Wednesday, February 29, 2012

U.S. Privatized Welfare State

"The U.S. does not have a significantly smaller welfare state than the European nations. We’re just better at hiding it. The Europeans provide welfare provisions through direct government payments. We do it through the back door via tax breaks.        

"For example, in Europe, governments offer health care directly. In the U.S., we give employers a gigantic tax exemption to do the same thing. European governments offer public childcare. In the U.S., we have child tax credits. In Europe, governments subsidize favored industries. We do the same thing by providing special tax deductions and exemptions for everybody from ethanol producers to NASCAR track owners.

"These tax expenditures are hidden but huge. Budget experts added up all the spending-like tax preferences and found that, in 2007, they amounted to $600 billion. If you had included those preferences as government spending, then the federal government would have actually been one-fifth larger than it appeared."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Iran's Major Nuclear Sites Are...

If the U.S. attacks Iran, the following 4 major nuclear sites will be highest on the 'strike list':
1) the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and at Fordo;
2) the heavy water water reactor at Arak; and,
3) the yellow-cake conversion plant at Isfaham.

In order to hit them would involve the use of at least 100 planes (including tankers for mid-air fueling) to hit multiple targets a thousand miles away. They'd most likely fly over Iraq because Iraq has no air defenses and the United States no longer has the obligation to defend Iraqi air space. Penetrating the deeply buried Natanz and Fordo sites might be the biggest hurdle unless the U.S. provides Israel with the 30,000 pound "Massive Ordinance Penetrator" that was specifically designed for use against Iran and North Korea.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Korean Novellas: "Boys Over Flowers" & more

"Boys Over Flowers" is an excellent South Korean 'romantic drama' television series (25 one hour episodes that has a meaningful and happy ending). If you watch the first episode and like it, you'll be hooked. Before you finish the series, even the most stoic of persons will have experienced deep soulful emotions. It's what I'd call a well written "Korean Novella".

Plot: Shinwa School is a school for rich people, attended by Junpyo (the heir of the global corporation Shin Hwa Group),  Jihu, Yijeong, and Woobin / who form a 'gang' called F4. Junpyo, the leader of F4, is the main ruffian.

Female student, Jandi, who is not from rich family, ends up attending Shinwa School when she saves a boy from jumping off the rooftop and is given a scholarship to quiet down all the publicity the incident has caused. The entire school worships the F4 except for Jandi. However, she holds a certain soft spot for Jihu, who appears to be different from the other three. Jandi finally speaks up against F4 to defend her friend, Minji. From then on, she becomes Junpyo's main rival. Almost every time Jandi is bullied, she is helped by Jihu in some way. Jandi and Junpyo's rivalry intensifies, but at the same time it is a source of amusement for him as Jandi has now caught his attention.

The story develops and Junpyo slowly starts falling for Jandi. On the other hand, Jandi's attention is on Jihu, her savior, but ultimately, as the story progresses, her heart is with Junpyo.....
It's viewable from many sources because of its high ratings. To watch online:
NOTE: Make sure your computer's ad blocker's in place.

If you like the above, then also consider:
Coffee Prince---

Attic Cat ---

What Planet Are You From?, also known as What Star Are You From?:

My Lovely Samsoon ---

Also, a really good one --
The Greatest Love:

I Am A Flower Too --

Couple or Trouble:


The Secret Lover:

Two Outs in the Ninth Inning:

Queen of Reversals:

Dandelion Family (50 episodes): 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Strait of Hormuz Shootout?

Reality: If the Iranians block the Strait of Hormuz, the United States will initiate a broad military offensive against specific targets in Iran -- conversely, if the U.S. or Israel bombs Iran's nuclear facilities, Iran will block the narrow strip of water separating Iran from Oman.

Question: What will happen if Iran merely says that they've mined the Strait of Hormuz? It'd be enough to stop all big oil tanker traffic. But would this trigger a U.S./Israeli military response simply because we might be looking for a justifiable cause to bomb their nuclear facilities?

To better understand this, read:
The Week Weekly Magazine:

Strait of Hormuz

YouTube (03:11)
A Threat Assessment in the Strait of Hormuz

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Iranian Clients & Our Best Approach???

"The alliance with Syria is the centerpiece of Iran's expanding sphere of influence... such as Iranian armed and directed Hezbollah, now the dominant power in Lebanon; and Hamas, which controls Gaza and threatens to take the rest of Palestine (the West Bank) from a feeble Fatah. Additionally, Iran exerts growing pressure on Afghanistan to the east and growing influence in Iraq to the west. Tehran has even extended its horizon to Latin America.

"Of all these clients, Syria is the most important. It's the only Arab state openly allied with non-Arab Iran. This is significant because the Arabs see the Persians as having had centuries-old designs to dominate the Middle East. Indeed, Iranian arms and trainers, transshipped to Hezbollah through Syria, have given the Persians their first outpost on the Mediterranean in 2,300 years.

"But the Arab-Iranian divide is not just national/ethnic. It is sectarian. The Arabs are overwhelmingly Sunni. Iran is Shiite. The Arab states fear Shiite Iran infiltrating the Sunni homeland through (apart from Iraq) Hezbollah in Lebanon, and through Syria, run by Assad's Alawites, a heterodox offshoot of Shiism.

"Which is why the fate of the Assad regime is geopolitically crucial. It is, of course, highly significant for reasons of democracy and human rights as well. Syrian Baathism, while not as capricious and deranged as the Saddam Hussein variant, runs a ruthless police state that once killed 20,000 in Hama, and has now killed more than 5,400 during the current uprising.

"Human rights -- decency -- is reason enough to do everything we can to bring down Assad. But strategic opportunity compounds the urgency. With its archipelago of clients anchored by Syria, Iran is today the greatest regional threat -- to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states terrified of Iranian nuclear hegemony; to traditional regimes menaced by Iranian jihadist subversion; to Israel, which the Islamic republic has pledged to annihilate; to America and the West, whom the mullahs have vowed to drive from the region.

"No surprise that the Arab League, many of whose members are no tenderhearted humanitarians, is pressing hard for Assad's departure. His fall would deprive Iran of an intra-Arab staging area and sever its corridor to the Mediterranean. Syria would return to the Sunni fold. Hezbollah, Tehran's agent in Lebanon, could be next, withering on the vine without Syrian support and Iranian materiel. And Hamas would revert to Egyptian patronage.

"At the end of this causal chain, Iran, shorn of key allies and already reeling from economic sanctions over its nuclear program, would be thrown back on its heels. The mullahs are already shaky enough to be making near-suicidal threats of blocking the Strait of Hormuz. The population they put down in the 2009 Green Revolution is still seething. The regime is particularly reviled by the young. And its increasing attempts to shore up Assad financially and militarily have only compounded anti-Iranian feeling in the region.

"It's not just the Sunni Arabs lining up against Assad. Turkey, after a recent flirtation with a Syrian-Iranian-Turkish entente, has turned firmly against Assad, seeing an opportunity to extend its influence, as in Ottoman days, as protector/master of the Sunni Arabs. The alignment of forces suggests a unique opportunity for the West to help finish the job.

"How? First, a total boycott of Syria, beyond just oil and including a full arms embargo.... Third, a Security Council resolution calling for the removal of the Assad regime. Russia, Assad's last major outside ally, should be forced to either accede or incur the wrath of the Arab states with a veto....

"Make clear American solidarity with the Arab League against a hegemonic Iran and its tottering Syrian client. In diplomacy, one often has to choose between human rights and strategic advantage. This is a rare case where we can advance both..."

Map of Hellenistic World:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Movie: Jodhaa Akbar

I recently watched an excellent Hindi foreign film entitled "Jodhaa Akbar". Though the description is that it's a "sixteenth century love story about a marriage of alliance that gave birth to true love between a great Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodhaa", it's much more than that. What I most appreciated was the spiritual awareness that though "the paths to God may be many, the Light is One". Or, as my paternal grandfather believed -- Different religions may think that theirs is the one true god, but there is only One God.

The movie very clearly shows what made Emperor Akbar a historically very great leader very much worth emulating. If you are aware of today's events in India and Pakistan, you'll especially appreciate what this movie brings to the international scene -- and why some in India were upset by it.

The movie is 209 minutes long -- and I'd have enjoyed it if it'd been even longer. I rented it via Netflix, but I think it's available online for free.

NYTimes Review:
..."they may not make 'em like they used to in Hollywood, but sometimes in India they still do..."

Official Trailer: