Kill Dozens in Moscow - "MOSCOW — Huge explosions during morning rush hour in two subway stations in central Moscow killed more than 33 people on Monday, officials said, raising fears of a renewal of terrorism here."...

[bth: it is only a matter of time before we see this here. We are not immune and we are ill prepared.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Israel could use tactical nukes on Iran-thinktank

Reuters AlertNet - Israel could use tactical nukes on Iran-thinktank: ..."In their study titled 'Options in Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Program', CSIS analysts Abdullah Toukan and Anthony Cordesman envisage the possibility of Israel 'using these warheads as a substitute for conventional weapons' given the difficulty its jets would face in reaching Iran for anything more than a one-off sortie.

Ballistic missiles or submarine-launched cruise missiles could serve for Israeli tactical nuclear strikes without interference from Iranian air defences, the 208-page report says. 'Earth-penetrator' warheads would produce most damage.

Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East's sole atomic arsenal. Israeli leaders do not comment on this capability other than to underscore its deterrent role; President Shimon Peres has said repeatedly that 'Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the region.'

A veteran Israeli defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said preemptive nuclear strikes were foreign to the national doctrine: 'Such weapons exist so as not to be used.'"...

[bth: very likely the timing of the release of this report to Bibi's visit was designed to get the US to dislodge more conventional bunker buster bombs to Israel.]

Why Israel Would Decisively Beat Iran | Before It's News

Why Israel Would Decisively Beat Iran | Before It's News:... "WHY ISRAEL WILL decisively defeat IRAN if there is an all-out war.

1.Israel has more than 200 atomic devices vs Iran which may have 1 soon.Even if Iran bought nuclear devices from other rogue states, the retaliation from Israel would be the equivalent of 2,000 plus hiroshimas.

2.The 200 plus Israeli atomic devices are unstoppable by Iran i.e. up to 80 can be launched by submarines and the rest by ICBM or F-15s or F-16s

3.Israel has the world?s most advanced anti-ICBM missle umbrella which may be impenetrable by Iranian Shahib missles . Iran can only deliver their 1-2 atomic warheads by ICBMs with no other delivery capabilities.

4.Israel has a satellite system with multiple types of spy satellites which have reached the limit of possible resolution (defraction limit) generally thought to be about 10 centimeters and their satellite system is all weather. Together with their advanced UAV capabilities , this allows Israel to possess the most detailed photos and real-time imaging of all Iranian military installations

5.The military technologic difference between Israel and Iran is wide.

Israel has about 10% of the world-wide arms export market which based solely on merit and immensely competitive. IF anything, it is nothing short of a miracle and a tremendous tribute to Israel (jewish ) expertise that they sell to so many countries which never take the side of Israel in any dispute. There are those ,who imply much of Israel?s technological edge is due to massive American aid. However, that aid also has restrained the development of Israeli military technology. American military contractors regularly and understandably, attempt to undermine Israeli sale of military technology when it is in direct competition with American contractors? efforts to sell abroad.

Israel might have double the foreign military technologic sales if the US had never blanketly prohibited Israel selling directly to PRC. This is understandable."....

[bth: this analysis works only if Israel is willing to initiate nuclear war against Iran. Is it? I doubt it. A better question is whether nuclear deterrence works to deter the powers that be in Iran from attacking Israel? I suspect the answer is yes.]

Internet-Brewed Coffee? Maybe Not, but Much, Much More -

Internet-Brewed Coffee? Maybe Not, but Much, Much More - ..."But that's just the beginning. AT&T sees opportunities to provide wireless data services for a slew of new applications like smart meters, networked handheld games, additional tablet PCs, digital cameras and media players. Lurie is particularly eager to use sensors for cheap tracking of 'people, pets and pallets.' Put a sensor in a dog collar, and you can find Fido when he runs away. Sew a sensor in your child's shirt, and you can figure out where he went after school. Put a sensor in a shipping pallet, and you can track the location of your goods in real time.

And he's hardly the only one thinking this way. Ericsson (ERIC) has calculated that sometime in 2009, data surpassed voice as the dominant type of traffic on the global wireless network. And Arun Bhikshesvaran, the senior vice president for multimedia and infrastructure solutions for Ericsson's U.S. arm, predicted in an interview that there will be 50 billion connected devices on the Internet by 2020.

That's a pretty big number, but it pales alongside the astonishing forecast made at the show by Cisco Systems' (CSCO) chief technology officer, Padmasree Warrior. She asserted that sometime in 2013, there will about one trillion -- trillion! -- devices connected to the Internet. If she is right, it would be good for Cisco. Putting a trillion devices online would require massive spending on network infrastructure.

And, in fact, Warrior went on to forecast that total network traffic will grow from five exabytes a month -- an exabyte is a quintillion bytes, or a billion gigabytes -- to 54 exabytes a month in 2013. She also says that by the same year, 91% of all data, and 66% of all mobile traffic, will be in the form of video.

There are reasons to think that the Internet of Things is rapidly becoming a reality. And, no, we aren't talking about a Web-enabled Mr. Coffee or toasters that tweet. The logic behind the Internet of Things 2.0 starts with the approaching ubiquity of high-speed wireless access and improvements in other technologies.

There are, for instance, a host of small consumer-electronics devices that would become hugely more beneficial with network access. The real key to the era of connected everything might be the rise of low-cost wireless sensors, capable of providing continuously updated real-time information on events unfolding in the real world. One area getting a lot of attention is the concept of smart grids, which would effectively put every electric meter on the Web, giving consumers more control over their power usage and home-control systems."...

[bth: interesting read.]

You Don't Mess With The LBMA - Assassination Attempt On Silver Market Manipulation Whistleblower? | zero hedge

You Don't Mess With The LBMA - Assassination Attempt On Silver Market Manipulation Whistleblower? | zero hedge: "The latest development in Silvergate, in which whistleblower Andrew Maguire has exposed the manipulation details in the London commodity market, is straight out of a John Le Carre or Ian Flemming novel: an assassination attempt. From GATA:

London metals trader Andrew Maguire, who warned an investigator for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in advance about a gold and silver market manipulation to be undertaken by traders for JPMorgan Chase in February and whose whistleblowing was publicized by GATA at Thursday's CFTC hearing on metals futures trading was injured along with his wife the next day when their car was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the London area.

According to GATA's contact with Maguire, board member Adrian Douglas, Maguire and his wife were admitted to a hospital overnight and released today and are expected to recover fully.

Maguire told Douglas by telephone today that his car was struck by a car careening out of a side road. When a pedestrian who witnessed the crash tried to block the other driver's escape, the other driver accelerated at the pedestrian, causing him to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. The other driver's car then struck two other cars in escaping. But the other driver was caught by police after a chase in which police helicopters were summoned.

We'll convey more information about the incident as it becomes available.

We are in process of corroborating this story with independent sources. It will be interesting to see what information the escapee driver discloses and whether this was just a case of a little extra fish and chips and extra, extra beer. In the meantime, the battle against the big banks and the LBMA might have just gotten a little more personal."

[bth: well now this is interesting. Coincidence or conspiracy?]

Alan Greenspan Discusses The Fed's Inability To See Bubbles, Is Confident There Is A "Bubble Waiting To Burst In China" | zero hedge

Alan Greenspan Discusses The Fed's Inability To See Bubbles, Is Confident There Is A "Bubble Waiting To Burst In China" | zero hedge: "The maestro managed to run away from the old folks' bent on monetary destruction home just long enough to carry this amusing interview with Bloomberg TV's Al Hunt. Tomes (will) have been written about Greenspan's dementia, just as books will be available on the Kindle one day analyzing his successor's massive mistakes which are slowly but surely leading to an American day of reckoning, so we won't comment much, suffice to point out some of the key highlights in Greenspan's presentation. Most amusingly, note the escalating battle between Greenie and the Fed's new vice-chairman Janet Yellen, who blatantly contradicted Greenspan's that higher interest rates would have prevented a housing bubble. For all it's worth, Alan's response is actually quite interesting: 'We tried to do that in 2004. We ran into a conundrum. For decades, every time the Fed raised its short-term rates, the 10-year note, which is really the proxy for mortgage rates, the yield went up with it. This time, it did not. And the reason it did not, is you cannot have the 10-year note determined both by arbitraged global finance and individual central banks. As a consequence of that…starting in the period where the sensitivity of the early stages of the bubble were building up, it was very clear that what was determining the rise in prices was movements in long-term mortgage rates going down, not the federal funds rate.' In English, this is quite intriguing: China, which at about this time started running up massive trade balances, essentially became indifferent about US monetary policy, as it gobbled up everything east of 5 Years, with a preference on the 10 Year. The reason for this is the US consumer became the one driving force behind the massive Chinese economic expansion. With the consumer out, and with China set to report its first trade deficit in 6 years, and the Fed pulling out its support of mortgages, and the Chinese National Bank pulling liquidity, the move in 10 Year over the next few weeks is now more critical than ever, which is why the 10 Year - 30 Year MBS spread is paradoxically pressured at an all time tight spread, as all the early MBS shorts are covered, forcing pundits to say MBS are cheap as fighting momentum in this market is professional suicide. To be sure, this technical push down will soon end. And when this last coiled spring blows out, watch out below, first in housing, then in rates, in corporates, and last, in equities."...

[bth: worth reading in full, but in plain English 10 year rates are going to go up even in a weak economy.]