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22951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes: Narcos inflitrated on: October 25, 2011, 09:50:10 AM
WASHINGTON — American law enforcement agencies have significantly built up networks of Mexican informants that have allowed them to secretly infiltrate some of that country’s most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations, according to security officials on both sides of the border.

As the United States has opened new law enforcement and intelligence outposts across Mexico in recent years, Washington’s networks of informants have grown there as well, current and former officials said. They have helped Mexican authorities capture or kill about two dozen high-ranking and midlevel drug traffickers, and sometimes have given American counternarcotics agents access to the top leaders of the cartels they are trying to dismantle.
Typically, the officials said, Mexico is kept in the dark about the United States’ contacts with its most secret informants — including Mexican law enforcement officers, elected officials and cartel operatives — partly because of concerns about corruption among the Mexican police, and partly because of laws prohibiting American security forces from operating on Mexican soil.
“The Mexicans sort of roll their eyes and say we know it’s happening, even though it’s not supposed to be happening,” said Eric L. Olson, an expert on Mexican security matters at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
“That’s what makes this so hard,” he said. “The United States is using tools in a country where officials are still uncomfortable with those tools.”
In recent years, Mexican attitudes about American involvement in matters of national security have softened, as waves of drug-related violence have left about 40,000 people dead. And the United States, hoping to shore up Mexico’s stability and prevent its violence from spilling across the border, has expanded its role in ways unthinkable five years ago, including flying drones in Mexican skies.
The efforts have been credited with breaking up several of Mexico’s largest cartels into smaller — and presumably less dangerous — crime groups. But the violence continues, as does the northward flow of illegal drugs.
While using informants remains a largely clandestine affair, several recent cases have shed light on the kinds of investigations they have helped crack, including a plot this month in which the United States accused an Iranian-American car salesman of trying to hire killers from a Mexican drug cartel, known as Los Zetas, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
American officials said Drug Enforcement Administration informants with links to the cartels helped the authorities to track down several suspects linked to the February murder of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Jaime J. Zapata, who is alleged to have been shot to death by members of Los Zetas in central Mexico.
The D.E.A.’s dealings with informants and drug traffickers — sometimes, officials acknowledged, they are one and the same — are at the center of proceedings in a federal courthouse in Chicago, where one of the highest-ranking leaders of the Sinaloa cartel is scheduled to go on trial next year.
And last month, a federal judge in El Paso sentenced a midlevel leader of the Sinaloa cartel to life in prison after he was found guilty on drug and conspiracy charges. He was accused of working as a kind of double agent, providing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency with information about the movements of a rival cartel in order to divert attention from his own trafficking activities.
As important as informants have been, complicated ethical issues tend to arise when law enforcement officers make deals with criminals. Few informants, law enforcement officials say, decide to start providing information to the government out of altruism; typically, they are caught committing a crime and want to mitigate their legal troubles, or are essentially taking bribes to inform on their colleagues.
Morris Panner, a former assistant United States attorney who is a senior adviser at the Center for International Criminal Justice at Harvard Law School, said some of the recent cases involving informants highlight those issues and demonstrate that the threats posed by Mexican narcotics networks go far beyond the drug trade.
“Mexican organized crime groups have morphed from drug trafficking organizations into something new and far more dangerous,” Mr. Panner said. “The Zetas now are active in extortion, human trafficking, money laundering, and increasingly, anything a violent criminal organization can do to make money, whether in Mexico, Guatemala or, it appears, the U.S.”
===================
Because of the clandestine nature of their communications with informants, and the potential for diplomatic flare-ups between the United States and Mexico, American officials were reluctant to provide any details about the scope of their confidential sources south of the border.
Over the past two years, officials said, D.E.A. agents in Houston managed to develop “several highly placed confidential sources with direct access” to important leaders of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. This paid informant network is a centerpiece of the Houston office’s efforts to infiltrate the “command and control” ranks of the two groups.
One of those paid informants was the man who authorities say was approached last spring by a man charged in Iran’s alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador. Law enforcement documents say the informant told his handlers that an Iranian-American, Mansour J. Arbabsiar, had reached out to him to ask whether Los Zetas would be willing to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States and elsewhere.
Authorities would provide only vague details about the informant and his connections to Los Zetas, saying that he had been charged in the United States with narcotics crimes and that those charges had been dropped because he had “previously provided reliable and independently corroborated information to federal law enforcement agents” that “led to numerous seizures of narcotics.”
The Justice Department has been more forthcoming about the D.E.A.’s work with informants in a case against Jesús Vicente Zambada-Niebla, known as Vicentillo. Officials describe Mr. Zambada-Niebla as a logistics coordinator for the Sinaloa cartel, considered one of the world’s most important drug trafficking groups. His lawyers have argued that he was an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, which offered him immunity in exchange for his cooperation.
The D.E.A. has denied that allegation, and the Justice Department took the rare step of disclosing the agency’s contacts with him in court documents. The intermediary was Humberto Loya-Castro, who was both a confidant to the cartel’s kingpin, Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo, and an informant to the D.E.A.
The documents do not say when the relationship between the agency and Mr. Loya-Castro began, but they indicate that because of his cooperation, the D.E.A. dismissed a 13-year-old conspiracy charge against him in 2008.
In 2009, the documents said, Mr. Loya-Castro arranged a meeting between two D.E.A. agents and Mr. Zambada-Niebla, who was floating an offer to negotiate some kind of cooperation agreement. But on the day of the meeting, the agents’ supervisors canceled it, expressing “concern about American agents meeting with a high-level cartel member like Zambada-Niebla.”
Mr. Zambada-Niebla and Mr. Loya-Castro showed up at the agents’ hotel anyway. The D.E.A. agents sent Mr. Zambada-Niebla away without making any promises, the documents said. A few hours later, Mr. Zambada-Niebla was captured by the Mexican police, and was extradited to the United States in February 2010.
Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on organized crime at the Brookings Institution, said that while some had criticized the D.E.A. for entertaining “deals with the devil,” she saw the Zambada case as an important intelligence coup. Even in an age of high-tech surveillance, she said, there is no substitute for human sources’ feeding authorities everything from what targeted traffickers like to eat to where they sleep most nights.
A former senior counter narcotics official echoed that thought.
“A D.E.A. agent’s job, first and foremost, is to get inside the body of those criminal organizations he or she is investigating,” the former official said, asking not to be identified because he occasionally does consulting work in Mexico. “Nothing provides that microscopic view more than a host that opens the door.”
22952  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / NYTimes: Narcos inflitrated on: October 25, 2011, 09:49:33 AM
WASHINGTON — American law enforcement agencies have significantly built up networks of Mexican informants that have allowed them to secretly infiltrate some of that country’s most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations, according to security officials on both sides of the border.

As the United States has opened new law enforcement and intelligence outposts across Mexico in recent years, Washington’s networks of informants have grown there as well, current and former officials said. They have helped Mexican authorities capture or kill about two dozen high-ranking and midlevel drug traffickers, and sometimes have given American counternarcotics agents access to the top leaders of the cartels they are trying to dismantle.
Typically, the officials said, Mexico is kept in the dark about the United States’ contacts with its most secret informants — including Mexican law enforcement officers, elected officials and cartel operatives — partly because of concerns about corruption among the Mexican police, and partly because of laws prohibiting American security forces from operating on Mexican soil.
“The Mexicans sort of roll their eyes and say we know it’s happening, even though it’s not supposed to be happening,” said Eric L. Olson, an expert on Mexican security matters at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
“That’s what makes this so hard,” he said. “The United States is using tools in a country where officials are still uncomfortable with those tools.”
In recent years, Mexican attitudes about American involvement in matters of national security have softened, as waves of drug-related violence have left about 40,000 people dead. And the United States, hoping to shore up Mexico’s stability and prevent its violence from spilling across the border, has expanded its role in ways unthinkable five years ago, including flying drones in Mexican skies.
The efforts have been credited with breaking up several of Mexico’s largest cartels into smaller — and presumably less dangerous — crime groups. But the violence continues, as does the northward flow of illegal drugs.
While using informants remains a largely clandestine affair, several recent cases have shed light on the kinds of investigations they have helped crack, including a plot this month in which the United States accused an Iranian-American car salesman of trying to hire killers from a Mexican drug cartel, known as Los Zetas, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
American officials said Drug Enforcement Administration informants with links to the cartels helped the authorities to track down several suspects linked to the February murder of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Jaime J. Zapata, who is alleged to have been shot to death by members of Los Zetas in central Mexico.
The D.E.A.’s dealings with informants and drug traffickers — sometimes, officials acknowledged, they are one and the same — are at the center of proceedings in a federal courthouse in Chicago, where one of the highest-ranking leaders of the Sinaloa cartel is scheduled to go on trial next year.
And last month, a federal judge in El Paso sentenced a midlevel leader of the Sinaloa cartel to life in prison after he was found guilty on drug and conspiracy charges. He was accused of working as a kind of double agent, providing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency with information about the movements of a rival cartel in order to divert attention from his own trafficking activities.
As important as informants have been, complicated ethical issues tend to arise when law enforcement officers make deals with criminals. Few informants, law enforcement officials say, decide to start providing information to the government out of altruism; typically, they are caught committing a crime and want to mitigate their legal troubles, or are essentially taking bribes to inform on their colleagues.
Morris Panner, a former assistant United States attorney who is a senior adviser at the Center for International Criminal Justice at Harvard Law School, said some of the recent cases involving informants highlight those issues and demonstrate that the threats posed by Mexican narcotics networks go far beyond the drug trade.
“Mexican organized crime groups have morphed from drug trafficking organizations into something new and far more dangerous,” Mr. Panner said. “The Zetas now are active in extortion, human trafficking, money laundering, and increasingly, anything a violent criminal organization can do to make money, whether in Mexico, Guatemala or, it appears, the U.S.”
===================
Because of the clandestine nature of their communications with informants, and the potential for diplomatic flare-ups between the United States and Mexico, American officials were reluctant to provide any details about the scope of their confidential sources south of the border.
Over the past two years, officials said, D.E.A. agents in Houston managed to develop “several highly placed confidential sources with direct access” to important leaders of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. This paid informant network is a centerpiece of the Houston office’s efforts to infiltrate the “command and control” ranks of the two groups.
One of those paid informants was the man who authorities say was approached last spring by a man charged in Iran’s alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador. Law enforcement documents say the informant told his handlers that an Iranian-American, Mansour J. Arbabsiar, had reached out to him to ask whether Los Zetas would be willing to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States and elsewhere.
Authorities would provide only vague details about the informant and his connections to Los Zetas, saying that he had been charged in the United States with narcotics crimes and that those charges had been dropped because he had “previously provided reliable and independently corroborated information to federal law enforcement agents” that “led to numerous seizures of narcotics.”
The Justice Department has been more forthcoming about the D.E.A.’s work with informants in a case against Jesús Vicente Zambada-Niebla, known as Vicentillo. Officials describe Mr. Zambada-Niebla as a logistics coordinator for the Sinaloa cartel, considered one of the world’s most important drug trafficking groups. His lawyers have argued that he was an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, which offered him immunity in exchange for his cooperation.
The D.E.A. has denied that allegation, and the Justice Department took the rare step of disclosing the agency’s contacts with him in court documents. The intermediary was Humberto Loya-Castro, who was both a confidant to the cartel’s kingpin, Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo, and an informant to the D.E.A.
The documents do not say when the relationship between the agency and Mr. Loya-Castro began, but they indicate that because of his cooperation, the D.E.A. dismissed a 13-year-old conspiracy charge against him in 2008.
In 2009, the documents said, Mr. Loya-Castro arranged a meeting between two D.E.A. agents and Mr. Zambada-Niebla, who was floating an offer to negotiate some kind of cooperation agreement. But on the day of the meeting, the agents’ supervisors canceled it, expressing “concern about American agents meeting with a high-level cartel member like Zambada-Niebla.”
Mr. Zambada-Niebla and Mr. Loya-Castro showed up at the agents’ hotel anyway. The D.E.A. agents sent Mr. Zambada-Niebla away without making any promises, the documents said. A few hours later, Mr. Zambada-Niebla was captured by the Mexican police, and was extradited to the United States in February 2010.
Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on organized crime at the Brookings Institution, said that while some had criticized the D.E.A. for entertaining “deals with the devil,” she saw the Zambada case as an important intelligence coup. Even in an age of high-tech surveillance, she said, there is no substitute for human sources’ feeding authorities everything from what targeted traffickers like to eat to where they sleep most nights.
A former senior counter narcotics official echoed that thought.
“A D.E.A. agent’s job, first and foremost, is to get inside the body of those criminal organizations he or she is investigating,” the former official said, asking not to be identified because he occasionally does consulting work in Mexico. “Nothing provides that microscopic view more than a host that opens the door.”
22953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington, First Annual Message 1790 on: October 25, 2011, 08:50:36 AM
"Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness." --George Washington, First Annual Message, 1790
22954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cain Ad on: October 25, 2011, 08:48:39 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=YpGAng0EDhE
22955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Visual of just how bad it is , , , on: October 25, 2011, 08:32:35 AM


http://usdebt.kleptocracy.us/
22956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: October 25, 2011, 08:14:28 AM
Subscribe to The Patriot Post — It's Right and It's FREE: click here.
Brief • October 24, 2011
The Foundation
"I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it." --Benjamin Franklin
For the Record
 
Gaga, Woods and Oprah -- not exactly living in the poor house

"According to Forbes' Celebrity 100 list for 2010, Oprah Winfrey earned $290 million. Even if her makeup person or cameraman earned $100,000, she earned thousands of times more than that. Is that fair? Among other celebrities earning hundreds or thousands of times more than the people who work with them are Tyler Perry ($130 million), Jerry Bruckheimer ($113 million), Lady Gaga ($90 million) and Howard Stern ($76 million). According to Forbes, the top 10 celebrities, excluding athletes, earned an average salary of a little more than $100 million in 2010. According to The Wall Street Journal Survey of CEO Compensation (November 2010), Gregory Maffei, CEO of Liberty Media, earned $87 million, Oracle's Lawrence Ellison ($68 million) and rounding out the top 10 CEOs was McKesson's John Hammergren, earning $24 million. It turns out that the top 10 CEOs have an average salary of $43 million, which pales in comparison with America's top 10 celebrities, who earn an average salary of $100 million. When you recognize that celebrities earn salaries that are some multiples of CEO salaries, you have to ask: Why is it that rich CEOs are demonized and not celebrities? ... It's not about the amount of money people earn. If it were, politicians and leftists would be promoting jealousy, fear and hate toward multimillionaire Hollywood and celebrities and sports stars, such as LeBron James ($48 million), Tiger Woods ($75 million) and Peyton Manning ($38 million). But there is no way that politicians could take over the roles of Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga and LeBron James. That means celebrities can make any amount of money they want and it matters not one iota politically. The Occupy Wall Street crowd shouldn't focus its anger at wealthy CEOs. A far more appropriate target would be the U.S. Congress." --economist Walter E. Williams

Essential Liberty

"Non-leftists who cherish the American value of liberty over the left-wing value of socioeconomic equality, as well as those who adhere to Judeo-Christian values, do not regard the existence of economic classes as inherently morally problematic. If the poor are treated equally before the law, are given the chance and the liberty to raise their socioeconomic status and have their basic material needs met, the gap between rich and poor is not a major moral problem. Of course, if the rich got rich through deceitful or violent means, they must be prosecuted. But America is a place where the way in which 'poor' is defined renders most poor Americans materially equivalent to much of Europe's middle class. America is also a place where the rich by and large legally acquired their wealth through hard work and entrepreneurial enterprise. So here, the existence of rich and poor is not a problem that demands governmental action." --radio talk-show host Dennis Prager

What do you make of income disparity?

Culture

"Call it an occupational hazard, but I can't look at the Occupy Wall Street protesters without thinking, 'Who parented these people?' As a culture columnist, I've commented on the social and political ramifications of the 'movement' -- now known as 'OWS' -- whose fairyland agenda can be summarized by one of their placards: 'Everything for everybody.' Thanks to their pipe-dream platform, it's clear there are people with serious designs on 'transformational' change in America who are using the protesters like bedsprings in a brothel. Yet it's not my role as a commentator that prompts my parenting question, but rather the fact that I'm the mother of four teens and young adults. There are some crucial life lessons that the protesters' moms clearly have not passed along. Here, then, are five things the OWS protesters' mothers should have taught their children but obviously didn't, so I will: Life isn't fair. ... Nothing is 'free.' ... Your word is your bond. When you demonstrate to eliminate student loan debt, you are advocating precisely the lack of integrity you decry in others. ... A protest is not a party. ... There are reasons you haven't found jobs. The truth? Your tattooed necks, gauged ears, facial piercings and dirty dreadlocks are off-putting. Nonconformity for the sake of nonconformity isn't a virtue. Occupy reality: Only 4 percent of college graduates are out of work. If you are among that 4 percent, find a mirror and face the problem. It's not them. It's you." --columnist Marybeth Hicks
 
Re: The Left

"Another day, another jobs bill/economic stimulus. And another presidential tour to promote it. This time our president and partisan-in-chief chose North Carolina for the setting, and who can blame him? Who wouldn't want to drive through its mountains and vistas these beautiful fall days -- instead of actually working out a compromise with those tiresome types in Congress? The kind who are always raising irritating questions, like whether the president's programs will actually work. Unlike those that have succeeded mainly in raising the country's unemployment rate to 9 percent or more. No matter how many times his presidential prescriptions have failed to do much for the economy, Dr. Obama assures us that the same old approach (spend still more) will work this time -- if we'll just increase the dosage and suspend disbelief. ... It strikes some of us as passing strange that Mr. Obama should now be campaigning in a part of the country and culture whose people he used to describe/deride as hopelessly bitter types. Their only response to hard times, he claimed at one point, is to 'cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.' ... t's not what a president says that matters so much in this always practical-minded country, but what he does. And this president is not doing well." --columnist Paul Greenberg

Government

"Following a series of failed votes on a number of President Obama's jobs proposals, Senate Democrats plan to keep pushing. The Senate is on recess [this] week, but when they return, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) plans to hold another vote on the 'infrastructure' portion of the president's plan. The legislation would allocate $50 billion for 'investment' in transportation and infrastructure projects -- e.g., highway restoration, airport development, Amtrack, high speed rail, etc. -- and establish a federal infrastructure bank as a 'wholly owned government corporation' that would hand out federally-backed loans for infrastructure projects. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicted that the legislation would create about 800,000 jobs at a cost of $75,000 per job. Which is perplexing, given that a recent Bloomberg survey of 34 leading economists yielded a median estimate of 288,000 jobs 'kept or added' over the next two years. And that's based on the entirety of the president's $450 billion proposal, which works out to a rate of about $1.6 million per job. Democrats plan to cover the cost the infrastructure 'investment' with a 0.7 percent surtax on household earning more than $1 million a year. The measure isn't any more likely to succeed that the others before it, but the bill's inevitable failure will provide Democrats with at least another week's worth of class-warfare talking points. And that's leadership you can believe in." --National Review's Andrew Stiles

Insight
"I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible. The reason I am is because I believe the big problem is not taxes, the big problem is spending. The question is, 'How do you hold down government spending?' Government spending now amounts to close to 40% of national income not counting indirect spending through regulation and the like. If you include that, you get up to roughly half. The real danger we face is that number will creep up and up and up. The only effective way I think to hold it down, is to hold down the amount of income the government has. The way to do that is to cut taxes." --economist Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

The Gipper

"We are a nation that has a government -- not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed. ... Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it." --Ronald Reagan
Political Futures
"Moammar Gaddafi got what was coming to him. Of course, the concern now is the jihadist and al-Qaeda elements that are positioned to replace him. Years ago, Ronald Reagan called Gaddafi the 'mad dog of the Middle East' and said that his goal was a worldwide 'Muslim fundamentalist revolution.' Many others besides Gaddafi shared that goal, including those who opposed him, and with Gaddafi's death, that goal is closer than ever to being realized. Here we are, thirty years after Reagan made these remarks, in the throes of a worldwide Muslim fundamentalist revolution. Reagan said that those who wanted this 'Muslim fundamentalist revolution' were enemies of the United States -- for them it was 'like climbing Mount Everest, because we are here.' And in a sense, that is exactly the reason why ... Reagan's warning of a worldwide 'Muslim fundamentalist revolution' was prescient. Can you imagine the Muslim Brotherhood stooge in the White House ever uttering those words? ... Reagan spoke before there was a significant Muslim presence in Europe. Now the threat and intimidation by Muslims throughout the countries of the European Union is growing at every level. And now Gaddafi is gone, but the threat of a worldwide 'Muslim fundamentalist revolution' remains, and is stronger than ever, thanks to Barack Obama." --author and columnist Pamela Geller

Faith & Family

"Egyptian violence against Christians is intolerable. When peaceful demonstrators demanding only protection of the law are attacked, we see a complete breakdown of civil order. More than that, the fact that Egypt's Christians are being killed with impunity means there is no Arab Spring. ... Obama is building an unenviable record in foreign policy. He is the most anti-Israel president in our history and also, de facto, the most anti-Christian. He is washing his hands of the fate of millions of minority Christians in the Mideast. This cannot be beneficial to the United States or to the countries involved. ... Is this what we are fighting for? ... Has the U.S. Department of State forgotten who we Americans are? Millions of Americans disbelieve and abhor what is being taught in Afghan schools, what is being done on the streets of Cairo, and what is likely to be done in Syria when Assad is toppled. Isn't it time for a total reassessment of U.S. foreign policy and aid?" --columnists Ken Blackwell & Bob Morrison
22957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Approaching the fan on: October 25, 2011, 07:55:38 AM
By JOSEPH STERNBERG
Beijing

Among the many myths surrounding China's economy, the biggest relates to how Beijing averted a recession after the global financial crisis. The government was quick out of the gate with a stimulus program running to the trillions of dollars, and growth in gross domestic product (GDP) didn't dip as deeply in China as it did elsewhere. China bulls say this shows the government is smart and worth emulating.

But dig a little deeper and the opposite turns out to be true. China's stimulus took the form of a massive expansion of bank lending, rather than the kind of fiscal spending Westerners typically think of when they hear the word Keynesian. A glance at what has happened at the banks in the aftermath shows how Beijing has backed itself into a corner.

The stimulus opened a credit floodgate that so far has proven impossible to turn off. "There is a misconception that it was only limited to six months," says Charlene Chu, an analyst at Fitch Ratings here and one of the few people outside the government who seems to understand what's going on at China's banks. "But in reality the credit boom lasted a full two years." Fitch estimates that new financing for 2011 will hit 17.5 trillion-18 trillion yuan ($2.7 trillion-$2.8 trillion), equivalent to 37% or more of China's GDP. Financing expanded by an amount equal to 42% of GDP in both 2009 and 2010.

Enlarge Image

CloseAFP/Getty Images
 .As a proportion of the economy's size, "that's like having $6 trillion in new credit in one year in the U.S., but for two years running," Ms. Chu points out. "In most countries, when banks encounter a difficult economic environment they pull back credit. They've learned over time that you do not want to increase your exposure in a worsening environment. Here, they like to do the exact opposite."

Beijing essentially did what it has done all along—heavy investments in infrastructure and fixed assets—only more so. But the marginal returns on this strategy are rapidly diminishing. In 2006, one yuan in credit expansion yielded 0.76 yuan in GDP growth, according to Fitch. In 2007 and 2008, that one yuan of credit continued to create at least 0.70 yuan in growth. But in 2009, as the credit stimulus got under way in earnest, one yuan of new stimulus credit created a paltry 0.18 yuan in additional GDP. That has improved somewhat since then, but for 2011 one yuan of credit still is expected to create only 0.42 yuan in GDP.

Many economists expect some large portion of those loans to go bad. Beijing probably does have the resources to engineer a bailout of some kind. Less discussed but more important, however, is the question of what that means for China's economy. A bailout will come at the cost of future economic reform and growth.

Consider the implications for rebalancing, or China's crucial shift to domestic consumption from export-led growth. Chinese banks are heavily dependent on deposits for funding, as opposed to the interbank lending markets used by their Western peers. The last time Beijing faced a bank-solvency crisis, in the late 1990s, the authorities recapitalized the banks via what's known as financial repression: Regulators set interest rates on household deposits below the rate of inflation, allowing banks to charge lower interest rates on loans while still gradually earning their way back into the black thanks to the guaranteed spread.

This amounts to a wealth transfer to the banks from households. Such a policy undermines the goal of encouraging those households to consume more. But Beijing may have little choice but to continue financial repression indefinitely given the large volume of nonperforming loans likely accumulating anew on bank balance sheets.

It gets worse. Sooner or later, China will have to fix its system for allocating capital. Introducing market interest rates would be the centerpiece, a way to shift capital away from inefficient state-owned enterprises and toward entrepreneurial, private-sector companies by pricing that capital in a way that encourages more productive uses.

That reform, though, is next to impossible now. Any increase in interest rates to the higher level more common for a developing country would risk pushing too many companies into default. Beijing can't afford that at a time when the banks already are bloated with loans of dubious quality.

Then there's monetary reform. Beijing has made waves with its talk about boosting the use of the yuan beyond China's borders. This would eventually require lifting capital controls, which would facilitate a more efficient allocation of capital across China's borders.

Easing capital controls is a nonstarter as long as the banks are under stress. The last round of bank bailouts, in the late 1990s, succeeded in large part because capital controls trapped depositors in the system. Controls remain strict, but it is somewhat easier now than it was then to take money out of the country. Already the banks are under strain as a result.

As the authorities have increased the required reserve ratio—the percentage of a bank's assets it must keep on deposit at the central bank—banks that were once flush with cash suddenly find themselves in a squeeze. Banks are even trying to securitize risky loans on the sly (sound familiar?) to develop "wealth-management products" with which to attract depositors. So Beijing won't risk any more capital flight by lifting exchange controls.

Ironically, then, China's stimulus, hailed in some quarters of the West as Beijing's greatest success, could become one of the most severe risks to face the Communist Party in a generation. Already inflation is re-emerging on the back of the credit expansion, with consumer-price rises above 6% in recent quarters. Inflation and regime change historically have gone hand-in-hand in China; the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests were preceded by a bout of inflation.

Meanwhile, the stimulus is denting Beijing's ability to undertake reforms it will have to pull off to keep the economy growing. This is dangerous for a regime whose legitimacy rests solely on its ability to deliver rapid growth.

China's 9.1% growth rate for the July-September period may compare favorably to the situation in the U.S. and Europe right now, but don't read too much into it. Beijing has only delayed a moment of reckoning. It has not avoided one.

Mr. Sternberg is an editorial page writer at The Wall Street Journal Asia.

22958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FAIR Tax on: October 25, 2011, 07:42:06 AM
Sent by an internet friend:
=======================


An EXCELLENT little 8-minute talk from Neal Boortz on The Fair Tax and why some people just can't embrace it (video quality is terrible, but just listen.)  BTW - this is what HERMAN CAIN ultimately wants to implement.  His 9-9-9 plan is simply a transitional step, since he knows people have to be educated on the Fair Tax and have a President who supports it in order for it to get passed.  Herman has supported this thing for YEARS along with Neal, and continues to believe (as do I) that it would be the biggest transfer of power back to the people since the Revolutionary War.  It would also super-charge our economy.  You would have to be either unable or unwilling to work to be unemployed - there would be such an abundance of jobs available:

www.boortz.com/weblogs/nealz-nuze/2011/oct/21/recording-video-today/
22959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tunisian Elections on: October 25, 2011, 07:40:19 AM
In Tunisia, the First Real Test of Democratic Islamism
Initial unofficial results emerging Monday from Tunisia’s Oct. 23 parliamentary elections show the country’s Islamist party, Ennahda, set to emerge as the winner. Reacting to preliminary tallies, the Progressive Democratic Party, Tunisia’s leading secularist party, conceded defeat in a statement to Reuters. A senior Ennahda leader told reporters that his group is ready to form a coalition government with two secularist groups: Congress for the Republic and Ettakatol.
“Even now, it is far from clear that Ennahda will be empowered by electoral victory.”
Ennahda’s electoral victory is significant because it means an Islamist party will have won the first elections held in the aftermath of the Arab unrest that started in this small North African state a little less than a year ago. In fact, this marks the first time that an Islamist party has ever come this close to coming to power democratically. Islamists have swept the polls in a number of places within the region in the recent past, but through elections held in circumstances plainly different than what we see now — and their election fell well short of empowering Islamists in the aftermath of the polls.
Algeria’s Front Islamique du Salut won by a landslide in the first round of the 1990-91 parliamentary elections, which were annulled by the military establishment in order to block an Islamist victory. In late 2002, Turkey’s Justice & Development Party (AKP) won a more than two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections — but the AKP’s room for action remained highly circumscribed by the secularist military establishment, and the AKP is not really an Islamist movement. It is rather a conservative centrist party, a successor to several Islamist parties. In 2004, the pro-Iranian Shia Islamist coalition, Iraqi National Alliance, won the first elections of the post-Baathist era, but Iraq has yet to display the characteristics of a traditionally defined state.
Two years later, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas overwhelmingly won the 2006 polls to elect the Palestinian Legislative Council — a process that led to an intra-Palestinian civil war fought to control lands that do not constitute a country. That same year, in Bahrain’s parliamentary elections, the Shia Islamist Al Wefaq movement won 17 of the 40 seats, while two other Sunni Islamist groups collected another 15, but a Sunni monarchy continues to dominate the Shia-majority island nation. Each of these events preceded the recent unrest in Arab countries, and their impact was limited.
Even now, it is far from clear that Ennahda will be empowered by electoral victory, especially since the emerging legislature will only be a constituent assembly with a one-year mandate. Yet the electoral victory undeniably takes place in a context in which the grip of secular security states is loosening. For this reason, the rise of Islamist forces is seen as a core threat to the regional political order.
Ennahda, led by its founder Rachid al-Ghannouchi, is one of the few liberal Islamist forces in the Arab and Islamic world. Ennahda’s views are far more moderate than those held by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and are close to Turkey’s AKP. From the point of view of the West and of secular Muslims, however, Ennahda and other like-minded Islamists have yet to demonstrate their commitment to democratic processes — something that can only happen over time and after successive elections.
For now, however, it is not clear that Tunisia’s elections will lead to the emergence of a democratic polity, given that they are not the outcome of a regime change. Rather, elections were held under the auspices of the same security state over which ousted Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali presided.
From a wider strategic and geopolitical point of view, Tunisia is a small country. What happens in Tunisia does not impact the region nearly so much as what happens in, for example, Egypt, where the emergence in coming elections of the Muslim Brotherhood — or of an alliance of disparate Islamist forces — as the largest bloc in parliament would have serious regional implications. In other words, the electoral rise of an Islamist force in Tunisia could lead to a controlled experiment in Islam and in democracy. That said, it is appropriate to consider that Tunisia was the country where the Arab unrest began and spread to the rest of the Arab world.
22960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslim Demographics on: October 25, 2011, 07:33:50 AM


David P. Goldman, who blogs at the Asia Times as “Spengler,” has written an insightful book challenging the truisms of the commentariat on both the rise of Islam and the decline of the West: How Civilizations Die: (and why Islam is dying too)

History buffs will recognize that the pen name Spengler honours Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), author of Decline of the West. Goldman’s initial observations about the decline are most helpful but not unprecedented. From a much less religion-friendly perspective, American demographer Phillip Longman has been saying the same thing, and so has Canadian demographer David Foot.

It is what Goldman says about Islam that will surprise many readers: Islam is dying too because the Muslim birth rate - according to reliable statistics - has crashed. How badly?

Across the entire Muslim world, university-educated Muslim women bear children at the same rate as their infecund European counterparts.
Whatever they believe about Islam, they have one or two children, but rarely three or four. Not enough to deliver their societies from demographic collapse, given the size of the families they came from. For example,

The average young Tunisian woman - like her Iranian or Turkish counterpart - grew up in a family of seven children, but will bear only one or two herself.
Education for women doesn’t in itself cause birth dearth, but abandonment of the land does. Muslims are not immune from the urbanization that turns children who were once a source of wealth into a major cost centre. Increasing numbers of people, there as here, hope that others will undertake the trouble.

But surely some Muslims have large families? Those who do live in areas that are considered backward, and they cannot indefinitely prop up an unsustainably low urban birth rate. But because demographic decline happened so quickly in Muslim societies, the Western problem of too few young people supporting too many seniors will be much more severe, especially in countries with few natural resources, like Turkey.

One might ask, why can’t Islamism reverse the decline by demanding that urban women do their duty? A look at Iran, Goldman says, reveals a related crisis of effective faith. For example, according to a suppressed report, more than 90 percent of Tehran prostitutes are said to have passed the university entrance exam, and 30 percent of them are studying. Their career choice is, they say, voluntary. Drug abuse among students is rampant, fuelled by cheap opium from neighbouring Afghanistan. The Islamist could exemplarily punish a few prostitutes or drug addicts - but thousands?

More generally, when modernization comes quickly, without warning, and from elsewhere, a declining birth rate can be accompanied by worse, not better, conditions for modern women. In Turkey, for example, only 22 percent of women sought employment outside the home in 2009, down from 34 percent in 1988 - despite their intervening fertility crash. About this, Goldman observes, “If we are surprised by Muslim demographics, it is because we have not listened carefully enough to what Muslims themselves have been trying to tell us.” Islamism is more of a last stand for many than a resurgent force, hence the glamour of suicide. If all this is correct, demographic collapse will increase rather than decrease the risk of terrorism, because “there is no such thing as rational self-interest for people who believe they have nothing to lose.”

Those inclined to dismiss Goldman’s contrarian analysis might point out that if there are few young people for the Islamist to recruit, there will be few suicide terrorists. Not necessarily; a culture’s suicidal resistance often increases at precisely the point where a huge conflict is irretrievably lost. This was true of the South in the closing days of the Civil War, and of Germany and Japan in World War II, for example. Many won’t be trying to win, only to inflict damage on the victor.

Compounding the problem is that Islam is - at present - much less well-adapted to political systems that produce stability in a modern environment. The rule of life among Islamists is authoritarianism in every facet of life. Authoritarianism results in either accepted oppression or revolt, but not the consensual stability that a modern society needs. And imams provide little guidance as to how to get there, because many see the very behaviours that hamper progress as ordained by Allah. For these reasons, Goldman thinks, the threat to the West from Islamism is generally overrated; internal demographic collapse is a much more serious threat. No civilization has ever survived a situation in which a small number of young adults must support a large number of retirees as well as raise children to support them.

Interestingly, he think that the United States has a much better chance of surviving the collapse than Europe or the Muslim world, for reasons we will explore in Part II next week.

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

22961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How do we protect our money/make money from this? on: October 24, 2011, 05:31:44 PM
Pasting this from the China thread here to place it in the context of the Investing state of mind of this thread.
=======================

http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonchang/2011/10/16/chinas-economy-the-correction-history-will-remember/2/

The stocks of Chinese banks fell this year and were trading at price-to-book ratios that assumed these institutions would suffer substantial losses on their loan portfolios.  Beijing’s sovereign wealth fund had to launch a rescue last week by announcing open-market share purchases of Chinese banks.

The move triggered a short rally, but it did not solve the fundamental problem: Credit Suisse last week said that bad debt could be as much as 60% of bank equity.  The 60% figure assumes that bad loans constitute only 12% of loan portfolios, but as in the bank crisis at the end of the 1990s, questionable assets are probably multiples of this figure.

The problem for Beijing is that this time, unlike the end of 2008, it has little flexibility to dump money in the economy to restart growth and save borrowers.  It already did that and has, in addition to inflation, created historically high property prices, vacant apartment buildings, and debt-swollen local government financing vehicles.  Yes, increasing liquidity would aid borrowers in the short-term, but that tactic would only make the debt bomb bigger.

Beijing could take foreign currency out of its reserves to recapitalize its largest banks—as it did in early 2004—but that just pushes the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, deeper into insolvency.  In any event, recapitalization would buy only a little time.

The Chinese central government has, in past crises, sustained the momentum of the economy by creating circular flows of cash, using money from one state institution to bail out other ones.  Yet all artificial situations eventually end.  State-dominated economies have more ability to postpone the inevitable, but the corrections they suffer are often worse as a result of continual deferrals.

Like 2008, the Chinese economy is now emitting strong signals it wants to correct.  Last time, Beijing, flush with cash, chose to override the market and postpone the reckoning with its “tidal-wave” spending.  Now, Chinese technocrats are almost out of options.

As a result, the downturn in China this time is probably the one history remembers.
22962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Eastward Ho! on: October 24, 2011, 03:46:38 PM
The deluge of commentary following President Barack Obama's announcement that all American troops are leaving Iraq by year's end largely missed the most important strategic implication: The winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan clears the way for the U.S. to shift its focus to Asia and, in particular, China, the part of the world that likely matters most in the long run.

If we're lucky, this shift might even lead to a more sophisticated debate in the 2012 presidential campaign about the U.S. approach to China, which has been pretty sterile so far.

Whatever the merits of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, one of their consequences has been to divert America's gaze from the direction it had been heading—toward the Asia-Pacific region and its gathering economic strength. It would be folly, of course, to think this means Iraq and Afghanistan now can be forgotten; the specter of a potentially nuclear-capable Iran stepping into a vacuum is enough to require continued American involvement.

But there's no doubt that economic pressures alone will produce a shift eastward. On Monday, in fact, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was visiting Asia, asserting that the U.S. now is at "a turning point" that will allow a strategic rebalancing toward Asia.

Similarly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has in recent days said such a shift is coming. In a speech in New York on the need to use diplomatic power to address America's economic ailments, she declared that in the aftermath of Iraq and Afghanistan, "the world's strategic and economic center of gravity is shifting east, and we are focusing more on the Asia Pacific region."

In a new article in Foreign Policy magazine, she calls for "a substantially increased investment—diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise—in the Asia-Pacific region."

She defined that region to include India and Indonesia, but most of the focus will be on China and its complicated economic relationship with the U.S. It's safe to say that many Americans fear the rising economic power of China, worrying that their country is either losing ground to Chinese industrial might or, worse, becoming subservient to Beijing because of a reliance on Chinese investment to finance America's federal deficits.

Yet one of the opportunities in the coming shift of focus to the east is the chance for America's political leaders—and political candidates—to explain to the citizenry that China is not, in fact, 10 feet tall. China faces considerable economic problems of its own, a recognition of which might at least reduce the atmosphere of economic fear and anxiety that has crept across America.

Indeed, there is emerging a whole new school of China skeptics who think that country's economic potential is being exaggerated and its own problems downplayed. In a commentary distributed last week, Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, declared that "there is growing evidence that China's challenge to U.S. manufacturing has peaked, and its competitive advantage is in decline."

Mr. Jasinowski cited in particular a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group that the cost of producing goods in China is rising as wages, raw materials, real estate and energy all escalate in price there. Meantime, Mr. Jasinowski notes, American manufacturers have become more competitive amidst the painful economic adjustment now under way. Over time, he argued, when the cost of shipping goods from China is taken into account, making and buying American will become more attractive again.

If the competitive playing field is being brought closer to level, one goal of American statecraft is to push harder toward that goal by compelling China to play more by international economic rules. In particular, that means sustained pressure to end manipulation of its currency's value and protecting intellectual property. One of the goals of American diplomats, in fact, is to convince China its own long-term interest lies in a fair international system. "If a big country like China doesn't play to the rules, the global system will be hurt and ultimately so will China, which depends heavily on it," says Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats.

Which leads to the nascent presidential campaign. There already is plenty of China-bashing there, thanks in large measure to Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, who is promising a tougher line against China. He's proposed imposing duties in China in direct retaliation for currency manipulation and intellectual property theft, and last week even won applause at a debate by suggesting that China somehow be compelled to pick up the tab for foreign aid the U.S. now disperses.

But there are other ways to advance American interests, including making common cause with Asian and Latin American nations feeling bullied by the Chinese. Indeed, the best discussion might be about how to better compete with China, not to punish it.

22963  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Gurkhas and their Kukris on: October 24, 2011, 03:28:39 PM
I got mine from Bando GM Myung Gyi.  There were from India he said.
22964  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self Defense with Pistols on: October 24, 2011, 03:19:15 PM
Looking deadly! grin
22965  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Gurkhas and their Kukris on: October 24, 2011, 03:16:22 PM
Opinions are like noses, everyone has one.  Here's mine:

The CS one weighs a lot less, which can be important when carrying weight is an issue.  That said, I much prefer the real ones.  The power that comes from the heft is awesome and the natural material of the handle is much more agreeable to the skin on my hands than the petroleum based synthetic of the CS handle.
22966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: October 24, 2011, 03:12:41 PM
Doug:

A similar epiphany for me too.

In the late 60s I strongly disliked the idea of being drafted off to Vietnam.  I had no idea why we should be there and the Vietnamese Army had a desertion rate three times the American casualty rate.  This certainly fit in with the gestalt of my peers and I like them I fancied myself a leftist.  Then in 1976 I returned to college by going to the U. of PA where in my first semester I took Micro-Econ.  I was the star of the class  (about 50 people) and Professor Mansfield's favorite.  The second semester was Macro Economics and the text was a Keynesian manifesto written by Prof. Mansfield himself.

I found the fallacies glaring and in fairly short order asked of Professor Mansfiedl in front of the class if the ideas there in could actually work because they would require sustained intelligence of the part of the government.  People chuckled behind their hands but Prof. Mansfield was NOT amused.  I went from an "A" to a "C".

This is when I realized I really was not a leftist at all- that I had been a free minds and free markets person all along.  grin
22967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 24, 2011, 03:02:13 PM
•   From the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush: Rethinking the Region
On Oct. 21, U.S. President Barack Obama formally announced that, with a few minor exceptions, all U.S. military personnel would be leaving Iraq before the end of the year in accordance with the status-of-forces agreement between Washington and Baghdad.
The U.S. has spent most of the year, both officially and unofficially, attempting to arrange some sort of an extension for as many as 20,000, and as few as a couple thousand, U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond the end of the year deadline for a complete withdrawal. What none of this would do is address the underlying issue of resurgent Iranian power, not just in Iraq, but the wider region, and this is something the U.S. has yet to come up with a meaningful response for. From a military perspective, the U.S. training presence’s advisory and assistance role, particularly in issues of maintenance, planning and logistics, will inherently leave the Iraqi military and Iraqi security forces less capable than they are now.
The U.S. military presence in Iraq has been pivotal to U.S. situational awareness across the country. In some cases, U.S. forces were still operating alongside Iraqi forces, but even where they were not, the disposition of American forces and the nature of their presence meant that the U.S. had a considerable awareness of the way in which Iraqi forces were being employed and their operational performance on the field, as well as the ways in which Iraqi commanders were directing and employing those forces. The U.S. also maintained considerable freedom of action in terms of the way in which it employed intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance platforms in Iraqi airspace. This means that even as the U.S. inevitably ramps up its covert collection capabilities, both inside Iraq and by other means, there will be a considerable lapse and degradation of the U.S. intelligence gathering and situational awareness capabilities in Iraq.
In terms of the drawdown itself, while contingency plans have long been in place and forces in Iraq have been preparing for the contingency of drawdown, just under 40,000 U.S. troops remain in the country, positioned at over a dozen facilities that have to be sanitized and handed over to Iraqis. This means that an enormous challenge remains for the U.S. in Iraq, in terms of managing vulnerabilities and exposure during the process of withdrawal. But the other significant question was the security of U.S. nationals that remained behind beyond the deadline for withdrawal. Some military forces, a couple hundred total, remain behind to facilitate the transfer of U.S. arms, training and the presence at the U.S. Embassy.
The U.S. military has been an enormously important backstop for the overall security of U.S. nationals in the country. Without the presence of nearly 50,000 U.S. troops that has defined the security environment in recent years, there will inherently be a greater exposure and vulnerability of the U.S. personnel that remain behind in the years ahead.
22968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, Public Education 1817 on: October 24, 2011, 10:50:12 AM
"To all of which is added a selection from the elementary schools of subjects of the most promising genius, whose parents are too poor to give them further education, to be carried at the public expense through the college and university. The object is to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country, for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind, which, in proportion to our population, shall be double or treble of what it is in most countries." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jose Correa de Serra, 1817
22969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Shocked that we are shocked on: October 24, 2011, 10:46:40 AM
Regarding the alleged attempt by Iranian agents to enlist a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, there are two significant parts to the story. But only one of them is getting much attention.

That's the part about how Iranian officials apparently felt little compunction ordering up a terrorist attack on American soil. Some commentators have noted that the plot does little credit to the supposedly expert tradecraft of Iran's terrorist Qods Force, suggesting that unspecified rogue agents may have played a role. Others have argued that Tehran's readiness to conduct the attack suggests how little they think they have to fear from the Obama administration.

The real shocker, however, is how shocked the administration seems to be by the plot. "The idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to kill the Saudi ambassador, nobody could make that up, right?" marvelled Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Information about the plot was initially met within the government with a level of incredulity more appropriate for an invasion by, say, alien midgets.

Yet policy analysts, military officials and even a few columnists have been warning for years about Iran's infiltration of Latin America. The story begins with the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, an example of the way Tehran uses proxies such as Hezbollah to carry out its aims while giving it plausible deniability. Iran later got a boost when Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela and began seeding the top ranks of his government with Iranian sympathizers. In October 2006, a group called Hezbollah América Latina took responsibility for an attempted bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, Iran has increased the number of its embassies in Latin America to 11 from six.

Enlarge Image

CloseAFP/Getty Images
 
Buenos Aires in March 1992, shortly after the bombing of the Israeli embassy.
.All this has served a variety of purposes. Powerful evidence suggests that Iran has used Venezuelan banks, airliners and port facilities to circumvent international sanctions. Good relations between Tehran and various Latin American capitals—not just Caracas but also Managua, Quito, La Paz and Brasilia—increase Tehran's diplomatic leverage. Hezbollah's ties to Latin American drug traffickers serve as a major source of funding for its operations world-wide. Hezbollah has sought and found recruits among Latin America's estimated population of five million Muslims, as well as Hispanic converts to Islam.

And then there is the detail that Latin America is the soft underbelly of the United States.

In September 2010, the Tucson, Ariz., police department issued an internal memo noting that "concerns have arisen concerning Hezbollah's presence in Mexico and possible ties to Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTO's) operating along the U.S.-Mexico border. The potential partnership bares alarming implications due to Hezbollah's long-established capabilities, specifically their expertise in the making of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED's)." The memo also noted the appearance of Hezbollah insignia as tattoos on U.S. prison inmates.

The concerns that the Tucson police had immediately in mind were twofold. First there was the arrest in New York of Jamal Yousef, a former Syrian military officer caught in a 2009 Drug Enforcement Agency sting trying to sell arms to Colombian terrorists in exchange for a ton of cocaine.

Then there was the July 2010 arrest by Mexican authorities of a Mexican citizen named Jameel Nasr. According to a report in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasah, Mr. Nasr was attempting to set up "a logistics infrastructure of Mexican citizens of Shiite Lebanese descent that will form a base in South America and the United States to carry out operations against Israeli and Western targets." The paper added that Mr. Nasr "traveled regularly to Lebanon to receive instructions and inform his employers of developments," but that Mexican officials had been tipped off by his "long visit to Venezuela in mid-2008 . . . during which he laid the foundations for building a network for Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard."

Might Mr. Nasr have been connected to the Washington plot? Probably not, since he was arrested before it was hatched, though it's probably worth asking him directly. The larger problem, as Roger Noriega of the American Enterprise Institute points out, is that until now the administration hasn't been especially curious. "They don't want to mud wrestle with Chávez and roil the waters in Latin America," he says. "The policy of reticence and passivity sends the message that we don't know or care what's going on."

It's time to wise up. Until now, the idea of terrorist infiltration along our southern border has been the stuff of Tom Clancy novels. Not anymore. And unless Tehran is made to understand that the consequences for such infiltration will be harder than an Obama wrist slap, we can expect more, and worse, to come.

22970  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ: Iran's South American/Mexican play on: October 24, 2011, 10:45:35 AM
92250

Regarding the alleged attempt by Iranian agents to enlist a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, there are two significant parts to the story. But only one of them is getting much attention.

That's the part about how Iranian officials apparently felt little compunction ordering up a terrorist attack on American soil. Some commentators have noted that the plot does little credit to the supposedly expert tradecraft of Iran's terrorist Qods Force, suggesting that unspecified rogue agents may have played a role. Others have argued that Tehran's readiness to conduct the attack suggests how little they think they have to fear from the Obama administration.

The real shocker, however, is how shocked the administration seems to be by the plot. "The idea that they would attempt to go to a Mexican drug cartel to solicit murder-for-hire to kill the Saudi ambassador, nobody could make that up, right?" marvelled Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Information about the plot was initially met within the government with a level of incredulity more appropriate for an invasion by, say, alien midgets.

Yet policy analysts, military officials and even a few columnists have been warning for years about Iran's infiltration of Latin America. The story begins with the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, an example of the way Tehran uses proxies such as Hezbollah to carry out its aims while giving it plausible deniability. Iran later got a boost when Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela and began seeding the top ranks of his government with Iranian sympathizers. In October 2006, a group called Hezbollah América Latina took responsibility for an attempted bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, Iran has increased the number of its embassies in Latin America to 11 from six.

Enlarge Image

CloseAFP/Getty Images
 
Buenos Aires in March 1992, shortly after the bombing of the Israeli embassy.
.All this has served a variety of purposes. Powerful evidence suggests that Iran has used Venezuelan banks, airliners and port facilities to circumvent international sanctions. Good relations between Tehran and various Latin American capitals—not just Caracas but also Managua, Quito, La Paz and Brasilia—increase Tehran's diplomatic leverage. Hezbollah's ties to Latin American drug traffickers serve as a major source of funding for its operations world-wide. Hezbollah has sought and found recruits among Latin America's estimated population of five million Muslims, as well as Hispanic converts to Islam.

And then there is the detail that Latin America is the soft underbelly of the United States.

In September 2010, the Tucson, Ariz., police department issued an internal memo noting that "concerns have arisen concerning Hezbollah's presence in Mexico and possible ties to Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTO's) operating along the U.S.-Mexico border. The potential partnership bares alarming implications due to Hezbollah's long-established capabilities, specifically their expertise in the making of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED's)." The memo also noted the appearance of Hezbollah insignia as tattoos on U.S. prison inmates.

The concerns that the Tucson police had immediately in mind were twofold. First there was the arrest in New York of Jamal Yousef, a former Syrian military officer caught in a 2009 Drug Enforcement Agency sting trying to sell arms to Colombian terrorists in exchange for a ton of cocaine.

Then there was the July 2010 arrest by Mexican authorities of a Mexican citizen named Jameel Nasr. According to a report in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasah, Mr. Nasr was attempting to set up "a logistics infrastructure of Mexican citizens of Shiite Lebanese descent that will form a base in South America and the United States to carry out operations against Israeli and Western targets." The paper added that Mr. Nasr "traveled regularly to Lebanon to receive instructions and inform his employers of developments," but that Mexican officials had been tipped off by his "long visit to Venezuela in mid-2008 . . . during which he laid the foundations for building a network for Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard."

Might Mr. Nasr have been connected to the Washington plot? Probably not, since he was arrested before it was hatched, though it's probably worth asking him directly. The larger problem, as Roger Noriega of the American Enterprise Institute points out, is that until now the administration hasn't been especially curious. "They don't want to mud wrestle with Chávez and roil the waters in Latin America," he says. "The policy of reticence and passivity sends the message that we don't know or care what's going on."

It's time to wise up. Until now, the idea of terrorist infiltration along our southern border has been the stuff of Tom Clancy novels. Not anymore. And unless Tehran is made to understand that the consequences for such infiltration will be harder than an Obama wrist slap, we can expect more, and worse, to come.

22971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar & other currencies, & Gold/Silver on: October 24, 2011, 10:06:13 AM
GM:  Those public sector pension funds articles are very interesting, but I'm thinking this is not quite the thread for them.  How about the Government Programs thread?
22972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From our man formerly in Iraq on: October 24, 2011, 10:00:07 AM
In that he was involved in training the Baghdad police and others, his words carry particular weight here.

========================================

This is not a surprise to me.  We have spent 8-years over there trying to impose a U.S. centric view on a culture that has no need for this U.S. centric view.  Like training police in evidence collection.  The police there do not collect evidence.  That is not their system.  We may want it to be that way, but it ain't.  Over there "judicial investigators" are the collectors of evidence.
 
We have spent 8-years practicing mirror imaging at its absolute finest....
 
-------------------------------------

BAGHDAD — A U.S. State Department program to train Iraqi police lacks focus, could become a "bottomless pit" of American money and may not even be wanted by the Iraqi department it's supposed to help, reports released Monday by a U.S. government watchdog show. The findings by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction paint what is supposed to be the State Department's flagship program in Iraq in a harsh light.
 
22973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Volcker Suggestion on: October 24, 2011, 07:48:47 AM


If you tried to write a parody of the uncertainty and confusion triggered by federal rule-making, it would be hard to top the latest proposal from Washington's financial regulators. So here's an ironic hat tip to the bureaucrats who wrote the draft Volcker Rule, which will allegedly limit risk-taking at financial firms backed by taxpayers.

In 298 pages, rather than sketching out simple, clear rules for banks to follow, regulators essentially wonder out loud how they can possibly write this rule. Officially there are 383 questions posed in the document, but many of these questions have multiple parts. Our colleagues at the Deal Journal blog counted 1,347 queries, covering everything from how "trading accounts" should be defined to what a "loan" is.

The regulators admit that "the delineation of what constitutes a prohibited or permitted activity . . . involves subtle distinctions that are difficult both to describe comprehensively within regulation and to evaluate in practice." Think of this as a cry for help from bureaucrats seeking an understanding of the markets they are nonetheless going to restructure come what may.

***
Bank lobbyists are certainly eager to provide some hand-holding. We wouldn't be surprised to see thousands of pages of suggestions roll in between now and January 13, when the public comment period ends. Many of these comments will no doubt offer compelling reasons why a particular type of transaction should be exempt from the principle that nobody should be gambling with a taxpayer backstop. The regulators will then have about six months to consider all of these suggestions, ponder the thousands of answers to their 1,347 questions, and then write a final rule. At least that's what the 2010 fiasco known as Dodd-Frank demands.

Dodd-Frank demands all this from regulators because for the life of them former Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank couldn't figure out how to write a Volcker Rule themselves. Like nearly every other tough call in financial regulation, Messrs. Dodd and Frank punted this one to the executive branch, invested federal agencies with new authority, and expected the same regulators who failed to prevent the last crisis to somehow avert the next one.

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
 
Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve Chairman.
.We supported former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker's concept of a ban on proprietary trading as a good-faith effort to protect taxpayers from having to rescue too-big-to-fail banks again. Democrats in Congress weren't going to prevent future bailouts, so whenever an institution is playing with taxpayer money (via insured deposits or access to the Fed's discount window) it should be allowed to serve clients but should not be permitted to make trades for its own proprietary account. But drafting such a law isn't easy and the details are crucial.

When America's esteemed legislators couldn't figure out how to write a Volcker Rule, they forwarded it to the bureaucracy as a kind of Volcker Suggestion. But before the lawmakers enacted this remarkable delegation of authority, they gutted even the Volcker Suggestion by exempting certain instruments from consideration.

Lawmakers made clear that whatever the shape of the final rule, it would not interfere with the liquidity of the U.S. Treasury market or debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So even if bureaucrats spend most of the next year crafting the perfect rule, it will still allow Wall Street giants to make enormous bets on the direction of U.S. government bonds and debt issued by government-sponsored enterprises. There are also built-in exemptions in the commodities market. There will likely be limits on trading derivatives of commodities, but if traders are buying actual physical assets they can still swing for the fences.

Even outside of these exempted zones of politically favored speculation, the recent proposal suggests that we're not going to get anything close to perfection. And some of the regulators may already have figured this out. Readers will recall that Dodd-Frank created the Financial Stability Oversight Council so that the chiefs of the various regulatory agencies could coordinate their actions to identify and attack risks to the financial system. But one of the knights of this regulatory round table was missing when they decided to saddle up on this quest to tilt at Goldman's risk book.

The draft rule carries the names of various Beltway departments but not the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Since the CFTC now oversees much of the derivatives market, which in Beltway lore is the principal cause of systemic risk, it's an odd omission. A cynic might even wonder if CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler is checking the political winds before endorsing this turkey. A source at the commission says that the agency is backed up fulfilling other Dodd-Frank mandates but will get to Volcker eventually.

***
They shouldn't bother. Reasonable people have seen enough to say that Washington is incapable of drawing bright lines and applying clear rules fairly across all securities markets. The result is all but certain to be a final rule that different people will interpret different ways, leading to loopholes for traders and arbitrary enforcement. Under this Beltway rendering of Volcker, trading will continue but with a much higher bureaucratic cost and with the illusion of safety that only regulation can create.

Until the government is willing to create a durable financial system that allows failure, the best policy response is to make the rules so simple that even Washington can enforce them. That means higher, even very high, bank capital standards and margin requirements on risky trades between banks. Those aren't panaceas, but they offer more hope for taxpayers than the bureaucratic and bank-lobbyist jump ball that is now the Volcker Rule.

22974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pendulum on: October 24, 2011, 07:47:53 AM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVkdfJ9PkRQ&feature=share
22975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Google Fu help request on: October 24, 2011, 06:36:28 AM
Can someone find the youtube or other URL for last night's "60 Minutes" segment on Steve Jobs' I-Pad helping autistic people?

I know someone with a very autistic child and heard that the segment was quite good.
22976  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 24, 2011, 06:32:35 AM
The joys of fatherhood are deep.  For me the best parts of the day were the clarity of his focus, the way he stayed calm when he got mounted by a boy who clearly had done many tournaments from a school that was tournament focused and reversed him, and the way he handled both winning and then losing.
22977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / It isn't that we can't fix this, it is that we aren't fixing it. on: October 24, 2011, 06:28:10 AM
Agreed that the consequences of low interest rates on pension funds is devastating.

"It isn't that we can't fix this, it is that we aren't fixing it."

This is exactly right.  

A big part of the problem is that we lie to ourselves with baseline budgeting.  Until we stop using baseline budgeting for our thinking we continue down the road to destruction.

If we were simply to make some genuine cuts to entitlements (e.g. block grants to states for Medicaid and Medicare, set in place gradual increases in the age for social security) truly freeze overall spending from there and set off growth by putting in a genuine massive tax reform (e.g. 9-9-9) would could turn this around in short order.
22978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / It is simple. We are leaving. Pakistan is staying. on: October 23, 2011, 10:24:23 PM

Karzai Says Afghanistan Would Back Pakistan if U.S. Attacks
Published October 23, 2011
| Associated Press
 
AP
Oct. 20: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, shakes hands with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai during their meeting in Kabul.

KABUL, Afghanistan –  Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said if the United States and Pakistan ever went to war, his country would back Islamabad, drawing a sharp rebuke Sunday from Afghan lawmakers who claimed the country's top officials were adopting hypocritical positions.

The scenario is exceedingly unlikely and appears to be less a serious statement of policy than an Afghan overture to Pakistan, just days after Karzai and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Islamabad must do more to crack down on militants using its territory as a staging ground for attacks on Afghanistan.

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"If fighting starts between Pakistan and the U.S., we are beside Pakistan," Karzai said is an interview with private Pakistani television station GEO that aired Saturday. "If Pakistan is attacked and the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan's help, Afghanistan will be there with you."
He said that Kabul would not allow any nation, including the U.S., to dictate its policies.
Both Washington and Kabul have repeatedly said Pakistan is providing sanctuary to militant groups launching attacks in Afghanistan.
The comments set off a firestorm of criticism in the country. Afghan lawmakers argued they were particularly hypocritical coming just weeks after the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani by a suicide bomber.
While it is unclear who masterminded Rabbani's killing, the Afghan government has said it was planned in the Pakistani city of Quetta, the Taliban leadership's suspected base. In addition, the Afghan interior minister accused the Pakistani intelligence service of being involved -- a claim that has not been substantiated.
"Pakistan has never been honest with Afghanistan, and the nation of Afghanistan will never forget those things that happen here" because of Pakistan, Shah Gul Rezaye, a lawmaker from Ghazni province told The Associated Press, citing Rabbani's death and other incidents of violence.
"They make deal with terrorists, and then with the international community ... to get $1 billion from the U.S. under the name of the struggle against terrorism," she said.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said it was up to the Afghan government to explain Karzai's remarks.
"This is not about war with each other," Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall told the AP. "This is about a joint approach to a threat to all three of our countries: insurgents and terrorists who attack Afghans, Pakistanis, and Americans."
Following her stop in Kabul, Clinton flew to Pakistan to deliver the blunt message that if Islamabad is unwilling or unable to take the fight to the al-Qaida and Taliban-linked Haqqani network operating from its border with Afghanistan, the U.S. "would show" them how to eliminate its safe havens.
Even so, she said the U.S. has no intention of deploying U.S. forces on Pakistani soil, and that the favored approach was one of reconciliation and peace -- an effort that needed Islamabad's cooperation.
Pakistan has been reluctant to move more forcefully against the Haqqani, arguing such an act could spark a broader tribal war in the region.
While it weighs its options, NATO pressed ahead with its operations.
The U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces on Saturday concluded two operations aimed at disrupting insurgent operations in Kabul, provinces south of the Afghan capital and along the eastern border with Pakistan -- all places where the Haqqani network has launched attacks.
NATO did not release further details about the operations, but Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a coalition spokesman, said Sunday that "a number of Haqqani affiliated insurgents plus additional fighters have been either detained or killed in the course of operations."
During her visit to Pakistan, Clinton said Haqqani fighters were among those killed and captured during the operations.
"Many dozens, if not into the hundreds, have been captured or killed on the Afghan side of the border," she said in Islamabad.
The push comes as NATO plans to pull out its combat forces by the end of 2014 and hand over full security responsibility to the Afghans.
But the attacks and assassination attempts continue.
In the latest such incident, bodyguards for Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi shot and killed a would-be suicide bomber who was waiting for the minister's convoy Sunday in Sayyed Khel district of Parwan province, north of Kabul, the ministry said. The minister was not in the convoy at the time.
NATO also said three of its service members were killed separate clashes with insurgents in the south and east of the country. The coalition did not provide additional details, but the deaths, which occurred Saturday and Sunday, raised to 474 the number of NATO service members killed so far this year in Afghanistan.
Also, five villagers were killed while trying to remove a roadside mine planted by the Taliban in the western province of Herat, the provincial governor's spokesman, Mohyaddin Noori, said Sunday.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/10/23/karzai-says-afghanistan-would-back-pakistan-if-us-attacks/#ixzz1beyUKKMu
22979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Where are the bond vigilantes? on: October 23, 2011, 08:23:28 PM
A repost from the Economics thread on SCH:  Second post of the evening, to be read in conjunction with the various posts from today.  If I summarize the relevant point correctly, it is that the absence of increase in interest rates despite truly wild irresponsiblity on the part of the Fed and the US govt is that there has been a qualitative increase in the demand of central banks for dollars-- created by the Fed's policies!-- and that this increase in demand has qualitatively diminished the role of private capital in determining interest rates. 

Question presented:  Is this analysis correct?  Is Shedlocks' analysis correct?  Are the two analyses consistent with each other or not?

By RONALD MCKINNON
In past decades, tense political disputes over actual or projected fiscal deficits induced sharp increases in interest rates—particularly on long-term bonds. The threat of economic disruption by the so-called bond market vigilantes demanding higher interest rates served to focus both Democratic and Republican protagonists so they could more easily agree on some deficit-closing measures.

For example, in 1993 when the Clinton administration introduced new legislation to greatly expand health care without properly funding it ("HillaryCare"), long-term interest rates began to rise. The 10-year rate on U.S. Treasury bonds touched 8% in 1994. The consequent threat of a credit crunch in the business sector, and higher mortgage rates for prospective home buyers, generated enough political opposition so that the Clinton administration stopped trying to get HillaryCare through the Congress.

In the mid-1990s, Democrats and Republican cooperated to cap another open-ended federal welfare program—Aid to Families with Dependent Children—by giving block grants to the states and letting the states administer the program. Interest rates came down, and the Clinton boom was underway.

Enlarge Image

CloseChad Crowe
 .In contrast, after the passage of ObamaCare in March 2010, long-term bond rates remained virtually unchanged at around 3%. This was despite great doubt about the law's revenue-raising provisions, and the financial press bemoaning open-ended Medicare deficits and the mandated huge expansion in the number of unfunded Medicaid recipients. Even with great financial disorder in the stock and commodity markets since late July 2011, today's 10-year Treasury bond rate has plunged below 2%. The bond market vigilantes have disappeared.

Without the vigilantes in 2011, the federal government faces no immediate market discipline for balancing its runaway fiscal deficits. Indeed, after President Obama finally received congressional approval to raise the debt ceiling on Aug. 2, followed by Standard & Poor's downgrade of Treasury bonds from AAA to AA+ on Aug. 5, the interest rate on 10-year Treasurys declined even further.

Since Alexander Hamilton established the market for U.S. Treasury bonds in 1790, they have been the fulcrum for the bond market as a whole. Risk premia on other classes of bonds are all measured as so many basis points above Treasurys at all terms to maturity. If their yields are artificially depressed, so too are those on private bonds. The more interest rates are compressed toward zero, the less useful the market becomes in reflecting risk and allocating private capital, as well as in disciplining the government.

To know how to restore market discipline, first consider what caused the vigilantes to disappear. Two conditions are necessary for the vigilantes to thrive:

(1) Treasury bonds should be mainly held within the private sector by individuals or financial institutions that are yield-sensitive—i.e., they worry about possible future inflation and a possible credit crunch should the government's fiscal deficits get too large. Because private investors can choose other assets, both physical and financial, they will switch out of Treasurys if U.S. public finances deteriorate and the probability of future inflation increases.

(2) Private holders of Treasurys must also be persuaded that any fall in short-term interest rates is temporary—i.e., that the Fed has not committed itself to keeping short-term interest rates near zero indefinitely. Long rates today are the mean of expected short rates into the future plus a liquidity premium.

The outstanding stock of U.S. Treasury bonds held outside American intergovernment agencies (such as the Social Security Administration but excluding the Federal Reserve) is about $10 trillion. The proportion of outstanding Treasury debt held by foreigners—mainly central banks—has been increasing and now seems well over 50% of that amount. Since 2001, emerging markets alone have accumulated more than $5 trillion in official exchange reserves. And in the last two years the Fed itself, under QE1 and QE2, has been a major buyer of longer-term Treasury bonds to the tune of about $1.6 trillion—and that's before the recently announced "Operation Twist," whereby the Fed will finance the purchase of still more longer-term bonds by selling shorter-term bonds. So the vigilantes have been crowded out by central banks the world over.

Central banks generally are not yield-sensitive. Instead, under the world dollar standard, central banks in emerging markets are very sensitive to movements in their dollar exchange rates. The Fed's near-zero short-term interest rates since late 2008 have induced massive inflows of hot money into emerging markets through July 2011. This induced central banks in emerging markets to intervene heavily to buy dollars to prevent their currencies from appreciating versus the dollar. They unwillingly accept the very low yield on Treasurys as a necessary consequence of these interventions.


True, in the last two months, this "bubble" of hot money into emerging markets and into primary commodities has suddenly burst with falls in their exchange rates and metal prices. But this bubble-like behavior can be traced to the Fed's zero interest rates.

Beyond just undermining political discipline and creating bubbles, what further economic damage does the Fed's policy of ultra-low interest rates portend for the American economy?

First, the counter-cyclical effect of reducing interest rates in recessions is dampened. When interest rates dipped in the past, at least part of their immediate expansionary impact came from the belief that interest rates would bounce back to normal levels in the future. Firms would rush to avail themselves of cheap credit before it disappeared. However, if interest rates are expected to stay low indefinitely, this short-term expansionary effect is weakened.

Second, financial intermediation within the banking system is disrupted. Since early 2008, bank credit to firms and households has declined despite the Fed's huge expansion of the monetary base—almost all going into excess bank reserves. The causes are complex, but an important part of this credit constraint is that banks with surplus reserves are unwilling to put them out in the interbank market for a derisory low yield. This bank credit constraint, particularly on small- and medium-size firms, is a prime cause of the continued stagnation in U.S. output and employment.

Third, a prolonged period of very low interest rates will decapitalize defined-benefit pension funds—both private and public—throughout the country. In California, for example, pension actuaries presume a yield on their asset portfolios of about 7.5% just to break even in meeting their annuity obligations, even if they were fully funded.

Perhaps Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke should think more about how the Fed's near-zero interest rate policy has undermined fiscal discipline while corrupting the operation of the nation's financial markets.

Mr. McKinnon is a professor at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institution for Economic Policy Research.

22980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shedlock's deflation analysis on: October 23, 2011, 08:20:58 PM
Spurred on by Tom's presence here I think we are having a good conversation.  I now repost something from the Economics forum that I originally had brought to my attention by Tom.

The point of particular interest here is the explanation of low interest rates.  Then I will follow with a separate post concerning a different explanation of interest rates-- which will plant the question of whether both analyses are correct, one is, or neither is.

============

I am trying to understand your reasoning in the discussion about inflation vs. deflation.  One of the things I don't understand is the role of "credit". You write that "the market value of credit is collapsing at an amazing rate".  But isn't "credit" the same as "debt"?  When the market value of debt falls, then I wouldn't I need less "real estate" to get rid of my debt? Please, can you spend a minute to clarify this contradiction.
---------------
No Contradiction

Hello Josef,

An accepted offer for credit is a loan, resulting in debt for the borrower, and an asset (the loan) on the balance sheet of the lender (typically a bank or finance company). So yes debt = credit extended (plus agreed upon interest).

When the value of assets (loans) drop significantly, banks become capital impaired and cannot lend. This is happening now even though banks are hiding losses by not marking assets to market prices.

We have heard absurd statements from the Central bank of France that there are no toxic assets on French bank balance sheets. The market price of Greek debt says otherwise.

Plunge in Mark-to-Market Prices of Bank Assets

We can infer marked-to market plunges in value of bank assets by the enormous drops in financial stocks this year. We know the value of debt on the balance sheets of banks has collapsed, even if banks deny it.

Inability to pay back debt also shows up in credit default swaps, sovereign debt ratings, and soaring bond yields of Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy vs. Germany.

These credit actions show a demand for safe hiding places such as US and German government bonds and cash. We can see that in record low US treasury yields and German government bond yields.

Debt Not Marked-to-Market

The second question is where your error is "wouldn't I need less real estate to get rid of my debt?"

The debt remains until it is written off. In the US, people still owe more on their houses than they can pay back. The money is owed but will not be paid back. The same applied to may types of loans including auto loans, credit card debt, home equity lines, etc.

Enormous Foreclosure Backlog

US Banks have the value of their assets (mortgage loans, commercial real estate loans, consumer credit loans), at prices that do not reflect likelihood of default and thus that debt is not marked-to-market.

Writedowns are deflation in action, and they are coming.

In many instances, people walk away from mortgage debt. In those cases banks eventually foreclose. The key word is "eventually" as the list of pending foreclosures is measured in decades at the current rate.

Please see First Time Foreclosure Starts Near 3-Year Lows, However Bad News Overwhelms; Foreclosure Pipeline in NY is 693 months and 621 Months in NJ for details.

US Writedowns Coming on REOs

When homeowners walk away or go bankrupt, generally they are relieved of debt. However the problem for banks does not go away.

After foreclosure, banks have a different asset on the books. It is no longer a loan, but rather REO (Real Estate Owned).

What do you think those houses on the balance sheets of banks are worth vs. the value banks hypothesize they are worth?

Once again, this capital impairment shows up in banks inability and unwillingness to lend. When banks don't lend, businesses don't expand, and when businesses don't expand unemployment stays high.

This deflationary cycle feeds on itself until home prices fall to the point where there is genuine demand for them and banks are recapitalized.

European Writedowns

The biggest debt problem in Europe is in regards to loans made by French and German banks to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

The ECB, EU, and IMF compounded the problem by throwing more money at Greece, on terms and timelines Greece cannot possibly pay back.

Europe has other huge structural issues regarding productivity in Spain and Greece vs. Germany, and in currency union that cannot possibly work given the lack of a fiscal union.

Poor Policies by IMF, EU, ECB, Fed

EU, IMF, ECB, and Fed policies in the US and Europe were designed to hide losses on real estate loans, to hide losses on sovereign debt loans to Greece, Spain, Portugal etc, and to prevent losses to banks and bondholders.

Barry Ritholtz had an excellent column on that yesterday called Banking’s Self Inflicted Wounds.

Policies of governments and central banks that bail out private banks are wrong because they place more burden on already over-extended and deep in debt taxpayers who are not equipped to take on more debt.

The deflationary backdrop will persist until debt is written off, consumer deleveraging peaks, home prices fall to affordable values, and global structural imbalances fixed. The situation is not encouraging because of five critical problems.

Five Critical Problems


Keynesian clowns everywhere refuse to accept the fact that debt is the problem and one cannot possibly spend one's way out of debt crisis.
Europe has structural problems related to the currency union, productivity, union work rules, pensions, retirement, and country-specific fiscal problems.
The US has structural problems related to prevailing wages, collective bargaining of public unions, corporate tax policies, etc.
Stimulus and bailouts are bad enough in and of themselves, but stimulus and bailouts without fixing structural problems is insanity.
Politicians on both continents refuse to address structural issues

Process is Important, Not the Term

It's important to not get hung up on the term "deflation" but rather to understand the process I am describing, the implications of that process, and why the policy actions taken have not worked (and cannot possibly work), all called well in advance.

For more on the process of deflation (regardless of what one wants to call it), please see Bizarro World Inflation; About that 2011 Hyperinflation Call ...

Yes Virginia, U.S. Back in Deflation; Inflation Scare Ends; Hyperinflationists Wrong Twice Over

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com
22981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, deficit, and budget process on: October 23, 2011, 05:47:14 PM
I took the liberty of reformatting so that each statement stands visually distinct from the other.  Both are worthy of independent consideration.

The first is a sound political action point.

The second is pithily precise.  To have one sentence that gets everything as exactly right in terms that everyone can understand as that one does is a gift.
22982  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 23, 2011, 04:55:12 PM
Grateful to watch my son compete in his first BJJ tournament today.  He took home the Bronze cool
22983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Rmoney's guilt complex on: October 23, 2011, 08:15:48 AM
third post of the morning

As the GOP casts about for a response to Occupy Wall Street, at least one prominent Republican isn't sweating it. In the war over class, Mitt Romney is already waving a white flag. And therein lies one of his chief liabilities as a Republican nominee or president.

The Occupy masses don't have a unified message, though the Democrats embracing them aren't making that mistake. President Obama helpfully explained that the crowds in New York and elsewhere are simply expressing their "frustrations" at unequal American society. The answer to their protests is, conveniently, his own vision for the country. If wealthier Americans and corporations are just asked to pay their "fair share," if "we can go back to that then I think a lot of that anger, that frustration dissipates," said the president.

This is a campaign theme in the making, and one with which Mr. Obama has already had plenty of practice. Congressional Democrats, too, see the value of pivoting off Occupy Wall Street to build an election-year class-warfare argument.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's latest answer to any spending proposal is a "millionaire's surtax," which he intends to make Republicans vote against ad nauseam. Labor unions, liberal activist groups—all see an Occupy opportunity to refocus the blame for a faltering economy away from President Obama and to greedy, rich America.

But here's the other big prize, from the White House's perspective: The man they most expect to become the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, is already running from this debate. Mr. Romney, they see, is in the full throes of Guilty Republican Syndrome.

It's a curious illness, even if its source is clear: success. Mr. Romney is a multimillionaire, and through his own hard work. It's a great American story, yet the Republican is paralyzed at the thought of what his opponents might do with it in a 9% unemployment economy. Democrats have already pounced on his time at Bain Capital, accusing Mr. Romney of "stripping down" companies and "laying off" employees for profit. The press has run exposés on his privileged upbringing, his "oceanfront" vacation home, his use of private jets.

Even his Republican opponents, who should know better, are lobbing anti-wealth pot shots. Herman Cain has taken to comparing his own "Main Street" business experience to Mr. Romney's "Wall Street" past. Rick Perry is running an ad that hits Mr. Romney on his state health-care plan but ends with this bit of class: "Even the richest man can't buy back his past."

Having initially fought these caricatures, Mr. Romney has since begun to exhibit all the syndrome's symptoms. He's put forth a 59-point economic plan that eliminates the capital gains tax—but only for people who earn less than $200,000 a year. He's declared, at a New Hampshire town hall (and at every other opportunity): "I'm not running for the rich people. Rich people can take care of themselves. They're doing just fine." He's developed a form of Tourette's that causes him to employ the term "middle class" in nearly every sentence.

Related Video
 James Taranto on how Mitt Romney's guilt as a millionaire feeds Democratic class warfare.
..Mr. Romney is clearly hoping that his own passive form of class warfare will head his opponents off at the blue-collar pass. Really? The 2012 election is shaping up to be a profound choice. Mr. Obama is making no bones about his vision of higher taxes, wealth redistribution, larger government.

Mr. Romney has generally espoused the opposing view—smaller government, fewer regulations, opportunity—but only timidly. This hobbles his ability to go head to head with the president, to make the moral and philosophical case for that America. How can Mr. Romney oppose Mr. Obama's plans to raise taxes on higher incomes, dividends and capital gains when the Republican himself diminishes the role of the "top 1%"? How can he demonstrate a principled understanding of capital and job creation when latching on to Mr. Obama's own trademark $200,000 income cutoff?

At a town hall in Iowa Thursday, Mr. Romney took it further: "For me, one of the key criteria in looking at tax policy is to make sure that we help the people that need the help the most."

These are the sort of statements that cause conservative voters to doubt Mr. Romney's convictions. It also makes them doubt the ability of a President Romney to convince a Congress of the need for fundamental tax reform. If anything he owes a debt to Newt Gingrich, who in a recent debate gave him a taste of how politically and intellectually vulnerable he is on this argument, asking Mr. Romney to justify the $200,000 threshold.

Mr. Romney's non-responsive response included five references to the "middle" class and another admonition that the "rich" are "doing just fine." Mr. Obama can't wait to agree, even as he shames Mr. Romney over his bank account.

Mr. Romney isn't the first Republican to develop Guilty Syndrome, and one option would be to form a support group with, say, George H.W. Bush. A better cure might be the tonic of Ronald Reagan, who never let his own wealth get in the way of a good lower-tax argument. Reagan's message, delivered with cheerfulness and conviction, was that he wanted everyone in American to have the opportunity to be as successful as he had been. If Mr. Romney is looking for a way to connect with an aspiring American electorate, that's a start.

22984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Cain on: October 23, 2011, 08:12:08 AM
By JULIE JARGON
Long before his simple "9-9-9" tax plan vaulted him to the top tier in polls in the Republican presidential race, Herman Cain was pitching other catchy ideas, like a two-for-$12.99 pizza deal as chief executive of the Godfather's Pizza chain.

 Joseph Barrett on The News Hub looks at Herman Cain's years leading Godfather's Pizza, and how his '2 pizzas for $12.99' plan then compares to his 9-9-9 tax plan in his current GOP presidential campaign.
.Former co-workers see parallels between Mr. Cain's focus on big ideas then and now. But while some former campaign staffers have criticized the candidate's failure to build a substantial nuts-and-bolts ground operation to match his rhetoric, former colleagues at Godfather's saw a hands-on operational focus that helped him come up with the big ideas.

Godfather's, a midrange chain of mostly sit-down restaurants based in Omaha, Neb., with outlets in more than 40 states, had suffered from rapid expansion and poor locations at the time Mr. Cain took over in 1986. The company also was bleeding money. At a training restaurant near headquarters, Mr. Cain was literally hands-on.

"We'd get our hands full of dough and talk to the crew. He was adamant that we understand how the restaurants operated granularly," said Charlie Henderson, Godfather's former vice president of marketing.

Mr. Cain, who ran Godfather's Pizza for about a decade, has described his experience there as the biggest challenge of his career and former colleagues confirm the chain was in dire straits.

"It was a very broken restaurant chain," said Paul Baird, the former vice president of operations. "If it were not for Herman Cain, Godfather's would have closed."

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CloseOmaha World-Herald
 
Herman Cain, at Godather's Pizza in 1993, was known for a hands-on approach that helped him come up with big-idea marketing campaigns
.To compete with larger chains, Mr. Cain pushed for home delivery and created value offers, such as the deal offering two pizzas for $12.99. Early on, he appeared in television commercials boasting that Godfather's pizza had more toppings than its competitors. With a similar marketing flourish years later, when Mr. Cain's advisers suggested the "Optimal Tax" as a name for his tax plan, the candidate instinctively rejected it. "We can't call it that. We're just going to call it what it is: 9-9-9," he said.

Still, some former Cain campaign staffers have said he lacks organizational focus. He went months without a campaign manager after his first one left in early June. He has been touring the country giving interviews about his new book and speeches outside of the standard campaign stops. He hasn't been to Iowa since last August, for instance, and doesn't plan to return until November.

While running Godfather's, Mr. Cain and a group of executives bought the chain from then-owner Pillsbury in a management-led buyout reportedly valued at $40 million. They largely stabilized Godfather's finances while closing unprofitable outlets.

Mr. Cain, 65 years old, grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Morehouse College with a degree in math. He developed fire-control systems for ships and fighter planes for the Department of the Navy while earning a master's degree in computer science from Purdue University. He later worked as a computer-systems analyst for Coca-Cola Co., before joining Pillsbury.

Mr. Cain had turned around Pillsbury's underperforming Burger King restaurants in the Philadelphia region before becoming CEO of Godfather's in 1986.

There, Mr. Cain had a strong No. 2 in Ronald Gartlan, who is equally credited with improving the business. But former employees say the two had different skills.

"Herman is more of an innovator. He was very aggressive at rolling out new products and ideas. Ron would temper him, saying, 'We have to somehow pay for that stuff.' He was the right brain to Herman's left brain," Mr. Henderson recalls.

Efforts to reach Mr. Cain for comment, through his campaign, were unsuccessful. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Gartlan, who is now CEO of Godfather's, declined to comment. The company also declined to comment beyond saying it appreciates Mr. Cain's contribution.

When managers were having trouble building traffic at the chain's Alaska restaurants, the marketing team supplied Mr. Cain with a flood of ideas. He wanted a simple approach.

The result was The Big V, a larger pizza with toppings that were spread out more thinly, giving the impression of more pizza for less money. The "value" offering drastically increased customer visits in Alaska within three or four weeks, Mr. Henderson said.

Former employees said the changes Mr. Cain made company-wide resulted in positive growth in stores open for more than a year, and also positive cash flow within months. However, Godfather's market share remained flat even while the pizza industry was growing, according to restaurant consulting firm Technomic Inc.

Ultimately, Mr. Cain succeeded in stanching the bleeding and stabilizing the business, rather than jump-starting growth.

Closely-held Godfather's doesn't disclose financial data, but Technomic said the chain provided it with a sales figure of $262.8 million in 1986, the year Mr. Cain became chief executive. At that time, there were 656 restaurants. Technomic estimates that revenue was flat, at roughly $270 million, when Mr. Cain left in 1995 to focus on his lead role at the National Restaurant Association, the industry lobbying group. But given that the restaurant count was down to 511 at that time, it represented a stabilization of the business.

Godfather's confirms that Mr. Cain sold all his shares in the company for an undisclosed sum.

Former employees said Mr. Cain frequently reminded his management team that they had to keep their eye on improving store operations. "He'd slap his hand on the table and say, 'Alright, it's time to go back to the strategy. Strategy is like religion. Every now and then you need a dose,' " Mr. Baird said.

22985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH piece on Cain on: October 23, 2011, 07:59:13 AM


WASHINGTON — Herman Cain, the Republican presidential candidate with the sharp wit and easy-to-remember tax plan, is a cancer survivor, radio host and former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza. On the campaign trail, he talks up his business experience, casting himself as a “problem solver” and Washington outsider.

But the role that helped propel Mr. Cain into politics was that of an ultimate Washington insider: industry lobbyist.

From 1996, when he left the pizza company, until 1999, Mr. Cain ran the National Restaurant Association, a once-sleepy trade group that he transformed into a lobbying powerhouse. He allied himself closely with cigarette makers fighting restaurant smoking bans, spoke out against lowering blood-alcohol limits as a way to prevent drunken driving, fought an increase in the minimum wage and opposed a patients’ bill of rights — all in keeping with the interests of the industry he represented.

It was a role that gave him an intimate view of the way Washington works, putting him in close proximity to Republican leaders at the time, including Newt Gingrich, now one of his presidential rivals, and John A. Boehner, now speaker of the House. And it helped Mr. Cain lay the groundwork for the next chapter in his life, his entry into electoral politics, beginning with a short-lived bid for the White House in 2000.

Those who knew him then could see his ambitions developing. Rob Meyne, an official at the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which contributed handsomely to the restaurant group, wrote in a 1999 e-mail to his colleagues that Mr. Cain’s presidential plans were “not totally unexpected.” In the message, part of an online archive of tobacco industry documents, a wry and somewhat skeptical Mr. Meyne assessed Mr. Cain’s chances.

“Nice to have goals, huh?” Mr. Meyne wrote, speculating that perhaps Mr. Cain wanted to be vice president or had a cabinet post in mind. “In any event,” he went on, “Cain brings some positives. He is a genuine ‘antigovernment mandate’ conservative who happens to be an African-American. He is a wonderful speaker and would be an effective and charismatic candidate. He is also good on our issues.”

Mr. Cain, 65, declined to be interviewed for this article. He does not hide his experience at the restaurant group — it is mentioned on his Web site — but on the campaign trail he emphasizes his earlier stint running Godfather’s, although he has not run a major corporation for more than a decade.

In many ways, his advocacy of a special interest fits with his free-market, anti-Washington themes. Colleagues from the restaurant association remember him as an energetic leader and a fierce foe of any initiative that he saw as a government intrusion into the private sector.

He was at first reluctant to give up his perch as a corporate executive to run a trade group. But Thomas A. Kershaw, a Boston restaurateur and owner of Cheers, the bar that inspired the television show, said the chance to work in the nation’s capital seemed to hold allure.

“I think what was enticing to him was coming to Washington and getting into the middle of the whole political arena,” Mr. Kershaw said. “I think he had his eye on politics.”

Mr. Cain burst into the spotlight in 1994, two years before he joined the trade group full time, while still running Godfather’s. As the association’s unpaid chairman, he sparred with President Bill Clinton during a nationally televised town-hall-style meeting on health care. Mr. Cain insisted that the Clinton plan would cost jobs, asking, “If I’m forced to do this, what will I tell those people whose jobs I’m forced to eliminate?”

Their polite, if pointed, back and forth — Mr. Clinton pushed back with calculations that Mr. Cain declared “incorrect” — made the pizza executive a minor celebrity and sent the White House scrambling to respond.

“That was a very seminal moment for Herman,” said Stephen J. Caldeira, who later ran the association’s communications operation under Mr. Cain. “I think that was when he got the political bug.”

=================

He caught the eye of Jack Kemp, a leading Republican in Washington who shared his free market views, in 1996, when Bob Dole sought the White House with Mr. Kemp as his running mate, Mr. Cain advised them. That same year, after a headhunting firm identified Mr. Cain as a possible successor to the restaurant association’s departing chief executive, he signed on.
The Long Run
When Mr. Cain took the helm of the restaurant association, anti-drunken-driving groups were waging a campaign to lower the legal blood-alcohol limit from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent — a change that restaurant owners feared would hurt liquor sales. In an opinion article in his local newspaper, The Omaha World-Herald, Mr. Cain called instead for stiffer penalties for drunken driving — an argument that drew a pointed rebuke from Diane Riibe, a board member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“Mr. Cain and those he represents are in the business of selling alcohol,” Ms. Riibe wrote, “not saving lives.”
Anti-tobacco groups were also upset with positions he advocated. Because the cigarette makers had a less than stellar image, they often built lobbying partnerships with other industries.
Under Mr. Cain’s leadership, the restaurant association opposed higher taxes on cigarettes and the use of federal money to prosecute cigarette makers for fraud — positions that Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said had little to do with the restaurant business.
And Mr. Cain argued vociferously that the decision about whether to go smoke-free was the province of individual restaurant owners, not the government. “The restaurant industry literally became the alter ego of the tobacco industry during that period of time,” Mr. Myers said in an interview.
The restaurant association relied heavily on R. J. Reynolds for financial support, records show. Mr. Meyne, the Reynolds senior director of public affairs, served on the restaurant group’s board, and Mr. Cain served on the board of Nabisco, which had earlier merged with Reynolds.
In a 1999 memorandum, Mr. Meyne wrote that in previous years his company had given the trade group “as much as nearly $100,000 in cash and much more in in-kind support,” adding, “They have done virtually everything we’ve ever asked, and even appointed us to their board.”
Mr. Cain did not entirely become a creature of Washington during his time here. He kept his home in Omaha, where the pizza company was headquartered, and took an apartment in the Northern Virginia suburbs. Weekdays, when he was not traveling, he worked out of the association’s Washington headquarters. Weekends, he flew home to his wife in Omaha.
The trade group did not have an especially high profile in Washington when Mr. Cain took over. Each year, Fortune magazine published its “Power 25” list of the most influential interest groups in the capital. The restaurant group had never made the list. But by the time Mr. Cain left, he said in his book, the group was ranked 15th.
He bolstered his media relations department, hired more lobbyists and demonstrated a knack for simple titles and catchy names — foreshadowing, perhaps, the “9-9-9” tax plan that is a central feature of his presidential campaign. He branded his media strategy “Mo, Me, Mo,” for motivation, message, momentum.
He built a nationwide grass-roots program aimed at getting local restaurant owners to come lobby in Washington, on the theory that every lawmaker’s district has restaurants. He called it “BITE Back,” for “Better Impact the Elected.” He strengthened state affiliates, creating a new political action committee — the Save American Free Enterprise Fund, or SAFE — to help state chapters beat back initiatives they regarded as antibusiness.
While Mr. Cain was not a constant presence on Capitol Hill — his lobbyists did the industry’s day-to-day bidding — he did take pains to cultivate relations with Republican leaders. Those friendships seem to have lasted; Mr. Gingrich told CNN last week that Mr. Cain had a good shot at becoming the Republican nominee, while Mr. Cain said last month that he had “the greatest admiration” for Mr. Gingrich and even named him as a possible running mate.
“We were not on the radar before him,” said Joseph K. Fassler, a former board chairman of the restaurant association. “I remember one day I was walking in Washington with him, and Colin Powell was driving by. He stopped the car, got out and gave Herman a hug. I remember how impressed I was, seeing that.”
Mr. Cain left the trade group in November 1999. When his own presidential aspirations for 2000 faltered, he became co-chairman of Steve Forbes’s unsuccessful campaign. That year, he moved back to his native Georgia to concentrate on his motivational speaking business and writing books. He dabbled in politics again, seeking the Republican nomination for the Senate in 2004 — and losing badly in the primary to Johnny Isakson, who went on to win the general election.
Mr. Meyne, who now works for the gambling industry and declined to be interviewed for this article, predicted as much. His 1999 e-mail assessing Mr. Cain’s prospects outlined his political weaknesses (“no natural geographic base from which to run” and no proven fund-raising ability) before offering a prescient conclusion.
“Bottom line: Herman Cain is certain, in one form or another, to be a political factor for a number of years to come,” Mr. Meyne wrote. “We have a good relationship with him, and that will certainly be to our benefit.”
22986  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Ninja! on: October 23, 2011, 07:46:21 AM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0t71cexWzvM
22987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Amazing Grace on: October 23, 2011, 07:00:15 AM
Very powerful

http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=1312
22988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2 moms, no dad, this is no surprise on: October 22, 2011, 11:42:17 AM


A good day is when Luc wakes up and wants to be a tractor for Halloween. Or a helicopter. Or Hercules. Or anything other than a princess, bounding door-to-door in tiara and tulle.

A few weeks ago, the 4-year-old boy's desire to trick-or-treat as a princess sparked a dilemma for his two moms, Anna and Louisa Villeneuve: Which do you honor and protect, your child's independent spirit or tender feelings?
"My first reaction was 'He wants to be a princess? We're there!' " said mama Anna. But almost everybody she talked with about Luc's intention told her, "Whoa; that's a bad, bad, bad idea."

For a girl who grew up wanting to dress like a boy, Luc's choice felt like a blow against stereotyping. "But I'm trying to leave my inner activist at home," she said, "and just do what's best for my son.  It's one thing to say 'Son, you can be anything you want. Our society needs to be less uptight.' "

It's another thing entirely to consider how a boy in a princess dress will be treated when all the other boys are trick-or-treating in Superman or Power Rangers costumes.

"I want to encourage him to stand up and be himself," she said. "But my 4-year-old is too little and too fragile to know where the social boundaries are. And I don't want his feelings hurt on what should be one of his happiest nights."

Luc is dreamy-eyed, with lush brown hair and a tentative smile when I meet him after a nap, curled up on mommy Louisa's lap. The toys stacked in neat piles along the wall range from building blocks to trucks to baby dolls.  All year long, he's been donning princess garb in the dress-up corner at his preschool. The adults in his life are fine with that. The little girls, however, have a problem with it. "Boys can't be princesses," they tell Luc, designating him a "wizard" instead.

Still, it's one thing for a little boy to play princess at school, and another to parade in a ball gown before a crowd on the annual Halloween march through the business district in the family's hometown, Glendora.  Anna and Louisa remember the sea of "Yes on 8" signs that sprouted around them in 2008, when the measure banning gay marriage was on the ballot. Gay marriage was rejected that year by voters, just months after the couple officially wed on June 17, the first day gay marriage was legal in California.  Now, Anna envisions those folks snubbing her trick-or-treating princess-boy.

"I imagine that when those Glendorans shut their doors, they're going to say 'See, that's why lesbians shouldn't raise children.' "

She doesn't think that having lesbian moms has influenced Luc's costume choice. Two years ago, he was a Jedi. Last year, he was a purple bat.

"I think he likes the bling, the accessories," she said.

But Anna knows that others see costume as commentary.

"My grandma was horrified when we posted pictures on Facebook of Luc in a princess dress with a tiara" after a visit last year to the dress-up exhibit at the L.A. County Fair.

"She's already anticipating that this is early-onset gayness. 'How could you be encouraging this? It's just not right!' she says."

Her grandmother is 87. But she got a similar response from students in the literature class she teaches at Citrus College.

"My colleagues said, 'Go for it. Support him.' My students said, 'Tell Luc that they are out of princess costumes' or find some other excuse not to let him."

That's exactly what my college daughter said when I shared Luc's dilemma with her. When did young people become such closet conformists? "We're not," she said. "We're just closer to Luc's age. And we remember how mean kids are."

Anna imagines Luc at 15 looking at old pictures with his friends and thinking, "Moms, I was only 4. Why didn't you look out for me?"

Even a child development professor at the college agreed: "Let him be a princess at home, but encourage him to pick out a boy costume for the neighborhood."

The message has come through loud and clear: You're lying if you tell your son: "You can be whoever you want." You can't.  At least not until you're old enough to spend Halloween in West Hollywood.

::

Things began to break the moms' way last week, when they took Luc to a Halloween fair and steered him toward the prince costumes.

"He was like 'Wow.' The sword, the helmet, the armor." At home, they fashioned a shield and sword out of cardboard and duct tape, and Luc played prince all day. "He was thrilled," Anna said.

A few days later, he'd backtracked a bit: He talked about dressing as a pitchfork. And by Friday, he was planning to be "a cannon with a big ball firing out of his face." Now that's something that might have me tracking down the child development expert.

Anna and Louisa haven't yet decided what to allow and what to rule out. The thought they are putting into the choice is a testament, in my eyes, to what good and loving mothers they are.  I imagine they've learned a few things from this about in-the-trenches parenting — including the fickle factor of Halloween. 
A typical kid's desires might shift a dozen times in the holiday run-up. My daughter once changed from witch to black cat in the car on the morning of Halloween, as the first-grade parade was about to begin. That's not about gender identity, but the lure of multiple fantasies.  What Anna and Louisa care about most is not what costume Luc wears, but how the strangers he encounters treat him.

"What I don't want is for somebody to open up that door and say 'Dude, what are you doing in a princess dress?' " Anna said. "It might just be confusion, not disapproval. But that's the comment that will make my child feel like he's done something wrong."

So here, after all the soul-searching, is the very simple message she wants me to share: Remember the tenderness of children's feelings if you open that door on Halloween and find a boy in a princess dress among the innocent trick-or-treaters.

sandy.banks@latimes.com
22989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Now the uncertainty begins on: October 22, 2011, 10:22:27 AM
BTW, amidst all the chatter on the fall of Kadaffy, IMHO it is worth noting that but for Bush's Iraq War intimidating him into giving his surprisingly developed nuke program, Kadaffy may have had or nearly had nukes.

Gadhafi's Death Brings Era of Uncertainty to Libya
Libya entered a new era on Thursday, not only with the death of Moammar Gadhafi, but more importantly with the fall of his hometown of Sirte. If Aug. 21 — the day rebel fighters entered Tripoli — marked the start of the first phase of  post-Gadhafi Libya, Oct. 20 will go down as the beginning of the second phase. The National Transitional Council (NTC) is expected to declare the official liberation of the country on Friday. With that, the NTC will be pressured to follow through on its pledge to push forward the process of forming a transitional government.
“Forming an interim government that satisfies everyone, however, will be impossible, and preventing those who feel slighted from resorting to violence will be almost as difficult.”
Since the presence of a common enemy was the main factor that kept unified the various armed groups around the country who have fought Gadhafi, the two-month period between the fall of Tripoli and the fall of Sirte actually helped the NTC. It allowed the Benghazi-based council to delay having to face its main challenge: trying to form a transitional government that will not leave groups feeling that they have been treated unfairly.
An increasing number of Libyans have begun to openly challenge the authority of NTC leaders in recent weeks, angry at the slow pace of transition since Gadhafi was stripped of power. The NTC repeatedly cited the ongoing war in explaining delays in the formation of a transitional government. It promised that once the country was entirely liberated, it would move forward. With the fall of Sirte, the council is now technically expected to move its headquarters from Benghazi to Tripoli and to form a transitional government within 30 days. A few months after that, elections are planned — and from these a prime minister will be selected and a Cabinet appointed. Forming an interim government that satisfies everyone, however, will be impossible, and preventing those who feel slighted from resorting to violence will be almost as difficult.
If the rebels that once identified as part of the the NTC begin fighting one another for power, it will bear significant consequences for Libya. Such a fight would have an impact abroad as well, especially in two ways: its effect on crude oil production and its negative effect on regional security.
Libya’s pre-war oil production was around 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd), much of it of the highly prized sweet, light variety — and most of that was exported to Europe. The war cut off Libya’s production almost entirely and completely halted its exports. This stoppage caused a significant spike in the price of oil across the world, the effects of which are still being felt today. International oil companies (IOCs) who worked in Libya before the conflict have mostly returned in some capacity to the country. Many of the oil fields worked before the conflict are now back in production, currently estimated at around 400,000 bpd. For such companies, trying to understand which Libyan authorities to deal with will be much more difficult if the NTC begins to lose the credibility it holds as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. However, those who control Tripoli may not control the oil fields, while those who control the oil fields may not control the export facilities.
Security conditions will impact the oil industry just as much as the political uncertainty. No IOC will feel comfortable investing large sums of money into a project when it cannot guarantee the safety of its employees.
Foreign governments, though, are also concerned about the potential for prolonged instability in Libya. European governments that would be affected by an influx of immigrants coming across the Mediterranean — most notably Italy — are especially concerned by the potential for instability. This concern was a major point of Italy’s initial opposition to NATO intervention. An unstable Libya could also become a hub of jihadist activity, which would adversely affect regional neighbors that already have to deal with the activities of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. An unknown number of weapons caches scattered across Libya have already led to a proliferation of high-powered weapons, which have since been smuggled across Libya’s borders. Most notable are the man-portable air defense systems (MANPADs), whose dispersal has already drawn U.S. security teams to the country. The fall of Gadhafi could bring about a far less secure country, even for many Libyans who have taken joy at his demise.
22990  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Winter Camp 2012 on: October 22, 2011, 09:55:18 AM
Woof All:

Some of us may remember Gilbert Tenio from Guro Inosanto's book "The Filipino Martial Arts", whom I had the honor of meeting many years ago (early 90s?) at Dentoy Revillar's home in Stockton. Since then he has passed on.

To my way of thinking there are many valid approaches out there. However that does not mean that it is efficient or effective to accumulate as much as one can from all these systems. To function efficiently and effectively in the high adrenal circumstances of a DLO situation, the parts must fit together.

Recently a friend shared some footage with me of Tenio's heir, Grandmaster Art Gonzalez of Tenio Decuerdas Eskrima. The footage intrigued me greatly. Not only was the orientation very practical, gritty anti-knife, but GM Art was getting to many positions similar to the ones we like for our DLO (Die Less Often) and so it occurred to me that maybe GM Art could help me grow DBMA's DLO system.

An introduction was arranged and a couple of weeks ago as part of a training expedition (that included two days with Rory Miller, Maija Soderholm of Maestor Sonny Umpad's Visayan Corto Cadena Eskrima, and friends) I spend two days in Lodi with GM Art.

I am very glad I did and I am pleased to announce that GM Art will be the guest instructor at the DBMA Winter Camp 2012 which will be a "Die Less Often" intensive.

We are in the process of deciding when the Camp will be held. It will be in February or March. At the moment we are leaning towards President's Weekend in February.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty/Marc
22991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now we are really fuct: Nominal GDP targeting on: October 22, 2011, 09:13:10 AM


http://www.businessinsider.com/the-hottest-idea-in-monetary-policy-2011-10

Over the weekend, Goldman came out with a report calling on the Fed to embrace Nominal GDP targeting: In other words, set as a goal for the economy that nominal GDP that we saw back in 2007, and then produce enough inflation so that we got there.
Now Bernanke is out with a new speech about monetary policy in the post-Great Recession era, and though he doesn't say that much substantive, he does talk more about trying to more clearly express monetary policy goals.
According to PIMCO's Bill Gross, that's code for... targeting Nominal GDP.
Meanwhile, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans has been making similar comments, about weighting the Fed's mandate much more towards the full employment/growth end of the spectrum, even if it means high inflation.
All of which means you should really be reading the work of Bentley Economist Scott Sumner, who has been writing forever about the benefits of Nominal GDP targeting, and who is sure to be the hottest economist in the world, as this takes off.
You can start by watching his lecture below.
Please follow Money Game on Twitter and Facebook.


Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-hottest-idea-in-monetary-policy-2011-10#ixzz1bWRKLZcr
22992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newell frames whistleblower for arson?!? on: October 22, 2011, 08:57:04 AM
ATF Whistleblower Backs Up Latest Allegations Against William Newell

Fast and Furious whistleblower Vince Cefalu supports allegations that ATF Special Agent in Charge Newell just framed one of his own for arson.

October 21, 2011 - 1:08 pm - by Patrick Richardson


According to a story by Townhall.com’s Katie Pavlich, credible death threats against one of the ATF agents who blew the whistle on the Operation Fast and Furious debacle were ignored by the ATF.

Further, ATF attempted to frame him for arson:

Jay Dobyns is a father, husband and 25-year highly respected and highly decorated Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent.



Dobyns has put a number of the nations’ most violent criminals behind bars, which naturally comes with threats from those criminals and their buddies in return. After he finished his work bringing down the Hells Angels, things were no different.

Approximately a year after Operation Black Biscuit concluded beginning in 2004 through 2008, Dobyns and ATF became aware of credible and substantial violent threats against him and his family. Those threats included plans to murder him either with a bullet or by injecting him with the AIDS virus, kidnapping and torturing his then 15-year-old daughter and kidnapping his wife in order to videotape a gang rape of her. Dobyns and ATF also learned contracts were solicited between the Hells Angels, the Aryan Brotherhood and the MS-13 gang to carry out these threats.



Dobyns reported these threats to Special Agent in Charge William Newell, asking for protection for his family. The threats were based in Arizona and Dobyns lived in Arizona at the time. Newell was in charge of investigating and handling all threats made against agents working out of the ATF Phoenix Field Office. The threats were ignored. When Dobyns essentially “blew the whistle” on Newell, pointing out his failures to address violent death threats against a federal agent, he was retaliated against. Newell dismissed the threats and then covered up his blatant dismissal of those threats within the Phoenix Field Office.
This is the same William Newell who was in charge of Fast and Furious — the operation which allowed thousands of military-style weapons into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels — and who apparently lied to Congress about his involvement.

According to Pavlich, Newell was sanctioned for his failures by the Office of the Inspector General:

Additionally, in response to the ATF/FBI interview, despite all the evidence the death threats were credible, Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division John Torres, who like Newell has also been promoted into ATF headquarters, informed Dobyns through an email, “The Chief of Operations Security does not deem the emergency action is required as of this date and time.”

Later, a DOJ Inspector General report concluded that management within the ATF Phoenix office, despite having the necessary resources, did not adequately address threats made against Dobyns and found “absence of any corrective measures proposed to address the failure to conduct timely and thorough investigations into the death threats made against Dobyns.”

In addition, a U.S. Office of Special Counsel report concluded, “I note with concern the absence of any corrective measures proposed to address the failure to conduct timely and thorough investigations into the death threats made against Special Agent Dobyns. ATF does not appear to have held anyone accountable in this regard. Fully addressing the problems and failures identified in this care requires more than amending ATF policies and procedures. It requires that threats against ATF agents be taken seriously and pursued aggressively and that ATF officials at all level cooperate to ensure the timely and comprehensive investigation of threats leveled against its own agents.”
Well, Dobyns’ house was then set on fire.

And ATF has named him as a suspect:

On top of ignoring death threats, recently Dobyns’ house was set on fire at 3 a.m. with his wife, son and daughter sleeping inside in a confirmed act of arson. It is suspected members of the Hells Angels, or close associates of the gang carried out the arson in retaliation of Dobyns’ undercover work.

When Dobyns reported the incident to both ATF and Newell, he asked for an investigation into the case. Newell not only refused to investigate, calling the incident “just scorching,” but allowed his subordinates, including Gillett, to attempt to frame Dobyns, accusing him of purposely burning down his own home with his family inside, has named him as a suspect and is investigating him. Newell conspired to destroy and fabricate evidence to “prove” his case. Emails, witness testimony, phone conversations and other documentation show the ATF Phoenix Field Divisions’ intentions, led by Newell, were to frame Dobyns, yet Newell denied under oath any involvement in this activity. His subordinates Gillett and ATF Tucson Group Supervisor over Operation Wide Receiver Charles Higman, also denied any attempts to frame Dobyns under oath, despite evidence showing otherwise.
According to ATF Special Agent Vince Cefalu — who has been the target of retaliation by ATF bosses himself — this is part of a pattern of behavior by ATF upper management:

These are just deplorable actions. It’s just nauseating; the family’s been through enough.
Cefalu said the response was lackluster at best:

I was there three days after the fire, there wasn’t an ATF agent within a hundred … miles.
Cefalu was understandably incensed by the attempt to paint a decorated agent as an arsonist. Cefalu noted that had it been an FBI agent or DEA agent whose home had been burned, federal agents would have descended in droves.

Instead, he noted, the investigation was botched from the beginning. Cefalu said a neighbor saw a glow that might have been a cell phone in the backyard of Dobyns’ house, and agents tried back-channel to get the U.S. Marshals Service to ping the cellphone towers to try to find out who might have had an active phone in the area at the time of the fire — to no avail.

In addition, protocol would have made the investigation a federal matter, since it involved a federal agent who received death threats pertaining to some of his cases. That’s not what initially happened:

We [ATF] are the arson police, that’s what we do.
But instead of ATF leading the investigation, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department took the lead. Additionally, any information that Dobyns was a suspect should have been turned over to the FBI within 24 hours, as should any evidence ATF collected based on the death threats Dobyns had received. Instead, according to Cefalu, ATF waited 30 days:

Our policy is information has to be turned over to FBI within 24 hours. … ATF sat on it for a month. Nobody did nothing.
At this point, who burned down Dobyns’ house will probably never be known, according to Cefalu:

“All the physical evidence has been tainted,” he said, adding FBI never reduced interviews to writing, so there’s nothing even to go back to check against should fresh evidence or suspects be uncovered. “FBI did a lackluster job.”
According to Pavlich, this is par for the course where retaliation in the ATF is concerned:

Throughout the years it has become clear that ATF is more interested in protecting and promoting the corrupt practices of the men who have made careers profiting off of corruption, obstruction of justice and lies, like Newell, rather than rewarding field agents taking out dangerous criminals like ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns, ATF Operation Fast and Furious Whistleblowers John Dodson, Pete Forcelli, Vince Cefalu and others for their bravery and sacrifice to fight violent crime and for exposing corruption within the agency. The bottom line is, ATF as an agency doesn’t care about recommendations or evidence of misconduct, in fact, the agency rewards screw ups on a regular basis. The Dobyns case could be counted as the most reckless case of retaliation in ATF history, yet nobody has been held accountable for it.
It’s impossible for field agents to do their jobs if they cannot trust that management has their backs. At ATF it’s clear that not only is that not the case, but that the “bosses,” as Cefalu calls them, will not only hang agents out to dry, but are apparently willing to let them be killed in retaliation for blowing the whistle on their corrupt practices.
22993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson airs out Baraq's strategy on: October 22, 2011, 08:20:00 AM
It is probably safe to bet that the tradition of heated arguments over immigration began millennia ago, when the first country drew a line in the sand.  But the past week in the United States of America has been a hot one, at least by any recent comparison.

You might say it began on Tuesday night, like many a bloody fight, in Vegas, when this exchange took place at the Republican debate:



Rather unpleasant, no?

Or it could have been said to begin back on Saturday, when Herman Cain, at a Tea Party sponsored event in Tennessee, proposed an electrified fence — not the joy buzzer type but the type that kills those who dare to breach it — on the U.S.-Mexico border. Or even earlier on Saturday, when Michele Bachmann, campaigning in Iowa proposed her own “secure double fence” for the border. (Bachmann, who seems to always have a pen handy, signed a pledge with the group Americans for Securing the Border, affirming her commitment to the fence.)

Midweek, The Times’s Trip Gabriel reported on the potential fallout for the G.O.P. of this kind of tough talk: the alienation of droves of Latino voters in battleground states in 2012.

And one might even suppose it culminated in an immigration fight of a different sort —the late-week dust-up that began when a story in The Washington Post asserted that the U.S. senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, “embellished” the story of his parents arrival in the United States from Cuba, for his political advantage. Many — including The Miami Herald and Rubio himself — responded with outrage at the story, and called the motives of the paper into question. Rubio’s stature as a popular Latino Republican, one who has been mentioned as a vice-presidential candidate, has led some to assert that the story itself was a “hit job.”

And lest anyone think the issue breaks clearly down partisan lines, there was this, as reported by The Hill: “The U.S. deported more people — nearly 400,000 — who were in the country illegally in fiscal 2011 than ever before, according to the latest numbers released Tuesday by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau.

“President Obama’s administration touted the startling figures as evidence of its progress in stopping illegal immigration, a record that could help the president win back independent voters who abandoned Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.”

Despite all the hot collars and flaring tempers brought on by the Republican antics, it was this last point, a revealing bit of information on the Obama administration’s position on the matter, which opened a round of soul-searching among some bloggers on the left. How tough should Democrats be on immigration and border security?

Soon after the debate, Joe Klein at Swampland pointed out.

It should also be noted that all this macho posturing about electrified fences, crocodiles etc. avoids the most basic fact about illegal immigration — it is down dramatically. The bad economy means there are fewer jobs to lure illegals. The efforts of the last several Presidents [have] significantly beefed up Border Patrol, fencing and high-tech surveillance. And the Obama Administration has been very tough on illegals–almost 400,000, a record, have been deported in the past year. (Of course, you won’t hear the Obama Administration touting this since it might turn away Latino votes…the President, like a strict Franciscan Friar, does not tout his good works, like tax cuts and tightening the border. Weird.)

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones replied to Klein’s post:

I don’t really have a big problem with beefing up the border patrol, but the real answer to illegal immigration (in the short term, anyway) is to lower the cost of legal immigration by boosting quota levels and to raise the cost of illegal immigration by making it unprofitable for employers to hire undocumented workers. That means getting E-verify to work and then tightening up the enforcement and penalties on employers who cheat. It will be interesting to see if the American public actually supports this once they see the results (no more cheap gardeners, no more cheap vegetables, etc.), but the basic idea is hardly impossible to implement.

So far, so good. Then Ryan Bonneville at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen threw a wet blanket on the border patrol bandwagon:

As has been widely reported for several days now, Obama set a new deportation record in the last fiscal year (narrowly edging out the previous record, which also belonged to his administration). This is, no doubt, the latest in his myriad attempts to co-opt the right and burnish his bipartisan credentials heading into the upcoming election. …

Any time he moves to the right, they are going to move further to the right, and their base is going to move with them. There is nothing Obama can do to alter the political calculus here.

But Bonneville truly sounded a note of despair about Klein, Drum and what he calls the “feckless discourse” of Obama and his base on immigration:

Obama’s base is as feckless as he is, which is why he expresses no compunctions about the policy choices he makes. What do you say to Joe Klein when he claims that the “most basic fact” about illegal immigration is that it’s “down”? That the real reason we don’t need crocodiles patrolling the border has nothing at all to do with the number of people illegally crossing it? Drum isn’t much better when his response is “I don’t really have a big problem with beefing up the border patrol”. Why not, Kevin? …

Instead of the fine, self-righteous rage I was working up about what a failure Obama’s presidency has been, I’m left mostly with disappointment. I don’t want to imply that there aren’t any voices doing great work on this ([Adam] Serwer is one of them, most of the time), but more and more it’s becoming clear that Obama is right about what liberals want, and I’m wrong. That’s not infuriating; it’s crushing.

(For those who are riveted by this, Drum defends his stance in a response post, which in turn elicited a response from Matt Yglesias.)

But still the fireworks were being generated by Republicans. On Thursday, Steven Benen at Political Animal expanded on the Times analysis of the Latino voter fallout:

A few weeks ago, Mitt Romney’s campaign launched an attack ad, going after Rick Perry for a Texas policy that offers in-state tuition to children of undocumented immigrants. It was an ugly, borderline-racist commercial, intended to exploit right-wing animus towards Latino immigrants. I noted at the time that Romney appears to be hoping that these voters have short memories and will forget about his divisive antics by Election Day 2012.

Of course, the larger issue goes well beyond one obnoxious ad. Given the extent to which Republican presidential hopefuls are appealing to anti-immigrant voters, the Latino community isn’t exactly being made to feel welcome in the GOP.

But it’s clear Latino voters may not just run up against that problem with Republicans. Adam Serwer, who Bonneville praises, had this to say even before Tuesday’s debate, on the cognitive dissonance of the administration’s stance on “immigration removal:”

In the twisted bizarro world of Washington politics, media conventions have obliged journalists to report with equal “balance” the Republican claim that Obama is pursuing a policy of “backdoor amnesty” even as he racks up more deportations than any president ever before. You’ll hear something similar at the GOP debate tonight if the Republican candidates are asked what needs to be done about illegal immigrations. Perhaps the other candidates will compete with Herman Cain at imagining the most elaborate possible death trap that could be placed at the border to deter would-be migrants.

What you won’t hear about, however, is the human cost to the families, citizen and non-citizen, impacted by the sheer volume and efficiency of the Obama administraton’s immigration removal policy. Neither side is particularly interested in talking about that — Republicans because compassion for the undocumented is political suicide, and the administration because it’s attempting a delicate balancing act between strict immigration enforcement policies and maintaining the approval of Latino voters who were hoping for more out of the Obama administration than record deportation numbers.

Some borders, it seems, can’t be crossed.
22994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Some mini-reflections on: October 22, 2011, 08:13:30 AM
Well, we're out.

Not that the candidates with the Republican nomination will have much to say, but I am with Krauthammer in his comments last night on the Bret Baier Report:  This is not a good thing.  Team Baraq had various opportunities to get negotiations going in a timely manner and achieve our military's desired end of keeping some 25,000 troops there-- which would have been a very useful thing viz Iran- but instead communicated to all concerned no real desire to stay and so an insufficient numbers of Iraqi players wanted to take the chance of standing up in favor of us staying.

Opposition to going into Iraq was a reasonable position to take, but once we were in, ranks should have closed in support of success ESPECIALLY with the success of The Surge-- a success Baraq has had tremendous ego difficulty in admitting, let alone celebrating.   

Instead Candidate Clinton and Candidate Baraq competed to declare who would get us out faster.  Various Iraqi players took note and acted accordingly-- not unlike what is happening in Afpakia right now.



As noted in the Middle East FUBAR thread in the last couple of days, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and other players are drawing similar conclusions.   Who in the Republican campaign is articulating anything that prevents Baraq from claiming all this as success?   No one.  Who in the Republican campaign is saying anything about Libya that would not or does sound churlish or opportunistic?  Prediction:  No one will point out that Kadaffy may well have had nukes by now but for his being intimidated into coughing up his nuke program by Bush's Iraq campaign.

I repeat a point I have made previously.  No Republican is addressing the fundamental issues of foreign affairs; of what the guiding concepts should be as we return to a multi-polar world.  No one is addressing the implications of the (unconstitutional?) budget "super committee" and its looming failure to come up with something and the resulting additional $500 Billion in military cuts on top of the cuts ($400B?) already in the pipeline.


22995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary Clinton behind OFF? on: October 21, 2011, 09:41:49 PM
RELIABILITY OF THIS SITE/AUTHOR IS UNKNOWN:
================================

http://www.examiner.com/conservative-in-national/breaking-new-evidence-show-hillary-a-mastermind-behind-gunwalker

Last week it was reported that the State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were deeply involved in the scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, or Project Gunwalker. Today, however, new evidence has surfaced indicating that not only was Hillary deeply involved in the scandal but was one of the masterminds behind it.

According to investigative citizen journalist Mike Vanderboegh, sources close to the development of the Gunwalker scheme state that early on, Hillary and her trusted associated at State, Andrew J. Shapiro, devised at least part of the framework of what would later become Operation Fast and Furious. It was Shapiro who first described the details of the proposed scheme early in 2009 just after the Obama Administration took office.

Vanderboegh relates the following:

My sources say that as Hillary's trusted subordinate, it was Shapiro who first described to the Secretary of State the details of what has become the Gunwalker Scandal.

The precise extent to which Hillary Clinton's knowledge of, and responsibility for, the Gunwalker Plot, lies within the memories of these two men, Shapiro and Steinberg, sources say.

The sources also express dismay that the Issa committee is apparently restricting itself to the Department of Justice and not venturing further afield. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, they say, needs to summon these two men and their subordinates -- especially at the Mexico Desk at State -- and question them under oath as to what Hillary Clinton knew about the origins of the Gunwalker Scandal and when she knew it.

There is one other thing those sources agree upon. The CIA, they say, knows "everything" about the "Mexican hat dance" that became the Gunwalker Scandal.

The 'Steinberg' mentioned in the quote above is Hillary Clinton's former Deputy Secretary of State, who was appointed directly by Barack Obama and was considered from the start to be an 'Obama man' whose objective was to carry out the wishes of the President in the State Department.

Hillary had said of Steinberg,

Clinton said Steinberg had been a “fixture” at meetings with the National Security Council (NSC) and frequently represented the US State Department at the White House.

That statement is key. Hillary herself stayed out of all meetings dealing with strategy concerning the euphemism the Administration used to designate Gunwalker, 'strategy meetings on Mexico and the problem of drug and gun trafficking.' Hillary's absence would give the impression that she had no connection to the scheme while making sure that her views were represented by Steinberg and Shapiro, both of whom were fully complicit with the details that developed concerning how to pad statistics on U.S. guns in Mexico.

According to sources, Hillary was obsessed with gun statistics that would prove that '90% of the firearms used by Mexican criminals come from the United States.' As previouly reported, that meme, repeated incessantly by Democratic Senators, Barack Obama, certan members of the ATF, Janet Napolitano, and Hillary Clinton was patently and blatantly false. The fact that they all knew it was false is borne out by the lengths to which each of the above named co-conspirators went to attempt to 'prove' that the 90% figure was true.

Again, Vanderboegh relates the following:

My sources say that this battle of the "statistics" was taken very seriously by all players -- the White House, State and Justice. Yet, WHY was this game of statistics so important to the players? If some weapons from the American civilian market were making it to Mexico into the hand of drug gang killers that was bad enough. What was the importance of insisting that it was 90 percent, 80 percent, or finally 70 percent? Would such statistics make any difference to the law enforcement tactics necessary to curtail them? No.

This statistics mania is similar to the focus on "body counts" in Vietnam. Yet if Vietnam body counts were supposed to be a measure of how we were winning that war, the focus on the 90 percent meme was certainly not designed to be a measure of how we were winning the war against arming the cartels, but rather by what overwhelming standard we were LOSING. Why?

Recall what the whistleblower ATF agents told us right after this scandal broke in the wake of the death of Brian Terry: "ATF source confirms ‘walking’ guns to Mexico to ‘pad’ statistics."

Thus, from the beginning the scheme was to pad statistics on U.S. guns in Mexico in order to be in a strengthened position to call for gun bans and strict gun control at a time when it was politically unpopular. Further, the scheme would involve a made-up statistic, out of thin air--90%--which then had to be proved by using civilian gun retailers along the southern border as unsuspecting pawns to walk U.S. guns into Mexico by ATF agents, straw purchasers, and others with connections to Mexican drug cartels.

And the evidence points to the fact that Hillary Clinton was one of the original Administration officials who was 'in the loop' on the scheme from the very beginning.
22996  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Hillary Clinton behind OFF? on: October 21, 2011, 09:40:40 PM
92125

We do not have any opinion as to the trustworthiness of this site/author:
=============================

http://www.examiner.com/conservative-in-national/breaking-new-evidence-show-hillary-a-mastermind-behind-gunwalker

Last week it was reported that the State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were deeply involved in the scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, or Project Gunwalker. Today, however, new evidence has surfaced indicating that not only was Hillary deeply involved in the scandal but was one of the masterminds behind it.

According to investigative citizen journalist Mike Vanderboegh, sources close to the development of the Gunwalker scheme state that early on, Hillary and her trusted associated at State, Andrew J. Shapiro, devised at least part of the framework of what would later become Operation Fast and Furious. It was Shapiro who first described the details of the proposed scheme early in 2009 just after the Obama Administration took office.

Vanderboegh relates the following:

My sources say that as Hillary's trusted subordinate, it was Shapiro who first described to the Secretary of State the details of what has become the Gunwalker Scandal.

The precise extent to which Hillary Clinton's knowledge of, and responsibility for, the Gunwalker Plot, lies within the memories of these two men, Shapiro and Steinberg, sources say.

The sources also express dismay that the Issa committee is apparently restricting itself to the Department of Justice and not venturing further afield. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, they say, needs to summon these two men and their subordinates -- especially at the Mexico Desk at State -- and question them under oath as to what Hillary Clinton knew about the origins of the Gunwalker Scandal and when she knew it.

There is one other thing those sources agree upon. The CIA, they say, knows "everything" about the "Mexican hat dance" that became the Gunwalker Scandal.

The 'Steinberg' mentioned in the quote above is Hillary Clinton's former Deputy Secretary of State, who was appointed directly by Barack Obama and was considered from the start to be an 'Obama man' whose objective was to carry out the wishes of the President in the State Department.

Hillary had said of Steinberg,

Clinton said Steinberg had been a “fixture” at meetings with the National Security Council (NSC) and frequently represented the US State Department at the White House.

That statement is key. Hillary herself stayed out of all meetings dealing with strategy concerning the euphemism the Administration used to designate Gunwalker, 'strategy meetings on Mexico and the problem of drug and gun trafficking.' Hillary's absence would give the impression that she had no connection to the scheme while making sure that her views were represented by Steinberg and Shapiro, both of whom were fully complicit with the details that developed concerning how to pad statistics on U.S. guns in Mexico.

According to sources, Hillary was obsessed with gun statistics that would prove that '90% of the firearms used by Mexican criminals come from the United States.' As previouly reported, that meme, repeated incessantly by Democratic Senators, Barack Obama, certan members of the ATF, Janet Napolitano, and Hillary Clinton was patently and blatantly false. The fact that they all knew it was false is borne out by the lengths to which each of the above named co-conspirators went to attempt to 'prove' that the 90% figure was true.

Again, Vanderboegh relates the following:

My sources say that this battle of the "statistics" was taken very seriously by all players -- the White House, State and Justice. Yet, WHY was this game of statistics so important to the players? If some weapons from the American civilian market were making it to Mexico into the hand of drug gang killers that was bad enough. What was the importance of insisting that it was 90 percent, 80 percent, or finally 70 percent? Would such statistics make any difference to the law enforcement tactics necessary to curtail them? No.

This statistics mania is similar to the focus on "body counts" in Vietnam. Yet if Vietnam body counts were supposed to be a measure of how we were winning that war, the focus on the 90 percent meme was certainly not designed to be a measure of how we were winning the war against arming the cartels, but rather by what overwhelming standard we were LOSING. Why?

Recall what the whistleblower ATF agents told us right after this scandal broke in the wake of the death of Brian Terry: "ATF source confirms ‘walking’ guns to Mexico to ‘pad’ statistics."

Thus, from the beginning the scheme was to pad statistics on U.S. guns in Mexico in order to be in a strengthened position to call for gun bans and strict gun control at a time when it was politically unpopular. Further, the scheme would involve a made-up statistic, out of thin air--90%--which then had to be proved by using civilian gun retailers along the southern border as unsuspecting pawns to walk U.S. guns into Mexico by ATF agents, straw purchasers, and others with connections to Mexican drug cartels.

And the evidence points to the fact that Hillary Clinton was one of the original Administration officials who was 'in the loop' on the scheme from the very beginning.
22997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The bitch is back on: October 21, 2011, 09:38:28 PM

http://www.examiner.com/conservative-in-national/breaking-new-evidence-show-hillary-a-mastermind-behind-gunwalker

Last week it was reported that the State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were deeply involved in the scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, or Project Gunwalker. Today, however, new evidence has surfaced indicating that not only was Hillary deeply involved in the scandal but was one of the masterminds behind it.

According to investigative citizen journalist Mike Vanderboegh, sources close to the development of the Gunwalker scheme state that early on, Hillary and her trusted associated at State, Andrew J. Shapiro, devised at least part of the framework of what would later become Operation Fast and Furious. It was Shapiro who first described the details of the proposed scheme early in 2009 just after the Obama Administration took office.

Vanderboegh relates the following:

My sources say that as Hillary's trusted subordinate, it was Shapiro who first described to the Secretary of State the details of what has become the Gunwalker Scandal.

The precise extent to which Hillary Clinton's knowledge of, and responsibility for, the Gunwalker Plot, lies within the memories of these two men, Shapiro and Steinberg, sources say.

The sources also express dismay that the Issa committee is apparently restricting itself to the Department of Justice and not venturing further afield. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, they say, needs to summon these two men and their subordinates -- especially at the Mexico Desk at State -- and question them under oath as to what Hillary Clinton knew about the origins of the Gunwalker Scandal and when she knew it.

There is one other thing those sources agree upon. The CIA, they say, knows "everything" about the "Mexican hat dance" that became the Gunwalker Scandal.

The 'Steinberg' mentioned in the quote above is Hillary Clinton's former Deputy Secretary of State, who was appointed directly by Barack Obama and was considered from the start to be an 'Obama man' whose objective was to carry out the wishes of the President in the State Department.

Hillary had said of Steinberg,

Clinton said Steinberg had been a “fixture” at meetings with the National Security Council (NSC) and frequently represented the US State Department at the White House.

That statement is key. Hillary herself stayed out of all meetings dealing with strategy concerning the euphemism the Administration used to designate Gunwalker, 'strategy meetings on Mexico and the problem of drug and gun trafficking.' Hillary's absence would give the impression that she had no connection to the scheme while making sure that her views were represented by Steinberg and Shapiro, both of whom were fully complicit with the details that developed concerning how to pad statistics on U.S. guns in Mexico.

According to sources, Hillary was obsessed with gun statistics that would prove that '90% of the firearms used by Mexican criminals come from the United States.' As previouly reported, that meme, repeated incessantly by Democratic Senators, Barack Obama, certan members of the ATF, Janet Napolitano, and Hillary Clinton was patently and blatantly false. The fact that they all knew it was false is borne out by the lengths to which each of the above named co-conspirators went to attempt to 'prove' that the 90% figure was true.

Again, Vanderboegh relates the following:

My sources say that this battle of the "statistics" was taken very seriously by all players -- the White House, State and Justice. Yet, WHY was this game of statistics so important to the players? If some weapons from the American civilian market were making it to Mexico into the hand of drug gang killers that was bad enough. What was the importance of insisting that it was 90 percent, 80 percent, or finally 70 percent? Would such statistics make any difference to the law enforcement tactics necessary to curtail them? No.

This statistics mania is similar to the focus on "body counts" in Vietnam. Yet if Vietnam body counts were supposed to be a measure of how we were winning that war, the focus on the 90 percent meme was certainly not designed to be a measure of how we were winning the war against arming the cartels, but rather by what overwhelming standard we were LOSING. Why?

Recall what the whistleblower ATF agents told us right after this scandal broke in the wake of the death of Brian Terry: "ATF source confirms ‘walking’ guns to Mexico to ‘pad’ statistics."

Thus, from the beginning the scheme was to pad statistics on U.S. guns in Mexico in order to be in a strengthened position to call for gun bans and strict gun control at a time when it was politically unpopular. Further, the scheme would involve a made-up statistic, out of thin air--90%--which then had to be proved by using civilian gun retailers along the southern border as unsuspecting pawns to walk U.S. guns into Mexico by ATF agents, straw purchasers, and others with connections to Mexican drug cartels.

And the evidence points to the fact that Hillary Clinton was one of the original Administration officials who was 'in the loop' on the scheme from the very beginning.
22998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: October 21, 2011, 09:06:35 PM
There is some footage of Hillary, in Afg I think, where she is handed some small electronic device which apparently had the crude jerky footage of the still alive Kadaffy being captured and then a shot of him dead with a hole in his temple.  The look of bloodthirsty glee on her face (for the record, I did too) as she realized what is was was quite special.

Here is the clearest footage I have seen:

http://www.breitbart.tv/new-video-released-showing-initial-capture-of-gaddafi/
22999  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: October 21, 2011, 04:38:36 PM
Indeed  cry cry cry
23000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman interview on: October 21, 2011, 04:34:48 PM
Second post of the afternoon:

STRATFOR CEO George Friedman assesses the uncertainties of the Middle East, including the rise of Iran, and explains why U.S. military options are very limited.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Related Links
•   From the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush: Rethinking the Region
Colin: It’s a cliche, but the only certainty in the Middle East is uncertainty. There are many moving parts in the region and many of the unexpected events of recent weeks add to that uncertainty, along with planned developments such as the American troop withdrawals from oil-rich Iraq.
Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman, who joins me to give his latest assessment.
George: Well, the single most important thing to be concerned about and be watching is the withdrawal of the United States from Iraq, which we’ve talked about before, and the Iranian response to that. The Iranians have made it very clear that regard the American withdrawal as a vacuum and that they intend to fill the vacuum. We have seen some substantial tension emerge between Saudi Arabia and Iran — including of course the story that Iranian operatives were planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States and destroy the Saudi Embassy.
We’ve also seen, of course, the Bahrain events in which the Saudi army has occupied Shiite Bahrain to protect its Sunni ruling family, where clearly the Iranians have had some degree of control. And we’ve also had a report, about two weeks ago, about a shooting in eastern Saudi Arabia, in which gunmen wounded nine soldiers.
None of these by themselves is particularly troubling, until you take them all together and see that we have growing pressure from the Iranians to take advantage of the opening that’s been left to them, and that obviously creates tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and that the Iranians are increasing their position.
When we turn to Syria, where Assad still has not fallen — and for all the expectations that he would be unable to hold out, he has held out quite well to this point — we also see the possibility that if Iran manages to take a dominant position in Iraq and Assad does not fall, you will see a situation where Iranian influence moves through Iraq, through Syria, for Assad’s their ally, and into Lebanon where Hezbollah’s operating, on a continuous line, creating an Iranian sphere of influence to the north of Saudi Arabia and along the southern border of Turkey. This would be dramatic change in the balance of power in the region and it would also be something that would reshape the global balance, as the world is dependent on oil from this region and is going to cooperate with whoever has it.
So we are in a position now where the promised American withdrawal from Iraq is nearing its conclusion, where it’s pretty clear the U.S. is not going to be leaving very many troops, if any, in Iraq after the end and we are seeing the new game develop — the game between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Colin: I assume from what you’re saying, you don’t foresee much coming out of the backstage negotiations the U.S. has been having with Iran for some time.
George: Well, there have certainly been reports of that. I believe that there have been back channels to Iran. The problem is that, whereas it’s clear what the United States wants, which is that Iran should restrain itself in all its dealings, it’s not clear that Iran sees any reason to do that. This has nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear capability or lack of nuclear capability. The fact is that Iran is the leading conventional power in the region. With the United States gone it is able to assert itself, if not directly militarily then indirectly through covert forces and political influence, extensively. Why should the Iranians negotiate with the United States?
Well, one reason is that the Iranian perception of the United States is that the United States is utterly unpredictable, quite irrational and extremely powerful and that combination frightens the Iranians. The Iranians remember very well how they bet on Ronald Reagan and released hostages to Reagan that they wouldn’t release to Jimmy Carter and what a bad bet that was. So they’re aware of two things: that they don’t have that a clear of an understanding of American politics and secondly, that the United States being unpredictable could harm Iran in some way and that might cause them to want to reach some sort of understanding with the United States.
But at this point the American posture is simply one that is prepared to allow this evolution to take place. Last week we saw some very harsh words by President Obama concerning the attempted assassination in Washington. It’s not clear that that’s being followed up in any way, and the signal that’s being delivered to the Iranians is that the road is open to their influence.
Colin: This is a big worry for the Saudis.
George: The Saudis are deeply concerned about what would happen in a world where the United States was not there to protect them and the Iranians were quite assertive about it. But the Saudis are also ultimate pragmatists. The primary interest of the Saudi royal family is preserve the regime and the Saudi royal family. If what they have to do is reach some accommodation with the Iranians, they will do so.
And this is really one of the questions that confronts us in the region. The Iranians have staked their claim; we know what they’re doing. The Americans could attempt to reach some sort of accommodation with Iran. Or the Saudis might. If the Saudis do, the United States is completely frozen out and therefore it’s extremely important to figure out what the U.S. is doing. There’s also, of course, the military option. But the fact is the United States can’t possibly invade Iran and secondly the amount of air power it would take to truly suppress Iran’s military is enormous and probably greater than the United States has easily available.
Knocking out their nuclear sites would not in any way weaken their conventional power and wouldn’t really address the current issue. So the United States has only limited military options, assuming that the United States doesn’t want to go nuclear, which I don’t think it wants to and I don’t think it will. It has limited options against Iran militarily. It is not moving the Iranians to want to negotiate with the United States. The Saudis may be reaching out to the Iranians, whatever the hostility is, to see what sort of deal they may want.
So there’s a game being played that’s very complex, fairly subtle and the U.S., in some ways, is so subtle that it’s very hard to understand what it’s doing.
Colin: And given what you’ve said, the oil sector in Iraq is potentially exposed to Iranian ambitions. But you’ve seen western construction companies in the last few days signing contracts worth billions of dollars to develop that sector.
George: Well, the ability of the oil industry to make bad geopolitical moves is legendary. They are betting that in the end Kurdistan will be allowed a degree of autonomy from Baghdad, so that the contracts they’re signing in Baghdad - in Kurdistan - remain intact. They’re also making the assumption that in the end the Shiite community in southern Iraq will be resistant to the Iranians. All that’s possible, but it’s a serious bet.
It’d be interesting to look at those contracts and see, apart from the press release amount, how much is actually being committed now. I suspect that in these contracts, a great deal of the money will be committed later - six months or year down the road -and relatively little now. Everybody is holding their breath and waiting and all the announcements of increased activity, I suspect, are things that are going to be on hold for a bit.
Colin: And then we have the unexpected prisoner exchange between Israel and the Palestinians. What do you think is going to flow from this, given that significantly, the present Egyptian government was the broker?
George: Well I think what really has happened is first the military junta running Egypt has proved to be more resilient than was anticipated by some, although we never doubted for a moment that they were quite capable of holding onto power. The Egyptian negotiation of settlement has two sides to it: one, the Egyptians have always been cautious about Hamas and in negotiating the settlement it gives them a substantial political influence over Hamas, as their closest neighbor.
Hamas on the other hand faces a blockade from Egypt just as much as it does from Israel and really must listen to the Egyptians. It may be that Egyptian pressure on Hamas helped facilitate this exchange and it may be that Hamas will find itself under more political pressure from Egypt to make some other accommodations with the Israelis. After all, the Egyptian government does not want to see an uprising in Gaza that might initiate resistance in the streets to the Egyptian government and its treaty with Israel. And has, of course, no intention of abrogating that treaty with Israel and therefore it wants to diffuse the situation with Hamas. I think it was something like that that took place on this and I think the Egyptians may continue this process.
Colin: George will continue to watch this closely. George Friedman, there, ending Agenda for the week. Thanks for being with us. Goodbye.
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