Thursday, January 05, 2012

The West should hand Iran's leadership a chalice of poison

It would be a mistake to relieve the economic and military pressure on Tehran

Tensions in the Strait of Hormuz are at a more than 20-year high after Iranian authorities threatened to close the 34-mile-wide channel through which more than one-third of the world's oil tanker traffic passes. The threats come against the backdrop of renewed international discussion of sanctions in the wake of an International Atomic Energy Agency report cataloguing Iranian efforts to develop nuclear weapon technology.

Many academics and retired diplomats call for renewed diplomacy and less coercion. A letter sent last month to the White House by the former British, French and Italian ambassadors to Iran declared that while sanctions have a place, winning Iranian concessions ''requires the renewal of effective negotiations''.

Amin Saikal, a professor at the Australian National University, suggested this week that Western concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions were misplaced, and argued that, regardless, the West had no choice but to negotiate. ''Neither sanctions nor military operations can really work,'' he declared. He is wrong.
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To relieve economic and military pressure on Iran would be counterproductive. So long as Iran does not attain nuclear weapons, its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz remain simple bluster. If Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons, all bets are off. Tehran's ability to amplify its leverage over the international economy would increase exponentially.

Make no mistake: Iran cannot close the Strait of Hormuz for more than a day. When its navy mined the Persian Gulf in 1988, damaging a US vessel, president Ronald Reagan responded with Operation Praying Mantis, decimating the Iranian navy, a bloody nose that led Tehran to respect international waters for more than two decades.

Nor can Iran itself afford a closure of the strait. Not only does it need to export oil itself through the waterway, but, because of decades of financial mismanagement, it also depends on the strait for the import of refined gasolineeum products.

Without imported gasoline to fuel its car and factories, Iran's economy would grind to a halt. To close the strait even for a day would do far more economic damage to Iran than it would to Australia, east Asia or the West.

The leadership in Tehran knows better than anyone that every time Iran has experienced a fuel shortage, protesters have poured into the streets.

Despite bluster that sanctions have had no effect, Iranian behaviour suggests the opposite. Both the March 2007 Iranian attack on British sailors in the waters between Iraq and Iran, and the November 2011 attack on the British embassy in Tehran, came two days after the British government lent its support to new sanctions. Both attacks were overreactions that belied Tehran's insistence that sanctions are meaningless.

Even Iranian parliamentarians do not buy their government's rhetoric. Last month, 30 representatives called for a closed session of the parliament in order to dispense with polemic and to discuss sanctions truthfully. Abolghasem Mozaffari, the head of the Revolutionary Guards' economic wing, confessed that ''the sanctions have not been without impact''.

Iran's current provocations may have more to do with its own desperation than any real grievance. After the US Congress imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran last month, Iran's currency lost nearly half its value. Unemployment and inflation are both in double digits.

To keep afloat, Iran needs high oil prices. Simply threatening tanker traffic drives up the price of oil, adding hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran's coffers. The irony of such a psychological strategy, however, is that the spike in oil prices mitigates any increase that would result from military strikes.

Nor are military strikes as difficult as some believe. While Saikal argues that ''most Iranian nuclear installations are buried deep underground'', itself an admission that they have no civilian purpose, pilots point out that they need only destroy entrances to such facilities rather than blast the underground centrifuges, reactors and potential assembly plants and storage depots.

While no Australian, American, or European wants to pay more at the gasoline pump, the status quo is unsustainable. Should the Islamic Republic develop nuclear weapons, Tehran will have a free hand to lash out indiscriminately, feeling secure behind its own nuclear deterrent. A limited conflict in the Persian Gulf might add $20 to the price of oil for a month, but a nuclear Iran could permanently add $100 a barrel.

History can be a guide. Twice, in the Islamic Republic's history, revolutionary authorities have sworn no surrender. In 1979, they said they would not release their American hostages until Washington met revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini's demands. Then, they said they would accept no end to the Iran-Iraq war until Saddam Hussein was in Iranian hands. In both cases, however, isolation and sanctions took their toll.

When Khomeini announced a ceasefire with Iraq, he likened it to drinking a chalice of poison but said the cost of continuing to fight gave him no choice.

When it comes to Tehran's nuclear program and its Hormuz threats, it is time to hand Iranian leaders such a chalice, not to relieve the pressure.



Norway killer Breivik is 'not psychotic', say experts

That has also been my view throughout -- JR

Experts monitoring the Norwegian killer, Anders Behring Breivik, say they believe he is not psychotic, contradicting court-appointed psychiatrists. A team of experts reached the conclusion after monitoring Breivik in prison, said the public prosecutor who submitted their report to the court.

Breivik admits to twin attacks on 22 July 2011, which killed 77 people.

The original psychiatric analysis said he was insane. The two court-appointed psychiatrists reached this conclusion after interviewing him on 13 occasions. Their report said 32 year-old Breivik lived in his "own delusional universe where all his thoughts and acts are guided by his delusions".

The expert team of four psychiatrists assessing Breivik in prison disagreed with several of the original conclusions. According to the report submitted by the Public Prosecutor, Svein Holden, they do not believe Breivik is psychotic or schizophrenic and do not think he needs drugs. In addition they do not regard him as being at high risk of committing suicide.

Breivik is due to go on trial on terrorism charges on 16 April, regardless of whether or not he is regarded as sane. As things stand, a guilty verdict would see him placed in psychiatric care rather than in prison. The court is expected to decide within the next few weeks whether or not to order a new psychiatric evaluation. Mr Holden said he would not be calling for a new assessment, despite the conclusions in the latest report.



One Percent or 33: America's Real Inequality Problem

33% is the percent of children living with one parent rather than two and it is they who have least chance of "making it". Although carefully ignored below, a large number of them are black and blacks tend to have inborn limitations (low IQ etc.) that are beyond remedy. And many poor whites will be in the same boat

The American economy remains sluggish and, from all over the political spectrum, particularly the left, people have turned their attention to inequality. But if the Occupiers were right about one thing, it was that there is a growing inequality in American life. Scott Winship, relying on the findings of the Pew Charitable Trust's Economic Mobility Project as evaluated by his colleagues at the centerleft Brookings Institution, shows that though the gains have not been as startling in the last few decades as they were for Americans 40 years back, what has been evident is indeed "pervasive economic mobility." Pervasive indeed, from downward mobility from the top and middle to upward mobility from the middle. The exception, he notes, is "upward mobility from the bottom."

Mitch Pearlstein, who worked in the Department of Education under Reagan and Bush I, and then founded the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis, also sees this as a growing problem. His new book, From Family Fragmentation to America's Decline, laments this inability of many to climb their way up from the bottom rungs of society. But rather than fixating on the one percent, he focuses on the 33 percent. This is the percent of children living with one parent rather than two. These children, victims of what many call "family fragmentation," start out with tremendous social and educational deficits that are hard to narrow, nevermind close. These are most often the children for whom upward mobility has stalled. Their economic well-being has led to decline in American competitiveness and also the deeper cleavages of inequality that have been so widely noted.

This territory is not new. In his first chapter, "From Moynihan to 'My Goodness," Pearlstein traces the findings of social scientists on the effects of divorce, single-parenthood, and particularly the absence of fathers from the period of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's famous (or infamous, from contemporary leftist viewpoints) 1965 report on the status of black families. While Moynihan was careful to ascribe the then-current break down of the black family to factors like slavery, racism, and other economic factors, he was nonetheless demonized for racism in raising the topic. While other social scientists working from the 1960s to the 1980s vindicated everything Moynihan had said, it was not politically correct to say any of it, considering the opposition from multiculturalists and, of course, feminists themselves who seemed to believe not only that women, but also children, needed men like fish needed bicycles. Charles Murray's 1984 Losing Ground had the temerity to suggest that much of the welfare state apparatus assembled since the 1960s had not only not helped family life, but incentivized divorce and single parenthood, creating the same problems among whites that Moynihan had identified among blacks. The ice was finally broken when established liberal figures like Bill Moyers and then William Galston began to publicize the realities of family breakdown.

Discouraging Trends

Now it is virtually certain from a social science perspective that married fathers and mothers living together have a much greater impact on children's future economic well-being than simply being additional "income inputs." Pearlstein's chapters on the effects of family fragmentation on "every conceivable measure" and on education are sobering in their completeness. Divorce and single-parenthood are seen as risk factors for poverty as well as the health, safety, and educational well-being of children across the board. He verifies this not only from studies in the U.S. but across cultures. What is particularly depressing about American family life is that American children born to two married parents are more likely to experience family breakdown (or "fragmentation" as the current euphemism has it) than Swedish children born to cohabiting parents. (Pearlstein is careful to note that this is a comparative measure— other data show that the effects of having married parents are far greater than simply legal for children. Being married is still better for kids than cohabiting.)

Like Moynihan before him, Pearlstein is careful to say not all poverty, health, and educational failure are caused by family fragmentation, but "a great deal of it is." Given the data I cited above about the pervasive upward mobility at least from the middle classes, Pearlstein's findings do not paint a pretty picture of America's future. All the data, particularly from the National Marriage Project's comprehensive 2010 study of Americans and marriage, show that the "unMarriage Culture," as Kay Hymowitz styles it, has become endemic among the broad middle classes as well. Pearlstein's data shows that the effects of family fragmentation are not limited to those in poverty, but affect kids of all classes who experience them. Pearlstein is at pains to make clear that he is not pointing fingers at anyone, nor is he denying that many children in single-parent or divorced homes are doing well. But all the best available data show that children in these situations are at much greater risk of educational failure and corresponding economic weakness as adults.

In a high-tech information age, the path to upward mobility is dependent on a high level of education both social and intellectual. Those who are left behind in these areas will have an increasingly difficult time not only with upward mobility but making it in general. In the groundbreaking 2008 Marriage and Caste in America, the aforementioned Kay Hymowitz described the "self-perpetuating single-mother proletariat" that had come into existence and paralleled the self-perpetuating cycle of university educated mothers who raise children who go to college, get married, and then have children. Pearlstein only adds to the case by noting that while many believe that the offshoring of jobs has been only to evade higher labor and regulatory costs, many high tech jobs are now being moved abroad because there aren't enough Americans with enough education to handle them. This labor deficit means weakening American competitiveness is likely to worsen down the road.

What are the solutions to all this? Or, more realistically, what can even help? Pearlstein's final two chapters on ways to strengthen education and marriage are very tentative. While he has no doubt that public education can be improved, there is a certain skepticism about the broad-based reforms which have been made over the last hundred years in education. Pearlstein thinks private religious schools are so successful because they are able to teach the unity of intellectual and moral virtue. Public schools that have succeeded are similarly "paternalistic" in that they teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also middle-class values like diligence, thrift, politeness, and a strong work ethic. Due to constraints imposed by teachers unions and bureaucratic red-tape, such public schools are rare and difficult to duplicate when found.

Concerning marriage, we have even less data since government encouragement of a marriage culture only began about 15 years ago. The results have not been encouraging. Pearlstein doesn't think there is no place for government in encouraging married parenthood, but his book points again and again to the root problem: our culture. Despite the widespread impression that American Christianity is largely judgmental, Pearlstein contends that "religious institutions need to be more assertive in this realm, while being no less supportive of those in need." Parents won't get married or stay married to "save the economy" or "lessen inequality," but they will for deeper reasons that will have the same result.




Romney tough on illegals: "In the one-page flyer that is expected to be mailed out statewide, Romney details his plans to stop illegal immigration, according to Ryan Williams, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign. "The mailer talks about putting an end to magnets or benefits that illegal immigrants have, ensuring a tamper-proof system that allows employers to check the status of their employees and creating a strong border fence," Williams said. Time and time again, Williams said that voters have brought attention to the very serious problem of illegal immigration in the United State. "The Obama administration is opposed to common sense immigration laws," Williams said. "With Romney's plan there would be no magnets, no jobs, no holes in the borders."

AZ: Candidate asked to prove English language skills: "This year, Alejandrina Cabrera put city officials of San Luis, Arizona in the hot seat. Twice, Cabrera and the group she heads, For a San Luis with a Future, launched unsuccessful recall drives against the mayor. Now, Cabrera, who is vying for a seat on the City Council, finds herself in the hot seat. Last week, the council approved a motion asking for verification that Cabrera meets a state law requiring any person holding office in the state, county or city to speak, write and read English."

Obamacare already sending costs through the roof: "There may never have been a law more misnamed than the Affordable Care Act. President Obama's health overhaul law already is driving up health insurance costs for businesses and consumers and will inflict even higher costs on American taxpayers in the years ahead. Obama repeatedly promised the American people he would cut a typical family's premium $2,500 a year before the end of his first term. But costs are rising now even faster than before the law was enacted in March 2010."



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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