Wednesday, February 28, 2007

And For All You True Believers in "Market Fundamentals"

Anyone who still believes in "Fundamental Analysis" for equities, please take a minute and half and see what the facts say..."

Want more details and a chronology to back up the claims? Click over to an article entitled "The Socionomic Insight vs. The Assumption of Event Causality" (how's that for something with a real academic stink to it!)

Why Market Moves Worry Me...

If the socionomic hypothesis holds - and events every day seem to bolster it more and more - then this short video clip explains one big reason to worry. Here's hoping the Mainstream Media is correct and that the recent market plunge was just a one-off event, not a return the bear market that began in 2000.

The bigger the bear market, the bigger the war...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Remain Calm, All Is Well (Part Seven)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Big hit on the Dow today. We'll see if this was a body blow or just a statistical fluke. I lean towards the former, but have been wrong before.


Brutal Day on Wall Street
Dow tumbles 416, biggest one-day point loss since 2001
By Alexandra Twin, CNNMoney.com senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks tumbled across the board Tuesday, after declining markets in China and Europe and a steep drop in durable goods orders triggered a massive selloff on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average (down 416.02 to 12,216.24, Charts) tumbled 416.02 points, its biggest one-day point loss since the day the stock market reopened after the Sept. 11th attacks. On that day, the Dow lost 684.81 points.

On a percentage basis, the Dow lost about 3.3 percent. The blue-chip barometer has
now fallen for five sessions straight.

The broader S&P 500 (down 50.33 to 1,399.04, Charts) index fell 3.5 percent and saw its biggest one-day percentage loss in nearly four years. The S&P 500 also slumped for the previous four sessions.

The Nasdaq (down 96.66 to 2,407.86, Charts) composite tumbled about 3.9 percent and saw its biggest one-day percentage loss since Dec. 9, 2002, according to early tallies.

The Russell 2000 (down 31.03 to 792.66, Charts) small-cap index lost almost 4 percent.


Huge thanks to Robert Prechter over at Elliott Wave International. I can't reveal any details of his recent Elliott Wave Theorist, but I will say, thanks to his research which I took action on, I was able to cash in some puts today that were significantly profitable (for my small stake, at least).

Monday, February 26, 2007

Social Mood and Hot Chicks

Stocks. Chicks. Short skirts vs. long dresses. The hem-line indicator.

Oh yeah, it is good to follow socionomics!



If the theory discussed in the clip is interesting to you, you can see the whole documentary for free by going over the the "History's Hidden Engine" banner on the right side and linking over. Well worth your time.

Social Mood and Politics

Here's a fun video clip examining the relationship between financial markets and politics. Worth thinking about, especially if we see a stock market returning to a bear market...


News From Space

Let's take a break from financial markets, socionomics and collapsing housing prices and raise our eyes to they sky.

Maybe we are due for a revision of our model of physics...

Pioneer Anomaly
From The Planetary Society
Something strange is happening in the outer reaches of our solar system. The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft are not where they are supposed to be. These missions, launched in 1972 and 1973, have covered hundreds of millions of kilometers, heading toward the edge of our solar system. But something is holding them back. Each year, they fall behind in their projected travel by about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles).

And maybe we are due for a revision of our view of Mars... I make no warranties, guaranties or any other statement of belief in the following. I present it as an FYI.



If A Tree Falls On Mars...
by Joseph Capp
Trees on Mars?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

How Do We Know We Make Things Better?

Another weekend contribution from Bill Bonner over at The Daily Reckoning. For those of a philosophic bent, I highly reccommend it. I hope to get a few original pieces up later in the week.

The Daily Reckoning PRESENTS: Over the last several years, Nicaragua has gone from banana republic to tourist destination. But is this a good thing? As Bill Bonner explains, ‘good’ is a relative term that often follows the flow of money. Thus it really depends on who you ask. Read on...

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE
by Bill Bonner

“I’ve got to admit, it’s getting better...a little better all the time.”
-The Beatles

Waking up in the tropics is a pleasure. At 5 AM, we open up the double doors to our bedroom and look out at the sea. Already, the sky is lightening. A soft, pink hue surrounds the hills to the east; the beach is still in shadow. The sea remains a dark gray; all we really see are the lines of white foam made by the waves crashing on the shore and advancing up onto the beach. We imagined ourselves watching an attack of foot soldiers from a lookout post, like Robert E. Lee watching the attack on Cemetery Ridge. The white line moved ahead in a jagged formation, some troops making more progress against the enemy than others...but all of them are then driven back as the beach counterattacks and the wave recedes.

Below the crest of the hill and above the line of furthest advance of the white foam is not the quaint village of Gettysburg, but a group of condominiums built in the last couple of years. Walking past in the evening, we found the condos full of norteamericanos - soft, white people sitting on their soft, white plastic chairs enjoying the last soft light of day.

These people seemed to be having a good time. The area must be a paradise to them, as it is to us. The beach is empty. The sun is warm. The beer is cold. What more could they ask for? The most remarkable thing is that they are here at all. This life is now affordable even to a mid-level manager at the Gap or even a union factory worker in Milwaukee; they can live in a way that used to be reserved for the rich.

You may be wondering where this peregrination is headed. Since we are on vacation ourselves, we don’t feel the need to have a particular destination. But as we looked out our door this morning, we had an insight. A trivial one, but still one worth passing on.

In the 1920s, the tycoons and stock jobbers took the train from New York all the way to Palm Beach, where they built their mansions and enjoyed their repose. They were followed by the well-to-do middle classes...and then the not-so-well-to-do lower middle classes. The Venetian-style great houses on Palm Beach were followed by the bungalows two blocks back...and then by the trailers in Central Florida. But all of them found a new way of life in the Sunshine State, a life of leisure and luxury and warmth ...a life that they never could have had in the North.

The whole phenomenon was new. It was only in the 20th century that the idea of leisure came into being in a major way. Before that, everyone expected to work from childhood until the end of his days. Then, thanks to the internal combustion engine, assembly lines and electricity, fairly large numbers of people accumulated enough capital so they could live without working at all. And then, later, after the imposition of the Social Security system in the 1930s, everyone came to believe that he deserved a period of rest and ‘retirement’ after the age of 65. Of course, relatively few people reached 65 back then.

Now the dream is ubiquitous. Everyone takes for granted that he can have ‘vacations’ during his working years, and that when his work is finished he can enjoy many more years of retirement - preferably in a warm place. In Europe, this dream is even more elaborate than in America. And among government workers, in both places, it is more extravagant than in the private sector. A government employee in France can count on six weeks of vacation each year...and, depending on his particular work career, he may retire as early as 55 or even 50. Thereafter, he lives entirely at the expense of the rest of the society.

Americans are more niggardly with their vacations...and more long suffering about their work. The typical American worker earns more take home pay, but he has to work a lot more hours to get it. And when he has finally has earned his reward - he is likely to head for the sun. Until recently, he aimed for Florida or Arizona. Now, he is more adventuresome. He may get out the map and find Mexico, Puerto Rico...or even Nicaragua. Coming in large numbers, they are changing the places they come to.

“How do we know when we actually make things better?” we asked Elizabeth.

It was a leading question. We already had our answer. But conversation and cross-examination often work better when questions are put to the witness.

“I guess you just have to look at the results,” was the answer. It was not the answer we were looking for. We’ve found that Elizabeth rarely gives us the answer we want. Which is what makes her an ideal wife; she helps us maintain our humility.

“But how do you know if the results are beneficial...if they are good...if they actually make the world a better place?”

“You have no choice but to apply your own standards...your own aesthetic and moral sense. What else is there?”

“Well, that’s just the problem...

“I was thinking about what we’ve done here. We came here to Nicaragua before anyone else. Now, there are roads, houses, condos...the local people have work. Money is coming in. And the gringos seem to be having a good time.

“But suppose we had decided that what we wanted was simply to buy up land on the coast and keep it for ourselves. We could have had a big house and employed guards to keep others out. That might have been ‘better’ from our point of view...but would it have been better for others? Would it have been better for the world?”

“I don’t know, but I think it might. This was such a lovely place when it was virgin tropical woodlands. It’s not necessarily better because it has condos on the beach. And this idea of ‘better’ is a rather loaded term, don’t you think? It depends on what you mean by it. Better for whom? Better how?”

“Well, of course, it is freighted with all our prejudices, tastes, and desires. Suppose we had done nothing. It would have been better for the people who like virgin tropical woodlands...but we, and the local fishermen, would have been the only ones to appreciate them.

“Or suppose we had decided that we wanted to build a community where everyone had to live in green houses. Would that have been better? Well, yes, if you like green houses.

“What I’m getting at is that the only way to tell if you’ve really made things better or not is by following the money. If you had made more money building green houses than pink houses, it would have told you that more people liked green then pink. And the only measure of what is good...or what makes things better...is what people are willing to pay for, isn’t it? If you disagree with that, aren’t you merely substituting your judgment for the judgment of others? That’s what communists, neoconservatives and central planners do. If they decide that the world would be a better place if everyone lived in pink houses, they force everyone to live in a pink house - whether they want to or not. When you take away the freedom of choice, and the free movement of prices, you no longer know what people really want...and so you don’t know how to make things better.”

“Surely, not everything is reducible to money,” Elizabeth replied. “Paris Hilton might make a fortune producing a sex video. Is that really making the world a better place? You can pander to people’s weaknesses...to their flaws and foibles. You can make money, but it doesn’t necessarily make the world a better place, does it? I guess I would say that the world is always a worse place when you force people to live in pink houses when they don’t want to. But it’s not necessarily a better place when you sell them pink houses either.”

“Yes, that’s it, isn’t it? You can try to make the world a better place by holding a gun to people’s heads...or by stealing their money...or killing them. But it rarely goes well. Because if they are not free to express their own private wishes - even if they are depraved or tacky - you have no way of knowing whether you’re really doing good or not. People express what they want...and what they regard as making their lives better...by how they spend their money. If you over-ride them, by forcing them to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, you are bound to make a mess of things. Of course, even if you proceed without violence, you can still make a mess of things. But that’s just life. You do your best. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t.”

We both looked out the door again. There, on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua...a country that was once a banana republic...then an experiment in mass delusion...and lately, a tourist destination, where plumbers and dentists from North America are enjoying a few days in the sun. They have the ocean in front of them...air-conditioning behind them...and ice-cold drinks inside of them. They bought their condos and their vacations of their own free will. And now, with the sun peaking over the hills, they rise and stretch...and look out their own doors too...
...and who can doubt that it is a better world?

Regards,

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning

Editor’s Note: Bill Bonner is the founder and editor of The Daily Reckoning. He is also the author, with Addison Wiggin, of The Wall Street Journal best seller Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of the 21st Century (John Wiley & Sons).

In Bonner and Wiggin’s follow-up book, Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis, they wield their sardonic brand of humor to expose the nation for what it really is - an empire built on delusions. Daily Reckoning readers can buy their copy of Empire of Debt at a discount - just click on the link below:
Empire of Debt
http://www.dailyreckoning.com/empireofdebt.html

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Chop At The Top

U.S. equity markets at all-time (nominal) highs. A "surge" in Iraq to bring peace to that region. The North Koreans making nice with their nuclear program. Housing continuning to collapse while no one outside the mortgage lending industry giving a crap.

We sit on a mountaintop of delusion, sobering up.

Keep your eyes on three things - housing prices, mortgage finance companies and the major U.S. stock indices. When you see the big break in prices, make sure you have battened down all the hatches in your personal and professional life. It is all going to come unhinged.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stock Traders, Conflict and Modeling Chaos

Being a news junkie doesn't come cheap. For instance, I subscribe to some of the services offered by Stratfor, a private intelligence outfit. I subscribe to some of the products offered by Elliott Wave International as well as Strategic Investment and Peoplenomics. This is on top of maintaining and tweaking a custom Google News page and being a subscriber to various technical journals for the nuclear industry.

The question then arises - why? Why drop a decent amount of coin (at least for my current economic situation) on these services. Millions of people live prosperous, happy lives and never get news from any other source than the Mainstream Media (MSM). They do all the right things - buy a house, invest in mutual funds, read the paper, do the church thing and generall fit in quite well.

Has being a news junkie made me more wealthy than my peers? Unfortunately, no, at least not as of today. Sure, I've made a few big hits, both in equities and in timing some market moves with options. But I've mis-timed plenty of things and my profits probably aren't much more than the money I spent over the years on various newsletters and advisory services.

Am I a better person in a social sense? Not hardly. I am an odd duck. I don't have cool stories about my condo in Vail - instead I'd prefer to discuss the potential for chaos that would spin out of any attack by the U.S. on Iran. My subscription to Strategic Investment has lasted longer than my first marriage. Outside of being a decent Trivial Pursuit player and satisfying my ego in the sense that I love knowing "stuff," no real benefits seemingly have accrued from my addiction, as it were.

So why bother?

Because it is my opinion that we are at the end of the something. That we in the Western World spent 500 years dominating the globe, creating a system of wealth creation and governance unlike anything seen in recorded history. Ugliness has alternated with beauty. Great rivers of philosophy, religion, industry and art have flowed over the earth. As have exploitation and oppression. Knowledge has warred with mindless sloth.

Mindless sloth has won.

That's my fear. A pinnacle has been reached. The tree has grown as high as it can. The collapse is nigh. By being a news junkie I hope to be able to dodge the worst of the bullets, to be mentally prepared for shocks that might cause folks far more intelligent than I to freeze at the worst possible moment, solely because the information flowing in does not fit into their mental processing grid.

We, especially we here in the United States, have spent too much, saved too little and believe that nothing bad can come along to disrupt the way things are. The fact that we have an age wave of Baby Boomers about to crash over the country, overwhelming an already bankrupt Welfare State is ignored. The fact that housing prices ran up to unsustainable levels based on fraudulent subprime lending is ignored. The fact that the U.S. is engaged in an intractable war in Iraq and seems to be spoiling for a fight with Iran is also ignored. It's like the entire country is on dope, in a heroin haze, just drifting along.

By having a wide variety of news and experiences already incorporated into my mind, I hope to be able to make sense of what could prove to be the greatest economic and social collapse in history.

Here's hoping that I am completely delusional in this fear and that we really do live in a 'Goldilock's Economy' and that all is well and the Fed can always bail us out if things go wrong.

Administrivia 02-21-07

Lot's of ideas cooking in my little skull, but too busy with real life to flesh them out at the moment. That said, here are some tidbits for you to chew on until then:

Added The Daily Grail under the 'Weird But Worth It' blogroll. Check it out. It might just blow your mind.

Added a blog on Pebble Bed Modular Reactors to the Tech blogroll. Great technology. Too smart and makes too much sense to implement in the U.S. until the Baby Boomers die, though.

And for you finance geeks, check out Mish's recent post on State Tax Revenues. While it may seem like a dry topic, the ramifications will be coming to a state near you very soon...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Crack of Doom, UK Version Revisited

As a follow-up to my post from Friday, Crack of Doom, UK Version, it looks like someone over in Britain is just astounded by the court decision as I was:

Go Nuclear, Save the Planet
James Lovelock, father of the Gaia theory, says green opposition to atomic power, as seen in the High Court last week, is crazy
From the Sunday Times

What an incredible mistake Greenpeace made when it took the government to court in an attempt to delay the building of new nuclear power stations. By so doing it increases the burden of carbon dioxide (C02) the Earth has to bear; nuclear is the only large-scale energy source that is emissions free.

Why don’t we wake up and emulate the French, who make almost all their electricity from nuclear energy? French trains are legendary, especially the TGV. One of these bound for Marseilles was standing at the Gare de Lyon; it seemed like any other train except that it was double decked. We climbed aboard and took our seats on the upper tier and sat back as it travelled from Paris to Marseilles at 200mph.

No wonder the French are building an even faster train track from Paris to Germany. Best of all, this form of intercity travel is the world’s only wholly carbon-free nonpolluting way of travelling, because the trains are powered by nuclear electricity. Soon our cars and trucks will be powered by batteries charged from the electricity supply. What a wonderful way to avoid C02 emissions, but only if we make nuclear our source of electricity.

I am a green and I have been one for most of my life, but I am also a scientist and my main contribution has been to show that the planet actively sustains its climate and chemistry so as to keep itself habitable. We have disabled this wonderful capacity by taking its natural forests for farmland and by burning fossil fuels.


We'll see. Maybe the tide is strong enough reverse the Green Wave that has apparently washed common sense and science from the British Isles...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Real Heroes (Part Two)

And a second dose of positive news, courtesy of Bill Bonner at The Daily Reckoning...

The Daily Reckoning PRESENTS: In part two of his follow up essay, Bill Bonner discusses the simple act of planting trees. What’s so heroic about planting trees, you ask? Read on to find out how one man changed the face of an entire landscape forever...

THE ‘JUSTES’ AND THE GOOD: MORE REAL HEROES, PART II
by Bill Bonner

It is a small and thankless matter to plant a tree. Oaks, for example, usually grow so slowly that the planter rarely lives to see them in graceful maturity. Still, people plant trees.

Jean Giono tells the story of a man who - for no reasons but his own - began planting oak trees in the South of France.

“About forty years ago I was taking a long trip on foot over mountain heights quite unknown to tourists in that ancient region where the Alps thrust down into Provence. All this, at the time I embarked upon my long walk through these deserted regions, was barren and colourless land. Nothing grew there but wild lavender.”

There were few trees and fewer men in that desolate area. But a solitary shepherd had an idea. He began carrying with him a bag of acorns and a heavy iron rod. As he tended his sheep, he poked the iron bar into the ground and dropped an acorn into the hole. This he did for decades. There was no re-forestry program. There were no government grants. There were no parks commissions, no botanists, no taxes, no fees. There was just a lone shepherd, aged 55. Mr. Giono met him before World War I.

His name was Elzeard Bouffier. He had only the company of his sheep and his dog. He had never studied environmental science, nor perhaps ever even gone to school. But he could see that the land had changed since his youth. The area had been rich in grass and trees...animals...and human beings. You could tell because whoever had once lived there had left behind their stone houses on the hillsides. They had apparently overgrazed the grass and overworked the land. Worst of all, they had over-cut the forests that once grew there. Of the twisted oaks that used to provide shade and hold the moisture close to the ground...only a few remained.

Bouffier asked no one’s permission. He put no issues or referendums on the ballot. He rallied no citizens and spoke to no town meetings. As far as we know his name never appeared in the paper - until after he was dead. But he went about the work that he had taken up himself...with no pay, no thanks, and not even any notice.

He planted thousands of oak trees, many of which died at first. And for the rest too, progress was as slow as an oak. But gradually, more and more took root. And each one provided more shade...more moisture...and a more hospitable place for other life to take root. Animals returned...and then hunters...and then game wardens.

“In 1933 [Bouffier] received a visit from a forest ranger who notified him of an order against lighting fires out of doors for fear of endangering the growth of this natural forest,” Giono reported. “It was the first time, the man told him naively, that he had ever heard of a forest growing of its own accord. At that time Bouffier was about to plant beeches at a spot some twelve kilometers from his cottage. In order to avoid traveling back and forth - for he was then seventy-five - he planned to build a stone cabin right at the plantation. The next year he did so.”

The re-growth of the ‘natural forest,’ was a wonder to everyone. In 1935 a government delegation came to examine it. They didn’t know what to make of it. They merely placed it under government protection.

By now the oaks were 20 to 25 feet tall. The slopes were covered with them. And the old man was still at work, planting his stealth forest.

“I remembered how the land had looked in 1913,” Giono wrote. “A desert...[but] Peaceful, regular toil, the vigorous mountain air, frugality and, above all, serenity in the spirit had endowed this old man with awe-inspiring health. He was one of God’s athletes. I wondered how many more acres he was going to cover with trees.”

By 1945, another war had passed. Bouffier was 87 years old and still at it. He had spent the second war as he had spent the first one. While millions of armed men tried to improve the world by killing each other, the good shepherd continued to improve his world. And in the process he improved ours.

Giono:

“In 1913 this hamlet of ten or twelve houses had three inhabitants. They had been savage creatures, hating one another, living by trapping game, little removed, physically and morally, from the conditions of prehistoric man. All about them nettles were feeding upon the remains of abandoned houses. Their condition had been beyond hope. For them, nothing but to await death - a situation which rarely predisposes to virtue.

“[Now] everything was changed. Even the air. Instead of the harsh dry winds that used to attack me, a gentle breeze was blowing, laden with scents. A sound like water came from the mountains; it was the wind in the forest; most amazing of all, I heard the actual sound of water falling into a pool. I saw that a fountain had been built, that it flowed freely and - what touched me most - that someone had planted a linden beside it, a linden that must have been four years old, already in full leaf, the incontestable symbol of resurrection.

“On the site of the ruins I had seen in 1913 now stand neat farms, cleanly plastered, testifying to a happy and comfortable life. The old streams, fed by the rains and snows that the forest conserves, are flowing again. Their waters have been channeled. On each farm, in groves of maples, fountain pools overflow on to carpets of fresh mint. Little by little the villages have been rebuilt. People from the plains, where land is costly, have settled here, bringing youth, motion, the spirit of adventure. Along the roads you meet hearty men and women, boys and girls who understand laughter and have recovered a taste for picnics. Counting the former population, unrecognizable now that they live in comfort, more than 10,000 people owe their happiness to Elzeard Bouffier.

“When I reflect that one man, armed only with his own physical and moral resources, was able to cause this land of Canaan to spring from the wasteland, I am convinced that, in spite of everything, humanity is admirable. But when I compute the unfailing greatness of spirit and the tenacity of benevolence that it must have taken to achieve this result, I am taken with an immense respect for that old and unlearned peasant who was able to complete a work worthy of God.

“Elzeard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon.”

R.I.P.

Regards,

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning

Editor’s Note: Bill Bonner is the founder and editor of The Daily Reckoning. He is also the author, with Addison Wiggin, of The Wall Street Journal best seller Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of the 21st Century (John Wiley & Sons).

In Bonner and Wiggin’s follow-up book, Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis, they wield their sardonic brand of humor to expose the nation for what it really is - an empire built on delusions. Daily Reckoning readers can buy their copy of Empire of Debt at a discount - just click on the link below:

Empire of Debt http://www.dailyreckoning.com/empireofdebt.html

Real Heroes (Part One)

As a break from the cynicism and bad news often covered in this blog, I offer up an essay from Mr. Bill Bonner. I've been a subscriber and reader of many of the newsletters his firm offers and have profited from them many times over the years.

Without further ado, from Mr. Bonner's free daily email letter, The Daily Reckoning,

The Daily Reckoning PRESENTS: There are those who live life only for themselves, and then there are those who live to inspire life in others. In part one of this follow-up to his piece Real Heroes, Bill Bonner cites two major examples of what it means to truly live life to the fullest. Read on...

THE ‘JUSTES’ AND THE GOOD: MORE REAL HEROES, PART I
by Bill Bonner

“If everyone swept his own doorsteps, what a clean world it would be.”
-Goethe

There are so many obvious defects with the human character that even a hairdresser would be bored if we began reciting them.

But here we focus only on the two of them we find amusing today: He can’t seem to help himself from wanting to use his brain to improve the world, but when he puts himself to work on it, his brain ceases to function.

The defect begins to appear, acutely, when the typical Homo sapien reaches his teenage years. That is when his brain is sharp and active, but before it has been put in its place by experience. It still thinks it can solve any problem as though it were long division.

In a memoir from his youth, for example, a childhood friend of Adolph Hitler reported that the future Fuhrer would walk through the neighborhood and point out how he would improve things - change the color of one house...knock the columns off another...raise the roof on a third. But, rather than buy a house and try to realize his architectural ambitions, the young Hitler tried to change the face of the entire world.

And here, we bring in another defect - not of leaders, but of the common man. He is ready to go along with anything. In a few years, Germans were goose-stepping all over Europe, creating havoc and chaos...trying to impose Hitler’s clumsy new order.

“I remember it,” said a man we met yesterday. “I was there. And I wouldn’t be here today if it had not been for one of those people we call the ‘Justes.’”

Yes, dear reader, once again we write not about the many sordid bumblers in our midst, but about the few genuine heroes. Many of them were honored here in Paris yesterday, at a special ceremony of at the Pantheon.

When the Nazis revealed their plans for world improvement, the Jews discovered that there was no place for them in it. Many fled to France. Then, when the panzers rolled into Paris, they found that they had not gone far enough. The master race, with the active connivance of the French government, was soon rounding up the Jews and sending them back to Germany, either to work in labor camps...or to be exterminated.

Only a few people - the Justes - took it upon themselves to interfere.

“I was only three years old at the time,” explained our friend at lunch. “But my mother and father knew that they might be taken any day. We had friends who had a bar/hotel outside of Paris. They offered to take me. It was really very courageous of them, because they probably would have been sent to labor camps themselves - or even killed - if I was discovered. And the worst of it was that you had to hide...not just from the Germans, but also from your neighbors, because you never knew for sure who might denounce you to the Gestapo.

“So these people took me in and told everyone that I was their grandson...that I had been fathered by their son, who was a bit of a rake, and the mother had run off. If anyone asked me who my parents were, I was supposed to say I didn’t know.

“For a while, the Germans were camped in the yard of the hotel, with the officers in the rooms. They were actually very friendly. One of them gave me a bar of chocolate. But I was afraid to eat it because my mother had told me that the Germans might poison me. So I gave it to the dog and watched to see what happened. And the dog was fine...so I wished I had kept it for myself.

“Those were such funny times. But today, I’m going to the Pantheon. I’m a witness...a living witness...to how some people really do brave and courageous things, even when they have no real reason to. And you know, this is one thing from World War II...and maybe the only thing...we French can be really proud of.”

Yes, dear reader. There are people who do not try to improve the world, which is not only hopeless, but also vain and disastrous. Instead, real heroes do what they can to improve the world around them. Here, we honor a couple more of them.

In the United States, it costs about $1,650 to perform a cataract operation. You wouldn’t expect many such operations in a country such as India, where per capita income is probably less than $1000. But in India today, there are five hospitals that perform more than 180,000 eye operations each year. Each operation costs only about $110. Most of the patients pay nothing.

This is thanks to Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, who set up his first 12-bed Aravind eye hospital in his brother’s home in Madurai, in 1976. At the time, he was already 57 years old.

Dr. V set out to be an obstetrician. But he was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis at an early age. He spent two years recovering. Because he could no longer deliver babies, he turned to the study of ophthalmology, and designed special tools that suited his hands. He found that he could do eye operations simpler, faster and much cheaper than they had been done before.

The inspiration, he says, comes from McDonald’s. He first discovered the golden arches at the age of 55 and it changed his life.

“In America, there are powerful marketing devices to sell products like Coca-Cola and hamburgers,” he says. “All I want to sell is good eyesight, and there are millions of people who need it...If Coca-Cola can sell billions of sodas and McDonald’s can sell billions of burgers, why can’t Aravind sell millions of sight-restoring operations...? With sight, people could be freed from hunger, fear, and poverty.

“In the third world, a blind person is referred to as ‘a mouth without hands,’” says Dr. V. “He is detrimental to his family and to the whole village. But all he needs is a 10-minute operation. One week the bandages go on, the next week they go off. High bang for the buck. But people don’t realize that the surgery is available, or that they can afford it, because it’s free. We have to sell them first on the need.”

The hospital picks up the tab for those who can’t pay. Paying customers are charged 50 rupees (about $1) per consultation and have their choice of accommodations: “A-class” rooms ($3 per day), which are private; “B-class” rooms ($1.50 per day), in which a toilet is shared; or “C-class” rooms ($1 per day), essentially a mat on the floor. Paying customers choose between surgery with stitches ($110) and surgery without stitches ($120).

Since he began, his eye hospitals have restored the sight of more than one million people in India. Even with such tiny revenues per patient, Aravind makes a profit, with a gross margin of 40%. One operation is completed; another is begun right away. It is apparently a very efficient and productive enterprise.

Aravind now does more eye surgeries than any other provider in the world, though it accepts no government grants. The hospitals are totally self-supporting. Nor does Dr. V. try to hustle a profit from the enterprise for himself. He lives on a pension, taking no money out of Aravind.

Dr. V. is helping the poor in a big way. But he also helps them in a way very different from the typical world improver. He sees them as individuals.

“Consultants talk of ‘the poor,’” he says. “No one at Aravind does. ‘The poor’ is a vulgar term. Would you call Christ a poor man? To think of certain people as ‘the poor’ puts you in a superior position, blinds you to the ways in which you are poor - and in the West there are many such ways: emotionally and spiritually, for example. You have comforts in America, but you are afraid of each other.”

Dr. V set out only to do eye operations...quickly and cheaply. The world improvement came - as it always does - as a by-product of private action. In Tamil Nadu state, where his main hospital is located, the incidence of blindness is 20% below the rest of India.

Regards,

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning

Editor’s Note: Bill Bonner is the founder and editor of The Daily Reckoning. He is also the author, with Addison Wiggin, of The Wall Street Journal best seller Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of the 21st Century (John Wiley & Sons).

In Bonner and Wiggin’s follow-up book, Empire of Debt: The Rise of an Epic Financial Crisis, they wield their sardonic brand of humor to expose the nation for what it really is - an empire built on delusions. Daily Reckoning readers can buy their copy of Empire of Debt at a discount - just click on the link below:

Empire of Debt http://www.dailyreckoning.com/empireofdebt.html

Friday, February 16, 2007

Crack of Doom, UK Version

Let's play connect the dots today.

North Sea oil, gas production projected to decline
OIL Marketer
The UK Offshore Operators’ Association has released a report saying that oil and gas production from North Sea wells will be around 10 percent lower in the next few years than had been estimated earlier. Costs are expected to go up as production output declines.

While experts estimate that there is still the equivalent of 16 billion to 25 billion barrels of oil and gas left in North Sea oil fields, and despite the fact that 2006 was said to be the best year for new finds there in the past five years, old wells are beginning to run dry and new wells are smaller than the older wells. Recent finds have only been averaging around 10 million barrels equivalent.
The last two sentences sum up the reality of Peak Oil. Welcome to Hubbert's Peak. Glad you could join us.

Then we get this gem.

NEW NUCLEAR POWER PLANS 'UNLAWFUL'
by Rosa Prince, Political Correspondent, The Mirror

A GREENPEACE court victory threw plans to build more nuclear power stations into chaos yesterday.

A judge ruled the Government's six month public consultation was "seriously flawed" and "procedurally unfair".

Mr Justice Sullivan added: "Something has gone clearly and radically wrong".

And in a highly embarrassing move for the Government he threw out last July's decision to give the go-ahead to multibillion pound replacements for ageing nuclear plants, describing it as "unlawful".

Looks like they won't be building any new, efficient nuclear power plants any time soon in the U.K.

So let's see...

North Sea oil and gas is in the decline phase of its production curve.

More and more, Europe is relying on Russia for natural gas.

Major obstructions are being placed in the way of building new nuclear power plants in the U.K. for baseload electricity.

Options such as solar energy, tidal, wind and other alternatives, while worthwhile goals in my opinion, to date show zero ability to provide large amounts of reliable electricity so necessary in an industrialized society.

Wow. I guess the Brits should start requiring all students to learn Russian. They are going to be an energy colony of the Bear (also known as "Putin's Bitch") in the coming generation. Good job there guys.

Oh well, the last time the Brits inflicted a "Brain Drain" on themselves, the U.S. and Canada benefited from an influx of talented, motivated and bright individuals. When this cycle ends, Britain will be inhabited by Green Party morons (sorry for the redundancy) and sheep.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Remain Calm, All Is Well (Part Six)

The Housing Industry is fine. Really. Get out there and buy, buy, buy! This Gates guy is an idiot anyway. What does he know?

Gates Foundation unloads home builder shares
Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates has shed most of his investments in home builders, as revealed in a quarterly filing of the holdings of his charitable foundation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust showed a strong interest in the industry, according to a filing in November. It took stakes in at least seven home builders, only to quickly divest in those companies, according to a filing on Wednesday that disclosed the foundation's holdings as of December 31.

Subprime lenders collapsing left and right. Homebuilders tanking. House price appreciation slowing or turning into depreciation, depending on where you live. Don't worry, things are fine. It's the best economy in years.

Exclusivity vs. Inclusivity

Socionomics at work. As mood darkens, outsiders switch from being "diverse new members of the community" to some sort of threat. The Dear Leader of Ohio had this to say about El Jefe's plan to relocate Iraqi refugees to the U.S.:

Governor: Don't send Iraqi refugees to Ohio
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Gov. Ted Strickland on Wednesday had a message for President Bush: any plan to relocate thousands of refugees uprooted by the Iraq war to the United States shouldn't include Ohio.

The Bush administration plans to allow about 7,000 Iraqi refugees to settle in the United States over the next year.

There is mounting international pressure to help millions who have fled their homes in the nearly 4-year-old war.


Yeah, 7,000 Iraqis might completely flood Ohio and crash their social services network. I wonder what Dear Leader Strickland's position on illegal immigration from Mexico is?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Iran WarWatch (Part Four)

Looks like we'll be taking the "border incident" route in the upcoming war with Iran.

Iraq to shut borders with Iran and Syria
By Ross Colvin and Ibon Villelabeitia
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will shut its borders with Iran and Syria for 72 hours and extend the hours of a nightly curfew in Baghdad as part of a U.S.- backed plan to rein in unrelenting violence, an official said on Tuesday.The new measures were announced during another day of violence in the Iraqi capital in which a suicide bomber blew up a lorry rigged with explosives near a Baghdad college, killing 18 people just a day after bomb blasts ripped apart two crowded city markets.

Next, we should expect a "clash" in Baghdad with "operatives of the Iranian Qods Force" and a massive seizure of "Iranian" weapons. There should be a shooting or two at border checkpoints, more "Iranian-supplied shaped charges" and maybe a big Shiite-on-Sunni death squad killing that gets tied back to Iran.

After that, say in early-to-mid-March, expect a naval clash in the Persian Gulf and then we should see the firestorm engulf the region.

Now, something to keep in mind - socionomic theory states that if we are going to experience a significant backlash from such a war (should it occur), then the markets need to be in a significant downtrend. This is not happening at the moment. If you see the markets take a serious dive, let that be a fire alarm for you. Mood will be trending deep into negative territory. War will follow in it wake.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Ultimate Black Swan

In the financial world a Black Swan is the occurrence of an unexpected or highly unlikely event. Something like the 1987 Stock Market Crash or a Victoria's Secret Model going out on a date with me back in my single days.

Quietly, over in Ireland, the Mother of All Black Swans may be hatching. I say may be, because if this turns out to be true, then one of the main tenets of physics will have been overturned and the blowback that follows will reshape the world.

Steorn, Ltd. claims to have developed a technology that allows you to build a device that produces more energy than is used to run the machine.

Yes, free energy.

The Skeptic is conducting a mild war against The Techno-Optimist inside my brain at the moment. Steorn claims they'll release results of a third-party evaluation soon and open the technology for licensing. If this somehow turns out to NOT be fraudulent, then we now have a hammerblow to the current world economic system that would seem to dovetail nicely with Elliott Wave International's call for an historic collapse in sentiment and mood, taking markets and social cohesion along with it.

Imagine, for just a moment, some of the follow-along effects of a device that can generate electricity for you, for just the cost of buying the device:

1. The applicance battery industry - dead

2. The storage battery industry (to store what I assume will be a tiny trickle of excess electricity) - thriving beyond belief

3. The small generator business - dead

4. Major power utility stock prices - crushed

5. Jobs to keep the massive electricity grid infrastructure up and running - gone

6. Your home as your castle - substantially upgraded, as you now don't need the power company. Time to switch to all-electric.

7. Users of small electronic devices - ectstatic

8. Effects on 4th Generation Warfare and the ability of small groups to effectively wage war against centralized government - off the charts.

9. The socionomic effects of this technology would be astounding. Small groups would be able to implement violence and provide basic services for themselves - another incentive to the breakdown of the centralized welfare state.

I'll keep an eye on this. 99% chance it is fraud, but if the 1% hits, then boys and girls, it is a Brave New World.

Iran WarWatch (Part Three)

You may have heard about the "dossier" on Iranian support for insurgents that are attacking U.S. forces in Iraq. Click here to link over to the Iraqslogger site and check out the dossier yourself.

BTW, Iraqslogger is a great place to go for some unvarnished news out of Iraq.

The Eisenhower is currently on watch in the Persian Gulf neighborhood. The Stennis is a few weeks out.

If we are following the 2003 script, I would expect a border skirmish between Iranian and "Iraqi" forces and/or a major terrorist attack and/or a U.N. performance by Condi or someone of her level.

Stay tuned.

Remain Calm, All Is Well (Part Five)

Mr. DiLuccia has just summed up the coming Great Credit Crunch in the first paragraph of this article published in the Auburn Journal:

Defaults up as home prices fall in Placer County
Fourth quarter sees notices signalling foreclosure process rise 262.4 percent over 2005
By Andrew DiLuccia, Journal Real Estate Editor

There you are, living in the house of your dreams. It cost you $500,000, but you're only paying $1,100 a month after you 100-percent financed your home with an interest-only pay-option adjustable rate mortgage, known as an ARM. Then the market changes.

Your completely financed home, after the market has cooled, is now going to cost you almost $4,000 a month for your mortgage. Welcome to the world of some of Placer County's residents.

According to DataQuick Information Systems' latest report, default notices, the first step in the foreclosure process, have risen 262.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006 in the county, exploding from 149 notices in the fourth quarter of 2005 to 540 in 2006. Placer's rise is the second highest increase in the state, according to the La Jolla-based real estate statistics research firm.

It's right there. As good an explanation of a driver for deflation as has ever been penned. It's straight out of mortgage lending 101:

People take out credit, lured by dreams of getting rich without working and by the "research" of their Real Estate Broker.

A market fueled by cheap money and easy lending suddenly turns around either due to higher interest rates or, as in this case, tighter lending standards and affordability constrains further price advances.


The value of the underlying asset drops. People's loan amounts do NOT drop.


They can't pay.


Welcome to the Great Bear Market

Climate Again

There may be no need for Branson and Gore to award their climate prize after all. They may just have to wait until after the big solar max due in 2011-2012.

From the Times Online out of the U.K.:

‘Blame cosmic rays not CO2 for warming up the planet’
Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

The impact of cosmic rays on the climate could be greater than scientists suspect after xperiments showed they may have a pivotal role in cloud formation. Researchers have managed to replicate the effect of cosmic rays on the aerosols in the atmosphere that help to reate clouds. Henrik Svensmark, a weather scientist in Denmark, said the experiments suggested that man’s influence on global warming might be rather less than was supposed by the bulk of scientific opinion.

Cosmic rays — radiation, or particles of energy, from stars, which bombard the Earth — can create electrically charged ions in the atmosphere that act as a magnet for water vapour, causing clouds to form.

Dr Svensmark suggests that the Sun, at a historically high level of activity, is deflecting many of the cosmic rays away from Earth and thus reducing the cloud cover...

Friday, February 9, 2007

Climate Prize Winner

From Bloomberg this morning:

Gore, Branson, Set Greenhouse Gas-Reduction Prize
By Alex Morales and Elliott Gotkine

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and British billionaire Richard Branson announced a $25 million prize for scientists who can devise a way to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and help combat global warming.

Branson, founder of Virgin Group Ltd., will award the Virgin Earth Challenge prize money to anyone who develops technology capable of removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases at the rate of one billion tons a year. Gore will be a member of a panel of judges that makes the award. The two made the announcement at a press conference in London.

Build more nuclear power plants. Ramp up work in South Africa on Pebble Bed Modular Reactors, build those big AP-1000's for major industrial centers and we in the U.S. start recycling used fuel rods.

I just won $25 million!

Party at my place when the check clears.

Why do I suspect these eco-ideologues won't go for my radical plan?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Remain Calm, All Is Well (Part Four)

That wet, slapping sound you hear is a huge bull turd hitting the fan.

Sub-prime gloom picks up after HSBC warning
No. 3 bank sparks fears for lenders; charge will be 20% higher than expected

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- HSBC Holdings, the world's third-largest bank and one of the most aggressive players in the U.S. market for low-quality mortgages, has sent a chill through the financial world with news that its bad-debt charges will be 20% higher than forecast.

HSBC is the largest, but not the first, lender to warn that higher interest rates in the United States are starting to take a toll on borrowers -- especially those with poor credit -- who bought homes using mortgages with low introductory rates during the real-estate boom. That trend has spelled trouble for many homeowners who believed the rising value of real-estate markets would enable them to refinance their mortgages after a year or two into fixed-rate loans before rates climbed.

Down This Winding Road

The postings in this blog are based on a major premise – that the Western world hit an all-time “top” in early 2000 and that the coming decades (for at least the rest of my life) will be a bear market in social interaction, markets, government and international relations. Chaos, destruction, agonizing and drawn-out low-grade wars and the atomization of loyalties will replace the long, 500 year upswing in empire, big governments and decisive warfare.

Like a wildfire that burns a forest to the ground, paving the way for new growth, this coming firestorm will raze the familiar world of our fathers to the ground and grind their foundations to dust.

Using the theory of socionomics, I hope to be able to find a road in the fog and avoid if I can the big blow-ups that will rock communities all across the globe.

That in mind – what “flavors” will this coming collapse have? Here are some high points, to be expanded on in the future:

1. Environmentalism. I think this will be a huge driver in the coming years as climate change begins to affect every political and social debate and discussion. The fact that I am of the opinion that the vast majority of climate change can be traced back to fluctuations in solar energy output, not human activity, is irrelevant here. Most folks think that people and industry are the prime culprits. This is understandable. You need villains to blame to make yourself feel righteous and if you can pretend there are actual steps you can take to mitigate “Global Warming – EEEEEEEEEKKK!” then it also makes folks feel better, as well as giving plenty of fodder for demagogues.

Get ready for the age of the radical Green. Look to Iraq right now for what small groups of motivated individuals willing to die for God (or Gaia, in the future) can do.

2. Peak Oil. As discussed in earlier entries, Peak Oil is a geologic fact (in my opinion). I also believe that if you leave human beings free to create and experiment, alternatives will be found to petroleum fuels. The world will look very different, but people will still travel. The hype and panic that Peak Oil can cause emotionally is more important than the geologic facts. End of the World. Everything going dark. Famine as tractors grind to a halt all across the globe. The Evil Rich using ethanol for their Beemers while the Noble Poor starve for lack of corn in their bellies. Etc.

Again, a great mental “hook” to place blame and destroy knowledge and productivity – activities that will seem a good idea when negative mood truly gets entrained. You want to grow some algae for biodiesel? That might be “unsustainable” – and you might find your equipment wrecked and your algae pond drained. Combined with rabid Green ideology, science may have to go underground…

3. Technology Makes War Far Less Decisive. I need a short acronym, so I guess calling attention to 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) works just as well. In short – a critical mass of cheap, effective communications (internet, radios, satellite phones, cell phones, etc.) combined with “brains” for bombs (microchips for either guidance of ordnance or remote detonations) make small groups quite able to destroy infrastructure and wreck stability. Sending in huge armies to “conquer” countries will be met with a resistance that doesn’t stand up and “fight fair” but one that will focus on water, power and fuel distribution nodes, most of which are very vulnerable to attack. I won’t go into details here. If you can’t see how truly vulnerable most infrastructure is to attack, then continue smoking that crack pipe.

Indecisive wars means weak central authorities. It means locals having to rely on the clan, or the tribe or the village. Bigger allegiances become a net negative burden, not the positive influence that we’ve seen over the last 500 years in the Western World. Hello walled cities, high tariffs and a very strong us-versus-them mentality.

These three factors will color the local and international scene for years to come. The consequences should be brutal in most places. Those localities or countries that can keep some sense of cohesion, that can keep the lights on and avoid the death of science – they will be fortified islands in a storm, isolated lamps in an oppressive darkness, until the day comes for the light to spread across the globe once again.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Softer Side of Nuclear Power

I'm pro-nuclear power for a lot of reasons - sustainable energy, the ability to recycle the wastes and not spew it into the atmosphere, the cool blue glow off the core. Now, the Russians, of all people, have given me an even better reason to be pro-nuke.

Nuclear firm mixes power and beauty
MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - For many, the words Russia and nuclear conjure up fear and loathing. But Russia's state nuclear company Rosatom sees only beauty.

The search for Rosatom's fourth-consecutive Miss Atom has started from among women working in nuclear energy in the former Soviet Union. Miss Atom 2007 will be crowned in March after a public Internet vote.

The winner will waltz off with a full-length mink fur coat, the http://miss2007.nuclear.ru/ official Web site says.

This has serious potential. We could start a reality TV show, "Critical Mass," in which thousands of Russian babes try out for the final contest. They could do a runway show in those sweet yellow anti-contamination suits and lay out in bikinis by the spent fuel pool.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Iran WarWatch (Part Two)

And for those of you scoring at home, here are some useful links to help illustrate the Iran/Persian Gulf/Southwest Asia region. These links were posted by "alastair" over in the Stratfor Iran Forum. Thanks to alastair for compiling them:

1. Geographic, population density and ethnic diversity maps from the BBC (with layers showing main road and rail links, and some key nuclear sites), available here.

2. A more detailed ethnic divisions map is available here.

3. Detailed map of the Strait of Hormuz available here.

4. Key petroleum sector sites (2004) including oil and gas fields, oil and gas processing facilities and pipelines, available here.

5. Southern Caspian energy prospects map available here.

6. Iranian rail network (1999), available here.

7. A general map of Iran with roads etc. overlaid on a terrain map, available here.

8. Detailed locational information (latitude and longitude) of known Iranian special weapons facilities, from the FAS, available here. The same sort of thing from GlobalSecurity.org is here.

9. Map showing theoretical maximum ranges of Iranian missiles (from the FAS again), available here.

Iran WarWatch (Part One)

I've been of two minds on whether Bush 43 plans to really execute a war against Iran. I personally despise the mullahs, but believe that an attack on Iran could easily spiral out of control and leave a situation that does not favor U.S. national interests. I've gone back and forth and read a lot interesting views over in Stratfor's Forums (worth checking out).

Over the past several years, I'd assumed that beating the war drums was a ploy to keep Iran "in line" with regards to Iraq. It appeared to work. No Iranian-sponsored attacks against U.S. interests have occurred over the past 7 years, and Iran seemed to take a firm hand against Al Qaeda and had not appeared to be stirring the pot in Afghanistan.

Now, with two carrier groups headed towards the Persian Gulf, and more support ships following, it looks like the administration may be kicking it up a notch.

Here are the issues, problems and assumptions, as I see them:
  1. Bush 43 assumes that attacking Iran will do more good than harm to the U.S. position in both Iraq and the Gulf (Bahrain, Saudi, etc.) and that any hiccups caused by such an attack (a spike in oil prices, for instance) will be short-lived and that the end will justify the means.
  2. There is apparently a further assumption that Iranian anti-ship missile capabilities are sufficiently weak that it makes sense to put carrier groups in a boxed-in littoral region like the Persian Gulf.
  3. More assumptions: That Revolutionary Guards units and Iranian agents in Iraq cannot foment enough chaos to materially damage the U.S. presence in Iraq, that supply lines will remain intact from Kuwait to Baghdad, that there will be insufficient anti-air capabilities to harm air travel, especially choppers, in a significant way and in general that hitting Iran will cause enough chaos there that either the mullahs will be overthrown or that at the least they won't be able to prosecute much of a war against U.S. forces.

Again, while I despise the mullahs, in my opinion, attacking Iran will be the height of folly.

Why?

Iran relies heavily on petroleum exports. They are in the decline phase of their output. This means the potential for a crash in revenues over the next 5-10 years. No cash, no money to pay a bloated and corrupt government sector. This crash in revenues will make the mullahs even more hated and the overthrow that takes them down will be organic - not the CIA-sponsored whacking of Mossadegh that poisoned U.S.-Iranian relations for years. We have a chance to rebuild relations on a positive footing.

Also, it is my strong opinion that attacking Iran will lead to massive chaos and danger to the U.S. position in Iraq. As the Hezbollah-Israel Summer War showed, a low-tech and dispersed force, when prepared properly, can resist a high-tech ground and air assault.

The Revolutionary Guards, who certainly have agents posted all through the Shia regions of Iraq, would spring into action at the drop of the first bomb on Natanz. They would need to cut or at least heavily restrict supply lines from Kuwait and bring better anti-air capabilities to the war. If they focused on Iraq while their home country was being bombed (and why wouldn't they - there's nothing they can do to realistically stop a U.S. or U.S.-Israel air and missle campaign) they could quite possibly change the political equation in the U.S. All they would have to do would be to isolate one of the Fort Apaches the U.S. has set up there and overrun it. That would not be an easy task, but if they cut supplies, even for a week, then it become a possibility. Once the TVs light up with pictures of an overrun U.S. base, Bush 43 would almost certainly be faced with Congressional attacks on the policy.

While the ground war goes on - the key wildcard would be the naval war. Is Iranian anti-ship weaponry of sufficient quality and quantity to shut the Straits of Hormuz for any length of time, or to sink a major U.S. vessel? There's no way to know at this point - but the potential is there, especially when U.S. ships are forced into the (relatively) tiny box of the Persian Gulf.

The consequences of major damage to U.S. forces bears thinking about. We HAVE to plan better this time, if Bush 43 decides we must go to war against Iran. No more of this "greeting us as liberators" bullshit. No more half-ass "plans" for reconstruction.

I'm just not sure this president and more importantly, his staff, is up to the task. More to come as the situation unravels.