Archive for March, 2008


March 29, 2008

Minerals: Crumbling Bedrock of U.S. Security

From the April 2008 Trumpet Print Edition »

America’s reliance on the kindness of foreign nations to supply our basic needs has starved our industry. Next will be our military, then the nation. By Robert Morley

During the War of Independence, America learned the painful lesson of reliance on foreign nations. The newborn United States had to rely on France and the Netherlands to supply everything from iron and gunpowder to blankets and clothing, and Britain routinely cut America’s supply lines. Seeing this weakness, America’s founders implemented a national strategy promoting industrial and military self-sufficiency in order to establish the nation’s security.

It seems America has forgotten that lesson. One specific example is in mineral production. America’s leaders have allowed the nation’s once formidable mining industry to erode. Many minerals—including some that are strategically important for the military—are no longer produced in the United States at all. Due to lack of investment, radical environmental activism, and low-cost foreign competition, many of America’s former mining giants have turned off the drills, closed the refineries and sent the workers home, or have chosen to develop new production outside the U.S.

A Warning Unheeded

It’s not that America wasn’t warned.

Back in 1985, the secretary of the United States Army testified before Congress that America was more than 50 percent dependent on foreign sources for 23 of 40 critical materials essential to U.S. national security.

The year before, in a U.S. Marine Corps study, Maj. R.A. Hagerman wrote, “Since World War ii, the United States has become increasingly dependent on foreign sources for almost all non-fuel minerals. … The availability of these minerals have an extremely important impact on American industry and, in turn, on U.S. defense capabilities. Without just a few critical minerals, such as cobalt, manganese, chromium and platinum, it would be virtually impossible to produce many defense products such as jet engines, missile components, electronic components, iron, steel, etc.

“This places the U.S. in a vulnerable position with a direct threat to our defense production capability if the supply of strategic minerals is disrupted by foreign powers” (“U.S. Reliance on Africa for Strategic Minerals,” April 6, 1984; emphasis mine).

A look at America’s mining production since the mid-to-late 1980s is not just shocking, it is chilling.

Cobalt, for example, is one of the most critical minerals used in America and is considered a strategic metal by the U.S. government, meaning that its availability during a national emergency would seriously affect the economic, industrial and defensive capability of the country. It has many diverse commercial, industrial and military applications including superalloys (used to make parts for jet aircraft engines), magnets, high-speed steels, catalysts for petroleum and chemical industries as well as for paints, varnishes and inks.

Just before America entered World War ii, it made a scramble to begin cobalt mining. Production began in 1940 and continued until 1971, when the mines were closed and cobalt mining ceased to exist in America. The most recent data available from the U.S. Geological Survey (usgs) shows that, as of 2004, the over 8,700 tons the nation consumes is 100 percent imported. Cobalt sells for more than $45,000 a ton.

Manganese is another essential mineral America no longer produces. It is essential to iron and steel production by virtue of its sulfur-fixing, deoxidizing and alloying properties. Manganese is also a key component of certain widely used aluminum alloys and of dry cell batteries and plant fertilizers.

In 1918 America produced over 400,000 tons of manganese, which was over 44 percent of global production. By the end of World War ii, mining had fallen to only 12 percent of global production, covering just 28 percent of America’s daily needs. Since then, manganese production has steadily eroded; the last domestic ingot of manganese was mined in 1990. Today America imports 100 percent of its manganese consumption.

America no longer produces any chromium either, a mineral the usgs calls “one of the nation’s most important strategic and critical materials.” Chromium is used to harden iron, steel and other nonferrous alloys.

The list of minerals that America no longer produces is astounding and growing. America no longer produces indium (as of 1970), arsenic (1985), gallium (1987), bauxite or alumina (1989), tin (1990), thorium (1992), mercury (1993), tungsten (1995), fluorspar (1997), nickel (1999), vanadium (2000), antimony (2001) or rare earth minerals (2002), to name a few.

Then there is a whole host of other minerals, like iron, zinc and titanium, that America produces at greatly reduced volumes.

Allowing such a wide swath of the nation’s mineral production base to dry up and disappear is a critical miscalculation.

You can’t just turn mines on and off at the flick of a switch. “The average person doesn’t stop to think that a process of several years is involved from the point of minerals exploration to on-site development to extraction, smelting and manufacture of the primary products,” former American Mining Congress President J. Allen Overton once noted. “Once lost, it will take years—if ever—to recover it.”

Look Who’s Taking Over the Business

As America has been divesting itself of mineral-producing capacity, other nations have been quick to embrace it. Unfortunately for the U.S., the ability to control global production of strategic minerals is an incredibly powerful political weapon.

China, for example, now completely dominates rare earth minerals—minerals that the U.S. supplied over 20 percent of not long ago.

“The whole family of ‘-ums’ like gallium, rhenium, neodymium and indium, is fascinating. And frightening!” reports the Miner Diaries investment bulletin. “They are an essential ingredient in many technology-related sectors and demand is growing at 10-to-15 percent a year.

“Yet it is completely dominated by just one country—around 95 percent of supply comes from China” (Jan. 30, 2008).

Over the past two years, China has begun restricting exports of these materials. The end result is, U.S. manufacturers who wish to stay in business are being forced to move their research and development and manufacturing facilities to China to gain access to rare earth minerals. An example of this was the sale and relocation of Magnequench, a company formerly based in Indiana that produced 85 percent of the rare earth magnets used in the guidance systems of U.S. military smart bombs. Without rare earths, you don’t have protective coatings, blast protection, guided missiles, lasers, modern transportation, laptop computers, tvs, or even iPods.

In 1992, China basically admitted to the world what it was planning to do. Chinese ruler Deng Xiaoping coined the statement, “There is oil in the Middle East, there is rare earth in China.” Then in 1999, Chinese President Jiang Zemin said, “Improve the development and applications of rare earth, and change [China’s] resource advantage into economic superiority.”

Meanwhile, America has closed its only rare earth mine (one owned by Unocal, which the Chinese state-owned company cnooc tried to purchase in 2005), has boarded up the Rare Earth Information Center, and has not only ceased stockpiling rare earth minerals but has also largely sold off national stockpiles.

If any doubt exists as to China’s intentions, on February 4 Chinese state-owned companies announced four deals in the resources sector. The deals came only two days after Chinalco, China’s aluminum company, grabbed a 12 percent stake in Rio Tinto to prevent the Australian mining giant bhp Billiton from gaining control over the $132 billion diversified mining giant.

The Times called China’s action “the first shots in a new economic war.”

And much of the rest of the world, including the European Union, is scrambling to tie up control of strategic minerals in Africa and South America. America is being shut out, and at a time when much of its domestic resources production is hitting rock bottom.


If Americans truly understood the implications of being resource-dependent on unfriendly foreign nations, especially at a time of intensifying anti-Americanism, global instability and resource competition, they would be acting quickly. Sadly, this is not the case.

The Bible speaks of a time when America will be besieged by its enemies. America’s over-reliance on foreigners for essential needs is a sign that time is drawing near.

But it didn’t have to be this way. There is a reason America as a nation is blessed with a range of unexploited minerals and other natural resources envied around the world. Why? Our book The United States and Britain in Prophecy explains. Request a free copy.

Abraham Lincoln may have stated it best when he said: “We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the Earth, as regards fertility of soil, extent of territory, and salubrity of climate. … We, when mounting the stage of existence, find ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or the establishment of them.”

Later Lincoln said: “It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God … and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. … We have been the recipients of the choicest blessings of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”

America is rapidly losing those blessings. The mineral bedrock of our industry, economy and military is crumbling before our eyes. For many years, the Trumpet has alerted its readers that, based on Bible prophecy, the U.S. and other English-speaking nations are headed for a time of national calamity. America must turn to the one true and most important bedrock of any society, the Rock that determines our morals and should govern our lives. Only then will America truly stand on a firm, rock-solid foundation.

Side bar,

Mined No More

Some of the minerals the U.S. no longer produces:












Rare Earth





Vanadium – “OBAMA”

March 26, 2008


Revealed: Obama’s dad polygamist, alcoholic
Parent not hero portrayed in ‘Dreams from My Father’

Posted: March 25, 2008
9:18 pm Eastern

By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

In his autobiographical book “Dreams from My Father,” Barack Obama paints a heroic picture of his father as having emerged from a poor Kenyan village, where he was nothing more than a simple goat herder, to become a Harvard-educated economist, destined to return to Africa to fulfill his promise.

Unfortunately, the reality is much bleaker than the tale Obama tells in his book.

In truth, Barack Obama senior, Obama’s father, was a polygamist who had already abandoned one wife and child in Africa when he met Obama’s mother in Hawaii.

After being educated at Harvard, Obama senior returned to Africa, abandoning Obama and his mother, to live the life of a chronic alcoholic who ultimately killed himself in his second drink-induced car accident, while driving drunk on the streets of Nairobi.

The truth about Obama’s father was first exposed by London’s Daily Mail in a January 2007 exposé whose details remain unchallenged even today, as Obama leads in delegate count in the race for the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential election.

Sharon Churcher, the author of the Daily Mail’s 2007 exposé, confirmed to WND today in a telephone interview from London that, as far as she knows, her original report remains accurate.

Rob Crilly, the free-lance journalist in Africa who did much of the on-site first-hand interviews with Obama Senior’s family and acquaintances in Kenya, also confirmed to WND in a telephone interview from Nairobi that he has learned of nothing since 2007 that would contradict the published 2007 Daily Mail story.

Obama begins his 1995 book “Dreams from My Father” with a scene from 1982, when Obama, having just turned 21, was shaken in his New York apartment by a phone call from Africa telling him his father had been killed in a car accident.

The narrative omits that Obama senior killed himself driving drunk.

A few pages later, Obama traces his father’s history in Kenya back to the time he herded goats while attending the local “British colonial school.”

Obama claims his father showed such “great promise” that he won a scholarship to study in Nairobi and then, “on the eve of Kenyan independence, he had been selected by Kenyan leaders and American sponsors to attend a University in the United States.”

Obama proudly tells the reader his father joined “the first large wave of Africans to be sent forth to master Western technology and bring it back to forge a new, modern Africa.”

Again, Obama carefully omits the underside of the story, that his father at age 23 headed off to a university education in Hawaii, abandoning the Africa girl named Kezia he had married at age 18.

Nor does Obama mention that Kezia was then pregnant with his father’s first son.

Obama magnifies his father’s time in Hawaii, claiming he arrived at the University of Hawaii as the institution’s first African student who “studied econometrics, worked with unsurpassed concentration, and graduated in three years at the top of his class.”

Obama notes his father’s friends “were legion, and he helped organize the International Students Association, of which he became the first president.”

He omits any mention of his father’s continued success with women.

The Daily Mail again presented the underside of the story, reporting Obama senior was a “slick womanizer” who persuaded Obama’s mother, a “naïve 18-year-old white girl, to marry him, without disclosing to her that he had left behind in Africa a wife he had not divorced.”

Obama presents a Hollywood version of his parents’ romance, claiming his father met his mother in a Russian-language course at the university, “an awkward, shy American girl, only 18, and they fell in love.”

“The girl’s parents, wary at first, were won over by his [Obama senior’s] charm and intellect,” Obama continues his narrative, “the young couple married, and she bore them a son, to whom he bequeathed his name.”

So, Obama junior was born in August 1961.

Two years later, Obama senior won another scholarship, this time to pursue a Ph.D. at Harvard.

Obama explains his father’s decision to abandon his mother and him in Hawaii by arguing that the scholarship from Harvard did not include “the money to take his new family with him.”

In the next sentence, Obama intentionally skips over several key details.

After noting his father’s decision to leave Hawaii for Cambridge, Mass., Obama explains: “A separation occurred, and he returned to Africa to fulfill his promise to the continent. The mother and child stayed behind, but the bond of love survived the distances …”

The ellipsis omits the fact that Obama’s mother divorced his father when she discovered “his bigamous double life,” the Daily Mail disclosed.

While at Harvard, Obama senior had an affair with yet another woman, an American-born teacher named Ruth, whom he met at Harvard while yet married to Obama’s mother and to his also-abandoned wife in Africa.

Obama returned to Kenya and fathered two more children by Kezia.

Somewhere in that period, he also married Ruth, who followed him to Africa from Harvard.

The Daily Mail quotes a relative of Obama as saying, “We told him [Obama] how his father would still go to Kezia and it was during these visits that she became pregnant with two more children. He also had two children with Ruth.”

The Daily Mail further reveals that Ruth finally left Obama senior “after he repeatedly flew into whiskey-fueled rages, beating her brutally.”

“Friends say drinking blighted his [Obama senior’s] life,” the Daily Mail reported, “he lost both his legs while driving under the influence and also lost his job.”

There ended Obama senior’s brilliant civil service career as a top, Harvard-trained econometrician working in the newly independent government of Jomo Kenyatta, on a mission to bring his economically backward country into prosperity.

According to the Daily Mail, even after losing both legs in the car accident, Obama senior fathered yet another son, his eighth child, by yet another woman, and “continued to come home drunk.”

Then, on Obama’s 21st birthday, Obama senior put an end to the sad drama by killing himself in yet another car crash, once again driving drunk.

The Daily Mail quotes Kenyan writer Philip Ochieng as saying, “He [Obama senior] was excessively fond of Scotch. He had fallen into the habit of going home drunk every night. His boasting proved his undoing and left him without a job, plunged him into prolonged poverty and dangerously wounded his ego.”

“He was a menace to life,” Ochieng said. “He had many extremely serious accidents. Both his legs had to be amputated. They were replaced with crude false limbs made from iron.”

“He was just like Mr. Toad [from the “Wind in the Willows” story],” wrote Ochieng, “very arrogant on the road, especially when he had whisky inside. I was not surprised when I learned how he died.”

“Why didn’t my father return?” is a question Obama admits in his autobiography has haunted him since the age of five or six.

In the autobiography, readers learn that Obama’s Kenyan father was Muslim, only indirectly, when Obama explains to a girlfriend in Hawaii that his name was not “Barry,” as he was then commonly called, but “Barack,” a name Barack explains means “blessed” in Arabic.

He further explains that the name was his father’s, and that “my grandfather was a Muslim.”

In 1986, four years after his father’s death, Obama went to Africa for the first time, to be confronted with the truth of his father’s life and to meet half-brothers and half-sisters he never knew he had.

In Africa for the first time, Obama admits he was told the truth, perhaps for the first time in his life.

He recounts a conversation with Zeituni, his father’s sister.

“Zeituni stopped walking and turned to me,” Obama wrote in his autobiography. “‘After your father went off to live with his American wife, Ruth … well, he would go to Kezia sometimes. You must understand that traditionally she was still his wife. It was during such a visit that Kezia became pregnant with Abo, the brother you haven’t met. The thing was, Kezia also lived with another man briefly during this time. So when she became pregnant again, with Bernard, no one was sure who – ‘ Zeituni stopped, letting the thought finish itself.”

While admitting he had learned the truth about his father when visiting Africa for the first time, Obama still sought to see his father as the victim.

Zeituni, for instance, explains that “the problem [with Obama senior] was that his heart was too big.”

She also explains that Obama senior was the first to study abroad, the first who had ever ridden in an airplane, and had taken on too large a burden trying to help his family in Africa and to lift Kenya into a modern economic age.

As the Daily Mail concluded, “for all Mr. Obama’s reputation for straight talking and the compelling narrative of his recollections, they are largely myth.”

“We have discovered that his father was not just a flawed individual, but an abusive bigamist and an egomaniac, whose life was ruined not by racism or corruption, but by his own weakness,” the Daily Mail wrote. “And, devastatingly, the testimony has come from Mr. Obama’s own relatives and family friends.”

The Daily Mail suggests Obama chose to present his father in a favorable light as an electoral tactic.

“Indeed, by offering up a conveniently plotted account of his personal history in this way,” Churcher wrote, “he [Obama] might even have made a pre-emptive strike on those sure to pose the awkward questions that inevitably face a serious contender for the White House.”

Regardless of the motives, in “Dreams from my Father” Obama never states precisely how many wives his father had, or how many half-brothers and -sisters he has from different mothers, whether married to his father or not.

Obama blames racism for breaking up his parents’ marriage, not his father’s polygamist ways which began when he first left Africa, before he ever met Obama’s mother in Hawaii.

In the final analysis, Obama embraces the myth, presenting his father as a victim who suffered because, as Zeituni explains in the autobiography, his “heart was too big” – not that he was a bureaucrat of modest achievement who could not overcome a fight with alcohol that ultimately cost him his life.


March 22, 2008

HALPERIN’S TAKE: Painful Things Hillary Clinton Knows — Or Should Know

1. She can’t win the nomination without overturning the will of the elected delegates, which will alienate many Democrats.

2. She can’t win the nomination without a bloody convention battle — after which, even if she won, history and many Democrats would cast her as a villain.

3. Catching up in the popular vote is not out of the question — but without re-votes in Florida and Michigan it will be almost as impossible as catching up in elected delegates.

4. Nancy Pelosi and other leading members of Congress don’t think she can win and want her to give up. Same with superdelegate-to-the-stars Donna Brazile.

5. Obama’s skilled, close-knit staff can do things like silently kill re-votes in Florida and Michigan and not pay a political price.

6. Many of her supporters — and even some of her staffers — would be relieved (and even delighted) if she quit the race; none of his supporters or staff feel that way. Some think she just might throw in the towel in June if it appears efforts to fight on would hurt Obama’s general election chances.

7. The Rev. Wright story notwithstanding, the media still wants Obama to be the nominee — and that has an impact every day.

8. Obama might not be able to talk that well about the new global economy, but she (and McCain) can’t either.

9. Many of the remaining prominent superdelegates want to be for Obama and she (and Harold Ickes) are just barely keeping them from making public commitments to him.

10. She can’t publicly say more than 2% of all the things she would like to say about race, electability, beating McCain and experience.

11. If she somehow found a way to win the nomination, she would have to offer Obama the veep slot, and she doesn’t want to do that.

12. This is a change election, and Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton can never truly be change.

13. Obama is having fun most days, and she isn’t.

14. Even though her campaign staff is having more fun than it has for a long time, there’s hardly anyone there who, given half a chance, wouldn’t slit Mark Penn’s throat — and such internal dissension won’t help her in the home stretch.


March 21, 2008


Obama church published

Hamas terror manifesto

Compares charter calling for murder
of Jews to Declaration of Independence

Posted: March 20, 2008
12:45 pm Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2008 WorldNetDaily

Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook

JERUSALEM – Sen. Barack Obama’s Chicago church reprinted a manifesto by Hamas that defended terrorism as legitimate resistance, refused to recognize the right of Israel to exist and compared the terror group’s official charter – which calls for the murder of Jews – to America’s Declaration of Independence.

The Hamas piece was published on the “Pastor’s Page” of the Trinity United Church of Christ newsletter reserved for Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., whose anti-American, anti-Israel remarks landed Obama in hot water, prompting the presidential candidate to deliver a major race speech earlier this week.

Hamas, responsible for scores of shootings, suicide bombings and rocket launchings against civilian population centers, is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department.

The revelation follows a recent WND article quoting Israeli security officials who expressed “concern” about Robert Malley, an adviser to Obama who has advocated negotiations with Hamas and providing international assistance to the terrorist group.

In his July 22, 2007, church newsletter, Wright reprinted an article by Mousa Abu Marzook, identified in the publication as a “deputy of the political bureau of Hamas.” A photo image of the piece was captured and posted today by the business blog BizzyBlog, which first brought attention to it. The Hamas article was first published by the Los Angeles Times, garnering the newspaper much criticism.

According to senior Israeli security officials, Marzook, who resides in Syria alongside Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshaal, is considered the “brains” behind Hamas, designing much of the terror group’s policies and ideology. Israel possesses what it says is a large volume of specific evidence that Marzook has been directly involved in calling for or planning scores of Hamas terrorist offensives, including deadly suicide bombings. He was also accused of attempting to set up a Hamas network in the U.S.

Marzook’s original piece was titled, “Hamas’ stand” but was re-titled “A Fresh View of the Palestinian Struggle” by Obama’s church newsletter. The newsletter also referred to Hamas as the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” and added in its introduction that Marzook was addressing Hamas’ goals for “all of Palestine.”

In the manifesto, Marzook refers to Hamas’ “resistance” – the group’s perpetuation of anti-Israel terrorism targeting civilians – as “legal resistance,” which, he argues, is “explicitly supported by the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

The Convention, which refers to the rights of people living under occupation, does not support suicide bombings or rocket attacks against civilian population centers, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America noted.

Marzook refers to Hamas’ official charter as “an essentially revolutionary document” and compares the violent creed to the Declaration of Independence, which, Marzook states, “simply did not countenance any such status for the 700,000 African slaves at that time.”

Hamas’ charter calls for the murder of Jews. Among its platforms is a statement that the “[resurrection] will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, and the rock and the tree will say: ‘Oh Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, kill him!'”

In his piece, Marzook says Hamas only targets Israel and denies that Hamas’ war is meant to be waged against the U.S., even though Hamas officials have threatened America, and Hamas’ charter calls for Muslims to “pursue the cause of the Movement (Hamas), all over the globe.”

Trinity Church did not respond to a phone message requesting comment.

Obama’s campaign also did not reply to phone and e-mail requests today for comment.

Obama aide wants talks with terrorists

WND reported in January that Malley, an Obama foreign policy adviser, has penned numerous opinion articles, many of them co-written with a former adviser to the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, petitioning for dialogue with Hamas and blasting Israel for policies he says harm the Palestinian cause.

Malley also previously penned a well-circulated New York Review of Books piece largely blaming Israel for the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David in 2000 when Arafat turned down a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern sections of Jerusalem and instead returned to the Middle East to launch an intifada, or terrorist campaign, against the Jewish state.

Malley’s contentions have been strongly refuted by key participants at Camp David, including President Clinton, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and primary U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, all of whom squarely blamed Arafat’s refusal to make peace for the talks’ failure.

In February 2006, after Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament and amid a U.S. and Israeli attempt to isolate the Hamas-run Palestinian Authority, Malley wrote an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun advocating international aid to the terror group’s newly formed government.

“The Islamists (Hamas) ran on a campaign of effective government and promised to improve Palestinians’ lives; they cannot do that if the international community turns its back,” wrote Malley in a piece entitled, “Making the Best of Hamas’ Victory.”

Malley contended the election of Hamas expressed Palestinian “anger at years of humiliation and loss of self-respect because of Israeli settlement expansion, Arafat’s imprisonment, Israel’s incursions, Western lecturing and, most recently and tellingly, the threat of an aid cutoff in the event of an Islamist success.”

Malley said the U.S. should not “discourage third-party unofficial contacts with [Hamas] in an attempt to moderate it.”

In an op-ed in the Washington Post in January coauthored by Arafat adviser Hussein Agha, Malley – using what could be perceived as anti-Israel language – urged Israel’s negotiating partner, Abbas, to reunite with Hamas.

“A renewed national compact and the return of Hamas to the political fold would upset Israel’s strategy of perpetuating Palestinian geographic and political division,” wrote Malley.

He further petitioned Israel to hold talks with Hamas.

“An arrangement between Israel and Hamas could advance both sides’ interests,” Malley wrote.

In numerous other op-eds, Malley advocated a policy of engagement with Hamas.


March 19, 2008

Justices Agree on Right to Own Guns

Mar 18, 4:55 PM (ET)


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WASHINGTON (AP) – Americans have a right to own guns, Supreme Court justices declared Tuesday in a historic and lively debate that could lead to the most significant interpretation of the Second Amendment since its ratification two centuries ago.

Governments have a right to regulate those firearms, a majority of justices seemed to agree. But there was less apparent agreement on the case they were arguing: whether Washington’s ban on handguns goes too far.

The justices dug deeply into arguments on one of the Constitution’s most hotly debated provisions as demonstrators shouted slogans outside. Guns are an American right, argued one side. “Guns kill,” responded the other.

Inside the court, at the end of a session extended long past the normal one hour, a majority of justices appeared ready to say that Americans have a “right to keep and bear arms” that goes beyond the amendment’s reference to service in a militia.

(AP) Supporters of the District of Columbia’s firearms ban stand outside the Supreme Court in…
Full Image
Several justices were openly skeptical that the District of Columbia’s 32-year-old handgun ban, perhaps the strictest in the nation, could survive under that reading of the Constitution.

“What is reasonable about a total ban on possession?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked.

Walter Dellinger, representing the district, replied that Washington residents could own rifles and shotguns and could use them for protection at home.

“What is reasonable about a total ban on possession is that it’s a ban only on the possession of one kind of weapon, of handguns, that’s considered especially dangerous,” Dellinger said.

Justice Stephen Breyer appeared reluctant to second-guess local officials.

(AP) Spectators line up outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 18,2008, to hear…
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Is it “unreasonable for a city with a very high crime rate … to say no handguns here?” Breyer asked.

Alan Gura, representing a Washington resident who challenged ban, said, “It’s unreasonable and it fails any standard of review.”

The court has not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791. The amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The basic issue for the justices is whether the amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

A key justice, Anthony Kennedy, seemed to settle that question early on when he said the Second Amendment gives “a general right to bear arms.” He is likely to be joined by Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – a majority of the nine-member court.

Gun rights proponents were encouraged.

“What I heard from the court was the view that the D.C. law, which prohibits good people from having a firearm … to defend themselves against bad people is not reasonable and unconstitutional,” National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said after leaving the court.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said he hoped the court would leave the ban in place and not vote for a compromise that would, for example, allow handguns in homes but not in public places. “More guns anywhere in the District of Columbia is going to lead to more crime. And that is why we stand so steadfastly against any repeal of our handgun ban,” the mayor said after attending the arguments.

A decision that defines the amendment’s meaning would be significant by itself. But the court also has to decide whether Washington’s ban can stand and how to evaluate other gun control laws.

The justices have many options, including upholding a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the ban.

Solicitor General Paul Clement, the Bush administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, supported the individual right but urged the justices not to decide the other question. Instead, Clement said the court should say that governments may impose reasonable restrictions, including federal laws that ban certain types of weapons.

Clement wants the justices to order the appeals court to re-evaluate the Washington law. He did not take a position on it.

This issue has caused division within the administration, with Vice President Dick Cheney taking a harder line than the official position at the court.

In addition to the handgun ban, Washington also has a trigger lock requirement for other guns that raised some concerns Tuesday.

“When you hear somebody crawling in your bedroom window, you can run to your gun, unlock it, load it and then fire?” Justice Antonin Scalia said.

Roberts, who has two young children, suggested at one point that trigger locks might be reasonable.

“There is always a risk that the children will get up and grab the firearm and use it for some purpose other than what the Second Amendment was designed to protect,” he said.

On the other hand, he, too, wondered about the practical effect of removing a lock in an emergency. “So then you turn on the lamp, you pick up your reading glasses,” Roberts said to laughter.

Dellinger said he opened the lock in three seconds, although he conceded that was in daylight.

While the arguments raged inside, dozens of protesters mingled with tourists and waved signs saying “Ban the Washington elitists, not our guns” or “The NRA helps criminals and terrorists buy guns.”

Members of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence chanted “guns kill” as followers of the Second Amendment Sisters and Maryland Shall Issue.Org shouted “more guns, less crime.”

The City Council that adopted the ban said it was justified because “handguns have no legitimate use in the purely urban environment of the District of Columbia.”

Dick Anthony Heller, 65, an armed security guard, sued the district after it rejected his application to keep a handgun at his home for protection in the same Capitol Hill neighborhood as the court.

The last Supreme Court ruling on the topic came in 1939 in U.S. v. Miller, which involved a sawed-off shotgun. Constitutional scholars disagree over what that case means but agree it did not squarely answer the question of individual versus collective rights.

Roberts said at his confirmation hearing that the correct reading of the Second Amendment was “still very much an open issue.”

Posted by Charles Jacobson

March 18, 2008

Watching the Dollar Die

Paul Craig Roberts
Mar 17, 2008

We are really thrilled to have publication permission on 321gold from Paul Craig Roberts, who we’ve admired for years.

I’ve been watching the dollar die all my life. I sometimes think I will outlast it.

When I was a young man, gold was $35 an ounce. Today one ounce gold bullion coins, such as the Canadian Maple Leaf, cost more than $1,000.

Our coinage was silver. Our dimes, quarters, and half dollars had purchasing power. Even the nickel could purchase a candy bar, ice cream cone or soft drink, and a penny could purchase bubble gum or hard candy. If a kid could collect 5 discarded soft drink bottles from a construction site, the 2 cents deposit on the returnable bottles was enough for the Saturday afternoon movie. Gasoline was 32 cents a gallon. A dollar’s worth was enough for a Saturday night date.

Our silver coinage was 90% silver. People sometimes melted coins in order to make silver spoons, known as coin silver, which can still be found in antique shops. Except for the reduced silver (40%) Kennedy half dollar which continued until 1970, 1964 was the last year of America’s silver coinage. The copper penny departed in 1982. As Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, I opposed the demise of America’s last commodity money, but I couldn’t prevent the copper penny’s death.

During World War II (1941-1945), nickel was diverted from coinage to war, and the US mint issued a wartime silver (35%) nickel.

It is not easy to find items to purchase with today’s US coins, but the silver coins of the same face value still have purchasing power. The 10 cent piece of my youth contains $1.42 worth of silver at today’s silver price. The quarter is worth $3.55, and the half dollar contains $7.10 of silver. The silver dollar is worth 15.2 times its face value. These are just the silver values of coins that might be worth far more depending on condition and rarity. The silver in the wartime nickel is worth $1.10, which is 22 times the coin’s face value. Even the copper penny is worth 2.5 cents.

When I was a young man enjoying travels in Europe, the German mark or Swiss franc traded four to one US dollar. The euro, which is today’s equivalent to the mark or franc, costs $1.55.

People who haven’t accumulated much age have little idea of the corrosive power of “acceptable” inflation. Unlike gold and silver, fiat money has no intrinsic value. When money is created faster than goods and services it drives up prices, thus driving down the value of the money. If freely traded currencies are excessively printed or if inflation, budget deficits, and trade deficits drive currencies off their fixed exchange rates, prices of imports rise as the foreign exchange value of the currency falls.

Today the US, heavily dependent on imports, is subject to double-barrel inflation from both domestic money creation and decline in the dollar’s foreign exchange value.

The US inflation rate is about twice as high as the government’s inflation measures report. In order to hold down Social Security payments, the government changed the way it measures inflation. In the old measure, inflation measured the nominal cost of a defined standard of living. If the price of steak rose, up went the inflation rate. Today if the price of steak rises, the government assumes that people switch to hamburger. Inflation doesn’t go up. Instead, the standard of living it measures goes down.

This is just one of the many ways that the government pulls the wool over our eyes.

With the dollar value of the euro rising through the roof, today a vacation in Europe is far more costly than in the past. Thanks to China, so far Americans have been sheltered from the greatest effects of the dollar’s declining value. Our greatest trade deficit is with China. The prices of the goods from China have not risen, because China keeps its currency pegged to the dollar. As the dollar goes down, China’s currency goes with it, thus holding down price rises.

The resignation of Admiral William Fallon as US military commander in the Middle East probably signals a Bush Regime attack on Iran. Fallon said that there would be no US attack on Iran on his watch. As there was no reason for Fallon to resign, it is not farfetched to conclude that Bush has removed an obstacle to war with Iran.

The US is already overstretched both militarily and economically. An attack on Iran is likely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review.

With Lawrence M. Stratton he is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

He can be reached at:

Copyright ©2008 Paul Craig Roberts. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


March 10, 2008


Aubie Baltin CFP. CTA, CFA, Phd. (retired)

Both the Economy and Stock Markets are unfolding, almost as if on cue to the play I have been writing during the last year or so. I am not sure whether to be happy or sad as more and more analysts begin to see the dangers that lie beneath the surface and recognize the far reaching effects of the problems You may recall that I was always kind of hoping that this time I would be completely wrong. While it’s nice to get a little company after standing alone; I am sure we would all rather be wrong than have to bear witness to what’s coming.

Why did Bernanke cut the Fed Funds rate by an unprecedented inter-meeting 75bps, followed two weeks later by another 50bps? The flow of bad news in December to mid-January did not, by itself, justify such radical action. In order to understand these moves, one has to read between the lines and ignore the Pollyannish babbling of our Media, Politicians and Financial pundits and look instead at the rising probability of a “Catastrophic” financial and economic collapse (1930’s type depression). It now looks like the Fed is seriously worried about the risks, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1930’s. After a year in which the FED and the Treasury were underplaying the economic and financial risks – The FED has been pressured into taking a very aggressive, wrong headed, Keynesian(Socialist) approach to risk management. To understand the risks that the financial system is facing, let us examine the “nightmare” scenario that financial officials around the world have suddenly become aware of and which can no longer be swept under the rug. To begin with let us assume that the recession, which we will soon discover, started in the last quarter of 2007, will be much worse than those that occurred in 1990-91 and 2001-02 for several reasons. First, we have the biggest housing bubble/bust in US history with some home prices likely to eventually fall 30% to 50% or more. Second, because of deregulation and the elimination of Glass Steagall and a host of other protections put in place (after the last financial debacle) by the Securities Act of 1933-34, a massive credit bubble/crunch was created that has now gone far beyond just sub-prime mortgages. Third, deregulation has caused reckless financial innovation and securitization, causing the FED to lose complete control of the money supply, leading to the worst credit crunches in American history. Fourth, US household consumption which now accounts for more than 70% of GDP have spent well beyond their means for 15 years, piling up massive amounts of debt. Now that home prices are falling and a severe credit crunch is emerging, the retrenchment of private consumption will be serious, longer lasting and far reaching.

The Ten Steps to Financial Armageddon

1. The worst housing recession in US history and there is no sign that it will bottom out any time soon. US home prices will fall between 30% and 50% from their blow-off peaks which would wipe out between $5 and $10 trillion of equity, making the 1987 and 2001-2002 equity destruction look like chump change. While a 20% home price drop will translate into a sub-prime meltdown of about 2.2 million foreclosures, a 50% fall in home values will result in over 13 to 18 million households ending up with negative equity in their homes. What will that do to consumer spending? It won’t be long before a few large home builders go bankrupt, leading to another free fall in home builders’ banks and related stock prices. The perennial Bulls, looking at last years earnings began bottom fishing and rallied these stocks in spite of the worsening housing recession, thus giving us a perfect opportunity to short the Home Builders and Banks.

2. The financial system losses from the sub-prime disaster are now estimated to be as high as $250 to $300 billion. But the financial losses will not be restricted to sub-prime mortgages and their related CMOs and CDOs. They are now spreading to near prime and prime mortgages as the same reckless lending practices, i.e. LIAR loans (no down-payment, no income verification interest rate only, negative amortization, teaser rates), were occurring across the entire spectrum of mortgages. All of which were being pushed by Greenspan and the Government promoting the American Dream. Instead, what they have created will be the Great American Nightmare. 60% of all mortgage origination between 2005-2007 had these suicidal features. What happened to risk underwriting? Goldman Sachs now estimates total mortgage credit losses of about $400 billion, but that is based on home prices falling only 20%. The markets for securitization of mortgages – already dead for sub-prime and practically frozen for other mortgages – further reduces the ability of banks to originate mortgages and as their risk tolerance is ever increasing, so are the minimum down-payments and credit score requirements. The huge losses have forced banks to bring back on to their balance sheet all types of toxic off-balance sheet investments and loans turning them into financial Time Bombs. Because of securitization, the toxic waste has spread from the major banks and brokers to their Investors, Pension Funds, Insurance Companies and Money Market Funds in both the US and abroad; increasing rather than reducing systemic risk as well as globalizing the credit crunch. The rest of the world will not be growing fast enough to pull the US out of recession.

3. The recession will cause a sharp increase in defaults in all other forms of unsecured consumer debt such as credit cards, auto loans, student loans, etc. As the Fed Loan Officers Survey suggests, the credit crunch is spreading from mortgages to consumer credit, and from large banks to smaller banks, it is becoming clear that the losses are much higher than the $10-$15 billion rescue package that regulators are trying to put together. The Monolines are actually borderline insolvent if not out and out bankrupt and none of them deserves a AAA rating regardless of how much recapitalization is provided. Any business that requires an AAA rating just to stay in business is a business that does not warrant an AAA rating. However, any downgrade of the Monolines will lead to another $150 to $250 billion of write-downs since it will also lead to huge losses on their portfolio of Muni Bonds. Just their downgrade will spillover into large losses and potential runs on the Money Market Funds that have relied on those AAA ratings. The Money Market Funds that are backed by banks or that bought liquidity protection from banks against the risk of a fall in the NAV may avoid a run, but such a rescue will exacerbate the capital and liquidity problems of their underwriters. Any Monolines’ downgrade would lead to another sharp drop in US equity markets already shaken by the risk of a severe recession and large losses in the financial system but worst of all, to a general loss in overall CONFIDENCE. NOTE: The current Monoline rescue talk and/or plans is providing yet another short selling opportunity.

5. As I have been warning you, the commercial real estate loan market will sooner or later enter into a meltdown similar to that of the sub-prime one. Lending practices in commercial real estate were as reckless as those in residential real estate. The recession led by the housing crisis will lead, with a lag, to a bust in non-residential construction. The CMBX index is already pricing in massive increases in credit spreads for non-residential mortgages/loans.

6. It is highly probable that some large regional or even national banks will go bankrupt in the near future. This, like in the case of Northern Rock, will lead to a depositors’ panic and concerns about deposit insurance. The Fed will have to reaffirm the implicit doctrine that some banks as well as Fannie and Freddie are too big to fail as well as the FDIC’s Deposit Guarantees. The bank’s losses on their portfolio of leveraged loans are already large and growing. The ability of financial institutions to syndicate and securitize their leveraged loans – a good chunk of which were issued to finance very risky and reckless LBOs – is now or soon will be frozen as another prop to the stock market goes into the DEEP FREEZE. Hundreds of billions of dollars of leveraged loans are now stuck on the balance sheet of financial institutions at values well below par (currently about 90 cents on the dollar, but soon to be much lower). Add to this the many reckless LBOs (as senseless LBOs with debt to earnings ratio of seven or eight had become the norm during the go-go days of the LBO, Pvt. equity bubble) have now been postponed, restructured or cancelled. The problem worsens by the fact that some large LBOs will end up in bankruptcy as some of those corporations that were taken private will go bankrupt in a recession and given the re-pricing of risk, convenant-lite and PIK toggles may only postpone – not avoid – such bankruptcies and make them uglier when they do eventually occur. The leveraged loan mess has already frozen the LBO market leading not only to growing losses, but the elimination of a very lucrative source of income for financial institutions.

7. Once a severe recession is underway, a wave of corporate defaults will take place. In a typical year, US corporate default rates average about 3.8% (for 1971-2006); in 2006 and 2007 this figure was a puny 0.6%. This was due to the lax lending requirements and ultra low interest rates. In a typical US recession, such default rates surge above 10%. Also, during such distressed periods, the recovery given default (RGD) rates are much lower, adding to the total losses from a default. Default rates were very low in the last two years because of a slosh of liquidity, easy credit conditions and very low spreads (with Junk Bond yields being only 260bps above Treasuries until mid June 2007). But now the re-pricing of risk has been massive and Junk Bond spreads are close to 700bps, while the Junk Bond market is now practically frozen.

While on average the US and European corporations are in better shape in terms of profitability and debt burden than in 2001, there is a great many corporations with very low profitability that have piled up a mass of Junk Bond debt that will soon require refinancing at much higher spreads: Corporate default rates will then surge well above the recession average of 10%. Once both defaults and credit spreads are higher, massive losses will occur among the credit default swaps (CDS) that provided protection against corporate defaults. Losses on CDS’s do not represent only a transfer of wealth from those who sold protection to those who bought it. If some of the counterparties selling protection, i.e. banks, hedge funds and large broker dealers go bankrupt, even greater systemic risk results as those who bought protection face counterparties who cannot pay.

8. Unlike banks, non-bank financial institutions such as GE Credit and GMAC etc. don’t have direct or even indirect access to the central bank’s lender of last resort facility, as they are not depository institutions. In the event of financial distress, they may go bankrupt not because of insolvency, but for lack of liquidity and their inability to roll over or refinance their short term debt, especially since they cannot be directly rescued by the central banks in the same way banks can.

9. Soon, perhaps after one last wishful thinking, short-covering rally, stock markets around the world will begin pricing in a severe US recession as well as a global economic slowdown. The drop in stock markets around the world will then resume with a vengeance as investors begin to realize that the economic downturn is much worse than they ever imagined. Long equity hedge funds will go belly up as large margin calls are triggered leading to a cascading fall in equity prices as a Bear Market is recognized. While a typical US recession causes the S&P 500 to fall by about 28%, this Recession/Depression will not be typical and I am looking for losses in the 50% plus range.

10. Using Economics 101, $200 billion in losses in the Banking system, given a reserve requirement of 10%, leads to a contraction of credit of $2 trillion. Even the recapitalization of banks by sovereign wealth funds (SWF) – about $80 billion so far – will be unable to stop this credit (money supply) contraction. A contagious and cascading spiral of credit contraction, sharp fall in asset prices and widening credit spreads will then be transmitted to most parts of the financial system. This massive credit crunch will make the economic contraction even more severe and the economic recession will become deeper and more protracted. A global economic recession will follow as the credit crunch spreads around the world. A cascading fall in asset prices will cause panic, fire sales and exacerbate the real economic distress as a number of financial institutions go bankrupt. A 1987 style stock market crash could occur leading to further panic. Monetary and fiscal easing, as I have previously explained, will no longer work and will not be able to prevent a systemic financial meltdown. The lack of trust in counterparties driven by the lack of transparency in financial markets and uncertainty about the size of the losses and exactly who is holding the toxic waste securities, will add to the impotence of monetary policy and lead to massive hoarding of liquidity. In this meltdown scenario, the US and global financial markets will experience their worst crisis since the 1930’s.


The great false hope.

Ambac had, at one time, a capitalization of $US 5.7 billion, with which it guaranteed bonds of $US 550 billion! REALLY! A 1% misstep wipes out its entire capital. How safe will we be even after some back room engineered re-capitalized bail-out designed primarily to help maintain the dubious AAA ratings. And we call this insurance?

What about the general and much broader US Insurance System which covers

everything from life insurance to fire and accident all the way to hurricanes, tornados and floods? All the US insurance companies will be reporting their financial status by the end of February, but only as of the end of 2007. Being so big, they hold enormous investments in all forms of US financial paper from stocks to commercial bonds, CDOs, CMOs etc. and US Treasuries. Their losses on these investments are certain to be huge, but their report will not reflect their true status because the realization of the damage took place in 2008. Since they do not have to mark to the market every day, their true losses will be even bigger after the market falls further, later this year. The issue now becomes: How “safe” are they?


One thing for sure, obfuscation, misinformation and politicizing every problem, large or small, will only make it worse. A recession is inevitable, a depression is not. If Bernanke and the Government can work together to control the recession but allow the economy and the securities markets to heal themselves, while mitigating the harmful effects of the recession, then we may avoid a depression. But if an all out effort is undertaken to stop the recession from running its course, as Wall St is demanding, then matters will get a lot worse instead of better. Can our politicians, the Fed and other financial officials come together and avoid this nightmare scenario? Probably not, unless they all hand in their Keynesian credentials and suddenly read and adopt Austrian Economics, recognize the real problems and are able to differentiate cause from effect. Nevertheless, the answer to this question will depend on whether the policy responses (monetary, fiscal, regulatory and financial) are coherent, timely and credible.

I would not bet on it! My philosophy always remains the same regardless of the situation: “HOPE FOR THE BEST, EXPECT AND PREPARE FOR THE WORST, YOU WILL NEVER BE DISAPOINTED”.


SELL, SELL, SELL: We are in a BEAR MARKET for BONDS and STOCKS. Get out of all your bonds and money markets NOW! Short Term Treasuries and CDs are ok. Although the FED may try to continue to cut rates, because of our weak dollar they may not be able to. But regardless if they do or not, long term rates will be increasing as sanity finally returns to the marketplace and risk once again becomes part of the cost of borrowing.

The 64.2 % reading was high enough to set the stage for the substantial Pull-Back rally into the Bernanke trip to Washington.

Sell and go short into any 450 to 750 point (38%) DJII retrenchment rally. You can now buy Puts on the ETF’s that you think are the most vulnerable such as the XLF (Financials) or you can buy the pro ETF’s that go up when their related indexes go down (i.e QID represents double down the QQQ’s) AND/OR you can just accumulate more GOLD and SILVER stocks and Bullion.

NOTE: This is not a handholding Day Trading Letter, so don’t expect specific option or stock trading recommendations. I only name buy and hold LT positions.


The Selling Of IMF Gold: Calls Attention To The REAL Problems.

Ever since its beginnings in the late 1940s, IMF Gold sales have always coincided with a last ditch emergency act in response to a global monetary crisis. Only Gold stands as a valid alternative to failing Fiat monetary systems. IS IT CRISIS TIME AGAIN? Every time the IMF has sold “official” Gold, it soared. In the late 1970s, as US consumer prices were soaring, both the IMF and US Treasury were selling Gold out of their respective inventories. The response to that was Gold gapped up $20 to $40 at every auction. So instead of with dread or fear, I welcome IMF Gold sales.


The early 1970’s saw Gold go from $35/oz to $200/oz., a 570% increase in less than three years which, at the time, marked the end of Wave I only. A similar move today since we are now in the final stages of Wave I , just like we were back in 1975, would give us a target of ($250 X 5.7) $1425 and that would only complete a 7 year Wave I of an ongoing 5 wave, 16 to 20 year Bull Market for Gold. Do I have to spell it out for you what you should be investing in?


Both the Juniors and to a lesser extent the Seniors and Mid Caps have been lagging the rise in the Gold price, instead of leading it as they usually do. Let us now all complain and keep looking a gift horse in the mouth instead of slowly and quietly doing our homework and accumulating the once in a lifetime bargains that are staring us all in the face.

Usually it is “hurry up and buy before the bargains run away”. My crystal ball is a little cloudy, but I am convinced that in the not to distant future, they will catch up and surpass Gold and Silver Bullion. I am running out of time and space, so if you want to know why this abnormal occurrence is happening, you will have to wait for my next letter or go to where you will find a good number of knowledgeable Gold and Silver people. In the meantime, my TUNE has not changed for the last SIX years: BUY – DO NOT TRADE. Buy more on dips and retrenchments and hang on for dear life as the GOLDEN BULL will definitely try its best to buck you off.


Bought Miranda Gold (MRDDF) at $0.58 and looking to Buy March in the money Puts today on C, JPM, LEN and LOW


February 27, 2008,

MY SUBSCRIPTION LETTER, “UNCOMMON COMMON SENSE” was started Feb. 1st. We are now living in the type of times in which you will definitely want to be kept abreast as to what is really happening on a regular bi-weekly basis. A 3 month trial subscription is only $55. One Year $199: Call for more info.

Aubie Baltin CFA, CTA, CFP, PhD.

2078 Bonisle Circle

Palm Beach Gardens FL. 33418


Please Note: This article is for education purposes only and is designed to help clarify your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best places to invest your money and the degree of risk that you are prepared to take. The Information or data included here has been gleaned from sources deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed by me and may have already been overtaken by events. Nothing is stated here should be taken as a recommendation to buy or sell securities. Consult with your own financial advisor before making any investment decisions.


March 7, 2008

Hamas countdown has begun

Hamas will soon pay price for traditional Arab talent for misjudgment

Yigal Walt
Published: 03.07.08, 11:54 / Israel Opinion

Terrorism is a strange business. Terror groups usually fight stronger armies, and must therefore walk a fine line. As long as they stick to persistent low-intensity warfare, they can deliver painful blows without prompting an overwhelming response. Yet ironically, attacks that are “overly successful” can be a terrorist’s worst enemy.

A nation that sustains an unusually difficult blow is willing to adopt measures that it normally would not. We saw this with America’s harsh response to the September 11 attacks, and on a smaller scale in Israel’s response to the wave of suicide bombings in March 2002.

For many years, Palestinian terror groups heeded this lesson. Their success was moderate, yet repeated attacks eroded Israel’s sense of security over the years. Yet fortunately for Israel, here too the Palestinians showed that their reputation as the world’s worst decision-makers was well deserved. Their unique talent for misjudging reality, perhaps the most blatant of all Palestinian qualities, came back to haunt them again.

The suicide terror wave of 2002 culminated in the bloody Passover attack at a Netanya hotel that killed 30 people. Yet the customary Palestinian festivities in the wake of the “grand operation” were short lived. The shocking attack prompted Israel to launch operation Defensive Shield, which shattered the West Bank’s terror infrastructure. In subsequent years, Israel’s terror death toll dropped rapidly, from a peak of close to 450 victims to less than 15 last year. No less significantly, Israel’s tough response shattered Fatah, the strongest of all Palestinian organizations, which has not recovered since.

Now, Hamas is moving closer to making the same mistake.

The fundamentalist Islamic organization is known as a pragmatic group, yet it too is apparently not immune to the Palestinian “I-want-more” syndrome. Emboldened by repeated success in recent years, most notably its elections victory and violent Gaza coup, Hamas just couldn’t hold back.

Step closer to the abyss

For seven years, rockets have been raining on Sderot, gradually eating away at residents’ resolve, but causing a low casualty toll that kept Israel from responding in kind. Yet Hamas was apparently dissatisfied with the slow progress, smuggling in longer range missiles, and recently started targeting a much larger city, Ashkelon. That was a major mistake.

Now that 250,000 Israelis are in rocket range, the threat has taken on increasingly strategic dimensions. Israel simply cannot live with such situation over time. Operation “Warn Winter,” which claimed more than 100 Palestinian lives in a matter of days, was a first, relatively humble warning shot. Thursday’s massacre in Jerusalem, regardless of who committed it, was another step that brings Palestinians closer to the abyss, as the anger it aroused brings Israel a step closer to taking the gloves off.

Despite their claims to be thoroughly familiar with Israeli realities, our Arab enemies have failed time and again in gauging Israel’s mood. Hizbullah leader Nasrallah, previously a self-proclaimed “Israel expert,” has already admitted that he completely misjudged Israel’s response to the abduction of its soldiers. Similarly, Hamas is now walking down the same path.

The undercurrents may not be readily apparent, but they are there, and they are getting stronger with each passing day. Israelis are quickly approaching the “critical mass” that would prompt an all-out response. Hamas, which is busy declaring victories, organizing triumphant parades, and handing out sweets in the streets of Gaza, may also be forgetting that at the end of the day it is quite isolated internationally. Even most of its Arab brethren don’t care too much about its fate these days.

On top of that we should count an army hungry to prove that its performance in Lebanon was merely an aberration. This time around, troops have been preparing for months. Unfortunately for Hamas, it is about to pay the price for Israel’s failure in Lebanon. A moment before it hits the abyss, will Hamas be able to regain its composure? Past experience shows that the likelihood of that is slim.

Hamas, beyond being a terror group, is a popular movement that is deeply entrenched within Palestinian society. As such, it cannot be fully eliminated or destroyed. Yet it can be brought to its knees and significantly weakened; the countdown to that has begun.


March 6, 2008

Brad MacdonaldColumnist

France vs. Germany: The Rivalry Heats Up

March 6, 2008 | From

Europe’s two leading powers are jostling for continental dominance. Who will emerge the victor?

France’s long-standing reputation for being “unstable as water” (Genesis 49:4) was on full display last week. On February 25, Élysée Palace canceled a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The French reneged 24 hours before the scheduled meeting due to Mr. Sarkozy’s “busy agenda.”

The next day, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck also canceled his biannual meeting (scheduled for March 3) with French counterpart Christine Lagarde. Apparently Lagarde needed to accompany President Sarkozy on what amounted to little more than a routine visit to a health center and luxury-goods factory.

Busy or not, high-level meetings between two European superpowers are not normally canceled at the last minute because one official is too busy. Two cancellations in two days means that clearly, something’s afoot in the Franco-German relationship.

“As much as this rift looks like a series of small tit-for-tat exchanges,” remarked Stratfor, “it is much more serious than that. It is a sign of a generational shift in two highly competitive European superpowers that have different visions for how to run Europe” (February 27, emphasis mine throughout). Last week’s public spats made it clear: France and Germany are engaged in a gritty tug-of-war for dominance of a European continent that is re-emerging as a world-class, widely embraced superpower.

The real reason for the abrupt cancellation of the meeting between the German chancellor and the French president involved the contentious issue of Paris’s vision for a Mediterranean Union. The creation of a formal bloc of Mediterranean states, in many ways analogous to the European Union, that would connect countries in Southern Europe with North African countries as well as Turkey, Israel, Syria and Lebanon, has been a dream of Sarkozy’s since his days as a presidential candidate. Making this dream a reality has been a focal point of his presidency, and the primary reason for his recent jaunts across North Africa and the southern Mediterranean.

Germany—and this is putting it mildly—is patently unenthused by Sarkozy’s designs for a French-driven Mediterranean Union.

The perception in Berlin is that Paris’s Mediterranean dream is driven by a desire to reassert French influence in the EU, North Africa and the Middle East, and amounts to little more than an expensive distraction from the real task at hand in Europe, which is the creation of a German-dominated, Christian-based European Union.

Brussels-based think tank European Policy Center characterized Sarkozy’s quest for a Mediterranean Union as an attempt to “re-brand France’s traditional politique arabe [Arab policy] and to shake up the enlarged EU by giving new impetus to Paris’s traditional role in the European integration process.” By marginalizing non-Mediterranean EU states, France is essentially trying to redefine Europe, said Stratfor, “and in doing so is touching every hot button in Europe—from trade to immigration” (February 26).

The French president canceled his meeting with Chancellor Merkel last week because he knew she was primed for confrontation.

Then Russia threw a spanner in the works.

Early Monday, hours after Dmitry Medvedev’s electoral victory, Moscow announced that it was cutting gas supplies to Ukraine by 25 percent. The announcement reverberated in Europe. The European Union gets 80 percent of its natural gas from Russia, with 25 percent of the EU’s natural gas supply flowing through pipelines running across Ukraine. The next day Moscow compounded the crisis by cutting supplies by another 25 percent, heightening the fear among Europeans that Kiev, in order to meet its own needs, will reduce the volume of gas flowing west.

Russia’s political and economic belligerence demanded a response. So this Saturday, Chancellor Merkel will travel to Moscow for what will undoubtedly be testy negotiations with Vladimir Putin and Medvedev. With the Russians spoiling for a rumble, the Germans have little patience for a spat with the French. Merkel’s priority now, as Stratfor noted, “is to rally a united European front before it heads into negotiations with Russia” (March 4).

And that’s precisely the reason Merkel and Sarkozy hastily revisited the idea of a Mediterranean Union over dinner in Germany on Monday. The meeting appeared to be successful. Standing side by side at a press conference afterward, both leaders stated that a compromise on the Mediterranean Union had been reached and that Europe’s two behemoths were in harmony.

But reconciliation is never that simple: Read between the lines of the friendly platitudes and feigned smiles, and it’s obvious that France was forced to make heavy concessions. In reality, Monday night’s meeting likely did little to solve the Franco-German rift over the Mediterranean Union—but merely set it on the shelf for another day.

And it did nothing to reconcile the serious schism between France and Germany that has developed in recent months over Europe’s economic policies, especially its approach to the strengthening euro. That rift was part of the reason for last week’s cancelled meeting between the French and German finance ministers.

France’s economy, the eurozone’s second-largest, is suffering the consequences of a soaring, record-breaking euro. Thanks largely to the increasingly valuable euro, French exports have become less competitive on the international market, which has resulted in the swelling of the French trade deficit to more than $59 billion over the past year. Facing immense pressure to balance its books, Paris has been lobbying fellow EU member states to get together and pressure the European Central Bank (ecb), which operates independently from Brussels, to rethink its strong euro policy and relieve the economic stress on France and others by cutting interest rates.

Problem is, even though Germany’s export driven economic recovery is now beginning to also suffer from the same imbalance between the euro and the dollar, Europe’s largest economy refuses to get behind the French proposal. Buoyed by an economy recently recovered from recession and which produced a healthy trade surplus last year, Germany has, to this point, opposed the French notion of a eurozone summit to discuss the ecb matter, essentially telling Paris that the French must sort out their own economic problems. “It is ironic that in all the years Germany overlooked the issue, it chooses now—when relations are already tense—to cause another public rift with France” (Stratfor, February 27). Clearly, Germany is beginning to establish itself (which, by default, means marginalizing France) as the decision-maker in European economic policy.

But conflict over the Mediterranean Union and the EU’s monetary policies isn’t half the reason for the tension between Paris and Berlin. Tempers have flared recently over conflicting perspectives toward EU foreign and defense policy, the Lisbon Treaty and Germany’s refusal to devote troops to the French-sponsored EU mission to Darfur.

Then there’s the cantankerous personal relationship between Merkel and Sarkozy. “German officials say that the hyperactive and boastful behavior of the French president—and his over-familiar personal style—has irritated Ms. Merkel,” reported the Independent, while “French officials suggest Mr. Sarkozy finds Ms. Merkel too cautious and too ponderous.”

None of this is to suggest France and Germany are marching toward war. But it does point to schism in the Franco-German courtship that has been the bastion of European unity for nigh on 60 years. Cohesion between Europe’s two superpowers is increasingly being replaced with competition.

The fundamental cause of this epic change is Germany’s reawakening.

For nearly 40 years—from 1952 until near the end of the Cold War—while Germany remained divided between East and West, France projected its power by seeking single-handedly to dominate Europe and mobilize its own national interests. A divided Germany was forced to play a lesser role in the European balance of power. But in 1989, France was struck a blow from which it is still reeling. The crash of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany marked a turning point, not just for Germany, but for France and the EU.

Since then, Germany has increasingly re-emerged as the European powerhouse. Though France continued to maintain a prominent leadership role in the EU, since Chancellor Kohl led a united Germany to shed a half-century mentality as a divided nation, and spearheaded its transformation into a political and economic powerhouse, the geopolitical face of Europe has changed drastically.

Meanwhile, France, under a continuing De Gaullist approach to foreign policy, had shifted in the opposite direction. As Stratfor put it, it is “looking out for French national interests in Europe rather than French superpower interests globally” (Dec. 7, 2007).

Now, since Sarkozy dispensed with De Gaullism, taking on a more outwardly aggressive foreign policy, for the first time in decades French and German interests and ambitions are beginning to clash. The traditionally harmonious relationship—legacy of a divided Germany—that previously underpinned European unity is being revolutionized. Paris and Berlin are reassuming their historically familiar roles as contenders for continental dominance.

The question is, who will emerge the victor of this titanic, age-old struggle?

There can be no doubt that Germany now dominates the European Union. Once the pillar of the EU, while ever Germany remained divided by the Wall, France has, since Germany’s reunification, been pushed aside in EU leadership. In a remarkable turn of events, the EU has been transformed from a vehicle for French continental dominance to a vehicle for German imperial ambition.

Germany’s preponderance within Europe will only grow. We can expect Germany to continue to increase its power and influence over fellow European nations, as well as for France to continue to be marginalized from EU leadership.

Biblical prophecy tells us that France and the other nations of Europe are more followers than leaders in this European combine—known in the Bible as the “king of the north” (Daniel 11:40). As the Trumpet has regularly pointed out over the years, the nation most behind the unification and leadership of the king of the north is Germany. European history and Bible prophecy tells us this is the nation to watch. To learn more about the future of Europe with Germany at the helm, read Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.


March 5, 2008

Robert MorleyColumnist

Brittle Bones: America’s Graying Air Force

March 4, 2008 | From

The U.S. Air Force is invincible, or so many think. But will age, that unseen enemy, soon leave it outgunned and outnumbered?

At the outbreak of World War ii, Britain was shocked to find its air force far inferior to Germany’s. Churchill reported that British leaders had critically underestimated the number, production rate and technological advancement of Germany’s military aircraft industry. While Germany had stealthily built a completely modern air force, Britain was in large part still spending its resources relying upon old World War i models. Along with other neglectful nations like France, Poland, Belgium and Holland, Britain saw its air fleet cut apart at the onset of the war.

The United States could soon find itself in a similarly precarious position.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the United States Air Force’s F-15 fighters “remain the nation’s most sophisticated front-line fighters,” playing critical roles protecting the continental U.S. and flying combat missions in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters.

But on November 2, a Missouri Air National Guard F-15 C fighter broke apart during a relatively mundane exercise. The crash led to the grounding of America’s entire F-15 fleet, including the newest Strike Eagle model. All 688 aircraft—over 35 percent of the total U.S. Air Force fighters—were stuck on the tarmac for more than two weeks, while the cause of the “catastrophic structural failure” underwent investigation.

Several hundred F-15s were later cleared to fly, but then had to be re-grounded on November 28, and then again in early December, after more problem aircraft were found. The groundings follow two separate crashes in June and another in May. Most recently, on February 1, 13 Hawaii Air National Guard F-15s were grounded following an ocean crash.

The spate of F-15 crashes is setting off sirens in some military circles.

Following the Missouri crash, Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, noted: “The whole fleet was already flying on flight restrictions due to metal fatigue. … In this case the planes that are grounded are supposed to be America’s top-of-the-line air-superiority plane. This is not like grounding some cargo plane. These are the sinews of our global air dominance” (emphasis mine throughout).

“This is grave,” reported one senior Air Force official. “Two hundred of our air-superiority aircraft are on the ground, and we are acting like it is business as usual.”

Gen. John D.W. Corley, commander of U.S. Air Combat Command at the time of the grounding, said, “This isn’t just about one pilot in one aircraft with one bad part. … I have a fleet that is 100 percent fatigued, and 40 percent of that has bad parts. The long-term future of the F-15 is in question.”

For three weeks in November, Canadian cf-18s were forced into the sky to protect Alaskan airspace while the American F-15s were grounded. Several times, the Canadian fighters scrambled to identify Russian bombers that, with growing frequency, have been testing U.S. airspace.

So why is the F-15 fleet in such precarious condition?

One big reason is that the current U.S. Air Force is the oldest in usaf history. According to Defense Industry Daily, the average plane age in the fleet is more than 23 years old. Many transport and refueling tankers are in excess of 40 years old, and current plans don’t provide for replacements until they are 70 to 80 years old. By 2013, the average fleet age is expected to rise to 29 years. Contrast those numbers with the air fleet’s average age of only 8.5 years in 1967.

Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former fighter pilot who now serves as the head of intelligence for the Air Force, says that his son now flies the exact same F-15 as he flew back in the late 1970s. Deptula warns that the graying Air Force may be facing a “crisis.”

usaf Chief of Staff Michael Moseley concurs. “The F-15s and F-16s were designed and built in the late ’60s and ’70s. Some of them were produced up until the early ’80s. But they’ve led a pretty hard life. … In the F-15 case, we’ve got the airplane restricted to 1.5 Mach. It was designed to be a 2.5 Mach airplane. We’ve got it limited on maneuvering restrictions because we’ve had tail cracks, fuselage cracks, [and] cracks in the wings.”

Moseley says the maneuvering restrictions are affecting unit preparedness, and likens it to practicing for the Indy 500 by driving at 60 miles per hour—then accelerating the car to 200 miles an hour on the day of the race.

“It is not the time to be doing that on game day,” he says. Moseley worries about the health of the aging fleet and feels that the seriousness of this issue is “not well understood by those our airmen protect.”

The F-15s were supposed to last until 2025, but after 17 years of almost continuous use in the First Gulf War, Yugoslavia, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, wear and tear is taking its toll. Most people don’t drive cars that are even 17 years old, let alone operate computers that are that age. The F-15s average age is 25 years. When you start accounting for corrosion issues, metal fatigue, structural components not built to spec, and multiple computer upgrades and electrical rewirings over the years, it is easy to see why the F-15s are starting to have so many problems.

Much of the rest of America’s aircraft, like the F-15, are also simply getting old and wearing out. The F-16 “Fighting Falcon,” the lightweight, less-expensive companion to the F-15, for example, has an average age of over 17 years. But the problem with the F-16 is that it was not designed for a long service life. Now, after heavy use, it also is approaching the limits of its life expectancy, according to Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson. The 1,280 of these aircraft in service make up the bulk of America’s fighters. Outside of the F-15 and F-16 models, the Air Force’s fighter fleet would be left with just 91 F-22s. The F-22 is a fifth-generation fighter. Although it is far more advanced than the F-15 or F-16, current plans call for the eventual procurement of only 183 units. F-22s currently cost about $135 million each, while F-15s and F-16s originally cost just $15 million and $10.2 million respectively (approximately $45 million and $30 million in today’s dollars).

The U.S.’s transport and refueling tankers are also earning a reputation as flying death traps. Old flying behemoths such as the C-130 and kc-135 are regular causes of concern for the Air Force. After cracks were discovered in the wing boxes of older C-130s, the Air Force grounded many of those transports. In fact, many planes on Air Force inventories are considered too risky to fly at all except in emergencies. In these cases, once a month the engines are fired up and the planes are pulled around the tarmac to keep the tires from going flat.

“This can’t go on,” Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said. “At some time in the future, they will simply rust out, age-out, fall out of the sky. We need, somehow, to re-capitalize this force.”

And as America’s Air Force ages and wears out, it is sucking in greater and greater amounts of resources to keep it flying.

Maintenance costs have increased by 38 percent from 1996 to 2006, and maintenance man-hours have increased 50 percent compared to hours of flying time. The workload for heavy repairs at aircraft depots is up a whopping 41 percent.

Wynne says that when you add up the rate at which the fleet is aging, the rising maintenance costs, personnel cutbacks and the prices of new equipment, it means one thing: Air Force America is “going out of business. It is simply a matter of time.”

Probably the most amazing aspect of the graying Air Force is that the U.S. spends more money on its armed forces than the whole world combined! But even with the hundreds of billions spent each year, battle readiness is deteriorating. Being the world’s policeman, fighting terrorism and continual wars for the past 17 years is taking its toll.

The signs are everywhere, and not just in the Air Force: America’s military is aging. The Navy and Coast Guard are in similar situations. America’s heavy ice-breaker fleet is down to three operational vessels, two of which are approaching the end of their operational cycles. The Coast Guard is sailing many 30- and 40-year-old ships and even World War ii-era vintage vessels including the 64-year-old cutter Acushnet, whose propeller separated completely from its shaft in December. Because of the ship’s age, no off-the-shelf spare parts were available; the fixes had to be custom built.

Increasing amounts of money and resources are needed just to maintain these war machines, and these are costs the American economy has not had to bear in the past on any sort of large scale. The problem is, America doesn’t have the money. All levels of American society—federal, state, local, corporate, personal—have unsustainable debt levels. America is broke—most just don’t realize it yet.

Hosea, talking to ancient Israel, warned that Ephraim’s military and economic might had largely faded, though the tribe was ignorant of it. “[Y]ea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.”

Today, gray hairs are on America. Her age as a superpower is nearly over—America’s waning air superiority is just one example. New powers are destined to rise in Europe, China and Russia, and the Middle East—so says your Bible. For proof, read The United States and Britain in Prophecy.