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World Association of International Studies

Post Predictions for 2012
Created by John Eipper on 01/02/12 5:38 AM

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Predictions for 2012 (Timothy Ashby, Spain, 01/02/12 5:38 am)

WAISers may be interested my 2012 predictions on my new author blog at www.timashby.com . The Financial Times concurred with me about the outcome of the US elections this year and the fate of the eurozone. I used some of Cameron Sawyer's Russia data for my comment about the future of that country.

JE comments: Tim Ashby's predictions point to a tumultuous year ahead. Besides foreseeing a major civil war in Iraq, Tim suggests that the US will undertake air strikes against Iran--probably later this year, in the run-up to the November elections. Would Obama possibly use such a tactic to bolster his re-election chances? It would take the wind out of Mitt Romney's sails (presuming he is the Republican nomineee), given the latter's tough rhetoric against Iran. Playing nice with the Islamic Republic has never gotten anyone elected in the US.

It's a very scary game.

Who would like to take Tim's lead, and offer more predictions for 2012? I went on record in mid-2011 that Obama would be elected. Now I see the contest as going either way. Romney would probably carry Michigan, Ohio (a must-win state for either side) and Massachusetts, as well as the reliably "red" states, who will hold their Mormon-fearing noses and vote ABO (anyone but Obama). The question is whether Romney can overcome his Republican opponents to secure the nomination.

Another troubled nation we'll be hearing a lot about in 2012:  Mexico.  It's already about where Colombia was in the 1980s, and presidential elections are coming on July 1st.  Is Mexico on the road to becoming a failed state?  Will the PRD's Andrés Manuel López Obrador win the election, which presumably will bring about a change in the hard-line policy against the drug cartels?

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  • Predictions for 2012: Russia (Randy Black, USA 01/02/12 6:06 PM)
    Tim Ashby's interesting and provocative predictions for 2012 offer a couple of Tim's opinions that I am unable to verify. Perhaps he can help alleviate my confusion.

    In supporting his 2012 thesis, Tim believes that Russia will continue to lead most nations in economic growth. I recall Cameron Sawyer's earlier comments on this topic and which pretty much support Tim's prediction.

    Tim (www.timashby.com) states: "Consumer spending per capita in Moscow is one-and-a-half times higher than Germany or the UK. Twenty years after the fall of Communism, the material level of life (in Moscow and St. Petersburg at least) is comparable to London or New York. There is no unemployment (Moscow has labor shortages), no slums, 90% of people have a university degree, and Moscow has the largest population of Nobel Prize winners and PhDs of any city in the world."

    Where Tim's predictions begin to confuse me is when he states that there are no slums in Moscow, that Moscow is home to the world's largest collection of Nobel winners and PhD holders and that 90 percent of the capital's citizenry have college degrees.

    Several news reports in the Moscow media and elsewhere in the past couple of years indicate that there are slums in and around the capital. Notably among the slum reports (is) the Moscow settlement of Chelobityevo, where some 3,000 poverty stricken Muslims from Central Asia apparently live, if only 200 meters outside the Garden Ring Road. "Many of the buildings there are little more than crude huts... assembled from found materials, lack any indoor plumbing or heating and often have as many as ten people to a room. The migrants there at one point did manage to purchase an electric generator, but militia officers took it away."



    Regarding Tim's assertion that Moscow is or will be home to the "largest population of Nobel Prize winners," I can find only two Russian Nobel winners currently living in Moscow--Alexei Abrikosov (dual Russian-US citizen) and Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Counterpoint: Dallas, Texas, a city 1/12th the size of Moscow, has five Nobel winners.

    Perhaps Tim is referring to Nobel winners from other nations who have relocated to Moscow, or citizens of former Soviet satellites such as Belorussia, Poland or the Ukraine who now live in Moscow. There are other Nobel types living in Russia, but they appear to reside in other Russian cities, or abroad. For instance, Zhores Alferov, the 2000 winner in physics, lives in St. Petersburg. http://www.kommersant.com/p-155/r_484/Nobel_Prize_Winners_with_Connections_to_Russia_(USSR)/

    Andre Geim (Russian-Dutch) and Konstantin Novoselov (Russian-British) come to mind. Physicists Novoselov and Geim live in Manchester, England.

    Equally puzzling is Tim's view that 90 percent of Moscow's citizenry hold college degrees. To begin with, Moscow's 2010 census shows about 11.5 million "legal" residents, plus a couple of million unofficial "guests."

    Tim seems to be making the claim that 10.3 million (90 percent of 11.5 million legal Muscovites have a college degree. I'd like to ask Cameron Sawyer to chime in on this question. Perhaps Tim means "among Russians over a certain age." That's still a huge number to digest in a country that's losing 700,000 citizens annually.

    Tim's statement is especially worrisome when one considers that approximately 22 percent of Russians are younger than age 20. While Moscow's age distribution stat is difficult to track, one must fathom that it is similar to the nation as a whole.


    Trivia: In researching this post, I ran across two interesting notations. In 1910, Detroit had the highest percent of its population with a PhD among US cities. Los Alamos, New Mexico is the US city with the highest percentage of PhDs in 2010. How times change.

    JE comments: Detroit (well, Southeast Michigan) still has the highest percentage of PhDs I know personally--about a dozen or so in my circle of friends, plus my colleagues at Adrian. But I get Randy's point. Michigan in the Happy Decades used to be on the receiving end of the brain drain; now it's a net exporter of the educated and the talented.

    Interesting statistics on Russia. What's the latest skinny on the anti-Putin demonstrations there?

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    • Predictions for 2012: Russia (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 01/03/12 4:52 AM)
      It was I, and not Tim Ashby, who wrote that Moscow has no slums. (See Randy Black's post of 2 January.)

      One must always keep in mind that when writing such a thing, others need to spend only 2.3 seconds Googling "Moscow + slums" to find some material to argue with you. And another 4.5 seconds to post something about it.

      Well, the term "slum" of course is subject to some varying definitions, but Moscow certainly does not have slums in the third-world sense, or even in the American sense. It is the result of two things: (a) The fact that 99% of the population live in apartments, which are nearly all maintained mostly by the City government-controlled ZHEK organizations, who are required to maintain certain standards, as it is a matter of the gravest political prestige to the City government. Because of this, they are well funded. (b) During Communism, there were, of course, more and less prestigious areas, but social differences were much smaller than in the West, and the differences in salaries were vastly less. The factory director might earn three or four times what a line worker earned (instead 300x), and he might very well live in the same apartment building with them. People did not choose their apartments; they were allocated by the state. And so neighborhoods of Moscow are all very much the same, differing only depending on the time they were built. The worst are the neighborhoods built in the Khruschev period, characterized by very shoddy five-story buildings without elevators--they are being torn down now on a massive scale in Moscow.

      As a result of this, there are no concentrations of socially disadvantaged people, or worse, unemployed people, to prove the old adage that "idle hands are the devil's plaything." Some people do better, some people do worse, but they live all together, and living with more successful people is very beneficial for less successful people, as sociologists now understand.

      One of the biggest problems with spending 2.3 plus 4.5 seconds on Google to come up with an argument against something someone has written is that it is extremely easy to get the facts wrong. Randy has confused the Garden Ring Road, which encloses the historical center of Moscow in a small area with a diameter of 4 or 5 kilometers, where I doubt you can find even a one-room apartment in bad condition for much less than half a million dollars, with the outer ring road--MKAD--which largely defines Moscow's city limits, and has a diameter of 30 to 40 kilometers. Chelobytievo--a camp of illegal aliens from Central Asia--is not in Moscow. WAISers can find it in Google Earth as "Chelobit'evo."

      Mr. Google will also not make it easy to check the statement--which Muscovites often repeat--that Moscow is home to more Nobel prize winners than any other city. I can't honestly say whether it is true or not. But we do know that 27 Russians have won Nobel prizes, a fair number of whom are still living. Most of these will be legal residents of Moscow even if they are working abroad. So I don't find it improbable. I remember well being in the main building of one of Moscow institutes of physics, and seeing the hall devoted to professors of the institute who had won Nobel prizes. I believe there were five portraits there, including that of Andrei Sakharov. Of the six Russians who have won Nobel Prizes since 2000, all but one would be legal Muscovites.

      As to Muscovites and university degrees: yes, of course, and obviously, the statistic--which I also cannot confirm, but it is frequently cited in official sources--refers to adults over student age.

      JE comments:  Tim Ashby acknowledged in his 2 January posting that his Russia data were largely based on Cameron Sawyer's WAIS writings.
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  • Predictions for 2012: Middle East (Miles Seeley, USA 01/03/12 4:19 AM)
    I do not usually like to make predictions about foreign affairs (much less domestic politics) and I think economists are smart to try to avoid making them. However, the "Arab Spring" made me make a few.

    My first prediction was that in many Arab countries the overthrow of the existing power (i.e., Gaddafi, Mubarak, Assad) would result in rival factions--which helped expel the current leaders--battling each other for control. A power vacuum obviously invites creation of a new power. I thought then, and think now, that given their history, most power transfers in the Arab world would not be done democratically and probably would not improve the lives of the average citizen. New leaders would emerge, of course, but this would not mean a Western-oriented democratic government would take over. There would continue to be unrest, even if the protests had the effect of tempering some aspects of autocratic rule.

    What I have seen is the military assuming power in Egypt, and protesters fighting on in Tahrir Square. In Libya, rival factions have turned on each other. In Syria, Bashir Assad is still in charge but is likely not to survive for very long, and the question of who wins is not decided. In Iraq, the Shiite majority is stirring, but as yet Moqtada al Sadir's army has not been mobilized. In Afghanistan, it matters very little who has leadership positions in Kabul, because in the mountains the tribes remain in control. I question how any of these events have benefited the majority of the population. In Morocco and Jordan, two places where I lived, things appear to have calmed down with no change in leaders.

    What disturbs me is that the US government often seems blind to the realities of the region and the traditions and customs that are so important there. Exporting US-style democracy is a dicey, often nonsensical policy when based on military intervention. We will always be seen as invaders by most of the people, and resented.

    The Middle East is a turbulent region.

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    • Predictions for 2012: Middle East (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/03/12 9:19 AM)
      On 3 January Miles Seeley made some good points. I completely agree that "... the US government often seems blind to the realities of the region and the traditions and customs that are so important there," and that "we will always be seen as invaders by most of the people, and resented."

      However, I find it naive to think that "Exporting US-style democracy is ... often nonsensical policy when based on military intervention." It makes a lot of sense if one is making huge profits in the process! And if the outcome is more conflict in the future so much the better, because US taxpayers will pick up the huge tabs in the name of peace, freedom, democracy, etc. With the higher unemployment rate, our military has an endless supply of potential heroes to get maimed and killed in such pursuits and our politicians are more than willing to find new targets (i.e. Iran) as indicated by the Republican presidential candidates, except Ron Paul.

      JE comments: WAIS tends to hit dead ends when discussing Iran, but there is a lot of saber-rattling from both sides going on recently. Not a heartening way to begin the new year. Why this new and dangerous game of chicken? Probably because both sides have enough politicians who feel they can benefit from it. I suspect Tor Guimaraes would agree.

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      • Predictions for 2012: Middle East (Miles Seeley, USA 01/04/12 2:41 PM)
        I have been thinking about Tor Guimaraes's comments on "nonsensical" wars (3 January), and find I must disagree with him. It seems to me that the American people had a lot to say about Vietnam being such a war, and that swell of opinion had an effect on the powers-that-be. I know that winding up Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan will shrink the coffers of those who have profited from those conflicts, but they have been overridden by the electorate. Stopping those wars was a major point of Obama's 2008 campaign, and in the end he carried the day.

        JE commments: David Krieger said it best on 1 January: all wars must end ... though often it doesn't seem that way. Gilbert Doctorow has just written on the Ron Paul phenomenon, with the argument that Paul's success is built primarily on his non-interventionist or neo-isolationist views. Gilbert's posting is next in the queue.

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        • "War Over": A Poem (David Krieger, USA 01/08/12 4:40 AM)
          On nonsensical wars (see Tor Guimaraes, 3 January, and Miles Seeley, 4 January), here is a recent poem:

          WAR OVER

          It was decided in Washington by someone

          wearing a suit and tie, perhaps suspenders,

          perhaps a bowtie.

          The war was declared over and thus

          it was--for us. We pulled out our tired troops

          from one of the countries where we had been warring,

          leaving behind plenty of bullets and bombs

          for our proxies. Despite our declaration of "war over"

          the war didn't end at that certain moment,

          but went on without us while we sent our soldiers

          to fight in another, similarly senseless, war

          in another country.

          Other parties to the war kept fighting without us.

          In the mayhem that continued, we were hardly missed,

          even though we had set it all in motion years before.

          By the old rules, a country is supposed to declare war

          before it begins, but those are the old rules.

          By the new rules, made up as we go, we declare

          an end to war when we are through with it. If only

          we could mesh the old and new, and the people, in chorus,

          would demand "war over" before it had begun.

          David Krieger

          JE comments:  David Krieger's last two stanzas make an especially profound observation:  by the current rules, wars aren't declared, they are "declared" over.  But what happens when no one heeds that declaration?
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          • "War Over" and Fallujah (Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, USA 01/08/12 3:45 PM)
            JE commented on 8 January: "David Krieger's last two stanzas make an especially profound observation: by the current rules, wars aren't declared, they are 'declared' over. But what happens when no one heeds that declaration?"

            Perhaps we could put this question to the mothers of the Fallujah babies who die within 20-30 minutes of their birth, thanks to America's "civilizing mission." I doubt if the "war" is over for them:

            Fallujah Babies: Under a New Kind of Siege

            By Dahr Jamail, Al Jazeera

            06 January 12

            While the US military has formally withdrawn from Iraq, doctors and residents of Fallujah are blaming weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous used during two devastating US attacks on Fallujah in 2004 for what are being described as "catastrophic" levels of birth defects and abnormalities.

            Dr Samira Alani, a paediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, has taken a personal interest in investigating an explosion of congenital abnormalities that have mushroomed in the wake of the US sieges since 2005.

            "We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine," Alani told Al Jazeera at her office in the hospital, while showing countless photos of shocking birth defects.

            As of December 21, Alani, who has worked at the hospital since 1997, told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009. Just eight days later when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.

            "There are not even medical terms to describe some of these conditions because we've never seen them until now," she said. "So when I describe it all I can do is describe the physical defects, but I'm unable to provide a medical term."

            Incompatible With Life

            Most of these babies in Fallujah die within 20 to 30 minutes after being born, but not all.

            Four-year-old Abdul Jaleel Mohammed was born in October 2007. His clinical diagnosis includes dilation of two heart ventricles, and a growth on his lower back that doctors have not been able to remove.

            Abdul has trouble controlling his muscles, struggles to walk, cannot control his bladder, and weakens easily. Doctors told his father, Mohamed Jaleel Abdul Rahim, that his son has severe nervous system problems, and could develop fluid build-up in his brain as he ages, which could prove fatal.

            "This is the first instance of something like this in all our family," Rahim told Al Jazeera. "We lived in an area that was heavily bombed by the Americans in 2004, and a missile landed right in front of our home. What else could cause these health problems besides this?"

            Dr Alani told Al Jazeera that in the vast majority of cases she has documented, the family had no prior history of congenital abnormalities.

            Alani showed Al Jazeera hundreds of photos of babies born with cleft palates, elongated heads, a baby born with one eye in the centre of its face, overgrown limbs, short limbs, and malformed ears, noses and spines.

            She told Al Jazeera of cases of "thanatophoric dysplasia," an abnormality in bones and the thoracic cage that "render the newborn incompatible with life."

            Rahim said many of his relatives that have had babies after 2004 are having problems as well.

            "One of them was born and looks like a fish," Rahim said. "I also personally know of at least three other families who live near us who have these problems also."

            For now, the family is worried how Abdul will fare in school when he is enrolled next year. Maloud Ahmed Jassim, Abdul's grandfather, added, "We've seen so many miscarriages happen, and we don't know why."

            "The growth on his back is so sensitive and painful for him," Rahim said. "What will happen in school?"

            Jassim is angered by a lack of thorough investigations into the health crisis.

            "Why is the government not investigating this," he asked. "Western media seem interested, but neither our local media nor the government are. Why not?"

            In April 2011, Iraqi lawmakers debated whether the US attacks on the city constituted genocide. Resolutions that called for international prosecution, however, went nowhere.

            Scientific Proof

            Alani, along with Dr Christopher Busby, a British scientist and activist who has carried out research into the risks of radioactive pollution, collected hair samples from 25 parents of families with children who have birth defects and sent them to a laboratory in Germany for analysis.

            Alani and Busby, along with other doctors and researchers, published a study in September 2011 from data obtained by analysing the hair samples, as well as soil and water samples from the city.

            Mercury, Uranium, Bizmuth and other trace elements were found.

            The report's conclusion states:

            "Whilst caution must be exercised about ruling out other possibilities, because none of the elements found in excess are reported to cause congenital diseases and cancer except Uranium, these findings suggest the enriched Uranium exposure is either a primary cause or related to the cause of the congenital anomaly and cancer increases. Questions are thus raised about the characteristics and composition of weapons now being deployed in modern battlefields."

            "As doctors, we know Mercury, Uranium and Bismuth can contribute to the development of congenital abnormalities, and we think it could be related to the use of prohibited weapons by the Americans during these battles," Alani said.

            "I made this link to a coroner's inquest in the West Midlands into the death of a Gulf War One veteran... and a coroner's jury accepted my evidence," he told Al Jazeera.

            "It's been found by a coroner's court that cancer was caused by an exposure to depleted uranium," Busby added, "In the last 10 years, research has emerged that has made it quite clear that uranium is one of the most dangerous substances known to man, certainly in the form that it takes when used in these wars."

            In July 2010, Busby released a study that showed a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in Fallujah since the 2004 attacks. The report also showed the sex ratio had declined from normal to 86 boys to 100 girls, together with a spread of diseases indicative of genetic damage similar to but of far greater incidence than Hiroshima.

            Dr Alani visited Japan recently, where she met with Japanese doctors who study birth defect rates they believe related to radiation from the US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

            She was told birth defect incidence rates there are between 1-2 per cent. Alani's log of cases of birth defects amounts to a rate of 14.7 per cent of all babies born in Fallujah, more than 14 times the rate in the affected areas of Japan.

            A Contaminated Country?

            In Babil Province in southern Iraq, the head of the Babil Cancer Centre, Dr Sharif al-Alwachi, said cancer rates have been escalating at alarming rates since 2003, for which he blames the use of depleted uranium weapons by US forces during and following the 2003 invasion.

            "The environment could be contaminated by chemical weapons and depleted uranium from the aftermath of the war on Iraq," Dr Alwachi told Al Jazeera. "The air, soil and water are all polluted by these weapons, and as they come into contact with human beings they become poisonous. This is new to our region, and people are suffering here."

            The US and UK militaries have sent mixed signals about the effects of depleted uranium, but Iraqi doctors like Alwachi and Alani, and along with researchers, blame the increasing cancer and birth defect rates on the weapon.

            Abdulhaq Al-Ani, author of Uranium in Iraq, has been researching the effects of depleted uranium on Iraqis since 1991. He told Al Jazeera he personally measured radiation levels in the city of Kerbala, as well as in Basra, and his Geiger counter was "screaming" because "the indicator went beyond the range."

            Alani explained that she is the only doctor in Fallujah registering cases of congenital abnormalities.

            "We have no system to register all of them, so we have so many cases we are missing," she said. "Just yesterday a colleague told me of a newborn with thanatophoric dysplasiaand she did not register it. I think I only know of 40-50 per cent of the cases because so many families have their babies at home and we never know of these, and other clinics are not registering them either."

            The hospital where Alani does her work was constructed in the Dhubadh district of Fallujah in 2008. According to Alani, the district was bombed heavily during the November 2004 siege.

            "There is also a primary school that was built nearby, and from that school alone three teachers developed breast cancer, and now two of them are dead," Alani said. "We get so many cases from this area, right where the hospital is."

            Even with a vast amount of anecdotal evidence, the exact cause of the health crisis in Fallujah is currently inconclusive without an in-depth, comprehensive study, which has yet to be carried out.

            But despite lack of governmental support, and very little support from outside Iraq, Alani is determined to continue her work.

            "I will not leave this subject", she told Al Jazeera. "I will not stop."


            JE comments: This is a very troubling topic, but we should talk about it. A question for our military experts: how much would military effectiveness be compromised by a ban (unilateral, even) on depleted uranium munitions?  Even if uranium isn't the cause of these dreadful birth defects, wouldn't it make political sense to stop using them?

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            • Fallujah and Christopher Busby (Randy Black, USA 01/10/12 6:02 AM)
              I found Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich's 9 January posting of an Al Jazeera article intriguing. I decided to try to track some of the claims mentioned by Dr. Christopher Busby, the British scientist quoted in the article. I did a bit of research on Dr. Busby, the former spokesman for Britain's Green Party.

              Busby is known for his Internet-published articles that discuss the risks of ionizing radiation, depleted uranium and the impacts of cells. His background and education is in chemistry and chemistry physics.

              Among his several marketing efforts and through his Website, he sells a mineral supplement that he calls an anti-radiation pill. He claims that his pills will offset the effects of ingested radioisotopes. His Website, in Japanese, specifically targets that market.

              While he continues to market his anti-radiation pills, he admitted in one news article (English language) that his pills were useless. His pills, a common health supplement, sell via Busby's online store for 650 percent more than in local health food stores in Japan.

              Dr. Busby's anti-radiation pills are nothing more than a combination of calcium and magnesium. The pill's makeup is 800mg calcium and 300mg magnesium plus the usual stuff that holds the material together. A bottle sells on his Website in Japan for the equivalent of $75US plus $30 shipping. Japanese health food stores sell the same product for about $12, but without the claim that it prevents damage from radiation. On his Japanese language Website, Dr. Busby claims to be a member of a European radiation risk committee, a group that ceased operations years ago.

              One committee on which he served labeled Busby's theories "biologically implausible." The Committee Examining Radiation Risk of Internal Emitters (CERRIE) report rejected his theories in 2004. In a 10-2 vote, the committee, along with an independent consultant, examined Busby's theories and rejected them. The two dissenters were Busby and a non-scientist on the committee. He also sells urine tests, iodine and a "clay radiation detox bath" tablet on the site.

              The rejection cited lack of biological plausibility, lack of supporting evidence, weakness of his studies and absence of supporting evidence found by the independent review commissioned by the Committee. Busby responded by selling a three-person minority report on his Website for ₤25.

              Busby's opinions and studies on these matters have received considerable attention in the science community and have been met with skepticism in New Scientist magazine. A computer simulation by one group, published in the Journal of the Royal Society, discounted Busby's opinions. That study dealt specifically with Busby's writings about depleted uranium and the Gulf War.


              His two books on cancer in Wales were criticized in the Journal of Radiological Protection as "erroneous in consequence of various mistakes." The Editor-in-Chief of the magazine said, "(Busby) seems to avoid publication in recognized scientific literature, which presents difficulties for a proper review of the evidence underlying his conclusions."

              Dr. Busby's latest controversy involves yet another conspiracy theory. He claims that the Japanese government is purposefully spreading radioactive contamination throughout the entirety of Japan to hide the cancer clusters from the Fukushima accident and thus to hinder the legal "fallout."

              Britain's Green Party has disavowed any connection to Busby.

              I'll leave it to WAISers as to whether or not the Al Jazeera article is plausible.


              JE comments: This is an ad hominem argument, but one that should be aired so that readers can form their own judgments.  Dr. Busby's Internet marketing schemes don't necessarily detract from the validity of the Al Jazeera article, although it's equally valid for Randy Black to point out the apparent conflict of interest.

              Westerners tend to view anything on Al Jazeera with suspicion, but it presents a perspective that needs to be taken seriously. AJ has a huge audience, and articulates the views of millions in the Middle East.


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          • "War Over": A Poem (Robert Whealey, USA 01/08/12 4:23 PM)

            Does anybody remember that FDR pointed to Japan as barbaric for bombing Pearl Harbor before any declaration of war on 8 Dec 1941? Then Truman in Korea, Johnson and Nixon fought long wars in Korea and Indochina without declarations of war. Clinton was never able to understand the Yugoslavian problem, and George W Bush went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq with no declarations of war.

            It seems that Ron Paul is the only candidate in 2012 who has some insight into the sad history of American foreign wars since 1950. Does anybody think that Obama can save Pakistan? You can add my voice to several members of WAIS who think that any Israeli or American bombing of Iran would backfire--to say the least.

            JE comments:  It's been pretty long since we've had an update on Pakistan.  Any WAISer insights?

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    • Predictions for 2012: Middle East (Jon Kofas, Greece 01/03/12 10:04 AM)
      Miles Seeley (3 January) is correct that rival factions fomenting disharmony is an inevitable development in most if not all Islamic countries where uprisings have taken place, or they are currently unfolding, or will be taking place in 2012. He is also correct that the emerging regimes may not be as pro-West, let alone "Western democratically oriented," at least not the kind of "democracy" that Norway practices.

      However, Miles should not be so pessimistic, because not all Middle East countries are in the unique position of Iran to go at it alone--with China and Russia behind it as well as vast energy sources and other sources of wealth, including a fairly educated labor force. I think that each country will have to determine what kind of leverage it has and what are its options at the regional and global levels, and then I suspect that most will line up to consider some form of integration, or at least cooperation, at the economic, political and strategic areas with the US and EU. In short, I just do not see the kind of systemic change in the Middle East that appears imminent owing to "Arab Spring."

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      • Predictions for 2012: Taxation (Holger Terp, Denmark 01/04/12 8:21 AM)

        As for 2012 predictions, I'd like to speak of taxation and the 1% who benefit.

        Inflation-adjusted average after-tax income grew by 25% between 1996 and
        2006 (the last year for which individual income tax data is publicly
        available). This average increase, however, clouds a great deal of
        variation. The poorest 20% of tax filers experienced a 6% reduction in
        income, while the top 0.1% of tax filers saw their income almost double. Tax
        filers in the middle of the income distribution experienced about a 10%
        increase in income. Also during this period, the proportion of income from
        capital increased for the top 0.1% from 64% to 70%. Income inequality, as
        measured by the Gini coefficient, increased between 1996 and 2006.

        Source:  Thomas L. Hungerford.  "Changes in the Distribution of Income: Among Tax Filers Between 1996
        and 2006: The Role of Labor Income, Capital Income, and Tax Policy."  2011.

        JE comments:  I presume Holger Terp is speaking of taxation in the US, not Denmark or elsewhere.  WAIS has labored the Gini coefficient a great deal in recent months, so let's keep this Gini in the bottle for now.  But one might ponder the following:  has there ever been a society with a growing income gap (the poor get poorer) that hasn't ended up with some sort of tragic upheaval?  (To be sure, all societies collapse at one point or another, but I'm thinking in the short or medium term.)

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  • Predictions for 2012 (Mike Bonnie, USA 01/03/12 5:05 AM)
    In response to Tim Ashby (2 January), I'm going to take a pass on prognostication of impending events on the sage advice of Yogi Berra, who reportedly said, "It's difficult to make predictions, especially about the future."

    JE comments: Berra, the great American philosopher, crops up from time to time on WAIS. Perhaps the most WAISly: "you can observe a lot by watching."

    Best wishes for 2012 to Mike Bonnie.

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  • Predictions for 2012 (John Heelan, UK 01/03/12 9:06 AM)
    Here are some predictions for 2012 (and thereafter):

    1. Politicians will be economic with the truth.

    2. Bankers will enjoy exorbitant incomes.

    3. Religious pundits will explain disasters by referring to their particular sacred works.

    4. Retired statespeople will accrue major income from selling their connections.

    5. Financial markets will control the world to their own benefit.

    6. Corruption will be tolerated by those in power and who perhaps indulge in the practice.

    7. "Bread and circuses" will divert public attention from the effects of real events.

    8. The gap between haves and have-nots will increase worldwide.

    9. Israel and Palestine will avoid any movements towards peace while denying so.

    10. The US will seek and justify military conflict with "the Other."

    11. The UK will believe there is a "Special Relationship" with the US.

    12. The unelected EU bureaucrats in Brussels will seek greater power.

    And so on.

    In other words, plus ça change!

    JE comments: I'd bet a year's salary that at least 10 of these predictions will come true! The interesting events, of course, will be the unforeseen items 13, 14, and so on...

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