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22951  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Top 10 downloads on: January 01, 2011, 01:51:56 PM
22952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: December 31, 2010, 06:49:05 PM

I just took a quick look at that page.  Thanks for the tip, it looks interesting. 

In general, I note that common assumptions of 8% average returns are looking pretty fg fantastical.
22953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: December 31, 2010, 10:45:31 AM
Exactly so, but lets take this conversation over to the new "US-China" thread that I just started.  Indeed, would you be so kind as to paste the Popular Mechanics article there as well?
22954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 31, 2010, 10:44:06 AM
"So Marc, the basis of your argument is that because circumstances are different, blatant public racism and discrimination justified?"

Not quite.  You have already quoted this passage from a previous post of mine

"Although I am distinctly uncomfortable with what I read here, I really can't say I see it as anywhere near comparable to what Jews have been subjected throughout the mid-east (indeed often glossed over is that essentially as many Jews who emmigrated to Israel did so from Arab countries as Europe) or what the Christians of Iraq are suffering as we have this conversation here." 

So, no I am not saying it is justified, nor I am saying it is not.  I am saying it is glib to evaluate by the same criteria/analytical framework that we apply here in the US and that doing so has the practical real world consequence of enabling those who seek to blur moral distinctions in order to create a perception of real politik that will lead the US to change its alliance and friendship with Israel so that Israel and its jew will be destroyed.

22955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-China (& Japan, South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: December 31, 2010, 10:35:40 AM
Woof All:

Just as we have a "Russia" thread and a "US-Russia" thread and a "Russia-Europe" thread, for purposes of thread coherence and improved research/search function relevance, we need to have a "US-China" thread to accompany the existing thread on "China".

Please post accordingly.  For example, I've asked GM to paste here his Popular Mechanics article here and I note that the Rare Earth Elements story, which we have discussed previously in the China thread, continues to bubble along.  As I recounted there, I made a very nice chunk of change in very short order with the two US rare earth plays MCP and REE.  I sold them in the aftermath of the apparent "resolution" of matters between Japan and China, (MCP at 28.xx and REE at 8.xx) but since then China has further tightened its export restrictions and both MCP and REE have shot up dramatically since then.

22956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: December 31, 2010, 10:32:51 AM
I thought that a good article; it brings into play all variables that have engaged my attention (e.g. killer satelliites, cyber disruptions of our communications, etc).
22957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Malkin: Public unions and privitazation on: December 31, 2010, 10:18:50 AM
ligent English farmers of old once shared a motto about the blessings of work: "Industry produces wealth, God speed the plow." Indolent New York City union officials who oversee snow removal apparently live by a different creed: Sloth enhances political power, Da Boss slow the plow.

Come rain or shine, wind, sleet or blizzard, Big Labor leaders always demonstrate perfect power-grabby timing when it comes to shafting taxpayers. Public-sector unions are all-weather vultures ready, willing and able to put special interest politics above the citizenry's health, wealth and safety. Confirming rumors that have fired up the frozen metropolis, the New York Post reported Thursday that government sanitation and transportation workers were ordered by union supervisors to oversee a deliberate slowdown of its cleanup program -- and to boost their overtime paychecks.

Why such vindictiveness? It's a cold-blooded temper tantrum against the city's long-overdue efforts to trim layers of union fat and move toward a more efficient, cost-effective privatized workforce.

Welcome to the Great Snowmageddon Snit Fit of 2010.

New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Queens, told the Post that several brave whistleblowers confessed to him that they "were told (by supervisors) to take off routes (and) not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file."

Denials and recriminations are flying like snowballs. But even as they scoff at reports of this outrageous organized job action, the city sanitation managers' unions openly acknowledge their grievances and "resentment" over job cuts. Stunningly, sanitation workers spilled the beans on how city plowers raised blades "unusually high" (which requires extra passes to get their work done) and refused to plow anything other than assigned streets (even if it meant leaving behind clogged routes to get to their blocks).

When they weren't sitting on their backsides, city plowers were caught on videotape maniacally destroying parked vehicles in a futile display of Kabuki Emergency Theater. It would be laugh-out-loud comedy if not for the death of at least one newborn whose parents waited for an ambulance that never came because of snowed-in streets.

This isn't a triumphant victory for social justice and workers' dignity. This is terrifying criminal negligence.

And it isn't the first time New York City sanitation workers have endangered residents' well-being. In the 1960s, a Teamsters-affiliated sanitation workers' strike led to trash fires, typhoid warnings and rat infestations, as 100,000 tons of rotting garbage piled up. Three decades later, a coordinated job action by city building-service workers and sanitation workers caused another public trash nuisance declared "dangerous to life and health" in the Big Apple.

New Yorkers could learn a thing or two from those of us who call Colorado Springs, Colo., home. We have no fear of being held hostage to a politically driven sanitation department -- because we have no sanitation department. We have no sanitation department because enlightened advocates of limited government in our town realized that competitive bidders in the private sector could provide better service at lower cost.

And we're not alone. As the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan reported: "The largest study ever conducted on outsourced garbage collection, conducted by the federal government in the 1970s, reported 29 to 37 percent savings in cities with populations over 50,000. A 1994 study by the Reason Foundation discovered that the city of Los Angeles was paying about 30 percent more for garbage collection than its surrounding suburbs, in which private waste haulers were employed. A 1982 study of city garbage collection in Canada discovered an astonishing 50 percent average savings as a result of privatization."

Completely privatized trash collection means city residents don't get socked with the bill for fraudulently engineered overtime pay, inflated pensions and gold-plated health benefits in perpetuity -- not to mention the capital and operating costs of vehicles and equipment. The Colorado Springs model, as city councilman Sean Paige calls it, is a blueprint for how every city can cope with budget adversity while freeing itself from thuggish union threats when contracts expire or cuts are made. Those who dawdled on privatization efforts in better times are suffering dire, deadly consequences now.

Let the snow-choked streets of New York be a lesson for the rest of the nation: It's time to put the Big Chill on Big Labor-run municipal services.
22958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: December 31, 2010, 02:23:54 AM
This evening I was watching the Bret Baier Special Report on FOX (my idea of a good news program FWIW).  My 11 year old son was reading and my eight year old daughter was playing on the living room floor.  A piece on Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was on and my daughter started asking some serious questions.  How fascinating to watch an empty cup mind engage with questions-- as is the experience of answering the questions honestly judgemental way (everything is not relative/morally equivalent/arbitary.) yet also establishing open mind thought patterns.

The next piece was on Afpakia and the complex dance there of the Whackostans, the Afghans, the Paks, and the US. 

Again the questions came.  How to explain to an eight year old?  huh  I tried talking about religous crazies and what they did to people in the name of God.   The concept was hard for her to grasp.  I tried explaining that they kill girls who want to learn to read and kill their teachers too because they think God says so and will reward them with heaven when they kill go impose God's word.

"But Dad, then the girls won't be educated!"

"They say God does not want the girls educated.  They like bossing them around."

"Well, if they want someone to boss around, why don't they get a golden retriever?  They like learning to take commands."

22959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 31, 2010, 02:03:11 AM

Please address the central point:  In the US whites are not surrounded/outnumbered by people who want to drive them into the sea, who send suicide mass killers, who cheer the death of white women and children etc and who ally with Iran and others who seek to wipe out the Jewish state altogether even as they kill Christians in Iraq, in Egypt and disrespect their holy places in Gaza.  Its not just the jews in Israel, it is anything that is not Muslim that is the problem for "the group mind" of religious fascism.

The real conditions one the ground in the US and Israel are radically quite different.  As was said here in the US by a Supreme Court justice "The Constitution is not a suicide pact" and it is foolishness both glibl and specious to assert that Israel should do exactly as we do in very different circumstances.

Your argument simply is , , , useful to those who seek to assert moral parity as a means to sabotage Israel's chances of survival.
22960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 30, 2010, 07:29:08 PM
That reads as soundly reasoned and well-explained to me.

I would only add the danger of mingling with a population that outnumbers and surrounds you, a large percentage of whom are dedicated to driving you into the sea but will smile in your face until they get the chance to do so is a very tricky proposition.  If it were your butt that was on the line, you might understand this point better; but they are there and you are here.
22961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Sheep wanted on: December 30, 2010, 01:42:57 PM
BATTLE GROUND, Wash.—Sue Foster knew what she needed to do when her border collie, Taff, was expelled from puppy school for herding the black Labs into a corner.

She rented some sheep.

Then she bought another border collie and rented some grazing land. Then she bought some sheep of her own. And a third border collie. Now, like the old lady who swallowed the fly, Ms. Foster keeps a llama to chase off the coyotes that threaten the lambs that go to market to finance the sheep that entertain her dogs.

Once upon a time, Americans got dogs for their sheep. Now they get sheep for their dogs. "I never dreamed it would go this far," says Ms. Foster, 56 years old.

Border collies, first bred along the frontier between England and Scotland, are compulsive herders, with instincts so intense they sometimes search for livestock behind the television when sheep appear on screen, says Geri Byrne, owner of the Border Collie Training Center, in Tulelake, Calif. Left unoccupied, they'll dig up the garden, chew up the doggie bed or persecute the cat.

Herding experts—yes, there is such a thing—say it's increasingly common for people who get border collies as pets to wind up renting or buying sheep just to keep their dogs busy. "It's something that's snowballing all the time," says Jack Knox, a Scottish-born shepherd who travels the U.S. giving herding clinics.

Each day, an average of 18 dogs visit Fido's Farm outside Olympia, Wash., their owners paying $15 per dog to practice on the farm's 200-head flock of sheep. Herding revenue at the farm is up 60% over the past five years, says owner Chris Soderstrom, who bought the farm in 2004.

"We get many people sent down here from the dog park in Seattle," says Ms. Soderstrom, 63 years old. "They need to get their dog a job." Newcomers get a 30-minute herding evaluation, to weed out biters and ovinophobes. One crucial test: Does the dog instinctively know it should circle around the sheep, not charge into the center of the flock?

Ms. Soderstrom runs the sheep-rental operation on the honor system. Owners sign in, noting how many dogs they brought. A map on the wall of a shed shows where flocks can be found that day—perhaps grazing in the clover field or the east lambing pasture.

Bob Hickman, a 69-year-old retired Army officer, is a regular at Fido's Farm. Mr. Hickman drove a Volvo station wagon and was living in Tacoma when he got his first border collie. Now he has four border collies, a house in the country and a 23-foot camper trailer he uses to transport his dogs to herding competitions.

"I try to come early to beat the crowd," he said during a recent visit to Fido's.

With that many dogs, his sheep-rental bills were getting so high that he cut a deal with Ms. Soderstrom to swap fence-building, deworming and other work for time with the flock.

Mr. Hickman trains his dogs at a variety of sheep-rental outfits. He doesn't want his dogs getting too accustomed to particular sheep. Sheep that spend too much time being herded become "dog-broke," nice for novices but boring for a more experienced dog and owner who want the challenge of wilder stock.

 When faced with the reality that herding is deep in their dogs' DNA, many owners of border collies wind up on a farm, renting -- or buying -- their dogs some sheep. WSJ's Michael M. Phillips reports.
.Mr. Hickman likens herding to his old hobby, golf. Both are addictive, he says. And he wouldn't just play the same course over and over. "You get very good at that course, but if you leave that course you might not be able to handle it," he says.

Border collies, usually svelte, black-and-white dogs with pointed muzzles, control sheep with a relentless stare.

Using whistles and voice commands—"come by" for a clockwise run and "away to me" for counterclockwise—Mr. Hickman typically sends Mojo, his best herder, on a long, fast sweep to the far side of the sheep. The dog then turns back and approaches the flock in a crouch, head down and tail low, dropping to her belly if the sheep get too frightened. Gradually, she pushes the sheep back to Mr. Hickman.

A well-trained dog such as Mojo can split a few sheep off from the flock, drive them through gates and corral them into pens. A novice will send them fleeing in all directions, or even grab a mouthful of wool. When the work is done, Mr. Hickman quietly releases Mojo with the traditional command: "That'll do."

At sheepdog trials, handlers compete for cash and glory. The dogs have simpler needs.

"You don't have to treat the dogs with food," says Ms. Foster, 56, an expatriate Briton. "Their reward is the sheep." When Dot, her youngest dog, misbehaves by running straight into the flock, Ms. Foster penalizes her by standing between dog and sheep.

"They're my sheep—not hers," Ms. Foster explains.

Border collie
.Ms. Foster and her friend Karen Combs, whom she met outside of a PetSmart store, now own 48 sheep between them. They pay $500 a year to rent seven acres of grazing land, selling a few lambs to help defray the cost of feed and rent.

Ms. Combs, 64, owns a border collie-Australian shepherd mix and five border collies, one of which, Tex, she says suffered a nervous breakdown at six months of age. He was being drilled on challenging maneuvers and simply shut down, refusing to leave his handler's side. "He lost his confidence," Ms. Combs says. It took months for him to recover his will to herd.

More common are physical injuries, from unseen holes or collisions with sheep. Lisa Piccioni, an Oregon veterinarian certified in animal chiropractic, travels to sheepdog trials and clinics, adjusting canine spines as she goes.

"They're going to blow through the pain and not stop for it," she says.

Border collies appear willing to herd until they drop. In fact, they never appear to grow bored of organizing sheep. If they do, for an extra $5 dogs at Fido's Farm can also herd ducks.

Write to Michael M. Phillips at

22962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: December 30, 2010, 01:29:35 PM
Some excellent questions there CL.

Opinions are like noses, everyone has one.  FWIW IMHO the long run bond bull market is over.   IMHO interest peaks are going to rise faster and further than anticipated.  If this is so, then bonds are no longer a safe investment.  Gold may well not be a safe investment at this point either.  Working from memory, the gold bubble of the Carter years burst when Volcker drover up interest rates.  The idea you raise about puts, LEAPS, etc. is an interesting one, but as you note, the empirical track record does not support the notion.
22963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: December 30, 2010, 01:24:24 PM
May I interject that in my experience it is often helpful to preface a post, particularly one with which one may disagree in part or whole, with some sort of comments as to why one is posting it.  Answering posts with articles without attendant explanation/context/commentary is often easily misunderstood as well.
22964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Israeli Gas on: December 30, 2010, 01:08:28 PM

I think you gloss over the issue of danger to Israel here from 5th column type issues and drift into moral equivalence territory.  Although I am distinctly uncomfortable with what I read here, I really can't say I see it as anywhere near comparable to what Jews have been subjected throughout the mid-east (indeed often glossed over is that essentially as many Jews who emmigrated to Israel did so from Arab countries as Europe) or what the Christians of Iraq are suffering as we have this conversation here. 

Anyway, here's the article I came to this thread to post:
TEL AVIV—Two years ago, Ratio Oil Exploration LP, an energy firm here, employed five people and was worth about half a million dollars.

Noble Energy
Operations in Noble Energy's Leviathan gas field, the world's biggest deepwater gas find in a decade.
.Today it sits at the center of a gas bonanza that has investors, international oil companies, Israeli politicians and even Hezbollah, Israel's sworn enemy, clamoring for a piece of the action.

Ratio's market capitalization now approaches $1 billion. The rally at Ratio is thanks to the company's 15% stake in a giant offshore gas field called Leviathan, operated by Houston-based Noble Energy Inc.

On Wednesday, the frenzy got fresh fuel: Noble confirmed its earlier estimates that the field contains 16 trillion cubic feet of gas—making it the world's biggest deepwater gas find in a decade, with enough reserves to supply Israel's gas needs for 100 years.

It's still early days, and getting all that gas out of the seabed may be more difficult than it seems today. But Noble and its partners think the field could hold enough gas to transform Israel, a country precariously dependent on others for energy, into a net-energy exporter.

Such a transformation could potentially alter the geopolitical balance of the Mideast, giving Israel a new economic advantage over its enemies.

Even before Wednesday's announcement confirming the size of Leviathan, the big field was causing a ruckus in Israel and the region.

Leviathan, named after the Biblical sea monster, and two smaller gas fields nearby have kicked up a broad speculative craze.

Israel's Gas Bonanza
View Interactive
.More photos and interactive graphics
.The energy index of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange rose 1,700% in the past year. In recent months, energy stocks accounted for about a quarter of trading activity on the exchange, once mostly the domain of real-estate companies.

It's also shaken regional relations. Lebanese politicians are trying to lure companies to explore their nearby waters, while the two countries—still technically at war—have threatened each other over offshore resources.

A minor diplomatic furor has erupted between Israel and the U.S., which is lobbying hard against Israel's plans to raise taxes on energy companies, including Noble.

Leviathan sits some 84 miles off Israel's northern coast and more than three miles beneath the Mediterranean's seabed. Noble began drilling its first exploratory well in the field in October.

Even before Leviathan, a series of finds had put the so-called Levant Basin, stretching offshore in the Mediterranean, on the international energy map.

In March, the U.S. Geological Survey released its first assessment of the zone, estimating it contained 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of gas. That's equal to half the proven gas reserves of the U.S.

The finds also exposed a grittier underside to Israel's financial sector. A string of criminal investigations launched by Israeli authorities into share-price movements and company disclosures have dogged some of the bonanza's highest flyers.

And a long-running shareholder fight at Ratio spilled into the public this fall, featuring a cameo appearance by a man wanted by U.S. authorities on racketeering and conspiracy charges.

 Israel's recent discovery of offshore gas fields has Lebanon, its northern neighbor, looking to do the same to help feed its growing electricity demands. WSJ's Don Duncan reports from Lebanon.
.Except for the occasional small oil and gas find in its early years, Israel has searched in vain for energy. Big Oil shied away, worried about antagonizing Arab and Iranian partners.

A hardy group of Israeli explorers kept at it anyway. Ratio was one of them. In the early 1990s, Ratio's chief executive, Yigal Landau, from a family of infrastructure magnates, and Ligad Rotlevy, whose family textile business goes back 80 years, formed the company to search for oil onshore.

By then, companies were also venturing offshore. In 1998, another Israeli energy firm, Delek Group Ltd., persuaded Noble, one of the first independents to operate offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, to start looking in Israel's slice of the Mediterranean.

Noble drilled its first Israeli well in 1999, and quickly scored two modest finds. Financial firms and local businessmen with little energy experience began snapping up offshore leases from the government.

Thanks to a 1952 petroleum law still on the books, Israel offered some of the world's best perks to energy companies, including low royalties and corporate taxes on exploration.

Ratio tried to buy into the offshore projects that Noble and Delek were pursuing, but was rebuffed. Instead, in 2007, Messrs. Landau and Rotlevy put up $40 million and took a gamble on the rights to an offshore license neighboring the Noble and Delek fields. It would eventually become the Leviathan field.

Armed with promising seismic data, the pair then convinced Noble and Delek to buy into their lease. They sold a 45% stake to Delek and a 40% stake to Noble.

In January 2009, Noble made a landmark discovery. The Tamar field contained premium quality gas—almost pure methane. Noble had expected to find three trillion cubic feet at the most. The reservoir ended up containing nearly three times that. Two months later, the company found a second, smaller deposit of gas at the nearby Dalit field.

Then, last summer, Noble dropped a bomb shell. The Leviathan field appeared to be a supergiant, according to three-dimensional seismic studies, with almost twice the gas reserves of Tamar.

Ratio's shares soared, and so did those of other energy firms in Tel Aviv. The rally set off alarm bells among regulators.

"We saw new players, and these skeleton entities that had nothing to do with oil, had no experience or know-how, buying and trading leases, making baseless claims," said Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Uzi Landau. "We decided we had to stop this crazy atmosphere engulfing the market." He wouldn't discuss specific companies.

Officials at the Israeli Securities Authority declined to comment on specific cases, but said they were concerned about an ongoing pattern in which small energy companies publish vague or misleading reports that cause their share prices to skyrocket, and often to plummet later.

In September, the ISA raided the offices of two energy-exploration firms related to probes into trading irregularities.

In the case of EZ Energy, regulators stormed its offices Sept. 20, seizing computers and files after its stock shot up 150% in a single session. The ISA says EZ Energy is being investigated for criminal wrongdoing, but hasn't been specific.

EZ Energy declined to comment. The company has disclosed it held a private meeting with Ratio to discuss buying a small share of another, unstudied offshore gas license. Ratio said the company has stopped taking meetings with other energy firms. Ratio isn't accused of any wrongdoing in connection with EZ.

Amid the stock-market frenzy, the Israeli government started considering changing its 1950s-era energy royalties and tax regime, to boost the government's take of any gas find.

Earlier this year, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said he was considering changing terms retroactively—meaning the government could extract better terms on previously assigned leases. Noble and Israeli oil executives went on the offensive.

A retroactive change would be "egregious" and "would quickly move Israel to the lowest tier of countries for investment by the energy industry," Noble's chief executive, Chuck Davidson, wrote Mr. Steinitz in April.

The company enlisted high-level negotiators, including the U.S. State Department and former President Bill Clinton, to lobby against any change.

Mr. Clinton raised the issue in a private meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York in July, according to a Clinton aide. "Your country can't just tax a U.S. business retroactively because they feel like it," the aide said Mr. Clinton told Mr. Netanyahu.

Mr. Netanyahu was noncommittal, the aide said. A spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu declined to comment on the meeting.

Finance Minister Steinitz has so far ignored the pressure. Last month, he said a government-appointed committee had made preliminary recommendations to abolish tax breaks for energy firms and impose steep tax increases of 20% to 60% on windfall profits. Any tax changes are subject to approval by Israel's cabinet.

"Israel is sovereign to make its own decision and change its tax regime," Mr. Steinitz said in an interview.

Shares in energy companies plummeted on news of the tax increases. Delek Energy said it would have to reevaluate the Tamar field. "This really threatens our ability to deliver the project on schedule," said Gidon Tadmor, the CEO. Funding for development of the gas field is now on hold, he said, due to banks' concerns about the new tax regime.

Despite these problems, Israel's gas find is making waves abroad. Lebanon has staked out its own claim to offshore gas. In August, lawmakers in Beirut rushed the country's first oil-exploration law through its normally snarled parliament.

Lebanon's oil minister, Gebran Bassil, an ally of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, said in late October that his ministry hopes to start auctioning off exploration rights by 2012.

Iran, Israel's arch-nemesis and Hezbollah's chief backer, has also weighed in. Tehran's ambassador to Lebanon, Qazanfar Roknabadi, last month claimed that three-quarters of the Leviathan field actually belongs to Lebanon.

Mr. Landau, the Israeli infrastructure minister, denied the claim and warned Lebanon that Israel wouldn't hesitate to use force to protect its mineral rights.

Meanwhile, the poster child of the boom, Ratio, has seen its star fade after authorities launched a criminal probe of the company's relationship with an Israeli wanted by the U.S. on racketeering and conspiracy charges.

The Israeli investigation is ongoing and charges haven't been filed.

A disgruntled investor, Shlomi Shukrun, has publicly accused Ratio's founders, Messrs. Landau and Rotlevy, of recruiting Meir Abergil to pressure Mr. Shukrun out of his shares and money he says they owed him.

Mr. Abergil, along with his brother, currently sits in an Israeli prison awaiting extradition to the U.S. to face a 32-count federal indictment. He declined a request to comment for this article.

Ratio officials, meanwhile, say Mr. Shukrun hired people with links to a Georgian crime syndicate to threaten Ratio's Mr. Landau and his family into making up Mr. Shukrun's losses. Mr. Shurkrun's lawyer said his client did send people to collect money from Mr. Landau, but he denied making any threats and denied any connection between his client and Georgian organized crime.

Instead of turning to the courts, the two sides say they turned to Mr. Abergil to help broker a solution. When Ratio's share price started its steep ascent, the dispute over a few hundred thousand dollars became a dispute over a few hundred million dollars.

The case is based on a quarrel that began in 2005. It only came to light in September, when Mr. Shukrun went public with his version of the story, and tapes and transcripts of the private arbitration hearings were leaked to the press.

Mr. Landau, Ratio's CEO, says that after Mr. Shukrun threatened him, he turned to a private security company, run by the brother of a convicted (and now deceased) Israeli crime boss. That firm, in turn, brought in Mr. Abergil, Mr. Landau has said. The brother couldn't be reached for comment.

"The smell of gas in Israel has driven people crazy," he says.

22965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: December 30, 2010, 10:28:25 AM
Big Dog:

Glad to have you with us again.

I read the article in its entirety and if I understand it correctly it says , , , I'm not sure what.  Is the idea that we start children too soon and are too rigorous for them?  Is it that not enough Marxist class consciousness and deconstructionism is taught?  Or is it, as GM laconically queries, that there is too much private sector competition for the public sector?

FWIW, my sense of things is that:
a) a large % of the problem is due to the decline of the American family.  Much of this is due in my opinion, to feminist ideology that women whould leave their children to be raised by others as they work.  Most of the declines we see today in the family track strongly with the movement of women into the workforce;
b) a large % of the problem is due to the progressive claptrap being taught;
c) in a related  vein, teacher unions also play a strong role in all this.

Anyway, I happened to come to this thread at the moment to post the following POTH article on Chinese education, which may be tangentially relevant to what you post.

Published: December 29, 2010
SHANGHAI — In Li Zhen’s ninth-grade mathematics class here last week, the morning drill was geometry. Students at the middle school affiliated with Jing’An Teachers’ College were asked to explain the relative size of geometric shapes by using Euclid’s theorem of parallelograms.

Enlarge This Image
Ryan Pyle for The New York Times
A teacher instructed students in class at the middle school associated with Jing’An Teachers’ College in central Shanghai.

“Who in this class can tell me how to demonstrate two lines are parallel without using a proportional segment?” Ms. Li called out to about 40 students seated in a cramped classroom.

One by one, a series of students at this medium-size public school raised their hands. When Ms. Li called on them, they each stood politely by their desks and usually answered correctly. They returned to their seats only when she told them to sit down.

Educators say this disciplined approach helps explain the announcement this month that 5,100 15-year-olds in Shanghai outperformed students from about 65 countries on an international standardized test that measured math, science and reading competency.

American students came in between 15th and 31st place in the three categories. France and Britain also fared poorly.

Experts said comparing scores from countries and cities of different sizes is complicated. They also said that the Shanghai scores were not representative of China, since this fast-growing city of 20 million is relatively affluent. Still, they were impressed by the high scores from students in Shanghai.

The results were seen as another sign of China’s growing competitiveness. The United States rankings are a “wake-up call,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.

Although it was the first time China had taken part in the test, which was administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, based in Paris, the results bolstered this country’s reputation for producing students with strong math and science skills.

Many educators were also surprised by the city’s strong reading scores, which measured students’ proficiency in their native Chinese.

The Shanghai students performed well, experts say, for the same reason students from other parts of Asia — including South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong — do: Their education systems are steeped in discipline, rote learning and obsessive test preparation.

Public school students in Shanghai often remain at school until 4 p.m., watch very little television and are restricted by Chinese law from working before the age of 16.

“Very rarely do children in other countries receive academic training as intensive as our children do,” said Sun Baohong, an authority on education at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. “So if the test is on math and science, there’s no doubt Chinese students will win the competition.”

But many educators say China’s strength in education is also a weakness. The nation’s education system is too test-oriented, schools here stifle creativity and parental pressures often deprive children of the joys of childhood, they say.

“These are two sides of the same coin: Chinese schools are very good at preparing their students for standardized tests,” Jiang Xueqin, a deputy principal at Peking University High School in Beijing, wrote in an opinion article published in The Wall Street Journal shortly after the test results were announced. “For that reason, they fail to prepare them for higher education and the knowledge economy.”

In an interview, Mr. Jiang said Chinese schools emphasized testing too much, and produced students who lacked curiosity and the ability to think critically or independently.

“It creates very narrow-minded students,” he said. “But what China needs now is entrepreneurs and innovators.”

This is a common complaint in China. Educators say an emphasis on standardized tests is partly to blame for the shortage of innovative start-ups in China. And executives at global companies operating here say they have difficulty finding middle managers who can think creatively and solve problems.

In many ways, the system is a reflection of China’s Confucianist past. Children are expected to honor and respect their parents and teachers.

“Discipline is rarely a problem,” said Ding Yi, vice principal at the middle school affiliated with Jing’An Teachers’ College. “The biggest challenge is a student who chronically fails to do his homework.”

While the quality of schools varies greatly in China (rural schools often lack sufficient money, and dropout rates can be high), schools in major cities typically produce students with strong math and science skills.

Shanghai is believed to have the nation’s best school system, and many students here gain admission to America’s most selective colleges and universities.


Page 2 of 2)

In Shanghai, teachers are required to have a teaching certificate and to undergo a minimum of 240 hours of training; higher-level teachers can be required to have up to 540 hours of training. There is a system of incentives and merit pay, just like the systems in some parts of the United States.

“Within a teacher’s salary package, 70 percent is basic salary,” said Xiong Bingqi, a professor of education at Shanghai Jiaotong University. “The other 30 percent is called performance salary.”

Still, teacher salaries are modest, about $750 a month before bonuses and allowances — far less than what accountants, lawyers or other professionals earn.

While Shanghai schools are renowned for their test preparation skills, administrators here are trying to broaden the curriculums and extend more freedom to local districts. The Jing’An school, one of about 150 schools in Shanghai that took part in the international test, was created 12 years ago to raise standards in an area known for failing schools.

The principal, Zhang Renli, created an experimental school that put less emphasis on math and allows children more free time to play and experiment. The school holds a weekly talent show, for example.

The five-story school building, which houses Grades eight and nine in a central district of Shanghai, is rather nondescript. Students wear rumpled school uniforms, classrooms are crowded and lunch is bused in every afternoon. But the school, which operates from 8:20 a.m. to 4 p.m. on most days, is considered one of the city’s best middle schools.

In Shanghai, most students begin studying English in first grade. Many middle school students attend extra-credit courses after school or on Saturdays. A student at Jing’An, Zhou Han, 14, said she entered writing and speech-making competitions and studied the erhu, a Chinese classical instrument. She also has a math tutor.

“I’m not really good at math,” she said. “At first, my parents wanted me to take it, but now I want to do it.”
22966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Up from the memory hole: BO's lawlessness against Chrysler's secured creditors on: December 30, 2010, 09:51:41 AM
22967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Terror vs. Terrorism on: December 30, 2010, 09:24:03 AM
Separating Terror from Terrorism
December 30, 2010

By Scott Stewart

On Dec. 15, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent a joint bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies expressing their concern that terrorists may attack a large public gathering in a major U.S. metropolitan area during the 2010 holiday season. That concern was echoed by contacts at the FBI and elsewhere who told STRATFOR they were almost certain there was going to be a terrorist attack launched against the United States over Christmas.

Certainly, attacks during the December holiday season are not unusual. There is a history of such attacks, from the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988, and the thwarted millennium attacks in December 1999 and January 2000 to the post-9/11 airliner attacks by shoe bomber Richard Reid on Dec. 22, 2001, and by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Dec. 25, 2009. Some of these plots have even stemmed from the grassroots. In December 2006, Derrick Shareef was arrested while planning an attack he hoped to launch against an Illinois shopping mall on Dec. 22.

Mass gatherings in large metropolitan areas have also been repeatedly targeted by jihadist groups and lone wolves. In addition to past attacks and plots directed against the subway systems in major cities such as Madrid, London, New York and Washington, 2010 saw failed attacks against the crowds in New York’s Times Square on May 1 and in Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland, Ore., on Nov. 26.

With this history, it is understandable that the FBI and the DHS would be concerned about such an attack this year and issue a warning to local and state law enforcement agencies in the United States. This American warning also comes on the heels of similar alerts in Europe, warnings punctuated by the Dec. 11 suicide attack in Stockholm.

So far, the 2010 holiday season has been free from terrorist attacks, but as evidenced by all the warnings and concern, this season has not been free from the fear of such attacks, the psychological impact known as “terror.” In light of these recent developments, it seems appropriate discuss the closely related phenomena of terrorism and terror.

Propaganda of the Deed

Nineteenth-century anarchists promoted what they called the “propaganda of the deed,” that is, the use of violence as a symbolic action to make a larger point, such as inspiring the masses to undertake revolutionary action. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, modern terrorist organizations began to conduct operations designed to serve as terrorist theater, an undertaking greatly aided by the advent and spread of broadcast media. Examples of attacks designed to grab international media attention are the September 1972 kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and the December 1975 raid on OPEC headquarters in Vienna. Aircraft hijackings followed suit, changing from relatively brief endeavors to long, drawn-out and dramatic media events often spanning multiple continents.

Today, the proliferation of 24-hour television news networks and the Internet have allowed the media to broadcast such attacks live and in their entirety. This development allowed vast numbers of people to watch live as the World Trade Center towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, and as teams of gunmen ran amok in Mumbai in November 2008.

This exposure not only allows people to be informed about unfolding events, it also permits them to become secondary victims of the violence they have watched unfold before them. As the word indicates, the intent of “terrorism” is to create terror in a targeted audience, and the media allow that audience to become far larger than just those in the immediate vicinity of a terrorist attack. I am not a psychologist, but even I can understand that on 9/11, watching the second aircraft strike the South Tower, seeing people leap to their deaths from the windows of the World Trade Center Towers in order to escape the ensuing fire and then watching the towers collapse live on television had a profound impact on many people. A large portion of the United State was, in effect, victimized, as were a large number of people living abroad, judging from the statements of foreign citizens and leaders in the wake of 9/11 that “We are all Americans.”

During that time, people across the globe became fearful, and almost everyone was certain that spectacular attacks beyond those involving the four aircraft hijacked that morning were inevitable — clearly, many people were shaken to their core by the attacks. A similar, though smaller, impact was seen in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. People across India were fearful of being attacked by teams of Lashkar-e-Taiba gunmen, and concern spread around the world about Mumbai-style terrorism. Indeed, this concern was so great that we felt compelled to write an analysis emphasizing that the tactics employed in Mumbai were not new and that, while such operations could kill people, the approach would be less successful in the United States and Europe than it was in Mumbai.

Terror Magnifiers

These theatrical attacks have a strange hold over the human imagination and can create a unique sense of terror that dwarfs the normal reaction to natural disasters that are many times greater in magnitude. For example, in the 2004 Asian tsunami, more than 227,000 people died, while fewer than 3,000 people died on 9/11. Yet the 9/11 attacks produced not only a sense of terror but also a geopolitical reaction that has exerted a profound and unparalleled impact upon world events over the past decade. Terrorism clearly can have a powerful impact on the human psyche — so much so that even the threat of a potential attack can cause fear and apprehension, as seen by the reaction to the recent spate of warnings about attacks occurring over the holidays.

As noted above, the media serve as a magnifier of this anxiety and terror. Television news, whether broadcast on the airwaves or over the Internet, allows people to remotely and vicariously experience a terrorist event, and this is reinforced by the print media. While part of this magnification is due merely to the nature of television as a medium and the 24-hour news cycle, bad reporting and misunderstanding can also help build hype and terror. For example, when Mexican drug cartels began placing small explosive devices in vehicles in Ciudad Juarez and Ciudad Victoria this past year, the media hysterically reported that the cartels were using car bombs. Clearly, the journalists failed to appreciate the significant tactical and operational differences between a small bomb placed in a car and the far larger and more deadly vehicle-borne explosive device.

The traditional news media are not alone in the role of terror magnifier. The Internet has also become an increasingly effective conduit for panic and alarm. From breathless (and false) claims in 2005 that al Qaeda had pre-positioned nuclear weapons in the United States and was preparing to attack nine U.S. cities and kill 4 million Americans in an operation called “American Hiroshima” to claims in 2010 that Mexican drug cartels were still smuggling nuclear weapons for Osama bin Laden, a great deal of fearmongering can spread over the Internet. Website operators who earn advertising revenue based on the number of unique visitors who read the stories featured on their sites have an obvious financial incentive for publishing outlandish and startling terrorism claims. The Internet also has produced a wide array of other startling revelations, including the oft-recycled e-mail chain stating that an Israeli counterterrorism expert has predicted al Qaeda will attack six, seven or eight U.S. cities simultaneously “within the next 90 days.” This e-mail was first circulated in 2005 and has been periodically re-circulated over the past five years. Although it is an old, false prediction, it still creates fear every time it is circulated.

Sometimes a government can act as a terror magnifier. Whether it is the American DHS raising the threat level to red or the head of the French internal intelligence service stating that the threat of terrorism in that country has never been higher, such warnings can produce widespread public concern. As we’ve noted elsewhere, there are a number of reasons for such warnings, from trying to pre-empt a terrorist attack when there is incomplete intelligence to a genuine concern for the safety of citizens in the face of a known threat to less altruistic motives such as political gain or bureaucratic maneuvering (when an agency wants to protect itself from blame in case there is an attack). As seen by the public reaction to the many warnings in the wake of 9/11, including recommendations that citizens purchase plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves from chemical and biological attack, such warnings can produce immediate panic, although, over time, as threats and warnings prove to be unfounded, this panic can turn into threat fatigue.

Those seeking to terrorize can and do use these magnifiers to produce terror without having to go to the trouble of conducting attacks. The empty threats made by bin Laden and his inner circle that they were preparing an attack larger than 9/11 — threats propagated by the Internet, picked up by the media and then reacted to by governments — are prime historical examples of this.

In recent weeks, we saw a case where panic was caused by a similar confluence of events. In October, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) issued the second edition of Inspire, its English-language magazine. As we discussed in our analysis of the magazine, its Open Source Jihad section pointed out a number of ways that attacks could be conducted by grassroots jihadists living in the West. In addition to the suggestion that an attacker could weld butcher knives onto the bumper of a pickup truck and drive it through a crowd, or use a gun as attackers did in Little Rock and at Fort Hood, another method briefly mentioned was that grassroots operatives could use ricin or cyanide in attacks. In response, the DHS decided to investigate further and even went to the trouble of briefing corporate security officers from the hotel and restaurant industries on the potential threat. CBS news picked up the story and ran an exclusive report compete with a scary poison logo superimposed over photos of a hotel, a dinner buffet and an American flag. The report made no mention of the fact that the AQAP article paid far less attention to the ricin and cyanide suggestion than it did to what it called the “ultimate mowing machine,” the pickup with butcher knives, or even the more practical — and far more likely — armed assault.

This was a prime example of terror magnifiers working with AQAP to produce fear.


Groups such as al Qaeda clearly recognize the difference between terrorist attacks and terror. This is seen not only in the use of empty threats to sow terror but also in the way terrorist groups claim success for failed attacks. For example, AQAP declared the failed Christmas Day 2009 “underwear” bombing to be a success due to the effect it had on the air-transportation system. In a special edition of Inspire magazine published in November following the failed attack against cargo aircraft, AQAP trumpeted the operation as a success, citing the fear, disruption and expense that resulted. AQAP claimed the cargo bomb plot and the Christmas Day plot were part of what it called “Operation Hemorrhage,” an effort to cause economic damage and fear and not necessarily kill large numbers of people.

As we’ve noted before, practitioners of terrorism lose a great deal of their ability to create terror if the people they are trying to terrorize adopt the proper mindset. A critical part of this mindset is placing terrorism in perspective. Terrorist attacks are going to continue to happen because there are a wide variety of militant groups and individuals who seek to use violence as a means of influencing a government — either their own or someone else’s.

There have been several waves of terrorism over the past century, but it has been a fairly constant phenomenon, especially over the past few decades. While the flavors of terror may vary from Marxist and nationalist strains to Shiite Islamist to jihadist, it is certain that even if al Qaeda and its jihadist spawn were somehow magically eradicated tomorrow, the problem of terrorism would persist.

Terrorist attacks are also relatively easy to conduct, especially if the assailant is not concerned about escaping after the attack. As AQAP has noted in its Inspire magazine, a determined person can conduct attacks using a variety of simple weapons, from a pickup to a knife, axe or gun. And while the authorities in the United States and elsewhere have been quite successful in foiling attacks over the past couple of years, there are a large number of vulnerable targets in the open societies of the West, and Western governments simply do not have the resources to protect everything — not even authoritarian police states can protect everything. This all means that some terrorist attacks will invariably succeed.

How the media, governments and populations respond to those successful strikes will shape the way that the attackers gauge their success. Obviously, the 9/11 attacks, which caused the United States to invade Afghanistan (and arguably Iraq) were far more successful than bin Laden and company could ever have hoped. The London bombings on July 7, 2005, where the British went back to work as unusual the next day, were seen as less successful.

In the final analysis, the world is a dangerous place. Everyone is going to die, and some people are certain to die in a manner that is brutal or painful. In 2001, more than 42,000 people died from car crashes in the United States and hundreds of thousands of Americans died from heart disease and cancer. The 9/11 attacks were the bloodiest terrorist attacks in world history, and yet even those historic attacks resulted in the deaths of fewer than 3,000 people, a number that pales in comparison to deaths by other causes. This is in no way meant to trivialize those who died on 9/11, or the loss their families suffered, but merely to point out that lots of people die every day and that their families are affected, too.

If the public will take a cue from groups like AQAP, it too can separate terrorism from terror. Recognizing that terrorist attacks, like car crashes and cancer and natural disasters, are a part of the human condition permits individuals and families to practice situational awareness and take prudent measures to prepare for such contingencies without becoming vicarious victims. This separation will help deny the practitioners of terrorism and terror the ability to magnify their reach and power.

22968  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Interesting discussion on: December 30, 2010, 09:16:09 AM
22969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mexico decriminalizes drugs on: December 30, 2010, 12:55:54 AM
22970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bill Buckley and Huey Newton on: December 29, 2010, 11:45:31 PM
22971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Pak disconnect on: December 29, 2010, 11:37:48 PM
The Continuing U.S.-Pakistani Disconnect Over the Afghan War

A number of developments related to the complex dealings between the United States and Pakistan over the war in Afghanistan took place Tuesday. The day began with the head of the Pakistani army’s public relations wing telling the Pakistani English daily Express Tribune that the army’s preliminary plans to launch an offensive in a key tribal region was delayed. The top Pakistani officer explained that the delay of sending forces into North Waziristan was the consequence of a resurgence of militant activity in other parts of the tribal areas — the latest manifestation of two separate attacks over the weekend in Mohmand and Bajaur agencies.

Since the recent strategy review by U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, Islamabad has come under increasing pressure from Washington to expand the scope of its counterinsurgency offensive in North Waziristan. It is the only agency (out of the seven that constitute the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA) that the Pakistani government has not targeted as part of its 20-month-old campaign against Taliban rebels and their transnational allies. North Waziristan has also become the hub of jihadist forces of various stripes, particularly Taliban forces engaged in the fight in Afghanistan, especially so after the mid-2009 Pakistani-commenced operations against militants in other parts of the FATA.

“Both the United States and Pakistan agree that there is to be a negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban, but there is a huge disagreement on how to go about getting to the negotiating table.”
In a separate Express Tribune report by Pakistan’s first internationally affiliated daily — a partner of the International Herald Tribune — unnamed military sources were quoted as saying that senior military commanders decided to redeploy combat troops into the Swat district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province in the wake of a renewed threat from Pakistani Taliban rebels. According to intelligence reports, the Taliban rebel leaderships in Swat and the FATA, which had escaped to Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, were now regrouping in Mohmand and Bajaur to stage a comeback in Swat.

This report provides a justification for the Pakistani argument that it cannot expand its operations into North Waziristan — at least not for a while. It also upends the American argument that Pakistani territory along the Durand Line is a launch pad for Afghan Taliban insurgents fighting Afghan and NATO troops in Afghanistan. In other words, from the Pakistani view, while it is true that Pakistani soil is being used by militants to stage attacks in Afghanistan, the reverse is also true in that Taliban and al Qaeda forces waging war against Islamabad enjoy safe havens in eastern Afghanistan. Interestingly, on Tuesday, The New York Times published a story quoting unnamed U.S. intelligence and military officials stating that rival militant forces on both sides of the border had begun to cooperate to enhance their respective cross-border operations.

On a related note, and in response to the U.S. strategy review, Pakistan recently criticized the United States for demanding that Islamabad prevent militants on its side of the border from staging attacks in Afghanistan, while Washington-led forces with far more superior capabilities were not able to seal the border from the Afghan side. An American military commander responded Tuesday saying that it was not possible for Western forces to seal the lengthy Afghan-border and prevent militants from slipping in from the Pakistani side. Herein lies the dilemma in that both the United States and Pakistan have different priorities.

As far as Washington is concerned, Islamabad should not limit itself to action against Islamist militants waging war on Pakistani soil. Conversely, the Pakistanis want the Americans to realize that they can’t risk exacerbating the war in their country by going after forces that are not waging war against Pakistan. Ultimately, both sides agree that there is to be a negotiated settlement with the Afghan Taliban, but there is a huge disagreement on how to go about getting to the negotiating table.

As this disagreement continues to play itself out, the idea of setting up a Taliban office in Turkey surfaced last week around a summit-level meeting in Istanbul involving the Turkish, Afghan and Pakistani leaderships. While both Kabul and Islamabad welcomed the suggestion, the United States is unlikely to seriously entertain the idea of talks with the Taliban, at least not until after the end of 2011 due to the U.S. surge campaign. That said, if there is to be a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, the Afghan insurgent movement will need to achieve international recognition as a legitimate Afghan national political force and opening an office in a neutral country is a first step in that direction. And until that happens, the U.S.-Pakistani disconnect over the cross-border insurgency is likely to continue.

22972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wikileaks not same as Pentagon Papers on: December 29, 2010, 04:16:27 PM


In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg decided to make available to the New York Times (and then to other newspapers) 43 volumes of the Pentagon Papers, the top- secret study prepared for the Department of Defense examining how and why the United States had become embroiled in the Vietnam conflict. But he made another critical decision as well. That was to keep confidential the remaining four volumes of the study describing the diplomatic efforts of the United States to resolve the war.

Not at all coincidentally, those were the volumes that the government most feared would be disclosed. In a secret brief filed with the Supreme Court, the U.S. government described the diplomatic volumes as including information about negotiations secretly conducted on its behalf by foreign nations including Canada, Poland, Italy and Norway. Included as well, according to the government, were "derogatory comments about the perfidiousness of specific persons involved, and statements which might be offensive to nations or governments."

The diplomatic volumes were not published, even in part, for another dozen years. Mr. Ellsberg later explained his decision to keep them secret, according to Sanford Ungar's 1972 book "The Papers & The Papers," by saying, "I didn't want to get in the way of the diplomacy."

Julian Assange sure does. Can anyone doubt that he would have made those four volumes public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity? Or that he would have paid not even the slightest heed to the possibility that they might seriously compromise efforts to bring a speedier end to the war?

Mr. Ellsberg himself has recently denounced the "myth" of the "good" Pentagon Papers as opposed to the "bad" WikiLeaks. But the real myth is that the two disclosures are the same.

The Pentagon Papers revelations dealt with a discrete topic, the ever-increasing level of duplicity of our leaders over a score of years in increasing the nation's involvement in Vietnam while denying it. It revealed official wrongdoing or, at the least, a pervasive lack of candor by the government to its people.

WikiLeaks is different. It revels in the revelation of "secrets" simply because they are secret. It assaults the very notion of diplomacy that is not presented live on C-Span. It has sometimes served the public by its revelations but it also offers, at considerable potential price, a vast amount of material that discloses no abuses of power at all.

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Associated Press
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at a press conference in Geneva Switzerland, Nov. 4.
.The recent release of a torrent of State Department documents is typical. Some, containing unflattering appraisals by American diplomats of foreign leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Libya and elsewhere, contain the very sort of diplomacy-destructive materials that Mr. Ellsberg withheld. Others—the revelation that Syria continued selling missiles to Hezbollah after explicitly promising America it would not do so, for example—provide a revealing glimpse of a world that few ever see. Taken as a whole, however, a leak of this elephantine magnitude, which appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S., is difficult to defend on any basis other than WikiLeaks' general disdain for any secrecy at all.

Mr. Ellsberg understood that some government documents should remain secret, at least for some period of time. Mr. Assange views the very notion of government secrecy as totalitarian in nature. He has referred to his site as "an uncensorable system for untraceable document leaking and analysis."

But WikiLeaks offers no articles of its own, no context of any of the materials it discloses, and no analysis of them other than assertions in press releases or their equivalent. As Princeton historian Sean Wilentz told the Associated Press earlier this month, WikiLeaks seems rooted in a "simpleminded idea of secrecy and transparency," one that is "simply offended by any actions that are cloaked."

Ironically, this view of the world may aid Mr. Assange in avoiding criminal liability for his actions. The Justice Department is well aware that if it can prove that Mr. Assange induced someone in the government to provide him with genuinely secret information, it might be able to obtain an indictment under the Espionage Act based upon that sort of conspiratorial behavior. But the government might not succeed if it can indict based only upon a section of the Espionage Act relating to unauthorized communication or retention of documents.

Section 793 of the Espionage Act was adopted in 1917 before the Supreme Court had ever declared an act of Congress unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The statute has been well-described by former Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan as "singularly oblique." Its language is sweepingly overbroad, allowing prosecution of anyone who "willfully" retains or communicates information "relating to the national defense" he or she is not "authorized" to have with the knowledge that it "could" damage the United States or give "advantage" to a foreign nation.

On the face of the statute, it could not only permit the indictment of Mr. Assange but of journalists who actually report about or analyze diplomatic or defense topics. To this date, no journalist has ever been indicted under these provisions.

The Justice Department took the position that it could enforce the law against journalists in a case it commenced in 2006 (and later dropped) against two former officials of the American Israel Political Action Committee accused of orally telling an Israeli diplomat classified information they were told by a Defense Department employee. In that case, federal Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled that to obtain a conviction of individuals who had not worked for the government but had received information from individuals who had, prosecutors must prove that the defendant actually intended to harm the U.S. or to help an enemy. Judge Ellis intimated that unless the law were read in that defendant-protective manner, it would violate the First Amendment.

Under that reading of the legislation, if Mr. Assange were found to have communicated and retained the secret information with the intent to harm the United States—some of his statements can be so read—a conviction might be obtained. But if Mr. Assange were viewed as simply following his deeply held view that the secrets of government should be bared, notwithstanding the consequences, he might escape legal punishment.

Mr. Assange is no boon to American journalists. His activities have already doomed proposed federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists' use of confidential sources in the just-adjourned Congress. An indictment of him could be followed by the judicial articulation of far more speech-limiting legal principles than currently exist with respect to even the most responsible reporting about both diplomacy and defense. If he is not charged or is acquitted of whatever charges may be made, that may well lead to the adoption of new and dangerously restrictive legislation. In more than one way, Mr. Assange may yet have much to answer for.

Mr. Abrams, a senior partner in the firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case.

22973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ still after Danish cartoonist on: December 29, 2010, 04:14:46 PM

December 29, 2010


Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart explains why a thwarted terrorism plot in Denmark -- in which five suspected terrorists were arrested -- appears to be a more credible threat than other recent terrorism plots.

Authorities in Denmark and Sweden arrested five men today in connection with a plot to attack a Danish newspaper office in Copenhagen that was involved in the Muhammad cartoon controversy. Unlike some other recent cases in Europe involving the arrest of terrorism suspects, this case appears to be the real deal.
Although we still have a lot of details unavailable to us concerning this case, several of those that have surfaced so far indicate to us that this cell was sincere, that it was dedicated and that is was the real deal.
Probably the first indicator that leaps out to us is that this group was looking at a reasonable and reachable target. They were going to attack this newspaper office -- it wasn't the fact that they were looking to attack every target in Copenhagen or Denmark, or even hard targets that would be difficult to attack. Recently we saw a cell taken down in the United Kingdom last week. That group of plotters was looking to hit everything in London, including hard targets like the U.S. Embassy. When we see plots like that, it indicates to us that those conducting them are inexperienced, and they are more fanciful than real threats. In addition to the fact that the target was reasonable, the means of attack was also reasonable and achievable. They weren't looking at some grandiose plot involving nuclear weapons or large explosive devices. They were going to conduct a simple armed assault on the newspaper office with the intent of killing the largest number of people possible.
Second, the cell in Denmark had already obtained weapons to conduct their attack and had them in place, and three of the members had traveled from Sweden to Denmark in pursuit of the plot. So, this plot had gone beyond the theoretical stage, and the plotters had gotten to the stage of executing it. We saw a plot last week in The Netherlands where a group of Somalis was arrested, and that plot allegedly involved the desire of the Somalis to shoot down Danish helicopters. The only problem for them is that they didn't have any missiles to shoot down the helicopters. Again, the plot wasn't very far along and the people involved in it were more amateurish (whereas the group in Denmark appears to have not only obtained the weapons, but pre-positioned men to carry out the attack).
Third, like past cases, including the case involving American David Headley, who went to Copenhagen to conduct surveillance of the Jyllands-Posten office, and an attack last year in January in which a Somali had attacked the home of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard armed with an axe and a knife, this case shows us that, Jyllands-Posten office remains a very serious target of terrorists.
As al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said in 2010, they were not going to allow the dust to settle on the Muhammad cartoon controversy, and that those involved in the cartoons were going to continue to be targeted. This case is evidence that those threats were true.
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Copyright 2010 STRATFOR.

22974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: China squeezes foreign companies on: December 29, 2010, 12:58:08 PM
BEIJING—Foreign companies have been teaming up with Chinese ones for years to gain access to the giant Chinese market. Now some of the world's biggest companies are taking a risky but potentially rewarding second step—folding pieces of their world-wide operations into partnerships with Chinese companies to do business around the globe.

General Electric Co. is finalizing plans for a 50-50 joint venture with a Chinese military-jet maker to produce avionics, the electronic brains of aircraft. The deal with Aviation Industry Corp. of China would give GE access to a Chinese government project aimed at challenging Boeing Co. and Airbus in the civilian-aircraft market.

General Motors Co. established a joint venture this year with SAIC Motor Corp., its longtime partner in China, to produce and sell their no-frills Wuling-brand microvans in India, and eventually in Southeast Asia and other emerging markets as well.

The two deals show China Inc.'s growing international ambitions, as well as its increasing leverage over foreign partners. To make the GE deal happen, GE Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt made an extraordinary concession, agreeing to fold into the venture all of GE's existing world-wide business in nonmilitary avionics. GM, in its deal, contributed technology, its manufacturing facilities in India and use of its Chevrolet brand name in that market.

Several forces are motivating China's foreign partners to strike global deals that would have been unthinkable a few years back. China's big government-backed companies now have enormous financial resources and growing political clout, making them attractive partners outside China. In addition, the Chinese market has become so important to the success of multinational companies that Beijing has the ability to drive harder bargains.

Joint Flight
Western companies working on China's C919 jet mostly through joint ventures

General Electric Co.
Avionics, cockpit-display systems, on-board maintenance systems and flight recorders.

Rockwell Collins Inc. Communication, navigation and surveillance systems.

Eaton Corp.
Fuel and hydraulic systems, cockpit-panel assemblies and dimming-control system.

Hamilton Sundstrand Corp.
Electrical power systems.

Honeywell International Inc. Flight-control systems, auxiliary-power unit, wheels and brakes.

Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse SAS
Landing gear and air-management systems.

Parker Hannifin Corp.
Hydraulics, flight-control and fuel-tank systems.

But such deals also carry risk. Several earlier joint ventures inside China have soured over concerns that Chinese partners, after gaining access to Western technology and know-how, have gone on to become potent new rivals to their partners.

"Foreign partners are seeing they will have to sometimes sacrifice or share the benefits of the global market with the Chinese partner," says Raymond Tsang, a China-based partner at consultancy Bain & Co. "Some of the [multinational corporations] are complaining. But given the changing market conditions, if you don't do it, your competitors will."

Big energy companies, too, have been pursuing international deals with Chinese companies. China has supplanted the U.S. as the world's biggest energy consumer, making access to its market vital for global companies. Foreign firms hope that teaming up with Chinese companies abroad will help on that front. Foreign companies supply technology and experience, and their Chinese partners provide geopolitical clout, low-cost labor, and easy access to credit that China's government-backed companies enjoy.

State-owned China National Petroleum Corp. was one of the first foreign oil companies to sign a major contract in Iraq. BP PLC teamed up with it last year for a $15 billion investment to increase output at the giant Rumaila field. Over the summer, Royal Dutch Shell PLC joined with PetroChina Co., a publicly traded subsidiary of China National Petroleum, on a $3.15 billion acquisition of assets from Australian energy company Arrow Energy Ltd.

China has been gaining clout in some resource-rich parts of the developing world where U.S. companies don't have strong footholds, partly by spending lavishly on infrastructure projects, and it can help broker deals in places like Venezuela and Myanmar, where it has good relations.

In financial services, foreign banks long have coveted access to China's fast-growing securities business. China has allowed a number of companies into the market in recent years through joint ventures, with their stakes capped at about 33%. Chinese regulators also restrict which parts of the securities business they can do.

Crédit Agricole SA already is involved in such a joint venture through its Asian brokerage arm, called CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, but it is a minor player in China. In May, its investment-banking unit announced a preliminary deal with China's government-owned Citic Securities Co. to form a joint venture beyond China's borders. The French company plans to contribute CLSA and other pieces of its international operation. Citic Securities would throw in its small international unit, based in Hong Kong. Crédit Agricole hopes that helping Citic Securities realize its international ambitions will enable the French bank to expand its business in China.

But talks have gone slower than expected. The two companies said this month that they had agreed on certain key terms, but extended a year-end deadline for a final deal to June 30, without explaining the delay.

Some joint ventures in China have stumbled because of spats with local partners or because the partnerships enable Chinese companies to learn enough about industries to become new competitors to their Western partners.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and Siemens AG, for example, worked with Chinese partners to help build China's high-speed rail network. Now the Chinese companies are bidding against them for international contracts—using products at least partly based on the foreign firms' technology. Last year, France's Groupe Danone SA accepted a cash payment to terminate its joint ventures with China's Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co. after a nasty public feud. The French company had alleged that Wahaha's boss had produced and sold Wahaha-branded beverages supposedly owned by the joint venture through a separate network he owned. Wahaha denied the accusation.

GE's avionics deal with Aviation Industry, or AVIC, also is vulnerable, says Jim Wasson, president of Growth Strategies International LLC, an aerospace and defense consulting firm, and a former GE Aviation executive. The fear is that "once AVIC knows enough about how to do this, they'll kick [GE] out and be on their own," he says.

Lorraine Bolsinger, chief executive of GE Aviation Systems, acknowledges there were concerns within GE about protecting technology. "It was very controversial," she says of the proposed deal. "It was really us knuckle-dragging technology guys that think we had a lot to protect." In the end, she says, "when we and the Chinese together create intellectual property, we are darn right going to protect it."
These days, big Chinese state companies with access to cheap funds and other government support are gunning to dominate some of the same industries that firms like GE have targeted as growth opportunities, from clean technology to turbines.

Even so, GE has such high hopes for China that Mr. Immelt has called it "our second home market." Two years ago, Mr. Immelt said China revenue would double to $10 billion by 2010. But last year it reached just $5.3 billion.

GE saw working with AVIC as a chance to boost its avionics business, which has lagged behind Honeywell International Inc. and Rockwell Collins Inc. The planned venture, to be based in Shanghai, has been chosen to supply China's planned C919 jet, which has the potential to grab a big slice of the Chinese civilian-aviation market. Boeing estimates that market will be worth more than $400 billion over the next 20 years, second only to the U.S.

In negotiations, GE is asking AVIC to match the value of the technology GE is contributing with a cash investment, according to people at GE. If a deal is finalized, all of GE's existing and future civilian avionics contracts will go to the joint venture. Negotiations were supposed to be done by mid-2010, but the parties now hope to finish them by early 2011.

GE executives say the AVIC deal is their closest cooperation ever with a Chinese partner. GE has 45 people in China on the project now, and it is hiring or moving several hundred more people there, even before final terms are hammered out.

AVIC, which makes fighter jets and helicopters in addition to civilian products, has ambitions outside of China. "For the aviation industry, there is no regional market, only the global market," the company said in a statement. "AVIC's strategy is to actively integrate itself into the industrial chain of the world's aviation industry, and to become a truly global company."

Last month, China unveiled the first life-size mock-up of the C919. Other foreign companies have negotiated similar joint ventures to make other parts.

"Our hope and desire is that this joint venture maintains a working-together partnership that benefits both," says Kent Statler, executive vice president at Rockwell Collins, which has a joint venture to supply the C919 with communications systems. "But let's not be naive. We realize that this could turn into a competitor."

For GM, the stakes are especially high: China became the world's largest auto market last year.

Back in 1997, GM decided to plow more than $1 billion into a 50-50 joint venture with SAIC to make Buicks. At the time, it was seen as a risk because car sales had yet to take off in China. This year, GM's China ventures are on track to sell nearly 2.27 million vehicles in the country, compared to 2.18 million sold by GM in the U.S., according to research firm IHS Automotive.

Much of GM's recent growth in China has come through a second joint venture set up in 2002 with SAIC and another Chinese company. The venture, SAIC GM Wuling Automobile Co., makes boxy microvans costing as little as $4,500, which have proven popular in China's smaller cities and towns. Last year Wuling became the first brand in China to sell a million cars in a year. This year, it's expected to account for nearly one-sixth of GM vehicle sales world-wide. Last month, GM reached a deal to buy an additional 10% interest in Wuling for $51 million from the venture's third investor, raising GM's stake to 44%. SAIC owns 50%.

The India joint venture, which began operating in February, is part of GM's effort with SAIC to replicate its China success in other markets. It will produce cars based on its Chinese Wulings, but will sell them under the Chevrolet brand. GM contributed its brand, India factories and dealer network, while SAIC contributed about $300 million to $350 million, a senior GM executive said when the deal was announced.

"We think the business model we have in China with SAIC and the product lineups we have in China are ripe for export to other parts of the world," says Kevin Wale, chief of GM's China operations.

GM and SAIC already have made less ambitious forays abroad together. They export Chevy Sail compacts designed and made in China to Chile and Peru, and are jointly developing more new models to be sold globally, such as the Buick LaCrosse, a sedan designed by teams in Shanghai and Warren, Mich., and sold in China and the U.S.

The India deal takes that cooperation a step beyond shipping jointly produced vehicles overseas. GM and SAIC executives and engineers will be posted in India to design, produce and market cars locally—something SAIC currently has almost no experience with.

One risk to GM is that the venture will better position SAIC to compete abroad on its own—against GM.

Already, SAIC has grown into a powerhouse at home, in part through learning from GM. In 2006, SAIC launched its own solo brand in China, called Roewe. It now competes domestically with the Buicks that SAIC makes with GM. The Roewe brand, which is based it on technology acquired from the now-defunct MG Rover Group Ltd., along with a related nameplate, MG Mingju, sold 146,323 cars in the first 11 months of this year, up 78% from the year-earlier period, according to J.D. Power & Associates. Buick's sales in China, while more than three times as large, grew one-third as fast over the same period.

"Roewe offers comparable products at lower price points and is taking away from GM and others," says Michael Dunne, an auto-industry veteran who heads Hong Kong-based investment advisory firm Dunne & Co.

Last year, GM agreed transfer 1% of its stake in Shanghai GM, its main Chinese joint venture, to SAIC, giving its Chinese partner 51% and effective control. GM said at the time the move would give it better access to credit from Chinese banks, and pave the way for its bigger stake in the Wuling venture.

Last month, GM said the two companies are looking at the possibility of selling SAIC's MG-branded cars through GM's world-wide sales channels. The move could open the door for SAIC's cars to make inroads into Britain, where the MG brand was once based, according to an individual close to GM. Also last month, SAIC paid $500 million for a 1% stake in GM as part of the Detroit auto maker's initial public offering.

SAIC is "very well situated to meet Western [car companies] head on," says Michael Robinet, a U.S.-based senior analyst with consulting firm IHS Automotive. "There's no doubt in my mind, MG and Roewe are going to be both very good launch pads for SAIC to look at new markets beyond China."

Write to Shai Oster at, Norihiko Shirouzu at and Paul Glader at
22975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fg French on: December 29, 2010, 10:59:15 AM
 angry angry angry

PARIS — Since a low-key Christmas Eve announcement of a French sale of assault ships to Russia, high-level government deal makers have boasted about the multimillion-euro deal like it was a soccer game triumph. “France wins,” declares the Web site for the Élysée Palace.

Enlarge This Image
Anatoly Maltsev/European Pressphoto Agency
A French Navy Mistral amphibious assault ship,docked on the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2009.
But critics — particularly among Russia’s neighbors including Georgia, Estonia and Lithuania — are raising alarms that France may have pioneered the way for other Western countries to sell Russia whatever they have to offer, from high-technology military equipment to rights for oil pipelines.

“It’s a scandal,” said André Glucksmann, a French philosopher and critic of the deal. He said in an interview on Tuesday that the announcement was timed for the busy Christmas season to bury the “dirty details.”

The boxy, 600-foot-long Mistral vessel is an advanced helicopter carrier equipped with a command center and hospital for military landing operations. It is the first major arms purchase by Russia abroad and the first sale by a NATO country, illustrating the shifting role of an alliance once conceived to counter Soviet military power.

One of the sticking points in negotiations was whether the deal would include advanced naval weapons and defense systems. In the months leading to the deal, a series of French officials softened their stand, saying that France was willing to supply the technology without restrictions.

The French have said nothing in the last few days to spell out the level of technology the Russians will gain. But Russia’s neighbors are clearly worried.

“It’s a little bit premature to take this step because it establishes a precedent,” said Rasa Jukneviciene, the Lithuanian defense minister. In the past, she said, French officials assured Lithuania that sensitive technology would not be included. “But now we are getting information that it is included,” Ms. Jukneviciene said.

The Baltic states have long raised concerns, keenly aware of the comments of Russia’s naval chief, Adm. Vladimir S. Vysotsky, who last year bluntly evaluated the potential benefits the equipment could have offered during the five-day Georgian war in 2008: “Everything that we did in the space of 26 hours at the time, this ship will do within 40 minutes.”

Nino Kalandadze, Georgia’s deputy foreign minister, says that the ships can carry up to 16 helicopters and more than 450 troops, giving Moscow much greater command of its coastlines.

“We hope that Russia will use the ships according to international law as a self-defense mechanism,” Ms. Kalandadze said. “But Russia’s current leadership is not one that can always be trusted. It’s known for its disregard for international laws.”

Urmas Paet, the Estonian foreign minister, took a more muted view of the deal. “We do not see the sale of these two or possibly four ships as a major challenge for the security environment in the Baltic Sea region,” he wrote in an e-mailed response to questions. “The possible impact is still something that we have to take into account in our long-term planning.”

Under the deal, two of the ships will be built in the French shipyards of St.-Nazaire on France’s Atlantic coast and the next two will be built in St. Petersburg, Russia. The sale underlines Russia’s rising military ambitions and the deterioration of its own arms industry. It is struggling, for example, to finish repairs to upgrade the Admiral Gorshkov, a heavy-aircraft carrier purchased by India. Some analysts predict that construction of a Mistral ship in Russia will also lag.

“In principle, Russia is capable, but it will take a lot longer because the productivity here is inferior. France is more technologically advanced and also, there is no experience building a ship like this in Russia,” said Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Russian research organization that analyzes the arms trade.

Much of the geopolitical wrangling about the deal emerged in secret American diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. In February 2010, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates raised the issue with President Nicolas Sarkozy and France’s defense minister at the time, Hervé Morin.

According to the ambassador’s report of the meeting, Mr. Gates noted that Russia failed to honor an armistice in Georgia brokered by Mr. Sarkozy. Mr. Gates also was scornful of the top deal makers: “Russian democracy has disappeared, and the government is an oligarchy run by the security services.”

22976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Iran's challenge on: December 28, 2010, 11:59:03 PM
Tuesday, December 28, 2010   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Iran's Challenge: Keeping Domestic Stability While Managing International Pressures

Iranian Deputy Minister of Economy Mohammad Reza Farzin said on Monday that fuel consumption across the country had dropped since the government began implementing its plan to cut subsidies. Speaking to AFP, Farzin explained that after nine days, gasoline consumption dropped from 13.2 million to 12.1 million gallons a day. “We are spending $100 billion in subsidies every year from a gross domestic product of $400 billion. We have realized that low energy prices cannot deliver social welfare. It can’t reduce poverty. We are determined to use the resources for managing prices more efficiently,” the deputy economy minister stated.

It is not surprising that for decades, Iran has dedicated nearly a quarter of its gross domestic product to subsidize essentials. For any Tehran-based government to be able to maintain central rule over the large mountainous country, it must establish a complex political and security system. Thus, mass unrest has been contained through a massive security apparatus and with an extensive subsidy program.

What renders the subsidy program even more critical is that Iran is a chronically poor country with a significantly non-homogenous population, and the country has been under international sanctions for more than three decades. This would explain the high cost of maintaining domestic social placidity. Policymakers of the Persian Shiite polity, however, have long been divided over the merits of thwarting internal chaos at such a high cost.

“The challenge for Iran is two-fold: decreasing foreign dependency on gasoline imports … while containing a social backlash that could come from slashing subsidies.”
Cutting subsidies has been on the policy agenda of successive governments in the Islamic republic for at least two decades. Iran has been dependent upon imports to meet 40 percent of its domestic gasoline consumption needs. But it was not until last week that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration embarked upon the first-ever serious effort to address a key vulnerability in the Iranian system.

Gasoline acquired at international market rates has been available to the Iranian public for as low as 38 cents per gallon. The challenge for Iran is two-fold: how to decrease dependency on gasoline imports, especially in the wake of the latest round of sanctions, which have made it more difficult to import fuel, while containing a social backlash that could come from slashing subsidies. Ahmadinejad’s government deals with this situation by increasing the price of gasoline to curb domestic consumption while providing monthly cash handouts as a way to avoid the domestic backlash.

The hope is that this complex economic reform package will allow the state to deal with the growing challenges of securing much-needed fuel imports, sustain social placidity and free up resources that can be allocated to other areas. The past 10 days is not enough to gauge the effectiveness of the strategy, and the lack of transparency raises questions about the authenticity of the data made available by Iranian authorities. For now, the key is that Iran has embarked upon a measure that is a major break with its past behavior.

22977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: December 28, 2010, 07:43:34 PM
May I tease you by pointing out that such suspicion of the integrity of government/state action is normally mocked by you? cheesy
22978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: December 28, 2010, 07:11:47 PM
Thanks for the piece on the origins of Kwanzaa GM.
22979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Making sense of the START debate on: December 28, 2010, 11:16:50 AM
I found this piece glib on concerns about our limiting our anti-missile defense capabilities, but the larger discussion interesting.

Making Sense of the START Debate
December 28, 2010

By George Friedman

Last week, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which had been signed in April. The Russian legislature still has to provide final approval of the treaty, but it is likely to do so, and therefore a New START is set to go into force. That leaves two questions to discuss. First, what exactly have the two sides agreed to and, second, what does it mean? Let’s begin with the first.

The original START was signed July 31, 1991, and reductions were completed in 2001. The treaty put a cap on the number of nuclear warheads that could be deployed. In addition to limiting the number of land- and submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and strategic bombers, it capped the number of warheads that were available to launch at 6,000. The fact that this is a staggering number of nuclear weapons should give you some idea of the staggering number in existence prior to START. START I lapsed in 2009, and the new treaty is essentially designed to reinstate it.

It is important to remember that Ronald Reagan first proposed START. His initial proposal focused on reducing the number of ICBMs. Given that the Soviets did not have an effective intercontinental bomber force and the United States had a massive B-52 force and follow-on bombers in the works, the treaty he proposed would have decreased the Soviet quantitative advantage in missile-based systems without meaningfully reducing the U.S. advantage in bombers. The Soviets, of course, objected, and a more balanced treaty emerged.

What is striking is that START was signed just before the Soviet Union collapsed and implemented long after it was gone. It derived from the political realities that existed during the early 1980s. One of the things the signers of both the original START and the New START have ignored is that nuclear weapons by themselves are not the issue. The issue is the geopolitical relationship between the two powers. The number of weapons may affect budgetary considerations and theoretical targeting metrics, but the danger of nuclear war does not derive from the number of weapons but from the political relationship between nations.

The Importance of the Political Relationship
I like to use this example. There are two countries that are historical enemies. They have fought wars for centuries, and in many ways, they still don’t like each other. Both are today, as they have been for decades, significant nuclear powers. Yet neither side maintains detection systems to protect against the other, and neither has made plans for nuclear war with the other. This example is from the real world; I am speaking of Britain and France. There are no treaties between them regulating nuclear weapons in spite of the fact that each has enough to devastate the other. This is because the possession of nuclear weapons is not the issue. The political relationship between Britain and France is the issue and, therefore, the careful calibration of the Franco-British nuclear balance is irrelevant and unnecessary.

The political relationship that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1980s is not the same as the relationship that exists today. Starting in the 1950s, the United States and Soviet Union were in a state of near-war. The differences between them were geopolitically profound. The United States was afraid that the Soviets would seize Western Europe in an attack in order to change the global balance of power. Given that the balance of power ran against the Soviet Union, it was seen as possible that they would try to rectify it by war.

Since the United States had guaranteed Europe’s security with troops and the promise that it would use nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union to block the conquest of Europe, it followed that the Soviet Union would initiate war by attempting to neutralize the American nuclear capability. This would require a surprise attack on the United States with Soviet missiles. It also followed that the United States, in order to protect Europe, might launch a pre-emptive strike against the Soviet military capability in order to protect the United States and the balance of power.

Until the 1960s, the United States had an overwhelming advantage. Its bomber force gave it the ability to strike the Soviet Union from the United States. The Soviets chose not to build a significant bomber force, relying instead on a missile capability that really wasn’t in place and reliable until the mid-1960s. The Cuban missile crisis derived in part from this imbalance. The Soviets wanted Cuba because they could place shorter-range missiles there, threatening the B-52 fleet by reducing warning time and threatening the American population should the B-52s strike the Soviet Union.

A complex game emerged after Cuba. Both sides created reliable missiles that could reach the other side, and both turned to a pure counter-force strategy, designed to destroy not cities but enemy missiles. The missiles were dispersed and placed in hardened silos. Nuclear submarines, less accurate but holding cities hostage, were deployed. Accuracy increased. From the mid-1960s on the nuclear balance was seen as the foundation of the global balance of power.

The threat to global peace was that one side or the other would gain a decisive advantage in the global balance. Knowledge of the imbalance on both sides would enable the side with the advantage to impose its political will on the other, which would be forced to capitulate in any showdown.

The Russo-American Strategic Balance
Therefore, both sides were obsessed with preventing the other side from gaining a nuclear advantage. This created the nuclear arms race. The desire to end the race was not based on the fear that more nuclear weapons were dangerous but on the fear that any disequilibrium in weapons, or the perception of disequilibrium, might trigger a war. Rather than a dynamic equilibrium, with both sides matching or overmatching the other’s perceived capability, the concept of a treaty-based solution emerged, in which the equilibrium became static. This concept itself was dangerous because it depended on verification of compliance with treaties and led to the development of space-based reconnaissance systems.

The treaties did not eliminate anxiety. Both sides continued to obsessively watch for a surprise attack, and both sides conducted angry internal debates about whether the other side was violating the treaties. Similarly, the deployment of new systems not covered by the treaties created internal political struggles, particularly in the West. When the Pershing II medium-range ballistic missiles were deployed in Europe in the 1980s, major resistance to their deployment from the European left emerged. The fear was that the new systems would destabilize the nuclear balance, giving the United States an advantage that might lead to nuclear war.

This was also the foundation for the Soviets’ objection to the Reagan administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars.” Although Star Wars seemed useful and harmless, the Soviets argued that if the United States were able to defend itself against Soviet attack, then this would give the United States an advantage in the nuclear balance, allowing it to strike at the Soviet Union and giving it massive political leverage. This has always been the official basis of the Russian objection to ballistic-missile defense (BMD) — they said it upset the nuclear balance.

The United States never wanted to include tactical nuclear weapons in these treaties. The Soviet conventional force appeared substantially greater than the American alliance’s, and tactical nuclear weapons seemed the only way to defeat a Soviet force. The Soviets, for their part, would never agree to a treaty limiting conventional forces. That was their great advantage, and if they agreed to parity there it would permanently remove the one lever they had. There was no agreement on this until just before the Soviet Union collapsed, and then it no longer mattered. Thus, while both powers wanted strategic stability, the struggle continued on the tactical level. Treaties could not contain the political tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.

And now we get to the fundamental problem with the idea of a nuclear balance. The threat of nuclear war derived not from some bloodthirsty desire to annihilate humanity but from a profound geopolitical competition by the two great powers following the collapse of European power. The United States had contained the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union was desperately searching for a way out of its encirclement, whether by subversion or war. The Soviet Union had a much more substantial conventional military force than the United States. The Americans compensated with nuclear weapons to block Soviet moves. As the Soviets increased their strategic nuclear capability, the American limit on their conventional forces decreased, compensated for by sub-strategic nuclear forces.

But it was all about the geopolitical situation. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Soviets lost the Cold War. Military conquest was neither an option nor a requirement. Therefore, the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance became meaningless. If the Russians attacked Georgia the United States wasn’t about to launch a nuclear war. The Caucasus is not Western Europe. START was not about reducing nuclear forces alone. It was about reducing them in a carefully calibrated manner so that no side gained a strategic and therefore political advantage.

New START is therefore as archaic as the Treaty of Versailles. It neither increases nor decreases security. It addresses a security issue that last had meaning more than 20 years ago in a different geopolitical universe. If a case can be made for reducing nuclear weapons, it must be made in the current geopolitical situation. Arguing for strategic arms reduction may have merit, but trying to express it in the context of an archaic treaty makes little sense.

New START’s Relevance
So why has this emerged? It is not because anyone is trying to calibrate the American and Russian nuclear arsenals. Rather, it goes back to the fiasco over the famous “reset button” that Hillary Clinton brought to Moscow last March. Tensions over substantial but sub-nuclear issues had damaged U.S.-Russian relations. The Russians saw the Americans as wanting to create a new containment alliance around the Russian Federation. The Americans saw the Russians as trying to create a sphere of influence that would be the foundation of a new Moscow-based regional system. Each side had a reasonable sense of the other’s intentions. Clinton wanted to reset relations. The Russians didn’t. They did not see the past as the model they wanted, and they saw the American vision of a reset as a threat. The situation grew worse, not better.

An idea emerged in Washington that there needed to be confidence-building measures. One way to build confidence, so the diplomats sometimes think, is to achieve small successes and build on them. The New START was seen as such a small success, taking a non-objectionable treaty of little relevance and effectively renewing it. From here, other successes would follow. No one really thought that this treaty mattered in its own right. But some thought that building confidence right now sent the wrong signal to Moscow.

U.S. opposition was divided into two groups. One, particularly Republicans, saw this as a political opportunity to embarrass the president. Another argued, not particularly coherently, that using an archaic issue as a foundation for building a relationship with Russia allowed both sides to evade the serious issues dividing the two sides: the role of Russia in the former Soviet Union, NATO and EU expansion, Russia’s use of energy to dominate European neighbors, the future of BMD against Iran, Russia’s role in the Middle East and so on.

Rather than building confidence between the two countries, a New START would give the illusion of success while leaving fundamental issues to fester. The counter-argument was that with this success others would follow. The counter to that was that by spending energy on a New START, the United States delayed and ignored more fundamental issues. The debate is worth having, and both sides have a case, but the idea that START in itself mattered is not part of that debate.

In the end, the issue boiled down to this. START was marginal at best. But if President Barack Obama couldn’t deliver on START his credibility with the Russians would collapse. It wasn’t so much that a New START would build confidence as it was that a failure to pass a New START would destroy confidence. It was on that basis that the U.S. Senate approved the treaty. Its opponents argued that it left out discussions of BMD and tactical nuclear weapons. Their more powerful argument was that the United States just negotiated a slightly modified version of a treaty that Ronald Reagan proposed a quarter century ago and it had nothing to do with contemporary geopolitical reality.

Passage allowed Obama to dodge a bullet, but it leaves open a question that he does not want to answer: What is American strategy toward Russia? He has mimicked American strategy from a quarter century ago, not defined what it will be.

22980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Maliki says US will leave in 2011 per SOFA on: December 28, 2010, 11:01:05 AM
BAGHDAD—Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ruled out the presence of any U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, saying his new government and the country's security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq's security, sovereignty and unity.

Mr. Maliki spoke with The Wall Street Journal in a two-hour interview, his first since Iraq ended nine months of stalemate and seated a new government after an inconclusive election, allowing Mr. Maliki to begin a second term as premier.

In an interview, he said Iraq would assume responsibility for all its own security by the end of 2011, and would not fall into alignment with Iran.

A majority of Iraqis—and some Iraqi and U.S. officials—have assumed the U.S. troop presence would eventually be extended, especially after the long government limbo. But Mr. Maliki was eager to draw a line in his most definitive remarks on the subject. "The last American soldier will leave Iraq" as agreed, he said, speaking at his office in a leafy section of Baghdad's protected Green Zone. "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed."

He also said that even as Iraq bids farewell to U.S. troops, he wouldn't allow his nation to be pulled into alignment with Iran, despite voices supporting such an alliance within his government.

Video Archives: On Iraq

Obama Addresses U.N. on Economy, Iraq, Talibann
Daniel Henninger: If Saddam Had Stayed
Obama Speech Marks New Focus in Iraq, at Home
."For Iraq to be dragged into an axis or an orbit, that's impossible, and we reject it whether this comes from Iran, Turkey or the Arabs," he said.

He added that a kind of "paranoia" about a Tehran-Baghdad alliance in the U.S. is matched by a fear in Iran about U.S. influence: "An Iranian official visited me in the past and told me, 'I thought the Americans were standing at the door of your office,' " he said.

In an interview in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden also said Iran had failed to buy influence during the election or to co-opt Mr. Maliki, who was among the members of the current Iraqi government who briefly took refuge in Iran during the reign of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Maliki's new majority depends partly on followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. But Mr. Biden credited Mr. Maliki for denying Mr. Sadr's bloc any control of Iraqi security, while forming a government with full buy-in from Iraq's main factions of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

U.S. military commanders still accuse Iran of funding, training and providing sanctuary to Shiite militias, like Mr. Sadr's Promised Day Brigades, which they say are responsible for attacks against U.S. forces and gangster-style assassinations that continue to plague Baghdad and other areas.

Baghdad to Tackle Oil Issues, PM Vows
.Mr. Maliki suggested his government had co-opted militias like the one associated with Mr. Sadr. "The militias are now part of the government and have entered the political process," said Mr. Maliki. The Sadr contingent, he added, "is moving in a satisfactory direction of taking part in the government, renouncing violence and abandoning military activity, and that's why we welcome it."

Security is the new government's top priority, Mr. Maliki said, as in his previous term. Sectarian violence and suicide bombings continue to plague the country as the full withdrawal of U.S. soldiers nears. Almost a dozen people were killed in double suicide bombings on Monday outside provincial government offices in the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, according to security officials.

A resumption of more extreme violence, of course, could alter the thinking in Baghdad and Washington about the U.S. timetable.

But Mr. Maliki said the only way for any of the remaining 50,000 or so American soldiers to stay beyond 2011 would be for the two nations to negotiate—with the approval of Iraq's Parliament—a new Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, similar to the one concluded in 2008.

That deal took a year of protracted negotiations in the face of vehement opposition from many among Mr. Maliki's own Shiite constituency, and no repeat is expected.

Mr. Maliki and U.S. officials have refrained for the most part from raising the issue publicly during the months of political wrangling in Baghdad, as Mr. Maliki negotiated with potential coalition partners, many of whom have adamantly opposed an extended U.S. stay.

A senior official in President Barack Obama's administration said Washington was "on track" to withdraw all its remaining soldiers in Iraq by the end of next year. That's the final milestone in the security agreement, following the reduction in American troop levels to below 50,000 in August and the pullout of U.S. soldiers from most Iraqi inner cities in June 2009. "The prime minister is exactly right," said the senior official.

During the interview, Mr. Maliki said he was heartened by America's "commitment" to honoring the agreements it reached with Iraq, and he laughed approvingly when told that U.S. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey keeps a frayed copy of the so-called Strategic Framework Agreement in his leather briefcase. That document calls, in broad terms, for long-term cooperation in security, defense, economy, energy and culture, among other areas.

In a briefing for Western reporters last week, Mr. Jeffrey said that despite the requirement to pull out all American troops at the end of 2011, the framework document and other agreements between Baghdad and Washington contain "a very robust security agenda."

The U.S. embassy in Baghdad will house a "significantly sized" office aimed at security cooperation, Mr. Jeffrey said, comprised of about 80 to 90 military personnel that would take over most of the current functions of the U.S. military in advising, assisting, training and equipping Iraqi forces. That's similar to arrangements with other countries in the region, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The embassy would also oversee a major Iraqi police-training program.

Mr. Maliki played down Iraq's need for any major help from the U.S. military, even while acknowledging serious deficiencies in areas including control of airspace and borders. He said the days when ethnic or sectarian-based militias roamed the streets of Iraq and operated above the law were over.

"Not a single militia or gang can confront Iraqi forces and take over a street or a house," said Mr. Maliki. "This is finished; we are comfortable about that."

He said full withdrawal of U.S. troops also will remove a prime motivator of insurgents—both the Shiite fighters tied to militia groups and Iran, and Sunnis linked to Mr. Hussein's ousted Baath party.

Mr. Maliki defended his political horse trading with rival factions, many of which are seen as far apart on several substantial policy issues. He called the post-election process—in which he managed to prevail despite his own party bloc failing to gain the most votes—"very arduous."

He acknowledged that he expanded the number of cabinet seats just to placate the squabbling parties that he eventually cobbled together into his governing coalition, arguably the broadest since the fall of Mr. Hussein.

"I mean seven to eight ministries are, allow me to say, ministries for appeasement purposes," he said.

Mr. Maliki said he agreed to several Kurdish demands, including a referendum in contested northern regions, though he didn't think it was feasible without a constitutional amendment to accompany it.

Washington is so concerned about the standoff in the north—where Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and smaller ethnic groups have faced off—that a large contingent of U.S. soldiers continues to staff joint security checkpoints there, as diplomats work on political solutions.

The referendum was one of 19 demands made by Kurdish President Masoud Barzani in exchange for a power-sharing deal that ended the gridlock that followed the March elections. The resulting unity government headed by Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, includes Kurds and a Sunni-dominated bloc headed by the secular Shiite and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Mr. Allawi, whose bloc won the most seats in the election but couldn't form a majority, will chair a new National Council for Higher Policies, but won't be able to implement policies without broad government support.

22981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A quickie deconstruction thereof on: December 28, 2010, 12:04:36 AM
Lets break this down a bit:

President Obama's statement marking Kwanzaa

Michelle and I extend our warmest thoughts and wishes to all those who are celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season. Today [Dec. 26] is the first of a joyful seven-day celebration of African American culture and heritage.

*Since when?  It is a made up holiday.  If I am not mistaken, it was created, for political reasons, in the 1970s.  There is absolutely no tradition behind it whatsoever.

* Says who?  Black racists and progressives.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa --

1) unity,:  *In the contex here, unity means racial unity of black people.  In practice, this means non-progressive blacks are called "Uncle Toms", "house niggers" "race traitors" and the like.

2) self-determination, *In the context here, this term has black separatist connotations

3) collective work and responsibility, *i.e. commonly known as communism

4) cooperative economics, *more communism

5) purpose, *I am unaware of the origin of the presence of this term here.

6) creativity *perhaps a nod to the achievement of American blacks in music and other arts

7) and faith -- *fair enough if one means the black churches such as MLK, but one suspects in the context here it means black liberation theology such as that of BO's pastor, Rev. Wright.

are some of the very values that make us Americans. *No, it makes you racist progressives.

As families across America and around the world light the Kinara today in the spirit of umoja, or unity, *again, racial solidarity

our family sends our well wishes and blessings for a happy and healthy new year.
22982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: December 27, 2010, 11:09:14 PM
A key question no doubt.  My SWAG is that ulitmately that they don't really come back very much; that for those who do have jobs things can seem OK-- apart from the tension that come with the diminished margin of error-- and a lot of working poor will simply become poor, and a lot of middle class folks have fallen and will fall further than they ever thought possible.   

A lot of Americans have focused their economic endeavors based upon the false signals of the various bubble economies and now that these bubbles have burst, they are finding themselves stranded by the receding tide.  A lot of Americans are profoundly insufficiently educated and much of what they know isn't so.
22983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Mutual fund Retirement investment strategies - is it different this time? on: December 27, 2010, 07:44:04 PM
Fine, so please use the Stock Martket thread.  It is not that active and what you are discussing here fits well as a matter of proper portfolio diversification, risk management, etc.
22984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury see 4% GDP growth in 2011 on: December 27, 2010, 02:48:46 PM
Also relevant for cotton prices were the severe floods in Pakistan.  More generally, his point that some price increases are due to a change in the general level of demand and not inflation, is, IMHO, plausible in the current environment.


Monday Morning Outlook

First Trust Sees 4% Real GDP Growth in 2011 To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 12/27/2010


Sometime back in 2009, conventional wisdom argued that while the economy would appear to recover from the subprime crisis, the recovery would be tenuous.  A growing chorus argued real GDP would grow at 2% or less, consumption would be lackluster, and any signs of real strength would be ephemeral – based on pent-up demand.
Of course, when real GDP grew at an annualized 4.4% over the winter (2009-10) and 3% in the first year of the recovery, the conventional wisdom had an excuse.  “Most of it was inventories,” they said, “and don’t expect this to continue.”  So, when real GDP slowed to 1.7% annualized growth in Q2, they raised the stakes.  They called it a “soft-patch” and argued that a “double-dip” was a real possibility.  At most, they expected a 2% growth rate in the second half of 2010.
Instead, we were focused on three things.  First, the economy was not broken.  Once the panic ended, a natural recovery would start.  Second, even without quantitative easing, the Fed was very easy.  And third, productivity would remain robust.  As a result, we predicted 3% growth for the second half (September 20, 2010 MMO).
That forecast looks pretty good.  In fact, it may be too low.  Real GDP growth clocked in at a 2.6% annual rate in Q3.  All we need is a 3.4% growth rate in Q4 to get our 3% average, but the data suggest real GDP could expand by more than 4% annualized in Q4, possibly even 5%+.
Some of the acceleration in Q4 is because the economy is really picking up speed.  But some of the acceleration in Q4 is also due to a problem the government is having seasonally adjusting oil prices.  This problem artificially boosted growth in late 2009, but reduced growth in mid-2010.  In other words, the soft-patch was never as bad as many thought.  (For further discussion of the problem with oil prices, see our MMO dated November 8, 2010).
In 2011, we expect 4% real GDP growth.  The biggest difference between the First Trust forecast and the conventional wisdom is deleveraging.  We do not view the deleveraging process in as negative a light as the conventional wisdom.  Once deleveraging begins to slow, it will not hurt the economy.  If a consumer (or a business) pays down debt but pays down less than she did the prior year, then her spending can go up faster than her income (or profits).  Higher saving is not going to be a negative for the economy.
Here are the assumptions behind our forecast for 4% real GDP growth in 2011.
Consumption:  Auto sales in October/November were up about 30% from early 2009 levels, and JD Power and are forecasting even higher sales in December.  Still, the pace of sales remains below the long-term trend in “scrappage,” suggesting further strong gains in sales in the year ahead.  Meanwhile, consumers’ financial obligations are now the smallest share of their after-tax incomes since 1995, and headed lower.  Consumption will grow 3.3% next year, adding 2.3 percentage points to GDP.
Business Investment:  Corporate profits and cash on balance sheets are at, or near, record highs.  Meanwhile, capacity utilization has grown from a low of just 68% in mid-2009 to 75% and is on its way to 80% (the long-term average).  Our industrial capacity is depreciating and needs to be updated.  We are on the cusp of a boom in investment in equipment and software.  Business investment should grow about 12% in 2011, adding 1.2 points to GDP growth.
Home Building:  Home builders still face the headwind of substantial excess inventories.  However, once those inventories are gone, the pace of housing starts is going to have to be about 150% higher than recent levels.  It may take several years to get there, so we have home building growing 17.5% next year, adding 0.4 points to real GDP growth.
Government:  Real government purchases will grow about 2.5% this year.  We assume they will grow at a 1.5% rate next year (below the 30-year average of 2.2%), adding 0.3 percentage points to the GDP growth rate. 
Inventories:  Inventories were razor-thin by the end of 2009.  They started to rebound this year and we expect that rebound to continue, but not accelerate significantly.  As a result, we expect the inventory re-build to add only 0.1 point to GDP growth.
Trade:  Unless the government fixes its measure of oil prices, expect a wild quarter-by-quarter ride of ups and downs for trade in 2011, just like this year.  Either way, though, trade should, on average, subtract 0.3 points from the GDP growth rate, as the trade deficit expands slightly.   
Add ‘em all up and you get a 4% real GDP growth rate for 2011.  Strap in, it’s going to be better than you think.
22985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Mutual fund Retirement investment strategies - is it different this time? on: December 27, 2010, 02:43:02 PM

Great subject and great post, but generally we look to minimize thread clutter by using existing threads where one is relevant.  In this case, please lets put this in the "asset protection" thread nearby or the "stock market" thread.

Thank you,
22986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krugman on: December 27, 2010, 09:34:48 AM
Krugman is usually an ass, but is the main point here a valid one?

Oil is back above $90 a barrel. Copper and cotton have hit record highs. Wheat and corn prices are way up. Over all, world commodity prices have risen by a quarter in the past six months.
So what’s the meaning of this surge?

Is it speculation run amok? Is it the result of excessive money creation, a harbinger of runaway inflation just around the corner? No and no.

What the commodity markets are telling us is that we’re living in a finite world, in which the rapid growth of emerging economies is placing pressure on limited supplies of raw materials, pushing up their prices. And America is, for the most part, just a bystander in this story.

Some background: The last time the prices of oil and other commodities were this high, two and a half years ago, many commentators dismissed the price spike as an aberration driven by speculators. And they claimed vindication when commodity prices plunged in the second half of 2008.

But that price collapse coincided with a severe global recession, which led to a sharp fall in demand for raw materials. The big test would come when the world economy recovered. Would raw materials once again become expensive?

Well, it still feels like a recession in America. But thanks to growth in developing nations, world industrial production recently passed its previous peak — and, sure enough, commodity prices are surging again.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that speculation played no role in 2007-2008. Nor should we reject the notion that speculation is playing some role in current prices; for example, who is that mystery investor who has bought up much of the world’s copper supply? But the fact that world economic recovery has also brought a recovery in commodity prices strongly suggests that recent price fluctuations mainly reflect fundamental factors.

What about commodity prices as a harbinger of inflation? Many commentators on the right have been predicting for years that the Federal Reserve, by printing lots of money — it’s not actually doing that, but that’s the accusation — is setting us up for severe inflation. Stagflation is coming, declared Representative Paul Ryan in February 2009; Glenn Beck has been warning about imminent hyperinflation since 2008.

Yet inflation has remained low. What’s an inflation worrier to do?

One response has been a proliferation of conspiracy theories, of claims that the government is suppressing the truth about rising prices. But lately many on the right have seized on rising commodity prices as proof that they were right all along, as a sign of high overall inflation just around the corner.

You do have to wonder what these people were thinking two years ago, when raw material prices were plunging. If the commodity-price rise of the past six months heralds runaway inflation, why didn’t the 50 percent decline in the second half of 2008 herald runaway deflation?

Inconsistency aside, however, the big problem with those blaming the Fed for rising commodity prices is that they’re suffering from delusions of U.S. economic grandeur. For commodity prices are set globally, and what America does just isn’t that important a factor.

In particular, today, as in 2007-2008, the primary driving force behind rising commodity prices isn’t demand from the United States. It’s demand from China and other emerging economies. As more and more people in formerly poor nations are entering the global middle class, they’re beginning to drive cars and eat meat, placing growing pressure on world oil and food supplies.

And those supplies aren’t keeping pace. Conventional oil production has been flat for four years; in that sense, at least, peak oil has arrived. True, alternative sources, like oil from Canada’s tar sands, have continued to grow. But these alternative sources come at relatively high cost, both monetary and environmental.

Also, over the past year, extreme weather — especially severe heat and drought in some important agricultural regions — played an important role in driving up food prices. And, yes, there’s every reason to believe that climate change is making such weather episodes more common.

So what are the implications of the recent rise in commodity prices? It is, as I said, a sign that we’re living in a finite world, one in which resource constraints are becoming increasingly binding. This won’t bring an end to economic growth, let alone a descent into Mad Max-style collapse. It will require that we gradually change the way we live, adapting our economy and our lifestyles to the reality of more expensive resources.

But that’s for the future. Right now, rising commodity prices are basically the result of global recovery. They have no bearing, one way or another, on U.S. monetary policy. For this is a global story; at a fundamental level, it’s not about us.
22987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: The Repeal Amendment on: December 27, 2010, 09:30:45 AM
Pravda on the Hudson struggles to comprehend the Repeal Amendment:

With public attention focused on taxes, the deficit, gays in the military and nuclear arms reduction, little attention has been paid, so far, to the Tea Party’s most far-reaching move to remake American governance. It is contained within a bill, called the repeal amendment, that was introduced in Congress after the election. The bill won the support of the incoming House majority leader, Eric Cantor, and is supported by legislative leaders in 12 states.

The proposal is sweeping, expressing with bold simplicity the view of the Tea Party and others that the federal government’s influence is far too broad. It would give state legislatures the power to veto any federal law or regulation if two-thirds of the legislatures approved.

The chances of the proposal becoming the Constitution’s 28th Amendment are exceedingly low. But it helps explain further the anger-fueled, myth-based politics of the populist new right. It also highlights the absence of a strong counterforce in American politics.

With the Equal Rights Amendment as a model, it demonstrates the scope of the Tea Party’s ambition to drive politics and law far to the right. The E.R.A. failed to win passage, but it influenced Congress and the courts in equalizing the law’s treatment of gender.

Under the Tea Party proposal, the states would have much greater power than the president to veto federal laws. Because the amendment includes no limit on the time in which states could exercise their veto, it would cast a long shadow over any program under federal law.

Because it focuses on giving states power to veto (e.g., taxes) without their shouldering responsibility for asserting it (trimming appropriations because of lost tax revenue), the unintended consequences would likely be at least as important as the intended.

These flaws make the proposed amendment self-defeating, but they are far less significant than the mistaken vision of federalism on which it rests. Its foundation is that the United States defined in the Constitution are a set of decentralized sovereignties where personal responsibility, private property and a laissez-faire economy should reign. In this vision, the federal government is an intrusive parent.

The error that matters most here is about the Constitution’s history. America’s fundamental law holds competing elements, some constraining the national government, others energizing it. But the government the Constitution shaped was founded to create a sum greater than the parts, to promote economic development that would lift the fortunes of the American people.

In past economic crises, populist fervor has been for expanding the power of the national government to address America’s pressing needs. Pleas for making good the nation’s commitment to equality and welfare have been as loud as those for liberty. Now the many who are struggling have no progressive champion. The left have ceded the field to the Tea Party and, in doing so, allowed it to make history. It is building political power by selling the promise of a return to a mythic past.

22988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: Jordan-Iran on: December 27, 2010, 08:21:57 AM

Two weeks ago, Iran scored a massive victory. Jordan, the West's most stable and loyal ally in the Arab world began slouching towards the Iranian Gomorrah.

On December 12, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Chief of Staff Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei met with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman and extended a formal invitation from Ahmadinejad for him to pay a state visit to Iran. Abdullah accepted.

According to Iran's ISNA news agency, Mashei said that Abdullah's visit will begin a new page in bilateral relations and that, "the two countries hold massive potential to work together." Mashei added, "If Islamic states stand united, no country will be threatened."

For his part, Abdullah reportedly said that his country recognizes Iran's nuclear rights and supports its access to peaceful nuclear technology.

Abdullah was one of the first world leaders to sound the alarm on Iran. In 2004 Abdullah warned of a "Shiite crescent" extending from Iran to Iraq, through Syria to Lebanon. His words were well reported at the time. But his warning went unheeded.

In the intervening six years, reality has surpassed Abdullah's worst fears. Not only Lebanon and Syria have fallen under Iranian control. Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, Gaza and increasingly Oman, Yemen and Afghanistan are also either willing or unwilling members of the axis.

In the face of Iran's expanding web of influence and the mullahs' steady progress towards nuclear capability, Washington behaves as though there is no cause for concern. And the likes of Jordan are beside themselves.

In a WikiLeaks leaked cable from April 2009 written by US Ambassador to Jordan R. Stephen Beecroft, Jordan's frustration and concern over the Obama administration's incompetence in handling the Iranian threat was clear.

Beecroft wrote, "Jordan's leaders are careful not to be seen as dictating toward the US, but their comments betray a powerful undercurrent of doubt that the United States knows how to deal effectively with Iran."

On the one hand, Jordanian Senator Zaid Rifai beseeched US to bomb Iran's nuclear installations. Rifai said, "Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won't matter."

But on the other hand, the Jordanians recognized that the Obama administration was committed to appeasing Iran and so tried to convince the Americans to ensure that their appeasement drive didn't come at the Arabs' expense.

Beecroft reported a clear warning from Abdullah. Abdullah cautioned that if the Arabs believe that the US was appeasing Iran at their expense, "that engagement will set off a stampede of Arab states looking to get ahead of the curve and reach their own separate peace with Teheran.

"King Abdullah counseled Special Envoy George Mitchell in February [2009] that direct US engagement with Iran at this time would just deepen intra-Arab schisms and that more 'countries without a backbone' would defect to the Iranian camp."

THAT WAS then. And since then, the Obama administration did nothing after Ahmadinejad and his henchmen stole the presidential election. It did nothing as they repressed the tens of millions of Iranians who demonstrated against the election fraud. The Obama administration did nothing as Iran conducted repeated war games along the Straits of Hormuz, progressed in its nuclear program, deepened its military alliances with Turkey and Venezuela and escalated its proxy war against the US and its allies in Afghanistan.

The Americans said nothing as Iran prevented the pro-US faction that won the Iraqi election from forming a government. They did nothing as Iran forced the reinstallation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki despite his electoral defeat.

As Washington stood idly by in the face of Iran's aggression, Jordan and the other US-allied Arab states watched as Obama harassed Israel, announced his plan to withdraw all US forces from Iraq next year, appointed a new ambassador to Syria and approved more military aid to the Iranian-controlled Lebanese army. And Abdullah and the other Arabs watch now as the US is poised to begin yet a new round of appeasement talks with Iran next month.

Unlike the previous failed rounds of talks, the next failed round of talks will take place in Turkey. Iranian officials are already exulting that Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan will act as Iran's protector in those talks, and so officially end any semblance of Iranian diplomatic isolation on the nuclear issue.

And so, just as Abdullah warned would happen, today he is leading Jordan into the ranks of "countries without a backbone," and making a separate peace with Ahmadinejad.

Jordan is a weak country. Its minority Hashemite regime has failed to dominate its Palestinian majority. And since its inception by the British in 1946, Jordan has depended on Western powers and Israel for its survival.

In acting as he is, Abdullah is following in his father's footsteps. The late King Hussein survived by watching the prevailing winds closely and always siding with the side he believed was strongest at any given time.

When Hussein believed that the West and Israel were weakening, he went with their enemies. He only rejoined the Western alliance after it defeated its foes, and so convinced him that it was stronger. Notable examples of this are his 1967 alliance with Egypt and Syria against Israel and his decision in 1990 to stand with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of Saddam's conquest of Kuwait.

IT IS often erroneously claimed that siding with the metaphorical stronger horse is primarily an Arab practice. In truth, everyone does it.

Take France for instance.

In another diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks, the US embassy in Paris reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy thinks that the Palestinians are stronger than Israel. The report claimed that in Sarkozy's June 2009 meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he told the Israeli leader that he must surrender to all the Palestinian demands because in his view the Palestinians are stronger than Israel is.

Before Sarkozy took office, he was considered a great supporter of Israel and a personal friend of Netanyahu's. But since taking office, he has sided with the Palestinians against Israel. He has been friendly to Syria. Most recently, he agreed to sell one hundred advanced anti-tank missiles to the Hizbullah-controlled Lebanese military.

In light of his comment to Netanyahu it is clear that what motivates Sarkozy to act as he does is his analysis of the power balance between Israel and its enemies. Happily for Israel, Sarkozy is wrong. Israel is stronger than the Palestinians and has the capacity to defend itself effectively against its enemies.

Unhappily for Israel, Sarkozy's analysis is probably based in large part on arguments he has heard from the Israeli Left under Kadima. Over the past several years, Kadima leaders have managed to convince the country's best friends that Israel has no option other than surrender.

This is due to Kadima's obsession with demography and its demented plan for extricating Israel from what it considers predetermined demographic doom.

According to the likes of Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, the fact that there are 6 million Jews and 4 million Arabs west of the Jordan River means that Israel has no option other than surrendering Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians. As far as Livni and her leftist comrades are concerned, it makes no difference that such a move will not decrease the number of Arabs west of the Jordan.

It makes no difference to the Israeli Left that the Palestinian state they hope to build will - with their consent -- bring in millions more Arabs as immigrants into the landmass west of the Jordan River and so quickly render Jews a minority, making war a foregone conclusion.

In short, through their asinine demographic argument - with which they surrender all Israeli claims to the capital city, and to strategically vital land that Israel has valid legal and historical claims to -- Livni and her colleagues tell the likes of Sarkozy that not only is Israel weaker than the Palestinians. They tell these erstwhile friends that Israel is doomed to destruction and there is no reason for them to support it.

Based on these claims, Sarkozy's decision to make a separate peace with Iran through its Palestinian, Syrian and Hizbullah proxies makes sense.

It is important to bear this in mind when one considers the reason that the campaign to delegitimize Israel is gaining momentum. Given the Israeli-fuelled sense among key governments that Israel is a lost cause, as they see it, they have no reason to defend Israel from its detractors. From their perspective, their interests are better served by either standing on the sidelines or turning on Israel the weak horse.

ALL THIS is not to say that the Left is purposely sinking the ship of state. It is simply a victim of its own success. The Left has convinced Europe and the Arabs that it is dedicated to appeasement.

The Left believed that by convincing the Arabs and the Europeans that Israel is serious about appeasing its enemies that they would make an alliance with the Jewish state. And since Europe is stronger than Israel, and the Arabs are a threat to Israel, by winning their favor, the Left believed it would strengthen Israel.

What the Left failed to recognize is that Europe and the Arabs would rather cut a deal with Iran than defend themselves against it. A surrendering Israel is of no use to them. They only like Israel when it wins.

And now that weakness has pushed Jordan over the edge.

The lesson of all of this for Israel is clear. For the past 17 years, in the throes of the Left's strategic blindness, Israel has spent its time emphasizing its weaknesses and its enemies' strengths. This practice must be reversed. Israel must now concentrate on its strengths and its enemies' weaknesses.

For instance, Israel has a stronger claim to the disputed territories that the Palestinians. And Israel is stronger than the Palestinians by every possible measuring rod.

On their side, not only are the Palestinians militarily weak, they have nothing to offer anyone. Because the Palestinian national cause has far more to do with destroying Israel than building a Palestinian state, the Palestinian track record is one of destruction not creation. And this destructive tendency expresses itself on every front.

Iran too is far less powerful than it looks. From the Stuxnet worm, to a faltering economy, from increased domestic sabotage to the continuing opposition bid to overthrow the regime, Iran's soft underbelly is exposed. And it is getting softer all the time.

In contrast, Israel has a stable government. And its economic, technological and military power is constantly growing. Israel is a force to be reckoned with.

Jordan's move into the Iranian camp is not inexorable. Nor is Lebanon's or even Syria's. True, much to the Left's dismay, Israel lacks the option of joining the "countries without a backbone."

But we have a better option. We are strong and we can get stronger. And our enemies have weaknesses and we can weaken them still further.
22989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fed bureaucrats prohibit Xmas in banks? on: December 27, 2010, 08:14:11 AM
It's worth noting not only that the War on Christmas has continued, but now federal regulators have joined the wrong side. Christians should get far more aggressive in fighting back, because the Constitution is on their side.

Various outlets have reported throughout December that regulators from the Federal Reserve told privately-owned banks that they can’t have Christmas displays. It’s illegal for government agents to do that.

The Federal Reserve is a public-private hybrid. In one sense, it’s a private bank with money reserves, and also serves as a clearing house for checks and wire transfers from other banks.

In another sense, it’s a government agency. It was created by Congress and its board members are appointed by the president of the United States. It determines the money supply in the economy and sets interest rates. The Fed has regulatory authority over every bank in the United States. And its regulations and orders carry the force of law.

One such order violates the U.S. Constitution. One Fed regulation, called Regulation B, disallows “words, symbols … and other forms of communication” that “suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion.” That regulation is okay in many circumstances, but not all.

A bank in Oklahoma City displayed Bible verses and had a cross on the tellers’ counter. Some bank workers also wore “Merry Christmas” buttons. Fed regulators visiting the bank said that these displays violated Regulation B, and ordered them removed. A similar situation is unfolding in Nebraska. The American Exchange Bank of Lincoln has also been told to discontinue religious displays.

This is outrageous. Government actors—as that’s what Fed regulators are whenever they give an order to a privately-owned bank—cannot order a private person (and a corporation is a “person”) or the individuals working there not to engage in religious expression. To the extent that Regulation B suggests anything to the contrary, that regulation (and any order based on it) is unconstitutional.

The Constitution is firmly on the side of these banks and private citizens. Bruce Smith is an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), one of the foremost religious-liberty organizations in America, which litigates countless cases nationwide defending religious expressions. About this bank situation involving the Fed, Smith says, “It’s ridiculous that people have to think twice about whether it’s okay to publicly celebrate Christmas. An overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas and are opposed to any kind of censorship of it.”

It’s unfortunate that the War on Christmas hasn’t gotten much attention this year. With the understandable focus on massive deficit spending and other economic issues, such as the tax-extension deal (loaded with hundreds of billions of dollars in new deficit spending) and the defeated $1.2 trillion omnibus, there hasn’t been a big media appetite for the ongoing secularization of American society.

Yet that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Christmas parades where renamed “holiday parades” this year, despite the fact that Christmas remains a federal holiday officially recognized by this nation. And in the midst of this increasingly anti-Christian bias, we see the inexcusable action of federal regulators telling private banks and citizens that they cannot freely celebrate Christmas.

No federal order or regulation can trump the U.S. Constitution. It’s time for Christians to reengage in this fight for religious liberty. Stop playing defense. Go on offense. Make a New Year’s resolution that next Christmas will see people unapologetically celebrating the birth of Christ, and an uncompromising legal fight against any government officer who tries to stop it.

Ken Klukowski
22990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: December 26, 2010, 10:51:16 PM
Generally, but certainly not always, the work women do will tend towards allowing them to express and fulfill the maternal part of their being.  This is sometimes known as "gathering".  Men on the other hand, will tend towards analogs of going out on the hunt.  A society not in overall harmony with the primal rhythms of human life will tend to reproduce little, and educate/transmit its culture poorly.

@GM, that was a fine piece.  Would you post it in the Liberal Fascism thread as well please?

@Doug:  I first ran across those words in a Konrad Lorenz book.  If I remember correctly, "Ontogeny recapitulates philogeny".  After I looked up the words to see what the hell he was talking about, I was left in a state of wonder at the meaning of the thought. 
22991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: December 26, 2010, 04:48:23 PM
"Why are Dads given a free pass when they sacrifice family for their job?"

"Free pass" exaggerates it quite a bit, but yes the standard is, and should be, different.  It is built into both the philogeny and the ontogeny of the human species.
22992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYTimes: Adam Goodheart: The Night Escape on: December 26, 2010, 07:37:22 AM
Charleston Harbor, Dec. 26, 1860

The rowers strained at their oars, gasping with exertion, their breath visible in the chill night air. By good fortune, the water lay almost flat, with just the slightest rolling swell, and each pull drew them several lengths farther on.

None of those men knew that their brief but perilous transit would end up changing American history. Their only thought was of swiftly and silently reaching their destination, barely a mile across the channel: Fort Sumter.
In the second of the three longboats crouched Capt. Abner Doubleday, scanning the moonlit harbor around him. Ahead, in the lead boat, he could make out an unmistakable figure, hawk-like with its beaked nose and enshrouding cloak, clutching something tightly under one arm. This was the garrison’s commander, Maj. Robert Anderson. For weeks, as hostile secessionists drew an ever-tighter cordon around their tiny Union force, Doubleday had speculated endlessly about his close-lipped superior’s intentions. Did Anderson plan to stay put in their pathetically indefensible little citadel at Fort Moultrie, docilely awaiting orders from Washington, until the enemy overwhelmed him? Was the major, a known apologist for slavery, scheming to betray his loyal men to the rebels? Or could he – as Doubleday fervently hoped – be plotting somehow to slip the trap and make a run for the far more secure position that Sumter offered?

The moment of truth had arrived only an hour or so earlier, back at Moultrie. As the sun set over Charleston Harbor, the officers had gathered for their customary late-afternoon tea with the commander. Arriving slightly late, Doubleday greeted his comrades and was met with distracted silence. Then Anderson rose and approached him.

“I have determined to evacuate this post immediately, for the purpose of occupying Fort Sumter,” the major said quietly. “I can only allow you 20 minutes to form your company and be in readiness to start.”

Civil War Timeline

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.Anderson had not previously confided his intentions even to Doubleday, the garrison’s second-ranked officer. He had told only a couple of trusted staff members, whom he’d instructed to charter some vessels, ostensibly to carry the fort’s women and children out of harm’s way. (Many of the men, including Doubleday, still had their families living with them.) On Christmas Day, with Charlestonians distracted by the festivities, crates of essential supplies had been loaded aboard, on the pretext that these were only the noncombatants’ personal effects. A couple of local busybodies showed up at the wharf to supervise the preparations – barring them would have put the secessionist forces on alert – and became suspicious when they saw a crate marked “1,000 ball cartridges” among the cargo. They were quickly assured that this had just been an error, and left after seeing the box offloaded.

As Doubleday realized, the major’s stubborn sense of military honor had trumped his political sympathies. To save his force from ignominious surrender, he would defy the express wishes, if not the explicit commands, of his own superiors in Washington, who wished to do nothing that might offend the aggrieved South. (Anderson, ever the careful West Point academic, had discovered a slight ambiguity of phrasing in the orders that could serve as a loophole.) He would also defy the local secessionist authorities, who had put Moultrie under round-the-clock watch, with armed steamers patrolling the channel between the two forts, under orders to stop or sink any vessel carrying Union soldiers to Sumter.

So now Anderson and his little garrison – barely six dozen officers and men – were crossing just that stretch of water. He had left a small detachment back at Moultrie, manning six heavy cannons. These were loaded, primed and pointed at the channel, ready to fire at any rebel vessel intercepting the troops.

Staying close together, the three boats crossed the broad belt of moonlight, hastening toward the deep shadows cast by Sumter’s hulking walls. As Doubleday peered at the fortress, a strange thought came into his head, one that had occurred to him before: it looked like a prison.

Then, off to one side, he saw a smaller black shape, drawing swiftly closer across the water. Doubleday recognized it: the rebel steamer Nina. An ordinary packet boat in peacetime – a decade earlier, she had borne the body of John C. Calhoun to Charleston – she had recently been pressed into patrol duty. She would be packed with armed militiamen, he knew.

Anderson’s boat and the other one were already veering away, making for the dark shoreline of nearby Sullivan’s Island. Doubleday ordered his own rowers to turn sharply and follow, but the soldiers, inexpert at the oars, bungled the maneuver, leaving their boat flailing in the path of the oncoming steamer.

The Nina drew closer and closer. In an urgent whisper, Doubleday told his men to take off their uniform coats and drape them over their muskets, lest the moonlight reveal the telltale glint of a brass button or polished bayonet. Perhaps, the captain hoped, the rebels might mistake their boat for a civilian vessel. It seemed a desperate, feeble improvisation, but it was now their only hope of escape.

The anxious soldiers saw the Nina’s paddlewheels slow, then stop. Someone aboard seemed to be scrutinizing, pondering. Doubleday’s men, for their part, did not pause; finding their rhythm once more, they pulled hard at the oars, passing within 100 yards of the enemy’s bow. Then the Nina’s engine let off a puff of steam and her wheels turned again, carrying the vessel placidly past.

Minutes later, Doubleday’s boat bumped against the wharf at Sumter. Here his party would have other opponents to contend with. Though the fort was still federal property, not yet seized by the Carolinians, it was superintended by just a single military engineer who oversaw a large team of civilian laborers at work on the fortifications. Many of these men were known to be secessionist sympathizers.

Library of Congress
Entry of Maj. Anderson’s command Into Fort Sumter, published in Harper’s Weekly.And in fact, they were now crowding through the gate toward the wharf. Doubleday saw that many wore blue ribbon cockades, badges of Southern radicalism. “What are these soldiers doing here?” someone shouted angrily.

The captain ordered his small squad into formation. Before his antagonists knew what was happening, they were facing a bristling thicket of bayonets. The startled laborers stumbled back into the fort as Doubleday seized control of the guardhouse. Shortly thereafter, the two boats carrying Major Anderson and the other troops pulled up to the wharf. They placed the disloyal workmen under guard, to be sent ashore to Charleston in the morning. Anderson entered the fort, carrying the bundle he had been holding in the boat: a tightly folded flag.

From the ramparts of Sumter a signal gun rang out, its sharp crack echoing across the water. The detachment back at Moultrie would know that its comrades had arrived at their destination.

As for the secessionists over in Charleston, they would soon awaken to a very unpleasant surprise. “They must have looked upon us as a mouse to play with and eat up at leisure,” one of the Union officers gloated, “but we gave the cat the slip however, and are now safe in our hole.”

At the two forts, men labored through the night, bracing for the fast-approaching moment when that startled cat would unsheath its claws. Midnight passed and dawn approached: one of the last days in a waning year.

22993  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NY Times: A safer way to tackle on: December 26, 2010, 07:22:39 AM

CARSON, Calif. — They walked through dawn’s thick fog to the practice turf — two dozen boys as old as 17 and as young as 9, giving up a Saturday morning to the coach in the Panama hat.

 Bobby Hosea decries head-first tackling.
“Dip ’n’ rip, baby! Dip ’n’ rip!” the coach said as players ducked under five-foot limbo sticks and exploded out the other side.

“Head up! No! Head up!”

“Not chest up, chest out! Yeah!”

Bobby Hosea, a 55-year-old former defensive back and longtime bit actor, has a singular passion: teaching young football players how to protect their heads while tackling. He has watched too many end up in wheelchairs, even coffins. He sees N.F.L. defenders recklessly diving helmet-first and claiming it is too late to change. He hears youth coaches exhorting tacklers to “lay a hat on him,” a maneuver so neck-crushingly dangerous it could well be called Rushing Roulette.

So Hosea runs camps that focus on one skill — tackling with your head up instead of down, and away from contact — and gives individual instruction to players in and around Los Angeles. As football careens through its dark cloud of head injuries, Hosea sees himself as saving more than the players’ ability to walk and think. He sees it as saving the sport, one youngster at a time.

USA Football, the governing body of Pop Warner and other leagues for players ages 6 to 14, recently hired Hosea as its tackling consultant and placed videos of his technique on its Web site.

“When a kid gets paralyzed or dies, it’s not an accident — the injuries happen because people never teach kids how to tackle the right way,” Hosea told about 20 rapt campers before a session this month. “Everyone’s talking about head injury awareness, awareness, awareness. What are you going to do about it? It drives me absolutely crazy. It’s time for this to stop!”

To lighten things up, Hosea could have amused the youngsters by reading the official definition of tackling, codified at Rule 3, Section 34 of the N.F.L. Rulebook: “The use of hands or arms by a defensive player in his attempt to hold a runner or throw him to the ground.” This quaint approach has evolved into the more gratifying and theatrical act of launching headfirst into a ball carrier’s gut, chest or helmet.

A result has been a steady rise in concussions — estimated at more than 500,000 each season among the 4.4 million children who play tackle football — as well as more rare but catastrophic injuries where vertebrae are crushed or fractured, leaving the player paralyzed.

“A lot of youth coaches have no idea how to teach tackling — they say to just put a helmet in the numbers or light the other guy up,” said Jeff Leets, whose seventh-grade son, Zack, is a defensive end and devoted Hosea pupil from nearby Torrance. “They have the caveman element and don’t want to be told their way is wrong or that their way is unsafe. Or they simply don’t know. It’s sad — you’ve got babies in your hands, man.”

On this Saturday, those babies ranged from a 9-year-old who weighed 70 pounds to a beefy high school senior eyeing junior-college ball. The players did not know Hosea from his playing days at U.C.L.A., in the Canadian Football League or in the United States Football League, nor did they recognize him from recent parts on “24” or “Bones.” To them, he is the tackling guy — equal parts coach, pal and drill sergeant.

Hosea takes a tackler’s most instinctual act — to dive toward a runner, head down and arms extended — and rebuilds it from the turf up. He keeps knees bent, backside out and chest up, bending the spine and forcing the chin and eyes up. Arms remain at the side until just before impact, when the hips and shoulders thrust up into the opponent, only then swinging forward to wrap up the runner and wrestle him down.

Hosea ran drills as unconventional as his method. The players lined up on their knees 10 at a time and flopped forward onto pads with their arms clasped behind their backs, looking like flying fish. In midair, they must call out the number of fingers a coach raises — to prove that their chins are up and eyes are alert. Elsewhere, they must run full speed under horizontal bars only 52 and 60 inches off the ground — Hosea’s so-called Dip-’n’-Rip sticks — before hitting tackling dummies to ensure that they stay low enough with proper form.

Any dropping of the head resulted not just in dozens of push-ups, but also in spirited hooting from fellow students.

“It gives me more confidence on the field — I feel like I’m not going to hurt myself,” said Michael Wilson, an eighth grader from Long Beach. “Before, I didn’t know what I was doing. When I was first taught, all the coach said was to put my head on the ball and knock it out.”


Hosea is barely known outside Southern California, where he still collides with traditionalist resistance; several parents at the recent camp said their local coaches disapproved of an outsider teaching their children how to tackle. One mother said she pleaded with local school district officials to use Hosea for their peewee programs but got no response.

Players at Bobby Hosea’s camps are taught to tackle with knees bent, backside out and chests up, bending the spine and forcing the chin and eyes up.
“Bobby’s definitely the real deal — he’s a genius when it comes to this tackling stuff,” said Goldson, noting that teammates occasionally ask him to share the finer points of his tackling style. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know how many concussions I’d have.”
Hosea’s current prodigy is Eric Capacchione, a senior at Torrance South High. Five years ago, Eric said to his father, “Dad, is it normal to see white lights when I tackle?” Bill Capacchione, who played college football and now cannot twist his neck more than a few degrees, knew that those white lights were not good. They were probably concussions.

Bill Capacchione — proudly noting that his surname in Italian means hard head — came upon Hosea’s tackling camps and became a quick convert. Eric has gone to about 100 three-hour sessions over five years, at the standard $40 a session, and this season was Torrance South’s most valuable player, leading the team to the district championship game. His 193 tackles were the second most in the state, according to

“I don’t see the white lights anymore — mainly because I don’t hit my head in there,” said Eric, who will probably receive an N.C.A.A. Division I scholarship. “I don’t have to play afraid.”

This month’s campers certainly let loose. They shuffled and cut, imitated pterodactyls and pummeled foam dummies with a manic verve. At the end, Hosea gathered the group, seated them under a canopy and delivered his strident crescendo.

“Who breaks your neck and damages your brain?” Hosea said, yelling.

“Me,” the youngsters groaned. Dissatisfied, Hosea barked the question to each youngster individually and demanded the same answer.


“Are you ever going to put your head down on a tackle?”

“No, sir.” Not loud enough. “No, sir!”

When the grilling ended, Hosea exhaled. His final words came through a smile warm and hopeful: “You’re the new generation, guys. You’re empowered. You, my friends, are going to change the football world.”

The youngsters rose wearily, gathered their gear and trudged back to the parking lot under what had become a searing California sun. Their heads were up. The fog had lifted.
22994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Tis a rare event, but I am left speechless on: December 26, 2010, 07:11:42 AM
From, surprise!, Pravda on the Hudson:

Bundle up, it is global warming
Judah Cohen

THE earth continues to get warmer, yet it’s feeling a lot colder outside. Over the past few weeks, subzero temperatures in Poland claimed 66 lives; snow arrived in Seattle well before the winter solstice, and fell heavily enough in Minneapolis to make the roof of the Metrodome collapse; and last week blizzards closed Europe’s busiest airports in London and Frankfurt for days, stranding holiday travelers. The snow and record cold have invaded the Eastern United States, with more bad weather predicted.

All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.

How can we reconcile this? The not-so-obvious short answer is that the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes. Last winter, too, was exceptionally snowy and cold across the Eastern United States and Eurasia, as were seven of the previous nine winters.

For a more detailed explanation, we must turn our attention to the snow in Siberia.

Annual cycles like El Niño/Southern Oscillation, solar variability and global ocean currents cannot account for recent winter cooling. And though it is well documented that the earth’s frozen areas are in retreat, evidence of thinning Arctic sea ice does not explain why the world’s major cities are having colder winters.

But one phenomenon that may be significant is the way in which seasonal snow cover has continued to increase even as other frozen areas are shrinking. In the past two decades, snow cover has expanded across the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Siberia, just north of a series of exceptionally high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, the Tien Shan and the Altai.

The high topography of Asia influences the atmosphere in profound ways. The jet stream, a river of fast-flowing air five to seven miles above sea level, bends around Asia’s mountains in a wavelike pattern, much as water in a stream flows around a rock or boulder. The energy from these atmospheric waves, like the energy from a sound wave, propagates both horizontally and vertically.

As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased.

The sun’s energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools. When snow cover is more abundant in Siberia, it creates an unusually large dome of cold air next to the mountains, and this amplifies the standing waves in the atmosphere, just as a bigger rock in a stream increases the size of the waves of water flowing by.

The increased wave energy in the air spreads both horizontally, around the Northern Hemisphere, and vertically, up into the stratosphere and down toward the earth’s surface. In response, the jet stream, instead of flowing predominantly west to east as usual, meanders more north and south. In winter, this change in flow sends warm air north from the subtropical oceans into Alaska and Greenland, but it also pushes cold air south from the Arctic on the east side of the Rockies. Meanwhile, across Eurasia, cold air from Siberia spills south into East Asia and even southwestward into Europe.

That is why the Eastern United States, Northern Europe and East Asia have experienced extraordinarily snowy and cold winters since the turn of this century. Most forecasts have failed to predict these colder winters, however, because the primary drivers in their models are the oceans, which have been warming even as winters have grown chillier. They have ignored the snow in Siberia.

Last week, the British government asked its chief science adviser for an explanation. My advice to him is to look to the east.

It’s all a snow job by nature. The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.

Judah Cohen is the director of seasonal forecasting at an atmospheric and environmental research firm.

22995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Palin to AZ? on: December 26, 2010, 12:39:06 AM
22996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Last LEO in Juarez Valley, a woman, is kidnapped on: December 26, 2010, 12:36:02 AM
22997  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: December 25, 2010, 04:24:42 PM
FWIW, about once a year I go through a squat cycle.  There is something about squats that is primal and that puts things right.

My squat program is so easy even a dog can do it smiley

When I begin a cycle, I begin at 3 sets of 10x135 (I'm leaving out the tedious details such as set with bar, set of Roman DLs at 95, etc.) The next week again I do 3 sets of 10x135 and 1 set of 5x155. Following week I build up to 1 set of 5x175; then over the following weeks I increase 10 pounds each week until I cease progressing for two weeks. I do this every 7-9 days and in between I make sure to have a day that really pushes the legs athletically.

It may be a mistake or maybe it is due to the injuries I have had, or maybe it is just my temperament, but I really can't stand long distance running.  It bores the hell out of me and tends to irritate my knees and hips. I do think it really important though to develop and maintain peak explosion. 

To that end, I might go to the football field and do 100 yard dashes and a quarter mile or two with some basic football agility drills or I might go to "the Dune" (a monster sand dune in Manhattan Beach) where I do bear crawls up and sprints down and on the last set down I do frog jumps (i.e. plyometrics with big air time and a soft landing). 

That's the essence of my routine in this regard.

Last time I did the cycle (excluding the cycle I tried in the spring that was interrupted by injury) was about 2 years ago. I hit 5x255; I hope to beat that this time. 

Sometimes I do my squats at a gym where the weights are in pounds, and sometimes I do it at a gym where my weights are in kilos, but the bar is the usual 45 pounds. This yields some weird numbers smiley. In the last three weeks my numbers were 5x221, 5x235, and 5x253. This is a faster rate of ascension in the weights than my formula calls for e.g. increase only 7 or let ego chatter drive me to go for an 18 pound jump-- ego won out and I barely made the 5x253 this week. So I think this coming week I will stay at 253 and make sure I nail it with confidence before moving up again.
22998  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: To serve & defend our Constitution; we the unorganized militia; citizenship on: December 25, 2010, 04:15:07 PM
They did not need me.  Certainly it was convenient not to have been called, but the truth is that inside I felt a bit disappointed.
22999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Off the Grid on: December 25, 2010, 12:55:40 PM

KIPTUSURI, Kenya — For Sara Ruto, the desperate yearning for electricity began last year with the purchase of her first cellphone, a lifeline for receiving small money transfers, contacting relatives in the city or checking chicken prices at the nearest market.

Beyond Fossil Fuels

Charging the phone was no simple matter in this farming village far from Kenya’s electric grid.

Every week, Ms. Ruto walked two miles to hire a motorcycle taxi for the three-hour ride to Mogotio, the nearest town with electricity. There, she dropped off her cellphone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents. Yet the service was in such demand that she had to leave it behind for three full days before returning.

That wearying routine ended in February when the family sold some animals to buy a small Chinese-made solar power system for about $80. Now balanced precariously atop their tin roof, a lone solar panel provides enough electricity to charge the phone and run four bright overhead lights with switches.

“My main motivation was the phone, but this has changed so many other things,” Ms. Ruto said on a recent evening as she relaxed on a bench in the mud-walled shack she shares with her husband and six children.

As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper, more reliable and more efficient, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people who live far from slow-growing electricity grids and fuel pipelines in developing countries. Although dwarfed by the big renewable energy projects that many industrialized countries are embracing to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, these tiny systems are playing an epic, transformative role.

Since Ms. Ruto hooked up the system, her teenagers’ grades have improved because they have light for studying. The toddlers no longer risk burns from the smoky kerosene lamp. And each month, she saves $15 in kerosene and battery costs — and the $20 she used to spend on travel.

In fact, neighbors now pay her 20 cents to charge their phones, although that business may soon evaporate: 63 families in Kiptusuri have recently installed their own solar power systems.

“You leapfrog over the need for fixed lines,” said Adam Kendall, head of the sub-Saharan Africa power practice for McKinsey & Company, the global consulting firm. “Renewable energy becomes more and more important in less and less developed markets.”

The United Nations estimates that 1.5 billion people across the globe still live without electricity, including 85 percent of Kenyans, and that three billion still cook and heat with primitive fuels like wood or charcoal.

There is no reliable data on the spread of off-grid renewable energy on a small scale, in part because the projects are often installed by individuals or tiny nongovernmental organizations.

But Dana Younger, senior renewable energy adviser at the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private lending arm, said there was no question that the trend was accelerating. “It’s a phenomenon that’s sweeping the world; a huge number of these systems are being installed,” Mr. Younger said.

With the advent of cheap solar panels and high-efficiency LED lights, which can light a room with just 4 watts of power instead of 60, these small solar systems now deliver useful electricity at a price that even the poor can afford, he noted. “You’re seeing herders in Inner Mongolia with solar cells on top of their yurts,” Mr. Younger said.

In Africa, nascent markets for the systems have sprung up in Ethiopia, Uganda, Malawi and Ghana as well as in Kenya, said Francis Hillman, an energy entrepreneur who recently shifted his Eritrea-based business, Phaesun Asmara, from large solar projects financed by nongovernmental organizations to a greater emphasis on tiny rooftop systems.

In addition to these small solar projects, renewable energy technologies designed for the poor include simple subterranean biogas chambers that make fuel and electricity from the manure of a few cows, and “mini” hydroelectric dams that can harness the power of a local river for an entire village.

Yet while these off-grid systems have proved their worth, the lack of an effective distribution network or a reliable way of financing the start-up costs has prevented them from becoming more widespread.

“The big problem for us now is there is no business model yet,” said John Maina, executive coordinator of Sustainable Community Development Services, or Scode, a nongovernmental organization based in Nakuru, Kenya, that is devoted to bringing power to rural areas.

Just a few years ago, Mr. Maina said, “solar lights” were merely basic lanterns, dim and unreliable.

“Finally, these products exist, people are asking for them and are willing to pay,” he said. “But we can’t get supply.” He said small African organizations like his do not have the purchasing power or connections to place bulk orders themselves from distant manufacturers, forcing them to scramble for items each time a shipment happens to come into the country.


Page 2 of 2)

Part of the problem is that the new systems buck the traditional mold, in which power is generated by a very small number of huge government-owned companies that gradually extend the grid into rural areas. Investors are reluctant to pour money into products that serve a dispersed market of poor rural consumers because they see the risk as too high.

Beyond Fossil Fuels

“There are many small islands of success, but they need to go to scale,” said Minoru Takada, chief of the United Nations Development Program’s sustainable energy program. “Off-grid is the answer for the poor. But people who control funding need to see this as a viable option.”

Even United Nations programs and United States government funds that promote climate-friendly energy in developing countries hew to large projects like giant wind farms or industrial-scale solar plants that feed into the grid. A $300 million solar project is much easier to finance and monitor than 10 million home-scale solar systems in mud huts spread across a continent.

As a result, money does not flow to the poorest areas. Of the $162 billion invested in renewable energy last year, according to the United Nations, experts estimate that $44 billion was spent in China, India and Brazil collectively, and $7.5 billion in the many poorer countries.

Only 6 to 7 percent of solar panels are manufactured to produce electricity that does not feed into the grid; that includes systems like Ms. Ruto’s and solar panels that light American parking lots and football stadiums.

Still, some new models are emerging. Husk Power Systems, a young company supported by a mix of private investment and nonprofit funds, has built 60 village power plants in rural India that make electricity from rice husks for 250 hamlets since 2007.

In Nepal and Indonesia, the United Nations Development Program has helped finance the construction of very small hydroelectric plants that have brought electricity to remote mountain communities. Morocco provides subsidized solar home systems at a cost of $100 each to remote rural areas where expanding the national grid is not cost-effective.

What has most surprised some experts in the field is the recent emergence of a true market in Africa for home-scale renewable energy and for appliances that consume less energy. As the cost of reliable equipment decreases, families have proved ever more willing to buy it by selling a goat or borrowing money from a relative overseas, for example.

The explosion of cellphone use in rural Africa has been an enormous motivating factor. Because rural regions of many African countries lack banks, the cellphone has been embraced as a tool for commercial transactions as well as personal communications, adding an incentive to electrify for the sake of recharging.

M-Pesa, Kenya’s largest mobile phone money transfer service, handles an annual cash flow equivalent to more than 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, most in tiny transactions that rarely exceed $20.

The cheap renewable energy systems also allow the rural poor to save money on candles, charcoal, batteries, wood and kerosene. “So there is an ability to pay and a willingness to pay,” said Mr. Younger of the International Finance Corporation.

In another Kenyan village, Lochorai, Alice Wangui, 45, and Agnes Mwaforo, 35, formerly subsistence farmers, now operate a booming business selling and installing energy-efficient wood-burning cooking stoves made of clay and metal for a cost of $5. Wearing matching bright orange tops and skirts, they walk down rutted dirt paths with cellphones ever at their ears, edging past goats and dogs to visit customers and to calm those on the waiting list.

Hunched over her new stove as she stirred a stew of potatoes and beans, Naomi Muriuki, 58, volunteered that the appliance had more than halved her use of firewood. Wood has become harder to find and expensive to buy as the government tries to limit deforestation, she added.

In Tumsifu, a slightly more prosperous village of dairy farmers, Virginia Wairimu, 35, is benefiting from an underground tank in which the manure from her three cows is converted to biogas, which is then pumped through a rubber tube to a gas burner.

“I can just get up and make breakfast," Ms. Wairimu said. The system was financed with a $400 loan from a demonstration project that has since expired.

In Kiptusuri, the Firefly LED system purchased by Ms. Ruto is this year’s must-have item. The smallest one, which costs $12, consists of a solar panel that can be placed in a window or on a roof and is connected to a desk lamp and a phone charger. Slightly larger units can run radios and black-and-white television sets.

Of course, such systems cannot compare with a grid connection in the industrialized world. A week of rain can mean no lights. And items like refrigerators need more, and more consistent, power than a panel provides.

Still, in Kenya, even grid-based electricity is intermittent and expensive: families must pay more than $350 just to have their homes hooked up.

“With this system, you get a real light for what you spend on kerosene in a few months,” said Mr. Maina, of Sustainable Community Development Services. “When you can light your home and charge your phone, that is very valuable.”
23000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: December 25, 2010, 12:54:50 PM
Freki:  That is fascinating.
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