Tuesday, July 28, 2009
A special post for Manu? A legend in his sport of basketball and an ambassador in his life, always proudly representing his country and his many fans world wide. Manu has always been a symbol of fair play, leadership and shown incredible resilience when confronted with barriers in order to achieve his lofty goals .
His enormous success in sports and personal career have allowed him to achieve many things for the benefit of others. Most notably the elderly and children in need. Always encouraging others with his positive attitude, there is a hope in life and spreading much joy and happiness.
With the support of a great family and loyal friends he has been able to give more then anyone could imagine spreading the message of goodwill, hope and been a shining light in all he does. All while remaining humble, instilling his beliefs and hope to all he comes in contact with.
Wishing a very Happy Birthday to a very special athlete and humanitarian, Manu Ginobili.
THANK YOU MANU FOR ALL YOU HAVE GIVEN US. KEEP ON DOING YOUR BEST. THIS YEAR WILL BE YOUR YEAR! MILLIONS SUPPORT YOU AND WISH YOU HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAY ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE! TODAY ARGENTINIANS, BASKETBALL AND FANS WORLD WIDE CELEBRATE THE GREAT YEARS YOU HAVE GIVEN AND HOPE FOR MANY MORE TO COME! CHEERS TO YOU MANU GINOBILI!
The majority-Democrat Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to back 55-year-old Ms Sotomayor.
Her nomination will now go to the full Senate, where she is expected to be confirmed as the court's first Hispanic justice in a historic vote next week.
Her nomination has been vocally opposed by a chorus of Republicans who believe she is too liberal.
But correspondents say Ms Sotomayor is unlikely to alter the ideological balance on the court as she is set to replace retiring Justice David Souter, a liberal.
The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the US Constitution, and its nine members are given lifetime appointments, though they can voluntarily resign or retire.
It is called upon to rule on issues that spark some of the greatest controversy in US society - such as abortion, gun rights and national security issues.
Judge Sotomayer is "well-qualified... she has administered justice without favouring one group of persons over another," said the committee chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy, before casting his vote on Tuesday.
One Republican, Lindsey Graham, joined all 12 Democrats on the committee in approving Ms Sotomayor, who is President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court nominee.
"She's of good character... she was extremely well-qualified," said Senator Graham, according to Reuters news agency.
He noted that Ms Sotomayor was "left-of-centre but certainly in the mainstream".
Ms Sotomayor's supporters say she has a reliable record - and they cite her "inspiring" life story.
She was born to poor Puerto Rican parents on a New York public housing project, but rose to become a respected judicial scholar and judge.
The committee vote came after Ms Sotomayor and witnesses spent days testifying in front of the panel.
She responded cautiously to questions on some of the "hot-button issues" - prompting some members to complain that they were unable to gauge fully her stance on them.
Republicans claim Ms Sotomayer's record of speeches - and some rulings - shows she allows her opinion to affect her decisions.
"In speech after speech, year after year, Judge Sotomayor set forth a fully formed... judicial philosophy that conflicts with the great American tradition of blind justice and fidelity to the law as written," said Senator Jeff Sessions, the senior Republican on the committee.
The powerful National Rifle Association has come out against Ms Sotomayor over her record on gun rights, although some commentators suggest she has made few definitive statements on the issue.
Observers suggest other Republicans may give her nomination cautious support, aware of the growing power of the Hispanic vote.
Profile: Sonia Sotomayor
An impressive legal scholar, with years of experience on the US Appeals Court, she would always have been one of the front-runners to sit on the highest court in the US.
And, for liberals, her compelling life story has made her a virtually irresistible candidate to be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
As she begins a series of high-profile confirmation hearings in the US Senate, experts agree that she is almost certain to be approved by senators and ascend to the court without any problems.
Born to Puerto Rican parents in the South Bronx in 1954, Ms Sotomayor grew up on a public housing estate.
She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was eight years old, and her father, a manual worker who did not speak English, died the next year.
Her mother, a nurse, brought her and her younger brother up on her own.
After completing her high school education at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, she went to Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude in 1976, and winning the Pyne Prize, one of the highest awards given to undergraduates there.
She studied law at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Review.
After college, she served as an Assistant District Attorney in New York County. In 1984, she left to enter private practice at the firm of Pavia & Harcourt, where she specialised in intellectual property law.
After seven years in the private sector, Ms Sotomayor was nominated to sit on the US District Court for the Southern District of New York by Republican President George H W Bush, becoming the youngest judge on the court, and the first Hispanic federal judge in the state.
It was while she was sitting on the District Court that she issued one of her more famous rulings: her injunction against Major League Baseball, preventing them from enforcing a new collective bargaining agreement, ended the 1994 baseball strike.
In 1997, she was elevated by Democratic President Bill Clinton to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, covering New York, Connecticut and Vermont.
She is widely regarded as a moderate - she received appointments from Democratic and Republican presidents, and her nomination to the Second Circuit was approved by a large majority in the Senate, including many Republicans.
Some conservatives - who fear the appointment of "activist" judges to the Supreme Court - may object to a remark she made in 2005 at a panel at Duke University that "policy is made" in the courts.
After her nomination was announced, attention was focused on a decision she co-authored in a case involving firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut.
A group of white firefighters had sued city authorities after they were passed over for promotion because the officials had thrown out the results of an exam in which black firefighters had done disproportionately badly.
Ms Sotomayor and her fellow Appeals Court judges ruled that the city authorities had been justified in their actions, because they would have been liable for lawsuits on grounds of racial discrimination if the test results had been accepted.
The decision was overturned, however, when the US Supreme Court looked at the case in June 2009.
Ms Sotomayor is likely to face questions in her Senate confirmation hearings on the ruling, as well as her comment, made in 2001, that she "would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
But with a large Democratic majority in the Senate, and with a number of Republicans who approved her elevation to the Second District still in the Senate, her confirmation is likely to be smooth.
And liberals will be able to welcome a woman whose biography embodies the American Dream onto the Supreme Court.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
It seems like a long time coming. Nearly two years have past since AppleInsider exclusively reported in September of 2007 that Apple's next big product initiative would be a modern day reincarnation of its beloved-but-defunct Newton MessagePad. And it's believed the device had been slowly evolving as an R&D project for at least a year prior.
The 10-in ch, 3G-enabled tablet, akin to a jumbo iPod touch, is the latest brainchild of chief executive Steve Jobs. That distinction, as insiders will tell you, carries its share of baggage. Under the critical eye of Jobs, contours must be precise, each pixel of the interface has to match a particular vision, and there can be no fault -- no matter how slight -- or it's back to the drawing board.
As such, AppleInsider has observed silently as the project was reset at least a half-dozen times over the past 24 mont hs. Each time, development was frozen and key aspects of the device rethought, retooled and repositioned. At times, those close to the Apple co-founder had their doubts that it would ever see the light of day, just like a smaller PDA device he canned a few years after returning to the company.
However, the past six months have reportedly seen the critical pieces fall into place. Jobs, who's been overseeing the project from his home, office and hospital beds, has finally achieved that much-sought aura of satisfaction. He's since cemented the device in the company's 2010 roadmap, where it's being positioned for a first quarter launch, according to people well-respected by AppleInsider for their striking accuracy in Apple's internal affairs.
That means that the device, which is expected to retail for somewhere between the cost of a high-end iPhone and Apple's most affordable Mac notebook, is bound to turn up any time between January and March, should there be no last minute setbacks. Analyst's following the Cupertino-based company may consider factoring first full-quarter sales of the device into their models for calendar Q2.
Although Apple maintains publicly that it's thrilled with the relationship it has with exclusive U.S. wireless provider AT&T, the company has a bone or two to pick with the carrier behind closed doors. It's no secret AT& T's lagging has delayed some vital aspects of the iPhone experience stateside, and as such, other people familiar with the matter say Apple is now in active talks with rival Verizon Wireless over the possibility of the carrier playing a key role in providing Internet access for its tablet device.
AppleInsider has also picked up in recent months that its initial artist's rendition of the tablet device was off the mark proportionately and has since taken another stab at what the product may look like in respect to the iPhone, as can be seen below.
Much of the holdup in brining the multi-touch tablet to market is thought to have revolved around a particular issue for which Apple struggled to find a solution, before ultimately settling on a brain transplant. Upon conception, it's believed the device was destined to be based around Intel's first Atom processor, then dubbed Silverthorn.
Deborah Conrad, a vice p resident in charge of Intel's Apple division, went on record in March of 2006 as saying that her colleagues were excited that Apple was "thinking different" about her company 's upcoming offerings and the possibility for future Apple gadgets using the chipmaker's technology. Though she ruled out the possibility of an Intel-based iPod, it was the prospect of other devices that reportedly got her team "very, very excited."
Indeed, rumors would follow that Apple had signed on to adopt Atom in some of its products. These products never materialized. Thou gh AppleInsider admittedly lacks hard evidence to this end, hints from insiders suggest that the company was dissatisfied with the battery life it was achieving from pre-production devices employing such chips.
It was around this time that the company moved forward with its $278 million buyout of fabless chip designer P.A. Semi. Dissatisfied with existing system-on-a-chip solutions incapable of producing the results it sought, Apple's objective was to create its own around ARM-based designs renowned for their superior power management characteristics. This decision is believed to have led to considerable discontent on the part of Intel executives who -- looking to jump-start their Atom platform -- were less than thrilled over the loss of Apple's business.
Sentiment over the matter appeared to come to a head a few months later when a pair of Intel executives had a field day badmouthing the iPhone and its embedded ARM processor at the company's developer forum in Taipei. That was the same forum where the chip maker was touting its upcoming Moorestown platform for next-generation mobile Internet devices (MIDs) that encompasses a future-generation Atom chip.
Intel vice president of mobility Shane Wall teamed with colleague Pankaj Kedia, the chipmaker's ultra-mobility ecosystems director, in lambasting the iPhone as a device dependent on technology that was, so they claimed, a full two to three years behind that which Intel could offer.
"If you want to run full Internet, you're going to have to run an Intel-based architecture," Wall told a gathering of engineers, further asserting that the iPhone "struggles" when tasked with running "any sort of application that requires any horse power."
"The shortcomings of the iPhone are not because of Apple," added Kedia. "The shortcomings of the iPhone have come from ARM." Wall then jumped back in and alleged that "even if they do have full capability, the performance will be so poor." To that, Kedia added: "I know what their roadmap is, I know where they're going and I'm not worried."
It was a nasty one-way exchange that prompted Intel's senior vice president Anand Chandrasekher to issue a correction less than 48 hours later over the "inappropriate" comments made by his lower-level executives. In the correction, Chandrasekher distanced Intel from the executives' remarks and conceded that Atom had a long ways to go before it could attempt to rival the power efficiency and battery life characteristics that ARM chips provide for handheld devices.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Speaking in the framework of Mercosur summit in Paraguay, the leaders of Argentina and Brazil suggested Friday that developing countries be allowed to lift patent rights so they can produce more vaccines to battle the A/H1N1 virus flu pandemic.
"It would be very advantageous to propitiate a kind of lifting or suspension of the patents law because the World Health Organization has recognized that we're dealing with an epidemic" Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said in her main speech to Mercosur leaders.
Failing to act could mean “condemning millions of people to death" while "suspending" the patents law could save millions of lives, added the Argentine president.
"I hope this won't be misconstrued because I'm not talking about disavowing patent law" underlined Mrs. Kirchner adding that “ I'm saying that given this unprecedented pandemic recognized by the WHO, many times some laboratories cannot keep up with world demand for vaccines".
However according to Brazilian news agency reports, President Lula da Silva was more direct and proposed that leaders discuss breaking the patents law to help contain the A/flu pandemic.
The official Brazilian government news agency said Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao is negotiating with all vaccine producers to boost the vaccine's availability. "Brazil is willing to defend the health security of its population" the minister was quoted.
Brazil has been successful in recent years in convincing pharmaceutical companies to offer discounts on HIV medication. In 2007 the Brazilian government issued a compulsory license to break the patent on an antiretroviral AIDS drug made by US pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co.
Mrs. Kirchner said Argentina and Brazil both have highly developed pharmaceutical industries and should be able to produce vaccine "that wouldn't be free," Argentina's state news agency, Telam, reported.
But," Telam quoted the president as saying, "it's beyond question that we're confronting a situation in which the needs of millions of people cannot be subordinated to economic interests".
This week it was announced in Buenos Aires that the local Malbran Institute research laboratory had been successful in discovering the dominant flu strain genome in Argentina, which does not have significant differences with the one detected in other parts of the world, which was described as a “very important revelation” because it will help laboratories to advance in the manufacturing of counter products.
Argentine health authorities announced this week they had identified the complete genome of the A/H1N1 flu virus which so far has caused almost 200 deaths according to official numbers.
The announcement was done by scientists from the Malbran Institute which described the discovery as a “central document” for the elaboration of a vaccine against the disease.
According to the sequence obtained by the experts the dominant virus in Argentina “does not have significant differences” with the one detected in other parts of the world, a “very important revelation” because the strains will help for laboratories to advance in the manufacturing of counter products.
The official announcement was done by Deputy Minister of Health, Fernando Avellaneda, the head of Malbrán Institute Gustavo Ríos and scientist Elsa Baumeister who was in charge of the research.
“It is crucial information for the elaboration of the vaccine, which nevertheless is a complex which still requires several technical steps. With this identification we can really assimilate the virus situation of the country”, said Rios.
“The virus prevalent in Argentina is very similar to others registered in other countries such as Mexico and the Unites States, where the first cases of the outbreak were reported in mid April” indicated Dr. Baumeister.
The Malbrán lab has the necessary equipment, know-how and personnel for the identification of A/flu cases.
Gov't buys 88.4 million pesos in drugs to combat swine flu, 47 new cases
The Health Ministry reported today 47 new cases of H1N1 A virus in Argentina, which add up to 918 cases since the outbreak of the deadly illness.
The health portfolio said that "there are no news of the hospitalized people - many of them still in intesnive care units".
The Health Ministry has purchased medicines to combat spreading H1N1 influenza for 88.4 million pesos, said the Official Gazette today.
The decision was based on the recommendations issued by the Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organizations, which aims at providing two million units of Tamiflu - an antiviral drug which is the main drug in swine flu patients -, as well as 240,000 doses of that drug for paediatric use, the Official Gazzette said.
Four people have died in Argentine as a result of swine flu. There have been more than 800 confirmed cases of the illness.
"The purchase was conducted by the Health Ministry as part of the state of pandemic emergency," it added. Two million doses were bought from Finadiet, 1.4 million pills from Sidus, 6 million from Richmond Lab., and 840,000 units from LKM lab.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Although much attention has focused on the flow of Iranian aid to Hezbollah, estimated at $60-100 million per year, the group has also relied extensively on funding from the Shi'ite Lebanese Diaspora in West Africa, the United States and, most importantly, the so-called Triple Frontier, or tri-border area, along the junction of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. While the volume of illegal remittances from South America is not known exactly, ongoing investigations by police in Paraguay indicate that tens of millions of dollars have been transferred in recent years.
The Triple Frontier is centered at the intersection of the borders of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil, encompassing the cities of Ciudad del Este (Paraguay), Puerto Iguazu (Argentina), and Foz de Iguazu (Brazil).
The Arab population of the zone is believed to number over 20,000 (about one in every 30 residents), most of whom are Muslim Lebanese .
Hezbollah's involvement in the zone first came to light when Argentine authorities concluded that the bombings of the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the Argentine-Israeli Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994 were carried out by Hezbollah cells headquartered in Ciudad del Este.
The Investigation of Hezbollah Fundraising
The first major breakthrough in the investigation of illicit Hezbollah activities in the triple border area came in February 2000, when Paraguayan authorities arrested a 32-year-old Lebanese businessman, Ali Khalil Mehri, who had been allegedly selling millions of dollars worth of pirated software and funneling the proceeds to Hezbollah.
Just weeks after his arrest, however, Mehri was released on bail. Although the court later rescinded the decision and formally indicted him on charges of violating copyright laws and aiding a criminal enterprise (7), by that time Mehri had crossed into Brazil. He later took a flight from Sao Paulo to Paris and is believed to have continued on to Syria.
Meanwhile, investigators were closely monitoring the activities of a much bigger fish - Assad Ahmad Barakat, the alleged ringleader of Hezbollah's financial network in the Triple Frontier. Barakat arrived in Paraguay as a teenager in 1985, having earlier fled the civil war in Lebanon with his father, a chauffeur for a Lebanese politician.
The Paraguayan investigation of illicit Hezbollah fundraising appeared to have stalled prior to the September 11 attacks in the United States, apparently because the government feared there would be economic repercussions. The Triple Frontier is the largest center of commerce in the country and the Arab community there is frequently described by the press as the "pillar" of economic activity. Should this community abandon the region en masse, the impact could be devastating for the country's economy.
After September 11, Paraguay , which is dependent on US aid, came under intense American pressure to eliminate Hezbollah's finance network.
Additional raids over the next few months uncovered evidence specifically implicating Barakat. On November 8, Paraguayan anti-terrorist police arrested another Lebanese national linked to Barakat, Sobhi Mahmoud Fayad.
According to Carlos Cálcena, Asuncion's public prosecutor for drug trafficking and terrorism, Barakat's remittances to Hezbollah are believed to have totaled up to $50 million dollars since 1995. The ambassador of Lebanon for Argentina and Paraguay, Hicham Salim Hamdam, recently acknowledged that Barakat had sent funds to Hezbollah, but stressed that it was intended for "humanitarian aid for orphans of Muslims killed in action."
Since the September 11 attacks, the Chilean authorities have also investigated Hezbollah fundraising in the Triple Frontier. On November 8, the Chilean interior ministry announced that it was investigating two businesses, Barakat Ltd. and Saleh Trading Ltd., owned by Barakat and another Lebanese, Khalil Saleh. Although they were registered as legitimate import and export businesses, Chilean investigators said they were fronts for money laundering. Later that month, the authorities arrested two of Saleh's business associates, Arafat Ismail and Mohamed Ali, and five other Lebanese on charges of illegally financing a terrorist group.
The investigation into Hezbollah financing in the Triple Frontier has coincided with important measures in Paraguay and other countries in the region to eliminate the source of the problem - the lack of government control in the area, the lack of resources to combat criminal activities and rampant corruption among bureaucrats and law enforcement officials.
On September 12, Paraguay deployed around 500 soldiers in the tri-border zone to bolster security and assist police in maintaining security in the area. Moreover, important internal reforms were quickly undertaken. In early October, the head of Paraguay's special anti-terrorism unit, Joaquin Pereira, was replaced.
In addition, Paraguay is cracking down on illegal immigration. In May 2001, American authorities warned the Paraguayan Interior and Justice ministries that 400 foreigners, mostly of Arab origin, had each paid around $3,000 in bribes to obtain permanent residency in Paraguay Since then, a number of officials in consular offices in the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia were fired for allegedly taking bribes to issue visas and passports to Arab nationals. Court cases already initiated for alleged production of fraudulent public documents involve, among others, the former consul of Miami, Carlos Weiss, and vice-consul Jose Luis Coscia.
Paraguay also began requiring banks to notify the government of large overseas wire transfers and other transactions and has begun sharing this information with the United States.
After September 11, Chief Lieutenant Juan Bautista Barrios, head of Squadron 13 of the Argentine border police, stated that he had "received orders to increase safety measures" at the frontier, particularly in the high-traffic Tancredo Neves bridge that links Puerto Iguazu with the Brazilian border city of Foz de Iguazu. Barrios also confirmed at the time that the security forces for the three countries "stay in permanent contact and are in close communication in case it is necessary to undertake an operation."
Brazil has also implemented important security measures since the September 11 attacks, though officials have been careful to state that these measures target potential Al-Qa'ida activities in the region, not Hezbollah. According to the Brazilian minister of justice, Jose Gregori, an anti-terrorist squad was deployed near Iguazu Falls in the Triple Frontier to "ensure that Islamic radicals have not used Brazilian territory to seek shelter .
While frequently reiterating Brazil's solidarity with the United States to combat international terrorism, Brazilian officials have nevertheless refused to extradite Barakat or undertake the kind of close cooperation that Paraguay has, stating that these are internal matters which will be handled by appropriate agencies within their own country
Monday, July 20, 2009
What went wrong with economics
Jul 16th 2009
From The Economist print edition
And how the discipline should change to avo
id the mistakes of the past
OF ALL the economic bubbles that have been pricked, few have burst more spectacularly than the reputation of economics itself. A few years ago, the dismal science was being acclaimed as a way of explaining ever more forms of human behaviour, from drug-dealing to sumo-wrestling. Wall Street ransacked the best universities for game theorists and options modellers. And on the public stage, economists were seen as far more trustworthy than politicians. John McCain joked that Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, was so indispensable that if he died, the president should “prop him up and put a pair of dark glasses on him.”
In the wake of the biggest economic calamity in 80 years that reputation has taken a beating. In the public mind an arrogant profession has b
een humbled. Though economists are still at the centre of the policy debate—think of Ben Bernanke or Larry Summers in America or Mervyn King in Britain—their pronouncements are viewed with more scepticism than before. The profession itself is suffering from guilt and rancour. In a recent lecture, Paul Krugman, winner of the Nobel prize in economics in 2008, argued that much of the past 30 years of macroeconomics was “spectacularly useless at best, and positively harmful at worst.”
Barry Eichengreen, a prominent American economic historian, says the crisis has “cast into doubt much of what we thought we knew about economics.”In its crudest form—the idea that economics as a whole is discredited—the current backlash has gone far too far. If ignorance allowed investors and politicians to exaggera
te the virtues of economics, it now blinds them to its benefits. Economics is less a slavish creed than a prism through which to understand the world. It is a broad canon, stretching from theories to explain how prices are determined to how economies grow. Much of that body of knowledge has no link to the financial crisis and remains as useful as ever.
And if economics as a broad discipline deserves a robust defence, so does the free-market paradigm.
Too many people, especially in Europe, equate mistakes made
by economists with a failure of economic liberalism. Their logic seems to be that if economists got things wrong, then politicians will do better. That is a false—and dangerous—conclusion.
These important caveats, however, should not obscure the fact that two central parts of the discipline—macroeconomics and financial economics—are now, rightly, being severely re-examined (see article, article). There are three main critiques: that macro and financial economists helped cause the crisis, that they failed to spot it, and that they have no idea how to fix it.
The first charge is half right. Macroeconomists, especially within central banks, were too fixated on taming inflation and too cavalier about asset bubbles. Financial economists, meanwhile, formalised theories of the efficiency of markets, fuelling the notion that markets would regulate themselves and financial innovation was always beneficial. Wall Street’s most esoteric instruments were built on these ideas.
But economists were hardly naive believers in market efficiency. Financial academics have spent much of the past 30 years poking holes in the “efficient market hypothesis”. A recent ranking of academic economists was topped by Joseph Stiglitz and Andrei Shleifer, two prominent hole-pokers. A newly prominent field, behavioural economics, concentrates on the consequences of irrational actions.
So there were caveats aplenty. But as insights from academia arrived in the rough and tumble of Wall Street, such delicacies were put aside. And absurd assumptions were added. No economic theory suggests you should value mortgage derivatives on the basis that house prices would always rise. Finance professors are not to blame for this, but they might have shouted more loudly that their insights were being misused. Instead many cheered the party along (often from within banks). Put that together with the complacency of the macroeconomists and there were too few voices shouting stop.
Blindsided and divided
The charge that most economists failed to see the crisis coming also has merit. To be sure, some warned of trouble. The likes of Robert Shiller of Yale, Nouriel Roubini of New York University and the team at the Bank for International Settlements are now famous for their prescience. But most were blindsided. And even worrywarts who felt something was amiss had no idea of how bad the consequences would be.
That was partly to do with professional silos, which limited both the tools available and the imaginations of the practitioners. Few financial economists thought much about illiquidity or counterparty risk, for instance, because their standard models ignore it; and few worried about the effect on the overall economy of the markets for all asset classes seizing up simultaneously, since few believed that was possible.
Macroeconomists also had a blindspot: their standard models assumed that capital markets work perfectly. Their framework reflected an uneasy truce between the intellectual heirs of Keynes, who accept that economies can fall short of their potential, and purists who hold that supply must always equal demand. The models that epitomise this synthesis—the sort used in many central banks—incorporate imperfections in labour markets (“sticky” wages, for instance, which allow unemployment to rise), but make no room for such blemishes in finance. By assuming that capital markets worked perfectly, macroeconomists were largely able to ignore the economy’s financial plumbing. But models that ignored finance had little chance of spotting a calamity that stemmed from it.
What about trying to fix it? Here the financial crisis has blown apart the fragile consensus between purists and Keynesians that monetary policy was the best way to smooth the business cycle. In many countries short-term interest rates are near zero and in a banking crisis monetary policy works less well. With their compromise tool useless, both sides have retreated to their roots, ignoring the other camp’s ideas. Keynesians, such as Mr Krugman, have become uncritical supporters of fiscal stimulus. Purists are vocal opponents. To outsiders, the cacophony underlines the profession’s uselessness.
Add these criticisms together and there is a clear case for reinvention, especially in macroeconomics. Just as the Depression spawned Keynesianism, and the 1970s stagflation fuelled a backlash, creative destruction is already under way. Central banks are busy bolting crude analyses of financial markets onto their workhorse models. Financial economists are studying the way that incentives can skew market efficiency. And today’s dilemmas are prompting new research: which form of fiscal stimulus is most effective? How do you best loosen monetary policy when interest rates are at zero? And so on.
But a broader change in mindset is still needed. Economists need to reach out from their specialised silos: macroeconomists must understand finance, and finance professors need to think harder about the context within which markets work. And everybody needs to work harder on understanding asset bubbles and what happens when they burst. For in the end economists are social scientists, trying to understand the real world. And the financial crisis has changed that world.
Friday, July 17, 2009
"Goldman Sachs are scum– that’s the bottom line. They have basically co-opted the government; they’ve co-opted the Treasury Department; the Federal Reserve functionality; they’ve co-opted the Obama administration. Barack Obama dances to Goldman Sachs tune. And they are really crooked and abominable in what they’ve done. Just remember, Hank Paulson took Congress hostage– took them in the backroom and said ‘give us $700 Billion or we’re going to crash this market. He’s an arsonist; he’s an outlaw– and yet he’s praised."
Max Keiser didn’t stop there. He continues, naming only SOME of the names from Goldman Sachs now dominating the political-economic sphere in government. Keiser continued:"If you go down the list, they’re all Goldman Sachs scum: whether it’s Hank Paulson, Geithner has very close ties to Goldman Sachs, and all these banking bonuses are paid out to their cronies, who are Goldman Sachs scum. And America for some reason has allowed this coup d’etat to take place– this silent coup d’etat where Goldman Sachs and their friends now control the U.S. Government and manipulate prices…"
Strong words for strong villains. Fair enough, as far as I can see.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution states, “No person except a natural born citizen… shall be eligible to the office of president.”
This invalidates the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency if, as a growing number of people believe, he was in fact born in Kenya and not Hawaii as he claims. After mounting pressure, the Obama campaign released a Hawaiian birth certificate on June 13 2008, but skeptics claimed that it showed signs of being forged.
Contained in an otherwise relatively mundane account of Obama’s recent visit to Ghana in the Daily Graphics news outlet is a sentence sure to raise eyebrows amongst people about the Obama birth certificate scandal since well before the election.
The full paragraph reads, “For Ghana, Obama’s visit will be a celebration of another milestone in African history as it hosts the first-ever African-American President on this presidential visit to the continent of his birth.”
Why the Ghanaian news outlet would report that Obama was born on the continent of Africa, when this would instantly invalidate his entire presidency, is unclear.
In April a transcript from an interview with Obama’s step-grandmother was released in which she discussed being present at Obama’s birth in Mombasa, Kenya.
“WND is in possession of an affidavit submitted by Rev. Kweli Shuhubia, an Anabaptist minister in Kenya, who is the official Swahili translator for the annual Anabaptist Conference in Kenya, and a second affidavit signed by Bishop Ron McRae, the presiding elder of the Anabaptists’ Continental Presbytery of Africa,”.
In his affidavit, Shuhubia asserts “it is common knowledge throughout the Christian and Muslim communities in Kenya that Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., was born in Mombasa, Kenya.”
The hospital in Hawaii where Obama claims he was born has refused to produce documentation or even acknowledge the fact. Attempts to obtain Obama’s hospital-generated long-form original birth certificate have been rebuffed.
Doubts about Obama’s birth certificate are now spreading in military circles, U.S. Army Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook has refused to deploy to Afghanistan on the grounds that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore ineligible to serve as commander-in-chief. Cook’s lawyer, Orly Taitz, has filed separate lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency.
Cook said without a legitimate president as commander-in-chief, members of the U.S. military in overseas actions could be determined to be "war criminals and subject to prosecution."
He said the vast array of information about Obama that is not available to the public confirms to him "something is amiss."
"That and the fact the individual who is occupying the White House has not been entirely truthful with anybody," he said. "Every time anyone has made an inquiry, it has been either cast aside, it has been maligned, it has been laughed at or just dismissed summarily without further investigation.
"You know what. It would be so simple to solve. Just produce the long-form document, certificate of live birth," he said.
Cook said he would be prepared for a backlash against him as a military officer, since members of the military swear to uphold and follow their orders. However, he noted that following an illegal order would be just as bad as failing to follow a legal order.
Named as defendants in the case are Col. Wanda Good, Col. Thomas Macdonald, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Obama, described as "de facto president of the United States."
According to the court filing, Cook affirmed when he joined the military, he took the following oath: "I, Stefan Frederick Cook, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
According to the claim, "Plaintiff submits that it is implicit though not expressly stated that an officer is and should be subject to court-martial, because he will be derelict in the performance of his duties, if he does not inquire as to the lawfulness, the legality, the legitimacy of the orders which he has received, whether those orders are specific or general."
The military courts offer no option for raising the question, so he turned to civilian courts to consider "a question of paramount constitutional and legal importance: the validity of the chain of command under a president whose election, eligibility, and constitutional status appear open to serious question."
"Barack Hussein Obama, in order to prove his constitutional eligibility to serve as president, basically needs only produce a single unique historical document for the Plaintiff’s inspection and authentication: namely, the 'long-form' birth certificate which will confirm whether Barack Hussein Obama was in fact born to parents who were both citizens of the United States in Honolulu, Hawaii, in or about 1961," explains the complaint.
Taitz said she will attend the hearing to amend the temporary restraining order to an injunction because more members of the military have joined the cause.
"We are going to be asking for release of Obama's records because now this completely undermines the military. It revoked this order, but it can come up with another order tomorrow. It can come up with orders for other people," she said. "Am I going to be flying around the country 1,000 times and paying the fees every time they issue an order?"
Taitz said the issue "must be resolved immediately," and she will continue working to ensure Obama proves he is eligible for office.
"We're going to be asking the judge to issue an order for Obama to provide his vital records to show he is legitimately president," she said. "We're going to say, we have orders every day, and we'll have revocations every day. This issue has to be decided."
"If he is legitimate, then his vital records will prove it," Taitz said. "If he is illegitimate, then he should not have been there in the first place."
Asked what this decision means for every other serviceman who objects to deployment under a president who has not proven he is eligible for office, Taitz responded:
"Now, we can have each and every member of the military – each and every enlistee and officer – file something similar saying 'I will not take orders until Obama is legitimately vetted.'"
Multiple questions have been raised about what that would mean to the 2008 election, to the orders and laws Obama has signed and other issues, including whether he then is a valid commander-in-chief of the military.
Complicating the situation is Obama's decision to spend sums estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to avoid releasing a state birth certificate that would put to rest all of the questions.
The "Certification of Live Birth" posted online and widely touted as "Obama's birth certificate" does not in any way prove he was born in Hawaii, since the same "short-form" document is easily obtainable for children not born in Hawaii. The true "long-form" birth certificate – which includes information such as the name of the birth hospital and attending physician – is the only document that can prove Obama was born in Hawaii, but to date he has not permitted its release for public or press scrutiny.
Oddly, though congressional hearings were held to determine whether Sen. John McCain was constitutionally eligible to be president as a "natural born citizen," no controlling legal authority ever sought to verify Obama's claim to a Hawaiian birth.
Although Obama officials have told WND all such allegations are "garbage," here is a partial listing and status update for some of the cases over Obama's eligibility:
- New Jersey attorney Mario Apuzzo has filed a case on behalf of Charles Kerchner and others alleging Congress didn't properly ascertain that Obama is qualified to hold the office of president.
- Pennsylvania Democrat Philip Berg has three cases pending, including Berg vs. Obama in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a separate Berg vs. Obama case alleging he wasn't qualified even to be U.S. senator and Hollister vs. Soetoro a/k/a Obama, (now dismissed) brought on behalf of a retired military member who could be facing recall to active duty by Obama.
- Leo Donofrio of New Jersey filed a lawsuit claiming Obama's dual citizenship disqualified him from serving as president. His case was considered in conference by the U.S. Supreme Court but denied a full hearing.
- Cort Wrotnowski filed suit against Connecticut's secretary of state, making a similar argument to Donofrio. His cas was considered in conference by the U.S. Supreme Court, but was denied a full hearing.
- Former presidential candidate Alan Keyes headlines a list of people filing a suit in California, in a case handled by the United States Justice Foundation, that asks the secretary of state to refuse to allow the state's 55 Electoral College votes to be cast in the 2008 presidential election until Obama verifies his eligibility to hold the office. The case is pending, and lawyer are seeking the public's support.
- Chicago lawyer Andy Martin sought legal action requiring Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle to release Obama's vital statistics record. The case was dismissed by Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Bert Ayabe.
- Lt. Col. Donald Sullivan sought a temporary restraining order to stop the Electoral College vote in North Carolina until Barack Obama's eligibility could be confirmed, alleging doubt about Obama's citizenship. His case was denied.
- In Ohio, David M. Neal sued to force the secretary of state to request documents from the Federal Elections Commission, the Democratic National Committee, the Ohio Democratic Party and Obama to show the presidential candidate was born in Hawaii. The case was denied.
- Also in Ohio, there was the Greenberg v. Brunner case which ended when the judge threatened to assess all case costs against the plaintiff.
- In Washington state, Steven Marquis sued the secretary of state seeking a determination on Obama's citizenship. The case was denied.
- In Georgia, Rev. Tom Terry asked the state Supreme Court to authenticate Obama's birth certificate. His request for an injunction against Georgia's secretary of state was denied by Georgia Superior Court Judge Jerry W. Baxter.
- California attorney Orly Taitz has brought a case, Lightfoot vs. Bowen, on behalf of Gail Lightfoot, the vice presidential candidate on the ballot with Ron Paul, four electors and two registered voters. She also has brought forward several other cases and has conducted several public campaigns to generate awareness of the issue.
- In Texas, Darrel Hunter vs. Obama later was dismissed.
- In Ohio, Gordon Stamper vs. U.S. later was dismissed.
- In Texas, Brockhausen vs. Andrade.
- In Washington, L. Charles Cohen vs. Obama.
- In Hawaii, Keyes vs. Lingle, dismissed.
- In Texas, Darrel Hunter vs. Obama later was dismissed.
- In Ohio, Gordon Stamper vs. U.S. later was dismissed.
- In Texas, Brockhausen vs. Andrade.
- In Washington, L. Charles Cohen vs. Obama.
Other documentation not yet available for Obama includes his kindergarten records, his Punahou school records, his Occidental College records, his Columbia University records, his Columbia thesis, his Harvard Law School records, his Harvard Law Review articles, his scholarly articles from the University of Chicago, his passport, his medical records, his files from his years as an Illinois state senator, his Illinois State Bar Association records, any baptism records, and his adoption records.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Thus, it is no surprise that media cheerleaders have seized on the recent steep, but thinly traded, rally to find the facts that appear to fit the theory. From where do these talking heads draw this conclusion?
In recent months, we have allowed for the probability that a bear market rally, driven by seemingly low price-earnings multiples, would take hold for the first half of 2009. Months ago, I have been stating that the rally would reasonably last into the summer and that the Dow could reach 10,000 before the next major downturn begins.
In the depths of the stock market crash of 2008/9, buying opportunities certainly arose. By March 2009, stock markets appeared to have been oversold. Certainly price-earnings multiples on many stocks had been compressed to generational lows. Ignoring the fact that these low multiples were underpinned by pre-recession earnings data, investors declared a bottom.
However, as is the tendency with sudden declines, bargain hunters entered the market too aggressively. On relatively thin trading levels, this led to a steep rise in stock prices which, in turn, drew in investors who feared being left behind. A steep bear market rally was in place. This mirrored the pattern of the Great Depression, when the initial crash was followed by a 68 percent rally in 1930. But after that rally had fizzled, stocks then declined by an astounding 86 percent over the two subsequent years.
While we urged caution in this rally by highlighting, among other indicators, a 38 percent decline in corporate earnings, speculative traders made enormous profits as stock markets rose by over 40 percent. But as dismal economic statistics continue to rain on everyone’s parade, the cheers are beginning to subside. Last week, the unemployment figures were released and the Dow slid by some 223 points.
Now, even speculative traders are preparing for a drop. The new-found concern is due to three basic indicators:
First, the U.S. dollar, linchpin of all American (and most global) transactions, is appearing increasingly weak. 10-year Treasury yields, as low as 2.1 percent post-crash, and continuing to stay below 4 percent, indicate a persistent bubble in “safe” U.S. bonds and cash.
Certainly, the fiscal situation of the United States government doesn’t warrant the confidence placed in its debt. The U.S. will soon have to choose between outright default and hyperinflation. The BRIC countries are already preparing themselves for the latter eventuality by seeking alternatives to the dollar.
Second, there has been a realization that the low multiples of March 2009 were largely illusory. With corporate earnings falling faster than share prices, price-earnings ratios are still high and historically expensive for an economy in an official recession.
Third, employment figures have been so bleak that the financial spin-doctors have been suggesting a “jobless recovery”! Reading between the lines, that means even the most deluded forecasters cannot find an argument for hiring to resume.
Despite the enormous stimulus packages, there are now roughly 15 million Americans unemployed, the highest total for some 26 years. Worse still, the official figures do not include the long-term unemployed or those who have been forced to accept part-time employment. If these “unofficial” unemployed figures were included, the total would be nearer to 20 percent than the official 9.6 percent. Furthermore, annualized figures show Americans earning less for each hour worked.
There can be little wonder that consumers are hoarding cash, increasing their savings and not buying on Main Street. American consumers are in a state of financial shock. The U.S. economy is heading deeper into severe recession, even depression.
The facts are universally bearish for the American stock markets. As for the pundits’ sentiments, you can measure their value by how much you personally pay for CNBC (very little) versus your cost if they’re wrong (very much). Now, there’s a statistic!
In the depths of the cold war, in 1983, a senior at Columbia University wrote in a campus newsmagazine, Sundial, about the vision of “a nuclear free world.” He railed against discussions of “first- versus second-strike capabilities” that “suit the military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets,” and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads.
The student was Barack Obama, and he was clearly trying to sort out his thoughts. In the conclusion, he denounced “the twisted logic of which we are a part today” and praised student efforts to realize “the possibility of a decent world.” But his article, “Breaking the War Mentality,” which only recently has been rediscovered, said little about how to achieve the utopian dream.
Twenty-six years later, the author, in his new job as president of the United States, has begun pushing for new global rules, treaties and alliances that he insists can establish a nuclear-free world.
“I’m not naïve,” President Obama told a cheering throng in Prague this spring. “This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence.”
Yet no previous American president has set out a step-by-step agenda for the eventual elimination of nuclear arms. Mr. Obama is starting relatively small, using a visit to Russia that starts Monday to advance an intense negotiation, with a treaty deadline of the year’s end, to reduce the arsenals of the nuclear superpowers to roughly 1,500 warheads each, from about 2,200. In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Obama, conscious of his critics, stressed that “I’ve made clear that we will retain our deterrent capacity as long as there is a country with nuclear weapons.”
But reducing arsenals, he insisted, would be the first step toward giving the United States and a growing body of allies the power to remake the nuclear world. Among the goals: halting weapons programs in North Korea and Iran, discouraging states from abandoning the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and ending global production of fuel for nuclear arms, a step sure to upset Pakistan, India and Israel.
Even before those battles are joined, opposition is rising. “This is dangerous, wishful thinking,” Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Richard Perle, an architect of the Reagan-era nuclear buildup that appalled Mr. Obama as an undergraduate, wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal. They contend that Mr. Obama is, indeed, a naïf for assuming that “the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong-il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces.”
In the interview, the president described his agenda as the best way to move forward in a turbulent world.
“It’s naïve for us to think,” he said, “that we can grow our nuclear stockpiles, the Russians continue to grow their nuclear stockpiles, and our allies grow their nuclear stockpiles, and that in that environment we’re going to be able to pressure countries like Iran and North Korea not to pursue nuclear weapons themselves.”
Realist or dreamer, Mr. Obama has an interest in global denuclearization that arises from what can best be described as a lost chapter of his life. Though he has written two memoirs, he has volunteered few details about his two years at Columbia.
“People assume he’s a novice,” said Michael L. Baron, who taught Mr. Obama in a Columbia seminar on international politics and American policy around the time he wrote the Sundial article. “He’s been thinking about these issues for a long time. It’s not like one of his advisers said, ‘Why don’t you throw this out?’ ”
In a paper for Dr. Baron, Mr. Obama analyzed how a president might go about negotiating nuclear arms reductions with the Russians — exactly what he is seeking to do this week.
At critical junctures of Mr. Obama’s career, the subject of nuclear disarmament has kept reappearing. Now both he and his agenda face the ultimate test: limiting nuclear arms at the very moment many experts fear the beginning of a second nuclear age and a rush of new weapons states — especially if Iran proves capable of making atomic warheads.
“I personally came of age,” Mr. Obama wrote in “The Audacity of Hope,” his second memoir, “during the Reagan presidency.”
It was a time when President Ronald Reagan began a trillion-dollar arms buildup, called the Soviet Union “an evil empire” and ordered scores of atomic detonations under the Nevada desert. Some Reagan aides talked of fighting and winning a nuclear war.
The popular response was the nuclear freeze movement. Dozens of books warned that Mr. Reagan’s policies threatened to end civilization and most life on Earth. In June 1982, a million protesters gathered in Central Park, their placards reading “Bread Not Bombs” and “Freeze or Burn.” The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter denouncing nuclear war.Many Columbia students campaigned for the freeze movement, which sought a halt to additional nuclear arms deployments. Mr. Obama explored going further.
In the interview, Mr. Obama noted that he was too young to “remember having to do drills under the desk.” But as a student “interested broadly in foreign policy,” he recalled, he focused on “a central question: how would the United States and the Soviet Union effectively manage these nuclear arsenals, and were there ways to dial down the dangers that humanity faced?”
In his senior year, he began Dr. Baron’s seminar on presidential decision-making in American foreign policy. The first semester, starting in fall 1982, covered such cold-war flashpoints as the Cuban missile crisis — a dramatic study in the decision-making style of President John F. Kennedy. In the second semester, students focused on particular topics, and Mr. Obama wrote a lengthy paper about how to negotiate with the Soviets to cut nuclear arsenals.
“His focus was the nature of the strategic talks and what kind of negotiating positions might be put forward,” Dr. Baron said. “It was not a polemical paper — not arguing that the U.S. should have this or that position. It was how to get from here to there and avoid misperception and conflict.
“He got an A,” recalled Dr. Baron, who now runs a digital media business. Later, he wrote Mr. Obama a recommendation for Harvard Law School.
It was during that seminar that Mr. Obama wrote his Sundial article, profiling two campus groups, Arms Race Alternatives and Students Against Militarism. Photographs with the March 1983 article showed students at an antiwar rally in front of Butler Library.
Mr. Obama’s journalistic voice was edgy with disdain for what he called “the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country” amid “the growing threat of war.” The two groups, he wrote, “visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.”
Despite Mr. Obama’s sympathetic portrayal of the two groups, the article seemed to question the popular goal of freezing nuclear arsenals rather than reducing them, the topic of his seminar paper. Mr. Obama wondered if the freeze movement “stems from young people’s penchant for the latest ‘happenings.’ ”
What clearly excited him was the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which would have ended the testing and development of new weapons, and thus, in the minds of arms controllers, the nuclear arms race.
The Reagan administration vehemently opposed the treaty. One Columbia activist, Mr. Obama wrote, argued that the United States should initiate the ban “as a powerful first step towards a nuclear free world.”
That phrase — a “nuclear free world,” which was Mr. Obama’s paraphrase — would re-emerge decades later as the signature item of his nuclear agenda.
The article was lost for years — some of Mr. Obama’s campaign advisers said they had heard of its existence and went looking for it, presumably to see if it contained anything that might prove embarrassing. It came to light on the Internet just before the inauguration, and some conservative bloggers called it naïve, anti-American and blind to the Soviet threat.
Precisely how the article found its way onto the Internet is unclear. But late last year, a Columbia alumni publication said it had learned of it from an alumnus, Stephen M. Brockmann, who also had an article in the same Sundial issue. Dr. Brockmann, now a professor of German at Carnegie Mellon University, said he found the issue “while rummaging through some old stuff.” When he saw the Obama article, he recalled, “I could hardly believe my eyes.”
After the Sundial article, Mr. Obama went silent on nuclear issues for the next two decades. In Chicago, where he worked as a community organizer, topics like remaking the schools, the welfare system and health care seemed a lot more urgent. The cold war ended. So did the protests.
But in 2003 Mr. Obama began his unlikely campaign for the United States Senate and answered a detailed questionnaire from the Council for a Livable World, an advocacy organization in Washington that evaluates candidates on arms control issues.
“He opposes building a new generation of nuclear weapons,” the organization said in a fund-raising letter supporting Mr. Obama’s candidacy. At the time, the Bush administration had proposed developing nuclear arms that could shatter deeply buried enemy bunkers.“The United States has far more nuclear weapons than it needs,” the organization quoted Mr. Obama as saying, “and any attempt by the U.S. government to develop or produce new nuclear weapons only undermines U.S. nonproliferation efforts around the world.”
The organization said Mr. Obama also supported an American-financed effort to secure Russian nuclear arms, as well as ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, still in limbo two decades after Mr. Obama wrote about it.
When he became a senator in January 2005, Mr. Obama zeroed in on arms control, an issue with little traction in the Republican-controlled Senate. Mark Lippert, now chief of staff of the National Security Council, recalled the senator’s seeking his nuclear views when he applied for a Senate staff job.
Mr. Obama found a mentor in Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a longtime star of nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Later that year, Mr. Obama asked to accompany his Republican colleague on a trip to monitor Russian efforts to scrap nuclear arms and secure atomic materials from theft or diversion.
“When we got there, he was clearly all business — a very careful listener and note taker and a serious student,” Mr. Lugar recalled.
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama seized a new opportunity, and political cover, by aligning himself with four of the biggest names in national security. They had decided to campaign for the elimination of the nuclear arsenals they had built up and managed as cold warriors.
There were two Republicans, Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz, secretary of state under Mr. Reagan, and two Democrats, William J. Perry, secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, and former Senator Sam Nunn, who has made fighting proliferation his life’s work.
In a 2007 opinion article in The Wall Street Journal, the four men argued that the time was right to seek “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” as the headline put it. President George W. Bush never invited them to the White House to make their case.
But Mr. Obama embraced the four wholeheartedly, echoing their message in campaign speeches in places like Chicago and Denver and in Berlin, where he spoke in July 2008 as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“This is the moment,” he told cheering Berliners, to seek “the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.”
The nuclear world Mr. Obama studied and wrote about at Columbia bears little resemblance to the one he faces today.
Russia in many ways is the least of his challenges. Both Washington and Moscow want to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires late this year, and both say they want to shrink their arsenals.
More complex are problems posed by the rise of new nuclear states, chiefly North Korea, which has now conducted two nuclear tests, and Iran, which experts say will be able to build a warhead soon, if it cannot already. Pakistan has the fastest-growing arsenal, India’s is improving, and Israel’s nuclear capacity has never been publicly discussed, much less dealt with, by the United States.
The threat, Mr. Obama added in the interview, has “only been heightened with the emergence of extremist organizations such as Al Qaeda.”
Mr. Obama and his aides say they want to address all these issues — though they have only recently begun to discuss strategy.
“We tried the unilateral way, in the Bush years, and it didn’t work,” a senior administration official said recently. “What we are trying is a fundamental change, a different view that says our security can be enhanced by arms control. There was a view for the past few years that treaties only constrained the good actors and not the bad actors.”
Beyond the first step — deep cuts in American and Russian arsenals — is an agenda that has already provoked stirrings of discontent at home and abroad.
In January, in the journal Foreign Affairs, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, the lone holdover from the Bush cabinet, called for financing a new generation of longer-lasting and more dependable nuclear arms.
He was immediately overruled. Mr. Obama’s first budget declared that “development work on the Reliable Replacement Warhead will cease.”
Another focus of activity early this year was the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Its ratification faces a tough Senate fight. But his aides are already building a case that advanced technologies obviate the need to detonate weapons as tests of the American arsenal and can verify that other countries also refrain.
Critics argue that the North Koreas of the world will simply defy the ban — and that the international community will fail to punish offenders.
“If the implications were not so serious, the discrepancy between Mr. Obama’s plans and real-world conditions would be hilarious,” said Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a Reagan-era Pentagon official who directs the Center for Security Policy, a private group in Washington. “There is only one country on earth that Team Obama can absolutely, positively denuclearize: Ours.”
Even more ambitious, Mr. Obama wants a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which would bar all nations that sign it from making fuel for their atom bombs. But when asked how Mr. Obama would sell the idea to America’s allies — primarily Pakistan, India and Israel — administration officials grow silent.
All this is supposed to culminate, next year, in an American effort to rewrite crucial provisions of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Mr. Obama wants to strengthen inspection provisions and close the loophole that makes it easy for countries to drop out, as North Korea did in 2003.
Each of those steps would require building a global consensus. It would also mean persuading countries to give up the coveted freedom to make fuel for reactors — and instead, probably, buy it from an international fuel bank.
Most of all, Mr. Obama and like-minded leaders will have to establish a new global order that will truly restrain rogue states and terrorist groups from moving ahead with nuclear projects.“I don’t think I was that unique at that time,” the president said of his Columbia days, “and I don’t think I’m that unique today in thinking that if we could put the genie back in the bottle, in some sense, that there would be less danger — not just to the United States but to people around the world.”
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