A New Kind of IT Advice

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

This is the shape of things to come…

Recently I came across a young man who had just got married. When I asked him how he is getting along with his bride, he replied “ She is alright but she is not very user friendly”. Read on:

INSTALLING HUSBAND?

A woman writes to the IT Technical support Guy

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and I noticed a distinct slowdown in the overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewellery applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.

In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5, and then installed undesirable programs such as  NEWS 5.0,   MONEY 3.0  and SOCCER 4.1 .

Conversation 8.0 no longer runs, and House cleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system.

Please note that I have tried running Nagging 5..3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.

What can I do?

Signed,

DEAR  Madam,

First, keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an operating system.

Please enter command: ithoughtyoulovedme. html and try to download Tears 6.2 and do not forget to install the Guilt 3.0 update.

If that application works as designed, Husband1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5..

However, remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Silence 2.5.

Whatever you do, DO NOT under any circumstances install Mother-In-Law 1.0 (it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources.)

In addition, please do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend 5.0 program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.

In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly.

You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance.

We recommend:  Cooking 3.0 and  Hot Looks 7.7.

Good Luck Madam!

IT SUPPORT DESK

12-9

How to Watch the Banks

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Henry M. Paulson, Jr.

SIXTEEN months ago, our financial system teetered on the brink of collapse. The Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation took actions that were unpopular and previously unthinkable — but absolutely necessary to stave off an economic catastrophe in which unemployment could have exceeded the 25 percent level of the Great Depression.

These temporary actions have ended or will end. And our financial system is much more stable. But it is critical that we learn from the financial crisis and put in place reforms to avert a repeat of 2008 or something even worse.

Congress must pass financial regulatory reform. Delays are creating uncertainty, undermining the ability of financial institutions to increase lending to the businesses of all sizes that want to invest and fuel our recovery. Our overriding goal in restructuring our financial architecture should be that taxpayers never again have to save a failing financial institution.

The debate recently has centered on big banks and trading risks. I agree that big banks do pose a dangerously large risk to our financial system, and I am troubled that concentration in the industry has only increased since the crisis. But if we are to protect our system from falling into trouble again, we need broad-based reform that covers all types of financial institutions and all forms of potentially risky activities.

For example, the most recent proposal by the Obama administration — to bar big banks from trading driven by other than customer-related activity — would not have prevented the collapse of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, American International Group, Washington Mutual, Wachovia or other institutions whose failure contributed to the crisis. Rather than dictating a set of rules that will become out of date as the markets evolve, policy makers should devise legislation that ensures that regulators have the authority to tackle the issue of size and all potential systemic risks.

This calls for two vital changes. First, we must create a systemic risk regulator to monitor the stability of the markets and to restrain or end any activity at any financial firm that threatens the broader market. Second, the government must have resolution authority to impose an orderly liquidation on any failing financial institution to minimize its impact on the rest of the system.

Together, these two reforms will enable the regulatory system to better prevent the kinds of excesses that fueled our recent crisis, restore market discipline and keep the failure of a large institution from bringing down the rest of the system.

A single agency responsible for systemic risk would be accountable in a way that no regulator was in the run-up to the 2008 crisis. With access to all necessary information to monitor the markets, this regulator would have a better chance of identifying and limiting the impact of future speculative bubbles.

Given our global markets, we have to address the issue of size on a multinational level. We should work through the Financial Stability Board, a global regulatory agency with headquarters in Switzerland, to establish an international agreement calling for stronger capital and liquidity requirements for large, complex institutions. The need for adequate liquidity cushions is not as well understood, but in my judgment it is even more important than the need for banks to maintain higher capital levels.

As for our domestic approach, we now have different government regulators focusing on the individual trees, and we need one regulator accountable for looking at the entire forest. My preference is for the Federal Reserve to be the systemic risk regulator, because the responsibility for identifying and limiting potential problems is a natural complement to its role in monetary policy.

Congress, however, seems to be moving toward having a council of regulators perform this function. While that is not my preference, I believe a council can be workable if it is led by either the Treasury secretary or the Fed chairman, and is structured to ensure that strong decisions are reached quickly in a crisis. Too many such panels in government act by consensus, allowing a single member to render the council immobile.

No systemic risk regulator, no matter how powerful, can be relied on to see everything and prevent future problems. That’s why our regulatory system must reinforce the responsibility of lenders, investors, borrowers and all market participants to analyze risk and make informed decisions. This is possible only if everyone understands that no financial institution is too big to fail, and that its investors and creditors will have to bear the consequences if it does. 

To address the moral hazard issue, the government needs broad-based authority to liquidate any failing financial institution without going through the bankruptcy process, which is not well-suited for such complex firms in the midst of a financial crisis. We must send a clear signal to market participants that whenever this process is put in motion, the outcome is liquidation; we cannot leave any hope that we would inject taxpayer dollars to preserve the failing firm in its present form.

Winding down a large institution is difficult and time-consuming. The regulators with this responsibility will need to be trained to do the job. And we must also require all large firms to develop a road map for their liquidation well ahead of any failure.These are not the only necessary reforms — we must also address regulation of derivatives and our over-reliance on credit ratings agencies.

Over time, we have to simplify the patchwork quilt of regulatory agencies and improve transparency so that consumers and investors can punish excesses through their own informed investing decisions. We have to examine the many policies that favor homeownership, and recalibrate our support for them. We must also tackle what is by far our greatest economic challenge — the reduction of budget deficits — a big part of which will involve reforming our major entitlement programs: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

It has been a difficult, and humbling, two years for our nation. But every other major country has more significant economic problems than we do and, with the resilience of our economy and the ingenuity of our people, we can meet our challenges. Nonetheless, we must not lose our sense of urgency, or the political courage to make the necessary reforms to ensure our long-term prosperity.

12-8

The Circulatory System

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

adil-tufail

The circulatory system is an organ system that passes nutrients (such as amino acids and electrolytes), gases, hormones, bloodcells, , etc. to and from cells in the body to help fight diseases and help stabilize body temperature and pH to maintain homeostasis. This system may be seen strictly as a blood distribution network, but some consider the circulatory system as composed of thecardiovascular system, which distributes blood, and thelymphatic system, which distributes lymph. While humans, as well as other vertebrates, have a closed cardiovascular system (meaning that the blood never leaves the network of arteries, veins and capillaries), some invertebrate groups have an open cardiovascular system. The most primitive animal phyla lack a circulatory system. The lymphatic system, on the other hand, is an open system.

The main components of the human circulatory system are the heart, the blood, and the blood vessels. The circulatory system includes: the pulmonary circulation, a “loop” through the lungswhere blood is oxygenated; and the systemic circulation, a “loop” through the rest of the body to provide oxygenated blood. An average adult contains about a gallon and a half of blood, which consists of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Also, the digestive system works with the circulatory system to provide nutrients the system needs to keep the heart pumping.

Two types of fluids move through the circulatory system: blood and lymph. The blood, heart, and blood vessels form the cardiovascular system. The lymph, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels form the lymphatic system. The cardiovascular system and the lymphatic system collectively make up the circulatory system.

11-52

The Dark Years Are Here

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Egon von Greyerz – Matterhorn Asset Management, www.mamag.org.

In this newsletter we will outline what is likely to be the devastating effect of the credit bubbles, government money printing and of the disastrous actions that governments are taking. Starting in the next 6 months and culminating in 2011-12 the world will experience a series of tumultuous events which will be life changing for most people in the world.  But 2011-12 will not be the beginning of an upturn in the world economy but instead the start of a long period of economic, political and social upheaval that could last for a couple of decades.

We will discuss the three areas that we for some time have argued will determine the fate of the world for the foreseeable future, namely the coming unemployment explosion, the next and much more serious phase in the credit markets and finally the likely hyperinflationary or just inflationary effect this will have on the world economy and investments.

Let us first go back in history and analyze what creates an empire and the prosperity that comes with it.

The British Empire started in the 17th century and reached its peak in the 19th century during Queen Victoria’s reign. By the end of the 19th century The British Empire included nearly 20% of the land surface of the world and 25% of the world’s population. So Britain which is less than 0.5% of the world’s land surface area controlled an empire which was more than 50 times greater. So by using slave labour and by stealing the resources of 20% of the world, it is no wonder that Britain was the wealthiest nation for several centuries. But like all empires, Britain carried the seeds of its own destruction. All empires – e.g. Mongolian, Roman, Ottoman or British etc. – eventually overstretch their resources both militarily and financially. This combined with decadence and illusions of grandeur eventually leads to the collapse of an empire.

The US empire was slightly different from the point of view that it never conquered the world although the US was itself a colony conquered from its original inhabitants. But the US has intervened in many areas (e.g. Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq etc.). Also, there are US military bases in 120 countries. Initially the US was an economic superpower based on an entrepreneurial spirit and a very strong production machine backed by fierce military power. But after the Vietnam war the US had overstretched its resources and by 1971 Richard Nixon abolished the gold standard in order to be able to start money printing in earnest. The money printing phase is normally the last stage of an empire before it collapses and this is where the US is now. The US dollar became the reserve currency of the world when the US was strong economically. But as the US economy started to weaken in the 1960-70’s the US government found a much better method for maintaining a strong economy. It started to print paper that it sold to other nations or exchanged for goods and services. For almost 50 years this has been the most clever way ever devised of maintaining the living standards of an economically deteriorating nation without even having to spend any resources on building an empire. It is a Ponzi scheme which has worked for several decades but slowly the world is now waking up to the fact that they are holding worthless paper printed by the US Government. (We realise this is a much simplified version of empire building and destruction but it is nevertheless an accurate analysis).

The US is haemorrhaging financially and economically. It has lent or committed almost $13 trillion in the last 18 months to prop up the financial system.  The estimated government deficit in the current year is almost $2 trillion or 50% of the budget. All the money committed so far has only achieved two things: Firstly it has created some short term hope which together with totally illusionary sightings of green shoots have generated a small stock market correction (which we forecast in our January Newsletter) and some belief that the crisis is ending. Secondly, all the funds printed so far to save the system have gone to Wall Street but has done nothing whatsoever for the real economy. Every single sector of the real economy is deteriorating whether it is production, unemployment, corporate profits, real estate, credit defaults, construction, federal deficits, local government and state deficits etc.

And what is the government doing about it. They are doing the only thing they know which is to print more money.

This is total lunacy! How can any intelligent person believe that printed pieces of paper can solve an economic catastrophe?

If that were the case we could all go home and write out pieces of paper or use Monopoly money to spend in the shops or repay our debts.

How can the US government, the UK government and most other governments not understand that the only way to run an economy is to cut your coat according to your cloth. This is why the emperor had no clothes because the country had run out of gold thread to make the cloth. Until now the US as well as other countries have been able to buy the cloth because the world has been foolish enough to accept worthless pieces of paper as payment. But this is coming to an end very soon and many countries will be without both coats and cloth.

What governments are doing with people’s money is to totally destroy its value. Purchasing power in the US and many other countries has declined more than 95% in the last 100 years. While it might buy votes short term it will only generate massive misery long term. And this is what many countries are starting to experience now. But sadly it will get a lot worse. We are still only in the first phase of this tragic saga. The second phase is likely to start in the next 6 months.

The real unemployment in the US is 20% or 30 million. These are the real unadjusted figures calculated on the same basis as the official figures before the method of the calculation was changed in the 1990’s. Reported government figures, especially in the US, are continually manipulated in order to suit the political aims of the government. Therefore, one should not give any credence to the published figures. Most governments mislead the people most of the time.

With 20% unemployment in the US we are already approaching the levels in the 1930’s when peak total unemployment reached 25%. The 20% current level is the non-farm unemployed and is still a lot lower than the non-farm peak figure in the 1930’s which was 35% unemployed.

Since we are still in the early stages of this crisis, it is our firm opinion that non-farm unemployment levels will reach 35% at least in the US in the next few years.
But even the current figure of 30 million unemployed is a catastrophe. Adding dependants to every unemployed person there are currently 100 million people affected by unemployment in the US. In the next three months 3 million unemployed will fall out of the social security safety-net. These are the people who were laid off in the second half of 2008. Including their families this means that around 10 million people will become destitute between now and September with no social security and no savings. If we then add the 4 million that were made redundant in the first half of 2009 that will result in an additional 13 million people including families will become destitute around Christmas. This is a disaster of unimaginable consequences that will affect the whole fabric of American society.

The consequences will be social, political, financial and the effects on the US economy will be of a magnitude which is substantially greater than during the Depression of the 1930’s. We must remember that none of the problems in the financial system have been resolved but only put on a very temporary hold. The rise in unemployment combined with the reduction in consumption will lead to the next and much more severe banking crisis.

Unemployment in Europe is also rising fast and shows no signs of abatement. Many countries are reaching 10% with for example Spain at 19% and Latvia at 16%. But as we have said for quite some time, of the larger European nations, the country with the biggest problems is the UK. Unemployment in the UK is currently “only” 2.5 million or 7% but it is estimated to reach over 3 million by the end of 2009. The combination of government deficits, a banking system which is extremely fragile and too big for the country, very high personal credit that will not be repaid and a housing bubble which still has a long way to fall makes the UK very vulnerable to a major financial shock.

During the next 6-9 months unemployment will severely affect most parts of the world including China, Asia and Africa. Never before has there been a global unemployment crisis affecting the world simultaneously. This will not only mean a massive decline in consumption and world trade leading to a recession or depression worldwide but also poverty, famine and social unrest.

The masters of the financial circus are the bankers. Not only did they reap the benefits from manufacturing toxic financial products to the extent of receiving bonuses and stocks in the $trillions during the last 15-20 years. But they are also the only beneficiaries of the trillions of dollars that have been printed by governments to rescue the financial system. Why are the bankers benefiting from the rescue of their own banks? Because they are the ones controlling the government, advising the government and making major contributions to the politicians.

Bonuses are back–Yes, many banks are paying higher bonuses in 2009 than 2008. Goldman Sachs is on course to pay bonuses of $20 billion or $700,00 per employee and Morgan Stanley a 30% increase from average per employee of $262,000 last year to $340,000 this year. JP Morgan’s bonus pool for the first quarter of 2009 is up 175% to $3.3 billion and the new chief executive of RBS, the nationalized UK bank is getting an incentive package worth £10 million! Similar bonuses are being paid by many other banks. Barclays Capital for example is on a massive spending spree recruiting executives with golden hellos and guaranteed bonuses of millions per employee.

Central banks and governments worldwide have spent trillions of dollars temporarily propping up a totally bankrupt financial system and now a few months later the bankers are back earning absurd money within a banking system which hasn’t been mended and is still bankrupt. This is scandalous.

Toxic Structures are back–But not only that, they are also back to creating new securitisation programmes in order to reduce capital requirements and increase leverage. Goldman Sachs, and Barclays Capital are doing this already and many other banks will follow. It is exactly these types of programmes that created the financial crisis in the first place and now the bankers are back at it again. This is totally disgraceful and irresponsible behaviour by bankers who have learnt nothing from their disastrous freewheeling actions except how to milk the system to the maximum again.

As we have pointed out before, none of the problems in the banking system have been resolved. The system still has a leverage of 25-50 times, it is still full of toxic debt and derivatives, loan books are deteriorating daily, it still has worthless paper assets valued at fantasy prices and most banks are run by the same bankers who created the problems in the first place. For a typical bank, a 4% drop in asset value wipes out the equity. This is what we call a recipe for disaster.

In the meantime governments are making feeble attempts at preventing a future crisis by planning new regulations. But these regulations will only deal with known  and historic problems. The bankers will again run rings around the authorities in creating new structures to circumvent the new rules.

The next phase of this tragic saga will soon start.

Compared to the of the 1930’s we are already in a worse position today than at the same stage of the Great Depression. Industrial production is worse in many countries. World trade is worse and the stock market fall is greater than at the same stage in the corresponding period of the Depression and both government and private debt is a lot worse.

So what is likely to happen next?

* Unemployment will increase government deficits

First unemployment will rise substantially as outlined above and the effects of the unemployed masses will have major repercussions on the economy. This will lead to government deficits growing substantially. Tax revenue is already falling at alarming rates in the US and UK and most other countries but it will get a lot worse. Government expenditure will rise rapidly due to the mass unemployment. Taxes will rise but this will be like getting water out of a stone – there won’t be much revenue to tax. And if Vat or sales taxes are increased this will kill consumption even more. In addition governments will have to implement more programmes to help the poor, hungry and homeless. This will lead to more money printing.

* Next phase of bank problems

Secondly the next phase of problems in the financial system will start by the autumn of 2009 at the latest. Since this will come as a total shock to everyone the effect will be much worse than in 2008. So far US banks have taken losses of $1.1 trillion. Conservative estimates put total losses at $2.2 trillion but realistic estimates are around $4 trillion and this excludes any problems in the $600 trillion to $1 quadrillion derivatives market a big part of which is worthless. In the next round of capital raising for banks there will only be one investor – the government. Thus there will be more money printing.

* Government paper will collapse – first in the US and UK

With the escalation of money printing markets will be flooded with government paper which nobody wants, leaving governments to buy its own junk. The two countries with the worst problems are the UK and the US and their precarious situation will emerge first. Within the next few months rating agencies are likely to downgrade both countries’ debt. This will lead to the value of the treasury bonds and gilts collapsing and interest rates quickly moving up into the teens. The higher rates will make the financing costs of the debt to up exponentially leading to more money printing and higher interest rates. This is the “perfect” vicious circle that will end in a hyperinflationary depression.

* Hyperinflation is a currency driven event

For many years we have been saying that this crisis will by hyperinflationary. The issuing of unlimited government paper will lead to the rest of the world selling their holdings of US/UK treasuries as well as selling the dollar and the pound. Most so called financial experts have been predicting a deflationary recession/depression since they don’t see the demand pull that they think is the cause of hyperinflation. We have been one of the very few (together with the very wise Jim Sinclair) to understand that hyperinflation is a currency driven event. The issuing of unlimited government paper outlined above will lead to the US dollar as well as the pound collapsing. It is the collapse of the currency which leads to hyperinflation. Without fail in history every hyperinflationary event has been caused by a collapsing currency not by demand pull.

Many other nations will also experience hyperinflation such as the Baltic States, certain Eastern European and Asian Countries. Many more countries will have high inflation.

In the next few months we will see the start of the Dark Years. For the first time in the history of the world there will be a synchronised downturn affecting all nations (although some a lot worse than others).This is the culmination of the world and especially the Western world, living above its means for decades in a mania of credit bubbles, asset bubbles, real estate bubbles as well as excesses leading to decadence and a society with very weak moral and ethical values. (Of course no society recognises this as it is happening but only afterwards). Governments have fuelled this process by printing unlimited amounts of paper thus destroying the money and purchasing power of most nations.

The Dark Years will be extremely severe for most countries both financially and socially. In many countries in the Western world there will be a severe depression and it will be the end of the welfare state. Most private and state pension schemes are also  likely to collapse.  It will be a worldwide depression but some countries may only have a deep recession. There will be famine, homelessness and misery resulting in social as well as political unrest.  Different type of government leaders and regimes are likely to result from this.

How long will the Dark Years last?  There is a book called The Fourth Turning written by Neil Howe. He has identified a pattern that repeats itself every 80 years. The pattern has been extremely accurate in the Anglophile world. We have recently entered the Fourth Turning which is the final 20 years of the cycle. According to Howe we are in the early stages of a 20 year period of economic and institutional upheaval. This is a period of Crisis when the fabric of society will change dramatically. Previous Fourth Turnings have been the American Revolution, Great Depression and World War II. According to Howe the Crisis will be substantially worse before it is over and it will last for another circa 20 years.

All of this is not good news and we hope that we and Howe are wrong regarding the severity and length of this crisis. But we fear that we are both right. We must stress again that never previously has the the whole world entered a downturn simultaneously in such a fragile state both financially and economically which is why the Dark Years are likely to be so devastating and long lasting.

The correction up in stockmarkets has probably finished but there is a possibility that it will continue for another couple of months.

Matterhorn Asset Management AG based in Zurich Switzerland specialises in wealth management and wealth preservation with particular emphasis on gold and silver bullion stored safely outside the banking system.

What is important is that it is a correction (we predicted it already back in January) and it will soon lead to a strong resumption of the downtrend.  In the Dow Jones, a break of the trend line at 6400 would lead to a projected decline of at least 90% from the top. Almost all major world markets point to similar declines. This sounds incredible but bearing in mind that the Dow Jones fell 90% in the 1930’s and bearing in mind our discussion in the Dark Years paragraph above, this kind of target is not impossible.

Some commodity stocks as well as gold and silver mining shares will be major beneficiaries from the Crisis.

Dow Jones H & S 13.7.09

Bonds

We forecast at the beginning of the year that US long rates would go up and they have almost doubled since. But this is only the beginning since we expect US and UK long rates to reach at least the mid teens in the next 2-3 years. Interest rates in all countries will go up substantially in the next few years.

Currencies

The dollar and the pound will have very substantial falls in the autumn of 2009. At some later stage the Euro will also weaken as a result of certain countries breaking away from the Euro area.

Gold

The currency which will be the major beneficiary from the Crisis is Gold. We have invested in gold since 2002 when we saw the Crisis coming. Gold has trebled since then. But this is just the beginning. The next major move will take place in the coming 4-5 months and it will be major. Gold for wealth preservation purposes should be held directly by the investor and stored outside the banking system in his name. Holding gold in ETF form, futures or owning part of gold bars that you don’t have personal access to is not wealth preservation.

There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.

Ludwig von Mises

Industrialization

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail 1133

The process by which manufacturing industries develop from within a predominantly agrarian society. Characteristic features of industrialization include the application of scientific methods to solving problems, mechanization and a factory system, the division of labor, the growth of the money economy, and the increased mobility of the labor force—both geographically and socially. One problem is that these are features of capitalism, and capitalism is not the same thing as industrialization, although it was the first instrument of industrialization. Industrialization is generally accompanied by social and economic changes, such as a fall in the birth rate and a rise in per capita GNP. Urbanization is encouraged and groups of manufacturing towns may form. Within the developed world, the growth of the factory system led to the separation of home and workplace with major repercussions for urban social geography. Initially there is an emphasis on primary and secondary industry, but as industrialization continues, there is a shift to tertiary industry.

Some writers argue that the term may also be used to describe the methods used to increase productivity in areas other than manufacturing, such as agriculture or administration. Although industrialization is often seen as a solution to problems of poverty in the Third World, its effects may well not benefit any but a small sector of society. Furthermore, the pollution associated with industrial activity may cause serious difficulties.

11-33

Ali-Zaidi Re-appointed to Clarion University

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

zaidi Syed R. Ali-Zaidi has been reappointed to the Council of Trustees of Clarion University. The announcement was made by Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell last week.

He has been appointed to council in 1980, 1985, 1991, 1992, and 2003 as well.

Dr. Ali-Zaidi was a founding member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors, serving from 1984 to 1988 and from 1997 to 2002.  In 1998, Dr. Ali-Zaidi chaired the board’s Task Force on Science and Advanced Technology Education, Workforce Development, and Implementation Research.  In 2001, he established the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence, which annually recognizes an outstanding State System graduate. Dr. Ali-Zaidi is the recipient of the System’s 2002 Eberly Award for Volunteerism.  He is retired from a 25-year career in research and development with the glass industry.  He has a B.S. in Glass Technology from Sheffield University in England, and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Ceramic Engineering, both from The Ohio State University.

11-28

The Time for Immigration Reform is Now

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: This editorial was produced in association with New America Media (www.newamericamedia.org), a national association of ethnic media, and was published by ethnic media across the country this week to bring attention to the urgency of immigration reform.

The White House and members of Congress must move quickly on enacting a just and humane immigration reform package that will reunite families, reinvigorate the economy, and remove the term “illegal or undocumented immigrants” from the dialogue in this country. Ethnic media, which reaches over 60 million adults in the United States, calls on Congress to move decisively on immigration reform because there are few issues as important to the nation’s well-being as an overhaul of the inefficient, inhumane and economically debilitating immigration system. More importantly, we are also urging our readers and viewers to contact their Senators and Congressmen and let them know that immigration reform must be a national priority.

The immigration system is broken not just for 12 million undocumented immigrants, but also for specialized workers blocked from joining the American economy because of narrow quotas, and mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who must wait for years before being reunited with their families.

Our nation needs comprehensive immigration policies that will replace a broken system of raids and roundups with one that protects all workers from exploitation, improves America’s security and builds strong communities. It’s time to end the division between workers, which has allowed big business to exploit both sides. Clearly, working-class citizens and immigrant workers have much in common – dreams of better homes, education for their families and quality healthcare.  There is more that brings us together, than separates us.  United we can be a strong force for change, changes that that bring more workforce safety and humane conditions.  

Immigration is often portrayed as an explosive, divisive issue. In reality it’s not. Since the repeal of the national origins quota system in 1965, which discriminated against certain immigrants, a consensus has been building towards an immigration system that respects the country’s core values. These include economic opportunity, equality under the law regardless of ethnic background, and an embrace of the world’s most innovative, energetic and ambitious workers. Now, with the country facing serious competition from workers abroad, it’s more important than ever to create a world-class immigration system. It’s for the good for families, good for communities and good for America.  

11-28

Roxana Saberi’s Release Bodes Well for U.S.-Iran Relations

May 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By William O. Beeman, New America Media

2009-05-12T113428Z_01_TEH102_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-USA-JOURNALIST Roxana Saberi, the 32-year-old Iranian-American journalist convicted of espionage in Iran has been released to her family, and will soon return to the United States.

While her international community of family, colleagues and friends can rejoice in her release, it was predictable from the moment of her arrest, based on the history of such events in Iran in the past.

Although no one will know for sure exactly how events proceeded against her, it is possible to speculate how Saberi’s arraignment and trial developed.

The espionage charges against Saberi were utterly unfounded. They were likely the result of an escalation within the Iranian judicial system as official after official tried to cover their tracks for a series of abortive attempts to charge her with a crime.

She was first detained for the relatively minor offense of having purchased a bottle of wine. Since religious minorities in Iran are allowed to manufacture, sell and consume alcohol, the country is awash in liquor. It is easily obtainable by everyone—even government officials. Most likely the arresting official did not know that Saberi was an American passport holder born in the United States, and was probably chagrined to discover that this case was likely to create international brouhaha.

A more serious charge was then sought to justify the first arrest. The discovery that her press credentials had expired some months earlier provided that opportunity. Saberi had continued to file stories for a number of American news outlets, reportedly because officials assured her that the expiration of her press pass was inconsequential. Since she could demonstrate that Iranian officials had allowed her to continue writing, this charge would also not hold water.

Finally, the serious charge of espionage was lodged. As foolish and unsubstantiated as this charge was, it was plausible in Iran. Rumors that American CIA operatives were active in Iran were widely promulgated in Iran. These suspicions were reinforced through extensive documentation found in New York Times reporter James Risen’s 2006 book “State of War.” Additionally, on April 4, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz confirmed an earlier rumor that an Iranian nuclear scientist had been assassinated by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, inside Iran.

Iran experienced one horrendous situation involving a foreigner arrested for spying in Iran in 2003. Canadian-Iranian Zahra Kazemi was raped, beaten and tortured to death (although Iranian authorities claimed she died of a stroke) for allegedly having photographed prohibited parts of Evin Prison, where she was later incarcerated. Her death caused an international uproar. The Iranian government, clearly badly burned by the Kazemi case has since been careful to make sure that her situation is not repeated.

Foreigners — dual nationals — accused of espionage have been held for a time, usually in conspicuously humane circumstances, while the government wrings as much publicity out of the event as possible for a domestic and regional audience. The accused prisoners are then released in a show of clemency.

This was the case with Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Ms. Efandiari was visiting her 90-year-old mother in 2006 when she was arrested. It is likely that her connection to Lee Hamilton, director of the Wilson Center, made her an object of suspicion. Hamilton had long connections to the CIA and to groups promoting democratic revolutions in places like Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested at about the same time on the same charges. Tajbakhsh worked for George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Soros had also been active in the same “revolutions” in the region.

Both Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh were held under relatively humane circumstances and released some months later.

The Iranian presidential election next month was also a likely reason for a quick dispensation of Saberi’s case. Iran would like the world to focus on the election, and not on an ongoing saga of an international journalist in their prison system.

In the Saberi case, Iran actually did itself some good. It showed that it had a functioning judicial system—however imperfect—with an appeals process that eventually yielded the correct result.

The Obama administration, by engaging in diplomacy and sober statements of concern regarding Saberi, not only aided the process of her release, but likely set the stage for further improved relations between the United States and Iran. We now have a situation where Iran undertook an action of which the United States disapproved. The United States expressed itself in a non-hostile manner, and the Iranian government responded with a positive redress of that action. This bodes well for future U.S.-Iranian relations. It is only regrettable that this had to come at the price of Saberi’s unjust incarceration.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He is past president of the Middle East section of the American Anthropological Association. He has lived and worked in Iran for more than 30 years. His most recent book is The “’Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other” (University of Chicago Press, 2008).