Steinweg in India

terminalSteinweg-Sharaf (India) Private Limited has successfully obtained its own ‘Holding Certificate’ for warehousing cargo at the Free Trade warehousing Zone (FTWZ) at Panvel near Nhava Sheva, Mumbai. This means that as from now, Steinweg can have full control over shipments into the FTWZ and from there its customers can decide to sell either to local Indian buyers situated in the Domestic Tariff Area ( DTA) or re-export the goods from FTWZ to other countries.

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Much Bigger Than The Shutdown: Niall Ferguson’s Public Flogging Of Paul Krugman

by Ralph Benko

KrugmanWhile America was distracted by the theatrics of the government shutdown and threat of default something of much greater importance occurred.  Niall Ferguson undertook a public flogging of Paul Krugman.

Krugman’s horns now forever will show under his dislodged faux halo. For this the world will prove a safer, and much more decent, place.

Niall Ferguson — Harvard professor (and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution fellow, and Jesus College, Oxford, Senior Research Fellow) — launched a Continue reading “Much Bigger Than The Shutdown: Niall Ferguson’s Public Flogging Of Paul Krugman”

U.S. Foreign Policy from the Founders’ Perspective

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanLast week I discussed how the Founding Fathers might view the American debt crisis and the government shutdown. This week I thought it would be useful to consider how the founders might view foreign policy. I argued that on domestic policy they had clear principles, but unlike their ideology, those principles were never mechanistic or inflexible. For them, principles dictated that a gentleman pays his debts and does not casually increase his debts, the constitutional provision that debt is sometimes necessary notwithstanding. They feared excessive debt and abhorred nonpayment, but their principles were never completely rigid.

Whenever there is a discussion of the guidelines laid down by the founders for American foreign policy, Thomas Jefferson’s admonition to avoid foreign entanglements and alliances is seen as the founding principle. That seems reasonable to me inasmuch as George Washington expressed a similar sentiment. So while there were some who favored France over Britain during the French Revolutionary Wars, the main thrust of American foreign policy was neutrality. The question is: How does this principle guide the United States now? Continue reading “U.S. Foreign Policy from the Founders’ Perspective”

The Government Shutdown as The Cruz ‘Crisis’: Dangerous Opportunity

by Ralph Benko

GOP_Logo1_svgThe government “shutdown” properly should be called “the Cruz Crisis.” This indeed is a crisis in the Chinese nuanced sense.

The Chinese character, weiji, usually is translated  “dangerous opportunity.” Actually it means “precarious pivot  point.”  That describes perfectly where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) stands… and has pushed the Republican Party.  Ted Cruz has made himself the point  man for the whole, melodramatic, government “shutdown.”  It is part of  his high stakes play for the presidency driven by, those who know him  say, an admixture of ambition and idealism. Continue reading “The Government Shutdown as The Cruz ‘Crisis’: Dangerous Opportunity”

The 1% that Can Fix the State

by Ralph Benko

GOP_Logo1_svg“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.”

– Ernest Hemingway, Notes on the Next War: A Serious Topical Letter

The transition from total war to world peace will go a lot faster if you, dear Reader, recognize and own your own power. Own it and participate.

Without the reality, or a credible threat, of total war, Big Government loses its existential justification.

We — including you — created the Big Government for very good reasons. Now, for very good reasons, we are going to dismantle it. Continue reading “The 1% that Can Fix the State”

The U.S. Debt Crisis from the Founders’ Perspective

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanThe U.S. government is paralyzed, and we now face the possibility that the United States will default on its debt. Congress is unable to resolve the issue, and President Obama is as obstinate as the legislators who oppose him. To some extent, our political system is functioning as intended — the Founding Fathers meant for it to be cumbersome. But as they set out to form a more perfect union, they probably did not anticipate the extent to which we have been able to cripple ourselves.

Striving for ineffectiveness seems counterintuitive. But there was a method to the founders’ madness, and we first need to consider their rationale before we apply it to the current dilemma afflicting Washington. Continue reading “The U.S. Debt Crisis from the Founders’ Perspective”

The Republican Civil War: A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

By Ralph Benko

GOP_Logo1_svgOpen warfare has broken out inside the GOP (the Grand Old Party – the Republicans, ed) between Tea Party  Insurgents and the Republican Party Regulars.  It revolves around  tactics, more than policy.  It’s an old-fashioned power struggle.

The Insurgents’ protagonist is charismatic freshman U.S. Senator Ted  Cruz. Behind him are a handful of powerful Insurgent leaders. Insurgent  leaders need political boots on the ground.  They’ve got them.  Their  most important generalissimo is Jim DeMint, with his ability to direct Heritage Action.  Also important is the Tea Party Patriots’  Jenny Beth Martin.  On the equally important money side there is  FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth.  Together these command  potentially huge sums on behalf of potential primary challengers. Continue reading “The Republican Civil War: A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand”

The Roots of the Government Shutdown

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanIn general, Stratfor deals with U.S. domestic politics only to the extent that it affects international affairs. Certainly, this topic has been argued and analyzed extensively. Nevertheless, the shutdown of the American government is a topic that must be understood from our point of view, because it raises the issue of whether the leading global power is involved in a political crisis so profound that it is both losing its internal cohesion and the capacity to govern. If that were so, it would mean the United States would not be able to act in global affairs, and that in turn would mean that the international system would undergo a profound change. I am not interested in the debate over who is right. I am, however, interested in the question of what caused this shutdown, and ultimately what it tells us about the U.S. capacity to act.

That is one reason to address it. A broader reason to address it is to understand why the leading global power has Continue reading “The Roots of the Government Shutdown”

U.S. and Iranian Realities

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanU.S. President Barack Obama called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week  in the first such conversation in the 34 years since the establishment of the  Islamic Republic. The phone call followed tweets and public statements on both  sides indicating a willingness to talk. Though far from an accommodation between  the two countries, there are reasons to take this opening seriously — not only  because it is occurring at such a high level, but also because there is now a  geopolitical logic to these moves. Many things could go wrong, and given that  this is the Middle East, the odds of failure are high. But Iran is weak and the United States is  avoiding conflict, and there are worse bases for a deal. Continue reading “U.S. and Iranian Realities”

The Gold Standard is no fairy tale

by Ralph Benko

gold-standard-liberty-coinOnce upon a time — September 17th — Reuters published a delightfully preposterous blunderbuss of a blog. It served up a one-sided attack on conservatives.  It did so as part of what it calls The Great Debate. Well, a debate has two sides. This was A Great Soliloquy.

Here’s the side Reuters declined to publish.

The very distinguished author of that blog, Prof. Charles Postel, author of The Populist Vision, purported to tell his readers why conservatives spin fairytales about the gold standard. The good  professor manages to defame both conservatives and the gold standard.  He, subtly, misrepresents even fairy tales. And he did not deliver the  goods. Continue reading “The Gold Standard is no fairy tale”

As the Fed Turns 100, Currency Reform Gains Currency

by Ralph Benko

fedWe approach, on December 23rd, the centenary of the Federal Reserve System.  This anniversary has not gone unnoticed.

The nearly million-strong, militantly Jeffersonian, Campaign for Liberty — the classical liberal counterpart to MoveOn.org — is using the occasion to press for an audit of the Fed as championed in the Senate by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky).

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is calling for a  Congressional commission to study the real world effect of various Fed  policies over its century-long history.  This may be more pragmatical —  yet no less incisive.  Both previous Congressionally-impelled monetary  reforms were impelled by a commission.  The Centennial Monetary  Commission, HR 1176, sponsored by Joint Economic Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), continues to pick up momentum. Continue reading “As the Fed Turns 100, Currency Reform Gains Currency”

The U.S.-European Relationship, Then and Now

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanI am writing this from Greece, having spent the past week in Europe and having moved among various capitals. Most discussions I’ve had in my travels concern U.S. President Barack Obama’s failure to move decisively against Syria and how Russian President Vladimir Putin outmatched him. Of course, the Syrian intervention had many aspects, and one of the most important ones, which was not fully examined, was what it told us about the state of U.S.-European relations and of relations among European countries. This is perhaps the most important question on the table.

We have spoken of the Russians, but for all the flash in their Syria performance, they are economically and militarily weak — something they would change if they had the means to do so. It is Europe, taken as a whole, that is the competitor for the United States. Its economy is still slightly larger than the United States’, and its military is weak, though unlike Russia this is partly by design. Continue reading “The U.S.-European Relationship, Then and Now”

How a small band of heroes saved the internet and how Hollywood is trying to pirate it again, Part II

By Ralph Benko

Continued from last week.

HollywoodTwo years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations can cope with).  There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it.

The second part of this two-part column reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time.  And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.

The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in the eyes of the big Internet companies — unstoppable.  According to Seamus Kraft, a former Congressional aide intimately involved with stopping the attempted hijacking: Continue reading “How a small band of heroes saved the internet and how Hollywood is trying to pirate it again, Part II”

Strategy, Ideology and the Close of the Syrian Crisis

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanIt is said that when famed Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich heard of the death of the Turkish ambassador, he said, “I wonder what he meant by that?” True or not, serious or a joke, it points out a problem of diplomacy. In searching for the meaning behind every gesture, diplomats start to regard every action merely as a gesture. In the past month, the president of the United States treated the act of bombing Syria as a gesture intended to convey meaning rather than as a military action intended to achieve some specific end. This is the key to understanding the tale that unfolded over the past month.

When President Barack Obama threatened military action in retaliation for what he claimed was the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, he intended a limited strike that would not destroy the weapons. Destroying them all from the air would require widespread air attacks over an extensive period of time, and would risk releasing the chemicals into the atmosphere. The action also was not intended to destroy Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime. Continue reading “Strategy, Ideology and the Close of the Syrian Crisis”

TU Delft, Royal HaskoningDHV and Iv-Infra explore Houston storm barrier

texasfloodbarrierExactly five years ago Hurricane Ike caused enormous damage in and around Houston and Galveston in the US state of Texas. With more than $38 billion in damage and over 100 deaths, Ike ranks third in the list of the costliest hurricanes in US history. But it could have been a lot worse. With more than two million inhabitants, Houston is not only the fourth largest city in the United States, it is also the centre of the oil and gas industry. The Port of Houston fulfils a crucial economic role and generates around $178 million in revenues each year. Given the vulnerability of the area, it is a question of when rather than whether the city will again be hit by a major hurricane. This makes good coastal defences essential. The Dutch Delft University of Technology, Royal HaskoningDHV and Iv Infra are exploring possible designs for a storm surge barrier off the coast of Houston. Continue reading “TU Delft, Royal HaskoningDHV and Iv-Infra explore Houston storm barrier”

How the internet was saved from Being Hijacked: Now Beware SOPA 2.0

By Ralph Benko

HollywoodTwo years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations could cope with).  There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it. We should care.

This two-part column reveals an untold part of the story about how the bad guys were stopped last time.  And, if not stopped again, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.

The perversely named “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) itself may have been the most brazen attempted act of piracy in all recorded history.  Truth in Legislation would have required it to be named the “Ultimate Act of Online Piracy.”  Enactment effectively would have pirated the World Wide Web from a common space and converted it into the private preserve of the Big Entertainment Lobby.

The Plot to steal the Internet was foiled.  It was foiled by an “Irresistible Force” — public opinion, rallied by a twenty-something Freedom Fighter, Aaron Swartz, now dead. Continue reading “How the internet was saved from Being Hijacked: Now Beware SOPA 2.0”

Syria, America and Putin’s Bluff

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanIn recent weeks I’ve written about U.S. President Barack Obama’s bluff on Syria and the tightrope he is now walking on military intervention. There is another bluff going on that has to be understood, this one from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin is bluffing that Russia has emerged as a major world power. In reality, Russia is merely a regional power, but mainly because its periphery is in shambles. He has tried to project a strength that that he doesn’t have, and he has done it well. For him, Syria poses a problem because the United States is about to call his bluff, and he is not holding strong cards. To understand his game we need to start with the recent G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Putin and Obama held a 20-minute meeting there that appeared to be cold and inconclusive. The United States seems to be committed to some undefined military action in Syria, and the Russians are vehemently opposed. The tensions showcased at the G-20 between Washington and Moscow rekindled memories of the Cold War, a time when Russia was a global power. And that is precisely the mood Putin wanted to create. That’s where Putin’s bluff begins. Continue reading “Syria, America and Putin’s Bluff”

Conservatism, Texas style: Latinos are making their home in a welcoming Republican Party

by Ralph Benko

texas flagThe political stakes could hardly be higher.

Latinos, who have leaned Democratic, demographically are surging in Texas. And if the Democrats can turn Texas blue (or even purple) they would have a huge leg up at winning control of the executive branch of the U.S. government in future presidential elections. By achieving sufficient Democratic preeminence in Texas progressives could turn the White House blue.  And they know it.

As the Democratic party’s George Washington Plunkitt of Tammany Hall once famously said, “I seen my opportunities and I took ‘em.”  So, too, are Plunkitt’s Democratic Party successors taking their opportunity … announcing a full court press in Texas.

But something unexpected is happening.  The more Latino Texas gets the more Republican it is trending.  Latinos are making themselves right at home in a welcoming GOP (Grand Old Party = Republicans – Editor).  Red, not blue, is winning. Continue reading “Conservatism, Texas style: Latinos are making their home in a welcoming Republican Party”

Obama’s Tightrope Walk

By George Friedman

georgefriedmanLast week began with certainty that an attack on Syria was inevitable and even imminent. It ended with the coalition supporting the attack somewhere between falling apart and not coming together, and with U.S. President Barack Obama making it clear that an attack was inevitable, maybe in a month or so, if Congress approves, after Sept. 9 when it reconvenes. This is a comedy in three parts: the reluctant warrior turning into the raging general and finding his followers drifting away, becoming the reluctant warrior again. Begin with the fact that the United States was not the first country calling for military intervention in Syria after pictures of what appeared to be the dead from a chemical attack surfaced. That honor went to France, Turkey and Britain, each of whom called for action. Much as with Libya, where France and Italy were the first and most eager to intervene, the United States came late to the feast. Continue reading “Obama’s Tightrope Walk”

Syria and the Limits of Comparison

By Robert D. Kaplan

kaplanBecause so many war plans simply do not survive the reality of war itself, each war is a unique universe unto its own and thus comparisons with previous wars, while useful, may also prove illusory. One of the many wrong assumptions about the Second Gulf War before it started was that it would somehow be like the First Gulf War, in which the pessimists had been humiliated by the ease of the victory. Indeed, the Second Gulf War unfolded in vastly different ways, this time proving the pessimists right. That is why the recent media refrain comparing a military operation in Syria with the one in Kosovo in 1999 worries me.

There are profound differences.

Syria has a population ten times the size of Kosovo’s in 1999. Because everything in Syria is on a much vaster scale, deciding the outcome by military means could be that much harder. Kosovo sustained violence and harsh repression at the hands of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, which was met with a Continue reading “Syria and the Limits of Comparison”