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23001  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin, 1730; respect for religion on: October 14, 2010, 07:51:37 AM
"That wise Men have in all Ages thought Government necessary for the Good of Mankind; and, that wise Governments have always thought Religion necessary for the well ordering and well-being of Society, and accordingly have been ever careful to encourage and protect the Ministers of it, paying them the highest publick Honours, that their Doctrines might thereby meet with the greater Respect among the common People." --Benjamin Franklin, On that Odd Letter of the Drum, 1730


23002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Syria, Lebanon, and Iran- an alliance in flux on: October 14, 2010, 07:49:39 AM
Syria, Hezbollah and Iran: An Alliance in Flux
October 14, 2010




By Reva Bhalla

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Beirut on Oct. 13 for his first official visit to Lebanon since becoming president in 2005. He is reportedly returning to the country after a stint there in the 1980s as a young Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer tasked with training Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. A great deal of controversy is surrounding his return. Rumors are spreading of Sunni militants attempting to mar the visit by provoking Iran’s allies in Hezbollah into a fight (already the car of a pro-Hezbollah imam who has been defending Ahmadinejad has been blown up), while elaborate security preparations are being made for Ahmadinejad to visit Lebanon’s heavily militarized border with Israel.

Rather than getting caught up in the drama surrounding the Iranian president’s visit, we want to take the opportunity provided by all the media coverage to probe into a deeper topic, one that has been occupying the minds of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah officials for some time. This topic is the durability of the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance, which STRATFOR believes has been under great stress in recent months. More precisely, the question is: What are Syria’s current intentions toward Hezbollah?


The Origins of the Alliance

To address this topic, we need to review the origins of the trilateral pact, starting with the formation of an alliance in 1979 between secular Alawite-Baathist Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ideologically speaking, the Syrian Alawite elite represent an offshoot of Shiite Islam that the Sunnis consider apostate. They found some commonality with the Shiite clerical elite in Tehran, but there were also broader strategic motivations in play. At the time, Syria was on a quest to establish the country’s regional prowess, and it knew that the first steps toward this end had to be taken in Lebanon. From the Syrian point of view, Lebanon is not just a natural extension of Syria; it is the heartland of the Greater Syria province that existed during Ottoman times. Since the days of Phoenicia, what is modern-day Lebanon has been a vibrant trading hub, connecting routes from the east and south to the Mediterranean basin. For Syria to feel like it has any real worth in the region, it must dominate Lebanon.

A civil war that had broken out in Lebanon in 1975 (and lasted through 1990) afforded Syria such an opportunity. The main obstruction to Syria’s agenda at the time, besides Israel, was the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasser Arafat, whose vision for a unified Palestine and whose operations in Lebanon ran counter to Syria’s bid for regional hegemony. The PLO, in fact, was one of the main reasons Syria intervened militarily in Lebanon in 1975 on behalf of its Maronite Christian allies. At the same time, Syria was looking for an ally to undermine the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, with whom the Syrian Baathists had a deep-seated rivalry. An alliance with Iran would grant Syria some much-needed individuality in a region dominated by the Arab powers Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Coming off the success of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and going into what would become a long and bloody war with Iraq, Iran was also looking for a venue to counter the Baathist regime in Baghdad. In addition, Iran was looking to undermine the Pan-Arab vision, establish a presence in the Levant and promote its own Islamic vision of government. In opposition to Israel, Hussein and Arafat, Iran and Syria thus uncovered the roots of an alliance, albeit one that was shifting uneasily between Syrian secularity and Iranian religiosity.

The adoption of Hezbollah by the two unlikely allies in 1982 was what helped bridge that gap. Hezbollah, an offshoot of Amal, the main Shiite political movement at the time, served multiple purposes for Damascus and Tehran. Syria found in Hezbollah a useful militant proxy to contain obstructions to Syrian influence in Lebanon and to compensate for its own military weakness in comparison to Israel. In the broader Syrian strategic vision, Hezbollah would develop into a bargaining chip for a future settlement with Israel once Syria could ensure that Lebanon was firmly within Syria’s grasp and was therefore unable to entertain a peace deal with Israel on its own.

The Iranians saw in Hezbollah the potential to export its Islamic Revolution into the Arab world, a strong binder for its still new and shaky alliance with Syria and a useful deterrent in dealing with adversaries like Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia. So, Iran and Syria set out to divide their responsibilities in managing this militant proxy. Iran was primarily in charge of bankrolling, training and enforcing the group’s ideological loyalty to Tehran with IRGC assistance. Syria was in charge of creating the conditions for Iran to nurture Hezbollah, mainly by permitting IRGC officers to set up training camps in the Bekaa Valley and by securing a line of supply for weapons to reach the group via Syria.

But the triumvirate did not get off to a very smooth start. In fact, Hezbollah and Syria clashed a number of times in the early 1980s, when Syria felt the group, under Iranian direction, went too far in provoking external intervention (and thus risked drawing Syria into conflict). If Hezbollah was to operate on Syrian territory (as Syria viewed it) in Lebanon, Syria wanted Hezbollah operating on its terms. It was not until 1987, when Syrian troops in Lebanon shot 23 Hezbollah members, that Hezbollah fully realized the importance of maintaining an entente with Syria. In the meantime, Hezbollah, caught between occasionally conflicting Syrian and Iranian agendas, saw that the path to the group’s survival lay in becoming a more autonomous political — as opposed to purely militant — actor in the Lebanese political arena.


A Syrian Setback

The Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance operated relatively smoothly through the 1990s as Hezbollah gradually built up its political arm and as Syria kept close watch on the group through its roughly 14,000 troops and thousands of intelligence agents who had remained in Lebanon since the end of the civil war. In 2000, with Iranian and Syrian help, Hezbollah succeeded in forcing Israel to withdraw from Lebanon’s southern Security Zone, an event that greatly boosted Hezbollah’s credentials as a Lebanese nationalist actor.

But fresh challenges to the pact came with the turn of the century. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, in particular, was a defining moment for both Iran and Syria. The two allies felt enormously uncomfortable with having the world’s most powerful military on their borders, but they were also presented with an immediate opportunity to unseat their mutual archrival, Saddam Hussein. Iran and Syria also had different endgames in mind for a post-Hussein Iraq. Iran used its political, militant and intelligence links to consolidate influence in Iraq through the country’s Shiite majority. In contrast, Syria provided refuge to Iraq’s Sunni Baathists with the aim of extending its sphere of influence in the region through a secularist former-Baathist presence in Baghdad. The Syrians also planned to use those Sunni links later to bargain with the United States for a seat at the negotiating table, thereby affirming Syrian influence in the region.

But before Syria could gain much traction in its plans for Iraq, its agenda in Lebanon suffered a serious setback. On Feb. 14, 2005, a massive car bomb in Beirut killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, a powerful and vocal opponent of Syrian authority in Lebanon. The bombing is strongly believed to have been orchestrated by elements within the Syrian regime and executed by members of Hezbollah. While a major opponent of the Syrian regime was thereby eliminated, Syria did not anticipate that the death of al-Hariri would spark a revolution in Lebanon (which attracted the support of countries like France and the United States) and end up driving Syrian troops out of Lebanon. The vacuum that Syria left in Lebanon was rapidly filled by Iran (via Hezbollah), which had a pressing need to fortify Hezbollah as a proxy force as war tensions steadily built up in the region over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Though Syria knew it would only be a matter of time before it would return to Lebanon, it also had a strategic interest in demonstrating to the Israelis and the Americans the costs of Syria’s absence from Lebanon. The regime wanted to show that without a firm Syrian check on Hezbollah, disastrous events like the 2006 summer confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel could occur.


The Syrian Comeback

It has now been more than five and a half years since the al-Hariri assassination, and there is little question that Syria, once again, has reclaimed its hegemonic position in Lebanon. The Syrian intelligence apparatus pervades the country, and Lebanese politicians who dared to speak out against the Syrian regime are now asking for forgiveness. In perhaps the most glaring demonstration of the political tide shifting back toward Damascus, Saad al-Hariri, the son of the slain al-Hariri and Lebanon’s reluctant prime minister, announced in early June that Lebanon had “made a mistake” in making a “political accusation” against Syria for his father’s murder. The message was clear: Syria was back.

That message did not necessarily sit well with Hezbollah and Iran. Syria wants to keep Hezbollah in check, returning to the 1990s model when Syrian military and intelligence could still tightly control the group’s movements and supplies. Iran and Hezbollah have also watched as Syria has used its comeback in Lebanon to diversify its foreign policy portfolio over the past year. Saudi Arabia and Turkey, for example, have been cozying up to Damascus and have quietly bargained with the al Assad regime to place checks on Hezbollah as a way to undermine Iran’s key proxy in the Levant. As long as these regional powers recognize Syria’s authority in Lebanon, Syria is willing to use those relationships to exonerate itself from the al-Hariri assassination tribunal, rake much-needed investment into the Syrian economy and, most important, re-establish itself as a regional power. Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s decision to visit Beirut alongside Saudi King Abdullah was a deliberate signal to Hezbollah and Iran that Syria had options and was not afraid to display them.

This does not mean Syria is ready and willing to sell out its Hezbollah and Iranian allies. On the contrary, Syria derives leverage from maintaining these relationships and acting as the bridge between the Shiite revivalists and the Sunni powers. Syria has illustrated as much in its current mediation efforts among the various Iraqi factions that are torn between Iran on one side and the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the other. But if we go back to reviewing the core reasons Syria agreed to an alliance with Iran and Hezbollah in the first place, it is easy to see why Hezbollah and Iran still have a lot of reason to be worried.

Syria’s priority in the early 1980s was to achieve suzerainty in Lebanon (done), eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq (done) and remove any key obstacles in Lebanon that could challenge Syria’s authority. In the 1970s, that obstacle was the PLO. Today, that obstacle is Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, who are competing for influence in Lebanon and no longer have a good read on Syrian intentions. Hezbollah relies heavily on Syria for its logistical support and knows that its communication systems, for example, are vulnerable to Syrian intelligence. Hezbollah has also grown nervous at the signs of Syria steadily ramping up support for competing militant groups — including the Amal Movement, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, al-Ahbash, the Nasserites, the Baath Party and the Mirada of Suleiman Franjiyye — to counter Hezbollah’s prowess.

Meanwhile, Iran is seeing one of the key prongs in its deterrent strategy — Hezbollah — grow increasingly vulnerable at a time when Iran is pressed to demonstrate to the United States and Israel that the costs of an attack on its nuclear installation are not worth incurring. The Iranian competition with Syria does not end in Lebanon, either. In Iraq, Syria is far more interested in establishing a secularist government with a former Baathist presence than it is in seeing Baghdad develop into a Shiite satellite for the Iranians.

For now, Syria is adroitly playing both sides of the geopolitical divide in the region, taking care to blend its reassurances toward the alliance and its primary negotiating partners in Saudi Arabia with threats of the destabilization that could erupt should Syria’s demands go ignored. Syria, for example, has made clear that in return for recognition of its authority in Lebanon it will prevent Hezbollah from laying siege on Beirut, whether they are ordered to do so by Tehran as part of an Iranian negotiating ploy with the Americans or whether they act on their own in retaliation against the al-Hariri tribunal proceedings. At the same time, Syrian officials will shuttle regularly between Lebanon and Iran to reaffirm their standing in the triumvirate. Behind this thick veneer of unity, however, a great deal of apprehension and distrust is building among the allies.

The core fear residing in Hezbollah and Iran has to do with Syrian intentions moving forward. In particular, Hezbollah would like to know if, in Syria’s eyes, the group is rapidly devolving from strategic patron to bargaining chip with every ounce of confidence that Syria gains in Lebanon. The answer to that question, however, lies not in Syria but in Israel and the United States. Israeli, U.S. and Saudi policymakers have grown weary of Syria’s mercantilist negotiating style in which Syrian officials will extract as much as possible from their negotiating partners while delivering very little in return.

At the same time, Syria cannot afford to take any big steps toward militant proxies like Hezbollah unless it receives firm assurances from Israel in backchannel peace talks that continue to stagnate. But Syria is also sensing an opportunity at its door: The United States is desperate to complete its exit strategy from Iraq and, like Israel, is looking for useful levers to undermine Iranian clout in the region. One such lever is Syria, which is why the mere idea of Israel and Syria talking peace right now should give Iran and Hezbollah ample food for thought.

23003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: October 14, 2010, 12:42:06 AM
You mean the war against man made disasters?
23004  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 11/6: Phil Rapagna beginner gun course in Los Angeles on: October 14, 2010, 12:36:16 AM
Yes, a good example of the level he is qualified to teach at; and an indicator why a beginner will bet a foundation oriented to higher levels as time goes by.
23005  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 14, 2010, 12:34:22 AM
I will keep an eye out for him.  I'm not seeing enough preparation there yet for the Presidency, but there are intriguing hints of potential.  An ability to communicate effectively, seasoned by years of talk radio and the ability to converse with regular folks, are valuable attributes.
23006  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buffet on: October 14, 2010, 12:28:25 AM
Rachel:

I thought that pretty awesome.  It is a point which I have sought to make from time to time, but lacking the education I have not been that effective.  This seems strong to me and I will be playing it forward.

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

By RON FRIEDMAN
13/10/2010
The businessman and philanthropist shares his views on the economy at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry conference. The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry held its first annual socioeconomic conference at the Avenue Convention Center near Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday.

In a special interview for the purpose of the conference, international businessman and leading philanthropist Warren Buffett shared with the participants his views on the global economy and the role governments play in maintaining prosperous economies.

Speaking about his decision to invest in Israel, Buffett said that what drew him to Israel was its brainpower.

“If you’re going to the Middle East to look for oil, you can skip Israel. If you’re looking for brains, look no further.

Israel has shown that it has a disproportionate amount of brains and energy,” Buffett said.
23007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 13, 2010, 09:25:57 PM
AH?  No wonder her husband went gay-- or maybe she went liberal to spite him for having spurned her for  , , , ? , , ,
23008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: October 13, 2010, 09:08:01 PM
That is wickedly funny.
23009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / George Washington 1776 on: October 13, 2010, 08:31:58 AM
"To form a new Government, requires infinite care, and unbounded attention; for if the foundation is badly laid the superstructure must be bad." --George Washington, letter to John Augustine Washington, 1776
23010  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / To serve and protect on: October 13, 2010, 07:35:23 AM
Note the dates in question

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfmEpKsUS5k

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/5408470.stm
23011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Four Governors on: October 13, 2010, 07:24:30 AM
Editor's Note: After years of cost increases that exceeded population growth and inflation, the budgets of many American states plunged into crisis during the economic downturn. We asked four governors to tell us how they are coping and how they plan to save money in the future.

• Ed Rendell: Try Smart Shopping

• Arnold Schwarzenegger: Pension Reform Is Key

• Deval Patrick: Invest During Bad Times

• Bob McDonnell: Ever-Higher Budgets Can't Be the Norm



Try Smart Shopping
By Ed Rendell

Pennsylvania now spends $2 billion less to run state government than it did eight years ago. This didn't happen by accident; it's a direct result of the smart management measures we put into place.

Pennsylvania had more than 2,000 contracts for buying office supplies when I took office in January 2003. Some agencies paid full retail price. We immediately began applying good business practices to every aspect of state purchasing. We saved $14 million a year by putting office supplies out to bid and selecting the lowest-priced single supplier. Applying that same model to computer purchases saved taxpayers another $19 million a year. We allow local governments and school districts to piggyback on these contracts. These are just two examples of the procurement redesign that is saving taxpayers nearly $30 million a year.

Today, the skyrocketing cost of providing health care is squeezing taxpayers. Here, we've applied more cutting-edge strategies. To give our state workers greater responsibility for their own care, I imposed the first-ever employee contribution toward premiums. We also require employees to fully engage in a wellness program or face 50% higher monthly premiums.

Our wellness plan specifically focuses on reducing the costs of treating chronic illness, and it actively pushes employees to stay healthy. This approach enables us to keep the state's cost increases to less than 7% a year, well below that of most other states in the recent past. This is a true "win-win" for our employees and our taxpayers.

To save even more money without cutting services to taxpayers, we've asked the state legislature to place all 500 of our school districts into one combined health-insurance plan. Districts would enjoy new leverage in the insurance marketplace, leading to improved benefits and cost reductions of up to 30%.

Each of our cost-saving measures has faced some opposition from legislative leaders of both parties. Fortunately, taxpayers stood with us—they understand that common sense, innovation and political will are what it takes to make government work for them.

Mr. Rendell, a Democrat, is the governor of Pennsylvania.


Pension Reform Is Key
By Arnold Schwarzenegger

For years now, I have been trying to get lawmakers to reform public employee pensions in order to benefit private-sector job growth. The problem is stark: Over the last decade in California, spending on state employees' compensation rose nearly three times faster than state revenues. This has squeezed resources for programs, such as higher education and job training, that benefit private-sector workers.

This year, for the first time ever, our state was forced to spend more on retirement costs ($6.5 billion) than on higher education. This prevented us from, among other things, investing in more transportation and other infrastructure projects that are needed to accommodate the world's fastest-growing and most innovative companies.

Last week we finally got some good news: The state legislature agreed to pass my pension reforms as part of a hard-fought budget deal. These reforms cut spending in significant ways:

• Current employees will now be required to contribute more toward their pensions, saving nearly $800 million this year alone.

• For new employees, we will create a two-tier system that rolls pension levels back to pre-1999 levels. This will reduce pension costs by $100 billion over time.

• We ended the ugly practice of pension "spiking," where employees manipulated their compensation in their final year at work in order to boost their lifetime retirement benefits.

• We brought transparency to the system by exposing the deceptive pension fund accounting practices that were hiding hundreds of billions in pension debt from the taxpayers.

These reforms are creating a pension system that is fair to both state workers and to the private-sector workers who pay their salaries and benefits. It will free up more money for investing in critical programs like higher education and infrastructure, and help reduce tax burdens on the private sector.

It saddens me to see Democrats and some Republicans who seem intent on raising business taxes and reducing infrastructure investment in order to protect spending on public-employee compensation and retirement benefits. We believe that, on the contrary, private-sector job growth will be enhanced if public-sector retirement benefits are brought under control. All it takes is some lawmakers who are willing to stand up to the special interests and do what's right.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is the governor of California.


Invest During Bad Times
By Deval Patrick

Even before we began to feel the effects of the global economic collapse, we chose investments and reforms that we believed would build a stronger, better Commonwealth for a generation. We stuck with that strategy through the recession—and it's working.

Massachusetts increased its investment in education—because education is our calling card around the world—and sustained it because second graders don't get to sit out the second grade until the recession is over. We invested in innovation industries (like biotech, IT, clean and alternative energy, and related manufacturing) because our highly educated work force is uniquely suited to such enterprises. And we invested in health care, because we see health as a public good, and because we believe that people should have health security, especially in tough times.

We paid for these investments with government reforms and deep cuts in other spending. We cut $4.3 billion from a variety of programs and agencies, reduced employee head count by 3,000, negotiated wage and benefit concessions from state employee unions, and increased state employee health-care contributions. We also capped pensions and ended loopholes that some employees used to boost their retirement benefits, such as by claiming an entire year of service for working one day in a calendar year.

At the same time, we consolidated more than 20 transportation, business development and other state agencies. Civilian flaggers instead of police details were assigned to construction projects. We cut the business tax rate to 8.75% from 9.5%. We closed tax loopholes that favored multinationals over small businesses, which make up 85% of the businesses in our state. We increased our sales tax to 6.25% from 5%, but food and most clothing remain untaxed. A large rainy day fund and federal stimulus funds have also helped. Through this blended approach, we delivered four responsible, balanced budgets—on time—leading all the independent rating agencies to reaffirm our strong bond rating.

We're getting results. Massachusetts's rate of job growth is the highest in the nation, having added nearly 65,000 jobs so far since December. The state economy is growing at 6.4%, twice the annual rate. CNBC rates us the fifth best place in the U.S. for business.

Mr. Patrick, a Democrat, is the governor of Massachusetts.


Ever-Higher Budgets Can't Be the Norm
By Bob McDonnell

When I took office in January, we faced two massive budget shortfalls. The first was $1.8 billion in the fiscal year 2010 budget. To get this under control we cut spending and provided a financial reward for state workers to generate savings and not spend their entire agency budgets by the end of the fiscal year. Six months later we announced a $403 million surplus.

The second shortfall was $4.2 billion in the current biennial budget. Again, we cut a wide variety of programs (including in education and health), reducing state spending to 2006 levels. As a result we closed that shortfall without a tax increase—indeed we threatened a veto if the legislature passed the previous governor's proposed $2 billion tax increase. The legislature rejected the tax unanimously.

Virginia's state budget grew by 73.4% from 2000 to 2009, much faster than the rate of growth in population plus inflation. This is unsustainable and unacceptable, and the budget cannot be seriously restrained without addressing its two primary drivers: personnel and programs.

As a result, we supported a significant overhaul of Virginia's pension system. All state employees hired after July 1 of this year will now, for the first time in a generation, contribute to their own pensions. With pension-system reform, we will save an estimated $3 billion over the next 10 years. Actuaries estimate that in the long run, our reforms will reduce the total cost of Virginia's pension system by 10%.

Our second major reform was an immediate, statewide hiring freeze. We obtained enhanced authority from the legislature for the governor to order a freeze that covers all noncritical areas of state government, not just a select few agencies. This strict freeze, together with reductions in full-time positions, will save over $20 million a year.

Looking forward, we've also created a commission on government reform that is evaluating over a thousand ideas to save tax dollars, by doing everything from cutting and consolidating boards and agencies to creating a one-stop shop where businesses can access every license, permit and registration they need to operate. For too long, state governments have operated on the assumption that ever-higher budgets are the norm. We intend to redo the way government operates.

Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, is the governor of Virginia.
23012  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: FDR's purge on: October 13, 2010, 07:18:31 AM
Bookshelf By JONATHAN KARL
In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt trounced Republican Alf Landon by 24 percentage points in the popular vote and won the biggest electoral landslide in American history. Equally impressive were the lopsided congressional victories that year: a 76-16 majority over the feeble Republicans in the Senate, a 334-88 majority in the House.

With such a mandate, Roosevelt set out to expand the New Deal and to give himself the power to make it work. He pushed bills to establish a minimum wage and streamline his control over the executive branch. To fend off a Supreme Court that had struck down key aspects of the New Deal, he tried adding another six justices to the court. Yet the popular president soon found that all his political capital wasn't worth much in Congress.

"Just nine months after Roosevelt's landslide election, opposition in his own party had grown assertive, militant, and confident—and the New Deal had come to a standstill," writes Susan Dunn in "Roosevelt's Purge." Ms. Dunn, a professor at Williams College, delves into a fascinating and overlooked aspect of the FDR presidency: Roosevelt's brazen effort to assert control over his own party in the summer of 1938.

Ms. Dunn has written an engaging story of bare - knuck led political treachery that pits a president at the peak of his popularity against entrenched congressional leaders who didn't like where he was taking the country and their party. FDR tried to use the power of the White House, and his personality, to run his opponents out of the Democratic Party. He failed miserably.

When Roosevelt's second-term agenda hit a brick wall of Democratic opposition, he first tried a charm offensive. In June 1937, he invited every Democrat in the House and Senate to be his guest for a weekend getaway at the Jefferson Islands Club on the Chesapeake Bay. (Well, not quite every Democrat—the six women in Congress were not on the list.) The president treated them to a weekend of skeet shooting, fishing, poker and skinny dipping. The New York Times reported he had done himself "a world of good," easing tension with congressional Democrats.

View Full Image
.Roosevelt's Purge
By Susan Dunn
(Belknap/Harvard, 361 pages, $27.95)
.Not really. When the skinny dipping and skeet shooting were over, his agenda was still stalled. Four weeks later, 70 senators again voted to block his court-packing bill. One of the few to support the president was Sen. Hattie Caraway of Arkansas, the only woman in the Senate and the only Democratic senator not invited to the president's weekend retreat.

It was time to play hardball. As Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau put it: "There has got to be a fight and there has got to be a purge." Roosevelt made a decision. He would drive the conservatives out of the party, beginning with those who faced competitive primaries in 1938. He had reason to believe that he could call the shots. He had won the South in 1936 by the kind of margins that would make a Soviet leader blush: 87% of the vote in Georgia, 96% in Mississippi, 98.6% in South Carolina.

One of FDR's first targets was Georgia Sen. Walter George. The senator had opposed parts of FDR's agenda but eagerly sought his support in his Democratic primary, even writing him a letter apologizing for his political transgressions. "I have never meant to be offensive to you," he wrote, adding that he had never "at any time felt anything but deep affection for you."

With much fanfare, FDR traveled to Barnesville, Ga., in August 1938 to dedicate a rural electrification project. Before a large crowd of enthusiastic FDR supporters and with George sitting a few feet behind him, Roosevelt went for the kill against "my old friend, the senior senator from this state."

"On most public questions," Roosevelt said of George, "he and I don't speak the same language." After lambasting the senator for standing in the way of progress, he told the crowd that if he could vote in the upcoming primary, he would "most assuredly" cast his ballot for George's opponent, Lawrence Camp. To reinforce FDR's popularity in Georgia, Ms. Dunn writes, "federal money rained down on Georgia, including $53 million in WPA funds for building projects in Georgia that promised to create thirty-five thousand jobs."

FDR did the same in state after state, endorsing liberal primary challengers against incumbent Democratic senators. The conservatives fought back hard. "Their attempt to pack the Court failed," one opponent said of Roosevelt and his team, "and their attempt to pack the Senate will fail." In Maryland, Sen. Millard Tydings turned FDR's support for his primary opponent into a central campaign issue, condemning the president's "invasion" of Maryland and declaring: "The Maryland free state shall remain free."

Tydings was perhaps the most anti-New Deal Democrat in Congress and the one Roosevelt wanted defeated above all others. He instructed Harold Ickes to "take Tydings' hide off and rub salt in it." But it was FDR who would be rubbed in salt. Tydings trounced his FDR-backed opponent in a 20-point landslide. A bitter Roosevelt refused to congratulate him.

And it wasn't just Tydings. All of the Democratic senators targeted by FDR coasted to victory in their Democratic primaries. The voters may have liked their president, but they didn't want him picking their senator. In the general election, Roosevelt didn't fare any better. Republicans picked up eight Senate seats and nearly doubled their numbers in the House.

For FDR, it may have been a blessing in disguise. As the focus of his presidency quickly changed to containing Nazi Germany, Roosevelt's closest allies would be the very conservatives he opposed in 1938. He would never again attempt to intervene in a party primary. He had learned a lesson that needs re-learning from time to time: Political purges are more effectively done by the voters, not by the power brokers in Washington.

Mr. Karl is senior political correspondent for ABC News.
23013  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hope he is right! on: October 13, 2010, 06:49:36 AM
Dick Morris:

With the Internet, we have all become fixated on that day's polling, following the most minute changes in the swing districts on Realclearpolitics.com. But we are overstating the importance of polling in determining the outcome of the coming elections. (Odd thought coming from me!)

The fact is that while Republicans lead in 53 House seats now held by Democrats and are within five points in 20 more, the margins are very thin. In only 14 Democratic seats is the Republican leading by 10 points or more. In all the other districts, it is turnout that will determine the victor.

Going into the election, it would seem that the GOP has a big advantage in turning out voters. Not only is its secret weapon -- the tea parties -- outworking and out-hustling the Democrats, but polls show that Republicans are twice as enthusiastic about voting as are Democrats.

All indications from the field suggest a big GOP turnout, while Democrats tend to stay at home.

In Ohio's First Congressional District, where Democratic Rep. Steve Driehaus is trying to fend off a challenge from Republican Steve Chabot, the ratio of early ballots requested by Democrats and by Republicans is, so far, about even. In 2008, it was a three-to-one Democratic edge at this time of year.

So, in analyzing polls to determine whether Republican challengers will defeat Democratic incumbents, three variables are coming into play but are not yet showing up in the polls, all of which work to the Republicans' advantage:

-- The undecided vote usually goes against the incumbent.

-- Republicans are a lot more motivated to vote than Democrats are.

-- While normally late deciders tend to be Democrats, the levels of unemployment and discontent among undecided voters would indicate that they are likely to break Republican.

So what should the Republicans do with this information? Obviously, they need to work harder to bring out the vote. But they also need to adjust their sights higher and aim for more seats. To confine themselves to the races in which they hold slight leads or are within five points would be to leave on the table dozens of Democratic incumbents who could be defeated in this landslide year.

The danger here is not overconfidence but underconfidence, and that Democratic incumbents who could be defeated will skate to victories. Despite a massive victory in the offing for Republicans, there could be great gnashing of teeth when they see how narrowly some of the icons of the Democratic Party are re-elected.
23014  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dog Fighting on: October 12, 2010, 11:53:22 PM
Hah!  Not what you were expecting  cheesy

http://www.yachigusaryu.com/blog/2008/01/k-9-self-defense.html
23015  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 11/6: Phil Rapagna beginner gun course in Los Angeles on: October 12, 2010, 06:43:48 PM
Phil is a friend of mine going back to my Inosanto Academy and Lameco days.  He has done a lot of interesting things in law enforcement so if you've been meaning to get started on firearms this is a real good chance to do so.

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

Upcoming Class Date:
November 6, 2010 9AM-4PM

Our one-day beginner-format is designed to introduce you to firearms and make you comfortable handling and shooting them!  You will have an opportunity to shoot different types of handguns and see which could best fit your lifestyle.  Our classes are very informative, but are conducted in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, and nobody is pressured to do more than they are comfortable with. 


**All guns and ammunition will be supplied; however, personal firearms are welcome**


Course Topics Include:
•   Introduction to handgun and ammunition types
•   Comprehensive review of laws and statistics
•   Firearms safety and storage
•   Overcoming your fear of firearms
•   Handgun accessories
•   Shooting fundamentals
•   Tactics and actual shooting inside our training house



Location: Burro Canyon Shooting Park, Azusa


Cost:   $125.00 (Please register online on our calendar page or call me)

Upon enrollment you will receive an information packet containing directions, recommended attire, and other related issues.


For more information visit our website
(www.trs-usa.org)
(909) 772-1404
23016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ Magazine and Muslim Brotherhood on: October 12, 2010, 06:39:43 PM
AQ beginner's primer on how to kill Americans

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...Americans.html

is endorsed by Muslim Brotherhood in Arabic, not English.  This writer thinks this a very significant development.
http://www.gloria-center.org/gloria/...war-on-america
23017  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: October 12, 2010, 03:11:10 PM
Things are looking good!
23018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: October 12, 2010, 03:10:34 PM
5 Rings:  Haven't looked at your piece yet.

CCP:

In essence you are saying "All swans are white".   My personal case is irrelevant and I make no reliance on it whatsover.  Rather, if I can show even one black swan then your science/theory is disproved;  I go further than one black swan though-- I say that "No, there are plenty of swans that are black".

I remember a wonderful dinner in Bern, Switzerland where we had people from many, many Euro countries and the question of national stereotypes was being bantered about (Italian women-- hot lingerie; Germans good work ethic, punctual; that sort of thing).   So I asked for the stereotype of Americans.  Came the answer: "Fat people in shorts and white socks."  Ouch.

Seriously though, one simply does not see the extraordinary numbers of grotesquesly obese people we have here elsewhere, though plenty of "elsewheres" have more than enough money and food to be obese if they were to so choose.
Just like in fighting and other aspects of Life, empiricism trumps theory cheesy
23019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 12, 2010, 01:39:31 PM
At the moment here in CA it looks like Fiorina will lose to Boxer, and my guess is that RINO Meg Whatshername will lose to Jerry Brown.
23020  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 12, 2010, 01:36:46 PM
Kow tow?  Or Manchurian candidate?
23021  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / REE 2 on: October 12, 2010, 11:41:30 AM

Affected Industries

Everyone who uses REE — which is to say, pretty much everyone — is going to feel a pinch as REE rapidly rise in value back toward their pre-Chinese prices. But some industries are bound to feel less a pinch than a death grip. REE applications broadly fall into six different categories, with the first being the least impacted by price increases and the sixth being the most impacted.

The first category consists of cerium users. Cerium is the most common REE and the most critical for refining and catalytic converters. As the average global crude oil gets heavier, cerium is needed more and more to “crack” the oil to make usable products. As clean air requirements tighten globally, automobile manufacturers need more cerium to ensure cars run as cleanly as possible. Cerium thus remains in high demand.

Luckily for cerium users, the steady phasing-out of cathode ray tubes means that supplies rapidly are being freed up for other applications. Between the sudden demand drop and ongoing REE production in China, there are actually substantial cerium stockpiles globally. This means that cerium users are not likely to face serious price increases even though their REE has the most inelastic demand. Petroleum and automotive companies use the most cerium, which also is used for polishing agents for glass and semiconductor chips, UV-proof glass, self-cleaning ovens, and some steel alloys.

The second category comprises non-cerium goods with inelastic demand. This includes items that will be built regardless of cost, either because they are irreplaceable or because they are luxury items. This list includes satellites, which use yttrium in their communications systems; europium, used in LED screens in TVs; lanthanum, used for fish-eye lenses in iPhones; scandium, used for lighting systems in movie studios; and neodymium and gadolinium, indispensable for MRIs. These are all items that people — in particular Americans — would not stop purchasing without a large increase in prices. Luckily, while REE are critical to these devices, they make up a rather small proportion of their total cost. So while the world will certainly see REE price increases, those price increases are unlikely to affect the luxury market.

The third category comprises defense goods. Somewhat similar to luxury goods in terms of how REE demand and prices will affect them, demand for defense goods is extremely unlikely to shift due to something as minor as a simple price increase. Military technology that uses REE — ranging from the samarium in the guidance module in joint-direct attack munition kits to the yttrium used in the “magic lantern” that locates subsea mines — is going to be in demand regardless of price. Demand for urgently needed military technology is quite inelastic regardless of price in the short run, and militaries — in particular the American military — have robust budgets that dwarf the additional costs of components whose contribution to the final cost is negligible. The only reason STRATFOR places defense uses as likely to suffer a greater impact than luxury goods is that China itself is aiming to be a producer of luxury goods, so such products will most likely have a Chinese supply chain. By contrast, few militaries in the world with the high-end capabilities likely to be impacted by REE prices are interested in purchasing military technologies from China, so there will be a large constituency pushing for alternative production of REE as well as a large market for alternative products. This could turn out to be a boon for the American industry: Anyone seeking to increase REE production is going to find a friend in the Pentagon, and no one can lobby Congress quite like the military.

The fourth category comprises goods in which REE are a critical component and a significant price impact but that are made by industries with a long habit of adapting to adverse price shifts. The poster child for this is the Japanese auto industry. There is a long list of vehicle systems that the Japanese have adapted over the years as the price of various inputs has skyrocketed. In 2000, the Russian government banded together the country’s disparate platinum group metals (such as palladium and platinum, critical in the manufacture of catalytic converters) exports into a single government-controlled cartel. Platinum group metal prices subsequently skyrocketed. By March 2001, Honda had announced a new advance that reduced the need for palladium by roughly half. Platinum group metal prices subsequently plummeted.

In anticipation of this type of disruption, the Japanese have been developing substitutes to REE. Presently, the Toyota Prius uses roughly one kilogram of neodymium. At pre-2010 spike prices, that neodymium used in one Prius cost $20, a marginal impact on the Prius’ sticker price. Should prices rebound to pre-China levels, however, the average Prius buyer would notice a roughly $450-price hike due to magnetic components alone. One week into the China-Japan REE spat, government-funded researchers announced a magnet system design that can completely replace the neodymium used in the Prius.

This hardly solves the problem overnight; it will take months to years to retool Toyota’s factories for the new technology. Still, consumers of REE are going to find ways of lessening their use of REE. The information technology revolution has proceeded unabated since 2000 in part because REE have been one-tenth to one-twentieth of their previous prices. Absent any serious price pressures, industries have had no need to invest in finding means of cutting inputs or finding substitutes. (REE are so abundant that in China they are used in fertilizers and road building materials.)

The shift in prices could well give a much-needed boost to non-REE dependent technologies hampered by relatively inexpensive REEs. For example, the REE lanthanum is a leading component in the Prius’ nickel metal-hydride battery system. (The Prius uses ten kilograms of lanthanum). Toyota has been edging toward replacing the nickel-hydride system with REE-free lithium-ion batteries, but has demurred due to the low price of lanthanum. Increase that cost by a factor of 20, of the factor of three of recent months — and add in the threat of a full cutoff — and Toyota’s board is likely to come to a different conclusion.

Computer hard drives may fall into a similar category. A major cause of the increased demand for REE has been the demand for neodymium in particular and a specific intermediate product made from it, the neodymium-iron-boron magnet (which also uses some dysprosium). The magnets are a critical component in hard drives, particularly for laptops. But like lithium-ion batteries, a new technology is gaining market share: solid-state hard drives. Currently, the consumer’s cost difference between the two is a factor of four, but sustained price hikes in the cost of neodymium and NdFeB magnets could cause demand to plummet.

The fifth category comprises goods where the laws of supply and demand are likely to reshape the industries in question. These are goods where price is most certainly an issue, and where consumers will simply balk should the bottom line change too much. Compact fluorescent light bulbs that use phosphors heavy in terbium, LED display screens that use europium and various medical techniques that use erbium lasers all fall into this category. None of these industries will disappear, but they are extremely likely to see far lower sales as none of these products are economically indispensable and all have various product substitutes.

The sixth category comprises goods for which there are very low ore and metal stockpiles for which demand is both high and rising rapidly, and for which it will take the longest to set up an alternate supply chain. The vast majority of these industries depend on the same type of neodymium magnets used in hard drives, but do not have a replacement technology waiting in the wings. These magnets are a critical component in the miniaturization (and convergence) of electronic devices such as cellular phones, MP3 players, computers and cameras. They are also central to the power exchange relays for electricity-generating wind turbines used in today’s wind farms.

But even within this category, not all products will be impacted similarly. Many of the miniaturized electronic consumer goods manufacturers will face growing pains as they find their supply chain increasingly concentrated in China. But cheaper production costs could offset rising materials costs, and technological innovation will also help lessen the impact. Alternative energy is not likely to be as lucky. Neodymium magnets are critical to windmill turbines, one of the specific areas the Chinese hope to dominate. Each 1-megawatt windmill uses roughly a metric ton of NdFeB magnets.

For green energy enthusiasts, this is a double bind. First, green power must compete economically with fossil fuels — meaning rather small cost increases in capital outlays could be a deal breaker. Second, the only way to get around the price problem is to advocate greater neodymium production. And that means either tolerating the high-pollution techniques used in China, or encouraging the development of a not-particularly-green mining industry in the West.

Read more: China and the Future of Rare Earth Elements | STRATFOR
23022  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat" REE part one on: October 12, 2010, 11:40:48 AM
second post of the morning:


China and the Future of Rare Earth Elements
October 12, 2010 | 1213 GMT
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A recent diplomatic spat between China and Japan has heightened territorial tensions and called attention to China’s growing forcefulness with foreign powers. One of the more intriguing aspects of this development was China’s suspension of the export of “rare earth” elements (REE) to Japan. REE comprise 17 metallic elements with a variety of modern industrial and commercial applications ranging from petroleum refining to laptop computers to green energy applications to radar. China produces roughly 95 percent of the global supply of REE and Japan is the largest importer. China’s disruption of REE shipments to Japan has caused alarm among other importer countries, bringing new urgency to the search for new supplies and substitutes.


The China Factor

Chinese control of the base of the REE supply chain has increasingly made China the go-to location for the intermediate goods made from REE. In time, China hopes to extend production into the final products as well. As new REE supplies cannot be brought online overnight, the Chinese will enjoy a powerful position in the short term. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce reports that China has ratcheted down REE export quotas by an average of 12 percent per year over the past five years, further leveraging this position. Reflecting that and the current China-Japan spat, the average price for REE has tripled in the year to date.

Rare earth elements are not as rare as their name suggests, however. Before the Chinese began a dedicated effort to mass-produce REE in 1979, there were several major suppliers. Pre-China, the United States was the largest producer. Appreciable amounts of REE were also produced in Australia, Brazil, India, Malaysia and Russia. Any sort of real monopoly on REE, therefore, is not sustainable in the long-run. But before one can understand the future of the REE industry, one must first understand the past.

The story of REE is not the story of cheap Chinese labor driving the global textile industry into the ground. Instead, it is a much more familiar story (from STRATFOR’s view) of the Chinese financial system having a global impact.

Unlike Western financial systems, where banks grant loans based on the likelihood that the loans will be repaid, the primary goal of loans in China is promoting social stability through full employment. As such, the REE industry — like many other heavy or extractive industries — was targeted with massive levels of subsidized loans in the mid-1980s. At the same time, local governments obtained more flexibility in encouraging growth. The result was a proliferation of small mining operations specializing in REE. Production rates increased by an annual average of 40 percent in the 1980s. They doubled in the first half of the 1990s, and then doubled again with a big increase in output just as the world tipped into recession in 2000. Prices predictably plunged, by an average of 95 percent compared to their pre-China averages.

Most of these Chinese firms rarely turned a profit. Some industry analysts maintain that for a good portion of the 2000s, most of them never even recovered their operating costs. At the same time, an illegal REE mining industry ran rampant, earning meager profits by disregarding worker safety and the environment and ruthlessly undercutting competing prices. With an endless supply of below-market loans, it did not matter if the legitimate mining concerns were financially viable. It was in the environment of continued Chinese production despite massive losses that nearly every other REE producer in the world closed down — and that the information technology revolution took root.

In fact, if not for China’s massive overproduction, the technological revolution of the past 15 years would not have looked the same. In all likelihood, it would have been slowed considerably.

Before 1995, the primary uses for REE were in the manufacture of cathode ray tubes (primarily used in television sets before the onset of plasma and LCD screens) and as catalysts in the refining industry and in catalytic converters (a device used in cars to limit exhaust pollution). Their unique properties have since made them the components of choice for wind turbines, hybrid cars, laptop computers, cameras, cellular phones and a host of other items synonymous with modern life. Chinese overproduction in the 2000s — and the price collapses that accompanied that overproduction until just this year — allowed such devices to go mainstream.

With numerous large REE deposits outside China, the long-term sustainability of a monopoly is questionable at best. This does not mean China will not create some destabilizing effects in the medium term as it attempts to leverage the current imbalance to its benefit, however. That its prolific, financially profitless and environmentally destructive production of REE has largely benefited foreign economies is not lost on China, so it is pushing a number of measures to alter this dynamic. On the supply side, China continues to curb output from small unregulated mining outfits and to consolidate production into large state-controlled enterprises, all while ratcheting down export quotas. On the demand side, Chinese industry’s gradual movement up the supply chain toward more value-added goods means more demand will be sequestered in the domestic economy. In fact, in the years just before the financial crisis and accompanying recession, global demand outpaced China’s ability (or willingness) to supply the market, resulting in bouts of price volatility. As the economic recovery proceeds, it is no stretch to envision outright gaps in exports from China within two to five years, even without the kinds of political complications the REE market has suffered in recent days.

Many states already have REE-specific facilities in place able to restart mining in response to this year’s price surge.

The premier Australian REE facility at Mount Weld plans to ramp up to 19,000 metric tons of rare earth oxides by the end of 2011. The top American site — Mountain Pass in California — aims to produce a similar amount by the end of 2012. Those two sites will then collectively be producing 25-30 percent of global demand.

Before China burst on the scene, most REE production was not from REE-specific mines. REE are often found co-mingled not simply with each other, but in the ores extracted for the production of aluminum, titanium, uranium and thorium. As China drove prices down, however, most of these facilities ceased extracting the difficult-to-separate REE. There is nothing other than economics stopping these facilities from re-engaging in REE production, although it will take at least a couple of years for such sites to hit their stride. Such locations include sites in Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, India and South Africa as well as promising undeveloped sites in Vietnam, Canada (Thor Lake) and Greenland (Kvanefjeld). And while few have been exploring for new deposits since the 1970s given the lack of an economic incentive, higher prices will spark a burst of exploration.

Getting from here to there is harder than it sounds, however. Capital to fuel development will certainly be available as prices continue to rise, but opening a new mine requires overcoming some significant hurdles. Regardless of jurisdiction, a company needs to secure the lease (usually from the central government) and obtain a considerable variety of permits, not the least of which is for handling and storing the toxic — and in the case of REE, radioactive — waste from the mine. Even if the governments involved want to streamline things, vested interests such as the environmental lobby and indigenous groups appear at every stage of permitting to fight, lobby and sue to delay work. And depending on the local government, successfully mining a deposit could involve a considerable amount of political uncertainty, bribe paying or harassment. Only after clearing these hurdles can the real work of building infrastructure, sourcing inputs like electricity and water, and actually digging up rocks begin — itself a herculean task.

To add more complication, many of the best prospects are in jurisdictions undergoing significant changes. In the United States, activists are working to reform the federal mining law dating to 1872, which has ensured that U.S. jurisdictions remain among the most attractive mining destinations in the world. Initiatives like the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 would drastically constrain mineral companies and increase project costs across the board. In Australia, ongoing negotiations over the implementation of a so-called “super tax” has dampened enthusiasm in one of the world’s premier mining jurisdictions and home to Lynas Corporation’s Mount Weld project. The tax, which sought to impose a 40 percent tax on mining profits, has since been watered down, but the debacle has left a discernable mark on the country’s resource extraction industry. And for an industry that is positively allergic to uncertainty, events like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chilean mine collapse only portend tighter regulation worldwide.

Re-opening an existing mine is somewhat easier since some infrastructure remains in place, and the local community is accustomed to having a mine. Old equipment may need to be brought up to spec, and the regulatory questions will still affect how miners and bankers view the project’s profitability, but the figuring margins are simpler when the basic geology and engineering already have been done.

Unfortunately, there is more to building a new REE supply chain than simply obtaining new sources of ore. A complex procedure known as beneficiation must be used to separate the chemically similar rare earth metals from the rest of the ore it was mined with. Beneficiation proceeds through a physical and then chemical route. The latter differs greatly from site to site, as the composition of the ore is deposit-specific and factors into the choice of what must be very precise reaction conditions such as temperature, pH and reagents used. The specificity and complexity of the process make it expensive, while the radioactivity of some ores and the common use of chemicals such as hydrochloric and sulfuric acid invariably leave an environmental footprint. (One reason the Chinese produced so much so fast is that they did not mind a very large environmental footprint.) The chemical similarity among the REE that was useful to this point now becomes a nuisance, as the following purification stage — the details of which we will leave out to avoid a painfully long chemistry lecture — requires the isolation of individual REE. This stage is characterized by extraordinary complexity and cost as well.

At this point, one still does not have the REE metal, but instead an oxide compound. The oxide must now be converted into the REE’s metallic form. Although some pure metals are created in Japan, China dominates this part of the supply chain as well.

In any other industry, this refining/purification process would be a concern that investors and researchers would constantly be tackling, but there has been no need, as Chinese overproduction removed all economic incentive from REE production research for the past 20 years (and concentrated all of the pollution in remote parts of China). So any new producer/refiner beginning operations today is in essence using technology that has not experienced the degree of technological advances that other commodities industries have in the past 25-30 years. It is this refining/purification process rather than the mining itself that is likely to be the biggest single bottleneck in re-establishing the global REE supply chain. It is also the one step in the process where the Chinese hold a very clear competitive advantage. Since the final tooling for intermediate parts has such a high value added, and since most intermediate components must be custom-made for the final product, whoever controls the actual purification of the metals themselves forms the base of that particular chain of production. Should the Chinese choose to hold that knowledge as part of a means of capturing a larger portion of the global supply chain, they certainly have the power to do so. And this means that short of some significant breakthroughs, the Chinese will certainly hold the core of the REE industry for at least the next two to three — and probably four to five — years.

Luckily, at this point the picture brightens somewhat for those in need of rare earths. Once the REE have been separated from the ore and from each other and refined into metallic form, they still need to be fashioned into components and incorporated into intermediate products. Here, global industry is far more independent. Such fashioning industries require the most skill and capital, so as one might expect, these facilities were the last stage of the REE supply chain to feel competitive pressure from China. While some have closed or relocated with their talent to China, many component fabrication facilities still exist, most in Japan, many in the United States, and others scattered around Europe.

All told, a complete regeneration of the non-Chinese REE system will probably take the better part of the decade. And because most REE are found co-mingled, there is not much industry can do to fast-track any particular mineral that might be needed in higher volumes. And this means many industries are in a race against time to see if alternative REE supplies can be established before too much economic damage occurs.
23023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: October 12, 2010, 11:38:14 AM
"Your point about other countries only strengthens the argument that we need to legislate what people cannot do for themselves."

No, that people elsewhere (e.g. Switzerland)with enough money and food to get fat do not get fat proves quite the contrary.

"We should put all fattening foods out of business following *your* argument. Education alone is not enough.   Like tax and spend dems are  trying to do with cigarettes."

Not my thinking in the slightest.  My suggestion is to CHOOSE to replace psuedo food with real food; the idea being that to do so will greatly assist losing weight.  Period.

The nanny argument is yours alone.
23024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams 1770 on: October 12, 2010, 11:32:13 AM
"Human government is more or less perfect as it approaches nearer or diverges farther from the imitation of this perfect plan of divine and moral government." --John Adams, 1770


23025  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 12, 2010, 11:28:41 AM

Los Zetas Guatemala Confrontation

Members of the Guatemalan military clashed with suspected members of the Mexican drug trafficking organization Los Zetas in the jungles of Guatemala’s Peten department near the village of El Remate, leaving two Zetas dead, another two captured and a Guatemalan soldier injured the night of Oct. 5. Official reports indicate that a convoy of 10 vehicles (some of them armored) carrying eight to 10 Zetas each was traveling down a jungle road when it encountered a Guatemalan military patrol, at which point the Zetas opened fire on the soldiers. The Zeta convoy reportedly was based out of the village of El Chal (a significant distance away) and allegedly was searching for those responsible for stealing a cocaine shipment a few weeks ago. The group got lost on the jungle roads, however, before it stumbled upon the military patrol. As of Oct. 6, Guatemalan National Police had confiscated nine of the 10 vehicles, and were continuing to search from remnants of the Zetas with the help of the Guatemalan special operations forces unit known as Los Kaibiles.

While confrontations between Mexican drug trafficking organizations and foreign militaries are fairly rare, it is not surprising that they occur. STRATFOR has tracked the southward push of Mexican drug trafficking organizations into Central America and South America for some time, with an emphasis on the Zetas’ and Sinaloa Federation’s push into the Central American trafficking scene. Los Zetas operate almost exclusively throughout the vast swaths of jungle from western to northeastern Guatemala, where they receive shipments of cocaine from South America on hundreds of clandestine airstrips throughout the region. Los Zetas also have established several training camps in the area where both Mexican and Central American recruits receive varying degrees of tactical training on drug trafficking.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the incident was its proximity to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, a popular tourist destination. Several thousand people visit the ruins every year, with the vast majority of these tourists flying into nearby Flores and then traveling on the road from Flores to Tikal National Park. Tourist buses have been hijacked and the passengers robbed before, but the large amounts of cash the tourists brought to the local economy and the resulting pressure against this kind of banditry minimized such incidents. Increased confrontations in the region between cartel elements and Guatemalan security forces would likely cause a decline in tourism not unlike the blow to Mexico’s tourism industry dealt by the widespread violence in that country — and many tourists already were avoiding Guatemala due to fears of violence.


Hidalgo State Heating Up?

Hidalgo state police discovered a narcomanta (a banner with a message from a drug cartel) signed by Los Zetas hanging from a pedestrian bridge between two prominent state government buildings early Oct. 5. In it, the Zetas declared their rivalry with the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana, adding that they do not to kill or extort the people of Hidalgo. Later, at around 5 a.m. Oct. 7, the decapitated and quartered bodies of two men believed associated with the Zetas were found near Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo state, near a narcomanta signed by the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana reading “Welcome to Hidalgo.”

Hidalgo traditionally has been one of Mexico’s quieter regions, though it has experienced fleeting bouts of cartel violence. The region serves as a popular trans-shipment location for narcotics and alien smuggling as part of the Gulf route from Central America to the Texas-Mexico border and traditionally was Gulf cartel territory. After Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel split earlier this year, their conflict slowly has spread in regions where their operations overlap. These types of tit-for-tat assassinations and public displays of mutilated bodies often signify a declaration of war. Similar narcomantas from both Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel appeared in Reynosa and other parts of Tamaulipas before violence significantly escalated between the two groups in February and March. The events in Hidalgo could thus foreshadow a new wave of violence in the coming weeks as a new front in the Los Zetas-Gulf cartel conflict.





(click here to view interactive map)

Oct. 4

The Mexican navy announced the seizure of 5,683 kilograms (about 12,500 lbs.) of marijuana from several abandoned vessels in Talchichilte Island, Sinaloa state.
Authorities announced the seizure of 77.5 kilograms of marijuana from a vehicle in the municipality of Silao, Leon state. Three people were arrested during the incident.
Naval security forces and customs agents seized approximately 100 kilograms of cocaine at the port of Manzanillo, Colima state. The shipment was discovered in a container that arrived from Callao, Peru.

Oct. 5

Police discovered the body of an unidentified man wrapped in plastic bags in the municipality of Tezoyuca, Mexico state.
Unidentified gunmen killed a man inside his home in the Tlalpan neighborhood of Mexico City and kidnapped four members of his family who were later found inside an abandoned car shot dead.
Soldiers freed 14 kidnapping victims from a vehicle at a roadblock near the San Miguel Bridge in Coahuila state. The driver of the vehicle was arrested.

Oct. 6

Soldiers arrested two people in the Valle del Sur neighborhood of the municipality of Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. The suspects were interrogated and subsequently led the troops to a safe-house where authorities freed a kidnapping victim.
Unidentified gunmen killed two men traveling in a car on Madero Avenue in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. A group of unidentified armed men later arrived at the scene to recover the bodies, causing police to retreat temporarily.
Unidentified gunmen killed one policeman and injured seven in an ambush in Coyuca de Catalan, Guerrero state.
Unidentified gunmen attacked an armored vehicle belonging to a restaurant owner in Leon, Guanajuato state, slightly injuring the owner. Police later arrested two suspected members of the Sinaloa cartel in connection with the attack.

Oct. 7

Soldiers killed two gunmen during a firefight in a rural area of the municipality of Paras, Nuevo Leon state.
Authorities discovered a dismembered body near the settlement of Tres Palos in Acapulco, Guerrero state, along with a message warning “those who back the Beltran Leyva cartel and Daniel Encinas.”
Two dismembered bodies were found in the municipality of Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo state. A message attributing the crime to the Gulf Cartel and La Familia Michoacan was found nearby.
Police found the severed head of a kidnapped man in the El Troncal de Villa Union neighborhood of Mazatlan, Sinaloa state.

Oct. 8

Unidentified gunmen attacked a house in the Unidad Nacional neighborhood of Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas state with grenades, destroying a vehicle in the garage.
Six suspected cartel gunmen were killed and one soldier was injured during a firefight in Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas state.
A vehicle accidentally triggered an improvised explosive device in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state, injuring one person and damaging several buildings.
Unidentified gunmen killed the mayor of Martires de Tacubaya, Oaxaca state.

Oct. 9

Soldiers in Salvatierra, Guanajuato state, arrested two suspected cartel members after discovering three bodies in their vehicle during a traffic stop.
Police discovered the bodies of two men the Los Puestos neighborhood of Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state. The two victims had been shot to death.
One policeman was injured during a grenade attack on the Public Security Secretariat headquarters in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.

Oct. 10

Two suspected cartel gunmen were killed during a firefight with soldiers in the municipality of General Teran, Nuevo Leon state.


Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Oct. 11, 2010 | STRATFOR
23026  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Strat on: October 12, 2010, 11:27:00 AM

Los Zetas Guatemala Confrontation

Members of the Guatemalan military clashed with suspected members of the Mexican drug trafficking organization Los Zetas in the jungles of Guatemala’s Peten department near the village of El Remate, leaving two Zetas dead, another two captured and a Guatemalan soldier injured the night of Oct. 5. Official reports indicate that a convoy of 10 vehicles (some of them armored) carrying eight to 10 Zetas each was traveling down a jungle road when it encountered a Guatemalan military patrol, at which point the Zetas opened fire on the soldiers. The Zeta convoy reportedly was based out of the village of El Chal (a significant distance away) and allegedly was searching for those responsible for stealing a cocaine shipment a few weeks ago. The group got lost on the jungle roads, however, before it stumbled upon the military patrol. As of Oct. 6, Guatemalan National Police had confiscated nine of the 10 vehicles, and were continuing to search from remnants of the Zetas with the help of the Guatemalan special operations forces unit known as Los Kaibiles.

While confrontations between Mexican drug trafficking organizations and foreign militaries are fairly rare, it is not surprising that they occur. STRATFOR has tracked the southward push of Mexican drug trafficking organizations into Central America and South America for some time, with an emphasis on the Zetas’ and Sinaloa Federation’s push into the Central American trafficking scene. Los Zetas operate almost exclusively throughout the vast swaths of jungle from western to northeastern Guatemala, where they receive shipments of cocaine from South America on hundreds of clandestine airstrips throughout the region. Los Zetas also have established several training camps in the area where both Mexican and Central American recruits receive varying degrees of tactical training on drug trafficking.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the incident was its proximity to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, a popular tourist destination. Several thousand people visit the ruins every year, with the vast majority of these tourists flying into nearby Flores and then traveling on the road from Flores to Tikal National Park. Tourist buses have been hijacked and the passengers robbed before, but the large amounts of cash the tourists brought to the local economy and the resulting pressure against this kind of banditry minimized such incidents. Increased confrontations in the region between cartel elements and Guatemalan security forces would likely cause a decline in tourism not unlike the blow to Mexico’s tourism industry dealt by the widespread violence in that country — and many tourists already were avoiding Guatemala due to fears of violence.


Hidalgo State Heating Up?

Hidalgo state police discovered a narcomanta (a banner with a message from a drug cartel) signed by Los Zetas hanging from a pedestrian bridge between two prominent state government buildings early Oct. 5. In it, the Zetas declared their rivalry with the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana, adding that they do not to kill or extort the people of Hidalgo. Later, at around 5 a.m. Oct. 7, the decapitated and quartered bodies of two men believed associated with the Zetas were found near Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo state, near a narcomanta signed by the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana reading “Welcome to Hidalgo.”

Hidalgo traditionally has been one of Mexico’s quieter regions, though it has experienced fleeting bouts of cartel violence. The region serves as a popular trans-shipment location for narcotics and alien smuggling as part of the Gulf route from Central America to the Texas-Mexico border and traditionally was Gulf cartel territory. After Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel split earlier this year, their conflict slowly has spread in regions where their operations overlap. These types of tit-for-tat assassinations and public displays of mutilated bodies often signify a declaration of war. Similar narcomantas from both Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel appeared in Reynosa and other parts of Tamaulipas before violence significantly escalated between the two groups in February and March. The events in Hidalgo could thus foreshadow a new wave of violence in the coming weeks as a new front in the Los Zetas-Gulf cartel conflict.





(click here to view interactive map)

Oct. 4

The Mexican navy announced the seizure of 5,683 kilograms (about 12,500 lbs.) of marijuana from several abandoned vessels in Talchichilte Island, Sinaloa state.
Authorities announced the seizure of 77.5 kilograms of marijuana from a vehicle in the municipality of Silao, Leon state. Three people were arrested during the incident.
Naval security forces and customs agents seized approximately 100 kilograms of cocaine at the port of Manzanillo, Colima state. The shipment was discovered in a container that arrived from Callao, Peru.

Oct. 5

Police discovered the body of an unidentified man wrapped in plastic bags in the municipality of Tezoyuca, Mexico state.
Unidentified gunmen killed a man inside his home in the Tlalpan neighborhood of Mexico City and kidnapped four members of his family who were later found inside an abandoned car shot dead.
Soldiers freed 14 kidnapping victims from a vehicle at a roadblock near the San Miguel Bridge in Coahuila state. The driver of the vehicle was arrested.

Oct. 6

Soldiers arrested two people in the Valle del Sur neighborhood of the municipality of Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. The suspects were interrogated and subsequently led the troops to a safe-house where authorities freed a kidnapping victim.
Unidentified gunmen killed two men traveling in a car on Madero Avenue in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. A group of unidentified armed men later arrived at the scene to recover the bodies, causing police to retreat temporarily.
Unidentified gunmen killed one policeman and injured seven in an ambush in Coyuca de Catalan, Guerrero state.
Unidentified gunmen attacked an armored vehicle belonging to a restaurant owner in Leon, Guanajuato state, slightly injuring the owner. Police later arrested two suspected members of the Sinaloa cartel in connection with the attack.

Oct. 7

Soldiers killed two gunmen during a firefight in a rural area of the municipality of Paras, Nuevo Leon state.
Authorities discovered a dismembered body near the settlement of Tres Palos in Acapulco, Guerrero state, along with a message warning “those who back the Beltran Leyva cartel and Daniel Encinas.”
Two dismembered bodies were found in the municipality of Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo state. A message attributing the crime to the Gulf Cartel and La Familia Michoacan was found nearby.
Police found the severed head of a kidnapped man in the El Troncal de Villa Union neighborhood of Mazatlan, Sinaloa state.

Oct. 8

Unidentified gunmen attacked a house in the Unidad Nacional neighborhood of Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas state with grenades, destroying a vehicle in the garage.
Six suspected cartel gunmen were killed and one soldier was injured during a firefight in Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas state.
A vehicle accidentally triggered an improvised explosive device in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state, injuring one person and damaging several buildings.
Unidentified gunmen killed the mayor of Martires de Tacubaya, Oaxaca state.

Oct. 9

Soldiers in Salvatierra, Guanajuato state, arrested two suspected cartel members after discovering three bodies in their vehicle during a traffic stop.
Police discovered the bodies of two men the Los Puestos neighborhood of Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state. The two victims had been shot to death.
One policeman was injured during a grenade attack on the Public Security Secretariat headquarters in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.

Oct. 10

Two suspected cartel gunmen were killed during a firefight with soldiers in the municipality of General Teran, Nuevo Leon state.


Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Oct. 11, 2010 | STRATFOR
23027  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Harsh tone a " on: October 12, 2010, 10:49:30 AM
BEIJING — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie, in Vietnam on Monday for the first time since the two militaries suspended talks with each other last winter, calling for the two countries to prevent “mistrust, miscalculations and mistakes.”

His message seemed directed mainly at officers like Lt. Cmdr. Tony Cao of the Chinese Navy.
Days before Mr. Gates arrived in Asia, Commander Cao was aboard a frigate in the Yellow Sea, conducting China’s first war games with the Australian Navy, exercises to which, he noted pointedly, the Americans were not invited.

Nor are they likely to be, he told Australian journalists in slightly bent English, until “the United States stops selling the weapons to Taiwan and stopping spying us with the air or the surface.”

The Pentagon is worried that its increasingly tense relationship with the Chinese military owes itself in part to the rising leaders of Commander Cao’s generation, who, much more than the country’s military elders, view the United States as the enemy. Older Chinese officers remember a time, before the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 set relations back, when American and Chinese forces made common cause against the Soviet Union.

The younger officers have known only an anti-American ideology, which casts the United States as bent on thwarting China’s rise.

“All militaries need a straw man, a perceived enemy, for solidarity,” said Huang Jing, a scholar of China’s military and leadership at the National University of Singapore. “And as a young officer or soldier, you always take the strongest of straw men to maximize the effect. Chinese military men, from the soldiers and platoon captains all the way up to the army commanders, were always taught that America would be their enemy.”

The stakes have increased as China’s armed forces, once a fairly ragtag group, have become more capable and have taken on bigger tasks. The navy, the centerpiece of China’s military expansion, has added dozens of surface ships and submarines, and is widely reported to be building its first aircraft carrier. Last month’s Yellow Sea maneuvers with the Australian Navy are but the most recent in a series of Chinese military excursions to places as diverse as New Zealand, Britain and Spain.

China is also reported to be building an antiship ballistic missile base in southern China’s Guangdong Province, with missiles capable of reaching the Philippines and Vietnam. The base is regarded as an effort to enforce China’s territorial claims to vast areas of the South China Sea claimed by other nations, and to confront American aircraft carriers that now patrol the area unmolested.

Even improved Chinese forces do not have capacity or, analysts say, the intention, to fight a more able United States military. But their increasing range and ability, and the certainty that they will only become stronger, have prompted China to assert itself regionally and challenge American dominance in the Pacific.

That makes it crucial to help lower-level Chinese officers become more familiar with the Americans, experts say, before a chance encounter blossoms into a crisis.

“The P.L.A. combines an odd combination of deep admiration for the U.S. armed forces as a military, but equally harbors a deep suspicion of U.S. military deployments and intentions towards China,” David Shambaugh, a leading expert on the Chinese military at George Washington University, said in an e-mail exchange, referring to the People’s Liberation Army.

“Unfortunately, the two militaries are locked in a classic security dilemma, whereby each side’s supposedly defensive measures are taken as aggressive action by the other, triggering similar countermeasures in an inexorable cycle,” he wrote. “This is very dangerous, and unnecessary.”

From the Chinese military’s view, this year has offered ample evidence of American ill will.

The Chinese effectively suspended official military relations early this year after President Obama met with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader, and approved a $6.7 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which China regards as its territory.

Since then, the Chinese military has bristled as the State Department has offered to mediate disputes between China and its neighbors over ownership of Pacific islands and valuable seabed mineral rights. And when the American Navy conducted war games with South Korea last month in the Yellow Sea, less than 400 miles from Beijing, younger Chinese officers detected an encroaching threat.

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The United States “is engaging in an increasingly tight encirclement of China and constantly challenging China’s core interests,” Rear Adm. Yang Yi, former head of strategic studies at the Chinese Army’s National Defense University, wrote in August in the People’s Liberation Army Daily, the military newspaper. “Washington will inevitably pay a costly price for its muddled decision.”


In truth, little in the American actions is new. Mr. Obama’s predecessors also hosted the Dalai Lama. American arms sales to Taiwan were mandated by Congress in 1979, and have occurred regularly since then. American warships regularly ply the waters off China’s coast and practice with South Korean ships.

But Chinese military leaders seem less inclined to tolerate such old practices now that they have the resources and the confidence to say no.

“Why do you sell arms to Taiwan? We don’t sell arms to Hawaii,” said Col. Liu Mingfu, a China National Defense University professor and author of “The China Dream,” a nationalistic call to succeed the United States as the world’s leading power.

That official military relations are resuming despite the sharp language from Chinese Army officials is most likely a function of international diplomacy. President Hu Jintao is scheduled to visit Washington soon, and American experts had predicted that China would resume military ties as part of an effort to smooth over rough spots before the state visit.

Some experts see increased contact as critical. A leading Chinese expert on international security, Zhu Feng of Peking University, says that the Chinese military’s hostility toward the United States is not new, just more open. And that, he says, is not only the result of China’s new assertiveness, but its military’s inexperience on the world stage.

“Chinese officers’ international exposure remains very limited,” Mr. Zhu said. “Over time, things will improve very, very significantly. Unfortunately, right now they are less skillful.”

Greater international exposure is precisely what American officials would like to see. Americans hope renewed cooperation will lead to more exchanges of young officers and joint exercises.

“It’s time for both militaries to reconsider their tactics and strategy to boost their friendship,” Mr. Zhu said. “The P.L.A. is increasing its exposure internationally. So what sort of new rule of law can we figure out to fit the P.L.A. to such new exposure? It’s a challenge not just for China, but also for the U.S.
23028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH plugs Coons in DE on: October 12, 2010, 10:44:43 AM
NEW CASTLE, Del. — When Chris Coons was asked last week about a new television commercial in which his rival in this state’s Senate race, Christine O’Donnell, assured voters that she was not a witch, his smile was controlled and very, very brief.

“That’s got to be one of the more memorable ways to introduce oneself,” Mr. Coons said. Then he quickly steered the discussion toward the economy.

In a subsequent interview here, when Ms. O’Donnell’s past denunciation of masturbation came up, he said only this: “I have 11-year-old twin boys, and this campaign has allowed us to accelerate awkward conversations.”

Ms. O’Donnell, whose warm embrace by the Tea Party helped her stage a surprising Republican primary upset, has given Mr. Coons, her Democratic opponent, plenty to pounce on. What he does for the most part is avoid it, on the apparent theory that she generates ample ridicule without any extra from him.

In fact, his campaign frames her in a strikingly deadpan manner. On his Web site recently, the opening image was not of him but of her, with these neutral words: “Meet our G.O.P. opponent.” There was no further commentary, and the picture — shiny hair, sparkling eyes — was decidedly flattering. For the Coons campaign, the mere fact of her was fodder enough.

This Senate race has drawn enormous scrutiny, and will be watched with special interest this week as the candidates have their first televised debate Wednesday and President Obama arrives Friday to help Mr. Coons raise money.

But the coverage, focused on Ms. O’Donnell, has mostly overlooked the unlikely, peculiar position her foe is in.  At the start of the year, Mr. Coons, the New Castle County executive, was not even supposed to be on the ballot. Now he is an utterly accidental (and exceedingly cautious) front-runner figuring out how to take on someone who is in many ways his near opposite.

She: awash in disputes about what her educational credentials are and whether she has exaggerated them. He: a double major in political science and chemistry at Amherst College with graduate degrees from both the law and divinity schools at Yale University.

She: cheerleader pretty. He: science-club-president plain.

She: accused of using campaign donations for rent. He: affluent enough to have pumped $250,000 of his own money into his bid.

In a second television commercial Ms. O’Donnell released last week, she told voters: “I didn’t go to Yale. I didn’t inherit millions.”

And while she has for many years thrust herself before TV cameras, he still seems unaccustomed to them.

Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC talk show host, showed up with her crew for a Coons event last week, attaching a microphone to him for much of it. When a technician bent down to change the battery pack on Mr. Coons’s belt, he tensed up, fidgeted and, in an impatient voice, asked what the problem was.

The technician, John Blackman, later observed: “He’s not used to being the talent. That’s O.K. I’m here to break him in.”

Until January it was assumed that the state attorney general, Joseph R. Biden III, the vice president’s son, would run, and Mr. Coons could not foresee any political promotions on the near horizon. He said he figured he would maybe work at some point for Gov. Jack Markell, whom he assured, “I don’t have to be the top guy.” Then Mr. Biden begged off the race, and Democrats gave the slot to Mr. Coons.

His campaign was seen by many of them as “a suicide mission,” in the words of Jim Jordan, a veteran Democratic strategist. But that thinking presumed that his opponent would be Representative Michael N. Castle, a popular Republican moderate.

On the night the primary returns came in, Delaware’s senior senator, Thomas R. Carper, called Mr. Coons to relay two thoughts. One was that his life was about to change drastically. The other, Mr. Carper said, was that he should be sure to speak kindly about Mr. Castle, whose centrist supporters were now up for grabs.

Two recent polls, by Fairleigh Dickinson University and the University of Delaware, show Mr. Coons ahead of Ms. O’Donnell by more than 15 points.

Mr. Coons, 47, grew up in a Wilmington suburb. Although his family endured some financial hardships around the time his parents divorced in his early teens, he described his childhood as “fairly sheltered, privileged” in a personal essay in the Amherst student newspaper.

His mother married Robert Gore, whose family founded W. L. Gore & Associates, makers of Gore-Tex fabric, and Mr. Coons went to high school at Tower Hill, a prestigious private academy where he ran cross-country, wrestled and “read a lot of books,” said Charles Chesnut, a close friend since elementary school. J. R. R. Tolkien was a favorite author.

In his junior year at Amherst, when he went abroad to study, his destination was not Western Europe but East Africa: Nairobi, Kenya, to be exact. And he returned with newly liberal political beliefs, as he wrote in that essay, which has drawn fire from Republicans because of its title: “Chris Coons, the Making of a Bearded Marxist.”

Mr. Coons has said repeatedly that the title was humorous hyperbole. And while he writes in the essay that Kenya forced him to examine whether his “beliefs in the miracle of free enterprise and the boundless opportunities to be had in America might be largely untrue,” he goes on to say, “I have returned to loving America, but in the way of one who has realized its faults.”

A devout Presbyterian, he flirted with the idea of becoming a minister and has long been active in humanitarian work, both personally and professionally. He rounded up $400,000 in contributions from family members to start the Delaware chapter of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, and, after law school, took a job in New York City with the foundation, which supports higher education for children in low-income communities.

In the mid-1990s, he moved back to Delaware; married (he and his wife now have three children); and went to work as a lawyer for the Gore corporation, a position he kept while serving in the part-time, elected position of president of the New Castle County Council from 2000 to 2004. In late 2004 he was elected to the full-time post of executive of the county, which includes Wilmington and is by far Delaware’s most populous, with about 535,000 of the state’s roughly 885,000 residents.

He cut spending while raising taxes three times and calls himself “a fiscal conservative.” He has said that he would have voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program bank bailouts but in favor of the health care overhaul. He speaks elegantly and confidently on a broad range of issues, but he shows flashes of irritation with aspects of campaigning.

In the interview, he groused that in talking with a local reporter about time spent in South Africa in the 1980s, he had to provide an education on apartheid. “Let the record not reflect any disrespect” for local journalists, he added.

As a photographer zoomed in, he winced. “I’m just not used to people taking 100 pictures of me while I’m trying to be thoughtful,” he said. “I’ve had six months of no one paying any attention to my campaign whatsoever.”
23029  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: October 12, 2010, 10:34:07 AM
I agree with 5 Rings about the consequences of psuedo food; its why I called for "less calories and more real food".  I disagree with this though:

"no one chooses to place themselves in a socially and physically detrimental state
no one chooses to be in a position of ridicule and in which they will be held in contempt by their fellow man". 

IMHO lots of people do exactly that.  Pair that notion with this:

"That is why progressives want to legislate a cap and trade on whatever they want to label as "fattening".  To be able to control what people are unable to do for themselves."

and we have a formula that lays the foundation for destruction of freedom.  We may humorously call it "food nazi fascism" but the underlying point is actually a serious one.  To be a free society we must be a society wherein people are responsible for themselves.

I resubmit the proposition that your theory is disproved by the numerous countries which have enough money and food to overeat, but don't do so.

23030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: October 12, 2010, 10:23:33 AM
While awaiting an answer to my previous question, here's this on monotheism in Judaism:

The History of Monotheism
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Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
 
The essence of Judaism is the belief in the One G-d. Indeed, all monotheistic faiths trace their origin to Abraham, the discoverer (or re-discoverer) of this truth.

The Jewish belief in G-d is expressed in the first two of the Ten Commandments. The first affirms the truth of His being. The second is the negative complement to the first--the disavowal of idolatry. Idolatry is not necessarily a lack of belief in G-d; indeed, the Second Commandment begins, "You shall have no other gods before Me..." Rather, idolatry also includes any denial of G-d's oneness -- his absolute singularity, unity and exclusiveness of being. To ascribe any divisions or compartmentalizations to the divine being, or to believe that G-d has any partners or intermediaries to His creation and sustenance of the universe, is to transgress the prohibition of idolatry.

The particulars of the laws of idolatry are spelled out by Maimonides in his Mishneh Torah, in a twelve-chapter section entitled Laws Concerning Idolatry and its Customs. Here Maimonides defines idolatry and examines the various forms of idol-worship and its accompanying practices, the penalties they carry, the status of an idolator, etc.

In the first chapter of Laws Concerning Idolatry, Maimonides outlines the history of man's recognition of the truth of the One G-d. Originally, man knew his Maker; but "in the generation of Enosh (Adam's grandson), humanity erred grievously, and the wisdom of that generations wise men was confused; Enosh himself was among those who erred. Their error lay in that they believed that it would be pleasing to G-d if they were to venerate the forces of nature which serve Him, as a king desires that his ministers and servants be venerated. Soon they were erecting temples and altars to the sun and the stars, offering sacrifices and hymns of praise to them, believing all this to be the will of G-d."

In later generations, Maimonides continues, "there arose false prophets... and other charlatans who claimed to have received communications from the various heavenly bodies as to how they are to be served and which images are to represent them. As the years went by, the venerable and awesome name of G-d was forgotten from the lips and minds of humanity; no longer were they aware of Him at all. The common folk knew only the wood or stone image in its stone temple which they had been trained from childhood to bow down to and serve and swear by; the wiser ones among them believed in the stars and constellations that these images represented; but none recognized or even knew of the Creator except for rare individuals such as Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Shem and Eber. And so the world turned until the pillar of the universe, our father Abraham, was born.

"No sooner was [Abraham] weaned -- and he was but a small child -- that his mind began to seek and wonder: How do the heavenly bodies orbit without a moving force? Who moves them? They cannot move themselves! Immersed amongst the foolish idol-worshippers of Ur Casdim, he had no one to teach him anything; his father, mother and countrymen, and he amongst them, all worshipped idols. But his heart sought, and came to know that there is one G-d... who created all and that in all existence there is none other than Him. He came to know that the entire world erred...

"At the age of forty, Abraham recognized his Creator... He began to debate with the people of Ur Casdim... He smashed the idols, and began to teach the people that it is only fitting to serve the one G-d... He continued to call in a great voice to the world, teaching them that there is one G-d for the entire universe, and that He alone is it fitting to serve. He carried his call from city to city and from kingdom to kingdom... Many gathered to ask about his words, and he would explain to each according to his understanding until he had shown him the path of truth. Thousands and then tens of thousands joined him...and he implanted this great principle in their heart and wrote many books on it. After Abraham's passing, Isaac, and then Jacob, continued his work, until Jacob's descendents, and those who joined them, formed a nation that knew G-d.

"However, when the people of Israel dwelled in Egypt for many years, they regressed to learn from the behavior of the Egyptians and to worship idols with them... just a little longer, and the great principle implanted by Abraham would have been uprooted, and the descendents of Jacob would have reverted to the error of humanity and their contorted ways. But out of G-d's love to us, and His keeping of the oath He made to Abraham... G-d chose Israel as His, crowned them with mitzvot, and instructed them the way in which to serve Him, and the laws concerning idolatry and those who err with it."

History as Law

Thus Maimonides concludes the first chapter of Laws Concerning Idolatry. In the next eleven chapters he proceeds to spell out the legal particulars of "idolatry and those who err with it."

The Mishneh Torah is a purely Halachic, or legal, work. On the rare occasions on which Maimonides digresses with an historical fact or a philosophical insight, it is always revealed, upon closer examination, to be a legally instructive point. The same is true of the opening chapter of Laws Concerning Idolatry: every detail of this lengthy history is a Halachah, a crucial component of the Torah's prohibition of idolatry. In this essay, we will dwell on two of the important points that Maimonides is making in this chapter.

Maimonides' first point is that idolatry is not only a religious sin but also a rational error. Enosh's generation "erred grievously and the wisdom of that generation's wise men was confused"; humanity was deceived by false prophets and charlatans. Abraham arrived at the truth of G-d's oneness not by Divine revelation or supernatural powers, but in a process by which "his mind began to seek and wander... until he comprehended the truth and understood the righteous path by his sound wisdom." He gained adherents to his faith not by working wonders or prophesying in the name of G-d, but by explaining to each according to his understanding, until he had shown him the path of truth. Maimonides does not mention G-d's many revelations to Abraham (see Genesis 12:1, 12:7 15:1-21, et al); he also makes no mention of the many prophecies and miracles that accompanied the development of the nation that knew G-d in its formative years. For even if none of this had come to pass, man could still have come to recognize the oneness of G-d, and would have been expected to do so. Idolatry is irrational; man, using nothing more than his capacity to reason, can discern its fallacy and discover the truth.

[This is also emphasized by Maimonides' statement that "At the age of forty, Abraham recognized his Creator." There exist several accounts as to the year of Abraham's discovery. The Talmud states that Abraham recognized his Creator at age three; other sources cite his age at the time as 4; other as 50. Maimonides' source seems to be a variant version of the Midrash that states that he was 48t. As many commentaries suggest, there is no contradiction between these accounts -- each represents another level of recognition achieved by Abraham; indeed, Maimonides himself informs us that his quest began "soon after he was weaned, and he was but a small child." Why, then, does Maimonides choose to speak particularly of the recognition Abraham attained at age forty? Indeed, of what Halachic significance is Abraham's age at all? But Maimonides wishes to again underscore that Abraham's refutation of idolatry was a rational one. Forty is described by our sages as "the age of understanding" -- the point at which a person's cognitive powers attain full maturity. Thus, the level of discovery Abraham achieved at age forty represents his ultimate understanding of the divine truth.]

On the other hand, near the end of the historical account, Maimonides makes the very opposite point: without Divine intervention, the faith founded by Abraham would not have survived.

Human reason is not enough. It can expose fallacies, discover truth, transform a life, convince thousands, found a nation. But it is only as strong as the human self of which it springs. It can be distorted and suppressed by the tribulations of life: break the person, and you have invalidated his or her ideas. The exile and hardship experienced by the Israelites in Egypt almost destroyed the nation that knew G-d. If G-d had not revealed Himself to us at Sinai, the great principle implanted by Abraham would have been uprooted.

Mind and More

In the first chapter of Laws Concerning Idolatry, Maimonides is instructing us how the mitzvah "You shall have no other gods before Me" is to be observed.

It is not enough to say: "G-d revealed Himself to us at Sinai and told us that there are no other deities or forces that are partner to His being and His rulership of the universe. So I know that it is so. If He said so, that's enough for me: the logic of this truth is irrelevant." No, says Maimonides. The Second Commandment obligates the Jew that his mind, not only his convictions, should negate the possibility of other gods. He must not only accept that this is so, but also comprehend that, rationally, it cannot be otherwise. Every Jew is commanded to develop the recognition of Divine truth attained by Abraham: a recognition so absolute that it can, by the force of reason alone, dispel a universally entrenched doctrine and convince thousands to transform their lives.

On the other hand, a person might take this to the other extreme, and say: "The oneness of G-d is not a matter of faith, it's a fact. The nature of reality attests to it--I can prove it to anyone. It is the revelation at Sinai that is irrelevant. Monotheism is a rational truth, supported by irrefutable arguments."

That may be so, Maimonides is saying, but the Jew's denial of alien gods is more than an irrefutable philosophy. It is a faith implanted in the core of our souls, which endures also when logic ceases to function and reason is rendered impotent. To truly believe one must comprehend, but comprehension alone is but the mortal shadow of immortal faith. The philosophy-faith of Abraham barely survived Egypt; the supra-rational faith we attained at Sinai, where G-d chose Israel as His, crowned them with mitzvot, and instructed them the way in which to serve Him, has survived a hundred Egypts and every madness of history.

23031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: October 11, 2010, 10:18:27 PM
BO was given a free pass on massive amounts of foreign donations entering his campaign, yet the claims here are so vacuous that even Pravda on the Hudson (POTH=NY Times) is saying there is no basis in fact here.
23032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris on: October 11, 2010, 10:16:17 PM
Sure hope he's right , , ,

By Dick Morris And Eileen McGann10.11.2010Share this article
 
The mainstream media is peddling the line that the Democrats are staging a comeback, slicing Republican leads. It is absolute nonsense. A close review of polling in every close House race in the nation indicates that Republicans now lead in 53 seats currently held by Democrats and are within five points in 20 more.

And the trend is Republican, not Democrat. Of the races where comparative data over the past few weeks is available, Republicans have gained in 33 while Democrats have gained in only 10.



On the Senate level, Republicans now lead in all ten states that are necessary for GOP control of the Senate, the smallest margin coming in Nevada where the Rasmussen Poll has the Republican, Sharron Angle, four points ahead. In West Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington State, and Illinois, the Republican has surged ahead dramatically in recent days and only in Colorado and California has there been slippage. The ten states which are now represented by Democrats where Republicans have the lead are:

North Dakota = +45

Indiana = +18

Arkansas = +18

Wisconsin = +12

Pennsylvania = + 7

West Virginia = + 6

Colorado = + 5

Washington State = + 5

Illinois = + 4

Nevada = + 4

Republican gains should be even greater than this polling indicates. The trend lines are decidedly in the GOP’s favor and Gallup Poll indicates that Republicans are twice as likely to be enthusiastic about voting as Democrats are.

The only note of caution for Republicans is that their leads in Democratic House seats are not substantial. In only 14 seats does the Republican candidate lead by more than ten points and most of those are open Democratic seats. But the Republican turnout machine – animated by Tea Party activists — will likely outperform its Democratic rivals.

And the Democratic Party has no message. Its campaigns are a hodgepodge of personal negatives and fabricated issues. No Democratic candidate is even trying to defend Obama’s health care legislation or argue that his stimulus program is working. Cap and trade is never mentioned by Democrats on the campaign trail. We have the spectacle of the most substantive legislative program in generations having been passed by Congress and now finding that it has no defenders in the election campaign, only Democrats scurrying to prove their independence.

All signs point to a growing Republican landslide.

The gigantic Republican gains of the past week indicate that party trend is now beginning to kick in big time. The Republican leads until this past week are largely due to the voting decisions of people who closely follow the process. The surge in Republican support in the past seven to ten days indicates that the less educated voters who do not follow politics as closely are breaking for the Republicans. Normally, these downscale voters are Democrats, but the economy and the alienating values of the Obama Administration (e.g. Ground Zero Mosque) seem to be driving them to the GOP.

Also boosting Republican prospects is the absence of social issues in the national debate. These elections are turning on unemployment, deficits, the economy, health care, and the national debt, not on gay rights or abortion. So, social liberals and libertarians see no reason not to vote Republican. Only in California are these traditional issues working in driving voters to the Democrats.

A landslide without precedent appears to be in the making.
23033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Dem seek to use IRS as political pit bull on: October 11, 2010, 07:33:37 PM
If at first you don't succeed, get some friends in high places to shut your opponents up. That's the latest Washington power play, as Democrats and liberals attack the Chamber of Commerce and independent spending groups in an attempt to stop businesses from participating in politics.

Since the Supreme Court's January decision in Citizens United v. FEC, Democrats in Congress have been trying to pass legislation to repeal the First Amendment for business, though not for unions. Having failed on that score, they're now turning to legal and political threats. Funny how all of this outrage never surfaced when the likes of Peter Lewis of Progressive insurance and George Soros helped to make Democrats financially dominant in 2006 and 2008.

Chairman Max Baucus of the powerful Senate Finance Committee got the threats going last month when he asked Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman to investigate if certain tax exempt 501(c) groups had violated the law by engaging in too much political campaign activity. Lest there be any confusion about his targets, the Montana Democrat flagged articles focused on GOP-leaning groups, including Americans for Job Security and American Crossroads.


Mr. Baucus was seconded last week by the ostensibly nonpartisan campaign reform groups Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, which asked the IRS to investigate whether Crossroads is spending too much money on campaigns. Those two outfits swallowed their referee whistle in the last two campaign cycles, but they're all worked up now that Republicans might win more seats. Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)(4) affiliate of American Crossroads supported by Karl Rove, is a target because it has spent millions already in this election cycle.


Last Tuesday, the liberal blog ThinkProgress, run by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had collected some $300,000 in annual dues from foreign companies. Since the money went into the Chamber's general fund, the allegation is that it could have been used to pay for political ads, which would violate a ban on foreign companies participating in American elections. The Chamber says it uses no foreign money for its political activities and goes to great lengths to raise separate funds for political purposes.

That didn't stop President Obama from raising the issue in a Maryland speech last week, saying that "groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections." Within hours of the ThinkProgress report, the bully boys at MoveOn.org asked the Department of Justice to launch a criminal investigation of the Chamber. In a letter to the Federal Election Commission, Minnesota Senator Al Franken expressed his profound concern that "foreign corporations are indirectly spending significant sums to influence American elections through third-party groups." From the man who stole his Senate election in a dubious recount, this is rich.

Even Mr. Franken admits in his letter that the Chamber's commingling of funds in its general accounts is not "per se illegal," but apparently he thinks it's fine to unleash federal investigators because the Chamber cash might contribute to the defeat of fellow Democrats.

The outrage over the Chamber is especially amusing considering the role of foreigners in U.S. labor unions. According to the Center for Competitive Politics, close to half of the unions that are members of the AFL-CIO are international. One man's corporate commingling is another's union dues.

Unions and liberal groups are hardly cash poor this year in any case. The Campaign Media Analysis Group looked at the combined spending of candidates, their parties and outside groups and found that Democrats outspent Republicans $47.3 million to $40.8 million in a recent 60-day period.

Democrats claim only to favor "disclosure" of donors, but their legal intimidation attempts are the best argument against disclosure. Liberals want the names of business donors made public so they can become targets of vilification with the goal of intimidating them into silence. A CEO or corporate board is likely to think twice about contributing to a campaign fund if the IRS or prosecutors might come calling. If Democrats can reduce business donations in the next three weeks, they can limit the number of GOP challengers with a chance to win and reduce Democratic Congressional losses.

The strategy got a test drive in Minnesota earlier this year after Target Corporation donated $100,000 cash and $50,000 of in-kind contributions to an independent group that ran ads supporting the primary candidacy of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. MoveOn.org accused the company of being anti-gay, organized a petition, and crafted a TV ad urging shoppers to boycott Target stores. Target made no further donations, and other companies that once showed an interest have since declined to contribute.

***
Then there's the curious reference to the tax status of Koch Industries by White House chief economist Austan Goolsbee. In a late August conference call with reporters, Mr. Goolsbee cited the closely-held Koch as an example of "really giant firms" that pay no corporate income tax because they file under other tax rules. But how in the world would Mr. Goolsbee know Koch's tax status? Could his knowledge be related to the White House-liberal campaign against Koch for contributing to Americans for Prosperity, a group that is supporting free-market candidates for Congress this year?

In an August 9 speech, Mr. Obama personally trashed Americans for Prosperity, hinting that it was funded by "a big oil company." He had to mean Koch, which makes no secret of its support for Americans for Prosperity.

The White House didn't respond to queries about Mr. Goolsbee's remark for weeks until GOP Senators requested an investigation. The Treasury's inspector general for tax matters has since announced such a probe, and last week White House spokesman Robert Gibbs finally got around to explaining that Mr. Goolsbee's statement "was not in any way based on any review of tax filings" and that he won't use the example again.

We're glad to hear it, but pardon our skepticism given the ferocity of this White House-led campaign against businesses that donate to political campaigns. Faced with electoral repudiation as the public turns against their agenda, Democrats are unleashing government power to silence their political opponents. Instead of piling on, the press corps ought to blow the whistle on this attempt to stifle political speech. This is one more liberal abuse of power that voters should consider as they head to the polls.

23034  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: October 11, 2010, 07:05:21 PM
CCP:

I submit the proposition that your analysis is disproven by the countries/places where people have esentiallly all they want to eat and most are of proportionate, suitable weight.
23035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: October 11, 2010, 06:06:13 PM
Indeed -- and it is a "fatal conceit" to think otherwise wink
23036  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From where's the money? on: October 11, 2010, 05:52:20 PM
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2010/10/11/
23037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: October 11, 2010, 05:41:19 PM
 cheesy  cheesy  cheesy
23038  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: October 11, 2010, 05:24:29 PM
For me, and I think for most fight fans today, Foreman is about what he went through, what he did to change, and what he did to come back-- and take the heavyweight title again (I made money betting on him btw  cool )
23039  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Welcome CanisLatrans! on: October 11, 2010, 05:20:13 PM
Good to have you aboard. smiley
23040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mauldin 2 on: October 11, 2010, 05:18:51 PM
And then we have a speech from Dallas Fed president Richard Fisher that he gave yesterday at the Minneapolis Economics Club. I highly recommend you take a few minutes to read it in its entirety. It is well-written and thoughtful. We need more men like him on the Fed. ( http://www.dallasfed.org/news/speeches/fisher/2010/fs101007.cfm)

Let me give you a few paragraphs (all emphasis mine!):

"... In my darkest moments I have begun to wonder if the monetary accommodation we have already engineered might even be working in the wrong places. Far too many of the large corporations I survey that are committing to fixed investment report that the most effective way to deploy cheap money raised in the current bond markets or in the form of loans from banks, beyond buying in stock or expanding dividends, is to invest it abroad where taxes are lower and governments are more eager to please. This would not be of concern if foreign direct investment in the U.S. were offsetting this impulse. This year, however, net direct investment in the U.S. has been running at a pace that would exceed minus $200 billion, meaning outflows of foreign direct investment are exceeding inflows by a healthy margin. We will have to watch the data as it unfolds to see if this is momentary fillip or evidence of a broader trend. But I wonder: If others cotton to the view that the Fed is eager to "open the spigots," might this not add to the uncertainty already created by the fiscal incontinence of Congress and the regulatory and rule-making 'excesses' about which businesses now complain?

"... In performing a cost/benefit analysis of a possible QE2, we will need to bear in mind that one cost that has already been incurred in the process of running an easy money policy has been to drive down the returns earned by savers, especially those who do not have the means or sophistication or the demographic profile to place their money at risk further out in the yield curve or who are wary of the inherent risk of stocks. A great many baby boomers or older cohorts who played by the rules, saved their money and have migrated over time, as prudent investment counselors advise, to short- to intermediate-dated, fixed-income instruments, are earning extremely low nominal and real returns on their savings. Further reductions in rates earned on savings will hardly endear the Fed to this portion of the population. Moreover, driving down bond yields might force increased pension contributions from corporations and state and local governments, decreasing the deployment of monies toward job maintenance in the public sector.

"My reaction to reading that article [what Fisher called that eye-popping headline in yesterday's Wall Street Journal: "Central Banks Open Spigot"] was that it raises the specter of competitive quantitative easing. Such a race would be something of a one-off from competitive devaluation of currencies, a beggar-thy-neighbor phenomenon that always ends in tears. It implies that central banks should carry the load for stymied fiscal authorities - or worse, give in to them - rather than stick within their traditional monetary mandates and let legislative authorities deal with the fiscal mess they have created. It infers that lurking out in the future is a slippery slope of quantitative easing reaching beyond just buying government bonds (and in our case, mortgage-backed securities). It is one thing to stabilize the commercial paper market in a systematic way. Going beyond investment-grade paper, however, opens the door to pressure on a central bank to back financial instruments benefiting specific economic sectors. This inevitably leads to irritation or lobbying for similar treatment from economic sectors not blessed by similar monetary largess.

"In his recent book titled Fault Lines, Raghuram Rajan reminds us that, 'More always seems better to the impatient politician [policymaker]. But any instrument of government policy has its limitations, and what works in small doses can become a nightmare when scaled up, especially when scaled up quickly.... Furthermore, the private sector's objectives are not the government's objectives, and all too often, policies are set without taking this disparity into account. Serious unintended consequences can result.'"

Hear. Oh, hear!

Can Fisher and Hoenig stand athwart the Keynesian tide at the Fed and get it to stop? Or for that matter, can the growing chorus of noted economists and analysts who openly question the need or wisdom of a QE2?

I doubt it. The Keynesian Cowboys are saddling their QE horses and they intend to ride. They have no idea what the end result will be. This is all a guess based on pure theory and models (like the broken money multiplier). And I really question whether the result they hope for is worth the risk of the unintended consequences (more later). As I wrote a few weeks ago:

"If it is because they don't have enough capital, then adding liquidity to the system will not help that. If it is because they don't feel they have creditworthy customers, do we really want banks to lower their standards? Isn't that what got us into trouble last time? If it is because businesses don't want to borrow all that much because of the uncertain times, will easy money make that any better? As someone said, 'I don't need more credit, I just need more customers.'"

How much of an impact would $2 trillion in QE give us? Not much, according to former Fed governor Larry Meyer, who, according to Morgan Stanley, "... maintains a large-scale macro-econometric model of the US economy that is widely used in the private sector and in public policy-making circles. These types of models are good for running 'what if?' simulations. Meyer estimates that a $2 trillion asset purchase program would: 1) lower Treasury yields by 50bp; 2) increase GDP growth by 0.3pp in 2011 and 0.4pp in 2012; and 3) lower the unemployment rate by 0.3pp by the end of 2011 and 0.5pp by the end of 2012. However, Meyer admits that these may be 'high-end estimates'.

"Some probability of a resumption of asset purchases is already priced in, and thus a full 50bp response in Treasuries is unlikely. Moreover, a model such as Meyer's is based on normal historical relationships and therefore assumes that the typical transmission mechanisms are working. For example, a drop in Treasury yields would lower borrowing costs for consumers and businesses, helping to stimulate consumption, business investment and housing. But there is good reason to believe that the transmission mechanism is at least partially broken at present, and thus the pass-through benefit to the economy associated with a small decline in Treasury yields (relative to current levels) would likely be infinitesimal." (Morgan Stanley)

It is clear, at least from the speeches I read, that if the economy continues to sputter and looks like it may fall into recession, that the need to DO SOMETHING will overwhelm all caution. Not trying the last tool in the box if the economy is rolling over is just not something that will be considered by those of the Keynesian persuasion. Never mind that Congress is getting ready to raise taxes (and has already done so in the case of Obamacare, to the tune of almost 1% of GDP!); in the face of a slowing economy, the Fed is going to step in and try to do something.

Let me be clear. We do NOT have a monetary problem. And whatever solutions we need are not monetary. This is on Congress and the Administration. The Fed needs to step aside.

Let Us Count the Unintended Consequences
Is there a chance that it could work? The short answer is, "Yes, but I doubt it." The whole purpose of QE2 is to try and get consumers and businesses spending. For a Keynesian, it is all about stimulating final consumer demand. That is tough in a world coming out of a credit crisis, where consumers are wanting to deleverage.

But what if they push a few trillion into the economy and it shows up in the stock market? Or the market just feels good that "Daddy" is doing something and runs up on its own? Can that change consumer sentiment? Will we feel like spending more? Could that be the catalyst? Maybe, but I doubt it. But you can bet your last trillion they are going to try.

It is doubtful that any QE2 that is enough to really do something in the way of reflating assets will be good for the dollar. Now, cynics might say that is the point, as a falling dollar is supposed to help our exports (and for my international readers, I get it that this is at the expense of other countries). Do we really want to open the first salvo in a race to the currency bottom? If the Fed does it, it gets legitimized everywhere.

(By the way, as I noted a few weeks ago, my call for parity for the euro and the pound is temporarily on hold. Stay tuned. We will get back to it.)

But QE2 also drives up commodity costs. Rising oil prices have the same effect on spending as a tax increase. As do rising food costs, etc.

How does one control inflation by printing money on the order of 10% or more of GDP? Is 3% ok? Do you really want to get to 4% and then have to start taking off the stimulus to get inflation under control, and push us back into recession?

You don't get inflation without a rise in interest rates. What about the increased costs of financing an ever-rising government debt? And aren't higher rates what the Fed is fighting? Talk about confusing the market.

Does the Fed really want us to get our animal spirits back up and go back in and borrow more money? Isn't too much leverage what got us into this problem to begin with? Does the Fed really want to persuade us to go out and buy mispriced assets? Should we buy stocks now in hopes that QE2 somehow finds a transmission mechanism and keeps us from recession? If it doesn't work, then all those buyers will get their heads handed to them, making matters even worse.

What if, as I think likely, the QE money simply makes a round trip back to the Fed balance sheet? Do we go for QE3? At the Barefoot Economic Summit I just attended (see more below), one very well-connected economist said he would start getting interested about QE when it approached $6 trillion. That is the number he thinks would be needed to actually have an effect. It raised a few eyebrows when he told that to David Faber on CNBC.

If the money makes a round trip back to the Fed, the markets will get spooked. All kinds of markets.

The only way I think they do not pursue QE is if the economic data in the next few months suggests the economy is beginning to heal itself. That will make the next few months worth of data more critical than usual. The stock market seems convinced that QE2 will be good for the economy and the markets, and thus bad news will be perversely considered good.

Sadly, if we go down that path I think this is going to end in tears. There are just too many unintended consequences that can reach up and bite us in our collective derrieres. I am not sanguine about 2011. I dearly, truly hope I am wrong. For your sake, gentle reader, and for my seven kids.

23041  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mauldin on: October 11, 2010, 05:17:51 PM
He who makes the most money?  cheesy

The Ride of the Keynesian Cowboys
by John Mauldin
October 8, 2010   


 
 
To ease or not to ease? That is the question we will take up this week. And if we do get another round of quantitative easing (QE2), will it make any difference? As I asked last week, what if they threw an inflation party and no one came? We will take as our launching pad today's unemployment numbers, which serve to demonstrate just why the Fed may in fact be ready for some monetary shock and awe.

Teachers Don't Count?
As the jobs report came out a number of headlines trumpeted the "strong" private-sector job growth of 64,000 jobs, trying to soften the overall loss of 95,000 jobs. If you exclude the loss of census workers, the job losses were "only" 18,000. However, for the first time since December of last year, we lost jobs in a month. That is not the right direction.

"Moreover, when you adjust for the slide in the participation rate this cycle, the byproduct of a record number of discouraged workers withdrawing from their job search, the unemployment rate is actually closer to 12% than the 9.6% official posted rate in September, which masks the massive degree of labour market slack in the system. This is underscored by the broad U6 jobless rate measure, which spiked to a five-month high of 17.1% from 16.7% in August." (David Rosenberg)

Let's go to Table A-1 in the BLS website. You find that the total number of "civilian noninstitutional population" has risen by exactly 2 million over the last year to 238,322,000. That is the number of people over 16 available to work. But the actual civilian labor force has only risen by 541,000. Over the last 12 months we have added only about 344,000 jobs, according to the data from the Establishment survey, or just about a month's worth in the good old days.

Here's an interesting note I picked up while looking at employment data by age and education (with seven kids, these things are important to me!). There is a cohort that has seen its employment level rise. That would be men and women over 65. The total number of people over 65 who are employed has risen by 318,000 over the last year, accounting for nearly all the job growth (although one bit of data is from the establishment survey and the other is from the household survey, but that should be close enough for government work).

Think about that. Almost all the job growth has come from those who have reached "retirement age" (whatever that is) continuing to work or going back to work. The unemployment rate for young people 16-19 is 26%. The unemployment rate for black youth is an appalling 49%. (This is not an abstract piece of data. I have two adopted black sons, so this figure means something in the Mauldin household.) Next time you go into malls, Barnes and Nobles, fast food places, notice again the work force. These are the jobs that traditionally went to those starting out.

As my friend Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist of the National Federation of Independent Business, wrote yesterday:

"Officially, the recession ended in June, 2009 according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, historical arbiters of recession and recovery dates. But in July, 2009, Congress raised the minimum wage by over 10% and 580,000 teen jobs were lost in the second half of the year even as GDP posted growth of 4% (annual rate). This was more than double the losses in the first half of the year when GDP declined at a 4% rate and fewer workers were needed. This was one of many policies implemented or proposed by Congress that made no sense as a measure to blunt the impact of the recession. The minimum wage determines the minimum value an unskilled worker must add to a business to justify employment. Congress has made this hurdle higher and more teens find they cannot get over it. This is just one of many barriers to hiring that are institutionalized in our economy, for example restrictions in the stimulus legislation that required union labor on projects."

Let's hear it for unintended consequences.

The Rise of the Temporary Worker
17,000 jobs in the latest survey were from new temporary jobs. I caught this graph from uber data slicer and dicer Greg Weldon ( www.weldononline.com). Notice that part-time workers "for economic reasons" is the highest on record at 9.4 million. My take on this is that part-time workers are no longer a leading indicator but simply a manifestation of the new reality that employers don't want to take on the burden of a full-time employee who may not be needed or who comes with costly benefits under the new regulatory and health-care regimes.

 

State and local governments shed 39,000 jobs, the largest percentagewise loss since 1982. Those jobs mean something, and as state and local governments lose their stimulus money they will continue to shed jobs as they are forced to work with less revenue. Even after many places have raised taxes, revenues are down 3%. The consumption that government workers contribute to final consumer demand is just as important as that resulting from private jobs.

20% of personal income is now coming from the US government, and wages are flat. If you take into account the tax that is rising energy prices, that means many workers are falling behind the disposable-income curve.

Where Will the Jobs Come From?

Back to Dunk from the NFIB: "The percent of owners with unfilled (hard to fill) openings remained at 11% of all firms, historically a weak showing. Over the next three months, 13 percent plan to reduce employment (up 3 points), and 8 percent plan to create new jobs (unchanged), yielding a seasonally adjusted net -3 percent of owners planning to create new jobs, 4 points worse than August. The urge (based on economic factors) to create new jobs is clearly missing in the current economy and expectations for future business conditions are not supportive of job creation. Plans to create new jobs have lagged other recovery periods significantly.

 

"Overall, the job creation picture is still bleak. Weak sales and uncertainty about the future continue to hold back any commitments to growth, hiring or capital spending. Economic policies enacted or proposed continue to fail to address the most important players in the economy - the consumer. The President promised to continue to push his agenda for higher energy costs, few believe the health care bill will actually help them, and there is huge uncertainty about a VAT tax and the fate of the "Bush tax cuts". Deficits are at "trauma" level, incomprehensible to the average citizen. No relief, just promises that the consumer sector will be asked to pay more of their income to support government spending. This has left consumer and business owner sentiment in the "dumpster", unwilling to spend or hire."

The employment surveys mentioned above are basically completed by the middle of the month. But yesterday a Gallup poll suggested that unemployment may be headed back to over 10%, and that the latter half of September was weaker than the first half. From the release:

"The rate of those 'underemployed' - mostly part-time workers - increased slightly to 18.8 percent, suggesting that the number of workers employed part-time but seeking full-time work is declining as the unemployment rate increases. Gallup explains 'this may reflect a reduced company demand for new part-time employees.'

"This rate is likely to not be reflected by federal numbers to be released Friday, Gallup says, because the government numbers are based on conditions around the middle of September.

"Nevertheless, Gallup says the trend shows continuing high unemployment which does not help the economy, and could hurt retail sales during the holiday season.

"Gallup concludes by saying, 'The jobs picture could be deteriorating more rapidly than the government's job release suggests.'"

OK, the job picture is terrible. GDP is clearly slowing down. Consumer spending and retails sales are abysmal. Consumer credit creation is visibly falling, down for seven months in a row. Housing construction is not coming back any time soon. Commercial real estate is sick, with mall vacancy rates at almost 10%. Inflation (except in commodity and energy prices) is under 1%. The approximately 3% GDP growth we have seen the last four quarters was almost 2/3 inventory rebuilding, not a sustainable growth source.

It is pretty clear there will not be much more coming from the US government in the way of new stimulus. If you're a Keynesian and in charge of the Fed or Treasury (which is the case), what are you to do?

The Ride of the Keynesian Cowboys
The Fed is basically down to one bullet in its policy gun. It cannot lower rates beyond zero, although it can pull down longer-term rates if it so chooses. But lower rates so far have not been the answer to creating jobs and inflation. All less-subtle instruments of monetary policy have been tried. The final option is massive quantitative easing, the monetization of US government debt. As the saying goes, if all you have is a hammer, all the world looks like a nail. And after the last FOMC meeting, the markets have openly embraced quantitative easing. And for good reason: that is the talk coming from the leadership of the Fed.

Since my friend Greg Weldon has so thoughtfully collected some of the more salient parts of some recent Fed speeches, let's turn the next few paragraphs over to him.

"We note the following quotes, starting with the would-be-hero, maybe-headed-for-monetary-hell, Fed Chairman, Ben Boom-Boom Bernanke himself ...

... "'I do think that additional purchases, although we do not have precise numbers for how big the effects are, I do think they have the ability to ease financial conditions.'

"Next we note commentary that sparked Monday's extension lower in US Treasury Note yields, from New York Fed President William Dudley:

"'Fed action is likely to be warranted unless the economic outlook evolves in a way that makes me more confident that we will see better outcomes for both employment and inflation before too long.'

"Indeed, the Fed will keep pumping, until it sees the proverbial whites-of-their-eyes, as it relates to inflation, and job growth.

"More from Dudley ...

... "'The outlook for US job growth and inflation is unacceptable. We have tools that can provide additional stimulus at costs that do not appear to be prohibitive.'

"Indeed, when we first used the word 'deflation' in the Money Monitor, back in the nineties, and into the first part of the last decade, people scoffed, as this was a word equated to 'monetary blasphemy'... and I might have been 'charged' as a 'heretic' for suggesting that, someday, the Fed would PURSUE INFLATION as a POLICY GOAL.

"Now, the New York Fed President openly states that subdued inflation is ...

... 'UNACCEPTABLE'!!!!

"Welcome to the new world order, where deflation is openly discussed, and inflation is, in fact, pursued by the Federal Reserve, as a policy goal."

Greg goes on to quote Chicago Fed president Charles Evans as favoring easing, and you can bet vice-chair Janet Yellen is on board.

But there are voices that question the need for QE2. From the Bill King Report:

"Hoenig Opposes Further Fed Easing, Warns About Prices

"Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig said the central bank shouldn't expand its balance sheet by purchasing more Treasury securities in an effort to spur economic growth... The Kansas City Fed official repeated his view that the Fed should raise its short-term target rate to 1 percent, then pause to assess the economy's recovery. He also rejected the idea of raising the Fed's informal inflation target above 2 percent because of concern over the possibility of falling prices.

"'I have to tell you it horrifies me,' Hoenig said, responding to an audience question. "It assumes you can fine-tune things like interest rates." 'I have never agreed to' an informal inflation target, he said. 'Two percent inflation over a generation is a big impact.'" http://www.moneynews.com/StreetTalk/HoenigOpposesFurtherFed/2010/10/07/id/372979
 
23042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 11, 2010, 05:16:11 PM
Actually, here at home. Cindy's computer is extremely intermittent as well.
23043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: October 11, 2010, 05:02:41 PM
Glenn Beck recently spoke of a conversation between Moses and God wherein God commanded Moses to accomplish something.

But how?

Use what you have in your hand.

But its only a stick/staff!

Use it.

Something like this.  Anyone have the reference/story?

23044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: October 11, 2010, 04:53:09 PM


I travel a fair amount and notice that the US is a seriously fatter country than anyway else I go.   Switzerland has lots of red meat, cheese, carbs, and sweet in its diet but hardly ever will you see someone there of the gargantuan proportions see so often in the US, let alone the epidemic % of obese people we have here.  The Swiss have plenty of money too, so its not a question of we eat too much if we have enough money to do so.

In short, sorry, but I'm not buying your line of thought.  smiley

23045  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: October 11, 2010, 04:40:44 PM
Have had no internet connection for two days, and don't know how long this connection right now will last.
23046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 11, 2010, 04:40:00 PM
Have had no internet connection for two days, and don't know how long this connection right now will last.
23047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-7 on: October 09, 2010, 10:25:33 PM
So my partner and I are coming out of the embassy the other day, a little bit ahead of this American officer (LTC) wearing a U.N. blue beret.  Turns out his car is parked across the street right next to ours.  My partner and I start our comprehensive search for sticky bombs.  Now you can just tell that this guy has never searched his car, but he wants the chick he is with to think he's all fly like that, and proceeds to conduct 20-seconds of the most lame ass search I have ever seen.  Not once did his eyes go lower than the level of his already visible gut.
 
Does putting on a sky blue beret, in and of itself, just make you a straight up pussy?
23048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: October 09, 2010, 05:38:38 PM
Doug:

I'm not sure we are reading this the same way.  If I understand you correctly, you are discussing a signature at the closing.

If I understand correctly the issue presented concerns robo-signatures as part of the foreclosure process.
23049  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 09, 2010, 05:36:31 PM
What is Pence's background/experience/story?
23050  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: talent is what the unskilled call skill on: October 09, 2010, 01:42:11 PM
At the opposite end of spectrum from the "tabla rasa" folks are those that tend to see things as genetically determined.  Such people tend to quit easily in the face of frustation; such people tend to avoid situations where they might look bad, whereas people who believe that work/training/studying make a difference tend to take on challenges transcend them.

The book "Social Theories" by Carol Dweck, which was recommended to me by Chris Gizzi, is an excellent discussion of this.
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