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The Transition to Monetary Freedom
Mises Daily: by Ron Paul
Specific Reforms Required
The growth of the American government in the late 19th and 20th centuries is reflected in its increasing presence and finally monopolization of the monetary system. Any attempt at restoring monetary freedom must be part of a comprehensive plan to roll back government and once again confine it within the limits of the Constitution. That comprehensive plan may be divided into four sections: monetary legislation, the budget, taxation, and regulation. We shall begin with monetary reforms, and conclude with a word about international cooperation and agreement.
As we have seen, the Constitution forbids the states to make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debt, nor does it permit the federal government to make anything a legal tender. One of the most important pieces of legislation that could be enacted would be the repeal of all federal legal-tender laws. Such laws, which have the effect of forcing creditors to accept something in payment for the debts due them that they do not wish to accept, are one of the most tyrannical devices of the present monetary authorities.
Gold Profits from World Turmoil
Interview - GoldSeek.com
The Gold Report: In a recent edition of the Frontier Research Report, you wrote, "As perplexing and disconcerting as it may be, the performance of major global stock markets currently has a much stronger influence on share prices in the mining sector than the actual performance of the underlying commodity." How is that different from previous cyclical dips in the resource commodity space?
Carlos Andres: It's not different at all. The commodity space tends to be viewed with a bit of fear and skepticism by most retail investors and analysts generally. By extension, mining companies are viewed skeptically also, especially those in emerging and frontier markets. As a result, resource companies in emerging and frontier markets tend to be the last to receive investment capital during a bull market in stocks and the first that investors exit when markets get rattled.
Why Silver is the Standout Buy After the Greek Deal
Peter Cooper - SilverBearCafe.com
What’s been holding the price of silver below $34 this year? It’s been the possibility of a disorderly default by Greece. Now that we have an orderly default, and what else is a 73 per cent loss for private bondholders, things have changed.
But the price is very high. $170 billion is the highest sovereign debt restructuring in history. The ECB has made north of $1.5 trillion available to European banks. This is highly inflationary in the monetary sense and will be highly inflationary for consumers down the line.
Why Inflation's Higher Than It Looks
By DAN CAPLINGER - DailyFinance.com
Last fall, Social Security recipients got their first raise in their monthly benefit checks since 2009. Yet, if you're like most people, watching the prices of the things you buy go up all the time makes the government's inflation gauge seem out of touch.
But there's a good reason why the government's estimates don't match up with your experience: They aren't designed to.
Like any statistic, the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation, is only as effective as the assumptions it makes -- in this case, about what you spend money on. If you spend more on certain things than most people, then the CPI will do a terrible job of reflecting the prices you actually pay.
Bailing Out Banks Is Inflationary
Mises Daily: by Thorsten Polleit
The latest wave of financial-market turmoil has been caused in particular by growing investor concern about the financial health of commercial banks, especially banks in the eurozone.
It seems that investors have been increasingly losing confidence in banks' ability to live up to their payment obligations under "normal" market conditions and to generate sufficient profits going forward.
Such an interpretation may contribute to explaining the depressed valuations of eurozone bank stocks, which have lost around 71 percent of their value since the start of 2007. In contrast, losses for US bank stocks amounted to (just) around 50 percent.
Uncle Sam’s Fire Sale. Minimum Investment: $1 Billion
By Addison Wiggin - dailyreckoning.com
02/22/12 Baltimore, Maryland – In my investment letter, Addison Wiggin’s Apogee Advisory, we spend a great deal of time, money and resources looking for new investment ideas that our subscribers can act on independently. Sometimes what we find instead is outrage.
For example, the federal government is about to dump millions of the foreclosed homes at fire-sale prices to hedge funds and private-equity firms with government connections. If you’re an individual investor who might like to get in on the action, forget it! You’re shut out of this deal.
Homeowners who might be interested in buying the foreclosure property next door? Out of luck. And retirees hoping for a return on their money more than 1.8% on a five-year CD find another avenue closed off.
Opposing Trends in Debt and GDP Growth
By Bill Bonner - dailyreckoning.com
$100 billion down… $40 trillion left to go!
Hey, don’t hold us to those figures. But yesterday European sages cut another deal to stave off the truth. Instead of defaulting openly and honestly — as Greece has done over and over again ever since 1827 — the Greeks will be ‘rescued.’
Sayeth Lucas Papademos, the technocrat leading Greece through its vale of deceit:
"It’s no exaggeration to say that today is a historic day for the Greek economy."
He’s right. It’s no exaggeration. It’s an outright lie!
What’s historic about the 15th rescue?
And as soon as the Greeks are fished out of the water, they’re to be given a shave and a haircut. No kidding. They’re supposed to shave off more public employees, more spending, and more benefits.
MOUNTAINS OF DEBT
By John Hindraker - PowerLineBlog.com
Maybe you have to be Greece before most people get seriously concerned about sovereign debt. Of all the good reasons to evict Barack Obama from the presidency in November, the most fundamental is that he is spending our country into financial ruin. I don’t think most Americans understand how much federal spending and debt have risen during the Obama administration (and even before it, when Democrats took control of Congress in 2007) and are projected to rise in the future under Obama’s budget proposal. These two charts, from the Senate Budget Committee, tell the story in a very simple way. This one shows the federal debt per household from 2000 through 2022; the numbers are actual to the present and thereafter represent the projections in Obama’s FY 2013 budget. Those projections are taken at face value, rosy assumptions and all. Still, the picture is staggering:
Bob Chapman - 3rd Hour Radio Liberty - 20 Feb 2012
Politicians Fiddle While Fiscal Crisis Looms
By John Stossel - PatriotPost.us
Imagine this family budget:
Last year, you earned $24,700. But you spent $37,900, incurring $13,300 in debt, and you were already $153,500 in debt.
So you say, "I promise I'll spend $300 less this year!"
Anyone can see that your cutback is pathetic and that you need to spend much less.
Yet if you add eight zeroes, that's America's budget.
The president says again that he will cut spending -- but don't be fooled. He wants to spend more on some items, those he euphemistically calls "invest(ment) in the things that will help grow our economy." (As though politicians can know what a free market would reveal.)
Quit Worrying, Sovereign Defaults Happen All the Time
By John Maxfield - MotleyFool - fool.com
If aliens were to have landed on the planet Earth and picked up a Wall Street Journal at any point over the past year, they'd be excused for concluding that sovereign defaults are rare and momentous events. Can you think of the last time you read a major newspaper and didn't come across an urgent story about the European debt crisis? I can't -- though I wish I could, just to prove myself wrong.
The reality is that debt crises occur everywhere and all the time. According to Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff's magisterial study of the subject, This Time Is Different, "mostcountries in all regions have gone through a prolonged phase as serial defaulters on debt owed to foreigners" (emphasis added). Their book talks about the "universality of default" and says things like "serial default is the norm." And Reinhart and Rogoff would know, as they cataloged literally hundreds of sovereign defaults over the years.
ECB's Mario Draghi magic corrupts bond markets
The European Central Bank's blitz of measures to stave off a credit crunch and shore up EMU states are profoundly distorting debt markets and may ultimately do more harm than good.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - Telegraph.co.uk
ECB boss Mario Draghi has sparked a blistering rally in global asset markets by lending banks as much as they want for three years at 1pc, but bond experts say the side-effects are toxic and the benefits are wearing off.
"It's a sugar rush," said Alberto Gallo, European credit chief at RBS. "It lowers the risk of defaults, but also lowers recovery rates if things go wrong."
Lenders must provide the ECB with collateral, at a haircut of up to 65pc, using up ever more of their balance sheets. The ECB has first claim on these assets, pushing other creditors down the pecking order. The longer it goes on, the worse it gets.
Is the European crisis over or just beginning?
Identifying the chasm between perception and reality
By Todd Harrison
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — The stock market is never wrong and prices are the ultimate arbiter of variant financial views.
As that dynamic is an ever-changing verdict, the bulls will argue that European policymakers have successfully navigated the sovereign sequel to the first phase of our financial crisis. See Minyanville’s "Five-Step Guide to Contagion."
They are also quick to note the difference between "drugs that mask the symptoms," as administered by the U.S government in 2008, and "medicine that cures the disease," in the form of debt destruction and/or reorganization. See Minyanville’s "Shock & Awe."
Greek Bailout Package: Undemocratic and Unsustainable
The EU amends Greece’s constitution.
By Richard Palmer - TheTrumpet.com
With Greece just weeks away from running out of cash, eurozone finance ministers agreed on a new €130 billion ($170 billion) bailout deal in the early hours of February 21 after a 13-hour meeting. The new deal, based on austerity measures implemented by an unelected government, continues to violate Greece’s sovereignty and are bound to fail.
The eurozone’s distrust of Greece borders on contempt. EU and imf officials will have an “enhanced and permanent” position in Greece as a surveillance mechanism. Greece’s repayments must be deposited into an escrow account three months in advance of them becoming due. But this is only atemporary measure, until Greece rewrites its constitution.
Herding Greek Cats from Bondage
By: Jim Willie CB - GoldSeek.com
Listen to the empty words of the last bailout for Greece. Credibility with the Jackass was lost back on the third bailout, well over a year ago, out of the six bailouts in total. Perhaps it is seven comprehensive final bailouts. The pattern is clear. The politicians, without popular support, forge agreements on debt coverage with the Greek officials. The deals fall through, hit the ground, and expose the lack of support even from the European bankers, led by the Germans. The pattern has been vividly clear for over a year, enough for my dismissal of new accords right away on the basis that the German bankers will not conform and agree to the deals struck. The political leaders in France (Sarkozy) and Germany (Merkel) are due to lose their offices, yet they continue to march around at useless summits attempting to cut last ditch agreements that mean nothing. The people are not willing in Germany to hand over any more than the $3 trillion to date, from the start of the common Euro currency experiment. The bankers, like at the Bundesbank, should attend the summits, but that would be too obvious on where the majority of power is held.What is unfolding is a comprehensive Greek Govt debt default from the inability to contain the situation, the impracticality of the austerity budgets put in place, the wreckage that has come to the Greek Economy, and the intractable solution.
Here Is the Plain Truth About Greece
BY GRANT WILLIAMS - FinancialSense.com
The plain truth is this:
• Greece cannot pay its current debts back. Ever.
• More money is NOT the answer.
• Greece cannot even begin to recover while still chained to the Euro and unable to devalue.
• Greek citizens will NOT suddenly decide to pay their taxes.
• Greece’s exit from the EU will be incredibly painful and the country will likely go into a depression.
• Greece is NOT the first country to default (just the first in the EU)
• Greece WILL be able to get back on its feet eventually through devaluation
• The sooner this process starts, the sooner it finishes - look at Iceland
Fitch Cuts Greece, Near-Term Default 'Highly Likely'
Fitch ratings agency on Wednesday slashed its rating for Greek sovereign debt to "C" from "CCC," indicating that default is "highly likely in the near term."
The downgrade comes just after the country secured a second bailout from its creditors and the subsequent announcement by the Greek government that private investors holding Greek debt would be forced to accept a debt swap, in which they exchange their bonds for lower-value debt.
Fearless Prediction: On March 20, Greece WILL Default
BY GONZALO LIRA - FinancialSense.com
On March 20, Greece has to come up with €14.3 billion—or else it will be bankrupt.
Of course, Greece doesn’t have €14.3 billion—that’s why the Troika of the IMF, the EC and the ECB are trying to hammer out a deal to bail them out again: A bailout to the tune of €136 billion. They’ve had marathon-length negotiating sessions, one "crucial emergency meeting" after another—hell, they even called the Pope to send them a case of holy water and a truckload of wooden stakes. I’m serious!
Greek debt accord hostage to political passions
Eurozone leaders have put off the day of reckoning for a few more months but the latest €130bn rescue package for Greece offers no path out of the crisis and is hostage to explosive political passions.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - Telegraph.co.uk
Greek elections in April are likely to sweep away the political class tainted by the hated "Memorandum" of the EU-IMF Troika, with the once dominant PASOK party down to 13pc in the latest poll and votes peeling away to the Communists, the Democratic Left, and Syriza.
Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza leader, told the Greek parliament on Tuesday that his country was victim of a "terrorist" assault. "This agreement is binding only on those who signed it. The accord carries the signature of a government with no popular legitimacy. It does not bind Greek democracy, or Greek society, or the Left. Very soon the sovereign people will regain their sovereignty," he said.
Under Volcker, Old Dividing Line in Banks May Return
BY STEVEN M. DAVIDOFF - NYTimes.com
The Volcker Rule, and its limitations on bank trading, may have the unintended effect of dividing the world back into investment banks and commercial banks. The unusual twist here is that Goldman Sachs andMorgan Stanley may end up stuck on the wrong side of the fence, treated under the law as commercial banks instead of the investment banks they once were.
The backdrop to this issue is that it is increasingly clear that banks are simply unable to make as much money from proprietary and other trading businesses as they did before the financial crisis. Take Goldman Sachs. In 2007, Goldman had revenue of $7.6 billion from traditional investment banking, but $31.2 billion in revenue from trading-related operations. Last year, Goldman had just $17.3 billion in revenue related to trading operations.
Short Selling and the Great Depression: Echoes
By Philip Scranton - Bloomberg.com
In the midst of the Great Depression, people who bet on stock-market declines were considered unpleasant, unwanted, un-American, un-something. Yet as a New York Times writer noted in February 1932, "The bearish speculator is not often reviled in healthy markets; it is when prices are declining that opprobrium is heaped upon him."
Short-selling transactions involve a broker "lending" equity shares to an investor, who pledges to return them at a later date. Usually, the broker sells the shares, credits the investor's account, then waits for the investor to repurchase and return them. If the buyback price is lower, the account balance, less fees and interest, represents profit; if the price is higher, the investor adds funds and takes a loss. Short sales can yield big gains when markets collapse, but analysts havelong debated whether they accelerate price slides or instead help establish "fundamental" values after a bubble.
What the App Economy Can Teach the Whole Economy
The lessons from an infant industry, including the power of cooperation and importance of regulating with a light touch
By Michael Mandel - TheAtlantic.com
Android, apps, iPhones, Angry Birds, iPads, FarmVille, data contracts: It's a bit jarring to realize that these terms, so familiar today, only date back five years. The introduction of the iPhone in 2007, and the initial distribution of Android the same year, marked the birth of the App Economy.
But the App Economy didn't just mean more fun games and more ways to do work on the go -- it meant more jobs as well. Based on research I did for Technet, the association of high-tech innovative companies, the App Economy has generated nearly 500,000 jobs since 2007. This is an impressive total, especially during the worst labor market downturn since the Great Depression. It's also an indication of the growing macroeconomic impact of the App Economy.
Obama proposes corporate tax cut
and says system needs to change
President's plan would set a new corporate tax rate of 28% – but Republicans in Congress say that is still too high
AP - guardian.co.uk
President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed a lower corporate tax rate and an end to dozens of loopholes he said helps US companies move jobs and profits overseas. "It's not right and it needs to change," he said.
The president wants to lower the US corporate tax rate from the current 35%, the highest in the world after Japan. Under his plan, manufacturers would receive incentives so that their effective tax rate could be even lower.
Obama's election-year plan would set a new 28% corporate tax rate, still higher than the 25% rate sought by congressional Republicans.
The Paradox of Corporate Tax Reform
By Derek Thompson - TheAtlantic.com
The White House is proposing to give the horribly pockmarked corporate tax system a major facelift today. The U.S. currently has one of the highest tax rates on corporate income in the world, but it raises a smaller share of GDP than the average developed country. Why? Loopholes, credits, exemptions and the ability to keep money overseas are part of the reason. The tax system is a piece of Swiss cheese that has become more holes than cheese, and the Obama administration is proposing a simple-sounding solution: We'll give you a lower tax rate if you give back the loopholes.
Oh, but it's so not that simple.
The Tax Break That Millions Miss Out On
By DAN CAPLINGER - DailyFinance.com
There's a popular tax break out there that paid more than 26 million workers a total of nearly $59 billion last year. Yet as many as 1 in 4 of those who qualify for this tax credit failed to claim it, missing out on hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.
That break is the earned income tax credit. Designed to help low- and middle-income wage earners make ends meet, the credit helps reverse the effect of payroll taxes. Despite the best efforts of community organizations and various government agencies, however, the credit doesn't reach some of the families who need it most.
FNC House Prices, Zillow's forecast for Case-Shiller
Note: The Case-Shiller House Price index for December will be released Tuesday, Feb 28th. CoreLogic has already reported that prices declined 1.4% in December (NSA, including foreclosures). It appears that the Case-Shiller indexes (both SA and NSA) were at new post-bubble lows in December.
• Today from FNC: December Residential Property Values Decline 0.7%
Based on the latest data on non-distressed home sales (existing and new homes) through December, FNC’s national RPI shows that single-family home prices fell in December to a seasonally unadjusted rate of 0.7%. ... As a gauge of underlying home value, the RPI excludes sales of foreclosed homes, which are frequently sold with large price discounts reflecting poor property conditions.
Why Renters Rule U.S. Housing Market (Part 2)
By A. Gary Shilling - Bloomberg.com
In making my case for continued housing weakness, I’ve emphasized the negative effect of excess inventories on house sales, prices, new construction and just about every other aspect of residential real estate.
In housing, as in every goods-producing sector, excess inventories are the mortal enemy of prices. Lower prices are needed to unload surplus inventory, yet they also lead to the creation of more inventory by anxious sellers. The plight of house sellers and the reluctance of buyers are made worse by the realization that house prices can fall, and are falling for the first time in 70 years.
Home prices at lowest point in more than 10 years
By Chris Isidore @CNNMoney
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Home prices fell to their lowest point in more than a decade in January, which helped to lift the pace of home sales, according to a report from an industry trade group.
The National Association of Realtors reported that the median home price in January fell 2% from December to $154,700. That's the lowest price reading since November 2001, before the run-up in home prices that became known as the housing bubble.
Only 54% of Americans
Have More Emergency Savings than Credit Card Debt
By Ted Rossman - Bankrate.com
NEW YORK, Feb. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Only 54% of Americans have more emergency savings than credit card debt, according to a new poll released today by Bankrate.com (NYSE: RATE). One in four Americans (25%) has more credit card debt than emergency savings and 16% have neither credit card debt nor emergency savings.
Bankrate's monthly Financial Security Index held at 97.3, unchanged from January and tied for the highest level sinceJune 2011. Any reading below 100 indicates a lower level of financial security compared with 12 months earlier.
Florida Drivers Shelling Out
Nearly $6 A Gallon At Some Gas Stations
By Matthew L. Higgins - Tampa.CBSLocal.com
TAMPA (CBS Tampa) — Talk about pain at the pump! Some Florida drivers are spending nearly $6 a gallon to fill up their gas tanks.
According to GasBuddy.com, motorists are shelling out $5.89 for a gallon of regular gas at a Shell station in Lake Buena Vista, topping out at $5.99 a gallon for premium. It doesn’t get better at a Suncoast Energy station in Orlando, where drivers are paying $5.79 for a gallon of regular.
"Prices over in the Disney World area are much higher than any other place in Florida," Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman, told CBS Tampa, adding that people regularly complain about gas prices in that area.
Historic door-to-door retailer Fuller Brush
files for bankruptcy protection
Ap - WashingtonPost.com
NEW YORK — The Fuller Brush Man is calling ... on bankruptcy court.
Fuller Brush Co. is filing for bankruptcy protection, decades after its fleet of salesmen popularized door-to-door selling in the U.S.
The company, known for its brushes, brooms and cleaning products launched the phrase "I’m your Fuller Brush Man" into the national vernacular and was once so well known that it spawned a 1948 feature film starring Red Skelton called "The Fuller Brush Man." Fuller Brush men traveled door-to-door with suitcases full brushes, personal care and cleaning products.
Survey Finds More Mature Workers
Plan To Work Post-Retirement
By CAREERBUILDER - DailyFinance.com
"Retirement" used to mean the end of one chapter in life spent working and the beginning of a new chapter spent with family and friends, traveling or focusing on hobbies. Yet for many of today's mature workers, their picture of retirement looks very different. It no longer means the end of their career; instead, they are either staying longer at their current jobs or getting new jobs once retired. In fact,a new CareerBuilder study found that 57 percent of workers age 60 plus surveyed said they would look for a new job after retiring from their current company.
When asked how soon they think they can retire from their current job, 11 percent of workers surveyed said they don't think they'll ever be able to retire. Other answers included:
• 1-2 years – 26 percent
• 3-4 years – 23 percent
• 5-6 years – 22 percent
• 7-8 years – 7 percent
• 9-10 years – 7 percent
• More than 10 years – 4 percent
The Middle Class Goes Global
Johannes Jütting - Project-Syndicate.org
PARIS – In the twentieth century, the American dream of a middle-class life inspired the world. Now, in the twenty-first, we are moving at high speed toward a world based on a new geography of growth, with millions of people in the east and the south moving out of extreme poverty to become potentially powerful middle-class consumers. Whether the dreams of this new global middle-class are realized or turn into a nightmare depends on several factors.
In today’s shifting world, with GDP in roughly 80 developing economies rising at twice the rate of per capita growth in the OECD, the club of the world’s richest countries, middle-class citizens paradoxically complain and protest regardless of whether fortunes improve or decline. Moises Naim, a former Venezuelan minister of trade and industry, even warns of a possible "emerging global war of the middle-classes."
Robotics and Health Care: A New Growth Market
By Ray Blanco - dailyreckoning.com
02/21/12 There are truly exciting developments afoot in the field of robotics. Uncomfortably humanlike Japanese toys aside, we are starting to see more and more applications for robot technology gaining steam in the market.
According to the Japan Robotics Association, the consumer robotics market is projected to reach 24 billion this year, and balloon to 66 billion by 2025. I personally think that the long term estimate is a bit pessimistic. Bill Gates is on record for predicting that robots will be as common as computers are today.
Federation on front lines of health law battle
By Paige Winfield Cunningham - The Washington Times
As the Supreme Court prepares for an epic legal clash next month on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law, Dan Danneradmits to a certain feeling of vindication.
The president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation’s leading small-business lobby, said his group launched its legal challenge to the law two years ago, at a time when other business interests and critics of the health law told him the effort was a waste of time.
T-Mobile files opposition to Verizon Wireless spectrum deal
Puget Sound Business Journal by Lance Murray
Just two months after T-Mobile USA was wanting to sell itself to AT&T Inc., the Bellevue-based wireless provider is asking federal regulators to deny Verizon Wireless' proposed $3.9 billion purchase of airwave rights that are held by cable companies.
The T-Mobile/AT&T deal fell apart in December after federal regulators at theFederal Communications Commission and Justice Department opposed the deal on antitrust grounds.
T-Mobile, public interest groups
ask FCC to stop Verizon’s deal with cable firms
By Cecilia Kang - WashingtonPost.com
T-Mobile and public interest groups on Tuesday urged the Federal Communications Commission to block Verizon Wireless’s spectrum and marketing deal with cable firms, saying the transaction would lead to less competition and higher wireless service fees for consumers.
In filings late Tuesday at the FCC, T-Mobile said the $3.9 billion sale of airwaves to Verizon by cable firms would create “excessive concentration” in the wireless market. Verizon Wireless is the nation’s biggest wireless service provider with more than 100 million subscribers.
Gingrich campaign warned 2nd time for financial dealings
By Luke Rosiak-The Washington Times
Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign has received a second warning from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for widespread financial irregularities, saying the campaign must disclose why nearly $1 million was paid to the candidate, staff and a small group of fundraising consultants for questionable reimbursements.
But hours after the FEC letter on its 2011 finances became public, the campaign filed a report for a newer time period, January, that indicated that the problems have become far worse.
Who Do You Trust Less: The NSA or Anonymous?
Intelligence officials seem to be polishing up their case to take on Anonymous like a 'stateless' terrorist group.
By Alexis Madrigal - TheAtlantic.com
The director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, told various high-level audiences that the loosely affiliated group, Anonymous, would soon have the capability "to bring about a limited power outage through a cyberattack," according to an anonymously sourced article in the Wall Street Journal today.
The Journal admits that Anonymous "has never listed a power blackout as a goal," but warned that "some federal officials believe Anonymous is headed in a more disruptive direction," anyway.
Obama and Israel: The Silence of 'Friends'
By ROBERT M. GOLDBERG - The American Spectator.org
Pay attention to what he does, not what he now claims.
Oscar Wilde noted "true friends stab you in the front." Which explains why President Obama-- the self-proclaimed "best friend Israel ever had" -- has decided to cut funding for the Jewish state's missile defense system at the same time he wants to restore funding to UNESCO. (Israel's best friends will remember that the President was forced to cut support to the traditional anti-Israel agency by federal law because the organization recognized the Palestinian Authority as a state.)
Two Western Journalists Killed in Syria Shelling
By ROD NORDLAND and ALAN COWELL - NYTimes.com
CAIRO — Syrian security forces shelled the central city of Homs on Wednesday, the 19th day of a bombardment that activists say has claimed the lives of hundreds of trapped civilians in one of the deadliest campaigns in nearly a year of violent repression by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Among the scores of people that activist groups reported killed by rockets and bombs through the day, two were Western journalists, the veteran American war correspondent Marie Colvin, who had been working for The Sunday Times of London, and a young French photographer, Rémi Ochlik. The two had been working in a makeshift media center that was destroyed in the assault, raising suspicions that Syrian security forces might have identified its location by tracing satellite signals. Experts say that such tracking is possible with sophisticated equipment.
Marie Colvin's killing piles pressure on Assad
as civilian death toll rises
Nicolas Sarkozy calls death of Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik an assassination, and says: 'This regime must go'
By Martin Chulov
and Angelique Chrisafis in Paris - Guardian.co.uk
The deaths of veteran Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik, and the rising toll of civilian dead inSyria, have prompted renewed calls for an end to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Their deaths came on a day in which, according to activists, more than 80 people were killed in the besieged district of Bab al-Amr in the city of Homs, which has been under daily attack by the Syrian army for the past three weeks.
Sanctions Alone Won’t Topple Assad
By Meghan L. O’Sullivan - Bloomberg.com
On Feb. 24, the U.S., European nations, members of the Arab League and other sympathetic countries making up the newly established "Friends of Syria" group will gather in Tunisia for an emergency meeting on how to stem the bloodshed in Syria. Their deliberations are almost certain to involve calls for more crippling sanctions to bring about regime change and debates over providing military support to the fractured opposition groups inside the country.
While more economic steps can and should be taken, policy makers need to rethink the incorrect assumption that the more ambitious the objective (regime change, in this case) the more comprehensive and aggressive sanctions must be. Instead of simply looking for more ways to isolate Syria economically, the U.S. and its allies need to think about how sanctions can be used specifically to advance regime change. This will require creating a sanctions policy more subtle and nuanced way than one aiming just to contain a regime, or even to change its behavior.
Warships sail to Syria
By M K Bhadrakumar - ATimes.com
A flotilla of Iranian warships crossed the Suez Canal and docked at the Syrian port of Tartus on Saturday. Iran's Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the mission displays Iran's "might" despite 30 years of relentless sanctions.
The flotilla comprised the 18th Fleet of the Iranian navy. The warships would hold exercises and will "train Syrian naval forces under an agreement signed between Tehran and Damascus one year ago".
Consequences of Iran-Israel War
By Brandon Smith - USAWatchdog.com
The latest headline proves, once again, Iran and Israel are moving closer to war. The only question is when. A headline, today, from Debka.com said,“Tehran steps into US-Israel Iran row with threat of pre-emptive strike.” The story goes on to say,“Deputy Chief of Iran’s Armed Forces Gen. Mohammad Hejazi issued a new threat Tuesday, Feb. 21: “Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran’s national interests… we will act without waiting for their actions.” debkafile’s military sources report that an Iranian preemptive attack on Israel has been in the air for some weeks. It became realistic because the dragging out of the argument between Washington and Jerusalem over a military strike and the two government’s indecisiveness gave Tehran a golden opportunity to further its interests.” (Click here for the complete Debka.com story.) There are many reasons that are given to go to war. Israel may attack first despite being told by Washington not to. Now, we hear Iran may strike first. It cut oil exports to the EU and didn’t wait for sanctions to kick in months from now. There’s really nothing stopping them from striking first if they think they are going to be attacked, likewise for Israel.
The Secret Government (CIA Overthrow of Mossadeq)
Truth and lies behind the IAEA report
What Iranian Elites Think
An Inside Look at Views of the West
By Hasnain Kazim, in Islamabad, Pakistan- Spiegel.de
Israeli hawks are threatening a military strike in order to stop Iran's nuclear program and many Republican presidential candidates in the US also support action. A loose survey of students and academics in Tehran shows that even among opponents of President Ahmadinejad, anti-Western sentiment is strong.
These days, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agitates against the United States, Israel and the West, all the while presenting himself as a proud advocate of nuclear energy in his country. The deputy chief of Iran's military forces is threatening to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran's enemies. Bombs believed to have been set by Iranian agents have exploded in India, Georgia and Thailand. And, in a show of force, Iran has dispatched warships to the Mediterranean.
Iran Uses European Oil Dependence as Blackmail on Nukes
by Niall Ferguson - TheDailyBeast.com
In the West’s high-stakes nuclear game with Tehran, Ahmadinejad may hold the stronger hand.
The signs of economic recovery in the United States grow more numerous—and with them rises the probability of President Obama’s reelection. But two crises abroad threaten to rain on the American parade: the European sovereign-debt debacle and the phony war over Iran’s nuclear program. Most commentators treat these two crises as unrelated. But they are in reality two sides of the same crisis. Call it the Euranian crisis.
White House: IAEA visit a 'failure' for Iran
The White House has said it is disappointed that UN nuclear inspectors were barred from a site in Iran, calling the visit a "failure" for Iran.
"It's another demonstration of Iran's refusal to abide by its international obligations," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
IAEA inspectors had sought to clarify the "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear programme.
Tehran insists its nuclear intentions are purely peaceful.
US state department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that Tehran's move was "disappointing", but the country wanted to see negotiations move forward.
U.N. Inspectors’ Iran Nuclear Mission Fails
as Tehran Denies Access to Key Site
by Michael Adler - TheDailyBeast.com
IAEA inspectors abandoned their mission to see if Iran is building nuclear weapons after Tehran denied them access to the Parchin military test site, which some suspect may be used for developing nukes.
In a crucial mission at a time of escalating tension over Iran, United Nations nuclear inspectors failed to make progress on finding out whether the Islamic republic seeks the bomb, and the International Atomic Energy Agency wasted no time in announcing this. A terse statement issued just as the IAEA inspectors’ plane was taking off from Iran reported that the mission was a bust. The team had been denied permission to see the suspect Parchin military testing site, despite "intensive efforts” to make it happen during the visit Monday and Tuesday. Iran and the IAEA also failed “to reach agreement on a document … (to resolve issues) in connection with Iran’s nuclear program, particularly those relating to possible military dimensions."
Iran Drumbeat Watch: Now, on Page 1
By James Fallows - TheAtlantic.com
Anyone following the news already knows this, but for the record: it's very good to see the NYT running, on page one and above the fold*, an analysis of the reckless agitation for a preemptive military strike on Iran, and of the risks this talk holds for all involved. Lots of people wrote these analyses, after the fact, about the panicky rush-toward-war mentality that preceded the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is certainly better to start talking about the problem now, when "hey, wait a minute" thoughts can make a difference.
Experts Say Iran Attack Is Irrational,
Yet Hawks Are Winning the Debate
by Peter Beinart - TheDailyBeast.com
From the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the head of Mossad, the experts are speaking out against attacking Iran over its nuclear program, but hawks like the GOP presidential candidates are drowning out the warnings.
The debate over whether Israel should attack Iran rests on three basic questions. First, if Iran’s leaders got the bomb, would they use it or give it to people who might? Second, would a strike substantially retard Iran’s nuclear program? Third, if Israel attacks, what will Iran do in response?
AIPAC and the Push Toward War
By Robert Wright - TheAtlantic.com
Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran.
The good news is that the resolution hasn't been universally embraced in the Senate. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the resolution has "provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war." The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, "AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an 'ask' in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying."
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