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22951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: June 23, 2011, 01:51:11 AM
Worth noting at this moment is the situation with Greece and the Euro, leading to a flight to safety.  This may (temporarily?) offset the points you make , , ,
22952  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / El Chango on: June 22, 2011, 09:06:15 PM
Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart looks at the implications of the arrest of drug cartel leader Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas or “El Chango.”


Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

In today’s Dispatch we’re going to be looking at the arrests yesterday in Aguascalientes State, of Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, “El Chango” (the monkey), the leader of one of the factions of the La Familia Michoacana cartel.

To understand what the arrest of El Chango means, we have to really go back and look at the flow, or really the context, of what has been happening with the Mexican cartels over the last year. A year ago this time, the La Familia or, as we call them, “LFM,” (La Familia Michoacana), the LFM cartel was an up-and-coming cartel, it was rising in power and prominence, and it had banded together with two other powerful cartel groups, the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf Cartel, to assist them in their battle against the Zetas and their allies.

Now one of the things that we’ve seen happen over the years with the Mexican cartels is that when any one figure — especially in the Sinaloa Federation — gets too powerful, they have a tendency to run into accidents, and that’s what we saw happen last July. There was a gentleman by the name of Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, “El Nacho.” Ignacio Coronel had an issue with the authorities, was taken out, and this created a vacuum in Jalisco and Guadalajara. Now at this time what happened is we had the LFM cartel saw that vacuum of power that was started by the removal of Ignacio Coronel, and they decided to move in and try to assume control of Jalisco and Guadalajara. This then initiated a war between the Sinaloa Federation and the LFM for control of this very lucrative place. As LFM began fighting with Sinaloa, we saw Sinaloa Federation becoming really dominant and getting the upper hand in that fight, and that struggle culminated in the death, late last year, of the leader of the LFM, a guy by the name of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, “El Mas Loco,” (the craziest one).

Following the death of El Mas Loco, what we saw happen was that it devolved into two different organizations that were basically coalescing around different powerful leaders — lieutenants of El Mas Loco. The first of these lieutenants was Jose Mendez Vargas, “El Chango.” The second one was Servando Gomez, “La Tuta,” (the teacher). La Tuta’s faction began using the name the Knights Templar. The other organization — the faction that formed around El Chango — kept using the name La Familia. So over the last few months, as these organizations have formed up, we’ve seen them locked in a very bloody battle for control of Michoacan. So over the next weeks and months we’re going to be watching for indications of which way this is going to be going: whether or not this LFM faction will be able to stay united, whether they’ll be able to be able to fend off the offensive of the Knights Templar, and whether or not they could become more closely allied with Los Zetas.

Click for more videos





85281
22953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / El Chango on: June 22, 2011, 09:05:30 PM


Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart looks at the implications of the arrest of drug cartel leader Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas or “El Chango.”


Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

In today’s Dispatch we’re going to be looking at the arrests yesterday in Aguascalientes State, of Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, “El Chango” (the monkey), the leader of one of the factions of the La Familia Michoacana cartel.

To understand what the arrest of El Chango means, we have to really go back and look at the flow, or really the context, of what has been happening with the Mexican cartels over the last year. A year ago this time, the La Familia or, as we call them, “LFM,” (La Familia Michoacana), the LFM cartel was an up-and-coming cartel, it was rising in power and prominence, and it had banded together with two other powerful cartel groups, the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf Cartel, to assist them in their battle against the Zetas and their allies.

Now one of the things that we’ve seen happen over the years with the Mexican cartels is that when any one figure — especially in the Sinaloa Federation — gets too powerful, they have a tendency to run into accidents, and that’s what we saw happen last July. There was a gentleman by the name of Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, “El Nacho.” Ignacio Coronel had an issue with the authorities, was taken out, and this created a vacuum in Jalisco and Guadalajara. Now at this time what happened is we had the LFM cartel saw that vacuum of power that was started by the removal of Ignacio Coronel, and they decided to move in and try to assume control of Jalisco and Guadalajara. This then initiated a war between the Sinaloa Federation and the LFM for control of this very lucrative place. As LFM began fighting with Sinaloa, we saw Sinaloa Federation becoming really dominant and getting the upper hand in that fight, and that struggle culminated in the death, late last year, of the leader of the LFM, a guy by the name of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, “El Mas Loco,” (the craziest one).

Following the death of El Mas Loco, what we saw happen was that it devolved into two different organizations that were basically coalescing around different powerful leaders — lieutenants of El Mas Loco. The first of these lieutenants was Jose Mendez Vargas, “El Chango.” The second one was Servando Gomez, “La Tuta,” (the teacher). La Tuta’s faction began using the name the Knights Templar. The other organization — the faction that formed around El Chango — kept using the name La Familia. So over the last few months, as these organizations have formed up, we’ve seen them locked in a very bloody battle for control of Michoacan. So over the next weeks and months we’re going to be watching for indications of which way this is going to be going: whether or not this LFM faction will be able to stay united, whether they’ll be able to be able to fend off the offensive of the Knights Templar, and whether or not they could become more closely allied with Los Zetas.

Click for more videos

22954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fed QE2 to end as planned on: June 22, 2011, 12:32:02 PM


Fed to End Stimulus Measures as Planned

The nation’s central bank said Wednesday that it would complete the planned purchase of $600 billion in Treasury securities  next week as scheduled, and then suspend its three-year-old economic rescue campaign, leaving in place the aid it already is providing but doing nothing more, for now, to boost growth.

“The economic recovery is continuing at a moderate pace, though somewhat more slowly than the committee had expected,” the Fed said in a statement. “The committee expects the pace of recovery to pick up over coming quarters and the unemployment rate to resume its gradual decline.”

The Fed’s policy board, the Federal Open Market Committee, voted unanimously to maintain its two-year-old commitment to hold a benchmark interest rate near zero “for an extended period.”

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/business/economy/23fed.html?emc=na
22955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rural Councils on: June 22, 2011, 12:27:09 PM
Also posted on the UN thread:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/does-the-new-white-house-rural-council-uns-agenda-21/
22956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-UN Rural Council on: June 22, 2011, 12:26:20 PM
Will also post this on the Liberal Fascism thread

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/does-the-new-white-house-rural-council-uns-agenda-21/
22957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Medvedev on: June 22, 2011, 11:15:30 AM


International Obama fan club: "I would like Barack Obama to be re-elected president of the United States maybe more than someone else. If another person becomes U.S. president, then he may have another course. We understand that there are representatives of a rather conservative wing there who are trying to achieve their political goals at the expense of inflaming passions in relation to Russia, among other things. But what use is criticizing them? This is simply a way of achieving political goals." --Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

22958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Weiner's wife Huma Abedin and brother in law Hassan on: June 22, 2011, 11:10:04 AM
This came to me from the Patriot Post, which I regard as reliable.  I have no idea who the columnist in question is, but this sure sounds like a matter for our GM's best google fu skills!

"Far more disturbing than the salacious details of [Anthony] Weiner's dalliances is the fact that apparently his mother-in-law is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Furthermore, [his wife] Huma Abedin's brother, Hassan, 'is listed as a fellow and partner with a number of Muslim Brotherhood members.' Hassan works at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS) at Oxford University. The Egyptian Al-Azhar University, well-known for a curriculum that encourages extremism and terrorism, is active in establishing links with OCIS. ... Is the Weiner scandal really covering up a far more disturbing scenario whereby jihadists continue to infiltrate and influence American universities, military installations, homeland security, even local police forces, all while the press ignores the steady encroachment of these radicals who seek to overturn and destroy America?" --columnist Eileen F. Toplansky

22959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patrick Henry and an IBD editorial on: June 22, 2011, 11:03:28 AM
Now there's a shocking development!  rolleyes angry

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

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined." --Patrick Henry

Editorial Exegesis
"Acting ATF director Kenneth Melson is apparently ready to take the fall for what may be the most morally repulsive scandal to befall the Obama administration so far. Our neighbor Mexico lies bleeding from a long, vicious war to fight seven major drug cartels at once. Some 38,000 have been left dead since 2006. Amid all this, U.S. ATF agents had orders from on high to supply U.S. weapons to cartel middlemen buying them on U.S. soil for the odd purpose of 'tracing' them. The news that Melson is resigning seems to be a bid by the Obama administration to paint this as simply an example of Keystone Kop-style bungling being corrected. But many things suggest the operation may have been done for political purposes, and not merely stupidity. The idea behind 'Operation Fast and Furious' was to let gun dealers sell weapons to cartel middlemen, who would then ship them to criminal gangs in Mexico, and damn the consequences. ... There was no effort to trace the weapons even after letting them get out. If the weapons weren't traced, why was this operation sanctioned? ... [Barack Obama ... wanted to reinstate an assault-weapon ban in 2008, but said he did not have the political capital to do it. Bob Owens, writing for Pajamas Media, noted that the administration seemed to want to whip up a crisis requiring a crackdown on guns in the U.S. It gets worse. President Obama has long wanted gun-control-oriented ATF agent Andrew Traver to head the agency. Now, with Melson rumored to be ready to quit this week, he may get his way and benefit. There are real questions that must be answered about who knew about this, and when. An American lies murdered for what may be political aims. He has a right to justice -- as high up as it goes." --Investor's Business Daily

22960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gingrich: Audit the Fed on: June 22, 2011, 10:07:27 AM
In a speech this morning in Atlanta, I called for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank legislation and dramatic reforms in the operation of the Federal Reserve, starting with a full-scale audit of its activities.  

During the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve made thousands of loans to banks and other large institutions for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. These loans totaled at least three trillion dollars and exposed the American taxpayer to potentially enormous financial liability for losses.

Because such decisions of the Federal Reserve affect the value and stability of the dollar, and therefore the life and livelihood of every American, we have every right to ask - who got the money?

If you agree, please take a moment to watch our video laying out our "Who Got the Money?" proposal
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4861wQcacSk&feature=player_embedded
and sign our petition in support of a full-scale audit of the Federal Reserve.


22961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Two Visions of Europe on: June 22, 2011, 09:59:28 AM






TWO VISIONS OF EUROPE


There has been a fight between the advocates of two different ideals from the beginning of the European Union. Which stance it should adopt: the classical liberal vision, or the socialist vision of Europe? The introduction of the Euro has played a key role in the strategies of these two visions. In order to understand the tragedy of the Euro and its history, it is important to be familiar with these two diverging, and underlying visions and tensions that have come to the fore in the face of a single currency


THE CLASSICAL LIBERAL VISION


The founding fathers of the EU, Schuman (France [born in Luxembourg]), Adenauer (Germany), and Alcide de Gasperi (Italy), all German speaking Catholics, were followers of the classical liberal vision of Europe. They were also Christian democrats. The classical liberal vision regards individual liberty as the most important cultural value of Europeans and Christianity. In this vision sovereign European states defend private property rights and a free market economy in a Europe of open borders, thus enabling the free exchange of goods, services and ideas.


The Treaty of Rome in 1957 was the main achievement toward the classical liberal vision for Europe. The Treaty delivered four basic liberties: free circulation of goods, free offering of services, free movement of financial capital, and free migration. The Treaty restored rights that had been essential for Europe during the classical liberal period in the nineteenth century, but had been abandoned in the age of nationalism and socialism. The Treaty was a turning away from the age of socialism that had led to conflicts between European nations, culminating in two world wars.


The classical liberal vision aims at a restoration of nineteenth century freedoms. Free competition without entry barriers should prevail in a common European market. In this vision, no one could prohibit a German hairdresser from cutting hair in Spain, and no one could tax an English man for transferring money from a German to a French bank, or for investing in the Italian stock market. No one could prevent, through regulations, a French brewer from selling beer in Germany. No government could give subsidies distorting competition. No one could prevent a Dane from running away from his welfare state and extreme high tax rates, and migrating to a state with a lower tax burden, such as Ireland.


In order to accomplish this ideal of peaceful cooperation and flourishing exchanges, nothing more than freedom would be necessary. In this vision there would be no need to create a European superstate. In fact, the classical liberal vision is highly skeptical of a central European state; it is considered detrimental to individual liberty. Philosophically speaking, many defenders of this vision are inspired by Catholicism, and borders of the European community are defined by Christianity. In line with Catholic social teaching, a principle of subsidiarity should prevail: problems should be solved at the lowest and least concentrated level possible. The only centralized European institution acceptable would be a European Court of Justice, its activities restricted to supervising conflicts between member states, and guaranteeing the four basic liberties.


From the classical liberal point of view, there should be many competing political systems, as has been the case in Europe for centuries. In the Middle Ages, and until the nineteenth century, there existed very different political systems, such as independent cities of Flanders, Germany and Northern Italy. There were Kingdoms such as Bavaria or Saxony, and there were Republics such as Venice. Political diversity was demonstrated most clearly in the strongly decentralized Germany. Under a culture of diversity and pluralism, science and industry flourished.


Competition on all levels is essential to the classical liberal vision. It leads to coherence, as product standards, factor prices, and especially wage rates tend to converge. Capital moves where wages are low, bidding them up; workers, on the other hand move where wage rates are high, bidding them down. Markets offer decentralized solutions for environmental problems based on private property. Political competition ensures the most important European value: liberty.Tax competition fosters lower tax rates and fiscal responsibility. People vote by foot, evading excessive tax rates, as do companies. Different national tax sovereignties are seen as the best protection against tyranny.Competition also prevails in the field of money. Different monetary authorities compete in offering currencies of high quality. Authorities offering more stable currencies exert pressure on other authorities to follow suit.


THE SOCIALIST VISION


In direct opposition to the classical liberal vision is the socialist or Empire vision of Europe, defended by politicians such as Jacques Delors or François Mitterand. A coalition of statist interests of the nationalist, socialist, and conservative ilk does what it can do to advance its agenda. It wants to see the European Union as an empire or a fortress: protectionist to the outside and interventionist on the inside. These statists dream of a centralized state with efficient technocrats—as the ruling technocrat statists imagine themselves to be—managing it.


In this ideal, the center of the Empire would rule over the periphery. There would be common and centralized legislation. The defenders of the socialist vision of Europe want to erect a European mega state reproducing the nation states on the European level. They want a European welfare state that would provide for redistribution, regulation, and harmonization of legislation within Europe. The harmonization of taxes and social regulations would be carried out at the highest level. If the VAT is between fifteen and twenty-five percent in the European Union, socialists would harmonize it to twenty-five percent in all countries. Such harmonization of social regulation is in the interest of the most protected, the richest and the most productive workers, who can “afford” such regulation—while their peers cannot. If German social regulations were applied to the Poles, for instance, the latter would have problems competing with the former.


The agenda of the socialist vision is to grant ever more power to the central state, i.e., to Brussels. The socialist vision for Europe is the ideal of the political class, the bureaucrats, the interest groups, the privileged, and the subsidized sectors who want to create a powerful central state for their own enrichment. Adherents to this view present a European state as a necessity, and consider it only a question of time.


Along the socialist path, the European central state would one day become so powerful that the sovereign states would become subservient to them. (We can already see first indicators of such subservience in the case of Greece. Greece behaves like a protectorate of Brussels, who tells its government how to handle its deficit.)


The socialist vision provides no obvious geographical limits for the European state—in contrast to the Catholic-inspired classical liberal vision. Political competition is seen as an obstacle to the central state, which removes itself from public control. In this sense the central state in the socialist vision becomes less and less democratic as power is shifted to bureaucrats and technocrats. (An example is provided by the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union. The Commissioners are not elected but appointed by the member state governments.)


Historically, precedents for this old socialist plan of founding a controlling central state in Europe were established by Charlemagne, Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler. The difference is, however, that this time no direct military means would be necessary. But state power coercion is used in the push for a central European state.


From a tactical perspective, crisis situations in particular would be used by the adherents of the socialist vision to create new institutions (such as the European Central Bank (ECB) or possibly, in the future, a European Ministry of Finance), as well as to extend the powers of existing institutions such as the European Commission or the ECB.


The classical liberal and the socialist visions of Europe are, consequently, irreconcilable. In fact, the increase in power of a central state as proposed by the socialist vision implies a reduction of the four basic liberties, and most certainly less individual liberty.


THE HISTORY OF A STRUGGLE BETWEEN TWO VISIONS


The two visions have been struggling with each other since the 1950s. In the beginning, the design for the European Communities adhered more closely to the classical liberal vision.6 The European Community consisted of sovereign states and guaranteed the four basic liberties. From the point of view of the classical liberals, a main birth defect of the community was the subsidy and intervention in agricultural policy. Also, by construction, the only legislative initiative belongs to the European Commission. Once the Commission has made a proposal for legislation, the Council of the European Union alone, or together with the European Parliament, may approve the proposal.7 This setup contains the seed of centralization.


Consequently, the institutional setup, from the very beginning, was designed to accommodate centralization and dictatorship over minority opinions, as unanimity is not required for all decisions and the areas where unanimity rule is required have been reduced over the years.


The classical liberal model is defended traditionally by Christian democrats and states such as the Netherlands, Germany, and also Great Britain. But social democrats and socialists, usually led by the French government, defend the Empire version of Europe. In fact, in light of its rapid fall in 1940, the years of Nazi occupation, its failures in Indochina, and the loss of its African colonies, the French ruling class used the European Community to regain its influence and pride, and to compensate for the loss of its empire.


Over the years there has been a slow tendency toward the socialist ideal—with increasing budgets for the EU and a new regional policy that effectively redistributes wealth across Europe.10 Countless regulations and harmonization have pushed in that direction as well.


The classical liberal vision of sovereign and independent states did appear to be given new strength by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany. First, Germany, having traditionally defended this vision, became stronger due to the reunification. Second, the new states emerging from the ashes of communism, such as Czechoslovakia (Václav Klaus), Poland, Hungary, etc., also supported the classical liberal vision for Europe. These new states wanted to enjoy their new, recently won liberty. They had had enough of socialism, Empires, and centralization.


The influence of the French government was now reduced.11 The socialist camp saw its defeat coming. A fast enlargement of the EU incorporating the new states in the East had to be prevented. A step forward toward a central state had to be taken. The single currency was to be the vehicle to achieve this aim.12 According to the German newspapers, the French government feared that Germany, after its reunification, would create “a DM dominated free trade area from Brest to Brest-Litowsk”.13 European (French) socialists needed power over the monetary unit urgently.


As Charles Gave14 argued on the events following the fall of the Berlin Wall:


For the proponents of the “Roman Empire” [socialist vision], the European State had to be organized immediately, whatever the risks, and become inevitable. Otherwise, the proponents of “Christian Europe” [classical liberal vision] would win by default and history would likely never reverse its course. The collapse of the Soviet Union was the crisis which gave the opportunity, and drive, to the Roman Empire to push through an overly ambitious program. The scale had been tipped and the “Roman Empire” needed to tip it the other way; and the creation of the Euro, more than anything, came to symbolize the push by the Roman camp towards a centralized super-structure.


The official line of argument for the defenders of a single fiat currency was that the Euro would lower transactions costs—facilitating trade, tourism and growth in Europe. More implicitly, however, the single currency was seen as a first step toward the creation of a European state. It was assumed that the Euro would create pressure to introduce this state.


The real reason the German government, traditionally opposed to the socialist vision, finally accepted the Euro, had to do with German reunification. The deal was as follows: France builds its European empire and Germany gets its reunification.15 It was maintained that Germany would otherwise become too powerful and its sharpest weapon, the Deutschmark, had to be taken away—in other words, disarmament.


The next step in the plan of the socialist camp was the draft of a European constitution (by French ex-President Valery Giscard d’Estaing Ginard), establishing a central state. But the constitution project failed utterly; it was voted down by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005. As is often the case, Germans had not even been asked. They had not been asked on the question of the Euro either. But politicians usually do not give up until they get what they want. In this case they just renamed the constitution; and it no longer required a popular vote in many countries.


As a consequence, the Lisbon Treaty was passed in December 2007. The Treaty is full of words like pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance and solidarity, all of which can be interpreted as calls to infringe upon private property rights and the freedom of contract. In Article Three, the European Union pledges to fight social exclusion and discrimination, thereby opening the doors to interventionists. God is not mentioned once in the Lisbon Treaty.


In actuality, the Lisbon Treaty constitutes a defeat for the socialist ideal. It is not a genuine constitution but merely a treaty. It is a dead end for Empire advocates, who were forced to regroup and focus on the one tool that they had left—the Euro. But how, exactly, does it provoke a centralization in Europe?


The Euro causes the kinds of problems which can be viewed as a pretext for centralization on the part of politicians. Indeed, the construction and setup of the Euro have themselves provoked a chain of severe crises: member states can use the printing press to finance their deficits; this feature of the EMU invariably leads to a sovereign debt crisis. The crisis, in turn, may be used to centralize power and fiscal policies. The centralization of fiscal policies may then be used to harmonize taxation and get rid of tax competition.


In the current sovereign debt crisis, the Euro, the only means left for the socialists to strengthen their case and achieve their central state, is at stake. It is, therefore, far from the truth that the end of the Euro would mean the end of Europe or the European idea; it would be just the end of the socialist version of it.


Naturally one can have an economically integrated Europe with its four basic liberties without a single fiat currency. The UK, Sweden, Denmark, and the Czech Republic do not have the Euro, but belong to the common market enjoying the four liberties. If Greece were to join these countries, the classical liberal vision would remain untouched. In fact, a free choice of currency is more akin to the European value of liberty than a European legal tender coming along with a monopolistic money producer.
22962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, first Inaugural address 1801 on: June 22, 2011, 09:28:11 AM
"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression." --Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, 1801


22963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / MOVED: The First Amendment & Free Speech on: June 22, 2011, 08:52:02 AM
This topic has been moved to Science, Culture, & Humanities.

http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1285.0
22964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gingrich: Anti-Religious Speech on: June 22, 2011, 08:50:01 AM
Anti-Religious Speech Police in America

by Newt Gingrich

Can you imagine high school administrators being threatened with jail if their students said any of the following words? "Prayer," "stand," "bow your heads," or "amen"?

Can you imagine a graduation ceremony in which the word "invocation" was replaced with "opening remarks" and "benediction" was replaced with "closing remarks"—by order of a federal judge? Or a judge declaring that such an order would be "enforced by incarceration or other sanctions for contempt of Court if not obeyed?"

This sounds like a scenario that might occur under a dictatorship, but it happened earlier this month in the Medina Valley Independent School District near San Antonio, Texas. It is just one recent example of how anti-religious many on the Left have become.

It is bad enough that NBC revealed its anti-religious bias by editing out "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance last weekend.

It is bad enough that President Obama has skipped the phrase "our Creator" at least four times when citing the Declaration of Independence, even when the teleprompter read that we are "endowed by our Creator."

At least neither NBC nor President Obama threatened to put anyone in jail.

Federal District Judge Fred Biery issued the order to stop the school's valedictorian from saying a prayer as part of her graduation speech. He did so in the name of the First Amendment, which is supposed to prevent government prohibitions of the free exercise of religion and protect the freedom of speech.

Judge Biery's decision clearly is not about defending the Constitution. It is the anti-religious judicial speech police at work here in America.

It is time for Americans who are fed up with this kind of repression by an anti-religious judiciary to act decisively. Judge Biery’s decision is so outrageous that the American people should not accept his continued employment on the federal bench.

The Federalist Papers and
a Limited Judicial Branch

The Founders never intended for judges to have free reign to interpret the Constitution according to their own ideological purposes. In fact, Alexander Hamilton is quite clear in the Federalist No. 78 that judges who conduct themselves like Biery will have short tenures.

"The judiciary," Hamilton writes, "...will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution, because it will be least in capacity to annoy or injure them." Among the three co-equal branches of government (each of which is charged with interpreting and upholding the Constitution), he writes that the judiciary "can never attack with success either of the other two."

Hamilton's description of a judiciary subordinate in power to the president and the Congress is a long way from the modern doctrine of judicial supremacy, by which the judiciary has asserted itself as the supreme authority for Constitutional interpretation.

By Hamilton's standard, at least, Judge Biery has clearly failed to avoid the kind of offenses that should rightly provoke attacks by the legislative and executive branches.

In the Hamiltonian spirit, then, I would like to offer a simple solution to the problem.

Judge Biery, Meet Thomas Jefferson

President Thomas Jefferson—who, together with his Secretary of State James Madison, knew more than a little about the Constitution—had a solution for dealing with out-of-control federal judges: he abolished the judgeships of 18 out of 35 of them.

That's right. In the Judiciary Act of 1802, Jefferson eliminated more than half the sitting federal judges.

As a first step toward reining in an out-of-control, anti-religious bigotry on the bench, let's start with this modest suggestion: Judge Biery's office should be abolished by Congress. He should go home.

The American people would be better off without a judge whose anti-religious extremism leads him to ban a high school valedictorian from saying even the word "prayer."

A Nation Like No Other

In my new book, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters, I discuss the basis of Jefferson's concern about the judiciary, and especially about its claim to supremacy as "the ultimate arbiter of all constitutional questions." The idea that unelected and unaccountable judges would dictate to the people the meaning of the Constitution, he wrote in an 1820 letter to William Jarvis, was "a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy."

Jefferson was adamant that the Constitution had not established a "single tribunal" to interpret its meaning specifically because the Founders understood that any group to whom alone that power was confided "would become despots."

Instead, the branches of government were created to be co-equal, each itself charged with interpreting the Constitution and "responsible to the people in [its] elective capacity."

"The exemption of the judges from that [accountability] is quite dangerous enough," Jefferson wrote. "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society, but the people themselves."

This challenge to judicial supremacy is intimately connected to the heart of what makes America exceptional. As I write in A Nation Like No Other, the final power in America lies not with judges or presidents or bureaucrats, but with the American people. We loan power to the government. And as Jefferson demonstrated dramatically when he abolished eighteen federal judgeships, we can take it back when it is abused.

Few things exhibit the danger of judicial abuse more clearly than when judges like Biery use their positions to advance agendas so far out of the mainstream that they end up dictating word choice at a local high school graduation.

In Biery's case, the order was so extreme that thankfully it was stayed by the appeals court just hours before the graduation.

The broader encroachment of the anti-religious judiciary, however, has taken place below the radar of most Americans. It has proceeded, as Jefferson wrote of the branch in another letter, "like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains...engulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them."

Thomas Jefferson was right. When judges are policing graduation speeches for religious content, the judiciary has clearly advanced too far.  It is time for the American people to reassert their authority.

They can start in the U.S. District Court for Western Texas.

Your Friend,

22965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: June 22, 2011, 01:32:59 AM
Must remember to put in a buy order for Pfizer, which makes Viagra, tomorrow , , ,

JDN:  I'm guessing she wasn't a virign on their wedding night and had not been one for quite some time.  Your comparison might be more apt if Jesus were a pedophile.
22966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey's Inevitable Problems on: June 22, 2011, 01:26:55 AM
Monday, June 20, 2011   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

Turkey's Inevitable Problems With Neighbors

Syrian President Bashar al Assad delivered a long and uneventful speech Monday, during which he basically divided Syria’s protest society into three categories: the good, the criminal and the Salafi. Assad claimed that instability caused by the latter two was to blame for the delay in implementing reforms. Rather than promising concrete reforms that have been strongly urged by the Turks, the Syrian president emphasized that security had to come first, while trying to present himself as a neutral mediator between the population and security forces. Not surprisingly, the speech fell on deaf ears throughout Syria, but also in Ankara, where the government let its growing impatience show and told the Syrian president once again that he isn’t doing enough to satisfy the demands of his people.

With more than 10,000 Syrian refugees spilling across the Turkish border to escape the army’s siege, the situation in Syria is undoubtedly growing desperate. However, we have not yet seen the red flags that would indicate the al Assad regime is in imminent danger of collapse. The reasons are fairly straightforward. The al Assad clan belongs to Syria’s Alawite minority, who only 40 years ago were living under the thumb of the country’s majority Sunni population. Four decades in power is not a long time, and vengeance is a powerful force in this part of the world. The Alawites understand that they face an existential crisis, and if they allow their grip over the Baath-dominated political system — and most importantly, over the military — to loosen even slightly, they will likely become the prime targets of a Sunni vendetta aiming to return the Alawites to their subservient status. This may explain why al Assad felt the need to stress in his speech that his minority government would not take “revenge” against those who stand down from their protests.

“Washington is trying to push Turkey into a role it’s not quite ready for; meanwhile, Turkey is trying to sort out its growing pains while appearing influential abroad.”
Turkey is understandably nervous about what is happening next door in Syria. Ankara would prefer a Syria ruled by a stable Sunni regime, especially one that would look to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for political guidance. However, the Turks can see that Syria’s Alawite leadership will not surrender power without a long and bloody fight. Recreating a sphere of Turkish-modeled Sunni influence in the Levant may be a long-term goal for Ankara, but the Turkish government is certainly not prepared to pay the near-term cost of civil strife in Syria spilling across Turkish borders.

Turkey has so far addressed this dilemma mainly through rhetoric, issuing angry speeches against Syrian leadership, while floating the idea of a military buffer zone for Syrian refugees. For awhile, assuming the role of regional disciplinarian played well to an AKP public-relations strategy that portrayed Turkey as the model for the Arab Spring and the go-to mediator for the Mideast’s problems. But the more Syria destabilizes — and with each time it ignores Ankara’s demands — the more Turkey risks appearing impotent.

The crisis in Syria will likely lead to a recalibration of Turkish foreign policy. The architect of Turkey’s foreign policy, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, coined the phrase “zero problems with neighbors” to describe the guiding principle of Turkey’s interactions with surrounding regimes. Turkey obviously has a problem with Syria’s leadership, and not a small one. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Turkey may not yet have what it takes to deal with Syria, beyond issuing rhetorical censures. Establishing a military buffer zone as a haven for Syrian refugees not only would call for an international mandate, but would entail Turkish troops occupying foreign land — which would likely set off alarm bells among Arabs who already suspect Turkey of harboring a so-called neo-Ottoman agenda. Turkey’s ardent support for Libyan rebels against Moammar Gadhafi and public backing for Syrian opposition forces have already unnerved Arab monarchist regimes that are trying to undermine the effects of the Arab Spring and are growing distrustful of Turkish intentions.

Moreover, any move construed as Turkey trying to facilitate the downfall of the al Assad regime would undoubtedly create problems with Iran, a neighbor Turkey has taken great care to avoid aggravating. Iran relies heavily on the Alawite regime in Syria to maintain a foothold in the Levant through groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Since the return of Syria to Sunni control would unravel a key pillar of Iranian deterrent strategy, we can expect that Iran is doing everything possible to undermine the very Syrian opposition forces looking to Ankara for support. Turkey has avoided confrontation with Iran thus far while working quietly to build a Sunni counterbalance to Iranian-backed Shia in Iraq in the face of an impending U.S. withdrawal. A power vacuum in Syria filled by Turkish-backed Sunnis would reinforce a nascent confrontation between Iran and Turkey with deep geopolitical underpinnings.

Nations do not have friends; they have interests. And Turkey, a historically influential country sitting on one of the most geopolitically complex pieces of real estate in the world, is now finding that a foreign policy built on avoiding problems with neighbors grinds against reality. In STRATFOR’s view, this was inevitable, which is why we took interest in Monday’s issue of Today’s Zaman, an English-language outlet loyal to the movement of Fethullah Gulen and strongly supportive of the ruling AKP. Two editorials in Monday’s publication held that the Syrian crisis has exposed the coming demise of Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy.

That this idea is being introduced into the public discourse is revealing, not only of Turkey’s internal debate on this issue, but also of the message that Ankara may be trying to send to the United States and others: It needs time to develop the wherewithal to meaningfully influence its neighborhood. The United States wants Turkey to help shoulder the burden of managing the Middle East as it looks to extricate its military from Iraq. Washington especially needs to develop a strong counterbalance to Iran — a role historically filled by Turkey. This obviously presents a conflict of interests: Washington is trying to push Turkey into a role it’s not quite ready for; meanwhile, Turkey is trying to sort out its growing pains while appearing influential abroad.

Turkey’s evolution will be difficult and uncomfortable, but this should not come as a surprise. “Zero problems with neighbors” worked well for Turkey at the start of this century, as it came out of its domestic shell, yet took care to avoid being seen as a resurgent power with imperial interests. After a decade of regional conflict, Turkey is finding that problems with neighbors are not only unavoidable, but may even be necessary as the Turkish state redefines its core interests.

22967  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The KT Adventure continues! on: June 21, 2011, 08:07:15 PM
Woof:

Once I show some material and let people work with it, I like walking around the room and interacting hands-on with people to help them-- but this helps me too.  The variety of body types and responses is a wonderful laboratory for presenting me with questions of which I may not have thought-- likewise with solutions and new ideas.

Life truly is an Adventure!
CD

22968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Der Spiegel: Time for Plan B on: June 21, 2011, 03:59:15 PM
from Der Spiegel

06/20/2011 05:42 PM

Time for Plan B

How the Euro Became Europe's Greatest Threat

The euro is becoming an ever greater threat to Europe's common future. The currency union chains together economies that are simply incompatible. Politicians approve one bailout package after the other and, in doing so, have set down a dangerous path that could burden Europeans for generations to come and set the EU back by decades. By SPIEGEL Staff

In the past 14 months, politicians in the euro-zone nations have adopted one bailout package after the next, convening for hectic summit meetings, wrangling over lazy compromises and building up risks of gigantic dimensions.

For just as long, they have been avoiding an important conclusion, namely that things cannot continue this way. The old euro no longer exists in its intended form, and the European Monetary Union isn't working. We need a Plan B.

Instead, those in responsible positions are getting bogged down in crisis management, as they seek to placate the public and sugarcoat the problems. They say that there is only a government debt crisis in a few euro countries but no euro crisis, citing as evidence the fact that the value of the European common currency has remained relatively stable against other currencies like the dollar.

But if it wasn't for the euro, Greece's debt crisis would be an isolated problem -- one that was tough for the country, but easy for Europe to bear. It is only because Greece is part of the euro zone that Athens' debts are a problem for all of its partners -- and pose a threat to the common currency.

If the rest of Europe abandons Greece, the crisis could spin out of control, spreading from one weak euro-zone country to the next. Investors would have no guarantees that Europe would not withdraw its support from Portugal or Ireland, if push came to shove, and they would sell their government bonds. The prices of these bonds would fall and risk premiums would go up. Then these countries would only be able to drum up fresh capital by paying high interest rates, which would only augment their existing budget problems. It's possible that they would no longer be able to raise any money at all, in which case they would become insolvent.

But if the current situation continues, the monetary union will invariably turn into a transfer union, a path the inventors of the euro were determined to prevent.

Democratic Deficiencies

The euro's founding fathers did not anticipate such a crisis, and thus did not include any provisions for it in the European Monetary Union's set of regulations. The euro welds together strong and weak countries, for better or for worse. There is no emergency exit, and there are no rules to follow in an emergency -- only the hope that everything will turn out well in the end. This is why the crises of a few euro countries are a crisis for the euro, as well as a crisis for the European Union, its governments and its institutions. And this is why the euro crisis has suddenly and expectedly mushroomed into a crisis for the political Project Europe, its future and its cohesion.

The fact that the countries funding the bailouts are lacking democratic legitimization is now becoming the greatest impediment to joint crisis management. Gone are the days of subtle debate over whether the European Parliament involves citizens in a just and proportional way in the decisions reached by the European Council, the body headed by the leaders of the European Union member states, and European Commission, the EU's executive. When things get serious, as they are now, decisions will no longer be made in the somewhat democratically legitimized EU bodies, but at the more or less secret meetings of a handful of leaders.

During the German chancellor's and the French president's quiet walks together, and at the behind-the-scenes meetings of discrete central banks, policies are being made that are then handed to the parliaments to rubber-stamp, even though hardly any of their members understand them.

The costly decisions that are ultimately reached by the luminaries of European solidarity don't just affect the citizens of the ailing member states in an existential way; they must also fear for their social security, their jobs and their assets.

The decisions of European politicians are just as troubling for citizens who live, like the Germans, on the sunny side of the union, and are worried that their country is running up debt that could remain on the books into a remotely distant future.

One of the reasons that Europeans are so incensed at their respective governments is that they are not involved in the decision-making process. Another is that they inevitably perceive their political leaders as being motivated by alleged factual constraints and the requirements of the financial markets, without having any plan of their own.

The euro debt crisis has already swept aside two governments, in Ireland and Portugal, and the Spanish and Greek governments could soon follow. Things are also getting precarious for the government in Berlin, where Chancellor Angela Merkel could lose her parliamentary majority in upcoming votes on bailout measures.

Resistance to Austerity Measures

A crack now bisects the continent, running between those countries that need more and more money and those that are expected to pay. With the Greeks frustrated over the Germans and the Germans over the Greeks, the Portuguese, the Spaniards and the Italians, the political peace project of European unity threatens to end in a great economic dispute among the nations.

In the debtor countries, there is growing resistance against the constant barrage of new austerity programs, while the people of the creditor countries are increasingly incensed over the billions in new aid. The "Outraged Citizens" are taking to the streets in Madrid and Athens while the " True Finns" gain strength in the parliament in Helsinki. Some 60 percent of Germans are opposed to a new aid package for Greece, and there is at least as much resistance among the opposition and trade unions in Athens to the government's efforts to rein in spending -- a precondition for additional loans.

Last Wednesday, thousands of Greeks staged a general strike intended to block access to the parliament building, where the new austerity program was being debated. Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou's limousine was showered with oranges, while rocks were thrown elsewhere. The police used tear gas to protect the elected representatives from the people they represent.

To secure payment of the next loan tranche under the European aid package, Papandreou intends to put together another austerity package worth more than €6.5 billion ($9.3 billion) by the end of the month. The protesters outside the parliament building, unwilling to accept the prime minister's course of action, shouted: "Thieves, traitors. What happened to our money?"

How long will citizens in the weak euro countries -- Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain -- continue to accept the harsh reforms? And how long will voters in the creditor countries tolerate their own governments taking ever-higher risks to rescue the euro?

Euro Has Become Greatest Threat to Continent's Future

Finland is a country that is often held up as a successful model for other European countries, but the success of the right-wing populist "True Finns," who captured 20 percent of the vote in April's parliamentary elections, came as a wakeup call to the political establishment in Brussels. As the skeptics gain ground throughout the EU, anti-European sentiments are growing in even the core countries of the union, like France and Germany.

The euro, created with the aim of permanently uniting Europe, has become the greatest threat to the continent's future. A collapse of the monetary union would set Europe back by decades, dealing it a blow from which it might never recover, especially with Europe's position already threatened by the fast-growing Asian economies. How is a fragmented Europe to prevail against this new competition?

This is why Europe's politicians want to defend the euro at all costs, and why they are approving one bailout package after the next. They are playing for time, hoping that the markets will settle down and the reforms will take hold.

The business community is supporting their efforts, too. In a major advertising campaign scheduled to run in leading publications this week, top German business executives, including ThyssenKrupp Chairman Gerhard Cromme, Siemens CEO Peter Löscher and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, promote the monetary union and insist: "The euro is necessary." They argue that ailing member states must be assisted financially, and that the common currency is "absolutely worth this commitment."

 

The Euro Is a Fair-Weather Construct

But the causes of the euro crisis are more deep-seated than that. The monetary union is a fair-weather construct, as a number of economists said from the beginning. American economist Milton Friedman, for example, predicted that the euro would not survive its first major crisis, and later, in 2002, he added: "Euroland will collapse in five to 15 years."

 

For these reasons, the euro crisis, as suddenly as it occurred, was expected. However, the warnings had been ignored and treated as a minor nuisance. More than anything, the euro was a political project. Its advocates, most notably then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and then French President François Mitterrand, wanted to permanently unite the continent's core countries and embed Germany, which many neighboring countries perceived as a threat following reunification, in the European community.

Politicians hoped that as a result of the common currency, the underlying problem of the euro's design would resolve itself, namely that the member states would almost automatically settle in at the same pace of economic development.

It was a deceptive hope. In fact, it was only interest rates that converged, now that the European Central Bank (ECB) was setting uniform rates for strong and weak members alike throughout the entire economic zone. As a result, a great deal of capital flowed to Spain and Ireland, where a real estate bubble developed, while the Greeks and the Portuguese were able to live shamelessly beyond their means. They imported more than they exported and took on more new debt to pay for their consumption.

This behavior continued unabated until the financial crisis put an end to it. Suddenly money was scarce. The bubbles in Ireland and Spain burst, the economy in the euro zone collapsed, and the Greeks were forced to admit that their debts were much higher than they had ever disclosed before -- and that they had falsified their numbers from the beginning and should, in fact, never have been allowed to join the monetary union in the first place.

Has the Euro Pushed Europe Apart?

Since then, the monetary union has been on the brink of collapse. Far from growing together economically, Europe has in fact grown even further apart. As a result, the chances that the euro will survive in its current form are slimmer than ever. Politicians who ignore the laws of economics cannot go unpunished in the long run.

If national currencies still existed, countries like Greece and Portugal could resort to a proven means of reducing their lack of competitiveness. They would simply have to devalue their drachma or their escudo, and then the laws of supply and demand would see to it that the flow of commodities was diverted.

The prices of Greek and Portuguese products would go down to make them more marketable abroad. At the same time, money would be worth less in Athens or Lisbon, so that residents of those countries could afford to buy fewer imported goods. This would be beneficial for the trade balance. Exports would rise and so would the foreign currency revenues, allowing the countries to service their debts more effectively. Not the government but the markets would reduce economic imbalances.

But in a monetary union, the exchange rate is no longer available as an adjustment valve. Instead, the member countries must regain their competitiveness in different ways, namely by imposing tough austerity measures and reducing wages and prices. In a monetary union, it is up to the governments to enforce what the exchange rate would do in a system of competing currencies.

Muddling Through

If this fails, the mountain of debt will continue to grow. In the end, a country with a large deficit has three options. First, it can declare itself insolvent and, after restructuring its debt, attempt to rebuild its economy. Second, it can also withdraw from the monetary union and reintroduce its national currency. Third, it can convince the creditor countries to keep issuing new loans, thereby providing it with permanent financing.

For more than a year now, European governments have been trying out a fourth option: muddling through.

And for just as long, politicians have been assuring the people that this approach is the alternative, and that it will end up costing taxpayers nothing at all, because the ailing countries will repay the debt, with interest and compound interest, once they've been bailed out. In fact, they argue, the whole thing is even a good business arrangement for the rescuers.

The truth is that governments and monetary watchdogs, despite all protestations to the contrary, have continually expanded their bailout programs, have built up massive risks that could significantly burden future generations and have violated both the European treaties and the iron-clad principles of the ECB.

To date, the history of the euro rescue program has not been a successful one. In fact, it is more of a history of mistakes and broken promises.

'There Will be No Budgetary Funds for Greece '

On March 1, 2010, Chancellor Merkel's spokeswoman said: "A clear no. There will be no budgetary funds for Greece." At that point, Athens was on the verge of bankruptcy, and politicians with Germany's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) were suggesting that the country sell off a few islands.

On May 2, the euro countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a €110 billion bailout package for the beleaguered country. Although the German portion of the loans was coming from the government-owned development bank KfW and not the budget, the federal government still served as guarantor. Every euro the Greeks do not repay will constitute a burden on the German taxpayer.

It was the first lapse, the first violation of the European treaties, which categorically rule out aid payments to needy euro countries. This so-called no-bailout clause was intended to guarantee that the monetary union didn't become a transfer union, and that the strong wouldn't have to pay for the weak. It was crucial to the acceptance of the treaty by the national parliaments; without it the German parliament, the Bundestag, would not have agreed to the monetary union.

The second lapse occurred soon afterwards. On May 9, 2010, the first euro bailout fund was launched. Although the volume of €440 billion alone made it clear that the opposite was the case, Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble tried to downplay the importance of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF). They insisted that the fund was purely a precaution, would not be used and, most of all, was temporary.

"An extension of the current bailout funds will not happen on Germany's watch," Merkel said in Brussels on Sept. 16, 2010. This promise, too, lasted only a few months. On March 25, 2011, the leaders of the euro zone approved a new, constant crisis mechanism. Although it has a different name, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), it will function on the basis of the same principle as its predecessor fund, the EFSF, beginning in mid-2013. The euro countries want to pry loose €700 billion for the fund, which will include a cash contribution for the first time. The Germans will be asked to pay at least €22 billion. To do so, Germany would have to take on additional debt.

'Outcome Is Very Close to a Transfer Union '

As if this weren't enough, in March the euro-zone member states also agreed that both the current bailout fund, the EFSF, and its successor, the ESM, would be authorized to buy government bonds from bankruptcy candidates with low credit ratings in the future. As a result, countries living beyond their means will no longer be punished with high interest rates, and market mechanisms will be eroded. Even the CDU's Michael Meister, one of the financial policy experts loyal to Merkel, says: "The outcome comes very close to a transfer union, which we reject."

All assurances aside, performance in return for Germany's willingness to play along would be absent again and again. Representatives of Merkel's government coalition government in Berlin have outdone each other in calling for strict penalties for countries that violate the euro-zone's deficit rules. There was talk of eliminating voting rights, of freezing EU subsidies like the bloated agriculture fund and, as a last-ditch solution, even of exclusion from the monetary union.

Most of all, however, the penalties were to be imposed automatically in the future when a country's budget deficit exceeded three percent of its gross domestic product. "We support the greatest amount of automatism possible," Merkel said in September 2010.

After taking a walk with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the French seaside resort of Deauville, the chancellor abandoned the position that the deficit process was to be triggered automatically. Instead, the finance ministers in the euro zone must set it in motion first, meaning that any decision would be subject to the usual horsetrading in Brussels.

 

A Clear Market Reaction

The reaction by the markets to what is the biggest failure to date in the efforts to rescue the euro has been very clear. The yields for Greek and Irish government bonds rose, and Ireland sought protection from the bailout fund in November 2010, followed by Portugal in April 2011.

 

In recent months, the governments of the euro-zone countries have gradually expanded their bailout programs, and the risks for the German people and taxpayers have grown with each step.

There are already estimates of how much the Greek crisis will truly end up costing German taxpayers if the crisis drags on for years or a debt haircut becomes necessary. Economists Ansgar Belke of the University of Duisburg-Essen and Christian Dreger of Viadrina University in Frankfurt an der Oder estimate the cost at about €40 billion.

The Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW) estimates the cost to German taxpayers at €65 billion if Portugal, Ireland and Spain also become insolvent. In the event of a complete collapse of the euro zone, Germany would be liable for all the guarantees and bailout aid it has provided.

And the potential costs for German taxpayers wouldn't stop there because they are also indirectly affected by the risks lurking in the accounts of the ECB and the state-controlled banks. Since May 2010, the ECB has spent €75 billion purchasing government bonds from ailing euro countries. Its goal was to bring calm to the markets and prevent the risk premiums for the bonds from skyrocketing. But many used the opportunity to unload the risky securities on the central bank.

The ECB is believed to have spent €40-50 billion to date on Greek government bonds. In addition, as of the end of April it had refinanced Greek banks to the tune of €90 billion.

Hardly anyone knows how high the risks are for the ECB. It has also accepted €480 billion in structured securities from the banks as collateral. The euro crisis has already turned into a threat to the ECB. German taxpayers bear 27 percent of the risk, which corresponds to the German Bundesbank's share of ECB capital.

Back at the Brink

Despite all of these bailout measures, and despite the risks that their rescuers have assumed, the weak euro countries are back where they were a little over a year ago, namely on the brink. The risk premiums on their government bonds have climbed to new record highs. The Greeks need fresh cash to avert bankruptcy, and the risk of the crisis spreading to other euro countries is far from averted.

The aid that euro countries and the IMF have provided to Greece so far is not enough. They had naïvely assumed that the crisis would end quickly. And they had seriously anticipated that the Greeks would return to the capital markets within the next two years, in order to raise about €60 billion on their own.

The money is missing because the Greek government, despite all of its reform efforts, is still not seen as creditworthy. This is why the funding gap needs to be closed, including with fresh money from the Europeans.

In return, the Greeks must fulfill even more stringent requirements. Given the Greek government crisis, achieving this seems more uncertain than ever. When the first bailout package of €110 billion was approved, Athens reacted with tough measures. Pensions were slashed, tobacco, petroleum and value-added taxes were drastically increased, and it was made easier for companies to lay workers off.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Papandreou failed to meet the targets set by the so-called troika, consisting of the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission, the EU's executive arm. A maximum budget deficit of 8.1 percent of GDP had been stipulated for 2010, but in the end the deficit was 10.5 percent. After a "strong start" in the summer of 2010, the implementation of reforms has come to a "standstill in recent quarters," the troika concludes in its latest report. It also states that the gap between the planned and the actual deficit has once again "grown significantly" in recent months.

"There are many holy cows that were not slaughtered," explains Jens Bastian, an economist living in Athens. While more than 200,000 jobs were cut nationwide, many state-owned companies in particular are still seen as goldmines when it comes to sinecures.

In contrast to those privileged Greeks working in state-owned companies and government agencies, more and more people are now forced to live on small pensions or minimum-wage earnings of €750 to €800 a month, plus bonuses. Such incomes were hardly enough to live on in the past, and now they are to be reduced across the board or offset by drastic increases in the rate of tax on consumer goods.

Suffering and Sacrifices in Greece

"People don't know why they are suffering and making these sacrifices," says Athens political science professor Seraphim Seferiades. "The privilege of being in the euro zone is losing more and more of its value for people, because they benefit less and less from it." Almost 30 percent of Greeks would prefer to return to the drachma sooner rather than later.

Now the government will have to approve additional austerity measures if it is to obtain fresh cash from the EU and the IMF, in the form of a second aid package worth between €90 billion and €120 billion for the period until 2014. Greece will have to pay off old debts and make new ones. The government debt is currently about 150 percent of GDP and will likely rise to 160 percent soon.

How can such a weak country ever pay off such a huge debt? For once, almost all economists agree: It will be impossible without a debt restructuring involving creditors writing off large parts of their debts.

But a so-called haircut on Greek debt is not politically feasible at the moment. The financial markets are still too fragile, opponents argue, warning that it could trigger a new financial crisis like the one that followed the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Germany Demands Private Investor Participation

But the Germans have been insisting that private sector creditors must also make a contribution to overcoming the crisis. Members of parliament with the governing parties -- the CDU, its Bavarian sister party the CSU, and the FDP -- recently made it clear to the government that they will reject another aid package in parliament if that doesn't happen. The chief budget expert with the CDU/CSU's parliamentary group, Norbert Barthle, urged his fellow members of parliament to act quickly. "If we wait much longer," he says, "there will hardly be any bonds left in the hands of private investors. Then taxpayers will end up shouldering the Greek bailout by themselves."

CSU Chairman Horst Seehofer agrees wholeheartedly. He is all too familiar with the constraints imposed by the general public in Germany, the majority of whom oppose a second bailout for Greece. "Experts have been telling me for a year that a restructuring of Greek debt is necessary," he says. "The time has come to start involving private lenders."

The German government recently came up with a proposal that would involve lenders in a relatively painless fashion: They would exchange their bonds for new securities with longer maturities. The contribution by the euro-zone countries would be reduced accordingly.

But with this demand, the Germans found themselves largely isolated. They were already viewed as troublemakers during the first Greek bailout, when they reluctantly yielded to the will of the majority and pressure from the ECB. Now, once again, they have been pressured from all sides to go along with the majority view.

That point was reached last Friday, when Merkel and Sarkozy agreed to a toothless compromise in Berlin. They agreed that private lenders should be involved in the new bailout package for Greece, but only on a voluntary basis -- a largely ineffective provision.

This solution is much too feeble for many German parliamentarians. "This is not the lender involvement that the Bundestag had demanded," says Frank Schäffler, a financial policy expert with the FDP. His CDU counterpart, Manfred Kolbe, even characterizes it as "fraudulent labeling," saying: "We need a debt haircut, and it won't happen voluntarily." CSU European expert Thomas Silberhorn calls for "binding regulations with the mandatory participation of private investors."

But from Sarkozy's standpoint, a tougher solution could jeopardize French banks. They are heavily exposed to Greek debt and could face serious difficulties.

 

German Banks, Insurers Unload Greek Bonds

German banks and insurance companies have systematically reduced their holdings of Greek government bonds. Since the beginning of 2010, they have reduced their total exposure from €34.8 billion to €17.3 billion, not including debt held by the state-owned development bank KfW. Insurance companies have reduced their investment in Greek bonds from €5.8 billion to only €2.8 billion in the last year.

 

In Germany, it is state-owned banks who have the greatest exposure to Greek debt. Commerzbank, a quarter of which is owned by the federal government, holds €2.9 billion in Greek bonds. The state-owned regional banks known as Landesbanken and their so-called bad banks hold additional risks of more than €4 billion.

The biggest dangers by far lurk on the books of FMS Wertmanagement, the bad bank for the nationalized mortgage lender Hypo Real Estate. It holds Greek government bonds and loans that constitute an economic risk of €10.8 billion. In the event of a debt restructuring, taxpayers would be hit hardest in Germany. A haircut would mean that FMS alone would need several billion in fresh equity capital.

ECB Considers Debt Crisis Greatest Risk To Banks

Now that the Germans and the French seem to be largely in agreement, they merely have to convince the ECB, the most determined opponent to date of the German proposal to require private sector involvement. The Frankfurt-based central bankers fear that this would trigger massive turmoil on the international money markets. In its new financial market stability report, the ECB categorizes the euro-zone sovereign debt crisis as the greatest risk to banks.

Most of all, the ECB doesn't want investors to be forced to write off part of their debt. The monetary watchdogs warn that the consequences would incalculable.

They argue that as soon as the powerful rating agencies gain the impression that the Greek government is not fulfilling its obligations without the complete consent of its creditors, they will have to downgrade its credit rating to D, the lowest level. The letter stands for "default." Even if the maturities of Greek bonds were extended with the consent of the lenders, they would have to be downgraded to a rating of SD, or "selective default."

Either way, under its statutes the ECB would no longer be allowed to accept such securities as collateral in returning for providing liquidity to banks. The consequences would be catastrophic. Greek banks would be largely cut off from the European money cycle and would thus run the risk of becoming illiquid. The Greek banking system would find itself on the brink of collapse.

Paving the Path to Euro Bonds

This is precisely where a compromise proposal that Finance Minister Schäuble plans to present to the ECB and to his counterparts from the euro-zone countries comes in. Under the proposal, if Greek bonds are no longer accepted as collateral following the participation of private lenders, the ECB will simply have to be offered bonds that satisfy its requirements.

A 10-member "Greece Task Force" at the German Finance Ministry has worked out how this could function. The experts propose that the Greek government, in addition to the €90 billion-€120 billion in fresh cash it may receive from the euro-zone countries and the IMF as part of a second bailout, also be given access to bonds issued by the EFSF, the euro rescue fund. It could pass on these securities, which have the rating agencies' highest rating of AAA, to Greek banks, which in turn could use them as collateral to obtain liquidity from the ECB.

The problem is that this measure would make the new bailout package significantly more expensive. To ensure that the EFSF had sufficient funds for the operation, its financial scope would have to be increased so that it could really make €440 billion available, as it was originally intended to do. To achieve this, the member states would have to double the scope of their respective guarantees. Germany, for example, would be liable for €246 billion in the future, instead of the current €123 billion.

The would-be euro rescuers are also considering accessing the so-called Hellenic Financial Stability Fund. This fund, set up as part of the first Greek bailout package in May 2010, contains €10 billion, which could be used to boost the capital of Greek banks in an emergency. The fund hasn't been touched yet.

 

Berlin Expecting the Worst

The details of the new bailout plan are to be worked out by July. This is absolutely necessary, because if the next tranche of aid is not paid by mid-July, Greece will be bankrupt.

 

Despite all of these hiccups, the money will flow to the Greeks. But no one, including the German government, believes that this will solve the problems in the euro zone. After more than a year of uninterrupted attempts at fighting the crisis, officials in Berlin are expecting the worst and intend to be ready just in case.

For this reason, Schäuble's crisis team has been instructed to review all possible scenarios. For example, what happens if a country can no longer meet its payment obligations or if a member leaves the monetary union? And how can imbalances in a common currency zone be averted?

There are essentially two alternatives. The first is a radical one, in which the governments pull the plug and leave the beleaguered countries to fend for themselves. The second, more pragmatic solution is to continue muddling along, though somewhat more efficiently, and to hope that things improve. Neither option will be cheap.

The radical cure works like this: Disappointed by the lack of progress and prospects for improvement, the euro-zone countries leave Greece to fend for itself. They refuse to throw even more money at Athens after all the money they have already spent.

The country would quickly become insolvent, because it would no longer be able to borrow any money on the markets. Because Greek lenders still shoulder a substantial portion of the government debt, the country's banking sector could see a number of bankruptcies.

This approach also carries with it the threat of contagion. If Greece slides into uncontrolled bankruptcy, investors might refuse to invest their money in other ailing euro-zone members. Even more banks could collapse in the ensuing chain reaction.

The Nuclear Option

In light of these incalculable developments, many are now considering the nuclear option as a real alternative: Greece withdraws from the monetary union and reintroduces the drachma. The government in Athens was already toying with the idea weeks ago, and now even internationally respected economists are recommending it. "A withdrawal from the euro would be the lesser of two evils," says Hans-Werner Sinn, head of the respected Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research.

Nouriel Roubini, an economist at New York University, also supports the idea. The renowned professor argues Greece's only chance is to devalue its own currency and thus improve its competitiveness. Roubini was one of the few to predict the financial crisis three years ago.

In every financial crisis to date, it has taken a devaluation of the currency to reinvigorate the economy of a crisis-stricken country, Roubini argues. But historic examples can only be applied to the conditions in a monetary union to a limited extent.

The crisis would not end after Greece's withdrawal. In fact, it could even get worse. The country's debts would still be denominated in euros, which would turn them into foreign-currency debts overnight. Their value in the new national currency would rise rapidly, because the drachma would be devalued. Greek borrowers would be all but unable to meet their obligations.

Banks, in turn, would come under pressure, both in Greece and in the rest of the euro zone. And costly bailout measures for the banking industry would be needed once again.

At the end of such a development, the monetary union could disintegrate into a hard-currency bloc and a group with its own, weaker currencies. Critics of the common currency, like former Bundesbank board member Wilhelm Nölling, favor such a solution. Nölling and a group of like-minded people once filed and lost a suit against the introduction of the euro before Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, and now he is suing the government once against over the euro bailout fund. The court's decision is still pending.

The alternative to the breakup of the monetary union is hardly any less threatening, leading as it does directly to a transfer union. After a year of Greek bailouts, the beginning is already underway, and starting in 2013 the planned permanent bailout fund, the ESM, (which EU finance ministers approved on Monday) will be yet another step on this dangerous path.

Echoes of Italy's Mezzogiorno and Belgium's Wallonia

The end result could look something like this: The deficit countries would require permanent financing from the more stable north. What was treated as a loan in the past would be transformed into a subsidy, and thus requiring neither interest nor repayment. The monetary union would become a financial union and the debtor countries the permanent recipients of subsidies, dependent on contributions from their economically more powerful neighbors -- much like the Mezzogiorno in Italy or Belgium's Wallonia region.

To prevent this from happening, many politicians specializing in financial and economic affairs recommend bringing about the political union of Europe as quickly as possible, a union with a strong central government. They argue that if the nations in the euro zone formed a closer union, they could coordinate their financial systems more effectively, thus providing the common currency with a political foundation.

This would make it easier to implement reforms in the recipient countries and improve their competitiveness. Just recently, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet proposed installing a European finance ministry equipped with the right to intervene in the individual member states.

A Cautionary Tale in German Reunification

But it isn't quite that easy. More integration doesn't necessarily mean that economic imbalances would disappear as a result. No one understands this better than the Germans, who had similar experiences with the monetary union between the two Germanys about 20 years ago. Effective July 1, 1990, the deutschmark became the official currency of East Germany. It was largely exchanged for the former East German mark at a ratio of one-to-one. The East German states joined the Federal Republic of Germany only three months later. It was the model case of a monetary union that was accompanied by a political union.

But anyone who believed that rapid unification would lessen the economic shock of the monetary union between the two Germanys was soon disappointed. In fact, the economic imbalances in reunified Germany became entrenched after that. Thousands of companies in the former East Germany went out of business, because they were unable to bring productivity up to Western standards.

The unemployment figures exploded, and financial transfers between the two parts of the country soon exceeded the trillion mark. To this day, the former East German states still lag behind the former West German states in terms of economic strength, productivity and income.

German reunification did nothing to change this. It merely helped to financially cushion the negative consequences of the monetary union. The states of the former East Germany were incorporated into the West German inter-state fiscal adjustment system (under which money is transferred from richer to poorer states) under favorable terms, and the former East Germans were suddenly given access to the blessings of the generous West German social system.

The lesson is clear: German unification is not a valid role model for European politicians, but rather a cautionary tale. It shows how quickly a poorly designed monetary union can lead to a permanent transfer union.

Such a model would in any case be incompatible with the European treaties. New agreements would have to be negotiated and ratified by all national parliaments, and perhaps even approved in referendums.

But perhaps the people of Europe and their representatives will decide the fate of the monetary union first. It could happen in Athens or in Lisbon, if the necessary reforms fail as a result of popular protests. Or in Berlin -- should the billions in loan guarantees actually come due.

REPORTED BY THOMAS DARNSTÄDT, ARMIN MAHLER, PETER MÜLLER, CHRISTOPH PAULY, CHRISTIAN REIERMANN, MICHAEL SAUGA AND ANNE SEITH

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
22969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Diminished respect on: June 21, 2011, 03:38:28 PM
for Michele Bachman and other signatories of the Pro Life pledge that she and they are using to attack Romney for not signing.  How very silly to pledge not appointing anyone to ANY post who is not pro-Life.  Who cares whether e.g. a Secretary of the Treasury is pro Life or not?  Stupid! and bad politics too!
22970  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 21, 2011, 12:59:58 PM
Grateful for good times teaching in Memphis this weekend, and grateful to be home with my wonderful family.
22971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU on: June 21, 2011, 04:32:48 AM
 shocked

Please keep us apprised of further developments  smiley
22972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In defense of the Constitution on: June 20, 2011, 04:08:53 PM



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In Defense Of The Constitution

News & Analysis
June 20, 2011
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/CAIRandShariaLaw.html (
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/CAIRandShariaLaw.html )

CAIR &Sharia Law; The Center For Security Policy Gets It Right

In the last few months much has been said about the rise of such
new (for Americans) ideas as: "Sharia-compliant finance (
http://www.shariahfinancewatch.org/blog/ )" and "Sharia Law (
http://www.aifdemocracy.org/news.php?id=6302 )for Muslims (
http://www.aifdemocracy.org/news.php?id=6302 )".  The mainstream press
has either failed to report accurately on Sharia Law (
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/shariah-law-on-americas-shores-townhall-magazine-examines-terrors-secret-weapon/
), or purposely ignores its impact on America .

Many Americans are thus confused. Is Sharia Law a threat or not?
Who is hurt if Muslims decide their disputes in a Sharia Court? What
about contract law between Muslims and non-Muslims?  Can, and should,
the United States of America have a parallel legal system dominated by
Islam?  If so, how will it work?  Will Muslims and non-Muslims be
treated equally?  What are the rights of Muslim minorities?

The Center for Security Policy (
http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.xml ) (CSP) has produced
a stunning report on Sharia Law.  The CSP report (
http://shariahthethreat.org/ ) is important for several reasons:

-    It reveals how Sharia Law has been used to settle cases in
American courts in the past.
-    It reveals how Sharia Law is being implemented through a well
thought out program of "death by a thousand cuts".
-    It reveals the impact of Sharia Law on the every day functioning
of our court system and why this cannot be allowed to continue.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is strongly in
support of Sharia Law ( http://www.anti-cair-net.org/HooperStarTrib ),
deceptively broad brushing Sharia Law (
http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2011/04/khutbahsermon-understanding-and.html
) as just another benign legal system (
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/16/2270624/sharia-law-is-not-a-threat.html
) for the adherents of Islam.  But is it?

Consider that under Islam, Muslim women have half the word as a
Muslim man; i.e., it takes two Muslim women's testimony to equal that
of one Muslim man ( http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/20051 ).  This is
bad enough, yet how many female or male Christians, Jews, Buddhists,
or Sikhs would have to testify in a Sharia court to equal the word of
one Muslim male? Can non-Muslims even testify (
http://www.gazette.com/opinion/sharia-119978-islam-bar.html ) in a
Sharia court? One growing Sharia compliant phenomenon in Muslim
countries is for a Muslim husband to declare he is divorced from his
wife by sending a text message (
http://www.international-divorce.com/uae_divorce.htm ) through a cell
phone (
http://www.gazettenet.com/2011/04/28/tajik-divorce-when-u-c-it039s-over
), yet a woman cannot (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Islam#Divorce ) do the same. How
long will it be before this technique for divorce is attempted in
America? How does this square with our Constitutional right of equal
protection under the law? Do the Islamic-Supremacists of CAIR condone
this unfair practice?

There are many other issues that come up as a result of Sharia Law
but the main issue that the CSP report conveys is that those who
support Sharia Law are not acting in the best interests of anyone, not
least of all Muslims.  Many Muslims came to the United States to get
away (
http://www.mzuhdijasser.com/7943/8-questions-with-dr-zuhdi-jasser )
from this misogynistic, barbaric, and unequal legal system that serves
no other purpose than to elevate Muslim men to a position they
couldn't possibly attain by peaceful means.  To paint Sharia Law
as"religious law" is to ignore reality. It is a legal system using the
cover of religion to impose restrictions on people that are laughable
at best and deadly serious to those who adhere to it.

There is no healthy median or redeeming qualities to Sharia Law.
It must be kept out of our legal system and public life as there is no
room for both the Constitution and Sharia Law.

We ignore the threat at our peril.

Andrew Whitehead
Director
Anti-CAIR
ajwhitehead@anti-cair-net.org
www.anti-cair-net.org ( http://www.anti-cair-net.org/ )

Story Links:
http://www.shariahfinancewatch.org/blog/
http://www.aifdemocracy.org/news.php?id=6302
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/shariah-law-on-americas-shores-townhall-magazine-examines-terrors-secret-weapon/
http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.xml (
http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/index.xml )
http://shariahthethreat.org/ ( http://shariahthethreat.org/ )
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/HooperStarTrib (
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/HooperStarTrib )
http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2011/04/khutbahsermon-understanding-and.html
(
http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2011/04/khutbahsermon-understanding-and.html
)
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/16/2270624/sharia-law-is-not-a-threat.html
(
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/16/2270624/sharia-law-is-not-a-threat.html
)
http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/20051
http://www.gazette.com/opinion/sharia-119978-islam-bar.html
http://www.international-divorce.com/uae_divorce.htm (
http://www.international-divorce.com/uae_divorce.htm )
http://www.gazettenet.com/2011/04/28/tajik-divorce-when-u-c-it039s-over
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Islam#Divorce
http://www.mzuhdijasser.com/7943/8-questions-with-dr-zuhdi-jasser

Follow Anti-CAIR on twitter
Get private updates on your cell phone by texting
follow AntiCAIR to 40404 in the United States
http://twitter.com/AntiCAIR

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Please use a non-corporate/non-work e-mail address if you contact
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22973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: June 20, 2011, 03:28:43 PM
The point seems simple and obvious to me:  How can this be Constitutional under the Equal Protection clause? 

Even worse, if I have my facts correct here, my understanding is that there is no provision for waivers in the statute; the waivers are a bureaucratic creation  shocked

Baraq's America is a Kafkaesque nightmare.
22974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: June 20, 2011, 03:23:44 PM
Amen to that.  The arrogance of hubris is mind-boggling.
22975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Accountable Health Care Fiasco on: June 20, 2011, 09:16:19 AM


The Obama Administration is handing out waivers far and wide for its health-care bill, but behind the scenes the bureaucracy is grinding ahead writing new regulations. The latest example is the rule for Accountable Care Organizations that are supposed to be the crown jewel of cost-saving reform. One problem: The draft rule is so awful that even the models for it say they won't participate.

***
The theory for ACOs, as they're known, is that hospitals, primary-care doctors and specialists will work more efficiently in teams, like at the Mayo Clinic and other top U.S. hospitals. ACOs are meant to fix health care's too-many-cooks predicament. The average senior on Medicare sees two physicians and five specialists, 13 on average for those with chronic illnesses. Most likely, those doctors aren't coordinating patient care.

This fragmentation is largely an artifact of Medicare's price control regime: The classic case study is Duke University Hospital, which cut the costs of treating congestive heart failure by 40% but then dumped the integration program because it lost money under Medicare's fee schedule.

View Full Image

Associated Press
A patient and doctor at Geisinger Medical Center, one of the physician groups that the ACO rule is based on.

Intelligent liberals now concede this reality but claim that the government merely needs to devise better price controls. By changing the way it pays, Medicare under the ACO rule is effectively mandating a new business model for practicing medicine. The vague cost-control hope is that ACOs will run pilot programs like Duke's and the successful ones will become best practices. While the program is voluntary for now, the government's intention is to make it mandatory in the coming years.

But what if they had an ACO revolution and no one showed up? The American Medical Group Association, a trade association of multispeciality practice groups and other integrated providers, calls the rule recently drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services "overly prescriptive, operationally burdensome, and the incentives are too difficult to achieve." In a survey of its members, 93% said they won't enroll.

The Administration wrote its rule based on an ACO pilot program that started in 2005 among 10 high-performing physician groups, including Geisinger Health System and Dartmouth-Hitchcock. All 10 say they have "serious reservations" about the new rule and that without major revisions "we will be unable to participate." In other words, the providers that are already closest to being an ACO have rejected the Administration's handiwork.

And no wonder, since the 429-page rule is a classic of top-down micromanagement. ACOs will need to comply with a kitchen sink of 65 clinical measures that are meant to produce efficiencies, like reducing infections or ensuring that patients take their medications after hospital discharge. If care at an ACO costs less than Medicare predicts it will cost under the status quo, then the ACO will receive a share of the savings as a bonus payment. The rule also includes financial penalties if an ACO misses its targets.

Incredibly, the ACO teams won't know in advance which patients they're supposed to manage. Seniors will be "retrospectively assigned" to an ACO at the end of every year, based on an arbitrary algorithm, for the purposes of calculating costs.

Think about that one: The Geisinger model works because Geisinger patients are treated by Geisinger physicians. Yet this rule is written to ensure that seniors can take "advantage of the full range of benefits to which they are entitled under the Medicare FFS program, including the right to choose between healthcare providers and care settings." So ACOs are going to transform health care, but individual patients don't need to be part of the transformation if they don't feel like it.

Oh, and HHS reserves the right to conduct site visits and audits and "to inspect all books, contracts, records, documents, and other evidence" to ensure that health systems are complying with the ACO rule. The mystery is why even 7% say they'll participate.

The irony, and maybe the tragedy, is that Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plan is far more likely to drive more accountable care. Under his proposed premium support payments, seniors would be responsible for the marginal costs of their care, and we suspect most will choose more efficient providers. As these incentives start to change patient behavior and spread throughout the delivery system, the doctors and hospitals that offer a better value for the health dollar will succeed.

This market approach respects the complexity and uncertainty of modern medicine, allowing for local flexibility and gradual change. Government doesn't know "what works and what doesn't," and it can't. What works will be different for different people and places.

***
The Obama Administration's attempt at omniscience delayed the ACO rule for months amid bitter interagency combat. The White House budget office favored more flexibility, but the HHS bureaucracy prevailed in its belief that it can run this brave new world via the Federal Register. ACOs are gaining traction among private health plans in concert with providers, but the regulatory uncertainty is inhibiting the investments and long-term practice decisions required to bring off an ACO—in effect, a Gresham's regulatory law that is crowding out innovation.

The ACO concept is well-meaning, and we hope it works, but we suspect it will go the way of diagnostic-related groups, HMOs, the sustainable growth rate, and every other top-down government plan to cut health spending since the 1970s. We also hope ACOs work because if they don't, the liberal fallback to cut costs are harsher price controls and the political rationing of care. Seniors will wish they had Paul Ryan's choices.
22976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: F&F: A new low on: June 20, 2011, 08:55:48 AM

One of the frightening things about the U.S. government's war on drugs is that it is being waged by federal bureaucracies. The legend of Elliot Ness notwithstanding, this implies that it is not only fraught with ineptitude but that before it is all over, there are going to be a lot of avoidable deaths.

Witness "Operation Fast and Furious," a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms plan that allegedly facilitated the flow of high-powered weapons into Mexico in the hope that it might lead to the take-down of a major cartel. It did not. But it may have fueled a spike in the murder rate and led to the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

ATF agents are trained to tail buyers of multiple high-powered weapons and find out what they do with them. Fast and Furious broke with this practice, according to a 51-page joint staff report released Wednesday by Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa). It cites ATF agents who testified that the plan was to let the buyers disappear, to later recover the weapons at crime scenes, and then to use the serial numbers to identify where they came from. This was supposed to lead to the arrest of not only the Arizona "straw" buyer who had made the purchase for the capos, but to the bust of the big players in drug-trafficking organizations.

The ATF told me that it "can not comment on any of the allegations brought by the Issa-Grassley oversight committee" due to an ongoing investigation, and the Department of Justice did not return a request for comment. But as described in the report, the idea had two major flaws. First, it assumed that it didn't matter who got murdered with those weapons before they were recovered. Second, it was built on the theory that the operation could haul in the big fish. According to the report, the feds were wrong on both counts.

For the local gun merchants who cooperated with the feds and for some of the ATF agents in Arizona, the plan was dubious from the start. An estimated 2,000 of these guns disappeared over the 14-month period of Fast and Furious, and the agents who testified said that this contradicted everything they had learned about never letting a gun "walk"—that is, be taken by a suspicious purchaser without following him and finding out where it went.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Border Patrol Chaplain Mark A. Vander Lee pauses at the memorial service for slain agent Brian Terry on Jan. 21, in Tucson, Ariz.

One agent described his frustration: "Every day being out here watching a guy go into the same gun store buying another 15 or 20 AK-47s or variants or . . . five or tenDraco pistols or FN Five-seveNs . . . guys that don't have a job, and he is walking in here spending $27,000 for three Barrett .50 calibers . . . and you are sitting there every day and you can't do anything." Agents say that their concerns, expressed to supervisors, were rebuffed. There was even a threat of dismissal if they didn't get with the program.

At the same time, violence was spiking in Mexico. In an email dated April 2, 2010, the group's supervisor reported that in the month of March "our subjects" had purchased 359 firearms and that 958 people were killed in Mexico in drug violence. It was the bloodiest month since 2005 and included 11 policemen in the state of Sinaloa. As another agent interviewed for the staff report said: "We were all sick to death when we realized . . . what was going on or when we saw what was going on by the trends. We were all just, yes, we were all distraught."

Well, not all. The agents interviewed say supervisors viewed the bloodshed with chilling indifference—or worse. As the report summarizes, "An increase of crimes and deaths in Mexico caused an increase in the recovery of weapons at crime scenes. When these weapons traced back through the Suspect Gun Database to weapons that were walked under Fast and Furious, supervisors in Phoenix were giddy at the success of their operation."

Agents say that the loss of life and worries that the guns might eventually be used on U.S. personnel were not addressed because supervisors thought their plan was working. The "sentiment" from higher-ups, according to one agent's testimony, was "if you are going to make an omelet, you need to scramble some eggs." It was only when Agent Terry was murdered and two AK-47s that had "walked" were found at the scene, that the operation came under scrutiny. The ATF subsequently arrested a number of straw purchasers but none of those arrests involved "key players of a criminal syndicate," according to the report. For the record, an ATF official in the report says that the bureau never let guns "walk."

By any measure the 40-year-old war on drugs has been a failure. One unintended consequence is the financing that the sale of prohibited substances provides to gangsters who then buy guns. That's bad enough. But when the ATF puts making the big cartel bust above human life, it's a new low.
22977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: As the world turns on: June 20, 2011, 08:52:54 AM
Good piece GM.

Here's this from today's WSJ:

'All My Children" may be off the air, but the soap opera is still running in Sacramento. In the latest installment, Governor Jerry Brown divorced his fellow Democrats by vetoing their budget. Democrats and unions are furious and plotting revenge, while both sides blame the evil Republicans for refusing to sanction a referendum that would give voters a chance to endorse a tax increase.

Where's Susan Lucci when you need her?

Mr. Brown deserves credit for vetoing the Democratic budget that reverted to Sacramento form to close a $9.6 billion deficit, deferring several billion dollars of bills into the future, borrowing from special funds, and raising the state's sales tax and vehicle registration fee without the constitutionally required supermajority vote. Even the Democratic treasurer warned that the state couldn't finance its short-term debt with such a risky plan, and Mr. Brown cashiered it.

View Full Image

Associated Press
California Gov. Jerry Brown

Democrats are now blasting him for suggesting that an "all cuts" budget is the only alternative if Republicans won't agree to allow a vote on a five-year extension of what was supposed to be a temporary income tax surcharge, among other tax hikes. Democrats are frustrated because they expected Republicans to cave months ago. But Republicans have shown laudable discipline, and they know that their relevance in state politics hinges on extracting concessions from employee unions that will reduce the future cost of government.

Mr. Brown needs at least two GOP votes in each chamber to put the tax increases on the ballot. And Republican lawmakers have said for months that they're willing to do so in return for modest pension and regulatory reforms and a hard spending cap.

For instance, they want to cap annual pension benefits at $106,000 per employee. Yup, state workers could still earn a six-figure annual pension from retirement to death. Republicans also want new state workers—not current employees—to have the option of a hybrid pension that includes a less generous defined benefit portion as well as an employer-matched defined contribution plan. That proposal is scaled back from the recommendation of the state independent oversight commission to freeze benefits for current workers and to move everyone into hybrid plans.

Republican lawmakers tell us that Democrats won't agree to a deal unless the government-worker unions give their blessing. But the unions now don't want a special election since recent polls show public support for the tax extensions waning, particularly in light of the state's recent discovery of $6.6 billion in additional revenue as the economy recovers. The unions would rather conserve their resources for the 2012 legislative races in which they hope to elect a Democratic supermajority. Their plan is to postpone dealing with California's budget problems until Democrats can raise taxes without making concessions.

Two other liberal hothouses, New York and New Jersey, are at least trying to clean up their fiscal messes, but the unions that dominate Sacramento think taxpayers will finance their soap opera forever. If Mr. Brown wants his return as Governor to be more than a bad last act, he'll abandon his tax increase hopes and do the hard work he promised to shape up state government.
22978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Jewish Right of Return on: June 20, 2011, 08:48:42 AM
By WARREN KOZAK

It is doubtful that there has ever been a more miserable human refuse than Jewish survivors after World War II. Starving, emaciated, stateless—they were not welcomed back by countries where they had lived for generations as assimilated and educated citizens. Germany was no place to return to and in Kielce, Poland, 40 Jews who survived the Holocaust were killed in a pogrom one year after the war ended. The European Jew, circa 1945, quickly went from victim to international refugee disaster.

Yet within a very brief time, this epic calamity disappeared, so much so that few people today even remember the period. How did this happen in an era when Palestinian refugees have continued to be stateless for generations?

In 1945, there were hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors living in DP Camps (displaced persons) across Europe. They were fed and clothed by Jewish and international relief organizations. Had the world's Jewish population played this situation as the Arabs and Palestinians have, everything would look very different today.

To begin with, the Jews would all still be living in these DP camps, only now the camps would have become squalid ghettos throughout Europe. The refugees would continue to be fed and clothed by a committee similar to UNRWA—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (paid for mostly by the United States since 1948). Blessed with one of the world's highest birth rates, they would now number in the many millions. And 66 years later, new generations, fed on a mixture of hate and lies against the Europeans, would now seethe with anger.


Sometime in the early 1960s, the Jewish leadership of these refugee camps, having been trained in Moscow to wreak havoc on the West (as Yasser Arafat was) would have started to employ terrorism to shake down governments. Airplane hijackings in the 1970s would have been followed by passenger killings. There would have been attacks on high-profile targets as well—say, the German or Polish Olympic teams.

By the 1990s, the real mayhem would have begun. Raised on victimhood and used as cannon fodder by corrupt leaders, a generation of younger Jews would be blowing up buses, restaurants and themselves. The billions of dollars extorted from various governments would not have gone to the inhabitants of the camps. The money would be in the Swiss bank accounts of the refugees' famous and flamboyant leaders and their lackies.

So now it's the present, generations past the end of World War II, and the festering Jewish refugee problem throughout Europe has absolutely no end in sight. The worst part of this story would be the wasted lives of millions of human beings in the camps—inventions not invented, illnesses not cured, high-tech startups not started up, symphonies and books not written—a real cultural and spiritual desert.

None of this happened, of course. Instead, the Jewish refugees returned to their ancestral homeland. They left everything they had in Europe and turned their backs on the Continent—no "right of return" requested. They were welcomed by the 650,000 Jewish residents of Israel.

An additional 700,000 Jewish refugees flooded into the new state from Arab lands after they were summarily kicked out. Again losing everything after generations in one place; again welcomed in their new home.

In Israel, they did it all the hard way. They built a new country from scratch with roads, housing and schools. They created agricultural collectives to feed their people. They created a successful economy without domestic oil, and they built one of the world's most vibrant democracies in a region sadly devoid of free thought.

Yes, the Israelis did all this with the financial assistance of Jews around the world and others who helped get them on their feet so they could take care of themselves. These outsiders did not ignore them, or demean them, or use them as pawns in their own political schemes—as the Arab nations have done with the Palestinians.

I imagine the argument will be made that while the Jews may have achieved all this, they did not have their land stolen from them. This is, of course, a canard, another convenient lie. They did lose property all over Europe and the Mideast. And there was never an independent Palestine run by Palestinian Arabs. Ever. Jews and Arabs lived in this area controlled first by the Turks and then by the British. The U.N. offered the two-state solution that we hear so much about in 1947. The problem then, and now, is that it was accepted by only one party, Israel. No doubt, the situation of Arab residents of the Middle East back then may have been difficult, but it is incomprehensible that their lot was worse than that of the Jews at the end of World War II.

We don't hear about any of this because giving human beings hope and purpose doesn't make great copy. Squalor, victimhood and terror are always more exciting. Perhaps in the end, the greatest crime of the Jews was that they quietly created something from nothing. And in the process, they transformed themselves.

Golda Meir is credited with having said that if the Jews had not fought back against the Arab armies and had been destroyed in 1948, they would have received the most beautiful eulogies throughout the world. Instead, they chose to stand their ground and defend themselves. And in winning, they received the world's condemnation. Meir said she would take the condemnation over the eulogies.

Mr. Kozak is the author of "LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay" (Regnery, 2009).
22979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gov. Perry signs fracking disclosure bill on: June 20, 2011, 08:43:34 AM
Woof All:

Given the game-changing potential of US natural gas reserves for energy independence AND the serious questions presented concerning allegations of risk of pollution of the water table, this seems to me to be an important development.

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

By BEN CASSELMAN

The natural-gas industry, bowing to longtime pressure, will disclose more information about the chemicals it uses in the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Opponents of hydraulic fracturing at an April protest in New York.

On Friday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a bill that will require companies to make public the chemicals they use on every hydraulic fracturing job in the state. While a handful of other states have passed similar measures, Texas's law is significant because oil and gas drilling is a key industry in the state and the industry vocally supported the measure.

Environmental groups said the law doesn't go far enough, but they agreed it was an important step.

Until recently, much of the industry opposed providing detailed information about its chemicals, arguing that they are trade secrets. But in recent months, as drilling opponents have accused companies of secrecy, many industry leaders have come to view that position as untenable.

"We have seen the light," Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp., told investors when asked about chemical disclosure at the company's annual meeting earlier this month.

Hydraulic fracturing, sometimes called "fracking," involves blasting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to break up oil and gas-bearing rocks. The process has been used for decades, but it has become far more common in recent years as it has been used to open up huge new gas fields in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and other states.

Environmental groups and some residents in drilling areas fear chemicals from the hydraulic fracturing process are seeping into drinking water supplies. They say companies should be forced to disclose information about the chemicals they use, in part so homeowners can test their water for contamination.

The industry says such contamination is impossible when wells are constructed properly, adding that tens of thousands of wells have been drilled and fractured with relatively few problems. There have been cases of problems with wells that were improperly constructed, but the industry says such cases are rare and many specific incidents are in dispute. Companies say chemicals make up less than 1% of the volume of most fracturing jobs and are mostly benign.

For drillers, though, making that argument was difficult when they were refusing to say what chemicals were being used. Information on chemicals was available at drilling sites, but environmental groups have criticized that information as incomplete and inaccessible to the general public.

"I think the one thing hopefully that we all learned is you can't just say, 'Take our word for it,'"said Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for gas producer Range Resources Corp.

Last year, Range Resources said it would begin voluntarily disclosing the chemicals used in all its wells in Pennsylvania, where the debate has raged. The company said at the time it hoped others would follow suit.

Earlier this year, many big gas producers, including Chesapeake, Chevron Corp. and BP PLC, said they would begin voluntarily publicizing the chemicals online at FracFocus.org. Several states, including Wyoming and Arkansas, have recently passed mandatory disclosure rules with at least tacit industry support.

Environmental groups, saying neither FracFocus nor the state laws go far enough, have called for a mandatory, national chemical database.

"Regardless of what state you live in, we think you deserve to know," said Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

The Texas law will require companies to post information on FracFocus.org starting next year and also to disclose chemicals not included in the site's database through a separate process. Companies can request that information on certain chemicals be withheld from the public as trade secrets.

The Texas bill drew strong support from much of the industry. In May, a group of 12 big gas producers, including Range, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Apache Corp., wrote to Texas legislators urging them to pass the bill.

Jim Keffer, a Republican state representative who co-authored the Texas bill, said he believes the law will help the industry. "We're trying to alleviate the concerns," he said. "We're trying to show people that the industry does know how to do this."

The Texas bill has drawn mixed reviews from environmental groups. The Environmental Defense Fund, which initially helped promote the bill, ultimately withdrew its support after various changes were made, including the provision to list some chemicals separately from others.

But Matt Watson, a senior energy policy manager for the group, said that while the bill "is not the national model we'd hoped for," it is nonetheless a significant step.

Write to Ben Casselman at ben.casselman@wsj.com
22980  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dracula vs. The Defensive Roundhouse Kick on: June 20, 2011, 08:32:43 AM
CW:

Tail wags for your very kind words in the thread about the seminar  cool

Good to see you thinking about this.  A couple of points to help you get started:

As I announced in the beginning of day one, (and discuss more fully in our "Kali Tudo 3" DVD no one structure beats all other structures.   EVERY structure has potential strengths and potential weakness.  IMHO the Kali Tudo striking game can be very dominating on the high line.   Usually this is what we seek to impose, though of course we may craftily lay a trap or two along the way to set up other things as well wink

There are two potential areas of weakness in the KT high line striking game.  

1) Wrestling type shoots (single leg, double leg, ankle picks, things of that sort).  This is why I brought in MMA wrestling coach Kenny Johnson as co-instructor on KT 3-- to make sure we have the basics of a good MMA sprawl and some sound follow ups.  Is the sprawl the only answer to the shoot?  Not in my humble opinion evil  but surely the sprawl needs to be part of our repertoire.

2) Expanding upon your point, there is the matter of the good front leg.  There ARE people in MMA who do have a good front leg.  For example, think of the Randy Couture vs. Brandon Vera fight (which I would have scored for Vera btw, but I digress).  I think we can all agree that Couture has a formidable closing game, but Vera was able to repeatedly nail him with discouraging switch kicks to the liver region.

As I explained in my opening discussion of the KT we were not going to discuss this particular portion of things during this particular seminar-- there is only so much that can be covered in two days (In this case, in addition to the Kali Tudo we had Krabi Krabong, Dos Triques, Los Triques, double stick foundation skill sets, and single stick fighting combinations as well as Kali Tudo.) so I limited the Kali Tudo instruction to showing how to achieve the dominance on the high line.

From what you write about the Dracula, I am not sure if you are clear about which hand is doing the Dracula (correctly done it initiates from a matched lead and is done front hand vs. front forearm as the first point of contact) or maybe you are thinking about the variations where the other hand is in the high caveman chamber-- which does uncover the ribs.   I have explored exactly this question with some of my Muay Thai friends (a former pro now turned coach and two seasoned amateur fighters both at Muay Thai/Boxing Works gym in Hermosa Beach.

The various solutions to your question are a mix of footwork, timing (both of him and of when we raise to the High Caveman) and in the use of other KT combinations if the front leg is presenting a problem.  For example, you may remember we had the Zirconia Variations and an example of the Sheering Variations.  

There are others as well.  wink

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog
22981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 20, 2011, 07:41:39 AM
BTW, as I forgot to note in my previous post, the last several posts would be better placed if posted in the Health Care thread smiley
22982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jefferson; WSJ: Boskins 5 Lessons on: June 20, 2011, 07:35:16 AM
"It is a wise rule and should be fundamental in a government disposed to cherish its
credit, and at the same time to restrain the use of it within the limits of its
faculties, 'never to borrow a dollar without laying a tax in the same instant for
paying the interest annually, and the principal within a given term; and to consider
that tax as pledged to the creditors on the public faith.'" --Thomas Jefferson,
letter to John Wayles Eppes, 1813
=========================

By MICHAEL J. BOSKIN

Bipartisan budget negotiations to raise the debt ceiling are focused on deficit reduction. That's progress. It's imperative that we rein in spending given the risks posed by our growing debt, ongoing deficits and President Obama's spending binge. But we should be wary of "balanced" spending-cut/tax-hike proposals promising phony future savings. Lawmakers should pay heed to five vital lessons from the history of attempts to consolidate the budget and reform major programs:

1) Cut spending, don't raise taxes. In a comprehensive study of post-World War II fiscal consolidations in developed economies published last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna conclude that successful deficit reduction averaged $5 to $6 in spending cuts for every $1 of tax hikes. Higher taxes more often led to recession. President Obama's and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad's proposals to balance spending cuts with large tax hikes are thus a recipe for failure.

2) Control spending with enforceable procedures. President Reagan twice negotiated large spending cuts in exchange for modest tax hikes (after historic tax-rate reductions in 1981), but much of the spending control never materialized. The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1985 required projections of gradual deficit decline to a balanced budget over several years. Not surprisingly, the result was rosy forecasts but little deficit reduction. So lawmakers revised and stretched out the targets, but fared no better.

Similarly, the European Union's Stability and Growth Pact, which in 1997 set deficit and debt limits, was routinely violated long before the current financial crisis and recession.

Some state balanced-budget rules have succeeded by requiring that any shortfalls be made up the following year, thereby decreasing the incentive to fudge in the first place. President George H.W. Bush's controversial 1990 budget deal with a Democratic Congress included caps on discretionary spending and sequestration of funds if they were exceeded. President Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress later renewed the rules. New entitlement programs and tax cuts had to be "paid for"—i.e., there was a "marginal balanced budget" requirement.

View Full Image

Martin Kozlowski
3) Be wary of baselines and budget gimmicks. Projected savings are usually measured from baselines with rapid increases in spending and rising taxes. The current Congressional Budget Office baseline assumes large automatic tax hikes, far beyond historic GDP shares. The hikes come from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2013, growth of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and continuing "bracket creep," which pushes middle-income families into higher tax brackets. That's how President Obama can call a large tax increase (from today) a tax cut (from baseline).

Conversely, propose slowing projected spending growth (say, to 6% from 7%, as the House Republican Budget Resolution did this year) and you are accused of draconian slashing. We should end autopilot budgeting, and force justification of all spending or tax hikes.

4) Watch out for unintended consequences. Surprises tend to compound and, as Albert Einstein once said, compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. In the 1970s, with little analysis or discussion, Social Security benefits at retirement were indexed to wage rather than price growth. Because wages generally grow more quickly than prices, price indexing has led to a higher rate of benefit growth. Today, with the baby boomers retiring, wage indexing creates trillions of dollars of future unfunded Social Security liabilities by projecting large benefit increases far beyond tax revenues. Switching to price indexing would eliminate this deficit while maintaining the real level of benefits.

Perhaps an even riskier consequence derives from the explosion, under Democratic and Republican administrations, in the number of people paying no income tax, in part because of refundable tax credits. Last year a majority of Americans paid no income tax. What is really unbalanced is the current revenue system. Partly due to the aftermath of the severe recession, transfer payments are at an all-time high as a share of personal income. These are ominous trends for budget dynamics in a democracy. We need both a broader base of economic activity and a larger fraction of the population financing government spending if we are to preserve a prosperous capitalist democracy.

5) Tackle fundamentals. If spending is projected to grow exponentially, President Obama's proposed temporary freeze on one-sixth of the budget, or even modest cuts, won't help much. We need changes that compound and cumulate over time, especially in Social Security and Medicare, or they will crowd out all other federal spending or drive marginal tax rates over 70%.

We've had successful, farsighted policy reforms that also dealt with pressing short-run issues. President Reagan's 1981 reform of indexing tax brackets to offset inflation still pays dividends by preventing even larger automatic tax hikes. The 1983 Greenspan Commission's phased-in gradual increases in Social Security retirement age were prescient. We can and must immediately address the debt-ceiling issue while focusing on long-term deficit reduction.

Events are rarely kind to those who keep kicking the can down the road, expanding spending and exploding the national debt. Payment ultimately comes from higher taxes, eroding the debt through inflation, or outright default and debt restructuring. The cost of any of these actions will be severe. Just ask taxpayers in Greece or Portugal facing a decade of depressed living standards. Or the Japanese, whose stagnation is measured in decades, not quarters or years.

Mr. Boskin is a professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.
22983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson 1813 Cherish credit, pay off debts. on: June 20, 2011, 07:34:19 AM
"It is a wise rule and should be fundamental in a government disposed to cherish its
credit, and at the same time to restrain the use of it within the limits of its
faculties, 'never to borrow a dollar without laying a tax in the same instant for
paying the interest annually, and the principal within a given term; and to consider
that tax as pledged to the creditors on the public faith.'" --Thomas Jefferson,
letter to John Wayles Eppes, 1813
22984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hmm , , , we're leaving and this happens. What a coincidence! on: June 19, 2011, 10:15:56 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Shiite extremists, not al-Qaida terrorists, are to blame for most of the recent U.S. military deaths in Iraq, and they're "clearly getting some fairly sophisticated and powerful weapons" from Iran.

Gates tells CNN's "State of the Union" that he's worried about the Iranian influence in Iraq and he thinks Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is beginning to take these Shiite groups seriously.

Gates says that the U.S. and Iraq are taking steps to try to limit the threat.

A Shiite militia group has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed five American troops on June 6. It was the single largest loss of life for American troops in two years.
22985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gates too tries applying pressure on Baraq on: June 19, 2011, 10:06:53 PM
From Associated Press
June 19, 2011 12:38 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Barack Obama nears a decision on a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, his retiring defense secretary says he doesn't believe the Taliban will engage in serious talks about ending their fight until they are under extreme military pressure.

Pentagon chief Robert Gates acknowledges that "there's been outreach" to the Taliban by the U.S. and others, but he describes the contacts as "very preliminary at this point."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that the U.S. and Afghan government have held talks with Taliban emissaries in an effort to end the nearly 10-year war. The Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan and sheltered al-Qaida before being driving from power in the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, say publicly that there will be no negotiations until foreign troops leave the country.


"My own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make any substantive headway until at least this winter," said Gates, who retires as defense secretary at month's end.

"I think that the Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure, and begin to believe that they can't win before they're willing to have a serious conversation," he told CNN's "State of the Union" in an interview taped Saturday after Karzai's announcement.

In the days ahead, Obama will decide how many of the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to withdraw in the initial round of reductions. Several members of Congress want significant cuts, citing the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and CIA Director Leon Panetta's assessment that fewer than 100 al-Qaida members remain in Afghanistan.

When Obama sent an additional 30,000 U.S. forces to Afghanistan at the end of 2009, he said some of those troops would start coming home in July 2011.

Obama has said the initial withdrawal will be "significant," but others in the administration, including Gates, have urged a more modest drawdown.


Gates said the troop reduction "must be politically credible here at home. So I think there's a lot of room for maneuvering there."

The U.S. goal is to give Afghans control of their own security by the end of 2014.

Many Taliban leaders remain unknown or underground since fleeing Kabul at the start of the war. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has not been seen publicly since 2001.

"I think the first question we have is who represents Mullah Omar," Gates said. "Who really represents the Taliban? We don't want to end up having a conversation at some point with somebody who is basically a free-lancer."

Gates said the U.S. long has said that "a political outcome is the way most of these wars end. The question is when and if they're ready to talk seriously about meeting the redlines that President Karzai, and that the coalition have laid down, including totally disavowing al-Qaida."
22986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 19, 2011, 09:40:50 PM
1) Would not the infant mortality rate affect the longevity rate?

2) Does not the fact that we are (as best as I know) the fattest population on the planet have something to do with our longevity rate?
22987  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Sikh temple scrap on: June 19, 2011, 08:30:58 PM
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2011/04/25/2011-04-25_seven_people_arraigned_on_riot_assault_charges_for_violent_fight_at_sikh_temple_.html
22988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon comments inter alia on Romney's comments on: June 19, 2011, 06:30:37 PM
I already posted this in the Afpakia thread, but I post this here as well because of its implications for the Presidential campaign.  Note the comments on Romney.
==============================

For those of us who do not know him or may have forgotten, Michael Yon is an ex-SF soldier who became a reader supported journalist in Iraq.  During the worst of the war there due to the respect his SF background afforded him, he went on missions with our troops including into firefights.  He was by far and away the first forceful voice that the Surge was working when candidates Baraq and Shrillery "General Betrayus" Clinton were skittering for the exit. 

What he did in Iraq, he now does in Afpakia.  IMHO whatever this man writes should be taken quite seriously.  He has courage, integrity, and he puts himself in harm's way so he can report to us his search for Truth.

Afghanistan is making undeniable progress, but it could all unravel


 
Next >
19 June 2011
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

It's time to make big decisions. These decisions will have a huge impact on the future of Afghanistan. The biggest question at hand: How many troops will we keep here and for how long?

The answer to that question must not be dreamed up in political strategy sessions or in focus groups. Buzzwords and abstractions won't do.

This is about real people — our soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, our allies — and the people of Afghanistan. It's their lives that hang in the balance, and our judgment must respect the challenge they face and the progress they have made.

Let's begin with a few facts. For the strategy we used, we never had enough troops in Afghanistan to defeat our enemies and stand up a civil society. It can be argued that today, we still do not have enough.

Despite this, the coalition and the Afghans appear to finally be turning the tide in our favor, and a great deal of this can be credited to President Obama for deciding to send more troops. Unfortunately, the President has stated that we will begin bringing troops home this year.

This puts him in a bind. To keep his word, the President may have to undermine the very success that he facilitated.

And especially since the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, others can be expected to ratchet up the political pressure on Obama should he not begin the drawdown on schedule. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner for the 2012 election, said this last week: "It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that comes to our generals that we can hand the country over… we've learned some important lessons in our experience in Afghanistan. I want those troops to come home based upon not politics, not based upon economics, but instead based upon the conditions on the ground determined by the generals. But I also think we've learned that our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan's independence from the Taliban."

Gen. David Petraeus is the boss here in Afghanistan. He has been tasked with making a recommendation on troop withdrawal. He arrived in Washington last week, where he is recommending a timetable for the drawdown of the 30,000 “surge” troops sent to the country in 2009.

Obama had promised that those troops would start coming home in July, but conditions on the ground always matter more.

On June 5, I asked Petraeus in his Kabul office for insight into his recommendation to the President. He told me he has not yet told anyone what his recommendation will be.

Many people are waiting. Not even his staff knows.

Petraeus, tapped to take over the CIA upon his retirement from this post, has accumulated a long string of unlikely successes in Iraq, and increasingly in Afghanistan. These efforts have been far more than mere war. Our people triumphed in the kinetic fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan years ago; the far greater difficulties have been the second wars fought in both countries during the long nation-building phases.

Any politician who says we are not nation building in Iraq or Afghanistan should be dismissed. Nation building is the course we chose, and nation building is what is occurring. Slowly.

In Iraq, a government was shattered and rebuilt. In Afghanistan, there was no government to shatter. Afghanistan was just an area where a lot of people lived, and today it's being built up from mud and sticks. For instance, there was not a single meter of paved road in Ghor Province.

A country is being built from scratch and nobody has more experience at the messy and difficult job of “shatter and create” than does Petraeus. He knows his business, his profession and his art, and he knows more about the current war than anyone alive. His recommendation will carry significant weight.

But while we do this critical work, our young warriors are still dying and being wounded in large numbers. People at home are asking if Afghanistan is worth the sacrifice. And then there is the economy, still struggling and endangering our country strategically. The war here is very expensive.

Is it worth it? This is a hard question. We made the judgment that this war was worth fighting when we put our warriors into the arena in the first place. We've already jumped and now we are deciding whether to land on our heads, our rears or our feet. We cannot unjump. Our people are fighting as you read this. When we ordered our military to go, we cloaked ourselves in great responsibility to support them and to achieve success.

Our troops have two responsibilities, which are tightly interwoven: Win the war and create Afghanistan. It is not the troops' place to consider the global economy. They are not to consider unfolding debacle in Libya, the long challenges in Iraq or the dark side of the moon.

And so when Petraeus makes his recommendation to the President, his recommendation should not include any consideration of the U.S. economy, the debt or jobs in America. He is the man in the arena. The man in the arena does not collect parking tickets, or work at the concession stand or concern himself with the electric bill for the stadium. He beats his opponent to the ground. Or, in this case, beats some opponents into the ground and builds a country simultaneously. His recommendation to the President should be pure, devoid of outside considerations.

We must be honest about what we can accomplish. This is a century-long process. A little Afghan girl is watching me write this opinion. She appears to be about 4 years old, and she keeps peeking around the door smiling at me while her mother is cleaning the house and her father takes care of the property. The girl follows me around the house. A storm is coming and a lightning bolt just zapped the electricity. I am unarmed but safe in Kabul, and if this little girl is lucky, and we do not abandon Afghanistan, she may one day end up in a university.

Petraeus told me that at its peak, violence in Iraq was four times higher than current violence is here. This seems about right. I can drive around Afghanistan in many places. I've been back in Kabul for almost two weeks and have not heard a single gunshot or explosion, though I did feel an earthquake.

This isn't Baghdad. During peak times in Iraq, you couldn't go 30 minutes in Baghdad without seeing or hearing something. The most dangerous city in Afghanistan is Kandahar, yet I have driven around Kandahar many times, including recently, without a shred of armor. I could never have survived this in Fallujah, Basra, Baghdad, Baquba or Mosul. I have driven this year, without troops, to places in Afghanistan where last year I would have almost certainly  been killed, such as Panjwai. You don't need thick intelligence reports to translate those realities.

Shouting at an oak tree will no not make it grow faster, and ignoring a sapling in this desert will leave it to die. An acorn was planted in 2001, and we mostly ignored it for more than half a decade while our people fought so hard in Iraq. Today, that acorn is a scrawny, 10-year-old oak tree that was so neglected until 2010 that it nearly died. Its skinny branches are still so weak that a sparrow dare not land, and while we focused on Iraq, the enemies here stayed busy nibbling away at anything green. Yet over the past year of extra care, there are clear signs of life and new growth.

Meanwhile, our enemies here are being monkey stomped. The rule of monkey stomping has never changed. Don't stop stomping until the enemy stops breathing. This enemy has earned respect for its courage, resilience and will-not-quit spirit, but there is only so much it can take.

At this rate, the Graveyard of Empires, the Undefeatables, will need a new advertising campaign. Our enemies here are turning out to be the Almost Undefeatables. The many good Afghans want to move forward. They want their kids, boys and girls, to see better days.

The bottom line is that there are unmistakable signs of progress in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus is about to make a very important recommendation.

His judgment should be trusted.

Major fighting will soon begin in Afghanistan.  I will be there providing coverage as I have done in the past.  Your support is crucial.  If you have enjoyed or benefited from my free dispatches, please consider supporting future work via: Paypal, or my Post Office Box, or other Methods of Support.

Osama bin Laden is dead, but the war rolls on.


Michael Yon
22989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon on Petraeus on Afpakia on: June 19, 2011, 06:28:22 PM
For those of us who do not know him or may have forgotten, Michael Yon is an ex-SF soldier who became a reader supported journalist in Iraq.  During the worst of the war there due to the respect his SF background afforded him, he went on missions with our troops including into firefights.  He was by far and away the first forceful voice that the Surge was working when candidates Baraq and Shrillery "General Betrayus" Clinton were skittering for the exit. 

What he did in Iraq, he now does in Afpakia.  IMHO whatever this man writes should be taken quite seriously.  He has courage, integrity, and he puts himself in harm's way so he can report to us his search for Truth.

Afghanistan is making undeniable progress, but it could all unravel


 
Next >
19 June 2011
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

It's time to make big decisions. These decisions will have a huge impact on the future of Afghanistan. The biggest question at hand: How many troops will we keep here and for how long?

The answer to that question must not be dreamed up in political strategy sessions or in focus groups. Buzzwords and abstractions won't do.

This is about real people — our soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, our allies — and the people of Afghanistan. It's their lives that hang in the balance, and our judgment must respect the challenge they face and the progress they have made.

Let's begin with a few facts. For the strategy we used, we never had enough troops in Afghanistan to defeat our enemies and stand up a civil society. It can be argued that today, we still do not have enough.

Despite this, the coalition and the Afghans appear to finally be turning the tide in our favor, and a great deal of this can be credited to President Obama for deciding to send more troops. Unfortunately, the President has stated that we will begin bringing troops home this year.

This puts him in a bind. To keep his word, the President may have to undermine the very success that he facilitated.

And especially since the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, others can be expected to ratchet up the political pressure on Obama should he not begin the drawdown on schedule. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner for the 2012 election, said this last week: "It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, consistent with the word that comes to our generals that we can hand the country over… we've learned some important lessons in our experience in Afghanistan. I want those troops to come home based upon not politics, not based upon economics, but instead based upon the conditions on the ground determined by the generals. But I also think we've learned that our troops shouldn't go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan's independence from the Taliban."

Gen. David Petraeus is the boss here in Afghanistan. He has been tasked with making a recommendation on troop withdrawal. He arrived in Washington last week, where he is recommending a timetable for the drawdown of the 30,000 “surge” troops sent to the country in 2009.

Obama had promised that those troops would start coming home in July, but conditions on the ground always matter more.

On June 5, I asked Petraeus in his Kabul office for insight into his recommendation to the President. He told me he has not yet told anyone what his recommendation will be.

Many people are waiting. Not even his staff knows.

Petraeus, tapped to take over the CIA upon his retirement from this post, has accumulated a long string of unlikely successes in Iraq, and increasingly in Afghanistan. These efforts have been far more than mere war. Our people triumphed in the kinetic fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan years ago; the far greater difficulties have been the second wars fought in both countries during the long nation-building phases.

Any politician who says we are not nation building in Iraq or Afghanistan should be dismissed. Nation building is the course we chose, and nation building is what is occurring. Slowly.

In Iraq, a government was shattered and rebuilt. In Afghanistan, there was no government to shatter. Afghanistan was just an area where a lot of people lived, and today it's being built up from mud and sticks. For instance, there was not a single meter of paved road in Ghor Province.

A country is being built from scratch and nobody has more experience at the messy and difficult job of “shatter and create” than does Petraeus. He knows his business, his profession and his art, and he knows more about the current war than anyone alive. His recommendation will carry significant weight.

But while we do this critical work, our young warriors are still dying and being wounded in large numbers. People at home are asking if Afghanistan is worth the sacrifice. And then there is the economy, still struggling and endangering our country strategically. The war here is very expensive.

Is it worth it? This is a hard question. We made the judgment that this war was worth fighting when we put our warriors into the arena in the first place. We've already jumped and now we are deciding whether to land on our heads, our rears or our feet. We cannot unjump. Our people are fighting as you read this. When we ordered our military to go, we cloaked ourselves in great responsibility to support them and to achieve success.

Our troops have two responsibilities, which are tightly interwoven: Win the war and create Afghanistan. It is not the troops' place to consider the global economy. They are not to consider unfolding debacle in Libya, the long challenges in Iraq or the dark side of the moon.

And so when Petraeus makes his recommendation to the President, his recommendation should not include any consideration of the U.S. economy, the debt or jobs in America. He is the man in the arena. The man in the arena does not collect parking tickets, or work at the concession stand or concern himself with the electric bill for the stadium. He beats his opponent to the ground. Or, in this case, beats some opponents into the ground and builds a country simultaneously. His recommendation to the President should be pure, devoid of outside considerations.

We must be honest about what we can accomplish. This is a century-long process. A little Afghan girl is watching me write this opinion. She appears to be about 4 years old, and she keeps peeking around the door smiling at me while her mother is cleaning the house and her father takes care of the property. The girl follows me around the house. A storm is coming and a lightning bolt just zapped the electricity. I am unarmed but safe in Kabul, and if this little girl is lucky, and we do not abandon Afghanistan, she may one day end up in a university.

Petraeus told me that at its peak, violence in Iraq was four times higher than current violence is here. This seems about right. I can drive around Afghanistan in many places. I've been back in Kabul for almost two weeks and have not heard a single gunshot or explosion, though I did feel an earthquake.

This isn't Baghdad. During peak times in Iraq, you couldn't go 30 minutes in Baghdad without seeing or hearing something. The most dangerous city in Afghanistan is Kandahar, yet I have driven around Kandahar many times, including recently, without a shred of armor. I could never have survived this in Fallujah, Basra, Baghdad, Baquba or Mosul. I have driven this year, without troops, to places in Afghanistan where last year I would have almost certainly  been killed, such as Panjwai. You don't need thick intelligence reports to translate those realities.

Shouting at an oak tree will no not make it grow faster, and ignoring a sapling in this desert will leave it to die. An acorn was planted in 2001, and we mostly ignored it for more than half a decade while our people fought so hard in Iraq. Today, that acorn is a scrawny, 10-year-old oak tree that was so neglected until 2010 that it nearly died. Its skinny branches are still so weak that a sparrow dare not land, and while we focused on Iraq, the enemies here stayed busy nibbling away at anything green. Yet over the past year of extra care, there are clear signs of life and new growth.

Meanwhile, our enemies here are being monkey stomped. The rule of monkey stomping has never changed. Don't stop stomping until the enemy stops breathing. This enemy has earned respect for its courage, resilience and will-not-quit spirit, but there is only so much it can take.

At this rate, the Graveyard of Empires, the Undefeatables, will need a new advertising campaign. Our enemies here are turning out to be the Almost Undefeatables. The many good Afghans want to move forward. They want their kids, boys and girls, to see better days.

The bottom line is that there are unmistakable signs of progress in Afghanistan, and Gen. David Petraeus is about to make a very important recommendation.

His judgment should be trusted.

Major fighting will soon begin in Afghanistan.  I will be there providing coverage as I have done in the past.  Your support is crucial.  If you have enjoyed or benefited from my free dispatches, please consider supporting future work via: Paypal, or my Post Office Box, or other Methods of Support.

Osama bin Laden is dead, but the war rolls on.


Michael Yon
22990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 19, 2011, 06:17:48 PM
There is a reason I call the NY Slimes/Times  "Pravda on the Hudson" (POTH)
22991  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 18-19 Guro Crafty in Memphis, TN on: June 19, 2011, 06:13:08 PM
And so it went, , , more or less grin  Good time drumming with Xavier and Bill  cool

Tomorrow, privates and then home.

The Adventure continues!
22992  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Should Martial Artists Train Moves They Mastered on: June 19, 2011, 07:57:02 AM
Thank you for that articulate expression of a particular approach.

Personally, as a teacher my preference is for a different order.  I prefer to first communicate the understanding, with the idea that by connecting with the student's animal intelligence that subsequent training will be more effective.

I do appreciate the point about the kata as a storage system for knowledge; indeed I often make a similar point about what is sometimes derisively called "dead pattern" training in the FMA.  That said my sense of things is that DPs are more useful for people with some level of "the fighter's understanding".
22993  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: June 19, 2011, 07:30:35 AM
My email from FB shows C-Mighty Dog (Toki) has posted that the final version is back up, but I cannot access FB from the hotel computer because FB is suspicious of my being in a different location-- therefore I do not know what the URL is.  Would someone post it here please?
22994  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 18-19 Guro Crafty in Memphis, TN on: June 19, 2011, 07:27:40 AM
Nice meeting you yesterday CW.  I am honored by what you have invested to attend.

Good times yesterday.  Began with KK into Prison Riot into Dos Triques, then a new single stick progression that started with Los Triques Stick & Kick combos that led into , , , well hard to describe but it seemed to work well.  Finished the day with developments in The Zirconia; Dracula bring the Stake, Hammer, and Cross, the Bolo from Hell (this has become a great favorite of mine), Flying Bong Sao, and the new "Sheering Shots".  While several of these have been around for a while, they have continued to evolve and the connections between them strengthen.

Today we will probably begin with Applied Single Stick.  I'm thinking possibly the Salt & Pepper Game (Occupying Strikes concept), Kalimba Game and connecting the KG with the Brondo Buzzsaw for a start; Ice Pick Dodger for stick & knife and then take that as the bridge into Dodger Variations for Kali Tudo.
22995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gov. Rick Perry on: June 19, 2011, 06:59:31 AM
Part of business travel is the reality of time zone changes.  Sometimes I find myself awake for an hour or two during the night.  Naturally, political junkie that I am , , , and so it was that I caught a goodly part of a speech by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to a Republican audience.  Pretty durn good!  The man bears watching , , ,

Then followed some chattering class stuff about "Why aren't the Rep candidates talking about foreign policy very much?"  Although the folks discussing it were morons (and so I wandered on to a Military channel piece on "Hitler's Bodyguards" ) the question IS a very good one and I'd like to put it up for a bit of discussion here.
22996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Steyn: Arab-lesbian blogger hoax on: June 18, 2011, 09:40:56 PM




 <http://www.nationalreview.com/> NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE         

MARK STEYN


 

 

JUNE 18, 2011 7:00 A.M.

LibzGetReal

How could the Left not fall for the Arab-lesbian-blogger hoax?

 

Last week was a great week for lesbians coming out of the closet — coming
out, that is, as middle-aged heterosexual men.

On Sunday, Amina Arraf, the young vivacious Syrian lesbian activist whose
inspiring blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus” had captured hearts around the
world, was revealed to be, in humdrum reality, one Tom MacMaster, a
40-year-old college student from Georgia. The following day, Paula Brooks,
the lesbian activist and founder of the website LezGetReal, was revealed to
be one Bill Graber, a 58-year-old construction worker from Ohio. In their
capacity as leading lesbians in the Sapphic blogosphere, “Miss Brooks” and
“Miss Arraf” were colleagues. “Amina” had posted at LezGetReal before
starting “A Gay Girl In Damascus.” As one lesbian to another, they got along
swimmingly. The Washington Post reported:

Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was
pretending to be a lesbian.

Who knows what romance might have blossomed had not “Amina” been arrested by
a squad of Baath Party goons dispatched by Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.
Tom MacMaster then created “Rania,” a fake cousin for his fake lesbian, to
try to rouse the world to take up the plight of the nonexistent Amina’s
nonexistent detention. 

A “Free Amina!” Facebook page sprang up.

“The Obama Administration must speak about this,” declared Peter Beinart,
former editor of The New Republic. “This woman is a hero.”

On June 7th the State Department announced that it was looking into the
“kidnapping.”

Now consider it from Assad’s point of view. Unlike “Amina,” “Rania,” and the
“three armed men in their early 20s” who “hustled Amina into a red Dacia
Logan,” you have the disadvantage of actually existing. You’re the dictator
of Syria. You’ve killed more demonstrators than those losers Mubarak, Ben
Ali, and Gaddafi combined, and the Americans have barely uttered a peep.
Suddenly Hillary Clinton, who was hailing you as a “reformer” only 20
minutes ago, wants to give you a hard time over some lesbian blogger. Any
moment now Sarkozy or Cameron or some other Europoseur will demand
anti-homophobic NATO bombing missions over your presidential palace. On CNN
Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper will be interviewing each other back and
forth all day long about the Gay Spring sweeping the Arab world. You’ll be
the first Middle East strongman brought down by lesbianism. You’ll be a
laughing stock at Arab League Where-Are-They-Now? nights.

Who needs it? “Release the lesbian bloggers!” commands Assad.

“Er, what lesbian bloggers?” says his vizier. “This is Damascus, remember?”

“Oh, yeah.” And he spends another sleepless night wondering if this is the
most devilish CIA dirty trick of all, or if one of their satellite drones
merely misinterpreted the grainy footage from the Colonel Gaddafi Lookalike
round of Syrian Idol.

The pretty young lesbian Muslim was exposed as a portly 40-year-old male
infidel at the University of Edinburgh with the help of “Paula Brooks,”
shortly before “Paula” was exposed as a 58-year-old male construction worker
from Ohio. “He would have got away with it if I hadn’t been such a stand-up
guy,” the second phony lesbian said of the first phony lesbian. As to why
stand-up guys are posing as sit-down lesbians, “Paula” told the Associated
Press that “he felt he would not be taken seriously as a straight man.”

“He got that one right,” sneered the Toronto gay magazine Xtra.

Indeed. A century ago, a British Army officer went to the Levant and
reinvented himself as Lawrence of Arabia. Now a middle-aged American male
college student goes to the Internet and reinvents himself as Florence of
Arabia. We have become familiar in recent years with the booming literary
genre of the fake memoir, to which Oprah’s late Book Club was distressingly
partial. Greg Mortensen’s now discredited Three Cups Of Tea took it to the
next level, not just near mandatory in the usual circles (grade schools and
sentimental punditry) but also compulsory in the Pentagon for commanders en
route to Afghanistan. After centuries of disdain for the preferred beverage
of imperialists, American officers in the Hindu Kush now drink more tea than
the Brits, and they don’t even like it. But a charlatan told them to do it,
so the tea allowance now consumes 23 percent of the Pentagon budget.

 

Yet Tom MacMaster topped even that. He took an actual, live, mass popular
uprising and made an entirely unrepresentative and, indeed, nonexistent
person its poster “girl.” From CNN to the Guardian to Bianca Jagger to
legions of Tweeters, Western liberalism fell for a ludicrous hoax. Why?

Because they wanted to. It would be nice if “Amina Arraf” existed. As niche
constituencies go, we could use more hijab-wearing Muslim lesbian militants
and fewer fortysomething male Western deadbeat college students. But the
latter is a real and pathetically numerous demographic, and the former is a
fiction — a fantasy for Western liberals, who think that in the
multicultural society the nice gay couple at 27 Rainbow Avenue can live next
door to the big bearded imam with four child brides at Number 29 and gambol
and frolic in admiration of each other’s diversity. They will proffer cheery
greetings over the picket fence, the one admiring the other’s attractive
buttock-hugging leather shorts for that day’s Gay Pride parade as he
prepares to take his daughter to the clitoridectomy clinic.

Yes, yes, I stereotype. But stereotypes become stereotypes because they’re
grounded in observable reality. “Amina Arraf” is grounded in nothing more
than a fetish fantasy as preposterous as those lipstick lesbians in porn
movies who can’t wait for some hot straight guy to jump in and make it a
threesome.

It would be statistically improbable for there to be no women attracted to
other women in Damascus. But “Amina Arraf” is nothing more than the
projection of parochial obsessions on to distant lands Western liberals are
too lazy to try to figure out. In 2007 in The Atlantic Monthly, Andrew
Sullivan, not yet mired up Sarah Palin’s birth canal without a paddle
peddling bizarre conspiracy theories about the maternity of her youngest
child, announced that, never mind his policies, Barack Obama’s visage alone
would be “the most effective potential rebranding of the United States since
Reagan.” As he explained:

It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees
this man — Barack Hussein Obama — is the new face of America. In one simple
image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a
logarithm. . . . If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against
the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets
close.

For crying out loud. The assumption that “a young Pakistani Muslim” in
Lahore or Peshawar shares your peculiar preoccupations is the most feeble
kind of projection even by the standards of Western liberal navel-gazing. If
doting progressives stopped gazing longingly into “Obama’s face” for just a
moment, they might notice that in Benghazi “democracy activists” have been
rounding up Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. In Bahrain
“democracy activists” have attacked hundreds of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis,
ripping the tongue out of one muezzin and leaving him brain damaged. What’s
so “multicultural” about the pampered middle-aged narcissists of the West’s
leisurely “activist” varsity pretending that the entire planet is just like
them?

You can learn a lot from the deceptions a society chooses to swallow. “Amina
Arraf” was a fiction who fit the liberal worldview. That’s because the
liberal worldview is a fiction.

—  <http://www.marksteyn.com/> Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is
author of  <http://www.nationalreview.com/redirect/amazon.p?j=1596985275>
America Alone. © 2011 Mark Steyn.
22997  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: June 18, 2011, 06:42:15 PM
I gather that the clip has gone up and been taken down.  The reason is that Night Owl inadvertently left someone out and took it down while he is correcting this.

I cannot access Facebook from the hotel computer here in Memphis, so would someone here who is also there please explain the situation on the DBMA FB page.  Thank you.
22998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: June 18, 2011, 06:35:40 PM
Very impressive.  Lets keep an eye out for further developments of this guy!
22999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: June 18, 2011, 06:32:57 PM
While this could be posted in the Afpakia thread I am posting it here because of its focus on the larger international context.  IMHO it would be a better piece if it included more analysis of what happens as we leave.
=========


STRATFOR
---------------------------
June 18, 2011


THE WITHDRAWAL DEBATE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS

U.S. President Barack Obama met with the outgoing commander of U.S. forces in
Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, and Obama's national security team Thursday to
review the status of the counterinsurgency-focused campaign. At the center of the
discussion was next month's deadline for a drawdown of forces, set by Obama when he
committed 30,000 additional troops at the end of 2009. An announcement on this
initial drawdown is expected within weeks.
 
The ballpark figure of this first reduction is said to be on the order of 30,000
U.S. troops -- mirroring the 2009 surge -- over the next 12-18 months. This would
leave some 70,000 U.S. troops, plus allied forces, in the country. Any reduction
will ostensibly be founded on oft-cited "conditions-based" decisions by military
commanders, though ultimate authority remains with the White House.
 
Far more interesting are the rumors -- coming from STRATFOR sources, among many
others -- suggesting that the impending White House announcement will spell out not
only the anticipated reduction, but a restatement of the strategy and objectives of
the war effort (and by implication, the scale and duration of the commitment of
forces and resources). The stage has certainly been set with the killing of Osama
bin Laden, the single most wanted individual in the American war on terror, and the
shuffling of Petraeus, the counterinsurgency-focused strategy’s principal architect
and most ardent defender, to the CIA.
 
Nearly 150,000 troops cannot and will not be suddenly extracted from landlocked
Central Asia in short order. Whatever the case, a full drawdown is at best years
away. And even with a fundamental shift in strategy, some sort of training,
advising, intelligence and particularly, special-operations presence, could well
remain in the country far beyond the deadline for the end of combat operations,
currently set for the end of 2014.
 
But a change in strategy could quickly bear significant repercussions, particularly
if a drawdown begins to accelerate more rapidly than originally planned. Even the
most committed allies to the war in Afghanistan are there to support the United
States, often in pursuit of their own political aims, which may be only obliquely
related to anything happening in Afghanistan. While there may not be a rush for the
exit, most are weary and anxious for the war to end. Any prospect of a more rapid
withdrawal will certainly be welcomed news to American allies. (Recall the rapid
dwindling, in the latter years of the Iraq war, of the "coalition of the willing,"
which, aside from a company of British trainers, effectively became a coalition of
one by mid-2009.)

"For Washington, the imperative is to extract itself from these wars and focus its
attention on more pressing and significant geopolitical challenges. For the rest of
the world, the concern is that it might succeed sooner than expected."

 
More important will be regional repercussions. India will be concerned that a U.S.
withdrawal will leave Washington more dependent on Islamabad to manage Afghanistan
in the long run, thereby strengthening India’s rival to the north. India's concern
over Islamist militancy will only grow. Pakistan's concerns, meanwhile, are far more
fundamental. Afghanistan, on one hand, could provide some semblance of strategic
depth to the rear that the country sorely lacks to the front. On the other hand, it
offers a potential foothold to any potential aggressor, from India to Islamist
militants, intent on striking at the country’s core. Meanwhile, Iran -- though
geographically buffered in comparison to Pakistan -- has its own concerns about
cross-border militancy, particularly regarding the Baloch insurgency within its own
borders. And this, of course, intersects the larger American-Iranian struggle.
 
Concern about militancy abounds. Potential spillover of militancy in the absence of
a massive American and allied military presence in Afghanistan affects all bordering
countries. Even in the best case scenario, from a regional perspective, a
deterioration of security conditions can be expected to accompany any U.S. drawdown.
The presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan acts as a magnet for all manner of
regional militant entities, though Pakistan has already begun to feel the spillover
effects from the conflict in Afghanistan in the form of the Tehrik-i-Taliban, the
Pakistani version of the Taliban phenomenon, along with an entire playbill of other
militant actors. The presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan consumes much of
those militants’ efforts and strength. As the attraction and pressure of foreign
troops begin to lift, some battle-hardened militants will begin to move homeward or
toward the next perceived frontline, where they can turn their refined operational
skill on new foes.

Others, like Russia, will be concerned about an expansion of the already enormous
flow of Afghan poppy-based opiates into their country. From Moscow’s perspective,
counternarcotics efforts are already insufficient, as they have been sacrificed for
more pressing operational needs, and are likely to further decline as the United
States and its allies begin to extricate themselves from this conflict.
 
Domestically, Afghanistan is a fractious country. The infighting and civil war that
followed the Soviet withdrawal ultimately killed more Afghans than the Soviets'
scorched-earth policy did over the course of nearly a decade. Much will rest on
whatever political accommodation can be reached between Kabul, Islamabad and the
Taliban as the Americans and their allies shape the political circumstances of their
withdrawal. The durability of that political accommodation will be another question
entirely.
 
But ultimately, for the last decade, the international system has been defined by a
United States bogged down in two wars in Asia. For Washington, the imperative is to
extract itself from these wars and focus its attention on more pressing and
significant geopolitical challenges. For the rest of the world, the concern is that
it might succeed sooner than expected.

Copyright 2011 STRATFOR.



23000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Baraq overruled top 2 lawyers on War Powers Act on: June 17, 2011, 09:53:23 PM
Obama Overruled 2 Top Lawyers on War Power in Libya

President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice
Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American
military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization,
according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/?emc=na

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